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A Force Of Wills by Gabriella Hunter
Chapter 13: Consequences
A/N: Hello everyone! I'm sorry that its been so long since you guys have seen this story, and I hope this chapter makes up for it! :D
Sharp rays of morning sunlight scattered the torn remnants of the night before and Astoria found herself glancing briefly at the person that sat across from her. Blaise's expression was more guarded than she had ever seen it as he concentrated on a breakfast so hearty that her chest had tightened at the sight of it. Tom and the other wizards that had delivered their dinner last night had come again with their breakfast, looking far too cheery and jittery for Astoria's taste as they'd set up their table and silverware.
While she had been carefully concealed underneath her cloak and playing the shy fiance, Blaise had paraded around smoothly as the arrogant pureblood, his tone and stance reminding her of Malfoy. The two of them hadn't even spoken much before Tom had arrived and there was a perpetually awkward feeling in the air that made her slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps sharing their fears with one another had been a bad idea?
Astoria had already told him too much about her own family and if Blaise was ever captured or worse, interrogated by her family, they would kill him. The Greengrass family business was supposed to be a secret and Astoria knew that if they didn't kill Blaise, they would surely make him regret ever having known her in the worst possible way. But she had been gone for days now, causing her family to worry and her own punishment would be too horrible to even contemplate and it made her shudder.
The risks that Blaise had made for the sake of her freedom both perplexed and amazed her and she knew that there would be no way for her to repay him. Today was their last day here and tomorrow...tomorrow they would be on the Express, bound for a Hogwarts that was infested to the brim with Death Eaters and Snape as Headmaster.
There would be more danger there than she would have ever imagined. She wasn't sure if the thought of just Malfoy and his gang hunting her or her family was more frightening. Either way, she was doomed to constantly watch her back, to constantly worry that something would happen to her.
And yet, there was Blaise. He had said more than once that he wouldn't allow anything to happen to her but Astoria knew that there was only so much he could do. She would rather not have him receiving any pain because of her.
Telling him this was useless though when Astoria knew that he was much too stubborn to actually listen to her. Something like a smile flickered across her mouth as she thought of how strange it was to have a friend.
"What are you smiling about? You have this expression on your face as if the sausage really is the best in Britain," Blaise startled her by commenting, even though Astoria doubted that the Leaky Cauldron could boast something that arrogant about their food.
The feast spread before them on white tablecloth was a bit too much for her and she'd only nibbled on a bit of toast and fruit. "Its not nearly as good as your cooking," Astoria found herself saying with a faint blush, wondering why there seemed to be this strange pressure between them. Blaise appeared flattered and she said dryly, "don't look too arrogant, I'm not being entirely honest."
For the first time this morning, Blaise's lips turned up in a smile and if she hadn't known any better, it appeared slightly relieved. Astoria took in his face more carefully, noticing that there were dark circles under his eyes and that he looked a bit pale, "There's my prickly little cactus today. I was wondering if you were going to speak to me at all."
"And why wouldn't I?" Astoria asked gently, not sure why she was worried that there was something wrong between the two of them. She didn't think that she could bear the thought of having him angry with her again and there was nothing in her that was gleeful about another argument that would get them nowhere.
Blaise was silent for a long moment and she watched as he glanced down at his plate, which looked as if it might overflow. Astoria saw his fingers trace delicately over his glass and she wondered disastrously if he woudl ever touch her with such concentration and nearly expired in her chair, "I thought that....to be honest that you would be uncomfortable after what I told you last night."
Astoria flushed a little but not because she was guilty of thinking that he was some sort of cowardly creature. A flash of anger at his sister and her own powerlessness bothered her greatly and she assured him quietly, "I don't think any less of you for telling me. I'm happy that you did, I feel like you keep so much from me...even though I can't blame you," she added, understanding that it was scary to be able to talk so freely with someone else.
"I rarely ever go into great detail about myself with anyone." Blaise replied carefully and Astoria sensed that there was more that he wanted to say but he remained evasive, his words never being spoken. Something shifted between them even more powerfully than it had last night and she wished that she had the courage to breach the distance, "I'm not sure what it is about you but I trust you and that's something I never thought that I would be able to say to anyone."
