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Chapter 42 : The End
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After realizing that Terry Boot had been captured and dragged into the manor last night, I first went to Draco, asking that he intervene for Terry, or at least pretend he didn’t recognize him and place him as a Hogwarts student playing truant. The damage was already done, however: Draco coolly informed me that no Mudblood’s life was worth risking his integrity, and that even if he had not instantly recognized his former classmate, there was nothing he could say to have Terry released.
“There are other prisoners down there – wizards of former repute and grandeur, and witches from powerful families – some prisoners whose families thought they should be more powerful,” he told me shortly. “I assume that soon Boot will be transported to Azkaban or the Ministry’s cells before going to trial.”
He took Terry’s things away: his wand, the one I remembered teaching me to cast complicated spells. The books which had been in his bag, and the food and other provisions were distributed among the Snatchers who had found him: Greyback scornfully bellowed that the books were of no use to them. I recognized them as children’s books that Terry had given me copies of: the companions of his childhood that he loved so dearly.
By the time the Death Eaters emerged from the cellar, night had grown deep over the gardens of the manor. Only silence filled the air leading to the dungeons, and I wondered if the worst had already happened, if they had not gained any useful information from Terry and had decided to silence him instead of the effort of feeding him and having him transported into London.
“Shame the boy wouldn’t talk, or perhaps he truly does have nothing to say,” Mr. Nott’s voice explained. “No word of Potter – bloody waste.”
I grabbed Draco’s wrist, digging my nails into the soft part beneath the ridge of his palm. He winces, tugging out of my grip.
“Please, please do something,” I begged him. “You’re a Death Eater. There must be something…”
“Nothing,” Draco had said flatly, and pulling himself free from my grip he moved into the darkness.
It was my sixteenth birthday, and the boy I loved had a sealed fate. My nightmare, predicted by the Boggart when we rang in the New Year, was soon to come true. I play this conversaton through my head again and again in the night, curled around my pillow, skin covered in a thin veil of sweat.
The next day is the sort which leads to frost gathering at the edges of windows, creeping and creeping towards the glass, casting a silver glow over the view of the garden. It is the sort of morning where my eyes sting from the tears that stained my pillow, my jaw sore from the clenching of teeth, my skin cold, the hair rising on its ends.
Nobody has bothered to light the candles or chandeliers in the front hall: indeed, one would expect the morning light to illuminate the wood panels and valuable portraits, but today the sun hides his face behind the clouds. I step from the stairs, a creature of shadows, catching a glimpse of my face in the glass of the antique grandfather clock: it could be the skeletal face of a ghost. I hardly look sixteen.
“Please listen to me, Dad. Would you mind just hearing me out?” The words come out harsher than planned. Perhaps imagining this scene too many times in my head has caused them to harden when what matters most is kindness and mercy.
My father pauses at the front door, his hand tense on the knob. He looks over his shoulder, hardly granting me the gift of his full attention. His eyes are very dark – shadows become him.
“I just – I needed to ask you about something I saw at Malfoy Manor last night. Can you wait a moment and listen?”
“I have an important meeting this morning, Astoria,” he says tartly. His hair seems thinner on top, and his face is gaunt and stern.
“It’s just about the – the prisoner who was brought into the manor last night. I recognize him from Hogwarts and I’m quite sure – I mean, I’m quite positive that he’s a half-blood, and shouldn’t be locked up and treated like he is. I don’t think his family or other wizards would like it.”
To my surprise, my father snorts, shaking his head. His laughter does not meet those shadow eyes, hard and impenetrable by magic nor emotion. “You are softhearted as the worst of them, Astoria. Whether the boy’s blood is tainted or not hardly matters – those who are fugitives from their duties, to school or to the Ministry, are brought to justice. To my knowledge, the boy was found spying outside the manor’s gates – he should not even have gotten that far.”
