Parting Gift

-

"Sold! For fifteen hundred Galleons to Mr. Malfoy's representative."

After the newly bought statue had been rolled away, the auctioneer smiled gamely at his audience, signaling the start of another around. "Our last item is arguably the highlight of this night," he said, deepening his voice for a more dramatic effect. "I, for one, am honored just to be able to introduce to you the next item up for bidding." He motioned at the side of the stage. "If you would be so kind...?"

Just then, a glass table with a small, ancient-looking book suspended in mid-air on top of it, was rolled in by the auctioneer's assistant.

Excited whispers began to fill the room, as people leaned forward on their seats to get a better look.

"This is arguably the most exciting find of the year," the auctioneer said, sweeping his hand towards the item. "As most of you know, this treasure before us had been found in Hogwarts, and this chronicled the very... shall we say, interesting, events that happened between two of the most revered founders of the school."

A man with black hair and blue eyes sat quietly among the crowd; on his handsome face was a slightly bored look that told everyone he'd rather be somewhere else, thank you very much.

Occupying the exact opposite spot in the room was a blonde woman with green eyes hidden beneath dark glasses; curiously she, too, seemed unaffected by the enthusiasm shown by the other patrons.

The auctioneer reverently lifted the book and lovingly caressed its blank cover. "Even the most cynical among us will find this item intriguing. Imagine, holding in your hands the only authenticated proof - penned by Rowena Ravenclaw herself - that she and Salazar Slytherin had a..." He paused, as if relishing the silence and the undivided attention he got from the group.

Pregnant moments waltzed by...

...before the auctioneer smiled again. "But I guess giving away the ending will only lessen the value of this book. The entirety of the story would - and should - only be for eyes of the person who can bid the highest tonight, wouldn't you agree?"

He replaced the book until it floated once again atop the glass table. "The proceeds we get from the auctioning of this book will go to Hogwarts. This is, after all, one of their most valued treasures. So you see, your money will help build our future - the next generations of witches and wizards." He took his position behind the podium. "With that magnanimous thought in mind, I would like to start the bidding at six hundred Galleons. Anyone?"

-

When Hermione Granger heard about the auction - about the item in the auction - it was as if she had been doused with ice water. She knew about the book. She had once held it in her hands, read parts of its content, shared her thoughts about it. She had once treated it as her own personal secret, her own personal treasure.

Now I understand... what Helga had warned me about...

...that even the most intelligent individuals could become fools for love.

It was one of her biggest regrets, then, that she hadn't enough time to finish the book, that she had left it in the Room of Requirement before the war erupted. She was only able to read two or three pages at most, because she had become... well, quite busy with... well, something.

When she came back to Hogwarts, the room - and the book in it - had become lost to her forever.

Until now, that was.

Somehow, someone had stumbled upon the book.

And now it was up for sale.

Hermione was well-known to be a practical, pragmatic person - and because of that, she could not go to that auction. She would become the object of ridicule by her friends - imagine, Hermione Granger one of those swept in the hype generated by an ancient romance novel? One of those who would bid extremely ridiculous amounts for something so impractical?

How preposterous that would be!

She could not go there, even if she wanted to.

Yet she knew someone else who could.

-

"One thousand!" barked an old wizard.

The auctioneer inclined his head and smiled. "I hear one thousand from that handsome gentleman in the corner. Do I have a thousand and two hundred?"

"A thousand and two hundred fifty!" a red-haired woman screamed, raising both hands and generally making a noisy mess of herself.

"A thousand and five hundred," the blonde woman called soon after, lifting her hand.

"We have a thousand and five hundred from a lovely patron!" the auctioneer crowed. "Do I hear more? More? Do bear in mind that this is for the benefit of the next gene--"

Two fingers were waved idly in the air. "Two thousand," the black-haired man said, his tone light.

The auctioneer exchanged a look with his assistant. "My, my. Gorgeous and sensitive! We have--"

"Two thousand and two hundred," the blonde calmly stated.

Her eyes met those of the man's, and he had the gall to grin at her.

"Two thousand and four hundred," he said.

-

When Draco Malfoy heard about the auction - about the item in the auction - he laughed. So it was found again? How intriguing. Surely only a bumbling idiot would actually go to that event and buy that utter drivel.

He had his suspicions that the book itself was fake. Draco had expressed his doubts, loudly so, but in the end he was ignored.

