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Chapter 35 – Conclusions and Qualms:

Hermione walked into the breakfast room, but instead of joining Harry and Draco at the table, or even greeting them good morning, she went over to the window and looked out at the hot, hazy, gray morning. There was rain in the air. She could smell the rain as it weighed down the clouds in the sky, threatening to spoil the day. It did not matter, for the day was already spoiled. Every day was spoiled, but today most of all, as they were holding Remus Lupin’s funeral later.

She placed her hand upon the windowsill, reminiscent of how she stared out the window of the little cottage just days before, and said, “It looks as if it might rain.”

Neither man made inquiry nor comment to her statement. Harry continued to eat, concerned for his ‘new’ sister. Draco stopped eating to stare at her, wondering if she would ever completely return to him.

It had been five days since Theo killed Remus, and everyone felt the aftereffects. Harry felt he had lost another father figure. Hermione felt she had lost a friend whom she was just beginning to know. Even Draco missed the man, with his quiet demeanor and wise eyes. Theo apologized time and time again. He felt badly, but he said he truly thought Remus was about to kill Draco. No one blamed him. Nothing could make this loss easier on anyone.

Harry stopped eating and said, “Come sit down, Hermione. Lord Malfoy and I have things to discuss with you before the funeral.”

She stayed put and said, “I wish I could go to the service.”

Draco said, “Women do not go to funerals, it is just not done.”

She turned and said, “I went to my mother’s,” and then she turned back to the window.

He had no response to that statement. Harry pushed back his seat, the legs of his chair scraping sharply across the tile floor. He went up to her, took her hand, and led her to the table. He pulled out her chair, but instead of sitting, she moved over to the buffet, sat in a chair next to it, and looked out yet another window. Harry pushed the empty chair back under the table and took his spot back at the table’s head.

Draco’s back was now to her, but he could tell she was still melancholy and morose. He had never seen her so beaten down. He stood up and walked over to her. She looked so pretty today in a royal blue gown, with a hint of lace at the bodice. Her hair was up, with an intricate design of flowers and ribbons weaved through it. Harry must have finally convinced her to consider the notion of a lady’s maid because Draco knew her hair would never have looked so grand if she had dressed it herself.

He almost wished for the unconventional Hermione back, with the long, flowing hair, and the mass of curls on her shoulders. Touching her chin, he forced her to face him. “I insist you eat something, Lady Black.”

Since the discovery of her true parentage, Lord Potter, who had previously inherited all of Sirius Black’s possessions, home, and wealth, as well as his title, reverted everything to Hermione. A solicitor made the final arrangements just the day before. A simple magical test proved her parentage, and as soon as it did, she became Lady Black. Her new estate was on the other side of Potter’s. Grimmauld Place was often thought to be a dark, foreboding, and a massive home and estate. It was roughly the size of Potter’s Hall, which meant it was slightly smaller than Malfoy Manor. It had been empty for so long that it was barely fit for humans to live. It really did not matter, for neither Harry nor Draco intended to allow her to live there.

Draco would give anything to see her smile again. Harry stood up and said, “Bring her into the library in a moment, so she can read the letter.” He walked out of the room.

Now that they were alone, save for a servant or two, whom Draco quickly released with a mere wave of his hand, Draco knelt down before her chair, and took a hold of both hands. He said, “My lady, I would give away all my earthly possessions to see you smile again.”

She looked at him and said, “Good thing you do not have to make that choice now, is it not? If you had come to that conclusion earlier, perhaps Remus would be alive, but alas, your worldly possessions were more important than your love for me, so this vicious cycle began.”

He frowned and stood up. “Do you presume to tell me that this is my fault?”

She stood as well and said, “No, we both must take the blame. I for encouraging you, and you for not loving me enough for give it all up.”

“That was uncalled for, and I believe you are saying things that you do not mean to cause a schism in our relationship. I will not take the blame for the secrets and lies of Remus Lupin. I will not even take the blame for his death. He alone is responsible for the misfortunes that befell him.”

“Was he responsible for his ailment? He was but a child when he was bitten!” she yelled.

Harry, who had come back to the doorway, was listening with sadness.

“I am sorry for that, but that does not have anything to do with our argument at hand!” Lord Malfoy pointed out.

