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Carol singers.

Hermione was hanging ornaments on Harry’s Christmas tree, and things were alright. Little Al was crawling around on the floor as James stuffed some biscuits into his mouth while Ginny wasn’t looking. It was late afternoon, and Hermione gingerly hung an ornament in the shape of a Firebolt. She smiled at it, recalling the time Harry had gotten his first broom.

She wish she hadn’t heard Harry and Ron muttering from the next room.

“I don’t think she’s dealing with it.”

“It has only been two months,” she heard Harry say. Had it only been two months? Eight agonizingly empty weeks? It hardly mattered, as every passing moment was just another day on the calendar. “When she was packing up his things, she found a ring.”

“God, really?”

Really. Hermione pressed the pad of her thumb against the free space on the fourth finger of her left hand. It was a large ruby ring with a gold band, Gryffindor colours. It was wrapped in a sock at the back of her dresser drawer. Hermione thought about putting it on, but she could barely go ten minutes without thinking of Draco. She did not need to wear his memory on her finger; not yet. 

“Her dad’s worried.”

“Hell, so am I. But Christmas here will do her some good, yeah?”

“I hope so, Ron. I fucking hope so, but there is only so much it can heal. I don’t know if this is something she’ll ever recover from.”

Before Hermione could think anything else, the opening chords of Silent Night filtered in through the windows. 

Holy night.

All is calm ... All is bright ...

But Draco's final night hadn't been calm, and neither had any night since. The war hadn’t aged Draco on the outside; its toll was invisible. The stress on his heart from years of torture, one too many Cruciatus Curses to the chest and Merlin only knew what else. Hermione blamed Harry for part of it. For ripping Draco’s chest open and making him even more vulnerable. Without that, who knows how much time they would have had together?

Sleep in heavenly peace ...

Sleep in heavenly peace ...

Draco would never wake up. He just fell to the ground one day in October, his heart too weak to go on. Hermione had been there when he stopped walking and collapsed. She felt the last bit of air escape him before he went limp in her arms. The worst part was that Draco wanted to move on. He’d said as much; wrapped his hand around Hermione’s and said,

“I need to rest now.”

One of the round silver ornaments slipped from Hermione’s hand and shattered on the floor. Everyone paused to look at her, even James sensed something had changed. Hermione pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle the sobs racking her body. Ginny ran over and wrapped her arms around Hermione’s shoulders.

“Let’s go outside, yeah?” she asked, not leaving Hermione much choice. 

Ginny practically forced Hermione’s arms through the sleeves of her coat. They bundled up and went outside to listen to the carolers perform a couple more songs. Hermione’s tears froze on her eyelashes and Ginny looped an arm through Hermione’s to pull her close. There were kids singing off-key in their little Christmas beanies, and their parents sang beautifully to balance it out. 

We wish you a merry Christmas!

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

A happy new year? How could they ask that of her? How the hell could 2007 be happy without the man she loved? How does life go on after that? How is any holiday the same without wondering what gift to get Draco? Was June 5th just another day on the calendar? 

The carolers were long gone by the time Hermione pulled herself out of those thoughts. Ginny was still there, her breath coming out in little white puffs. Hermione watched as the snowfall picked up and she said,

“It gets colder every day I spend without him. I can’t imagine summer anymore.”

“You’ll get there,” Ginny assured her. “I know it. When I lost Fred, I--”

“When you lost Fred you still had your family,” Hermione said. Her teeth clacked together. “You still had Harry. When Draco died he took my whole heart with him.”

“I know it must feel that way,” Ginny said, “but it’s not. You have more love to give, maybe not right now, but you will.”

Hermione did not reply. The night itself seemed frozen, a replica of the ten nights before it and the ten nights to come after. 

“It feels like he is still here, in a way,” she whispered. “Like if I could just reach him, run fast enough, fly toward the sun ... Like he’s just across the horizon but every time I take a step toward him he takes one away from me. But there’s nothing there, is there? Nothing but a shadow, an angel in the snow.”

Ginny patted Hermione on the shoulder.

“The carolers will keep singing. The snow will continue to fall until it doesn’t. But what about me?” she asked. “Where do I go from here?”

“You walk those two thousand kilometres until you find something that makes you feel that way again,” Ginny answered. “Come on, now, let’s go inside for Christmas Eve dinner.”

Hermione paused.

“It’s Christmas Eve?”

Ginny nodded then went inside without so much as a parting word. Hermione stood outside for awhile longer. She grimaced as the wind began to whip against her cheeks. She stuffed her hands into the pockets of her coat and stepped forward to the top step. The sun was setting, a beautiful purple and orange melding into the horizon. The last rays of sunlight glinted off the snow, sparkling like diamonds. It hardly felt like Christmastime. It was just another day.

Hermione turned around just as a gust of wind whipped past her ear. 

“Think of me wherever you go.”

“DRACO?!” Hermione shouted. She turned around, expecting to see him there, laughing, shivering without a coat. 

But all she saw was more snow. More diamonds. Less light. Hermione’s heart sank as it had every time she heard it. Those were the last words Draco ever said to her. 

Think of me wherever you go.

Hermione made her way back inside, but before she opened the door, she turned once again to the snow.

“I’ll meet you again at Christmastime.”

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