I have a fire for you in my mouth, but I have a hundred seals on my tongue
It took 5 days for the letter to reach her.
It took her 2 to get back to civilization
And she knew all too well, that by the time she got to London, it would perhaps be too late.
Guilt and dread filled her.
She should have done something. Something for the kindness that had been shown to her by someone in a place least expected and at the direst of times in her life.
And now it might be too late. She does not know what is happening, or if what she suspects is the truth at all, but she does know that if it is what she has thought it to have been all along, she might not be able to forgive herself for the rest of her life.
They have to wait a whole day in Nuuk for the Portkey channel to clear because of a disturbance in the magical ley lines in the Arctic Ocean.
Her fingers find the parchment again in the pocket of her fur trimmed anorak as she waits at the Portkey central. She has read it so many times now that she almost knows the words by heart. Written in that clean and economic hand of Hermione Granger.
Certain words surface, connecting to certain memories and her heart feels as if it would jump out of her chest. Instinct. Instinct has always been her bane. Instinct should come with fore-sight she always demanded deep within her. But as the ways of the tragic world goes, it never did, it never does.
She remembers a splash of colours, cosy and serene and so full of life, a perusal, and seeing in between all those colours, one colourless creature, translucent grey eyes, colour of a Hogwarts ghost, looking out of the window but not seeing whatever was outside. A porcelain cup held preciously in long tapered fingers she would never forget.
Fingers, that had opened a secret.
She had been devastated at the state of him. At the despair of him that she could feel fluid in the air.
She'd wanted to ask? She'd wanted to inquire.
Until her brain had kicked in. Her brilliant, cruel, Ravenclaw brain. And she had forgotten that she was looking at a friend and could only recognize the specimen.
She could not believe that she had found what she had been looking for. Two years of research and Six months of wandering around the world, catching scent here and there and this was where it all had lead her, to this man. This boy.
The boy she had once known. The boy who had shown her silent kindness in the darkest time of her life. The unfortunate, unlucky Draco Malfoy. Scared, sad, and oddly kind Draco Malfoy. An unexpectedly powerful Draco Malfoy, who knew how to hide it well. Timid on the surface but with the nerves of steel Draco Malfoy. A bully and pretentious but deeply emotional Draco Malfoy.
She had caught the difference of him even then, but she had been young and in distress. Now she made the connection, finally, as it was ever so blatant to those who knew what to look for.
Draco Malfoy, was a Veela.
A proper Male Veela and 'the' male Veela Healer that she had caught scent of in Egypt just a few weeks ago.
And Draco Malfoy was a Détruit Veela.
And that had snapped her out of it. Out of her Ravenclaw fascination.
And she realizes now, that perhaps she had made the worst decision of her life at that moment so many years ago.
She had decided to allow him his privacy in his grief.
She had decided not to approach him.
And she had decided to keep it discreet.
She had mentioned it to Hermione in passing, glossing it over with unimportant things just to decrease its impact. Everyone glossed over the Draco Malfoy chapter of their lives. As if everyone was ashamed of talking about him. As if everyone shared the silence when it came to Draco Malfoy. Especially in front of Harry. It was as if he was one of casualties of the war. And perhaps he was, and if he was not, they had made him one. How cruel fate had been to Draco Malfoy. She had seen it with her own eyes and she had chosen silence.
She regrets it now.
She hates herself for it in this moment.
She regrets keeping his secret as she can feel the precipice of something devastating about to happen.
She was always able to foretell when something bad was about to happen.
She feels it now in her bones.
The letter says that Draco Malfoy is Healer Beyazlamak and that for the first time in months they have hope for Lily.
But she knows, she knows that there was no hope, not for the kind of illness that Lily has.
And she can't believe that her own uncharacteristic scepticism had made her unable to make the connection.
The Inuit Drakenoids that she had met in Franz Josef Land had confirmed her belief that Lily's ailment had to do something with Veela energy involvement in her magical root itself.
There was only one pure Veela who had ever come in close contact with Ginny or Harry. And it was Draco Malfoy.
And in her mind she knew, that it was Harry. Always Harry. The reason for this dilemma
And then she had found the Russian Wandlore book in the Library of Chukotka Magicia Academia, which talked extensively about Veela and the Wandlore related to them. And she had known. And she had felt the claws of desperation sinking in. The resonating demand in her heart that she had to find Draco Malfoy. She knew the starting point. And she was just writing a letter of excuse to the Headmaster of the academy to give her leave from the two weeks of lectures she had come to Herald Island for, due to an emergency at home and despairing over the Lightening storm she could see from her study window gathering just miles away from the Herald Island on the sea which would inevitably delay her.
She had felt her edges stretching in two different directions. Go to Draco Malfoy, to save him, or to ask him for one final sacrifice. She had not made her decision yet, when the letter had arrived.
It seemed that both her edges had stretched her enough to encompass the world in opposite directions and meet in the middle. And it feels to her as if the world is crushing inside her stretched grip.
She looks at her hand gripped firmly in her husband's as he waits with her in the hell that Nuuk feels like at the moment. Holding her together.
'How am I going to live with myself Rolfe? How am I going to breathe? Live? Love? Laugh? How will I after what I have let happen?' she asks him silently.
Sweet Rolfe, perfect Rolfe, wisest Rolfe simply presses her hand between his graceful fingers and smiles a serious smile. Never says a word. Because he knows that verbal declarations will never satisfy her. And he does not even know the whole story. He just tells her with that firm squeeze that he will be the first one to forgive her and that like everyone else, she is human too.
This hurts her even more. Realizing that this is exactly what she has prevented her most dearest friend from having. A love like this. Where you can break apart and make together every day of your life.
Rolfe has followed her around the world to places so difficult and extreme that they don't even exist on the world map. From the hearts of volcanoes, to the fjords of the Arctic in search of the ridiculous and elusive. Rolfe has been there for her.
And Ginny would not even move to London for the sake of her husband and their marriage.
She has never noticed a moment like this between them(Harry and Ginny). A reassurance and sign of togetherness. A squeeze of the hand, a blink of an eye, a small private smile, a caress…
No, there have only been forced and empty grand gestures of supposed romance.
No, the gesture of true and irrevocable devotion and love is what Draco Malfoy is doing by being present at Lily's sick bed and she perhaps is only one of the few who now have information enough to know how excruciating it might be for Draco Malfoy.
But though in her eyes the connections are made clear, she knows that most of it is still based on assumptions, how would she ever explain everything to Harry? Would it not be the ultimate breach in Draco's privacy. From Hermione's letter, there are no indications that Draco has given away his secret, because if he had, Harry would never hide it from Hermione, and it seems Hermione is only suspecting about Draco's nature from her own observations so she has reached out for her straight-away. But it's too late.
Perhaps if she can get there in time, and if Draco is still there, she can try and convince him to at least tell Harry the truth.
