The Beginning of a New Era
Hermione had not been able to sleep, no matter how tired she was. She was just too anxious. By that time, Draco would have been married already, which meant that any hope for the two of them reconciling was just a mere fantasy. Hermione could not get Draco and Pansy – looking incredibly smug together – out of her mind, so she simply decided to head back to the Ministry of Magic and receive the traveling permit so that she could finally, finally leave her horrible life behind her once and for all.
"Thank you." Hermione said gratefully to the new and kinder witch who had reinstated Joy at her position in the Department of Magical Transport.
The witch smiled. "You may have noticed several fireplaces along the corridor." She said, indicating the gorgeous, life-sized fireplaces surrounding them. "These are usually for witches or wizards traveling by Floo Powder, but we prefer that Apparater's also use them so that they are not in the way of anyone passing. If you could just use one of them, that would be great."
Hermione nodded. "All right. Bye, then." She slowly walked over to the furthest fireplace, so that she could have a moment alone with herself before leaving. She inhaled deeply, staring into the empty pit. This was it. She wouldn't be back in London for another two months, and who knew what could happen by then?
Her breathing was abnormally intense; Hermione took a large step into the brick fireplace. She had her permit clutched in one hand and her luggage in the other, both things feeling considerably heavier than they should have. She tried to clear her mind of Draco. Tried to clear her mind of everything that had been reeling through it since she had been assigned to the Head Boy and Girl dormitory with him. She envisioned beaches and palm trees, huts and exotic people, everything that she had seen in the books on Cuba in the Hogwarts library.
I'm ready, She thought to herself, knowing full well that she really wasn't. It was too late now, though. It was time to go.
"Hermione!" A voice cried.
Hermione's eyes widened with shock. Utter astonishment. It couldn't be, it just couldn't. He was a hologram. A mere vision of his true self. It was just her mind playing tricks on her; it had to be. But there he was, racing at top speed towards her. His white-blond hair flew all over the place as he ran, and even from a distance Hermione could see the determination in his gorgeous, gray eyes. It was no hologram. No vision. No trick. It was truly Draco; he was really there.
"Hermione, wait!" He exclaimed as he finally reached her. He extended his arm and took hold of her own, tightening his grip and never wanting to let go. Too late. Hermione had already been visualizing her desired destination; it was too late to turn back. Pop! She disappeared. But so did Draco. The travel receptionist looked bewildered for a split second before she shouted, "You don't have a permit, sir!"
Draco and Hermione both suddenly appeared out of nowhere at the bottom of a gigantic, eight foot outdoor swimming pool, much to their dismay. Their eyes opened widely as it took a moment for realization to dawn on them, but once it had, they let out a sudden burst of bubbles and kicked their legs as hard as the could until they broke through the surface of the pool. Young boys and girls glanced at them as they emerged, some in mini sailboats and others floating on the surface with nothing holding them there, but no one seemed shocked or amazed; obviously, Draco and Hermione had landed somewhere that was only witches and wizards.
Hermione flapped her arms wildly, attempting to stay afloat. "I… can't… swim!" She managed to shout while kicking her legs furiously. Draco couldn't help but grin as he swum over to her and placed both hands on her hips, holding her in place.
"I want out!" Hermione cried. "Let me out! I can't swim! I'm going to drown!"
A young wizard – possibly age eleven – rolled his eyes. "Well, you've just sucked the fun out of my swim." He muttered before taking off to the side of the pool and lifting himself out. The rest of the young witches and wizards glanced quizzically at Hermione and Draco before pursuing the boy and emptying the pool; obviously, they had landed themselves in a children's pool. Soon enough, it was only Hermione and Draco left in the center of the immense swimming pool, and Hermione was unwilling to settle down as she thrashed water in all directions, wishing most desperately to escape the vast waters.
"Calm down!" Draco cried over Hermione's shouting. He was still grinning. "We're going to swim over there, okay?" He asked, pointing north to an exit from the pool.
Hermione nodded vigorously, then decided to stop thrashing and just allow Draco to lead her to a way out. In a matter of seconds, Hermione's feet could reach the floor as they made their way into the shallow end of the pool. There were four steps leading in and out of the water; Draco took a seat on the third step, so that the water was just above his belly button. Hermione, both thrilled to be out of danger and confused that Draco was right there, did not know what to do; so, she did the only thing that her body and mind would allow her to do. She took a seat next to him.
"You ruined my Apparation." Hermione finally said after a few moments of silence. "I had expected to land in the lobby of this hotel, not square in the middle of the children's swimming pool."
"Sorry." Draco said. "Where are we?"
"Cuba." Hermione answered.
Draco whistled. "Cuba, eh? That's pretty far. What, may I ask, are we doing in Cuba?"
"Well, I'm vacationing." Hermione said. "Honestly, I have no idea what you're doing here. How did you know I was at the Ministry?"
