Actions

Work Header

the girl who sleeps in my bed

Chapter Text

The first time it happened was because of her sister and his best friend

"Daphne and Tracy said that I cant sleep in our room tonight" was the first thing he heard the little girl say once she stopped shaking his shoulder, jarring him awake in the middle of the night

"What in Merlin's curses…?" He snapped grumpily looking around his empty room, curiously devoid of his other roommates "Where are Nott and Zabini?"

"With Daphne and Tracy" the little girl replied shuffling her feet "Daph said I shouldn't tell anybody about it and Theodore was very nice, he gave me this" she showed him a golden pendant that hung from her neck making in the only splash of color against her ivory pajamas "Blaise said that I could take either of their beds, me and Sandor that is" she motioned to the patched teddy bear in her arms, to let the Malfoy heir know exactly who Sandor was

Draco grunted again recognizing the disilusionment runes carved in the pendant, trademark of the Nott family, Theo usually had a stash of those in case he ever needed to bypass the wards surounding the dorm rooms in Hogwarts, now Draco knew why "And what does that have to do with me? I'm sure neither of those idiots would ever saddle me with babysitting, not if they valued their lives anyway" he groaned "I could report you for this, hell I am going to have their heads for this!"

"Please dont" the little girl begged with a hint of tears in her eyes "Its just that, I had a nightmare and Daph was not there, nobody is here, and if I go to find someone else, they will ask why my sister isn't with me and then Daph will get mad" she rambled on, looking to her feet in embarrassment

Draco sighed allowing himself to look at the little girl for the first time, she was a first year obviously, no older than eleven, blue eyed and chestnut haired, with dimples and a princess style braid adorning her head, the Greengrass crest embroidered in the borders of her white pajamas.

all in all, the girl looked like a child's doll, some might have called her "cute" or "adorable" with that innocent look she had about her, but Draco just thought she looked too much like lord Greengrass for his taste. A tiny female version of the man that headed the Ministry's diplomat department.

"So you woke up the only person who wont sell you out" Draco groaned again anticipating her next words

"Can I sleep here with you? I promise I dont take up much space, I'm just scared" Daphne's little sister asked in the most respectful tone she could "Please Mr Draco"

At the time she'd been no more than a scared child suffering from nightmares on her first term away from home, clutching a teddy bear, feeling the sting of betrayal that came with Daphne's actions, a Greengrass didn't cry, her mother said, a Greengrass held her head high, they had pride, but Astoria didn't feel much like having pride that night.

And Draco almost as if anticipating a long night of her badgering if he told her "No" silently vowed to get Nott and Zabini for this "Fine baby Greengrass, you can sleep here" he said to his great annoyance, making space for her in his bed (which was naturally bigger than Hogwarts normal beds (because Malfoys only slept in the best) "But one word, one kick, even a sneeze and so help me Merlin I'll hex you into oblivion"

"I wont, I promise" she said yawning and climbing up into his bed, leaving a small space between them so she wouldn't touch him or kick him, Draco felt a bit awkward for a moment, she was practically dwarfed in the covers she'd brought with her "And my name is Astoria, NOT baby Greengrass" this time her tone was haughty, a lot less scared, much more Slytherin

"You look babyish enough to me, now shut up, before I start calling you baby GreenTrash or something equally terrible"

The little girl had the audacity to giggle "I still want to thank you for letting me sleep here"

"Go to sleep Astoria" Draco ordered turning his back away from her, he heard her giggle again before defectively settling in her spot and going to sleep

He woke up again at the wee hours of the morning to find a disheveled Theodore Nott gently prying the little girl from Draco's side (where the tiny monster had snuggled herself) and sending her on her way back to Daphne's dorm room

"Thanks man, I owe you one" was all Nott said when faced with Draco's deadly glare the next few days

It was the first time mini Greengrass slept in his bed, but certainly not the last.

You see Astoria was in the most delicate situation of her life, she was sharing a dorm room with two hormonal third years and by virtue of being sister to one of them, she couldn't in good faith request a dorm change.

Now Astoria idolized Daphne, she loved her sister with her whole being, Daphne was beautiful and brazen and took no crap from anybody, she was the best big sister a girl could wish for, but even at age eleven Astoria wasn't blind to Daphne's faults.

Chief of them the fact that Daph was a total slut.

In a very responsible, consenting, nymphomaniac way of course,Astoria understood that Daphne liked boys and boys liked Daphne, but Morgana was it a problem when she was trying to sleep, sure Sirius Black was out there and probably roaming around to kill them all when he had a chance, but Daphne's coping mechanism was really starting to traumatize Astoria, who was still very much a child.

So she kept Theodore Nott's amulet and started sneaking off to the common room as soon as the "Ohh Daphne suck me harder" started to echo in their room (lucky Tracy who knew how to make soundproof bubble charms when this happened, arghh Astoria still had to wait until third year to learn them)

This was what led the kid back to Draco the next weekend.

"Can I sleep here with you please?" She whispered again trying to be extra quiet, because this time Draco hadn't been sleeping, He'd been quietly nursing a injury and glaring at her as soon as she entered the room

"What is it with you first years and the need to bother upperclassmen, get out of here baby Greengrass" Draco huffed in annoyance "no, you can't sleep here, last time was only because I felt pity"

Astoria rolled her eyes and ignored him "I heard that Hypogriff of Hagrid's attacked you" she added with a barely concealed smirk "Daphne said you screamed like a girl" her smile was mirthful, holding all the glee of a child who has just seen a clown do a funny trick "how is your arm Draco boo boo"

"Get out! Do it before I make you" Draco growled again, but she shook her head in defiance

"Why? You are not using your bed anyway, might as well let me sleep in it" and with that she took her teddy bear in her arms and plopped down in Draco's mattress

"I said to leave baby Greengrass, do it or I'll call professor Snape right now"

"if you do, I'll tattle on professor Mc Gonny about how that injury of yours is only skin deep" the little girl replied sticking her tongue out, no longer the whimpering child he'd met the week before, but the spoiled heiress he knew she was "and my daddy will vouch for it in the Wizgamenot, so they wont be able to sack Hagrid out of Hogwarts"

"Fine! You win, but be quiet and get out of here as soon as the sun is up" Draco snapped without concealing his annoyance, the tiny girl nodded and like before, went to sleep effortlessly

That was the night he learned she was a cuddler, because as soon as he scooted her over to get himself to bed, she sleepily let go of her teddy bear and latched onto him instead, it wasn't uncomfortable, but to Draco, who'd lacked for physical contact during most of his life (with the brief exception of his mother, who even then wasn't fond of disgusting displays of it), it was still very weird.

It was the start of a routine…a very strange routine

During the day, Draco barely noticed baby Greengrass, he only knew that she kept herself to the shadows of either Daphne or the other first years, cleverly avoiding notice as tough she still had a dishilusionment charm on her, hiding in plain sight, still very much dressed like a dolly, with her brown hair twisted into one of those "rosebud" braids she seemed to favor so much and her Hogwarts uniform as pristine as it could be, it was still very easy to overlook her small frame in favor of Daphne's more striking one.

But during those odd nights, when the tiny thing scurried into his bed and cuddled up to him as tough she didn't hear the rumors going around Hogwarts, as tough she judged him the safest person in the whole castle and trusted him in a way only children her age did, well during those nights he tried not to notice her as much as he did.

Little Astoria wasn't a talker, she just did what she wished when she wished it, preferring the comfort of Daphne's shadow over her own spotlight, unlike other girls, she enjoyed the anonymity of being overlooked, having discovered very early in life, that if people didn't look at you, they didn't talk about you, and if people didn't talk about you, you were free to do whatever you wanted.

Noways the only exception to that rule became her "ocassional bedmate" Draco Malfoy, who like it or not, she'd more or less blackmailed into letting her sleep in his (extra comfy, mega delicious, loaded-with-ilegal-pillow-charms) bed. She talked to him sometimes, about her day and even dared to tease him about his, because what had started as a one time thing only, became a every-once-in-a-while thing as Daphne's sexcapades grew in number.

Draco sighed, feeling the little girl stir in his arms as he, per was his new custom, shook her awake so she could return to her own room, she was so small compared to his tall frame. Once again the children doll comparison came to mind because the first time he put his arms around her (in his sleep of course), he'd felt as tough he was hugging her teddy bear and not her, mind you Draco Malfoy had never been one to sleep with stuffed animals, not even in his childhood when uncle Severus gifted him a very soft silver dragon for his night terrors, but now apparently he'd developed the habit.

Only that the little girl wasn't actually a stuffed animal and he had no business thinking her as such, but well, as the end of the year grew to a close and Astoria's visits to his room grew more frequent (Because, gosh her sister really had to be the biggest nympho in his whole year), Draco eventually stopped fighting the compulsion to hug her and as soon as the tiny thing was settled in her blankets, he let his long arms hold her to him as tough she were his very own stuffed toy.

Astoria never seemed to mind, she too liked to be held during the night and as long as they never talked about it, she was fine with him calling her "little doll".

Of course she still managed to tease him to sleep that time Hermione Granger punched him, but she tried very hard not to be mean about it.

And at the end of the year their special sleeping bubble became such a fixture that when vacation time came, both Draco and Astoria began having trouble sleeping alone.

Chapter Text

"Hi Draco! Listen can I leave my sister here? Theo and I have something to do down in the Greengrass tent and he said you'd be cool with watching Astie for a while" Daphne's shrill voice sang in his ear, interrupting Draco's grumpy glaring of Potter who had dared to attend the Quiddich World cup and his musings on how he wished that the Malfoy family tent was away from the vicinity of those idiots

"Daphne I'm fine" a rather surly voice whined from behind her and Draco turned to see baby Greengrass sulking with her arms crossed "go shag Theodore somewhere else, I want to stay in MY tent in peace" Astoria said slaming her slipper in the ground with childish annoyance

"So can you take her? She's so giving me a headache" Daphne begged, completely ignoring her younger sister and batting her eyelashes in Draco's direction, making sure to give him a good look down her very low cleavage "who knows maybe you can join me and Theo after this brat falls asleep"

"Oh Morgana this is unbelievable, I take it back, I want that disillusionment Amulet Theodore offered me, I'm going down to the Bullstrode tent" Astoria complained turning her back on her sister and Draco, embarrassment coursing trough her veins at Daphne's behavior, but Draco's arm shot out to hold her back

"I'll take her, but you owe me one Greengrass, a big one, don't think I wont cash in on the favor if I'm to be forced into babysitting" Draco bargained with Daphne

"Oh I promise you can cash in on as many favors as you want" Daphne replied in a seductive voice making both Draco and Astoria roll their eyes as she danced away from them

"If you ever do, make sure its as painful and humiliating for her as being abandoned by my own sister is for me" little Astoria growled, her blue eyes meeting Draco's in anger

"I promise nothing" Draco chucked for the first time in ages "come on inside, little doll, the mudblood stench here is nauseating, you are better off away from it"

And Draco had it on good authority that some of his father's "friends" were planning on dropping by soon to rid them of it.

