Disclaimer: As much as I would love owning Harry Potter and all the characters, books, etc., I don't. I just use them to write interesting fanfics. The only made-ups I added to this particular fanfic are the new DADA professor and some Death Eaters.
Author’s Note: Once again, a depressing chapter. I suggest keeping a few tissues at hand if you are a sensitive person. Desire and Demise
Chapter 16 The Real Draco Malfoy
April 24th, 1998 was a breath-taking spring day. The sky was the absolute brightest shade of blue that Hermione had ever seen. White clouds as delectable as cotton candy were blown across the sky by a light wind, which carried the scent of lilac and hyacinth. Birds chirped, frogs croaked and fish leapt above the water in a wonderful show of glistening scales. If this day had not been chosen for the most somber occasion of putting to rest the souls of seven recently deceased, Hermione would have bet her life that today would be a day in which all of her dreams would come true. It was too perfect a day for anything less.
A large crowd had gathered on Hogwarts’ grounds. Many witches and wizards had come to pay their last respects to the dead. Even a few Death Eaters had shown up, as the Order had seen it fit to allow them one final goodbye before hauling them off to Azkaban. Several had chosen not to come, and were probably rotting away in their cells with nothing but their worst memories to keep them company.
Pity they were missing such a perfect day.
Accompanied by Ron, Harry and Ginny, Hermione made her way across the lawn. She wore a black dress suitable for funerals, plain except for a silver belt tied around her waist. Her hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail to keep it out of her face and away from the tears that were sure to come.
“I think I’d like to pay my respects to Moody first,” Hermione announced, clutching a wad of tissues in her hand. The group nodded, and they made their way through the crowds and towards Moody’s coffin.
Hestia Jones was standing before the coffin, her eyes wet. She was whispering something, her hand on the smooth surface of the coffin. Hermione walked up beside her.
When Hestia spotted Hermione, she quickly said, “He was a brave man, Mad-Eye. Always put everyone else’s safety before his. It just doesn’t seem fair that he -” Hestia sniffled and looked downwards at the coffin. Moody appeared as though he were sleeping, and Hermione didn’t want to believe anything else.
“You’re right. It doesn’t seem fair,” Hermione responded. She handed the woman a tissue, which she took with a grateful smile and stumbled away, joining a group of Order members who were walking towards Peter Pettigrew’s coffin.
Ron joined Hermione at the coffin, and slid his hand into hers. If it had been any other day, she probably would have rejected this sign of affection. But she needed it now, and she knew he meant nothing more by it than to comfort her.
“I wanted to thank you, Moody,” she began. “You saved me that night. If it weren’t for you, I don’t know where I’d be.”
She had never been good at these kinds of things. Funerals. She never really knew what to say, or how to express what she truly felt. How could she put her hurt into words? Deciding that her short thank you would have to be enough, Hermione stepped away from the coffin and nodded at her companions. They all touched their hands to the coffin and said a few kind words. It seemed they didn’t know exactly what to say either. But she could see in their eyes that they were truly saddened by the man’s death.
With that done, Harry announced to the group that he was going to visit Peter Pettigrew’s coffin with the rest of the Order. Ginny agreed to go with him, and the couple walked off together, hand in hand. She was left alone with Ron.
“I think I’ll go talk to Draco now, if that’s okay with you,” Hermione said quietly, avoiding Ron’s eyes.
“Don’t you want Harry and Ginny to go with you?” he asked. “They said they’d come.”
“No, it’s better this way,” she said. “I’d rather do this alone.”
Ron put a hand to the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Yeah, alright.”
“I’ll meet you in a bit. I wouldn’t want to miss your dad’s eulogy,” she told him.
He looked down at his feet and walked away, leaving Hermione to visit Draco’s coffin alone. She watched him join Bill and Charlie, both of whom were wearing serious expressions.
There was no one at Draco’s coffin when she approached it, which is how she had wanted it. The coffin sat in shadows, under the boughs of an enormous chestnut tree. The lid had been sealed shut. Hermione exhaled sharply at the sight. She had been hoping to see his pale face one last time. The last glimpse she had gotten of him had been from across the room, and he had appeared so unlike himself in that moment, she feared that she would never truly remember what he looked like. Or perhaps in that one moment, she had glimpsed the real Draco Malfoy – the one he kept hidden away under a mask much stronger than any other she had seen. Either way, she would have to be content with the memories.
