Astoria sat outside the tent, on the stump of what must have once been a magnificently tall tree, pointing her wand at the dirty dishes on the grass beside her. A steady stream of water came out as she rinsed them all off, trying to get the grime off without any dish soap. It was early in the morning, just after dawn. The birds chirped invisible in the trees as sunrise glow washed over them.

“Need any help?” Sam asked, emerging from the tent. He had his hands shoved in his pockets like he usually did, hair swept across his green eyes. He pulled his wand out and rolled up his jumper sleeves.

“Sure,” Astoria said quietly. She moved over on the stump, making room for him to sit next to her. Their bodies had to touch on the small stump, Astoria’s elbow bumping into his torso.

“You’ll have to teach me that spell though,” he admitted. “I don’t know how to conjure water.”

“Auguamenti,” Astoria said, enunciating each syllable slowly for him. “It’s quite easy. Just point your wand and say the spell.”

“Augamenti!” Sam shouted pointing his wand at the dirt. Instead of the steady stream of water that burst out of Astoria’s wand, nothing happened. “What’d I do wrong this time?”

“You’ve said the spell wrong,” she explained kindly. “Ah-gua-men-tee.”

He repeated it again, enunciating slowly as Astoria instructed. A tiny sputter of water appeared, not enough to be of any use, but better than he’d ever done before. A look of pure joy spread across Sam’s face as he jumped up, pointing at the puddle at his feet.

“Did you see that?” he cried. “I’ve done it!”

“Good job,” Astoria said, in the dull voice she’d been using ever since they arrived in the forest days ago. Her voice no longer had its usual ring, that hint of sweetness and kindness it usually had. Astoria was dull now, monotone. She tucked a strand of black hair behind her ears and picked up her own wand again, pointing it back at her dishes, once again ignoring Sam’s presence.

“Not as good as yours,” Sam noted, staring at the steady, clear stream of water. “But I’ll work on it.”

“I’m sure you’ll get it right soon,” she said, still focusing her eyes on the spot of grease on the tin plate.

“You know, you’re a great teacher,” Sam said. “Thanks. I never was really good at charms. Or anything else at school.”

“You’ll get it,” Astoria said softly before getting up off the stump. She crouched down on the grass and scooped up her blue cloth with the tin plates inside it. They clanked around a little inside as Astoria walked back towards the tent.

Sam followed her as she went in. Watching as, with a flick of her wand, the plates put themselves away on the makeshift shelves. The household spells were easy for Astoria, having perfected them years ago over the summers and Christmas breaks with her mother.

“You’re really good at magic,” Sam watched in awe as things began to clean themselves up and put themselves away around the tent. “Who taught you all this?”

“Um, my mother,” Astoria said softly. She stared down at her feet, blinking fast before she stood up straight again, directing things around the tent with her wand. A straight expression was on her face, but a lump formed in her throat. Sam blushed bright red, embarrassed for asking after noting her reaction. He felt dumb for asking, obviously it was her mother.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled quickly. Astoria waved away his apology quickly with her hand, still not looking him in the eye for fear that he’d see her cry. She couldn’t afford to break down. Astoria couldn’t afford to have any moment of weakness anymore. Not when Daphne still screamed in the night because of her terrible dreams, not when her sister still hallucinated scenes of torture and murder, not when Daphne need her. Astoria could not be weak.

She turned her back to Sam and straightened a row of beans on the shelf. It was all they had from the emergency pack, but they’d been able to supplement their diet with things they found in the forest – fish from the nearby stream, berries from the forest, anything they could scavenge. Things like that were kept cool with charms and then stored in the ice box.

“Do you… do you want to talk about it?” Sam asked her slowly. He held his hands behind his back, nervously rocking on his blue trainers. Astoria stopped, her hand still wrapped around a tin of beans, she dropped her head down. She stared at the wooden countertop, drumming her fingers lightly on top. Her nails were bitten short, the nerves drove her to it. She bit her lip, trying to hold herself together for the sake of the whole group.

“I’m fine,” she finally said, breathlessly and quickly. A single tear fell onto the wood countertop, leaving a circular stain beside Astoria’s hand.

“Are you sure?” Sam asked again, his voice closer to Astoria now. She could almost feel him standing behind her.

Astoria rubbed the back of her hand quickly over her eyes, wiping the tears from her eyes before they had another chance to spill out. She whipped around quickly, her black braid almost hitting him in the face. Her nostrils flared as she glared up at him, her body still leaning back against the countertop, staying as far from him as she could.

