Author's Note: This is a very angsty one-shot that occurred to me and needed to be written. It was inspired by, and written to on repeat, the song Into the West by Annie Lennox, featured in the Lord of the Rings, Return of the King. More specifically, an a cappella version of the song by the amazingly talented Peter Hollens, which can be found on Youtube. I can't tell you to listen to it but it inspired the emotion in this one-shot completely and I would highly recommend it. The song lyrics are taken from it.
Please enjoy, and drop a review. Thanks!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise. Nor do I own the lyrics of the song Into the West.
Lay down, your sweet and weary head / Night is falling, you have come to journey's end
Hope fades, into the world of night / Through shadows falling, out of memory and time
Draco Malfoy spun on his heel, turning to the source of his name, eyes closing briefly in irritation. It was Lucius.
His father observed him with disdain – as usual. Draco returned the favour.
"What is it?" he asked, forced politeness.
"The Dark Lord has provided you a gift," Lucius said coldly, raising an eyebrow. "In your study. Take care of it now."
"A gift," Draco repeated. He highly doubted he would see whatever it was as such but he had not survived the reign of the Dark Lord this long by vocalizing such thoughts.
"Yes, a gift," Lucius sneered.
Draco suspected test would be a more accurate word. His stomach dropped. He nodded, drawing his wand and turning in the direction of his study.
"Draco," Lucius said sharply once more and Draco turned back, his eyes narrowed. "Do not disappoint me."
Again. Draco caught the word unsaid. Do not disappoint me again. Lucius had grown easier and easier to disappoint over the years.
There was no doubt, now, that Draco would not like what was waiting for him in his study.
He had always done what he needed to – survival had depended on that – but Draco had never developed the perverse enjoyment of torture, raiding. Killing. The thrill that so many of the other Death Eaters felt at hearing the screams, the pleas of Muggles and Mudbloods.
He walked to the study, head held high all the same.
When he opened the door his heart leapt to his throat all while his stomach plummeted to the floor. Outwardly he did not react.
Wand held out he stepped forward, nudging the person who lay on the floor with his toe. She rolled, groaning, confirming her identity. Her body wracked with the after-effects of the torture curse. Draco knew the signs better than anyone.
"Get up, Granger," he said, his voice devoid of emotion.
Her eyes flew open and she looked around wildly, as if just noticing where she was. She stared up at him in horror, her mouth open.
"Get up," he repeated, reaching down and grabbing her arm with his free hand, hoisting her to her feet. She trembled somewhat, unsteady.
Draco felt waves of nausea course through him; fury and disappointment.
Swallowing the emotion like a bitter pill he placed locking and silencing spells on the door.
She was still staring at him, her brown eyes wide, her brow furrowed in despair. He saw understanding in those clever eyes; she knew why he was there.
She was impossibly skinny; emaciated to the point where Draco could scarcely believe she was standing at all. Her hair was matted and tangled, her visible skin filthy as if she hadn't showered in weeks. She probably hadn't. But those eyes – after all this time – they still held fire and determination.
He hadn't seen her in close to two years. But he heard about her almost every day; had been punished over it more times than he could count. How had Harry Potter and Hermione Granger survived so long? After Potter had failed to kill the Dark Lord back when Draco had been a seventh year student, Potter and Granger had fled to the Order with barely their lives, to regroup. Weasley had not been so lucky.
"You were captured," he stated more than asked. "Was Potter with you?"
"I didn't tell them anything," she said, derisively, and Draco knew she was referring to the torture she had obviously just experienced. That she had been handed over to him when she had provided nothing of use. "What makes you think I'll tell you?"
"I don't need to know," he said, his tone softened as he took a step closer. She eyed him, suspicion clear in her eyes.
Draco closed his eyes, briefly letting the emotion catch up with him at the implications before him. Granger had been captured and he was now to kill her.
"How could you have let yourself be captured?" he asked, almost a whisper. "After so long."
"I – we – were separated," she said, her tone matching his. "It was Rowle and Dolohov."
"Damnit, Granger," he cursed softly, taking another step towards her.
"They've sent you to kill me," she said, meeting his grey eyes. He nodded in a jerky sort of way.
He lifted a hand, ghosting it over her cheekbone, sliding it back into her curly mess of hair. He knew, looking into her eyes, she was remembering the same things as him.
The night, two years ago, when Draco had come across her in Muggle London. The Order had still been strong then, still with a fighting chance; both sides had recently been dealt staggering blows.
Instead of turning her in, Draco had abandoned his mission and bought Granger a drink instead. He still didn't know what had driven him to do it, but one drink had turned to many and he was pouring his heart out to her in a filthy Muggle pub. His regrets. His fears.
The way he had woken next to her the next morning and how she had simply smiled, kissed him briefly on the lips and left, a knowing look in her eyes.
The three months following that night, when they had met in secret countless times. She had become his confidant, his friend, his lover and likewise. It had simply been understood without words that what was said between them was not to be shared. Those chances to meet with her had been the only reason Draco had made it through those times. Even now, thinking of her was the only thing to kill the nightmares that came with relentless consistency, night after night.
He recalled the days, the nights spent in her company. The time they had gone to Italy for the weekend. The time she had taught him to drive a Muggle car.
How the Order had been caught off guard and the Dark Lord's forces had swept in, taking most of their remaining numbers in one night. Granger had been forced to go into hiding with Potter; Draco hadn't had a chance to say goodbye.
Despite the victory for the Dark forces, Draco had been devastated. She had been the one light in his life. His glimpse of hope. The only cause for which he had smiled in years.
The only way he knew she was still alive was because he would have known if she had been killed.
She closed her eyes, leaning her cheek into his palm. She still felt warm, as she always had, despite looking as close to death as she did. Draco sighed involuntarily, tracing circles on her skin with his thumb.
Then she leaned back, her eyes still closed. She stepped away.
"Please do it quickly," she asked, her voice small and unlike her. Draco knew she was held to this spot by invisible binds; there was no way for her to get away from him and she must have known the same.
Draco took a deep breath, leaning his head back. After a long pause he looked at her. He flicked his wand, releasing the bonds that held her in place. He casually flipped his wand in the air, catching it by the tip and held it out to her.
"I'm not going to kill you, Hermione," he said, exhaling a long breath. She stared at him in horror.
He reached the wand out and she recoiled, shaking her head as if in slow motion.
"Take it, it'll get you through the wards."
"Draco," she whispered, still staring at him with those wide terrified eyes, her thin fingers covering her mouth. "If you let me go they'll kill you."
Draco stared at her and the air hung tense between them.
He knew his grey eyes shattered as she stared into them.
"No," she whispered, shaking her head again. "No, you can come with me."
"I wish it was that simple," he said, bitterly. "I wish I had run off with you two years ago, before the world went to Hell."
"You have to come with me," she said, still not taking his wand.
"He'll kill my mother, and everyone I care about," Draco said. "Besides, he can track us now. He's more powerful now." He held up his forearm, the Dark Mark displayed prominently.
Draco stepped towards her, gently placed his wand in her hands and closed them around it with his own.
"I would only put you in more danger than you're already in," he said. He leaned forward, pressing his forehead to hers intimately.
What a cruel trick of life to return her to him at this moment.
"I won't let you die for me, Draco," she whispered, tears flowing down her cheeks.
"Better me than you, love," he said, attempting to lighten the air between them, if only just a little. He wanted to see her smile once more before the end.
He had known this was what it would come to when he realized it as her on the floor. Even if she were to stun him to seem as if they had fought it wouldn't matter; he would have failed at his task.
She was everything good in life; he was a Death Eater, and a lousy one at that. All he could do was release her and give her another shot.
