Chapter 22: Legacy
Pansy stood still, watching Tom crumble at Hermione's feet and shakily staring at the blood on her dress as Draco and Harry launched forward, Harry's fingers closing around Pansy's arm to draw her numbly against his chest as Draco stopped just short of reaching Hermione.
Harry had always said it wouldn't be a blade that killed Tom, but Pansy hadn't understood what that meant until she'd stabbed him with one herself; until she'd seen how a man with a sword in his neck might somehow only howl with rage rather than fall in defeat. Until that day she thought she'd seen enough to know the limits of possibility, but clearly it could still surprise her - could astound her - and disrupt everything she knew to be true, and there was nothing more unearthly than the ruins of a world that had fallen down around her. The courtyard, once so dependably solid, could be alternately imprisoned in ice or entombed in flames; her former husband, once little more than a bitterly cruel man, could conjure hell itself; her rival, once only a cold-hearted woman, could take mastery of a King's soul without fear.
Harry had said it wouldn't be a blade that killed Tom, but even in a world where nothing seemed as indisputable as it had once been, some truths still remained. That combined, a concealed blade and the element of surprise were weapons enough to weaken a man; that a man caught unawares could eventually be brought down. Pansy had known that whatever Harry had said to be true about Tom wasn't totally without exception, because the rules of roguish combat at least remained untouched. She had seen Hermione struggling; she had known it wasn't enough. That alone, neither of them could manage a final blow, but together, there might have been a chance.
Perhaps Pansy hadn't killed Tom with a blade; that much appeared to be true. But she had stabbed him with one at the opportune moment, and he was certainly dead now - so the two didn't seem entirely separate revelations.
In the minutes that followed Tom's death, the woman who would be Queen - the witch, the enchantress, the challenger who'd saved Pansy's life - only stared blankly at where he lay on the ground, her eyes never leaving his face.
"Wait," Hermione said, holding up a hand as Draco took a tentative step towards her. "I need to - I need to fix it. Fix this." She closed her eyes. "Just - "
"Granger," Draco attempted, his voice hoarse with hesitation. "Hermione - "
Pansy stumbled back, shrinking in Harry's arms as the sky around them started to fade from its molten pitch of black. Hermione stretched a hand out, the palms of her hands still glowing, and gradually, the fires around them tamed; the smoke dissipated; the ash eased from their lungs, evaporating gradually as the dark cloud that had settled over the castle slowly sank beneath their feet, dissolving with a hiss against the courtyard ground.
When Hermione opened her eyes again, nobody spoke for a moment.
Then she turned to Harry.
"Do you plan to kill me now?" Hermione asked neutrally, and Pansy felt Harry's arms go tense around her. "It will be difficult," Hermione added coldly. "I may have saved your wife, but that doesn't mean I will go willingly to my own death."
Harry said nothing.
"You know as well as I do that I kept you from breaking your vow," Hermione continued, with a hint of something that Pansy suspected might have been a morbid form of humor. "I said that challenging Tom would cost you your life, and I kept you from it." She met his eye with fierceness, with undeniable certainty. "I offered a life for a life, Harry, and I plan to hold you to it."
"This is regicide," Harry noted, finally clearing his throat. "And by virtue of inheritance, the throne should be mine."
"You were struck from succession law," Hermione countered. "Disinherited."
"Yes, by a now-dead King," Harry returned bluntly. "I have nobles waiting on my behalf, and I could summon them here."
"You could," Hermione permitted, her gaze falling gradually on Pansy's, "but perhaps you won't wish to."
"Ask your wife if she wants to be Queen," Hermione told Harry, prompting Pansy to stiffen. "If she really, truly wants it. Ask her if she enjoyed being the tool of the men around her," Hermione suggested, "or if she enjoyed the constant danger of the life she lived. Ask her if possessing the crown ever brought her pleasure." She paused, glancing again at Pansy. "I wager she will deny it, and if she does not, she is lying."
"This isn't about me," Pansy ventured brusquely, glaring at Hermione. "Leave me out of this."
