EPILOGUE

The young woman swallowed heavily and licked her lips, setting her mug down on the table, having just drunk her Butterbeer at the pub she was in. She sighed and ran a quivering gloved hand through her short, brown hair, looking out the door again. She was only twenty-seven, but her hands were shaky, her clothes were unkempt, her cheeks were sagging a bit, her eyes had dark circles underneath them, and her locks had a few strands of already graying hair. She knew her stress was weighing her down, being a single mother, raising her ten-year-old son and having to work nonstop at the Ministry every day for her living. But still, she didn't want to give up on her life; she wasn't exactly living luxuriously, but she wasn't eating off scraps either. Besides, she still had her friends, and her son was happy. And to her, that was enough.

The young woman checked her watch again, and this time, when she looked out the door at the snow falling softly on the Hogsmeade grounds, she saw a female figure with a young boy in hand, walking towards the pub she was in. When the door to the Three Broomsticks finally opened, she was relieved to see her friend standing in the doorway, smiling at her.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Hermione," the friend said, removing her snow-covered coat as she stepped closer to the woman, and letting the boy run to the woman. "Dean was fussing over our consumption of Floo Powder again."

"It's okay, Ginny," Hermione said, as the boy ran towards her. Hermione bent down to hug the boy and said, "How was the vacation with Aunt Ginny and Uncle Dean, Drake?"

"It was awesome, Mam!!!" Drake squealed as Ginny took a seat across from Hermione. "We met with Uncle Ron and Uncle Harry there, and then Auntie Cho came with Mei! I played with Mei all day, Mam!!! She's so pretty…"

Hermione chuckled and winked at Ginny. "Looks like my son's going to marry Harry's daughter someday…"

"If that's the case, then you and Harry will somehow finally be related by blood. Imagine being related to The Boy Who Lived…you'll be part of Harry's long-lost family! Such an honor…" Ginny laughed.

"Yeah, right," Hermione grinned and turned to Drake again. "Now Drake, I want you to go on upstairs to the room I rented for us and get some rest, okay? I'll just have a few words with your Auntie here, and then I'll be right up." She gave the boy a room key. "Our room is 209."

"Okay, Mam," Drake took the keys and smiled at Ginny. "See you, Auntie!" And he made a beeline for the stairs.

"You know," Ginny said, watching Drake bound up to the second floor, "it's a good thing they renovated the upper part of this pub into an inn, or you would have to travel all the way back to your home in the Muggle city before you can get some shut-eye every time Drake comes with us on vacation." She looked back at Hermione as soon as Drake was out of sight. "Why don't you just come with us next year? You can afford to skip work for the holidays for once, you know…"

"Come now, Ginny; you know I can't do that. I need all the payment I can get." Hermione took another drink from her mug.

Ginny watched her in silence for a while, as if debating on something she'd obviously been thinking about on her way here. Then, with a tremendous sigh, she said lowly, "I hope you know, Hermione, that nothing is coincidence; everything happens according to fate."

Hermione eyed her curiously over the rim of her mug.

"That incident during your seventh year at Hogwarts…when Harry told us he found Godric's letter inside the bag he was supposed to Transfigure…it was no coincidence that Godric's bag was assigned to him. It was meant to be; it was meant for him to find the letter," said Ginny seriously.

Hermione put down her mug. "Why are you bringing this up all of a sudden?"

It was then that Ginny reached into her pocket and brought out a silver locket that Hermione knew so well. She placed it carefully in the middle of the table, as Hermione's eyes widened in shock.

"Malfoy left that year and gave us this locket, telling us to take care of you," Ginny confided. "There were a lot of things that Harry told me Malfoy said that year, and I hope you know that he was meant to leave for a reason."

Hermione was still staring at the locket in utter shock. "H-how did you get…?"

"I've been having these weird naggings in me…like something is tugging at my conscience to return this locket to you today…so I guess now the time is right for you to have this…to finally know everything you've been searching for…to finally answer all your questions…to finally know the truth." Ginny sighed. "I'm really sorry that we kept this from you for ten years, Hermione…"

Hermione swallowed heavily, and the two of them stayed in complete silence for a while, before Hermione finally looked up from the locket and into Ginny's eyes. And to Ginny's surprise, Hermione's eyes were now glistening with tears…not of joy, not of confusion…but of fear.

