A/N: As you might know, this story has been finished for a long time. However, i felt in the mood to reread it this week and decided that i still had some things to say. I've been asked more than once for an Alternate ending and never planned to write one. Partially because i think my first choice was teh 'right' one for this story and partially because some reviewers were none to kind in their assessment of Hermione's choice. But, actually, the vast majority of reviewers were great. Even if they wanted Hermione to pick someone else, they accepted her choice and only lamented that it didn't go their way. And because I like to reward my readers when I can, I've decided to write an Alternate Ending. It is unbeta'd so the mistakes are mine.
A/N 2: This Alternate Ending replaces Chapters 14 and 15. So, if after you read the story, you wish she'd picked the other one, now you can read how that would go down. :) Maybe i have more alternate endings in me. I'm not sure. We'll have to see. Let me know what you think.
Losing it - Alternate Ending 1
After sending off a quick note to Ginny, explaining that she'd made her choice and was letting the men know first (something she was sure Ginny would protest), Hermione moved to her closet to pick out the perfect outfit for the day. It might even end with her losing her virginity - she didn't know how it would actually work now that she'd made a choice - so she at least wanted to make sure she had matching underwear.
Dressed in her favorite skinny jeans, a loose fitting, navy, sleeveless blouse, she applied the slightest touch of makeup and used her wand to tame her curls. Happy with the end result, she took a deep breath and tried to give herself a pep talk before she left the house.
She'd decided last night, after her date with Harry, that she wouldn't put off her decision as it was already made, and that owls were not appropriate. She had to tell them in person whom she'd chosen. They deserved that. Besides, she hoped to salvage some sort of relationship with the loser if at all possible.
As much as she knew what she had to do, she had been in the process of chickening out all morning. It wasn't that she was unsure of her choice. She felt, deep inside, that she'd made the right choice. She just didn't want to ruin her relationship with the other. Sighing heavily, held her wand ready to Apparate. Malfoy Manor was the first stop.
She Apparated to the gates of Malfoy Manor and gave herself another pep talk as she walked herself to the front door. This time, her trepidation was not from fear of losing a friend, but fear she'd have a nervous breakdown entering the house where she'd been tortured all those years ago. 'You can do this', she muttered to herself before reaching up to knock loudly on the huge wooden door.
The place didn't seem as ominous as it had the previous time she'd been there. Perhaps it had changed, or maybe it was just the circumstances, or the daylight that changed it.
A full minute passed before the door creaked open, and Hermione was surprised to find that it wasn't a house-elf that opened the door, but a young man wearing butler robes. "Good morning," she smiled brightly at him.
"May I help you, madam?" the man asked politely.
"I'm here to speak with Draco," Hermione said, peering around the man's shoulder. She thought she saw a flash of blonde.
"Miss Granger?" Lucius asked, pushing the door open to reveal himself next to the butler. "Do come in," he said, dismissing the man standing next to him. "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
His smile was bright and Hermione was glad to note that he wasn't taking her rejection personally. Not that she had ever thought it would. "I wanted to speak with Draco, actually," she said, looking at everything other than his face. She was confident in her choice, but it was still awkward to consider that she had made out with Draco's dad.
"Certainly," Lucius said, with a warm smile. He muttered an incantation and soon, Draco was walking toward the both of them.
"Hermione, what are you doing here?" he asked, eyes wide with something that looked a lot like worry.
"I wanted to talk to you," she said, looking him directly in the eyes.
"Oh," Draco said, nodding in understanding. "I could have met you somewhere," he replied awkwardly. "Do you mind?" he asked pointedly, looking at his father who was still standing there.
Lucius just chuckled. "Okay, I'll be in my office if either of you need me," he said before turning and leaving the entryway.
"Shall we go somewhere more comfortable?" Hermione asked.
"Hermione, I...I understand if you aren't comfortable here. We...I can take you somewhere," Draco stuttered.
"No," Hermione said firmly. "I can do this. I need to do this."
Draco nodded in understanding before taking her by the hand and leading her to his own lounge. It was far away from the room where she was tortured and she was grateful for that.
Once seated, Draco snapped his fingers and a small house-elf, wearing clothes appeared with a tray of tea and biscuits. "Before you have a heart attack," Draco said, "they are free and paid."
Hermione just smirked and took a bite out of one of the cookies. "So, I think you know why I'm here," she said.
"Yes, you've made your choice," Draco said. He looked nervous. She could certainly understand that. She was nervous too.
"Yes," Hermione said. "I'm going to explain my reasoning first though; I think it's important."
