Chapter 23 : Of the Nature of the Ultimate Sacrifice
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The figure lying on the bed hardly even resembled her. He walked slowly one step at a time towards her, the tears becoming heavier with each step he took. Her bruises shone bright as stars in the dark night sky. They were grotesque against her paleness. Her skin was so milky that it looked almost blue. She was so pale she was almost see-through. Her head was tilted back at an odd angle and her fists clenched the blanket at her sides. Her breathing was shallow and wheezy. It sounded painful and raspy; like the air wouldn't fill her lungs.
Once he reached the side of the bed he realized that the loud throbbing he was hearing was inside of him. His chest was constricting. He wanted to trade places with her more than he had ever wanted anything in the world before. Slowly he reached his hand out towards her face, steeling himself not to pull back. Her skin was still an unearthly temperature. He whispered her name and she wrenched her eyes open.
She wheezed his name before her head tilted back in a wave of pain. He was forced to turn his head away. "D-don't-t . . . cry. . ." She wasn't even able to look at him. The pain racked her body in waves. "I . . . I f-fight it . . .. For-r …. you,” she proclaimed before her body went completely limp again. Her hand fell off the side of the bed and for a moment he could only look at it; afraid to touch her.
He suddenly felt the oddest sensation and reached up to his cheek to find that tears were freely slipping across his skin. He dropped to his knees, sobs racking his body as he shook in grief. He couldn't articulate the pain in any other way. He took her hand in his own and put his head in his arms on the bedside. He screamed; the scream of a man who is losing everything he loves.
After his body had calmed he settled into a cushioned chair that Madame Pomfrey brought forth from the depths of her personal office. His head hurt. This was ten times worse than losing Mother. At least when that happened he had had Hermione to turn to. She didn't even know how much just her presence soothed him. Now he sat here watching the very same girl barely able to take full breaths.
He was mad at himself. He never should have trusted them with her. This was entirely his fault. The ice had stopped, never reaching her heart, but it had penetrated her lungs. That’s what they had told him. They had used some disbanded spell that froze her blood in her veins to try to cure her. Now there were tiny crystal shards left in her lungs and there was nothing that could be done. Madame Pomfrey said that they would have to melt on their own because she was too afraid to take action again, not when they weren’t sure what the specifications of this virus even were.
“Hermione,” he whispered in her ear; not knowing if she could even hear him. "Keep fighting. Please-" He had no tears left and even if he had, he hadn't the strength to cry them.
Madame Pomfrey appeared at his side and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "Draco," she said quietly, noting that he never took his eyes off the girl in front of him. "You have to take this. Dumbledore wishes you to."
"What is it?" he asked uncaringly, not glancing up.
"A sleeping potion," Pomfrey replied. “I have spoken to the headmaster and he has agreed that, although the infirmary is segregated from the rest of the school, we are going to let you stay here. You have been exposed to her for so long that we can’t be sure whether or not you are infected as well.”
"I won’t take it. She could wake up while I'm out, or something could go wrong. I'm not moving from this chair." I'm not letting go of her hand. Ill keep her alive by sheer will if I have to.
"I promise, Mister Malfoy,” Madam Pomfrey said, moving between him and the bed so that he had to focus his eyes on hers. " If she shows any signs of waking up, or the slightest change, I will cast the counter charm for the sleeping draft."
Draco thought for a moment before surrendering and taking the cup from her. He sat down on the bed directly next to Hermione’s. He kept his eyes trained on her as he tipped the potion back. A few seconds later her image was imprinted on the inside of his eyelids as he collapsed backwards on the bed.
When he woke up she was gone.
"Mister Malfoy! Please!" A harried Madame Pomfrey was trying to talk some reason into a raging Draco, but Draco was beyond reason as he liberally picked up a chair and threw it at the opposing wall.
"You drugged me! You put me to sleep and then you took her away! Where is she!?"
“Please, Mister Malfoy! You are disturbing the other patients!” Madame Pomfrey begged.