“I remember him – he’s a boy from Ravenclaw, and he’s harmless,” I say desperately. I move towards my father, my bare feet cold on the wooden floorboards. “Is this what this has come to? Punishing my old schoolmates for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“The boy was most likely a spy, or got a little too sly for his own good,” my father says. He tosses away Terry’s life like it were an inconvenient accident. “I suggest you not bother yourself with his fate. Surely, I am not.” He checks his large bronze watch, around which several hands whirl and change. “Do not expect me home until very late, and tell your mother.”
With that, he is gone, and the draft from the slamming door and the sound of a loud Apparating crack from the front garden leaves me alone once again.
I have a plan to resort to. It should work: it could either go very smoothly or very wrong. But the price of trying is that everything will change.
When my mother awakes, I already have coffee ready for her, prepared without the use of magic. She smiles at me.
“How does it feel to be sixteen, darling? Or, I suppose you are now sixteen and a day.”
“Just lovely,” I tell her, deciding to withhold the information of the argument with my father. “Actually, I just spoke with Dad when he was leaving. He said I could go back and study with Draco again today, if it’s alright with you.”
“Not a problem – you had better run and get dressed,” my mother says in agreement. She is clearly pleased that her scheme for Draco to distract me from the melancholy of being home from Hogwarts has worked, though of course she has no inklings of my true intentions for returning to that hellish place.
Upstairs, I pack a few things into my rucksack: useful potions ingredients and healing salve, an enchanted map of Britain that Theo left at mine, a bottle of water spelled to always be full and never be heavy. On impulse, I add in one of the Muggle children’s books Terry gave me for Christmas, one I haven’t read yet with a funny name. The cover shows two children standing with suitcases in front of a large marble staircase, staring upwards. It’s quite thin and light and fits well.
“Dad said he’d be out late. What time will you come and get me from the manor?” I ask my mother. “Or, I could just ask Draco to bring me home.”
My mother smiles, seeming delighted that I am showing such interest in visiting with the Malfoys. “That should be fine. I know you’re still nervous about being home alone after that incident with the person outside. Though I still find it a little unbelievable that somebody could penetrate the wards so deeply – perhaps your father was just trying to joke with us.”
I raise an eyebrow. The man this war has turned my father into is hardly the kind to jest, especially when questioning his own magical skills of the security wards around out home.
When my mother steps out of the kitchen to dress in her Ministry robes for the day, I take advantage to fill my rucksack with food from the shelves: a handful of apples, a loaf of fresh bread, and some vegetables from the market. Anything that is not too heavy to carry, though with all these things being collected my bag is already weighing me down. And there is something else I add, something very crucial: a little vial of a very special potion from my parents’ stores. A potion which could mean the difference between life and death.
My mother comments on how pleased she is that I am making an effort to engage and make the best of my suspension: I nod dully in return.
Draco is polite but distant when he greets me at the door, leading me to the same parlor where we studied the day before, hours before everything exploded. He returns to his desk, facing away from me. Twirling my wand, I experimentally point it at his back, imagining the spell I will have to cast. Twice, I panic and delay myself.
He is not a bad person, not really, and in another situation we might nearly be friends. But I made my plans in the early hours of the morning, packing my rucksack, preparing the spells necessary. I believe that nobody suspects me: the only people in residence at the manor are people who know me, wizards who will not turn their wands on the daughter of one of their own. I am both safe and in the most terrible danger, here at the heart of the Dark Lord’s court.
I excuse myself to Draco, saying that I need to go to the loo. He nods, giving me directions to the closest one. He seems quite distracted, hardly bothering to look at me.
When I return, it is with as heavy a bladder as when I left, but with several more things packed into my rucksack. The potion in question is hidden deep within a pocket, wrapped up in a sock to keep it from breaking.
“Why does your family allow the Snatchers such access to your home?” I ask Draco, taking a bite of a very dry biscuit which was provided in my absence. The house elves must be creeping in the shadows and moving between secret passageways in their quick deliveries of service.
“We do not have a choice, clearly,” he drawls. “Do you really pay no attention at all?”
