(A/N: well here it is at last- the long awaited epilogue! I want to thank everyone who's stuck with me through this story- it's been a wild ride! I apologize profusely for the 3 month gap between chapter 23 and this; what can I say, other than my muse was finished with this story before I was! Anyway, I hope this modest little smutilogue doesn't disappoint. Now as for the term smutilogue, well as you've probably guessed, it refers to the presence of- c'mon, say it with me now- smut. It's not graphic or anything, but still, I'm doing my due diligence by mentioning it. So if you don't care for love scenes, or are not of an age to read them, consider yourself warned! And now, without further ado, I give you... the wedding night!)
The ceremony had been short, simple, to-the-point. There had been no bells and whistles; no one to give the bride away, no honor attendants, no "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today…", no long-winded, hand-written vows. There were just two people desperately in love, pledging to devote their lives to one another, surrounded by a small, yet strong core of friends who'd provide most of the outside contact the young lovers would have over the next, homebound year.
When the time had come to exchange rings, Dumbledore had conjured a pair of wedding bands out of thin air; two slim and simple circles of silver, each one a perfect fit for its intended finger. The entire wedding had lasted no longer that fifteen minutes, at the end of which- once they'd signed the registry along with two witnesses (Dumbledore and Snape had stepped forward)- the Ministry official who'd been presiding had announced that they were husband and wife, and that Draco could now feel free to kiss his bride.
From the Ministry, the newlyweds had apparated directly to St. Mungo's, to spend a precious hour or so with Narcissa before the house arrest went into effect. The older woman, in her now-standard muddled state, had nonetheless been intensely pleased to see them both. If she'd noticed the matching bands of silver on their fingers, she chose not to say anything; her son seemed happier than she could remember seeing him since his school days, as if the weight of ten worlds had been lifted from his shoulders... and her memories of her daughter-in-law were already fading like a dream. Who was to say for sure that Draco's wife hadn't always had hair this wild, dark and beautiful? And did it really matter what color the girl's hair was, when her son looked at her that way- the very same way her darling Lucius had looked at her when first they'd been married? And so what if she didn't recall her daughter-in-law's name being quite so long or foreign sounding? Perhaps Draco had taken to calling her by her middle name, or some affectionate pet term with a special, private meaning for the two of them. Whatever the case, Narcissa could tell that Draco was elated- he was a man head over heels in love- and that was good enough for her.
When they'd arrived back at the cottage, Draco and Hermione had immediately encountered evidence that something was amiss- their plan of a cozy, fire-lit evening for two was not to be- or at least, not yet. The evidence took the form of bright lights blazing from every window of the little house- shadows moving about behind the curtains and window shades- sounds of music and laughter floating out over the small front yard- and one seriously hacked off Ronald Weasley, shivering and hugging himself for warmth, breathing out white puffs of frosty air, on the front stoop.
"What in the hell-" Draco began, but Ron cut him off, teeth chattering from cold.
"Your f-f-fucking house won't b-bloody well let me in, Malfoy!"
"Ron," Hermione exclaimed, "What on earth…"
"It was m-meant to b-b-be a surprise," Ron said, glaring daggers at Draco. "While Ginny was g-g-getting Hermione ready for the wedding, Harry and I went down the hall and flooed your elf. We told her to get the house ready for a little p-party. But when we got here, your g-goddamn house wouldn't let me in, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Not even D-Dumbledore." The redhead stamped his feet, whether out of temper or simply in a further attempt to keep warm, it was impossible to tell. "Harry and Hannah have been taking turns waiting out here with me. I j-just sent Hannah back in. Too b-b-bloody cold for her. Well, are you gonna let me in or not, Malfoy?"
Draco looked as if his first impulse was to tell Ron to go bugger himself, but fortunately it was Hermione that spoke. "Pinky's in on this?" she asked, looking at the shapes of people moving beyond the drapes. "How many people are here, Ron?"
Ron's expression became, if anything, more mulish than ever. "Not gonna spoil the whole b-bloody surprise," he snapped, through teeth now clenched against the cold. He shifted his gaze from Hermione to Draco, defiance sparking in his cobalt eyes. "Reckon you're just gonna haveta open the d-d-damn door if you want to find out!"
Now Draco really was ready to tell Ron to sod the hell off, but he happened to glance at Hermione in the split second between opening his mouth and speaking. And he saw two things that changed his mind. The first was that her dark eyes were positively glowing with joy and anticipation, head cocked a bit to the side as she listened raptly to the muffled voices on the other side of the door- and the second was that her teeth were just beginning to chatter as well. She gave a little shiver. And Draco's priorities shifted in an instant. To hell with Weasley- he had to get his wife in out of the cold, this instant.
"I guess you can come in," he told Ron grudgingly. With a quickly muttered spell, he altered the wards to allow Ron back into the cottage. The door swung obligingly open, and the three entered together, Draco's arm slung over Hermione's shoulders, holding her close to the warmth of his body.
