I can't believe we're here. It's absolutely bonkers in my opinion.

Also, the fact that this chapter is somehow 15K? Bonkers.

All my thanks to Graceful Lioness. More notes at the end.


March 2018

When all their dreams had come true, what was supposed to come next?

Hermione thought about that question a great deal in the weeks and months that followed their win in PyeongChang.

She often felt as though she was still ensconced in a dream as she and Draco flew all over the world for interviews, photoshoots, and ad campaigns. For weeks after their victory, Hermione hardly slept in her own bed at all. They traveled throughout Europe, to North America, and even back to Asia. An outsider looking at her 400k followers on Instagram might have thought that she was some glamourous jetsetter, what with all the snapshots of fancy brunches, gorgeous scenery, and photos in professionally-done makeup.

It certainly felt like a dream. But it wasn't just because of the gold medals they always brought with them.

It was especially dreamlike because for once, she and Draco had time.

Time to have a lie in.

Time to explore the cities they were visiting.

Time to take long strolls, hand-in-hand.

Time to simply breathe.

Suddenly, they didn't have to wake up at four o'clock anymore. Old habits died hard, of course, so they were usually up early anyway. But more days than not, they could roll over and go back to sleep if they wanted.

It was beyond luxury.

When they finally did emerge from whatever five-star hotel their PR team had booked for them, the luxury continued, especially outside of the UK.

In their home country, they had become instantly recognisable, their names a part of household vernacular. But in other parts of the world, they were simply faces in a crowd—tourists, there to indulge in the local sights.

With extended time between events and a more relaxed schedule than ever before, she and Draco were finally able to slow down and see all the sights they'd missed during the years they'd been traveling abroad for competitions.

While filming talk shows in Los Angeles, they went to Disneyland. At the theme park they gorged themselves on ice cream, pretzels, corn dogs, and all kinds of foods that had been restricted when they were on their Olympic training regimen. Draco managed to convince Hermione to go on a few rides, but she covered her eyes on all the more intense ones.

While appearing on morning shows in New York, they'd enthusiastically taken pictures in Times Square and bought tickets to two Broadway shows.

Toronto was much the same. Hermione dragged them to as many museums as they could fit into their itinerary. Together they waded through massive art galleries and other exhibits hand-in-hand, Hermione sometimes stopping to research particular pieces she especially enjoyed. They also took time out to see Niagara Falls. Aboard the crowded Maid of the Mist, the two of them were able to share kisses in complete anonymity behind bright blue ponchos.

In Tokyo, where they were treated like complete rockstars, they ate as much food as they could get their hands on and attempted to navigate on their own, riding on trains and wandering down narrow streets as they visited temples, gardens, and eccentric shops. They only got lost one time, and luckily, the shop they wandered into was owned by a middle-aged woman who happened to be a fan. As a thank you for hand-drawing them a map to the nearest train station, they offered to take a photo together with her. The woman giggled like a young girl as they huddled in close to pose.

"What do you suppose she'll do with that photo?" Hermione mused once they'd finally made it to familiar territory.

"Oh, there's no doubt in my mind it's going up on the wall of that shop. Show it to every single customer." Draco chuckled and stretched his arm around her shoulders as the train swayed their bodies gently back and forth. "She might be one of the most excited fans we've ever met."

Hermione thought she might agree with Draco.

That was, until their tour returned to Europe. They made the rounds in the Eastern, Southern, and Central parts of the continent. Each location was more beautiful than the last, and Hermione was absolutely positive that she would stay in Italy forever if she could.

And then they traveled to Northern Europe.

After two years of writing letters, Hermione met Eliisa and her mother at a local ice rink near her house in Finland. The young girl broke down in ugly sobs when she walked through the double doors and saw her hero standing on the ice. They'd snapped pictures together and Hermione gave her a small skating lesson. When Draco offered to teach her a couple simple lifts, Eliisa practically shrieked and leapt into his arms.

Warmth bloomed in Hermione's chest as she watched Draco hoist the little girl onto one shoulder while she giggled the entire time. This man—her best friend and now, the man she loved—had such a big heart. It had taken him a long while to grow into it. And he didn't show it to many people. But Hermione saw all of that heart, and it only made her fall more in love with him.

It turned out that their biggest fan, and perhaps Hermione's favourite, was little Eliisa.

After promising that she'd continue to write, Hermione and Draco departed Helsinki for the final destination of their world travels.

Norway was unlike any place Hermione had ever seen before, every inch of the countryside somehow more beautiful than the last. Beyond the minimal pre-planned schedule, she and Draco were free to explore Oslo at their leisure. And when they'd checked off every event on their list, Draco surprised her by extending their trip an extra week.

They were all packed up, checking in at the Oslo airport in the wee hours of the morning when Draco led her away from the long queue for international departures and toward a smaller check-in counter for domestic flights.

"What on earth have you done, Draco?" Hermione cried almost four hours later as they boarded a ferry in the far Northern part of the country. She'd pulled out her heavy parka and was still shivering as the Norweigian Sea air whipped around them.

Draco just grinned and pulled her close. "You'll see."

"I thought we were finished with the ice, not becoming one with it." She frowned and crossed her arms, pulling the hood over her head.

Draco was not deterred. "Patience, Granger."

She might have stayed mad, had the views not been so stunning. Awe-inspiring mountains stretched toward the sky, their peaks blanketed in snow. The ground offered a generous layer of snow as well. The landscape looked alien, almost. Craggy, rugged, and beautiful.

They reached their destination in the early afternoon: A small village made of colourful wooden buildings nestled between turquoise waters and the imposing mountains.

The whole place sat stock still, and yet, was utterly alive.

Picturesque didn't begin to describe it.

She and Draco walked hand-in-hand through the village until he pointed to where they would be staying: one of several cabins sitting right on the water. The little structures were a deep red colour with white trim. They extended over the bright blue sea, each equipped with a dock that would be ideal for sunbathing in weather far warmer than this. When Hermione squinted, she could see what she thought was a hot tub sitting on their dock. Her muscles relaxed just thinking about sitting in that warm water, looking up at the stars with Draco at her side.

But stargazing would come later.

No sooner had Draco unlocked the front door than he pulled them both inside, shut it with a snap, and pressed Hermione against it. His lips found hers, and with the ease that came with years of practise, he lifted her so that her legs wrapped around his waist.

They wasted no time locating the Queen-size bed in the loft and divesting each other of their parkas and long underwear.

"Got to keep warm," Draco muttered as he pressed his now-naked torso against hers, allowing his body heat to radiate into her skin. "Wouldn't want you to catch a cold, now would we?"

"On our first real holiday together?" Hermione scoffed as she shucked her knickers. "I wouldn't dream of it."

There was something especially freeing about having sex in the relative isolation of that little cabin, Hermione realised as she climbed on Draco's lap and sank onto his hard length with a sigh of relief.

For one, the thought of someone spotting them on this trip hardly crossed Hermione's mind. There were no Paparazzi here near the Arctic Circle. No fans were stalking them, trying to figure out the nature of their relationship. It was just them in a little wooden cabin on the water.

And second—Hermione thought as Draco's cock dragged along her walls just right—they could be as loud as they wanted and it wouldn't matter one bit.

"Oh, fuck." A feral growl vibrated in Draco's chest as Hermione rode him, one hand splayed across his chest and the other holding onto the headboard. His hips began pushing upward into her, doubling her pleasure in an instant. Hermione arched her back and cried out, her voice echoing throughout the cabin. A window could have been open for all she cared.

They were all alone and completely free.

There had been plenty of sex during the rest of their victory tour, but after a week in that cabin, Hermione was certain that they'd christened nearly ever surface in the place.

"Gotta make up for lost time," Draco muttered as he slid into her from behind in the shower during their first morning in the cabin. Hermione watched rivulets of water trail down the tile wall as she braced herself against it. "So many years I couldn't touch you like this."

After a vigorous hike in the frigid air, they took a long, languorous nap on the couch together, buried beneath layers of fleece blankets. When they woke up two hours later, minds fuzzy and bodies intertwined, they lazily stroked each other to near completion before Hermione swung one leg over Draco's hips, blanket still draped over her shoulders, and helped them both finish in a quiet symphony of moans.

They'd tried to cook dinner together one night. Their little red cabin was, after all, equipped with a kitchen. But the moment Draco rolled up his sleeves to get to work, it was all over. Hermione tossed her joggers aside and pulled him over to her by the fabric of his shirt.

Draco ate well that night, but it certainly wasn't the meal they'd planned.

By their last night in the gorgeous, other-worldly place, Hermione was certain they more-than made up for their years of lost time. The whole week had felt like a honeymoon of sorts, though, that was a dangerous kind of thought to be having this soon in a relationship.

