Title: Dante's Love Song

Rating: T

Pairing: D/Hr

Genre: Romance/Angst

Period: Post-War

Summary: Third installment in the Charon's Gift trilogy. With a year of war behind them, Draco and Hermione must find a balance between endings and beginnings, and face the past that has made them who they are.

A/N: Hello, darling ones! Here is the final entry into the Charon's Gift world that was begun almost 2 years ago. It has been a wonderful journey.

For those of you who have never read Charon's Gift or it's multi-chaptered sequel The Year of the Rose . . . you kinda need to do that before this story will make much sense. I promise, they aren't too long or too god-awful, and it will really help you to have the background before you read this story.

A shout out to my marvelous first-time beta, rlcs, who stepped up to the plate when I needed a volunteer and did a WONDEFUL job! Thanks so much!

Ok, that's it! Enjoy!!

Hermione Granger couldn't sleep.

Insomnia was not a new experience for her. In fact, it was almost comforting in its familiarity, like an old friend on hard luck, whose very presence was a solace despite his many flaws. Thus, it was not her sleeplessness that was making her feel so unsettled, so fragile and frightened: it was the reason for it.

The war had frightened her, but peace frightened her more. In the brief days since the triumph over Lord Voldemort and his followers, she had barely slept more than an hour or so every night, and the dark shadows beneath her eyes had become so pronounced that she was beginning to look more like a casualty of the Second Great War than one of its survivors, a walking shade, a living corpse. Now she was standing the large, perpetually grimy window in her room at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, looking out into the night and wondering if she, like the pane of glass in the bottom corner, was broken beyond repair.

She had decided during a previous late-night reflection that the root of her problem lay in the fact that, for the first time in her life, she was without purpose. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was in ruins, and she doubted she would have returned to it anyway, so there were no more grades to be earned or awards to be won. The war against Voldemort had ended in a blaze of blood and glory, so there were no more Death Eaters to fight or worlds to save. Her parents seemed to belong to a life before this one, and she had nothing to prove to the only people whose opinions mattered to her, so there was no approval left to be sought, and this was perhaps the most devastating of all.

The last week had brought home a hard, dark truth to Hermione: every goal she had ever had and everything that had ever mattered to her before the war had died in it. She felt aimless, useless, and oddly vulnerable. Before, her life had been about survival; now that it was about living, she realized she didn't know how to do it, or even where to begin.

A rustle of bedclothes behind her drew her out of her musings, and she turned to look into the shadowy, moon-silvered room. Tangled in the sheets, pale enough to be nearly indistinguishable from her practical white linens, was Draco Malfoy. She had spent a not-inconsiderable portion of her restless meditations trying to decide if his place in her life was part of the reason she was awake, or the only reason she was able to sleep at all, if he was driving her half-mad, or keeping her half-sane.

Lying in her bed, brow furrowed and jaw clenched even in the repose of sleep, he did not look out of place, as he should have. In fact, she knew from experience that her bed looked empty without him, and felt emptier.

As he often did, he seemed to feel her gaze on him even in sleep, and his eyes slowly blinked open, the color of wood smoke in the pale light.

"Awake already?" he asked, his voice husky but instantly alert.

"Haven't been to sleep yet," she admitted ruefully, walking over to the bed and sitting down on its edge, watching as he stretched languidly before propping himself up on his elbow, and frowning at how deep the shadows between his ribs appeared.

"Why do you look out that window, Granger?" he asked quietly, drawing her gaze back up to his face. "What are you expecting to see?"

"I don't know," she whispered back. "Something . . ." She couldn't think of an end to her statement, so she just repeated with a bit more finality: "Something."

"And you really think it's out there?"

"I don't know where it is," she admitted. "I guess I look out there because I haven't found it in here." Draco seemed for a moment as though he was going to argue the point, then as if he were going to agree with it, but instead of speaking he just looked at her with sad, old eyes.

They had often done this in the past, sat in silence merely looking at each other. Hermione, for one, found it calming in a way that nothing had been since before she'd left Hogwarts, the way a truly lovely novel had once been, or a nap on a Sunday afternoon. Draco had never said, but she assumed he got the same thing from it, or at least something equally rare and desirable. Tonight, however, having her watch him seemed to make him restless, and he shifted uncomfortably, finally looking away from her.

He pushed himself out of bed, unashamed of his nakedness despite his gaunt frame and many scars, as if he knew, though she had never told him, that she cherished every too-deep hollow and inch of damaged flesh, and saw in them honor and strength instead of ugliness. He walked to the end of the bed, hesitated strangely, walked back.

