Isolation

He can't leave the room. Her room. And it's all the Order's fault. Confined to a small space with only the Mudblood for company, something's going to give. Maybe his sanity. Maybe not. "There," she spat. "Now your Blood's filthy too!" DM/HG. PostHBP.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6291747/1/Isolation

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48. After

Lucius Malfoy's body was discovered on May 6th, just four days after Voldemort was defeated by Harry Potter in what had become known as the Battle of Hogwarts.

Efforts to rebuild and restore Hogwarts to all her former beauty had commenced two days after the battle, and Professor Slughorn had found the body — or rather, some of it — under a fallen wall in the courtyard.

Beneath the rubble had been Lucius' left leg, some of his torso, and his Dark Mark-stained arm. The rest of his body wasn't found until the next day, when two Aurors stumbled across the rest of Lucius' corpse in Malfoy Manor.

With a select group of loyal and trustworthy Aurors, Shacklebolt and Mad-Eye had restored some semblance of legal order to the Wizarding World. This small makeshift Ministry of no more than fifty members was slowly tackling the widespread damage littered across the British landscape and rounding up the remaining Death Eaters, incarcerating them to await trail.

Shacklebolt had ordered that nobody enter Malfoy Manor in case Voldemort had been using any dark artifacts while he had been using it as his base that might injure anyone who should enter the grounds. After a few days of studying the Manor and testing its safety with some probing spells, the Aurors had been sent in to search the property and ensure it was secure.

They found the other half of Lucius inside the Manor. More specifically, inside Draco's bedroom.

Using the Prior Incantato spell, the Aurors confirmed what they had already suspected: Lucius Malfoy had attempted to Apparate from Hogwarts to the Manor and had fatally splinched.

Shacklebolt had informed Draco in person.

Draco had nodded his head once, clenched his jaw, and had simply said, "Okay."

Of course, the question had crossed Draco's mind: just why the hell had Lucius attempted to Apparate into his room? He'd probably never know, and he had forced himself not to torture himself with analysing all the possible scenarios.

Perhaps it was best he didn't know. There is a certain level of freedom with ignorance.

Two days later and he was still seemingly stoic as Andromeda fixed his black tie into a perfect knot around his neck with nimble fingers. They were both silent; he didn't comment on his aunt's chewed fingernails, and she didn't comment on his tense shoulders. Peering over her shoulder, Draco watched Teddy sleep soundlessly in his Moses basket, completely at peace. Ignorance is such bliss. Smoothing down his tie and tucking it behind the folds of his suit jacket, Andromeda sighed and offered him a weak smile.

"There," she said. "You look very smart in that suit."

"I should hope so. I feel like this is the only thing I've bloody worn for the past week. I might as well sleep in it."

It was an exaggeration, of course. In the week since the Battle of Hogwarts, Draco had attended three funerals; Remus and Tonks had been burried three days after the event, Ted had been buried the day after that, and then Theo had been buried beside him the day after that.

Four people, three funerals.

Draco had found out about Lucius' death just one hour after they had lowered Theo into the ground. When Draco thought back to that day, it was all a blur of drizzle, black clothes, and concerned brown eyes. Granger's eyes.

And, of course, this black suit.

His mother had bought him the suit back in fifth year, just after Lucius had been arrested. He had worn it almost a year ago, when he'd let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts and consequently been forced to go into hiding with Snape. It was the only outfit he had in his possession that he had owned prior to that night. With the exception of the night that the Death Eaters invaded Hogwarts, Draco had only worn the suit to one other occasion before the Battle of Hogwarts: two years ago at Lucius' trial.

There was an irony there somewhere, but he didn't care enough to take notice of it.

Back then the suit had been slightly too big, but now it fit him perfectly, which only made him resent it more.

So, today would be his fourth funeral, and he would watch a fifth corpse being dipped into the ground like a dead, purposeless seed. Lucius' corpse. A purposeless seed, indeed.

"How are you feeling?" asked Andromeda.

Draco shrugged his stiff shoulders. "Indifferent."

"I don't believe that."

"Well, that's how I feel."

Exhaling, she shook her head sadly. "You are allowed to feel something for him, Draco-

"I don't-

"Just listen to me for a minute," she pleaded. "Do you think I didn't feel anything when I found out Bellatrix was dead?"

Draco's eyes flashed with shock. "Did you?"

"Yes. She was my sister."

"She killed your daughter!"

"She was still a someone in my life," Andromeda said, her voice quivering. "And when I found out that she had died, there was a faint, but real instinctive twinge in my heart, and it was sadness. Yes, I hated her. I swear on my soul I still hate her, and I will probably hate her until the lonely day I die for everything that she did to me and my beautiful family. She stole them from me..." She paused to sleeve away some tears and then she took a deep, shaking breath. "But I loved her once. I loved her, just as you loved Lucius."

