Running a hand through her hair with frustration, Astoria made her way to the lift and tried not to tap her fingers edgily against the wall that encased the button she had just pressed. In the distance, she could hear the lift moving towards her, but found no peace in the knowledge that she would soon be free to go home.
She had sent what felt like millions of letters to anyone connected to Harry Potter and seemed to have run into a wall. She tried to remind herself that they still had three days before they had to face the Wizengamot, and that there was a thick pile of papers stacked both on her bedside table and in the interior of her briefcase detailing all the possible strategies they could use, regardless of whether or not Potter appeared. But the idea of letting Potter's testimony –which she knew held valuable information despite all of Draco's attempts to convince her otherwise– go wasted, exasperated her to no end.
With a low chime, the grills of the lift slid open and she found herself staring at Ernie Macmillan as he stood leaning tiredly against the wall of the lift, his drawn expression illumined by the grayish light from the enchanted windows. He nodded primly as she stepped inside, his eyebrows slightly drawn together and his tie seeming to cling to his throat with a tighter grip than was perhaps necessary.
The grills closed with a low clang and then they were moving again, Astoria grasping the end of one of the ropes in a tight grip to avoid falling over at the fast pace at which the lift went, and Macmillan straining against the wall to keep his balance.
He cleared his throat. "How are you?"
"I'm all right," she answered. "Yourself?"
It had been unprofessional on her part to feel tension towards him because of the ongoing case, but she found Nott's surprising testimony and Macmillan's blatant nonchalance before a clear use of hearsay benefiting the prosecution hard to forget. She had recognized the same avoidance in him; after all, it must not have been easy to watch Potter, his school-time associate, oppose him so eloquently. Astoria had heard that it was sometimes difficult for friendships to survive the strain of court cases, and though generally detached enough to keep her professional life separate from her personal one, her ability to do so seemed to be diminishing rapidly.
"I'm doing well, thank you," he answered. The lift was slowing down. "Today's a busy day for everyone."
Astoria had to agree. After meeting with Bill Weasley earlier, she had been surprised to find that the hallways were full of people rushing from place to place, the Ministry almost as busy as it would be on a Monday. It seemed that not only she and Macmillan were stressed about upcoming cases. She had never seen the offices of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement so full of activity on a weekend.
"Greyback's facing the Council tomorrow," she said. "And I saw Thomas in his office... he seems to be pushing his people relentlessly."
"Well, he runs the risk of losing whoever the culprit is if they don't act fast. The press getting a hold of it didn't help either; I heard that he originally meant for it to be kept under wraps. But I guess it's too late now."
The lift came to a stop and she let go of the rope, her palm feeling strangely numb from the ridges it had left imprinted on her skin. Macmillan straightened where he stood and watched the golden gates slide open.
Immediately, they became aware of a faint noise that was coming from the distant end of the Atrium, and it was only when they had set foot on the dark, shining floors that Astoria suddenly understood what it was.
A chorus of voices, discordant and clamorous, was coming from the area that lay between the line of Floo entrances and the large fountain, its glittering jets of water devoid of their usual brightness before the sprawling crowd of people that had gathered there, their angry faces visible over the line of Aurors with drawn wands that held powerful grey shields between them and the pushing protesters.
Around them, confused and uncomfortable Ministry officials loitered, as if unsure whether to brave the angry crowd in order to get home their usual way, or make their way to less glamorous means of exit. And of course, the press was there, photographers having clambered up on the ledge surrounding the fountain, cameras flashing with blinding light.
There weren't nearly enough Aurors. Astoria was glad that Bill Weasley had come in to work today; a mere on-call team of Aurors wouldn't have been able to take on the job effectively if they weren't led by a competent leader. She could see his red hair among the dark-clad wizards, his wand held firmly in his grasp.
Macmillan seized her elbow just as quickly as she understood the danger they were in.
The group had caught sight of them, even though they were still quite far away. In the blink of an eye, Astoria was aware of the gazes shifting towards her and the flashing, angry signs brandished in her direction as shouts were directed at her.
"Lock them up!"
"How many are you going to let run free?!"
And the press had seen them too; like vultures, they maneuvered their way through the multitude, dodging the frustrated Aurors and making their way towards them. Astoria could already hear the questions poised on their lips.
"Draco Malfoy was a well-known Death Eater; from a moral perspective, what difference is there between your client and Fenrir Greyback?"
"Narcissa Malfoy walks free; do you plan to request a retrial for Lucius Malfoy as well?"
