It was two days after Draco had been discharged from the Hospital Wing and it was Monday already again. Hermione had spent the whole weekend with Draco, holed up in her room away from the rest of the school with Harry ordering Dobby to bring them up food during meal times to save them a trip down to the Great Hall to face reality.
It had been a relaxing and refreshing break from all the bad vibes that Hermione had felt from the rest of the school while Draco had been in the Hospital Wing and they definitely needed the time to recuperate, catch up and prepare themselves for when they really went down to face the school.
"Do you think its cowardly for us to hide from them like this?" Draco had mused on Sunday afternoon.
Hermione had laughed and disagreed.
"No, we're just taking a much needed break from everything. No one can blame us for that. And anyway, I think the rest of the school needs some time to accept the fact that we're together for good now."
Now Hermione lay in bed, in denial that she had to go to classes this morning. Even though it was almost time for the Christmas break, all the teachers were still pushing them hard through the NEWT courses and Hermione had felt so burnt out from studying and dealing with everything that came with being with Draco that she was definitely looking forward to the Christmas break.
Suddenly the boy in question appeared outside her window, hovering on his broom, his silvery blond hair blowing in the wind. He tapped the glass impatiently, gesturing for her to let him in.
Hermione rolled her eyes wearily, but strode over to open the window for him anyway. Draco came in and gave her a quick peck on the cheek before thrusting a copy of the Daily Prophet at her excitedly.
"What's this for?" she asked curiously, "And why are you here so early?"
"Read it and find out." he replied with a grin, settling himself on her bed. Hermione looked at him in wonder, trying to figure out what had caused him to look more carefree than he had in the last two months combined.
Hermione sat down next to him and leant against him as she unfurled the newspaper and scanned the front page for the relevant headlines. She didn't have to look far - the headline that she was looking for was in big bold writing and screamed at her to read it:
LUCIUS MALFOY IS FINALLY CONVICTED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER
"Draco!" she gasped, pointing at the headline and the accompanying mugshot of Lucius Malfoy himself, which was glaring at her.
"I know, its great isn't it? The most unflattering photo my father's ever had taken of himself is now splashed out on the biggest Wizarding newspaper for everyone to see." Draco remarked gleefully.
"Oh shush. How did you get the paper so early? Doesn't everyone usually get it at breakfast?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, but because my father's on the front page, my darling mother was able to weasel a couple of copies from the publishers before it gets delivered to anyone else and she sent it over early this morning." Draco replied with a small smile.
"Now, stop stalling and read the god damn article." He prompted her.
She nodded and did so.
Lucius Malfoy, suspected Death Eater and head of the prestigious Malfoy family has been convicted of the attempted murder of his own son, Draco Malfoy, a student at Hogwarts. Though many in the Wizarding community have known that he was capable of many unspeakable crimes, he had never been found guilty on any of the crimes that he had been charged with until now. Many have also expressed disbelief at this latest heinous crime where he broke through the Hogwarts security wards and attempted to strangle his son after performing an Unforgivable curse on him - it is believed that he curse that he cast was the Cruciatus, a pain-inducing curse that tortures the recipient.
Hermione barely suppressed a snort at that line, trust the Daily Prophet to describe the Cruciatus curse so inadequately. Then she continued on reading,
One of the Daily Prophet's sources within Hogwarts says that Lucius Malfoy had been assisted by two other students, but it is suspected that he had them under the Imperius curse, another Unforgivable.
At yesterday's trial before the Wizengamot, Lucius Malfoy appeared surly and arrogant, refusing to accept the sentence that they had given him, he is said to have shouted "You may send me away to Azkaban now, but I'll be out again before you know it! The Dark Lord will come and save me!" as he was being taken away to the prison, which has prompted the Ministry to reveal previously classified information that Lucius Malfoy was indeed the Dark Lord's right-hand man and a dangerous Muggle hater.
The sentence that was given to Lucius Malfoy was a lifetime imprisonment in Azkaban for performing an Unforgivable curse and attempted murder, though the prosecution has launched an appeal to have the sentence upgraded to the Dementor's Kiss.
This sentence means that the control of the extensive Malfoy estate now passes onto his wife, Narcissa to manage until the victim of this wicked crime, their seventeen year old son, Draco, becomes a legal adult. The Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour was also present at the trial and made a rare comment- "The Wizengamot has put another dangerous criminal behind bars and I feel that our society is now much safer because of it."
Hermione finished reading the article and raised her eyes to meet Draco's, which were glinting in the reflected sunlight.
"I can't even begin to explain how happy I was to read that this morning." Draco proclaimed.
"I'm really happy for you, Draco. You're finally free." Hermione replied gently. He leant over and kissed her impulsively, showing her exactly how relieved he was that his father was behind bars.
"He deserved everything that he got." Draco muttered darkly when they drew apart and Hermione nodded.
"Definitely." She agreed, but then she thought of something else, "Draco, how is your mother coping with all this? Is she as happy as you are, or is she very upset?"
"It may come as a shock to you, Hermione, but my father and my mother had a very turbulent relationship. Sometimes they completely agreed with each other, sometimes their opinions clashed and…it was then that my father would abuse her." Draco answered quietly.
Hermione was taken aback - she had always assumed that Lucius Malfoy had loved his beautiful trophy wife, no matter how cold and heartless he was on the outside.