"Granger . . ." he began hesitantly. For no reason she could think of, she felt her heartbeat hitch, like the warning stutter of a failing car. "I'm . . . I'm leaving."

"I know," she said quietly. And she did, had probably known all along, although she hadn't acknowledged it until now. With the war over, Draco had no place in this house, among childhood enemies who would always, somewhere, think of him darkly when they remembered a long-fallen leader. Perhaps this knowledge, as much as anything else, had been responsible for keeping her endlessly awake, as though she subconsciously knew that their hours together were precious and dwindling, and did not want to miss a single one.

She didn't realize she was crying until he leaned across the bed to brush the tears away, and she leaned into the touch as though she would never feel it again.

"When?" she managed to say around the lump in her throat. He frowned a little, an expression that anyone who didn't know him would find threatening, even feral, but which looked pained and considering to her.

"I was planning to leave tomorrow, after." He did not mention the Christmas morning festivities, or that he was trying to avoid overshadowing them with his departure by leaving only when they were over, but a year of practice had taught her that what he didn't say was usually the most important part of any statement he made. He looked away from her again, to the window. "But I think it would be better to go . . ."

"Now," Hermione finished with sudden certainty, panic seizing her already faltering heart. "You're leaving now?" All she could think was that there wasn't enough time, not nearly enough to say goodbye or even figure out how to say it. So many months, so much waiting, so many nights thinking the war was utterly endless, and now she had no time. Irony was a cruel, wicked thing.

"I'm leaving now," he confirmed quietly. He tilted his head to one side that peculiar way he had, and for a moment he looked very, very young, impossibly insecure. He opened his mouth as if to speak, then hesitated. His eyes were hard, and his next words were said harshly, like an order, or a painful secret: "Are you coming with me?"

And the constrictions around her heart fell away, the unbearable tightness in her throat disappeared, and she could breathe. "Yes," she whispered. "Yes."

She saw something shift in Draco's face, the most infinitesimal of changes, but it was a different face, afterwards, perhaps slightly less ravaged, less broken than it had been before. He suddenly lunged forward, nearly knocking her off the bed as he crushed their mouths together. When they broke apart, he nudged his nose against her cheek and his breath ghosted over her ear. "Hurry, Granger," he whispered. "Let's leave this place."

She did not need to be told twice. Before Draco was even out the door, she was nearly dressed, and packing quickly in a scarred leather bag, ignoring most of her clothes and belongings as she threw only those things she couldn't bear to part with into her small suitcase. It nearly made her weep to realize how little she possessed that was precious enough to take with her.

She felt rather than heard him come back, and turned to find him standing in the door, bag in hand, wearing a traveling cloak and, rather bizarrely, a soft, gray fedora. He looked shabby, dignified, and dangerous, but he was watching her pack as one might watch a fascinating, inscrutable ritual, intrinsic to a culture too foreign and exotic to ever understand.

Hermione went to him, shutting the door behind her with a click that sounded like goodbye. He took her hand as they made their way down the narrow stairs in utter silence, and she clutched it hard in her own. She knew, without having to ask, that this was the last time her feet would fall on the threadbare runner or skillfully avoid the creaky and sometimes viciously not-there fifth step. They were never coming back to this house, where he was an enemy and she a prisoner, and where the War would linger, always.

They stepped down into the front hall, quiet out of habit rather than necessity, since they had returned from the Final Battle to find Mrs. Black had abandoned her portrait, never to return. With one brief, reassuring squeeze to her arm, Draco ducked into the library to retrieve one of the books he had managed to salvage from the ruins of Malfoy Manor, and for a few brief moments, Hermione was alone.

She wasn't sure how she was supposed to feel about leaving Grimmauld Place. The part of her that had tried to make a life here wanted to take a moment to say goodbye to her home of nearly two years. The part of her that had wept and lost and suffered here couldn't bear to spend another moment in these walls. And the smaller but perhaps stronger part of her, the part that had broken and cracked and gone mad in this place, thought nothing had ever looked as menacing or impossible as the windowless front door of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, black with age and neglect, the greatest obstacle she had ever faced.

What was she doing? Here she was, barely done fighting a war, lost in a way even she couldn't understand, and her response to being traumatized and adrift was to abandon the only constant thing in her life?

