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A Force Of Wills by Gabriella Hunter
Chapter 9 : Exposed
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4

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A/N: I know, I know. You've all been dying to know what happened and I'm sorry for taking ages but I had something of a writers block that wouldn't go away. Like an itch or something. Regardless, here are Astoria and Blaise. Please enjoy ladies (And gents?), much love from Gabbie.

Astoria felt the heavy press of his eyes on the smooth curve of her throat, settling gently there before raising them to ponder the sight of her brown hair. The pressure of it made her skin break out in a cold sweat as she tended to the locks, feeling his eyes resting there strongly as she worked through the tangles with a thin comb, his stare taking in every long, slow stroke.

But when she chanced a glance over her shoulder, she saw that her strange host wasn’t regarding her at all but was merely considering his hands. He sat in the couch across from her quietly and for a moment she wondered if she had imagined the feel of his gaze on her. The two of them were rather quiet, the next day being her final moments at the Estate before they were at Hogwarts. And the thought of parting weighed heavily on them, like an overly warm blanket.

Though she had been here for nearly a week, it felt as if it had been for far longer, the Estate having become familiar in its own way.  Astoria ran the comb through her hair again, thinking and worrying what her family was doing in their search for her.

There were many people in Knockturn Alley that owed her father information and they would be all too pleased to give her up if they caught some sign or hint of her, which was why going into Diagon Alley, would be impossible.

How she would be able to get her school things was beyond her and she wouldn’t be seventeen for another two months so she wouldn’t be able to Transfigure her face into anything that might lure away curious bystanders. Anxiously, she lowered the comb from her hair and stared into the fireplace in front of her, wondering what her father would do to her if he finally had her in his grasp again.

Astoria had never disobeyed her family before and the punishment for it might just have her being locked into her room for the remainder of the year or worse and she didn’t want to think about that just now, even though her heart iced over. The longer she stayed, the more they would worry about what she had revealed about the family to strangers…if their secrets were suddenly out in the open and if they would be thrown into Azkaban.

There were many people that her family had hurt and they needed the purebloods and the people that wanted revenge on them to stay in business. Astoria didn’t think that her father would be able to survive without it. It had been in the family for so long that settling into the sort of respectability that made people normal was impossible for all of them.

Her great-grandfather had started it and Astoria’s father was keeping it alive, eager to replenish their wealth but also to crush every pureblood and gain a bit of sick satisfaction in the progress. “Tell me what you’re thinking, your face is frightening.” She heard Blaise say and Astoria jumped and found herself meeting his curious and rather rude stare.

“Charming, aren’t you?” Astoria snapped dryly and he laughed, as if she had said something highly amusing. She fingered the comb in her hands, “I was thinking about school and my family.” That caused his smile to fade and he became contemplative and silent, perhaps wondering what he could ask her and what he wouldn’t dare to. “Earlier, I told you to ask me something but you didn’t ask what I thought you would.”

This had confused her greatly after they had cleaned themselves up from the dusty hallway floor and politely parted ways for a while, though he had gripped her hand for far longer before Astoria had reluctantly pulled away. With all that she hadn’t told him, she had expected some sort of question about her life, her family but he had asked her nothing at all except for if she were happy here in this house with him.

Astoria had been embarrassed by the force of her response, hating the thought of leaving…though not ready to verbally admit that she was afraid of leaving him. Her heart decided to flutter painfully and she pressed her hand over her chest to stop it, still just as confused and humiliated as she had been earlier.

“What sort of question did you think I would ask you, Astoria?” Blaise asked calmly and she felt her cheeks turning very warm at the sound of her name coming from his lips. They hadn’t spoken much during dinner and this was the first time that he had said it since their fight earlier and for some strange reason, she was incredibly embarrassed. “Such a flattering shade of pink.” He teased.

Astoria felt a chill gripping her and she recalled something that she would have rather forgot and looked away from him as words bounced in her skull. “You can try and pretend that you hate me but I’m no fool, I can offer you much more than anyone else can, be aware of that the next time you turn so red…” Malfoy’s voice was eerily soothing as she felt her lips stinging from one of his kisses that night.

Even while here at the Estate and far away from him, he still managed to sicken her. But what she had done that night made a pang settle into her stomach because she could only imagine what he was doing to her family, what sort of lies he was spreading about her.

