The sun was shining brightly as it always had done, and would always continue to do, completely disregarding the fact that the congregation of people in the Great Hall of Hogwarts was now in a state of deep grief. There had been cheering when it happened, pats on the back, hugging, kissing and crying. Harry had worn a triumphant smile, and accepted all the thanks, but his eyes scanned around the room for his best friends. Ron had come running towards Harry and had congratulated him and hugged him, and the two men looked about for the third member of their trio expectantly.
Despite the mass of people that were blocking his way, Harry fought his way through the crowd to the place where Draco was sitting hunched over, grasping Hermione's limp body to his chest. "Hermione!" Harry called, the smile still plastered onto his face. But she didn't look up, didn't even stir, and as Harry's joyful strides became a panicked run over to the woman in Draco's arms, his face fell and he began to dread. Ron was right behind him, and the pair stopped just a few inches away from Draco and Hermione, neither of whom acknowledged the two men.
There was a dead silence, and a circle had formed around the little group. Harry took a tentative step towards Hermione and Draco's head shot up, his wand pointed straight at Harry. It seemed to take a moment to realize who it was, but Draco lowered his wand, and then stared down at the woman in his arms, then back at Harry. Green eyes met grey in disbelief and panic as Harry dropped to his knees and tugged at the ends of Hermione's long hair, cupped her face and felt the cold skin beneath his palms. Ron stared on in disbelief for a moment before a loud sob was ripped from his throat and Harry broke down before them.
Draco stared at Hermione's countenance, her blank stare, her pale face, and even obliged when Ron gently took her limp body away from him to cradle his best friend himself. Harry grabbed Draco's shoulder to beseech him, "Who?"
It was the hardest thing Draco would have to say to the boy, he thought. The woman had already cost Harry his godfather after all, and now his best friend. "Bellatrix Lestrange." The very name sent rage coursing through Draco, and he knew Harry felt the same as the grip on Draco's shoulder became immensely more painful. But the blond haired man didn't care, not when this had happened. And then it was all Draco could bear to not take his grief out on everyone right there, all the captured Death Eaters, and the already mangled form of Bellatrix. He stood up roughly and strode out of the castle. Draco heard someone yelling his name from behind him, but he didn't care, not one bit. He could hear someone running behind him, could hear Harry's cries of grief coupled with the Weasley family and D.A. members, and it only caused Draco to pump his legs harder, to get away from it all.
How could he…how could he go on when his only reason for living, these past four years and forever, had been the thought of holding her in his arms again, holding her and loving her? Starting a family, maybe, and marrying Hermione in a small reception. He would completely renovate Malfoy Manor, get rid of all the Dark Magic books and artifacts, buy his mum a little house on the sea shore and start a family with Hermione. They would visit Narcissa every weekend, he'd oblige to sit through Weasley family meals, and they would have three or four kids running about the place. Draco would teach them Quidditch, and Hermione would insist on making them learn Muggle things, and they'd argue and wind up in bed making up because of it. But then her wide, blank eyes came into his mind and Draco collapsed where he was, his body heaving with the effort to still breathe through his tears.
"Draco!" He didn't even turn to the voice; just lay there, heaped on the grass somewhere outside on the castle grounds. "Draco." The voice was next to him now, soft and out of breath. Apparently she'd been running after him.
"What Ginny?" It was all he could manage.
Said woman gently took him by the shoulders and heaved him up to look at her. He must have looked a mess, bloodshot eyes, dirt, sweat and blood all streaking his face. But he didn't care. He doubted if he could. Ginny's soft hair tickled his face as she sat him back against a tree and took a deep breath, readying herself for something Draco was sure he wouldn't care about.
"Draco, there's something I need to tell you."
He glanced up at her, a sudden curiosity gnawing at him. But then Hermione's pale face came into his mind again, her limp forming being cradled in the arms of Harry or Ron or both, and he decided he probably wouldn't care anyway. "I don't want to hear it. Leave me alone."
But Ginny was not about to be shrugged off, and her voice raised a few notches in her anger. "Listen, Draco, you're not the only one whose lost something, okay? I lost my brother in there, and I lost Hermione too. I lost Remus and Tonks. I nearly lost everyone, so don't give me that tone!" Draco stood up in his anger, opening his mouth to retort, but a wand pointed at his face made him close it again. Ginny pointed her wand to the ground indicating to him that he should sit. After a moment of angry resistance, Draco plopped on the ground and fixed the redhead with a piercing glare. Ginny opened her mouth to speak again, but a sob escaped her instead, and she turned about for a minute as she tried to steady herself.