Astoria found it incredibly ironic when she had been taught from an early age to never trust a pureblood. They were liars and cheats and thieves and would sooner swindle you than help you, her father had told her when she had barely been able to comprehend his words, "You trust me?"
Blaise nodded his head somberly and she saw a rueful smile forming on his lips and she wishedt hat he would reveal his thoughts. But he only said, "Of course, Astoria. And I would be more than grateful if you would say it as well,"
"And why should I?" Astoria asked defiantly, disliking his haughty expression. She wasn't sure if he were teasing her or not but she went on in a rush, "you've already done so much for me and even if I don't say it, wouldn't you be able to tell?"
Blaise appeared only slightly disappointed before he gave her a critically assessing look that made her feel like a bug underneath a scientists eye. "I'm not sure, Astoria. I would like to know more about you and I feel that you're hiding too much from me still, thinking that its for my own good that I never find out," she saw that his eyes were narrowing a little, as if he couldn't believe he couldn't solve the issue.
Astoria glanced down at her plate and picked at a sliced pear with her fork, her eyes downcast and sheilding her thoughts. This was the sort of conversation that she had wanted to avoid with him but it felt useless ignoring it now, "Its not that I don't want to tell you but I would rather not put you in any more danger than necessary and..." what she was and what her family really did for a living wasn't anything that she wanted to be revealed. It was almost too sickening to say out loud and she swallowed hard, "you said, back at the Estate that when I was ready that I could come to you."
Blaise seemed to recall his own words and he ran a finger along his jaw thoughtfully, taking hsi fingers away from his drinking glass. "So I'm assuming you believe that there's still reason to hide from me?"
"Aren't you hiding from me?" Astoria demanded, feeling only the slightest bit of her temper flaring up. "There are things that I'd like to know about you too, Blaise. I'd like to know," she hesitated or a moment before plundering on, "the night that I came to the Estate, why did you let me stay with you instead of turning me back in to my family?"
She had always felt that there had been some ulterior motive behind his kindness and she had never tried to deny it. Although he had helped her, promised her that she coudl rely on him, she sensed something nasty underneath it all but instinctively knew that it wasn't directed at her at all and was intended for someone else. But she would rather not be unaware for too much longer when she had grown tired of being used as a pawn for someone else's revenge.
Her father had used her for years and the last straw had been, of course, what he had wanted her to do with Malfoy so the family business could continue to prosper. If Blaise turned out to be simliar to him then she would fall apart with misery. She had opened herself up to him in a way that she had never thought possible with anyone and if he betrayed her...she didn't think that she would ever be able to recover.
Blaise considered her for a moment, as if weighing the options and she felt that it was a topic that he would rather not have. But he surprised her when he said, "I liked you. When we were at Malfoy Manor, you were just what it needed." Astoria blushed a little, annoyed with herself that she was so easily flattered. "I had never noticed how funny you were and the way you handled Malfoy instead of swooning all over him made me glad. I thought it would be nice to get to know you."
"But if that were true you would have spoken to me at school." Astoria remarked forcefully, though she knew that if he had tried she would have rebuffed him coldly to spare her own heart. And his life would have been in trouble as well. A Greengrass didn't have any friends and couldn't afford to have their secrets revealed by anyone, "....or tried to."
Blaise was considering her face carefully before he spoke again and she glanced at him, noticing that he appeared only slightly embarrassed. It was, once again, an odd thing to see him appearing awkward about anything, "Like I told you before, I was distracted with someone I cared about and wouldn't have spared you much of a glance."
Astoria felt a jealous sting at the words and tried to swallow it down and only suceeded in nearly choking. She hastily reached for her glass of water and took a few greedy gulps before setting it back down, "There's something that you're not telling me and I wish that you would. No person just allows a girl that they don't know to stay with them for a few days."
Somehow, she knew that she had sadi the wrong thing and Blaise's mouth turned up in a tight line that made her wince. "Apparently you wouldn't have liked the sort of person that I was before I was changed for the better." Astoria knew what he was saying and she wanted him to stop, not wanting to think about him bringing girls into the Estate to sleep with them and do things that she would probably never experience. "I let you stay with me, Astoria for all the reasons that I've already explained and becuase...what sort of horrible person would I be if I turned my back on someone in need?"
