Draco handed her a damp towel as she wiped her eyes. She still couldn’t bring herself to look at him. Instead, she focused her attention on the cracked mirrors, the dripping of the sinks and the rushing of water in the toilet bowls. She thought she could hear a distant moaning coming from the last stall.
“I’m sorry.” She finally choked.
He moved closer to her, putting his hands on her shoulders as he kissed her forehead. “I know.”
She wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his robes; the familiar mint aroma filled her nose. It seemed like she hadn’t been around him in years. His strong arms encompassed her as he rested his head on hers.
Tears threatened to spill over onto his shirt, but she squeezed her eyes shut. It was alright, so why did she continue to feel so bad? She couldn’t explain it. Perhaps she was still recovering from the fact that it could have happened.
The bell overhead ran loudly, signaling the end of class.
He looked up at the ceiling, as if trying to find the source of the noise. Draco looked at her again, raising a finger to stroke her cheek.
“Go.” He told her, jerking his head towards the door. “I’ll see you at dinner.”
For a moment she hesitated. Deciding against to argue, she nodded her head slowly and left the bathroom, her heels clicking solemnly on the tile.
“You did what?” Hermione narrowed her eyes at her, lowering her voice and leaning in to avoid the attention of Ron and Harry, who had already looked up from their chess game in interest.
Ashley looked at her uncomfortably. How was she going to convince her without telling her about what she could do?
“I forgave him.” Ashley tried again. “It turns out he didn’t do anything with her.”
“’Didn’t do anything’?” Hermione sneered, “You can’t prove that!”
Ashley faltered, “I know he didn’t, Hermione.”
“Ashley!” She growled, burying her hands in her face, “You can’t be serious!”
“Just believe me.” Ashley whined feebly.
Hermione stood up, her fists balled, “I can’t believe you! After what he did?”
“After who did what?” Harry leaned over to ask them.
“Nothing.” Ashley dismissed, pulling Hermione back down to the chair again, lowering her voice, “Hermione, you have to believe me.”
“I can’t believe you.” Hermione retorted. “After the way he treated you? Do you have any respect for yourself?”
Ashley brushed the comment away. She couldn’t figure out any other way to tell her that she knew, without risking their friendship.
“What if I told you, that I can be sure that I know?” Ashley lowered her voice.
Hermione narrowed her eyes further until they were slits. “Prove it.”
“Give me your hand.” Ashley told her gently.
Hermione gave her a suspicious look. “What does my hand have to do with anything? I’m not involved!”
“I know.” Ashley sighed, trying her best to beat down the raging impatience that was boiling within her. “Just trust me.”
She could tell that Hermione was fuming as she slowly extended her hand to her. Hoping that her nervousness wouldn’t cloud her ability to see into her thoughts, she pressed her middle finger to the middle of Hermione’s palm.
It was winter break when she was fifteen years old. Her laughter rang out into the cold air, echoing off the mountains that seemed so close she could touch them. Their snow caps faded off into the cloudy sky, untouched snow gleamed in the dim sunlight. Her nose was red with the bitter cold, but her eyes lit up as she looked to her father, sitting there beside her on the lift, skis dangling off the edge.
“Are you ready?” He asked her, smiling down at her with all the confidence in the world.
“It shouldn’t be too bad.” She answered, “Can you do it?”
Her father smiled down at her, his glasses fogging up from his red face.
“Here we go!” He turned his attention to the landing. Hermione steadied herself to follow her father, as she glided easily on the tracks that so many had trekked before her. Turning around to look at the long slope before her, Hermione gazed out at the view: mountains as far as she could see, all blanketed in pure, perfect whiteness. It was times like these she was glad she was part Muggle, for she knew no pure-blood wizard would ever get to experience something so exhilarating, so secluded they all were in their own world, unrelenting to explore those of others.
“Well, here goes nothing!” Her father piped, bending at the knee and pushing himself foreword, “See you at the bottom!”
Hermione smiled as she watched her father fly down the mountain with perfect form. One day, she thought, she would be a perfect skier just like him. One day.
She took a deep breath, coughing violently as the cold air filled her lungs. When she had calmed, she pushed off the bank before she could give it another thought.
It was like flying. The cold wind whipped at her face, the flying snow whipped passed her goggles. She had never felt so free or moved so fast. There was nothing stopping her.
This is what Harry and Ron must feel like, she thought to herself, now I understand.
She could see the lodge now, coming at her fast. She tried looking for her father but she was too afraid to break her concentration. She had made it thus far and a painful crash awaited her if she messed up now.
With a clumsy stop that resulted in her falling to her side, she reached the bottom of the hill. Hermione rolled on her back, allowing the soft powder to soak into her hair. With a triumphant cry she laughed until her voice was hoarse.
She did it! What could truly be better than that?
