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Chapter 20: The Reveal
All of the breath escaped from Draco’s lungs. He sat there, dumbfounded as he stared at his mother. This was never part of the plan. Hadn’t he carried out his mission thus far? Why was he being punished for this? Most Death Eater families would deem this the highest honor, as only the most loyal followers were even considered, let alone received the marking. This was going to be the worst thing that could possibly happen to him.
“That’s why I’m here.” She croaked, “I didn’t want you to get it.”
Draco was at a loss for words, there was nothing that could explain how he felt. He was empty, void of all emotion; he didn’t know what to feel.
“Draco... you can’t get that.” She shook her head, “My son is not one of them.”
“Well, thinking that didn’t get you too far, did it?” He asked her softly, shaking his head as he stared at the floor.
There was a long, agonizing silence and then, in the smallest voice she asked, “Are you ashamed of me?”
Draco looked up at her; Narcissa’s eyes had overflowed with tears, sparkling on the bruises on her cheek and chin. His heart weighed heavy with pity and adoration. Although he could never find the right words to express it, he loved her more in her weakest moment than he ever did.
Draco shook his head, words wouldn’t come from his mouth, his throat was too constricted.
“I tried my best, in every way, to protect you.” Narcissa grimaced.
“I know.” He choked, shuffling his feet again. An average son, hell, any other son would rush to his mother and hug her, tell her it was okay and that he was going to step up and make everything right. But emotion had been beaten out of him; he had learned not to show any. He was too afraid to show affection to her, what if she rejected him?
She reached weakly for his arm, making all the effort to squeeze it. Draco held her small, delicate hand in his large one, squeezing it tenderly, trying to make her feel his love.
“I never blamed you.” He told her, looking up into her battered face, “Never.”
Narcissa choked, more tears spilling over her face. She was exhausted, Draco knew, as she rested her head back on the pillow.
She sighed, “That’s all I ever wanted to know.”
Draco left her shortly after, advising her to rest, smoothing her hair one last time. After telling her that he would come see her later, he walked out of the Hospital Wing. There were too many emotions stirring within him that he hardly felt anything at all. His body buzzed and he didn’t know if that was from anger, fear, or sadness. He felt heavy; every step was an effort and every breath an impossible task. Just when he had overcome his last movement, he had to do it again. He wanted nothing more than to collapse against the wall.
The walk to his room seemed ten times longer than it usually did. When he got there, the fairies started to play and joke with him, but his dark mood seemed to cast shadows over their picture. They hushed immediately, opening without another word.
He slammed his body against the bed, staring blankly up at the dark green canopy.
As if the flimsy piece of cloth was his father, he growled, “I’m going to kill you, you bastard.”
He lay on his bed until the sky grew dark and nothing was visible. He laid there for what seemed like forever and then he heard a tapping on his window. Jumping and cursing loudly in surprise, he unlocked the window to let in a barn owl which dropped a letter on his desk. Flying over to the empty perch, it settled itself where Draco’s pet was absent.
Draco stared at the letter for a moment, wondering who would bother to write him; however, his family crest stamped in silver told him it was from his father. Taking a deep breath to control his anger, he tore off the wax, unrolling the short scroll.
You have been dismissed next weekend from school. I have arranged for you to receive the highest honor for a pureblood family. You will be escorted to the gate by Professor Snape, Friday next, at 8 o’ clock sharp.
Draco looked at the scroll, petrified where he stood. His mind started to race, his head quickly filled with pressure, his heart pounded with anxiousness. He knew what was to come, something that only the most loyal pureblood families got to become a part of.
Rage filled his body quickly, making him tremble as he stared at his father’s scrawling cursive. How he wished to feel his neck in his hands, to feel his life slip away from him. He would be the one to finish him. He needed patience, he knew and the right timing. Until it came, he would have to play cool and make Lucius think that nothing was amiss. He could only get him when he least suspected it and attempting to do so in a room full of Death Eaters, some of his father’s most loyal friends, was not the place to do it.
But come hell or high water, he was going to make sure Lucius did not lay a hand on his mother again.
Just as he was about to doze off, the portrait door opened. Like she was entering a forbidden area, Ashley’s head peaked over the edge of the painting. Draco looked at her, sitting up.
“What are you doing here?” He asked her.
She shrugged, lowering her gaze. “I just wanted to make sure we’re still okay.”
“We’re always okay.” He smiled at her weakly, “Even when we’re not.”
Ashley smiled at him hesitantly, shutting the portrait behind her. She started to walk slowly over to him, but Draco slid off the bed.
He had to tell her.
If she decided to leave him, it would be for the right reasons, not because he lied to her. He almost hoped she was overwhelmed, seeing as she was in grave danger being with him. Maybe then it wouldn’t matter. Maybe they would take him out of school and have him join their ranks immediately. He would spiral into darkness where he could forget about her, but at least be content in her safety.
“We need to talk.” He told her, immediately regretting his word choice. Those four words, no matter in what relationship, almost always signaled an end. He hated being so stereotypical, he wanted to believe that they were different. But maybe they weren’t, maybe he had merely tricked himself into believing it.
