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Chapter 4 : A Force of Wills
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A parade of wild horses could have run through the dining hall at exactly that moment and no one would have heard them. Save for a rather distracted guest.
The silence was deafening and humiliating for the Malfoy family, who stood like pretty blonde statues up at the head of the table. Astoria was unable to hold any amount of pity for them, as she was facing her own tumbling emotions.
Blaise Zabini had effectively fascinated her.
Astoria was envious of his courage but rather impressed that he had done something so bold. And right at a moment when the smugness had been at its crucial moment and if she hadn’t been who she was, she would have smiled.
Scorpious was still grinning, though by now he had made it appear as if he were grimacing with anger and Astoria sent him a bit of a wink before lowering her cup of ginger ale with steady hands.
“My God, what on earth are they going to do now?” Emily whispered to her.
Astoria had no answer for her and Lucius Malfoy somehow managed to find himself and say with a false smile. “I suppose one of our young guests was quite overwhelmed. Please make your ways to the billiard or sewing rooms for more entertainment after finishing your meal,” he said and she had never heard such ferocity.
The guests wouldn’t dare defy him.
Many of them quite forgot about their dessert and followed Mr. Malfoy’s advice about leaving as soon as possible, some of them recalling that Mrs. Malfoy had given the same command, though hers had been a tad kinder.
Fear of Mr. Malfoy was making chairs scrape back and utensils being placed back down and she gnawed on her lower lip for a second or two before watching several guests leave the dining hall, buzzing with gossip.
Helena Zabini was still sobbing into her chair, Mrs. Malfoy having abandoned her quite some time ago to scrape up her ego. “You don’t think that they’ll hurt him, do you?” Astoria whispered to her sister.
Emily couldn’t answer her but she tried to smile as reassuring as she could before they walked out of the dining hall, each to their own interests.
It would be less suspicious if they pretended as normal and did as Mr. Malfoy had told them but Astoria was nervous about going into a room full of ravenous purebloods, “You are not going back into that room.” Scorpious declared for her as he came up.
Their parents were conversing quietly some feet away but Astoria knew that their father would not be swayed, even by his wife’s concerns.
He had come here tonight for information and he would not give up on it no matter how uneasy his wife became, “But I have to or they’ll really become suspicious.” Astoria said.
Scorpious glowered down at her sternly but Astoria gave him a firm look and he simply inhaled in annoyance. “I don’t like the thought of you going back into a room with them, Stori!”
Astoria tried to put a reassuring hand on his arm but he drew away and she said firmly. “I have to or else they’ll all think that we’re traitors and we can’t have them becoming suspicious.” She reminded angrily and he flushed. “Please, Scorpious. I know what to do if I’m in danger but I have no intention of getting Malfoy into a fit.”
But he would have no issue with upsetting her to make himself feel better and Astoria inhaled irritably before Scorpious offered his arm for her. “Fine,” he grunted. “But if he does something to you, anything at all, I want to know about it so I can boil him.”
Emily sent her a look from under her lashes and Astoria swallowed hard and tried not to look at her. “I’m going to see if I can find something to do.” Scorpious shot her a look and she blushed, “oh, really? I have an assignment here to get to know before we dispose of him, one Mr. Joseph Grant…”
This was why she couldn’t be bothered with distracting Malfoy and Astoria had forgotten all about it really.
They never talked about their assignments to her often because she was not involved but Astoria heard snippets here and there but could not imagine her sister seducing Malfoy, it sickened her to no end, “Be careful, Emily.” Astoria said tightly.
“I will, don’t you worry about me, dear.” Emily said with a grin as she hugged them both loosely before wandering off with her hips swaying.
It caught quite a bit attention from some pureblood boys and Astoria watched as one of her friends rushed up to her with news, the girl practically bouncing with it and she felt another bit of jealousy.
She didn’t know what it was like to have a friend.
Scorpious took in her face and then said with a friendly grin, “Stori, how about you come along with me sometime before school and see Diana again? She told me that she’s gotten a new batch of Muggle novels for you,” he whispered to her as they started walking to Malfoy’s den.
Their father and mother happened to spot them and Astoria saw their mother give them one more warning look before they pressed onward.
Apparently they were going somewhere to sit with the other parents, or perhaps parting ways, her father to the billiards room and her mother to the sewing room for disgusting gossip. “I’d like that. It’d be nice to get away for a while,” Astoria said with a nod.
“I’ll try to arrange a moment. With the bastards at the Ministry rounding up traitors and Muggles by the minute, I have to be as careful as I can,” Scorpious said worriedly and she gave him a supportive look until he grinned. “Stori, when this mess is all over, you’ll have to move in with me and Diana, I would love it.”
Astoria was very happy that he would ask her but they both knew that their father’s business would never be over so long as he was filled with so much hatred.
A silence fell between them that only increased as they walked the rest of the way towards Malfoy’s lounge and she felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise as Scorpious opened the door.
“Back again for more?” a dark voice called as they walked further into the room.
A chill descended onto her skin but Astoria ignored it and watched as Draco Malfoy leaned away from the conversation that he had been having, his entire form stiff and rippling with tension.
The Bulstrode sisters were still there, as were Travers, Parkinson, Crabbe, Goyle and Theodore Nott but Astoria saw no remnants of Zabini’s mangled body in the fireplace. “Bite me, Malfoy,” she answered distractedly.