The words should have mollified her enough to drop the subject but Astoria was still eyeing him suspiciously. Blaise quirked his brow at her in brimming annoyance but she found herself asking, "Don't you care about your reputation at all? Aren't you worried about what everyone is going to say about you, being associated with someone like me?" it made her sting all the more at the insults that they would get once they returned to Hogwarts and suffered around the other Slytherins in classes.
It would be torture.
Blaise made a strange sound in his mouth and she watched him carefully before he tilted his head at her. "Why do you think so lowly of yourself? There's nothing wrong with you, aside from the fact that you have the most horrible temper and can glare a hole in a wall," Astoria narrowed her eyes on him then and he laughed in amusement. "The world is changing and I think that, with a War going on that there are more important things to worry about than who I choose to keep company with."
"So your reputation hardly matters to you?" Astoria asked him even though she knew that he would much rather eat bile than return to the bosom of Malfoy's friends. What he had done to them all at the Manor spoke of hatred and she could imagine that he enjoyed spending much of his time alone and knew that sort of loneliness wasn't at all fair.
She should know that more than anyone.
Blaise sighed wearily and set his hands in his lap, regarding her sternly and Astoria waited for him to speak. "I thought that I had already explained myself about this before, why are you so insistent that I'll change?"
The way he said the words made her cringe a little but she wasn't certain why. But it had to be his eyes, his eyes were distant as if he were reliving some unpleasant memory, "I'm afraid," she admitted tightly. "I'm afraid that once we go to Hogwarts that you'll change and I won't be able to talk or be with you any longer." It was humiliating to admit to this but it was the truth.
Blaise appeared slightly surprised by the admission as he came out of his thoughts and he regarded her with a much more gentler expression. A flush worked its way up from her neck, settling into her cheeks, "Astoria, I'm not about to say that it will be the easiest thing, returning to Hogwarts in the state its in and with our reputations the way that they are but it would take much more than that for me to abandon you."
"I don't want you to feel like you're obligated to stay with me." Astoria found herself saying, the truth of that unnerving her. She already knew that she wouldn't be able to let him go but the thought of him leaving her for his own good made her ill, "I don't want you to regret going so far for me."
Blaise appeared surrpised by the words but he didn't reply for such a long time that Astoria felt a burst of panic. Perhaps he was already thinking that he had done too much, that she wasn't worth nearly that much, "I don't regret being with you. Astoria," she had looked down at her plate, unable to see the desertion in his eyes, "if you stay with me then I'll stay with you."
The words, so softly spoken seemed to wrap around her so smoothly that Astoria suddenly felt bathed in sunlight. Relief spread through her, so comfortable and dizzying that she almost burst into tears, "I don't think you have any idea what that means to me," her voice came out as a whisper but his only reply was the sudden clasp of his hands around hers.
Her breath rushed out, her heart aching and pounding but before either of them could say a word, there was a knock on the door. Quickly, Blaise released her hand and Astoria, who'd draped her cloak over the back of her chair, slipped back into it and covered her hair and face, knowing that they woudl soon be dealing with unwanted guests.
"I'm sure its only Tom," Blaise assured her and Astoria watched warily as he rose from his chair, depositing his napkin onto the table and crossing the room with a slightly more stiffed pace. Astoria looked down at her harnd, feeling a tingle working its way under her skin and she turned as the door was opened, "yes?"
There was a hasty murmuring from outside that sounded like Tom and Astoria felt suspicion coiling. Despite it all, she still felt suspicous of the man and she watched as Blaise nodded, speaking in low tones that she wasn't able to pick up and by the time that he turned around again, he looked slightly perturbed. "Is there something wrong?" Astoria asked him worriedly, standing up from the table hastily.
"Our school things have arrived and will be delivered shortly." Blaise replied easily enough, his eyes taking her in. There was a bit of a frown forming though and Astoria knew that that couldn't be all and she waited impatiently for him to continue speaking, "I would like for you to stay upstairs for a while."
Astoria was immediately suspicious and on alert. "Why?" she demanded.
Blaise frowned fully now and she saw that his fists were clenched at his sides, either at annoyance of her tone or something that was far worse. When he spoke, his tone was a little icy around the edges, "There's something that I need to take care of." He informed her and at the stricken look on her face, he explained, "Tom told me that my mother is barking for me outside of Madame Malkin's. Her account has been terminated and she wasn't allowed inside of my vaults at Gringotts."