“I’m fine,” she said again, her words cutting this time. “I’m perfectly fine.”

She walked away from Sam again, this time towards the little flap in the tent, inside the room where Daphne slept soundly, or so she thought. Astoria huffed loudly as she entered, falling in the least graceful method onto the squashy armchair. Daphne sat up in the darkness of the bottom bunk, her head facing slightly down so as to not hit it on the top bunk.

“Hey Tori,” she said in a groggy voice, like she’d just gotten up.

“How are you feeling Daph?”

“Fine,” Daphne said. Her knees were pulled into her chest. Daphne was thinner than she’d ever been, still strong looking physically, but her legs were thin and you could almost make out her ribcage sometimes. Astoria knew it was because of their terrible diet, but she had nothing else she could give to Daphne. She’d already mixed what vitamins and health potions she could find in the emergency pack into her older sister’s food, but still, Daphne’s physical health deteriorated with her mental health.

“You should rest, Daph,” Astoria said. She stood up again, brushing non-existent dust off her lap. She took the two steps towards Daphne’s little bed and reached for her sister’s blanket to tuck her in.

“You look like you need some rest,” Daphne said. She still sat there, knees pulled into her chest, refusing to lie back down. “I’m fine, but you need rest. You’ve been pushing yourself so hard, trying to do everything for me.”

“Daph, you’ve got to rest to recover,” Astoria frowned. Daphne right hand was clutched tightly around her left forearm, like it often was. She spoke through gritted teeth. “Does it burn?” she asked in a low whisper, remembering how easily sound travelling around the tent.

“I’m okay Tori. I’m doing better,” Daphne smiled a weak grin at her sister, not flashing any teeth. “It feels fine. Nothing I can’t handle. I feel better too, sort of. No more hallucinations – most of the time. The nightmares are recurring, but they’re less bad now. I just worry about you.”

“Me?” Astoria sat down in the small space next to Daphne, her pink track bottom-covered legs sprawled out in front of her. “I’m okay Daph.”

“No,” Daphne shook her head. “You need to relax. Maybe have fun. Or you know… that boy is right. You should talk about it.”

“I’m fine Daphne.”

“But you’re not.”

~

Bellatrix Lestrange marched up and down Malfoy Manor with her arms crossed over her chest. She drawing room was still a mess, the chandelier destroyed on the floor and other precious Malfoy ornaments smashed. Narcissa sat up in her bedroom, staring at the wall unable to come down the face the rest of them. Bellatrix though, was fuming.

First the Greengrass girls, then Harry Potter. They’d both slipped through her fingers and she’d faced the punishment for her incompetence both times. Three days had passed since Harry Potter had escaped with the others, but Bellatrix still felt anger boiling inside of her when she thought about the defeat. Bested by a house elf. The only solace she had was the hope that her knife had hit someone.

“Draco!” Bellatrix bellowed through the manor. Her voice echoed off the walls, ringing through the entire house.

“Do not treat my son like that!” Lucius snapped, appearing suddenly out of the study. He glared at his sister-in-law angrily.

“I will do what I want!” Bellatrix snarled back. “You lost your power the moment you went to Azkaban.”

Lucius shot an icy glare back at her before retreating back to the study, his cloak sweeping along the floor and his footsteps heavy. Lighter steps came from the staircase as Draco ran down to meet his aunt. He wore the usual dark suit, but his skin was somehow even paler than usual. He was sallow, with dark circles around his eyes and a gash on his cheek.

“Yes Aunt Bella?” he said. Draco’s eyes didn’t meet Bellatrix’s, instead, he stared at his feet in their dragonhide shoes.

“The Greengrass girl,” Bellatrix snapped. “Cissy says you were an acquaintance of hers?”

Draco swallowed hard and bit his thin lip. He’d been close to Daphne Greengrass in school, always finding her much more tolerable than Pansy Parkinson. They hadn’t been the closest of friends, but Draco had always liked her. She wasn’t a person of many words, never one to gossip about his life, but always there listen to him talk. He hadn’t spoken her since the end of sixth year, but he knew that she had joined the ranks of Death Eaters as well and then defected. He saw her at school for the first few months, but then, she was gone. That was common knowledge nowadays though with Daphne’s picture plastered everywhere with ‘WANTED’ written underneath in bold red.

