the first meet
Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly
Hide and Seek
The first time Draco ever saw Astoria was when he was two. She was swaddled in a pink bundle adorned with flowers. Her face was all squished up and all she did was cry whenever people looked down at her crib. He remembered looking down at her and saying aloud how ugly she was. This caused an upheaval with the Greengrasses, and his friend, Daphne, had deliberately smacked Draco with the behind of her unicorn plushie.
He still thought she was a bit ugly when her parents brought her and her older sister to Malfoy manor on Draco's sixth birthday. Astoria was four then, and a right pain in his tush when he first met her.
"Who wants to play hide and seek in the hedges?" Draco asked his friends after eating cake.
They all yelped in delight, stumbling over each other to get to Draco first. Up the front were Daphne, Pansy, and just lagging behind were Crabbe, Goyle and Theo. And just further behind was Astoria, whose tiny head had perked up at the word "play".
While he had been picking who should go seek, she came bounding through the small crowd. When he saw her finally reach her, she looked up to him in her small frame, big, green eyes wide in wonder.
"I can do that!" Astoria had declared in her small voice, beaming at him hopefully. "Can I play with you?"
"No way, little Greengrass!" Pansy sneered at Astoria. "You're too young to play with us."
"Yeah," Crabbe snickered, showing missing baby teeth as he laughed. "Why don't you go play with the house elves or something."
Draco had laughed at Crabbe's joke, as well as the rest of them, all except Daphne, who didn't do anything, but said nothing to defend her little sister.
"How am I too young to play?" Astoria complained, her brows pinching together curiously as she tilted her dark hair in ponytails slightly to the side. "The game's very simple, isn't it? Everyone goes to hide, and one person seeks everyone. The seeker wins after they find everyone, and get a big prize in the end!"
The lot of them blinked at her for the way she spoke as though she were on the same level as they are, though still with that hint of childish wonder to it.
This time, he let himself up and towered over Astoria with a playful smirk. "You're four, Astoria. Hide and seek is for big kids like us. Go run along and play with your baby toys like your unicorn plushies."
Astoria's cheeks heated up as his friends cackled and pointed at her teasingly. It was the look in the little Greengrass's eyes that set Draco off. She was red with anger and embarrassment, which satisfied him all the more. Even more when he caught the tears in her eyes.
"Oh, look, little baby Greengrass is gonna cry!" Pansy hollered, causing the group to laugh again. Daphne had disappeared behind her friends.
Astoria had drawn tears at last before she turned in her little pink dress and ran away from them. Their laughter went on, Draco's sides split at the sight of the little girl running away. He could see Daphne glaring at him, but he knew she wouldn't do anything stupid to displease him, and on his birthday, no less.
Nobody had the gall to displease Draco Malfoy, because anyone who does would be at the receiving end of his father's wand.
Winter had arrived faster than Draco had expected. It was Christmas time in Malfoy manor and he couldn't believe his delight when he saw his friends and their families join them for Christmas Eve.
They had just finished eating, and the adults had moved to drinking some very adult drinks when he saw Astoria walk up to him on the couch where he sat with his friends. His friends were busy playing gobstones horribly with each other, and had not seen Astoria come up to him.
Astoria tugged at his coat's sleeve and looked up at him to ask, "Do you want to build a snowman?"
Draco rolled his eyes at her. "You're too young to build snow people, Astoria."
At first, he had expected her to start crying or at least blush in the slightest. What she said next surprised him. Her stance became more upright, and she put her hands on her hips like an adult did to assert their authority.
"Why? Are you too intimidated to play?" Astoria asked fiercely, no longer sporting any sort of embarrassment; rather, she was looking very determined. "I suppose you don't even know how to make a decent snowman. Are you too afraid to lose to a four year-old?"
This time, it was Draco's turn to blush. He felt his blood boil at Astoria's audacity, causing him to snap up from where he sat. His friends finally looked up at the pair, silently waiting in bathed breath for Draco's outburst, which came on fast.
