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Review:Jchrissy says:
No!! No!! I want more! Ahhh!

Dan, this is YOUR Astoria and Draco from CoB... the entire reason I fell in love with these two. And I should have known months ago you'd give into my incessant whining and write something about these two ;).

Okay. Let me try and calm down. Breathe Jami, breathe.

SHE'S ALREADY SO CALM AND PUT TOGETHER AND MAKES HIM LOOK LIKE A NAUGHTY CHILD WHO JUST NEEDS LOVE AND AND AND SHE PICKED HIM UP OFF THE GROUND AND SHE FED HIM AND SHE GAME HIM KINDNESS WHEN EVERYONE ELSE BESIDES HIS LOWLIFE SCUM REJECTED HIM. Okay, I had to get that out.

Let's try this again.

In Conspiracy of Blood, her wisdom feels like age. Their way together feels like a practiced dance, where both know when the other will give and when they won't. But this.

This is raw. This is a girl who truly is a good person and sees a boy that needs a kind hand. She doesn't know that one day she'll make this man the best wife someone could have, or that she'll be the only reason he gets his life together and gives him hope every day after that. Right now she's just a young girl who offered to help, and has the beginnings of a crush roaming around.

And Draco. Can you imagine? Well, obviously you can because you just wrote about it superbly. You spend so long just hating every single thing. No one wants you there. No one forgives you. And you aren't doing diddly to change that. Then she comes along. She doesn't do anything remarkable. She doesn't tell him to straighten up or intertwine him with her magical beauty... she's just there. She's there and she offers a kind gesture, and she look sat him like he's just Draco. Not the son of a Death Eater, nor Death Eater himself. He's just Draco.

AND THAT'S WHAT HE NEEDS! He doesn't need some magical woman coming along with her sparkling amazingness to browbeat him into turning his life around, but it's okay because she's such an angel he deals with it. He just needs that deeply rooted compassion behind Astoria's beautiful freckled skin.

And then the way that he's looked at after Astoria is called away. Like that sudden slap of 'you'll never be good enough for her' it's what he needs. He CAN be good enough for her, he knows that. But that means change.

And then the letter! That might be my favorite. I love how it solidifies what we know, what Draco knows, that his mother would do anything for him. He knows that by writing that, whatever he wants to make happen in order to fix the mess that they're in, will happen. AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HIS PLAN IS.

Dan. I don't even know what to say. This is a million times better than what I could have imagined. And I already hold you to an insanely high standard, so that's saying something. You are the best, and the fact that my name is tied to this story just makes me insanely ecstatic. Is that normal? Whatever, I don't care if it is because I just want to melt in the Draco Astoria-ness. You realize though, now that I see this is a short story, and now that I've gotten to read the first chapter, I'll be driving you crazy for the next?

You think my 'must know what happens' was bad with Conspiracy of Blood? Ha! You haven't seen nothin' yet, darling ;).

But in seriousness, thank you so much. For not only gifting this to me, but for really writing these characters something amazing.

♥ ♥ ♥

Just so you know, I can't *ever* read Gamp's name without shuddering.

Author's Response: So I take it this is your vote for me to write more? ;)

This chapter is an expanded, more detailed version of events that I had in the back of my mind while I was writing chapter 6 of CoB, so I'm really glad that the two were easy to relate in your mind. The Draco Malfoy in Conspiracy of Blood had been through a lot of things that made him the calmer, wiser, more reasonable man who lives for his family. The things that happen in this chapter are a part of that life experience.

Draco is at a very dark, depressed place in his life at the start of this chapter. The war left him drowning in feelings of anger, bitterness, hurt and powerlessness. Everything he was raised to believe in failed him. No amount of gold, pure blood or ancient family legacies meant anything when Voldemort was angry with him. And in the end, it was the boy he thought of as his mortal enemy who saved them all.

And into his personal, ah, heck walks Astoria. She's young and innocent and she feels genuinely sorry for him because she can see that he's hurting very badly. If you take that last sentence apart, there are several parts of it that are important. Astoria is young and innocent, but she's not naive. She understands that Draco has been through some horrible things, things that her father tried to shield her from, but she figured them out nonetheless. Her sympathy is genuine; she's not just using it as a way to make Draco feel even worse while he's down. And she sees how much he's hurting because, unlike most people, she looks past "Draco Malfoy, son of the notorious Death Eater" to try to see the boy under the surface. Her curiosity is also genuine, and she's too plain-spoken to be shy about asking him anything. Her simple kindness and her earnest questions, combined with her beauty, catch him at a very low moment in his life and they make more of an impression than any lecture from his parents ever could.

Her father's angry reaction is the stick that goes along with the carrot of happiness (All hail the Carrot of Happiness!) that she dangles before his eyes. For the first time in Draco's life, another person's disapproval **actually means something**. It comes as quite a shock to him, enough to push him into one of those life-changing epiphanies.

I agree with all of your thoughts and observations. Draco didn't need something BIG or DRAMATIC to change his life. He's already lived through plenty of big, dramatic moments. He needs somebody who will love him for who he is, and that's what he ultimately finds with Astoria. But the path is neither straight nor easy. After all, it wouldn't make a very interesting story if it was. Now I just have to figure out the rest of it. ;)

I'm so glad that you enjoyed this and that you are excited to read more. It was fun and actually surprisingly easy to write. What comes next will be a lot more challenging, I think. But I'm kind of excited to try. Thank you so much for this wonderful, thoughtful and inspiring review!

P.S. - Gamp gives me the willies, too. And this is *before* he went to prison...


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