Because of him, she was quite sure that many pureblood families assumed the worst about her from an experience in a pantry with Blaise that had never and would never happen. Hogwarts would be more than torturous but she felt a slight, guilty wave of relief for knowing that she would never be in the Slytherin common room and never having to endure the sneers and comments from the wretches like Parkinson and Travers.

Blaise’s voice cut through her thoughts and he sounded a little concerned at the faraway look in her eyes and asked. “Are you all right?” Astoria jumped and gave him a wan smile that did nothing but have him frowning sternly, “you’re not eager to be returning to school, I see. That is actually a question that I wanted to ask, concerning where you go while we’re there,”

Astoria felt the hairs on the back of her neck standing up in defiance but she then stared into his eyes and saw nothing but worry. It was so stunning that it almost frightened her but she knew that the small bridge of truth between them wouldn’t be built without her cooperation and she no longer felt as if hiding everything were fair.

He had done too much for her, “You want to know where I go? I thought that…Malfoy was the only one who noticed but you mentioned something about it before, I think,” she trailed off, vaguely recalling Blaise questioning this in the pantry that had doomed their reputations.

“There are quite a few things that I would like to know about you. I don’t even know what your favorite color is or what sort of panties you wear,” Blaise said earnestly and Astoria found herself laughing even as the words annoyed her, which had been the point. A smile started to curve his mouth and the sight made her oddly breathless, “but where do you go, if you can answer me that?”

Astoria knew that telling him would be very dangerous when she was supposed to be hidden and kept a secret. There were a lot of people that would want her father dead after all and using one of his children to get to him would be far too easy if they caught them off guard, though Emily had been kidnapped so often in the past that the thrill had gone for her. That had her frowning, “I go to my own dorm in the school. It’s in the east wing.”

Blaise took these words in with the sort of dignity that was beyond Astoria’s understanding and she nervously watched him. Suddenly, revealing anything about her family caused her to feel nothing but shame and she wanted to run as far as she could away from him, “And why would you need to have one?”

Astoria felt her lips pressing stubbornly together, her cheeks turning red with shame and embarrassment. The intense way that he was regarding her didn’t help, “My dad runs a very… accomplished business. People would want to hurt me to find out his secrets,” she found herself fumbling, her eyes darting over his frame, so elegantly placed across from her own.

There was a bit of a silence after that, that was only broken up by the spitting of the fire and Astoria winced from the sound of it. Just now, she was glad that Helena Zabini was out with her friends for the night and unable to pay witness to the most humiliating moment of her life, “I was under the impression that your family was rather…” Blaise started.

“We’re not rich. You don’t have to be polite,” Astoria said dryly.

Blaise took in her face apologetically but he looked around at all the faded, simple grandeur of the room with a slight smirk. It was unkind, “I don’t have a right to be such a snob in my current predicament.” But Astoria knew that there was still pureblood pride swimming in his blood somewhere no matter if he had made himself out to be a traitor.

While she didn’t say anything for a moment, Astoria found herself staring at him in a way that made her both embarrassed and confused. Suddenly, the room felt too small and she wanted him to be a bit closer to her, “My parents want all of us to marry purebloods to give the family name a bit of status and fortune. Back in the day, we were like the Blacks and Malfoy’s before some family members got greedy,” she said in a hurried rush.

Blaise came out of his musings slowly and turned away from the wall that he had been staring at to meet her eyes. Astoria glanced away, her heart pounding too heavily, “I’ve heard many purebloods complaining about the same thing. Only relenting in the fact that they could choose whom they married, so long as they were pure and had a good vault of Galleons.”

“I’m not a pureblood.” Astoria said and the thought of being one was revolting and her old habits nearly rose to the surface. It made her feel like the lowliest scum but she shook it off and eyed him coolly, “don’t you remember your former friends calling me Half and Half?”

Blaise’s lips thinned and he shot her a warning look that caused her to stiffen daringly, as if they would go into another heated argument. Instead, his lips turned up in a smile, “I remember Malfoy calling you that for spitting in his face back in first year.” That had her laughing, “And then, I believe you smacked him in the face with a Transfiguration textbook.”

Astoria recalled that night with a wave of distaste, though Malfoy had deserved it for sneaking up on her in the dark, wanting her to come back to the Slytherin common room with him. He reminded her of a monster that she couldn’t quite be rid of, “That was during OWL year. Did he complain about it?”