She was on the verge of panic, ready to bolt back up the stairs to her shabby, familiar room, go to sleep, and pretend this madness was a dream of intense realism in which she had acted in a proportionally unrealistic way, but then she felt Draco's fingers brush the back of her hand. The world righted itself.

He looked down at her with solemn eyes and an entire conversation passed between them without either speaking a word. Yes, she was ready. No, she did not want or need to say any more goodbyes; they had said far too many already. These things established, Draco reached for the doorknob, but before his gloved fingers touched the tarnished brass, a floor board creaked.

Hermione was sure both she and Draco looked shocked and guilty, but after a quick, surprised raising of the eyebrows, Harry Potter's face melted quietly into a mask of almost unearthly serenity. When he thought no one was looking, he often wore an expression of absolute peace, like a saint, like a buddha, as if he knew something beyond understanding or experience.

"H-Harry . . ." Hermione stammered, grasping for words that could explain why she was with Draco, why she had kept it a secret, why they were sneaking away in the dead of night, but Harry silenced her by stepping forward and pulling her into a bone-crushing embrace.

"I love you," he whispered. Hermione trembled and wrapped her arms around him, sure that no words had ever been more filled with acceptance and understanding. Harry stepped back from her, grasping her hands in his. "Let me know where you are, when you're sure it's safe."

Hermione nodded silently, and Harry smiled that beatific smile again, and turned to go up the stairs. Before his foot fell on the first step, however, he turned back around. His brow was slightly furrowed, and his eyes looked strangely bright. He took a few steps back toward Hermione and Draco and . . . held out his hand.

Hermione was deeply puzzled for a moment until she thought to look at Draco. His face, usually so blank and impassive unless he was looking at her and thought no one would see, was a mask of so many warring emotions that she couldn't possibly have said what he was feeling, only that he was feeling it with the kind of intensity she, who knew him best, had witnessed only a precious few times.

Slowly, almost hesitantly, Draco extended his own hand until it met Harry's, grasped it, and they shook hands with the solemnity of two priests performing a sacred rite. The unspoken words of a decade passed between them in that moment, and Hermione didn't realize she had begun to cry until a cold draft chilled her tear-wet cheeks.

With one last glance at Hermione, Harry went up the stairs, moving silently as always, and was gone. Hermione hoped she would see him again, but had a feeling that it would not be for a very long time. They could not be a part of what they each had to do next: move on with their lives.

A gust of cold air shocked her, and she turned to find Draco holding the door open for her, the blustery December streets of London waiting outside. Hermione took an enormous breath and then stepped outside. She did not look back.

She stood in the gray light of a street lamp and waited to feel different. In a way, she did, but she also felt strange and forgetful, like she knew she had overlooked something but could not remember what it was.

"Now what?" she asked when Draco stepped up beside her.

"Now we get far, far, away from this place," Draco said firmly, but then he faltered. He blinked as though surprised, and then tilted his head back, apparently searching for the moon in the rapidly-clouding sky.

"Before we go, though, I need to stop somewhere," he said suddenly and decisively, avoiding her eyes as he did when he didn't want her to know what he was thinking.

"Now?" she exclaimed incredulously. "It's the middle of the night!"

"Not quite," he replied cryptically. With that remark, he sort of spun her into his arms, like a brief, remembered dance, and Apparated them away.

When the world righted itself again, Hermione blinked at her surroundings.

"Oh," she breathed, and wasn't sure where she'd found the air to make such a sound. They were standing at the gates of the cemetery where, a year ago this night, Draco Malfoy had changed her life. She turned to him now, afraid for no reason she could think of.

"We need to, Granger," he said, simultaneously ordering and pleading. "We need to say goodbye to all of it at once. It's better this way."

As much as she knew he was right, Hermione wasn't sure she was strong enough to walk into that cemetery and see how many, many more stones stood on the distant hill than there had been twelve short months ago. If it were not for his cold, sharp-boned hand gripping hers, she doubted she would have had the will to make a single step, but with the contact she found strength she had not known she possessed.

As they wandered through the cemetery toward the hill and the oak tree and graves of their fallen, a storm brewed above them, threatening snow. Hermione barely noticed, and saw nothing but the gray-white, ominous rise, where so many of her loved ones now slept forever in the bitter cold.

They climbed the hill in silence, Draco walking slightly behind her but never so far away that she couldn't have reached out to touch him. It helped, knowing he was there, and it helped more still to know that he was letting her take the lead and say goodbye to those she'd lost in her own way.

