A/N – This new story is 19 chapters – including an epilogue and this prologue. Updates will be Tuesdays and Fridays. Enjoy!
Standing watching her best friend, Harry Potter, head off to his death, Hermione Granger, fought back the tears that threatened to fall. Beside her, Ron Weasley, her other best friend, gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. Unlike Hermione, Ron had no idea just what Harry was heading towards. Over the last few months, Hermione had come to recognise that Harry was a Horcrux, albeit an accidental one, and judging from the look on his face as he went off to face Voldemort, Harry had come to the same conclusion.
"I've got to go back into the Great Hall," Ron said gently. His family were in there, grieving for the loss of Fred, and Ron understandably wanted to be there with them.
"I'll catch you later," Hermione replied. She had something to do, or rather someone to find, and it would be easier without Ron around.
Hermione walked Ron back into the Great Hall, double checking who she was looking for wasn't in there. Finding no sign of the boy she was looking for, Hermione watched Ron head over to his family. She watched the Weasleys for a minute, before turning around and leaving the Great Hall before she began to cry. Instead she focused on finding the wizard she loved. She knew he was around somewhere, she just hoped he wasn't too badly injured. Last time she'd seen him he'd been battered and bruised, but there was nothing seriously wrong with him.
As she wandered the ruined castle, she thought about her boyfriend, and how she came to fall in love with Draco Malfoy.
Their first interaction as something other than enemies occurred in second year when he'd found her and apologised for calling her a mudblood. Hermione had accepted his apology, and things had gone back to normal. Things didn't really change until third year, when it was Hermione's turn to apologise to Draco after hitting him. Unlike the previous apology, the pair actually spoke for a while and they decided to give one another a chance. As a result, they started a secret friendship.
The friendship was mainly a secret because of Draco's parents. Even though Hermione knew her friends wouldn't approve, she wasn't that worried about telling them. However, it was different for Draco. He was going against everything he'd been brought up to believe in by befriending her, and he was terrified his father would disown him if he ever found out the truth. So even though she hadn't been keen on the whole secret aspect of things, Hermione had kept quiet about their friendship.
Hermione couldn't really say for sure when romantic feelings started to creep into their friendship. Over the course of fourth year they grew increasingly closer, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world when they shared a kiss on the last day of term. Of course, like their friendship, their romance had to be kept under wraps. Although, Draco had promised her that the moment he left school he would tell his parents everything, and he would be with her regardless of what they said.
Unfortunately, the end of fifth year changed all that. Lucius's arrest turned Draco's life on his head, although he never blamed Hermione and her friends for what had happened to his father. He was adamant Lucius had made his own choices, and they were what had landed him in Azkaban. Before they'd parted ways for the summer, Draco had promised her that he would never follow in his father's footsteps and join the Death Eaters. Not that he had any choice in the matter in the end.
When they'd returned to school for sixth year, Hermione had already known something was going on with Draco, and he'd quickly confirmed her worst fear. He'd been forced to take the Dark Mark and he'd been tasked to do something terrible for Voldemort. Draco had never discussed what Voldemort wanted him to do, and every time Hermione had raised the topic he'd change the subject. In fact, he spent most of their time together in sixth year encouraging her to leave him. Hermione wasn't having any of it though, she loved Draco and she wasn't going anywhere.
Hermione actually spent most of her sixth year trying to find a way for Draco to escape Voldemort's clutches. Unfortunately, The Dark Lord had Draco well and truly in his grasp. He'd had Draco's mother, Narcissa, under constant surveillance and there was no way she was doing anything without him knowing what was going on. It meant the Order wouldn't have been able to get to Narcissa and rescue her, and Draco had refused to abandon his mother. Leaving Voldemort would have resulted in Narcissa's death, and Draco wasn't going to be responsible for the death of his mother.