For a moment it looked as if he would say something back but with Scorpious emanating such a strong air of doom, he refused to speak. “Can you handle yourself?” her brother whispered in her ear and Astoria gave him a confident smile that she didn’t completely feel.
Nodding at her and then kissing her cheek, Scorpious left the room but the air of retaliation and fright that he had brought in with them stayed.
Astoria felt quite safe and knew without testing her fate that she couldn’t go any further in the room without being hexed so she wandered aimlessly to one of the mahogany bookcases on the wall.
She had never seen anyone reading a book here but a lot of them appeared old, perhaps older than Malfoy and both of his parents combined and the thought of what they contained sparked her interest and she was unable to resist the temptation.
“Touch my things and I’ll have to cut off your fingers, Half and Half,” Malfoy snarled and she wasn’t sure why, but his voice sounded oddly nervous.
Astoria wondered if he had some sort of dirty picture book here and snorted a bit, not finding it all too strange. “You don’t have the guts or the stomach for it, Malfoy. It’s a dirty business,” she remarked calmly and that caused a slight ripple among the group.
“And what would you know about chopping off fingers?” Malfoy asked nastily.
That was something that she wouldn’t be able to answer but she had heard Scorpious doing the act quite a few times at home. Emily and she often had to clean up the mess, “If you don’t want to find out, then don’t ask, Malfoy.”
“Your smart mouth is growing tiresome, Half and Half!” Parkinson cried hotly and Astoria glanced back at her and watched her recoil a bit. Whatever she had seen in her eyes was not at all pleasant, “you’re nearly as bad as Blaise!”
“Pansy!” Mary Bultsrode hissed warningly.
Parkinson made a strange sound and apologized to Malfoy but Astoria was distracted by the thick tomes of leather bound books, some so old that the pages could turn into dust if she touched them.
She casually reached up to grab a book at random but saw from the corner of her eye that this room full of Slytherins was about to burst.
Malfoy didn’t say anything else to her but she could feel the burn of his eye in the back of her neck and she firmly ignored him.
The tension in the room was so thick that it made it hard to breathe, “Do you know where Blasie sleazed off to?” he snapped at someone.
“No, mate. Not a clue,” Nott replied with a nervous laugh. Astoria could imagine him toying with the glass of wine, his eerie brown eyes dull and devoid of kindness, “What do you suppose came over him?”
“I don’t know or care but I’m going to kill him.” Malfoy replied tightly and Astoria felt a shiver but wondered where Zabini must have hidden if they hadn’t found him. “He doesn’t know how to Disapparate properly, so he has to be here.”
“But even if he is, you can’t—” Travers began.
Malfoy must have given her a burning look because she fell silent as he went on in a tense rage that sounded as if it were ripped from his bowels. “That bastard! I don’t care what his problem is but how dare he do something like that to me!”
Nott spoke up then and said in an anxious way. “I heard that he’s going to go back to Hogwarts to teach as Potions teacher. And there was something about a girl—”
“I don’t give a damn about his trivial fortune or any foolish girl that he was supposedly dating!” Malfoy snapped furiously and Astoria found this to be a bit startling. She couldn’t imagine Zabini with anyone, let alone a girl that he actually liked, “How dare he even do something like that here of all places!” Malfoy cried.
Parkinson said while Astoria opened a book of poems.
It was bound in red leather and looked as if it had been hand written, the ink and pages a bit newer than she had expected, “He’s probably just acting out, that’s all. His poor mother will be in tears for the rest of the night!”
“What are your parents going to do about him, Draco?” Millicent Bulstrode asked him and Astoria could imagine her ugly face poised for delight, her much prettier sister tilting her head.
“I’m not sure. They’ve given us no trouble in the past but if we can get an answer out of Blaise for his actions and perhaps if I don’t kill him, Father might forgive him. But I won’t allow it, Mrs. Zabini is more than welcome if she chooses but her bastard of a son will never be allowed at my home again,” Malfoy said and this declaration seemed to fall on the others like law.
Astoria thought them all rather pathetic as she tried to lose herself in a first bit of poems from the book in her hands.
The author called himself Wolfin and she supposed that the man had been undiscovered and as she read, she was aware that it was a shame, ““And my heart/Wild and untamed/ Desires nothing in this world but you/ Soul of my life/ Light in my smile”” she whispered, instantly enchanted.
Travers sounded as if she were pouting. “Isn’t that a bit rash, Draco?” she asked him and the crackling of the fire seemed to override her words a bit as if it too were furious, “I mean, perhaps he had too much wine.”
“Blasie doesn’t indulge in wine and he rarely ever drinks butterbeer.” Parkinson explained and she sounded rather irritated, “I’m sure he was just in a bad mood. He can’t mean anything by it, Draco, really! We’re in the middle of a war! Why would he do something so foolish?”
“Because he detests me, that’s why. He’s been asking for it all night, with his snide little comments here and there, protecting the breed,” Malfoy said loudly and Astoria’s head shot up and she glared darkly at him before returning to the book of poems. “My night is ruined!”
There was a long and ugly silence after that announcement but Astoria ignored them all anyway, her heart completely wrapped up with love for the poems before her eyes.
Whoever this person was had such a powerful heart and she couldn’t wait to tell her mother about them, she would be more than delighted, as she loved poetry. ““My deepest wish/ Is for you/ Always for you/ My one and only dream/ As far as the eye can see”” she sighed.
