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Chapter 1 : Ready To Burst
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Love is a many splendored thing… Isn’t that how the song goes? It’s a rather pathetic attempt at describing the absolute worst thing in the world. Love. Splendored? I should think not. Love gets under your skin, in consumes your every fibre, your every being, your every thought, every motion until you are fit to burst. And just when you think you can stand it no longer, you either burst or the object of your love leaves, dies, or says they don’t love you anymore. The lucky ones are the ones that burst. Their love and happiness showers over everyone, infecting them with this dreadful disease that leaves you so vulnerable you want to cry.
A cynic, are you calling me? Self professed, actually, since the age of fifteen when I was ready to burst. But no, I didn’t get to burst. The object of my love died. No, the love didn’t die. He died. In the most literal sense of the word. I can still pinpoint the exact second when my heart ripped. Not just in two, but into a thousand little, tiny pieces.
We were the last being evacuated. The Death Eaters had already arrived. Daphne and I were running towards the Room of Requirement. I remember, so clearly, the shouts, the banging, the flash of spells ricocheting off the walls, the screams of students and Death Eaters alike, but what I will never forget is the smell. The smell of singed hair, burning flesh, crumbled stone, but above all, the smell of fear. The air was sick with it. Sick with the smell of fear. My fear.
Why was I terrified? I had nothing to fear from Death Eaters, I was a Pureblood Slytherin, adored by all. I was seeing Orpheus Avery, the son of one of the most ‘respectable’ figures in the wizarding world; I was best friends with Selina Flint and one of the belles of the Pureblood world. On the contrary, I had everything to fear. I was seeing Orpheus only to do what I had been taught. To keep up appearances.
In truth, my heart lay not with Orpheus, the Pureblood Slytherin, but with Henry Kildonan, the half blood Ravenclaw. Our secret tryst had been going on for little over a year, and had ended for one reason and one reason only. We had been caught.
”Henry, stop it. We shouldn’t, not here, not now.” I said, pushing Henry off.
”Then where, Ria, when?” asked Henry, going forward to kiss me again. His lips found mine and for just a moment, I forgot that I was with Henry in broad daylight, in the open Charms corridor. Fireworks exploded in my head, and a low moan of pleasure escaped my lips. Coming to my senses, I pushed Henry away, more firmly this time.
“Henry, no. If we were caught, could you imagine what would happen? Especially if the Carrows were told?” I pleaded with him.
”I don’t care, love.” he replied, his chocolate brown eyes serious. In comparison, my blue eyes were wide with fear.
”But I care, Henry. I don’t want to lose you. Meet me tonight, before dinner, McGonagall’s room. We’ll talk there.” I said. He nodded. Henry leaned forward for one last embrace, and as his lips touched my ear, he whispered,
”I love you, Astoria.” He kissed my cheek and walked away. Still touching the place where he had kissed me, I whispered after him,
”I love you, Henry.” After I whispered it, I thought I heard a voice swear in the shadows.
”Who’s there?” I said, keeping my voice low. There was no reply, no movement. I shook it off and hurried down to my Common Room.
If only I had known that it was Orpheus in the shadows, I might have been able to save Henry. I don’t know how, but I would have come up with some daring, brilliant plan to save us both. Save us both from the world that rejected our love. To remember that night sickens me; makes me fall to my knees, but I must. I must if I am ever to recover, ever able to burst again.
”When’s the Transfiguration essay due?” Orpheus asked the group at large.
”Thursday.” I replied, distractedly. We walked up the last few stairs from the dungeons with our friends. The group went to turn left, I went to turn right.
”Tori, where are you going?” asked Selina. So much for slipping off unnoticed.
“Bathroom.” I replied, a little flustered.
”Oh. Do you want me to come with you?” she asked. I screamed inside my head.
”No thanks, Sel. I’m a big girl now, you see.” I said, trying to be funny. It worked.
”Alright then. See you in a minute, yeah?” she asked. I nodded and the others left. Orpheus, however, hung behind.
”Orpheus, what are you doing?” asked Zachariah. Orpheus rolled his eyes.