"Listen, there's been some things that Hermione had been meaning to tell you, but didn't." At Draco's sharp look she added, "Not because she didn't trust you, but because she didn't want you to get into any more trouble."
Draco let out a short bark of a laugh, and asked sardonically, "Didn't want to get me in trouble? Because of course my life was perfectly worry free for these four years."
Ginny forced away the urge to slap the man before her and controlled her temper enough to say, "Well this concerns you a great deal more than you'd think." Ginny and Draco sat in silence a few more minutes as they gazed up at the sky, watching the clouds pass by, but not really seeing them. "Hermione was in hiding in my Aunt Muriel's place," Ginny said after a while. "But you know, I think Hermione would be able to explain it better. Follow me, will you?" When Draco showed no indication of moving, Ginny gripped him by the arm and forced him to follow her back into the castle.
"What the hell are you on about?" Draco asked in annoyance. "You know as well as I do that Hermione—" But Draco still couldn't bear to finish the sentence. To admit to himself that Hermione was…
To his surprise, Ginny led him straight to Mrs. Weasley, who was rushing about, trying to comfort others and fix wounds, anything to keep herself busy. But when she caught sight of her daughter and Draco coming towards her, she stopped what she was doing and sighed. "Have you told him then?"
"No, mum. Remember that chest that Hermione kept, the one with all the bottles? Well, I think it'd be better for him to see them. It's what she intended them for, in any case."
"Right then, I'll go get them. Just bring Draco to the Headmaster's office would you?" Molly asked her daughter, casting Draco a sympathetic look. She hurried away to the nearest fireplace and was engulfed in a flash of green flames.
Draco followed Ginny patiently, the faces of the people he passed turned curiously in his direction as he walked behind the redhead. And then he was there in the office, and it was exactly as it always had been. The pensieve was out already, Ginny noticed, and she gestured to Draco to sit him down. They sat there in silence, neither one keen to talk, both still too fresh with grief to mention anything to one another. And soon enough there was a clambering outside the door, and Mrs. Weasley walked in carrying the chest that Ginny had mentioned, and set in on the ground near the pensieve. She reached in and pulled out a bottle marked with the number one, and carefully uncorked it, and poured it into the basin.
"Well, there you go dear, I'm sure it'll explain everything. There are quite a few in here. We'll be in the Great Hall when you're ready to come down. Ginny dear, we best get down there. Harry and Ron and…" But Molly trailed off as her shoulders started to shake again and she hurried out the room.
Draco walked over to the stone container and stared into the swirling silver that wasn't liquid or mist. He leaned forward over it and suddenly he found himself in a place he had never been before.
It was a large house, just as Mrs. Weasley had described. There were at lest seven bedrooms and nine other rooms besides. Hermione wondered incredulously what such an old woman would want with such an enormous house. Hermione followed Mrs. Weasley up a hallway and turned left into a room. There was a large bed in there, and a little window that looked out into a garden just outside. But Draco realized with a jolt that Hermione had something in her arms. A small bundle covered with a blanket. Upon moving closer to her, Draco stumbled back in surprise as he realized it was a baby. He watched as Hermione crawled onto the bed, careful of her child and leaned back against the pillows, exhausted.
It was more than he could bear, so Draco forced himself from out of the memory and with shaking hands, he used his wand to place the silvery substance back in its proper bottle. The bottles clinked together as Draco pulled one out randomly, labeled twenty-three, and poured the substance into the basin once again. He leaned over it and found himself back in the room.
Quite a few months had passed; it may have even verged on two years. Hermione was sitting on the bed and the baby was propped up across from her with a pillow, grasping a little stuffed black dog. Hermione smiled at the baby and wiggled her fingers, and the baby laughed delightedly. Draco fell to his knees beside the bed and watched the scene play out before him.
"Who am I?" Hermione asked the child.
"Mummy!" the baby answered, stretching its arms out to her mother.
"And do you know Daddy's name?" Hermione asked the little one before her, allowing the child to grasp her fingers in its tiny hands.
The baby was quiet for a moment before it responded, "Sirius."
Hermione laughed delightedly and tickled the baby. "No, silly. That is Sirius," she replied, pointing at the little stuffed dog that was sitting in the child's lap. "You remember. What's Daddy's name?"
The baby looked at the little cuddly toy for a moment, then up at Hermione. "Draco," was the proud reply.