"Ew mudbloods are icky" Astoria said with a giggle, she'd grown a few inches during the Holidays but then again so had Draco, next to him she still looked very much like a doll, but her features, so very Greengrass, were starting to refine themselves into something less babyish, Draco noted absentmindedly, she'd probably be even pretty when she grew up a bit, but at his age Draco didn't see Astoria as a girl, to him she was still merely a child and thus her femininity didn't register in his hormonal radar the way Daphne and Pansy's did.

And Astoria, little cunning Astoria, who wanted to be nothing like her promiscuous elder sister, well, she endeavored to suppress her own curiosity towards the opposite sex with the force of her own determination, her strategy at twelve years old, was to ignore boys, ignore her feelings towards them, not develop any crushes and maybe just maybe she'd be lucky enough to keep her reputation intact (unlike Daph). So she ignored the curious thumping of her heart when Draco took her hand and told herself he was the same grumpy boy she'd cajoled into letting her sleep in his bed the year before.

Suddenly there was a loud boom heard outside the Malfoy tent and her companion began to sport a rather malicious smile "what is that Draco?" Astoria asked hearing the sound of cackling and explosives "Dear Morgana where is my father? I want to go home!" She demanded as soon as she saw the death eaters flying on broomsticks in the sky

"That! Little Greengrass, is the sound of someone doing mudblood cleaning, but don't worry, none of them would dare to attack this tent" Draco remarked gleefully "now stay here, I want to see if I can spook Potter into pissing his pants" patting her head patronizingly he led the little girl to a big sofa in the center of the Malfoy's luxurious tent and ordered a house elf to feed "the kid" whatever she wanted, before rushing out and leaving Astoria alone

"But Draco!… What about my father" Astoria called out after him, but he'd been too far into his Potter hating schemes to hear her

(Lucky for Astoria she'd found Narcissa Malfoy a while later and claiming innocently that she'd gotten lost in the riot, she manipulated the Malfoy matriarch to discreetly deliver her back to her mother in time for the retreat of the death eaters, but what a hassle had it been)

Nevertheless Astoria learned a valuable lesson on that occasion, she learned that unless she caught him in a mellow mood such as when he was going to sleep, Draco Malfoy could be very much a prat (to her) when he wanted to be.

It didn't stop her from sneaking back into Draco's dorm a month or so into the school term (she tried to stay away, she really did) "what did your sister do now little Greengrass?" Draco whispered as soon as he felt his mattress sag on the side, feeling the pulse of her newest disillusionment amulet cancel out his own Notice-me-not.

"She discovered the wonders of two partners at the same time" the little girl replied with a shudder, burrowing her face in his pillow and reaching out to bring his long arms around her tiny body "I think she is trying to find new ways to traumatize me, doing it with Dumstrang boys" she said yawning

"You have my pity" he yawned too, not bothering to be unkind at that hour of the night, warping his arms around her like no time had passed at all since he last used her as a teddy bear and settling in for a restful sleep.

In the back of his mind it occurred to him that he'd missed his tiny doll over the summer while she nuzzled delicately into his shirt.

Boy how difficult it was to remember sometimes that underneath his pureblood status and obnoxious attitude, Draco Malfoy too was a young boy, too young maybe to be thrust into the chaos that later became the wizarding war, if someone'd walked by and seen Draco curled up with little Astoria, as they both slept side by side, that was what would have been seen, a young blond boy and a even smaller brunette girl dreaming peacefully, not future death eaters, not pawns, not weapons, not soldiers, just children.

Yet, the world would never regard their entire generation as "just children" wasn't that sad?

And so they regained their old routine, now even more frequent thanks to the over abundance of Dumstrang boys well versed in dark arts that were allowed into the dungeons, Theo and Blaize if they noticed, never said anything about the ghost that came and went from Draco's bed every two or three nights and Tracy was too busy being a voyeur when Daphne got it on, to really wonder where Astoria went at night.

Until one day, Astoria simply stopped coming.

All of the sudden, the little girl got weird on Draco, at first he didn't notice, with the whole Triwizard tournament going on and his "Potter Stinks" badges taking up most of his time, and of course mad eye moody was making people stay up late studying, it wasn't until Theo and Blaise commented on how they had seen Daphne's little sister sleeping in the common room that Draco realized it had been weeks since the little monster bothered him.

Astoria felt her butt hit the ground as the chair she was sleeping on was janked from under her "hey! I was napping there" she complained warping her silk robe tighter around her in a sleepy haze and touching her disillusionment amulet to check if it was intact only to find Draco Malfoy's accusing eyes glaring at her as soon as she lifted herself up

"Care to tell me why you are acting so weird little Greengrass?" He snapped angrily realizing this is where she'd been sleeping the past weeks "why are you not in bed?"

And by bed, they both knew whose bed he was referring to "I don't want to go to bed anymore, leave me alone" she replied refusing to look at him, stubbornly looking for another chair and deciding to settle in the dungeon's biggest armchair "its complicated OK"

"No its not, now tell me what's going on before I run to professor Snape to tell him how your dear and most beloved sister kicked you out of your own bed"

"I hate you" Astoria huffed refusing to speak

"Little Greengrass I'm warning you…"

"I got my first moon blood ok!" She snapped covering her face in embarrassment "I woke up and my sheets were red and Daph and Tracy laughed and made fun of me, madame Pom gave me a potion for it and now its gone, but it will come again next month and I don't want you to be bothered when it happens" Astoria ranted angrily "now leave me alone already"

Draco stood there, slack yawed, processing what she said for a few minutes before glaring at her "moon blood? Moon blood? That was the problem? Oh for Merlin's sake Astoria, every bloody witch gets it, Professor Snape even has a whole potion cabinet dedicated to it!, there is no need to lose sleep, get over yourself already!" Draco snapped as tough she just told him about something insignificant

"I was scared" she defended herself, noticing that it was the first time he called her by her name, huddling in her armchair and warping her silk robe around her tight enough to choke "stop glaring at me"

"Argh, you are so pathetic really" Draco grumbled shaking his head and using all his force to lift her in his arms and carry her down to his room

"Wh-what are you doing?"

"Taking you to bed, you look pathetic even for a second year" when Astoria opened her mouth to protest Draco cut her off "its either this or the Crucio for your sister, you chose"

"Fine, but I still hate you" she replied, settling into his arms then and didn't look up until he dropped her in his bed and climbed in, letting her cuddle herself into his chest

"Go to sleep Astoria" he ordered tiredly… And for the first time in weeks, the twelve year old heiress slept well

After that Astoria stopped being weird with him, but he felt that ever since that night, something changed in his little companion, she was a bit more talkative, encouraged him to talk about himself too and when the Yule ball rolled around, she even told him to "Bang someone hard enough to make Daphne blush".

She also had a habit of snorting out giggles when he told her about his plans to hex Potter and his friends with this curse or that because he usually ended his tirades with "and then for fun I'll imperius your sister for being herself" making Astoria cover her face with mirth

Little by little Draco learned that Astoria like her namesake, came alive with the stars, at night she was no longer the meek heiress trying to please people, the girl actually had Slytherin cunning in her and in Draco's mind it was even a little sad how his closest friend (because she was slowly earning the role) was a second year girl. At night he felt safe enough to whisper his secrets into her ears and trust her to keep them, she told him secrets too and in the dark of his dorm it felt like nothing could ever touch them.

The third task in the triwizard tournament took a toll on them both, Astoria particularly began huddling under his covers as soon as she could and whenever she heard a noise, she'd just clutch his nightshirt tight. She'd been sheltered from the world her whole life, her parents, had been strictly neutral in the last few wars and even tough her father secretly conducted business with death eaters, werewolves and vampires, Hyperion Greengrass strived to cover up anything having to do with Voldemort in the eyes of his daughters after the last war.

Unlike him, she hadn't grown up hosting tea parties for death eaters and muggle haters, sure Astoria despised muggles, blood traitors and half bloods alike, but only because she didn't know anything else, in her world "death eater" and "Voldemort" still meant danger, unlike him who awaited the dark lord's return with anticipation Astoria was still largely innocent to what the dark mark really meant

"Draco?" Little Astoria whispered into his chest as she buried herself under his fluffy covers "I don't want the dark lord to be back"

"Don't think about that"he whispered back awkwardly patting her head "you heard what my father told The Daily Prophet, Potter was obviously making the whole story up"

"But if he isn't?" The young girl whimpered "do you think you-know-who is really back?"

Wasn't it ironic, the princess running to the dragon for comfort, Draco almost dreaded the moment she grew up and saw him for what he was, not as the refuge she'd sought from nightmares but as the devil that put them there in the first place

And oh how pathetic of him to want to keep this little child in the dark forever? Just for the chance to have someone, only one person, who didn't think the worst of him, maybe that's why he answered honestly "Yeah he is back, him and all that comes with him"

Astoria nodded her tiny brown head as tough she didn't blame him for the knowledge "I thought as much" then she reached for the arms he'd warped around her shoulders and moved them so they could reach around her whole body, making him encase her frame like a cage "I just didn't want to beleive it, like everyone else in Hogwarts, I guess"

"Then don't believe it" Draco whispered uncharacteristically somber "Snape told me that ignorance is bliss little Greengrass, maybe you should enjoy this little bit of ignorance you have while you still can" it was the one and only advice that teenage Draco Malfoy ever gave someone and for once he wanted her to listen to him

Little Astoria yawned in acceptance "Maybe" was the last thing she murmured back and promptly fell asleep

When the time came to leave Hogwarts for the summer, Draco "allowed" Daphne and her bothersome little sister to share his compartment, but only because the brat stuck to Daph like a sticky charm, it had nothing to do with him developing a soft spot for the kid, or him wanting to see her after being struck dumb with so many curses thanks to Potter and company

Chapter Text

 

Too bad children never stay children forever, as was the case with Astoria, the summer brought with it change, both in her phisique and her being, as Daphne, in a fit of teenage rage, had treatened lord and lady Greengrass with abdicating the heir ring if they didn't leave her alone to do as she pleased. And their parents, ever the cunning ones, simply decided that Daphne's problem needed to be dealt with in a rational way, that being, by grooming their other child to be the new family leader instead

Astoria never thought her parents noticed her untill Lady Greengrass cooly pointed out to the perfectly beautiful Daphne how better suited she was for the main heir possition "Astoria is quiet and polite, carries herself with grace and dignity, she is inteligent, exeptionally magical and sharper than you give her credit for, do not presume to treathen us with foolish words Daphne, we all know that if your father could chose, he'd chose the daughter who doesn't shame the family name"

Her mother's words struck a chord in the sisters, both in Daphne who'd been her favored child and in Astoria, who took after their solemn father. And for the first time Astoria saw herself as others saw her, not as a child, but as a potential political pawn, as a girl with the power to replace her father in a high position at the ministry.