"I'm not intimidated! You're on, little Greengrass!" Draco said in rapid fire words, causing Astoria to smirk up at him. Some of his friends asked each other what intimidated meant. "Whoever makes the best snowman wins!"
"Wins what?" Astoria asked innocently, but her green eyes were aflame with ambition.
"My whole stack of Honeydukes sweets from Aunt Bella!" Draco spewed angrily, his face all red; he was practically breathing fire.
"Okay!" Astoria announced happily before she went bouncing towards the glass doors leading out to the garden. She snuggled her green coat closer to her. "I will win those sweets if it's the last thing I do! I'll prove to all of you that I'm old enough to play!"
His friends cheered him on as he made deliberate work of building his snowman. From his peripheral, he could see Astoria building hers with the same speed, perhaps even faster. They only allotted themselves ten minutes to finish making their snowmen.
Astoria's snowman looked impossibly better than his, if not more sturdy. His was practically falling apart, and he kept grunting and screeching at his friends to shut up while he worked. When it was merely a minute into the end of their competition, he started to panic. The head of his snowman won't stay on, whereas Astoria was starting to put up the finishing touches such as the snowman's hands and its beady eyes.
He was getting desperate.
Draco hissed at Crabbe and Goyle to come closer before he told them his plan.
The two boys sniggered maliciously before they headed off to place themselves a few feet away from Astoria's snowman. Crabbe began chucking snowballs at Goyle, and Goyle right back. In the final thirty seconds, Goyle had tossed a humongous snowball at Crabbe—to which Crabbe deliberately avoided. The big snowball came plummeting towards Astoria's snowman, and it hit the figure with a loud thwack, dismantling the snowman's head.
Astoria screeched in worry, then glared at Crabbe and Goyle as the two laughed hysterically before she tried to reform the head of her snowman in haste. Tears began to to sting her eyes.
As the final ten second countdown began, Draco was finally finished with his snowman—which looked a sore lot better than Astoria's. Astoria was still shoveling snow in her palms and up the snowman she was trying to build, but when Pansy and the others screeched the end of the game—her entire body froze.
"Well, it looks like Draco wins!" Pansy announced happily as they all looked at Astoria's snowman, whose head was a complete pile of snow and no form. "What were you trying to make? A hybrid snowman with no head?"
The boys fell over on the snow in laughter. Draco joined them in their laughter as he watched Astoria look up at them angrily.
"It's not fair! Draco cheated!" Astoria proclaimed angrily, stomping her foot in the snow, causing a small flurry of powder to stick to her coat and her face. She pointed an accusing finger at Draco as her bottom lip trembled. "I saw him talk to Crabbe and Goyle! He told them to destroy my snowman just as the time came in! Didn't you see?!"
Pansy giggled horribly as they watched Astoria start to cry. The pug-faced witch began to tease Astoria when the small girl came barreling up to Draco, eyes puffy and red. She pushed him with all her tiny might in anger.
"You're a cheater!" Astoria screeched at him, though her voice broke as Draco stumbled backwards, nearly falling over.
"No, you're just a sore loser who can't take the lost, little Greengrass." Draco said haughtily, regaining his balance as he looked down at her. "Grow up."
"No!" Astoria sobbed helplessly this time, her breaths coming in short and painful ones. This made Draco feel bad for the slightest moment, only for it to grow as the tears streamed down Astoria's cheek. He had never seen her cry full-out. It made him feel weird all of a sudden. "You're mean. You don't play fair. You're not a good person, Draco."
Draco opened his mouth to reply, but found he couldn't form the right words. His stomach was doing weird flip flops, and he didn't feel so good, like he was about to vomit sick. Astoria looked up at him with her big green eyes filled with tears one last time before she pummeled her way out of the snow and back into the manor, leaving Draco and the resounding jeers of his friends.
Suddenly, winning the best snowman didn't feel like it was a win at all.
Astoria never came back to Malfoy manor after their falling out. Usually, Draco cared little for these things. She was just a petty little girl who didn't know how to take a lost. That should have been sound reason enough for Draco not to care about her. But ever since he saw her go home with her mother that day, clinging onto her as she still cried, he couldn't seem to erase the thought of her going home in tears, knowing he caused them.
