Chapter 25: Peace of Mind

Disclaimer: Nope not mine. They just belong to J.K

It took some time for him to beat Lucius unconscious using most of his blind fury, but he was able to finally escape that dungeon with a wounded Hermione. Laying Hermione against a tree in the Forbidden Forest, Draco was able to examine the damage he did. Although he had removed the dagger from her stomach he knew the poison already spread, attacking every vein and artery in the human body.

The blood pouring from Hermione's torso stained Draco's hand, his white shirt, and left a dark deep red spot on her dress. Hermione's breathing was ragged and unsteady as she fought to gulp in mouthfuls of air. The color in her skin, that warm glow that made her appear so welcoming, was already leaving her. Draco knew that moment he was going to lose her.

"I'm sorry." He said, placing his head in her chest. It was comfort for him to hold her. "Sorry" was all that he could say. He could not bring him self to voice the things floating around in his mind. "It was an accident. This is not supposed to be happening. Not to my Hermione."

Hermione, with the little breath she had left, said "I know."

"Hermione if I could just have it my way we would be far away from here and Lucius would be the one dying and not you." Draco spoke in desperate tones, desperate for a miracle, a second chance.

"I know" Hermione smoothed Draco's hair as if he was a frightened little boy clinging to his mother. "Look everything will be okay. I'll be alright and so will you." Her words fell softly but rang so loudly in Draco's mind.

"How can you say that?" he questioned her. Draco looked into Hermione's auburn colored eyes and found the warmth her body was missing. Every answer he needed was always right there, in the same spot and tonight made no difference. Tonight they reflected certainty.

"I know because I can feel it. Trust me."

Draco took both Hermione's hands in his and placed his lips lightly on hers. He savored the touch, a touch he would miss. A touch he thought that he would never have to live without. What would life be like after Hermione? Draco pondered. It was unfortunate because he did not have an answer and he knew no one who would. That was something he would wait to have answered.

"What have I done?" Draco whispered letting his heavy eyelids fall over his eyes.

"You've ended my pain." Was the last thing Draco heard from Hermione before her limp hand fell out of his hand.

Draco opened his eyes to a Hermione who knew nothing of life. She let a slight smile linger on her lips, as the last breath of life left her. She had lived her life and he had so tragically taken it away from her. The one woman he loved. Draco experienced so much, emotionally, in such a short period of time. He explored hurt on a new level, an indescribable one.

When Draco found his strength, He cradled Hermione in his arms and headed to the castle, in search of Dumbledore. As he walked solemnly through the forest he ignored the solitary tear cascading down his cheek.

The Ball seemed to still be in full swing by the time Draco reached the castle. If that was the case then Draco knew for a fact that he would have to face Dumbledore as well as the whole 7th year population. Finding the remainder of his strength Draco pushed open the large oak door. The reverberating creak drew all the attention from Dumbledore, who seemed to be in the middle of a speech, to Draco and Hermione's body.

The ball room fell silent as the remnants of Dumbledore's sentence faded. McGonagall rose from her seat, ashen faced and Snape let his jaw drop in shock. Every seventh year present turned to face Draco. Already he could see them judging him from where they stood, unaware of the story but very conscious of his background. They were judging him, blaming him for the death, making him the criminal.

As Draco scanned the crowd the room began to spin uncontrollably. He knees began to buckle under the pressure. It was time to give up and Draco eventually let himself fall.

Draco opened his eyes to a candlelit room which he figured was the Hospital wing judging from the bed he was resting on. The curtains around his bed were drawn to shield him from the outside world. The only thing Draco could make out were the silhouettes of Dumbledore and another short stocky woman with a worrisome voice, Madam Pomfrey.

Madam Pomfrey was whispering madly to Dumbledore who stood across from her. A bed that was not vacant separated them. Draco slouch back watching the scene being acted out in front of him on the crème cotton screen. The frantic nurse presented with a death and the calm but stressed headmaster.

"Dumbledore how can this happen?" the nurse scolded the man standing across from her. "You know what the Ministry is going to say." She stated, anger creeping into her voice.

"I'm well aware of what the Ministry is going to say Poppy and honestly I'm ready for them when they come. However, my main concern is the death of this girl. I need information." The headmaster turned his head to the bed in back of him and Draco saw Madam Pomfrey follow suit.

"The Malfoy boy?" she questioned Dumbledore and he nodded in response.

