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Only Seventeen

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Only Seventeen
by EMPG22HoPe

You are the dancing queen

Young and sweet

Only seventeen

The Evening Before

Astoria had always believed that eating sweets could make any problem disappear. But as she was finishing her second jar of Pink Coconut Ice, she realized then that not even her favorite Honeydukes sweet could make the situation go away, or at the very least, get any better. A discontented sigh escaped her lips. No, not even the sweets could help her now.

That weekend the night sky had been dotted with about a thousand or more stars. She had been sitting alone on a tree log at the beach by the bonfire, eating her fill of sweets, listening to the sound of the Aegean Sea and wondering when she'd have any control over her life. Because tomorrow, she will lose all control of it when she marries Draco Malfoy.

She had not realized that there were people behind her until she heard the crisp voice of her friend, Romilda.

"You know, there is this thing called diabetes in the muggle world," Romilda said matter-of-factly, appearing at last to sit at the other side of the bonfire on one of the logs. She was carrying what appeared to be a bottle of liquid amber. You didn't have to be a genius to realise it was firewhiskey. She jutted her chin towards the jar of pink coconut ice in Astoria's hands. "You could get it if you eat too much of those sweets."

"Romilda, stop scaring her," A second voice scolded. Hannah joined them, sitting on the log to Astoria's right. Her pale face turned in Astoria's direction. "You've been here most of the day, Tori. We're worried about you."

"Can you blame me?" Astoria asked as she stared at the sparking embers of the bonfire before them, fidgeting with her half eaten jar of pink coconut ice. "I'm only seventeen and I'm about to get married to a man I don't love."

She heard Hannah sigh as Romilda popped open the bottle of Firewhiskey. Hannah shoved a bit of her hair behind her ear. Astora saw that she had a flower placed behind her ear. A sunflower. How Hannah got one of those, Astoria wondered, but couldn't find the energy to ask.

"Look, ever since we got to Greece, you haven't exactly been yourself." Hannah explained, fidgeting with the hem of her shorts. "And I know it's because you're about to get married, but… you need to let us help. This isn't healthy for you."

"Tell me about it." Romilda commented offhandedly as she took a swig of firewhiskey, swallowing and letting it flow down her throat.

Hannah frowns at their friend. "What Romilda is trying to say is that we want to help you. We're your friends. Your best friends, I might add. And your bridesmaids, too. But we can't do that if you're reluctant and sulking all the time."

"I'm sorry," Astoria apologized as she wiped her mouth off with her hand to rid herself of the sticking bits of pink coconut ice on the top and side of her lips. "It's just been very… difficult. I mean, Draco's really nice, uncharacteristically nice, actually. And he's been very considerate ever since our parents signed the engagement contract but… it's not fair. We weren't given enough time, let alone any liberty to decide if we want this or not."

"We can't change… tradition, even if we wanted to." Romilda sighed tiredly as she stared at Astoria from across the bonfire. "It's a binding magical thing, these ridiculous pureblood engagements. Unless you lose your virtue now, you're pretty much stuck."

"You're not helping very much, Romilda." Hannah shook her head of blonde hair, disappointment etched on her face.

Romilda rolled her eyes at Hannah. "Well, it's better if she faces the cold hard truth than have you sugar coat the rubbish. Even Astoria can see past the sweetness of it."

"Yes, Romilda's right," Astoria said, then paused as she listened to the sound of the waves splash against the shore. It calmed her, hearing the sea. She chewed her bottom lip before looking up at her friends. "I can't change tradition. The best I can do is make the most out of it. But how can I? I've only just graduated from Hogwarts, and there's so much more I could do. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world before I… you know…"

Die, she wanted to say in regards to her blood curse. But that was simply adding more salt to the wound of her engagement to Draco.

"Do the Malfoys know?" Romilda asked with a frown. "Or at least Draco?"

"They know." Astoria nodded as she put her jar of sweets down on the sand. "But I was the best "deal" the Malfoys could have for their son. Everyone else from the Sacred Twenty-Eight simply refuses to have their daughters married to him."

"And your parents thought since the Malfoys are technically still quite "elite" despite their defecting from You-Know-Who, they decided it would be a good opportunity to marry off one of their daughters." Romilda concluded bluntly, causing Hannah to glare at her. Her Gryffindor friend, however, seems unbothered by the glare. "Sucks that you're getting damaged goods."

"Romilda!" Astoria and Hannah scolded her and stood up at the same time.

