Draco realized that sending Astoria away had been his most selfless act up to date the night after he watched his honorary uncle kill Dumbledore, that's when he began to feel her absence like an open wound.
Every two hours he wanted to take his actions back, beg her if necessary to stay with him, because he knew she would, if Astoria could see him she would run back to him no questions asked.
And that's why he had forced her to run.
When Voldemort ordered his father to be taken out of Askaban Draco thought he'd at least manage to get some sleep, but instead watching his mother clutch his father's hand tightly after the ordeal only served to remind Draco of what he had spared Astoria.
The memory of her delicate hands in his face became a haven he escaped to when he felt the self hatred was too much to handle, his personal disgust that escalated with every use of dark magic, one feeding the other, in a never ending cycle.
When he watched his fellow Death Eaters murder muggleborns and listened to Voldemort's order like a good little Malfoy should a part of his mind always wandered back to her.
To her blue accepting eyes, to the soft understanding voice that had whispered constantly "it's okay Draco, you're only doing what you need to survive". That girl who never seemed to judge his actions, born perpetually swimming in shades of grey the way some people only lived with blacks or whites. Never absolving him of his wrongdoings but never condemning him either.
To his sweet Astoria, he was just another mortal caught between two impossible choices, torture or be tortured.
So he held on to his memory of their nights together the way he'd held on to her body in his sixth year.
When he tortured muggleborns knowing fully well Voldemort was watching, when he sat for supper with the likes of Fenrir Greyback and practiced dark curses with his aunt Bellatrix over the summer, those nights he took dreamless sleep potion, he remembered her.
Astoria Greengrass spent the hollidays in hiding with her sister and two best friends, gathering hope around her like an armor.
Her sister wanted to go back to Hogwarts but their father had rendered them both virtual prisoners of the appropriately named Greengrass Lodge with the use of a strong blood magic wardsmanship.
Hyperion Greengrass was an asset to the new ministry because of his ability to serve as a liaison between them and virtually any other ministry of the world, like the surviving diplomats still left in the country he was safe by virtue of his bloodline and usefulness. But his freedom to bend the rules from the inside in favor of the losing side of the war always hinged on the fact that his two living pressure points were listed as convenient 'disappearances' rather than runaway blood traitors.
After Juno's death at the hands of her death eater friends, Hyperion had done what needed to be done to keep his daughters safe, he couldn't have Daphne running back to her group of acolytes anymore than he could let Astoria be held hostage in Hogwarts.
So their father locked them away and while the lack of freedom rendered Daphne almost catatonic, Astoria endured on.
Holding on to the hope that she would see the boy she loved again, so she had to be strong for him, for her sister and even for her two best friends who had followed her into exile because they didn't want to go back to the life that awaited them with their own father and aunt.
Astoria needed to be strong for them, nevermind if at night she cried until her pillows were wet with tears under the cover of many silencing charms, in the daylight she was as bright and optimistic as she could.
Being what people needed was what Astoria knew best and these girls needed her in a varying amount of ways, Daphne, Flora and Hestia needed a leader so Astoria fell into the role almost without notice and that was how she endured her broken heart.
And the emptiness of Draco's absence.
Draco told himself that at lest he'd done one good thing in the midst of all the bad: he had saved the girl who liked to sleep in his bed.
Astoria was alive and healthy somewhere out of his reach and Draco wanted to be proud of that, because it was the equivalent of saving her life. She was doing the right thing by running and one day hopefully she would build a life with a bloke that deserved her and forget all about him, a happy life. Draco wanted to be proud of that.
But he couldn't, not when he wanted so badly to take it back, not when he wanted to curl himself in her lap sobbing and let the sound of her humming lull him to sleep.
Not when he burned to find her and beg her to stay at his side every day even if it meant condemning her to death.
Because he was a selfish boy and she was a girl too generous for her own good, he wanted to have her back so badly because she could make his hurts go away and with her, he was capable of forgetting all the atrocities he'd done under Voldemort's orders. Who cared if he put a target on her back or if she ended up killed because of him, he just wanted Astoria to obliviate his senses for one night again. His pain demanded relief and she was the only relief he knew how to grasp.
His beautiful, fragile Astoria, so brave and yet so breakable.
Was it any wonder that he refused to be selfish then?.
Was it any wonder that he fought himself every night because he didn't want her to be hurt the way he was being hurt.
