Chapter 12 : Aftermath
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Pansy had gloated at her trial that we would never find him and if we did then Draco Malfoy wouldn't be Draco Malfoy anymore. My sobs had blocked me from hearing the rest of her testimony, but I knew what she meant: Draco Malfoy had been kissed.
And now its too late to say all the things I want to.
After the capture of the Dark Balance, Minister Shacklebolt had taken me to his office and explained it all to me: How Draco had been approached and the threat against all of us, Draco coming to see me and trying to convince me not to take the position and, failing that, how Draco had turned to Ron and himself with a plan to keep Scorpius and me safe.
"What about him? Did he have a plan to keep himself safe?" I asked.
Kingsley couldn't meet my eyes as he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I am as at much of a loss as you are about Dracos whereabouts."
He said it kindly but I knew what he meant: Draco Malfoy is not coming back.
I refused to give up hope, I refused to abandon my love for him. Ron and many others couldn't understand it but Ginny and Harry could. They understood that the ones we love don't ever truly leave us until we leave them, until we forget them.
It was on this day, four months after the last time I saw him that I decided to spend the day with Ginny. Harry had understood that I needed "girl time" with Ginny and had taken James and Albus to the Weasleys for the day.
As we sat and drank our tea and coffee, I could see Ginny looking troubled and a bit distant. Finally she set down her cup, looking me straigt in the eyes as she placed a hand over mine.
"Hermione, I have something for you. A letter." She said slowly.
I looked up at her confused. "Ginny if you have something to say, why don't you say it now instead of writing it down?" I reasoned.
"The letter isn't frome me, Hermione. It's from Draco." She spoke, her voice low, barely above a whisper. "I received it the day the Dark Balance attacked."
I felt as if all the air had been sucked out of my lungs as my mind was reeling. Draco had sent me a letter. Did he know they were closing in? Did he know he wouldn't be coming back? Did he....?
"I'll leave you alone to read the letter." Ginny whispered as she rose to leave, placing the letter on the coffee table.
I waited until I heard her close the door before I reached out for the letter. It was a folded piece of parchment, no address or markings on the outside, most unusual. I carefully unfolded it and I instantly recognised the handwriting as Draco's. I felt the hot prickle of tears at the backs of my eyes but forced myself to focus on the letter.
I'm sorry I couldn't be the man you deserved to have, a man worthy of your love. I don't remember when we stopped being happy togther to just together, but I want you to know I'm sorry.
I'm sorry about everything.
At this point the rest of the letter became harder to read as my tears flowed down my cheeks and blurred my vision.
I should have stood by you and proved to the world that you could love me for me. I should have been a better man to prove it to the world for you.
But you used to I thought. You used to take me away for romantic weekends, surprise me with flowers or sometimes just show up at my office and have lunch with me. But then we just got busy, busy with regular life. I sighed to myself sadly, regretting the past year. I kept reading.
I should have told you about Astoria, but more importantly I should have made you feel like there was no other woman in the world but you.
Oh Draco, I thought. I never really doubted you would stray, I was jealous, insecure and I felt like your mother and Astoria were trying to interfere with us. I felt like you let them, but instead of telling you how I felt, I picked fights with you. I was wrong, but so were you. I shook my head sadly.
I should have understood how important the new job was for you, and how much you needed my support, not my arguments or logic and not my nagging about the time away from us.
I understand now what you needed to hear from me was "I understand. Let me help you". I'm sorry I wasn't more supportive of you in the hard times we've faced. I'm sorry I haven't been able to help shoulder some of the burden you have had to carry.
You have the whole fate and future of the Wizarding world in your hands and you need someone who can make you feel safe and understood.
But you always did, Draco. Even in our hard times, I always felt through the fights that you still loved me, but I would push you away. And you wouldn't fight it. You stopped being so romantic because you didn't think I wanted to be near you, but what I really wanted was you to be closer to me. I cried steadily now, my heart breaking with every fresh sob. It hurt to realise that Draco was gone and I could never again say "I love you" or "I'm sorry." It ripped me apart to know the last time I ever saw him I had yelled at him, kicked him out of my office and I could never take it back. I finally dried my eyes enough to read the last part of the letter.
