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A Force Of Wills by Gabriella Hunter
Chapter 8: Blaise
A/N: Hello, all! I've been really busy with junk so I'm sorry if you've been waiting on this, quite a few of you have read the previous chapter or the whole story so far. If so, you guys are awesome and deserve my absolute praise...hahah. Anyway, the story is progressing and I know alot of you are Zabini fans and you may get a real enjoyment out of this chapter! I won't give anything away! Enjoy!
The Zabini Estate reminded Astoria of a failing museum. But because she had abhorred the idea of being locked up completely in the borrowed, dusty room, even after she had cleaned it from every inch available with her own hands, she explored.
It was a rather bold move for her when she knew more than anyone else that she would never belong here. But something compelled her to make further investigations of her host’s home and it was almost an impulsive ache.
There was something simply fascinating about Blaise Zabini and some part of her wanted to know what it was about him that made her so flustered, so pink in the cheeks when they barely knew one another. Astoria had always imagined that she would find every pureblood repugnant but Zabini was an oddity that she couldn’t quite put her finger on and on more than one occasion over the past four days, she had found herself smiling.
Every strange conversation that they had seemed to have replayed itself in her mind before she went to bed, a flush to her cheeks and her heart hammering in a way that made her wonder if she were ill.
But it was impossible to ignore that he caused her heart to flutter, that she slept with his handkerchief under her pillow, sometimes pressing it to her nose as she inhaled his scent.Those actions, coupled with the fact that he treated her politely and nitpicked at her in a way that would put Scorpious and Emily to shame brought on nothing but odd conversations, arguments that started from nothing and laughter simply for the sake of laughing.
Astoria was confused by it really and she found herself wandering around his mansion, hunting for clues as to why this once beautiful place was falling apart around the edges. She had a feeling that the blame couldn’t be placed solely on Helena Zabini.
Because the potion or whatever Zabini had given her had worn off some time ago, Astoria spent much of the mornings in her room, though it was apparent that the woman could hardly care what her son was up to.
She had heard them talking in the hallway once while she’d been reading one of her Muggle novels, “I have a feeling that you’re keeping someone in my house again, Blaise. Who is it?”
“That’s none of your damn concern.” Zabini’s voice had been kind, if not scathing and Astoria’s jaw had dropped at his nerve to speak to his own mother like that. “Just keep your nose out of my affairs if you like being able to shop.”
“How dare you speak to me that way? I’m ill, as you may recall!” his mother had snapped and Astoria had winced a little.
Zabini had sighed irritably, the sound making the hairs on the back of her neck rise. “Mother, every time you leave with that wretch you call a daughter, you come back ill. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she were poisoning you again.”
Astoria’s jaw had dropped.
Helena Zabini had spluttered. “You know how much she would prefer to be head of the family and because I hate her and she hates me, the next best thing to beating me down is killing you. The last time before this you weren’t able to stop coughing for a month, though sadly, you didn’t die.” Zabini had said to his mother loftily.
There was obviously something rather tainted about the family and Astoria had sat on the bed with her jaw hanging open. It had been obvious from the way Zabini had spoken to the woman that he highly suspected his own sister of poisoning their mother, “You’re just jealous, Blaise. You always have been but I can’t help that Sabina is my favorite. Now, give me a few Galleons so I can go out into Diagon Alley, I must get some new robes.”
Those nasty, self-important words must have hurt Zabini one way or another and Astoria had felt a burst of compassion for him. But his voice had been icy, “I’ll give you a hundred Galleons from my own Gringotts vault and if you spend it all on your ridiculous whims, you’ll only have yourself to blame.” There had been a rustling sound and Astoria had imagined him taking out his Gringottt’s key and handing it over to his overly eager mother, “at the rate you’re going, we’ll be living in a box by the end of the month.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Blaise. You’re much too serious and if you are keeping another of your girlfriends here, she had better be a pureblood or I’ll be sending an immediate owl to her parents to collect her—and I would much rather not meet her. Your taste in women is deplorable.” Mrs. Zabini had insulted prettily before her footsteps had faded away.
