This is the last chapter. The end of the story. It's over. I'm super happy and super sad at the same time. It's weird.

This chapter's song is "Bring You Home" by Peter Bradley Adams. It can be found on Spotify or YouTube. Listen to it on repeat.

EDIT as of 6/8/12: I've decided to offer little glimpses into the lives of these characters after the end of this story. You can find them in my story titled "The Shadow and the Soul: Glimpses."


She woke up, knowing exactly where she was. She could feel him beside her, even if he was no longer touching her. The warm presence of Draco, the smell of his bed. She turned slowly, taking in his profile, the normally white-blonde hair darkened to the color of wheat in the early morning light. He looked like a child when he slept; serene, innocent, young. She'd never seen him like this. It was strange, being with him; not just in the bed, but awake when he was asleep, the quiet observer.

She leaned forward to brush a lock of hair off his face and felt something clench inside her chest. It tightened, a grip on her heart that she knew wouldn't leave anytime soon.

It had been more than sex. She knew it would be, but this feeling... it was more than that, even. It had seemed like a gamble last night, and a deadly risk this morning. She'd given herself to him, and he'd done the same. But it didn't change the fact that they were who they were. No matter how hard you try, the past never really goes away. And each of them had demons back there, waiting. It was just supposed to be a one-time thing, but she knew that she would become addicted, begin to need him more than she needed anyone. What if it didn't work?

She could picture herself, the pieces that made her real scattered on the floor. There was no way in hell she'd be put back together this time.

She wasn't sure it was a chance she was willing to take.

So she left.


When he woke up, she was nowhere to be found. He checked the kitchen, the living room, all the bedrooms, even the roof, but she was nowhere. He considered calling Harry, thought about getting a hold of Molly, but he knew where she was.


Her parents' house smelled the same, looked the same. But there was a difference, and she was pretty sure it lay within her. Her hands felt weird, too big or too little, she couldn't be sure. Her posture was too stiff, her smiles felt too sugary. Her parents didn't seem to notice. She felt like a bow, pulled completely taught, one hundred percent potential energy.

Her mum and dad had been surprised to see her, of course, but they hadn't questioned her impromptu early morning visit. She wondered if it was obvious that something was very, very wrong. She sat down to breakfast without much discussion, and she wasn't sure how she got the food onto her plate; it was enough that it was there.

She was halfway through her toast with jam when she heard the knocks on the door.


He knew the way now, so he Apparated. One, two, three hard knocks on the door and Patrick answered with a smile. "Draco, I didn't know you were stopping by this morning." There was not a trace of dishonesty on his face. So she hadn't said anything. Just showed up, like he was now. "Hermione invited me," he breathed, a grin on his face. "Didn't she tell you?" He was a Slytherin, after all. Fabrication came easy to him.

She heard her father say his name, but she didn't move. He'd found her. It wasn't surprising that he'd look here, but it was surprising that he'd left the house alone.

He hadn't done that before. Well, at least not since the war.

"Well come on in then!" Patrick led him through the living room, a hand clasped on his shoulder. Draco was steered into the kitchen, and the look on Granger's face... well, it wasn't as surprised as he would have thought.

She could feel the energy vibrating off of him. She wondered how much her mum and dad had guessed, based solely on intuition and vibes. They could be fairly empathetic, even around those they didn't know very well. Hermione had often thought that was one of the things that made them both such excellent dentists; they had an ease with people that couldn't be taught. She wasn't sure if the same could be said of her, at least not anymore.

But they had to feel the energy in the air. It was tense, and thick, and she felt she could swim in it if she tried. She wasn't sure what to say to keep the situation from spiraling, so she pretended that nothing was wrong and vowed to keep quiet.

It didn't last very long.

Draco sat down slowly, not willing to break eyesight with her. Granger looked cool and distant, and he felt the walls going up bit by bit. "Sorry I'm late," he said with a smile; he tried to make it look real, and open, and honest, but he wasn't, so it came out a smirk.

"It's a bit rude," Hermione offered and her mother choked on her tea. "Hermione!"

