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Between the Sand and Stone
by sshg316

So lately, been wondering
Who will be there to take my place
When I'm gone, you'll need love to light the shadows on your face
If a greater wave shall fall and fall upon us all
Then between the sand and stone, could you make it on your own?

~ Wherever You Will Go, The Calling

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Prologue

September, 2003

The room was quiet, save for the high-pitched beeping of the Heart Monitoring Charm and the raspy breathing of the man in the hospital bed. He hated St Mungo's. He would rather be dying in the comfort of his flat than this sterile, bleak, wretched hospital. He struggled to breathe, to fill his Cursed lungs, but his efforts were not rewarded. A shuddering cough pierced the silence, racking his body with excruciating pain.

Cool, slender fingers brushed aside the lock of pale blond hair that had fallen across his brow. He felt her touch as she gently moved along his face, as though memorising his features: the bridge of his nose, the fullness of his lips, his slightly pointy chin, and strong jaw line. He struggled to keep his eyes open so he could continue to look at her—his wife. He had never deserved her, had been the cause of so much pain for her, and now, after everything they had been through, here they were.

Fate was a fickle bitch.

He coughed again, unable to even utter a curse as the pressure in his chest built and released, built and released, leaving him even more weakened than he had previously thought possible. Damn his crazy aunt and her demented loyalty to that bloodthirsty maniac. And while he was at it, damn his idiotic parents, too—this was entirely their fault.

Because of them, he would have to leave her—his wife, his love, his fucking everything … his Hermione.

A cool cloth wiped his face and neck, and soothing words were spoken. "Don't look so cross, Malfoy. Your face will stick like that, and then where will you be, hmm?"

He attempted to smirk at her before answering weakly, "Don't worry … Granger. If it does … you won't have … to look at it … for long."

Instantly her eyes—those brown pools he so adored to stare into—filled with tears; he cursed himself soundly. "Don't. S'all right," he slurred, furrowing his brow in frustration at how weak he was becoming. He was close to the end now. Damn it all to hell. He wasn't ready; she needed him.

"I'm sorry," she whispered as she moved her hand to his, entwining their fingers, her thumb sliding across the top of his hand in a light caress.

He barely managed to roll his eyes. "What are … you sorry … for? I'm the … fuck-up who … made you cry."

"Language," she scolded softly, a gentle smile curving her lips.

How many times had she said that very same thing? Would that be the last time? He wasn't ready. Greedy bastard that he was, he wanted more … oh Merlin, did he want more … more of everything with her.

Pull yourself together, he thought. There were important things he needed to tell her. She might not be able to make it on her own. It had been a constant struggle, even with the both of them, and he had to be sure she would be taken care of after he was gone. Harry bloody Potter was Merlin-knew-where, and those damn Weasleys had turned their backs on her when she had dared to marry the Malfoy heir. He and Hermione had just been starting to get things together financially when his health had begun to deteriorate. And now he was going to die. He wasn't certain she could finish what they'd started on her own—and he knew without a doubt that she would try, even if it were to her own disadvantage. He needed to know she wouldn't be left destitute or without a place to live … or alone. He had to tell her ….

Another torturous cough ripped the air from his lungs. Shite, it fucking hurt.

"It's all right. Just relax and let it come. You have plenty of air. Don't fight it, love. Work with it …"

Her calm, loving voice talked him through the pain, even as he internally snorted at her words. Plenty of air, my arse. He couldn't say that, though. She was fragile enough as it was; he didn't want to upset her more with his usual sarcasm.

"Go ahead and say it. 'Plenty of air, my arse,'" she mimicked, her eyes shining with tears or mirth, he couldn't tell which.

One corner of his mouth lifted in a brief facsimile of a smile. "Smarty-pants." Damn, it was so hard to breathe.

"That's me."

He heard her laugh softly—Merlin, he loved that sound.

"Hermione. Have to … tell you. Promise me—"

His words were interrupted by another cough, his body so weak he could only shudder and choke his way through it. It would be over soon. He had to tell her—she had to know …

"Shh. I'm here. Let me go get the Healer. She can give you some more pain-relieving potion, all right? I'll be right ba—"

"NO!" he roared, violently expelling the air from his lungs. His eyes rolled back in his head as he tried to relax against the wave of pain his outburst had caused. Hermione slipped her hand into his, and he grasped it tightly as he struggled for breath. As soon as he could take in enough air, he tried again. "You … have to … promise me … if you … need help … go to …"

Dear Merlin, this was hell. There just wasn't enough air. Why hadn't he told her sooner? Because you're a self-absorbed moron who thought he was invincible. Now, get on with it!