She dug her teeth into her lower lip and wrenched her elbow from Macmillan's grasp. There was so much she itched to say, but the headache that was beginning to spread just beneath her forehead was an indicator enough that that would not be a good idea. She turned her head away from the screaming group, heart pounding, and followed Macmillan without so much as a break in her pace.
"You fucking whore, supporting a Malfoy! Purist scum!"
She blanched and was thankful that her face was hidden from their view. She didn't need to look at Dennis Creevey to recognize his voice; it rang loud and clear over the shouts of the onlookers. The press was snapping picture after picture, the noise drowning out her footsteps as she and Macmillan turned into a nearby corridor, more dimly lit than the Atrium. She didn't slow down, however, thankful that the lighting hid from view the angry, shameful flush that had spread on her cheeks. Her hand was shaking.
"We can take the upstairs chimneys," Macmillan said tersely from beside her. His jaw was clenched and his eyes were worried beneath his spectacles, though he refrained from looking at her or trying to lead her away again.
"Nevermind," Astoria replied. "I'll walk."
"Are you sure?"
"I could use the fresh air, believe me," she said dryly. Coming to a stop as they reached a staircase, she turned to look at him. "Enjoy your evening."
"Actually," he said, reaching into his robes and pulling out a silver pocket watch, which he checked quickly. "I'm meeting with some friends at The Leaky Cauldron in about three hours; we've booked a private booth. It's a sort of gathering we have every few months or so to catch up. You should come."
She raised her eyebrows, taken aback. "You want me to come."
He shrugged. "Why not? You know my girlfriend, Padma? She's organizing it, and we usually just bring along any friends who can come."
Momentarily at loss for words, she stared at him. There was no way in which she could bring up the hundreds of reasons for why attending such a gathering would probably not be a good idea at all without sounding petty. They were, after all, quite childish reasons, but she could think of a few more as well; mainly the fact that she seriously doubted Macmillan's friends would have feelings any different from his own regarding Draco's case… and weren't likely to be as civil about it as he was.
Creevey's impassioned little speech didn't help soothe matters, either.
"I'll think about it," she replied. "Thank you."
There wasn't much more she could say, and perhaps he sensed her discomfort because he just gave her a nod and his characteristic strained smile before disappearing up the steps to the floor above.
Astoria leaned against the wall and tried to drown out the distant noise with the sound of her own breath.
She fidgeted before the shabby wooden door.
It was a still night, slightly chilly but devoid of wind. Astoria had wandered the streets of Muggle London for more time than she had ever thought she would, watching the simple, oblivious people wandering the streets with their individual senses of purpose; their dreams, goals and worries lacking any magical influence. It was strange to know that to them, she was nonexistent –not only because of their assumption that creatures such as her didn't exist, but also because of the lack of any Muggle records listing her name. In the Muggle world, which was so intimately pressed against her own, she had no name or rank, no friends or enemies, no love or hatred.
It was a refreshing feeling.
But The Leaky Cauldron waited just beyond its shabby exterior, a gateway to the magical center of the country, and at the moment she couldn't bring herself to feel anything more than uncomfortable at the prospect of finding herself surrounded by her own kind.
She hadn't meant to come; not initially. The idea of meeting with a gaggle of self-righteous Hufflepuffs and their Gryffindor friends was almost as distasteful to her as meeting Creevey face to face. But besides Macmillan's offer, she could only retreat once again to her quiet, paper-filled flat, or return to her cubicle in the Ministry to face duties she had no means of fulfilling at the moment. There was no point to returning to Malfoy Manor after being there so soon before, even if Draco's company was proving to be less of an irritating obligation lately and more of an entertaining and almost comforting perk to her job.
And Macmillan had voiced his invitation so sincerely, as if he would genuinely be pleased if she attended. He had even gone so far as to nearly openly declare her his friend.
She almost hated him for being so damn nice. It would have been easier to refuse.
The Hogwarts student inside her, fiercely proud of her House, writhed with annoyance as she pushed the door open and entered the pub.
It was a Sunday night, so she was not surprised to see the place almost completely empty, only a few wizards scattered rather morosely along the bar and at some lonely tables. There was almost no point to a private booth, really.
Approaching the bar, she encountered a tired looking barman. "I'm looking for Ernie Macmillan."
He pointed towards the end of the room, where she glimpsed a half-open sliding door behind the cluster of tables.
When she reached it, she heard voices on the other side and saw the golden light from the room mingling with the shadows of a table and seats. Swallowing her discomfort, she looked inside.