"Well," said Patrick, trying to minimize the obvious strain between the two. "Can I interest you in some bacon, Draco?" Draco accepted the platter willingly, filling up a good half of his plate. "And some eggs?" He took them without a word and stabbed at the food, eating quickly. If his mother could see him now...

Hermione sneaked looks at him as he inhaled his food. He was just sitting down to breakfast, like nothing was wrong. How the hell could he do that? After... well, after everything.

When he was done eating (at a record-breaking speed, he thought), he addressed the Gryffindor. "Care to take a walk, Hermione?"

"I'm still eating," she said, pushing the miniscule bits of food around her plate.

He stood up and walked over to her. "It looks like you're done, pet." The name was hissed through clenched teeth, and Hermione looked up at him in alarm, and then looked over to her parents. Her eyes told him without words, 'Exactly what the hell do you think you're doing?'

He offered her his hand and smiled beguilingly. She took it, not knowing what other choice she had. She didn't want to make a scene in front of her parents, and if the anger in Draco's eyes was any indication, he wasn't above talking in front of Patrick and Helen, no matter the subject matter.

When they were outside in the back yard, she whirled around to look at him, pushing him back into the far bushes. A wolfish smiled crossed his face. "Well if you wanted seconds that badly, Granger, you just had to ask."

"You complete arse!" she bit out, her golden eyes dark. "What the hell is your problem?"

"You!" he said. "You have been my problem since the night you showed up in my house."

"Well I guess it's a good thing I left, then."

He pulled at his hair, not trusting himself to speak. Wordlessly he paced back and forth, the grass flattening beneath his feet. He did his best to keep calm, clenched his fists at his side, worked on his breathing.

"Have at it, then," she said, rolling her eyes.

When he stopped and looked at her again, he didn't disguise the hurt in his eyes. "Why?"

"You'll have to be more specific," she said.

"You left," he said, and she felt his sadness pushing at her barricades.

She shrugged. "So I did."

"But last night..." He looked at the ground, hating himself for being so transparent. "It was more than just a fuck."

She shrugged again and looked uncomfortable.

He moved closer to her, daring her to look away. "Say it."

"Sometimes things like this... they just happen, Malfoy. They happen and it's great, but it's a one-time thing and that's all it is. All it should be."

He laughed, the sound bitter to her ears. "Oh really? This happen to you a lot, then?"

She shook her head.

"Have you left a trail of broken hearts all over London, is that what I am to believe?"

"You know it's not like that," she mumbled.

"You're right! I know. I know better. You can lie to yourself but I will not have you lie to me. Admit that it meant something! You let me inside you. Do you know what that means to me? That you would trust me like that?" He kept up his frantic pace, mumbling under his breath, words she couldn't hear or understand.

She turned away and began to walk toward the house, but he grabbed her arm and whipped her around. "Wha?" she protested, but the look on his face stopped her. He looked broken. "Say it," he begged.

"It meant something, okay?" she muttered.

"I know," said Draco, and he enfolded her into a bruising embrace. "It meant a whole lot," he whispered into her curls. "You have no idea what it meant to me."

But she did, and that's why she left. Why she always left, because it had become too real, too desperate. She didn't want to deal with the outcome, didn't want to see the disappointment. But she had; she saw the truth on his face, the pain of waking up in an empty bed after a night like that.

The grip on her heart constricted.

She let him hold her, because it was necessary then, for both of them. She hadn't made any promises, hadn't sworn her devotion or her heart, but they had crossed an invisible line that couldn't be erased. Things would be Different now, that much obvious. She wondered how her friends would react. She wondered how her parents would react. Hell, she wondered how she would react, because her brain hadn't really caught up with her racing pulse and wild emotions. Elation, terror, and something that felt suspiciously like contentment oozed through her pores. She wasn't sure which feeling was winning.

She felt him begin to pull back, and she buried her face in his chest. She wasn't ready to see the change, the big Difference, in his eyes. Everything felt sharp, too highly defined.

"Hey," he whispered into her hair, and he leaned down to force eye contact. "Don't over think this, okay? We've got time to freak out later."

"What if I can't be what you need?" she asked.

"What if you can?"

"What if I can't?" she repeated, stepping back, her chin jutting out defiantly.