Hermione had accepted that Draco was stuck until they defeated Voldemort, and she'd made a vow to herself that she'd do everything in her power to make sure he wasn't treated too harshly if they managed to get rid of Voldemort and won the war. When Dumbledore had died, and she'd found out about Draco's part in proceedings, she'd been worried her boyfriend was doomed to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban, but surprisingly Harry had been on Draco's side. Harry was adamant that Draco never would have killed Dumbledore, and he was sure that if they hadn't been disturbed that Draco would have taken the offer of help Dumbledore had extended to him.
Ironically over the course of the last year, Harry had become more convinced that Draco wasn't a willing supporter of Voldemort. Whenever Harry had flashes of what Voldemort was up to and Draco was around, he witnessed just how The Dark Lord taunted the blond boy. Then there was the incident at Malfoy Manor when Hermione, Harry and Ron had been caught by the snatchers. Draco had tried his best to lie for the three of them, and even when really pushed about identifying them, he did his best to be vague. Unfortunately, his Aunt Bellatrix was present, and she'd been determined to get the truth out of them so she'd decided to torture Hermione.
Hermione didn't like to think about the torture she endured at the hands of Draco's aunt. It was the most horrific experience of her life, and what had made it worse was knowing that Draco was standing helplessly watching her suffer. Of course, he could have come to her rescue, but that would have only resulted in both of their deaths. Instead, he did the right thing, even if it was the hard thing, and stayed out of things the best he could. Luckily, Harry and Ron had broken out of the dungeons and rescued her, although Hermione suspected that Draco had something to do with that.
Afterwards, they'd learnt from Luna Lovegood and Dean Thomas, who'd also being held prisoner in the manor, that Draco had done his best to look after them. He would often sneak food down to them and he did everything he could to make them comfortable. By this point even Ron had to admit that Draco wasn't all bad, and that he'd just found himself in an impossible situation.
That was a few months ago, and the last time Hermione had seen Draco before they arrived at Hogwarts. Since arriving at Hogwarts, Hermione had spotted Draco a few times, but they hadn't had the opportunity to really talk to one another. Instead, Hermione was running about helping Harry while Draco was just making sure he stayed out of harm's way as there were people on both side who were likely to hurt him if they got hold of him.
As she continued to look for her boyfriend, Hermione was beginning to wonder if the worst had happened. She was just praying she didn't stumble across Draco's prone body. Glancing around, Hermione searched the floor for any sign of her wayward boyfriend. Still not finding him, she began to head back towards the Great Hall. As she approached the Great Hall, she spotted a figure walking towards her and she let out a squeal of delight when she recognised a dishevelled Draco.
Running over to her boyfriend, she threw her arms around him. Draco immediately returned her embrace as he buried his head in her hair. The pair stayed wrapped in each other's arms for several minutes, before they parted just enough to look at each other.
"Are you okay?" Hermione checked, wiping a streak of blood off Draco's forehead.
"I'm fine, just superficial injuries," Draco replied. "How about you? You're not hurt, are you?"
"I'm okay," Hermione confirmed.
"And how are you otherwise?" Draco asked gently as he cupped Hermione's cheek in his hand. "Everyone heard The Dark Lord summon Potter. I take it he went."
"Of course he did," Hermione replied with a sad smile.
"Sometimes, I envy Potter," Draco confessed quietly. "I wish I could be as brave as he is, instead of the coward I am."
"You're not a coward," Hermione insisted forcefully. "Just look at everything you've done to ensure nothing happened to your mother. Not everyone can be heroes like Harry, the rest of us just have to be ordinary."
"I hope you're not including yourself in that," Draco remarked with a small smile. "You're not ordinary, Hermione. You're amazing."
Hermione smiled up at Draco, before leaning forward and capturing his lips with hers. After not being together for months, the kiss quickly turned into a more heated affair. Hermione's arms were wrapped tightly around Draco's neck and his hand was buried in her hair, their bodies pressed closely together, when a cough interrupted them. Hermione broke away from Draco with a frown, but when she turned around and spotted Ron standing in the doorway of the Great Hall her frowned turned to a look of panic. This wasn't how she planned on telling her friend she was involved with Draco.
