Chapter 8 : Lost and Found
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Disclaimer: I own nothing from the world of Harry Potter. Gorgeous chapter image by !batman @ TDA.
“Your mother is the one behind Pansy’s game.”
That is what Astoria said to me.
I could not – cannot – believe it. In a world where family ties are so valued, my mother has put her connections and her reputation on the line, and all of it for an attempt to get Astoria out of my life. Or, at the very least, to get Astoria away from me.
Mother does not understand: Astoria and I are on a bit involved romantically, and not even sexually; we are simply allies on the hostile front that my mother has put before us. This is a war that Mother is waging against Astoria and me – though Pansy looks like the opponent, my mother is directing her.
In all of her battles – every single one throughout these long years with and without Father – my mother has won. She beat her illness and insanity; she beat Vermillion Greengrass in the pursuit of that handsome Malfoy boy, so long ago. She outwitted Voldemort and kept Harry Potter alive long enough to let him finish the Dark Lord before sending the boy back to the Weasley girl. My mother, in games such as these – ones that can lead to scandal, defiance, and wavering loyalties – is second to none.
Astoria lets go of me as I rise from the bed, eyes on the view outside the window. Pansy and Lucian look up at me from the yard below, where they scuff through the fallen and decaying leaves. The brunette girl beams, raises a hand, waggles her fingers. I do not wave back. Lucian only gives a small nod of acknowledgement and runs his fingers over one of those stupid white peacocks’ plumage. As I turn away from the window, I catch a glimpse of Pansy’s fallen face. I ignore her.
“Why are we here, Astoria?” I ask, exasperated, burying my face in one of the pillows lying on her bed.
A light touch on the back of my neck and she is stroking my hair, fingers working thoughtfully through the few knots when she finds one. A sigh fills my ears and my head turns to look at her.
She is staring at the ceiling, eyes darkened by thought. Astoria looks at me. “We are here, my love, because it is the only safe place left for us.” Her eyes are like liquid ice – clear, piercing, and inescapable. “We have nowhere else to go.”
I suddenly struggle for oxygen.
This is the only safe place left for us.
That is how alone we are.
I should never have let Astoria take me away from Azkaban, for look what I have done for her – that is right; I have done nothing. Nothing but get her hurt and put her in mortal danger. Nothing but ruin her future. Nothing but make her an accomplice to the walking crime that I have become.
I pull out the ring I got for her at the hospital; it is buried deep in my pocket. I have not a clue how I managed to hide it from her and keep it in my possession at the same time. Astoria is like a raven – she adores and thieves pretty things.
I take her hand and drop the ring into her palm. She stares at it. “Keep this with you,” I murmur, hoping she will follow my request. I can feel my eyes pleading as she looks up, her eyes sharp and soft at the same time. “I do not know if it will keep you safe, but it will, at the very least, mean that you carry some piece of me with you.”
Astoria allows herself to flash a faltering smile in my direction while she slips the tiny golden ring over her pinky finger. The two miniature flowers’ interlocking petals meet at the front of her finger with tiny diamonds set in the central depths, gleaming with mischief. A timid knock sounds through the thick door and both of our heads bob up. After exchanging a glance with Astoria, I call, “Who is it?”
“It is Inky the house elf, sir,” comes the squeaky reply. “To ready Miss Tori for dinner.”
Astoria grins and tells Inky to enter before I even have the chance to open my mouth.
The door is heavy enough that it takes quite a bit of effort for Inky to open it. Finally, after much creaking and groaning from the entryway, I rise from my seat on Astoria’s bedspread to open it for the elf.
When Inky at last enters the room with a breathless “thank you,sir,” Astoria squeals with glee and claps her hands together once with joy. “Inky!” she cries, opening her arms for a hug.
The small house elf walks forward, hops up on the bed, and, to my great astonishment, wraps her slight arms around Astoria’s waist. Pulling back after a few moments, Inky offers her a shy smile. “Is Miss Tori ready to go down to dinner?” she asks, holding a hand out toward the open door.
Astoria meets my eye, her expression clearly stating, “Go. And close the door on your way out.”
Thankful and far less burdened now that Astoria is in a lighter mood, I wave her off and move toward the door. On my way out, I hear her say, “Yes, Inky, I’m starving. Help me get ready?” Suppressing a grin, I shut the door as softly as possible, trying not to interrupt their time together. Astoria needs girl time – preferably with friends that actually want her around.
As the latch clicks into the frame behind me, I let out a breath I was not aware I was holding. Astoria is safe with Inky, and the solitude of the empty library comforts me. The plush carpet – for lack of better words – poofs up around the edges of my polished black shoes; it is Slytherin green.
There is hardly a thing in this house that is not devoted to or built upon House and family pride. It is sort of sickening, actually. Everything is bedecked in green, silver, black – even the gardeners wear uniforms to match the household theme.
I lean against the wall next to the cold fireplace.
I never, ever thought I would come so close to being ashamed of my family.
But here I am, and I have realized that the Malfoys are nothing if not ridiculously ambitious, cold, and cruel.
Sinking down, I turn to stare into the very lifeless, very ash-filled fireplace, and reach for my back pocket – where there is no wand.
Understandably, I begin to panic, for what is a wizard without his wand? He is nothing.
Patting down my jacket, trousers, even my sock, I do not find it. Standing up, I survey the room. It is, as usual, devoid of human life, and so does not hold a wand.
Where was the first place I went upon entering this God-forsaken house?
My room. Astoria was temporarily placed in my bedroom while Inky readied her guest room. My wand has to be there.
Striding as swiftly as I can down the hallway that leads out of the library, I reach my door and twist the handle. Only to find, of course, that it is to no avail – someone has locked my door. With a curse, I ram my foot into the offending hardwood. I am grateful the thing does not kick back.
Forgetting about trying to make as little noise as possible, I head back to the library, the sound of my own stomping (and half-limping) feet filling the echoing space of the hall around me. I swear it on Salazar Slytherin’s grave – this may very well be the death of me.
Upon entering the library, though, I stand stalk-still, for there is my wand, sitting on one of the sofa’s glass-topped side tables. But before my very eyes, a shockingly white hand darts out over the arm of the couch and wraps its fingers around the carved hawthorn rod. Much to my dismay, Pansy’s voice goes along with it as the hand and wand disappear out of sight back behind the sofa. “Looking for something, Draco?”
I could strangle her for what she is doing to me. Rounding on the couch, I find her lying on her back across the cushions, her eyes bright and staring up at me. My wand is folded in her hands, which lie on her stomach. As much as I want to, I will not forcibly take it from her. “Give it back, Pansy,” I growl, trying to avoid using her name like it is a dirty word. I am not sure that I have entirely succeeded.
Apparently I have not, for Pansy clucks at me and tucks the wand into the folds of her dress. “Sorry, Drakey,” she says.
“Pansy…” I hope the warning in my voice is enough for her to stop this nonsense.
I should have seen the glint in her eye as a warning. I should have taken my wand from her when I had the chance.
But I didn’t.
Pansy shakes her head. “No deal.”
“What do I have to do?”
Her sly smile tells me that was definitely the last thing I should have said. “Let me see,” she says, holding a finger to her cheek in thought. I can almost see the light bulb go on in her head when she says, “I know!”
Reluctant, I ask, “What?”
A mischievous grin spreads across her face, and she leans up and hisses lustily in my ear. “Kiss me like you used to, Draco?”
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