AUTHOR'S NOTE: For you, my dears. I now present you with the extended ending to At Forest's Edge, which had been cut from the original piece for issues of length. I have tried to condense the story as much I could without compromising the introspective approach to my writing and still keeping it a one-shot. This and the first part are meant to be read consecutively without stop. I know for many, who have read the seventh book, this all seems so meaningless. But to me, at some point, they deviated so far from Rowling's Draco and Hermione that I hope I take you into their world and free you from the confines of the true end.
The next day, Draco awoke in his flat in London. It was simple and entirely black and white. The windows were square and let in the mechanical rays of the sun right onto both pillows, waking him instantly. He did so with a smile as he always would and looked beside him but Hermione wasn't there. He got up and walked out to the balcony. She was in his boxers and large T-shirt with a very large cup of tea in her hands. She'd carelessly picked up her hair in back and the entire city could tell she hadn't slept in days from her weary eyes.
"Hermione, dear?" he asked, coming up behind her to kiss her neck and wrap himself around her waist. It felt like coming home again. "Have you slept?"
"No. I was afraid I'd wake up."
"What?" he said and turned her around to face him. "Baby, are you alright?"
"Are you a dream, Draco?" she asked sadly.
"What more do I have to do to prove I'm not going away?"
"Nothing," she whispered. She looked down and shook her head as if disregarding her own ideas. She did it often and he'd grown used to it in their time together.
She looked up for a second. It was all her strength could manage. "I'm drifting away, Draco. Will you hold me down?" she asked.
For a moment, it struck him as strange. Hermione didn't really like to talk in metaphors. Only he did that. He caressed her face but she smirked and stepped back. He tried to grab her but she dropped off the balcony like an angel falling from grace. When he looked down, all he saw was mist.
He had that dream for years. No matter how much he told himself it was just a dream, he found himself hugging her in the mornings as if to make sure she didn't drift away. She didn't pay too much attention to it, always skeptical of divination. She just thought it made their relationship a little better knowing he feared losing her because he loved her so.
The world started to catch up with them after that summer. Hermione went to work for the Ministry, against Draco's wishes. He had inherited all the money they could ever need and with his past, he didn't like having the Ministry in his house. In protest, he grew a beard. They figured they were even. She had lunch or dinner with Ron, Harry, and Ginny often. But she always had breakfast with Draco. Her heart always came back to him in the morning. He knew her allegiances and trusted her, always. She tried to pretend to do the same but it was in her nature to overthink situations.
After the first blissful year, Hermione paid a visit to Professor Lupin who was still living at 12 Grimmauld Place. Draco didn't know she went. She was having trouble with his condition and she felt she had to talk to someone. She went in disguise and asked him everything about everything. Her main doubt was longevity. She felt herself getting older but Draco would just renew every full moon. He kept getting to start over. She was trapped in her self.
Remus did not simply disregard her concerns. Werewolves lived for centuries if it came to it, if they were careful. Few were but few had someone like Hermione there to care for them. She worried about Lupin who had been left alone. The Marauders had died. He was the last, holding onto all their secrets. Hermione needed one of them now.
So, when they sat down in his living room to chat over seemingly nothing, she blurted out, "How did they do it? How did they all turn into Animagi?"
Lupin nearly spit out his tea. "Excuse me?"
"I know we haven't spoken in a while but Draco Malfoy and I--"
"I know. Harry keeps me informed. He takes the potion though, right? You're safe?"
"I am, but--"
He interrupted again. "But you wish you were there for him. He's so fortunate," he said and stopped to compose his tone. She had such pity for him but tried to keep it from her face. He stood up, went to the bookshelves against the walls, and came back with a red leather journal. "I wrote this during our stay at Hogwarts. I was going to give it to Harry but you need it more. It's our confession, things we told no one, including how to become an Animagus."
She gulped but took the book nonetheless, feeling the pressure to keep tradition.
She asked more questions, which he welcomed. It had been a while since anyone truly used his knowledge. Then, one popped into her head that she'd been trying to avoid. "What about children?"