Draco averted his eyes to the floor. "I only feel the hate."

"No, that's all you choose to feel when you think about him, because it's easier," she replied, placing her hand on his shoulder. "I understand that. I really do. But it's okay, Draco. It's okay to feel things for people who don't deserve it. It's okay to feel things that you don't want to feel for people who don't deserve it. If everyone could stifle their feelings towards undeserving people, the world would be too perfect. We are only human, but we are sometimes at our most beautiful when we feel things we shouldn't."

Draco continued to study the floor, uncomfortably shuffling his feet and scuffing his shoes against Andromeda's kitchen tiles. His mouth was dry with the absence of words and his mind heavy with too many thoughts. Thankfully, a shrill, piercing cry saved him from his own silence.

Andromeda sighed as Teddy began to wail from his Moses basket. Lingering for a moment in front of Draco, she thumbed away a stubborn crease in his tie and then headed for the baby, lifting him up into her arms.

"He's certainly going to be a loud one," she mumbled, rocking him. "Just like his mother was. Poor thing."

Watching them both, Draco felt a pressure build up inside of him; an uneasiness that made everything seem a little off-balance.

"'Dromeda," he started slowly. "How the hell do you do it?"

"Do what, dear?"

"Carry on."

She looked up from her weeping grandson. "Because I have to."

"But you've lost everyone."

"Not everyone," she said. "Not Teddy, not you."

Draco frowned. "Are we enough?"

"Oh, god," she muttered, looking horrified that he had questioned it. "Of course you are. Without a doubt, you are both more than enough. And I have my other members of the Enlightened, of course. Blaise, Miles, Tracey, Milli...I am very fond of you all. This might sound silly, but I...I like to consider myself as a sort of aunt figure to all of you that stayed here-

"Much more than an aunt, 'Dromeda," he assured her, and she smiled in response. "To Theo, too."

"Yes. Poor Theo."

"I never did get to really say thank you, 'Dromeda. For agreeing to let Theo be buried next to Ted. You didn't have to do that."

"Honestly, I am honoured," she said. "For my husband to have had such a positive impact on someone as damaged as Theo that he would ask...I am very proud. Of both of them."

Another high-pitched noise cut the air. As the kettle blew its whistle, Teddy's cries grew louder, as if he was trying to outmatch it.

"Oh dear," mumbled Andromeda.

"Give him here," said Draco, gesturing to Teddy. "I'll hold him."

"No, no, we don't want to crease your suit."

"'Dromeda, it's fine," he insisted, carefully taking the baby from her. "I really couldn't care less about how my suit looks for Lucius' funeral."

Andromeda looked like she wanted to comment, but she must have changed her mind and she made her way over to deal with the hissing kettle. Once settled against Draco's chest, Teddy's howling calmed into soft sniffles and those gentle, intelligible sounds that babies make. Within the past week he had received a crash-course in baby care from Andromeda and Hermione and, to be fair, he was slowly getting the hang of it.

"He likes you," said Andromeda. "Is Hermione not going with you to the funeral?"

"No. She offered, but I told her there was no need for her to come. She has no reason to mourn Lucius at all."

"Then where is she? Did she stay here last night or at Grimmauld Place?"

"She stayed here, but she headed to Hogwarts this morning with the others," he explained. "Didn't you hear them leave?"

"I thought I heard Milli and Tracey leave, but not the others," she said absently. "You know that Milli's moving out this evening?"

"Is she?"

"She's going to stay with her uncle in Gloucestershire. I met him yesterday and he's a nice man. And then Luna and Blaise are moving into Xenophilius' house at the weekend, now it's been repaired."

"Miles and Tracey, too," said Draco. "Miles inherited the house after his father was killed in the war and I think they're moving in soon. Heard them talking about it. You'll be free of us all soon."

"...Yes."

Noting the hint of sadness in her tone, Draco glanced in her direction. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she said quickly, but then she tilted her head thoughtfully to the side. "I mean, I knew you would all be leaving soon. This was always just a temporary arrangement, but the idea of the house being all quiet...well, not completely quiet with Teddy, but still..."

Her voice faded into a telling silence that made Draco's eyebrows draw together in the centre of his forehead in a slight frown. Studying her closely, he tried to put himself in her shoes. She was hardly young; by the time Teddy was a teenager she would be well into her sixties. Already, the strain of the last week — all the deaths and trying to stifle the grief to care for this little baby — had added a few grey hairs to her crown and some wrinkles to her brow. As she tipped the kettle to pour some water in a stewpot, he realised her hands were slightly shaking and, despite her best efforts to mask it, he had noticed the tear-tracks staining her cheeks most mornings.