Lord Hyperion simply shook his head in dissapointment at the childish outburst of his eldest daugher, sending Daphne a look that could freeze the great lake "Is this the girl who I am to leave my fortune to Daphne Gaia? This explosion of dark impulsiveness that squanders my galeons on underaged firewhisky?" Their father said darkly, being a man of few words, and letting Daphne know exactly how he felt about her, then he turned to Astoria, who stood a few steps behind Daphne, with her hands behind her back and her head slightly bowed in a gesture of obedience, listening to Daphne's scolding as tough it were intended for her

smiling then, Lord Hyperion extended his hand towards his younger daughter "Come now Astoria, let us go to my study, I feel as if I've been neglecting you of late"

"Yes father" Astoria replied, not daring to raise her voice in defense of her beloved sister because as much as Daphne loved her, she knew that their parents had drawn a line between the two of them that day. The choice had been made between beauty and grace and against all the odds it seemed as tough grace had won.

That summer was the longest Astoria could remember, as she could no longer reach out to Daphne for sisterly love and their father insisted on having her in his study every single day to teach her how to manage the Greengrass estate "in the unlikely event of her needing to".

Change also came to her body as her childish features finished melting away with the last rains of July, and a surprise grownth spurt in August developed her body into that of a propper young lady, her skin, once sunkissed, now looked fragile as ivory porcelain, as a result of being coped up inside her father's study during all her Hollidays, her limbs had streched and while not as gifted as her sister in the breast department, she now sported two healthy looking moulds in her chest, in fact by the time she was to start her third year at Hogwarts her usually reserved father declared her to be "quite a Greengrass beauty".

Of course that too had been meant as a jab at Daphne, who, was atypically golden haired, as oposed to Astoria who, just like their many aunts and female relatives had chestnut waves in her head, sure Daphne had the trademark leaf colored Greengrass eyes but because of her hair she usually looked more like a Malfoy or a Yaxley.

"Daphne darling whatever happened to your little shadow" Draco snickered as soon as he saw the blond girl sulking "towed her off to the third years already?"

"Ughh don't talk to me about that stupid traitor Malfoy, the conniving little brat wants to steal my birthright, sometimes I want to hex her for all she's worth" Daphne huffed making Pansy and Tracy high five her

"Why don't you cut her off completely?" Tracy asked in that manner in which girls in Slytherin gossiped "sack her out of our dorm, Draco and Pansy are prefects, I'm sure they could get rid of that pest for us"

Draco tried not to seem to interested in the conversation as Pansy plotted with Daphne and Tracy on how to teach Astoria a lesson, he summarized that little Greengrass was a clever child and as thus, wouldn't fall for her own sister's antics.

Boy was he wrong to think her a child, because the next time he saw her, the petite dark haired girl infront of him was anything but that "Hello Mr Draco, come to see the show? Daphne here seems eager to provide entertainment" the girl said coldly, as she saw Pansy drag him into Snape's office, only meeting his eyes once before seeing Pansy's deadly glare and turning away "then again I was never the type to enjoy the circus"

"Nor was I miss Greengrass" Professor Snape agreed "it is rather..unsavory to have two prefects and one blood relative request your removal from your own dorm room"

"It is and you have of course my sincere apologies for causing so much fuss" Astoria replied diplomatically, making a good contrast to her catty elder sister "but as it is I do not wish for my sister's unhapiness, please accept her pettition and allow me to join my third year classmates in any room availabe, I loath to cause her discomfort"

Professor Snape smirked his eyes flickering briefly from Astoria to Draco, sending shivers down the Malfoy heir's spine because Snape always seemed to know what everyone in Slytherin was doing behind his back "is that so?" Their head house said darkly, looking at Daphne from head to toe and then picking up a few papers from his desk "very well it shall be done as you wish, Miss Greengrass I will reasign your sister to another dorm room, young Miss Greengrass come with me, the rest of you are dismissed"

And even then Astoria didn't miss the way Draco's eyes followed her out of the room.

She wasn't a child anymore he was sure of that much, her features now looked refined, almost elfin in their fragility, her hair, free from the childish braids that used to keep it out of her face, now fell past her waist in shiny dark brown waves and her lips, Draco could curse himself for noticing her apple red lips as Professor Snape ushered the girl to Professor Sinistra's office.

His body reacted in a way he never thought it would, at least not for little Greengrass, but it was to be expected, was't her ten times great aunt the infamous Lady Grimhilde Greengrass, who married a muggle king and trapped a lovesick fairy in a mirror with only the power of her beauty, Draco knew her bloodline as well as he knew Pansy's and the Greengrass line boasted of many a dark enchantress who entranced muggles with their looks, lady Grimhilde being the most famous. Now he knew why

No, fifth year marked the moment in which he stopped thinking of Astoria Greengrass as "the little girl" and started considering her "a girl", at least in his mind, when had the chubby cheeked little thing turned into a beautiful "thing"?, he didn't know, but it made him feel very mad at her

How dare she, how could she change that way and confuse him so? she was supposed to be a harmless child, not this, this, this alluring, stranger!.

Astoria on the other hand was very worried and stressed, both over her sister's spitefull behaviour and Draco Malfoy's constant dirty looks, she knew that news of her new status as "pottential family heir" was circling all over Slytherin and that it natuarally made people curious about her, add that to the fact she was rapidly becoming a brown haired carbon copy of her great aunt "Grimhilde the Fairest" and Astoria just wanted to hole up in her room and scream. If someone asked her another question about what they now called "the Greengrass sister feud" she was going to jump from the astronomy tower. But her father said ladies did not jump from towers, or scream, or shout, or show displeasure of any kind, so she was left witout any other outlet for her frustration than to pound her pillows every night with her delicate fists while she drowned her sorrows in house-elf-brought pumpkin cider.

Now she understood Daphne's actions more, having one's own spotlight was wonderful but arghh so was it frustrating, everyone saw her, everyone wanted to be her, everyone wouldn't leave her the eff alone, Astoria wanted peace, she wanted silence, she wanted to stop being so scrutinized and she wanted her bloddy hormonal body to stop warming up like a candle whenever a reasonably attractive boy was on sight, especially because the reaction seemed to increase tenfold whenever she thought of a certain thick headed Slytherin prince.

Every night she tried not to think about her childhood habit of sleeping over at Malfoy's when she felt scared, he was a boy, she was a girl, it wasn't propper, but try as she might two weeks into the school year Astoria wanted nothing more than to grab her teddy bear and poke Malfoy in the arm so he'd let her sleep in his bed, she tried hard to remember how her father lectured her on propper lady behaviour and imagined the sounds of other girls echoing trough her empty dorm room.

She should be thankfull that there was a perfectly odd number of third year girls in Slytherin and that professor Sinistra had judged it an adecuate punisment for Daphne to let Astoria have a whole dorm room to herself instead of forcing her to bunk with three other girls, but she felt lonley, so lonley she just wanted to cry

And then, as tough she'd summoaned him with her mind, he was there.

She heard him issue the silencing charm before she saw him walk trough the door, nevertheless Astoria gasped when the subject of her thoughts appeared in her room sporting his usual glare "Move over Greengrass" he grunted with an edge of sleepiness to his voice, Astoria, still speechless could only obey, scooting over to the edge of the bed so he could take his usual place behind her " I hate Nott and Zabini so much" he muttered as a way of explanation "By the way your sister is a harlot"

Puzzled Astoria looked at him quizically untill finally she put two and two together

"Oh Merlin, don't tell me she's… Dear Morgana she didn't" Astoria muttered trying not to laugh at the predicament that Malfoy was probably describing

"She did, she still is doing it"

"Oh dear, your poor ears" Astoria couldn't help but laugh, quickly putting her hand over mouth, because it was't very ladylike

"And eyes too! a Crucio from the dark lord would have been better" Draco cursed tossing and turning in her narrow bed "your matress is hard as a rock Greengrass"

"why didn't you go to Parkingson's bed then? I heard you two were on it all summer". She said conversationally covering her mischievous smile, of course she knew why he hadn't gone to Pansy's, the girl was obsessed with him, one night in her room and she'd be shouting it to all Hogwarts and if that thought gave her a slightly bitter feeling it wasn't something she dwelt on.

"You don't talk as much" Draco replied easily propping his head in his palm and looking down at her "also you are apparently the only girl in Slytherin who doesn't have roomates"

"Father would say it isn't propper" Astoria countered then thinking back to the lonley night that awaited her she sighed "but I don't wish to sleep alone"

Draco, who'd been driven out of his room by a (insert big swear word here) threesome, saw no flaw to her reasoning "Today was a long day, I needed the respite"

"Whatever, I'm just glad you are here" the girl replied easily, letting him glimpse the vulnerability in her eyes, before snuggling into his chest as she used to do when she was a first year

Only this time her limbs were longer and instead of fiting into his side like a doll would, her soft frame now molded itself to his body in a way he never expected "you feel different now" he commented out of nowhere and Astoria startled by the thumping of her heart when he put his arms around her, wisely refrained from telling him the same

The next morning he woke up comfortably to find her head in his chest, petite arms wharped around him in a subconcious embrace while he held her tight to him, when her eyes opened she didn't say anything, but they both knew that something deep had changed in their companionship that year

The school year officially started in an odd, even frightening way, with gloomy teachers constantly dissapearing from their classes, headmasters gone missing and older students huddled in corners whispering fearfully among themselves, Astoria didn't know what to think of Umbridge's systemathic takeover of Hogwarts, on one hand, she could see how a bad DADA intruction could be in fact derimental to her fellow classmates who came from less wealthy families (because at the time Astoria couldn't fantom a world where people taught their children how to defend themselves as oposed to hiring bodyguards, like her parents did), but on the other it worried her that the constant unhapiness might actually affect HER.

altough the situation did vex her a bit, Professor Umbridge seemed so set on targetting mudbloods and halfbreds that it gave the rest of the purebloods a bad rep "not all of us are psychos" Astoria remarked in huff to Flora and Hestia Carrow, crossing her arms over her chest "Some of us don't bother prosecuting those who are so obviously beneath us"

Flora and Hestia nodded in agreement, being third year Slytherins they were all more than fed up with the ego fest that everyone from Harry Potter's year and over seemed to be carrying around "it's like how my mother says, give a house elf more attention than it deserves and it might start thinking itself human" Laughed Flora

"Exactly, Umbridge's problem is that she gives vermin more importance than they deserve, why she spends her time making the rabble miserable and not finding ways to allow purebloods extra privileges in school, is beyond me" Hestia agreed brushing imaginary lint of her school robe

Spying Draco in the distance Astoria tried to pretend he wasn't there "Maybe she's crushing on Dumbledore and thinks this is a good way to get his attention" she remarked with a devious wink, linking arms with Flo and Tia as they made their way down the great hall laughing

Passing her on the hallway, Draco hid his smirk and pretended he had't heard her.

