Part One

Hermione lifted the quill and set it down once more. How could she write what needed to be said? How could she say what she herself could not understand. There were so many lies, so many missed moments and memories hidden that she honestly couldn't remember where this all started. Where had this all begun? And how was she supposed to leave the story, the facts behind when it was all so embroiled in emotion?

Hermione shook her head and pushed paper and quill away. Her chair screeched as she pushed back from her desk. Eyes drifting down she saw the marks on the floor, engraved as they were in hardened wood. How many times had she sat, started and failed to finish this seemingly inane task? Even though she couldn't remember, the floor told the truth. And she couldn't bare it.

"Draco?" Hermione shut the door to her office and went in search of her...well, she never knew what to call him. Husband? Sure she had the ring on her finger and the dress in her closet, but the lie was repeated so often that it was becoming more truth than the truth. Hermione wasn't sure that mattered anymore either.

She found him in the kitchen, his hair tied back as he tried his hand at the ancient potions recipe she had found and translated.

They should have found a true potions lab for the work, Hermione knew. But no one would rent out such a place if they knew the volatile nature of their work. So, instead, a kitchen had become a laboratory and it smelled of ruined appliances. If there were such a smell. Hermione's nose wrinkled at the acrid stench as she leaned against the doorjamb. "Need a break?" She asked as Draco turned to look at her. His face was lined, aged, the glamor they both used for the outside world removed in their home. They were too young, Hermione knew, to be so burdened. The body knew, and aged them accordingly.

"Yes." Was his simple answer as he extinguished the fire beneath the cauldrons and banished the contents.

Draco removed the dragon-hide gloves and set his wand aside. "I could use much more than a break." He murmured as he took Hermione's hand and they left the ruined kitchen.

"Do you promise to be true to death, to embrace finality and leave behind your health and energy and the magic inside you to be possessed by another?"

"I promise myself to death."

"Do you relinquish your right to life?"

"I bind myself to another."

"And when another's end is met you and yours shall sacrifice your own." The magic swirled from the wand point as it pulled will from them both and bound it to another, the connection sizzled and cracked as the locket was closed.

Severus twitched as the whisper of words surfaced in his memories. His head ached. Lifting his wand he performed a simple charm to alleviate the pressure of his past. There was nothing more he could do and it wouldn't last long. He had a potion to finish and the fumes were getting to him. Sitting, Severus let out a sigh and wondered how easily he could take his own life. It was simple really. Any number of the elements in jars behind him would do the job. Easily. But then, he had always been a fighter. He fought for life, his life, and he would never...never have been able to give it up for another. No matter what.

He stood, grabbing the spoon and ladled the potion into a vial. Taking a small pinch of diamond dust he sprinkled it into the vial and swirled, watching the resulting change in chemistry with a smile on his face. And just that easily, he knew that everything would be okay. Death was coming, that he knew. But for now, it wasn't coming for him. His smile cracked wider, a small drop of blood forming at the corner of his mouth. Death was coming for someone.

Severus dumped the contents back into the cauldron and stirred. Setting the fire on low he left his lab and slowly climbed the stairs. He had visitors.

Lucius was not happy. But he never was. His wife was serving the red-head and he wasn't sure how this had come to be. The table, the jam, the tea.

"Would you like another biscuit?"

Ginny shook her head and set her cup down. Mrs. Malfoy took one for herself and leaned back in her chair.

"I'm sorry for Lucius' rudeness. He has never had proper manners."

Lucius stared blankly at his wife. Who was this woman?

Ginny looked between the two, her mind full of confusion. This was not what she had expected. Not who she had expected and as she glanced at the formidable man, now cowed in his chair. She knew that nothing was right.

Draco winced as a rose thorn took it's vengeance on his finger. "Fuck!" he yelled, pulling away.

"Your language is atrocious."

He jumped dropping the flower, "I'm sorry, mother. I did not know you were out here."

"It is too pleasant a day to be inside. Don't you agree?"

Draco nodded and bent to pick the offending rose from the ground. "I was just getting some fresh air, before this thing bit me."

Narcissa took the flower. "Why are you picking my roses?" She brought it to her nose and inhaled.

"I saw a bug on it." Draco replied lamely, cursing himself for having been caught.

"You've never much taken an interest in my flowers." She smiled at her son, knowing that a boy only picked flowers for a singular reason. "Are you all packed for school?"

"Yes, I had an elf pull everything together last night."

"And did you check to make sure we bought everything you need? The list was much longer this year."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Of course. I have more classes this year."

"Are you looking forward to going back?" Narcissa watched her son's face carefully. He was an accomplished liar. But a mother knew her son and she watched the flit of emotions run behind the reserved mask. He was scared, excited, nervous...all signs that made her want to smile when he nodded instead of providing an answer. Instead, she held the rose out to him. "Please don't pick any more of my roses."

Draco took the rose, his heart pounding as he walked away.

Hermione and Draco lay on the couch, the cat between them as the three napped. The snow outside fell softly, coming too early this year. It danced and swirled around still leaved trees to settle, white on mottled yellow. Hermione was the first to wake as the kitten kneaded her tummy. She was glad they had declawed the feisty little thing, but grinned nonetheless as she ran her hand over the soft ears. The responding purr brought a soft smile to her face as her gaze left the ball of fur to settle on Draco.

He looked so peaceful when asleep. Lightly, she trailed her fingers over his face, tracing the contours slowly. It still amazed her that they had somehow ended up here. Where they belonged. It felt so right that she couldn't always figure out how it had happened. How had this simply become? But it hadn't. So many twists and turns, fights and screaming, slamming doors and bone deep crying. Had led them right here. And it was moments like this that kept her heart from the near constant despair she knew he suffered with as well.

Her eyes swept the small living room, catching site of the rose on the mantle. It reminded her so much of the Disney film she'd seen as a kid as it rose, suspended above the mantle's ledge by magic in the same, perfect condition it had been nearly a decade ago. It was a promise, a confession, and the hope that she had always needed. A symbol that she sometimes forgot and when she remembered...the world didn't seem so sad after all.