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Chapter 24 : Only Hope
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Hermione then lifted her eyes to search for her friends. After spotting them, her heart sank. Harry had an arm around Ginny, who held her face with her hands in her lap. She knew Harry was not only worried about Ron and Ginny, but about herself as well, with just one glance at his expression. The rest of the Weasley’s sat in silence, exhausted from the turmoil of the day’s events. Ron, however, stared blankly in front of him. His lips were clenched together, giving off the impression of a stone figurine. Hermione could only hope that she could make them understand without destroying their relationships.
Before her, Judge Mason banged his gavel.
“Ms. Hermione Granger. You forced an entry into this sacred court, disrupted protocol and caused a dramatic scene. I cannot say that I am pleased with any of this. However, I would very much like to hear what you have to say, since it caused you to go through such dramatic depths to share,” the judge announced.
He coughed into his fist.
“Ms. Granger, you sat in this very seat weeks ago and gave your testimony. I have the records before my as we speak. None of this information told the jury of Mr. Malfoy’s guilt or innocence. As you may or may not know, as of an hour ago, Mr. Malfoy has been given the death sentence, and proceedings will take place within the week.”
Hermione heard herself gasp, digging her nails into her skin as her heart plummeted to her feet.
“No,” she painfully whispered, her head turning to see Draco’s blood-shot eyes fall to the ground.
“But since I consider myself a fair and tolerant man, I would like to hear what you seemed to leave a critical event to say,” he finished, his eyes surveying her torn wedding gown.
Adjusting his spectacles, he leaned forward.
“Alright, Ms. Granger, I give you permission to speak.”
Taking a large intake of breath, Hermione closed her eyes, and prepared to face the scrutiny of the entire room.
“Your honor, I know Mr. Malfoy is innocent. He has committed no crime,” she softly began.
The room erupted with small noises.
“And how exactly can you prove this already addressed fact, Ms. Granger?”
Hermione briefly closed her eyes, preparing herself for the words that were about to leave her mouth.
“Your honor, if you don’t mind, I’m going to start at the beginning... In the Ministry, I serve as the Head of the Regulation and Control of Magical creatures within our community. My job allows me to deal with many unique and even global situations.”
She paused, taking a deep breath to slow her racing heartbeat.
“Months ago, after our alliance with Bulgaria, as somewhat of a gift for our new union, we offered to transport one of our rare Eastern Ridgeback dragons from our sanctuary in Romania to a refuge owned and controlled by the Bulgarian ministry in Bulgaria. As you can imagine, this is no simple task, and required the cooperation not only of two different ministries, but with different departments as well. With this assignment, Terence, may he rest in peace, informed me that I would be working with the Department of International Magical Cooperation, specifically its head Draco Malfoy,” she managed.
“We both decided to fulfill this task to the fullest, and work diligently to ensure the safe transport of this dragon to Bulgaria.”
Buckley sat upward.
“Your honor, how is this relevant?” he snapped.
“Let her speak!” Barry shouted from the opposing side.
Jude Mason banged his gavel.
“Continue, Ms. Granger.”
“We ended up working together quite frequently on this assignment, because there were so many logistical things to handle, so much paper work and communication with other officials. We had memos sent to us in Bulgarian, which we sent to be translated or attempted to translate ourselves. It was an extremely long process, one that required many late nights and early mornings with Draco.”
The next portion she knew was murderous to divulge. But she couldn’t let an innocent Draco be wrongfully murdered without anyone knowing the truth.
“On the day of Terence’s murder, we had a very long workday. We not only had to deal with business with our own departments, but with the Bulgarian case as well. We ended up working in his office that day, and we ended up staying…..staying very late. I went back to my flat around 11, and realized that I had left very important reports that I needed in his office, so I….went back.”
With this last phrase, the jury shot comments in each other’s ears as the Judge flashed a look of surprise across his face.
“Ms. Granger, you just said that you went back to Mr. Malfoy’s office that night. In your original testimony, you said that you remained at home.”
Hermione closed her eyes and nodded.
“I didn’t mention this in my first testimony, I know.”
Not caring whether or not she had permission, Hermione continued with her story.
“When I….when I went back, I ended up staying….longer than I had intended.”
“My God,” Barry commented to her right.
“Your honor, if you remember, reports stated that Terence was murdered at midnight.”
