Her Broken Crown
She is gone, but she used to be mine.
Nobody said it would be easy.
Astoria's hands shook as she reached for her cup of tea. The ceramic glass rattled as she held onto them, and she had to hold back a cry of pain as the aftershock—even though it has already been weeks since that dreadful occasion—took over. It made it difficult most things that she could have easily lifted back then. Every stroke of movement caused a pain in her far too unbearable to speak of.
The neuropathic pain that courses through her, according to the Healers, is now permanent. They say that if the Cruciatus curse had been used on her longer on a certain day, she might have ended up like Alice and Frank Longbottom. She would have been ceased to forget all the beautiful things in her life, traumatized for the rest of her living days and unable to recognize loved ones. But her will, for some apparent reason, was stronger than the Longbottoms. The Healers said she was lucky enough to survive.
Sometimes Astoria wished she hadn't.
When the Dark Lord took over the entire British wizarding world, his first order of business was to have all muggle-borns killed. Second the half-bloods that sided with Dumbledore's Army and the renewed Order of the Phoenix. But they spared the pure-bloods that fought to protect Hogwarts. Although spared is such a vast word of mercy that she doubted what happened to her months after had any of the sort. A pure-blood of her standing, who defied the Dark Lord before his win, did not go unpunished. Neither did her sister, Daphne, who had been tortured all because of the side Astoria had chosen in the war.
Astoria was tortured on a daily basis by one Death Eater after another when they finally rounded up the blood traitors. She wasn't the only one. She could also remember the others, screaming in pain by her side as the Death Eaters had their fun and took their turns. Just the sound of their laughter and the pain that coursed through her as the curses came at her made her entire body convulse at the memory of it. It made her drop her cup of tea.
The sound shattered the silence of her home's drawing room.
A shuddering breath escaped her lips as tears began to roll down her cheeks. She shifted in her periwinkle dress, moved to kneel down and pick up the shards of her teacup. But as she stirred, a pain shot up her knees, sending her back down on the sofa with a painful cry.
Someone had entered the room, footsteps approached. Astoria wept and stared at the broken shards on her feet. Her tea spilled a dreadful number on their dainty carpet. The Healers said it would take a while for her to walk as normally again, without someone guiding her. But normal was such a foreign word these days that she doubted it'd be anything of the sort someday.
"Astoria." Cassandra Greengrass's voice said coolly. "Astoria Perenelle Greengrass, look at me."
Astoria sniffed and looked up at her mother dreadfully. She knew why the woman was here. It only took most of her self-control not to lose her sanity right then and there. The sight of her mother made her stomach churn.
"It's time for you to meet Draco." Cassandra went on, looking at her daughter with pity. But it was genuine, an unusual kind. Like she also wished none of this had happened.
"Will he treat me right, mother?" Astoria asked as she looked down shamefully, fiddling with her fingers to stop the pain of the nerves—but it only seemed to increase as her anxiety surfaced. "Will he ever treat a broken girl like me kindly?"
"Draco Malfoy is the most eligible, young pure-blood in our society. He is highly-respected man due to his allegiance to the Dark Lord before his great prevalence." Her mother answered robotically, not even answering her daughter's questions, as she swept her golden locks back proudly. "But you, my darling, are only one of fifteen or so that are eligible to be his wife. He has refused Daphne. It is time he considers you. This will be your redemption. Marry Draco Malfoy, and all will be forgiven. The Dark Lord will no longer torture you, or Daphne. Or us."
It was how life seemed to be for her now. The options were to marry a proper, pure-blood man of standing to keep her life or choose death to herself and her entire bloodline. Astoria didn't think she had much to live for, but she knew her family did. After all, she had been the one to put this curse on them. Among other curses.
If she had just stayed neutral, like Daphne did, none of this would have happened. She should have just listened, instead of fighting for what she believed in. All her regrets began to pile up into a mountain-full of things she can no longer change, only be able to alter later in life if she made the right choices now.
Like marrying a pure-blood man—marrying Draco Malfoy—to keep her life.
"What if he chooses me, mother?" Astoria asked in a small voice as her hands flew to play with the tips of her dark hair absent-mindedly. What if, indeed? She couldn't imagine a life married to someone she doesn't love. Perhaps she could learn to love him—but could he love her? She used to be kind, so full of life. But her tortures and the scar written on her left wrist weren't really wife material. "What if he chooses me, and doesn't learn to love me?"
"Love is irrelevant to people like us." Cassandra said sharply this time, before realizing her mistake and breathing out a frustrated sigh. The woman, who Astoria had taken after by looks, brushed off her finest gown delicately before speaking. "Astoria, I am no longer having this conversation with you again. Marry Draco Malfoy, or you will have disgraced our family name and have killed us all."
Astoria's eyes widened, and fear and apprehension made the world spin. She didn't know long it would take for her to recover from the flashbacks, from the memories that spiraled so painfully. Merlin, she didn't even know if she'll ever be the same again. Even more now as her mother pressured her into choices made for her.
It was easier to blame it on someone else, but she merely had herself to blame for putting this on herself and her family.
"Now, you know what to do. Sit still, and look pretty." Cassandra beamed at her this time, the look of disgust on her face swept aside as she wiped Astoria's cheeks with a hanky she brandished out of thin air. "Make him want you. And save our family."
Sell my soul to him, you mean, she wanted to say.
With a tired nod, she whispered, "Yes, mother."
Cassandra straightened up before she fisted her right hand and placed it across her chest, on top of her heart. "For Voldemort and Valour."
Astoria couldn't bring up her arm like her mother, but she croaked out, "For Voldemort and Valour."
She rose with the help of her mother, her legs buckling under her own weight as the doors of the drawing room opened once more to reveal their guest. As the Malfoys entered the space, Astoria attempted a cheerful smile. The kind of happy smile she used to display, only to falsify that innocence of goodness for the sake of her life.
It was all she could do before silently sinking into the hole of her quiet despair.