A/N: Wow, I can't believe I'm writing yet another concluding author's note for the end chapter. I've had a blast writing this - Hermione and Draco were so much more willing to work with me this time round, and so much funner to torment! Writing them at this part of their lives led me to thinking about them at another part of their lives, and yet another tempting Dramione has formulated in my brain. I'm not sure whether it will come to fruition (after all, I shouldn't be neglecting my other Harry Potter fandom after all this time). But either way I've been so grateful and pleased to have so much positive response for this story. I know I've been absolute crap at responding reviews, but I read absolutely every one and glow with gratitude at the idea of someone taking the time to leave their thoughts. Thanks so much guys! I hope this ending is everything you want it to be - it mostly is for me.
Make believing we're together
That I'm sheltered by your heart
But in and outside I turn to water
Like a teardrop in your palm
It Must Have Been Love, Roxette
‘I hope you don’t mind the hyphen, we weren’t sure what you preferred.’
‘It’s absolutely fine, Themis, thank you.’
‘Good to have you back, Granger.’
Themis Finley gave a soft smile at her pale colleague, sympathising with the young mother. Ambitious and maternal were two traits that more than often were no good together, as she had discovered herself after two unsuccessful marriages. Hermione Granger was tired, but seemed to have found a secret to success that few had yet been able to.
Hermione fingered the engraving on the gold sign bearing her name, Hermione Granger-Weasley. It fit perfectly on the mahogany desk, and the mahogany desk blended delightfully in the office that had previously been Themis Finley’s. She looked around her surroundings, her chest swelling a little with emotional pride.
‘I still can’t tell you enough how pleased I was, Themis,’ Hermione said, casting a grateful look on her face. ‘After such a long maternity leave, to come back to a promotion…’
‘Well, it was a long time coming, wasn’t it?’ barked Themis, clearly not taken with Hermione’s modesty. ‘A baby won’t prevent that. Why must men be able to have it all when women can’t? Besides, I need to know that my department is in good hands when I shift over to the European Council For Magical Law.’
‘Congratulations again,’ Hermione said hastily, ‘a female President for the European Council… A first, I believe?’
Themis shrugged, a look of satisfaction on her worn face. Hermione wished her luck and shut the door behind her when she turned to leave. The office was no bigger than she remembered, but compared to her cubicle, it was enormous. The blinds on her windows blinked at her encouragingly. The small leather sofa was inviting. Hermione took a seat behind her desk and stretched out.
There was a buzzing coming from the inside of her purse. Confused, for a moment she did not recognise it. Then she realized it was coming from her mobile phone – she had never heard it ring or even vibrate before. Frustrated at her and Ron’s lack of telephone, and always wanting to be able to get ahold of their daughter and grandchildren, Hermione’s parents had forced her to accept a mobile phone and a monthly contract several years ago, though Hermione had never needed it before.
‘Hello?’ Hermione said, speaking into the phone and casting a wary look at the corridor outside. It felt wrong to use Muggle methods in a wizarding office.
‘Hello, is this Hermione?’
Hermione’s heart sank. She had forgotten that she had given out this number to one other person.
‘Hello Mrs Wolsey, how are you?’
‘I’m very good, thank you, how is your airplane work doing? Any flight attendant scandals lately?’
‘No, everything has been fine, thank you, Mrs Wolsey.’
Hermione cleared her throat, afraid that the emotion would get to her and Mrs Wolsey would ask what was wrong. She had not spoken to the landlady for months, had not even set foot in the apartment since Hugo was born. She had been sure Draco had given notice.
‘I was so sorry when Draco came to see me to give up the flat, you were both such a nice, untroublesome couple. But of course, I’m glad it was just so you could move to a bigger place – I didn’t doubt that you couldn’t live in a shoebox the rest of your lives!’
‘No… no, that’s right, Mrs Wolsey. Is there anything I can do for you?’
Hermione forced her voice to sound calm. She did not like that Draco had lied to Mrs Wolsey, but what else could he have done?
‘Well, your husband moved out a few things last week when he gave up the flat –‘
‘He gave up the flat last week?’ Hermione interrupted, aghast.
‘Why, yes, a week’s notice, just like we had agreed –‘
Hermione let Mrs Wolsey carry on, thoughts cramming her brain unpleasantly. Draco had kept the apartment even after she had dismissed him. Had he thought she would come back to him? Had he waited for her, perhaps several nights in a row, in the dingy studio that they had rented secretly? The image of this lonesome Draco Malfoy, sitting on their bed of sins, formed, unbidden, in her mind. She suddenly wanted to cry. She suddenly wanted to kiss him.
