He checked her over quickly, just to be sure she was safe, then picked through her robe pockets; they had changed into the clothes they went in so to avoid suspicion. Almost immediately he found what he was looking for and slipped it into his pants pocket. There was no use in her having it now.
With one final kiss to her warm, smooth forehead, Draco whispered his good-bye and descended the staircase. And no matter how much he wanted to run back to her and hold her in his arms, he knew this was the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
Chapter 12: Epilogue
Hermione walked arm in arm with Ron to breakfast a week after Draco's breakdown, completely unaware of Draco's more intense than usual sour disposition. In fact, she didn't even glance at him; not once. Apparently he was a better actor than he thought and finally, after two weeks, she had come to terms with "reality" and accepted that their time together had only been a twisted dream.
But, no matter how sore he was at seeing her falling over Ron Weasley, he was truly happy deep inside. Because his plan had worked, because she was happy, and because she could move on with her life and continue to be happy. And for him that was enough to keep going for the rest of his.
Since their return, he had not bothered to contact his family. Not that he normally did, but there was an underlining curiosity in him to see or hear from them after having met their positive counterparts. This curiosity was not strong enough, however, for him to actually go through with it. He planned to spend as little time with them as possible, while his soul desperately clung to the memories of what could have been had Hermione but said a few simple words seven years before.
He was not blaming her. No. She was the Hermione he had fallen in love with, not the devious girl of the other universe. Not the girl he had learned his equivalent self had treated with the utmost cruelty, almost to the point of abuse. It sickened him that the other him could be even more surly than him and have the good parents he had. It just proved even more conclusively that nothing in life makes sense.
At night when he couldn't sleep—and he hadn't had a good night's sleep since they came back—he thought of Hermione's big soft brown eyes, and the way she looked at him in those last few days. Did she love him? He could never know. He had made sure that she could not respond when he'd confessed his feelings out of fear that they would not be returned. He knew she cared about him, that she'd wanted to stay and be with him, but was that enough to prove love? Without her confession he had nothing but hope and a tightly woven web of grief.
Her willingness to make a fool out of herself to find the truth had been somewhat startling to him. Was that her way to show her love? Or had she just been so determined to not be proven wrong that she didn't care how she looked to others? Months ago he would have put his money on determination. Now he was caught between his deepest feelings for her and his want to know if she had returned them.
He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't notice the Great Hall was nearly empty. With a painfully heavy sigh, he gathered his things and trudged off to class, ignoring the fact that Pansy was trailing behind him, trying to get his attention.
"Draco!" He was almost through the door to Potions, when Pansy finally caught his arm, pulling him back into the hall.
"What do you want?" he groaned. He was in no mood to deal with her neediness.
"What's gotten into you lately? You didn't listen to a word I said to you at breakfast. What has you so distracted?"
"None of your damn business." He shoved passed her and into the classroom, just in time to slip in front of Hermione and avoid staring at her back as he walked to his seat, longing to hold her.
The class proved to be more than boring, and, in a daydream state, he didn't notice that Snape was talking to him.
"Do you have an answer for me, Mr. Malfoy?" he asked, his face only slightly less sullen when addressing members of his own house.
"No professor," he sighed. "I wasn't paying attention."
"Very well. Is there anyone else who knows the answer?"
Surprisingly Hermione's hand did not shoot straight up. In fact, her eyes were nowhere near the professor or the lesson he was teaching. She was scribbling something on a small piece of parchment, ignorant to the fact that he was staring at her. Why couldn't he just tell her? Why couldn't she just know that it had all been real and that he did love her and wanted her so badly that it hurt?
Only a few times in his life had Draco cried. Now, after that night of Head duties with Hermione's prying, he could not seem to keep his emotions at bay when he was alone. At night, when everyone was asleep, he snuck into the Room of Requirement, where he now had a Pensieve, and reflected on his times with the only girl who could have ever been able to tame his wild heart. And more times than not he cried until his eyes were dry, then retired to his room for his unhealthy restless sleep.
Finally, after what seemed like eons, class was over, and Draco wouldn't have to see Hermione's face again until lunch.
