A/N: Sorry for the delay everyone, my old laptop has passed away I usually don't throw in song references with my fics, but if you would like to look up some music, then A Beautiful Storm by Jennifer Thomas fits the mood of this chapter perfectly. This is a pretty intense chapter, so I'd love to know what everyone thinks. Everything that happens in this chapter has been planned from the very beginning. Thanks for reading!
A Christmas Wish Ch. 21
Pansy stared at her hands, tracing the crisscross pattern of razor thin scars that had become achingly familiar through the years. She sat on a piece of rubble inside of Hogwarts, every so often a blast from outside brought a new piece of rubble crashing to the floor. She watched as her friends gathered together, spending their last few moments in the only way they knew how. They ran from person to person, some of them frantically strategizing for the battle, some of them saying tearful final goodbyes, and some of them simply drifting off to be by themselves.
It was amazing how much you could tell about a person, simply from their behavior when they knew they were about to die.
It was during these moments that Pansy felt the most desire to write, to organize her chaotic thoughts into something resembling a coherent idea. She wanted everyone to get a glimpse into her world, a snapshot of this point in time, a permanent record of this memory. It was these moments when her emotions swirled and built on each other, demanding to be heard, desperate to be released. She had never known fear, had never known love, had never known selflessness and joy like she did at that moment.
Instinctively she reached for her journal, wanting to indulge one last time in the only pleasure that had sustained her for all these years. Her hand faltered when she realized it wasn't there anymore, no, her deepest innermost thoughts were no longer hers to control. Her dark secrets and wildest dreams were now the responsibility of someone else, someone strong and brave, someone who was more than she could ever be.
She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to ward off the chill of loneliness that had suddenly overcome her. Funny, she had never been the type to miss anyone, had never been the one who needed companionship. The desire for love was a luxury that she could never afford, a benefit that was just too far beyond her reach. All of that had been thrown to the wind, though, when a little bit of love was shown to her.
She leaned back against the cold wall and gazed towards the immense ceiling. Tonight it was charmed to look like the stars, each tiny little light blinking at her, completely oblivious to the peril taking place on earth. None of them by themselves were particularly remarkable, none of them stood out. However, when viewed all together, it created a beautiful sight that was unlike anything else in the world. She wondered if maybe, just maybe, he was looking at the same stars that she was.
Her eyes landed on a particular star, whose light was slightly weaker than the rest of the others. She didn't know why she was drawn to it, didn't understand why her gaze didn't just pass by it like all the others. It flickered spastically, like the heart rate of a patient on the very edge of death. With one last flash, it was consumed by the darkness.
There was no sign that it had ever existed.
"Don't forget me," she whispered to no one in particular. "I don't want to fade into nothingness. Don't forget…"
Jack had to admit, sometimes he really outdid himself.
He watched his beautiful Hermione dueling the redheaded punk that she so vehemently claimed to love – a bout of delusion, no doubt, her memories were still very fragile – with a considerable amount of joy. He drank in the expression on the boy's face, wreathed and torn with excruciating agony. He absorbed the ruthless barbarism with which Hermione attacked, the precise, unflinching determinism with which she struck to kill. He watched the gray, desolate smog flowing around them, suffocating their hope away, filling the small space in the cold, deserted alleyway…
It was absolutely beautiful, like something from a painting.
"Hermione, please! You have to remember!"
Ah, the anguish rang so clearly in the boy's voice. Such fear and desperation, sheer passion and fire. He couldn't have planned this better had he written the script and told them exactly what to say.
"Stop trying to distract me, boy! I know what I have to do!"
Hermione attacked with a brutality that Jack had thought incapable from her, and yet, he found himself all the more drawn to her because of it. She was dangerous, she was not to be trifled with, she was strong.
That made controlling her all the sweeter.
He knew that it would only be a matter of time before the boy's resolve wavered, before his bright blue eyes began to dim as he finally realized that there would be no saving her. When he realized that she would be the one to take his life, that all of this had been a trap that he willingly walked into. When all the conflict and confusion made sense, and he understood exactly how this story would end.
Jack couldn't wait for that moment.
Any second now, and it would all be over.
Harry wondered if this was how his mother and father had felt when they knew that they were going to die, when they knew that Voldemort had found them and all had been lost. He wondered if they felt the gut-wrenching pain as everything they loved was torn away from them, one piece at a time. He wondered if their legs quaked every time an attack hit the house, if their heartbeat skyrocketed at every miniscule noise, if their adrenaline pumped through their veins quicker than any drug ever could.
He wondered if they were as terrified as he was, or if they faced it with bravery and determination.