“Where is she!?” Draco demanded again.
"She's in St. Mungo's, Mister Malfoy," a calm voice replied from the doorway. Madame Pomfrey looked like she would faint with relief as Albus Dumbledore walked into the hospital wing. "Now, please, calm yourself before I am forced to Stupefy you."
Draco stood straight, his fists clenching at his sides. He reached a hand up and brushed his hair back from his face. Through grit teeth he asked, "Why is she gone headmaster?"
"It was the only way to save her, Draco,” Dumbledore continued in his calm voice. But that tone, meant to soothe, was grating against Draco’s nerves. “She was not the only one who went, I had several students transported to St. Mungo’s.”
Grasping the gravity of the situation, Draco collapsed on the nearest bed. He closed his eyes and sat very still. He stayed like this for many moments and the professors watched him curiously. "She's scared,” he whispered with his eyes still closed. "She's alone." His voice cracked. He opened his eyes and turned a steel glance towards Dumbledore. “I want to see her,” he demanded.
Hermione woke up to the dull remembrance of severe pain. She felt tiny pinpricks every time she breathed in. She lay still for a moment with her eyes closed and focused on inhaling shallow and slow. This worked for a little while; until she started to cough.
Every cough felt like knives were being plunged into her lungs. Madame Pomfrey came bustling over and placed a handkerchief over her mouth. After the fit had subsided, Hermione fell back against her pillows, her eyes closing in exhaustion.
Madame Pomfrey tucked her in and as she was walking away she looked down at the handkerchief, horror claiming her. On her way out the door to find the headmaster, she dropped the cloth in the waste basket, the blood still staining her hands a dull red.
Hermione’s muscles ached. Every time she moved, they screamed. It was dark out and she was alone. There was a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that she couldn't make sense of. To further her vision she slowly pushed herself up on her elbows. This was when she noticed Draco in the bed next to her. He was stretched out in a graceful cat-like sprawl that he often assumed on the couch in the common room, only his features were pulled in a tight expression.
She wanted to call out to him. She wanted him to wake up and hold her. She wanted to borrow strength from his arms, but her legs would not move, so she couldn't walk to him. Her voice wouldn't call out, so she couldn't say his name, even whisper it into the dark room. As tears of frustration were about to spill over her cheeks, the ward door was thrown open and Dumbledore strode across the room, his robes billowing behind him. He was followed by an anxious looking Professor McGonagall and a very tired looking Madame Pomfrey. Madame Pomfrey detoured from the group as another patient began to cough and Hermione was abruptly reminded of the black cloud that was slowly taking over Hogwarts.
"Hermione? Are you awake?" A concerned Professor McGonagall leaned over her and put a damp cloth on her forehead.
"Yes, Professor," Hermione muttered, oddly touched by the gesture.
"Listen, Dear," Professor McGonagall said as she gently sat down on the side of the bed next to Hermione. "We have to move you. Madame Pomfrey has noticed that you are coughing up blood. This means that the ice crystals are not melting on their own, but are embedded in your lungs. We don't have the resources to available to heal you.” Hermione’s eyes fell to the side, on Draco’s blonde hair and the way it dusted his eyes. “You won’t be going alone,” McGonagall continued. “There are a handful of students that we feel must be moved immediately.”
“Why weren’t we brought to St. Mungo’s sooner if this virus is so horrible?” Hermione asked, her voice a whisper.
“We couldn’t risk infecting the wizarding community. We had no idea how the virus was spread, but we believe now that it is by the exchange of fluids. We can ensure no one is further infected by simply keeping patients away from those who are not sick, but some of you are in frightening states. We still don’t know how to cure this virus and it is quickly proving to be too powerful. As you know, we have lost numerous lives to it as it is.” Professor McGonagall’s eyes closed as if there was a pain inside of her she could neither quell, nor find the strength to outwardly show. Hermione remembered how, on the first night she had been introduced as Head Girl to the school, she had thought that this woman thrived on chaos. She could now see how wrong and unfair her assessment had been.
