Chapter 1 : Pride
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Disclaimer: All canon characters belong to JKR. Also, in this chapter I mention a book by "S. Cartwright" titled "An Analysis of the Seven Deadly Sins"- this book is fictional and was made up by me. :)
The gorgeous chapter image was made by Apocalypse @ TDA!
And now, onwards with our first deadly sin!
She is hiding quietly, desperate not to be found. She can smell the books; the musty scent a consequence of her grandfather's refusal to allow the house-elves to clean his prized tomes. She remembers how he used to spend hours maintaining their beauty, brushing the pages carefully and handling them delicately; a hobby he can no longer indulge in, after a disease called art-write-is has taken over his body. She can see his hands shake when he tries to do something; even at the tender age of seven, she is aware that old age is catching up with him.
She is not used to spending time in this room; in fact, she is not permitted to be here, and so she is not used to the leathery scent of the books or the recent dust that has accumulated upon them. The dust fills the air at her movements, and she coughs; her grandfather's now rarely-frequented study is too stuffy compared to her bedroom and her playroom and the schoolroom, all of which her mother insists is kept airy in the summer and toasty warm throughout winter.
The handle of the door is tried- somebody walking in the hallway must have heard her cough- and Astoria gasps quietly, before scrambling underneath her grandfather's dark mahogany desk. Perhaps if Draco Malfoy cannot see her, if he simply glances around the seemingly empty room and chooses not to search the nooks and crannies, Astoria will remain safe.
“Who's there?” her grandfather's voice calls out, but she remains frozen.
Astoria Greengrass loves and trusts her grandfather, but she has involuntarily played Hide and Seek with Draco in the past, and she knows perfectly well that he bends the rules, begging her parents to help in his search for her on the false pretence that she has been “missing” for too long. He may have enlisted her grandfather's help, taking advantage of their close relationship, and she does not want to be found. She must be the last one that he discovers, she must!
“Homenum revelio,” she hears her grandfather mutter, and then she hears his footsteps approaching his desk, before he finally comes into her sight.
“Astoria!” he exclaims in surprise. “What in Merlin's name are you doing underneath there?”
“Hiding,” she confesses. “Draco's playing Hide and Seek.”
“Ah,” her grandfather gives her a smile of understanding, before pointing his wand at the door. “You can come out now, Astoria; I've locked the door. Nobody can come inside.”
She obeys him, crawling out from her hidey-hole and onto his desk chair. Once again, her beloved grandfather is protecting her. He knows, he understands. Draco Malfoy does not play Hide and Seek in the conventional way; he bullies everybody in to play. In the first round, the last to be discovered is exempt from the game, and can do as they please, while everybody left is forced to play until Draco announces the end of the game.
“Do you want me to have a word with Lucius and Narcissa?” her grandfather asks. “Draco's parents,” he adds, after noticing Astoria's look of confusion.
Astoria shakes her head vehemently. “I'm not a tattle-tale.”
Her grandfather nods in silence, accepting her answer. He is not hindered by a important job at the Ministry, or hosting and attending countless societal events like Astoria's parents are, and so he spends the most time in the Greengrass manor; and surrounded by the problems most, he understands why she does not like visitors, especially Draco Malfoy.
“That boy needs to learn manners,” he mutters to himself, thinking of an event that Astoria remembers well; one winter afternoon, after spending the entire day playing Hide and Seek and having missed lunch because she was hiding- her nanny hadn't noticed, and Daphne told her afterwards that Draco had stolen her food to make her nanny think that he was taking it to Astoria- and out of hunger, she'd abandoned her hiding place to search the kitchen for food.
“Greedy!” She remembers his sneer, even several months later. “Greedy stupid little fatty won't play with her friends because she's scoffing chocolate cake!”
It was unfortunate for Draco that her grandfather had walked into the kitchen at that very moment, and although Astoria still has no idea what had happened after her grandfather had physically dragged Draco out of the room by pulling on his ear, she remembers him looking solemn upon his return, and remembers that she didn't see Draco for a whole blissful month after that.
“Do you believe what Draco says about you?” her grandfather says, interrupting her thoughts.
It takes a few moments for Astoria to understand what he means. Her grandfather remains silent as she recalls the day where, over that plate of sandwiches, he explained to her the notion of bullying, and insisted that she tell him if Draco's behaviour worsened, to which Astoria had promised that she would. She has learnt to disregard what Draco says whenever he hisses into her ear, repeating in her mind everything her grandfather has told her that afternoon: that she is beautiful, clever, kind, loving; that she is everything that Draco Malfoy is not, and that he calls her names because he is jealous of her.
“Only one thing,” she admits, her inability to lie to her grandfather resurfacing.
“And what is that one thing, Astoria?” he asks, as lovingly as always.
