Author's Note: The end has arrived, friends, and it's very bittersweet. This story has been so much fun, and you have all made it so worthwhile, with your kind words and your follows and favourites - your support has made this story more than I ever thought it would be. I'm truly sad to see it come to an end. Thank you to everyone who has followed this story from the early stages when I just wanted to write a time travel fic that I didn't think anyone would read, and those who are still yet to read it :)
A huge thanks to La Belladone x and Kyonomiko for being rockstar fandom friends, always willing to talk through ideas or look over my writing, and for being so lovely and encouraging when I've struggled. Love you both!
I'm not certain what'll be coming next, but I always have lots of one-shots and fest pieces on the go, and I have a handful of WIPs that will compete for the spot of my next story. So if you're interested in reading more, be sure to follow me :)
Thanks for reading xo
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Hermione set down her quill, feeling a slow smile spread across her face. She met Draco's eyes across the quiet hall; he was already finished, leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head. He offered her a slow, sultry smirk in return.
Hermione averted her gaze briefly, feeling an indecent flush creep to her cheeks, even as a rush of pure, unadulterated relief swept through her. She could scarcely believe that after so many years, after the countless hours of lessons and schoolwork and exams – this was it. She was finished her magical education at Hogwarts.
They would remain for two days, before the Hogwarts Express would take them back to London for the final time.
Draco's eyes sparkled as he bit down on his lower lip, gazing at her; Hermione felt a delicious clench build in her core.
Hermione shifted in her seat as she gathered her papers and supplies, her hands trembling as she felt Draco's gaze linger.
The scratching of quills brought her back to the present as he lazily collected his things as well and met her at the front of the room to hand in their last exams, Transfiguration.
But Draco offered her a genuine smile as he slipped his hand in hers, walking her from the quiet hall.
"Congratulations," he murmured, meeting her gaze once they were in the corridor. "How does it feel, knowing you've completed your NEWTs?"
"I feel oddly light," Hermione mused. "It really does feel great. And I've decided, I'm not going to stress out about the results, because whatever happens, I've done my best."
"Right," Draco agreed. "Good luck with that. Even though you and I both know you've earned all Outstandings, I suspect I'll be hearing about it often."
"Don't!" Hermione hissed, as if his words could prevent it from being so.
"Now you know how I felt when you said I was going to get an O on my Potions NEWT," Draco teased. "Now, no more talk of NEWTs. Ever. There's no way the Ministry is going to deny you, even if you happen to miss one."
"You're probably right," Hermione said, offering him a half-hearted smile. The more she thought of the Ministry – and the position she was hoping for in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures – the more she thought of the fact that Draco would be pursuing his Potions mastery abroad.
And Hermione would be in London, where she would presumably move into the house where she had grown up with her parents – parents who lived in Australia and didn't remember her.
Most likely pushing papers in a cubicle as a low-level Ministry drone for a number of years before she reached a position where she could have any significant influence.
"Any update on the mastery decision?" Hermione asked, doing her best to be supportive. She really was happy for him. It was just going to be a long two years apart.
"I've narrowed it down to two," Draco murmured absently, glancing to her as his hand tightened around hers. "I've owled the masters in Madrid and Budapest some supplementary questions and will decide once I've heard back. Either program wouldn't start until September so there's time."
"Of course," Hermione said, nodding. "And I'm arranging for the fireplace in my parents' house to be connected to the Floo network once we return to England. So… whichever you choose."
"Right," Draco said, and his smile faltered. "Good."
Draco stopped and ran a hand up Hermione's arm. She turned to him, chewing her lip.
"We'll make it work," he murmured quietly, his tone and expression earnest. "No matter what happens, I can't imagine my life without you."
"Neither can I, Draco," Hermione said honestly. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish you had been offered a mastery closer to home."
"I know," he said shortly, glancing at the floor. "I wish that had been the case as well." He met her eyes again, smirking. "But in the scheme of the rest of our lives together, what's two years?"
"I suppose you're right," Hermione replied, though his comment did little to alleviate the sadness in his eyes, the sadness that she felt as well, deep within her. "You're right – we'll just make it work."
"Hermione," Draco said, running a hand through his hair. "I know we've beat the subject to death, but I just wanted you to know that… if you don't want me to go..." he trailed off, making a face.
"Of course, Draco," Hermione said quietly. "Of course I want you to go. This is your dream, and it's a great opportunity. I want you to do this for yourself, for your own future."