If I never see you again, then know this; I have always loved you, and I always will. Nothing in this world will ever be as important to me as you and Scorpius. You are my first thought in the morning, my last thought at night and the last thing I will be thinking of when I die.
Love, now and forever
The fresh wave of tears overwhelmed me as my grief consumed me. He had know he wouldn't be coming back. He had known it all along. He gave up his life for Scorpius and me.
I just sat there, crying. Crying away my hopes, my future, my family. I don't know how long I cried for, but I became aware of voices. Ginnys and another, but so soft I could barely hear it.
I silently opened the door and crept towards the kitchen to better hear what was happening before I heard a sound that stopped my heart.
I had left Hermione alone with her letter and it pained me to do it. But she needed to see his last words, his last message to her. She had wondered before wether or not he had left her because he cared or because he wanted to save himself.
The Draco I knew in my school days would have abandoned her, would have gone and saved himself and the hell with everyone else, but the Draco I knew now, the one I regarded as a friend, would never do that. He loved Hermione and he just didn't know how to say it to her anymore.
I sat at the kitchen table aimlessly stirring my tea when I heard a figure step out of the fire behind me. I slowly moved my hand down to my lap, to my wand and was about to curse the intruder when I felt a wand press into the back of my head and a voice that sent shivers down my spine.
"Put the wand down, Ginny."
I dropped the wand and slowly turned my head, hardly daring to believe what was happening. The first thing I saw was the wand before I saw a tall, thin and haggard man. A man I knew very well.
"What are you doing?" I whispered, fearfully.
"Shhh." He hissed, clearly annoyed. "I've come to tell you Draco Malfoy is dead. Everyone believes it and it's time Hermione knew that. I want you to help her move on."
"Are you completely effing mental? You are right here and she has been driven crazy with grief and worry the past four months!" I replied vehmently.
"I almost got her killed!" He growled back
"You saved her!" I protested
"No! I put her in danger in the first place." He argued back. "I should have never married her, should have never put her in contact with that world."
"They would come for her anyway. Because of you she is still alive. If she had married anyone else....." I trailed off, shuddering at the thought.
"Then she would be safer!" He cried, rasing his voice before a dry sob slipped from his throat. "I almost gave her to them."
"I refuse to believe it, even for a second. You love her too much to ever let that happen." My voice steady and my eyes boring into his as I said it.
"I almost did and I might do it again. I can't trust myself to be with her and be able to keep her safe. So I'm letting her go."
"Yes. She'll fall in love with Ron and everything will be the way it should be: Hermione safe."
"But not happy. She loves you and she will always love you."
A tear slid down Draco's cheek and it took him a moment to compose himself. "I can't make her happy, Ginny. I can't keep her safe and I can't be what she needs. If I stay, it will be selfish of me and I will only hurt her and put her in danger again. I need to let her go and she needs to let me go too."
"I can't let you! You'll destroy her if you leave!" I pleaded.
"The world thinks I'm dead, Ginny. Its safer if she thinks it to."
"You are the worlds biggest git! You are walking away from the most amazing witch in the world and for what reason? NONE!"
"I love her too much to do this to her again."
"Then stay. Please stay."
I turned towards Ginny and then I saw her. Hermione. She just stood there, open mouthed and trembling. Slowly she started to walk towards me.
I longed to run from her, I wanted to run and scoop her in my arms, I thought about jumping into the fire and flooing away. All these conflicting ideas and emotions left me unable to move.
Hermione stopped in front of me and gingerly touched my face, to make sure I was real. Then she slapped me, hard. Before I had a chance to recover, Hermione was burring her head in my chest and crying.
She broke my resolve and I knew I would not be able to leave her. I wrapped my arms around her and allowed myself to cry freely, too overcome with emotion for words. Muffled from my chest came Hermiones voice.
"I hate you."
"Never leave me again."
And as I held her close to me, I knew I never would. The whole world might come after her but Hermione would always want me by her side, and I would always want to be there.