Chapter 1 : The Escape
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These walls are cold. These walls are made of gray, dull stone. These walls were not meant for me. I do not belong here.
She knows it.
But I will die here. I will die, like my father. I will die, like all the others. That, or I will suffer a fate worse than death.
I welcome it.
There is no place for me outside of these walls, this prison. I do not belong. Not anymore.
Azkaban is my home.
She visits me sometimes, against everyone’s will. The dementors don’t even want her to be there, but there is little that they can do – her Patronus Charm is so strong, even stronger than my own, though that is not saying much. It takes the form of a flock of tiny finches, teasing and dancing every time she casts it, just like her. She wills me to come out of my cell; she wills me to want to come out of my cell.
Astoria Greengrass will ruin me. She will ruin all that I am with her tricks. I do not understand her.
But after two years – just two years! – in Azkaban, my sanity begins to wane. I can feel it; I know the end of coherent thinking is growing nearer, even by the hour. She knows too. She finds me huddled in the corner of my cell, shivering in a cold that does not exist, for the dementors have gone. She crouches down and reaches through the bars, her cloak swirling around her. I shrink back from her hand. It is soft and pale, long-fingered. Filled with all that is pure and good, while I am filled with all that is tainted and wrong.
She sighs and turns, her profile magnificent in the oddly sharp yet dim light. Her dark hair has been piled upon her head, shimmering with little pins. Even I, in my shuddering stupor, can appreciate the curve of her lips, the fineness of her cheekbones… Astoria is beautiful.
Her voice, musical, seems almost unnatural when she hisses the words: “Accio Draco Malfoy’s Wand”. The incantation does not belong on her lips; my name does not belong on her lips. I notice faintly that the wand comes. She reaches through the bars once again, both wands in her other hand. “Draco, it is time,” she murmurs. “You are freed.” Astoria points her wand at the lock on my cell and mutters the charm. It clicks and creaks open, but I can do naught but shake my head.
Much to my surprise, my voice, cracking from little use, escapes my mouth. “Azkaban is the only place for me.”
She shakes her head. The look in her ocean-blue, turbulent eyes tells me she is horrified. She pushes the door of iron bars inward and kneels next to me, taking my frozen hands in her warm ones, looking at me with desperate eyes. “Azkaban will never be the only place for you, Draco. Your place is with me.”
All I could do was look at her warily and shake my head, numb.
I do not, nor will I ever, belong with her.
There are no words to describe the place I belong, but I do not belong with her.
Tears begin to leak from her eyes. They are furious tears. “No one wanted me to come here. No one wants me to release you. No one wants me to be near you!” she cries, without a doubt waking the other prisoners. But they are silent.
“But I have come here, Draco,” she continues softly, touching my cheek. I do not flinch, just look at her with dead eyes. “I will release you. I will be near you…” She raises herself up, brushes her lips against my forehead like a butterfly would land on a flower; lingers. Then she kneels once more, resting her head on my shoulder. A tear finds a trail down my neck from her cheek.
“Please, Draco…” she mumbles, breath soft on my skin. “Allow me to call you my love.”
I do nothing but nod, lifting a hand from hers to stroke her hair. I pull the pins out one by one, letting the locks fall in disarray. I like it this way - not as elegant, less refined; more like myself. I run my fingers through her dark curls.
She sighs again, but this time not from despair. This time, it is from relief. I hope.
When she finally pulls herself to her feet and me along with her, we are faced by what looks like a battalion of dementors. I want to scream, or shout - anything that will compel them to depart. They will hurt her, kill her; torture her. That cannot happen to Astoria. That cannot happen to she who calls me her love.
She hands me my wand, and casts her silvery Patronus Charm. Somehow, even in this dank place, the tiny birds take on a dementor each. It is quite a sight to see their chilling, rotting hands swatting at the finches, which are arrow-quick and too small to follow.
The wand in my hand feels wonderfully familiar. I try to think the Patronus Charm, but can find no happy memories to use with it. I seem to be without them, and Astoria can only hold back the dementors’ attack for so long.
Quickly, I raise my wand and close my eyes, euphorically remembering every second of her visits; every time my heart jumped in my chest when she held her tiny fingers out to me replays through my head. Every millisecond she lingered at my forehead when she graced my skin with the touch of her warm, soft lips and the kindness in every word she spoke to me. It all rings clear in my receding mind, tearing through the veil to conscious thought. My shell of silence and numbness shatters. Eyes still closed, my shout rings deafeningly in my own ears, as does Astoria’s gasp of amazement.
Opening my eyes, I see nothing but the silvery figure of a great wolf, shielding my love and I from the dementors. They have run for cover, hiding amongst the prison cells.
“Come,” Astoria pleads, taking my hand and nearly dragging me up a flight of stairs. It occurs to me that we are on the ground floor of an enormous prison with thousands of dementors and wicked inmates. I step ahead of her, keeping her as safe as I can between our Patronuses and myself. It is the most I can do.
We race up too many stairs to count, the adrenaline from the chase keeping us from collapsing when we reach the roof. The dementors circle us now, closing in. Our Patronuses have winked out.
“Patronuses don’t work on the roof,” Astoria whispers, filled with a nearly tangible fear. "The weather interferes with their power." She holds onto my hand like it is a lifeline – her needle-like claws threaten to rip my skin.
“Does Apparating work?” I ask, eyeing the dementors that surround us.
“Does Apparition work on the roof?”
“I don’t know!”
Best give it a try.
I grip her arm and think of home. Of my room; the green and silver crests and the ebony floors. That is where I want to be.
The world swirls, squeezes unpleasantly; as we land, I am thrown into unconsciousness. From somewhere far off in the distance, I hear a scream.
A woman’s scream.
It can only belong to one.
Author's Note: As you may have noticed, this one's a cliffhanger. You don't have to wait to read on, however - the next chapter is already up. Please take a minute to leave a review; I'd love to hear what you thought.
Just to avoid future confusion: in the banner and chapter images, the roles of Astoria Greengrass, Pansy Parkinson, and (as you read on) Lucian Bole are currently being recasted to fit the characters better. Please don't fret if you spot a character you don't recognize from previous chapters.