“What about Draco?“ she protested as she tried to push herself up.
“Hermione, please don‘t over exert yourself," Madame Pomfrey warned but Hermione had already started coughing and was lying on her back, holding her sides as tears glossed over her eyes.
"Turn her over!" Professor Dumbledore demanded. "She'll drown in her own blood if you don't flip her!" Hermione couldn't see anything. The world had gone black, shrunk to her body. It had become a circle of pain. Her lungs screamed and her throat clenched. It wouldn't stop. She felt like she was falling into a deep abyss. As the darkness enveloped her mind, she didn't regret it.
"She's blacked out," Dumbledore said as the brunette went limp in the bed.
Professor McGonagall wiped her forehead on the back of her hand and Madame Pomfrey began to change the sheets, which were now stained with blood.
"Albus, after we bring her to St Mungo's someone will need to speak with Draco about what happened."
“Yes,” Dumbeldore sighed heavily. “Bring him to my office when the time comes. I will explain to him what is happening. I am sure the staff would not object to him being present as a visitor if I explain the situation to them. After all, if he is going to be infected by her it will already have happened. No harm can come to him in St. Mungo’s.”
"Do you believe it wise to separate them, Albus?" Madame Pomfrey asked timidly. “They seem to make quite a fuss about it.”
"No,” he said as Professor McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey picked up the slight body. “But it is only for a short period of time.” He turned to the healer. “Poppy, please send me notification once all of the student’s have been transferred and Master Malfoy wakes up.”
“Yes, sir,” Madame Pomfrey bobbed in consent and then hurried off as another student started to cry.
Draco had been brushed aside. Dumbledore had told him to wait in the infirmary as he dealt with some things in his office and then they could discuss transporting Draco there. Draco didn’t believe that bullshit. Albus Dumbledore had let things get this far. Hermione was dying - dying - and Albus Dumbledore was the one Draco blamed for it all. It was Dumbledore who had let them try that spell on Hermione. It was Dumbledore who was responsible for the safety of the student’s in his school.
Draco’s thoughts were interrupted by a very loud commotion on the other end of the infirmary. He turned to find Madame Pomfrey bodily holding the ward door shut as she extended one arm towards the nearest table where her wand sat - which was completely out of reach. On the other side of the door a string of swears were falling over the lips of an extremely distressed redheaded girl.
“Open this damn door right now!” she was screaming at the healer.
“You are not allowed in here! This area is closed to the student body!” Madame Pomfrey protested.
“Draco Malfoy is in there and he is not sick! Let us in right now!” Ginny screamed one last time. She managed to squeeze her way through the small crack of the door and Madame Pomfrey angrily took a step back, allowing two boys to fall into the room behind the girl.
“I will be informing the Headmaster of this,” she told them. She did not have anymore time to argue with them, however, as the girl in the bed three away from them started to convulse. Madame Pomfrey ran towards the young girl and Ginny, Harry, and Ron, ran off in the other direction, to where Draco was perched on the empty bed Hermione had been in only hours before.
“Draco!” Ginny cried as she hurtled between the beds. She was crying, tears streaming over her swollen cheeks. Harry and Ron approached the bed at a much more sedate pace. Harry’s expression was all piss and vinegar. Ron refused to look at anyone.
“Why is he here?” Draco asked Ginny, malice dripping from his body as he regarded the redhead.
“Because even though he has been a foul git, Hermione and us grew up together. She’s important to us. To all of us.”
Draco stood from the bed and went to the window. He was going mad staying here. He did not want to wait for the old bat to come back for him. Who knew how long it would be before he did. What if Hermione di- … no. No, he would not even allow himself to think like that. “I’m going after her,” he turned and announced to the three.
“We’ll go with you,” Harry said as he stepped forward and took Ginny in his arms. She turned her face into his neck and continued to cry. “Where did they take her?”
