Draco found that since he had been with her, he couldn’t get enough of her. A weight had been lifted from his chest; he felt release now that he was able to express what he had felt for so long, no longer feeling as though he would burst. He quickly grew intoxicated with her touch, dizziness washing over him as her soft hands raked through his hair, her soft lips on his and her strong arms clutching him close to her when she had awoken the next morning.
They held hands tightly as they walked through the castle, listening to whispers and giggles from girls as they passed, glares were shot at Draco as he passed with the most beautiful girl in Hogwarts, while Ashley received glares from her fellow housemates about her choice of beau. He left her in the Great Hall only when he kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her hand tightly as he departed from her to his own table.
Harry, Ron and Hermione separated their huddle when they saw Ashley coming, all having guilty looks on their faces.
“You might as well save your breath,” she rolled her eyes, “I already know you don’t like us together.”
“It’s not that.” Ron objected quickly, “We heard about last night.”
Last night, Ashley remembered.
It all came flooding back to her. Draco had masked her embarrassment and humiliation with overwhelming love and protection, pushing any negative emotion from her mind. She had completely forgotten the most traumatizing thing that had happened to her by a demonstration of undying loyalty.
She could feel heat in her face, although the others would never know it. She averted her gaze as she sat down and started dishing herself eggs and bacon.
“How do you know?” She breathed, unable to look at anything but her reflection in her empty silver plate.
“We saw Blaise earlier this morning,” Ron started, “he looked pretty rough. We knew Malfoy was the only one who would’ve done something to that arse, so it was obvious it had something to do with you.”
“We heard about your Patronus, too.” Harry added, “Everyone knew something was up.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Hermione demanded, grabbing her arm to stop her from dishing her breakfast.
“I was with Draco the rest of the night,” Ashley quietly retorted, “He didn’t want me to leave.”
She looked up at Harry, his eyes downcast as he shuffled his omelet around on his plate.
“We’ve never seen Dumbledore so mad.” Ron told her wide-eyed. “Hermione and I were walking to the Common Room and heard him and McGonagall…blimey.”
“Did he hurt you?” Hermione piped.
Ashley flushed again, “Well, he tried.”
They all shifted uncomfortably.
“Draco saved me.” Ashley said quickly, as if that would make everything better.
Hermione winced, like she had insulted her. “We’re…glad. If it hadn’t been for him, you would’ve been in serious trouble.”
She looked at Harry and Ron as she said this. They nodded their heads in unwilling agreement.
“I can’t believe he would try and get you back that way.” Hermione looked disgusted, “I wouldn’t expect anything but deviance from Slytherins, but assault, that even seems over their heads.”
“Well, not over Blaise’s.” Ashley mumbled, hoping the last comment would make her drop the subject.
But it didn’t. Hermione fumed about the whole situation on the way to Potions, Ron and Harry sandwiching the two of them as they made their way down to the dungeons. Harry had his wand out, and Ron clung to Hermione’s arm.
“Hey, Delacour, I think I see Zabini!” Pansy Parkinson’s voice bounced off the stone walls, “You better watch it, or he’ll get you!”
Harry started to raise his wand, but Ashley pushed his arm down, whispering gently, “Don’t Harry, she wants a rise.”
“Too scared to fight, Delacour?” Pansy chided, “Why don’t you send a Patronus to Draco?”
Ashley spun fast on her heels, Harry attempting to stop her now.
“I will if you don’t shut that ugly face of yours!” She hissed, but calmed immediately, looking smug as she finished. “Although, that would be the only way you get to see dear Draco nowadays, wouldn’t it?”
Pansy’s eyes flashed with terrible hatred. She pulled for her wand, but the bell rang. Pansy glared at Ashley.
“I’ll get you for this.” She threatened.
“Looking forward to it.” Ashley shot back.
Harry and Hermione dragged her down the stairs to Potions.
“Your temper is just as bad as those two.” Hermione scolded disapprovingly, “I was hoping you would help me keep them in check.”
Ashley took a breath, readying for a comeback, but was cut off guard when her eyes traveled across the dungeon, to where Blaise was supposed to be.
“He had to be moved to a different class, didn’t he?” Hermione asked her quietly, “Dumbledore wouldn’t have let him anywhere near you.”
