Title: Letting Go

Author: Inell

Disclaimer: Rowling owns them all

Pairing: Draco/Hermione

Rating: PG13

Summary: Both Draco and Hermione have to learn to let go


He watched her walk around the bedroom that they shared, a lost and confused expression on her pretty face. His lips curved into a soft smile as he simply looked at her. His wife was beautiful. Not traditionally beautiful, being a bit too curvy and her hair was uncontrollable, but she had a natural beauty that he found striking. He hadn't always done so. In fact, the first eight years that he had known her, he'd considered her annoying and opinionated and irritating. She'd been bossy and outspoken and had always bested him in their shared classes and he'd never given her a second look.

That had changed after graduation. He'd become a Deatheater, just as his Father had always planned, two days after the Leaving Feast. He'd been joined by some of his Housemates, though several Slytherins had refused to join Voldemort. He'd considered them traitors to their blood, having no pride in what their family bloodlines stood for, and he'd never given their beliefs a second thought.

He had been groomed from the moment of his birth to become what his Father wanted, never questioning the plans for his life even during the moments of doubt or hesitation. It had been during the first raid that he had realized how wrong it all was, the torture and rape and murder. He had made his Father proud but, afterwards, as he had been washing the blood from his hands, he'd been struck with the truth. He was nothing more than a murderer.

He had tried to avoid the misgivings plaguing his mind, carrying out his instructions with the same precise concentration and focus that he dedicated to every area of his life. Eventually, he could no longer ignore the fact that he hated what he had become. Deciding to finally make a choice for himself without simply doing what was expected, he had left the Manor and joined his old friends who were fighting for Dumbledore's side. That's when he had met up with Hermione again, the brunette witch being at the center of the Order's strategy group as well as going out and fighting alongside the others.

It was only then that he had begun to appreciate her natural beauty, to respect her determination and courage, to admire the woman she had become. Their relationship had not been tender or gentle, quite the opposite. It had been passion and need and desire, each seeking something from the other to get them through the days of the War. Their marriage had been impulsive, facing death every day causing them to appreciate the small things that others took for granted. There had been a lot of marriages during the War, people just wanting to have someone to hold them through the night. During those two years, he had fought alongside the people he had once called enemy, growing to love Hermione as the days passed.

Three years after graduation from Hogwarts, the Final Battle of the War had taken place. It had been massive, fought on the grounds of his former school. Lasting nearly two hours, it had seen the deaths of fifty-seven of Dumbledore's people, including the old wizard himself, and sixty-eight of Voldemort's followers, including the Dark Lord. Another forty Deatheaters had been captured and sent to Azkaban where they were either killed or imprisoned.

It had been nearly two years since the Final Battle. During that time, life had gone on and the wizarding world was slowly being rebuilt. For the first six months, Hermione had cried herself to sleep and been beset by nightmares. She would wake with tears on her face, clinging to her pillow, or crying out his name. Gradually, she had thrown herself into her new job at the Ministry, working long hours and weekends. She was the assistant to the new Minister, Amalia Bones, and had plenty to keep her busy and distract her.

The nightmares were less frequent because she rarely slept long enough to have any. Potter had been injured badly during the War, barely surviving, the wizard moving to a small town in France where he grew specific ingredients for Potions. Weasley had not survived to see the Final Battle, dying during a raid on London that had occurred several months before. There were still people around that invited her out, but she seldom accepted. She spent her free time with a book or watching the Muggle television or simply thinking as she looked at her album of photos. Only one person persistently made an effort to get her to smile again, to laugh, to enjoy life. And she did her best to rebuff his every attempt.

Draco loved Hermione and wanted nothing more than her happiness, even if it meant losing her to another man. He was selfish and hated the idea of her loving another, but he knew that she needed to move on, to let go. She was wasting away burying herself under work, merely existing since the Final Battle and not really living at all. He moved towards her, his hand moving along the curve of her face as she stared at their wedding photo, tears on her cheek as she sighed, "I miss you, Draco."

He wanted to tell her he loved her, to hold her one last time, to kiss her, to make love to her. He had never said the words to her, never once told her he loved her, though he liked to think that she knew from the way he touched her and looked at her. She had only said the words to him twice. Once on the evening before the Final Battle and again as she'd held him in her arms as he had died. He'd whispered the words to her then, with his last breath, and he thought she'd heard him because she'd started crying and rested her head on his chest, not moving until she'd been forced to by Snape, when his body had needed to be moved.

