Author's Note: Well ladies and gentlemen, here you have the 18th and final chapter of my fic If! There's nothing left to do but read the final piece, but do please read the author's note at the end containing all of the compulsory pleasantries!
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And – which is more – you'll be a Man, my son!
Saturday 31st October, 1998 – continued
"No!" Hermione screamed. "Harry, NO!" She grappled at the body lying on the floor, frantic in her grief. Suddenly she was no longer alone, as Ron too ran forwards and flung himself onto the floor next to her. He was also sobbing heartily, gripping tightly onto the lifeless hand that still held onto a wand.
"Harry!" He cried. "Listen to me! Wake up, Harry!" Everyone in the room seemed to be staring at them, motionless. What could one do in a situation like that? There didn't seem to be anything for anyone to say.
Draco sat up hazily, rubbing his eyes. The light did not seem to be there any longer, and he was astounded by it. What was it? Whatever it had been, it had knocked him unconscious for a moment. Hermione's screams suddenly ripped through him, causing the hairs on his arms to stand on end. He turned and watched her, as she wept over the dead body of her greatest friend. It took him a moment to realise that Potter was dead. He had never liked him, but Draco could not help but feel a pang of sorrow; Potter, the hero of the wizarding world, was dead. Tearing his eyes away from the grief, he looked to see that Voldemort too lay unmoving on the ground. He was certainly dead this time – it was undeniable – for he looked like a withered and damaged old man, rather than the slippery serpent that had been his nightmare; both awake and asleep. Snape was stood by him, staring down in cold silence. Draco watched as he waved his hand and levitated the body, before he followed it silently out of the door.
When Draco diverted his attention back to Hermione, he noted that Lupin had now joined them. The front of his shirt was smeared with blood, and his eyes were red as though he too had been crying. Draco did not know how he summoned the strength to remain calm; Potter had been like a son to him. Lupin somehow managed to persuade Weasley and Hermione to move away. Hermione ran straight to Mrs Weasley's arms, her shoulders jolting as they sobbed together. Even at that moment of devastation, Draco longed to be the one she had run to. He felt a hollow sort of envy which, to him, seemed completely at odds with what had just happened. He sat back and wrapped his arms around himself, trying to draw some comfort from the heat of his own body. He felt as though time had stopped in that room where the only sound was of crying; everything seemed to move twice as slowly, every emotion and feeling was exaggerated tenfold. He wanted to escape it.
Following Snape's move, Lupin waved his wand and levitated Harry's body. The group formed a procession behind him, as they slowly followed Lupin and Harry out of the Shrieking Shack. Together they walked through the grounds, in silent poignancy and recognition for the life of Harry Potter. Draco wondered idly where Severus was, but did not want to reflect on it. Severus certainly had a score to settle with Voldemort; what he did now that the man had died was nobody's business but his own. Draco walked alone towards the back of the group, his head bowed and his eyes half closed. He hadn't reached Hermione in time – that he was certain of. If he had…it would have been he who led dead and not Potter. It should have been him. He had expected it to be. Potter had so much more left to do; yes he had saved the Wizarding World, but now they needed him to rebuild it. He would have done a bloody good job too. But what would Draco bring? Nothing. He was the son of a Death Eater, who had tried to kill the only person that the people had trusted more than Potter. There would be no place for him in this new world, he was almost certain.
They processed to the headmistress' office, as people stopped and watched whilst they passed by. Draco hated seeing the looks of realisation on their faces; confusion, then horror, followed by sheer and uncontrollable grief. It made his head ache to think what an impact this would have on the rest of the wizarding population. They would be at a compete loss without him – no one could deny it. As the others entered the office, Draco hung back and stayed outside. The statue of the gargoyle moved back into place, as Draco stood solemnly and watched it. He would have felt unwelcome in there. It was not his place to witness what would happen; to speak to Dumbledore's portrait in such a moment of grief would have been unbearable for him. He was certain he would never be able to face the headmaster again – portrait or not. As he watched, he heard a slight movement behind him and turned to see his godfather. Snape's face looked hard and tired, but Draco could sense relief there. He knew how it felt, for he was experiencing it too.