She was coping fantastically well, almost at a supernatural level, but he had a feeling the cracks in her brave facade would only begin to deepen as time rolled on. Just like buildings, even the strongest and proudest of people are beaten and battered by time, if not war.

Teddy had fallen asleep in his arms, so he carefully placed the baby back in his Moses basket, tucking him in like Andromeda had shown him a few days ago.

"Actually, 'Dromeda," said Draco. "There was something I wanted to ask you."

.

.

It was pathetic, really.

So monumentally pathetic.

Aside from the two young volunteers that Shacklebolt had politely asked to assist with the actual burial of Lucius' coffin in the Malfoy family plot, only two people attended his funeral: Narcissa and Draco.

Draco had held his mother's trembling hand as she had furiously wiped away any tears that had spilled down her cheeks during the ceremony.

If you could call it a ceremony.

Narcissa had said a few words and that had been it; the fact that she didn't even ask Draco if he would like to say anything spoke volumes to him. She'd been right not to ask him, though. Had it been up to him, he wouldn't have attended at all.

The whole thing was over in less than ten minutes and that was that. Lucius was gone forever, six feet under, neither forgiven nor forgotten.

Lucius' gravestone, much like the ceremony, was tellingly short.

Here Lies Lucius Armand Malfoy

1954 - 1998

Finally at Peace

As Draco and Narcissa walked a path which led through the Manor gardens from the burial plot, they could see a small group of Aurors near the main gates. Preliminary investigations and searches were still taking place for any dangerous artifacts that Voldemort may have used during his stay at the Manor. As a result, Narcissa had been staying in one of the Malfoy holiday homes near the Blashford lakes.

"I spoke to Mad-Eye earlier," said Narcissa, her voice a little hoarse. "He said that they could be doing these searches in the Manor for months."

Draco scowled. "Months?"

"Yes. Apparently they've found a few things already."

"So you're going to keep staying in Blashford?" he asked. "Until they say you can move back in?"

Narcissa stopped walking so Draco did too. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that."

"Okay," he said warily. "Is everything alright?"

"I think so. You see, I think I need to get out of Britain for a while."

"You're leaving?"

"I don't know if I have the strength to return to the Manor, Draco," she sighed sadly. "Too many bad things happened in there that I...can't revisit."

Draco hesitated, confused. "But...where do you intend to go?"

"We have a property in Guernsey, and I-

"Guernsey? The island?"

"Listen to me a moment. I know it's quite far away, but there are Floo links to both the British Ministry and the French Ministry if I need anything." She looked down at her feet. "Most importantly, no one there knows me. It's isolated. You know, I've already had some hopeful journalists contact me, asking about Lucius-

"Tell them to fuck off."

"Draco," she frowned. "I want to be away from it all for a while, until some of it dies down, at least."

He tried hard not to understand, but he did. He knew exactly what was going through her mind.

On the evening of the day of the Battle, when the sun had just started to sink behind the hills and everything had been bathed in orange, McGonagall had called the attention of all the survivors. Everyone had taken part in a two-minute silence, raising their glowing wands above their heads as a sign of respect for the fallen. Thereafter, McGonagall had revealed Snape's innocence and declared that he would be remembered as nothing less than a hero.

She had also taken the time to note several other, as she called them, "Unlikely Heroes", which included himself, his mother, and the other members of the Enlightened. Draco suspected that McGonagall's main reason for this was to deter the skeptical glances that had continued to drift over them during the day and, in some respects, it had worked.

But people had also noticed that Lucius' name hadn't been in that list of unlikely heroes, and many had witnessed him firing curses and hexes during the battle. Everybody knew what Lucius was, but they didn't know enough to not have questions. Like his mother, Draco had also been approached by a couple of would-be journalists to ask about his personal experiences during the war, including the details about Lucius.

The difference between Draco and his mother was that he had Granger.

Granger: Potter the Saviour's best friend, and arguably the most loved and respected teenage witch in Great Britain right now.

With barely a glance of admonishment, Granger could stifle the ever-prying press and Draco would be saved from having to deal with any nosy sods who thought they had rights to his private life.

Because he was Hermione Granger's boyfriend, and that title certainly had its benefits at the moment.

And what was his mother's title? Narcissa Malfoy: Widow of Lucius Malfoy, the Death Eater who killed a teenage boy.

Even with the support of McGonagall and Hermione, and the knowledge that Narcissa had worked with the Order, people were still wary, and there was little he could do about that. People's minds are dangerously stubborn things that often seek the more sordid and scandalous stories for their own amusement, regardless of the reasoning of their slightly softer hearts.

