Chapter 1 : Ethics of a Celestial Home
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Please excuse any spelling errors; it was speed-written in wordpad, which doesn't have a spellcheck.
By the time the city started to wake up, a thick mist was rising from the river and creeping through the grey streets. It rolled lazily over fallen witches and wizards, past the stumbling figures of those too injured to shake away the fatigue that made their limbs so uncooperative.
It was over.
Too many had fallen for the battle to be called a victory for either side. Voldemort was gone, but it was highly likely that Potter was too, and the Healers knew not to get their spirits up as they trudged through the rubble checking each and every body for a sign of life. The fog looked like it was only going to get worse but they continued on clad in white robes, eyes and ears open and minds numb to the disaster around them.
Draco had suffered a sprained wrist at the worst, and so he was given a pain-killing draught and told to join the search party.
"Keep your eyes open for anyone alive. Try to wake up as many people as you can, but you're welcome to focus your search on your friends and family." he was told.
Nodding mutely, he began to stumble through the fog. The ground beneath him was comprised of ash and rubble; houses built to withstand harsh British weather hadn't stood a chance against charging giants and magically conjured cyclones. He tried not to think about the poor wizards caught beneath them.
He stopped, realising that he hadn't been paying attention to where he was walking. The fog was closing around him like a thick blanket; feeling more protective than smothering when he thought that there could still be Death Eaters out there.
Lucius. His mother. Blaise. Pansy.
Lucius and Narcissa had been in the front line with Potter, staying as close to one another as they could - he had no idea where to start looking for them. For all he knew they could have been on the bridge when it fell... there had been so many figures duelling; he had been helping Blaise take down Nott when the ground shook with a horrific rumbling. For one heart-stopping moment the fighting paused, as all eyes turned to the bridge.
It had collapsed, one of many monuments to fall at the hands of destructive and badly-aimed spells.
Draco was only grateful he wouldn't have to help fish out the corpses from the river. Stepping over the twisted forms of his old schoolfriends was making him nauseous enough.
"Mister Malfoy!" a voice shouted from somewhere to his left. He turned to look at Professor Sinistra, supporting a semi-concious McGonagall over to the healers. "Wake up, you stupid boy. You're supposed to be checking to see if these people are alive, not just walking over them!"
Draco blinked and looked down. He was halfway through stepping over a boy in Hogwarts uniform, lying face-down in the ashes. He crouched down and Sinistra walked away, leaving him to gingerly press his fingers to the boy's neck. There was no pulse.
His stomach churning, Draco got up and vomited in the dust. He knew people had died; some of them young and foolish enough to sneak into the battle when they were barely out of the second school year, but actually seeing and feeling someone he might have walked past once... his insides couldn't handle it.
He had to find his friends.
Spitting the foul taste out of his mouth, he strode away from the body and climbed over a small wall of rubble - all that remained of a house. Someone had propped the unconscious form of Percy Weasley against an upturned table; presumeably to return with a Healer, and Draco was careful not to disturb him as he stepped out of the other side of the 'room' and found himself at the bottom of a small hill.
It had been a park at one point, he realised. Now the sky overhead was thick with black clouds and the grass was grey with ash and smouldering skeletons that he tried not to look at. The air was thick with the stench of burning flesh; enough to make him gag and cover his mouth with the torn sleeve of his robe.
Even the Healers were avoiding it.
And yet, from the top of the hill he would be able to see pretty much everything; mist nonwithstanding. He needed to find Blaise and Pansy, and he needed to find them soon... before his legs gave way completely and he just left himself to rot in the dust. Being alone was really starting to mess with his head.
Breathing through his mouth, he started walking as briskly as he could through the soft grass. Something crunched beneath his shoes and he grimaced, picking up his pace so that he was pretty much running up the slope.
The air was only slightly better at the top. A small breeze seemed to carry the foul stench of decay after him; bad enough to make his eyes water as he looked around at the ruined landscape. The small area he had just trekked through was only the tip of the iceberg. On the other side of the hill, grey smoke and fallen robed figures stretched out as far as the eye could see; crows circled like vultures in the dark sky and a fire was burning somewhere in the distance.
It was like a bad dream. Draco had never seen anything like it. He had never imagined their battle would leave a devastation of such size... it looked as though the whole city was burnt to ashes and covered in a morbid carpet of twisted bodies.
He felt sorry for whoever had to explain this to the muggles.
