I am surprised at the sound of my alarm waking me up early on Monday morning. As I roll over to turn it off, I find my arm draped over the warm skin of another body and my face buried in soft, bushy hair. It takes me a moment to remember. Granger came into my room last night to talk. She was concerned about how my impression of her had changed due to our sleeping together yesterday. We eventually fell asleep. She must have set my alarm to wake her up for work. I feel her sit up and hear the alarm shut off. I force myself to open my eyes. The first sight I see is Granger staring down at me with big round eyes and messy hair.
“Good morning,” I whisper groggily, my eyes still heavy with sleep and a goofy smile on my face. I feel like an idiot, but I don’t much care.
“Good morning,” she returns, reflecting my smile back at me. She reaches over to stroke my hair. She sighs and pulls the covers back to get out of the bed. “I have to get ready for work. Go back to sleep and maybe we can have lunch together during my break.”
“Very good,” I murmur into the pillow.
“Why don’t you meet me at St. Mungo’s at one o’clock?” she suggests, standing in the doorway.
I simply nod and watch her close the door behind her before closing my eyes once more. I wrap myself tightly, clutching my blankets underneath my chin, desperate to keep in the warmth and keep out the threat of day. Much to my relief I manage to drift off to sleep again for a few more hours. By the time I wake up it’s nearly noon. I know that I only have a short time before I need to be at the hospital to meet Granger for lunch.
I drag myself out of bed and across the hall to the bathroom. I turn on the water as hot as my skin can handle it. I begin to quickly undress. Steam fills the room immediately, fogging up the mirror. I hesitantly slip into the shower, adjusting to the temperature. The water scorches as it drips mercilessly down my body. I feel the heat reverberate throughout the inside of my body causing a pleasant tingling sensation. I rush to wash my hair and body, not wanting to be late. I stand under the water flow for a moment. The worst part of a shower is that moment right before you turn off the water when you know that it’s time to leave the warmth of the water and surrender yourself to the cold air. That first burst of cold air on your skin when you’re still wet always makes you want to retreat back into the water forever.
Once I’m dressed and satisfied that my hair couldn’t possibly be helped, I head downstairs to the dining room. My mother is sitting at the table talking with Cat about how her earlier sessions had gone. Granger told me that her sessions technically ended after we got together, but Mum allowed her to stay while her friends are still here. I walk into the room and sit next to her at the table. She smiles up at me as she continues speaking.
“Blaise is actually making excellent progress,” Mum continues telling Cat. “I think he might be fit to go home soon. Ginny is making progress as well, but she still has much to learn. Harry missed his session this morning, however, I’m a bit concerned.”
“Has he never missed a session before?” Cat asks curiously, picking at the bowl of fruit in front of her.
“Not once. He’s been taking these sessions very seriously. I honestly feel almost overwhelmed with how much he has revealed to me since he’s been here.”
“Talking about the war?” I mutter, forcing my mind to focus on her answer and not wander into my own thoughts.
“Talking about everything,” Mum replies. “He’s told me all about what it was like growing up with his aunt and uncle and cousin. He told me all about his first year at Hogwarts: what it was like finding out about magic and who he really is, finding out about his parents, meeting all his new friends, and of course everything that happened in the underground chambers. The Chamber of Secrets, finding out all about his godfather, Sirius, the Triwizard Tournament. It was quite unsettling hearing about the night in the graveyard, of course.
“He told me all about the dreams he was having caused by his connection with the Dark Lord. The battle the ensued in the Department of Mysteries. He explained his point of view about what happened between the two of you in the bathroom in your sixth year. He felt just awful about it. He’s told me practically everything that has happened to him since he was a child in detail.”
“That had to be stimulating,” I say sarcastically.
“As a matter of fact it was. It was truly fascinating to listen to his account of everything that has happened. It’s not nearly the same as reading about it in the Daily Prophet. It’s clear that he really needed to talk through it all. It’s important for him to be able to just go over everything that’s happened, more for himself to hear than someone else. The last thing we spoke of together last session was him saying goodbye to his aunt, uncle, and cousin before the war.”