The wand. Harry had taken Draco's wand from him when she had been rescued from the dungeons at the Malfoy Manor all those years ago. And she had been feeling the difference in Draco weeks before Harry came to her rescue. Draco's aura had been changing and changing rapidly. She had seen the missing nails on his hands more than once indicating that he was being subjected to torture while he was in service of the Dark lord, and she had formed a theory that the extreme stress and torture was awakening a different kind of magic in Draco to preserve himself.
It would become apparent to her years later, just what the side effect of that torture, misery and war was on Draco Malfoy.
And it would take her until now, almost 20 years to understand the colossal oversight.
Her legs felt paralyzed as she sat in the Chitchuk library with the ancient scroll in hand and her quill almost broken through the parchment she had been translating it upon.
Draco Malfoy was the only dominant male Veela in existence that she had known of.
And Draco Malfoy's Veela being had matured months before the final battle at Hogwarts.
Harry had had Draco's wand all along.
Harry had told her the story at shell cottage.
Only she had felt the strangeness of it.
Because she had known Draco's dexterity with a wand.
Draco was a prodigy in wand handling, trained directly by professor Snape.
Harry was powerful enough with it, but she had rarely seen someone so formidable and deft with a wand than Professor Snape and then Draco Malfoy.
And Harry had just snatched it out of Malfoy's hand.
Not to mention the fact that Malfoy had clearly recognized Harry and not given away his identity.
It did not add up, but there was so much going on in those days.
But as she sat there with the translation and the chain of events as they were.
It was all coming together.
And then as if like an angel of death, Hermione's letter had arrived with important news at the nick of time.
Now Luna only hoped that she would not be too late, and that Harry and Draco would not be too stupid and that Lily would still be alive and kicking.
She had been unintentionally dozing against her husband's shoulder when the announcement of the clearing of Ley-lines was made.
As she stood by the Portkey portal she looked down at the tattered dark green velvet healer's pouch with the initials DM embroidered over it, waiting for activation, its ingredients had saved her life once, and she had never returned it to its owner. She always kept it on her person as a reminder that help and hope can be found in strangest of places and in darkest of hours.
(28th December 2020) – Hermione's POV
She feels double her weight as she steadily climbs up the stairs, but she is mindful of everyone asleep at this ungodly hour, and also aware of all that are not asleep at this ungodly hour.
She checks her wrist and grimaces at the time it shows.
Most brilliant witch of her age she might be, but a nice wrist-watch is still one of her few weaknesses, one which her husband has cottoned on over the years.
She smiles at just the thought of his excited and somewhat nervous smile every time he gets her one.
There are smiles, and then there are smiles.
There are looks and then there are looks.
20 years and their marriage is still rock solid.
If it had been anyone but Ron, she would have gone crazy, she is sure.
But Ron is such a grounding force, such a stubborn mule-like force in exactly the opposite direction of her momentum.
It works in mysterious ways, this heart.
And she can only be thankful for how her own works and for whom.
Right now, as tired as she maybe, as much as she wants the comfort of those strong warm arms and steadily beating heart, Harry needs her more.
And to tell the truth, she needs Harry a bit too. After all the vitriol Ginny spewed about her best friend just a few hours ago, she needs to talk with Harry, be in his presence to wash the acid out even from her subconscious.
She knocks on his study/office door steadily.
"Yes…" comes the muffled reply from inside.
She enters without fanfare to find him almost buried behind a pile of scarlet folders.
He looks up at her and smiles and she is reminded of the time when they would spend long hours in the library researching this and that and though he would be extremely tired and not wholly convinced regarding the path of research her erratic mind took her on and dragged him alongside, he would smile at her whenever she would look at him, afraid of looking like a maniac or an obsessive.
Harry, always accepted her for who she was.
The loves she feels for him in that moment is a physical pain in her chest.
"I thought Percy, personally granted you leave from work."
"I know, I just…" he pauses for a moment rubbing his forehead vigorously with his strong sure fingers. Something he always does to step out and detach himself from an overwhelming thought, a habit that never quite faded away from the days the scar on that forehead used to hurt.
She decides to keep her silence. Not talk about Lily, not talk about work, just sit there and be there.
Her eyes find the small book she gifted him just a few days ago lying under the scrutiny of MagiLamp on the table.
"Did you get any time to read that?" she points towards the book before stretching forward and grabbing hold of it.
"Yes, just the first few introductory pages…" he answers before a big yawn eats the rest of his sentence.
"You should get some sleep Harry honestly, the state of you."
"Yes, I think I am going to go catch a few hours, its finally showing up after all." He smiles tiredly, pointing at his problem with sleeping since this wringing of all of them started.
She settles herself on the sofa by the fireplace in Lily's room. Sending off Rose, Albus and Leo to get some sleep, ensuring them at least three times that she can easily keep the watch until Ron comes back from his late shift at the HQ around the same time that Molly would arrive for breakfast.
She opens the book she had gifted Harry and settles down for a read with a large cuppa at hand.
She is through almost a quarter of it an hour later when she notices Draco standing by Lily's bed.
He is now almost in the middle of all the diagnostic spells and incantations he uses to check on her every three hours.
If it was not for the orange glow of the fire reflected in the silver of his hair she would not have even noticed him.
That makes her wonder. The hair, there is something unnatural about it. The colour is not the same obviously and it's pure washed out silver now, much denser than it used to be in school. And it is so perfect in texture…
"Is that some sort of an enchantment?" she finds herself asking out loud without even intending to.
He is almost done with the last spell and he turns to look at her with those strange eyes.
Eyes, yes, eyes have changed too, she notes.
In the orange light of the fire though his face looks haggard, before she blinks and it looks much better. In that split second she could have sworn that the eyes of Severus Snape were looking at her.
There is something going on here just beneath the surface. She can't deny that this Draco Malfoy or Ustad Beyazlamak is an enigma, and were it not for the purpose that he was here, Hermione would have like nothing more than to investigate.
At his inquisitive brow raise she points at his head. Well, glad to know some things never change.
"I am one of the most fore-thinking healers in the world Granger, you would think that I would be able to cure something as simple as premature hair-loss."
"Really? So this is not an enchantment but…"
He simply turns away without answering prompting her to return to her reading. But the knot remains lodged in her mind as she reads the hours away.
It is not until it is almost dawn and a sleepy Albus stumbles in that she closes the book and leaves a few minutes later with Ron in tow.
Hours later she almost violently wakes up from her sleep as the knot finally comes undone.
The hair. She has seen that kind of hair before.
It looked so very much like Veela hair.
Very quietly but quickly she gets out of bed leaving a heavily sleeping Ron behind. Her mind races towards explanations. Now that idea has hit her, she is becoming more and more certain by the seconds that pass. But so are a plethora of other questions.
20 minutes later finds she is standing in front of the Genealogical archives at the ministry of Magic.
3 hours and one distressed call from Ron later finds her frowning over the Malfoy genealogical records.
No recognisable sign of veela to be found in the Malfoy family tree as far back as 15th century.
Her mind prompts her that he did claim to have found a cure to hair-loss, could that cure have something to do with Veela magic or DNA or simply Veela medicine?
