Draco awoke first, still sitting in exactly the same position as he had been when he had fallen asleep. Hermione was snuggled into his chest sleeping peaceful. Not wanting to wake her, Draco closed his eyes and continued to doze until he felt the first signs of life.
“Morning beautiful,” Draco greeted her as she stretched out all her limbs, before looking up and giving him one of her gorgeous smiles.
“Morning,” Hermione replied, quite content to simply close her eyes and fall back to sleep. However, the sun was clearly up and casting a golden glow around the drapes and Hermione's stomach was signaling that it was time for some sustenance. “Shower and breakfast?” she asked.
“Shower and breakfast,” Draco agreed as he reclaimed his arm from behind Hermione. They both made their way to their respective bathrooms and in no time, both clean and refreshed, they headed down to breakfast.
The day was different to every other day they had ever spent at Hogwarts. The last day of term was always a special occasion. Breakfast comprised a magnificent spread with everything imaginable and lunch was equally as delectable. During the day, besides packing, there was nothing to do except party, go swim in the lake, play some social quidditch or just simply muck around. It was technically the last day that most of the students could use magic until they returned to Hogwarts.
While the first years would enjoy dinner outside, the seventh years would have a formal prize giving followed by dinner and a dance. Parents and family members were welcome to attend the prize giving and dinner if they wished. This was their last celebration of their time at Hogwarts.
Hermione was feeling terribly sad. She couldn't wait to start her next adventure and start her magical law degree. Providing she received exceeding expectations or above in all her courses, which she knew she would, then she was accepted for her course which was held in a purpose built magical institution in the heart of London. She would move back with her parents for a while but then she planned to set herself up closer to her place of study. After tonight, she could no longer call Hogwarts home, never walk amongst the books in the library or sit in front of the common room fire with friends. Now it would be a new home, with a new library, a new fire place and new people.
After breakfast, Hermione had spent time by the lake with all the seventh year Gryffindors. They all told tales of misdemeanors and the fun times they had shared. It made Hermione want to cry so much and she struggled to fight back the tears. She was going to miss this place.
During the mid afternoon, Hermione excused herself and returned to the common room to pack her things away and get ready for the night. True, she could flick her wand and everything would zoom magically into place, but Hermione wanted to pack it the muggle way so she could remember the story behind every item in her possession. As she packed away her books and quills, her cauldron and clothing, she felt the sobs starting to form in her throat but she also felt the smiles that played upon her lips at the memories.
Once packed, Hermione began her preparations for the evening. It took a total of about one and a half hours to prepare her hair and make-up. First Hermione straightened her hair with serum, then using a spell to heat the tip of her wand, she twisted her locks around her wand to add a much more manageable curl. A few strategically placed pins later, Hermione's hair fell in soft waves down her back with the sides pinned to the back of her head. She had opted for a dark, smokey eye look instead of her usual sweep of eyeliner and mascara. She was feeling slightly more daring and adventurous. Or maybe it was because of the dress.
Hermione had chosen a deep red, halter neck dress, with a low cut back. The dress hugged her figure then fell to swished around her ankles and was adorned with silver diamante's around her bust. But the explanation for the dark eye make up lay in the slit that run from the ground to half way up her left thigh. This wasn't the dress of the know it all, frizzy haired book worm who had started Hogwarts many years previously, but of a confident young lady just waiting to burst forth into the world. While totally different to anything else she had ever worn before, Hermione liked it, and it looked amazing when she twirled.
* * *
Draco's day had been similar to Hermione's although he had spent it with the Slytherins, Blaise mainly and the Quidditch team, who were still reveling in their quidditch glory. He had come a long way from the beginning of the year where he wanted to go to class and hide away. Sitting at the Slytherin table had been hell for the first few months with all the eyes staring daggers at him. It was only his Quidditch skills that seemed to melt the frostiness of his house. But it was going to take a lot more to defrost the general public.
Leaving, his class mates, Draco returned to the common room and packed his few belongings into the trunk. There was little more now than from when he had first arrived from the cottage he had stayed in before walking out on his father. The only addition to the room was a family photo that Draco had retrieved after returning from St Mungo's. He was fourteen in the photo, which had been taken at Christmas, and his father and mother stood proudly behind him. Draco had reluctantly posed in the photo under his mothers expressed desire. Now he was glad he had. It was the last family portrait that had been taken.
Draco took his twenty minute shower, then spent nineteen minutes on his hair and one minute changing into his dress robes. They were new, bought specially for the occasion and were traditional black with silver lining and tailored to fit him perfectly. Ready and dressed in forty minutes, Draco went to the common room to wait for Hermione.