Hermione scooped the child up into her arms and kissed its face all over. "That's right! And do you know what?"
"He loves you very much," Hermione answered, setting the child back down. "And can't wait to see you."
The baby smiled widely at its mother and crawled across the bed to lay down with her. "I love you."
Hermione smiled down at the baby, brushing back the soft brown waves. "I love you too."
The scene misted over and Draco felt himself hit the cold office floor again. Without ado Draco replaced the memory and fumbled about for another one. It was labeled forty-one, and he poured it into the pensieve, falling into the memory quickly.
They were gathered around a large table in the kitchen. It was late autumn again, judging by the warm colors of the few leaves that still clung to the otherwise bare trees outside. There was Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, an old woman that Draco assumed was Aunt Muriel, and Hermione. They were gathered around a little girl with long, wavy hair and shining grey eyes. It was her birthday, apparently, for in front of her was placed a round cake decorated in white icing with green and pink flowers that adorned the top. There were four candles placed aesthetically on the cake, and a name was written in purple icing: Adalae.
The four women were singing Happy Birthday and the little girl grinned with delight. With a jolt Draco realized that a picture of himself was set up next to the little girl. He was singing along as well and smiling as he gazed upon his daughter, and Draco felt his heart clench. When the song ended, the little girl blew out the candles and her mother asked, "What did you wish for, Adalae?"
The girl turned her face up to her mother and answered, "That Daddy would come visit us and we could all live together happily."
Hermione fought down a sob, kissed her daughter and excused herself from the room. Draco half followed Hermione, but stayed within sight of Adalae digging into her vanilla cake. He turned, however, when he heard a voice.
"Draco, I love you so much. I wish you were here watching your daughter grow up. She's gorgeous, and she has your eyes. But when this is all over, you, me and her are going to be so happy." It was Hermione, but she wasn't talking to him. Her face was turned in the direction of a photo on the wall of her room, and Draco saw himself smiling down at the softly crying Hermione, whispering things to comfort her.
"Mummy! Don't you want some cake?"
"Yes of course, silly child!" Hermione called back, wiping her eyes and putting a smile on. Her fingers lingered on the photo of Draco for a moment before she hastened back to the other room and accepted the slice of cake her daughter was offering her.
Again the scene was getting foggy, and Draco could feel himself being called back to the Headmaster's office.
When he hit the floor this time, Draco couldn't bring himself to move for a few minutes. He had a daughter. And Hermione hadn't told him. And suddenly it all made sense. Why she had left so suddenly, why he hadn't seen her in four years. He had a daughter. A daughter. Draco kept repeating this though in his head, trying to grasp the concept, but it wasn't coming. He'd have to see her himself, he decided, make sure she was real.
With a huge effort Draco pulled himself up from the ground and once again replaced Hermione's memory. Hermione. She really had thought things through. Saving memories for him so he could watch his daughter grow up.
Just as Draco was going to shut the chest, he noticed and envelope taped onto the inside of the lid. He carefully pulled it free of it's restrictions, and opened the flap. Pulling out several sheets of paper he read:
If you're reading this, then I'm assuming that I've not made it, or perhaps I've just decided to let you read it anyway. I sincerely hope it is the latter and not the former.
As I'm sure you are well aware of now, love, you have a daughter. She's gorgeous and bright, but she has such a mischievous personality, I wonder if you weren't more playful than I thought. She's sleeping right now, and she's everything you would ever love. I'm leaving tonight, to find Harry and Ron. But just in case there wasn't time to tell you, I had to explain.
I'm sure you were wondering why I never told you. Why I disappeared for four years without even a word. Draco, I simply couldn't tell you about Adalae. If I did, and you were captured, then they would know, they would know everything, and I couldn't let that happen. She's so precious; she's just like you. You don't know how many times I dreamed of telling you, of running away, the three of us, to a place where no one would know us, and just living our lives together happily. But life isn't so easy. If I told you, then you would probably go and do something stupid, like try and kill Voldemort, and I just didn't think I could bear our daughter growing up without knowing how wonderful her father is.
Draco, love, I hope you're not mad at me. You honestly don't know how much I love you; have loved you all these years. I'm writing this confident in the fact that I will walk out of this, holding your hand, and greeting out little girl together. Because that is how it's meant to be. But I had to write this…just in case.