She was afraid to know the truth.

"Ginny, I…I'm not sure I want to know everything anymore…I'm happy the way things are…I'm scared that whatever I'll find out might change everything…"

"Hermione, you loved Malfoy, so much, with all your heart. And I've stood by you, watching you get over him a little bit day by day." Ginny reached out to squeeze Hermione's hand. "I've been beside you long enough to know that you don't want your love for him to completely fade away, and up until now, you still don't. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life not knowing what might have been…? Is he really not worth knowing the truth about…?"

Hermione looked down uncertainly, and Ginny smiled. "Be strong, Hermione. You've spent ten years waiting to know the real reason Malfoy left you that year. You've waited long enough."

And finally, after a few more moments of silence, Hermione looked up and smiled. Ginny gave her hand another squeeze and stood up. "I'll be going now; Dean's probably having a fit already." Hermione chuckled at this. "Until next time."

Hermione nodded. "Until next time."

And as she watched Ginny leave the pub, she found the nervous sensation at the pit of her stomach that had formed when Ginny had shown her the locket go away. She took the locket, clasped it firmly in her hand, and made her way up the stairs to join her son.

She was just about to enter Room 209, when the conversation from the neighboring room caught her attention.

"So it's true, then? The Death Eaters? It wasn't just a legend?"

"No, of course not, little one. Everything about the once powerful Dark Lord is true."

"Wow!"

Hermione's eyes widened and she found herself stepping closer to the door of the room, which was slightly opened ajar.

"My Mam always told me it was all just a fairytale told to scare children from going off alone."

It was Drake!

Hermione immediately put her hand on the doorknob to step inside the room, when the man her son was talking to chuckled and said, "Do you want to see it? Do you want to see the Dark Mark?"

That was when Hermione burst the door open, staring at the scene in front of her in fear. Her son was sitting on a chair across a small round table from where a hooded man in black robes was sitting, and from the looks of it, the two of them seemed to have been enjoying the conversation.

Hermione swallowed heavily, eyeing the hooded man in apprehension. She tried to hide the quiver in her tone when she said, "Forgive me for barging into your room, sir. I'd like to apologize if my son caused you any trouble." She turned to Drake and said sharply, "Come along now, Drake, leave the man alone to rest in his room…"

"But Mam!" Drake whined. "He was going to show me the Dark Mark!"

That's precisely why I want you to leave, Hermione walked towards him and grabbed his little arm. "We're leaving, Drake. You've bothered this man enough." And she dragged her wailing son to the door.

The hooded man rose up from his seat and said calmly, "Excuse me, ma'am…but your son hasn't proved bothersome at all. He's been a wonderful boy, actually. It's quite alright for him to stay awhile."

Drake exclaimed "Yeah" in an extremely loud voice and Hermione glared at her son. Then, she looked apologetically at the man and said, "It's okay, sir. We're just about to leave, anyways."

"No!!!" Drake broke free from Hermione's grasp, which made her glare at him even more and say, "I said we're leaving and that's it!!! Now go to your room!!!"

This was when Drake pointed an angry finger at his mom and said, "You're just afraid I'll find out the truth about Dad!!! I hate you!!!" And he stormed out the door in tears.

Hermione sighed exasperatedly and rubbed her temple with her fingers. She looked at the man again and apologized profusely.

The man slowly shook his head. "It's not a problem. I'm quite accustomed to mothers telling their children to stay away from me."

Hermione's eyes widened. "I didn't mean—"

"It's okay," the man said, and if his hood weren't covering his face, Hermione could've sworn he'd smiled. "So your son…I take it his father was a Death Eater…?"

Hermione sighed again. "Yes, he was…if he'd been around from the moment Drake was born, he'd see that they have a lot of things in common, my son and him…"

There was an awkward silence in the room for a while, and then the man said, "His father wouldn't happen to be Draco Malfoy, would it…?"

Hermione froze and stared at the man in disbelief. Could he actually know about Malfoy? Did he possibly know where he was…how he was doing…or what had happened to him…? This man was, after all, a Death Eater…

"Y-yes…yes, it would…" She swallowed again. "How did you…?"

"I can see the resemblance in your son. Same hair, same complexion, same attitude…if Drake's eyes weren't brown, I'd say he's exactly like him," the man replied amusedly. "You see, Draco used to work at the same Ministry Division I am in."

