Part XL: Epilogue:
Hermione was boarding the train at the station, leaving for another exciting year at Hogwarts. She hoped it would not be quite as exciting as the year before. After a summer full of promises and happiness, she waited with anticipation at what life held in store for her, and for her future. She spent July with her parents and with Draco, just as they had planned. Then she came back to visit her friends and his mother. It was hard going to the Manor, as it held many unhappy memories for them both.
Draco escorted her to the station that morning, and kissed her goodbye. He told her he would see her that coming weekend. He would come to Hogsmeade and get a room. Draco told her she was daft to take the train when she could easily apparate. She laughed and told him it would not feel like going to Hogwarts if she could not take the train. There would be no students on this train. They wouldn't arrive until the first of September. This trip was for staff members only, which included Hermione Granger.
Hermione was more nervous than she thought she would be as she boarded the train. She found an empty compartment, opened the window and leaned out, so she could see Draco. He was right by the window. He reached up for her hand and held on tight. She felt like crying. The train lurched forward and she was forced to abandon his hand. She waved goodbye, and he called out, "Write to me! I'll see you in a week!" She remained at the window until he was just a speck on the horizon. He waved at her until the train was completely out of sight.
Hermione sat down and opened her satchel. She brought a book with her, as she always did. She opened the book and started to read. She read for almost an hour and soon felt herself growing tired. Putting her book down, she leaned against the side of the compartment, and while still sitting upright, fell quickly to sleep.
She woke up to the sound of someone entering the compartment. She had no idea how long she had been sleeping. Not looking up right away, she bent over to pick up her book, which must have fallen on the floor. She grabbed her satchel from the floor, to stuff the book inside, when the person who entered the compartment sat down opposite her. She looked up, and all she saw was a man, that much was evident, sitting on the opposite bench, dressed all in black, with his legs crossed, and a large book covering his whole face.
'Fine, be that way,' Hermione thought. She crossed her leg, took the book back out of the satchel, and opened it at the right spot. The person opposite her crossed his leg and bumped into her foot. He said, "Pardon," as he put his book down. Hermione sat with her mouth opened in surprise, shocked.
"Close your mouth, Granger, you don't want to catch any flies," Malfoy said, as he picked his book back up and pretended to read.
She smiled widely. What was he doing here?
She said, "What are you reading?"
Without looking up, he asked, "What are you reading?"
"I asked you first," she pointed out, just now realizing they were having the exact same conversation they had a year ago, on the same train, perhaps in the same compartment.
"It's called, 'How to Marry a Muggle-born in 40 days'," he explained, showing her the cover. It did say that on the cover. She frowned.
"What type of book is that, really?" she asked, taking the book from him. When she opened it up, it had ridiculous chapter titles like, "How to act with a Muggle-born's parents," and "When is it correct to use magic in front of your Muggle in-laws". Hermione threw the book over on his seat and huffed.
"What are you reading?" he asked, taking the book from her hands. She was reading a textbook for goodness sakes. He scoffed and threw it on the floor.
She picked up the book, opened her bag and stuffed it inside. She took out a butterbeer and asked, "Would you like one?"
He leaned over, took the drink, and said, "Thank you, Granger."
"So, I hate to ask what may be an obvious question," she began, "but could you tell me what you're doing here?"
"I'm going to Hogwarts," he said, rolling his eyes, "and people say you're smart."
"Why are you going to Hogwarts?" she asked with a sigh.
"That's where my new job is, so it makes sense that I would go there," he quipped, picking his book back up and pretending to read once more. He took another drink of butterbeer, and put his book back down. She was staring right at him, incredulously.
He picked his book back up and she crossed her leg again, 'accidentally' kicking his shin in the process. He looked at her with narrowed eyes, and threw his book on the seat beside him. "I think you did that on purpose," Draco said pointedly.
"How observant you are," she laughed. "Seriously, Malfoy, why didn't you tell me? Why go to all this trouble?"
"I thought it would be construed as sweet, but I forgot with whom I was dealing," he joked.
Just then, the train came to a sudden halt. She flew out of her seat, into his waiting arms. "Fresh," he uttered, putting her back in her seat.
She stood up and said, "Why do you suppose the train stopped?" Hermione went to look out into the aisle. She turned to Draco and said, "Go see why the trained stopped."
"You can't tell me what to do," he said, standing, and then going out into the aisle to find out why the train stopped. She waited for him by the door.
When he came walking back a few minutes later, he said, "Now, I know you won't believe me, and you will think this is some evil plot of mine, but I was told there was a bridge out, and it may take hours, even using magic, to repair." He started laughing.
She pushed him out of the way and said, "Very funny, Draco!" and she stormed down the aisle, toward the front of the train.
He sat back down in the compartment, and started to pick up their things.
She came back into their compartment, threw her arms up in the air and said, "You weren't lying!"
"Of course I wasn't! How rude of you to assume so," he said with a fake frown.
"This is unbelievable! Are you sure you had nothing to do with this?" she proposed.
"What have I ever done to make you distrust me?" he asked, with one eyebrow raised. He was mocking her. He asked the same thing last year. He grabbed her hand and said, "Come, I know the way to the castle, let's walk." He picked up her satchel and his, flung them over his shoulder, and walked with her to one of the doors.
