Chapter 20 : Bound
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There were dead rose petals littering the ground and Astoria's eyes focused on the dried remains bleakly, thinking they were a miserable sight. The rose garden that she had kept behind her house had always been a relaxing spot but the coming winter had stripped the flowers of all their color and luster, leaving them shriveled and cracked.
A chilly wind was blowing and she felt the strands of her hair tangling slightly but didn't bother trying to set them back in place. It was gratifying to be outside of the smothering confines of her home as Astoria walked slowly along the cobbled path around her garden with Blaise at her side, thankful that he had come along.
The urge to walk outside to talk in private for a few, precious minutes before Maximus Greengrass reappeared had been Astoria's idea. She knew that with all the trouble that she had caused, slipping out of the house without her parent's permission with Blaise was the least likely offense she could make.
It wouldn't be long before they discovered that they were gone but Astoria relished the moment with Blaise, aware that she may not get another chance. Even though the idea of walking around her garden might be considered dull to others, it felt like an exotic adventure to Astoria, who hadn't been allowed outside even once since she had been returned home.
Fresh air and even the weak bit of sunshine spreading along the green grass was very soothing to her senses, nearly as pleasurable as sitting by the shore of the Black Lake at Hogwarts. Although the garden was relatively spacious, it wasn't nearly as large as it could have been but Astoria was reluctant to go back inside, it had felt as if the walls had been caving in on them.
And while she would never be sure, the thought that her father may have been watching every move they had made had unnerved her.“You have no idea what sort of person your father truly is, Astoria because that's exactly what I intend to do.” Astoria shivered slightly as she recalled her father's words and felt an overpowering well of emotion course through her.
After Maximus Greengrass had retired briefly to his office to give them a moment of privacy, she had found herself overcome with terror and grief. If it hadn't have been for Blaise's comforting arms around her and the sound of his heartbeat beneath her ear, she was certain that she may have allowed herself to sink and vanish into some dark, desolate place in her mind.
The thought chilled her, along with the knowledge that a noose was slowly tightening around her throat. Blaise's proposal had completely undone the foundations of her family and while Astoria knew that her father was both fascinated and infuriated by his nerve, he would use any opportunity to break them.
They had been given time to discuss the engagement but Astoria's mind felt bombarded with too many thoughts at once and was unsure if her decision would prove to be dangerous. She felt her chest constricting with longing and even as another cool breeze blew, it did nothing to cool her cheeks. Blaise Zabini had done the unthinkable by asking her corrupt father for permission to marry her and although she knew why he would take such a risk, some part of her was miserable.
The only reason that Blaise was willing to marry her was for the simple fact that he wanted to protect her, not because he loved her. Astoria knew that after everything that she had put him through with her family that hoping for his affection was as ridiculous as assuming Malfoy had a soul but some part of her dared to hope.
Scorpious and his men had nearly killed Blaise in Knockturn Alley and for three days he had been locked away in her dead brother Leo's room, suffering because of her. But Blaise hadn't eyed her with the pure revulsion or disgust that she would have expected and instead, had stared at her with such warmth that it made her nearly melt just to recall it...and she was blessedly relieved.
Astoria had been certain that he would hate her but there had been no blame in his eyes and his proposal had caused a flare of defiant hope to form in her chest. It wouldn't be the marriage that she had always dreamed of but she knew that those fantasies of marrying some Muggle-born man had faded the more Blaise had captured her heart.
She was afraid that she was setting herself up for nothing but pain and yet to ensure that Blaise and his mother would be left alive, she had sacrificed everything. Even while her own dreams and hopes scattered away, knowing that he was safe would have to soothe her into a sort of numb peace that might be all that she would ever know.
The thought made her cold because that was the farthest thing that she desired but wasn't sure what consequences would come out of marrying him. Maximus Greengrass had made it certain, in that slyly manipulative way of his that he would bend and break her in every way he knew how.
Astoria couldn't understand the way her father's mind worked or what sort of game he was intent on playing but she was certain that he would find no issue with using her affection for Blaise against her. It would only become worse if they married because Maximus Greengrass would never cease to remind her of what she had sacrificed in order to keep him alive.
