Chapter 51

The mood was quiet and dark when Hermione got back to Harry's. Ron had taken off somewhere. Harry was worried that Ron would do something stupid, but he refused to be stopped.

Cygnus was asleep on her bed. He looked completely peaceful and oblivious. She wished she could be oblivious. Instead she had the knowledge that Draco was now beyond saving. She had tried so hard and it had gotten her nowhere.

She didn't feel angry, just this pervasive and consuming sadness. Sadness for Pansy and Ron, and for Cygnus. Sad for the love that was still there, but had no avenue.

She couldn't even imagine what was going through Draco's mind now. What place was he in where he could live with such an act? Or even feel it was justified. He was lost to her now.

She turned her attention back to her son. He was the only thing that mattered now. Protecting him was the only purpose.

Ron returned the next day, but he was completely shut down. He didn't want to deal with anyone and had no interest in hearing how sorry she was for what had happened. He shut himself in his room and didn't come out again.

It didn't take long for the war to start again. The Slytherins were chasing down Gryffindors anywhere they could think of. They were even starting to confront people they thought were sympathetic.

"We can't take any more people here." Harry said to her one afternoon.

"People are scared." Hermione said.

"They know we are here." Harry said. "Draco would know about this house, even if he doesn't know the location. If he is adamant on finding it, it might just be a matter of time."

"So we prepare for an attack."

"I think we need to move some people to Hogwarts." Harry said. "The wards there are strong. Lupin has been working on them. Hogwarts is better protected than here. Malfoy hasn't shown any interest in Hogwarts yet. But its one of the only places that he doesn't control."

"But you think its only a matter of time?"

"He wants complete control. He believes that it the end game. Which means he will inevitably go after Hogwarts, but I think he will try to attack us first. If we are gone, Hogwart's fall would be inevitable."

"So we don't let that happen." Hermione said with determination.

"I think you should go to Hogwarts." Harry said. "There are preparations to be made, and if he manages to take us by surprise, you won't be here."

"I am not running away, Harry."

"And you won't be." Harry said. "You'll come if there is a fight, but if we're taken by surprise, you're the last line of defence at Hogwarts. I don't think it will come to that, but we have to prepare for the eventuality. And I need someone a bit more politically savvy to deal with the Slytherin students at Hogwarts. There aren't many of them, but we need to establish who's side they are on."

"What about Ginny?"

"I want her there too."

"You are expecting an attack."

"Pretty soon." Harry said. "I think Malfoy wants to finish this as soon as possible. But then there is always the possibility of him wanting to get you more than anything. Either way, we have to stop him."

Hermione packed and left for Hogwarts the next day, along with Luna, Ginny and the Patel twins. It was strange being back in the familiar surroundings of Hogwarts. It left like a lifetime ago since they'd been there. It had only been a year.

Lupin had managed to return the school to normalcy to some degree, but it still felt off like something was wrong. Obviously all the professors were gone, which left the enforced normalcy feeling a little creepy.

Neville was happy to see them, he actually looked like a professor. He seemed to have just grown into the role. He showed them to their rooms.

"Its not much." He said. "But there's a fireplace if you need warmth. They are disconnected from the floo network, as are most except for the one in Professor Lupin's office. Its good to see you again."

"Its good to see you too, Neville." Hermione said trying to keep Cygnus from squiggling out of her arms. He was not going to be happy about another change in environment.

"Now I have to go to class." Neville said. "Third years. Who knew how annoying they could be. I hope we weren't this annoying."

"We were probably more so." Ginny said.

They didn't have long to settle in. Four days before Draco found Grimmauld Place. The wards held him back. They were Dumbledore's and Snape's wards, and they were still relatively strong. The Slytherins were pounding through them.

Hermione armed herself and left Cygnus with Ginny, who was now too pregnant to be able to move at any speed.

"Its only going to be a matter of time." Harry said when Hermione apparated in.

"We have to retreat." Hermione said. "We go back to Hogwarts."

"That will only draw the fight there." Harry said. "No, we have to stand here."

"Eventually they will come in, Harry." Hermione said.

"I know."

"He's killing."

"Then we will have to make sure he doesn't get a chance." Harry said. "I don't think the other are, so we need to take him out first." He said and watched her for her reaction. A reaction she didn't know what it consisted off. But rationally she knew it would come down to this. "You have to go back to Hogwarts, Hermione. I need to you protect Ginny. Please Hermione. If nothing else, Ginny has to live."

