All characters belong to JKR
Chapter 16 – The Final Chapter
I stand by the river where both of us stood,
And there is but one shadow to darken the flood;
And the path leading to it, where both used to pass,
Has the step of but one to take dew from the grass –
One forlorn since that day.
Go, be sure of my love, by that treason forgiven;
Of my prayers, by the blessings they win thee from heaven;
Of my grief, (guess the length of the sword by the sheath's)
By the silence of life, more pathetic than death!
Go – be clear of that day.
Verses 1 & 4
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
A little girl with long dark curls ran down the gloomy, dank alleyway, a tartan scarf tucked safely inside her jacket. When she finally stopped running, she sat down on a stoop in front of an empty storefront, pulled the frayed wool scarf out of her coat, and wrapped it tightly around her neck once more. Then she took one end and dried the errant tears that ran down her face.
She was scared. She had never been in Knockturn Alley before, nor had she ever been this far from her mother's store. She knew she should turn around and go back to the bookstore, but her mummy was fighting with her daddy again, and she couldn't bare it another second. They probably didn't even notice that she had gone.
They were fighting about her again. Ever since she could remember, she recalled hearing them argue and bicker and often it concerned her. She never really knew why. This time it was the worst fight they had ever had.
She went to work with her mummy sometimes and while she was busy with customers, the little girl went up to the attic of the large bookstore to explore. It was something she did often, and her mother never seemed to mind. The attic contained all sorts of treasures, because the store once belonged to her Uncles Fred and George, and it had many of their former inventory and prototype items stored up there.
After her Uncle Fred died (long before she was born), George closed the store. He said it reminded him too much of his beloved twin. Shortly after that, her mummy opened a bookstore in the same building. One of the little girl's favourite things to do was to go to work with her mummy on the weekends, help in the store, and when it wasn't busy, she loved to go exploring upstairs.
Today was no exception. She went upstairs while her mummy was working down in the store, and she began to look in boxes and crates. Her mummy once told her that she had a natural ability of finding interesting things. She told the little girl it was a talent that she should be proud of, which she was.
It was cold up in the attic today, being November, but the little girl went up there with no qualms, doing what she did best, 'seeking out treasures', when she came upon a locked trunk that she'd never seen during any of her earlier excursions.
She fiddled with the lock for ten minutes, but it wouldn't open. Too young for magic, and not yet having a wand, she knew she couldn't open it that way, so she was ready to abandon this trunk for another. However, when she turned around to leave, a deep feeling pulled her back. She felt as if she was literally 'tugged' back to the trunk by an invisible string. Staring at the trunk, trying to figure out how to open it, she finally came upon a brilliant plan.
Sneaking quietly back down the stairs, she went to her mummy's office and grabbed a Muggle knife that was used to open boxes. Back up stairs in the attic, she turned the trunk around so she was facing the back of it, and she pushed the knife inside as hard as she could.
Sawing the same place with the knife for several minutes, she made a place large enough for her hand. Feeling around blindly in the trunk, she felt what she considered ordinary things…a book, a beaded purse, a locket, some sort of goblet. Then she felt something soft. Wrapping her hand around the soft wool, she pulled it out of the small hole and gasped when she saw it.
It was a scarf. Torn, tattered, with holes in it, the colours were faded, yet she thought it was one of the prettiest things she'd ever seen. She felt instantly connected to it. Placing it around her neck, she tied it securely and rushed down the stairs to show her mummy. She always had to ask her mummy if she could keep the bounty that she found, even though Uncle George once told her she could have anything she wanted from up there.
Bounding down the stairs with a smile on her face, one hand fisted around the end of the scarf, the little girl ran into the store to find not only her mummy, but her daddy, too. Before she could even ask her question, her daddy asked, "Where the hell did you get that thing?"
Her mummy gasped, placed her hand over her mouth and said, "Oh my God."
The little girl was confused. "I found it up in the attic in an old trunk. It was with Uncle George's things. Can I keep it?"
Daddy rushed up to her and began to take it off her neck. It scared her and she pushed at his hands. Mummy rushed up to her, too and hit at her daddy's hands. "No, Ron. Don't. You'll scare her."
"I don't want her to have anything to do with him!" he yelled.
