Hermione awoke with mascara-crusted eyes, cursing her vanity for not removing her makeup before she had fallen asleep. Her tiredness was also to blame, as she and Draco had stayed awake for about two more hours before he'd retired to his own room over in the Slytherin wing just as the sun had peeked out over the mountains.
She had stayed true to her resolve of not having sex with Draco even after declaring herself to be willing to try and have a relationship with him. They talked quite a lot; Hermione telling him that Ron was the only man she'd ever been with, and that Draco would be the first man that she'd even considered dating since her marriage ended.
Draco had revealed that Astoria had allowed him to have relations outside of their marriage. Hermione couldn't honestly say that she'd been surprised by the news. It would have been awfully hypocritical of Astoria not to allow such a thing when she had Katie.
"But wouldn't most men be ecstatic to find out that their wife likes to have sex with women?" Hermione had asked him. "Or am I just horribly naïve?"
"I'm not a monster," he'd explained. "She's a lesbian, Hermione, not bisexual. And it's not as though I was dying to get in her pants either. I barely knew her when we got married."
They had never even consummated their marriage, Draco had said. On their wedding night, Astoria broke down in tears at the thought of having to sleep with her new husband, and had finally confessed her secret to Draco, and told him of her relationship with Katie Bell. Hermione thought Draco had taken the news much better than she would have if in a similar situation, though it really was hard to compare.
From nearly the first day of their marriage, Astoria had lived in a separate wing of the manor from Draco, with Katie in an attached bedroom. Their son had been conceived via artificial insemination.
"But that's Muggle medicine!" Hermione had gaped.
"We had an heir to produce," Draco had said. "Just a quick confundus, and the doctor thought we had been trying for years with no results."
The official story was that Katie was Astoria's live-in assistant, though Hermione couldn't help wondering why an unemployed society wife would even need an assistant, much less a live-in one, but no one else seemed to raise even an eyebrow at the tale for all of those years. Hermione now knew that Pansy had been diligent in keeping the real story out of the papers, and because of that, the Wizarding world was shocked as the news of the divorce slowly made its way around. Draco and Astoria had done well to keep up the appearance of a happy marriage. When they broke up, there had been many rumors of infidelity on Draco's part, though no proof was ever found. He had covered his tracks well.
"I travel a lot for my business," he'd said. "Oh, yes, you'll be very pleased to know how much I've truly changed. I am practically Muggle these days, and in more ways than just developing their technology to fit my business. I fly on those tin cans they call airplanes, I drive, and I even stay in Muggle hotels!"
"I am impressed," Hermione had told him.
Draco had nodded. "Well, that's where I used to meet my dates, for lack of a better word. I hate the term 'one night stand'. Anyways, I would usually meet a Muggle woman in the hotel bar –"
"Ah, like you met me last night?" Hermione had joked.
"Not at all the same," Draco had said.
"So, I'd meet these women," he'd continued. "They were oftentimes traveling on business like me. Sometimes we'd just talk and have a few drinks, just for the company, you know? Other times, we'd do more. I'd always alter their memories afterwards, just in case. Astoria knew everything, but I still tried to be careful. I kept her secret, she kept mine."
"That sounds miserable," said Hermione.
"It was a little," Draco had said sadly. "Not entirely, but yes, a little."
Sure, Draco hadn't been totally miserable. Sexless marriage aside, he'd still had a great friendship with Astoria that they'd built over the years. He'd even found a good friend in Katie, and then there was Scorpius to consider as well.
The three of them had raised Scorpius in a warm, loving household. He didn't know the full extent of his mother and Katie's relationship, but he did know that his parents slept separately and loved him unconditionally regardless of anything else.
Hermione's thoughts drifted to her own children. Did they know the same about her? That her love for them was bigger than life itself? That even if she weren't married to their father anymore, she would never stop from giving them everything she had? And what would they think of her new relationship? They'd accepted Gabrielle easily enough. Would they pay the same courtesy to Draco?
It wasn't exactly the same situation though. Gabrielle had always had a presence in her children's lives. Hermione had suspected that Gabrielle had had feelings for Ron for years, and she always seemed to be around at every Weasley gathering. I never made sense to Hermione at the time, that a beautiful woman like Gabrielle would move away from home to be closer to her sister in the very prime of her life. Had she just bided her time, knowing that one day Hermione and Ron's marriage would fail? Had Gabrielle rushed to console Ron the second she'd heard the news?
Probably. And just as he'd proven years ago with Lavender Brown, and then later Hermione herself, Ron never could pass up a woman throwing herself at him. Honestly, Hermione was less surprised by their relationship, and more surprised by the fact that it had been going on for such a long time without Ron putting a ring on Gabrielle's finger yet.
Hermione rolled over to look at the clock. Damn. Checkout was in one hour, and she was still lolling around in bed as though she had all day to waste. Why, oh why, had she opted for early checkout? Though it's not like she could have predicted that she would spend the majority of the wee morning hours with Draco Malfoy of all people. She had assumed she would be more than ready to get the hell out of Hogsmeade this morning, and be back in her flat in London with a cup of tea well before noon. Now she won't be home before dinner if Draco has his way.
"Ride the train with me," he had said. "It'll give us more time to spend with each other before our regular lives intrude."
"We'll see," she'd told him.
