Disclaimer: I own nothing in the Harry Potter world. It all belongs to the wonderful and talented JK Rowling and the other various subsidiaries. I am only playing in it for a while and no profit of any kind is being made.
The moonlight shone down upon the sleepy ruins of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. All the inhabitants were sleeping, their dreams punctuated by nightmares caused by the past forty-eight hours and each trying to find a measure of peace and relief.
Suddenly, from the window of a tall tower a light flared glimmering almost feebly from the darkened castle. A silhouetted figure was seen at the lighted window as it stared down upon the silent grounds. Its gaze lingered for a moment upon a skeletal horse that it had been unable to see previously. It watched with curious fascination as the creature walked in the moonlight. It grasped the window ledge for support before turning and vanishing from sight. The thestral it had just been watching turned its milky eyes upon the lit window for the stretch of a second before turning back to its foraging.
Hermione Granger ran blindly through the castle corridors. Tears streaked down her face as images of the fallen flashed inside her mind. She wondered why it was so easy to forget in the light of day. And why at night did they come to her depriving her of much needed sleep? She had barely slept since it was over, though she ached with tiredness. Had it really only been two days ago that they had fought Voldemort and Harry had triumphed? It seemed so much longer.
Her feet took her to the Astronomy Tower. She had no idea why the tower seemed to call to her, but it did none the less. As she approached the door she heard the distinct sounds of someone crying. Cautiously, she opened the door, yet the sight that greeted her eyes caused her to choke on her breath.
Draco Malfoy sat alone, tears pouring down his pale and pointed face. He turned at the sound of her approach and his features instantly hardened with years of practiced hatred.
"What do you want?" he snapped at her.
"Nothing," Hermione replied coolly, "I only wanted to be alone. Clearly this spot is already taken. I'll leave."
"Good," Draco said. Hermione turned on her heal and began to march down the stairs again. Yet before the door closed all the way she heard him emit a giant sniff and her heart softened toward him a bit.
She turned and went back to the tower. He did not seem surprised to see her again and this time he allowed her to sit next to him on the battlements. She hoped that by simply being there she could offer some sort of comfort to this man who had been tortured every bit as much as she had by this self-proclaimed Dark Lord.
The silence dragged on for a very long time as they stared out at the dark grounds. The moon hung picturesquely in the sky. She knew she had to say something to him eventually. She collected her thoughts before she spoke, knowing that if she did not tread carefully Draco would leave and probably hurl insults at her on the way.
Finally, tentatively she spoke. "I wanted to thank you," she said softly.
"For what?" Draco's voice had a hard edge to it. It was obvious that her presence was disturbing him slightly.
"For what you did when we were caught by the Snatchers," she replied evenly. "I know you tried to help us and not turn us in. I appreciate it."
"I…it does not matter," he said.
"Yes it does," Hermione said. "Harry told me that you were punished after we escaped. I'm sorry."
"The Dark Lord punished everyone for their mistakes. My family and I were no exceptions."
"Still," Hermione said sadly, "you didn't deserve for that to happen to you."
They sat in silence again, watching the stars shine in the heavens. It was completely dark in the shadows of the tower and Hermione could see little of him but his outline. She looked over to him and watched as a single tear glistened on his cheek.
She was suddenly struck with such daring inspiration that she questioned her sanity. Yet she could not stop herself from acting upon the impulse. "Can I…?" Hermione started but stopped to steel herself for the question she was burning to ask. "May I call you Draco?" she asked it as formally as she could muster, knowing it was a peace offering and hoping that he would accept the olive branch for what it was.
He looked over at her as if he had never seen anything like her before. A slight smile graced his lips. "I suppose," he said briefly.
Hermione's face broke into a radiant smile. She stood up. "Goodnight, Draco," she said happily. He smirked as she walked away from him feeling that maybe they had made some small stride toward a more peaceful future.
Clean-up of the castle started the next morning in full force. There was so much to do yet nearly everyone who had been present for the final battle was there doing their part and Hermione was no exception.
She worked all morning and well into the afternoon without seeing Draco Malfoy. It did not surprise her, but she had hoped that she had made some small stride with regard to him the previous night. She thought that given the right encouragement, he might even become an ally or maybe a friend.