Long moments passed and there was barely any conversation before Samantha Travers said in a rather loud and annoying way. “What a bore. Draco, can we still play without Blaise?”
Malfoy sounded annoyed and Astoria expected him to do something very cruel but instead, the temperature heated up. It was unsettling, “I suppose we could play after all, I’m in the mood for a bit of hunting myself. Nott, you take over for Blaise and go after Samantha.”
Nott sounded a bit annoyed but this, as she was not remotely who he had wanted. That illustrious honor belonged to Mary Bulstrode, “A-all right but do you really think that we should—”
“I’ll count to thirty ladies,” Malfoy interrupted and his voice was so cold that it made Astoria’s fingers start shaking and she pressed the book in her hands to her chest as if it could protect her. It would be unwise to stay in the same room for much longer, “do you all still have your pieces?”
Everyone might have nodded but Astoria was inching towards the door as discreetly as she could.
She wouldn’t want Malfoy leaping at her and wrestling her to the floor, perhaps doing something far worse than kissing her. “I’d like them back after the game is over. I’ll give us all two hours at the most but when you’re done, come back here and do not get caught.” He warned.
There was an uncomfortable rippling from the others and Astoria swallowed hard and nearly tripped on her own dress to get out. “Where do you think you’re going, Half and Half?” Parkinson sneered loudly. “No need to look so eager!” she laughed.
Malfoy turned around and his grey eyes bored into her violet ones and she recoiled with terror and saw her life flashing before her eyes.
He ran his tongue over his lower lip before he turned back to the others and said, “Go on, ladies. Find some place really interesting to hide, I’d like to work off some steam,” he murmured.
Astoria would have run for the door but the other girls were already walking out, the Bulstrode sisters looking at her with nasty grins while Samantha flipped her red hair over her shoulder.
Parkinson gave her a sneer but frowned when she was flipped off in return for the expression, “Stinking breed,” she spat.
“Foul toad,” Astoria shot back. When the door closed after Parkinson decided to leave, her mouth gawping and her eyes flashing with anger, she decided to take her chances and flee but her upper arm was gripped in a vise like grip almost instantly. “Malfoy, let me go!” she warned angrily.
“Go away, Theo, Crabbe, Goyle,” Malfoy said absently and his entire being was zeroed in on her so severely that Astoria felt a bit of herself fade away with terror.
The other boys leapt up so quickly that Astoria was certain that they left a hole in the carpet. None of them looked at her as they left, so full of cruelty that they wouldn’t think twice about helping her if they had to.
Astoria swallowed hard and tried to yank from Malfoy’s grip but he wasn’t letting her go and she was seeing nothing but hate in his eyes. “You prat, get your hands off of me!”
“Make me, Half and Half. I’m not even remotely in the mood for this right now,” Malfoy hissed and Astoria was forced to look at him as he yanked her head up. His calloused fingers and thumb were like razors on her skin, “what I am in a mood for can be helped along if you just cooperate with me.”
Astoria had never heard such arrogance in her life and she stared at him as if she couldn’t quite comprehend what sort of monster he was. “I don’t think so. My mind hasn’t changed one bit over what you offered me and I’m not going to change it now.”
Malfoy seemed to inhale her defiance like a heady perfume and Astoria realized with annoyance that he actually grew rather excited by it. Sensing that she was disturbed, he gentled his tone, “It won’t nearly be as bad as you’re pretending, sweet. I’m very good at what I do.”
Astoria flushed in embarrassment while she recalled all the nasty little things the girls in the powder room had said about him. “I’m sure you like to think that but I am not interested, Malfoy. I have never been interested!”
“You let me kiss you earlier—”
“You forced me to kiss you, you git!” Astoria shouted furiously and she let out a cry as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her unwillingly closer. The heat coming from him made her entire head swim, “and therefore the game is over!”
Malfoy’s lips twitched with dark amusement but he was running his eyes over her face, settling on her mouth before raking her throat. It caused her to pale considerably, “What’s it take to have you? What do you want?”
Astoria knew that he was offering her gifts to tickle her fancy and she swallowed hard and tried to think of something to say. “Nothing that you can offer me will help me change my mind.” She said fiercely.
“Sweet, I can give you anything you like. How about it?” Malfoy whispered softly and she felt her eyes going wide as he bent his head, lips barely touching hers, “I can get you into any play, any ballet or opera that you want, front row seats or the highest balcony.”
Astoria had never been to many plays or ballets and she had a certain fondness for opera but she frowned up at him. “No, Malfoy, I said—”
“All right,” Malfoy said with a bit of impatience as he started to recalculate, his eyes going from grey to a deep and penetrating blue. “What about rubies, darling? Diamonds, furs, perhaps a set of pearls?” he asked softly.
“I’ve never seen a ruby, I don’t own diamonds and I don’t like fur. Also, my mother is the only person who owns a set of pearls.” Astoria snapped up at him and his face turned into a mask of confusion and curiosity.
Malfoy took a moment to regain himself but when he did, his lips trailed over her jaw softly and in little bites that made her breath catch, which he seemed to note smugly. “What do you like then?”
The question startled her and she briefly considered what she had always wanted. She wanted to be loved and not for the trivial things, but just to rally in her company, “Something that you couldn’t give me.” Astoria replied sharply.
Malfoy blinked in confusion. “Like what, exactly?”