The little girl began to cry. Her daddy looked back at her, reached out his hand and said, "Give it to me this instant! I mean it, young lady. If you don't, you'll be punished!"
"No she won't!" her mummy argued. "Darling, give me the scarf, though. Daddy and I need to talk, and then I might give it back to you later, okay?"
"You won't give it back to her!" her daddy shouted.
That was when the little girl backed into the corner, and her parent's began to argue. They argued like they had never argued before. Her mummy even pushed her daddy, very hard, and he stumbled. They said things that confused the little girl. Things about why they married, some man, and they mentioned her name several times. That was when she slipped out the door, ran down Diagon Alley, and then slipped down the corner to Knockturn Alley.
Now she was all alone, scared, and confused. She was also cold. Shivering, she pulled her coat around her tighter. There were scary looking people walking around. She shouldn't be here. Moreover, that was the root of her problem. She never felt as if she belonged ANYWHERE. She didn't look like any of the other Weasleys, although Uncle Harry said that was okay, because she just looked like herself. Still, she always thought there was something missing in her life…until she found this scarf.
She began to cry again. She was such a baby. She was eight years old. An eight year old shouldn't cry, but she didn't care. She cried anyway.
A man dressed all in black, with black shorn hair cut so close to his scalp that it shined, walked into the alleyway right after the little girl did. He honed in on her immediately, and hid behind a doorway, watching, and waiting.
She was out of place here. She didn't belong here. This place was full of filth, pain, ugliness and despair. From the look of her tears, he figured she was lost and scared. On the other hand, perhaps someone had hurt her. His insides felt like they were being torn apart with shredded glass at the thought of someone hurting a little girl like that. Someone so young, so innocent, so pure. She looked so much like his little…no…he wouldn't think that. He refused to think of her. He hadn't thought of her since the day she was killed.
No, that was a lie. He thought of her that day in the boxcar, when he told someone all about her. Why was he thinking about all of this now? Why was he dredging up all the pain of the past?
And why in the hell was this little one here? Furthermore, why was he here? He hadn't intended to come here today. He'd only been back in England for a few days, and Knockturn Alley was the last place he wanted to visit, yet it felt like he was brought here almost against his will, by forces he couldn't comprehend.
The little girl pulled her collar up against the wind and cold, scooted against the doorway, and pulled her knees to her nose, burying her face against the elements and other nasty things. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two unsavory characters conspiring, pointing toward her. Standing at his full height, he walked out into the open, let his presence known, and they quickly walked away.
It was time to find out why this little one was here. He didn't want to get involved. Getting involved with a little girl was the last thing he wanted to do, but he couldn't stop himself. He had no more control over getting involved with this wee one than he did nine years ago when he became entangled with his beautiful one.
Walking up to her slowly, so not to scare her, he smiled and said, "Hello, little one, are you lost?" As soon as he said those words, he remembered saying words that were eerily similar one time before to another lost girl…a woman really, who wasn't really lost, even though he found her.
Why did he keep thinking about HER right now?
The little girl looked up with only one eye. The rest of her face was hidden behind her curtain of dark curls. It was almost comical. She said, "I can't talk to strangers."
"That's a good policy to have. I can't talk to strangers either, but if we introduce ourselves, we won't be strangers any longer." He smiled at her, but remained a good distance away, so not to scare her unduly.
"Okay, what's your name?" she asked.
"Alex. What's yours?"
"Ellie. It's short for Eleanor."
As soon as she said her name, he felt a stab directly in the middle of his chest. It had to be a coincidence, or some sort of a divine joke against him for all his past sins. Swallowing down the bile that rose in his throat, he said, "That's a pretty name. I knew a little girl named that once. How old are you?"
Somehow, he knew she would say that. He looked around, placed his hand in his pocket, and felt for his wand. If he had to protect her suddenly, he wanted to be ready. He knew he would protect this little one to the death. He slid down the wall, to sit on the sidewalk, a meter away from the stoop where she was huddled against the wind.
Reminding himself that it was all a coincidence, he said, "Well, Ellie, short for Eleanor, who's eight years old, why are you crying?"
"My mummy and daddy are fighting." She sunk her head back to her knees and hiccupped a few times.