Astoria had felt a tingle of dislike for the woman at her assumption that she wasn’t good enough for her son and then had paused. What did she care? It wasn’t as if Zabini were courting her…but she had been rather unnerved to find out that she hadn’t been the only girl that he had had staying with him.
But she had willed herself not to think about it or the fact that he had mentioned that he and Malfoy had entertained themselves with varying girls for a very long time.
She couldn’t quite understand what had made him change exactly but he had to be different now because he had never looked at her inappropriately. But then a nasty thought had invaded her mind. Of course he wouldn’t when she was just a poor little half-blood running away from her murderous family.
There was nothing at all desirable about her. And that thought had spurred her to keep her distance and cease her heart’s foolish fluttering whenever he was near, though it almost hurt to do so.
If Zabini assumed that she had heard the conversation, as they’d been rather close to her guest room, he had given her no indication that he cared or would explain. And Astoria hadn’t spoken much during dinner that night.
Their conversation had lost its zest and teasing and they’d uncomfortably looked away from one another but the next day, he pretended that all was well and was back to his unusual self. Because he handled the accounts and his mother, which took up so much of his time, Astoria really didn’t see much of him in the day, though they had breakfast, lunch and dinner together alone.
Helena Zabini stayed out rather often and Zabini had nastily mentioned that she had many men to entertain herself with until she brought them home…seduced them and had them marry her.
They needed the money and while they were, in Astoria’s opinion wealthier than she would ever be, their home was nowhere near its original state and she swallowed hard now as she made her way downstairs, Zabini having decided to loiter somewhere else.
She wasn’t sure what he did after he finished his accounts and handled the groceries (He went into Diagon Alley through the Floo to take care of this pesky problem) but she had grown rather restless.
Exploring the Estate was an entertaining and mysterious game to her and she found many empty rooms, once glorious but faded with time, old children’s books that she brought back to her room.
But because Astoria liked to read quite often and had depleted her selection of Muggle novels and the banned ones her family had had (That Aradelle had packed for her, as was custom when she went back to school), she had nothing new to read.
So today she found herself wandering around on the west side of the mansion, peeking through every available room for a library or office, because by now any book would do. It took her a long time but Astoria eventually stumbled into an old library at the end of a crumbling hallway and eagerly stepped inside and saw nothing but bookshelves loaded with tomes, novels and anything else that her heart could imagine.
Nothing but joy persisted and Astoria launched herself into the room, taking note of the ancient stone fireplace, the old leather armchairs and the massive desk that must have belonged to someone.
Curious and feeling as if she would burst with relief, she idly wandered over to it, picking up some photos on the surface and finding herself staring at a handsome black man and his son, who could be no one else but Zabini. He was perhaps four or five and even then very cute as he gazed up at his father, who was waving at whoever was taking the picture. Astoria had her doubts that it had been his wife and she set it down.
Something tingled down her spine at the knowledge that she may find out more about Zabini and she looked around the surface of the desk and picked up varying photos, each of the same man and Zabini in later stages. But the photos stopped once he turned ten or eleven and Astoria was a bit dismayed to understand that he had perhaps died or left his wife by this point, leaving him alone.
Her heart felt crushed for him and she thought of how there weren’t any pictures of herself from birth to now…though she would refuse to think about that, her family really was despicable.
Placing the last picture down, Astoria wandered over to the bookshelves and though she didn’t bother reading the names, she eagerly picked out anything and everything until she had a stack in her arms.
How she made it to the armchair was perhaps a miracle. But she eventually placed the stack neatly on the floor and lost herself to book after book, her mind whirring as she read about Wizarding fairy tales that were very different from Muggle ones.
They were darker and some of them had the most disgusting pureblood leanings but Astoria read them all. And by the time the afternoon had worn on, she had completely forgotten about anything else.
She was just turning the page in a book that was more erotic than she would have liked when she heard a pant. “There you are. Merlin, you scared me half to death.” It was Zabini’s voice and she looked up in surprise to see him resting his head on the doorway, “I’ve been all around the estate looking for you, I thought you’d run off.”
Astoria stared at him and the photos of himself and his father seemed to make a guilty flush spread into her cheeks. “Sorry, I wanted something new to read.”
