"My fellow graduates, we prepare to leave here, regardless of our blood status, with the only credential that really matters—our Hogwarts diplomas, attesting to our completion of the finest, most rigorous magical education in the world..."
Draco beamed from his seat in the middle of the block of graduates. She's perfect and she's mine. He'd heard the speech several times in the last week and had worried about her obvious subtext refuting the prejudices still held by some in the audience. She'd been a little nervous about it herself but now, she was fearless.
"...We must support each other as we make our way in the Wizarding World, putting aside silly House politics. After all, a Slytherin alumnus will never know when he might need the help of a Hufflepuff," she said, smirking at him.
He smiled in response, then tore his eyes from her to gauge the reaction to that statement. There were a few timid titters, but for the most part, the audience members had the same vermillion faces as his father.
Draco decided to blame part of it on the sun shining on the assemblage, grouped on the banks of the Black Lake, that glimmered like a polished mirror. The graduates wore their mortarboards and robes with the colors of their Houses, so the blue, red, green and yellow were like polka-dots on the white field of their chairs.
Hermione was on the stage in front of them, with the faculty, Minister Shacklebolt and other luminaries. On either side of the graduates' block was seating for their families, then the rest of the audience, all situated over a carpet of jade green grass that Hagrid had dedicated himself to making perfect, upon learning who the Valedictorian and commencement speaker would be.
"Our time here has occasionally been 'rife with strife...'" she said, as if sharing an inside joke with her listeners.
Draco had argued against that too cute line, but she'd insisted on it to acknowledge their unique experiences and the influence of the Dark Lord during their tenure, but not dwell on it.
He saw Professor McGonagall at the front of the dais, nodding in approval at her protegé. Hagrid, sitting with his brother Grawp, who had come to hear Hermy, might have been a very hairy version of the Headmistress, as he also nodded. Hermione's parents were, of course, incandescent with pride.
Draco had watched them to see if Thomas inappropriately looked at his mother. He'd only noticed a glance or two, which he could forgive, but, for some reason, his usually perfectly composed mother seemed a bit flustered and had looked a few times at the large block of redheads here for Ginny Weasley's matriculation.
He supposed it was because of Aunt Bella, even though he and his mother had decided months ago that her death, at the hands of the Weasley matriarch, had been a release from the prison of her deranged mind.
Among the varying shades of red was the black spot for the dark hair of Potter, sitting next to the worst of the lot. Draco surged with jealousy from his stomach to his head, as Hermione turned to those two, "...but we learned about combining our talents to achieve mutual goals..."
She's perfect and she was mine, Ron sighed, thinking to himself, as he watched Hermione. Why couldn't we stop fighting, why did I destroy her confidence in me by leaving her?
"We also learned that we might find our greatest ally in a most unexpected place," Hermione continued, turning her head back to the front. Ron followed her gaze to the center of the graduates, where Malfoy was alphabetically seated. Ron saw the look between them. It sickened him, but he couldn't deny it was love.
He sighed. Maybe Cissy had been right. He and Hermione couldn't have really made each other happy, because he didn't stimulate her mentally and, as he'd learned in the last couple of months, there was more to enjoy physically than he ever had with the pretty girl on stage.
His eyes shifted to where he'd seen Lucius Malfoy sit with his wife. She happened to glance at him at the same time, then quickly turned away, to give the speaker her rapt attention.
Hmm, so she still thinks about me, Ron noted with a lift of his brow. He caught her eye one more time and winked. She fanned herself frantically.
Ron smiled. He'd come to recognize that the relationship with the wife of a Death Eater and mother of his former girlfriend's boyfriend, not to mention sister of the woman killed by his mother (He rolled his eyes at the confluence of associations) wasn't viable, but it had still been so personally good.
"And now we take our knowledge and experiences into the world," Hermione continued, "ready to discover how we might best benefit and improve that world to find our own fulfillment."
Fulfillment...Ron saw another look between Hermione and Malfoy. Had they found that with each other? He bloody well hadn't! Though, like Hermione said, his experiences had given him a better idea of what he needed, so they hadn't been a total waste of time. After all, he'd learned to satisfy a woman like Cissy, something it didn't appear that her pinched-faced husband had done for a while. He smiled at that.
The red-haired rodent, Lucius snarled to himself, sitting there with his mass-produced family, all so proud to inflict another of their kind onto the community.
"And in reaching this milestone, please know, our family and friends, how much we appreciate all you've done for us..."
Do I detect scowls among the Weasleys? Lucius wondered. Are they perhaps resentful of the girl's choosing Draco over their pedestrian boy, leaving him free to pursueanotherman'swife, his thoughts continued viciously.
Narcissa gasped at the sudden vise-like grip of his hand on hers and looked up at him in confusion, the gossamer softness of her eyes causing him to relent.
He didn't blame her, after all. Even his hypocrisy could only go so high. How could he insist on fidelity after the things he'd permitted others to do to her? And I've not been at my most appealing the last few months, he admitted, but a Weasley? He shook his head in revulsion.
No one knew of the jealousy he harbored against Arthur Weasley, in his petty civil service occupation in his sad little Burrow, for fathering such a brood, when he had only one son—a good son, but still...
"And in addition to our knowledgeable and caring professors, we must also pay homage to our school's governors—past and present. Please stand so that we may recognize you," Hermione said.
Well, at least she has some sense of propriety, Lucius thought to himself as he stood, briefly reclaiming his natural position as an object of admiration and applause.
Draco watched his father with a smirk under his dark green cap. She's brilliant; she was right! That line was Hermione's first salvo in her campaign to conquer the other Malfoy. It had worked just as effectively as her voice amplification charm, which allowed her to be heard by everyone, without having to hold her wand to her vocal chords—something she had sworn would not happen.
"We can only hope to be as wise as you have proven yourselves to be, in providing for us such a beautiful and stimulating environment for our education..."
And she is a comely thing, Lucius noted, and rather intelligent, perhaps even worthy of a match, if not for...them.
His sight glided disdainfully to the seating for Gryffindor family, where the girl's parents looked silly with pride.
"And now, we stand before you, the fruit that has ripened with your careful, combined tending..."
She's amazing, Thomas gloated in his head. Any sacrifice I've ever made...she's worth it. Meredith squeezed his arm even tighter, and he patted her hand, touching the moonstone ring. His eyes sidled to the prominent blond couple in the Slytherin section ...any sacrifice.
"We admire you and respect you and now take our place among you," Hermione said, nearing her conclusion.
Luna's looking fetching, Ron observed. Maybe I should see if she has plans for the evening, not that there's a possibility of sex with her, but she's always good for a laugh.
"We will rely on your experience, but also challenge you..."
Of course, you will, honey, Thomas thought with a loving shake of his head, just as you've challenged me every day of your life and made me want to be my best for you.
"...and in the end, we will learn from each other."
I suppose I can tolerate this...association for now. Perhaps Draco can bring her down a peg or two, Lucius reasoned.
"So, watch out world—Wizard's and Muggle's alike—" Hermione finished with a gleam in her eye, "here we come!"
I'll love her forever, Draco vowed, leaping to his feet to lead the applause.
Hermione smiled and humbly dipped her head to her audience. Whew, that's over, she sighed in relief. Now, time for lunch.