But she supposes that with all the influence Malfoys have had in the ministry of magic since its foundation, it would be very easy to temper with records. But the reason for tempering is what makes her doubt the whole scenario.
Why would Malfoys hide a veela ancestor? It is the height of prestige for a pure-blood wizard to be bonded to a veela in old magical culture and norm that the old families used to follow. Veela inheritance was usually highlighted throughout wizarding genealogical history and there is no purest form of magic than that of a veela and because the choosing of a mate by a veela is a testament to the wizards magical strength and purity as the Veelas are more strongly inclined towards the instinctual choosing of the mate that is the fittest for survival and capable magically to take care of the veela.
If the records have been tempered with for some odd reason, then only the Malfoy family's private genealogical records will hold any true information.
And as it was, only Draco Malfoy had access to the manor.
It's a dead-end.
And by every passing minute she inclines more towards the conclusion that maybe the hair had to do with what Malfoy had said.
Reluctantly she stops the research and goes back home before she has to go to Grimmauld again.
But not before writing another letter to Luna that's been a few days overdue as she tries to keep Luna updated with Lily's progress. She also asks some vague questions regarding Veela heritage that she had been riddled with all evening as there is, grudgingly, no better authority over Veela magic and nature than Luna, after all she has spent years researching the Veela and had some veela blood in her own ancestors.
She would punish herself later for not making the connection sooner.
The connection that was being begged to be made all along, right in front of her very eyes.
With her mind still occupied, she disapparates to the apparition booth just a few meters outside of 12th Grimmauld place. She sighs as she walks into the house, remembering the days when the three of them had been on a hunt for Horcruxes and had taken refuge here. She feels that those troubles in the days of the dark lord were much easier to deal with than these ones. It is never easier when the threat of death looms over one's child.
She believes she now understands sacrifice much more deeply than she did in those days, and she finds it not as glorious as she thought it was in those days.
Part 1 :
"I do not understand. Is the potion not working?" He asks, his green eyes shadowed. A look of pure dread crossing his face like a shadow. Have I not made enough promises, vows, assurances? It offends me that he still does not trust me. But then again, I may be me who is stretched too thin, is a little too defensive and somewhat terrified deep down. I am a manner of a parent myself. I know some of the undying worry one feels for their child. And as little as he knows about magical healing, I would be wary too. I rein my defensiveness in, and calm myself down before I speak. Gaining a small secretive smile from junior Potter.
"No, the potion is working exactly how it's supposed to be working, the potion was never about that. The potion is supposed to fortify her body and mind for compensating the extra strain that may or may not come after this ritual is done. The potion that I have been administering is very much like a nutrient potion that we have been giving her to make her body able to sustain the seizures and compensate all the body mass she lost because of the fever before she was in stasis. No, the potion has done its work, that is to repair all the damage done to the receptacle that has to hold the magic. This ritual is not alternative treatment, it is the next step. I do not know how much you know of muggle treatments, but have you never heard of a bone-marrow transplant in cancer patients?"
Both pair of green eyes sparkle with understanding almost identical for the first time.
"So this ritual that you are proposing is like a bone-marrow transplant?" Potter Junior asks.
"It is exactly like that." I answer conjuring all the conviction that I can and stressing it on this one point.
It is not. I am lying. This ritual is going to be more like a heart-transplant, or rather heart-exchange, where I will replace my magical core with hers and replace hers with mine.
"So…. Then, what exactly is it going to do because I do know the general idea of what a bone-marrow transplant is, but I do not know the rest."
Before I can answer, Albus turns to his father to explain.
"Well, I think, bone-marrow is transplanted from a healthy subject to the patient to encourage growth of cancer-free blood-cells after Chemotherapy, right?"
"Yes, precisely! The potion administration was more or less like Chemotherapy, now I need to do the ritual that donates her a piece of magic that would more or less infect her damaged and problematic core with a healthy one. I will donate the missing part from her core because in her case it is not actually infection, she has a part missing, nothing has gone wrong inside her."
"But if this is like a bone-marrow transplant, is not the donor required to be related to her? I mean, they usually go for siblings or parents for bone-marrow donation don't they? Would it not be better if say, I were to do it?" asks the younger.
"No, this is not blood pathology Albus, this magic pathology, it does not require a chemical genetic signature of blood, Magic is energy it only requires the same frequency. Lily is a sorceress, she needs a donation from a properly trained and mature sorcerer which in this case is 'Me'. I am a healer and a practicing sorcerer very much trained in mind-meld and psyche magic. There is no one in the whole of UK or the continent that can actually do this ritual for Lily apart from me, because most sorcerers are either curse-breakers or academics in this part of the world."
"And what would be the consequences for you if you make this donation?"
The question and the tone it is asked in takes me by surprise.
I look at him for much longer than I usually allow myself and the concern I see in his eyes makes me feel dizzy.
This is the last thing I need at this point.
Harry Potter being concerned over me, treating me as if I matter much more beyond what my purpose is here. Harry Potter having allusions of friendship and camaraderie regarding me.
"I would suffer from magical weakness for a few weeks at most, but my magic will eventually regenerate enough to fill in the gap. But, due to the potion, Lily's recovery would hopefully be immediate. I assure you Potter, if all goes as I plan, Lily can go back to Hogwarts by the end of New Year's holidays. The sooner she starts using her magic after the treatment, the better it would be for her not just magically but also mentally."
He stares at me for a few seconds and its mesmerising to see his eyes turn shiny with tears. My heart beats like a fist punching inside my chest.
"He is right dad, in theory, as this is not blood pathology but magic pathology, the healing would be immediate. We have already dealt with all the physical strains and deficiencies the seizure caused in Lily…."
"You really mean it… You are serious… You really think you can do it."
More than a question for me, it is a recognition and understanding. He knows that I am more than a 100% sure that what I am suggesting will work and that I will be able to execute it to perfection.
"You wanted me to do my best, and this is my best, and this is the best for her… and if you are worried that I would take something from her during the process, you must remember that I am under an unbreakable vow."
I know he does not think that, but it is better than what he does think. Now that it comes to it, I realize that I would much deal with his cruelty at this point than his compassion.
All I ever wanted was his respect. I should have known that with Harry bloody Potter, everything is a package deal.
"Unbreakable vow? What unbreakable vow?"
The confused look on Albus Potter's face is genuine. And I realize for the first time that he does not know about it, which surely means that neither Potter nor Granger disclosed it to their children.
The confusing expression is rapidly turning into astonishment and then slowly morphing into anger as the boy understands the situation.
I would never have anticipated anger from Albus Potter when I was making the vow.
I cut off before he is able to say something to his father who looks resigned and ashamed too.
This is where I should have anticipated things would get difficult. But then again, I never was even slightly a Gryffindor, was I? And these are the kind of disasters that happen when Slytherins start playing like a Gryffindor.
"The ritual requires it to be the night of the new moon, which is falling on the night between 4th and 5th January, means I have only 3 days to prepare and I would need them to myself, if you would allow me I need to run a few errands for the ritual and it would be best if I do them myself."
"Sure, sure, anything you require is yours."
