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Can't Help But Fall

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Astoria could not believe her luck. In fact, if someone—a guardian angel, per se—had said to her when she finished university she would be offered the job of a lifetime, Astoria would have laughed. All she had done as a child was read, and when a publishing company—the one she adored—explicitly asked for her, she almost fainted. Being surrounded by books, specifically romance, was all she had ever wanted, ever.

If her family hadn't found Astoria's head firmly in a romance novel, they would have thought she was ill. Her teenage years were filled with romantic comedies, with angst-filled teenage romances, and classics where the lead would be swept off her feet. It had given her a false sense of romance, she knew that, but it had also set her sights high; Astoria did not want to be a woman who settled, not for anything less than a truly romantic moment. 

Falling in love was the only thing Astoria Greengrass had ever dreamed of, and it was something she was sure would never happen to her.

She was nothing like her sister or her mother, taking after her father in more ways than she would like. Astoria had his dark, curly hair, his pale complexion, and his wiry frame. While her sister blossomed into a goddess, all blonde and curvaceous, Astoria gained one cup-size and found a small dip where others would say their waist was.

Many other girls would have minded, possibly obsessed over it, but Astoria didn't. She had books to escape into, she had love stories to swoon and cry over, and she had the ability to ingest as much chocolate as she liked without worrying about her figure.

Her job, was everything she had wished for. Her cubicle desk was always full of books—ones other 'couldn't' or wouldn't read—and Astoria's life began to revolve around the small object buried under books and papers. She saw a time before the sun rose and she often was still at her desk, checking her post-its dotted along pages, as the sun went to bed.

On the one year anniversary of her working there, her boss gave her the afternoon off, and Astoria—never being someone who had such an honour bestowed upon them—had no idea where to go. If she went to her mother's, she knew she would be plagued with questions about her—not existent—dating life; if she went to her sister's, there was a good chance she'd be interrupting newlywed activities, and she rather liked not knowing what her "brother-in-law" looked like naked. Knowing the only other option was only home, Astoria made a beeline for a place she had always just walked past before, and entered The Rightturn Alley pub.

If the same guardian angel who had told her about her job had come to her before she entered and informed her a handsome, funny, single—albeit damaged—man would buy her a drink, in a bar she had never frequented before, and would be the man of her dreams, she would have keeled over in laughter. She may have even given herself a hernia because there was no way it would happen. Not to her.

Not to Astoria, the odd-Greengrass.

The guardian angel would have been right, though, and he was even more handsome than Astoria could have imagined.

At first, he didn't even introduce himself, instead the man sent over a drink—the exact one she had wanted to drink, but hadn't ordered, Astoria found herself pinching her thigh close to the end of her dress. It was something she found both alarming and charming because how could he know; she had never been here and he had never even seen her. When she tasted it though, she forgot all about the how and why, and savoured the taste of the expensive, beautiful whisky she had been craving. When he slid into the chair beside her, Astoria tensed, expecting creepy questions and lingering, instead, he asked her what she did for a living—and didn't look down her top—Astoria relaxed, finding herself talking before she could stop herself.

Draco, she learnt, worked for his father and despised it. He had studied, at Oxford, of course—and had loved being away from his parents, who had suffered backlash before he left for university. He looked as though he expected her to push, to ask, even make fun of him, but when she did neither, he smiled, and Astoria wasn't sure she had ever seen something so beautiful.

The more Astoria talked, the later the night became; the more Astoria listened, the more the bar drained of people. She came to realise Draco hated a lot about his life, and she couldn't help but think what a sad life it must be. She didn't linger on this thought, not as the drinks began to mount and her mind began to fog. Astoria had never been much of a drinker, not usually enjoying the lack of control, but with him, she didn't feel concerned. It were almost as though she had always known him, even though she hadn't, and yet, she felt safe regardless. 

It didn't take long for the two of them to find themselves out on the street, the bar manager coming close to physically removing them. When the rain hammered against the pavement, bouncing back up and hitting her bare legs, Astoria couldn't help but stare up at the dark sky. The heavens had opened, pouring liquid secrets down upon them, drowning them in their dreams and what could be. She sobered up immediately as her skin met the water, and Astoria couldn't help but wonder if it was a blessing—the heavens and gods wanting them to meet.

