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A Force Of Wills by Gabriella Hunter
Chapter 17 : Sacrifices
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1

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A/N: Hey, there everyone. Thanks for coming back to this! I hope you enjoy this chapter and stay tuned for more, much love of course. :)


“I'm so sorry for everything.” Astoria found herself saying thickly to Blaise's prone figure, the soft sound of his breathing echoing the painful beat in her chest. The words felt difficult to get out but were slowly forming on her tongue before she could stop herself, all the guilt and pain she had caused breaking loose, “you were never supposed to be involved in this and its all my fault...”

Leo's room was achingly quiet, so quiet that it felt as if she were in another world altogether. Blaise's breathing mixed hollowly in with her own, creating a strange tempo that oddly soothed her nerves, “I would never have come to you if I had known that things would turn this way.” But she had known.

Being at the Estate with him for just those few days and basking in the warmth that she got from being with him had made her soft. It had made her weak...forgetful of the fact that her family would have found her eventually but she hadn't been able to let him go. That night when she had tried to leave and he had been waiting for her, Astoria would never get out of her mind—the look in his eyes and the pain it would have brought him had been hard to ignore.

The reality of losing him and crawling back to her family in order to keep him and his mother, who Astoria refused to believe cared about him too deeply, had been tempting. It would have been the right, noble thing to do. But she had been selfish, silly and so very scared of never seeing him again that when he had ran with her, she hadn't been able to say no.

There was no one in the world like Blaise and she had almost broken him, her brother and this family that she had been taken into would destroy him. Astoria felt her chest tightening and her eyes flooding with tears that she batted away quickly. There would come the moment soon when she would have to try her hardest to stay strong, she refused to let her father see her afraid.

“For a while I tried to protect you. I came to the Estate to escape...I couldn't take it any longer,” she whispered weakly, bowing her head. Blaise's fingers were warm around hers and she continued to caress them gently without thinking.

The faint pulse coming from his wrist tempted her thumb and she brushed it over that fragile bit of skin, anxious for the steady sound that he was here and alive. “My family does horrible things. Awful, cruel things and I've always accepted it as just part of our lives, that we were doing something good taking care of people that hurt supposed decent ones,”

Though she had never even dared to think of this so deeply before, the disgust welled inside of her. How many times had she heard her parents talking about the family business as if they were doing the world a favor? Ridding the world of evil purebloods while rising up in wealth and could anyone ever say no?

Didn't they, the Greengrass family that had been steeped in wealth at a point in time, deserve to have that back now when it was fading? Astoria felt that those words had been just as terrifying as watching Scorpious drag a client into their father's office...or the chop, chop of fingers being removed.

Or the blood that she and Emily had had to clean up afterwards, the trauma of it so acute that Astoria felt herself shuddering anew, willing it to go away. Sickeningly she knew that it never would. “I never liked you in school, I saw you with Malfoy's group and assumed that you were one of his friends.” Astoria murmured guiltily, recalling more than one incident at school where Blaise had mingled with the beasts. “If I had paid better attention, I would have noticed that you were just bored and biding your time.”

While Astoria had often been taunted and bullied by Malfoy and the others, she couldn't quite recall a time when Blaise had joined in. For a moment she almost smiled before she remembered his words at The Leaky Cauldron, “You were never my concern. I was…preoccupied,” sadness welled up in her heart at the words. Blaise had never tried to help her or befriend her then because he had cared very much for a girl that was and would never be her.

A strange sort of dread flooded into her veins. It seemed to eat at her and she felt more tears welling for reasons that she dared not to think about for long, knowing that it would take more from her than she was willing to give.

Impossible, silly things that didn't happen to poor, half-blood witches that came from murdering families. Blaise deserved so much better and she would never again place him in this sort of position and thought, hazily that she could Obliviate his memories.

It would be wrong but the memories of what Scorpious and his men had done to him would haunt him forever. In her heart she knew it was wrong for him to suffer and she could help him, she thought before slowly processing a chilling fact.

Her wand was gone. Astoria briefly patted her nightgown, already knowing that her wand wasn't hidden in the depths of her pockets and bitterly faced the reality. Her family wouldn't allow her a wand. It would be too much of an advantage and she blearily looked over at Leo's nightstand, seeing no evidence that Blaise had his either.