“Did he ask to hold the secrets of a desperate woman, his best friend's wife, Lily Potter? Did he ask to hide my identity? Was it his choice to give it all up to protect me all those years?” she asked with urgency.

“NO! But it was not yours either! Stop playing the martyr, Hermione! The ailments of the world are not your concern, nor were they his, he just took them on his shoulder to balance his own sense of regret and guilt!” Draco said.

“It is uncalled for to speak ill of the dead,” she countered.

“And it is unseemly to put them high up on a pedestal for which they do not deserve!” he said back.

She cried out, an anguished cry, and turned from both men. “I am trying to lay blame, on you, on Harry, on anyone I can, even Lupin, when the blame really lies at my own feet! It is so high that I cannot step over it! Remus died because of me! Ginny Weasley died because of me!” She turned back to face them, her cheeks flushed, and tears running down her face, evidence of her anger and shame.

“Sister,” Harry said, approaching her. He stopped in his tracks and said, “How odd it is to call you that, and yet, how right it feels.” He stepped closer and said, “Sister, none of this is your fault. Remus died because Remus held our mother’s secret out of some sense of nobleness, which was misplaced. He should have told us both about your parentage when she died. If he had, you would have been brought here and we would have always been a family. Ginny Weasley was misguided. If she had her right mind, she would never have tried to keep you and Lord Malfoy apart, for just because you are Lily’s daughter, that does not mean you would have inherited the Potter’s estate. You are not a Potter, so the estate would have stayed with me. She let her own selfish wants get in the way of what was right and wrong. She is to blame for her own actions.”

He took her hand and then he pulled her into the circle of his arms. Harry stroked her back while she placed her head on his shoulder and cried. “This will not do. You cannot continue to wallow in self-pity and guilt. You are not to blame. I am not to blame. There is a subtle difference between sadness for losing a friend, and self-indulgence. Please, try to see the light in this matter.”

She continued to cry and said, “I cannot help but think that Remus Lupin would be in a corner somewhere, with his nose in a book, right now, if I had not come here.”

He moved her slightly away from him and said, “Then why do you not blame me? I brought you here. Why not blame your mother for dying? Why not blame your stepfather for not providing you with a home? Do you not see how anyone of us could take the blame, but that would not make it anymore right. Please, try to come to an understanding.”

Draco walked up to her, and actually pulled her out of Lord Potter’s embrace and into his own. He circled his arms tightly around her and said, “I frankly think you are both too noble. If it is anyone’s fault, the person who lays claim to being Andromeda’s son is at fault! If it is Flint, I will see him dead! I will never let another soul hurt you, Hermione.”

“Nor will I,” Harry said from behind her. He placed his hand on her back and said, “Will you come to the library now? Lord Malfoy and I have some things to discuss with you.”

She nodded. Harry walked ahead of them, and Draco took her hand and placed it on the crook of his arm.

Walking arm in arm into the library, Draco ushered her to a sofa. Harry said, “We have decided that for your own protection, at least until Marcus Flint is found, you should go away.”

She stood up. “NO! You two are no better than Marcus Flint and Remus! Why does everyone want to send me away?”

“You won’t be alone,” Draco said. He walked up to her and said, “We shall be together. We will get married, this coming weekend, and then you and I will go away together under the ruse of a honeymoon trip. We will draw out Marcus Flint. Harry and Theo are certain they will find him.”

“We are to marry in two days?” she asked.

“Do you no longer want to marry me?” he asked.

“It is just all so soon,” she answered. She placed her hand on his face, her fingers feathery soft as she stroked his cheek. “It is not due to doubt of our love that I act surprised, for I long to be your wife.”

Harry sat on the edge of the desk and said, “There is something more. Remus left letters to you and me. He apparently wrote them the day he died, right before he came back to the cabin to get you. He apologized for all the lies, and he confirmed what Marcus Flint told you. My mother was your mother. Would you like to read yours?”

She nodded. He handed her the letter. He said, “I only read the one addressed to me. The second is addressed to you. Read it while we are at the funeral today. It will make you feel closer to him.” He smiled and said, “Speaking of Remus, Lord Malfoy and I must be on our way to the funeral. You will be quite safe here, for Theo has offered to come stand guard. He feels too guilty to come to the funeral.”