"Leave you out?" Hermione scoffed. "Aren't you tired of being left out, Pansy? Doesn't it make you sick," she spat between gritted teeth, "that no one will ever ask you what you want? Not today, and maybe not ever? Perhaps Tom disappointed you, perhaps he hurt you, perhaps he undervalued you. Has Harry never let you down?" she asked, and Pansy knew Hermione could see it on her face; could see the way she still saw Harry riding away from her, disappearing into the night. "Can you honestly say he was thinking of you when he made this choice?"
"Stop," Pansy said firmly, but Harry shifted with hesitation, looking from her to Hermione.
"What do you propose, then?" he asked guardedly, as across from Hermione, Draco's brow grew equally furrowed. "Clearly you have something in mind."
"Of course. It's not complicated; leave me the throne," Hermione suggested, and Pansy suffered a breath of opposition that stopped just short of a gasp. "I am Tom's legal successor," she reminded them. "Let the rivalry between the Peverells and Gaunts have died today with Tom."
Pansy stiffened. "You will not harm Harry," she began, and Hermione cut her off with a shake of her head.
"No, I won't," she agreed. "Conditionally, of course, but after all, there is a witness who can testify that both the Peverell heir and the Gaunt King died today." Hermione let her gaze travel slowly to Draco, falling on him with an ease so practiced that Pansy wondered if he were not a little bit wrong about his effect on her. "Wasn't there?" Hermione asked him, and Draco glanced at Harry, who looked inescapably bemused, before turning back to her.
"What will happen if I say it was you?" Draco prompted.
"I'll kill you," Hermione replied.
"And if I say otherwise?"
"If you say you witnessed the defeat of the King at Harry's hands, and Harry's death by virtue of a final blow from the King, then I assume the throne without contest," Hermione supplied easily. "With the Peverell line gone, there is no heir to rally behind except me. The nobles who opposed Tom have no reason to oppose me." She glanced at Harry again. "I swear to you, Harry, that I will not be the kind of ruler that he was."
"Still, it won't be easy," Draco protested. "You may have successfully held your regency while Tom was at war, but this is another matter. There has never been a permanent Queen Regnant, and with the nobles grasping for whatever financial powers remain - "
"Then I will have to marry another noble," Hermione agreed. "Someone wealthy enough to provide my reign stability, but who will not grasp at power for himself - either because he doesn't wish to, or, perhaps, because I will kill him if he does." She tore her gaze from Harry's to permit her attention to land on Draco's face at that, lingering there for a moment. "On an unrelated note," she added casually, "seeing as I am the legal successor to the throne, your betrothal to Lady Delacour is void, Lord Malfoy. It was arranged by my predecessor and I will not hold you to it if you do not wish it."
"I - " Draco swallowed, staring at her. "Wh- really? You would - "
"Hold on," Pansy interrupted, taking a few combative steps forward. "You do not get to strip Harry of his birthright for your own good, Hermione - nor you, Draco," she accused him. "You will not take this from him, not when he has fought so hard, so tirelessly - "
"Wait," Harry said, gently reaching out to hold her back, taking her face in his hands. "Pansy," he murmured to her, brushing his lips against her cheeks, first, and then her lips. "Pansy, she's right. She's right, I have asked so much of you, and - " he faltered, clearing his throat. "What would you have in your future?" he asked, prompting her to silence as he stroked her cheek. "Tell me the truth, Pansy."
"I," she began, and immediately stopped. "Harry, no. Harry this is - she's just - "
"What do you see?" Harry asked, and she looked up into his familiar green eyes, finding a strangely potent sincerity in them. "What does your future look like, Pansy, in a life where you are happy?"
She opened her mouth; closed it.
"No," she said quietly, shaking her head. "No, Harry, don't make me do this -"
Don't bend -
Don't break -
"Because I'll disappoint you," she whispered. "I can't - I can't give you the answer you want, Harry, and I can't - I don't want to - "
"You will not disappoint me," Harry promised her. "Just - tell me," he urged at a murmur, and Pansy sighed, shaking her head.