Blaise had been relatively silent beside her and hadn't spoken much, his dark eyes were too busy taking in the grounds of her home. They didn't own miles of forests or rolling hills dotted with wildflowers but it was pleasant and quiet, far smaller in quality than Malfoy Manor and the Zabini Estate combined.
Winter was slowly creeping in and everywhere Astoria looked, she saw nothing but stripped tree branches that were almost skeletal against the bleary landscape. Even though she had walked this cobbled path around her garden more times than she could possibly remember, everything felt oddly unfamiliar, as if she no longer belonged.
Astoria felt her mind drifting to the Estate and felt her body tense with longing, thinking it odd that only a few days there had made it feel more like home. For a moment, she thought of commenting that to Blaise but he was too busy looking around as if he were creating a structured escape plan in his mind, weighing his options and risks.
Astoria was more than aware that there were wards all around their home that made it impossible for a person to sneak onto their property without setting off some sort of alarm. There were also various traps and spells designed to make an intruders time on the property as agonizing as possible and she knew that her father had made certain that every possible precaution to protect their secrets was established.
Scorpious had told her one night that if anyone had tried to trespass onto the property that they may as well have a coffin ready. He'd informed her that there were over a dozen spells around their home, some of them so vile that Astoria shuddered at what they could do to a person's body, “Has anyone ever tried to sneak in?” she had asked her brother worriedly.
“Oh, they've tried and let's just say that there was a lot of them strewn about the place, it was a pain to clean up.” Scorpious's tone had been light but Astoria had seen the haunted expression lingering in his blue eyes. “It took me a month to get really clean.”
Astoria had grinned at him weakly. “Not that it made much difference,” she'd said teasingly, waving a hand under her nose and making him laugh. Scorpious had grabbed her in a tight hug, dropping a fond kiss on her nose, “but someday you won't have to do all of those things, right?”
They had still had the thought that there would be a chance to escape their father's will but Astoria knew that it had been foolish. Scorpious's response had been hesitant but there'd been a hopeful expression on his face, “Someday, Stori but be lucky that you're not in the family business, it takes a lot from you...”
Astoria knew what her brother had meant but bitterly noted that despite Scorpious's views on the War and his hatred for the business, he had never strayed from it. The memory of how her relationship with him had been caused something inside of her to tear apart...she couldn't even think of that person and the one that had nearly killed Blaise as the same.
It hurt too badly to think that Scorpious, who she had loved so much could have hurt her so badly and Astoria knew with a certainty that he hated her. After what she had done to the family, their father had only tightened his hold on her siblings and while Scorpious had never wanted to be married off to some pureblood girl, his chances of spending time with his Muggle girlfriend were nonexistent.
Neither of their parents or Emily knew about it but Astoria had ruined his chances of truly starting a life with her. Guilt flooded into her as she thought of how Emily's chances of seeking a marriage had faded away as well when no respectable pureblood would allow them into their homes after the “scandal” that she had caused at Malfoy Manor.
Astoria felt a disgruntled frown creeping into her face and saw Blaise eyeing her in curious amusement. It had been a while since she had bothered to think about Draco Malfoy but even as every memory of him repulsed her, she felt something in her shiver a little with unease.
“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 had said those menacing words to her the night she had refused to give herself to him and they slithered back into her memory, taunting and teasing.
Before she had gone to rescue Blaise in Knockturn Alley, Astoria had seen Draco Malfoy in Madame Malkin's. He'd chased after her in the streets of Diagon Alley but she had been so fearful over losing Blaise that when she had gone down into Knockturn Alley, she had pushed him from her mind.
Astoria couldn't help but feel slightly chilled and prayed that she wouldn't be running into Malfoy anytime soon. Blaise's fingertips gently traced the line of her jaw and the caress was enough to finally draw her out of her thoughts, “For a moment I was beginning to think that you had forgotten all about me. I'm not sure how my poor ego is dealing with the lack of attention.” He said with a slight, wounded frown that made her smile.
“I'm sorry, I was just lost in thought.” Astoria said embarrassingly as they came to a halt near the remains of one of her rose bushes. There was a bench some feet away but she was immobilized, unable to breath properly at the feel of his skin against hers, even if it was only a fleeting caress, “and I'm sure your ego will survive.”