But was it soon? Hermione still had no idea how to describe or quantify whatever it was they were. Boyfriend and girlfriend seemed too immature for who they were to each other. They were both nearing thirty and had harboured feelings for each other for well over a decade. Still, honeymoon carried the kinds of implications that Hermione knew they weren't ready for just yet. There was still so much to talk about. To figure out.

On that last night the two of them finally fired up the hot tub and climbed in together. That, on its own, would have made for a charming and romantic evening together. But the world was a never-ending cascade of wonder, and it had decided to give them a gift for their last night in Reine. All their other nights here had been overcast, grey and insulated.

Tonight, though, the sky was completely clear. Brisk air prickled Hermione's skin as she stepped onto the back deck of the cabin in nothing but her towel. She shivered right up until the moment she sank beneath the water. Warmth flooded her body and she sagged with relief. It was only once she and Draco were settled that Hermione truly looked up.

The sky was littered with stars, like the way freckles dotted skin at the end of a long, sunny summer. Hermione could scarcely begin to count them all as she sat by Draco's side, eyes turned upward. They were both immersed up to their necks, entirely naked beneath the water. There was something raw and beautiful about being together like this. Hermione supposed she should feel vulnerable or self-conscious. Out in the open, anyone could have seen them.

But up here in the wild North, they could let their guard down. The only witnesses to their nakedness were the stars twinkling above them. And stars were some of the best secret-keepers.

Those were the same stars they had back in the UK, but they'd always been so much harder to find amongst the lights and pollution. Here, though, everything was clearer. Draco made everything clearer.

"What do you suppose it'll be like, going back after all this?" she mused, her eyes searching the heavens for constellations while Draco's finger absently traced patterns on her knee beneath the water.

"Honestly, I have no clue." Draco sighed and shifted slightly. "Every moment of our lives, we've been planning for the next. I'm not sure how to not plan."

Hermione nodded in agreement. "Oh, look! I think—" she squinted and withdrew her arm from the water to point. "—that's your constellation."

There was a brief pause as Draco looked up. "My what?"

"Draco," Hermione explained. "The constellation, Draco. It's a circumpolar constellation. Always visible in the Northern Hemisphere."

Beside her, Draco shook his head. "Once a swot, always a swot," he teased. She shoved him playfully.

"Just because I've gone back to school—"

Draco raised his hands above the water in mock surrender. "Hey, I never said it was a bad thing. I'm proud of you for going to Uni. Speaking of, have you figured out the direction you want to take your studies, now that you have more time?"

Hermione sat up a little straighter. "Actually, yes. I really enjoyed the two psychology courses I've taken so far. And thinking about how much therapy has helped us over the years, I was thinking of becoming a sports psychologist. Helping athletes work through their mental burdens. That sort of thing."

As she spoke, Draco's light touch turned firm, his hand finding its place on her thigh in what she knew to be a supportive fashion.

"I couldn't think of a better path for you," Draco praised, offering a soft smile. "You're going to be able to help so many people."

"I hope so." Hermione shrugged. "And what about you, Mr. Olympic-Medalist? Do you have any plans?"

"Other than shag you every opportunity I can?"

Hermione shoved him again.

"But seriously," Draco said once he regained his balance. "I think I want to stick to the ice. Coaching, maybe? I'm not entirely sure, though. Skating… it's been everything. And now, it's not."

It was the first time that Hermione had ever heard him so unsure of himself. His voice actually wavered as he spoke. It made her heart clench to think that her best friend—one of the most talented people she knew—was struggling to find solid footing.

She turned her body to face him, placing a hand on his chest. The look in his eyes was entirely earnest, eyes wide in the starlight. "You are going to find something you love." She spoke with certainty, as though she were prophesizing. "And you're going to be brilliant at it. You throw your whole self into things, Draco. And that passion's got to find a home somewhere."

Draco laid his head on Hermione's shoulder and pressed soft kisses to her neck. She tilted her head to one side to grant him open access and sighed and sighed as the light touches of his lips sent a shiver through her.

"Can't I just be passionate about you?" he asked between kisses. "That, I find remarkably easy."

Hermione grinned, but didn't swat him away this time. Instead, her fingers found Draco's hair and began to card through it. He seemed to like this, groaning slightly and relaxing even more against her side. "I appreciate the offer, but I want you to find what makes you happy outside of just me," Hermione encouraged. "I promise I'll always be there when you come home from whatever it is you choose to do. You can be passionate about me then."

Draco peppered her collarbone with kisses before traveling back up to press one more onto her lips. "I can't wait until we live together again." Another kiss. "The thought of coming home to you at the end of the day is all I could ever want."

His hands found her breasts and began to knead the soft flesh and roll her nipples. Hermione sighed and relaxed even more into his touch.

"I thought all you ever wanted was a gold medal?" she teased, her own hand traveling to his burgeoning arousal. He hissed as she wrapped her fingers around the hard length gliding up and down easily under the water.

"Well, now that I have one of those…" Draco's hips began to cant and his open-mouthed kisses to her skin became sloppier. His words came out breathy and on the edge of desperation. "Just want you, now."

"You have me," Hermione whispered into the night as Draco's fingers found her folds. He pressed and swirled in just the way she liked and soon, a lovely pool of pressure was building in her centre.

How easy, how freeing it was to simply give in to their impulses when they felt like it. There was no shame or embarrassment about how much, how often they wanted each other. Perhaps one day the intensity of their desires would fade, but for now, Hermione wanted to revel in this insatiable flame they'd lit.

Draco's fingers worked their magic, his thumb swiping against her clit, two other fingers pushing inside of her. Hermione's hips began to move of their own accord, pulsing forward as those wonderful hands drove her closer and closer to the edge.

"That's it," Draco murmured as she moaned into the night air. "Come for me, Hermione. Be good and let me see you fall apart."

It was an easy thing to do, especially knowing he was there to catch her.

Two more swipes of his thumb and she was there, soaring, eyes shut, mouth hanging open, a relieved cry pouring from her lips. Her hips moved one, two, three more times before settling, her whole body going limp.

Without missing a beat, Draco pulled her onto his lap, arms wrapping around her middle. Her legs fell open as she sat on his thighs, their bare chests and centres pressed together. Hermione laid her head on his shoulder and allowed herself to melt into him.

"I've got you," he whispered in her ear as one hand cradled the back of her head. "Just relax."

Although she could feel his arousal, hard and insistent, against her stomach, she allowed herself a few minutes to rest. Draco's ministrations really had turned her bones to jelly, and she couldn't have moved in this moment, even if she wanted to.

The warm water soothed her tense muscles, and the light touch of Draco's fingers tracing her spine soon made her eyes start to droop. She might have even dozed off for a moment.

"Hermione, look!"

As quickly as sleep washed over her, it ebbed away with the sound of urgency in Draco's voice.

"What's going on?" she asked through a contented yawn.

"You might want to look up."

Hermione rubbed her eyes and pulled back from Draco slightly. When she tilted her head skyward, her jaw fell open.

"Oh my god. Is that—?"

Above them, like a swirling river, the Aurora had appeared out of the darkness. It flowed from behind the great mountain near their cabin, filling the sky with a pale green light. The stars washed away in its brightness, but Hermione scarcely missed them as she watched one of the most beautiful wonders of the natural world unfold before her eyes.

"That's incredible," she breathed. "Did you know we might be able to see the Aurora when you booked the cabin?"

Draco shook his head. "I was just looking for somewhere cozy and isolated. Somewhere I could have you all to myself for a week."

Hermione could see the light reflected in his grey eyes, and that, in and of itself, was almost more astonishing than the real thing. It was almost as though she could see the whole universe in his eyes.

Or rather, her whole universe.

They sat for several minutes without moving, facing each other under the water, heads tilted skyward. It was as though a spell had been cast over them, freezing their bodies as they stared in awe at the lights as the sky danced above them. Perhaps it was the lights, themselves, doing this. Working their magic. It was no wonder that ancient peoples believed these lights to be full of spirits and power.

This place was magic, too. The great, green river danced across the sky, illuminating the sea until it shone bright beneath them, until they were surrounded by light. Even the dark stillness of the mountain seemed to come alive, breathing energy into the crisp, arctic air.

Hermione inhaled deeply, wanting to soak in the moment using all her senses. This whole trip—this whole past month, even, had been like something out of a dream. A dream so good, it had to be someone else's. But it was real. All of it. And she was determined to remember each and every detail that she could.

Especially this moment.

"Thank you," she spoke into the wintery air, the puff of air from her mouth visible in the bright night, "for arranging this week. I think it was exactly what we needed after these last few weeks."

"I think you mean these last few years."

Hermione laughed and shook her head. "You make a good point."

"I always make good points." Draco nudged her with his elbows, peering down at her with his usual smirk spreading across his face.