Ashley’s face fell immediately, but she couldn’t take her eyes from him. “I’ve heard that before and it’s never good.”
Draco sighed deeply, rubbing his neck in awkwardness. “Let’s sit on the couch.”
Before she could sit down, tears started to spill over from the Veela’s eyes.
“We haven’t even started talking!” He tried to lighten the mood, but he knew there was no way he could. This was more serious than just a breakup.
“This never leads to anything good!” She wiped her eyes. “Go. Just get it over with.”
Draco frowned, about to object, but he reminded himself to stick on to his path. “I’m not doing this by choice. There’s something I have to tell you and then it’s up to you whether or not we’re done.”
Ashley looked at him strangely. “Me? So you’re not just breaking up with me?”
“It’s your call.” Draco’s breath caught in his throat. He could scarcely breathe now, wondering how on earth he was going to get through the next couple of minutes.
“I come from a family of dark background.” Draco started, avoiding the term “Death Eater” knowing it would be his label in a matter of days. Ashley nodded her head slowly, listening intently.
“And…and being a descendant, it’s not necessarily something I can escape from, even if I don’t agree with it, which I don’t.” He added quickly, as if his point had not been made before.
He took a deep breath, preparing himself for the worst. “Before I met you, I was given a task to aid in…the Dark Lord’s doing.”
Ashley leaned back and frowned, like she was trying to separate herself from him. Her eyes watered again. She didn’t have a good feeling about this at all.
Draco took a deep breath, “I need you to listen to me, very carefully. And you need to sit there and listen to the whole story. You can’t let your emotions get in the way until I’ve finished. Do you understand?”
Fear started to work into her porcelain face, “My God, what have you done?”
“Will you promise?” He asked again, his hands shaking. The more he prolonged this, the more and more he doubted that he could tell her.
Ashley shook her head, “I promise.”
Draco clenched his hands, but they still shook violently. “I was given a task that involved getting to know you-’’
“Why me?” She squealed, “I haven’t done anything!”
“You promised to listen.” Draco retorted darkly.
A muffled cry came from her as she pressed her lips together.
“My father instructed me to get to know you, in hopes that I would get to Potter through you. My father knew you would develop a strong friendship with him because he saved your sister during the Tri-wizard Tournament.”
Ashley nodded her head, but Draco could tell she was ready to burst.
“I was supposed to m-make you f-fall in l-love with me,” he started to stammer, “so I could…could take you to be interrogated.”
Paralyzing fear was the only thing that was gluing the young girl to her seat. Her head started to spin. Was he going to take her now?
“Y-you tricked me?” Ashley asked quietly, tears streaming down her face. Her mind screamed for her to run, but her body couldn’t move. Was it some Dark Magic he knew, to paralyze her limbs?
“No, I…fell in love with you.” Draco said, “And as I got to know you, I knew that I couldn’t let anything happen to you. I was going to try my best to save you from what I was supposed to do.”
“Did you have a change of heart?” Her voice was becoming so hoarse she could barely form words, “Are you going to take me now?”
Draco shook his head, dumbfounded by her train of thought, “You’re not listening, I have to save you!”
Ashley remained still.
“This weekend, I have to leave.” Draco told her, “I…I have to report to the Dark Lord…and I…have to get the Mark.”
Ashley seemed to have found her limbs at that moment, rising quickly from the chair, making her way the portrait.
“Ashley!” He yelled at her. “Stop!”
She whipped out her wand, pointing it at him. “Give me one reason not to!” “You promised!” Draco yelled at her, anger rising quickly within him. He told himself that now was not the time; he needed her more than ever to listen to him.
“You’re a marked man! You’ll be an outlaw!” Ashley cried, tears streaming down her face. How had they come to this? She had never felt this way about anyone, never cared for a boy this way before. It was all coming back to kick her in the face.
Her hand was trembling violently; Draco knew if she attempted to hex him she would most likely miss. He felt the weight of his own wand in his robe pocket, but didn’t dare make a move for it.
Instead, he very slowly, extended his open hands to her.
“See it.” Draco told her, “I’m not telling you any lies. I knew I couldn’t do this to you. You showed me I couldn’t do this to anyone, but especially you.”
Ashley stared at him, her mind reeling.
Draco did the only thing left he could think of. Slowly, he dropped to his knees, trying to make himself seem as less threatening as possible. It didn’t help that he was scared out of his wits. Scared of her, scared of her wand pointing at his face, scared of losing her.
“I surrender everything to you.” He pleaded, “I know you can detect emotion. You can watch everything and know that what I feel for you is true. You won’t find a deceitful thought in my mind. Not once did I ever think to hurt you. Not once did I ever think I was going to follow through with this, knowing what would happen even if I didn’t.”
Ashley stared at him hard for what seemed like hours. Her wand trembled in her hand; her eyes watered as her nose ran, quickly wiping it on her sleeve hurriedly. Her whole body was uncontrollable; she was shaking so hard so could barely think. Did she risk touching him to see his memories? Draco was good actor, she had learned that when they first met. Was he pulling it on her now?
As if he could read her mind, he added. “My wand is in my left pocket. Hex me first, and then take it so there’s no way I can defend myself.”