"Ron, we can explain," Hermione said gently as she disentangled herself from Draco's embrace.
"What's to explain, you're clearly a couple," Ron replied with a shrug.
"Why aren't you more surprised?" Hermione asked in confusion.
"Did you really think you were that subtle?" Ron asked with a small chuckle. "Did it not occur to you that Harry and I know you well enough to pick up on a change in your behaviour? We noticed back in school how your attitude towards Malfoy had changed. We guessed you liked him, but we weren't sure it was mutual until recently."
"What do you mean?" Hermione questioned.
"The manor," Ron explained. "When we burst in and rescued you from Bellatrix, we both noticed Malfoy's reaction. He looked so grateful when we took you, and when we first burst into the room it looked as though he was on the verge of doing something drastic."
"I was," Draco confessed. Even though he'd known it would mean his own death, he hadn't been able to stand watching any longer and he'd been getting ready to tackle his aunt.
"So you're not mad?" Hermione checked with her friend.
"No, I'm not mad," Ron answered. "And neither is Harry. But now really isn't the time to discuss this. Let's get rid of the threat before we start debating your romantic choices."
Ron had barely finished talking when there was a commotion outside and people began running out of the Great Hall. Following the crowds, Hermione, Ron and Draco headed outside to the courtyard. At first they couldn't see anything, but then they spotted an army marching towards them. One of the group towered head and shoulders above the others, and Hermione thought it was Hagrid. Obviously he'd been caught some time during the battle, or perhaps even beforehand.
"What's Hagrid carrying?" Ron asked in a shaky voice as the Death Eaters closed in on them.
Hermione couldn't answer as the tear began slowly dripping from her eyes. The nearer they were getting, the clearer the picture was becoming. Hagrid was carrying the lifeless body of their best friend. Judging from the shouts and cries that were starting to sound all around them, other people were also coming to the same conclusion. As the tears continued to fall, Hermione took hold of both Draco and Ron's hands. Instinctively both boys moved closer to her, nestling her in between their taller frames.
"Harry Potter is dead," Voldemort announced as the Death Eaters came to a stop in front of the assembled group from the castle. "I'm giving you all one final chance. Join me, and live. Fight me, and you'll die."
Several people vocally refused the offer, as Voldemort's red eyes swept over the group. When The Dark Lord's gaze fell on Draco, his lips twisted into a smirk.
"How about you, Draco?" He asked. "You're not abandoning me now, are you?"
For one moment, Hermione thought Draco was going to let go of her hand and move across the courtyard. However, he merely stepped forward slightly so he could scan the crowds with Voldemort. Hermione felt Draco stiffen when he found his mother in the crowd. When Narcissa gave him an understanding nod, he stepped back and tightened his grip on Hermione's hand.
"My place is here," Draco announced loudly.
"With the mudblood?" Voldemort barked out a peal of laughter as he pulled out his wand. "You should know better than that, Draco."
Hermione didn't have a chance to react before Voldemort cast a silent spell at her boyfriend. Immediately Draco was encased in a bright blue light and yanked from her grip. His body rose a few feet into the air, before it began convulsing and Draco's loud screams of pain could be heard echoing all over the courtyard. Hermione pulled out her own wand and tried to fire at Voldemort, but he'd clearly put a protective barrier between them as her spell fell short. Hermione's actions just caused Voldemort to laugh loudly as he increased whatever force he was exerting on Draco, causing the blond to howl in agony.
With her own magic not helping her boyfriend, Hermione was a wreck. Screaming and shouting, she was unaware of the movement over the other side of the courtyard. Her focus was all on Draco, and as such she missed Harry getting to his feet. It wasn't until Voldemort abruptly dropped the spell on Draco that she realised what was happening. Hermione only had a brief second to register that Harry was alive, before she was rushing to Draco's side after he'd tumbled back down to the ground with an almighty thud, limbs lying at unnatural angles and blood oozing out onto the hard ground around him.
