Chapter 1 : Lay Me To Sleep
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Shivering, she brought her hands above her head to embrace it with warmth and welcome. It offered a solace to her blood-drenched clothes, diluting the red and causing the stain to trickle down in a pinkish torrent that reminded her vaguely of strawberry juice.
They had eaten strawberries in the summer, with vanilla ice cream and honey sauce. Tall glasses they had been, with glazed cherries balancing delicately on top, sumptuous with long silver spoons to tempt them to swallow the desert up. But that had been a long time ago, back when times were happy instead of a river of relentless dread.
There was no sun in the endless sky. It burned grey in its cold, vacant mood, and all sign of care had seemed to have dripped away, leaving everything callous and dead. She felt so alone, as if swallowed up in a metallic misery that pierced her heart as it brushed against it.
Dead. They were all dead. Hermione closed her eyes against the pain of that concept, trying somehow to provoke herself into emptiness, the heal the hurt away. It didnít work - of course it didnít. She would have to be heartless if she could not feel the raw agony of loss that ripped through her now.
There was no one here, no one that was moving. The battlefield was drained of hues, the grass that had once been luscious and green was now yellow, white and cindered to death. Smoke drifted in a continuous haze that veiled and choked the atmosphere with its stale retching horror. Hermione spluttered slightly and wiped away the blood from her mouth where one of the Death Eaters had kicked her. She felt swollen and bruised all over, so that every inch of her ached with each step she took.
As she walked, she allowed her eyes to linger across the bodies of the fallen, the ones whom she had loved. There, beneath her feet, was Seamus, his face grimy with dirt from the trampling his carcass had suffered. She dropped to her knees to stroke his face softly, closing his wide, staring eyes and watching the peace that seemed to fill his features. She longed for that calm, for anything that would take her away from here.
The trees swayed violently as she got once again to her feet, and she stared up at them, their long, spindling arms bending and creaking, bowing to the acknowledge the fallen. Their naked branches were unprotected to the blistering heat of the fires that flared up and then out among the ashes.
Bellatrix. Hermione wrinkled her nose in disgust. Enmity was still inscribed upon the womanís bony fine face, paler than maggotís flesh. Ironic that. Her dark hair fanned out about her, and to Hermione, she was symbolic to evil itself, a sorceress both beautiful and cruel.
The silence was unnerving, especially as she heard the soft sound of her gentle footsteps above such a pause, as if she shouldnít be there. The rain turned her hair to a damp dripping mess, but she didnít care anymore. It refreshed her, cleansed her with its purity, so that she was something natural again, not a killer.
How many Death Eaters had she slaughtered? Plenty. The one question that taunted her was - how many of them were innocent? They were just fighting for what they believed in, after all - just like her. How indeed could she call them evil when she herself had gone so far as to murder, hate and cause pain to those that opposed her views? She was just as bad as them. There was no evil, there was only belief, and how people interpreted it.
The rain fell heavier as her body silenced itself when her gaze fell upon Ron Weasley. The painful wrench at her heart she had expected to feel at seeing him lifeless before her did not come. She knew that in truth, she loved Ron, but the amount of arguments they had suffered had declined that love, until there was a gaping wound that neither of them could attempt to heal.
His face ran blue with the power of the rain, and his blood tainted the soil beneath his body. Hermione sank to the floor alongside him, stroking closed his eyelids, brushing back the tangle of hair from his eyes. She walked his lips delicately with her fingers, feeling that soft flesh beneath her, remembering the time when she had first kissed him, when they had first laid together. That time had been one of beauty and constant reflection, yet she could never go back to that time, and she knew immediately that the image of Ronís lifeless face would forever haunt her dreams. She bent slowly, softly, lowering her body over his to gently kiss those lips one last time, before pulling away and blinking away the violent smudge of rain that was cold across her skin.
Her feet carried her past the bodies of Harry and Ginny, who she wished to remain undisturbed as they lay entangled in one anotherís arms. She had seen Harry die, the aftermath of Voldemortís death shaking his pains to the blackness of nothing. She had stepped forward to watch as Ginny had collapsed at his side, blood running in streams across her body, sobbing loudly as she wrapped herself in a coiling embrace to clutch at her departed lover, her tears thicker than the blood. It had been there that Bellatrix had struck, killing the girl instantly amidst her tears with one careful flash of green bright light.
She walked like a ghost across the drifting plains, the wind tousling her hair to life, the only part of her that seemed vibrant. Hermione looked amongst the sea of dead for injured, for those who might yet have hope.