‘- so perhaps if you could come round and pick them up, I thought I might ask you rather than throw them out, and Draco never gave me his phone number, you see –‘
‘Of course,’ Hermione said firmly, not having listened to half of what Mrs Wolsey had said, ‘Of course, I’ll be round at the end of the week.’
The end of the week came quickly for Hermione, busy adjusting to her new role as lead prosecutor of the Ministry of Magic. She hardly saw Lisa, not even during her short lunch breaks, though her promotion now meant that Lisa was her first assistant. She tried to imagine what Draco had left behind, and hoped it was some artefacts of importance, though she knew it to be more likely than not a few plates and glasses.
The key to the door was under the mat, as Hermione had requested Mrs Wolsey put it. The door made a creaky noise as it swung open. She almost saw Draco sitting on the bed before her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room and Hermione understood it was empty. She drew the dusty curtains. The sun shone in brightly, bathing the flat in its indifferent light and making it almost seem quite beautiful.
There were no sheets on the bed and the cupboards had been emptied of all evidence of their existence. The bathroom held Hermione’s toothbrush and a few towels, which she stuffed in the trash bag she had brought with her. In the bedside table drawer, she found a hairbrush and some hairpins, which she also threw out.
The small, industrial cupboard in the corner had a mirror on its one door. Hermione put down the garbage bag and stood it front of it. She closed her eyes. She tried to empty her mind of thoughts. When she opened them again, she hoped to see an unbiased portrait of herself. Would someone else find her brown, bushy hair attractive? Did people like her nose as much as she did? Did everyone see everyone the same way, or did some people see others one way, while others saw others another? Was her face square, oval or round, and did Draco see it as one while Ron saw it as another?
She suddenly whipped the cupboard door open. She had expected to find several of her clothes there, but most of them had gone. The more pricey outfits were still on their hangers, but she found she did not want to keep them. At the bottom of the cupboard was one sweater she recognised as Draco’s. It was a navy blue turtleneck. He had often put it on after making love to her if their flat had been cold. Gingerly, Hermione enveloped it in her hands. She buried her nose in it, hoping to smell him again. She laid it down on the bare, plain mattress of the bed and lied on top of it. Her hands played with the sleeves before she folded them around her.
The flat was freezing and the sweater had not helped. There were no arms through the sleeves and the mattress was not soft without its sheets and duvets. Hermione stood up and took hold of the garbage bag again.
The navy blue turtleneck went in her bag.
Ginny and Harry had promised to meet them in the station, as Rose had continually reminded Hermione and Ron. The morning had been hectic, filled with unprecedented and unexpected interruptions. The panic had instigated with Rose losing her favourite dress; just as Hermione was promising her that she would send it with an owl, and that having the uniform was more important anyway, Hugo turned up brandishing it between his hands, and declared that he had found it in the dog’s basket. Ron had fretted more about the route to King’s Cross, and whether he could actually drive there by a Muggle contraption, than helping his wife with Rose’s lunch pack, as he had otherwise promised.
‘Cheer up, Hermione,’ Ron said, once they had finally sat themselves down in the front seat and made sure that the children’s safety belts were fastened. ‘How long have we been waiting for this day?’
‘Yes, you’re right,’ Hermione said, smiling. She took a deep breath and allowed herself to relax. Rose’s luggage was packed and safely stowed in the trunk. Hugo had plenty to read on the way to King’s Cross. Both James and Albus would look after their cousin on the train. She could afford a half hour’s rest.
To Ron’s intense pride, they arrived with twenty minutes to spare. The station was milling with familiar faces. Percy had arrived without his wife, greeting Hermione and his younger brother rather pompously. His two daughters, Molly and Lucy, were fretting over their newly purchased broomsticks. Hugo glared at them jealously.
While Ron hovered Rose’s trunk on the train and showed Hugo the compartments inside, Rose tugged Hermione’s sleeve.
‘What is it, darling?’
‘I can come home if I don’t like it there, right?’ Rose said in one breath, her eyes round and frightened. Hermione held back the tears that had risen so suddenly. She wanted to tell her yes, of course, any time, she was her little girl and would always be able to run back home – instead she stroked her cheek gently.
‘You’ll love it there, Rose, I promise. I did.’