For all she knew, Scorpious or her father had snapped it in two and tossed it into the fireplace and her chest knotted in a panic. “I would do anything to get you out of this, but I know you wouldn't let me.” Astoria whispered to him brokenly, her thumb still rubbing softly along his wrist.

The thump of his heart made her smile reassuringly at him. “Its true, I would fight my way out of here if it would get you to safety but it would hardly matter.” Astoria choked out, feeling her throat tighten at their uncertain fate, “I'll take the blame for everything. I won't let my family hurt you again, I swear.”

Blaise stirred groggily on the pillow and Astoria's heart leapt with glee, thinking that he would wake. What he would see when he did only caused her elation to die quickly and as it did, he settled back into sleep, his face scrunched with pain, “I know that you won't like what I have to do but I have to.”

Astoria wasn't certain if she would be returning to Hogwarts this year. She wasn't certain if she would be able to walk down the corridor in one piece after this day and shut her eyes tightly, trying to hold in her tears. It caused her head to ache painfully and she raised her free hand to the pulsing spot, even that gentle touch making her wince. “Please don't think that I'm abandoning you because I would never...not after what you've done for me.” She said worriedly, lowering her fingers.

Blaise wouldn't take this sacrifice well and he would let her know it in the worst possible way. But it was better than the alternative of having him buried alive and stripped away from a life and future that he could have, someday with someone and she would never endanger that.

Astoria felt her lower lip trembling, not so much from the thought of him never seeing her again, but for the eventual love he would share. It would be with someone not like her, someone that he wouldn't blame for having his life taken away and before he would understand it, any memory of her would fade in time. “I'm not sure if you've ever been told this but you're stubborn.”

And kind. The kindest person that she had ever known and there had never been a time where she had laughed with such carelessness. It had been a risk, a crazy and selfish thing to do but those moments and that brief life with him at the Estate had been her own.

There had been no interference or disapproving frowns from her siblings and her parents hadn't forced her away. No, that time and that place with him would stay with her for as long as she was alive and that was something that her father couldn't and wouldn't steal from her.

Emily may have accepted this life but she would somehow, someday, find a way out and hope that she could take her future in her own hands...but it felt like dreaming with her eyes open. When she blinked, the thoughts and whatever future she had dreamt would explode in a soft array of colors and shapes until she was thrust, with each blink, back into reality.

Astoria formed the weakest of smiles as she ran her thumb gently over Blaise's wrist. For just the faintest seconds she felt his fingers flexing against hers, as if trying to keep her still, “You think that you can handle everything when you can't possibly carry all that pressure alone.”

There was a sound from somewhere in the house, like a door opening and Astoria jerked almost violently in her chair. Leo's room carried with it the air of sadness and a sense that the world had fallen away but that one sound had brought her back to a bleak reality and she turned towards the door.

Emily must have gone to fetch her mother and some foolish part of her wondered how much she had allowed herself to hear. If she had allowed herself to hear, it had shattered whatever notions she'd had about her and the sister that she had known.

Astoria Greengrass, known for despising purebloods, putting her family's welfare on the line for a pureblood that she had only just gotten to care for. It was madness but it was delightful...knowing that for just the shortest moments she had had a friendship with someone that had done so much for her and nearly lost their own life.

No one would be able to understand it and Astoria knew that there were things that Blaise still hid from her. But what he had done for her would never be forgotten and she would hold onto it for as long as she could. Fragile, silly thing but for now it was all that she could cling to, now that her future was so blurry and uncertain.

Astoria steeled herself for the moments to come and turned to stare into Blaise's face, taking in the shape and lines of it. The room was dark, shadows smothering the room in a heavy cloud but she heard his laughter in her mind and briefly closed her eyes to soak in his smile.

It was so hard to breathe—she didn't want to but she would have to let him go, she would do anything to know that he was safe. It was more painful than anything she'd ever felt. Astoria tried to inhale more deeply and for a moment the pain in her head and her tears stayed put as she admitted fiercely, knowing that her time was growing shorter and shorter with him, “I—Blaise, you didn't understand that it wasn't...”

The words wouldn't come out as smoothly as she would have wanted and Astoria felt her eyes stinging painfully. It felt as if every horrible emotion was brimming inside of her and she thought that, under the circumstances that thinking that this was the time to stay silent would only be an injustice.

