Chapter 25 : The Susurations
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A loud, angry voice floated from the stairs, one that he had never heard before. The tone was panicked, but it still had a sing-song tone to it.
“Where is ‘e? I want to see ‘er!”
Ashley’s ears pricked up immediately. She pushed herself off his chest, scrambling to put her shirt back on.
“Ashley? Who is it?” Draco wondered.
She ignored his questions, bounding down the hall, her fast footsteps thundering down the staircase.
Draco followed after her quickly. He slowed his run, halting onto the steps when he saw that it was Fleur.
Ashley went in for a hug, but Fleur pushed her back.
“No!” Fleur objected loudly, “I ‘eard what ‘appened! We cannot be so rough with your injurees!”
“It is nearly healed!” Ashley reached for her once more, grimacing as her side stretched with her movements.
“Look at you!” Fleur glared at her, “You are ‘urting, yet you are running around!”
“Fleur!” Ashley argued pathetically.
“A keez for you instead!” Fleur’s harsh glare broke, kissing her sister on the cheek, “Seet down!”
Fleur directed her to a chair, sitting down beside her. Draco took another step down, the floorboards creaking underneath his weight. Fleur’s eyes snapped to him immediately.
She rose, anger consuming her face. Draco stepped back up a step as her features started to distort like Ashley’s did outside the Transfiguration classroom: her teeth seemed to have filed, her eyes buggy and bulging. Draco took a step back, a hand on his jean pocket that contained his wand.
“YOU!” Fleur screeched, jumping at him. Ashley and her father restrained her. “You neerly killed ‘er!”
“Fleur!” Ashley scolded, “He saved me!”
She slipped into her French, talking so quickly he couldn’t even make out individual sounds.
Fleur seemed to calm the longer Ashley talked to her. She huffed, smoothing her hair and dress, listening to Ashley, but never removing her eyes from him.
“Fine!” She spat, “But I don’t like you!”
“Alright.” Ashley laughed awkwardly, “We need to step outside!”
Ashley steered her towards the front door, handing her off to her mother, who took her out to the porch. Felix looked at the couple awkwardly, rubbing his head as he followed his wife.
“What the hell?” Draco growled, finishing his descent down the stairs, “What is her problem?”
“She’s married to a Weasley, remember.” Ashley took his arm, leading him out the back door, “She’s naturally going to hate you. Nevermind her, we have bigger things to worry about.”
Draco brewed in his anger as he let Ashley push him out the door. The wheat fields whispered lightly as the continuing breeze rushed past them. The plants brushed past their jeans as Ashley continued to lead him away from her house. When they were in what seemed to be the middle of the field, she extracted The Daily Prophet from her jean pocket. Large, bold writing exploded on the front page. She pushed in into Draco’s hands, who stared blankly at the article:
LUCIUS MALFOY FOUND DEAD
By Imelda Tompkins
Lucius Malfoy, a lifelong resident of Wiltshire and generous donator to more than a dozen organizations, was found dead in his home late last evening due to a report of the resident’s houself. Cause of death resulted from the Killing Cure, although the caster has not yet been determined. No one was in the house when investigators arrived on the scene.
Malfoy, a graduate and Slytherin prefect of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, began his generous life by becoming a governor of the school in which he graduated, stepping down five years ago due to busy scheduling on his behalf. Although no longer an active part of the Wizarding school, Lucius worked behind the scenes, sitting on the Board of Directors for Wizarding Education and a long-time holder of the Golden Wand Status donator to St. Mungo’s hospital.
Draco shoved the article back in her arms, just before he read Imelda’s final paragraph, stating that the valiant Lucius Malfoy was survived by his son, Draco, and his wife, Narcissa, and should anyone know of anything that happened Friday of last, the Ministry should be contacted immediately.
“What do we do?” Ashley asked, her voice quivering.
Draco turned his back on her, looking out to the golden fields, still singing in the wind. Green trees in the far off distance rustled without a care in the world. Blue skies clashed harshly with his dark mood. Something he wanted so badly, for so long, somehow left him empty, without any direction as how to proceed.
And yet, somehow, he knew exactly what he had to do.
Fleur didn’t stay much longer, but she wasn’t any warmer to Draco. Although the situation had been carefully explained time and time again, it wasn’t enough to wipe the glare off her face.
