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They bump into each other in the library in Diagon Alley. Astoria has a sleeping one year old strapped to her chest, no make-up on, her long hair in a wild braid, food stains on her flower-patterned dress and baggy knees in her leggings. Parvati’s skin is shining, oddly luminescent, in the light that streams in from the small stained-glass window up above them, and she’s sat at a small wooden table with a book open in front of her and she’s got got her long hair curtaining around her face to hide the fact that she’s eating a donut, which you’re decidedly not allowed to do in the library.

Hi,” says Astoria, her voice coming out hideously breathless.

When Parvati looks up, there’s sugar dusted around her lips. She starts to open her mouth to reply, but then Scorpius wakes up and starts babbling into Astoria’s chest and then the librarian notices the donut and swoops over to yell at Parvati and it’s all a big whirlwind so Astoria gets out of there.

As she sits on a bench a few streets over and breaks up a banana for Scorpius, she finds herself staring up at the sky, which is a remarkably clear blue with only a couple of clouds.

She takes a deep breath. The air is clean. She kisses the top of Scorpius’ messy blonde curls as he spits banana out onto her front, and she feels so, so happy.

Then again, she’s usually this happy when she’s out of the house.

And she’s always happy when she sees Parvati.


Jump back to a year after the war and everyone has come back to Hogwarts to repeat the last year even though it’s still in the middle of rebuilding, and Astoria shares a dorm with Parvati’s sister, Padma. They fight all the time and in a school where everything still seems muted and off edge, the gentle bumbling pain of recovery swirling around the place and touching everyone, it seems so petty to have an enemy. But Astoria’s always known she’s too young for her years so she calls them that anyway, and they bicker all the time and steal each other’s things and sabotage each other’s essays.

One day she walks past Padma in the hall and Padma pushes into her shoulder and Astoria hisses something rather rude but also quite witty, if she does say so herself, and she hears a laugh clear as a bell coming from behind her. And when she looks, Parvati and Lavender are stood behind her.

Lavender Brown is horribly scarred these days but she doesn’t cower behind Parvati like Astoria would have expected. Instead she stands prouder than she ever did before, and seems happier for it. Astoria thinks that’s nice. She also thinks it’s nice how Parvati never leaves her side, and never seems to treat Lavender any differently than she did before.

Astoria’s noticed them, before.

“She drives me mad, too, when we share a room at home,” Parvati says to Astoria, leaning towards her, that clear laugh still in her voice. Her smile is kind of crooked and there’s a big gap between her front teeth and she’s pierced her lip so there’s a little silver stud just under the bottom curve of her mouth and the skin around it is a little swollen and sore looking. Her eyes are big and brown and pretty and her skin is so clear and her nose is perfectly proportioned and her hair is always tied up in an intricate system of plaits. But it’s her mouth Astoria can’t stop looking at.

“She’s always trying to tidy up my stuff,” Astoria finds herself saying, a beat too late and a little breathless but an acceptable response nonetheless. “Complaining that I’m too messy if I don’t pair my socks up symmetrically enough. How do you handle it?”

Parvati just laughs, and looks to Lavender like the two of them are sharing the joke more than Astoria and her are, but still. Then Astoria has to run off to her lesson then but she feels this strange electric hum throughout her whole body and her cheeks are flushed and she’s not sure why.

There’s more important things that year than silly teenage dramas. But the silly teenage dramas are all that feel normal to Astoria, now. So she calls it her contribution to the rebuilding of the school, and keeps fighting with Padma.

If Parvati sometimes shoots her a lopsided smile of commiseration, that’s just a bonus.


That house. She hates it. The fact that it happens to be the house where she lives makes it all the worse.

She, Draco and Scorpius live with his parents. Not because they couldn’t afford their own place - Draco makes quite a lot of money working at the ministry these days, and though she’s a stay at home mother, her salary rivalled his back when she still worked for the Daily Prophet - but because the Malfoy manor is huge and there’s quite enough space for them to have their own wing, and he insists that it’s tradition. That a Malfoy would never raise their children anywhere else.  And she's a Malfoy now, apparently.

Scorpius hates the house, too. Astoria wanted to co-sleep but Draco insisted Scorpius have a separate room from the day he was born. The nursery is drafty and the cot is huge and the old house makes noises which scare Scorpius when he’s alone. Astoria sleeps in the nursery with him. Has done every night for the past year. She and Draco have no desire to share a bed and she can be close to the baby which is all she wants. So it’s good for everyone.

