Author's Notes: So, I'm just minding my own business at the CD ship on FA, and suddenly I learn DH is being released July 21st. 2007. First thought was ZOMG Harry Potter finally ending gaspcrydiecheerfreakout! Second thought was ZOMG SHIT FUCK I have to finish Requiem before 7/21/07 ::general explosion of me-ness::. Obviously that didn't happen. But I did want to at least end the first part of Requiem, and give my wonderful readers some closure. So, here it is, the last chapter. I am beyond sorry for the amount of time this took to update. Really, I am, and if I get any reviews at all, I will be a very happy girl. Thank you for the last ones, they made my day every day I got them.
parlezvous: I love him too. : ) Sorry for the super-late update!
travesty: Danker for the middle of the night edit. I did almost everything you told me- changed some "throde dialogue" (though the boring part had to stay in, sorry) and took out some "excessive quotation marks". Thanks, really, Scrogy darling, for sticking with me and this story. Your edits have been pretty invaluable and they make me laugh and turn pink. You just might be- oh, hell, you are probably the best editor I've had. And friend, too. ;)
Cimbelmyne: I think certainly that Ginny has some Mary-Sue qualities about her…I thought that the Harry/Ginny, though expected, should have been fleshed out a lot more, and I honestly thought the characterization of Ginny was a bit sloppy. But that's neither here nor there. I definitely get what you mean about Cho only being the girl who cries too much for dead!Cedric, which has always got to me, because hello? HE'S HER BOYFRIEND AND HE WAS RANDOMLY MURDERED. She's going to be pretty upset…so therefore all human hosepipe comparisons elicit from me a FAIL at life, because I'd be really interested to see what that person would do in her shoes. Really. steps off soap-box Sorry for the rant and the lateness, thanks for the review.
Serena Goodkey: Thank you. : ) The "outburst" was my favorite part too.
blue7: "They are both broken and confused, branded literally and metaphorically by their experiences/choices and they don't know if they can escape the roles assigned to them by other people, or what they believe to be is fate." put eloquently and truthfully, and you basically got down exactly what I was trying to get down for this fic. Thank you for the PM- it got me moving. Sorry for the lateness, though. And thank you very much for your always insightful reviews throughout this entire fic- it's been lovely. :D
Cho345chi: Aww, I'm sorry your day sucked. : ( Still, thanks very much for reviewing and reading. :D
Lunaseas: Your review was very kind- and authors do love reviews, especially this one. ;) I'm glad you think the characters are in character- I tried really hard to do that. Thanks for the Favorites add, and while I don't know that you can consider this "finished", but maybe it's "closed". For now, at least. Thanks for reading.
FSL: Yes, shorter, but this one is super-long. Thanks for the read.
AutumnKate: Dialogue between C and D has always, always been the most fun to write. My update is, what, five months late, and for that I'm a terrible person. But thank you for your support anyway.
Chele: The complexities of Cho and Draco are wonderful, and I'm glad you enjoy this little story. :D
Liger4321: Your review was very, very touching. It's probably one of the best reviews I've ever gotten. I am so flattered and so happy that you feel that way about this story. The fanbase is tiny, and I wish it were bigger, but we're a pretty cool one in spite of our size. ;) Incidentally, what book were you referring to? I'd like to read it, if it really is supposed to be the "most wonderful adolescent love story ever written". Anyway, thank you again for your extraordinarily kind review.
heart: I'd hardly call it perfect, but it's really nice of you to. : ) Here is an update, but it isn't soon.
heart5: Thanks for the review- I haven't read RedRogue's "The One Mistake", but I mean to. A super-late update is here.
Yukishiro Madoka: I've tried to keep them in character. And I'm glad you think I do. Thank you for the review!
Some dialogue later in the fic (The Lightning-Struck Tower) is taken purely from HBP. This chapter is I think the longest of any of my chapters, and probably the hardest to write. I can't believe it's done. I wish that I had the time or ability to really finish it, to bring Requiem the ending I wanted it to have, but alas, DH is a week away, and I cannot do it. I would love to continue after DH, but a) I don't know if either of my main characters will be alive, and b) I don't know if anybody will want to read. If you're interested, or think you will be in a sequel to Requiem, let me know. If it comes to fruition, it'll be Aeternam.
I cannot truly express my gratitude to all of you for your continual support and praise of my little story. Thank you so much, for both reading, and for leaving reviews that encouraged me every step of the way. Thank you for the adds to Favorites. It's finished. I'm feeling kind of weird- this is the last thing I'll post before the advent of Deathly Hallows. It's like the end of an era for me.
I hope you like it.
After she leaves, he grabs his books and heads straight to the Library.
He comes in, relatively breathless from running. Madam Pince immediately accosts him.
"Sorry, Mr. Malfoy, it's closing time."
"But-" he cannot imagine having to wait one more day, so he turns on the old Malfoy charm. "Madam Pince, I really need this book."
"I'm sure it can wait for tomorrow," she says, pining up her mouth primly.
"No, it really can't. You see, it's my mother's birthday tomorrow, and the book I'm looking for has a spell to conjure up…um, butterflies from long distances and my mother loves butterflies and if I don't do anything for her, no one else will, because…because…"
Because my father is in Azkaban, are the unspoken words, and Draco stops bs-ing for a second to think about them.
Madam Pince surveys him with narrowing eyes, then sighs. "Do you know the title of the book?"
"Tricks of the Magicians." He hopes Cho's right.
"Wait here." She walks out of sight for a bit, then returns with a dusty, thick black book. She hands it to him.
"Thank you." He's never meant it more.
She nods. "You're welcome, Mr. Malfoy."
"Good night, Madam Pince."
"Good night- oh, and one more thing." She smiles, dryly, but she does smile. "Wish your mother a happy birthday from me."
That night, he does not sleep. Instead, he goes straight to the Room of Requirement after the Library. It is dark now, and through the cathedral windows, he can see the stars.
Though he's not the praying type, he says a little prayer to the forces of the universe. Please, let this work.
Then, he opens up the book, blows the dust off its pages, and begins.
She is the one to leave the Room first. She goes back to her dorm, to lie on her bed and stare at the dark blue canopy. She does not know what to think, but it's sort of nice, just lying there, her mind unclouded.
She thinks, naturally, of Draco. He hovers there in her mind, barely tangible, but there, somewhere in the darkness. She can't remember the kiss, not really, but she remembers the sunlight warming them, his hands on the small of her back. She doesn't know where this is all going. She doesn't know why she kissed him. Or did he kiss her? She can't remember anymore.
