Ash leaves her fellow Freshers stunned when her health takes a sudden turn for the worse in halls, and she's quickly rushed to hospital for emergency attention.
With Ash in a serious condition, her family starts to crumble under the pressure - with troubled mum Martha (Carli Norris) drowning her sorrows and sixth former Callum (Laurie Duncan) forced to take charge of the situation as best he can.
Digital Spy recently chatted to Holly Weston, who plays Ash, to hear about the storyline.
What was Ash's meningitis storyline like to film?
"At first it was difficult - I made sure that I looked into how meningitis would affect a person, because I wanted it to look realistic. I thought it was important to research it, because I didn't really know anything about meningitis and I've never known anybody who's had it.
"After looking into it, I think it's quite a relevant storyline for Hollyoaks to do, because meningitis tends to affect younger adults, so I think that's why they try to make people aware of it at universities.
"But then after I'd done all the stuff where Ash gets ill, being in a coma is not actually that difficult to act! (Laughs) So that bit wasn't too bad!"
What can you tell us about the build-up to the storyline?
"Before Ash gets ill, she's involved in some arguments. She's having a bit of trouble with her younger sister Lacey, who's just been expelled from school. There's a bit of a row over whether Lacey should tell her mum or not, so that adds to Ash's stresses. Once Ash does collapse, Lacey feels really bad and she has a bit of a guilt trip."
"Ash has the bacterial meningitis, which is the really serious one - you can die within a few hours of getting it. So it's really important to know all the signs of the illness, although they can be quite difficult to spot.
"A lot of the symptoms are just like flu, such as having a headache, being sensitive to the light, and feeling sick. So when Ash gets ill, at first everyone just thinks that she has a hangover or flu."
How does Callum react to Ash's illness?
"They're really close as brother and sister, and I think you see just how close they are in this storyline. We've often seen them pretending that they don't really get on, or Ash speaking to Callum like he's the annoying little brother.
"But underneath it all, you can see how much they care about each other. You really see Callum panic in this storyline, and it's quite nice to see a new side of their relationship."
Is George involved in the storyline too?
"Yes, he's becoming more of a family member now, because he's still living with the Kanes and he's still really good friends with Callum. You'll see that George is really trying to help everyone else get through this."
"Yes, this is where we discover that Martha's not quite the good mum that she pretends to be! She does have a bit of an alcohol problem, and it's the first time that we see it. Callum has to deal with Martha without Ash being there, which is quite difficult for him.
"You'll see why Ash and Callum moaned about Martha before. They've always hinted at Martha being a bit of a nightmare mum, but the viewers have never really understood why. So now you get a good picture of that."
Will comes to Ash's bedside at the hospital. Are those two becoming more than just friends?
"I think Ash is maybe starting to hope that they could be more than friends, but we don't know what Will's thinking. It's kind of a 'will they, won't they?' scenario. I don't know how Will would react to Ash's feelings. But it seems like it could be more than just friends, because he seems to care so much."
Our readers voted Ash as their favourite Fresher last year. Are you pleased with the reaction she's getting?
"I'm really pleased, but I think that is definitely down to the writing. When I first came in for the audition and read about the character of Ash, I was really excited. It was great to get the part, because I couldn't have asked for a better character.
"I love that Ash just doesn't care! Because it's Hollyoaks, I'd wondered whether I'd have to wear loads of make-up, be dolled up all the time and wear heels! But it's really nice to be a little bit different. It's fun to play a cooler, messier character."
"Yeah, definitely. And there's things we still don't know, such as where the dad is and stuff like that. But it's really good to have the family growing, and it's quite cool that they're all quite similar characters - they're all a bit dark and moody, which is fun to play!"
How similar are you to Ash?
"I guess I'm quite similar, but there's some things that Ash does that I wish I had the guts to do! It's nice that I can be quite wild on screen, when sometimes I wouldn't be in real life. I don't think I drink as much as Ash - I'm definitely not as hungover as she is!"
Can we expect any more Ash and Brendan scenes?
"I hope so! I really loved doing those scenes - they were really exciting. It was really fun getting to work with Emmett Scanlan, and that storyline was quite full-on, really delving into Brendan's history. It'd be nice to do something like that again, having Ash psychoanalysing him."
Finally, congratulations on your British Soap Award nomination for 'Best Actress'. How does it feel to be in the running?
"I feel really humbled and I was really surprised - I really didn't expect that at all. It's lovely and really flattering, but the other girls are all amazing as well."
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Hollyoaks airs weekdays at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with a first look screening at 7pm on E4. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad