For the lovely Lexi via the squad's Secret Santa. Enjoy, darling.
Watching her fight for her life is like standing on thin ice. As his wife's breathing becomes more pained, Draco can feel the ground beneath him begin to fracture. Each sputtering gasp is a new crack splintering at his feet.
Though he's shaking, he takes her hand, trying not to notice how frail she has become. "I love you." He whispers it over and over, as though this mantra's repetition holds some magic that can put time on hold and give him a moment longer with the woman who changed him for the better.
"I love you, Astoria."
His words hold no power. They do not take away her pain or turn back the clock to a time where she is vibrant and bold. Still, he says it again, and her lips quirk ever so slightly into what might have been a smile once upon a time.
"Dra...co?" she whispers. Her voice is hoarse and barely audible, but it gives Draco the faintest flicker of hope. "Scor…?"
"I'm here, Mum," their son says softly. "I'm here."
"My… boys," she manages.
And just as quickly as the hope had come, it's snatched away. Astoria cries out, her body contorting. Her skeletal fingers dig into the mattress.
"Shall I summon the Healer?" Scorpius asks, his voice small and breaking.
Draco doesn't speak; he can only manage a rough shake of his head. He doesn't trust himself to give voice to the truth— these are her final moments, and there's nothing a Healer can do now.
As Draco watches his wife take her final breath, he feels the ice break at his feet.
Losing her is like plunging headfirst into the water beneath the ice.
First, there is a jolt as his mind tries to comprehend what's happening. Astoria's chest has stopped rising and falling. Her lips are frozen in what will be her final smile.
When it hits, he feels frozen. Though the windows are open and a gentle breeze fills the room with summer warmth, he feels a chill that he cannot shake. It seems to penetrate his skin and burrow deep inside his bones.
"Astoria," he croaks, his voice hollow and breaking.
Slowly the chill fades into numbness. He can't feel a damn thing as he stares at his beautiful wife. When Scorpius' hand rests on his shoulder, he barely registers the touch at all.
"She's gone," Draco whispers to himself, his head spinning. "She's…"
He trails off, slumping forward. If Scorpius hadn't been there to catch him, Draco would have fallen to the floor. A bitter laugh escapes his throat. His son shouldn't have to be the one to support him; it should be the other way around.
"It's going to be okay," Scorpius assures him, guiding him along and helping him into a chair.
Draco exhales sharply. It will be okay; he knows it. Still, he can't shake the feeling that he's drowning.
He hates being in this room. Once, it had been a sanctuary. He had been a kid, making blanket forts with his mother and laughing as she would read him impossible fairytales.
Now, it feels like death. Scorpius doesn't want to think of it that way, but there's no other word to describe it. Standing in the doorway, he feels the atmosphere change. The air grows thicker, and it's hard to breathe. His skin begins to crawl.
The worst part isn't his mother. She's been sick for so long, and he's finally come to terms with the fact that he won't have her much longer. It hurts and stings like salt on a wound, but it's become a simple fact, something he's been forced to accept.
The worst part is his father. Losing one parent is bad enough, but he can see his father fade even though he's in perfect health. His father doesn't smile anymore, and his once bright eyes are now dull.
That brittle voice snaps him out of his thoughts, and his heart breaks a little more. The sound doesn't fit her at all. It does not belong to the beautiful woman who would read him bedtime stories and sing while she baked.
His feet feel heavy, as though he has become one with the floor, little more than part of the background. Somehow, he forces himself forward.
"I'm here, Mum. I'm here."
He doesn't want to be here. Anywhere would be better than in this room which feels more and more like hell every day. Still, he has to be there for his mother.
Scorpius can't remember the last time he's seen his mother's smile. Something flutters inside him, and the corners of his lips turn upward. She is a hollow shell of who she had once been, but that smile is so warm, so familiar.
And then the world crumbles. She twists and screams, and Scorpius wants to cry. He tries to hold on to the smile; he doesn't want his last memory of his mother to be one of chaos and suffering.
"Shall I summon the Healer?" He knows it won't do any good, but he's desperate for an escape, for some reason to run.
His mother falls still. Too still. Scorpius lets out a cry.
Everything feels like a dream, as though his soul has left his body. The room seems to blur and fade, and there is nothing left in the world but his mother's fragile body.
His waking world has become a nightmare, and Scorpius knows that he cannot escape it this time. There is no waking up in a cold sweat, no small laugh as he realizes it's just some silly terror in his head. His nightmares have become real, and the scream is frozen in his throat.
He hears his father's voice, but it seems so distant, as though his father is miles away.
Scorpius shakes his head, forcing himself out of his thoughts. There will be time to break down later. For now, his father needs him. He rests a trembling hand on his father's shoulder.
"She's gone… She's…"
He doesn't know how he manages to catch his father, but he's glad he does. "It's going to be okay," he whispers, guiding him along.
The words feel forced. He knows they're true, that, one day, they'll heal and find a way to move on. Still, he doesn't quite believe himself, even as he voices his reassurance.
He collapses against his father, burying his face in the man's shirt and letting the tears fall freely. They will learn to move on, but, for now, he only wants to learn how to keep from shattering.
She aches. Even with all the potions they force into her body, her rare waking moments are little more than flashes of pain.
Her eyes flutter open. Her husband is at her side, as he always is. In the early days, it had been comforting. Draco would whisper little promises in her ear, telling her that she could fight this, that she is strong enough. Now, she almost wishes for solitude. She doesn't want him to remember her like this.
"I love you, Astoria."
Though his words do not take her pain away, they make her feel lighter. If she has to lose this fight, at least she will leave this world knowing that she is loved.
"Dra...co?" Her throat is raw, and even a few syllables cause a searing pain, but she has to speak. "Scor…?"
"I'm here, Mum. I'm here."
There's so much that she wants to say, but she knows that she does not have the strength. Will they understand the unspoken words in her silence? Will they know how much she loves them, how much she wants them to be happy, how afraid she is that they'll fall apart when she's gone?
"My… boys," she whispers.
The pain that hits next is like nothing she's ever felt before. Every nerve in her body feels as though it's been set on fire. Her body moves against her will, twisting and turning at odd angles as though she can find a position that will take the pain away.
Her lungs begin to sting, and she's reminded of a time when she was younger. She and Daphne had gone swimming in the sea, and Astoria had inhaled the salty water upon diving. The same panic grips her now. She is drowning.
And then the pain is gone. There's a slow trickle of numbness before the darkness brings her peace.
Her boys. Her boys…
She is floating now, drifting in a sea of grey. There is no more pain, no more suffering.
Even in the tranquility of the void, her mind turns back to them.
She had met Draco when he had been little more than a boy with a cold heart and too many scars from a war he had nearly lost. She's spent years by his side, watching him grow, watching the darkness fade from inside his soul. Now that she's gone, will he be able to fight the darkness again? If he has to, she only hopes that he remembers he doesn't have to fight it alone.
Scorpius is such a good boy. He's better than Astoria and Draco ever were. He will grow up in a world without endless bloodshed, and he will be something great. He's strong, but this will be the greatest test of his strength. She prays that he will not crumble, that he will be able to carry on with that beautiful, kind smile that can light up the darkest night.
They will be okay. One day, they will learn to live their lives without her. Once, that would have terrified her. It would have meant that she was easily replaced.
Now, however, it brings her a feeling of warmth. It means that she has touched their lives and helped them learn to say goodbye. She has made a difference.
With that, she drifts on, feeling at peace as she approaches the light.