Title: In The End
Summary: "We need to talk, Draco..." And in the end, that was all that mattered. - A story about mistakes and regrets.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. The song belongs to Kelly Clarkson.
Warnings: Slight sexual mention, slight language.
Word count: 2528.
Dedication: For A CertrainPeanutButterSandwhich.
Edited: December 7th, 2010


She apparated in with a soft pop.

The first thing she saw was Draco sitting on the couch reading The Prophet. Half a glass of firewhiskey rested front of him and his mind was obviously occupied elsewhere, because he didn't seem to notice her arrival. His infamous (normally slicked back) hair hung loose and brushed against his face as he turned the page of his paper. He was so calm, so relaxed, so unlike the boy she had gone to school with, that it was almost beautiful. And while it wasn't a sight she was unaccustomed to, she still couldn't help but pause.

This would be the last time she would ever be able to see this.

And suddenly, Hermione forgot how to breathe.

The thought alone was almost enough to change her mind. It was simple enough: she could forget any of it ever happened – banish the thought from her mind – and continue their lives as if it had never happened. She couldn't bear to imagine not coming home to this every day, coming home to him every day. Because despite the rubbish that Witch Weekly continued to print, and despite everything her friends thought, Hermione loved him. Merlin, she loved the beautiful Slytherin prat so much that it hurt.

But that was exactly the reason why she had to do it. Because, honestly, it was the best for both of them. She had to talk to him, even if it killed them, because she loved him and it wasn't right for this to go unsaid. They had to talk.

Summoning her Gryffindor courage, she took a deep breath and approached him. But before he had the chance to do anything, she took the paper from his hands and put it on the table. She didn't approach him any closer, however, afraid that she would change her mind if she did.

"Hermione..." His eyes were widened, panicked almost. He didn't ask her what was wrong and instead waited for her to speak.

Her heart pounded in her chest. An eternity seemed to pass, yet it didn't feel nearly long enough. When she finally spoke her voice – strong, unwavering, confident – betrayed how she truly felt. Because this, she realized, would be the end for them. They wouldn't survive this.

"We need to talk, Draco..."

And in the end, that was all that mattered.

...

Yesterday won't let go
Every day…every minute
Here comes the emptiness
Just can't leave lonely alone

At precisely ten thirty-two pm, Hermione apparated out of the Ministry. She arrived to her new home: a small flat hidden in deep within a corner of Muggle London and far away from Wizarding London, reporters, and everything else of the sort. When she reached home, she went directly to her study, ignoring the living room and dining area all together.

She had wanted to leave the rooms seeing as she would make little to no use of them. Her mother and Ginny, however, had insisted on an overly elaborate decor. They had made some ridiculous claim that it was a chance to recreate her life in a more positive manner. A manner, they had left unsaid, without Draco. A manner with which she really wanted nothing to do with, because, in all honesty, Hermione wanted her old manner back. She missed it.

She missed Draco.

And she hated herself for it.

...

Four days later, near noon, when Hermione came home for her lunch break, she found Harry in her flat. He stared at her for a moment, eyes widened in shock, before shuffling something behind his back. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Harry James Potter, I don't care what it is, hand it over."

He hesitated for a moment, but eventually sighed and pulled what appeared to be the latest copy of Witch Weekly out from behind his back. Before he could even hand it over to, however, Hermione wished she hadn't said anything. On the front cover was a photo of Draco and Astoria Greengrass. All she needed to see was the word 'engaged' lit across the top before she handed it back to him.

"I'm fine." She insisted, before he could even open his mouth to ask her. "Really, Harry, I promise, I'm fine."

Only she wasn't.

...

The next evening Ginny Weasley showed up at Hermione's flat with a bag of groceries in hand and refused to leave. And although she was slightly annoyed that her work was being interrupted, Hermione was more grateful for her friend's consideration. She had been too busy with work as of late to shop for food, and usually opted to either order dinner or skip the meal all together.

Her appreciation, however, faded when the two sat down to dinner and Ginny began questioning how she was.

"I'm fine." Hermione did her best not to snap.

