15. Mourning Day

It was Luna Lovegood's idea to hold the Mourning Day, commemorating the battle of Hogwarts and while Hermione Granger valued the sentiment she was not in the mood for mourning. It seemed to be all she had done for the past year, grieving for her lost friends and for her lost self. She had changed so much in those last twelve months, so much of them spent fighting if not Voldemort, then Draco Malfoy.

She winced at his name, the pang of longing in her chest intensified by his memory. Four months had come and gone since he had left her, broken and sobbing in the meadow just outside Seagull Cottage, and still he had not returned. About three weeks after he had gone, a letter came requesting that Neville, Dean and Seamus meet him in London. He had written nothing to her, just enclosed a sprig of thyme, which to this day she still used as a crumbling bookmark, his scent long gone from it but she just couldn't bring herself to throw it out.

I will come back for you.

His words haunted her every thought and every dream, and she was just here, waiting, like she had promised. Doubt, disgusting and bitter, was with her often, taunting her that he was not coming back, that he had lied. It had been easy to shake these nagging feelings in the beginning but as time stretched on, with no further correspondence from him, it became harder and harder to believe. But she had promised him she would wait. She would wait forever.

"That looks lovely, Hermione."

Luna's dreamy voice broke Hermione from her reverie and she had almost forgotten the crown of flowers she was constructing. Thyme was not a good flower to choose when making a Mourning Day crown but no one had mentioned it. They all knew Hermione's close connection with the herb, and indeed she knew that it would be a poor material for construction but she knew nothing else, would choose nothing else. The little white flowers, not quite fragrant yet, held a piece of Draco and she was desperate, ravenous for any part of him she could latch onto. She sighed, looking out onto the beach, where Lavender and Ginny were collecting shells for table adornment.

"Now, James I've told you," Luna said for the umpteenth time, looking at the baby who was reaching towards Luna's crown of aster blossoms. "This one is not yours."

Hermione smiled softly at the little boy, their man of the house. He was growing so quickly, the spitting image of Harry, aside from his bright blue eyes, and had the exact disposition of Ron which often made her laugh and only every once and a while made her cry.

Long nights sitting up with Ginny had given her a lot of perspective on her relationship with Ron in association with her relationship with Draco. "You aren't betraying him, Hermione." Ginny had said one evening, rocking James steadily while he slept, "You're moving on. I don't know why it had to be with bloody Malfoy but it's what you're doing." The younger witch had been begrudgingly coming around to the fact that Draco, in atoning for his past sins, had given them all a second chance at life. "Moving on is the only way we can survive this," Ginny had added quietly, smudging a thumb against James' ruddy cheek. Hermione had asked when Ginny was planning on taking her own advice and Ginny had responded very maturely by sticking her tongue out at her.

"Are we ready?" Lavender asked, and Hermione jumped not hearing the woman coming up behind her.

"I believe so," Luna replied, handing her a crown of lavender which the girl giggled at, placing it on her head, smiling. "And Ginny for you," Luna said, handing up a wreath of red yarrow, which clashed brilliantly with Ginny's red hair.

Luna placed the crown of asters on her own head before situating a tiny wreath of gaillardia on James' hair which he promptly pulled off and put in his mouth. Ginny rolled her eyes, taking the half eaten crown from the child, who scowled up at his mother but quickly smiled when she picked him up.

"Put on your crown, Hermione," Luna said after she had stood and was reaching her hand out to her.

Hermione looked down at the pile of thyme in her hands and pressed it to her head, the twine coming loose immediately, merely peppering her hair with the small white flowers. She frowned as the herb fell around her, some sticking in her wild hair but Luna shook her head, telling her it was alright.

Making her way to the front of the house with Luna, Hermione saw a long table, set and decorated with flowers from the garden and seashells from the beach. There were five chairs, one for each of the women and then one extra, a place for those they had lost, placed at the head of the table.

Taking her seat next to Ginny, Hermione eyed the chair wearily, knots tying in her stomach. This was a horrible idea. Too much had come to pass and even the simple act of remembering was hard. Ginny bounced James on her knee, allowing him to gum a carrot as they all sat silently, no one really eating.

The silence was only broken when Lavender gasped loudly. All eyes turned to her, even little James who was so startled he dropped his carrot. Lavender's eyes were locked on the horizon and perplexed, Hermione followed her gaze, a gasp tearing from her throat as well.

Three figures were walking towards them, cresting the hill. Lavender was out of her seat before any of the others even had a chance to comprehend it, tearing across the meadow towards the men. Hermione stood immediately, heart pounding hard in her chest as she walked quickly towards the men, breaking into a run when she saw Lavender throw herself into Seamus' arms.

Neville and Dean laughed as their mate swung Lavender in his arms, listening to her squeals of excitement. Hermione looked around desperately, searching for that shock blond head, that scent of thyme.

"You're back!" Ginny exclaimed as she walked up, James sitting on her hip, hiding his face shyly.