She shoved him for a third time that night.

When Draco recovered and the smirk fell away, Hermione reached forward and brushed the blond hair from his forehead. He shivered beneath her touch, and she couldn't tell if he was cold or just sensitive. A voice in the back of her head that sounded oddly like their therapist urged her to keep talking. "I just think that after everything we've been through, I'm glad we're taking time to figure out who we are, together. Not as skating partners or as friends. And especially not as friends with benefits or whatever labels we kept trying over the years."

"I'd like it if we were just… us." The joking tone had faded, and now Draco's voice had turned soft, his expression earnest.

"Just us?"

The turn of phrase was not lost on Hermione. How many times had they whispered those words to each other, their bodies thrumming with nerves just before they stepped onto the ice? All those times, the words had felt reassuring, like a weighted blanket or some other anchor she could hold onto.

Even now, the words had the same effect. They calmed her. When those two words crossed Draco's lips, it was like a promise. A promise to see each other through, no matter what was to come.

Draco's eyes remained steadfast, searching hers, as if waiting for some cue.

She leaned into his arms, pressing her forehead against his. His lips stretched into a small smile.

"Just us," he clarified, offering the faintest brush of his lips against hers. "But more."

"So much more." Hermione's tongue traced the seam of his lips, and she hummed against them, waiting patiently for him to open up to her.

The light above them grew brighter, illuminating their bodies in an iridescent glow. Hermione felt as though she was truly in the presence of something holy. Something unreal.

But this moment was very real. Their story had been full of twists and turns, but they were finally here, and Hermione could only hope this was a new beginning for the two of them. The start of a new chapter in the strange but wonderful story they were writing.

There was nothing to do but turn the page.

Hermione leaned back and allowed herself to feel everything, to let her senses take over as Draco's hands gripped her tighter, his lips leaving a hot trail across her skin. The contrast of temperatures left her trembling. The way his erection pressed against her sent another shiver through her, and when she lifted her hips and took all of him inside, it felt nothing short of worship.

"I love you," Draco murmured, his breath visible in the frigid air. "I've never stopped loving you."

"Neither did I," she returned as their hips met over and over. "Always. It was always you."

When they finally fell apart in each other's arms, it was as though the Earth aligned its very axis to them, the stars twinkling in time to their racing hearts.

Together, they sank back into the water side by side, and watched the sky in contented silence until the Aurora faded from view.


Their week in Norway had been the most rejuvenating experience Hermione had in recent years, and by the time she and Draco stepped off the plane at Heathrow, she felt well-rested and ready to begin whatever came next.

Whatever, however, came sooner than she expected.

In Norway, they'd hardly been recognised in public at all. Walking around, even in Oslo, they hadn't faced much scrutiny at all. It had been easy to just be themselves, to hold hands and give each other chaste kisses in public without a worry of repercussions.

It just so happened that the people of the UK had not forgotten about them. All it took was the briefest slip-up, walking past the customs arrival gate at Heathrow holding hands, for the calm bubble they'd been inhabiting to burst all around them.

Photographers and television reporters were waiting, and the telltale sound of shutters clicking and people shouting their name made them spring apart instantly. But it was too late. They'd been seen.

There had been a vague plan in place to wait a few months or even a year before making their relationship public. It would give them time for their fame to fade a bit, let the public interest die down before stirring the pot. But it was obvious the very next morning after their arrival that the choice of whether to make their relationship public was no longer on their terms.

They had been sleeping blissfully, tangled together in Draco's—soon to be their—bed, when her mobile rang. Bleary-eyed, Hermione squinted at the screen. When she saw Severus's name pop up, she sighed and turned the phone face-down on her bedside table and went back to sleep.

Two minutes later, he called again.

Then, Mum called.

"Have you two seen the newspapers?" Mum posited in a concerned tone as Hermione rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Beside her, Draco stretched and tilted his head in confusion. She hit the speakerphone button. "You two have a big picture on the front page."

It wasn't just the newspapers, it turned out. Tabloids, morning talk shows, and nearly every news site they checked each addressed their relationship. Photos of them arriving in Heathrow as well as photos of them in very intimate moments during skates were splashed across every platform. Each one tried to paint a more outlandish picture than the last, claiming they were the ones who knew about their relationship all along.

Within four hours of the whole fiasco, they'd arranged for an exclusive interview with This Morning, just to clear the air and stop any malicious rumours in their tracks before they could start. Severus, as well as their PR specialist, Parvati Patil, agreed this was the right path to take.

Thankfully, they were not set to be interviewed by one of the hosts, Rita Skeeter, who was notorious for taking quotes out of context in her morning gossip segment. Their interview was scheduled with a brilliant, if off-beat journalist named Luna Lovegood instead. They approached her beforehand with a list of off-limits topics, including Draco's father, a specific history of their relationship, and sex. Thankfully, she respected their wishes. She was fair, asking questions that were tantalising enough to satisfy a hungry public, but never once did she make them uncomfortable or touch the items on that list.

"It took us a long while to admit it to ourselves," Hermione explained to Luna after she asked about how they knew they had feelings for each other. "Doing what we did, professionally, was very intense, even without the emotional complication of actual romantic feelings. Untangling the professional feelings from the personal was a long journey, but one we're ultimately glad we walked."

It was a vague answer, but not untruthful.

The pinnacle of the interview was when Luna played a clip of their win at PyeongChang. She cut the video after the moment when Draco hugged her, lifting her off her feet. "How did you feel about each other, in that moment?" she asked, leaning forward as though she was genuinely curious to know the answer.

Hermione gave a nebulous answer about joy.

Draco, on the other hand, was incredibly honest. "I just felt this rush of gratitude," he explained, his hand never leaving Hermione's knee. It was clearly visible in the camera frame. "I was so thankful that all our hard work had paid off, and looking at her in that moment, there wasn't even a drop of doubt that I loved her."

Warmth filled Hermione's chest as she listened to him wax poetic about his love for her. He had never worn his feelings on his sleeve like this, at least not this candidly. She'd have to ask him later what made that shift within him.

After about thirty minutes of conversation, she and Draco shook Luna's hand and shared their hopeful trust that she would tell their story honestly. They left the television studio hand-in-hand, the fear of being discovered finally moving to the back of their minds.

The aftermath of it all had Hermione's head spinning, with her phone, email, and social media blowing up like never before. Brands wanted to collaborate with the pair of them, more journalists wanted to do even deeper dives, and regular old nosey people wanted to hear more juicy details.

Hermione briefly considered tossing all her tech over a cliff.

That was, until one particular phone call. She and Draco had just finished unloading the last of her boxes into their new London flat and had placed an order for takeaway when Hermione's phone buzzed in her pocket.

The two of them shared a look—one born from weeks of unwanted solicitations, before she pulled the device from her pocket and glanced at the number. It was unknown to Hermione, so she let it go to voicemail and headed toward the kitchen to unpack some of her favourite mugs.

Just as she removed a floral mug to place in a cupboard, her phone buzzed again. Eyes narrowing, she reached into her back and pulled it out once more. Whoever called her had left a message. Pressing play, she continued on with her task, expecting it to be nothing more than a scam or another unwanted request.

"Hello, I'm calling for Miss Hermione Granger. My name is Penelope Clearwater, and I'm a representative over at Flourish and Blotts Publishing House. We are very interested in collaborating with you and Draco Malfoy to write a book about your journey on the ice. Please feel free to contact me—"

Hermione nearly dropped her phone on the tile floor right then and there. Draco chose that exact moment to enter the kitchen with a small stack of cookbooks in his arms.

"Hey Hermione, where do you want—" He froze the moment they made eye contact. She must have looked crazed, eyes blown wide and mouth agape, her phone held out in front of her like a holy grail of sorts. "What's… going on?"

Hermione replayed the voicemail before shrieking. "A book! Us! A real book! They want us to write one! Oh, I just can't believe it!" She launched herself into Draco's unprepared arms and kissed him hard as they both sank to the kitchen floor.

Unpacking was promptly forgotten for the rest of the afternoon.


The book was an excellent way to wrap up their journey on ice, but both she and Draco agreed it didn't feel right to walk away from their career without saying a proper thank you to everyone who had cheered them on. They needed to find a way to say farewell. Something that would make the people happy.

"And," Parvati added when they brought it up to her, "something like that would help with book sales."

Hermione didn't really care too much about the money. She and Draco already had more than enough between the two of them from competition winnings and other brand endorsements they'd done over the years. Besides, it wasn't as though they were planning on sitting on their laurels for years to come. She was already looking at course catalogues for the Autumn Semester. Draco had plans to shadow various coaches for a year before searching for students, himself. They absolutely didn't need the money that this book would bring.

They did, however, need to say goodbye.