Blaise responded with a warm, teasing smile that suddenly caused every grey, faded color to be put in brighter focus. It almost made her dizzy, “Barely,” he said with a grin and she felt his fingertips along the exposed area of her throat, “you'll have to make it up to me.”
Astoria felt her cheeks exploding in a blush but managed to give him a weak nod that only made him smile fondly. Every little brush of his fingertips made her chest ache and she had to fight for breath, “By doing what exactly?” she whispered softly. “If this is some sort of trick to get me to agree to your proposal—”
“Do you really think that I would sink that low?” Blaise asked her, appearing outraged at her nerve and Astoria stared up at him blankly. That earned a laugh from him before he cupped her cheek in his hand, tracing her increasing blush with his thumb, “if I were trying to trick you, I think I could come up with something far more entertaining.”
It took a lot of strength for Astoria not to wilt away into nothing at the words but she recognized the teasing glimmer in his eyes. But for just a moment, an unbearable heat had flared between them, almost as if... “Y-you know how much I hate it when you do that, Blaise!” she snapped, breaking the connection with a gasp.
“My apologies, then.” Blaise replied carefully as he watched her looking anywhere but at him, her cheeks brilliantly red. A smile was in his voice as he purred, “but you do turn the most delectable shade of pink whenever you blush,” she tensed with pleasure as he reached out to briefly trace the shell of her ear, “I can't help myself.”
Astoria thought that her knees were about to give out on her but turned her head back to his, ready to give him some sort of fierce reply. Instead, she was forced into silence as she caught the look in his dark eyes...there was so much tenderness there that it robbed her of breath, “You're just a prat and you know it,” she managed but he didn't smile.
Blaise contemplated her for a moment or two in silence and Astoria was aware that there was no sound, aside from the rustling of dried flower petals beneath their feet. It wasn't particularly cold but she must have shivered because his arms wrapped around her, “Do you know how much I've missed you?” he asked, pulling her against him until she could hear his voice near her ear.
“I've missed you too,” Astoria murmured thickly as she rested her head on his shoulder, sighing softly as she tried to ignore the sting in her eyes. It had been one of the worst moments of her life wondering if she would ever see him again, “I'm sorry that all of this had to happen to you—I never wanted you to get hurt because of me.”
Blaise murmured something too softly for her to hear at first before he urged her closer, until there was no space between them. Astoria felt as if nothing would have been able to tear them apart and her heart swelled, “I never want to go through nearly losing you again but none of what happened was your fault.”
Astoria thought that she would never hear him saying those words but even while some part of her was torn apart by guilt, she basked in them. “But it is my fault, Blaise! If I hadn't have run away, if I hadn't gotten you involved with my family, this never would have happened—you wouldn't have almost died!” she insisted, the words sounding as if they'd been torn from her throat.
“It was my choice to stay with you, just how it was your choice to run from your family and even while I still don't know why you did it, I can understand.” Blaise said just as fiercely, loosening his hold on her somewhat. Astoria was forced to look into his face, her body trembling at how haunted he appeared, “the things that you've had to go through because of your family, I can't even begin to imagine.”
The Greengrass family and all of their lies had smothered Astoria from the moment she could think for herself. Every memory that she shared with her parents and siblings only brought on a bitter sadness that she couldn't deny any longer, not when the truth had been hovering around her for so long.
Her father had insisted on giving her a private dorm at Hogwarts because he hadn't trusted her with their secrets. Astoria had felt as if she were nothing more than a burden, something that they didn't want to deal with and her suspicions had been confirmed the moment she had been brought back home.
And her sister Emily, who had always given her undying love and support, was unwilling to break away from the constructed lives their father wanted from them. The conversation that Astoria had had with her still haunted some place in her mind and she knew that whatever bond that they'd once shared had quickly faded away into nothing.
Emily would never want to break free of their father out of fear that she would somehow windup like Leo, who had dared to ask too many questions. Astoria didn't want to be that way. She didn't want to want to go through the rest of her life having everything scripted and decided for her—it was her worst nightmare and the fact that she had given everything away to spare Blaise only intensified her defiance.