She was the only thing that was his that he'd never broken, no matter his selfish needs he had to put her safety first and like it or not, her father would keep her from the war.
So he let his need to protect her win over his selfishness and continue to deal with the conflicting war inside him.
It was just another of many secrets he kept to himself.
All trough the holidays and even as he was forcibly sent back to Hogwarts to "keep the rabble in line" Draco felt something had cracked in him and he couldn't understand why, things and ideals that had felt so clear to him before were so confusing.
It had been a gradual process of doubt that culminated in the Astronomy Tower when he failed to murder Dumbledore.
The lack of light in his life was only accentuated by the absence of the Greengrass coat of arms in the Slytherin common room. Astoria had been enough light to keep him from breaking before this, but now, now Draco felt utterly alone in Hogwarts and he didn't like the cold emptiness of it.
"I thought she would be here" Theo muttered glancing at the row of chairs Daphne usually commandeered as soon as the year started looking strangely dissatisfied despite his normally impassive look "She said she would be, I wish she had told me she wouldn't be coming back"
"She couldn't have known, she had no say in the matter" Draco replied abruptly making Theo's head snap up and look at him suspiciously "Astoria drugged Daphne with Menthalysia before they left" Draco shrugged
"So it's true, Lord Hyperion did make good on his threat to lock them away, that must be why I've not heard from her all summer"
"At least Daphne is safe where she is now, she wouldn't have been safe here"
"Daphne? don't you mean Astoria" Nott snapped glaring at Draco and crossing his arms "we both know you couldn't care less about Daph, it's Astoria the one who's important to YOU that's why you only warned HER that the death eaters were coming, she's a weakness to exploit"
No sooner had Theo said the words that he was slammed into the ground with a wand pointed at his neck "Threaten little Greengrass again and I swear by Merlin you won't get to finish the sentence without gurgling blood" Draco growled squeezing Nott's neck
"Let...Go" Theo gasped as Draco held him down "relax I'm not spoiling for a fight, that wasn't a threat"
"Then what was it?" Draco snarled
"A shared sentiment" Theo replied trying to get up and dusting his robes off, he ignored Draco's huff with his own and turning his back walked away with one last sentence "you're not the only one who has ever begged a Greengrass girl to get out while she can, no, you're just the only one who got listened"
He left Draco wondering how deep his bond with Daphne really ran and if Theodore Nott's perceptive streak extended to things beyond Hogwarts
At the end of the summer with the help of a good book on House elves and the genius brains of Flora and Hestia who found a loophole in the wards of Greengrass Lodge, Astoria and Daphne discovered that their inability to leave the Lodge didn't extend to the twins if they used house elf magic to apparate out.
The blood wards kept them all in but Flora and Hestia had a bigger range of movement around them because technically they were not Greengrass kin, so on discovering this the twins began experimenting with Bubu ( the most helpful of the household's house elves) by apparating into nearby towns, or even the Swiss train station, when they realized it could be done, the girls devised a way to run discreet errands in order to find out information about what was going on in the ministry, even to visit the nearest apothecary or trade jewelry for muggle money in pawnshops since it was decided that Flora and Hestia should not risk the ministry's underage magic trace.
The errands system worked for some weeks until. Well...Until Hestia left to gather the Daily Prophet from an owl stationed in the Swiss train station and returned looking like a bloodied mess with a Ravenclaw second year and his little sibling in tow.
Astoria received newcomers Kent and little Bruce as warmly as she could, the older one recognized her from Hogwarts and immediately launched into a sordid tale of what had been happening since she was gone, emphasising on the cruelty of the elder Carrows and the way most of the school was being terrorized.
Surprisingly it was Flora who proposed starting to scout for survivors like Kent and bringing them to the Lodge, the place was obviously secure and the twins felt responsible for the awful this their family was doing. Daphne naturally was against it but Astoria couldn't bear to know that there were children like them suffering without a place to go because nobody could care less.
They had a Lodge and enough resources to feed a small country for decades "I won't let this war damage more children than it already has" was her mantra.
With a little help from a designated public owl and a complicated code Hestia had worked out with a old Hufflepuff ally during her first year, the girls set up a operation to refugee as many magical children as they could.
Astoria thanked Merlin for her Hufflepuff contacts who's respect she'd earned over the last years, Mattias Elwood and Bastian Young especially, who held the prefecture that year and had worked out a way to smuggle wounded kids to Astoria's house elf in Hogsmade.