She often wonders what they’ll do when Scorpius grows older and doesn’t want to share a room with his mother. But then truthfully, she never pictures their future in that house. Her little sunny baby boy with his yellow blonde curls and rosy cheeks and loud laugh, her with her bright floral-patterned clothes and clutter obsession, she pictures them somewhere small, where the kitchen walls are painted yellow and flowers grow on all the windowsills and it’s always warm.

She’s knows she’ll never convince Draco into that, though, so in the huge horrible cold manor they stay, until she figures it out.


She hadn’t wanted to marry Draco. Draco hadn’t wanted to marry her. But pureblood families were scrambling for any ounce of good reputation they could keep after the war. A drunken one night stand at a ministry function, an unplanned pregnancy? Astoria was being fitted for a wedding dress before the potion even turned blue.

And Draco’s not an evil person. He’s not nice to her, but he’s not evil. And he is half of Scorpius, so she stays.

Scorpius is her rock. She lives for him. She just wants to be a good mother, and hopes that makes everything else go away.


“I always noticed you at school,” Parvati says, and Astoria’s mouth goes dry and her stomach churns in the exact same way it used to when she had morning sickness. “I never thought you’d be the marriage and baby type. And with Malfoy of all people.”

This time they’ve bumped into each other at Florean Fortescue’s ice cream shop. It was rebuilt after the war. It’s where Parvati works.

It’s just a few days after the library, because Astoria goes out every day, can’t stand to be in that big cold creaking old house with her terrifying in laws. She has Scorpius strapped to her chest again. He doesn’t eat the ice cream but she always orders strawberry and picks out the real lumps of fruit in it to feed to him, and he’s happy. Parvati usually works the evening shift. Astoria never expects to see her, and always hopes she will.

“It wasn’t all in the plan,” she admits, as she watches Parvati scoop her order into a cone. Parvati’s wrists are so slim, her hands move with a strange disjointed grace that sends a shiver down Astoria’s spine. “But I can’t describe motherhood. It’s worth anything. Whatever type I was before, it’s all for Scorpius now.”

She thinks she’s being strangely candid considering she’s stood in a tiny shop crammed full of people and she has hardly seen Parvati for three years, and they weren’t even friends in the first place. But she’s always been like that. What’s the point in having a filter? You could die tomorrow, her grandfather always used to say. He was the one who raised her and Daphne so she takes a lot of his advice to heart, even now that he’s long gone.

“He’s a gorgeous baby,” says Parvati. “I suppose you’re lucky.”

She says this as Scorpius is picking one of the hugest bogeys Astoria has ever seen out of his nose, but she doesn’t seem insincere.

“I suppose,” says Astoria. She starts to ask Parvati how she is lately, if she is dating or married - she doesn’t wear a ring on those lovely fingers - or if she is planning to have kids herself. But the man queueing behind her checks his watch rather pointedly.

“That will be ten sickles and five knuts,” Parvati says. “Have a nice day.”


They keep bumping into each other, and eventually, bumping into each other turns into hanging out. They arrange a picnic in the park, just them and Scorpius. Then she goes over to Parvati’s flat for lunch. Then they start sending letters, and recommending each other books, and talking about their lives, sharing secrets, sharing jokes. Parvati seems to think they are getting to be good friends, and Astoria is living in a world of wild dreams where anything could happen and mostly she is walking on clouds.

Parvati is so funny, and she likes to make puns, and she understands the ways of the world, and she has this strange wry sense of humour that only comes out when she is very comfortable, and she never seems to get nervous, and she has beautiful handwriting, and she flicks her tongue out against her lip piercing a lot, and she cares a lot about how she looks but not much about what people think about what she looks, and sometimes she sends Astoria letters in the middle of the night because she has had an idea she can’t wait to tell her, and she’s driven crazy by her family and is jealous of her sister but loves her all the same, and she talks a lot but never unnecessarily, and she feels things from so deep down in her heart that sometimes the whole world seems to hurt her just by existing.

And Astoria falls, and falls, and falls, and everything is light.


“Where’s Lavender these days?” Astoria asks, carefully, as she spoons some mashed carrots into Scorpius’ mouth. “You two used to be attached at the hip.”

Today they’ve gone to a park in muggle London, near Diagon Alley. They’re sat on a big embroidered blanket that Parvati had brought with her, just talking, hanging out. Scorpius thinks Parvati is the best thing in the world, wants to do nothing but hug her and play with her hair and have her blow raspberries on his stomach. Astoria can’t wipe the smile off her face.