I feel too anxious to do anything more than a nod of head in acknowledgment of the generous offer, the sooner I get out of the line of questioning the better, I am almost lying to him and a single fatefully asked question could mean…
I don't know what it could mean. What would Potter do if he knew that this ritual would definitely give him his daughter back but at the cost of my life.
The answer should be really simple. I thought I knew it from the very beginning.
Of course he would choose his daughter. What parent would not?
It still may be the same choice now, but, I know so much more now.
I know what could have been, and now I also what has been.
And I think I also somewhat know what will be.
The idea of death is ever more frightening, but also liberating.
There is never a single side to anything, there are always contrasting perceptions.
I look back at my life and see despair, but I also see the places to take pride of.
And I have never done so, not in its entire enormity.
I have accomplished so much more than I would have if it was not for this curse, this disability.
I can see now the point in my suffering, it can be referred to as a necessary justification for the sake of it, but it is there.
To believe in magic, is to believe in the omnipotent
To believe in the omnipotent is to believe in one's self.
Perhaps this was the purpose of my existence, it has been facilitated enough.
I have faced no difficulties to reach this conclusion and I realize that this must be the first time an endeavour of mine has gone so smoothly. A decision finalised and actualized without any hurdles.
I mean, it is just another in the long string of pegs that the one thing that goes so smoothly in my life is the choice of how I choose to kill myself. But then, maybe I was never supposed to live.
There was certainly no place for me, and when I am gone, there will be no space left empty.
Yes, the Malfoy blood-line will end, but perhaps that is as should have been all along. I am the last of so many kinds.
My healing work and experimentation will be carried on by Aali. My material possessions will be given to my heir, and everything will just smooth over me.
But, I will remain in memory now.
A small place reserved for me in the mind of the one who has every part of me without him even knowing.
The man who saved his daughter.
The man who changed.
The man who would always have his gratitude.
But what he would never realize is,
That ultimately, against all odds, I lived.
I am the boy who lived. I am the boy who baffled even the omnipotent, because it seems that the only plan he had for me was how I die.
So I lived on my own terms, fate gave me no chances, no gifts, to do so, but I survived.
I am a Slytherin, always will be and that is and always will be my last personal laugh.
I am almost to the door when the thought hits me.
"There is perhaps something that you could do for me, a favour." I find myself saying, even before I know what it is that I am going to ask.
But I know. It has been on my mind quite a lot for some past nights.
The low murmur of conversation that is most probably Albus explaining to his father the procedure he thinks I am proposing.
I turn around to face the father and son again.
His green eyes are fixed on me as if a single word from me would convince him to light the world on fire. I have seen this look before. This was the look in his eyes when he vanquished Voldemort. A singular intense sharp gaze that means determination a glint of the colossus that lies hidden deep inside the persona that adorns friendly jumpers and fatherly smiles.
But I have very few allusions and desires left to myself. We are both wrecked, destroyed and we will both have to find salvation. Only, as always, it would come in different miens for both of us.
Instead, he says one word, to clear me of any doubts, as if asking me for something else altogether.
"Anything." He says.
He has no idea how dangerous that word can be.
I swallow down the noise of my heart with great effort before I ask.
"It has come to my knowledge through various sources…" here I shoot a pointed look at his son who winces for some strange reason "…That you have the Original portrait of Professor Snape in your possession?"
His brow creases "And if my information is correct so do you." He says smoothly as she leans forward his own reaction to anticipation I guess.
"No, the one I have is a rendition, not an original memory inlaid one like I have heard yours is."
He nods in assent a thoughtful expression on his face. I think he is wondering if I am going to ask him for it as payment. I do not why such a thing should trouble him so much. No matter how Snape was exonerated in the end, Potter had hated him viciously for most of their acquaintance.
"I was wondering if you could arrange for me to have a private word with it?"
His forehead smoothens but his expression remains a little puzzled at my request.
Yet his answer comes immediately. Noble and generous.
"Of course! Do you want to go now? Because it hangs in my office at the Auror headquarters, if you want I could bring it to you here…"
"No, that won't be necessary Potter, Originals usually don't like to be jostled around. I would go to it if it is possible and won't be an aggravation."
"I can take you there after supper, that way you would have as long as you want with your privacy intact. Though you will have to side along with me because you had us shut down the floo inside the house and My office is warded to only let me apparate in."
My mind suddenly throws the memory of the close proximity I suffered from the last time he had me side-along him and anticipation, stupid anticipation weighs down somewhere around my navel. I fake absent-mindedness and simply gesture my nonchalant acceptance before I walk out of the room.
I wonder what the evening holds in store for me. But for now, I have some important calls to make, especially if tomorrow the Lord Malfoy plans to return to his manor.
To say his last farewell. Again. Which I tell you is one too many.
I am surprised to find a plush well-used chair sitting facing the two portraits that occupy the nook in Potter's very substantial quarters.
I had once been to the office of Head Auror's department when I was little, as I tagged along with my father for my one of his ministry errands. Which were usually favour gathering and a very mild form of blackmail in most cases.
This office is much different than that. For once it was in the Auror headquarters and not in the ministry of Magic, which now it seemed was in a new different building altogether but not too far from the ministry. It was as if there was a whole magical district that had come into being in my absence, as far as I could see from the window that dominated one of the walls in the nook.
Both the portraits that the plush chair faced were empty. I felt the knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach as I assure myself with the glance at the door that Potter has indeed left the office and is busy in a chat with his old secretary just outside.
I look back at the portrait and am startled to see that the occupant of it has already arrived.
"Severus…" it comes out more like a gasp than a greeting.
His face is neutral. In fact somewhat blank.
"Draco." He says curtly and nods his head in a very formal wizard's greeting.
It is strange. How stilted I feel.
When I am unable to say anything that I had wished to say in this encounter, he sighs.
"I have been hearing very interesting things about you lately. Although I must say that the gushing excitement that Albus Potter dots his stories of you with is more than mildly irritating, but he does remind me of you… but only when you were seven. "
I can't help but laugh at his familiar insults of anything to do with Potter and at the same time feel wetness on my cheeks.
I turn my face away in embarrassment as I dry the wetness from my face.
I look back at him to see his soft expression. One I always knew him to have just for me.
"I think it is futile to ask how it has been…"
I shrug my shoulders, feeling confident for the first time in asking a question that would shape this meeting and probably my fate ultimately.
"Do… do you know the secret?"
He nods, that single bend of the neck that is so characteristic of him.
I don't even have to articulate the question.
"This portrait probably has almost all of my most important memories. I gave them to Potter before I died to instruct him in what he needed to do in order to destroy Voldemort. I was in a compromised position so I gave more than I meant to, and you, you were always very important to me. I know everything."
"You did not tell him…You did not tell him?" I don't know if that makes me angry at him or glad.
"It was already too late…"
"So you know that I am Détruit?"
His expression is of such acute pain and rage that I can hardly stand it.
"Do not use that word! Never use that word! Not when you have survived this long and accomplished so much! I will not have you insult yourself with that word, you will not allow yourself to be defined by the creature Draco, because if you do, it will all be for nothing."