He didn't blame his mother for wanting to leave. Had it not been for Granger, he would have Apparated his way to the other side of the world by now.

"Right," he mumbled. "I understand, but...how long are you planning to stay in Guernsey?"

"I'm not sure exactly, but at least a year."

"A year? What the...I thought you just meant for a month or two. Are you sure, mother?"

"I'm positive, Draco. I need to...get away," she told him. "And I wanted to know if you wanted to come with me."

Draco's face dropped. "Come with you?"

"Look, you don't have to. You'll be turning eighteen soon and you'll get your inheritance-

"Mother-

"But if you're worried about not seeing Hermione as much, she is welcome to come and stay whenever-

"No, it's not that," he said, exhaling hard to steady himself. "Mother, I can't live with you, and it's not because of Granger."

"Oh," she murmured, evidently trying to conceal her disappointment. "Well, I understand-

"I spoke to Andromeda earlier, and I asked her if I could live with her," he rushed out. "I'm going to live with Aunt 'Dromeda, mum."

Her eyes widened with surprise. "Oh. I see. Well...that's-

"She took me in despite all of the history with our family," he carried on, hoping she would understand. "And she looked after me, even though I was vile to her to begin with. And now she's alone, looking after her grandson. Her husband, daughter, and son-in-law were all killed and she's completely alone-

"Except for you," Narcissa interrupted with a forlorn smile.

"Except for me," he echoed. "I owe her a lot. I can help her out with the kid and just...be there. I care about her, and" — he released an almost nervous breath — "I had hoped that it might help you two to reconcile."

"Ah," she whispered. "Well, you see...that's easier said than done."

"You both need each other right now. You've both lost people you love-

"Draco, I haven't spoken to her in almost three decades. And the things I said to her...nobody should ever say those kinds of things to a sister."

"But she's forgiven me, and she will-

"I haven't forgiven myself for what I said to her," she confessed dejectedly. "The things I said were...so awful-

"Mother-

"But maybe, now that we have you in common...Perhaps I could come and visit, see how things go."

Draco nodded his head, though he suspected that she was saying it more for his benefit. "You should."

"Perhaps," she repeated.

"But you still intend to move to Guernsey?"

"I do. But, as I said, you can get there by Floo, and once you've visited a few times, you could Apparate."

"And...you don't mind me living with Andromeda?"

She hesitated and pursed her lips with contemplation, staring at his face with an expression caught somewhere between hurt and proud. After at least one full minute, she forced another smile and touched his face, stroking the ridge of his cheek with her thumb.

"I will miss you terribly, of course," she murmured gently. "But I think your decision to stay with Andromeda is the right one. And I...I am happy with your decision."

He exhaled his relief. "Thank you."

Draco allowed his mother to pull him towards her and envelop him in a desperate, crushing embrace. He also allowed her to sob into the crook of his shoulder, until he could actually feel the dampness of her tears seep through his and shirt and lick his skin. They stayed that way for a long time; longer, Draco suspected, that Lucius' funeral had lasted. When she pulled away, she kept a firm grip on his hand, like she feared he might suddenly float away.

"You okay?" he asked her.

"Yes, I'm fine. Just being a silly old woman."

And she really did look quite old now; worn out, in fact.

"Come on," he said, tugging her along as he began walking. "I'll Apparate you back to Blashford."

"Draco," she blurted suddenly. "I haven't spoken much about your father today because I know you're still angry-

"Mother," he groaned tiredly, "Please-

"But you must forgive him. Not today or tomorrow or even ten years from now. But one day, you must forgive him. If you allow that anger to just fester inside of you for the rest of your life, it will haunt you. Do you understand?"

"Come on, mother, I'm taking you home."

She held her ground. "Do you understand?"

"No, I don't," he said stiffly. "Not at all."

"Then I want you to think about what you're asking Andromeda to forgive me for," she rushed out, breathlessly.

"It's different!"

"Is it? Your father and I may have had different victims in different circumstances, but our crimes were the same. I disowned a member of my family because they fell in love with a muggle-born."

He looked his mother dead in the eye and grabbed her shoulders, trying to calm his shaking hands. "But you didn't kill someone!" he spat through clenched teeth, and then, in a harsh whisper, "You didn't kill Theo. You didn't kill my friend."

Narcissa bowed her head. "No, you're right. I didn't."

"And Theo...You know what he had to deal with. You know his father was a piece of shit who strived to keep his son as broken as a person can be without being dead! Theo crawled his way through life with his father's foot pressing down on his back! And then he finally got free and he had this...chance. A chance to fix himself and Lucius fucking stole that! He stole that and he stole him!"