Macmillan was seated on the couch against the wall, an arm draped over the shoulders of a slender dark-skinned girl who Astoria recognized as Padma Patil, who was smiling as she took a chip from the plate in the center of the table. Directly in front of them was a young man that had his back towards her, but turned at Macmillan's exclamation.
"Ah, Astoria!" Macmillan smiled at her, and it seemed a bit less strained in the casual setting. "I'm glad you could make it."
She stepped into booth with a smile. "So am I," she replied, and it felt almost deceitful to say it when she felt so apprehensive.
The man she didn't know was looking at her with an amiable smile as she took her seat beside Padma, who welcomed her with a friendly look. "Justin Finch-Fletchley," he said, shaking her hand. "I've heard about you through the paper and can't believe we've never met before."
"Hasn't everyone?" she replied wryly. "Nice to meet you."
"Can we keep our work out of this for once?" Ernie groaned.
"Fine," Justin laughed. "I suppose you're both sick of it all. And I don't blame you."
"Strange words, coming from you," said Padma with a smirk as she stood up.
"Oh, be quiet." He rolled his eyes at her, pretending to be annoyed. He turned to Astoria with an explanation. "I'm on the design team for the Prophet. Sadly, I have almost nothing to do with the actual reporters, so I can't do much to stop all the harassment you guys are receiving. Padma keeps saying I've joined the enemy."
"You're a dreadful person, Justin," Padma said teasingly, before turning to the rest of them. "Drinks, anyone?"
The men spoke up quickly, asking for Butterbeers as well as another dish of snacks. Astoria hesitatingly followed suit and ordered a Butterbeer; it wasn't something she had often after her Hogwarts years, but today didn't seem to be an ordinary day.
Even as Padma disappeared, three more people emerged, revealing themselves to be Neville Longbottom and his fiancée, Hannah. The thin, blonde woman whose arm was linked with Hannah's introduced herself as Susan Bones. Astoria suddenly understood the need for a private booth; having so many members of the group that had once called itself Dumbledore's Army together was likely to cause a stir.
"Astoria! I'm so happy to see you!" Hannah exclaimed, giving Astoria a startlingly genuine hug, which she returned rather awkwardly, though she had to admit that Hannah's presence was a surprising relief.
"You two know each other?" Ernie was staring at them. Neville grinned at Astoria and shook her hand as his fiancée released her.
"Of course we do," Hannah retorted brightly, and thankfully refrained from explaining the circumstances of their meeting. Maybe Ernie suspected, because he inquired no further, instead focusing on shaking Longbottom's hand heartily and inquiring after the state of matters at Hogwarts.
"So, how are you?" Hannah asked Astoria once all were seated, and Justin drew Susan into a spirited conversation. She lowered her voice. "And congratulations. I read the news."
"Thank you," Astoria said, a bit taken aback. "I'm well. Keeping busy, as usual, but that's just the way it is. How are you?"
"I'm wonderful," she said, a smile on her lips. "We've finally set a date for the wedding, three months from now. Neville's going to announce it to everyone tonight!"
"I'm so happy for you," Astoria said, and found that she really was. "Do you have a dress yet?"
"Not yet... Do you have any suggestions?"
Seamus Finnegan appeared about fifteen minutes later. "Butterbeer night!" he called out as he stepped in, taking a seat between Padma and Neville as he rose a bottle of the drink in question in the air. "Is it cheating if it's laced with Firewhiskey?"
They laughed and he shook hands all around, his arm stopping midair as he spotted Astoria. "Is that Greengrass?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Yes, this is Greengrass."
Padma nudged him almost violently. "We invited her to join us," she said pointedly. "Ernie knows her from work and we wanted her to come along."
Seamus stayed frozen for another instant, his expression guarded. But then he shook her hand firmly and leaned back in his seat, starting friendly banter with Neville, who rolled his eyes at him through his own laughter. Padma made a face at Astoria that seemed to say don't mind him.
The night drew on and she found herself inexplicably comfortable with Hannah and quite friendly with Padma, who had apparently been in Ravenclaw at school and was entrenched in a staunch battle for the restructuring of the school board at Hogwarts.
Presently, however, Seamus spoke up.
"Harry should testify against Greyback. It's the only way."
Neville shook his head, a frown disrupting his usual pleasant expression. "No, mate. Harry's got enough on his plate as is."
"I know he does, but if he has enough time to testify for a Malfoy-"
Ernie set down his glass. "We're not talking about this."
