It should have been raining, with drops falling from the heavens softly, steadily like the tears she'd shed all night long. The sky should have been draped in mourning gray and the lake swathed in a funeral mist. Instead the day was indecently gorgeous, with the sun beating down and the grounds shimmering with an iridescent emerald hue.
Hermione closed her eyes against the sight before her. With a deep sigh she moved away from her dorm room window and threw herself onto her bed. She was tired. Tired of the sympathetic looks, tired of the careful smiles she had to produce when others were around and tired of the horrific nightmares that plagued her sleep. A week had passed since the horrific episode had occurred and it seems that life indeed did go on, whether people wished it to or not. So Hermione pasted on a brave face and threw herself back into her studies. After the first few days, in which concerned teachers and friends would watch her worriedly for any signs of trauma, life seemed to go back to normal. But even as she went through the motions of being 'Hermione Granger-prefect and overachieving student of Hogwarts' she could feel that nothing would ever be normal again. Hermione was emotionally and physically exhausted to the point of being numb.
Hermione stared mindlessly into the curtains that surrounded her bed. Distantly she heard a timid knock at the door, but she closed her eyes once more and wished whoever had come calling to go away. It wouldn't be important, nothing seemed important these days.
"Hermione?" a hushed voice enquired. "Hermione, it's me, Gin. Can I come in?"
Hermione shut her eyes tighter and curled her knees into her chest. "Go Away. Just go away and leave me alone," her mind screamed. "I just want to be alone." But Hermione didn't say a word, didn't move an inch, just lay there hugging her knees.
The door slowly creaked open, making Hermione sigh and open her eyes. This morning, it seemed to take all the strength she had to paste on the bright smile she fixed on whenever her friends were around. Sitting up quickly she pulled back the curtains that surrounded her bed and faced Ginny.
"Oh Hermione, I'm sorry I didn't know you were sleeping. I knocked and when you didn't answer I just…I-"
"That's alright Ginny," Hermione said brightly, faking a yawn. "I'm sure all the beauty sleep in the world wouldn't help me."
Ginny frowned as she watched her friend fiddle around with the quilt cover. Hermione was obviously not sleeping well, if at all. The dark circles under her eyes combined with a lack of appetite had given her a gaunt waif-like look. Although Hermione pretended that all was right in her world Ginny could see the truth. Hermione's smile never seemed to reach her eyes, and there was an eerie quietness about her that worried Ginny greatly. But if Hermione herself refused to admit that there was something wrong, there was little any of her friends could do for her. All they could do was stand by her and support her. "And that's what you're here to do, so suck it up, Virginia Weasley and get on with it." Ginny scolded herself then took in a deep breath before looking up at Hermione.
"Oh God! I'm still in my pj's. You must think I'm such a lazy slob." Hermione laughed and began to walk around Ginny to get to her wardrobe. She was halted in her tracks when Ginny carefully stood in her path.
"You're fine as you are." Ginny smiled. "Actually I wanted to talk."
Hermione sank down onto her bed and continued to smile at Ginny.
"Anything in particular you wanted to talk about or just general gossip. 'Cos I hear that Eloise Midges' nose is back in center again. Hah!"
Ginny frowned slightly at the harsh false laugh that came from Hermione, but hid it quickly. "Hmmm… That's great…" she said quietly, before continuing. "I heard that Draco's back. He got back from the Malfoy Manor yesterday…after Lucius' funeral."
Hermione turned away and began to fiddle with the quilt cover once again. Ever since that night, Hermione had actively and adamantly avoided Draco. She could find no reason for it but still she persisted, and eventually Draco stop demanding to see her. He had immediately departed from Hogwarts to the Malfoy Manor in order to oversee the procession of his father's funeral. Upon hearing of his departure Hermione had felt a great sense of relief, which had been overshadowed by a deep remorse. But these conflicting emotions were deeply hidden behind the facade of a happy Hermione.
Refusing to meet Ginny's gaze, Hermione remained silent and gave a small nod. "I…uhh…hmmm." Nothing seemed to come out. She desperately wanted to be able to act nonchalant and ask Ginny how Draco was and discuss it like a rational and mature adult but her throat was choked up with emotion and the words wouldn't come out.
Ginny was greatly saddened as she watched the emotional battle that played out in front of her. She longed to reach out, take Hermione into her arms and comfort her, but she was terrified of how her friend might react. Hermione Granger had always been the stronger, braver older sister that Ginny never had and it seriously disconcerted her to see Hermione struggling to form a sentence.
