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‘Curiosity is in one respect like love—it always compromises between the object and the feeling ...’
- Melmoth the Wanderer, Charles Maturin, pp. 47

I will never forget the first time I properly met Draco Malfoy. I had been ushered into a small carriage on the Hogwarts Express by a Death Eater, whose voice grumbled and hissed between his horrifying mask. I barely had time to speak a word before he slammed the door of the compartment in my face and stalked away.

When I turned, Draco was there, lounging on the bar seat, smirk tugging the corners of his mouth as he watched me. His eyes were tired, but he hid it well with the impervious attitude that oozed off him.

“You’re the new Slytherin prefect?” he asked, voice almost taunting in the oddly comfortable silence.

I huffed, folding my arms and glaring at him. “Is that a problem?”

He stood, chuckling. The Head Boy badge glinted importantly on his chest in the sunlight that streamed through the small square window. His grey eyes sparkled with fire. He was an enigma, and I could not stop staring at him.

“Not at all,” he said.

The next month, he asked me on a date to the Three Broomsticks. Death Eaters stalked the streets, people were afraid, but next to Draco Malfoy, I felt invulnerable, invincible, safe.

He asked if I liked Butterbeer, and I asked him why he kept tugging at his right sleeve.

I didn’t expect him to answer. I didn’t even know why I asked the stupid question in the first place. He blinked, staring at me curiously, before rolling up his sleeve silently and showing me his forearm.

I wasn’t really surprised to see the Dark Mark there. There were rumours—some wild (‘Draco Malfoy is second-in-charge to you-know-who’) and some ridiculous (‘He’s killed eighty people!’). I didn’t listen to them, but they filter and evolve in your subconscious and before you realise it, rumours are fact. As he pulled the robe arm back down (aggressively, as if annoyed at himself), he asked if I was going to leave.

And in reply I stood on my tip-toes and brushed my lips against the light golden stubble that flecked his jawline. It was both scratchy and smooth at once, and I wanted to keep my touch there forever.

I whispered, “Not at all.”

When he left for Brazil a year later, I was heartbroken.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” he replied matter-o’-factly, not looking up from the shirts strewn about on the floor before him. He only ever wore shirts now, refusing to hide his past (“It is a mark of who I am,” he told me once, staring at the Dark Mark on his arm. “Everyone knows anyway”).

“You ... don’t...” Words were failing me, and I had to lean against the doorframe to stop myself from collapsing. “... See?”

He looked up then, grey eyes inscrutable, as always. “You’re leaving me for Hogwarts.”

Truth. It stung, like he knew it would and I felt traitorous tears well in my eyes. I muttered, “You could have visited me in Hogsmeade, though.”

A pathetic reason. I felt like I was scrambling up a hill after it had rained—muddy and slippery, my hands desperately trying to get a grip so I could reach the top. But I was sliding down, tumbling head over heels, unable to get a grip in the mud.

He zipped up the suitcase. The sound seemed to go on forever. Then the first tear fell, rolling down my cheek and disappearing down my neck.

And the next moment was strange, because that was when Draco Malfoy told me he loved me. And before he changed his mind, before I could say another word, he grabbed his bag, slammed the front door of my late mother’s holiday house, and apparated off the front porch, leaving me completely, and utterly, alone.

* * *

I saw Thestrals for the first time that year. Odd looking creatures that gazed at you like they knew what you had seen. I liked them. They felt soft under your fingers despite their bony appearance, and their eyes were captivating, like the whole universe existed in them.

“You see them too?” a gentle voice asked.

I tilted my head to see a strange girl lingering behind the animals, eyes hidden by big, flamboyant sunglasses. I wondered how she could see with them on—the sun had set some time ago and the lanterns were too dull for any clarity. But she obviously could see, because she walked forward and touched the horse my hand was on, fingertips brushing against my own briefly and sending a curious electric shock that travelled down my arm.

I stared at her. “I think a lot of people will be seeing them this year.”

