Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing from the Harry Potter universe. This fanfiction is written purely for entertainment purposes and nothing more.

A/N: Hello again, and HAPPY NEW YEAR! It's been a crazy and stressful year, with finishing school and raising up a baby and a thousand other things, and I know it's taken me a while to get this next chapter up, but here it is. I promise I'm not giving up on this story but my updates will continue to be sporadic as life can get in the way. Anyway, I'm sure you don't want to hear me blithering on any longer, so please read and review and have a great 2018! 3



Chapter Seventeen

You Jump, I Jump

I woke up late in the afternoon the following morning, feeling dazed as I came out of my dream. Glimpses of Hermione swam foggily across my eyes and I rubbed them fiercely as I sat up and inspected my surroundings. The space next to me was empty, the comforter rolled back and wrinkled from where Hermione's body had previously been. When had she left?

The previous night was a hazy blur to me, muffled by fine wine. For just a moment, I believe that the letter from St. Mungo's was a sick figment of my imagination but when I glance at my bedside table, it's still where I left it, stuck back in its envelope, and my stomach drops again. I take the letter into my hands once more and read through it twice more, just to solidify that what I was reading was true.

She'd gotten worse. They were assigning a small but qualified healer crew to the manor, as she was too weak to travel to the hospital. Suddenly, I felt very sick, completely aware of how stupid I was being - running away to the French Riviera to trollop around the beaches and pretend like everything in my life was fine... meanwhile my mother was fading away in the bleak, cold confines of Malfoy Manor, all alone.

It hits me just then how selfish I'd been. How very real my situation was, how close my mother was to perishing, just like my father. And how urgently I needed my mother better. Anxiety gripped me fiercely and for one moment I felt like I would be sick, realizing that I would have to speed things up with Astoria if I had any hope of attempting to save my mother.

It was too much, it was all just too much. The pressure, the pace of everything, the people involved, and poor, poor Astoria... but I would do anything for my mother.

Suddenly, a picture of Hermione swam across my vision and I immediately relaxed, my shoulders sagging, my breathing less labored. All of a sudden, she was the only thing I wanted to see, hear, and exist around, and I willed myself to get it together. Enjoy one last day before traipsing back to England and starting the rest of my blackmailed life.

The villa was still and quiet, my footfalls the only sound as I stepped out into the foyer in search of her. The floorboards were cold against my bare feet as I crept curiously into the kitchen, half expecting to see Blaise and Ariana. Instead, I found the kitchen to be empty, except for a single sheet of notebook paper sitting atop the granite countertop of the center island.

Bonjour, my sweet friends!

Blaise and I have gone sailing (seriously, how spontaneous is this guy? I almost can't keep up!) and will be gone until later this evening...maybe?

I really have no say in this, so don't give me that look, Hermit!

I'm sure you two will find something exciting to do with your time together.



"I was wondering when you would wake up," came a voice from behind me.

I turned to find Hermione in the doorway leading out to the beach, an amused smirk toying at the corner of her lips. She was wrapped up in a floral silk robe, cinched tightly around her waist, and her curly hair was knotted riotously at the top of her head.

"That was the best night's sleep I've ever had," I sighed gratefully, stretching my arms above my head.

Hermione's eyes swept over me, narrowing in on the piece of paper in my hand.

"I see you've found Ari's note."

"I wasn't expecting to be ditched so quickly," I chuckled in response, setting the note back down on the counter.

I watched her closely as she swayed over toward the refrigerator and opened the doors to inspect what was inside. She shut it a few seconds later, pouting.

"Looks like they decided to help themselves to all of our leftovers, too," Hermione grumbled. "Including my chocolate mousse cake."

"Filthy thieves," I scoffed teasingly, smirking easily at her. She strode over to me and whacked me on the shoulder.

"What the merlin was that for?" I demanded, rubbing my shoulder.

"I was looking forward to that cake," she whined.

"Bloody hell, Hermione, it's just cake," I snorted.

"Chocolate cake, mind you," she clarified. "Big difference."

"I'll get you another chocolate cake, good grief. Stop whining already. It's making my ears bleed."

"Oh, stuff it," she laughed, knocking me with her hip as she passed me. "Well, I'm famished, and as there's no food, I vote we go to the market and purchase some groceries."

"You going to cook me lunch, Granger? How romantic."

"Nope. You can make your own food. Better yet, you can cook for me."

"What if we cook together?" I suggested as a compromise.

She rolled her eyes in my direction and headed toward the stairs. "We should get dressed. Go look in your closet. I'm sure you'll find something decent to wear inside it."

I frowned in confusion and followed her up the stairs.

