Title: Interregnum [Chapter 09]
Pairing[s]: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: Eternity is in love with the productions of time. [William Blake]
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Interregnum - Chapter 09
As they hurried out to the mansion's garden, Mrs Tofflesby produced Millicent's veil from somewhere. "Quickly now, child, quickly!"
Millicent resisted saying that she was not a child. Mrs Tofflesby was about eight hundred years old, after all. She slid the veil onto her head, where it immediately tangled in her hair with a disquieting air of permanence. The veil was a monstrous thing that wiped out peripheral vision like a set of curtains.
Her father waited next to the doors leading to the garden, his bald patch gleaming. Millicent gave him a weak little smile, which he did not return. Mrs Tofflesby hustled Mother away, and as the door closed behind them, Millicent caught a snatch of the anticipatory half-silence beyond. The music started, and Aurelius Bulstrode looked at his daughter with eyes too shrewd for comfort.
"Are you sure you won't tell me what this is about, Millie?"
Millicent was not the sort of girl who could ever be accused of having a weak stomach, but she had to suppress a nauseating twinge nonetheless. She forced a smile that she hoped like hell was confident. "I'm getting married, Daddy," she said. She had managed to avoid lying to her parents about this -- half-truths didn't count -- and she wasn't about to break the pattern.
The music played on, seemingly louder, and Mr Bulstrode gave the doors an irritated glance. He held out his arm. "Very well, but on your head be it."
"Put it this way," said Millicent under her breath as they strode through into the garden, "If you're right, you'll be able to say 'I told you so' for the rest of our days." She squeezed his arm, and his steps faltered a bit. Millicent forced herself to look straight ahead, to where Patrick and Kingsley stood next to the vine-covered dais. Seeing Kingsley reminded her that in just a few hours, her parents would know everything, and that produced yet another stomach twinge. Millicent plastered on what she hoped was a radiant smile and attempted to beam around at the guests.
There was Blaise Zabini, sitting next to a beautiful dark-haired woman -- the same woman he'd met at the Mad Hatter. Zabini's mother sat next to him, and Millicent had to marvel at how alike they were. Behind Blaise's mysterious companion sat the Goyles; Gregory gave Millicent a somewhat curious look. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, seated a few rows over, both turned to look at the blushing bride. Draco was nowhere to be seen, and Millicent wondered if he had changed his mind about attending. It hadn't been necessary to invite him in the first place, but appearances had to be kept up.
Kingsley withdrew to the side as Aurelius and Millicent arrived. Patrick looked grave and solemn in his dress robes, hands at his sides, but his left little finger curled inwards; the hand-speak gesture for are we having fun yet?
As Millicent released her father's arm, she briefly made a fist before letting her hand drop. Keep your eye on the prize. She skewed her eyes to the left and half-winked. Nitwit.
The officiator cleared his throat with an eerily familiar hem-hem sound, though Millicent couldn't place it. "Ladies and gentlemen! We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two faithful souls: Patrick Sebastian Vaisey and Millicent Melinda Bulstrode."
Millicent and Patrick just stared at each other. They'd rehearsed this dozens of times, but it was still difficult not to burst out laughing. The little man sounded so serious, as if he didn't officiate divorce ceremonies, too.
"Do you, Patrick Sebastian, take Millicent Melinda for your wedded wife, to live together in marriage, to love, comfort, and honour her, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her so long as you both shall live?"
"I do." Patrick looked a little green. Millicent didn't blame him; the man really did appear to mean every word. She wondered if Kingsley had made a mistake and they'd sent the wrong officiator, one who didn't know what was going on.
"Do you, Millicent Melinda, take Patrick Sebastian for your wedded husband, to live together in marriage, to love, comfort, and honour him, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?
The same words droned out in the same monotone, like a precursor for the dullness that visits every marriage at one point or another. "I do."
"Then I declare you bonded for life."
The officiator's wand whispered through the air like a sword-blade. Bright silver stars streamed out over Patrick and Millicent, who both had to duck a little because the officiator was too short and the stars were headed straight for their heads. Patrick pulled Millicent closer, leaned in, and her veil hid their faces from the onlookers as effectively as the starbursts all around them.