Draco pulled in a breath that made his whole body shudder.

"That's why I won't forgive him!" he shouted. "You think it's just all about him disowning me? It isn't! I expected that! What I didn't expect was to have Lucius kill my friend! Do you understand?"

Narcissa's lower lip quivered as she looked at Draco. She realised now, after listening to him talk about fathers breaking their sons, that her son had also been broken by his father. And that broke her.

Looking over her shoulder back to Lucius' freshly chiseled gravestone, she wondered if she would always feel this senseless, futile loyalty beating in her heart for her dead, Death Eater husband. It battled ruthlessly with her more rational loyalty to Draco, and it was like a riot between her head and her heart. It hurt her and she had a feeling it would continue to hurt her for some time.

You see, she forgot sometimes. She forgot that her dead husband had killed a boy. She forgot.

Weakly, she tugged at Draco's hand. "Can you take me home, please?"

"Mother, I'm sorry," he said, calm now. "I didn't mean to shout at you, but I-

"I know, darling. I'm just ready to go home now."

.

.

With the snap of Apparition ringing in his ears and worsening his already relentless headache, Draco arrived in the Quidditch field at Hogwarts.

He studied his surroundings. One week after the Battle, and already Hogwarts was looking better after her ordeal. But then, that was the wonder of magic; with just a few flicks of a wand, rubble could be shifted and bricks could be stacked. Cleaning up wasn't the issue, it was the repairs that were going to take the longest.

As he looked now at the resilient castle, he could see the damage to the towers and bastions stretching high into the sky. Some had gaping holes, some seemed to even be tilting hazardously to the side, and some were almost completely gone with only a skeleton of tenacious timber to hold its place. Hogwarts' silhouette had changed so much that Draco struggled to get his bearings as he trudged up the path, intending to find Granger.

As he walked through Hogwarts, he passed many people along the way, all doing what they could to heal the castle's wounds. Some offered him polite nods of acknowledgement, some didn't.

Longbottom, bless his cotton socks, even waved at him with a wide smile. Draco had no idea how to respond to that, so he just bobbed his head and kept on walking, keeping his eyes downcast so Longbottom wouldn't be tempted to initiate a conversation. Several paces later, he encountered Blaise and Luna repairing one of the classrooms.

"Hello, Draco," greeted Luna airily. "I like your suit."

"I wore it to a funeral."

"I can see why. It's dark and depressing."

"Sort of like this conversation?" retorted Draco, ignoring Blaise's glare. "Either of you seen Granger anywhere?"

"Not since this morning," replied Blaise. "How was the funeral?"

"Loads of fun," he quipped with rolling eyes. "I'll tell you about it later, I need to speak to Granger about something."

"Something exciting?" asked Luna.

"No, nosy," he frowned, turning away from the couple. "If you see her, tell her I'm looking for her."

He headed for the Great Hall; it had become the unofficial base of the efforts to restore Hogwarts and it seemed as good a place as any to go. With the exception of a few scuffs and scrapes, the Great Hall was in good condition, and at its centre was a makeshift command station. Spread across some of the House benches were notes about the worst-hit areas of Hogwarts, and adjacent to that was a recuperation area — run by Madam Rosmerta and Ambrosius Flume — where people were welcome to free refreshments between work.

Draco scanned the room for Hermione's tell-tale bushy hair, and then scanned it again because sometimes she wore her hair up. Realising she wasn't there, he turned to leave and look elsewhere, but he hesitated when a glare of Weasley-orange hair temporarily blinded him. Ron and Katie were near the recuperation area, chatting casually and sipping water, evidently taking a break from fixing Hogwarts. Draco considered asking Weasley where Granger was, but just as he'd made up his mind that it would probably be easier to search by himself, Weasley spotted him. With a reluctance he didn't try to conceal (or if he did, he didn't do it well), Weasley muttered something to Katie and approached Draco.

"Malfoy," greeted Ron awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets. "You're... awfully dressed up today for clean-up duty."

"Funeral," he said simply.

"Oh...uh," stuttered Ron. "Are you...okay?"

Draco arched a quizzical eyebrow. "Really, Weasley? Are we going to do this friend shit? We agreed to be civil, not friends. Because if you're going to do this friend bollocks every time I see you, I'll just fling myself off a cliff right now."

"You promise? Can I watch?"

In spite of himself, Draco smirked and said, "That's more like it, Weasley."

"Yeah, civil works better," nodded Ron. "You're still a wanker."

"So are you," he retorted. "You seen Granger anywhere?"

"Last I heard she was upstairs with Harry and McGonagall. They were working on Gryffindor Tower, I think."