"Come, Draco. We shall have tea."
Strangely, they headed to the dungeons which accepted Snape as though he had never been away. Tea was delivered to them both, which they prepared and drank in silence. Although the silence was comfortable, it was loaded with raw emotion that Draco was sure would never be expressed. Happiness, elation, sadness, grief. Eventually, Snape broke the tension.
"I buried Voldemort. His grave is unmarked and no one shall ever know how to locate it but myself." Draco nodded.
"Yes." Snape sighed wearily. "Strange is the only adequate way to describe how I feel." Snape stared at Draco carefully for a moment, with narrow eyes.
"What is it you want to say to me?" Draco whispered quietly. "Don't say 'nothing', because I know you wish to speak. You can tell me; I don't have the strength to be angry."
"Your father is dead. I killed him."
The message was painful, his delivery blunt, but Draco was grateful for it. He expected that Severus felt guilty about the murder of his father, but Draco did not think he had reason to be. It was what Draco had wanted. The only thing that made him angry was that he hadn't been able to do the deed himself. Draco voiced these thoughts, and Snape physically sagged as though he was no longer carrying a great weight.
"He killed Hermione's mother too." Draco whispered, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the floor. "He hurt so many people that I love. I'm glad he's dead." The two of them did not speak any further, but Severus put a hand on Draco's shoulder and gave him a very brief smile. They drank the rest of their tea in companionable silence, uncertain of what was going to happen to them next.
Saturday 7th November, 1998
The following week was an almost unbearable blur for Draco and the rest of the Wizarding World. Whilst one could not help but celebrate the salvation of the Wizarding World, it was impossible not to feel the grief. Parties were interspersed with quiet reflection and vigils, and Hogwarts became a place for both mourning and merriment. It was possible to lose one's head in such a whirlwind of madness. Papers printed conflicting news stories; everyone had a theory on how Potter had defeated the Dark Lord, but no one knew exactly. Not even the Order knew, hell, even those who had witnessed it were none the wiser.
Draco returned to Grimmauld Place, along with many of the other Order members. It was a relief for him to be away from Hogwarts; he appreciated being back in his small, messy room and he sat alone in it for hours on end. The only person whom he permitted to keep him company was his godfather. They would sit together and play chess, or discuss banal things like the weather or what was for lunch, and sometimes they would just sit in silence and read. Although Draco was pleased to be reunited with him (and he enjoyed his company immensely), it just wasn't enough. He simply wasn't Hermione.
The truth was, Draco had neither seen nor spoken to her since the day of the battle. Of course he had seen her picture in the Prophet every day, and listened to the interviews with her on the Wizarding Wireless Network, but it was not the same. When he led alone in the evenings, with only his thoughts to distract him, he managed to convince himself that she was avoiding him. She wished it was he that had died and not Harry. He knew it. Draco was aware that Snape knew what he was thinking, but his godfather did not mention it; the look of anxiety in his eyes was unavoidable, however.
An exact week following the battle, Potter's funeral was held in the Hogwarts grounds. Like Dumbledore's funeral service, hundreds of people arrived to pay their final respects. Draco was amongst them. He sat at the back next to Snape, his face impassive and his eyes fixed steadily on the back of Hermione's head. Her hair was scraped back into a bun and the autumn sunlight bounced off it. Draco thought she looked beautiful, even if her eyes were red from crying and her cheeks streaked with tears. During the service, she turned around as though she could feel Draco looking at her. Their eyes met for a brief moment, during which she smiled sadly before turning back to the front. It was brief contact, but it appeased Draco for the time being.
Whilst the burial took place, Draco quietly stood from his seat and walked slowly down to the lake. He sat on the ground and leant against a tree, staring out across the lake which shimmered gently. Looking at his peaceful surroundings, it was hard to believe that, only a week earlier, it had been a scene of carnage; because of this, for the first time, it seemed that Draco was truly able to see all that had taken place. His assassination attempt, living in the wild with Severus, begging for mercy from The Order, befriending Hermione, falling in love with her, his mother's murder…Potter's murder. The fall of Voldemort. It all seemed so unreal, so unlikely to have everhappened. But it had, and the effects on Draco were more profound than he could ever have anticipated.
