A Life Like No Other
Chapter 1: The Meeting
A/N: The usual disclaimer, I don't own Harry Potter or JKR's characters. I make no money from this story. The plot is mine, however.
Ships: Harry Potter / Astoria Greengrass
Raining. It was one of those dreary days that seemed to drag all the happiness out of a person. Even the castle itself seemed cold and dank. Sixteen year old Harry, unaware that his life was abut to change dramatically, was wandering the corridors of Hogwarts. The messy haired boy was contemplating the year just past. The loss of his Godfather Sirius had affected him deeply and the rainy day did nothing to help the gloom that settled inside him. The summer holidays had been a lonely time for him and allowed Harry to sink even deeper into despair. This first few weeks back had seen a resumption of his angst over the stupid thing that he'd done when he'd led his friends into a trap in the Department of Mysteries at the end of their last school year.
Hermione was seriously hurt and he could never forgive himself for that. Ron, Neville, Luna and Ginny had likewise been hurt. He was determined to stay away from them this year; it would only get them killed if he let them stay close. It was for the best and he would carry on alone.
That he had not been watching where he was going, became apparent when he crashed into a girl, sending the girl and himself sprawling to the hard stone floor.
"Oof! Watch where you're going…!"
Astoria Greengrass was fourteen and had just started to fill out. A pretty Slytherin like her sister, Astoria had none of the 'Ice Princess' personality of her older sibling. Harry had never talked to her but that was about to change.
"Umm, sorry," he temporized. "I had things on my mind and wasn't paying attention." He helped her to her feet and stood waiting, wondering who this girl was.
"Thanks, Potter. I know the feeling. I don't think we've been properly introduced. I'm Astoria Greengrass and I already know who you are."
Harry blinked, trying to place the girl. Greengrass. Daphne's sister. Bowing gallantly, he chuckled. "It's nice to meet you Miss Greengrass. I can see the resemblance to your sister but your manners are much better."
Astoria chuckled at that. "Yes, Daphne does come across as a bit hard. She uses it to keep the idiots at a safe distance. She's not really as bad as she seems. It also helps to deflect unwanted attention from me as well."
Harry couldn't believe he was having a decent conversation with a girl, let alone with a Slytherin girl. A very pretty one at that. "Yes, I can understand that. Daphne must attract a lot of attention from the likes of Malfoy and Nott."
"Oh, those two idiots aren't the worst. Crabbe and Goyle are always pestering her and won't take no for an answer, even after she's hexed them time after time. I helped her solve that problem though," she giggled. "Both idiots get a bad rash whenever they approach her. Plus, they let embarrassing smells and sounds escape when they even get close to her."
Harry smiled. Was she related to the Weasley twins, he wondered? "Now that's just evil. Funny and deserved, but evil. Have they found out who hexed them yet?"
"No, they're too stupid to figure it out. At first they thought it was Daphne, but it happens even when her back is turned to them and she hasn't noticed them. Of course, everyone soon notices them and they run to the loo." A wide grin spread across her face at the remembered scenes that seemed to repeat the last two weeks.
The grin was contagious and Harry found himself grinning for the first time since the new school year started. "You're sure you're not a Weasley? This is something they would think up. The twins, Fred and George, that is."
She looked at him in mock horror. "Not 'The Dastardly Duo'! Those two are a menace. Pranks are fun, but those two… ergh!"
"They got you, didn't they?" His grin got wider.
Shamefacedly, she nodded. "Yeah, last year they set off dung bombs in the loo and I happened to be in the end farthest from the door. I thought I'd suffocate before I got out of there. Plus I hadn't finished…"
"Sorry about that. They're friends and associates of mine, but I'll admonish them when I see them again."
"I'd rather prank them back," she grumbled. Then she brightened. "Associates of yours?"
"Yeah, I invested in their shop, Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes."
An evil glint adorned her face as an idea popped into her mind. "You wouldn't mind a little pay back, would you?"
"Erm, well, that depends; what did you have in mind?"
"I'll let you know. I've got to go, I have Potions in a few minutes." And with that, she was gone, rushing off to the dungeons and Professor Slughorn's fourth year class.
