Chapter 10 : A.G. + D.M.
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This is the last thing I expected to happen – ever – and in my own home. I am “addicted for life.”
And to Pansy Parkinson, no less.
“How do you know all of this?” I ask, praying that Astoria could be wrong. Though such things occur rarely, they do happen.
A smirk plays about the corners of her crimson-painted lips. I recognize it as a smirk that is very similar to the one that I was constantly wearing in the Hogwarts days. “My sister,” she says, scoffing. She stands, walks to the window, traces the outline of a heart onto the semi-foggy surface. “She was as much obsessed with winning you over as Pansy was and, apparently still, is. And then, of course, she and Mum and Dad drowned on the lake, and she would not have been able to say that she succeeded in the same game that Pansy is playing now.” Absently, her fingers draw what look like letters and a plus sign in the middle of the heart.
A few strides around the bed and I am at her side, studying her window art.
“A. G. plus D. M.?” I ask, eyeing her thoughtfully.
She seems to blink. As she raises her hand to wipe the heart and everything inside it away, I catch her wrist. She looks up at me, blue eyes sparkling.
“Leave it,” I say. “Mother will be so pleased to know that she cannot tear us apart when Inky reports to her about this window. Even Pansy’s tricks won’t hurt us.”
Astoria smirks again and slides her wand out of one of her sleeves. “Would you like me to etch it into the glass, my love?” She holds her arms aloft, pointing her wand threateningly at the window.
Recalling the current situation, I cannot help but put a hand on her arm. The humorous mood that Astoria was working me into has vanished.
Her smirk dims and her eyes dull. She lets her wand arm drop and rest her other hand on my cheek. It is warm and soft – I lay a hand over it, entwining our fingers. Hopelessness and despair grapple with the strange feelings I have for her – the ones that make me want to fly.
“We will fight this, Draco,” she says, sounding as if she is almost pleading. “You have to trust me.”
“I thought that there was no cure,” I reply. I do not point out that I trust her with my heart, my life, my very soul.
“We will discuss it after dinner,” she says, dropping her hand from my face. “Just know that it is nothing to look forward to. That is why I did not speak of it earlier.”
With a sigh, I offer her my arm. “Shall we go down to meet our undoings?”
She slips her hand into the crook of my elbow after tucking her wand away. My wand is safe in my jacket pocket. “I suppose we shall,” she says, and I open the door for her.
The library is empty, thankfully. Closing the door behind us, she takes my arm again. We glide down the hall to the grand staircase together, and I notice for the first time that she is wearing a dress very similar to the one her sister wore to the Yule Ball, though Astoria’s is a dark crimson. Daphne’s was Slytherin green.
As it is about time I made a comment on her lovely appearance – I believe I’ve kept everything to myself thus far – I try to act like a normal, serious twenty-one year old male would. “You look gorgeous tonight, by the way,” I say as nonchalantly as possible.
She giggles, so like the unpredictable Astoria I am accustomed to. “Your attempt at gallantry is ridiculously amusing, Draco,” she replies.
I cannot keep an embarrassed smile from my lips. “Really?” I ask. “I thought it was rather – ”
But my sentence cuts itself off, for we have reached the dining room, where three wands and a house elf’s finger are being pointed directly at a very frightened, very flustered Hermione Granger.
The Gryffindor courage I saw in our repeated seventh year seems to have gone right out of her. Her hair is even more mussed than usual; the bright glow of intelligence and vigor that used to reside in her eyes is so diminished that it is nearly gone.
Though she was never really my “friend,” we served Hogwarts as prefects, soldiers, and then as Head Boy and Girl. In a flash of desperation – my mother and Pansy would hex a Muggle-born just for walking into the Manor – I shout, “Stand down,” and shake Astoria’s clutching hand off of my arm.
“Looks like our dear Draco has yet another admirer, Narcissa,” Pansy says, smirking. Mother says nothing, just eyes me as she stands silent, nails digging into the back of a chair.
Hermione stays composed, but her cheeks begin to stain a slight pink.
“What is going on, Hermione?” I ask, taking a few steps forward and trying to stay focused on the point, which is to try to get information from her.
To my surprise, she offers me her hand and proceeds directly to the point. “For the sake of your soul, Draco, please,” she says, “Come with me. You have twenty seconds.”
Astonishment catches me off guard. Again. Twenty seconds? Until what? “I do not understand,” I reply. “What has happened?”
Hermione shakes her head. “Nothing yet, but Harry and Ron have been sent after you. They are on their way here.” She glanced toward the door and back to me, eyes filled with fear. “Ten seconds – take my hand!”
From behind, I am pushed toward Hermione. Turning around, I find that Astoria is looking at me with wide, frightened eyes. “Go with her,” she says furtively. “You must not be caught.”
Five seconds. I cannot help myself – I lean down to kiss Astoria good-bye, just a soft, harmless brushing of lips. I extend a hand toward Hermione, and the world turns upside down as we Apparate out of the Manor. I think I heard doors slam open just before we would have disappeared completely, and I hope we were not seen – but then it does not matter.
Because in the next seconds, my head seems to explode with agony, and then my world goes white.
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