Disclaimer: I've reached the end of "Only a Pretense" and yet, I'm still no JK Rowling. Sigh, what a sad, boring life :( But really, not mine, not yours. Only our awesome JK Rowling's.
A/N: OH. MY. ROWLING. It's the effing end of "Only a Pretense" and it's making me so damn sad. We've journeyed for almost a year, I think XD Gosh, I'm being dramatic and all. Sorry, the drama queen inside me is slowly resurfacing as I type these not-really-last-words-but-feels-like-one to my readers (and reviewers!)
So, it's really the end… or is it? Haha, I'm playing mind games again, don't mind me. Gah, whatever. So, here's the epilogue I promised! I decided to post it earlier because I love you all for making me finally reach my goal of having over a thousand reviews; hence, here's your reward! An early update! *wink* *wink*
I'll keep this part short since I know you're anticipating to read the epilogue already. Enjoy, please! And please review afterwards :D
"'Mione, do we really have to treat you?" Ronald Weasley whined, pouting sulkily. Harry Potter good-naturedly chuckled when Hermione merely glared.
"Well, nobody can beat Hermione in NEWTs, Ron," Harry offered, swinging an arm around Hermione's shoulders. "Don't tell me you did not expect this."
The redhead scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Right," he said. "Nobody can beat Hermione Jean Granger, coined as the brightest witch of her age." He scowled and sullenly glared at the stone pavement and mumbled, "But I still wished I'd miraculously exceed; nay, have the same score with the Golden Girl."
Hermione playfully hit the back of Ron's head and laughed. "The key word's miraculously, Weasel," she teased, chuckling when he glared at her. "No way in hell you're going to exceed… ahem, have the same score as my Defense Against the Dark Arts score."
"And now, she's acting like a Slytherin again," Ron announced heavenward, attracting some passersby. His ears turned red when a bunch of girls they'd passed giggled. He swore that one even threw him a suggestive wink. "Merlin, can't they be subtler? They're looking at us like we're some bunch of celebrities!"
They were currently walking in the Diagon Alley, planning to eat dinner in this newly opened fancy restaurant, La Fleur. Their NEWT scores had arrived two days ago and as expected, Hermione had got all 'Outstanding' in every subject. Harry and Ron, remembering their deal, opened their own report cards with trepidation in their heart.
In the end, they both got an 'Exceed Expectations'. Thus, they were to treat a victorious Hermione to the said restaurant.
"That's because we are celebrities," Hermione told him, pointedly ignoring seductive grins directed to her as they passed by a bunch of rowdy, hormonal teenage boys. "Well, technically."
Harry's nose scrunched up in disgust as a passing mother took his picture and gave it to her excited little daughter. "I knew it will be worse than before," he grumbled sulkily. Contrary to the belief of most Slytherins, Harry Potter was never a fan of being placed into the spotlight. But then again, ever since he received the lightning bolt scar on his forehead, he was instantly a celebrity. "We should have used those bewitched glasses of yours, Hermione. I knew they would be handy someday."
"You're right," she said with a sigh.
Hermione's fame had escalated as soon as the whole Wizarding World discovered that she went incognito and fraternized with the enemy, the Dark Lord himself. There were rumors… rumors that had made her sick to the stomach. But she brushed them all off. She was tempted to tell the truth, but Dumbledore had advised her it would be best if she kept it between her and the people she trusted.
"We're here," Ron cheerily announced, spotting the ostentatious signage of the famous restaurant. Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head in disbelief. Anything associated with food always cheered up Ronald Bilius Weasley.
A Welcome Wizard greeted them when they entered. "Mister Potter," he said, voice low and alluring. "This way please."
He led them at the very back of the restaurant, away from prying eyes. Just the place they wanted.
The three shrugged off their cloaks and gave it to the Welcome Wizard before prancing away, about to welcome another newcomer.
"Ah," Ron had said, rubbing his stomach as he looked at the menu. "What to eat. What to eat." He spotted a really delectable delicacy but once his eyes strayed on the price, his stomach dropped. "Merlin, thirty-three galleons for a plate of steamed crabs?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "What do you expect?" she said, calmly gazing at her menu. "This is, after all, a four-star restaurant." Upon seeing the redhead scowl, she laughed. "Fine, fine, don't treat me if you're broke. I've recently received my salary from training and well, it's quite a lot. Being a Healer and all."
Ron looked grateful but Harry frowned. "You sure?" he asked. "We made a pact… OW!" He glared darkly at the youngest male Weasley, who glared back.
"Harry, she said it's fine!" he furiously whispered.
Harry playfully swatted Ron's neck, who released an indignant "HEY!"