Astoria felt a burst of annoyance and an odd bit of relief at the thought of Helena Zabini being as petty as ever. "Have you sent an owl to your mother?" she knew that he had given some sort of excuse before they had left the Estate but she didn't know if he had sent a message to her alst night while she'd slept.
A muscle ticked in Blaise's jaw and she could practically feel his irritation as he started across the room towards the fireplace. He had made a place for his bags on a chair, the blankets that he had slept on hidden away as if he had never slept at all and Astoria had a suspicion that he hadn't.
Sharing his secrets with her apparently must have unsettled him deeply but she knew that he would never admit to this. "I explained that I would be taking a room here in the Leaky Cauldron. I usually do at some point to get away from her so I'm certain that she wasn't too surprised and I made up some story about handing you back to your parents," Blaise replied crisply as he opened his bag and withdrew a coat.
Astoria wandered over to him nervously, knowing that any meeting with his mother wouldn't be a pleasant one. Blaise looked as if he were growing more revolted by the minute as he rummaged around in his bag, extracted hsi Gringotts key and stuffed it into his pocket, "Do you think that she told anyone about me being at the Estate?"
"If she had, I would know. And she would regret it." Blaise replied darkly and she felt the fine hairs on her nape rise, "I don't make idle threats where she's concerned. I don't believe that she has any right to contact that beast of a daughter or flaunt orders to me."
The sheer hatred in his voice as he spoke the words was enough to chill the entire room and Astoria rubbed at her arms. Even her cloak seemed devoid of offering warmth, "If she had, all of her friends would know and it would spread."
Blaise sneered a little as he glanced briefly at her. When he spoke, his tone was as dry as an ancient bone, "She wouldn't risk the disgrace of telling her friends that she caught me with a half-blood girl with no decent amount of money, if you'll pardon me for being so rude," he said apologetically as she frowned.
It wasn't as though she hadn't realized that she would be a poor match for Blaise but hearing those words out loud hurt even more. Did he feel that way as well? Astoria somehow doubted it but with her family history and the girl that he still cared for despite whatever she had done, she knew that he would never desire her.
Depression threatened to pool but she shook it off and watched as he flung out his coat and started to slip it on. Walking over to him, she unthinkingly helped him into it, smoothing over the lapels and turning his collar down, "Do you think she'll want you to come back home with her?" she asked.
Blaise appeared distracted as she smoothed his collar over, her fingers accidentally touching the smooth skin of his throat. Little shocks went down her back and he took her hands in his and gently pushed them away, his lips oddly tight, "I'll hear what she has to say but I won't be happy to be near her for too long. I might even have to ship off a bit of Galleons back with her so she won't become too curious,"
"Do you have the money do something like that? I wish that you would use the money that I brought with me. I'm sure that I have more than enough Galleons to at least tide her over, I don't like you doing everything on your own," Astoria said fiercely, trying to ignore that he still held both of her hands in his, pressing them to his chest. "I don't want--"
Blaise interrupted her curtly. "I will not take any of your money. I've already discussed this with you more than once and I would rather not have to again," he said sternly and Astoria glared into his face, sharply annoyed, "I'll only be gone for a few minutes."
Astoria was worried despite it all though and something nasty twisted around in her chest until she found herself asking. "Are you taking your wand?" when Blaise looked a little startled that she would ask, she went on tensely, "there are people out there who might be looking for me and they might try to hurt you if they think you have something to do with me being gone."
It was only a matter of time before her family managed to catch up to them and the thought made her blood go cold. How easy would it be for her father, who worked at the Ministry to bribe a person on who had used underage magic recently? Even now, Scorpious could be out there in Knockturn Alley, bullying and threatening any wizard that he suspected might have played a role in her vanishing and Blaise was a very decent guess.
After what had happened at Malfoy Manor the rumors that were still spreading about them being some sort of wicked couple, Astoria could only imagine what her brother would do to him. She might never see him again.
"Astoria, I'll take my wand. And I will warn you now that following me wouldn't be the wisest of ideas," Blaise said severely and she was unnerved that he had read her mind so easily and with so much skill. She didn't seem to like that he was able to guess her actions so easily and it made her uncomfortably aware of how much danger he posed, "you're the one who your family wants more than anything, not me."