"Okay," said Draco, turning on his heel.

"You're welcome, Malfoy!" called Ron.

"You're a tosser, Weasley!"

Backtracking and making his way to the nearest staircase, Draco headed towards Gryffindor Tower. Or tried to. He was hardly familiar with the route to his rivalry house's dorm anyway, and with Hogwarts being as damaged as she was, it was easy to get disorientated. Some staircases (including the Grand Staircase) were still inaccessible, blocked-off corridors created confusing mazes, and the absence of many walls meant that you sometimes ended up outside without intending to. After several frustrating detours, Draco climbed his fifth staircase up to Gryffindor Tower.

All the portraits had been taken down and put into a room for safe-keeping, so Draco simply slipped inside and was immediately struck by a blast of wind. Moving through the common room and snaking around the upturned chairs and tables, he followed the source of the wind to the large reading room, where a yawning hole in the wall was allowing the wind to invade the space. Amongst the tumbled bookshelves stood Granger, McGonagall, and Potter, discussing the tower's cavity as they waved their wands to clear some of the debris strewn around the room.

In a baggy red jumper and an oversized pair of dungarees which were peppered with dirt and mud, Hermione looked like she had been dragged through a filthy field, but it only made Draco grin with amusement. Especially when he looked down at his pristine, tailored suit.

She spotted him before he could say anything and, with a mumbled apology, she left McGonagall's side and rushed at Draco. Her features were tight with apprehension as she flung her arms around his neck and held him so tight he choked.

"I've been thinking about you all morning," she said, loosening her grip.

"Bloody hell, Granger, I think you broke something," he groaned, rubbing the back of his now sore neck. "What was that for?"

"I've been worried about you!"

"Oh, for Merlin's sake...Are you and Aunt 'Dromeda in this together? Because she gave me an earful this morning, too."

Hermione frowned at him. "We both care about you and we are concerned-

"But I'm fine—

"You're not fine, Draco—

"Granger, look at me," he said quietly, waiting until she did. "I really am fine. But maybe tomorrow I won't be fine. Or maybe the next day. Or maybe several weeks from now. And when I'm not fine, you'll be the first to know; perhaps the only person to know. But today, I promise, I am fine."

Hermione studied him with narrowed eyes for a moment, and then slowly nodded her head. "Okay," she sighed. "Okay, you're fine. So...how did it go? Did anyone else..."

"Turn up? No, just my mother and I."

"And how was your mother?"

"Not so fine. And she..." he drifted off when he remembered he was an earshot of McGonagall and Potter, and the latter appeared to be not-so-subtly eavesdropping. "Actually, is there somewhere we can go? I need to tell you something."

"Okay," she said. "Actually, I have something I want to show you."

Without further explanation, Hermione snatched his hand, tugging him out of the tower and then down a small corridor just to the side. His surroundings were familiar, but Draco couldn't place how or why, so he just allowed her to drag him along until she stopped at an alcove, and in its shadows there hid a door. It was only when Hermione reached for the handle that Draco realised where she had brought him.

Their room. Or rather, their old room.

The first thing that Draco noticed was that there were no holes in the walls, and that the ceiling and the floor were intact. That's not to say the room was unaffected. Much like everywhere in the castle, the majority of the furniture was upended and there were various belongings scattered around the room. Granger's old bedroom door had been blown off its hinges, and beyond that he could see her window had completely shattered. The bathroom door was open and he noticed that quite a few tiles had smashed and lay broken across the floor like an accidental mosaic. He counted the fallen tiles; there were seventeen. His old bedroom door was shut, and he no real desire to see what was inside; after he and Granger had started their relationship, he hadn't spent much time in it anyway.

And then, finally, he spotted something on the floor which made him hesitate, and a lump formed in his throat.

It was the book that Granger had asked him to read all those months ago; Martin Luther King's biography.

The picture of the man stared back up at him with warm, smiling eyes. Draco bent down to retrieve it with careful, gentle hands, and then he placed it on an empty bookshelf, fixing it so that he could still see King's amiable expression. When he turned back to Granger, she was watching his movements intently.

"It survived very well," she said, gesturing with her arms to the room. "A couple of little dents and bruises here and there, but nothing that can't be fixed. In fact, it's probably one of the best rooms I've seen so far."

Draco nodded. "It's in pretty good shape."

"I don't know why, but I wanted to show you. I thought it was kind of...comforting to see how well it endured the war."

"Yes," he said simply, still glancing around. "It feels rather...odd being in here, though."

"I know what you mean," she agreed, nearing him. "I'm not even sure why, but it does feel strange. It's like I'm surrounded by ghosts. Every inch of this room rouses a memory."