”Is it illegal, now, to be alone with my girlfriend?” he asked. The group snickered and continued walking. Orpheus turned to me, wrapped his arms around my waist and started kissing me. When his lips touched mine, I felt sick with guilt. How could I be doing this to him? Good, sweet, Orpheus, who always protected me? He pulled back, looked me in the eye and said,
”I love you, Tori.” My breath caught in my throat.
”I- I love you too.” I said, smiling. Inside, my brain was screaming at me. Orpheus smiled and pulled me closer.
”Liar.” he whispered in my ear. His grip turned to steel as he pulled his face away from me. His dark blue eyes were no longer warm and comforting, but hard and cold.
”Wh-what? Orpheus, I love you, of course I do.” I stuttered, attempting a loving smile. How could he know?
”I heard you, this afternoon. With him.” he hissed.
”What are you talking about?” I laughed nervously.
”Don’t play with me, Ria. I know you’ve been having it off with Kildonan. What I don’t know is how long for.” he whispered. My heart thudded with fear.
”Answer me.” he growled.
”A year.” I said, barely above a whisper. Orpheus’ grip hardened, bruising my arms.
”You will go to him. Tell him it’s over. Tell him you don’t love him. I will be listening. If you don’t, I’ll have you both facing the Carrows.” he hissed in my ear, his tone threatening. Weakly, I nodded.
I was weak. There is no place for the weak in this world. Being weak gets you killed. I should have stood up to Orpheus. If I had, Henry might still be alive. If I had, I might not be with Draco.
What a terrible thought. Not be with Draco? Not be with this kind, gentle, sweet, proud man who loves me, who will keep me safe and whole for the rest of my life? I would rather be in the ground with Henry. Rather die on the spot than not know Draco.
My heart broke twice that week. Not just broke. Shattered into a million pieces that got trampled on by every living person. And that caused me to die a little, inside.
”Henry.” I whispered, seeing him come through the door. His face broke into a grin upon seeing me. He immediately wrapped his arms around me and kissed me. The usual fireworks went off, but were quickly extinguished by the thought of Orpheus, hiding in the corner, Disillusioned.
”Mmph, Henry,” I said, pulling back and removing his arms from around me. ”We need to talk.” I said. Henry smiled, his eyes glinting.
”Ooh, I don’t like the sound of that.” he joked, playing with my hair. I took his hand away from my face.
”Henry, this has to end.” I said. He laughed, pushing my hair back from my face.
”What are you talking about, love?” he asked. I slapped his hand away, hard. The shock was written all over his face. I had never hit him before.
”What are you talking about?” he asked, his face serious.
”I’ve been leading you on. We have to stop this, Henry.”
”Please, Astoria. You’ve not been leading me on, not with those kisses.”
”Don’t you get it? I’m with Orpheus. Orpheus loves me. I love Orpheus. Orpheus and I will grow up, we’ll get married and we’ll have children. That’s who I love. Orpheus. This is just a game, Henry. It was fun, it was a fling, and it was never anything more. And once I leave, I don’t want you following me around like a love sick puppy. No letters, no attempts to contact me. You’ll only look like more of a fool than you already are.” I said cruelly.
”So you don’t love me.” he said.
”Love? You?” I laughed cruelly. ”When will you get it through your head? I love Orpheus, you silly little boy. You could never have been with me. I am so far above you. I am too good for you.”
”Astoria. Look at me. LOOK AT ME!” he cried, grabbing my face and forcing me to look at him.
”Tell me you don’t love me. Tell me you don’t love me and I’ll leave you alone forever.” My mouth falls open.
”I…I-” I stutter.
”What’s the matter, Astoria? Cat got your tongue? Can’t bear to break this little boy’s heart? Or maybe,” he lowered his mouth to my ear. ”Maybe you still love me. Come on, Ria. Just say it. Four little words.” I still said nothing.
”You can’t say it, can you? I know you, Astoria. I know you love me. And as long as I know that, I’ll never give up on you.” he whispered. No. Henry had to give up on me, for his own safety. My heart breaking, I pulled away from his hands. I tossed my head and looked into his eyes.
