Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
(A.N: For Vera Rozalsky, who said she wanted to see how Astoria managed to finally snare Draco. Thank you for giving me the title for this story, and thank you also for the idea that Narcissa wouldn't be too fond of the albino peacocks.)
The Taming of Draco Malfoy
By Silver Sailor Ganymede
Daphne was drinking white wine again. It was ghastly, cheap stuff that was made to seem even cheaper by the fact that Daphne's blood-red lipstick was smeared all over the edge of the glass, but Daphne didn't seem to be bothered by that. In fact Astoria didn't even think her sister had noticed it, not that she would have cared in the slightest if she had. White wine complimented the colour of her eyes so it was her favourite drink – cheap, sharp, sickly varieties unfortunately included.
At least unfortunately for Astoria, who was stuck sitting in her sister's drawing room and having to listen to her try to organise her life. Astoria thought that it was a bit of a cheek, really, that Daphne was trying to sort out her life before she had even sorted out her own – after all, she was twenty now and still showed no signs of ever finding a man that interested her, so she had turned her thoughts to her sister's marriage prospects instead. Astoria was eighteen years old and thus perfectly capable of deciding who would and wouldn't make for perfect marriage materiel, but unfortunately her sister had other ideas.
"You are not," Daphne sighed, pouring herself another glass of that horribly sharp white wine, "going to go anywhere near Draco Malfoy again in your life, do you understand me? He may be relatively attractive and rather rich, but he also happens to be the most unpleasant little git I ever had the misfortune of meeting."
"I don't know why you hate him so much," Astoria muttered sulkily, then berated herself for her tone of voice. How could she possibly expect Daphne to listen to her when she sounded like a petulant fifteen-year-old? Then again Daphne was unlikely to listen to her anyway. "He's handsome and he's rich, you said it yourself, and as well as tha…"
"You haven't touched your wine," Daphne interjected, aghast. "Is there something wrong with it? Would you rather I pulled out another bottle."
Astoria knew that even if she said yes to her sister's questions, all she'd be presented with would be another bottle of horribly sour wine. Dry white wine was what her sister drank when in a relatively good mood – straight gin when annoyed, but never when she was happy because it made her cough, splutter and pull faces and it was obvious that she didn't really like it. She just drank to make her boredom go away, to fill the free time between parties.
"No thank you," Astoria replied. "I'm just not really in the mood for a drink right now. It's a Wednesday afternoon, for goodness' sake, so…"
"So it's the perfect time for a glass of wine," Daphne replied. "And the perfect weather as well. It's far too warm to be drinking red wine, not that I much like it as a rule." She drummed her fingers on the edge of the table next to her before speaking again. "Astoria, really, why must you insist on going after Malfoy of all people? He's about the worst match possible for you."
"What about Blaise Zabini?" Astoria shot back with a sneer. There was a barely perceptible flicker of hurt in her sister's pale green eyes.
"Blaise Zabini doesn't count," Daphne snapped. "For goodness' sake, Astoria, he was working in a muggle theatre the last anyone heard of him. Apparently the only people he's bothered seeing since… since the end of my seventh year are Theodore and Tracey Nott, and even Theodore thinks he's gone completely and utterly insane." Her eyes narrowed. "He'll go even more insane when the Ministry catches up with him and puts him in Azkaban for killing his mother though, I can tell you that much."
Astoria grimaced at the thought that her sister had been associating with bloodtraitors like the Notts. Daphne was in charge of their family's fortunes since their parents' deaths during what she could only bring herself to recent events, so she should have been behaving in a way more befitting of a pureblood heiress. She should at least have been attempting to find a husband for herself, but instead she seemed perfectly content to lecture Astoria about the fact that the husband she had found was apparently entirely unsuitable. It was surprising that Daphne of all people (whom they had said was one of the most beautiful witches to grace the halls of Hogwarts since Narcissa Malfoy née Black herself) looked to reach twenty-five unmarried. What wasn't surprising, really, was the fact that Daphne still hated Draco. It was a long-held grudge that Astoria had never fully understood.
Daphne had warned her about Draco as soon as she had first laid eyes on him. She was eleven years old at the time and more terrified than she had ever been in her life up to that point, as she had just followed Daphne onto the Hogwarts Express and taken her first steps towards school – and freedom. Draco had been the first other Slytherin she had seen on the train (expect for Daphne, of course, but Daphne was her sister and so didn't count.) He had nodded curtly to Daphne by way of a greeting and then to Astoria as well. She felt herself blushing even though she knew that he was obviously a classmate of Daphne's so it would have been rude for him not to acknowledge that they were there.
