Hermione would recognise his voice anywhere, though she hasnt
heard it since he received his pardon. Malfoy!
The years, she notices, have been kind to him, adding an attractive
self-assurance to his always-striking looks.
I didnt realise you worked at the Museum.
Only on Sundays, she replies, Im a volunteer.
Anything to keep myself busy.
Ive come to see the new picture, he says.
Its through there. She points towards the next
room, but Malfoy gestures, inviting her to go in before him and,
although she knows she should be downstairs, patrolling the Mediaeval
rooms, theres something so commanding about him that, feeling
a bit like Crabbe or Goyle, she escorts him through the door.
The little painting, on short-term loan from its anonymous owner,
hangs in splendid isolation against a moss-green wall.
Hermione watches Malfoy lean in, and look closely.
It depicts an ancient thatched cottage in a field of waving corn.
Im told, she says, that the weather changes
with the seasonsand I have seen it rain...
It makes you feel, he says, straightening, and stepping
backwards, as though you could just walk into it, and leave
all this crap behind.
Hermione looks up at him, curiously. But he doesnt return
her gaze and, after a moment, she leaves him to his contemplation.
For the next few weeks, their Sunday mornings follow the same
He arrives early, seeks her out, and herds hersomehowtowards
the painting, where they stand, side-by-side, exchanging pleasantries.
You feel as though you could walk into it, he says,
for possibly the twentieth time.
Id never thought of you as the country type,
I live in the country, Granger.
You live in a great big stately home, Malfoy.
He laughs, and turns towards her, smiling; their eyes meet, and
his smile slowly fades; he leans in closer, closer, and
Hermiones eyes widen.
Shes heard rumours that his marriage is over...
Someone enters the room and, suddenly, theyre yards apart.
Ive been doing some research, he says, the
following Sunday, andhes so excitedhis hand
cups her elbow as he guides her up the staircase.
When they reach the gallery, he glances round, making sure theyre
alone, before he pulls out his wand and points it at the painting.
Malfoy! Magics forbidden in the Museum.
Its all right, he says, Im a Trustee...
He takes a moment to compose himself, then, Penetro.
Hermione gasps. Nothings visibly differentthe
picture hasnt obviously changedbut, nevertheless,
she knows its possible.
Malfoy grasps her hand. Ready?
They take a step together, and then another, and then...
Theyre standing in late summer sunlight!
In the weeks that follow, they return again and again to the
paintings magical world.
There, theyre just Draco and Hermione,
a young man and a young woman, unencumbered by the past. When
they open the ivy-covered gate and follow the narrow track to
the little cottage, they feel at home.
They work togetherusing magic for only the most difficult
taskslearning how to harvest the apples, and thresh the
corn, and harness the horse to the cart; learning to gather the
eggs, and brew the ale, and bake the pumpkin pasties in the wood-fired
And the larders always magically stocked with hams and
cheeses and jars of pickles, and the cottage is always warm and
cheerful, a place of happiness.
Sometimes, Hermione goes into the sweet-smelling bedroom, and
looks at the bed, with its carved bedposts and its lovingly-stitched
quilt, and wishes
Come on, says Draco, poking his head through the
window, Ive got the grain on the cart. Lets
go to the mill.
Theyve rambled along the road for miles in each direction,
and found a village, with a tavern, a market, and a circulating
library, found a little church and, further on, a water mill,
and Hermione doesnt know if theyll ever find an end
to this world.
But one thing she does know is that, every week, it gets
harder and harder to leave it.
In late October, the sign reads Final Day. The paintings
going back to its owner.
Their last visit, spent tending the garden, is bitter sweet.
And perhaps thats why, when theyre walking back to
the gate, Draco suddenly catches Hermiones hand and pulls
her into his arms and why, when she responds so eagerly, he lifts
her up, and carries her back to the little bedroom, and they make
love there, like husband and wife.
Next morning, whenreluctantlythey decide they must
return to the real world, they find the way shut.
It doesnt take them long to work out that the paintings
been taken down from the wall and sealed in a crate.
Winter comes, and they stoke up the fire, and celebrate Yuletide,
decking the rooms with holly, and inviting their neighbours to
feast and make merry. Januarys hard but, eventually, the
thaw comes, and Spring brings green shoots, and fragrant blossoms,
and wobbly-legged lambs.
Hermione packs a basket with bread and cheese and a jug of ale,
and covers it with a cloth. Dracos digging a ditch, which
is back-breaking work, and he wont use magic, and wont
let her helpshe strokes her rounded belly, smiling contentedly.
Lets go and feed your daddy.
Draco meets her half way across the cornfield, pulling his shirt
on as he walks, and she can see immediately that somethings
wrong. What is it?
Were out againthe pictures on a wall
Her heart lurches. Do you want to go home? she asks,
Do you? He takes the basket from her and,
giving her his arm, leads her to the gate.
Together, they stare out into a cold, dull room. I
asked you first, she says.
He sets the basket down and turns to her, drawing her into his
arms and holding her close, and he murmurs into her wayward hair,
I think weve found our home, Hermione.