Chapter 1 : Broken
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Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own ideas and plot, all recognisable material such as characters and lyrics belong to J.K Rowling, and Mumford & Sons.
It is said that there is calm before a storm, a brief lull before destruction and devastation descend and chaos reigns. The same can be said for a brief period after the storm, before the harsh realities sets in and what is lost and broken comes to light. It is that brief period before lives must be rebuilt, and what is broken must be fixed. Hermione Granger wished this could be said for the Battle of Hogwarts, but the situation was quite the contrary - the storm had arrived, it had destroyed and it had left everything broken.
There was no calm – only destruction and an emptiness which could never be filled.
The fires which had consumed Hogwarts castle just two days ago were long extinguished, the rubble which the castle walls had been reduced to had yet to be cleared, the last of the bodies yet to be exhumed. It was exhausting work, both mentally and physically, only a few worked tirelessly throughout this entire period. Hermione was among the few that had, not because she felt obliged, but as there were so few left to recover the bodies of the fallen. There were so few left that even providing the brave fallen who had fought for this freedom were almost doomed to remain buried beneath the rubble. Some who performed this work were consumed by grief unable to go on, others had come in search of loved ones and found what they had most feared and had been unable to finish their task. She did not wish to think of her own motive for remaining behind.
This work broke the spirit of the once brave reducing those that had remained strong until the very end to break. Not once had Hermione shed a tear, she could not, the tears had long dried up, her spirit broken beyond repair. Laying body after body within the Entrance Hall for collection by family or friends left her with a great emptiness within her chest, a void she doubted would ever be filled. She had been partnered with several witches and wizards who had done all they could, but inevitably she had been left alone to draw the fallen from their rocky graves alongside the few souls who could pluck the will to continue down this path for the days ahead.
She looked into the dark sky, a dark cloud still hung above the castle. It was hard to imagine light shining upon this place again, it was no longer a school, it had become a graveyard. As she searched the grounds looking for a forgotten soldier in this war she could not help but notice the number of loses sustained and she could not help but feel heartbroken to see these people lying broken upon the ground, having fallen in their service to the Wizarding World.
The rain begun to fall, at first softly, a few drops pattering upon the ground here and there but it soon intensified and Hermione was forced to make a quick dash across the school grounds as the rain began to splatter more roughly against the ground. She covered her long bushy hair as she dashed for the cover of a small alcove near the East Wing of the castle. The weather had been as gloomy as the depressing mood which had descended upon Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - or what was left of it now anyway. It was hard to say whether they would ever reopen, much had been lost in this war, but it was hard to imagine a world without Hogwarts.
She quickly ducked within the alcove pulling her knees her chest. Her hair was damp and hanging limply around her face, clinging to it uncomfortably. She sighed, holding back another wave of tears she felt creeping upon her. There were moments like this, where she felt as though she could go on no longer and simply give in to her emotions as so many others had before her. She had to be strong, there was no room for giving in to her weaknesses, she was a Gryffindor – loyal and brave until the end. She knew she could find the courage to continue. That was, if she could muster the strength to do so one last time. It was an inner struggle, one that she might not be able to win this time, she was aware of this and hugged her knees to her chest once again praying that she would be able to find the strength again.
The war may have ended, but the real battle was only just beginning.
Little under a week ago she was nothing more than child in the midst of a war, underage by Muggle standards, and an adult by Wizarding standards. She was torn between two worlds, the world of her birth, and the world that had sheltered and transformed her into this person, one who had been broken as easily as a twig in the devastating wake of the war. It was that simple, what was lost could not be found or replaced, and what was broken would never quite be fixed. They were all victims of the war, every last one of them. There was no escaping the fact that it had touched their lives with its slimy and selfish hands, tearing their childhood, hopes and dreams from them as easily as it had swept into the world. She felt helpless and alone, as though she would never be whole again, and who was to blame her – she’d lost nearly everything.
It was at this moment of utter weakness that she noticed that she was not alone in the alcove, never once had she felt like this, so vulnerable and broken and to have it witnessed by another no less. It was as though the removal of everything she had known had in turn, torn away her existence too. She was an empty shell, moving and breathing, but not truly living. She glanced over at Draco huddled in the corner of the alcove opposite her, he too, had his knees pressed up against his chest attempting to keep warm. He was broken too, everyone was. There was no way around it, the war had damaged lives and destroyed everything they’d ever known. The lifeless look in his grey eyes told her as much, he felt as empty as she did and it was clear that his strength too, was wanning.
“You’re shaking, Granger…” He noted.
“I can’t stop thinking about it all, the sounds of their voices. The lifeless looks in their eyes…” She admitted the time had long passed to hold a grudge; the truth was her only weapon against him now.
“There will be a day when you’ll wake up, and it’ll all just be gone. Every. Last. Painful. Memory. Just. Gone.”
“What would you know; you’re just a Death Eater!”
“I didn’t want that life… I did not ask for it.” He replied flinching, his voice rising in anger.
She not help but pity him, he too had been thrown into this war without a wand – unprepared and with no means to defend himself. If anything, she could sympathise with his situation.
“I’m sorry, Malfoy…” She replied quietly.
“I shall never live down the mistakes of my past, but they are my demons and my demons alone to fight. There will come a time, you’ll see* when you actually bare to close your eyes and not fear seeing their dead and lifeless bodies seared into your mind. There will be a time when you can listen to the silence and not hear the sound of death ringing mercilessly in your ears, I can tell you that much.”
Despite his words of wisdom and their undeniable clarity and strength, she could not warm towards him, “You can hope for that, I merely hope for closure.”