"Who was that?" Astoria asked, still feeling slightly in awe of the older, blond boy who was making his way down the corridor.
"That," Daphne replied, "was Draco Malfoy. He's in my house and my year and might just be one of the most conceited people ever to have entered Hogwarts."
So despite appearances they obviously didn't like each other very much. Astoria began to feel more than a little bit worried; was everyone in Slytherin going to be like that? She hoped not. She wanted at least some friends at Hogwarts, not just allies. Then again, she reminded herself, while the Malfoys and the Greengrasses didn't feud in the same way that the Malfoys and the Weasleys did (they were, after all, respectable purebloods, thank you very much) they certainly weren't too fond of each other. No, not everyone in Slytherin was going to be like that.
"Be nice to him," Daphne instructed her. "He may be a git but he comes in very useful sometimes. Just promise me you won't get too close, alright?"
Now the conversation struck Astoria as rather ironic. It showed just how naïve she had been as an eleven-year-old, to think that anything in Slytherin was done purely for reasons of friendship. Hindsight made things ever so amusing, especially the seemingly unimportant fact that Daphne had warned her never to get close to Draco, and she had ended up doing quite the opposite. After all, she'd done rather more than simply take Daphne's advice that he would be a very useful ally to have.
"What are you laughing at?" Daphne asked.
Astoria schooled her facial expression back to something perfectly innocent and entirely neutral. All those years in Slytherin had come in useful for something at least. She knew that Daphne could do the same thing if she wished (she might even have been better at it, not that Astoria was going to admit that) but at the moment she was choosing not to. At the moment she was staring at Astoria over the top of a glass of white wine, absolutely exasperated and not caring that her sister knew it.
"I've always told you that Malfoy's bad news."
Except that she hadn't. Astoria could still remember the very first time she had spoken to Draco Malfoy, and it had been partly because of Daphne. She had seen him around the castle before then, of course she had; no one else in the castle had such fair hair or such an arrogant air about them. That was why she had heeded the warning Daphne had given her on the train at the beginning of her first year and tried to stay as far away from the boy as possible without actually being rude… and then there had been the 'ferret incident', which had led to Daphne and a few other, older Slytherins sending her up to the hospital wing with arms full of presents for Draco.
The fact that a Death Eater impersonating the mad old Auror Alastor Moody in his fourth year had turned Draco into a ferret had already passed into Hogwarts legend. Astoria hadn't witnessed the event first hand, but she'd been one of the only people to witness the direct aftermath of it. Draco had been hauled up in the hospital wing afterwards because of his injuries, his hulking bodyguards (she remembered that their names were Crabbe and Goyle even now that one of them was dead, but only because the names had fit the boys so wonderfully it was almost uncanny) standing on either side of him and glowering at anyone who dared come near Draco.
Astoria remembered that whole incident clearly. It was possibly the most nervous she had ever been in her life up to that point. When she entered the hospital wing she didn't look up, instead fixing her gaze on her feet and concentrating on not dropping the presents that she was carrying – because my goodness were there a lot of presents. People may not have been particularly fond of Draco, but none of them would have dared to cross him. How times had changed.
She remembered cursing to herself and wondering why oh why they had to tell her to go up and see Draco Malfoy? Why her? She didn't even know him that well, he was two years older than her, and besides that he was Draco Malfoy. Why did they all seem to think he'd tolerate her when she was just a snivelling little second year?
As she approached Draco's bed, Astoria had noticed that Crabbe and Goyle were with him as usual, two hulking immobile statues with matching sneers on their faces. Goyle cracked his knuckles threatening at her, but stopped as Draco shot him a warning look. Despite the fact that he had two black eyes, a swollen lip and his right arm in a cast, Draco Malfoy looked as terrifying as he ever did.
"How many times do I have to tell you not to act like a muggle?" Draco had snapped and Goyle had hung his head, looking suitably ashamed. "What do you want, Daphne? I told you I didn't want any visitors."