"I only want you," she admitted, shivering a little at the confession. "I will be the Queen you need me to be if you ask it of me; I promised you I would be, and I will. But - " she trailed off, staring at where Tom lay crumpled at Hermione's feet for a moment - several moments - before turning back to Harry. "This throne corrupts," Pansy confessed. "The only thing the crown ever brought me was misery. And true, perhaps it would be different with you - "
She paused, chewing her lip.
"Or," Pansy exhaled heavily, sparing him a glimpse of her hesitation, "perhaps not."
Harry stood very still for a moment, looking down at her.
Then he nodded, turning back to Hermione.
"I won't make another promise like the one I made to you before," Harry said firmly, as Pansy held her breath, waiting. "I won't promise not to challenge you. That's my condition: that I want someone worthy on my father's throne." He paused, measuring Hermione from a distance. "If you fail me," he said slowly. "If you fail Diagon - "
Hermione nodded. "I will expect to find you, sword in hand, at my door," she promised him. "I said I would not hunt you, either of you, and I mean it. You are the defender of this realm, Harry," she said, with more solemnity than Pansy would have expected from her. "I hope you live a long life protecting it."
Harry nodded, slipping his arm around Pansy's waist and then looking down at her with certainty; with a sureness that lit a flame of guilt in her chest. Pansy waited until Hermione turned her attention to Draco, the other woman's gaze softening just marginally at his approach, before turning back to Harry, subtly drawing him aside.
"Will this be enough for you?" Pansy whispered to him. "You could be making a terrible mistake, Harry. Can this ever be enough?"
"What, this?" he prompted, yanking her closer and gesturing salaciously between them. "You know, this arrangement makes much more sense, really. Rogues are not meant to have kingdoms. In fact, it says so, right in the book of rog-"
"Stop," Pansy sighed, shaking her head. "Harry, be serious - "
"I am serious," he assured her. "You saved my life, Pansy, when I thought it could not be done. You fought a battle for me when I was certain it could not be won. Now, in payment," he said in her ear, brushing his lips against her cheek, "I plan to take up that vocation we mentioned previously, wherein I never leave your bed."
She hesitated; the words were promising enough, but she'd been fooled by pretty words before.
"You realize I will be a mother soon," Pansy reminded him. "I will have obligations outside of keeping your hands busy."
"Oh, I know," Harry said with a laugh. "And I will be there, because of you. Because of you." He kissed her, softly at first, and then more firmly. "Because of you," he said again, and tightened his grip on her, his arms wrapped securely around her waist. "You cannot imagine. I would have died, Pansy, I was so sure of it - and now I will watch my son grow because of you. That will always be enough. You," he said, giving her another kiss and stealing the breath off her tongue, "will always be more than enough."
He was always so infuriating; but still, she loved the taste of him, and it was better now.
"It may be a girl," Pansy remarked eventually, pulling away to look at him. "I should warn you that such things are known to happen."
Harry laughed. "Good," he agreed. "Then she will have her father's roguery and her mother's courage. Oh," he added blithely, "and with my recklessness, of course, and your beauty, and your utter refusal to be diminished - "
"And thus, she will be the most dangerous woman ever to live," Pansy sighed. "So you're right, Harry, perhaps we should hope for a boy."
He laughed, freely, and bent his head towards her again.
"I don't care if it's a boy," Harry said, with another kiss. "Truly, I don't."
"But what will we do?" Pansy asked him. "Simply disappear?"
"Yes," Harry said, his gaze cutting across the courtyard to where Hermione stood with Draco. "Yes, my Queen. We will simply disappear. Rather like magic," he said with a wry smile, and then he kissed her again.
And Pansy knew, as she had always known, that he had been worth fighting for.
"Will we rise again one day, do you think?" she asked him when they parted, and he hummed a little chuckle under his breath.
"We are such experts in roguery, Pansy," Harry replied, "that I cannot doubt it."
"We?" she echoed dubiously. "We're both rogues now?"
Harry shrugged. "You've wielded a very heavy weapon," he reminded her. "Experience with blades is actually on the list, you know, and if you are no longer occupied with the role of Queen of Diagon - "
"I will be the Queen of Knaves?" Pansy guessed, and Harry grinned.
