The Quarter Moon Gamble: PART SIXTEEN

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the end... the final chapter. I'm sorry I could not end it on better terms. I'm sorry they did not get a happy ending. I had wanted to continue this story for much longer but the opportunity came for me to stop, to get the ending I so hoped, and I took it.

If you like the way I write or are interested in reading the sequel, prequel, or companion (should they come) add me to your author alert list through the scroll button on the lower left of this page. Thank you all for reading. It's been a lovely ride. I bid you adieu…

Hermione never thought she'd be walking through the front doors of Malfoy Manor, but today they were open to the public, wide and greeting like a mother's arms. And just like that, Narcissa Malfoy came walking gracefully to meet her son. His hand left hers as he went to hug his mother and suddenly, she felt naked to the walls of the grand hallway. Giants could never reach the roof. She wondered if it had been made for that exact reason.

"Is this her?" a voice suddenly came, and Hermione snapped out of her thoughts. Narcissa seized one of her hands and spun her around slowly. "Yes… we can make this work."

Hermione looked at Draco, who was smiling, so she took it as a compliment. "My condolences, ma'am," Hermione said, remembering Lucius.

His mother suddenly turned a little more somber but still strangely upbeat. "Thank you, dear. But I assure you, it's no loss to this household."

Hermione looked a little scared, or so Draco noticed. She had the eyes of a sad little girl looking up to a scolding mother, no matter how easily she was welcomed. Soon as Draco grabbed her hand again, she felt a new valor rise within her and squeezed it tightly.

They walked down the halls and saw dozens of house elves cleaning everywhere, down to the last corner of picture frame. She saw it and grimaced. Draco smiled a little but looked straight ahead so she followed suit, like king and queen walking down the red carpet to their throne.

"And what will you be wearing for the ball, dear?" Narcissa said from ahead as they walked up the stairs.

"Me?" Hermione asked. "What ball?"

"There will be a ball in Draco's honor tonight, of course. He's taking command, after all."

"Mother, are you serious?" Draco asked, obviously unaware himself. Narcissa sighed.

Hermione looked a little worried again and said, "I really don't think I brought anything appropriate…"

"I'm sure we can find something," Narcissa interrupted.

Hermione looked at Draco again who smiled again, feeling her eyes upon him, but continued to look ahead. They were on the third floor of the manor, one carpeted in blue with tiled walls that turned from blue to white halfway to the roof, which was much lower but still monstrous.

They stopped before a large wooden door and Narcissa pulled out a silver key on a burgundy velvet ribbon. She turned around and handed it to Hermione. "I hope you'll find the dress suitable, and welcome to the Manor," she said as Hermione took the key. She looked up and smiled and just like that, Narcissa gave a small bow of the head and with a small pop, she was gone, leaving Hermione and Draco before the large door.

She looked to Draco who smiled and nodded towards the keyhole. She let go of his hand and took a step closer, afraid she'd find "Abandon all hope ye who enter here" inscribed above. She quickly checked and nothing. So she put the key in the hole and pushed the door open (with some effort).

The first thing she saw was the dress displayed on the large bed, a burgundy that called out to her like a beacon at sea. The rest of the room was white with a ceiling made of a tin-like tile engraved with arabesque figures and Celtic knots. It marveled her to no point.

And then the dress… she walked to the bed and ran a gentle hand over the material. It was cold to the touch and oh so soft. It had none of the shine of silk and yet all of the sweet caress it gave. She couldn't wait to try it on for Draco.

She turned around and noticed he was watching her move. She could feel his thoughts radiate towards her, so intensely, and said, "Keep it in your pants, Malfoy." He smiled and looked down, both hands in either pocket. She walked over to him and ran a hand through his hair.

"Darling, if you want me to keep it in my pants, that's not the smart thing to do," he said.

She smiled dismissively but did not move her hand. "Don't cut your hair," she said, admiring its length. "I know you were thinking of doing that for tonight. Don't. Not just yet."

"Really? Sexy is it?" He raised an eyebrow. She smiled which he took as a yes and put a hand over hers beside his head. "Lovely," he whispered. "Feel like christening the room?"

She scoffed and moved away, rounding the bed. The poles reached the high ceiling and she wondered how long it would take someone to climb that. She felt like finding out herself, which Draco probably heard because he gave a small laugh. It was hard getting used to having someone in her head but it was somewhat comforting, like having a beloved beside her in a crowd of strangers no matter where she went.

