Draco whistled as he showered the next morning, feeling very pleased with himself. "I kissed Hermione Granger," he said as though he'd met a life-long goal—maybe it had been. But now all he wanted was more. His old-fashioned bathroom in the lodge had a window in the shower and he looked out of it on the sun and snow with anticipation.
A bird suddenly fluttered into view. It was a purpose-driven owl. But the only two wizards here were he and Hermione. It turned from him so that meant...Now that he thought about it, he'd seen that little brown owl before...no.
He got out of the shower and dressed quickly then pounded down the steps to the main room of the lodge. Hermione wasn't there.
"I should've just killed the damn thing," he said harshly about the courier, desperate now to find someplace not filled with people so he could Apparate to her.
He was finally able to do so, then beat his fist on Hermione's door until she opened it. Her look and the letter in her hand told him more than he wanted to know. He stomped in and saw her bag sitting on the floor in the middle of the room.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked her in a deceptively calm voice.
"Shh," she said, casting a Muffliato charm toward her parents' room.
He looked in the crack of the door and saw that they were packing also. "You weren't even going to tell me you were leaving?"
She shook her head. "I wanted to avoid a scene. It's just time to go."
"You're lying," he said, accusation darkening his tone. "You're going back to Weasley."
"Alright," she admitted, stuffing her bag into a much smaller one, "yes, I am."
He looked at her with disappointment. "Hermione, don't do this."
"I'm sorry, Draco," she said, walking around him, "but Ron has my heart. He always has."
Draco paced in frustration. "That's because you haven't given me time to..." He moved closer to her and placed his fingers on the side of her head and closed his eyes.
Hermione felt as though she couldn't move. Draco had continued his practice of Occlumens and Legilimens techniques, begun with his Aunt Bellatrix, and was now quite good at it. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"I want you to see what it could be like for us," he explained. She watched as his serious grey eyes became warmer, like flannel.
"You'll have a nice life with Weasley, but we could have so much more—the laughter, the understanding and compatibility, passion. You can see it, can't you?" he said, as his lips moved over her face. "You can feel it." He grasped her in a tight hug, kissing her as though it were his last opportunity.
She pulled away breathless and lowered her eyes. "It doesn't matter."
"Of course it matters," he said, trying to capture her gaze.
"No," she insisted, turning away from him, "It doesn't matter because I'm going back to Ron. He needs me."
Draco moved behind her and put his arms around her. "How do you know that I don't?"
Hermione helplessly leaned back against him for a moment, almost succumbing, then she turned in his arms. "Because you're at a Muggle ski lodge," she said with a small smile, her fingers outlining the strength of his jaw. "You take care of yourself, and you adapt." She took his hands and stretched her arms, increasing the distance between them. "I'm very proud of you."
Draco attempted to move closer again but she resisted. "I don't want this to change the progress you've made. Not everyone from the Muggle world is as...unreliable...as I am."
He realized she'd made her decision. "What about them?" he asked, indicating her parents' room.
"They're coming with me. We've all been invited for Christmas dinner at the Burrow."
"Oh, well won't that be the picture of family togetherness," he said snidely.
She sighed in resignation.
"We could go anywhere together, Hermione," he said in a last attempt to win her over. "We could go away from everyone who doesn't appreciate us as much as we do each other."
"No," she said with finality, leading him to the door. "I've chosen the nice life with Ron and my family and his. I hope you find your own."
He looked back at her from his side of the open door. "I have no doubt that I will. But it will never be as good as what we could have had. You don't recognize that now, but you will some day."
He left and Disapparated from the lodge, returning to the cheerless Malfoy Manor.
Hermione brushed the tears from her face and removed the charm on her parents' door. "Mum, Dad, are you ready? Good, just stuff your bags in here...Yes, it will fit, Dad, I swear. Alright. Now both of you just hold my hand and we're off to the Burrow. I can't wait to see Ron again," she said, as she smiled at her mother and felt her squeeze her hand.
"So that's little Scorpius," Ron said. Hermione, stooped down to clean her young son's face, looked up at the name.
"Make sure you beat him in every test, Rosie. Thank God you inherited your mother's brains."
"Ron, for heaven's sake," Hermione said, "don't try to turn them against each other before they've even started school."
Other images began to run through her mind—of her and Draco on this platform with their own children, pressed lovingly against each other, eager to hurry back home to a newly-empty and cheerful house.
"Stop," she said in her mind. He wasn't even where she could see him and he could still make her see so much.
"I just want you to finally admit it," she heard his voice in her head. "You have a good life; I have a good life. But together we could've been so much..."
The images continued to flash in her mind—some sweet, some sexy, some heart-breaking, all centering around her and Draco, loving and supporting each other in a life that offered so much...
She sighed and whispered, "more".