Chapter 23

A/N: Hello readers! Here's the LAST CHAPTER! Sorry for making you wait so long for this chapter (I know that was a horrible cliffhanger I left you with), I had it all ready to get to you quicker, but I noticed a few things that needed to change. I've been picking at this chapter for days, and I think it's finally ready. I hope you like it!

I'm saying it now: there won't be a sequel or epilogue or anything, I've got the whole Veela thing out of my system I think.

Thanks so much to everyone who's review this story! It wouldn't have been half as good without your input. Also many thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing!

If you're looking for something to read after this story, I have a new one called Tensions and Tea Leaves, it's a Rose/Scorpius fic. I also have a few Dramione stories started that should be posted in the near future, so keep your eyes out!

I'll let you guys read before I abuse exclamation points any more.


Sunlight streamed through the windows, illuminating specks of dust and making them look like pinpricks of brightness in the air. All was silent save for a faint rustling of a mouse from the kitchen one room over.

Lying completely still in the middle of the dusty floor were two bodies, their fingers tightly intertwined. So motionless were those bodies that a thin layer of dust was starting to accumulate over the both of them. A passerby would have taken them for a pair of mannequins left discarded in the old shack.

Suddenly, the blond one sat up with a huge gasp. Greedily gulping in air as if he hadn't taken a breath in a while, he tried to regain control of his breathing. It took him a second to get enough air to his oxygen-starved brain to notice his surroundings, but once his did, he turned to his unmoving companion.

His eyes darkened to black as they widened in horror.

"Hermione?" he said, panicked. One hand whipped to her neck to check her pulse. Maybe the curse had let him live going through the Veil and killed her. Could some cruel twist of the curse allow him to survive after they had been prepared to die together? That would be a very Malfoy thing to do, raising hopes high only to crush them back down with ruthless glee.

She didn't have a heartbeat, and she wasn't breathing. His fingers pressed deeper into the soft skin of her neck, desperately searching for some indication that his mate was alive.

A keening sound began in the back of his throat completely against his will. She couldn't be dead!

Just as Draco was about to succumb to the despair that his mate was dead and gone for good, she took a huge, gasping breath as he had done only moments before.

Her frantic eyes sought out the black ones of her Veela.

"Thank Merlin," he breathed, pulling her over and hugging her tightly. If tears hadn't been someone a Malfoy would never shed, he would have cried. As it was, a tear or two may have slipped out of his tightly shut eyelids.

"Draco, you're cutting off my air," she gasped when the hug lasted a tad too long and was a little too tight. Her breathing hadn't calmed down and the tight squeezing wasn't helping her to regain a more normal rhythm.

His grip loosened, but he didn't put her down, unwilling to be so far away from her. Even the littlest loss of contact was unacceptable when, only a moment before, he'd been sure he would be alone for the rest of his life. Never again did he want to face a situation like that. Hermione was too important to ever be in danger again – not that she would appreciate his attempts at protecting her.

Hermione concentrated on taking deep breaths for a moment, waiting until her breathing had slowed down a little before she took a look at her surroundings. They were still in the Shrieking Shack, but there was sunlight outside instead of the impenetrable blackness. They were alive.

And on the living side of the Veil.

Something fluffy over Draco's shoulder caught her attention. "You have wings again," she noted, reaching a hand to pet the nearest feathery appendage. They were so sleek and platinum coloured that she was always surprised to feel that his wings were warm. The metallic appearance of his feathers hinted at a cold, metal texture, but that was completely wrong.

Hermione liked his wings.

"Why is it that you keep waking up and pointing out my wings?" Draco asked in exasperation.

His eyes were probably deep black and he could feel his fangs, but the first thing she chose to comment on was his wings? Always the wings with her. Maybe she had some sort of avian fetish. Was there even such a thing?

She just smiled at him, running her fingers over the silky feathers. Softly, she drew her fingertips over the place where the downy feathers merged with his back. Her lips twisted into a small smirk when Draco's arms involuntarily tightened around her waist and he shivered slightly. Though he complained, it was abundantly obvious that he thoroughly enjoyed the attention she paid to his wings.

"They're kind of hard to miss," she said, slightly embarrassed. They were warm and fluffy and she liked to pet them, but she wasn't going to tell him that. He'd probably laugh at her for thinking girly thoughts.

"You've forgotten I'm in your mind again, haven't you?" he asked, sounding amused.

"Give me a bit of a break, we almost died not so long ago, I'm not up to a hundred percent yet." Her honey eyes abruptly darkened. Their banter would only do so much, they were going to have to actually discuss the issues that they'd just lived through eventually."Draco, what happened to us?" she asked.

