Author's Note - Wow, three chapters in one day. And here's the last one, the very last chapter of Fire Dragon. I've been planning this ending for years...ever since I wrote Draco and Hermione's first summer together, the one where Draco visits Hermione. It's not perfect, but I like it. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for all the wonderful reviews. This has been quite the literary adventure for me. If you're wondering, no, there won't be a sequel. Sorry, it's just not in my plan. Also, this is officially the end of my Harry Potter fanfiction career. I'm closing the door on this part of my writing adventure to focus solely on my other novel (and the others that will inevitably come after it)...the one I'm going to try to get published. So, without further ado, the last chapter of Fire Dragon. ::takes a bow::
Another Note - The title means, in very loose Latin, "The Beginning of Something New."
Disclaimer - I own nothing except the concept of the Ignius.
Chapter Sixty Nine
"Exordium Quispiam Novus "
Draco was dead.
Hermione appeared in the middle of Haven's kitchen. The house was silent, empty. A few unwashed drinking glasses stood by the sink and someone had left the box of Wizard O's out from the previous morning. Had it really only been a day, a few hours since the final battle? In such a short span of time everything had changed.
Like the dead, Hermione stumbled into the living room. Draco was dead. Harry was dead. Ron had died. Her parents were dead. What had happened to the rest of her friends, the other members of the DA Core? Was there even a DA Core anymore? What were they now? What was she? Who was she without them? Exhaling heavily, she sank down on to the floor, her face resting against the fabric of the sofa. Hermione closed her eyes.
This wasn't happening, she thought.
Hermione shot to her feet and spun around, searching for the owner of the voice.
"Hermione," it said again.
Recognition dawned on her and her heart broke. "D-Draco?" she choked out, her ears straining.
Was he alive?
She took off, racing through the house, throwing doors open.
"Draco!" she called.
His voice continued to ring in her ears, the memory of him strong and compelling.
Hermione whirled around, tearing through everything around her, her mind hearing his voice but her eyes deceiving her. It just couldn't be true. Hermione couldn't believe he was dead. She stopped suddenly in the middle of the hallway. He wasn't dead. She knew he wasn't dead. How could he be dead? The love of her life was alive. He just had to be. Whichever fates were in control of her life would not and could not be as cruel as to leave her here on Earth without Draco. Hermione was convinced.
She searched her mind, rooted through all her memories and all the areas of her brain she could access on her own. He had to be there.
However, her thoughts seemed empty without the constant stream of foreign consciousness that belonged to him. Hermione felt empty and alone. She found herself in her bedroom and climbed onto the bed with the cautious care of one in pain and curled up on her side. If she closed her eyes, Hermione could almost imagine his arms wrapping around her, the soft feathers of his wings tickling her cheeks, and heat pouring into her body where his skin met hers. If only she concentrated enough...
Hermione curled in on herself, remembering the last conversation they had had together.
"Everything will be normal again after all of this is over, right?"
Draco sighed. "What's normal?" he asked morosely.
"Everything seemed so normal two years ago. Merlin, even a year ago," she said. "When did everything get so screwed up? Ron is dead. My parents are dead. Your mother's dead. Hogwarts is dark. We're in hiding. How did this all happen?"
He shook his head and stared up at the ceiling. "I don't know, Hermione," he said, though they both knew exactly how it all happened.
"I wish we could go back to how things used to be. When we were just students."
"Back when the biggest worries we had were homework and exams?"
Hermione nodded. "Yeah."
"Me too," he said quietly.
Homework, essays, exams, and school. It all meant nothing to Hermione now. Everything meant nothing. Burying her face into the pillow, she cried, hugging her belly as if it ached. And as such, she fell asleep.
Sometime the next morning, Hermione found herself falling out of bed. She landed on the ground, her hair askew. Voices came from the hallway, voices that belonged to Ginny, Neville, and Luna. Hermione panicked and for what she did not know why. Her eyes widened and her ears strained, and suddenly, she wanted nothing else than to be left alone. Even the mere action of having to speak to another person, talk about his death, about the fact that life must go on, brought sharp spikes of anxiety through her insides. Hurriedly, she got to her feet, closed her eyes, and disappeared.
She reappeared in the middle of a street, her arms pinwheeling to keep her balance. It had been risky apparating into the Muggle neighborhood in the middle of the day, but Hermione found herself not caring about anything anymore. Nothing mattered.
