Chapter 2 : The Dearest of Promises
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Disclaimer: I don't own anything you can recognize from Harry Potter. Beautiful chapter image by Anna_Black @ TDA.
I awake to the sound of a woman softly crying. Warm, wet tears fall unceremoniously on my face; in my hair. Taking a deep breath, I force my eyelids open to look into my mother’s ever-changing blue eyes. She is weeping as quietly as she can. Odd – I would think that she would want to draw attention to herself – Mother is just that way. My head is lying in her lap, cradled in her hands. Both of us are on the floor in a room that I can only just recognize as mine. Someone has changed my clothes – I no longer wear a prisoner’s rags.
“Mother,” I whisper, reaching a hand up to touch her pale cheek; it is smooth beneath my fingertips.
She looks at me – really looks at me. “Draco,” she murmurs back, staring at me with almost nothing but wonder in her expression. But something else hides behind her eyes… I cannot tell what it is. Something is not quite right with her. Though I am lying on my floor when I should be in prison is one thing, this is yet another kind of celebration - somewhere in the light in her eyes is a malice that is hard to place.
Mother brushes my hair out of my eyes with gentle fingers.
“Mother,” I repeat, catching her hand before she can trail her fingers through my hair again. She is extremely preoccupied by something, though what, I know not.
Mother casts a glance down at me. Her rain-colored eyes are brimming with more vulnerability than I have seen from her in a long while.
“What happened to the girl that Apparated with me?” I ask.
Mother’s eyes harden and narrow, becoming like stones set in her face. Does she not like Astoria? Does she not approve of the girl who saved my life, my very soul? What is so wrong with Astoria that Mother doesn’t like her?
“I am going to warn you once, Draco.” Her long, brittle white-blond hair falls into a curtain around us. She leans closer to me, ominous, her blue eyes boring holes in my grey ones, searching for something she will not find.
“Astoria Greengrass will lead you away from me. I will not allow my only son to drift like that.” Mother continues to gaze at me searchingly, her pallid, delicate features fraught with something resembling concern.
“You will not hurt her,” I hiss, hoping to scare her off a bit.
It seems to work not at all.
“No, I won’t hurt her. But if she hurts you, Draco, I’ll have my excuse.” With a violent gleam in her eye, Mother pulls away from me, letting my head and hand slide to the floor as she stands. More regal than a swan, she pushes her hair back and dusts off her long, colorless dress. “You will find wonderful Astoria,” Mother mutters, voice filled with contempt, “in the dining hall. I think you’ll find that your aim was a wee bit off.” She holds up her thumb and index finger, indicating the tiny space between them. She sits on my bed, a smirk playing wickedly on her lips.
I am up like a man with a fire lit beneath him. As I sprint from the dark room, I hear Mother let out an uncharacteristic cackle. “Cruelty and pain have never become you, Mother,” I call over my shoulder.
The laughter stops short.
I hurry through the house – it is like a maze. Astoria would be hard to miss – she would be among the very few that have dark hair. Mother is easy to doubt when she is in one of these moods; you can never tell if she is lying.
I find Astoria crumpled on the floor of the dining hall, just like Mother said. Her body is bruised nearly purple, and something stains the dark green carpet.
Astoria is covered in blood.
Her own blood.
She is sobbing, but her eyes cannot see. No matter how frantically I wave my hand in front of her face, her eyes won’t focus. They are blanker than those stone walls that I used to call home.
Her breathing is more like shallow panting. There’s nothing I can do for her. Hoping I won’t hurt her more, I scoop her up, an arm around her shoulders and an arm under her knees. She is so tiny; so frail and light.
She won’t last long.
I hurtle through the yard, trying to reach the road as fast as I can without jostling her too much. It seems to take forever to get there… With every step, her breathing becomes shallower, and more of her crimson lifeblood pools in my footprints.
At last, I reach the road and put her down as gently as I can on the cobbled sidewalk. Immediately, her blood-stained dress leaves a trail on the stone. Fumbling a bit in my pockets, I finally manage to find my wand.
I wrench it out of my pocket and stretch my arm out in the direction of the street. Trying not to panic when nothing happens, I bend down to pick up Astoria again –
The Knight Bus appears out of thin air behind my turned back. I am unable to brace myself when it shows up.
It surprises me so much I fall almost on top of Astoria.
She does not notice.
Scrambling to my knees, I pick her up. She’s barely breathing now. Shudders rip down her small form in waves.
The driver is staring at us.
I glare at him, pointing my wand at him under Astoria’s knees. Carefully maneuvering her on to the bus, I set her on one of the beds. “Take us to St. Mungo’s now,” I murmur to him, “or I’ll curse you.” Holding up my wand again, he shrinks back and takes off as soon as I’m sitting on the bed beside her.
The ride is horrible. The entire time, Astoria’s head sits in my lap, lolling from side to side whenever the bus makes a sharp enough turn. Her dark hair is slick with blood; her once-blue dress is stained nearly scarlet. Almost every inch of the fabric has been soaked through.
I sit there, listening to her breathe.
That’s all I do. That’s all I can do.
Leaning down next to her, I cannot help but kiss her forehead. Her skin is still warm. I thank whatever god there is that she still lives. I sigh and straighten up, turning another sharp glance on the bus driver. “Will you hurry up? She is dying while you drive slowly!”
He steps on the gas and all the bunks are thrown to the back of the bus.
I make myself more comfortable, her head still in my lap. If she is jarred too much… I do not want to find out what could happen.
She rescued me. I will save her. I have made a promise. It may not be verbal, but it is a promise all the same.
I intend to keep all of my promises.
This promise is the dearest to me.
The bunks slam forward again as the driver skids into place outside of St. Mungo’s. Picking up Astoria again, I climb off the bus, looking up at the great, lonely red-brick building.
It reminds me of my old home.
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