"In your rightful place, at last," he confirmed solemnly, and sealed it with a kiss.
Ten Years Later
"Where are we going?" Scorpius asked, glancing up at Hermione with an earnest look of confusion. "I thought you said we were just going to visit a friend of Father's."
"We are," Hermione assured him without elaboration, glancing up to find Draco watching her with a vague look of amusement. "What? Draco, stop it."
"You should tell him the truth, my Queen," Draco replied, with his usual smug look of righteousness. "He's going to find out eventually. Aren't you?" he asked his son, and Scorpius nodded vigorously.
"Yes, Mother, please. I'd just like to know - "
"Fine. But you must keep this a secret," Hermione told him firmly. "Do you understand?"
"A secret," Scorpius replied, frowning. "From Severus? And from Alessia and Milo, too?" he asked, naming the young Nott twins, whom Hermione knew perfectly well were her son's preferred conspirators at court during the six months a year they were in residence.
"Actually, Alessia and Milo know this particular secret," Hermione told him. "As do Lord and Lady Nott, and Severus as well. But still, you shouldn't discuss it. Do you understand?"
Scorpius nodded firmly. "Now who are we visiting?" he asked again, and Hermione leaned over, kissing the top of his head and letting out a sigh.
"There is a man," she explained. "A friend of Father's, who runs the lands and house at Grimmauld for him. We are going to visit him."
"What's his name?"
"Harry," Hermione replied.
"Is he your friend too, Mother?"
"Yes," Hermione said, and hesitated. "And his wife, too," she determined after a moment.
"Who is she?"
"She's called Pansy," Hermione offered. "And they have a child around your age."
Scorpius made a face. "Is this a betrothal?" he asked sulkily, and Hermione shook her head, stifling a laugh under her breath.
"No, not yet. Not here. You'll have to marry for the good of the kingdom," she reminded him, and Scorpius groaned. "A foreign princess, most likely, to cement our alliances."
"But you married Father, and he's just a noble," he reminded her.
"'Just' a noble," Draco repeated drily, shaking his head. "Betrayed, and by my own son - "
"Yes," Hermione confirmed with a laugh, "Yes, I married your father, Scorpius, and a very good thing I did, too. He helped me t-"
"To save Diagon from the old King's debts, I know, I know," Scorpius grumbled. "Severus is always talking about money, Mother, or the kingdom. He never stops."
"Nor should he," Hermione reminded him. "That's his job, isn't it? That, and teaching you -"
"But why Father, then?" Scorpius interrupted. "Because he had money?"
Hermione looked up, meeting Draco's expectant grey gaze.
"That," Hermione permitted loftily, "and perhaps a bit more."
For a moment, when the piece of Tom had been severed from her, Hermione felt she had been emptied of everything. It was as if without her anger - and without his - she had been left with a vacancy, never to be filled except by a hollow aching in her bones at what had been lost; at what she had cost them; at what she had done.
"You hate me," Draco reminded her, taking a step closer. "You've said so many times, Granger, and I hate to make this about me, but at the very least it should be noted how attentively I listen."
"Yes," she agreed. "I hate you, and you hate me, and what we have is very mutual. Isn't it?" she prompted knowingly, and he rolled his eyes.
"Yes. But why should I agree to anything? You recently killed a man," he noted. "And here I'd grown so comfortable thinking you weren't particularly sold on murder."
"Well, never mistake the things I say for idle threats," Hermione told him. "Particularly," she added, "if you plan to consider my offer. I won't be ruled by a man again," she warned him. "Whatever gentle animosity I may feel for you, I'll still kill you before I let you try to destroy me."
"Gentle animosity," Draco echoed. "Is that supposed to be something close to affection?"
"That's what you're getting from this?" she demanded irritably, and he gave her a terrible, alluring smirk.
"You never actually made me an offer, Granger," he reminded her, and she growled her disapproval.
"I'm your Queen, Malfoy. That's part of the deal. Address me properly until I say otherwise."