“Oh, we see each other tons,” Parvati says, like the thought of her and her best friend separating had never even crossed her mind and she thinks Astoria is pretty odd even for bringing it up. “We used to share a flat, but now, you know, she’s married and all. So she’s happy. And I’ve turned the extra room into an office. I’ll be able to use it as soon as I figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

“I think working at Florean’s would be a nice thing to do forever,” Astoria offers, giving up on feeding Scorpius and letting him crawl back over to Parvati. She will never admit it but her heart is a little lighter hearing how casually Parvati spoke of Lavender being married. Astoria had kind of wondered about those two, before.

“I suppose it might,” Parvati replies, stroking Scorpius’s curls absent-mindedly. “I’m just a waitress now. It would be nice to be able to make the ice cream, invent the flavours, build the displays, that kind of thing. I think I’d like that a lot actually.” For a moment, she squints up at the bright grey sky above them, eyebrows furrowed, considering. Then her head drops back down and she sighs. “Nah, my family would never let me hear the end of it. You know Padma’s going to run for Minister for Magic next year? I can hardly work in an ice cream shop if she’s doing that.”

“I think ice cream is far more important than politics,” Astoria says firmly.

Parvati throws her head back, and laughs, and laughs, and laughs, and looks at Astoria like she’s maybe something rather precious indeed.


In that strange eighth year of school that is really her seventh, there’s this girl, who is a year behind her, and a Ravenclaw too, and has wide eyes and gorgeous zigzag hair, and sometimes they study for Arithmancy together in the common room in the middle of the night.

One night they kiss and Astoria thinks, oh, oh, oh.

Four boys have kissed her before and she’s never understood it, but Tamara Sykes leans in and she thinks oh, oh plump lips painted with a dark red gloss that messily stains her own face when they break apart.

Oh, oh, oh, she understands.

Tamara Sykes giggles and says sorry but that was fun, and Astoria says it’s okay, yes it was fun, yes she liked it rather a lot.

Dark red lipstick painting her mouth. Again, and again, and again. Their Arithmancy essays don’t get finished and hours later Astoria goes upstairs and changes into her nightie and falls into bed, enlightened.

Also. It’s shed some light on more than just why the boys never had an effect on her. The whole time, the gorgeous kisses that had driven her crazy inside and Tamara’s beautiful wide eyes and the softness of her zigzag hair under Astoria’s fingers - and the whole time she couldn’t stop thinking about Parvati’s mouth. Crooked smile, gap teeth, little silver stud that rests under her bottom lip, skin around it still slightly swollen even though it’s been a month since she had it pierced now.

Astoria has never quite understood her obsession before. Now she realises. And knows she’s done for.

She can’t even say what it is about Parvati. They don’t know each other that well. They’ve never hung out by themselves, or seen each other outside of school. They’ve shared a few lessons, had two-sentence conversations in the corridors, shared the occasional giggle. But really, they’re just acquaintances.

That knowledge does nothing to settle the butterflies in Astoria’s stomach, of course.


“Do you ever get a break from the baby?” Parvati asks.

“A break?” Astoria responds.

She doesn’t understand.

“Well, most people don’t look after their kids all the time,” Parvati informs her. They’re sat on a bench outside Florean Fortescue’s because Parvati’s on her break, and Scorpius is asleep against Astoria’s chest as usual, snuffling into her skin. A break? His breath is so warm against her collarbone. A break. Why would she want one of those?

“Who else is there to look after him?” she asks. She doesn’t mean to sound like she feels sorry for herself because she really, truly doesn’t, but still, she has to say it. “He’s only got me.”

“What about his dad? His grandparents?”

Parvati is very pretty, Astoria thinks, and sometimes she seems very wise, too, but this is one of those times when she appears not to have any sense inside her head at all.

“Can you imagine Draco looking after a baby?” Astoria asks, wrinkling her nose at the image. Draco hardly even looks at Scorpius most of the time. “And his parents used to be death eaters. I wouldn’t trust Scorp with them. And I don’t have any parents. So I’m not sure there are any other options.”

Parvati looks conflicted for a second, then determined, then confused, then repeats the cycle all over again while Astoria watches with a besotted kind of bewilderment. Then Parvati’s face settles back into neutral, and she stands up, her thin body moving in the most graceful kind of arc as she swings her legs around the edge of the bench.

“My break’s over,” she says, one hand brushes her hair over her shoulder like a waterfall and she stands with one hip cocked in front of Astoria, who is hypnotised. “I hope you like spicy food, because I’m cooking you dinner on Thursday night. Come over to my flat at six. Without Scorpius.”