Thus, after discussing it with Parvati and between themselves, they decided that another tour was in order.

Two decades in the skating world and a wealth of connections had clearly prepared Draco for this moment. He took charge immediately, making all the right phone calls to friends and other skaters around the country. Draco also talked to a number of local skating clubs, contacted venues, and hired a tour manager and sound technician. He also reached out to Roger and Fleur, asking if they could come on board as choreographers.

Pansy signed on right away, as did Ron and Ginny, who had continued skating on the national level while Hermione and Draco had moved on to international competitions. One of Draco's childhood friends from men's singles, Theo Nott agreed to participate, although Hermione was a bit skeptical about bringing him on board. He had a reputation of being an absolute diva.

They rounded out their lists by asking local skating clubs to perform at each stop on the tour.

That July, five months after the Olympics, the Thank You UK Tour was announced to the public for the following February. The news was met with thunderous applause from their fans. Hermione and Draco slept hard after a full day of press coverage on announcement day, knowing that their fans would be able to have a real sense of closure after eighteen years.

It felt strange, having a real, tangible expiration date on their partnership. Both of them knew that their lives together would continue long after the tour had ended. And yet, closing that door for good was going to take a lot of emotional fortitude.

The tour gave them something to focus on—to work toward. It was the only way they knew how to be, and it was a relief to have a tangible goal in mind. As summer faded to autumn, their days were once again filled to the brim and there was hardly time to do anything outside of tour preparations.

Hermione and Draco were the primary producers of the Thank You UK Tour, and there was so much more that went into planning these series of events than they had anticipated. There was security to arrange and merchandising to design, manufacture, and sell. A tour manager had to be found, as well as sound and lighting designers. Costumes were also created for multiple dances. Contracts had to be drawn up among all parties. The whole process, while fascinating, usually left Hermione drained at the end of the day.

Thankfully she and Draco hadn't based their relationship off of fancy dates or exciting activities. They were largely content to greet each other at the end of the day, fix supper together, and cuddle on the couch while streaming the film of their choice.

Sometimes, cuddling turned into something more. Other times, they simply dozed off together, side by side.

It was love, and there was nothing like it.

Of course, the fears that had inhabited her mind for years didn't dissipate overnight. She still woke in an occasional cold sweat, arms groping to her left in search of Draco's sleeping form. To make sure he was still there, still alive, still by her side.

And he was. Always. His cradled and kissed her, murmuring sweet endearments in her ear until her eyelids grew droopy once more.

Draco had bad days, too. Days when his father made public comments about him. Days when his mother tried to call, yet again, to reconcile years of looking the other way and ignoring Lucius's abuse. On those days, Hermione was the one to take him in her arms.

Their lives weren't perfect, but they were infinitely better because they had each other to lean on.

That was why, as Christmas approached, Hermione found Draco's behaviour rather odd. He had started spending his afternoons out of the house, claiming he had errands to run to prepare for tour.

But that didn't make sense.

They were both producers on this tour. Hermione knew the checklists and the budget inside out, and she couldn't fathom something she'd overlooked taking entire afternoons of time.

When she asked, he was avoidant.

"Oh, I had to triple check our security contract," he explained away once.

"Roger and I were working out some choreography specifications," was another excuse.

She half-wanted to confront him, but she knew Draco. Ever since Sochi, they'd promised to be honest with each other. Even when it was hard and she wanted to just cover her tracks with a little white lie, she'd been up front with him. It had been hard, but it was the right thing to do.

She wanted to trust him. Wanted to believe that these so-called errands were exactly what he said.

And so she let it slide. Perhaps it really was tour-related. Hermione made a mental note that if these strange outings continued after the tour was over, then she'd bring up her suspicions. That seemed reasonable.

Final run-throughs came faster than Hermione was prepared for. In the two weeks leading up to the tour's first performance in Belfast, practically no one in the cast left the ice rink until after sunset. The lineup was fun, if intense. Each performer would be given their moment to shine, with a couple special performances by Draco and Hermione. They'd be performing their Rewrite The Stars routine and a samba set to Shape of You. Additionally, they would be doing a hip hop dance to open up the second act of the show and would include a stage set up in the middle of the ice.

There were also opening and closing group numbers, as well as a group swing dance medley to learn. Each dance required a different costume and some even had props. That meant a lot of rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the tour. By the time their Belfast show arrived, Hermione was too busy to feel the usual bubbling of nerves.

Perhaps it was due to her schedule, but she had a feeling her lack of nerves was due to something else.

From the very beginning, this tour was supposed to be about thanking the fans, and that meant putting their wants at the forefront of the experience. She and Draco had agreed to have a meet-and-greet with their fans in the afternoons before the shows, taking pictures, signing autographs, and chatting with people who purchased a VIP ticket.

It was their best decision to date.

They'd never had meet-and-greets before. Draco's father had always discouraged interactions with fans, deeming it to be completely unimportant.

"Best to let them admire from a distance," the man had always declared whenever they came across a throng of people wanting to say hello or ask for a photo. "You want them to see you as more than just a person. You need to be untouchable in their eyes. And besides, you're not skating for them, and you need to remember that."

Lucius was full of rubbish most of the time. And, in fact, most of his stances on skating in general were actual rubbish. But in this particular instance, he had a fair point about not skating for fans. That mindset would have doomed them years ago. No, they had skated for themselves for most of their career.

But on this one final tour, that theory went straight out the window. Everything about this tour was made for the fans. They wanted to see a show. A spectacle. They also wanted to know that their heroes were tangible and as kind as the television made them seen. And that's exactly what they were going to get. At least, Hermione hoped they delivered.

The fans were enthusiastic from the get-go, and the VIP ticket packages sold out at every performance.

Many were too overcome with emotion to be coherent. Tears were shed, giving way to babbling and hiccups and awkward pats on the back.

Even more of the fans wanted them to confirm their relationship just one more time. To be sure. When Hermione said for the hundredth time, "Yep, he's actually my boyfriend off the ice," the fans sometimes grinned ear to ear. Others jumped up and down. One even shrieked right in Draco's ear.

Even as they moved away from Northern Ireland, into Scotland, and down to England, their fans' enthusiasm never wavered. If anything, their excitement grew. They received so many gifts, from hand drawn illustrations to scrapbooks and even cardboard cutouts. When the tour ended, they would definitely have to invest in a display cabinet for some of their favourite objects.

The tour was scheduled to last about four weeks from start to finish, and Hermione wanted to treasure every moment. That seemed to be a theme in this past year: to take her time and soak in her experiences with all her senses, carefully cataloguing them in her memory. So much was coming to an end all at once.

By the time they dipped West, from England into Wales, the tour was over halfway finished, and panic started to well in Hermione's chest. Not about performing, though. Or meeting fans. Those were still the most delightful parts of this whole event. That, and getting to spend lots of time with some of her favourite people. After skating in the same circles for so many years, the skaters on this tour were almost like family. When they weren't performing, they were going to pubs and parks, even sightseeing when they could squeeze it in.

It was freeing to be around people who didn't goggle every time she and Draco held hands. No one made a scene when he pecked her on the cheek as he stood to return to the bar for a second beer.

Draco had started becoming more open with his affection in public as well. It was nice, strolling through the ruins of a Scottish castle with his hand tucked into the back pocket of her jeans, stealing kisses behind stone walls, not bothering to act ashamed when someone came around the corner.

Hermione supposed that part of the source of her panic came from the way Draco was so calm about it all. Accepting. He almost seemed excited to finish the tour and be done with it.

"Are you really that eager to put a stopper in our career?" she asked one night as they laid together in their hotel room in Bristol. "You just seem so… ready. And if you're ready, why am I nervous?"

Draco rolled onto his side to face her. "Are you really that nervous?" He reached for her hands and clasped them in his own.

Hermione nodded.

"I'm not sure why, though. I just think about everything changing and it doesn't feel real. It feels as though we should be planning for our next season, like we've done for years. And I suppose—" She swallowed her fear of voicing these thoughts aloud, "—I'm scared that the two of us will change once skating isn't the central part of our relationship."

Draco furrowed his brow. "You're worried about that?"

"I mean, why wouldn't I be?" She shrugged, her cheeks heating slightly. "Skating is what brought us together. It's been the thing that's tied us together for almost two decades and I… I guess there's a part of me that is worried that once that's gone, we won't have a leg to stand on."

She expected Draco to offer a pitying look or perhaps cuddle into her. What she didn't expect was for him to laugh. He let out one long blast before apologising. Hermione wasn't sure if she should feel offended that there were tears of mirth gathering in the corners of his eyes.

"Sorry, sorry," he said. "I don't mean to make you feel bad. But I just can't imagine being closer to anyone." Clearly, she didn't look appeased enough, because he added on, "How much I love you doesn't have anything to do with our career. I'd happily live a quiet life with you out of the spotlight until we're grey and wrinkly."