"He's my only key to an explanation as you see Ms. Granger and Mr. Malfoy were something of an item." Dumbledore confessed, shocking both Malfoy and Madam Pomfrey.

"An item?" she cried in outrage. "Impossible. Their hate for each other was too strong. It would have never brought them together."

"You would be surprised Poppy." Dumbledore said, wrapping up the debate. A lengthy pause followed.

Dumbledore took in a deep sigh before saying "I guess there is nothing more I can do until Draco wakes up." Draco immediately jumped up and pulled the curtains back to reveal his face to Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey.

"Right on cue Mr. Malfoy." Dumbledore said smiling. Draco eyed him wearily as he did not feel he had enough willpower to return the smile.

"How are you feeling, dear?" Madam Pomfrey asked rushing over to Draco and checking for a fever.

"I'm alright." Draco's reply was short. He was not in the mood to give specifics.

"How would you like to go up to my office for a cup of tea?" Dumbledore asked insinuating that he needed sometime alone with Draco.

"Tea would be nice, thank you." Draco responded knowing exactly what to say. Dumbledore nodded contently.

"Great. You can run along to my office and wait there until I get back. I just need to do a few things before I settle down."

Dumbledore began to head out of the Infirmary but stopped short to turn back to Draco. "You'll need my password to get in and I trust that you will give this information to no one else." Adding emphasis to his last three words, Dumbledore held Draco's gaze for a second longer. He didn't want the boy to feel like the enemy but he need to take some extra precautions.

"Do we have and understanding Mr. Malfoy?"

"Yes sir."

"Good then it'll be "Lemon Drops" then." He said before turning on his heels and waltzing out of the room.

Draco took his time walking through the empty corridors of the castle. There was nothing to look forward to therefore the desire to keep up his pace diminished. Draco was in no rush because tonight would be a very long one indeed. Reaching the location of Dumbledore's office, Draco stopped to recite the password to the vicious gargoyle guarding the headmaster's quarters. While climbing the steps he heard the noises of brass instruments flying across the room and hitting the wall. Someone was obviously ransacking the place.

Cautiously, Draco opened the door. It should have been obvious to him who would be there and ready to greet him when he arrived, Potter and Weasley. Draco's entrance caused Harry to freeze before he was able to subject another poor brass item to his wrath. Ron jumped right back into reality after being away for what seemed like centuries. No one moved at first, unsure of what to do and how to react.

Draco stepped inside the office and closed the door behind him, trying to make the least amount of noise. He kept his distance by gluing his back to the door. Harry, who still had his hand raised in a throwing position, eyed Draco with anger blazing in the emerald center's of his eyes. Ron followed suit, replacing the blazing anger with watery eyes.

"How?" Ron was the first to speak uttering one solitary word that served no purpose. He sat in a chair behind Dumbledore's desk, his head hung low. His broad shoulder's sagged giving him the appearance of a disappointed child. Underneath the veil his scarlet hair, Draco could see Ron's cheeks tinted a coral pink with dried trails of tears.

"How did she die?" Ron finished giving his dying voice some strength.

Draco looked reluctantly at Harry before answering. Potter was in a menacing mood. He had to choose his words carefully to prevent a fight.

"I…..I stabbed her." he paused to let it sink in. He was grateful to see that neither Harry nor Ron moved. "I did not do it willingly though. It was an accident. Lucius used her as a shield. I couldn't save her."

A deafening silence fell over the room. Ron went rigidly still contrary to Harry who slowly approached Draco. He stopped mere centimeter away from Draco's face, sizing him up. Draco concentrated on Harry's eyes. He felt a desire to read him, see past his angry demeanor, and reveal some secrets. What was Harry Potter really feeling?

Draco stared and searched and what he found startled him. It was a reflection…. a reflection of what he saw in his own eyes time to time, pain.

"You really loved her, didn't you?" He asked, his voice wavering.

"Endlessly." Draco responded.

"I guess I can say the same." Harry said before walking away, turning his back on Draco.

Draco finally was able to let go of the doorknob and sit in a chair by the fireplace. The room was quiet, quiet enough for Draco to think. Images of Hermione's face plagued his mind. He saw her, felt her, smelled her in his presence. To him she was not gone.

Hermione was the first woman he could say he fell in love with for reason which no one else would understand. She opened up the world to him and showed him what living a happy life was truly like. He had hoped to continue a happy life with her. Now she was gone and he felt like his spirit left with her.

"Where did it all go wrong?" Draco thought to himself. "You did not plan well." His subconscious answered him back.