Draco was halfway to his common room, intent on going to the Room of Requirement, when he remembered, quite suddenly, that he had a very big Potions assignment to do. Most people thought that Draco was a lazy student, who only acquired good grades by deceit and the power his father had with the Ministry. But, on the contrary, he was actually very studious, and preferred to have his homework done long before it was due.
Besides, it was the best way for him to keep his thoughts from drifting into dangerous territory.
He climbed the stairs back to his dormitory, closing himself in his bed and illuminating his wand for just enough light to see the text of his book. He settled himself comfortably against his big fluffy pillows, and opened the book to the correct chapter.
"What the—" He pulled a piece of parchment from inside the book, not remembering sticking a bookmark there. He never did that sort of thing. He was about to toss it aside, when he noticed something only a wizard of refinement could see. The parchment was not of the best quality, and yellowed in color. The parchment he owned was pure white and cost more than most students' robes.
Slowly, he opened the folded paper. He did not believe his eyes, and, after rubbing them and intensifying the light of his wand, read the short script again.
I forgive you, if you can forgive me. Don't ever forget, and please know that I love you too.
He re-read the note ten minutes before it was fully absorbed in his mind. And then, very carefully, he folded it back up and slipped it into his inside robe pocket with the picture of them. He couldn't know how she knew, but it was perfectly clear that she did, and she would make no further attempt to extract his confession.
He propped his book back up on his knees, a small, but genuine, smile playing on his lips.
Now he could let go.
Five Years Later:
Draco walked steadily through the crowd, trying his best not to slam directly into anyone. He could easily see those headed his way, what with the good three to four inches he had on almost everyone. At twenty-two, he was a well-built, fashionable, and high-ranking wizard. He worked for a The Ministry of Magic in Madrid, and was only back home for a week. The day before his mother had given birth to a seven-pound baby girl by the name of Ebony. He was not home to visit his parents.
Ever since his graduation from Hogwarts five years before, he had become more and more distant with his family. Until, one day, he didn't speak to them at all. He had only a day's notice to pack and come home; he had no idea that his mother was pregnant, and now he had a baby sister. His assessment of the situation was that in their eyes he had failed them and they needed another to carry on in their place. And that was perfectly fine with him.
After ten minutes of meandering throw Hogsmeade, he finally came to the small shop he was looking for. Ebony was undoubtedly blessed with the endowments he had. She would need a good strong toy to expand her mind. Hopefully, if he continued to visit her, she would see the errors of their parents and turn away from them as he had.
He was just about to enter the shop, when he stopped dead in his tracks. Someone in the distance was calling his name, and the voice sounded very familiar.
He looked up, his eyes widening with shock as a brown-eyed, brown-haired beauty came tearing towards him.
"Draco," she said, her face beaming with happiness. She looked more gorgeous than he remembered.
"Hermione," he said, unable to think of something more profound and perfect to say.
"I haven't seen you since seventh year. Where have you been?" He wondered if she was thinking the same thing he was; that he'd run away from anything that reminded him of her, burying himself in a country with a language, up until two years ago, he could not understand.
"Spain," he said flatly, glancing in every direction but hers. "I work for the Spanish branch of the Ministry."
"I work for the Ministry too! I'm here in London though. I didn't get far."
He was about to say something, but the words dissolved when he noticed something he had completely missed at first. Hermione looked very different, of course; she was taller, leaner, and had an all around more mature look to her. But the biggest difference of all was her bulging belly, hidden horribly by her bulky robes.
"You're pregnant?" he asked stupidly, pointing to her belly.
"Very much so," she laughed, her hands instinctively wrapping around it.
"It's Weasley's?" Strangely, he did not frown or grimace as he said this. She smiled warmly; he had done some maturing over the years as well. He was not the cold hard man she had once known. How she wanted to know what he had been doing with his life since graduation.
"Yes, our second," she said proudly. "Scarlett turned two last month. Rory isn't due for another two months."
"I take it you've gotten married then." It was not a question. "Are you happy?" Neither expected the question, but, now that it was out, they were both relieved he'd asked it.
"I'm very happy, Draco." But there was an underlying, soft sadness in her eyes. "But I can still miss you."
He averted his eyes, nodding.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Why did you have Dumbledore give me a sleeping draught? Why didn't you want me to know?"
