DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter and all other characters and locations belong to J. K. Rowling.
Epilogue - Life, Lessons, and Love
The room had appeared several days after Harry and Draco returned to Hogwarts. Dark wooded doors opened into a small garden like room where roses and lilies bloomed freely. Above the softly dancing flowers a summer sky glowed, sun nurturing the brilliant blooms. If you followed the step stone path weaving between flower bushes, you'd find yourself standing before a trickling fountain. A black panther made of the purest marble reclined atop a small hill made of stone. It's eyes were glistening emeralds and they seemed to dance merrily beneath the bright sunlight. Perched slightly behind the dark panther, a leopard of silver sat, tail paused in mid flick. Sapphire eyes glowed, narrowed slightly as if the massive cat was glaring at anyone who had dared intrude on the small piece of heaven. Lines of water flowed smoothly down the rock face, tinkling as they landed lightly in the small wishing pond surrounding the monument.
Draco Malfoy tapped his chin lightly with one finger as he observed the statute. Chewing his lip, he tipped his head and considered the slowly swirling water. The significance of the small pool had already been explained by Blaise, right before the other wizard grabbed a handful of lilies and raced from the room. Slipping a hand into his pocket he withdraw a Galleon. The coin shone as he bounced it in his palm, considering the legend of the wishing pond. Sighing deeply, he closed his eyes, wished, and tossed the coin into the water. He leaned forward as he watched the gold sink lightly to the bottom before seeming to vanish. Narrowing his eyes, he immediately pulled up his sleeve and was about to retrieve the gold coin when a pair of arms wrapped around his waist.
"It takes a little longer then that Draco." Harry whispered into his mates ear, lips nibbling lightly on the rim of the pale flesh.
"Oh, it didn't take that long luv." Draco purred before turning in the confines of Harry's arms. His lips immediately seized Harry's in a quick war for control, sighing in satisfaction when Harry opened his mouth and allowed Draco to lead. Ending the kiss slowly, he curled his lip at the strong smell that had been tickling at his nose. "What the hell is that?"
"Catnip." Harry announced, holding the plant up for the others inspection. Draco's eyebrows rose slowly as he glared down at the dark green leafy object held tightly in Harry's fist.
"It's a weed." He muttered, fingers flicking one of the dangling leaves.
"So?" Harry asked, raising his own eyebrows as he pulled the plant away from Draco's tugging fingers.
"It's ugly." Draco growled, watching as Harry tossed the small plant up onto the stones between the panther's forepaws.
"I know, but you love it anyway." Harry murmured softly, snuggling his face into the pale blue shirt Draco was wearing. "Just like I love you Spot" Rolling his eyes, Draco buried his nose in Harry's hair. A bright flash had him jerking his face away, ignoring Harry's protests. The statutes remained still under his eyes. Running his fingers through his hair, he pulled Harry from the room, glancing back over his shoulder to peer anxiously at the grinning cats. Shaking his head, he leaned into Harry and allowed the dark haired wizard to drag him from the room.
Snapping his head up, he gave Harry a horrified look before demanding, "What did you just call me?" Harry chuckled and dodged away from a swinging hand, snickering as he trotted out the door. "I am gonna get Blaise for that." Draco snarled, remembering something Severus had said to him while he'd been in the hospital. Stalking after Harry, Draco bellowed for Blaise, acknowledging the fact that the other wizard had most likely gone into hiding by now.
Ron sat completely still in the bed, scratchy sheets twisted beneath him. His eyes stared up at the white ceiling of St. Mungos, completely ignoring his mother sitting next to him. The shadows cast by a tree branch setting panther like shapes stalking along a wall. Muttering softly to himself, he squirmed from beneath the blankets. A pale freckled hand clenched around the plastic wand he had been given to replace the wood one which had been confiscated upon his arrival. Wandering slowly from his assigned room, he passed mediwitches and doctors, each assessing him as he paced by.
The sound of a child's laughter halted him, smiling at the sound he peered into a brightly painted room. A young wizard with dark hair sat on a thick woven mat, back to the door. At the sound of someone entering, he turned about and grinned at Ron, flashing a smile missing two front teeth. Ron returned the smile and walked slowly towards the young boy, peering over the frail shoulder to see what was keeping the boy so amused. The little wizard held the stuffed toy he had been playing with towards Ron, the miniature Black Panther hissed softly and growled, flashing perfect fangs. Eyes widening at the sight, Ron screamed and fell backwards, arm shielding his face. Screeching in terror he ignored the boys sobs and the cries of the nurses as they flooded the room. In the little boys arms, the toy panther slitted its emerald eyes and purred.