"You're my future," Draco breathed. "And if being apart for two years is going to jeopardize that –"
"It won't," Hermione cut in sharply, forcing a smile, even as her heart thundered and swelled at his words. "Now, come on. We've got to find Helena and Waldo."
"Right," Draco grimaced. "Hard to believe they're actually going. After everything that's happened this year, I guess I've just grown used to them being around. Even if the goal was to set them free."
"And we have helped them," Hermione said with a sad smile. "It's their time to go. But I'll miss them something terrible."
"Theo insisted on coming to see them off," Draco mused as they continued walking. "Then Blaise got annoyed, saying he missed seeing Ravenclaw, and that he wasn't going to miss saying goodbye to the ghosts."
"Does Blaise know the ghosts?" Hermione asked, turning to Draco with surprise.
"Not at all," Draco said easily. "But he felt so left out last time that he's insisting. I think it's the principle of the matter."
"Fine," Hermione said, amused. Draco's two best mates made her laugh far more than she ever would have expected from the pair of Slytherins. "We'll wait until they're finished, and then we'll find Waldo and Helena."
They didn't have to wait long, as both Theo and Blaise left the Great Hall shortly, jostling each other as they walked.
"Can you believe we're done?" Theo asked, shoving his hands in his pockets. "It feels anti-climactic, somehow."
"No, it feels incredible," Blaise retorted, raising a dark brow.
"I know what you mean," Hermione said, glancing at Theo. "Like there was so much build-up, for so many years. And now we're just… done."
Theo offered her a smile. "Where are the ghosts?"
"We have to find them," Draco said. "Waldo asked if I could activate the portal, so they could go from there. For Helena, I think, as a connection with her mother. But no luck. I guess when Rowena's spirit was untethered from the magic of the altar, it rendered the portal obsolete. We can't even get the passageway to reveal itself anymore."
"For the best, I suppose," Hermione said, clutching her books to her chest. "So no one accidentally stumbles upon it, or anything. And sort of fitting, that with Ravenclaw's end, so too ended the portal."
"Right," Blaise murmured, looking disgruntled at the thought. "So where is this momentous farewell to occur then?"
As it turned out, Waldo and Helena were lingering in an old, dingy classroom in the dungeons.
Helena's eyes were already shining as the four students walked into the room, but she smiled as they entered.
"Hermione, Draco," Helena murmured. "My dear friends. And – Theo, isn't it? And –" Helena looked distraught.
"Blaise," the Slytherin said, offering his hand with a grin and Helena reached out to shake it, her hand passing through his.
"Blaise," Helena repeated, smiling again. "It is always nice to meet friends of Hermione and Draco."
Waldo drifted forward, gruffly clapping each of the males on the shoulder, swiping through them. Then he turned to Hermione, and floated his hand gently above her shoulder as well for a moment, before returning to his place beside Helena.
"Thank you for coming to see us off," Helena said demurely, her gaze lingering on Hermione.
"We will miss you dearly," Hermione said, her brows knitting together and Helena nodded quickly. "But we are so happy to see you find the peace, which we have longed for you to reach."
"And we have," Waldo said, nodding. He was frowning, as if to keep from becoming too emotional. "You have been wonderful friends to us, not only in life but in death, and we can never thank you enough."
Helena sniffled beside him and Hermione reached for the ghost's translucent hand.
"Waldo," Draco broke in, looking around them. "Why this room? I thought you wanted to depart from somewhere significant."
"Ah," Waldo murmured, glancing to Helena, whose lips curved into a smile. "This room is significant to us. You see, Helena and I liked to spend time here when we were students. It's where – well, Audrey –"
"Got it," Draco said, holding up a hand. Hermione suspected if Waldo could blush, he would have.
"So what will happen with the ghosts now?" Theo asked, looking thoughtful. "If both Slytherin and Ravenclaw lose their ghosts, will you be replaced?"
"The ghost council has discussed it at length," Helena said, her expression quite serious. The four students exchanged a bemused glance. "It is not a common occurrence for us to pass over; typically our numbers grow rather than shrink. But each house must have a ghost. Interim ghosts have been selected until such a time as the ghost council can arrange a vote. Ghosts vying for the positions will be given an opportunity to present their case prior to the vote. Being a house ghost is a prestigious position, you see, and we have so little excitement in our existences."
If Helena hadn't explained the droll situation with such matter-of-fact sincerity, Hermione might have burst out laughing. Even so, Blaise's lips twitched.
"What about Peeves? Waldo was always the only one who could control him," Hermione mused. "I suppose he will see Hogwarts as his own personal playground now. Rather, more so than usual."