Hermione found her cheeks heating again, but this time, from delight rather than embarrassment. "Oh," she breathed, voice trailing off into the darkness of the hotel room.

Draco pulled her into his chest, his strong arms wrapping around her. The stress that had been building in her stomach began to melt the moment she heard his heart beating steadily against her ear. "I know telling someone to just stop worrying isn't exactly a real solution," he whispered into the crown of her head, "but I can honestly say that if it's our relationship changing and falling apart that has you panicking, I'm not worried at all. In fact, I feel… really good about us."

"Really good, huh?" She shifted so her arms wrapped around him, too.

"I've got a feeling."

"A feeling?"

"Mm."

Draco pressed a kiss to her hair and burrowed into the mattress, clearly ready to sleep. "I'm not going anywhere," he mumbled through a yawn.

Hermione felt the knot in her stomach relax as she drifted off. Perhaps Draco was right and she had nothing to worry about. The two of them had such a tight bond that even without their career, they would still be happy. At least that's the comforting thought that filled her mind.

The next day, after the long drive to Brighton, Draco changed into exercise gear and slung a bag over his shoulder.

"I'm headed out," he declared at the hotel door. "Got to burn some excess energy after that car ride."

With his words from the night before still fresh in her mind, Hermione didn't think much of it.

Then the next day, he claimed something similar after their arrival in Dover. And then again, after the long trek back North to Leeds. The tour was scheduled to finish with a double performance in London, and the performances during the last ten days leading up to it were scattered throughout England.

Hermione felt the same suspicion rise in her that had when he claimed to be going on strange errands before the tour. She had no proof, of course. She wasn't sure she wanted to have proof. He claimed to be off exercising to clear his head and he always came back sweaty and in need of a shower. So she was sure she was just being paranoid. But still, she couldn't shake the feeling in her gut that something wasn't adding up.

"How was your exercise today?" She couldn't help the way her skin prickled with suspicion as he unlocked the hotel door in Sheffield and traipsed inside. "Burn off some good energy?"

Draco wiped his face and head with a towel from his duffel bag. "Oh yeah. I feel totally warmed up for today."

"What did you do this go-round?" Hermione raised her brows and hoped her tone was casual.

"Oh, you know." Draco cleared his throat, looking just past her at the bathroom door. "A little bit of this and that. Went back to our old studio, actually. Tonks let me mess around."

Hermione released her breath and felt her insides relax. Those details were so specific, they couldn't be a lie. Could they?

"Oh, Severus called while I was out," Draco said as he stripped out of his sweaty clothes. Hermione blinked at the sudden change of subject. "He wants to have drinks after the show tonight."

"Severus is coming?" This brightened Hermione considerably. She sat straight up, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. "Should we call to arrange a VIP seat?"

"Already done." Draco waved her off, now completely naked and teetering in the doorway to the shower. "He just has to show his ID and security will escort him there."

"Er, brilliant. So, drinks, then?"

Draco called out, "Yep!" before snapping the bathroom door shut.

That night, as promised, they met up with Severus at a pub in Sheffield they'd frequented many times. It wasn't any place fancy, but it was clean and not too crowded on a Wednesday night. Severus was already there when they arrived. He'd saved them both seats at a booth.

"Your performances were really enjoyable," he commented after they'd ordered food and drinks. "It must feel good to skate without the pressure of competition."

Draco confirmed his assumptions. "It is. It's been nice to skate for fun. We're really going to miss it."

"And the ice skating community will certainly miss you. Coaching my new athletes has been… difficult to say the least."

Hermione was about to ask him to clarify when the server arrived with their drinks. Severus took a long, slow sip of his gin and tonic before continuing.

"I don't know how much you two recall about being teenagers, but I had certainly forgotten how much wrangling it entails."

"How old?" Draco posited after gulping a few mouthfuls of ale.

"Fourteen and fifteen." Severus sighed. "They're staying in the dormitories like you did. They're hard workers, if a bit boneheaded. But I think they've got potential."

"Oh?" Draco cocked his head, a smirk dancing across his features. "Comparing them to us already? Shame on you, Sev. They're just kids!"

"I have done no such thing." Their former coach glared down at Draco with the same ferocity that had, for years, made Hermione feel as though she had done something wrong. "In fact, these two are far more professional at their age than you two were. I don't sense an ounce of actual attraction between them when they're not dancing. And that, in of itself, will save me years of headaches. They haven't even snuck out of the dormitories."

Hermione was certain she'd turned purple.

Draco had the wherewithal to look sheepish, at least.

"But I am pleased for you two," Severus continued, not lingering in the awkward air. "Seeing you happy is a reminder to me what good can come out of working my new skaters hard now."

It was another rare dose of sentimentality from him, and Hermione ate it up. She beamed and thanked him for the compliment.

"Good luck with the teenagers," she offered as their food arrived. "If you can handle us, I'm sure you've got this covered."

Severus actually chuckled at this. "I like to think of it as this: if I can handle watching my former students' relationship in technicolour on full display, I can handle anything. God knows it's all I saw for weeks in the tabloids by the checkout at Tesco."

Hermione grimaced and swallowed another mouthful of Guinness.

After chatting for nearly an hour, Severus bid them farewell and told them to come back and visit Sheffield whenever they had time. He and Draco exchanged a meaningful look and a handshake while Hermione got a solid pat on the back before they parted ways for the night.

After Sheffield, the tour took them through Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, and Northampton before they finally arrived in London for their final performances. On the first day there, when Draco left for what was now his usual afternoon out, Hermione decided to stop sitting around and go and visit Mum instead.

"How's living together going?" Mum asked once they were all set up in the sitting room. Although Hermione hadn't lived at that house in over a decade, the place still felt like home. Mum had repainted and had rearranged the furniture, but as long as the photos with Dad still lined the walls and the mantle, it would feel the same.

The biggest change had come in the last year, with a whole portion of the sitting room wall devoted to skating photos and newspaper clippings about the Olympics.

"I've got the right to brag," Mum declared when Hermione pointed it out upon arrival. "You should hear how Mrs. McClaren down the street goes on and on about her son the solicitor. You'd think he was saving the world by the way she talks. Last time I had her over to tea, she wasn't so much of a braggart."

Out of everyone involved, Hermione was certain that her mum's head had gotten the most inflated over their gold medal.

"Living together is going well," she answered, grabbing a chocolate biscuit. "We're learning how to cook, which is nice. Draco can now make much more than spaghetti and beans on toast."

"Well that's good to know." Mum smiled and sipped her tea. "Having a husband who's not afraid of the kitchen is a lifesaver, let me tell you."

Hermione spluttered at the insinuation, dripping tea down her blouse. She mopped up the mess as she tried to piece words together. "A… husband? Mum, what on earth are you on about? Draco and I have only been together a year."

Mum waved her off. "Don't be ridiculous. It might have been formal for only a year, but the two of you have been making moony eyes at each other since you were about fourteen or fifteen. I hardly think I'm being presumptuous."

Severus's comments from the other day flew to the front of her mind, and to her horror, Hermione felt her cheeks heat up. She scowled at Mum and took a gulp of tea. "Well, you are."

"Have you at least talked about it?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. Mum really wasn't going to let this go, was she?

"We have," she began, sitting back in the armchair. "We've talked about it quite a bit. But it's still a someday sort of thing. When the time is right."

This answer seemed to appease her, because after one last, "Keep your mind open, dear," Mum changed the subject to tonight's performance. Hermione was glad for the switch. It was true, the two of them had talked about a future together. Marriage. Children. Growing old together. The whole picture. They'd talked about it so much around the time they moved into their London flat back in April. But they had mutually agreed that they needed a little more time to adjust before making such a big commitment.

That hadn't stopped her from letting her imagination wander, though. She liked to imagine what their lives could be like a few years down the road. He would be coaching, waking up early and kissing her as he left before dawn. She'd be the one with the nine-to-five, seeing patients in an office.

Maybe they'd have a child or two. On weekends, they'd go to a skating rink together to have fun. Or perhaps they'd go explore the world outside of skating. Maybe their children would have different passions. Football or music or science. It didn't really matter as long as they were happy. Draco made that very clear when they'd stayed up late, talking into the still darkness of their bedroom about their hopes and dreams.

"I don't want to be that kind of father," he said, eyes pointed straight at the ceiling. "I didn't have a choice. I want our kids to have one."

Our kids. The statement made it all seem so real.

But they weren't ready for all that. Not just yet.

One day, though.

Hermione bid Mum goodbye and headed back to their flat. There was no need for a hotel for these last couple nights. Draco had returned by the time she unlocked their front door. He was humming a familiar melody to himself, the final song from The Princess Diaries, rummaging in his dresser, still sweaty from his outing.

