Chapter 32 : The Desolation
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Ashley tapped her foot anxiously, wondering how much longer she had. She was on her last test and found it hard to focus. It was her last night in detention with McGonagall, who had her nose in the rest of the fourth year Ravenclaw exams.
She turned her attention back to the parchment, staring at it blankly. She wasn’t sure that if she finished it she would be done, or if she was going to have to stay there until McGonagall had finished her own grading.
After several more minutes of forcing herself to finish the last exam, she announced quietly, “Professor, I’m done with the last one.”
McGonagall looked up at her, extending her hand to collect the exam, “Then you may leave.”
It felt as if a thousand pounds had been lifted off her shoulders. She was free!
“Thank you, Professor.” Ashley collected her things, shoving them into her bag, stumbling out of the desk with excitement.
“Miss Delacour,” McGonagall called.
Ashley turned around.
“Behave.” She frowned at her, “Or I won’t be so generous in my discipline next time.”
“I will.” Ashley promised, side-stepping towards the door, afraid that McGonagall would tell her she had to serve for another hour if she lingered too long.
“Go, then.” McGonagall gave her a small nod.
She dashed out the door, throwing her arms up in victory. Exhaustion swept over her, but it was reassuring to know that she would not have to go to detention after classes were done. And on top of everything, it was Friday!
“A day with Draco.” She breathed quietly to herself, hearing the emptiness of the statement as soon as she uttered it.
Draco’s not here. A voice reminded her.
The tears pricked her eyes immediately at the thought of him. It had nearly been a week since she last saw him, but the pain was as fresh as if she had just left his room.
She stopped suddenly, turning on her heels to walk in the other direction.
Before she could stop herself, she approached the portrait guarding his room.
“We can’t let you in anymore.” The one with short black haired chided at her, narrowing her piercing silver eyes.
Their leader emerged from the corner, glaring up at the black haired one.
“You can come in.”
“Thanks.” Ashley smiled weakly, realizing she had never bothering to thank them by their names for allowing her in when it was most likely that no other portrait would have. “I’ve never learned your names.”’
“I’m Victoria.” The red headed one smiled at her, gesturing to the darker haired fairy, announcing, “That’s Morganne.”
Ashley mustered a small smile as they silently swung the portrait open, not offering a word of condolence or encouragement.
It felt as if she would nearly suffocate, knowing that this was the closest she would ever come to him in an unknown amount of time.
His bed was still unmade. The fire was weak, as if it knew there wasn’t anyone coming back, but burning just in case. Everything was left as she had seen it a week ago, nearly suffocating her with anguish. She found it so easy to forget about him when she had the trio around her. They kept her mind off him, busying her with classes and homework. But it was times like these, when she was utterly alone in her thoughts and worries, that all of her fears consumed her, as she dropped her bag and climbed into his bed.
It smelled weakly of mint, the silk sheets holding on the last scent of its master. She silently thanked them for it, as if they had saved what they could for her. She wondered when the day would come when the fresh scent would fade away completely. Perhaps by then, she thought to herself, she would be over him, that she would be able to walk in and feel as if her heart had not been stolen out of Hogwarts. But yet, she feared the day she wouldn’t feel anything, forgetting the feeling of never being so alive or so loved, something she was sure she would never get back.
She wrapped herself tightly in his blankets, covering her head and burying her face in his pillow, inhaling his scent until she had breathed it in so much that she couldn’t make out the cool essence any longer.
Her lack of tears surprised her, but she felt so numb that she figured her eyes weren’t working properly. She figured she was all cried out, an activity she seemed to be too actively engaged in the entire week. Her whole body felt like an open wound, the salt of life grinding into her, disabling her to heal, reviving the laceration of her heart all over again.
Now that he was no longer a part of her life, what was she supposed to do? Draco had eradicated any fear of being on her own, knowing that she would be facing everything with him. With his absence, the ever looming fear that the safe confines of the castle would be gone in months, and she would be completely, utterly alone in finding her place outside of Hogwarts. She had never felt as robbed of her independence and confidence as she did when he had walked out.
Bringing her hand to her face, she fingered his stone on her finger. The possibility of his return was like a light at the end of a tunnel: more of a hope than a reality. She knew what he was: a Death Eater, and however much he believed or told her he hated it, his life had already been given to something else.
This thought struck her hard, and the tears she was nearly fighting to come out were threatening to spill over.
He’s not mine anymore. She told herself, over and over, almost wanting to cause herself pain. She wanted the tears to sting her face, to slide down her cheeks and onto his vacant sheets. She wanted to know that she was still hurt, that what she had felt was real, that she wasn’t merely imagining it, that she wasn’t merely lying on a bed that never contained a young man that had stolen her heart.