Hermione pulled her hand back with such force that Ashley thought she heard her shoulder pop. Hermione looked rather horrified, as if it was magic she had failed to study and was unable to understand.
“I told you.” She said softly to her, “You have to believe me now, don’t you?”
Hermione wrung her hands in her lap, looking at her strangely.
“How do you do that?” Hermione blurted, “I’ve never met any other wizard or witch who had more ability than the use of their wand.”
“I think it’s the Veela in me.” Ashley told her, “I don’t think it has anything to do with being witch. Veela’s are known to have other powers besides using wands.”
Hermione was silent, lost in thought as she stared into the fireplace.
“As much as I know you don’t want to believe me,” Ashley started, “You have to. I saw it. He didn’t do anything with Pansy.”
“And what if he altered it?” Hermione shot at her, “Malfoy’s a prick enough to do it.”
“I would’ve known,” she answered, “just as someone would’ve known if a memory was altered in a Pensive.”
Hermione nodded her head slowly, trying to make herself understand. “Fine.”
Ashley sighed, letting out the breath that she had been holding for so long. “I would’ve lost him had I not given him the chance.”
Hermione nodded reluctantly, not bothering to hide her impatient sigh, “I know.”
Draco sat in History of Magic class, accompanied only by his fellow Slytherins. His head lolled and his eyes fluttered heavily as he battled the sleeping dragon within him. Professor Binns voice drowned and echoed dully in the stiff, dusty room. The sun’s rays were muffled by a film of dust on the high windows; its warm rays hit his face, making his white blond hair dazzle in the light. His quill rolled from his hand, creating splatters on his unfinished words. Cradling his face, he decided to rest his eyes, if only for a moment.
Suddenly, the door burst open. Draco jumped, turning with everyone else to see the gallant intruder who may have saved them from the lecture early.
Snape, with his cloak billowing behind him, burst in. Professor Binns seemed not to have notice, continuing his lecture on wars between Goblins and Humans, a lecture, for whatever reason, never seemed to go unmentioned every year by the ghost.
“I need Mr. Malfoy, if you will.” Snape’s cold voice echoed through the room. The buzz of whispers filled the dingy room immediately; however, Professor Binns still seemed unfazed by the disruption as he continued his lesson.
He stared at Draco hard, not a muscle in his face moved. Draco stared at him, as if his expressionless face could convey the urgent message. When Draco was unable to figure what could possibly be happening, he packed his things quickly, shuffling out after his Head of House.
“What’s going on?” Draco snapped, irritated from his disrupted slumber that he so wished to indulge in.
“No time for questions, just follow me.” Snape answered him.
The hallways remained quiet as Draco trudged after him, the only sound filling the corridor was the rustling of Snape’s cloak. Draco became more and more confused as they climbed higher, making their way to what seemed to be the Hospital Wing.
Before Draco could enter, Snape finally turned to him.
“There seems to have been a little…incident.” Snape lowered his head, boring into Draco’s eyes with his black, beady orbs.
His heart dropped.
Snape said no more, pushing the doors open.
There was a crowd around a bed in the middle of the wing, consisting of Dumbledore, Madame Pomfrey and Hagrid.
Draco’s nostrils flared as he stared at the ogre of a man. He looked up at his unkempt hair, wondering if it was possible that certain creatures inhabited it. His mole skin coat was dingy and patchy, poorly sewn with bits of other material.
Unfortunately, Hagrid was the one to turn to him first.
“I’m sorry, Malfoy.” He frowned. “I found her by the gates, knocked out cold.”
Malfoy frowned, pushing his way to the bed.
It wasn’t Ashley.
But his mother.
Draco dropped his books on the floor in shock. He had never seen her in such a state. She was battered; her face covered in purple and yellow bruises, her wrist was in a sling, her clothes, tattered and her pants torn.
Dumbledore’s voice filled the silence, “Hagrid said he heard a commotion at the gate. Curious, seeing as no Muggle could come close without magical enchantments confounding them, knew something was wrong. As he went to investigate, your mother was screaming to see you. Unfortunately, she became unconscious before Hagrid could ask what was wrong.”
Draco was shaking with anger, knowing the obvious culprit that committed such a heinous crime. He could hardly control his hand as he pushed a blond lock from his mother’s forehead. Dumbledore dismissed the others with a wave with his hand, asking Draco, “Do you know something about this, Mr. Malfoy?”
Draco stared at her for a moment, wondering what his mother could have done to influence his father to leave her in such a state. Draco turned to the Headmaster, hatred burning in his eyes as he forced himself to answer through gritted teeth, “No, sir.”
Dumbledore seemed unmoved by Draco’s emotions. His pale blue eyes searched the troubled young man’s.
The Headmaster tried again, “There isn’t anyone who might have done this to Narcissa?”