With this, Hermione lifted her eyes upward, preparing herself for what was to follow.
“And….and I know that Draco Malfoy is innocent because…because….because I was with him at midnight.”
The entire room erupted. The crowds shot remarks of disbelief, the jury broke our in intense chatter, and both benches followed.
“I WILL have SILENCE in my court!” Judge Mason shouted.
Hermione brought a hand to her forehead, not allowing herself to see Ron’s reaction in the stands.
“Are you implying that you engaged in intimate acts with Mr. Malfoy during Terence Fletcher’s death?” Jude Mason shouted over the crowd.
Hermione’s eyes filled with warm tears as she leaned slightly forward.
She turned to the voice who had just spoken, Draco. Still leaning against the guards, his desperate eyes pleaded with her, his last effort to protect her and her innocence.
“Yes….” she near whispered.
The noise grew so loud that Judge Mason’s gavel could not be heard over the sounds.
“This is ABSURD!” Buckley shouted as he sprang from his seat.
“So this woman comes forward, claiming she shagged Mr. Malfoy here during Terence’s time of death? This proves nothing! It is all an act! We have to proof! And why didn’t she come forward before? Seeing that this is such a sudden revelation, she could’ve fabricated this story in her mind,” Buckley near shouted towards Judge Mason and the jury.”
This time, it was Hermione who responded to the enraged attorney.
“I’m not lying!” Hermione cried in his direction.
Hearing her voice, the room quieted within a few moments, eager to hear more. As she shook her head, a tear slipped down her quivering cheek.
“This…this is Draco’s albi. His alibi is that we was being intimate with me at midnight…the…the time of Terence’s death. He was…. trying to protect me, and our acts by not giving an alibi. He wanted to protect me….. like this, but I couldn’t sit….sit by any longer, I’m so sorry,” she managed through soft tears.
With this, she made herself look towards Ron and the Weasleys. Harry sat with his arms clenched together, his face lowered to the ground. Ginny gazed at Hermione through tears, while her mother did the same. Ron’s mouth was pinched together, with a hand covering his mouth. She owed it to them to explain the whole truth, and let them know that she had been involved with Draco previously, and that their tryst was not random, and had not formed while she had been engaged.
“Fourth year…fourth year was when it all began,” Hermione began.
The entire room fell silent, drawing on every one of Hermione’s words.
“Harry was enveloped in the tournament, and everyone else seemed to be wrapped in their own agendas, except me. I had always hated Malfoy, with every ounce of my being. He was awful to me, calling me foul names like mudblood, and insulting me in front of the entire school. But…But there was always a moment, after he said a nasty remark, or shoved me, where I would stare at him….whether in hurt or anger, I always did. Beneath his exterior I always felt as if there was someone else beneath, someone who in another life would be friendly to me, and stop making my life miserable,” Hermione continued.
“Fourth year, after the Yule Ball, I was miserable. The night had been as mess, and I ended up sobbing on the corridor stairs outside the ball room. Everyone else seemed to have left, but I was still there, weeping into my elbow devastated after everything that had transpired that night. He found me there…Draco….he found me there. He insulted me, and provoked me to scream at him. But in that moment, I found myself somewhat comforted. By mocking the very people who had contributed to my hellish nightmare, I slowly felt better. I’m not sure how it happened but we shared a few moments that changed…changed everything.”
“We….we began seeing each other when no one else was around, attempting to create the peculiar scene that transpired after the Yule Ball. The situation confused us both, but for some reason, that brought us together. It became hard not to see him as frequently as I did, but we tried. We decided….decided that it would be best if none of our friends new about our arrangement, because we didn’t want to create tension, and we liked things the way they were. All of the events of that year tested us, especially when rumors emerged that his father had been involved in Cedric Diggory’s murder. But we remained inseperable.”
“Fifth year was challenging, with Professor Umbridge. She immediately took a liking to him, and commanded him to do her dirty work. The positive thing for us was that this gave Draco more freedom, and we were able to see each other more. We frequently fought…fought over everything. Our friends, our opinions, the approaching war, everything. But it fueled us as well.”
“Sixth year marked the beginning of the darkest days of my life. I felt Draco…I felt him changing before my very eyes. He suddenly became distant, and would tell me nothing, and brush off my offers to help. I would….find him sobbing to himself, or staring blankly into the distance. That night….the night when the….when the deatheaters entered Hogwarts, he told me everything….how that he…he had been marked…and the terrible thing he was supposed to do. He left me in pieces, shattering me with knowledge that he had crossed the line of evil that he had tried so far not to, and I didn’t know if he would survive.”
