Epilogue – Day 4,870
September 1, 2011
The midmorning late summer sun was beating down furiously on the formal gardens of Malfoy Manor when Hermione stepped outside for a late breakfast. Most of the family had already eaten but Lucius allowed her to sleep in after a particularly trying late night with their four month old son who'd recently decided it was time he cut his first tooth. She sat up rocking the crying baby and doing whatever she could think of to provide him with some relief. While she was certainly grateful that Lucius had been thoughtful enough to keep the noise level down in the manor until she was ready to wake on her own, she wished he wouldn't have on that day of all days.
Their eleven year old son Ryan would be leaving for his first year at Hogwarts that morning. As any mother would, she wanted to spend every moment with her son before he left for several months. Lucius teased her that she was more excited about Ryan attending school than he was. They both knew how much she loved her years at school with her best friends.
It had been four thousand eight hundred and seventy days since she lost both Harry and Ron in the Great Hall of their loved school after a failed battle against Lord Voldemort and his forces. Four thousand five hundred and ninety-nine days since Lucius rescued her from the freezing streets of Inverness. Four thousand one hundred and sixty days since the war was finally over and their first child was born. Three thousand eight hundred and forty-four days since she and Lucius finally were married. And then only one hundred and thirty-nine days since they were finally able to welcome their second child Arthur Harry into the world after a series of heartbreaking miscarriages through the years.
Snuggling little Artie closer to her chest as she crossed out into the gardens to the breakfast table that was always set up outside during warm weather, Hermione smiled at the sight of two young blonde girls, aged four and seven, playing near the fountains while their father Draco kept one eye on them and one eye on the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.
"Good morning, Draco," she greeted as she sat down in an empty chair next to him. "Anything interesting this morning?"
"Morning," he replied. "Yes, actually there is. Looks like our old acquaintance Thorfinn Rowle has finally been captured."
The mention of the Death Eater who kidnapped her and attempted to rape her twice always put Hermione on edge. The massive blond wizard had gone into hiding with his younger sister following the final final battle of the last war. Snippets of information had been discovered over the years, reported sightings around the world, but never any hard evidence of his whereabouts. He was one of the last unaccounted for Death Eaters still on the run from justice.
"Really? Wow. Only took eleven years."
"He should be extradited for his trial any day now. Father will be heading to the Ministry tomorrow to speak with Kingsley. He's concerned you might be called to testify."
"Nothing to be concerned about. If my testimony is required, I will be happy to provide it. Whatever will get that man in Azkaban or to his execution."
She released a loud exhale. Rowle was the only Death Eater she had been afraid of returning when she least expected it to wreak havoc on her life. Somehow she knew that even eleven years wasn't enough to tamper that man's rage against her.
"Where's Luna?" she asked suddenly desperate for a change in conversation.
"She's resting. Poor thing hasn't been sleeping well at night."
"Yes, well, the last few weeks of pregnancy are uncomfortable and exhausting."
Draco peered over his newspaper to raise an eyebrow at her in much the same manner that his father often did.
"As are the first few weeks, I'm given to understand."
Hermione's cheeks flushed red at her stepson's comment. Was it that obvious?
"How did you guess?" she asked.
"Granger, I'm going to be a father of four in just a few days. I think by now I can recognize the signs. Does Father know yet?"
"No, I wanted to wait to tell him."
"I didn't want him to get his hopes up. You know what my past has been like," she answered as she willed herself not to burst into tears. Her lost children would always be a sore subject to her. "And besides, Artie is only four months old. I didn't want to embarrass Lucius just yet with a baby so soon after the last one."
Draco burst out into the loud, warm laugh so much like his father's that Hermione had grown to love over the years.
"First of all, Hermione, you don't look the same as you did with the other babies. Until you were pregnant with Artie, you never looked healthy pregnant after Ryan. You look more like you did when you first found out you were going to have Artie. I'm certain this baby will be perfect."