"No; all I'm saying," said Seamus, palms raised in innocence. "Is that it's absolute bollocks that Greyback should run free when someone like Stan Shunpike got taken to Azkaban back in the day. I mean, I knew that guy. An idiot, but he didn't deserve what he got. I just think we should do something about that."
"Unfortunately, the system is still built in a way that a Death Eater can still get away with it if they have enough money and find a barrister immoral enough to take them," said Susan resignedly. "We've changed, but we haven't changed much. Maybe if our Minister was more like Crouch was back in the day..."
"Crouch wasn't the epitome of moral righteousness, either," Astoria put in, surprising herself.
"I'm much more comfortable with Shacklebolt, myself," Padma put in quickly. "At least he was an Order member."
There were nods all around.
"The issue's that the Ministry's still understaffed," Seamus said with a scowl. "I spoke to Dean earlier and he's going mad in there. If we had more people working on our side it would be easier. Hell, I might even try out to be an Auror myself... More people means they can finally find a way to kick out people like Shafiq."
"I don't understand what he's playing at."
"The man's insane. Have you seen Greyback? If that monster doesn't deserve Azkaban for life I don't know who does. It's no wonder the protests are getting out of hand."
Astoria saw Ernie glance at her quickly, and wondered how the group had completely glossed over the fact that she was essentially doing the same job Shafiq was. Even Seamus, who had looked in her direction a bit more often than was strictly necessary during his angry monologue, hadn't quite gone in the passive-aggressive direction she had been expecting.
Justin was twirling a bottle cap over the table, looking worried. "Did you guys hear about Creevey?"
"Creevey's gone too far," Ernie said shortly. Padma shot him a concerned look. Astoria wondered how much she knew.
"I'm worried about him," said Neville with a sigh. "Dennis took his brother's death very hard, and I don't blame him. I just worry about what he's getting himself into. I've tried reasoning with him but he won't listen."
"I sort of get where he's coming from," Seamus said darkly.
"Come off it," Hannah said incredulously. "He took a protest to St. Mungo's and harassed Shafiq's seven-year-old daughter. You don't do that."
"Personally, I much prefer Lavender's approach," said Justin. At Astoria's blank look, he explained. "She's been leading peaceful protests, doing interviews for newspapers and collecting signatures. She's even started a movement to make Wolfsbane potion free for victims of werewolf attacks."
"I'm so proud of that girl," Padma said almost reverently.
"To Lavender," said Seamus, raising his glass in the air.
He was loitering around the staircase leading towards the sitting room when he heard her enter. Ollie immediately Apparated at his side.
"Yes, I know; she's here," Draco drawled, and the Elf disappeared almost as quickly as it had appeared. He tried not to fidget while he waited for her clicking heels to draw nearer; the sound was so welcome that he was startled at the relief it caused.
Astoria reached the bottom of the staircase even as the lights came to life, illuminating her pale face as she looked up at him, a paper bag hanging from her arm alongside her purse, her eyes gleaming in the flickering golden light.
He looked at the worn, cracked clock that hung in the room behind him.
"It's past midnight," he remarked, arms crossed over his chest.
"And you're wide awake."
"You're becoming terribly comfortable with barging in at random hours."
Maybe she could tell that he wasn't really bothered in the least, because she met his expressionless stare with a cheeky smirk. "I thought you could use some Butterbeer."
"You do realize you're not helping my already existing drinking problem," he stated.
She glared at him. "Do you want it or not?"
A smile twitched at his lips. "Is it warm?"
"It won't be for much longer."
The smile finally escaped him and he leaned back against the wall, nodding towards the corridor and watching her as she walked up the stairs, holding the paper bag carefully. Her cheeks looked oddly flushed despite her cool attitude, and Draco thought he saw her smile as he removed the bag from her arm, falling into step behind her and hearing a familiar clink of bottles within the bag.
"You're quite adventurous tonight," he remarked as she turned into the doorway of the sitting room. "Don't you have work tomorrow?"
She spun around to look at him. Behind her, the dying embers of the fire sparked red against the shadows. "You're a terrible host, Draco."
"You're acting bizarre," he shot back. "I'm just trying to make sense of this."
Astoria turned again and went to sit on the couch, drawing her wand from her robes and directing it at the fire, which roared back to life with a fierce blaze. Draco winced at the light and set the bag on a low table, standing next to the couch and watching her kick off her shoes with strange confidence.
He supposed that by now she had probably spent more time in his house than in her own, after all.
"I just came from a dinner," she explained, leaning sideways against the cushions. "Macmillan had a sort of... Butterbeer-drinking get-together. And I supposed it's probably been a while since you've had Butterbeer, so I brought you some."