Blaise had been nearly killed because of her and she owed him at least some of the truth or none at all. “It wasn't because I disliked you that I didn't tell you anything” Astoria found herself admitting weakly, watching the rise and fall of his breathing.

He looked to be in so much pain and she saw him shift slightly, making the softest of groans that broke her heart. She was unable to erase the image of how he had been in Knockturn Alley, “I thought you were peculiar but with the way you acted at the Malfoy's party that night, standing up to Lucius Malfoy and walking out on his speech...that took so much courage and I admired you for it.”

Out in the hall, she could hear footsteps and voices and she felt her heart spike with terror and resolution. There was no more running...she would not run from her family again, it would only cause more bloodshed and there had already been enough to last her a lifetime.

“You don't want to follow this new regime. You admitted this to me so openly when I'd always been afraid to share anything about myself and I'm going to be so much stronger for you,” Astoria promised, hating that her voice had cracked.

“....let her in Leo's room! How could you?” it was Astoria's mother's voice and she sounded both panicked, furious and revolted. The sound of her footsteps drew closer, Emily's softer ones accompanying hers, “....disappointed in Astoria enough as it is. Don't fall in line with her Emily!”

Astoria felt as if her mother had stabbed her with the words but forced herself not to cry. It hurt, it hurt but she wouldn't cry— “Blaise,” tenderly, she released his hand and placed it onto his chest. “Everything will be all right.”

Blaise murmured something weakly in his sleep, startling her and she watched in amazement as his eyes fluttered. They were inky black against his dark cheeks, a bit of sweat brimming on his brow and Astoria slowly, rose from her seat and leaned over him carefully. “Don't try to move. Please,”

The plea may as well have been spoken to a brick wall as Blaise grunted what sounded like a slew of curses. Astoria's eyes were brimming with tears and she could barely breathe from the overwhelming relief, her hands clapping over her mouth to hold in a cry of glee. “...can go know.” Blaise murmured weakly, his voice sounding scratched and rough, “...wouldn't mind it...” he said, struggling to open both of his eyes.

Desperately, Astoria rushed to the nightstand and dipped found herself dipping the wrung cloth back into the water basin. He was talking nonsense...he was feverish again and she didn't know if this was a sign from God or the worst possible omen when she knew her sister and parents were nearing the room, “Shush, stop trying to talk.”

“....can go on you know...right,” Blaise whispered in a raspy voice that made her worry. Astoria, after wringing the wet towel a little went back to his side and sat near his hip, leaning over him to place the damp cloth against his forehead, feeling the heat of it against her own skin. “Stop...” he complained, turning his face away into the pillow irritably, “not hot...”

Astoria frowned at his stubbornness, wondering if he would need some sort of potion to sleep. She glanced at the nightstand, wondering where Emily and Aradelle had left the other medicinal items, “Would you stop this? You're not well.” The words came out sharper than she would have liked as she pressed the cloth against his forehead more firmly, watching as he frowned.

It was an odd expression on his face and it only took a second before he winced in pain, gasping and shifting. Astoria moved back, eyes widening with anguish as he weakly raised his other arm, which had been weighted down by blankets and sheets, “...arm hurts. Feels numb,” he whispered to her, turning his head back.

“My older sister gave you some Skelegrow to fix the bones that were broken, it might take a minute for them to heal.” Astoria mumbled painfully. Blaise's face became a tad bleak before he shifted again, not wanting her to see his face, “I was so worried about you, I'm just happy you're all right.”

Blaise's eyes widened ever so slightly when he turned his face back to hers and Astoria felt herself sinking and falling. It was like drowning but she broke eye contact with him first, unnerved by the feeling and her reaction to it, “ all right?” he managed to ask thickly, staring at her intently.

Astoria pushed a look of her hair behind her ear nervously, wondering how he saw her just now and felt a tad self-conscious. There had to be bags under her eyes, the tangle of her brown hair had to be a mess and the state of her nightgown unflattering but he merely viewed her with genuine concern.

“...I'll be fine, Blaise.” She lied and he made a motion to sit up, sensing her lie easily and she pushed him gently back down while securing the towel back onto his forehead. “ should rest.”

