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Chapter 2: His Release
He stood in the rain, seemingly unable to speak, a look of desperation on his tired face. She couldn’t tell if actual tears were running down his cheeks or if it was the rain drops that he conjured. Either way, she knew his very soul was weeping.
Pity for her drenched guest washed over her. And she, not one to be timid, grabbed hold of his cloak and pulled him out of the pouring rain and into her dry home. And in a single well-rehearsed motion, she magically shut the door behind him, lit the fireplace, and started tea.
He didn’t expect hospitality. Given their history, he thought she might throw the ring at him and slam the door in his face, leaving him to search for it in the pouring rain. But she did no such thing and he was grateful.
Using his wand, he magically began drying himself, not wanting to get her home all wet.
When the tea was ready, she set her favorite rose-pattern china teapot with matching cups and their saucers along with cubes of sugar and a few mint leaves on a white wicker tray and magically moved it to the living room. Slowly and gracefully it hovered in front of her and when it was placed onto the coffee table next to some books, it barely made a sound.
She politely gestured for him to sit down on the sofa in front of the fireplace and have a cup, unsure if he would.
Dry, but still feeling cold, he nodded his appreciation and did what she had suggested.
He was surprised at the formality. Knowing that she would never go out of her way in an attempt to impress him, he surmised that she must always present her tea in such a way… an unexpected pleasantry that actually made him feel welcome.
While sipping their tea, they both noticed that the rain had subsided a bit. They could hear the rhythm of it falling against the roof. Otherwise, there were no other sounds except for an occasional cup clicking against its saucer and a crackle from the fire.
The rose pattern on the tea cup had him wondering about his son’s fiancé, Rose. He wondered how she was doing, but knew she was in the mental ward at St. Mungo’s and was afraid his words might unintentionally bring offense if he asked about her.
He looked up at Hermione and noticed how she sat straight in her chair, seemingly deep in thought. He marveled at how she seemed to be doing so well with the loss of Ron a year earlier and now… possibly Rose. He knew he was sitting in the same room next to the bravest woman he ever knew, but she had to be the strongest as well in not having an emotional breakdown. At least she seemed to be okay on the outside.
He wanted to ask her how she did it. How did she manage to live through such tragedy and still carry herself so properly? It seemed with every involuntary breath, his posture worstened until he was nearly bent in half. He thought it fitting, considering he only felt half alive. No matter.
His eyes moved lazily from the fire in front of him to her husband’s portrait above it. It was sleeping. He wondered if it had ever woke. Some of them never do.
It somehow had him thinking about his own failed marriage. Astoria moved out of the manor the very day that Scorpius left for his first year at Hogwarts, saying there was no reason for them to stay together anymore. At the train station, Draco knew he was not only saying goodbye to his son that day, but he was losing Astoria as well.
She left by choice, where Ron would’ve never left Hermione except in death.
Astoria’s leaving left Draco lonely and living solely for his child. But with the death of his only son, the loneliness… the emptiness of life seemed unbearable. There was only pain and he wasn’t sure if he could live with it… and wasn’t sure that he wanted to.
And the rain picked up yet again.
When he took the last sip of his tea, he set his cup on the tray wondering what he should say. He could see that she didn’t seem to notice that he was finished. She looked as if her mind was in the distant past. Was she thinking of Ron like he was thinking of Scorpius?
Draco was a patient man, but he didn’t know what to say to her. Small talk seemed inappropriate and there was certainly no need to talk about the weather. There was far too much history between them to offer some subtle or frivolous conversation. They were not strangers.
Truly, he was content with the silence. It wasn’t the awkward type. On the contrary, with the warmth of the fireplace, the warm tea heating his body, he felt comfort in being in a room with someone that would not expect him to speak… someone familiar that understood what grief felt like.
Hermione noticed that he had finished his tea and had closed his eyes briefly, placing a hand to his head as if it was hurting. She recalled the headaches that were caused by her endless crying, even months after Ron passed. He was obviously hurting and she didn’t expect that he would want to stay long.
He heard her make a move and when he opened his eyes, she was standing near him, holding the very item that he came for and offering it freely and without protest.
The silver Malfoy ring shined brightly as it reflected the light of the fireplace. For a split second he thought he saw the precious face of his son reflecting on the thin band, but it was his own reflection, not Scorpius.
She couldn’t help but notice the pain that struck his face at the sight of it. He was on the verge of spilling tears, but instead, the rain came down as if every huge drop was now punishing her home.