His life was literally marked to a different path now, she thought as she struggled to breathe with her face planted into the pillow. It was a lifestyle she knew she could never be a part of, no matter how much she wanted to pretend she could be. She could never allow her family to be around something that was so sadistic, so wrong. It went against every belief she had been raised with. She couldn’t possibly let herself be a part of something that terrorized her and her family out of their home, a house that she was born and raised in and that made her switch countries altogether, disrupting the normal life they once had.
Did she want to do that to herself, all for the sake of a boy?
She didn’t know. Maybe she would be able to decide if she saw him one last time. Shivering underneath the blankets, she wondered if he was alright. If he was alive.
Of course he is, she told herself, it’s only been a week.
And yet, it had taken minutes to destroy what they had built in six months. Time was fickle, deciding to do things according to its own agenda. She was helpless. Utterly helpless.
She tried to channel into her only other heartbreak she had had in her entire life: Marc Depaul. They had met Beauxbatons when she was fifteen. Perhaps she was too young to know what love was, but knew it was nothing like the pain Draco had caused her. Not once had she ever looked at Marc and was sure that he would father her children, that they would have a life together and that she wanted to start that life as soon as she had graduated. And yet, it had only taken a few months to be with Draco and she had wanted that and everything beyond.
Although their breakup hurt, she had gotten over it. It took time, but she was still alive and thriving. She had made it.
“It’s going to be the same thing,” She told herself out loud, “I just have to get there.”
But deep down, she had been hurt beyond knowing, and that’s what kept her rooted to his bed.
Despite her racking pain, sleep had treated her well; she did not stir until it was half past eleven. The faint smell of mint greeted her as soon as she took her first breath. After laying there for several moments, she scooted out of the large bed, turning to pull the sheets up to the pillows, smoothing out the blankets until it was neat and orderly. Stepping back, she looked to the bed that she vowed she would never lie in again. If she wanted to heal, she had to quit torturing herself.
She was on her way back to the Common Room when she heard Hermione’s voice behind her, “Ashley!”
Turning her head, she saw Hermione dressed in a heavy sweater and jeans, “The boys are going out to play Quidditch. Want to come and watch?”
Ashley gave her a weak smile, nodding as she followed her out onto the pitch. The majority of the Gryffindor team was already out, splitting up the teams with Ron and Harry heading each half.
The Veela followed Hermione to the middle of the stands, were they huddled together in the biting afternoon air.
“Go!” They heard Ron yell. The ten that were playing flew high into the air, throwing around the scarred practice Quaffle ball. Without a Snitch, Harry took part playing Chaser with Ginny and the other Gryffindors.
“They don’t have a real Snitch, obviously, because of flesh memories,” Hermione told her, filling the air with conversation for the sake of saying something, “but that’s good though, Harry will be able to practice other aspects of the game.”
“Right.” Ashley dismissed, preferring to watch in silence than have a conversation. She felt down and tried not to think of the reason that was making her feel so.
They sat there in silence for several minutes, she could feel Hermione look over to her every few minutes. Ashley was dreading the question she knew she would eventually ask.
“Ashley?” She asked cautiously.
“What?” She turned to her, trying to seem as oblivious as possible.
“Are you alright?” Hermione asked cautiously.
Ashley nodded, the corner of her mouth tugging in a grimace.
“You haven’t said anything in a while.”
“There’s nothing to say, Hermione.” Ashley dismissed. “Talking is exhausting sometimes.”
“Ginny’s turning out to be quite the player.” Ashley forced, not really knowing if Ginny was good by standards of Quidditch, or if she had improved from being an unskilled player.
Hermione sighed quietly, knowing that the topic couldn’t be breeched right now.
“Yah,” Hermione answered distantly, “she really is.”
An hour later, Hermione and Ashley descended the narrow staircase to enter back onto the field as their practice ended. Harry and Ron had peeled off from the rest of the Gryffindors, making their way to the pair of girls. Ashley watched as Ron, whose hair was plastered to his face with sweat, his face red with excitement, put an arm around Hermione’s, who blushed slightly, his broom resting on the other shoulder, start to steer her back to the castle.
Harry looked to Ashley.
“So, how did it feel not to play Seeker?” Ashley smiled at him, falling in line with his step.
“A little weird.” He answered, “But it was nice for a change.”
“Ready for the House Cup, then?” She asked him, nudging him playfully.
Harry nodded, “I think we have it. Without Malfoy-’’
He stopped himself suddenly, coughing to try and make up for his slip.
“I’m sorry.” He choked quickly.
Ashley gave him a small smile, “It’s alright.”
