all characters belong to JKRowling and I make no money from the writing or publishing or this story.
Of Photographs and Flashbacks
Prologue: (Really, the end – so the Epilogue)
The sun felt so good on her face. She tilted her head back, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She could actually 'feel' the warmth of the sun. Not the actual heat…she didn't equate warmth with temperature or degrees. She could feel the actual 'warmth'. It felt like the colour yellow and orange combined, mixed together, and plastered on her soul.
She inhaled yet another deep breath, then a third and opened her eyes. It was a good day today. Yesterday was a bad day. Perhaps tomorrow would be a better day. She had nothing better to do than to compare her days. All she did was pass the time, waiting for the days to come, good or bad, and then live them out as was predetermined, day by day, with each memory measured inch by inch, and each breath inhaled ounce by ounce. The pain was more bearable than usual, which was good. Sometimes the pain poured out of her liter by liter, like her lifeblood passing through her, and when the pain was unbearable, life was almost unbearable.
But it wasn't so intolerable today. The memories didn't haunt her today. The pain wasn't fresh, the wounds weren't festering. Yes, it was a good day.
The sky was so blue today that it almost made her ache with want. The blue of the sky mixed with the yellow of the sun combined to make a green so full of life that she almost forgot for a moment the reason she was even here at this place. She wanted to strip herself of all her bindings, (metaphorically and superlatively) and start walking until she reached the end of the path, then she would walk farther still until she reached the end of the lane, then she'd be really daring and walk farther and farther until she reached the dense woods. What would she dare to do next?
Oh, how wonderful it would be to be so very courageous once again and to cast aside all unwanted forms of chains and hindrances, to start out at leisurely walk, walk to a canter, canter to a run, run to a sprint, pick up her feet and fly…far away, over the woods, over the rooftops, bypass the towns, to the ocean.
She'd lie upon the shore, thread the sand through her fingertips, throw shells back into the sea and lean her head back on her neck and feel the warm yellow of the sun upon her face and feel the cool blue of the sky against her skin.
Oh, the secret, impulsive wishes that would forever be unfulfilled.
Glancing over to the bench a short distance away, she sees him watching her. He's always there, on that same bench, the same time of day as she, and though she sometimes reads, or cries, or closes her eyes, he never deviates from his usual, daily ritual. He never does anything but watch her. He never falters. If it rains, he's there. It it's sunny, like today, he's there. If no one else was around, he's there. Even the days that she's not there, he's there. Does that make him the stalker or her?
Truthfully, it's like he's a thorn in her side, twisting, turning, always reminding her that she's not alone, and that no matter what, that a 'once in a while sunny day' and that a 'once in a while sun on her face feeling' was a passing fancy, and not something in which she should become reliant upon. Oh no. He won't let her become complacent. He won't let her remain inert. He won't let her forgive, forget, or falter.
As if she could forget. He's pressed inside her memory like a photograph or a flashback. His face was imprinted in her skull, along with every single conversation they've ever had and every single moment they've ever shared. She couldn't forget him if she tried, not that she really wanted to forget him.
Although...she wanted to forget sometimes. He won't let her. How like him. He always was so arrogant. Always so unrelenting, thinking he knew more than the rest. He always thought he knew what was best for her. Glaring back at him for a change, she dared him in her mind to look her in the eyes this time…come on brave man, look at her, look at her, look at her, look at her, look at her, if you dare. If she chanted it enough times in her mind, he usually did.
Never one to disappoint, his face turned slightly, his eyes went from staring out before him, and he glanced directly into her eyes. The brightness of the blue sky and the brilliance shimmering of the yellow sun could not compare to the striking intensity of his ice-grey stare, or the incredible, vivid radiance of his once handsome face. Of course he stared at her. He always did. But then again, he always would. She knew that. She found comfort in it, if she would only admit it to herself. His eyes had been looking into hers for over sixty years. Why would they stop now?
She turned her eyes from his and remembered a long forgotten memory from the past.
Memory 1 –
"It would be better to tear the place down, level it completely, and start from scratch."
