Slithering in the background

A HariPo oneshot

by mew-tsubaki

Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. This pairing was discovered by my twin, Morghen, so please give her a little mention if you write them! Thanks! It is one of many of Mew and Mor's Weird Pairings, most of which you may find in the M&MWP forum. Check out and join the forum FUN! Read, review, and enjoy!

- ^-^3

"Oh, look, Ickle Greengrass has come to play."

Astoria wrinkled her nose at the comment and tried to ignore her Housemates. It wasn't her fault that she'd been forced from her room on account of one of her roommates having spirited a boy up to their dorm. How the girl had done it, Astoria had no idea. All she did know was that Snape was likely to visit her Dark Arts class tomorrow, and she didn't want to be caught off-guard and punished for not knowing material. Just because he'd once been softer towards his Slytherins didn't mean that he could still be that way, not since becoming the headmaster. And the Carrows had no qualms about doling out penalties when someone, anyone was stupid.

"Leave her be," Astoria heard her sister, Daphne, say. "She's not going to do anything."

"My point exactly," Pansy said with a sneer. "Just because we don't have Draco around to tease the others with doesn't mean that we can't have a little fun." She jerked her chin towards Blaise, who sat in a corner watching everything. "Don't you agree, Blaise?"

He shrugged. "Draco stops by from time to time."

Pansy huffed. "Well, he has important things to do, things for the Dark Lord…"

Astoria tightened her grip on her text and pretended she hadn't heard that. She knew Crabbe and Goyle were the only ones in the room actually to look proud of what Pansy had just stated, but Blaise remained emotionless. Astoria peeked at her sister and noted that Daphne had paled. Pansy herself frowned and turned to Millicent.

"Whatever. I've got patrol—who wants to come with?"

Astoria decided that she couldn't stay in the common room any longer, hearing that. She knew just as well as anyone else what Pansy's "patrol" meant—the older girl had been given a position that was a mockery of the Head Girl's job, a job in which Pansy now lurked in the corridors to try her hand at the Unforgivables. It made chills creep up her spine every time she heard Pansy comment about her patrol, and Astoria made sure that she was never one to be caught outside the dungeons outside of curfew. So she slipped out of the living room part of the common room and went to sit on a dimly-lit bench near a bookcase on the other side of the room, away from the glass that separated every Slytherin from the inhabitants of the Black Lake.

Luckily, Pansy could care less about Astoria's slinking away, and she was out the door with Crabbe and Goyle in tow. So. Astoria's sister had made a good choice, staying and not involving herself in anything. Maybe she was even idling back to watch over Astoria. Astoria crinkled her nose up at that idea; it was likelier that Daphne soon would be off to find Theodore to keep her occupied.

In the poor light, Astoria struggled to concentrate. Not only was it hard to focus on the words, but the darkness made Astoria think of bad things, too. It made her think of what Pansy had said about Draco's new "responsibilities." It made her think of what Pansy had said she was going out to do. It made her think of Crabbe's and Goyle's ridiculous grins that maybe weren't pure evil but were definitely crazy in that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland kind of way (which made her think, also, of all the times Astoria had spent in the dark, alone with a little light, reading Muggle fairytales of which her sister would never approve).

But when someone tapped her on the shoulder, Astoria came to associate the darkness with the shade of a witch's hair.

"Hello, Astoria," Tracey said. She pointed to the younger girl's book. "Studying, I see."

Astoria allowed herself to smile a bit. "Well, trying." She budged up so that Tracey could sit on the bench beside her, and Astoria thought it nice to have a friend. Though Pansy thought she was Daphne's best mate, in actuality Tracey fulfilled that capacity for Astoria's sister, but Astoria liked that she and Tracey got along well, too. Tracey and Daphne had hit it off when first coming to Hogwarts, and she had easily made friends with Astoria, too, during the first few visits to the Greengrass home. Astoria liked that Tracey didn't go looking for trouble, just as Daphne and Astoria didn't. But Astoria also liked that, even if all Slytherins were cold, Tracey was the one least so. And Astoria thought that now again as she saw the imperceptible hint of a smile toying with Tracey's lips.

"Pansy's nutters," Tracey said, being blunt.

"I have no comment," Astoria remarked, but her grin told Tracey all she needed to know. "What brings you down from the dormitory?"