"I hear mummies and daddies do that sort of thing. I didn't have those growing up, so I wouldn't know," he said lightly. "You know, it's not safe in Knockturn Alley for a little girl like you."
She nodded. "I know."
"Yet here you are, aren't you?" He smiled at her. "You must be brave. You remind me of someone else I knew who was extremely brave."
"My uncle tells me I remind him of my mummy when she was young," she said with a smile, her eyes still bright with tears. "He tells me all the time that she was the bravest woman he ever knew."
He had no comment to that. "Why were your parents fighting?" He straightened out his legs and crossed his feet at the ankles, waiting to hear her answer.
"I don't know," she said sadly. "Sometimes they fight. This time, I think it was because of this," and she pulled a worn, Merino wool scarf out from the hiding place of her wool coat, and showed it to him.
He tried not to show the shock on his face, but if earlier he thought someone had stabbed him in the heart with a sword, even now they were twisting it around, torturing him with a pain he couldn't describe. She was eight years old, her hair was black, almost the same colour of his, and curly (just like his little sister's used to be, just like his lost love's used to be), her eyes were the colour of cornflowers (also like his sister's). Most of all, her name was Eleanor, but she went by Ellie.
She was named after his sister.
And she had The Scarf on her neck.
That meant her mother had to be…
"Ellie! Oh, Ellie, where are you?" a woman yelled out from the mouth of Knockturn Alley.
Suddenly, the man with short black hair, all black clothing, who said his name was Alex, stood up and held out his hand to the little girl who said her name was Ellie. He wasn't ready to give her up after having just found her, nor was he ready to see her mother…yet.
"That's a beautiful scarf, Miss Eleanor. I'm not sure why it would cause your parents to fight, but don't cry or fret about it. Why don't you and I go have an ice cream. I just got back to England, and I haven't had an ice cream in a long time. I don't even remember what they taste like."
"Oh, they're quite good," she said with a smile.
The woman shouted again, but the man didn't think the little girl heard her. His hearing was always better than most. He smiled back at the little girl, took her hand, and then Disapparated away with her, just as the woman, her ex-husband, and her friend, Harry Potter rounded the corner.
Hermione Granger saw the man only briefly, but she didn't recognize him. All she knew was that some stranger had taken her daughter, so she screamed.
Sitting around the dining room table at the Granger's house, Ron asked Hermione's father if he wanted more coffee. The older man shook his head no, then turned to Harry and said, "It's been five hours. Don't you have any clues yet?"
"We'll find her, Dr. Granger. Every Auror, off duty member of the Ministry, as well as the Magical police are looking for her," Harry said with assurance.
The little girl's grandmother walked over to the men and said, "But with magic, he could have taken her anywhere. He could have done all sorts of things to her by now. Oh where are they?" She took her husband's hand and began to cry.
Ron put the pot of coffee on the table and said, "I should go see to Hermione."
"No, let me go," Harry offered.
"Yeah, maybe that's for the best, Ron," his brother George said. "If you two hadn't been fighting, and over a damn scarf, too, well, maybe this wouldn't have happened."
Ron glared at his brother, but didn't say anything. He knew the truth, but it wasn't his truth to tell. Walking up the stairs before Harry could, he started to turn right, to go up to the attic where Hermione slept, but instead, walked across the landing to the room that was once Hermione's room when she was a child, and which now belonged to Ellie.
Hermione was sitting in a corner of the room, clutching one of Ellie's stuff animals, a blank expression on her face. Ron squatted down to the floor and held her in his arms.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," he whispered into her hair.
She started to cry again. Harry walked in, came before them, went down to his haunches, and pulled them both into his arms and said, "It'll be alright."
Those were the exact same things they both said to her the night she told them that she was pregnant with Scabior's child. That night, she confessed everything to Harry and Ron. Neither judged her, or condemned her for the choices (or chances) she made while they were on the run. Instead, Ron offered to marry her, to give the child legitimacy and a name. He said that no one would question the fact that they found comfort with each other while they searched for Horcruxes.
Harry promised that he would always love and protect her, too, as if she were his own.
Therefore, Ron and Hermione married when she was six months pregnant. They stayed married for a year and a half after that. Ron was now married to another, but he still loved little Ellie as if she were his child. His whole family loved her. No one else knew that the dead Snatcher, Scabior, was her real father, and it was decided that no one else would ever know. Hermione said she would tell her daughter when the time was right.