Hermione shot Draco Malfoy an exasperated glance and then humphed. He wasn't speaking to her, exactly, so she ignored him and continued to pick up large pieces of debris: wood, stones, rocks, and place them on the makeshift pallet to her left. She turned and her right foot caught on the end of the pallet and she started to stumble, fall.
He sprang forward faster than she anticipated. Strong arms righted her from behind, steadying her, but releasing her just as quickly. She turned her face sideways to look over at him, but he was already stalking away, complaining about something else.
Why was he complaining? So what if he was sentenced to help clean up their old school after the Battle of Hogwarts? Many people felt he belonged in prison with his mother and father. Helping to rebuild a castle was a small price to pay.
Likewise, many of the people here, Hermione included, decided to give up their summer to help restore the old magical castle to its former glory, giving of themselves and their time AT A TIME when there was so little to give. She felt torn in two as it was…away from Ron, away from her parents who had just returned home, yet she wanted to come here and give back to a school that had given so much to her.
She stretched her spine, because it had a crick, and then smoothed the back of her hand over her brow. She heard someone bark an order to Draco and some of the other former Slytherin seventh years who were here this summer. She looked over her shoulder and saw Draco pick up the large branch that was indicated, throw it over his shoulder, and grunt in disgust.
Hermione bent at the waist again, reached out to pull at another large piece of debris, when she saw a small cluster of blue flowers. They looked so beautiful, but foreign, lost and alone in a small little heap amongst the broken down ruins in this part of the grounds.
She sat on her bottom and touched the little blue petals. The colour was more violet than blue, she could see that now. She was aware that she made a little sound in the back of her throat, a sound of wonderment, questioning, asking. Reaching out for the cluster of flowers, she stroked the petals and asked softly, "What type of flower are you and how did you survive? You're so beautiful, but somehow the ugliness around you didn't touch you, because you're still beautiful and untouched from all the tainted evilness, cruelty and hatred that hang so clearly around you."
"The same could be said of you," she heard a voice say over her shoulder. She felt an intense heat behind her and then she felt his knee pressing against her back as he squatted next to her. Her hand was still touching the small petals, and his hand came to touch them, too. She moved her hand as quickly as she could, turned her head, and narrowed her eyes to him.
He didn't repeat his observation. Instead, he watched her intently, though his hand was now gently stroking the petals of the flower. She moved her hand to the ground, but it was still close. The heat of his body warmed her very soul, and as a breeze blew a lock of her hair forward, it touched his cheek, and he reached up with his other hand and hooked it behind her ear, then moved that hand so quickly down her back that she might not even have known it happened if she hadn't felt the imprint on the very same soul that his body had just warmed.
He stood hastily, almost as if he were embarrassed, and now as he stood, and she sat, she noticed that he had the small spray of flowers in his other hand. He had plucked them from the earth so suddenly she didn't even notice. He held them out to her and said, "They would have become trampled. Take them. They're hyacinth."
She stood and took the offering. His hand touched hers briefly, and she felt calluses from his hand on her hand and she wondered for a split second what his hands would feel like on the sensitive skin of the rest of her body.
She wasn't aware of closing her eyes until they were closed. She knew only that she YEARNED for something….something unknown, something unnamed, something lingering and wanting and haunting.
Then she felt the stroke of his work-rough hand caress her cheek as fleetingly as the wind, and before she could open her eyes, his hand dropped back down to his side. He strode away. She balled her hands into fists at her sides, her right hand still holding the cluster of flowers. Glancing around the ruins she knew that nothing here would heal if it wasn't nurtured.
Nothing. Including him. Tears began to flow down her face and she wiped them away with a shaking hand that betrayed her bravado. She knew instantly that she wasn't here to help rebuild a castle. She was here to help rebuild a man, and in the end, to help rebuild her own shattered soul.
Author's Notes: So there isn't any confusion, I DID mean to start with the epilogue, not the prologue, because I'm starting this at the end of the story, and then telling it with a series of 'flashbacks' and 'memories'. Thanks for reading!