The birds sang from the branches of the towering oak tree outside the window of Lucius Malfoy's study in Malfoy Manor, the sun slanted through the window causing the cut glass crystal decanter to flash a rainbow of colour and the light breezed whispered in the heavy drapes. Lucisu liked his study, decorated according to his tastes it was his own little haven, away from the noise of his son and the nagging of his wife.
It was place where he planned his life out; here behind the shining walnut topped desk was where he schemed his next move and built up the Malfoy empire.
It was here in this large room, with the polished wood floors and panelled walls where he had read her letter and planned out the life his son would lead. A glorious life, one which had demanded sacrifice from a woman his son would never meet. A life Lucius had also made sacrifices for.
There had been a sense of betrayal too, even though Lucius knew he had no right to feel betrayed. Still, the feeling had persisted, but sacrifices had to be made for the greater good. Nothing was ever won without sacrifice.
He trailed a finger along the calendar, yesterday had been the day, he'd had a small drink to celebrate the occasion.
Today was the day he told his son what had taken place sixteen years ago. Today was the day he reminded a dithering old fool of the wheels which had been set in motion all those years ago, of the agreement, the arrangement which had been made and was now to be fulfilled.
A knock came at the door. "Come."
"You wanted to see me?" His son Draco entered the room. Draco's hair was cut shorter than his own, but still the same white blonde colouring, his eyes the same grey and his skin like porcelain.
"I did want to see you, Draco." Lucius waved a hand towards the chair in front of his desk. "Take a seat."
"Is there a problem, father?"
"Not exactly. How are you today? Are you well?"
Draco frowned, lowering himself into the black leather chair. "Yes, I'm fine. Why?"
"Just checking," Lucius replied. "Would you like a drink?"
"Um, no thanks. Is everything all right?"
Lucius smiled, surveying his sons nervous demeanour silently. Draco had turned seventeen this year, a fully fledged man in their world. Where part of him was extremely proud of his son, the other part of him was sad his little boy was no longer little and no longer needed him the way he used to.
"Everything is just fine, Draco. You're looking a little pale though," Lucius commented, his eyes narrowing slightly. He knew his son wasn't one hundred percent well, he knew Draco wasn't sleeping properly, or eating as he should, that the presence of his wife's sister Bellatrix and the occasional appearance of the Dark Lord was a constant source of worry to his son.
There was nothing Lucius could do about it, the Malfoy's had a duty to the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters, and he was pleased to be a part of it.
Draco sighed softly. "I haven't been sleeping too well lately that's all." He refrained from mentioning that he was suffering from nightmares every night since Dumbledore had died and the Death Eaters had entered Hogwarts.
"Do you feel well enough to take a little trip with me, Draco?"
Draco nodded. "Where are we going?"
"I have a little surprise for you, Draco, and a little visit to make to an old acquaintance. A reminder is in order you see."
"What sort of a reminder?" For the first time in a long time Draco's interest was roused.
"You'll find out, I'm not in the habit of repeating myself." Lucius stood up and collected his black silk cloak from the cloak stand in the corner, pulling on his black leather gloves and taking up his stick with the silver serpent head he beckoned to Draco. "Come along, we'll do side-along apperation."
"I can apperate, I passed my test first time." Draco reminded him, a small proud smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
"Yes, I know that, but this will be quicker and easier." He beckoned again and Draco rose to stand beside him taking his elbow in a firm grasp.
A quick spin on the spot, and the feeling of being sucked through a tube consumed Draco before he felt his feet landing firmly on the ground. Opening his eyes Draco blinked and gaped at the oddity masquerading as a house standing before him. Tall and circluar it looked as though the rook had escaped from a chess board. Brightly coloured curtains fluttered at the windows and the roof was like a pointed turret. Draco was sure he could see a collection of birds nests under the eaves. "Where the hell are we?"
"Language, Draco," Lucius replied dryly. "We are in Otterly Saint Catchepole."
"Something we need to do. Come along." Lucius opened the small rickety garden gate and strode purposefully up the path.
Draco glanced around and the odd looking garden. Large colourful plants he had never seen before lay open and blossoming under the sun, the grass was vastly overgrown and a bird house in the shape of a castle sat by a large bird bath fountain and wind chimes tinkled annoyingly above the door.
His father knocked the door sharply.
Draco almost laughed at the old man who answered the door. He had white hair and a white beard, and bright blue eyes which were slightly crossed. The smile of welcome on his face died a death immediately he registered who was stood on his door step.