Harry and Ron didn't know that she named her baby after Scabior's dead sister. They didn't know (until today) that she had kept the scarf that had once linked them. They didn't know that she often told Ellie stories about a man named Scabior, who was very much like her, who had the uncanny ability, a talent really, of finding people and things.
They didn't know that she still thought of him all the time. They didn't know that she still dreamt about him, cried for him, longed for him.
He was the only man she ever loved. He was the only man she had ever slept with, even after she married Ron she remained faithful in her heart and with her body to the only man she ever loved.
And she did it all for her little girl. Her little girl who was now missing.
Scabior stood at the end of the street, holding his daughter's hand and he let it go, just as he was prepared to let her go. Bending down, he said, "You run along to your grandparents' house now. Remember, don't tell your mummy or her ex-husband anything that we discussed this afternoon. When the time's right, I'll reveal myself to her and tell her everything."
"And I can keep the scarf?" she asked, her big blue eyes wide with anticipation.
"Yes, you keep it always, close to you, and whenever you need me, really need me, you just take it out, and put it on, and think of your dear old dad, and he'll come running to you, is that a deal?"
She nodded, smiled, and threw her arms around his neck. He stood up, his arms around her small body, her legs dangling off the ground. "I'm so glad I got to meet my real daddy. I love you," she whispered in his ear.
Only two other people had ever said that they loved him, (he had loved them in return) and now this little girl loved him. He didn't know what to make of that, and he didn't know what to make of the fact that he loved her like no other, and he'd only known of her existence for six hours and twenty-three minutes.
Placing her on her feet, he decided that he would come to her mother tonight. He had to. He wasn't going to reveal himself to her before, but after finding out about Ellie, now he knew he had no choice.
He wasn't going to let her know that he'd spent five years in Azkaban, and then almost three years on the continent, and that all the while he thought of nothing but her. He had intended to forget about her, but he knew he never could. Still, he thought she would have forgotten about him…but now he knew with little Ellie, his little Ellie, she could never forget about him either.
And he didn't blame her for marrying the ginger. It was probably his idea. At least she had the common sense to divorce him. Also, it warmed his heart to know that she had secretly been revealing bits and pieces about him to their daughter. That meant he wasn't ashamed of him. That meant that perhaps she had forgiven him. That meant that perhaps she really had loved him, and maybe there was a future for them.
Or maybe not.
It didn't matter, but he still wanted to see her tonight, even if it was only for one last time.
He patted Ellie on the head and sent her toward her grandparents' house. A swarm of Aurors descended upon the little girl as soon as she got within two blocks of the home. Scabior remained at the end of the street, his eyesight acute, staring at the front garden, waiting, watching.
There she was. His beautiful love ran out the door, her long curly hair flowing behind her. Gads, she was more beautiful today than she was as a girl of eighteen. She picked her little girl up in her arms and swung her around in a circle. He couldn't hear them, but he could tell that she loved her.
That was enough for him for now.
Hermione was having another nightmare. She woke up gasping for breath. Clutching her wand, she lit every light in her attic bedroom at her parents' home and looked around. For the briefest moments, she thought she saw someone move quickly from the corner of the room, but it must have been part of her dream.
Throwing back her covers, she decided to go check on her daughter again. Since putting her to bed tonight, she had already checked on her four times. And Harry had helped her strengthen the wards at their house, so she knew she had nothing to fear. She knew her daughter was safe in her own bed, but she still had to be sure.
Once she had checked on her again, she went to the loo, then came back up the stairs and sat on the side of her bed. My goodness, when she thought of what might have happened to her daughter she froze in horror. She could have been raped. She could have been killed or kidnapped.
Instead, she said she got lost in the warren of strange alleyways of Knockturn Alley, and then a man named Alex found her, got her some ice cream, talked to her for a while, and then she fell asleep. After she woke up, she was on the street near their house.
However, for some reason Hermione felt that Ellie was holding back something important, but she decided not to press the subject. She could always question her more tomorrow. Tonight, she was merely thankful that the little girl was back home.