His words, like always, snap me out of my reverie of desolation. With a few choice words of his I am back on track.
I smile up at him and decide that in the end he would be proud of me.
Two hours later when I am about to depart after an exhausting yet liberating one to one with my late Godfather's portrait.
"I'd wished Draco that you would not take inspiration from my example, but that is what you are going to do, is it not?"
When I refuse to answer his question at all than lie to him about this he continues
"Only you ever had the ability to make me proud of you and infuriated with you at the same time, and only Potter ever had the ability to extract such heavy toll from those who love him without even knowing. You are both impossible, no wonder you chose him, devastation as it may have caused you and him…"
I look up sharply at him.
"Him? How so?"
"You have been in his home for past few days and you have not noticed it?"
"I will fix it. I will fix everything." I answer vehemently, knowing the foolishness of the statement.
"No one in this world can fix everything. You must know…"
"Will my knowing save Lily Potter's life?" I interrupt him mid-sentence.
He stares at me with his shrewd and melancholy eyes for a long moment before he simply answers.
I just shake my head. I have one purpose, one mission, one task and one chance. I do not need distractions. And the one I am doing it for will be the biggest distraction if I let go of the rope even a bit.
"Then I don't need to know, not any further than what I already know."
His resignation is painful to me. And my obduracy is painful to him. But it is the way things are.
"I want you to know, that though I am just a memory, I am proud of you and you know I do not say those words easily."
"I know…" I can't help the tears that are so adamant in their presence.
I turn away to walk towards the door, when I hear him ask.
"What ritual is it that you are planning for?"
I had hoped that he would ask me and not ask me at the same time.
Ask me, because it was he who was the source of my curiosity for it and then my discovery of it.
Not ask me, because I would not be able to lie to him or hide the implications of it.
"The Baburi Supplication."
His eyes widen impossibly.
"You mean you…"
I smile at him, at his outrage, and the resignation that will come to him eventually.
At that very moment as if on a cue, Potter peeks in from the door an inquisitive look on his face.
I nod at him and then turn to the portrait again winking at the memory of my Godfather who is still in shock. It makes me a little happy, if I must admit, I have never made him speechless before.
I put a finger to my lips gesturing at him, reminding him, his vow to keep it secret before I turn and walk away, feeling the weight of one of the first, last Goodbyes.
That is until I step out of the surprisingly tastefully yet functionally decorated office of one Harry Potter, to see him look away from his old secretary towards me and smile.
A genuine smile. As if he has just seen the one ray of hope in a darkened sky.
It started with a drab day.
I hope it ends on a sunny one.
That is when the weight of the goodbye I have just said, stops being a weight and becomes a grounded strength.
I must have been no more than eight when my Godfather had told me the story of the Mughal Sorcerer King Babur and how he gave his life in exchange for his son Hindal's. The little boy who's ailment no healer or Witch-doctor could diagnose.
I remember that it was a soft and sunny day and he had finally deigned to grace me with his presence in my mother's favourite garden, even though it was the summer vacation at Hogwarts.
It had been a strange, dream like day. As in it was never repeated. I did not get very close with my Godfather until I was at Hogwarts. Before that his visits were sporadic and mostly for my parents.
I had as good as forgotten the story, until a few years ago when I had to take on a healer's assistant called Babur in Ulan Bator while I was there because of the Shinji-small-pox break out all over Mongolia.
He was from Pakistan, working on behalf of the Sufi Magic Healers who were both brilliant and extremely elusive. We both had learned a lot from each other in the months that we worked together, but his name had reminded me of the story and the story had taken me to a library in Lahore where I discovered that it was actually a valid magical historical account. My curiosity had peeked to a dangerous level and I had travelled to Delhi. After weeks of search, I had found the evidence of the ritual as narrated by one of his wives who was a witch herself.
The legend was that the most beloved and youngest son of the Emperor Zahir-ud-din Babur, Hindal was the only one of his children that had inherited magic, but when the time came for his magical maturity, he started to fall ill citing some problem in his magical core. After almost a year of looking far and wide for the cure, the boy was no better, which was when the King had called for his crown prince Humayoun and instructed him to prepare for his rule, and sealed himself and the boy's mother inside the Boy's sick room, and prayed all night on his knees. Just a few minutes before dawn, the emperor Zahir-ud-din got up and circled Hindal's bed seven times. According to the only witness, Hindal's mother, at the seventh round there was a flash of light just before dawn which blinded her before it dimmed into the low light of the first light of dawn, She found the boy sitting up on his sick bed (which had been impossible for him for the past few weeks because of his sickness) and the powerful emperor had fallen on the floor.
The emperor of India had died before mid-day and Prince Hindal had walked away from his own bed, seemingly healthy and gaining vitality very rapidly, dying decades later while fighting most valiantly on the battle field.
The ritual as I researched deeper turned out to need a sacrifice and a special supplication rather than an incantation. There were special words of course, but what it actually took was determination and intention offering of one's magical force, and it worked too, because it had been done again, by another king to save his son and heir from fatal battle wounds.
The supplication was actually quite simple and very complicated at the same time.
That is where I started to work out the finer details and perhaps change some of them.
At the time I did not know if I was ever even going to need it, there was just this drive that I should.
Some of the supplication eventually, I changed into incantation which allowed me to tinker with the flow of the power that would be involved in all of it. After weeks of works and experiments I had been able to make it a precise supplication, which was more like a bargain.
In old days, magical language was not well-developed, because of which the tweaking was not possible.
But now, though through the centuries the potency of foundation magic might have lessened, the technique has evolved with such precision that it covers for the lesser potency in most cases.
So the basic supplication had to be changed to specify the conditions regarding what part of your magical energy you are exchanging.
In this case, which feels more like providence as the time comes closer, my changing the ritual and supplication is perfect, because I need to exchange a specific part of myself with Lily. Otherwise, she would also have inherited my veela magic, which would only give her 5 years of survival at most, and perhaps a pain much more terrible….
No, it does not warrant even thinking about it, when it's not going to happen at all. I keep my demons.
The tricky part of course as one would expect, is my Veela.
The natural protection of Veela magic is what makes it a two-layered complex ritual.
Meaning I have to do the supplication with only my normal magical core. Which I would then exchange with Lily's damaged one.
The veela because of being Detruit, has been leeching on my normal magic for over twenty years in order to sustain itself. Which is why it has been slowly killing me. In my estimation, as it is, I would die in five years' time, due to the strain on my magical core.
Replacing it with Lily's damaged core would only give me the days that Lily had left out of stasis. A week at most.
While in a new body and free from the Détruit veela magic, my magical core will flourish immediately inside Lily, especially with the harmonizing potion in her veins.
She would live a perfectly magical, healthy and long life.
This ritual is the best work of mine. It is cruel. It is barbaric. But so is the nature of magic.
He did make me vow that I would do my best to save his daughter.
Little did he know that my best would also result in what not doing my best would result in.
This was always the conclusion of this story.
I am to sit and witness.