"Dumbledore." Draco answered, simply. "He got word from an employee at the Ministry – Joy, I believe her name was – that you were requesting a permit to leave the country. Dumbledore informed me right away. I kind of took over from there."
Hermione was speechless. It was still hard to believe that Draco was with her, let alone the fact that Dumbledore had helped him find her. "But… but what about Pansy? The wedding? Your wedding?" Hermione stammered, so many questions forcing to make their way out.
"Oh, we got married." Draco said, grinning. "Well, kind of, anyways."
"What do you mean?" Hermione demanded, angrily confused. If he was a married man, then what was he doing there? Toying with her emotions intentionally?
"Pansy got married to who she thought was me. It's quite funny, actually. I wish I was around to see everyone's faces." Draco mused.
"Stop speaking in riddles!" Hermione cried, confused beyond belief. "Just tell me what happened!"
"Well, I had a visit from one of your friends today." Draco said, simply.
"Oh, no." Hermione sighed. "Which one? Harry or Ron?"
"Another one." Draco replied. "Make no mistake, though. Both of your – er, friends – were kind enough to show up at the wedding. I'm surprised they even got in. But no, the friend I'm talking about isn't Potter or Weasley."
"Who, then?" Hermione asked, inquisitively.
"McGonagall." Draco stated before inhaling deeply and preparing for Hermione's shocked expression.
"Ace!" Hermione exclaimed, baffled. "I thought he left for good! What did he want?"
"Well, he came during the reception. I don't think anyone else saw him; I don't even know how he managed to sneak in. The ushers aren't getting tipped, that's for sure. But anyway, he pulled me away for a moment and explained to me how much you love me, and how he was somewhat pleased that if he couldn't have you, at least you can have someone who will make you happy."
Hermione smiled as her eyes already began to brim with tears.
"And then he pulled out a flask." Draco continued, glad to see that Hermione was no longer in her angry phase. "My first instinct was that he was going to poison me or something. But no, it turned out to be Polyjuice Potion in the flask. You know, that transforming stuff that we learned about in Potions?"
Hermione nodded, remembering all to well about the magic of the Polyjuice Potion, but not able to say anything for fear that tears would just pour out relentlessly.
"He told me that he got it from Professor Snape. Well, apparently he got Professor McGonagall to hassle Snape for it. Luckily, Snape had a fresh batch on hold for a werewolf in London, but it had finished much earlier than expected, so Snape could afford the time to make another one. Anyways, Ace offered to transform into me and take my place down the aisle so that my mother would not know about my coming after you. If she had known, than I wouldn't have made it this far. I'm telling you, she's going to blow a fuse once she finds out."
Hermione laughed, but it came out nervous and shaky. "So Ace married Pansy?"
"If all worked out well, then yeah, he did. But it's illegitimate since it wasn't me, so they'll have to get an annulment." Draco explained.
"But then your mother will just badger you to marry her after this. It'll be endless, Draco. She's arranged your marriage to Pansy; I don't think she's going to be merciful towards me." Hermione said, sighing.
"Which brings me to my next topic." Draco said, grinning somewhat nervously for the first time since Hermione had met him. It almost made her nervous. "Look, Hermione, we've been through some tough shit in the last little while. Awful things keep happening, but we always manage to find our way back to each other in the end. That's why I'm here. I want – no, I need you, Hermione. You're the light at the end of my tunnel; without you, it's bleak. I don't care about what happened with Ace, and I'm terribly sorry for what I did to you with the whole SPEW thing. But what we share is bigger than Ace or SPEW. It's bigger than anything I've ever felt before, and that's how I know that no matter what happens, it's going to last forever." Hermione opened her mouth to say something, but Draco held up two fingers to her lips. "Shh, please, just let me finish." He begged, feeling that now was the time to release everything that had been swelling up inside of him since the day he had been tossed into Azkaban. "Pansy was just a way out. The whole wedding was just a way out. It meant nothing to me, I swear. I couldn't go through with it because I couldn't imagine spending my life with anyone else but you. You're the only person I've ever been able to envision myself growing old with, and that's pretty damn rare considering I always envisioned being an old, rich man with a young supermodel on each arm." Hermione laughed shakily; a sudden, unexplained heat began to rise inside of her. Draco continued his speech. "Even though I'm not marrying Pansy today, my mother will hound me until the day that I say I do to her. There are three things that make a wedding impossible, though. One, if the bride or groom is underage. Two, if the bride or groom is a fraud. And three, if the bride or groom is already married." Draco inhaled deeply. "I promise you, I am not doing this to save my own ass. I am doing this because it's what I feel in my heart. When I think of you, my stomach churns and my heart flutters, and it's the best feeling that I've ever felt in my entire life. I never want that to go away. So, I'm going to ask you this one question, Hermione. We're seventeen years old, we don't have our lives planned out, and we've still got our seventh year at Hogwarts to finish. But I don't care, because we can do all of those things together. I want us to do all of those things together." Draco inhaled once more, preparing himself for the most difficult question that he would ever have to ask in his entire life. "Hermione, will you be mine? Will you marry me?"
