Author's note: I do not own Harry Potter. Comments at the end.

Hands, put your empty hands in mine

And scars, show me all the scars you hide

And hey, if your wings are broken

Please take mine so yours can open too

'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Oh, tears make kaleidoscopes in your eyes

And hurt, I know you're hurting, but so am I

And love, if your wings are broken

Borrow mine so yours can open too

'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through

Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through hell with you

Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we can't find heaven, I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through hell with you

Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you

Yeah, you're all I never knew I needed

And the heart, sometimes it's unclear why it's beating

And love, if your wings are broken

We can brave through those emotions too

'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Oh, truth, I guess truth is what you believe in

And faith, I think faith is helping to reason

No, no, no, love, if your wings are broken

Borrow mine so yours can open too

'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Stand by You - Rachel Platten

Something was drawing him out of one of the most pleasurable dreams he could remember, and he turned his face with a groan, burying it in the mess of curls spread across his pillow. A small smile quirked his lips and a soft chuckle came from his left, causing him to crack one bleary eye open to peek at his witch. Hermione's soft brown eyes sparkled back at him in the early morning sunlight.

"Too early," Draco grumbled causing Hermione's laughter to fill the room once more. Slipping his arm around her waist and pulling her in close, he nuzzled the soft, fragrant skin of her neck with a sigh. He was aware of an agitated tapping filling the space, but he was deadset on ignoring it. "Five more minutes, love?" He used his most cajoling voice, as dread weighed heavily in the pit of his stomach. Classes would begin today. They'd have to face all their schoolmates and their judgement today, and Draco was not eager to leave their cocoon of comfort.

"Negative, sweetheart," Hermione murmured softly, running a hand through his platinum locks. "I need to go get ready, and you need to let in the owl that's glaring at you rather viciously through the window."

Lifting his face and glaring at the evil bird in return, Draco whined as Hermione wiggled out of the cage of his arms. Both of them had been full of nervous energy last night and his witch had looked up at him with those big, doe eyes of hers and whispered that she didn't want to be alone. Draco had searched her eyes for several long moments before nodding and taking her hand in his, led her to his bedroom and settled them both down. They'd shared several long, slow kisses that left them both longing for more, however, they refused to move too fast and risk ruining everything.

Instead, they'd snuggled down in one another's arms and whispered until the moon was high overhead and their eyes simply wouldn't stay open any longer. Draco hoped against hope he could convince Hermione to spend most nights with him, he'd never experienced such a deliriously happy sleep before. Currently, his witch was sliding out of his bed and even though he knew he looked ridiculous, Draco couldn't help the pout that puffed his bottom lip out.

"Evil minx," he chastised with affection. Hermione shook her head at him with a glorious smile and chuckled.

"Get up, Draco! We don't have that much time. Let the owl in. I'll go shower and get ready. Meet me when you're done?" His witch slid her discarded jumper over her threadbare t-shirt before leaning over and pressing her lips to his, slow and sweet.

"Fine," Draco sighed. "But know I only do so because I love you."

Hermione's grin was brilliant and she paused, cupping his cheek. Draco held his breath, desperately hoping this would be it, this would be the moment she returned his feelings. Realistically, he knew it was probably much too early for her to feel the same, but still, he held on to hope.

With a slow sigh, Hermione hummed happily, brushing her thumb over the curve of his lips, "I know." She kissed him once more before skipping out of his room and Draco fell back against his pillows, feeling disappointment burn through his veins. He tamped that selfish emotion down and angrily threw off his blanket and stomped over to the window, opening it with more force than necessary.

The tawny barn owl hooted indignantly, dropping the letter at his feet. The pair stared each other down for a long moment before the owl ruffled its feathers with another hoot, this time sounding more like a reprimand and took back to the skies. Draco ran a hand through his hair, still trying to shake himself out of his melancholy before bending to pick up the letter from the floor. The envelope was blank, causing the pale wizard's brow to furrow.