He thought that she would tell him and that, after he got it for her, she would be all too pleased and would sweep into his arms. Astoria was no such fool, “Kindness, decency and respect.”
That was not at all what he had been expecting and he snorted with cruel laughter.
“And why should I give you those things? Ours wouldn’t be anything but a physical relationship. Don’t tell me that underneath that prickly exterior you’re a romantic, Greengrass! Pathetic,” he murmured.
Astoria felt frustrated tears burning in her eyes and she swallowed hard and tried to push him away from her.
It was unsuccessful as his body was hard as steel, “I’m not pathetic! Just because you’re a coldhearted monster and can’t provide a woman with real affection doesn’t mean that I’m the one that has an issue!”
Malfoy looked briefly thoughtful at this but she could see that his slight grip on his temper was about to snap in mere moments.
His lust for her was the only thing that was keeping him from snapping her neck in two, “Why are women so foolish?” he whispered. “I’m not capable of something so dangerous, Greengrass. Once a woman sleazes her way into my heart, she’ll kill me.”
Astoria was a bit surprised by the cynicism in his tone and she wondered if he had been hurt or damaged somehow.
The brief amount of pity she felt for him caused a ripple of unease to grip her, she should not be feeling sorry for Draco Malfoy, “Not all women are the same.”
“But all men are. The ones that foolishly claim to be in love are merely hiding their true nature until the woman gets nice and ripe before they take a bite out of her and leave her rotting,” Malfoy demonstrated his words by taking a gentle nip at her lower lip.
Astoria wondered if he were describing his father and underneath her embarrassment and fear of him, she was able to grasp that he hadn’t made these words up without reason. “I don’t want to be your plaything, Malfoy. Find someone else, like Parkinson—”
Malfoy recoiled from the mention of the girl and she watched his eyes narrow a little before he answered darkly. “The only thing Pansy has her eyes on is my fortune and the day I marry a girl like that, bent on only one thing, will be the day I give up on life.”
“But you only want me to s-sleep with!” Astoria shot back at him angrily.
“Yes, but I would never lie to you about it.” Malfoy said simply and that caused her to pause a little as she considered him. His arrogance was so deeply engrained that it was pitying, “I wouldn’t lie to you about what I wanted and you wouldn’t lie to me about what you wanted. It’s a simple, clean arrangement. A girl like Pansy pretends and a girl like you knows. It’s what I like about you, actually,” he said unthinkingly.
Astoria was a bit unnerved that he actually liked something about her, though she wasn’t really certain what he meant by it. “Are you saying you admire me because I know what I want?”
Malfoy shrugged his shoulders distractedly as he ran his eyes over her throat before using one of his fingers to trail along her pulse. “Not precisely. You accept things the way that they are instead of forcing the issue, which can be both tiresome and unnecessary and it makes me curious to know what you’re like at home. Are you happy?”
“And why would that be important to you? I have a comfortable life!” Astoria cried as she tried to deny that she wasn’t completely as happy as she could have been.
Malfoy pursed his lips and she saw a flicker of something in his grey eyes that might have been concern for her and it made her breath catch.
There was a human underneath his glamor after all and that frightened her more than anything, “Why not forget about it all? Come with me after the war is over, I could take you to Paris.”
Astoria had always longed for travel but it was a dream that she could never have in the state her family’s finances were in, and the lies they carried. “W-who says that I would like to go anywhere with you?” she sneered.
Malfoy smirked a bit, seeing through the hasty words and pressed his cheek against hers and whispered in her ear.
Embarrassment flooded her as she thought that he would whisper more erotic fantasies and yet he said nothing but, “Imagine it, sweet. It’s not nearly as terrible as you’re making it out to be, we could go anywhere you desire. I could have you lying in silk sheets with nothing but a set of my pearls around your neck.”
Astoria’s jaw dropped and her entire face turned so red that he actually laughed and pressed a few kisses to her mouth. It made her go numb with something she hadn’t wanted to ever feel from a pureblood and she forced her mouth away, “No! Stop—”
“No?” Malfoy murmured against her chin irritably. “I suppose I can tempt you with something else, you can pretend not to want it all you like.” He whispered pleasantly right before he bent his head and pressed his lips to her throat. “Be aware that you were asking for it.”
Horror slimed down her back and Astoria recoiled from him but he pulled her as close as she was able until she made the most dangerous decision of her life.
Inhaling, she angled her face to his and he let out a soft sound of pleasure, his lips going to hers until—
“Bitch!” Malfoy gasped as he moved away, his eyes going wide with pain and disbelief. Astoria stepped away from him, her knee stinging just a bit as she started making her escape, “I’ll catch you!” he promised madly. “I’ll catch you and you’d better pray that I don’t strangle you!”
Astoria ran as fast as she could from the room with her heart thumping and she briefly thought of going upstairs and then reconsidered.
That would be the first place that he went if he didn’t find her hiding in a darkened corridor and she ran blindly down the hallway until the breath was robbed from her lungs and she had caused blisters on her toes.
Cursing a bit and hearing the door to Malfoy’s lounge slamming shut, she looked wildly around for some sort of sanctuary. She saw a door to the end of the long, haunting hallway that was lit and clambering with noise and voices.
Relief sprang through her and she ran towards it and burst through the door to find that she had somehow gotten into the kitchens and that she had caught the servants at a moment of peace. “Uhm, do you need something miss?” a girl asked hastily.