"You're going to be okay, Draco," Hermione said quietly as she checked her boyfriend over. Somewhere along the line he'd slipped into unconsciousness, but Hermione could still feel a pulse. "You can't leave me," She whispered, tears falling from her eyes. "Please. I need you, don't leave me."
Hermione took a deep breath as she stepped into the elevator in the reception of St Mungo's and pushed the button that would take her to the floor where her boyfriend was residing. It was just over a week since the final battle, and things were still touch and go for Draco. After Voldemort had released his from whatever spell he had over him, Hermione had protected Draco as the final battle reached its climax. She'd only been vaguely aware of Harry defeating Voldemort, and the Death Eaters scattering. Of course, she'd heard the whole story since, but at the time her priority had been Draco.
After being treated at the scene, Draco had been rushed to St Mungo's. He was in a pretty bad way when he was admitted, and he'd spent a couple of hours undergoing emergency treatment. Since then he'd been in a coma, and was residing in a special room where only the healers could enter. Visitors had to make do with viewing Draco through a glass wall to make sure he didn't pick up any infections. He was in such a weakened state, that even the smallest thing could compromise his health and make things ten times worse.
Over the course of the last week, Hermione had visited Draco every day, often two and three times a day. In that time she'd seen Narcissa once, and spoken very briefly to Draco's mother. She'd never seen Lucius, but she knew the Ministry had agreed to hold off on making a decision about his future. Harry told her that Lucius had given the Aurors a bit of help, and would likely end up with a reduced sentence, or even a postponed sentence. On a personal level, Hermione couldn't care less what happened to Lucius Malfoy, but she was pleased for Draco that it looked as though his father would still be around and not stuck in Azkaban for the rest of his life.
When she arrived on the correct floor, Hermione took another deep breath before alighting from the lift. It broke her heart seeing Draco lying lifeless in the sterile hospital bed, and it took all of her courage to visit him and not break down in tears. Putting on a smile, Hermione approached the desk that visitors signed in at. She was rather surprised when she was greeted by a medi-witch she didn't know as she thought she knew all the staff on the ward.
"I'm here to see Draco Malfoy," Hermione explained. "My name's Hermione Granger."
"I've got a message for you, Miss Granger," The medi-witch replied. "Healer Smith wants to see you in his office."
Healer Smith was Draco's healer and as the medi-witch led her to his office, Hermione felt a wave of apprehension flood her. She'd spoken to Draco's healer numerous times, but he'd never asked to see her in his office. The second Hermione entered the office, and the medi-witch shut the door behind her as she returned to her post, Hermione knew something was wrong. Healer Smith always looked serious, but if it was possible he looked even more sombre than usual.
"What's wrong?" Hermione demanded. "Has Draco developed an infection?"
"Please sit down," Healer Smith urged, practically forcing Hermione into a chair before perching in the chair opposite her. "I'm afraid it's not good news. Late yesterday evening, Draco took a turn for the worse. We spent several hours battling to save his life, but I'm afraid his injuries were just too severe and we lost him. I'm sorry, but Draco died in the early hours of this morning."
"No." Hermione barely recognised the primal wail that sounded from her as she collapsed in floods of tears. This wasn't supposed to happen, she and Draco had their whole lives in front of them, and they were supposed to be happy together.
As she wrapped her head around what had happened, she half listened to Healer Smith's explanation and apologies for not being able to do more. She only raised her head when Healer Smith told her in a rather embarrassed voice that he had a message from Draco's family.
"They wanted me to let you know that the funeral will be a private affair, only family," Healer Smith said, looking as embarrassed as he sounded. "Mr Malfoy was most insistent, that you weren't welcome."
"I don't suppose I will be," Hermione whispered.
To be honest she wasn't surprised by Lucius shutting her out, but right now it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was that she'd lost the man she loved, and she had no idea how she would move on with her life. How did she cope with losing the wizard she loved at only eighteen? How did she live her life without Draco by her side?