“Um, so, how did you do at McGonagall’s test?” He piped quickly, trying to cover up the awkward moment.
“My glass wasn’t very good.” She told him, frowning at the thought of it. “It was cracked and rather foggy.”
“I would’ve liked to have had that,” Harry answered, “When I did it, it turned into an ashtray that squeaked.”
“An ashtray? That squeaked?” Ashley laughed, “How ever did you manage that?”
“You think that’s bad?” Harry asked her, “You should’ve seen Ron's.”
Ashley’s face fell as she tried to suppress her laughter, “What happened?”
“It didn’t do anything at all.” Harry answered her.
Ashley grimaced, “I don’t know that you could even pull that up with a decent exam grade.”
“He’s going to have to.” Harry told her, “He wants to be an Auror.”
“Let’s study tonight.” She told him, “All of us. I think it will do us good.”
Later than evening when Harry and Ron had cleaned up and they had all eaten dinner, they took their usual spots by the fire to study Transfiguration, although Hermione was the only one struggling to keep them on track. When she turned to Ashley, she shook her head at her figure sprawled all over the red cushions; her tall frame encompassed an entire couch. The only other person that could help Hermione was lacking focus that evening, lazily telling her, “Don’t worry, Herm. We have all weekend.”
Hermione wasn’t satisfied with the answer. Huffing, she read another question loudly from her book in attempt to cut conversation between the other three.
“What are the three factors that contribute to the Transfiguration of an animal?” Hermione asked.
“What animal it is, what you’re turning it into and the pronunciation of the spell.” Ashley droned, bobbing her head over the arm cushion, staring up into the pattern of the ceiling.
Harry gave her a rather disgruntled look, while Ron frowned and tried to find the passage in his book.
“No fair.” Ron grumbled, “You lot are in each other’s class.”
“What difference does that make?” Ashley laughed, “It’s the same material for every period!”
“Yah, but you two have each other.” Harry agreed, “We have all the Gryffindor and Slytherin blokes in ours.”
“That’s probably why you’re in it.” Hermione teased, flipping the page to fish for another question.
“Whatever.” Ron mumbled, burying his nose in his book.
“Alright, then.” Hermione adjusted herself on the seat to face him, “An easy one. What is the Incantation to change an animal into a water goblet?”
Ron gave her a smug look, “Vero Verta.”
Hermione gawked at him, “’Vero Verta’? Ron, that’s why yours didn’t change into anything! It’s Fero Verta!”
Ron frowned at her, grumbling, “I wouldn’t be having problems like this if you were in my class.”
Hermione shook her head, exasperated, “You can’t always rely on me.”
“Well, it’s worked this far.” Ron whined.
“Well, it won’t always work.” Hermione shook her head, as she started to pack up her things, “I’m going to bed so I can get up early and finish studying. Good night.”
Disgruntled, Ron started to pack up his stuff as well, mumbling after Hermione.
Ashley looked to Harry, who she found looking up at her from his seat on the floor. She shook her head, chuckling at the pair as she flipped through her book.
“You’re lucky you have yours on Tuesday.” Ashley told him, “I would love a few extra days of studying.”
“I’m afraid it won’t help much.” Harry sighed, flipping through his book as well, taking a moment to write a passage down on a piece of parchment.
“You’ll be fine.” Ashley told him, turning her attention back to her reading.
It was silent for a moment and then Harry broke the silence with a question, “Where do you think he is?”
Ashley was caught off guard, turning to look at him for a moment, she answered, “Well, I can see forgetting about him won’t be an option with you three. Hermione tried to ask me the same thing earlier this afternoon.”
“Sorry.” Harry said quickly, “I just noticed that you’re wearing his ring.”
Ashley turned her attention to her hand, spreading and flexing her fingers, the black and green rectangular crest was rather large and bulky on her finger.
She shrugged, unsure of what to say. Her throat started to get itchy, signaling the oncoming wave of tears. Sitting up to try and seem as inconspicuous as possible, she snapped her book shut when a tear had fallen onto the page, hoping that Harry hadn’t seen.
“Ashley, I’m sor-’’
“Now would be the time to say ‘I told you so’, if you felt so inclined.” Ashley laughed bitterly, wiping at her eyes, knowing that they were quickly becoming unstoppable. “I should have listened to you guys.”
“I dunno about that.” Harry scooted from the floor to the cushion next to her, “I never liked him, but he seemed half-way decent around you.”
Ashley let out another bitter laugh, burying her hands in her face, upset with herself for her lack of control, “I suppose.”