"Thank you, Draco."
"And as far as Father being embarrassed? He's going to be bloody thrilled! You know his desire to have a large family. Of course if we aren't careful we Malfoys will become just as prolific as the Weasleys."
Draco shuddered at the thought while Hermione laughed.
"Where is Lucius?" she asked after taking a quick survey of the grounds and only seeing the two girls.
"Xeno took him down to the pond with Ryan. He claims he found a nest of dabberblimps and wanted to show Father so he could be sure to protect them from the dogs while he is away at school."
"What on earth is a dabberblimp?"
"Haven't the foggiest."
Their chuckles gave way to a companionable silence while Draco finished his paper and Hermione enjoyed her tea. Artie was happy to sit in his mother's lap and smile at his nieces.
"Pandora Lyra Malfoy!" Hermione shouted at the older of the two girls who was busy dunking her laughing little sister in the fountain. "You get your little sister out of that fountain immediately!"
"Dorie, Cissy, mind your granny," Draco added.
Hermione turned her fury to Draco to glare at the slightly younger man.
"You foul, loathsome…"
He just continued to laugh at her expression. This was a game he'd enjoyed playing for over eleven years.
"Is that ever going to get old for you?"
"It hasn't yet," he answered with a wink.
"I'm not even thirty-two yet."
"To be fair, Hermione, you did marry a man who was already a grandfather,"
"A sexy grandfather!"
Draco winced at the comment. It was Hermione's turn to laugh at his discomfort.
"Did you ever think all of those years ago in Hogwarts that one day you and I would be best friends, Draco?"
"I probably would've hexed you if you'd made such a ridiculous prediction," he replied. "I've been meaning to talk to you about your choice of friends by the way.'
"Yes, it seems that you don't have nearly enough of them. Having "girl talk" with the woman who is married to your father can be quite awkward at times."
"I can imagine," she teased.
"Yes, it is. I would prefer if you could wait until Luna is in the mood for a proper chinwag. I'm certain you would both have a great deal to say to each other about the sexy beasts you both married."
Draco winked at her over his cup of coffee. She snorted in a very undignified manner that caused them both to burst into another round of laughter. Interested by the chuckles, Pandora and Narcissa Malfoy joined their father, step-grandmother and baby uncle at the table. Draco rolled his eyes at the dripping state of little Narcissa's clothes. He waved his wand to dry her immediately.
"Why don't you girls go to the kitchen and see if Tildie needs any help feeding the dogs?"
Any excuse to play with the three massive dogs that the family had accumulated over the years was always welcome by any of the Malfoy children. Indeed the adults in the family were often the same way. Dorie and Cissy ran excitedly into the house through the familiar kitchen door Hermione entered her very first morning at the manor years earlier.
"Are you nervous about Ryan leaving?" Draco asked. "You remember how Luna was last year when Xeno left for his first year. I worried for a short time that she would be rushing off to Hogwarts to bring him home before the year was over."
"I think I am all right," she answered. "I just hope that the other students are kind to him."
"You know, Hermione, as much as we both hate the term, Ryan's year and Xeno's year both have lots of "Umbridge Babies"."
Hermione stiffened at the mention of the term. She was aware of the fact that the babies conceived during the short time period that the Umbridge Home for Young Ladies was open were Ryan and Xeno's age. It was a part of their nation's past that no one talked about openly. A shameful secret that many wished they could sweep under the rug. Unfortunately, there were many families, including the Malfoy family, that were directly affected by the Umbridge Home.
"I was concerned about Xeno going to Hogwarts last year. Technically, he is one of them. He is definitely the best case scenario. Very, very few of the biological parents of those poor kids married," Draco continued.
"Ryan isn't one."
"No, he's not, but he doesn't look anything like the Malfoy family. You know there have been rumors and gossip about him his entire life. Despite how obvious it is to everyone who sees them together that Father loves Ryan dearly, it's not escaped anyone's notice that he's not biologically a Malfoy."