"Muggle clothes? Really?" I complained, re-entering the kitchen several minutes later. "This is what you decided to make me wear? Is this what you picked out at the boutique?"

Hermione giggled and my eyes flickered over toward her. She was dressed in the sundress I had picked out for her and a pair of tan wedges.

"Is that the dress I picked out for you?"

She twirled slowly, causing the edges of her dress to wrinkle upward. I clawed at my collar.

"You like it?" she hummed and then smiled at me. "I thought it was only fair we wear what we picked out for each other. I'm glad you're upholding your end of the bargain."

She sauntered over to me, fiddled with the collar of my button up shirt.

"See, it's even green," she commented, adjusting the top button. "I thought that would make you feel more comfortable. And you still have fancy trousers, so you can still feel all uppity and stuff."

"How kind of you," I deadpanned.

She giggled again and grabbed her purse from the counter.

"You can hold the list," she stated, slapping a piece of paper at my palm. "I'll apparate us."

They enjoyed a picnic basket of seasonal fruit, an assortment of French cheeses, and fresh-baked baguette on a grassy cliff overlooking the ocean. Hermione had long since kicked off her wedges, wiggling her melon green toenails through sharp blades of jade grass. A peaceful wind caught hold of her hair, flinging it momentarily into her eyes.

"Mm, I'm stuffed," she sighed contently, twirling a wayward tendril of hair around her finger. "Should we head back to the villa, see if Ariana and Blaise are back yet?"

I raised my eyebrows at her. "Trying to get rid of me so soon? You didn't even save room for desert."

Her lips parted in surprise and her eyebrows drew together, forming a little 'v' between them. Without waiting for me to further explain myself, she drew the basket into her lap and surfed through it. I watched in amusement as a small gasp emitted from her mouth and she withdrew the treat I had purchased at the market when she wasn't looking.

"You were taking so long at the cheese vendor, you didn't even notice that I'd left," I told her, remembering how impatient I'd been as she'd obsessed over each block of aged cheese. "Who knew you were such a cheese connoisseur?"

"But where did you find chocolate mousse cake in the middle of the afternoon?" she inquired, eyes gleaming with child-like excitement. "Also, I am not a cheese connoisseur. My father is. Cheese tasting was one of his favorite activities when we vacationed in France several years ago and ever since, he makes a point to express his knowledge about it at every family function."

"Sounds cheesy," I comment and she rolls her eyes at me. "And it's France, Hermione. I can find any pastry I want whenever I want, always. Just like cheese."

She had to have been too excited about the cake because she didn't even have time to thank me before spearing a large and greedy forkful into her mouth. She let out a low and satisfied moan, her head dropping back a little and her ocher eyes rolling to the back of her head. The reaction did startling things to the lower half of my body and I shifted uncomfortably, taken off guard. The same reaction had happened to me the previous night while watching her eat at the restaurant.

"I'm being so rude," she suddenly chastised herself, mouth still full of chocolate cake. She collected another helping of cake and passed it over to me.

"You're sharing with me?" I balked, remembering how reluctant she'd been the night before to part ways with even one small piece of her cake.

She shrugged and prodded the fork toward me again. "We've shared before."

I accepted her offering happily and passed the fork back to her. We continued on that way for several quiet moments, until the entire cake had been demolished.

"You've got chocolate on your cheek," she snorted all of a sudden, pointing at my face.

Self-conscious, I fumbled around my face for the chocolate. "Have I got it?"

She laughed loudly and it echoed around us like bells in the breeze. Before I could even gather what she was doing, she darted forward, licking the pad of her thumb, and rubbed the chocolate off of my face all on her own. A shock of electricity erupted through me when she touched me and I scuttled back in surprise. The air was heavy above us.

"It's going to rain," Hermione whispered reverently, lashes fluttering closed. She took in a deep breath and smiled. "I can smell it."

"It's sunny," I reminded her.

She hummed in response, ignoring my statement, and when she opened her eyes again, they were gleaming with mischief.

"I'm going to jump off that cliff."

I balked at her again, certain I'd heard her wrong. "What?"

Ignoring me still, she scrambled to her bare feet and set off toward the edge of the cliff. Realizing I had heard her right, I trailed after her in alarm.

"Wait, you're serious?" I cawed. "You can't just jump off a bleeding cliff, Granger. You're going to break your neck! Are you suicidal or something?"

"Please," she laughed, waving my comments off. "Have you ever heard of a bucket list?"

When I continued to stare at her like she'd lost her mind, she began to explain it to me.

"It's a list that you compile throughout your life about all the things you want to experience or do before you die," she explained to me.

"And jumping to your death is one of the items on your list?" I bleated.

"It'll be fun!" she gushed, glancing out at the water.