"Maybe I should kiss you anyway," said Patrick.
Millicent wrinkled her nose. "With that breath? I don't think so."
A scandalised look crossed Patrick's face, but he grinned. The stars were fading, and the guests began to approach them as the officiator trotted away from the dais. The planning was done; the double-cross executed. It was time to work.
Millicent stepped away from her "husband" and smiled at her approaching Uncle Robert. The box he carried was issuing puffs of wispy smoke. "Congratulations, dear girl," he squeaked. "I think one of them went off in the excitement, but the other twenty-two should be fine. Decoy Detonators, just like you wanted."
"So you've lived in Berlin since the war?"
Draco Malfoy nodded, giving his champagne glass a glum look. "I moved shortly after the trials."
Patrick had been at Hogwarts during the Death Eater trials and hadn't heard much beyond rumour. "Is it true that Harry Potter testified on your behalf?"
Malfoy's face darkened a bit. "Mine? No. My mother did him a great service, and he urged the Wizengamot to exonerate her. She did most of the talking on my behalf."
"All's well that ends, right? Did your mother go with you?"
"No, she and Father stayed here," said Malfoy. He was beginning to look a bit put off. Time to change tactics.
"You must've been worried about them on the twelfth of July, then," said Patrick. "When the Statute was broken, I mean."
"My mother was with me at the time," said Malfoy, relaxing visibly. He glanced around. "I'm amazed the place isn't overrun with Muggles, to be honest. Were you in the streets when it happened?"
"Up in Newcastle," said Patrick. "Very chaotic evening."
"I'll say. So are the Muggles moving against the wizards?"
"Not that I know of, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time," said Patrick. He puffed out his chest and assumed the most self-important look he could manage. "I keep telling Kingsley that, but the man's a former Auror. Thickest heads in government, if you ask me..."
"Glad you made it," said Millicent after accepting Daphne Greengrass's congratulations.
"The decorations are lovely," said Daphne. She plucked a flute of champagne off a passing tray and handed it to her younger sister. "Did you pick them out?"
"Er, no," said Millicent. "I'm not much for decorations. Mother did all of that..."
Daphne's mother smiled warmly. "Your mother always did have a talent for things like that -- even when we were at Hogwarts, she would always put lily garlands around the beds and change the colours of the hangings depending on the moon phases."
That didn't sound like anything Millicent's mother would ever do, but Millicent answered Mrs Greengrass's smile with one of her own, and thought fast. "She doesn't get a chance to do any of that these days; Daddy is very particular about things being in their proper places. Especially lately."
"Oh?" Mrs Greengrass leaned forward a bit, clearly eager for a bit of gossip. "How do you mean?"
"Well, with all the unrest after the Statute breach, he's especially adamant about keeping things the same. You know how it is."
"Ah, yes," said Mrs Greengrass, nodding. "I certainly do. Worst political move in centuries." She looked a bit disappointed; she must've expected Millicent to tell her that her parents were on the verge of splitting up, or something.
"Freya! There you are. I thought I'd lost you."
Mrs Greengrass glanced in the voice's direction and looked back at Millicent with a slight eye-roll. "That's my sister-in-law. Ever since my brother escaped Azkaban, she never leaves us for long. Meanwhile, he doesn't even write to her. He writes to me."
Millicent, in her best conspiratorial tone, whispered, "Here she comes."
"Congratulations," drawled Dorothea Avery, placing her hands on Millicent's shoulders and squeezing.
"We were just talking about men," said Mrs Greengrass, smiling hugely at her sister-in-law. "And their inability to cope with change."
Mrs Avery gave a long-suffering sigh. "My Richard seems to be coping rather well, all things considered." She sniffed, turning to Millicent. "Four years without a word, and then Freya gets a letter."