"Surely you haven't forgotten me, Xenophilius?" Lucius wondered pleasantly.
"What in the name of Merlin are you doing here? You're not welcome." The old man said fiercely.
Lucius clicked his tongue disapprovingly. "That's not very polite is it? Aren't you going to invite us in?"
"Invite you in?" Xenophilius exclaimed incredulously. "You've got a nerve, Malfoy. You always did have."
"Are you going to invite me in like a civilised human being or am I going to have to just walk in?" Lucius snapped impatiently. "I'm sure you know why we are here, Lovegood."
Lovegood? Draco frowned, the only Lovegood family he knew was the editor of The Quibbler and Loony Luna from school. There was no reason he could think of as to why they would be at her house.
Xenophilius looked confused. "No, I have no idea why you're here. What do you want?"
Lucius looked annoyed. "I am not in the habit of discussing my family affairs on doorsteps, Lovegood. Now move." Irritably he pushed past the old wizard and into the small front room of the Rook shaped house with Draco right behind him.
Draco scanned the room quickly, nothing matched at all, not one stick of furniture seemed to be part of a set, but at the same time nothing looked out of place. Bright colours were abundant in this house, nick knacks and books adored shelves in a seemingly random way and not one of the pictures were hanging straight.
Lucius deposited himself neatly in one of the overstuffed armchairs, white with big, red spots all over it. "Sit." He indicted to his son, and Draco sat. "Is your daughter here?"
"Of course she's here, where else would she be?"
"Call her." Lucius spoke quietly, but his tone had an air of command to it.
Xenophilius frowned again and stuck his hands on his hips in an act of annoyance. "That's a bad habit to fall into, giving people orders all the time. Did it ever occur to you to ask?"
"Don't waste time, Lovegood."
Shuffling towards the stairs he called up to the second floor. "Luna. Luna my love, come down here for a few minutes."
"Just coming daddy."
A scampering of feet was heard and suddenly, what Draco would describe as a complete mess, appeared on the stairs. Luna wore a long flowing yellowing skirt and a pale blue top, her long blonde hair hung wild and free down her back and she was covered in smatterings of different coloured paints.
Draco glanced at his father, Lucius wore an odd expression on his face, Draco had never seen him looking like this before and was unable to pinpoint the emotion. Almost as quickly as it had appeared it disappeared anyway, so Draco shrugged it off and returned to gaze insolently at Luna.
"Oh, hello, Draco." Luna smiled warmly, as if it was no shock to find him and his father sitting in her front room and she often came down the stairs to find them there.
He sneered in response but inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment.
"Manners, Draco," Lucius corrected him sharply.
Surprised by the forceful tone Draco cleared his throat before speaking, "Hello, Loveg… er, Luna."
"Won't you take a seat, Miss Lovegood?" Luicus enquired gently.
"Thank you, yes I will." She sat opposite them with her father taking a seat beside her.
"Why are you here, Malfoy?" Her father asked again, surveying Lucius with a distrustful expression.
"Fine, if that's the way you want to play it. It won't alter matters in the slightest." Peeling his cloak aside Lucius produced a document from the inner pockets of his robes. "Recognise this?"
"No," Xenophilius shook his head. "Should I?"
"I'd say so, you signed it sixteen years ago to the day. It was your birthday yesterday was it not?"
Luna nodded. "Yes, I'm sixteen now."
"Belated happy returns. I trust you had an enjoyable day?"
"Yes I did thank you, Mr Malfoy."
Xenophilius held out his hand. "I have no idea what you're talking about, may I see the document?"
"Of course," Lucius smiled stiffly as he handed the document over. "Did you receive a special gift?" He turned his attention back to Luna.
Draco just sat and stared stupidly at his father. He couldn't for the life of him work out what was going on. It made absolutely no sense as to why his father was being so nice to Loony Lovegood.
"Just what is this nonsense?" Xenophilius demanded.
"It's not nonsense, your signature is on the document, as is mine and our respective wives, with the relevant witnesses. It's a legal and binding agreement, signed, sealed and delivered." Lucius waved his hand towards the scroll of parchment.
"I did not sign this!"
"Yes you did. Your signature is right there, Lovegood, with witnesses! What more do you want?" Lucius rolled his eyes and heaved a deep sigh of annoyance.
Luna looked at her father's angry face with interest. "What is it daddy?"