“You could have asked me, I would have just gotten you something.” Zabini said curtly and Astoria was surprised to hear the bit of anger in his tone. She stared at him warily, her eyes narrowing as he strode into the room, taking everything in with a disapproving frown, “I would rather you not be here in my father’s office.”
That sounded as if he were expecting to make her sulk like a little child and Astoria’s back stiffened defensively as she lowered the book onto her lap. The folds of her dress flared over the edge and his eyes flicked over the books on the floor and he seemed quite furious, she had never seen him angry before and she said, “I didn’t know that this was your father’s study. I wouldn’t have come in if I had known that it wasn’t allowed.”
Perhaps her tone had been a bit more sarcastic than she had intended because his eyes narrowed with annoyance. “Put the books back.” He commanded and when Astoria merely raised his brows at his nerve to give her an order, he snapped, “now, Greengrass. I should have locked this room, I never allow anyone to come in here!”
“Why?” Astoria asked calmly even as she stayed right where she was, her brow crinkled in confusion by his anger. And then she understood slowly that he had loved his father very much and that she had tainted his memory somehow by being here, without his permission, “I’ll put the books back.”
Zabini eyed her distrustfully, as if she might damage them but Astoria calmly stacked the books, heaved them into her arms and slid off the armchair. He saw her struggling but he seemed too angry to give his assistance, “In exactly the same order that you got them, Greengrass.”
Astoria shot him a withering look. “Zabini, if you command me to do one more thing, I’ll gut you like a fish.” She hissed and because he saw the expression on her face and the promising glint in her eyes, he said nothing more, though he sneered. “I didn’t know that this was a special place for you. If I had known, I wouldn’t have come inside.”
That didn’t seem to make him feel any better and she spent a long few minutes arranging the books back in the order that she had gotten them. She smoothed out the bindings and made certain that they were pristine before Zabini crossed by her to his father’s desk and took one of the photos, somehow knowing that her filthy fingers had been on them, “…You touched his photos.”
If there had been a time when she had though the Devil had a voice, he would probably sound exactly like Zabini just then. Astoria turned slowly from the bookshelf to see him glaring at her hatefully and she squared her shoulders, not even bothering to deny it, “I just wanted to know you.”
“You don’t need to know me, Greengrass. Trust works both ways and I don’t know a damn thing about you but I don’t sneak into your room looking at your personal things,” Zabini hissed menacingly and Astoria felt something like shame slime down her spine, “this is a forbidden area of the house, Greengrass, remember that you’re not allowed to come into this room again.”
Astoria wanted to say something quite foul to him but she couldn’t get her mouth to work, something was breaking in her chest. “I’ll remember, Zabini. Don’t worry that I’ll disturb anything again but I would like something more to read.”
Zabini’s nostrils flared a bit with an oncoming rage that she had never expected out of him and he spat nastily. “You sure do have a lot of damn nerve. Rather spoiled, aren’t you?” Astoria glared at him because this was farthest from the truth, her parents provided, they rarely ever indulged, “I’ve done more than enough for you.”
Astoria felt as if he had slapped her across the face and she said angrily. “No one is forcing you to keep me here and if I’m such a damn burden to you, I’ll leave.” It wasn’t a threat by any means but Zabini’s eyes widened, “I said that I was sorry but if you’re going to insult me even after I apologized then you can kiss my ass—you may want to wait though, I’ll be a bit busy packing my things.” She said coldly and before he could say a thing, she turned on her heel and marched out of the room.
For some reason as she winded and curved around the mansion to get back to the front and towards the winding staircase, she felt like crying. It was an unwanted thing but she felt her eyes prickling regardless of her anger but she forced it back and decided that she would take the Floo and go to the Leaky Cauldron after all and somehow, she would find a room.
If she were lucky, they would need a bit of extra help around the place and she could acquire a job but her experience was minimal and pathetic at best and she ignored it.
There could be something useful for her and a nasty image of herself living on the streets as some sort of beggar came into her mind but another part of her thought of going to Knockturn Alley, after all the things that her family did for wastrels there, they owed her.
