A/n- Thanks to all you guys who reviewed! You are totally awesome: magic2007, Max Ride Fan 13, Natural-181, The Princess Wolf, Zarroc, FairyPrincessWithATwist, Mazakai, Kitematsu, Dwindlingcandle, and Lildaani. Long Author's Note at the end!
Disclaimer: Okay, I lied; Harry Potter was mine all along…
Summary: Somewhere between what should have happened, what has happened, and what will happen.
Note: The sections in between italics are memories/flashbacks; it switches back and forth. Oh, and at the end part of this, I was listening to "Your Guardian Angel" by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, it really mirrors the mood.
The Other Side of Fate
"AH-HA! Check mate! Check mate! Ahahahahahahaaaaa!!!"
Draco grimaced, eyes turning upwards towards the ceiling, a reproachful look melting slowly away into a lopsided grin. He pushed the chess board away from him as his King splintered and shattered against the marble board. Ginny pumped the air with her fist, the late morning sun filtering in through the open back door of the Burrow, rebounding off her hair like waves of liquid fire.
"You were never this good before." Malfoy laughed, running a hand through his silver-blonde hair, trying to analyze how he could have possibly lost to a Weasley.
Ginny whistled low, pulling the collar of her nightshirt higher on her neck, sipping cider from a large mug. "I'm just better then you, Draco Malfoy; deal with it."
Draco had to smile, he had to.
It had been a month; a month and a half since that horrifying last battle with the Dark Lord. Years, it seemed years since he had left Hogwarts.
The Castle, and the Burrow for that matter- even after only a month, felt like home in so many ways- unlike the Manor.
Currently, Malfoy was living for a brief stint with the Weasleys. Accompanying him in his extended stay in the household was Harry and Hermione; both deciding that this crucial time of 'reconstructing lives' should be done together.
The offer had come from Ron himself, much to Draco's surprise.
And the offer had come after the Aurors had spoke with Draco at St. Mungo's…
The air seemed to be constricting him, pulling his lungs inward from all sides.
"Mr. Malfoy." One of the Aurors pulled out his mother's wand from somewhere within their flowing robes. Neither pity nor anger reflected in the man's face. It was as if he was simply handing over a discarded piece of litter.
The air was so cold.
There, in the whitewashed halls of the Wizard's Hospital, Draco expected them to shackle him immediately, produce discerning evidence that he had committed murder; had killed his father with his mother's own wand
He would be taken away, wouldn't he? Away from Hermione, the woman he loved.
A surging fear, rising like bile in the back of his throat, was forcibly pressed deep, deep down into his subconscious. The next words to pass from his parted lips were a forced kind of calm.
"My mother's wand." Draco simply stated, not reaching for it.
"Yes." The witch, to the man's left, mused. "We found this next to the body of your father, Lucius Malfoy." Draco knew he had to act surprised, he had to mask his face with shock and hurt and betrayal. Nothing would come. His face remained a blank mask of frozen fear. "You are aware of his death?" The women questioned
"Uhn." Was all Malfoy could utter.
"I see…" The woman said, her eyes quickly darting to her partner and then back to Draco in an instant; if he'd have blinked, he would have missed it. She started her next sentence with deliberate care. "I am sorry to inform you that we are unable to identify your father's killer. You see, your mother's wand was used, it was the Killing Curse, yet, we cannot find your mother anywhere. We also are highly doubtful that Narsissa Malfoy would have killed her husband. Perhaps a fellow Deatheater betrayed your father. We understand that you were fighting against his people, yet, his death must still be hard for you to take."
"She's dead too."
Both the Aurors stared at him.
Before Malfoy could grasp at the speech which had previously ensued; he had to clear up the bit of misinformation about his mother.
"She-" flooding warmth was rushing through Draco's veins. Stopping, he swallowed; his pale neck extending just a fraction; as if this would help air flow into his immobilized lungs. "My mother; she's dead. I heard him say so. At the Manor… you-" A sudden thought stuck him. "You must go to the Manor at once! We had Muggle maids! I am sure the Dark Lord has locked them up; some of them might already be dead. I am sure my mother's body will be there."
He was going to fall; fall to his knees, it was too hard, he couldn't…he couldn't…
The wizard spoke in a halting, jerky voice. "We were…unaware…of such… information…"
Obviously! And they were Aurors…
"We'll be in contact with you." The women said harshly. "This new development needs our immediate attention." The man shoved Narsissa's wand into Malfoy's hand. "The matter of the Malfoy Estate is of importance to us, to be sure, but this, this…"
"Anything I can do to help."