She stepped up to the coffin and closed her eyes, allowing all the memories she had of him to well up inside of her. They played over and over behind her eyelids, until her tears contorted them. She opened her eyes and wiped the teardrops away.
“Let’s start over,” were the first words out of her mouth. “I’m Hermione Granger. I may be a muggleborn, and a know-it-all, but I assure you that I am much more than that. I’m insecure. I’m brave. I’m enthusiastic. And I just happen to be in love with you.”
No, this was all wrong. Why couldn’t she just say what she felt inside?
“Why is this so hard?” she asked as hot tears pressed themselves against the corners of her eyes.
She thought back on the day of Draco’s death, hoping for some inspiration, hoping that it would somehow force the right words out. But all that came to her was an off-hand remark of Draco’s, one that he had tossed into the conversation nonchalantly:
Being afraid of death is a waste of time.
It had been the last day of Draco’s life, and they had been tossing around the idea of death so carelessly. Had he known his fate? Had he known that in a few short hours, death would come to claim him? And had he been afraid? He had said he wasn’t, but Hermione remembered the flicker of fear in his eyes as he had spoken those words.
“Was it terrifying, Draco?” she asked, laying her head against the coffin as tears escaped her brown eyes. “Was it quick? Please tell me it was quick, and that you’re happy now. I know you must’ve been afraid.”
This didn’t seem right. But what exactly did she want to say to him? She wasn’t sure.
“I know why you did it,” she continued. “Why you brought me to Voldemort. It was Professor Thorne, wasn’t it? They killed him, and you knew that it was only the beginning. And I forgive you, Draco. I forgive you.”
There, that wasn’t so bad. Keep going.
“I’m sorry, too. For everything. For how horrible I was to you, for not trusting you. I should’ve just told you how I felt,” she explained, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “Please forgive me,” she added in a whisper.
A butterfly flitted towards her and came to rest upon her pinky finger. It stretched out its feelers towards her and seemed to size her up for a moment. Hermione reached out to touch it, but as soon as her fingers brushed its orange wings, it flew away, soaring higher and higher into the bright blue sky until it was gone from sight. She felt its absence with every beat of her heart. But it was nothing like the hollow that had carved itself inside of her on the night of Draco’s death.
Hermione looked over her shoulder. Everyone seemed to be congregating in the middle of the lawn, where hundreds of chairs had been set up, all facing a podium that was raised up on a marble stand. Mr. Weasley stepped up onto the stand and seemed to be messing with a stack of papers. He was about to give his eulogy.
Swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat, Hermione frantically searched the corners of her mind for the right words. There were so many things she wanted to say, but none of them seemed to fit. She could tell him how she wished he had found happiness, but it would be too unoriginal. She could tell him that he had made an impact on her life, but she didn’t want to make this about her. She could say how much she cared about him, but it wouldn’t be enough.
“You weren’t evil, Draco,” she finally said. “So you can rest in peace, alright? Because I know you were a good man, with a loving heart. I know the real you.”
A sudden gust of wind blew through the grounds. It mussed Hermione’s hair, loosening her hair band. She pondered taking it out and leaving it atop the coffin, as a token of her gratitude. But it wouldn’t be enough. Besides, she had already given him her heart. It was about to be buried deep within the ground, right beside him. That is where it would forever reside. And Hermione was perfectly okay with that.
She spun on her heel and ran. Away from the coffin. Away from Draco. Away from a part of herself. She felt as though she would never truly be whole again. It was something she would learn to live with. Even if it took her a lifetime.
Mr. Weasley had already begun speaking. His voice was being magnified by the same spell Hermione had witnessed at the Quidditch World Cup in the summer before her fourth year. His words were booming through the grounds, causing ripples in the water of the lake. As discreetly as possible, Hermione slipped into a seat beside Ginny, who had buried her face in Harry’s shoulder. Hermione could hear her quiet sobs. Even Harry seemed to be a bit choked up. Silent tears were leaking from his eyes.
“Everyone we come across in life affects us in some way,” Mr. Weasley was saying. “They make a mark on our lives that cannot be erased. Whether they have a positive or negative influence, they shape us into who we will become tomorrow.”
Hermione didn’t hear much more of the eulogy. After no more than thirty seconds, she was sobbing right along with Ginny. It seemed that a dam somewhere inside of her had broken, and a monsoon was pouring down her flushed cheeks.