"The chance to stretch my legs." Saying that, the brunette witch did so, and Astoria felt envy. Tracey was pretty, though it was subtle. With dark brown hair only a bit lighter than Pansy's and dark, almost black, brown eyes and pale skin, Tracey gave the impression that she was delicate. Astoria…not so much; with her hazel hair and eyes and average skin tone, she had never felt quite right sitting in the same room with her older sister and her friends. Astoria knew she was only a half-blood—most Slytherins these days were—but she had never oozed the royal qualities most Slytherins (pureblood and half-blood alike) did. It was one of several things that made her feel…out-of-place.

Astoria tore her eyes from Tracey when she understood that she'd been staring, and she buried her nose in her book. No one was going to cram all this Dark Arts stuff into her brain with a spell, after all.

"You all right?"

"Yeah," Astoria lied.

"Then why are you trying to study down here?"

"Roommate's got a boy over."

Tracey frowned. "That blows. I wish I were Head Girl or even a prefect. Then I could chase him out for you."

Astoria chuckled very lightly. "It's fine."

"But you've got no light down here, hon," Tracey said.

The endearment made Astoria's tummy do a tiny flip. Tracey had always spoken to her like that, as if… as if…as if Tracey were just another older sister, she supposed. But she liked that. Daphne had never been that way with Astoria, and they actually were sisters. "I forgot my wand upstairs," Astoria admitted.

Tracey shook her head and produced her own wand, lighting it so that she could read over Astoria's shoulder. "Well, now you won't kill your eyes. Go on, then, study. I've got nothing else to do."

Astoria liked that about Tracey, too.

- ^-^3

It was the middle of the night when Astoria awoke. At first she thought that she'd broken curfew, and it scared her. She'd never broken curfew. Oh, sweet Salazar, what was going to happen to her? What would Daphne think? What would Pansy do? …hell, what would the Carrows do?

Astoria shivered and sat up, but when her back suddenly felt exposed to cool air, Astoria leaned back—and she hit something warm. That frightened her even more so, and it was with baited breath that she slowly turned to see what the warm thing was.

Oh. It was Tracey.

Thinking that strange, Astoria tried to focus and let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She felt around her—blushing when her right hand patted Tracey's leg—and she came to learn that she was still in the common room. She had never left. Her text was beside her, and Tracey's wand arm was at her side, the light long gone after the two witches had dozed off. Still, the revelation did little to slow Astoria's pounding heart.

She turned and looked up at Tracey's peaceful face, thinking how lucky they were not to have been caught out of bed. But she also thought about how unlikely it was for the two of them ever to get into trouble. They were—oh, what was that word Daphne had used?—wallflowers, creatures that were unremarkable unless someone took the time to stop and study them and give a care. Astoria had thought it mean when Daphne had called them that in Astoria's first year, Daphne and Tracey's third, because Astoria—though she didn't like it—thought that the word only applied to herself, not to Tracey. And it was mean for Tracey's closest friend to say as much about her.

But it had never bothered Tracey, Astoria had noticed over the years. Tracey knew when to care about what Daphne said and when to turn a deaf ear to her. It was that nonchalant ability that made Astoria jealous of Tracey. Here they both were, stuck in the same world, in the same House, living with the same people, and possessing similar qualities, but Tracey just seemed that much bit ready for the real world. Astoria feared the real world, especially in these times. She'd give anything to stay at Hogwarts indefinitely, to stay a teen forever, à la Peter Pan (not one of her favorite fairytales, but the concept wasn't too terrible). So she didn't wake Tracey but relished her warmth instead.

Her movements woke the seventh-year anyhow, and Tracey seemed just as disoriented. "Astoria…?" she whispered.

"Shh," the younger witch hushed.

Tracey sat up a little, but she didn't pull her arm from Astoria. Instead, Astoria could hear her hair moving as she obviously swung her head this way and that, seeming to get a hold of the situation. "Oops. Sorry."

Astoria nodded then thought herself foolish; it wasn't as though Tracey could see that. But her thoughts derailed as Tracey's hand came to rest on her waist.

"We need to get you upstairs."

The first thought in her mind was a funny one, but then Astoria blinked, knowing what Tracey really had meant. "Oh, um…yes. But that will be risky," Astoria whispered. "Perhaps we should just stay right here."

