Chapter 9: Epilogue
The weeks before Christmas brought the snowiest weather Wiltshire had seen since the the big blizzard of 1963. All around the manor, the landscape was transformed into a winter wonderland. The trees bowed in submission to the flurries; the fountain in the garden was festooned with tapered icicles. The ley lines deep in the earth hummed the ground into a temporary slumber, it already being tucked snugly beneath its blanket of snow. James loved it. Having lived in London all his life before he and Hermione came to live at the manor, he reveled in the glistening whiteness that went as far as his eyes could see. There was no mush, no dirty snow thrown up onto the sidewalks by passing vehicles. Everything was pristine…..clean. He was outside as much as his parents would allow; helping Skippy gather fresh snow to make snow cream, sledding down the hills with Draco, or bedeviling the peacocks whenever they wandered from their shelter. James' naughty giggles permeated the grounds whenever he was able to trick one of those harassed birds into running onto the frozen pond at the front of the manor. He would double over in laughter watching them skate, slipping and sliding while squawking out their indignity at being treated so disrespectfully. James built several massive snow giants with the help of his Uncle Theo, who spelled the statues to throw snowballs at any creature who mistakenly wandered onto the Malfoy grounds. There were also official snowball wars. James and Theo launched many attacks upon Blaise and Neville when they could persuade the two to join them in their wintertime fights.
One time when Draco ventured out to call James to lunch, Theo suggested a new target.
"Watch this, Jamie," he declared. "Daddy is about to get clobbered!"
But James made him stop by holding out his little hand and saying, "No! You can't hits my daddy, Unca Theo!"
"Party Pooper. Why can't I?"
James, not understanding the phrase and that he was being teased, stuck out his tongue and said, " Yous the poopy pants. So dare!"
Then he ran to Draco as fast as his little legs could go. "I's pwotected you, Daddy, so pway wif me!"
"Let's eat a bite of lunch first, then Daddy promises to come back out and play with his little snow monkey." Taking James' hand, Draco called out, "You coming?" to Theo.
"It depends. What's on the menu?"
Draco looked down at his son. "James' favorite. Macaroni and cheese."
The little boy hopped in glee. "Yummy! I wanna eats! Come on, Unca Theo!"
Whenever James asked him to play, Draco always would. He remembered wishing his father had played with him when he was young and didn't want to ever be a cause of disappointment to the little boy he loved as his own. Which James now legally was, the adoption process having gone through without a hitch, thanks to Ron having put a permanent stop to his family's persecutions. Draco loved to twirl James around until he became dizzy. Then they would both plop down into the snow to make snow angels, although Theo said their impressions reminded him of the Fat Friar instead.
Hermione would join them at times. She didn't enjoy the cold and snow as much as the men did, but she and sometimes, Narcissa and Pansy, would bring their boys hot chocolate and fresh spice cookies. Pansy's pregnancy was progressing splendidly and so was Hermione's. In fact, Hermione was just as big as Pansy, due to her carrying twins, even though she wasn't as far along. Draco worried and doted on her as his moods dictated. He insisted she wear sturdy shoes, especially when she went outside. He'd had a conniption when she'd walked down some icy stairs in high heels. He made sure she didn't miss any meals, either, always saying she was eating for three now. And when she caught a cold the first week in December, he just about drove her wild with his fretting.
"Draco Malfoy, if I see you with that thermometer one more time, I'm gonna stick it where the sun doesn't shine," she growled, then sneezed.
"You can sticks it outside, Mummy. Da sun's not shining, 'cuz it's snowing again," said James, hearing his mother and trying to be helpful.
Draco laughed. "I think Mummy needs a nap. You know she's always cranky when she's tired," he said to James.
"Kwanky," agreed James sagely. "Daddy's wight, Mummy."
"You and James are ganging up on me! It's not fair," she complained, but then nullified her argument by yawning.
After Draco had been successful in getting Hermione to bed, she stopped him from leaving by holding on to his arm. "Stay with me until I go to sleep?"
He never said no whenever she asked him that. Draco would spoon her from behind, always wrapping an arm around her waist so he could put his hand on her stomach.
"Sleep, Little Ones," he would whisper. "Let your Mummy rest."
Sometimes Draco massaged Hermione to sleep; when she was antsy and couldn't settle down, he would shag her into exhaustion (particularly when James was away, having a play day with Theo, or Christmas shopping with Baboo) and sometimes he would sleep with her, especially if he wasn't needed at the shop. Malfoy's Apothecary was no longer opened to the general public. Instead, Draco had contracted out with the magical hospitals across the UK, the only exception to that being George Weasley's joke shop. He felt it wasn't safe keeping his door opened to anyone who wanted to enter. He told Hermione he was never going to put James at risk again.
"And it's not just James, either," he'd added. "We've got the twins to consider. I mean…..if we were a lower profile couple, it might not be necessary…..but we're both too well-known. Too much of a potential target. I'm no longer willing to risk it. Especially after what we've been through."
His decision hadn't hurt business. On the contrary, they'd had to hire on staff and enlarge their shop. Draco sometimes missed making the potions himself, but having extra time with his family made up for it.
Two weeks later, he and Hermione traveled to Godric's Hollow. Hermione had not been back since the funeral to visit Harry's grave and she'd wanted to do it before Christmas arrived. They carried a wreath with them made of white lilies, red roses and pink carnations. It reminded her of the wreath she had conjured all those years ago when she and Harry had visited his parents' graves on Christmas Eve. Draco had spelled it to remain protected from the elements. As they walked through the quiet cemetery, Draco thought back to that day. It was now a little over a year since Harry had been laid to rest. He stood by his wife as she placed her hand on Harry's tombstone and knelt beside it.
