all characters belong to JKR

Chapter 36: The End, aka: The Epilogue:

Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes. A person is not a failure just because they make a mistake. They're only a failure if they refuse to learn from that mistake, and if they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. It is not our failures that make us weak, nor is it our mistakes that make us weak. What makes a person weak is an inability to recognize our mistakes.

Hermione Granger had made many mistakes in her life. She had learned from these mistakes. And those mistakes, of which there were many, and which did not kill her, made her a stronger person.

If only everyone was so lucky to learn from their mistakes.

Once again, Hermione found herself alone in her office at the Daily Prophet, after hours, on New Year's Eve. She was late for the now annual party that Lavender and Mike were throwing. She didn't even want to go to the silly party, no more than she wanted to go last year, but she promised them that she would.

What she really wanted was to go home, put in a good movie, put on her most comfortable pajamas, and curl up on her couch with her fat cat Iggy, but then again, that's what she wanted to do every night, New Year's Eve no exception.

She looked down at her attire, black skirt, white blouse, black shoes. She wasn't really dressed for a New Year's Eve party, but she didn't have time to change.

She tidied up her desk, the whole time wondering something, which made no sense, but still, the thought kept popping up in her mind. What if she didn't go to the New Year's Eve party? What would happen? Would the world end? Would it change anything?

Then she had another thought, a more important thought. What if she hadn't gone to the New Year's Eve party last year? Her life would have been less complicated, but so very different. She had made so many mistakes in the last year, and number one was telling everyone that she was going to marry Draco Malfoy some day. What a joke that ended up being.

Was it really a year ago that she sat here in the same chair, and had that weird, errant thought, about a tree falling on her head, her screaming, her being alone, and no one hearing her scream? Gads – she was weird, wasn't she?

She sighed and looked at her watch. It was almost 10:00 pm. Would anyone even notice if she shied way from the party? She knew one thing: she had learned from her mistakes, and all her problems in the last year were because she went to that party last year, so this year, she wouldn't go.

Would he be at the party tonight? It felt like it had been so long since she had seen him.

She stood up and grabbed her coat and purse. She turned off the light to her office and sighed to herself. While she tried to decide what movie to watch, she heard a 'pop,' signaling the sound of someone apparating.

She turned back toward her dark office, and stepped back inside. She turned her light back on and noticed someone sitting at her desk, in her chair, with the chair turned toward the windows, the back toward her. She said, "Who's there?"

The person started swiveling the chair back and forth. She stepped two steps closer and watched as the person in the chair turned around slowly.

"Hello, Hermione," said the person as they turned to face her.

She gasped in surprise. It was the last person she expected to see in her office on New Year's Eve. "Draco Malfoy, to what do I owe this honour?" she asked.

"It's been a while, Granger. How the hell have you been?" he asked.

"Fine, Draco." She placed her purse back on the desk and sat down on a chair in front of the desk.

"Take your coat off and stay a while," he said.

"You're inviting me to stay in my own office? How gallant," she said, removing her coat.

"Are you heading home?" he asked, ignoring her comment.

"As a matter of fact, yes, I was," she said.

"You're not going to the party?" he asked.

"I don't think so. It's late, and the party is probably pretty much underway, and I doubt anyone will miss me," she said, rambling.

"I wouldn't be so sure," he said softly. When she said, "Pardon," he said louder, "I doubt it, too." He turned her chair back toward the windows, and looked out toward the dark, night sky. Then he said, "Well, maybe one or two people might miss you."

Hermione stood up and walked over to the chair. She stood beside the armrest and said, "Why are you here?"

"Who knows," he answered cryptically. He reached out; eyes still averted, and touched her skirt. He bunched the material in his hand.

"Draco," she pleaded.

"Hermione," he mocked.

She sighed once again, an almost mandatory sigh, and she sat on the edge of the desk. Skirt still in hand, he turned the chair slightly, so he could still stare out the window, but he could see her with his peripheral vision.

"Why aren't you at the party?" she finally asked.

"I was there," he said. "It wasn't very fun without, well, anyway, I was there." He looked over at her. "Joe said he was waiting for you to dance."

She smiled. "Good old, Joe."

"Lavender and Mike are boring everyone with stories about Azure. You would think she was the smartest, prettiest, best baby in the land," he herald.

"Well, to them she is," she reasoned.

She sat back some, so that her legs dangled from the desk, forcing him to let go of her skirt. She began to swing her legs back and forth. She accidentally kicked his leg. "Sorry," she said.

He reached over and grabbed the offending foot. He took it in his hand and rubbed his hand up and down her calf.

"Draco, let go," she pleaded.

"I've missed you," he said.

"Please," she begged. She didn't want to fight. She just wanted to go home.

"Have you missed me?" he asked.

"Please," she repeated.

In a quick, single act, he pushed away from the desk, let go of her leg, and stood quickly. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to stand in front of him.

"Have you missed me?" he asked, with more of an edge this time.

"Yes," she said.

"Good," he said back.

She felt lightheaded. She felt tears come to her eyes, and she hardly knew why, and she didn't know what to do, so she leaned forward, and his arms went instinctively around her body. She leaned her forehead against his chest. He rubbed one hand in circles on her back. His mouth was in her hair, and he kissed her head gently.

"Why?" he asked. He didn't elaborate. He just asked, 'why?' Did he mean, why have you missed me? Did he mean, why are you crying? Did he mean so much more?

In a soft, stiff voice, she said, "I want to go home. Let me go home, please."

