If any of you listen to music while you read stories, I highly recommend that you play Track 1 by Sigur Ros while reading this chapter. I played it on repreat while I wrote this, and I believe it fits the mood of this perfectly.
Here's the long awaited chapter 22...
It had to be some form of irony, some sick, twisted irony which had enveloped the folds of her existence. The very thought of it seemed to strangle her from the inside out. As soon as the sun slipped below the horizon, and the pale moon rose to its peak in the blankets of stars, blurred visions overtook her mind. Images of cream-colored lilies, rows of unidentifiable faces, and woven lace swirled like pastels under her heavy eyelids.
Her wedding was the same day as his sentencing.
While she would be pinning freshly twisted curls behind her ears, while she placed her grandmother’s pearls around the nape of her neck, and while she stepped into the flowing skirt of her dress, he would be reminded his great discretions. The court would then decide if he would be taken to Azkaban for a life sentence, or be executed for his great treason. It failed to reach any level of fairness. She was convinced that this situation was her form of private punishment for following his wishes, and sinning on his behalf. What sick, twisted irony.
This is what he wanted. Draco had given her no other option but to go through with his twisted wishes. He was determined to solely suffer for their transgressions, and leave her in some form of safety. Hermione had accepted this, and had convinced herself that this was right. This situation was part of his plan, and she was to execute it to its fullest. The wedding had been planned for years, seeing that this was her destined fate
In Draco’s wiliness to suffer on her behalf, he had kept her life in its rightful balance. This was the expected path that she was destined to travel: have a successful career in the ministry, become a public figure, and marry Ron Weasley, the boy who had fought beside her during the war. On the outside, it was seemingly perfect, a blissful prospect for a woman of her stature. When he had re-entered her life, Draco had, for a brief moment, soiled this arrangement. He took the form of the mysterious outsider who threatened the purity of the trio’s post-war lives. His presence drove Hermione to near insanity, reminding her of the deception played on her friends during their tryst.
Just has he had appeared, Draco vanished, leaving Hermione back to fulfill her desired fate. Today, she would be marrying Ron Weasley.
“Hermione?” a voice whispered into the crevice of her right ear.
Hermione’s eyes fluttered softly as she came to face her mother, whose small smile masked any perceivable emotion. Behind her, Ginny stood in the pale sunlight.
“It’s time,” Ginny said, motioning for her to wake.
Hermione nodded, pulling her comforter to the side, and placing her toes on the cool wooden floor.
“Everything is waiting for you in the back dressing rooms at the church, dear,” her mother cooed before allowing Hermione to dress.
Hermione watched as her mother playfully pushed Ginny out, and closed the door behind her. After pulling on a long gray sweater, she made her hair presentable before stopping to eye her reflection in the mirror.
With a sigh, she closed her eyelids before following her party to the church.
Within the depths of the ministry, guards began to accumulate in the detention holding area. Most stayed still, but others shared their predictions of the sentencing.
“They’ll kill ‘im fur sure,” whispered a burly man to his colleague.
The man nodded.
“I reckon you’re right, but you never know. It would destroy a soul to commit a man to death. I couldn’t do it.”
“But he’s a murderer,” spat the other, “Killed Terence ‘e did.”
The other cleared his throat.
“It’s out of anyone’s hands now.”
Suddenly a call to order rang through the stone walls, sending the men into utter silence.
From behind the cell walls, Draco watched through glassy eyes as the guards snapped into upright positions, awaiting orders to take him back to court. For the first time during this process, he was alone. Barry could no longer escort him, seeing he was a convicting criminal.
As the head guard slowly approached his cell, followed by three others, Draco turned his disheveled head to take a last glance at the damp stone room that had become his home. The weathered mattress had lost its original gait, sagging in the middle while the lone blanket lay folded neatly in its place. After his conviction they had given him a grey outfit, the sign of a felon, in place of his street clothes. If he had a mirror, he would see only a shadow of the man he had once known.
Whoever stood before him was barely unrecognizable. His smirk had been replaced with a somber, vacant expression, and his once polished hair was disheveled and dirty. Once piercing gray eyes now were lifeless, hindering any emotion. But inside, he was prepared to meet his fate.
The head guard finally reached the cell, unlocking the heavy door before stepping inside.
“It’s time,” he stated while two men beside him began to placed Draco in handcuffs.
“I know,” Draco softly nodded in response.
As the men surrounded him, grabbing his upper arms, Draco showed no resistance as they began their walk down the corridor. The walk was painfully slow, but the group eventually made it through the doors.
After the ride up on the lift, the doors opened on the Court level. They all stepped out, walking down the main hall until they reached the grand entrance to the head court. Draco heard the guard take a deep breath before opening the doors, and pushing him in.