The irony of the situation does not escape her, but there's nothing she can do about it. She's in too deep.
She doesn't care. She's always hated being in over her head, but for once, it's okay. She thinks she can handle it. When all is said and done, with him, she'd rather be in over her head than safe and sound. She likes the fact that he never makes promises to her. She likes the fact that he doesn't pretend to her. She likes the fact that he understands her.
Then of course, she remembers whom his allegiance is to, and it makes her vaguely nauseated, and she has to turn on her side so she can breathe better. She wonders if there's something wrong with her, being attracted to Draco Malfoy. She's always thought she'd abhor someone like him, but she abhors more his actions than she does him. Maybe because, in the end, she doesn't think he truly believes what he says he does.
When she falls asleep, there's a smile on her face, and it stays there all night, until the stars begin to fade and dawn breaks.
Narcissa has taken to not eating breakfast lately. Instead, she lies in bed until mid afternoon. She does not bother to get up, brush her teeth, arrange her hair, put on proper robes, or anything. She doesn't care anymore.
No one visits the Manor. She hasn't cut fresh flowers in two months. The silver is burnishing, the pillows lumping, the House-Elves growing more and more slovenly. Slowly, but surely, the house is going to ruin, taking Narcissa with it.
She stays in bed a little longer on her birthday. The dark green velvet curtains are drawn, and her long blonde hair is fanned out. She stares up at the canopy, lazily contemplating suicide.
She's thought about it quite frequently. She isn't morbid- far from it- but being locked up to rot in the house has made her think strange thoughts. She isn't actually locked up, of course. She is free to do as she pleases. But her husband is shut away in prison, her son faraway and in danger, her sister god-knows-where, her parents dead. Her friends were never really her friends, and half of them are gone, to the Continent, far from Ministry scrutiny. The other half is still in England, pretending that nothing has changed, when everything has changed. They hold their luncheons and teas and dinner parties, pretending to be oblivious to the fact that there is a war waging beneath their pureblood noses. Narcissa despises them for doing this, especially when she is sick over Draco's predicament and worried that they'll execute Lucius any day, without trial. Scrimgeour would be the type to do such a thing.
So Narcissa hates her old friends because they refuse to see what she is going through. And so, she must weather it alone. She despairs of all of it. She doesn't know how much longer she can go on, living like this. She is desperately afraid of dying alone, like her namesake, watching herself fade away without even realizing it.
So she contemplates ways of ending. A quick cut across the wrists would be the most picturesque- ice pale skin bleeding red red blood. Poison was another option; she remembered where the stores were. Everything else was far too messy or grotesque. She thinks these thoughts lightly, because she knows she can never do it. She is a coward, and her threshold of pain is extremely low. And anyhow, she knows she could never forgive herself for leaving Draco.
And this thought, in some strange way, strengthens her enough to get through another day. She lives for him, really, not for herself. Somehow, she can do it better now.
She thinks it strange that it should happen that she should love someone better than she should love herself. She always thought self-love to be above all things, whether one meant for it to be, or not. Even with Lucius, it was like that. But not with Draco.
It stems from a feeling of complete ownership, she decides. She felt like she owned Draco, like she had with no other. Draco was hers- he came from something deep and innate inside of her, he came from her, and he had slept in her arms, and kissed her cheek, clung to her neck, and in sum, was the one creature she ever felt actually needed her. She saw some of her in him, a part of herself there.
Something compels her to get up now. There will be customary, cordial birthday cards, of course, from the few that remembered. Perhaps even a visit from Ianthe Parkinson or Prims Rosier. So she gets up, pulls a light silk robe over her nightgown, ties her hair back, and goes to her study, where she has been having her tea lately. The dining room is far too big and lonely for one person.
When she walks in, she is immensely surprised to see large narcissi arrangements everywhere. They sit on her desk, and spill out to rest on the floor. There is a small pile of envelopes, and a small green-tissue-paper-wrapped present, complete with a black velvet bow and matching note.
She opens the card first.
Happy Birthday Mother.
It isn't his handwriting- it's the pretty script of some shop girl, but she knows it's his words, and she smiles. Then she reaches for the present. Carefully, she undoes the ribbon, and folds back the delicate paper. It's a tiny little music box- all gold, the top done in the likeness of her flowers, white enameled petals with small yellow diamonds making up the center. She opens it, and a strain of music wafts out, carrying itself throughout the sunlit room. She closes her eyes. She cannot remember exactly the name of the song, but she remembers it, and it delves deep into her, almost hurting. It finishes, leaving an empty silence.
She closes the box and leans over to smell a narcissus. They are long, with pale white bodies and bright yellow hearts. She is thankful for the brightness of the yellow. The color makes her feel alive, in her sunlit study.
She opens the music box to hear the song again, because it reminds her of something missing, and because it is his gift to her.
He emerges from the darkness utterly exhausted and more than a little disoriented, but triumphant. He stands, for a moment, completely still, letting everything sink in.
I've done it. I've done it. I've fixed it.
Something tears itself away from him, and he begins to laugh and laugh. Laughing turns into shouting which turns into a sort of victory dance. He is so drunk with his achievement, he doesn't even care. He doesn't even care.
Someone enters. He hears a voice, and does not hesitate to reach into his pocket, pull out some Peruvian Instant Darkness, and think I need whoever it is to be thrown out.
The room obeys, and he is alone again, standing in a pool of sunlight.
He notices something black and yellow poking out from under a broken bust of Rowena Ravenclaw. Something compels him to pull it out.
It is a dusty knit scarf. On one end, there is a monogrammed CD. He brushes most of the dust off, and folds it up rather carefully, to give to Cho later.
When he opens the door, he does not expect to see her there.
They stare at one another for a moment. Then, at once, a mumble of words and pauses and explanations and unsaid things come.
"I just came to get-"
"I just found this-"
They both stop. She smiles ruefully. "Where did you find it?"
"Under a bust of Rowena Ravenclaw."
"Yeah, I forgot to get it last time." She glances at him, waiting for a reaction, but when he gives none, she vows to do the same.
He nods once –just once- and hands it to her.
"Thanks." She places it carefully, but unceremoniously in her bag. She won't look at him and he wonders why.
Then, again, they both speak at once.
She stops haltingly. "Go ahead."
His hand finds its way to smooth his hair unconsciously. "Oh, I was just going to ask where you were headed. Not out of actual interest, but you know, common decency."
"Common decency coming from a Malfoy! Imagine that." Then she catches the look on his face, and quickly makes amends. "I'm off to my dormitory. I've got studying."