Looking up, she saw her house at the end of the street. Except it was no longer her house. With her parents dead, ownership of her house now belonged to a young couple with two kids. Toys scattered the front porch and somewhere a child was screaming. Hermione cautiously crossed the front lawn and stared at the house that was no longer her home. She closed her eyes against the memories that came, memories of growing up and memories of her parents. Hermione buried her face in her hands and sunk down onto the bottom step not caring what the new owners would say if they saw her.
Hermione had very little left in the world. In the briefest of timespans, nearly everything that had mattered had been ripped from her in the most violent and terrible of ways.
"Draco?" Hermione sat up, her eyes wide with alarm. "Do you smell smoke?"
Her head jerked up and she dissolved into another bout of tears, unable to avoid the next memory that appears on the steps beside her.
Sniffing the air, Draco shook his head. "No."
Hermione stood. "I do," she said, hopping down the few steps leading down to the ground. "Something's on fire." She turned and poked quickly through the bushes decorating the exterior of her house, her nose leading her like a Point Me spell.
Draco followed her, testing the air. "I still don't smell anything."
Frowning, Hermione glanced back at him. "I did," she said, turning and heading back to the porch steps. "I'm sure of it…right here." She gestured to the steps where they previously lounged. Leaning down, she gave the steps two quick sniffs and frowned. "I know I smelled smoke." She glanced up at Draco. "Are you sure you didn't smell anything?"
He shook his head. "Nothing," he said.
Biting her bottom lip, Hermione propped her hands on her hips. "I know what I smelled," she said. "I'm not barmy."
Draco smirked, quirking an eyebrow. "I don't know about that," he drawled.
"Oh, shut it," she said, smacking him lightly on the shoulder.
He chuckled and sat down. "Come on, Granger," he said. "Your overactive mind probably just imagined it."
Hermione made a hasty example of disapparition and reappeared just outside the gates to Hogwarts.
The official memorial service for those who had fallen in the war was held at Hogwarts. Groups of people walked past Hermione as she stood in the middle of the pathway leading up to the castle, her eyes staring at the stone facade. Her palms began to sweat and her heart skipped a few beats. She turned and watched the people around her make their way to the castle, people she knew and people she didn't. They were all here for the same purpose. To say their goodbyes.
Reluctantly, she followed them, passing through the double doors. Once inside, she paused just to the side of the doors and closed her eyes. Hermione breathed, one hand rubbing across her forehead, willing herself to go on. She had to say goodbye.
However, when she opened her eyes, all she saw was the past. Her eyes became unfocused as an old memory came into focus. This was where it had all began in this exact spot so many years ago.
Running across the Entrance Hall, she crashed into another person, their legs becoming entangled, both falling to the ground.
"Watch where you're going, Granger," Draco Malfoy growled, his pale, blond hair in disarray and his eyes a wall of cold steel.
Hermione looked up in surprise and quickly extricated herself from the fuming Malfoy heir. Standing up, she brushed off her robes and watched as Draco go to his feet, sneering the entire time.
Running his hands along his clothing, he glared at her. "Filthy Mudblood," he shot out at her, his eyes cruel and awaiting her reaction.
"Really Malfoy," she said. "One would have thought you'd grown up by now." The scathing remark slid from her mouth easily, and before Draco could reply, Hermione turned on her heel and entered the Great Hall, letting the door slam behind her.
Hermione closed her eyes, covering her face with one hand. She couldn't watch any longer, the pain growing too great within her chest. If she focused, if she let her mind fall to the side, she could almost hear his voice, the scathing cadence that she had been greeted with. It was all just too much.
A few people entered the Great Hall for the memorial service, and Hermione barely spared them a glance and turned, her footsteps clipping along the stones. Though her mind wandered from one painful corner of her psyche to the other, her feet lead her to one specific place. Looking up, she sighed, realizing she'd taken herself to Classroom thirty-one. Her hand hovered over the door handle. Breath hitching in her throat, Hermione opened the door to Classroom thirty-one. Dust had long since accumulated, covering everything in a thick film of gray. Hermione let one of her fingers run through the dirt covering one of the desks, memories flooding her mind, so many memories, memories she loved and hated at the same time. Tearing her hand away, she held it against her chest as if injured. Her eyes drifted to the tall cabinet that still stood in the corner of the room.
Draco shoved her out of the way, his wand out. "Bloody hell, Granger," he said as Hermione stumbled back, barely catching herself against the window sill. "Anybody would expect you to know a boggart when you see one," he said.
Hermione gaped at him and then the boggart as it began to shift into Draco's worst nightmare. She watched as the boggart lengthened, its hair beginning to lighten from blood-matted black to pristine blond.