"Beloved," he whispered and yet she heard him as if a step away. "I like that word. It's fitting."

"So is lovely."

"I wonder why you love it so much," he said with a bright smile.

"I say it again, Draco…"

"Yes I know. Keep my boyish charm in check until tonight."

"Ha! That's if you're lucky."

"I've always considered myself lucky."

"You'd consider yourself Bigfoot if it gets you laid."

"Now there's a wonderful fellow. Great at conversation. Just don't bring up the name Beverly. He still hasn't gotten over her," he said seriously.

She opened her eyes wide. "What does he live in your backyard that you happen to talk to him?"

He laughed and went to sit on the trunk at the foot of the bed. "Nah, my father used to take me hunting. He'd go off after some poor four-legged thing and I'd sit and play with Bigfoot, though he prefers to be called Bob."

"You're messing with me, aren't you?"

"Like there's no tomorrow," he said quickly and she laughed, going to sit beside him. He got a little more serious and continued, "But wouldn't Bob be an awesome name for Bigfoot? He actually prefers John. John Preston. He was a wizard who tried to reconnect with our animal lineage and ended up not only talking with monkeys but living like one. The fur is outstanding though. The guy spends the major part of his day grooming everything… and I mean everything."

She laughed again, even harder, and fell back onto the bed. He sighed and got up and went for the door. "Draco?" she called out, noticing his train of thought changing completely.

"The ball is in two hours. They're usually at 7 here. You should start getting ready."

"Draco, what's wrong? I don't like that face."

"Hermione, are you sure this is the right choice. Tonight means the end of your past, of all you knew."

"But it means a beginning with you, doesn't it?"

"Am I really worth it?"

"It's not just about you. It's about us. And we're timeless."

Hermione paced at the foot of the bed. Draco still hadn't been back. She bathed and dressed as quickly as possible. She fixed her hair with a few charms and but refused to put on too much makeup. She was horrified of messing it up and looking like a dead queen.

The door opened and she thought it was Draco, but alas no. "Mrs. Malfoy?"

"Narcissa, please. You'll be my daughter-in-law after all."

"Oh I don't know about that yet."

"Well that's what tonight symbolizes. Your marriage."

Hermione's eyes opened so wide, she thought they might pop out of their sockets. It was a minute before she responded, her mouth slightly open. "Marriage?"

Draco opened the door quickly saying joyfully in a sing-song voice, "I hope nobody's decent."

He had two thin glasses of champagne in one hand as he closed the door with the other. He looked in and saw Hermione's stunned face. "MARRIAGE?" she yelled so loud it echoed.

Narcissa turned back to him and said, "You hadn't told her?"

He quickly froze and looked down. He sighed and set down the glasses on the vanity near the door. "Mother, could you give us a minute?"

Narcissa nodded and disapparated with a tiny pop. And they were alone.

"Hermione," he said, reaching into his tuxedo pocket. "I was hoping to do this before but it seems I can never surprise you."

"Oh you bloody well surprised me," she said through gritted teeth, not sure why she was so angry. She was still slightly in shock. Perhaps it was that he hadn't asked her. Perhaps it was that they were so young.

He pulled a little black box from his pocket and knelt down, his hands shaking slightly. He looked like he had trouble breathing.

"Draco, get up," she said sternly.

"Marry me, Hermione," he said with a trembling voice, holding the open box up for her to see. She refused to look at the contents.

And then she gave in to her curiosity and looked down. It was a gorgeous ring, silver. It was a single band with Celtic engravings, like two hearts woven into each other throughout. See my userpage for picture

"Is that a question or a command?"

"Please! Will you marry me?" he said again.

She felt herself whimper. "No."

"Why?" he begged, starting to stand up.

"We're not old enough!"

"Don't be ridiculous!" he yelled. "The way we feel now will never fade."

"How can you tell me that? I see your mother! She's happy he's dead. How do I know I won't want the same?"

"You're not my mother! I'm not my father! It's not the same!"

"Then why do I want to die right now?" she whispered as he held her hands. They were so cold. He dropped them immediately and stepped back.

"Don't say that."

"I'll stand by you but it won't be forever. I can't walk into this knowing I can never leave." He shook his head and turned around. "Draco?"

"I can't believe you're over-thinking this. How hard is it, Hermione?" he said calmly and turned around. He wasn't crying at least but his eyes were getting red. She wondered if it was anger or if it had to do with the Veela curse.

"Draco?" she whispered again with a furrowed brow.