"Draco's…working at the Ministry…?"

"Used to," the man gestured to the table. "If you have the time, I'd gladly tell you everything I know about him."

Hermione glanced at the table and then at the doorway, debating on whether to go to her room where her sulking son was, or to sit here with this stranger and know the truth once and for all. She looked down at the locket in her hand, remembering everything Ginny had just said to her about things that were meant to be, and about today being the day she would find all the answers she had been looking for. With a deep breath, she shoved the locket in her pocket and smiled at the man. "Yes, I'd like that very much."

The two of them sat at the table across from each other, and the man began his story.

"Draco left after his seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after the fall of the Dark Lord," said the man. "He joined the Ministry of Magic and signed up to become an Auror. With his exemplary skills and spells and his excellent grades in school, he managed to get accepted right away. He trained hard and worked day and night, risking his life countless times…and after a short span of three years, he'd finally become the leader of his own team of Aurors, the Dark Aurors."

Hermione blinked. "The Dark Aurors?"

"It is now an official branch of the Ministry that deals heavily with Dark magic and anything even graver to do with the once great Dark Lord. The Dark Aurors exceed the Aurors in magical, mental, and physical capability. They thrive on danger and having to face the darkest of cases…in short, they are the Aurors who have nothing to lose," the man explained, leaning his elbows on the table. "They followed Draco boldly to fulfill their mission. If the Aurors, now that the Dark Lord has fallen, are tasked to find all who were still in league with His old Dark ways or the remaining faithful Death Eaters and give them proper sanction, the Dark Aurors are tasked to find the Dark Lord Himself and put an end to him and all his schemes once and for all, annihilating everything to do with Him on their way. The Dark Aurors are cruel, ruthless, and cold; they cut off all ties completely when they signed up to become one. Since Draco himself is a Death Eater, some even say that the Dark Aurors are the remaining faithful Death Eaters themselves, come to find the Dark Lord and revive him. That is why wherever the Dark Aurors go, they are feared; and that is why I told you that I am used to mothers telling their children to stay away from me."

"So…you're a Dark Auror, too...?" Hermione asked, ignoring the dread that was rising through her heart at the prospect of this man in front of her possibly being a faithful Death Eater. "What happened to your leader? To Draco?"

The man ignored her question and went on. "The Dark Aurors searched for the Dark Lord for seven years, believing that the great Harry Potter might have possibly failed to kill Him completely, that day in the Forbidden Forest during Harry Potter's seventh year. But after endless routes that led to Him but were wrong in the end, after countless faithful Death Eaters that were apprehended, after thousands of lives saved from aspiring Dark Lord wannabes, after millions of Dark deeds and Dark ways stopped, in other words, after ridding the world of all possible ties with the Dark Lord and making sure that no more faithful Death Eaters were abound, the Dark Aurors, together with all the Aurors, finally thought that the Dark Lord was truly gone, and the world was now at peace. It was a success, and everyone was rejoicing, but then…"

Hermione held her breath as the man trailed off. She somehow knew what was coming, and if it were true, then she didn't want to hear any more of it. Please, please don't say that Draco got injured badly in one of your battles…please don't say that your leader went on a suicidal mission or anything…please don't say that Draco went on his own and—

"Just when the Dark Aurors thought they could hold a party to congratulate Draco, he suddenly resigned his position and handed over his leadership to the Dark Auror second to his command."

Hermione let out a relieved breath. Oh, thank god… "Why did he decide to leave his team?"

The man tilted his head, and Hermione could almost feel that he was smiling again. "Draco told his Dark Aurors the real reason he joined the Ministry in the first place, and what he knew he was leaving behind when he did. He told the Dark Aurors the story of how he'd told the most difficult lie he'd ever had to tell. It was all for one woman."

Hermione bit her lip, and could not find the strength to speak; it was as if uttering a single word would break the moment, and the truth she was about to hear, dangling right in front of her, would disappear and shatter just like that.

The man slowly rose up and walked to the window, speaking softly now as ever. "Draco wanted to make the world a better and safer place for the one woman he'd ever loved, but the ironic thing was that in order to do this, he'd had to break all contact with that woman…he'd had to tell her that he was no longer in love with her, for her own safety. He'd had to leave her forever…and for ten years, he bore the regret and longing that he still had for her."