Though it was true, Astoria wished that she could tell him why her family wanted her back so badly. Emily and her mother might be truly concerned for her safety while Scorpious would be infuriated when he knew the truth but her father...he would be the one that would tear her limb from limb. The cage that she had been locked in for years would only tighten until she was nothing but a weakened shell of her former self, "I want to come with you." Astoria found herself saying tightly.
Blaise's brows rose warningly. "I said no. And I'll make sure I tell Tom not to let you outside either." He said and at her outraged expression, he carefully raised her hands to his mouth and tenderly kissed her knuckles. Pleasure hummed and she was shamefully distracted, "do this for me. I'll return before you know it and we'll go over our horrible textbooks for our last year together and waste the evening away."
"Y...you can't keep doing that you know." Astoria muttered while her cheeks flamed as he lowered her hands. At his innocent expression, she groused, "you know what I mean! Distracting me with...with touches and everything to keep me quiet!"
Blaise roared with laughter and she nearly snatched herself away from him and gave him a good punch to his throat. Instead of that though, he bent and whispered softly in her ear, "If I did the sort of touching that I've been considering around you lately, you would never even be able to tell me no."
Astoria's jaw dropped. He couldn't be serious! Spluttering, she tried to think of something to say but his lips brushed faintly along the line of her jaw and her entire mind went blank. When she gathered her wits again, Blaise had moved away and had started for the door, laughing to himself at her expense, "I hate you!" she cried, following him in a rage. "Y...you're not supposed to say stuff like that!"
"And why not?" Blaise countered innocently and she saw from his expression that he hadn't meant the whispered words at all. He'd only been teasing her and Astoria felt a devastating flash of disappointment, "you don't need to fear being gobbled up by me. After all, I'm not nearly as terrible as Malfoy."
Astoria felt a shudder. "Don't say his stupid name around me." Blaise laughed bitterly for his own reasons before he reached the door and started on his way out. "Come back soon. Don't stay gone for too long or..." she faltered miserably as he paused, looking over his shoulder at her curiously, warily. "Or I'll punch you when you come back."
"I'll be looking forward to it." Blaise said and with a polite bow, he retreated in easy steps down the hallway. Astoria stepped out to watch him go, wringing her hands nervously and glancing warily over her shoulder to make sure that no one was following him and when his form had vanished down the stairs, she shut herself back in their room. She would wait for him to return to her and when he did, her heart could slow down buteven as she thought it, panic blossomed and spread to every vein.
It had been more than an hour.
Astoria was on her last thread of patience as she stood looking out the window at the busy London streets, hunting for the shape of Blaise's returning form. She had paced restlessly in the room, flinching at every noise and thump down below as the other patrons in The Leaky Cauldron went about their business.
There was more noise down below than she would have thought but as morning faded away into afternoon, she assumed that many witches and wizards were in need of either a meal or a stiff drink.
Death Eaters probably toasting towards their inevitable victory, the slaughter of Muggle-borns and the eventual death of Harry Potter. The world really was changing and Astoria wasn't at all certain where she would fit in it all once the War was over becuase no matter how much she hoped, it felt as if the Dark Lord would have his say.
No one wanted to oppose him and the more time they wasted cowering from his power, the more he gained. Astoria would have been sickly impressed if she hadn't despised him so strongly. Living with a man like her father would have alerted her to every little strategy to gain power and the Dark Lord was no different to her and she felt that he was too greedy to stop with Britain.
He would probably try to take over the rest of the world as well and the horror of that made her briefly pause before she shook it off for a later worry. Currently, she was waiting for Blaise. Dread was settling onto her shoulders the more that he didn't show and terrible, horrible thoughts were flashing through her mind at the thought of him bleeding in some alley, throat slit. If her brother or one of his hired men found him to question, finding his body would be a miracle.
Astoria knew her family and she knew that they were out there, patiently waiting for their opportunity to strike and she clenched her fist, damning herself for waiting this long. Blaise had told her not to leave the room but he had tried giving orders to the wrong person.
There was no way that she could sit here and wait sweetly on while he was out there, possibly needing her protection. No amount of Hogwarts spells would stop her brother's banned curses...curses that could turn a man inside out or make his brain implode inside his skull.