Harry took heart in the fact that his friends were there to protect him, however, he couldn't help but worry for them at the same time. He knew that some wouldn't make it through, he knew that lives would be forever changed because of what happened tonight. And despite how many times people told him it wasn't his fault, despite how many times they told him that they were fighting Voldemort and he just happened to be an ally, he couldn't help but feel responsible for everything that happened.
He knew that he would never be able to shake the memories of this night.
He had fought for his life several times before, and he had been in many deadly situations. He had faced terrors that most people only had nightmares about, and he had done it all before he was seventeen. However, nothing quite compared to the immensity of the task before them, nothing really felt quite so final or determined. Everything he had experienced up until that point was simply a warm up for this moment, preparation for his final test.
In a flash, the army was upon them, and the war truly began.
Fred's lungs gasped for air. His muscles ached and screamed with every movement, his feet dragged with every step, and his attacks slowed with every passing second. The fighting had taken its toll on him, had worn him out considerably.
Hermione, however, seemed completely unaffected by the battle. Her breathing was as steady and unflinching as her loyalty, her attacks as accurate and precise as her answers in class, and her movements quicker than her wit. Any normal person would be exhausted by now, would be barely hanging onto their desire to fight.
What had this bastard done to her?
Fred knew that he was running out of time. He knew that he was fighting a losing battle, he knew that her skills far outmatched his. He tried to think of something, anything he could do that would trigger her memories. He ransacked his brain for any reference to a memory spell, anything that could help him, absolutely desperate to save the only thing he truly loved.
However, in his state, it took all of his effort simply to remain on his feet.
In a flash, Hermione disarmed him, and his wand flew into the distance. His wand hit the ground, releasing an abrupt clatter as the wood annihilated the pavement. His heart sank into his chest as he realized that this was finally all over, he had failed her, he had promised her so much, but in the end he was just a failure. He was just another boy didn't keep his promises.
Hermione chuckled, the sound foreign and vindictive from her sweet mouth. "Getting tired already, boy? Fine, let's make things interesting."
Fred's head snapped up as he heard her wand hit the ground. He watched it soar through the air and land on the ground several yards away with his own eyes, and yet it was still so hard to believe. She stood before him, completely defenseless, the fog radiating around her like some sort of war goddess.
What could this mean? Was she giving up? Was she going to let him go? Fred felt his hope begin to build as he thought that maybe, just maybe, everything would be fine after all.
A sinister grin snuck across Hermione's face, and immediately Fred's hopes vanished.
She pulled a knife from her belt, the cruel metal glinting in the pale moonlight. It was several inches long, not long enough to be a sword but much more than a simple kitchen knife. She twirled it experimentally a couple of times with an ease that only came from years of practice. She tossed it up and down effortlessly, almost as if it were a toy.
Fred squelched any more curiosity about Hermione's newfound combat skills, and quickly grabbed a trash can lid that was lying in the alley. It wasn't a great defense, but it was better than nothing.
Hermione watched him as he brandished his shield as best he knew how, a chuckle escaping her lips. How elementary, how crude.
She lunged with insane speed, Fred barely had enough time to protect his face from her deadly blade. He stepped back from the sheer force of the impact, his trash can lid releasing a horrible screech from the abrupt contact. She leaped away as quickly as she attacked, regaining her footing, readying herself for another strike.
Fred could have sworn he caught the slightest scent of her perfume. It was so achingly familiar, so reminiscent of a time when they thought they had all the time in the world. It brought him back to a time when he was simply Fred the prankster, and she was still just Hermione the bookworm. Things were so simple, so straightforward, so… normal.
He wished he could go back to those days, when being with her was as natural as breathing.
She struck again, and again all he wanted to do was pull her into his arms. She was within his reach, so tantalizingly close to him now. It would be so simple, it would be so quick –
Fred was reminded of the time they had fought in his mother's kitchen, wielding spoons and spatulas instead of deadly knives. Back then they were simply two people in the same house, but time had watched them grow into so much more. He smiled when he thought of the way she'd looked after he'd soaked her with the sink, and then how triumphant she was when she watched his mother scolding him-
He remembered her by the riverside when he'd taken her horseback riding, the way she clenched her hands with nervousness before she made the confession that turned his world upside down.
He remembered how angry she was when she'd needed him the most and he simply abandoned her. He remembered how she distanced herself from him when he'd broken his promise. He thought then that he had lost her forever, and fought with everything he had to make it up to her. He remembered how she had closed herself off to him for so long, but eventually let him back in again. He didn't understand that level of forgiveness, couldn't see how she could be so selfless and understanding.
He remembered when she told him she was ready for a relationship. He remembered how his heart had soared and he swore he would never let her down again, never let anyone hurt her like he himself had so many times before.
