Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Depressing, but true.
Last chapter, my friends. Author's Note will be at the end today. Sniff sniff.
Draco opened the door to Hermione's flat with extreme trepidation, walking in and praying that he wouldn't find her harmed. His eyes flitted around the main room. Silence. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than the pile of mail on the ground.
He did a double take.
The Prophet lay flat on the floor, the terrible headline screaming up at him. HERMIONE GRANGER ADDICTED TO MUGGLE DRUGS! SCANDAL ERRUPTS OVER WAR HEROINE'S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET.
So she had seen it. Somewhere in between here and Weasley, she had seen it. She must be shattered. This was everything she had hoped to avoid. His chest twinged again.
A sniffling sound could be heard behind the bathroom door.
"Oh thank God," he whispered, and let out the breath he had been holding, walking quietly over. The door was open a crack, squeaking sharply as he slipped in.
She was sitting in the bathtub, looking straight ahead, her eyes empty, tears streaming down her face, onto her shirt and dripping onto her jeans. She didn't look at him. She looked like she was in a trance.
Draco glanced around the small room, trying to figure out if she had taken anything, or if she was in immediate danger. The ground was littered with small pages, torn from a notepad. Dr. Granger was stamped at the top.
Each page was covered in writing.
Dilaudid. OxyContin. Tramacet. All in her loopy script. Draco picked up each one, reading the strange words, each one seeming more ominous than the last. So it was true - she had taken the pad. But had she actually gotten the drugs? Or had she written the prescriptions and then lost her nerve? Had Weasley hurt her in any way, or was this a reaction to the article?
"Hermione?" he said, quietly.
She blinked, and then slowly turned her head. His heart broke for her. She looked absolutely destroyed.
"I've been thinking," she said, hoarsely.
"Okay," he said, dropping to his knees and leaning against the tub. "What have you been thinking?"
"I've been thinking that I want to go to rehab," she said, raising a shaky hand to wipe her cheeks.
Draco looked at her quizzically.
"It's a place where Muggles get help for addictions," she said. "A bit like a hospital. I need some proper skills for coping without pills. Magic isn't going to fix this, Draco. I wrote those prescriptions. After everything, I still wrote those prescriptions. I'm past the point of knowing how to manage it on my own."
His expression was guarded. Did this mean she would be leaving again? "And... This rehab place specializes in this sort of stuff?"
She nodded. "Muggles haven't got potions and spells... They need other ways of dealing with their problems. I'd like to give it a chance. Even if it doesn't work, I need to try. I've really got nothing to lose. Or everything to lose, depending on how you look at it."
She looked so downtrodden as she spoke, as if the admission marked her lowest point. He could see how important this was to her.
"I think rehab is a great idea," Draco said, gently. "But I hope you'll understand if I get a flat right next door and hang out in the visitors' room every day."
She gave a watery chuckle, and wiped her eyes again.
"It was Stacey, wasn't it," she said. "She told the Prophet about me. I know Ron didn't do it, so it must've been her."
Draco nodded. "I'm sorry."
She sighed, playing with the tile on the side of the tub. "Well, it's not like they were printing lies, I guess. I'm an addict. A War heroine, bookworm drug addict. Stupid, isn't it? They didn't even have to lie. The story writes itself."
"Doesn't make it okay."
As gently as he could, he picked up her free hand and kissed it, unsure how to communicate everything he was feeling. He wanted to tell her that he didn't care how broken she was. If anything, that made him love her more. He wanted to tell her that he was starting to understand where his mother was coming from. If Hermione would have been okay with it, he'd marry her tomorrow. He wanted to tell her that she gave his life meaning, that he would gladly spend the rest of his days with her, if she would let him. He wanted to tell her all of that, every last word.
Instead, he kissed her hand a second time. She smelled faintly of magnolia.
"You don't have to worry about Ron, by the way," she said. "No need to track him down or anything. I nearly took his head off for that stunt."
"Glad to hear it," he said, trying not to get too tense at the thought of the Weasel stealing Hermione away from him. "Bloody imbecile. If he wants to try that again, I'll take his head off myself."
"He fucked up, Draco. He knows he fucked up. Badly. In the end, he got it. He pretty much agreed that you were right for me."
"That must have killed him," said Draco, tightly, and perhaps a little too hopefully.
"Maybe," she shrugged. "But I think he knew. Deep down, he knew we were never that compatible. He was just holding on out of habit."
"Well, he can find a new fucking habit," Draco said, curtly.
She gave him a kind smile. "He also told me about your parents, you know. How they tried to make things right."
"They are certainly trying," Draco said. "Did he tell you where my father was this whole time?"
She nodded. "I wasn't sure if I should believe it."
"Believe it," Draco said. "My father is just the right amount of crazy to travel to Australia and let your parents wave a rifle in his face."
"Oh my God," she whispered, her hand covering her mouth.
"It's okay," Draco smiled. "He said he wants one now. That man loves a good weapon, even if it's Muggle, apparently."
"Maybe my dad can help him pick one out," Hermione said, with a cheeky grin.
"So weird," he chuckled.
She played with the tile a little more, looking sad again.