It felt so gloriously awful after everything that she could risk but Astoria knew that she would never be able to simply obey. Blaise was alive and that was all that she could hope for but she still craved more...craved him so badly that the thought of being separated from him again made her almost ill with grief.
“None of that matters as much as losing you.” Astoria said to Blaise as much to herself, the enormity of the truth sinking into her marrow. Every threat or fear wasn't nearly as frightening as losing him because she understood that despite how hard she was willing to deny it, she was too far in love with him to turn back.
Heat crept into her cheeks and for just a second the world seemed to sway underneath her feet but the sound of Blaise's voice anchored her. “Astoria,” he only said her name but there was so much emotion behind it that it crept into the very pit of her soul until she thought that he had transported her to heaven and back. “I nearly died for you, I only want to see you happy.”
Astoria closed her eyes and felt the rough pad of his thumb brushing away a tear that she hadn't known was there. If she loved him this much and if he didn't hold her in his heart as deeply, it would crush her but it was a risk she foolishly wanted to take, “I could be happy with you, Blaise,” she whispered honestly.
There was a shuddering sigh from him then and Astoria wondered if he were trying desperately not to break. Even though she knew that he could be fearless, only she could feel the faintest of tremors in his body...the anxious quality to his tone that betrayed how calm he appeared on the outside, “But you won't marry me,” Blaise said softly.
“I'm not certain what my dad is planning and I wouldn't be able to stand it if something else happened to you because of me.” Astoria started tensely, opening her eyes to see the tumult of emotions flashing through him, “but I—”
The devastated look in Blaise's eyes was enough to silence her and a wild expression that she had never seen coming over his face. When he spoke, his voice shook,“I care too much about you, Astoria to let you go,” it seemed to take him a very long to speak again and when he did, he had regained himself, “marrying you wouldn't be a burden to me, it would be an honor to have you by my side.”
Astoria thought that her knees were about to give out underneath her but was relieved when Blaise kept a firm hold on her waist. It felt as if all the energy had left her and she wasn't certain if it were due from stress or shock, “Even with what you suspect my family does? You would still...”
Blaise's face turned severe with determination and she saw a flash of something deep in his eyes that she couldn't identify. It appeared that there was no fear in his heart that would keep him from her, “You don't have to force yourself to say it, I've been able to understand what your family does for some time.”
“W..when?” Astoria demanded weakly, feeling nothing but shame envelop her. A chilly wind blew at the same time and at her shiver, Blaise only pulled her closer to him until she was nearly inside of his robes, warmth pulsing from his body to her own, “how?” she whispered in a panic.
There was a silence as Blaise ran a comforting hand down her back and pressed the faintest of kisses along her cheek, lips softer than silk. “I was able to piece together enough to understand, especially when you kept mentioning the danger we were in. And of course, meeting your brother only made it more clear,” he explained as gently as he could, though his voice was rough.
Astoria shuddered at the casualness in his tone but underneath it all she could sense his fear and revulsion. All the pain that he had endured before she had arrived flashed through her mind and she felt bathed in nothing but shame, “Blaise—”
“I don't give a damn about your family and I won't walk around being afraid of whatever scheme your father comes up with.” Blaise interrupted firmly and she saw a flash of that fearlessness in him again, “I know that I can't fight him now but someday, everything that he's done will come crashing down but letting him scare you from what you want is allowing him to win.”
Astoria knew that he was right and she knew that her own happiness was the true question here. Could she do something so selfish after all the damage she had caused already? The answer came to her as swiftly as the question had and she knew that without a doubt that any moment that she could have being truly happy with Blaise at her side was too powerful to ignore.
Blaise ran his eyes over her face intently as if he were desperately trying to read her mind but almost as if he were losing strength, he murmured gently. “After everything that you've done for me, I can't just let it end this way.”
There was so much pain in his voice that Astoria felt her chest tightening in reaction to it, wishing that she could soothe it all away. For a moment they stood in silence until the air became unbearably chilly and she gasped in surprise as she felt him lift her hands and tenderly kiss her knuckles, his hands containing a faint tremor. “I'm...I'm not that cold you don't have to do this,” she murmured, flushing.