"Riddikulus," he shouted, and the boggart, which had taken on the form of his father, soon found itself dressed in hot pink robes and swiftly shoved back into the cupboard, a whispered charm spelling the cupboard shut.
Hermione wrenched the cupboard open, an almost expectant look on her face. However, all that resided inside was more dust and a lone mouse that scurried out from the shadows. Her shoulders sagged. The boggart had been banished years ago.
Pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes, Hermione tried to breath. However, across the small classroom, two figures materialized, hunched over one of the desks.
"Granger," he said once he noticed what she was drawing. "Stop drawing flowers on my quidditch game."
"I'm not," she said. "I'm drawing them around your quidditch game."
"Granger!" he shouted. "There are other desks to draw on."
At a new, fresh desk, she began outlining a couple books, giving them titles and wings. A wand appeared in the lower left corner, tiny sparks coming from the tip, no doubt enchanting the flying books.
"Draco?" she asked after a few moments.
"What?" he answered back, his back still turned, focused on his drawing.
"Who're you going to the Yule Ball with?" she asked, giving the feathers on the wings definition.
"Why do you want to know?" he asked.
"I don't know." She shrugged. "Just curious."
The ghostly figures disappeared. To her left, one of the desks burst into flame. It was such an odd thing to happen. Hermione stared at it, reaching out with one hand, only to have the flames disappear. She spun around and called his name, but he didn't answer because he was dead. However, a barest tinge of smoke hung in the air. She gripped her head, remembering when she'd first confirmed that he was an Ignius. Hermione closed her eyes, but the voices still came.
"That wasn't accidental magic…was it?"
"I was going to say an Ignius."
"I'm different, Granger. More different than you could ever imagine."
She couldn't take it anymore. Hermione found herself wandering the hallways, avoiding teams of witches and wizards working to get Hogwarts functioning again. Darkness still clung to many corners of the castle, those particular areas partitioned off with spells and wards as they worked. Hermione, however, disregarded the warnings and traipsed through the castle. It seemed empty, not a physical emptiness, but one that resided in her heart. The DA Core was now a mere shadow of what it had been.
The seventh floor was warded off, an unnatural chill clinging to the air. Dark Arts had a tendency to cling to anything with a physical existence. She knew the Curse Breakers would have a hell of a time getting parts of Hogwarts still tainted by darkness back to what it had once been. The hair on Hermione's arms stood on end as she paced from one end of the hallway to the other, willing the door to the Hide Away to appear. Chills vibrated up her spine and she got a distinctive impression that someone was watching her. Her eyes slid to the side, watching for anything out of the ordinary. However, the hallway was empty.
The door appeared, and Hermione hastily entered into the familiar room, glancing behind her warily. With the door closing silently behind her, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Stray textbooks sat absentmindedly on one of the study tables, the chairs pulled out, as if someone had gotten up for just a moment and was to return. Hermione rested her hands on one of the chairs, her fingers wrapping around the wood, and pushed the chair in. She did the same for the rest of the chairs, stacking the few books into a neat pile. Her hand brushed through the coating of dust on the books, leaving faint streaks. On the wall, the Marauder's Map still hung as it had before Hogwarts had fallen. One corner was torn, hanging somberly.
Someone had left a packet of Bertie Bott's Beans on the coffee table near the fireplace. A few Wizarding magazines were scattered about, a lone shoe sticking out from beneath the table. Hermione looked at it and sighed. Then her eyes caught upon something else. Something black was partially hidden beneath the couch. Hermione knelt down, her fingers closing around one of Draco's feathers. A new wave of tears hit her unaware as her fingers ran along the feather. It was one of the soft, downy feathers from the underside of his wings. With it came another memory.
"Draco," she said. "Wake up."
"Mmm…" Taking a deep breath, he stretched his arms above his head, arching his back.
"Come on, wake up," she repeated, poking him in the chest.
Peeking one eye open, he glared at her. "What?" he grumbled.
"You need to get up," she said.
Bracing his hands on either side of him, he went to push himself up, but paused, one hand resting upon a feathered wing. Eyes bulging, he stared at the newest addition to his body. Sitting up quickly, his wings following his movement, he craned his neck backwards to look at them.
"Your wings," Hermione said, a smile growing on her lips. "You got your wings."
Something brushed against her arm as the memory ended. Hermione turned around, one hand touching the side of her arm. She glanced at her skin and looked about the room, but nobody was with her.
"There's an oath we say," he explained. "I'll say it, and then we say it in unison."
