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As her feet pounded the ground beneath her, the young woman's breath came in short gasps. It was the oddest thing, being hunted. Just like the prey of a lion, her life had an inevitable end. Yet she was surprised to find herself in this situation. If asked, she would have said that she would die at the hands of Voldemort’s wrath. This death seemed much too easy, yet somehow more obscene.
She dodged a tree, the figure behind her gliding through several trunks like a gas and reemerging on the other side, more solid and threatening than before. Its rattling breathing sounded closer than seconds previously, a testament to how slow she was moving, yet the adrenaline in her veins caused her to speed up. There was no use running and she knew it. Fighting had always been Hermione’s style; she’d never been one to give up, after all.
Screaming was no use, though she had no breath to do so. A piece of her wished that if she only let a shriek rip from inside her, the battle behind her would stop and Ron would save her. But it was unrealistic to waste her energy on a scream that would only mingle with the other hundreds on the battlefield.
A wand would not have helped her, if she had one. Which she didn't. The raging war behind her had filled her mind and no happy memories were surfacing.
She had always heard that the few seconds before you died, your life flashed before your eyes. Family, friends, lovers…The people that meant most to you supposedly clouded your vision and, as death greeted you with open arms, you went willingly, the last moments on earth spent reliving the good times.
How wrong these assumptions had been.
It was ironic, really, that the film playing in her mind was consumed with pictures of destruction.
Harry, with shadowed eyes, screaming for help as he held Ginny’s bleeding body in his arms.
Ron, fighting three Death Eaters at once while being pushed farther and farther into a corner.
Luna, her blond hair whipping to-and-fro across her back, taking a Stunning Spell straight to the chest.
Neville, tripping on the hem of his robes before debris from the castle cascaded over him, blocking him from view.
Mrs. Weasley, along with her husband, running out from under the foot of one of the several giants.
Fleur, flying through the air, her beauty shadowed by her expressionless and lifeless face.
Dead house-elves strewn across the grounds, like little mounds of earth, their lives unlived to the fullest.
If only their death could be as easy as hers was going to be. No pain, no suffering. The terror that engulfed her would be gone soon enough, the worst of the whole experience.
She tripped and knew these were her last seconds. She tried to appreciate her last breaths, the air filling her lungs and escaping through her mouth, causing her chest to heave. Turning, she faced the thing that would soon take her soul from this world, and, inevitably, cause her to die. She wanted this to be quick, but the creature seemed to be taking its time as it approached her.
A cold washed over her, but it did not affect her as it should have. Her heart was frozen already, stored away in a Weasley that was surely dead. She no longer felt pain; she was defiant in her leaving of this universe.
Their chase through the woods had exerted her, but this thing looked…well, as its kind always did. Dark, hooded, the omen of death, of the end. It didn’t even pause; it swoop over her was swift.
This was it.
The distant screams, crashes of concrete and marble, sounded like they were coming from a long tunnel. And then they were gone. The creature was sucking the senses from her.
It was just her and it, alone in her world for the last seconds. Its hood lowered and Hermione’s heart soul its last as the terrible monster kissed her.
A farewell kiss.
The battle was over. The grounds of the school were scattered in masses, the lifeless shapes of bodies. It would be considered a victory, though few remained alive. The Dark Lord was dead. Precious Potter had killed the wizard who had caused this war and was among those who had survived.
But Draco’s parents were dead, their bodies limp where he had found them. They had fought on the losing side; they could not have expected any different. Draco still felt a stab of regret. He himself had fought both with the Death Eaters and the Order of the Pheonix, ensuring that he would remain unimprisoned in the end. His plan had worked - the few surviving Death Eaters were probably in the Ministry at this moment, pleading their cases against a biased court. After all, this had been the worst Wizarding war to date.
The scene on the grounds was oppressing, an eyesore. A few dozen people picked through the bodies, marking the dead and taking the injured into the remaining half of the castle. Draco, instead of helping, faced toward the forest and began to walk. Death was not any less of a blow for Draco, however much he might act like it. More than anything, he feared he would find someone else he knew and feel that jolt of surprise and sickening dread, as it had been when the young man found his parents.
The path the giants had made through the forest was the one Draco chose, occasionally sidestepping a bolder or climbing over a fallen tree. Even here, where the forest must have stood for hundreds of years, was destruction. Draco’s ears were screaming in protest from the lack of noise; the last few hours had been filled with shouting and the booming of explosions ripping through the castle. The silence was deafening, somehow. Pressure filled his ears and he breathed deeply.
Draco was no longer frightened of the forest. Perhaps because of the danger he had just experienced that was so terror evoking, perhaps because whatever creatures he had feared before were surely eaten by giants or scared away themselves. Whichever of the two, he continued on.
After ten minutes, he heard a rushing sound and a despair deeper than what he was feeling wash over him. He knew immediately what it was and, thinking quickly, pulled out his wand, a happy thought already surfacing.
‘I’m alive. I’m alive!’
Waving his wand in a wide arc, he managed an, “Expecto Patronum!” despite the fact that he voice was hoarse from smoke.
The Dementor sped off into the shadow of the trees, Draco’s Patronus a mere rush of white gas as it disappeared after the monster. The arrival of the Dementor had distracted him. Why was it in the forest? Surely, it would want to suck the little hope in left from those making their way across the battlefield. Was it possible it had chased victims into the forest during the battle? Draco squinted towards where the dementor had come from but saw no one. It was possible the wizards and witches the Dementor had chased into the forest had procured Patronus’s and had returned to the battle, only to be murdered. Draco assumed so and continued walking.