Flowers bloomed that spring in Professor Sprout's greenhouse, trough the rain and hardship whispering of Voldemort's return, they found a way, but as late blooming flowers went, little Astoria Greengrass seemed to be like her great grandmother "the fairest of them all" (before the stupid muggle princess upstaged her of course), suddenly people were starting to flock to her, taking notice of her face and for a girl that thought herself content to live in Daphne's shadow, she had to admit that this was kinda nice

In Slytherin there was a saying that went "pureblood is and pureblood does" it fit Astoria to the T, on the outside it might seem like the third year Slytherins were just as catty as the older ones, but as Astoria Greengrass became the most popular girl in her year, so did her opinions
.

And her opinion was that mudbloods should be left alone, it didn't concern her what they did, her father taught her to ignore them, like the ceroes they were, just like house elves, mudbloods and half breds existed, but they only existed in her peripheral view, who cared if Hermione Granger was a mudblood? It only meant that the poor girl was "magically challenged", for all the fuss people in Slytherin made about the bushy haired Griffindoor girl, Astoria didn't see the point.

Some would say that she was using her newfound power to do "good" but the truth was that she was simply ignoring the whole thing and hoping it would go away, Dumbledore HAD to take Umbridge down eventually right?. So the third years ignored it too, at least the purebloods did, untill one night shortly after her first sucessfull Transfiguration quiz of the year, Tracy Davis stumbled into the common room sporting the words "I am nothing" written in blood quill all over her arms, dropping to her knees right infront of Astoria, who'd been quietly exiting the room

For a moment Astoria could only stare.

Tracy's arms and face looked nightmarish, as tough she'd just been released from Askaban and someone had used a rather rusty knife to torture words into her skin, the blood was a sickening shade of brown, coating her uniform in a rather gruesome sort of way, and then, Tracy stumbled, trying to get up, but failing and slipping back to the ground.

Nobody in the common room spoke, all too horrified at what had been done to one of their own, watching with wide eyes unable to comprehend how a Slytherin girl like Tracy could have been used as blood quill target, they only moved when, shaken out of her shock, Astoria finally let out a blood curdling scream.

As the Slytherins leapt into action, both to take Tracy to professor Snape's potion room and to silence Astoria, the young girl couldn't help but feel sick, It was the first time she was comfronted with Umbridge's tyrany face to face, the woman treated them badly in class but Astoria knew from her mother's letters that it was due to her intense dislike of children, yet to do this…to attack one of their own, it was, it was..terrifying

"Tracy is a Slytherin, she has been Pansy's friend for years, her parents throw the best parties in all magical Britain" Astoria mumbled pacing around the room after pulling Draco into an empty classroom as soon as she noticed him alone "why did Umbridge do it?"

"Because Tracy is also a half blood" Draco pointed out with his arms crossed, trying to ignore her pouting lips because seeing her distressed did funny things to his head.

"She's a Davis! Her grandfather owns half of Gringotts"

"A Davis that stood up for a mudblood right after Umbridge told the boy he was never going to be anything in life" Draco hissed back "her crime wasn't backtalking to a teacher! Her crime was being stupid"

"Are we all in danger then?" The normally stoic heiress asked giving voice to her fears "will she turn on us purebloods next?"

"If it makes you feel better, her favorite plaything is Potter, but my father has told me about Umbridge from their interactions in the ministry" Draco like always did't suggarcoat anything when it came to her, speaking plainly and blunt "She will turn on anyone who goes against her and yes, that includes us"

"Should I be afraid?"

"Not yet after all I'm protected by my father's name and you by yours"

"But if I step out of line she won't hesitate to do to me what she did to Tracy" Astoria understood, being well used to reading between the lines on what Malfoy said

"Watch your step then" Draco grumbled "Daphne seems to be eager to see your neck on the noose and we all know what would happen if you gave her a weakness to exploit" Draco's face wasn't sadistic just matter-of-fact

"Daphne loves me, we are just having a small argument" Astoria protested

"Your sister would sell you out to Umbridge the minute she knew that you feel pity for Davis, don't fool yourself"

It was true and the pain of his statement made Astoria rapidly turn on her heel to leave "this conversation is over" she said coldly, whipping her head back and glaring at him making Draco feel absurdly angry at her easy dismissal

Draco was at her side in an instant pulling her back by the elbow "Greengrass" he hissed into her ear "however selfish I might seem, I do not want you to get hurt"

Astoria raised her eyes to meet his, trying to read if he was mocking her or actually being sincere and realizing that he meant it "I'll be carefull, I promise"

"Good" and with that, he walked away

That night, when she screamed herself awake from a nightmare featuring Dolores Umbridge and Tracy Davis, he let her sob on his chest and didn't complain when her tears soaked trough the fabric of his nightshirt

After the Tracy incident, every half blood in Slytherin was put on high alert, Astoria now dubbed "the screamer" kept her promise to Draco, trying to keep her head down despite her popularity, she did her school work, went to the asigned school activities and when it came to Draco, she pretended they hadn't developed a weird connection that had her tummy in flutters

Astoria wasn't blind to Draco's many faults, she knew he was arrogant, bad tempered, thoughtless and very insensitive, which coupled with his wealth and status made for a very bad combination. He was the type of Slytherin that became people like Umbridge, yet… He wasn't like that to her.

Was it wrong for her to hope Draco would grow out of his bad boy phase?, Astoria knew he was almost a death eater and that in and on itself was bad news, yet ever since they'd met, he had never hurt her. In fact, when it came to their nightly ritual, Draco was almost gentle, patting her head, listening to her fears and even tucking her in. How could her head reconcile those two sides of the same guy?.

As her lonliness grew and her inability to talk to anyone about the Draco situation made her retreat more and more into herself, Astoria found comfort in writing letters to her father, who never took long in answering and usually instructed her to keep a calm face when the outcome looked bleak.

She spent hours writing home, almost as tough she felt her life was draining away with each Educational Decree that Umbridge enforced. Even Draco noticed that as the days went by, whenever she went, she always kept a piece of parchment at hand, which vexed him so.

Because after their last conversation little Greengrass no longer talked to him, not even to whisper about how her day went when he inevitably ended up showing up at her room, she withdrew not only from him, but from her own group of "friends" and avoided having much interaction with anyone outside of class. Not that he kept tabs on the brat of course, but well, she did look as tough she'd contracted some sort of sickness right?. That was the ONLY reason why he took to holding her tight against his chest every other night, he had to make sure she wasn't sick.

One night as they lay silently looking at the roof, unable to sleep, she surprised him with yet another confession "Odin Yaxley asked me to Hogsmade today" she whispered in an almost defeated tone "he took my hand…. and transfigured a whole bouquet of orchids for me"

Draco felt his heart start to beat at uneven rhythm when he heard this, trying not to imagine Astoria with any boy, because her words brought out a possessiveness in him that made him angry "and what did you say to him?" He snapped sounding harsher than he intended, when she didn't answer he got a bit more angry "Oh don't play silent now, Answer me!" He demanded with a growl turning to his side and pinning her down on the bed. He was so close, that Astoria could feel his breath on her neck, making her shiver.

"No" the word slipped out of her lips in a broken mumble "I told him No" and with that she rolled over to turn her back on him, letting a torrent of silent tears fall in her pillow

"Good" Draco said more to himself than to her "If he knew you at all he'd have gone for Larkspur blooms" she was surprised to note that he knew her favorite flower, it was almost enough to dull the ache in her chest

After that night poor Odin became an "innocent target" for Draco's goons, as did any boy Astoria mentioned in passing, tough Draco didn't understand his weird possessiveness when it came to her, he still knew he didn't want anyone but him to share her bed, rationalizing in his head that if little Greengrass got a boyfriend then he wouldn't have easy access to her empty dorm room at night and it didn't bode well for him if she started becoming a flossy, spilling any of HIS secrets to any sweet talker that kissed her lips. Not that he thought about those lips often, well maybe he did, but nobody else was allowed to do it, let alone get near those lips, or body, those weren't available for public (at least not in Draco's head).

Astoria privately thought it was sweet of him, tough it annoyed her to no end the way Draco had his goons seemingly at random go after any boy that tried or succeeded in asking her out, it at least showed that he cared, few people cared about her these days and it brought a smile to her face when Malfoy started ocassionally asking if she met anybody else interesting lately

She never joined the inquisitor squad, but she kept a warm mug of pumpkin cider next to her bed whenever he was out patrolling with his band of bullies, soon the cider was joined by pie and eventually her small dressing table began to look like a set up for a restaurant, he used to sneak into her bedroom and wake her up to eat on those nights, before he tried to go to bed.

And the day Cho Chang betrayed the location of the room of requirement to Umbridge, Draco was so happy he'd actually sought her out in broad daylight to brag about it.

"And we are finally going to catch Potter, I hope the ministry finds something to put him in Askaban, today is the day, I'm leading the inquisitor squad to break up their secret club" He'd gloated as soon as he'd seen her come out of class, because apparently it was such a big news.

"How many times have I told you that I think your obsession with Harry Potter is unhealthy Draco?" Astoria laughed shaking her head at one of the first rays of light that had graced her life in weeks as she walked with him to the great hall "other than that I'm glad you are having fun….I think"

"Its not an obsession, I'm just happy we are getting the Griffindoors for their crimes, can't you see" He said uncharacteristically light picking her up and spinning her in the air "this might be my chance to show them all that I can get Potter once and for all"

Astoria, dizzy from the spinning laughed some more "Do you ever think about someone that is not Potter?"

And in the middle of the exitement for his supposed triumph he crowed the truth "I think about you sometimes" and just because he could and he already had her in his arms, feeling high on euphoria he kissed her.