"I've always thought you to be a bit nutty, but I never expected you to be certifiably insane enough to plummet off of a tall cliff and break your neck and call it fun."

"Don't be such a baby. I'm not going to break my neck. We aren't even up that high," Hermione told me, untying the sash at the back of her dress. "Will you grab my zipper?"

"You're not seriously doing this?" I scoffed disbelievingly and when she continued to wait for me to unzip her, I folded my arms and glared. "No, I will not unzip you. There's no way I'm letting you kill yourself."

She shrugged and reached behind her to unclasp her dress, managed to wriggle the zipper down low enough to reveal her aquamarine bathing suit underneath, and shifted the dress up off of her shoulders, tossing it back toward the picnic basket. "Draco, stop being a drama queen," she laughed, shoving me playfully.

Anxiety rippled through my abdomen as I swayed from her push. The waves below were crashing against the bottom of the cliff and it made me dizzy.

"You could always join me," she offered.

"Are you an adrenaline junkie or something?" I clipped in response.

"Draco, it's perfectly safe. People do it all the time. Look, there's no rocks below and we aren't up that high, and the weather is perfect right now. Haven't you ever wanted to do something daring like this?"

"I'm a Slytherin, we aren't daring or stupid, for that matter," I replied.

She took a step forward and suddenly, everything in me shrieked at me to grab her. My arms encircled her waist and practically pulled her up off the ground in my haste to get her away from the cliff's edge.

"Draco, put me down!" she insisted, somewhat irritated. "Put me down, now!"

"I can't, you'll die," I wheezed desperately. "I - I don't want you to die."

She sighed heavily and relaxed in my arms enough for me to feel safe enough in putting her back on the ground, though my arms remained locked around her waist, afraid she would dart off the cliff at any moment and die, ruining a perfectly pleasant afternoon.

She wiggled around in my arms until she was facing me and slapped her palms against the sides of my cheeks. For one split moment, I thought she might kiss me, but instead she just stared at me.

"What are you so afraid of?" she wondered softly. "Are you afraid of the water or something? That can't be it, I've seen you swim."

I swallowed harshly.

"It's the height, isn't it? You're afraid of heights."

"I'm not afraid," I scoffed.

"Right, then you won't mind coming over here to the edge with me," Hermione reasoned, and before I knew what was happening, she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the edge.

"Stop, stop, stop! Granger, bloody hell, I said stop! Oh - Holy Merlin - sweet, sweet Salazar - STOP!"

She halted suddenly and sighed. "So you are afraid."

Stubbornly, I remained stone-faced.

"Draco, honestly, it's going to be okay. Haven't you ever wanted to face a fear and conquer it?"

I thought of home, of the empty and lonely manor, of my dying mother.

"Yes," I croaked out. "But facing it sometimes makes things worse..."

"You have the power over it," she said softly, squeezing my hand. "The more power you give the fear, the more control it holds over you. It's totally freeing to be able to let go of what you're holding onto. By letting go, you actually gain the control."

"Right, because you're so bloody wise," I snapped, more out of anxiety than anger.

"Look over there, to that neighboring cliff," Hermione pressed, turning our bodies toward the cliff in the distance.

A group of ten or more people were on the cliff, all laughing. Two by two they ran toward the cliff's edge and flung themselves off, some hand in hand, some were pushed by trickster partners, others did flips. None of them seemed afraid, and one by one, each of their heads popped up from the water's depths with a smile, completely alive and looking exhilarated.

"See? They're fine. No danger."

"You're not doing it." It came out as a command, hard and final.

"I am," she countered simply, wrenching her hand from mine and stepping out to the edge so that her toes dangled off. "With or without you, so... are you coming with me?"

I stared at her hand and then back to the ocean below, and gathered all that it meant. My father, my mother, Astoria, Voldemort... everything I'd been through and all of my fears crashed down upon me and I felt like screaming but I was drowning. I'd been drowning for so long... I couldn't bear it for one more second.

"You jump, I jump, right?" I heard myself utter, taking her hand.

It felt strong and small in mine, and full of hope. I know she remembers the quote I'm referring to, from the film we'd watched together a while back.

"Right," she matched, smiling knowingly.

And with a flourish, before I can even catch my breath, we jumped, fingers still entwined.

We headed back to the villa, soaking wet and laughing giddily from what we'd just done together. I carried the picnic basket in one hand while Hermione carried her wedges in hers, but halfway through the walk back to the villa, our empty hands found each other's and on instinct, our fingers locked again. It felt different now, comfortable and easy, and I found that I rather liked the way her skin felt against mine.

"There you are!"

Hermione and I paused on the slope leading down to the villa, surprised to see Ariana waving at us from below. Almost instantaneously, our hands broke free from each other and a small blush crept up Hermione's cream cheeks.