"Have a good time?" she asked, dropping her bag onto the floor beside their bed. Draco jumped and twisting around, eyes blown wide and hand clutching his chest.

"Oh my god, I didn't hear you come home!" he wheezed, fingers bunching the fabric at the front of his workout shirt. "You scared me!"

"Sorry." Hermione smiled at him. "We should watch that movie again some time. For old time's sake."

"What movie?" Draco cocked his head to the side.

"Princess Diaries. You were humming a song from it."

Draco blinked and coughed, and for some reason, turned a little pink around the ears. "Oh, was I?"

"You definitely were."

He shrugged. "I didn't even realise. You ready to head over to the arena in an hour?"

Hermione nodded. "Yep. I'll just have a shower and change."

Draco smirked and pulled her into the bathroom with a sweat-soaked hand.

Thirty minutes and far too much hot water later, they emerged pink-faced and satisfied, ready for their penultimate performance as professional skaters.

All the backstage hustle and bustle of an ice rink was now such a familiar sight that she and Draco bobbed and weaved through the crowds of workers and other skaters upon their arrival. They changed into official Thank You UK Tour gear and greeted fans for an hour. It felt so fluid now, after a month of the same routine. The fans seemed extra zealous that night. It was probably the finality of it all.

Hermione felt the anxious lurch in her stomach when after they met with the last fan.

Costumes on.

Stretch.

Wait for the cue.

After the entrance medley, they had a quick change into their second costumes before they had to be back out on the ice to perform their Shape Of You samba. People always liked to sing along and they had the fans screaming when Draco ran his hands all over her to the beat of the song.

Then it was backstage again to wait for a bit while the other skaters performed. They closed out the first act with their Olympic routine. Hermione could run through the entire song by muscle memory alone, and yet Hermione wanted the performance to be intensely intentional. She wanted to be aware of every movement she made, each moment she spent on the ice.

After tonight, they'd perform it only one more time.

That dance garnered a standing ovation.

They opened up the second act with their hip hop dance, clad in trainers and workout clothes instead of skates and spangly costumes. It was rare that they got to showcase their dancing skills off the ice, and the crowd ate it up every time.

The swing dance medley was incredibly fun. Hermione wore a poofy blue dress and she and Draco got to do a bit of over-the-top acting with the other skaters. It was one of the more-fast-paced routines they'd done in a while, and the footwork was practically insane. But when Hermione caught glimpses of the audience's faces as she skated past, it was well worth all the sweat that went into its preparations.

And then came the finale.

Set to a Coldplay medley, their last dance together began with just the two of them on the ice. At the beginning of Fix You, the slow tempo and somber atmosphere told a story of two people who needed each other, but were pulled apart by outside forces. It showcased their gratitude toward all the people in their lives and in the end, to each other. After the great push and pull keeping them separated, the driving beat came in bringing a sense of urgency with it. It was with this urgency that they found each other, reuniting in the centre of the ice in an impassioned embrace.

As Draco careened toward her and pulled her into his arms, Hermione's heart never failed to leap.

The medley finished with all the skaters back on the ice, triumphant, dancing in unison to Sky Full of Stars.

It was hopeful, the end of the show. Just like how she and Draco wanted it to be. This wasn't a true goodbye. Not really.

It was just a new beginning.

The first show in London went just as rehearsed, much like all the other shows. Even with Mum in the crowd, it felt much the same. Just another show.

Tomorrow, on the other hand…

Hermione wondered if tomorrow would feel different.

Part of her hoped it felt exactly like every other show, because then it would prove that she'd been treasuring each performance just like she wanted. Then again, a much bigger part of her wanted tomorrow's show to be unique, somehow. She wanted to feel differently about it in some way. More nerves, perhaps. Maybe a few tears.

It would feel more real that way.

The day of their final performance dawned, although Hermione admittedly hadn't slept much. Neither had Draco, judging by the dark circles under his eyes and the way his foot didn't stop tapping all the way through breakfast.

"You okay?" Hermione asked between bites of her yoghurt parfait. "You seem… off."

Draco sighed. "Yeah? Well, that's probably because it's our last show. Lots of emotional build-up."

"Mm." Hermione scooped more yoghurt, granola, and blueberries onto her spoon. "Would going to exercise help? Like you usually do. Maybe it'd be good to stick to a routine."

She watched as Draco swallowed. "I, er, no. I'm good. I just wanted to spend today with you. I thought we could maybe go to the rink a little early. Just soak it all in, you know?"

Hermione thought of all the moments they'd had, early mornings, long afternoons, and even in the middle of the night—just the two of them at the rink, their voices echoing around the empty arena. It's where they'd had some of their most honest talks and where they'd found each other.

"I think I'd like that." Hermione smiled and offered Draco her hand across the table. "Did you have a time in mind?"

Draco blinked, as if his brain hadn't quite caught up with his ears. "Ah, yes. Er, I was thinking we could head out at about one-thirty?"

"That sounds good. But you're sure you're okay?" She squeezed his hand, hoping to shake him out of whatever strange fog he was in.

He drew a sharp breath and grinned. "Never better."

Hermione wasn't sure why, but this answer didn't convince her at all.

She tried to make her day as normal as possible, like she would before any performance. She showered and made sure her hair was show-ready, taming her curls and putting her hair up into its usual bun. Then came some yoga and other pre-show stretches. Before she knew it, her duffel bag was packed for one last trip to the ice rink as a professional skater.

As predicted, it was perfectly still when they stepped into the arena. Not a soul was around. The crashing of her heart was the only sound she could hear.

"So, this is it," Draco began. "Eighteen years later, and here we are."

"What would eleven year-old Draco have thought of all this?" Hermione mused, taking the hand Draco offered. They started off on a casual skate around the edge of the ice. "I like to think that eleven year-old me would be satisfied. Job well done and all that."

"You always did like pats on the head." Draco elbowed her gently in the ribs.

Hermione raised her brows. "I could say the same for you."

He stuck his tongue out. Hermione returned the gesture.

"No, I think I'd be satisfied, too. Gold medal was all I ever wanted back then. All I thought about. But I like to think I did even better than I could have hoped for. I got the gold medal and some happiness to boot." As if to prove his point, Draco leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

They leaned into each other and drifted across the ice, not saying much for a few minutes. The moment seemed to speak for itself for the most part. It was a lot. Exciting and heartbreaking all in one.

"How do you feel?" Draco asked after a few laps around the rink. "About today, I mean."

Hermione shrugged. "Probably the same as you, if I had to guess. Weirdly anxious."

Draco huffed a small laugh. "You could say I'm anxious, yeah."

"Got a lot on your mind, then?" She squeezed his hand.

"A lot, for sure. But it's not bad, any of it. Just a lot."

Hermione looked up at her boyfriend, searching his eyes for a hint of something she could do to soothe his thoughts. What she found wasn't anxiety, though. Instead, there was an odd sort of determination. And it took her back. She stood, blinking up at this man who she was supposed to understand from the inside out and found, for the first time in a long while, that she couldn't quite figure out what was going through his mind.

Just as she opened her mouth to bring this up, Draco brought up a strange request, instead.

"Do you want to dance?"

Hermione cocked her head. "Dance? Draco, you do realise that we're about to put on a ninety-minute show, right?"

"I know." He offered a sheepish smile. "I just… I really wanted to dance with you just now. Without an audience. Just us."

The last two words got her.

"Okay." She stepped into him. "Music? No music?"

"Oh, music. Definitely."

And then came something even stranger. Turning, Draco pulled out a small remote control from the back pocket of his trousers and pointed it at a speaker that was sitting beside the rink. Hermione hardly had time to eye it suspiciously before Draco had re-pocketed the remote and stepped right up to her, shoulders squared.

Then the music started.

The familiar, soft tinkle of piano filled her ears, and she gave a gasp of delight.

The Princess Diaries Waltz.

Draco bowed to her, and she hardly had time to curtsey back before he took her hand in his and placed his other firmly along the middle of her back. He stepped off into the waltz as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

This song had ceased to be her song years ago. It was now their song, truly. How many times had they watched this movie together, leaning together on the couch or cuddled together in bed? How many times had they danced around their dormitories or their flats together to this song, unable to stop the torrent of laughter and warm glow in her chest that inevitably followed?

This song was like a happy memory she could relive whenever she listened to it.

Any anxiety that she had felt melted away as they danced around the rink.

"How on earth did you have that already set up?" she demanded, looking up at his soft expression.

"Oh, I had to pull a few strings. But it turns out that an Olympic title pulls a fair bit of weight around here."

Hermione grinned. "Oh, does it, now?"

"Like you wouldn't believe."