Taking a calming breath, she looked Draco in the eye and tried very hard not to cry as she began to talk. "When I started this, I had no idea what would happen. I had my initial feelings about each of the bidders, which Ginny told me would be important. I didn't listen but, of course, she was right. From the beginning I felt something knowing that you, Harry, and Severus bid and that you were all three earnest in your intentions."
Draco nodded, but she could see he was just waiting for her to spit it out. He swallowed hard and she continued. "With Severus, it was a sort of kindred spirit connection. But he took himself out of the running, and I actually am at peace with that. Deep down, I think I always knew it was between you and Harry. Two men who represent two very different ways of looking at this. With you, I can see stars. It's passionate and exciting and scary."
"Scary?" Draco asked for clarification.
"Of course, scary. I don't know you nearly as well as I know Harry. I have no way of knowing if you'll tire of me, or if I'll tire of you. I have no way of anticipating what would happen if we go down this path. At the same time, that unknown element is intoxicating. I know we have passion and chemistry. I know i feel things for you I've never felt before." Hermione smiled sadly as she thought of that future.
"But…" Draco's voice sounded strained.
"But, I have probably been in love with Harry Potter for half my life. He is the one person that I truly believe I cannot live without. As terrifying as it might be to put that relationship in jeopardy by making it more, I have to see if it can be everything I hope for it to be." A few stray tears slipped down her cheeks and she rushed to wipe them away. Looking up at Draco he looked stricken.
"I'm so sorry," she cried. "This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make."
He nodded mechanically, still processing that he'd lost. He'd gotten so close, just to have her ripped out of his grasp by Potter of all people. "I see," he said, knowing his words didn't even remotely convey all the emotions swirling around inside him.
"I hope we can still be friends," Hermione began but Draco let out a mirthless bark of a laugh.
"I don't think I can be friends with you, Hermione," he said.
"Right," she admitted it was probably not likely. They had never really been friends. The thought of him never being in her life again stung. But she still believed she'd made the right decision. "Well," she said rising from her place on the couch, "I'll see myself out." It felt hollow and her heart ached. She felt like this auction had been the worst decision of her life.
"Bye, Granger," she heard Draco murmur as she headed toward the door. She smiled back at him before exiting and Appareling home.
In no time at all, Hermione was curled up in her bed, weeping into her pillows. She had to grieve the loss of her potential future with Draco. As sure as she was in her decision, it would be impossible to say she wasn't devastated at having to let Draco go. His reaction only further upset her.
After twenty minutes of a soul cleansing cry, she got up and got ready to see Harry. As hard as it had been to let down Draco, she was excited and nervous to tell Harry her choice. A few charms to take away the puffiness of her eyes, a reapplication of make up, and she was ready to go.
"Okay, Hermione. Here we go," she smiled to herself as she grabbed the Floo Powder and announced, 'Number 12 Gimmauld Place!" Within seconds, she was tumbling out of Harry's Floo.
She was glad to find him awake when she got there. It was a little past ten, and Harry wasn't known for being an early riser. Then again, he probably had to cart Teddy off to Andromeda's early. She'd forgotten about that. She hoped the little boy wasn't still there.
"Hermione!" Harry cried in surprise when he saw her exit his Floo.
Hermione smiled and kissed him on both cheeks. "Morning Harry. I should have warned you I was coming," she blushed. "Teddy's not here, still. Is he?"
"No, I just sent him off. What's up?" Harry asked. He was nervous, she could tell, but he was trying to hide it.
"Shall we sit?" Hermione asked.
"Okay," Harry smiled timidly. "I'll make us some tea. Just go on in the living room." Hermione did as she was told, and waited for Harry to return. With the power of magic, he was back in less than a minute.
"So," he said, with a sigh, preparing his own tea while Hermione did hers. "I take it this is the moment of truth." She could tell he just wanted to fill the awkward silence, so she nodded and took a sip of her tea before clearing her throat.
"I've made a decision," she said, looking him directly in the eye.
"That was rather fast," Harry said. He hoped the reason was because she was so swept off her feet yesterday that she didn't need any more time to think.
"Yes," Hermione answered as she pursed her lips. "Okay, Harry. I'm going to start from the beginning. It's the best place to start." Harry just nodded and Hermione set her tea down.
"When I started this, I had initial feelings about all the bidders. As I knew all of them, I had certain emotions when I read their letters. From the very beginning, the three people that evoked the strongest reaction from me were you, Severus, and Draco." Harry shifted uncomfortably, but nodded. "I'm telling you all of this because you are my best friend and I want you to understand where my thought process is coming from so there are no doubts." Harry just nodded again.
