"I... that is... I think that..."
"Speak up please, Mr. Longbottom," commanded Professor McGonagall, feeling a bit bored.
"Two taps and... three turns?" he guessed nervously. In the back of the room, Draco and his friends snorted and laughed together at Neville's timidity. Charlotte, sitting right beside the Slytherin lot, gritted her teeth at their rudeness. More than anything she wanted to pick a fight with them, but she attempted to have a bit of restraint.
"No, I'm sorry, that is incorrect," said McGonagall, only causing the Slytherin boys to hoot more loudly. McGonagall shot them a harsh look, but otherwise ignored them as Hermione's hand shot into the air.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"It would be three taps and four turns," she stated proudly. McGonagall nodded and turned back to the board to continue teaching.
Sneaking a glance over at Draco and his friends, Charlotte saw that they were now mocking Hermione. Draco flung his hand up in the air and silently bounced around excitedly, pretending he was shouting for attention. The other boys seemed to find this terribly funny and they were rolling around in their chairs, holding their stomachs from laughing too hard. A fierce anger rushed through Charlotte as she observed them making fun of one of her best friends.
"Knock it off you putz!" whispered Charlotte forcefully. Draco turned sharply to the bold Gryffindor girl and smirked.
"What's your problem Charlie? Ashamed to even be in the same house as the beaver?" mocked Draco. Charlotte glared dangerously in response to Hermione's old nickname.
"Shove it Malfoy. At least she knew the answer! You and your lot looked like a dumb bunch of buffoons before she spoke up. And don't call me Charlie."
"Lousy half-blood," he spat at her.
"Arrogant bastard," she hissed back. "I swear to God if you don't shut up, I'll come over there and hit you right here and now." Draco's eyes narrowed in aggravation as he remembered the several occasions upon which Charlotte had indeed given him a smack across the face.
"Just try it," he seethed, "and see what happens."
"Maybe I will," taunted Charlotte, beginning to lean towards him threateningly.
"Mr. Malfoy! Miss Holloway!"
Charlotte grimaced while Draco's mouth curled into a sneer, and they simultaneously turned towards the front of the room. Professor McGonagall was fuming, and looked as if she was ready to snap her pointing stick in two. All of the students' eyes were focused on the feuding pair.
"I will not accept such rude interruptions in my class," exclaimed McGonagall. "Detention, tonight, both of you. I cannot believe that I have to assign you both detentions again." Draco rolled his eyes at McGonagall's speech and Charlotte slid down in her chair with a grumble. Charlotte was a bit embarrassed in all honesty. McGonagall was one of her favorite teachers, and Charlotte hated to make a bad impression. Oh well, it couldn't be helped.
When the clock chimed eight o'clock, Charlotte and Draco stood awaiting instructions in McGonagall's office.
"I want these files tidied up and sorted properly," ordered McGonagall. "You have two hours, starting now." With that, McGonagall strutted from the room.
As soon as she was gone, Charlotte heaved a sigh and leaned against the desk lazily.
"You can do it Draco. I hate cleaning and sorting, I'm bloody awful at it."
"I don't think so, Yankee," he scoffed, referring to her American heritage. "You are going to pitch in. I'm not doing this job alone."
"Still..." he continued, sauntering over to Charlotte with a smirk. "It's pretty impressive that we keep managing to manipulate the teachers like this, don't you think babe?" Charlotte glared as he placed his hands possessively on her waist. Pushing him away, Charlotte raised her Ash wand at him and watched his brows lift in surprise.
"Now hold on a second, babe, I was legitimately annoyed with you earlier. Why do you have to be such a prat?" she growled. Shrugging, Draco smiled and teasingly traced his hand along her wand, then to her hand, and down her arm.
"It's the way I am darling. But I know you love it," he whispered seductively in her ear. Charlotte's eyes fluttered shut as she felt herself being taken in by his sweet words and soft breath. Shaking her head to clear her emotions, Charlotte pushed away from him once more.
"Apologize," she commanded. Draco rolled his eyes at her stubbornness.
"No," he replied just as stubbornly.
"Don't make me set Neo on you," she warned. Neo was Charlotte's feisty cat. He had tiger stripes that befit his personality extremely well. It generally took him a while to warm up to people, so the first time he had met the Slytherin prince Neo had viciously attacked him, leaving red scratch marks all over Draco's face.
"Ouch," pouted Draco. "Threatening me with a smack and your cat all in one day? You're getting tough on me Charlotte." Heaving a dramatic sigh, Draco stepped over to his lioness once more and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close.