Astoria had blushed; embarrassed by the fact that he was speaking to her and slightly annoyed by the fact that he thought she was Daphne. She didn't think that she and Daphne even looked particularly alike. They both had blonde hair and they both had green eyes, but Daphne's hair was darker than Astoria's and her eyes were lighter. Astoria's eyes were almost black. Add to that the fact that she had always been a good deal shorter than her older sister (even now both of them were fully grown Astoria was only just over five feet and whereas her sister was a little over four inches taller). They looked nothing alike, they never had.
"Not Daphne," she had mumbled, fixing her gaze on her feet again as she dropped the presents at the end of his bed. "Astoria. And they told me you wouldn't mind me bringing you these."
"And who, pray tell, are they?" he had snarled.
"Everyone else in your year," Astoria had mumbled. "And the Quidditch team, and… well, basically all of us. No one's happy for what Professor Moody did to you, you know. He's horrible; I don't like him. We know you don't want to see too many people, but I… we… well, we're just trying to help. Trying to be nice."
"In that case the sweets are appreciated," was Draco's reply. He lay back on his pillows and beckoned for Crabbe to pass him a chocolate frog, a contented smirk on his face.
Astoria took that as her cue to leave. She couldn't quite believe that she had just spoken to Draco Malfoy and he hadn't ignored her. She had scurried out of the hospital wing, keeping her gaze fixed on her feet so he didn't realise that she was blushing.
She hadn't spoken to Draco again for years after that. The first time they had spoken had been in her second year, the second time in her fourth year when they were all gathered at Malfoy Manor for the annual Yule Ball Narcissa Malfoy held each year. It was an honour to be invited and Astoria knew it. Their parents had actually bothered to associate with them, which was enough to show Astoria that it was an extremely important occasion; her mother spent most of her time socialising with her friends, which used to me leaving Astoria and Daphne with the house elf before she had finally been able to send them off to Hogwarts, and her father was constantly busy at the Ministry (more like having affairs, as Daphne had pointed out to her when she was in third year). They were not a close family by any means, so for them all to be together that evening showed just how important it was to try and be on the right side of the Malfoys.
While their parents busied themselves with networking, Astoria hung around Daphne, quite aware that her sister didn't really want her there. She knew that Daphne would have much preferred to be able to go and talk to Pansy Parkinson or Susan Bones or even Padma Patil – just anyone that wasn't her. Astoria wasn't going to let her sister leave her on her own though, so she had pulled them into a corner away from the chaos of the party, leaning back against the wall and watching the dancing.
"You can't rely on me for everything, you know." Daphne shook her head in exasperation and took another sip of her drink. She had been drinking that hideous, sickly white wine even then. "You need to get used to talking to people; this is what the rest of your life's going to be like."
Astoria fixed her sister with her most pleading stare, briefly wondering how in Salazar's name she would ever be able to stand going to parties like this for the rest of her life. Looking back on it now, she couldn't believe that she had ever been young and naïve enough not to see the point of such occasions.
"Please, Daphne," she said. "I don't know anyone here. None of the other girls in my year are here."
"What about Genevieve Morgenstern? I thought you said she'd be here."
"Genni's ill," Astoria sighed.
"Oh. What about the Carrows? I know you know them, seeing as you've slept in the same dormitory for the past three years," Daphne said tersely. "I can see them both, they're right over th…"
"Oh Daphne!" Astoria interrupted her sister. "Please don't make me go and talk to Hestia and Flora. Please. I'd rather stand over here on my own than have to go and make small-talk with them!"
"Alright," Daphne sighed, looking more put out by the minute by the fact that she was at the most important party of the year and was having to waste her time entertaining her sister. Now Astoria was old enough to understand exactly why this had annoyed Daphne so much, but back then she had simply wanted to not be left on her own (or worse, with the Carrow twins) all evening. "What about Draco Malfoy?"
"I've only spoken to Draco a few times. You were in his year, you know him better than I do." She cast a wistful look at Draco Malfoy, who was standing by the buffet table, eating dainty pastries with the appetite of a blasé Krup. Cecilia Macmillan had cornered him there and he seemed mere seconds away from hexing the woman. Not that Astoria could blame him, of course. But how wonderful it would be, to be able to associate with Narcissa Malfoy's son at this of all events.
"Go and talk to Draco before he causes a scene," Daphne hissed upon noticing the look on the young Malfoy's face. She roughly pushed her sister in the direction of the refreshments before sauntering off to find Pansy.
Astoria came up to Draco just as Cecilia Macmillan left. He looked more than a little relieved – a look that unfortunately disappeared when he caught sight of Astoria. This was not turning out how she had expected it.