"I guess it wasn't a surprise that I narrowed the list of men down to you three. Ginny warned me that my initial reactions were important and I should have paid more attention to them. With Severus out, you and Draco represented two completely different options. With him, it was new and exciting. There was no friendship to ruin and no expectations long held on to. With you, it was a bit terrifying." Hermione said with a smile.
"Terrifying?" Harry asked, needing some clarification. She smirked at how Harry and Draco seemed to have the exact same reaction to her speech.
"Yes, Harry. I was terrified that you only wanted to protect me from myself. I was terrified that if we went down this path, I'd lose the most important person in my life. Of course, after our first date, I do believe you would try not to let that happen," she added. When Harry nodded, she continued.
"It was amazing. You've been such a big part of my life for so long, but you were always off limits in my mind as far as romance." Harry smiled at her. "You proved me wrong. We could have both, easily."
She took a deep breath, knowing that now was the moment of truth. "It was down to you and Draco. Two mortal enemies that tugged on different parts of my heart." She felt tears coming to her eyes but she had to keep them in. "You have always been my rock. Even in this, you have been my rock," she said, sniffling slightly. He looked alarmed so she flashed him a watery smile.
"I love you, Harry. I have loved you, in some capacity, since I was eleven. I don't think that trying for more will break us any more. I think it's exactly what we both need," she said finally. She watched as realization dawned on Harry and his earnest look turned into a giant smile.
"You picked me," he breathed.
"Yes," she said.
He picked her up in a swoop of his arms and pulled her to him, "Merlin, I was so sure you'd picked him," he breathed against her hair and she squeezed him close. Being in his arms was like being home.
"I'll make sure you never regret this," he promised her seriously, leaning in to give her a soft kiss on the mouth.
"I have some ground rules," Hermione said in return. "You are the single most important person to me in the world. If this is not working or if we have any concerns or trouble, we have to be honest with each other. No lying. No going behind each others' back. Our friendship is the most important thing and if it's in danger, we call the whole thing off before it can break us, got it?"
"I've got it," Harry said with a goofy grin. "But I swear, none of that will happen."
"Okay," she said. "So, when are we going to do this?"
Harry laughed out loud. "Have sex?" he clarified and she nodded. "Love, don't you think we ought to wait for a spontaneous moment?"
"Harry Potter, i've been holding on to this virginity thing for almost twenty-six years! I'm eager to get rid of it. That was the point of all this, after all," she said, mocking a nagging tone.
Harry chuckled, "Oh, I promise you we will be having sex. But, just, maybe not right this minute. Let me take you to dinner. We'll have our first real date, and see where things go," he posited.
She nodded in agreement. "I hate to cut this short, but Ginny will murder me if I'm not over there by noon to tell her the details. She couldn't even torture me out of them last night."
"Well, we mustn't keep the great Ginny Weasley waiting," Harry said. He was still beaming and had been since she told him her choice. She felt a warm contentment through her whole body. Turning down Draco had been hard, but she felt confident she made the right choice.
"Spill," Ginny demanded the second Hermione came through the Floo.
"It's Harry," she said without preamble.
Adrian frowned from the corner but said nothing.
"Okay, how did they take it?" Ginny asked, pulling a chair our for herself and one for Hermione at the kitchen table.
"Draco didn't take it well, but I can't say I blame him. I know he was serious in his intent. If, in an alternate universe, I could have picked both of them, I would have," Hermione said.
"Oh, both of them," Ginny grinned. "Now that is an idea."
"Shut it, Ginny," Hermione laughed. "As steamy as that sounds, trying to have sex with both of them would, no doubt turn into a Wizard's Duel to the death."
"And, of course Harry is happy," Ginny said, stating the obvious.
"Well, I certainly hope so," Hermione laughed. "Otherwise, I made a terrible decision."
"I feel like this is all destiny finally coming to pass," Ginny said, sagely. "You and Harry are soul mates. You always have been. The question was whether that was platonic mating or more."
"This isn't weird for you at all?" Hermione asked.
"Not at all," Ginny assured her. "Harry is my past, and I think I only ever wanted him because of hero worship as a child. As i grew older, he just wasn't for me."
"Okay," Hermione said with a smile. "I suppose I better go shopping for my date tonight."
"I'm coming," Ginny said in a tone that allowed no argument. Not that Hermione would have argued anyway.
"So, I'm going to find out anyway," Hermione said, sipping her coffee as they waited for dessert. Dinner had been fun and relaxing, and with the exception of one photographer, relatively press free. "How much did you end up bidding?"
Harry smirked. "Eleven million galleons," he said. Her eyes doubled and she chuckled.
"Wow," she said, shocked. "Wonder whom the fifteen million galleons came from."
