“How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.”
“At the first kiss I felt something melt inside me that hurt in an exquisite way. All my longings, all my dreams and sweet anguish, all the secrets that slept deep within me came awake, everything was transformed and enchanted, everything made sense.”
Blonde, white, and black—only those blurs of colour were making up his world. Tears were raging in hot torrents down his cheeks.
‘Draco, maybe you should go,’ said his father. Although Lucius Malfoy did not look up, Draco could hear the tears in his father’s voice. He couldn’t seem to find his own voice to answer. But then his father continued, perhaps in an attempt to relieve them both. ‘We ... we cannot afford to anger the Dark Lord ... not any further. I will be there soon.’
‘I understand, Father,’ replied Draco softly, tearing his gaze away from his mother’s lifeless form. He turned on his heels and quickly departed from the narrow corridor before he could change his mind.
Hogwarts was now a dead place. To Draco, at least. The celebration was in full swing in the Great Hall. Even as Draco made his way towards the border of the Forbidden Forest, where the captives were located, he could still hear his aunt—no, she was no aunt of his. Bellatrix’s voice rang loud and clear throughout the castle, or rather, what remained of it. Several parts, including the entire East Wing, had been blown off and reduced to rubble.
Bile rose in Draco’s throat. He wanted to scream. How could she? How could anyone celebrate after causing the death of her own sister? Then again, this was Bellatrix Lestrange. In her eyes, there was only the Dark Lord and a mad desire for destruction. Draco could blame her all he wanted, but doing so would not bring his mother back. Nor would it exonerate him from his part in her death.
She had never said—never had had a chance to say—but he knew his mother didn’t lie to the Dark Lord for Potter’s sake. She’d lied for him, her son, to get inside the school and make sure he was alive. But that very lie had taken away her life, preventing her from ever seeing him again.
The debris crunched under Draco’s feet as he shuffled across the grounds, occasionally having to skip over the bodies on his path. He didn’t dare look at any of them directly, afraid of recognising familiar faces. This was not the world he wanted! The realisation crashed down on him. He had hoped for things to change, for his family to get back in the Dark Lord’s good graces, because wishing for the Light to win had seemed as foolish as wishing for the Earth to stop spinning. Only now did he realise that no matter what happened, they could never satisfy the Dark Lord. When he reigned, his darkness would engulf even those who served him.
It took Draco the longest time to reach his destination. If it weren’t for the luminous circles dispersed around the site, he would have thought that this was just another graveyard. Whether they were sitting, lying, or kneeling, whether the binding on their hands were ordinary metal chains or magical wires, he could see no signs of life. But there was one exception: all of the Death Eaters were gathering around one of the binding circles where the prisoner—an Order member or at least a close friend of Potter’s—seemed to be putting up a fight.
‘Get off me, you bitch,’ sneered Yaxley. The slap that followed could be heard from several feet away.
‘You were supposed to heal her, not cause more injury,’ said a voice that Draco couldn’t recognise.
‘The fucking bitch bit me,’ barked Yaxley, continuing his assault. Draco heard the distinctive sound of a joint snapping and caught a glimpse of bushy hair being dragged upward. Granger. It came as no surprise, yet he found himself unable to look away. Some of the Death Eaters seemed to have noticed his gaze.
‘What are you staring at, Malfoy? Go make yourself useful!’
Draco turned away, setting off towards some of the younger students clustered near the edge of the forest, to see if they needed tending. He’d hardly made more than a few steps when Yaxley shouted in his direction, ‘Where are you going? Come over here.’
‘Maybe he’ll have more luck with this stupid Mudblood. Old classmates and all that,’ commented Jugson, inciting a series of cackles from the others.
Draco sighed and obliged. Getting bitten by Granger was the least of his worries now. Maybe being stuck with her was even a good thing. That way, he probably wouldn’t have to deal with too much blood and gore. After all, she still had enough strength to fight back.
The Death Eaters began to disperse. Yaxley gave Granger’s prone form one last kick and threw a smirk at Draco before walking away, leaving him alone with her.
Draco stopped just outside the magical boundary, partly not wanting her to spring up and attack him like she did Yaxley, partly trying to postpone the task.
‘Granger,’ he called. She didn’t stir.
Still no movement. Draco hesitantly stepped into the circle and crouched down beside her. He reached out a hand and tentatively touched her shoulder.
‘Go away,’ she spoke at last.
‘The Dark Lord sent me to heal you.’
‘There is no need,’ she replied. ‘I’m going to die anyway.’
‘That’s why there is every need. You have to be well enough to provide sufficient entertainment before you die.’
Draco almost winced as the words left his mouth. It was a fact, and he tried not to let any of his emotions slip through. But it seemed that the statement still sounded no less cruel than when it had come out from Bellatrix’s mouth.
‘It’s not fun to play with half-dead, unconscious toys,’ she had said with shrieks of laughter. ‘They do not scream.’
The Dark Lord’s lips had curled up in a sadistic smirk at her remark. He had then ordered Draco, his father, and a few other Death Eaters who had fallen from grace to prepare the hostages for their next round of celebrating. Once they’d finished having fun with Potter’s dead body, that was. It was ironic, in a sense, that Potter would not scream, writhe nor plead, but Draco guessed there was still some pleasure to be had in turning the body of The Boy Who Lived into shreds. Besides, hadn’t Potter always been an exception?