“Immensely— I didn’t hear the end of it for days but I must ask. What did he try to do to you in return?” Blaise asked with dark, chilling amusement. His loathing for Malfoy was very obvious and it made Astoria wonder what he planned on doing to him and what the creature had done to cause so much hate.

But she found herself shrugging and answering. “He never got the chance to do anything to me because we had OWL week and those Weasley twins caused all that commotion.” She said and Blaise looked severely disappointed.

“I’m sure you would have reduced him to nothing with the way your temper gets, Astoria,” Blaise said with a grin and she blushed at the prideful tone in his voice. After a minute or two, he asked carefully, studying her face, “so tell me, where is your dorm?”

Astoria was very wary and disappointed that the mood had shifted once again and she thought of her lonely dorm with true loathing. She absently trailed her fingers in her hair and watched Blaise’s eyes flicking to the strands for a short second before he looked away, “The directions change each time just in case anyone is following me so they wouldn’t be able to use the same route. I always get them in my mail, along with my Hogwarts letter so I don’t know the way this time.”

“So your father arranged this with Dumbledore before he died?” Blaise asked, hesitating on the last word a little. Though Astoria didn’t know the whole story, she knew that Malfoy had somehow been involved in the Headmaster’s demise on the Astronomy Tower, though Snape had been the one to land the final blow.

Hogwarts would be a very different place when they returned. “No, it was some of the teachers. Quite a few people owe my father for what he’s done.” Astoria hadn’t been told what his father had done for those people since she wasn’t involved in the family business but she had never wanted to know. She didn’t want to think that she had someone’s evil deeds on her fingers, “I’ve never met them but they always follow through with directions every year.”

There was a mall distraction in the form of the fire popping and Astoria glanced at it, wondering if it were displeased with all that she’d told so far. “Your father sounds like an interesting man, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.”  Blaise eventually said, his brow furrowing with heavy dislike and bringing her out of her thoughts.

“You wouldn’t be insulting me. I know what sort of person my dad is,” Astoria replied in a surprisingly steady voice. Some part of her loved him of course but the other part knew that she was nothing more than what he wanted her to be,  “he can be the nicest person in the world one minute and then the meanest in the next.”

Blaise’s eyes seemed to flicker with a painful empathy and she wondered if his mother had ever in her life been kinder to him. “You’re running from him now so I’ll believe that.” He said with a heavy inhale but he didn’t ask her why she was running. “I’m guessing that he was angry with what you did at Malfoy Manor and wanted you to make peace with him? His family is highly respected,” he sneered nastily and Astoria felt a prickle of unease.

There was a lot of hatred brewing within him for Malfoy and she was very curious but hoped that she had nothing at all to do with it. After living with a family like her own, she had learned not to get herself involved in someone else’s revenge when she’d seen how it had beaten both her siblings down over the years, “He was upset with me but I’ll never be a friend to Draco Malfoy.” Astoria replied after a tense beat.

That seemed to please Blaise and she wondered if he thought that she would fall into his arms someday and she snorted at the ridiculously vile image. Malfoy had gotten far too many kisses from her to last a lifetime and even after all this time she felt bile rising, “I think I’ve learned enough about your father for a while,” he said with a disapproving frown before changing the subject, “tell me more about your siblings. I’ve never talked about my sister before today,” the words sounded a bit forced but he managed them.

Astoria found herself wetting her lips and felt a bolt of sensation go through her at the way his eyes watched the movement before he glanced away with a frown. It took a moment for her heart to slow down, “…That’s a lot to tell. I don’t even know where to start talking about my siblings.” She found herself saying after a deep, anxious inhale. “It could take days.”

Blaise appeared very surprised by this and his eyes widened a little until she thought that they might fall out of his skull. But after a second, he relaxed and remarked, “That brother could put the fear into a troll with the way he glares at everything,” though he tried to smile.

Astoria laughed because it was very true but her brother had to be tough with the work that he was ordered to do, with the terrible people he had dealt with. No amount of Galleons would be able to make him forget all that he’d seen and done. “Scorpious is just very overprotective. I’m the youngest and our parents are really strict on us so we don’t get much time to have fun.” She said with a dark frown.

Blaise stiffened with obvious displeasure at the mention of her father again but she hadn’t been able to stop the words from flying out. “I could tell that your brother was very overprotective of you, the way your family acts is very peculiar. So many secrets,” he murmured and she felt oddly exposed and annoyed that he was so observant, “though I do understand overbearing parents.”