Everyone who'd been present at the wedding ceremony was also at the cottage; a small, yet merry, wedding reception. In addition to Ron, Hannah, Harry, Snape, Ginny and Dumbledore, a handful more people had arrived- Fred and George Weasley- (the former heavily bandaged and unable to get around without assistance, but in his usual good spirits, grinning from ear to ear)- and- Hermione could scarcely credit her eyes- her parents. Dumbledore had arranged for this particular surprise while she and Draco had been at St. Mungo's. The Grangers were deep in conversation in a corner with Harry when the newlyweds entered the room- and, predictably, once the joyous greetings between parents and child had been dispensed with, they did express some concern over their daughter's sudden elopement with a man who was not the fiancé she had recently introduced them to… a fiancé they had liked very much. But apparently Harry had had only good things to say to Hermione's parents about Draco, for Mr. Granger shook his hand warmly and Mrs. Granger threw her arms about his neck, exclaiming, "you saved my daughter's life! Oh thank you, thank you."
Dumbledore had brought Dobby and Winky down from the school to be of assistance to Pinky, and there was abundant food and freely flowing Butterbeer. The entire first floor of the house had been decorated with floral garlands and rose petals strewn about every available surface, and there was even a many-tiered wedding cake, proudly displayed on the dining room table. It was a nicer wedding reception than either Draco or Hermione had dreamed possible- especially for having been pulled together in so little time, and as a surprise no less. It was hours before the last guests trickled out, the mess was Scourgified away, the parlor fire banked, and Draco was finally able to whisk a tired but radiantly happy Hermione into his arms and carry her bodily up the stairs.
Draco lowered Hermione gently to the bed, treating her with a tenderness his blindly devoted late wife Pansy had never seen in him- a tenderness he had never seen in himself, until Hermione had come along and coaxed it out of him. It was nothing she had done purposefully, of course, by art or design- it was just who she was; what she was; his perfect counterpart, this incredible being who brought out qualities in him that he had never even known he possessed.
Merlin, he'd have been lost without her.
His life would have been a wasteland, for all his money and privilege.
He made a quick, silent vow never to let a day pass without showing her in some small way how grateful he was to have her. When he thought about how close he'd come to losing her… it was almost too painful to contemplate.
"Draco?" Hermione's small, warm hand came up to cup his face, startling him out of this train of thought. He focused on her face below him, her tumultuous hair spread out about her on the ice-blue silken bedcover. Her head was cocked at a slight angle, the hint of a smile quirking her lips. "Where did you go just now?" she asked him. "Your eyes- they were miles away."
Draco gave his head the smallest of shakes, to clear it. Was he quite mad? He wondered ruefully- dwelling on things past when he had this vision of loveliness- his wife- reclining decadently beneath him on their bed? This was not the time to follow those dark and twisting corridors of his mind that would all, ultimately, lead him to the same place; the realization of what an utterly miserable bastard he would have been without her. He needn't ever worry again about what his life would have been without her. She was here. She was his. Forever. And it was high time, he thought, with a grin spreading slowly over his face, to consummate their love.
Hermione's brows drew together in slight puzzlement. "Dra-mmmph!"
He silenced her with a kiss, just as he had done all that time ago- a lifetime ago, it seemed- on a snowy, rock-strewn battlefield as she'd been fighting for her life. How different were the circumstances tonight. Now they had a lifetime stretching ahead of them, in which to love and cherish and explore one another… starting Right. This. Minute.
"Are you ready?" Draco asked, voice hoarse as he held himself perfectly still above Hermione, jaw clenched, eyes a stormy grey, dark with desire. Dawn light was streaming in through the bedroom window, illuminating the rich wood of the bed frame, the luxuriously rumpled silk duvet, the hearth that contained the last embers of the night's dying fire.
The darkest hours of the night had passed as husband and wife had partaken of every decadence of the flesh imaginable- save one. The consummation of their marriage had yet to be completed; penetration had yet to be achieved. And Draco was in an agony of anticipation.
Yet he held himself back, poised just at her entrance, tormented by the thought of how badly he had hurt her that long-ago night in his room at Hogwarts.
Hermione moved her hands from where they'd been resting, lightly clenched, on his shoulders, bringing them up to run her fingers through his impossibly soft, sweat-dampened hair, then framing his face with a feather-soft touch.
"I'm ready," she breathed, and her eyes lent truth to her words. "I want to be all yours; every inch yours. Make that happen. I'm ready, Draco."
Draco's eyes were torn. He sucked in a ragged breath. "I don't want to h-" he began… but Hermione was having none of it; she was done with words. Her hands suddenly became insistent; nearly rough- winding her fingers around to lace together at the back of his head, she pulled him down- their lips crashing together in a heated, nearly frantic kiss.
At the same time, she brought up her legs in a swift, sure motion- wrapping them tightly about his waist. And in that instant Draco went from being poised just at her entrance, literally shaking in a fever-state of longing and anticipation, to being buried within her up to the hilt.