“St. Mungo’s. They tried to cure her by using a freezing spell. They thought it would stop the virus from further gestation, but all it did was attack her body. Ice formed in her veins and the shards landed in her lungs. They almost killed her. Now the pieces of ice will not melt. She’s dying.”
“I know a way into Hogsmeade,” Harry said quietly over Ginny’s sniffles. “Can you get us to St. Mungo’s from there?”
“Yes,” Draco turned to face them. He tried to take a deep breath but his chest was too tight. He tried to imagine what living without her would be like; but he couldn’t. It was impossible to live without air.
Night had settled its arms around the infirmary. Madame Pomfrey sat in a chair in the center of her ward, her hands in her lap. She hadn’t slept in four days. She was exhausted. Her heart was sick. Every few hours another child would wake up and start to scream. She had lost three already. Four if you counted Isabella, who had been in St. Mungo’s when the virus claimed her. All of these children were slipping through her fingers and she could do absolutely nothing to stop it. She was helpless. She spread her hands before her, palms up as she regarded them. Hands were a healer’s prize possession. They allowed them to comfort, to heal, to pass on redemption and kindness. Something was wrong with her hands. She had always believed she was graced with a gift, but now?
A sudden cry arose behind her and wearily she made her way to the bedside of a small second year Ravenclaw. She, too, had been in the infirmary for a few days, seemed to be alright for a few days, and then yesterday she had been admitted again. The child had been unconscious for almost twenty four hours. Now she was screaming, blood streaming from the corner of her mouth as she shook on the bed. Poppy grabbed her arms, crying, “I won’t loose another one! Stay with me, Vicci!” but the girl went still a moment later and Poppy could do nothing about it. For the first time since she had been hired at Hogwarts she sank to her knees at the bedside of the dead girl and started to cry.
St. Mungo’s was surprisingly easy for a band of four teenagers to reach. They made it into Hogsmeade undetected, even though there was absolutely no hope of all four of them fitting under the invisibility cloak. They caught the Knight Bus once they were in town and road it from Hogsmeade into London until they reached the façade of an unusual decrepit old department store. They exited the bus and regarded the derelict mannequins in the window. The sign above them proclaimed; “Purge and Dowse, Ltd. Your one stop shop for all your personal needs!” Only the words were slowly vanishing with time. Draco ploughed forward.
Once inside the lobby Draco headed straight for the information desk. Harry, his arm around a sniffling Ginny, followed behind him. Ron, still gravely silent and eyes cast down, brought up the rear.
“I’m looking for my sister,” Draco said as he reached the desk. The witch on the other side of the marble countertop had short cropped brown hair and wore sharp pink glasses. She was chewing a large wad of bubblegum.
“Your sister?” she asked skeptically as she regarded the teenagers behind him. “And they are?”
“My cousins. Can you please tell me where she is?”
“Name,” she sighed as she looked at her roster. “And reason for stay.”
Draco hesitated for a moment. “Hermione Mal-” he stopped. “Hermione Granger, is her name.” Hermione Malfoy? Was he loosing his mind?
“And floor?” The witch raised an eyebrow at him.
He had no idea what floor. If they sent her here with the group they would be on floor two with the magical bugs. But Hermione had also been infected by a spell.
“Floor?” The woman asked impatiently.
“She should be on the fourth floor; spell damage.”
The woman stopped chewing her gum and looked him in the eyes for the first time. “I am sorry,” she said sincerely. Many people on the fourth floor were permanent residents. She turned back to her roster. “Ah, yes, here she is. Hermione Granger. Spell Damage. Wing E, Room B. Just take the lift all the way up and go as far down the hall as you can.”
Draco was walking towards the lifts before the woman had even finished speaking. Harry mumbled a quick thank you for the group before they rushed after him. The three barely made it onto the lift behind him before the doors closed.
The door to Hermione’s room was closed. It was the only closed door in the entire hallway. She was the last door, at the end of the hallway where there were no windows. Once they reached the door Draco turned to face them. “Wait here,” he said. He set his hand on the doorknob, the cold penetrating deep. He shivered as he turned the handle and the door gave inwards.