Astoria knew those spells herself, as it was a necessity in order to survive in her family's business but Blaise would be weak against them and she would never forgive herself if something happened to him. After turning away from the window, she walked towards the bed, snatched her wand from the nightstand and proceeded to slip into suitable shoes that would be quick to run in but not precisely comfortable.
Making sure that her cloak's hood was properly sheilding her face, Astoria walked stiffly towards the door and waited for any betraying footsteps. When she heard none, she opened the door and quietly slipped out and shut it softly behind her, glancing down the hallway for any sign of movement and seeing nothing but a dust on the walls and a mangled carpet.
A cat meowed in someone's room and she heard someone coughing but no one was making their way out of the room and she felt a spark of relief before she started on her way down the hall. Voices were rising in a whirling melody that made her sick to her stomach as she thought of some of the people there, "Tom, how about sending someone over here with another shot of firewhiskey?" a gruff man asked.
Astoria kept to the wall, glancing into the darkened bar and seeing various shapes spread around like corpses. The smell of cooking meat and smelly cigar smoke caused her nose to burn unpleasantly but no one really took notice of her, seeming to think that she was perhaps a hag, which was sitting morosely by itself at table. "Just a sec," Tom's nervous voice rang out to the man and she watched as he shuffled behind the bar, looking as scared as a newborn kitten.
Thinking that this might be her only chance, Astoria hastily made her way between tables, wishing that she had had enough sense to use the back entrance. But that was like a fly hopping into a spider's web.
It would be best not to go into any dark places in case an overly eager Death Eater or worse, her brother or father were lurking there and at the thought that blaise might be suffering, she sped up. In her haste, she tripped over some beast's gigantic foot and she nearly sprawled headfirst into the floor, "Watch where you're going bitch!" a nasty looking witch hissed at her.
Astoria righted herself and glared at her, noticing that she was dressed entirely in black and possessed rather hollow eyes. "Excuse me," she bit out icily, making certain that her hood was on straight before she passed on, gritting her teeth the entire time and feeling her wand pulsing in protest.
It wanted a fight but she couldn't afford one in a place like this without being torn to pieces by Death Eaters and forlorn wizards looking for blood. Smoke grew thicker as she walked towards the door and her pace quickened, knowing that Blaise was out there and that there was no time to waste if she wanted to help him. Just as her trembling fingers reached for the knob, someone's fingers closed around her upper arm and she let out a furious hiss, "Get your hands off of me!" she cried, fear forming as she was spun around.
It was Tom, and he looked frightened. His eyes were bugging out of his skull and she coudl smell the terror radiating off of him along with the thick whiskey and liqour, "What are you doing out of your room?" he demanded in a low, harsh voice.
Astoria struggled but his grip was surprisingly strong for someone so old. "Get your hands off of me!" she snarled up at him, her eyes narrowed into slits. The finges grasping her arm were shaking heavily, "do you know what my fiance would do to you if he caught you handling me this way?" she asked sharply.
"I know who you are and I know that that boy isn't your fiance. You think that I'd be fooled by a silly story like that? I've heard about you, Ms. Greengrass," Tom said to her with equal sharpness and Astoria's eyes widened. Roughly, her hood was forced back and she let out a cry as her brown hair slipped down her shoulders for all to see, "there's been funny blokes coming into the bar, asking round about you."
So he had known the entire time! Why had he lied to Blaise? Why had he let them believe that they were safe? Astoria barely allowed the thoughts to form before she glared into his terrified eyes that stared so intently into her own, "How much did my family pay you to play this game?"
Tom's lips compressed into thin, nasty lines and the other patrons in the bar, sensing that something was growing violent, seemed to hush. Pulling her roughly by her arm, he used his free hand to yank his wand from his pocket, flick it at the door and drag her out so that they couldn't be overheard.
Groans of protest issued from outside and Astoria's stomach churned, knowing that none of them would have helped her if he'd grown brutish. It was a moment before Tom spoke and when he did, his voice was steeped in fear and bitterness, "Pay me? Your brother came in not too long ago, threatening to burn my pub to the ground if I didn't do as he told me."
Astoria knew that her broher had merely been teasing. He would have crushed his skull and then burnt the pub to the ground, just for sport, "When?" she demanded coldly as the chilly afternoon air whistled around them. Various people passed them by on the sidewalk, Muggles glancing curiously at their clothes and whispering as Tom once again yanked her around. "Get your hands off of me if you know what's good for you!" she threatened even as she was easily dragged.