"We've got to hurry, Morgan." The wizard turned swiftly on his heel and began sprinting down the hall in the opposite direction. The witch took one last look at Malfoy.
"We'll be in contact with you; the arrangements, the Manor."
She hurried down the hall after her partner.
As soon as the pair had rounded the corner, Malfoy heaved a breath he had not known he had been holding.
Shaking, Draco leaned against the hallway wall.
They would never know.
No one would ever know.
His mother's wand was pressed firmly to his chest, his knuckles white against the dark wood.
Slowly, his thin fingers found his pale hair. Twisting the silver strands, he tried to reason with himself.
This was a dream. It was all a dream.
Someone had opened the door to Ron's room. Malfoy didn't notice, he was staring blankly at the lanoline floor. The colors seemed to be spinning.
"Draco?" She had crouched down next to him. "Merlin, you're white as a ghost!" A small laugh. "Draco? Malfoy?" Hermione noticed that the crystal blue of his eyes were encompassed in a wide, unblinking frame of white. "Oh my god; are you alright?!"
Her warm arms encircled his shoulders.
Narsissa's wand fell to the floor.
"Harry! Harry!" Hermione was yelling over her shoulder.
A laugh bubbled up from Draco's lungs, sweet relief flooding his brain and making him high.
He would get away with it…
In the days- weeks- following the Dark's Lord's demise, it had come as no shock that the numbness that had once occupied them began to fade as the reality of what had happened finally sunk in.
People, to put it in what Malfoy thought was the most basic of words, were dead.
Some, most, Draco had never spoken to nor had even met. Yet, he and the others had attended more funerals in the weeks following their discharge from St. Mungo's then Malfoy would have ever thought possible for a human being; that Malfoy would have ever thought healthy.
But more surprising then that, was the fact that the life, the simply joys and happiness's and pleasures in life, had not been sucked out of them. The numbness had ebbed, but their vitality had not.
Harry, for one, did not stare lifelessly at those around him; as if the loss and pain he felt within his soul had crippled him. He smiled, joked even, and was good natured. It was hard for him, yes, but Draco thought because the four of them had shouldered the weight of the Dark Lord's demise together- Potter had eased himself out of complete guilt.
And Ginny only wept at funerals. Oh, joy! It had ben assumed by Draco that the majority of his stay at the Burrow would have been compiled of Potter's moping and Ginny's hysterics. The ease it gave the Slytherin to see the Mini- Weasel smiling was near ridiculous.
Speaking of Weasels. Ron… well, Ron was Ron. He showed the most significant change. Yet, it wasn't as if it was for the worse. Now, it seemed that the boy demanded more from life- took less of it for granted. Pleased by the simple things, no one needed to ask him twice for a task to be completed or had to beg him for help out around the house. Ron would do as asked, willingly, smiling and joking as he went.
Surprisingly, Mrs. Weasley didn't have any nervous breakdown of any kind. Draco knew, for a distinct and definitive fact, that it was because of this woman and this woman alone that those from the DA and the Order had not lapsed into wallowing despair.
Malfoy had proof.
A week after even the most injured was sent away from the hospital with a 'clean bill of health', when the shock of death was so new that not a tear had yet to be shed, Molly Weasley had stood in front of her now largely extended family, and proposed a toast.
"Now," She shrilled in her wondrously mothering voice. "All of you listen here." The table was completely silent, faces turned in rapture towards the woman. "I want to…" For a moment it seemed as if her voice wavered, yet, she cleared it and continued on. "I wanted to express my love for all of you sitting at our table tonight. Let us not dwell on the past, on the loss of life, but on the future and how the sacrifices of some have ensured the lives of many." Tears were in Hermione's eyes; Draco cupped her small hand in his. "Celebrate the lives of those who have left us; celebrate the time they had with us and look towards a brighter…. " She didn't finish all the way.
Mr. Weasley stood up as his wife smiled blearily out at them. He placed a hand on his wife's shoulder and smiled reassuringly.
From that day forward, Molly had always lit candles in the kitchen window; one for each of those lost- may they be Gryffindor or Slytherin, Deatheater or Order member.
Yet, Draco had to admit, it wasn't as if the woman's speech had suddenly transformed them all into naïve, emotionless little dolls.
On particular occasions, when it was an especially gloomy night, when grief did surface, one could sometimes find a friend curled up by the fire, ready and willing to discuss the fond memories of a loved one lost; a smile on their face and tears in their eyes.
Never the less, Malfoy firmly accredited the minimal loss of sanity to Molly. Her philosophy had stayed them all from the torture of such anguish.