The temperature in the room was much colder than in the hall. The walls were white. The bed she lay in was white. He gently closed the door behind him; she looked as if she was asleep. He stepped towards her and everything else in the world fell away; his dead mother, the fact that she was so violently ill, that the git Ron was in the hallway, that it was obvious Harry and Ginny had something between them by the way they clung to each other, that his father hated him, that he hated the world, that friends were dying this very moment.
There was a chair by the head of her bed and he slowly fell into it, he could not pull his eyes from hers. She looked angelic, asleep and not coughing. Not in pain. He hadn’t seen her awake for a few days now. He had constantly been in her presence, and yet not. He missed her eyes.
He reached for her hand, closing the cold fingers in his own. Her breathing was almost regular. He watched the sheets rise and fall for a moment as he reveled in the fact that she was alive and he was here with her.
Maybe they couldn’t hold each other’s hands publicly and walk around Hogwarts. Maybe they couldn’t talk to each other in the Great Hall, or go to the library together, or look at each other when they danced in class, but when they were together; they were together.
He reached across her and gently brushed the hair from her eyes. He stood and released her hand so that he could sit on the side of the bed, he then braced his arms on either side of her head. Leaning over he lightly brushed his lips over her forehead and the bridge of her nose. Her eyes opened suddenly and were darkened with panic for a brief passage of time as she registered who was looming over her. He reached down and pulled her into his arms.
His body was so comforting her eyes fell shut on her. She let her face fall into his neck, against his skin, and inhaled deeply. A sudden sharp pain in her side that accompanied this breath jolted her from the feelings of security she had been experiencing. Draco was on his feet instantly. He held her by the upper arms as her body arched and her head fell backwards. She was gasping for her, her eyes wide and unseeing. Her pupils were so greatly dilated that her eyes appeared to be black. She gasped for a moment before gaining control of her body once more. There was a spot of blood on Draco’s shoulder and she reached up in horror to wipe it away, but he grabbed her hands and pulled them to his face.
“Hermione?” His voice was hurt and confused. She started to cry.
“Don’t look at me,” she sobbed as she allowed her hair to fall across her face. “I’m sick. I’m disgusting.”
Draco took her face in his hands and gently forced her to look at him. He met her scared eyes for a moment and realized with a sharp jab that she was not pushing him away, but truly scared. Frightened. Terrified because she didn’t understand what was happening to her. He would do anything to protect her. He knew this now in the bottom of his heart. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, yet he could not voice it to her. He could not look her in the eyes and say, ‘You’ve changed my life. I love you so much I will die for you.’ He just could not say it.
Draco took her face again and kissed her forehead, his kissed trailing down her cheek and under her jaw. His breath was warm against her cold skin and after a few moments she could take it no longer and pressed her lips against his. He was startled by the cold metallic taste of blood that still lingered in her mouth.
“Hermione-” he started. Now was the time. All he had to do was open his mouth and push air out and make sounds and she would know the agony that was eating him alive. “I-” he stopped and she regarded him for a moment. “I-”
Hermion’s eyes drifted shut. “Something isn’t right,” she whispered.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
Her hand flew to her chest, tightly grasping the white gown she was wearing and pulling at it. “My chest. It feels -so tight- I can’t-” she was gasping again. “Draco- I can’t breathe-” she was gasping for air now. As he slipped his arms about her waist her head fell back and she started to shake.
The door flew open and Ginny, Harry, and Ron hurtled into the room. They crowded about the bed. As soon as Ginny saw her best friend convulsing in Draco’s arms she ran out of the room, screaming for help.
“What’s wrong with her, Malfoy?” Harry cried in fear as he grabbed the corner of the sheet and wiped the blood from Hermione’s neck, where it had dribbled from her mouth. Draco was silent. “What’s wrong with her!?”