“By now, you should know that I'll do anything for you.” Blaise whispered softly against her skin and Astoria felt herself sinking, colliding and falling rapidly. “I may not be able to give you everything that you've ever wanted but I'll give you as much of myself that I can,” he insisted urgently, his dark eyes flashing brightly with so many emotions that it made her head swim.
The words caused an almost unbearable ache in her heart and Astoria stared up at him in amazement, knowing that this was a vulnerable side of him that he had never revealed before. Somehow with those words, it felt as if the connection that had forged between the two of them had shifted into something so precious that her entire body seemed to flood with overwhelming joy.
Astoria's throat felt tight and when she finally spoke, her voice felt cracked and shaken, a true sign that she was near tears. Fighting the burning sensation back, she fought to stay upright, feeling as if her body would give out on her at any moment,“...Yes.”
Blaise had been absorbed in pressing kisses to her knuckles but paused in surprise, jerking out of his thoughts. “What?” Astoria frowned up at him and he flashed her a charming little smile that made her heart melt, “I could barely hear you.”
“I said yes,” Astoria repeated.
“Yes to what?” Blaise asked her gently as he lowered her hands in his own, his grip firm and strong. The warmth radiating from him was enough to make Astoria's heart pound wildly, “if this is some sort of feminine ploy to get inside of my robes, I am deeply disappointed in you.”
Astoria wasn't certain how it was possible for one person to go from melting her heart to irritating her so easily. “Blaise!” she snapped and to her aggravation, he roared with laughter and she snatched her hands from his, punching him as hard as she could in the shoulder until he had to fend her off. “You are so bloody irritating!”
Blaise chortled in amusement before cupping her face in his hands and brushing his mouth across hers. A jolt of sensation shot up her spine, “I know but I can't help teasing you and to make up for it, I'll ask you again,” his lips were still so achingly close but he drew back and asked softly.“Will you marry me?”
“Yes, I'll marry you, I'll—” Astoria managed over her constricting throat and she was mortified by the flood of tears that escaped. Blaise murmured something soothingly to her but she could make no response of her own as he pressed tender kisses along her forehead, the lids of her eyes and her wet cheeks.
There seemed to be nowhere else as pleasant as being here with him and even among dying rose petals with the icy bite of winter, it was bliss. Blaise's mouth was roaming tenderly along her jaw and Astoria thought that he would never kiss her but the moment that his lips would have met her own and lit her soul on fire, they were interrupted.
“I'm assuming from this sickening display that my daughter has agreed to the engagement?” Maximus Greengrass's voice was coldly amused and it was like being thrust back into a dark, icy place. Astoria jerked and Blaise dropped his hands from her face, though his arms wrapped around her instinctively, “how touching...”
Astoria's heart was pounding heavily as if it would take only another jolt or unpleasant surprise for it to leap out of her chest. The sight of her father made her prickle with revulsion as she studied him standing several feet away near another row of dying rose bushes, dressed in a warm coat and observing them from cunning blue eyes.
For a moment, Maximus Greengrass merely stared at the pair of them wordlessly before giving a short little nod of understanding. He ran a hand over a wilting red rose, which crumbled underneath his gentle touch, “I don't approve of you sneaking out of the house, Astoria but I must say that this was a rather...pleasant place to discuss your upcoming marriage,” he said lightly, watching as a few petals fell feebly at his feet.
Astoria felt her cheeks paling with fear that he seemed to cause death no matter how careful his touch. Blaise said nothing but she could feel his anger boiling, causing his body to tighten with barely suppressed rage, “How did you know we were out here?” she demanded out of her father.
“There are very few places that you could have gone and even you, with all the damage that you have done wouldn't bring a boy into your room.” Maximus Greengrass replied calmly, ignoring the outraged flush that crept into Astoria's cheeks and the offended look of rage Blaise shot him, “be aware that I have eyes everywhere...”
For a moment, Astoria expected him to produce a magical eye, like the one that she had seen Mad-Eye Moody possessing. Instead, she was left wondering what other methods he had used to spy on them and knew immediately, “Aradelle,” she said and her father's lips turned up in a mockery of a smile.