Draco should turn back; there were innocent people dying on the grounds as others were saved. But he couldn’t. The overwhelming realization of how ghastly war was washed over him. For once, Draco felt empathy for someone. Not someone - everyone. All the students, all the teachers, all the fighters. Dead. When he thought about it, he envied the dead. They were not necessarily in a better place, but in a place that was not here. A place where the destruction wasn’t so obvious, so apparent. A place where the innocent children were treated as such, where pain and suffering did not fill the pores. The dead got out of it easy. They died for justice, a noble way to die. Draco fought for freedom and cheated his way to it - an undignified way to live.
The living had to cope with death, approach it, but not really embrace it, as the dead surely had to. The living were the ones who had to endure the aftermath of death, however peaceful it might have been for the dead to leave.
Images of the battle, as he remembered them, were fuzzy yet fresh in his mind. Oddly enough, the image that was burned into his peripheral vision was one of Scarhead and his girlfriend.
Voldemort was dead. His body lay feet away from where the black-haired young man was hunched over on the ground, his head resting on a girl‘s chest. All was silent, except for the sobs that rocked his body with tremors. The girl laying on the ground had her eyes shut and her hair was matted with blood. Her chest, motionless under the man’s head, was a sure indicator that she was dead.
Draco blinked and kicked a tree branch out of his way. He sympathized for the hero, as well. In all the Wizarding wars Draco had heard about, there was always a winning side, the conquering army. They always seemed to sustain few losses and those that were killed were inconsequential deaths. War seemed to be less turmoil and the destruction always took place in the losing sides’ headquarters.
But this…this was very unlike those narrative, heroic Wizarding wars. This battle… The casualties were astronomical; the living few. The victorious sides’ 'headquarters' was destroyed. And what had been gained? Freedom from the lung bursting fear of Voldemort, but in comparison to the lost lives… There was barely any witch or wizard left in Britain to enjoy the relief at the knowledge that Voldemort’s reign on the country was finished. And there would be those who would mourn the deaths of their family, no longer able to enjoy a friend’s company because they were slain.
So much lost for so little to be gained. And yet considered a -
Draco stopped. He had found someone.
The Dementor did not have victims. Just one. One victim. Even from fifteen feet away, he knew who it was. Draco would know that bushy brown hair from fifty feet away.
He felt defeated. Even his freedom was not bright enough to mask this nauseating discovery. Why, oh why, did she have to go this way?
Draco took slow steps towards her. He knew what a Dementor’s Kiss did to a person, what it took from the witch or wizard in question, and it would not make this discovery any simpler, any easier to forget. But he was curious.
He stopped, his feet by her waist, and looked down at her.
Her Gryffindor robes were torn at the knees and ripped on one of her arms, revealing a gash that had blood caked around it. Her exposed skin on her hands, neck and face were smudged with dirt. Scratches sprinkled her face and hands, while her hair, containing leaves and twigs, cushioned her head.
Hermione Granger might have been sleeping if her eyes were not open. The orbs set into her skull, once a chocolaty brown, showed the evidence of the Dementor’s Kiss. They were milky white, unblinking, staring up into the smoky sky. There was no light, no life, behind the white clouding her vision, making this image of her so much abhorrent.
She was better off dead.
Draco wanted to pull his own eyes out. This image of the girl he had tortured would haunt him for the rest of his life.
So this is what it was like. There were all those bodies on the battleground, their souls intact but the person belonging to the body dead. And there was Hermione, the soul detached from the body, but still functioning.
When Draco glanced around, he felt an unpleasant jolt in the pit of his stomach. No wand in sight. She had been defenseless, vulnerable. An easy target. The terror as the Dementor approached in her last seconds… Draco shuddered at the thought. He stood there for a few minutes, thinking hard.
‘It’s the least I can do,’ he thought as he stooped down suddenly and took the girl in his arms, clutching her tightly to his chest. Draco’s thought was an attempt at convincing himself he was doing the right thing before he apparated.
Draco staggered as his feet hit the hard marble floors of his manor, gripping the girl in his arms more tightly to his body in fear of dropping her. “Snidget!” he called. There was no response. Speaking louder, he shouted, “Snidget!”
A house-elf came skittering into the room, trembling from head to foot. “Mr. Malfoy,” the elf squeaked, “shall I take your outer cloak? Sir? You have been gone a long time, sir, if you don’t mind the-”
Draco interrupted the elf’s speech, staring at the mudblood in his arms. “I need a bottle of dittany. Bring it up to my parents bedroom.” Pausing, he added a mumbled, “please.” Draco then climbed up elaborate staircase, his footsteps echoing in the large foyer behind him. When he reached the second landing, he walked towards a set of double doors at the end of a long hallway. The doors were closed and Draco hesitated before turning the handle one of the doors. When he peered in, as if expecting his parents to snap at him for coming into their private space, Draco felt a shiver pass over his body.
His parents were dead and Draco held a girl of impure blood to his body like she was his lover or something.
This was not right.
Turning around, he shut the door quietly, not wanting to disturb the peace left in the wake of his parents death, and stepped towards his bedroom, which was, realistically, his own wing in the gargantuan house.
“Sir?” Snidget appeared at the top of the staircase, holding a small bottle in his hands. The expression on the elf’s face made it apparent he was slightly confused.
“I decided just to use my bedroom instead.” Draco walked the rest of the way down the hallway, Snidget trailing behind him. After the blond young man opened the door, he walked over the threshold, feeling immediately at ease in his own space.
The spacious room was decorated in the colors of Draco’s house, Slytherin, the furniture dark, masculine and consisting mostly of leather. The space had an arrangement of leather sofas, arm chairs, and loveseats stationed around a fireplace in one corner; another, a heavy wooden desk with a book chest; and on Draco’s immediate right was a canopied, king-size bed with a night table on both sides. A door approximately twenty feet from the foot of Draco’s bed led to his bathroom.