"I don't believe that."

"What?"

"I think you're afraid that you may be just exactly what I need. And that I may be just exactly what you need."

She shook her head. "Doesn't mean it will last."

He pulled her to him again and bit down lightly on her shoulder. "Doesn't mean it won't."

She chewed her lip and nodded. There was time. "'Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea.'"

He chuckled deeply. "Quoting me T. S. Eliot, are you? What sort of person quotes poetry from memory?"

"I don't know, Mr. Muggle Magic Micro-wiz."

"Ohhh, beauty, brains AND wit! Be still my heart!"

"I'll still your heart if you don't stop teasing," she warned. "Come on, we should go back inside and face my parents. And anyway, I haven't had coffee yet. It's not the proper way to start the day."

He leaned down until his nose touched hers. "I would have given you a very proper good morning if you had stayed in my bed."

She laughed and slapped at his chest lightly. "So very subtle."

"I don't have to be subtle. I'm a Malfoy."

"Well, Mr. Malfoy, my parents are probably inside watching us," she said as she pulled away, clasping her hands behind her back in order to discourage herself from touching him.

"Do you think I should apologize? For breakfast, I mean?"

She shook her head. "No, let's just let it go and they will too." Just then Patrick and Helen stepped out onto the patio with a coffee carafe and what looked to be strawberries. Hermione plucked up her courage and slipped her hand into Draco's. "Come on then." He looked down at their clasped hands, surprised, and then smiled.

"Lead on, Bossy-Pants."


The afternoon passed by slowly. Draco was interrogated in a very relaxed way by both Patrick and Helen, who had obviously noticed the change in relationship since Draco's last visit. If they hadn't been privy to the awkward exchange over breakfast and subsequently spied a bit through the window in order to see the resolution, they would definitely have noticed the slight touches between the young adults. It was the way Hermione would rest her fingers on Draco's arm when she laughed; the subtle touch of Draco's hand against her thigh under the table. They looked happy.

Patrick had Draco help him grill for lunch, and Hermione was content to keep out of the way and eat the seasoned kebabs. It was just past four when they prepared to leave the Granger home. "Uh, do you mind waiting outside for a moment?" Hermione asked Draco. "I just want a quick word with my parents," she explained.

He sat on the front stoop, thumbing through a worn copy of "The Hitchhike's Guide to the Galaxy." Science fiction wasn't his thing, really, but Patrick had promised that he'd like it, and he remembered Hermione talking about it as well. He was halfway through the third chapter (what on earth was Hermione doing in there, anyway? He'd been sitting out there for at least thirty minutes) when the Gryffindor appeared again, carrying a very large trunk.

He raised an eyebrow as he jumped to his feet and she bit back a smile. "Think you could help me with this?" she asked, struggling under what looked to be a very substantial weight.

He hurriedly put down the book and reached to grab the trunk from her. He stumbled backwards and looked at her in amazement. The trunk was two pounds at the most, and he'd been unprepared.

"What do you have in here, feathers?"

"A few," she said. "And a few dozen books, the rest of my clothes, some CDs, a couple movies, and three dozen cookies that Mum insisted I take home with me."

"Home?" he asked hopefully, and she nodded.

He did his best to hide the smile but it was useless; it radiated, and anyway, it was honest. Home. "How the hell did you get all of that in here, anyway?" he asked.

"Magic," said Hermione with a smile.


Epilogue


"Draco!" Hermione hissed, pulling on the sleeve of his shirt. "You do realize people can SEE you?" She looked around the deserted neighborhood and frowned at the sound of his laughter.

"There's no one around," he said. "Calm down."

"You don't know that," she argued. "They could be watching from windows."

"Seriously? You think someone's hiding out behind their pretty, lacy drapes, watching me grab another box of books from that godforsaken moving van? That anyone would be so pathetic as to care?"

"First of all, they're not just my books. Seriously, I think you're the number one thing keeping Marek and Edwin in business. And secondly, new neighbors are interesting," she reasoned, "so yes, I do think people could be looking. And if you keep insisting on levitating the heavy stuff, people are going to start asking questions. Why didn't you just use a shrinking charm, anyway?"