"Peeves is harmless," Waldo said, lifting a dismissive hand. "Though now that I am leaving, I will share with you the reason Peeves has always feared me and you may share the information as required." He grinned, pausing for effect. "I spent many years learning Peeves' weakness, and here it is: the colour pink."
"Pink?" Draco asked, bewildered. "What do you mean, the colour pink?"
"I mean exactly that," Waldo said plainly. "You need simply threaten to turn his outfit pink, or put something pink in his path – and he will do exactly as you say."
"I find it hard to believe it's that simple," Hermione said, frowning, "although I suppose he really did hate Umbridge."
Beside her Draco snorted in amusement.
"So how did you convince him you could do that without a wand?" Draco asked, one eyebrow raised.
"It was not difficult," Waldo said with a shrug. "I told him I had wandless magic that carried over in death and he has been too blinded by his terror to test me for so many years."
"That's brilliant," Blaise said, chuckling.
"Hermione," Helena said, drifting over. Hermione turned to her friend, chewing her lip. "Thank you for being my friend. I am honoured to know it is you that will carry our line forward. I won't forget you."
"And neither will I forget you," Hermione replied, feeling her vision grow blurry. She glanced to Waldo. "Neither of you. I am so grateful for the experiences we've had this year, getting to know you both."
Draco nodded beside her, clapping a hand through Waldo's shoulder. Waldo blinked, frowning.
"It grows more difficult for us to linger," Waldo announced suddenly. "Though we would like to stay, we must now travel on to our next adventure."
"Okay," Hermione nodded, swiping at her eyes as Helena's embrace went through her, chilling her skin as she attempted to wrap her hands around the ghost. She breathed into the side of Helena's translucent head, "I'll miss you."
"Forever," Helena breathed in return as she drew back. Waldo was quietly talking with the three Slytherins as Hermione stepped back alongside Draco.
"Don't forget us," Waldo said with a wry grin.
"We never will," Draco said with a half-hearted smirk. "May you end up where you need to be, and together."
"We choose to have faith," Helena said with a sad smile as she melted into Waldo's embrace.
Hermione felt Draco's hand slip into hers, his fingers entwining with hers easily.
"Goodbye," Hermione whispered, the tears welling in her eyes threatening to spill over. Draco tugged her closer still and she leaned into his warm strength.
Blaise and Theo stood side by side, their expressions stoic as they murmured their goodbyes to the ghosts as well.
Waldo pressed a kiss to Helena's temple, pale tears flowing down her face, and the two waved as they slowly faded away, their smiling faces growing faint until nothing remained.
Hermione choked on a sob as she buried her face in Draco's chest; his expression was lost and mournful as he ran a hand over her curls. A heavy, despairing silence hung over the room as the four students said their last private goodbyes.
Hermione and Draco both looked up at a sudden intake of breath from Theo.
"Look at that," he breathed, his eyes fixed on a nearby table.
There, materializing from thin air, was an elegant gilded frame, inlaid with carved flowers. Mounted within the frame was a large tree, its boughs reaching for the bright sky and glistening with silver. Two figures lingered in the distance, hand in hand, walking away.
One of the figures, the female, turned and waved and Hermione's heart skipped with recognition. She picked up the frame, staring closely at the pair as they vanished further into the distance.
"Draco," Hermione murmured, tracing her fingers along the magical painting of the tree. "This tree."
"I know," he replied, gently touching the frame of the portrait. "It looks like Helena and Waldo gave you a parting gift."
"Do you suppose they'll be here? Sometimes?" she asked quietly and they all exchanged a long glance.
"Probably," Theo said, breaking the silence. "It won't be them, of course, not how you'll remember them. But a shadow version of them. They're your ancestors, no matter how far back, so it only makes sense that you'll have their portrait."
Hermione sniffled and nodded, clutching the portrait close to her chest. Draco ran a hand along her spine and she turned to him with a watery smile. "Then I'll always cherish it."
The students stood in silence once more, looking around the dusty, unused room.
"Now what?" Blaise asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Hogsmeade is open," Theo suggested. "A Butterbeer in their honour?"
Hermione nodded gently. "That sounds perfect."
Hermione looked up from her book as Draco approached her spot in the courtyard. He smiled, taking a seat beside her beneath her new favourite tree.
"I should have known you'd be here," he murmured, leaning back against the thick trunk and resting his eyes.
"Yes, you should've," Hermione agreed teasingly, her eyes flickered up to the wide branches, the green leaves sparkling with a glow of bright silver. "It makes me feel closer to her, I suppose."