“Sorry,” I respond, feeling a little stung despite everything. I shift between my feet, suddenly realizing that I am wearing mis-matched socks that peek through my trousers: one bright pink and one black. I settle back into the sofa, stuffing another dry biscuit into my mouth to avoid saying anything to arouse suspicion. As far as I am aware, Draco doesn’t have any inkling of the link between myself and the boy in the basement besides my brief defense of him. A voice in my head, sounding oddly a bit more like Terry’s than my own, reminds me that I should be more civil to Draco, considering the circumstances and my plans.
We sit for a few hours in silence, Draco staring at his parchment and books, occasionally brushing his hands lightly over the place where his arm is Marked. I know from observing my father over the past two years that this means his Mark is moving, perhaps burning, and causing his shoulders to tense and his glare to be more irritable as he brushes away a buzzing fly.
He doesn’t know that everything is about to change, potentially for the both of us. My hand grazes over the bulge in my rucksack where the vial of potion is hidden.
My moment comes in the early night, as the dark begins to settle and the manor grows eerily quiet. My legs are stiff from sitting and tense from waiting, dreading. Draco asks me when my parents will come to fetch me, and I say that they are expecting that I might stay the night – a lie, but I know that my mother will be expecting me to be Apparated home by the Malfoys. I have bought myself some time, if the plan goes as smoothly as I hope.
Draco excuses himself, saying that he will be in the library if I would like to join him.
“My father and his associates are in London tonight – they have some sort of event,” he informs me. “I need to look up a potion ingredient in one of his books – it has been a few days since they have vacated the room and allowed it to be used for its actual purpose.” His lip curls again, and I think back to our conversation in the Whispering Garden: how Draco isn’t so pleased with the lot he drew this time around. How he was first seduced by glory, but stays because of fear.
I cannot allow myself to pity him, even if he is wearing mis-matched socks.
Leaving Draco a few minutes to reach the library, I silently creep out into the corridor, allowing my wand to light in order to better illuminate my path. When I reach the tapestry of the maiden and the unicorn, I hold it up, wondering if anybody would be alerted were I to use magic to open the secret door leading to the dungeons beneath the manor.
Tentatively, I whisper a spell meant to open doors. Nothing happens, though the maiden in the tapestry looks up, her thread-and-stitch face round and inquisitive. Her fingers weave through the unicorn’s mane, and the beast closes its eyes in her lap, horn glinting against the shadows of the forest. There are unicorns in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts: Daphne told me of how they studied them in Care of Magical Creatures, and how the animals trusted the witches but not the wizards in the group.
“They were so beautiful, and then they let their guard go, their hearts rest in our company,” my sister had explained. “It is no wonder that to slay a unicorn is said to be a sin, punishable by deep, old magic. I’ve never seen anything so innocent.”
I wonder at the maiden in the tapestry, and the mystery which surrounds her: does she know that the hunters are coming, or is she as innocent and trusting as the unicorn?
Pulling my attention away is difficult, but my thoughts return to the task at hand. O check once more that there is no movement from the corridor around me. Tucking my wand into my pocket, I try and move the tapestry without magic. It does not budge, and the embroidered maiden seems to huff reproachfully. Time is running out for her and the unicorn.
I suppose we have no other choice, then, I say in my head. My senses, already on alert, retract into my mind, tugging at the limits of my Legilimency. Preparing. It travels back to my father’s lessons in casting the Imperius curse, in the control of the mind, in the might of will when getting one’s own way.
Wrapping my arms around myself, I move through the silent house, into the library, where Draco is standing by the window, a lone figure among a thousand books, carefully wiping the dust away as he cracks one open, shoulders hunched. Dust mites seems to gather and hang in the air, illuminated by blue-fire torches, the kind which are enchanted to not be flammable when exposed to other objects. Further away, a long table with uniformly organized chairs stands, ominous and empty, with one chair seemingly slightly more grand than the others at its head. I shiver. This place has seen horrors. This manor festers with death.
