A/N: Ever since I read the epilogue to DH, I have always wondered about the woman married to Draco Malfoy. Who is she? Did they know each other at Hogwarts? How did they meet? How did she feel about him being a Death Eater? I actually worked on several different versions of how they met/fell in love, but nothing felt right and I finally gave up...until this bonked me on the head last night and kept me up into the wee hours of the morning until it was finished. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JKR; the only thing I own are Sneezing Sweeties.
Harry opened his eyes when he Apparated into the street, releasing a breath he'd been holding over the journey. Though it was much more effective (and much tidier) than Floo powder, he still hated Apparating. He pushed his glasses up his nose and walked down the street, adjusting his robes around him. You'd never know Diagon Alley had been through a war from the way it looked now; then again, you'd never know Harry had been through a war, either.
It had been two years since the war that had changed everything. Harry had been working as an Auror for the better part of those two years; he was allowed to forgo the usual training because, well…he was Harry Potter. Hermione, of course, disapproved; she'd gone back to Hogwarts to get a completely unnecessary degree (as if she hadn't already consumed the entire library) and was working in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures now; so far, she'd managed to intimidate a fair number of her colleagues into joining S.P.E.W.. Ron was going to join Harry in the Auror ranks soon; for now, he was helping George out with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. And speaking of which, that was just where Harry was headed.
The shop had a few customers when Harry arrived—one of whom, he noted with great surprise, was Draco Malfoy. The heir didn't notice him come in; his attention was focused on the merchandise before him. Harry frowned but didn't say anything to him, just kept walking to the counter.
"Harry, my man!" George greeted him. "Come have a look at this!" He produced a green box. "The latest in the Skiving Snackboxes—Sneezing Sweeties!"
"Brilliant," Harry said, grinning.
"Yeah, only guess who he tested it out on," Ron said in a wounded sort of tone.
"Oh, come off it; Hermione was angrier at me than you," George scoffed.
"You're not dating her," Ron muttered.
"Look, don't make a big deal out of it or anything, but did either of you notice that Draco Malfoy is here?" Harry asked, lowering his tone.
The brothers exchanged glances.
"That prat's been in here every day this week," Ron said darkly.
"Really?" Harry asked, surprised. "What's he bought?"
George shook his head. "That's just it, mate; he hasn't bought anything. He'll browse for a while, but he never picks anything up for longer than a few minutes."
Harry glanced at Malfoy, who was indeed determinedly pretending to be interested in the new Sneezing Sweeties; he glanced at them blankly for a few minutes before putting them down and reaching for the Fainting Fancies. It was suspicious. "I'll go talk to him," he decided, figuring he was less likely to set off the Slytherin than one of the Weasleys.
"Tell him to bugger off," Ron muttered.
Harry approached the blond man carefully, not wanting to scare him off before he'd divulged his purpose for being there. He hesitated and then said in what he hoped was a calm voice, "Hello, Malfoy."
Malfoy looked up, startled, and turned even paler than usual. "Potter."
"What are you doing here?" Harry asked as if they were acquaintances discussing the weather and not former archenemies questioning each other's motives.
Malfoy put back the box of Puking Pastilles, his composure regained. "Just browsing. I wasn't aware that that was a crime."
"It's not." Harry was about to ask why the other man had been there every day this week when George shouted, "Oi, Astoria, would you mind restocking the love potions when you're done back there?"
"I'll get right on that, Mr. Weasley!"
Malfoy stared as Astoria Greengrass, Ron and George's new shop girl, emerged from the backroom, her arms laden with boxes. Harry had only met her a few times, but she seemed very nice; she'd just graduated Hogwarts and was willing to do just about anything, which was both a blessing and a curse when it came to George and his penchant for experimentation.
Harry glanced from her to Malfoy to her again and smirked. "Oh, I see why you've been coming in here every day!"
Malfoy flushed. "I don't know what you're talking about, Potter…"
"You like her, don't you?" Harry said giddily. "You do! This whole time, they thought you were up to something, but you were just here to get a look at Astoria!"
"Shut up!" Malfoy hissed. "That is not why I'm here!"
"Then why've you been here every day this week?" Harry challenged.
Malfoy balked. "I…oh, all right, I've been trying to ask her out, happy?" he snapped.
"Yes. And informed; that's a bit creepy, Malfoy, stalking girls you don't even know for a week…"
"I do know her, you bloody idiot!" Malfoy said in deep frustration. "We met last week at a dinner party and I've been trying to talk to her since—why on earth am I defending myself to you?"
Harry smirked. "That's rather sweet, Malfoy."
"Do shut up, Potter."
"Do you plan on making your move anytime soon, or are you just going to lurk in the shadows until she notices you?" Harry asked in genuine interest.
"Excuse me, but I don't recall when this ever became your business," Malfoy said coolly.
Harry shrugged. "I guess you're right." He paused. "But I wonder what would happen if I just shouted her name and she looked over here and saw you?"
"Oh, please don't," Malfoy begged, suddenly penitent.
"Say, Astoria," Harry called, smirking.
Astoria poked her smiling face around the love potions. "Yes, Mr. Potter—" She caught sight of Malfoy and frowned. No, not just frowned—scowled. "You?"
"I take it you've met—"
"You're the Pure-blooded prick!" she shouted, loud enough for everyone in the store to hear. Ron and George craned their necks from the counter to get a better view. "You're the one who went on about the house-elves and the centaurs like they weren't people!"
"She sounds like Hermione," Ron muttered.
"Well, in a manner of speaking—"
Astoria threw a love potion at Malfoy that he only narrowly avoided.