"Already wondering if you made the wrong choice?" Harry asked, but there was mirth in his eyes.
"In reality," Hermione clarified, "I think you are all a bit mental for having bid so much on such a small thing."
"Well, I can't speak for the others, but I was bidding on you. All of you. And it was well worth the money," Harry said seriously.
Hermione felt her core clinch as Harry assessed her with his intense green eyes and suddenly, she was hungry for something other than chocolate cake. She licked her lips and Harry barely stifled a groan.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked, his voice husky.
"Yes," she hissed, knowing exactly what he meant. She let him take her hand and lead her from the table, out into the warm summer air and to the nearest Apparition point. With a disorienting tug, Hermione found herself dropped onto the rug in Harry's room, his arms a tight circle around her.
"I didn't exactly intend to land here," Harry said nervously. "It was rather forward of me to…"
"Harry, shut up," Hermione said, pulling him to her and capturing his lips in her own. It took less than a second for Harry to recover and kiss her back with the same urgency.
Her hand tangled in his hair as she felt lightheaded as his tongue snaked into her mouth and his fingers clinched around her hips. If she'd thought their physical intimacy was electric before, the knowledge that he'd soon be making love to her only heightened that.
"Please, Harry…" she moaned, against him.
"You sure?" Harry panted against her lips.
"Yes," she answered, sure of herself. She never wanted anything as much as she wanted Harry right in that moment.
He kissed her once more on the lips before backing her up to the bed where she plopped down at the edge. Harry wasted no time unbuttoning his shirt and pulling it off, eager and ready for her. He'd dreamed of this moment for years and as much as he wanted to savor every second, he wanted to be sheathed inside her more.
He'd been with a few witches, but he'd never had sex with someone he felt close to, certainly not this close. He felt as if his skin would explode if he didn't get them both naked as soon as possible.
Hermione watched as more of Harry's flesh came into view. She'd seen him in various states of undress over the years. Hell, one time she'd actually been inside his body - thanks to polyjuice - but she had never seen him nude all at one time, and certainly not in a scenario like this one. Her pussy clinched as her eyes roamed down his chest to the distinct 'v' of his pelvis and the dark curls that led directly into the underwear he was prepared to remove next.
She tried to reach around for the zipper of her own dress but Harry stopped her. "No," he said. "Let me." Smiling she nodded to him and stood up, turning around so that he could reach her zipper.
Slowly, seductively, Harry pulled the zipper of the short little black dress she wore and she let it tumble to the floor, leaving her in only the silk and lace bra and knicker set she'd purposely worn for the occasion. She heard Harry's breath catch and she looked over her shoulder at him with a smile. "Merlin, you are fucking beautiful," he said.
"You too," she replied shyly, turning around to face him. When he got the full view, his eyes doubled behind his signature round glasses.
"I want you," he said.
"I want you too, Harry," she nearly moaned. "Make love to me."
He needn't be told twice. Gently he pushed her back onto the bed and crawled on top of her, kissing and nipping at the skin of her neck. "You smell delicious," he commented as he nipped a trail down her shoulder and toward he breast.
She couldn't believe how good he felt. It was like all her nerve endings were on fire. So distracted by his ministrations that she didn't even notice he'd deftly removed her bra until his wet, hot mouth inclosed over one of her pert and sensitive nipples. "Oh, Harry," she panted, clinching her fingers in his hair instinctively.
He pushed his thigh between her legs adding pressure to her already thrumming core and she wantonly moved against it to relieve the pressure building up inside her. "So good," she mumbled and she heard him groan in response.
Soon he moved on to her other breast and she thought she would surely go mad if he didn't do something drastic to deal with this aching in the pit of her stomach. "Please," she begged. "I can't…" she didn't even know how to articulate what she needed but Harry looked up at her and gave her a reassuring smile.
Moving slowly down her body he hooked his fingers into the sides of her lace knickers and pulled them deftly down her long, tan legs. She felt initial embarrassment at having his face so close to her dripping pussy, but the haze of arousal was stronger. When he parted her legs and buried his face into her neatly trimmed curls she thought she would die of pleasure.
"Harry!" she called out, her hands on his shoulders, clawing at his perfect skin. His tongue darted out to taste her and she felt everything inside her clinch. "Yes," she moaned, spreading her legs wider to increase the pressure of his tongue on her aching clit. "yes, yes, yes…" she moaned over and over like a mantra as his tongue worked miracles on her.
She knew she was close to something, it was something she'd never felt before, but she didn't know how to fall over that cliff. Soon, it didn't matter, Harry was pushing her off it with a hard suck on her clitoris and she screamed his name, over and over, her toes pointing and her calves tensing as her body shook with its first orgasm.