The scene in the room was drastically different than before. Instead of anxious chattering, the jury, and the crowd sat silently in their seats. The only audible noise was the sound of the guards shuffling across the tile. To his right, he caught a glimpse of a Barry and his mother. Barry stood with his eyes lowered to the ground, his hands folded in front of him. His mother stood silently by his side with tears spilling down her cheeks. It looked that she was capable of crumpling to the ground in an instant.
Once Draco reached the center of the room, the guards positioned him before the Judge, his heavy chains clambering against the cool tiles. From behind the podium, Judge Mason stood.
“Ladies and gentlemen of this high court and the most esteemed jury, today we gather to conclude our deliberations in the Ministry of Magic vs. Draco Abraxas Malfoy.”
He cleared his throat.
“The defendant was found guilty of all charges, including murder in the first degree. In this current state of guilt, the defendant requires a decision of the type of punishment he will receive for his gruesome actions. The jury will decide his fate.”
The sound of the Judge’s voice failed to permeate the serenity of Draco’s numbness. He felt no emotion, nor any desire to beg for mercy. As he continued, Draco’s lifeless eyes closed.
“…The Law requires that for a sentence of murder in the first degree, the defendant is given two courses of possible punishment. The first is to serve a life sentence in Azkaban prison, with no opportunity for parole. The second, the harsher of these two, sentences the defendant to immediate execution. Mr. Malfoy’s punishment will be left to the discretion of the most esteemed jury.”
Silence fell over the court as the Judge gracefully lowered himself into his seat.
“Both teams will be allowed a brief audience with the jury. Mr. Buckley, representative of the British Ministry of Magic, you may proceed.”
The somber mood encompassing the room seemed to instill no rousing effect on the arrogant lawyer. With an exaggerated nod toward the bench, Buckley placed his sausage hands behind his back, and entered the arena.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, my speech to you will be rather short. You have sided with my voice in your first decision, and I beg you to see the validity in my arguments today.”
After running fingers through his greasy mane, he continued.
“The simple fact is this. Mr. Malfoy murdered our beloved Minister, Terence Fletcher. Terence touched the souls of every breathing person in this room over his brief life, and we must respect his spirit. Taken from us in such a brutal way, it is our duty to avenge his death. Why give his murder the easy road? Sitting in an Azkaban cell, playing cards and mind games with thieves and cheats. No, he deserves death.”
Buckely narrowed his gaze as he threw a look in Draco’s direction.
“Mr. Malfoy deserves the same fate as Terence. He deserves the death sentence.”
Hushed whispers broke through the cloud.
“Your honor, I’m finished here,” Buckely concluded before trotting back to his seat.
With three swift bangs of his gavel, Judge Mason silenced the room.
“Thank you, Mr. Buckley. Mr. Samsburg, you may proceed.”
Barry slowly stood, pain thriving underneath his stillness. With a quick adjustment of his spectacles, he slowly approached the bench. The crowd watched as Barry closed his eyes with a heavy sigh. Some pondered if he was fighting back tears.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. There is not much for me to say.”
He paused, collecting himself again.
“Mr. Malfoy has been sentenced, and was found guilty of murder. As much as I question the circumstances surrounding this, I am helpless to change its course. You want him to suffer, and I understand why.”
Barry glanced at Draco with a sad expression.
“All I ask is that you remember the man Mr. Malfoy was before this debacle. He was a leader in this Ministry. He was a co-worker, a business partner, or more importantly, a friend. Would you wish death upon him? Please consider this.”
He stopped, folding his hands.
“That is all, your honor.”
Barry’s presence lowered the already melancholy mood of the room. After returning to his chair, Judge Mason banged his gavel.
“Now that both teams have spoken, it is time for the deliberation. Since the stakes of this decision are grave, the jury will exit the court to deliberate, and will return with a united verdict. We have heard both sides, and now you must decide if Mr. Malfoy should receive a life sentence to Azkaban prison, or execution. Ladies and gentlemen, you may exit to your deliberation chamber.”
The men and women of the jury stood from their benches, and began to file out of the room. Still standing in heavy chains, Draco Malfoy stood in the middle of the court, silently awaiting his inevitable fate.
Hermione Jean Granger stood before a massive mirror, barely recognizing her own figure. Instead of her usual pleated skirt and blouse, she donned an exquisite white gown, which draped elegantly over the platform on which she stood. She watched her chest exhale a breath, bracing itself against the ribbing of the corset. The top began just before the curve of her breasts, reaching inward to wrap her tiny figure, and spraying outward at her thighs like a mermaid princess. Delicate beading covered the exterior of the gown, accenting the proper places, and amplifying the beauty of the already gorgeous dress. The white complemented her pale skin perfectly, accenting her bronze eyes, and her chestnut curls.