"Studying coming from a Ravenclaw. Imagine that," he retorts, dryly.
"Really, have you nothing better to do than to parrot other people's witty comments back at them?" But she is smiling, and he gives her a half-smile in return.
"I don't actually. So let me walk you, Chang," he says rather suddenly, and spontaneously.
She is taken aback, but does not show it. "I think I'm all right, really-"
"I insist. I know your desperate longing for my charming company. I'll indulge you."
She snorts. "I'd call you a lot of things Malfoy, but I'm not sure if charming is one of them."
He shrugs. "At least I don't date people who wear monogrammed scarves."
"His grandmother did it for him!"
"That's what they all say."
"What were you doing in there any way?"
"Hiding the dead body of the Boy Who Lived."
"So am I."
"You have a very strange obsession with Harry."
"You have a very strange obsession with Diggory."
"He was my boyfriend! You're allowed to have strange obsessions about boyfriends. Harry wasn't ever your boyfriend, was he?"
"God no Chang. First of all, I don't swing that way, and second of all I don't have YOUR god awful taste."
"I have adequate taste in boys!"
It's his turn to snort. "Hardly. First there's Diggory who gets himself murdered, then there's Potter who I can't even start on, and then there's Corner-"
"Correction. Michael and I never went out."
"Really? Pansy told me-"
"It was just a silly rumor."
"I stand corrected. Well, anyway, there's Potter and then there's-" he stops abruptly.
There's me, he almost says. And then there's me.
"And then there's no one," she says quickly. She stops to adjust her book bag.
"I could be a gentleman and offer to carry that, but I've done enough good deeds for the day."
"Oh, so there's a quota now?"
"There's always been a quota."
"So I see." She tosses her hair uncharacteristically, and he backtracks.
"I was kidding Chang, let me hold your books."
She shakes her head. "No, I've got it."
"No, you don't. Look, your hair is getting caught in the straps." He moves to help her.
She brushes his hand away. "It's fine."
"Do I have to take those books from you by force?"
"I'd like to see you try." She grabs her bag tightly, and cocks an eyebrow.
Draco, never one to back down from a challenge, makes as if he's going to grab them. She expertly dodges him, laughing, and then he trips her and she falls and books and bag go flying. He scoops them up deftly, then as an afterthought, extends a hand to her.
"Underhanded!" she gasps indignantly, pulling herself up by the wall. "Underhanded!"
He shrugs, putting the untaken hand in his pocket. "Death Eater."
"That's not an excuse for everything, you know." She is half-serious, and he shrugs again, this time not so lightly.
"It's an excuse for most things."
And then she asks "Why are you doing this?"
He looks down. "To thank you."
For helping me accomplish my task. The irony is not lost on him- the one person in the world who has almost stopped him had helped him achieve the thing she would most hate.
He does not answer her, but instead smiles strangely, and inclines his head in the direction of the Ravenclaw dormitories, "Shall we?"
"Aren't you going to answer me?"
"Aren't you going to answer me?"
She shakes her head in exasperation, giving up, and they walk in silence for a while.
"Do me a favor, Chang," he says, as he walks her back to the tapestry, "stay in tonight, won't you?"
"Stay in? I can't. I've got a crazy Hufflepuff party to go to."
He is thrown off and slightly repulsed and misses her sarcasm entirely. "Really."
"Draco Malfoy," she gives him a look. " Since when do Hufflepuffs throw crazy parties, or that I go to them? Please. I intend to curl up with a good book tonight. And why would you care anyway?" Then something dawns on her, and her face changes. "Malfoy…nothing is going to happen tonight, right?"
"Not that I know of," he lies. "Except maybe your crazy Hufflepuff party."
"No, I'm serious."
"So am I. I don't know, I think they're just going to be more vigilant about breaking curfew. Or something. Forget about it. Have fun at your party- maybe I'll crash it."
He hands her her book bag; she does not thank him.
Instead, she smiles at him, and he wants to tell her so many things, in that brief moment, but before he can say anything, she touches his face and he is silenced. "You look tired."
"I am," he admits.
"You should've gone to bed. You didn't have to walk me, I don't know why you did."
"Don't you?" he asks quietly, and the way he says it makes her cheeks red, and she looks down at the floor, but can't quite keep the smile off her face.
There is quiet, and in the interim, Draco Malfoy leans over and kisses Cho Chang gently on the forehead, because it's his way of saying good-bye.
"I know about the deal," he rasps, facing the fire. His shadow casts sinister darkness over the stone floor.
Snape stiffens and tries to hide his sudden anxiety. "My lord?"
Voldemort turns around, red eyes gleaming angrily, skin pale as death. "The deal, Severus, I know about the deal! Don't look so dumbfounded. Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"
Snape swallows and tries to think. I'm done for. "My lord, I-"
"You should have told me. I waited almost a year for you to tell me…a year, Severus! Actually, you shouldn't have made that deal in the first place and you knew that, didn't you?"
"I-" How did he find out? No one else knew about what Dumbledore and I spoke of…
"Will you let me speak?"
Snape shuts up, accordingly and keeps his eyes trained on the floor, waiting at any moment to be tortured or killed.
Voldemort appraises him, then waves his hand at him, turning back to the fireplace. "Well, it is no matter. I would have asked you to do it anyway."
Snape looks up, unable to conceal his confusion. He would've asked me to make a deal with Dumbledore about killing him?
At the silence, Voldemort continues. "You know just as well as I that the boy cannot do it- you know that he will fail. So I would've asked you to kill Dumbledore for me, but only as a last resort. We don't want you losing your Order membership unless absolutely necessary. And I wouldn't have made an Unbreakable Vow of the mess, but you've already done that, so there's no going back."
So it wasn't about Dumbledore's knowledge, and he, Snape, was safe. For now.
"I know. You think you cannot kill Dumbledore either." Voldemort says quietly. "He's just a man. He isn't immortal, not like I am…he's just a man. You can and will do it."
Snape, having regained his senses, makes a short bow. "Yes, my lord. And what of the boy?" He tries to ask casually, but his voice can't quite obey.
"He will be killed."
"Killed? But-" No, no, no. Dumbledore cannot sacrifice his life for a good as dead Draco Malfoy.
"I cannot have a traitorous little Malfoy in my circle again, Severus! You know Lucius told."
"Yes, but my lord, Draco is not his father. He is eager to serve, sir, he is-"
"Eager to save his own neck, more likely. Like father, like son. We don't need him, Severus, I don't know why you're so quick to speak for him."