Her brain was fuzzy and her toes tingled as Harry moved up her naked body, propping his head on his hand as he watched her breath through the intense feelings of her orgasm leaving her. "That was…" she started, but there really were not words to describe it.
Harry grinned at her, please with himself. "Thank you," she said, feeling stupid. Who says 'thank you' for an orgasm.
"I aim to please," he said cockily.
Hermione laughed and threw a pillow at him. "Shut up, you prat."
"In all seriousness, Hermione. That was amazing," Harry said with warm eyes staring down at her. "You are amazing."
"I love you, Harry," Hermione replied, leaning up on her elbow to kiss him again. It quickly intensified as Harry rolled atop her again, this time with his erection sliding between her legs, the only thing separating him from her come sodden quim, being his cotton underwear.
"Take these off," Hermione requested, her desire beginning to peak again.
In one motion, he kicked off his boxer-briefs and Hermione gulped at the size of him. He wasn't huge but he was large and she felt a little trepidation at the idea of him fitting inside her. He didn't seem to notice her look, but he did comfortingly run his fingers up and down her ribcage.
"It will hurt," he said simply.
"I know," she said. "It's okay."
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered confidently. He twined their fingers together and angled his hips to just the right position. He grabbed his wand as an afterthought and muttered the contraception spell as he protected her from unwanted pregnancy. Without ever taking his eyes off hers, he pushed slowly into her.
"Oh," she breathed, a little surprised at the unpleasant sensation.
"Okay?" he asked, his brow furrowing.
"Yes, Harry," she grunted. "Just do it."
He nodded before pushing further in, past her hymen, in one swift thrust. "Shit!" she cried, tears at the corners of her eyes.
"Hermione, do you want me to stop?" Harry asked, concern lacing his voice, but there was a tension underneath. She could tell he was holding back the urge to thrust in and out of her.
"I'm fine," she assured him. "It was just…a littler more painful than I expected," she blushed. "Try moving," she suggested, wiggling her hips. Harry groaned in response before pulling back and thrusting back in.
She hissed. It still chafed, but it was much better. "Keep going," she encouraged. Slowly, Harry picked up the pace, moving in and out of her as he let the pleasure wash over him. She was so tight, warm, and wet. He'd wanted this for so long, and it was everything he thought it would be. He just wished she was enjoying it more.
"Oh," Hermione cried, this time in pleasure as the friction of his cock against something inside her began to feel really good.
"Like that?" he moaned, angling his hips to hit her spot harder and more frequently.
"Yess…" Hermione hissed in pleasure as she wrapped her legs tightly around Harry's waist. "Right there," she moaned.
"Hermione, love," Harry panted. "I'm going to come soon," he warned.
"Close," she replied, but she knew her orgasm was just out of reach. It was within a finger's grasp but she wasn't there quite yet.
Harry knew it too. He shifted slightly to move his hand between them, lightly stroking her pulsating clit as he slammed in and out of her harder and faster. "Yes, yes, Harry!" she cried. She was so close so…
"HARRY!" she shouted as her pussy clamped down around him and she saw literal stars before her eyes, throwing her head back as she came hard and long around his surging cock.
"Hermione, oh Merlin, Fuck!" Harry grunted, letting her quaking core milk the come from his spasming dick. He thrust through his orgasm, finally collapsing on top of her, spent.
When both of them regain their senses, he muttered, "Worth every penny," and a laughing Hermione slapped him on the back.
She hissed as his softening cock slid out of her and they rolled to face on another. "How are you?" Harry asked.
"Lovely, thank you," Hermione smiled. "This is going to work. I feel it."
One year later…
Hermione stood in the entryway to the large, new medical ward. No other divisions of St. Mungo's had such an opulent entrance, and part of her was a bit smug about that fact. Of course, she couldn't take all the credit. In fact, the ward was only her idea. The coming together of it was all the work of others.
"You ready to go in, Hermione?" Harry's smooth voice asked from her side. She nodded and smiled.
"Just a little nervous," she said with a slight chuckle.
Harry rolled his eyes at her. "I know you hate speeches, but it will be a short one. Besides, how many times in your life are you going to open a new hospital wing?"
"Good point," Hermione said, taking his offered arm as he led her into the atrium that opened up the Remus Lupin Medical Ward for Magical Beings. It had been decided that "creatures" didn't really apply to werewolves, so they stuck with 'beings'.