"When would it all end?"

"What, the guilt, the pain? Never, it will never end. You should know that." His mind answered back, spitting the words like fire and burning the last shred of hope he had left. As he let go of that, the guilt became unbearable.

Hermione's last words pounded his ear drum, making him relive that moment. He saw her pale hand again, her death pale skin. Her petite form slumped against a tree in the Forbidden Forest. "You've ended my pain." She said to him once again before the image of her face dissolved into the darkness.

"Is that the only way out?" Draco asked, hoping his trusted conscious would provide him with the answer he wanted.

"You already know the answer, Draco." It answered him back, giving him a truthful answer. Draco did know the answer to that question.

"Thanks." Harry said brining Draco out of his reverie.

"What for? I was not able to save her." Draco cocked an eyebrow at Harry.

"No but you loved her. You gave her the best, everything. You made her happy. You did something I never had the nerve to do." Harry gave Draco a warm, welcoming smile. It was the first time Draco had ever seen Potter extend any type of amiable gesture towards him.

"You're welcome Potter." Draco returned the same warming smile. This could be a start of understanding between two enemies.

"I'm going for a walk." Draco said getting out of his seat. "Come get me when Dumbledore needs Me." he finished briefly before stepping out and heading to the lake.

Draco was lucky to get a half and hour by him self, a half an hour to blame himself for what happened to her. From his position at the bank of the lake, he could see Ron and Harry's lanky figures getting closer. It was his time to return and retell the night's events.

"Dumbledore is waiting." Ron spoke first. Draco did not look up but continued to stare out at the lake.

"I never thought I would be able to feel the way you do Harry. Guilt….it's a nasty thing." Draco finally directed his gaze from the darkened horizon to Harry's bemused face.

"Look mate don't do that to your self."

"I can't help it." Draco was now fiddling with dirt beneath him. He let his fingers trace a pattern of an H. "Just like how you couldn't control it."

Harry's breath caught in his throat. "How does he know?" he asked himself. He looked from Ron to Draco and then back to the ground. He couldn't look at Draco when he responded, he would give himself away.

"Was it that obvious?" Harry averted his gaze from the ground to the white rose corsage on Draco's oxford shirt. Draco chuckled after hearing this.

"No it was not. I must congratulate you. You hid it well especially after Sirius' death and all. Me, on the other hand, I sense things like that. It's a gift of mine."

"Look, Draco it was not your fault and we understand." Ron said trying to help the situation. There was nothing they could say to Draco to make him understand. He had already made up his mind and his heart was set. He would put an end to his own problems.

"If it means anything to you, we forgive you." Harry followed. Draco got off his feet and stood to face Harry. "That means a lot to me." he responded. A slight pause followed after Draco response.

"Have you ever stopped blaming your self?" Draco broke the silence.

"No." Harry responded in a weak voice.

"I'll never stop blaming myself." Draco finished and slowly turned his back on Harry and Ron. As he neared the guts of the Forbidden Forest he looked over his shoulder directly at Harry. Slowly as if he just realized something good, a smile crept on his lips. The wind blew his white blond hair in his face and the moonlight created a silvery blue outline of him. He looked just as he was that moment, untouchable.

"Harry stop him!" Ron hissed. "Go get him. You can't let him leave. Dumbledore needs him we have to bring him back."

"No" Harry replied, his voice airy as he was distracted by something else. It was at that final moment that Harry understood as he watched Draco's figure recede further away. "He's not coming back Ron."

Harry and Ron were minutes away from the castle's entrance when Ron stopped him. He could not find the voice inside of him to vocalize what needed to be said. Instead he did all that he could do, point.

Harry turned his attention to the floating white rose in the lake. He watched it carefully. How it struggled to stay afloat. How the petals of it were slowly breaking from the stem. Why fight the entire way down the stream struggling when the problem could simply be solved?

"Let go." Harry whispered as he watched the rose collapse and then sink.

A/N: That's it. The end. So what ya think? Did u like me ending or not? Let me know people, I luv your reviews. Ah yes after a year and some months of writing im finally done with it. If there is anything u need me to clarify tell me in the reviews and I'll answer them back through email. I'll also appreciate it if you can tell me what I can improve on as far as writing goes and all that other stuff. I need this for my next story. I won't update till I get some feedback. I'm also in the process of writing a new fanfic. It's a two part story featuring our beloved Hermione and Draco. Look out for that as well as updates for "The reunion"