"It's fine, Harry," the brunette said, shaking her head. "We'll change the deal. Hmm… let's see." She snapped her fingers, coming up with an idea. "Oh, I know! Flourish and Blotts recently introduced a complete set of different Hogwarts: A History editions and well… buy that for me." She sheepishly smiled. "Though, there are ten books, you know."
The-Boy-Who-Lived laughed while Ron snorted. "Books over food," the redhead murmured. "Why am I not surprised?"
Hermione merely shrugged her shoulders and smiled widely.
Their assigned waiter came and then took their orders. They chatted while waiting and once the food arrived, Ron instantly devoured his food.
"Ron, bite, chew, and swallow, remember?" Hermione said, deftly flicking a chunk of steak from her arm. "Seriously, now that you're eighteen, I'm expecting more from you."
"Don't bother, 'Mione," Harry said, thankfully having more manners than the redhead beside him. "Anything you say goes to one ear then exits on the other one."
She merely shook her head and went back to her food.
"Oi!" the redhead suddenly said, half-chewed food still in his mouth. Hermione scrunched up her nose in disgust but did not bother reprimanding him. Harry was right after all. Ron never listened to her lectures. "I heard that Malfoy went to the United States yesterday."
Hermione froze, cheeks suddenly inflaming with embarrassment.
Harry snorted at her reaction. "You're late in the news department, Ron," he said. "Lover Boy's gone to the United States for his Malfoy business and all that crap."
"Lover Boy?" Ron asked, confused. But then, one look from Hermione made him understand. His nose scrunched up in disgust and made a show of pushing his plate of food away from him. The witch glared at him, despite her inflamed cheeks. "Oh, right. How can I forget? You're dating the ferret."
"Hey," she shot back, frowning at her best friends. "He's not that bad."
"Fine, fine, he isn't," Harry said, waving a dismissive hand. "But I still don't trust him. Old habits die hard."
She gently smiled. Draco had told her exactly the same thing on their graduation day.
Ron started popping his knuckles, a challenging look on his face. "If he hurts you, we'll kill him, do you understand me?" he asked. Hermione rolled her eyes at his ridiculousness. "I don't care how much he apologizes. I don't care how much you, Merlin forbid, love him. But we'll still kill him and nobody can stop us."
"Don't be ridiculous, Ronald," she reprimand. "Draco Malfoy can probably be a git sometimes - ."
A snort. "Sometimes? How about always?"
- "but if he wants to hurt me, he could have done it ages ago, right?" she asked, silently seething. She was sporting her infamous evil eye, the one that greatly rivaled Mrs. Weasley's, and the blokes sitting across from her thought it was time to stop.
"Okay, okay. Merlin, don't get your knickers in a twist, woman!" the Weasel exclaimed, gingerly patting her hand to calm her down. "We were only goofing around."
Hermione made a sour face. "Men," she mumbled under her breath, shaking her head when Harry cracked a grin. "I can't believe I managed to be one for a whole school-year."
They had dropped the subject about her current relationship with one Draco Malfoy and started to talk excitedly about – 'Surprise! Surprise!' – Quidditch. Hermione chose that time to let her mind drift to last week's events, mostly concerning her favorite bigoted ferret.
To say that she was astonished of Draco Malfoy's deep feelings for her was like saying that Voldemort cuddled kittens in his sleep (which was a very, very disturbing imagination for Hermione). The whole week that she spent with him proved that despite him being a bastard most of the time, he was still capable of withholding such feelings in his heart.
Draco Malfoy was not romantic. Merlin, no! Hermione thought that on the day that he would be a handsome Prince spouting poetic, profound, romantic words from his mouth would be the day the earth crumbled. The brunette even suspected that the blond strived very, very hard to be his usual cynical, sarcastic prat for the whole world to see.
But there were moments when he would just do things that made her heart flutter madly inside her ribcage. For one, the tulips he left on top of her fake grave. She still had all of the tulips he left secured inside the secret compartment in her trunk. And she guessed that their amount would equate the number of school days they had during their final year in Hogwarts.
They had also gone on numerous dates on his last week in London. During those dates, they would have debates about the most ludicrous things in the world. She always secretly thought that he looked dashing while passionately defending the fact that hippogriffs, no matter how cuddly and fluffy they were, were extremely dangerous.
When they were not talking at all, only basking in the comfortable silence surrounding them, she would always catch him staring at her as if… she was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Her cheeks would always inflame but once he realized that he was staring, he would quickly look away and mumble a mockery that he immediately came up with.
"Merlin, nuisance, hungry much? Even your bird's nest eating your pudding!"
See what she meant?
