Chapter 1 : Little Numbers
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beyond beautiful CI by our sea star@tda
She’s fallen. She been slipping for years and it’s all come to this. And to think she used to love him, she used to think ths sun shone from his every word. He’d pulled her free of the tearing war, whisked her away from the trials and questioning. He’d bribed officials and pulled every string he had to get her out. It had worked too, and she had fallen for him.
After the war she had been under threat of expulsion from school and a prison debt besides. She had never been on the front lines of the fighting and people on both sides were a bit confused by the magnitude of her intended fate. They didn’t know. She knew though, and for the most part, she agreed with the sentence she would have gotten, but it’s too late for that. He payed her debts and took her away. The little mark on her shoulder of that.
Everyone suspected of even the slightest allegance to the Dark Lord recieved one. A little number, branded on the left shoulder. It was rumoured that by the time they were done numbering they had reached near seven hundred. She was four twenty-one. The little digits were printed just above her shoulder blade, easily hidden by a robe.
Draco Malfoy. Her knight in shining armor, Merlin how she wanted to slaughter him. He too had a little scroll of numbers on his shoulder, zero - seventeen, they used to laugh about it. Late at night with little glasses of fire-whiskey balanced on a table nearby and the midnight moon sending shadows slipping through the open window. He had made her laugh, and she hated him for it. They had been thorugh so much, he had been under equal suspicion but even after so much tarnishing the name of Malfoy still bore respect. Draco had learned from his father well, he escaped unscathed and he took her with him.
They had left England, travelled abroad, to secluded islands and small cottages. They had been in love, or at least, she had loved him. Everything had been so simple, but those litle numbers didn’t add up, and things had started to shatter.
He went back to London, cash and status got him back in with the Ministry and before she could give any opinion at all he’d taken a job in the Ministry’s record room. He told her he had a plan, he knew she was still under suspicion but he told her he would change that, he’d destroy her record and she’d be free. No longer would she have a future hung with guilt because of a foolish childhood.
He had done it, burned the little typed up pages with words like ‘conspiracy’ and ‘murder’. He never understood that people were more than pieces of paper and titles. A burned rocord was one thing, one simple thing that in the end is nothing compared to the memories of people. Real people who remember what she’d done. Not many people knew, but those who did were high enough in the Ministry to make sure the rest of her life was spent unemployed and under constant surveylance. Even Draco couldn’t stop that, he never even noticed the hidden eyes and whispered voices that followed her everywhere they went. She hadn't pointed them out because she was always afraid that they would scare him away from her. Now she wishes she had pointed them out and let him run.
For a while though it had worked. When she spoke her name and one official or another pulled up her records to check her identity she wasy no longer met with a little sneer or shudder of concealed rage. They’d been happy, a flat near the Ministry, and the looming thought that he would probably be proposing soon. He never did though, and now she knows that she dodged a fatal curse in that.
The moment things went wrong can be marked with a needle point, though she’d rather send a dagger through it. He was made an offer, a simple one but it held enough weight that in it’s wake she was knocked to the ground. He was offered a position as the advisor to the French Minister of Magic. Nothing was that simple though, nothing at all. The ‘offer’ was more or less a proposal, the former advisor had a daughter. The position of advisor would be passed on to him, provided that a lovely little wedding occured beween the daughter and the former love of her life. He took the offer.
He left her in a large an empty flat without a job or a penny to her name, only a little scroll of numbers and a burned record. Later she heard rumours that he’s managed to find a way to remove the little numbers, but she hasn’t, no, she’s been adding to her little scroll, one line at a time.
Without a Malfoy to escort her and bribe away the suspicion, she was left empty. Betrayed and lost she’d done her best. She had moved out of their vast and empty flat and into a tiny closet of a place above a tea shop on Diagon Alley. She’d gone to the Ministry to get work, knowing that they were short one worker in the records room. There she met the end of all her hope.
A tall salt and pepper type with a false smile and a memory beyond belief. He recognized her, the little murderer. Killer before she had even gone off to school. He knew everything but he went to check her records anyhow, disbelieving that she could have done such a thing and still walk free. That’s when he noticed, when he understood.
She was at trial within the week, accused of destroying evidence and bribing Ministry officials. All Draco’s crimes come back to haunt her, well not all his. Finally she recieves the punishments she’s had coming for longer than she can remember. The judge reads her senetence without emotion and without caring. Six years in Azkaban. So she’s lead away, child murderer, destroyer of evidence, briber, liar, theif. She’s pulled into a dark room and another little listing of numbers is added just below the last ones. She’s told that these mark her as a proven convict. Thirty-two thousand and twenty-one. Then she’s lead away and left in a damp little cell to rot or go mad without pity or mercy.