He’d felt pity for her when he found out from Pansy that she’d become a Death Eater. That school year, he hadn’t much participated in school activities, finding himself out of the castle most of the time to help his parents and aunt do their bidding for the Dark Lord. But when he discovered that his old friend was recruited as well, Draco couldn’t help but feel sorry for Daphne Greengrass. He kept tabs on her, watching as she disappeared from the castle for days at a time to go on some mission. Each time she returned to the Slytherin common room, Draco saw that she was visibly shaken, distressed by what she’d done. It broke her down little by little, just as it had done for him. He knew the feeling well. Each time he had to don those robes or look at the mark burned onto his skin, a little part of him withered up and died. A little part of his soul disappeared, making his mind turn into this fragmented thing, tormenting him as Draco knew it would for the rest of his life.

“I didn’t know her that well,” Draco lied, mostly mumbling. He still couldn’t look Bellatrix in the eye. He could feel his aunt trying to pierce his mind, but Draco built his walls up around his mind, fiercely blocking her out of his school memories – days spent with Daphne and Pansy and Blaise, lounging around the lake without a care before the war hit them all. He wished he could go back to that simpler time, that they could all go back, but he’d made his choices and Daphne had made hers. They were condemned to this life.

“The traitor is still at large,” Bellatrix spat out. “And her younger sister cast the Fidelius charm on the safe houses. They’re still protected.”

Draco barely remembered Daphne’s younger sister. He wasn’t sure of her name or what she even looked like, but remembered when Daphne or Pansy would mention that they’d seen her or were going to go see her. It was common knowledge at Hogwarts that Daphne had been tortured by the Carrows for trying to protect her sister from them, but still, Draco couldn’t remember a single thing about the younger Greengrass girl. Her name began with an ‘A’ that Draco was sure of, but nothing else about her came to mind. He assumed that she must be a remarkable witch though to have performed the Fidelius charm.

“And what do you want me to do about this?” Draco drawled in his best uninterested voice, trying not to let his aunt know what he really thought about Daphne Greengrass.

“Find out how they escaped the school,” Bellatrix commanded him. “Then find them. I don’t care what you do, write her letter or something. Ask for her help. Tell her you want to run away too.”

“I don’t think asking Daphne for help will do any good,” Draco resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the suggestion. “Daphne Greengrass doesn’t trust anyone.”

“Earn her trust then.”

~

Astoria and Sam stood outside waiting as Marcus and Katherine fought in hushed whispers across the clearing behind the tent. Sam clutched his wand nervously, sweating a little even though the air was crisp and cool. Astoria stood silently next to him, her eyes wandering around the forest following the robin as it flew from tree to tree.

“I’m sorry Astoria, you know, for earlier,” Sam said suddenly, turning towards her. It was mid-afternoon now, the sun shone directly above their heads, but still, clouds filled the sky, making the day overcast and grey.

“It’s fine,” she said in a hushed tone.

Sam opened his mouth as if to say something else, but shut it again and let Astoria back into her own world. He felt guilty for pushing her to talk earlier, but still, he desperately wanted to know more about her. He’d never paid attention to Astoria Greengrass in school – the quiet girl who sat alone and read most of the time – but now there was just something to fascinating about her. He was guilty though, not just for earlier, but for ignoring her the five years they’d gone to school together.

Astoria stood a few feet from him now, staring up at the trees and watching the birds. She looked peaceful, but still there was a look of unhappiness and pain on her face. She’d lost so much in the span of a week, but still, there was an immutable spirit to her.

The forest was silent as Katherine and Marcus stopped arguing and made their way over to the children, ending their strange silence as well.

“Let’s get started here then,” Katherine said. She whipped her wand out from inside her sleeve and pointed it at the stump Astoria was sitting on before. She blasted it loudly, blowing a large hole in the side of it. Bits of wood flew towards the four of them, one piece hitting Sam in the middle of the forehead.

“Ow!” he said, rubbing the spot where a red mark was forming. Katherine rushed towards him, saying flurried apologies as she pointed his wand at his head. The red mark disappeared, fading back into nothing.

“Might as well teach you kids some healing magic too,” Katherine mused. “So that was bombardo. I reckon you haven’t learnt that one yet in school.”

“I learnt a few in DA a couple years ago,” Sam said. “Harry Potter taught us.”

“And the Carrows taught me some real dark magic,” Astoria mumbled, not looking anyone in the eye, staring instead at her white trainers instead.

“See, they know a lot more than we thought,” Marcus pointed out to his wife.

“Alright fine,” Katherine huffed. “Do either of you know how to heal this?”

She pointed at the swelling red lump on Sam’s head, he rubbed it with his hand as it grew bigger and bigger. Astoria peered up at the red spot and bit her lip.

“I think so,” she said slowly.

