2-2-10. I've been feeling pretty crappy lately and nothing seems to be working out in my life, so I felt this was an appropriate one-shot to publish. Yeah, it's depressing. I took inspiration from the movie Up, and the whole crossing-the-lake-in-first-year-boats thing? Not my idea. It's Rowling's. She mentioned it in an interview when asked what she imagined what a Hogwarts graduation would be like. This story is kind of under-developed, but I'm too lazy to make changes. I hope you enjoy it as is, anyway. And by the way, reviews would make me feel loads better.

Disclaimer: Oh, you know it already. I've never really understood the point of these. This site is called FANfiction-dot-net, right?


It was a crisp, bright morning. Perfect for a graduation. Parents and friends clapped proudly as the seventh years marched up the aisle in black robes; chords of red, green, yellow, and blue hanging around their necks in honor of their respective houses. Once they had reached their seats and everyone quieted down, Albus Dumbledore began to speak.

"Welcome, everyone, to the commencement ceremony of the Hogwarts class of 1998. We refer to this day as a 'commencement' rather than a graduation because we consider this as the beginning of our students' lives in the Wizarding world, not the end. At Hogwarts, our students have learned to . . ."

Hermione Granger listened intently to the headmaster's speech. It had been a challenging seven years, but as she looked around at her fellow schoolmates and friends, her eyes grew teary. She wished she could have at least one more Charms class, one more trip to the library. She had been ready for the real world for quite some time, but she wasn't quite sure she wanted to enter it just yet.

"Merlin, Hermione, are you getting weepy already?" Ronald Weasley said from beside her. She gave him a playful shove.

Harry Potter smiled comfortingly from her other side, leaned in close, and whispered, "Don't worry. I'm scared too."

Hermione knew why Harry was scared. Why all three of them were scared. To everyone else sitting at the edge of the Black Lake, listening as Dumbledore said his final words, the real world meant finding a job, starting a family, and sending their own children off to Hogwarts to repeat the cycle. To the three of them, however – Harry, Ron, and Hermione – their futures were filled with dark, trying times. All they saw ahead of them was Lord Voldemort.

They were the last to board the boats that would take them to King's Cross station, the very same boats they had boarded in their first year, on their first day at Hogwarts. Seven years ago, they had crossed the lake to start their Wizarding journeys. Now, they were leaving – and, Hermione thought, a knot forming in her throat, some of us might never get a chance to come back.

The boats bumped against the opposite shore, and everyone climbed out. Hugs were exchanged, tears were wiped away, and shouts of 'We made it!' 'No more homework!' rang through the crowd. Harry and Ron joined in the commotion. Hermione, however, caught sight of a pair of stormy gray eyes piercing into her and made her way to a secluded section of the shore.

"Congratulations," he murmured as he came up behind her. She turned and smiled softly.

"You too." She looked shyly up at him through her lashes.

He stepped closer to her, closing the gap between their bodies. She glanced back down again and absentmindedly fingered the emerald green chord hanging around his neck.

"I don't want to say goodbye, Hermione." He had said it so quietly, she almost didn't hear him. But she did, and his words brought fresh tears to her eyes.

"Neither do I." Her body was shaking with quiet sobs.

"We don't have to."

She looked up at him. What did he mean? He knew about her plans. He knew where she had to go. What she had to do. He knew that his words held no meaning behind them. So why did he say that?

"We don't have to," he repeated. He looked so intensely at her, his normally cold eyes made her melt. "We can run away."

"No, we can't, Draco. Harry and Ron need me. We've got to do this, we've got –"

"Listen to me," he interrupted, "at least hear me out first. We can run away. We can leave Britain, leave the U.K. – we can even leave the entire Wizarding world behind us. I'm willing to do this," he said, "I'm willing to do this, just so I can be with you."

The tears were flowing freely from her eyes now. She didn't know what to say. She wanted to go with him, to say yes, but she couldn't. She would never be able to live with herself if she just up and left without even a goodbye, when her friends were counting on her help.

"I- I can't, Draco. You know I can't. Harry and Ron are expecting me to go with them, we've been planning this for months –"

"Hermione," he said, cutting her off once again, "Hermione." His long, pale fingers cupped her chin and forced her to look up at him. "If you love me – if you really, truly love me – you'll run away with me."

"Don't make me choose." She was choking on her sobs now. "Don't make me choose between you and my best friends. Don't give me an ultimatum. I love you, Draco, I really do – you know I do," she said, her expression fierce, "but if I leave, if I disappear with you, Harry and Ron could die. The hope of the Wizarding world could be tarnished forever." She swallowed, preparing herself for the hardest thing she would ever have to say. "Don't make me choose, Draco. You know that I won't choose you."

His mouth set in a thin line at her words, and the stormy coldness returned to his eyes. He backed away from her and began walking away. He didn't even both turning around when he spoke his last words to her, his voice barely above a whisper.

"I guess this is goodbye then, Hermione. Forever."

***

It was a dark, dreary day. Not at all perfect for the victory over Voldemort. But to Harry, the weather suited his mood. He had just lost his best friends.

The casualties were listed in the Daily Prophet the next morning. There were their names, one after the other: Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley. Just another pair of people who had the misfortune of stumbling across Voldemort's path.

Harry had watched them die. They were dueling Bellatrix Lestrange, and they almost had her finished. Almost. Harry was fighting his way across the vast field that was the setting for the Second Wizarding War. He had almost reached them. Almost. But they had gotten in Voldemort's way. And they had perished.

Harry's cry was heard by every witch, wizard, and creature in the struggle between good and evil. It was this sadness, this agony, this anger from his tragic loss that fueled the final duel: the duel between him and Tom Riddle. Their wands slashed through the air as all other battles ceased around them. Harry came out victorious. But as he watched his enemy fall, the one who had caused him so much pain and suffering in his life, the one who had taken away everyone who had ever mattered to him, he didn't feel elated, or happy, or even the remotest bit of relief. He was supposed to have a normal life now. But without his best friends, Harry Potter felt as if he had nothing.

***

It was a cloudy, drizzling day. In a quiet suburban neighborhood, a group of Muggle teens were huddled outside an old Victorian house. It hadn't been there before, their parents had told them. It had appeared overnight, many years ago, and no one really knew exactly how it had gotten there. They knew nothing about its resident either, other than that he was a vile, elderly man with stormy gray eyes. He never ventured farther than his front porch, where he spent countless hours sitting on a chair and staring off into space, his body stiff and his face lacking even the slightest hint of emotion. There were rumors about him. Some said he was mental. Others said this was normal behavior for a lonely old man. And still others would tell a story about how he had loved and lost, and was still anxiously awaiting the day when the woman who had captured his heart would return to him once again. They would never know how close they were to the truth.

Draco Malfoy never stopped loving her. He lived his life, miserable and lonely in the Muggle world, certain that Hermione would be looking for him. That Hermione would find him, and they could finally be happy together. He never knew that he had lost her long ago, long before he had truly begun his lifetime of waiting.