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    “You . . . said you loved me—you love me. Right?”

    “I do.”

    “You said we would be together forever.” The wind was howling so loudly he could barely hear her soft voice. “Draco?”

    He wiped his eyes, his voice even. “We will. We will.”

    She laughed softly at him, the cold earth the last bed she would ever make. Draco couldn’t accept it. Maybe she didn’t know. But Pansy knew. He understood that; it was just that she couldn’t believe it. Her smile was without happiness.

    “We will!” he repeated, afraid she didn’t believe him.

    His fears were justified. She laughed again, more harshly than before, as though he had said something truly stupid.

    And he had. He knew it himself, but he couldn’t see himself accepting it. It was beyond him. He would never give up—especially not on her. He couldn’t. Things were never over—they couldn’t be let go, no, they couldn’t. They couldn’t.

    He thought back in his mind, as he continued lying to Pansy. He needed to learn to let things go . . . “I will, I promise.” He was barely listening to her anymore, his response to this question the same as the previous.

    It was ruined. He had fallen so far into the role that was the popular boy—the arrogant, popular boy. That arrogant, popular boy who had the privilege of being the arch-rival of Harry Potter. It all seemed so trivial now. If he had another chance—the thought tortured him; the things he might change. He didn’t like to think about all the things he would have done differently.

    “You’ll be all right,” he told her calmly, his voice barely holding on.

    Her life was getting further away by the second. Her face was spattered with grime. The rubble had upended dirt and grass, and Pansy laid to take it. Her hair was slung along the ground like a pillow, soft and tangled. Draco shook just looking at it. He knew that hair so well.

    He thought back angrily as to how he had gotten into this predicament. It was that punch. Crabbe died, they ran. He and Goyle, trying to get out of there—they left the Entrance Hall in the confusion. They made it outside. And then he saw her. Goyle, ever the cowardly fool, had kept on to the woods, probably to his father.

    Pansy’s lower half was lodged under rubble from the school. She hadn’t managed to get to the Death Eaters like the rest of her housemates. That’s what he found lying there, calling his name timidly, willing it to be heard by someone.

    Her housemates . . . he couldn’t believe they would all want to join him so openly like that. And he would accept them into his ranks with open arms. That was why he could never serve him—not anymore. Not when Pansy was dying, not when so much death had been caused. It wasn’t worth it. It would never have been worth it. Harry and his friends had saved him twice that night, Weasley hadn’t lied.

    Throughout everything, all the woes and trials Draco put Harry through—he still tried to save him. They still cared about him. Weasley and Granger as well—all three. He needed to be with them, he needed to be on their side, aiding and abetting . . . but—he knew he couldn’t. His place was next to his father—at the Dark Lord’s feet. How pitiful. No, not anymore.

    He hugged Pansy’s hand tighter, noticing her voice break this time. “No—I won’t leave, I won’t . . . but maybe if we . . .” his voice trailed off, devoid of energy. He eyed the mass of rock with hatred. Pansy was dying. That fact suddenly hit him square in the face, making his eyes water from the pain.

    “Draco? Draco . . . you love me? Right? You love me?” She had to have more confirmation.

    Did he love her? He should have. She was with him from the very start, but where was the start? And what did that even mean? He had never really thought about it before. Those late nights in the library when they weren’t studying, or maybe the many walks around the lake. She spoke most of the time, she liked to, and Draco welcomed a time when he wasn’t expected to be the sole bearer of the conversation.

    Perhaps he should have cherished those moments more—they would soon be gone. She would be gone. And he found himself asking, in a moment of extreme earnestness—though she could never know—did he really care? Would she really have cared if it were him dying? All the love and lies she spewed daily toward him . . . had they really amounted to anything? He could see her now, smiling smugly and waving as she passed him, eyes bright. As though he deserved death, or something. Maybe he did.

    “Draco?” She reached out for him, scared that he had gone.

    He hadn’t, but he wanted to—she was getting on his nerves. She was dying. He blinked, she was dying. Dying. The pain struck him again, and he grimaced. “I’ll never leave you, Pansy,” he lied to her, his voice strong. He needed to be strong. At least for her. He could break down later—away from all this.

