Well this is it. The end of my fic. I began writing this story to escape a lot of things that were going on in my life at a certain point in time. I am happy to say that this story has seen me through a lot. I apologise for the delay in uploading the last few chapters. I was battling illness and depression as I wrote and towards the end, it became difficult for me to keep writing. I truly hope you enjoy this chapter and the story as a whole.
A big thank you to all the readers. Everyone who left comments, who followed and liked my story, I kept on going for you. Your words meant so much to me. I'm sorry I couldn't reply to every one of you personally but thank you all so very much!
To Sjay1102, this fic is for you. Without your encouragement and support, I would not have written this at all. Thank you for the confidence you gave me to sit down and write and for helping me see that maybe I can actually write fiction. And thank you for keeping me sane.
Thank you, Draco Malfoy for being my inspiration.
I own nothing.
Await the epilogue!
"Do you really have to do this?"
Draco Malfoy's voice was quiet, and his tone defeated.
Hermione looked up at him from the edge of the bed on which she was sitting.
Next to her was a trunk filled to the brim with clothes, books and other mementoes from Hermione Granger's life as a witch in the wizarding world.
"Yes Draco, I really do" she said gently, staring into grey eyes that were particularly stormy this morning.
It was now a month and a half since the events at Malfoy Manor.
The bright light from the exploding amulet had drawn both aurors and masters to the cave, which Draco had later found out was at the base of the fountain.
Lucille Malfoy had blown a hole through the foundation of the dais surrounding the fountain as she had believed that the site of ancient magic was at that particular location.
During the five or so minutes that it had taken Harry and his team to get there, Lucille had tortured Draco almost to the point of insanity, although he had been unconscious at the time. Draco had immediately been placed under a magically induced coma to ward off the after effects of prolonged exposure to the Crutiatus. It had taken two weeks for a team of medi-wizards to bring him out of this magically induced coma and then another week of treatment to bring him back to normalcy.
Lucille had been captured and sentenced to life in a French wizarding prison.
Harry had reported that she had remained defiant until the end, accepting her sentence with her head held high. Draco and Hermione had not made it to her trial, which had lasted only a few days. The team had been represented by Harry, Ron, Theo and Blaise, along with Shaklebolt and Robbards.
The French minister had been aghast at discovering that the perpetrator of such heinous crimes had been a French citizen. Also, that she had been operating under his nose for a matter of years without anyone knowing.
At the moment, Draco was alright except for occasional tremors of the extremities and the need for regular doses of potions to ward off the after-effects of the Crutiatus. He was still limping and using a cane, but he had rather gotten used to that. His healers had assured him that with time and the proper medication, he would regain full use of his leg, a diagnosis that Draco was fully satisfied with.
Unfortunately, Hermione had not gotten off so lightly.
After a maelstorm of local and foreign medi-wizards had spent considerable time healing her of her various injuries, they had discovered to their dismay and abject horror that Hermione Granger no longer had any trace of magic on her.
They and all of Hermione's friends and family had tried in vain to keep this information from her for as long as they could, but she had known. From the moment that Hermione had regained consciousness, she had realised that something was wrong. It had felt almost like a limb had stopped working.
Something was missing, leaving a gaping hole at the centre of her being.
She had spent close to the same amount of time as Draco at St. Mungos undergoing tests and diagnostics but to no avail. She could no longer perform even the most basic of magic.
After a long and harrowing process of denial, anger, grief and finally grudging acceptance, Hermione had left the hospital despondent and utterly defeated.
During those weeks, her room at St. Mungos had been filled to the brim with people. Almost everyone she had known throughout her life came to visit and sit at her bedside. Harry and Ron almost never left her side except at night. They took turns forcing her to eat, administering her potions and holding her as she screamed and railed against the injustice that had been done to her.
Harry and Ron were mostly silent through the worst of her ordeal, as if they couldn't even begin to fathom a Hermione without her magic. Even later, their words were soft, gentle, as if they were afraid she would break.