Hermione's head fell back, her back arching, lips parted- it was her turn to gasp. A series of little shudders wracked her body- pain? pleasure? Draco couldn't be sure. To tell the truth, he was nearly in pain himself- she was that tight. He buried his face in the junction of her shoulder and throat, groaning.
They stayed like that, without words, for a long moment; locked together, adjusting.
Then Hermione gulped in an unsteady breath and bit down hard on her lip.
Draco tried to form words- couldn't- swallowed- tried again.
"Have I hurt you badly?" he managed at last.
She gave her head a single, tight shake- which left him in some doubt. She was still biting her lip, eyes scrunched tightly shut. "God, Hermione," he groaned, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to be that- abrupt. I love you so much… so damn much, Granger, it hurts-"
"No." Her voice was barely a whisper. "That's not it. I think it's… it's the bond that's hurting you. I think… you're feeling what I feel. My pain."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because-" and here she opened her eyes; they were huge, dark and luminous, those eyes that were his world, his universe, his soul- staring directly up into his.
"Because I can feel your pleasure."
Even as she said it, Draco understood that it was true. Somehow the almost telepathic bond that had been born between them that night on the battlefield was conveying to each of them something of the other's physical sensation at the moment. It was incredible… almost unreal. And yet, in another, more immediate sense, it was the most "real" experience he'd ever had. This was a true joining of body, mind and spirit. This was love, and more than love… love almost in a celestial sense. He'd never imagined it could be like this- be this good. He reveled in it, even in the pain he felt- because he knew that he was lifting that pain away from the woman he loved, bearing it so she wouldn't have to, and filling the space it should have occupied with his own sensations of pleasure.
He kissed the place where he'd buried his face a moment ago; the place where her shoulder met her neck. He dragged his mouth up the column of her throat, along her jaw line, up to her ear, sucking on the lobe for a moment, making her shudder and gasp again- a long, hitching exhalation. He kissed her forehead, which tasted sweet with perspiration- one eyelid and then the other- the tip of her nose.
"So you feel… all right then?" he finally asked, in a ragged voice.
"Oh my God, yes," Hermione murmured, her lips moving against his mouth as he brought it down to hers- "It's just… it feels so… full. But I feel… good enough to burst. Merlin, Draco… what… are… you…?"
She didn't get to finish her question; he smothered her mouth with his own as he began to rock within her. There was no more need for words.
In this moment, their bond spoke eloquently enough.
It was full-on morning when Pinky woke; she'd slept far later than usual, worn out from her hostess duties of the night before. But it wasn't the rich, glorious mid-morning light streaming through her lace-curtained window that startled the elf from her sleep, causing her to sit bolt upright, swing her feet over the edge of the bed so that they sank deeply into the room's luxurious, plush pink carpeting, cock her head inquisitively to one side; it was a sound.
Pinky listened hard.
Yes, there it was, all right- a dull yet rhythmic thumping sound as of- suddenly comprehension dawned in her overlarge eyes, and she blushed the deepest crimson a house elf was capable of attaining- a sound as of a heavy wooden headboard knocking repeatedly against a wall.
Now that she was paying attention, she could make out groans and muffled endearments as well.
Springing to her feet, she padded determinedly across her room to the peg-board where she kept her large, hodgepodge assortment of pink accessories. A moment's rummaging amongst them and she found what she was looking for; a pair of oversized, fluffy pink earmuffs. Jamming them onto her bat-like ears, she breathed a sigh of relief; the flush beginning to ebb from her cheeks.
But what to do now? She stood still a moment, feeling slightly lost. It didn't seem appropriate, somehow, to leave her room and start in on her normal morning chores with… with that going on just down the hall.
Besides, she simply didn't feel like going straight to work today. After that miracle-party she had pulled off with just a couple hours' notice the previous night, she thought she might not go to work until noon. It was a sinfully delicious way to feel.
But then, how to pass the time?
Wandering over to her armchair by the window and conjuring herself a steaming cup of tea, she settled cozily down to watch the sun climb over the Hogwarts lake. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of something she had left abandoned on the small end table which stood beside her chair… it was her knitting needles, and a large quantity of soft, pink yarn. She hadn't been working on anything since she had finished the scarf that she had gifted to Hermione.
She picked the needles up, toying with them absently, letting her mind wander… but then, abruptly, her eyes came sharply back into focus as a thought occurred to her. She turned a little in her chair, looking meditatively in the direction of the master bedroom. Slowly, she peeled a single earmuff away from her head, and listened.
Whump… whump… "oh Go-o-od, Draco…"
Pinky let the muff snap back, cheeks burning once more.
But that was all right, for she had just hit upon something to do, to occupy her time as she whiled away the morning in her room. Eyes alight with newfound purpose, she conjured herself up just one more thing- a book. Rather a small and unimpressive one, really, and simply entitled-
"101 Gifts to Knit for Baby".