Tossing it on his bed, Draco decided a quick shower would be needed to shake off his morning fog. His silver eyes stared at the stark white envelope laying innocently against his emerald duvet before he shook his head and grabbed his clothes and school robes before shuffling into the bathroom. Once in the shower, Draco turned it icy for the first minute, shocking his mind awake and clearing the sleep from his brain. Then, turning the water to a near-scalding temperature, Draco hurriedly scrubbed himself clean.

Meeting his eyes in the mirror above the sink, he took a moment to make note of how brilliantly his eyes shined and the almost ever-present upward curve of his lips. It amazed him just how much Hermione's presence had brightened all the aspects of his life. Breathing out a shaky exhale, nearly overwhelmed by all the emotions swirling around in his chest, Draco cast a shaving charm to rid himself of his five o'clock shadow, then moved on to his teeth. With his morning ablutions done, Draco dressed and returned to his bed.

He picked up the innocuous letter and ripped it open, shaking out its contents. His heart immediately froze under his sternum before tripling is pace and Draco's hand shook slightly as he recognized Hermione's handwriting. Sitting heavily on the edge of his bed, the pale wizard picked up the note and swallowed thickly, unsure if he truly wanted to read the words held within. Closing his eyes, Draco conjured the smile she sent him just before leaving his room, cheeky and excited. He'd thought it had to do with classes beginning, which would have been a damn good guess, but maybe…

With a steadying breath, Draco unfolded the parchment and began to read.

My dearest Draco,

I will never forget the way I felt after reading your first letter. A very sad part of me felt healed and washed clean of all the horrible things you ever spat in my direction. The more I considered it, the more I thought it might be as comforting for you to finally receive a reply.

Even if it took an entire lifetime to happen.

I can still picture you as that angry boy. Our past hasn't been erased or significantly altered, but hindsight is always 20/20. Only as I write this, do I realize you may not understand that idiom. 20/20 eyesight is considered perfect vision, so it's a muggle phrase that I'm unsure whether you have any frame of reference for. Do wizards see optometrists? Or is there a specific route of healer training that covers all things eye related? I'm sorry, I've veered off course with my digression.

When I recall those times now, I can see the struggle in your eyes. I can see your mind warring with your heart and for the most part, I just feel sorry for the children we were. Had I even once put myself in your position, walked a mile in your shoes, perhaps I would have tried to extend an olive branch to bridge the divide. I'd love to give your younger self a hug; maybe offer a compassionate and sympathetic ear to listen to your troubles.

It's quite silly, but I often find myself wondering how our lives would have changed if I had. Or, had you been able to deliver your first letter when you wrote it. Where would we be now? Do you think we would have fancied one another sooner? Would we be a solid, long-term couple by now? Could I have helped you before the war? Together, would we have found a way to save your family and keep you from taking the Mark?

Again, I know I'm being completely ridiculous. It doesn't matter. We are where we are and everything happens for a reason, I must believe that, otherwise, I'd go utterly mad. Still, it's fascinating to ponder over what might have been. Maybe nothing would change, and this path we've chosen has been written in the stars and has always been where we were destined to end up. But then again, maybe everything would be different.

Maybe I would have spent all of last year sharing a tent with you, while Ron and Harry slept in another? Maybe we would have been the best of friends before eventually realizing the other was everything we'd been wishing for? I like to imagine there's an alternate reality where that's true. And I hope to make it a reality here with you, if only a little bit backwards. I already count you as one of my closest, nearest, and dearest friends, it wouldn't take much to elevate you another level.

A girl can dream, anyway.

A thing I hate about remembering the past is that I recognize the sad and scared little boy you were is still very much there, hiding behind a very convincing mask most days. I can't tell you how many times my heart has broken while listening to you talk about yourself. The same is true for each of your letters. You have such a warped sense of self, sweetheart.

If only you could see what I do.