She scrambles off of her chair and walks over to the full length mirror in the corner, kept there for her grandfather to ensure that his appearance is groomed to perfection before the rare occasions when he attends an important function. Her grandfather follows her, and she waits until he is standing behind her, his hands resting upon her shoulders. While she waits, she surveys herself in the mirror; seeing dark chocolate hair a duplicate of her father's; the same heart-shaped face that she shares with her sister; the skin colouring of her mother. And she sees the one thing that she has that the rest of her family does not.
“He says they're weird,” she confesses, pointing her finger at her eyes. When her grandfather's brow furrows in confusion, she tries to explain. “They're not green like Mum's and Daphne's and they're not blue like Dad's. They're green and blue and grey all mixed together, and they shouldn't be.”
“No, Astoria. They should look like that,” her grandfather says, and this time it is her turn to become perplexed. “You have your grandmother's eyes; and beautiful eyes they are indeed. Why do you think they stole Draco's attention in the first place? And stole his attention they must have, for how could he possibly comment on eyes if they were not enchanting enough to captivate him in the first place?”
How can she argue with that, with the eloquent words that her grandfather always knows what to say at the right time? How can she explain that perhaps it is the imperfection of her eyes that seized Draco's attention and not their beauty, when she knows that her incorrigible phrasing will pale in comparison to her grandfather's poetic expressions?
“Astoria Lettice Greengrass,” he says, his hands still holding her shoulders reassuringly, “forget whatever Draco Malfoy has told you, and remember this. You are a Greengrass, of noble and ancient blood. Your ancestors were classmates of Merlin; most likely friends too, for he was a Slytherin and so are we, always. You are destined for the most beautiful future you could ever witness, my darling Astoria, and one day, you will stand amongst throngs of your worshippers. In the distance you will see Draco Malfoy standing alone, set apart from those you hold close to your heart, and he will regret all of his foolish behaviour and the cruel taunts that he inflicts upon you now. That day will come, my beautiful girl, and when it does, this childhood of yours will seem nothing more than a bad dream you will have had to endure in order to gain the eternal glory that you deserve.”
When her grandfather ends his speech, Astoria releases a breath she does not know that she has been holding in. She looks up at her grandfather, turning around to face him instead of his reflection.
“Really, Grandpa?” she asks, her eyes wide in fascination. “That'll really happen?”
“Of course, Astoria,” he smiles. “Why wouldn't it?”
Dozens of reasons why such an occasion wouldn't happen, that such a future doesn't exist, run through Astoria's mind. And yet when she looks up at her grandfather, all of those reasons pale into insignificance. He is right. She is Astoria Greengrass, and she should be proud of who she is.
She thinks now, that maybe Draco Malfoy is wrong.
“He's a respectable pure-blood!” Daphne complains, staring at her sister as they stand on Platform 9 and ¾.
“He's a bully, Daphne!” Astoria retorts as quietly as she can, aware that their mother will become livid if their argument gains unwanted attention. “Have you forgotten how he always bent the rules for himself when we were younger?”
“So what?” Daphne shrugs. “He's a Malfoy; that alone allows him to do that.”
“We're Greengrasses! We deserve-”
Another cough emits from Astoria's mouth, preventing her from continuing her answer; the smoke from the train choking her slowly. She does not understand why dust and smoke and the fur of Daphne's cat cause her lungs to compress, or why those insignificant trivialities affect her so much when they do not impact upon anybody else she knows. Her grandfather says that it is because she is extraordinary; but surely being special does not go hand in hand with suffering?
We deserve better than Malfoy, she thinks, but she cannot repeat her unfinished sentence because her mother and her grandfather are returning from their conversations with other Slytherin parents, and she does not want them to know that she has just been bickering with her sister in full view of the mundane public.
“Daphne, behave well at school as always; work hard in your classes and enjoy your trips to Hogsmeade this year,” their mother smiles at Daphne comfortably; a smile that she rarely directs towards Astoria. “Make sure you allow Astoria to sit with you and your friends; it'll be a daunting journey for her, especially as there aren't many new Slytherins this year.”
She can tell from the look on Daphne's face that she will not be sitting with her sister: that the likes of Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode and Tracey Davis consider themselves better than her. Their opinions do not affect her; the Greengrass name can be traced back to Merlin's years while their family names' cannot, and her bloodline is far older and purer than theirs. They are simply jealous of her, just like Draco Malfoy is, and with good reason, for they are insignificant compared to her.
Astoria smiles at her mother; kisses her mother's cheek as is customary for well-bred girls like her, before turning to her grandfather and hugging him tightly. She knows that she will miss him when he is gone; and as such she abandons all the manners that she has been taught whenever it concerns her grandfather. It annoys her mother endlessly, but her mother does not understand; her mother allows the other pure-blood wives to supersede her in importance, when it should be the opposite.