A gust of wind brushed over her porcelain skin, the hairs on her arms standing on edge as she curled into herself as the air knocked the pink from her cheeks. Without thought—or her even asking—Draco removed his coat from his shoulders, and wrapped it around hers, and Astoria wasn't sure why she repaid him with a kiss on the lips, but it just felt...right.

Astoria knew when she looked back on this night—their first night—this would be the moment she fell in love with the blond man who currently had no surname, but would later find was Malfoy.

"Taxi or—"

"I don't live far," Astoria interrupted, immediately becoming shy as she realised the meaning of what she had said. "If you fancy a walk, that is?"

She hoped he picked up on the way she had stressed walk, hoping Draco wouldn't think she was that kind of woman—because she was not. Not ever. Nor ever would be.

Draco nodded. "A walk sounds perfect."

Holding his arm out for her, Astoria threw her head back as she giggled, finding it hard to not notice the similarities between tonight and the book she had been reading. He watched her as she laughed, and she found she didn't care, where normally she would. Although, he didn't seem like he was the caring type either, not with his hair plastered to his forehead or his shirt drenched to his skin. If anything, Draco simply listened to her talk, a rarity in her life. Everyone from her father, to her sister, to her cousins, always interrupted Astoria; she was usually prepared for it, but when she found her voice continuing to fill the air between them, she couldn't help but smile.

He could have told her to be quiet, but instead, he hung off every word—as though she was speaking gospel or saying something profound, and not talking about how dog walkers should really pick up their animal's business. When her rant came to an end, Astoria quickly apologised, but found his hand brushed over his on her arm.

"You have nothing to apologise for, you have a beautiful voice."

"You should tell my sister that," Astoria teased as they walked under the blossom trees, "she's always saying that interrupting me is a blessing for the ears around."

Draco smugly grinned. "Your sister just doesn't see beauty, is all."

"And you do?"

"I'm looking right at it."

If she had known then what she knew later, Astoria wouldn't have foolishly asked him if she would see him again—especially when she had already kissed him. She also wouldn't have blushed like a teenager when he said, of course.

"Plus, if I want to see my coat again, I guess I'll have to," Draco said teasingly, and for once, Astoria didn't go into a fit of worry over if he really meant it.

Instead, she wiggled her shoulders. "It's my hostage. You can have it back when you fall in love with me."

The moment the words left her mouth, Astoria knew she would regret them, but found she didn't. Not with him. Previous dates she would have—and had done—but with him, it felt like she had always been destined to say it.

"Duly noted," he retorted, and his eyes shimmered.

All decorum and sense had gone out of the window with the whisky he had bought her, not that she minded at all and in exchange, Astoria had found the confidence she had thought only existed in fictional characters. Draco let go of her fingers, allowing his hand to fall to his side as they continued to walk, almost nearing her flat.

Draco didn't seem to linger when it came to touching her, a quality not a lot of men had. If he had smelt of opulence before, he reeked of it now. Everything from how he walked to how he spoke screamed his background was similar to hers. Not that she found it surprising; he struck her as the old-school swooner the moment she met him. Never a hair out of place—unless the rain had anything to do with it—and never without a suit and outerwear coat—unless Astoria had anything to do with it. She didn't mind at all, she had always been an old-romantic; her sleeve warmed with her heart since the moment she opened her eyes for the first time.

She had always craved the kisses where legs lift, and backdrops to rival Parisian summers. With Draco beside her, it all seemed possible. Draco seemed the sort of man who would give her both, and much, much more. Plus, he didn't care that she drank whisky, whether or not it was classed as a man's drink;if anything, he seemed to have rather liked it. The fact he understood the 'ways' of being born into wealth made her fall for him a little more, especially as they came to a stop at the path to her home.

The rain didn't slow when they stopped. It didn't halt even to allow the romance to intensify or grow, if anything, it rained harder as the water hammered against Astoria's heels and legs. The poor lighting, she usually hated, painted gold around the ground, and Astoria wished someone, anyone, would take a photograph for her—only being able to imagine how beautiful it all looked. 

"We'll regret no umbrella tomorrow," Draco said, and Astoria giggled—full of truth and light, not forced like it usually was around men who were nice. Draco was actually funny.

He allowed his eyes to glance at his coat, and when he moved closer, his hands motioned to remove the coat from her shoulders, Astoria's face tilted towards his.