The others all said the same things to her; "You're Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of our age, you can shake this off", "Concentrate on the victory, you should be proud of what you've achieved", "Don't worry, it will be alright", "You'll always be a witch".
She knew those words were supposed to be comforting or at the very least, distracting. But she didn't see it as such. They didn't know. No one knew. They still had their magic.
She knew that Neville was hard at work attempting to develop a potion for her that might possibly work. He came in sparingly, always with words of encouragement. Hermione loved him for the effort he was making. But in her heart, she knew that his potion wouldn't make much of a difference to her condition.
The only person who didn't say anything, the only one who seemed to even have an inkling that they could never ever understand what she was going through was Draco Malfoy.
He had hobbled into her room almost at the same time every night, after visiting hours were over, after his own ongoing treatment was over, and had sat next to her bed in silence, not saying a word.
At the beginning, she hadn't spoken either. She had just stared at the ceiling, taking in his presence.
After a while, he had gotten up and left.
After a few days, she began to speak. And she talked and talked and talked without stopping.
She spoke about her childhood, her parents, about Harry and Ron and Dumbledore. About Viktor Krum, Cormac McLaggen and Stewart. About her work, her research, and her reading. About her mistakes and faults and regrets. By the end of the week, she no longer had anything left to say. He had just listened.
And then the tears began.
Once Hermione had begun to realise that she might never do magic again, she couldn't stop crying.
He had listened, staring at her impassively for the longest time. She was beginning to think that perhaps he didn't really care when one night he had gotten up off his chair, scooped her off the bed and sat down with her huddled on his lap.
And still she had cried, shaking with grief, soaking his black robes.
He hadn't said any inanities, hadn't asked her to stop crying. He had just stayed and absorbed it all in. Whereas her friends couldn't bear to see her tears, Draco had taken it all in without wavering.
Finally, Hermione had no more tears left.
By the time she left the hospital, she had already resigned herself to her fate.
To all of it.
So, when Draco had turned up at her apartment that night that she had come home from the hospital, she had smiled sadly and let him in.
The following three weeks, they had spent almost every night together. Some nights in complete silence, some nights talking until the first light of dawn shone in through the windows.
Hermione didn't know what this was that they had, and they hadn't spoken about it ever. It just was.
And sometimes, in the dead of the night, when she lay awake and watched him sleep, hair fallen over his eyes, chest rising and falling gently as he breathed, Hermione realised, it was alright.
She didn't need to know.
She no longer needed to reconcile the two Draco's in her head; the horrible bully at school with the quiet man reading a book in her apartment. She had been through too much to deny herself the little joys the he brought.
It wasn't as if she erased and ignored his past discretions. They spoke at length about the war, about his parents and about warring ideologies that had left them on opposite sides of a battle.
He was growing as was she. And she accepted that and decided to let it rest.
But, she couldn't shake the feeling that something enormous had shifted inside of her. She felt like an entire vista had opened up before her, a vista that she had never even bothered to look at, a vista in which she wasn't a witch.
She needed to discover what that meant.
For the first time in the life that she remembered, she didn't have her magic and she yearned to find out what that made her. She yearned to discover the world without her magic, to find out who she was, if she wasn't a witch.
So, after much deliberation, internal debate and silent tears, she had decided, with a heavy and yet anticipatory heart, to leave the wizarding world for a year.
The medi-wizards at St. Mungos had said that they could test her again tentatively within a year to see if she had regained any of her magic but that testing before that would be futile. They had also advised her against trying to perform any magic till then for fear of the toll it might take on her health.
Even without her magic, she was still Hermione Granger. She didn't want to sit idly for a year, waiting for something that quite frankly, may never materialise.
Shaklebolt and Robbards had of course offered her, her job back, upgraded as head of research at the Auror department, Shaklebolt stating in writing that the status of her magic would have no bearing on the position.
Hermione had been truly honoured by his offer and humbled by the faith he had placed in her abilities. But, she never even toyed with the idea of accepting. It wasn't right, and she couldn't wrap her head around being at work in her state. She had politely but firmly refused, despite Shaklebolt's apparent sadness at her decision.