Harry watched her disappear down the corridor, wondering what had just happened. She was cute, there was no denying that and even now he had to think hard what she looked like. Long black hair, almost down to her bum, a pixie face with a cute button nose and crystal blue eyes like her sister. Definitely a Greengrass, but so unlike her sister in her manner which was open and friendly. She was tall, almost the same height as him, at 5 and a half feet with a delightfully slim curvaceous body. Shaking his head, he remembered he too had a class to attend.
Days later, he spotted her again, hurrying off to another class, but she was with friends. Blinking his eyes, he wondered why he couldn't get her out of his mind. She'd brightened up his day and brought him out of the deep funk he'd been in since last summer. What was it about her?
Another week passed before he saw her again and then only briefly. She never seemed to be in the Great Hall and he wondered where she ate. She was beginning to intrigue him. A mystery to occupy his mind when he wasn't in class or studying. He'd tried to avoid Ron, Hermione and Neville, but they insisted that they were fine. The Department of Mysteries adventure was not his fault and they were sorry he lost his Godfather. Hermione had quickly healed and although the scar hadn't gone away, she wore it like a badge, reminding herself and him that life happened. Ron and Ginny were currently at Quidditch practice and Neville was in the library with Hermione. He'd seen Luna and she seemed her normal dreamy self, not blaming him in the least for the traumatic events of last year.
Oddly enough, Draco Malfoy seemed distracted this year and left him alone. Snape was the new DADA teacher and things had gone downhill in his favourite subject. Defense Against the Dark Arts was the one subject he excelled in, but Snape was determined to harass him at every opportunity. They were learning silent casting this year and although he could sometimes cast silently, Snape proved such a distraction with his constant belittling comments, that he had trouble concentrating enough to consistently get proper results. This annoyed the professor even more and provoked insults and worse from the man.
One incident nearly had him expelled when Snape matched him against Draco and Harry blew him through the wall, requiring the Slytherin's stay in the hospital wing for a week. Snape was livid and marched Harry straight to the Headmaster's office, demanding his expulsion for deliberately trying to kill a student.
A week later, Nott suffered the same injury and Harry received detention for a week.
A month passed and Harry's spirits had sunk to previous lows and his friends wondered how to cheer him up. Dumbledore had promised special training, but so far that had turned out to be boring looks into Tom Riddle's past. Harry pressed for more meaningful lessons, but the headmaster chided him that these lessons were important.
November turned into December and Christmas was approaching. He'd seen Astoria from afar several times, but never had a chance to talk to her. She seemed to be squired around by a Hufflepuff boy and Harry felt oddly jealous. Why, he couldn't quite fathom, since he'd only talked to her once, and that for less than ten minutes. Resignedly looking away, he continued on to class.
Hermione and Ron were loudly bickering about something until Neville interrupted and she followed him to the library. Absently he wondered what he had missed. Hermione and Neville seemed to be spending quite a lot of time together lately and he'd missed the closeness he'd had with his best friend. Hermione wasn't exactly avoiding him, but she wasn't around as often as in the past. Ron was currently carrying on with Lavender and Ginny had Dean wrapped around her little finger. Even Luna seemed to have found someone. Now he was really depressed. He had no one and had none to blame but himself. In truth, he'd only dated Cho Chang, and that had ended disastrously.
Christmas Day, found him alone in the Gryffindor common room after sleeping late. It was almost noon when he wandered down to the Great Hall for lunch. There was a scattering of students and the usual teachers. Looking over to the Slytherin table, he was surprised to see Astoria, sitting with her sister. Daphne and she were sharing a joke when her eyes swept the room and spotted Harry. Smiling wickedly, Astoria excused herself and made her way to the Gryffindor table. She promptly plopped herself down beside him and grinned. "Mr. Potter," she declared. "Happy Christmas!"
Harry was so shocked that he stuttered "H-happy Christmas to you too. I-I haven't seen you in the Great Hall since beginning of term."
"Oh, and you were looking for me?" she replied, scooting closer and smiling widely.
"Erm, um…" he continued lamely. "That is, yeah, um…" The heat rose in his face as he continued to flounder in the gaze of a pair of bright blue eyes, that seemed to hold him spellbound. Coughing slightly, he looked down, unable to match the gaze of those brilliant orbs. It was disconcerting, really. He felt like they were piercing his very soul, learning his innermost secrets.