    “No. You never would . . . would you?” Pansy looked thoughtful, her voice prolonged. She still looked pained, but also as though she was meant to speak. Whatever she had to say was the most important thing. “Draco, I don’t want to die.”

    He closed his eyes. It didn’t help; coughing out the tears was the only way to hide it. Once he had his voice back under control he worked out a reply.

    “I’m sorry.” He wasn’t apologizing for her death. That would be foolish.

    She seemed to understand. “So am I,” she began truthfully, “for the way I . . . I treated you . . . after . . .”

    Draco visibly blanched, and Pansy started, unhappy with the response her words had gotten. “I know it’s hard to talk about, but please. You didn’t deserve it. I should have been there. For you. But I was angry . . .” She reached out her only arm for his face, making it look back at hers.

    “Angry?” He was curious, unable to hide his furrowed brow. Her words had hurt him, just like they had last June.

    She, most unexpectedly, smiled. “Yeah. You know—you know. I would do anything for you—you do know that, right . . . Draco?”

    He wanted to say ‘yes,’ if only to give her peace in her final moments. To maybe give her happiness, even. But she deserved better than that, as he finally came to realize. She deserved his honesty.

    He frowned. “Pansy.” He sculpted his words carefully, as she deserved clarity as well. “I didn’t know that. I thought . . .” his voice was quick, and his words escaped before he had the gall to stop them. He wasn’t finished. “I don’t know what I thought. Maybe that you were with me because of my name. Malfoy. And my money . . .”

    Pansy sighed, coughing up a small amount of blood. Her voice was slowly leaving her. “I’m sorry, Draco. I didn’t. Never,” she bit her lip, unable to wipe the blood away. Draco couldn’t stand to look at her. “You’re the most incredible person I’ve ever known, Draco. Please believe me.”

    Was that a tear? He couldn’t bear to look at her. It was just too hard. Why did it have to be so hard?

    “And Draco, I would have helped.” She couldn’t help the cough. “I would have. You didn’t have to go it alone . . .” She was referring to the task the Dark Lord had set him their previous year, in a time so innocent by comparison. Hell had taken Pansy, Draco could tell that much. “And I wanted to—and I only . . . only ridiculed you because I . . . bitter. I was bitter. You—left me out . . .” Her voice was no longer sufficing; barely above a whisper; this was it. She had maybe a minute left.

    Draco now—in this very important time, froze. His mind wasn’t working, the gears and cogs all caught up amongst themselves, fighting to move forward but only causing more problems. He had to say something. Something world ending, view changing—life saving. Something.

    She watched him tenderly in her final moments. Draco still fought with his tongue, a battle wherein he was heavily outmatched.

    Then her eyes closed. Draco felt the hand go limp in his hands. He squeezed it tightly in his own. She wasn’t gone. She couldn’t be gone, not yet. No—not yet. NOT YET!

    “Pansy.” His tears were free coming now. He didn’t care. His love had died. And she was gone forever.

    “Pansy.” Those walks along the lake. Late at night—they were the kinds of memories that Draco would never forget. She would always be with him. Forever. But he wanted her in more than memories.

    “Pansy—Pansy, please.” He reached out a shaking hand, his lips quivering. She had died. The rock had finished its task and he cursed it. It was the rock’s fault. Wasn’t it?

    “Pansy . . .” He had gotten Dumbledore killed. It was him. If he hadn’t let the Death Eaters in the school—if he had traded his life for Dumbledore’s . . . Pansy would be alive. So many would be alive.

    “Please . . .” He wasn’t worth it. That much was so blatantly obvious. His selfishness was washed away as he clutched the lifeless girl’s body.

    “Pansy?” He stopped crying for a moment, lifting his head from her shoulder. He knew what he had to do, and it mattered not that she was gone and could no longer hear it. She deserved it. She deserved the truth. It would be enough. It would redeem him in everything that he had done.

    “I love you—Pansy Parkinson.”

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