"Oh, hello, Daphne," Draco said, the look on his face betraying the fact that he was not in the mood for any more small talk.
No, this certainly wasn't what Astoria had hoped for, but on the plus side he was actually talking to her this.
"Not Daph…" she began.
That was when the Carrows had turned up with identically irritating smiles on their faces, dragging her onto the dance floor, away from Draco and completely running her evening. It was then that she vowed that one way or another she would get Draco Malfoy to have a decent conversation with her without mistaking her for Daphne.
The onset of the war had put an end to Astoria's plans. Her attempts at getting Draco to speak to her throughout her fourth year were utterly hopeless, as the boy spent half his time disappearing from the Slytherin quarters (generally leaving a very upset and frustrated Pansy Parkinson behind him) and the other half wandering round in a sort of daze. She was quite convinced she had seen him crying in a bathroom once – but it was the girl's bathroom that was haunted by that miserable little ghost, so of course Astoria had dismissed it as a potion-fume induced fancy. Professor Snape's classes in the dungeons really couldn't have been good for anyone's health.
Her fifth year had been the very worst though. In fact she could safely say that it was the worst year of her life. Even she, a pureblood, hadn't been safe – in fact it had been the purity of her blood that had meant she was damned from the start. Astoria hadn't even been sixteen then, but of course there had been nothing she could do about it. She was considered good, pure breeding stock, and if any children did result then so much the better for the cause. It didn't matter that she never would have consented to bear children to those filthy old men; she was just a pretty little girl, so what she wanted counted for absolutely nothing.
Of course they had never done anything like that to Daphne. That was why even now, in the aftermath of one of the most gruesome wars their kind had seen in decades, Daphne's worries amounted to nothing more than which wines to drink and dinner and her attempts to control her Astoria's life. They had never dared go after Daphne because she was proof of what would result if one bred a Siren with a Fury – seductive and beautiful but twice as sinister and deadly. Daphne was untouchable, and even the Death Eaters had been wise enough to see that any man who tried anything stupid would be left wishing he'd suffered at the Dark Lord's hand instead.
The war had been terrifying and terrible and only the Fury that was Daphne seemed to have emerged from it entirely unscathed. Daphne never had nightmares, never had to remember the stench of sweat and blood, the callous, calloused touches of hideous old men. Only Daphne had been lucky enough to escape having lost nothing in the war, only having gained everything due to their parents' deaths. To most the loss of close family members would have been devastating, but not to Daphne – nor to Astoria, when she really thought about it. They had never been close, not at all, so why should she feel any more sadness at the loss of her parents than the loss of two complete strangers? Because that's what they had been – blood-ties or not, she had never really known more about her parents than what their names were. She hadn't felt anything at all.
The end of the war had been almost as bad as the war itself. Astoria could still remember it as clearly as though it was still occurring; it was branded into her memory now matter how much she wanted to forget. All she had to do was close her eyes and there she was again, curled up in the corner of the Hog's Head, her head in her hands and her knees pulled up to her chest. The sounds of the battle raging at Hogwarts were audible even through the thick stone walls, the screams and crashes and blasts. In the Hog's Head it was noisy, too, as the place was filled with people who were sheltering from the battle – families mostly or underage Hogwarts students. There were only a few Slytherins like themselves; most had been left out in the no man's land between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade to fend for themselves. They were the children of what was soon to be the losing side, she knew, so why should anyone care for them now? She couldn't believe that this was happening, that the Dark Lord's forces were finally being met with opposition and that the end of the war was almost there.
"Are you alright?"
Daphne was sitting next to her, looking just as worried as she Astoria felt. It was the first time that Astoria had seen her sister express anything close to discontent throughout the whole time the war had been raging, which was almost as disturbing as the battle itself. How could anyone possibly be so cold? How?
Daphne placed a hand on her sister's shoulder.
"Astoria, it'll be fine. You'll see."
"How can you say that?" Astoria asked, shaking her head. "It won't be fine at all. Some of our closest friends have marched off to fight a pointless battle, and you're sitting there saying it will be ok. It doesn't matter who wins; we'll be dead either way. If the Dark Lord wins we'll be killed as cowards. If the rebels win then they'll condemn us for just being Slytherins. You saw the look on McGonagall's face earlier, didn't you?"