Ducking his head and closing his eyes, Draco allowed a single tear to drop from his eyes. It was the first time he had cried in a very long time, and Draco was resolute that it would also be the last. Giving a shaky sigh, his eyelids fluttered open and he saw a pair of simple black shoes stood in front of him.
"Hermione…" It was the only thing he could think to say. A greeting seemed irrelevant, condolences seemed crass, and blabbering about his feelings would have been ridiculous.
"I'm so sorry that I haven't been in touch." She blurted suddenly, looking sheepish. "This week has been utter madness. I've hardly slept, or even sat down…everyone wants to talk to me or take my picture; it's becoming a little tiresome, you know?"
"That's quite alright. I understand."
Without saying another word she sat down next to him; letting out a small sigh, she rested her head against the tree and closed her eyes. They sat in silence, basking in the sunshine, until Draco could bear it no longer.
"What for?" She asked quietly, confusion lacing her voice.
"That…that I didn't get to you in time. I wish that…that I'd got there before Harry." It was not necessary for him to explain; they both understood what he was suggesting. He was surprised when, after a moment, Hermione moved and knelt opposite him. She placed her hands on his cheeks and leant forwards so that their foreheads met.
"Don't even think such a thing." She whispered. "There was nothing that any of us could have done – nothing. Besides, I don't even think it was the…the Curse that did it. Didn't you see that light? It was so odd…"
"Astute as ever, Miss Granger." Hermione moved away as they both turned to face Snape, whose arrival they had heretofore not been aware of. "Surprisingly it does not astound me that, even with an imminent threat of death, you did not fail to notice the particulars." Hermione gave a bashful smile, but her eyes flashed with curiosity.
"What is it you know, sir? Please, share it with us."
"The amulet. As you know, Narcissa gave it to me as a gift." He turned to look at Draco. "But you were not aware of the fact that she intended me to give it to you; she did not wish to give it to you directly, fearing that it would draw your father's attention and ruin her carefully laid plans."
"What do you mean, Severus? What plans?"
"The amulet has special properties, Draco, which make it an ideal gift for someone whom you want to protect. These properties will only come into power if the giver of the amulet cares for the receiver, and if someone is willing to sacrifice themselves for them. They activate when the recipient is in the face of danger."
"What are these powers?" Hermione demanded. "Was that the bright light?"
"Yes. If the conditions I mentioned are met, a bright light will be emitted from the amulet and the danger will be destroyed. Someone must be willing to sacrifice themselves for the recipient, for they too will be destroyed by the light."
"You gave the amulet to me…" Draco stated quietly. "Who intended to sacrifice themselves for me?"
"Your mother." Draco and Snape exchanged a long look, as Hermione slipped her hand into Draco's.
"And then Draco gave it to me." She said. "And Harry…" They fell into silence, each contemplating the gravity of what had just been explained.
After a few moments, Snape excused himself and returned to the castle, leaving Draco and Hermione alone once more.
"I…" Draco started. Hermione squeezed his hand to stop him, looking up and giving him a small smile. She had been crying silently but then so had he.
"Don't say anything." She whispered. "Let's just be quiet for a while. So much has happened, and we still have so much left to do. Let's take a moment for ourselves." Hermione rested her head on Draco's shoulder, a wily lock of hair tickling his cheek. He reached around her shoulder, and gently touched the amulet that still dangled around her neck, marvelling that such a tiny thing had the power to do so much. Draco gave a gentle sigh and, together, they watched as the lake twinkled in the midday sun.
Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed the final chapter of If! I wanted to keep the ending vague because, like Draco is at the end, i wanted that last little bit of doubt, confusion and uncertainty to remain! ;) I would like to hear how you found the ending, and the whole thing really, so please leave a review! On the subject of reviews, i would like to thank every person who has read and reviewed each of my chapters; particularly those who have reviewed each chapter diligently as the months have passed, and haven't given up on my fic! THANK YOU! :D