She sat down on the sofa, clutching the letter. Harry left the room and Draco sat beside her. He took his index finger, placed it on her upper arm, and ran it down her arm slowly, drawing little loops along the way. When he reached her hand, he turned her hand over with his free hand, and ran the same finger back up the inside of her arm. His eyes followed his finger. Her eyes studied his face. When his finger finished its journey, he looked at her expectantly. “Well?” he asked.

“Did you ask a question?” she asked with a small smile.

“I believe I did, though it was silent.” He closed his eyes, clasped her hand in his, and leaned toward her. She leaned toward him, and found his lips. His lips were slightly dry, but warm and inviting. He reached up with his left hand, and cupped her face as his lips continued to move lightly over hers. He removed them too quickly, and leaned his forehead against hers. With eyes still closed he said, “Soon, we will not have to stop at simple kisses.”

“Soon,” she returned. He stood up, bowed slightly, and left the room. She stood up, letter in hand, and added, “Very, very soon.”

She waited until she was certain the men had left for the funeral to read the letter. She walked along the long corridor that led from the library to the entrance hall. She sat on the wooden deacon’s bench, where she had sat only a little over a month before, the day of her first lesson with Lord Malfoy, and read the letter that Remus Lupin had left for her.

My Dearest Hermione,

Why do men do foolish things that they know they will regret? Who knows the answers? My life is full of regrets, but it will soon conclude. I am not sure I find solace in that thought.

I need to cleanse my soul. I need to give you a semblance of truth. I need you to forgive me. The tragic events that have unfolded and which have led us to this point in time were not of your making, so please, do not feel even a shard of guilt. I have felt guilt all my life, and it is a sad thing that I would not wish on an enemy, let alone someone I love as much as I love you.

When Lily gave birth to you, she handed you to me right away. She cried for you. She mourned so long, but she was afraid. She was afraid of fulfilling the prophecy when she thought her husband was gone, and she was afraid if her husband returned, but found out her sin, he would leave her forever. She picked him over you. It is sad, but true. She should have trusted him. He would not have made her give you up, but she was not certain of that.

The moment she placed you in my arms, and cried her anguished tears, I promised to give my life for you, and always to keep you safe. I hope I have done that. Over the years, when I would think of you, which was often, I wondered if you were safe and happy. I now know you were. For that, I am thankful. The mother who raised you, (Lily’s sister) loved you greatly and raised you well.

Know this one thing - while I cannot reveal whom Andromeda’s son is, because Marcus Flint never told me that much, this one fact is true: Marcus Flint is not Andromeda’s son. Marcus Flint, while misguided, tried to help you and me. I have not even told Harry or Lord Malfoy this. This I leave for you to do. Flint’s protection, I later found out, had a large price to pay. A very large price.

He wishes for me to Obliviate your past, but I cannot do that to you. Instead, I intend to see this to fusion. I will confront him; demand that he tell me who Andromeda’s son is, even if I have to kill him. He will betray his friend if he wants to keep his life. Then, I will kill her son. It is the only way for this to end. If, somehow, I die instead, you must see that this task is done.

My hope is that you will never get to read this letter. My hope is that this will have a happy ending. My hope is probably futile.

I have loved you since you were a babe in my arms. Remember, you were a child born of love. Not the love of a man to a woman, but a loved shared by a man and a woman for James Potter. Lily and Sirius both loved James more than life itself. Let that give you comfort.

If I should die, and you should read this letter, I give all my books to you. I hope you use them well. Take care of Harry. He has lost so much. Take care of Draco. He loves you so much. Take care of yourself, for that is all I have ever tried to do.

I will love you forever. The happiest day of my life, besides the day you were born, was the day last month when you said you felt like my daughter. To call you daughter just once would be heaven on earth. Enclosed in the smaller envelope is a letter your mother Lily wrote to you the day you were born. Read it now, after all, where is the harm?

Love, your father in his heart, Remus

Tears flowed freely as she clutched Remus’ letter to her chest. She ran from the entryway, toward the lounge, and down the long hallway to the dining room. She was going to run outside, to the gazebo, to read her mother’s letter, but before she reached the door, she ran right into the arms of Theo Nott. She placed her mother’s letter in the bosom of her gown, next to her heart. Remus’ letter fell opened on the floor. Theo bent down to pick it up.