It’s been a year and now she is beyond hope, for hope is the stuff that lingers, light in the air for the first year, but it quickly disperses, floats out between the bars. She is left with only memories, ones she never knew she had, dark flashes of faces, green light. She remembers just the way her father’s fingers covered her own upon the wand, guiding her aim. The wand, directed at a whimpering man with greasy hair and watery eyes. He begged for mercy but his language was not her own and she didn’t know he was asking for help. Her father whispered the spell to her under his breath and she recited it like a nursery rhyme. The green light flashed and the man fell dead. The arours had arived momentarily, the trial hadn’t lasted long. Her father was submitted to the dementors’ kiss. She, too young to be sentenced and with the plea of being under her father’s influence was sent with her sister to an orphanage. Still, the wizarding world had turned it's icy hatred upon her. She'd been labeled in their eyes as a killer and killer for all her years.
Now in the darkened shadows of Azkaban she too blames herself for the man’s death, now with nighmares and memories blurred together she no longer feels her fathers guiding hand, she sees only her hand aiming the wand and killing the whimpering man.
Two years and she thinks she’s gone mad, she knows it in the third year when she is no longer in control of her voice and screams are torn from her lips by what seems to her like a ghost hand.
In her fourth year her nails are torn and her fingertips are bloody because she’s tried to fight away a figment of her own imagination and instead has awoken from her madness to find herself clawing at a stone wall. She is nothing of herself and everything is hatred and fear. She hates Draco and blames him for her state of madness. She’s afraid of shadows and herself and everything.
She’s afraid to continue living.
Her fourth year comes to a close in the form of a letter, written on painfully white parchment in a perfect script with a flourished signiture.
‘My Dearest Astoria,
When I heard of your predicament naturally I was shocked, I can’t thank you enough for not bringing my name up in the trial. Your sentence seems far too harsh and I wish there was something I coul do to help. However, insane as it sounds my days of pulling strings are over. I’ve gained great respect here and I can’t risk losing my position. My wife is with child and we are overjoyed. She sends her regards.
While I’d like to say ‘come and see me when your out’ I think we both know I can’t be seen associating with you now, but do write. Maybe I have a few friends who would be willing to donate a few pounds.
With hope for your future,
That’s what breaks her, the way he brushes her off and talks to her as if she is responsible for all her crimes, his tone dripping with condescension. In her fifth year she is insane. She throws herself against the cold stone walls and doesn’t care if she lives or dies. Her screams become a high and never-ending stream of whimpers and shaky breaths. Her body can only be called skelletal and a healer is summoned.
Her sixth and final year is spent in the prison ward of St. Mungo’s, while there a third set of numbers is added, ones to signify her as mentally unstable. Five hundred and eleven.
Her sentence comes to an end, but now she’s trapped in memories and fear and madness, and with no where to go. She’s told she can stay longer in the mental ward and she is recomended to do so but with no means to keep her there she is able to leave. She can do no more, she walks from the hospital and onto a busy street, her skin is pale and her eyes hollow. The Muggles around her shy away averting their eyes. She feels dirty, sick and scared, so scared. She’s running and she doesnt know why, dodging past Muggles and pushing aside whatever might try to come in her way, but as quickly as the running begins it stops, though not by her own devices. Arms, strong arms are wrapped around her, holding her still. Thoughts come that it must be someone from the hospital, come to take her back to a white room with a locked door. She screams and struggles but the arms stay strong, holding her in place. She twists and turns sharply enough to surprise the person holding her into slackening their grip just enough to let her turn to face him. Immediately her struggling stops.
He gives a half smile, his dark eyes are filled with nothing but worry and the slight look of someone who has had a great shock and is still trying to come to terms with it. The thought comes to her that she is probably the shock, with her madness and bone thin body. "Astoria?" He whispers, a slight hope in his voice.
She collapses into his chest and he holds her, pressing his cheek against the top of her head and whispering over and over that it’s alright, that she’s going to be alright.
Three years, that’s how long it took to finally recognize reality completely and turn away the fits of madness that carresed her when she was alone. Now she feels safe, finally safe. They live together in a small cottage on the coast, a quiet place he knew would help calm her. He’s done so much for her and she doesn’t know why, though she’s greatfull. She’s greatfull and she’s finally on the brink of being happy again, but for now safe is enough.
One year later and she finally understands why he’s done so much for her, with a diamond wring wrapped around her finger and a sappy grin plastered on his face. They are to be married, he’s told her he loves her and she thinks maybe she loves him back.
Four years and she knows she loves him, now with a band of gold adorning her finger she presses her hand against her swollen stomache and waits for the little kick she knows will come. Her past is wiped away and all that’s left is Blaize and the little girl that’s growing inside her. She used to mark her life in tragedies, naming all the horrors that had made up the majority of her life. Now though she marks her life in stepping stones, all the things, no matter how horrible that brought her to where she is now. Happy. She wouldnt change a thing, because if she changed anything than the likeliness of her being exactly where she is today is uncertain, and where she is today is home. She is happy, overflowing and all the little numbers on her shoulder mean nothing. Sometimes though, when Blaize is out and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore fills her ears she goes to the mirror and twists around to see them, but she can barely remember which one goes with which memory.