"You're worrying over nothing," Daphne replied curtly. "If the Dark Lord wins he can't kill us because he needs good, pureblood breeding stock."
"We're not animals, Daphne."
"No, but better that than being dead" Daphne said. "And if the rebels win we won't get in trouble. They'll have so many actual Death Eaters to deal with that they'll leave us alone."
"They won't realise that we've suffered, though," Astoria whispered.
"Of course they won't. The winning side never realises that the losers suffered, too," Daphne shrugged. "But promise me you won't worry too much. We'll survive this. You'll see. We've come too far to end up dead now."
That was when Astoria had made up her mind. She was never again going to be the shy little girl she had been before the war, never again going to wait around for things to happen to her when there was a chance that it might never happen. If she wanted something she would get it no matter what it cost her. Daphne was the one who had always encouraged her to do so, yet here she was, sitting in the drawing room and chastising Astoria for nothing more than acting exactly like she did.
"Why Malfoy?" Daphne asked again. "Why, of all the eligible purebloods out there, did you have to go and choose Draco-bloody-Malfoy?" She poured out yet another glass of wine. There were two empty bottles on the floor next to her already, Astoria noted with disgust. How could her sister bring herself to drink something so ridiculously unpalatable?
She didn't know why Daphne was bothering to ask that question; she knew that answer well enough. Draco had been hers since the war had ended – since the very first time she had managed to talk to him without getting mistaken for her sister. Oddly enough it had been the Carrow twins (whom Astoria still couldn't stand even though she grudgingly admitted they came in rather useful sometimes) who had unintentionally re-introduced her to him.
It was the first ball the Malfoys had thrown since the ending of the war. Astoria had found it rather odd because it was being held in a different part of the Manor than usual. She had later found out that this was because the Malfoys never again wanted to see the part of their Manor that had been occupied by the Dark Lord. She couldn't blame them; the Malfoys had lost more than most in the war; their fame, their influence, their money, all were not gone but certainly significantly diminished.
That hadn't stopped most of society attending though, of course, and it certainly hadn't stopped Astoria from talking to Draco Malfoy. It was different to the last time she had attempted to talk to her at a ball, as this time he had been the one to approach her. He practically sprinted over to her and began to talk about nothing. She caught a glimpse of a very annoyed looking HestiaandFlora Carrow (for she had long since started to think of them as a single, impossibly annoying organism) and realised exactly why he was suddenly trying to look occupied.
"Escaping the gruesome twosome, were you?" she drawled when the twins finally made themselves scarce.
He smiled. "I'd always thought you were rather more observant than your sister. Daphne never would have noticed that."
Astoria knew that Daphne actually would have noticed that, she just wouldn't have bothered mentioning it. Then she almost choked on her drink when she realised that Draco had just realised who she was. Finally, finally he had managed to not mistake her for her sister.
"Are you alright?" Draco asked, looking rather concerned.
"Yes, I'm fine" Astoria giggled. "It's just… I'm afraid I'm not too fond of white wine." She blushed, hoping that he wouldn't take offence to her disliking the wine he had chosen to serve.
Instead of looking offended, Draco laughed. He actually laughed. She didn't think she seen him so happy since before… recent events had started.
"It is rather ghastly, isn't it?" he said. He glanced round quickly and seemed to notice at the same time she did that the Carrow twins were making their way back over to them. "Do you fancy coming down to the kitchens with me? I'm sure we have a much more fitting selection of drinks there."
"I'd be delighted" Astoria replied, partly glad to be able to finally spend some time with Draco, partly because she really, honestly could not stand the wine. It was the sort of horrible, perfumed stuff that only Daphne would ever deign to drink.
Draco grabbed hold of her hand and led her quickly out of the ballroom – away from the overdressed purebloods and the annoying Carrow twins and the unpalatable drinks. Astoria hated to admit quite how relieved she actually was by this turn of events; while her sister hated the balls for their politics but loved them for their glitz and glamour, Astoria just couldn't stand them. She could think of far better things to do than stand round attempting to make small talk with people she could hardly even pretend to like… like sneaking off to the kitchens with Draco, for instance. Suddenly she felt like a third-year again and started to laugh.
Draco raised an eyebrow, asking whether she'd care to explain what was so amusing.
"Nothing," she replied. "Just glad I don't have to spend hours with the Carrows. At the Browns last ball they cornered me for almost an hour."
