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Of Kneazles by Black Magic
One by Black Magic
Thanks: To Mia, for the superb beta.

To the boys, he was Father, capital ‘f’ and all. They respected him, they feared him, and they loved him, though not necessarily in that order. He gave them presents, careful not to spoil them too much, lest he should incur the wrath of the woman of the house, and made sure they were keeping up on their Quidditch training, and taking proper care of their gear.

But to his little girl, he was Daddy, capital ‘d’ and all. She wasn’t afraid of him, in fact, he was afraid of her, and she loved him more than anything else in the world – except perhaps her mum – and saw to it that he gave her whatever she wanted, no matter the situation.

He was already putty in her hands, and she was only four years old.

It had started out normally enough; she’d been born a squalling, tiny thing with flailing fists and eyes closed tight – eyes that were a clear blue like his own mother’s, they would later find – and the first time he’d held her he’d been afraid as never before that he might break her somehow; he had never worried with either of the boys.

Her hair, when it started to grow, was a soft, downy white-blonde that was the same colour as his had been, when he was that young. When he held her, he found she liked to be rocked side to side, or walked around, never still. She liked to have her hair petted, and had ticklish toes and a sunny smile.

She cried, because all babies cry, and when she did, he always followed his wife to the source of the noise, worried that something terrible was wrong, his mind appeased only at the assurance that it was something normal; wet nappy, burp, food…

As she got older, and started to eat real food rather than a combination of breast milk and formula, he was careful to make sure that the things she was putting in her mouth were big enough to chew but small enough that she shouldn’t choke on them, even if she swallowed them whole.

The boys doted on her, and were careful of her, because if they made her cry, it made Father mad, and neither of them much liked the chill silkiness of his voice when he was angry. Mum thought the whole thing was terribly amusing, and both of them knew it; they knew that she teased Father endlessly about it, so it made it a little easier.

When she started screaming out of the blue one day, great sobs shaking her whole tiny form, he felt his heart start to break, because he didn’t know what was wrong, and so couldn’t fix it. He hoisted her into his arms from where she’d been playing with the stuffed kneazle she’d gotten for her third birthday from her grandparents, and rocked her back and forth, making soothing, shushing noises, anything to stop that terrible sound. There were words mixed in with the sobbing, but they were disjointed and made no sense to him, as he swayed on the spot in the middle of his drawing room, feet planted firmly apart to avoid the mess of toys spread over the oriental carpet.

She quieted, after what felt like an eternity, but he still didn’t know what it was that had started her crying in the first place as he set her down on the floor, sitting beside her as she picked up the woefully battered-looking kneazle and turned large, tear-rimmed eyes to the left ear. Or, rather, where the left ear should have been.

There it was, lying some three feet from where father and daughter sat, a large, curved and spotted bit of fuzzy fabric with bits of stuffing trailing out the end of it. How it had torn off, he didn’t know, but he reached over and picked it up, careful to collect all the stuffing, in case it could be repaired.

She was sniffling, rubbing her hand under her nose, and he retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket, out of habit, telling her to blow her nose. She obliged, and he threw the piece of silk-edged cotton in the small trash bin by the door.

Tiny fingers painted with cheery purple nail polish – her mother’s doing, at the child’s insistence – reached out and pulled her most loved of toys to her, hugging it to her chest, careful not to drop any more of the stuffing than had already leaked out.

“Will he be okay, Daddy?” Her voice was fearful as she asked the question, mournful blue eyes fixed on his as he tried to find the right answer to this most important of questions.

“I-I’m not sure, princess. We’ll have to ask your mum when she gets home.” Draco Malfoy had never stuttered before in his life. It was proof enough of his terror of raindrop-sized tears and heartbreaking sobs, and he sat quietly with his daughter, comforting, praying for his wife to be home soon, before any more crises could come about.

From their place on the drawing room floor, they heard the front door open, and the ruckus of the boys back from shopping in Diagon Alley for school things, their mother’s tired footsteps barely audible on the marble floor of the foyer.

But the child heard it, and set up an ear splitting shriek that made him want to cover his ears, but it had the desired effect, for both mother and brothers came running, and they knew exactly where to go, because the drawing room was her favourite.

The three of them burst in through the open door in a flurry of red and blonde hair, shopping bags and worried expressions.

She stopped shrieking as soon as her mum was on the floor beside her, brown eyes directing a narrow look at her husband, hands just a little rough from work and Quidditch pulling her daughter into her lap, wounded toy and all.

“What’s wrong, love? What’s happened?” Ginny's voice was tender and soothing and persuasive all at once, and in short order, an explanation – helped along by the worried father – was given and critical brown eyes were inspecting the injury.

The diagnosis was hopeful, and the small family went as one to the little salon that their matriarch had set up for just such disasters, Draco carefully bearing the accidentally amputated extremity.

He watched as his wife’s deft fingers threaded a needle carefully, and the stitching process began, his daughter held tight in his arms, sucking idly at her thumb as she always did whenever she was upset.

The boys left after a time, to pack away their new school books and robes, and to check that their homework was done, because Father would be angry if it wasn’t; there was a family dinner to attend tomorrow, and then they’d be on the train to school, with no time for school work in between.

The ear was reattached, though where the remaining one was upright and a little stiff, the repaired one was floppy, giving the creature a slightly bedraggled expression to complete its woebegone appearance.

She was still sniffling, and he promised that tomorrow, before they went to dinner at her grandparents’ house, he’d take her to Diagon Alley and they’d buy her a real kneazle, one that would be a proper pet, like she’d wanted to begin with.

By the time the entire dramatic event was over, all parties involved were exhausted, and once the girl and her toy were tucked safely and happily into bed, floppy ear and all, the rest of the house was quiet, and both parents checked in on their sons before seeing themselves to bed.

“You know it’s only going to get worse as she gets older.”

“What is?”

“The manipulation.”

“I know.”

This story archived at http://www.dracoandginny.com/viewstory.php?sid=2858