Draco lay Hermione on the bed and took the bottle from Snidget, gently rolling up her sleeves of her robes before pouring the liquid over the scrapes. The bloody slices in her skin disintegrated under the foaming liquid so that her hands were clean of any markings. The gash on her arm, the worst of the obvious physical injuries, healed as well, so that only a soft scar was left behind. Draco then took her head in his bottle-free hand and poured a few drops of the substance over her face and neck.
The absence of cuts on her skin did not make her look much better. She was still dirty, blood remained where the cuts were no longer, and her position on the forest floor had left leaves in her bushy mane.
Feeling a bit awkward at what he knew should be done, Draco stared at the girl a bit longer, like he was wishing she would spring back to life. Her wide, staring eyes were still open, and her lips were spread wide and unclosed, causing Draco the sudden and unexplainable urge to shut them.
A cough behind him alerted him to the presence of his house-elf, whom he had forgotten momentarily. Relieved, Draco asked, “Snidget, could you clean her up? Please? A bath would do her good. Make sure her hair is washed, too, okay? And…” Draco hesitated, glancing over her torn and dirty robes. “She can wear some of my mum’s clothes. Just… make sure they have tags on them, alright?” Draco didn’t like the thought of this soulless Hermione wearing clothing that his mother had worn once before.
Snidget immediately answered, “Yes, sir.”
Draco looked at Hermione, still speaking to his elf. “You can use my bathroom.” He paused. “You won’t need my help, will you?”
“No, no of course not, Mr. Malfoy. I can do it myself, sir.”
Draco let out an intake of breath, calmed once more, and watched as his elf snapped his fingers, causing Hermione to float in the air. Snidget followed her as she disappeared within Draco’s bathroom.
Draco walked silently out of his bedroom - his movements, his words had seemed to be more subdued since the battle; Snidget must be wondering what had happened to his heartless master over the course of his absence.
Draco had brought the girl to his home without thinking so many things through. What was he going to do with a soulless body? Surely, he couldn’t leave her like this; the only reason Draco had brought her to his house was because he wanted to convince himself that she would not be eternally stuck like this. And if she was stuck like that…. The kindest thing would be to kill her. But he could not… After all his years emotionally torturing her, he could not kill her. But it wasn’t about what he could or couldn’t do; it was what was most human to do. If she was to die, Draco could not live with himself. He would not live with himself; he could sooner kill himself that kill Hermione.
It seemed like he was already linked to Hermione Granger, though he had only been aware of her cursed existence for a mere half hour. Her bonds to life were also his; if he could save her, he would allow himself to continue waking up in the morning. If he could not… They were both dead, gone to the place that he had envied the deceased for.
But what would he do with her?
Was that all he could do: kill her?
Was there another option? Another option that had seemed impossible before? But now…now that he had seen what a Dementor did to a person, surely there was a way to reverse it. Shouldn’t there be?
Draco took the steps two at a time as he headed back downstairs.
He had to know.
For someone like Hermione, there had to be another option.
He was sitting in his father’s study that doubled as a library, several stacks of books settled around his hunched frame. Draco was reading quickly and jotting down notes on a piece of parchment that looked as though there was very little room left. At the moment, he was 200 hundred pages into Soul Searching: The Guide to Finding One’s Soul After the Dementor’s Kiss. Apart from the dusty books, pieces of parchment and quill, there were also several identical bottles sitting on the broad desktop Draco was working over. A few were empty, their corks scattered across the carpeted floor. Any time Draco felt his eyes closing on him, he would take a gulp from one of the blue bottles and a burst of something that resembled caffeine would rush through his veins.
So immersed in his work was Draco that he didn’t hear the study door open and close or Snidget say, “Sir?” The elf had to repeat himself once, twice more before Draco heard him. Even then, Draco was only half listening, for he was at a part in the book that would prove vital.
A soul is extremely difficult to find for a witch or wizard must know the exact soul and the dementor containing it. It is not, however, impossible to retrieve the correct soul; it is merely a daunting task. The soul in question may be mangled or partially intact, but on the few occasions where the soul is quite whole and replaced into the right person, the life of the witch or wizard can be carried out normally.
Draco looked up, a smile spreading across his pale features, to hear the last of what Snidget was saying.
“-making noises, Mr. Malfoy, and Snidget is getting very worried, sir, very worried indeed.”
“The miss upstairs that Mr. Malfoy had Snidget clean and dress is making odd noises, sir, and-”
Draco leapt up from his chair. “Noises? What sorts of noises?”
Snidget began to shake in fear of Draco’s reaction. “Well, sir, it sounded like ‘grr,grr,grrrr.’”
Draco’s eyes widened and he ran out of the study, through several hallways, and up the stairs. When he entered his bedroom, Draco stopped.
In the light of several lanterns lit about the room, as well as the fireplace, Hermione Granger appeared whole and unharmed on his bed. Her hair still bushy, but shiny, was clearly clean. She was dressed in a silk robes and looked quite elegant, with her exposed skin as pale and pure as porcelain. Snidget must have shut the lids over her eyes, because with her chest moving up and down slowly, she appeared to be sleeping peacefully.
She didn’t sound like she was making any noises, to Draco.
“Snidget,” he began, turning to the elf that had followed him up the stairs. But Draco had heard it.
“That’s it, sir. Every few minutes, the miss makes that noise.”
If Draco wasn’t running purely on three bottles of Revival Draught, he’d have laughed. Because he was, however, operating on magic evoked energy and not real energy, he sighed in annoyance. “Snidget, she’s hungry. It was only her stomach growling.”
“My sincerest apologies, sir. I didn’t mean-”
“It’s fine. But you should probably cook something up for her to eat.” Draco was already turning to go.
“Would Mr. Malfoy like something to eat for himself, sir?”
“Sure. But I’ll have it in my father’s office.” Draco took several long strides towards the open door before the elf stopped him once more with a tentative, “Sir?”
Exasperated, Draco answered, “Yes?”