He turned around and practically fell into Blaise's grip, embracing the other boy with a flood of relief.
"Are you alright?" Blaise's usually calm voice was shaken and muffled in Draco's robe, but it was still the greatest sound in the world at that time. "I mean... are you hurt or...?"
Draco pulled back and shook his head. "No, no... I'm fine. Are you?"
"Yeah. Broken arm but the Healer set it back and gave me a potion." a flash of angst shot through his eyes. "Have you seen Pansy?"
"Not yet. We'll look for her now, yeah? She's probably with a Healer right now, bitching about something or the other." Draco reassured him. "C'mon."
"Yeah... I'm gonna go look over by where the bridge was. Will you check around the hill? Don't go too far; I'll come back and find you in half an hour or so, yeah?"
Draco agreed and watched Blaise limp back down the hill, passing Percy with a few words of comfort for the stirring Weasley. Once he had vanished into the mist, Draco turned back to the bloody panorama and raked his eyes across it, looking for his friend's familiar black-bob and school uniform.
Someone coughed to his left. Startled, Draco felt his heart skip a beat when his eyes landed on a robed figure in the rubble at the bottom of the hill, fallen badly and looking severely injured. It was a girl and she was wearing his school uniform...
Panicking, he forgot about the stench of death and raced down the hill, vaulting several chunks of building until he practically skidded on his knees to her side.
When he saw her face he wasn't sure what to feel. Sad? He'd be lying to himself if he said it moved him to see her on the brink of death. The truth of the situation was that he didn't know her well enough to be upset, and the worst he felt was guilt at the relief flooding through his veins. It wasn't Pansy. It was Hermione Granger.
She was lying with her eyes half-open, hair splayed around her head like a messy halo from one of the church's stained-glass windows. Small lines of red had rolled across her cheek from a minor scratch on her nose; she had probably hit the concrete at a bad angle when she fell.
"Who...?" she rasped, blood spattering onto her chin.
Draco sighed and sat down in the ashes of London. "Draco. Do you have your wand? I can send up some sparks for the Healers to-"
"No." she interrupted, coughing dust out of her lungs. "No, I don't... there are other people... who need their help. I'm... have you seen Ronald?"
"He was k- yeah, I think he's around the other side of the hill with Potter." It dawned on Draco that the girl was dying, and probably didn't need to hear that both Weasley and Potter were dead. He'd seen Ron fall. It hadn't been the heroic death one would have hoped; both he and his sister had been trampled by the giants just before the bridge collapsed. "I passed Percy Weasley too. He's okay."
She nodded, eyes still unfocused. "What about Ginny?"
"Haven't seen her." Draco lied, picking at the hem of his robe. "I think Weasley would flip shit if she was dead, so I wouldn't worry. Don't suppose you've seen Pansy have you?"
Hermione began to shook her head and then gasped with pain. "N-no." she managed. "Not since you were fighting off Ra-Rabastan Lestrange so that Ron and I could get to Harry."
They fell into silence and Draco looked at her. Other than the few cuts and bruises on her skin she didn't look hurt; but he knew well enough not to take this as a good sign. She had been hit with something, and it was steadily seeping the life from her. It was a shame, he thought; she was the last surviving member of the Golden Trio and the wizarding world owed her a lot... but then again, this was Granger. She wouldn't care.
"So what happened to you?" he asked, not pausing to think that it might be a thoughtless question.
She didn't seem offended. "Bellatrix." she said simply. Draco nodded. Enough said. "Would you... could you do me... a favour, please Draco?"
Surprised, Draco blinked. "Sure."
"Around my neck. My cross. Will you... will you give it to Ronald, for me?" she asked, wincing with the pain that speaking brought. "Please?"
In light of everything that had happened, it occured to Draco that it was the least he could do to fulfill Granger's dying wish, even if it was a cold corpse he would be fastening the chain to. He reached forward and unfastened the locket as gently as he could manage, eventually sitting back into the mud with a silver crucifix in his hands.
"Stay with me?" she asked abruptly, still staring blearily at the sky. "I know you... should be looking for your friends, but I won't keep you long I promise."
Three years ago, if you had told the arrogant young blonde that he would sit with Hermione Granger while she died, he would have given you a look that could put out a candle at fifty paces. Now, he was just too tired to care. If he had been in her place, he knew she wouldn't have hesitated to sit with him and lie about his friends' well-being.