Suddenly, the clock next to the doorway of the Burrow's kitchen chimed nine, his musings of the past interrupted. Malfoy jumped and the table he and Ginny had been playing at rattled; one of his castle's fell over with a clatter.
"Twitchy little Ferret." Ginny murmured over the rim of her glass, smiling smugly.
Draco gave her a look. The girl giggled.
"Draco?" Someone called from the other room. Malfoy's chest heaved, a slight lightheaded feeling taking him over.
"Here." He called to Hermione, a sneer in his voice as he glared at the red head before him. "The Mini- Weasel's just destroyed my pride."
The girl in the other room laughed, thoroughly amused. Draco grinned, getting up from his hunched position on the chair. He plucked Ginny's empty cup from her hands and placed it with the other dishes that were being magically washed in the oversized sink.
A small smile twitched over the boy's lips
Over the doorway from which Hermione then appeared, four glass cases refracted the sunlight, dappling the walls in small rainbows. Within them, four separate rolls of parchment glittered with gold ink. Order of Merlin: First Class, one for each of them: Hermione, Ron, Harry, and Draco.
It was fitting, Draco thought, to have the four awards hang there together.
Admittedly, it made him a bit uncomfortable to think that, when he eventually left the comforting atmosphere of the Weasley household, his award would be removed from the wall and hung alone, by itself, in some cold hall of the Malfoy household. Not that this would come as a shock to him, for Hermione's prize would vanish too, yet it would be unnerving to have them separated.
"Draco?" Hermione was standing behind him, a hand on his arm. She pressed a kiss to his pale neck. "You're staring off into space again."
Malfoy smirked. "Always."
"You're going out?" Ginny chirped casually, still sitting at the table.
Hermione nodded, plucking one of the wicker baskets from its peg above the sink. Malfoy said nothing, but watched the girl carefully line the inside of the wickerwork with one of Molly's clean hand towels. Her fingers were so delicate; warm. She moved towards the pantry where the milk and cheese were kept magically cold.
Ginny clapped her hands, "A picnic, even!"
"Weasley, don't you have somewhere to be?" Draco hissed, rolling his eyes towards her in mock hatred. "Like following Potter around, licking his heels?"
From within the pantry, Hermione clucked her tongue, Ginny pursed her lips.
"That wasn't very nice." She said curtly, folding her arms.
"I'm not nice." Draco shot back.
"Now, now, children," Hermione reemerged with a cut of cheese, some crackers, half a salami, and a small bag of fruit she had bought from the Muggle green grocer. "We're only going up on the hill, Ginny." The girl nodded in reference to the sloping hillock towards the back of the Weasley's property line.
Licking his lips, Malfoy caught Hermione's eye, distracted from his momentary ill will towards Ginny. "Perhaps you could pack up some of those- what are they- pop bottles?"
She sighed. "Those aren't good for you; I don't know why I bought them. All these Muggle treats, it's like giving candy to a baby." Despite her own grievances, Hermione grabbed two chilled bottles- a Root Beer for her and an Orange Cream, Malfoy's new favorite. Hermione would always laugh at when, after the bottle was finished, his lips would be stained ginger.
Stacking the food and drink neatly into the basket, Hermione shouldered it, waving off Draco's attempts to carry it for her.
"We should be back in a little bit, if you see Harry or Ron," She whispered towards Ginny, "Don't tell them where we've gone." Ginny grinned, tapping her wand upon the chess board, the pieces rearranging and repairing themselves.
As she was speaking, the Slytherin moved towards the backdoor. Leaning there, he ran a hand through his hair, chin thrust into the air, eyes flickering across the room. Hermione did a double take, taken aback by the way the sunlight framed his tall figure. She flushed red.
Draco arched an eyebrow.
"All right!" Hermione shooed him out, the door closing behind them with a hard pull of the handle. Ginny moved to the sink window, waving. The red head watched them trudge across the Weasley's back lawn until they disappeared behind the wall of trees that separated the yard from the rest of their acreage.
A soft morning wind blew through the lowland, rustling the leaves around the pair as they took the barely beaten path through the weedy grass. Hermione's simple pink blouse caught one of the drafts and the fabric rippled.
She grinned, her arm hooked around Draco's. The boy helped her over the tiny brook that separated the land and the start of the hill.
Inclining his head, Malfoy nodded over to a leaning shack near the tree line.
"It's their old Quidditch supply shed."
"Draco?" She blinked up at him, her soft brown eyes smoldering.
"How are Blaise and Goyle? And Pansy? I know you were in touch with them last week when the Aurors let you go back home. You never explained what happened-" Biting his lip, he could see that Hermione sensed his hesitation. "Never mind."