“What would Mr. Malfoy like to do with the miss’s effects?”
“Her clothing, sir-”
“Just throw it out, Snidget.”
“What about this?”
Feeling weary now, Draco asked, “What?”
“It’s a ring, sir.”
Draco spun around. In Snidget’s small palm rested a gold ring with a small diamond set into the petite band.
“Where did that come from?” Draco demanded, his voice harsh.
Snidget’s eyes opened wide in terror. “Mr. Malfoy, sir, it was on her hand.”
“Where? Exactly what finger was it on?”
Shaking, the elf pointed to the ring finger on Hermione’s left hand.
Draco’s voice lowered to a tone that was dangerously low; it was barely audible, a vast change from his manner only moments before. “Are you sure?”
The elf gave one nod of the head, preparing himself for his master’s explosion, not to be disappointed. Draco clenched his teeth, hissing furiously. The house-elf drew himself back to the nearest wall in response.
But even this action of ultimate fear could not recede Draco’s anger. “Dammit!” He roared. “Oh, dammit! Oh, bastards of the deepest pit of hell!” The young man backed out of the room trembling in resentment and horror. He felt his way down the stairs and through the corridors of the mansion, his hands clutching at the skin on his face. When Draco reached his father’s study, he sank into the leather armchair he had occupied minutes before, practically sobbing. “Why? Why did she have to be engaged? Why did this have to happen to her? Oh why, God, why?”
In his exhaustion, he began questioning a concept he had no belief in. But if Hermione Granger could be damned to such a terrible fate, then anything was possible. Even God. However, God had not caused this.
Curse the evil man! May he rot in hell. How could he stand by and allow for so many people to die? And how could he allow pure people like Granger to have a cursed end?
She was a vegetable. A vegetable he had healed, cleaned, and clothed, a vegetable his house-elf was cooking a meal for at this very moment.
The words he had read only minutes beforehand echoed in his mind.
“It is not, however, impossible…”
“…the life of the witch or wizard can be carried out normally…”
Then other words came to mind.
“…the few occasions..."
Hermione would be among the “few”. He would find her soul and she could return to begin engaged or married or whatever she was with Weasley.
Draco would save her.
He took a swig from an opened bottle of Revival Draught on his desk and returned to his reading, a new determination to save the engaged woman he had found alight inside him.
AN: Hello all! I want to take a quick moment to thank all of you faithful readers and reviewers, because you are the ones that keep me doing this and that motivate me! I would also like to say that the beginning of this chapters is important so that you know what is going on, but it also comes into play later in the story. Thank you once again and keep reading! ^_^
6 May 1998
Granger, of Golden Trio, Missing
As other stories will cover, yesterday was the worst Wizarding war in history, with a record of over two hundred casualties. However, the fate of one rather famous name remains unknown.
Hermione Granger, female pal of hero Harry Potter, is missing. Whether kidnapped or hiding, her whereabouts are anyone’s guess. Her fiancé, Ronald Weasley and, coincidentally, Potter’s best friend, was killed during the battle yesterday. While Potter is obviously devastated, sources tell us that he has a lot on his plate. His off-on again girlfriend, Ginevra Weasley, is in critical condition at St. Mungos. A healer tells us that she is in a private ward and Potter visits her when he isn’t conducting the search party for Ms. Granger or in meetings with the temporary Minster of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt. It seems that, even after defeating You-Know-Who, Potter’s life is as dark and devastating as before.
9 May 1998
Crowd gathers for Weasley’s Service in Godric’s Hollow
A crowd of over three hundred people gathered outside of the cemetery for those who gave their lives in the most recent wizarding war trying to pay their respects to the late Ronald Weasley, best mate of Harry Potter and unsung hero of the war, even though there was a public service being held later that day. Only twenty people made it in for the private service at Ronald’s grave, among them Neville Longbottom, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts Minerva McGonagall, and Hogwarts Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid. The ceremony lasted under an hour, in which inside sources tell The Prophet that Harry Potter gave an account of Ron’s life as he knew it and concluded the ceremony with a tearful goodbye.
After the burial, the crowd of people who had gathered in the muggle church outside the cemetery participated in a public service in memory of Ronald. His family and friends from the private service were present to the public one, sitting in the front pew of the church. Anyone who wished to give an anecdote of how they remembered Ronald or a commemorative speech was free to speak.
Ronald’s only sister, Ginevra, was unable to make it to the service as she remains in critical condition at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
23 May 1998
Potter’s Girlfriend released from St. Mungo’s
Ginevra Weasley, sister of the late Ronald Weasley and occasional girlfriend of hero Harry Potter, has been released from St. Mungo’s. One of the many healers who aided Miss Weasley said, “She was very close to death when she came to St. Mungo’s eighteen days ago, but she is as healthy as a hippogriff now. I think she is just happy to be alive and able to leave St. Mungo’s after such a short time, considering how dangerously close Miss Weasley was to death.” Ginevra paid her respects to her brother almost immediately after being released, accompanied by Harry Potter.
It had been twenty-one days. Twenty-one long, wearisome days in which Draco had not slept one wink. He was adamant in his refusal to sleep. First and foremost, he feared nightmares of Hermione’s lifeless form as he had found her. Secondly, even with a potion that guaranteed no dreams, the whole idea of sleeping seemed like a waste of time. The more time Draco spent participating in useless activities, the more time Hermione was kept alive yet soulless. He didn’t want to live with this girl any longer than he had to.
But he was ready. He had spent approximately nine days reading books on Dementors and souls, taking notes on his readings, and answering any preconceived questions he had had about retrieving and replacing souls. A week had been used practicing spells like the Disillusionment Charm and Memory Charms. The remaining five days were exhausted as Draco had planned for his journey. He would leave tomorrow, after explaining almost everything to Snidget.