A small chuckle escaped from her lips as she stared fondly on her right hand. Draco never voiced it out but she knew that he loved it every time he held her hand. Just with the way he squeezed it once in a while was enough proof. Sometimes, he would do it out of the blue without any reason at all. When they were walking, sitting, laughing, bickering… he would just reach out for her hand and hold it. Tightly.
The brunette bit her bottom lip to stifle a goofy smile she knew would be growing soon. 'Mmm… peppermint and Chocolate Frogs,' she thought, unconsciously licking her bottom lip. He tasted like that. She blushed into a lovely shade of red, remembering a certain incident two days ago regarding her, him, and a certain broom closet in the Malfoy Manor. Good lord, she had never been kissed like that! Draco was apparently serious when he told her that her lips would be occupied most of the time once they became a couple.
A forlorn sigh escaped from her lips as she placed her elbow on the table, her chin on top of her hand. 'I miss him so,' she thought with a frown. It had only been a day ever since his departure but how she missed him already. 'Seven months and twenty-nine more days to go, Hermione. You'll survive.'
She hated it that she started to grow so attached to the albino ferret to the point of making her feel like crying.
"And now Hermione Granger's fantasizing about the ferret," Ron's sarcastic voice broke through her musings. "Great! Now, I feel like I can eat no more."
"Ron, you dolt," Harry growled, slapping the back of his head once again. "Be sensitive. It's disgusting, yeah, but 'Mione's missing the prat."
The brunette rolled her eyes. "Thanks, Harry," she bit back sarcastically. The-Boy-Who-Lived merely smiled at her innocently.
She then grabbed the table napkin on her lap and wiped her mouth. "Anyway, thanks for the company," she thought, daintily wiping her mouth. "I have to run along. I'm expected to be in St. Mungo's twenty minutes from now."
After a chorus of 'Goodbyes' from both Harry and Ron, Hermione turned around and apparated.
After eight months…
Eight months had passed ever since Voldemort's downfall and the Wizarding World, albeit slowly, was recuperating wonderfully. Although there were still mental scars left by the Second War, almost everybody moved on.
The last followers of the fallen Dark Lord were captured by a duo of Aurors, namely Auror Harry Potter and Auror Ron Weasley, and finally received the Kiss from a Dementor. Now, the last Death Eaters who were rumored to start a revolt and continue Voldemort's legacy finally disappeared from Earth. The Wizarding World was once again safe from any threats of a rumored rising Dark Lord.
"Healer Granger, are you listening?"
In St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, one particular famous brunette sat fidgety on her seat, mind floating with the clouds, which was very surprising since it was infrequent for her to daydream.
She could not be blamed, really. Today was a very special day for Hermione Jean Granger and she could daydream and fidget all she wanted.
"Gr – Hermione?"
A sigh escaped from her lips as she placed her chin on top of her hand. 'It's today,' she said, a small, growing smile appearing on her face. 'He'll be coming back today.'
The brunette emitted a loud yelp of astonishment. Because of surprise, she toppled off her seat and landed with a dull thud on the white-tiled hospital floor. "Oh bugger," she murmured, rubbing her sore bottom. Laughter then was heard from above her and she discreetly scowled, looking up from the ground to stare at the Welcome Witch of the magical hospital, Ellen Stone.
"Blimey, lass," Mrs. Stone said, offering a wrinkled hand to the brunette. Hermione blindly held it and pulled herself up. "What were you thinking? I've been talking to you for quite a while and it seemed like you haven't heard a single thing."
Hermione sheepishly smiled, her cheeks splattered with a lovely shade of red. "Sorry, Mrs. Stone," she said, tucking a stray curl behind her ear in embarrassment. "Just thinking of… something."
The Welcome Witch hummed and beamed at Hermione. "Now, your lunch break's over, sweetheart," she said, glancing at her half-eaten plate of treacle tart. "You've got a firecall from Narcissa and she told me it's urgent."
"Narcissa?" she said, striding towards the Floo network of the establishment. She greeted her colleagues along the way, pride swelling in her chest for finally being addressed as 'Healer Granger'. She had finally achieved her position after a few months of training. And, although the Disinfecting Charms in St. Mungo's still made her a tad woozy with nausea, she was somehow getting used to it already. "What could she possibly want?"
"I'll be off on my desk, Healer Granger," Mrs. Stone said. "If you need me, you know where to find me."
The younger witch offered her a smile and soon, the Welcome Witch strode away.
Hermione then arrived at the Floo Room of the hospital and pushed open the doors. It was somehow crowded with exiting and arriving patients and healers. A few, she had recognized; thus, she gave them a pleasant greeting.