Although Astoria felt an overwhelming amount of guilt over what she had done to her house-elf, she was suddenly drowning in anger and pity. But at the sound of her name, the creature seemed to appear from nowhere, emerging only a few feet from them behind a wilting hedge, “Yes, Mistress Stori?” she squeaked helplessly.
Blaise's eyes were filled with scorn but at Astoria's look, he said nothing to the creature, although it was difficult. “Nothing, dear.” She said to Aradelle, who, upon noticing the intimidating form of her father, quickly trooped over to him and bowed so low that her ears scraped against the cobblestones.
Maximus barely paid her a glance and jerked his head at her dismissively until she vanished with a miserable pop. The sound carried on the chilly breeze, “I couldn't help but be... curious and had Aradelle watching the pair of you. Though I'm sure neither of you noticed,” he replied with a careless little shrug.
The words made Astoria flinch slightly because she was more than certain that he had heard more than she could imagine. “And I'm assuming Aradelle let you know that I had reached a decision before coming back,” even as she said the words, they made her sick to her stomach, as if she might vomit.
An amused expression filtered over her father's familiar features and Astoria wondered how she had ever found warmth in them. His blue eyes focused on her unflinchingly, “I can't help that she's so eager to please.” Maximus said back to her, his voice holding a barely detectable hiss.
Blaise pressed a comforting hand to the small of Astoria's back as if he could shield her from all the hurt in the world. It was a touching gesture but she knew that the danger had only become far more sinister, “And I'm certain that you're just dying to hear the good news,” he said to her father, purposefully adding irony to the words.
Maximus Greengrass's face took on a briefly amused expression as he turned his deep blue eyes at him. The sight of Astoria in his arms only caused his lips to thin slightly, as if he were trying to hold back on vomiting himself, “Well?” he asked them lightly while there was a slight commotion from behind him and the sound of oncoming footsteps.
A pool of panic flooded into Astoria's system as she wondered just how long her father had been observing them. Blaise's body had gone tense and it was obvious that he had wondered the same and didn't stop her as she discreetly drew her wand from the depths of her dress, wondering if there would be blood. “Well?” he repeated lightly at her father.
“Don't keep an old man waiting, I've been eagerly anticipating this moment for a very long time. Though of course, the circumstances weren't at all what I had been expecting for my headstrong little girl,” Maximus Greengrass said with a flash of a smile that was nothing but teeth.
“I've said yes,” Astoria said as strongly as she could, hoping that the quaver in her voice could be viewed as nothing more than sheer giddiness. There was the hurried sound of footsteps coming closer to the three of them and the unmistakeable sound of raised, furious voices, “I've thought everything over, its what I want,” she said coldly to her father.
Maximus Greengrass's smile wasn't kind but calculating and pleased, the sight of it making Astoria's blood run cold. Blaise's dark eyes were narrowed on him with open revulsion and she watched her father shift his head at him idly, as if finding him a very curious little specimen, “I'm sure you have your reasons.”
Astoria felt her cheeks flushing at the implication and to her horror, she quickly found herself staring at the frantic expressions of her mother and sister, who was holding onto a tall, furious man she didn't immediately recognize. They had come from around the house but jerked to a sudden halt, taking in the scene with wide, disbelieving eyes, “Maximus, what's going on?” her mother demanded angrily, looking pale.
Emily was swallowing hard but tore her gaze away from Astoria's as she tried to hold the tall man back by the arm, his very face one of madness. The air seemed to rush out of her lungs as she realized that one of the angry voices that she had heard had come from none other than Scorpious, who appeared dazed with a murderous rage.
Blaise's arms only tightened around her but Astoria barely felt comforted from him now, her terror and grief so acute over the sight of her brother. It had only been three days since she had seen him, but it may as well have been a lifetime as she took in the state of his disheveled blonde hair and the flashing blue eyes so like their father's.
The hem of his dark robes were stained with dirt and he must have just come home from business in Knockturn Alley. From the look on his furious face, he had learned all he'd needed to from their sister and mother, “What is going on?” her brother asked in a voice that made her heart stop, his blue eyes flashing demonically. “Emily, get your hands off of me!”