"And not all of them are good memories."

Hermione frowned. "No, not all of them. Most of them, though. Being here makes me think of reading Shakespeare, making tea in the morning..."

"Ice skating at Christmas, watching the fireworks from your window seat," he added, leaning in to kiss her softly. His lips lingered on hers for a moment, warm and supple; she tasted like apple juice. When he pulled away, he smirked down at her and said, "And, of course, all the sex."

Hermione scoffed and rolled her eyes. "Do you always have to lower the tone?"

"Always," he chided, stealing another quick, cheeky kiss before he turned towards Hermione's bedroom. "Especially when I walk in here. Hey, Granger, you do you fancy a quick—

"Don't finish that sentence," she scolded. "What did you want to tell me? About your mother?"

All the mirth drained away from Draco's sharp features. Brushing away the broken glass on the cushions, he perched himself on the window seat and bade Hermione to join him.

"Should I be worried?" asked Hermione, warily edging forward.

"No, just come here."

They sat side by side, feet dangling out of the broken window. The sun was soothingly warm on their faces despite the veil of mist shrouding its glow, and just beyond Hogwarts' grounds, a small herd of Thestrals were gracefully flying south with a flight of swallows. The sounds of all the people repairing the castle were occasionally caught on a wayward breeze, but for the most part, it was quiet up here; quiet enough that Draco could hear Hermione nervously tapping the window frame.

"Granger, there really is nothing to worry about," he said, holding her hand to still her agitated tapping. "I promise. I just needed to tell you that my mother has decided to move away for a little while—

"Are you leaving?" blurted Hermione.

"No, Granger, calm down. I'm not leaving. My mother's moving to Guernsey, and apparently Mad-Eye said that nobody can enter Malfoy Manor for a while; not that I was planning to move back in after..."

"Everything that happened in there."

"Exactly," he nodded. "But it doesn't really matter anyway. I spoke to Aunt 'Dromeda this morning, and I'm going to live with her for a while."

Hermione's eyes widened. "Really?"

"She's going to need help with Teddy, and I don't want her to be alone. I mean, she's coping well with everything, but I think she needs someone to be with her, and when I asked if I could stay, she seemed pretty happy about the idea."

"I think that's a great idea. I think that's...very noble of you."

"It's not noble, Granger, it's just returning a favour. She helped me out when I needed it and now I can repay her."

"Well, I think it's noble," she insisted, squeezing his hand. "So...that was it? You had me all worried about that?"

"You had yourself worried."

"You were acting very serious."

"I'm a serious person, Granger."

"Hm," she hummed absently. "Well, if that's all the news you have, then I have some news of my own."

Draco's brow crinkled with interest. "Should I be worried?"

"Not at all. I was speaking with McGonagall earlier, and she's decided that all the seventh years are going to have the opportunity to return to Hogwarts in September to take the N.E.W.T.s and finish school properly. I've decided I'm going to come back."

"Really? And anyone can come back?"

"Anyone."

Draco cocked his head, considering the new information carefully. "Do you think she'd let me come back?"

Hermione snapped her eyes to him, confused. "I...didn't think you'd want to."

"Well, I fucked up sixth year and seventh year. I could use all the help I can get. Do you think McGonagall would let me leave at weekends to visit Andromeda?"

"I don't see why not. Are you sure you want to come back?"

"I think so. I don't really know what I want to do. It was always assumed I'd take over the family business from Lucius, but I guess that's out the window," he sighed, shrugging his shoulders. "I might as well get some qualifications while I'm deciding what to do."

Hermione smiled fondly at him. "Look at you, being all sensible."

"Plus, it could be pretty decent. You'll get Head Girl again and I can sneak into your dorm so we can—

"Draco. Anyway, McGonagall already asked me and I declined. Last time I was Head Girl, Hogwarts was almost destroyed."

He chuckled a little, but it died quickly. The Thestrals and swallows had disappeared into the distance, and a cloud had sailed into the path of the sun, casting a blanket of darkness. They both shivered in the shadows, huddling a little closer to each other.

"What about your parents?" asked Draco. "Any news on them?"

"Not since I spoke to he Australian Ministry on Thursday," said Hermione, her tone sombre. "I'm just waiting for them to confirm a day when I can go to Brisbane and try to restore their memories."

"Nervous?"

Her eyes fell to her fidgeting hands. "I...I knew that there was a possibility that I wouldn't be able to restore their memories when I decided to Obilviate them, so...I'll just have to wait and see, I guess."

Draco could tell she didn't really want to talk about it. To be fair, the sensitive topic had been brought up on several occasions already during the past few days, and the slow process meant that there was nothing new to say about it. When she had first contacted the Australian Ministry two days after the battle, she had cried and ranted and then cried again, but since then she had spoken very little about her parents, and he wasn't going to push her to discuss them anymore than she wanted to.