He wasn’t ready to loose her. Not now. Not ever. He wouldn’t allow her to slip through his fingers like his mother. He would not loose another woman to the angel of death. He handed her off to Harry and rolled up his right sleeve.
“What are you doing?” Harry cried. “There is no time for this! Get a healer!”
“A healer will not be able to do anything to help her,” he replied in a soft voice as he pulled his wand from his robe. He regarded it for a moment, then, realizing it would not be able to do the job, set it aside. Funny, how in the end magic was not going to help him. He walked to the dinner tray that had been left on the other side of the room and pulled a knife to his side.
“What are you doing, Malfoy?” Harry asked, eyes wide. Hermione was wheezing in his arms, her eyes rolling back in her head. There wasn’t much time left. Draco walked forward.
“There is only one cure for this virus; the blood of a pureblood.”
Harry shook his head. “You are not making any sense, Malfoy. We don’t have time for this. What do you know about this virus?” It wasn’t a question, more a condemnation to point out his unsuitability to be parading about speaking as if he was knowledgeable of anything, but Draco ignored it.
“This virus- it was orchestrated by my father. I know everything needed to be known about it.” Draco stood before Harry, the knife at his side shining bright silver.
“What are you going to do?” Harry asked. “What is it you know that we don’t?”
“My father is filled with hate. He killed my mother, I will not allow him to kill Hermione as well,” Draco took an abrupt step forward and Harry instinctively took one back. “He is the one behind all of these deaths. He made a disease; a virus, that is passed through the fluids of the body. An indirect transference, say one you would get when kissing, does not pass the virus on quickly. It allows the sickness to gestate in the body. It eats away at the body before it attacks all of the organs. That’s why the victims bleed as they do before they die. A direct transference, blood to blood, as was the case with Creevy and Hermione the first day she was infected, causes an immediate reaction. The virus joins with the blood and races to the heart. Its an almost instantaneous death.”
“You haven’t told me how you are going to save her!” Harry yelled as Hermione’s eyes closed and the shaking spread throughout her entire body. She was now almost impossible to hold on to. “Where is Ginny with the bloody healers?!”
“I told you, Potter,” Draco said in a chillingly soft voice, “The healers won’t help her now.”
“Then what are you going to do?” Harry asked.
Draco raised his eyes, meeting Harry’s for the first time in years. “Haven’t you been listening?” he asked calmly. “The only way to save her is to flush the disease out - with ‘pure blood’.”
“You can’t, Draco,” Harry replied in sudden understanding, his eyes falling on the knife Draco was clutching.
“I don’t have a choice. Who else will do it? She’s mine to save,” he said, raising the knife. “My life is my own to trade for hers. I do it gladly.”
“You don’t have to end your life to save her, surely?” Ginny came running back into the room, breathless from her exertions, healers flocking behind her. She stopped dead in the doorway, blocking them from being able to pass as she took in the scene before her.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Draco, you can’t do this,” Harry insisted. Draco looked from Harry to Hermione, still shaking and coughing in his arms and knew that that was untrue. He had to do it. He looked back to Harry, and Harry knew it too. Draco stepped forward, taking Hermione in his arms as he sat on the edge of the bed. Harry sat across from him. “What must you do?” he asked.
“We will have to cut her arm-” he said, taking her pale arm in his hand. Her skin was like porcelain. “I will stab-” he stopped, for some reason talking was becoming difficult “I will stab myself here,” his hand went to his chest. “You must make sure that my blood mixes with hers. It will combine with hers and in doing so there will be no magic-less part to her. The virus, which attaches to the non-magic part of the blood and feeds off of the magic, will have nothing to survive on.”
“You can’t kill yourself, Draco,” Harry said. “She will never forgive us for letting you do that.”
“I don’t care. I won’t watch her die.”
“Why must you do it this way?” Ginny finally found her voice. “Why can’t you just cut your arm as well?”