Hermione stopped breathing. Her eyes widened in shock as she stared into Draco's eyes; for the first time since he had been out of Azkaban, Hermione did not even see a flicker of that dark, mysteriousness that they usually held. Instead, she saw joy and happiness, and to Hermione, it felt like a sign of what was to come in their lives. Joy and happiness. They could definitely use a bit of that. But I'm so young! Hermione fought with herself, silently cursing the side of her that lit up at Draco's proposal. I'm not ready to get married! Or was she? She had already organized what could have been a very successful incorporation, and she was only seventeen! She would have given her life for Draco's, and that to her was a sign that she was ready. Ready to commit to spending the rest of her life with him, no matter what complications lay on the road ahead of them.
The shock slowly faded away from Hermione's eyes, and it was replaced with an excited, ecstatic grin that caused Draco to smile as well. "Yes! Of course I'll marry you, Draco!" She cried, throwing her arms around his neck and causing them both to tip over and fall back into the water. They laughed as they broke the surface once more, hand-in hand.
Their faces were very close together. Draco could feel Hermione's light breathing; he liked to think of it as a blessing from the Gods. "I love you, Hermione." He whispered, gazing into her chocolate brown eyes.
Hermione beamed, tears sliding down her cheeks and plummeting into the dark waters. "I love you too, Draco." She replied, leaning in and touching her lips to Draco's for a soft, gentle kiss, as though sealing the proposal. For someone who was not known to be a romantic, Draco had just given Hermione the most romantic fifteen minutes she had ever had in her entire life, and now she had the rest of her existence to enjoy more moments like that one, with the man who she loved more than anyone else in the world. Could life possibly get any better?
"That imbecile!Ungrateful little ingrate! Selfish, haughty buffoon! Nothing like his goddamned father! What a disgrace!"
Needless to say, Narcissa Malfoy was just one step above violently fuming and one step below near insanity. Much closer to the near insanity, though. She was seething as she paced around Dervish and Banges, spitting out insults about her son to Crabbe and Goyle, who innocently sat in a couple of chairs, still looking confused at what had happened during the ceremony. One moment, Draco and Pansy were exchanging vows, and the next, Draco had transformed into none other than Acelio McGonagall, Professor McGonagall's nephew. Crabbe and Goyle were just plain baffled, but Narcissa was furious. Pansy had been taken to Saint Mungo's, along with the rest of her incredibly outraged family; she had woken up, would not stop hyperventilating, and then passed out once more. A grinning Ace continued to explore the room for young, sexy ladies on Draco's side of the family, in hopes of a Malfoy-Granger-like relationship. And Draco and Hermione?
"Excuse me? May we have your attention?" Draco called as he and Hermione walked into Hogsmeade, hand-in-hand. Both had grins plastered across their face; they looked the complete opposite from everyone else in the room, with the exception of the Hogwarts professors who were all grinning as well.
Ron stood up in the crowd. "I knew it!" He cried from his place near the altar, where he had not moved from since the revealing of Ace as Draco.
Harry laughed, placing a hand on Ron's shoulder and gently lowering him back into his seat. Finally, finally, Harry understood.
"I'm glad to see that not everyone has left. Well, not everyone on my side, anyway. I think I owe you all an explanation, and that's exactly what I intend to give you." He glanced at Hermione, who was smiling up at him; she gave him strength, which was exactly what he needed at the moment. "Granger and I are in love. Not much of a surprise, but we are. I'm not marrying Pansy, and I'm sorry to bring you all here and have your hopes burn up in flames. But I would hate to deny you a wedding; so, I would feel honored if all of you would to stay and witness the wedding between Granger and myself."
Hermione's eyes widened as she glanced up at Draco, giving the guests some time to panic about what Draco had just told them. "We're doing it now?" Hermione asked, horrified. "What about my parents? My friends?"
Draco grinned, then turned around to look behind them. Standing in the entrance to Hogsmeade was Dumbledore, along with Hermione's parents and fellow Hogwarts buddies: Hannah Abbott, Neville Longbottom, Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil, Dean Thomas, and Seamus Finnigan.
"A wedding, eh?" Seamus called, winking at Hermione. Hannah looked near tears, and her mother and father were racing towards her.
"How did you-" Hermione began to say to Draco.
"I sent an owl to Dumbledore before we came." Draco answered, immediately. "You'd be amazed at how quickly he can get things done."
"Baby!" Hermione's mother exclaimed as she tossed her arms around Hermione's neck. Mrs Granger was bawling and squeezing her daughter so tight that she could hardly breathe.
