The following is a story that has been a long time coming. Draco has been a fascinating character for me since I read the seventh book, and I've wanted to do a character study for a very long time. This story touches on the Draco that I established in Among Thorns and Fighting Briars, and it also makes use of the Bonding Ceremony of arranged marriages that I created in those stories, but it is not necessary to have read those. Specific inspiration came from HPFC's Creepy Quotes Challenge.

This will be a first for me in a very long time - a story uploaded in chapters! Expect seven altogether, and with any luck (but no promises!), the whole thing will be up by the end of the week!

Thanks as always to my betas: thesteppyone and Maggie, for encouragement and general ass-getting-on.

DISCLAIMER: I own none of these characters. All belongs to the great JK Rowling.

This story is for Katie, to show that there are good Slytherins in the world and to thank her for sharing her fascination with Draco Malfoy.

And the World Turns 'Round

Part the First

The day that Draco Malfoy turned three, young Astoria Greengrass (that would be me), all of six months old, was promised to him in a ceremony that she would never remember, and he just barely would. But it was the tradition – tradition for pureblood wizard children to be promised to one another by their families sometime before the age of eleven. Until the male, always the elder, reached that crucial birthday, the parents on either side could break off the arrangement for any reason.

The day that Draco Malfoy turned eleven, he and Astoria, age eight, went through another ceremony that took them from Promised to Sworn. In this ceremony, Draco and Astoria spoke for themselves, agreeing to their union, to take place in exactly nine years. On Draco's twentieth birthday, they would be Bonded, and on his twenty-first, they would become husband and wife.

It was a tradition as old as blood itself.

Astoria hated it.

Or, more accurately, I suppose, I should say: she hated him.

I had known I was to marry Draco Malfoy as long as I'd known my own name. My parents had made it clear to me from a very young age that I was extremely fortunate that the Malfoys had even agreed to the arrangement in the first place (the Greengrass family being noted for old blood and an old manor home and not much else), and I therefore needed to be appropriately grateful and do nothing that might jeopardize my parents' connection to such a powerful family. I did my best to be the dutiful daughter, but the more time I spent in Draco Malfoy's presence, the less I liked him. And I spent quite a lot of my childhood in his presence.

He was mean more often than not, and could be downright cruel when the mood took him. He was also the most spoiled and arrogant child I'd ever known, never without a little sneer on his face. He treated everyone as if he were above them, which, if my parents' opinions of his family were any indication, I guess he sort of was. But he treated everyone – even his mother! – as if they existed purely for his amusement, and those who failed to amuse him opened themselves to his condescension and derision. And I was one of those people. He made his dislike of me known early on, calling me "Baby Gweengwath" when he called me anything, and always loudly talking around me about how annoying he found little tag-along babies to be. Of course, in the presence of any of our parents, he was as polite as could be, but as soon as their backs were turned, his childish insults and rudeness returned. In short, he was a thoroughly unpleasant child, and without anyone to call him to order or correction, he grew quite naturally into a thoroughly unpleasant adolescent.

The day that Draco Malfoy turned eleven, the two of us were Sworn in a ridiculously elaborate ceremony. To anyone watching the pair of us, he appeared appropriately somber and solemn as we stood in front of the assembled guests in the Malfoy ballroom with our hands clasped over a basin of water while an officiate from the Ministry droned on behind us. But I was close enough to see that little sneer lurking at the corner of his mouth, and the slightest wrinkle of his nose as he looked down at me, as if I smelled unpleasant, which I knew wasn't true because my mother had let me wash with her special rose-scented soap that morning. As if that weren't enough, the very moment he had walked me solemnly out the center aisle of the Malfoy ballroom (in echo of marriage recessional), he dropped my hand and wiped his palm on his dress robes, making a face of disgust that no one but I could see. I wanted very much to scowl, but I was determined to be the more mature of the pair of us, so I merely straightened my shoulders and stood with my head held high, ignoring his childishness.

People began spilling out after us, and not at all to my surprise, Draco's little band of friends were first – Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe, Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott, and Pansy Parkinson. Now, protocol of the ceremony dictated that the Sworn pair stand and receive all the guests before seeking out their own amusement, but as soon as Draco's friends appeared, I could have predicted what was going to happen. They took the momentary advantage of the adults' conversation to steal Draco away, and he didn't even make a token protest about his duties, instead leaving me standing there alone. My normal emotions toward Draco were a mix of irritation and disgust, but as he turned to go, fury rose up in me, because I didn't want to be there, either. I didn't want to stand up in front of all these people and swear myself to a stuck-up boy I hated, nor waste an entire afternoon in good clothes talking to grownups, but we were supposed to! We had responsibilities! And even at eight, I took that very seriously.

So I did what I had never before dared to do – I called him to task. Or I tried to. "Draco! We're supposed to receive the guests," I said angrily, and then his sneer was back in full force.

"You do it," he said. "I'm busy, and I have no time to stand around with babies." And he turned on his heel and walked away.

I did scowl then, at his retreating back and his aggravating saunter and the shrill laughter of that Parkinson girl. I curled my hands into fists and wished I was bigger, older, stronger, able to do something like knock him about the head— which is, of course, when my mother reached the doorway.