"Maybe when I'm out of rehab, I can do something useful with myself. Like do some talks on addiction. For anyone else who might be struggling, you know. I figure if it was a problem for me, and it was a problem for your mother, there are probably more people who could use some help."
"That would be very Gryffindor of you," he teased, reaching out to move a curl out of her eyes. She leaned into his hand, closing her eyes tightly.
"I love you, you know," she said.
"I love you too," he replied.
"Maybe when I'm out of rehab..." she trailed off.
"Oh, I don't know. It's probably silly of me to try and plan ahead like this... But..."
"What is it?"
"Maybe you'd like to move in with me?"
His heart fluttered in his chest. He tried to choose his words very carefully.
"Is that a pace that would work for you?"
She shrugged, and then smiled. "I'm starting to realize that it's hard to pace a good thing."
Draco smiled back. It felt as if the sun had been turned on inside his chest. He kicked off his boots, climbing into the tub with her. She immediately curled up against him.
"We really have to stop meeting like this," he said, kissing the top of her head.
"Is that a yes?"
"That's a yes."
Two months later
Hermione squeezed Draco's hand and grinned as they walked through the gate at Malfoy Manor. Both sets of parents were waiting for them on the front step.
"Welcome!" called Narcissa. "You're just in time for lunch!"
"She's trying to make it sound casual, but she's been planning this little party for weeks," Draco whispered. "How much do you want to bet Harry, Blaise and Pansy are already inside?"
"You think?" she whispered back, trying not to blush at the gesture. When Narcissa got excited about something, it was very hard to calm her down. It seemed to have rubbed off though... Hermione could see that even her parents were bursting with glee. Lucius was, as usual, the only one who seemed quite calm about her little "end of rehab" party. The look of pride on his face, however, was a dead giveaway.
He was such a softie when he wasn't plotting someone's demise.
"I'd put money on it."
The two months Hermione had spent at the Muggle facility were some of the hardest, but also some of the best, of her life. True to his word, Draco had rented a flat across the street and was in to see her every day. With her little permission slip, they spent the weekends together in his apartment, always intending to go out and be social but usually ending up cocooned inside. They learned a lot during those weekends.
They learned that when Hermione got mad, really, spitting mad, her "inner Malfoy" came out, as Draco called it. They didn't know how else to explain the sudden change in her hair, and then the sudden change back. Hermione joked that she was too stubborn to be a Malfoy all the time. Draco joked that she had broken the trait.
Maybe they were both right.
They also learned that love wasn't an on / off switch. It was more like an ocean. There was always more of it. You could keep going deeper.
And she did.
So did he.
And that alone healed her as much as the therapy, the counsellors, the coaching. That sped up her recovery. That brought her here. She was clean, happy, and stronger than she'd ever felt.
Hermione hugged her parents tightly, never tiring of seeing their faces. The Grangers and the Malfoys had end up getting along quite well despite all the odds... The men bonding over Muggle war weapons (her father had a more historical interest; Lucius wanted to buy a cannon for "practical reasons"), while the women bonded over Queenie (her mother loved animals, and she had become fascinated with Queenie's dental structure, so the arrangement worked well).
Narcissa got two kisses on the cheek, because that's what she liked best. Hermione wanted to hug her too, because the woman had been such an incredible support for her over the last couple of months, but she held back lest she start crying. There was still a whole party to get through, after all, and she was already feeling emotional.
Lucius liked a simple head nod, but Hermione insisted on pecking him on the cheek. It was the only time she had ever seen him blush, which was, of course, the reason she did it.
There was an explosion of chatter as they headed into the house for a celebratory meal. Narcissa caught up with Hermione and gave her a little wink as they neared the garden.
"So do they give you any homework at this rehab place?" she asked, lightheartedly. "Is there anything you're supposed to do now that you're out?"
Narcissa had become fascinated with the rehabilitation facility, peppering Hermione with all sorts of questions whenever she had the chance. The concept that one could overcome addiction without magic had impressed her considerably, and had softened her even more to the world of Muggles. Indeed, the Malfoys had been transforming slowly since Hermione went away, and had made extraordinary gains towards becoming genuinely accepting people. They almost never talked about bringing the dungeons back into use anymore.
"Just one thing, although it's for myself as much as for the program," said Hermione, glad she had a chance to ask Narcissa a question that had been bothering her for some time. "Actually, I was hoping you could help me with it."
"I'd love to, darling! Just name it." Narcissa was in a great mood. She was practically skipping, her perfect locks shimmering in the light.
They veered around a corner and Hermione could see Harry's messy hair, Blaise's head and Pansy's hairband in the distance. Draco was right. As usual.
Blaise and Pansy were sitting very close together.
Harry hadn't brought a date, but Hermione knew for a fact that he had started seeing someone. That pleased her almost as much as the fact that he was in the process of moving back to London. He was keeping the farm for now, in case he needed to get away, but he was transitioning back into society bit by bit. It helped that he had a fairly strong group of friends here. Hermione had heard that even he and Ron were on speaking terms. Although she had no desire to invite Ron back into her life, she was glad Harry could keep that connection open. Ron needed it as much as he did.
