Disclaimer: All J.K. Rowling's
SHADOWS OF OURSELVES
Chapter 32: Endgame
Endgame: The stage of the game when there are few pieces left on the board.
In this case, the end!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Seven Years Later
Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat on the highest hill of the Hogwarts grounds, the September breeze with just a hint of chill whipping around them as the Opening Feast continued in the Great Hall.
"You do realize that today it's been exactly 20 years since we first met?" Hermione said happily.
"Blimey, is that all?" Ron asked. Harry shoved him, but before Ron could retaliate, a movement in the distance caught his attention, and he groaned. "Speaking of people we met 20 years ago, here comes our favorite one."
Harry and Hermione followed where Ron was looking and saw four very blonde figures—one tall, three significantly shorter—headed in their direction.
"He looks more like a nanny than an ex-Death Eater," Ron snickered. He hesitated before adding delicately, "Wonder where his wife is?"
"Probably off gallivanting with her friends," Hermione said with a deliberately careless shrug.
Harry shot a quick look at Hermione. "You would never know who their mother is from looking at them."
Hermione ignored him as she watched Draco Malfoy walk effortlessly up the hill with his three young daughters in tow.
"Ferret face," Harry finally acknowledged, as it was impossible to ignore him now.
"Scarhead," he replied with equal cordiality.
"Mal-ferret," Ron said.
Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes at this ritual the men got into every time they crossed paths. "Malfoy," she nodded curtly.
"Granger," he returned with the same cool cordiality.
"Stuck as babysitter again?" Harry observed.
"My wife is neglecting her duties again, so, yes," he said, shifting the youngest blonde beauty to his other arm.
"We were just wondering who their mother is," Ron said. "They look too much like you."
Draco smirked. "You say that like it's a bad thing." He glanced down at Aurora, who was fast asleep in his arms. "What can I say? Beauty begets beauty."
"Pansy Parkinson!" Harry said suddenly, snapping his fingers. "She must be the lucky Mrs. Malfoy. Only she would put up with a narcissistic git like this."
Hermione threw Harry a look of disgust and stood up, bringing the five-year-old Athena with her. "Pretending last week that their mother is some random scarlet woman was very well, Harry, but Pansy Parkinson pushes it."
"If I were married to Pansy, I'd have to self-procreate for my kids to look even remotely human," Draco added.
"Now, that, Malfoy, is something I never want to see," Ron declared. He grinned at Hermione. "Sorry, forgot you actually do put up with this git."
Hermione looked at Athena. "I don't know why I put up with any of them, do you?"
"I don't know, Mama," her daughter answered seriously.
"Let's switch, Granger," Draco said. "Athena's too heavy for you." Hermione opened her mouth to object, but he cut her off. "Healer Potter said you weren't supposed to lift anything heavy, dear."
Hermione's mouth snapped shut as she glared at him. Harry and Ron groaned.
"Not again?" Ron said. "Who are you competing with, Mione?"
"All the Weasleys put together?" Harry suggested, for now there were many Weasley descendants.
"No, I'm trying to stay even with the Potters," she replied coolly, causing Harry to flush. "Is it twins again this time?"
He looked uncomfortably at his brother-in-law. "Maybe," he admitted.
Ron groaned again.
"Switch, Granger," Draco ordered.
"Mummy! I want Mummy!" The newly awakened Aurora wailed, quite sealing the deal.
"Maybe the next one will be a boy, eh, Malfoy?" Harry said, watching Draco and Hermione expertly handle the delicate maneuvering required to switch children. "We heard you whining for a son the other day."
"Malfoys do not whine."
"And I do not have a scar on my forehead."
"Regardless of whether it's a boy or a girl..." Hermione started.
"Not Slytherin," Harry said in a high falsetto meant to mimic Hermione's voice.
"Not Gryffindor," Ron said, also in a high voice that was supposed to mimic Draco's.
"I was going to say not his hair," Hermione sniffed.
"Then, not yours either," Draco countered, eyeing her bushy mane.
"Wow, you're such good parents," Harry said sarcastically.
"Wishing your kid to be bald," Ron added.
If looks could kill...
"I think we've upset Master and Madam Malfoy," Harry muttered to Ron.