“Too bad.” She grumbled, “I wanted to see the result of Draco’s beating.”
Ashley stared off into the distance, lost in thought as the cool lake water lapped at her feet and a gentle breeze caressed her face. Shouts from the Quidditch pitch filled her ears, distinctly making out Harry and Ron’s voices, the captains of the team. Hermione once again had left her to check a mistake Ashley was sure she didn’t make with her Muggle Studies professor; however, she welcomed the time to herself.
Her bliss was short lived when she felt someone sitting down and leaning themselves up against her back.
She had nothing to say, she was comfortable in the silence. Draco, however, was not. He leaned on her back harder, pushing for a conversation. Ashley looked down at her Potions book she was desperately trying to study from.
“Will you come see me tonight?” He asked her.
“Don’t I always come and see you?” The corners of her mouth pulled into a grin.
“What are you studying?” He asked her, scooting around to sit right next to her.
Before she could answer, he gently shut her book, casting it aside. He kissed her softly. Once he pulled away, he tucked a strand behind her ear and looked into her eyes. A few seconds later, when he started to grow slightly uncomfortable, he gazed out at the lake.
“I’m surprised at how well you’re taking this.” She voiced.
He shrugged, “I’m a dead man anyways.”
Her face grew dark, “What?”
Draco’s eyes widened in horror.
“Nothing.” He shrugged it off. “I was joking.”
“No you weren’t.” She retorted. “What do you mean?”
“Nothing!” He snapped, frowning at her. “Just drop it.”
He scolded at the lake, avoiding her eyes, which felt like they were burning holes into the side of his head. He hated how he had to keep himself constantly in check. He realized that he was growing too comfortable around her. Letting little things like this slip were already adding up, he knew she was trying to piece together all his slip-ups. He realized she knew he was up to something. But he also knew that she wouldn’t be able to come to the horrific conclusion of what she thought was merely cryptic riddles.
“Draco?” She asked softly.
He didn’t want to answer. But he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
He looked over at her.
“What are you up to?” She asked.
He stared at her. Her long white-blond hair fell in gentle waves down her back; her blue eyes pierced into his. A soft flush set on her cheeks. Why did she have to ruin how perfect she looked with her concerns about him?
He feigned confusion, “I’m not up to anything.”
She looked down at the grass for a moment. He thought she was done, when he followed her gaze to look at her ring, which was a dull brown, revealing that he was restless.
“Something tells me otherwise.” She argued softly, her thin eyebrows frowned.
“Damn things!” He cursed, reaching inside his shirt to yank off the chain. Ashley gave no reaction; she just sat there staring at him, completely un-phased by his attempt to change the subject.
He looked at her ring, wondering if it would still be able to detect his mood. He watched as the color drained and became clear, like a space occupied by water. He looked up at her to see her still staring, as if looking at him would make him reveal his secrets.
“Don’t worry about it.” He said softly, “Nothing’s wrong.”
“If it’s such a small matter, then why not tell me?” She questioned again.
“Because, there is nothing to tell.” Draco finished with a hard tone, signaling the end of the discussion.
He looked at her as she clenched her jaw, perhaps holding back a retort, as she broke her gaze from him.
Draco decided his visit had expired, knowing that if he tried to talk to her she would only answer him with halfhearted replies, sulking until he gave her what she wanted. Before he made up to leave, he fingered her cheek, knowing that a kiss would only be returned unenthusiastically.
“Come see me after dinner.” He reminded her. She gave him the smallest of nods, still not returning his gaze.
Sighing, he left.
With heavy feet, Ashley dragged herself up to the abandoned tower where Draco’s quarters were. She didn’t know if she should be concerned about not feeling fearful as she made her way down where Blaise had attacked her days before. She couldn’t decide if it was bravery or stupidity that made her indifferent to the darkened corners and shadows of the corridor.
She looked at the far end of the hall, opposite Draco’s portrait of the fairies to see the Renaissance man once again absent from his frame. She never got to properly thank him for at least trying to warn her.
Ashley hesitated slightly as the fairies looked up at her, slightly anxious looks on their faces.
“What’s wrong?” She asked them.
They all looked at each other, as if daring one another to talk.
“I don’t think you want to go in there.” Morganne’s voice lowered to a whisper. She was usually very snide with Ashley. This was the first time that she had seen her attempt to be so civil.