"I'd like to make amends with someone in my life, but I've had trouble tracking them down," Hermione said. The fact that she'd been having trouble finding the person in question was grating on her nerves. How hard could it be, really?
"Well, Lucius and I have some special skills at finding missing people," Narcissa said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. "Who do you want to find?"
"Stacey McLorrow," Hermione said.
The smile stayed frozen on Narcissa's face, but not a muscle was moving as she stared at Hermione. The corner of her mouth twitched.
"Oh, her!" she said eventually. "I do remember hearing something about her. Didn't she move away?"
"Yes!" said Lucius, who was suddenly on Hermione's other side. "Moved far, far away. Isn't that right, Narcissa?"
"Indeed. Now I remember. She went to Morocco."
"Morocco?" said Hermione.
"Morocco," nodded Lucius. "And joined a convent."
"What? A convent?" said Hermione. "That's very odd. Nobody's heard from her for a while, and I did sort of wonder if she was okay..."
"More than okay," said Narcissa. "Convents are quite relaxing, as I understand. Communing with a Muggle deity and all."
"And it's very private," said Lucius. "She can't have visitors."
"Took a vow of silence," nodded Narcissa. "Felt so badly about what she had done, you understand."
"No guests allowed!" Lucius reminded them, cheerfully.
"In Morocco?" Hermione said, confused.
"No, at the convent," said Narcissa. "Sorry darling, but she might be too difficult to track down, even for people as skilled as Lucius and I. We would have to force the girl the break the rules of the convent, and given that we are such upstanding people, we would hate to put her in that position."
"Oh," Hermione said, disappointed. "I understand. I just thought it might be healthy to close that chapter of my life."
"It's the thought that counts, darling," said Narcissa, taking her hand and patting it. "And you have so many thoughts."
"So Draco reminds me," she laughed. "Thank you for the information anyway." Hermione paused. Was it just her, or were the Malfoys acting a bit... Strange? It was so hard to tell with them. Acting strangely came as easily as shaking hands in this family. "You both certainly know a lot about what she's been up to," she said, as a little test. "That's quite impressive."
"Oh, we make it our business to keep an eye on people," said Lucius, dismissively. "Fewer surprises that way. Just routine at this point, I'm afraid."
Hermione nodded. Well, that was certainly a logical explanation.
"Speaking of surprises," said Narcissa, looking coy, and managing to completely change the subject. "Draco tells me you have some news."
Hermione blushed. "I don't know how surprising it is," she said. "But yes, we are getting a flat together."
"Excellent!" Narcissa said. "And I don't suppose you've given any thought to - "
"MOTHER!" said Draco, elbowing his way between Hermione and Narcissa. "You weren't about to pester my beautiful girlfriend about marriage, were you?"
"Not at all," Narcissa said, looking a bit guilty at being caught. She sent a look to Lucius, and they both fell back in the familial procession, leaving Hermione and Draco alone.
"Sorry about that," he said. "She should know better."
"Oh, it's quite alright," Hermione said. "I'm not bothered."
"But still," Draco said, taking her hand. "I promised you wouldn't be hassled about the marriage thing, and I will keep my promise. I won't ask you until you're good and ready."
"Is that right?" she grinned.
"Certainly is," he smirked. "But when you are ready? Watch out."
"Is that a threat?" she said, smirking back.
"Depends how you feel about being chained to me forever," he said with a good-natured wink.
She bit her tongue to keep from giving anything away, but Hermione wasn't really being completely honest about her little surprise. While it was true they were moving in together, that wasn't the thing that was giving her butterflies. You see, rehab taught her an important lesson.
It was easier to feel in control of your life when you - quite literally - took control. Waiting for things to happen to her was never really her style. She could see that now.
So she had decided that after all that, all her pushing back, she really did want to marry Draco. The thing was, she didn't particularly want to wait for him to propose. It seemed horribly predictable, and if she had learned anything, it's that life was more interesting when the unexpected happened.
She was really getting quite good at managing the unexpected. Spent two months perfecting her skills, actually.
Draco smiled at her as they neared the table full of friends and family. She took a moment to marvel at how handsome he looked; how relaxed he was. This was the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with.
Everything about that sentence pleased her.
The ring she had made for him was practically burning a hole in her pocket, but she was determined to leave it there until after the meal. Wait until everyone was good and full. Off their guard.
Then she was going to ask the question that was on repeat inside her head.
Luckily for her, she was pretty confident that he was going to give her the correct answer.
Well, it's been a crazy fun run. Thanks for all your comments and support, especially over my two family emergencies and my travelling / getting lost in NYC / no internet fiasco. Wild summer, I'm telling you.
This end is a bit bittersweet for me... You might remember that I wanted to write a story about addiction because I lost a friend to an overdose. I sure wish he had been able to get the help he needed the way our heroine did. So it goes, I guess. Real life has an unpredictable plot. At least our favourite couple gets a happy ending.
Please keep in touch over at the blog (I love hearing from you!), and I'll see you here next time I've got a story to post! I've already got some ideas! (Oh, and thanks for pushing me over the 1000 review mark!) xoxoxo Galfoy