Ron groveled in imitation of the old pureblood/underling way. "Oh, I humbly crave your forgiveness—ouch!"
Hermione smartly swatted him on the back of the head. Draco nodded approvingly.
"Excellent, Granger. I knew that ring would come in handy someday."
"Hand-y. Good one, Master Malfoy."
"Actually, I have a new title, Potter, if The Boy Who Lived Twice didn't notice."
"Oh, my apologies, King Malfoy—"
"Isn't Weasley our king?" Hermione interjected absently.
Harry shook his head mournfully at Ron. "You're right. He is rubbing off on her."
"Well, he's bound to after eight years," Hermione admitted.
"And you liked every minute of it," Draco smirked suggestively.
"Oi, children present! Your children I might add," Ron said, covering Ariana's ears.
"Speaking of new titles, we should celebrate," Harry said, swinging Ariana up onto his shoulders. "Why don't we go to my place and—"
"Your place?" Draco repeated. "We're not sardines. Gather your wives and spawn altogether and come over to the Manor."
"An invitation to the Manor from the Lord and Master himself!" Ron said. "Now I can die in peace."
"Want me to oblige you, Weasley? I can't ensure it'll be peaceful, but the death part—"
"Do come over," Hermione urged. "We know you were planning a surprise party for us, and we're touched, but—"
"It'll be standing room only if we all squeeze into Grimmauld Place," Draco muttered.
"—we can all have a good time at the Manor," Hermione continued, speaking over her husband, "and the children can have that tea party they've been begging for."
"A good time at your house, Hermione?" Harry said skeptically. "Hey!" He dodged her blow easily. "All right, all right, we'll come! Honestly, Hermione, are you sure you're not having twins? The hormones..." Harry glanced at Draco and was pleased to see he looked a tad paler, if that were possible.
Hermione shrugged nonchalantly. "You never can tell at this stage." She unceremoniously deposited Aurora, who had fallen back asleep, into Ron's arms and held out her hand for Ariana, who clambered down from her perch.
"Race you down the hill?"
The four-year-old, who was the only one of the three sisters who could imitate her mother with annoying (for Hermione) and delightful (for her uncles and father) accuracy, followed her mother's lead, and they were soon disappearing down the sloping grounds.
"Granger!" Draco called out, using his longer strides to catch up with them without running because he refused to appear flustered. Athena bounced patiently in his arms. "Granger, be careful. Honestly—Weaselette said—and if you are carrying twins—"
Ron and Harry glanced at each other in the deepening gloom as they followed at a slower pace.
"Hermione's Headmistress of Hogwarts," Harry said, shaking his head. "Godric help our children once they start going here."
"Forget that!" Ron said. "Malfoy's Minister of Magic! Merlin help us all."
They caught up with the Granger-Malfoys on the path leading to the castle doors.
"Well, what do we have here?" Draco drawled.
Despite his tone, his mouth hardened into a grim line at the sight of at least two dozen reporters and photographers waiting near the castle.
"I thought you put a stop to this?" he frowned at Hermione.
She frowned back. "It's a rather historic day in Hogwarts history. We had to let the press in."
"What's up?" Ron asked, arriving with Harry and Aurora.
"The press is on the verge of storming the castle walls just to get a snap of your revolting face," Draco said.
"Oh, really?" Ron said, craning his neck to peer over Draco's shoulder.
"Maybe we should just go to Hogsmeade and Apparate from there," Harry suggested.
"By all means, Potter, you're free to do so, but the Minister is not about to high-tail out of here because of a few reporters."
"Minister-elect," Harry corrected. "You're not Minister yet."
"Is that a threat? I can have you locked up in Azkaban for that."
"I'm Head Auror, Malfoy. Who are you going to have arrest me? Going to chase me around yourself on your old Nimbus 2001?"
Ron grinned. "Harry's still got one up on you in that department."
"And Ron's got the new Thunderbolt 3000—"
"I don't think it's particularly dignified for the Minister to be flying around on a broomstick," Draco said dismissively. "And whose side are you on anyway, Granger?"
"I was just stating a fact—"
"Because you know so much about brooms," Draco countered as he straightened his cuffs and smoothed his hair.