Astoria sat back down, unsure where her need to defend Draco came from. It was likely from the few short weeks that they spent trying to make their relationship perfect for the "picture perfect wedding" their parents wanted. He was actually quite clever, even compassionate at times, and cared for her opinions more than anything. But even he had little control over a binding contract, and couldn't do anything to help her.

"You know what, you two are so sulky," Romilda stood up this time. She took another short swig of firewhiskey before handing it to Astoria. "Hannah and I came here to cheer you up, but little Miss Hufflepuff here is not doing a very good job."

"I was trying to be considerate of Astoria's feelings." Hannah sighed in defeat while Astoria took the bottle from Romilda. "But since we're here anyway, we might as well try to cheer her up. Come on, let's go for a swim."

"But I'm not even in my swimsuit!" Astoria protested, nearly dropping the firewhiskey. She was dressed in a sleeveless shirt and some shorts, hardly the appropriate apparel for swimming.

"Who says we need them?" Romilda grins as she took Astoria's arm—and the firewhiskey back from her— forcing her to stand up. Astoria nearly stumbled on her own two feet, surprised by Romilda's strength as she was pulled up from the log. "You'll turn rusty and old by the time you marry Draco if you don't learn to live a little."

Astoria's eyes widen in horror when she looked to Hannah for help. Hannah simply moved her sunflower from her ear to Astoria's with a slight grin.

Romilda then began to pull her towards the sea. She resisted at first, but gave up at last when Hannah started to push her towards the waters too, her pink coconut ice left forgotten next to the bonfire on the beach.

Once her feet met the icy coldness of the sea, she felt a sense of easiness course through her. And that easiness seemed to settle as she walked into the sea, smiling as her friends dragged her deeper into the waters. By the time the water was up to her chest, she was enjoying spending time with her best friends. Then they started splashing at her.

She squealed in surprise, instinctively bringing her arms up to protect her eyes, but after a moment began to flap her arms on the water, making a very fruitless attempt to reciprocate.

Their laughter filled the night while they passed around the firewhiskey. What little worries were soon washed away as the friends recalled the little muggle song they had learned two summers ago when they had been traveling. They sang the tune at the top of their lungs, not caring that they'd sound hoarse the next day.

"You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life," Romilda sang drunkenly as she spun in the water, firewhiskey in hand. "Ooh, see that girl."

"Watch that scene," Hannah and Astoria sang back just as drunkenly as their friend, having consumed a bit of the firewhiskey as well.

"Diggin' the dancing queen!" Romilda and Hannah sang off-key as they pointed at Astoria.

A bright laugh escaped Astoria's lips as she spun in the waters, allowing the sea to fill her with joy. She would not forget the feeling of this night, even though she wasn't likely to remember half of what happened the next day. Still, in that moment, she finally felt free.

The Morning After

Astoria's head was pounding with an unbearable pain. She felt groggy as she tried to open her eyes, and hissed when the light hit them mercilessly. While she tried to move in what she now felt were very soft sheets—she assumed to be in a bed—she heard soft footsteps pad towards her.

When she shaded her eyes with her hand to keep the morning sun from blinding her, she glanced up to find Draco staring down at her, a slight smile on his lips.

"Oh, no," Astoria groaned, and winced when she spoke. Her voice was so hoarse it was painful to speak. "What happened last night?"

Draco moved to her side, covering her from the glare of the morning sun. He seemed almost angelic in this view, with his sleek blonde hair and hard features, the light framing his head like a halo. It almost made her smile, had Draco not said his piece. "You caused a bit of trouble with your friends."

Astoria's eyes widened in horror. "I did?"

"Just a bit," Draco chuckled lowly. He took out his wand and waved it at the window. The curtains closed in on themselves, finally blocking the glare of the sun. "We had to obliviate the muggle police to keep you three from prison."

"Oh my," Astoria's cheeks flushed a dark red. "What on earth did we do?"

"Best we not get into it." Draco shook his head in amusement as Astoria tried to lift herself off the bed. He moved swiftly, placing his hands on her shoulder as he gently tried to push her back down. "You need to rest, Astoria. And take the potion on the side table to get rid of your hangover."

"But our wedding…" Astoria trailed off, and then sank back into the sheets. Her body relaxed into it, sighing at the soft feel of it. "Our wedding… isn't it in a few hours?"

"It is, but we can delay it for an hour or so to get you back into sorts." Draco replied fondly as he pushed stray strands of her hair away from her face.

