"Hey now shut up." And with a surge of passion she shoved him down on the soft mattress, knowing that with tomorrow would come a million worries, but that right now, alone and in his arms, she could never be happier.
Chapter 23: Epilogue
Another term had ended and the graduates of Hogwarts sighed with relief. Their school work was over and they could begin their lives as adults, carving out their own place in the wizarding world. Little was heard of the activities of Lord Voldemort, but no one thought—even for a moment—that it would last much longer. The calm before the storm was always a sign and, therefore, all were on alert and ready to take a stand for the good of everyone.
Hermione was especially watchful, her ear always to the Order, though she wasn't much of a help to them at the moment. She spent most of her time at home, Malfoy Manor, with her beautiful and healthy new son and her fiancé, Draco. In a few months' time she would begin her training as an Auror and be of use, for sitting around the house and waiting for danger did not suit her well at all. She took to spending more and more time reading to Dante in the library than anything else. Draco began to worry and always had a house elf tail her.
"I want a small, quiet wedding," Hermione said out of the blue one night after dinner, when Dante was fast asleep in the nursery.
Draco brought his mug of tea away from his lips and sighed.
"No you don't," he said, not looking at her. She coughed on her own tea and looked up.
"You're only saying that because you know that I won't have a single person on my side. No best man. Nothing. But," he said, turning to her suddenly, his tone cold and demanding, "I know how much you want a big, traditional wedding. And you can have that. It doesn't bother me."
She frowned and set her tea on the side table. No matter what—even when he was doing the sweetest of things—Draco would still always possess his father's hardened features, cold determination, and commanding air. When he told her he loved her it was an ice pick through the heart. His words were like stone. But it was something that she knew she would have to live with when she fell in love with him, because not even she could change him completely. He had still grown up with harsh, unloving parents, who thrust upon him the stigma of purebloods and hate of muggle-borns. He was of course better now, his soul softened with his love. And he was ever protective and watchful of her and their son, sometimes staying up well into the night in his vigilance. She knew he only wanted what was best for her, but it was time now to do what was best for him.
"Well it bothers me," she bit. His hard gray eyes seemed to dim a shade at her voice. "I think a small, humble wedding will do us good. We don't need to go spending all your family gold just because we can."
Draco let out a defeated huff. He loathed being pitied the way she was pitying him now, though he knew she wasn't doing it in spite of him. She truly thought she was doing the right thing, and he would let her believe that. After all, he did want the wedding to be small and short.
"Fine," he muttered. "But you have to promise me something."
She smiled that breath-taking smile at him, and he couldn't help but give her a small smile back. She would follow him to the ends of the earth, brave hell, carry burdens—and all for the sake of his happiness. For the sake of her love to him, love that he did not believe he deserved, but accepted because he knew how upset she would be if she knew he thought that.
"When you and your mother go shopping for a wedding gown, the one you want you have to buy, no matter the price."
"Does this mean you won't be there with me?" Behind her fake frown she was beaming. Of course she didn't want him there, and he would obey her muggle tradition, because there was nothing he could truly deny her in the end.
Except—His face suddenly tensed and, with a quick kiss on her forehead, he excused himself. He held his breath until he was out of her hearing range, then hurried down the corridors, up the stairs, and down another long hall into his study. But, instead of collapsing in his richly colored red leather chair, he skirted the heavy desk and burst onto the balcony, the crisp night air greeting him harshly. He breathed deeply and leaned against the ledge, his soul burning for release.
But how can I tell her? he thought sadly, bowing his head in shame, a thing no Slytherin or Malfoy would ever admit to doing. But he had come a long way since his days as the ruler of Slytherin House. Hermione had somehow been able to humble him, even more so than the threat of death his father put before him. There was something so indescribable about her that had him clinging to her as though she were his life-force. He knew, without a doubt, that nothing in the world, not even death, could separate them and what they shared. But still his conscience nagged at him, sometimes making him physically ill when he was around her. He feared her disappointment above all.