You were a child, Draco. When all of this misery began, and through every decision, you made over the course of the past seven years, you were a child. That is the most important thing I beg you to remember and accept. You still carry so much guilt and all of it's negativity with you to this day, love. Every time I see guilt and shame darkening your gorgeous eyes, I feel a physical ache in my chest.

So if you take nothing else away from this letter, I pray it will be this:

You were a child. You were put in an impossible situation. If I were given the same choices you were, I would have chosen to save my family too. You may have done the wrong thing, but sweetheart, you did it for the right reasons.

You were so strong.

You were so brave.

Not only because it was an honorable thing to do, (disregarding your own safety and happiness in exchange for your mother and fathers) but also because the moment that monster fell, you saw the opportunity to change your life, and even though it must have been terrifying and so confusing at times, you took it. Eagerly and happily. I don't care how sentimental and utterly Gryffindor it makes me, I'm so bloody proud of you for it.

That's real courage. That's real strength.

Confronting the things you've always been told to be true and thinking for yourself, opening your eyes and questioning everything you've been taught is such a monumental and cataclysmic paradigm shift. And you've handled it with so much careful grace, it's been a breathtaking and life-altering thing to witness. We wouldn't be where we are today if you hadn't made these choices for yourself. And Draco? I am so thankful you did.

I am overjoyed that we found our way to each other through all the twists and turns, through all the ups and downs. Somehow, someway through all the horror we witnessed, and all the evil we survived, you became mine. You've become my soft place to land. I can't imagine you not here with me any longer. It's painful to try.

Of course, all of this was entirely unexpected, but it's also easily the best thing to ever happen to me. Sometimes I still catch myself staring at you and wondering what alternate reality I've stumbled into - because girl's like me never land guy's like you. I know, I know, I can hear you ranting already. I only say it because it's true.

You're glorious, Draco. You've always been handsome, and you've always known it. But Merlin, you have grown into every sharp angle and curve perfectly, sweetheart. And your eyes. I love your eyes. They're the most curious shade of silverish grey, with the barest hints of blue around the edges and if I stare into them for too long, I lose all common sense. But when you smile, Draco?

I've never seen anything so beautiful before. It changes your whole face and you get these little crinkles around your eyes that soften them tenfold. My heart literally skips a beat or two, each and every time you smile that smile at me. I sound like a lovesick fool, and perhaps I am, but I mean every word of it.

You may not recognize it yourself, but you have one of the gentlest hearts I've ever had the incredible pleasure of knowing on an intimate level. You give all of yourself when you're passionate about something or someone and that has been an incredible discovery for me. I had seen brief glimpses of your passionate nature before, but now I witness that same fervor and flame on a daily basis and it's remarkably attractive. I have some concern that your passionate nature may very well be the death of me one of these days.

You have no idea the effect you have on me. You couldn't possibly know.

I am just so thankful we were granted this chance.

It will be a gift that I treasure all the days of my life. You know how I feel about divination and we can't know what the future has in store for us without it. But I can promise you this:

You will always have a place in my heart, Draco Malfoy.

I could never cast you out of my life completely, not after everything we've overcome. So no matter what we face in the future, whether as lovers or as friends, I promise you we'll face it together. I don't foresee another stealing my heart away from you, and if I were to be totally honest, when I envision the future, you're always there with me. Those might be childish hopes and vivid daydreams but they make me happy.

No one has ever made feel as cherished and adored as you have, Draco. It's mind-boggling in the best way. You feel like a part of me already, a part I hadn't realized I was missing until you were here with me and I felt the difference. You've brought my smile back when I was certain it would be lost forever. You bring me joy, every single day.

In your letters, you apologize again and again and it's imperative you realize and fully understand that I forgive you, Draco. I wholeheartedly forgive you. For all the unkind words, for every tear, for every time you did the opposite of what you felt was right. Even without your letters, if I had the chance to get to know you, it would be blatantly obvious that you are a good man and deserve forgiveness. I don't care if it takes the rest of my life, I will remind you of this fact until you believe it.