I approach Draco, stealthily, staring intently at the back of his blond head. Summoning my courage, I think back to all the horrible things Draco has done to me and mine: bullying me in the past, threatening me, provoking Theo and Pyxis, refusing to help Terry. How he was the one who brought me away from Hogwarts. The people he has hurt as a Death Eater: letting the others into Hogwarts, bringing them to Dumbledore. How he would spit on my name if he knew the truth about me. He’s a git, I remind myself, forcing my mind to embrace it, to believe it. He deserves anything he gets.
“Tor? Is that you?”
Just as Draco senses my presence and begins to turn, I whisper the spell, wand pointed straight at his head.
Its not the most honorable solution, but if it comes down to Malfoy or Terry, to Draco or me, Draco must take the fall every time. For a moment, I hold my breath, the power of my mind and its natural perception forcing my consciousness to believe that the spell has worked. It must work, or all is lost.
I have cast and failed with mind-control enchantments in the past, such as when my attempted modification of Terry’s memory of me went awry. The moment stretches on into horrible seconds as I clench my fist tight around my wand. Draco stares at me.
He looks up at me submissively. His eyes are glazed, blind.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper softly, but I don’t truly mean it. The spell has worked, and my relief is quickly replaced by the determination it will take to pull through, filling me with a sensation of tentative power. I cannot lose focus, not now. Draco smiles at me, an obedient, childish smile. At the edge of my mind I feel his willing presence, patiently waiting for guidance.
Step softly, I tell him in his head. It is a quiet place. Follow me and don’t make a sound. If you hear anything, hide.
Creeping silently, we walk carefully down the hallway to the stairs, slave and puppet master. Hardly believing my luck, I lead him to the unicorn tapestry. The hunters are close now, their knives and wands glinting in the clearing. The door begins a creak a little on its hinges but Draco silences it without my even asking. It is interesting how the Imperius Curse works: nearly like having an extended body representing my will, instead of a simple subordinate. Once or twice I feel Draco’s true self trying to resist, pushing at the stone prison in which his own will is imprisoned, but I hold firm, barring the door of his free will. He is an adequate Occlumens, from what I know, but I have caught him off his guard, capturing his mind in a moment when he thought he could actually be safe in his own home.
Lead me down the stairs to Terry Boot’s cell, and keep your wand lit, I command Draco. We move down, my scalp brushing against the filthy walls. These are the stairs I climbed down last night, desperate to keep Terry in my sight as he was dragged in by the Death Eaters to be questioned. Though they did not find him valuable, he is still in an individual cell, waiting to be transported elsewhere. The other cells are a distance down the corridor: this is just a temporary one, for holding unimportant prisoners.
Terry is sprawled out on the floor of his cell, back leaning against the wall, staring listlessly at the rotting ceiling. As we enter he jumps to his feet, startled.
“What do you want, Malfoy?” He says defiantly, not acknowledging me for Draco’s benefit. The boy I love has shadows beneath his eyes, bruises on his arms, scratches running down his shirt as if done by nails.
“Oh, Terry,” I whisper, and losing control for a moment, I fly to the bars keeping him from me, feel their cool, grimy metal against my cheek, reach through and take his hands. They are bruised and hard, and his face is full of wonder.
“Tor – be careful, what about-”
It’s okay,” I tell him. “He won’t tell. he can’t” Terry looks suspicious, though his hands are running up and down my forearms, as if making sure I’m in one piece. “No, really. I took care of it.” I smile reassuringly. Draco, do it.
Draco points his wand at the cell door, undoing the various enchantments his ancestors put to keep prisoners in. I have an unpleasant fleeting thought of the many enemies of the Malfoys who had met torture or death in these cells. It is fortunate indeed that Draco was here: I doubt that if it were another Death Eater who was not part of the family who owned this house and these cells, or if it were a more important prisoner, I would have gotten this far.
As soon as the door is clear, I run into Terry’s arms, feeling his thin frame shiver with the impact. He laughs, a little harshly, and the sound reverberates against my ribs. He smells like damp and cold but I do not care, and we shiver in one another’s arms.
“I never wanted you to see me like this,” he whispers. “But I had to know you were alright. I’m so, so sorry. I’ve made a real muck-up of things.”