Soon the coded letters began talking about changing locations for apparitions and expanding the amount of rooms in Greengrass Lodge, there were simply too many 'special cases' that Mattias and Bastian had to send to Astoria, such as magical children under the age of Hogwarts acceptance that needed to be evacuated from their current locations because their Hogwarts boarding cousin or sibling feared for them.
During that time Astoria learned that it really was horrible what the dark Lord was doing, murdering entire families and spreading terror to the point where many parents were grateful for the chance to send their beloved child away to safety with a sixteen year old witch and two house elves.
The more time that passed, the more Slytherin the operation became in their efforts to protect the refugees. Everyone, both working inside and out of Greengrass Lodge pooled their minds around how to make the place more secure, to be one step ahead of the Snatchers like Greyback when Flora or Hestia left to collect a newcomer.
That school year Astoria didn't learn about schoolwork, none of them did. Instead Daphne, the twins and her, along with any resident of the Lodge over the age of sixteen learned a crash course in advanced magical survival.
Whatever newcomer was good in herbology they were assigned a place in either the greenhouse or the garden in order to grow vegetables and fruits fast enough to supply the Lodge's pantry, if they were good in potions they were assigned to a solar exclusively dedicated to brewing healing potions, the ones good with charms split themselves between guard duty and housekeeping enchantments, while anyone with remotely good transfiguration skills worked on making sure there was enough wearable clothing to supply the entire Lodge.
It was a messy arrangement but Astoria insisted on working together, no matter the grief, anger and desperation that hung over most of them along with their ever present fighting spirit, there was always someone new in the healing room, or a newcomer with ripped clothes, or a scouting agent in need of a good scougify, she maintained that always trying to help someone else in the Lodge was all they could do to keep themselves sane in times like these.
And so Astoria found herself in the middle of something bigger than her, the stories she heard about Draco made her heart ache for him and wish to see him again so much more, but she had to stay alive, that had been her promise.
Sleep eluded Draco for the whole school year, if anything 'dreamless sleep' was the only way he actually managed to get any rest and even then he'd have to heavily ward his bed before lowering his guard enough to take the potion.
Nott and Zabini became the closest thing he had to true friends in that period of time.
It made sense that not only Nott missed Daphne, but Zabini did as well, the three of them had been close and Draco was unwittingly pulled into their sullen company by virtue of of missing Astoria. They rarely talked about anything of consequence or bothered with pleasantries, but there was a underlying camaraderie with them that Draco never found in Crabbe and Goyle.
Missing from their group that year unsurprisingly was also Millicent Bullstrode, the bulky girl had a practical streak that Draco used to envy in their childhood games and now she and her brothers were probably across the Atlantic attending Ilvermorny. A land where muggles still prosecuted witchcraft was a small price to pay for the Bullstrodes when it came to escaping war. The dark Lord hadn't been pleased but he had been too late to thwart their plans.
Tracy on the other hand has almost become a shadow of Pansy in the wake of Voldemort's takeover, normally Daphne's personality served as a buffer that kept Tracy from simpering but as the beautiful blonde was gone, Tracy Davis had lost that drive that made her stand up for herself against Pansy's tyranny.
Some days Draco almost wanted to pick a quill and write about it to Astoria, tell her that missing her lithe form wasn't getting any easier, confide about his friends, their mutual acquaintances and the blank eyed children she'd left behind without pepper up surprise boxes.
It was more than longing, it was an emptiness that was almost oppressive in its existence, sucking the air out of him on random moments when he would catch himself remembering her face.
All that changed during the Easter Hollidays when he returned home to find his dearest aunt Bellatrix in residence along with a couple other unsavory death eaters Draco didn't care for.
And when he was asked to identify Harry Potter, he hesitated and lied.
Draco could tell Harry knew it too, maybe it was in the way Draco's voice wobbled when he said he wasn't sure, or the way Bellatrix and Narcissa almost had to force the compliance out of him with gentle reminders of the dark Lord.
All that Draco knew was that for a moment when he saw Greyback part Harry's hair to show the outline of the scar in his disfigured face he had a momentary flashback to the last time he'd seen Astoria.
find me when all this is over
Would it ever be over? Wasn't Harry Potter a better chance at ending the cycle he was currently in that no chance at all? Draco wanted to see her again, but more so he wanted to see her without the proverbial sword hanging above their two necks.
