Six Weeks Later.
The courtroom in the Ministry was packed as Millicent's trial came to an end. For the past fortnight, the case against her had been put forward, and every day the courtroom was packed. As well as the families of her victims, the press were present to report on the trial. At the beginning of the trial, Millicent had pleaded guilty, meaning no defence was mounted and the trial basically consisted of the Ministry presenting their case against her. However, the Ministry had presented all the information available to them, and Penelope had testified in Millicent's defence.
"This has been a difficult few months for everyone involved in this case," Kingsley said, beginning his summing up of the case. As head of the Wizengamot, he'd been presiding over the trial and it was time for him to announce the verdict and sentence. "Miss Bullstrode has pleaded guilty, and the Wizengamot accepts her plea. We are confident she committed these murders, and was fully aware of her actions. However, there is no denying that she is suffering from acute mental health issues. It would be remiss of us to ignore her mental health issues. Therefore we're sentencing Miss Bullstrode to life imprisonment, beginning with interment in the St Mungo's psychiatric hospital. If there comes a time when Miss Bullstrode is fit to be released from the psychiatric hospital, she will be transferred to Azkaban."
The St Mungo's psychiatric hospital was a new addition to the building, and had a secure section for the more vulnerable patients. Millicent would be housed in the secure section, and apart from when she was receiving treatment she would be confined to a basic room. Her hospital stay would be every bit as much of a punishment as being sent straight to prison. The only difference was, she would get a chance to sort out her mental problems and hopefully regain some of her sense of right and wrong. Even though she'd pleaded guilty, she still didn't regret her actions and still maintained that if given the chance, she would do exactly the same thing again.
Even though Kingsley's verdict had been what everyone was expecting, the courtroom was still filled with quiet chattering as the trial came to a close. The reporters were deciding how best to report the story, while the family of her victims were trying to accept the verdict. Before the trial started Harry and Draco had personally spoken to everyone who'd lost a loved one and explained the situation. They'd made sure everyone knew that the most likely outcome was Millicent ending up in the psychiatric unit. Although Kingsley had made things easier by announcing she would be transferring to Azkaban if she was ever released from hospital. It was definitely a comfort to the families of her victims, knowing she would never again be a free woman.
Once Millicent had been escorted out of the courtroom, everyone else was free to leave. Hermione, Draco, Harry and Ron had all arrived at court together and they left the gloomy courtroom alongside Draco's friends, Theo, Blaise and Daphne.
"Well it's over," Theo sighed as they reached the atrium.
"I know it's not easy, but justice was served," Draco said to his friend, giving him a reassuring pat on the back. "Millicent will spend the rest of her life locked up."
"I still can't believe that was the same girl we went to school with," Daphne said sadly. "Millicent was so shy and sweet, but she's nothing like that now. She's a monster."
Even though no-one quite agreed with Daphne, they didn't bother arguing with her. Since finding out that Millicent's murderous rampage was fuelled by her not recognising her at the book singing, Daphne had been eaten up with guilt. Combined with the fact that Astoria had used the lipstick meant for her had almost pushed her over the edge, but luckily Blaise and her friends had been there for her. They'd continually told her that none of this was all her fault, and finally she was starting to believe them. Six weeks after Millicent's capture, she was beginning to see that she wasn't responsible for the actions of other people.
"I was thinking we could all do something this weekend," Blaise suggested, trying to lighten the mood. With Draco and Hermione's romance going great guns, their friends had gotten to know one another and they often did things together.
"Like what?" Theo asked. He was still grieving for Pansy and didn't join in with the group as much as the others, but he was slowly joining them more often.
"I don't know," Blaise admitted with a shrug. "How about you all come round for dinner tomorrow night."
"Ginny and I will be there providing Molly can watch the kids," Harry said.
"I'll be there," Ron said.
"Count me in," Theo said. He was more comfortable just going round to Blaise and Daphne's house, so he was more than happy to say yes to the invitation now he knew they weren't planning on going out.
"Draco, Hermione?" Blaise asked, turning to the couple.
"We were planning on spending the weekend naked, but I suppose we can put on clothes for a few hours," Draco replied.
"Don't let us put you out," Blaise laughed. "If it's easier we can have a naked dinner party."
"I don't think so," Daphne scolded. "I'm not showing off my assets to my friends."
"Yeah, naked dining doesn't sound like much fun," Theo added. "Imagine if you dribbled gravy in your lap. Ouch!"
"We're perfectly happy to put on clothes," Hermione reassured the group as they chuckled at Theo. "We'll be there for dinner."
After making arrangements for the following evening, the group went their separate ways. Theo, Blaise and Daphne exited the Ministry, while Harry, Draco and Hermione all headed off to their offices. With the trial, they'd all been juggling work with being down in the courtroom, but they needed to make sure everything was in order before leaving for the weekend.