Quickly, he backpedaled. "No, no. It's just…" He trailed off, looking up at the sun now partially shielded by the treetops and the cresting grass. "I only spoke to Goyle. He was at the Manor when I got there."
Hermione looked confused.
Draco began to narrate as they trudged up the grass.
"I'll explain everything Hermione…you see, it was that Thursday morning when I went to the Ministry…
Draco looked up from his chair in the stuffy office; above, tiny paper airplane notes zoomed between departments. His hands fell onto his knees, hair fallen in his face.
"Yes?" Breathless, it was nearly embarrassing.
"Mr. Mason will see you now."
Malfoy nodded curtly, standing and smoothing out his button up black shirt. Face drawn into a tight mask, his eyes only darted to the secretary before slipping into the Auror's office.
"Draco Malfoy." It was the same man from before, the same Auror that had talked to him outside Ron's room at St. Mungo's. "Sit, please." From behind his large desk, the man motioned to a chair against the wall. As soon as he spoke, the chair zoomed from the corner to the opposite side of the desk.
Draco sat stiffly.
Looking around, he noticed the pictures of the wizard's children- two girls, not even ten.
The man cleared his throat. Draco's attention was drawn back. Mr. Mason was shuffling rolls of parchment. The grandfather clock in the corner next to the Ficus tocked loudly.
"I'm sorry to call you to the Ministry so early, Mr. Malfoy." It was strange for Draco to be addressed so; like Lucius. "But the paperwork we contacted you about earlier on in the week is almost complete. I just needed some signatures and we can be on our way."
On Monday Malfoy had received a stack of legal papers regarding his finances and guardianship. The latter problem had been fixed, for Draco was now of age. The former, however, was hard for him to come to terms with.
"Here are the papers from Gringotts," The parchment roll was pulled from the pile and placed in front of Draco, the man's quill pointing to some parts of the articles of contract. "This states that you take on the Malfoy finances, including within thereof your father and mother's joint bank accounts and your fathers' stock and bond options. It will be placed under your name. If you will sign here and…here."
Draco took the quill and signed.
"Right, good, now," The man produced a larger stack. "These are the papers concerning the entirety of your parent's worldly possessions; the Manor and what it contains. Your father's Will was very clear on all of this; you were to get everything. Very simple as Wills go, actually. But there are a few pages to sign."
Draco pressed the quill to paper and assumed control of his own life.
He felt… a strange sense of liberation.
"I-" Malfoy stumbled over his words. "That's all? Just a few signatures and my parent's lives are now mine?"
The Auror nodded, taking his quill back- a lovely white owl's feather- and placing it back within its well. "That's about right Mr. Malfoy."
"Please don't call me that."
Mr. Mason blinked across at the Slytherin. Draco's hands were balled into fists and he stared broodingly at the parchment, a silent war raging within his head. Sighing, the man restacked the papers, filing them away in Draco's legal record.
"As you know… Draco." The man stared out uneasily. "There is still the issue of your parents' burial."
The offhanded way the topic was brought up seemed to knock the wind out of Malfoy's lungs.
Leaning forward, Mr. Mason splayed his hands out wide. "You were informed that the bodies of your parents were being held by the Ministry until they could be released to you, yes?"
Draco nodded mutely; the man continued.
"I'm not usually one for the legal side of matters- it's not my department you see- only when a subject is in the interest of my department do I get wrapped up in this sort of thing. Your father was under investigation, that's why I am in charge of your legal status. You do realize we have searched your house and seized all evidence and Dark Arts materials, correct? I believe that was outlined in the letter as well."
Another nod, but Malfoy said nothing.
"Our work here is done, Draco, you do realize that, yes? We have completed our investigation, carried out your father's will, and finished with the legal paper work. Your parents are being released to you, Draco; I wanted to know if you had made any plans."
Suddenly Malfoy felt as if he was having a heat attack; his pulse speeding up exponentially. His grey eyes widened.
"And I don't want to frighten you, but there is still the aspect of the Muggle maids your father had control over. Strictly speaking it is illegal to keep Muggles against their will but it seems that the women working at the Malfoy Manor had not been forced, perhaps merely threatened. You may either keep them on as staff or send them away."
The room fell silent for a moment.
A paper airplane note zoomed into the room and fluttered down upon the Auror's desk. The man took not notice of it; he was still staring at Draco.
When Mr. Mason spoke again, it was in a soft, fatherly tone. "Please ask me if I can help in any way and I'll be glad to."