She finally located the fireplace where her name was flashed brightly on top. Curious, she strode briskly towards the furnace and knelt down, Narcissa's face embossed in the fire. She could still make out her beautiful features despite the contortion of the fire.
"Narcissa?" she asked. "I'm here. What is it?"
A lovely grin stretched on the elderly woman's face. "Come hither, love," she said. "I need a lot of help for the Welcoming Party for Draco today."
Unknowingly, a small smile appeared on her face. "I'll be right there, Narcissa," she said. "I'm just going to tell my Senior."
"Make haste, Hermione," she said and she nodded, standing up.
As the brunette strode out of the room and looked for Senior Healer Watson, her mind strayed to Narcissa. She did come with Draco to the United States but only stayed there for a month. The Malfoy matriarch claimed she loved England too much to leave it and besides, her son was mostly out of their vacation house and she was alone most of the time. Hence, she went back to the Malfoy Manor and ever since, Hermione constantly visited Mrs. Malfoy.
"Healer Watson!" Hermione claimed, spotting her Senior Healer striding languidly towards the Healer Lounging Room. Upon hearing his name, he looked up and smiled knowingly upon spotting Hermione.
"Ah, Healer Granger, the one girl I wanted to see," he said and waited until Hermione arrived beside him. "Do not worry, I do know. And I am allowing you."
Her face morphed into surprise. "Oh," she said.
Healer Watson waved a dismissive hand. "Run along," he said. "This is a very special day for you. Oh, and Healer Granger, for your hard work, I am giving you a week of vacation and resting. Merlin knows you needed a vacation the most! You've been working too hard."
"A week of vacation, sir?" she cried, surprised. When the elder Healer nodded his head, she brightly beamed. "Thank you, Healer Watson. I'll make it up to you next week. I'll see you next week." And with that, she sprinted towards the Floo Room, momentarily forgetting that no one was supposed to run in the corridors of St. Mungo's.
"Charming young woman," he commented, not having the heart to reprimand his junior Healer. After all, it was a very special day for her.
"Hermione," Narcissa greeted happily as she enveloped the young witch into her arms. "My, my, you still look as ravishing as ever, dear. My son will be very happy to see you."
Her cheeks splashed with red in embarrassment. "Narcissa, really," she said, softly chuckling under her breath as she pulled away from the hug.
"Well, it's true," she said, fondly patting her cheek, secretly coveting the day when she could finally call her her daughter-in-law.
"Hermione, is that you?"
The brunette whipped around so fast her neck almost cricked. She recognized that voice… "Blaise!" she exclaimed, launching herself at the arms of her Italian best friend. His chest vibrated with his chuckles and warmly hugged her back. "It's been a while since I last saw you!"
And it was true. Like Draco, Blaise also had some business matters he had to do regarding his position as the Head of the Zabini family. Although, unlike Draco, he was not entirely busy. Hermione had caught glimpses of him once in a while and she had numerous 'tea meeting's, according to the nineteen-year-old man, with him in a Muggle coffee house. Both had also went back to Hogwarts twice just to visit their Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, and the grave of their late best friend, Theodore Nott.
"We've met two weeks ago, Hermione," Blaise said, patting her back good-naturedly. "Merlin, it's the first time I've seen you in your Healer robes. And dare I say it, you look gorgeous."
Ah, ever the charmer. Hermione's cheeks colored slightly and playfully punched his chest. "Oh, you," she said, fondly smiling up at him. He flashed her his infamous charming smile she came to like about him and she merely shook her head.
Their friendship had somehow been stronger ever since Draco's departure, despite the fact that he confessed to her and she rejected him in return. Hermione knew he hadn't really moved on that much, seeing that there were times when he would suddenly be too affectionate (for her own liking, but she never said it aloud). But from what she had heard, he was currently dating a Muggle girl he had met in the same coffee house where they usually held their get-togethers.
The first time he discovered that Draco and Hermione were finally dating, a surprised look came up on his face before chuckling and shaking his head. "About time," he had said, although Hermione caught the brief flash of hurt in her eyes.
Despite the months that had passed, she still felt guilty over her rejection of Blaise's affections.
"Now, children," Narcissa said, calling for their attention whilst clapping her hands. "Please, do help me in the kitchen. Good lord, Hermione, I knew I shouldn't have given all of the house-elves their day-off yet! What with all these preparations for Draco's arrival."
Hermione sheepishly smiled while Blaise heartily laughed. "I'm sorry," she said. After weeks and weeks of coaxing the elder witch, Narcissa finally relented and listened to her to at least give each and everyone of her house-elves a salary of a galleon and give them a weekly day-off. When she hinted for them to all be freed, Narcissa downright refused, saying that living in a pampered life while being pampered by house-elves were hard for her to let go. Although, Hermione was not entirely pleased, she just allowed the Malfoy matriarch.