“What are you searching for, Granger?”
“It’s not a what,” She whispered, her voice barely audible, “it’s a who…”
“If you’re searching for yourself out there, do not expect to find it. It is merely a trap for the helpless and guilty. If you are as guilty as you believe you are, you deserve to feel such a pain each you close your eyes, I doubt you search for such a thing…” He whispered.
“But do you?”
There was an uncomfortable silence between them, Draco finally broke the silence, “I seek something I shall never find - freedom from the demons of my mind.”
She did not know quite what to say to his reply, it was one thing to be intelligent as she was, but it was another to know how to comfort someone who had lost as much as Draco had. She glanced outside the alcove, the rain had long stopped and the puddles upon the ground were beginning to fade.
“The rain’s stopped.” She noted.
He sighed, “It’s time…”
“Time for what?”
“What we came searching these grounds for.”
She crawled to her feet, for a moment she feared walking those grounds again and having to find what she searched for. She took a deep breath, allowing the fresh air to fill her lungs entirely and she took her first steps out onto the grounds once again. She looked back to see Draco following her, he too hesitated slightly, but it was only to be expected. He followed her as she begun what she knew would be her final search, the edge of the grounds bordering the Forbidden Forest. If he was not here, she could only hope that he was still alive but had not, for some unknown reason made contact.
They walked for what seemed like hours, until finally she found what she had come in search of.
His bright red hair stood out against the smooth green grass into which it was pressed, mingled with the blood from a small cut just above his right eye. She felt her heart heave in her chest, as she screamed and launched herself forwards falling upon her knees at his side. His eyes were like lifeless and empty pits, there was nothing of the familiar brown she knew so well left. She cradled his lifeless body to her chest pleading with him to awake, but even she knew that there was nothing she could do.
“Ron…” She whispered, “Ron, please… Please wake up…”
There was no reply.
“Ron, you need to wake up…”
She felt Draco’s hand upon her shoulder; there were tears in his eyes. She could no longer feel her body heaving with each sob, no longer could she fell the collapsing of her heart with each breath.
She brushed the hair away from his eyes, “Ron… I never told you… I’m sorry… I love you…”
“Hermione…” Draco whispered, “I’m so sorry.”
She ignored him; she did not wish to focus upon the reality of the situation, only on bringing him back to her, even if it were for just a brief moment.
She choked upon her voice as she tried to speak again, but this time the words would not come. The time had passed for words. Closure had found her, and now it was time to say her goodbyes to the life she would never have with him. She did not think about how things might have been if he had of lived, only that if he had, she would not have felt this empty and lonely.
She lifted his body with her wand and had it follow her to the castle. Draco had left her minutes ago to complete his final searches along the forests borders. She did not know what he expected to find, but she hoped it would not be as heartbreaking as hers had been. As she placed his body within the Great Hall she collapsed to her knees unable to find the strength to stand any longer. Her heart ached with the sharp pain of a love lost. There was emptiness within her form of closure, as though even though she wished to find some, this was not quite as she imagined it. It had left her with nothing to hope for, and most certainly nothing left to give.
This was one broken thing that could not be fixed.
“Please…” She whispered feebly to Draco looking into his eyes, “take me away from here; I have not got the strength to do this any longer.”
He lowered himself to face her and cupped his warm hands around her face, steadying it despite the shaking of his own hands and the tears pouring silently down his cheeks he hugged her tightly to his chest. There was a warmth she never imagined could be within his embrace, a silent connection between them, as though fate had joined them from the moment she had crawled into the alcove. He shook as the heaving sobs wracked her body, but he held her tightly, as though he took could not let go of this moment and the strength they were drawing from one another. He would be burying a father. She would be burying the man she once loved. This is what the war had stolen from them, friends, family and the chance to love. They were all each other had in moments like these.
Finally when he spoke, his words were broken by the shakiness of his voice, “I cannot either…” He replied.
He took her hand and led her away from the castle, looking back into the distance as they did so, several wizards searching the grounds even now. The sun was peering beneath a cloud, the first rays of sunlight she had seen in days. She could not help but breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing it, she would never forget the lifeless pits within Ron’s eyes, but she had found what she was looking for – closure. Hogwarts would be the place that would haunt her memories in every single waking hour of her day. She would never forget the sound of death resounding within the walls of castle she once called home, her sanctuary – the place she belonged. The castle had been near torn to the ground in the struggle and very little of the places she once loved were left. The most unlikely of allies in her battle to find herself amidst the rubble had already begun the repairing process. Although they had their differences, they were joined by a fate, one which neither wanted nor desired, but nevertheless tied them implicitly until the end their days.
She realised that the best they could hope for in times like these was to find someone who understood the pain they felt. Whilst they may never be rid of the grief and the guilt they felt, the most they could hope for was for a reprieve. The pain might never diminish, but it was a constant reminder of what they had fought for, freedom so easily once taken for granted took the lives of the brave and honourable to regain. No-one would ever again take their freedom for granted; it would be permanently affixed in their minds that a war was fought to gain it. Everyone had been left broken by this war, and like many, Hermione and Draco were broken objects waiting to be fixed. Whether their loss was one of strength and hope, the fighting of one’s own demons or the beginning of a new life without someone who was supposed to be in it, the battle was only just beginning and they could only hope that there was a chance for them to be mended, if only the right person reached out and tried.
A/N: This is based upon After The Storm by Mumford & Sons, the line denoted with the * is a small portion of the lyrics from this particular song, although the ideas within it mainly influenced this one. I hope you enjoyed this small story.
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