Follow 4 instructions while sitting and witnessing.
Do not sleep.
Do not speak.
Do not interrupt.
Do not let anyone else interrupt.
It is ominous, the silence in my house.
I feel my tongue asleep in my mouth, my heart asleep in my chest, my blood asleep in my veins.
But I am awake.
Awake and watching.
I look out the window to see the snow falling in the distant light of a muggle street lamp.
I look at the clock on the mantelpiece over the fireplace with no fire happily crackling.
An hour past midnight.
I look at his kneeling form in the centre of the room on the cold wooden floor, head perched over his knotted hands place on the side of Lily's bed. His lose hair hide from me whatever part of his profile I could see.
From this angle, I can, for the first time in as many days, actually see how think he is. He usually cuts such a graceful and aloof figure over all in his surrounding that you don't even notice is actual form.
I wonder if starving yourself is part of the monkhood he belongs to.
His utter stillness is something else that is remarkable.
As if he can sit there as eternity passes around him like a stream. As if he is free from the bounds of time and space.
I wonder what things one has to go through to reach that level of… stoicism.
I remember who he used to be.
And I am determined to never give myself a chance to remember who he is now.
I am not going to remember him, because I do not plan to forget him.
If past few days have taught me anything, it is, that shrouded in Draco Malfoy's mystery is some part of my own self-discovery.
I feel it calling to me. I feel strength of it in my very veins.
I do not know the form of it, or the consequence of it, but I do know that it is something I better hold on to with all tenacity that remains in me.
If Draco Malfoy could find his way and purpose, so could I.
I realized in past few days that I let things that were part of me define myself as part of them.
I let go of my individuality without even knowing that I was doing so.
I became defined by my family, my marriage, my job.
I never took time to actually discover what I was all about.
A reason for things being the way they were with me was my past.
I thought that it would be unbearable if I started to reconcile with my past.
All the loved ones I lost to the war. How could I ever look back? How could ever allow myself to wonder what mistake I could have avoided to give them even a day more to
Now that I see Draco Malfoy sitting in front of me, pulling off an extraordinary feat,(even if he has been down-playing it since the beginning, but I am not a fool)I understand that it is difficult, but not really impossible. Draco's past with the war was even more devastating than mine. At least I had the sense of righteousness about my actions all along, he was on the wrong side of the wrong side and the by the end of it, he had been robbed of everything.
Yet here is, no less extraordinary than a phoenix that rises from its own ashes. Draco's situation in life might not be ideal, but there is that purposeful determination in his very being that speaks to me on a level that I never even knew existed. As hopeless and desolate as he may seem at odd moments when he thinks no one is looking at him, his will and drive is not diminished at all. And here I was for years and years, just floating, moving and going nowhere.
What are you? I want to ask him.
Who are you now? I want to ask him.
Ask him all these questions at a time when there would be nothing looming over his head or mine.
Just sitting down and having a conversation that we never had, not with words at least.
Why did you save my life at the manor all those years ago?
How could you not bring yourself to kill and maim when that was what had been taught to you from the beginning?
How did you survive those three years all alone in that god forsaken house awaiting your verdict?
Why did you come to my rescue now?
What matters to you?
How could you find such generosity in you after all the selfishness that was imposed upon you since birth?
Even if he never answers those in words, I would know, I would know and learn his answers as they flow on that face.
All I need is a chance, and some time, to decipher all the stories I know his eyes are telling me whenever they meet mine.
I know I can, I can feel the connection there. I can feel that the day I find answers to you Draco Malfoy, I would find answers to myself.
Because you are and always were the other half of my equation as a human.
And if you have solved yourself, then perhaps hope remains for me too.
A solution, a reward or a punishment, who knows?
I just need some form of action to know that I am still worth looking for.
Suddenly I hear susurrations, someone is talking downstairs, and there is some movement in the house.
I shoot a look at the clock again and blink in astonishment to see that more than three hours have passed since I last looked. So last have I been in my thoughts.
I look at Draco again, kneeling there in a prayer, legs tucked underneath him hands clasped head bowed. I concentrate on his chest wrapped in his linen shirt and it is through much effort on my part that I see it actually moving, breathing. But too slow, as if he himself is also in stasis like Lily.
He hasn't moved an inch in past four hours. It is yet 3 more hours to dawn.
And truth be told, I haven't moved much either. It is as if I am a part of his trance. Under normal circumstances I would have at least dozed off twice in this time duration. But here I am. Not sleepy at all and fully alert.
My mind wanders again.
2 days ago when I took him to see Snape's portrait.
He had stayed in there for more than 2 hours.
Snape has not been in his portrait since, not in my presence at least.
But I do remember the bizarre smile on Draco's face as he had stepped outside the office and into the reception where I stood speaking with Victoria.
I have never seen anyone come out smiling from a conversation with Severus Snape.
Yet, there he was, and I was not the only one who noticed the oddity.
Victoria shot me a look before pushing the plate of scones in front of Draco, who had actually eaten three as he stood there quietly, smiling to himself, while I dealt with absolutely unnecessary correspondence, just to hold on to the bizarre situation a few minutes longer.
He had asked to go his own way once we had stepped out of my office. And he had not returned until the next morning. Though he had already told me the exact time he would be returning.
I had hardly had a wink of sleep all night.
And it was not because of a sense of impending betrayal, or mistrust. I have known since the day he woke up Lily that he is very much sincere in his promise.
It was a deep worry. A protective instinct that made me restless.
I had given him my mobile number to my own embarrassment just before parting, though to his credit he had not made fun of me and had only raised an eyebrow, before tucking the card in his pocket.
The next two days had gone on the same way. He would leave after breakfast and return late at night.
I would like to say that I do not know what time exactly he returned, but then I would be lying, and I have lied enough to myself.
My thoughts wander off to the divorce documents that are tucked safely in my office drawers.
I search myself for any sliver of pain or regret at their presence.
20 years of marriage should not be so easy to disregard.
But I realize that it has not been a marriage between me and Ginny for a long time, it has always been a compromise.
I know the fault lies with me. I was never one for cookie cut family life though it was what I thought I should have and to some extent what was required of me. I never knew what family was, I never knew what marriage was and Ginny's own parent's marriage was too easy and perfect to give her an idea of what efforts must go into an imperfect marriage or marriage between people who were not soul mates.
The only thing that makes any sense is having children. That is the only thing that I have and that I intend to keep from this marriage. I would go through 20 years of marriage again just to have them. They were the only thing that ever made sense to me in my marriage.
And I guess Ginny knew that which is why we had Lily at all.
It was bound to break, though I never thought that it would be me doing the breaking part, which is what comes as a surprise. Despite the three cast-iron shackles, that are my children, holding us together, so break it did, because those shackles were never really locked, not the way I thought they were.
I was waiting for my breakdown when the papers arrived this morning. But it never came. I was too excited to get to breakfast in order to have a few words in with Draco. He always looks much easier in the morning. And it's fascinating how much Jammie Dodgers he can put away in a matter of minutes without looking as if he is gobbling them down. I wonder what that says about me as a person.