”I don’t love you.” I said, my face cold and ruthless. He nodded.
”Well then. Goodbye, Astoria.” he said, turning on his heel and leaving, closing the door with a soft ’click’ behind him. Orpheus lifted the Disillusion on himself and came up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist and resting his head on my shoulder.
”There now, Tori. Doesn’t it feel better to be rid of him? Now we can be together in peace.” he said, turning me around and kissing me.
To this day, I cannot look at myself in the mirror without wanting to scratch my own eyes out as penance for my horrible crime. I cannot think of the Transfiguration room without wanting to vomit. I cannot think of that night without soaking tissues with my tears, as I am doing now. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Henry, and on my darker days, I want to throw myself under the Knight Bus.
And then there are the times where I wake up at 3am, my hair plastered to my face with sweat, where I wake up from a nightmare. The same nightmare I’ve had periodically since I was 15.
It always begins the same. I’m replaying the moment when I told Henry I didn’t love him. And as soon as I see that look in his eyes, that crushed, defeated and heartbroken look, I say something different. Something along the lines of ‘Of course I’m lying Henry, I love you and damn the consequences’, I tell Orpheus something along the lines of ‘I love Henry and there’s nothing you can do about it, nyah!’ and Henry and I work out some brilliant plan to keep seeing each other. Each time the plan is more fantastic than the time before with more success. And what hurts the most is that every time I wake up from my fantastic nightmare, I see Henry’s face. His handsome, kind, loving face, with his brown eyes sad and loving at the same time. And every time, he’s shaking his head at me. He always speaks to me, and it’s always the same three words.
“Why, Astoria? Why?”
Why? I wish I could answer that question and show myself in a positive light at the same time. Alas, that is impossible. I was governed by the three emotions that turn humans into snivelling, grovelling, primeval beasts. Weakness, selfishness, and fear. I was terrified for my own safety, and placed that above all else. And it’s taken me nearly six years to realise that. At the tender age of fifteen, I had little comprehension of deep and complex human emotions. Now, six years later, I have precious little more experience of the world, but here’s what I know.
I know that to overcome huge obstacles, and to save someone, you need a strength most don’t possess. I know that it doesn’t matter what you believe, it’s what you do about it that counts. And I know that not everyone gets the chance to love, and if you do, you have to grab on with both hands and never let go.
Never let go. Don’t let go. Don’t give up. Where have I heard those words before?
”Slytherin house, please leave the Great Hall.” said McGonagall. Selina gripped my hand tightly, Orpheus put his arm around my shoulders. I was too tired, too drained emotionally to push Orpheus off. I looked down the table and saw my sister Daphne sitting with that silly twit Parkinson. What she saw in that girl I’ll never know. Daphne looked back at me, her face was pale but she at least had the grace to look embarrassed to be friends with Pansy. While I’ll admit I’m not Potter’s greatest fan, I have respect for him. I never did believe everything my house members said about him, and often thought that he was braver than the lot of us put together.
I looked over to the Ravenclaw table and saw that Henry was one of the many pointing still pointing his wand at Pansy as she stood up from the table and walked out of the hall.
Orpheus, Selina and the rest of their group stood up, but I remained seated. Selina tugged at my hand.
”Tori, come on. We’ve got to get out of here.” she said. I shook my head.
”I want to stay.” I replied. Orpheus’ face darkened as he followed my gaze to Henry.
”One, Astoria, you’re not of age. Two, I’m not going to leave you here to get killed and have to tell you parents that I left you behind. Three, I will not have you taking up arms against my father.” growled Orpheus. My eyes widened; I had forgotten that Orpheus’ father would be amongst the Death Eaters. My terror doubled, and I stood up to go with them, my eyes never leaving Henry, something that did not go unnoticed by Orpheus.
Filch shuffled us out of the Great Hall along with Professor Slughorn.
”Move it along, quickly now, quickly.” Filch wheezed, shutting the door behind us. Orpheus finally relinquished his grip on me, but did not move from my side until I said,
”I need to find my sister, Orpheus.” He frowned, but nodded. I weaved back through the crowd of Slytherins until I found her and pulled her out of the group.
