Author's Note: Okay, everyone. Here is the absolute last chapter. I know a lot of people thought chapter 24 was the last, but I think I had specifically said there was one more. So, I apologize if you thought it was over. It wasn't. I hope you all have enjoyed our time together, and I'll miss you guys. I think I'll take a break from this site for a while, but I already have a story planned possibly for Fiction Press. Anyway, love you all. You've been awesome.
Jezebellerd15: Thanks. I can't help getting nervous about things I'm not used to writing. It's just a step out of the comfort zone.
ThousandI: They do deserve a happy ending, don't they? Oh, and I'm glad you noticed my unnaturally idyllic ending to that chapter and have caught on to my habit of creating roller coasters. I'm really going to miss your reviews- they've all meant a lot to me.
Miss Mills: Getting caught was the last thing on my list of worries for the couple. You'll see what I mean. MWA!
Cold Feet: You flatter me. I'm seriously blushing. Your reviews always bring a smile to my face, and I'm soooo glad you've enjoyed it. Oh, and your brother comment made me laugh really hard.
Adrian Pucey: Sorry it wasn't entirely ASAP. It is a review nonetheless.
Puck-X: Wow. Your review was really cool. I really like when people point out things not only about the story but about the writing and you did just that. It made me really happy. Also a very flattering review. Thank you so much.
Edhel meldai: Thanks about the nervous comment. Kind of refer to what I said to Jezebellerd15. It helps when people give me positive feedback on specific things I'm worried about.
Elvenwicca: That's right, go me!
Chinkerchickchu: Haha. Thanks.
Anonymous: Did you read on? It's not like you're even reading this right now, because I doubt you even looked at my story after leaving your critical review. Oh well, I'm not phased. I have tried my utmost to keep the characters as in-character as possible, giving explanations on why they are the way they are and allowing them to grow. If I've failed at that, then I apologize.
Natty123: Thanks for all your cute reviews.
Kaiba3: Yes, Hero and Leander does end in a "jacked," as you say, way. I guess you'll have to read and find out whether Hermione and Draco will have the same fate. ; )
JTfanaddict: Thanks a lot. Wow, I've never had anything I've written referred to as "hot." It was cool.
Seaweedqueen: I've totally been in that position where you're just enthralled in a story and you can't stop. It's really touching that it would happen with my story. I'm really glad you like it, and I hope you didn't get in too much trouble about your homework.
Alenor: Yep, seeya later friend.Chapter 25: The Beginning
The morning sun rose lazily over Hogwarts and Hermione stretched, yawning happily. She snuggled further into the man lying beside her and could feel his breath slightly hitch as he awoke. Draco's arms wrapped further around her, squeezing her tightly and kissing the back of her head.
"Good morning," she whispered, turning to face him. "How'd you sleep?"
"Great," he smiled, yawning and kissing her lightly on the lips.
"Do you know what time it is?"
Draco stretched his head around and looked up at the large clock always ticking at Hogwarts.
Hermione gasped. "I have to get down to breakfast."
"I figured as much."
Draco slowly stood and Hermione giggled as he let out a painful gasp at the bitter cold air on his naked body.
"Holy shit, I had forgotten how cold it was."
Hermione nodded, and watched him dress, proceeding then to do the same.
"Well…" she stood, facing him.
They both knew they would have to part, but the knowledge made it no easier.
"I guess I'd better be off."
They glanced back and forth awkwardly, both not knowing how to end the wonderful time they'd had together. Finally, Hermione slowly wrapped her arms around his waist and he around her shoulders.
"I'll come back tonight," he said, his face resting against her head.
"Nothing could stop me."
Hermione smiled and reached up to kiss him briefly, then stepped back, her hand lingering momentarily on his arm.
"Okay, better make sure no one sees you."
Draco smiled and mounted his broom, "I'll do that…" He kicked off and quickly ascended in the air, then swooped down once more, "I love you, Hermione," he shouted from thirty feet above her.
"I love you, Draco."
Then, with a blown kiss, he was gone, and Hermione made her way down to her dormitory, making a point of not allowing herself to be seen.
When she finally arrived at breakfast, Ron and Harry were both stunned at how late she was.
"Where were you?" Ron demanded.
"Oh," Hermione smiled coyly, "I slept in."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Okay, as unlike you as that is, we will accept it."
"Good," Hermione reached for the plate of fruit, a smile now widely displayed across her face.
Harry and Ron exchanged looks highly reminiscent of one experiencing a particularly twisted episode of the Twilight Zone.