"You know the answer to that, Hermione," he sighed. He glanced at her, then down at her belly. Foolishly he imagined his son or daughter inside of her.
"Did you think I would never find out?" There was nothing accusatory in her voice.
"There was a chance." He shrugged. What was it about her that made him shrivel up inside? He had done such a good job not thinking about her. And now, all of a sudden, they were face-to-face and talking about their secret past. "How did you find out?" Ignoring his nervousness, he looked at her, and was quite happy he did. She was smiling.
"Do you remember that night I asked you directly about the Displacer?" He nodded. How could he forget that? "I never really left. I stayed outside the door. I was about to leave, when I heard you crying. With a weak spell, I expanded the keyhole just enough to look inside…You were holding the picture, and I knew."
"And the note?"
"What about it?"
He took a deep breath. Now or never.
"Did you mean it?"
Her smile widened and she pulled him into a warm embrace. He melted immediately in her arms, savoring the sweet smell of her hair and the undeniably perfect feel of her body pressed to his. He had been waiting five years for this very moment.
"I meant every word, Draco," she whispered, giving him a quick, friendly kiss on the cheek. "And I still do."
"I miss you, Hermione," he admitted, his voice catching in his throat for an instant. "But I'm glad you're happy."
"And you?" She stood back, adjusting her bag over her shoulder.
"I'm managing," he laughed. She gave him a look as if to say, "Tell me everything, Draco." He swallowed his pride and obliged. "I won't lie," he said, looking directly into her eyes. "There's hardly a time I don't think about you. I live alone in Madrid, and this is the first time in over a year that I've been home or even talked to my parents."
"So you've denied them?"
"Yes. I'm not their prized child anymore, but that's all well and good for me. I'm content in Spain."
"Any lucky ladies in your life?"
"I dated a few different girls at the office, but nothing serious. I don't think Spanish girls are my taste. I'm going to take some time off and go on vacation. Maybe America has what Spain's missing."
"Well," Hermione said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I'm happy to see that you're moving on with your life. But I want you to know that I think about you a lot too. And I hope that you do find someone that makes you as happy as Ron makes me. You deserve so much better than what you have, Draco."
"He treats you good?"
Hermione laughed and nodded. "Of course."
"Because if he ever—"
"He's a good man, Draco. And I love him…Now, are you going to tell me what you're doing at a Hogsmeade toy shop? Or should I assume that you're channeling your inner child and are looking for a Dumbledore figurine?"
Draco scoffed, but smiled.
"My mother had a baby," he said without emotion. "Her name's Ebony. I'm getting her something before I meet her."
"That's wonderful," Hermione exclaimed, pulling him into another swift hug. "I hope her big brother can influence her some."
"That's my plan. From what I heard she's very powerful, and looks just like me."
"I can imagine," she laughed. "Well, do you need some help picking something out? I do have some experience with little girls."
"I don't know, Hermione. Would Weasley want us shopping together?"
"I'm my own person, Draco. And if I want to shop with an old friend then I will. Now come on." She grabbed his arm and pulled him into the shop. "And I want to hear everything about you since graduation."
"Do you have three hours?" he laughed, giving way to a small smile. As loveless as his life had been, it had nonetheless been an exciting ride.
"For you," she said, looking at him with those big chocolate eyes that told him how true her note had been, "I have all the time in the world."
I hope everyone liked it! I know Draco and Hermione are supposed to get together, but I never intended that from the beginning. Alternate Love means that they can only be together in an alternate time. And no matter how much they love each other they can never be together in their reality. They're like Romeo and Juliet, if you want to get technical. And they still love each other as much as they did when they were at Hogwarts. So don't worry about Draco! He'll find happiness, I promise:)
And I hope everyone enjoyed my tale.
P.S. Incase anyone was wondering, Draco and Hermione do stay in touch after that. Ron accepts this (thinking that they reconciled after bumping into each other in Hogsmeade), and, after meeting the new Draco, finds that he truly has changed. He and Hermione have been married since they were nineteen, and Harry and Ginny were married a few months after them. They currently have no children. And after a two-month stay in the United States, Draco is engaged to a muggle college student. Her name is Eve, and he finally understands how Hermione can love him and Ron at the same time.