“I went off with Harry and Ron to right the evil that threatened to destroy our world. Not only was I dealing with my absent parents, my hurting friends, but also my crushed spirit. I had no contact with him, and had no idea if he was alive. We ended up in Malfoy Manor, tortured before him. I knew he couldn’t save me, and that made the burning hurt even more. We both survived the battle, by some miracle.”
Hermione stopped for a brief moment, pinching her lips in an attempt to stop her eminent sobs and tears flowed down her cheeks.
“After the….battle, we…we decided that our arrangement….could…never work in the real world. We lived….on opposite sides of the front…we couldn’t put our families and friends through pain. We didn’t want the harassment on our children…so….we….parted, and..and went our own ways,” she softly cried.
“We both ended up in the ministry, but never said a word to one another. For years, we coexisted without making any contact. Until Terence Fletcher assigned us to work on the same case. We hadn’t spoken in…years. That night at the ministry, I became flooded with so many emotions of the past, so many emotions that caused us to fall into brief intimacy. I’m so sorry that no one knew. I…I take full…responsibly,” Hermione near sobbed, bringing both hands to her face.
Everyone seemed to be in complete shock and disarray. The information that Hermione had just shared had been a secret for more than a decade, and had just unraveled before the entire world.
She turned to her friends.
“Harry, I’m so sorry that you didn’t know…I just…I couldn’t tell anyone. And Ron, oh Ron…I’m …so sorry.”
Everyone, even Judge Mason sat in shock. Hermione sat before the court crying into her hands, raw from sharing hidden secrets that had been unearthed and previously unknown. To her right, Barry stood.
“Your honor, I believe that Ms. Granger is telling the truth.”
Judge Mason looked at the attorney, and back to his podium, seemingly at a loss of words. Buckley had remained silent his face growing paler with each detail.
“She could’ve made this all up as an act, your honor…I…she made it all up,” Buckley attempted to retort.
From beside the judge, Sam goldwater spoke.
“Your honor, Hermione Granger is telling the truth. She would not go through all of this for no reason. Why would she sacrifice her marriage and so many things for a lie?” Sam stated.
Judge Mason shook his head in disbelief as Barry stood again.
“Your honor, I think it is time to reopen this case on emergency terms. Mr. Malfoy now has a solid alibi,” Barry announced to the courtroom.
Everyone in the room attempted to recover from the emotion that had spilled in the room in the past hour and the Jury shuffled in their seats.
“I motion to re-open the case for questioning,” protected a juror as he stood.
“I second the motion,” cried another.
“I also move…” responded more and more members of the jury.
Judge Mason banged his gavel.
“Silence, please! I will consider re-opening the case if everyone would be bloody silent!” Judge Mason shouted over the crowds and the jury.
Sam Goldwater stood and faced the judge.
“As private investigator hired by the ministry, I recommend that the jury asks Mr. Lenard Grindow back to the witness stand,” Sam protected to the court.
Buckley jumped up.
“On WHAT terms?” He spat.
Sam turned to Buckley narrowing his eyes.
“On the mere fact that he was one of the only men in the Ministry that night,” Sam intensely retorted.
“This is ridiculous,” Lenard muttered under his breath, shifting in his seat.
Judge Mason eyed Sam, and then Buckley.
“Mr. Grindow, please approach the bench.”
Lenard shot up.
“This…this is utterly ridiculous! You’ve already convicted Draco, he’s guilty! You’re going to listen to the testimony of a whiny woman, and it’s going to change the entire legal process!?” Lenard shouted.
Judge Mason looked at Lenard.
“I have asked you to the bench Mr. Grindow, don’t make me ask you again,” he snapped.
Lenard suddenly grew paler, with beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
“I have…I have already given my testimony and my…alibi for that night,” Lenard retorted.
Judge Mason banged his gavel.
“APPROACH the bench Mr. Grindow!”
In and instant, chaos ensued. Lenard leaped over the bench in an attempt to make a run for the door. Screams and cried exploded throughout the room as ministry guards jumped from their posts to tackle Lenard as he sprinted to the exit. Five ministry guards jumped on him, wrestling to the ground. Hermione jumped from her seat as her hands flew to her mouth in shock. As the guards restrained him, the court remained in confusion and some stood, some sat, and some stood frozen.