"I thought we were supposed to be here at 8:15," Hermione said, confused when she saw the place already filled with people in their formal dress robes. Such an extravagant event for the opening had been Lucius' idea. As he was a primary donor to the ward, Hermione had reluctantly accepted.
"We were supposed to be here at 8:00," Harry answered, tightening his grip on her arm so she couldn't slap him. "But you refuse to believe in the custom of 'fashionably late' and look at the time. It's 8:05. You would have been early, and you know it - giving you more time to work yourself up into a panic attack. Now, will you take a glass of wine from that nice gentleman with the tray and chill out?" he said, smiling sweetly at her the whole time.
Hermione rolled her eyes but smirked at him anyway. He was right after all, and this was one of the things she appreciated about her relationship with Harry. He knew her better than anyone. When she was getting too high strung, he knew and he'd pull her from her work and make love to her on the kitchen counter. When she was near a nervous breakdown because of the construction, he'd 'accidentally' ward them both out of Grimmauld Place so they 'had to' step away and relax.
"Okay," Hermione said, "there's Ginny and Adrian," she smiled to herself. "I can do this."
"Oh, so they make you relax," Harry said with a roll of the eyes.
"Yep," Hermione said, ignoring him and walking over to her newly married and pregnant best friend.
"Hermione! It's beautiful!" Ginny gushed.
"Well done," Adrian said. "It's amazing how quickly it came together."
"I owe that to Lucius and my other donors," Hermione admitted. "Speaking of, where are Blaise and Theo?"
"Should be here any minute," Adrian said.
"And do you think Draco…" Hermione winced as the words awkwardly rolled off her tongue. She'd only seen Draco a handful of times since she made her choice to be with Harry and those instances had been rife with tension, and not the good kind.
He had insisted on donating to the Medical Ward, but he'd made it pretty clear that a friendship wasn't in the cards for them. She supposed she couldn't blame him, but it hurt. Harry noticed her upset and squeezed her hand in support. As much as he didn't really want Hermione to be friends with a guy she'd considered choosing over him, she also knew that Malfoy's absence had hurt her.
"I'm not sure. If Lucius has anything to say, he'll be here," Adrien assured her.
"Okay," Hermione said pasting on a smile. "Anyway, I've got to make some rounds, but I'll see you all again in a few."
"Enjoy yourself, Hermione," Ginny said. "This is your night. You've earned it."
Hermione smiled at that and let Harry lead her away toward Lucius Malfoy who was entertaining a small group of high rolling donors. "Lucius," she greeted form behind tapping him on the shoulder.
"There is the woman of the hour!" Lucius said, jovially. "Gentlemen, this is the woman behind all that you see here."
The men all greeted her with warm smiles and congratulations, and she couldn't help but blush. She hated being the center of attention, but Lucius Malfoy always seemed to want to put here there. Especially with his ridiculous notion that she absolutely had to give a speech on the opening of the ward.
After moving around the room to talk to several people, Hermione noticed a flash of platinum blonde out of the corner of her eye. "He's here," she breathed, out loud. Harry looked in the direction she was looking and frowned. On the one hand, he was glad Draco Malfoy had put aside pride to support Hermione. On the other, he wasn't that keen on Hermione and Draco reuniting. He knew he was being stupid, but their chemistry could not be denied.
"Shall we go say hi?" Harry asked, noticing a tall, beautiful, brunette on the other mans' arm.
"Sure," Hermione said, unsure. But she walked over to where Draco stood regardless. She was sick of this tension, and maybe if he had a date it meant he moved on. Maybe a friendship was possible.
"Draco," she greeted as she approached. He smiled slightly. A good sign.
"Hermione," he replied. "Potter."
"I'm glad you came," Hermione said.
"Me too," Draco said cryptically. "Let me introduce you to my date," he said, turning to his companion. "This is Annabelle Fisher," he beamed, and Hermione could tell he liked this girl, a lot. She was gorgeous.
"Fisher," she said, holding her hand out to shake the woman's hand. Annabelle smiled brightly and returned the handshake. "That sounds muggle," Hermione pointed out.
"Oh yes," Annabelle said, he American accent sounding exotic in a room full of Brits. "I'm muggle-born. I went to Ilvermorny, in New York. But my parents are still in a bit of a shock about all this magical stuff," she laughed.
Hermione smiled warmly. "I'm so glad you could come," she said to both of them. "How did you meet?"
Draco was about to answer but Annabelle did it for him. "Well, Draco was in the States for a vacation and somehow managed to get lost in the Muggle part of Miami. I could sense his magical abilities from miles away. I helped him find his way back to our Wizarding section of the city and he took me for a drink. The rest is history."