“The blood must come from my heart,” he replied softly. “And that will kill me.” Harry and Ginny went silent. Draco leaned over Hermione. Time was running out. Her skin was yellow, fading into a dirty brown around her eyes. Her hair was stringy and lacked its usual luster. Her body was still shaking and instead of coughing up blood it had now just begun to stream thickly from her nose and mouth. “Hermione,” he whispered. “You tried to tell me before, but I wouldn’t listen. Its not loving that makes a person weak. Its pretending you don’t have weaknesses. Its thinking that a loved one causes a hole in your armor against the world. I am sorry I did not tell you before, but I was afraid. I see now. I love you. I love you more than I love my own life and I would give anything, absolutely anything, for you. With my kiss I will force air into your lungs. With my screams I will force you to open your eyes. My arms will be your strength. You will not die, Hermione. I will not let you.” With that said Draco braced himself and raised the knife.
“What are you doing, boy?” a healer from the hallway cried out in shock. “You will not be allowed to commit such violence in this place of healing.”
Draco closed his ears to the discontent being expressed behind him. He gripped Hermione’s hand with his free one and closed his eyes. He brought the knife upward and held it there for a moment, steeling himself quickly as he brought it thrusting downwards.
The knife was suddenly wrenched violently from his hands. Before he could do anything to stop him, Ron plunged the blade deeply into his chest and fell to the ground at their feet.
“NO!” Ginny cried in horror as her brother slumped to the floor. Harry stood immobile, bodily keeping Hermione from falling onto the floor as well. Draco, shocked beyond functioning, knelt at the boy’s head.
“You may love her, Malfoy,” Ron wheezed. “But she would hate us for allowing you to commit such an act. I won’t have you die and leave my… sister… with no one to care for her. How dare you,” he tried to breathe but his lungs were not expanding. “try to do- that-” his head fell to the side. “Do it quickly before there is nothing left,” he said.
Draco, completely numb at this turn, took Hermione’s arm and made a large slit. Her beautiful, pale skin split apart seamlessly, red bubbling warmly from the slice and streaming over his fingers. Between the three of them they moved the two bodies close together and set Hermione’s arm onto Ron’s bleeding chest. Only moments later, Ron slumped stiffly, his body becoming far too heavy to support.
Everyone previously paralyzed by these actions now swarmed into the room. Ginny was sobbing, her brother’s head in her lap. Her hands were grasping his face. She was screaming at him; “RON! Ron, please. Oh Merlin, please, hear me! Don’t. Oh, please, don’t. Please,” she begged. Harry was standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder, silent tears falling from his eyes. Draco was sitting on the bed, Hermione pressed against his chest, his arms holding her tightly. Her head was limply hanging backwards. He wasn’t sure if she was breathing, but blood was now seeping from the corners of her eyes. She was crying bloody tears. Her eyes were vacant, her face expressionless. He pulled her to him, burying his face at the juncture of her neck and chest, his eyes stinging with tears.
The healers, seeing one dead boy on the floor and a girl beyond help clutched in the other boy’s arms stalled in their steps. Slowly many of them began to trickle from the room; other patients with a hope of surviving needed tending. They could do nothing for a boy who was already dead.
“Please, Hermione,” Draco was whispering against her skin. He was rocking her unresponsive body back and forth. “Wake up, Hermione. Please, wake up.” He was just about to let go; to give up hope of having saved her. To face a reality where she was not present, when her chest heaved. Life flowed through her body in a surge and her eyes flew open. She took a deep, shuddering breath, and looked bewilderingly about the room her eyes falling from Draco to the dead body of one of her best friends; the knife still plunged in his heart.
She shook her head back and forth, tears coming to her eyes. She wanted to scream. She wanted to rage about the room. She wanted to hold him one last time but she didn’t even have the strength to clutch at Draco’s shirt. He held her tightly; the only force keeping her upright. She gave in, her eyes trained on Ron’s expressionless face and the blood pooling in Ginny’s lap and cried silently, anger, pain, and sorrow melting together into numbness.
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