Tear after tear fell down her face. Loud, poorly suppressed sobs escaped her throat. What should she do?
“I would drink a gallon of Veritaserum for you.” Draco was growing weak with the argument. There was nothing more to say. “It’s up to you. Leave and I won’t chase you. But if you do, I can’t protect you.”
The fire crackled in the still room, as if giving a stressful yelp in anticipation to what would happen next.
“I’m begging on bended knees, Delacour.”
A moment later, Ashley lowered her wand. The feeling of triumph nearly blew him through the roof. But where did he go from here? He was banking on her flight from him.
He stood there, frozen. He didn’t want to make any move, afraid that she would think that he was tricking her.
“What do you want me to do?” He asked her, hardly breathing.
“Hug me.” Ashley whispered.
Draco rose slowly, but Ashley hit him full force. He never felt so good, having her there in his arms. The smell of vanilla flooded his nose; he never remembered it smelling so sweet.
“I could never-” He breathed, squeezing her with all his might.
“I had to be sure.” Her speech was muffled in his neck.
“I know.” He kissed the side of her head.
He held her for a long time, until he remembered: “You better ask me anything now, because I’m going to have to remove the memory.”
Ashley pulled back, looking confused. “You can do that?”
Draco cracked a grin, “You learn how to do a lot when you grow up with the world’s darkest wizards.”
“That’s not funny.” She retorted, scowling with him.
“But it’s going to be the one thing that saves us.” He let her go, withdrawing his wand, pointing it to his head, “Ask, or forever hold your peace.”
“Why do you have to do this?” Ashley asked him.
“I’m an Occulamens, but my mind will hardly be a challenge to the Dark Lord. If he knows that I told you…he’ll have to kill me, perhaps send someone else in my place. Someone enchanted with Polyjuice Potion, maybe. The possibilities are endless.”
“When you come back,” she started, “how will I know it’s you?”
Draco grimaced, knowing there was no way around it, “You’re going to have to trust that it’s me.”
Ashley wasn’t satisfied by his answer.
“There has to be a code or something that we can use.”
“It will be removed.” Draco said. “I won’t remember it if you told me.”
Ashley shuffled her feet, desperately thinking for a solution.
“Remove your memory,” Ashley told him, “and then I will tell you a word immediately after. Just remember that word, even if it doesn’t make sense. If he sees that, it won’t mean anything to him, but it will mean something to us.”
Draco grinned, “I knew you were more than just a pretty face.”
Ashley smiled weakly at him, “Won’t you forget your purpose?”
Draco shook his head, “Memories can be removed, love can’t. That lives in the heart, where no other can dwell, not even the most skilled Legilimens.”
Ashley didn’t look so convinced.
“You have to trust me.” Draco pleaded, starting to clear his mind and only thinking of their conversation. He had to concentrate hard or he would remove any other memories he was thinking about.
“He will never know, I promise.” Draco told her. Ashley nodded slightly, knowing there was nothing she could say or do to help their situation.
“Do it.” She told him, crossing her arms over her chest in anxiousness.
Draco thought only about their conversation held within the last five minutes. Closing his eyes, he started to pull away his wand. It was an odd sensation, like spaghetti being pulled from his brain. He felt slightly lightheaded as he looked at a long, silvery cloud clinging to the edge of the wand. He stared at it blankly, not sure of why he had it there, wondering what he just removed.
“Throw it in the fire!” Ashley proclaimed, before he could put it back.
Draco looked at her, wondering what all the commotion was about. He knew he trusted her, so he did as he was told without hesitation. The silvery mass swayed gently with his brisk shuffle to the fire. With a quick flick of his wand, the memory disconnected, gently floating to its death. It objected violently, flames rising feet into the air until it licked the gray stones that caged it in the wall. With a final hiss and crack, the fire went back to its normal state of nearly dying out.
“Pineapple.” Ashley blurted.
Draco looked at her strangely. He couldn’t remember why she was there or what they had just talked about to make her so upset.
“Why are you crying?” He asked her.
“Pineapple is my favorite fruit.” She continued, “Just remember that, alright?”
Draco looked at her strangely. “’Pineapple is your favorite fruit’? Why are you telling me that?”
“It doesn’t matter, just remember.” Ashley pleaded with him.
“Alright, alright!” He growled at her, ruffling his hair.
Ashley took a deep breath, knowing that everything was said and done.
Draco looked at her for a moment, asking again, “Why are you crying?”
Ashley hugged him gently, “I told you already, bad day at school.”
A/N: Well, halfway through! What do you guys think so far? As you can see, the story is about to take a very different turn. I'm really excited about this second half of the story, because there's a lot of things coming your way. I'm also excited for you guys to read how the style of writing changes. I just finished this story this summer, but have been working on it for the past four years, and I've definietly grown as a writer and my style has gotten smoother and better-written as I've gotten older (at least, I'd like to think so!). Thanks to all who have read (although I would like to hear more from you guys!) and those who review. Hopefully these next couple of chapters will spurt a need to respond to something shocking or an unexpected turn. I'll check in with you all in the next five chapters. Cheers!