Astoria looked around and was once again struck by how backwards the Wizarding world was, she had an iron stove at home, along with an ice box but Diana, Scorpious’s girlfriend had shown her so many interesting Muggle things.
It was strange seeing that there was no such thing as a microwave or a refrigerator here and she said weakly. “I-I was just looking for somewhere to take a breather, if you don’t mind.”
They all stared at her as if she had gone mad.
There were dirty plates soaring through the air, the sink filled to the brim with soapy water as the dishes washed themselves and there was a whole table that was laden with vegetables, fruit and dried meat was hanging on hooks. “Hiding from Malfoy?” someone asked just then.
Astoria looked around and saw Blaise Zabini coming from another side of the room, a slice of cake in his hands. He had apparently been loitering here the entire time, “What are you doing here?” she demanded hastily.
“Eating. I’m very fond of cake,” Zabini replied calmly before stuffing the last bit of sweet into his mouth and then being handed a napkin by a servant almost out of nowhere. He patted his mouth before flicking it absently at the servant, who vanished as quickly as they’d appeared, “what are you doing in here?”
“I need somewhere to hide.” Astoria said as she heard distant footsteps. A bolt of terror went over her and she knew that contacting Scorpious would only lead to Malfoy being disemboweled and their father would be furious if his temper got the better of him.
Zabini snorted with laughter and she watched as he walked towards her before saying to one of the servants. “Would you mind allowing us into the pantry for a moment? I’m not trying to be a bother.”
Astoria wondered how often he had snuck into Malfoy’s kitchen because the servants seemed to be accustomed to him.
They even looked a bit embarrassed that he was asking them for anything and she knew that they must have been treated very unfairly by the Malfoy family, “I couldn’t impose if you’re working—”
“It’s not a bother. We all hate that boy,” A girl said while she put a bowl of potatoes onto the table with a thump, her face set in a scowl. “You’re free to hide as long as you want.”
Astoria wasn’t sure what to say but Zabini appeared to know where to go and she awkwardly followed him as he went into the far back of the kitchen and waved to a door. It was dark and imposing and she asked suspiciously, “Why are you hiding in here with me?”
Zabini answered calmly. “Because if I see Malfoy, I might kill him and I’d rather not be bothered with the mess, if you must know. Don’t worry Greengrass I no longer have an interest in hiking your dress up.”
The comment was said dryly but Astoria could hear his sneer and she felt her fingers inching towards the pocket of her dress.
Stopping herself, she made certain not to touch him as she went to the door and opened it, surprised by how large it was. It could probably hold two of her bedrooms without any problem, “You’re the last thing I’m worried about.”
“Really?” Zabini asked calmly as he flicked his wand and created little balls of bright, silver light that hovered in the room, casting jars and dried goods in eerie shadow.
The door closed a moment later as Astoria made herself comfortable on an upturned basket, her fingers smoothing out her dress and hoping that her mother didn’t notice the wrinkles later.
Astoria ignored him as spices invaded her nose and she saw many preserved goods here and there and racks of herbs and greens.
Some of the items looked very exotic and she had no idea what some of them were used for and she dared not touch, “Do you come down here a lot?”
Zabini was looking at the shelves of goods and he snatched a jar of preserved peaches off of one and began opening it. “Not as often as I’d like. You may have noticed that I detest Malfoy as strongly as you do, or so I thought.” He said dryly after the lid clicked.
“What you saw was not me eagerly accepting Malfoy. He was offering me things that I had to refuse.” Astoria shot back and her cheeks heated at the look he was giving her.
There was such a strong sense of doubt over him, “every other girl may find him to be the most fantastic creature on the face of the earth but I typically find human men more attractive.”
Zabini looked as if he might laugh but he was chewing and so the moment passed without him saying a word. Astoria ran her eyes over him in confusion, unable to understand him, “Would you like one?” he offered, holding the jar to her lazily, “they’re quite good.”
Astoria had never had one before so she stood and hesitantly approached him until he quirked his brow at her in annoyance. Frowning, she reached inside and took one plump slice of peach and eyed it curiously, “Isn’t this stealing?”
“Like they’d notice,” Zabini said with a shrug of his shoulders before she popped the treat into her mouth and chewed. It was like an explosion of delight in her mouth and her eyes widened in pleasured surprise, “I told you, quite good.”
Astoria chewed and swallowed for a while longer, savoring the delicious taste before she replied with a curt nod. “I’m surprised that you’re still here.”
Zabini allowed her to take one more slice of peach before helping himself and he held the fruit in his fingers delicately for a second or two before saying. “And why would you care?”
“I don’t care about you. I’m just surprised that you haven’t left.” Astoria said and her tone was rather sharp but there was something about him that was slightly irritating. She had a feeling that he was nitpicking at her on purpose, “Malfoy was talking about doing the most horrible things to you in his lounge.”
“Really? How kind of him,” Zabini muttered bitterly before eating his own fruit and licking a bit of the juice from his lips. Astoria frowned at him for a moment, “I could care less about what that spoiled brat said about me. I’ve got no interest in worming my way back in with that group.”
Astoria turned away from him for a moment to look at some of the other preserved goods and spotted more peaches among plum, lemons and various berries. “Why did you do it?” she asked while reaching up to touch the jar of one curiously.
Zabini plucked it down for her but she shook her head and he placed it back and said with a stiff smile. “Because I can and I felt like stirring things up a bit. It was growing rather stuffy in that dining hall, you must know what I mean since you appeared to be suffocating.”