"What?" Lupin replied, caught by surprise.
"Aren't you a bit young to be thinking of such things?"
"I'll be 19 soon, professor. But I just wanted to know."
He didn't want to answer. "There's a chance it'll be born with the gene. If it is, you'll know when it turns 13. Hermione… are you that serious about him?" he asked timidly.
She thought of Draco and smiled brilliantly, and he had his answer.
When she got home, he had stepped out so she took the time to read the book. She read it so many times that the words became inscribed into her mind. She began to practice but that proved more difficult to hide. Sometimes, the change was painful and her howls could be heard all around town. It was getting hard to find time. He found her crying on the bathroom floor once but she still wouldn't tell him. She didn't know why. He figured she was slipping away, as he'd always feared. There was a great void, a great silence between them.
The night of the next full moon, she walked into their bedroom where he'd usually curl up in a corner. She found it funny that she loved him in every form. But he hadn't yet turned. He took his potion and waited. He wondered if she'd come to see him turn, if she'd stay with him as she always did. He hated to wonder. It always led to the same conclusion: she didn't love him anymore.
"Hermione?" he said, standing up from the edge of the bed. He'd hoped to see her but he had few expectations.
"Who else?" she answered and walked out of the shadows. She had on her short, white satin nightgown, his favorite. He always said it was almost as good as bare skin and just as comforting. She smiled at him and all his fears started to fade.
"I didn't think you'd come."
"Haven't I always?"
He walked towards her. She seemed nervous and distant. "What's going on, 'Mione? What aren't you telling me?" he said, caressing her cheek as he always did. She gulped, unable to find the words to express her uselessness. Instead, she slid the straps off her shoulders and let her dress fall to the ground. "Hermione, what are you doing? I'm about to change."
She pushed off his robe so he too was naked and kissed him by the soft light of the moon. He didn't understand but he stopped resisting and held her close. To animals like them, all it took was contact to unravel emotions, to forgive and start over.
"This is all I can give you," she whispered in his ear and just as he was about to turn, she changed into a wolf before him. He stepped back, completely surprised, but it was too late and he had begun to change. It was painful for him to change and more so for her to watch. He went to his corner quickly but she followed and they spent the night together, fur to fur.
That's when he knew it was real. It was forever, free of obstacles. He didn't have the dreams again. She didn't have doubts about their future.
On her 20th Christmas, he proposed. He'd planned a great dinner with all their old school friends and family. Few from his side came but they were better off without Slytherins and their fights. He had the ring in his pocket for a month, hadn't even thought of that night. He was waiting for the perfect moment. And, when he saw her sitting at the other end of the table in her burgundy dress with her sleek hair pulled back in an elegant bun, he erased the girl he'd met all those years ago from her mind. They had evolved as one, grown tremendously side by side.
Upon dessert, when he was sure he couldn't admire her any longer without taking her right then and there, he announced a toast. Harry could tell what it was about by the look in Draco's eyes. He looked to Ginny and took her hand as Draco walked over to kneel before Hermione's chair. Even Ron managed to smile.
"Hermione," Draco said, taking her hand. "I've tried to figure out the ways to tell you I love you but they don't exist because what we are is beyond love. It's a companionship and a friendship and a desire I didn't know existed. It's not easy. We live to keep it alive, but from that horrid, impulsive kiss in Hagrid's hut, I knew there was no one beyond you. I never dreamt of it before but if you'd allow me, I'd dedicate the rest of my life to you without a second thought."
She didn't move, didn't breathe. It took a moment before she remembered to blink. The ring fit, as he did, so perfectly. She never said yes. She couldn't form words. She kissed him passionately, hugged him as if it'd been years since she'd seen him, and they all knew her answer in the way that Draco and Hermione could say everything with just a smile and a look.
They had a small ceremony at his castle in Ireland. She wore a crown of flowers and a flowy white dress. He wore a black tux. When they kissed, when they danced atop the frozen lake, it was as if night and day had found each other.