“You do?” Astoria asked in surprise. Helena Zabini had no real love for her son so she found this very surprising and Blaise curled his upper lip in a sneer that was worthy of a haughty king, “I didn’t mean to—!”

Blaise laughed at her and she thought the sound of it was more mocking than humorous and she narrowed her eyes on him sharply. “You’re so fun to tease.” He said and for just one moment, Astoria saw his gaze lower to her mouth before he informed. “Mother wants me to marry and settle down with a rich pureblood girl but I have no intention of ever marrying.”

Astoria had no issues whatsoever about marriage. She just didn’t enjoy the thought of being shackled to someone she didn’t love and the thought was made worse when she imagined everything she possessed being owned by some cruel pureblood like Malfoy or Nott, “…That’s the only reason why we go to pureblood parties. Our parents want all of us to settle down but I’d rather pitch myself from the nearest window—”

“I was able to gather as much. But how do your siblings feel about it?” Blaise asked curiously and Astoria thought of Emily and Scorpious with a pang. She missed them terribly, “your sister seemed to fit right into the pureblood crowd but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you being so enthusiastic, not that I could blame you.”

Astoria had never spoken to him before the other night at the Malfoy Manor but she laughed a little. If only she had, then maybe she would have enjoyed her times at those parties but something in her told her that Blaise might have been a different person then, someone she might not have needed to know at all, “Emily loves it, she wants to get married but Scorpious and I don’t want to settle for a pureblood just because of our family.”

“And I’m assuming that having someone like Malfoy is out of the question?” Blaise asked teasingly and she made a face of utter disgust that had him laughing. “If he’s not careful, your brother might have him taken care of,” there was a tone to his voice, as if he wouldn’t mind that at all.

There was something about his words though, that made her shudder. “We can’t go around doing that sort of thing. It’s why there are only three of us now,” Astoria said unthinkingly and she clapped a hand to her mouth, feeling foolish for letting that slip.

Blaise of course, heard the words and was now taking in her expression and she wondered if she appeared like some quivering bird. “And what did you mean by that?” he asked carefully.

Astoria lowered her hand from her mouth and stared at him levelly, seeing that she had startled him and unsettled him. She didn’t know why she said it, but she did, “I had another brother that died, something about what you said reminded me of what Scorpious talked about at Malfoy’s party,” she said firmly.

Blaise took in her expression carefully, perhaps sensing something that might have been too disturbing or dark to comprehend. Astoria felt as if the carpet beneath her feet was crumbling and she swallowed hard, hating the look on his face, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. How long ago was this?” he asked, the clear bemusement almost haunting.

“Before I came around. Leo, that was his name, he had already been dead for a while, I never even knew him but I’ve been told about him from Emily and Scorpious.” Astoria replied and she was surprised that her voice was so steady. She had been told how he had died of course but it made her want to run screaming from the room and so she gave him no details, “but they never mention him very often.”

Blaise was silent for a long time and she wanted to know what he was thinking but that was impossible. She could never truly follow his train of thoughts and for a second she hated what he might have been thinking about her and the family that she had run away from. “Why do you say before you came around. Were you born in the normal way or are you trying to tell me you were hatched?”

Astoria stared at him in disbelief, her jaw dropping. “Is that all you were thinking?” she demanded and Blaise just stared…and stared until she wanted to punch him as hard as she could. “I’m human! I wasn’t hatched, you git!”

“You’re the one who worded it strangely. What was I supposed to think?” Blaise asked, as if the question had been entirely normal and Astoria’s face flushed in aggravation before he sobered, his shoulders relaxing a little. “I am sorry to hear about your brother, that was what I was thinking but there’s so much more that you’re not telling me, isn’t there?”

Astoria found herself looking away from him and staring into the fireplace, trying to calm her nerves and her temper. She had never spoken about Leo to anyone before and he wasn’t mentioned at home either, as if he had never existed at all and she didn’t even know what he looked like, “There are a lot of things that I can’t tell you. But I’m trying to get there,” she found herself saying truthfully.

Blaise seemed to weigh in on her words as if they had true worth and it made her chest feel oddly warmed and heavy. “All right then, I can settle for that. Your family won’t need to know what you’ve told me, I’m a very good liar,” he said with apparent pride.