For he knew the greatest secret of their coming together. He knew how they lost their memories. And, most importantly, he knew who was to blame. And it was these facts that kept him up at night, mulling over his decision to tell or not. Would she be happy in knowing the truth? Or was it the mystery that held them together? Could a few simple words shatter all that he'd come to love?
He groaned deeply and peered off the ledge into the gardens below. It reminded him of the dream-memory when Hermione had first told him she was pregnant. It reminded him most of all of the hatred with which they regarded one another then. And it was this that caused him to make his final decision.
He would tell her and let the chips fall where they may, for nothing in the world was more precious than her. He could not bear to keep such a heavy secret from her. She had a right just as much as he to know the truth. So, on the eve of their marriage, he would unleash the secret that had been revealed to him in his dreams over two months ago.
Until then, he would have to endure in agony.
The week after Hermione began her Auror training the wedding was to take place. The list of guests was short and intimate, and, the more she thought about it, the more Hermione felt that this would work out. What did she need a huge wedding with trained doves and waiters pouring champagne for everyone? What she needed were the people she loved most, at her side and approving of the man she loved.
When she had sent out the invitations her hands had trembled while addressing Harry and Ron. She knew they would be happy for her no matter what she chose, but the thought of them not accepting Draco chipped at her heart. Of course they wouldn't hug each other and become instant brothers once they were wed, but civil conversation was a reasonable aim. Already she had endured innumerable arguments from both Draco and her two best friends when the subject was breeched. They all insisted that such a thing would never be possible, no matter what side Draco was now on.
She looked up from the book perched on her lap to find Draco standing over her, Dante sitting comfortably on his hip, chewing happily on a rubber lion toy.
"Potter's owl just swooped in and nearly gave Dante a heart attack."
Hermione rolled her eyes at his overreaction and took the sealed letter he was holding out to her. Silently she thanked him for not opening it first. It read:
I have been wondering when I would get your wedding invitation since Ginny told me you were getting married. And I know we have discussed this and beaten the subject to death—you know what I mean.
I have to tell you that, honestly, I thought of not coming. The idea of watching you be given away to someone (the next two words were written rather jaggedly, and she sensed the apprehension he must have felt at that moment) like Draco makes me want to do something ridiculous to prevent it. But the second these thoughts come to mind, I see your face and that smile you smile, and I know he is the only person you want. And though I don't believe he deserves you, I know that you would never do this unless you truly loved him. I give you my blessing, even if you never asked for it, and I wish you both the best and a lifetime of happiness together.
P.S. Ron is coming too, but I doubt Pig will get there before the wedding. You might want to put a cover on your cake.
Hermione's eyes watered and, for a moment, Draco feared she would burst into tears. But, with commanding strength, she sucked in her breath and smiled, handing him back the letter to read if he wanted. He decided against it and set it on the table beside her.
"Is he coming?"
"Wonderful," he scoffed, rolling his eyes. Then he turned on his heals and he and Dante left the room to go back to whatever they had been doing. When she was sure they were gone she grabbed the letter, reread it hurriedly, then clutched it to her chest, her cheeks stained with tears before she felt her eyes well up.
Before the days seemed to fly by in her anxiety as she awaited the replies for who would attend. Now it seemed that the wedding couldn't come any sooner. She longed to see her friends, to laugh and talk with them; just to have them around again. With the baby and Draco and her preparation to begin Auror training she had little time to visit or receive guests. She wrote them when she could, but usually she had nothing new to say and felt her letters were useless in relaying just how lonely she was without them. Not that she was lonely really, for she had Draco and their son, and Melantha still lived there and was home for time to time when the Order didn't demand her presence. But Harry and Ron (and Ginny as of late) had been a huge part of her life since she was eleven. She hadn't really ever thought of her life without them and, now that they were gone, she pined for the old days.
Soon enough, however, the eve of their big day finally arrived. The rehearsal was over in less than an hour, but, instead of Draco going off and leaving Hermione with Ginny (her maid of honor), the couple had decided he should stay at home. All wedding guests were housed at the Manor, fitting comfortably into their rooms and giving the bride- and groom-to-be their space before tomorrow's ceremony.