Snape thinks quickly and logically. "My lord, there are fewer and fewer recruits every year. Our resources are dwindling, the families-"
"I don't want to hear that the families are dying out. They aren't. I mean, look at this year's potential recruits…" Voldemort pauses, "…who are they?"
"Aviana's son Blaise…Theodore Nott…Vincent Crabbe…Gregory Goyle…and Draco Malfoy, sir."
"What, no girls?"
"It doesn't look like it, sir."
"No matter, I suppose. Girls are weak anyway."
"Yes, my lord."
"Severus, what is Malfoy the younger doing? What does he have planned?"
It costs Snape a lot to say it. "I don't know, sir."
"He won't tell me."
"Well, whatever it is, Severus, make sure it works."
"It will, sir. It will." Snape does not want to believe his own words.
"Good. Now go back. They'll be missing you."
Snape thinks of how badly he wants to kill Voldemort right now. And how easy it could be if he could. But he does not because he knows his duty and because he knows he cannot.
Michael comes in about ten seconds after her. He won't look at her.
"Is something wrong?" she asks, after about fifteen minutes of silence.
"Don't do this," he says, quietly.
She is thoroughly confused. "Do what?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Michael, I-"
And then he looks up. "I saw you. Walking here. He was holding your books."
She stops, swallows, and shrugs. "He was just being nice." She can hear herself getting defensive.
"Malfoy is never nice for no reason."
"Maybe he is."
"Maybe he is with you," Michael corrects.
She rolls her eyes. "It's nothing, I told you."
"I don't think it's smart of you to get involved like that."
"Involved like what?" Marietta has just come down from the girl's dorm, and her blue eyes are inquiring.
"Nothing." Cho shoots Michael a look. "Don't worry about it. Michael is just being unreasonable."
"I'm being unreasonable? He's the son of Lucius Malfoy!"
"Nothing, Marietta," says Cho, irritably.
"Will someone please tell me what the hell you two are blathering on about?"
Michael turns to her. "Malfoy. He's-"
"That blond Slytherin, yeah. What about him?"
"Nothing. I don't know why you both are making such a big deal of absolutely nothing." Cho tries to inject carelessness into her voice, but it just won't come.
"Cho likes him."
"Why wasn't I told any of this?" asks Marietta accusingly.
"Because it isn't true. We're just-"
"Friends?" Marietta looks genuinely alarmed.
"Sure. Not even friends. Friendly acquaintances."
"He's a Slytherin," Michael scoffs.
Cho rounds on him at the same time Marietta does, and in unison they demand, "So?"
"So you're a Ravenclaw! Marietta, are you taking her side?" asks Michael incredulously.
"No, but…come on, Michael. Nobody really follows those silly House boundaries. The only people who do are Gryffindors and they only do that because they're close-minded and unintelligent," she says matter-of-factly.
"Hermione Granger is intelligent and she's in Gryffindor," points out Michael.
"She's intelligent academically. But she's just like the rest of them in other aspects. Gryffindors see things in black and white, Hufflepuffs see them in white, Slytherins see whatever they want to see, and we Ravenclaws see things in black, white, and gray."
"But we're not talking about-" he protests.
"We're talking about dating out of Houses," and Marietta adopts her annoying superior debate tone.
"Who said anything about dating?" Cho demands, but neither of them will listen to her.
"Yes, we are talking about dating out of Houses, but people don't do it too often," argues Michael.
"What about Ginny Weasley?" Marietta asks pointedly.
"And look how that turned out."
She brushes his point away. "Well some people do date successfully out of House."
"Well," and she reverts a little bit, "I'm just saying that I think it might be good for Cho."
"I'm right here, Marietta," Cho says loudly.
"Oh right, sorry." She turns to Cho, and says earnestly. "I think it would be good for you."
"You think what would be good for her? Dating Malfoy?"
"Yes." She nods vehemently.
Cho throws her hands up in despair. "Once again, the dating thing. When did we ever say anything about-"
"How could that be good for her?" demands Michael
"Well, it would give her a chance to try something new. You know, not the general good heroic type guy who has a bad habit of getting himself into deadly situations."
"You think it's a good idea for Cho to date the son of a Death Eater in the midst of all that's happened this year?" asks Michael incredulously.
"What has happened this year?"
"Everything! Everything with You-Know-Who-"
"Please don't say that. You sound dumb."
"Fine. Everything with the Dark Lord and Dark activity, even in this school. Do you really think that it is a good idea for Cho to get mixed up in all that?"
"All what? No one is asking her to join them."
"First comes dating, then comes marriage, then comes-"
"The Dark Lord with a baby carriage?"
"Very funny. No, then comes membership."
"That was the most ridiculous point you have ever made, Michael Corner. You're completely missing the point here."
"I'm missing the point? The point being that Cho doesn't need to get involved with that shit?"
"The point being that it might be good for her to, you know, open up to someone a bit."
"I. Am. Right. Here," says Cho loudly.
"You're a Death Eater apologist, aren't you?"
"You're a Death Eater apologist, Marietta."
"That's ridiculous. I am in no way defending any of their actions."
"Do you approve of their actions?"
"Then why would you want our friend dating the son of one?"
"Not everybody inherits family characteristics, you know."
"No, not everyone is like you, Marietta."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. It means nothing. Forget I ever said anything. But don't say I didn't warn the both of you. Malfoy is a bastard through and through."
"Cho's a grown girl, Michael. I think she can handle herself."
"I wash my hands of everything. I'm going to bed. Good night." He gathers his things, and walks stormily to the boys' dorm.
Neither of the girls say anything.
"No, Marietta, it's not true. I'm not at all interested in Malfoy."
"That's not what I was going to ask."
"Oh, sorry." She looks at Marietta expectantly.
"It's okay. No, I was just wondering…do you think I take after my mother?"
"Well, I think we all take a little bit after our parents, don't we?" Cho says carefully, knowing the strained relationship between the Edgecombes.
But Marietta hears what is unsaid, and buries her face in her hands. "Oh god. I'm turning into my mother."
"No, you aren't."
"But I am. Michael's right, he's always right."
"No, he's not."
Marietta shakes her head. "Did I tell you I told him?"
"It was terrible. It just sort of came out."
"He's been acting a little strange lately."
"He's uncomfortable around me. I'm uncomfortable around him."
"So I'm guessing it didn't go so well?"
"Of course not. I blundered through it completely. I basically told him that I hated myself for liking him because…"
"Oh god Cho, I'm so ashamed…"
"What is it?"
"I told him I hated myself for liking a half-blood."
"Oh my god." She stares at her.