Draco was suddenly grinning widely.
Astoria stared at him with alarm. "What?"
"A Hufflepuff party?" he said, voice heavy with undiluted amusement. "You went to a Hufflepuff party?"
"It was not a Hufflepuff party," she said defensively.
Draco was still grinning as he sat down on the armrest of the couch and watched her, an eyebrow raised. Her embarrassment was so palpable that he couldn't help teasing her. It was strangely refreshing. "I bet everyone there was a Hufflepuff."
"They weren't," she replied stiffly. "Patil was there; the one from Ravenclaw. And Longbottom, and-"
"You went to a party with Longbottom?" he was laughing now, his eyes gleaming with genuine amusement. "You must have wished you were the one under house arrest."
"Oh, shut up."
"Vicious, are we? Want some of Ollie's tea to go with that personality?"
She glared at him, though he could tell that the remark made her laugh. He watched her take a deep breath to try and regain her dignity.
"No, honestly, Astoria," he said bemusedly, trying to hold back his laughter. "What did they do? Make friendship bracelets or something?"
She scowled at his amusement, but he knew she had to understand it. The idea of her bonding with a group of Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors was frankly laughable, even if she had happened to enjoy it. "We talked about things. It was actually quite pleasant."
"So what, they exchanged school time stories about all their noble, heroic acts?"
Astoria met his gaze and saw that though the smile was still dancing on his lips, his eyes had grown serious. She knew what he was thinking; it was the same thing that had kept her hesitating at the door of The Leaky Cauldron for longer than she cared to admit… the same thing that had had Seamus Finnegan wondering whether or not he should shake her hand.
"They were great," she said quietly.
He moved off of the arm of the couch and pulled the low table towards them, extracting a bottle from the bag and letting his hands absorb some heat from the still-warm Butterbeer. Astoria leaned forwards and took one for herself as well, popping the cap open and watching him as he held the bottle in his hands and didn't look at her.
He was tapping his fingers lightly against the thick glass when he asked. "Why did you come?"
"I told you. I thought you could use a Butterbeer."
His eyes slid over to her and he stared at her skeptically, a smirk still flitting over his expression. "You had a great night with people who –albeit being Hufflepuffs," she rolled her eyes and his grin widened. "-were actually 'great', whatever that means- and you decide that the most important thing to do is to buy a Butterbeer for your client who is under house arrest and who you already have to see more than you probably want to, and come over to his house after midnight?"
There was a pause, and Astoria took a sip from her bottle. "You're working under the assumption that I don't want to see you."
He stared at her openly now, his grey eyes wider than usual as he slowly came to a realization. They were sitting side to side on the couch, her legs folded underneath her, feet hanging over the edge and an elbow pressed against the cushions behind her as she held the bottle to her lips. Draco had his elbows on his knees, feet flat against the ground, his white shirt open at the neck, lines under his eyes as if he had, yet again, not slept properly that night. She wanted to ask, but she said nothing.
He took a swig from the bottle.
"Not as good as the Butterbeer from The Three Broomsticks," he said, finally.
"Don't push your luck."
The light outside her flat was flickering irritatingly when she got home, the hour well approaching dawn. It was late, much later than she had thought it would be when she checked the time after spending a good few hours in Draco's company, having finished their drinks and sunk down to the ground beside the couch in order to be nearer to the fire, much in the way they had been some days ago in the early morning. The conditions this time, however, had improved considerably.
Fumbling for the key in her pockets, she tried not to think too much about the way his hand had lingered dangerously near hers as they sat on the carpet together. Or the way he had insisted on following her down the steps to the ground level of the Manor, that thin smile she had learned to extract from him making an appearance even as they stood in close vicinity of the drawing room, the clouds dissipating from his eyes as he bid her goodnight.
She opened the door with a low creak and reminded herself to oil it the following day. Casting a simple lumos charm, she managed to light the lamps about the living room and lock the door behind her, dropping her purse on the floor as she fell back on the sofa, eyes closed. While in Draco's presence, she hadn't felt sleepy at all, but on her own in her own flat, she became fully aware of the insane amount of time she had spent awake that day.
She was quickly falling asleep, her shoes still on her feet and Ministry robes feeling heavy on her body, when a sudden burst of green light brought her awake with a low exclamation of fright. Her father's words, still ringing in her head since the war, about the dangers of midnight attacks should any of them not tread the thin line that would define them as supporting either side of the war carefully enough came rushing back, and she was clutching the couch with wild fear for a moment until she realized that someone was Flooing into her fireplace.