"Where's Draco?" Hermione asked, still scanning the distance for him…waiting. Still waiting…

"How was your trip?" Luna asked as if they'd been on vacation, and the rest of the group shared a look before laughing slightly.

"Successful," Neville said and all chatter stopped, a shocked silence settling over them.

"Successful?" Ginny asked slowly, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Successful as in…?"

She trailed not wanting to hope, none of them wanting to hope anymore after all that had happened. But Neville nodded slowly, a smile creeping up his face, unsure, like the muscles weren't really used to doing it anymore. Then it was as if a bomb had detonated, everyone whooping and hollering, crying and rejoicing. All except Hermione, who was still searching the horizon.

"Where is Draco!?" she finally yelled over the din..

"Yes, where is Draco?" Ginny asked, dancing in a circle, James giggling gleefully. "Watch out Hermione, I may just snog him silly."

"Where is he?" Hermione asked, grabbing onto Dean's arm to stop his dizzying movement.

"Um…" he trailed, looking at Neville who was pulling away from Luna, to stand in front of Hermione, his face growing solemn.

"Where is he?" Hermione asked, her chest tightening, heart threatening to beat through her ribs. He promised.

"I'm sorry, Hermione…" Neville said, taking her hands in his and the entire world stopped spinning.

He promised. He had promised her he would come back. She had waited. She had waited for him. He had to be coming back. Her breathing was hitching, Neville's face blurring as tears surfaced in her eyes. She felt him squeeze her hands and she closed her eyes, waiting for the words. She wouldn't believe it until they said the words.

"I'm sorry Hermione…" Neville said again, his voice brimming with something Hermione couldn't place. "He's…" She wouldn't believe it until he said the words. "He's right over there."

Hermione's eyes flew open to see Neville grinning at her, and then he tilted his head to the left. Hermione's head snapped in that direction and she gave out a strangled cry as she saw the form of Draco Malfoy standing atop the small hill, hands in his pockets, hair blown back from his face.

Hermione took off running, barely hearing Ginny exclaim, "Neville, you right bastard!" followed by a loud smack and Neville's repentant reply. "OW! I'm sorry! It was his idea…"

Hermione's legs couldn't move fast enough, her hair whipped back, every muscle in her body straining forward, trying to reach him. He was grinning at her, just standing there and when she got within five feet of him he threw his arms out, allowing her to fling herself at him, legs wrapping around his waist, hands clutching at his back. He staggered slightly as she plowed into him and eventually toppled backwards onto the soft summer grass.

She was sobbing so hard now, her hands clutching at his shirt, mouth pressing kisses all over his face as the words "Draco", "missed you" and "you promised" spilling incoherently from her lips. He was laughing, his hands trying to grab her and hold onto her so he could kiss her properly.

"Woman, would you hold still!" he exclaimed after a moment, and she obliged, rewarded by his lips crushing hers, tongue sliding in to taste her.

He pulled back, falling back against the grass, his hands moving up behind his head, and gazing up at her. She was beaming down at him, silent tears of joy still streaming down her cheeks, her hands still clutching at his chest, sitting on his lap.

"You're back!" she stated happily and he gave her a condescending look.

"Astute observation there, Granger," he deadpanned and she swatted at him. Then she gasped, coming back to herself somewhat and she smacked him hard on the chest causing him to yelp in surprise. "Draco Malfoy you bastard!" she shrieked and he looked up at her astonished. "How dare you make me think you weren't coming!"

"What, it was Neville's idea!" Draco exclaimed, his voice jumping an octave and she hit him again.

"Don't lie to me!" she yelled, grinning down at him and he laughed again, dazzling her so that she had to lean down and kiss him again.

His hands gripped her face, pulling her in deeper before delving into her hair, sending thyme raining down in a shower around them. He pulled back smiling, his silver eyes shining like diamonds. He pulled a sprig from her hair and twirled it in his long fingers.

"Rolling around in the garden?" he asked, flicking it into the wind before threading his fingers through hers.

"It was my Mourning Day crown," she said, gazing down at him, not really believing that he was back.

"Mourning Day?" he scoffed, his face turning into a sneer and she kissed him again quickly, just because she could. "Today is a day for rejoicing, Hermione," he said softly when she pulled away, his hands cupping her face again, her hair hanging in a curtain around their faces.

"Is it true?" she whispered, her lips brushing his as she dared to say the words, dared to hope.

"Yes," he said so softly it was barely even uttered.

Hermione's eyes closed, tears squeezing out as a weight she hadn't even realized she was carrying was lifted. It was over. Seven years of fighting, and running, and loss were over. The day that she had longed for had finally come. She opened her eyes finding him staring at her intently, continually tucking a stray curl behind her ear that kept blowing free. Gazing down at him she wondered briefly what would happen to them now. For the better part of her life she had been struggling, chasing this victory and now that it was hers, she was at a loss as to what to do next.

"So," she breathed, her fingers threading through his silken hair, "what do we do now?"

"Everything," was his reply as he crushed his lips to hers.