"Harry, James has gotten so big. He's reading far beyond his age level…..up to Year 3 now; some material even from Year 4. He's always asking questions, always laughing. He has your laugh, you know. Everytime I hear it, I hear you. He's such a cheerful child."
She paused for a moment, as if unsure what to say next.
"Tell him about Theo and James," Draco offered.
"What? Oh, right. Well, what Draco is wanting me to tell you is that James and Theo are best friends…..can you believe it? It's so funny to watch the two of them. Theo's always over at the manor. Draco told him he needed to get a job, but I think he'd rather play with James. Honestly, he's such a baby." She chuckled. "I guess the bright side is Draco and I always have a babysitter handy.
Er, speaking of Draco…..…...we're married now. We have been since this summer. I fell in love with him, Harry. He's so good to me and James."
At that, she felt Draco squeeze her shoulder. Resting her hand on top of his, she went on. "And guess what? We're expecting. Twins, Harry. A boy and a girl.
I wanted you to know I'm cared for. And that I'm truly happy. I'll always miss you….but I love my life with Draco. I...I love him, Harry. So, so much. He's perfect for me."
She felt another caress on her shoulder.
"One last thing, Harry, before we go. Ginny saved my life. She died saving me. If you see her, please tell her thank you for me. Tell her I forgive her for everything…...and that it's okay for her to forgive herself. Tell her that mine and Draco's daughter will carry her name, so she will be remembered. I'm not talking about remembering the bad years. Just all the good ones. Because there were alot of those.
Bye, Harry. I love you." Then she gave the headstone a quick kiss.
As Draco helped Hermione back up from her crouching position, he once again smelled the fragrance that had surrounded him the afternoon when Harry's magic had said its last farewell. A breezy, sea-salty smell filled his senses. For just a second, his vision was tinted with the blues and greens of a sea wave riding the ocean's tide.
Perhaps a touch of Harry's magic lingered here at this spot. Maybe it was thanking him for keeping his promise.
The ones who'd supported Hermione the year before were invited again that year for a Christmas Eve dinner. Blaise and Luna came with Lorenzo and with the news that they they were expecting again.
"Another one?" asked Theo. "So soon? You know, there are ways to prevent that."
Blaise thumped his friend on the head. "We were trying for another one! We want our children to be close in age to each other. Besides, babies are a blessing, you twat."
Theo looked skeptical. "If you say so. I personally wouldn't know."
"That's because you are one," teased Pansy.
Theo leered at her. "Ooh...think I'm a blessing, do you now?" Looking over at Neville, he said, "Sorry old bean, but I think your wife has the hots for me."
"Oh, puleeze. You knew I was calling you a baby."
Draco chuckled at the conversation going on. His arm around Hermione, he played with the tendrils of his wife's hair that had escaped the loose knot at the nape of her neck. What a difference a year made. The year before, pain and loss permeated the room. This year, their house was filled with light. The sweet giggles of children, the laughter of friends…the joyous tinkling of flutes toasting the season…..love and life filled the air.
Later that night, after everyone had said their goodbyes and after James had finally been put to bed, too excited by Father Christmas coming to fall asleep quickly, Draco and Hermione made their way back downstairs to enjoy the fire and lights on the tree. It was dark now in the room; Narcissa had blown out all the candles. The tree lights and fire were the only illuminations.
"I have something for you," Hermione confessed. She was cuddled up to Draco on the large sofa and at that moment was running her forefinger down his nose. She secretly thought her husband had the most perfect profile she'd ever seen. "Would you like it now or in the morning?"
"What is it?" Draco asked lazily. Hermione's ministrations were making him sleepy.
Laughing, she said, "You'll have to open it up to find out, you indolent creature." She slowly rose from the couch, groaning as she did. "I foresee this piece of furniture becoming trouble. It's hard enough now to get up from it."
"You need me to help you, love?"
"No….I'm alright. I'll be right back.'
Draco watched as Hermione made her way slowly to the massive fir that dominated the area. Standing in front of the decorated evergreen, Draco saw the outline of his wife's form. A year ago, he had wished for such a moment as this; to see Hermione round with their child. Now it was reality. He watched her as she pushed a branch here and there, trying to find the present she'd tucked away for him. Hermione was lovely in her motherhood. Her normally trim form had bloomed into lush curves. Hermione's skin, always clear, had become soft and dewy; her cheeks, creamy roses. Her hair shone like polished glass. She positively glowed. Draco had never seen a more beautiful woman. And to know that she was his...and would always be. His wife. His lover. The mother of his children. A sudden lump appeared in his throat.
He got up and went over to where she stood. Kneeling down before her, Draco placed his hands on the sides of her swollen belly. Then he leaned over and kissed the bump that cocooned his growing babes.
"You, my treasures, are Mummy's real gift to Daddy," he whispered. "And Daddy loves you so much."
They must have heard their father's voice, for a definite movement answered beneath his lips.
"Did you feel that?" he said excitedly, wonder showing in his eyes as he looked up at Hermione.
She laughed, running her fingers through Draco's silky hair. "I did. I think they were telling their daddy Happy Christmas."
AN: Thanks to everyone who kept me company as we went on this little trip. I originally had planned this to be only three chapters, but I obviously don't know how to rein it in. In spite of that, this story is special to me. It's the first one of mine that touched my heart. I honestly hate to see it end.
But you never know. I may have to visit this universe in my Dracolicious drabble series. Maybe we can drop in from time to time to see how everyone's doing.
Or would it be best to let them be? To quote CS Lewis in my all-time favorite book, Perelandra, "Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be vulgarity…..."
Sometimes more is just…..more. Less can be better.
What do you think? If you have an opinion, I would love to hear it.