"Hermione," Ron asked slowly, "are you okay?"
"Uh huh," Hermione's voice came out far more high-pitched and sing-songy than she would have liked. But, by golly, she couldn't help it. "How about you guys? How are you doing?"
"Fine," Harry said, "We're fine."
"I'm glad to hear that," Hermione reached across and clasped their hands, as if to show how sincerely glad she was to hear that they were fine. Then she returned to her grapefruit, which tasted sweeter than ever.
Between slurps of grapefruit juice, Hermione noticed Parvati and her band of twits- Lavender, Maggie, Theodora, and Jill- making their way to where Hermione, Harry and Ron were sitting.
"Hermione," Parvati smiled, "Why didn't you come to bed last night?" she glanced at Harry, her lips upturned amusedly.
"You didn't go to bed last night?" Harry asked, missing the indication made by Parvati.
"Yeah…" Hermione said carefully, "I fell asleep in the library while I was studying. That's why I didn't wake up at the proper time either."
"Yeah," Ron turned to Parvati, "It's a habit of Hermione's. A bit unusual, but you shouldn't read too much into it."
Parvati snorted and turned rigidly, throwing back over her shoulder, "We'll talk later, okay Hermione?"
The group made their way back to their previous seats and, the moment they were seated, dove into a conversation that would undoubtedly become the stuff of rumors within hours.
"So," Ron leaned back, smiling at Hermione, "you didn't go to bed last night."
"I fell asleep in the library. Like you said, I tend to do that more often than I should."
"Sure you did."
"What's that supposed to mean, Mr. Weasley?" Hermione began grabbing more food, a bit more frantically than before.
"I mean, that you most definitely did not spend the night in the library. Well, I mean, I suppose you could have, but it seems like you'd have better sense than to risk getting caught by Pince."
"I've never seen you so keen on my not getting in trouble. You're usually the one provoking it."
Ron was laughing to himself and neither Harry nor Hermione (though she had a relatively good idea) knew what he was laughing about.
"Ron, would you spit out whatever you're thinking," Hermione finally spat, annoyed and more curious than she'd been in a long while.
"Yeah, come on Ron. You've kept us in suspense long enough."
"Alright, alright," Ron took a moment to compose himself before saying, "Hermione had sex."
"Hermione had sex?" Harry nearly shouted.
"Shh," Hermione tried desperately to hush them.
Ron was laughing and Harry sat in wide-eyed disbelief.
"Well," Harry said, "Did you?"
Hermione lowered her gaze and nodded, almost as if she were ashamed. She thought she had better explain. "Last night I met Draco on the roof, and we… are you hurt?"
Harry's face was unmoved. Not bitter or angry, simply numb.
"No," he said slowly, color returning to his cheeks, "I'm not hurt. I'm just glad it was him. You could have ruined yourself…"
Hermione was touched. How was she blessed with such friends?
"Harry, I don't want you to think that I was…"
"Dumbledore has officially sent in our request to Fudge for the marriage to be annulled."
Hermione's breath caught in her throat.
"Dumbledore wrote a personal letter so that we might be spared the visit to court, and any other customary legal procedures."
"Thank you, Harry."
"Don't thank me. It was for both of us."
Hermione nodded, "Right. Both of us."
Hermione was suddenly flooded and overwhelmed with unspeakable joy. Her life could begin- her life with Draco. Nothing held her back now and she wanted more than anything to simply run into Draco's arms and hold him, knowing that she could now never be afraid of having to let go. She was in a state of frantic giddiness and the world filtered with a light unknown before now. If she had thought that the night before was bliss, then this was doubly so.
She stood, unable to contain herself a moment longer and raced out of the Great Hall and up to her dormitory. Desperately, she reached beneath her bed and grabbed out the journal to do the only sensible thing she could come up with- write.
Writing had become something of an obsession since her time spent in the confines of the Malfoy residence. It was more than a form of self-expression- it was seeing yourself on the most base and flawed and real way. She didn't need to put on the façade that she constantly wore, or have to cover her insecurities or hindrances. It was pure freedom to be wholly herself and wholly content being so.
Unfortunately, she only got two words written on the page before the door flung open, revealing Parvati- for once alone. Hermione slammed her journal shut.
"Hello, Hermione, you said we could talk."
"Yeah, what's up?"