Emily held onto his arm tighter but Astoria knew from the quality of her flushed cheeks that she was having a difficult time in restraining him. “No, you're not thinking clearly—we wouldn't have told you but we were so worried about what Stori would do!” she gasped in a panic.
Scorpious's face was flushed with angry color but Astoria found herself flinching as he took in the sight of her being held so closely in Blaise's embrace. “You knew what I would do after telling me such a bullshit story, Emily!” he snarled at their sister, rounding on her like a beast. “I'll kill him!”
Blaise stiffened at the threat but Astoria saw from the subtle look that Emily shot their mother that that was what they were hoping for. A furious duel between the two men could possibly result in his death...solving all of their problems, “Stay away from us, all of you!” Astoria screamed, horrified at the knowledge that they were outnumbered.
“I have no intention of allowing things to get so out of hand, Astoria.” Maximus Greengrass suddenly replied, having kept quiet until now. Scorpious stared at him in outrage while his wife gazed at him as if he had lost his mind, jerking away as if he might suddenly be contagious, “Scorpious, stop making such a fuss.”
He made no gesture of greeting, finding his sudden appearance to be an unworthy distraction. Scorpious's face contorted with rage, “Making a fuss—? Dad, I can't believe you're standing here letting this happen!” he screamed as he turned his furious gaze on Astoria and Blaise once more, appearing disgusted, “that son of a bitch has his hands on my sister...”
Blaise's grip on Astoria only tightened slightly and when he spoke, there was such a chilling quality to his voice that it frightened her. “I don't think you have any right to be concerned over your sister, not when you could have nearly killed her yourself,” he reminded angrily, eyes narrowed into dangerous slits.
Scorpious's head reeled back almost as if he hadn't heard him correctly and he shook Emily off rather roughly. Almost immediately, his wand was gripped tightly in his hand but he hesitated when he caught the stricken look on Astoria's face, “Stori,” he said painfully, his voice almost hoarse. “I love you, I never would have done it if...”
Astoria's body was suddenly overcome with shivers grief but she felt the tears before they fell. That thing that had nearly killed Blaise and had injured her without a second thought couldn't have been the brother that she had laughed, argued and loved for so long, “I-I don't want to hear your excuses, Scorpious.”
“You know that I never would have tried to hurt you—but you were ruining everything to save this fucking pureblood!” Scorpious's retort was anguished but there was blame there as well that nearly caused Astoria to crumble into nothing from the sheer pain of it. “Do you think I wanted to do it?!”
No, but he'd done it anyway. Astoria pressed a hand to her eyes to push away the tears that were building but the sight of her in so much pain seemed to hurt her brother far more than anything else. But as her brother began to, take a step forward, fear and anger overtook her affection, “Stay away from me, don't come near me!” she screamed.
“Stori,” Scorpious said, sounding hollow. Astoria couldn't bear to look at him and turned away as he rounded on the others, trembling with rage and misery, “Dad, you've lost your mind—I'm not going to let this happen!” their father raised his black brows in surprise at the words and he drew away immediately, flustered. “I...you just can't.”
Their father was eyeing him coldly and Astoria could sense that although no words were spoken, his message was clear. Interfering and daring to question the way he dealt with his own affairs could be deadly, “Daddy, I tried to stop him but he didn't listen to a word I said.” Emily suddenly said to their father. Her green eyes were wide, “you have to talk some sense into him!”
Astoria knew that their father would only find that to be a tedious task and she saw his lips turn downward in a foreboding frown. “I don't believe that there's much that I can do to ease your brother's mind,” Maximus Greengrass replied as he ignored the imploring hand that his wife rested on his arm, “he has, in my opinion every right to be upset.”
The words caused a strange ripple to go through Blaise's body and Astoria looked up at him worriedly. Scorpious's appearance must have brought on all the memories of pain and near-death that he was trying so hard to fight and she placed a hand onto his chest, earning a look of disbelief from her brother.
“It's all right,” Blaise whispered softly to her, his hand closing around her much smaller one. Astoria could feel him shaking slightly and watched as his eyes flickered between the members of her family as if he were facing an army of demons, “I'm all right.” He said more firmly.