"God, Malfoy, you're such a girl," Ron said in disgust, though he surreptitiously ran a hand through his hair, too.
The reporters had finally spotted them and came rushing over. Draco gave Ron, who was still holding Aurora, a pointed look. "If she gets so much as jostled, Weasley, you will never have children again."
"Here," Ron said, shoving Aurora into Harry's arms. "You take her."
"Coward," Draco muttered as he swept forward with Athena.
Hermione trod on Ron's toes before he could finish the obscenity as she sailed over to Draco's side.
"Minister Malfoy! Now that the country has rejoined the International Confederation of Wizards, what are your next plans for the Ministry?"
"Headmistress Granger! As the youngest ever to become Head of Hogwarts, do you have a plan for coping with the increasing number of international students wanting to attend?"
"You're not taking my name?" Draco asked as he guided Hermione through the throng. "Headmistress Malfoy would sound so much better."
"Than Headmistress Granger? Certainly not."
"Mr. Potter! Are you worried about making time for your family in between your Auror duties and teaching at Hogwarts?"
"Captain Weasley! Do the Chudley Cannons have any chance of finishing higher than at the bottom of their division?"
"They most certainly do!" Ron burst out angrily, but Harry pulled him away from the offending reporter before any damage could be done.
"This is ridiculous," muttered Harry, who had been exposed to the press for the longest and could cope with them the least. "Do they have to swarm us every time we're together?"
"Together, we're worth the front page for three weeks, Potter."
"Let's just go," snarled Ron, who was still being questioned on the Chudley Cannons' spectacular losing record.
"Headmistress Granger! Is it true that all house-elves at Hogwarts are now on the pay roll?"
"Mr. Potter! Can we have a glimpse of the scar for the cameras?"
"Captain Weasley! How does it feel to be captain during the worst season the Cannons have had in 300 years?"
"Oh, bloody brilliant. I'm so proud—"
"Minister Malfoy! What will be your first act as Minister of Magic?"
"I'm going to make any lie you publish punishable by a 20-year sentence in Azkaban," Draco answered promptly. That shut the lot of them up long enough for them to slip through the castle doors.
Once they made it through, Harry and Draco closed the doors before any reporters could follow them in. They nearly shut Ron out, as he stood on the top step, getting into a shouting match with one of the reporters.
"Well, that went really well," Draco said sarcastically as he hauled Ron in by the back of his robes. A particularly audacious photographer stuck his camera in to take one last shot, and Draco neatly twisted it out of his grip.
"Unbelievable, just like their father," Hermione said, surprised to see all three of her children were sound asleep. "They can sleep through anything." She glanced at Draco, who was frowning in displeasure at the rip on one of his sleeves, and realization dawned on her face. "Did you Stun them again?"
"Again?" Harry and Ron repeated.
"Malfoy has the horrible habit of Stunning his daughters when it's his turn to put them to bed!" Hermione said, throwing her husband a very dirty look.
"They look like angels when they sleep. I thought you'd appreciate it if they looked like sleeping cherubs instead of bawling brats on tomorrow's front page," Draco reasoned. He Disapparated with Athena before she could reply.
"Being married to the Headmistress of Hogwarts has its perks, it seems," Harry said, raising his eyebrows.
"I should revoke his access without telling him," she mused, twirling her wand. "He could use a good splinching now and then."
"Don't pretend you don't love him, Mione," Harry said. "It's getting old."
"It's sickening, really," Ron added. "You're head over heels."
"Unfortunately," she admitted, before she cried out in a perfect imitation of hysterical panic, "DRACO!"
She had barely Disapparated with Ariana when he reappeared again, wand at the ready.
"What happened?" he demanded. "Where is she? Where's Ariana?" Then he saw Harry and Ron, who were trying their best to look distraught and failing miserably. He angrily pocketed his wand. "I swear if she does that one more time..." His words faded away as he Disapparated once more, this time with Aurora.
"So we'll just meet at the Manor?" Ron said.
"Gin'll be furious. She's been cleaning all week, but Malfoy's right." He grimaced as if such an admission caused him physical pain. "We wouldn't be able to move an inch."