”Daph, I’m scared. Scratch that, terrified.” I said to my sister, who immediately hugged me. Daphne and I had always been close, defending each other when our parents didn’t. Daphne was also the only one who knew about Henry (except Orpheus) and had made excuses for me when I was with him.
”It’ll be okay, Tors.” she said, holding my hand. She looked at my right hand that she had hold of.
”Tors, where’s Grandma’s ring?” she asked, bringing my hand up to eye level. On my right ring finger I always wore a ring with a sterling silver band and a large sapphire. A ‘G’ for ‘Greengrass’ was engraved in the sapphire, and inside the band were the words ’Putus Vita’, the family motto. It is a less fancy version of the family ring, which every Greengrass girl receives when she comes of age. Mine was left to me in my grandmother’s will.
”Oh, no! I took it off because I was braiding Sofia’s hair and it got caught in it, and I forgot to put it back on for dinner!” I wailed, realising exactly where it was.
”Tori, come on! We need to get out of here!” Sofia yelled, stopping at the corner ahead of us. I dithered on the spot. My mind was made up.
”Daphne, I can’t leave without that ring. I don’t care what McGonagall said, I have to have my ring back.” Daphne looked uncertain for a moment, but her face soon hardened as mine had.
”I’m coming with you.” she said. I nodded and we fought our way through the throng hand in hand. I vaguely heard Sofia and Pansy yell after us, but we kept going.
It took us nearly ten minutes to get down to the Common Room; we were already up on the fourth floor.
”Toujurs Pur.” I said to the piece of blank wall, breathing hard. The stones slid apart and Daphne and I ran in. We ran through the Common Room, past the familiar green couches to a black door with a gold nameplate on it reading ’Girls Dormitories’. Daphne swung it open. If a boy had tried that, he would have been thrown back to the couches. We kept running until we got to the door to my dormitory. It was just like all the other doors. A black door with a silver nameplate that said, ‘Fifth Year Girls’ with all our names beneath in.
At my touch, it flew open. Our four poster beds sat in the silent room, their green and silver hangings perfectly still. I ran down the room to my bed. I pulled open the drawer of my bedside cabinet and rummaged through it’s contents. My fingers brushed the familiar black velvet box that contained the ring. Grabbing it quickly, I paused only long enough to grab my diary. Daphne grabbed my hand again and we began to run again.
That stupid ring. If I had never gone back for it, Henry would still be alive. But I did, and he’s not.
”Come on, Astoria. Run faster.” Daphne urged me. We had just reached the second floor. It was taking a lot longer to get up to the Room of Requirement the second time, because the Death Eaters had arrived. We both had our wands out, but so far no one had turned their wand on us. Our Slytherin robes seemed to be protecting us.
We were on the fourth floor, running because our lives depended on it. A hand reached out from behind a tapestry and pulled us both in. My first thought was that a Death Eater had grabbed us, or that it was Orpheus, but looking closer, instead of Orpheus’ black hair, there was Henry’s brown, and instead of dark blue eyes, there were chocolate brown. My breath caught in my throat.
”Henry, what are you doing? You could be killed!” hissed Daphne.
”So could you two. I saw you turn back and I had to know that you were alright. Even if you don’t love me, Astoria, I don’t want you to die. Not that I want you to die either, Daphne.” he said. Daphne sighed, and pressed her eye up to a moth hole in the tapestry.
”There’s no one in the corridor, that I can see. Homunum revelio.” she whispered.
”Nope, no one there. Come on, let’s move it.” she said, grabbing my hand and motioning for Henry to follow.
We ran again. For just a single moment, in the empty corridor, it seemed as if it was just an ordinary day. I was running late to class, my older sister and the man I loved following me. Unfortunately that illusion was shattered as a group of people came clattering down the stairs, three masked Death Eaters and three Hogwartians. They were shooting spells at each other, and it looked like the Death Eaters were on the offense. Daphne gripped my hand and whispered in my ear,
”Is there another way around?” Henry heard and shook his head.