Much of it was then widely known when his parents told him that Mrs. Greengrass talked to them about Astoria. For the first time in his life, Draco was scolded by his mother. His mum never got mad at him. In fact, she spoiled him to the very core, and gave him everything, even free passes for being prideful and a bit mean to kids he didn't like.
But he must have done something very bad if his mum was angry at him. So to please her, he promised to apologize to Astoria after Christmas. This seemed to put a smile on his mum's face, and that was more than enough.
Now all he had to do was, well, actually do what he promised.
So when March came the next year, Astoria was already five. She went to Malfoy manor then to celebrate his father's birthday with her family. As usual, his friends arrived in a happy array, ready to play with Draco and see what he has up his sleeve.
Theo had been pestering Draco to play with them outside for a snowball fight, but he declined, telling him that he didn't feel so good. His friends looked disappointed, but they went out to the garden anyway. Daphne, who had not been at the Christmas Eve dinner that night, though had likely heard the story from her little sister, glared at Draco.
"Come on, Daphne!" Pansy called to Daphne, before the little witch started to drag her friend outside.
When Daphne was gone, Draco sighed in relief. They had all moved to the drawing room after dinner then. The adults began to converse in low tones, holding up fancy champagne flutes and all spruced up in elaborate apparel. When he searched the room, he saw Astoria sit by the fireplace. Her small figure occupied little of the big sofa facing the fireplace, a board of wizard's chess splayed beside her as she played alone.
Draco took a deep breath before he approached her. The moment he arrived, Astoria looked up in surprise before her expression darkened. She looked down at her game and moved a piece.
"Can I play with you?" Draco asked a little roughly than necessary. The girl's eyes jolted to meet his grey ones, causing him to clear his throat. "I mean, it's wizard's chess. Even a one year old can play that, right?"
Astoria had grown about an inch since he last saw her. And to his utmost surprise, or perhaps he was merely feeling adequate that night, she looked cute in her sparkly gold dress, almost attractive, even as the light from the fireplace illuminated her features. Her hair was pinned up with a little flower brouche, showing much of her pale face, unlike back then when her hair was let down.
There was a slight tinge of red to Astoria's cheek, mixed with a look of disbelief when Draco spoke to her. But she nodded wordlessly before she rearranged the pieces on the board.
Draco sat across from her on the sofa, his fancy green robes rather too stiff for his liking as he turned to sit the way Astoria sat; with crossed legs and bare feet. He found that he was almost too big to fit the space when he does just that, but stays in that position anyway—though he preferred to keep his shoes on.
He felt his stomach do something nasty again. When he told his mother about it, she had told him the feeling he felt when he won the snowman game through the deceit: guilt. Apparently, it was a feeling you felt when you realize you don't like the result of the actions you did or something you did to someone.
It was an icky feeling, but he decided he could feel guilty just once around Astoria Greengrass. He found he didn't like seeing her cry. He didn't want to make her cry today. She looked too pretty to cry, anyway.
"I didn't know you played wizard's chess." Draco opened the conversation as Astoria made the first move with her white piece. "It's a difficult and high level game. Not even my friends know how to play it."
Astoria shrugged, barely looking at him as she concentrated on their game. "I play a lot of it at home. While Daphne played with those stuffed toys you kept teasing me with, I read books and played wizard's chess with my cousins from France. Sometimes I play it alone, and it's still just as fun."
"How come you know so much more than everyone else?" Draco asked curiously as he moved a pawn forward. "You make the perfect snowman, know the exact rules to hide and seek, know wizard's chess…"
"And know how to play gobstones, exploding snap and even know the mechanics of Quidditch," Astoria continued for him, finally looking up with those big green eyes of hers. She was smiling slightly now. "I did say I read, didn't I?"
Draco felt his cheeks heat up before he looked down at the chessboard, watching Astoria make her next move. "Yes, you did. So, you like Quidditch, huh? What position would you want to play?"