"This is all old news, Draco." She didn't understand where he was going, but she wished he'd hurry up and get there.
"Headmaster Sprout takes any threats of bullying very seriously. I won't deny that I like a Hufflepuff as Headmaster. She has been very protective of all of her students. Last year when the first hint of bullying towards an "Umbridge Baby" came to her attention, she nipped it in the bud. Unlike Headmasters in the past, she doesn't ignore the bad behavior.
"Xeno told me a few incidents early in the year with some of the first years. Professor Sprout took care of it swiftly and let the entire school know that there was no reason to shame or attack innocent children. Whether you like it or not, Ryan is probably going to be clumped together with the other children who don't look anything like their fathers."
"Yes, I'll admit I've been a little nervous about how he would be treated."
Draco reached across the table to squeeze her free hand.
"He will be fine. Pomona will make certain of it. She is very protective of her students."
Hermione and Draco continued their companionable silence as they completed breakfast. Before Hermione could finish eating her eggs with the one hand that wasn't wrapped around her baby, the morning owl post arrived. A small, non-descript brown box the size of a snitch fell into the middle of her plate.
"He's a bit early this year, isn't he?" Draco asked, not even bothering to look at the box on her plate.
"What do you mean?" Hermione pretended she didn't understand what he was asking.
Draco lowered his newspaper to divert his whole attention to Hermione.
"Hermione, don't play dumb with me. It's not convincing."
"We have lived in this manor together for over eleven years, Hermione. Every year, twice a year, on Ryan's birthday and on September 6th, you receive a small brown box in the owl post."
He snatched the box off of her plate.
"And when you open the box…"
He lifted the lid.
"A large bouquet of fifteen, always fifteen, pink camellias appear."
The bouquet appeared in the center of the table just as Draco promised.
"There's never a note explaining who they are from," Draco continued.
He reached across the table to pluck the single white card from the middle of the flowers.
"All it ever says is a single word. 'Rescisco'. Obviously a spell of some sort, but I've never heard of it."
Hermione ripped the card out of his hands. She looked it over before placing it in the pocket of her robes.
"It's a tracking spell," she explained. "Something I created when I was hoping Lucius could rescue me from Antonin's cottage."
Draco continued to stare at her with the penetrating gaze he had only perfected over the years. It used to make her nervous, but she had grown used to the intense manner he stared at others when he was trying to understand their thought processes.
"Why would he be sending you a tracking spell?"
Hermione cleared her throat and handed the card back.
"Tap the card and recite the incantation."
Draco followed her instructions. Immediately the card began to glow and the coordinates 51.5309⁰ N, 0.1233⁰ W appeared on the card.
"If Ryan and I ever need to contact him for any reason, this card will show us the coordinates of whatever item he has charmed. It could be another piece of paper or a piece of jewelry or even his wand."
"Interesting. And the flowers? You are aware of the meaning of pink camellias, aren't you?"
Hermione's cheeks flushed crimson once more. She dropped her eyes to her plate. Yes, she was well aware of what pink camellias signified in the language of flowers. Longing for you. Their discussion was cut short by the sudden appearance of Lucius with Xeno and Ryan following close behind.
"We can discuss this further," Draco whispered.
"I don't imagine that will be necessary."
Xeno was walking a few steps ahead of Lucius and Ryan, turning behind him frequently to impart them with some additional knowledge. His dreamy manner was exactly like his mother. Of their three children already born, Xeno looked most like his father and behaved most like his mother. Their entire family loved him dearly for all of his eccentricities. When Xeno would turn back around, Ryan and Lucius would catch each other's eyes and smile. Lucius placed his arm around Ryan's shoulder. It always warmed Hermione's heart when she could see her husband and their son have an entire conversation using nothing but their eyes and the expressions on their face.