She felt as though crying would make everything better. Perhaps if she cried for another day, or another week, Draco would wake from the dead. Maybe if she just kept those tears coming, he would walk up behind her and wrap his arms around her. He’d tell her everything was going to be all right. And it would be, just maybe.
When Mr. Weasley had finished, a roar of applause broke out throughout the crowd. Mr. Weasley gave a short bow, his face flushed at the praise he had received. Several people stood up and walked over to him. He stepped down from the podium, and they shook his hand, one by one. Mrs. Weasley wrapped her arms around him and kissed him, her eyes red and puffy.
The two Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione all looked up at each other and couldn’t help smiling. They were all sporting glistening cheeks and puffy eyes, much like Mrs. Weasley’s. Hermione wiped her tears away with her last dry tissue.
“That was – well – that was rather emotional,” Ron pointed out, wiping away his own tears.
“Dad’s eulogy… I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like it. Especially not from him,” Ginny said. She was right, in a way. Mr. Weasley was always enthusiastic about the littlest things in life. Seeing him so serious and sentimental was certainly a change.
“How are you four doing?” Tonks and Remus appeared at Hermione’s elbow. Tonks was carrying a small child in her arms, who was sleeping quite soundly with his tiny thumb in his mouth.
“We’ve been better,” Ron admitted.
“Is this little Teddy?” Ginny asked.
“Yes it is,” Tonks responded, eyeing her baby with a look of absolute adoration.
“When did this happen?” Hermione asked. She’d been so caught up in her own problems over the past months, she had been completely unaware as to what was happening outside her own little world. This realization only made her feel worse than she already did. Had she really been that selfish?
“It’s been almost two weeks now, hasn’t it, Remus?”
“It’ll be two weeks on Sunday,” he responded, beaming down at his son.
“That’s wonderful,” Harry voiced, his good arm around Ginny’s waist. The other was wrapped in bandages, but they weren’t as bloody as they had been when Hermione had first seen him in the Hospital Wing.
“Harry, if it’s alright with you, we’d like you to be little Teddy’s godfather,” Remus announced.
Harry’s eyes lit up and he seemed to stand just a little taller. “I’d love that,” he said. Remus put his hand on Harry’s shoulder in gratitude.
“Well, we’re off to speak to your dad,” Tonks said, motioning towards Ron and Ginny. “But we’ll see you four later, I’m sure.”
They all said their goodbyes, and Remus and Tonks walked away. Tonks held Teddy close to her, kissing the top of his head as she went.
“It’s nice to see new life amidst all this death,” Hermione noted as the four began walking. Where they were going, none of them knew. But it felt nice to be in each other’s company.
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed.
“So, what now?” Harry asked, voicing what the other three had been thinking.
“Well, we’ve got our seventh years to finish, and Ginny’s got her sixth. Then N.E.W.T.s and -”
Harry interrupted Hermione. “It’s okay, Hermione. You’re around friends now. We won’t judge you.”
Hermione was unsure as to how to respond to that. But she soon found words. “I’d like to tell you all about Draco, then,” she said. It was the truth. She had left out Draco’s story when she had first spoken with Ron and Ginny in the Common Room. The time hadn’t been right. But now, at the boy’s funeral, she needed to share his story. She owed that much to him. The world needed to know that Draco Malfoy was not all that he appeared. He was so much more.
“We’ll listen,” Ginny said.
They continued walking for a while, and finally came to rest on the hill overlooking the lake. All four sat down in the grass and stared off into the evening sun as Hermione told them the story of Draco Malfoy. It was the story of a boy whose life had been mapped out for him the moment he had been born. It was the story of a boy who had been too afraid to do what his heart was dying to do. And it was also the story of a love Hermione had not been expecting, and had not quite understood, but truly believed in with all her heart.
Mr. Weasley had said that everyone you come across in life affects you in some way. Hermione now knew that Draco had done just that for her, and more. He had not only affected her and taken a piece of her heart. He had also taught her something that she had been missing all along:
Not everything in life has a logical explanation, not even love.
Author’s Note: Just the epilogue left, and I’m done! Can you believe it? It’s going to be short, but it’s necessary. It’s going to connect into the sequel. I apologize, but it’s going to be something of a cliffhanger. (: You shall see.
Anyway, thanks for all you who have read this far and who have reviewed. I am so thankful, especially to those who keep coming back and giving me their honest opinions. I love you all! < 33
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