"I know! I'm not even like that, you know that. But it just came out. My mother's been getting to me."
"I know. I know what saying that makes me, and I wanted to throw up afterwards. But it just kept coming and coming. I couldn't stop. So now he thinks I'm a racist bitch."
"No, I'm sure he doesn't understand. You didn't hear me, Cho. It was verbal garbage. I don't know what's wrong with me."
"Did you apologize?"
"Of course. I don't think it made things better though."
"Well, I mean, what more can you do?"
"I don't know," she says miserably.
Cho rubs Marietta's arm sympathetically. "Don't worry about it. Everything will be okay."
And Cho smiles reassuringly at her friend because she doesn't know how wrong she is.
As she passes by the entrance hall on the way to Dumbledore's office, she sees a tall, white-haired figure. "Oh, Professor Dumbledore!" she calls, walking towards him and rummaging through her bag at the same time.
He smiles at her. "Ah, Miss. Chang. What can I do for you?"
"Oh, nothing…it's just that I have your book, sir. Sorry it took so long, I kept forgetting to bring it to you." She holds it out to him, and he takes it.
He looks at it for a moment, turning the worn pages, then hands it back to her. "Well thank you. Actually, could you do me a favor?"
"I'm on my way out- could you keep it for me until tomorrow?"
She takes the book back, and places in her bag again. "Okay, I'll do that."
"Thank you, Miss. Chang. Did you enjoy it?"
"I think…I think it changed me," she says, honestly.
He nods. "Most good books do."
Cho remembers her manners. "Thank you for lending it to me."
Dumbledore inclines his head ever so slightly. "It's my pleasure." He glances at his watch. "It's getting late, Miss. Chang. Perhaps you had better be off to your dormitory. We wouldn't want for Mr. Filch to catch you breaking curfew."
"No, we wouldn't. Have a good night, Professor."
"I will. You do the same, Cho."
She smiles at him, and turns to go, when something compels her to turn back, and say, "Professor?"
"Yes, Miss. Chang?"
She doesn't know what she means to say, but she means to say something, and she can't quite, so she says instead, "Nothing. Never mind. It's nothing."
Dumbledore nods and smiles as if he understands, and that's the image she leaves with. A smiling old man so obscured in darkness that his twinkling blue eyes and gold glasses- that he himself is quite lost in the black.
He comes down and sits next to her on the leather sofa. "Hey."
She gives him a smile, and pulls her legs up under her. "Hey."
"What are you up to?"
"I got invited to my cousin's wedding." And Pansy waves the calligraphy-ed parchment in Draco's face.
"Autumn. Who's she marrying?"
"Jack. He's cool."
"He is. They'll have beautiful children."
"When is it?"
"July. I'm sure your family is invited. Want to be my date?"
"I'm not sure if I'll be free then, but if so, of course."
Pansy folds the invite back up, frowning. "Why wouldn't you be free?"
He avoids the question. He's getting good at that. "You're not doing anything tonight, are you?"
She shakes her head, and tucks a wayward piece of hair behind her ear. "No, I was going to go to bed early. I've got terrible dark circles for not sleeping this past week."
"Just…make sure no one goes out tonight, okay?"
"I can't say why exactly. Just trust me."
"But do that for me, won't you? Make sure no one goes out tonight."
"It…doesn't have to be like this, you know."
He smiles, then, a bitter bitter smile, and Pansy is struck cold inside. "But it does." he says, barely audible.
Later, on the top of a tower, he sends the Dark Mark into the night sky, and when he sees the glittering green against black, the skull, the snake, he knows he is lost and it does have to be like this.
She knocks on the door to the boys' dormitory. Anthony Goldstein opens it.
"Hey," he says, smiling.
"Hi Anthony. Could you get Michael? I need to talk to him."
Some minutes later, Michael comes to the door.
"Can I talk to you?" she asks.
"Go ahead," he says, folding his arms, and waiting.
"Can we go down to the common room? No one's there." When he says nothing, she sighs, and says, "Michael, I really want to talk to you."
He looks at her, then gives in. "Okay."
When they get downstairs, it takes a little while for either of them to speak.
"I know what Marietta said to you," is how Cho begins. She's a little surprised at herself, but she goes with it.
Michael looks at the floor. "She told you?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry."
"You had nothing to do with it."
"I know, but I'm still sorry that you had to deal with that."
"It's just frustrating. You'd think people would get over the blood thing eventually. I mean, I think I'm more than my blood. I'm not my blood- that doesn't really make me. What makes me is more than that. I'm not just a half-blood, you know?"
"I know what you mean."
"But you don't. Because you're pureblood, and so, no matter how ardently you can sympathize with me, you can never empathize with me. Because you can't understand. It's not your fault."
She is quiet for a bit. "Yeah, you're right."
"You know, that's why I hate that you're friends with Malfoy."
"We're not friends."
But Michael ignores her. "I know you don't care about blood or anything, but when you say that someone who does care about that kind of stuff is 'okay', it's like a kick in the balls to people like me. I mean, don't you have any qualms about hanging out with people who think that way? Doesn't it say something about you?"
"I hate that he thinks that way. I do. It sickens me if I think too much about it. But he needs…not me, he doesn't need me, but he needs someone to help him. He needs someone to show him that he's wrong."
"Oh, so, you're his personal savior."
"I'm not. But I think it's wrong to just write him off. And deep down, I don't think he believes any of it."
"You don't know that."
"You have a hunch deep inside?" Michael asks sarcastically.
"I don't know. But I don't think he does."
"Forgive me, but I don't believe you."
"You don't have to. I believe me and that's enough, I think."
"Why do you believe you?"
"I don't know. I just…well, I've been talking to him for most of the year and…I don't know, I think he's better than that."
"You think or you hope?"
"And what's your evidence for it besides your wishful thinking?"
She has to laugh. "I have none."
"No enlightening conversations or confessions?"
"God no. Our conversations kind of suck, actually."
"Yeah. We go around in circles. He's not exactly the world's greatest conversationalist."
"He couldn't be, as yours truly happens to hold that title."
She has to laugh.
Someone comes down the stairs.
Cho turns. "Luna."
The blonde girl has her wand in hand. "Oh hello, Cho, Michael. Are you two going as well?"
"Going where?" Michael asks.
"Oh, didn't you see? I guess the D.A.'s being reinstated, the Galleon said so."
"Really? What did it say?"
"Well, you know, it usually has a date and time on it, but right now, it just says 'RIGHT NOW'." And Luna pulls the enchanted Galleon out of her robe pocket and shows it to them.
"I guess we'd better go then," says Cho.
