The promise of spring was in the air, a warmth in the breeze that had been absent for too long. Golden sunshine, the slow trickling drip of melting snow, as the pines shook off their coats and lifted their branches.
Maybe she was waxing poetic, but Hermione Granger had never known such a glorious day.
Across from her on the stage, Draco bowed his proud head to accept the Order of Merlin, First Class from Minister Bowles–the first such honour, he'd told her cynically, that a Malfoy had earned rather than bought in at least six generations.
She stood in long line of awards recipients; members of the Order; of course, Aurors; various distinguished personages from within the Ministry; but in truth, this ceremony had little to do with awards and everything to do with celebration. They had survived, the Dark Lord had perished, and the fear was over. They could mourn their losses and live.
Shaking hands solemnly with the Minister, Draco paused politely and turned to the ever-present Daily Prophet reporters, handling them with a great deal more poise than Hermione had ever mustered. He was the last to get his award; Hermione's own medal lay heavily about her neck, but she scarcely felt the weight as she reached for his hand, drawing him to her side. His hand in hers was all she craved.
A discreet pinch almost made her squeal aloud, and she grinned foolishly at Draco, whose face was a politely interested mask, betrayed only by the twinkle in his eyes. Well, hand-holding for now, she amended, almost dizzy with happiness.
"...war such as we have never fought, danger such as we have never faced," Bowles continued, gesturing down the lines beside him. "But for their courage, death would have been the kindest fate. Let us never forget their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of those who gave all..."
Percy Weasley handed the minister a long scroll, and Bowles adjusted his spectacles.
"Constance MacDougal. Terry Boot. Minerva McGonagall. Stewart Ackerley. Alastor Moody. Susan Bones. Amelia Bones. Ernie MacMillan. Elphias Doge. Seamus Finnegan. William and Fleur Weasley..." Mrs. Weasley muffled a sob, eyes haunted, and Fred and George gripped her arms, George from the wheelchair he had grudgingly consented to. Or rather, been forced into, by the vehement Healers of St. Mungo's.
"Sirius Black," Bowles continued, nodding his head to Harry, who nodded back, face blank. "Remus Lupin. Rubeus Hagrid. Padma Patil. Anthony Goldstein. Wayne Hopkins. Elizabeth Callahan-Hopkins. Jonathan Hopkins. Owen Cauldwell. Justin Finch-Fletchley, Hannah Abbot..."
The list was long, the list of Voldemort's victims, the list of those who had died fighting him.
There was not a dry eye in the courtyard when he finished, somberly handing the scroll back to a red-eyed Percy.
"We must," the Minister added in a clear, penetrating voice, "never forget the lessons of this terrible war. The cost of complacency," he said sharply, referring, no doubt, to his predecessor. "The lessons of fear, and the price of blind hatred."
On Hermione's other side, Harry reached for her hand and squeezed as well, eying Draco. Whatever passed between them, it had the air of a truce, and Hermione crunched both their hands in hers, tears in her own eyes. That truce meant more to her than any medal.
"...so let us grieve," the Minister concluded. "Let us bury our dead and mourn them. Let us remember, and let us honour their sacrifices. And above all, let us live. A great evil has gone from us. We are better for it, and wiser for our lessons. Thank you. Order, Aurors!"
The few Aurors snapped to, and the Order turned more slowly, watching in amazement as the crowd roared, laughed, cried, stomped their feet and clapped their hands, a clamour that set nearly a hundred post owls winging off to the skies. Dragging the astonished witches and wizards off the stage, the mob emptied out into the streets, and Hedwig soared from Harry's arm, spiralling up, and up, and up...
Draco's silvery cloak swirled around them as they walked through the gardens adjacent the courtyard, and Hermione couldn't help watching him from the corner of her eye, the sunlight glinting in his hair, a slight smile playing about his lips as he paused at the thawing lake. His face was as proud and bright as it had been that long-ago night when he had abducted her from the library.
Draco turned, holding his arm out to her, drawing her under and wrapping the shining folds of his cloak around her. Every inch the Malfoy, she thought fondly, reaching to brush his hair back from his collar. His lands and possessions had been reinstated, and she wondered if his arrogance would return as well.
The pride in his face when he looked down at her swiftly dispelled that notion, because it was pride in her.
"Winter's almost over," he said softly, echoing her thoughts, as was his uncanny habit.
"Yes." The internal debate raged on, her smile widening. Tell him now or tell him later? "Your nose is red," she said, standing on tiptoe to cover it with her mittened hand. "How terribly common, Mister Malfoy. You aristocratic types should be impervious to the elements."
"So's yours," he replied, his large hand covering her whole face.
"Prat," she said, muffled.
"Ferret." Now, definitely now.
"Love you," he said, bending for a kiss, and she moved her hand from his nose to his lips.
"A question first, if you please," she said. "When, Mister Malfoy, do you plan to make an honest woman of me?"
His eyes widened and he goggled at her momentarily, looking more foolish than she had ever seen a Malfoy look.
"Now," he breathed. "Today. This minute."
"Well, then," she said, permitting him to kiss her, a smile still quirking at her lips. "I'm sure your daughter will be pleased to know her father was an honourable man."
Draco froze, his lips a quarter of an inch from hers, grey eyes locked on her dark ones.
"My daughter?" He whispered, and she was astonished to feel him shake beside her. "My daughter?"
"St. Mungo's owled me with the report this morning," she replied, slightly more hesitantly. "I wasn't sure–I thought may–"
Draco whooped and swung her around in the snow, put her down and kissed her, picked her up and spun her again, Hermione laughing helplessly when he set her down for the third time and looked at her with a eyes so shining, she felt his beauty like a physical blow. More tenderly, he kissed her, his hands on her cheeks when he drew back.
"I hope," he said, beaming at her, "that she has hair just like yours."
Author's Final Note:
Okay, as I said in the original, I know the whole pregnancy thing is trite, but I had been planning that last line for days. So if you're gagging, my apologies.
Final thanks to JK Rowling for creating these characters and this world. I did my best to be true to both. Thanks a million times to the Harry Potter Lexicon–if you haven't checked it out, you should–and to the University of Notre Dame Latin translation page. Thanks to Kazfeist for help with the French, and to some unnamed site for the Romanian.
This story was written prior to the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so most of it will likely be thrown entirely out of the realm of possibility when that book comes out.
I just wanted to stop and thank all of you that reviewed, as I haven't updated or written anything--fanfiction, that is--in some time. I have for the time being given up fanfiction. I'm in the midst of the first book in my trilogy, and don't dare stop for anything else, no matter how many plot bunnies attack.
Thank you all very much for your kind words and difficult questions, especially the Time-Turner questions. Unfortunately, for those of you that have asked, I don't have time to beta anyone or go over their work, as much as I'd like to. I am webmistress at a wonderful fanfiction site, however, with a large number of VERY talented writers who'd love to help out, read, review, and critique. Thank you all again, and when the book is published, you'll be the first to know. Hugs all around.