You are worthy of forgiveness, love. Just as you are today.

You already have mine.

I have a fervent hope that someday you will be able to look back on your past and see what I see, a strong boy making impossible choices and surviving hell. Maybe then you can forgive yourself. Each time I read through the letters, I'm ill-prepared for the strength of your self-loathing and it's just as painful as the first time, every time. I understand why and certainly sympathize with you, but I can only hope and pray that with time and understanding you'll come to realize your worth on your own.

I can tell you what I think until I'm blue in the face and you're beyond sick of hearing me harp on it, but until you can look back and see that your painful history is what made you into the amazing man you've become and will continue to be - it's all for naught. It's important that you can see yourself properly, with all the wonderful and amazing things I see.

You know what I find the most mysterious of all the letters and stories my older self told me about? The fact that the future version of you never contacted future Hermione following her divorce. I've found myself thinking about that a lot since receiving your letters. I believe it may have come down to self-worth then, as well. You weren't willing to try because you assumed I would spurn your advances.

My heart breaks for that version of you, sweetheart. I imagine you, my Draco, all alone and suffering through year after year and it's enough to steal my breath away.

Already you are so important to me, Draco. Your happiness is paramount to my own. You're incredibly easy to fall for, did you know?

For a man with such an impressive emotional mask, you wear your heart on your sleeve and love freely, openly, and without restraint. Since reading your letters, I have never doubted your love or concern for me. I might believe you need your eyesight checked, but that's the long and short of my disbelief in everything you've shared with me.

I'll admit that I'm scared of how strongly I feel about you. It seems like such a short amount of time to feel something so deeply and profoundly. But I find myself doing so, nonetheless. In a matter of mere months, you've become one of the best aspects of my short life. And most definitely one of the most important.

I've already fallen in love with you, Draco Malfoy.


Not the future version of yourself that lived a solitary existence pining away for a love that never found its chance to flourish.

Not the sad, broken boy who grew into a man between the lines of the parchment he poured his heart into.

You. Just as you are today, reading this missive. Wonderful, kind, compassionate you. The man who makes me smile and laugh when I really don't feel like I can anymore. The man who looks at me like I'm a blessing. A gift. Someone you treasure and cherish unabashedly.

Quite honestly, it's the most freeing feeling, isn't it? Giving yourself over to it, giving in to it? Allowing this all-consuming emotion to fill you up and seep out in the quiet, stolen moments we share. I didn't know love would be like this. I'm honestly not sure it would be with anyone other than you.

I want to believe it's unique to you and me, alone. Maybe that's fantastical thinking, but...I like to think it, regardless.

I know we'll have challenges to face. In fact, that's part of the reason I chose today to finally respond. I know we'll face some backlash; it would be detrimental to expect otherwise. Again, however, I'll remind you that there is nothing we cannot overcome and conquer together.

I fear nothing with you by my side.

So today, any time someone makes you feel like you don't belong, either here at Hogwarts or with me, I want you to remember this. Remember that I love you, for who you are and no one can take that away from you.

Because you earned it.

Every single day, every time you chose to open up instead of shutting me out. Every time you consoled me through my ever-present grief. Every time you proved your words with your actions…

you earned it.

And I love you all the more for it.

Always and with all my love,


His hands were shaking so much by the time he finished, Draco was honestly surprised he could read the last half of her letter. Tears flowed unchecked down his pale cheeks and he couldn't seem to draw in a full breath of air. His chest felt full to bursting, but also tight and almost painful. Blinking fresh tears from his eyes, the pale wizard watched as they fell and stained the parchment still quivering between his hands.

Before he realized what he was doing, Draco was up and out of his bedroom - striding purposefully out of his common room and breaking into a jog as soon as he hit the hall. Sliding around the corner, Draco pushed himself faster, needing desperately to see his witch and make absolutely sure that this wasn't all some terribly cruel joke.

