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Chapter 24: The Safehouse
A/N: I apologize in advance for my written French accent (total American here!)
They rested awhile, too exhausted to talk about what happened, hoping to restore their energy before Ashley’s family came. Draco was too shaken and tired to be nervous about impressing them. Too tired to come up with a story to cover the fact that his father attempted to take their daughter’s life.
“Let me talk.” Ashley said, “They won’t understand you very well anyway.”
Draco nodded against her hair, closing his eyes, hoping to catch some sleep.
Before he could drift off, a Healer hurriedly came in.
“Miss, your family-’’
A tall, thin woman charged in, followed by a short, stocky man, and a small girl of about twelve. Draco jumped off the bed before he had time to think about it. He figured finding a boy in bed with their daughter probably wasn’t the best way to start.
“Oh! What ‘appened?” She didn’t even see Draco as she sat down on Ashley’s bed, rubbing her stomach gently, as if her motherly love would heal her completely.
Draco waited for her to respond, but was surprised to find a fast string of French exit from her mouth. Her father and younger sister listened intently. Draco looked at her father nervously, as he frowned his dark, bushy eyebrows, grunting at her story. His heart nearly dropped to his feet when her father turned his dark eyes towards him for a moment, a glare plastered on his face as he focused his attention once more on his daughter. Draco waited anxiously for several minutes.
Even though he couldn’t understand it, it sounded beautiful. Draco loved the sound of Ashley’s voice, but there was something almost poetic about her native tongue.
Ashley finished, giving them a small smile, looking to Draco.
“This is him, mama.” She motioned to him in English, “This is Draco.”
“Ah!” She exclaimed excitedly, hugging him tightly. She smelled of strong, sweet perfume. She pulled back to look at him, and Draco found that he was staring into a beautiful face. She was much more Veela-looking than her daughter: flawless face, porcelain complexion, long flowing hair, and startling blue eyes. To him, Ashley was the most beautiful, but her mother was a solid second.
“Oh, Draco!” She kissed both his cheeks, “You ‘ave saved our daughter! Oh, you poor boy! I ‘ave forgotten my manners! I am Apolline, her mozza. Felix, her fazzer, and our little Gabrielle.”
Ashley could see him smiling gently at him through her mother’s sea of hair.
“I’m so sorry about what happened.” Draco apologized nervously, wondering if they could understand him.
“They are going to ask you some questions.” She told them, “I’ll help if I can.”
Apolline turned to him asking, “Ashley says you did not know za man in the ‘ouse. Did you get a good look at ‘im?”
Draco was taken back; he looked to Ashley for help, who gave him the smallest shake of the head.
“N-no.” Draco lied, “He was wearing a hood. We didn’t get a clear look at him.”
“How did you get away?” Felix asked, his deep voice rumbling across the room.
Draco choked. He wanted to be as consistent with her story as possible, but found the situation impossible because he didn’t know what she had told them.
“He took out a knife, and Ashley took the advantage. She kicked him and-’’
“-I hexed him.” Ashley finished with a shrug.
Apolline frowned at her, “Eef you got away, ‘ow did that ‘appen?”
Her mother motioned to the wrappings on her midsection. They were caught, their story was already inconsistent. Draco felt bad, her parents seemed nice, but he didn’t want to lie to them.
“Mama.” Ashley cooed, “It was all a blur, I didn’t know I had been hurt until we got to the fireplace.”
“’Ee ‘ave to go to the Ministry!” Apolline objected, “’e may be trying to hurt ozzers!”
“Mama.” Ashley tried again, “I don’t think that would be the best. If we are targeting a Death Eater, which I’m sure he was, it would only cause more problems for us.”
Apolline looked defeated, but nodded her head in agreement. “You are probably right, l'amour.”
“Can we take you ‘ome?” Felix asked her, “You need to rest at ‘ome, not ‘ere.”
“I don’t know, Papa.” Ashley smiled at him kindly. Draco could tell that she had missed them very much in the way she treated them amiss all the chaos, “You can go ask.”
Felix rushed out of the room, his weight shifting back and forth with his heavy footsteps.
“Ah, Gabrielle! My baby!” Ashley beamed, extending her arms. Gabrielle rushed into them as Ashley pulled her next to her cot. Ashley kissed her forehead, slipping back into her French again. Gabrielle nodded and conversed with her, speaking just as fast. Draco looked at his shoes, feeling awkward.
Felix returned shortly with a Healer, who sighed, telling Ashley, “I wouldn’t normally let you go so fast, but I understand that you haven’t seen your family in a while. The internal damage has been taken care of, but you need rest and to change the bandages daily. Don’t do anything too strenuous, let your body rest. Come back if you experience any discomfort or pain.”
Ashley beamed, pushing back the covers as Gabrielle slid off the cot. Draco rushed to help Ashley off of her bed, grabbing her arm with a steady grip. Ashley looked up at him, her blue eyes sparkling.