Parvati made her way to Hermione's bed and sat beside her. "Oh," she said, "Nothing, I was just thinking that you maybe needed some time to talk to a girl about everything that's going on. I mean, I know Ron and Harry are great, but really, they can't give you things that other girl friends can give you."
"Everything's fine, Parvati. But I appreciate you thinking of me." Hermione stood and made for the door.
"Hermione, you and I both know you weren't in the library last night."
"Nothing that I do concerns you in the slightest way. So, whether I was in the library or not doesn't matter, does it?"
Parvati laughed and stood, crossing to Hermione, "I suppose not."
She opened the door and began to descend the stairs before turning and saying, "Class is going to start. You've missed a lot lately; how are your grades holding up with that?" She flashed a brilliantly white smile and flipped her head back round, proceeding to walk down the stairs and Hermione could hear the distinct creaking as the portrait of the fat woman allowed her out.
It seemed that all during class, there were couples emerging almost from thin air. 'Honestly,' she mused, 'where have they all come from?' Three Gryffindor couples were sitting very close in Transfiguration, all whispering into each other's ears now and then, and constantly with arms around one another. In Defense Against the Dark Arts, it seemed that the whole of the NEWT student congregation had chosen a partner they were noticeably attracted to. Hermione was left without a partner, totally segregated and alone amongst the mass of raging hormones. And then, to top it off, in History of Magic, she could hardly concentrate on the notes because in the back corner, Parvati and her most recent interest were- for lack of a better word- snogging like there was no tomorrow.
It was more than she could take. She wanted Draco and she wanted him now. Directly after dinner, Hermione made her way up to the roof, with several blankets and a few pillows. It seemed even colder than the night before, and Hermione smiled at all the ways they would have to use the art of body warmth. Sitting on her makeshift nest, Hermione gazed off on the horizon until she was sure it was appropriately dark.
She lifted her wand and whispered the lumos incantation, flooding the floor and empty space with a brilliantly white light. She waved it slowly back and forth into the sky until Draco suddenly came into sight and landed beside her.
"Draco!" Hermione cried, flinging herself in his arms. "I've missed you so much today."
Draco smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Me too."
"Guess what?" Hermione giggled, wrapping herself in his cloak.
"Um, Ron was finally admitted to the asylum?"
Hermione laughed and punched his arm affectionately.
"No," she snuggled back up to him before saying, her eyes closed against his chest, "Harry's and my marriage has been- or will shortly be- officially annulled."
Draco stepped back, eyes wide.
"Dumbledore sent in a personal letter and request to Fudge to have it done right away."
Draco smiled and grabbed Hermione, spinning her a good three feet off the ground.
"That's awesome!" Draco shouted, stepping back again.
"I know," Hermione laughed.
"God, now we can do whatever we like, can't we?"
"Well, to be fair, we were never not doing what we liked, were we? Now it's just a bit more acceptable."
"No, I mean…" Draco paused and looked at Hermione, "after Hogwarts… hell, right now, if you wanted…"
"What are you trying to say?"
"We can get married, Hermione," Draco stepped forward and took her around the waist, pulling her close. "If you want, we'll get married."
Hermione nodded slowly, "Yeah, I'd like that."
Draco smiled and kissed her, "When?"
"How about after Hogwarts. I'm not sure if I'm up to two marriages within a month of each other."
"I'd say that's fair."
Then, Hermione set out the blankets and pressed her lips fervently against Draco's…
A commotion below awoke Hermione and Draco from their slumbering stupor. Hermione lie on her stomach with her face on Draco's constantly rising and falling chest. Her ear aware of each heart beat. It was she that awoke and had the chore of rising Draco.
"I think there's something happening."
The castle was noisy and bustling below. They could hear occasional screams and yells, and a constant buzz of chatter.
"I don't know what it could be."
They looked at each other and rose, frantically dressing and tossing the blankets down the shaft to the closet below.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow," Draco promised, latching another kiss quickly before climbing onto his broom and whizzing away.
Hermione anxiously made her way down the ladder, suddenly very worried of whatever was causing this much of a stir within the castle walls. She ran directly out into the entry and Great Hall, where it seemed the entire student population was scurrying to and fro in a panic.
Seeing Dumbledore at the front of the room, she immediately made her way toward him, disregarding the fact that she would undoubtedly be thought of as a pesk. However, before she could reach her headmaster, McGonagall had taken her by the arm and pulled her to a corner in haste.
"Professor, what's going on?" Hermione asked, the worry thick in her voice.