"I guess you can understand why I hated him so much after I realised what he was really like." Draco remarked bitterly.
Hermione started and then put her hand on his pale one reassuringly.
"Don't worry. Your father cant hurt you or your mother now." she said consolingly.
"I know. So, in answer to your question before, I suppose my mother's relieved about the Wizengamot's decision to put him where he belongs - but I can tell you that she's having a hell of a time dealing with all the media attention that she's getting and trying to sort out the Malfoy estate." said Draco with a sigh.
"Is there anything that I can do to help?" Hermione asked gently.
Draco shook his head.
"My mother's a resilient and independent woman, though she was unable to do much under my father but you'll see her show her true colours now."
"Okay, um, so…I'm just wondering, Draco…does your mother share your father's deep hatred for witches like me?" Hermione asked awkwardly.
There was a pause as Draco seemed to be trying to remember something.
"Oh! That reminds me, I was going to ask you something else when I came here this morning. The article totally erased it from my memory." Draco gave her one of his rare dazzling grins again.
"Is this relevant to my question though?" Hermione asked.
"It relates to it. So, Hermione, I was wondering what you're doing during the Christmas break?" asked Draco lightly.
"Well, its tradition for me, Harry and Ron to stay at Hogwarts over the Christmas break because Harry doesn't go back to his relatives' place except for the summer holidays. We keep him company." Hermione informed him.
"What if I make you an offer that you cant refuse?" Draco asked charmingly.
"What kind of offer?" Hermione responded curiously - he was being so infuriatingly secretive about all this!
"Well, you see, my mother wants me to get away from Hogwarts during the break because she feels that it will help me take my mind off things - but she wont be able to look after me at the Manor because she's still trying to sort out everything, like I said before and she wont have much time to see me. But she suggested that I take a break at one of our holiday homes - we do have quite a selection to choose from, but I've already decided on one, and I want you to join me on this break." Draco explained, finishing off with a smile.
"Erm, whoa…that is an offer that I cant refuse…but what about Harry? And does your mother care that you're spending all your time with a Muggle-born?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"I've explained the situation to her, and though she doesn't exactly approve, she's still allowing me to see you. In fact, she said that if she has time, she'll come over and have dinner with us. She wants to meet you." Draco replied.
"Really?" Hermione responded incredulously.
"So, what do you say, Hermione? Potter will be fine here with his sidekick, they wont miss you."
"Hey!" she spluttered indignantly.
"Well, of course they will, but you'll be missing out on a lot if you decide to stay with them." he countered smoothly.
They looked at each other - Draco's eyes imploring her to accept his invitation and Hermione's eyes troubled as her head and her heart battled inside of her. Finally she sighed and nodded.
"I'll come with you - but on one condition." Hermione said softly, "I want to be back here before the last weekend of the break so I can spend it with Harry and Ron."
"Sure." Draco replied with a grin, "Now, aren't you curious as to where we're going?"
"Of course I am. Why don't you enlighten me?" Hermione cocked her head at him and smiled.
"Here's a clue - it rhymes with the word 'gateau'." Draco said playfully.
Hermione's eyes widened.
"You don't mean…"
"Yes I do. We're going to the Malfoy Chateau."
Hermione let out an uncharacteristic squeal of delight and spontaneously threw her arms around Draco. He grinned at her reaction and held her close to him, treasuring this moment, when everything in the world seemed to be finally going his way.
Author's Final Rant: The End! That's it! A year's hard work…over…cries I think I'm really gonna miss this story. It was truly lots of fun to write and I'm really surprised at how it all turned out, I mean I honestly planned for it only to be a short 20 chapter story, but somehow it morphed into this monstrous angst-romance fest. Doesn't matter. I still enjoyed writing it all.
Now, I want to thank each and every single one of my readers, silent or not for supporting me throughout the year and I want to say a special thank you to my lovely reviewers of course. I would list all of you here…but I am way too lazy, so here's a cookie for all 590 of you so far!
And, last but not least an extra special thank you to my regular reviewers (2 reviews and up):
HgBookworm, seaweedqueen, Lady Delphinea, Aristocratic Assassin, My-Chemical-Romance-Fan, xOxOkIsSmYaSsXoXo, padfootedmoony, Sayaku-chan, genuinexchild, londonmalfoy, sexiprincess1228, PurpleXPrincess, lovedrhr, degrassichick, xxKyani, Monday Mornings, MysteryALASKA, POTTEROX, Flavagurl, Geraldine-b, Babiblue754, coldheartlessdracolover, mysteriouscharm, losangeleschick, greenleafchic127, beutifulblonde, vote-larry-4prez, phoenixtamer150, 13a13ygurl, AimeeK, natyslacks, lilpuppy3, Weaselbee, foxeran, etherealfire, Emma, ilovetom88, Nathifa Femi, Steph, xXWitchXx, perfectfakereality, Hp-paddy, Silverwolf130492, DemonSorceress, curlygntx, elektrikstorm, ShimmeringEvil, FeLiCiTy RoXx, The Lady of the Four Leafed Clover, guyswhattheheck, Chalindra, BlueSword16, raisa, TheConductorsLEASTFavorite, Hali, merurikku, Gone-Goonie.
Ok, if I missed on you in my list, don't feel neglected - it was purely unintentional and I still love you for reviewing!
Thank you all so much for your support and I really hope that you've enjoyed the story!