"I just thought that since you two were going out that you would want to know…Maybe you could go talk to him…or something. I'm sure he'd be glad to see you. It must be rough you know with the funeral and-"
Hermione turned to face Ginny once more, her jaw set with determination, "Thanks Gin. But I'm sure I'll see him soon enough. You didn't have to come up here and tell me that. I mean look, it's a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and isn't there some lucky guy waiting to worship the ground that you walk on out there?" Hermione winked as Ginny blushed furiously. "So go on with you. I'll be up and about in a minute and I might go out to Hogsmeade for a few butterbeers if I can persuade my two Quidditch addicted friends to accompany me."
"Um…actually there was something else I wanted to talk to you about… Grace's family is here." Ginny watched her closely for a reaction, anything, but Hermione continued to smile back at her. "For the funeral."
Hermione's smile faltered and she looked down at her fingernails. A tense silence fell and Ginny bit her lip worriedly.
"Her sister's just outside actually. She wanted to come and get Grace's stuff." Ginny whispered sadly.
"What?" Hermione looked up and towards Grace's side of the room, where her belongings still remained untouched. She stared at it all, as if seeing it for the first time. The four poster bed, the old battered chest of drawers, a hairbrush covered with strands of her long dark hair and a photo of Grace with her family. Her bright face smiling, and waving from the photo seemed to mock Hermione and a rush of tears blurred her vision.
"Her name's Clio and she wanted to clear out Grace's stuff before the funeral… You are going right? This afternoon…You are going to Grace's funeral, right? To say goodbye?" Ginny questioned hesitantly.
Blinking away her tears, Hermione pushed herself off the bed.
"You can tell ..uh…Clio that she can come in and do…whatever… I just need to get changed."
Ginny opened her mouth as if to protest but decided against it and swiftly made her way out of the room. Hermione immediately walked to her wardrobe and quickly got dressed into her comfortable muggle clothing. As she did up her jeans, Hermione looked up to see Grace with her family smiling and waving. Feeling the tears well up inside her, Hermione determinedly shut her eyes and moved to open the door.
As she pulled the heavy wooden door of her room open, Hermione looked up to see a sad looking blonde woman.
"Uh… Come on in. Um, I'm Hermione, by the way." She said, awkwardly sticking her hand out.
"Clio. Grace told us all about you and I just want to thank you for being such a good friend for her. We, my father and I, really appreciate that you made her feel welcome here." Clio accepted Hermione's hand with a slight sob.
Hermione felt stricken, Clio's words were like a thousand knives being plunged into her heart. She covered her pain with a cough and guided Clio to Grace's side of the room.
Clio pulled out her wand and drew a cube in the air with it. With a tap a large box appeared and Clio placed it on the floor before opening Grace's wardrobe and carefully folding each item into the box. Hermione stood transfixed as Clio slowly and cautiously packed Grace's belongings away. She had originally planned to leave the room, as Ginny had done, to allow Clio to have a private moment, but she was held entranced by some unexplainable force.
"I know this is a bit sudden…But I was just wondering if you would speak at the funeral today." Clio said this quietly, not once looking up from what she was doing. "For Grace. She really treasured your friendship and I know she would want you to talk today at the…funeral."
Hermione froze and she felt nauseas as she stared at Clio incredulously. After a long moment of silence passed, Clio looked up at Hermione questioningly.
"I…don't know" Hermione stammered feeling sick to her stomach.
"You don't know if you want to do it?" Clio asked quietly coming forward slowly. "I'm sure you do a very good job. And Grace would really app-."
Hermione was suddenly gripped with fear as Clio walked toward her. She staggered backwards, causing her to bump heavily into Grace's vanity. Hermione turned and watched in horror as the photo of Grace and her family fell, and broke. Shards of the delicate glass photo frame flew everywhere.
"No!" Hermione screamed as she swiftly bent to retrieve it. Even as the slithers of glass pierced her skin and blood covered her hands, Hermione continued to reach for the photo. Her hands made slippery by the blood, she was unable to get a proper grip on the picture, and this terrified Hermione. All she could think about was Grace's smiling face. She had to see Grace's smiling face.
"Hermione stop it. You've hurt yourself. I can fix the photo frame; you don't have to worry about it." Clio whispered trying desperately to pull Hermione away from the glass. But Hermione persisted to grasp at the photo that continued to slip from her reach. Tears began to stream down Hermione's face as she tried to get the photo. To get to Grace. To see Grace smiling back up at her again.
"Stop it, Hermione. You're hurting yourself!" Clio shouted and reached down to pick the blood stained photo from the floor.