So Draco lied about Harry and knowing he was condemning himself to hell he gave Bellatrix the confirmation on the mudblood girl and Weasley.
Astoria might forgive him for what he did to Hermione Granger the day she learned about it, but he wouldn't forgive himself, not when her screams under the Cruciatus would haunt Draco for eternity.
Disgust for himself was a familiar emotion but Granger's torture broke something in Draco that he didn't think he could come back from. It was all well and good when he didn't personally know who was writhing on the ground, when the faces contorting in pain were nothing to him, he himself could perform the Cruciatus and never feel an ounce of anything for the poor unlucky sod.
But Weasley's shouts from the basement coupled with the mudblood's screams suddenly made the true meaning of what he'd been doing crash around him like a toppled building.
This girl was someone's Astoria.
Draco had grown up around this girl, he'd resented her quite a bit, but even then, he'd never wanted her dead. Despite her blood status Hermione Granger was supposed to be a fighter, not this screaming mess of pleas.
He could only imagine what would happen if Astoria hadn't left when he told her to. This could have been her, with Bellatrix knife to her neck.
Forever used as leverage until she died or Voldemort forced Draco to kill her and made an example out of him.
So Draco was secretly glad when Potter escaped, taking all the prisoners with them. Especially Luna Lovegood, the Ravenclaw who saw too much for Draco's comfort and who's words usually hit too close to home.
Because if there was any chance to be had to end the whole disaster he'd found himself in, then Harry Potter sure had it in his hands.
When he returned to Hogwarts he confided in Theodore what he'd known all along and naturally got a Slytherin admonishment in return, but it didn't stop his friend from supporting him and in that at lest Nott was better than Zabini.
"You could have had any girl in the world" Theo said out of the blue one night, he'd tracked down Draco to the library, shortly before they heard the alarm that meant Harry Potter was back in Hogwarts, per Nott custom his face looked incredibly drawn, naturally he didn't have to say who he was referring to "why did you choose her?"
"I didn't, she was the one who chose me" Draco replied slowly after much deliberation, remembering all the moments in which he fell a bit more for little Astoria "She just looked at me with belief in her eyes and it trapped me better than any spell would, I think I've belonged to her long before I knew that it was possible to belong to someone else"
"There are rumors about her you know...not Among us but among the Ravenclaws who are close to particularly talkative Hufflepuffs" Theodore murmured sitting down next to Draco and whispering in his lowest voice "they say that an allied Slytherin girl has a safehouse somewhere up North, that the Hufflepuffs have been sending their younger siblings to her for protection"
"Allied?" Draco hissed back glaring at Nott
"A trustworthy one, the Hufflepuffs are a loyal bunch so they won't say names, but also won't leave Hogwarts, they act as a liaison between the safehouse and the people who need the information, as far as I know a couple of ours are covering her tracks too, which means it's probably not only Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw who have been systematically evacuating their younglings"
"How do you know it's Astoria behind this, she's not the only Slytherin girl to have escaped the country in the wake of the war, It could be Millicent or even one of the Carrow girls"
"Yes but she's the only Slytherin girl I know who has clout among the older Badgers, if there's a girl in Slytherin who without raising suspicion is capable of offering asylum to children of the four houses then that's Astoria Greengrass"
"Does anyone else have an inkling of this?" Draco asked with dawning horror
"No, those who know the rumors think it's Millicent and nobody in the know bothers to contradict them, I figured it out because of you" Theo admitted appraising the way Draco's face betrayed his surprise, which made the other boy snort "if she could make you of all people worry about her, then it makes sense to think that there must be something about her that's worth worth worrying about"
"Nott if anything happens to me...." Draco choked out the words hearing Alecto and Amycus approaching in the distance, realizing it was now or never "will you find Astoria? Or at least send her a message, tell her that I tried my best to keep my promise, that I didn't give up easily, that...That she was the best thing to happen to me in this blasted place"
"I'll do it, if you promise to do the same by Daphne if I'm the one who dies first" Theo replied somberly to which Draco nodded and together they stood up and walked in the direction of the nearest exit.
A few hours after they had finished that conversation, the fight that later became known as the battle of Hogwarts began in earnest.
When Pansy screamed at everyone to take Harry Potter, Draco couldn't help but feel a stab of hatred towards her, a fissure fracturing his opinion of her and making him feel ashamed of being part of what drove Pansy to this type of stupid behavior, after all hadn't Pansy been his friend for a longer time than most, shouldn't she know by now that this crazy drive to kill Potter herself wouldn't get her anywhere?.
