Chapter 24: His Last Mistake

His Last Mistake

Silence. After all these years in which a maddening train of occurrences have suffocated my life, silence had become a precious thing.

It had been absolutely reckless of me to face wave after wave of incoming challenges. Yet, by sheer will power, I had managed to land on my feet time and time again. A career in politics required me to have an unbending will. The good thing is that I had learnt from the best.

It was a cloudy afternoon when I contemplated all my mistakes, from the very first to the last.

"I'm leaving." I whispered to all the graves in that place. But at the same time I was only speaking to a single tombstone. Honesty was a commodity I could barely afford, not even when alone.

"No, you are not," came the subtle complain from my husband, "you never leave. Not really. There is a part of you which will forevermore lie in this place."

Looking straight into the depths of those grey eyes, I repeated. "I am leaving."

Knowing the determination betrayed by my posture, a trademark smirk appeared on his lips.

I couldn't handle saying goodbye to it all. So I chose a fixed point in the horizon, took one step and then another, till the whole thing was behind us.

With a broken voice, I said, "Can you believe we are truly beyond it all?"

Not answering my husband kept walking. Never once did he look at me. Yet all the unspoken words weighted heavily between us.

How thoughtless of me to ask him to come with me to this place. Being the Brightest Witch in History, was not enough to knock some common sense into my head. It was ironic that the papers got around to calling me that, for my own stupidity had brought all that pain and destruction to the Wizarding World. I couldn't help but remember the phrase to "the victor go the spoils." In my case my spoils had been an untarnished reputation. I had admitted long ago that I didn't deserve any of the recognition I was given.

After that admission, I had been able to make peace; if not with my actions and decisions, at least with the memory of my friends. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the famous war heroes did not deserve to have their reputations tarnished with the blemishes I knew should be part of my own.

For several months after the incident, Antoine tried to keep in touch, stopping by our home at least once every fortnight. After months of being denied entrance and of being ignored he finally relented and left us alone.

When he returned after many years, when my husband and I had settled into our role as parents. We invited him in for a cup of wine. We never spoke a word of forgotten names and lost kinship among friends. We spoke of secret vaults and remembered guardians. We spoke of rose gardens and a couple of could have been's. We spoke of everything and nothing. When the time came to say goodbye, he said he'd be back sometime next year. I knew we'd never see him again. In his eyes I had seen how the loss of a particular man had stolen all luster from his eyes.

"You will never stop being haunted by all that was. My friend, go and find yourself once more," I whispered into his ear as we parted.

Never before had I seen a sorrow so like my own reflected back at me.

"Stop crying little one. Your husband is coming this way and tears will not do. I'll take your advice, and do remember to take good care of my heart," with a roughish smile and a twinkle in his eye, he disappeared and I knew he would be alright.

For months I had planned the downfall of the greatest Dark Wizard of my time, and in the end it had come about, not entirely by my hand.

One day I woke and he was there. He was delighted to find the all the magical creatures he meant to destroy had been systematically butchered. Since then there have been no more Trolls and no more Giants. He had been expecting to create a whole new race of intelligent shape-shifting dragons and he succeeded. In this as in everything else he set that mind of his on, he had been successful. He described how magnificent they were. He described their power and size, the intensity of the luster of their scales and the cunning in their eyes. When he was speaking I thought I saw the sliver of fear cross his features. I thought then that it was just my imagination, now I am not that certain.

I had missed the extent of the consequences his actions would bring. He was like a shooting star, maddeningly alluring in his joy at the results of his endeavor. I tried to make him calm down. I tried to make him see the dangers. I tried to make him linger by my side a little bit longer.

He grabbed my chin, and slowly whispered in my ear, "You don't understand. How could you? You weren't there to see the surge of power. Ohh, all that power Hermione. Imagine all the things we could do if we were to use that power. This is only the beginning, my love. You will see."

He hoped that the extermination of other magical creatures would grant him unimaginable power. For him all of it was utter bliss. All his hard work from decades past was finally rendering its fruit.

To my surprise this stimulated his brain and his magic. He was in a furor to do more research, plan the conquest of the world, to dispatch his new weapon across the globe. He wanted to do all of this in a month's time, like there was no more time to be had.

One particularly hectic night, he introduced me to the leader of this new magical species. He was a tall man, a bit taller than Tom. His gait was overconfident as if he owned everything in sight and then some more. There was a physical strength immanent to his build, his eyes emanated pure malice. Looking into those eyes I feared all my work to undo Tom, would be in vain. Those bright eyes made all the horror I had seen before seem child's play compared to the promises they sustained.

Hearing his voice, this creature's voice, brought some sort comfort to my soul. It had deep, melodious undertones that eased my heart. There was a ring of truth to his words that I had seldom heard before. In that instant I realized then that these creatures could let the person who saw them see what they would in them. Upon realizing this I turned my back on the creature. Disgusted at myself for being so easily deceived, I hadn't changed much. A pretty face or a melodious voice and I lowered my defenses. Well, not this time!

"Don't turn little one. It would be unbelievable polite of you to face a new acquaintance when you are being introduced, wouldn't you agree?" the creature said, a clear lilt of amusement present in its voice.

Being unable to withstand the compelling power of his voice I turned to face the stranger. "I have not lived with the Wizard to whom you owe your new found power to be put under a spell. It is terribly impolite to compel me to look at you. Besides what is there in my person that could interest you? As you see I am a pregnant witch and nothing more." Turning to my husband I continued to speak.

"Hello Voldemort, dearest" I purred with derision. "I almost didn't see you there. You must surely forgive me for the allure of my new acquaintance makes it difficult for me to notice your presence in the room."