It was supposed to be a short kiss, the kind you give to friends when you are messing around, only Astoria seemed to respond to the kiss by instinct, wraping her arms around his neck and molding her lips against his, to which Draco forgot why he'd started the kiss in the first place and just brought his arms higher around her waist to lift her up a little more so he could have access to her neck better and as Astoria's legs came up to warp themselves around his pelivis…

"Malfoy and Greengrass sitting in a tre g" the annoying voice of Peeves made them break the kiss and rapidly spring apart.

realizing the momentum of what just happened Draco lowered her back almost dropping her harshly on the cold ground looking at Astoria with panic in his eyes "this…this was a mistake….this doesn't change anything Little Greengrass"

"I..yes…sure…we got caught up, we just….we shouldn't talk about it" she squawked before turning her heel and running away like a coward

Internally, all she could think about was "Hell"..

she was a pureblood raised to uphold ancient values, she was a Greengrass, a lady, yet there was a reason Astoria and Draco never intentionally talked about how bizarre their sleeping arangement was, because talking about it meant such an arangement existed between them, that one or both of them cared, that it was more than a one tine thing and that his arms around her actually meant something, and if there was one rule pureblood children got drilled into them from birth was this: purebloods didn't love

They were not allowed to care, some because caring meant risking loss, others because it gave their enemies more targets or because feelings tended to interfere with their ambitions, be as it may a pureblood that cared was one who could be exploited and Astoria had no doubt that Draco knew it, she too had a family name to look after so she couldn't allow herself the luxury of a weakness any more than he could, it was easier to ignore the stirrings in their hearts, because they'd been taught that caring was for fools and fanciful idiots, not for people like them.

He stayed away from her and her dorm room after that.

One day…two days..a week…a week and a half…two weeks

Astoria wasn't counting, but those were the ammount of sleepless nights she'd had since Draco Malfoy kissed her. Astoria wasn't a fanciful girl, she liked to think herself better than Daphne (and Pansy Parkinson to a lesser extent), she went along with rules when they benefited her interests and snuck under those rules that didn't. She wanted to tell herself that she was too old for fairytales. She was too old to go running to Draco everytime she couldn't sleep, too old to be sad about his cold demeanor. She was Astoria Helia Greengrass, she knew Draco, she knew how he withdrew himself and spat venom when things didn't go his way.

She wasn't his girlfriend, she had no right to wish him back. Let him shag Pansy or crush on Granger (like the rumors said) for all she cared. Astoria was a pureblood and sleepless nights or not, purebloods didn't mop!

Bloddy Umbridge and her educational decrees didn't help an inch, not when winter was making people sick and Astoria's fragile outward appearance made friends (or minions as Daphne mockingly called them) rush to her aid at any imaginary sneeze. Once upon a time Astoria would have welcomed the obsessive mollycodling but not when holding court among the third year Slytherins made the inquisitor squad suspicious.

Astoria was slowly becoming exasperated under her dispassionate facade, people either followed her or left her entirely alone, her sister either snapped at her or pretended to be nice, classes were filled with things to be angry about and she hadn't slept well in ages, which made her very irritable, some days it took all her patience not to snap at her suroundings.

And then suddenly towards the end of her third year, Astoria found herself becoming just the person her father warned her not to be: a player in the game.

A Slytherin girl that couldn't sleep in times of war, that's what little Astoria thought she was, spending time skulking away to watch Larkspur flowers bloom in the greenhouse, she felt like a failure, but there were times, small rays of light, in the eyes of her first year classmates that gave the young girl hope and in trying to hold on to that hope, she began collecting her own stash of food and potions on a bottomless bag she carried out with her.

She found herself addicted to pepper up potions, silently roaming Hogwarts like a ghost with Flora and Hestia behind her, looking for the first and seccond years, gathering them up as a passtime, distributing health replenishment potions to them so so they too could endure in stoic rebellion the injustice of Umbridge's rule, the funniest third years ever, Flora would brew, Hestia would charm and Astoria scouted targets, any child she saw looking too gaunt, or too restless or too forgotten, the silent princess would pass by and slip a small charmed box into their hands, usually composed of gourmet food and pepper ups to give them strength, some of them would look up, some would even try to thank her but since Slytherins knew that pride came before everything, they mostly just nodded their heads and took three or four of her boxes to share with their (presumably) other housed friends…

And this way Astoria avoided sleep, and avoided thinking about Draco.

But it didn't last long either

The Weasley twins parting stunt to Umbridge brought new agitation to the castle and when Astoria heard that in the wake of Harry Potter's escape to "join Sirius Black in a lifetime of crime" Draco had been hurt in the crossfire, with Ginny's bat boogey hex.

" Draco move over" Astoria whispered poking him with her finger in his infirmary bed "Move over or I'll wake Madame Pomfrey"

"Greengrass are you mad? Do you want everyone to hear you?" Draco groaned rolling over in the narrow cot to let the nightgown clad third year slip in next to him "Here to see what she-Weasel did?"

"I'm here to have a at lease one good night rest before the year ends" She mumbled snuggling deeper into his chest " I forfeit, you've been avoiding me and I dont know how to sleep well again…its too hard lately" she confessed, with the threat of a war and her father's owls warning her and the faces of first year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws tugging at her robes randomly with a palm extended.

"You are growing up too fast little Greengrass, if there is someone who shouldn't be leaving the age of teddy bears it's you" he yawned tightening his hold on her "What happened to the dolly who believed in fairytales?"

"I think she died when she was declared heir apparent this morning" was all Astoria whispered back and he could hear the tears in her voice "I missed you"

"I missed you too" and they held eachother almost by the seams, dry soundless sobs racking the small hospital cot until Astoria fell asleep and Draco could cry no more.

The next morning she snuck away from the infirmary with Flora and Hestia's help, but continued comming back to sleep in Draco's healing bed the next day until he could leave and return to his routine of going to her room, he kissed her again sometime after that and she let him, because she liked his kisses, improper and wrong as they were, she liked kissing him back and it took both of their minds away from the real world problems neither wanted to think about, they avoided talking about Umbridge or Daphne or Draco's father's incarceration, or about Astoria's secret boxes or Draco's death eater future, the last nights of Draco's fifth year was just spent holding her and letting her weave her fingers trough his hair until he fell asleep.

He should have been with Pansy…but who could blame him for wanting to spend as much time as he could with the last vestiges of Astoria's fading ingenuity, an ingenuity that was rapidly being replaced by the cold reality of war.

 

Chapter Text

The summer of Astoria's fourth year was marked by the stark shattering of what was left of her naïveté, the rise of the dark Lord was a reality for her parents, not just a rumor invented in the halls of the Slytherin common room. A truth acknowledged by all no longer confined to the whispers inside closed rooms.

A fact made abundantly clear by her parents, yes, as soon as Astoria and Daphne stepped out of the train, lines were drawn, their opinions were questioned, their futures redrawn according to the new development in the magical world, plans were made and from then on Astoria knew that nothing would ever be the same.

Because for the first time in her life, Astoria was asked to choose sides.

Her mother, a great supporter of pureblood supremacy, strong and unwieldy, was naturally in favor of the dark Lord, lady Juno Greengrass nee Avery being the daughter of death eaters herself, didn't see the point in forbidding Daphne from going out with Theodore and Blaise, she didn't see the point in using her wiles to avoid the inevitable.

And her father, the great Hyperion Greengrass, who played both sides on daily basis in his position as a diplomat, was an advocate for the highest neutrality. He was in favor of avoiding the war altogether, in his eyes he would do anything to avoid tainting the family name, so any association Astoria had with known death eater offsprings or known Order of Phoenix's offsprings was severely frowned upon. Needless to say, Astoria chose her father's side at once. The side of those who chose not to do anything, the side of the cowards.

But then again the Greengrass bloodline was as Slytherin as it was pure. Not once had it ever produced a Griffindoor.

Being a Slytherin she knew exactly what the choice was costing her, but she had to think of herself first, pledging her life to the dark lord meant forfeiting the few rights she had over said life and Astoria had seen too many choices taken away from her by virtue of being a "delicate flower" of the noble house of Greengrass, she would not give up even more of the little slivers of control she had over her mapped out destiny. She wasn't Daphne, who followed new trends and fashions blindly like it was a God given gift. Crowd mentality, Astoria refused to understand it, as did their father, let alone be part of it.

It took only a week after the youngest heiress of the house had taken her stand in favor of neutrality before she was suddenly struck with a very debilitating illness that left her at death's door.

It was ironic that at the very same time that Draco Malfoy was voluntarily going trough the traumatic process that involved taking the dark mark, Astoria's insides were being ravaged by goblinscales and dragon fever.

That summer Draco learned to perfect his oclumency shields, he was subject to the humiliation of his family and was broken into way too many pieces to count. How the memories of Astoria managed to escape the carnage that was Bellatrix Lestrange in his head, Draco didn't know, but somehow by the grace of Merlin, they had. And Draco sometimes yearned for them in the quiet of his bed in Malfoy Manor.

He suffered greatly and so did she, as her body was shaken with horrid spasms day by day and the blood in her veins felt like burning acid, at one point the delirious girl begged her father to let her die but Lord Greengrass didn't break. He got his daughter the best healers, he was determined to avoid failing the family bloodline. Even going as far as requesting special illegal potions made by Severus Snape himself.

And it paid off, by the time the second month of summer was over, Astoria Greengrass opened her eyes free of illnesses.

But in her absence things had changed. Things that the once innocent girl did not want to understand. Because as soon as Astoria woke up, she realized her mother and sister were no longer there.

A list of responsibilities a mile high were dumped on her lap immediately. From household management to ward control. It took her days to figure out what her mother and sister's absence in Greengrass Hall meant, and why her father seemed to be the only one who ever visited her while she was sick. On her own she figured out why she wasn't allowed to talk to Daphne anymore and why her father confined her to the mannor for the whole summer with the excuse that she was still "convalescent"

It didn't stop her from having nightmares filled with blood, or dreaming about Tracy being disfigured with cutting knives that looked like quills, only most of the time Tracy turned into Draco halfway trough her dream. And Umbridge wasn't the one carving words into his scarred skin.

Astoria turned fifteen and her father still couldn't bear to tell her the truth face to face, worse of all, she understood him.

Because he was Lord Greengrass the diplomat, he was poised, strong and put together, he hated weakness, but after Lady Juno and Daphne chose the dark lord he felt himself break, because everything he'd ever worked for in his life was about to vanish, his standing in the ministry, his status in the Wizgamenot, his perfectly aristocratic family marked by the dark lord.

And Astoria saw it, she watched day by day as her father tried to hold everything together by the seams until one day, she found him in the greenhouse, doubled over her great grandmother's gardenias, crying.