The music began to swell, and Hermione allowed herself to get lost in the moment. Just them on the ice, before all the chaos, before all the other emotions could seep in and mold this day into something different.

Draco smiling down at her, the music setting the rhythm of her heart—it was all exactly what she needed.

The song came to its usual close with a flurry of strings, brass, and percussion playing a perfect staccato. She expected them to bow to each other once more and get back to more casual banter, a distraction from the rest of the day to come. But when the music ended, that wasn't what happened at all.

The lights went out.

In the pitch black of the windowless arena, Hermione felt Draco's presence pull away, heard the scratching of blades traveling across the ice.

"Draco?" she called, reaching out into the infinite nothing to search for him. "Where are you? What happened? What's going on?"

When no response came, her heart began to race. The darkness couldn't have lasted more than ten seconds, but it felt like much longer as she stood alone and confused in the middle of the rink.

And then, just as suddenly as they went out, the lights flipped back on, this time illuminating only the ice.

She was about to call out again.

That's when the music started.

The sound of a harp cascaded through the whole arena, coming, not from the small speaker, but from the sound system. Piano and guitar riffs joined the harp, signaling the start of yet another familiar melody from her favourite movie.

Miracles happen…

"Draco!" A laugh bubbled up from deep inside her, and she felt a blush rise in her cheeks. "What on earth did you do?"

Suddenly, from a curtained off area along the far side of the arena, several familiar faces popped out. Ron and Ginny, Pansy, Theo, and many others. All the cast and crew of the Thank You UK Tour had taken to the ice, even those who weren't skaters at all.

With her jaw agape, Hermione watched as they filed past and surrounded her, beginning a sequence of choreography. The non-skaters did some rather simple moves, mostly stepping and clapping, while the actual skaters moved just beyond them, twirling and dancing in unison.

Had someone planned a retirement celebration for them? It was certainly fitting for a day like today. Knowing the playful tone this tour often took, she wouldn't put it past her co-skaters to put something like this together.

They all smiled at her as they danced, and Hermione had the distinct inkling that they knew something she didn't.

You showed me faith is not blind

I don't need wings to help me fly

Miracles happen, once in a while

When you believe…

As the chorus ended, Hermione expected the music to die down and for them all to shout, "Happy Retirement!" or something like that. But when the music kept going, she wasn't sure what to think.

And if this was a retirement celebration, then where was Draco?

The cogs of her mind turned as the song played on, but it wasn't until the second verse started that her brain short-circuited.

What were Fleur and Roger doing there?

And… was that Viktor? In skates? Harry, too?

Familiar faces kept appearing through that same curtain, and with each new one, Hermione felt her heart slam heavier in her chest. She must have looked like a codfish with her mouth hanging so far open.

Viktor and Harry were not smooth on skates at all. Neither was Tonks, who emerged into the ice just after the two former men. She was particularly bad, unable to stop herself from falling twice before she made it to the step-clapping group. Hermione couldn't help the laugh that bubbled from her chest when their hip hop coach cursed up a storm alongside the bubbly pop song.

Behind those three were Lee and Remus, both of whom were far steadier on their feet.

This new group joined in the dance, and now Hermione really was entirely confused. Had she known what was going on, she might have been able to laugh at Harry's poor imitation of dancing or the way that their tour manager had absolutely no sense of rhythm. But the enigma of this whole dance was enough to distract her from anything else.

You showed me faith is not blind

I don't need wings to help me fly

Miracles happen, once in a while

When you believe…

And there was Severus as well, gliding with ease, looking rather out of place amongst all the dancing. He did not dance, himself. But his small smile was enough to make Hermione forget her confusion for a moment.

Mum was there, too, skates and all. Hermione's heart soared as she watched her make her way from the curtained off area, a framed photograph in one hand. Hermione didn't have to look closer to know who was in that photo. Mum brought Dad along to every important event.

Mum always brought Dad to important events.

Hermione froze. She was sure her eyes were as wide as saucers now. Her head was suddenly abuzz. The cogs that had been spinning, trying to put all the pieces together, suddenly fell into place, turning her swirling thoughts into revelation.

Was this…? Could this be…?

Mum only brought Dad along to important events.

This wasn't a retirement celebration. It couldn't be. It felt like so much more.

You showed me dreams come to life

That taking a chance on us was right

All things will come with a little time

When you believe…

Mum skated to the centre of this strange, wonderful flash mob. With a knowing grin, she squeezed Hermione's shoulder as she passed by, joining the step-clappers beside Harry, who was still struggling with a basic sense of rhythm.

In the distance, beyond the crowd, Hermione saw two figures sitting just beyond the barrier. People she hadn't seen in years, but who she recognised in an instant. Dobbs was there, his enormous ears poking out from a misshapen, obviously hand-knitted cap. Beside him sat Mistress McGonagall, much older than Hermione remembered, but still with that same air of dignity in her posture.

Both older adults clearly didn't feel comfortable donning skates, but it made Hermione overflow with joy to see them, nonetheless.

To bring so many people together like this—so many people she loved, it could only be one thing, couldn't it?

And the fact that Draco disappeared so suddenly, so dramatically… this had to be his doing.

No one else she knew was this theatrical.

If this really was a proposal—a thrill ran through Hermione to even think the word—all the hours spent "running errands" made sense. The way he came back sweaty, never fully explaining where he was.

Yes, this had Draco's hands all over it.

As the bridge to the song began, a group of children flooded the ice—the local ice skating club who were participating in the London shows. Each child held a single rose in their hand.

The children, like Mum, skated right past her, each one offering up their rose. Hermione accepted them one at a time, arms bursting with blooms within seconds.

Once all the children had fulfilled their task, the rest of the people on the ice began to back away, as if clearing a path, making way for something… someone new. Hermione's heart was now beating wildly in her chest. She knew this song by heart. Had listened to it hundreds of times in her life. There wasn't much time left on the track, and if her guess was right, there was only just enough time for one final person to make their entrance.

Hermione held her breath and trained her eyes on the curtain.

She didn't have to wait long.

Within moments, Draco appeared on his skates, his joggers and zip-up traded in for a crisp, black tuxedo.

Hermione's heart beat in her throat. Sometimes she forgot just how handsome he was. Years of near-constant togetherness were probably to blame. But in this moment, Hermione couldn't help but admire his solid frame, the sharp angle of his chin, the way his light blond hair looked so effortlessly cool.

Then there were his eyes… his grey eyes made her want to melt.

And those eyes were trained right on her.

As Draco skated toward her, the world seemed to stand perfectly still. Mum, Severus, and everyone else had stopped dancing and were waiting, motionless, at the edge of the arena. Even the music had shifted. The great swoop into the song's finale had never come, instead replaced by an much quieter instrumental track.

With the perfect timing of the music, Hermione was officially convinced that her boyfriend had hired an actual DJ for this over-the-top event.

Hermione nearly cursed at Draco for being so fucking theatrical. Of course he couldn't go for something small and private. When it came to milestones like what Hermione thought was about to happen, Draco Malfoy didn't do small. It was go big or go home with this man.

The whole thing screamed Draco from beginning to end. And she loved him, so Hermione wouldn't have had it any other way.

By the time Draco made it to her side, she was grinning from ear to ear.

"Is this all your doing, Draco Malfoy?" Hermione set the armful of roses down on the ice and placed her hands on her hips, shaking her head.

He merely half-shrugged, palms up as if to say, "But of course."

"I thought we said we were going to wait?" she pressed.

Draco reached for her hand, his fingers wrapping around hers delicately. With gentle movements, he brought the hand up to his lips. The kiss he left on her knuckles left a faint blush spreading across her face.

Even surrounded by people helping pull off the most dramatic proposal possible, Draco knew how to make it intimate. The next words he spoke made her mouth go dry.

"I can't wait when it comes to you, Hermione. Not anymore. We've waited enough already, haven't we?"

To this, she wasn't entirely sure what to say.

"I'm in love with you, Hermione Granger. For how long, I'm not even sure. At least a decade. Maybe even the whole time I've known you."

Draco grasped both of her hands tightly in his. His eyes were looking at her as they'd looked at her many times before, so earnest and overflowing with love. He was looking at her as though she was his entire world. The very centre of his gravitational pull. He looked at her like she was every vibrant colour of a brilliant sunrise, all pinks and oranges and purples rolled into one.

It was intense and overwhelming and absolutely everything.

"You've helped me become the person I am today," he continued, his eyes still making it nearly impossible for her to breathe. "God knows I'm a much better person than the snotty kid who refused to listen to your very sound advice about my posture."

Hermione laughed, and as she opened her mouth, she was surprised to taste salt water dripping onto the tip of her tongue.

When exactly had she started crying?