Draco watched her parents, a sinking feeling clawed at his stomach as they fussed over Ashley. He felt slightly bad about throwing out their paper, but he didn’t want them to find out about his father, at least until they had left back for Hogwarts. It would all look too suspicious.
The remainder of the break was relatively quiet. Draco sulked most of the day outside, among the wheat plants, letting the sun bake him in his dark, long sleeve shirts. He had hopes that the sun would warm his icy heart and dark spirit, but the longer he sat there, the colder and colder he grew.
“At least you’re getting sun.” Ashley smiled, trying to make a lighthearted joke, “I think I even see a tan line.”
Draco gave her a halfhearted smile, shuffling through his laundry in the guest bedroom, looking for another dark shirt. Ashley watched as the red mark slithered on his skin, giving her a threatening look. She couldn’t take her eyes off of it: a red skull with flaming eyes and an equally troublesome snake spewing from its mouth.
“At least wear something lighter.” Ashley grabbed his arm gently, handing him a white shirt. “You’ll bake to death out there.”
Draco took the shirt, nodding silently. He looked at his arm. The red wasn’t too obvious, but it was noticeable if you looked long enough. He reminded himself to resist rolling up his sleeves if he grew too hot. He would have to suffer, a life-long price he would have to pay.
“Everyone’s going to talk.” Ashley worried quietly.
Draco shrugged, “Let them talk.”
“They won’t stop bothering you.” Ashley tried again, “I’m surprised someone from the Ministry isn’t here yet.”
“The house is protected.” Draco argued.
“Yes, by the Ministry.” Ashley stressed, “It’s not like they can’t get through.”
Draco was growing bored of the conversation. Grabbing a heavy sweater, he shot Ashley a warning glare, “Perhaps they don’t warn Death Eaters.”
They were both relieved to wake to their last morning at the Delacour house. Ashley awoke with an aching pain in her side, where the wound was throbbing painfully. Stiffly, she took off her shirt, struggling not to move her midsection. She looked at herself in the mirror across from her bed, examining the bandage. Carefully, she unwrapped the cloth, revealing an angry mark, red and swollen. The wound itself seemed as if it was closing together, but the skin around it didn’t seem to agree.
“Accio bandage.” Ashley whimpered, pointing her wand to her dresser. New white bandages flew over to hand. Trying to hold her shirt up, she squeezed some ointment from the tube that the Healer had given her, sighing with relief as the gel cooled the burn. Wiping the remainder on her pants, she struggled to wrap herself. After several minutes, she secured the bandage, putting her shirt back on.
She stood up, caught off guard by Draco in the doorway, dressed all in black, arms crossed, leaning against the frame. They looked at each other for a few moments, then, without a word, he walked down the hall.
“Onlee a few more months!” Her mother piped, smoothing the collar of her blazer. Ashley nodded solemnly, kissing her mother on the cheek, followed by her father and Gabriella.
“Draco.” Apolline turned to him, pulling him out of his gazed stare at the scarlet train.
He tried his best to muster a smile for her, recalling all that she had done for him over the break.
“Come back and ‘ee us!” Apolline tip-toed to kiss him on the cheek.
Draco nodded, looking down at her as she went back to her husband and youngest daughter.
He followed Ashley onto the train, who turned one last time to wave to her family. With big smiles on their faces, they waved back, their figures disappearing as the train gave a loud whistle and started to move.
“Draco.” She said softly, grabbing his arm as she led them to a compartment.
Immediately they started to catch attention. Students, of all houses, stopped their conversations mid-sentence, watching Draco as he passed, making snide comments about the article they had all read a few days before.
“Good, that gets rid of one of them.”
“Do you think he’ll change now?”
“Are you kidding? He was born a menace.”
“I heard that he was the one to kill him.”
“How is she still with him?”
“Just keep walking, Draco.” Ashley told him, seeing an empty compartment down towards the end.
Their comments stung. How could they think he would have been capable of killing anyone? Especially his own father? Although, he couldn’t blame them as previous thoughts of committing the act himself crossed his mind a few weeks ago, when Narcissa was first found.
The remainders of the hateful comments were cut off as she closed the glass door. Taking opposite seats from each other, he could feel her eyes on him.
“You don’t have to be here.” Draco told her, almost hoping she would take the bait, but knowing she wouldn’t. He couldn’t look her in the eye, so he focused his attention on the appearance of rolling green hills and cloudy skies.