Her father, the cold and stoic Hyperion Greengrass, was actually crying where he thought nobody would see him and in that moment, seeing her father at his worst, Astoria's heart hardened a little bit more, startled by the realization that her father was human too and had changed with the return of the dark lord, she resolved to be stronger for him, because he needed to rely on somebody, even if it didn't help, it was her duty as a daughter to be strong.

So she promised herself that she would never cry again, she would be stronger, she would become marble and ice, for her father, who seemed to be all she had left, she would be brave.

With determination Astoria smiled her best smile and refrained from asking the hard questions, like why her parents were separated? or why would her sister want to murder her?. She took care of things in the only way she knew, by smiling at her father and offering him the illusion of a picture perfect daughter to comfort his guilty conscience.

At least he looked less haggard when Astoria chirped about music and gardening, those times when she played the piano for him on hours end, making a show of how healthy she was and how very, very happy she was in her ivory tower. Even when her insides died over and over with every news that her house elves brought her from the streets of Diagon Alley.

She'd never really thought about it but looking back she realized that for some reason her father had been protecting her from other purebloods since she'd started Hogwarts, or even before. The signs were all there, how he'd always allowed Daphne to be in pureblood balls and gatherings but usually kept Astoria relegated to the sides or simply made her stay home. Why she wasn't pushed to socialize as much with other younger siblings belonging to the sacred twenty eight or paraded like a trophy on every possible opportunity. She'd thought herself neglected by him, the spare to the heir, knew her health made her the weak link in the family but it never really occurred to her that her father was afraid of losing her.

Of course she'd also thought her father indifferent to the family's lore which claimed that after great aunt Grimhilde all dark haired witches in her bloodline were cursed to either suffer greatly or die young. but she'd been wrong about that since the beginning.

"You feel too much so you block yourself too much, it's our curse daughter, we don't feel as other wizards do" Lord Greengrass liked to remark when Astoria was a child and she now knew the full truth of what "feeling too much" could mean.

And at night Astoria always felt cold. On the rare chances she'd left Greengrass Hall to floo with her father (or occasional bodyguard) into the apothecary of Diagon Alley she'd seen the devastation trough the windows, the wizards with haggard faces and lack of children in the street were like sucker punches of reality.

She longed for Draco on those nights, despite knowing in her heart that he was most likely NOT making the world a better place with his existence, she longed for his brand of abrasive conversation. If only because she needed to hear the raw bleeding truth only Draco would dare to slice her with.

He longed for her too but because of different reasons, he longed for her resilient facade, the little girl he'd come to regard as his best friend (wasn't it ironic?) Her soft words and indignant manners, in the dead of the night he would lie awake and think about how he'd give a bloody arm if someone ever looked at him the way Astoria used to once more.

Like he was a knight instead of a destructive murderous dragon. Only Astoria could sincerely look at him like she believed he was not a nightmare waiting to happen and was actually capable of protecting a weaker human being. And he knew that in his life she'd probably the only one that ever would.

The days passed as his training in the dark arts grew, but at night even HE would stretch out his arm for the comforting frame of a girl who wasn't there.

For Astoria that summer marked the beginning of the end, living in Greengrass Hall was like being trapped in a comfortable tower overlooking the suffering of everyone else from a vantage point. As a witch, she'd never felt so helpless, people were dying out there! This was wrong! Death eaters, mudbloods, half breeds, people were scared and according to her house elves children were being murdered because of their parent's allegiances.

Whe had the world become such a horrible place?

And here was she, safe and protected, by virtue of birth. Not because she was important or because she'd done something good that made her worthy of a fidelius, no, she was protected because an accident of birth dictated that her family was better than others. It was unpleasant to acknowledge but Astoria knew it was true, the only reason she was not knee deep in war plans like most of Hogwarts was because she was born with the right connections. Not because she deserved to live.

And Astoria could do nothing about it, not even send food to the needy, because nobody in their right mind would trust a pureblood in times of Death Eaters, but she wanted to, she wanted to reach out to the wizards and witches that were suffering, because as every day passed she hated her ivory tower more and more.

Yet speaking against Voldemort meant death and and much as Astoria hated herself for being bloody helpless, she didn't hate her father and if she stepped out of line, he would pay too. It was the way of the snakes.

Nobody knew that Hyperion almost didn't send Astoria to Hogwarts that year, the last thing he wanted was his precious last non-death eater heir anywhere near Voldemort or the place he was most likely to target now that Harry Potter was of age, but in the end he had to agree to let Astoria go, however much he wanted to preserve Astoria's life (and last remaining chance of having worthy male grandchildren to preserve his legacy) by sequestering her away in Gringott's most guarded chamber, Astoria's personal healer advised him against it.

If only he knew that Astoria had been sleeping in the bed of a junior death eater since her first year in Hogwarts. Then he'd have made sure to keep her away, but what proper father would suspect his most well behaved daughter of foul play?.

So Hyperion Greengrass did the next best thing, he gave Astoria a pouch containing a miniature portkey with the instructions to use it if Hogwarts anti apparition wards were ever breached and in her father's language that was the equivalent of saying I love you.

"Be strong Astoria, conduct yourself in school like the gracious young lady I have raised you to be, remember that above all you are a Greengrass" Lord Hyperion impressed looking at her intensely "born to be royalty" he recited, as a family motto, He then personally handed her into the Hogwarts express and with a courtesy towards her father she joined Hestia and Flora who were waiting for her.

She passed by Draco's compartment on her way to join the fourth years and saw him with his head on Pansy's lap, he looked tired and sallow, in fact most of the boys in the compartment did, but still Astoria could not stop the disturbing flare of jealousy and hurt that shot through her when she watched Parkinson's fingers comb themselves through Draco's hair.

Then Daphne saw her and nodded her briefest acknowledgment "Astoria" she said in a toneless voice "how is our father?"

"He lives" was all Astoria answered in the same dispassionate tone "How is our mother?"

"She lives as well" Daphne chuckled "she sends her apologies for not visiting your sickbed, but we were afraid of your illness being contagious, had you not been sick I'm sure you would have been able to join me and my friends in our social activities" Daphne sniggered making Pansy's shoulders shake in laughter (disturbing Draco's brooding) but the warning in Daphne's eyes conveyed a very different message "I hope you don't feel hurt by the slight...dearest Astoria"

"We are sisters Daphne" Astoria replied making sure to inject the right amount of ice in her tone "our bond will recover eventually"

Draco watched her from behind half closed eyelids as she made a pivot turn to leave, making a exit as graceful as it was scathing. He ignored the stab of pain he felt when she overlooked him. After Lord Voldemort gave him his mission he'd made a conscious decision to no longer feed his growing attachment to little Greengrass.

During the hollidays Draco had changed

But so had Astoria.

Her clothes, her lies even her friends, the year professor Slughorn took over as head house lots of things changed for both of them and it drove Draco mad with irritation.

For one thanks to the new influx of female first years Astoria Hestia and Flora were assigned to a shared dorm (it might have taken a few bribes to professor Sinistra) which meant that Draco was banned from her room and due to the amount of dark magic seeping from his own, Astoria was too wary to set foot in it, it made Draco very angry.

And considering Draco had to watch as a bigger group of male allies (*cough* lap dogs *cough*) began flocking towards Astoria (and the Carrow girls) on daily basis, endure the whispers of half the school and figure out a way to murder Dumbledore, that was saying something.

One day Astoria would look back on that year and realize that this was probably the moment fate decided that she had the makings of a Malfoy.

Because Draco wasn't the only one affected by their forced separation. It seemed that every time they were in the same room Draco could do nothing but glare at her and her companions. Yet if she ever searched him out he could still be found letting Pansy fondle him whenever the she-troll wished, this made Astoria mad.

for the first time in her life Astoria was seething in ice cold fury, she'd been scared to death for two whole years, treated like a nitwit by her teachers, poisoned by her own sister! Agonized in pain for three weeks! Been rejected by her mother and trapped in her family home by her father, everytime she saw Parkinson simpering over Draco she felt like adding a bigger Avada to the list, his blantant ignoring of her no longer caused her amusement, it caused her rage.

And all in all, the wall holding back the negative emotions inside Astoria was begging to be torn apart, because at her age Astoria had smiled fifteen years too much and been fifteen years too calm, she'd never realized there was darkness in her until the itch to lash out against somebody was almost overpowering

And it exploded the first moment in the school year that Astoria found herself alone with Draco.

It happened in the library of all places, Madame Pince was too busy reprimanding Harry Potter and Ron Weasley and like it usually happened when the golden trio had Madame's attention, the rest of the students in the library made as much noise as they wanted.

Astoria enjoyed the library on those days just as much as Flora and Hestia didn't, so she barely lifted her eyes when Draco dropped in the seat in front of her with his most annoyed expression.

"Pansy got Larkspur poisoning today little Greengrass" He snapped angrily "Why?"

"Maybe she was being a sore in my eye?, maybe I wanted to see her turn blue?, maybe it wasn't me at all, ask a Griffindoor they certainly seem to hate her more than anyone" Astoria again refused to look at him, pretending to peruse her book "maybe she was being annoying at lunch and maybe my hand slipped"

"Jealous Greengrass?" Draco hissed, he could see the barely restrained anger in her eyes, good, he wanted to provoke her

"You HEXED Marcus bloody Yaxley, don't talk to me about jealousy, all he was doing last week was..." Astoria was cut off by his fist slamming in the table

"Trying to cop a feel while pretending to adjust your wandwork, the bastard deserved it"

"Maybe I wanted him to, ever thought about that Malfoy" finally Astoria let fury color her voice "Maybe I wanted him to touch me and let me touch him back, maybe even kiss me"

"Over my dead body, little Greengrass, don't try me, I'll hex whoever gets close to you and you know it"

"I'M NOT LITTLE ANYMORE" Astoria half shouted angrily getting up from her seat "I'm fifteen and I want things, things like kissing...and Hogmade trips and hand holding and flower bouquets and bloody expensive jewelry that's too ugly for me to wear, why won't you let me have those things"

"Because you're mine! And nobody can have you" Draco got up also and being taller than her his glare was more intimidating

"I'm not yours! Pansy is yours, I'm just a silly little girl that's in over her head for an older boy who never bothers to acknowledge her" Astoria's voice had never been so cutting as she faced off with Draco "Get used to Pansy's accidents, because I'm a Slytherin and if I can't have anyone I want, then you sure as hell can't either" and with that a pissed off Astoria Greengrass turned on her heel and left, glaring at an eavesdropping Blaise on her way out.

Was this what growing up felt like? A maelstrom of emotions that turned you upside down and left you doubting everything you thought you knew about yourself? If it was then she wanted no part of it.