"I don't want you to suffer if we're caught." Astoria could hear the frown in the girl's voice.

"Nonsense. No one noticed we were here before. Why would they notice in the morning?"

"Ria."

Astoria's face felt on fire. She'd never heard Tracey call her that before. She'd never heard anyone call her that before. But it sounded…nice. "Yes?"

"Come on." Tracey used that hand on Astoria's waist to get her up off the bench, and she dragged Astoria along, attached at her hip. She peeked around the bookshelf's corner and then ushered Astoria across the room. "I'd hate for anything to happen to you."

The words made Astoria frown. "What about yourself?"

"I'll be fine. I don't have to worry about me."

Astoria sighed. "Don't make me pick up the slack and look out for you."

Tracey touched Astoria's cheek. "Look out for your sister instead."

"Why can't I do both?"

Tracey said nothing, but Astoria felt something warm and damp on her cheek. It felt like someone's breath. However, Astoria didn't know what to think when a sound came from the direction of the portrait hole. Tracey shoved her up the stairs, pushing her to take them two at a time despite her short stature.

Astoria stopped on the level for the fifth-years and turned to wait for Tracey. "Tracey!" she hissed.

The brunette showed up, only to open the door and shove Astoria inside. "Go to bed, quickly. Don't get up until it's morning."

"Tracey! Be careful!" Astoria rushed before the door shut completely. "Promise me you'll sleep with your wand under your pillow."

There was a short pause before Astoria sensed her nod. "I promise. Now, please, stop worrying me and go sleep. Okay?" Then the door closed. Even though Astoria nearly jumped under her covers, her blood was pumping in her veins too much to let her eyes close. Naturally, she fell asleep in no time.

- ^-^3

When the morning came, Astoria felt awful. She grabbed a fresh uniform and trudged to the shower, but it didn't do anything to rejuvenate her. Even in the common room, Astoria felt on edge. She felt as though everyone's eyes were on her. Her only relief was seeing Tracey at the Slytherin table in the Great Hall.

From afar, Tracey looked fine, so Astoria told herself to breathe. For the rest of the day, "breathe" was the young Greengrass' mantra. It helped even to get her through Dark Arts, where she was able to answer all of the questions she was asked. But when supper passed and the evening came, Astoria felt her peace wane.

In the common room, Pansy looked smug. Daphne looked paler than the night before, and even Blaise looked uncomfortable. Tonight, Theodore was around, but if there was one person Astoria had never been able to read, it was the Nott heir. She didn't understand what her sister saw in him.

Astoria waited in the common room for Tracey to appear, but it didn't happen with Pansy around. Only when Pansy barked at Millicent and Daphne to return to the dormitory with her did some of the tension exit the room. Crabbe and Goyle had gone to bed long ago, and Astoria moved to her dimly-lit bench once again, though she had her wand with her this time. She waited for Blaise and Theodore to leave.

They didn't leave quickly, though. Instead the two boys exchanged some words, words too quiet for Astoria to hear. She peeked around the bookshelf and was stunned to see Blaise so animated. Theodore, however, passively listened.

Then Tracey entered the room, and Astoria stifled a gasp. Tracey had a split lip and a bruise on her cheek. Blaise narrowed his eyes at her and passed something to Theodore before dashing upstairs to the boys' dorm. Theodore waited for Tracey.

"Hey," Tracey croaked as she sat in Blaise's spot.

"Hey," Theodore said. He raised his eyebrows. "She left you with a nasty little warning."

She winced as she tried to smile. "I'm just letting Pansy think she got to me."

"She doesn't like neutrals," he said as he reached for her hand. Astoria caught a flash of brown before he retracted his hand.

Tracey dropped her eyes to the table. "You shouldn't have, Theo. She took my wand for one night. She was going to give it back."

"You need to heal yourself."

"If Pansy finds out that Blaise lifted it from her bag…"

Theodore shook his head. "He loves her. He'll convince her to forgive him if she finds out, or die trying."

"That's what I'm afraid of." Tracey looked at Theodore. "And you should be more careful, too."

"I only asked Blaise for the favor." He shrugged. "Did you know? Americans have an apropos statement… 'Bros before hos,' I believe." He smiled, and it scared Astoria.