"My dear," McGonagall patted Hermione tenderly on the shoulder, "I really don't want to alarm you, but an anonymous group of Death Eaters were spotted mere miles from the castle."
Hermione gasped in horror.
"You needn't worry though, Mr. Potter has already been fetched by members of the Order."
"Oh, Harry," Hermione sighed, realizing that he too could be in danger from a deliberate Death Eater attack, "Good, I'm glad he's safe."
"What will the students be doing? We can't very well continue classes as usual."
"No, we cannot. We will be under severe lock-down as the premises are secured. Though we don't know how long that will take, and whether or not it will be in time."
Hermione couldn't breathe. Air was suddenly unknown to her lungs and she staggered back from the force of the sudden incident.
"Thank you, Professor," she squeaked, before turning and fleeing from the Great Hall and up to her dormitory to fetch her journal.
The journal was wide open though, and lying neatly on her bed when she entered the room. This could mean one thing, just as it always did. Draco had been there.
She ran to the bed and began reading feverishly-
My dear, I had a sudden remembrance of the lovely story you so cleverly realized was modeled after our own. Perhaps you will enjoy this-
The winds are high on Helle's wave,
As on that night of stormy water
When Love, who sent, forgot to save
The young, the beautiful, the brave,
The lonely hope of Sestus' daughter,
Oh! when alone along the sky
Her turret-torch was blazing high,
Though rising gale, and breaking foam,
And shrieking sea-birds warn'd him home;
And clouds aloft and tides below,
With signs and sounds, forbade him go,
He could not see, he would not hear,
Or sound or sign foreboding fear;
His eye but saw that light of love,
The only star it hail'd above;
His ear but rang with Hero's song,
"Ye waves, divide not lovers long!"
That tale is old, but love anew
May nerve young hearts to prove as true.
Bride of Abydos
'Well,' she thought, 'That's my Draco. A hopeless romantic.' The thought suddenly struck her as funny. For all of her life he had been anything but a cliché 'hopeless romantic.' And now, suddenly, within the span of a few months he had grown into such as that of Leander himself. She couldn't help grinning at the thought.
Her mind then swerved to the new catastrophe that had happened. That of Draco's life in danger, and substantially because of her. She had, after all, insisted- even begged- him to come back time and time again, and, time and time again, he had returned to her. Even if he knew of the imposing threat to his life, she highly doubted he would break his vow to return to her.
This set her at an alarmingly high stress level. If she was on edge before, it was nothing compared to this. She returned down to the Great Hall, where she assisted the teachers and prefects with calming down the first, second and third years. Keeping busy helped Hermione more than anything could have, and concentrating on the severe needs of some of the students and basically the entire staff allowed her to focus her attention briefly to something other than Draco.
However, night inevitably came, and with it, the sheer terror of her love's fate. The moment the sun set, Hermione, as inconspicuously as possible, retreated from the Great Hall and ascended the ladder to their rooftop sanctuary. She lit her wand, making sure to keep it as dim and covered as possible, creating a glow from the roof, rather than a much more obvious shaft of light.
Soon enough, she could see Draco's form in the distance, and she was filled with a relief and assurance that he would indeed reach her safely. But, at the moment this relief entered her mind, the light emanating from her wand was snuffed, as if a nox from afar had been cast on her wand. She tried desperately to relight it, but it did no good, and she stood alone and terrified on the roof of Hogwarts.
It occurred to her in this moment that the only sensible thing to do was rush downstairs and find help from someone- anyone. She hurried down the ladder and immediately began searching the room for Dumbledore, McGonagall, anyone. The only adult she could see was Filch, and personally, she thought it would do little to no help confiding in him her problem.
"Parvati!" Hermione hissed above the sleeping students, "Parvati, come here."
Parvati slowly made her way to Hermione. "Yeah?"
"Where's Dumbledore… or McGonagall… hell, even Snape."
"They're meeting in Dumbledore's office. They left the Head Boy and Girl- and prefects, of course- in charge while they're gone."
"Okay, look, Parvati, I need you to do something for me, alright?"
"Depends on what it is."
"Yeah, um…" Hermione calmed her breath and thought for a moment of the best plan of action, "I need you to go to Dumbledore's office and get one of them, preferably Dumbledore, down here and in the front of Hogwarts. Tell him that Hermione says it's a matter of dear importance."
Parvati cocked an eyebrow. "Wow, we're kind of playing spy, aren't we?"
"Whatever it takes to get you up to that office, Parvati."
Parvati laughed and turned to the hall, where Hermione could hear her ascending the stairs leading to Dumbledore's office.