”We’re just going to have to go through. Put a Shield Charm up around yourself and run.” said Henry.
”Protego.” The three of them conjured Shield Charms. Daphne gripped my hand.
”They’re getting closer.” I whispered.
”On three we run.” said Henry. ”One, two, three.” The three of us started running, counting on the Hogwartians to protect them.
The Death Eaters barely noticed us until we were nearly past the duellers. One of them grabbed my wrist. I screamed.
”Relashio!” Henry yelled, pointing his wand at the Death Eater who was thrown backwards. ”Don’t give up, Astoria.”
”Run!” screamed Daphne. I didn’t need telling twice. Still holding Daphne’s hand, we ran for the stairs. We started running up them when I noticed Henry’s absence.
I turned around just in time to see a Death Eater turn his wand on Henry. I was too far away to hear the words, but I read his lips as he said the spell.
”Avada Kedavra!” The jet of green light hit Henry in the middle of the back.
”Henry!” I screamed. The hood of the Death Eater fell to reveal the face of Lycoris Avery, Orpheus’ father. My heart stopped as he recognised me. Without thinking, I moved to run towards Henry’s fallen body.
”Astoria, no! We have to get out of here!” cried Daphne, grabbing my wrist. I saw that she was crying too, but I knew she was right. Still sobbing, I followed her to the Room of Requirement.
That is my story. The reason that I loathe myself. I got Henry killed.
I tighten my black coat and blue scarf as I cross the quiet road and knock on the door of the Malfoy Manor. Narcissa opens the door. She looks as stately as ever in green robes. She smiles warmly when she sees me. It is snowing outside, my cheeks are red with cold and there is snow all over me.
“Astoria, how lovely to see you.” she says, enveloping me in a hug, which I return with equal warmth. Narcissa has been like a second mother to me.
“Here, let me take your coat. Draco is in the library, you can go up.”
“Thank you, Narcissa.” I say, handing her my coat and scarf.
I go up the stairs and push open the heavy door to the library. I smile as I see Draco standing by the window, watching the snow fall.
“Hi.” I say, and he turns. He immediately smiles.
“Astoria.” he says, striding over to me. His lips brush mine. Draco always calls me Astoria. Never Tori, Ria, or any other abbreviation. He holds me tight, and rocks me gently.
Draco knows about Henry. It was one of the first things I told him when we became serious. He knows my guilt. He told me how he got his friend Crabbe killed.
“Sit down, Astoria.” he says, guiding me to an armchair by the fire. I sit down.
“Astoria, I love you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone and although that scares me, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Astoria Greengrass, will you marry me?” Draco is on one knee, and there is the blue velvet box, containing the ring with sapphires and emeralds. I smile.
“Draco, I don’t know how to tell you this.” I say, and his smile falters.
“I found the ring in your desk yesterday. I would have answered you then, but I wanted you to have your moment of glory.” I say. Draco’s smile is gone and he gets up.
He walks to the other side of the room and rests his hand on a bookshelf, his back to me.
“I should have known you would say no. I should have known that you wouldn’t have wanted to marry me. How could I ever compete with the only person you’ve ever really loved?” he asks bitterly. Unable to do anything else, I burst out laughing. Draco turns around, his expression a mixture of sadness and confusion.
“Why are you laughing, Astoria? You just broke my heart and all you can do is laugh?” I stand up and go over to him, putting my hands on is shoulders.
“Draco, listen to me. I loved Henry. But Henry is dead. It’s time for me to let him go. And if you think that he’s the only man I’ve ever loved, you don’t know me as well as I thought.” I say. I lean in to him, lightly kissing him.
“Is that a yes, then?” he asks. I smile and kiss him again.
“It’s a yes.” I whisper.
It is at this moment that Henry’s face appears in my mind. Instead of asking me ‘Why?’, he is telling me, ‘Be happy, Astoria.’
As I wrap my arms around Draco’s neck, the ring winking happily from my finger, I smile.
Finally, I have been allowed to burst.
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