“Why not?” Ashley eyed them.
“She already hexed us!” Another one piped.
“Who are you talking-’’
Before Ashley could finish her sentence, the portrait swung open.
Buttoning up her white shirt, a black, lacy bra peeking out between her hands was Pansy Parkinson.
She looked up from her buttoning. A sickening look of glee spread across her face. It flitted from happiness to smugness, as she quickly got over her surprised shock to see Ashley standing there.
“We were just finishing up.” She smoothed her voice, making it thick and sweet. Her short dark hair contrasted sharply with her flushed cheeks.
“Who are you-’’
Draco showed up at the portrait. A green flush overcame him, as if he would be sick any moment.
Shock glued her to the floor. She stared at the pair of them in disbelief.
“Ashley.” Draco breathed.
“I suppose it’s your turn now.” Pansy’s eyebrow lifted in interest.
Without a word, Ashley slowly turned on her heel and started to retrace her steps back up the corridor.
“Ashley!” Draco called, trying to shove Pansy out of his way, who was purposely holding him back.
Once she rounded the corner, she broke into a sprint. Tears blurred her vision; shouts filled her ears as she bumped into people.
All she could think about was getting to Hermione as soon as possible. She would know what to do, wouldn’t she?
“Please!” Ashley shouted feet from the Fat Lady, “Just let me through!”
If she wasn’t running so fast and the Fat Lady didn’t think she would rip her apart if she insisted on a password, she wouldn’t have let in her so easy. However, the Fat Lady swung open quickly, allowing Ashley to burst through.
High pitched wheezing noises rasped from her throat as she doubled over, her lungs screaming for breath.
The three Gryffindors rose from their seats by the fire immediately.
The tears were so overwhelming that she didn’t know they were next to her until Hermione grabbed her by the shoulders, “What’s wrong? What happened?”
Ashley looked in Harry and Ron’s direction, knowing that if she told them, they would both overreact and search out Draco. She didn’t know if she was strong enough to take the look on Harry’s face either.
“Upstairs.” She managed to choke.
Hermione gave a look to the boys that dismissed them, grumbling as they made their way back to their seats by the fireplace. Hermione gently led her up the stairs to the empty dormitories, sitting on a bed as she sat across from Ashley.
“What happened? Hermione asked softly.
“H-he-’’ She was cut off by her own wailing sobs.
“Draco.” Hermione stated.
Ashley nodded, “And h-her…”
Hermione bit her lip for a moment, trying to figure out who she was talking about. Hermione stared for a moment and then her face fell heavily.
Ashley’s face screwed up at the name, looking down at her hands as fat tears fell onto them.
Hermione’s shoulders slumped, “Oh, Ashley.”
“I was going down to s-see him,” She sputtered, “And I open up the door and she’s standing there, half naked!”
Hermione was at a loss for words. She knew Draco had malicious tendencies towards nearly everyone, but she knew he cared for Ashley on a level that he had cared for no one else. The fact that he had cast her aside so quickly felt like a blow to her as much as it did the crying girl across from her. She shook her head, hoping that Ashley would have been the one exception to his ill-behavior.
“I’m so sorry.” Hermione said quietly, knowing that it wasn’t good enough.
“What have I done?” She cried, “What did I do?”
“This isn’t your fault.” Hermione told her fiercely, “You have done nothing. This is his problem, not yours.”
Hermione watched her as Ashley slumped into her pillow, burying her face from view.
“I’m not really sure what to say.” Hermione confessed, “But I’ll stay here as long as you need me.”
The Veela smiled weakly, “I don’t want to keep you.”
“Are you sure?” Hermione asked her, knowing full well that the context of the question was a dismissal. She didn’t want to leave her alone, but knew that was what Ashley wanted.
Ashley nodded, “Just don’t tell Harry or Ron. Especially Harry.”
Hermione smiled weakly at her, “He cares for you, you know.”
Ashley nodded, “I know.”
“Well, goodnight.” She said awkwardly. What was it that you were supposed to say when your friend’s boyfriend cheated on her?
Ashley rolled over to look at the window. If it were any other night, she would have loved to look at the stars, twinkling in the dark sky. But more tears welled in her eyes as she looked at the gray sliver of the moon, its emptiness reflecting that of her heart.