“I don’t want to leave you alone.” Ashley told him, taking out a book, flipping to a page that contained a half-written essay.
He watched her flip through her book, reading her essay back to herself. She rubbed her head frustratingly; too distracted with everything that was going on. On occasion, her face twisted in pain as she squirmed to find another position that her wound would agree with.
“Why were you watching me this morning?” Ashley asked, a tone of annoyance in her voice.
“I don’t have to explain anything to you.” He growled.
“You might as well.” She shut her book with a snap, “I’m the only one who has stuck by you this entire time.”
He sighed angrily, but didn’t answer.
Ashley stared at him, knowing he was up to something. He was thinking hard, she could tell by his distant gaze, his light eyebrows furrowing over his cloudy gray eyes. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she didn’t have a good feeling.
The train ride was relatively silent, except for when Draco had to dismiss himself to put on his Head Boy robes.
“I’ll see you later then.” Ashley told him quietly, hoping for a response as she watched him leave.
He nodded simply, sliding the glass door closed again, stealing a look at her one more time.
Ashley wondered aimlessly as she got off the train, her mind as clouded as the dark sky above her. A few patches of stars struggled to shine through. Her breath came out in wisps, her shoulders shivering in the cold, hardly warmed by the other bodies around her. She couldn’t find the trio anywhere, nor could she hear any familiar voices.
She jumped when she felt hands on her shoulders.
“Meet me in my room after dinner.”
“Draco-’’ she was cut off, looking for him, but he had disappeared, and she thought for a moment that she had imagined it altogether.
She turned to hear a familiar voice to the left, Hermione’s hand high up in the air as she pushed through to her. Harry and Ron quickly followed.
“What happened?” She shook her shoulders, “We heard about Malfoy!”
Ashley tried to feign shock, “We were just as surprised.”
Hermione faltered, “You mean you have no idea what happened or anything?”
Ashley shook her head, “We were at our house the whole time.”
“Who cares?” Ron grumbled, “The old bloke is dead! Good riddance!”
“Ronald!” Hermione scolded, “That’s Malfoy’s father!”
“I know who it is!” He glared at her, “I don’t feel one bit sorry for the weasel! Maybe he’ll stop being such a prick!”
Hermione retorted once more, but Ron cut her off. Wishing to escape their bickering, she turned away from them.
Harry had a similar track of thought. He scooped her arm from behind, leaving them standing there arguing as younger students passed them.
“I’m not sorry, either.” She confessed quietly, “He was an evil man.”
“I know.” Harry told her, “But Hermione has a sense of justice for everyone, no matter who they are.”
Ashley hugged his arm close to her, glad for his closeness and companionship.
“How was your spring break?” She asked him, “You stayed at the Burrow?”
“Yeah.” Harry shrugged, “It was pretty good. Your sister came back in a huff though.”
“She wasn’t too happy when she saw Draco at our house.” Ashley admitted, “She’s rather defensive.”
“Yeah.” Harry nodded, “She was rather quiet when she was with Bill.”
Harry grabbed her hand as he helped her onto the boat. Ashley stumbled, grabbing for his other shoulder.
“I hate these things!” She hissed, “Why can’t we all fly over or something?”
Harry smiled at her, “Don’t you think that would be dangerous? First years flying with brooms…over a lake…containing a giant squid?”
“I suppose.” She answered, taking a seat next to him.
After the boat was filled, she felt a gentle jolt as they started to skate across the dark water. Her core muscles used to stabilize herself flexed painfully. She winced, hoping that Harry didn’t notice. She couldn’t tell any of the three.
Hoping not to entice anymore questions about her break, she leaned over the side, looking down into the black depths, wondering what sorts of creatures were hidden in its darkness. She shuddered, remembering that both of her sisters had been down there just a few years previous, as she sat on the sidelines, waiting with bated breath every second they were absent.
She hugged Harry’s arm closer to her, unknowingly resting her head on his shoulder. He stiffened at first, but she was so tired, from the stressing week and her wound, that she couldn’t help but close her eyes. She felt him slack underneath her after a few seconds, going as far to briefly rest his head on top of hers.
“I’m hungry.” She thought aloud.
“Me too.” He agreed.
“I hope there’s lemon pudding for dessert.” She added sleepily, “That’s my favorite.”
Harry didn’t answer her, but she heard him smile in the dark.
Just as she was about to nod off, she felt the boat stop gently.