"Good morning, 'Mione. Are you feeling well?" Xeno asked after giving Hermione a soft peck on the cheek. He had the most formal and endearing manners of any twelve year old.
"Thank you, Xeno. I'm doing well."
Draco excused himself and his son from the breakfast table. He wanted Xeno to take one last look around his room to make sure he hadn't forgotten to pack something important before he spent the last bit of the morning before they left with his mother. Luna was not sure she would have the energy to make it to Kings Cross Station that year.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Hermione asked her men with a sneaky smile.
Ryan and Lucius both burst out in laughter.
"I love my nephew, but he can be very strange," Ryan answered while he greeted his mother and little brother with a kiss each. "I'm not sure what he found down at the pond or what a dabberblimp is. Last week he swore that he found an infestation of wrackspurts in the attic."
"Xeno simply has an active imagination," Lucius said. He loved his grandson with a passion and didn't like it when others teased him too roughly. "Perhaps one day he will discover some new, interesting species of animal that will prove beneficial to our world."
Lucius leaned down to kiss his wife and baby son in much the same manner Ryan just had. Artie reached his arms out towards his father. Without hesitation or a second thought, Lucius took him from his mother's grasp.
"Are you fully packed, Ryan?" Hermione asked. "We can send you anything you forget in the owl post, but it'll be much easier on the owls if you can make sure they are in your trunk first."
"I think so," Ryan answered. He sat down next to Hermione at the table.
"Are you excited about your first year?" She asked when she noticed that he was retreating into his serious thoughts. Sometimes her eleven year old son could be a bit intense when his mind was fixated on something.
Ryan wasn't convincing either of his parents.
"Is there something bothering you, son?" asked Lucius. "You were more excited yesterday. Are nerves getting to you?"
"I guess so."
He didn't want to continue the conversation but his parents knew him well enough to know when he had something grave on his mind. Hermione put an arm around his shoulders to pull him closer to her in an embrace.
"What's bothering you, Ryan? Is there something your father and I can help you with?"
"I guess I'm nervous about what House I am going to be sorted into."
Hermione met Lucius' eyes over their son's head. Both tried to suppress the smiles that threatened to cross their countenances. This was perhaps the most common fear that any first year attending Hogwarts had.
"I wouldn't mind being in Slytherin like you, Dad or in Gryffindor like you, Mum. Ravenclaw would be all right. I'd get to be in the same House as Xeno. But what if I get sorted into Hufflepuff?"
They both almost lost their composure trying to keep their laughter in. Neither of them wanted their son to think that his concerns were invalid or ridiculous, but they both thought his concerns about the House of Helga Hufflepuff were funny.
"The Weasleys say that it's a House full of duffers!"
Lucius forced down his laughter to put on a stern, serious face.
"Ryan, you were named after a Hufflepuff…"
"Yeah, Kingsley's told me about him before." The boy wasn't convinced by that argument.
"Then you know what a brave man he was. Without Ryan's assistance, your mother would have been captured by the enemy during the last war. We owe him a great deal. He fought bravely at the Battle of Azkaban. There is no shame in being a Hufflepuff. Your mother and I will be proud of you regardless of what House you are in."
"Even if I'm a Hufflepuff?"
"Yes, son, even if you are a Hufflepuff."
They did laugh at that. Hermione sent Ryan off into the manor to double check that he had packed everything. Lucius sat down in his vacated seat with an exuberant Artie waving his chubby arms in his father's face.
"What House do you think he will be in?" Lucius asked.
"Ravenclaw," they both answered together with a chuckle.
Lucius leaned over in his seat to kiss his wife on the cheek.
"I have something I need to tell you," she announced. "It looks like we are going to have another baby."
The smile he had on his face was immediately wiped off. He stared across the table with a scowl.
"Sometimes I think my life would have been easier if I just walked away in Inverness and let them catch you."
Hermione was offended for half a second before she saw the smirk cross her husband's face. She swatted him on the arm before joining him in the laughter.