"I'd like to know that as well." Draco looked to his own father for confirmation.
Lucius smiled. "It is a contract, an agreement which was drawn up sixteen years ago, the day after Luna was born. It was suggested to me by Esperansa, that is the late Mrs Lovegood." He explained for Draco's benefit.
"You're lying!" Xenophilius shouted, his fist tightening on the parchment.
"No I'm not. It's all there, Lovegood, right in front of your eyes. Besides, it's all registered at the Ministry."
"What exactly is this agreement?" Draco snapped, his frustration getting the better of him.
"It was agreed by the four parents after Luna was born that the son of the Malfoy's, that's you, Draco." Lucius glanced at his son. "And the daughter of the Lovegood's, that is you, Luna; were, after Luna turns sixteen, to be married immediately."
"Are you insane?" The words left Draco's mouth before he could stop them. Him marry Loony Lovegood! The idea was ludicrous!
"No." Lucius snapped, his eyes narrowing to slits, a sure sign he was angry. "This agreement was made, signed and registered as legally binding, it was done in the best interests of the children. Marry you shall, Draco."
"Over my dead body!" Xenophilious roared suddenly. "My daughter with your son? Forget it, Malfoy. I will not allow it!"
"You don't have a choice, Lovegood. You've already signed and agreed to it."
"No I haven't! I don't remember signing this at all!" He exclaimed, a slight hint of frustration and confusion slipping through to mingle with the anger in his voice.
Luna took the parchment from her father and examined. Her fingers touched lightly to the signature of her mother. She missed her mother every day and a lump had formed in her throat at the sight of her name scribbled on this piece of parchment which had suddenly materialised to blow her life to bits.
Her mother had agreed to this. Her mother had wanted her to be with Draco, to become a Malfoy. Why Luna wasn't sure, she didn't know if she would ever find the answer to that question, but it was clearly what her mother had thought was best for her.
Raising her eyes from the signature she looked directly at Lucius. "You say my mother wanted this?"
"She did. It was her idea."
"Why are you lying? What do you stand to gain? Stop all this nonsense immediately, I must insist!" Her father was yelling now, almost bordering on hysteria.
"Daddy, you did sign it, your name is right here." Luna told him calmly.
"Let me see that." Draco snatched the parchment from her and scanned it quickly. No doubt about it, this was official; four signatures of their parents together with witnesses of Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge and it bore the Ministry seal.
"Looks genuine to me," Draco commented un-necessarily.
Lucius surveyed Xenophilius Lovegood calmly, his mind calculating the avenues open to him. Presently he said, "Are you honestly sitting there and telling me you have no recollection of signing this?"
"I most certainly am."
Removing his wand from its place inside his cane, Lucius executed the body binding spell.
Luna jumped up and knelt at her father's side as he lay motionless, as stiff as a board on the floor. "Why did you bind him?"
Lucius smiled kindly at her, moving from his seat he patted her shoulder lightly. "I think it's for the best, Luna, just until we get him to Saint Mungos. He would never have gone willingly."
"Saint Mungo's?" Luna echoed. "Why should he go to Saint Mungos?"
Draco snorted, he had a nice long list of reasons to give to that question, but he hastily rearranged his features into a more sombre expression at the warning look his father gave him.
"Well, I think he should be checked over, his signature is right here, with witnesses and the Ministry seal, but he claims to honestly not remembering signing this. Surely you agree it's best if he has a check up on his mind, just to ensure he's not suffering any form of memory loss, especially at his age as well." Lucius spoke gently, calmingly, rubbing her shoulder as he explained his actions, his usually cold eyes were full of pity and understanding, his expression showing he wanted to do what was best.
"I suppose a check up won't hurt," Luna agreed slowly.
"Good girl." Lucius smiled approvingly. "You're happy with the arrangement?" He questioned, looking from Draco to Luna and back again.
Draco knew his father well, he knew there was no point in arguing about it. If his father had gone to the trouble of a signed agreement there was a reason, and a very good one as to why he should marry Luna Lovegood. Draco couldn't for the life of him see what that reason was, but he was also astute enough to realise he might actually never be told the reasoning, but he would be expected to go along with it.
"It's fine." He forced himself to sound a lot calmer and more in control than he actually felt.
"Yes, I'm willing to marry Draco."
Lucius stilled the urge to smirk as a wave of triumph coursed through him. Everything was going according to plan, all he needed to do now was sort out the problem of Xenophilius Lovegood.