The Veela shrugged; he didn't have any more answers than she did. Perhaps they'd never know what it was that had happened to land them on the wrong side of the Veil. What he did know was that if Hermione was correct and they'd returned from the other side of death, they were the only two people in written history to have ever visited the other side of the Veil and lived to tell about it.

"I think we were dead while we were over there. Waking up just now didn't feel like coming back to consciousness from a snooze, I had to work much too hard to breathe right." She frowned just thinking about her panic while she tried to breathe properly.

Thinking of how he hadn't been able to find a pulse at first on Hermione's neck, Draco was forced to agree. "For a brief time, I believe that we really were on the other side of the Veil. Technically dead."

"Then why did we get out alive?" It was more a rhetorical question than something she expected him to answer.

Surprisingly, he had one.

"I think... that we were supposed to stay there until we died. The coldness and general threatening nature of the Veil was supposed to keep us scared and trapped until death."

Hermione wasn't convinced. "Desperate people resort to desperate measures. I think anyone would try to pass through the Veil after a while."

"Maybe the fact that you're my mate and we're bonded threw off the curse. Our connection is very different than anything Father could have had with some nameless Muggle girl," he offered.

Horrified at how close they'd brushed against death, Hermione could only sigh and press her face into his shoulder. They would probably never have definite answers. "I hope this means we're going to be done with this bloody curse."

Draco smoothed his hands down her hair, letting them continue down her back before stopping at the small of her back and repeating the motion. "It succeeded in killing us. I think that broke the thing, there's no reason for it to stick around once we're no longer alive."

Over his shoulder, she watched her hands as they brushed his feathers. It was time for them to stop with the fighting against the curse and start working on their happily ever after – Hermione wasn't so unrealistic that she thought their happy ending wasn't going to take some work.

Following her thoughts, Draco smirked affectionately at her, stretching the wings out behind him so she could admire them. They really were rather impressive, and the perfect thing to distract her from the melancholy turn her thoughts had taken.

When her fingers reached for them once more, he moved the feathers just out of her reach.

"What do you say we give them a go?"For someone who had recently almost died, he was in remarkably good spirits. Perhaps it was because he'd thought he was going to lose his life that he was able to seem co carefree.

Appreciate what you've got and all that nonsense.

"Give what a go? What are you talking about?" There was no way he meant what she thought he meant. No. He couldn't.

He knew how horrible she was when it came to flying a broom, what made him think that she'd be more comfortable with that?

Nothing. Nothing would make him think she'd be all right with his idea, but he was going to try and make her go anyway. He had a devious Slytherin mind for just that type of thing.

"The wings Granger. Keep up."

She looked from his wings to his eyes and back again. When she realized he really was thinking that horrible, unreasonable thought, she tried to get out of his arms. "No. No no no nononononono. Draco, no."

Those wings of his were a new addition, and he'd yet to fly on them. Hermione was a big believer in empiricism, but she'd rather not be along for the ride when he tested those feathery accidents waiting to happen.

Ignoring her protests, he stood up, bringing her with him.

"No! I'm terrified of heights! You can't just make me fly; I'm not the flying type. I don't even like broomsticks! Or Ferris Wheels!" Her screeches echoed around the Shrieking Shack, probably only reinforcing the rumours surrounding the place. The acoustics in the wooden structure were actually quite impressive, especially when one considered all the dust layering everything and muffling sound.

There would be stories of a new, higher pitched phantom circling Hogsmeade before the end of the week.

Draco didn't know what a Ferris Wheel was, but he assumed it was some sort of round, Muggle flying device; perhaps something similar to a broomstick, but for non-magical people. His contemplations briefly distracted him while he opened the door and pulled the flailing Gryffindor through the doorway. He'd have to ask her what a Ferris Wheel was when she was more open to sharing information.

Hermione tried to latch onto the door frame as she passed, but the Veela used his greater strength to easily pull her away.

He tried a few experimental flaps, just to get his bearings, but his instincts quickly took over. After a little jump to get him going, they were airborne, and his mate was screaming. Quite impressively actually. The girl had an amazing set of lungs.

His grip on her was firm, and he was careful not to buffet her on the down stroke. If a swan's wing was strong enough to break bone, he didn't want to imagine the damage his much more powerful wings could do to his delicate mate.

"Hermione, stop screaming. You have your wand, you can stop yourself before you hit the ground. Just breathe, try enjoying the flight. Hell, you might even consider opening your eyes before we get to Hogwarts. There's quite a view from all the way up here."

Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and she was trying to pretend they weren't high above the ground. As long as she didn't look, she could imagine they were only a metre or so off of the ground and was only mildly panicked. If it weren't for the rhythmic whooshing of air as he flapped his wings, she would have been able to convince herself they were on the ground.

"How is it you managed to fly a broom out of the Room of Requirement while blasting walls open and being pursued by Fiendfyre, but you can't manage to even open your eyes right now? I've got you, you're perfectly safe." He sent her a rush of comforting feelings and protectiveness that reassured her more than words ever could have.

Her screaming stopped, but she wasn't much less panicked.

"If I survived walking through the Veil only to die because you dropped me, I'll come back and poltergeist you," she threatened, cracking one eye open reluctantly. The ground was a long way away.

Sheer force of will kept her from letting out a squeak of terror or just breaking down and screaming her head off. She nearly missed his laugh and comment of "I wouldn't want it any other way, love," because she was so focused on the ground. It really was awfully far away.

"It's far enough away that you have time to get your wand out and cast a spell to stop your fall before you hit," he said, once again answering her thoughts.

The Veela may have had a point, but there was always a chance she could pass out from fear on the way down.

The constant beating of his wings reminded her of the time in third year when she and Harry had ridden Buckbeak. Flying with Draco was more like riding a hippogriff than a broom if she had to liken it to past flying experiences.

"Really? Now you're going to compare me to a hippogriff? What is it with you and comparing me to animals?" he grumbled, more amused than upset.

"Because half the time, you act like the animals I've seen. Be happy they're fierce animals at least, Ron once told me my hair reminded him of a Pygmy Puff."

Draco laughed. "And you immediately reminded him of a dragon as you yelled at him for saying something stupid?"

"That goes without saying," she said primly. That had been a particularly bad day for her, and Ron had been practically in tears by the time she was done with him. Sometimes running away and finding somewhere quiet to cry about something Ron said just wasn't what she wanted to do. Sometimes she just had to chew him out for his careless and stupid words.

Maybe, if the planets aligned just right, he'd actually learn his lesson one day.

They fell into silence as Hogwarts came into view. It was good to be somewhere safe again.

There were only a few students out on the grounds, but it was the quartet gathered just outside of the Whomping Willow's circle of reach that drew the blond's attention.

"What's happened that would make Blaise willingly hang out with a bunch of Gryffindors – that bunch in particular? I would have thought he'd have better taste than that," Draco said with feigned contempt.

Hermione didn't have an answer for him.

They landed several metres behind Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Blaise with a small thump. Draco lost his balance on impact and they ended up falling over and tumbling down a small incline. They came to a stop at the feet of their friends; Hermione sprawled on top of Draco and both of them laughing. It felt good to be so carefree and happy without the weight of the world on their shoulders, which only served to increase their mirth.

"You're going to need to work on your landings," Hermione said.

Someone cleared their throat irritably.

The pair in the grass looked up at the pale faces of their friends, wondering why they looked so serious.

"What's wrong?" Hermione asked, starting to get a little worried. They'd only been gone for the night, how could they be so worried after so little time?

"You've been gone for almost a week," Ginny said, looking at them almost accusingly. "Blaise came and got us when you didn't come back by nightfall that first day and we went looking for you, but the Shrieking Shack was just... gone. There was no sign of it anywhere."

Hermione and Draco shared a look before climbing to their feet. Brushing a dead leaf off of Draco's shoulder, Hermione kept her head still while he pulled a twig from their hair.

"We were kind of... on the other side of the Veil," Hermione started, then she launched into the entire explanation – excluding anything remotely personal and Draco's repeated attempts to off himself.

"So the curse is broken?" Harry asked once they were done explaining how they'd woken up alive in the Shrieking Shack.

"As far as we can tell," Draco said. He was shooting wary glares at Blaise, who was giving him a strange look in return. "What?" he finally snapped at his friend.

"You nearly died not so long ago, yet I've never seen you happier," Blaise accused.

Shrugging, Draco gave a half smile that unnerved every Gryffindor present save Hermione. Slytherins just weren't supposed to look so happy. They were a brooding, plotting bunch, not prone to merriment and other plebeian pastimes. Draco's smile filled with joy and love was downright disturbing. It was like seeing a unicorn wandering the forbidden forest wearing a tutu and roller-skates; disturbing on many levels and so very wrong.

"Is anyone else a little worried he's just figured out how to get away with our murders?" Ron whispered to Harry and Ginny. His voice carried to all present, making Blaise and Draco smirk.