Astoria was reminded quite vividly of the fact that he had been staring at her while she had ate and she gave him a dark look from under her lashes. “Why were you watching me?”
“I can’t help but think you odd, is all.” Zabini replied and the comment was ruder than she had anticipated and she glared at him, some icy retort at the tip of her tongue before he said, “and I find it refreshing. Of course, I may have misjudged you for your kiss with the prat—”
“That I didn’t want to happen, you mean. He cornered me after I came from the powder room and offered for me to be his plaything, an honor that I was only dying to have,” Astoria snarled sarcastically and Zabini mocking raised his brows.
“You’re not interested in getting the fine treatment like some of the other girls here? Not looking to weasel your way into a marriage?” Zabini asked her nastily and Astoria’s hand twitched towards her wand again but she reluctantly held off.
There was a slight silence that was only broken up as Zabini ate a few more peaches, offering her none and watching her fury play across her face in amusement.
“I could say a few things about you; assume some unnerving actions that I’ve caught you doing and judge you completely by them.” Astoria said helpfully and for a moment he looked briefly shocked before he roared with laughter.
She wasn’t at all certain why he was laughing but after a while he raised one of his hands in what might have been both apology and a way to ward her off. “I like you,” Zabini said after a while. “You’re not nearly as stupid as I thought you were. Good for you.”
“Thanks, I live for your opinion.” Astoria said dryly. That caused his lips to twitch all the more, “you’re nothing but a spoiled little rich boy that probably just got bored of being around his own kind and decided to make mummy a bit angry by having a hissy fit. And here I was admiring you,” she said unthinkingly and she cursed.
Zabini finished eating his fill of peaches before offering her the jar again and she shook her head at him before he placed the top back on and set it back on the self.
A silence fell that was only broken when the servants began talking and laughing with each other outside, “You have a need to become a traitor, Greengrass?”
She and Scorpious were practically traitors already and her family was by no means anything pleasant with the things that they did. Astoria longed to be what she wanted to be without any lies or secrets keeping her down, “…Maybe, I do.” She whispered.
“I don’t hold it against you and I’ll keep it a secret if that’s what you’re worried about.” Zabini murmured curiously as he stared at her profile, his eyes roaming over her. “Your earlier assumption about me couldn’t be more wrong, though you were right about me being quite bored.”
Astoria glanced at him and saw that he had moved a bit closer to her, but his eyes were on her hair and she jumped a little as he reached out and tucked a stray lock behind her ear. “What do you—?”
Zabini sighed. “That was bothering the hell out of me. I apologize; I should remember that you are the same girl that called me a filthy pureblood.” He said with a grin and Astoria stared up at him incredulously, “you don’t have to apologize for it, as I am what I am.”
Scorpious would be very pleased with that answer and for a moment she wondered what her brother and sister were up to and hoped that this night would come to an end soon. “I should apologize, or at least thank you for protecting me from Malfoy and the others after I fainted.”
“Your corset was much too tight. Are you still unwell?” Zabini asked curiously and she stared at him in surprise at his concern. They stood closely together but she wasn’t able to step away, “I was worried for a moment that you would pass out again as you ranted and raved at Malfoy— while hilarious, but dangerous in a weakened condition.”
Astoria wondered if he talked a lot in front of people he could actually abide and she imagined him for a moment chatting with the servants. “You’re odd,” she said and he nodded in agreement before tilting his head at her thoughtfully, “but I’m fine, thank you for asking.”
Zabini shrugged one of his shoulders while running his eyes along the length of her throat before he asked. “Did Malfoy take a bite out of you? I thought that he would have left a bruise on your throat at least, he was eyeing it all evening.”
“No, he didn’t,” Astoria said sharply but he only smiled at her disarmingly and she felt an uncomfortable blush creep into her cheeks. “Why are you so concerned with what Malfoy wants to do to me? I thought it was obvious.”
“Oh, it’s very obvious. He’s wanted you for a while, he thinks that no one notices but I was able to tell that whenever you walked into the room, his entire face lit up,”
Zabini made an odd motion with his hands and smiled dramatically and she let out a nervous giggle. “Cute,” he said to the sound before continuing on, “your lack of interest in him makes you interesting prey. I’d advise you not to give in, as he’ll ditch you fast after a few quick rounds.”
Astoria flushed in irritation but she knew this without him having to tell her and another silence fell between them, Zabini continuing to make mocking faces until she actually laughed. “Would you stop doing that? We’re supposed to be hiding!”
“Sorry,” Zabini said and his face fell for a moment before they stood still for nearly two minutes before he started up again, apparently very bored. Why he was so at ease with her boggled her mind but Astoria found him slightly more entertaining than she would have thought, “has the game started yet?”
“Oh, some time ago.” Astoria said as she distractedly stared at his face, wondering how he was able to stretch and pull at it so easily. It must be some sort of magic and she reached up to touch him and then let her hands fall to her sides as pure revulsion struck her, “…you weren’t interested in playing earlier. What made you give in?”
Zabini had watched the action of her hands for a moment but didn’t say anything to it, though he did step a bit back from her to give her some space.
“I wasn’t in the best of moods. My mother forced me to come to this horrid place after I’d decided to run off to Diagon Alley, there’s a flat that’s taking in people that’s above an old apothecary.”