Sam Goldwater smirked gleefully beside the judge.
“Lenard, you rat bastard,” Sam spat as the guards dragged him to the center of the room.
“Your honor, as of these quite recent events, I believe that the guards can be a little bit easier on Draco,” Sam remarked.
Hearing this, the two burly men released Draco, who slowly lifted his head. His chest began rising and falling with an increasing intensity. And for the first time in weeks, Draco spoke.
“How…dare you,” He spat his grey eyes flaring as he glared at Lenard.
“You murdered my dear friend, my mentor, and you…you dirty scum, you framed me in it. You knew I was working late, didn’t you? You planted the wand beside his body. It was you all along. And I considered you a friend,” Draco stated darkly.
Lenard shot a dark laugh in his direction.
“Everyone knew you would take over from Terence, all you were was his pet. I deserved to run this ministry more than any one, especially you. And if I disposed of him, I surely had to get rid of you.”
Draco stood fuming, his former image of intimidation returning.
“I knew you were rendezvousing with Granger, it was so easy, falling right into my hands. I assumed you’d cover for her, putting on some heroine act like you always do,” Lenard spat.
Judge Mason shouted over the two.
“That is ENOUGH! This court has bad more than enough excitement for one day,” The Judge shouted.
He glowered at Lenard.
“It appears that we have selected the wrong prisoner. Lenard Grindow has been found Guilty of murdering Terence Fletcher,” He announced.
The judge stood, pointing to Lenard.
“Take him to a high security prison cell to await his departure for Azkaban,” he commanded.
As Lenard began to be escorted out, Hermione was could not believe what had just happened. Bringing a hand to her forehead, she turned to Draco. The two locked eyes for the first time since the end of the madness. Draco turned a corner of his lip upwards as their eyes met.
Suddenly from behind her, screams erupted and she heard the sounds of men colliding with the floor. Before she knew it, she felt the pressure of a want being driven into her neck, and the strength of a hand covering her mouth, and pulling her into someone. She tried to scream, but found her voice muffled.
Lenard had broken free from the guards, and now held Hermione as a captive.
“Hermione!” she heard Ginny and some of the Weasleys cry from the crowds.
“Let her GO!” Draco shouted lunging forward. He stopped as Lenard drove the wand further into Hermione’s neck.
“If ANYONE moves, she’s dies!” Lenard shouted.
He looked frantically about the room as Hermione whimpered in his arms. Everyone was standing now in sheer horror.
“What do you want, Lenard?” Sam questioned, his wand drawn.
“I want the anti-apparation spells to be lifted from this room!”
“He’ll escape!” Draco shouted.
Hermione felt the pressure of the wand against her throat increase as she attempted to free herself from his grasp.
“Ill do it! It only takes one spell!... Don’t test me, Sam,” Lenard spat through crazed eyes.
Sam glanced at Draco, and then at the fuming guards and aurors with drawn wands.
“Sam, let him go,” Draco painfully announced.
Sam lowered his eyes in sadness as he faced the aurors.
“We need to lift the anti-apparation spells,” he asked the aurors.
The men seemed torn as well, but knew that a crazed man could easily kill. One stepped forward with his wand lifted upwards, and began chanting with his eyes closed. Within a few moments, a flash of light covered the room as the protective enchantments began to melt. A sinister grin twisted across Lenard’s face.
“Well, I guess this is where I make my departure,” Lenard chided as he dragged Hermione backwards to the center of the room.
As he began to turn on his feet, she felt the sensation of the looming apparition as Draco’s sorrowful face began to disappear. Her stomach felt sick as the room began to turn, and began to blue with the dark images of their new destination. Determined to fight, as she always had, Hermione struggled to formulate an image within her own mind, hoping to change his destination. She heard him grunt in anger as the image began to change. Suddenly, she felt Lenard lunge backwards, as if something had hit him. The force caused him to lose concentration of his apparition destination as her image became clearer.
With the force of a train, they collided into hard ground. Hermione rolled away from him, crying out in pain as her body was thrown. After keeping her eyes closed to dull the pain in her head, she slowly opened her eyes, recognizing the location. They had ended up at her desired destination, her flat. She saw Lenard slowly moving across the room, with a hand placing pressure on his shoulder.