"Astoria!" she hissed in an urgent, angry undertone, her clawlike hands suddenly clenched painfully on my shoulders. "Do not scowl!" And then, louder and sweeter, but with the edge of a threat that only I recognized, "Where is Draco?"

"He left," I said, and tried not to let my anger show. I couldn't believe she was about to blame me for Draco's disappearance, but in hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised. "I tried to get him to stay, but he went off–"

"You'll have to excuse Draco, Helena," came a syrupy smooth voice as Narcissa Malfoy floated into view. "He and his friends have been talking non-stop about Hogwarts; they're all so excited. A stuffy event like this, you can't blame them for wanting to escape out-of-doors."

"Oh, of course not," my mother said, suddenly all simpering sweetness. "It's only natural; Daphne's been the same."

"Then I think we can dispense with formalities, hmm? Run off and play, Astoria dear." And with an infuriating pat to the top of my head, I was effectively dismissed.

And I went, but not quietly. Or rather, I left their presence quietly, but once I was away from the adults, I stomped and stormed and raged at how unfair it was that out of all the boys my parents could possibly have paired me with, they'd picked him.

I stormed outside and headed for the place that had become my spot at Malfoy Manor – a decorative stone bench in the shade of this massive oak tree a bit removed from the manor itself, and on the opposite side from the gardens and walkways. It was private and secluded, and a poor location for seeing and being seen, so it wasn't often used. Which was quite all right with me.

The quiet calm of the slight wilderness helped to calm me. I was still irritated, but it was nothing more than the irritation I typically felt at being forced to spend every June the fifth at a birthday party at which I wasn't really welcome. It was Draco's birthday, but every year, I was the one who made a wish: that this year, the Malfoys would finally decide that I was too poor or insignificant or insufficient to wed their son, and would therefore call the Bonding off.

And it was in that moment of lamentation that I suddenly realized what the morning's ceremony had meant, and more, that I was not quite as powerless as I had, up to that moment, believed. Draco's parents were no longer able to call off our Bonding because that power had now passed to us. I leapt up with great excitement, intending to head at once for the manor and break the news to everyone still assembled, but I was prevented by the arrival of my sister.

"I thought you'd probably disappeared up here," she said dispassionately, surveying the surroundings and clearly wondering how anyone could prefer the wilderness to the cultivation and company of people on the other side of the house.

"Why aren't you with Draco?" I asked her, and I didn't bother trying to hide my contempt.

"Because Father wouldn't let me slip out as soon as the ceremony was done, and then Mother sent me to make sure you weren't going to try and do exactly what you're trying to do," she said coolly.

"And what am I trying to do?" I demanded of her. She fixed me with a calm stare.

"Disappear," she said simply, obviously, and I couldn't argue and she knew it, and I hated it.

"Well, Mother and Father don't have to worry," I said primly. "As I'm going right back down to the house and calling all this off."

"Calling what off?"

"All of it. The bonding, the marriage, everything. I don't like him, and I don't want to do it." She stared at me then, but not as if I had shocked her. Rather, she was staring at me as if in disbelief that she could have so foolish a sister.

"And why on earth do you think that matters?" she asked me, which only angered me further.

"Because it does!" I insisted. "I won't marry someone I don't like!"

"You'll marry whoever Mother and Father tell you to marry."

"I will not!" I said again, crossing my arms defiantly. "I can call it off! That's what this morning meant!"

"And what are your reasons?" she asked, matching my defiant posture with an arm crossing of her own, which she somehow made adult and powerful.

"He's mean," I said immediately, "and cruel and beastly and he treats me like a baby!"

"That's because you're eight and he's eleven," she said as if talking to a simpleton. "Of course he treats you like a baby. You're sillier than you're acting right now if you think Mother and Father will let you call off a Bonding for those reasons."

"Mother and Father don't have a choice," I said, mimicking her patronizing tone. "Draco and I are the only ones who can call off the Bonding now, and I'm calling it off." And I started to stalk off past her toward the house.

"And how are you going to do that?" she called after me, stilling my feet. "The bond between you and Draco is legally binding, and you can't take independent legal action until you're seventeen. You have to have a parent's permission. And neither one of our parents will ever consent to dissolve the bonding between you and the Malfoy family."

I knew she was right. I knew it, and I hated it, and I hated that I hadn't known that before. "That isn't fair!" I all but wailed. "Why would Mother and Father make me marry someone I can't stand?"

"Because the Malfoys are very powerful and rich, in ways we haven't been for generations now. Mother and Father want any connection to them they can get."

"Then why didn't they marry you off to Draco?" I muttered spitefully, stomping back up the hill and sitting on my bench again.

"Because I'm older than Draco by three months, which you know full well. Don't be stupid."

"I'm not stupid!"

"Then stop acting like it," she said, refusing to let me have my tantrum. "Draco's only eleven. He's bound to grow up at some point. Now come join the party, and don't say anything about this to anyone else. Got it?"

I could do nothing but comply. Or, more accurately, I could do nothing sensible but comply. I could have raised a fuss, could have done my best to torment my parents until they relented. But I knew that such a course of action would be fruitless. It might give me some momentary satisfaction, but it would not be of much help to me in the end. And so, I acquiesced. I followed Daphne's advice, kept my silence, and hoped without much hope that Draco Malfoy would, someday, grow up.

To Be Continued