"You have a chance, still, Draco," she was pleading. "Things might get better, one day. My days are numbered, we both know that."
"Even a month of your life would have more value than mine if I lived for a hundred years," he said honestly. "You need to find Potter, and the two of you need to end this. Please. There is still hope for you."
He had abandoned pretense given the pure hopelessness in his heart.
"I've loved you, Granger, this whole time, you need to know that," he said quickly. He glanced back at the door. They would eventually come to check on him.
"Draco," she choked. "I love you."
He closed his eyes at the bittersweet warmth that ran through him at her words. There was no hope for them ever to be together now.
"I wish things had been different," he said, feeling the pain clutch at his chest. "I wish I had been good for you."
She whimpered and he leaned in, kissing her lips gently. She pressed her lips to his, with some fervour and Draco ran his tongue along her lips, wanting to taste her. Her tongue met his, her hands entwined in his hair and Draco pulled her close to him, feeling his body respond to the feel of kissing her once more, having dreamed of it for so long.
He poured his fear, this hopeless feeling that had struck him, all his many regrets, into the kiss, knowing she did too. When he pulled away, for fear that he might be tempted enough to go with her after all, he wiped tears from his cheeks and wasn't sure if they were hers.
"Please come," she whispered, tears still flowing freely. "We'll figure it out."
"There isn't a way," he said, eyes closed.
"No," she just kept saying, as if words had finally failed her.
"I've done so many things, Granger," he said, taking her face once more. "My soul isn't worth saving. This life isn't worth living."
"It can get better," she whispered. "You're worth saving. You can find redemption, I know it."
"Granger," he said, hoarse, "you were my redemption. You were the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've only ever been truly happy with you."
She choked on a sob. Draco knew now that the tears were coming from his eyes as well.
"Smile for me," he asked. She stared up at him, as if she didn't understand the word. "Please."
She smiled, but her brow was furrowed and her eyes were red and she was crying. He had never seen her more beautiful.
"You can't do this," she said, trying to give him the wand back. He refused to take it.
"If I am to perform one selfless act in my life, Hermione, let it be this. Let it be for you." He stared at her sadly, trying to memorize the planes of her face. "Let it be my last act."
She was sobbing, beyond words.
"Hermione, I can't tell you the chaos in my life," he said, knowing she was still listening to him. "But I'm ready for it to be over."
"No," she said again, throwing her arms around him and he pulled her close to his chest, breathing in her hair.
"This isn't the end, I promise," he whispered in her ear. "I'll see you again. You still have a life to live and when you're done, I'll be waiting for you."
"Oh Draco," she murmured, attempting to wipe the tears from her cheeks even as fresh ones replaced them. "Thinking of you got me through so many hard days."
"Same, love," he replied, kissing the top of her head. "Remember me when you need strength. Remember you hold my heart."
He took her hand and placed it on his chest, where his heart was beating erratically as if it realized it only had so many beats to go.
"You need to go."
He felt his body relax, his mind release the horrible things he had done and witnessed, the years of torture and pain and terror.
He was willing to give his life for her. He had known for years.
She shook her head fervently still.
"Hermione, you need to go," he repeated. Faintly he heard noise outside the study, as if from down the corridor. "Please, do everything you can to end this. The world cannot continue this way."
Her hand dropped, loosely held within his.
"I will," she said, and the tears had stopped, replaced with a heartbroken sort of resilience. "I will, for you."
"Good," he said, closing his eyes briefly. He let her hand drop and felt a smile cross his face.
They were breaking the wards he had placed on the door.
"I'll see you soon," he whispered, meeting her eyes for the last time.
"See you soon," she repeated. She smiled in return and he stored the memory away, however brief it would be his to keep.
As he stared at her, he knew the smile on his face was one of peace. Finally.
The door swung open as she spun on the spot and was gone.
Don't say, we have come now to the end / White shores are calling, you and I will meet again