Hermione stared down at the pale blooms held loosely in her hands. Raising the lilies to her nose, she blushed lightly before glancing up through her eyelashes. The wizard standing in front of her grinned and winked before offering her his hand. Settling her hand within his, she allowed him to tug her to her feet. A sudden commotion had Blaise whipping around as his name echoed through the garden they were currently standing in. The dark green cloak he wore swirled over his shoulder at the movement, brushing against the front of he robes.
"What did you do this time?" Hermione whispered anxiously as the bellow was repeated. Smiling down at her, Blaise dragged her deeper into the gardens.
"I may have made a little suggestion to Harry." Blaise muttered coyly, smirking as a threat to a certain part of his anatomy chased them into the hedges. "I believe we should hurry before yonder wizard goes leopard on us."
"Serves you right, telling Harry to call him Spot." Hermione hissed pulling her school robes away from her legs so she could keep up with the strides Blaise was taking. She glanced down at the flowers she still clutched and sighed upon seeing the green stems minus the white pedals.
"Hey! Its not like he needed a lot of encouragement. Besides as far as I'm concerned Spots a whole hell of a lot better then Darling, Sweetie, Whiskers, or Muffin." Blaise shuddered, pausing and listening to the shouts Draco was still emitting. Grinning happily, he continued to drag her along with him. "Come on, we'll lose them in the castle." Hermione rolled her eyes and dropped the flowers he'd given her. It seemed that the Slytherin had a playful side after all; she just wished it hadn't found Blaise at such a perfect moment.
Severus sat across the table from Lucius, eyes on the chess pieces spread intricately across the board between them. Observing the thoughtful Malfoy, he reached a hand out and picked up his glass of brandy, swirling the liquid around before raising it to his lips. The loud clip of approaching boots had both turning to watch the doors, two pairs of eyes focused intently on the dark wood. The doors swung open quietly, allowing Narcissa to breeze through without slowing her pace. In her arms was a mass of black silk. Stalking past the open mouthed pair, she tossed the heap of cloth onto the burning embers. The fire roared up as it quickly consumed the former Death Eater's robes. Severus snorted at the look of complete shock covering his friends face.
"Those were mine!" Lucius bellowed, lunging towards the fire place and attempting to grab a trailing sleeve before Narcissa could prod it deeper into the flames.
"You don't need them anymore." Narcissa murmured, wielding the poker with expertise as she jabbed the back of Lucius's hand away from the cloth.
"Woman!" Lucius roared, clutching his hand and narrowing his eyes.
"Draco and Harry are visiting tomorrow." She purred softly, a quiet warning hidden deep inside her simple words. He may have helped them escape but years of beatings and death wouldn't just vanish from his tarnished reputation. "You need a new hobby, why don't you and Severus go and play outside." Severus recognized an order when he heard it and quickly finished his drink before standing and excusing both of them. It was bad enough he had to control a bunch of immature children for half the year, he wasn't about to start playing referee for adults. Besides, Draco and Harry were coming tomorrow, if there were any problems they could deal with them. Nodding to himself he grabbed the sleeve of Lucius's robes and apparated to Hogsmeade where he could have a nice drink in a much quieter atmosphere.
The halls of the school were silent, no students were creeping carefully down the halls while desperately watching for teachers or Filch. It was as if the entire castle had agreed to go to bed early and surrendered to the night without the slightest fuss. The moon held silent sentinel in the sky as clouds drifted lazily above and in the distance an owl called shrilly. However, the Room of Requirement was a completely different story. Loud music pounded and laughter echoed around the room as the Gryffindors, Slytherin, and Hufflepuffs celebrated the defeat of Voldemort in the style of young witches and wizards across the world; with alcohol, friends and dancing.
Draco grinned at Harry as he raised the cup to his mouth and took a small sip, wincing at the bite of liquor. Harry chuckled at the look on Draco's face and seized the cup before taking a gulp and jamming it back into the waiting hand.
"Could I have everyone's attention please!" Blaise yelled above the noise, teetering unsteadily atop the table he had climbed onto. His bright pink hair, courtesy of Draco, had made him one of tonight's main attractions. Draco stared up at the other Slytherin and winced before pulling Harry back away from the table in case Blaise lost his balance. "I want to make a toast!" The crowd cheered at his announcement then quieted as Blaise raised the empty cup he was clutching.