Draco stood up from his father’s chair and stretched. He welcomed leaving the confinement of the Manor, albeit large, and engaging in some adventurous acts. Reading and writing and practicing spells could only distract Draco’s troubled mind so much.
He walked out of the study, up the stairs, and to his bedroom. As Draco neared his slightly ajar door, he heard a voice. It was Snidget’s. When Draco glanced into his bedroom, in the direction of the bed, there the elf was, talking to Hermione. Draco might have felt infuriated, but instead felt a rush of sympathy for both the house-elf and Hermione.
Draco had explained little to the elf in the last three weeks, only that which was necessary. In a few minutes, he would explain everything. Yet Draco should have paid attention more, appreciated the house-elf a little more, as what Draco was about to ask of the house-elf was great. And Hermione… she was still a person. A person who deserved more than just food and water. Of course, it would be a bit ridiculous speaking to a soulless person, but Draco should have tried, at least. Snidget had made the most symbolic of acts by doing the unasked; Draco would remember that when if his life returned to normal.
His footfalls were soft as Draco turned around and stepped back down the hallway before, once again, towards his bedroom; he did not want Snidget to know Draco had seen the elf communicating with Hermione.
“Snidget!” Draco called the elf’s name, to announce his arrival. His plan had worked; when Draco entered his bedroom, the elf was facing the doorway with a look of expectancy on his elf-like features.
“Yes, Mr. Malfoy?”
Draco gestured to a sofa stationed around the fireplace in a corner of his bedroom. “I need to talk to you.”
The elf looked warily at the sofa; house-elves were not usually invited to sit down in presence of their master, and this rule was unbroken in the Malfoy household. Draco nodded assuredly and Snidget took a seat gingerly on the edge of a cushion. Draco himself sat across from Snidget in an armchair.
“Snidget,” Draco began, “I haven’t been very fair to you. I show up here with her-” he gestured behind him to Hermione on the bed “-and I don’t even explain to you what happened. Then I shut myself away in my father’s study and expect you to feed her and clean her every day. I wasn’t fair at all.”
Draco continued to tell Snidget what had happened the evening of the final battle. He explained how he pretended to be on each side so he would live and recalled to the elf when he had found his parent’s bodies, not even pausing at the elf’s gasp or widened eyes. But when he began to describe the moment he had found Hermione, he had to stop; a lump in his throat had made him temporarily incapable of speech.
Draco glanced away from Snidget to blink back the tears, the memories too fresh. He could still feel the trembling of the earth beneath him, still see the smoke lingering above the trees. When he had regained speech, Draco whispered, “Snidget, I’m leaving. Tomorrow. It’s the only hope I have of saving her. I know what I need to do. But I need to ask one last thing of you, Snidget, one final thing.”
“I need you to stay with her. Feed her, bathe her, make sure she is comfortable. And…” Draco hesitated, wondering how to word the most important part of the request, for the slightest of seconds. “Care for her. She’s needs it, soul or not.”
Listening to his tone, Draco wondered why he sounded so grim, so absolute. Then, it occurred to him. Three weeks previously, Draco swore his life depended on Hermione Granger’s survival. But now, now that it was so close that it was almost tangible, Draco wondered what would happen after she got her soul back. Her fiancé was dead, but Scarhead and his girlfriend were alive. She could carry on as normally as possible, grieve Weasel’s death and maybe move on, get married and have children.
But Draco had nothing. School was over, there was no reason to work; he had the money. There was nothing but this empty house and Snidget.
There was no point.
So this was it.
Draco’s life expectancy depended on how quickly Hermione’s soul was found, not if it was found. It made no sense how attached he had gotten to her. But if this was his only, solitary act of kindness, he suppose he owed it to Hermione Granger.
Most, before a long journey, made sure they got a good night’s rest. Draco, instead, packed. At least a half a dozen rolls of parchment filled a briefcase, each marked with different titles. Draco had also decreased the size of a thin mattress and stuck it in the case, along with the scrolls. Satisfied at his light packing job, Draco went up to his bedroom and tried to ignore Hermione as he entered his bathroom, but as he turned around to close the door, he caught a glimpse of her. He felt a familiar jolt and tried to suppress the urge he had to leave at that very second.
There was a black marble bath tub that could fit half a dozen people, comfortably, but Draco chose the shower instead. He stripped off his clothing, realizing he hadn’t changed his attire since before the battle. It was odd, how Hermione had changed him so. Even hygiene, which had once been very high up on his list of priorities, had taken a backseat to finding her soul.
The second the jet of steaming water hit Draco’s broad back, he regretted his decision to physically clean himself up. The heat made him drowsy and he had not slept in weeks….
Draco stepped out of the shower, convincing himself that he would have to use a tergeo charm instead. When he wrapped a towel around his waist and entered back into his bedroom, planning to make a beeline for his dresser, Draco paused.
The last twenty-one days had changed the had changed the girl on the bed considerably. Sure, she was still an empty shell. But she had gained weight due to the constant three meals a day and her hair was sleek and shiny; two positive changes that Snidget and Snidget alone received credit for.
Draco felt pleased. When Hermione got her soul back, she wouldn’t be good as new; she’d be better than when he had found her.
He was not self conscious of his body; merely conscious of Hermione. Instead of dropping his towel right there, Draco grabbed a pair of boxers and a black t-shirt before ditching the towel in the confinement of his walk-in closet. After pulling on the boxers and shirt, he put on a pair of black pants and matching jacket.
Draco grabbed his wand from a counter in the bathroom and walked to the side of his bed where Hermione lay. Snidget appeared at the doorway, watching him warily, almost protectively. “Sir, can Snidget help in any way?”
“No, I’m fine.” Draco’s eyes narrowed in concentration as he pointed his wand at Hermione.