There was no one. She was the only survivor.
In the thicket by the trees, where the bracken grew thick and dry, where the trees twisted upwards in intricate delicacy, strong yet archaic and precarious in that wisdom - here, the rain did not fall quite so heavily, and it was here that Hermione stopped, her footsteps falling still, to gaze upon the man that lay there.
He was young still, but not how she remembered him. It had been years since she had seen Draco; his pale, silver hair fell across his blanched face, so that it veiled the incredulity of his silvered piercing eyes, a veil upon a storm of raging winter. He didnít seem to be raging any longer; now, he was simply quiet, gently dying. Blood bubbled upon his lips and his throat was a column of ivory as it travelled down to open at his torn chest. His robes hung loosely from his body, slightly muscular yet in a slender way. She could see the black blood that seeped through a wound which he clutched with trembling fingers. Each breath he shook out from his lungs drew him closer towards his last, and when Hermione looked upon him, she carefully felt nothing. There were no tears, no hate, no pity, simply silence. He was the last survivor besides herself, and he was fading closer towards the entry of death.
She bent slowly to squat besides him, peering at him with her head cocked slightly to one side, frowning. Her deep brown eyes touched his and she noted the light of recognition that entered his gaze. His lips trembled as if to say something, but no sound left his throat save a soft moan. A whisper caressed the air like a faint breeze as he struggled to speak.
ďKill me,Ē he begged her, his eyes pleading with desperation. Once again she lowered her glance to see how his hand trembled over his heart. The blood blossomed all the further in the effort of speaking, but to Hermione, it was just a colour upon the deep inky ebony of his robes. ďKill me,Ē he whispered again, his eyes stinging hers with his hope that she would offer him some escape.
She had had enough of being a killer. That time was over now, the fighter was gone. Now, she was simply Hermione - a girl who was empty from a soul, a drench of sadness that was cold and incurable. With soft hands that were silk despite the blood and wounds that traced them, she stroked back the hair from the youthís eyes, watching him curiously. He was certainly going to die, there was no denying it, but she felt nothing towards the concept. After all, what was one more dead in a slaughter field? He would be just another body to feed to the earth at sunset.
Hermione pulled up the hood of her cloak across her face, tending to the man without really feeling anything. She would care for him - she would keep him alive for as long as possible. Not because of punishment, nor indeed because of the hope to save him, but simply because she had no choice either way. It was not her place to deal out the fate that must unravel.
With an empty mind, she tried to make him as comfortable as possible. She shifted, kneeling to take unfasten her cloak and put it around him, trying to keep him warm from the flashing rain. She tucked it close as a blanket, making sure his fingers were concealed behind the cloak, those blood-soaked fingers that trembled and shuddered with every passing moment. Taking from her pocket the small water skin that Mrs Weasley had gifted her with last Christmas, she unfastened the lid to allow the rain to drench through, putting the rim to Dracoís lips and trickling water through his mouth. He swallowed, but with difficulty, and once the container was empty, she placed it aside and tucked her knees close to her chin, staring down at him.
As the rain began to relent, and the misted sky was replaced for a deepening bruised blue, as the smoke began to clear and the water trickled in steady rhythms from the shaking branches of the trees, Dracoís dying seemed to close in quicker. Neither girl of boy spoke a word to each other, but their eyes remained fastened, locked as if they dared one another to look away. She knew he wanted to die, yet it was not her place to help him, and so she would not lift a hand against him. Instead of uttering a spell or running a blade across his throat, which likely would have been kinder, she shook back her hair and remained still, thinking nothing.
She watched as the final breath escaped his lips, watched as his eyes went blank and the light left them, watched as slowly his body stilled all over, until there was nothing. The death seemed natural to her eyes, peaceful yet deadly in the way it crept slowly upon him, slowly drowning him. When he was dead, she continued to watch him, until the dark closed in over the sky and the cold threaded deeper through her skin.
Hermione stood slowly to her feet, picking up her wand and replacing it in her pocket. She took back the cloak that was now drenched in another manís blood, wrapping it carefully about her shoulders. She felt the cramp race through her and rejoiced at it, smiling at its pain, realising that indeed, somehow she did feel something. She walked away from the battlefield, careful not to tread on any bodies, feeling her heart heavy inside her, a weight that anchored her down.
Hermione felt as if she had lived a thousand lifetimes, a million deaths, all in one day. Yet she didnít regret that she had watched the slow progress of death, that she had lingered behind, just to watch him sleep.