A dozen women scurried about, pinning fresh flowers in their hair, mending hems, and marveling at Hermione’s radiance. Her mother and Mrs. Weasley, lay engrossed in an animated chat with Adelia, complementing the palate of bridesmaid dresses. Ginny broke away from the crowd with one of her cousins to apply Hermione’s makeup.
“Hermione, you are simply stunning, even before I paint my magic,” Ginny said with a grin, as she picked a pencil to outline her eyelids.
“Thank you Ginny,” Hermione whispered in return, her eyes never leaving the mirror.
Ginny continued their conversation as the group began to attend to Hermione’s makeup.
“You know, I was a little skeptical on the fit of the dress, but it looks absolutely perfect. Definitely the right choice, no doubt. Mum always says your wedding dress must be right on, or you will be haunted with ghastly photos for the rest of your existence.”
The group continued for another fifteen minutes, before Ginny had approved all finished touches to Hermione’s face.
“Finished!” Ginny shouted cheerfully as the bridesmaids gathered about Hermione.
“Oh, Hermione, you look unbelievable pretty,” Adelia agreed with a smile as she placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder.
“Out of the way, all of you! I want to see it for myself,” Mrs. Weasley cried as she pushed through the beaming crowd. As she reached Hermione, she brought her hands together with a smile.
“It really is wonderful, dear,” She said, taking one of Hermione’s hands.
Hermione listened to every word, but was unable to respond with any words, just a small smile.
“All that’s left is your hair, and then you’ll be all set.” Ginny stated as she called over to the woman who was in charge of taming Hermione’s curls.
Hermione watched silently as the older woman piled her bouncy curls into an elegant knot atop her head. The process took half as long as the makeup, and the finished effect was breathtaking. The girls immediately marveled at the finished product.
From behind the group, Hermione’s mother stepped forward, holding a silver tiara. She slowly nestled the jewelry within her tumble of curls, and placed her hands on Hermione’s shoulders.
“This is the tiara I wore for my wedding. I always dreamed you would wear it someday, and now you are,” she softly said with a smile.
For the first time since she pulled on her dress, Hermione took her eyes of the mirror, and hugged her mother.
“Thank you mum,” she murmured.
Mrs. Weasley, who had left the bridal room to check the status of the wedding returned.
“Thirty minutes until the wedding party walks down the aisle! Everything must be in order! All of the guests are almost here,” Mrs. Weasley cried with excitement.
Hermione watched as the girls and her two older women anticipate the approaching ceremony. Just as Ginny was about to join them, Hermione touched her arm.
“I’m going to take a peek at the chapel, be right back,” Hermione told her friend.
Ginny nodded with a grin.
“Alright, but don’t let Ron see you.”
Hermione picked up her beaded skirt, and quietly exited the room. As she walked down the hall leading to the ceremony room, she heard the loud ruckus of the guests finding their seats. Hidden behind a wooden beam, she leaned forward, surveying the room.
Everything lay decorated to perfection. Hundreds of flowers covered the walls and the altar, leaving little white spaces left. Candles lit the room, adding a touch of warmth to the church. She watched as the guests greeted one another, complementing the decorations, and asking about each other’s children. Hermione recognized all of her relatives, including her Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and cousins. They had come to see Hermione marry her longtime love.
This was everything she had dreamed of since she was a little girl, playing with her dolls. It was every girl’s dream to walk down an aisle covered in rose petals in a gown of pale white, with crying relatives lining the pews. After months of planning, everything had taken shape into a beautiful ceremony. It was all before her, a great expanse of happiness. After taking once last glance, Hermione turned and began down the hall to the bridal room.
She was marrying Ronald Weasley. The silly red-headed boy she had met on the train, who had stood by her side in the classroom and on the battlefield. He was such an honest, good man. Despite his temper, and other small flaws, he was an ideal husband. Ron was going to look perfect in his dress robes, standing at the altar, waiting for her to join him. He would shoot her his goofy grin, then reach for her hands. They would exchange vows, kiss before the crowd, and begin their planned life of wedded bliss. Everything according to plan.
When Hermione reached the bridal room, she greeted everyone, and stepped onto the pedestal to claim her spot beside the mirror. The woman before her was no longer the gangly, big toothed bookworm from Hogwarts. She was a lovely, mature lady. Her makeup was done to perfection, and bare neck was stunning against her chestnut curls. Unnoticed by anyone, a single tear formed at the base of her eye, and began to trickle down her left cheek.
Even amongst all the beauty and happiness of the day, the gorgeous gown, and the sweet smelling flowers, Hermione’s soul ached. None of these things could cover the pain coursing through her fragile veins.