"If you … need help … promise me … go to … Snape. Promise … me." Pain and frustration filled his eyes as he struggled to get out the words.

"Draco," she began, her tone placating but firm, "Professor Snape would be the last person willing to help me. Besides, it won't come to that. I can take care of myself. You don't need to worry."

"No … been … writing him. He writes back. Meetings … every week. Letters … in a box at the top of … the cupboard. Severus ... likes me. He will … help." He felt his breathing become more and more shallow. Was this it then? This slow asphyxiation was how he was going to die? How ignominious.

"I don't think—"

"Promise me!" He stared at her, willing her to understand what he wanted, his eyes wide and probably appearing half-crazed by his efforts. "Promise me … now." He cringed at how pathetic he sounded; the deep timbre of his voice was long gone, and in its place was a thin, reedy whinge.

"If I need help, I'm sure Harry will—"

"No!" Good gods, why was the woman fighting him now? Wasn't she supposed to honour a dying man's last request? What the hell was with all the bloody questions? "Not Potter … Snape … Snape! … Promise, if you … need help … go to Snape … promise." He was so tired. He wished she would just agree so he could sleep.

"All right," she whispered.

"Say it."

She gave him a sad smile and reached out one hand to touch his face. "I promise, if I need help, I will go to Professor Snape. All right? I promise."

"Good." Yes, that was good. Finally. He could rest now. His breathing became more relaxed, though it still remained shallow. "Love you … so much … so sorry, love. Don't want … to leave … Love you …"

Tears coursed down her cheeks … and his, if he would ever admit to such a thing.

"I love you, too. So very much." She pressed her forehead against his arm as she trembled.

The door to the room opened, and the Healer briskly entered, carrying a tray of various phials. "Good evening Mr Malfoy, Mrs Malfoy," she said, her tone sympathetic yet professional. "Are you comfortable? We could give you a more powerful pain-relieving potion, if you'd like. It might make you a bit drowsy."

That meant he might drift away while he slept. That was somehow both appealing and disconcerting. He looked to Hermione.

"It might be easier, darling," she said, wiping away her tears only for them to be replaced with fresh ones. "Why don't you take the potion, and I'll climb in and lie with you a while."

Yes. That sounded like a great way to go.

He nodded his approval, and the potion was administered. The Healer left quietly, and Hermione used her wand to widen the bed a bit. She crawled in and snuggled up next to him, her head on his shoulder. They lay there side by side, their hands clasped tightly, their fingers intertwined. After a few minutes, the pain began to dull, although his breathing remained laborious. His eyelids began to droop, and he knew he would fall asleep soon. He needed to hear it one more time; he needed to tell her once more.

"Love you."

"I love you. Always."

He turned his head, which took more effort than he had anticipated. "Kiss me."

She tilted her face toward him, and somehow he garnered the strength to lower his head and capture her mouth with his. It was tender and sweet and passionate. Damn it. It was probably the last one. He broke the kiss, his head falling back against the pillow. He wished he could make love to her one more time; he smiled at the memories of their early newlywed days when they couldn't seem to get enough of each other. What he wouldn't give to feel her underneath him just once more … to be inside her one final time. Still, it was enough. It had to be enough.

"Reminiscing?" Hermione asked, breaking him of his reverie.

"Yes."

"Good memories, I hope." She snuggled closer to him, her nose nuzzling against his shoulder.

He managed to smirk. "Only … the best."

They lay in silence for a few moments, each lost in memories of the short time they'd had together—each wishing they'd been given more time … always more.

He began to drift asleep. Needing her to remain close by, he whispered, "Stay with … me."

"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

"Good … need you … love you."

~o0o~

A few hours later, wrapped in the arms of the woman he loved, Draco Abraxas Malfoy slipped beyond the veil.

Hermione had never felt so alone.


A/N: A huge thank you, as always, to my beta readers, DeeMichelle and Subversa, and my Brit picker, LettyBird. They are awesome!

I also have to thank GinnyW for not killing me. She knows why. ;)

A few things to say about this fic. It is not complete at this time. There are currently four more completed chapters. I warn you now, after the first five chapters are posted, new chapters will post as real life allows.

This story pretty much ignores Deathly Hallows, but I may use certain aspects if they work for the story.

The next chapter will post in a week!