Astoria knew that he couldn't be but knew that it wouldn't be wise to pressure him right now, understanding his need to appear strong. “Maximus, you have kept Emily and I waiting long enough!” she heard her mother snarl, looking like some sort of fallen angel in the weak sunlight, her blonde hair glowing dimly, “haven't we suffered already?”
“I have only just learned the state of our...little situation with Zabini myself my love, so surely you will give me time to get over the shock.” Maximus replied to his wife in a soothing voice that he may have used at some point to relax a small child. It only caused his wife to glare up at him warningly, “If anyone has suffered, it has been me.”
The sheer audacity of the words robbed Astoria of breath and Blaise's fury was suddenly a palpable thing. It coiled around her like a noose, “And what about the pain that you've given your daughter?” he scowled furiously, “that you all have given her?” he ran his eyes over each of her family members slowly, appearing revolted.
“That is nothing compared to the dwindling of the family business, Zabini and you'll have to forgive me if I don't immediately weep for Astoria's sake.” Maximus replied coolly, earning a horrified look from his wife. Emily appeared to be fighting back tears as Scorpious glared at Blaise, his hatred so fierce that it scalded Astoria to the very center of her marrow, “or yours.”
“Why is that fucking pureblood even still alive?!” Scorpious suddenly cried as Astoria watched Blaise's face contorting with fury. The words had been deliberately cruel but her brother's voice was nothing more than a rough whisper, his wand creating sparks of fire as he tapped it impatiently along his thigh, “I thought you were going to kill him!”
Their father's face was incredibly impassive. “I've changed my mind and it seems that Astoria has as well.” He said lightly, though he was eyeing her as if she were a particularly difficult problem that he longed to break, “you've been told the situation Scorpious and it would be wise not to test me further.”
Scorpious's face fell and for a moment his shoulders sank, giving him the appearance of a lost, little boy. It broke Astoria's heart for just one moment to see him that way before she pushed it aside, knowing that it was wrong to care, “Dad—its not true, Emily and Mum are lying...they have to be!” he insisted desperately, his eyes flashing.
The words felt as if they had been aimed specifically at Astoria's battered heart and she heard herself gasp. There was nothing but pain and fury in her brother's words but it was the hateful look he shot her that was the final blow, “I'm sure that they would never lie to you about something like this, Scorpious.” Maximus replied calmly, giving him a warning look, “and try to be more civil towards Zabini.”
Scorpious let out an incredulous laugh at the words, blue eyes glowing madly. “Why the hell should I after what he did to Stori?!” he would never believe that Astoria had ran away on her own, perhaps praying with all his might that Blaise had tricked her.
Their father sent him a faintly mocking smile and the sight of it was enough to chill Astoria's very heart. “Because its not every day that your younger sister becomes engaged, Scorpious, have a little common decency.” He chided, giving a low chuckle that sounded cracked and forced.
Emily clasped a trembling hand to her mouth to hold in what Astoria knew had been a cry of both anguish and horror. Their mother looked as if the very life had been sucked from her face and she stared at Astoria in disbelief and fury, “You've disgraced us!” she accused viciously once she had caught her voice, “how could you do something like this?!”
Scorpious's pale face had turned grey and Astoria was eerily reminded of some unearthly creature from the underworld. It almost looked as if the very life and happiness had been sucked out of him...as if all the love for her that he'd ever had were suddenly fading—it was a painful thing to witness, “You're not doing it, Stori!” he cried in disbelief.
Astoria felt her fingers being squeezed in a supportive clasp as Blaise offered her more courage than she had ever known. In that moment she knew that there could still be time to change things, to fix what she had broken with her family and turn down the chance at being his wife...of having her brother and sister back.
But it would be an illusion of a life, nothing more substantial than sand slipping through her fingers. “Scorpious, nothing you or anyone can say is going to stop me. I'm going to marry him, its my decision to make,” Astoria had spoken softly but they seemed to carry the force of the world behind them whatever bonds she'd shared with her family were now broken forever.
Thanks for reading everyone! Up next is "This is Audrey Tang: The Bad Taste" adn then we're going back to "Albus Potter and the Dark Lord's Prince" so please stay tuned! Updates will be slow but it doesn't mean I don't love you guys!
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