Mrs Greengrass looked very pleased with herself. "Considering the circumstances, Thea, it's probably better that he wrote to me and not to you," she said to Mrs Avery, her tone soothing. Turning to Millicent, she added, "My brother sent me an owl in July, asking me to take the family to the summer house in Spain. We thought he was going to meet us there, but no. I suppose it was for the best, as we missed all the insanity on the twelfth."
Surreal. It was the only word for what Draco felt as he moved automatically through dance steps with Daphne's sister -- Aurora? Asteria? Whatever.
All around him, faces loomed like ghosts, some that he recognised, others mere reminders of another life. It was like stepping through a portal to the past, only this was a past where Draco Malfoy might have died. He had always known they were all still here, living out their lives -- the people he had gone to school with, the people who had visited Malfoy Manor for celebratory occasions. Somehow, though, it was difficult to reconcile their presence here with their presence in Draco's past. He wasn't the only one who had moved on, and that was the truth.
A half hour earlier, Goyle had given him a stiff little nod, nothing more. There was a conspicuous absence of Parkinsons -- they had moved away after the war even though they hadn't been involved in anything directly. Pansy's little outburst in the Great Hall, before the last battle, had cost her father a lot in terms of public respect. Draco shut his eyes for a moment, and he could almost hear Pansy screeching for Potter's head, could feel the walls shaking with the force of the Dark Lord's voice. Nightmares. That's all they were.
"Are you all right?" asked the Greengrass girl.
Draco opened his eyes and attempted a smile, though he could tell by her expression that it was unconvincing. "Fine," he said.
"Would you like some water, perhaps?"
"No, I'm fine," said Draco. "I think I just need to sit down for a while." The song ended just then, and he stepped away from her almost too quickly. "Sorry."
He pushed through the other dancers, searching the crowd for Blaise or Theodore or his mother. He saw Theodore talking to Vaisey and continued looking. Vaisey and Millicent were doing their utmost to be good hosts -- they'd split up and started working the crowd almost as soon as they were married. He hadn't seen them together since the Soul Bond stars had dissipated.
Draco barely remembered Vaisey from their school days, but Millicent's hard face had been a too-sharp reminder of fifth year and the Inquisitorial Squad -- what had turned out the highest point of Draco's Hogwarts career. If he were honest with himself, that had been the real point at which his other life had ended: there had been the confrontation with Potter after his father's imprisonment. A few weeks later, Aunt Bellatrix had marched into his life, with her fanatical ideas and her proficient Legilimency.
"Was that Astoria Greengrass you were dancing with?" asked his mother, and Draco jumped. She was standing right in front of him and must have been waiting for him to approach. He hadn't seen her at all.
"Daphne's sister," he said. "Daphne was in my year."
"What's the matter?" asked Narcissa, furrowing her brow. "You're very pale."
"This is just all very strange, Mother," said Draco, gesturing around. "All these people."
"The right people." Lucius Malfoy stepped up next to his wife. "The sort of people whose company you ought to cherish. You may have noticed that the groom's best man is the Minister for Magic himself."
Draco clenched his teeth. "Father."
"I thought we already had that conversation, Draco."
"Do not refer to me as your father until you're ready to behave in a manner which befits the heir to the Malfoy name."
"You can take your name and shove it, then! I've more than proved my worth."
"Proving your worth is never over, Draco. Not until my death."
Echoes. Nightmares. "Yes, sir, Mr Malfoy," said Draco. "We certainly did."
"Lucius, please," said Narcissa with a miserable glance first at her son, then at her husband.
"It's fine," said Lucius and Draco together, then half-glared at each other.
Draco looked away first. "I'm going to congratulate Millicent. Excuse me."
Millicent Bulstrode -- correction, Vaisey -- sat a few tables over, talking to several Yaxleys. Draco recognised the distinctive facial features at a glance.
"Now he's trying to arrange permission to open up the last sarcophagus," one fellow was saying as Draco approached.
Millicent nodded thoughtfully. "Sounds like he's found his calling, hasn't he?"
A diminutive, grey-haired woman across from her -- Curtis Yaxley's mother, Lucetta, if memory served -- sighed. "I wish he had found it years earlier," she said with a bitter twist to her mouth. "Then his children wouldn't need to live without their parents."