And for a moment Draco shuddered, realizing who Pansy reminded him of when she called everyone to take Potter to Voldemort: this was what a younger aunt Bellatrix must have looked in the early days of Voldemort's rise.
But McGonagall put a stop to it soon enough and the Slytherins evacuated from Hogwarts, Draco noticed that there were very few first years among their house, an optimist part of him prayed to magic that this meant that Astoria's contacts had gotten them out of Hogwarts before this whole mess came to head and not that they were lying murdered in cold blood somewhere. (Astoria did have a weakness for children smaller than her, oh Merlin would he ever stop bloody missing her).
Draco watched the sky darken from the window as the great Hall exploded in a flurry of movement and sighed, knowing with an eerie certainty that this was it.
Whatever happened now, he was going to die today, a battle like this was nothing he knew how to fight, nothing he wanted to fight. And while the dark Lord would probably send aunt Bellatrix to kill him herself if a stray curse from a Griffindoor didn't do the job first Draco at least wanted to do something good before he died.
So when Crabbe and Goyle pulled him away from a duel with an unnamed Ravenclaw and made exited noises about killing Potter and knowing where he was going Draco tried his best to control his goons from going for the throat.
What happened in the room of lost things was.... Another thing to add to Draco's ever growing list of nightmare fodder, what could he have said to keep the bloody lightning scared fool alive other than shouting "the dark Lord wants him alive! Don't kill him" Draco didn't know. Unlike him who used the Cruciatus because he didn't want the vipers he'd grown up with to use it on him, Crabbe and Goyle actually enjoyed using the unforgivables and Draco grew more and more desperate to just end the whole fight between his friends and the reckless trio before something terrible happened (because terrible things ALWAYS happened in the room of lost things) and when Crabbe (or was it Goyle?) Conjured the cursed fire all Draco could think about was the need to run that overtook all his common sense.
He was going to die, die burned to crisp because a friend couldn't think about what he was doing long enough to realize cursed fire was outlawed for a reason.
Except that Crabbe got stunned, Goyle tried to save him and in the middle of the confusion all Draco wanted was to live! Merlin help him but he wanted to live.
Funny, he did live, Harry Potter of all people saved his life.
But Crabbe was dead.
And after that Draco's mind felt strangely blank, intellectually, he could remember it all, from the silence of Goyle, to Potter's ash covered face as he ran towards the great hall with Granger and Weasley (off to his death probably).
He could remember Goyle pulling Crabbe's body to his chest and crying, the twitch of his own hand as he used his mum's wand to conjure a sheet to cover said body with. It was scary, how Crabbe's death had severed a connection between the war going inside Draco and his outside world. He suddenly felt like he was watching his actions from a third person perspective, not an active participant but a mere spectator viewing his life trough the liquid of a pensive.
(One day, apprentice mind healer Flora Carrow would tell him that what he felt that day was called "dissociation" and that it had been his only way to cope)
Dimly he could hear the memory of Astoria's voice softly weeping "but we're only children" over and over again, superimposed with Crabbe's corpse. And he supposed it was true.
Save for the teachers and family members running around trying to put up a fight, the majority of today's casualties were, just like Astoria feared "only children".
He understood now, where that compassion of hers sprung from, he wished he still didn't, but death was a cruel teacher.
Did it take Crabbe dying for him to face the gruesome truth? The disconnected part of Draco wondered, maybe it did, maybe it didn't, death was a fickle thing and those who perpetuated death were the worst sort of creatures. He was the worst sort of creature.
And then...His mother found him and he was being pulled into reality once again, dragged to see Harry Potter's supposedly dead body, scared out of his wits for what came next now that Voldemort had "officially" won, showcasing his trophy for all the world.
In the future those who wrote about the following event would say that it had been a battle between good and evil, something epic, heroic, legendary even, and yes in the stories that would be told that's how it should be portrayed.
But the truth was that from Draco's strange disconnected perspective, all he saw was a mad man and a teenage boy. There was nothing epic about Harry's speech before he dueled Voldemort and the elder wand backfired, Harry looked as scared and angry as the rest of the students around him, he was dirty, tired and barely hanging on to his sanity, hardly the look of a boy meant to symbolize Good's triumph over evil.
Draco could tell, even then.