"I don't understand you, sometimes," he said. He placed one hand under her chin. "Nothing is right about this, Hermione. Come to the New Year's Eve party. Let us start this year off differently. Let's start it off right."

"I don't want to go," she said.

"Does it matter what I want?" he asked.

"Of course it does," she said. He wasn't convinced. Everyone always thought Draco was the selfish one, but Hermione Granger was twice as selfish as he was. She placed her cheek against his shirt, and one hand crawled up to his collar, to the tiny hairs behind his scalp. She looked up at him again and then she leaned forward, stood up on her tiptoes, and kissed his mouth. "I'm tired." This time, she meant so much more with those two little words.

"I know," he said.

"I love you," she said.

"I know. The question is do you know that I love you?"

"Yes. I know. I want to go home, please," she beseeched again.

He smiled at her and then brought a hand to each side of her face. He stared in her eyes and then leaned forward and kissed her eyes, first one, then the other, and then he kissed her lips.

"May I come home with you?" he finally asked, hesitantly.

She leaned toward him again, her arms tight around his waist. He rested his chin on the top of her head. She said, "You don't want to go back to the party?"

"It's not fun without you," he admitted.

"Sure, you can come home with me. I mean, why not? It's your house, too," she finally agreed.

He smiled; a smile she couldn't see, and then he reached one hand around to the back of her neck, under her hair, and began to massage her neck slowly. He asked, "Why are you feeling so tired?"

"I think I'm a bit melancholy knowing this is my last day of work," she said. "But, I think it's so much more, too."

"You mean your last day of work at the Prophet," he elaborated.


"Because, we still have tons of work to do on our book about marriage and dating, don't we?" he said. Though he made it seem as if it was a question, it was a statement of fact. His hand stopped massaging her neck and his fingers crept around to bring her chin up, to force her to stare at him again.

"Well, yes, although I still feel like we're cheating by using our earlier articles," she said.

"Who cares what you think?" He laughed, and then said, "By the way, did you realize that in three days it would have been our third month anniversary? If we had gotten married on October 4, that is. It's almost January 1. What would we have done for our third month anniversary, so you suppose?"

"Nothing." She looked up at her him and said, "You know me. I would have just wanted to spend a quiet weekend alone with you."

"We could still do that," he said, finally letting her go. He sat back down in her chair, but when he noticed that she was going to sit back on the desk, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her onto his lap.

"But it's not our third month anniversary," she said, hiding her face in his neck.

He wrapped his arms around her and said, "We could pretend. Oh, Hermione, we have been such idiots."

"Thanks," she said, with a smile that he couldn't see.

"You have to agree," he said.

"I don't, but yet, I do," she said.

"Let's go back to the house, and pretend that this last year was different." He began to stroke her arm with one hand, his other planted firmly on her hip. "Let's pretend that none of the nonsense existed. Let's pretend that we had a proper courtship, and proper engagement, a proper wedding. Let's pretend this whole weird spin on things never occurred. Let's pretend that we weren't stupid, or foolish, or confused."

"Pretend, huh?" she asked. She would like to pretend.

"Things would have been different, you know," he said. "If only you would have let me lie to everyone when we came back from our commitment ceremony, and tell everyone that we ran off and got married. You and your damn truthfulness."

"It cost us a lot, didn't it?" she agreed. She buried her face deeper in the crook of his neck, and hung unto his shoulders tight. "I'm sorry."

"See, you don't know everything. Maybe we did need that little piece of paper to keep us together." He didn't say it to be mean. It was what he felt.

"I know."

"Well, at least we have it now. Better late then never," he said.

She kissed his neck and said, "Right, so instead of our almost three month anniversary, it's our one week. Instead of getting married on October 4, we got married on Christmas Eve. We didn't waste too much time, did we?"

"I suppose not." He began to rock the chair back and forth and said, "But as I mentioned earlier, I've missed you. I can't stand that I haven't seen you since this morning. I'm so glad that now that this job is out of the way, I will see you all day long, every day."

"We will probably get sick of each other," she stated.

"Probably," he agreed. She sat back, smiled at him, and then placed her cheek next to his.

She whispered in his ear, "Thanks for the surprise wedding ceremony last week. It was the best Christmas present I've ever received."

He twirled the chair around and she laughed. He said, "Well, we can't let everyone else have all the fun of being married, and since my parents finally came around and helped me plan the whole thing, we just had to get married. I knew if I told you in advance, you would be all doubtful, fearful, and in general, Hermione-ish, so it was up to me to save the day."

"Well, again, admirable job, Draco Malfoy," she said, smiling.

He smiled back and said, "Thank you, Hermione Malfoy." He then said, "It's not like the last few months of unmarried life was in vain though. It was still fun, living together in sin and all." He stood up, with her in his arms. He walked over to the edge of her desk and said, "My arms are full, so be a dear and lean over for your purse and coat so I can get us out of here."

"I still don't want to go to the party," she said.

"Fine, home it is. What movie are we going to watch?" he asked as she reached for her things.

"I thought maybe 'Sixteen candles', okay?" she said.

"That old thing?" he asked.

"Please?" she said.

"Fine, you always get your way," he complained.

"Not always. I didn't want to get married, remember. Yet, here I am, with your wedding ring on my finger, and you last name attached to mine," she said with a sly smile.

He had no response, so he gave her a half smile, kissed her cheek, and took his wife home.

His wife. He liked the way that sounded. And secretly, so did she.