Chapter 1 : Prologue
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He had considered himself a hero, a giant of epic proportions, as he had raced up the stairs to her lifeless form, victory trumpeting in his veins. He had been a philanthropist in his own right, working for the greater good of another, sacrificing any personal needs for those of his patient.
Now, he had revealed himself to be the sick, reproachful, cowardly poor excuse for a human being that he was. The moment he had abandoned her in a time when she most needed a person – he was a monster.
Yet his cruelty did not rest solely in his abandonment. His cruelty was in his ignorance, in his belief that he was seeking and bringing to fruition a better life for her.
How disillusioned he was to think that she would want existence after suffering the insurmountable rape that was losing her soul.
His nails clawed at his face, he wanted to pierce himself until the pain subsided to numbness. He wanted death.
And then he recalled her lips on his, the softness and sweetness of her embrace after several weeks of hell, and he cried.
He was not only cruel and ignorant; he also possessed a selfishness of one who had just been robbed of the greatest lottery of his life. He had expected her to stay. He had hoped she had wanted him, would come to like him as he had her.
He was foolish to think that returning her soul to her would reverse the reality of her life, of their enmity.
Draco ran his hand over the handle of his wand, savoring the smoothness, the stealthy nature of the disguised weapon. He raised the tip of the wand to the hollow of his throat and opened his mouth to speak.
She walked with a grace and fragility of a dancer, her movements measured and careful. She did not make eye contact with anyone, did not acknowledge their stares; she was unaccustomed to human pleasantries. She had lived a life with dementors the past month and a half – human interaction was foreign, like riding a bike after years of abstaining from doing so.
She arrived at her destination, walked quickly up the stairs and stood on the stoop. She admired the worn doorbell, remembering – and what a shock it was to remember for the first time in six weeks – the many hands that had pressed the button, the stoop once carrying the weight of those dead and alive.
She glanced at the number twelve as she contemplated ringing the doorbell, but decided against it; she knew where they would be. An unconfirmed suspicion was calling her there, as she crossed the threshold and closed the heavy door behind her.
The hall stood proudly around her, the troll’s leg umbrella stand urging Tonks to knock it over sitting in the corner. The hall was dim and after breathing in the scent of dust and smoke, she passed through it to the set of stairs leading to the basement kitchen.
Her steps on the creaky staircase were drowned out by laughter and chatter. She smiled to think that they had learned to be happy without Ron, without her. It was comforting to know, had she… Had Draco not…
But the laughter was different, nonetheless. She distinguished a tinkled in Ginny’s that seemed affected; Harry’s boomed as it never had before; George’s guffaw was hollow. They were laughing, though. They were learning.
She reached the bottom step, craving to see them, to hold them, to speak and understand. In her trauma, she needed them.
Yet she enjoyed being a bystander to their party, hearing the chink of glasses and tones of voices, sounds so forgotten to her ears. She enjoyed eavesdropping on a party that was not hers.
But the temptation was too great, too strong. The urgency of her visit bestowed upon her, she placed a frail hand on the cool doorknob and turned.
She was home.