Draco, I love you so much, really I do. And if for some reason I don't come out of this alive, I want you to take care of Adalae, tell her stories of us, of all my adventures and yours. And show her pictures of me, and let her watch our memories together. And do let her play with Teddy Lupin and Victoire Weasley, will you? She's been so lonely all these years, and while I'm completely willing to make her some brothers and sister, I find myself without the means. [Hopefully we will remedy that soon.]
But if I die, yes, Draco, there is a chance that I may die, then I want you to take such good care of our daughter. Raise her the way you know I would want, and don't hold yourself back from love. Love her with all your might. And if somewhere down the road you do find someone else, and you know that you love her just as much as you love me, then I give you my blessing to love her as well. Just because I may have left doesn't mean I don't want you to be happy, I do. Very much.
I love you Draco, with every little bit of myself, forever and for always. I'll see you soon.
P.S. In the little side pouch I've also enclosed letters for Harry, Ron, Ginny, Mrs. Weasley and Adalae. Though I request that you'll give the latter her letter when she's a bit older and will understand. I love you!
Draco hastened to wipe his eyes of their tears lest he should mar the letter Hermione had written him any more than he already had. He painstakingly refolded it and tucked it back inside its envelope, then placed it on top of the bottles of memories. Draco shut the chest gingerly and decided he would come back for it later. Right now all that mattered was getting back to Hermione and meeting his daughter. His daughter. The thought struck a chord somewhere in Draco, and for the first time in a long time he felt a raw feeling fill him up. Happiness, he concluded. He was happy. A bit ironic, in light of the tragedy that had just occurred, but then, he realized suddenly, he had something to live for once again.
Draco made his way slowly down the stone steps and in a daze walked into the Great Hall. The dead bodies were being carted away to a tent outside the grounds by Healers to be cleaned up best they could before their service. Draco saw the Weasley's and Harry gathered around in a tight circle. As they heard him approach, they all turned to look at him, and Draco felt uncomfortable under their gaze.
They broke apart slightly and in the center were three children. All of them appeared to be around the same age. There was a boy with a heart shaped face and turquoise hair that Draco knew to be Teddy Lupin. Another was a girl, younger than the other two perhaps, with silvery hair and bright blue eyes, Fleur and Bill's daughter, no doubt. And there, in a pale pink dress, waist length golden-brown hair and glittering grey eyes was Adalae.
The three children stopped and looked up at the newcomer, and when Adalae realized whom it was she broke into a smile and ran to her father. Draco knelt down to her so that she could hug him rather than his knee, and he placed his arms around the small girl. After several moments she drew back and Draco took a good look at her. She looked almost exactly like Hermione. Her face was slightly more pointed, and her hair wasn't bushy as Hermione's had been when she was young, but she had his eyes. Grey pools that were sparkling with excitement.
She pulled him down so that she could whisper in his ear. "My name is Adalae Ginerva Malfoy. And you're my Daddy," she told him, a note of triumph in her voice. "Daddy, why are you crying?"
He hadn't known he was and Draco wiped them away hurriedly, pulling Adalae into a hug again. He kissed her and brushed the hair off her face and let himself hold her for a while longer. "I'm crying because I'm so happy that I've finally met you," he told her. Draco lifted his daughter up off the ground and swung her around in a circle. "And because I love you so much." He hugged the child close to himself again and closed his eyes tightly, his heart hurting in a mixture of grief and joy that he couldn't explain. She looked so much like Hermione, and yet, here she was, her entirely own person.
Off in the distance the sun was shining brightly overhead and pouring onto the ground, as the Healers were busily running back and forth to retrieve the wounded or dead. Draco didn't see Hermione anywhere, but he knew that she was there in the tent among the many others who had died as a result of the war. For a moment Draco felt bitterness and resentment well up in himself again. He thought of how unfair it had all been, that so many children were orphans, that so many had lost someone, and he thought for a brief moment that this wasn't worth it, that none of it was.
But then Adalae squirmed in his arms and he looked down at her innocent little face, struggling to get free and play with her friends and he realized that it was. That all the grief, the scars that would remain, the memories that would haunt them all for life were indeed worth it. Adalae was living proof of that.
A/N: I want to thank all my lovely readers for joining me on this journey! I really appreciate all your kind words and ardor for my story, and I hope I have created something you all enjoyed, despire the whole Hermione being dead part! As a quick note, I am working on adding a little more to this story, in chapter two probably, so just be on the look out for any of that! Again, thanks so much to all my lovely reviewers, with special shoutouts to: lacking a better name and readerforlife. But I love you all very much, thank you!