Astoria stared at him in astonishment. He was willing to toss his life behind so easily to follow his own and she asked, “So you’re seventeen?” he shook his head and she felt her mouth falling open in surprise, “you were going to run away from home at sixteen?”
“It was a sweet dream. But Mother snuffed it out by reminding me that she’s not well, and so I promised that I would stay until after I graduate and get my inheritance.” Zabini said and he sounded very weary and aggravated. She wondered if he were hoping his mother would die, “And plus, Greengrass, I find Samantha Travers to be repugnant.”
Astoria hadn’t been expecting this but she stared at him for a moment or two before folding her arms and saying. “She was rather interested in you.”
Zabini shuddered. “So?”
“…And it would have been awkward if you had gotten me.” Astoria said calmly.
“No it wouldn’t have been.” Zabini said just as calmly and Astoria was aware that his eyes had become a bit hooded and she took a step away. “Easy, I’m not going to hurt you.” Sighing, he said wistfully, “the things that I would have done to you if Malfoy hadn’t have cheated.”
Astoria was thrust out of her thoughts of how quickly she would have to run from him if they had gotten each other. “Cheated?”
“You didn’t notice? He hesitated for just a second before he gave me the bag, I’m thinking he used a simple spell on the pieces and because the Dark Lord is in control of the Ministry, underage sorcery is the last thing on their minds.” Zabini said with a frosty expression.
Astoria didn’t find this all too shocking and she frowned for a moment before thinking of how furious Malfoy would be if she pointed this out to him.
The fact that Zabini had had no problem with getting her in the game posed millions of questions in her mind, none of them complimentary and she somehow found herself holding her tongue on the matter. “I don’t know why, but he won’t leave me alone.”
Zabini gave her a reassuring smile that made his entire face look different and the little orbs of light that he had created around them seemed to float above their heads.
“There’s something about you, I suppose. The fact that you must have told him no and that you hate purebloods, don’t share a dorm in the Slytherin common room and act as though someone will kill you at any minute would intrigue anyone.”
“How would you know all of that—?”
“I notice a lot of things.” Zabini said simply. “While dinner was being served, I noticed that you don’t eat your vegetables, that you’re left handed and that you think your hair is too tight. You kept trying to loosen your pins.”
Astoria had done all of these things and she was slightly embarrassed by his astute description of her and she couldn’t bring herself to say anything to it.
The fact that someone had noticed the mundane things she did was more disturbingly intimate than she would have thought, “My mum insists on dressing me like a doll. But I know more than she does that I’ll never get an offer to get married, my sister Emily will be sold off before me.”
Zabini laughed a little and then crossed his arms a bit before pressing his ear to the door to listen for activity. “You don’t sound as if you’re really shocked.”
“Emily is a lot prettier than I am and she’s a pureblood. That will get her through to a lot of fine proposals but I’m half blood and no real pureblood is going to want to be with me,” Astoria said bitterly while looking at him, wondering why she was revealing so much.
“Pureblood men are snobbish by nature but I’m sure that someone out there will enjoy that prickly attitude of yours.” Zabini said lightly and Astoria gave him a look. He was still listening for any sound and said after a moment, “Malfoy probably hasn’t come this way. He might think you’re hiding in some dark corner waiting for him to bite you.”
“I don’t care what he thinks, he disgusts me.” Astoria hissed but she thought of the odd conversation that she had had with Malfoy shortly before and furrowed her brow.
“If he doesn’t catch you tonight, he’ll make life miserable for you at Hogwarts.” Zabini warned and Astoria snorted, Malfoy did this quiet well without even trying.
And her family would be cast into rumors and lies if he had his way but she couldn’t compromise herself for them, not this time and not for someone lower than her. “He stalks me enough.”
Zabini snorted a bit but he didn’t say anything to it and she spent a moment or two considering him before he asked. “You really don’t find him attractive then?”
“No, I don’t.” Astoria tried to block out the memory of his kiss and the promises that he had whispered in her ear and said shakily. “He’d never be able to care for anyone other than himself.”
There was some sort of activity going on outside and a discreet knock came from the kitchen and Zabini let out a relieved breath.
“You’re very right about your assumptions for Malfoy, Greengrass, but for now, let them go.” He was smiling a bit, though he looked very surprised. “We should become better acquainted, I’ve enjoyed this.”
Astoria looked over at him in both confusion and wariness before he opened the door and ushered her to come out.
She slowly did but looked around closely before noting that the servants were rushing out with trays and last minute glasses of champagne, paying them no mind and she hoped that neither of them thought that they had been doing something scandalous. “What’s going on?”
Zabini looked very relieved and he smoothed out his robes and walked out of the kitchen, but not before grabbing an apple from a bowl and stuffing it into his pocket.
At her look, he grinned. “I’m a growing boy, don’t criticize me.” The teasing note in his voice made her smile reluctantly and they walked out of the kitchen together in silence before he said, “the party is over. The servants are just offering last minute treats and drinks, as they say.”
Astoria was blessedly relieved and sent a thanks to the Gods or whoever else was up there for sparing her life.
As they walked down the corridor towards the foyer, she could hear chatter and activity and she stared up at him in pure confusion before frowning thoughtfully, “What are you going to do now that you’re not wanted here any longer?”
“Celebrate. You should come Greengrass, I won’t touch you but we can walk around each other and pretend that we’re dancing,” Zabini said charmingly and Astoria stared up at him for a moment before laughing, unable to understand him. A question was forming in her mind over what he meant by that comment when he overrode her, “are you expecting much company these last few days before the train?”
