When Hermione finally opened the package Draco had bought, she found inside a copy of the marketing campaign festooned with notes marked "Please initial here if you agree" and a letter asking her to return it as soon as possible. She decided to make a day trip back to London, with the campaign, and enjoy herself a little doing some shopping for the children.
She dropped the envelope back with Margaret, who seemed a lot happier to see her.
"The boss gave me some of your cream, Mrs Weasley. It's quite impressive – I have an old scar from riding into a fence when I was a girl, and this is the first time it's caused me no trouble in years."
"Oh, that's wonderful, Margaret." Hermione glanced down, and saw that an envelope on the desk was addressed to Draco. Suddenly a thought flashed through her mind. "I was wondering – could you make me a photocopy of this for me to take?"
"Immediately, Mrs Weasley." Margaret took the envelope and headed to the back of the office, and Hermione quickly memorised Draco's address. After all, he had said he would be at home all day today, so perhaps a quick visit and a cup of coffee…
Within the hour, she was knocking at the front door of a rather lovely Belgravia townhouse, where a discreet plaque said "Malfoy Residence". The woman that opened the door was well-dressed, elegant and slightly familiar.
"Can I help you?"
"Oh, hello. I was looking for Draco Malfoy."
"It's Hermione, isn't it! Do step in, he won't be long."
The woman led Hermione into a beautifully furnished drawing room, where pictures were hung on every spare piece of wall space and framed on every table surface.
Hermione turned to her hostess. "I feel that I know you from somewhere."
"Astoria. I was Astoria Greengrass at Hogwarts, quite a few years behind you. I remember you being the terribly clever girl who knew more than the teachers half the time."
Hermione took Astoria's hand and shook it. "Of course – your older sister was Daphne, wasn't she? And what are you doing now?"
"Well since I married Draco, I've started my own interior decorating business – when the children give me time, that is. Oh, I say – you've gone quite pale. Mimsy! Water for our guest, please!"
Astoria sat Hermione down on a couch, and held her hand until a house elf appeared with a glass of water. She made Hermione drink the whole thing, and Hermione shook and tried very hard not to cry.
"I must go. I've made a terrible mistake."
Astoria helped her up, but then held onto her hand and looked at her with total compassion and care. "No, I don't think you have. I think Draco has. And this isn't the first time he's done this. It's not your fault. He's very easy to love. Can I call someone to come and get you?"
"Oh, no, thank you." Hermione just wanted to melt and disappear. "I'll just … go from here."
She pushed Astoria away and then, summoning the last of her strength and ignoring the warnings, apparated back to Cliff Cottage. Dimity found her passed out on the floor five minutes later, and carried her up to her bed where she slept for three days and then just sat for a whole afternoon, staring out the window at the late autumn fog.
Finally, Dimity came to her that evening and wrapped skinny elf arms around Hermione.
"He is not worth it Miz Hermione. You is worth twenty of him. He is a cheat and a scoundrel and not even worth your tears. You is better off without him." And Hermione cried for an hour, weeping bitterly on Dimity's shoulder until she fell asleep there, and woke the next morning feeling stiff and sore but much better.
Ten years later, Hermione and Dimity were putting the last touches to the dining table which was covered in the best tea spread a pair of devoted cooks could provide. Rose had offered to apparate her brother from Kings Cross, and had refused to be met as it was her last trip back and she was 'a grownup now'. The bang at the front door, though, sounded a bit too loud to just be two people.
The voices in the hallway confirmed this. Hugo rushed in first to hug Hermione then Dimity, followed by Rose's head around the door.
"Mum? Could you come here a moment?"
Hermione just shrugged at Dimity, then headed out. There in the corridor stood a tall black boy who looked vaguely familiar.
"Mum, may I introduce to you Malcolm Thomas? Malcolm, this is my mum."
"Mrs Weasley, I've heard so much about you."
"Glad to meet you, Malcolm. You must be Dean's son."
"I am, and Dad said to say hello." Malcolm smiled the relieved smile of the teenager whose first meeting with his girlfriend's mum hasn't been nearly as bad as he thought it would be. Hugo barrelled out from the dining room, and grabbed Malcolm's hand.
"Come on – we have to wash our hands before tea."
Hermione watched the poor lad being dragged up the corridor by the eager youngster, then Rose took her arm and headed down to the kitchen with her.
"You didn't mention him before, dear."
"I wasn't sure until last week. But he's really sweet. And I didn't think you'd mind him coming for tea. Dimity always cooks about five times as much as anyone can eat."
"That's true." Hermione hugged her daughter. "And he seems lovely. It could be much worse."
"Yeah, it could have been Scorpius Malfoy." Rose screwed up her face. "He was always trying to chat me up, but I couldn't stand him. Especially not after what his dad did to you."
"You knew about that?"
"Of course. Did you know Astoria finally threw him out? Scorpius told me last year."
"That doesn't surprise me. I saw Draco a couple of years ago at an industry dinner. He's very fat, and he's lost all his hair." Hermione grinned – not a nice grin – and hugged her daughter again. "But I'm glad you've found someone nice."
"Yes, he's not as nice as the professor, but he'll do." Rose bounced a little. "We should go back."
"Hang on – the professor? You liked one of your professors?"
"No, Mum. Don't be silly. I meant the old professor that used to live here. I had dreams when I was young, that he used to show me all the secret places in the house, and the path down the cliff that was safe even in the rain, and how to grow the special plants. I had quite a crush on him when I was a child. But I can't have him, so I'll have Malcolm instead." And Rose took her shocked mother's hand and led her back to the tea room.
Thirty years later, an owl flew into the old workroom at the top of the stairs and left a package on the table beside old Mrs Weasley. She lifted herself from the dilapidated chaise longue, and opened it eagerly, looking forward to the wedding pictures of young Hermione, Rose's daughter who had just married Gerald Longbottom in Australia. The pictures were clear and bright, and the couple obviously loved each other very much.
Dimity appeared beside her, peering at the pictures. "She's a pretty one, Miz Hermione is, and she's a bright one too. She is just like her Grandmother who is a clever witch."
"Oh, really, Dimity," Hermione grumbled, then smiled. "But she is a clever lass. Youngest Professor of Charms the Junee school has had. And Gerald is Head of Tintookie house at the Wagga Wagga Wizarding college. But she's much more her grandfather's child, with her Quidditch skills."
"Glad she went for a professor, but." Dimity gently lifted Hermione's feet so that she was lying on the chaise longue, then shook out an old quilt and laid it over her. They could have replaced both the chaise and the quilt years ago, but Hermione loved them too much. "Much better, those professors are. They is better for you than a mere businessman like her father."
"Malcolm is a good man, despite not being a professor. But I'm not tired." Hermione plucked at the quilt fretfully.
"Yes you are, Miz Hermione, and I'll be bringing you up a hot cup of tea in an hour like always."
"Bring it up now, would you? I don't think I'll sleep that much today."
"Very well, Miz Hermione. But you is staying on that couch until I'm back, all right?"
"Oh, if I must." And Hermione leaned back and looked at the pictures again, fighting the tiredness that overwhelmed her until they fell unheeded from her hands, and her eyes closed.
A familiar voice called, and she shook off the cover and stood up. There, in front of her, stood Severus, holding out his hands.
"Severus? Oh Severus!" She flew into his arms, as agile and young as she had been when she first moved in. He kissed her hard and passionately, with all the force of nearly fifty years of waiting. She kissed him back, and then he led her out of the room, away from her body which lay cooling on the chaise longue, past Dimity on the stairs who was stomping up with a hot cup of tea, and out the front door to the next wonderful adventure.