The notion made him nauseous, but he managed to resist the impulse to gag. Granger did not need to know. It had already been a wonder that she didn’t sit up and slap him squarely in the face after what he’d just said. Then again, perhaps she was too weary to care now. Or perhaps he had just been extrapolating from himself. Either way, it would be best to just leave her alone and thus shorten the torture for them both.
He stood up again and turned to leave.
‘What will he do to you?’ Granger’s question stopped him in his tracks.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said dismissively, not looking back. Surely, she was smart enough to figure out.
‘Heal me, then,’ she said softly.
Draco couldn’t believe his ears. ‘Why?’ he managed to utter.
‘I don’t want anyone else to die tonight.’
‘You’re such a hypocrite, Granger.’ He snorted and walked on, though the lump building up in his throat quickly brought him to a halt. Did he really want to die?
‘I don’t want to die, either.’ Granger called out, and that did the trick. Draco couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason, but he came back and knelt down next to her again.
Granger seemed unusually quiet, so just as silently, he set about helping her sit up. Although he was the one who initiated the touch, Draco was still startled by it. Her shoulders felt so small under his bare hands, all skin and bone. It surprised him even more that he hadn’t noticed the coarse layer of grime and threadbare fabric until a moment later. Normally, he would have recoiled at once, but now it didn’t seem to matter.
Granger let out a soft whimper as he slightly lifted her up.
‘Just yell out if it hurts,’ he said, still unsure how he should act around her. He could barely make sense of it all. Had they come to a temporary truce? Was he trying to save her life or was she trying to save his?
When Granger didn’t say anything, he continued with his task. He’d intended to ease her up into a sitting position after turning her around, but what met his eyes robbed all the air from Draco’s lungs.
Blood. So much blood. It was impossible to discern the front of her shirt, impossible to tell where there were rags and tatters and where there was merely a formation of the half-dried liquid, for one crimson colour flooded everything. How could she have survived?
He wasn’t quite sure how long he’d been gaping until she broke the spell.
‘Not mine,’ she whispered, her voice almost broken. ‘It’s Ron’s.’
Draco swallowed hard. Yet another death confirmed. It was so much easier to deal with when they were just a mass of unnamed corpses. He placed Granger down on her back and fumbled with his robe pocket, searching for the wand he’d carelessly shoved in there earlier. He hadn’t paid much attention to the thing when he randomly took it out from the confiscated pile, but now he could definitely feel the rough wood and its slight bend under his palm. It could have belonged to her, to Weasley, to any of them. He had thought that his mother’s death would make him blind to any of their losses. Those should have been inconsequential compared to his pain. Yet, each time he learnt of another casualty, an invisible twine tightened around his heart. Each time he thought there was nothing—be it life, hope, or emotions—left to squeeze out, he was proved wrong.
Draco raised the wand and pointed at the crimson mess on Granger’s chest.
‘Please ... just leave it,’ she said; her voice seemed to echo from somewhere far away.
The retort that it was filthy and needed to be cleaned teetered on the tip of his tongue, but he bit it down. Should he fear that for once, he agreed with her, understood her? Granger was still clinging to the last of her friend, not unlike his father holding on to his mother, refusing to leave her side, not unlike Draco himself—while unable to be in his father’s place—choosing to rivet his eyes onto her listless form.
He nodded stiffly and abandoned the wand. Slipping one hand around Granger’s back and placing the other on her stomach, he gingerly hoisted her up. It was funny how the wand made him flinch but the contact with Weasley’s blood didn’t.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered, the mass of dirty curls obscuring most of her face. Draco chose not to respond. He wordlessly picked up the wand again, grimacing at the touch.
‘Where ... ’ His mouth suddenly felt dry. How would he sound to her? Gentle? Cold? Void of emotions? Then again, why did he care?
Granger tilted her head in the direction of her right hand, which was resting limply by her side. ‘I think my wrist’s broken.’
‘Anything else?’ He forced out the words.
She shook her head. Draco busied himself surveying the damage to her wrist. Would a simple Episkey do the job? He wasn’t quite sure. Healing had never been Draco’s forte, and his knowledge was limited to the spells that his mother had used to heal him after he incurred the Dark Lord’s wrath. What would she have done? No, he needed something else to think about.
‘Why didn’t you resist me like you did the other Death Eaters?’ he blurted before his throat clogged up completely.
‘I know about your mother.’
Draco froze. The twine around his heart gave way when the captive organ burst out from its grasp, leaving an indiscernible mess in his chest. He lifted his gaze. Even underneath the cover of her hair, he could see a stream of tears sliding down her cheek, glistening strangely in the murky light of the early hour. Draco instinctively reached out his hand to wipe the tears away, a tingling sensation brushing his fingertips.
Granger looked up at him then, smears of blood and dirt etching on her face. Their eyes met, and he could almost see himself in those brown orbs, drowning in the depths of their sorrow.
'I ... I just wish ...’ she gulped, ‘... that none of my loved ones were lost.'
'I know,’ he said quietly, his own vision blurring, his thumb still resting on her cheek. His head felt completely blank as he leaned in and sealed the distance between their lips. Her eyes widened, but then they slowly drifted shut. She didn’t protest. Draco closed his eyes as well, registering only the softness and blisters of her lips beneath his. She tasted of salt, of tears and blood.
For a briefest moment, he could feel the first light of the day seeping through his eyelids, but then everything went black.