"Easier, yes, but not nearly as happy."
"No," he agreed. "Not nearly as happy. That is wonderful news, my darling. I have been suspecting for a few days now."
He winked in her direction.
"I'm glad you are pleased."
"Why would I not be, Hermione? Children are a blessing."
Platform 9 ¾ was as busy as it ever was on September 1st. Children of all ages ran up and down the busy platform searching for their friends and hunting for their lost pets. Draco entered the magical platform first with his hand firmly wrapped around Pandora's. He never trusted his eldest daughter for a moment alone. She had the tendency to get in a trouble if not supervised closely. It was no secret that in four years when she entered her first year, she'd be sorted into Slytherin as swiftly as her father had been. A bulky, slow-moving Luna followed behind with little Narcissa. Xeno pushed his trolley through the barrier like an old pro.
Ryan watched his nephew disappear behind the barrier with wide eyes. Determined that he would not embarrass himself, he took off at a run. His parents were just seconds behind him. Sometimes Ryan could act much older than his eleven years, his mother observed for the millionth time in his short life. He was overly confident at times in his abilities. Once he pushed his trolley over to the attendants loading the baggage section of the train, he walked nervously back to his parents and his young age became apparent once more.
"You are going to have a wonderful time, Ryan," Hermione promised. She pulled her son into her arms and began to cry. The damn pregnancy hormones were making what was already going to be an emotional experience even more so.
"Mum, stop!" Ryan begged when she started kissing both of his reddened cheeks. "People are watching!"
Hermione reluctantly released her self-conscious son. She couldn't remember ever being that uncomfortable with physical affection from her own parents, but then again, she'd never been an eleven year old boy. Lucius stood in front of Ryan to extend his hand in a formal handshake. Ryan seemed relieved by the stoic gesture. He grabbed hold of his father's hand. Lucius immediately pulled the young boy into his arms for a big bear hug and to plant at least three large kisses on Ryan's head. Ryan struggled against the much stronger older wizard while both of his parents laughed.
"Dad, stop!" he shrieked. Lucius released him. "People are watching."
"Nonsense, Ryan," Lucius replied. "And even if they were, witches like sensitive men confident enough to show their affection in public."
Hermione sniggered to herself as Lucius began to explain the benefits of letting eligible females know how thoughtful and considerate a young wizard is. During his mini-lecture Hermione felt an odd sensation as if someone were watching her. Unfortunately considering her role in the last war and her marriage to Lucius Malfoy, she often experienced that feeling in public. She turned around in the direction she thought it was coming from.
In a darkened corner of the platform half-hidden in the shadows stood Antonin Dolohov. Hermione would've recognized him anywhere. He was eleven years older, just as she was, and had grown in a full beard that was beginning to be streaked a bit with grey, but even at the distance she could see his dark brown intense eyes. She should've known that even forced exile wouldn't keep the man from seeing his only child leave for his first year at Hogwarts. Hermione smiled at the wizard. He smiled in return.
The signal indicating that all students needed to be aboard for the imminent departure of the train sounded. Ryan allowed both of his parents to hug him one final time before he ran off towards the scarlet Hogwarts Express. Lucius placed his arm around Hermione's shoulder for an extra bit of support as they watched their child head off towards his first year at school. Hermione looked back behind her to the darkened corner as the train exited the station but found it to be empty. A quick survey of the platform showed no sign of Antonin.
"Let us go home, my darling," Lucius suggested.
She allowed her husband to lead her out of the train station. The Christmas holidays could not come soon enough for her.
Enjoyed this? Check out the second completed story in this Universe. The Dark Mage's Captiveis the alternate retelling of this story. Instead of being saved in Inverness by Lucius in the first chapter, Hermione is captured by Antonin. The stories are vastly different. The first chapters may start off exactly the same way, but they are not the same. (Most readers have told me that actually prefer that story to this one and to be honest, I kind of do too.) : )