For years, they tried to have children. It wasn't the werewolf curse. It was Hermione. No magic in the world could help them. Once they stopped mourning their misfortune, the blessing of their solitude became evident.
She quit her job at the Ministry after two solid decades. She made a difference. It was all she wanted. After that time, her job became a distraction from the life she had with Draco. He'd taken control of his father's businesses. Many of them were run by Death Eaters and even though the Dark Lord had gone, they were still a strong underground force. She helped him with decisions.
They spent another decade trying to resolve those issues but they were finally free. Then Hermione began to notice the world change, but Draco remained the same. She thought it was wonderful at first, that he stayed the same wonderful young man she'd met and fell in love with. But, by the time she was 50, he was still physically only 20 years old.
He assured her his heart still aged with her but after some time, Hermione no longer felt comfortable being intimate with him. Their friendship became the most important thing. Their love was just as strong but suddenly, he found himself taking care of her more than ever. She forgot things. She didn't have the same energy. He'd always had an old soul so it wasn't that big of a change.
But how could he prove his love had grown, even if he hadn't?
They became solitudes, hidden away where no one could judge or pity them. Nobody knows how long they lived after that. Her friends were the only ones that would know the truth and this would be passed on from generations of Potters and Weasleys and so on.
The truth was she'd been ill for a long time. Some, like Harry, would say that she was broken before Draco found her and he had tried his best to keep the pieces together. They visited her bed the morning before. It was almost as if Draco and Hermione both knew what was coming. She said goodbye to each but when the time came, she had nothing to say to Draco, nothing he didn't already know. He lied down beside her and watched her drift off to sleep for the last time.
Their bond had grown so strong that he walked her final dreams with her, almost as if returning the favor for all those nights she had stayed with him. Suddenly, they were both those same 17-year-olds trying to find each other in the vast darkness of the Forbidden Forest. He couldn't see her but he knew she was young again and found her hand as if by memory. They walked to the forest's edge, where a great light could be seen in the distance through of a tunnel of night.
They froze just at the treeline and he heard her whisper, "I'm scared. Will you lead me there?"
He tried not to look at her because he knew if he did, he would wake and she would be alone.
"I can't go beyond this point, 'Mione. I still have too long to go before we meet again."
"Then I won't go. I'll stay and we'll be together. We won't have to wait."
Her whispering voice was broken by gasps and tears. He couldn't take it anymore and turned from the light. "Listen to me," he cried. "Every day we lived, we did so in love and in peace and know your memory will always be alive in me like a great flame. I'll never let it burn out. I'll never forget you, but I cannot damn you to pain a second longer. And when I come, because I will come, I will meet you here on the forest's edge where it is safe. Do you hear me?"
"I'll come. I'll come for you."
He squeezed her hand but she became mist and when he turned to face the light again, to wave goodbye, she was walking through the tunnel of woven trees in her flowing white wedding dress, walking as she had to him at the altar. The rest became legend.
The people do know, and would tell, that around Hermione's 112th birthday, screams and howls of grief were heard all around the neighboring cities. Their manor was on vast lands but the pain was so grand that it carried itself into the hearts of Muggles and wizards alike for miles.
For a moment, just a moment, the world went quiet in her honor.
The legend says that he walked with her in her final dreams to the forest's edge, into the secret darkness and went mad with grief. Some say he died with her and went to live with her beyond the forest. Others, like simple maids with no reason to lie, would tell tales of a young man who would sit on the bench in the gardens and read to a figure made of mist that would only appear when the sunrise hit the glistening dew after each full moon, so she would have company in the great darkness.
Even their house, which had known so much of their love, would echo their words from their books and their letters all throughout the halls so a part of them would always be together. So they would always be remembered. So when Draco went to meet her, he would listen to her words and follow her into the light beyond the darkness.
Nobody knows if he ever found her again but from time to time, just as their beautiful words held no barrier, the howl of two wolves would resound through the wizarding world as a reminder that no one was alone so long as the memories we hold dear are never allowed to fade.
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