There was something about his words that gave Astoria’s heart pause and she found her eyes narrowing on him suspiciously. “I’m sure you are,” she said softly and he merely raised his brows at that, not finding it at all odd. Whoever he was trying to hurt would hurt in a very painful way. “My dad says that all of his children have to be good liars if we’re going to deal with purebloods. They can never know what you’re really thinking if you want to get in their circles.”

Blaise chose to stare at her then and she wasn’t sure what he was seeing in her but Astoria felt suddenly vulnerable. “Your father seems to want a lot out of you without asking what you would like,” he murmured after a while, this sort of perceptiveness almost eerie. He gave her a kind smile to ease her fears and it was more precious than any material thing that she had ever been offered, “My father told me that the worst thing to ever do was something you were forced to do,” he whispered.

That seemed to sum up her entire life and she felt a sprinkling of shame. “Would you like to see your father again? I mean, after all this time? I’m sure that if you did, he would be very proud of you.” Astoria whispered after a silence had fallen and she had had nothing to say to the bone numbing truth of his words. “I think he’d like to see how handsome and kind you are, that you’re not—”

“Bitter? Angry? I’ve been all of those things, I’m no saint and I don’t think that I’ll see my father again, not after all this time.” Blaise said coldly as an aged hurt sprang into his eyes and Astoria felt terrible for saying anything at all.

“I’m sorry—” Astoria began desperately.

Blaise interrupted her as something seemed to amuse him and she knew that it wouldn’t bode well for her, with the way he teased and nitpicked. “But my, my, Astoria…you think I’m handsome?” he teased and she blushed with pure aggravation and humiliation at the obvious pleasure it brought him.

Astoria replied crisply. “I was just being nice.” And he roared with laughter because she would say nothing else about it. He knew what he looked like and he was, surely, the most handsome person in the world. “You’ll be Potions Master and live in your own flat and eat all you want, and you’ll get really fat and won’t be able to walk without hobbling.”

“My future sounds almost bleak!” Blaise laughed loudly and Astoria felt a bit of sadness for her own future welling up. She couldn’t imagine what she would be doing after Hogwarts and he seemed to read her mind because he said, “but not doing what you want will only leave you being the one unhappy.”

Astoria knew that he was right and wondered how he had learned to be so wise but thought that he had had his own bitter takes on life. There was no father here to take care of him and no mother to offer comfort and her heart ached for him, “My parents claim to want the best for us but the best for us is really what’s best for them and my dad’s business. They don’t care what I want.”  

“Your parents sound strangely smothering but you deserve to do as you want, it’s your life, not theirs and you’ll find a place where cacti are respected.” Blaise seemed to both uplift and aggravate her all at once and she shot him a glance that had his lips twitching, “If Mother weren’t constantly getting poisoned by that daughter of hers, I would be on my own now. But I’m trapped until I get my inheritance.”

Astoria narrowed her eyes on him suspiciously as her aggravation started to turn into what was most likely true anger at how casually he had taken this conversation. It hadn’t really sunk in until now, this playful way that he was regarding her, as if he had found out nothing peculiar, “You don’t find all that I’ve said a little weird?”

Blaise merely raised his brows at the sign of her anger and yet he didn’t react to it with the crumbling grasp of sanity that she was looking for, “I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting half of what you told me. But I’ve been able to guess that whatever you’ve been hiding wouldn’t be what anyone would call normal.”

“And you’re perfectly all right with that?” Astoria asked with a disbelieving laugh. She felt exposed, naked and completely frightened of the bond or curse that she had just created, “I’ve told you so much about me! I’ve never talked about Leo or my dorm or—”

Blaise’s eyes were widening as if he found her outburst to be simply thrilling and Astoria had the strongest urge to smack him as hard as she could. Carefully, he reeled himself in, “I’m sorry. It’s frightening isn’t it? Being able to talk to someone so easily,” he soothed and her face flushed because it was true.

Astoria fingered with the comb in her hands and then started to brush a few locks anxiously, her eyes darting to the fireplace for comfort. “I’ve never talked to anyone but my brother and sister about our family and even then, we can never say all that we want to.”

“You should always say what’s on your mind but I’m not at all surprised that you wouldn’t be allowed to do such a thing in your home. Such strange, strange people you all are,” Blaise said loftily and she shot him a venomous look that had his brows rising challengingly, “I’ll take all your complaints if you’ll give them to me.”