"I apologize," he murmured, brushing her wavy blonde hair away from her face. Leaning down, Draco kissed her forcefully, to which Charlotte responded passionately as she found it impossible to resist his seductive charm.
Three months later, Charlotte sat on the edge of the astronomy tower, looking out over Hogwarts' grounds with glazed eyes. The night sky was beautiful, filled with stars, no clouds to block the view. But these things which normally delighted Charlotte held no pleasure for her now. Indeed, it was as if her world had been torn apart.
Two nights ago, a battle had erupted in Hogwarts. Somehow a band of Death Eaters had gotten into the castle and attacked. In the midst of everything, Professor Snape murdered Dumbledore, and when the Death Eaters fled, they took Draco with them.
Charlotte tried to tell herself that she should be glad that Draco was gone. Their strange relationship had made no sense, and he was an ass besides. She should be glad...
Staring out into the darkness, Charlotte recalled Draco's bleach blonde hair, striking gray eyes, and characteristic smirk. God, why did he have to be so sexy when he smirked?
Feeling a wetness on her cheek, Charlotte furiously brushed away her tears.
I'm going to mess up my eyeliner, she scolded herself in dry humor. Clutching her arms protectively around her torso, Charlotte stared out into the sky, wondering if she would ever see her Slytherin prince again. What left Charlotte the most frightened was the knowledge that no matter what she did, she had no control over what would happen next.
"Charlotte! Charlotte!" Draco shouted, looking everywhere, shoving his way through the masses of people. The going was slow as Draco continually had to duck around spells and fire off some of his own.
"Damn it, why do you have to be so goddamn short," he muttered through clenched teeth. "Charlotte!"
After what seemed like forever, Draco spotted a flash of a very familiar head of bright blonde hair. Rushing towards her, Draco viciously pushed away everyone blocking his path. Coming up behind her, Draco wrapped his arms around her waist. Charlotte spun around, wand raised, but her eyes widened in surprise when she saw who it was.
"Draco," she whispered. Unable to say anything else, the two kissed for a brief, passionate moment.
"I've missed you Charlie," he whispered with a smile of relief. Charlotte swatted his shoulder.
"Don't call me Charlie, you know I hate that. Now come on, we've got to-"
Charlotte's sentence was cut off as a sharp pain cut into her back and spread through her entire body in waves, like the effect of cracking glass. Because Draco couldn't see her backside, he did not understand at first what was going on.
"What's wrong?" he asked concernedly. His hand gently held her face as she opened her mouth in an attempt to speak. Just as quickly, Draco's eyes shot open in shock as Charlotte began to collapse.
Barely managing to catch her in the fall, Draco put an arm under her to support her back. It was then that he felt the wet warmth of blood.
Panicking, Draco rushed away with the girl and placed her in the Great Hall under the care of Madam Pomfrey. Because he was not ill himself, Draco was shoved out of the Great Hall to keep the area clear, but his heart was raging with fury. If something happened to her while he wasn't in there... someone would die.
Charlotte feebly opened her eyes, blinking away the grogginess. As soon as she was conscious she became aware of a numb pain in her lower back, and a throbbing headache.
"Charlotte," said a soft voice. Charlotte turned to see one of her best friends, Ginny. Despite her pain, Charlotte couldn't help the smile that crossed her face as she saw that Ginny was holding hands with none other than her long time crush, Harry Potter- another of Charlotte's best friends.
"Hey Ginny. Hey Harry," she whispered hoarsely.
"Do you need some water?" asked Harry, genuinely concerned. Nodding her head weakly, Charlotte was soon presented with a cool cup of water.
"Where am I?" she asked finally.
"St. Mungo's." Charlotte turned in surprise to see that on the other side of her bed stood Ron and Hermione, her two other closest friends. A happy smile lit Charlotte's face.
"It's good to see you guys."
"It's good to see you too," said Hermione sincerely.
"Yeah kiddo," added Ron, ruffling her hair affectionately, like a brother. "We were worried about you, ya know? You shouldn't do that to us."
"Oh, well I'm so sorry Ron," she replied sarcastically. "I'll try better to avoid curses next time." Charlotte struggled to sit up, and was deeply annoyed to find that she couldn't. Glancing between her friends, Charlotte chose to address Hermione.
"How bad is my condition?" Hermione grimaced as Ron and Harry both shot her a warning look, but Charlotte knew that Hermione would be honest and straightforward, no matter how bad it was. She didn't have quite the same faith in the two boys.
"Your back is paralyzed," Hermione told her hesitantly. "You'll... never be able to walk again."
