Chapter 20 : Epilogue
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Snow fell in silent whispers of white upon the cobblestones of Diagon Alley, coming to rest in the crevices between them for a moment before melting away without a trace left behind. Winter had only just begun, and so the ground had yet to be blanketed in its entirety; indeed, the soft flakes marked the first snowfall, and thus the true beginning of the season. Shop windows, displaying an array of colours behind the glass, showed also the signs of frost beginning to creep from the corners. Already, rooftops had begun to turn white.
A man stood at a corner beneath the flickering light of a street lamp. His coat was drawn closely to his chin to protect his fair skin from the chilled gusts of wind which often swept between the shops, and his gloved hands were shoved deeply into his pockets. His cheeks, usually pale, were red from the cold. As he breathed, small clouds of white protruded from his nose and slightly parted lips.
After a moment, he adjusted the fur cap upon his head, revealing a shock of white-blonde hair beneath it. He blew warmth into his hands, then returned them to their gloved sanctuary. Alone he was, and from his despondent stance it seemed as though he always had been.
A small band of children raced through the streets, laughing without a care, as there was no longer anyone to fear in the wizarding world. They knocked against him as they passed. "Watch it," the man spat bitterly, and he cast the young wizards a withering look. They seemed not to notice, and he sighed, releasing yet another opaque puff into the air.
Draco Malfoy turned to watch the delicate flakes drift slowly to the ground. He supposed he had once had a reason for being there, standing upon a corner as though waiting for someone to return, but now he felt only foolish. Perhaps another day would the outside world improve his health and mood. Not today. There were far too many people with intrusive, searching eyes which bore into him with no mercy.
Minutes passed, and he did not move from his place beneath the lamp. Then suddenly, he bent his head forward and slowly began to walk into the onslaught of falling white. His legs had a feel of stiffness to them, for he had remained motionless for a great deal of time. He kept his dull grey eyes straight before him, his concentrated gaze never wavering until at last he came to a stop before the front of a shop whose windows displayed an assortment of racing brooms. Draco smirked briefly as he remembered the times he had been so fond of Quidditch. Now it had been four years since he had last participated in the sport, and found that only in times such as this did he miss it. Perhaps he was still bitter about his failure to win the Quidditch Cup in his final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The man frowned, gazing momentarily at his reflection upon the pane. Perhaps with this loss, his love for the sport had died. Victory had been snatched from him by the infamous Harry Potter, saviour of the wizarding world. He supposed he should forget such trivial things as school boy rivalries, and yet he found that he could not. Though it was better to dwell upon this than other occurrences in the past.
"Excuse me, Sir?" A voice broke into his quietude. Draco glanced at the window and discovered a pair of hazel eyes reflected there beside his arm. With a start, he realised there was a sense of familiarity about them. Quickly, he turned to face the speaker.
The woman's hair was swept up into a graceful tail of auburn, the very tips of it pooling upon her shoulders and trailing to the middle of her back. Her eyes, which had been so clear in the window were now intensified as he looked upon them in reality. She tilted her head slightly to one side as he examined her, regarding him curiously. It was as if she too had noticed something about him, but could not quite place it.
"I... I was wondering if you could direct me to Madam Malkin's Robes For All Occasions," she murmured at length. "I was looking to buy some... dress robes..." The woman fell silent, narrowing her eyes curiously.
It was so subtle, so nearly indistinct that he did not know whether he was imagining it. Perhaps to soothe his aching heart, his mind had twisted her voice to sound just enough like–no, he was not imagining it. Her tongue rolled as she pronounced the letters, giving way to the fact that she was French.
"I-I'm sorry," she began slowly. "It is just.. I feel like I have met you once before." She shook her head, and a glittering snowflake was loosed from her tresses. "It is a strange feeling, really."
Draco furrowed his brow, his heart leaping.
"Perhaps in another life then," she continued.
"Madam Malkin's is just there," he muttered hoarsely, pointing with a trembling gloved finger. The woman thanked him, yet as she turned to leave, he reached out and tightly grasped her hand. She gasped in surprise.
"Jacqueline?" She looked at him strangely.
"No, I do not–I mean... My name is Jeanette."
"I'm sorry. You are so much the same. I thought..." He released her hand with a despairing sigh. "You reminded me of someone I used to know."
The woman considered this, her eyes unseeing as she seemed to think deeply. "Might I... tell you a secret?" She came closer to him, so that her breath tickled his skin. "I have not told anyone before."
He looked taken aback. "I suppose."
She cleared her throat. "Four years ago, something happened to me, and I awoke in a wizarding hospital. They told me my name was Jeanette Dereaux, seventeen years of age. And yet... I have no recollection of my life before. You see, I could be who you say I am, because even I do not know-"
He shook his head. "No. I mistook you for someone who is dead."
She lowered her eyes until he could see naught but her curled lashes. "I am so sorry..."
"As am I." He paused. "You haven't remembered anything since?"
"No." She heaved a sigh. "That is really why I wished to talk to you. I could not help but be reminded of someone in my past, though I'm afraid I have no idea who. Listen–are you sure this girl is dead?"
"I watched her die," he replied flatly. "I watched as she cast the Killing Curse upon herself to save innocent blood when she was innocent herself. I watched the life vanish from her eyes. So yes, I am sure that she is dead."
The woman seemed stunned. "But maybe..." Her voice faltered, and she swallowed. "Maybe it was not real, maybe..."
"What if you really are Jacqueline?" he finished. Her eyes seemed pleading somehow, a look he had never before been able to resist. "Maybe I would be willing to chance that."
"I think I would too." She leaned against him, closing her eyes and ensnaring herself in the comfort of long-forgotten memories. And for the first time in a long time, he smiled.
A/N: Well, this is the end. A bit of a twist, but I hope it works. I'm excrutiatingly nervous about these last two chapters. But I really want to thank everyone that's reviewed and stuck with me through my writer's block and lack of updates. You made it all worth it. ^_^
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