Harry and Ron had railed against her decision, going so far as to threaten to lock her up in her apartment to keep her from leaving. But after countless arguments, sullen silences and long patient conversations, she had finally convinced them that this was something she had to do.
She had spent the whole of last night at Grimmauld place saying her goodbyes. She loved her friends and knew without a doubt that any of them would do anything for her. She also knew that there was a good chance that had she asked, Harry and Ron would have come with her. She felt that they were half excepting her to ask.
But she couldn't do that. And she didn't want to.
She needed to do this alone. For the first time, she needed to be just Hermione and not part of the Golden Trio.
Draco had not said a word when she had told him what she was going to do.
He had started going back to work little by little and that day, he had gone out on his first field mission and had come back with some colour on his face. That colour had drained when Hermione had told him what she was going to do but he said nothing. Only nodded slowly and fixed her with his steely stare, as if he understood.
Since then he had helped her with arrangements, shutting up her apartment, packing and handling her correspondence.
He now stood, with one arm on the mantlepiece above the fireplace in her bedroom, one hand clutching his cane, looking at her morosely.
"You can stay here" he said "you don't have to work, you can do research and study. I can take you to Vercloft, if you want to work with him" he shifted slightly as he spoke.
"Work how Draco?" Hermione asked quietly, looking back down at her trunk, not really expecting an answer.
"I can go with you" he tried again after a moment "We can go to Egypt, Azzalaudin's museum".
"We will. Someday. I promise" Hermione replied, "You know why I have to do this".
"Explain to me again Granger" Draco sighed.
Hermione was silent for a moment.
"I need to find out who I am Draco, apart from being a witch".
"But you are a witch. That will never change" Draco said shifting again.
"Perhaps. But I spent the last so many years of my life becoming the best witch I could be. I guess I never really tried becoming the best person I could be; Hermione the person not Hermione the witch" she replied, a distant look in her eyes.
"It will come back" he said fiercely, with a conviction that Hermione didn't feel but couldn't challenge.
"It will" she whispered back, passing a hand over her smooth, scar free forearm.
It had taken Hermione a while to realise that she no longer had the scar that Bellatrix had given her. It had gone with her magic, no longer having anything in her blood to react to.
Hermione was thus, no longer a mudblood.
But then again, she also knew that she would proudly bear her scar if it meant that she could have her magic again. She would never cover it up with sleeves again.
A fatigue settled in her bones despite the fact that it was still early morning and she had only woken up all of an hour ago.
Ever since she had lost her magic, it seemed as if she was perpetually tired. Her healers had warned her that she would not have her usual levels of energy without the magic in her blood. It still frustrated her to no end though.
Once being so full of life, she now felt like she had the energy of an eighty-year-old woman.
With a wave of his brand-new wand, Draco closed and locked Hermione's trunk, pushing away from the mantlepiece with a quiet sigh and leaning heavily on his cane.
With one last look around her bedroom, Hermione stood up and walked over to Draco. Without waiting for her to reach him however, Draco turned around and began dragging the trunk to the cab waiting outside.
Hermione stood in the doorway to her bedroom and watched Draco through the window, struggle with the trunk out the door. Although he had used magic to enlarge the inside of the trunk and make it relatively weightless despite the number of things it held, Hermione knew that dragging the trunk was difficult for Draco because of his leg.
She smiled to herself marvelling at the blond aristocrat huffing and puffing as he physically hauled the trunk into the boot of the muggle cab.
And then he was limping back to her.
Hermione waited until he was standing right in front of her, looking down at her to reach up to his face.
She pushed back his hair and looked into his eyes, pressing her palm into the side of his face.
Draco closed his eyes and leaned into her palm.
"Don't" Hermione rushed to stop him.
Whatever he had to say, he could say when she got back.
Draco sighed and leaned down, pressing his forehead against hers.
They stood like that for some minutes until she stepped back.
And then with a slow sad smile,
Hermione was gone.