That really wasn't a lie. She would have given anything to get away from them then… well, almost anything. Not having the Dark Lord back or being stuck in a castle full of Death Eaters, but practically anything short of that.
"I understand," Draco replied. "They're from a perfectly respectable family of course, but they're just a little… over enthusiastic sometimes."
If, of course, your definition of a 'perfectly respectable' family included having an uncle and aunt who had been Death Eaters and who were now locked away in Azkaban, freezing slowly to death somewhere out in the middle of the north sea, but Astoria knew that mentioning that to Draco wouldn't have been a particularly good idea, especially not when he was going to get her something decent to drink.
They finally arrived in the kitchens, which were killed with scurrying house elves, just like Astoria had expected. There had been rumours going round that the Malfoys had been so heavily hit by demands that they pay compensation for their part in the war that they could no longer even afford to keep their house elves, but of course anyone with a modicum of common sense knew what a load of rubbish that was. House elves were bound to a family whether they liked it or not, money wasn't even an issue.
"So," Draco said, "what would you care for? Red wine? Rosé wine?"
"I'm afraid I don't much like wine at all."
Draco looked surprised. "Not like your sister in that respect then."
"I think you'll find that Daphne and I are quite different in most respects," Astoria replied. "Just because we're siblings doesn't mean we're entirely the same. Not all siblings have the same mindlessness as the Carrow twins, you know."
"Of course," Draco said quickly. "So what do you want to drink?" He grinned. "Might I tempt you with some firewhisky?"
"You know full well that I'm only sixteen."
"And? No one is going to chastise you for drinking a little firewhisky," Draco replied. "Would I do anything to deliberately get you into trouble?"
Well, if Daphne's tales about some of the things Draco had done in school were to be believed, she could well imagine Draco Malfoy doing something to get her into trouble on purpose. That being said, the objects of Draco's tricks had usually been Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and the occasional Slytherin half-blood, so on all counts she was safe. Oh, and then there was the fact that he really did seem rather wary of her sister. Not that she could blame him; Daphne was, after all, the offspring of a Fury and a Siren.
"Alright," Astoria replied eventually. "I'll have some firewhiky, but only if you have some as well."
"Did you think I'd really be so impolite as to let you drink alone?" Draco seemed genuinely scandalised by the suggestion. "You," he shouted at a nearby house elf, "get me the nicest firewhisky we have at the moment. Now."
Astoria almost felt sorry for the miserable creature when it shivered at the tone in Draco's voice, but then she reminded herself that house elves were so stupid that this was the only way to deal with them. Of late there had been much campaigning by mudbloods against the 'slavery' of the house elves, but Astoria found such a suggestion more than a little ridiculous. Only the pollution of muggle blood could ever cause a person to think something so utterly ridiculous.
Two glasses full of firewhisky appeared on the table in front of them. Astoria looked warily at the ruby-coloured liquid in her glass and wondered what she'd just got herself into. She didn't even like firewhisky very much, but then again it was either that or wine. She'd take the firewhisky any day; it wasn't so unpleasant and it was stronger. If she had enough of the stuff then maybe she wouldn't feel quite so bored. She might even be able to stand the Carrow twins' nonsense, though that was highly unlikely.
"To surviving this blasted event." Draco toasted the air before downing his drink. Astoria followed his lead, the started to cough as it burned her throat on its way down. It felt like she was being boiled from the inside out, and suddenly she remembered exactly why she didn't like it. Still, even that was better than wine.
"I take it you don't like balls, then?" Astoria asked.
"Of course not," Draco replied. "Though if I let my mother hear that then I think she'd go completely mad. In fact she'd probably try to curse me out all the way past Jupiter."
Astoria laughed. She could just see Narcissa Malfoy doing something like that. No matter how dire Astoria found such events, she would not have wanted to risk being on the receiving end of Draco's mother's temper. No, better just to sneak off to the kitchens like they just had done.
"What are you smiling at?" Draco asked, snapping his fingers at a house elf, which promptly appeared with more for them to drink. "You're much more cheerful than Daphne, you know. She seems to have a perpetual scowl on her face, if you don't mind me saying so."
"Oh, she does" Astoria replied. "Except for when she's in with lots of people like this. Then she can't stop smiling. Daphne just likes people."
Draco had finished another glass of firewhisky already and was beginning to look every so slightly unsteady.
"Would you care for another?"