It wasn't that she meant to be rude, but she had purposely avoided the conversation about her relationship with Draco for a reason. She had told her friends when it had ended, citing it to a mutual agreement, but had not given any further details.

"Malfoy's a git, 'Mione." Ginny's voice was soft when she spoke, gentle even. "You deserve better. You're lucky to be done with him."

Hermione said nothing and put her fork down, her appetite suddenly lost. Because honestly, she knew Ginny was wrong. Because all she wanted was Draco back. Because, if she could, she would go back and change the moment she told him they needed to talk. She would take the whole conversation back and pretend it never happened.

And she hated herself for it.

...

Two mornings later, Hermione awoke to find her table set with a few pastries and a mug of coffee. Ron grinned sheepishly at her, flowers in hand. It wasn't the first time since the break up with Draco that he had come to her flat in hopes of moving to something more than friendship. It was, however, the first time he had gone to such lengths to do so. It both flattered and frightened her.

For how big of a deal they had made it when it started, everyone seemed to have moved on from her break up rather quickly. Ron was asking her out; Draco was already engaged; Merlin, even Witch Weekly had tired of the whole thing. It was as if the world was trying to tell her to move on with her life. To move on from Draco.

"Alright." She nodded.

Ron's eyes instantly lit up. "Really?"

"Yes. I supposed it's time. I'm ready."

Only she wasn't.

...

One night Hermione apparated to Draco's flat. She arrived with a pop and was slightly startled that it worked. In all honesty, she had expected him to have changed the wards to prevent her from being able to enter. Yet, that didn't appear to be the case. Despite herself, Hermione couldn't help but smile softly.

Draco was on his feet the moment she appeared. His eyes were wide and he clearly hadn't been expecting her. His half filled glass of firewhiskey and copy of The Prophet were left abandoned on the coffee table. He was dressed in his night robes and his hair, still damp from his evening shower, framed his face. The sight was enough to make Hermione's heart skip a beat. It had been so long since she had seen him so relaxed, so comfortable, so beautiful.

They stood there for a moment, staring at each other.

"Is there something you need?" He finally asked, breaking the silence.

Hermione almost winced. "I brought some things of yours." Her steady voice betrayed her pounding heart. "I thought you would want them back now..." Now that he was marrying Greengrass.

She bit her lip at the thought of the younger woman. Where was she? Hermione peaked around Draco, expecting to see her behind him.

"Astoria isn't here." He answered without waiting for her to ask. "She doesn't live here."

Her heart fluttered slightly and fought the smile that was tugging at her lips. "Is that so?"

"Stupid doesn't suit you. You know the reason why so don't act as if you don't." He half snapped. She mentally winced, but said nothing. He sighed. "Why did you come here?" This time his voice was slightly gentler.

"To bring you your things."

"You could have owled them. You didn't have to come here."

She hesitated a moment before answering. "I wanted to see you." She confessed. There was no point in lying.

Draco stared at her for a moment. "I..." He trailed off.

But he didn't need to finish for Hermione to know what he meant. She still knew him well enough. I wanted to see you too. She couldn't help but smile. Her happiness, however, was short lived.

"Let me guess." He gestured towards the things she had brought. "Your Weasel doesn't want to see my things around your new flat."

She knew this was when she was supposed to tell him that Ron wasn't living with her; Draco had given her the same decency, after all. Her mouth, however, reacted without her consent. "Don't bring Ronald into this, Draco."

His eyes hardened instantly. "Why not? You certainly are, Granger."

Granger. Had he slapped her, it would not have hurt nearly as much. It had been so long since he had been so hurtful, so cold towards her.

Granger. Tears blinded her vision.

"I'm sorry." She said, blinking them back. "I should go."

She took a deep breath and avoided his gaze before putting the items down on the floor. But before she had the chance to apparate away, Draco was in front of her. He held onto her arm, preventing her from going anywhere. Her eyes widened at him, but his only darkened.

"Do you have any idea what you did to me?" She couldn't remember the last time she had heard his voice so hard, but her inner-Gryffindor refused to let her show him how scared she actually was. "I loved you. I was going to give up everything for you."

