The sun greeted her mockingly in the morning, but she had been up for hours, not quite sure if she had actually gotten any sleep at all. The horror of the events of hours previous petrified her into insomnia.
She shouldn’t have lost her temper.
She shouldn’t have accused him of lying, even if she felt as strong as she did about it not being him.
Analyzing the situation repeatedly, she wondered if she could’ve done anything different.
But how else would someone have responded to that? To be lied to, for the one chance for someone to confirm that you weren’t as crazy as you thought, and then to have someone else sweep the truth underneath the rug.
I’ve really done it now, she thought.
Anger swelled within her quickly. It wasn’t only her fault! He acted the part of arse just fine!
The pressure to get up and ready for breakfast and class was starting to close in on her. The realization that the world wouldn’t stop for her problems wasn’t necessarily the best feeling, no matter how much it had been a well known fact in the past.
So, with heavy reluctance and led feet, she pushed herself out of her quarantine to prepare herself for the day ahead.
The walk down to breakfast was made longer by her anxiety that grew with every step. Worrying thoughts as to how the other two would act, if they thought she was in the wrong, and the impending awkwardness of the situation nearly made her turn back and skip breakfast altogether.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the archways, entering into the Great Hall, where reckless chatter and mindless laughter filled the grand room, making her dread the confrontation even more. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Why couldn’t she be as carefree as the others?
She locked eyes with Hermione right away, who gave her a knowing look. Ashley’s heart sank even further when she noticed Hermione was sitting by herself, the two boys many seats further down. The fact that Hermione had chosen to consolidate her and not her best friend who she had known longer made her feel even worse.
Ashley sat down; taking a deep breath, preparing herself for whatever Hermione had to say. She couldn’t help but steal a look at the two boys further down the table. Ron caught her eye, but averted them quickly, a sheepish twist of his mouth signaled that perhaps he was in a more awkward place than she.
“I-’’Ashley faltered, not quite sure what to say, “Thank you…for sitting with me.”
Hermione gave her a weak, but kind, smile. “You're not entirely in the wrong.”
“How much did he tell you?” Ashley asked.
“Everything.” Hermione answered.
“Did he tell you who was on the map?” Ashley watched as Hermione dished themselves eggs on her plate.
“That’s the only thing he didn’t tell us, even though I don’t believe it was Harry, like he claims it was.” Hermione informed.
Ashley sat in silence for a moment, watching Hermione as she moved on to butter toast. If Harry couldn’t tell the two people he trusted the most, it gave her all the more reason to think that her suspicions were correct. But perhaps Harry had avoided telling Hermione, knowing that she would’ve passed the information onto Ashley. Maybe Ron knew. But even if he did, even though he was her brother-in-law, he wouldn’t betray Harry. It was a truth she knew she could only get from Harry, whom would never offer it.
“Just…don’t be too harsh.” Ashley laughed tiredly.
Hermione stopped to look at her, staring at her with a look of sympathy. Ashley knew she must’ve felt really bad, as understanding the “trivial” hurts of others wasn’t Hermione’s strong suit.
“I-I just…feel, that as your friend, I need to say something.” Hermione started.
“Go on, then.” Ashley braced herself.
Hermione took a deep breath, steadying herself to say her piece as carefully as she could.
“He was the one that left you.” Hermione started gently, “I just think there’s no use wasting time on people that leave you. What you make of yourself isn’t tied to him anymore. I know you miss him, but remember: you weren’t the one that gave up.”
Ashley swallowed hard, the truth was something she struggled to swallow and digest.
Is that what he did: give up?
She didn’t feel like that was what it was, but maybe she had been so blinded all this time.
She wished she couldn’t see the truth. Maybe being the dark wasn’t such a bad thing: you couldn’t see what was coming for you, at least.
“I just don’t know why he couldn’t have told me, why he hasn’t told you, at least.” Ashley wondered.
She watched as Hermione struggled to not roll her eyes.
“Ashley, he’s in love with you.” Hermione frowned at her, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world.
And maybe it was, but she was so blinded by the fear of hurting someone she could never return the same feelings too, that she turned her cheek the other way.
The awkwardness and heavy guilt that weighed on the Veela’s chest turned her attention to the golden dishes and plates. She was unable to look at Hermione in the eye; she knew, deep down, that her friend was disappointed that she couldn’t be hopelessly in love with someone that the other girls couldn’t help but fall over themselves for. She was ruining the quadrant that perhaps the other three were so desperately hoping for and it wasn’t a feeling that inspired her to continue fighting for what she wanted, rather than settle for what might end up happening anyway when she got tired of waiting and searching.
“Harry’s trying,” She continued cautiously, “And I can’t say what he did was right, and I can’t force him on you. But…he would stand by you, that I do know.”
“Well, I’m sure his feelings on that have changed.” Ashley scoffed weakly, turning her attention to the food-filled dishes and trays. It was too hard to look her in the eyes, to meet the disappointment in her denial of what Hermione and Ron wanted out of Ashley most.
“Why do you think you work?” Hermione asked her.
The question had caught her so off guard, she couldn’t help but look to Hermione.
Ashley shrugged, “Why do you think you work?”
“Because we balance each other out.” Hermione started, “He gives common sense to my logic, which isn’t always as sound as I think it is. He challenges me.”
“Well, if you don’t think being with someone who is a Death Eater is challenging, than I don’t know what is.” Ashley scoffed.
Hermione gave her a small simile, “I’m not telling you what you should do. I’m just suggesting that maybe Draco has filled his role in your life.”