Hermione frantically glanced around the room for anything to arm herself with, and prayed that the aurors were tracking the pair at the very moment. Luckly her flat wasn’t too far from the ministry. As she was about to move, a movement caught her eye. A third figure lay pinned against the wall, and struggled to raise himself from the ground: Draco. It was him that has jumped on Lenard as they apparated, attempting to stop him.
Before her, Lenard was almost standing, and found her.
“Where the hell am I? What did you do!?” He shouted, angrily making his way towards her as she crawled backwards with terror. From behind him, Draco has risen and lunged at Lenard. The force caused the two men to slam directly into Hermione’s coffee table, breaking it in two. She watched in horror as the two men violently wrestled on the ground before her. Hermione desperately searched around the room for Lenard’s wand to help Draco as they struggled. Finding nothing, she grabbed a nearby table lamp, and ran towards the scene. Just as she was about to hit Lenard, he pushed Draco off him into the nearby wall, freeing himself as Draco moaned in pain. Lenard grabbed Hermione’s arms, attempting to stop her from throwing the lamp.
“GET OFF ME!” Hermione screamed as she fell backwards, the lamp shattering behind her as she fell. With all of her might, she kicked Lenard’s shin, making him cry our in frustration.
“Draco!” she cried as he slowly rose from the ground, warning him. Draco threw himself against Lenard again.
“Leave her out of this!” Draco shouted as they fought.
“She ruined EVERYTHING!” Lenard retorted, stuggling against Draco.
Suddenly, with one blow, Lenard had Draco on his back, taking the advantage.
“Stop!” Hermione cried, throwing her fists into Lenard’s back before her threw her away. As her back collided with a wall, she fell to the ground in pain, her vision becoming blurry. As she lowered herself to the ground, she saw the color begin to drain from Draco’s face.
“Leave…leave him alone!” she sobbed, her eyes filling with tears.
Seconds passed slower and slower as she watched Draco struggle against his attacker. Hermione attempted to reach out, but her head throbbed painfully, lowering her to the ground.
“Draco!” Hermione cried out.
Draco looked in her direction, his eyes filled with sorrow and anguish, as if he was saying farewell.
Suddenly, the door burst open, and a flash of light threw Lenard into the opposite wall. Aurors began to run into the apartment, yelling commands, and pinning Lenard to the ground. She immediately felt a strong arm around her.
“Hermione! Are you alright?” Harry asked urgently.
Hermione steadied herself against Harry as she tried to stand.
“I’ll be fine, thank you Harry,” Hermione returned, “But please, check Draco, I think he’s hurt.”
A group of about three aurors surrounded Draco, blocking him from her view. As she strained her neck to see him, Sam Goldwater dragged Lenard forward as the other aurors held him.
“I hope you enjoy rotting in Azkaban for all eternity,” Sam snarled in his direction before he reached them, “Get him to the high security holding cell, immediately,” Sam ordered to the aurors as they escorted him out.
Sam them turned to Hermione.
“Are you alright, Ms. Granger? Everyone was terrified,” he sincerely questioned.
“I’m fine. How did you find us?”
“One of the aurors threw a fast tracking spell on Draco before he apparated with you both. I’m glad we found you before it was too late.”
Sam turned his head, as the aurors tended to Draco on the ground.
“Is Draco alright?” Sam asked as he helped to steady him upwards.
One of the men responded.
“He’s almost unconscious, but still with us. He’s started to open his eyes and get color back into his face.”
Hermione’s stomach filled with nerves as she surveyed Draco’s still figure before her.
“I can’t believe any of this, I really can’t,” Harry announced, shaking his head, “I never would’ve suspected Lenard was behind this, but now everything makes sense.”
“I feel terrible for what Draco went through, but we had no way of knowing.”
Both of the men’s eyes fell to Hermione.
“Lying on the witness stand is a punishable crime, Ms. Granger,” Sam reminded with heavy eyes.
Hermione shook her head as her eyes filled with tears.
“I know, I’m so sorry about all of this. I feel so ashamed, but I honestly thought that this was the only way. He…he was trying to protect me,” she softly responded.
“And I praise him for his adherence to integrity, but placing you in that position must have been excruciating. I applaud you for coming forward, even though it was very late in the progression of time,” Sam sincerely responded.