Blaise heaved a weary, painful sigh and she stared intently into his shadowed face, sensing that he wasn't as awake as he appeared. There was a hazy quality to his eyes that announced that he was very near to sleeping again and that this might be the only time that she had to speak to him. “You...were me?”

For some reason, Astoria felt her cheeks turning faintly pink. It was, of course hard to see in the shadows and gloom of this room but for the life of her, she saw that Blaise's lips had twitched in amusement, “I was. How much did you hear?”

Blaise was silent for a very long time and Astoria could feel the minutes ticking away anxiously. Her mother and Emily were arguing down the hall and it would only take a moment for them to burst into the room and it made her want to cringe. “...not much....could go on...about me though...wouldn't mind hearing you confessing your undying love...” he gasped around a stiff grin.

Astoria spluttered at his nerve, overcome with relief. The patter of her heart seemed to speed up at the words though and she forced it to stop being so foolish, knowing that that wasn't something possible for her, and especially not with him. “That's your ego talking and you know it.” She said around a tight laugh.

Blaise's eyes almost sparked with humor but he swallowed roughly, the action causing him to cough. He had rested his recovering arm onto his chest, where the fingers were curled slightly, almost in a fist to hold off the pain, “...Maybe,” he murmured as she fretted over him.

“Blaise you should get some rest.” Astoria said firmly as she leaned forward to touch his brow. There was the faintest hint of his skin and she felt a pool of heat settle deliciously in the pit of her stomach, “y-you're a tad bit warm but I think you'll be all right after you sleep.”

Blaise angled his head slightly, Astoria's fingers trailing gently along his cheek, which felt faintly swollen. Thinking that she would only cause him more pain with even the softest touch, she made to draw away but he pressed his cheek into her palm, seeking something she couldn't name.

“Astoria,” that one little sigh of her name nearly reduced her to had been spoken so softly that he may not have said anything at all. The world was falling away again and she tried to stay focused but...Blaise's skin... “come here.”

There was a strange sound from Astoria then, like a mixture between a giggle or a sob and she clamped her lips tightly shut. They were already so close and she concluded that he had to be delusional...losing his mind, “What is it?” Astoria whispered gently, leaning forward and feeling her fingers curling against his cheek, the pattern of his breathing rougher.

The tangles in her hair tickled and teased Blaise's face and he gave the weakest of grins before locking his eyes with hers. Warmth spread throughout every inch of her body and she was drowning again and couldn't break free, “Don't...let them break you...I'm begging you not to,” he whispered, a desperate look entering his eyes.

Astoria could have doubled over with the force of the words, knowing that what she had to do would destroy him. She tried to pull away but Blaise took her wrist, holding her hand harder against his cheek, his skin hotter than fire, “Please...I can't, Blaise. I...I'll do what's right. You deserve so much more than this.”

“Don't,” Blaise said, his tone firm and far stronger than she would have thought it would be. Astoria shook her head, tears already stinging her eyes and he gave her wrist a tug, pulling her over him even further until his mouth was just beneath her own, the heat making her skin flush even deeper. “Please, don't.”

Astoria heard footsteps and the dangerously low growl of her father's voice and the fine hairs on the back of her neck turned to needles. Fear unlike anything she'd ever felt went through her and she had to pull away, she couldn't let him see this but his eyes were pulling her in...she couldn't... “Blaise, I have to do this, I have to.”

The misery that came into his face nearly destroyed her but before she could move, Blaise used whatever strength he had to tilt his head. There was the firm pressure of his mouth against her lips, a kiss rough and sweet all at once and she couldn't react fast enough, but as soon as it had happened, it was over.

“...Blaise?” Astoria managed to croak when his lips left hers, heat and firm pressure vanishing. The pounding of her heart was almost painful, the panic in her voice increasing as she saw his eyes fluttering closed weakly, his breathing ragged, “Blaise!”

The sound of footsteps alerted her to the presence of her mother and sister but she tuned them out. “Stori? What's happening, are you all right?” Emily asked as she stepped hastily into the room, watching as she hung over Blaise's form desperately, watching as he struggled to breathe, “get away from hm, you're smothering him and that's not going to help!”