"No!" Hermione screamed hysterically and threw herself at Clio, desperately grasping at the photo. The rending sound of the picture being torn in two caused something to break inside of her.
Great racking sobs shook her body as she looked down into her bloody hands holding one half of Grace's picture. Any strength that had occupied her body promptly fled in that moment and Hermione let herself slump down to the floor till she was sitting down. The tears continued to flow and Hermione was having difficulty breathing, but could do nothing to stop her outburst.
"Hermione?" Clio whispered "You need to get to a healer."
"Of course you can I'll help you…"
"No. I can't go to the fun-… I can't talk at Grace's funer-… I can't go to the… funeral. I just can't." Hermione sobbed hysterically. " I can't stand there and watch the priest pray for her and the other people cry for her and I can't watch as they put her casket in the ground…because then she will really be gone… And if she's really gone that means that the nightmares I keep having, actually happened. And if that actually happened that means I actually killed her."
"No! Hermione, don't say that. You didn-."
"You don't know!" Hermione screamed, standing up suddenly. "You don't know! I may not have cast the spell that killed her but it was meant for me! She died to save me. She died because of me!"
Hermione watched as Clio sobbed at her words.
"She didn't deserve to die and I didn't deserve her. I failed her...!" her screams slowly fading into hiccoughing sobs. "I failed her and I just want to say I'm sorry… I just want her back. I just want Grace back …"
"What's all this commotion? Some girls told me they heard screaming up here." Professor McGonagall rushed into the room, looking worried and disconcerted. "Miss Granger is everything alright?"
Blinded by her tears, Hermione pushed passed McGonagall and rushed out of the room.
The tears continued to flow as she ran out of the common room. She had to get away…she had to get away. The desperate need to break away from it all threatened to overwhelm her, so she ran, as fast and far as she could.
Shocked gasps rang through the halls as students hurriedly jumped out of the way in order to avoid being steamrolled by Hermione as she made her escape. Pushing against the heavy doors that lead out into the grounds, Hermione's silent tears became great sobs of anguish. The brightly shining sun temporarily blinded her, causing her to barrel straight into a crowd of students trying to make their way into the hall.
But Hermione is oblivious to the shout and continues to run. She is consumed by her need to flee as she breaks passed the first line of trees of the forbidden forest. "I just need to get away. Everything will be okay if I can just get away…It'll be okay."
Draco watched sadly as Hermione disappeared into the forest. Seeing the tears run down her face as she pushed passed him, as if she was fighting indestructible demons, broke his heart. Draco had known she would need time to heal, both mentally and emotionally, after what happened, but it hurt that she had flatly refused to allow him to help her. Instead she pushed him away and that terrified him to his core. And now it seemed she hadn't really healed at all, despite her attempt at normalcy, but avoided her feelings and fears. But fears and emotions can never be locked up forever and in time they would always return to confront you. It seemed Hermione's had come rushing back at her and she chose to deal with them by running away. Again. If she kept running from her fears, eventually she'd get lost. And Draco couldn't stand the thought of losing Hermione.
Jaw set determinedly, Draco turned towards the forest and followed Hermione's path.
"Draco?" Goyle grunted questioningly, as he stood in the doorway waiting for Draco.
Draco turned back to his friend but didn't stop walking.
"You go ahead and get a second breakfast or whatever. I need to do something."
He turned back around and picked up his pace until he was sprinting through the forest. Draco ducked under branches and leapt over logs, getting deeper and deeper into the gradually darkening forest. The further he ran, the denser the foliage of the trees and plants got and the less light for Draco to see. But he didn't need to see where he was going, he just knew. He continued whipping through the forest, his heart beating heavily in his chest, not because of the grueling pace he kept but at the thought that he may not find Hermione. He had to find her. "Hermione! I need you, Hermione and I know you need me too!"
Suddenly a cramp seized Draco's leg, the pain so great it caused Draco to the ground. It seemed as though all the oxygen in his lungs had been replaced with shards of glass as he struggled to take in a breath. Yet despite the pain that racked his body he knew she was there; he didn't even have to look up and he knew she was there. Standing in the shadows of the forest where a clearing dropped abruptly into a cliff. Standing at the same place he had first kissed her.
His arms shook from the effort it took him to push himself up onto his again, but Draco struggled up and dusted himself off as best he could.
"Looks like I fell for you again." Draco laughed quietly.
Hermione turned around at the sound of his voice and stared at him. Even through the dark shadows of the forest Draco could see Hermione's flat and emotionless eyes staring at him. This angered him beyond words and he longed to stride over to her and shake her out of this horrible funk she was in, but the cramp still burned through his leg rendering him practically motionless.