"We've just got back," Ariana explained eagerly, kissing Hermione on the cheek and then turning to do the same to me. "Blaise is just tying the sailboat at the dock. What have you two been up to? You're soaked!"

"Cliff diving, shopping for cheese, conquering our fears, the usual," Hermione said and shared a wink with me as Ariana snorted and mumbled something close to 'yeah right, like you would ever do any of that' in French.

With a flick of her wand, Ariana had dried both of us, just as Blaise appeared behind her.

"Afternoon," he greeted, nodding at me and Hermione with a slow smile.

"While we were sailing we noticed this amazing little carnival happening and thought we'd go," Ariana expressed excitedly. "Would you like to join us? I mean, unless you both had plans - "

"No, we'd love to go," Hermione said quickly and then turned red. "I mean, Draco can speak for himself. I would love to go. I haven't been to a carnival since I was a little girl."

"I'd like to come, as well," I said, smirking at her. "Should be fun."

"Wonderful! Let me just go change and we'll head out," Ariana gushed, pulling Hermione with her. "Help me pick out what to wear, Hermit."

As soon as Ariana had disappeared into the villa, Blaise turned to me with a mischievous glint in his eye and said, "The dress you picked out for her looks good on her, don't you think? It's nice to see she likes your taste."

"I noticed you weren't in your room last night when Blaise and I got back."

Hermione froze, halfway through a lick of her strawberry ice cream cone, and her eyes zapped right to me.

"She came to give me a letter that was mistakingly delivered to her," I said in explanation. "We talked for a bit."

"But you weren't in your room when I dropped by this morning to tell you we were going sailing, either," Ariana continued.

"I must have been on my morning walk," Hermione artfully lied. "When I came back, you'd already left."

Ariana looked as if she wanted to keep pressing for details but then she saw something in the distance and began to jump up and down in excitement.

"Look, a Ferris wheel!" she screeched in delight. "We have to go."

My stomach knotted almost instantly as we approached the giant metal wheel. Hermione was at my side within seconds, patting my shoulder.

"I'm not fond of heights, I'm afraid," she lied and I stared at her gratefully. "Besides, it's awfully romantic at the top. Why don't you and Blaise go on ahead and Draco and I will catch up with you after?"

"But what will you do?" Ariana pouted.

"Erm...go get our fortunes read?" I suggested, finding the closest attraction near us.

"Hermione hates that kind of stuff," Ariana argued.

"I don't hate it," Hermione protested. "I just don't think it's accurate. But it'll give us something to do while you ride the wheel."

"Well, okay," Ariana finally conceded. "If you're sure."

Hermione waved them off and began pulling me toward the fortune teller's tent.

"This is all your fault," she grumbled. "Out of all the absurd things we could have done, you just had to pick the stupidest thing in the entire carnival? I'd rather ride the wheel."

"Thanks for fibbing for me," I said quietly. "I appreciate it."

"It's nothing," she said. "I know that Blaise would give you a hard time about it for days."

"Months," I corrected. "And we don't have to do the fortune teller thing, it's just the first thing I saw."

"No, no, I already said I'd go," Hermione sighed. "Besides, Ariana's going to want to hear all about it once we're done."

"By the way, you owe me for the cliff jumping," I told her.

"Aren't I paying for that right now by doing this?" she scoffed, gesturing toward the tent we were standing in line in front of.

"You're hilarious," I deadpanned. "No, I'm going to get you back for it, just wait and see. A stupid fortune teller at a carnival isn't going to cut it, Granger."

She rolled her eyes and then held out her ice cream cone. "You want the rest? I'm full."

I shook my head. "Don't like strawberry."

Her eyes widened. "You're the nutty one."

I took her cone from her and stepped briefly out of the line to toss the remains in a nearby bin. When I returned seconds later, it was our turn to enter the tent. The attendant outside stamped our hands and opened the flap for us to enter. As soon as we did, I coughed at the strong perfume in the air. It smelled like old lady and moth balls and gardenia.

"Smells like my great nan," Hermione choked out, scrunching up her nose. When she spotted the fortune teller - decked to the nines in an abundance of jewelry and a fancy headscarf, complete with a crystal ball - Hermione let out a long sigh.

"Please, take a seat," the fortune teller said, gesturing to the two purple velvet pillows a the foot of the circular table. "My name is Madame Kaiza. Please, place your hands upon the seeing glass so it can familiarize itself with your auras."

Hermione and I shared an amused glance and kneeled down next to each other, each placing our hands against the crystal ball.

"Lighten up," I whispered in her ear. "Afraid I'm going to find out all your deep, dark secrets?"