"No, it can't come to this." She cried. "Maybe if I give myself up, maybe he will back off."

"He will kill you, Mione and take Cygnus, and for what? A day. He will only be back here tomorrow." Harry said. "We have to stop him, and it's going to be tonight. I know you still care for him, so don't watch this."

Hermione wanted to argue, but she knew that Harry was right. And she needed to protect Cygnus and Ginny. If Harry died tonight, she would do that for him. Finally she nodded.

"Go now." Harry said. She gave Harry a hug and walked out to the apparating point they had managed to work through the wards.

She hated leaving, but she knew she had to. If this went bad, she needed to take care of things. She went to the library and sad down to do some contingency planning. If he came for Hogwarts, she would need to run. She would take Ginny and Cygnus and hide somewhere. She just didn't know where to go. The Burrow had always been the place to go when things got dicey, but it wasn't there anymore.

They would have to go into the muggle world, or whatever was left of it. Maybe find a way over to the Continent. Maybe the chunnel was still dry and they could walk through. She doubted the Slytherins knew about it, but Merlin knows what the muggles had done to it. She could only hope it was still viable.

Her thinking was interrupted by the sound of hexes flying. She heard a scream and jumped out of the chair. She had to get to Ginny and Cygnus. She didn't want to know what this mean with regards to Grimmauld Place. Surely it couldn't have fallen in a half hour. It didn't matter, she had a job to do.

There was panic outside the library. Hermione could see a werewolf chasing a student. She shot a hex at it, knocking out a window. It would fall quite far, but she didn't care. Served it right.

She ran towards where Ginny was, hoping she hadn't moved. They hadn't had time to plan what to do if this happened.

A hex knocked her off her feet. She knew who had thrown it. How as he here? How had he gotten in without even a fight? But he was here and he had werewolves with him. She could see Lupin and some student's fighting down in the courtyard. She got up and ran. Draco was behind her, and he was coming fast.

She realised she was leading him right to Cygnus, which was not a good thing. She needed to lead him away. She shot a hex over her shoulder, which obviously missed.

Somehow she ended up on the stairs to the Astronomy tower. She was stuck. There was no way out, and no way back. This is where she would have to face him.

She stood in the shadows as she listened to him slowly walk up the stairs. He knew he had her, so he wasn't in a hurry.

"Nowhere left to go." He said. She was pretty sure he didn't know exactly where she was. He was unmistakeable in the dark, his hair shone. "Bet you didn't expect to see me.

"How did you get in?"

"Funny thing." He said. "Voldemort had me working on these vanishing cabinets before they all disappeared. He needed a way into Hogwarts and I was just about finished when he was no longer a problem in my backside. Who would have thought that the work he had me doing would end up serving me so well. See I knew you would come here as soon as I house the Black house."

He had reached the top of the steps.

"You planned all this."

"You took my son, you bitch. I will be requiring him back now."

She didn't answer, wondering if there was some way to get past him, but he would see her. He had his wand gripped firmly in his hand.

"I told you to never give me reason to not trust you, and you betrayed me in the most fundamental way. You took my child. How exactly did you expect that I would react?"

"Oh, I don't know." She said seething with anger. "Maybe go and murder Pansy."

"She betrayed me." He said darkly after a while.

"You're completely mental."

"No, but I expect people who ask me to trust them to stick to what they say." He shouted. "But you didn't, you stabbed me in the back the first chance you got." He said emphasising by pointing his wand towards her.

"I have to protect my son."

"My son too, don't forget."

Obviously he knew where she was now.

"A Malfoy." He continued. "Who belongs with me, in the Malfoy ancestral home. So now I am taking him back where he belongs. Obviously, a battleground is not an appropriate place for a child. So I need to get him to safety before I sort this whole stupid mess."

"Over my dead body."

"Well, I kind of expected you to say that." He said. "You Gryffindors are so willing to die, aren't you? That's the problem with you, you never know when to give up. I am sorry to do this, believe me, but you gave me no choice. If you had just done what you were supposed to, had just trusted me to take care of you, this wouldn't have to happen."

He was standing very close to her. She knew she would only have one chance at defending herself. He had pretty much told her he intended on killing her. She had her wand in her hand. She didn't know if she was fast enough and strong enough to deflect a killing curse.