"Yeah, can't let the Gryffies get all the glory, can't we?" Michael says, standing up.
"I don't think we should go out all together. Filch is much more likely to catch us if we're all together," says Luna sensibly. "I'm going to go to the Room of Requirement. I think they'll be there. I'll message you on the coins when I find the rest."
"Sounds like a plan," agrees Cho. "We'll wait for your message."
"See you guys later!" And Luna waves before she goes.
"Michael, I'm going up to get my wand and my coin," she says, standing up.
"I guess I should do the same. Oh, Cho-"
"Don't tell Marietta."
She smiles ruefully. "I wasn't going to."
"Good. Do you think that something has happened? I mean, it's just kind of random for them to restart so late in the year…"
Cho frowns. "Yeah, I guess something must have." She remembers what Draco said to her. "Oh god, something must have. We shouldn't wait for Luna, we just need to go."
"Draco Malfoy told me to stay in my dorm tonight. It's got to be something big. And if the D.A. is reforming tonight…it's not just a coincidence. Something is going to happen or has happened."
"Shouldn't Dumbledore be told, or something?"
"Yes, but he's…oh god. Dumbledore's out. He said he was going out tonight."
"Yes, I'll go now. You need to go and find the other D.A. members."
"Will do. Be safe, Cho."
"You too, Michael." And then she's off to get her things, all the while asking herself how the hell everything managed to fall to pieces.
"Expelliarmus!" is what Draco shouts when he reaches the top, watching Dumbledore's wand go flying.
"Good evening, Draco," says Dumbledore rather calmly. Draco wants to hit him for his civility.
"Who else is here?" he asks curtly instead, taking a quick survey of the tower.
"A question I might ask you. Or are you acting alone?"
"No, I've got backup," he says, almost tiredly. "There are Death Eaters here in your school tonight."
"Well, well. Very good indeed. You found a way to let them in, didn't you?"
"Yeah. Right under your nose and you never realized!" He shakes his head.
"Ingenious. Yet…forgive me…where are they now? You seem unsupported." He raises his white eyebrows quizzically.
"They met some of your guards. They're having a fight down below. They won't be long…I came on ahead. I- I've got a job to do." He swallows, and looks directly at him.
"Well, then, you must get on and do it, my dear boy," Dumbledore says gently, and in that instant, Draco knows he cannot.
And so does Dumbledore, his voice soft. He smiles. "Draco, Draco, you are not a killer."
"How do you know?" he asks at once, how do you know?
He forces some bravado into his voice, but all he gets is desperation. "You don't know what I'm capable of. You don't know what I've done!"
"Oh yes, I do," Dumbledore says mildly, "You almost killed Katie Bell and Ronald Weasley. You have been trying, with increasing desperation, to kill me all year. Forgive me, Draco, but they have been feeble attempts…So feeble, to be honest, that I wonder whether your heart has been really in it."
"It has been in it!" he insists, defensively. "I've been working on it all year, and tonight-"
A yell from below interrupts them. Draco glances behind him.
"Somebody is putting up a good fight. But you were saying…yes, you have managed to introduce Death Eaters into my school, which, I admit, I thought impossible…How did you do it?"
He ignored Dumbledore, listening intently to what was going on below.
"Perhaps you ought to get on with the job alone," suggests Dumbledore helpfully. "What if you backup has been thwarted by my guard? As you have perhaps realized, there are members of the Order of the Phoenix here tonight too. And after all, you don't really need help…I have no wand at the moment…I cannot defend myself."
Draco does not move.
"I see. You are afraid to act until they join you," Dumbledore says kindly, after a pause.
"I'm not afraid! It's you who should be scared!" Draco threatens emptily.
"But why? I don't think you will kill me, Draco. Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe…So tell me, while we wait for you friends…how did you smuggle them in here? It seems to have taken you a long time to work out how to do it."
For some reason, Draco tells him. "I had to mend that broken Vanishing Cabinet that no one's used for years. The one Montague got lost in last year."
"Aaaah. That was clever…There is a pair, I take it?"
He nods. "In Borgin and Burkes, and they make a kind of passage between them. Montague told me that when he was stuck in the Hogwarts one, he was trapped in limbo but sometimes he could hear what was going on at school, and sometimes what was going on in the shop, as if the cabinet was traveling between them, but he couldn't make anyone hear him…In the end, he managed to Apparate out, even though he'd never passed his test. He nearly died doing it. Everyone thought it was a really good story, but I was the only one who realized what it meant- even Borgin didn't know- I was the one who realized there could be a way into Hogwarts through the cabinets if I fixed the broken one."
"Very good. So the Death Eaters were able to pass from Borgin and Burkes into the school to help you…A clever plan, a very clever plan…and, as you say, right under my nose."
"Yeah." Draco nods slowly, feeling a strange sense of accomplishment. "Yeah, it was!"
"But there were times, weren't there when you were not sure you would succeed in mending the cabinet? And you resorted to crude and badly judged measures such as sending me a cursed necklace that was bound to reach the wrong hands…poisoning mead there was only the slightest chance I might drink…"
He shrugs. He notices Dumbledore sliding a little down the ramparts, and wonders why he is so weak tonight. "Yeah, well, you still didn't realize who was behind that stuff, did you?"
"As a matter of fact, I did. I was sure it was you."
Draco stares at the old man. "Why didn't you stop me then?"
"I tried, Draco. Professor Snape has been keeping watch over you on my orders-"
"He hasn't been doing your orders, he promised my mother-"
"Of course that is what he would tell you, Draco, but-"
"He's a double agent, you stupid old man, he isn't working for you, you just think he is!" snarls Draco, and then he is momentarily ashamed for losing his temper. He knows he can call Dumbledore a lot of things, but stupid was not one of them.
"We must agree to differ on that, Draco. It so happens that I trust Professor Snape-"
But this is really too much. Draco is incredulous and feels a bit sorry for the obviously duped Dumbledore. "Well, you're losing your grip then! He's been offering me plenty of help- wanting all the glory for himself- wanting a bit of that action- 'What are you doing?' 'Did you do the necklace, that was stupid, it could have blown everything-' But I haven't told him what I've been doing in the Room of Requirement, he's going to wake up tomorrow and it'll all be over and he won't be the Dark Lord's favorite anymore, he'll be nothing compared to me, nothing!" He gets lost in the glory for a moment, and it is Dumbledore's voice that brings him back to the present and to the task at hand.
"Very gratifying. We all like appreciation for our own hard work, of course. But you must have had an accomplice, all the same…someone in Hogsmeade, someone who was able to slip Katie the- the- aaaah…of course. Rosmerta. How long has she been under the Imperius Curse?"