"Hm…" Astoria mused aloud then she moved her own pawn. "Probably Seeker. Seekers need to be small, quick and agile. They require perfect eyesight, to which I have the best one, by the way. And they need to be the kind that's not easily distracted… like you are right now."
"Huh?" Draco asked dubiously before he realized he had been staring at Astoria as she spoke, forgetting that it was his turn on the board. He cleared his throat as his cheeks reddened further. "Right, right, of course. I want to play Seeker too. They get all the glory in the game, don't they?"
"Not entirely," Astoria said with a shrug just as Draco made his next play. "It's a team effort, though I suppose the Seeker's a team's last hope in defeating the opponent when they're behind points."
Draco couldn't help but stare at her some more. She was smart, he could give her that. No, not just smart. Perhaps far more intelligent beyond her years; it made him feel as though he's met his match. Like Astoria, he tended to read books as a child and found enjoyment in gaining new knowledge, and having to proudly tell his family, as well as his friends, who were not-so-smart about all the things he learned. He supposed it's why he liked surrounding himself with so many friends. They looked up to him because he was the smartest in their group.
What he didn't know, however, was that there was someone smarter than he was, and she wasn't even in his circle of friends.
"Astoria, I wanted to say I'm…" Draco started nervously, and even more reluctant to go on when Astoria looked up at him with those green eyes of hers. They were a bright kind of green. For some reason, he was starting to favor the green of her eyes. "I wanted to say I'm sorry for what I did in Christmas."
"Are you really?" Astoria asked with an inquisitive quirk of her brow, looking at him in distrust. "Are you sure you won't cheat on this game we're having right now?"
She was firm with herself, he'd give her that. Draco nodded almost immediately, spellbound and desperate for her approval then, for some reason. "I promise I won't cheat."
This seemed to be enough for Astoria, because afterwards, she beamed at him brightly before bobbing her little head. "Okay! If I win, I get twice the stack of your sweets from your aunt. Deal?"
Draco smirked at her, feeling much better as they shook on it. "Deal."
It turns out Astoria was a lot better than Draco on many things, including wizard's chess. As they played, he felt more like he just ran through it, never having to have had the chance to make his defenses and strategies properly as Astoria told him stories of all the things she's read in her books. In fact, he enjoyed the company more of talking to her about all the books they already read, than actually playing the game.
So when Astoria finally trapped Draco's queen, he was shocked to see her knight practically kick his queen off the chessboard, allotting her the win.
"How did you do that?" Draco asked in disbelief, though he was not angry, knowing he hadn't been doing his best with the game.
"It's called sweet talking, Draco," Astoria replied teasingly as she straightened her back. "While you were too busy listening to my amazing stories, I was already winning the whole game."
Draco stared at her, still in shock, though he let out a string of laughter right after. Astoria joined him as they watched the broken chess pieces piece themselves together. Of course, how had he not seen it? He'd been bewitched, mesmerized, even, by the way Astoria spoke to him so eloquently. It was like talking to someone on the same level as him, not having to dumb down his words for her to understand him better. It was compelling.
"I'll never forget you. You're too weird." Draco said with a shake of his head. Astoria stopped laughing all of a sudden as she looked at him worriedly. He panicked. "I meant a good kind of weird!"
Astoria grinned at him happily. "Why, thank you, Draco."
"So now that you've won, do you forgive me?" Draco asserted hopefully.
"Let me think about it…" Astoria mused aloud, making Draco's heart beat faster. It calmed when he saw Astoria break out into a toothy smile. "Okay, I forgive you! Now hand over your sweets, Draco Malfoy! You owe me double for last time!"
They fell into fits of laughter as he led her all the way up the stairs to his room where his stack of sweets was. They spent the whole night laughing and shoving sweets in their mouths as they talked. It felt different being around Astoria, and even though it was going to be some getting used to her scolding him for being arrogant and spoiled, he didn't mind her company at all.
He found that he liked just being around her. They were an unlikely pair who shared more than just the intellect they have beyond their years. For now, they were friends.
And he hoped for it to stay that way forever.