“What are you talking about?” I reach up and brush my lips against his cheek. It’s a moment of tenderness, not passion, but all the same he moves so that his lips trace mine instead.
“I – Tor, I finally got through to Mikey and Anthony. They said you’d been taken out of Hogwarts, a target of the Carrows – that you left with this lowlife…” he glares at Draco, pulling back. “So I came looking for you. I’ve been on the run – I tried to get through the spells at your house…”
“That was you?” I close my eyes for a moment, wishing I could enjoy this fully: the feel of him, his voice, battered but not broken, alive but still in danger. “Of course it was you who tried to break in. Scared me half to death.” I pull away slightly, looking up at him, the same blue eyes still glinting in the light from Draco’s wand. “Prat.” I nudge him.
“Shush, you,” he whispers. “We shouldn’t be talking here. Malfoy – what did you do…?
“Imperius Curse,” I say frankly, and take the moment to reconnect my mind to Draco’s, ensure that the curse is still intact. Stand on one foot, Draco. Instantly, the command is obeyed, the Slytherin boy’s face impassive. “Right. We can follow him out. To the back gardens – he knows the way. This is his house.”
“You’re brilliant,” Terry says, clasping his fingers around mine. “But you’re in danger too.”
I squeeze his hand. “My life is worth nothing if I don’t at least try to get you out alive.” The words are airy and breathy, the idea that he could even not be alive stinging my throat. “You’re going to be fine. You’ll be free. I’m going to free you.”
Draco watches us impassively. Terry remembers him and sends a poisonous glare in his direction.
“Oi, mate, do us a favour and turn around?” Do it, I add to Draco through the Curse, and he obliges, spinning mechanically on the spot.
“What was that for?” I ask Terry.
“So I can do this,” he replies, and once again his lips are on mine, strong and desperate, shivering from the chill. He runs his arms over my shoulders, bumping over the straps of the backpack I’ve prepared for him, and entwined in my hair, finally settling around my waist. I press myself and kiss him like we’ve never been together before, as if it’s the last time we’ll see each other, trying to express all of my love and my fear. I love you, Terry Boot. I love you, I do.
After what feels like an eternity, but too soon, all too soon, we break apart and stare at each other, bodies still entwined. I bite my lip, hard, to hold back the tears and the verge of collapse that threatens the edge of my consciousness.
“We need to get out of here,” I breathe against his chest, clutching his hands in mine.
“This certainly isn’t the ideal place for a snog session,” Terry comments, and the familiar cheeky optimism makes me laugh despite myself. Perhaps this is the first time this place has heard laughter.
Entwining our fingers together in that familiar grasp, I nudge Malfoy with my wand and he obediently leads the way. I cling to Terry, and his cold hand comforts me.
“Wait, Tor. There are other people down here – I could hear them screaming and crying in the night.” He looks back down the narrow corridor which leads to the other cells. I tug on his hand.
“I can only get you out, Terry. And maybe not even that. We might be caught still – we have to hurry.”
He bites his lip, a pained expression on his face. I tug on his hand again, more urgently this time, grateful that I am not bound by the noble bravery of his spirit. I could curse him like I did Draco, if it meant getting him out safely.
We walk through the corridor, the tapestry falling back into place behind us with a surge of air and dust. I do not turn to see if the hunters are now descended upon the unicorn, if it is rearing up in fear, the maiden who betrayed the creature crushed beneath its hooves and the hunter’s knives. Without incident, Malfoy’s lit wand illuminating the heavy wooden furniture. I command my heart to cease its loud, frantic beats, certain that it’s din will give us away. It pounds loudly in the still, empty rooms. They are too quiet, too empty. This is a house of ghosts, and even the living fear to tread here after nightfall.
Before we step through to the entrance hall, I reach forward with my mind and prod the room for a living soul, for the thrum of a human brain. It is empty, devoid of human activity, yet…
Reaching into my rucksack, I pull out the potion I stole from my father’s stores at our home, pressing it into Terry’s hands. Wordlessly, Draco extends his palm: a few of his own blond hairs are nestled against his skin, and without pausing I stick them inside the vial, which turns an opaque silver.