Ginny appeared by her side, examining the back of her dress.
“Oh dear, your zipper came undone a bit. Let me fix it.”
A sudden whisper escaped Hermione’s lips.
“Ginny, I can’t.”
“Honestly Hermione, just breath in a bit and I’ll get this closed.”
Hermione chewed on her bottom lip as tears welled in her eyes .
“No, Ginny, I mean I can’t do this.”
From behind, Ginny froze. In an instant she walked to the mirror and turned to Hermione.
“What do you mean?” she questioned, a hint of concern in her voice.
Hermione closed her eyes as wet tears began their descent down her face.
“I can’t marry Ron, Ginny. It isn’t right.”
Ginny’s mouth opened in response, but she could form no words as her expression dropped.
“Are you sure?”Ginny finally asked.
“Ginny, I love Ron,” she paused,” But as much as I love him, I gave my heart away years ago. And I can’t believe I was so stupid not to see it sooner.”
Ginny shook her head somberly, fighting back her own tears.
“I understand,” she softly replied.
Hermione brought her hands to face, pressing her cheeks as Ginny placed a hand on her shoulder.
“What do you want to do?” Ginny asked.
Hermione choked back more tears.
“Everything is my fault, and I have to try to undo my wrongs, anyway possible. I have to go.”
“You’re running out of time, Hermione. Go now. I’ll take care of everything here.”
Hermione nodded in appreciation, and threw her arms around her friend.
“Ginny, tell them to come if they want to know the truth. The truth about everything.”
After giving Ginny one last look, Hermione picked up her skirts, and hurried from the room.
Ron and Harry stood with the other groomsmen in the hall preparing for the ceremony. Each began running through the proper steps, gestures, and movements that must be taken.
“Harry, my vows are alright?” Ron asked.
Harry rolled his eyes with a chuckle.
“I’ve heard them a thousand times, Ron. They’re great.”
Ron nodded with an exhale of breath as he ran his hands through his hair.
“What’s taking the ladies so long?” Ron’s brother George jokingly complained.
Harry glanced at his watch.
“Something must be holding them up.”
Just has Harry looked up from his timepiece, his eyes narrowed as he saw Ginny hurrying towards the group, her dress billowing behind her. The groomsmen exchanged words as the matron of honor reached them.
“Ron,” Ginny softly cried, her expression somber. A look of confusion spread across Ron’s features as he listened to his sister.
Harry looked at Ginny, his heart sinking.
“Where’s Hermione?” Harry questioned.
Ginny was speechless, obviously fighting back tears.
Ron shook his head.
“What do you mean she’s gone?” he near shouted, “It’s our wedding day. We’ve been planning this for months, even years. We’re almost to the altar, and you tell me she’s gone?”
Ginny nodded, dropping her face to the floor.
“Well, where did she go?” Ron asked forcefully.
Harry watched Ginny lift her face to her brother’s.
“Where do you think?” She almost whispered.
Ron turned from the two, placing his hands on his head, gathering himself before responding.
“Please come listen to what she has to say. Hermione knows she owes everyone an explanation. Ron, Please?” Ginny pleaded.
Ron closed his eyes and nodded.
“We’ll go. We’ll all go. She owes all of us the truth,” Ron replied.
Ginny turned her head.
“I’ve got to take care of the guests.”
As the group silently collected themselves, preparing to leave, George grabbed Ginny’s arm before she could escape into the fray.
“Where are we going, Gin?” He asked.
Ginny softly sighed.
“We’re going to the Courtroom.”
Hi readers! It's Katie! I've missed you all dearly! FINALLY. Hermione made her decision! I'm dying to hear your thoughts on this.
I'm still pinching myself at the thought that I've made it this far in Just Decide. I can't believe this went from a simple idea popping into my head one afternoon during class, to a full-blown story. Thank you all for your support! Also,I finished my first year of college! And it was amazing. I had the best year, but the added work was difficult.
First off, I sincerely apologize for taking such a long period to write/update this story. I know that may have discouraged some of you, and I am so sorry. I went through a major heartbreak second semester. Definitely the worst i've ever had. It was the kind of heartbreak that broke me for a while emotionally. The kind that made me listen to sappy love songs, cry with my friends, and attempt pull myself together. The thought of writing this story, which is filled with underlying romance and love, was seemingly impossible while I was dealing with this.
I'm in a MUCH better place then I was months ago. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and i've grown so much from that experience. So, I will work my hardest to get this story to you quicker.
Again, you all mean so much to me, and your support keeps me writing, and my creative juices flowing. My writing has helped me in so many ways, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my stories.
I LOVE you all so much!
Prepare for the epic ending that is fast approaching!