Draco had honestly never given much thought to death. It had always been a possibility, something one just didn't think about it. It had hurt, the feeling of the curse hitting his body and slowly moving along his limbs. Hermione had sent an Avada Kedavra at Bellatrix, who had managed to curse Draco after he'd killed his Father, who was aiming at Hermione. He'd been stunned at the realization that he'd killed his Father, that one moment of hesitation being enough to allow his aunt to send an unfamiliar but lethal curse at him. He'd died within a few minutes, long enough to whisper the words he had never told Hermione and to look at her one last time before closing his eyes forever.

The next thing he remembered was suddenly being in their flat, confused and disoriented and watching her holding his pillow and crying. He'd gone to her, his hand moving right through her. She couldn't see him, but he knew she felt him. There were times she'd talk to him, just tell him about her day or how she was feeling, seeming to find some solace in the belief that he was watching over her even though she had no idea it was true. He had watched her suffer through the nightmares and loneliness and crying, unable to do anything for her, aching to touch her one last time but forced to just linger and be unable to do anything to help.

He even wished that he'd been a normal ghost, like the ones at Hogwarts or the one in the attic at the Manor. She could have seen him and he could have spoken to her, but even this was better than never seeing her again. The rare times she did laugh made him happy, he loved watching her, knew that she had loved him just as he had loved her, enjoying her talks with him, and those moments gave him comfort, made this solitary existence a little less isolated. He was destined to live like this until she joined him here, then perhaps they'd move on together. Until that time, which would hopefully be many decades away, he wanted her to be happy.

It had taken him quite a long time to get to a point where he could think of her with another man without feeling as if his heart was being ripped out. He had believed that perhaps this was Hell for his actions as a Deatheater, being forced to watch her fall in love with someone else and have a happy life with children and to eventually think of him as a distant memory as she had the things he had not lived long enough to give to her. It was only as time began to pass and he watched her, saw how rarely she smiled, saw how unhappy she was, that he realized that he'd been wrong.

That was Hell, seeing her so sad and just barely living. She had always been so passionate, so vibrant, so full of life. Even during the War, she'd been the stubborn one that had always kicked them all in the arse and motivated them. It was heartbreaking to watch her fade away into a shell of the person he had fallen in love with. He had been trying to reach her somehow, to tell her that it was time to move on, to live again. Recently, it seemed like she might have finally started listening.

The blond wizard sat on the bed beside her, speaking softly, "Hermione, it's okay. I love you. I'll always love you and I know that you'll always love me."

Hermione looked up from the picture, her brown eyes wet as she held it against her chest and whispered, "I still love you so much. I know I didn't say it enough when you were alive. I regret that. I regret a lot of things, but I don't regret marrying you or loving you. I'd have rather had the short time we had than to have never had you at all."

Draco moved his hand against her hair, unable to feel it but remembering all too well the softness against his palm. He watched her stand and put the photo back on the dresser, wiping her eyes as she looked in the mirror, "I love you and I'll never stop loving you, but I have to move on now. I hope you understand, if you do happen to be around. I think you'd approve. He was your friend during the last few years, and I know you respected him. He cares about me, Draco. He's been there every time I've needed someone since you were taken from me. When I'm with him, I feel again."

"Zabini has loved you for years," Draco smiled gently, "and I do approve. He'll treat you the way you deserve, he'll never let you go a day without knowing that you're loved, he'll give you beautiful children and a happy life, he'll give you everything that I couldn't. I love you, Hermione. Please know that I'm always here, watching you and loving you. I'll be with you until you die and we're finally together again."

Hermione looked up and stared at the bed, a thoughtful expression on her pretty face. With a soft smile, she echoed, "We'll be together again one day, Draco. I'll never forget you and I'll never stop loving you."

"You look beautiful tonight, darling," Draco said tenderly, "Blaise is a very lucky man. Promise me that you'll let go, that you'll be happy and love again."

Hermione shook her head slightly, looking at the wedding photo and smiling tenderly, her hand moving through her curly brown hair as she whispered, "I promise, Draco."

"That's my girl," Draco smiled softly, "now run along and have fun on your date with Zabini. I'll be waiting for you."

the end