Astoria would be spending the last few days of her lonely summer doing absolutely nothing but counting the days off on her calendar with reluctance. She would be back in Hogwarts in her dorm, invisible to the world for another year, “…No,” she said warily.
Zabini appeared slightly pleased with that knowledge and she looked up at him with narrowed eyes before he said. “Since the two of us have bonded over this horrible night, I’d advise you to allow me to come for dinner.”
“…You’re asking to come to dinner?” Astoria asked and she was briefly flattered before she thought of how dangerous it would be for both of them.
Her family could lie as easily as anyone else, their skill in the art was nearly as strong as their need for revenge but she couldn’t imagine having a pureblood in her home. “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”
Zabini took the rejection with a bit of a frown before asking her stiffly. “Why do you hate purebloods?” in a disappointed tone.
“Why do you need to know?” Astoria countered back and they stood together for a moment or two before she said hastily. “I appreciate you helping me, I really do but we don’t know each other well enough and I’m sorry but I’m skeptical of what you might want. Thanks again, really,” she said honestly before walking as fast as she could away from him.
Something slipped from her sweaty fingers but she ignored it and continued onward, longing to be reunited with her family and have this night end.
As she rounded a corner, someone grabbed her around the waist and pressed her to the wall, “Don’t think that for one moment that this is over between us, Greengrass. I will figure you out and Merlin knows that I’m going to kill you for that little stunt you pulled in my lounge,” Draco Malfoy hissed into her face.
Astoria struggled and felt nothing but fear going through her system as she met his grey eyes with her violet ones.
He had more nerve than she would have given him credit for, the house being filled to the brim with guests, Zabini not too far away, “H-how did you know where I was? Let go of me!”
“Servants gossip quite a bit and I’m curious to know what really happened in that pantry. Aren’t you?” Malfoy snarled into her face and she recoiled a bit. “You’ll easily give yourself to him but not to me and refusing me to go for that blood traitor is going to put your family into disgrace.”
Emily had assumed correctly but she hadn’t said anything about Malfoy trying to kill her over her ridiculous plan. “I’m not involved with Zabini or anyone! But he’s a damn better sight than you’ll ever be!” Astoria hissed at him.
If they were caught like this, then the rumors would spread and her worst nightmares would be realized for certain.
Malfoy was aware of this as well but he was too furious to care, “I don’t care if you’re lying to me or not. I told you that I would have you no matter what the circumstances and I’ll be damned if I let that bastard have you.”
“I don’t belong to you, Malfoy. I have never wanted you and I never will!” Astoria cried in disgust as she felt a bit of pain. When he had slammed her against the wall she had been too startled and afraid to notice that her head had snapped back.
Malfoy’s lips thinned disbelievingly before he pressed his mouth against hers.
It was a deliriously aggressive kiss and by the time he allowed her to breathe again, Astoria was gripping the front of his robes, her cheeks flushed. “How bloody stupid do you think that I am? You want me but you’re too scared to take me so I’ll take you whether you hate me or not.”
“You’re mental!” Astoria panted harshly and he nodded in agreement, unable to deny it as he pressed his lips to her throat. Shivers broke out along her skin, “Malfoy—” she said fiercely, pushing at him as hard as she could.
Malfoy released her only to cup her face in his hands, his expression wild and completely devoid of anything that appeared even remotely human.
“I just don’t understand it. Anything you want,” he whispered darkly and Astoria shook her head and he asked nastily, “So you want me to ruin your family and leave you pathetic fools in shreds?”
“No!” Astoria cried furiously, her fear being tossed aside as quickly as it had been brought into her blood. The despicable nature of him was nearly too overwhelming, “Don’t, please—”
Malfoy’s lips turned up with delight and she cursed fluently before he licked warningly at her lower lip if she dared to scream. “So is that a yes?” he whispered, his eyes appearing to darken until they shone like blue emeralds.
Astoria glowered at him in pure hatred. This was her last opportunity to save her family, to insure that her parents and Emily and Scorpious were happy and she felt tears of frustration prickling at the corners of her eyes before feeling her lips tremble. “I don’t think I heard you. Speak up, sweet. Say yes to me,” he commanded gently.
The force of her heart was so strong that she could hear each and every beat as strongly as he must have; his body was pressed threateningly close to her own.
Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and she inhaled raggedly before saying weakly, “No, Malfoy. I won’t do it.”
Malfoy released her immediately and he took a few steps back, looking slightly demented before he gripped her by her chin.
Astoria met the vicious look in his eyes unblinkingly and saw that while it angered him, he was also fascinated and his tone turned oddly soothing, “I’m going to ruin you, be aware of that.”
Astoria knew that her family would have to suffer but she wouldn’t lower herself for anyone and especially not him, “Be aware that I can do the same and you’ll regret this. You’ll regret getting involved with me.”
“We’ll see who the winner in the end is Half and Half. By the time I’m done with you, you won’t be able to crawl without asking me for permission,” Malfoy said sweetly before straightening out his robes and striding away, as if he had done nothing.
Astoria was weak and she tried not to allow herself to sink to her knees as shame and rage took their toll on her.
She hated Draco Malfoy but she would not allow him to see her crumble. A Greengrass simply fought back and they never, ever let a grudge go and she only hoped that she would be the one ripping him apart.
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