Charlotte swallowed and breathed deeply in and out, staring up at the ceiling, trying to control her pain and devastation. After a moment of silence, Hermione spoke again.
"Listen, Charlotte, you've been having a visitor-"
"Hermione, hush up!" interrupted Ron in a whisper.
"She has the right to know!" Hermione shot back forcefully. Clearing her throat, she again addressed Charlotte.
"Draco Malfoy keeps stopping by, but well... we had him banned from the room. I mean... we didn't know why you'd want to see him. But it's your choice, so I just thought I should let you know," she explained, shooting the last three words pointedly at Ron. At the mention of Draco, Charlotte's stomach twisted in knots. She wasn't sure that she wanted him to see her like this- this twisted, ruined form of herself. But at the same time... she wanted to see him more than anything.
Funny how things turn out, she thought to herself in amusement.
"I'd like to see him," she told them quietly. All of her friends looked surprised, but they tried to mask it out of politeness. Exiting the room, they told her that they would let him be sent in. Only minutes later, the door handle clicked once more, and in strolled Draco.
"They wouldn't let me see you," he growled dangerously.
"So I hear," she teased. "I'm sorry."
"It was hell for me," he complained pitifully. "It's been a week since the battle Charlotte. A whole week when I couldn't see you."
"Well you went a whole bloody year without seeing me before that, so I doubt it could have been that bad," she muttered accusingly. Draco flinched but he reached out and grabbed her hand.
"I know and I'm sorry. You have to believe me when I say that I didn't have a choice. But now I'm back, and it's all over, and we can be together forever." Charlotte's heart beat furiously.
"Are you... are you sure that's what you want?" she whispered nervously. Draco gently tilted her head up so that their eyes met. Looking deep into her eyes, Draco frowned.
"What are you afraid of?" he asked softly.
"Loving you more than you love me," she replied just as quietly. Draco smiled gently and stroked her long, blonde locks.
"Never," he whispered lovingly. "I love you more than anything else in this world, my little lioness. You'll see. When you get out of here, I have a surprise waiting for you."
"A surprise?" Charlotte's voice brightened with childish excitement. "Oh come on, tell me. You know you want to." Draco chuckled at her response.
"Absolutely not. You'll be getting out soon, and it will be something to look forward to."
"Feeling alright?" Draco checked with her.
"Yeah, I just haven't disapparated in a while," she replied. "Not to mention, you're sloppier at disapparating than I am." Draco scowled.
"Now that is not a nice way to speak to someone who was kind enough to take you along with him because you can't apparate anymore."
"Yes I suppose that's true," she murmured. "So where are we going?"
Taking control of Charlotte's wheelchair, Draco began to push it down the street in Diagon Alley, not bothering to answer Charlotte's question.
"And... here we are!" he cried as he stopped them in front of a shop. Tears sprang to Charlotte's eyes and she wheeled herself forward to peer through the glass into the shop. Wheeling backwards, she looked once more at the sign hanging out front. It read:
"Draco, it's wonderful," she said appreciatively. "My very own clothing store..."
"You don't need to walk to work in the fashion industry," commented Draco. "And this is what you've always wanted to do anyways. I thought we could run it together."
"What, you?" she cried incredulously. "Involve yourself in the fashion industry?" Draco faked a hurt expression.
"Oy!" he exclaimed. "I am a very well dressed human being, thank you very much. If you recall, I always looked good."
"Mmm, well that's true," Charlotte murmured as Draco smirked and leaned down to kiss her gently.
"Charlotte..." Draco began, a bit nervously.
"Will you marry me?" Charlotte looked at him in surprise and felt herself unsure how to respond. She was sure that she loved him, but... so soon?
"I'll always look after you, take care of you," he continued. "You'll never be alone. We'll be together forever, just like I said." Suddenly, Charlotte realized with breathless delight that she wascompletely in love with this man, and she knew beyond a shadow of doubt that she would stay with him for the rest of her life.
Just to make him suffer a bit, Charlotte kept her silence for a few minutes. The tension was practically rolling off of Draco in waves. Finally Charlotte looked up towards him, and he bit his lip as she opened her mouth to reply.
"We'll have to change the name of our shop," she said with a dramatic sigh. "'Holloway' won't be appropriate anymore."
Draco grinned brightly and energetically kissed his now fiancé. Pulling back, he smirked slightly.
"Holloway Fashions sounds better than Malfoy Fashions," he said, "so I'll just let you keep your maiden name. Deal?"
"Deal," she agreed. Draco leaned down to kiss her once more, sealing their promise.