Hey everyone! A couple of notes before we get going. Firstly, TSP hit 1700 followers last chapter! Thank you all again for your continued support of this story, I can't explain how much it means to me.
Secondly, I'm sorry about Seamus. Know that it was in the plan since 2015. And thank you for your nice messages.
Thirdly, it gets a bit M rated at the end of this chapter. Skip if it's not your thing.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Pain was a curious thing, wasn't it?
Sometimes it hits you slowly, like water droplets falling from the sky at the beginning of a rainstorm. When you feel a drop on your face and wonder briefly, is it really raining?
Sometimes it hits you in slow waves, the sea pulling the tide through an inlet, the riptide pushing you forwards.
And sometimes, without understanding, without permission, it hits you like a hurricane. A single moment of peace in the eye before it rips your world apart.
Hermione and Draco went spinning through space as she clung to him, unable to hold herself fully. His arm was wrapped around her waist, holding her flush against him, so that if…when her body gave out, she wouldn't fall into nothingness.
It felt like she was already there.
Seamus. Sweet, darling Seamus. Seamus who had held her through her worst possible nights, through her previous standard of nightmare. Seamus, who had fallen apart when his best friend had died in his place. Seamus, who had thrown himself in front of that curse, knowing damn well that this was his finale.
Seamus, who thought he could have loved her once.
Hermione felt her feet hit solid ground, but her eyes couldn't see anything. They were blinded. Had losing Seamus set her over the edge? Had she lost it? Was any brink of sanity that she could cling to destroyed with the loss of her… her what? What was Seamus to her? Friend? Ex-lover? Saviour?
He had been all of them, she realized, at different times, in different ways. A central fixture in her war-torn lives. A monolith she could cling to. Until she couldn't anymore.
And now, she never could again.
"Hermione," a voice whispered. Draco. She could recognize the low tone he was whispering into her ear. She couldn't see him. What was going on? Had her eyes grown tired of the sweet hell of the earth?
She felt a finger brush across her face, right below her eye. A second later, his face came into vision, a moment of clarity in the sudden darkness she had plunged into.
"Hermione," he repeated, wiping at her eyes again. Then she understood. She wasn't blinded.
She was crying.
The realization washed over her, and with it, her eyes to filled with tears once again. Before she could help it, she had fallen forward into Draco's chest, grasping at his shirt like a lifetime, staining it with her salt-water regret.
Draco grasped at her hair, holding her wild curls against him. He murmured words, phrases, she couldn't even say. She couldn't even hear him. Her entire being, her entire psyche was overwhelmed by the feeling of raw loss.
Her every waking moment was a war, this was her world now. And she had lost people before. Oliver. Parvarti. But not like this. Never like this. She could never wish this type of loss on anyone. The type of loss that shook your foundations, forcing you to reckon with how they were rooted in the first place.
She sobbed into Draco's shirt, as the cities of her reality came crashing down around her, burning to the ground in his absence.
"Hermione," he whispered again, her name breaking through the grief. Forcing herself to pull back and look at him, tears streaming like waterfalls down her face, she met his grey eyes.
Grey today. Cloudy. As if the sun could shine in this world.
"We need to speak to the others," he whispered down at her. She realized suddenly that he didn't ask if she was okay.
Of course, he didn't. He already knew the answer.
She leaned forward again but turned her head to rest against his chest. With her silent tears still falling, and trying to control the sobs escaping her throat, she took a moment to look around the room.
The others were back. She could see them all, a tableau in the Grimmauld Place kitchen straight from the theatre of her nightmares. Lupin leaned over the table, his pepper hair falling over his eyes, his head shaking slowly. Tonks had appeared at his side, rubbing his back, her lips moving quickly at his ear.
Offering the condolences that only a life partner could.
Fred was seated at the table, staring blankly at the wall across. She could see a cut across his cheek, a single drop of blood lazily making its way downwards until it fell, smattering against the wood. His eyes were dazed. He didn't seem to notice. He didn't seem to care.