But Tracey smiled, too, and laughed. "Since we're friends, what does that make me? A 'bro'?"

Theodore quirked an eyebrow at her statement, though, and her laughter died down. "You should be more careful, Trace. She's Daph's sister." Astoria perked up at the mention of her, wondering where the conversation was heading now.

Tracey grimaced. "Don't you think I know that?" She shook her head. "Besides, it wasn't like that. I care for her, I do, but she sees in me what she thinks Daphne lacks. I'm just another big sister to her." She smiled again, but her smile was brittle. And Astoria… Judging by Tracey's words, Astoria thought she understood why.

Theodore rolled his eyes when Tracey wasn't looking—but he also spotted Astoria eavesdropping. She wanted to yelp, but he held a finger to his lips. Then he mouthed, "Is that what you call studying, squirt?"

She blushed furiously and glared at him. But then he stood and patted Tracey's arm. He whispered goodnight to her and left for bed like the others. Then it was just the two witches.

Astoria hated that she'd been seen, especially by him, though she doubted he would tell her sister. Even so, Daphne was too much of a scaredy-cat to say anything anyway, so Astoria supposed it didn't matter… She braced herself and stepped out from her spot, marching towards the now empty seat across from Tracey.

"Astoria—" Tracey said, stunned.

The younger girl held up a hand to stop her. "Are you all right?"

"But you just—"

"Tracey, are you all right?"

Tracey frowned. "I'll be fine."

"I thought I told you to sleep with your wand under your pillow."

She scoffed. "That only works if you get to put your wand there in the first place."

A quiet settled between them and didn't fly off until several minutes had passed. "So…Pansy did this to you?"

Tracey said nothing, which only made Astoria puff up her chest.

"That girl's a terror. I wouldn't be surprised if she really joins the Death Eaters."

Tracey's eyes widened at Astoria's bold claim—right when "Death Eaters" left her lips—but she jumped to Pansy's defense. "You don't know that, Astoria. She's cruel but not evil. Pansy doesn't have it in her."

Her words made Astoria fume. "Well, I for one know that I'll be fighting in the battle to come."

Tracey chuckled. "What? What battle?"

"Don't try to pretend that nothing will happen. We all know we'll all be involved." Astoria nodded. "And I plan on fighting." She paused and caught Tracey's eye. "Fighting them."

Tracey furrowed her brow and shook her head. "No, you shouldn't fight anyone. You're not old enough. You should stay safe."

"Because you want me to be safe?"

"Of course."

"Because you love me."

Tracey stammered. "O-of course."

Astoria gave her a long look. But she couldn't find it in herself to be brave about both fighting Death Eaters and deciding that it was a crush she had on her sister's best friend. She took out her wand. "I'm old enough to heal you," she said, and she swished her wand. It was the first time a nonverbal spell had worked for her, but she was grateful that it had, in this moment. Her heart lightened upon seeing Tracey's face…be beautiful once again. "If I'm old enough to heal, I'm old enough to fight."

Tracey looked anywhere but at Astoria. "A nonverbal spell, huh? You know a lot of things."

"What can I say? I grew up when you and my sister weren't looking."

The words cut through Tracey enough that she forced her gaze to meet Astoria's. "About what I said…"

Astoria smiled. "It's not so bad, caring for someone like that."

Tracey looked relieved but ready to cry. "Really?"

Astoria stood and bent to kiss Tracey's cheek. Along her jaw, near her neck, she felt that same damp warmth and knew it was Tracey's breath. She wondered what would've happened the other night, even in the tiniest regard, if Pansy had not entered the common room and chased them. Astoria pictured the moment, savored it, and kissed Tracey's cheek again. "Really, really." And she knew she already was beginning to care for Tracey just as much.

- ^-^3

;] This begs for a sequel, *lol*. Most of my oneshots do. XD But I like the subtleties of this story and the two girls, and even the platonic closeness they have. It's almost set aside from the romance budding between them… -w- Not to mention I really like friends!TraceyTheo. :] And of course I had to slip in a bit of PansyBlaise and a hint of TheoDaph. But hmm…Astoracey really has its appeal… B)

Thank you very much for reading, though, and please do review!

-mew-tsubaki :}