Draco's long pale fingers flexed into fists and then relaxed again. He did this four of five times, trying to clear his head. Mr. Mason waited without prodding. Vaguely, Draco felt that the man had realized he had pushed too hard too fast. He was allowing Draco to absorb all the information.
Slowly, the Slytherin allowed himself to come to some gradual conclusions. "I don't care what you do with my father." Mr. Mason controlled his surprise; Draco glanced up at him and seeing no indignation, continued. "I want my mother to be buried on the property. This afternoon if that can be arranged. The maids will be dismissed."
"We can have the casket delivered at a moment's notice."
Both of them stood up.
"Thank you for all your help Mr. Mason."
"Owl me with any questions you might have."
Draco nodded, extending his hand out for the man to shake…
Draco and Hermione had reached the summit of the hill whilst Draco was in the middle of his story. Hermione magically expanded the small dishtowel she had packed into a blanket so they could both sit.
Both the Soda Pop bottles were opened and stuck into the earth at an odd angle. Draco was flipping the Orange Cream bottle cap up in the air and catching it again, leaning back to lay against the ground, his arms under his head.
Hermione sat next to him, arms around her knees. "You told me they just wanted to discuss the estate."
"I didn't want to worry you."
The girl smiled warmly, leaning down to brush Draco's lips with hers. "I appreciate it, but you can tell me, you know you can. It must have been hard for you; you shouldn't have kept that all bottled up inside."
Draco shrugged, closing his eyes, tongue whirling around his mouth so he could taste the faintest hint of sugar. "I thought I told you I buried my mother."
"You did- but that was all. I didn't want to pry." Hermione lay on the blanket too, her hand finding Malfoy's and holding it against her side. "So, at the Manor, that's where you saw Gregory?"
Draco turned to her and propped himself up on his elbow.
"Yeah… he was waiting for me that afternoon…
Draco laughed, surprised, taking the long drive up to the Manor steps, his shoes crunching the gravel underneath. There was a bouquet of lilies in his thin hands.
"Malfoy!" Goyle grinned and pulled his fellow House mate into a large hug when the blond had reached the front stoop. "How are you? I heard about the burial and thought maybe you'd like a little support. Pansy sends her wishes; she's with her mother today."
Malfoy, flushed pink at the kindness of Gregory's actions, and was relieved that the subject had changed so quickly.
"How is Pansy?" He asked in a soft, level voice.
Goyle nodded. "She's well. I took her out and around after she got out of St. Mungo's about a week ago. She looks good, Draco. She's doing well." The inflection in his voice was something Malfoy didn't miss.
"She likes having a thug like you around then, eh?" Draco pulled out his wand and tapped the door to the Manor, smiling at the little joke. The lock clicked and the massive front doors swung open.
"We seem to enjoy each other, yeah." Goyle followed him inside.
Immediately, the two were graced with the presence of five or six petite Muggle women.
This was the first time Draco had set foot in his own house since the incident before the Dark Lord had been destroyed. He would have at least like to been able to take in the weight of the space before being bombarded with these women.
"Sir, we are to give you these." The nearest maid handed Draco two pieces of parchment.
The first was written in a familiar form of handwriting
We've modified the women's memories. They believe their Muggle employer has died and you are to instruct them on their further duties. They will not have any recollection of their time serving the Malfoy family. The money you have requested for each of them has been presented.
Your mother's casket has been delivered to the spot as you specified in the office and the particulars you have outlined have been completed.
Thank you very much for your patience.
All the best,
Mr. Stevens Mason; Auror
Ministry of Magic
Note: We have enclosed a list of items that could not be located in your house after the demise of You-Know-Who as well as the objects we have confiscated. Your personal items are being searched for and should be returned to you as they resurface.
Under the letter was a small paper; one side of it filled with various Dark items which, after looking them over, Draco realized that he either didn't know they had in the first place or that didn't care that they took. The second list was too been expected; various bottles of alcohol and some of the china sets as well as the silver was missing. But, those things would be returned to him; in time at least, and Draco didn't care that much anyway.
Draco grimaced, and then handed the letter over to Goyle. "How do you like that?"
While Goyle read, Malfoy noticed the suitcases each woman held. He also noticed that a few were missing; that old woman in particular. She must have… been murdered by the Deatheaters.
Taking a deep breath, Draco addressed them in what he hoped was a commanding voice. "I thank you for your services, I do. I have been informed you have received your final payment…" His breath died. "There's nothing else, I-" He broke off. "That's all."
Silently, the women slowly left the house, some pausing to take Malfoy's hand or to incline their head. Within minutes the two boys were alone.