He went to take a step but his fist went to his chest, slamming it so hard she heard it almost crack. She felt it in herself. She'd hurt him so much it had turned physical. "I can't breathe…" he hissed as he reached for the bed for support.

"Draco!" she yelled and held his head in both hands. They knelt on the floor against the foot of the bed. She began to sob uncontrollably. "I'll go get help."

"No! Don't leave me."

"I'm so sorry!" she yelled, kissing him. "I'm so sorry! Please be ok."

"Why is this happening?" he asked painfully, his vision becoming blurry. "What did you do?"

Hermione ran down the long hall calling for help but there was nobody in sight. She thought of the ball. They must all be inside by now. She ran to the ballroom, to the sound of music in the distance.

"Help!" she yelled, stumbling into a skidding stop. "Somebody help!"

But nobody listened. She saw Narcissa in the distance, coming across the room to her at the entrance. "Hermione, what's wrong?"

"Something's happened to Draco!" she yelled. "Why won't anyone listen?"

"You're not Pureblood, dear. They refuse to unless you're with one of us. Come. Take me to him."

Draco lay on the floor in front of the bed. Blood had started to trickle down his mouth but nothing too severely. Narcissa nodded disappointingly. "Did you say no?" she asked Hermione.

"Well… yea, I did. You mean I did this to him?"

"Tsk. You can't tell a Veela you don't want to be with them forever and mean it. They have ridiculous episodes. Also, I'm pretty sure it's psychosomatic. He's always been so dramatic."

"What?" Hermione yelled. "Nobody told me this."

It was a bit reassuring that Narcissa wasn't worried. She went to kneel down beside Draco but looked over to Hermione. "Get over here. Stay with him and I'll stall."

She sighed and walked over to his limp body as his mother left. The sound of the door close made his hand twitch by hers on the floor.

"She's gone," Hermione whispered. She reached for a white handkerchief from her jacket pocket atop the chair from the bed and crawled back to wipe the blood from his mouth. "Wake up, Draco. You'll be fine."

"But I don't want to be fine. I want you to take care of me," he said, turning his head slowly to face her.

She looked down at the handkerchief, white on red. He was the blood to her white cloth. He stained her soul. "Who will take care of me?"

"What?"

"You never thought of that, did you? I live to take care of your dramas, your broken heart. But you never cared what being with you does to me," she said calmly, hatred hidden in her tone. "I love you, Draco, but knowing that alone makes me want to scream."

"So this is why you won't marry me."

"Somewhat. I feel horrible, like there's a cold inside of me that I try to run and hide and cover up but can never escape because the cold is inside my head. It's the void where a part of us used to be. Draco… your kisses make me want to cry. It makes me sick to think I'm stuck here forever. I know I said I'd come with you. I know I said I'd make our own hell to rule. But I can never love you how I once did. I just want to cry and let the cold take over… and now I can't stop shivering, without anyone to hug me and tell me it's going to be ok. No one's here to tell me everything's going to fade, the good and the bad. That the flow of thoughts that led me to this cold place will drift away. But it won't. And nothing will ever be ok again," she said, almost caught in a whisper.

"You're leaving, aren't you?" he asked, sitting up. He wanted to cry too but nothing would ever hurt him like that again. The evil in him not only made him selfish, it made him unfeeling. No matter how much he loved her, this would always win him.

"No. I cannot. I have no one left to go to. You have taken too much of me to say goodbye. To leave would mean saying goodbye to a part of me, but know that while I walk down that hall with you today and though I wear this ring, I can never be happy because I… I know we are no longer real. It's our fate, I suppose. Just like your father and mother. The cold takes over and you become cruel and I become distant and though we are one, we are incomplete."

"No… I can't… I don't believe you. You love me, Hermione. I can tell. I knew it last night when I held you. I felt you. I made you happy."

"That was sex, Draco. It's not the same. Our whole life cannot be based on a simple emotion, a single moment. We make the choice from now on to stay together."

"Why can't we? Why can't we live in that one moment forever?" he begged, grasping her hands in his so tight they pained her.

"Because we're not in a fairy tale, Draco. I'm not Cinderella and no matter how much I wanted you to be, you can never be Prince Charming." She looked away. His eyes begged more than his grip. He was hurting her, just as she hurt him.

"She said this to me, before. Farrow. Don't follow her path, Hermione. We can live in that one moment."

"They're waiting for us, Draco. Come. We have a future waiting for us."

"No future. Only now."

