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Chapter 5 : Too Close a Call
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Disclaimer: I own nothing you can recognize from Harry Potter. Beauitiful! chapter image by !batman @ TDA.
I have found, in the past, that if one is conscious and awaiting something, time creeps by slowly – too slowly. One's nerves begin to react to copious amounts of adrenaline pumping through the body, so that one becomes twitchy, apprehensive, and, all too often, paranoid.
If one is unconscious, however, time speeds by.
Far too soon, I am awakened by a sharp jab in the side. Blinking, the harsh whiteness of a hospital room presses in on my eyes. The only sound in the stark space is that of fabric rustling.
With a groan, I close my eyes, roll over –
- And hit the armrest of a hard, wooden chair before finally slamming into the floor.
A sharp giggle cuts through the air, echoing in the quiet room.
Opening my eyes, I turn over to find the speckled white ceiling and a woman's pale face in my field of vision, her blue eyes filled with mirth.
She kneels next to me, catching her fingers in my hair. "Good morning sunshine," she says, grinning impishly before gripping my hair with a strength I hadn't known was possible for fingers to have. Her pink lips lose their smile, and her laughing eyes harden. "The sun is ready to rise, Draco," she hisses, voice holding none of the things she claims she feels for me. "We must go, before someone discovers that St. Mungo's is harboring a criminal and healing a thief."
I wince. Astoria is volatile.
Grappling with her hand and trying to get her to let go of my scalp, I finally notice what she wears and realize that she called herself a thief.
She is wearing Muggle clothing: a black blouse, black slacks, and dark high-heeled shoes. Letting go of my hair at last, she grabs several layers of clothing off of the chair next to me and throws it in my face before walking to the sink across the room. "Put that on," she says over her shoulder, examining her hair in the mirror.
Sighing, I stand and lay the clothes on the hospital bed that Astoria had slept in just yesterday, still weak from heavy blood loss. Apparently, that weakness had not carried over to this morning.
The clothes she supplied me with are nearly the same as hers; the only difference is that they are several sizes larger and in men's' style. But the color scheme is precisely the same – black on black on black.
I pull off my grungy gray shirt, glad to be rid of it. The rough-woven fabric almost reeks of the aura of Azkaban, though I could have sworn I had changed my clothes since our escape. They feel cold, hopeless; like it was futile to run in the first place. Right before I tug on the new black shirt, I feel eyes on my back, and the Slytherin pride spikes to a level it hasn't for a long time. "Like what you see?" I ask, not bothering to turn around.
"No," she replies, business-like, but I hear a hint of a smirk in her voice. "You're much too gaunt for my tastes." I gasp when light fingers flutter over my ribs, testing each one that is visible – her heeled shoes did not make a sound as she strode across the tiled floor between us. "Your bones are going to break through your skin if you don't eat more," she says, fingers gliding down my spine, pausing at every other vertebra.
"Hands off, Astoria," I growl, slipping the new shirt over my head and feeling a bit like she's taken a Beater's bat to my newfound pride. "If you're going to mother me, do it another time."
I can almost picture her scowl as she walks back to the sink and mirror, heels actually clicking this time.
Resigned to what might be a very painful day, I shed my old, torn pants in favor of the newer slacks. Not bothering to put on shoes or socks yet, I turn to find Astoria huddled on the floor by the sink, arms looped around her knees. She clutches her wand in one hand and a toothbrush in the other.
She is shivering. Her eyes have glazed over.
I cross the room before I know what I am doing, and rest a careful hand on her back.
Astoria does not respond.
"Tori," I murmur, hoping to draw her out with her old nickname. It sounds foreign and feels wrong on my tongue after so many years of little use. Her distant gaze stays unfocused, but she looks at me. A small victory.
"Drakey," she whispers back, dropping her toothbrush. It rolls across the floor, forlorn, until it is out of sight beneath the bedside table. With her now-free hand, she strokes my cheek. "You're all grown up." A tear sparkles in her eyes; a watery smile forms at the corners of her mouth.
Merlin, help me.
Shouting voices echo down the hall outside of Astoria's room. Footsteps tap harshly on nearby tiled floors.
They are coming for us.
Taking out my wand, I tuck one arm under Astoria's knees and the other under her arms, holding her small form close to my body. I stand, repressing the memory of what happened last time we Apparated, and visualize the gates of the manor – of home.
Just as I turn on my heel and into the crushing darkness, a door slams open somewhere and a jet of red light shoots over where my head had been milliseconds before –
- And then the rough, cold sidewalk is under my bare feet, telling me that I have made it home. The wrought iron gates open immediately for me, and the cool, stone walk turns pink as the sun rises behind the house.
Astoria still shaking in my arms, I head up the long, winding path, praying that no one but my mother and the old house elf are home.
But, of course, not all wishes can come true or even be answered positively.
As soon as the doors are in sight, three figure burst through them: my mother, a blonde man, and a brunette woman I know all too well.
Pansy Parkinson stops halfway down the front steps, pressing her hand to her mouth and gaping at me, the blonde man by her side. My mother pushes past them, running to meet me. A gruesome smile flashes across her features when she sees Astoria, who suddenly stops shuddering and goes limp.
Her eyes are wide, frozen, and open. The sunrise's reflection shines dully in them, and with one more deep inhale, her eyes flutter closed and her form stills.
What seems like an eternity of tension later, her chest rises and falls once again.
Astoria lives on.
My mother lets out a quiet snarl, turns, and walks back into the house without another word, slamming the door behind her.
The rest of us, left uncertain in the yard, hear her scream of rage from the open window of her room and see the antique vase fly unceremoniously into the open air, hitting an oak tree on its way to the hard ground, where it shatters.
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