"Got there at last, have you?"
"So poor Rosmerta was forced to lurk in her bathroom and pass that necklace to any Hogwarts student who entered the room unaccompanied? And the poisioned mead…well naturally, Rosmerta was able to poison it for you before she sent the bottle to Slughorn, believing that it was to be my Christmas present…Yes, very neat…very neat…Poor Mr. Filch would not, of course, think to check a bottle of Rosmerta's. Tell me, how have you been communicating with Rosmerta? I thought we had all methods of communication in and out of the school monitored."
"Enchanted coins. I had one and she had the other and I could send her messages-"
"Isn't that the secret method of communication the group that called themselves Dumbledore's Army used last year?"
"Yeah, I got the idea from them. I got the idea of poisoning the mead from the Mudblood Granger as well, I heard her talking in the library about Filch not recognizing potions."
"Please do not use that offensive word in front of me."
Draco stares at him and has to laugh. "You care about me saying 'Mudblood' when I'm about to kill you?"
"Yes, I do," says Dumbledore simply. "But as for being about to kill me, Draco, you have had several long minutes now, we are quite alone, I am more defenseless than you can have dreamed of finding me, and still you have not acted…"
Draco's mouth twists involuntarily.
"Now, about tonight. I am a little puzzled about how it happened…You knew I had left the school? But of course, Rosmerta saw me leaving, she tipped you off using your ingenious coins, I'm sure."
"That's right," nods Draco. "But she said you were just going for a drink, you'd be back…"
"Well, I certainly did have a drink…and I came back…after a fashion. So you decided to spring a trap for me?"
"We decided to put the Dark Mark over the tower and get you to hurry up here, to see who'd been killed. And it worked!"
"Well…yes, and no…But am I to take it, then, that nobody has been murdered?"
"Someone's dead. One of your people…I don't know who, it was dark…I stepped over the body…I was supposed to be waiting up here when you got back, only your Phoenix lot got in the way…"
"Yes, they do that…"
There were bangs and shouts coming from the spiral staircase.
"There is little time, one way or another. So let us discuss your options, Draco."
"My options! I'm standing here with a wand- I'm about to kill you-"
"My dear boy, let us have no more pretense about that. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means."
"I haven't got any options!" says Draco, with more than a hint of desperation in his voice. "I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!"
"I appreciate the difficulty of your position. Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realized I suspected you."
Draco winces at the sound of his name, and hates himself for it.
"I did not dare speak to you of the mission with which I knew you had been entrusted, in case he used Legilimency against you. But now at last we can speak plainly to each other…No harm has been done, you have hurt nobody, though you are very lucky that your unintentional victims survived…I can help you, Draco."
Draco has never wanted to believe anyone so badly in his entire life.
"No, you can't," he says stubbornly. "Nobody can. He told me to do it or he'll kill me. I've got no choice." He realizes he's shaking.
"He cannot kill you if you are already dead. Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Nobody would be surprised that you had died in your attempts to kill me- forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it. Nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother- it is what they would do themselves, after all. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban…When the time comes, we can protect him too. Come over to the right side, Draco…you are not a killer…"
Draco stares at Dumbledore.
"But I got this far, didn't I? They thought I'd die in the attempt, but I'm here…and you're in my power…I'm the one with the wand…You're at my mercy."
"No, Draco," says Dumbledore quietly. "It is my mercy, and not yours that matters now."
And Draco knows he is right. He lowers his wand.
And all of a sudden, footsteps are running up the stairs, and he is shoved out of the way by four Death Eaters.
One of them, a man with a lopsided leer lets out a strange giggle. "Dumbledore cornered! Dumbledore wandless, Dumbledore alone! Well done, Draco, well done!"
"Good evening, Amycus," Dumbledore says politely. "And you've brought Alecto too…Charming…"
The woman, Alecto sneers. "Think your little jokes'll help you on your deathbed then?"
"Jokes? No, no, these are manners," Dumbledore replies, just as cordially.
"Do it," Fenrir Greyback says to Draco.
"Is that you, Fenrir?" Dumbledore asks.
"That's right," he growls. "Pleased to see me, Dumbledore?"
"No, I cannot say that I am."
Fenrir grins, and licks the blood trickling down his mouth obscenely. "But you know how much I like kids, Dumbledore."
"Am I to take it that you are attacking even without the full moon now? This is most unusual…You have developed a taste for human flesh that cannot be satisfied once a month?"
"That's right. Shocks you that, does it, Dumbledore? Frightens you?"
"Well, I cannot pretend it does not disgust me a little. And yes, I am little shocked that Draco here invited you, of all people, into the school where his friends live…"
"I didn't," says Draco suddenly, "I didn't know he was going to come-"
"I wouldn't want to miss a trip to Hogwarts, Dumbledore," rasps Fenrir. "Not when there are throats to be ripped out…Delicious, delicious…"
And Draco imagines those yellow claws ripping open Pansy or Cho, and he wants to vomit.
"I could do you for afters, Dumbledore," Fenrir is saying.
"No," says one of the Death Eaters, a brutal-faced man. Draco can't remember his name. "We've got orders. Draco's got to do it. Now, Draco, and quickly."
Draco can't move. Dumbledore is slipping down the wall.
"He's not long for this world anyway, if you ask me!" says Amycus gleefully. "Look at him- what's happened to you, then, Dumby?"
"Oh, weaker resistance, slower reflexes, Amycus. Old age, in short…One day, perhaps, it will happen to you…if you are lucky…" says Dumbledore, but his breaths are shorter and shorter.
"What's that mean, then, what's that mean? Always the same, weren't yeh, Dumby, talking and doing nothing, nothing. I don't even know why the Dark Lord's bothering to kill yer! Come on, Draco, do it!" sneers Amycus.
"Now, Draco, quickly!" says the brutal-faced man impatiently as the melee got louder on the staircase.
But his hand is shaking, he's shaking, and he can't move.
"I'll do it," snarls Fenrir, moving quickly towards Dumbledore.
"I said no!" shouts the brutal-faced man, hurling a spell at Fenrir.
"Draco, do it or stand aside so one of us-" screams Alecto, but the doors burst open, and Severus Snape is there, wand in hand.
"We've got a problem, Snape, the boy doesn't seem able-" begins Amycus, but Snape pays no attention to him.
"Severus…" You know what you need to do.
Snape walks to Dumbledore and for a moment, he thinks he cannot do it.
And Severus Snape looks Albus Dumbledore in the eyes, and kills him.