Astoria had never heard anything like that in her life and she stared at him in disbelief before taking her comb from her hair and settling her hands on her lap. It was such a dangerous thing what was happening between them, “I have a few complaints about you,” she spat and he roared with laughter, “there’s something almost like a bully in you.” She said dryly.

Blaise pouted and she saw a flicker of something in his eyes that made her wonder if this were true or not even though she’d been teasing. There was something rather strange about Blaise Zabini as well and it intrigued and worried her greatly, “What sort of gentleman do you take me for?” he asked with a trace of mock anger in his tone.

“Can’t you at least…lose your temper?” Astoria asked him in confusion, though relief was pounding through her so hard and so fast that it was hard to breathe. “But I suppose this is what you mean when you say that trust works both ways,” she said slowly, completely unsettled.

Blaise broke into an understanding smile that warmed her from the roots of her hair down to the tips of her toes. An obnoxious blush was working into her cheeks, “I think I’ve had enough to do with my temper.” There was a slight silence before he said, “such a curious little thing you are, Astoria.” She blushed all the harder, “I’m getting the feeling that the more I find out about you, the more trouble you’ll become.”

“And you still want me around? Blaise, that’s mental!” Astoria cried. Earlier he had uncomfortably admitted that he didn’t want her to leave the Estate and she had heard his honesty but now she questioned it, “you could be hurt knowing me! I shouldn’t have told you so much. I shouldn’t have said anything at all.”

Blaise watched her with acute interest but she watched his body relaxing and for the first time, she saw that he had been tense. “Astoria, you’re becoming redundant.” She glared at him and he merely raised his brows challengingly at her, his tone stern, “You’ve already said that you would be putting us all in danger, dooming me to the pit of Hades and so on and so forth and I’ve heard enough to catch the hint.”

Astoria just wasn’t able to understand him and she made a motion to stand but found that her legs were weakened. The exhaustion of revealing more about herself was causing that same weakness to grip her and she still felt exposed…at his mercy and if trust was able to do this to her, then she was certain that she had given him a powerful weapon. “…You don’t know what sort of danger you’ll be in now. If my family finds out what I’ve told you.”

“Let them do their worst. I won’t dare ask you what it is that your family does but I see that you trust me and that’s all that matters. Let this be a learning process for both of us because I can actually say that I’m glad to know you,” Blaise said with sincerity, though he looked as embarrassed and confused by it as she did.

Relief like she had never known washed over her after those unusual words and Astoria had to place her hand over her chest to still it. Something had shifted between them and it was the most dangerous and thrilling thing that she had ever felt and it made her slightly dizzy, “No one has ever told me something like that before.” She whispered and she knew that if he were lying, it would simply crush her later.

“You’ve been hoarded and locked away for so long that I’m not at all surprised.” Blaise said and she frowned at this bitter truth being thrust into her face so casually. “I’ve trusted you with things that I’ve never told anyone and you’ve done the same. I feel almost naked,” he purred and she blushed, feeling uncomfortable that he’d latched onto her own emotions so well.

“There are still a lot of things that I can’t say and there are even things they don’t tell me. Emily and Scorpious are the ones who do what our dad wants for right now, I’ve never wanted that sort of life for myself but my dad’s business doesn’t seem like it will ever end, to be honest,” Astoria said in a soft rush of air, now feeling strangely light.

Blaise frowned distastefully but said nothing and allowed her to have her own thoughts for a while before he spoke again, sounding a little angry. “You deserve far better than that. I’ll give you all the money you need, as well as some much needed tutoring,” she frowned. “And we’ll both be able to do as we please.”

Astoria had no idea what she would do when she got out of Hogwarts and the thought made her very frightened and oddly delighted. But she asked, “You’ll still want to talk to me at school?” Blaise stared at her blankly, as if he found the question lacking in sense, “I’m sure that no one is going to be too pleased with you, after what you did at Malfoy’s party—getting them into trouble for that game.”

Blaise laughed and he looked quite pleased with himself at the memory but she had a feeling that things would not be all too pleasant at Hogwarts. The pureblood Slytherins would dominate the corridors and there would be no one to stop them since Snape was headmaster and he had Death Eaters at his beck and call, “I could care less. Malfoy can’t get what he wants all the time without consequences,” he said bitterly.