Draco struggled as well, the more lively Astoria pretended to be, the more he wanted to snatch her from her new court of admirers and lock her up in a tower. Voldemort's task made him increasingly more irritable, and snappish. Because he was very scared for his family deep down, he took it out on his friends.

And so the frustration of their first month of school made its way into the second.

Finally it was Theodore Nott and Blaise Zabini who knocked on Astoria's room late in the night one weekend and made the Carrow Twins wake her up.

"Astoria, Astoria" Hestia whispered holding up her lumos, "Zabini and Nott are out the door, do you want us to send them away?"

"Or hex them?" Flora mumbled grabbing Astoria's robe and urging her to put it on

Astoria shook her head, shrugging into the robe and waving the twins away and creeping towards the door in a sleepy haze "He's in the astronomy tower having a fit" Theo said bluntly crossing his arms over his chest as soon as he saw her "spare me the lover's drama once and for all Greengrass" pushing an notice-me-not amulet to her chest he grunted "he's going to do something stupid if someone doesn't intervene and you are the only person I know who he wouldn't hex on sight tonight, so go...do whatever it is you do to calm him down"

"I...I we're... Not lovers" was all the younger girl fought to mumble as she extended her hand waiting for Hestia to hand her her wand "Theo...he has Pansy. Why do you even think I could help"

"Oh don't "Theo" me Astoria, you owe me, heck you owe Zabini too, who do you think has been keeping your little sleeping secrets from Daphne all these years?" Nott hissed pulling Astoria out of her dorm and glaring at the Carrow twins daring them to protest, dragging the younger girl past the empty dungeon corridors "you think you are the only one he's pissed off this year Greengrass? Think again"

With a few muttered words Astoria let herself be forcibly shoved trough secret passages by Blaise and Theo, who's bloodshot eyes and tired faces told Astoria they were close to snapping thanks to Draco.

When finally Blaise gave her one final push in the Astronomy Tower's stairs before disapearing with Theo in the whisper of advanced notice-me-nots, Astoria knew that the Draco she was about to face wasn't the boy he'd been the year before.

When she opened the door she was proven right "Depulso" She heard the words before she saw him

With a gasp Astoria's reflexes conjured the first defensive spell her father had drilled into her head "Protego!" She shouted unnecessarily loud, like a startled cat scared out of her mind. But she wasn't fast enough and the Depulso still managed to somewhat knock her on her feet

When Draco came closer and he saw exactly who he'd attack Draco's face crumpled (one day he would tell her that the image of her that night would haunt his nightmares forever). He watched as Astoria cautiously got up, looking so spooked, his fickle little witch, holding her wand shakily in front of her, blue eyes wide and teeth biting her lips to keep herself from screaming, she was wearing her Slytherin robe hazardously thrown over pastel green pajamas, with her hair piled up in an ugly knotted bun at the top of her head.

And Draco realized that for the first time in his life, little Greengrass looked scared of HIM. It was like a punch into his gut, seeing her frightened, ready to defend herself against him, someone she knew wasn't supposed to hurt her. Those eyes that always looked at him with trust were, for that moment, clouded with fear, fear he'd once longed for but now couldn't stand to see there.

So before her anger came back, and her indignation and all those things Nott told him she was probably feeling, Draco crossed the room silently and warped his arms around her, he just couldn't stand to see the fright in her face, he needed to feel she was fine.

"i didn't want...i didn't know it was you" He needed something from Astoria that he only ever seemed to get when he had her in his arms, but instead of a sneering jab or a sarcastic comment, the moment he rested his chin on her head all he said were the words "I'm scared"

It came out as an apology, a plea, a sob, a cry, as he clutched her to his chest and repeated the words over and over again like a supplicant in a church. And hesitantly he felt Astoria's arms warp themselves around him too, offering the comfort of her arms, letting him exhaust his mantra as his knees slowly weakened and he fell to the ground like a broken mess, clutching her with his head pressed to her belly, seeking that silence that only she was ever able to impose in his crowded head.

Because Astoria, little, weakling, fifteen year old Astoria, was good at not saying anything when people needed silence the most, she was good at making him feel like it was fine to be broken, she'd always been.

So he let her card her fingers trough his hair, feeling the tremors of her body subside to gentle breathing as he held on to her tiny form like a man holds on to a lifesaver in the sea. Sobbing terrified words into her robes while she listened quietly and tried to offer all her wordless comfort.

When dawn came, to the astronomy tower he woke up invthe broom closet covered with his school robe as a blanket, with her head in his shoulder, blue eyes closed, red lips slightly parted and creamy skin flushed from the warming charms in her own robes, he vaguely remembered hiding from Filch and sitting with his back to the wall after showing little Greengrass the mark in his arm.

Astoria hadn't cried, she hadn't pitied him, but neither had she congratulated him, she'd just nodded slowly, accepting his mark with solemnity and he could have kissed her for that, he figured that somewhere between her starting to humm a Celtic lullaby and his hands discovering the strip of exposed skin between her pajama top and bottoms, he must have fallen asleep.

"They can't know you exist, I'm trying to keep them from finding out that you exist" he whispered into her head " don't be scared of me Astoria"
"I'm not" Her bleary eyes opened slowly and she nodded "although I'm still sightly pissed off " she mumbled almost making him smile

His hand once again found the strip of skin between her pajamas and absentmindedly started inching upwards, soon Draco became acutely aware that he'd spent the night with a girl in the astronomy tower, aware that she no longer looked or felt like a child. When he looked at her now he could see the shadows of the woman she would one day be. And just before his hand reached her breast he stilled.

"Its okay, you can touch it" he didn't realize he was waiting for permission until Astoria's blue eyes stared into his with complete trust.

And Draco sighed, realizing he wasn't scum enough (yet) to treat her so cheaply "Not in a broom closet Greengrass, us Malfoys have standards"

Astoria smiled hearing the big clock strike the time "then perhaps you should stop doing so much Dark magic in your room" she replied hinting heavily and temporarily transfiguring her pajamas into a clean uniform.

After that Draco began showing open distaste for Pansy's simpering, and if a bouquet of daffodils magically appeared in Astoria's dresser a few days later, well it had nothing to do with the night in the Astronomy tower.

It was the best year and also, the worst.

Draco would kiss her in dark corners, pull her into empty classrooms to bite her neck, let her pull his hair and explore his buttons all that she wanted. There would be random owl packages addressed to her, delivered inconspicuously to the Carrow twins and secret smirks that would have Astoria melting.

But he was also using her as a substitute for Obliviation, he never talked about the dark mark, or Voldemort when he was with her, mostly making cryptic remarks that worried Astoria to death. But when he did, Astoria could see the strain his "mission" put on him.

Privately, she would sob for him, laying her head of Flora's shoulder and despairing about what Draco was being forced into by people who should know better.

But she couldn't help him.

Little Astoria Greengrass couldn't kill Voldemort or stand up against a horde of death eaters, let alone undo Draco's mark. She couldn't reverse his choices or cure him from his demons.

So Astoria threw herself in her parcels project, she transfigured trinkets for the haggard looking children in her house and collected more useful things for the younger Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. Hoping that they would pass on her efforts to the Griffindoors.

Their generation was under a death warrant and Astoria couldn't help but feel like a failure for not being able to help all these sad little witches and wizards who hadn't had a chance to see anything beyond Thestrall infested fields and school halls filled with fear.

While Draco tried to fix the vanishing cabinet and the Carrow twins became more and more engrossed with the Slug Club, the loneliness Astoria couldn't fight manifested itself in higher school marks and secret care packages to unfortunate students.

Soon word of what Astoria was doing somehow spread trough the Hufflepuff grapevine until a couple of upperclassmen bravely approached her in order to join her efforts and expand her semi anonymous delivery service.

And so in the middle of Voldemort's return, Astoria Greengrass found her calling.

(One day, years in the future Astoria would go on to found a charity for neglected muggleborns and wizarding orphans. The Greengrass Foundation would in years to follow become a mark of pureblood goodwill in the new magical Britain that was built after the war)

Draco told her to stop, because If the other death eater Slytherins ever found out that she was the mastermind behind the Hufflepuff initiative her life would be forfeit. But Astoria simply lashed out, refusing to cower and not even attempt to help anyone that was weaker than her.

Yet it was only after the Katie Bell incident that Draco sought out Astoria's bed that school year.

Hestia and Flora by tacit agreement took one look at his hollow cheeked face and made themselves scarce.

Draco for the first time didn't slip behind Astoria as he'd done the years before, but in front of her, pulling her on top of his chest and breathing in her scent, feeling the tension in his muscles Astoria warped her arms around his middle, offering him as much comfort as she could "I'm glad you failed" she confessed in a whisper "you could die and the Dark Lord might punish everyone, but I'm glad Katie Bell isn't dead...it's sick that I'm also glad that they didn't catch you"

"I don't want to be a murderer Astoria" he replied as he let himself be held together by her soft arms almost sobbing again "but if I don't do this, my father...my mother..the Dark Lord will kill them"

"Shh, shhh don't talk anymore Draco, its all right I'm here" Astoria tightened her arms around him and made him look at her "I'm here, look at me, just at me"

"Why don't you hate me?"

"I can't, you already hate yourself enough for us both" and Astoria disentangled herself from him and slowly sat up, beginning to card her fingers trough his hair in a motion that was becoming easily familiar to the blond boy "sleep for a while Draco"

But once Draco got a good look at her clothing, sleep was the last thing in his mind. She was wearing a light silk camisole and a pair of shorts, usually Astoria covered her arms with a long sleeping robe, preferring the softness of nightgowns over two piece sleepwear but even then Draco knew he'd never seen her wear SILK "what's this?" He mumbled momentarily distracted by the lace edges of her new, skimpier nightclothes.

"My Healer forbid any type of suffocating clothing after I survived my sickness last summer, Madame Lavine said it would be better for my health if I got a new wardrobe spelled with warming charms instead of buying anything that could roast me alive if I ever had an unannounced fever again" Astoria explained blushing unexpectedly "if you don't like it..."

"Stop it porcelain, I never said anything about not liking it" he snapped rolling his eyes and putting her hands back in his hair again "who said you could stop"

Astoria smiled and continued caressing his hair, slowly moving to place his head in her lap "I know you hate him, but I hope Harry Potter ends your master before your master ends your family"

"Don't say that, the dark lord is very powerful. Too powerful" he didn't sound happy about it "I don't even know who I am anymore little Greengrass" Draco whispered relaxing slowly under her hands "I think that's what scares me the most"

He woke up the next morning in his usual position, behind Astoria, caging her with his arms, this year, she fit in perfectly under his arms, like the missing puzzle piece he didn't know was out there.

During the night Astoria had unconsciously snuggled her backside right into his pelvis and had he been anything other than a Malfoy he would have been embarrassed to wake up with his hand skimming the waistband of a sleeping girl.