No, the battle wasn't epic and maybe that's what made the story a worthy legend. A simple teenager who believed that love was stronger than anything Voldemort could throw at him faced the dark Lord and won by a stroke of wand making fortune.
By enabling Voldemort's death Harry did to Draco what he'd never been able to in all their years at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter humbled him.
And then the battle was over. Arrests were made, dead were buried, words were said that Draco never thought he'd hear, looking around everyone was either celebrating or mourning.
Draco was given a something to look forward to when night fell on the day of Voldemort's defeat, not soon after his parents had been carted off to the ministry to await his father's trial, hope bloomed in Draco's chest in the form of a Hufflepuff prefect who handed him a note and nodded with something akin to respect in his eyes.
"She said to give you this as soon as I could, my siblings are safe because of her, so it's the least I could do" the short black haired boy said handing him a scrap of parchment paper looking a bit uncomfortable
King Cross station.
first train incoming.
Nodding Draco felt the muscles in his face stretch into the first smile he'd had in....A long long time and watching the Hufflepuff walk away Draco's unexpected joy got the best of him "hey! Your name is Quincy Moore right?" He called out, watching the boy look genuinely surprised at Draco even knowing his name, probably bracing himself for a 'mudblood' type of comment, instead Draco said "thank you for this" holding up the parchment with the most tender of looks
The muggleborn Hufflepuff smiled back "you're welcome Draco Malfoy"
Daphne sent their father a howler not five minutes after hearing about Voldemort's defeat from the wireless.
Astoria sent him her apologies.
And on seeing his daughters again and learning about what they had done to Greengrass Lodge behind his back, Hyperion was both impressed with his youngest and furious. But Astoria was tired of playing her part, after having to be the leader of a safe house for months, she was angry enough to put her foot down and demand an audience with her father.
"Youre a hypocrite" Astoria said softly lifting her eyes to meet her father's gaze "you say that to be neutral is to do what needs to be done but want me to turn these people away" then she balled her delicate fists sighed "but I won't do it, I can do good among these children, I know I can, this is my way of helping the war"
And Hyperion had to admit that his daughter was right, she HAD helped in her own way "what about you Astoria? What happens when you need to go back to school? When there's no you to keep the children here in line, or when the Carrow girls decide to leave? Daphne is as eager as I am to move the family seat to our castle in Vienna What then?"
"I won't be returning to Hogwarts, I'll be taking my OWLS and NEWTS privately and plan to aim for a coinspeak apprenticeship as soon as I can manage" Astoria confessed to her father "Father there are at least seven people I know who want me to turn this place into a proper institution just so they can apply for work here, I think I want to do that, I want to create a haven where hurt children can find help, please I want to do this, but I can't do it alone"
"You propose Greengrass Lodge into an orphanage?" Hyperion muttered raising an eyebrow in disbelief ignoring her words on what she wished to do with her education "it won't be easy"
"Not an orphanage, a shelter, someplace that can give the broken sanctuary" Astoria pushed crossing her arms over her chest "half of the small mudbloods I've met here love their families, but father, there are also so many others that were treated a tough magic was a disease, in their own homes, and not just the mudbloods, half bloods and purebloods are ostracized by their families all the time too, this is the legacy war has left us"
"Your idea might have some merit my child" Hyperion agreed looking her up and down "you wish to create a refuge for neglected children then? Right in the aftermath of Voldemort's fall?"
"Is there any better time to do it? Too many Purebloods sided with Voldemort for our blood status to be worth much now that he's gone, knowing the kind of people who will most likely rise to power now, its in your best interest to at least seem like you were on their side all along" Astoria replied in a clinical tone, knowing fully well that her father would only help her if he thought it was an advantageous move for his diplomatic career "I must make sure that it looks planned, this is why I need your connections"
"My beautiful, intelligent daughter" Hyperion chuckled "what you propose is ambitious, how much so, I don't know, how could anyone ever doubt the sorting hat?"
"I AM a Slytherin and I'm proud of it/p" Astoria pointed out "Ambition has a place in society and I want to have the people's good opinion as much as I want to help those who have nowhere to go"
"Yes and you are infinitely too young to start playing these games so soon, I had hoped that I could spare you the dance of politic maneuvers, but I suppose wanting to impose the standing of grey magic is in your blood, as well as mine" Lord Greengrass agreed with a defeated sigh "very well Astoria you shall have your institution, I'll arrange it myself" he then showed his daughter to the door in order to call Daphne in for a similar talk "you are dismissed daughter, go back to your court of gardeners"
"Father one last thing" Astoria asked looking at him straight in the eye with all the hope of a daughter seeking advice from her father "if I told you I loved someone entirely unsuitable, would you judge me too harshly?"