It was well past eleven in the evening when people started turning in. One by one they started drifting off to bed, wishing the couple well as they passed them cozied up on the couch with little Dante. Draco was predictably distant, giving the guests stiff nods or forced partial smiles. Hermione knew there was something more wrong with him than wedding nerves, for he was not the type to cower at such times. He had stood tall and proud when she was pregnant and had not hesitate to propose marriage.
No, she thought, watching him out of the corner of her eye. It's something else.
By the time they were alone it was almost midnight and Dante was fast asleep in his mother's arms. They brought him to the nursery and thanked Merlin when he didn't wake. In silence they got ready for bed, moving around each other with hardly a glance.
Draco sensed Hermione's trepidation and discomfort and, just as she was slipping into bed, grabbed her arm and held her up. She eyed him carefully for a moment, then they both sat on the edge of the bed.
"I have something to tell you, Hermione," he said slowly, forcing himself to meet her searching gaze. Even in the blazing warmth of summer he felt cold inside and shook off the shiver that ran through him.
"I figured as much," she said, smiling to lighten the mood. He remained glib and frown-painted, wearing his usual "Draco mask".
"I have to tell you this before you marry me," he went on, as if she hadn't said a word. "I've been keeping something from you for nearly three months." Her brow twitched so slightly that he wouldn't have noticed had he not been looking for signs of unease. "I…Remember after Dante was born, how I stopped having the memory-dreams?"
"You started having them again?" she asked, following his train of thought.
He nodded stiffly.
"I know, Hermione."
At this she gave a completely unprecedented reaction. Her brows knit together and she bit her lip, as if she were the one that was about to be reprimanded.
"I know, too, Draco," she sighed, lowering her eyes slightly. "I've known for a while now."
"I—but—how—how do you know!" He wasn't yelling at her, though he could hardly see how she'd see that.
"The morning after that night you ran away I…I woke up and my memory was back. I don't know how it happened, but I suddenly knew everything."
"But…if you knew—" He took a deep breath. "Don't you care?"
"Of course I care," she said matter-of-factly.
"And you still want to marry me?"
"Well why the hell wouldn't I?" she laughed, kissing his cheek softly. "I love you, that's all that matters. Not some silly past we can't change."
"Look," she sighed, understanding the fact that he wasn't quite grasping this yet. "I've accepted you, flaws and all. Even if I never got my memory back, or you never told me, I would still have memories of all the other times you hurt me. And they are tenfold compared to this. So shut up and let's enjoy our last night before we're bound together eternally."
"You never cease to amaze me, 'Mione," he said as they curled close together under the sheets.
"Well when I stop amazing you it'll be a sad day indeed," she laughed, pressing herself as close to him as she could get.
He chuckled quietly as if enjoying a private joke.
"No, really. What?" She frowned when he shook his head. "Draco!"
"What you said."
"What about it?"
"It's funny." He smirked wide and she let out a pitiful little girlish grunt.
"Why is it funny?"
"Because," he sighed, caving. "You will always be amazing."
Hermione scowled deeply as she was half dragged across the dew-filled lawn, her heavy cloak too much in the warm September night air. After what seemed like an eternity, they stopped beside the lake, the full moon shining in its glassy surface. She thought briefly of Lupin and smiled, until, however, she was pulled back into the present situation.
"Are you going to tell me what this is about? Or should I assume it's the same old bullshit and walk away right now?" she snapped, not caring in the least how snobbish or harsh she sounded. She had had it with the games. Enough was enough.
"I broke it off with Lavender, you know," Ron said, staring at his shoes.
"That's nice. Try looking at me when you say that."
Immediately he lifted his head and looked right at her. Silently she wished he hadn't obeyed, for she saw true remorse in his eyes and it cut her deep. She missed her old friend Ron.