Without Scorpius is a foreign concept. Astoria shares her house with Scorpius’s father and grandparents, and has never left him there alone. Surely she should be able to? Surely most women leave their babies with their fathers all the time? She doesn’t, and in the end, can’t bring herself to.

She asks her sister to babysit. She and Daphne aren’t close, but they trust each other, at least. She tells Draco that Scorpius is staying the night at Daphne’s and that she is going out, totally candid, and he doesn’t even blink an eye.

She wears a dress with no toddler-induced stains on it. It’s knee length and has a big white collar and is patterned with sunny yellow flowers. She brings a bottle of wine. She feels like she might start hyperventilating at any moment when she knocks on the door.

Parvati opens it straight away, and Astoria’s breath leaves her altogether.


The evening is innocent. They talk, drink, eat. Parvati’s cooking is the spiciest Astoria has ever tasted, and delicious; she shamelessly stuffs herself and Parvati tells silly jokes and they drink wine and then Astoria tells sillier jokes and they both laugh so hard and then there’s a chocolate mousse and then there’s a little more wine and it’s all just. So. Lovely.

So the evening is innocent.

The night is not.

At eleven PM, sat on Parvati’s sofa, tipsy and well fed and laughing and happy, Astoria can’t help herself. She leans over and kisses Parvati’s lips. They are so plump and soft and warm and the cool metal of Parvati’s piercing shocks the inside of Astoria’s mouth.

It is everything she would have thought it would be. There is golden light inside of her and it’s hot like the sun and it fills her from head to toe, every inch of her, every tiny part, she is filled up with Parvati and it is dizzy and warm and bright. She feels so fucking bright.

When she pulls away she has tears in her eyes, but she doesn’t feel sad. Parvati is looking at her with these wide eyes and swollen lips and her hair is all messed up. Astoria hadn’t even realised she’d been running her fingers through it.

“Oh thank Merlin,” Parvati says. “I thought you’d never get your act together.”

And she leans back in.


Lying in Parvati’s bed, Astoria feels her entire self surrounded by happiness. Parvati’s breath is soft against her neck, their limbs are entwined and something deep in their souls seems to be embracing too.  It's too much perfection for her to bear.

“You’re so gorgeously happy,” Parvati murmurs softly into Astoria’s skin, and Astoria runs a hand through Parvati’s hair in response. Long, long hair. So soft, like Scorpius’s is, like a bad thing has never touched Parvati at all. “Whenever I see you, you just seem like there’s nothing wrong at all. And it makes me fall in love with you. And then I wonder what you’re like at home.”

Astoria takes a deep breath. Home. She’s never thought of the house she lives in like that.

“I’m miserable,” she chokes out, because it’s the truth. She tries to bury her face in Parvati’s hair to hide the embarrassing sharp hot tears that are now stinging at the corners of her eyes, but Parvati pushes away from her, rolls over and props herself up on her elbows so she can stare right into Astoria’s eyes. Parvati’s gaze is so soft and earnest and Astoria can’t help but stare back, reach up a hand to brush against the soft skin of Parvati’s cheek.

“So leave,” whispers Parvati.

“I’ve got to think about Scorpius too,” Astoria says, her voice sounds too loud in this quiet sacred space of happiness but she can’t turn it down for some reason, she’s too on edge, everything’s so wrong and she never has been the kind to filter herself. “Draco’s his dad. I don’t have a job, or a house. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

A moment of silence. They stare at each other. Parvati’s eyes are bottomless pools of soul and heart and love that comes from some deep place inside her, and Astoria has never, never felt more firmly on the ground than she does right then.

“You could come here,” Parvati says, and her voice breaks and her eyes are welling up too and Astoria doesn’t doubt, not even for a second, that she’s serious.

So Astoria starts to cry.


The next morning, she goes to get a drink of water while Parvati is still asleep. As she gently plods through the rooms in socked feet, she notices that there is a potted plant on every single windowsill in the flat. As she pours her water, she notices that the walls of Parvati’s kitchen are painted a bright, warm sunny yellow.

Astoria picks up Scorpius from Daphne, goes back to Malfoy manor, and for a whole day and a whole night, doesn’t say a thing.


The next evening, she turns up on Parvati’s doorstep. Scorpius strapped to her chest, all their worldly possessions in the two huge bags she carries. Parvati’s mouth drops open with surprise when she opens the door. Then she smiles, and everything is light.

Hi,” says Astoria.

Her voice comes out hideously breathless.

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