“Thank you.” She winced, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“We will Apparate to the ‘ouse.” Apolline told them. “Felix will take Gabrielle, and I will take you two.”
Ashley nodded, grabbing one arm of her mother as Draco motioned to do the same. They watched as Gabrielle and Felix disappeared out of the hospital room.
“’Old on!” Apolline told them.
In an instant, they felt like they were being sucked into a small tube. Ashley nearly cried out with the pain, feeling her stomach being squeezed to its limits.
She was breathless as they landed upon grassy plains, her knees buckling with the pain. Draco gripped her as gently as he could as he struggled to keep her up.
Ashley sighed, remembering its beauty, a remedy to her wound. A little cottage sat upon the grassy plains at the top of the hill. The wheat grazed her fingertips as if greeting their dearest estranged friend. The sky was a crisp blue, flawless with not a cloud in the sky. The sun was warm and bright, making the golden barley sparkle.
“Accueil.” Ashley sighed, breathing in the French air.
Draco frowned at her, unsure of the word.
“Home.” She translated, looking at the little white house with adoration and longing.
The three of her family members started to march through the grass, leaving Ashley and Draco behind. She grabbed for his hand, leading him after her family.
“What about the barriers?” He whispered to her.
“I haven’t thought that far.” She whispered back, stopping and keeping him from walking further.
They turned to her; Gabrielle asked her something in French.
“I need to talk to him.” Ashley smiled, “Don’t worry; we’ll be there in a minute!”
Ashley looked after them, waiting until they had disappeared into the house.
“Come.” She told him, “We’ll see.”
Draco walked towards the house hesitantly. The warm breeze blew back his blond hair, the wheat brushed at his dark pants. He looked to Ashley, who was struggling to tame her hair in the wind. She clutched at her stomach, as if protecting it.
“Does it hurt?” He asked her.
Ashley nodded, “A little.”
“I’m sorry. You’ll never understand how much.” Draco blurted. Every time he looked at her, he couldn’t get her face out his mind: confused and in such pain. The fear of losing her rose within him once more, as if it had just happened.
“Were you the one who locked the door?” She asked, grabbing his hand gently.
He nodded solemnly, “I was trying to keep you safe, but look how that worked out.”
Ashley watched as his face contorted into deep regret and guilt, knowing he was unable to meet her eye with the amount of remorse that weighed on his heart.
“Draco.” She grabbed his arm to make him face her. She stroked his cheek for a moment, and then leaned in to kiss him passionately.
She pulled away, continuing, “Even if my parents knew that your father was the culprit, you still would be a hero to them. To go against one’s family, no matter the circumstance, for the protection of someone else, is a very big deal. That means something.”
She grabbed his arm and held herself close to his side. They were nearing the house, and with every step Draco got more nervous, waiting for some alarm to go off.
“Well, so far so good.” Ashley told him, nodding her head.
“Do you know how the enchantments work?” He asked her.
She shook her head, “Maybe they can only detect those who wish to do harm.”
“I wouldn’t do anything to you.” Draco pleaded with her.
She gave him a gentle smile, “And that is why you have made it this far.”
Draco sighed heavily when they had walked up the porch. He could see Apolline scrambling in the little kitchen to prepare lunch through the screen door. Ashley guided him towards the porch swing, sitting herself down slowly.
“What if they don’t like me?” He asked.
“Well, looky here,” Ashley teased him, “The big bad Slytherin wishing for approval. My, whatever has happened to you?”
Draco retorted heavily, “I just want to be accepted.”
Ashley quickly kissed him on the cheek, “You are, my dear.”
The couple watched the wheat fields for a while, listening to the melody of their movements, as if creating a song just for them.
“What do you think happened to them?” Draco asked her, looking out to the plains. A great gust of wind came down from the mountains far off in the distance, fanning the fields, making their colors ripple in the sunlight.
Ashley shrugged, “I couldn’t tell you.”
“I hope Bell got him.” Draco wished aloud.
Ashley smoothed his hair, wanting to scold him that wishing death on anyone, especially his own father, was wrong. But she couldn’t, not after she had seen all that he had done to him.
“We’ll have to wait until tomorrow, perhaps.” Ashley told him, “Or until the Prophet has something on it. But we’re safe here, no one can find us.”
“Does it bother you that we’re taking this so calmly?” Draco asked, “I feel like we’re under reacting.”
Ashley nodded, “We’re exhausted. We’ll probably freak out in the morning.”
Before anything else could be said about the matter, Apolline called, “Ashley! Draco! Lunch iz ready!”
Draco helped her up, opening the screen door for her.
He found the lower level to be small and somewhat snug, but pleasant. The kitchen was cramped, forcing them to squeeze past into the little dining room that shared a purpose with the living room. White couches and end tables sat up against the wall, a red patterned rug lay on the floor. The little table sat six snugly, but only five were set for.