"You can't keep running Hermione! Every time someone hurts you, or scares you or something happens. You can't just keep running away. Running away won't solve anything. It never does." Draco yelled, no longer able to keep a rein on his emotions.
A flicker of anger flashed through Hermione as she glared at Draco.
"How can you say that?" The tears she had been crying caught at her throat as she screamed. "You left. You left as soon as you could!"
"Jesus Fucking Christ, Hermione. My father is dead, my mother is fucking inconsolable, and the family is in utter turmoil. I wasn't fucking well running away. I had to deal with all of that shit. I had to bury my father who was an evil son of a bitch who enjoyed ruining my life and others. I had to listen to my so-called relatives telling me that I had to avenge his death, when I wanted so badly to be the one who had killed him, I had to stop my mother from her own wand and blasting herself into oblivion, and you tell me I was fucking running away. You have the fucking nerve to say-."
"You blame me, don't you?" Hermione's voice was so soft and sounded so sad that Draco took a step towards her. Only to be met with an immense jolt of pain gripping his leg. Draco grunted at the pain before looking back up at Hermione.
Hermione's hand came up to cover her mouth as she watched Draco gripped by pain, but she didn't move forward to help him. She forced her hand back down to her side and she bit her lip until it bled.
"You blame me for what happened, don't you?" She tried again. "If I had just trusted you. If I hadn't run away. None of this would have happened. Your father wouldn't be dead and…Grace would still be alive."
Draco let out a breath through his teeth as he massaged his leg, trying to ease the pain. In that moment he looked tired, as worn out and numb as Hermione felt.
"We can play the 'what if?' game all night long, but it still doesn't change the fact that my father was using and manipulating people for power. If anyone is to be blamed for this tragedy, it's him. He was the one who killed Grace and there was nothing you could do to prevent that."
"How can you say that? Grace wasn't meant to die. It was supposed to be me. I was supposed to die, not her!" Hermione sobbed.
"You weren't supposed to die, because I need you! Grace saved you because she needed you. She wanted you to live, Hermione and how the hell are you supposed to live if you're going to keep blaming yourself and running away. Grace wanted you to be happy. Don't you remember what she said? She needed you to be happy, Hermione."
Hermione began to sob harder and then turned away.
"Hermione! Don't walk away from me. Hermione! I love you, goddamit. And I'm sorry for all the pain my love has caused you but I need you. Please! Please don't walk away from me." Draco pleaded as he watched her turn from him. He couldn't move, he wanted so desperately to go after her but he could not move. "Please Hermione!"
Hermione shut her eyes against his anguished cries and strode away.
The pain in his leg was nothing compared to the ache of his heart breaking as he watched her walk away from him. "She doesn't love me anymore." His weak legs buckled and he fell to his knees. Draco closed his eyes as the tears rolled down his face, and ran his hands through his hair. He let the tears flow freely, he didn't care anymore. He couldn't care anymore. In a few short days his world had crumbled into nothingness and he fucking hated the inescapable despair he was feeling.
He wiped at the tears on his face and ran his hands through his hair once more. As he opened his eyes, his breath caught in his throat when he looked up to see Hermione standing in front of him again. He held his breath as she blinked the tears from her eyes and reached down to cup his cheeks.
"I'm sorry." She murmured. "I'm so, so sorry, Draco."
She dropped to her knees in front of him so they were eye level and leaned in so her forehead touched his. "I need you Draco! And I'm so sorry for all the grief I've caused you but I just can't walk away from you. I can't stand the thought of not having you in my life please forgive me" She leaned into him and kissed him.
Draco kissed her like she was food and he was a starving man. His hands plunged into her hair as he deepened the kiss. Slowly he pulled away, and licked at her bottom lip.
"There's nothing to forgive. As long as you promise to never ever to turn away from me again." He whispered, gazing into her eyes.
For the first time in what seemed like eons, a real smile tugged on Hermione's lips.
"I promise." She smiled and leaned in to kiss him once more. "I need you, Draco. I need you so much." Still smiling, Hermione pulled her bulky jumper over her head and pushed Draco so that he was lying on the soft forest floor.
"I love you, Draco."
"I love you too, Hermione."
"I hope that cramp you have doesn't affect anything above your leg." She giggled, feeling giddy at the emotions that flew through her.
"Oh so now we're a comedian, are we?" he grumbled as he pulled her down on top of him.