"So," Draco started, moving around the expansive living room to throw back every curtain he could reach, light flooding the entirety of the Manor's ground floor. "How did you know about my mother?"
Draco laughed. "That so?" But he didn't care about the answer to his previous question. He was stalling for time; he knew it and Goyle knew it. As if Gregory could sense his apprehension, he started a new line of conversation.
"The Deatheaters all got sentences yesterday. I had to go to the court hearings. Surprised you weren't there actually."
Flicking his wand, a few of the upturned chairs righted themselves. "Our statements were privately recorded."
Goyle smiled, sitting down upon the mildly dusty couch. "Ah to be a hero; how is it?" Draco glared at him, pushing open the ceiling high windows, air pushing the staleness out. "Not sore over Potter's fame any longer, eh?"
Goyle shrugged, sitting back. "Well, you know all the Dementors fled, right?" Draco nodded. "So, Azkaban's useless, init? Well, instead of being locked up, the Deatheaters all got various years of restricted magical use. Bellatrix got the worse; the rest of her life as a Muggle. Horrible, eh?"
It was maddening; looking around the house Draco ran a hand through his hair. This place was overwhelming, too large. How was he going to clean it all? A small frown appeared on his face as he turned back to Goyle. "And Blaise?"
"It was going to be two years for him, but they cut it down to one because of his mother. She's still in St. Mungo's you know; she hasn't woken up yet. They say she'll pass away soon if she's not snapped out of it."
"He did it to himself."
"That's heartless, Gregory."
Goyle stood up again. "Well, you can't always predict the future, but you can make sure you don't try and bloody screw it up," The silence was broken only by Malfoy's snarl as he waved his wand at a shattered Fire Whisky bottle he had found near the opposite doorway. Goyle switched topics. "Come on, Malfoy!" Draco blinked. "You can't put this off forever."
An icy chill ran up and down Draco's spine; he leaned against the side of the couch, his head down, lips barely moving.
"I don't think I'll be able to do it."
Grabbing his friend's shoulder, Goyle steered him down the hall. "Sure, I'll be right with you, mate. If you don't face this now, you'll never be able to move on."
The two stepped out onto the back veranda; looking out over the ruined back yard of the Malfoy Manor. The trees still stood like lifeless statues among the flatlands of the reminiscent orchard.
There, beneath the left hand most tree was a fresh mound of dirt and a large pit in which Narcissa's casket had been lowered. Malfoy had been adamant that the Ministry dig the grave and set the box inside before he came.
Malfoy looked around the backyard, eyes flickering over the dead lawn and to the blown apart trees along the path there. The earth at the base of one, and its shattered bark, was still stained a dark muted brown- his blood from before. It was summer; there was no rain to wash away the sins and the memories of the past.
Slowly, the pair trudged up, Goyle hanging back a few feet to give Draco some privacy. Bending down, Draco kneeled by the edge of the rectangular shaped hole.
A breeze off the trees rippled through them, ruffling Draco's silvery hair.
How fitting that his mother would be buried amongst the forgotten apple orchard of his youth? She had been such a vibrant and wonderful woman in Draco's childhood; how quickly that hade all changed.
A frown creased Draco's forehead.
There would never be another mother like her.
The lilies clutched within his hands smelled of crisp, clean innocence, the whiteness of the petals contrasting so starkly against the yellow center it made the world seem a dull sepia.
Why hadn't the flowers been roses? Roses were her favorite. A white flower… their whole lives had been in black and white and pale colors of such. Why had he chosen something so simple?
For the first time in a long while, Draco felt tears rolling down his cheeks.
The lily reminded him so much of Narcissa. A fragile plant, its neck extending towards the sky as its gold center was framed in cream.
Malfoy heard Goyle move away from where he stood, but he ignored it. A low choke built up and ripped from his chest. Stifling the noise, Draco brought his free hand to clutch at his mouth, crystal eyes wide and fearful.
Taking a deep breath, he looked up to see Goyle standing near. Gregory's arm was outstretched toward him. Between his fingers Malfoy's Slytherin Family ring hung limply. Despite its abuse, the metal still shone silver; the green eyes of the snake still shimmered like jewels.
"I could see the light hit it."
Absently, Draco touched his own neck. The scar had all but faded completely away.
Gingerly, Draco took the band from the other's grasp. He looped the stems of the flowers through the ring, turning back to the grave. With a long reach, he was able to lay the crude little wreath onto the box.
Were there some words he could say? Should he say something?
Out of his robes Draco pulled her wand; next to the flowers he lay the shaft of wood.
Nature, humans, and magic. The flowers, the ring, and the wand.