She rolled out of the extremely cozy blanket cocoon, and hurried to the bathroom for a shower. No time for dilly-dallying today. She just washed everything off, and was soon using her wand to dry her hair. Normally when she found herself in such a rush, Hermione would have forgone any makeup, but the thought of possibly spending all of that time with Draco on the train again had her conjuring some light, natural makeup charms. She then quickly threw on a pair of well-worn jeans and an old Montrose Magpies tee. Her hair was already starting to frizz, so she pulled it up into a messy topknot yet again.
Thirty minutes left. She could do this. She made a frantic dash through the suite, locating any lost shoes, scarves, and her cloak from the front closet, tossing them haphazardly into her bags as she went. After one final check, she made her way down to the front desk with ten minutes to spare.
She now had an hour before meeting Draco at the train station, or she could just apparate home like she'd originally planned, and send Draco an owl when she was ready. Sure, he'd be disappointed, but she would see him soon. At least, she thought she would. Even with all of their conversation, they hadn't discussed what their schedules were, or when they would even see each other again.
Her stomach grumbled loudly, demanding her attention. If she apparated now, she could make lunch at home. Wait, no. She thought about the meager contents of her fridge, and realized she needed to go to the store before she could make even a simple sandwich. Surely it would just be easier to pop into one of the pubs here first.
But where to go, Hermione wondered. The Three Broomsticks was out, as that was where Ron and Gabrielle were staying. She really didn't fancy the thought of having lunch with them a few tables away if they too had chosen an early checkout as unlikely as that was. Maybe she could hop over to the Hog's Head? No, that might be too depressing since Aberforth was gone. Should she just dine here at the hotel? But what if Harry and Ginny came by? She wasn't ready to face either of them yet, though she knew that Ginny would need to be dealt with at some point.
Hermione set off down the streets of Hogsmeade, and finally found herself at what she hoped would be the last place anyone would see her, Madame Puddifoot's Tea Shop. She indulged herself with a few of Madame Puddifoot's little sandwiches, several cups of tea, and even a tiny slice of decadent cake before looking at her watch and realizing that the time had come to make her decision. Would she apparate home? Or would she ride the train?
It felt to Hermione like one of those make or break moments. Last night, or this morning to be more accurate, she had told Draco that she was game. If she apparated, would it be a symbol that she wasn't truly ready? That she was unable to truly choose him? If she met him at the train station, any doubts would be erased in the minds of the other passengers. Yes, almost everyone they knew had seen them together last night, but that was before even Hermione and Draco knew what they wanted from each other. For all the bystanders knew, last night was a one time deal. If Hermione joined him on that platform, however, it would be clear as day that this was something more; that after all this time, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy had found each other.
That was all it took for Hermione to make her choice. She placed her money on the table, gathered her things, and made her way out of the tea shop. Once outside, she closed her eyes and focused on her destination as she whirled into nothingness.
Once she reappeared, she opened her eyes to find a very impatient looking Draco standing right off of the Hogsmeade train platform.
"I was starting to think you weren't going to make it," he said with a smile. He reached out to take her bags, then asked, "Are you ready?"
"Yes," she said. "I'm ready."
Author's Note: I was late to the Harry Potter party. I was even later to the fanfiction party. I discovered fanfiction when I started using Wattpad to post some original fiction that I had been working on. (It has since been taken down while I completely rewrite it.) Almost immediately after I found fanfiction, I found Dramione. At first I was a little confused. I did not know that such a ship existed, and it took me awhile, and several really bad stories, to find the amazing stories that made me say "Ohhh, now I get it!".
My husband is a huge Potterhead, and he's the one that made me read the books for the first time. (Not Dramione. He refuses to even try to understand this ship, but whatever.) We often have debates about canon pairings and other things from the stories. (Don't get me started on groceries in the Wizarding world. Seriously.) After reading one too many head girl/head boy stories, I finally explained my frustration at what I felt were unbelievable storylines. At the time, I was a huge stickler for following canon. Fanfiction newbie, remember?
"Where are the stories about Hermione getting sick of Ron?" I would ask. "Let's face it! Even JKR has said they wouldn't work without marriage counseling! Why isn't anyone writing about Hermione divorcing Ron, and making a new life for herself?"
"Why don't you write one?" my husband asked.
So I did. I had no idea where the story would go. I just started writing a few sentences that turned into a few paragraphs, and soon the first couple of chapters of After All This Time were born. Then, something happened that changed everything. I read The Deadline by Lena Phoria. I distinctly remember telling my husband "Well, crap. She wrote my story!" She told a tale of an older divorced Hermione finding a new life so much better than I could, and I quit.
After having my son, and as a way to cope with the stress of being a new mom, I retreated back to the Harry Potter books. My muse started talking to me again. My original fiction wasn't working, yet the muse demanded I write, so I picked up Hermione again, and here we are.
This story is far from perfect. I know that. You're probably also wondering what happens next. What will their kids think? Has Hermione truly forgiven Harry, or will she drop him and the rest of the Weasleys like a bad habit? I left those unanswered on purpose.
You see, this isn't the last you'll hear from me. I have a lot of Dramione stories in the works, and I am already planning a sequel for this tale, tentatively titled "Time After Time". Follow my author profile to be kept updated on that.
Lastly, thank you for reading. Some of you have been with me since almost the first post, and I still get giddy every time I see those names pop up on my reviews. Whether you've been following from the beginning, or you've just now discovered me, believe me when I say that I love each and every one of you, and I hope you'll stick with me on this journey.