"And I could try to quote our favourite movie, but I can't. Because I wasn't invisible. So I'll say this. Why you, Hermione Granger? It's because you saw me not for the bratty kid I was, but for who I could be. I want to be with you for all the changes we go through. I want to see what kind of people we become after all this fades away."

Draco faltered, but only just. His breath hitched, and she watched him swallow. Her heart leapt into her chest once more. She could feel the moment coming, building up all around them in the way that the air now stood completely still.

Draco took a breath and stepped one, final step closer until Hermione could see herself reflected in the grey irises of his eyes.

"I don't know if you believe in fate," he declared with such tenderness that Hermione felt herself go weak in the knees, "but I really believe it was fate that we were paired together during my first ballet lesson. Fate that you called me out. Fate that I couldn't forget your face or forget the way you danced. And when I watched you skate for the first time, that was also the first time I truly saw beauty. Not that I truly recognised it or would have ever admitted that as an eleven year-old," he added with a grin.

Draco licked his lips. Hermione could tell that he was getting nervous now. His fingers were trembling as they held her hands. He took a deep, shaky breath. She could practically hear his heart hammering against his ribs.

Subtly, she squeezed his hands. It was gentle encouragement, as if to say, "Go on."

Draco swallowed once more and continued. His eyes were shining now. "It was always meant to happen this way. Us, together on the ice and off. Together, always."

And then, so help her, he got down on one knee.

After fishing it out of his tuxedo jacket pocket, Draco held up a ring box. When he opened it, Hermione burst into tears.

There, nestled in dark velvet, was a diamond that was so familiar it made her heart ache. It was the same diamond Hermione had seen on Mum's finger for years, small but glimmering. The diamond that Dad had given her thirty years ago. It was sitting on a new band, one made of brilliant gold with elegant filigree braiding its way up the sides.

Hermione's eyes flickered between Draco's expectant face and the ring, unsure how to process what she was seeing. It wasn't until she turned her head to find Mum's tear-stained face that she knew this wasn't a dream.

"I know it took a long time to convince yourself that it was okay to be in love. That it was scary for you in a way that I can never fully understand. But I swear to you, I'm going to spend every day we have on this earth together showing you how much I love you. And all that I ask in return is that you can say you love me, too."

Draco took a deep breath and bowed his head for a moment before asking the one question that had caused him to put together this whole production.

Hermione had never been so ready for a question in her life.

"Hermione Granger, will you marry me?"

She didn't even let him catch a breath before she was nodding and chorusing, "Yes, yes!" again and again and falling onto the ice beside him. Through tears on both their parts, he slipped the ring on her finger and drew her in for a long, tender kiss.

All at once the world around them erupted into sound. The cascading harp faded back in, signaling the return of the Princess Diaries song. At the same time, everyone skated back toward the centre of the ice, surrounding them and applauding. Tonks wolf whistled and Hermione was sure that Fleur was sobbing.

You showed me faith is not blind

I don't need wings to help me fly

Miracles happen once in a while

When you believe...

If her life was a film, this would be the moment at the end when the whole audience was smiling in the face of dreams coming true. So much of her life, she'd felt like the Mia Thermopolis with big, curly hair and impossible shoes to fill. But in this moment, she felt like the Mia who finally got her happily ever after.

You showed me dreams come to life

That taking a chance on us was right

All things will come with a little time

When you believe…

When the song finally came to an end, everyone rushed in, offering hugs and claps on the back. Everyone asked to see the ring.

"The fans are going to freak out. Not to mention the press," Pansy commented when the chaos finally died down.

Any other time, that might have weighed on her mind, but in this perfect moment, Hermione couldn't have cared less.


Pansy was absolutely correct. The fans did freak out. Once one person noticed the ring during the meet and greet, no power in the universe could have controlled the screaming that followed.

By the time the show kicked off, the whole arena was abuzz, and Hermione was more than certain that the news had already started making the rounds across social media.

But true to form, it didn't matter at all. Not when she felt like she was floating. Not when Draco kept leaning over to kiss her at every opportunity.

Let them know. Let everyone know just how happy they were—how far they'd come since Sochi when the whole world saw them fall apart at the seams.

Their entire final show felt surreal. Hermione felt almost as though she was sitting in the arena, watching it unfold before her eyes.

There was the last pre-performance stretch.

The last time Draco did his pre-performance ritual jumps.

The last time they stood backstage with bated breath, waiting for their names to echo through the arena.

Through it all, Draco kept his fingers laced through hers.

And then came the actual dances.

They performed their Olympic routine one last time to a resounding standing ovation. The samba and the hip hop dances electrified the audience as always. Each dance came off more flawless than the next, not a foot or hand out of place. And when they struck their final poses, chests heaving, smiles wide, it was as though they were reading the final paragraph of their story sentence by sentence, growing closer to the end with each movement they took.

And just like that, there was only one performance left, just the two of them.

Butterflies churned in Hermione's stomach as they stood just beyond the curtained doorway, waiting for their cue to enter the ice one last time. Through the wispy fabric of the curtain, they could just make out the screen hanging high above the centre of the rink.

Just before this final, emotional performance, a short video of the two of them always played. They'd recorded the segments a couple months back, separately from each other. Before tonight, Hermione had never really listened to the video. Listening would have made this ending real. She hadn't been ready to say goodbye.

Perhaps she had simply been holding onto her old fears—old fears of abandonment that still sometimes clawed their way into her life.

But she was ready now.

"Eighteen years of Draco," she heard herself say over a soft orchestral melody. "What can I say about that?"

Draco's voice cut in. "I will never stop being grateful that Hermione, quite literally, danced into my life."

"I've stopped trying to put a label on who Draco is to me."

"Being able to grow and change with her, helping shape each other into who we've become… it's been the greatest journey."

"We've gone through so much of our lives together. We were kids together, grew up together, and now, I can't picture my life without him."

Listening to themselves speak so candidly, Hermione felt her heart clench. They'd spoken to the press so often about their relationship that at times, their responses had become almost automatic.

But this time, Hermione listened. Really listened. Allowed herself to feel the meaning behind those words.

Beside her, she could see that Draco was listening, too.

His hand reached for hers.

"My message to Draco?" she said in the video. "I'm thankful everyday for his passion and his drive. How he strives to be better every single day and doesn't shy away from challenges. He has always been my biggest support, especially in my lowest moments. In short, he's my everything."

Draco lifted their intertwined fingers and kissed the back of her hand.

"Hermione," Draco began, "I genuinely don't know where I would be without you. You brought joy and beauty into my life. You have grown into this powerful, inspirational woman, and I am awed and humbled to call you my partner."

Tears were welling in Hermione's eyes, and she didn't bother to push them down. This was a moment to feel everything.

Even in the video, she had started to well up. "Thank you for your patience, Draco, and for that big, open heart of yours that you don't always let everyone see."

"I feel really blessed to have had a front row seat all these years. And all I have left to say is that I can't wait to see what you do next. Because I know it will be nothing less than amazing."

Then came one last line from a very teary Hermione.

"Thank you for holding my hand for eighteen years."

The video finished with a clip of them taking a bow together.

And suddenly, it was time.

She squeezed Draco's hand, feeling the way her new ring pressed into their skin.

"Just us?" he asked, his familiar grey eyes finding hers in the low light.

Time stood still, just for that moment. Eighteen years of memories swirled around her, finally coming to a close, just beyond that curtain.

But she wasn't afraid of what waited on the other side. In fact, she was excited to meet what was to come. As long as Draco held her hand, she could face whatever came her way.

"Just us." Hermione smiled. "Forever."

Lifting the curtain, she and Draco stepped onto the ice one last time, hand in hand.


And thus, Subtle Perfection, aka Flangst On Ice comes to an end.

This fic has been 3 years in the making. Ever since I saw Tessa and Scott skate at the Pyeongchang Olympics, I knew this was a story I had to write. It was one of those defining moments that I couldn't stop thinking about. And so, Subtle Perfection came to be.

However, it wouldn't have been nearly what it is without the help of Graceful Lioness. She has been in my corner from day one and went way above and beyond to make this fic the best it could be. You should all go read her stuff. It's excellent.

Watching Draco and Hermione grow from little ice dancing bbs to Olympic medalists was such fun. I truly loved writing this story. It required me to do a lot of research and I'm pretty sure at least 1/4 of my YouTube history is ice dancing videos. A lot of you have said that I've gotten you hooked as well, so, you're welcome for that.

Also, it should be noted that Draco and Hermione's final skate was actually inspired by Scott and Tessa's final skate.

It was truly an honor to see how much people connected to this little ice dancing story. It means the world to hear from you.

And with that, I suppose, it's time to turn the page and close up shop on another WIP.

Thank you, wonderful readers.

Until next time, see you on tumblr!

BiscuitsForPotter