"Oh Merlin no." Draco groaned slowly, dropping his chin onto Harry's shoulder and closing his eyes tightly. He sighed as Harry reached back and ran a hand across his face, knowing the inevitable was coming.
"First off, I just wanted to say thanks for coming out tonight and celebrating life with me. Second, if anyone calls me 'Pink' or 'Pinkie' tomorrow...I'll go Slytherin on their butt. Now, its been the start of an awesome year, we've had good times and bad. We've also had a lot of the house unity Dumbledore is always trumping about, which is good. However, I must draw your attention to the true reason for this celebration: the death of You-Know-Who. He was defeated by our own personal Saviour's Harry and Draco or Damian and Dorian. So let's give them a round of applause for saving us and allowing us to spend another year together." Thunderous applause greeted his words. Smiling drunkenly, Blaise attempted to take a bow and almost fell off the table. Watching as Dean and Thomas carefully assisted the Slytherin off the table, he was surprised when Harry pulled away from him and moved forward to climb onto the table just deserted by Blaise.
"Thank you everyone on behalf of Draco and myself. However, I'd like to offer my own toast." Harry grinned at the whoops and winked playfully at Draco. "First, a toast to Draco, a great wizard and an even better boyfriend." He bowed his head and flushed at the catcalls before taking a sip from his cup.
"My final toast is to that which I've discovered means the most this year. To life, to lessons, and to love. May we all find it and hold it close for the rest of our existence. Cheers everybody." Harry stated, even as he raised the cup he locked eyes with Draco and smiled lovingly. To life, to lessons, and to love...and another year at Hogwarts.
Severus sat in the Potions classroom, a newspaper resting across his lap as he read over the stories of the day. The school was quiet tonight, well most of it. His Snakes were playing nicely with the Lions and as long as another professor didn't catch them he could care less about what they were doing. He peered over the edge of the paper at the second year Ravenclaw slowly mixing a potion he had to redo after the catastrophe he'd caused in class earlier. Thumping his heel up onto his desk, he smiled in pleasure as the boy yelped and almost tipped over his cauldron. It was a wonderful night as far as he was concerned. He smirked slightly when he read an article on one of the final pages. He reached down and reclaimed the glass of scotch he'd set on the floor next to his chair. Raising the glass, he offered a silent toast to himself. To death and detention, a delightful combination.
DAILY PROPHET Murder at the Leaky Cauldron, pg 11
Suspected Death Eater Parkinson and his daughter were found murdered in room thirteen of the famed London pub, 'The Leaky Cauldron', on Wednesday night. Just before midnight, a figure dressed completely in black was observed leaving the room occupied by father and daughter. The individual who found the bodies is being kept in custody until their name can be cleared. Key information on the case was leaked to the public early Thursday by an unknown source making it difficult to question individuals they believe may be responsible for the deaths. Auror's have stated that in a case such as this, the chances of finding the murderer are slim. Though they will continue looking into the deaths, there are currently no leads and little evidence. The Parkinson's will not be missed.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review this story. All I can really say is that it's been great. I probably never would have taken A Panther's Heart this far if I didn't have you guys pushing and telling me how much you loved it. Though I'll try again, I doubt I'll ever write another fic that will compare with this one. Any questions will be answered through the reply system. I've also just launched the prologue for my next fic so have a peek if you want to. Once again thanks for the wonderful run, I'll miss you guys. Also, a wonderful Canada weekend to my fellow Canadians!
sigi - I haven't planned a sequel but it is a possibility.
realdarkangel - lol, glad you enjoyed it and even as I'm ending A Panther's Heart I'm launching the prologue for my next story.
Elentari Elbereth - Thank you very much for the compliment and I hope your translation is going along wonderfully.
LeopardLover - The possibility of me writing a sequel gets greater every time someone asks me for one, lol.
Daemon -In-White - Thanks a lot and I'm sad to tell you this was my first Harry/Draco but it most definitely will not be my last.
Lady of the Serpentine - Thank you for that little piece of info but trust me when I say I've already been made aware of my mistakes when it comes to the large cat breeds and names.
sbkar - I played with that for like five minutes and couldn't figure out what the hell was wrong with it, lol. Thanks for straightening me out and everyone should be dealt with by now or most likely in their proper place.