This act frightened Snidget and he voice rose a little as he inquired, “May Snidget ask what Mr. Malfoy is doing?”
“I’m procuring her memories. The transformation from being soulless to having a soul can be traumatizing for the cerebral cortex. It has the ability to damage or even erase all memory. It’s suggested to remove all memories, then, once the soul is replaced, to put them back,” Draco explained. Slowly, a strand of memory wriggled from Hermione’s temple. After the one strand was several other strands that branched out. It was like the trunk of the tree, that led to the branches, then the leaves. With a flick of the wrist, the strand broke from Hermione’s forehead, and they were contained in a large glass jar.
He sighed. This was it. The final thing before his departure. Draco walked around the edge of the bed until he was on the other side. He took a watch from a drawer in the bedside table and fastened it on his wrist, though he didn’t really know why time mattered to him any more. He heard a door close downstairs and glanced around. Snidget no longer stood in the doorway and Draco knew he had gone downstairs to fix Hermione's dinner.
His wandering eyes fell on Hermione. Her hand lay, fingers pointing towards the heavens, open and across the bed sheets. The sudden urge to take her hand in his overtook Draco. He settled for walking back to Hermione’s side of the bed and staring at her memories. His presence was in those memories, filled with hate and pain. He had been evil then and now…now, Draco was just the one who was going to save her soul. Draco found himself speaking all of a sudden.
“I’m leaving tomorrow. I’ll probably be gone for a couple weeks; I’m not exactly sure. You’ll be fine - Snidget will take care of you.” He laughed softly, still staring off into space. “He probably thinks I’m crazy, believing I can save you. But I’m not. I’m going to save you, I know it. It just won’t be that easy, that’s all. But I’ll find it, your soul. You can go back to Potter and his girlfriend and I’ll-” Draco’s voice caught so that he couldn’t speak. For the second time in the span of a few hours, Draco found himself stifling the flow of tears from his gray eyes. He stared at Hermione for a long moment before grabbing her hand and squeezing it, as if comforting her in the silence. Then, noiselessly, he left the room, tears dripping down his chin and splashing unto the marble floor.
He summoned his briefcase from his father’s study and stuck his head into the kitchen, murmuring a goodbye to Snidget. He declined the invitation to stay for dinner and left, earlier than planned, of course.
Restlessness was not acceptable.
Of course it was raining. Along with the crashing of the waves and the sea breeze that was expected of this prison in the middle of the sea, a thunderstorm was raging outside of the empty cell Draco had been staying in for the last few days.
Azkaban was a miserable place, imprisoned or not. Any witch or wizard would go mad here, regardless of Dementors. Draco was an exception; he was on a mission, he had sought the place out.
The image of Hermione, when he had first found her, was ever present in his memory as his search for her soul continued.
Getting there had been easy; a simple recollection of “The Three D’s” and Draco was smelling the sea air and feeling the salty spray on his face.
Finding the soul, however, was a completely different situation. Draco had been stuck on the island for more than a week and he was barely any closer to finding Hermione’s soul. The Ministry of Magic had ordered all Dementors back to Azkaban, and because they would be cursed into oblivion if they disobeyed the command, Dementors had been arriving at the arriving at the prison every day, left and right. If Draco had to guess, he would estimate the population of the Dementors was over one thousand.
Draco had performed the spell to every monster he had encountered so far, to no avail. He had not expected an immediate result, but Draco had hoped that by now, he would feel as if he had accomplished something. Instead, he felt like he was...not necessarily wasting his time, but taking too long. Each time he murmured the spell, he felt a rush up his wand arm and through the rest of his body, as was common when uttering the spell correctly, but nothing happened. It was slow work and exhausting; his stock of Revival Draught was diminishing already.
He made himself eat three meals a day, though food was tasteless and poor company. Of course, the Dementors weren’t much better.
They did not affect him, as they would a man not as scarred as Draco. He knew their secret, the terrible affect of their attack and they merely glided past him, their rattling breath a perverse soundtrack to his routine activities. There was something growing inside of his being, his soul, that kept him from going barmy. It was a determination, a resolve that this world, his world, had never thought conceivable.
His life before finding Hermione had been filled with lies, treachery and evil. Now, there was a reason, a point. It burned in the deepest being of him, brighter and more alive each time his gray eyes fell on the hooded cloak of a novel, but seemingly identical, Dementor.
It was on a day that appeared like the ones before it that Draco found what he had been looking for.
Draco finished his breakfast of oatmeal and a pint of Revival Draught just as the sun began to rise outside his window. He looked away from it quickly, the rays of light burning his bloodshot eyes; he had yet to sleep.
He stood up, brushed off his hands and stepped out into the hallway, the footfalls of his leather shoes echoing. Before breakfast, he had stopped at cell B113; one Dementor was stationed outside each cell, though they occasionally wandered from their station. Draco had made it through floor A, which consisted of two hundred cells.
He reached the second floor - B - and glanced at the number beside each door.
The sun was cut in half by the waves now, the sky a brilliant scarlet. The waves were slapping the stone of the prison in a rhythm louder than Draco had ever heard.
Draco glanced up at the Dementor. It stood resolute next to the cell doorway, unmoving, as most Dementors did. Heart thumping, as it always did when he performed the spell for the first time of the day, Draco pointed his wand at the beast and said, “Anatta!
The familiar rush of blood, the swooping in his stomach, washed through him. Nothing. He moved to the next Dementor. “Anatta!”
The next: “Anatta!”
By the next one, his heart had stopped running; it had resumed it’s usual jog. “Anatta!”
At the next monster, he wasn’t even shouting - “Anatta.” - and he was not surprised when nothing happened. Draco had considered the fact that maybe he was doing the spell incorrectly, but after reading the book in which it told him of the spell, Draco was convinced that he was doing it right; it was the Dementor that was wrong.