He pressed something into her hands. Hesitantly, she broke her gaze from his angry face and towards her hands where a little black box sat. Her eyes widened and she tried to give it back to him. His eyes narrowed at her.

"Open in." He hissed.

She knew she shouldn't listen to him, but her curiosity got the better of her and she couldn't help it. She had to know. So without meeting his eye, she opened the little black box, and gasped.

"Draco, I..."

"I wanted to marry you. I was going to give up everything I had – my family, my inheritance, everything – for you. But you left me."

Hermione knew he was hurting her on purpose. Flashing the life they could have had together – getting married, raising a family, growing old side by side – in order to torment her. He knew the thought would haunt her for the rest of her life. The images were permanently engraved in her mind. And she wanted nothing more than to scream at him for it – slap him, call him the conniving Slytherin arse that was, and tell him she was better off without him. She wanted nothing more than to hate him, to hurt him back, but her voice failed her.

"But that wasn't enough, was it? No, you wanted to have more. You had to have Weasley too. You had to fuck him too."

"I never slept with Ronald!"

"You might as well have." He snapped. "You cheated on me!"

"You think I don't realize that?" She snapped back. "It was the worst mistake I have ever made and you think there isn't a single day – a single moment – when I don't regret it? When I don't hate myself for it?" She shoved the box back at Draco, tears landing on her arms in the process. Was she crying? She hadn't realized she was.

"Why did you do it then?"

It was a fair question, but Hermione flinched nevertheless. "I love him. I always have. You know that."

"I've heard enough." He turned away from her. "You should leave."

"No!" This time she grabbed his arm. "You asked me, so now listen." He paused for a moment, but eventually turned to face her. She continued before he had the chance to do anything more. "I have always loved Ron, but it wasn't until after that I realized I was never in love with him. It wasn't until then that I realized I only really love you. That I have only ever been in love with you. That all I have ever wanted was you."

Draco was silent. Hermione's heart pounded in her chest, desperate for him to say something – anything – but knew better than to push him.

"Then why did you tell me?" He asked at last. "Why not pretend that it never happened?"

"I couldn't do that to you..."

His eyes narrowed and suddenly he was towering over her. "You couldn't do that to me? That?" He hissed. "Of all the things you did, you couldn't do that to me?" His harsh breath brushed against her face. "I can never trust you again."

And like that, something in Hermione snapped and her inner-Gryffindor took over. Without thinking, she straightened her back and locked her eyes with his. "I made a mistake. I know that and I'm sorry, but that's it? You're going to throw all of this away just like that?"

"You betrayed me, Hermione." He turned away, as if to signal to her that he was done with the conversation. "I wasn't the one who threw us away."

She was silent for a moment, the weight of his words finally digesting. "For your sake," she took a deep breath. "For your sake I hope that when you think back to us, you won't regret this. I love you – more so than I think I can bear, honestly – but once I leave, I'm not coming back." Hermione blinked back the tears that were beginning to cloud her eyes and took a deep breath. "Goodbye, Draco. I'll miss you."

He remained silent, his back towards her, as if he hadn't heard her. Still, she knew he had and his actions spoke louder than his words ever could have. He was letting her go. They were really, truly over. And in the end, that was all that mattered.

She apparated out with a soft pop.

All I ever wanted
Was an in between to escape this desperate scene
Where every lie reveals the truth
Baby 'cause all I ever wanted … was you
All I Ever Wanted – Kelly Clarkson


Note: I offered a free one-shot to the 26th reviewer of my Somewhere in Between fic and when I asked A CertainPeanutBetterSandwhich, all she said was that she wanted a DHr. I had thought of this idea while working on SiB a couple of days before when All I Ever Wanted came on and just kind of ran with it. I thought I would try a fic where Hermione was at fault, because so many people say it would end on Draco's fault. I tried to incorporate some more literary devices in it too. Hope you like it, Nutty!

Also, if you're interested, when I was considering writing this in Draco's POV, the song Where? by Nickelback came to mind. But I am NOT writing it.

Yes, I did change the summary when I edited it. Sorry for the confusion.

Review, please. =]