"I apologise for intruding," said Draco, "But I wanted to offer my congratulations."
Millicent looked startled. "Thanks," she said. "Patrick tells me you're living in Berlin now."
"Berlin is beautiful said Lucetta Yaxley in her reedy voice. "You're Lucius's boy, aren't you?"
Not until I learn to behave in a manner which befits Lucius Malfoy's son, I'm not.
"Yes," said Draco. "Good evening, Mrs Yaxley."
"Remember me, do you? Last time I saw you, you were one year old and much less polite."
"You've invited a lot of people," said Neville Longbottom, glancing around. He clearly did not look comfortable in what was a veritable sea of former Death Eater families, but Patrick couldn't very well have told his mother that she can't invite his grandmother along with his only cousin to the wedding. Even if he barely knew this particular grandmother and cousin.
"Most of them are Millicent's guests," said Patrick. "She's the social one." Ha.
"Millicent?" asked Hannah Abbott, Neville's date. "That's a bit surprising."
"Well, you know, people change, and all that," said Patrick. He looked for Millicent in the crowd and saw her talking to the Yaxleys and Draco Malfoy. "There she is." Millicent, bless her, chose that moment to say something that made her companions laugh -- even Malfoy.
"I suppose they do," said Neville and gave Patrick a curious glance.
Inwardly, Patrick wanted to laugh. He was talking to practically the only people at the reception with whom he didn't need to watch his every word and think on his feet, but he had trouble thinking of things to say. Ironic, that.
"Oh, I think I see the Selwyns," said Patrick. "I have to say hello. I do apologise."
He left Neville and Hannah standing next to the still-whole wedding cake.
"Come, Millicent," said Patrick loudly. "You still haven't met the Minister."
Millicent gave Lucetta Yaxley an apologetic smile and followed Patrick to the gazebo, where Kingsley stood amid a small knot of witches and wizards.
"Anything interesting?" she asked, under her breath.
"Loads," said Patrick, grabbing her hand. "Come on."
"There is some truth in the allegations," Kingsley was saying to the tall woman Millicent had seen with Blaise Zabini. "But it's wrapped up in misinformation -- I believe the Muggles use the term "spin" for such tactics. A very apt word, I should say."
"Certainly," said the woman.
"Kingsley, I'd like you to meet my wife," said Patrick.
Millicent, who had met the Minister quite a few times since they'd launched this scheme, extended her hand. "Millicent," she said. All part of the game.
"Charmed," said Kingsley in his politician's voice. "Fantastic party. Please pass my compliments on to your parents." He glanced to his right; Millicent followed his gaze and saw Theodore Nott and his aunt Imelda drinking champagne next to a hedge. She gave a tiny nod. Theodore lived in Berlin, like Malfoy and Zabini, and was above suspicion. But his father, currently on the run, had asked Imelda to spend the weekend of July twelfth with her nephew. Why Kingsley suspected the Notts, Millicent didn't know -- though perhaps this meant that she and Patrick weren't the only people on this job. Typical.
"Congratulations," said the dark-haired woman, startling Millicent. "Patricia's told me so much about you. I'm Eva. Eva Kay."
"Pleased to meet you," said Millicent, the words rolling off her tongue -- she must have said the phrase dozens of times in the past few hours. "I've seen you talking to Blaise Zabini; is he a relative of yours?"
"Blaise? Oh, no," said Eva. "His mother and I are good friends, that's all."
Millicent smiled and made a mental note to look into Eva Kay's background. You didn't meet someone at the Mad Hatter the day after a national emergency just because you were good friends with his mother.
A streak of silver passed through the air, and an ethereal otter materialised in front of Kingsley, who immediately stepped aside. The Patronus began to talk, too quietly for anyone but Kingsley to hear. But Millicent was wearing an Extendable Ear. "Minister," the otter said in a female voice. "We've had another anonymous demand to speed up the Lestrange appeal. It's his brother; I'm sure of it. But the owl track ends in Porto, so I suspect he's not even on the continent."