Literatti: Fiction By Deslea

The Secret Wives of War
Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2015

Pairing: Draco Malfoy/Astoria Greengrass
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1300
Summary: On the eve of the final battle, the Malfoys draw together, and Astoria is asked to make a choice. One artwork.
More Fic: On AO3 or my fic site.
Feedback: Love the stuff. On AO3 or at deslea at deslea dot com.

The Malfoy dining room was awash with blood.

She saw it as the green haze of Floo powder cleared. Elves were working industriously to scrub the floor, and there were drag marks leading out the door. Lots of drag marks.

Whatever had happened here was over, but it had been bloody while it lasted.

Astoria looked around her in welling horror. Her vision narrowed, lighting on one horrid detail after another - blood seeping up the cotton strings of the mop like a half-dipped paintbrush, half-moons of red in the cuticles of little elven hands pushing sponges, crimson spatters on the window panes of the French doors. Her knees were weak and her jaw trembled and her breaths came in halting little gasps.

"Draco," Narcissa Malfoy prompted. Her voice was frailer than usual, and it seemed to come from far away.

She felt a glass being put into her hand. Mechanically, she took it and lifted it to her lips. Didn't even hesitate at the pungent smell of hard liquor. Just threw it down in a single gulp.

It was stronger than anything she'd drunk in her life, and it hit her like a steam train, making her draw in big, gulping breaths and burning her throat. Tears sprung to her eyes, and, suddenly wakened from her daze of shock, she looked around her in jerking, frantic movements.

"Astoria," Draco whispered. His eyes were red and his hands shook as he took her arm. "I'm here."

Astoria let out a tiny whimper and threw her arms around him. He held her too. Held on for dear life.

"What happened?" she rasped.

"It was goblins. Gringotts' goblins. Potter got out of there with something. The Dark Lord was…displeased."

It was the first time he'd admitted to having direct contact with the Dark Lord, but Astoria already knew. She'd already seen it in haunted eyes, already felt it in sharp ribs and hip bones when he made love to her, already heard it in mutters and shrieks in his sleep. He'd drunk heavily on her seventeenth birthday and all but admitted it. Her heart ached for him, and her hold on him tightened. Her shock was fading and her fortitude was coming to the fore.

"Draco?" she asked, gently disentangling herself from him. "Why did you send for me?" She didn't believe he would lead her into a moment like this without cause.

Lucius Malfoy's voice came from the corner of the room. He was sitting on a broken chair, a chipped goblet of blood-red wine in his hand. He looked…fragile. "We believe there will be a battle - perhaps tonight, perhaps tomorrow. Certainly within the week. The Dark Lord has a weakness and Potter knows what it is."

"I see," Astoria said. A cold hand of dread was closing around her heart, but she steeled herself. Her voice was a little ragged, nothing more.

Narcissa spoke from her stance by the window. "Draco tells us you have spoken of marriage."

Warily, Astoria glanced at Draco, then nodded.

Narcissa looked away. "I was young once, Astoria. I mean no ill-will with the question I am about to ask you, but in the circumstances, I need to know. Do you mean it as a girl means it, or as a woman?" Astoria's mouth fell open a little and her brow furrowed. Narcissa looked back at her, and went on, "Do you wish to get married, or to be married?"

Comprehension dawned, and with it understanding. To be married was to be part of it. The battle. The goblin's blood staining her shoes.

"I wish to be a wife to him," she whispered. Her breath came in chilled little puffs of air, but she reached for Draco and took his hand.

Narcissa darted her gaze towards Lucius, and nodded.

Lucius held her gaze for a long moment, then rose. As he did, some of his strength seemed to return. Not all, but some. "Astoria, I am willing to Handfast you and Draco now, if you choose it, but I will ask you to think carefully and hear us out before you respond." He approached the two of them, and Astoria saw that there was a ribbon trailing from his pocket. "We may not win the battle. If that happens, we will be condemned and reviled. The Malfoys will be persecuted, and in mine and Draco's cases, prosecuted as well."

Astoria nodded solemnly. She had already guessed as much.

"I have laid the groundwork to ensure Draco's freedom, but he will face trial. I will testify that he was forced to take part, and Pensieve memories will be found that prove it. The Wizengamot's advisors' recommendation for clemency is already written. Depending on the public mood, he will either be found not guilty, given probation, or exiled to France. If he is exiled, you and your children will be stateless. Money will buy you residency as a diplomatic guest, but you will be citizens of nowhere."

If Astoria had been alone with Draco, she would have said, There's an offer a girl can't refuse, and he would have cocked a boyish grin and kissed her. But Lucius and Narcissa were watching her, looking for signs of strength, so she held her peace, and nodded for him to continue.

Narcissa took up the thread. "Malfoys and Blacks look after our own, Astoria. We believe in loyalty and blood. Even my sister believes it, though not as much as she believes in the Dark Lord. Four of our number will go into this battle, and the survivors are charged with each other's care. It is a commitment by all, to all, and it is binding."

Astoria's brow furrowed. "And if I say no?"

"We will Obliviate you and return you to Hogwart's," Draco said. Then, gently, he added, "You won't remember, but I'll understand. Truly. It won't change anything."

Astoria shone him a sad little smile. "It will change everything. I would have refused you at your darkest hour, after you have offered to share with me everything you have left. How could it not?"

It was said without calculation, but the sudden look between Lucius and Narcissa told her that she had spoken well. They had been looking for something in her, some mettle, and they had found it. Two white, drawn faces softened and opened before her eyes.

Astoria nodded her head towards the ribbon in Lucius' pocket. "May I?"

Wordlessly, Lucius handed it over.

She looked at the ribbon intently, her brow puckering with concentration. Touched it with her fingertips. Behind her, the sounds of elves scrubbing the floor were soothing. The ribbon was streaked with blood.

They had done it this way on purpose, she thought, so she could make her decision with her eyes wide open. They were Malfoys; they would deceive…but they would not deceive her in this. They were offering her war, and trials, and blood, and guilt. In exchange, she would have Draco, and she would have being a Malfoy. For better or for worse.

It was insane. A crazy, stupid thing to do.

But she wanted Draco. She wanted to devote herself to something greater than herself. She wanted to belong.

She looked up once more. Three people stood watching her, somehow regal and proud and frail and broken all at the same time. There was blood seeping up the hem of Narcissa's dress, blood on the men's shoes.

I can't leave them, she thought. I can't do that. No matter what they've done.

She took Draco's hand. Shone him a smile and held out the ribbon to Lucius.

"Handfast us, Lucius," she said. "Please."

She received his blessing there, on her knees in the blood of their shame.

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Author's Notes

1. I am disregarding interviews and Pottermore canon about the Malfoys and Greengrasses here, since they are inconsistent. (For instance, on one hand we learn that Draco and Narcissa disavowed Lucius' values and had nothing to do with him, but on the other hand that family gatherings were frosty because Astoria fought Lucius and Narcissa's urgings to indoctrinate Muggle hate into Scorpius). Therefore for the purposes of this story I am treating Astoria as Daphne's twin, and the same year group and age as Draco. On 1 May 1998, Draco was one month and one day off his eighteenth birthday.

2. I have an NC17 version of this piece part-written, which includes a sexual bonding/protection ritual. I may still complete it. Edit: It's written - here. It becomes clearer in that version why the Malfoys decided to bring Astoria into the fold before the war's end instead of waiting for the dust to settle. However, I felt that this vignette could and should have the opportunity to stand alone. For the purposes of this version, I am taking the view that Lucius and Narcissa simply wanted to maximise the chances that Draco would still have family if they were killed.

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