The Greengrass name was something to be feared and recoiled from in the bowels of the underworld and Astoria would have to call upon every foul thing to get her through. She didn’t have Scorpious’s threatening nature or Emily’s charm…she was mean, that was true but could only get her so far and Astoria glowered angrily before making it onto the landing and towards her borrowed room.
A tear slid down her cheek and she damned herself before opening the door and going inside to gather her things, the strange feelings bouncing around in her chest until she thought she really would burst into tears.
Of course it had been too good to be true, and this was why you should never trust purebloods, no matter how kind they appeared. They always bite. Astoria hated that the teachings of her life had been proven correct and it took her a very long time to shove her things into her trunk and by the time she’d thrown on a traveling cloak and buttoned it, she was feeling as if her body were crumbling.
Just like this place.
Astoria hated that she had enjoyed herself here and shook it off and was walking towards the door when Zabini appeared. A scream flew from her mouth before she cried, “You bloody jackass, get the hell out of my way!”
“Make me.” Zabini replied calmly and he looked as if he had run towards her again, his eyes were darker than normal and there was a stubborn set to his jaw. Astoria should have figured from the way he spoke to his mother that he was rather persistent on what he wanted and what he wanted done, “you’re not going anywhere. Where do you think that you can go with no money?”
“I’ve got a place in mind. And if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you get out of my way,” Astoria said sharply, threateningly. Zabini merely raised his brows at the words, as if finding her highly amusing, “I said that I would leave and I’ll keep my word.”
There was a thick silence at those words and it was only broken up by Zabini as he shifted his weight and cursed foully under his breath. Apparently being a gentleman was forgotten when he was upset and Astoria narrowed her eyes on him before striding up and shoving at his chest and although it made her feel ill to touch a pureblood, she did it again. “You’re about as strong as a kitten, Greengrass.”
“Get out of my way!” Astoria practically screamed, looking up at him. It was a mistake because his eyes sought hers, daring her to try him but whatever he had been about to say was lost as one obnoxious tear rolled down her cheek and because the absurdity of it was almost too much to bear, she couldn’t hold the rest in. “Get out of my way, Blaise!” she commanded.
For a moment Zabini merely stared down at her, apparently so fascinated by her that he failed to move out of the way in time. Astoria punched him before she could stop herself, directly in the stomach where Emily had taught her so long ago and he grunted in surprise before moving aside and she shoved by him, shaking out her hair as she did so, “That hurt!” he accused in a wheeze.
Astoria laughed coldly. “I’m glad that it did!” she snapped over her shoulder and for a moment he just stared…and stared…before darting straight for her. A shriek leapt out of her throat and forgetting about her trunk, she bolted as fast she could down the hallway, her shoes slipping in her haste to get away from him, this being completely out of character.
Zabini was much taller and bigger than she was and Astoria barely got around a corner before he snaked an arm around her waist, “Wait a minute!” he snapped furiously.
“Get your stinking hands off of me!” Astoria commanded, struggling.
Zabini cursed nastily under his breath. “Going to call me a filthy pureblood, Greengrass? You can do a bit better than that with the mouth you’ve got.”
Astoria struggled to move forward, “You don’t need to know half the things I’m calling you right now!” she screamed. Her foot seemed to catch on the folds of her dress and she stumbled, which caused him to fall and they both collided heavily on the floor, cursing and gasping for breath even though he'd rolled onto his side so she wouldn’t take much of the pain.
Astoria blinked the sting of pain and more tears out of her eyes and wiped at them, dust rising from the ancient carpet and clogging her throat. Coughing and gagging, she was only blearily aware of Zabini doing the same, his arm still around her waist and before she could sit up, he rolled her underneath him and pinned her arms above her head, “Get off!” she screamed.
“That really hurt,” Zabini said down to her angrily and for a moment Astoria became all too aware of her predicament. They seemed to be tangled in the most embarrassing position and her back was starting to hurt, “What the hell are you? You’re the most vicious cactus I’ve ever met.”
“Get off of me!” Astoria commanded furiously, panic seeping in. upon noticing that he was frightening her, Zabini released her immediately and she made a great show of pushing his chin away from her in her haste to get away. Malfoy would have taken complete advantage of her by this point and that fear and the fact that she was so humiliated brought on more fear than she would have liked, “get off, please!”