She cocked her head. It was an oddly sensual movement, with her long dirty blonde hair cascading to one side, small pink lips curving into a curious smile. “That’s very observant,” she commented. And then she disappeared into the carriage.

I felt my ego inflate slightly. No one had ever called me observant before. I always got a strange mix of labels—cold, emotional, sweet, introvert, vague. My sister was always the one to get the stronger words—smart, cunning, clever, beautiful. I was just Astoria, plain and dull and occasionally too bitter for company; but in those moments, I felt wise.

I clambered into the carriage after her, surprised to find it empty save for herself. She had a magazine sprawled out on her lap, upside-down, glasses still propped on her nose. Was she dyslexic? I thought it too rude to ask.

“Are your friends coming in?” I ventured instead, studying her in the dark.

She looked up, face unreadable, and replied, “Oh, no. Are yours?”

“I hope not,” I muttered.

“They aren’t really your friends if you’re hoping that, then, are they?”

The sentence sounded like a dig, but her voice was too soft and whimsical for such a bitter thing, so instead of the usual snappy retort, I shrugged and smiled. She then placed her magazine aside, and I asked her some questions once the carriage started to move. I got weird answers in reply, but that is just what happens when you ask things of people.

She was odd. Simple. I liked that.

* * *

My ‘friends’, Mary, Catherine and Gwendolyn (Gwen for those who hadn’t crossed her off their Christmas card list ... yet), were my roommates for my time at Hogwarts. They were ... girls. They wanted to be around one another all the time and pair off in classes and go to the toilets together and talk about boys. They had a dark side, too, however. Loyalists of the Dark Lord, even after his death, they liked to make forbidden potions and practice dark magic in the Slytherin common room, often with the boys from Draco’s year. I tried to avoid such things—“We don’t take sides, Astoria,” my mother would say. “That’s how people die.”

Ironic that my parents died anyway. Life is funny sometimes.

The next day, Mary buttered my toast and told me that she wasn’t taking potions. “No,” she had sighed, green eyes glittering wistfully. “I just don’t have the heart to do it any longer without Professor Snape.”

“But no one else is doing it,” I sulked, grabbing the toast off her. “I’ll be alone.”

I couldn’t fault Mary for her reasoning, though—I missed the Professor a lot. He had been my mentor since I started at Hogwarts, and he was the reason the prefect badge was pinned to my chest. After late night patrols I would sometimes head down to the dungeons and watch him make his wonderful, perfectly accurate potions. At first, he was annoyed, but he soon became used to my company. Occasionally Draco would join us too. He, himself, was a skilled potioneer, and I always felt a curious pang of jealously watching them work together. The Marks on their arms bound them in a way I could never understand.

Once breakfast was done, I went down to potions, alone. Professor Slughorn had worked hard over the break, trying to rid his room of any Death Eater evidence. The area was well lit by a dozen brightly burning lanterns, and everything was clean and organised. It felt strange walking in there—like it wasn’t meant for a person, let alone a haphazard class of students.

The professor smiled at me. “Miss Greengrass!”

There weren’t many people—and it was a strange mix of ages, representative of the after-war chaos. I saw familiar, popular faces, such as Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger; and then the ones less recognisable—there was a boy with a mop of brown hair sitting with four of his friends, and then her.

Pausing in the doorway, I twitched my lip in the primitive imitation of a smile before sitting down at the empty desk at the front of the room.

Annoyingly, she came and sat with me. “Do you have a partner?”

“No,” I said coldly, straightening my cauldron on its little stove. “I work better alone.”

She ignored this.

From then on, Luna Lovegood was my potions partner. I could not think of a good enough reason for her not to be.

And, in truth, she made life a bit more bearable.

Authors Note: I would like to thank MC_HK for her continuous support with my writing. This is all new to me – slash, a serious first-person POV fiction... it is keeping to canon, though, so not too odd. I hope you enjoy. Chapters are short, but updates will hopefully be fast. Please review if you have the time!

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