"We can't live in the moment!" she yelled, pulling away. She stood up and walked to one of the large windows, looking out into the rising night.

He stood up painstakingly and sat on the edge of the bed. His palm smeared a small drop of blood onto the edge of the white bed. It'd be the last drop of him to the world. "Come here," he whispered and outstretched a hand to her. His own Celtic ring adorned his left hand.

She went reluctantly to him. He looked up at her with begging gray eyes. They were so tired, just as she was. "We can end it here, you know," she said. "Tell me goodbye and I'll leave you to your empire… We'll always have our dreams."

"You're the dream. And I don't want to wake up."

"You've something… what is it?" she asked, squinting as if to see into his thoughts.

"I know a spell," he said. "It's Dark magic, but it'll make it all stop… drown away the world." She looked down and began to cry. "No! No tears! We end it here."

"Draco, the world will never leave us. They will never accept us. I can never be happy in this world knowing they will never accept me for my blood."

"What?" He looked up at her startled. Is this what had brought her answer?

"I cried out for help, Draco! I cried out for them and nobody would hear me!" she yelled. "They wouldn't see me for what I am."

"I told you. We can drown the world. Take us from it."

"It's not the world that's wrong, Draco. It's us."

"No! I refuse to believe that!" he yelled back sternly, gripping her hand again.

She pulled it away. "How can I ever know peace?"

He closed his eyes but reached for her hands again, this time holding them gently. He couldn't lose her. If he had to, he'd wipe away the world. "Hermione, I'm going away. If we can never be happy in this world, we can leave it."

"Draco, you're scaring me."

"We can live in our own little bubble… hide away, not run."

Her eyes opened wide and her breath escaped her. "Aisling…" she whispered. "The Aisling Fate."

"Yes," he said softly, moving a hand up her arm to her elbow. "Trapped forever in a dream of passion."

"Just you and me?"

"Just you and me," he echoed lovingly. And she knew this was it. This was their fate.

"Not here."

"Where?"

Hermione turned away her teary face and smirked.

Narcissa came back to the room some time later, angry the two had left an entire room waiting. "Draco, what the bloody hell are you still doing up here?" she asked at the door. When no one answered, she fully entered.

But the room was empty.

A single note, one last goodbye, rested atop the bed beside the blood stain. Narcissa did not need to read the rest, merely the first line:

I'm sorry this world could not find a place for us both, mother, so we've gone to make our own. Goodbye…

Dumbledore found his office same as any other day, all except a letter that awaited him. Fawkes, now a baby bird, cawed for him to open it but the old man dreaded it. He knew what was inside, just as he always knew. It was a goodbye.

He walked over and sat in his chair, staring at the letter for quite some time before opening it. It took up half the page and he could tell Hermione had written it. There was one line that captivated him most of all:

"I leave in your care the last of us, our essence trapped forever in time. Guard us, not as a final favor but as a beacon of hope that one day, we may return to a world worthy of your vision."

Professor McGonagall came in just as he put down the letter back on desk. "Albus, what is it?" she asked at the old man's sad face.

"We have lost two of our best. And the Malfoy line has lost their only heir."

Harry and Ron had not received letter. Hermione had said her goodbyes too many times before. But she left with Dumbledore two keys, the keys to her heart, which she instructed him to give to them. He showed them the letter she'd left and for a moment, it seemed Ron died inside.

"She's really gone?" he asked.

"No," Professor Dumbledore responded. "She'll always be here if you wish to see her. She lives… away, in their private world."

And then he led them to the room, the last resting place. Harry knew it before as the last resting place of the Mirror of Erised. Now, it was a monument.

In the middle of the round room - now lighted with torches of gold and silver fire - stood Draco and Hermione, frozen forever in a kiss. In either's left hand, as they held each other tight, rings had found their home.

"Do you think they know we're here?" Harry asked, timidly at the sight.

"No," Dumbledore answered. "We only see their time still. For them, everything has been slowed. They will dwell in that kiss forever. Perhaps, if they should ever return, there might be a place for them."

McGonagall stood beside him and finished, "No. The world might never change. It may grow or it may die but they will always remain here. Maybe, because there is no other place for them. Maybe this is exactly where they belong: to each other and none other…"

THE END.

REVIEW! …if only one last time.

Also, if you notice, the sequel, SpellMaster's Revenge, is no longer available online. To be honest, I got tired of it and abandoned it. As far as you're concerned, Draco & Hermione never wake up and the world goes on as it was. Thank you again for reading this far.