"Shut up," she hissed back at me and pulled her hand off of the crystal ball.

"Now, let us begin," Madame Kaiza said dramatically and places her hands above the crystal. "I can feel that you two have a very strong bond. But there's a history here, a dark and painful one. I'm picking up that this connection is new to you."

"I'm sorry, what connection?" snorted Hermione.

"Hush, child," snapped the fortune teller irritably. "It is not time for you to speak."

Hermione sat back and looked as if she wanted to say something but I squeezed her hand and she huffed out a cloud of displeased air instead.

"Destiny is definitely at work in both of your paths. Young man, I'm so terribly sorry..." The fortune teller glanced at me with saddened eyes and to my surprise, they seemed very sincere. She's a wonderful actress. "It's very hard losing a parent, especially someone you looked up to for so long and wanted to please so desperately."

My blood ran cold. Hermione slowly turned to me but I refused to look at her.

"Things did not end well between the two of you, I'm seeing, and you still carry a longing to fit his expectations even though you realize you are very different from those expectations. You have struggled immensely trying to find your place in this world. I sense you are in great distress over something and torn between two sides of yourself."

"Aren't you supposed to be telling us our futures or something?" I croaked out. "Not our pasts?"

"Both past and present and future are connected, my dear. It is all a part of Destiny's plan."

Once again, Hermione snorted.

"You laugh because you do not believe in 'destiny'," Madame Kaiza assumed, turning to Hermione. "Not even the Angel of Destiny?"

Next to me, Hermione goes still.

"H-How do you - know about that?" she breathed out. "That was only between me and - "

"Your mother, yes, I know."

Hermione stared hard at the fortune teller, jaw clenching.

"It's a silly children's tale, anyone who is mildly religious or enjoys mythology must have read it at some point."

"May I see your hand, child?" Madame Kaiza asked abruptly.

"What for?" Hermione wondered suspiciously.

Madame Kaiza did nothing but smile, waiting patiently. I elbowed Hermione slightly in the ribs and with a sharp and frustrated sigh, Hermione finally gave in and placed her hand in Madame Kaiza's. The fortune teller's eyes closed and she breathed in deeply, her eyebrows knitting together as if she was seeing something either confusing or perplexing, maybe even both.

"You have been through much heartache. What bravery you have...but such brokenness, such sacrifice."

Hermione was openly glaring now. I couldn't understand why she was getting so frustrated. It was just a stupid bit a loony lady was putting on for show.

"You are also torn between two sides of yourself..." Madame Kaiza whispered. "And there's another piece...farther back. Tell me, have you been having any strange dreams recently?"

"I beg your pardon?" Hermione scoffed.

"Dreams, child. Have you had any that strike you as odd? Maybe a scene or two that feel vaguely familiar to you?"

"Um, sure? Everyone does."

"I'm seeing a chapel and I'm hearing a song..."

The fortune teller began to hum an unfamiliar tune but it seemed to register with Hermione almost immediately. Madame Kaiza goes very still and seemed to grip Hermione's hand tighter.

"And I'm seeing a cliff... and a young man that you must let go... and another young man..."

Madame Kaiza's eyes widen and she glances at me, squinting, before returning her gaze to Hermione.

"There's an entire world out there that you have yet to touch on," the woman whispered, her coffee brown eyes glazing over. Draco had to admit, she was doing a very good performance. "There are many paths for you, Hermione, but only you can choose the path you are destined for."

"How do you know my name?" Hermione hissed. "I never told you my name." She turned sharply to me. "Did you tell her my name?"

I shook my head, alarmed by her ferocity.

"Trust that your destiny can change."

"I don't believe in destiny," Hermione snapped but halfway through her statement, she trailed off, realizing that Madama Kaiza was saying the same thing.

Hermione appeared to grow very pale and her face scrunched up, almost as if she was remembering some distant memory.

"Something like what we have can't be kept down once it's been started. No matter what we'll always find a way back to each other."

I could feel Hermione shaking beside me but what I didn't expect was that same quaking to start in me, as well.

"I believe we are meant to be, and one way or another you will come to realize that, whether it be an act of destiny or choice, or something of a higher power," Madame Kaiza quoted monotonously, but something in her words sent me reeling. I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of deja vu. I could have sworn I'd heard these very words before, almost as if I'd spoken them myself.

"We were meant to cross paths," I quoted in time with Madame Kaiza.

" - and even if we die this very instant, we'll find each other again."

"Our souls are connected... " I whispered, completely floored.

"Enemies, friends, lovers, whatever it may be - "

Just as Madame Kaiza spoke these words, Hermione jolted and turned straight toward me, eyes wide in disbelief. There were tears brimming in the surface of her ocher orbs, a slew of emotions in them - anger, fright, familiarity, and something else.