Draco stood up, his own wand flicking towards the mound of dirt. Silently, the earth was slowly moved around the casket, filling the ground back up. In some gesture, Draco tossed a handful of dirt into the hole as well.
The tears were almost gone; almost.
Near the base of the tree stood erect a small marker. Her name, the dates of her too short life, and that was all. There was no need for elaborate carvings and ceremonies, Narcissa wouldn't have wanted it that way.
The last of the dirt fell with a dull thud against the packed earth.
Leaning in, staring intently at the smooth ground, Draco tried to memorize how his mother looked, how she laughed; for all the portraits in the Manor could not bring Narsissa's true beauty back to life. All the while he recited a jumble of Molly Weasley's mantras and montages silently in his head, perhaps for the hundredth time.
She had lit a candle in her window for Narcissa too.
Although he pained for his mother, and he did- the tears were nearly breaking into silent sobs- he knew that Mrs. Weasley had been right.
It was better to die for a cause, to die for someone, to put up a fight, then to live without conviction. Weakly, Draco was able to smile through his tears. That's what she did, his mother. She had taken a chance and had sacrificed herself to save him, to try and protect him.
There was such good here, here in the Manor, on the Malfoy property, once long ago. Why should it stand as a testimony to the corruption that had killed his family?
Perhaps he could rebuild this place.
Perhaps he could be good again.
It didn't always have to be this way; dead, a wasteland.
Glancing up to the sky, Draco saw the clouds churning so far above him. His eyes darted to the trees and back down again. Malfoy did a double take, breath whistling in sharply though his clenched teeth.
There, upon the twisted branches extending over his mother's grave, pink fruit flower buds were glistening in the sunlight, nestled among the once lifeless wood.
His pale cheeks flushed with thrilling color…
Draco had rushed the last bit of the story to Hermione. He informed her that Goyle had bid goodbye and went to meet Pansy later that evening; the boy had promised to return that next weekend and help Draco clean out the Manor.
Hermione traced the lines of Malfoy's face. He closed his eyes, a soft sigh issuing from his lips.
"I would have been there, too… if you had told me."
A small smirk twisted Draco's lips. "I didn't want you to see me like that; pitiful."
Hermione's eyes flashed. "It is not; it's alright to cry you know." Her face was flushed. Opening his eyes, Draco smiled up at her.
"It's hard for me, still, you know. I try to open myself to you, but I'm still learning." He was close to her; she had leaned over onto his chest. He could feel the heat from her body on his, her heart fluttering so fast it hurt him.
She was delicious.
He blinked his long lashes, melting her brief chill. She pressed her lips to his collar bone. "I know that, I know that."
The softness of her kisses sent thrills up and down Draco's sides. He trailed a hand through her hair.
Pulling the girl closer, Malfoy pressed his lips onto her ear, breathing softly. "How long are you planning to stay with the Weasleys?" She clutched at his shoulders.
"A little while longer I suppose," Hermione admitted, smiling at him. "Not forever."
In a soft but swift motion, Draco took hold of her arms and rolled her over so she was pinned beneath him. Her hands fell to the ground from where they had held his. Draco leaned down and pressed his cheek to her neck, breathing in Hermione's smell.
She was an angel.
Hermione's cheeks tinted crimson as Draco's hand traveled down from her neck to her chest, lingering there momentarily before ending around her hip, cupping the shape there.
"I'll be leaving soon too." His voice was rough, strained, and low. Hermione looked away. "I can't leave you."
"But we're not going back to Hogwarts." As her eyes locked onto his, now Draco couldn't meet her gaze. He nodded.
Draco knew she lived a distance from where he resided. She was near the Southern most part of London; the Manor was in Wiltshire, ninety miles west of that area. A good hour and a half drive. Of course, they could Apparate, or use the Floo network, but it wouldn't be the same.
He wanted to fall asleep next to her warm little frame, wake to rays of morning light streaking across her face
After the small pause; Hermione laughed softly. "If this is another one of those 'I'll give you something to remember me by' moments, you can forget it. You know how I feel about those things. I promise, we'll work something out, I love you Draco."
His heart was in his throat. "I love you, Hermione," Draco took a shallow breath. "I can't…" She searched his face, confused. "The house is so large…" He couldn't start. How was he supposed to say this? It was unbearable! "I can't be alone, away from you," Now the words came out in a rush. "Please come back with me, to the Manor. I won't pressure you, but I need you. I'd sell everything and leave to be with you, but the Manor has everything we need. The libraries are immense, the orchards are blooming again." His voice pitched low. "We're of age, Hermione, and I want this."