I was dammed if I were to let this little slip on Tom's part go unnoticed by him. By bringing this creature into my presence he was jeopardizing the safety of my baby. I wanted to get a rise out of him. If he was to survive this latest plan of his, he needed to be at his best. Contrary to my preferences he did seem to react better when angry than otherwise. Perhaps going a little bit over the top might be beneficial. "You are so… simple… compared to my new acquaintance."

"Don't call me that! Could it be that the great Hermione is scared of some magical creature?" he said derisively.

At these words a slight ripple had gone across the dragon's skin. I for one wasn't too keen on being lizard food.

"You should know I do not fear power or change. Least of all from a creature you have reshaped to fit your mad dreams of megalomania. I have seen enough to know the difference between unadultered terror and a passing spook," my words were carefully modulated to grace both of their egos without having to fear any sort of backlash.

"It is horrible to be tortured, is it not?" queried the dragon with a flat voice.

"Long ago I learnt not to fear torture. Let me give you a piece of advice a veiled threat to the wife of your new master is not in your best interests," I replied.

I looked at it and its smile sent a shiver down my spine.

I continued looking, till I realized I had fallen under its spell, for my body kept advancing closer and closer to the dragon. At the end we were so close I could see that contrary to first impressions its skin was not skin, but scales, tiny shimmering scales. It smelled of damped soil and fresh rain. It smelled of new life and of a brighter future. How could this be? I looked into its eyes and I knew. I saw small children, well not really children, human like enough to be called children, running free in a green landscape. I saw generations of them, free and untamed. I saw flying mountains of scales and wings flying over the young, protecting them, looking out for them. That was what this creature…being, wanted the most. To be set free of the chains and of the duty that bound him to my husband.

After this brief glimpse, he lowered his hand with long sharp nails and gently pressed it over my belly. All color drained from my face. He had shown me the goal he would reach, his hand was just a reminder that anything at all to come in his way would be obliterated.

"It is enough. Remove your hand this instant," Tom said standing right next to me.

"Then I am not allowed to touch your wife, what a shame she looks like a fearless kitten. I could have had some fun with her," the dragon taunted.

As I saw him take a step back, I knew he was going to attack and in that brief second, so did Tom. A wave of energy was unleashed like water from a dam all of it with a single target, me. Before I reacted, Tom put himself between the energy and I. Tom's red energy formed a shield around us. He was using wandless, nonverbal magic. An unending stream of energy kept falling on the shield flooding the room with its blackness. It was as if the magic that the dragon unleashed was sentient, for I could feel it consciously focusing on the shield. I raised my wand to help. We were not dying like this. I had not survived all I had to end up dead at a lizard's pleasure.

"Be a good girl, Hermione and this once do as I say. I will open a tunnel through both of our energies so you can pass, when I say so, you must go," I heard Tom's strained voice say.

Whatever I had warned him about was just a theory, an unpractical theory, something I had never really thought would happen. I knew it could, but I didn't want to believe that it could, that it had, that it was really happening. Cracks started forming on the red shield that kept us alive. His eyes were truly alive, like I had seen them but a couple of times. All the power that was rushing through him made him look like he was glowing. The power moved his hair. His legs were shaking, but he stubbornly refused to fall on his knees.

"Such a Gryffindor thing to do, I command you to get ready to run and you start casting," he turned his face to look at me. "Hermione…HERMIONE STOP, the power he is unleashing will overwhelm both of our efforts. I need you to listen carefully as soon as you clear this room apparate somewhere far away. As soon as you reach your destination cast the strongest shield you can."

Looking at him, at the stony resolution in his eyes I knew he was telling me the truth. There were so many things I still had to say, there were so many years we could have had….

"I knew this day would come. I have done my best to see that it did. But still I don't want to say goodbye. Not to you, never to you," I said hoarsely and kissed him.

Just as our lips met, a draft of air rushed at me from my left side. He had opened the portal. He pushed me gently away and looked at me with certainty, like none of this mattered. I realized then, he didn't know I had destroyed his Horocruxes. The look on my face must have told him all there was to know about it.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? This is how you repay me?" A derisive smile filled his face. "Why am I surprised, just go."

"It's done. There's nothing more to it. I wish we could have had all the years of our lives. I really do."

With that I turned and ran more for the life of my child than for my own. As I entered the tunnel I could see the cracks in the shield widening. I was running out of time. Nonetheless I stopped and looked back one last time at the love of my life. I pried my eyes from him and felt the tears fall, my feet moving once again.

Once I had reached the threshold I apparated to where I knew Draco would be and apparated us as far from that place as possible.

"Draco! It's me, Hermione. Don't struggle I am getting us out of here," as he heard my voice, Draco stopped fighting.

"Oh Hermione…" his next words were stopped by a blast. My shield shimmered under the pressure of the aftershock of the blast. We were thousands of miles away and my shield barely endured.

"Don't worry, we are finally free," I said realizing that for the first time since I was eleven I was free from him.

Just as the debris dissipated I felt the baby kick.

Taking Draco's hand into my own so he could also feel the baby I felt safe.

The last thing I did after the Wizarding World realized that the Dark Lord had been defeated, was write a letter. They claimed I had single handedly done it. Since there were no survivors to the blast that destroyed him, no one objected to the claim. The baby was born, a healthy little thing. The first Malfoy to be born after the Dark Regime, as historians called it. In that last visit to the site where all the tombs are, where his tomb is I left the letter there. My husband, Mr. Malfoy, never commented on it and never asked what it said.

Rest in peace Tom, eternity is now truly yours.


Author's note:

I would just like to thank you all for sticking with my story and me for such a long time. At times I felt like I would never finish this fic, but your constant support and reviews always kept me coming back. It means the world to me that there are people out there who take the time to read what I write. You are amazing! Thank you.