Hermione turned to Harry.
“I’m so sorry, Harry. For everything. For lying to you, to Ron, and to the Weasleys,” she pleaded sadly.
Harry placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Everything is going to be alright. I always knew that you had grown away from Ron. I was honestly surprised that you accepted his proposal. I wish you would’ve told him sooner, but now I understand why you didn’t.”
Hermione threw herself into Harry’s arms, the two old friends comforting one another.
Beside them, the aurors began to speak again.
“He’s coming back!”
Draco coughed, his chest rising and falling as the men slowly lifted him off the ground.
“Draco, how are you feeling?” Sam inquired as he helped the men to steady him.
Draco took a few moments to gather his strength before answering.
“A little sore, but I’ll manage,” Draco responded with a nod.
Before looking at Sam, Harry extended an arm beside Hermione.
“Thank you for helping us catch Lenard,” Harry said.
Draco gave a sincere nod before returning the handshake.
“You’re welcome, Harry.”
Sam helped the aurors settle into the room.
“Well, Draco, I think it’s time we get you back to court. I believe the entire ministry owes you a massive apology,” Sam announced.
Draco half smiled.
“Whatever you say, Sam,” he responded.
Draco turned back to catch Hermione’s eyes before the group began to apparate back to the ministry.
Back in court, the audience broke out in chatter, and some with cheers as the group returned with Hermione and Draco. Everyone seemed to stand in disarray, in awe of the events that had transpired this afternoon,
After the aurors had escorted Lenard to the high security prision, Sam and Harry lead Draco to the center of the court with Hermione. The jury anxiously stood, attempting to catch a glimpse of the figured in the center. Conversing with officials beside him, Judge Mason returned to his podium, standing before them.
“The recent events of the last few hours have called for an obvious overruling of this court’s decisions. We have a clear culprit, a murderer of the minster, Lenard Grindow, who currently remains in high security prison to await his grim fate.”
Judge Mason adjusted his spectacles.
“Mr. Malfoy, the entire ministry, jury and especially myself, owe you a sincere apology. You have suffered terribly these many months, because we were fooled by circumstantial evidence planted by a mastermind. You have been resilient, and we thank you.”
He suddenly turned to Hermione.
“The court would like to thank Ms. Granger for coming forward with this difficult information, seeing that it could not have been easy.”
Judge Mason flashed Hermione a small smile.
Therefore, in the case of Mr. Draco Abraxas Malfoy vs. the Ministry, Mr. Malfoy has been cleared of all charges, and is free to go.”
The court erupted in cheers and applause, every one thrilled that justice had been found. Hermione smiled as Harry embraced her again, and Sam threw his arms around Draco. Narcissa jumped up from the bench, sobbing as she embraced her son with her arms. Barry followed, placing a hand on Draco’s back, comforting the two.
Hermione smiled as joy filled the room, and turned around to see Ginny running towards her.
“HERMIONE! Are you alright? I was so worried he was going to hurt you.” Ginny cried, throwing herself at Hermione.
“I’m fine, Ginny,” Hermione responded.
Ginny stood backwards, still holding her breath.
“Ginny, I’m so sorry, for everything,” Hermione almost said through tears.
Ginny responded with a small smile as she pulled Hermione close once more. After a few moments, the two noticed the Weasley family congregating in the stands.
“Everyone was terrified, Hermione, even Ron,” Ginny said.
“Of course, he was one of the first people to run down.”
Ginny noticed Hermione’s silence.
“Ron always knew something, I think. Of course, you owe him a private explanation, but I don’t think he can be too surprised. You both have changed since Hogwarts.”
Ginny glanced back at her family.
“They’ll understand eventually, they will. My family loved you before you were ever romantically involved with Ron, and they will love you after.”
“Thank you, Ginny,” Hermione said, tears welling in her eyes, Ginny placed an arm on her arm.
Hermione noticed Ginny’s eyes focus on something behind her.
“I believe someone wants to talk with you,” Ginny softly said with a kind smile.
Hermione turned to see Draco leave his mothers embrace, and look in her direction. After a reassuring squeeze, Ginny began to walk back to her family and Draco slowly came in their direction.
This would be the first time that had conversed since Hermione had been dragged out of the prison room. Despite the exhaustion under his eyes, there was a reliance that shown bright within his pupils, as if life had returned to him. As he approached her, a corner of his lips turned slightly upward.