Astoria felt her sister's hands gripping her shoulders, moving her back and away from Blaise as he gasped for breath. She tried to shake her off but Emily was far stronger than she appeared just now, holding her back and setting her aside as if she weighed nothing, “I have to—I have to help him! Emily,” she pleaded to her sister, who was placing her hand over Blaise's brow, “he can't breathe, he can't...”

“Its his fever. I thought that it would have passed by now but it looks worse than I thought.” Emily said more to herself than Astoria as she moved away from Blaise and took out her wand. She eyed the weapon worriedly, thinking that her sister would put him out of his misery before she heard her command, “Aradelle!”

Astoria felt guilt welling up but had little time to sink into it as their house-elf appeared with a pop. There was a battered look to her face, her large eyes slightly bruised, the limp in her step noticeable as she walked towards her sister, barely giving her a glance, “Mistress Emily?” she squeaked timidly.

“Aradelle,” Astoria started but her voice was cut off as she felt a new set of hands on her arms, dragging her away. Struggling, she nearly started to protest when she glanced up into her mother's tense, disapproving face, “I can't just leave him, I can't—and I have to apologize to Aradelle for what I did, I have to,”

There was the painful press of her mother's nails into her arms and even through her nightgown sleeves, Astoria felt it. She had been so preoccupied with Blaise and worrying about what her sister could possibly do for him that she hadn't heard the woman even step into the room, “This is no time to let your emotions get the best of you again, Astoria. Come along,” Adele Greengrass commanded sternly.

Although she had wanted to see her mother, Astoria knew that, despite how worried she had been that she was more disappointed. It hardened her and caused something childish and happy to die within her, the love she had for her mother being locked and kept away, “No, I have to know if he's all right! I have to see—” Astoria protested, hating how weak her legs were as her mother practically dragged her across Leo's room.

Emily was too busy giving orders to Aradelle to pay her much attention, the house-elf nodding in reply. Their father hadn't killed her but she now understood what her sibling's had meant when they'd said he might as well have, “...more water and he'll need something to eat, preferably soup with Sleeping Drought.” She heard her sister murmuring.

“The boy is no longer your concern, come along, Astoria. I don't have the patience for this and you're much too weak to work yourself into a fit over nothing, your sister and Aradelle will do the best they can,” her mother said in a tight voice. Astoria felt herself being led farther and farther away from Blaise, her sister and their house-elf and wished that she had the strength to push her mother aside.

But the stress had sneaked up on her stealthily, bringing with it a sort of weary defeat that she couldn't bear. “I can't—he needs me, I can't just...” the thought of what her sister might do to him, like poisoning or smothering him with a pillow soared in her mind and she felt a wave of horror. “Don't hurt him, please don't...” she pleaded to her sister, who was busy preparing the nightstand for the arrival of more supplies.

Emily's body stiffened and she looked over at her, the green in her eyes looking distant and ghostly. Aradelle had left, the soft pop announcing her retreat leaving a peculiar echo in the shadowy room, “That isn't up to you or me to decide and until Daddy...until Daddy reveals what he wants to do with the two of you, I'll make sure he survives.”

For now, Astoria didn't hear her sister say. It left her feeling furious and without control, “I want to talk to him then. I have to talk to Dad about this, I don't want to wait any longer,” she determined firmly.

“You need your rest.” Her mother said to her sharply, turning her away once more and leading her from the room. Astoria struggled with her long enough to look one last time into her dead brother's room, watching as Emily set to work on Blaise, pulling the sheets and covers back with her wand.

Strangely, the sight reminded her of some sort of operation that Scorpious had told her Muggles performed on their kind and for the bleakest moment she wondered if her sister would slice Blaise open. She was so weak and the thoughts weren't helping as her mother turned her bodily away to shut the door behind them, the click sounding like the snap of a curse. “Mum, please,” Astoria said to her pleadingly as they shoved her down the carpeted hall towards her room, “I'm sorry, I didn't mean...”

Adele Greengrass's face had always been composed, smooth and so beautifully crafted that she'd often appeared angelic. But Astoria knew that there was impatience, greed and an overbearing nature to her that had made her smothered and oddly pleased growing up, knowing that she had protection.

If her father had ever thought of getting rid of her, it had been her mother that had changed his mind but she didn't know if that would work now, she didn't know if she would be able to spare her. “Don't speak to me with that tone. You had me worried sick—I'm not sure if I can even look at you without feeling disappointed,” her mother snapped down at her as she kept an arm to her back.