“So you haven’t even gotten to the fun stuff yet.”
“The point is that these sessions are very important to him. He wouldn’t skip them without a reason.”
“Well, I’ve got to get to St. Mungo’s to meet Granger. But I’ll ask her if she’s heard from him if you like. Goodbye, Mother.”
“Have a great time, darling.”
I give both my mother and Cat a quick kiss on the cheek goodbye then head out to the hospital. The lobby is nearly empty when I enter. I greet Camilla, the Welcome Witch, politely and let her know that I am here to see Granger. She kindly instructs me to go up to the Fourth Floor. I thank her and go to the lift. After a few moments, the lift chimes and says, “Fourth Floor: Spell Damage.”
The first sight to see after stepping off the lift is a group of wizards in Auror’s robes standing outside one of the rooms. I stand there staring, curious as to what is going on. It then processes in my mind that Potter is an Auror and is most likely in that room that the rest of them are guarding. My curiosity grows exponentially. A woman breaks my thought process, walking up to me and resting a hand on my shoulder.
“Mr. Malfoy, you’re early,” the woman says. “My name is Lorelai Domville. I’m the other Trusted Healer here along with Hermione. She told me that we could be expecting you.”
“Ms. Bungard told me I could find her on this floor,” I tell Lorelai.
“Camilla was correct. Hermione is in there.” She gestures toward the room that is currently being guarded by five or six Aurors.
“What’s going on?”
“Mr. Potter told me not to say anything. He says he wants to tell you himself.”
“Potter? So he is here. How long have they been in there?”
“About an hour actually. Quite bizarre. I’m sure they’ll be out soon enough. Feel free to wait for them wherever you like.”
“Um, thank you.” I watch her walk away, processing the information I’ve been given as I stare after her. I unconsciously begin to pace back and forth, occasionally glancing over at the guarded door. I’m growing impatient. It’s about twenty minutes before the door finally opens. A few of the guards standing outside go inside as Potter and Granger come out. Granger is busy making notes on a piece of parchment. Potter, however, notices me immediately.
“Draco!” he exclaims, causing Granger to look up from her notes wide-eyed.
“Draco!” she echoes, a large smile spreading across her face. She runs across the floor and throws herself into my arms. As greetings go, it wasn’t unpleasant. I smile into her bushy hair and for only a second I forget about the situation I had been so painfully curious of all this time.
“What’s going on?” I ask Potter, looking at him over the top of Granger’s head. For some reason, the small smile the breaks across his face makes me uneasy.
“We caught him,” Potter says. When I simply stare at him he continues. “Lorenzo Cane. We caught him and we are able to prove that he killed Astoria. There’s no way for him to get out of this now. We got him.”
I stare at the closed door, mouth slightly open. My heart pounds and I can feel the blood surging through my veins. I fight against the burst of anger that threatens to take control of me. The man who killed her is on the other side of that door. I’m actually standing in the same building as the son of bitch who took her life away from her.
“What are you going to do with him?” I ask absent-mindedly.
“Take him to Azkaban – what else would we do with him?”
“They’re going to order a Dementor’s Kiss, aren’t they!? They have to! He fucking killed her, he deserves it!”
“Draco, calm down,” Granger begs, holding onto my arm tightly.
“It’s not up to me whether or not they give him the Kiss, I’m sorry,” Potter apologizes.
“But –“ I begin to protest, but he stops me.
“I know how difficult this is for you. Believe me, I do. He killed someone that you cared about and you can never get her back. I know how much you want him to pay for what he did to her and all the pain he has caused you. But it isn’t up to us. I’ll put in the suggestion, but I can’t guarantee that the court will follow through.”
“Even if the court decides not to give him the Kiss,” Granger says, “at least you know that they’ve caught him. Astoria’s family gets the closure of knowing that he’s the one who killed her, Cane will be punished even if not in the way you’re hoping, and the world has the comfort of knowing that he can’t hurt anyone else anymore.”
“Does her family know that you’ve caught him yet?” I wonder out loud. Potter simply shakes his head. “Can I tell them?”
