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And you say you’ll sew me good as new
And I know you will 

November eighteenth.

Hermione checked the last of the shelves for customers before giving Anna the okay and heading back into her office.  She signed three last order slips before putting together her closing folder.  Jane walked in just as she was holding it up, and she snatched it out of her hand before disappearing back into the store.

“So, you have no idea?  Gosh, the man does love surprises,” Anna said, collecting her jacket and scarf, “Did he tell you how to dress, at least?”

“Nice, but not too nice.  I’m going with a short dress.  The red one.”

“Oh, I love that one.  The one that goes, like, mid-thigh, right?  The strapless one?”

“With the layered pattern, yea.  Black heels and a black coat.”

“Not your usual Doc Martens,” Anna teased, hooking her arm with Hermione’s once the other witch had bundled herself up.

“Those are unbelievably comfortable, so shut up.  Alright, have a good night.”  Hermione embraced her friend before releasing her to the fireplace where Anna used the Floo Network.  Hermione checked to make sure Jane had left the store before locking up and apparating back to the manor.

When she got in, all the lights were off except in the kitchen, and she followed them into where Draco was bent over something.  “Stop peeking, and go get changed!” he yelled without looking up.

Hermione sighed, smiling, but did as instructed.  When she was ready an hour later, her hair was tumbling down in soft curls and she’d applied grey makeup on her eyes.  “Where are we going?” she whined for the hundredth time, pushing him into the counter playfully.

“I can’t tell you,” he said brushing his hair back off his forehead and not looking up again, “Are you ready?  We’re catching dinner first.  We’re on a schedule, though.”

“What are you reading?” she queried, leaning over.

He snatched it away before she could figure it out, cleared his throat, and put his back to the counter, “I’ve been standing at the window, feeling waves of tiredness beat the remaining strength from my body.  The floor seems to be undulating beneath my feet.  I’ve been watching the first gray light bring into view the park and the bridges over the vanished lake.  And the long narrow driveway down which they drove Robbie away, into the whiteness.  I like to think that it isn’t weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end.  I gave them happiness, but I was not so self-serving as to let them forgive me.  Not quite, not yet.  If I had the power to conjure them at my birthday celebration… Robbie and Cecilia, still alive, still in love, sitting side by side in the library, smiling at The Trials of Arabella?  It’s not possible.  But now I must sleep.*”

Hermione watched his face for a moment before smiling softly, “I remember that well.”

“I never read it to you,” he said, frowning, finally meeting her eyes.

“After I’d read it, one of the Snatchers, Scabior, came by, and he said something about the Malfoy Manor.  I knew you were okay.  I knew you were alive.  It was the first time I’d said your name since we’d parted.  I remember reading and rereading that paragraph.  I couldn’t stop.  I didn’t want to.”

“This will always be my favorite book, just because of you.”  She kissed him lightly, smiling the whole time, until he straightened them and was suddenly all business.  “C’mon, like I said, schedule.”

“Ugh,” Hermione teased, but she took his arm nonetheless and let him lead them to dinner, book forgotten on the counter.  It turned out to be a beautifully romantic date, where they laughed and acted as though they were so young, barely out of school, and their waitress even smiled happily down at them when she left their check.

But it was the next stop that really made Hermione confused.  Draco apparated them next to a movie theatre, and she blinked, looking over at him in wonder, but he just smiled and tugged her inside.  He already had tickets, which also surprised her, and he flashed them to the ticket person as they walked by.  It was an old-fashioned, handsome theatre, one she’d only been to a few times with her parents, and, even then, only when she was young.  He seemed to know his way around it, though she didn’t question him on this.

When they were seated, the chatted for a while longer until the lights dimmed, and they watched through the previews uninterestedly.  They weren’t much of movie goers, especially in the Muggle world, and they knew they wouldn’t be back to see any of these.  Finally, though, whatever he was meaning to show her began.

The sound of a typewriter came first, and letters clicked through the background.  Hermione let out a soft noise when Draco suddenly titled her face toward his, distracting her from the title, and she looked up in time to catch the frame of a dollhouse.  The camera slowly panned away, following a trail of plastic animals until it settled on a little girl with a blonde bob in a chair, typing away.  She had incredibly blue eyes that stared at the words THE END.  She’d just finished some piece of writing, and Hermione cocked her head, incredibly curious.

And there it was.

The Trials of Arabella by Briony Tallis.  The title on the front page of the girl’s—Briony’s—work stuck out like a sore thumb.  Hermione’s eyes widened as Briony stalked off out of her room and through the house, and she squeezed Draco’s hand.  The music in the background clicked like a typewriter, matching Briony’s sharp turns and deliberate movements.

“I finished my play,” Briony said, and Hermione gasped.

This couldn’t be.

And then there was Robbie, leaning against an outside doorway, brushing off his shoes before he laced them on.  Hermione almost fell over.  She turned to look at Draco, who was watching her with a brilliant smile.

“I love you,” he whispered.

He had taken her to see Atonement.


Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.  Lyrics from Set Down Your Glass belong to Snow Patrol.

*These lines are the respective property of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement.

As I post this, the first chapter of Frivolous Thoughts goes up, and the first chapter of February Stars will follow two days later!

Where do I even begin?  There are so many of you that I want to thank, and I don’t even know where to start.  This has been one hectic journey.  It has seen me through some tough and some wonderful times, but it’s always been there, in the back of my mind.  Thank you, to every single one of you, for making this story what it was, and for giving it a chance.  Your reviews have meant everything to me, and I am forever grateful.

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