"I can't live my life without you in it."

As soon as I had uttered those words, Madame Kaiza drew in a deep breath, and both me and Hermione returned our glance to the fortune teller. And for one startling moment, Madame Kaiza looked like a different person, much younger, with angel blonde hair tucked under her headscarf instead of graying black, and it looked as if her eyes had turned an icy shade of blue.

But then I blinked and the woman was back to normal, looking deflated and confused.

"I apologize," the fortune teller said, clutching her head. "I seemed to have spaced out for a moment. Where we were?"

Without another word, Hermione leapt from her velvet cushion and sprinted out of the tent.

"Is she all right? Was it something I said?" Madame Kaiza wondered in concern.

"I'm not sure," I rasped, also rising to my feet. "I should go after her."

"Before you go, I kept hearing these little voices... maybe you'll know the names?" Madame Kaiza said. "Haden and Jasper?"

I swallowed roughly, suddenly very uncomfortable and wanted nothing to do with the creepy fortune teller for one more second.

"I've never heard those names in my life, sorry," I said before scrambling out of the tent in search of Hermione.

When I exited the tent, I had to raise my arm above my face from the sudden onslaught of sunlight. When my eyes had finally adjusted I called out to Hermione, expecting her to be waiting off to the side for me.

But she was gone.

Ariana and Blaise found me wandering the carnival calling for Hermione and let me know that Hermione was on her way back to the villa and seemed upset about something but refused to talk about it. Ariana insisted on staying but I feigned a migraine and excused myself. When I arrived back at the villa, the sun was starting to set upon the horizon. After searching the villa up and down and finding it empty, I resigned to leaving Hermione alone, since clearly she didn't want to be found.

Still feeling on edge myself from the events in the fortune teller's tent, I decided to take a ride on one of the extra brooms in the cupboard, and after making sure all the security projections were up so that no muggle could see me riding, I took off into the melting sherbet sky. The wind smacking against my face was a welcome feeling and within minutes, all my worries and concerns were gone, leaving my brain in a blissful cloud of nothingness.

I eventually found myself at the cliff I had jumped off of earlier that day and touched down on the soft grass. The air was damp and heavy and when I looked to the sky again, I found rumbling purple clouds shifting in toward the villa.

"I told you it was going to rain," came a soft voice from behind me.

I jumped, turning about, and released a deep sigh of relief when I saw Hermione curled up against the grass, knees to her chest.

"Are you okay?" I wondered.

Ignoring me for the umpteenth time today, she crinkled her nose and said, "How is it that you're afraid of heights but are perfectly fine being on a broomstick, flying around like that?"

"I don't really know, maybe because I know I can control it and touch down any time I want to. When I'm up there, my mind goes quiet and everything just kind of disappears. You'd think I'd be more afraid of flying."

"I'm afraid of flying," she admitted. "I have a hard time letting go and enjoying it. It's the same with rollercoasters."

"What's a rollercoaster?" I wondered.

"It's a muggle ride, like flying a broom but you're seated in a metal car and strapped in."

"Sounds complicated," I said. "So, let me get this straight, you're perfectly content to jump off a cliff into frigid ocean water but riding a broom scares you?"

She skewered me with an irritated scowl. "And riding a broom doesn't get to you but jumping off a tiny little cliff does?"

"Touche," I gave in.

"I can never make my mind go quiet," Hermione sighed.

"It's really quite simple. You just focus on the wind and the movements of the broom. You want to try?"

Hermione shook her head furiously. "No way."

"You owe me," I reminded her with a smirk. "Didn't you say something earlier about facing your fears?"

I was expecting some kind of retort, expecting some kind of argument or protest, for her to put up more of a fight. Instead, she leapt to her feet and strode right over to me.

"Fine. Let's get this over with," she bit out, obviously very nervous.

"Get on behind me and hold on to me," I instructed.

"I know how to board a broom," she snapped.

I smiled as the broom dipped down under her weight.

"Okay, we're going to take off on three so hold on tight. One, two - "

I kicked up swiftly and felt her arms constrict tightly around my torso, so tight that it was hard to breathe for a moment. She shrieked loudly, emitting several swear words that I never thought I'd ever hear erupt from her mouth. I liked seeing her lose control like that.

"I want to go back down, I don't like this," she squealed unhappily as I made a loop around the villa. "This was a mistake!"

"Hermione, open your eyes," I said.

She made an indignant noise in her back of her throat but I could tell she had done as I told her to. I felt her relax against me and her slow exhale against the back of my neck.

"It's...beautiful," she breathed out.