She stood facing an enormous wooden beam which had fallen down from the ceiling in the entrance hall. She aimed the wand in her hand, for she refused to call it hers, at the beam and muttered an incantation. She wanted to put it back into place, but the beam twitched feebly on the ground and was motionless. She cursed her luck at having to use he wand of a hated enemy, aimed, and tried again. Again the beam remained firmly on the floor.
Her frustration mounted as she took aim a third time. She focused all her energy on moving that single, stupid beam. The wand vibrated and the beam moved a fraction of an inch into the air, hovered for a moment and came crashing back down to the ground.
Hermione growled at it and she sat down hard next to it on the cold hard floor.
"Frustration does not become you," a voice said from a side corridor. Hermione looked up and saw the platinum blonde hair and pale pointed face of Draco Malfoy.
"Bugger off, Malfoy," Hermione said heatedly.
"Such language is only befitting of a Weasley," he smirked.
"Good thing I intend to become one then, isn't it?" Hermione colored slightly as she realized her slip of the tongue. Draco merely smirked at her again. "Did you come here to laugh at me?" Hermione asked him angrily. "If you did, I really don't need it right now."
"On the contrary," Draco said. "I came to offer my services, such as they are. My wand is missing still so sadly my labor must be manual."
"I think Harry still has…" Hermione began. Draco however, cut her off.
"I also came to give you these." He held out his hand and clutched tightly in his fist were two very familiar pieces of wood.
Hermione could not believe her eyes. "You have our wands?" she breathed.
"In the chaos that ensued during your departure, I managed to get them before anything happened to them. I had hoped…" He was unable to finish his sentence for Hermione had rushed to him and hugged him.
"Thank you," she whispered gratefully. Draco stood still as a plank until Hermione released him. "There's some good in you somewhere," Hermione told him. "You should let it out more often. You might even be pleasant to be around."
She turned around and pointed her own wand at the beam. A second later the beam soared joyfully in the air and fitted itself perfectly where it belonged. Hermione's heart soared.
Over the next few days everyone but Hermione was surprised to see Draco Malfoy helping to right the school that they all had been a part of. After a while the surprise ebbed and Draco became an intricate part of the restoration. He had received his wand back from Harry and he had even been civil to Ron a few times. He seemed to find his way in the world and Hermione felt proud of him.
Hermione and Ron strolled side by side, fingers entwined, around a beautiful moonlit lake. It was their last night together before they had to grow up and as Ron put it become "respectable members of society". Hermione could not be more pleased with the fact the Kingsley Shacklebolt was the new Minister of Magic but he had wasted no time in putting Harry to work. Harry was now the youngest man ever to become Head of the Auror Department and Ron as ever, was by his side. Hermione was extremely proud of her boyfriend and his best friend.
Hermione, on the other hand, was heading back to Australia. When she Confunded her parents, she had thought it would be relatively easy to find them again when the war was over. She had been sadly mistaken. She had spent a month there looking for them, yet they remained elusive still. It hurt her that her parents were out there, somewhere, with no memories of their once beloved daughter. A single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. Ron stopped and gently brushed it away.
"Still worried about your parents?" Ron asked concerned.
"Yes," Hermione said sadly, "I've looked all over Australia; where could they be?"
"Where ever they are, I'm sure they're fine."
"I hope so, Ron, I really hope so." They were silent for a moment before Ron took her hand and held it tightly.
"They're thinking of you," Ron said lovingly. "I know they are."
"How can they?" Hermione asked the beginning of tears forming in her eyes. "I Confunded them; they don't even know they have a daughter." Ron reached for her and held her tightly to him as she let the grief and pain overcome her.
"Hermione," he said, "no matter what, they will never forget you. How could they? Not when they have a daughter out there as wonderful as you are."
"Oh, Ron," Hermione breathed before she pressed her lips to his. It only took seconds for him to respond to her. His arms encircled her waist and he pulled her closer to him. Her hands were in his hair as he deepened the kiss. She felt as if she would explode from happiness. This was where she belonged held in Ron's arms and kissing him. She felt complete and at ease for the first time since setting out to find her parents.