But he did not have to. Leaning causally against the sofa and looking absolutely gorgeous was Hermione. Her eyes glimmered as Draco walked in and he felt his heart stop for second before restarting again. He had seen her dressed up before but it never failed to surprise him. He had to question his sanity. How could he so willingly leave her? He could stay and they could be together, live their own life and forget the world. The world, that was the reason he had to leave, the world would accept him but England wouldn't. He couldn't subject her to his life. It wasn't fair on her.
Arm in arm, they walked down to the Great Hall and Draco was struck by the sudden realisation that this would be the last time he would ever be able to walk with Hermione on his arm, and Draco had to suck up the tears that were about to fall.
“Ready to graduate?” Hermione asked as they reached the last stair case.
“No,” Draco answered truthfully. “From here on out, I'm on my own.”
“Don't talk nonsense. You will always have me,” Hermione chastised him. “As I keep telling you, things aren't as bad as you believe them to be. You won over most everyone at Hogwarts, you saw the healers and law enforcement officers at St Mungo's and they treated you no different to others. Some people will always hold a prejudice; most just want to move on. You have your confidence back and your determination to succeed. You belong here, and don't ever doubt it. You don't have to run away from everything and everyone who loves you.”
Hermione had a way of sticking the knife straight through his heart and twisting it deep. She had a point, maybe he could stay, see what it was like. It had been a whole year since his exile at the cottage, things could have changed. And his decision had been made before Hermione came along. He had tried to stay so strong to his resolution, but now at the eleventh hour, he was beginning to have his doubts.
“Are you all right?” Hermione questioned with concern as she saw indecision creep into Draco's eyes.
“Oh, um, yeah, I am” Draco stuttered with uncertainty. He had been dreading the end of the year where he would no longer have the sanctuary of Hogwarts. “Things haven't been quite like I expected them to be. I thought I'd get to this day, quietly get by diploma from Professor McGonagall and slip away in the night to never return. But instead I stand here as Head Boy, quidditch seeker, best friends with Hermione Granger and about to celebrate my graduation with everyone else. Suddenly slipping away is not that easy.”
“Then don't go” Hermione softly pleaded. “You don’t have to stick to a resolution you made months ago when times were so much different than today. You can change your mind.”
Draco looked deep into the watery brown eyes of Hermione and he could read every emotion written in their depths. She didn't want him to leave and she was fighting so hard to make sure it didn't happen. If he left, it would break her heart and ultimately his as well. He had tried so hard to not let this happen but the heart has a funny way of not listening to the head. And now there was only one course of action that would save her heart, and his.
“Let's go graduate,” Draco said, leaving their conversation unfinished. He had a lot of thinking to do and decisions to make, and only he could make them.
They made their way into the Great Hall and proceeded onto the stage where their diploma's sat on a table. All the other students were seated alphabetically in front of them and the parents were seated at the back. Draco scanned the crowd and could see his mother and father seated in the far back corner. No one was sitting beside them.
Professor McGonagall started the proceedings. “Welcome teachers, parents and most importantly students to this very special graduating ceremony. This day has been a long time coming for all of you. Due to the terrible events of last year, you have all diligently battled through another year with me and my fellow teachers to complete your education, and I commend you on that. But now, your journey at Hogwarts is over, and while there is still a lot for you to learn, here is no longer the place for you to gain that knowledge. There is a vast world out there with many exciting opportunities for you to pursue and I wish you all the best in everything that you do. I now ask your head boy and head girl to say a few words.
Draco stood up first. The headmistress had told them they would need to say something and Draco had written a short speech. After the memorial, this seemed like a walk in the park. “This has been a difficult year, for some of us more than others, but I would like to think that a lot of heeling has happened in the comfort of Hogwarts. So to the teachers, thank you for putting up with us. We know that we don't always listen, we don't always follow the rules and some of us definitely have a deposition for blowing things up.” Draco paused as laughter spread through the audience. “And to you, my fellow students, good luck out there and thank you for making Hogwarts such a cool place to grow up.”
Draco took a seat as Hermione stood up to make her speech. Usually she would have attacked such a task with serious determination, but for once in her life, she just couldn't be bothered. She had thought about her speech, but instead of writing a mile long essay that would put people to sleep, she had only written a few lines and would fill in the blanks as she went.
“I'm sure that many of you will agree with me when I say that I don't want to leave Hogwarts. I've had so much fun, made so many friends and learnt so much. Yes, there are a few horrible events that have marred our years, but the good times far out weigh the bad. Teachers, I would like to thank you for imparting us with your knowledge and helping us in what ever way you could. You of course were students once as well and as such can understand that sometimes staying within the rules of school is even more challenging than the history of magic exam.” There was a general chuckle from the audience. “And to all of you, my fellow students and friends, congratulations. We made it. But of course, this is just the beginning of the next journey. So I wish you all the best with your future endeavours. I hope to see your names written in the Daily Prophet in the years to come, hopefully telling of your achievements and not your criminal activity. So without further ado, let’s get on with the presentation.”
