Last Goodbyes, or are They?

People soon got used to the idea of a Gryffindor with a Slytherin, a Pureblood with a muggleborn. Gossip about them still spread through the castle, but not nearly as much as at first. The teachers were happy about the inter-house unity taking place, as the Gryffindors and Slytherins weren't getting in as many fights as usual. Over all, the castle was abundant in friendliness; so much that it was almost unnerving.

That was, until N.E.W.T.s came around.

Hermione was frantic. She had been spending so much time trying to quash the rumors that spread about her and Draco and avoiding Harry and Ron that she completely forgot about the exams that would decide her entire future. Draco and most of the Gryffindors tried to get her to stay calm and slow down, until realizing it was a losing battle and gave up. She spent every day in the week preceding the exams in the actual Library with Draco, studying like a madwoman into the night until Draco threatened to carry her back to her dorms. She snapped at everyone who got in her way, even occasionally at the teachers. Everyone was relieved when the tests finally rolled around and she was forced to be calm.

The week after exams had everyone back to treading on egg shells around Hermione. She was anxious for her results, even though she knew they wouldn't come for awhile. She was also apt to break out into uncontrollable sobbing because she wouldn't get to see Draco for at least half of the summer. He would be fleeing the country until he was certain his parents wouldn't try to kill him, and then he would be able to meet with her. He had tried to console her, and she ended up shouting at him and leaving a nice bruise on his shin.

The train ride back to the station was filled with hugging and kissing for the couple. Hermione didn't want to see him go so she held onto him for dear life for the entire ride, alternating between crying all over him and kissing him senseless. But time, as all know, slips away when you're dreading something. Hermione wished she never had to let him go, but she knew she had to leave the train. They walked, hand in hand, out of the compartment and onto the platform. Draco was going to apparate to wherever he would be going straight from the invisible station, and this was Hermione's last chance to speak to him before he left.

"Draco… you already know I want to go with you… and I understand that I can't, so the only thing I have to say to you is be safe and… I love you." Draco looked surprised at her confession. Even though they had been together for nine months, he hadn't expected he to say those three words to him yet. He himself was going to wait until their one-year anniversary, it would have been special, but now he couldn't think of a more perfect time.

"I love you, too, Hermione, and I always will. Remember that." He kissed her soundly on the lips and disapparated. Hermione could still feel the warmth his body had left in the air, his subtle scent of evergreen lingering in front of her. She let one tear escape her eye, but quickly wiped it away and turned to the gate. She strode out of it, leaving Hogwarts behind her.

She could see the Weasleys in the crowd outside, their flaming hair easily visible. Harry's jet black head was in the midst of them all and she smiled. They all seemed so happy. She wished she could join them, but Harry and Ron still considered her a traitor to her house. They would grow up and realize with time that life wasn't about houses, or schoolboy prejudices. They would apologize to her soon and they would go back to being friends. She hoped.

Ginny saw her through the crowd and came over.

"Are you alright? You look a little saddened. Where's Malfoy?"

"I'm not alright, but I will be. And Draco just left," Hermione said, a small smile gracing her lips. Ginny hugged her tightly, wanting to take away her pain.

"I'll keep in touch over the summer, okay? And you better not forget about me!" Hermione grinned full-out at that and hugged Ginny back. She let Ginny go back to her large family, all of them chattering and laughing. She smiled again and walked toward the station's exit. Her parents weren't there because she was old enough to apparate herself back home. Sunlight hit her face as she stepped out of the doorway and she looked up. The clear blue sky mocked her mood and sent her into an even worse one. She sighed and headed to a secluded spot to apparate home.