Hermione reached the crest of the hill and stood on the exact spot where she'd knelt a year ago today. Ginny Weasley's grave was grown over now with grass that was lush and lovely in the summer, but she remembered when it had been so fresh that she could have sifted the dirt through her fingers. In her mind, it would always look that way. She skimmed her fingers over the stone, and moved on to others.

She knelt down in front of a newer grave, the stone so freshly carved that the scent of newly-broken granite still lingered around it. She almost always thought of its occupant in terms of smells, which she found both curious and fitting: the faint scent of

musty clothes and chocolate that had always hung around him, the fresh smell of flowers at his wedding, the harsh, coppery odor of death when he was struck down by one of the Death Eaters, leaping in front of a curse meant for his wife.

"Tonks is doing better," she said quietly to the stone. "When we had to tell her, she didn't take it very well. She doesn't understand, yet, that you would have been proud to die for her, that this is what you would have wanted. Someday, when she remembers that she would have done the same for you in an instant, it will comfort her." Hermione chanced a look over at Draco, who was speaking quietly to another grave down the line. "It's something to hold on to, that kind of love, in the face of almost anything."

She stood up and moved down the line of gravestones, saying her goodbyes to each in turn. She hadn't been sure until she got there which grave Draco had taken such an interest in, but she'd had her suspicions. They were immediately confirmed when she reached the stone in question.

Beneath the ornately carved letters of Ron's name sat dozens of wilted and wilting bouquets of flowers (even in the aftermath of a war, the Weasleys were a numerous lot) and one other memento: a box of cigarettes. She found herself smiling.

"He misses you," she told the stone with a grin. "Of all the things I've seen and heard and done, that would probably be the last thing I would have ever predicted. You're probably having a great laugh about it, aren't you?" Her grin faltered, and she reached a hand out to touch the smooth, cold stone. "I'm going to remember you, Ron Weasley. I'm going to remember everyone, but especially you."

"I don't think I told you, Granger," Draco said from the shadows behind her, "how sorry I was, about Weasley."

"You didn't have to," she whispered, still looking at the stone. "But it helps to hear you say it." She turned finally, to look at him seriously. "I wasn't in love with him, you know, not anymore. I don't know if it matters -"

"It does," he said abruptly, and then more softly: "It matters." There was a slight pause. "But even so, I know what you had was something different, something . . . precious."

The final word seemed to catch the wind and race around Hermione, making her shiver.

"Precious things frighten me," she whispered. "I've seen too much of this world not to understand that the things we cherish most are the first to be destroyed."

"Is it better, then, not to let things be important to you?" It was said seriously and without inflection, but there was a frown in his eyes that said her cynicism saddened him, and made him afraid.

"Safer, maybe," she replied somberly, but with resolution. "But not better."

"Safety is an illusion," he announced. "I'd rather know I'm happy than think I'm safe."

Hermione studied his face. It was a hard face, too thin. An angry, jaded face, some might have said, frightening in its worn-out ferocity. For a few brief months, after the pinched, spoiled visage of childhood had faded and before the war had carved out the angular, prematurely-aged countenance she now studied, he had been an ethereally beautiful young man, but he would never be beautiful again. Prolonged stress and terror had etched a few faint lines into his forehead and a permanent crease between his brows. A Dark spell had marred his cheek with a jagged scar, and a magical acid burn flew upward from his neck to spatter along his jaw line. His eyes were hard as flint, and his mouth forever creased in a thin-lipped frown. On that fateful night a year before, she had thought he looked like an angel, and in a way he still did: Milton's Lucifer after the Fall, flawed and compelling.

With one hand, she reached up and traced every line, every scar with the fingers of her left hand, which themselves were twisted and mostly useless with curse damage. She moved forward and pressed her lips gently to the white-on-white scar on his neck, mouthed 'precious' against the mark of his suffering, felt him shudder.

"I want to be happy," she whispered desperately, and even to her own ears it was an anguished sound, the statement of one who longed for something with inhuman fervor, and believed with equal passion that it was beyond their grasp.

"I don't think we can, not yet," he whispered back. "I don't think we have it inside us right now, and I don't know how long it will take before we're whole enough for 'happy.'" He pulled back just enough to get her to raise her head. "But for now, I'm not as afraid, not as lost when I'm with you. It's enough for me."

There had been a time when Hermione would never have accepted 'enough.' 'Enough' had implied that she was settling for less than there was to be had, that she was choosing contentment over true fulfillment, the ordinary over the extraordinary. That time was passed. She'd had enough 'extraordinary' in her life, and she had lost her taste for it. She thought now of contentment, of being ordinary, and nearly wept with longing.