"Wanted to look all Muggle-y," Draco said, "Obviously. We do have to try to fit in, Hermione. Maybe you're unaware, but Muggles don't know about magic, and this neighborhood is pretty Muggle-y. So we have to blend in." He quirked an eyebrow and waited for her response.

"Gods, you're annoying," she complained.

"But you love me anyway."

"Fine. Whatever."

"Whatever?"

"Yes. I love you. Now shut up and grab that box like a normal human being. And move your arse, you're in the way."

He clambered into the house and smiled. She was so easily riled.

"Put that one in the spare room with the others," she said, pointing at the box in his hands. "And then if you can grab one of the kitchen boxes next, the one with the plates, we can eat that lunch Molly made. On second thought, finish up with the books first. There's only a couple more boxes."

Draco dropped the box where he stood and tackled Hermione to the ground, muttering a quiet spell to break their fall. "I hope you realize, Granger, that moving in together doesn't give you some sort of permission to mother me."

"Please," Hermione said, rolling her eyes, "Like I'd want THAT responsibility. You were a terrible child."

"Was not."

"Was too."

"I happen to remember a certain frizzy-haired witch with big teeth who wasn't always a pleasant angel either."

"I have no recollection of such things."

"Mmmmhmmmm. Just promise me that when we have our own kids, they'll be good. Or we'll ship them off to school way before Hogwarts," Draco said with a smirk.

"Our OWN? What are you saying, Malfoy?"

"I'm saying you're stuck with me, Granger. Better get used to it."

"Now who's bossy?" She laughed and he grabbed her hands, pinning her to the floor. "Get off," she protested, pushing at his shoulder with hers.

Draco grinned down at her devilishly, lining up their hips and pressing against her. "Love to, only we haven't set up the bed yet. But the floor's good enough for me," he said with a shrug.

"No," she protested, trying to wrestle him off of her. "Not until we've finished unpacking."

"Fine, but you owe me," he said with a smirk.

"Owe you what?" Hermione asked innocently.

Draco shot her a meaningful look. "You know what."

She laughed and smacked his behind as he went outside to grab another box.

"Draco!" she shouted out the front door of their new flat, "books first, then kitchen. And get a move on, Ferret, I'm starving."

Draco smirked and waved her off. "Yeah, yeah, love you too, Bossy-Pants."

. the end .


Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

- Pablo Neruda


A/N - Just in case you're curious... this is the picture I have in mind when I think of Draco and Hermione at her parents' house, grilling out. - img fave view / 1150445 (Remove the spaces to get to the pic).

I want to thank you ALL for reading and following and giving me feedback and reviews and suggestions. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I never thought I'd write anything this long, but I've officially typed out 321 single-spaced pages in OpenOffice (heck yes, freeware). I originally began to write this story last August because 1. I thought it would be fun and 2. I wanted to get back into writing with the goal of eventually writing an original young adult fiction. Guess I'm going to have to learn how NOT to swear as much if I want anything I write to be in the YA section. Still, I can't believe how this fic took on a life of its own; the basic premise changed COMPLETELY, so maybe one day I'll use some of the original ideas I had for this story on another.

In the next few months I'm going to go through and re-edit this fic, as I know there are mistakes. I'll be honest, many times I was editing past midnight, and I get... weird... when I'm really sleepy. So just be glad I didn't keep the parts where I started typing random things. No, I'm not kidding. At one point one chapter had the following fragment: "veteran of Vietnam, history of PTSD, involved in two explosions, wife has been noticing memory impairment." Yeah, that happened when I was working at a cognitive health office. Suddenly a few mistakes doesn't seem that bad, eh?

Special thanks goes to: AlwaysAWeasley, ASJS, DizzyIzzyXD, dragonfreak1991, Ducky, GRuth, hawaiian-breeze23, HazelGrey, HepburnHigh, laineyvainey, love bleeds red, Mykel Black, rhileigh, roflxlolxlmfao, scv914, Stromsten, .Ghosts, TempestDashon, vivi88, xoRetributionox, Yulandia. You are all super-reviewers and I'm SO THANKFUL. Love to each of you.

~Mischief managed~