His mouth was on hers, crushing her lips in an eager kiss. She returned it willingly. Only when they both needed the oxygen did they break apart.
Draco searched Hermione's eyes.
Slowly, she pursed her lips. "Are you proposing?"
Malfoy shook his head; Hermione seemed to relax. "Not yet, anyway," He smirked coyly. Hermione raised both her eyebrows but didn't object; electricity was rendering Draco's thoughts to absolute nothingness.
"How do you think my parents would react if I lived with you, Draco? Before marriage no less. I'm a very innocent woman, Malfoy, you seem to forget that." She didn't miss the hunger in his eyes.
Draco bit his lip. "I can wait; I'd wait a hundred years. I want you, Hermione, but I wouldn't do anything that would… displease you." The sincerity in his eyes sharpened intensely
Hermione laughed. "Oh, you are adorable." Draco grinned. He swooped down and kissed her, taking her bottom lip between his teeth for a moment.
"Is that a yes then?" His chest heaved against hers.
"My sensible side is saying that we'll still need to talk about this, but my heart says yes. Yes, Draco, I love you, I'll make a life with you." She turned pink.
Stunned, Malfoy looked down at her. He couldn't hide the wide smile that appeared on his face. Letting out an excited noise, he hugged her body to his, chuckling, kissing every inch of her face he could reach. Hermione gasped, pleased, her lips parting to his. Draco's hands cupped her upper arms.
"Hey!" Ginny's magically magnified voice boomed from the window of the Burrow.
Groaning, Draco rolled off of Hermione, a hand covering his eyes. Hermione slapped his arm playfully. Sitting up, he nuzzled her neck.
"Mum and Dad say Lupin and Tonks are coming over and want you two to help clean!"
Behind her, the faint voices of Harry and Ron were heard through the magic of the girl's wand.
"Ginny leave them alone!" Harry was hissing to her.
Ron, protective as ever, sounded a bit put off. "Where'd they go off to?"
"Ron, come on."
"Harry! It's Malfoy!"
"Aren't we over this by now!?"
"Yeah, but…. Ginny, still…. They're off on their own!"
"You don't seem to object when Harry and I go off on our own, do you?"
"But! I- what?!"
The noises broke off into a little argument. Hermione laughed, tossing her head back.
Draco grinned, shaking his head. "Should we go back?" Hermione was shrinking the snacks and putting them back into the basket.
"I suppose so; it seems they do need our help."
The pair stood, Draco's arm encircling the girl's waist.
"I love you, Hermione."
"I love you too."
Together they took the trail back down the hill towards the Weasley household, their hands held together in an unbreakable clasp.
They had survived the prejudices of those near and dear to them, they had survived the stifling boundaries of their Hogwarts years, and they had survived the horrors of Lord Voldemort, always together.
In that strange contact high of accomplishment and love, they knew they could survive whatever else their life would throw at them.
Besides, what else could possibly happen?
Ron's jaw dropped at the couple standing in the Weasley's kitchen doorway, the pair having just explained their decision regarding their future departureof the Burrow. "You're what?!" He blurted.
Draco and Hermione glanced at each other, Ginny letting out little coos of surprise and delight, Harry scratching the back of his head, looking pleased.
"Well," Harry said finally. "It's not like this comes as any kind of surprise, does it?"
No, they agreed, definitely not.
A/n- I'm stunned! The last chapter; can you believe it? I can't! Twenty pages and BAM, it's over.
Well, I hope this has lived up to the life of its predecessor. It if has, great! It not, well, I had fun writing it anyway.
I'd like to thank everyone who helped me and put up with me during this; my reviewers, Mika, and my boyfriend for living with me and Draco for the last few months.
THIS IS IT! It's over! Jackknifed and its spawn are finally completed! (and no more sequels)
Well, I loved writing this last chapter; I tried to pour myself into it as much as possible.
I will be working on two other Dramione fanfictions, but they probably won't be up for a month or so. Not many people besides those close to me know this, but I am currently in the process of finishing up a YA novel. I had taken a break from it, starting Jackknifed to distract me for a while. God, did THAT work out all too well.
So, the next few weeks will be dedicated solely to completing my long overdue project.
After that, I have a One-shot and a Two-shot Dramione lined up. One placed around the epilogue of Deathly Hallows and the second around year one of Hogwarts.
(and you all know I don't really own Harry Potter, so no suing)
Perhaps I'll also have a Edward x Bella fanfic going up sometime, you know, from the books my Stephanie Meyer.
Haha, anyway, it was really fun writing this!
Come back and visit my stories soon! Please review!!!!
Love you guys,