Before Hermione could say anything else, the warning bell rang ahead.
Ashley gave Hermione one last look before she headed off to class.
It was the second day of meetings with McGonagall regarding applications for the seventh years for their perspective careers and after class Ashley headed to hers. It was required that the Heads of Houses looked over certain applications, especially those that dealt with Ministry business. With her application going to the Healing Academy, it was vital that hers was polished for immediate acceptance. If she wasn’t accepted right away, she would have to wait for the fall to apply and she couldn’t stand to think what she would be doing all summer and part of the fall while she waited.
Her loud shoes announced her arrival in the empty classroom, void of all desks except for a hard-backed chair that was placed immediately before McGonagall’s desk. She turned her head at the creaking of the door, watching as it sealed her in as it closed shut.
“Ah, Miss Delacour, please, sit.” McGonagall gave her a tight lipped smile, extending her hand to the chair.
Ashley took it slowly, watching McGonagall’s brown quill scrawl across a piece of parchment. When she had finished, she rolled it up and placed it to her left, shuffling through a folder that contained her thick application packet.
“I haven’t had much time to look yours over, unfortunately,” McGonagall stated, “but I have the utmost confidence that your application is flawless.”
Ashley offered a small smile, glad that her favorite professor’s feelings towards her hadn’t seemed to change. She hadn’t spoken one on one with McGonagall since she had hexed Pansy.
She watched as McGonagall’s eyes flitted over the first page, flipping the page nosily as she continued to read. This happened several times over, while Ashley waited anxiously for her comments.
“All is complete, just as I expected,” McGonagall voiced, “You wouldn’t believe how many of your classmates had forgotten to fill some spaces in.”
“Are there a lot of Healer applications?” Ashley worried.
McGonagall huffed, nodding her head, “A dozen or so, just in our House, I can’t imagine what the others are getting. I think students are trying to get in, to prepare for what’s coming.”
“At least people are stepping up.” Ashley offered weakly, fiddling with her hands. She wanted to leave. Not because of McGonagall, but she felt that if she sat still for long enough, she would never progress forward to getting out of school, as if it would lock her there permanently if she wasn’t staying busy.
“Is that why you’ve decided to study Healing?” McGonagall looked over her packet to the Veela.
She wasn’t quite sure why she had chosen it; she had always grown up with the inkling that Healing was the way to go. It seemed that wizards and witches didn’t have much of a choice: you were either a stay at home parent or you worked for the Ministry. She couldn’t stand to think of a desk job and Healing seemed to offer enough movement, enough things to do to keep her mind off of the thing it reverted into thinking about the most…
“Miss Delacour?” McGonagall tried again.
Ashley was trapped in her thoughts. Even though she had always assumed she was supposed to be a Healer, the decision to study medicine was set in stone when Draco had left. Although she wished hard for his continuing safety, in her heart of hearts she hoped that he would be hurt enough that she would have to come to St. Mungo’s. He might be an outlaw with a high bounty on his head, but even Aurors are required to bring in criminals if they’re injured.
“I might find him.” Ashley voiced quietly, looking to McGonagall in horror at her voiced thoughts.
McGonagall pursed her lips in empathy, averting her eyes back down to the application.
“I might find…Harry.” She lied, knowing the cover up was a petty attempt, “If he defeats the Dark Lord, I want to be there.”
She knew McGonagall could see right through her and took her turn at averting her eyes, afraid that the longer she stared, the more transparent she would seem.
If she wanted to offer any advice, words of condolences, even a dismissal that she was young and there are plenty of other options, she didn’t offer it.
Ashley sighed inwardly, angry that she was so stupid to let something so trivial slip. But when she looked back up to McGonagall, she wondered if there had been anyone that she had lost, if there was a reason for the barren left hand, absent of a ring. Did she experience the same thing that Ashley had? Although she admired the professor greatly, she couldn’t help but look at the thin lips, brittle hair, and wrinkles that had set in her face and wondered if a similar fate was awaiting her: old and alone.
“Your application is solid.” McGonagall commented, changing subjects as she gestured to the application.
Glad for a change of subject, Ashley asked, “What do you think my chances are?”
“Good.” McGonagall answered, “There are many applications that aren’t nearly as colorful. Although I do not like admitting it, having Beauxbatons teach you about the Dark Arts will benefit you. It will give you an edge amongst the others who have been at Hogwarts their whole schooling.”
Ashley nodded, slightly relieved.
“But just because I send this off, doesn’t mean your work ends.” McGonagall warned, “You must perform adequately on your N.E.W.T.s. You test scores will have a large impact on the Ministry’s final decision.”
“I understand.” Ashley nodded.
McGonagall offered her another small smile as she finished, “You’re dismissed, unless there is anything you would like to ask me?”
Ashley looked to McGonagall’s hand again, struggling to shove down the personal questions she so desperately wanted to ask. If that had been the Transfiguration teacher’s fate, it was somewhat comforting that at least she wouldn’t have been alone in her loneliness.
“No, professor.” Ashley shook her head. “Thank you.”
“I wish you luck…on everything that you do.” McGonagall gave her a simple nod.
Her statement was loud and clear and in a way, answered her questions that she had about her. Maybe McGonagall wasn’t able to secure what she had lost and she was hoping that the young Veela would achieve what she couldn’t.
Ashley mustered a pathetic smile, sadness weighing her heart down at the unspoken past of her favorite teacher.
Without another word, she disappeared into the corridors.