The Hollow Men by T.S.Eliot
Shape without form, shade without
Those who have crossed
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
Let me be no nearer
Not that final meeting
They buried them where they’d fallen, regardless of affiliation. Death Eater lying eternally silent beside Order member, Pureblood next to Muggleborn.
In the aftermath of the battle there had been too many wounded requiring attention and too few not exhausted - in truth, too few living - to do more than cast a quick Sepultura and submerge the corpses under the churned wet soil.
Usually they remembered to make a name marker if they had known the deceased, or to leave some personal item - a broken wand, a hair ornament, a wedding ring - aboveground so the remains might be identified later. Sometimes however, the caster forgot whom they'd just buried in the haze of their fatigue, or there was nothing even recognisably human left in the pile of shattered bone and entrails.
Some did turn up to claim the bodies of their kin, but often there was no-one left to come. Entire families, wiped out on one single dark midwinter's day. Others came, but never found who they were looking for, although they knew they were buried there somewhere. Their loved ones had never returned home from Glastonbury. There had been some post-war public outcry about reburial - but it was a quiet, almost apathetic outcry, the token moral protest of an exhausted society, and it came to nothing.
The dead stayed buried where they had fallen.
Glastonbury, 2007 C.E.
Snowflakes touched his hair with cool light kisses. Bill pulled his hood up and hastened his steps through the cemetery. He'd been at the commemoration service held here last week, but wanted to say a private farewell to the twins before returning to Egypt.
They lay side by side amidst the largest group of burials, on Bride's Mound, where the battle had been fiercest. He topped the mound and was disconcerted to see someone standing several metres over from where he was headed; still and ominous as a carrion crow amongst the snow and tombs. As he neared the person, they reached over to pull a dead weed from the grave at their feet.
"You shouldn't do that," he found himself saying.
The figure spun, combat-fast, wand ready. Dark swirling cloak, white mask-like face and dull snowy day; déjà-vu punched through Bill’s gut, adrenalin an unwelcome old acquaintance rushing in his veins. Then the wand lowered and the disordered images danced into coherence.
"Draco," he said, voice surprisingly calm considering the fright he'd just had.
"Weasley," Draco returned, then his eyes flickered downward and an eyebrow turned up questioningly. Bill looked down, realised he was gripping his wand tightly, pointing it at Malfoy. Bill gave a tight smile and put it away. He nodded to Draco and then passed him by.
The snowfall had stopped by the time he turned away from George and Fred’s graves. Draco was still where he had left him. For a minute he hesitated, as to speak to the other man would break the tranquillity that held the world silent, wrapped in gossamer shades of white and grey. Then Draco turned sharply to look at him, his eyes and features also unrelentingly monochrome.
“I didn’t see you at the ceremony last week,” Bill said, a gentle query underlying the words.
Draco gave a small shrug.
“I don’t consider a massacre anything to commemorate,” he replied, then glanced away.
Bill dropped his eyes to the tomb at Draco’s feet. Stark, polished black marble, carved with the name ‘Lucius Gervaise Malfoy’ and two dates.
“Besides, I doubt people would care to see me mourn my father.”
There was a slightly mocking note to his voice, but which of them it was directed at was impossible to say.
"Ah," Bill flicked his eyes away from Lucius's grave to the anonymous brown slab beside it. A faint tendril of surprise threaded through his mind at the pristine state of them both. As if reading Bill’s mind, Draco said,
“There are anti-vandalization wards on the cemetery, fortunately. Or I doubt there’d be much of this thing left,” he kicked the black slab lightly.
Silence stretched into discomfort. Eventually Bill lifted his eyes to find Draco regarding him with an appraising stare, seemingly content with muteness.
"Look," Bill said, "It's cold. Come and have a hot toddy in The Leaky Cauldron with me."
Surprise flickered into uncertainty on the face opposite.
"You don't have anything better to do, do you?"
Other than brood over the dead.
"All right. One drink," replied Draco.
Draco had ordered a glass of wine, rather than a hot toddy or fire whiskey.
"I'm not much of a drinker," he explained.