“What is wrong, Miss?” he asked. He looked down at the writing on the parchment. His eyes scanned one line. The line that said, “Marcus Flint is not Andromeda’s son.” That was all he needed to see. He handed the letter back to her.

She took the letter, folded it, and said, “It is a letter from Remus. I was crying because I miss him so.”

“I know. You know how much I regret what happened, do you not?” he asked.

She said, “Please, do not blame yourself. You thought your friend was in danger, and you acted accordingly.”

“Thank you for that, Miss,” he said. “Have Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy returned?”

“No, I do not believe they have been gone very long,” she said.

“Shall we take a turn about the garden?” he asked.

“It looks like rain,” she said.

“I am not made of sugar, so I will not melt in the rain,” he said with a smile. “However, you are very sweet, so you may. Perhaps we should stay indoors.”

“No, I need to take a walk, if only to clear my head.” She told him she would meet him back outside in a moment. She ran up the stairs to grab her hat and gloves, clutching the letter tightly to her chest. She smiled at the thought that she was becoming more and more a lady everyday. Just a few weeks ago, she would have walked without them.

She placed Remus’ letter, opened, on her bed, and grabbed her things. As an afterthought, she placed her wand in her pocket of her dress. She decided to take her mother’s letter with her. She wanted to read it as soon as she could.

When she met him out in the garden, she said, “It looks as if it may storm.”

“If it does, I shall bring you right back. Would I ever let you come to harm, dear lady?” he asked with a sincere smile. She smiled back and placed her hand on his arm.

They started their jaunt, and Hermione said, “Cousin Harry, oh, I mean, Harry asked me to stay in the house, you know. He is still afraid of Marcus Flint, but I am not so sure he means me harm. He was uncommonly kind to me in the cabin.”

Theo thought about what he read in that letter and said, “Is that the only reason for your change of heart about the man?”

She did not want to reveal what Remus said to her in the letter before she told Draco or Harry, so she said, “Yes.”

He clenched his teeth, but smiled outwardly. He did not relish what he was about to do, but it needed done.

Harry and Draco walked back in Potter’s Hall, mentally and emotionally spent. They handed their hats and gloves to one of the servants, and then Draco said to another, “Go find Lady Black and tell her I need to see her.”

Harry said, “While you talk to Hermione, I need to take a nap. I have never felt this old or broken.”

“That was an unpleasant thing, was it not?” Draco asked.

“Very unpleasant. Death is never easy.” Harry sat down in a chair by a portrait of his parents. He looked up at it and said, “Hermione is all I have now.”

“She is all I have as well,” Draco said back.

“Funny, we have her in common, even if we never have anything else,” Harry said. He rubbed his hands together and said, “Odd that Charlie and Daphne should still go ahead with their wedding today. When Ron told me that they were meeting in the magistrate's office after Remus’ funeral, I was shocked, to say the least.”

“Let someone have peace and love, if it can not be us,” Draco said. He looked at the portrait over Harry’s head. He said, “You have your mother’s eyes, but Hermione does favour her. Her hair is a different colour, but besides that, she could almost be her doppelganger.”

Harry stood up to examine the portrait next to Lord Malfoy. “Yes, I never really noticed it until now.”

One of the servants walked up to the men and said, “One of the upstairs maids said that Miss Granger went for a walk with Mr. Nott.”

Harry said, “Well, it is about to storm. They should return soon. I am going upstairs for that nap. Have one of the servants wake me for lunch when she returns.” He walked up the stairs.

Draco felt ill at ease all of the sudden, and he did not know why. For an unexplained reason, he ran up to her bedchamber. He did not know the reason, except it was what he felt he needed to do. As soon as he entered the bedroom, he saw the letter Remus had written her on the bed. He read it, knowing he should not, but again, he felt compelled. Once again, he sensed her, felt her, just as he felt his right arm. He knew he had to read it. It was almost as if she left it for him.

When he got to the sentence that said, “Marcus Flint is not Andromeda’s son” and he came to one conclusion. HE KNEW WHO THAT SON WAS! He threw the letter on the floor and ran to Lord Potter’ bedchamber. Without protocol, he threw open the door. Harry had not even had a chance to shut his eyes. He sat up on the bed and said, “What is it?”

Draco could barely breathe when he said, “I know who Andromeda’s son is! We have to go find Hermione and Theo Nott, now!”

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