We have concluded this story. Thanks to vaysh11 for lending her superb eye in the final stretch here, and, as always, my thanks to zeldaohzelda to whom this story is dedicated. Any mistakes are mine. I always tinker after the betas have gone through it, so don't blame them for any errors. It's due to me not leaving well enough alone. Many, many thanks to those all those betas of mine who have helped me over the years. And double thanks to those loyal readers who stuck with this story, despite the many protracted gaps between chapters.
I will always wonder if he played me that day in his flat. That he knew that if he had tried to cajole me into staying at the Ministry it would tell me that he was more interested in furthering his career than me. If so, it was quite a gamble, but then politics is half smarts and half a roll of the dice, and Draco Malfoy is something of a consummate dice roller. No matter, I suppose.
Much more traditional than I am by far, he insisted on getting married the day after his divorce was granted. I could have toddled along without actually getting married—having just gotten a crash course on marriage and how the institution makes you neither happy nor faithful—but he wouldn't hear of it. When I pressed him on it, he replied, "First of all, people will say you're just another one of my fucks, which is absolutely intolerable. Second? What can I say? I'm a possessive bastard."
He asked me if Pansy could stay in the Manor as she had her own wing. He didn't feel comfortable kicking her out, and Narcissa wanted her to stay. I wasn't a lady of the manor sort, and my memories of Malfoy Manor were so horrendous that I never had any intention of stepping across that threshold ever again. I gave him my blessing. I had expected that was the end of it, but then, with that sensitivity that still surprises me, he said, "Horrible things happened to you there. We'll divide our time between the London flat and Hogwarts." He spends the odd weekend down at the Manor, visiting his mother, but he never expects me to join him.
Considering that we had detested each other in school, it gob-smacked everyone that Pansy and I immediately fashioned a working relationship. Not making a fuss about her staying in the Manor earned me a lot of points in her book; not making a fuss over the divorce earned her a lot of points in mine. Pansy might be his ex-wife, but she was still publisher of the Prophet, which continued to function as the secret Malfoy house organ. Hating me would undermine her relationship with Draco, which meant she might not be privy to the freshest dirt on the Ministry. They have drinks together once a week. She's dating some cauldron tycoon, a brash American that suits her to a tee. Draco has given his approval. Slytherins.
Ron did marry Romilda and not a moment too soon. It turned out that Romilda's divorce wasn't as final as it should have been—as in they hadn't filed the papers properly and the actual divorce hadn't been granted. Ron Bilius Weasley II was born three days following the ceremony and Margaret Ginevra Weasley ten months after that. Ron's happy with her; at least Harry thinks so. Harry likes Romilda well enough, although he complains that her voice gets on his nerves.
When Lily became pregnant with child number two, Dom confronted both of us and said that they were sick and tired of having separate family events and could Ron and I please pretend to get along as both of us were happily remarried to other people. To which Draco said, "Point." We now attend joint family functions. Although never advancing beyond the most perfunctory hellos and good-byes, Ron and I are civil to each other, while Romilda and I have perfected the art of never being in the same room alone together. I cannot look at Ron's children without getting teary, and we usually leave these family affairs early. Draco says it's because Romilda's voice gives him migraines, but we both know better.
We are all acting so French that sometimes I wonder when the English in us is going to rear its ugly head. When it does, hexes are going to start flying.
Sometimes when I can't sleep, I lie in bed trying to pinpoint where Ron and I went wrong. I never have an answer. Draco puts it down to the war and leaves it at that. I don't think it's that simple, but maybe I can't face the fact that it's that simple. Failure is not something I do well with. I'm no longer angry, just terribly sad. I don't believe that it was my fault, just as I don't believe it was his fault: we failed each other. But I hate to think that we were doomed even before we said, "I do." When I have a night where I can't sleep, Draco's Hermione-is-having-one-of-her-bouts-of-insomnia sensor will wake him up. He'll massage my back and work the kinks out of my neck and then take me from behind, always making sure that I come before he does. It brings me back to the here and now, back to him, and then I can sleep.
It hasn't been bliss twenty-four seven. I had gone from being married to roughly forty people to being married to one. I miss being part of a clan. Hogwarts—its teachers and students—have become my clan in a way. It helps, but it's not the same. And there are memories of Dumbledore and late nights in the Gryffindor Common Room that only Harry, Ron, and I share. It's a part of my past that now feels incomplete; like I have a phantom limb of sorts. I would imagine Ron feels the same. Even so, you can't base a marriage on the past. As we discovered.
Time is filling in the pieces of the puzzle that constitute Draco Malfoy. There have been a few surprises. He's much more playful than I ever imagined, which makes me playful; a side of me heretofore untapped. His intelligence is fierce, with an astonishing ability to parse a situation in less than a quarter of a second. He claims I'm far brighter than he is, which I think is true, but I don't have his edge of ruthlessness. I bring a rational, logical bent to any dilemma and he brings cunning and perspicuity, and together we are indeed formidable and terrifying.
The potential landmines are obvious: Draco has a tendency to be moody. I can usually jolly him out of his snits, and if I can't, I order him to the gym to run three miles. The endorphins usually do the trick. I'm still a workaholic, but Draco has made an ironclad rule that short of the return of Voldemort, Sundays and vacations are sacrosanct: no work. In addition, we play tennis three times a week, and Friday lunches are devoted to an hour and a half by ourselves at Chevalier's. We fight, although not that often. When we do we say rotten things to each other it's with the tacit understanding that my marriage to Ron and his relationship with his father are off limits. We never go to sleep angry. Ron was right. If he and I had let go every now and then, it might have kept us honest and talking.
Draco is still not Minister of Magic. The Minister's wife had a miraculous recovery, and his intention of resigning evaporated in light of her improved health. Initially, Draco was terribly disappointed at the Minister's decision to stay on, but now he doesn't seem to mind. Well, he minds because he's an ambitious sod, but he's also very patient. As I well know. Besides, it's given him time to beef up his ever-expanding dossier on his only real rival, McLaggen. I'd underestimated Cormac. Those nine months in the States during the war hadn't been devoted to pub-crawling after all; bordello crawling is more like it. I do point out, repeatedly, that given the sheer numbers of Draco's indiscriminate liaisons with women, it might royally backfire on him should he decide to smear Cormac with allegations of sexual misconduct. But as he points out, he didn't frequent whore houses. Plus he's a reformed slut and the masses always love it when politicians see the error of their ways. He will be Minister one day; it's only a matter of time.
Draco says the happiest day of his life was when he put that ring on my finger for real. We couldn't tell Mrs. Chevalier that we were only pretending to be married before, but were officially married now, so we lied and said it was our anniversary. Which was not really a lie, I insisted. Which caused Draco to snort in derision and call me a Slytherin in Gryffindor clothing. Could we have the upstairs room to celebrate in private? For our wedding dinner we had George recreate the first meal down to the asparagus spears and then threw champagne on each other.
When Draco patted my cheeks dry and used his napkin to daub the champagne off the lavender sheath that he re-spelled on me in honor of our first "date," he whispered in my ear, "My wife."
I whispered back, "My love."
Fin. Finally! Five years later