She reached out a hand to his shoulder and he startled. Why did she have such an effect on him, he wondered.
"Harry," she said softly. "I won't bite. What's wrong? Why won't you look at me?"
Panicking now, he fought the strong urge to jump up and run but seemed unable to move as if someone had cast the Petrificus Totalus hex on him, or a permanent sticking charm. He finally forced his his head to raise only to meet those devastating eyes and found a slightly amused look on her face. She was captivating. How had he not seen her before? "Beautiful," he breathed in an almost whisper. "Too beautiful!" he mumbled and then realising what he'd just admitted, wrenched himself from his seat and fled the Great Hall at a run, amid incredulous looks from both Astoria and Daphne.
Perplexed, Astoria returned to sit beside her sister.
"What did you say to him?" Daphne demanded. "I've never seen him move so fast."
"That, dear sister, is something I'll have to think about. He's put a whole new meaning to the word 'skittish'."
"But what did you do?" she persisted.
Astoria shrugged her elegant shoulders and replied, "Nothing really, I just smiled and wished him a Happy Christmas. He wondered why he didn't see… No, that can't be… but then, why else?" She giggled. "I think Mr. Potter may have a tiny crush on me. I mean, why else would he look at me and bolt from the room," she snorted, unable to keep the laughter from her voice.
Raising a well trimmed brow, Daphne responded. "Really? Oh that's too rich. The Golden Boy has noticed you?"
Astoria huffed. "Is that so impossible to believe? I'm not a troll, I'll have you know! Actually, he's quite attractive. We ran into each other near the beginning of term and we got on well. Well, it was only for a few minutes, but he's not an idiot like the rest of the boys in Slytherin and that boorish Hufflepuff Wayne Hopkins that can't seem to keep his distance."
"Oh really." The eyebrow shot a little higher. "And what do you intend to do about it?"
"Well, I hadn't thought much about it. You know I've been busy every day, so I hardly see anyone in the Great Hall. I'm in early and out as fast as I can gobble down some food. Maybe I'll make some time though. Potter interests me. He is a Gryffindor though. That might be a tough nut to crack. I'd have thought Granger would have her hooks in him by now."
"Oh, you weren't paying attention. She's got the hots for Longbottom. They spend every available minute in the library, hidden in her favourite spot at the back near the Restricted Section. Potter has been wandering around like someone has kicked his puppy this year. My guess is he's either lonely or depressed, or both. I'd get close to Granger and find out what's bothering him. In fact, maybe I'll give you a head start and ask Granger myself. We have Runes together and DADA."
Astoria smiled at the generosity of her sister. "Would you really Daph? It's so hard to find out anything about anyone outside your own year. Beyond the basics, it's only rumour about Harry."
"Oh, suddenly it's 'Harry'. Well, that makes all the difference," Daphne smirked.
"Shut it you," Astoria admonished, lightly slapping her arm. "I'm just curious at this point. Maybe it won't even work out."
"Are you in Slytherin or not? You have your ways, and I'll help you."
Harry had finally stopped running and collapsed of all places near the Potions classroom in the dungeons. Wondering why his feet brought him here, he was startled when Professor Slughorn happened to open his door.
"Harry my boy. What brings you down here?"
"Um, hello Professor. I-I, Professor," he extemporized. "Professor Dumbledore asked me if you would show…"
Slughorn's manner changed in an instant. "Definitely not! I've told Albus all I can. He shouldn't send you to… well, he'll not get another word about Horcruxes… Blast! Forget it, you hear me? Meddlesome old fool," he mumbled this last.
"S-sorry Professor. It's just that Professor Dumbledore feels that it's really important to defeat Voldemort."
Slughorn blanched at the name and hissed. "Not another word, young Harry. You may have your mother's talent for potions, but my life is worth more to me than that. Run along now."
Unfortunately, Harry had to retrace his steps back past the Slytherin dormitory and in his depressed state, once again ran headlong into Astoria, sending them both on their arses again.
"Really, Potter," Daphne smirked. "My sister seems to be some kind of magnet to you. If you're so determined to 'bump' into her, at least kiss her and apologise."
"Daphne!" Astoria yelled, turning a bit pink. "Sorry, Harry, my sister has a way of making things awkward. What are you doing down here anyway? It's not even close to your dorm."
