"In death," Dumbledore said slowly, his face sad, cheerless, "in death there is no status. No power. No knowledge of right and wrong, no sides of evil or good. In death, everybody is equal." His eyes met Draco's for a second. "We all come from dust, and to dust we all shall return." He addressed the people behind them, mostly professors, Aurors, leaders of the attack. "Let it be said that in this burial souls will be put to eternal rest, to join the souls of children and adults, victims and perpetrators alike. May their days be filled with peace, and our days be filled with remembrance and love." He bowed, placing a hand over his chest as a sign of respect for the deceased. The others mimicked this, also bending with their hands over their hearts.
Draco did not move his head. In fact, he did not move at all.
His hands felt cold and numb, like his blood were frozen in his veins. One was free, the other trapped inside Granger's hold on him. He fixed his eyes at the tombstones in front of him; the slabs of marble were bare, with no intricate carving or design except for the words etched upon them. Lucius Malfoy. Narcissa Malfoy. Beloved parents. They will be missed. How simple these words were, how completely plain. Were they all? Were these words the summary of his parents' lives? Was that how their existence was to be reduced, as nothing more than beloved parents who would be missed?
Dumbledore straightened, and took a single white rose from a basket that was laid in front of him. He flung it over the tombs, where it fell just between the two names. "Rest in peace, Lucius, Narcissa."
Snape came in second; taking a rose from the basket he, too, threw it over the tomb. Then came McGonagall, Sprout, Flitwick, and the other people who attended.
Granger took one and delicately laid it over the grave of Draco's mother, careful not to kneel over the roses that barely covered a fourth of the tomb. With his free hand Draco took a red rose, but instead of laying it over he held it tightly, causing thorns to scratch his skin. When she stood, she noticed this but did not say anything about it.
"Accept my condolences, Draco," the Headmaster said, the lines on his face pronounced and acute. He patted Draco's shoulder gently. "If you need anything, anything at all, do not hesitate to let me know."
He just nodded.
McGonagall came to him, her face also showing distinct marks of age and unhappiness. "Mr. Malfoy, I am terribly sorry for your loss."
She was sincere in her words, this Draco knew. "Thank you."
Flitwick and Sprout approached them, and both patted his hand. Draco accepted their condolences with a curt nod.
Then came Snape. His skin was shallower, his skin paler than ever before. He stood before Draco, not reaching out to touch him like the others did which was a small relief. "Draco," he said, his voice solemn, "you must—"
A burst of anger flared inside him, and he clenched his fist, the thorns stabbing his flesh open but he never allowed himself to show his pain. He kept his eyes over the name of his father as he bit out, "Spare me."
He could hear Snape's breathing become shorter, and he knew if he looked at the professor he'd see pity on his face. He didn't want any of it, not from anybody, especially not from him. "I am truly sorry, Draco."
Draco couldn't care less if he was. A thousand curses flew to his lips, but he clamped them shut. After all, this was a day for respect, not for another murder.
"Professor—" Granger spoke abruptly, but faltered on what more she could say.
"I know, Miss Granger," Snape answered in a low voice. And then, with one last glance at Draco he left.
Draco received the succeeding pats and touches with cool indifference, thinking that these people were indeed hypocrites to be attending the burial of two of the most despised people in their world. Shouldn't they be off rejoicing somewhere? But some small part of him was glad they were here – their presence in the cemetery somehow added authenticity to his fantasy that people actually cared about his family, that in their deaths his parents' blind ambition and blind devotion to the wrong side could be overlooked.
At last, they were gone, leaving him and Granger alone. At last, he laid his rose on top of the others, its vivid red reminding him of blood and death. "Goodbye, Mother, Father," he whispered, his voice passive and calm.
He felt her squeeze his hand, and he squeezed back, silently thanking her for staying with him. Draco appreciated her presence above all things – it was she who supported him with her words and tears and love. When he found out that his father was among those who died… there wasn't any doubt in his mind that it was Parkinson who did it, after all, hadn't she said something about eliminating threats? He remembered feeling anguished and grieved, his pain blinding him for a moment, almost causing him to collapse. He remembered Granger's arms trapping his body to hers, making him unable to do anything but lean onto her. He remembered her caresses as she soothed him, her hands gentle in their assault on his fingers, arms, back.