And in that clearing where Draco and Hermione shared their first kiss, they made love for the first time. They forgot about the all their troubles and worries. Nothing existed for them but each other…
Hermione snuggled her head deeper into Draco's chest. Although the forest was dark, in the day it wasn't cold or eerie. To Hermione, it seemed like a magical place. She could feel the movements of his deep breathing and thought that Draco was asleep, only to look up and see him with his arm behind his head gazing at her thoughtfully.
"You have to go, Hermione." Draco whispered.
Her smile faltered and she turned her gaze away from his and snuggled deeper into his chest. She knew exactly what he was talking about.
"You have to go to Grace's funeral and say goodbye. You'll hate yourself if you don't."
Hermione was silent and still for a long while, then nodded slightly into his chest. Draco's hand combed through her hair and he gave her a comforting kiss on her head.
"Come on, let's go."
They stood up and got dressed in the still darkness of the forest. With their fingers entwined they walked out of the forest together. The bright sunlight seemed harsh and blinding after the darkness of the forest but they continued on determinedly. Together they made their way out of the school grounds and onto the cemetery on the outskirts of Hogsmeade.
A large crowd had gathered for the procession, and Hermione's nervous eyes searched through the crowd for Grace's family. When she spotted Clio, Hermione held her breath. Clio seemed to sense her gaze and looked up at Hermione. A small smile played on her face and she nodded. Hermione gripped Draco's hand for reassurance before making her way to the front of the crowd.
"-loss of such a young vibrant child is so disheartening and alth-." The priest proclaimed sadly, and was quite disconcerted when Hermione's loud cough interrupted his sermon.
"Excuse me, Father. If I may? I wished to speak a few words about Grace." Hermione whispered uneasily.
A surprised murmur spread threw the crowd and Hermione turned to see a middle-aged man, who was standing beside Clio, staring at her curiously. She presumed him to be Mr. Leigh, and gazed back at him inquiringly, when he gave her a slow nod Hermione moved up to face the crowd.
Standing in front of grace's casket, Hermione was suddenly seized with fear and nothing seemed to come out of her mouth. She looked up and through the crowds and the sight of Draco seemed to give her strength. She licked her dry lips and began,
"When I first met Grace, I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever met. And I don't mean just her appearance. She was such a beautifully kind person that I was almost ashamed to be around her. And the thing that disconcerts me so very much is that now as I stand here and I try to remember her. And I try to think of something wise and thoughtful she told me that I will remember for the rest of my life, the only thing that comes to mind is almost the very first thing she said to me. She said that she was a vegetarian but her favourite band was a muggle band called Lamb. This isn't a particularly glorious or amazing memory, but Grace loved her Lamb. And I remember there was always a song she was singing. At the time I would never know why she would sing such a song but she loved it…"
Hermione drew in a deep breath, and as she began to sing she could almost hear Grace singing along with her.
Take me away
So far away
I'm tired of looking over my shoulder
The things I've done
they tie me down
won't let me go free
Angels come and take me
on silver wings
carry me up to the sky
Angels come free me
from earthly things
and I'll fly
If I could go back
to where I began, I would
yea - if only I could
I'd never do
no one no harm
Wear a halo
so heavenly I'd glow
Angels come take me
on silver wings
carry me up
to the sky
Angels come free me
from ugly things
and I'll fly
Angels come take me
on silver wings
carry me up
to the sky
Angels come free me
from ugly things
and I'll fly
"I hope you're happy, Grace… I hope you're flying…"
Ummmmmmm What can I say besides "Please don't hurt me?" I don't know how you all like it but I hope you don't get too fired up and curse me for making wait soooo long for THAT! But I do hope you enjoyed it. Oh by the way I see that as the end….. so ummm I guess I'll be flamed a lot. Feel free to make heaps of comments and feedback, and suggestions.
I just have to say the BIGGEST THANK YOU to ALL of my reviewers; you wouldn't understand how good all of your reviews made me feel. (I love your reviews). There are thousands of stories just like mine out there and I'm just amazed that people were able to find mine and actually like it, so again THANK YOU.
Extra special thank you to my beta reader Halfling, what can I say…. Nope can't think of anything to say… just kidding… (Seriously nothings coming out….)
And a big shanks to my Gracie-Leigh who was my inspiration for the character of Grace Leigh. (And no she wasn't a Mary Sue) Grace is actually like that (uhhhh except for the whole evil, and killy and dead thing)
P.S soz about the whole author's note I posted as a chapter. I guess I should read the rules cos I didn't know that was "illegal".
I have finally posted this chappie after so many months I don't even want to think about it… But I sincerely hope you enjoy it.