All too soon the kiss ended. They stood in each others embrace breathless and trembling.
"That was…" Ron began.
"Amazing," Hermione finished.
"Hermione I…" There was the snap of a twig and the rustling of a cloak.
"What was-?" Hermione began.
"Shh," Ron said quietly, "someone's there." Ron shoved her behind him. His wand was in his hand and lit before Hermione could blink. He sent its light into the shadows around him.
"Who's there?" he called out to the darkness. Silence met their ears and then, staggered foot steps. From the bushes stepped an unpleasantly familiar woman.
Narcissa Malfoy's long blond hair shone in the light of Ron's wand and her face was pale while tears shone on her cheeks. She looked ghostly and her face was filled with a terrifying sadness. She raised her hand and pointed a skeletal finger at them.
"You!" she shouted. "You've killed him! You've killed him!"
"What?" Ron asked indignantly.
"You, both of you, and that Potter brat; you have corrupted him, and time is running out. Lucius will kill him."
"Who will Lucius kill?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"Draco, you idiot girl; Lucius is going to kill my son." Narcissa crumbled onto the ground in a heap of tears. "Draco cares nothing, NOTHING, for the ideas and values his father and I have taught him. Purity of blood no longer matter to him. He has defied his father and by doing so has earned his fathers wrath." She began to sob in earnest now. "Lucius is going to kill him," Narcissa choked. "He's going to kill him."
"I don't understand," Ron said, "how could simply not agreeing with your family's, shall we say, ideals earn Draco a death sentence?"
"There's more to it isn't there?" Hermione asked in a whisper.
"Of course there is," Narcissa snapped, though the effect was somewhat diminished by the tears in her eyes. "One week after the fall of the Dark Lord Lucius went out. When he returned he was not the same. Lucius in not in his proper mind; I fear Azkaban has changed him more than he knows. He has suffered numerous humiliations at the hands of the Dark Lord. He thinks that by making a spectacle of Draco he can regain his former status and power. I am not even sure that he realizes that The Dark Lord is dead.
The world has changed and Draco has embraced that change. Lucius refuses it and that makes him very dangerous." Her voice trailed off as she whispered, "I fear that he is insane."
"Lucius can't really think this will accomplish anything?" Hermione asked incredulously.
"What he thinks is irrelevant," Narcissa snapped. "Draco will die, there is no stopping my husband; none. My son…" Narcissa began to sob once again. Ron left Hermione's side. He approached Narcissa cautiously and knelt before her and clasped her hands in his.
"Do you know where Draco is?" he asked her kindly.
Narcissa hiccupped and met Ron's eyes. Her own were filled with tears but something like hope burned deep within them. "You will help him?" she asked softly.
"We'll do everything we can to save your son. Draco has become a friend." Narcissa nodded and stood. All traces of tears were gone and she was suddenly business-like. Her former haughtiness appeared at once as she spoke briskly. "He is held captive at the manor. I had convinced Lucius to give Draco time, but that time has run out."
Ron went back to Hermione and grabbed her hand. He looked at her questioningly and Hermione nodded. Together they followed Narcissa through the trees and out of site.
An hour later they stood outside Malfoy Manor. Hermione was visibly shaking as she looked upon the old house for the second time in her life. The same albino peacock could be seen on the hedge behind an ornate gate.
Mere months ago Hermione had been tortured just inside and she could still feel the pain of the Cruciatus Curse coursing through her veins. Ron could feel her discomfort and he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. Hermione gave him a weak smile and Ron whispered in her ear, "You can do this." A scream shattered the quiet evening and they knew that Draco's time had run out. "We're going to need some help." He raised his wand and a silver terrier sprang forth and hurried down the path and out of site.
Five minutes later two figures came hurrying up the walk. One had jet black hair, bright green eyes, and round glasses, the other had bright red hair the same color as Ron's though he was missing one of his ears. Harry and George nodded at Ron and Hermione and looked questioningly at Narcissa. Ron gave them the shortened version of events while Harry and George pulled out their wands. Another scream and they headed off through the gate and into the house.