"It's very nice to meet you," Harry said. "I've been wondering about the American schools for Wizards," he said before beginning to occupy Annabelle with all manner of questions about the schools there and how they differed from Hogwarts. She smiled at him. He was giving her the opportunity to talk to Draco alone. He really did get her.
"How have you been?" she asked the tall blonde.
"Better," he said, his meaning was clear.
"Annabelle seems really great," she said stupidly, wishing she could take it back as it escaped her lips. it sounded so trite.
"She is," Draco said. "She really is. I can't believe how quickly I've fallen," he admitted. Hermione was legitimately happy to hear that he was moving on.
"I really am happy," she said. "I want you to be happy, I'm sorry I…"
"No," Draco said shaking his head. "Nothing to be sorry for. I can tell you and Potter are happy. It was probably always supposed to be this way."
"I think so too," Hermione said. "Please, don't be a stranger. It's awfully hard on the boys that they have to divide their time between the two of us," meaning the Slytherin men that had become her fast friends.
"I won't," he said. "After Annabelle gets her immigration papers, I'll be moving back to England for good. We'll talk then," he promise.
"Good," Hermione smiled. "I've got to make some rounds, but I'll see you later."
"Shall we?" she asked Harry, "It was wonderful meeting you, Annabelle. When you move to England, we'll have to have a lunch date."
"You're on!" Annabelle answered happily. Hermione felt light and free in that moment. Things would be okay.
Draco wasn't the only suitor she'd lost contact with in the wake of her decision. Snape, as she feared, had fallen off the face of the earth after he'd dropped out of the running. Before she could give that too much thought, though, Lucius was approaching. "Damn," she said. "It looks like it's time."
"Hermione, you aren't being sentenced to a Dementor's Kiss," Harry laughed. "It's a speech. When it's done, we can go home and fuck on the living room floor," he whispered lasciviously in her ear.
"Harry Potter!" she said in mock outrage. "You are a pervert."
"Only for you love," he said. Then pushing her toward Lucius, he told her to get on with it.
"Come now, Ms. Granger. It's time," Lucius said. He ascended the stage and began introducing her. As he did, Hermione went over her speech one more time for good measure. Her really did hate public speaking.
"...remarkable woman. The brightest witch of her age, she fought the Darkest Wizard of all time and still managed to rank the top of her class in Healer school. She's had one dream since she was young: equality for all magical beings. Tonight, she takes a step toward that dream. It is my honor to introduce you to Hermione Granger," Lucius finished to a round of applause.
"Thank you all, very much," Hermione started after clearing her throat. "I think each of you know how the funding for this project started," she chuckled. "Anyone with a back issue of Wizard Weekly can tell you, I went a little crazy after a break-up and ended up with the love of my life and a new medical ward." There was a rumbling chuckle through the room and she let it die before she continued.
"What you might not know is where this dream really started. I know you all remember Remus Lupin. He was a war hero. He was a spokesman for werewolf rights throughout his whole life. Sadly, he never got far in his efforts. When I was thirteen years old, I met Remus. Not long after, a certain person," she said looking toward Snape who she found lingering in the shadows of the room, "brought to my attention that he was a werewolf. I know many thirteen year olds would have been terrified, but I knew the man Remus. And that man was a brilliant, kind, caring individual who just wanted to do what was right in the world."
Hermione smiled at the memory of her friend. "I think we, as a society, often forget that these people are people. They spend the vast majority of their time as humans. Their symptoms can be controlled with proper care. They didn't choose to be what they became. I think it's important that we remember these things when we talk about their medical care."
Hermione took a deep breath before continuing. "Remus Lupin died to protect a world that hated him. He gave his life for the cause to protect people like me. It wasn't long ago that Muggle-borns were considered just as lowly as werewolves were. Before that, it was half bloods. The prejudice has to end, and I want to start with proper care."
Hermione cleared her throat again. "It wasn't just Lupin who gave for the cause. I can name at least two house-elves that personally helped Harry, Ron, and me, defeat the Dark Lord. Dobby," she looked up at Harry who smiled brightly at her, "was a good house-elf, who only wanted to help Harry Potter. He died protecting us. Kreacher was integral to our destruction of Voldemort's horcruxes. The centaurs, in the end, caused the distraction that allowed Harry to defeat Voldemort."
There was a gasp from the room as they considered how large a role magical beings played in the last war. "As you can see, magical beings are integral to our way of life. They are living, breathing, feeling beings that don't deserve the treatment we, as a society, give them. I'm glad to have at least one place they can come for help and support. And I hope, when you leave here tonight, you consider the importance of those beings we often take for granted."