Astoria wondered what he meant by that but then wondered if her father was still trying to ruin Lucius Malfoy. But of course he would be; his daughter’s absence would never stop him from doing as he pleased and she felt a burst of fury at his nerve. “Malfoy is the least of my problems,” and yet, even now he was probably plotting his revenge and that made the skin on her body grow cold with unease.

“If he doesn’t know where you are then he can hardly bully you properly.” Blaise said dryly and Astoria knew that he still wanted to know where her dorm was and she felt a bit of wariness shooting through her. “What? Scared that I’ll find out where you slumber and gobble you up?” he teased.

Astoria’s face exploded in a blush at the heat in his words and she watched him roar with laughter and felt disastrously excited. Gripping the comb in her other hand tightly, she stood and started from the room, anxious to be away from her emotions, “Keep guessing. I’ve told you far too much tonight already but I want us to be… friends—there are only so many times that I can punch you, Blaise.”

That caused him to laugh even harder and Astoria sent him a soft smile  before making her way out, barely hearing his footsteps as he followed. “You punch pretty hard for a girl, you know.” Blaise commented and he sounded as if he would know quite a bit about girls and Astoria felt herself frown with distaste, “my girlfriend would have never hit me.”

Astoria felt that same painful bite of jealousy at the reminder that he had had someone else. Vaguely, she recalled Malfoy and his friends talking about it and she turned a little to see him standing a mere few inches away, the distance somehow making her want more. “Why don’t you have a girlfriend anymore?” she dared to ask.

Blaise flinched at the question and his dark eyes narrowed on her until she thought that he was sentencing her to the most painful death. “You must have overheard Pansy or Malfoy going on about her?” Astoria nodded and something flashed across his face that she wasn’t able to name but she saw in that one glimpse that he still cared for the girl very much. She was curious and so very jealous that it stole her breath, “I would rather not talk about her, if you don’t mind.”

Astoria nodded in understanding, wanting to say something more but nothing would come out as she imagined the girl that had had him. She was probably some beautiful pureblood girl, ravenous and sultry…wealthy and sophisticated and possessing the sort of charm that she had never had and for a moment she wanted to sink into the nearest pit. When no such thing appeared, she mentally hung herself and then allowed a stampede of hippogriffs to crush her.

“…I’m sorry.”  Her heart was pounding rapidly but her jealousy was mounting as she hated the girl that had changed him from the promiscuous fiend he had been with Malfoy and his friends.

“You look as if you’ve pitched yourself into the nearest dark hole,” Blaise said with that same alarming perceptiveness. Astoria glared at him and he raised his brows a little bit, finding this not at all to his liking and she imagined herself being rolled down a hill and into the crashing waves of the coldest, chilliest ocean, “when you get married, I’ll be sure to dig it for you.”

Astoria was jerked out of her misery and found herself spluttering stupidly as he came closer, hesitating at the close proximity it would give them. His scent washed over her …sandalwood and crisp spring leaves and she was momentarily thrust into heaven, “W…who says that I want you at my wedding?”

Blaise laughed with mock hurt. “Why wouldn’t you want me there? I’d bring you the most excellent meals and buy you the largest cactus to remember me by,” this had her laughing and the sound carried for a moment before she fixed the comb in her hair just as his eyes flicked to the strands, “I’ll even add on a big, pink bow and a note warning the unfortunate bloke to be wary of your fists.”

“What about my kisses? Emily told me that that’s how a woman can trap a man,” Astoria giggled and the mention of her sister’s advice created a pang in her chest. She did miss her and their mother would be going into shock if she didn’t come home soon but she couldn’t find it in herself to—

The thought trailed away as she felt Blaise’s fingers along the side of her jaw and she was jerked back to their conversation abruptly. “Now,” he whispered softly, his thumb sliding underneath her bottom lip, “What would I know about your kisses?” she heard him ask and their eyes locked.

If there had ever been a moment when she would have wanted to sink into someone completely, it was now but a slight commotion tore them apart. The fireplace behind them flared green and they turned to see Helena Zabini standing in the hearth, laden with purchases…though her eyes were taking in the sight of them with nothing but pure, scalding disbelief. “What have you done?” she asked Blaise and Astoria didn’t need him to dig a pit, when her grave was already opening.

Phew! Now, after this its "Growth" so you Benjamin Malfoy fans unite and after that its "Memories" (Maybe) and after that its back to Ms. Tang and Mr. Weeeasley. Until then be patient! :D




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