She'd stayed with him through this entire journey, from the bitter start to the bitter end. And for that he was grateful.
Granger lifted her other hand and caressed his cheek. The simple touch was nearly enough to break his facade, and for a moment he wanted to grieve, to let tears fall from his eyes, to properly mourn. But of course he wouldn't dare cry. He was all that's left to carry on the Malfoy name, and he'd be damned to tarnish it with tears.
Instead, he took her hand and brought it to his lips, his eyes holding hers captive as he did. Her eyes were drowning in pools she was shedding for him, and at that moment he knew she had never looked more beautiful to him, or been more beloved by him.
Draco leaned in, and pressed his lips to hers. He felt her twin trails of tears wetting his cheeks, and when he drew away he wiped them with his thumbs. "It's over," he said. "It's finished."
Hermione nodded, understanding what he meant. She took a deep breath, calming herself down. "Just know," she said softly and with difficulty, stepping closer to him. "I'm here for you." She gave his hand another squeeze.
"I won't forget."
"Good." She smiled a little, hoping to coax the same from him.
He didn't smile back.
Her heart ached for him, as he looked down at the tombs of his parents. They were buried alongside those who died in the attacks. A lot of wizards and witches – parents foremost – protested against this, saying that as Death Eaters they should not be given the honor, the decency, of a proper burial. They should be burned, disposed off like the criminals and animals that they truly were. Dumbledore quelled this, and whatever he did Hermione was grateful for it because he was able to silence these people. What's more, at the burial the Headmaster presided over the ceremony as a guide to Malfoy. Truly, they owed a great debt of gratitude to him.
Hermione watched as Malfoy took all the insults thrown at his parents without as much as a flinch. It must hurt him to see that more people hated his parents than those who loved them. And it hurt her to see that he was doing his best to keep everything locked within him, that he didn't want anybody, including her, to know he was in pain. It was best, she thought, to have him mourn now than allow him to continue without doing so.
"I know you hurt," she began softly, "and I know you will never cry. It pains me to see you like this, Malfoy. Sooner or later you have to let your grief come through."
"I will," he said, startling her with his candor. "But not right now." He went still for a moment, and to Hermione it seemed as though he was mulling over what to say next. Then, "I know they're both dead, but the one thing that consoles me is that the one who murdered them is also dead." Malfoy stared at her straight in the eye. "It consoles me that I was the one who killed her."
"Do you? How could you?" he asked. "Don't you know only murderers derive pleasure from their kill? And you were there when I killed her, weren't you? You saw how I did it. You saw how much I enjoyed tormenting her, how I loved making her suffer. That makes me—"
"I don't care," she snapped, taking her hand away from his.
"Don't you?" he asked again. "Don't you really care that you love a—"
"Don't say it!" Hermione said, feeling her temper flare. Damn it, why was he bringing this up now, of all times? "You're not one of them, Draco. You're not. You proved that when you saved me, when you came with us, when you sided with us. What more do you want? A plaque? A trophy? A medal to prove to yourself you're not a murderer? You believed it so strongly before. Why doubt now? When would you start believing it again?"
He became silent.
She bit her lip, putting a lid over her emotions. "I—I'm sorry," she said sullenly, looking away. "I shouldn't have… I mean, that was… I'm sorry." She didn't dare meet his eyes.
"Come on," he said, taking her hand with a swift motion that surprised her. "Let's get back to the castle."
Hermione felt awful. Her stomach curled uncomfortably, guilt gnawed at her insides, and her conscience berated her. I shouldn't have said that! Damn it, I should've been more understanding, more careful. His parents are dead, for Merlin's sake! What was I thinking, screaming at him like—
She was too caught up with her thoughts she almost didn't hear him speak. "For what?"
He turned to her. "For believing in me." And for the first time in what seemed like a couple of days, Draco Malfoy smiled at her.
At that moment, he had never looked more handsome to her, or been more beloved by her.
The mood around them noticeably brightened, like a shroud had been lifted off their shoulders. She was relieved to be free of the awkwardness between them, and Hermione felt her steps quicken as she walked with him back to Hogwarts. And then, from out of nowhere dawned an inspiration. "You know," she began lightly, "I've thought of a name for you."
He caught on to what she was insinuating quickly. "Equally foul as Mudblood?"