"Yes, right, sorry - Your Majesty," he amended drily. "This offer you think you've made me; I'm afraid the details are a bit ambiguous. Are you suggesting we make our current situation something of a permanent arrangement?" he asked, taking a step towards her. "Our situation being mutual hatred, of course."
"Well, perhaps it's because I killed my husband, and so my judgment is slightly off," Hermione supplied gruffly, "but - " she exhaled. "I find you are the one man I trust not to lie to me," she admitted slowly, "and therefore the only one I wish at my side."
She caught a small twitch of his lips; amusement, or perhaps something more earnest, like pleasure.
"Not to make this worse," Draco prompted slyly, "but I imagine that's probably because I'm the one man you've never lied to."
She made a face. "Only because I assumed I'd eventually kill you."
"Come to think of it, you mentioned that a few times, yes."
"But," Hermione insisted firmly, "I need you to understand that I alone will be the reigning Queen. You can be a prince beside me if you wish it, but I will still require your loyalty, and your service, and your -"
She broke off as he bent his head, lowering his lips to hers as he slid his hands around her hips, holding her steady. It was as tempting as ever, a troubling bit of something intangible that danced on her tongue, but she succumbed to it with ease, without apprehension; with the sense of something that would not aim to destroy her, but might enrich her.
Something to keep her afloat.
"Yes," she exhaled eventually, clearing her throat. "Yes. I will require that, too."
"Well," Draco said. "If my Queen commands me - "
"I do," Hermione said, and Draco stared at her for a moment, his eyes following the lines of anticipation on her face, before slowly lowering himself to one knee.
"Then, Majesty," he said, inclining his head before drawing his grey gaze up to hers, "I would deny you nothing."
"We're here," Draco informed them, stepping out of the carriage first before holding a hand out for Hermione's. "Ah," he called, turning over his shoulder to see Harry approaching. "Potter, good to see my lands are being managed well - "
"You mean my lands," Harry returned at a mutter, rolling his eyes.
"If you say so," Draco said, shrugging, and Harry turned to Hermione, offering her a bow.
"Your Majesty," he offered, rising up to meet her eye with his usual roguish grin. "And I presume this is our young prince?" he asked, as Scorpius climbed down from the carriage door. "Your Highness," Harry acknowledged, dropping into another bow. "It's a pleasure to have you and your family. Now," he said, turning back to Draco and gesturing them inside. "Malfoy, I've been meaning to tell you - "
"Mother," Scorpius whispered, reaching out to pause her. "Why is he so - "
"Direct?" Hermione asked, and Scorpius nodded, visibly bemused. "It's just his way. You'll get used to it."
"But nobody looks at you," Scorpius said with a frown. "They never look at your eyes, Mother. And I thought you said that the crown - "
"Well, this is an exception," Hermione told him briskly. "Now hush, Scorpius, try to enjoy yourself - "
"Hermione," she heard, and turned as they entered the Grimmauld castle, catching sight of Pansy as she walked towards them. They had seen each other a few times before then, but Hermione still marveled that for the decade of her reign, Pansy had not lost her beauty, nor her refinement; if anything, she had grown more beautiful over time. Life as the wife of a large country estate seemed to agree with her. "You're looking well. And this must be Scorpius," Pansy added, her dark gaze falling on his anxious little face. "Your Highness, what a pleasure to meet you."
"And you, My Lady," Scorpius replied, sparing Pansy a bow as the other woman laughed, delighted.
"What a perfect little prince. Harry," she called to her husband, turning to where he and Draco were poring over a map. "Where is our miscreant child?"
"Ah, yes, that one," Harry agreed, looking up. "Somewhere around here, I'm sure, and until then - would you like to look at these yields with us?" he beckoned to Scorpius. "Perhaps you should come see how your father does things, so you can learn how to improve upon it - "
"Christ, Potter," Draco growled disapprovingly, shaking his head, but Scorpius nodded solemnly, glancing up at Hermione for permission.
She nudged him forward, watching him go as Pansy stepped closer, leaning in conspiratorially.
"Your son is very handsome," Pansy remarked, watching him go. "He seems very strong and tall for his age, too."