Kingsley and Mad-Eye seemed to be arguing. The normally calm Auror was shouting, his voice carrying throughout the room. She couldn't decipher the words, but the tenure broke with the low decibels she had always heard from him. Moody's magic eye was spinning rapidly, as the ex-Auror took a swig from his hip flask.
Neville was leaning against the wall, openly crying as she was. The man he had become, the man that she knew him to be, had crumbled. He had lived in a dormitory with Seamus for six years and had fought at his side for three. His face reflected that reality.
Ron was standing next to Neville. His face was ghostly white, eyes closed, as if the thin barrier of his eyelids could protect against the truth.
And finally, Hermione's eyes landed on Harry. Her best friend. His shaggy hair was matted against his head, his glasses lopsided on his face. He looked as lost as they all did.
But his green eyes that she knew so well were trained straight on her.
She couldn't immediately recognize the emotion in them. But he was the only one looking at her. She watched him back, trying to read him, the way she could read books. After a few moments, only one word seemed to stand above the others.
Hermione tore her eyes away from Harry's with the realization. Such blatant emotion burned her. As if she should be pitied.
Seamus had died for her.
She shifted her body around, trying to find Blaise. She had recognized, vaguely in her distorted agony, that he had collected Seamus's…she couldn't even think the word. Blaise had collected him.
But she couldn't see either of them in the room.
Opening her mouth, she finally spoke, choking on her tears the whole way through.
"Where is he? Where's…where's Seamus?"
At her question, any noise in the room disappeared. As quiet as a graveyard, all the eyes turned to hers, as she pushed up closer to Draco.
There was a pause before someone answered.
"Hermione," Lupin started, his voice rough. "Hermione… Seamus was hit…"
"I know," she said quickly, cutting him off, forcing her tears to still for a moment. "I mean… I mean where's his body."
The word cut through her, a knife to the core.
"He's upstairs," a voice answered from behind her. She turned, still encircled in Draco's arms, to see Blaise re-enter the kitchen. He looked exhausted, with the cut on his cheek the least of his problems.
He walked towards her and answered her question as if she were the only one in the room. "I put him upstairs in his room. I thought… I thought it would be a nice place for him to rest."
"I think you're right," Hermione whispered, closing her eyes for a moment.
"What… what happened?" Neville asked. Draco stayed at her side, but shifted so he was behind her, moving his hands to her waist.
Neville was still leaning against the wall, but was now looking around the room, searching for a reason.
"I didn't see," Fred spoke up, his voice more somber than Hermione had ever heard. "I just saw you lot," he gestured vaguely towards her, Blaise, and Draco. "I saw you all run out of the maze with the body, and that's when I knew."
"What happened?" Neville repeated, his eyes searching the room for an answer to the senseless. After what felt like an eternity, they landed on her.
"Hermione," he whispered, his tone soft but demanding. Forcing her to give voice to it.
She wasn't sure if she could. If she never said it aloud, it might never have happened?
But she knew better.
"We were running," she murmured, eyes moving to the floor. She couldn't bear to look at any of them as she confessed. She wouldn't be able to stand it. The anger. The blame.
Worse. The pity.
"Draco and I were almost there," she continued, opting to close her eyes and block out the world around her. She could still feel his hands on her hips. "We were almost out of the maze. But I… I had broken my ankle jumping from Malfoy Manor. Draco had healed it but it… it gave out. And I fell."
She wondered if Seamus was watching her. From wherever he was. If he could see this moment.
"Avery was chasing us down. And I had fallen. Draco was too far away, and… and there was nothing I could do. I didn't have a wand, and I was so scared…"
The admission of fear felt like a crime. If anything, a crime by association.
Association to what followed.
"Avery cast an Avada Kedavra at me," she whispered, her voice carrying through the emptiness surrounding her. "And it was going to hit. But out of nowhere, Seamus was there. He had come out of an opening in the side of the corridor that we were in. And he… he took it. He took it so I didn't have to. He took it so I could live… and now he's dead."
Her voice finally cracked on the last word. And with the overbearing responsibility of what had happened, what she had done, the world granted her respite.
Darkness overtook her and she fell into it, freely, gratefully, desperately. She could hear voices shouting, and feel hands holding her up.