He wasn't much of a talker either. The War had changed them all - some for better, some for worse - but Bill found it hard to reconcile the youth he remembered with the man he sat drinking with. Draco Malfoy, in his recall, had been an asset to the Order; a determined, sly and vicious fighter. He had also been hopelessly arrogant, unrepentantly racist and the faithfully amoral product of Slytherin lineage. Temperamental, but with a cuttingly witty charm that attracted as much as it exasperated, he had burned brightly.
Bill had last seen Draco on the battlefield, a screaming banshee casting death and horror at the enemy, eyes slits of silvery venom, mouth a red smear screaming vituperations. Bill had noted - somewhat incongruously - that the azure robes Draco had worn so his allies would not mistake him for Lucius had suited him well.
Now a man, he was even moreso the spitting image of his father. The once brutally short ashen hair had been allowed to grow, not to his father’s length, but long enough that it now fastened in a ponytail. But as with his hair colour, the high cheekbones, hooded eyes, sensual but cruel mouth, were all Lucius's. The expression was Draco’s own however - for whereas arrogance had stripped any softness from his father’s face, austerity had carved every gentleness from Draco’s.
Draco Malfoy the man was controlled, restrained, serious. He thought before speaking. There was still charm there, but it was a quiet charisma, subdued, as though strained through the muslin of grief. Occasionally, flashes of his former sharp drollness emerged, but they were sparks from a guttering fire.
"I heard Malfoy Manor hasn't been rebuilt"
"So where are you living?"
"Here. There. Wherever it's warm."
He was surprised. Draco was young, rich, socially acceptable. There was no reason for him to leave Britain.
"No," Then almost too softly to hear, "England is a charnel house now."
There was nothing Bill could say to that. It was a thought that had crossed his mind more than once.
It was two drinks later, and halfway through dinner when Bill asked,
“So who is in the grave next to Lucius?”
“What?” Shock was quickly covered by polite enquiry.
“The unmarked brown marble grave. Who is in it?” Bill kept his voice gentle.
Draco stared at him, expressionless, before saying,
“Just one of my father’s victims I assume.”
Bill thought about letting it rest. But Draco exuded a numbness that hurt - and when it came to the wounded, he was his mother’s son.
“Do you know what one of the most important qualities of a curse breaker is? Other than a capacity for hours of crushingly boring research, that is,” Neither the question or the smile elicited a response, “Observation. And if you aren’t naturally observant, you generally don’t live long enough to develop the trait.”
Bill paused again, watching Draco push peas around his plate with his fork. He had beautiful hands.
“You weren’t visiting your father’s grave, you were tending the one next to it.”
The fork stopped. Bill kept his eyes on those pale, elegant hands. Minutes dragged by in silence and stillness. A brightness fell onto the plate and Draco said,
Bill's head jerked up in shock, but there was little to be seen of Draco's face behind the ashen curtain of his fringe.
"Remus Lupin? But, but why… ”
Why didn't you say something? Why didn't you tell someone? Don't you know how hard they searched for his body?
Again it seemed as if Draco read his mind. He pushed his hair back and Bill saw the fire hadn't been extinguished, the angry venom was still in his heart,
"Why didn't I tell anyone? Why should I? What, so they can build a tacky little monument to him like Potter's? Commemorate the 'Great Tamed Werewolf Hero of the War'? So they could lay flowers and wreaths and thank-you notes on his grave?" the words spat from Draco's mouth, "Those snivelling hypocrites who barely tolerated his existence while he lived? Who hardly acknowledged his worth when he was fighting their war? The best thing he ever did for them was conveniently die during the last battle. They don't deserve to know where he lies. He wouldn't have cared," the anger faded as abruptly as it had flared, "He wouldn't have wanted to be remembered like that."
Bill gaped at him, stunned. And little incidences, little memories, that in the moment itself meant nothing, but when taken as a whole formed a completely new picture, clicked together.
“You were lovers?” it was a rhetorical question, “I, I didn’t realise.”