“You always have to make a scene, don’t you?” Draco softly chided as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“It was the right thing to do, I couldn’t let you do this for me anymore. I let things get way out of hand.”
Draco nodded, placing his hands in his pockets.
“I apologize for placing you in that position, it wasn’t right of me.”
Hermione shook her head, holding back tears.
“You suffered for so long, too long, and I’m responsible.”
“You’re so stubborn,” Hermione shot, shaking her head.
She surveyed his torn clothes.
“How are you feeling?”
Draco nodded again.
“I’m alright. After a few days of rest and home cooked food, I’ll be back to proper health.”
The two remained in silence, lost in thoughts and questions. Her brow narrowed quizzically as Draco looked over her shoulder.
“I think your party is waiting for you.”
She turned, watching the Weasley’s congregating nearby with Harry. Sadness filled her as she diverted her eyes from Draco.
“And by the looks of it, you need a wardrobe change. It seems that you had a rough time at the altar, this morning” Draco commented, noticing the sad state of her dirty wedding gown.
Hermione’s chest began to heave, unable to restrain her rampant thoughts anymore.
“I couldn’t do it…Draco, I couldn’t do it,” Hermione began, wet tears welling within her eyes.
Draco’s tense expression melted.
“I’ve been lying to myself for ten years, for the longest time….”
Draco glanced in the direction of the Weasley’s, and then met her brown eyes.
“You’re not going through with it?” Draco softly asked.
A tear slipped down her cheek. As she lifted a finger to wipe it away, she watched Draco’s concerned face before her.
“I…I gave my heart away many years ago. And for some reason…it never came back,” Hermione near whispered through tears.
“I... I was hoping…hoping that the man who has held my heart for all of these years felt the same way…”
Hermione was softly crying now, finally accepting the truth that had existed beneath her for so long. As seconds passed, she saw the corner of Draco’s lip turn upwards into a small smile.
Draco wrapped his arms her, pulling her close as her forearms lay pinned to his chest. Her tears fell freely now, feeling the warmth of his embrace around her. She felt the strong thump of his heart, and the pull of his muscles underneath his warm skin.
“I’ve missed you,” Hermione softly cried, burring her nose into his soft shoulder.
She felt Draco pull her closer.
“I know,” he warmly responded.
Suddenly, she began to hear a soft noise begin to increase in intensity around her. Unaware of the source, she strained to hear as she lay against Draco’s chest. As soon as it came, she recognized the sound.
The entire courtroom had begun to clap with admiration. At first only a few, and then section by section began to follow. As the noise grew, a few whistled sounded over the crowd. The jury slowly stood in their seats, applauding with Judge Mason as he smiled over the court. Sam Goldwater held back tears as he watched the embrace, standing beside Barry Samsburg, who had removed his spectacles since his tears of joy spilled down his cheeks. He had arm around Narcissa, who beamed with a large smile. Ginny clapped her hands before her, grinning through tears beside a smiling Harry. Even the Weasley’s stood with looks of compassion towards their dear Hermione. Everyone seeming to appreciate the passion, the sacrifice…
And as she stood in Draco’s arms, Hermione had never felt happier.
Oh my goodness. Did this actually happen? Did I actually just write this last chapter? (Before the epilogue). I got a little emotional writing this, seeing that this has been 4 years in the making. I’ve had this same vision for ending this since the first time I began writing, and now it’s finally written down.
What did you all think? Did you enjoy this chapter? I can’t believe we made it to the finish line. Were you suspecting Lenard to be guilty? Please leave a review and let me know your thoughts about everything, and this journey coming to an end.
There will be one more final chapter, the epilogue, which I’ve also had planned since the beginning, and can’t wait for you to read. So I won’t write all of my gushy goodbye comments now, I’ll save them for that one, haha.
Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me, and this fic since the beginning, You have no idea how much your support and kind words have motivated me to keep on writing, even when I felt overwhelmed with the size and intricacy of this plot. You are all incredible!
Side note, I always write to music, and there’s one song in particular that I played on repeat for some reason. Check out “Only Hope,” by Secondhand Serenade and “Stay Close, Don’t Go,” by Secondhand Serenade too. And “Track 1” By Sigur Rós. It gives me chills.
Until the final epilogue,
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