“I didn't run away to disappoint you, I did something for me.” Astoria found herself saying tightly as her mother forced her feet forward. It felt as if she were being led to Azkaban and returning to her cell and bit down the instinct to shove her mother away and run for all she was worth, “I had to...but I won't do it again.”

The words apparently hadn't been what her mother had expected and Astoria was stunned as she turned her round and pulled her into a warm embrace. Scents of her skin mingled with perfume and despite being exhausted from treating her wounds and keeping her alive, her mother was still standing somehow, “That is all I need to hear, Astoria. This family means too much to me and I won't lose another one of my children to this life or this business,” she whispered into her hair, Astoria stiffening at the mention of Leo.

Leo had died because of this business, the details muddled and blurry in her mind now. The way that he had passed away and what he had wanted to change and do had caused his demise and Astoria knew from what she had been told from her siblings that that sort of defiance was foolish.

A Greengrass did as they were told and she had disobeyed that for her own selfish reasons, ignoring the cost. “I won't be like Leo,” Astoria murmured into her mother's chest, feeling defeat wrapping around her like rope.

Her mother's arms tightened around her as if she could pull her into her body and Astoria nearly suffocated from the action. There was something not quite right about this hug and they both knew it, but were unwilling to say, “Good, darling. Remember that when you speak to your father soon...I won't be able to protect you completely, he's too far into his rage this time. But I'll kill him myself if he hurts you, Astoria, you're our gift and nothing will take that from me.”

They were haunting words, a hint of madness in between them and Astoria refused to allow herself to break. It was difficult knowing what she was to them all, what Leo had been and what she had been brought here to fill but this would perhaps be the last time that she would hold her mother. When her father was ready to speak with her, she would make all the sacrifices she needed to ensure that her mother and siblings would remain together and that Blaise could leave with his own life. The truth would destroy her in the process but if that was the price, she would face it without flinching and hold onto what might have been.


Draco Malfoy couldn't stop smiling. A strange sort of giddiness had enveloped him and the force of it was causing the most ridiculous glee and no matter how hard he tried to banish it, the feeling came upon him in waves. He was currently sitting on the Hogwarts Express, contemplating the previous day over and over again as he sat alone in a compartment.

Crabbe, Goyle and the others had shunned him immediately on his arrival, though he knew that his two bumbling companions for the past few years would crawl their way back. Pansy, Samantha Travers and the Bulstrode sisters would take some time and Theodore Knot t would flow anyone else's lead but his own.

If he had wanted to admit it, he may have been a tad lonely as his father hadn't accompanied he and his mother to the platform. Though he had known, being younger that his father would be busy with work, now wast he time that Draco would have reveled in his support but his father was too busy licking his wounds.

The Dark Lord still had his wand for all he knew and their life at the Manor was nothing but a sham wit the three of them constantly living in fear that they would make one, grave mistake. It wouldn't take much for either Aunt Bella or the Dark Lord to kill them and Draco couldn't bear to see his mother, usually so confident, wilting away.

He had promised her on the platform to stay focused and strong, to write to her everyday and she hadn't been able to stop herself from crying. She'd hidden it well behind her hands and humiliation had burned through him as several students had stared over at them with contempt, pity and gloating laughter.

Draco knew more than ever that his time at Hogwarts would be crippling. Things had already changed so quickly and he had noticed that the train was nearly empty, it being only flooded with breeds and other purebloods, the Mudbloods and traitors on the run.

The Prophet boasted nothing but vicious, gloating propaganda and Harry Potter was still on the loose in the wild with his stupid friends. Draco had fumed at the knowledge that not only that, but the Weasley family was still prancing around, the youngest female having given him a vicious glare along with Neville and that odd little Lovegood girl. He'd ignored them for the first time in years, hating that Potter and his friends were dooming the rest of them because he was too headstrong to give up and too afraid to die.

Draco had never known anyone as selfish but banished him from his mind, thinking of Astoria Greengrass and what he now knew of her. That smile was coming back onto his face and it was so broad that he knew he looked mad, but it was a gleeful sort of feeling because he finally, finally had her exactly where he needed.