"Oh, he is," Hermione assured her. "Draco and I are very proud of him."
"Yes, of course, as you should be," Pansy said, and then paused, clearing her throat. "Though, I can't help but notice," she ventured carefully, glancing askance at Hermione. "His eyes."
Hermione fidgeted. "Yes?"
"They're very," Pansy began, and tilted her head. "Blue," she murmured, as Hermione felt her spine stiffen.
"They're very like Draco's," she permitted. "Certainly more his than mine."
Pansy leveled a solemn gaze at Hermione.
"You and I both know we will never forget that shade of blue," she said quietly, her voice barely over a whisper.
"Does he haunt you still?" Draco murmured, running his fingers up and down Hermione's arm in slow, delicate circles.
"I thought he would," Hermione confessed. "I thought I would see traces of him in his absence. Actually, I thought I would feel him," she admitted. "Feel the way his anger was both hot and cold at the same time. I thought I would suffer its absence like a phantom limb."
"And do you?" Draco prompted.
"No," Hermione admitted. "I feel as if something malignant was excised."
"I think the court feels it too," Draco said. "Even the older nobles. It's as if it's possible to breathe again."
"Do you think they will ever love me, as Harry was loved?" Hermione asked absently. "Or fear me, as Tom was feared?"
"I think they respect you, for having earned their respect," Draco said. "And they honor you, for being worthy of honor."
Hermione paused the wanderings of his fingers, drawing his knuckles up to brush her lips against them.
"About our son," she ventured cautiously, and Draco shook his head.
"If this is about his eyes - "
"He's like me," Hermione said bluntly, and Draco blinked. "I've seen glimpses of it. He can't control it yet," she added, "but someday I'll have to teach him. Perhaps when he's eleven or so."
Draco nodded, looking lost in thought.
"What?" she prompted, and he glanced down at her, hesitating.
"Is he like you," he asked slowly, "or is he like Tom?"
Hermione reached up, curling a hand around Draco's cheek.
"He has his father's better nature," she promised him. "Overly dramatic. Occasionally insistent on getting his way. At times, a little too smug -"
"Hilarious," Draco said, rolling his eyes.
" - but honorable," Hermione finished. "Clever, self-sacrificing, and principled." She kissed his hand again. "He will be a good King, and he has you to thank for that."
"No," Draco said, shaking his head. "That he learned from you."
Hermione opened her mouth to speak, and then paused.
"And his eyes?" she asked, fighting a moment of apprehension.
Draco shrugged. "Blood is only blood," he said. "You taught me that."
Hermione nodded. "Blood is only blood," she agreed, and thought, for once, that she finally understood nobility.
Before Hermione could reply to Pansy's comment, a young girl had appeared in the door frame, coming to a sudden halt in the same moment that Scorpius turned over his shoulder, spotting her from across the room.
"There you are," Pansy sighed at the sight of her. "Where have you been?"
The girl turned her head, and in less than a glance, Hermione could already see that her parentage was unmistakable. She had Harry's green eyes and raven hair - undeniably her father's daughter - but she carried herself precisely as Pansy did; with all the poise that her mother possessed, and with the same keen gaze of calculation, lending a sharpness to her beauty.
"Lady Mother," the girl replied sweetly, sparing Pansy an affectionately reverent curtsy. "Your Majesty," she added to Hermione, though Hermione found her gaze strangely unnerving; as if the girl knew a secret that Hermione didn't.
"Aurora," Harry called to his daughter, beckoning for her to join them. "This is Prince Scorpius," he informed her, gesturing, and Hermione watched her son face Pansy's daughter in a daze.
"My Lady," Scorpius said, recovering from a bit of shock to offer a well-trained bow.
"Your Highness," Aurora offered, lowering herself to a curtsy.
It was nothing, Hermione thought, observing them.
It should have been nothing.
Instead, in the moment that Scorpius and Aurora rose up, locking eyes, Hermione felt a rush of something; a flood, a storm, of something she hadn't felt in many years. For a moment, a hurricane of imagery and voices spun around her, rooting her in place - a flash of things, of nothings, and glimmers that tore the breath from her lungs.