"Enough," she echoed quietly. She hesitated for a moment, then slowly brought her lips to his. He tasted of stale coffee and hope, and she felt a little more of the weight on her heart spill away, like pebbles down the side of a mountain. One day, maybe it would fall away from her in avalanches, but for now, the tiny relief was a small miracle that she did not take for granted.

His wiry arms tightened around her, and she nearly winced with pain even as she kissed him harder. He always held her just a little too tightly, as though trying to hold on to her as hard and as long as possible. She understood the sentiment, felt it herself, and wondered idly how long the war would have to be over before they stopped living in constant fear, before they didn't subconsciously believe the other was about to be ripped away from them.

She drew away from him for breath, and met his eyes. They were solemn and haunted, but when he was looking at her, they were calm, and they were sure. She felt humbled, because she understood that serenity and certainty were the rarest and most coveted of commodities in the aftermath of war.

"You frighten me when you look at me that way," she told him.


"Because I'm afraid I'm too damaged to make sure you don't stop."

His mouth twitched again, in his pale imitation of a smile. "First of all, I have no idea how I'm looking at you, and therefore I'm sorry you don't like it, but I don't know how to stop. Secondly . . ." He took a step back from her as if to look at her better, brushed her hair away from her eyes as if to see her face more clearly. "The way I look at you has nothing to do with what you say, or what you do, or how damaged you are. The only things that matter to me are that I make sense when I'm with you, and that if I died tomorrow, you would miss me." He brought her right hand to his lips with his solemn eyes on hers, and then sent tears spilling over her lashes when he kissed the gnarled fingers of her curse-damaged hand with the same reverence.

"I make sense when I'm with you, too," she told him somberly. "I don't think I ever did before."

"You made sense," he disagreed with equal solemnity. "You always made sense to me."

"You hated me," she reminded him, shaking her head with gentle exasperation.

"Why do you think that was?" he countered. "Because I didn't understand how you could be everything my father had taught me was evil, and yet be so good, so right, so smart. If you had been a terrible witch, if you had been shunned, if you had been weak or submissive, I would have felt disdain for you, if I felt anything at all. There were dozens of other Muggle-borns at Hogwarts. How often did you see me treating them the way I treated you?" She paused to think about it, and realized it was true. He had ignored them, made occasional snide comments, but he had never come close to attacking them the way he had her. She felt her brows furrow, unsure whether to be flattered or angry all over again, but he didn't give her time to work out which.

"And then there was you." He pulled her body into his so she had to tilt her head up to look at him, if only a little bit. "My most noble adversary," he said with so much quiet passion that she trembled with it. "My equal, and my opposite. Even then, you balanced me, reminded me of who I was just by being who you were. When I felt lost, you brought me back, made me sane. Why didn't we realize?"

"Realize what?"

"That you and I were different from them. That I hated what you stood for, and you hated what I believed, that our friends were mortal enemies and that we stood on opposite sides of the looming chasm of war, but that we . . . defined each other. I could count on you, always, to be my contradiction, and my reflection. Even then, you were my touchstone, my constant." He kissed her, with more tenderness, more quiet certainty than he ever had before. "I'm so sorry I didn't realize it before, that I hurt you so much before I did."

"I'm not," she said seriously, and because he looked confused, she elaborated. "I'm not sorry, not for any of it. If even one moment had been different, maybe you wouldn't have turned from them, maybe you wouldn't have come to us, maybe He would have won. Maybe you wouldn't be here with me." She laid her head on his shoulder. "I'm not sorry," she repeated fiercely. "I'm not."

"What I wouldn't give," he whispered sadly into her hair, "not to be sorry."

They stood that way for a long time, and Hermione found something to be sorry for: that nothing she could ever say or do would heal him completely, that Draco Malfoy would always, somewhere, be tormented by the mistakes of the spoiled, naive child he had been for so brief a time.

"It's almost midnight," Hermione said finally. "We should go to your mother. It's right, that we should be there when Christmas comes." He tensed in her arms, though, an unnatural, unhappy tension.

"My father is buried next to my mother," he reported stiffly. "And I don't . . ." He trailed off, but Hermione understood. They never really talked about Lucius Malfoy, and Hermione had come to realize that it was not because Draco didn't want to, but because he could not bear to see Hermione's hatred of him, even if she didn't openly express it. Even in death, Lucius Malfoy stood between them.