The images of what he had seen in Knockturn Alley bounced in his mind over and over again, bringing with it what might have been fear. But there was also a sort of intrigue that stunned and worried him deeply.

Astoria Greengrass and her family were peculiar, dangerous people and all the threats she had given him had been truthful. Draco had witnessed the sort of violence and madness that had, for the last few weeks, only come from his home. Delving deeper into Knockturn Alley with her and that man had been thrilling, his natural curiosity begging him not to turn back.

At some point on his journey with them, following at a careful pace behind them that he had sensed she had known he was there...though she hadn't investigated or been able to prove it. Draco had become quite good at staying hidden, biding his time and waiting for the right opportunity to strike. He'd been able to blend into the shambling surroundings wonderfully, knowing that the trash and rubble, as revolting as they had been, were on his side.

Greengrass and her unwilling companion had been so determined on getting to some ramshackle building that she hadn't sensed him after a while. The air had been thick with fear and screams had been coming from the building...screams of pain that Draco had grown accustomed to well. Back at the Manor, the Dark Lord would come occasionally, bearing with him violence and hatred than Draco had ever witnessed in his life.

It frightened his parents, made them skittish and weak and Draco felt powerless and unable to help them. Any wrong move could resort in them being killed by either the Dark Lord himself or his insane Aunt Bella and he wasn't certain which death would be worse and shuddered slightly.

The Dark Lord would be merciless but his aunt would be a tease before killing them, taking too much joy in the thought of torture. Draco felt bile rising in his throat but fought it down, the images of what she and others had done to their victims in his own home too much.

It was all just too much, too much all at once and some part of him didn't even want to return home—a silly part of him thought of snatching his parents, his mother in particular and running. But there was nowhere to run to. From what he had heard, the Order of the Phoenix was broken and Mad Eye was dead, the others on the run and most likely close to that fate.

Draco closed his eyes, banishing those thoughts but was forced to remember how much his home had changed, how evil and nasty it felt, every corner unfamiliar and wrong. In the basement, Draco knew that there were more things that he wouldn't want to face, anytime soon, knowing that Ollivander and some disgusting goblin were held capture there.

They screamed at night when Death Eaters paid them a call and Draco had lain awake listening to the sounds, feeling the madness sinking in, taking over from a fear that he couldn't shake. His entire world was falling apart and the little comfort he got from his parents held him together, and until this War was over and his family was able to land on their feet again...there were things he could do to pass the time.

Like finding out more about Astoria Greengrass. Draco had found her to be simply the scariest and most fascinating thing. He'd watched in horrified silence as she'd broken into a building like a force of nature, the thunderous sound of vicious fighting making his teeth ache.

The man that she had brought with her had fled, luckily escaping Draco's grasp as he did so, the fight in that building distracting him from everything else. While it had been foolish, Draco had stealthily moved forward towards the building to see more of what was taking place, keeping low to the ground and hiding behind rubble.

Greengrass had been a vicious creature, fending off more than one opponent until Draco had watched her own brother shoot a curse into her shoulder. The scent of blood had been sweet and thick and he'd had the strangest urge to go in and fight for her...until he'd seen the look on Scorpious Greengrass's face.

Never before had he seen something that disturbing. Fear had coiled around his heart, forcing him to remain hidden and to think of himself first, his pity for Greengrass something fierce and unwanted. By the time the brother's men had dragged one of their companions out of the destroyed building, Draco had slipped away onto the, heart pounding painfully.

Luckily, the men hadn't seen him and had walked away, the pop of them Disapparating leaving him relieved and able to listen carefully to the activities going on inside. Scorpious Greengrass and his sister had been yelling at each other then, Half and Half pleading for Zabini's life and Draco had learned so much from that little disagreement.

Half and Half wouldn't dare to tell him no after what he knew and with what he had seen. Swiftly logging away what he had heard and seen, Draco had begun to retreat, barely able to Disapparate in an alley with Scorpious Greengrass close behind. He had been lucky to escape with his life and while Half and Half and Zabini were absent, Draco could be patient.

Delight was shooting through his system and he couldn't contain his smile at the thought of what he would soon have. Astoria Greengrass would have to make sacrifices and there would be no running from him when she did.

Audrey and her Weasley are next! How about leaving me a review? :3

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