The murmurs rise again from the floor below now. I feel a little bad that I had left Albus to deal with and keep a check on Ginny so that she does not have the brilliant idea to interfere with the ritual.
I do not trust her passiveness. I never have, and for good reason.
I know that once Lily is awoken and healthier the dynamic in our family of five with shuffle yet again. I know that our attitudes will transform, and Ginny and I might even reach a certain level of civility after a period of time but that will not change my decision. I intend to share Lily's custody of course, but if push comes to shove, I will not hesitate to turn the screw, not this time, and she knows this, if her avoidance of me for the past whole week is anything to go by. She always had this calculative, manipulative streak; I just never resisted or retaliated before. And somehow Draco has become the crux of my retaliation.
I know she would and probably is saying things about me behind my back, I see the strain of it in all the Weasleys, with their apologetic looks and constant watch over Ginny, whenever there is any chance of Ginny and I being in the same space. I know they also lay the blame with her, though they don't have to. They can easily blame me. But they are not and that is why, even when the relation between me and Ginny is dead and gone, Weasleys would still be my family. It seems foolish now that I thought it necessary to marry into the family, just to be able to claim it, I should have known that they were always going to be mine. And I can never be thankful enough of that fact.
I wonder how Draco sees my home, my family, how much he understands. What he approves of, or disapproves of. He is the one person right now that I want to sit down and talk with. He is the one person I feel who is capable of reassuring me the right or wrong of the way I am about to choose.
I don't know where this instinct comes from, but it is there. It feels like Draco would have answer to my every question, if he gives me the time of the day.
And I want the time of his day. I want him to know what this rescue means to me. I don't just want to thank him for the single-minded dedication he has shown to Lily's healing, but also to the fact that he was a big enough man to not sneer, mock, devalue or even allude to the situation that was happening all around him. He could have said a million derogatory things after the fiasco with Jamie, but he had not. Not a single word. And how flawless a mentor he has been to Albus in the matter of just past few days. I want him to just say something to me that does not sound so stranger-like and foreign, as if he does not know me. I want him to tell me that my presence affects him too the way his does me. I want him to give me a chance to pay back all that he has done for me by devoting myself to a true friendship with him, and perhaps even more.
I want him to just give me a sign. I know it's a long shot, but I just want to know that I stand a chance at being close to him, because, this Draco, I won't be able to stay away from. I never was able to stay away from him, even when I hated him the most in that childhood grudging way. But now, now, if I could just have a chance, I would give anything to return the gift he has given me. The gift of belief, faith and hope.
For past three days while he has been…running his errands, I have been running through my mind every conversation or instance where we have been alone. There has definitely been an undercurrent, something alive and floating between us. In our last conversation I was so aware of it that I could almost reach out and touch it.
He had come to my study when he returned. I think that he was aware of my worrying and waiting for him for the past two days, which is why he had confidently walked directly to my study. I know, because I was hearing his movements with all my concentration.
The soft knock on my door although was in very much contrast to the confident steps taken my way.
"I wanted to discuss something very important with you."
He looked unsure of himself.
"Sure, what is it?" I said trying to be very easy and pleasant about the whole thing.
"As you know that tomorrow night, I intend to perform the ritual, I wanted to discuss the details with you, and I also wanted to ask something."
I simply nodded at him, trying to encourage him to keep going.
"The ritual will take the whole night and will mostly involve a lot of meditation and energy channelling, so it will require a simple protective runes circle that I will make beforehand. But as is the nature of the ritual I would require some support."
"Support? As in Magical support?"
He looked at me for the first time. His Silver eyes glowed in the light from the fireplace where a merry flame crackled. He looks much paler, if that is even possible in the fire light.
"No, it is a rule actually, a rule of this particular ritual, but also of any localized energy transference ritual, to have a witness. In case something goes wrong, or the performer is more exhausted than expected and the patient needs immediate assistance. Because it has to otherwise be a totally isolated ritual. No one will be allowed inside the room, or even on the floor once I start the ritual, so, I would like you to be present there. It will serve two purposes. You will be a witness and are also her guardian and her flesh and blood, which will prevent any disruptions."
"You want me to sit in on the ritual. Wouldn't Albus be a better choice? With the medical training and everything."
He looked at me for a long moment and in a way that made me forget how to breath for that long moment. It was as if he was telling me something, but it was something I am not supposed to know or understand.
"I want you."
My heart skipped a beat at the straight forward demand. It resonated deep inside me. I knew he did not mean it that way. I knew that, but my heart was in my mouth for some reason anyways. And I realized that I had really got it bad, without even realizing. And if it is ever realized, I would implode with the intensity of it.
It was as if he also realized what he had just said and what it implied even with the relative context. He looked away, breaking the spell of that moment, that moment when it was just in my reach. Or so I think.
"I want you to sit in there Potter. It is just what feels right. It should be you. Being her father, the least you can do is endure a night of sitting still and keep the world at bay for your daughter's sake."
And just like that it's all back in place. Like rewinding the shot of an explosion.
"I can sit in there a thousand nights and you know it. I was just asking, you don't have to question my parenting or my devotion to my children just because I make a suggestion."
"They are unnecessary Potter! I am the healer, I am the performer of the ritual and the one who knows anything about what is required. Why would you doubt my judgment and offer a so called suggestion when only I know what is required? What am I supposed to think when you do that?"
He is right. He is absolutely right. What is wrong with me? At this point if he tells me to go stand in the middle of the room on one leg, I should do it. Without questions.
"I am sorry. I wasn't thinking. I just want the best for Lily, and I am used to have things a certain way with being the head of the house and all that. You are absolutely right. At this point if you should ask me to go stand in the middle of the street on one leg with a vase perched on my head, I should do it, without suggestions or questions, because I do trust you."
"And what possible explanation will I have for making you do such a thing?" he asked, eyebrow raised and mouth quirked in a genuine sardonic smile.
"You're a Slytherin, I am sure you will think of something."
And just like that we were laughing. Quietly and somewhat sadly, but we were laughing. And I do not know if it was the trick of the firelight or something, but it seemed that his eyes were shining with tears. Before I could have confirmed they were gone…
Movement breaks through the veil of my thought and I am rapidly alert. Wand clutched in hand. Draco's warning resounding in my head, 'Wand is not to be used unless a matter of life and death!'
He is standing. Where he was sitting just a moment ago, he is standing now. Head still bowed, and both hands folded neatly on his stomach. He is standing in a way a man stands to pray in front of his god. I can see the movement of his lips.
And he is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. His pale skin glows in the almost dark lit only by the orb of energy suspending above Lily which sustains her state of stasis. His white linen shirt and linen trousers hang off his body as if they are floating in air. His hair silver and beautiful tucked behind an ear from the side that is exposed to me.
I shoot a look towards the clock on the mantelpiece.
Just 45 minutes left in sunrise.
Where did the time go? I am sure I have not slept through any of those hours. I have been watching, just as he asked and witnessing just as he asked. Then how did time fast-forward to this? Because he has explained a little bit of this part. He needs to…
And in that moment he turns towards me his head still hanging down but now his hands are open. And slightly reaching out towards the bed as he starts talking steps.