“Sure.” Potter gives me a sympathetic smile. I try to ignore it. No one’s sympathy is going to make me feel any better. It won’t change anything. She’s dead and he’s not. That’s not fair.
“Hey, Hermione!” Lorelai calls from the doorway of one of the other rooms. “Can I get a hand over here?”
“I’ll be right back, then we can go have our lunch if you’re still up to it,” Granger tells me, reaching up to brush my hair away from my face. She leaves to go assist the other Healer with the patients. Potter and I stand there in silence, staring at the floor.
“Thank you,” I finally mumble, still staring down at the perfectly polished floor. I can practically see my reflection in it.
“For what?” Potter’s voice seems to pull my gaze up to his face. I seem almost powerless against it. I look into his eyes.
“For keeping your promise.” I pause, remember what Granger had told me at the funeral about this case being the only reason he didn’t leave his job. “Can I ask you something?”
“Now that you caught him, are you done being an Auror?”
His eyes widen in surprise. Granger obviously didn’t tell him that she told me anything. I watch his chest rise as he takes a deep breath. He takes a moment to glance back at the other Aurors guarding Cane’s room, then looks back at me.
“Well?” I say impatiently.
“Yeah, I think I’m done being an Auror,” he finally answers with a heavy sigh. “I don’t want to be caught up in this world anymore. I’m exhausted. I’m tired of chasing criminals, printing out Wanted posters, having to bring innocent people here when our attempts at catching these people puts them in danger. I just don’t think that the rare occasion of catching them and putting them away, even though it protects people, is enough for me to stay anymore. Maybe that’s selfish.”
“I don’t think it’s selfish, but then again I’m not exactly the one to ask about that sort of thing. I usually choose the selfish route. You’ve been chasing shadows for, what, ten, maybe eleven years. You haven’t gotten a break once to allow yourself to heal. Maybe it’s time you let someone else save the world for a change.”
“It may not be that easy for me to let go.”
“You can’t save anybody when you’re dead. If you need to take a break to put your life in order then that’s what you should do. You can’t work yourself to death in a job that’s eating away at you because you think it’s your job to save everyone all on your own. You need to save yourself this time. Or better yet, let someone else save you.”
“It’s strange, it looks like you and sounds like you, but that couldn’t possibly be Draco Malfoy talking.” He laughs quietly, seeming to melt the icy feeling inside of me.
“Sod off, Potter!”
“No, wait, I’m just joking,” he says, still laughing, clearly amused with himself. I stand there and watch him as he continues to giggle at himself like a child at a dirty joke. I can’t help but admire the moment. People don’t laugh as much as they should these days. It’s not so easy to find a reason to laugh after everything. His laugh specifically is even more of a rarity than anyone else’s. As I listen to him, I realize that I don’t remember the last time I laughed. Eventually he calms himself, taking a deep breath and smiling at me.
“Merlin, Potter, it wasn’t that funny.”
“It wasn’t particularly funny at all when you think about it, but for some reason I got a kick out of it.”
“You need more laughter in your life, Draco. It’s the only thing that will keep you from losing your mind in all of the tragedy and chaos.”
“I’m sure that when something is actually funny I’ll laugh,” I mock him. Instead of his typical eye roll and glare, he just laughs and shakes his head. Before either of us can say anything else, Granger returns from aiding her patient.
“You ready, Draco?” she asks me cheerfully, grabbing my hand. I smile down at her and nod. Without letting go of my hand, she reaches out with her other arm to hug Potter. “You can join us if you want, Harry.”
“Thanks, but I’ve got something important to take care of at the office,” Potter replies, smiling at me.
“You sure?” I say. Granger assumes I am talking about lunch. Potter gives me a knowing look, understanding that I’m asking about whether or not he’s going to resign from his position.
“I’m sure. I’ll see you both tonight.”
“Bye, Harry!” Granger calls after him as he heads toward the lift. We both stare after him. Once he disappears, she turns back to me. “What a morning! So, where do you want to go? Anywhere you want. I suppose we are celebrating in a way, right?”
“I suppose we have a few things that we could be celebrating today.”