He remembered how she screamed when he took the knife for her, how all he could think about through the blinding pain was how he wanted her to get out, to be safe, even if he didn't make it. If she was safe, if she could get away from that blasted attack, then it was all worth it.
Here, at the end of all things, all that he wanted was to be close to her one more time. All he wanted was to make one last memory, to leave her with something more than the empty, aching hole that now existed in her heart.
Abruptly he threw away the trash can, not even flinching when the metal clanged harshly against the black pavement.
For a moment, there was nothing but silence. The fog swirled around them eerily and Hermione stared, raising an eyebrow in suspicion. He knew that she probably thought it was some sort of trick, some sort of ploy that would lure her in only to finish her off. He was sure that Jack had told her nothing about sacrifices, nothing about friendship, and certainly nothing about love. Of course she wouldn't recognize what he was doing, but it didn't matter.
"I can't fight you, Hermione. I guess… I guess I never really could." Fred confessed.
He held his arms out, feeling incredibly vulnerable and terrified against the brutality before him but also knowing that she was the only thing he wanted in the world.
To his surprise, Hermione did not launch forward with terrifying speed to slit his throat. She didn't pounce like a lioness upon its prey. Instead, she stepped forward tentatively, her harsh expression softening into something more familiar, something more distinctly Hermione. Recognition flashed beneath her cold, hard eyes. The hand holding her knife faltered for a split second, her gaze wavered. She shook her head, trying to clear the conflicting thoughts in her mind.
In a split second, however, her anger flashed back across her features, completely replacing Fred's last glimpse of his Hermione.
Her knife hand strengthened, the blade pointed directly at Fred's stomach. Her eyes filled with hate and distrust, her legs ready to spring away if this proved to be a trap. He saw the knife aimed for him and knew what would happen, but he refused to step away. He had run before, he had let his cowardness overtake his love. This time, he would not let her down. This one last thing he could do for her, he could be for her in death what he never was in life. His eyes never left hers, never looked away, never doubted.
Even when the knife pierced his stomach, even when pain tore through his entire body, still he did not look away.
Finally, she was so close he could reach out and touch her. Finally she was so close that he could smell her, feel her breath on his cheek, gaze into her eyes and see the fire and spirit that so many people missed.
Before she could even pull the knife out of his stomach and ready herself for another attack, Fred grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into him. He wrapped his arms around her, not caring that doing so drove the blade even further into his stomach. He had to touch her again, he had to hold her, he had to protect her in the only way that he knew how.
He was surprised that she didn't tense, surprised that she didn't try to fight. He pulled away just enough to look into her eyes, and saw the softness and gentleness of her features slowly returning. His Hermione was so close to him now.
He felt his life bleeding out of him, felt the wound demanding that he lay down, felt his eyelids grow heavier. He knew that it was critical and knew that he probably wouldn't make it out of this alive. He only had these precious few moments with her, these last few moments to show her how much she meant to him.
His heart racing for reasons entirely unrelated to blood loss, he slowly brought his face closer to hers. Her eyes widened in surprise, and yet, she didn't pull away, didn't try to fight the undeniable connection she had to him. Fred was terrified that any second now she would revert back to brutality and finish the job, and yet she never did. He wondered if maybe, just maybe, there was a part of her that still belonged totally and completely to him.
Maybe there was a part of her that would always belong to him.
He couldn't help his sudden intake of breath when his lips finally met hers. He couldn't explain the rush that overwhelmed his entire body, that shook him from his head to his toes. He didn't know why he was suddenly so incredibly aware of her slender frame pressed into his, the heat between their bodies becoming an unquenchable flame. He didn't understand how he could still feel so much passion and so much desire for this girl when he could barely even hold onto reality. He didn't know how he could be on death's doorstep and still be able to think of her, only of her, and nothing else.
He could spend the rest of his life kissing her.
He pulled her closer, deepening the kiss, wanting everything that she could give before he left the world entirely. He wished that they'd have more time together, that he could wake up to this kiss every day, and come home to it every night. He wanted a life with her, wanted to have children and grow old together, like everyone else had the opportunity to do. It seemed, however, that fate had something different in mind for them.
It didn't really matter though, in the end. He'd rather have this time with Hermione than have decades with anybody else.
This was the most he could give her, this was all he could do. He felt what little strength he had left leave his body, he felt his muscles refusing to obey his commands. He felt his breathing slow, felt his arms loosen around Hermione, and watched the world turn to black.
The last thing he remembered seeing was her face, full of panic and worry, as her eyes darted between his face and the wound in his stomach. Recognition flashed brightly in those brilliant eyes of hers, and she opened her mouth to scream.
Even now, she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.
He just wished, more than anything, that he had been able to save her.