"Anyway," Narcissa said, beckoning them. "Let us go to the kitchens. My son will be arriving a few hours from now."
Everything was still the same the last time she ventured in this particular wing in the Malfoy Manor. Hermione absentmindedly brushed off some forming dust on top of an antique side table from the corner, eyes darting all over the West Wing.
"It had been a while," she murmured under her breath, resuming her walk.
They had finally finished preparing for Draco's arrival and currently Blaise brought Narcissa in her gardens to have some tea. 'Typical,' she thought, quirking a small smile. They had invited her to come but she politely declined, telling them that she had to go somewhere in the Manor. They had let her go without any protests, a knowing look on their faces as Hermione walked inside the Manor towards the West Wing.
'It's still bloody cold in here,' she commented inside. Hermione had long shrugged off her Healer robes, leaving it in the foyer of the Manor. Now, she was merely wearing a simple white blouse and black skirt she deemed as professional-looking. Her high-heeled shoes were clicking loudly in the corridor but she did not seem to mind.
Hermione had finally arrived in the corridor where the imposing Malfoy ancestry portraits were displayed for the guests to see. And somehow, she was feeling some trepidation as she neared the second to the last portrait. She ignored the sneers and mockeries from the ancient Malfoys. Her eyes were merely trained determinedly in front, until she arrived in front of a particular portrait.
Like the others, it was moving. Hermione found herself staring back at the sneering face of the late Lucius Malfoy.
"Mudblood," he hissed, eyes dark with disgust and loathing. Hermione stood tall with pride, unwaveringly holding his gaze. "You made my only son and my wife a Muggle-lover, you filth."
The brunette hardened her stare. "And who's fault is that, Mister Malfoy?" she asked with confidence. "Maybe you should look back in your past life and see what a monster you have been to Draco and Narcissa."
Another insult escaped from the deceased man and she pointedly ignored it. Her gaze landed on the next portrait beside him and she found herself gently smiling.
Oh, how she missed him so. It had been eight months, exactly eight months, since the last time she saw him and she missed him terribly. She knew she was being silly but there were nights when she would just cry in her pillow and sob for the night sky to hear that she, Hermione Jean Granger, one-third of the famous Golden Trio, valedictorian of her year, and youngest Healer of St. Mungo's, missed the prat.
Her hand unknowingly laid itself on his portrait-cheek and she merely rubbed it affectionately. His dimple, the one that started those strange somersaults in her heart and stomach, was looking as adorable as ever. Her hand drifted to his infamous 'Draco smile' and she just smiled back.
A famous adage stated that 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' and Hermione became a firm believer of that saying. Because in a span of eight months, she was able to finally admit to herself that what she felt for him was not a mere fancy.
She loved him… loves him.
The hand on his portrait went back to her flipping heart and she blushed. 'I love him,' she thought breathlessly in her mind.
They had been exchanging letters, of course. Mostly because it was demanded by the blond. Judging from his letters, he had terribly missed her, too. He never voiced it aloud, only telling her things that had happened to him for that day, added by some playful remarks to his girlfriend. But she knew.
He only told her once how he longed for her.
I miss you, nuisance.
It was a mere short note. No fancy words, no sappy things, no nothing. It was simple, straight to the point, but Merlin, it spoke volumes.
And that was also the day when Hermione realized that she did love him, despite his bastardly nature.
'Oh, silly me,' she thought, retrieving back her hand. "You've successfully distracted me once again, Draco Malfoy," she reprimanded his portrait, a small chuckle escaping from her lips. "I came here not for your portrait, you prat."
Still chuckling, she stepped away from his portrait and continued her journey.
It was still the same the last time she walked into this place. White lights. White walls. White floors. And white beds. It seemed like it wasn't inhibited at all by two of the most important persons in her life.
She strode slowly towards one of the beds, the one that was previously occupied by her mother, and she sat down.
Her parents were well and safe in their home somewhere at the heart of Muggle London and she was happy for that. Hermione, now wary of leaving her parents alone, had instilled safety wards just in case, Merlin forbid, they were once again placed in a very dangerous situation.
They had constant nightmares. She knew because every time she slept over in her childhood home, there were times when she would wake up at night because of the terrified screams from her parents. One thing she discovered was that even though they were never tortured physically by Voldemort and his minions, there were times that they would torture them mentally, feeding them nightmares mostly about her… dead. Their previous healer, Healer Warwick (and now a good friend of Hermione's), gave them a potion that would minimize their nightmares and so far, they were working magnificently on them.