Their cheeks almost brushed as a redness coated both of their faces. Astoria felt it necessary to take in a breath as her body froze, his chest so close to hers she was sure if she moved an inch, she would feel his heart beating. The moment felt like the movies, but slower. The beat of her heart in her ears was the only sound she could hear—nevermind comprehend—and when his eyes burned into hers, Astoria knew she was already a goner.

"I had a lovely evening, and I have you to thank."

"You don't have to thank me, Draco, the pleasure was all mine."

His lips curled into something close to a smile, but faded before it truly evolved. As his hand brushed down her coat-covered shoulders, the rain droplets meeting her cheeks, Astoria let the tension fall as it swirled and moulded with disappointment when his hand moved from her body.

"Goodnight, Astoria."

"I prefer Tori. If you don't mind. Usually the men I have kissed—I mean assaulted," she added with jest, "call me Tori."

He nodded, eyes shimmering from the street lamp. "Tori it is. My number is in my pocket, you can call me when you wish to relieve yourself of my coat. Or, you've fallen in love with me," he smirked.

If Draco had given her half the chance, Astoria would have responded with something mocking herself, but instead, she smiled. Something foreign, something great, thumped inside of her—never before existing until tonight. It made her pause, think, feel, and it made her consider not ruining it. He made her feel...odd, but not in a way she minded.

"Goodnight, Draco."

Reaching out, she brushed a hand down his wet arm before letting go, turning down the path with a heavy heart. While not wanting to linger and let the moment become awkward, Astoria had also wanted another go at the kiss, not at all happy with how their first had turned out. Especially when she had thrown herself at him.

Astoria had gotten halfway down the path—already retelling herself the kiss for the third time, and finding it was more horrific—when she felt a hand on her arm. Her eyes blurred as she was turned 180 degrees, the rain softly falling against her before she found herself drowning in grey eyes—grey like she had never known or could ever unsee.

"Although ungentlemanly, I couldn't not," Draco whispered, coming into focus as Astoria realised with glee he was moving towards her.

And then Draco kissed her, and it was g. Astoria would never be able to explain it with words, at least not one that had been created. Draco, unlike her, confidently cruised the two of them to the stars as he deepened the kiss; his hand sliding into her wet hair as they circled the galaxies. Astoria never wanted to return to earth, loving the floating feeling more than she loved oxygen. But, he brought her back to earth carefully, slowly broke their lips apart as she opened her eyes, bathing in the beauty of the moment he had created.

Everything within her froze at his touch and still hadn't unfrozen when their lips parted. But most of all, Astoria realised her leg had raised behind her, just like the movies, and as she slowly brought it back to the ground, she couldn't stop her mind from thinking one thought:

Would it be a sin to fall in love with you? Because I think I already have.

It wasn't a surprise to Astoria when she found herself with Draco at a park, sitting on a soft peach blanket a month after they had met. The two of them had barely been without the other for weeks, and to some, they were progressing too quickly. Draco had already received a drawer in Astoria's small flat, and she had an entire chest of drawers in his walk-in-wardrobe.

She had met his parents, and wasn't at all surprised to find them unimpressed by her lifestyle of living alone in London. Draco met her parents and, much to Astoria's amusement, was adopted immediately into the family by Astoria's father. Her mother wasn't as easily swayed—not that Astoria had ever thought she would be. Draco had charm and wit, something lost on her sister, but his aristocratic features sold Daphne immediately. 'He's a handsome one', Daphne would say as she ignored her own husband, 'He seems very intelligent'.

Astoria didn't bite, she just smiled as she stared at Draco, not at all sure how she ever lived without him.  

It didn't matter who asked—her friend Luna, her worried sister or her nosy mother—Astoria still couldn't explain the two of them better than: it just feels right. For her mother, it wasn't good enough and it would end in heartache.

Astoria didn't pay attention, just like she never did.

"I bought this blanket earlier," Draco said as he noticed her eyeing it up, "from that place—"

"Near my work?" Astoria finished, beaming. "It was the one I liked."

He shrugged, as though it wasn't a big deal—but they both knew it was. Draco didn't do things by halves, or he didn't when it came to her. Every chance he got to lavish her, he did—even if she refused it. He was struggling to say the least, especially when she ordered him to return a necklace he had 'found necessary to buy'.