But he was a Malfoy so he moved it lower until he found curls to play with. When he was satisfied with what he found he made to remove his hand but was stopped by Astoria's "who said you could stop Malfoy" she whispered sounding a little bit breathless, her small hand guided his back to her waistband and pushed it lower, past her curls to the soft wet folds of her femininity "that feels nice Draco"

She could feel him hard against her backside "does it little Astoria?" He hummed against her head, his other hand found it's way to her right breast and began lazily smoothing his fingers across the tender skin of her globe "does this feel nice too?"

"Y..yes..V-very nice" she stammered pushing her backside to his hardness looking for friction.

"I can tell" he agreed feeling the moist liquid drench his fingers "I've been making sure nobody else but me can ever make you feel "nice" remember" he said momentarily unconcerned with the revelation that would prove to be his undoing one day.

"I like it when you touch me...touch...just touch more of me" she almost pleaded

Draco complied "but if you want me to touch, I have to look, can I look Astoria?" He was asking permission, for the first time in his life, he wasn't just taking something because he could. With Astoria he would never take that chance. If he offended her and she decided to cut him from her life again, he knew he wouldn't deal with it well.

"You can look, I'm not ashamed of my body" then she gave him a slightly impish smile "I'm descended from Grimhilde "The Fairest" remember?"

So reverently Draco lifted her camisole and lowered her shorts ( plus underwear) to look at Astoria's naked body as dawn filtered trough the windows. When he did, he understood why the best painters from the muggle world depicted heavenly beings unclothed.

"You are beautiful" the words escaped his mouth before the seventeen year old could catch them.

Astoria simply smiled, letting herself be completely vulnerable under his gaze "thank you" was all she replied.
And then in awe as if with a mind of their own Draco's hands began to move. He touched his fill with slow deliberate precision, meticulously exploring the curve of her neck, down to every inch of her breasts, memorizing the planes of her stomach and the rich darkness of the hair in her pelvis, down the folds of her wetness and the softness of her derrière. Watching how her creamy skin turned red with heat as his fingers trailed over sensitive parts of her. He wanted to keep this moment, trap it in a vial and revive it in a pensive.

He briefly considered that this was probably what Patronus were made of.

So he touched her. And watched her smile as he made her cry out his name with his fingers ( because really, she was awfully responsive for a fifteen year old ) And later he let her undress HIM and reverse the process.

He watched her as she found scars and things he wasn't proud of, he watched her as she explored every inch of his chest and he watched the worshiping awe in her face when she saw his body as a whole.

Letting her touch soothe him, comfort him and temporarily quiet the demons in his mind. Here, with her, he could almost forget his name and sins. Because when he thought of her, he saw light.

She was the closest thing to purity he'd ever get. And Draco couldn't help but being greedy with her generosity.

But he also couldn't help trying his hardest to keep her as removed from the darkness of his world as he could.

And the sad thing was that Astoria knew.

She knew he was tasked with killing the most powerful wizard one could duel, she knew he mumbled about Voldemort in his sleep and she knew he was a death eater.

What was wrong with her that she didn't seem to care about the horrible things he'd voluntarily done in order to take the dark mark?.

But he was hurting, he was doing bad things and he was hurting so badly that it was hurting HER

And Astoria didn't know what else to do except open her arms and let Draco curl himself in them every time he sought her out.

And he didn't know what else to do when he was hurting more than usual except show up at her bedroom door and hope her gentle hands in his hair could make him forget...

So Astoria became his sanity. And he took more and more advantage of it as the days passed.

She warped him up in her Vanilla scented blankets after that I'll fated argument with his godfather during Slughorn's Christmas party and slipped an inconspicuous monogrammed quil into his robes before they parted ways during Christmas break. A gift so simple he often took it out without arousing suspicious glances from anyone.

During Astoria's break, her father once again underlined his emergency procedure with ferocity. Ordering Astoria, this time without bothering to hide his hysteria. To take her older sister and run if death eaters ever breached Hogwarts with impunity.

It was then that she knew that whatever happened next...Lord Greengrass had every intention of removing her (and possibly Daphne) from school the following year.

She returned to Hogwarts to find a sea green bracelet waiting in her pillow. And to the rumor that the Dark Lord would soon grace Hogwarts with his blessing.

After that Draco's dealings in school became increasingly more frantic, and Astoria withdrew into her group of acolytes once again.

When he sought out Astoria, he did so as a last resort, battling between the need to protect her and his addiction to the calm emotions he made him feel.

Officially they didn't have a relationship, but he was the boy she had always sought out for protection since before she knew what love was and she was the girl who always looked at him like he was a better boy than he was.

He never actually took advantage of her in the physical way because Merlin knew that even Draco Malfoy had limits when it came to Astoria's age. But that didn't mean he hesitated in kissing or touching her.

She was HIS and when he had to let her go, he wanted Little Greengrass to remember it in every inch of her skin.

So he used her shamelessly. Refusing to talk about it or to answer the questions he could see written in her eyes.

He used her to forget and because Astoria being younger than him, didn't know how else to help him.... She let herself be used and didn't raise a voice to stop him.

Not when he pushed her against cold walls and kissed her like he wished to kill her (and die at the same time)...or when he snapped at her for voicing her doubts on pureblood ideals...or when he grabbed her out of nowhere on odd hours just for to show her he could.

She let him and she hated herself for it. For not being loud enough to demand words of love, or at least for not even hoping he would change.

She could tell he felt something for her and until the night he stumbled into the dungeons with dried blood on his uniform, after receiving and being saved from Harry Potter's Sectusempra, Astoria would have been able to deny that she cared for him too.

But she also knew that he was using her to cope. Did that mean that her own sick method of coping was letting him use her?. Astoria didn't know.

And so the nights passed, in silences, meaningless moments and tears on both sides.

Until even Flora Carrow raised an eyebrow at her "is this your form of atonement? Playing benefactor to every single sad kid here..." Flora remarked as she helped brew the latest batch of pepper ups, Flora didn't condemn her, but she was usually more in tune with Astoria's emotions than Hestia "is this how you make up to the gods for committing the perceived sin of loving a Malfoy?"

"I don't love him" Astoria quickly denied "this isn't atonement, and if it is, I'm atoning for my whole family as well"

"then I'd hate to see how much goodwill you would forcibly do if your whole family were actual death eaters like mine"

But the truth was that maybe subconsciously, Astoria did see her collaboration with the Hufflepuffs as some sort of atoning penance. Maybe for all the bad the boy she loved wasn't doing in the world. Astoria just wanted to offer her own good works in exchange.

Until it happened...close to the end of the school year. Draco entered Astoria's room with a face so solemn it made the Greengrass heiress call back the Carrow twins to give them the signal of flight.

"Its done isn't it?" Astoria whispered appropriately mournful "the vanishing cabinet you talked about...I can see it in your face"

"You will run far won't you?" He was dressed in black death eater robes and he watched as she spelled her trunks to pack themselves "promise me Astoria, promise me that you won't look back, especially not for my sake"

"If you fail to kill Dumbledore, the Dark Lord will kill YOU" Astoria's hands were shaking "and where do I get a say in that? Its Askaban or death..where do I fit in there..I want..maybe if I"

Draco shook his head, he wouldn't let her be like his mother "if you followed me you would only get killed faster, that's just how wars are"

And then because she was so angry with him she snapped "I HATE YOU DRACO MALFOY" she shouted the lie balling her hands in fists and weakly began hitting his chest " I hate you..I hate you..I hate you"

"I know" he nodded soberly "you should have learned to hate me ages ago" so he let her hit him until she ran out of rage.

He let her hit him until her fists were red and her face blotchy. Because it was the least he deserved and then he kissed her "I don't want you to die Draco...please don't let them kill you" she whispered when she came back up for air

"I'm a Malfoy, we don't die easy" he tried saying with a bad imitation of his usual smirk

And then Astoria asked the one question she needed answered most before he sealed his fate "Do you love me?"

And because Draco had always been honest with her he let her have this one last truth "I might..." He replied looking into her eyes "whatever love feels like...if its something pure and gentle and filled with hope, then that's what I feel when I'm with you" then he returned the question "do YOU love me?"

Astoria couldn't help but nod "I do" her voice came out as a broken sob "I might love you more than I should love anybody"

"Then stay safe, please"

"Are you scared?" Astoria whispered with tears in her eyes, Draco nodded "if you can't turn around, will you at least stay alive? For your family...for me"

"I'll try, for you little Greengrass" he whispered taking her hands into his "I'll look for you when its safe..."

"The train station! the platform with the trains leaving for Switzerland, find me when all this is over"

They spent the last night either would spend together in Hogwarts holding each other and basking in what could be their last moments together.

When Draco left to let the death eaters into the school and to kill Dumbledore.

Astoria did the one most Griffindoor thing she'd ever done in her life. Before she ran.

Astoria tattled.

"You have to stop him" was all she said practically storming into professor Snape's office, the teacher could have killed her with the daggers shooting out of his eyes but Astoria was too hysterical to care "he's going to die, if Dumbledore doesn't kill him the dark lord will, please"she almost begged "you are his Godfather you must know what to do"

And for a moment time seemed to freeze as Severus Snape looked at her fully, the girl didn't look very threatening, petite with long brown hair and delicate features, yet the dignified pleading of little Astoria Greengrass on behalf of Draco almost made the arm that had taken an unbreakable vow for the boy, burn with recognition.

Narcissa had sported the same look when she made him swear said vow.

"Where is he now Miss Greengrass?" Severus drawled making the girl step back

"Astronomy Tower, please hurry, Draco doesn't want to do it" had it been anyone else Astoria's admission would have been seen as betrayal but he was Professor Severus Snape Head House and illegal potion maker. He'd never given Astoria a reason to doubt his willingness to help Draco.

"You won't be able to be together you know" Snape had to remark as he swept out the door "Bellatrix would kill you and make him watch just for fun"

"I know its impossible... But I can't help it, I wish I could" Astoria replied back with her head held high "haven't you ever been in love?"

Snape didn't reply instead he scanned her from head to toe and sighed "you'll be good for him I suppose" he said more to himself "I'll return him to you Miss Greengrass... wipe that frown, its unbecoming"

It was also the last time she would ever see Professor Snape alive again. But Astoria didn't know that when she ran with her friends and sister, taking a portkey to an undisclosed location as death eaters swarmed into Hogwarts.

An: long chapter, long as hell.

Chapter Text

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.

You promised.

-A

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?"

"No"

"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"

"Mudblood then?"

"No"

"Financially destitute?"

"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.

Draco didn't.

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.