"You forgot your book," she said sarcastically.
"That's alright, I don't plan on marrying a Muggle-born any time soon, anyway," he said. She glared at him and he amended his statement by saying, "Because my Muggle-born girlfriend will surely want to wait two or three hundred years, and by that time, I'll know all about their mating habits."
He jumped out of the train door, and presented his arms to her and said, "Come on, Granger, and jump."
She said, "I can get down on my own, besides, you don't look that strong. You might drop me and then I would be forced to hex you with a mere thought from my expansive mind, and there would be a whole big Ministry investigation, and I would rather avoid the hassle."
"For Merlin's sakes, jump already!" he yelled.
She yelled, "You better catch me!" and she jumped. He caught her, as if on cue.
"Do you really know the way to the castle, or are we going to get lost, like we did last year?" she pondered.
"I recall the way, as should you," he reprimanded, adding, "however, I must point out that we didn't get lost last year. The rest of the group did. We arrived safe and sound at the castle."
She interrupted, "Three hours later."
"It wasn't three hours, now come on, let's go." He started walking.
"Are we seriously going to walk all the way to the castle?" she asked, catching up with him.
"Yes, and I hope you're in better shape than you were a year ago. I don't want to have to drag your sorry arse up any hills this time," he smirked, taking her hand.
They walked for over twenty-five minutes, making small talk on the way. He finally said, "I had a wonderful summer."
She smiled as she looked at the ground, and said, "Of course you did, you were with me." She looked up at him, and at that exact moment, tripped over a large rock, and landed on her hands and knees.
He bent over, laughing, and said, "That's what you get for your arrogance," and he picked her up.
She was frowning and said, "Look at my hand." She held her hand under his nose, and he saw she was bleeding, just barely.
"Just like old times," he said as he smiled. He took his handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at the small, almost non-existent wound. He kissed her palm and said, "That should make it feel better." He put her open palm on his heart, and kept one of his hands on top. He brought his other hand around her waist and pulled her close, to kiss her freely. His mouth opened hers, and he explored the depths of her mouth for what felt like an eternity.
He finally said, "Hey, have you ever had sex in the woods?"
She hit his chest and said, "Not for a while now, why?"
"What do you mean, 'not for a while'?" he glared.
Now she laughed and took his hand, leading the way on the path. Occasionally they would come across one of the X's that he had made last year to mark their way. They were walking the correct direction, at least.
They crossed several large hills, crossed over as many valleys, and they soon reached the last big hill. They came across the tree with the initials. Hermione squealed in delight.
"Oh, Malfoy, look, it's the tree, the tree with the initials!" She ran up to the tree and actually gave it a hug. She traced her index finger over the letters, and said, "M.F. loves T.J."
Draco walked around the tree, to the other side. "Hey, Granger, come see, we missed another set of initials last year." She ran to his side. Carved on that side of the tree were the initials: "D.M. loves H.M."
She looked at it closely. It looked as old as the other set of initials. It didn't appear freshly carved. She fingered these initials and remarked, "That's kind of funny, Malfoy, it's almost our initials."
"You don't say," he said slowly, as he placed his finger on top of hers over the carvings. "Wait a minute," he said, slowly taking her hand. "It could be our initials, you know?"
"Only if we had the same last name or something," she said amused.
"Right, only if we had the same last name," he said, pulling her close.
"We don't have the same last name," she said steadily, putting her hands in his hair.
He kissed the side of her neck, "We could, you know," and he let his lips linger under her ear, on the pulse point.
"Sure, we could," she reasoned, putting her head back against the tree. He pushed her back into the bark and kissed her mouth hard.
He took his lips away, only a fraction, and whispered, "Is that a yes, then." As he spoke these words, his lips were so close that each syllable was like a little kiss.
"Did you ask a question?" she said through a haze.
"I thought I did," he said, licking her neck.
"What was the question?" she asked, now completely aware of what he was trying to say. She pushed on his shoulder, to force him away, so she could look in his eyes. She repeated her inquest, "What was the question, Malfoy?"
"Will you marry me? Make the initials on the tree right, and all?" he asked.
She stared at him for what felt like an eternity. He was beginning to worry. Why was she hesitating?
She bit her bottom lip, as a smile formed slowly, giving away her answer. Now she was beaming. As if a brick finally came smashing down on her head, she finally realized his true intent. She threw her arms around his neck and said, "We wouldn't want the tree to lie, would we?"
He held her tight and swung her feet around. "Is that a yes?"
"YES!" she shouted.
He put her feet firmly on the ground and took her hand, and said, "Let's get to the castle. I wonder if the Headmistress would allow us to share quarters, now that we're engaged."
"We aren't officially engaged until I have a ring on my finger!" she pointed out.
"Look at your hand," he told her.
She looked at the wrong hand. He said, "You can not possibly be the same Hermione Granger who is presumed the smartest witch of her age. Look at your other hand."
She looked at her other hand, and saw a diamond ring on her fourth finger. Her eyes grew wide and she said one word, "How?"
"You aren't the only one who's good at magic, Hermione," he said, and he took her hand. He started to run down the last hill, as the castle was now in sight. She ran with him, right by his side. She would stay by his side for the rest of her life.
(Be sure to read Part II and Part III of this story. Thanks!)