The walk up the path was surprisingly short and before they knew it they were inside the large house. More screams were coming from the drawing room with which Hermione had become so well acquainted. She felt sick with fear and unforgettable memories.
They peeked inside. A dozen Death Eaters who had so far escaped capture stood around the room all staring at a crumpled and shaking figure on the floor. Lucius Malfoy stood near the ornate fireplace with its gilded mirror reflecting the grizzly scene below it. His wand was pointed at the figure on the ground and an evil smirk played on his lips.
"Have you changed your mind Draco?" he asked.
"Father," the man on the floor panted. "You're not well. Please…let me help you."
"You are the one who is not well," Lucius sneered. "You have dishonored your father. I have no use for a son who so openly defies me." He raised his wand at his son. "Crucio!" he shouted.
Draco's body convulsed with pain. His screams rent the air as Lucius's mad laughter rang in their ears. After what seemed like hours Lucius lifted the curse.
"I will give you one last chance Draco," he sneered. "Rejoin the Dark Lord and take your place at my side."
"So be it," Lucius said coldly. "Let your death be a lesson to those who lose faith so easily." He raised his wand and pointed it, almost lovingly, at Draco. Harry let out an audible gasp.
"He's Imperiused," he whispered. Hermione looked and saw the vacant look behind Lucius's eyes.
"Crucio!" Lucius shouted. Draco's body arched as the pain wracked his body.
The group had seen enough and Harry immediately took charge, he placed Hermione and Ron on one side of the doorway while he and George took positions on the other. He told Narcissa to get Draco out of the way while they took care of Lucius and his cronies. Harry held out three fingers of his hand and silently counted them down. When he reached zero he pointed his wand at Lucius and yelled "Expelliarmus!" Lucius' wand flew from his hand and the spell that had been aimed at Draco ended.
Spells bounced off walls and shattered antique treasures. The chandelier, which appeared to be repaired since the last time they were there, was swinging ominously on its golden chain. Hermione joined the fray and Stunned the Death Eater nearest her. She saw Narcissa enter the room and run toward Draco. Ron was battling Lucius and she saw a jet of silver light graze Ron's side and he crumpled beneath it.
"No!" Hermione screamed and she immediately took up the fight against Lucius. He met her spell for spell for several minutes. Hermione was tiring fast and she knew she needed to do something to end this battle. Lucius taunted and insulted her as she thought fast. She slowly circled Lucius, trying to position him beneath the shining crystal chandelier. At last she had him. She pointed her wand at the ceiling above the glittering light and shouted, "Reducto!" There was an ominous crack and the chandelier fell with a tinkling crash. There was a woman's scream and a pale blur shoved Lucius out of dangers path. When the dust settled the body of Narcissa Malfoy could be seen crushed beneath its weight.
Lucius howled with rage and sorrow. "You killed my wife!" he shouted at Hermione.
"No," Hermione choked. "No I…"
"Avada Kedavra!" Lucius shouted with his wand pointed at Hermione's chest.
Everything slowed down at that moment. Hermione saw the green light erupt from the end of Lucius's wand. She heard a man's voice calling out to her. She saw a flash of red as the man stepped in front of her. He pushed her roughly to the ground and shielded her with his own body. The light from the spell was almost upon him.
"NO!" she screamed. Not Ron. She stood up and flung herself at him. If he was going to die, she would die with him. He turned to her and they embraced just as the green light hit them both with the rushing sound of speeding death.
They were bathed in a sickly green light. Each held the other tightly, afraid to let go. Hermione knew one thought as her life left her body -- I love you, Ron!
She was immersed in a golden light. Four voices spoke around her. She tried to understand them, but found the harder she tried the more they eluded her.
The soft golden light shimmered about Hermione for a moment. The voices stopped talking and all was silent. She reveled in it, it was beautiful and she felt peace. She was dimly aware of strong arms around her. She smiled. Whatever happens now, she thought, at least Ron will always be with me. With that comforting thought, she drifted off to sleep still bathed in deep gold.
Authors Note: I wanted to thank the wonderful and talented guruvee for being my beta and putting up with me. She is truly the best and I can't thank her enough. I hope you enjoy my fic as much as I am enjoying writing it.