He reached up slowly to clutch the upper part of his right arm. "He also dedicated himself to his mission in order to change what has been destined for him…to prove that he was a Death Eater only because of the Dark Mark…and to show her of this struggle, if ever they did see each other again…to prove to her that he would change his fate only for her…"

Hermione blinked, her brows furrowed curiously as she looked at the man's hand on his upper right arm. Something was fast registering into her thoughts, but it couldn't be…it was impossible…

"And so he quit the Ministry, knowing he'd fulfilled his mission, and went on a search to find her," the man went on wistfully. "He was searching for her not because he expected her to take him back, after ten years of being apart…he knew he'd find her in the arms of another more deserving of her, content and happy with her life…which was exactly how he'd wanted it to be. He searched for her night and day, waiting for the day he'd finally find her, if only to see her happiness, even if this happiness was not with him…"

Hermione slowly stood up and walked towards the man, her eyes welling up, as the man continued. "He wanted to have a chance to see how she was doing, and he would live on with his life, and die with a smile on his face, knowing he'd made this world better for her, and that she was now in the hands of someone he knew would take care of her forever…" The man turned to her and she stopped walking, as they were now both face to face. "And so he waited…patiently…for that day to come…"

Hermione licked her quivering lips, looking up at the hooded man as she tried desperately to hold back her tears. "And does Draco…still love this woman…after all these years…?"

The man moved closer to her and whispered, "He always has…and he always will."

And that was when Hermione closed her eyes and parted her lips as the man bent down to kiss her, her tears finally prevailing. She knew the moment their lips touched that her life was suddenly back in place, and that all was right in the world…and that nothing could go wrong again.

Because she was finally in the arms of the one person she knew she belonged to.

She reached up and pushed back his hood, cupping his cheeks as he kissed her deeper and wrapped his arms around her waist. And then, when they finally broke the kiss, Hermione opened her eyes to find Malfoy smiling down at her, still bearing in his eyes all the embers of his love for her that never once faltered. She gazed at his features, at the scar on his left eyebrow probably from one of their missions, at his blond hair still flopping over his forehead. She could see down his collar the scars on his neck that she knew led down to the scars all over his body…a reminder of his Dark past, and yet also a reminder of his love for her, because he'd only gotten the scars because of the Dark Lord's backfired summoning, which only happened because he'd refused to become a Death Eater with the proper last task just for her.

After a while of just staring into each other's eyes, Malfoy said, "Told you I'd catch up with you at the Three Broomsticks."

Hermione smiled. "I told you not to be late."

That was when Malfoy kissed her again, and Hermione realized, as flashes of her past rushed by her…

…the tutoring…the visions…the Quidditch Final…the Forbidden Forest…Harry…Ron…Malfoy leaving…meeting this man at the Three Broomsticks…his son who would soon finally meet his father…the letter…the locket…the lord…

…that everything Ginny had just said was right.

Truly, nothing was coincidence.

end

3:06 PM pure pinoy

December 21, 2004

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S FINALLY FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahaha my uber-long fic is finally done!!! Oh, thank you soooooooooooooooooooo very much to everyone!!!!! God, you guys are incredible. You all stood by be unbelievably well!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks to you, I was able to go on. I really really hope I didn't let any of you down…I hope the ending was satisfactory for everyone!!!!! I'm sorry it took so long to update, but I wanted to post it all at the same time…you know, kind of like a finale. And here it is!!!! The product of your continuing support!!!!! I hope you were all happy with the ending!!!! And I hope everyone understood my plot heheheh . So I guess I'll stop my ranting here!!!! How was my first Harry Potter fic?:D It's so different from all my anime fics!!!! Actually, when I look at my earlier works about anime that I posted here, I can't help but cringe at the AWFULNESS of it all!!! Huhuhu….hope I've improved in this HP fic of mine!!!! ONCE AGAIN, MUCH THANKS TO ONE AND ALL!!!!!! Ito ang gawang pinoy!!! Hahahah :D And if I ever get the strength and time again, I'll write another fic, okay?:D Thanks again and see you all!!!!!!!!!! Til the next fic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HP and JK Rowling rock!!!!!!!! Malfoy, I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FuJinGrL, signing off!