Ellie wanted to wear the scarf to bed. Hermione didn't see why she couldn't. After all, the magic of the scarf had surely waned after all these years, and anyway, the man responsible for that magic died nine years ago.
After her bath, Ellie told her grandparents, her uncles and her stepfather (aka, 'daddy') goodnight, then Hermione helped her into her pajamas. Wrapping the scarf loosely around her daughter's neck, Hermione told her a story about how she first bought it. She left out the mature details, but included the fact that it was the first time she met a man named, "Scabior."
Ellie asked, "Scabior?"
Hermione nodded and simply said, "Yes, he's your real father." She expected a ton of questions after that, but instead the little girl just said, "Oh," and then said, "Well, I'm sleepy, Mummy. You can tell me more tomorrow."
Hermione wanted to laugh and cry all at once. Was it that easy? Kissing her daughter on the forehead, she said, "Goodnight, beautiful," to her little girl, then lay down beside her until the little girl drifted off to sleep. After she finally slept, and only after, did Hermione crawl from the bed and walk back up to her own room.
Then an hour later, she walked back down. She repeated the action of walking back down, checking on Ellie, then walking back up, several more times during the night, having just done it now for what she hoped was the last time. Kissing her little girl once more on the cheek, she reached down to the floor to pick up the tartan scarf. It must have fallen off during the night. Clutching it against her chest, she sighed, walked out of the room and back up the attic stairs.
Once back in her room, she sighed loudly as she flicked off the lights with a swish of her wand. Then she walked back over to her own bed and crawled under the covers. With the scarf in her grasp, she thought of the first time she met him. She was doomed from the start - doomed to love him, doomed to be lost forever. Would the empty feeling in the pit of her heart ever end? Wrapping the scarf around her neck once, she hunkered down, turned to her side, hugged her pillow, and started to cry for too many reasons to mention.
She didn't notice the movement in the corner of her room again. It was there before, but just as before, she wasn't aware of anything amiss. Certainly, no one could breach her wards. Harry and Ron were gone. Her parents were fast asleep on the floor below her, as was her daughter. No, she didn't realize he was in the room with her until he was right upon her.
He rushed to the bed and sat beside her, one hand quickly going to her mouth, the other holding both hands captive over her head. Her eyes opened in shock. In the darkness of her room, she thought that instead of being awake, she was already asleep and dreaming, even though she knew that only moments ago she was sleeping.
Releasing her hands, he reached up and brushed a piece of hair away from her face, leaned over her, he said, "We have a lovely little girl, beautiful, but what did I expect? Of course we would."
"This isn't real," she gasped. "You're dead. You aren't here. I've dreamt this same dream so many times that I don't trust it this time. I've just been upset tonight. I almost lost her, so I'm dreaming of you."
"Is that right? Did you almost lose her? Good thing I'm so good at finding things, because I'm the one who found her," he said softly, leaning over her, his hand on her neck. "I didn't mean to scare you, lovely, but I didn't know I had a daughter until tonight, and I had eight years to make up for, so forgive me for keeping her from you for so long. You must have been scared."
She gasped again, suddenly realizing this might be real. She reached up and ran a hand over his short, black hair. "Is this real?"
"I know, I know, I look different without my long locks, don't I? If you say my looks were my hair, I might cry." He gave her a sarcastic smile, pulled her over to him as he lay down beside her. She turned to her side and continued to touch him…his hair, his face, his neck, his arms.
"I should hate you. You left me. You went away," she said with a sob.
"Couldn't be helped, sweetness. I turned myself in. How stupid was that? Seems I had some important information for the Ministry, and in exchange for that, they only gave me five years, on the condition that no one ever tell you that I was alive."
"Always so inquisitive," he smiled. "Your last little speech to me taught me a thing or two, either that, or I was a stupid fool." He pulled her closer, buried his face against her neck, and tried to breathe in the scent of her, so he could always remember her smell, her touch, her soul. His lips brushed her neck, and moved over to her cheek, turning to her mouth, and catching her lips with his.
"I go with the stupid fool," she said seriously after he ended their kiss.
"Me, too," he agreed. "I heard you that night. You cried out for me after the battle. I was hiding, watching you and a whole bevy of your followers looking for me. It broke my little heart it did. I thought leaving you was the noble, right thing to do. I won't make that mistake again. I can't believe we have a daughter."