At the next cell, Draco glanced at the number, as he usually did, to make sure he hadn’t skipped a cell. Reading the number - 118 - Draco found he had not missed any and pointed his wand at the Dementor at this door. In a voice he would’ve used as if he had just read the week’s weather forecast, he mumbled, “Anatta.”
The sense of numbness spread throughout his body and something in him stirred, like a restless animal, before a screech ripped through the air. Draco spun around, the scream so terrible and piercing, but saw no one, except a corridor full of Dementors. He sighed and started to move towards door B119 when a quote from Soul Searching: The Guide to Finding One’s Soul After the Dementor’s Kiss hit Draco across the head, causing him to pause mid step.
Once the spell has been performed on the Dementor containing the soul you are searching for, the creature will react in a way that you can be sure you have found the right one.
Not wanting to hear the yell again, but desperately needing to find Hermione’s soul, Draco performed the spell once more. Expecting it this time, his heart leapt as the scream’s volume hit him full one. This was it.
This was it.
How could it be so easy? What was supposed to be a “daunting task” was so simple. Why had not more people been saved from the Dementor’s Kiss, it being so uncomplicated to do so? But then reality hit and Draco realized he had not yet extracted the soul from the Dementor. A ripple of fear passed over him; in all of his readings, the extraction of the soul could be described in two words: excruciatingly painful.
But then two images, both of the same person, flitted into his mind’s eye, one extracted from years past, the other from a mere month ago.
The first was, of course, a very familiar picture, the same one that kept him going everyday, kept him from sleeping or showering properly. Hermione’s eyes were dead, her lips spread, not in a grin, but a silent scream.
The second was from his fifth year at Hogwarts. It was a dinner time in the Great Hall and even from thirty feet away, he saw her, the angelic features lit up in a laugh. She turned from one Weasley twin to look at another Weasley, the female. As her head spun around, her warm, very alive eyes caught his and she paused. Her smile did not fade, as he would have expected it to, but her eyes flickered in surprise and something else, unknown but not unkind. She broke their brief connection, returning to her conversation, but Draco continued staring at her, puzzled.
It was the only time Hermione had looked at him as if he was worth a damn.
Although the first picture had motivated Draco thus far, it was not the one that he thought of as he spoke the spell that would retrieve Hermione’s soul. No, it was the second image, of the lively, content, and very soulful young woman that he thought of as Draco muttered, “Educio Quintessia.”
AN: Hey all! First off, I would like to thank all of you who have read/reviewed/favorite-d this story! It’s what keeps me going. I would also like to clarify two things really quick: Anatta is the “soul searching spell” and “Educio Quintessia” is the soul extracting spell. Alrighty, I think that’s it. Again, thank you all. Now leave a review, if you want to be super sweet! ^_^
The Dementor outside B118 moved for the first time, writhing in agony. At first, there was just silence and Draco thought that, after all, there must not be any pain that he would have to endure.
But then the Dementor’s pain became vocalized and the high pitch of the scream blasted Draco to the floor. The air was knocked out of him and he gasped as an icy chill spread over him, like ice water spilled over his head. The cool air washed through him, his blood freezing under the hardening skin.
Was he saving Hermione’s soul or giving up his own?
A fire, sent from his pounding heart, burned him. Why did it hurt so bad? How could just a change in temperature affect him so?
The pain blinded him, so that all he could see was a shimmering light, a light like that of a Patronus.
The light shut off, and the ice resume its freezing of his body, of his heart. He was scared now; the darkness and coolness of the ice frightened him more than burning alive. If only he could just save Hermione’s soul…
The bright white he sought returned, along with it the scalding of his blood. But he welcomed it. The light felt like a place of home, of comfort, the warmth only a consequence of being allowed in such sweet a place. But the fire made him claustrophobic; he wanted to escape his body, he wanted it to end.
The blissful chill of ice returned with the darkness and Draco began to tremble; maybe the heat wasn’t so bad. The dark held an unknown, the light a passage to a place that held endless possibilities of visibility. It would be easier to find Hermione’s soul in the light…
Again, the fire swelled behind the grate that was his skin. It was terrible, being overheated like this, sweat forming in his very blood, so hot the water in it was evaporating. But remember how scary the chilled darkness is…
Now it was much too hot; he would surely die of his increasing body temperature. But maybe, if he could just stand a few more seconds, he could get Hermione’s soul. And even if he died, Snidget knew. The elf knew, he could get help.
‘He didn’t know you were going to die. It could be too late by the time he came.’ The darkness, from a very long way away, but clear, spoke to Draco, working against him.
“It doesn’t matter! I have to save Hermione! I will save her!”
Whether he was actually speaking or it was just his thoughts, he didn’t know, because what happened next surpassed any of the terrible pain he had endured thus far.
Someone was taking a hammer, a chisel, a knife to his very soul. The pieces fell away to be revealed, one by one…
Pansy Parkinson, coddling him….
And the miniscule piece of him that was connected to her was destroyed, the blow a small dent.
Voldemort, laughing maniacally…
He, too, was smashed.
Malfoy Manor and Snidget….
A slight pause and in one blow, those were shattered as well.
His parents, smiling kindly down at him…
There was a longer pause before they were crushed into crystallized pieces, but when it did happen, it struck him hard, in the stomach.
Hermione, laughing, looking at him in the Great Hall…
The longest pause yet before the thing that was disintegrating Draco’s very being swung and he readied himself for it. But it was a soft jab, straight to his heart.
And it was over.
The boiling of his blood, the freezing of his body, the smashing of his soul, was over.
Draco blinked a few times, his previously enflamed skin cooling on the rocky floors of Azkaban. He sat up slowly and was pleased to find that the pain of minutes past had no lasting affects.
But then he saw it.
The Dementor of cell B118 was gone, to be replaced by the most beautiful thing Draco had ever seen.