The fight has spilled out of the school and onto the grounds. Cho is dodging curses from a dark-haired Death Eater by the school gates, and she's trying to get him, but he is too quick for her, and escapes. She turns, only to see most of the Death Eaters running away from the school so they could Disapparate off grounds. She starts sending curses at them, but most of them are able to avoid them. Suddenly, she sees an all-too familiar blond boy running towards her.
Time stands still for a moment- just a moment, and they look at each other.
"Draco, what did you do?" she whispers.
He is breathing heavily and the way he's looking at her makes her want to cry. "I…I wish that things were different. I swear I didn't mean it for it to be like this."
And then he's gone, gone into the forest, the night, the utter darkness, and she can see him no longer.
When all the Death Eaters have escaped, and the fighting is over, she somehow makes her way back to the castle. There is a mass of people gathered around something under the tallest tower. She spots Michael at the fringe. He looks pretty bad, robes ripped, with some cuts on his face.
"Michael," she says, and he embraces her.
She hugs back, and when they're done, she says, "What's there?" nodding towards the center of the crowd.
"I don't know." Michael pushes his way through first and Cho follows. He stops, rather suddenly when he gets to the front, and turns to her, his face the palest she's ever seen. "Cho, it's- maybe you shouldn't-"
But she has already pushed ahead of him, and what she sees is Albus Dumbledore, spread-eagled on the grass, dead.
A phoenix sings somewhere in the distance. She can't help but collapse.
"It's the old man's funeral today," says Bellatrix conversationally at breakfast.
Everybody looks up at her except for Snape and Voldemort.
"That's nice. No one cares." Nott says, going back to cutting his bacon.
Her eyes shoot daggers at him, but she turns to Voldemort.. "My lord, wouldn't it be the perfect opportunity to-"
"Attack them? No." Voldemort motions for one of the House-Elves to refill his coffee.
"But my lord, think about it. Everyone would be so vulnerable-"
"Don't be stupid, Bellatrix," Snape cuts in coldly. "All the Aurors will be there. The Order will be there. What makes you think it will be so easy?"
"Are insinuating, Severus, that we are no match for some two-bit Aurors and the Order? Or are you just trying to protect your friends?"
"The Dark Lord knows where my loyalties lie, Bellatrix. Don't you trust him?"
"Of course I trust him. I just don't trust you."
"Enough children," Voldemort says dryly, "you know I dislike bickering at mealtimes."
"But my lord-" Bellatrix starts.
"I said, enough. Severus killed Albus Dumbledore in my name. He has my trust because I have his allegiance. Is that clear?" Voldemort looks straight at Bellatrix.
She looks down as she mumbles, "Yes, my lord."
"Good. Now let's talk of something less tedious, shall we? Rosier, your daughter is getting married, isn't she?"
"Yes, sir, my little Autumn to Jack Rookwood. It's a summer wedding…" and he goes on, but Draco has stopped listening because he has decided that he wants to go to Dumbledore's funeral.
So he finishes his breakfast, and asks Voldemort for permission to go and see his mother. Voldemort assents readily, and Draco goes to get his broom and cloak. When Draco is gone from the table, Voldemort leans over to Snape, and says quietly. "Take my Invisibility Cloak and follow him."
Snape, as usual, obeys.
He watches the funeral from the Forbidden Forest, completely unaware that Snape is within feet of him.
When the last mourner has left, and when twilight falls, Draco Malfoy goes to pay his respects at the white tomb.
He walks slowly, haltingly, making sure no one is around. When he gets there, he is silent for some time.
"I'm sorry," is all he says, is all he can say, "I'm sorry."
The stars come out, and Draco stays by Dumbledore's side for a very, very long time.
That night, while he sleeps, Draco Malfoy dreams of a phoenix rising from its own ashes, living and dying and living and dying and living again.
For some strange, twisted reason, he begins to hope.
After the attack, things are hard at Hogwarts.
Cho spends most days in a daze, with Michael or Marietta. They are beautiful days, full of sun and sky, but barely anyone notices them. She lies in the grass, and just closes her eyes most days, willing for everything to be a dream.
When days are particularly hard, she goes to the Room of Requirement and sits there, to remember and to grieve. Some days, she goes flying.
At the funeral, she comes to terms with the fact that Dumbledore is dead and Draco Malfoy helped him to his death.
She wants desperately to cry, but it doesn't seem fitting. Not to Dumbledore, who firmly believed in happy endings, and not to Draco Malfoy, who didn't. So she holds her tears in and tries desperately not to die inside.
It's hard for her to say goodbye to the castle. Hard because it is the place where she has spent some of her happiest days, hard because it is where Cedric Diggory was, hard because it was where Draco Malfoy was. Hard because she played Quidditch there, hard because she studied with Michael there, hard because she had met Marietta there. Hard because she was going into a much bleaker world.
But she manages it, somehow.
The last place is the white tomb.
She has become extraordinarily good at talking to dead people.
"I didn't bring flowers," she tells him, "because look, the place is heaped with them, and nobody's thought to clear them, and they're all dying, and dying flowers are so sad. I know you wouldn't mind, Professor. You understand."
She places the one thing she has brought with her on the tomb.
"I'm not leaving this here. I'm not leaving this here because god knows what will happen to it if I do. I'm keeping it for you, like you asked, Professor, until..."
She has to blink, and she closes her eyes because it's easier. "Anyway. I thought you might like a visit from it. I wish we had gotten to share more romance novels. I was actually starting to warm to the genre. You've convinced me." She smiles for no one.
"Though, in terms of literary criticism and all that, technically I don't think one can consider this book a romance novel. It's really about…well, I guess I don't really know what it's about. It's not really about love, though. It's about so much more."
She flops down on the green grass because she feels like. "And I know you'd probably disagree, because you definitely belong to the Love Is The Be-All and End-All school of thought…hell- ooh, excuse my language, Professor, you probably ran it. But I think you're wrong. There is so much more to life than love. It takes so much more than that to live."
"I'm off tangent. I didn't mean to get off tangent. What I meant to say was that we're quite lost without you. And thank you. For everything."
She stays, a little longer, because the sky is blue and the sun is out. Because it's a beautiful day and because she can't tear herself away.
It isn't until she's sitting on the Hogwarts Express that she realizes, for the first time, she called him Draco.
Alone in the compartment, she puts her head in her hands and finally cries. She cries for Dumbledore. For uncertainty and for loss. She cries for Draco Malfoy, and she cries for herself. And most of all, she cries for everything that might have been, and everything that was.