How easily a woman could be touched by another woman's book.

Another argument between Godric and Salazar. I know Helga advised me not to interfere, but--

"Reading that nonsense again?"

"This isn't nonsense! I think this is authentic. Look at the scrolls used, the dates, the facts. At the names. Why would anyone fabricate something like this and leave it here? Why not... oh I don't know, sell it to the public? Print it for mass production and--"

"So you actually think that Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin had become--"

"--involved? Why yes, Malfoy, now that you mentioned it--"

"And they also used this very same room we're in to conduct their - ahem! - activities--"

"You make it seem so dirty."

"And you, surprisingly, make it seem romantic. Didn't think you have that streak in you, luv. Surprisingly though... I like it."

...

"Malfoy! Give that back! What are you--"

"I'm taking it because I want you. Now come here."

Draco wondered if she was going to that auction.

Then again, perhaps she wouldn't.

She was too practical for that.

-

By now, everyone had become aware of the bidding war that had erupted between the blonde and the black-haired man. Every time she named an amount, he called a price only slightly above it, as though teasing her - and not buying the book - was his primary intention.

"Three thousand."

"Three thousand and four hundred."

She huffed, glared at the annoying man, then bit out, "Three thousand and nine hundred."

He had the grace to look vastly amused. "Four thousand." He gaily waved four fingers in the air.

"Four thousand!" the auctioneer repeated, and cheers erupted from the others - even from those who wanted the book but were afraid to get caught in the war. "How very generous of you, sir! Oh, truly this book is priceless, but... do I hear four thousand and five hundred? Anyone?" He looked expectantly at the blonde. "Madam?"

Her hesitation was evident on her features. She fisted her hands on her lap, and gamely nodded.

-

"Will you not tell me what you know?"

He remained seated. "It's better if you don't," he said, his tone flat.

"I might be able to help you!"

Bitter laughter tumbled from lips. "Nothing can help me now." He stood, moved his sleeve - and showed her his mark.

She closed her eyes, unable to speak for a moment, unable to look at him. She should have foreseen that this would eventually come between them. Perhaps she even did, but she was too used to postponing the inevitable - not today, maybe later, tomorrow, next week - until they simply ran out of time.

I fear that I may not see him again. It pains me to say it, but I do agree with Godric on this. Salazar's ideas have become too preposterous to even consider - though I love him, I will not yield to his wishes.

If he is to go, then I will let him.

I do not want our school to become what he desires it to be!

Two people, on opposing sides - both unbending to the other's beliefs. Such had become the fate of Slytherin and Ravenclaw.

How ironic, then, that today was a parallel of what had happened in the book.

"Will I see you again, after this?" she asked softly.

He never said anything in return.

And that had been their goodbye.

-

"Sold! For six thousand Galleons to that gorgeous, gallant patron we're blessed to have with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, it had been such a pleasure to--"

The blonde took a deep breath, expelled it in a rush, and slowly rose to her feet.

Disappointment was evident in the way her shoulders were hunched, in the way her eyes remained glued to the floor. She dug her fingers in her purse - she had wanted that book. Not because of its content - although that was important as well - but...

...but because of its meaning to her.

It was a reminder that she had a taste of something painful, wonderful, beautiful, once upon her practical life.

It was a reminder of something she hadn't properly parted with.

Now at least, she could say to herself that she had done everything she could to obtain her closure.

If only...

Well.

If only wouldn't really bring her anywhere, would it?

Just then, an object was brushed against her arm, and she looked up - only to find her competition smirking at her, offering the book to her.

"Coffee?" he asked.

-

It seemed, then, that they both had moved on.

She had become busy after having been initiated in the Ministry.

He had dedicated his time and effort rebuilding what had been his fallen name.

Perhaps they wondered about each other.

Is he all right?

Is she married by now?

Perhaps they thought about... what if...

... then again, perhaps they didn't.

But they both found out how huge the world could be, and how many people could come between them, when they tried not to think about each other anymore.

-

The book rested between them, as if a symbol of a truce.

"Will I be wrong to assume that I know you?" he began, his tone light. "Because I have this feeling that I do."

The blonde frowned at him. He seemed... like... but she couldn't be entirely sure. Could he be... ? But of course that was impossible. "It depends. Who are you?"