It was a twisting ball of flame, reds, oranges, and yellows; even blues and deep purples. It hung in the air like a ghost, but it’s presence comforted him in a way that an imprint of a departed soul never could.
He found that suddenly, all the suffering he had gone through was worth it. Just seeing the orb, the soul of Hermione - Hermione!
While he was standing there, mesmerized by her soul, she was lying in his bed at Malfoy Manor without one. Fumbling in his pockets, he pulled out a glass vial that he had carried with him since the first day. Now that he compared the size of the vial with that of the soul, Draco realized he had underestimated the size of the soul by quite a lot. He increased the size of the vial, so that it resembled the large glass jar Hermione’s memories were in, except with a stopper, and glanced at the soul.
It was, surely, not meant to be handled; it looked like it consisted of gas, not something solid.
Murmuring, “Wingardium Leviosa,” he waved his wand at the soul. Nothing happened. He tried again, but the soul remained where it was. Did he have to touch it?
Hesitating for the slightest of seconds, Draco reached toward the soul. The moment his skin made contact, his eyes closed under the touch. A warmth, not uncomfortable like the fire, but pleasant, filled Draco up. He sighed, pausing to enjoy this moment of serenity; it was blissful.
Then a drum, a rhythmic beat, started inside of him, chanting one name:
Hermione, Hermione, Hermione…
Draco’s lids uncovered his gray eyes and he slowly, tentatively, placed the soul in the vial. He paused, not wanting to let go; the soul caressed him in a way that a warm fire or a pint of firewhiskey never could.
But then he parted from it and found the warmth did not disappear. Now excitement bubbled in Draco - He was going to save her! He was going to save her.
Draco placed the vial carefully in his pocket and walked as quickly as he could back to his cell, fearful of breaking the vial and damaging the soul if he ran.
Waving his wand several times, Draco packed his briefcase and held it in one hand. He took a moment to glance around the room, if you could call it that, that had been his temporary home for the past week or so, admiring the fiery sunrise. Then, Draco spun on the spot, clutching his bulging pocket.
There it was - Malfoy Manor. A mere house, not a home. But he was safe there and Snidget could cook and Hermione would be awake soon and the place wouldn’t seem like such a tomb.
He ran down the drive, passing the fountain and the flock of peacocks; he burst through the front door, flew up the stairs, and down the hall. At last, he entered his bedroom.
“Sir!” Snidget stood beside Hermione, surprised.
In his haste, Draco strode across the room to Hermione. “I’ve got it,” he murmured, breathless. He pulled the enlarged vial out of his coat pocket and, with trembling fingers, pulled the stopper from it. Without invitation, as if it knew it was only a spell a way from being reunited with it’s owner, it floated from out behind the glass.
Taking a deep breath, knowing there was no use in waiting, he recalled the words of the spell and how to do it. Then he thought of something. “Snidget, do you still have her engagement ring?”
The astonished elf answered at once, “Yes, sir, it’s right on the bedside table.”
Draco took the gold band in his palm, the back of his hand brushing up against the jar containing Hermione’s memories, and slipped it onto her cool finger.
Then, unable to wait a moment longer, Draco made a swooping motion with his wand, murmuring, “Anima Restituo.” The soul soared into Hermione and, after a split second, Hermione stirred.
Draco’s breath was held as he watched her eyelids flutter, her fingers twitch, her legs stretch. Then, her eyes opened and she blinked, once then twice. Hermione sat up slowly and examined her palms, then her fingers, and looked at Snidget. From the elf, she looked at Draco and it took all he had not to step back in surprise.
She was alive, she was moving, and she was looking at him as if she actually cared for him; this Hermione frightened and mesmerized him. She did not yet have her memories, so she could not possibly know that he was her enemy, that waking up and seeing him was not cause for a smile, as that was what was spreading slowly across her face.
In the same, patient grace she had used when sitting up, Hermione swung her legs over the side of the bed and walked over to Draco. Before he could stop her, she had wrapped her arms around his torso in a tight embrace. His eyebrows were raised in confusion, but that was nothing to the expression that he face took on as she leaned forward and kissed him tenderly on the lips. By the way her mouth began to curve upward and her lips parted, Draco knew she intended to deepen the kiss. It took a second for Draco’s mind to begin to work again before he pulled, unwillingly, away from her.
He took a step back and shook his head. “No,” he muttered, “no, you don’t understand.”
“What?” she trilled in a high, buttery voice. “What don’t I understand? I can’t remember anything, but I know I’m engaged -” she held up her left hand - “and I know it’s you. I can feel it.”
“No,” Draco repeated, his voice growing louder, “no, it’s not me. It’s not - I can’t - You don’t -” This was killing him. “You don’t get it!” He finally managed. “Can you just lay down, please?”
She obliged, batting her eyelashes mischievously at him. Did she think this was some sort of sick game? Didn’t she get it? But of course she didn’t.
He grabbed her jar of memories and opened it. Hermione forehead formed a confused frown. Draco ignored her, trying to concentrate. He took the long strand connected to his wand tip and touched it to her temple. Her eyes closed under the onslaught of information.
Draco sighed, their kiss blazing his lips and his eyes burning. He had to get away from her, now. Knowing she would resurface in a moment or two, he spoke to Snidget in a low voice, his throat on fire. “There is a folder, Snidget, in the drawer of the bedside table; it has articles. You need to give them to her, make sure she reads every one. Please, Snidget!”
The elf’s gaze broke from Hermione’s body, confusion and pain in his eyes. “Yes, Mr. Malfoy,” he whispered. “Of course.”
Draco ran out of the room and up the stairs to the third floor, then the fourth. It wasn’t until Draco had collapsed onto the bed of one of the guest bedrooms, that he had to bury his head under the pillows to block out Hermione’s screams.