"I'm really sorry Astoria. I seem to have the worst luck… er, that is, oh hell, here, let me help you up." Harry's Gryffindor courage finally asserted itself.
He helped a smiling Astoria to her feet and she gave him a quick buss on his cheek. "Thanks Harry. What other 'bad luck' did you run into today?" She remembered the look Harry had when he ran from the Great Hall. In fact, he'd stared into her eyes a good five long seconds before he panicked and ran.
Harry blushed and Astoria noticed that a small smile crept onto his face. "Just ran into Professor Slughorn. I wanted to ask him something for Professor Dumbledore but he practically shouted at me to run along and not bother him."
"Oooh, Sluggy has secrets!" Daphne countered. "Well, if Dumbledore can't get them out of him, I reckon it's going to be challenging. Do you know what the good headmaster wants?"
"Well, not precisely, it's some tampered and obscured memory, but Slughorn mentioned Horcruxes. Any ideas?"
Astoria looked blank, but Daphne gasped in horror. "No! Don't tell me he's fooling around with those horrid things! That's disgusting! Potter, those things are the epitome of evil! Stay far far away from those."
"What are you doing anyway, Harry? Daphne, what are those things?" Astoria shivered at the tone her sister had taken.
"No Tori, you don't want to know! Just know that it's an evil that had best be forgotten."
Harry gave Daphne a curious look. "How do you know about that? I hadn't even heard about it until Slughorn mentioned it by accident."
Daphne shivered. "It's dark magic, Potter. The darkest. Our family library mentioned it in passing and warned of its evil. It's supposed to anchor a soul from passing on. In other words, making the person immortal. Don't even speak of this Tori, I mean it!"
"Voldemort!" Harry whispered. "He must have made one."
"NOOO!" she cried. "We're doomed if he has."
"But, but I think I've already killed one…"
Both girls gasped at this. "I think I'm going to be sick," Daphne gagged. "Not a word Tori!" And she ran off to the nearest loo.
Astoria looked at Harry, worry in her eyes. "H-how many do you think he made?" she whispered, afraid of the answer.
"Well, at least two and from the way Dumbledore's hand looks, probably at least three. If he was asking Slughorn, probably he suspects more."
Well, seven is a magical number," Astoria said fearfully, not wanting to admit the possibility.
Harry groaned. "We'll never find the rest if that's true. I've got to talk to Professor Dumbledore."
Daphne came back at that point, looking a bit pale. "Look Tori, forget about this. I know you and how you worry a problem to death, but this really could be your death. Harry, I don't want to know anything more and I'd hope you'd forget about it too."
Daphne hurried away, leaving a worried Astoria and a perplexed Harry Potter.
Harry looked at her quizzically, deciding weather to continue the conversation or not. Finally deciding to change the subject slightly in an effort to sidetrack an obviously curious Astoria, he motioned her to follow him. "Astoria, what do you think of Professor Slughorn?"
"That fat tub? Well, he's a good teacher, but I think he's a bit full of himself. He has his favourites and I suppose you're one. Honestly, Potions is a bit of a weak subject for me. Maybe you can find time to tutor me," she asked slyly. Now that she'd had a real conversation with the 'Boy-Who-Lived', she found him to be much more fascinating than she'd first imagined.
Harry noticed the sly smile that crept over her face when she brought that up. Deciding that he wouldn't mind teaching her, he readily agreed. "What free time do you have?" he asked. "I'll see if I can squeeze you in."
"Ooh, squeeze me in, Harry?" she flirted. "You can squeeze me any time."
Harry blushed, but quickly played along. "Erm, yeah, maybe more than squeeze. How is Saturdays? I don't have Quidditch this year."
Astoria thrilled at the idea. "Saturdays works for me, Harry," she squeaked. "Erm, what time?"
"Well, I'm usually a morning person on the weekends, so how about right after breakfast?"
"Great, I'll see you then. Um, where?"
"Meet me in the Great Hall and I'll show you," he replied.
She skipped away, humming softly to herself. "Harry's going to teach me, Harry's going to teach me. Maybe I'll teach him something too," she giggled.
"What did I just let myself be talked into?" he wondered.