There was a round of applause as Hermione took her seat beside Draco. Professor Flitwick stood up and approached the podium which had been nicely adjusted so he could be seen and Professor McGonagall picked up the first of the Diplomas.
And so it began. One by one, everyone was called up and received their diploma which certified that they had completed their seven years of magical education. On confirmation that they had passed their N.E.W.T's, the Diploma's would then bare the signature of Professor McGongall. Until that day, they would remain unsigned.
“Hermione Granger” Professor McGonagall announced, and Hermione promptly rose to her feet, smiling from ear to ear. She had waited for this moment for so long. Hermione shook the kind professor’s hand as she received her certificate.
“I expect great things from you Miss Granger” the headmistress said with a smile.
“I will do my best,” Hermione assured her before taking her seat once more.
After a few more students, it was Draco's turn and he proudly walked over to Professor McGonagall, shook her hand as she passed him his certificate.
“I'm so glad you came back to join us Mr Malfoy,” she said to him. “You definitely deserved this second chance, and not once did you disappoint. Our world accepts you, you just have to believe it.”
Draco nodded at her words. She after all, had allowed him to return and given him the opportunity to prove himself. “Thanks, for everything” he replied with sincerity. He didn't know what else he could say, but he knew that the Professor understood.
One by one, every student came up with a beaming smile to receive their diploma. Hermione clapped loudly for Harry and Ron, so proud at what they had all achieved. They fact they were even here was a celebration in itself. And then it was all over and Professor McGonagall once again addressed the seventh years.
“The formal part of the day is now over. I ask you all please to exit into the entrance hall where drinks will be served while we we arrange the Great Hall for tonight's festivities. Once again, Congratulations all. I am proud of all of you.”
Draco and Hermione waited until the hall had cleared out, then they made their way into the entrance hall. “I'll catch you at dinner,” Draco said as he saw his parents over by the staircase and immediately veered towards them.
“I'm so proud of you,” his mother congratulated him as she pulled him into a hug.
“Thanks mum,” Draco replied embarrassed. A quick glance around showed that the only attention they were getting were a few evil glances and scowls. It had to be expected with his family returning to the scene of the fated battle. This would be the first time many people would have seen them since the wars aftermath and their self induced seclusion, and the bitterness was evident on their faces. Disappointment flooded through Draco as he realised that Hermione’s words were not all lollipops and chocolate frogs. Life was going to be a struggle, for every one person who could not care less about his past, there were another five who hated him.
Draco gulped back his despondency and turned his thoughts to happier things to take his mind away from his bleak looking future. “You're looking so much better,” he commented to his mother. She had gained some of her lost weight and her checks were blushed red once more. Her hair was back to impeccable health and she was smiling again.
“There is still a long way to go before I am back to peak fitness, but apart from tiredness, I seem to be mending quite well,” Narcissa said.
“And are they any closer to finding who did this to you?” Draco asked, making his father scoff.
“Of course not” Lucius said with disdain.
“But be fair” Narcissa interrupted, “they have at least informed us of their progress, it’s not like I gave them much to go on.”
“You, as always, are being far too kind to them,” Lucius cut in with a hint of a smile.
“And you, as always, are far too ready to assume the worst in them.” Narcissa quipped.
Draco felt like he was missing something with the weird parental exchange that was happening in front of him. But he was not concerned, the light banter was a vast improvement on the depression that had hovered over the family before he left. The conversation turned to their own graduation nights and Draco's mind started to drift, as did his eyes which stopped on Hermione who was walking towards him. But she was not alone. She was being followed by an older couple who could only be her parents. Draco gulped.
* * *
“Mum, Dad, I would like you to meet Draco, the Head Boy, and his parents, Mr and Mrs Malfoy” Hermione said as she reached the base of the stairs.
It was the ultimate test for the Malfoy’s. Here were two, full blood muggles standing right in front of them in the entrance hall of Hogwarts. What would they do? Turn their backs and walk away, stand there with their noses in the air smelling the stench of their impure blood, or would they shake hands and engage in a somewhat civil conversation. Hermione was hoping for the second option. The third seemed like too much of a fantasy.
“It’s nice to meet you” Mr Granger said as he put out his hand. Draco shook it and then Mr Granger turned his attention to Lucius. He looked at it hesitantly for a couple of seconds and Hermione and Draco quickly glanced at each other, each wondering what was about to happen. But then Lucius' guard fell and he reached out and shook Mr Granger’s hand with the smallest hint of a smile playing on his lips.
“It’s nice to meet you too, you have a very talented daughter.” Lucius said conversationally.