"Initium novum," Draco cried from several feet away, gasping for breath as he crossed her threshold. He skidded to a stop when he spotted the witch in question leaning casually against the wall just inside the door.

"I thought it'd be smart to be waiting for you this time." Her voice was soft but held a teasing lilt to it. Her endless eyes widened as Draco staggered through the few steps separating them and pulled her into a crushing embrace, burying his face in the curls he'd come to love almost as much as the witch they belonged to.

"Please," he begged in a choked whisper. "Please say it?"

Hermione thought briefly about acting as if she didn't know what he meant, but when he uttered another broken 'please' around a sob, she dismissed the idea quickly. Pulling back only a fraction of an inch, the witch waited until he met her eyes once more and offered him an adoring smile.

"I love you, Draco Malfoy."

The words had barely left her lips before Draco's were covering them, and she could taste the salt of his tears on her tongue. He groaned into her mouth, pressing her back against the wall and leaving no space between their bodies. Hermione gripped his muscular shoulders and returned the kiss with equal passion, opening her mouth to allow their tongues to slide and dance together as they fought to get as close as physically possible to the other.

Tears prickled behind her closed lids as Draco's hands delved into her hair, holding her captive in his intoxicating kiss. Lungs burning, the pair broke away to gulp down much-needed air, but his lips didn't leave her. Instead, they peppered kisses all over her face: forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, chin and back to her lips - though this time, the kiss was slower, sweeter and full of so much love and want it made her heart hurt, while her stomach clenched with desire.

"Again," Draco murmured into the kiss.

"I love you, you silly wizard," Hermione chuckled, wrapping her arms around his neck and smiling against his lips.

"Merlin," he gasped and rested his forehead against hers. "I don't think I've ever heard anything more beautiful, Hermione. I swear it."

Once again, her heart thudded painfully in her chest, but the ache was sweet and all-consuming.

"Well, you better get used to. I imagine you'll be hearing it often enough." Hermione's smile was wide and nearly blinding, as she brushed the pale blonde fringe out of his eyes.

"I love you more than I ever thought I was capable of, Hermione. You're everything to me, you know that, right?" Draco's pewter eyes were still cloudy with tears, but they searched the deep, rich brown of her own, seeking affirmation that his witch did indeed understand just how much she meant to him.

"I know," Hermione whispered in response, knocked breathless by the uninhibited emotions swirling in his heavy gaze. "I know, Draco."

"Gods," he choked and crushed her petite form against his chest once more, rocking them slowly side to side. "I've dreamed of this a million times, but they pale in comparison. I never thought this day would come."

"It's here now. And we're in this together, right?" Hermione asked sweetly, cupping his cheeks tenderly and staring up at him with naked love and adoration shining in her eyes.

"Fucking always," He assured.

"Always," she nodded, choking only slightly on the tears clogging her throat.

Draco finally pulled away with a deep sigh and held out his hand, "Breakfast, love?" Hermione wasted no time slipping her hand into his with an emotional smile and nodded.

And as her wizard led them out of her dormitory, hand in hand, Hermione knew no matter what they faced in the future, so long as they were together, they could withstand anything and everything the world threw at them.


Endnotes: That's it. It's done. I'm battling tears. This story has meant so much to me and I seriously cannot thank each of you enough for all the love and encouragement you've all given me over the past several months. I wouldn't have been able to accomplish this milestone without you. Each and every single one of you. I love you guys, so much. And I hope I'll see you when I start posting my new stories. So, so, so much love to you, dear readers. Thank you. xx - otterly

{ETA: So wow, I feel bad for the readers that read this as soon as it was initially posted. It's only roughly an hour later, but after I noticed a couple small errors, I decided to go back into the doc and just make sure there weren't any more. Boy were there! This is what happens when you write in the early hours of the morning and are just so excited and emotional about finishing you don't think to READ THROUGH IT before posting. I apologize. Hopefully, this copy is much better.}