The black-haired man sipped his coffee. "Perhaps I'm another representative of Draco Malfoy." He cocked his head to one side, smirked at her.

There! She gaped at him for a moment. Recovering, and committing herself to play his game, she answered, "Then perhaps I'm an associate of Hermione Granger."

"I'm right, then. As always."

He asked for a refill, and spoke only after his cup was full again.

"Hermione Granger..." he trailed off, his eyes on his drink. "Isn't she getting married next month?"

Her tea, she noticed, had become quite tepid. "Yes, that's right." She raised a brow. "And Draco Malfoy recently got engaged, didn't he?"

"Touché, madam."

She watched his fingers drum repeatedly against the table. Unable to keep silent any longer, she asked, "What do you want?"

"Why do you assume that I want something?"

"Don't you always?"

He stopped his tapping. "Maybe my boss wants the same thing that your boss does."

She drank her tea. "And that would be...?"

Ignoring her question, he instead traced the four corners of the book. "So you're still obsessed with this, aren't you? Some things never change." Then his eyes spotted the ring on her finger. "Though some others did."

She seethed - though the reason behind it escaped her. "I'm glad we're done with role-playing." Grabbing her purse, she said, "If you're only going to gloat about your most recent acquisition then--"

He pushed the book towards her, as if she had never spoken. "Since I'm feeling quite magnanimous today, seeing as I've just spent six thousand on this utter nonsense, I'd allow you to do whatever you want with it. You were, after all, a worthy competitor."

The enormity of his offer surprised her, rendered her unable to speak. Surely he knew that...

But of course he did.

Glancing at him, she dragged the book even closer and opened it to the part she remembered. Read the parts she didn't.

He kept himself busy by draining his coffee, and remembering how often he had plucked the offending piece from her hands back in the day.

Good memories, those.

After several moments, she closed the book, and stared at something behind him.

"Well? How did it end?" Curiously enough, he really wanted to know.

Outside, rain began pouring down in earnest.

"How do you think?" she asked. "There wasn't any official record of children borne to them, so it's only natural to assume that--"

"Ah. You're disappointed. You always ramble when you are." He snatched the book from her hands. "This one doesn't have a happy ending for the couple?" He stared at her, hard. "But I guess we already knew that."

She looked away. "You can never be too sure. Perhaps they were happy. Just not... together."

He scanned the last page, noted that the ancient foundress ended her book on a sad note. "Maybe it's because Ravenclaw didn't love him enough."

Her tea cup rattled against the saucer. "Perhaps it was Slytherin who didn't."

All traces of humor disappeared on his face. "No," he told her. "He did."

Silence.

"You never said anything." She blinked rapidly, or else risk making a fool of herself.

His hand moved, as if to take hers, then stopped midway. "I am, now."

But it was too late, of course.

And they both knew it.

He closed the book, laid it on the table. "It doesn't matter anymore. Though I suppose anyone in the world would actually consider it a miracle that she was able to move on without him--"

Her reply was a sharp intake of breath.

"--I think it's for the best, in the end. Don't you?"

Did she? She swallowed heavily. "Yes. Of course."

"Glad we agree."

She saw that his fists were clenched - but who was she to notice them, when she, too, had her hands crumpled that way?

"Anyway, this is yours." He took one of her hands, placed the book on her palm.

Her jaw dropped. "But you--"

"Bought it? Yes." He looked away. "I realize that we never had the opportunity to properly... end things. I suppose enough time has passed for us to realize that this was never... well." He cleared his throat. "Consider this as my parting gift to you, from the bottom of my overly-generous heart."

Wordlessly, she nodded.

And that was when he stood.

"Will it be too much to ask for a goodbye kiss?"

She had to smile at that.

"Eh. You can't fault me for trying... though to be honest, I do prefer your natural look." He paused, as if thinking of any reason to stay.

There was none.

"I'll be seeing you, luv. Perhaps... when we're taking our children to King's Cross?"

And without waiting for her answer, Draco Malfoy slowly walked out, into the rain.

Interestingly enough, she didn't weep. She was, after all, too practical to cry.

Instead, she clutched the book tighter to her.

If he is to go, then I will let him.

Hermione Granger, too, would do the same.

- end -

Author's Notes: This was my entry at the latest DMHG Fic Exchange round. I haven't updated my DHR fics yet, I know, but we'll work on that! Thank you very much for reading!