She shook her head. "No," she said gravely. "Something fouler."
He smirked. "Let's hear it."
Hermione grinned and planted a swift kiss on his cheek. "My hero."
Malfoy grimaced, his fine nose wrinkling in disgust. "You're right. It is fouler than Mudblood. I hate it already."
"Or," she continued, as if he hadn't spoken, "my knight. I haven't decided between the two yet."
"Don't," he pleaded. "You're making me sound like Potter."
"I know." She smirked, earning a chuckle from him. "Isn't it foul?"
He watched the ceremony quietly, not wanting to disturb the people or let himself be seen by them. Frankly, he wasn't at all saddened by the deaths, so why should he be hypocritical about them? Harry stood a few meters away, his form enclosed in the shadow of the tree that doubled as his barrier. He rested his palm over the smooth bark, his eyes resting on Hermione and Malfoy. The Slytherin's face was passive as he looked down on the two mounds of earth before him, as though he cared not that they contained the bodies of his parents. He seemed unfeeling, not bothered by the fact that the two people who gave him to the world were dead. But of course, only Hermione's desperate clutching at him betrayed the fact that Malfoy did care, that he did feel. She held him as though she knew he was going to fall any minute, like she knew his feet would be unable to support him as he stood once she let go of him. But wasn't that always the case with Hermione; that she always knew more than what Harry saw?
Very few people attended the burial, and after a few words were said these people started to leave. They either patted Malfoy's shoulder or shook his hand, parting with condolences most probably. Malfoy just stared at them, the politeness on his face palpably forced – like he didn't want to see these people, but couldn't help but do so.
Finally, the two were left alone in the midst of the vast burial site.
Hermione lifted her free hand and placed it on Malfoy's cheek. He took that hand and brought it to his lips. He then leaned forward and kissed her full on the mouth.
Harry turned away.
A few moments passed, and when he looked he found them to be on their way back to the castle. They walked hand in hand, and apparently Hermione said something funny because Malfoy laughed.
Harry waited until Hogwarts had engulfed the two before he removed himself from the tree's shadow. Using slow steps he approached the tombs of Malfoy's parents, and stood at the exact place their son occupied seconds ago. He gazed at the tombstones, read them – he couldn't help it, a sneer came to his face as he read the part where Mr. and Mrs. Lucius Malfoy were described as Beloved Parents.
And this, all this, is nothing but a slumber party.
He looked away, his eyes falling over the different graves, some of them freshly covered with dirt and soil. Death Eater graves. One by one, he counted all of Voldemort's servants who perished during the reclaiming of Hogwarts. He matched that to the number of casualties reported to Dumbledore from the night the school was taken from them.
The latest figure didn't even reach a quarter of those classmates, friends of his, who died.
More Death Eaters must be found, and slain. More must be discovered from their hiding places and be put where they rightfully belonged.
Regaining Hogwarts was only a small step in achieving peace in their world. Larger deeds must be accomplished in order to get rid of the evil that cloaked them.
Harry shook his head, dismissing the thought, or at least postponing it. Shoving his hands into his pockets he stared at Lucius Malfoy's grave. "I'm—" he muttered, not feeling ridiculous at all for speaking to no one, "I'm not sorry."
Then he, too, returned to the castle.
Author's Notes: I can't believe this is the last set of notes that I'd be leaving you guys for this story. What else can I say that I haven't said before? At the risk of sounding repetitive, I say it again: Thank you. Without your reviews, I wouldn't have had the inspiration to finish this story. Very, very rare it is for me to finish something of this length (you should've heard how the other fandoms cursed at me for leaving unfinished stories behind!) and a 29-chaptered story is definitely a feat. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Especially to those who reviewed almost all the chapters… as much as I want to name names I won't because I might forget someone and that is humiliating, isn't it? But thank you very much. I appreciate all your support.
As many of you have noticed, I didn't make Voldemort the big baddie in this story. He wasn't even mentioned in the previous chapters. It was just that I felt, being that this story is very much D/Hr, giving Harry the limelight of killing Voldemort would be stealing D/Hr's thunder, so to speak. Just so to clear things up ;)
Well, this is the end, folks. Thank you very much for reading, and see you guys in Divine Humiliation or any other story I come up with in the future!