Ever-so-slowly he reached out his hand to receive it. He didn't really want it. He wanted his son to be alive and wearing it himself. But reality was a brutal thing.
She stepped closer to him and carefully placed it in the palm of his hand.
As soon as it touched his skin, he clutched it tight into a fist and turned his head in attempt to not break down in front of her.
His reaction took her breath a bit. For she had caught a glimpse into his sorrowful eyes, the very windows of his soul and saw that Draco Malfoy had a heart after all… and it was utterly shattered. Her breath caught and her eyes instantly watered at the witness of it.
Even though she had never lost a child, she knew the grief he was feeling and understood the pain of losing someone so dearly, dearly loved.
She wanted to tell him that everything was going to be okay, but she would be lying. Nothing was ever going to be okay for as long as he still breathed. This she knew.
She knew nearly everything about the man sitting in her living room. She knew that he was bred to believe that family was everything… legacy, history, future. But there would be no future for the Malfoy line. Draco was currently the last Malfoy… and to him, losing his only child must be devastation beyond measure.
She knew that he was now regretting any and all arguments that he had ever had with Scorpius over the years and that he felt guilty of times that he had told his son to go play so that he could be left alone and get work done. At least, those were her regrets concerning Ron… pushing him away at times for her own selfish reasons.
She also understood that every memory was now precious and that Draco would do anything to hear his son laugh once more. And that he now wished that any annoying thing Scorpius had ever done was all back, because anything bad was better than not having him at all. Just like Ron… she thought as she slowly sunk into the sofa cushion right next to Draco.
The pain of her thoughts caused a flash of lightning as she compared Draco’s loss to her own. It was the roll of thunder that interrupted her thoughts so that she refocused on the man hurting on her couch.
Hermione knew that Draco was alone in all of this. She saw Scorpius’s mother, Astoria as well as a line of his aristocratic snobby ex-girlfriends. They were all at the funeral to pay their respects, but none stayed to console him… not even Astoria. She was on her fourth husband and for years, rumors had surfaced that her excessive partying turned into an addiction to opiates and at the funeral she appeared to not understand what was happening.
No parent should have to bury their child. It wasn’t the way things should be and with that thought, Hermione began tearing up again at the tragedy of it all.
She thought of Rose. At least Rose was not dead. She had emotionally shut down, but was not dead. Hermione clung to hope that Rose would eventually see things through and come back. She had to believe it.
Draco could think of nothing, but his son’s face. He recalled the time when he gave him the ring, the surprise and pure happiness that it brought to his son’s gray eyes. It was like looking into his own eyes on that bittersweet day. And even though Scorpius had grown to be an adult wizard, he was certainly still too young to die.
He was supposed to marry Rose Weasley. Thankfully, Rose was more like her mother. It seemed the only thing she inherited from Ron was his hair color. And even though Draco said his peace in disliking his son’s choice, he was not going to stop it from happening. Most of his problem with it was sharing grandchildren with Ron, the thought of it leaving a putrid taste in his mouth. But those precious grandchildren he saw in his mind faded like ghosts of a future that was supposed to happen, but never would.
Draco clutched the ring tight in his hand and thought of how his son was the last Malfoy to wear it. The last.
Oh, how he would miss Scorpius, his only son. So much like him...
Overwhelming grief seemed to paralyze Draco in his seat. He still couldn’t turn to face Hermione as his body trembled, trying to hold in the ocean of tears that threatened to spill. He was failing yet again, still not strong enough to bare his tragedy. He didn’t dare move for fear of an emotional meltdown in front of Hermione Weasley.
He quickly took out a handkerchief from the inside pocket of his cloak and wiped at his escaped tears. In its place, he put the ring for safekeeping… in a spot directly over his heart.
As he was attempting to compose himself, but failing, Hermione moved so that she was sitting closer to him. Her heart had softened in seeing him in such a sorrowful state. He had no one and she remembered her own lonely nights. Nights that seemed to swallow her very will to live.
His back still to her, her hand went up behind him and after a brief moment of hesitation, she placed a careful and comforting hand against his shoulder blade.
She thought he might abruptly stand and refuse her touch, but when he didn’t, she proceeded to run her hand across his shoulders.
Her touch not only surprised him, but so did his body’s reaction to it. It seemed to allow him to take a deep breath and exhale some of the pain. It was as if someone finally gave him permission to let out his grief.
It was okay that a grown man cried. It was okay for a father to grieve. It was okay... and right... and accepted.
Over and over again her hand brushed circles of comfort against his back. But with each one, a sob escaped and then came an outpouring that he’d been holding in ever since the night of the funeral. His body shook as his grief surfaced and overwhelmed him.