Harry threw an arm around her awkwardly, not sure of what to say that would console her. He had never really been good when Hermione cried, but there was a silent understanding between the two of them that Harry wasn’t the best comforter and Hermione seemed to be content with that. Harry didn’t know if they had that same sort of understanding, but found himself at a loss as to what to do.
Ashley rested her head on his shoulder in exhaustion, grateful for his presence and willingness to comfort her, even if it was to console the heartbreak of his nemesis.
Ashley felt his head rest against hers, his thick, black tangle of hair a cushion between both of their skulls. Daringly, Ashley watched as Harry slowly slipped his hand inside of hers, squeezing it for a moment. Her heart was warmed by the show of tenderness and squeezed it back.
They listened to the fire crackling gently, watching the golden hues scatter on the paleness of their parchment, the words dancing on the pages with the fires fickle flicker.
The atmosphere had suddenly become intensely relaxing and Ashley was suddenly exhausted. She felt herself leaning back onto the velvet cushions, the material conforming perfectly to her body. The fire was warm on her skin and her eyelids felt heavy…
She shook herself up to see the Common Room empty. Their stuff was still sprawled on the table in front of the cushions, the fire was still crackling but Harry wasn’t by her side any longer.
He must have gone to bed, she thought to herself, you think he would’ve waked me up.
She was just about to sit up, when she felt a pair of hands pull her hair back from behind, and then a kiss on her cheek.
Ashley sat up, paralyzed. She was too scared to look behind her.
“Harry, what are you-’’ Ashley panicked.
“Harry?” A sneer voice asked.
Her heart nearly dropped, as she turned to see Draco’s pale form illuminated in the firelight. She sat there, shock gluing her to her seat as Draco swung around the arm of the chair, kneeling down in front of her, smirking at her as he put his hands on her lap, fingering the cotton of her uniform skirt.
“What’s wrong?” He chided playfully, grabbing her hand and bringing it to his lips. He kissed it softly and Ashley felt her heart flutter painfully. She had missed that feeling for so long…
“Are you not happy to see me?” He smirked, leaning over her to kiss her on the cheek. Mint flooded her nose as he pulled back from her to kiss her full on the lips. Her heart nearly gave out as he brought his hands in her hair, gently stroking the nape of her neck.
She sank further into the couch, the ecstasy and longing becoming too much for her as she grabbed his jacket and pulled him closer to her.
Draco pulled away from her, giving her a small smile as he stroked her soft cheeks, “Miss me much?”
Ashley was rather shocked. All she could do was look up into that handsome face of his. His blue eyes sparkled despite the dimness of the room; his blond hair was shadowed from the firelight. Ashley brought a hand to his cheek, stroking the flawless skin. Draco kissed her fingers.
“Well?” He asked her.
“You left.” Ashley croaked, tears springing into her eyes once more.
“Yeah.” Draco shrugged, as if it wasn’t that big of a deal, “You think I could have left you forever?”
“What made you come back?” Ashley frowned, “He isn’t defeated yet.”
Draco tugged at a strand of her hair by her face playfully, as he always did to cheer her up, “I came to take you with me.”
“I’ll go.” She croaked, gripping his arms forcefully, afraid that he should disappear once more. If he tried to disappear, Ashley was sure he wouldn’t be able with the death grip she had on his arms.
Draco didn’t seem to notice, but continued to smirk at her.
“Let’s go, then.” Draco grabbed her hand, hoisting her up from the couch.
As they were about to leave the Common Room, she tripped over her book that had fallen off the table, and jolted herself awake.
She gasped awake, quickly looking for Draco around the Common Room. She peered over the couch, expecting to see him, but he wasn’t there.
“Ashley?” Harry asked.
“No!” Ashley whined, slumping back into the couch cushions. Her shoulders shook with sobs, covering her mouth to try and suppress them. But they had been suppressed for nearly a week and her demons were finally surfacing once more. The darkness never seemed to leave her for long enough.
“What’s wrong?” Harry panicked, trying to pry her hands from her face.
“Don’t!” Ashley snapped, rising off the couch quickly, “I have to go to bed.”
She rose, tripping over the same exact book that had fallen off the table. With a frustrating growl, she kicked the large volume, feeling a sharp pain shoot up her foot and through her leg.
She quickly limped up the stairs, crawling through the door and to her bed. She tried in vain to quiet her sobs, closing the thick curtains over her bed, hoping that she hadn’t disturbed anyone’s sleep.
She lay there, utterly torn. The girl who seemed unbreakable finally shattered to pieces. The girl who always laughed and smiled, sobbed harder than the night that he had left her. The girl who never stopped trying, finally gave up, realizing for the first time that she wasn’t ever going to get over him, that she was going to be broken for a very long time.
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