"I'm afraid I'll have to decline."
"Pity," he sighed. "I suppose we'll have to be getting back to the mayhem now before mother notices I'm gone. Would you give me the honour of having the next dance?"
He held out his hand to Astoria. She took it, blushing already. She wasn't sure whether it was because this was Draco Malfoy or because of the firewhisky she had just had to drink, but either way she didn't care.
"I'd be delighted."
They scurried out of the kitchens, giggling like a pair of children, and back into the ballroom. Draco led her onto the dance floor before she could protest. The firewhisky had made her light-hearted and even more light-headed but she knew that she would still be able to dance; she was a Greengrass after all, dancing was in her blood. They twirled around the room, grace personified, and she knew then, just knew, that very soon Draco Malfoy would be hers. After all, hadn't she vowed at the end of the war that she would never again let anything get in the way of what she wanted?
That wasn't the end of her meetings with Draco. If it had been then she wouldn't have been sitting here with Daphne now, her sister glowering at her whilst drowning her annoyance in that horrible, horrible wine.
"Are you sure I can't get you something else to drink, Astoria?"
"No, Daphne. Really, I'm fine."
She hadn't been surprised when she had received a letter from Draco the day after the ball, telling her how very much he had appreciated her company and how wonderful she had been at alleviating the tedium of the event. The letter had been sealed with the Malfoy crest and written in shining, dark green ink that matched the colour of her eyes. Hers, not Daphne's: her sister's eyes were impossibly bright. That had been enough to convince her once and for all that he was never going to mistake her for her sister again.
Astoria had written back in the sky blue ink she favoured for letter writing (her preference of colours had led some people, namely the Carrows, to question whether she oughtn't have been in Ravenclaw. It just showed how stupid the girls were, in her opinion.) After that the letters had come four or five times a week, a constant train of correspondence which was enough to suggest that Draco was not the boy Daphne had been in school with. In fact it was enough to show Astoria that her sister had never really know him at all. He was amusing, he was sharp-witted, he was attractive, and most importantly of all he was still influential even now the war was over.
Astoria had long wanted a fairytale wedding with a prince by her side, but only because she knew just how important it was to be a princess. Power was what mattered in this word, being in Slytherin had shown her that much, and she was going to let nothing at all stand in her way.
That was why, when she had received a formal invitation to visit Draco at Malfoy Manor, Astoria had immediately replied saying that yes, she would be delighted to see him again and had sorely missed his company. It wasn't a lie (he had been amusing) and she was quite desperate to get away from her sister, who had been insisting on spending almost disproportionate amounts of time with Tracey Nott, whom none of the Slytherin girls had ever particularly liked before she married Theodore, so Astoria didn't see why Daphne was bothering with her. The Notts had lost just as much influence in the war as they had, probably more, so what was the point?
It had been a wonderfully sunny day when Astoria had apparated to Malfoy Manor. She arrived just outside the gates to find Draco already there, a smile on his face when he laid eyes on her. He unlocked the gate, took her by the arm and led her across the garden. The flowers were as beautifully arranged as ever, and she couldn't help but smile when she saw the albino peacocks that were strutting around the place. They struck her as oddly appropriate pets for the Malfoys to own.
"We've been breeding albino peacocks for the past seven generations," Draco told her. "The only downside of it was the fact that I had to take Care of Magical Creatures for OWL. It wasn't particularly fun, I assure you."
"Yes. You had that horrid half-giant for a teacher, didn't you?" she replied. "I can't imagine how ghastly that was."
"Well a Hippogriff nearly ripped my arm off in my first lesson," he drawled. His tone was perfectly neutral so she almost didn't believe him, but then she had a vague recollection of his wandering around the castle with his arm in a sling for the first few months of her first year. She paled. He laughed.
"That must have been terrible."
"There are worse things in life than being mauled by a Hippogriff," he replied as he led her into the rose garden. She noticed that two of the peacocks had got right into the middle of a rosebush and seemed to be systematically destroying it. Draco shot a hex at the birds, which quickly flew off, then repaired the plant with a wave of his wand. "Mother doesn't much like it when the peacocks ruin her roses," he explained.
"I'm sure she doesn't. I wouldn't either," Astoria replied. She sat down on one of the marble benches that lay round the edges of the rose garden and looked around at the flowers. It was entirely full of white roses, of course; red was such a hideous, Gryffindor colour. Nothing red would ever have been fitting for a Malfoy; it was too like blood and rage, whereas the Malfoys were calm as ice.