He walks slowly as if he is suspended by strings. And now I can hear his whispers. Unintelligible but present. It sounds like a prayer. A deep fervent prayer. I have never witnessed this kind of magic before in my life.
As he turns around the edge of the bed his back towards me now I can hear soft shuffling sounds from downstairs too. I am ready though. Ready for any possibility. It feels like between the whispers from Draco and the soft sounds of movement from downstairs the air itself in the room is moving.
The idea of standing and doing something is a constant knock in my head. I know I shouldn't yet a part of me is screaming to make it stop. A part of me is scared breathless and I am surprised to realize that it is not for my child, this fear I have that is growing inside me is not for my child but for Draco.
Danger. Peril. Desolation.
I clench my fists, reciting in my head all the instructions Draco had given me hours before.
And just a moment ago I had been thinking that the time had passed far too fast, and now I realize that it feels like ages that we have been stuck here. In this room. Him and I, as if in a state of suspension. He has turned the narrow side of the bed now and is on Lily's left side. He stops in his strange walk and places a slim and tender hand on Lily's chest just above her heart, before proceeding to move again. He keeps his hand on her chest until he has turned the side again and is now walking around the side her head is place his hand goes from Lily's chest to his own.
And suddenly his face is lit in the warm glow of the fire in the fireplace and the glow from the orb above. I can see the tears that stain his face. He is crying and he is whispering and he is walking like a stringed puppet.
The air is still again. As he gets to the side where he had knelt for hours.
7 rounds, he'd said. The ritual required him to do 7 laps around Lily's bed.
And on he goes. Round after round, slow and steady, his speed never increases or decreases and every time he reaches Lily's left side he places a hand on her chest and the other on his own.
It's a devastating act. I do not know the meaning of it. I do not know the procedure. He had called it a supplication. I did not dare ask him what it meant.
But if it was this. It is the single most painful, frightening and awe-inspiring thing I have ever witnessed in my life.
In this moment, the only magic present is between a man and his God. Whoever that maybe. I have never had a God, but at this moment I understand what he would look like.
I am trapped in this endless looping moment, in this devastating ritual.
Now I understand why he wanted me to be here and not Albus.
He knew only I had the capacity to witness these moments.
It is a moment of utter humiliation and eternal triumph for him.
It is a moment he has only trusted me with.
It is something that only I should have been allowed to do, for my child.
But here he is. Slitting his heart open for me to see.
And the weight of that honour is something I may have to live with for the rest of my life.
This is the moment my life changes. I know this now. These are the moments after which you never remain the same. I should know. Very few people encounter these as many times as I have.
And when I step out of this room. I know I will never be the same.
I somehow manage to look at the window. The sky is turning a softer shade of purple with every broken step he takes. It is almost dawn.
I have lost count of his rounds. They were supposed to be 7, how hard could it be to count till seven you ask me.
It is the hardest thing to do, and I have failed.
His whispers turn to low whimpers, yet he moves.
He moves. And moves and I want to go to him but I am trapped. I am trapped in this chair. I am trapped in time.
He is placing his hand on her chest, and I know this is the last time. I know this is the last round. His face is awash with tears as he turns around the side of her head and then he turns towards me.
He has reached his destination. And I am witnessing. And I am screaming inside for what is about to happen.
He stands on her right side, and inclines down just as all the light in the room goes out.
The Gegirgen Orb is gone. The fire in the fireplace is gone. It feels as if it is pitch black and silent in the room. And then I see the light. Where should be my daughter. Two streams now, golden and silver. Flowing from one chest to the other and from the other to the first. It happens for mere seconds.
And then there is a bright flash!
As if thousands of camera flashes have gone off all at once and I feel as if I am blinded.
All of a sudden I can feel myself move again. I open my eyes and the first thing I see is the sliver of orange in the window.
I stand up so fast that my legs almost give in. I realize I have been sitting in one position for the whole night. Legs will take a while to be back online.
And then I hear a cry.
It is such a sweetly familiar sound that I can't help the sound that escapes me as I hear it.
I cannot wait for my legs to function properly.
So I make a jump for it.
I remember that cry. The sound my baby girl used to make when she woke with nightmares sometimes. Nightmares that involved killer dolls usually.
Through the milky orange-purple light of the sun I see her sitting in the bed. I reach for her taking hold of the bottom side of her bed. In that moment she sees me too it seems and she scrambles towards me so fast that she reaches me before I reach her.
She is hiccupping now and all I can do is hold her close to me as tightly as I can.
"I'm here, it's all right now. It is going to be fine now."
"No….no… no…Dadd…." She is trying to tell me something but her hiccups are not letting her.
And then I see him. Slumped on the side of the bed, in the spot where he had knelt most of the night.
I try to reach for him but Lily is wrapped so tight around me that I can hardly move.
Just a few feet of space.
"Albus!" "Rose!" I scream as loud as I can. That scares Lily even more. But I can feel her heart beat vibrating through her. Strong and balanced, a little fast but perfect and she is not shaking. There are no tremors. She had always had tremors, even when she was perfectly healthy she would have tremors if she was excited, agitated or upset. But she is perfectly still. Strong and still.
I can feel it in my bones. I can feel it in my bones that she is fine now. She is definitely strong enough to strangle me. The commotion on the stairs is a relief. And in that very moment. Draco moves.
There is a hacking sound and it feels like he is trying to breathe but is unable to. The door crashes open and Albus is Rose and a few more people are pouring into the room.
I do not know who does what because my eyes are on Draco who is coughing now as golden dust like vapour comes out of his mouth. I try to reach for him again, but Albus is blocking me. Just as someone reaches for Lily's hand that is clenched in my hair.
"No…No…" she is whimpering.
"It's okay poppet! I've got you. You are fine. Look, it's Rose. Look." I try to soothe her.
Her grip loosens on me from its choke-hold but she is still not ready to let go.
Albus is saying something and Lily is saying something and Hermione is saying something, but I can hardly make out anything in my confusion.
"Uncle Harry, it is best if you bring her towards the window, I need to check her." I hear the one voice that makes sense. And I move to its guidance.
As soon as my perspective changes as I reach the window. I look back towards the bed.
And it is a relief to see Draco sitting by the bed and taking long breaths as Albus tries to assist him.
It is as if he feel my eyes on him, he looks up and turns to look at me. Still heaving large breaths.
I cannot help the sob mixed breath and smile of gratitude which is all I can manage.
And it is as if all the lines of pain and suffocation on his face fade in that one moment and he smiles back. The kind of smile I have never seen on his face before. As if all the secrets of existence are opening up in front of me. I had only heard of something to be a 'revelation'. For me it is that smile. A revelation, my first ever.
And in that moment, with my alive and well daughter still clinging to me and my legs still tingling I realize what it feels like to be in love. Absolute and irrevocable love.
And in that moment it is as if I have found sweetest hell and perilous heaven both in one breath.