Tom ignored her and yanked her rudely towards the back of The Leaky Cauldron where the familiar entrance to Diagon Alley waited. The brick wall briefly distracted her but she waited for him to speak and when he did, the blubbering sound only enhanced her anger instead of dampening it, "Your brother and some of his friends from Knockturn Alley came earlier this week! Said you were kidnapped and while I offered my sympathies that brother of yours threatened to destroy my pub if I didn't give him information on anything relating to you back to him."
Astoria knew that the barkeep was far too old to ward off dangerous young men like her father and brother. Briefly, she considered feeling sorry for him but he was still holding onto her arm like a vise and she didn't appreciate the horror that was facing, "What did he tell you?"
"He said...something about Mr. Zabini, that he might have some knowledge on where you were and that I should send an immediate owl if we ever crossed paths." Tom looked so ashamed of himself that Astoria felt sick just looking up at him, "when I recieved a letter from the boy and saw a young girl on his arm...I guessed, suspecting that were right underneath my nose."
Astoria felt a quivering rage overtake her and she managed to snatch her arm back and shoved him hard in the chest. He gave a hacking cough of pain and it took all of her strength not to curse the bastard where he stood, "How did you guess that it was me? What if it hadn't have been? What if I'd been some other girl?" from the look on his face, Tom hadn't thought that far and she felt a wave of disgust. "You coward!"
Tom took the insult gracefully, his shoulders hunching and she realized that he was crying, crying as if he had sold his soul. If he had made a deal with her family, he may as well have and she felt only the briefest bit of pity for him, "What was I supposed to do? He would have killed me and destroyed all that I have!"
"He'll kill Blaise now that he thinks I'm safe!" Astoria screamed furiously. Horror struck her then and she demanded, now holding out her wand to his chest even though it made her ill to think that she would curse him after all, "what you told Blaise earlier about his mother. Was it true?"
Tom looked away quickly and Astoria's heart deflated even as a bit of worry for the foolish Helena Zabini vanished. "I had already sent your brother an owl and he instructed that I send Zabini to him to handle and that he would come back for you later." Astoria sensed a lie forming and she narrowed her eyes on him, her wand sparking violently as her anger soared, "it would be wise if you left him in their hands."
Astoria gritted her teeth, feeling her eyes stinging with frustrated tears. Blaise had been led into a trap and her brother was probably breaking every bone in his body, "Where was my brother going to capture him? Outside of Madame Malkin's?" she demanded icily.
"I'm not at all certain but you can't be thinking of going after him! Do you know what your family would do to me if something happened to you?" Tom cried, looking feeble and shaken as Astoria turned and tapped her wand viciously against the bricks. They melted away like smoke, revealing the dying streets of Diagon Alley, "you can't!" he reached for her, his bony fingers gripping her upper arm.
Astoria shook him off violently, rage flashing through her so strongly that she thought that she would lose her mind. "I hope you rot in Hell for this!" she screamed and he stepped away, feeling her curse to the core of his heart. They had been betrayed from the start and the thought that Blaise had done all that he could to protect her twisted her stomach in a nasty angle. "I can't let him suffer!"
Tom said nothing, his face grimy and filled with shame. A strong wind blew and ruffled her hair, sending old Wanted posters of Potter's face scattering along the streets and Astoria hoped that he wouldn't suffer this sort of betrayal. It was a small thought but as her feet started to shift forward, she heard the barkeep warn, "You're making a mistake. You won't be happy if you find him alive."
"I don't have time for worrying about if. I have to do something now," Astoria shot harshly over her shoulder. Tears were being forced back and her wand was thrumming, various curses swarming through her mind at the knowledge that she had a fight ahead...a fight against her own brother to save a friend. A friend that she couldn't picture her life without.
Tom seemed to sense her thoughts but he shuffled away, shaking his head at her in a pitying way that made her heart harden. Was apathy what happened to people during a War? Was this the sort of world she would live in? Astoria refused to dwell on that thought. Turning away from him and focusing on the battle ahead, she forced her feet forward and ran into the destroyed streets of Diagon Alley, knowing that she could already be too late.
Hope you all enjoyed this! I'll try to update soon! Now, on to Albus Potter and the Dark Lord's Prince!