A smile then appeared on her face, reminiscing the time when both Blaise and Draco went to her house for a visit. The expression on their faces was priceless, amazed by the amount of… Muggle-ness (according to Draco) of their house. There were weird contraptions that had somehow fascinated the two, although Draco tried his very hardest to look very nonchalant. His nonchalance completely broke as soon as Hermione introduced the television to both of them.
"That's just… wicked," he had said and Hermione forever imprinted the ridiculous, adorable look he had sported on that very day.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger had greeted the two with so much warmth it had almost surprised the two Slytherins. But soon, the two had warmed up to her parents. Mr. Granger even took a particular liking to the blond, which had put Hermione at ease. She was actually afraid that her parents would recognize them, especially Draco, from her letters and constant ranting about a specific blond classmate she had.
As soon as they apparated away (Draco gave her a brief goodbye kiss away from prying eyes), her parents rounded at her and started their inquisitions. Apparently, they did recognize Draco Malfoy but what had baffled them to see was that he was contradictory to the boy she once told them about.
And Hermione, with a mysterious smile on her face, merely told them that he was changed.
"Oh, and we're currently dating, Mom, Dad."
Yeah, well, she did not really say the exact words. She did remember a lot of stammering before she was finally able to tell them about her current relationship with Draco Malfoy. Her mother was ecstatic, of course. Her daughter always had a nonexistent love life and to finally find a man, a stunning one according to her mother, then she was happy for her. Her father, surprisingly, looked pleased with her choice of men, which had made her particularly happy that day.
"Oh, I knew you'd be here."
Hermione froze on the bed, the voice cutting her off from her musings.
"You're awfully predictable, nuisance. Do you know that?"
With large, doe-like eyes, she lifted her face and found herself staring straight into Draco Malfoy's mercurial eyes.
She blinked, thinking that she was merely imagining him due to her Draco-deprived mind, but after blinking exactly ten times, he was still standing there, with all of his blond hair, grey eyes, smirking face glory.
"H-hey," she managed to stutter out, cheeks suddenly blushing with embarrassment. She couldn't really be blamed. She hadn't seen him for eight months and to see him standing so aloof in front of her had made her heart hammer wildly inside her ribcage.
He arched a perfect eyebrow, looking at her in amusement. "Hey, yourself," he said. And then, his smirk changed into a smile that flaunted his dimple.
Warmth spread inside her heart as she grinned back. She was silent for a while, surveying him from head to toe. He was currently wearing corporate attire, which unsurprisingly, suited him magnificently. It was somehow weird for her to see him look so professional and all, especially since he was still nineteen. But he, being the Draco Malfoy, managed to pull it off.
"I had a meeting with Muggles before internationally portkeying back to England," he said, noticing her curious look.
"Muggles?" she gasped, astonished.
He rolled his eyes and slightly glared. "Apparently, dear ol' daddy had been working with Muggles for the benefit of the company," he explained. "Though, not directly meeting them, of course. What with all of their Muggle germs." He smirked upon hearing her chuckle. "So…" he continued, his smirk disappearing, "I had no choice but to meet them as a bunch, explaining how their previous boss had died and all."
She made a soft noise behind her throat, absentmindedly nodding her head. She continued her perusing with his current structure. Once her eyes strayed on his face, she frowned. Hermione beckoned him to approach her with her finger and he, amused, did as what he was told.
"Have you been sleeping, mister?" she scolded, crossing her arms. She pointedly stared at the teabags under his eyes. "And have you been eating? Merlin, Draco, you've lost weight, didn't you? Goodness, ferret, you should be taking care of your - ."
She was cut off from her sentence when he laughed, eyes staring down at her fondly. "Sweet Salazar, Hermione, I haven't seen you for eight months!" he proclaimed. "And now you're reprimanding me? Don't I deserve a proper welcoming?"
Hermione rolled her eyes but couldn't help the grin growing on her face. "Come here, you," she teasingly said. She grabbed his tie, mildly surprising him, before pulling him down and capturing his lips.
Draco chuckled against her lips before drawing her closer. He wound an arm around her waist and buried his hand in her tresses, angling his head to kiss her more deeply.
The brunette's hands instantly ran through his hair and he released a low growl at the back of his throat.
They kissed like they had never kissed before. Eight months of not being beside each other… eight months of deprivation from each other's presence were unleashed in that one passionate kiss and it had been quite a while before they pulled away from each other, gasping for the much-needed oxygen.
"Oh, good lord," Hermione said, gasping. Draco had chosen that time to kiss her neck and she released a soft moan of contentment. "That was a new record we broke, Malfoy!"