I slowed down the pace so that she would relax more and we circled around the villa, the cliff, and over the ocean. The water was a shiny tangerine and rippled calmly below in the timid evening breeze. Just when I'm about to ask if she's still alive because of how quiet she's been, she surprises me with a question.

"Do you want to get married?"

"Um - what?" I stammer, not thinking I've heard her right.

"One day, I mean," she corrected.

"Are you asking me to marry you? Is this the moment? I thought you'd propose a little better than that, Granger, I have standards."

I yelped as her hand connected with my head. "Don't be a prat, Draco. I meant in general, not to me."

"Would marrying me be so bad?"

She huffed impatiently, annoyed with my games. "Considering your entire bloodline hates muggleborns and you detest my best friend, probably. Just answer the question."

"Maybe one day, if I meet the right person," I answered off of instinct, shrugging. Then, I remembered Astoria and my contract to her father and suddenly marriage was the last thing I wanted.

"I was almost married..." Hermione said off-handedly. "To Ron."

"I know, I saw the papers. A lot of people thought you were pregnant."

"Why?" she squelched.

"Because it kind of seemed rushed. Again, I'm only relaying what the papers said."

"I was rushing into it because it seemed like the only option at the time," Hermione admitted. "I felt like if I didn't do it, our relationship was going to fall apart, and that the only way to make him happy was to be married, to forget about the war and all the chaos in our lives, and be the person he wanted me to be."

She was quiet for a long while before she spoke again.

"We were supposed to honeymoon in the country."

"That's boring," I snorted. "You didn't pick that location, did you?"

"How'd you know?" she wondered.

"I just feel like you'd be bored out of your mind, cooped up in a little house in the countryside with nothing to do but watch the grass grow. Every day we've been at the riviera you've been doing something new, making memories and experiencing the culture."

"I always wanted to go somewhere exciting - see the elephant sanctuary in Thailand or visit the ruins in Belize or tour the pyramids in Egypt."

"Well, you'll make that happen next time around, I'm sure of it," I assured her.

"And you?" she asked me. "If you had to pick somewhere to go, where would it be?"

"Greece," I answered quickly and then after a moment, added, "or Italy."

"I've always wanted to visit Italy," she sighed wistfully. "But I don't think I'd like to do it on my honeymoon, unless we had a long honeymoon, so that I could tour everything on my bucket list - Florence, Venice, Tuscany, Rome. The food and the artwork...It would be a dream."


Hermione hummed, coming out of her reverie. "What?"

"You said, 'unless we had a long honeymoon'," I explained.

"Obviously I meant whoever I end up marrying in the future," Hermione scoffed, smacking me again. "I'm not marrying you, you dolt."

"Why not? We could run off to the chapel down the beach and get hitched. Ariana and Blaise can be our witnesses," I joke and to my amusement, she chuckles.

"I would want my family there, and my friends," she told me. "My mother already likes you. My father, however... well... I haven't really spoken to my father since our falling out before I left for France...and Ginny's not speaking to me..."

She trailed off sadly and I hated the way she deflated. Desperate to see her happy again, to hear that chuckle again, I said, "Well, fine, I suppose families could come. But if that's the case, the cake has to be made of cheesecake. It's my favorite. And there has to be dancing."

"Absolutely not," Hermione squawked, taking the bait, and immediately her mood shifted. "I'm left-footed."

"It's tradition at all magical weddings for dancing to take place. Every single member of my family has danced a waltz for the first dance as husband and wife."

Hermione made a noise in the back of her throat, clearly revolted. "I want chocolate mousse cake, with raspberries."

"But cheesecake - "

"- is disgusting," she cut me off with finality.

"Fine, then I get to pick where we live," I stated stubbornly. "You can't just pick everything."

"I can, too!" she protested.

"It's our wedding, Hermione, not yours."

She gave an adorable huff and then giggled at the absurdity of it all. "Fine, Draco, do tell - where would we live?"

"I would want to live by the sea."

"I could live with that. My parents live by the sea. A cottage would be nice - with shutters."

"I'm not living in some small cottage," I scoffed, displeased by the idea.

"Well, I'm certainly not living in some ostentatious manor."

"And I'm not living in a cramped beach house."

"Fine, then something with space but modest," Hermione conceded. "Maybe a nice tudor style, with a walk-out balcony and French doors, and a rose vine."

"And a library," I added and she gasped.

"How'd I not think of that? Yes, of course we would need a library."

"A nice fireplace," I added, thinking of the large hearth at home. "And I would need a study so that I could research my alchemy interests."

"I want children," Hermione shared. "At least two. I hated being an only child."

"Two children," I agreed. "Names?"

"Well, if it were a girl I have an affinity for the name Rose, or maybe Christine - Phantom of the Opera is my favorite musical and I've always adored the name - or perhaps a Charlotte."