"Hi, mom." Hermione managed to say once her mother loosened her grip a tad bit. "Hi, dad."
"What's going on?" Mr Granger asked, looking baffled. Mrs Granger, still crying hysterically, nodded as though she wanted to know the answer as well.
"Well, it seems as though I'm getting married today." Hermione answered, smiling. She wrapped her arm around Draco's and pulled him closer to the Granger reunion. "Mom, dad, this is Draco Malfoy."
Draco looked at a complete loss for words; he had no idea what he was supposed to do. He'd never been in a relationship before where he had to meet the parents, with the exception of Pansy whose parents he had known since he was just a baby. Furthermore, Hermione's parents were muggles. He'd spent his whole life campaigning against muggles, and now he was marrying into a family of them. His children would have muggle blood in them. He'd have to go to muggle reunions and learn the muggle ways. So, Draco did the only thing that he could think of. He extended a hand and said, "Nice to meet you, Mr and Mrs Granger."
The rest of the guests gave the Grangers and Draco a chance to chat, and by the time Dumbledore was ready to perform the ceremony, the Grangers had already fallen in love with Draco.
"Is everyone almost ready?" Dumbledore asked politely to Draco and Hermione.
Hermione grinned, but she no longer felt nervous. She was ready for this. No doubt. "Yes, I'm ready. I just have to change."
"Yeah, me too." Draco said.
"I'll see you guys up there." Mr Granger said, grinning. He punched Draco's arm. "Treat my baby girl right, you hear?"
Draco smiled. "I hear you, sir."
"Oh my god, what am I going to wear?" Hermione cried to herself in Dervish and Banges as she racked her brain for a beautiful dress. She had learned a spell in her sixth year that allowed her to wear whatever she desired, but the only problem was that she wasn't sure what she wanted to wear! She couldn't visualize a dress that was perfect enough to give herself away to Draco.
"Can we come in?" A voice called.
Hermione turned to see Harry, Ron, and Hannah enter the little shop. Hannah engulfed Hermione in a hug, and for once, Harry and Ron had nothing bad to say.
"This is what you're wearing down the aisle?" Hannah asked, her eyes shining bright with tears as she let out a shaky laugh. "Let's try something else, shall we?" Hannah raised her wand and cried, "Changify!"
Hermione's boring, traveling outfit suddenly changed into a gorgeous, snowy white wedding dress. Held up by spaghetti straps, jewels lined the top and bottom of the dress, which curved into a huge bell at Hermione's waist all the way down to the ground. She looked stunning; there were no other words for it.
"Hannah!" Hermione exclaimed. "It's beautiful!" She embraced her friend, then walked over to Harry and Ron. "Guys, I just want you to know that this doesn't mean anything. We're still going to hang out all the time, okay? Promise me that we will?"
Hannah walked over to Ron and took his hand. Harry grinned, then pulled Hermione, Ron and Hannah into a group hug. "Hermione, we wouldn't have it any other way."
Once Harry, Ron and Hannah had been seated, Dumbledore stood up at the end of the altar. With a swift move of his wand, Hogsmeade turned into a beautiful, snowy wonderland. Not cold snow, though; just right. Every sign of snakes and darkness disappeared, which made the guests feel a bit cheerier. They were obviously getting impatient, but that was fine. The wedding would be worth it.
Music suddenly started playing from nowhere. It was an organ, but there was no organ in sight. The guests quieted down; the wedding was about to begin. Many were already crying, including Harry and Ron. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan poked them in their backs from behind in a teasing manner.
Hermione suddenly appeared at the end of the red carpet, glowing in the gorgeous white dress that Hannah had created for her. The entire room gasped at her beauty, and her mother nearly passed out by all the crying that she was doing. Joyful crying, though. Hermione smiled at her parents and her friends as she walked down the aisle before she saw Draco standing at the front before all of them, grinning without a slight look of nervousness in him. All he could think about was how beautiful she was, and how she was about to become a part of him. It was almost unbelievable, but he wasn't the slightest bit nervous. In fact, he was almost giddy.
Finally, Hermione made it up to the altar. It felt so incredible to be standing before Dumbledore with Draco right in front of her; the man who she would be spending the rest of her life with from this day forth. Absolutely incredible.
"Ready?" Draco whispered, taking Hermione's hands into his own.
Hermione gave his hands a tight squeeze. "More than I've ever been before."
Draco leaned in and whispered in her ear so quietly that no one else could hear. "I love you, Hermione. And it's forever this time."
Hermione smiled up at him, tears shining in her eyes. It was forever. This was it, and it felt wonderful. For the first time since before she could remember, everything felt alright for her. And now with Draco by her side for the rest of her life, she was positive that it would stay that way forever. No more problems, no more drama. And most of all, no strings attached.