Hermione, on the other hand, sped to the kitchens, where she figured the only unlocked passage out of the castle would be. Sure enough, it swung open leisurely for her and she squeezed her way through, out into an outdoor hallway, lined with pillars and having direct view of the front of the castle.
Suddenly, she froze. In horror, she watched a form in the air fly back and forth above the roof as spurts of green flashed out at him. As she squinted into the distance, she could suddenly make out something else- the figures of at least five masked Death Eaters, all with wands poised at Draco.
It was all Hermione could do to stifle a scream. She advanced further, and took out her wand, calculating whether it would be wise to attack any of the masked men. She decided in the negative. Suddenly a streak of green hit- blessedly not himself, but his broom, which proceeded to burst into pieces, leaving him to plummet at alarming speeds towards the roof of Hogwarts.
Hermione flung herself from her hiding place behind the pillars and shouted a charm to try and slow Draco's fall. She hardly had time to make a difference, for not a moment after casting the incantation, Draco disappeared behind the buttresses and towers into a very familiar nook.
Hermione made a silent prayer as she turned and retraced her steps to the Great Hall, the closet, the ladder, and Draco. She ascended with alarming speed, throwing herself forward and crawling toward the familiar shape of a very still Draco lying a few feet away. It was clear that he had hit against the side of the tower and slid down to where he was now.
As she cautiously approached him, she could hear the familiar voices of Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape and several other teachers along with voices of the Death Eaters shouting spells at one another. Accompanied with the explosions and blasts of the spells hitting things, it created a chaotic environment.
But Hermione hardly noticed those things. All she could see was the limp body before her. She held his head in her hands, cradling it gently and realizing that her hands were being bathed in his blood from a gash inflicted to the back of his head. Tears rushed to her eyes and her breath caught in her throat as she took in the sight.
Then, all of a sudden, she realized there was a slight in his chest. Timidly, it rose and fell in uneven, shallow breaths. Hermione was overcome by sobs; tears streaming uncontrollably down her cheeks as she realized that it was not yet over. Draco was still with her.
She laid his head back against the roof and crawled to the edge of the roof, her head hanging over to see the state of affairs below. It seemed everyone was more or less preoccupied, until she noticed that McGonagall was tending to a wounded Snape.
"Professor McGonagall," she cried out as loudly as she could.
McGonagall looked about, shocked at hearing her name. Finally she caught sight of Hermione.
"Professor, I need you up here now. There's an injured student. I thought he was dead, but he's not. It's urgent- come up at once."
McGonagall gave a curt nod and turned, giving Snape the remainder of his bandages and entering the castle.
Hermione crawled back to Draco and held his head in her arms again, resting it in her lap.
"Draco?" she whispered, tears returning. "Draco, can you hear me?"
Slowly, Draco's eyelids opened and a small smile grew on his face as he gazed up at Hermione.
"I'm so glad you're here," he said breathlessly, as if each word was a stab of pain.
"Don't talk, Draco. Just be still."
"Hermione," Draco gasped, "I think this is it."
Hermione's tears fell violently against Draco's face. "No, Draco. You can't say that. You have to hold on."
"I love you."
"No!" Hermione shouted, almost angrily, "You will not give up. If you die, I die; do you understand? If you want to kill me, go ahead and die, but Draco, I am begging you to try and save both our lives."
A smile crept across his face again.
"Can you do that for me?" Hermione bit back more tears, clearing her face and making as straight a countenance as was manageable. "Will you promise to try and hold on?"
"Kiss me, Hermione," Draco's voice was audibly labored, but had a newfound determination to it.
She leaned forward and pressed her lips gently to his, holding on only a moment before backing away and letting him breathe.
"Yes," he sighed, "I'll do my best."
Draco's eyes closed and Hermione held him closer to her, gathering some of her cloak to block the bleeding from his head. From the corridor behind them, Hermione could hear the climbing of a ladder and knew it was McGonagall.
"Help is coming, Draco," Hermione whispered, kissing his head and wrapping her arms around him. "You're safe… we'll both be safe now."
End Note: Well, I will now make my teary good-bye to all of you. I'll miss you guys a bunch. Especially people who have been with me for a long time, you guys feel like a bunch of friends or something. It's been really cool. Okay, so I hope that was a satisfactory ending. Combining the (not entirely) accuracy of the myth with the way (let's face it) we all wanted it to end. I really tried for that. Okay, bye bye and smooches!