"I haven't even talked to her since what happened. I made a horrible mistake, Hermione." His voice was becoming increasingly faster as he spoke. "You have to forgive me. I never—"
"I don't have to do anything," she spat.
"I know," he sighed. "But I never meant to hurt you. I don't know what I was thinking. I was a stupid boy with a stupid crush. I didn't realize true love when I saw it until it was too late." He finished his speech with a deep sigh, then waited to see her reaction. "I love you," he added hoarsely.
"I know you're sorry," she said finally. "And I know you never meant to hurt me. I love you too, Ron, just…not that way." His frown deepened at these words. "I accept your apology and I'm ready to be friends with you again, but you're going to have to stop this childishness. We are never going to be a couple again, and for far more reasons than the fact that I don't love you the way you love me."
All he could do was raise a questioning eyebrow.
"What you saw with me and Draco over the summer was not a fling, Ron." His ears reddened immediately. "I think I love him and…and I'm pregnant."
A deafening silence filled the air for a moment before Ron erupted in fury.
"YOU'RE WHAT!" he barked, advancing on her as though he meant to harm her. But he didn't get to say more than that, for at that moment a dark figure came running across the lawn and tackled him to the ground. They wrestled on the ground for a good while before Hermione could manage to pull them apart. All three were left panting for a moment before anyone could say anything.
"Draco," Hermione hissed, though she was happy to see him, she did not think it was a good idea for him to be there at the moment. "What are you doing here?"
"Never mind me," he spat, glaring daggers at Ron. "What was he doing to you?"
"He wasn't doing anything," she sighed. "We were only talking."
"Yeah!" Ron yelled, stepping towards Draco without even a hint of fear. Then suddenly he turned to Hermione, his eyes glistening. He went to grab her hands, but Draco batted them away. "Hermione, I love you. Give me another chance!"
"Don't listen to him!" Draco cut in, giving him a hard shove. "He betrayed you."
"I screwed up and I can never forgive myself for it, but I can make it up to you."
"He'll only hurt you again! You belong with me."
"Shut up!" Hermione screamed, grabbing her head. She took a few shaking steps backward. "I can't do this anymore! It's too hard! I can't be with either of you!"
"Hermione! What are you talking about!" Draco all but shrieked, fear enveloping him.
"I'm so sorry Draco," she cried, tears making tracks down her face. "But this is too hard. I can't keep living this way! Trying to reason with Ron everyday about why we can't be together, while barely holding together a relationship with you. We fight all the time. We have different values, different goals—nothing in common! I don't even know how you feel about me!"
"I love you!" he cried, latching onto her, a haunting desperation in his eyes that she never thought she'd see.
"It's too late…It's over…"
"It's not over!" He searched furiously in his robes but come out emptied handed. Hermione gasped in shock and stumbled back, realizing that he was looking for his wand. Before she can say a word, he lunges forward and snatches Ron's wand. "I know a charm!" he called out, raising the wand, his face fresh with tears. "A memory charm that will make you both forget what happened! And then you'll discover I'm the father of your baby Hermione, and you'll come back to me!"
"Draco stop!" she pleaded, truly scared. "You could hurt the baby!"
"I know what I'm doing!"
"Draco, please! Stop! I love you! Don't do this!"
But it was too late and the spell shot from the wand, backfiring completely as it knocked all three out cold. They fell to the grassy ground with soft thuds, the shimmering smoke a haze above their unconscious bodies.
A light flicked on his the castle, followed soon by the sound of pounding feet. Seconds later Professor Snape found the most unlikely assemblage of students by the lake.
He ran immediately to Dumbledore.
THE END! Wooo! Now how did you like that? I've been planning that ending for a long time now. At first I didn't know who should have fired the wand, but then I realized I wanted Draco without a doubt. Oh, and the reason only Draco was having the memory dreams was, of course, because he was the one that fired the wand. Hermione had the one dream (which, if you didn't figure out, was connected to Draco) because she finally confessed her love for him to herself. I hope that makes sense. If not, oh well, it was still interesting :P
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