"I named her Eleanor," Hermione replied.
"Yeah, she told me. Hey, you and the ginger are divorced, right? She told me you were, but I don't want to get my hopes up."
"We are. Listen, I never loved him beyond friendship. We never had anything resembling a real marriage, but he's been good to Ellie. He loves her. So does his family."
"Yeah, well, suddenly, somehow, after only one day, so do I." Kissing her lips again, he reached down, blindly, for he felt he was in a fog, and he reached for her hip, and then pulled her leg up over his. His mouth left hers to trail a line of kisses on her neck and shoulder.
He heard her whimper, as she tried to push him away. She asked, "How did you come to find her? Why now?"
"I just got back to England, and I don't know how she did it, but she called me to her today, in that alley. It was the scarf. I was brought to this house earlier, perhaps by you, or by her, the same way. It seems I'll forever be a slave to my girls and that effing scarf."
"Good," she whispered, kissing him under his chin.
"For the record, I came here to say goodbye, but I've decided against it," he clarified, kicking off his boots, pulling his jumper off his chest, unzipping his trousers.
"Good," she repeated, kissing the middle of his chest.
He pushed her to her back, reached down, and pulled her nightgown over her head. She seemed as desperate as he felt. His mouth moved down her breasts, to her nipples, where he kissed her desperately, before placing one in his mouth.
He kissed her stomach, then slid her knickers down her lovely legs. With a ragged breath, he cupped her backside before he placed his tongue along her pelvic bone. With a long swipe of his tongue, he licked across her abdomen, and then he spread her legs with his elbows. Moving his shoulders under her thighs so that her knees bent slightly, he gave her pleasure that she had long since lacked.
The bliss that coursed through her was every bit as real as the pain she had felt all those years he was gone. If this was another dream, she hoped she would never wake, because she wouldn't be able to stand the pain.
The thought that this might not be real broke her heart. She started to tell him so, but couldn't speak, as a wave of pleasure went through her, resulting in a gentle moan. He shifted position and with the help of his tongue and his fingers, she started her ascent. The shudders began to rack her body, and he steered her to the start of her climax, then moved up her body.
Lodging his hip between her pliable thighs, he positioned himself against her, pushing lightly at first, entering only a bit, going slowly, so he could remember this time, play it over in his head, just in case she came to her senses later and wanted nothing to do with him.
When he entered her he thought he would come immediately, gripping her waist. He brought his hands up to her cheeks, his elbows beside her head, and with one hand in her long hair, the other one on her cheek, he dropped his forehead to hers and said, "You're still so beautiful, still too good for me, but with all that I am, I've finally come to realize that I deserve you."
Closing his eyes, he rocked back and forth, his head tucked between her neck and shoulder, one hand coming to rest on one of her breast. She reached for his hand, then his other, and they laced their fingers together.
He arched up, pushing harder into her warmth, and when he finally opened his eyes, he saw that she was crying. Not hard, no wails, no sobs, just gentle tears falling down her face He thought it was the loveliest thing he'd ever seen in his life.
He lifted himself slightly from her, let go of her hands, and plunged in one last time, as hard and long as he could. That was when they locked eyes and he knew that he had hurt her once, just as she had hurt him, but that was long ago. It didn't matter any longer. He refused to give in to guilt. He had never felt guilty before, and he wouldn't feel guilty now.
Right now the only thing he felt was the ultimate act of pleasure, an act of love, an act of retribution.
He moved off her and rolled to his side. "Well…" he sighed and took a deep breath. "That was rather nice, my lovely."
She rolled to her side, facing him, and she said, "I don't know where we begin, but this was a start."
He placed his hand on her arm, rubbed it up and down, but he was without words. He found the scarf on the bed, tangled up with their bare limbs, and he wrapped it around one of her wrists, and then around one of his own. He said, "Just humour me for right now, because I don't want to take the chance that you'll be gone in the morning, 'right?"
She laughed, kissed him again, and said, "Believe it or not, I was about to say the same thing to you."
"Now, tell me all about our daughter."
"Oh, where do I begin?" she asked with a small laugh. Then she began talking, with the scarf tethering his wrist to hers, if not forever, at least for now.