"He was your father, Draco," she said quietly. "And you loved him. Tonight, that's all I know about him, all I need to know." He squeezed her hand, and they walked down the hill, away from the fallen members of the Order and toward the memorials of another kind of loss.

There was a fine dusting of snow over the small brass markers that were all that was left of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. "Beloved Father," said one, "Beloved Mother," the other. Funny and perhaps right that, of all the things these people had done in their lives, being loved by their child was the one thing for which they would be remembered forever.

"I haven't any flowers for her," Draco said behind her, sounding rather lost and childlike.

"I have," Hermione announced quietly. Slowly and deliberately, she lifted the chain from around her neck. In the snow-bright moonlight, her rose pendant glittered and shone.

"What are you doing?" Draco asked. He did not sound alarmed or offended, merely curious.

"I'm giving this back to her," Hermione announced quietly. She waved her wand and the small grave marker grew slightly, until a small compartment appeared and she lowered the pendant into it, taking care that it's brilliant gems faced upward to catch the light. Another wave of her wand, and the rose was sealed behind glass.

"Why?" Draco asked. Hermione straightened and stepped back.

"I don't need it anymore," she said quietly, taking his hand. "Besides, look what she's given to me." She squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back somewhat desperately.

Distantly, a bell began to chime the hour. Hermione leaned back into Draco, feeling almost peaceful.

"Merry Christmas, Granger," he whispered into her ear. "Thank you for saving me."

"Thank you for saving me," she echoed back to him on a phantom breath.

They stood for a long time, staring the graves, but Hermione was not remembering death. She was remembering life, and when hers had started. Strange, really, that she could point to the moment when she had begun to live, and stranger still that it had happened here, witnessed by the dead. How much she owed this place, owed these people, for the person she was and for the person who was standing beside her.

"Take me home, Draco," she said finally. "I want to go home."

"Where is home, Granger?"

Hermione had a sudden vision of a tiny, cluttered flat, with bookcases lining the walls and window boxes full of roses. She felt another piece of the mountain on her heart break away and slide off into nothingness.

"With you," she said finally. "Home is with you."

He did not answer her, nor did he touch her at all, but she felt his response in the air around her, the way it crackled and whispered, full of life and passion. Without a word, he began to walk toward the gates of the cemetery, and she went with him, as attuned to him as the tides to the moon.

They walked in silence, and just as they reached the gate, the first flecks of snow began falling. It was a gentle sort of snow, cleansing rather than cruel. She breathed in deeply, and smelled, instead of a threat, a promise.

The rusted hinges of the gate creaked their protest as they swung open, and Hermione thought of another gate: the gate of Hell, to which Charon leads the damned. "Abandon every hope, who enter here," she remembered it said. Not me, she thought fiercely. Not anymore. She walked through the gate, back to the side of the living, and felt bright and free.

She turned back and saw Draco standing just inside the gate as it swung in the wind, watching her with his head tilted to one side in that peculiar way of his. She looked, but could not see Charon in him now, as she once had. Dante, though, perhaps: the pilgrim, not the poet. A man who had strayed from the path and who had been given a second chance. A man who, for the love of a woman as different and distant from him as moonbeams from cellar doors, journeyed through Hell itself and emerged on the other side. She held out her hand to him, and he took it, and the creaking of the ancient gate joined with the howling winds. It was not a chorus of angels, but it was music to Hermione: a love song, flawed and enduring .

The snowflakes fell harder, and Draco and Hermione were enveloped in the curtain of white as they walked. Their path meandered north, toward the edge of the storm, and beyond the clouds they could see a glittering, clear December sky. Even though it was after midnight, the sky was bright with stars and promise. She was sure that much darkness lay ahead of them, but for the moment there was light, and that was enough.

"My guide and I came on that hidden road

To make our way back into the bright world;

It was from there

That we emerged to see -- once more -- the stars."

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto XXXIV

References and quotes:

"Milton's Lucifer after the Fall, flawed and compelling" - Reference to John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost

"You were my touchstone, my constant." - Quote, Fox Mulder, The X-Files

"'Abandon every hope, who enter here." - The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto III

"As different and distant from him as moonbeams from cellar doors" - Reference (or, really, just an inspiration) to Donnie Darko (2001), in which a teacher explains that "This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that Cellar Door is the most beautiful."

- As always, any references to Charon, Dante, or other similar mythology are taken from Dante's Inferno

A/N: So ends the Charon's Gift trilogy! I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them! REVEIW REVIEW REVIEW!!!