"Grimmauld isn't that small," Ron said consolingly. "Compared to the Burrow, it's big! But the Manor's just..."
"Bigger," Harry finished glumly. "But the building that houses Malfoy's over-inflated ego has to be enormous."
"Hermione's, too," Ron said. "Dunno how they're going to both fit. Minister of Magic and Headmistress of Hogwarts—"
"I will pretend I didn't hear that, Ronald Weasley," Hermione said, reappearing silently.
Harry and Ron both started.
"How do you do that?" Ron demanded. "How does she do that?" he asked Harry.
Harry shrugged. "I've been trying to get them to teach me the silent Apparition trick for years. It'd be great for Auroring, you know, possibly save my life one of these days."
"Haven't I done that enough already?" she asked cheekily. "Now go round up our guests. Don't forget to magic over all the favors and decorations."
"How did you find out?" Ron demanded angrily. "We've been planning this for two months!"
"When both of you get your heads together and giggle like silly schoolgirls—"
"We do not giggle," Harry said.
"And I am not Hermione Malfoy."
"Oh, you're not?" Ron said excitedly.
"We've been hoping the last eight years have been a joke," Harry added.
"The carriages will be waiting for you at the gates," Hermione sniffed.
"Oh, hark! The carriages, how gracious of you! Wouldn't have wanted to walk the whole five miles from the gates to your house," Ron said.
"It's only one mile, you insufferable prat—"
Draco, who had appeared again silently at her side, cleared his throat impatiently. "What in the world is taking you so long, woman?" he demanded.
"Never you mind, and don't you dare call me that again," she said, Disapparating.
Draco growled under his breath. "What are you two staring at? Get your broods together and at my house in ten minutes, or I'll sic the press on you," he threatened before he Disapparated for a third time.
"I can't believe we're stuck with him for the rest of our lives," Ron grumbled, glaring at the space Draco had just vacated.
Harry looked at him sharply. "You don't have any regrets, do you, Ron? About how everything turned out?"
"Me? No, I like my life as it is, thank you very much," Ron said contentedly. He looked hard at Harry. "Do you?" There was a hint of threat in his voice.
"The Mirror of Erised couldn't show me anything I don't have now," Harry swore, earning a grin from Ron.
Ron stuck out a hand for Harry to shake, which the latter did heartily. "Oh, who are we kidding?" Ron said, pulling Harry in for a hug.
A snap and a flash caused both men to jump apart.
"Yes, who are you kidding?" Draco drawled, tossing up the camera he had confiscated from the photographer and deftly catching it with his other hand. "Oh, Granger said not to forget Lavender's cake. But if it's as inedible as the last one, I say accidentally drop it under the carriage when you arrive."
Harry made a grab for the camera, but Draco stepped just out reach. "When are you going to stop calling Hermione by her surname?" Harry demanded.
"Never," Draco said simply. "She's Granger, I'm Malfoy, it works. Oh, and if you're not at the Manor in ten minutes, she's given me permission to hex your sorry asses into action."
"You can't do that, I'm Head Auror—"
"And I'm the Minister."
"Minister-elect." Harry rolled his eyes at Ron as Draco Disapparated one last time. "One of these days, his neck is going to snap from having to support that huge head of his, and then I'll really have something to celebrate."
Exactly 11 minutes later, the doors of Malfoy Manor burst open and in poured a dozen adults and nearly a score of children. Hermione and Draco were waiting for their guests in the entrance hall, looking very much like the host and hostess of old pureblood society. Hermione's royal blue dress matched Draco's tie perfectly—it was a habit they had never gotten out of—but all haughtiness was gone from their manner ... well, for Hermione, at least.
"Hello, everyone!" Hermione greeted as she hurried forward. Draco, as usual, took his time. "Remus, did you get your House settled in properly?" she asked, reaching out to steady the green-haired Teddy as he slipped on the marble floor.
"He inherited his mother's grace, this one," Lupin muttered confidentially. He smiled warmly at her. "You really shouldn't have done it, Hermione. The owls are probably dropping off Howlers at your desk already."