Aurora, the goddess of the dawn -
Hermione blinked back her son's face; the image of his blue eyes, locked on Aurora's green ones.
You cannot have it - you cannot have what is mine -
I can, Hermione heard a woman's voice reply. I can, and I will. I have my father's blood and my mother's courage, the voice said boldly, ringing through Hermione's head, and I am the best of them both -
If I have not been given my throne by virtue of my parentage, the voice continued, then I will have to take it -
If my throne is not given to me, then it will be earned!
Aurora, Hermione heard a man's voice plead. Aurora, don't do this - don't do this to us -
How can I not?
A flash of raven black; of two crowns, and two hands both reaching; a flicker of passion, of star-crossed rage; glimmers and shadows, murmurs in the dark, promises made to be broken; the resurrections of two warring lines, defended by two crossed swords; a snake and a lioness, and a whisper of please, Aurora, please -
If only it were different -
You cannot love me, Scorpius, I will not let you -
Would you really deny this?
If my throne is not given to me, then it will be earned!
Hermione gasped at the woman's face behind her eyes, so much like her mother's; the same sharp-eyed gaze with her own breathless fury, with a long silken braid and a flash of gold, of longing, a sunburst of triumph around the girl's head as unmistakable as her own son's blue eyes; a blue, Hermione saw with anguish, that burst into flames -
Aurora, Hermione heard; a whisper, then, from somewhere far away, a future calling to a past. Aurora, she will rise like the dawn -
A whisper, and then a shout of memory.
Tomorrow will come, Hermione -
I won't forget this, Hermione, and tomorrow will come -
She stumbled back to find Draco's hand at her elbow, steadying her.
"What is it?" he asked in her ear, looking concerned, and Hermione shuddered against her will, blinking back the images in her head.
"Nothing," she said, forcing it out. "Nothing, Draco, I'm fine, I just - "
She looked up to find that Harry was watching her, and could tell at once that he knew what she'd seen. She froze, staring back at him, and caught the faint hint of a subtle glow from his palms where they rested gently on his daughter's shoulders.
"You," she began, and broke off, startled. "I didn't - you can - "
Harry's smile twitched slightly. "Your Majesty," he said in acknowledgement, inclining his head in confirmation, and Hermione caught the eye of the woman who stood on his right; the woman who would always be her enemy, however much they wished to be friends.
Have you seen what I have seen? Hermione wanted to ask her, but she knew the answer as soon as Pansy met her gaze, their two children still standing opposite each other.
"Are you well, Mother?" Scorpius asked, turning to look at her, and Hermione managed a slow, unsteady nod, glancing from his face to Aurora's.
I should have known, Hermione thought, staring down at the Peverell daughter. I should have known my biggest fear would always be a woman -
"Perhaps we should have a drink and toast to something," Pansy suggested wryly. "To the future, perhaps?"
Tomorrow will come, she heard Pansy say, and I will be waiting.
Hermione shook herself of her apprehension, turning to Pansy with a nod.
"To the future," she agreed, taking what she'd seen and burying it in a vault.
Tomorrow will come, she thought in reply, and I will be ready when it does.
When Tom fell, it was the two women who killed him who gravitated towards each other.
"You used me against Harry," Pansy said when they were alone again, the line of her mouth a grave edge of accusation. "Don't think I don't know what you did. You used me as a tool to hold your throne."
"Oh, I won't deny it. You have always been very transparent, Pansy," Hermione reminded her. "You want love above anything else, and because of that, I have always known what you would choose."
"So I suppose you think you've won, then," Pansy said bitterly, her gaze darkening. "I won't forget it, you know. I won't forget that you used me to keep Harry from his throne."
"You said yourself you didn't want it," Hermione reminded her. "You want love, you want Harry - and now you can have it, with him. You can have them both. You can have everything you wanted, can't you? I kept him alive for you when I could have let him die," she pointed out, "and in exchange, you will let me keep the crown. We're even."