The sun was still hiding behind that thick cloud, and a brief, but bitter gust of wind made Hermione's body jerk with a violent shudder. Stifling a shiver of his own, Draco shrugged off his suit jacket and draped it across her shoulders, but she tried to push it away.

"No, I'm filthy," she said. "And you need to wear this again tomorrow."

"It's nothing a quick Scouring Charm won't fix," he insisted. "Anyway, I was considering wearing a different suit tomorrow. You know, something in bright yellow. I think Snape would have appreciated the irony."

Hermione cracked a smile as she pulled his jacket around her. "How are you feeling about Snape's funeral?"

"I don't know, really," he confessed, his expression thoughtful. "I mean, I've known him since I was a toddler, but I don't really know in what context. We weren't exactly close, but he was always there. He was such an odd man, though. I think he was even stranger now after you told me about his creepy obsession with Potter's mother."

"You thought that was creepy?"

"A little. He was obsessed with a woman who's been dead for seventeen years."

"It wasn't an obsession, it was unrequited love," argued Hermione. "One's dangerous, and one's tragically beautiful. And I think to do something for someone you love is wonderful, but to do something for someone who doesn't love you is possibly the closest thing to perfection that any person could hope to be. When Harry explained everything that Snape had done, I was speechless."

"That's because you're a romantic, Granger," he said. "But, yes, I certainly respected the man, and I know what he did for me. And when you told me about his feelings for Potter's mother, I understood what he said to me."

"What do you mean?"

"I didn't tell you? I saw him when I was trying to find you during the battle."

"You told me you saw him just after Pansy was killed, but you didn't mention much about anything he said." Intrigued, Hermione leaned in closer. "What did he say to you?"

"He told me that I should be grateful," he explained, his voice quiet and contemplative. "That I should be grateful that you love me back."

"I do love you," she said, beaming at him. Tilting towards him to plant a kiss on his cheek, oblivious to the slightly vexed and pensive expression on her lover's face. Patting his leg, she then shifted her weight to rise from her seat and said, "Come on, we should get back and—

"No, Granger, wait a moment," he rushed out, snatching her hand to keep her still. "There's something I need to say."

With a curious gaze, Hermione twisted so she was facing him, sensing the gravity in his tone. "What is it?"

"I just...I need you to understand," muttered Draco hesitantly, pulling in a deep breath. And then he began. "I'm never going to be a man who tells you how lucky I am to have you, even though I know I am. I'm never going to be a man who tells you that you're beautiful everyday, even though you are. And I'm never going to be a man who tells you I love you everyday, even though I do. And I really do, Granger."

"I know you do," she said. "I know."

"And I'm sorry that I'll never be that kind of man—

"Draco, don't—

"No, Granger, let me finish," he interrupted. "I'm sorry that I won't tell you these things, but I will show them to you until you tell me not to, and probably even then. And you and I are inevitably going to yell and scream at each other, and we're going to say stupid things, but they won't mean anything. What I'm telling you right now is what I mean and it's what matters. Do you understand?"

"Of course I do," said Hermione calmly. "I know we are going to be fine, Draco. Better than fine. I mean, we're going to have more obstacles and issues to deal with in the future, but the worst of it is over and we survived."

Draco didn't reply; he simply watched her, but he was forced to squint as that stubborn cloud finally glided out of the path of the sun's rays, freeing the light. It embraced the bedroom like an old friend, illuminating every crook and corner with a dazzling brilliance, and the warmth reached out to stroke both of their faces. Basking in the glow and feeling completely content, Hermione bent forward to kiss him again; just a small, swift kiss to savour the almost nostalgic moment on their broken window seat.

When they pulled apart, Draco took a moment to glance around the room, wondering who would live here next and if they would understand the significance of what had happened within these walls. He wondered if they would slip on the bathroom tiles, or if they would make tea the muggle way in the kitchenette, or watch the fireworks out of the window, or read books on the window seat.

"Come on then," said Hermione, breaking his trance as she rose to her feet. "We have a lot of repairing to do. We've been in here quite a while."

With a curious feeling of reluctance that he didn't really understand, Draco left the security of their window seat, following Hermione as she left her old bedroom and went into the lounge. As he trailed behind her, he still found himself looking around, studying the sitting area attentively, hunting for more memories in the quiet details of the dorm. By the time he reached the door, he had scrutinised every inch and all the space between, yet he still looked over his shoulder as he stepped over the threshold, taking it all in one last time before he closed the door behind him.

And then the room — their room — was empty.

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