Draco looked around the room; the walls were covered in pictures, mainly of the three girls in various settings: playing dress up when they were younger, first day of school when all of them attended Beauxbatons, pictures as they grew, and then pictures of just Ashley and Gabrielle, when Fleur seemed to fade out of the picture. He didn’t realize how close they all were, and a slight weight tugged at his heart, wondering what such a close, tight knit family felt like.
Draco’s thoughts were disrupted by food being placed on the table. He couldn’t help but smirk at the little crescent water sandwiches, vanilla pudding and other various finger foods. He could see Apolline eye him, wondering how he would take the difference in meals. Draco took one of everything, trying to slow his speed of consumption, but he was too hungry. Apolline clapped her hands, saying something to her husband, who beamed at him as well.
“I did alright!” Apolline smiled, “I was afraid you wouldn’t like ze food.”
Draco shook his head, “It’s delicious.”
Apolline smiled, “After zis, we will take you to your room.”
Felix pointed a finger at him, his face dropping into a matters of heavy seriousness, “You will not come to Ashley’s room in ze night.”
Draco sat there, staring at him, unsure of what to say. He nodded quickly, but Felix cracked a smile, letting out a large booming laugh, “I zink I like ‘em very much!”
Draco breathed, looking to Ashley. She joined her family in laughter, taking another bite of a sandwich.
That night he couldn’t stop dreaming about the Manor. He saw, over and over again, the image of his father coming up behind Ashley and holding the knife to her neck. He watched helplessly as the black cloud appeared from the shadows. He willed himself to wake up, but he couldn’t seem to follow through.
Finally, a great crash woke him. He listened for the loud disruption, but all he could hear was the beating rain against the window. Another boom and a flash of light told him it was the thunder and lightning storm outside. Calming himself, he laid back down. His Mark throbbed dully, perhaps reacting to his dreams. He suppressed the urge to sneak into Ashley’s room, afraid that Felix’s joke was a funny cover-up for the serious trouble he would be in if he was caught.
He laid there for what seemed like hours, thinking about her wound that was struggling to heal in the next room over. Immense guilt nearly suffocated him every time he thought about it. Draco noticed how much her family loved her, how her sister looked up to her, how her father adored her, and how Apolline made her the center of her life. How selfish could he have been to nearly compromise that? He knew that there was a risk in his father being there, so why did he take her there? He pondered on the question for a while, and then his thoughts turned to the fate of his father.
He wondered what happened to him, if he was alive this very second. He wasn’t worried about Bellatrix so much; she was ruthless and unplanned in her actions; she was more than capable of fending for herself. She was one of the most feared Death Eaters on the planet. But he wondered if she had made it out alright. Did Draco owe her a word of thanks for coming to his rescue, for perhaps ending the life of his father? It seemed odd, to thank someone for hurting another, but in doing so she had ended his mother’s pain forever.
He tried in vain to go back to sleep, shutting off his thoughts and listening to the harsh pitter-patter of the rain on the window. Gentle thunder rolled and the sky remained dark, absent of further lightning. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the rise and fall of his chest, letting the dark world of sleep consume him once more.
Draco awoke to sunshine pouring into the little bedroom. White walls, white linens and carpet gave the room a fresh, clean appearance, setting a canvas for the golden yellow of the sunlight. He noticed that his door was wide open and wondered if one of them had come to check on him earlier that morning. Across the hall, he could see the three women in Ashley’s room, her back to him as she lifted her shirt to expose her midriff, Apolline changing the bandage as Gabrielle examined the wound closely.
Gabrielle asked something in French and Ashley responded, “It still hurts, but I’ll be alright.”
Gabrielle gave her a worried look, knowing that Ashley was feeding her words to make her younger sister feel better than she really did. Apolline gathered the scraps of bandages from the bed, calling Gabrielle after her as they walked out of the room and downstairs to make breakfast. Draco walked out of his room, checking to make sure the coast was clear, and tiptoed into hers.
She peeled back the bandage, examining the wound: it looked like a long, gaping cut, the exposed tissue underneath revealed varying shades of red.
“That looks awful.” Draco gazed at her wound.
Ashley looked up, shrugging, “Guys dig scars.”
Draco couldn’t take his eyes off it. He sat on her bed so he was level with her midriff. The skin around the stab wound was swollen and red. Draco took the bandage from her hands, gently smoothing it over her wound. He kissed the white gauze carefully, hugging him to her.
Ashley smoothed his hair, “It’s alright.”
“Why do you say that?” He asked her weakly. He couldn’t put up a fight with her, “I know you lie to them, telling them it doesn’t hurt. A Healer can’t cure that kind of pain quickly.”
Ashley pushed his head back so he looked at her, “When something happens where everyone else would understand if you fell apart, but didn’t, that’s true strength, Draco.”
She pushed him back on the bed, kissing him lightly. Her lips tickled his, but he remained still, relishing in the feeling of her lips on his cheeks and neck. His breathing was uneven; trying not to laugh as her long lashes tickled his cheeks.
“I love you, je t'aime, Draco.” She smoothed his hair, “I would do it all over again for you.”
Draco worried, “I know, that’s what scares me.”