"You know, you don't—"

"I know," Draco interrupted with a grin. "I don't need to purchase things, you aren't that kind of woman, something-something." He winked, and she shook her head as she smiled. "Look, I'm trying and I'm not used to dating someone who, well, doesn't want me for my trust fund."

As he handed her a plastic flute, full of pink champagne—with a strawberry on the glass—Astoria kindly took it. "You, Draco Malfoy, could be poor tomorrow, and my opinion of you would not change." His cheeks turned red, and Astoria didn't hide her glee at the sight. "However, if you do go poor tomorrow, grab my things from your wardrobe, some of those are couture."

"You, Greengrass, are the oddest woman. You are sat here, with me, in an outfit you got from the high street, but have couture dresses in my wardrobe, where you don't live."

She shrugged, taking a sip of the champagne. "It isn't my fault I don't live where my dresses are, Malfoy."

"No, you're right," he smirked devilishly, "I guess I'll have to fix that."

Astoria tried to not choke on the liquid, before reminding herself she couldn't push him onto his back and declare her love for him in the middle of a park, straddled over his waist. She was a woman; a Greengrass woman, no less, and image was still something she supposed she had to think about. Her mother would never, ever, let her forget it if she didn't. All she did was laugh, fighting the urge to say something more, not all helped when he flashed her a smile that would have made her knees weak if she was stood.

"Okay, I was going to wait to say this, but this time seems like the best. I have something I wish to say, Astoria Greengrass, and it will sound absurd and you will possibly think I'm out of line," Draco said, closing the top of the wooden basket between them before moving it out of the way. "I promise I am thinking straight, and I haven't had a drop of alcohol."

Raising her brow, attempting to keep the rest of her face as normal as she could, especially when her mind began to race with wild thoughts. Astoria had never truly felt nervous, not until now. She clutched the flute in her hand a little tighter, slowly beginning to paint a smile on her face—like all women with her surname did, especially when they didn't know what they were about to hear. But, if Astoria was honest, she hoped he would tell her what she knew she felt inside; what she felt every second and every minute she was with him, and even more intensely when he wasn't.

"Wise men say only fools rush in," Draco began, his head tilted down as he paid close attention to the pattern on the blanket. "But I can't help it, not that I would have ever stopped it given the choice. I would rather be a fool, than not..." His eyes looked up, catching hers perfectly, like the sun caught stain glass windows, brightening everything in sight. "I've fallen in love with you. I'm falling in love with you every second, and I have been since the minute we met."

She let out a soft gasp, not in surprise, but in relief. Astoria cast the flute to the side, moving onto her knees in record speed as she slid them over the blanket to get closer to him. Unlike their first meeting, Astoria didn't want to use her lips to touch him first, instead, she slid her hand over his, wrapping her fingers in between his. He watched her, as she looked at him, feeling every cracked thing inside of her—even things she didn't know were fragmented—slide into place, healing everywhere within her. She didn't care that his palm was sweaty or his fingers were cold, she simply held them with all the strength she had.

Because she had to. Because she wanted too.

"I've fallen in love with you," Astoria said, a grin crossing her face. "You can have my hand, my heart and life too. I'm already yours, darling. I promise. I think I have been for longer than we both realise."

Everything slid into focus, and all the books she had read, Astoria realised had prepared her for this. She wanted him to kiss her like he wanted her forever. Astoria needed him to hold her like he was her safety—her shield.

"I realised when I was young that somethings are meant to be, and I truly believe we are one of them."

His hand met her cheek, his thumb brushing over her skin, softly and cautiously. Astoria knew he was worried, it was dancing in his eyes, and she understood why. His entire life had not been what he had thought and this, them, it had surprised him. She knew this because she felt it herself. It lived deep down, embedded within her as it attempted to stop her from rushing—stop her from being hurt.

"I won't hurt you," she continued, tracing her thumb over his hand as he mirrored the movement on her cheek. "It would kill me."

"I don't deserve you."

Astoria blushed, but fought it, not wanting her rosy cheeks to ruin a perfect moment. "I don't think you know what you deserve."

"And you do?" Draco asked, mirroring her tone from the first evening they met.

"Yes," she answered confidently, "and you deserve me, like I deserve you."