Harry was starting to think that this was a terrible idea.
"Did you come here to irritate me further?" she snarled, fairly unrecognizable from her usual sweet, obliging self.
"No, no, not at all!" Malfoy hastened to assure her. "I just came here to…to…" In a panic, he turned to Harry. "What did I come here for, Potter?"
"Uh…" Lost, Harry cast around for an item. "Pygmy Puffs!" he shouted, grabbing one and thrusting it at Malfoy. "You came here for Pygmy Puffs!"
"What? I, I mean yes, I came here for a Pygmy Puff," Malfoy said, eyeing the thing in disgust.
Astoria eyed him suspiciously. "Really."
"Really!" Malfoy assured her. "It's, er, a present for my mother."
Astoria still looked as if she didn't believe him. "And you needed Harry Potter's help picking it out?"
"Oh, yes, we're…we're great chums," Harry lied, throwing a companionable arm around Malfoy's shoulders. He felt the other man stiffen. "Aren't we…pal?"
"Absolutely," Malfoy choked.
Astoria regarded them both with a look that would rival even Molly Weasley's. "If you say so." She waved her wand at the broken bottle. "Reparo!" The love potion pieced itself back together and flew into her hand; she set it down and gave Malfoy one more glare before stalking off.
"You didn't tell me she hated your guts!" Harry hissed.
"You didn't have to muck around in my business!" Malfoy hissed back. "And now I'm stuck with this damn puffball…my mother will never want this, it looks like a dust-bunny!"
"Do you even have dust-bunnies in Malfoy Manor?" Harry snarked.
Malfoy rolled his grey eyes. "Potter, has anyone ever informed you that you are exceedingly annoying?"
"Has anyone ever told you that words like exceeding make you sound like a prat?" Harry deadpanned. "No wonder she doesn't like you, you're still as annoying as you were in Hogwarts."
"Oh, please; you don't know the first thing about why she hates me," Malfoy snapped.
"Well, would you mind telling me?" Harry asked impatiently.
Malfoy, softening all of a sudden, gazed at Astoria, who was currently dusting the shelves with fury. "We got into a row at the dinner party over equality of races…and she slapped me. The last person who slapped me was Granger."
Harry stared at him. "You like that she slapped you?"
"I can't explain it. She's lovely when she's riled up," Malfoy said, still in a trance.
"You're mad, Malfoy."
"Don't I bloody know it," Malfoy said gloomily. He glanced down at the Pygmy Puff. "Well, I suppose I ought to go pay for this miniature monstrosity." He headed towards the counter—and noticed with great annoyance that Ron and George were smirking at him. Infuriated, he went towards Astoria's cash register. Tight-lipped, she rang him up.
"Just for the record," she said as Draco reached into his pockets for money, "I meant every word I said at that party."
"Look, it's not that I'm trying to be a prat, it's simply that I fail to see how something that wants to bind itself in servitude to another race could be considered a person; that doesn't make any sense! The centaurs, all right, I can see where you're coming from, but the house-elves?" he defended.
Astoria's eyes sparked to life as she slammed his money in the cash register and slapped the extra Knuts on the counter. "Don't you understand? They are walking, talking beings who can form coherent thoughts and feelings; they can carry on a conversation with any one of us without being told what to say! I could pick any elf off the street and talk about almost anything for some amount of time, because they are people, not animals, not things!"
Merlin, but she was beautiful when she got angry like that.
Draco took a deep, calming breath. "I have a house-elf. This morning I asked him to get me a croissant, and you'd have thought he was the richest man in the world from how happy he was. Is that normal behavior for a person?"
"You know, not everyone needs money to be happy, Malfoy," she spat. "Some people are happy by making other people happy!" She took her own calming breath. "If money and pure blood determined someone's humanity, then I would be one of the most inhuman beings to walk this earth. By my own choice."
Draco gazed at her for a moment. "Yes, I suppose you would be."
Astoria tucked her hair behind her ear, sensing that he had ceded to her—for now. "Will that be all, Mr. Malfoy?" she asked in a much politer, albeit still clipped, tone.
"No…I was actually wondering if you were free for dinner," Draco said in what he clearly thought was a winning sort of voice.
"Not as long as it's dinner with you," she said in such an icy voice that Harry swore the temperature of the room dropped.
"That's all right; I'm told I make an excellent breakfast."
Astoria let out a small shriek of frustration. "Oh, go away!"
"All right, but I'm going to keep trying," Draco warned her with a wink.
"Damn," she said sourly.
As he turned to leave, the Weasley brothers stopped him.
"Oi, Malfoy; you might want to give this a try," Ron said with a smirk. He slid Draco a copy of Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches.
"Oh, bugger off, Weasley," Draco snapped, stalking out of the store with his Pygmy Puff.
But even as Malfoy left, Harry could swear he saw a smile on Astoria's face.
I have a backstory that may or may not ever see the light of fanfiction, and it goes into quite a bit more depth about why Astoria ended up working at WWW after school, in case anyone thinks that aspect of the fic strains credulity.
I wanted to make Astoria something like Hermione, with some spitfire tendencies; JKR said that the reason she didn't want Draco to marry Pansy was because she hated Pansy; she referred to Pansy as the anti-Hermione, and I think there's something to be said there. I also like to believe that Draco changed after the war (JKR said that all of her characters, save Voldemort, are redeemable), but as with many, his change of heart wouldn't happen right away...and that's where Astoria comes into play. You're welcome to disagree with me, but that's my version of it.
Hope you enjoyed reading! Reviews are always appreciated!