Anger and annoyance flooded her when she recognized Daphne's face floating among the flames.
"It's almost five in the morning," Astoria exclaimed. "Couldn't it wait?"
"Where the hell have you been?" Daphne answered back shakily, and Astoria bit back an annoyed comment at the sight of her sister's bloodshot eyes.
"What's going on?"
Daphne seemed to shift slightly, her voice catching in her throat as she turned to look at someone Astoria couldn't see. Finally, she spoke in a shaking voice. "We're coming in."
"You and who else?" Astoria asked, but her question was drowned out in the sound of crackling flames as two figures emerged from the fire, shaking soot off from their robes onto her floor. Daphne stood near the fireplace, looking uncomfortable in a nightgown with a satin robe tied tightly over it, her eyes downcast and looking decidedly distraught. Her hair was still carefully parted, magical enhancements still on her face, as if she had prepared for bed but been too absentminded to do it all properly.
But Pansy looked just as regal as ever in elegant robes, her pale cheeks flushed as she took a step forwards, dropping Daphne's wrist as soon as they left the flames as if she had actually been burnt. Her eyes were wild with anger and fear, and something about the situation made Astoria stay silent, suddenly unsure as to how to proceed with the situation.
"I want to testify for Draco," were the first words that came out of Pansy's mouth.
Bewildered and confused, Astoria stared at her blankly. "What?"
Pansy tossed her hair carelessly to a side; it cascaded down her shoulders as if she had been in the process of dismantling its style. "I said: I want to testify for Draco."
Astoria narrowed her eyes, glancing at Daphne, who remained with her eyes downcast. "Why?" she asked slowly.
It seemed that she had hit a nerve.
"Because your sister," Pansy said in a low voice that shook with rage. "Is an idiot who is going to get herself locked up in Azkaban. Which really isn't at all concerning to me at this point, honestly, but she also made the mistake of putting me in her same position, and I had better do something about it." She took a deep breath, her flaming eyes meeting Astoria's. "Greengrass, if Draco wins this case, you said it would set a precedent for any other cases like his."
"And if I were to testify on his behalf, would that… I don't know, give me points of some sort, a chance to be cleared because of my cooperation in previous cases, if I were to be arrested as well?"
Astoria's gaze moved from Pansy to Daphne, and she crossed her arms in front of her. "What's going on?"
Daphne's quivering voice spoke up. "I didn't-"
"You will shut up, you stupid cow," Pansy all but shrieked.
"Don't speak to my sister like that," Astoria said sharply.
"You don't understand what she did."
"I didn't mean to!" Daphne cried.
"Well, you should have been more careful! What's more, you should have known your own idiocy well enough to just keep your mouth shut the whole fucking time!" Pansy turned back to Astoria, shaking. "Your idiot of a sister told someone about… something we did during the war."
The air knocked out of her, Astoria turned and walked until the large sofa was situated between her and Pansy. She had always known that Daphne and Pansy, like so many other young Slytherins during the war, had been involved in dangerous things. Most of what had happened had been purposefully forgotten by those who had committed the crimes, and Astoria had been happy to imagine that her sister had never been involved in anything for as long as she didn't know what Daphne had actually done.
She didn't want to know.
"Who did you tell?" she asked, looking at her sister, who was shaking like a leaf now, though Astoria didn't know if it was from the coldness of the room or from pure fear.
Daphne's eyes moved to Pansy, who was looking at her unforgivingly.
Tremulously, Daphne looked at Astoria, and then at the ground. Her words were a barely intelligible jumble when she spoke them, but it was loud enough for Astoria to understand.
A note: given recent events around the world, I've realized that some of the themes in this story might be misunderstood as my opinion on current matters. Though this is only fanfiction, everything we contribute to creating a world culture and consciousness should be positive, and I don't want the fictional situation of Dennis Creevey vs. the Greyback situation to make it look like I'm condemning protesting against very serious matters. The theme I want to explore here is the lack of justice in a system that should be imparting justice, just as much as the violent extents people go to because of grief... the situation here is just fictional and has nothing to do with real world situations, where so much more comes into play.
Also, a wonderful reader made some beautiful banners for this story, which you can check out in my profile! I'll soon be uploading some art that another reader made, so keep an eye out for it! As always, I can't thank you enough for your support and encouragement, and I hope you're enjoying the story so far. I recently moved, which means that I have less access to a computer, which means that I have to type on my phone... so updates might be slow, but I promise I'm trying. Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think!