Draco sat down next to her. He was smiling again – not at the roses but at her. She smiled back.
"Forgive me for being so presumptuous as to say so, Astoria, but you really are beautiful."
Then he had kissed her (or she had kissed him, she couldn't quite recall) right there in the middle of the rose garden without a care about the fact that they might possibly be seen. She knew that his actions weren't entirely sincere: partly, of course, but not entirely. He was a Slytherin, she was a Slytherin; he was a pureblood, she was a pureblood; he was handsome, she was beautiful. Neither would fade when placed by the other, and appearances were just as important as influence in pureblood marriages. He was Draco Malfoy, she was Astoria Greengrass, and both of them knew full well that the other was the very best they could hope to get in this horrible, post-war world.
It had come as no surprise when she had received the invitation to formally accompany him to the Macmillan's next ball. It was one of the standard, old-fashioned ways for people to announce to the world that it was very likely that a wedding would soon be on the cards, that another alliance would soon be forged between two ancient and noble families. It didn't matter what they said about the world changing now Voldemort was gone – just because people like Harry Potter and Kingsley Schaklebolt wanted to destroy all of the old, wizarding traditions, that didn't meant that they were going to let that happen. The old families were going to work hard to keep the status quo, and Astoria was determined to play her part even if her sister insisted on fraternising with bloodtraitors.
When she had arrived at the Macmillan's ball on Draco's arm, it had surprised enough people as to land them on the front page of the Daily Prophet, and had annoyed Daphne to such and extent that she had barely been able to bring herself to speak to her sister for weeks. But that was that; she had continued to show her face in public with Draco, and so it was that their fates were sealed. It had taken her less than a year to make sure that Draco Malfoy would be hers for good. The garish glitz and glamour of pureblood society would forever be hers now, but never again would the balls be boring, not with Draco on her arm. This was the life she had dreamed of as a young girl, and finally she had it.
"He's mine now. You know that, Daphne."
"Astoria, you're eighteen years old. If Hogwarts were still open then you wouldn't even have finished your seventh year, and you're telling me that you're honestly naïve enough to believe that this ridiculous affair with Malfoy is going to last?"
Daphne was slowly beginning to resemble a Fury now. Under normal circumstances Astoria would have been more than a little worried, but as it was she didn't care. What was the worst Daphne could do – disown her? Even if she did, it wouldn't matter; Astoria would never again be forced to depend on her sister's charity once she became Mrs. Draco Malfoy. He would be hers and her life would be sorted forever.
"What are you smirking about?" Daphne growled.
"Just the fact that you seem so convinced that I'm not going to end up with Draco," Astoria purred in response. "I am and you're going to have to get used to it."
"Oh I'm used to Draco," Daphne replied. "I was in almost all his classes for seven years, you know. I did have to put up with him thinking he was the leader of Slytherin for five years until he became slightly less of an idiot in our sixth year. I know Draco Malfoy rather a lot better than you do, Asto…"
"I doubt that."
"What I'm saying is that I'm perfectly used him, but there's no way in Salazar's name that you're ever going to be able to get me to like him."
"Well you're going to have to learn to like him because we're getting married," Astoria said, not seeing why she should bother to hide the truth any longer. It would be all over the front cover of the Daily Prophet tomorrow – she had made sure to see to that.
Daphne almost dropped her glass in shock. She was staring at Astoria, her eyes resembling a killing curse more closely than Astoria would have ever thought possible.
"Don't look so surprised. He couldn't exactly refuse me when I asked him."
"What did you just say?"
"What I'm saying," Astoria growled, "is that I asked Draco to marry me and he accepted. Do you not understand me?"
Daphne was gawping at her by now, open-mouthed and disbelieving. "You asked him to marry you? And he accepted?"
"Yes, Daphne. What part of that is confusing you, exactly?"
"But tradition dictates…"
"Tradition be damned. You said it yourself," Astoria replied, smiling coldly at her sister. "I've already managed to tame Draco Malfoy. He's mine whether you want him to be or not. So you can either accept my choices or you can never speak to me again."
She slammed the door of the drawing room behind her, leaving Daphne alone with her sickly, sour white wine. Perhaps her sister would attempt to sort out her own life before she tried meddling in Astoria's again. Perhaps, but it wasn't likely.