Zabini had been trying to free her hand from his face and he gasped a bit as she rammed her knee upward, probably grazing a sensitive area. “Dammit, Greengrass I won’t be able to have children at the rate you’re going!” he snapped. “Calm down and let me get off of you. My apologies but I take offense when a hellcat decides to punch me and even make fun of me for allowing it to happen,” he snarled angrily, sitting up.
Astoria managed to crawl backwards and away from him, her heart hammering and her body burning with embarrassment and fear. She ignored him as he made himself comfortable on the floor, not even bothering to straighten out his robes as he stared at her, his face alive with curiosity…laughter, “I hate you.” She hissed meanly.
“Oh, don’t I know it?” Zabini asked as he rubbed painfully on his lower abdomen, looking as if he were very pained. When Astoria sniffled a bit, his dark eyes actually softened, “I didn’t mean to yell at you, I’m sorry. And I never would have wanted to make you cry—I wasn’t aware that a cactus could.”
There was a very curious tone to his voice, as if he held Astoria in a higher regard that might have put her in an inhuman light. As if she weren’t really human at all, “I do have feelings you know. If that room was so special to you, I wouldn’t have gone inside,”
Zabini’s lips thinned a little but he seemed unable to stay mad at her as he glanced over her rumpled frame. His eyes lingered over the tangle of her brown hair, which was probably covered in nothing but dust and lint, “…My father lived in that room and it was the only place in this whole house that I felt comfortable. And after he left, I never wanted anyone or even myself to go back inside it.”
Astoria spent a moment or two freeing her hair of the clumps of lint in her hair and ran her fingers through the locks to distract herself. Zabini seemed to find it highly annoying that she was distracting him as well, though she couldn’t understand why his fists clenched, “Your father died?” she asked gently.
“No, he left my mother for another woman. I don’t know where he is, he never tried to contact me again so I assume sometimes that he may be dead, though I do apologize for my rather cryptic remark the first night you came here, I was being especially bitter that night.” Zabini said sincerely and Astoria stared at him thoughtfully, her anger diminishing rapidly. “Mother often likes to say that I was the reason that he left, she’s never cared about me.”
Astoria couldn’t imagine having that knowledge but even as she formed the words, she could understand how he felt. “I’m sorry but it wasn’t your fault. I don’t know what was on his mind but he probably thought that you might have been better here, with your mother.” Zabini sneered and she knew without asking in more detail that his father had made a terrible mistake in that assumption, “…the other day I heard the way your mother talked to you, I actually heard far too much,”
Zabini’s head jerked a bit and he looked briefly ashamed of what she had heard and she didn’t have to guess as to his sour mood now. Anyone who had so much pressure on their shoulders would have to snap eventually and she felt guilty about being a burden for him, offering him nothing but distrust and revulsion if he dared to touch her, “I didn’t mean for you to hear any of that.”
“It’s okay.” Astoria said hastily. That caused his lips to turn downward in a frown that possessed more shame and anger then she had ever seen before, “I shouldn’t have really listened but I’m so used to people keeping secrets at my own house that it made me far too curious. I just wanted to know more…but is it true that your sister has tried to kill your mother?”
The only sounds seemed to be their breathing for a long time but eventually Zabini grunted a bit under his breath and Astoria felt terror building up. “It’s true. She’s a selfish bitch, if you’ll pardon my language,” Astoria jerked her head, “she just likes to hurt me out of spite. The fact that I control so much of the estate and have to in the state our budget is in has never sat well with her, she believes that it’s her birthright but because I’m the only living male in the house, it falls onto me. Our mother can barely add and subtract without rupturing her brain.”
Astoria couldn’t imagine having a sister that hated her, Emily had always been like the mother that she had wished theirs would be. They were so close but the last time that she had seen her sister; she had hurt her by her words, saying that she never wanted to be like her when none of them had had a choice on whether they lived by the Greengrass code.
Never trust a pureblood and do as your father tells you, no matter if killing a person for money makes you ill. Do not go against the business. Question nothing. Do everything. “This has to be too much of a burden on you. And I know that I’m not helping by staying here and I don’t want to trouble you.”