She opened her eyes to see a few third years before her getting off the boat, one slipping on the muddy bank. Harry helped her off, holding her hand tightly.
The castle looked peaceful, warm despite the growing darkness. Its silhouette barely stood out against the dark blue sky, but the windows were lantern-lit, their outlines flickering and glowing, like yellow stars guiding them home.
Warm hair blew their hair back, making their eyes water as students rushed to get out of the cold and into the warmth of the Entrance Hall. First years squealed from the bitterly cold breeze, squirming between older students, rushing to be at the House tables first.
“Single file!” McGonagall barked at the doors, “We aren’t cave trolls, try to act like as though you have some sense!”
Harry and Ashley smiled at each other, as McGonagall narrowed her eyes at some Hufflepuff first years, ignoring her warnings as they continued to push others out of the way.
They felt instantly warmed once inside the castle. Moving with the crowd, they took an immediate right, shuffling through another large archway before entering the double doors that led to the Great Hall. Its sky was dark and cloudless, white stars twinkling at them in welcome. The usual candles bobbed in midair, sending quivering shadows over the silver and gold plates and goblets.
Ashley pulled to the right side of the table, while Harry pulled to the left. They looked at each other, confused by their inability to move. Ashley noticed their hands, still tightly locked and fingers entwined.
Harry blushed, dropping her hand immediately.
“Sorry.” He grumbled.
Ashley smiled at him, “You kept my hand warm.”
“Right.” Harry gave her a nod, unable to look at her as they walked across the table from each other.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before Ron took a seat besides Harry and Hermione besides Ashley.
“Who won?” Ashley mumbled to Hermione, careful to not let Ron see her, who seemed to be sharing similar words with Harry.
“I told him that we had to stop.” Hermione shook her head, rolling her eyes, “It didn’t matter. Lucius is dead. There’s nothing to win.”
Ashley nodded her head, fingering her empty plate, watching as the rest of the students filed and took their seats.
“Ashley.” Hermione said quietly, “What happened?”
Ashley turned to her, furrowing her eyebrows, “What are you talking about?”
Hermione slumped her shoulders, growing frustrated, “Look, I know-’’
“Good evening, students!” Dumbledore’s voice echoed throughout the hall. Students quieted immediately, “And welcome back! I hope that you had a pleasant break, although, I know not all of you have.”
The four of them exchanged nervous looks.
“I am sorry to say that we have lost a dear friend to Hogwarts, Mr. Lucius Malfoy. He was a great contributor not only to the school, but to fine establishments such as St. Mungo’s and the District of Magical Schools. There are many trusted adults here, such as myself, if anyone wishes to talk.”
Her wound throbbed at the sound of his name. It took everything she had to maintain eye contact with her reflection in her goblet and not look up at the many eyes she could feel turning to her.
She looked up, however, to see Draco missing from his seat.
She took a careful look down to her ring. It flickered quickly between a dark gray and black-blue. Before she could stop herself, Ashley turned in her seat, rising from the table and quickly walking towards the double doors. She could hear Dumbledore falter briefly, surprised by a student daring to leave during his speech, but continued on. Ashley tried not to let the stares and growing whispers bother her.
It felt as if she could breathe again once the doors shut behind her. It was quiet; there was not a soul in the castle that wasn’t feigning sympathy for a murdered man in the Great Hall right now.
Except for the only two who knew what truly happened.
She tried in vain to suppress the growing panic that was bubbling in her chest, concentrating on the loud clicking of her heels. She could feel the portraits’ eyes on her, wondering aloud why she wasn’t eating with the rest of her classmates.
“Is Draco in there?” She asked of the fairies, who were wading in the cool lake. They nodded solemnly, opening their portrait, their little heads following her as she climbed into his room. Even their silence unnerved her.
She saw him nervously pacing the room, his hair amuck as he ran his hands several times through it, loudly mumbling to himself.
Ashley stood there, watching him in his miserable state. Draco caught sight of her, covering his mouth, as if he was bursting with something terrible to say.
“What’s wrong?” She asked quietly, fumbling with her hands in nervousness.
Draco took a look at her for a moment, his eyes glassy.
I’m about to set fire to everything I know. He thought.
He removed his hand, blurting, “I’m leaving Hogwarts…we can’t be together anymore.”
A/N: Oh goodness, what's going to happen? Would love to hear from you guys on the last few chapters. Thanks to all who read and review!
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