Ron had jumped back down on to the platform along with Hugo, who ran up to his sister and surprisingly pulled her into a hug.
‘Don’t forget to feed the monsters in the lake!’ he said warningly, ‘Or the house elves will get you.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Rose answered with a sniff, her condescending demeanour towards her little brother back in place, ‘there aren’t monsters in the lake. You don’t know anything. Uncle Harry told me it’s fun in the lake and Aunt Ginny told me lot’s of grown up things about Hogwarts you don’t know, so don’t pretend you do.’
Hermione chuckled, highly doubting this. Ron was frowning at his daughter, but before he could reprimand her, the mist in front of them cleared, and the Potters emerged. Albus paced nervously towards his cousins, looking relieved that Rose was wearing her uniform too.
‘Parked all right?’ Ron asked Harry. Hermione could already predict their conversation about Ron’s driving test, which he had passed only very recently.
Hermione was quite enjoying herself by the time the children were talking about the Sorting, and had even managed to forget some of the weight that parting from her daughter had meant. She was just about to tell Ron that it would perhaps be a good idea to reassure their daughter and nephew instead of scare them out their wits when she realized he was no longer paying attention. She followed his gaze and the weight disappeared completely. It was replaced with a sensation of dropping into the void and forgetting to be frightened.
‘Look who it is.’
Draco would not have changed in the eyes of Harry, Ron and Ginny. Only Hermione could have seen the small differences. His pale face was long and thin, the chin more pointed than she remembered. The hollowed cheeks brought with them a shadow over his eyes, but as the steam thinned a little more, she thought she saw some strange expression, though she could not read it.
He was standing with Asteria and Scorpius. Asteria was clutching his arm gently, swaying a little in the wind. She looked almost frail. Her face was glowing with pride as she put her other hand on the boy’s shoulder, which drew Hermione’s attention to him. She got a minor shock at how like his father he was.
Hermione looked back at Draco. He was staring at her. The Malfoys had undoubtedly noticed Hermione’s small party gazing at them. She locked eyes with him for a moment less than a second. The second hovered in midair, summoning distant, violent memories. She understood his strange expression in one. His grey eyes rounded in longing, anger, jealousy, hatred, love – his pale face could get no paler, she knew this; perhaps it was her own world collapsing. Was she really running towards him? Was he really taking her in his arms, were they really touching, kissing, for the first time in years, right there, on the platform, amidst family, friends and the universe, was he telling her he loved her, were they abandoning everyone, were they out of the platform, away from the station and on their way to some secret place of desire and understanding -
Hermione looked away from him. His curious eyes had shifted on to Hugo and there his gaze lingered. Her heart skipped a beat, but Draco merely nodded curtly and turned away again.
‘So that’s little Scorpius. Make sure you beat him in every test, Rosie.’
Hermione had squeezed Hugo’s hand, though she did not know why. Ron’s words shook her out of her stupor, and she looked at him sternly, annoyed. It was almost as though she could not forgive him for being so ignorant; almost as though she thought he should have guessed, by now, what she had long thought apparent.
While James jumped down from the train and informed all the adults of Victoire and Teddy’s liaison, Hermione turned around again. She could not resist it. She had resisted it for years. It really was like a feast, looking at him; or like the first drag of a cigarette after six years, and now she had had one, she needed another. He was hugging Scorpius goodbye. Asteria was standing a little way away, next to her sister, Daphne. There was something slow and solemn about the whole affair.
She turned away before he would catch her looking again. Hugo tugged her hand.
‘Mummy, will I go to Hogwarts soon?’ he whispered, his brown eyes round and curious.
‘Yes, darling, of course,’ Hermione answered, smiling at him lovingly.
‘I don’t know why Al is so scared of going to Slytherin,’ he said, looking at Harry reassure his son, ‘it’s so cool it’s under the lake!’
Hermione ignored the familiar excited feeling that arose every time her son said things like this. She looked at Hugo; really looked at him, trying to forego the things she always saw and the way she always saw them. She had done this so many times before, and it had never worked, yet she always deluded herself into trying again. She could not trust such flighty instincts that her heart gave her, but she did not have the courage to attempt more secure methods. Hugo’s brown hair lay tidily across his forehead, his hazel eyes glinting excitedly. He had inherited too much of Hermione.
‘We’ll see soon, darling. Let’s go say goodbye to your sister. And don’t go teasing her about anything, she’s anxious enough as it is.’
Hugo smirked. He always did.
All credit to JK Rowling for the excerpts of the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.