He chuckled against her neck before pulling away and looking at her straight into her brown orbs. Hermione grew flustered under his intense but she couldn't look away. "Holy hell, Granger," he murmured under his breath and did the unthinkable – he kissed her on her forehead. "I missed you so much."
She laughed and playfully punched his chest. "Are you turning into a sappy Prince Charming, Malfoy?" she asked. "Because truthfully, it doesn't befit you." Deep inside, she thought he was being damnably sweet.
Draco scowled, his cheeks coloring with embarrassment. "And here I was… telling the truth," he grumbled under his breath. "Women."
Hermione briefly kissed his mouth, making him smile once again, before holding his hand and led him out of the room.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"Why, in your dining room, of course!" she stated matter-of-factly. "Narcissa, Blaise, and I had prepared something for you."
He dug his heels on the floor, halting Hermione. "Can't I spend more time alone with you?" he whined, tugging her right arm. "Nuisance, I've been deprived of you for months. Merlin, months!"
Hermione grinned upon hearing his playful term of endearment for her. She seriously missed being called 'nuisance'. "I'll have more time with you, don't worry," she said, patting his cheek fondly. "Senior Healer Watson gave me the week off."
His eyes visibly brightened.
"Yes, Lover Boy," she said, intertwining her fingers with his. "I'll spend my whole week with you. So stop whining and give poor Narcissa a favor and eat what she had prepared. She worked hard for it."
His eyebrows knitted together. "Where are the house-elves?" he asked. "Why didn't they cook the food?"
"Because they have their day-off," she said. His eyes widened. "Narcissa agreed to pay them and give them their weekly day-off, thanks to yours truly."
Draco laughed and ruffled her hair. "I should have known," he said.
She grinned up at him and she was again struck with the fact that she loved him. 'I love you,' she whispered in her mind. She knew he did. He had told her countless times before, although in a joking manner (but then again, she knew he was being serious).
"Come on," she said, suddenly feeling flustered all over again. "They're waiting."
Once again, he had stopped her. "Let them wait for a while," he said, an impish grin growing on his face. "Granger, do you remember that specific broom closet somewhere near the dungeons?"
Her cheeks brightened into a lovely shade of red. "You know we weren't supposed to be there!" she exclaimed, glaring back at him. "It was an important event for you, you know, since you're introduced as the new Head of your family. Ooh, it was so embarrassing when we came back and Narcissa was so hysterical." Her cheeks brightened, reliving that particular day. "And besides, I was having fun!"
"And I wasn't," he retorted back, pulling her closer to himself. Thankfully, she did not budge. "Mother will understand, Hermione."
Her resolve was slowly crumbling down and they both knew it. "Later," she sternly said.
"What can I do to convince you?" he said huskily under his breath, his face drawing nearer. Hermione's eyes fluttered close, waiting for the soft pressure of his lips but it did not come.
When she cracked an eye open, Draco was back on his original place, softly chuckling under his breath. She had fully opened both of her eyes now and glared darkly at him. "Draco…" she growled. "BLIMEY!"
They were running now, their footsteps pounding loudly in the empty wing. They had passed the Malfoy ancestry portraits, who all hissed and insulted them once again, but Draco was unfazed and continued to drag her to that specific broom closet.
"For Merlin's sake!" she cried. "Good god, you hormonal boy!"
"Hey, I'm still nineteen," he exclaimed, yanking the broom closet door open and shoving her inside. He stumbled inside, which forced Hermione to press herself against the dingy wall. "Let them wait." He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close, earning a gasp from the brunette. The blond then placed his mouth against her ear and was pleased when her breathing started to turn a little ragged. "And besides, I really want to kiss you right now."
He did not give her a chance to retort back for he then had captured her lips. He roughly pressed her against the wooden wall. Hermione's arms instantly latched themselves around his neck and allowed him to kiss her more deeply than before. If she thought the welcome kiss she had given him a while ago was passionate already, this one almost made her world upside down.
She had soon moved her lips away from his, taking in huge deep breaths to refill her oxygen-deprived lungs. Draco took this time to reacquaint his lips with her milky, smooth neck. He trailed kisses down until a few centimeters above her collarbone. The skin above her collarbone had always been a sensitive spot for the brunette, he long discovered, and it gave him thrills of pleasure when she released a soft purr inside the dark broom closet.
"I… love you," was her breathless declaration.
Hermione felt him tense up against her neck and realized the weight of her confession. A soft gasp of mortification escaped from her lips, mentally berating herself. She had fantasized a few different, romantic ways of finally telling him that she loved him, too, just like how he loved her. But sneaking in a broom closet was not part of it.