But she didn't mind. Her purgatory had been replaced by the dark.
She blinked slowly, aware of only a single light above her head. She blinked again.
It was the light above her bed.
She sat up quickly, looking around. At her franticness, a pair of arms wrapped around her from behind.
"Shhh, it's okay, you're safe."
She would know his voice in any lifetime.
"Draco," she murmured, leaning back into his chest, as his arms loosened.
They were in the bedroom she had shared with Ginny. It was just them, alone, curled up in her bed. The single light was on, but the window showed nothing but night sky.
There were no stars left.
She felt his lips move against her curls. "Are you alright?"
"What happened?" she asked, dodging his question and shrinking down lower into his chest. The memory of the past day was stark in her mind. As if she could ever escape the image of Seamus hurtling himself in front of her and flying until his body hit the ground.
"You passed out," Draco murmured in her ear. "You were talking about Finni… about Seamus, and you just fell over."
"It was unbearable," she whispered, so low that she doubted Draco could even hear her. His arms tightened around again.
Of course, he could.
"Listen, Hermione," Draco said before hesitating for a moment. "It's… Seamus made his choice. It's not your fault."
"But isn't it?" she asked, forcing her gaze to stay on a single flaking piece of wood on the opposite wall. "He put himself in front of that curse for me. To save me. He effectively said that he thought his life was worth less than mine…"
Hysterics began to overtake her as the words flowed out. Before she knew it, she was sobbing again, face turned slightly and nestled into Draco's shirt. He was still holding her up.
"It's not," Draco repeated. His voice was firm on the matter, as if hell or high water would be unable to change his mind. "Seamus was a grown man. He knew what he was doing. He made his choice."
"He shouldn't have had to," Hermione sobbed, shaking as Draco held her tighter.
"He didn't have to," Draco said, his voice softer. "He chose to. He knew what the consequences would be, and he still did it."
"Why?" she choked out, unable to comprehend the magnitude of what Seamus had done. "Why would he do that?"
Draco didn't answer for a while. After a few moments of trying to calm her sobs, she shifted her neck to turn back up at him. The light from the single lightbulb above her head reflected in his eyes, making them silver.
Like the moon on a cloudless night.
"Seamus did it because people do crazy things for the people they love," he answered, a raw sort of honesty sketched across his face that she had never seen before.
"Seamus didn't love me," Hermione retorted.
I think I loved you then.
Draco laughed, a dry, empty laugh that filled the nothingness, if only for a moment.
"Of course, he did, Hermione," he replied. "Maybe he wasn't in love with you, but he loved you all the same. He spent years with you, for Merlin's sake. No one could spend years with you without realizing how you are everything."
Hermione had no response to that. All she could do was stare back up at him.
It was only at this moment that she realized just how close they were.
"Seamus made his choice," Draco said, a faraway look in his eyes. "He told me… it doesn't even matter."
"He told you something?" Hermione asked, shifted slightly, and realizing that her breaths had calmed, and were now matched against those coming from Draco.
Draco shook his head. "It… it's between him and I. What does matter is that Seamus knew what he was doing. He gave himself up that you could have another chance."
"The way Dean did for him," Hermione muttered, seeing the connection across astral planes. "Do you think… do you think he was repaying the favour?"
Draco shrugged. "I don't know. Who knows if Seamus thought he was on borrowed time, or he wanted to complete the cosmic loop that started this whole bloody saga."
"You started this," Hermione whispered.
Draco paused. "I never said I didn't."
"I hope he's with Dean now," Hermione said, the words actualizing a desire so strong it overtook her for a moment. "Wherever they are."
Draco smiled lifelessly. "I think that divine retribution would make sure of it."
There was silence for a moment.
"I'm so fucking happy you're alive," Draco suddenly whispered. He leaned forward and rested his forehead in her curls, breathing her in. "I thought… I thought it was over."
"It would have been," Hermione answered, a sensation suddenly emanating from the spot where Draco's skin touched hers.
"But it wasn't," Draco whispered fiercely, kissing her head. "And you're here. And you're alive. And we're…"
Hermione turned at that. "What?" she breathed. "What are we, Draco?"
