Every morning the sky would take on a breathtaking shade of grey and the lake would be covered by a thick layer of fog; as if it were trying to hide from the biting winter cold. Seeking refuge under the obscurity that it provided. The birds would be silent with the exemption of a swallow or two. And just as faithfully as these workings, Hermione Granger would take her place under the enchanted apple tree whose leaves were a brilliant shade of gold.
She would silently take in the beauty of her surroundings; the grounds covered with dew, giving them the advent of tiny gems; an occasional walking tree lumbering through the darkness to take its place elsewhere.
She would wait patiently for her companion, though she would never admit it, and he never disappointed. Just as devotedly, the blonde haired boy would take his place beside her.
They would exchange polite nods in recognition of one another, then continue to discuss the arts or abstruse questions concerning the universe and its manipulations: favorite paintings, skilled writings, and philosophy.
"Do you believe in love?"
"No. I don't think I do."
"Why, do you?"
"I'd like to believe so. I've never been in love but I hope to be some day."
He scoffed at her reply. "How does one believe in something that does not exist? If love existed why is it that lovers spat?"
"Because they are brave enough to fight for what they believe in. No one in love takes the easy path, they face adversity and challenges."
He smoothed his hair back by running his fingers through it. "Then why do lovers leave each other when it becomes too difficult? Aren't they supposed to fight for their love?"
"Sometimes they realize that they weren't meant to be."
"How do you ever know when it's meant to be?"
"Maybe you just know."
"You really are something, Granger. The blind optimist." He smirked, receiving a frown in response.
"What would you know about love Malfoy? You wouldn't be able to feel it if it socked you in the face."
They sat in comfortable silence, watching the sky ignite with brilliant shades of sunrise. Birds began to chirp, the thick fog was lifted revealing the incoming flight of swans. Sometimes she would rest her head on his shoulder unknowingly and fall into a tranquil slumber; and he would wrap his cloak around her shoulders. Wake me up when the swans come, she would often say.
And every time in a monotonous manner, he would remove her from his shoulder and lean her against the tree.
Gently shaking her by the shoulders, urging her to awaken. And every time she would awaken against the trunk of the apple tree, ignorant to the mechanism that allowed her to sleep so peacefully. Sometimes she would unconsciously take in his masculine scent and snuggle in closer. The swans would arrive in their magnificent glory soon afterwards, honking in a foreign welcome.
They would watch them swim gracefully, spreading their angelic wings upon the water. With the arrival of the swans was their departure. They would part their separate ways with a gentle smile or nod.
It was an unspoken rule.
The impending war had taken its toll on the companions, instead of engaging in innocent debates, they would fill the other will false hopes.
It often seemed that nothing had changed, the trees swayed the same, the birds chirped the same, and the swans always arrived. She often hoped that this was reality.
She often prayed that they would make it through the war unscathed by the physical infliction and memories.
She wished that they could run away from reality and sit under the apple tree forever, enjoying each other's company and watching the sunrise from behind the mountains.
"What do you think is going to happen?"
"Do you want an honest answer?"
"Well I think that you'll win. Good always triumphs evil in your muggle books does it not?"
"You mean we," she corrected.
He smiled sadly at her and Hermione Granger felt her heart cease to course blood through her veins in an instant. He pulled back the sleeve of his robes, exposing the horrid dark mark. A skull with a snake wrapped around it. Her hand rose to her mouth as she shook her head in disbelief.
"They said that they'd kill my mother."
She sought his hand, wet with the morning dew. "You don't have to do this." She squeezed it reassuringly. "I'll help you."
She wrapped her arms around his shoulder, resting her head on it. He smiled softly into the hair of his blind optimist. No one can. His fate was written in stone.
"I'll keep you safe," he whispered.
When the sun arose that day with the accompaniment of the angelic water fouls, he gently awoke the sleeping lioness, pulling her into a long, warm embrace before taking his leave. She clutched to him desperately, fully aware that nothing would be the same once he left.
"Hermione!" The boy searched for her desperately.
His lungs felt as if they would burst at any moment; the running was taking its toll, but he refused to stop.
"Hermione! Goddammit where are you?" he cried out.
He was broken and bleeding. Violent scars marring his porcelain skin with the accompaniment of crimson. He clutched his arm tightly, the bone aching from within. He prayed that she would be under that apple tree waiting for him.
This girl will be the death of me, he thought.
He found her slight frame resting beside the lake, her outline shining duly with the moonlight. The castle was roaring with the mighty fire behind him, an ominous backdrop. He rushed to her side pulling her into his arms.
"I'm so glad you're okay," he said.
Kissing her softly in her mass of curls; he rested his chin upon her head for a moment.
"I'm glad you're okay too," she whispered.
Her voice was frail and quiet, so uncharacteristic of her.
"Hermione are you alright?"
"Yeah just a scratch or two," she whispered.
He swallowed hard, slowly lifting her from himself. A cool sensation drifted through his robes where she had rested momentarily. Blood.
"Hermione you're hurt," he gasped. He examined her back which was soaked with the liquid.
"I have to get you to Madame Pomfrey. I have to get you somewhere. Anywhere."
He moved to lift her tiny body before she raised her hands to stop him.
"Draco, please. Can we just sit here for a while?"
"Hermione I have to get you some help."
She pulled him down into a gentle kiss.
"I'll be fine, it's just a scratch really. I want to stay here with you."
Draco's heart wrenched within him. He knew that her wounds were untreatable, but there had to be a way goddammit. He had wanted to try; but he couldn't argue with her. Not now.
"Okay love." He pulled her in closer, receiving a wince from her in the process.
"Do you believe in love?"
"Have you ever been in love before?"
He wiped a tear that ran down his cheek; his eyes brimming with them. "Yes, I have. I realized the minute it socked me in the face."
The broken Gryffindor chuckled in response.
"I'm in love with you."
He choked back a sob. He knew he couldn't stop her from feeling it, but somehow he had wanted to stop her from saying it. He hadn't wanted her to love scum like him. Someone that couldn't abide by his promises. Someone that couldn't keep her safe.
"When we get married, I'd like to have a daughter and name her Rose."
Her speech was becoming more labored, her breathing shallow.
"We could move somewhere with a huge cherry tree and get a dog or something. She managed to flash him one of her breathtaking smiles.
"Anything you want."
The sounds of the impending war reverberated through the small valley.
"I'm going to rest my eyes for a moment. I'm growing weary…Will you wake me up when the swans come?"
Draco sobbed gently, as he held the woman he loved so passionately in his arms. He could feel the life slipping from her.
"Yes, love I'll wake you."
When the swans came that morning, the universe seemed as if it had ceased to exist. He ran his fingers through her hair; rocking her gently. Her body had grown cold as did his heart.
The old man clutched the bouquet in his shaky hands.
They had become wrinkly and paper-like over the years, but they were still strong. He made his way over the green hill glowing with the moonlight.
Every year on the anniversary of her death he would lay a bouquet of her favorite flowers, cherry blossoms, below the tree they laid under. He would sit beneath it, taking in the surroundings as she used to; running his hands over the freshly dewed grass. And just as faithfully, a single swan, in all its glory would spread its wings upon the lake.
He would greet it silently, as one does an old friend.
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