Draco slowly pulled away from her, his intense, mercurial eyes connecting with her toffee-colored ones. The brunette could not decipher his expression in the closet because for one, it was darn dark inside it and two, she was trying not to meet his penetrating gaze.
His thumb and index finger trapped her chin and gently forced her to look back at him. Even in the dark room, she could make out the silhouette of his infamous 'Draco smile'.
Narcissa stared at her son and his girlfriend with tremendous astonishment.
"I-I'm sorry," Hermione said, face brightly flushed. She pointedly noticed that the blouse she was wearing was currently untucked, creases visible everywhere.
Draco, who was standing beside her, his hand clasping hers, had a triumphant smile on his face, looking as if he had won the Quidditch World Cup. He looked ridiculous, in Narcissa's opinion, especially because a cobweb was hanging innocently on his tousled hair.
"I-I… err… we…"
Blaise beside Narcissa chuckled under his breath, which prompted the Malfoy matriarch to smirk widely.
"Thank you for finally gracing us with your presence," Narcissa said. Hermione flushed redder while her son mirrored her smirk.
"Twenty points from Slytherin, each, for gallivanting around," the Italian piped in, a teasing smile on his face.
"Blaise!" Hermione gasped, shooting him daggers.
"Now, now, children," Narcissa thought. She briefly thought that they were acting like hormonal teenagers, especially Draco and Hermione. "Do settle down now and we'll start to eat our dinner."
The brunette quickly apologizes and led Draco towards the other side of Narcissa, the latter trying his very best not to burst out laughing.
Narcissa shook her head in disbelief, her smirk gradually turning into a smile. As the dinner commenced, she pointedly noticed that Draco did not let go of Hermione's hand at all. She watched at the corner of her eyes as Hermione inconspicuously removed the cobweb from her son's hair. Draco gave her a smile that flaunted his dimple and his girlfriend stuck out her tongue at him, her cheeks a lovely color of red.
The Malfoy matriarch's grin widened, hidden behind her table napkin. "My future daughter-in-law," she murmured under her breath.
She loved how it sounded.
A/N: OH. MY. ROWLING. It's really, really the end. So yeah, I want to cry some tears of woe (and probably happiness, too) but I can't because my sister is just sitting right in front of me and I think I'm too tired to cry XD Gah, I'm actually posting this amidst a gigantic pile of schoolwork. Feel special, I order you :D
Anyway, so yeah, it's finished but I have this idea bugging me… what if I write scenes that I wanted to add in the story but did not have the courage to do so in fear of ruining the whole story? XD You know, like Hermione's meeting with Annie. Things like that. I have a few ideas on what to add already and they're not really connected with each other so it's okay with me.
SO, if you can, include in your reviews scenes you had wished to see in the story. Maybe, if I decided I'm not that busy anymore, I could start writing those scenes :D
Now, I thank EVERYBODY for taking the time to read the whole story. You have no idea how happy I am to see that the number of hits of my story is quite high. I specifically thank all those who tried to review EACH chapter of "Only a Pretense" and those who really took their time to give me inspiring and wickedly long reviews. I want to mention your names but you're quite a lot XD I have no time since I still have so much of work. I think you know yourselves since I've been answering all of your reviews in the past, anyway.
To whenallelsefail (Arianne) and OnErrantry (Breanne), thank you for enduring my grammatical errors and doing your hardest to edit my work. I know you've somehow backed out in the middle but I understand. You're both giving me a favor of helping me with my story and adding a load to your already piling load of work. SO THANK YOU, MY AWESOME BETA-READERS.
I think, that's all. I swear to reply to ALL of the reviews you're going to give me for the epilogue. Again, don't forget to include in your reviews the scenes you wished you saw in my story, okay? I'll try my hardest to actually type them, compile them, and make a somehow "Deleted Scenes" or whatever of "Only a Pretense", okay?
This isn't the last time you'll be seeing me. I actually have a new story but I'm still on the seventh chapter out of forty. I'm not really sure if I'm still going to continue it since I haven't touched it for months. I've been re-reading the chapters to convince myself to write but school is a BIG hindrance. We'll just see the outcome in the future, eh? For now, I think I'll be on hiatus; probably post one-shots here and there if inspiration struck me.
So, again, goodbye dear readers of "Only a Pretense"!
P.S. This is a random question but, did some of you get in in Pottermore? I'm INFURIATED that some of my friends were able get in already while I still haven't received my welcome mail. I'm fervently wishing I'll be getting it this week. And then, let's all be friends in Pottermore, okay? XD It would be totally cool if I interacted with you guys outside fan fiction. :D