Draco tried his best to stay cool under Dumbledore’s pressure and his own anger, something that was not easily suppressed within the Malfoy family.
“No. Sir.” Draco hissed.
“I cannot help you if you do not give me a name.” Dumbledore insisted. Draco knew that he realized he was lying. He couldn’t deny the power that Dumbledore had in the Wizarding World, but the old man was poking around in far more than just Lucius’ business.
Draco couldn’t bring himself to talk anymore, so he shook his head slowly at him, just to make sure he didn’t miss his answer.
Dumbledore sighed, brushing off the collar of his robe. He stood, inclining his head in understanding that he, the Headmaster, was being dismissed.
“Should you…discover…any evidence, you know where to find me.” There was an undeniably disappointed tone attached to his voice, but Draco shrugged it off, knowing that his mother was more important than the old man’s respect.
Draco stared at her limp body, not wanting to discuss it anymore. With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore closed the curtain around them. Moments later, he heard his instruction to Madame Pomfrey, “No time limit, Poppy.”
Draco heard a door close off to the far left, signaling Dumbledore’s exit. A moment later, another click told Draco that Madame Pomfrey was in her office.
And then there was silence.
Draco, unsure of what to do next, turned to his motionless mother. He slumped in his chair, staring at her.
“Mother.” He called.
She did not stir. He wondered if Madame Pomfrey had given her something to make her sleep. Again, he called out to her, “Mother.”
The hand in her cast jerked and her head moved from side to side. Her eyes squinted in the bright sunlight. Draco moved his chair closer to her bed, looking down at her to watch her wake.
It took her a moment to register her son’s face. “Draco?”
“What happened to you?” He whispered hoarsely.
Narcissa’s eyes watered, whether it was from shame or pain, he didn’t know.
“He did this, didn’t he?” He snarled.
“You didn’t tell anyone, did you?” She pleaded, grabbing for the sleeve of his cloak in weak desperation.
“Of course I didn’t tell on your pathetic excuse for a husband.” He spat.
Narcissa seemed wounded by his tone; shrinking back and removing her hand form his arm. Draco sighed, his shoulders rounding in defeat. She already had to deal with an abusive man in her life, he didn’t want to be added to the list.
“What happened?” He asked her, forcing himself to soften his tone.
Narcissa avoided his eyes, humiliation pained her face. “W-we were arguing.”
She looked up at him. Draco sighed heavily, knowing that he was going to have to worm the story out of her. It was a game he knew all too well.
“What were you arguing about?” Draco asked her.
“Y-you.” She squeaked, shrinking back further into her cot.
This caught Draco by surprise. Usually Lucius was angry with Narcissa’s “unsocial behavior”, consisting of speaking out of turn or not presenting herself “properly”. He had never heard them argue about him before.
“Me?” He asked, unable to mask his quizzical frown.
Narcissa nodded, her frazzled hair following her movements. “H-he…was going to take you. A-and I d-didn’t want him to.”
“Take me? Why would he take me?”
Narcissa’s eyes pleaded with him, wishing that he knew the demons that fought within her. She only wished, above all others, that she could protect her son. She was too weak of a woman, she knew, to ever really help him. But Narcissa’s greatest fear is that her son would blame her for never trying.
“Your father is very sensitive about his dealing with the D-Dark L-L-Lord.” She stammered violently, shivering at the mention of his name.
Draco nodded, “What does that have to do with me?”
He knew what it had to do with him, but he wondered if his mother knew. Lucius hardly ever included her in his ideas and dealings with Lord Voldemort, unless he really wanted to upset her.
“What did he tell you?” He eyed her suspiciously.
“You’re father has been trying to get into good graces ever since the prophecy incident.” She told him, “L-Lucius thinks that you could be useful to him.”
Draco stared at her.
“You know, then?” He asked her.
It was her turn to look confused. “You knew all this time?”
Draco nodded, “He told me in the beginning of the year.”
Narcissa looked wounded, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You think he wouldn’t have found out if I did?” He asked, “He would’ve killed you if you knew. I wasn’t going to risk that.”
Narcissa nodded her head weakly. Draco knew she was getting tired again, but he had to finish the conversation.
“Just promise me,” she sighed, “You won’t go around parading it. I know he believes in that sort of things, but that doesn’t mean that I do.”
Draco furrowed his eyebrows, trying to sort out her meaning. What was she talking about? Hadn’t Narcissa praised Ashley endlessly at Christmas?
“We’re together, now.” Draco frowned, “They all know. Everyone does.”
Narcissa looked confused, “What are you talking about?”
“What are you talking about?” Draco eyed her, “I thought you liked her?”
Narcissa shook her head, “I’m not talking about Ashley.”
“Then what are you talking about?” He asked.
Narcissa looked at him, slightly hurt by his ignorance, “Don’t you know? Lucius is going to induct you into the Death Eaters.”