“You’re not troubling me.” Zabini interrupted firmly and Astoria stared at him in bewilderment because he expected her to laze around and do nothing while he worked. The only thing she had personally done on her own was her laundry, though he had laughed at the sight of her soaking wet and spitting from the effort, “not at all. I asked you to stay here because I would rather not have you out in the street, you’re under my protection and it gets so damn lonely here.”
Those last few words must not have been what he had wanted to say but Astoria saw the truth in his dusty, dark face regardless. He held her stare though, daring her to say something scathing but she nodded in acceptance, accepting what he had told her and whatever else he would come to say, “I haven’t been fair to you at all.”
“I’m not demanding that you tell me anything but I would want you to trust me. I’ve given you no reason to think that you can’t,” Zabini said sternly but Astoria still had a feeling that he was hiding something from her. he wouldn’t reveal everything, not now and probably not ever, “you’re expecting me to hurt you when I’ve told you a million times that I have no intention of it.”
Astoria recalled that she had still been picking through her food to make sure that he hadn’t poisoned or done something to it. While it may have hurt his pride, she felt an inkling of irritation with herself, hating that her old habits still dominated what she did now, “You’re up to something, I just know you are. Though I don’t think you’re intending on killing me.”
Zabini’s eyes narrowed at the words but he didn’t even bother trying to deny it, though he did admit with a thin smirk. “I won’t hurt you. Of that you can rest easy,” he murmured and his tone was darker than sin…filled with malicious intent for someone else entirely. Astoria had a feeling that it was Malfoy but she hardly cared what he did to him, so long as she wasn’t involved, “and I’m not all too certain of seducing you either. My mother probably assumes that you’re a girlfriend.”
Astoria’s cheeks flamed but she wasn’t sure if he had been joking or not by the way his eyes had run over her. “You’ve done things like that in past?” he nodded curtly. “I’m not going to ask more about it, I don’t need to know.”
“You can if you’d like. I’ve grown out of the habit of doing things like that, a girlfriend will do that to you and though I don’t have one anymore, the thought makes me wretch,” Zabini said and the mention of this mysterious girl that he had dated made Astoria curious.
Jealous. Astoria didn’t like the feeling and mumbled awkwardly, to make piece. “Ask me something…and I’ll try to answer, though I would rather keep us both alive.” If it were known that she revealed too much, if her family ever caught her, then she would put him and his mother in danger.
Zabini appeared surprised by this but he stared at her intently, his brows creasing together as he weighed his options. There were, perhaps, millions of things that he could have asked but he settled for questioning, “Are you happy here with me?”
Astoria felt her cheeks heating and embarrassment flooded her entirely and he watched her intently, his eyes raking her. The action was strange from him, as he would have never done something so bold but her heart started to hammer, her lungs felt constricted, “Yes. I don’t want to leave.”
That was the one word that she withheld and though she didn’t say anything, Zabini seemed to sense it anyway. And his cheeks seemed to color a little with his own thoughts, “Then stay with me for a while, until Hogwarts. I don’t want you to leave.” The admission made both of them uncomfortable and they spent a few minutes looking away from one another.
A thick silence fell after the words before she struggled to rise to her feet and Zabini followed suit and she was offered his hand. Revulsion and warring emotions dared her to take it, deny it but Astoria took his hand with her own and was lifted up from the floor, “Thank you, Zabini.”
“Astoria, call me Blaise. Punching me has given you the right after all.” Zabini said with a friendly smile. When she met his eyes, she was aware of sinking, falling, tumbling and she hated that he could bring out these feelings when she least needed them.
Humiliated and confused, Astoria said nothing but gently squeezed his fingers, returning the pressure he offered.
And...there you go! Hope you lurved it and all that stuff! I'm not sure what's up next..."Growth"? (I know some of you Benjamin Malfoy fans are squealing at that, you perverts! Hahaha) and then... "Albus Potter and the Dark Lords Prince" and then... "This is Audrey Tang: The Bad Taste". Please stick with me until I take care of those other stories! Much love.