“Astoria,” her mother says, the tone of her voice conveying a warning for Astoria to keep to the rules. “Lucius and Narcissa have assured me that Draco will be mentoring you whilst at school, so please don't bring shame upon this family by overreacting to petty comments.”
Still in her grandfather's arms, Astoria can feel him tense in anger, but his face remains smiling at her although the light within his eyes has faded. He kisses her cheek and whispers a goodbye in her ear, before he lets her go and she and Daphne quickly board the Hogwarts Express, both girls leaning out of the window to wave goodbye. Within minutes, Platform Nine and Three Quarters has faded into the distance and Daphne steps back into the carriage, looking at Astoria sadly.
“I'm sorry, Tory,” she says, using a nickname that only she is permitted to use. “I wish...”
“You wish what?” Astoria asks curiously.
“Nothing,” Daphne answers, shaking her head. “Go on- you'd better find a seat quick, or you'll end up sitting with Mudbloods.”
Astoria watches Daphne walk away, looking at her older sister's retreating back with confusion. She doesn't understand what Daphne wishes for; or even why her sister is wishing for something. After all, Greengrasses do not need to wish for anything: they deserve to be granted whatever they desire.
“Hey,” a boy says, and Astoria turns around in surprise. “Are you a first-year?”
“Yes,” she answers, trying to work out what family this stranger is from; he looks around her age, so she ought to have encountered him sometime in her life even if his parents do not frequent the social scene as often as hers do.
“I thought so. You look lost; like I did last year. Come on, you can sit in our compartment. Who was that girl, by the way?” the boy grins, walking towards a compartment at the end of the train.
“My sister,” Astoria replies, following him into the empty room but unsure of why she is doing so.
“Your sister?” the boy exclaims in shock. “She just left you on your own to go and sit with her friends! I have a little brother and if he comes to Hogwarts next year, I'd introduce him to my friends instead of abandoning him!”
“I've already met Daphne's friends; in fact, I've known them all my life,” Astoria says frostily. “And what do you mean, if your brother comes to Hogwarts? Do your family suspect that he's a Squib?”
“A Squib?” the boy's brow furrows in confusion. “What do you mean?”
It is then that she realizes who he is, and she takes a step backwards to distance herself from the Mudblood in her presence.
“Squibs are our version of Mudbloods; they're non-magical children born to pure-blood parents,” she explains, unsure of why she is assisting the boy.
Astoria does not understand why the boy seems unaffected by her description of his bloodline. She stares at him while he rummages through his rucksack and retrieves a camera before opening the window and leaning out to take photographs. Out of curiosity, she looks at his rucksack and sees a book poking out from the main pocket. Quickly glancing at the boy to ensure that his attention has continued to be captivated by the landscape, she scuttles over to his seat and recovers the book to look properly at its jacket. An Analysis of the Seven Deadly Sins, she reads, by S. Cartwright. Astoria wonders what the seven deadly sins are, but she does not have time to discover them as she hears the boy's voice again.
“You can keep it if you like,” he says. “I've read it so many times that I probably know it all from memory.”
“What kind of person are you?” she asks. “Most Mudbloods I know would be offended that I called them a Mudblood.”
“You don't say it maliciously,” the boy shrugs. “You don't understand what the words mean; you're just repeating what your parents have been telling you all your life.”
“You don't know who I am!” Astoria retorts angrily. “You're a Mudblood; you don't have the right to tell me what I know and what I don't!”
Before the boy can form an answer, Astoria has fled the compartment. Ignoring the boy's shout, she walks briskly towards the end of the train, where there is a small balcony. She smiles when she feels the wind in her face; it is a familiar sensation that reminds her of home, where the wind blows violently through windows left wide open. Her anger is quickly fading; she no longer cares about the nameless boy that she has left behind in the compartment.
A noise distracts Astoria from her thoughts and she turns to investigate the source, gasping when she realizes that the conductor is walking towards the balcony. She knows from Daphne that students are not permitted to enter the balcony, and she does not want to attract trouble so soon in the school year. As she glances around the balcony searching for escape, she realizes that she is tall enough to stand on the balcony rail, and light enough to wriggle up to the roof. She does so, putting the Mudblood's book between her teeth so that her hands are free to climb, and in moments she is sitting upon the roof of the train, smiling triumphantly after taking the book out of her mouth. Daphne's voice rings out in Astoria's head, reprimanding her for remaining in possession of something that was once under the ownership of a Mudblood. But Astoria only smiles, telling Daphne within her mind that she is clever, because no entertainment is provided on the train roof, and so the book will help her to pass the hour or so until the conductor has departed.
She laughs softly as she watches the countryside fly by in the blink of an eye, although her laughter is marred by the coughing caused by the smoke emitting from the train's chimney. She is Astoria Greengrass, descendant of one of the most noble and ancient bloodlines in history; she is intelligent, and beautiful, and charming, and possesses every desirable characteristic that her peers wish they had. And of this, she is proud.
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