"I'm so sorry." Astoria apologized profusely now, the heat on her cheeks more prominent than ever. "I only meant to eat so many pink coconut ices to ease my nerves. I didn't mean to drink too much last night. Hannah and Romilda…"

Draco gently pushed her back down when she tried to sit up again. "They're fine and just outside waiting. I told them I wanted to tend to you for a little while."

Astoria smiled at him softly as she gestured towards her body, bundled up in the covers of the bed's thick blankets. "Well, you've done a very good job."

He released a bright laugh before leaning down to stare at her. "I'm glad, then."

She felt her heart warm up at the sight of him. He wasn't really that bad if people actually got to know him. It wasn't that Draco was the problem, it was…

"Hannah and Romilda talked to me last night," Draco started as his hands smoothed the creases of the blanket on top of Astoria away. "They said you wanted to travel after you graduated but never got the chance to. You never told me."

Astoria's cheeks reddened further. "I thought it might be too trivial to mention."

"It's not." Draco shook his head. "After the wedding, we don't have to… you know… do what we must."

"Oh dear," Astoria said in a voice much higher than usual.

Draco laughed bashfully, a bit of red on his cheeks as well. "Well, you know… we can just travel like you've always wanted. I don't even have to say a word. You can just pretend I'm not there so you can enjoy the lot of it."

"No," Astoria finally pulled her upper body up despite Draco's hands on her shoulders. She smiled at him sadly as she wriggled herself upwards to a more proper sitting position, despite the ache on her back and the sudden whiplash it gave her head. "I… I want you to be there. I want you to be a part of my travels."

"You do?" Draco asked in surprise, and her heart seemed to melt at the hopeful way he stared at her. "You don't really have to—"

"But I do," Astoria interrupted as she placed her hands on top of Draco's. She gave him a warm smile this time. "I want to. The fact that you even offered that we travel instead of starting a family like our parents wanted after the wedding… It's very sweet."

"Oh," Draco trailed off, the blush on his cheeks more obvious than ever. But he soon sorted himself into place before offering her a wide grin. "Then we'll travel. Wherever you want to go, I'll be there with you."

Astoria beamed at him now. "I think that sounds lovely."

Draco smiled at her affectionately then stood up. "The hangover potion is on the side table if you need it."

"Of course," Astoria said gratefully.

"I'll see you at the wedding?" Draco asked hopefully.

She laughs then nods at his words. "I'll be the one in white."

After Draco had left, Hannah and Romilda filed into the room. Astoria realized, as she watched her friends approach her, that she was dressed in a nightgown under the blankets. A bright blush graced her cheeks, wondering if it had been Draco who had changed her from her wet shirt and shorts into the nightgown. She was too embarrassed to ask.

"So," Hannah started as she flattened what looked to be a long, white cover for something on her lap. "How was the talk with the fiancé?"

"Good," Astoria answered, too distracted by the thing in Hannah's hand. "What is that?"

"Your wedding dress, of course." Romilda laughed. She then took the cover off to reveal another white thing underneath. But it had a bit more cream color to it with only a hint of white. It had beautiful little ruffles for the bottom part and a very nice sweetheart shape to the bosom. The chest part had tiny diamonds that glimmered every time the sun crept between the curtains, sending little spots of light around the room.

"Oh, it really is pretty." Astoria smiled softly. Her hands caressed the upper part of her wedding dress. "Do you think I'll look nice in it?"

"You'll look like a goddess in it." Hannah affirmed with a bright grin.

"But really, Tori," Romilda added in. "Just say the word and we'll kidnap you and take you away from here. We'll pretend you had died in a ditch somewhere so you won't have to go through this wedding."

"Oh, Romilda, honestly!" Hannah screeched, causing Astoria to laugh.

Astoria shook her head. "Really, it's fine. I don't mind… well, I don't mind marrying Draco now."

Her friends blinked at her in confusion.

"I hadn't minded marrying him before, actually," Astoria confessed. "But he said we could travel after we get married. I never told him about my plans after Hogwarts before, and when you guys told him, it gave him the idea."

"Well, he isn't such a bad chap after all," Hannah said, but her brows still furrowed together. "Are you sure you want to marry him?"

"Are you sure you don't want us to just fake your death?" Romilda asked hopefully.

A bright laugh escaped her lips as Hannah slapped Romilda's arm.

"No, I'm quite sure." Astoria smiled at her friends fondly before her gaze moved to admire the wedding dress before her. "The surest I've been in my life."