She'd been watching his wand since the minute he got there, but she finally looked him in the eyes. He wasn't gloating or teasing. There was no doubt that he was going to kill her. He wasn't happy about it, but he would do it.

She could see him tensing his hand to start the curse. He was bringing it up to give it the necessary flick. She dropped her wand and went for the knife she had at her back. She felt the steel was more reliable in this moment than the wand and its magic.

Luckily, it didn't catch in her waistband, it just slipped out into her hand and she brought it up and forced it into his body.

The force took him by surprise, stopping him in his tracks.

"You stabbed me." He said with surprise.

"You were about to kill me."

He looked down at the embedded knife and then back at her with confusion in his eyes.

"You got me in the liver. With a muggle weapon too." He said with a tight laugh. "That is just about the perfect shot. Well done."

She looked down at the wound. The blood was streaming out of it. The sight of it was making her sick, as was the thought of what she'd just done.

"I had to." She said. She hadn't consciously intended to stab him, it had just been a instinctual reaction. "You were going to hurt me." She heard herself justify.

He grabbed the knife and pulled it out of his body. It clunked to the ground.

"I'm sorry." She said automatically.

"I can't believe you stabbed me."

The blood was flowing stronger now. It was really flowing.

"I'll get help." She said. "We have to put pressure on it, and I'll get help."

"Don't bother." He said. "I'll be dead before you get back. It really is the perfect shot. There is nothing I can do to stop it. Or anyone else. I will be dead in a minute."

He still had his wand in his hand, but he seemed to be unaware of it. She didn't know if he would retaliate, but he hadn't yet.

"I need to sit down." He said and started to lower down to his knees.

"I'm sorry." She said again. He was going to die. It was becoming more real now that he couldn't stand any more. But he couldn't sit either, he was lying down. She didn't know what to do, so she just kneeled beside him.

"I knew you would be the death of me." He said with a smile. "I knew you were trouble. I should have kept you as far away from me as possible, I just couldn't help myself." He said and touched one of the locks on her hair.

"Draco." She said, she couldn't stop the tears from flowing. "I didn't want this."

He nodded, but he was growing less coherent in his movements. He was dying and it was horrible to watch. She wanted to do something to stop this, but she couldn't. If she had the means to stop it, she would. She knew intellectually that she shouldn't, but the part of her that loved him was overruling such thoughts.

"Don't go." She said. He smiled, but he couldn't keep his eyes open. "I love you."

"I love you too." He said barely audible.

She felt a sense of panic, but couldn't do anything, so she lay down beside him and snuggled in. The blood was still flowing out of the wound she had caused. He jerked up and tried to sit up, but he couldn't. He was growling as he tried to fight unconsciousness, but he was losing the battle.

He slipped away. The wound stopped bleeding and he was just still. Hermione stayed lying by him with her head on his shoulder and her arm wrapped around him. It was too much to think about, so she ignored what had just happened and all its implications.

For now, for a little while, she would pretend they were back when they were happy. In bed, sleeping in the morning, waiting for Cygnus to come padding in when he woke. They had it so good for a while, but in was never meant to last. Why couldn't it have just lasted? They had it perfect for a little while.

Lying there next to him, this was the last time she would remember what perfect felt like. The rest of the world didn't have to exist for a little while. She wasn't sure how long she lay there for, but as soon as she got up, there would be no going back. He would be gone forever.

The sky was starting to get lighter. It made her think of Shakespeare then the lovers were arguing over whether it was the Lark or Nightingale they heard, which indicated whether it was time to go or if they could stay a bit longer.

The brutal dawn would be here soon. She didn't know what it meant for the future and less what it meant for her emotionally. Nothing good.

She heard foot steps.

"Time to go, Mione." She heard Harry's calm voice. It broke the spell and made her want to cry. She got up, she had to. There was no point holding on, it was over. A new day.

"I had to."

"I know." Harry said. "You should go now. Cygnus will be waking soon. He needs you."

"But I need to…" She said turning back to Draco's still form on the floor. A large pool of blood around him.

"I'll take care of it." Harry said. "Go now."

She turned away and walked down the stairs. Cygnus needed her. She would try her best to raise him as a Malfoy, it was his inheritance, but maybe with some slight modifications. She had to let go of the past, she knew, she had to be strong for Cygnus. The tears would flow for a little while, then she would stop.

The End

A/N Thanks everyone for reading and reviewing. I know this is messier ending than a happy ending, but its where the story took me.