"I noticed you didn't explain your theory on why this tree suddenly grew in the courtyard in your article," Draco mused.
"No," Hermione said, smiling. "I didn't think that was for everyone to know."
Indeed, the tree had sprung up to its full height the day after Rowena had departed from Hogwarts, her magical core dispersing into the air and beyond, near where the passageway into the portal had appeared.
"I think you're right," Draco said, absently picking at the grass beneath him. "It was important for the wizarding world to know the truth, about Rowena, and about Helena and Waldo. But most of it – no one would understand."
"Certainly not," Hermione said, sliding her hand into his. "Though if the reactions to the truth about my heritage at Hogwarts alone have been anything to go by, I'll not want to visit Diagon Alley anytime soon."
"You're tough," Draco teased. "And to be fair, you had to expect all the questions."
"I did," Hermione smiled. "It doesn't mean I want to answer the same ones a million times."
Draco grinned and swooped in, catching her with a kiss, pressing her back against the trunk of the tree. Surprised, Hermione instinctively kissed him back, drawing him closer. Draco swung a leg over hers, straddling her as he deepened the kiss, his tongue meeting hers with fervour.
"You're in a good mood," Hermione breathed, looking around the courtyard as he abruptly pulled back again.
"I've received an owl," he said, a beguiling smile drifting to his lips, "and I wanted to talk to you about it."
"Of course," Hermione said, absently fidgeting with his shirt collar. "Who from?"
"It's from Señor Herrero, the Potions Master in Madrid," Draco explained, pausing. "Now, I know you're keen on the Ministry, but hear me out. When I explained my hesitancy to pursue a mastery abroad, he suggested an idea."
Hermione's brow furrowed as she stared at Draco; he looked oddly nervous, even as his grey eyes sparkled.
"I know it isn't strictly policy, and it isn't what you'd be doing in London, but Señor Herrero mentioned the griffin sanctuary outside of Avila is looking for some sort of sanctuary protection coordinator. It would be more hands on, and you'd presumably be able to make a lot of contacts in the world of creature regulation and protection." Draco hesitated, running a hand through his hair as Hermione gaped at him.
"The griffin sanctuary?" Hermione breathed. "I've always wanted to visit there. It's the last place where griffins are protected and able to live freely." She stared at Draco, her brows knitting together. "You looked into this for me?"
"I just thought…" he trailed off, pursing his lips. "If you maybe had an option in Spain… but I know you've already arranged interviews at the Ministry in England, so I don't want you to think I'm pushing."
"No, I don't think you're pushing," Hermione said distractedly, shaking her head as she thought through the idea.
"And," Draco murmured, eyes wide."Avila is within Apparating distance of Madrid. So we could maybe get a flat or something. Together."
"A flat," Hermione murmured, meeting his eyes. The thought of going with Draco, to Spain, was both terrifying and exhilarating. "Together." She smiled, gazing at him. "You want to go to Spain because of what I said about your pale skin, don't you?"
"It's a factor," Draco said stiffly. "But I've gotten on best with Herrero, and I think it's the best fit for my mastery. Absolutely no pressure, but I've begun arrangements to go to Madrid and meet him once we leave Hogwarts. If you want, come as well and we can visit the sanctuary?"
"Yes," Hermione nodded. "I'd love to. Draco, I've always wanted to work with the Ministry, but I know the limitations I'll face, and the years it'll take to reach a position of influence." She felt a smile grow across her face. "Working somewhere like the sanctuary will actually give me a purpose in working with creatures and their rights."
She met his eyes, and he gave her a genuine smile. She tilted her head. "And I rather think I might like to live in Spain with you."
"I love you so much," Draco breathed, his eyes shining with happiness.
"Not more than I love you," Hermione whispered. "Draco, I trust you. I think I would follow you anywhere."
"I don't know what I did to deserve you," he murmured, smiling wryly. "But I'm so thankful for it."
"I think you don't even realize the person you've become," Hermione said, holding his gaze, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You're my everything, Draco."
"And you're mine," he said, pressing a lingering kiss to her lips. He leaned back. "Have you packed your things? The train is due to leave Hogsmeade station soon."
"Of course," Hermione breathed, patting a pocket where her shrunken possessions were stowed. The smile slipped from her face as she looked around the courtyard once more. "I can hardly believe this is the end."
"Faith, my dearest Hermione, remember?" Draco murmured, nudging her shoulder. "This is only the end of this piece of the story." He leaned back against the tree, turning his head to face her, his eyes roving the planes of her face. "The rest of our adventure together? It's about to begin."