"We figured that out in third year, we just couldn't justify the waste of resources on someone who could only manage to be a mild nuisance on the best of days," Draco said to the outspoken redhead.

"Hermione, on the other hand, was a big nuisance, always beating you in classes and even actually punching you in the face once. Yet you never seemed to get around to getting rid of her," Ginny observed, grinning evilly.

"We all know I'm a bit biased when it comes to Hermione," Draco said. Did they honestly expect him to be embarrassed? These Gryffindors obviously still had a thing or two to learn about the loyalty of Slytherins. Hermione was his and he wanted the world to know.

Eventually, the three Gryffindors went back to the castle to report to their teachers that the Head students were alive and well, leaving Hermione alone with the two Slytherins.

"Spit it out," Draco said the moment the retreating trio were out of earshot. He rounded on his friend with a stern look on his face.

Blaise shifted uncomfortably, trying for innocent.

"I've had a long day Blaise, just say it," Draco snapped. He was glad Blaise's interference had ended up with him keeping his life and his mate, but he didn't have much patience for secrets, particularly the poorly-kept ones.

"Your parents have been notified and are on their way. I'm pretty sure your mother's going to claw someone's eyes out for letting you off school property and your father is ready to strangle you for sneakingoff school property and getting caught. I don't think either of them are very happy with you and your dumb ideas... Have fun," Blaise flashed a fake smile and then fled before Draco could hit him.

The blond scowled after his so-called friend.

"May as well get this over with," he sighed, following the rest of them into the castle, Hermione beside him.

Draco reached over and took Hermione's hand as they walked. "Want to get engaged?" he asked casually without breaking his stride or making eye contact. "It might distract my parents from killing me long enough for me to get away if they notice a ring on your finger. I'm only asking because you seem so set on keeping me alive," he smirked at her.

Bushy head titled to the side, Hermione tried to figure out if he was kidding. "You have a ring?" she asked. Her question hadn't been a serious one; she'd thought she was being clever in asking to see the ring as if she wanted a look at it before she made a decision. She smiled slightly at her little joke; like the ring actually mattered.

He shocked her when he nodded and rifled around in his pocket before producing a beautiful, antique-looking ring. Hermione was almost afraid to touch it because it looked so delicate. It must have been Goblin made to get that kind of detail and beauty without it being so fragile that it couldn't be worn.

"Mother must have slipped it into my pocket that day I bit you, I didn't find it until the House Elves tried to wash my clothes and showed it to me."

Hermione looked from him to the ring before staring into his eyes. He could have phrased it better, but he was serious about his question. "Okay." She shrugged and held her hand out to him.

His sharp eyes stared at her hard for a moment, gauging whether she was serious or not. There was no doubt in her eyes. Before she could change her mind, he took her delicate hand in his larger one and slipped the ring on the appropriate finger. The band resized itself to fit snugly. It couldn't have fit better if it had been made for her.

The Veela looked shocked that she'd agreed so quickly. He was still blinking at the ring on her finger, giving off waves of confusion that were outweighing the spark of happiness.

"What?" Hermione asked. "It's not like I had plans to sleep around and make sure you're right for me. You're it. Why not get engaged?"

She turned her hand back and forth, gazing at the sunlight as it played across the diamonds. Though not one to concern herself with material things, she could still appreciate the beauty of her new adornment.

Draco watched her for a moment, pleased that she'd agreed. He'd been half-joking with the proposal, but she'd seriously said yes, so he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. Elation rapidly overtook any other emotion he was experiencing.

"So how are we going to deal with my parents?" he asked.

Tilting her head to the side, Hermione narrowed her eyes in thought. "I was thinking we could just rush in and surprise them. You could grab your school trunk; throw me at them, shouting something along the lines of 'she agreed to marry me, being fawning'; and then you run. I'll wrap myself around your father's knees to keep him from following and your mother will have to help untangle me. It should buy you enough time to get off school grounds and Apparate somewhere safe."

At his blank look, she laughed and threaded her left arm through his, angling her hand so that her ring was practically on display to anyone who cared to look. "How about we walk in like this and let them come to their own conclusions?"

Draco leaned down to kiss the top of her head, murmuring his agreement. Parentage be damned; she was the most magical person he'd ever met. He only wished it hadn't taken his Veela side so long to make him see it, and a life-threatening curse to bring them together.

Their bond still had time to go sour, but he was confident they could take anything life decided to throw at them – unless she wanted him to go to a Weasley get-together, then they'd have a problem.

The End