“Yes, well, few people did. Neither of us were exactly raised to feel easy with public displays of affection,” his lips stretched into something counterfeiting a smile, “You didn’t think I defected to the Order out of the goodness of my heart, did you?”
Admittedly, it was one of the things Bill had wondered about Draco Malfoy.
He stretched across the table and briefly covered Draco’s hand with his.
“I was sorry when I learnt Remus had died at Glastonbury. But I’m doubly saddened by your loss.”
Draco looked at him searchingly, then said quietly,
Before any awkwardness could arise, Bill busied himself pouring more wine.
"Why shouldn’t I have done that?"
“What?” he looked up again, confused by Draco’s question.
“The weeds. Why shouldn’t I have removed them?”
“Oh, that. It’s an old Weasley family tradition. After a year’s mourning has passed, we don’t weed a graveside.”
“Why not?” alongside the incomprehension, there was the faintest echo of Draco’s old sneer on his face, “If you don’t upkeep a tomb it looks like you’ve abandoned it.”
“Hmm,” Bill sipped the wine, thinking of the best way to put it, “We let Nature reclaim what is hers. Just as grief is a natural process, so too are the weeds. If you deny re-growth, you deny what is natural, and keep the cause fresh and sharp in your heart.”
Draco looked thoughtful.
“I never thought of it that way.”
“Of course,” grinned Bill, “Another reason could be that Weasleys have always been lousy gardeners - you should see the Burrow’s gnome infestation.”
For the first time that evening, Draco gave a soft laugh.
It was well past two when fatigue made yawning more frequent than speech. Bill had found himself speaking of his job and its challenges, his two adorable daughters, whom he had shared custody of with his ex-wife Fleur and her new Viscomte, his father’s policies and initiatives as Minister of Magic, the escapades of his numerous nephews and nieces, and all the pleasures and annoyances inherent in belonging to a large and close-knit family.
Draco had said little that was personal, but Bill now knew he wrote articles for academic journals and bred rare magical carnivorous plants. Also he was currently living on the coast of Spain with his eagle-owl and a rather eccentric house-elf.
Bill was naturally staying at the Burrow, and Draco was booked into the London Ritz. Before they Apparated, Bill said,
“By the way, Egypt is warm. So if you ever feel like seeing the Pyramids, owl me.”
Draco looked startled, then nodded,
“Thank you. I’ll think about it.”
Then with the *pop* of Apparation, he was gone.
Glastonbury, 2008 C.E.
Bill usually only attended on alternate years now, but the following midwinter’s day found him at the commemoration ceremony again. For some reason, the past few months had been restless ones, as if he were stretching within his skin, itching at some nebulous irritation inside himself, and he felt the need to envelop himself in his family’s warm presence. At the ceremony he had realised half-way through that he was searching for a head of platinum blonde hair. But he didn’t see it.
The day was that rare thing, a beautiful English winter’s afternoon. The sky was the tint of a thrush egg and the cold air was vibrant and crisp. Surrounded though he was by mourning black and gravestones, it felt good to be alive.
Afterwards, the family made the traditional trek to the twins’ graveside. As they came over the top of Bride’s Mound, Bill was halted by the necessity of not running into Ron, who had stopped abruptly.
“What’s he doing here?” his little brother grumped.
“Oh hush, Ron, he has just as much right to be here as we do,” Hermione replied, “Though I do think he could have worn something a little more suitable for the occasion.”
Bill pushed between the two of them, and there, standing several metres over from where they were headed, was the figure of Draco Malfoy. Bill recognised the heraldic blue as the same colour Draco had worn into battle. He walked down the hill and stopped at Draco’s shoulder.
From the side, he saw an unhurried smile blossom.
"Bill," Draco replied, eyes still on the untidy grave before him.
Bill looked down at the brown marble slab, and saw it was now inscribed. The name “Remus Lupin”, two dates, and then the word “Beloved”.
Almost of its own accord, his right hand came up, gripped Draco’s shoulder.
And just as Ron, Hermione and the others reached them, Draco said,
“By the way,
Bill, I think I’ll take you up on that offer of a tour of the Pyramids.”