"Such basic names," I complained. "I don't want my children having boring names. You know, most of my family members were named after constellations."

"I don't want my children having a ridiculous name," Hermione rejected.

"You have a ridiculous name, might I remind you."

"Yes, and I was made fun of most of my childhood because of that, thank you very much," Hermione huffed. "You would have been made fun of, too, if the wizarding world weren't so odd and old-fashioned about everything. What would you name them, then?"

"I'd like the middle name of my first son to be after my father," I expressed, and the statement shocked even me.

"Of course, that would be a lovely sentiment to him," Hermione agreed. "Even though I never particularly enjoyed your father."

"No one did," I chuckled darkly, my mood dropping.

"And the first name? Any ideas?" asked Hermione, perhaps noticing my drop in enthusiasm.

"I never really thought about it," I confessed and then all of a sudden something the fortune teller had said came to mind. "I did hear a name today that I thought sounded good for a boy."

"Well, what was it?" she pressed.

"Jasper," I responded slowly.

Hermione went still. When she finally spoke again, there was a quiver to her voice. "Jasper... Jasper Lucius."

"Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?" I said. Hermione's arms went slack around my waist for the first time since we'd taken off.

"I'm feeling a little funny," she said. "Do you mind if we head back down to land?"

Her arms tightened against me again as we made our descent and in the silence, I realized just how much I enjoyed her being so close. And for the first time all evening, the reality of our conversation hit me like a ton of bricks. The equally unsettling thing was not the fact that she and I had had a conversation about our futures, nor the fact that in our conversation, our futures were intertwined in marriage with children and a house by the sea... but that I could actually envision it, quite clearly. Every detail.

And what scared me most of all...

Was that I wasn't scared of it at all.

As soon as our feet touch the ground on top of the cliff, the purple clouds came undone and released a stream of moisture into the air. Raindrops fell as they may, dancing downward and pelting our faces.

"I told you it would rain!" Hermione gushed, poking me hard in the chest. "You didn't believe me." She began twirling around, exceptionally giddy in the sudden downpour, face lifted toward the sky to meet the rain eagerly.

"What's wrong?" Hermione wondered, coming to a stop in front of me, panting hard, a smile still plastered to her face.

She looked remarkably carefree and child-like in that moment, like the person she would have been without war, or worry, or fear of failure. I wondered what it must be like to be a normal person, just a regular muggle, with no blood contract and no obligations, no Death Eaters and no scars and no Voldemort. I remained quiet, feeling a swell of electricity building up inside of me. It was almost as if I couldn't breathe. The reality of what I was feeling was crushing me.

"Draco?" she pressed, grabbing my hand.

A shock ricocheted through me, straight into her, and both of us jolted, frightened and excited and confused and breathless.

"You feel it too, don't you?"

Her eyes fell to the ground, to the water pooling in the grass around our feet, to her hand still clutched in mine, and nodded.

"Hermione," I heard myself whisper.

"I hate my hair," she said numbly, raising her other hand to her drenched and frizzy locks. "It's always such a mess, but the rain is only going to make it worse. Maybe we should head inside?"

"I love your hair," I expressed, not wanting her to disappear, not wanting this moment to be over.

"You're nutty," she laughed nervously, trying to rib with me again like we had been earlier.

"Hermione, listen..." I trailed off, grasping her other hand so that I held both of them. "I felt something just now, something I can't explain - something I felt earlier, and maybe you felt it, too. In the fortune teller's tent."

Her hands began to shake in mine.

"Something we've been feeling for a while...something we've been running from."

"A connection," she continued for me. "Draco, what you and Madame Kaiza said in there... how'd you know what she was going to say?"

"I really have no idea," I told her honestly. "I just felt like I'd heard it somewhere, like I'd dreamt the words before or something..."

"I felt the same way, you see," Hermione said quietly. "That's why it scared me so bad. I've never felt anything like this before, Draco. It's like - like - "

"Like our souls are connected," we said in unison.

There was a sharp crackling in the air around us. As if on auto-pilot, we both took a step toward each other, our hands still embraced. We were so close I swore I could feel her heart racing in time with mine. And then all of a sudden, we were one. My lips sought refuge in hers, desperate and seeking and hungry and full of electricity. The wind howled against us, rain shattering upon our drenched skin, and I felt like I was dying and I felt like I was drowning and the only chance of survival was through her, in her skin, in her hair, her mouth, her soul, and I felt like I was on fire and frozen in ice all at the same time, and like I'd never been more alive in my entire life, never been so high. Nothing, nothing I'd felt in my entire life was compared to this moment, to the feel of her warmth, her trembling, her urgency - the same as mine - against me.

I would never be the same.