Hyperion felt a vein in his forehead twitch but held his calm as he spoke evenly "Is it a muggle?"
"A dwarf, elf, fairy, sprite or mermaid?" He had to ask, because nobody wanted a repeat of what happened to great grandfather Eric.
"Father, ughh No"
Satisfied that the worst case scenarios were covered Hyperion breathed a sigh of relief "then Astoria, rest assure that he can't be that unsuitable" and with that he closed the door and sent his youngest daughter on her way.
With that assurance in hand Astoria went to fetch her personal owl and sent a message to Hogwarts, hoping that someone alive in the Hufflepuff common room would get it and pass it on to Draco.
Any other wizard in Draco's position as he stood with a bouquet of flowers in King Cross station would have doubted himself trice over.
Any guy who had gone for so long without seeing the girl he loved would have wondered if she still loved him back or if she was meeting him to let him down gently.
Maybe it was because after so many falls and disappointments and pain he'd held on to his promise to her as a lifeline, or because he'd known her too well during those midnight talks under the covers of her bed to doubt her feelings for him or simply because he didn't want to think about what ifs.
All Draco knew was that her love for him had given him a reason to hang on to life when he'd wanted was to die and whatever happened next, he needed to see her like he needed life.
Astoria took the train to England with her heart beating fast, the thought of seeing Draco again made her feel like a million lights were shining in her chest, after so much longing..And waiting and hoping. He was alive, he was still hers.
The train reached a stop.
The people in her wagon began their exit.
A blonde haired boy stepped in front of the train and dropping everything in her hands a petite brunette girl ran towards him at full speed.
Draco caught her in his arms with practiced ease and looked into her wet blue eyes.
This was it, those understanding eyes and that beautiful soul, this was that had made all his pain worth it.
"You're alive, you're okay, you're alive you're okay" Astoria kept muttering into his chest as Draco held her to him, soaking in the warmth of her embrace.
"I love you" Draco whispered softly breathing in the familiar scent of her hair "I thought I'd never see you again"
"I'm here now, I love you too, we don't have to be afraid anymore" Astoria whispered back lifting her head away from his chest and caressing his face with her hand "oh Draco I've missed you so"
"I know, I feel the same way, I don't sleep the same ever since we parted ways" he confessed
Astoria smiled in agreement taking his hand, not caring about the onlookers that were gawking at them "I think we've earned a bit of rest don't you agree?" And pulling him to the wall that led to muggle London she cast a disillusionment charm over them both.
One hour later he sighed in contentment as she crawled up next to him in the soft bed of a high end muggle hotel and laid her head in his chest "I didn't know that missing you would feel like being cut up in pieces Draco, I don't know how I survived"
"I have dreamed of holding you like this again Astoria, far more times than I could count" Draco replied "I don't I'll ever be able to let you go again"
"Then don't" she brought her arms around his arms and warped them slowly around her body until he was caging her against him "don't let me go, I want to stay with you forever"
"You might change your mind"
"I doubt I will, I don't how to love any boy who isn't you..." Astoria shrugged "it's been too long, you're such a part of my heart that trying to take you out of it would just eviscerate me"
"I'm glad" Draco hummed tightening his hold around her "I shouldn't, but I am... Because I really want to keep you, you make me a better person by just existing" Then he added " even if I'm a rightful mess and will probably bring you more trouble"
"We're all a bit of a mess, nobody survived the war unscarred, I'm a little broken too you know, torn and ripped around the edges, but it's okay, we'll make it work right?"
"Yes my love" Draco nodded with a soft smile kissing her forehead "we'll make it work.. Together"
"You can sleep now Draco, rest for a bit" Astoria yawned patting his chest softly "I'll be here to hold you, you're safe now"
And watching her eyes drop with the force of months worth of exhaustion Draco let himself relax and give in to his sleepiness too.
The war was over. Voldemort was no more.
Things would get better.
Astoria hummed in his sleep and Draco let himself fully sink into the peaceful feeling the sound of her breathing evoked in his chest.
She was here, she was his home.
And for the first time since his sixth year Draco Malfoy slept without nightmares.