"Still," Pansy insisted. "I won't forget this, Hermione. I won't forget why you chose what you chose, even if it means I have what I wanted. Tomorrow will come, Hermione, and I will not forget."
"Tomorrow will come," Hermione agreed. "And we will know then, as we have always known, that for all that I may think of you and whatever you may think of me, we were never born to build each other up." She paused. "And I suppose that's only right, isn't it?" she prompted with a grimace. "After all, the world would have us be enemies."
There was a long pause.
"Enemies," Pansy echoed musingly. "When I have saved your life, and you have saved mine? Seems a rather impractical demand, even from the world."
Hermione nodded her agreement. "For so long my life has been so inescapably ruled by men that I thought the biggest fear I would ever have would take the shape of one. Strange, then, isn't it?" Hermione murmured. "That today I could bring down a sorcerer-King, and yet I will probably fear you for as long as I live."
To her surprise, Pansy shrugged.
"Fear isn't hate," Pansy remarked. "If the world had been different, perhaps we might have been friends; truly friends. And while it is not the case - and while I must protect myself from you, for at least as long as I wish to stay alive," she commented wryly, as Hermione spared her an acknowledging nod, "I don't believe I will ever have the energy to hate you." She glanced around the courtyard, gesturing to the blood that remained on their gowns. "Look what damage hate has already done."
"Instead, we are what we are," Hermione noted. "Marked as rivals from the start, and by a world that demands we despise each other."
For a moment, they both only nodded. It seemed an impossible thing to believe; that for all they had been through, they'd reached a détente. By virtue of circumstance, it would always come to this.
That they would never be friends.
That they could never be friends.
"And yet," Pansy said, surprising Hermione once again. "If that is what the world demands," she offered slowly, "then how fashionable of us to refuse."
She held out her bloodied hand, and without hesitation, Hermione took it. In a motion, both of them pledged something that wasn't quite fealty - something that certainly wasn't fraternity, nor resignation, nor even truly much at all - but that wasn't any less enduring, either.
"I daresay you will make a very good Queen," Pansy said, with more truth than bitterness. "You will fight many more battles, with many more enemies more worthy than me." Her mouth quirked slightly. "I wish you triumph in all of them - so long as your victories do not stand to threaten me."
"No enemy I face will ever be more worthy than you," Hermione replied. "And I hope, for your sake, that you never cross me again."
"I would hate to have to destroy you," Pansy remarked.
"As would I," said Hermione.
They let their hands fall to their sides, nodding in concert.
"Let the future come, then," Hermione offered. "I will be ready."
"Let the future come," Pansy agreed, "and I will wait."
They both nodded.
They'd always had a certain understanding.
a/n: I began this story, which is expanded from an Amortentia one shot, on an originality high. At the time, I was exploring different styles of narratives and playing with different textures of characters, and I was never more encouraged than the day I started writing this. Unfortunately, what this story quickly taught me is that the fanfic community is unforgiving towards creativity.
I set out to write a story that was (for once) not exclusively a romance, but an exploration of lives, of circumstance, of the difficulties inherent in female relationships, of the troubling nature (and terrible recalcitrance) of fate - and for most of you who have been with me throughout this process, I think you were able to see that. To you, whoever you may be: you made this worth doing. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your positivity when you did, because it persuaded me to continue when I was made to feel incredibly low. Please remember that it does make a difference; if you love a work, please share your feelings, whatever that story may be.
If you enjoyed this particular story, I would encourage you to seek out my original work, as I doubt I will ever write a fanfic in this style or with this degree of experimentation again. My book, Masters of Death, will be available on Amazon on Wednesday, January 31 (which is, coincidentally, my birthday). The link will be available on my website, which can be found in my bio. If you liked my writing, I would be incredibly grateful if you would consider giving my imagination a try with something new.
It's with a lot of sadness that I step away from this story (though, as we speak, someone is calling a protagonist a 'piece of shit,' which I decidedly will not miss). Still, it is always an honor to put these words down for you, and I sincerely hope you've enjoyed the story.
Edit, 3/28/2018: You can now find a Theo x Daphne prequel one shot, Things About You, as chapter 98 in my Amortentia collection.