"I'll meet you in the atrium at five," Hermione said to Draco as the lift stopped on her floor. "Don't be late."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Draco answered as his girlfriend alighted the lift and the doors snapped shut behind her.
"You're so whipped," Ron laughed as the trio continued on up to the next floor. "Hermione has you just where she wants you."
"And what makes you think it's not where I want to be?" Draco asked good-naturedly as they stepped out of the lift.
"You certainly seem happy," Harry remarked. "Even if Hermione is the boss."
"Have you two learnt nothing from watching me," Draco tutted. "I'm the boss, I just let Hermione think she's in control."
"Please, we all know Hermione is the boss," Ron snorted. "She's always the boss. She ran rings around us two in school, and she's doing the same to you now. Hermione is always in charge."
"You'd be surprised how much control she's willing to give up," Draco remarked with a wicked grin.
"We don't need allusions to your sex life," Harry said, holding his hand up in protest so Draco didn't share too much.
"Why not, it's a good sex life," Draco chuckled.
"I'm sure it is, but she's still our best friend," Ron replied. "We have no desire to hear what you and Hermione get up to in the bedroom. At least not in too much detail."
"But yet it's okay for you to regale us with tales of your sex life?" Draco queried. The friendship between him, Harry and Ron was growing steadily and they happily indulged in the sort of banter he shared with Blaise and Theo.
"Of course," Ron replied in mock seriousness. "I'm not sleeping with one of your best friends. Or your sister," He added, looking at Harry.
"Hey, I don't share that much," Harry protested. Inevitably he spoke about Ginny when they were chatting, but he was always very careful not to say too much in front of Ron.
"When it's your little sister, a tiny bit is too much," Ron retorted. "Especially since you've been trying for another baby. I don't need to know how my future niece or nephew was conceived."
With the banter flowing back and forth the trio spent the rest of the afternoon finishing off their work, before they went their separate ways. Harry was eager to get home so they could contact Molly and see if she could have the kids the following evening, Ron was rushing off to get ready for a date, while Draco was meeting Hermione so they could spend a quiet weekend together.
"Are you ready?" He asked, approaching his girlfriend as she waited for him in the atrium.
"I am," Hermione replied. "I'm looking forward to spending the entire weekend with you."
"Although we will now have to spend tomorrow night with our friends," Draco pointed out as they headed for the fireplaces.
"You're just annoyed because we'll have to put our clothes back on," Hermione laughed.
"We did agree to spend the entire weekend naked," Draco pointed out.
"We can do that any weekend," Hermione replied as she grabbed some floo powder.
Draco let Hermione floo to his penthouse first, before he followed her through the fire. When he emerged from the fire in the front room, he found Hermione had already discarded her jacket and bag and was stepping out of her heels. Even though they didn't live together, and were trying to take things at a reasonable pace, they still spent almost every night together.
"I'm glad today is over with," Hermione declared as she sank down onto the sofa.
"I think everyone is," Draco said, joining Hermione on the sofa. "Finally we can move on and put this nightmare behind us."
"I like the sound of that," Hermione said, snuggling into Draco who wrapped his arm around her.
"Me too," Draco agreed, dropping a kiss to the top of Hermione's head.
The couple sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Hermione looked up at Draco and gave him a seductive grin.
"Weren't we supposed to be spending the weekend without clothes?"
Draco grinned back at his girlfriend. "Yes, we were. If you stand up we can make that happen."
Getting off the sofa, Hermione watched in amusement as Draco quickly shed his clothes. Once he was completely naked, he pulled Hermione closer to him and began to slowly undress her. Hermione closed her eyes and revelled in Draco's touch as his hands caressed every inch of flesh he exposed.
"I love you when you're naked," Draco remarked as he pulled Hermione onto his lap. Hermione's eyes locked with his as he spoke, and suddenly the atmosphere took on an intense feeling. Reaching up, Draco tenderly brushed his finger down Hermione's face "I love you, Hermione," He whispered, saying the words for the first time in their relationship.
"I love you too," Hermione replied, equally as quiet.
Smiling at each, Draco and Hermione took a moment to revel in the new step they'd just taken together. They'd both been aware that the 'L' word was coming, but it didn't prepare them for actually saying and hearing it. Having it said out loud to one another, confirmed how serious they were about one another and what hopes they had of a long term relationship.
"I love you," Draco repeated as he pulled Hermione's head down to his and their lips met softly.
The tender kiss soon gave way to passion as their naked bodies reacted to one another. Within a few minutes they were expressing their love in a different way as their bodies expertly moved together as they made love on the sofa.
A/N – I want to say a big thank you for everyone who has taken the time to read this story and especially to those who've left feedback. I'm pleased the story captivated people's attention, and I hope this small epilogue ended things off nicely. Thanks again for reading, not only this story but my other stories as well. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my amazing readers – I really couldn't do this without all the amazing support I receive from the wonderful people on this site.