Take the potion, I mouth to Terry. Quick. Now! With weak hands, he struggles to uncork it: it is painfully slow. After several long seconds, a second Draco Malfoy is standing in front of me, shivering a little in the cold.
I turn to the original. Give me your robes. He obliges, and I drape the expensive material around Terry. Now hide yourself, and well. My Malfoy-puppet obliges, stepping quickly and quietly into a large cupboard close to the door. He waits there, his mis-matched socks dark against his scrawny legs. Perfect. Wait there, and attract no attention.
Unable to stall any longer, I swing open the door to the entrance hall, arm clasped firmly on Terry’s. Somebody moves in the shadows: a figure. Without hesitation I whisper a curse, and there is a groan and a thump as the faceless wizard falls to the floor.
“This way to the gardens,” I breathe in his ear. It is odd –he may look like Draco, but he smells and feels the same. “And then – we run. Here, you should carry this.” I press my rucksack into his hands. “It has a couple potions, a confiscated wand I stole from the Snatcher’s loot in the Entrance Hall – I couldn’t see yours there, some food.
It’s just my school rucksack, but it’s spelled to be light and sturdy and carry a little more than it looks.” There is a broom resting by the door, and impulsively I seize it as well, lamenting that I didn’t think of hiding a broom earlier.
“Thank you,” Terry breathes, and the look of adoration is strange on Draco’s face. I think back to the last time he looked like Draco: almost exactly a year ago. So much has changed since then, but I still wanted Terry as much as I do now.
We reach the garden, slipping out the door like ghosts. I look around the dark acres, and imagine the path that Draco took me through to the Whispering Garden. The manor is far easier to escape from than to penetrate: I wonder if in the old times, the Malfoys wanted to know they could flee from an attack.
Running silently, my wand and his new one hanging unlit in our free hands, I lead him through the hedges and flowerbeds to the Whispering Garden. Beyond it is a wall, and in the wall a gate.
“We could climb over,” he suggests, panting.
“Malfoy?” My heart freezes with terror as I spin around, staring into a familiar face beneath a dark cloak. The figure straightens, pushing the cloak back over its head: Christian Haynes, the Death Eater who attacked Michael Corner on the train, who, I remember, was assigned to the youth faction of the Death Eaters. “Oh, Astoria. What are you doing out here in the dark gardens?” He steps a bit closer, pale face illuminated by the light of the moon.
I measure my options for a moment. We could duel – it would be two against one, but no doubt Christian’s experience would weigh against us. Also, though he’s barely shown it, I’m sure that Terry is exhausted from his ordeal the night before, and the lights from spells being cast could draw even more attention from the manor.
“Draco promised to give me a shot at his new broom,” I explain quietly. “We thought it would be less distracting to fly out of eye-sight of the manor, in case somebody thought we were a threat.” Terry nods to confirm my story.
“Why not just fly in the gardens, then? Why be near the gate?” Christian asks, his brow furrowing.
“You should know as well as I do that we have been putting up more extensive protective wards,” Terry says, doing his best impression of Draco’s drawl – the sort of voice only used by those who are used to getting their way. “Mother would be irritated if our flying in the gardens disturbed the spells.”
“Perhaps I could join you?” Christian suggests, eyes traveling over the broom in my hands. It’s hardly an expensive racing broom: the horrible thought that it might be his flits through my head. Terry leans against my arm for a moment, and with horror I can see through the darkness that the tips of his hair are starting to turn brown.
“We would prefer to be alone, but thank you,” I tell him, and, taking Terry’s hand, reach up to kiss him on his cheek. “We’ve been cooped up all day in the manor, you see…”
“I’m sure you know how it is, mate,” Terry says, and sounds an awful lot like Draco boasting about sneaking off with a girl.
To my relief, this seems to satisfy Christian. He smiles sourly. “Enjoy your…flight, then,” he says, and turns away to continue patrolling the gardens. I squeeze Terry’s hand.