From across the clearing, Daphne and Rory sat at the mouth of the tent, watching the three of them practice their spells. They could barely hear the conversation, but still Daphne and Rory watched. Rory sat on the floor, holding a stick pulled from a low-hanging tree. Daphne sat on a little stool, her own wand stashed in her pocket, not even noticing the child sitting at her feet watching the same scene.

“Bigger flourish,” Daphne mumbled to herself. She watched as Astoria shot a blast of wind tornado winds at Katherine’s shield charm. The older woman struggled to push back against the powerful spell, but still, Daphne could see the spot where it could be improved. If Bellatrix Lestrange and the Carrows had taught her one thing, it was how to cause maximum destruction.

“What was that?” Rory asked her, looking up at Daphne with big eyes. He held the stick in his right hand like a wand and waited for Daphne to respond. She stared down at him, not knowing what to say to the child.

“Huh?”

“What’d you just say?” Rory asked again. “What’s Astoria got to do?”

“Oh… um,” Daphne looked perplexed at the child’s question. “She needs to make a bigger flourish. The spell will be stronger then.”

“Like this?” Rory moved his arm in a big sloppy circle around his head and shouted a jumble of made up words out loud. He pointed the stick at the sofa back inside the tent and made a loud whooshing noise, blowing as hard as he could.

“Um, kind of,” Daphne said hesitantly. “But you want your wandwork to be more graceful.”

She showed him how to do it properly with his little stick and watched as Rory began to run around the tent waving his pretend wand and chanting different made up spells out loud. He hopped up on the furniture, fighting off some imaginary bad guy. Daphne watched as the child bounced off the walls, shouting to himself.

“Don’t worry Daphne!” Rory yelled at her, sliding to a halt in front of her seat. He stood, crouched down a little, his wooden stick in duelling position. “I’ll protect you from the Death Eaters!”

Rory jumped back, rolling onto his back at the force of some imaginary Death Eater’s spell. He picked himself off the grass, green stains on his knees already and began running through the rest of the clearing, even making Katherine, Marcus, Sam, and Rory stop their lesson to watch him run around.

“Rory, stay inside the clearing!” Katherine called. Rory yelled back some jumbled agreement, but still kept running about, jumping off the stump, skidding around on the grass, and bursting through the tent. Daphne watched in wonderment, amazed at the child’s unending energy and enthusiasm for his little game.

“Astoria,” Rory said running up to her and skidding to a stop, panting just a little bit. He took her hand and held it in his, they were almost the same size, hers only a tiny bit bigger. “You’re very pretty. My brother said so a few days ago.”

“Shut up, you twat!” Sam scowled at his brother and grabbed his thin shoulders, pushing him away from Astoria. He was bright red in the face and looking everywhere except at Astoria. She too was blushing bright pink, biting her lip, not quite sure what to say. “I never said that,” Sam mumbled. “I mean… not that you aren’t pretty… but I… um…”

Astoria didn’t say anything in response, staring down at her white trainers instead, clutching her wand tightly. She had a little smile on her face, perhaps the first smile in ages, at the awkward compliment. Daphne sat at the edge of the tent, just hearing the exchange that had just gone down. She couldn’t help but let out a choked laugh, trying not to let the pair of them hear her.

Of course, Sam and Astoria did hear. The two of them whipped around to see Daphne bent over laughing, her hand across her waist, the first smile she’d cracked in ages across her lips. Forgetting all the awkwardness that had just transpired, a huge grin spread across Astoria’s face, watching her sister laugh for the first time in more months than she cared to remember.

“You’re laughing Daph,” Astoria said incredulously. Her eyes were wide as the once embarrassed flush turned into a full grin as she stared at her laughing sister.

“How could I not laugh?” Daphne breathed out between chuckles. “You two are so weird together.”

“Shut up,” Astoria scowled playfully at her sister. She walked over to Daphne in the tent and hit her gently on the arm. “Have you been spying?”

“I’m just observing,” Daphne said innocently.

"Daphne's been teaching me spells too!" Rory declared from a few feet behind them. He galloped up to them, waving his stick high above his head shouting nonesense. “Look what I can do!” 



Author's Note: Hello readers! What do you think of this chapter? A little bit more lighthearted, I suppose. I have to admit, I personally don't love this chapter, but I can't quite put my finger on it, so I thought I'd post it to see what you all thought. Also, I've had a friend tell me that I should make a Meet the Author page, is that something you'd be interested in? I feel like no one would ask me anything... haha. 

Another Author's Note: This was edited on May 13. I added the part with Draco and Bellatrix in (it was meant to go in the next chapter). 

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