"They were talking about you, you know," he said, looking up at the dark clouds. "In the school. Before the call came in that we were losing... before the students started joining the ranks. Flinch-Fletchley started going on about the statue in the Ministry foyer; you know, the one with the centaur and stuff? He thinks they'll replace it with you three."
Hermione gave a pained smile. "I don't see why. We just did what anyone... would have done if they'd been in... our place."
"Not really." Draco replied, toying with her necklace. "You wouldn't have got this far if you weren't that smart. My Aunt was as smart as you, you know, and my mum used to say that you have to be born with the desire for knowledge to be as intelligent as her."
He had no idea why he was saying this. But there was something about reassuring her that made him feel a little bit better about the fact that the three saviors of the wizarding world had died without the chance to see how much better they had made it.
He made himself comfortable.
"There's a Healer right over there. Are you sure you don't-"
"I'm sure. It's pointless, and there are people who need them more."
Draco looked down at the ground. "You always put other people before yourself, don't you." he sighed. "Maybe that's another reason you were able to get this far. God, I can only imagine the headlines tomorrow... the three of you are going to go down in history until... well, forever I guess. You'll be even more famous than Dumbledore. The three seventeen year olds that saved the world."
"I highly doubt we could have saved the world without... all the people here..." she seemed pleased nonetheless. The smile looked less painful.
Silence fell again and Draco searched for something else to talk about. He looked down at the cross in his hands. She never seemed like the religious type... she was too sensible for that. "Do you believe in heaven, then?" he asked.
"Of course. Do you?"
"I'm not sure... like the rest of my family I was brought up to believe that when we die, our magical souls seperate from our bodies and go to a... sort of magical afterlife. My father always said that only purebloods go there, but when he wasn't listening my mother said your soul goes where you want it to go. I was never sure what that meant, but yeah..."
Hermione was fading. Her eyes fluttered and she gave a tired sigh, chest rising and falling with the effort. "Sounds like... heaven to me..." she choked.
"I'm not sure I'd get into heaven." he smiled sardonically. "What with being an honorary Death Eater for six months and all."
"Oh don't be so... pessimistic." she coughed. "You're here now, aren't... you...?"
Her head fell sideways and her breathing steadily slowed to a halt. Draco sat still for a long time beside her body, mulling her words over. Then he remembered that he had been given a job to do and he leaned across to carefully close her eyes - a gesture he felt was pointless but respectful. Being careful not to kick ash over Hermione Granger's body, he got up and walked away.
The remaining Weasleys were crowded around Ronald's body when he found it; he wordlessly weaved through them and fastened the crucufix around the boy's neck. He would have liked to say that he hoped it helped him find her, but with the eyes of Ron's family on him he couldn't bring himself to do it. Later that day he found Blaise by the river. The water was murky and dark, but one pale floating figure stood out, black hair around her head like a straightened version of Hermione's halo. Pansy.
It had been a day to end all days.
Standing in the fog, with his best friend sobbing wretchedly by his feet and his other best friend lying face down in the water, Draco found himself on the recieving end of the oddest revelation he had ever had.
There was something easing the screaming red of his mind at the sight of a thousand dead bodies. His conversation on the ethics of a celestial home with Hermione had given him something. It had always been so hard to reassure himself that he would go somewhere better when he died because he had never been given a name for this mysterious afterlife. Granger had done just that. Heaven. A muggle creation, and yet it seemed fitting.
... What a thought...
An hour later found Draco and Blaise in the Malfoy manor. Narcissa and Lucius were fine; they returned with a drenched girl who flung herself at them with a scream and didn't let go of Blaise until she was pried off by Lucius. They were later informed that she had been lucky enough to have been conscious and treading water for over fifteen minutes after the bridge fell. The Healer told them she had been knocked out shortly before Blaise found her, possibly by a falling peice of rubble from the bridge remnants, and that after the boys left she was fished out of the water and judged to be cold enough for cardiopulmonary resuscitation to have an effect.
Draco had never thought the sight of Blaise crying would make him want to laugh, but the boy sobbed into Pansy's shoulder for over an hour.
Two weeks after the battle, Arthur Weasley arrived on the Malfoy's doorstep to thank Draco. He didn't explain much, obviously trying to keep Draco's pride in front of his family, merely saying that he knew what Draco had done and that both he and his family was deeply grateful.
Draco had smiled. The day before he had talked Pansy into going through her mother's boxes of christmas decorations until she found a crumpled paper angel. It had somehow found it's way onto the grave of one Hermione Jean Granger.