“Tor… I’m changing back,” he whispers. “I need to get out of here. Can I fly over the wall? I don’t think that should disturb the wards too much – I made it halfway through the gardens when I was trying to sneak in here.”
I step onto the broom, and he climbs on behind me. Pushing up, he clings to my waist. Though it’s a little shaky, we make it over the wall and a few hundred meters away from the perimeters of the Malfoy estate.
When we return to the ground, Terry looks like himself again, a little lost in Malfoy’s expensive robes. He wraps his arm around me.
“Tor, you are so amazing, so brave. I can never thank you for this.”
“You don’t need to thank me, silly,” I tell him, reaching up to kiss him. It’s very dark, save for the lights coming from a farmhouse down the road. I wonder if the Muggles living there have any inkling of the dark things which happen in the woods behind their home.
“You have to go back,” he murmurs, “if realize I’m missing and they catch you. Now that I know you’re alright – you need to be fine. You need to survive.”
I steel myself.
“You were trying to break in to Malfoy manor, weren’t you? Why? To see me?”
“I had to know if you were alright, and figured I might have a better chance of catching you there than at your house,” he explains. “It was a little foolish. I was just so worried.”
I nudge him in the stomach. “God, you are so reckless!” He rests his cheek against my hair until I step whisper something against his chest. “But I’m sure you can understand why I’m doing all of this, what the only outcome can be. I’m coming with you.” Terry recoils from me, confused.
“No, don’t be ridiculous. I’m a fugitive: it’s going to be dangerous. We… you could get hurt, or killed. No. At least here you’re safe under your family’s protection, I can see that now.”
I trail my fingers lightly along the pronounced line of his jaw, my fingerprint memorizing the etch of his face. For the last few months, all I’ve wanted was to be sure he was alive, he was alright. The twenty-four hours of his custody at Malfoy manor were some of the worst of my life.
“I’m coming with you.” I repeat. “If you refuse, I’ll follow you until you give up and annoy the hell out of you. I want to protect you. I need you. You need me. And just think – they’re going to figure out it was me, when they find a confused Draco wandering hiding in a closet in his underwear, or Haynes – that Death Eater – saying he saw us sneaking out to snog. I’m in this as deep as you, or worse: because they’ll have to punish me. I’m an official blood traitor now, and I could not be more proud to be one with you.”
“Tor,” he whispers, and I sense his turmoil, the knowledge that this wondrous idea has changed everything, that neither of our lives will ever return to what they once were.
“We need to get going,” I tell him, grinning despite myself. “I’m coming with you.”
He shakes his head, he frowns, he tries to protest. But his arms are tightening around me, and in the darkness his eyes are shining.
Author's Note: Wow. So this is it: a year and a half, forty-two chapters and nearly 200,000 words later, my very first HPFF novel is finally complete. I know that I've seen my writing style and skills completely - well, not change, but evolve over the course of writing Tor and Terry's stories, and I don't regret a moment of writing it.
Thank you to the wonderful readers who have stuck with this story, offering encouragement and love along the way. You all made this such a fulfilling experience, whether through reading, reviewing, asking MTA questions, or just being a silent and supportive presence. Thank you to Melody, my real life best friend, who was the first one to read the Prologue for this story in our favourite spot in the window at Starbucks and tell me that she loved it. Thank you to marauder5, the first steady reader and reviewer of this story; to Kristin, who has steadily reviewed every chapter and offered awesome insight; to Sian, who attacks it with amazing, thoughtful reviews. Thank you to you all, whoever you are, who have kept caring about Tor's story.
EDIT: The first chapter of the new sequel should be up in the next week or so. It's going to be packed with action, danger, and grief, so be sure to keep an eye out. I'm so excited to officially announce the name of Book II of the Astoria Trilogy: The Serpent Rises. The original title was changed because it was too similar to the title of an OF I've been working on, and then I changed it again. So that is the final title.
Now, I've rambled for far too long in this author's note. But truly: thank you all, so much. ♥
Update: The sequel, The Serpent Rises, is now officially being updated on the archive.
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