She moved in to hold him tighter then, encouraging him to let it out, crying with him, hoping it would lighten the burden so that he could breathe again. She understood the fight in trying to hold it all in for so long and knew that a release was necessary.
The body could only hold in so much sorrow.
With one hand still on his back, she reached around and placed her other hand lovingly on his neck and pulled him into a caring and understanding embrace.
And the powerful wizard beside her... grieved.
Raindrops came hard and fast. And as he pictured Scorpius now in the family graveyard under a headstone that read, Beloved Son, the pain in his chest felt like his heart was ripping and tearing into two separate pieces. As the pain tore through him, a fierce lightning bolt streaked through the night sky.
He grieved and wept until his face was blood-red and his body was completely spent and utterly exhausted.
When he could breathe again, thoughts went to the one that was holding him together while he fell apart. He couldn’t believe that she would do such a thing as to lay loving hands on him. It was an indescribable comfort in his dire moment of grief.
He could never fully comprehend how a truly loving touch from another had the power to release such heart-wrenching emotions. He never knew it to be possible... until now.
As his thoughts went from his loss to her hands still on him, comforting him through his pain, it was enough to help him finally compose himself.
With his head still turned away, unable to look at her or speak through the soreness in his throat, he opened his swollen, blood-shot eyes briefly and noticed the book’s title that was sitting on the side table. It was titled, Dealing with the Loss of the Beloved.
Turning his head a bit, he noticed the three books on the coffee table next to the tea tray and four more on the fireplace mantle. It dawned on him then that there wasn’t a single book that wasn’t about dealing with loss, letting go, and moving on after a loved one had passed.
Of course she would turn to books to try and find answers on how to deal with grief. He wondered if any of them had helped her.
Still trying to recover from his outpouring, he picked up one of the books titled, When Life Turns Tragic, then looked at her with a curious and hopeful eyebrow raised, silently asking her if it had helped. Perhaps she would recommend that he read it or maybe another that she had stashed about.
He searched her eyes, only to find a deep disappointment in the book he had chosen.
She slowly let go of him then shook her head no. That book held nothing of value to her. No real advice.
He chose another, Living in the Aftermath. But this time, she bit her lip, thinking about that book in particular. But she ended up shaking her head yet again, this time with watery eyes in realizing she hadn’t read a single book that she would recommend to him.
She stood and went to the mantle, picking up a book she hated called Letting Go of the Lost. The title suggested that it would help. But when it claimed that ‘lingering grief was only the fault of the griever,’ she found it offensive and abruptly stopped reading it.
Draco thought she picked it up as the one she would recommend, but had to withhold his shock when he witnessed her suddenly toss it into the fireplace. She stood with arms folded as she silently watched it burn to nothing.
Her heart became heavy as she realized that of all the books in her living room, none had helped her take away the pain or fill the emptiness of her fragile heart.
She abruptly picked up another, Of Loss and Living Again, and threw it into the fire as well. She picked up another and another and didn’t stop until every last one of them was burning to ashes.
Lightning struck. Thunder shook the house and rattled the windows as she placed both hands on the mantle, sobbing as quietly as possible, underneath Ron’s magical portrait.
The rain poured as Draco realized what she was telling him without words; that she had not found a book written that eased a grieving person’s pain. None of them helped her live through the agonizing and hurtful emptiness of losing Ron.
Nothing had helped her and she was still a fragile mess.
He appreciated her heart-felt honesty, however brutal it was. Grief was a complicated, gut-wrenching emotion to sort through and at that moment, they were both drowning in it.
A sick feeling came over him, sorry that he hadn’t shown more sympathy for her a year ago. But he had no idea how she was feeling or how she was hurting… not until now in the wake of his own grief.
And Ron’s portrait, he somehow knew, had not come to life to speak to her. He couldn’t imagine the wait and hope for something that wasn’t going to happen. Too much time had passed for it to wake now. Surely she knew this and it only contributed to her pain and devastating disappointment.
Draco knew her… knew that she had no patience for such a thing and that she probably went nearly insane begging, pleading, and shouting at the portrait to come to life over the past year, to no avail.
Portraits were supposed to help those grieving by having the loved one live on a bit… their voice, their mannerisms, and opinions living on in a portrait. But when they didn’t wake…
Still no dialogue. :) Up next and very soon, Her Lightning... as she deals with Ron's portrait.
Many thanks for your wonderful Reviews for this sad, sad story. Please continue to let me know how you feel about it. I love hearing from you.