Much to Hermione and Draco's surprise, a somewhat cordial conversation occurred between her muggle parents and his pure blood parents. They looked at each other, their surprise evident on both of their faces. It was a sign of how much things had changed. The Granger's had no idea about the history of the Malfoy’s and the Malfoy’s had nothing to lose by being civil to those they once regarded as filth. It might mean nothing and their behaviour was a reaction to the current environment, but maybe, just maybe, this was a sign that the war had changed the views of even those who had been most staunch against muggle borns.
Some time later, with the Granger's and the Malfoy's still in conversation, the doors to the Great Hall opened signaling the start of dinner. Draco started to make his way in with Hermione and the Granger's but then realised that his parents had not moved from the staircase. He looked at them expectantly.
“We can't go back in there son. Watching you graduate is one thing but sitting at a dinner table like nothing happened is another,” Lucius explained almost apologetically as Draco's face fell. “We know we are not welcome here, but we accept that. So we will not ruin the night of everyone else. We have seen what we came here so see, and you have filled me and your mother with more pride than you will ever know.”
Draco nodded sadly, again feeling the crushing weight of the public contempt. He shock his fathers hand and then hugged his mother in farewell. Draco watched as they left arm in arm until they were lost from view, then he reigned in his feeling of sadness and turned back to the Great Hall and his last night at Hogwarts. This was a time to celebrate.
Draco saw Hermione standing by the doors waiting for him, undoubtedly she had seen the whole exchange.
“Why are your parents not staying?” Hermione asked as he approached.
“I'm sorry” Hermione said, picking up Draco's hand and giving it a gently squeeze.
Draco was glad she didn't tell him that they were welcome or any other lies. She was smart and observant enough to have gauged the reaction of everyone at the sudden appearance of two former death eaters amongst them. While hating that life had to be this way, the last thing Draco wanted was a show down between the Weasley's and his parents. That would not end well.
Which brought up another interesting point. Where was he going to sit? The House tables were gone and instead round tables were spread around the Hall with a dance floor occupying the central space. Banners of the Hogwarts Houses were hanging around the room and the ceiling showed a star filled sky with and almost full moon.
“You're sitting with me, and Harry and Ron” Hermione told him in a no nonsense voice
“And Mr and Mrs Weasley?” Draco asked with trepidation.
“No, they are off sitting with Pansy Parkinson,” Hermione answered sarcastically at which Draco raised his eyebrows in surprise. Hermione, slightly embarrassed at her uncalled for caustic humour continued in a much softer voice “Of course with Ron's parents. Look, I know this isn't going to be the best dinner party you've ever had but I want to celebrate my graduation with you. We're friends, and I would even say that you and Harry and Ginny are somewhat friends as well. And you and Ron, well, let's just say undetermined. The point is Draco, this is just one more step in earning back the respect and defining yourself in this world. You had to face me once, this is no different.”
“Always the voice of reason,” Draco summed up smiling. “Shall we go then?” he asked, holding out his arm for her. Hermione gladly took it and together they made their way over to the table where Harry, Ron, his parents and Hermione's parents sat. The plates were already full of food and people were digging in, the feast having started while he and Hermione were talking.
“Hi Harry, Ron, Mr and Mrs Granger, Mr and Mr and Weasley” Draco said as he took a seat between Harry and Hermione. His silent prayers of the floor opening up and swallowing him were not being answered right now and he felt the eyes of Mr Weasley burning into him.
“You were a brave boy coming back here,” Mr Weasley said darkly. “But don't think that we have forgotten what...”
“Dad!” Ron said sharply, “this is our graduation night. The war is over and people change. Let's for one night, just forget it ever happened.”
Mr Weasley looked at his son and then at Draco, then Harry and Hermione. Everyone was tense, not knowing where to look. “Yes, you're right,” Mr Weasley conceded. “To your graduation and fine futures”. He raised his glass and everyone followed his lead, clicking glasses all around. As they did so, Hermione smiled at Ron who caught her eyes on him and smiled back. She was really thankful for his interjection and it showed just how much Ron's feelings for Draco had changed.
No further mention was made of the war or how Draco managed to find himself at the table of the famous Harry Potter and his equally as famous side kicks. Dinner and dessert was eaten and conversation made. Draco didn't say a lot, but he had to pique up when talked turned to the last quidditch match of the year. Ron was practically kicking himself as he had to relive the nightmarish last few minutes when he let in the last two goals that secured the Cup for Slytherin. Draco snickered to himself and felt like breaking into the Slytherin version of 'Weasley is our King', but resisted the temptation.
Feeling, somewhat at ease again, Dinner was finished and Professor McGonagall thanked the parents for their attendance. As they made their way from the Great Hall, the invited dates of the seventh years filed in, then the lights were dimmed, the music was turned on and the party really began.
A/N: ONE MORE CHAPTER TO GO!!!!!
Write a Review Defining My Independence: Graduation