"Alright," she said, shifting slightly.
"Ego vestra cum tu ascio," he said.
Mouthing the words several times, Hermione committed them to memory.
"What does it mean?" she asked.
"I am yours, as you are mine," he answered. "Ready?"
The back of her mind swelled and diminished in a familiar sense for a fraction of a second. Hermione turned cold, her consciousness groping about for the familiarity of Draco's presence in her thoughts. But he wasn't there.
More memories came, memories of the DA Core, of Hermione and Draco together, memories that proved to Hermione that nothing would ever be the same. The DA Core was broken, a fraction of what they had been or would ever be again.
Hermione closed her eyes and she could almost imagine all the voices that had once filled the Hideaway, voices laughing, arguing, discussing. She rubbed at her eyes, feeling more tired and spent than anything else. Remembering had taken its toll, and Hermione knew this was only the beginning. How could she live without her friends, without the DA Core, and most important, without Draco? Sighing, she ripped her hands through her hair. She couldn't live without them. The truth plain and simple.
Sighing again, she shook her head and left.
Later that day, Hermione found herself in the Great Hall, the great double doors closing behind her. She watched Ginny, Neville, and Luna from a distance. She wanted and needed her friends, but something stopped her, caused her to halt in the middle of her steps. They sat in the Great Hall at one of the long tables. People surrounded them and congregated in small groups scattered about the room. The memorial service had been earlier that day, Hermione avoiding the Great Hall, not wanting to deal with people. However, now that things had calmed down, many families having gone home, she emerged from her personal trip to hell and back and sought out what was left of her friends.
Luna looked up from her quiet conversation with Ginny and Neville and stood, slipping her hand out of Neville's. Her eyes drifted across the room and her feet lead her forward. Hermione smiled softly as her friend approached her.
"Luna..." she began.
Luna's eyes glazed over. "A single soul, when split, skews reality though an individual's eyes. However, when two halves become whole again, reality and the here and now become forever," she foretold.
Luna smiled and gestured at the far wall. "Go on, everything will be alright," she said before returning to the table with Ginny and Neville.
Hermione's eyes followed where Luna gestured. A great memorial had been erected in the Great Hall. Made of stone, Hermione stepped closer, her eyes watching as magic etched names into the stone, names of those who had died. Her hand reached out, her fingers running along names she knew, names of people she loved. Her friends. Her parents. Draco's mother. Draco. Her fingers followed the scripted formation of his name, tears brimming in her eyes for the millionth time that day. Hermione shook her head. Seeing his name written on the memorial seemed to cement the fact that he was dead in her mind. He was truly gone. It was over. She was alive and he was dead. And then her finger ran over the name scribed below his and her heart stopped.
She froze where she stood, her eyes reading the name over and over again until it held no meaning and only sounds arranged into syllables.
"I've been trying to tell you," a voice said behind her.
Someone took her hand, someone familiar, and the back of her mind opened, familiarity flooding through her. Hermione's knees grew weak and she found herself sinking towards the stone flags.
"It's alright. I'm here." Draco wrapped his arms around Hermione.
Hermione closed her eyes, wanting it to be true.
"It's okay," he murmured. "Everything's okay."
She clung to his arms, frightened that it was only an illusion, another memory coming to torment her.
"Hermione, look at me."
She shook her head.
"Look at me," he said again.
Her head bowed, and though his scent enveloped her, she was too scared that he was not real, that turning around to look at him would break the spell and she would be alone again.
"I don't want to be alone," she whispered.
I'm scared you're not real.
I'm as real as you.
Hermione smiled slightly.
Just look at me, love, and you'll see.
Reluctantly, she let him go and stood up. Turning around, Draco stood before her. He grinned.
"See, as real as can be," he said, gesturing to himself.
Hermione laughed, tears streaming down her face. The laugh turned to cries and she soon found herself sobbing uncontrollably.
"Hey," Draco said, drawing her into his arms. "Why're you crying?"
"Unfortunately," he said.
Teary eyed, she gazed up at him. "But you're here."
He nodded. "I'm here," he said. "And I'm not going anywhere."
"Where'd everybody go?" Hermione asked then, looking around the Great Hall. It was empty except for the two of them and the war memorial.
Draco glanced about the room and shrugged. "The living come and go," he said. "But that doesn't matter."
"No." He held out his hand. "Come on."
She took his hand. "Where're we going?"
Draco grinned mischievously. "Potter and Weasley are around here somewhere," he said.
And with that, they left the Great Hall, beginning something new.