It took one thousand centuries for him to answer her, his eyes boring into hers, telling her the story that mere words could never conceptualize.
"We're important, Hermione," he said, his eyes shifting down to her lips. "We're bloody fucking important."
Maybe it was losing Seamus. Maybe it was how she felt being close to him after months. Or maybe it was the innate realization that life could be snatched from her at any moment, and why bloody not ride the river Styx right into the depths of hell, if only she could feel like this one more time.
Like magnets, it only took a moment, a single look to make a little bit of electricity.
She shifted her body around until she was sitting in his lap, chest to chest. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she hoisted herself up, until they were flush against each other, lips less than an inch apart. She could see every emotion go through his eyes. Her own personal looking glass.
"Hermione," he whispered, his hands ghosting across her hips, as if he were scared that the moment he held on, they would tumble into the abyss.
"Draco," she answered. The proximity between their bodies was capturing her attention, her entire being. She was the earth and he was the moon, gravity demanding they not be parted.
"Are you sure?" he asked, his voice catching slightly. "I know you're upset about Seamus, and we have some things we need to talk about…"
"Draco," she repeated, shaking her head slightly, moving a quarter of a quarter of an inch closer to him. "Does it make me the devil that I just don't want to give a damn about the war, and the pain, and the loss just for a second? Just for a millisecond here with you?"
He stared at her. The centuries cowered in the millennium that passed before he finally cocked his head slightly, eyes tracing her face, and answered.
"No. It makes you human."
She wasn't sure if she moved, or if he did, or the universe decided that enough was enough, and it was time.
A universe worth of feelings in his lips.
She kissed him with abandon as his hands finally grabbed at her hips, holding her against her, so that nothing could separate them again.
The way his lips moved against hers forced a reckoning with reality, pushing any thoughts from her head of anything except this man, this beautiful man, who had found her there, who held her here, who had ripped her apart and put her back together with a breath.
As the seconds moved to minutes, and time itself was no longer their constraint, his lips moved to her neck, his hands to the shirt she still wore, discarding it before she could even consider why it hadn't been discarded before.
Her fingers traced the scars on his chest as his own clothes disappeared, like magic itself was opening the door. For this moment. This possibility. This want that she couldn't even explain how bad she wanted.
How bad she wanted him.
The first time that she had been with Draco, a break in the cosmos had occurred, splitting her open and pulling the magic from her soul, shattering across bed sheets and lips and desires.
This time, it was the opposite.
She kissed him like she would never get the chance again. As all the barriers between them disappeared, he laid her down, as if she was precious, as if she was to be protected. Kisses across her bare chest, causing her to gasp and moan, and as he moved lower, to beg.
His tongue against her centre sent her spinning through continents, but when she landed, she was here with him. In her small bed at Grimmauld Place, a broken woman with a broken man, holding each other together.
It was too much, and when she came crashing down, she didn't see stars.
She only saw him.
And then he was above her, eyes begging for consent to finally connect them, to seek this one piece of solace in a world crumbling around them.
She nodded and he was inside her.
This overtaking passion of the first time was still there, but softer. A flickering flame under her skin, burning her softly.
He moved slowly, taking his time, feeling every inch of her before repeating the motion, dragging noises from her mouth she didn't know were possible.
Her hands grasped at his skin like the antidote to all of life's misery. She didn't care that her hands were covered in dirt, that his skin was burned and scratched from the maze. She only cared that he was hers and she was his.
Wrapping her legs around his waist, he lifted her up, so they were at eye level. Using her arms at his shoulder as support, she moved up him until she was squirming, and crashed back down. He peppered kisses across her collarbone, as she threw her head back, basking in this moment.
And when it finally came, when the eclipse overtook them, and they came crashing together, she held on. He was whispering in her ear, but she couldn't hear him.
The only thing she could understand in that moment was her skin on his, their bodies connected by a force beyond magic.
Last time, they had shattered the stars.
This time, she herself felt shattered, with this beautiful man kissing her broken pieces before putting them back in place.
And that's all she could have ever been in this moment.
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