She smiled one last time. "I think Remus would be proud to know a place like this exists. I like to think he's somewhere looking down on us, and smiling right now. And, without further ado, I officially open The Remus Lupin Medical Ward for Magical Beings."
There was thunderous applause and Hermione smiled once more before moving back over to Harry. "I've got one more person to talk to," she said, pointing into the corner where Snape was standing.
"Okay, love," Harry said, knowing that Hermione had to talk to the older man alone. Harry and Snape didn't have a very easy relationship at it was.
"Hello Severus," Hermione said, hugging him close.
"That was a very nice speech," Snape said. "Lupin would have been proud." Hermione blushed.
"Thank you. I hope your offer still stands. I haven't heard from you since..." She cut herself off looking awkwardly.
"Yes, I realize, I've been a little...absent," Snape said, looking at his feet. "I was working on something."
"Oh," Hermione said, eyes wide with curiosity. "May I ask what it is?"
"First, I want to say, I had to get away. After everything that happened," Snape said.
"I understand, Severus." Hermione assumed as much.
"So, I threw myself into work. I wanted to come up with something for your ward," he explained.
"Really?" Hermione asked, curious.
"I still have to run more tests, but I think I've discovered a new Wolfsbane," Snape said, his own excitement nipping at the edges of his voice.
"Really!" Hermione nearly shrieked. "Wh-What does it do?"
"It stops the change. But it requires the subject to be passed out the duration," Snape said.
"Oh my," Hermione said. "Do you know what this means?"
"I've got some idea," Snape smirked.
"Oh, Severus, will you please come work with me?" Hermione asked. "They've allowed me to devote my full energies to this project, and I know that you and I can make this place work."
"Yes, Hermione. I'll join your team. But I'd prefer to work with you alone. I don't want to deal with the incompetence of others," Snape said.
"That can be arranged," Hermione said, hugging him, but letting go quickly. It was a bit awkward. "Thank you so much."
"You'd better get back to Potter," Snape said. "He's looking a bit nervous over there." He pointed at Harry who was talking with Ginny and the Slytherin guys, and he did look rather nervous. She hoped he wasn't upset about Snape and Draco being there. He'd been supportive, but maybe…
She shook her head. Harry knew better than to worry about their relationship. The last year had been the best of her life. They really were soul mates. Moving over to him, she wrapped an arm around his waist and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Everything alright?" she asked.
"Yes," he smiled. "I've just… I want to ask you something." He was shaking a little.
"Harry, are you okay?" she asked, getting concerned. He was fine, relaxed even, just before she spoke to Snape. Now, he looked nervous and sweaty.
"Of course," he said, "Let's go out to the balcony for some privacy."
She nodded and smiled, following him outside, not noticing how Ginny was practically jumping out of her skin in excitement as she watched them go.
"You seems a little off," Hermione said, with concern. "You are sure you are okay?" she asked again.
"i'm perfect," Harry said, taking a deep breath. "Hermione, I'm so proud of you. This ward is exactly what Remus would have wanted. That speech was beautiful and you are beautiful, inside and out. I can't imagine my life without you, ever. I love you more than anything."
"I love you too, Harry," Hermione said softly, curious where he was going with this. But then, he got down on one knee and it become abundantly clear exactly why he was acting weird. She felt her eyes sting with tears.
"I think the moment I met you, on the train in First Year, we were meant for each other. We've been through the best and worst and I don't want to face any challenge of life event without you. I want you to be my wife, forever. Hermione, will you marry me?" Harry asked, opening a velvet box and presenting her with the Potter Family Ring.
"Oh Harry," she gushed. "Of course, I'll marry you!" He stood up abruptly and picked her up in his arms, swinging her around.
"I'm going to make you so happy," he promised.
"You already do," she said.
"Guys!" Theo called from the shadows. "He did it. He didn't chicken out. That's fifty galleons to me," he said smugly.
"You were betting on us?" Hermione demanded, hand on her hip.
"Yes," Blaise admitted. "I had it taking two years for him to ask. Theo bet one year. Ginny bet six months. Adrian bet you'd get engaged whenever Potter knocked you up."
"Lovely," Hermione said sarcastically. "Don't you guys have a life?"
They just laughed at her. "Come on, Hermione," Ginny said. "You better get back in there before your donors think you ran away."
"One minute," Hermione said, turning back to Harry as the other went back inside. "I love you. And we are going to celebrate this engagement properly at home," she promised with a sexy smirk.
"We don't really have to go back in," Harry hedged.
"No one will miss us," Hermione replied.
"Let's go," Harry cried, pulling her by the arm to the nearest Apparation point. That night they 'celebrated' until the wee hours of the morning.