"I don't care how many parents complain. The students absolutely adore you. If anyone pulls their children out of Hogwarts just because you're Head of Gryffindor, then good riddance! We're starting to overcrowd anyway. Did you see how many first-years...?"
Draco drifted detachedly among his guests. They were all technically Hermione's friends, but he'd learned to tolerate them over the years. All of his friends were in Azkaban, serving sentences of varying lengths. Crabbe would be getting out soon. Maybe he'd send him an owl for old time's sake.
"Oi, don't you listen to a word my wife says, Angelina!" George was shouting to his sister-in-law across the hall. "Alicia, if you dare tell her about that, I'll..."
"...just 'ope ze children won't get into trouble because of zair cousins," Fleur was telling Bill. "We should 'ave sent them to Beauxbatons, even if 'Ermione is 'Eadmistress..."
"... because I know your team is going to do better in the second half of the season," Lavender was consoling Ron. "You haven't let a goal get past you in the last dozen games, and if only your team could catch the Snitch once in a while..."
"... Arty and Chuck are going to be our contacts inside Hogwarts," Fred was explaining to Charlie. "Fleur won't let her precious daughters do any work, though I've promised them half of everything they bring in. Pity, with the veela blood, they'd be moneymaking machines..."
"James, Lily, stay still for just one minute!" Ginny was chasing her children, trying to take their cloaks. "Master Ferret," she greeted curtly as she brushed past him.
"Mrs. Potty," he returned, with a slight, mocking bow.
"You know, Malfoy, you actually look like you're enjoying all this," Ron said, looking decidedly cheerier after Lavender's pep talk.
"No, I'm enjoying the memory of peace and quiet before you all arrived." He raised his hand to greet Kingsley, who had just arrived. "Don't steal the silverware," he threw over his shoulder as he moved toward the outgoing Minister of Magic.
Ignoring the rude gesture Ron was making, Draco shook hands with Kingsley. "Thanks for getting us back on the good side of the Confederation. Are you sure you want to Head International Magical Cooperation? Just say the word, and you can be Head Auror again. Potter's been threatening to arrest me all day."
"No, thank you, my Auroring days are over," Kingsley laughed boomingly. "When the ones you're chasing start to run faster than you, stick to diplomacy. Words never give you a side-stitch."
"You've never been in an argument with Draco, then," Hermione said, joining them. "It's quite a workout, believe me."
"On the contrary, Hermione. Every day Draco worked in MLE was a constant debate. That's how he finally ran me out of office."
"Kingsley, have you ever thought about teaching?" Hermione inquired. "I was thinking of starting a series of seminars for N.E.W.T.-level students next term, after you leave office. You know, there are a lot of students interested in diplomacy..."
Draco smirked slightly as Hermione drew Kingsley off to discuss his post-political career. She'd have him drawing up lesson plans by the end of the night.
"... asking me questions about my teaching career," Harry was saying to Tonks, who was trying to untangle Teddy's shoelaces and just making the knots worse. "You and I are just tutoring N.E.W.T.-level students who might want to be Aurors! How they even found out—"
"Oh, poor, poor Potter and his press problems," Draco drawled, tolerating a hug from Teddy. Much to Tonks' chagrin, her son was quite fond of her cousin. His green hair quickly changed to mimic Draco's silver-blond.
"Not everyone likes every moment of their life to be documented in newspapers, Malfoy," Harry said defensively.
"Maybe if you didn't run from them every single time, they wouldn't chase you."
Harry regarded Draco suspiciously. "Are you giving me advice, Malfoy?"
"You don't see me throwing a temper tantrum every time there are reporters waiting outside my fence."
"That's because your fence is two miles away from your house!"
"Then buy a bigger house, Potter. Merlin knows you can afford it. Or live out the rest of your life threatening to cut off limbs every time a reporter asks you a question—"
"Oh, I did answer one question today, Malfoy."
"Bravo, Potter. You get an O for Outstanding—"
"Someone asked me if one of your daughters was named in my honor. I said 'yes'."
"Are you daft? None of them—"
"Oh, real witty, Potter. We're going to name the next one in your honor as well, asshole."
"Asshole Malfoy just doesn't sound right." But Harry smiled as he gave it another thought. "Actually, it kind of does."
"Okay, listen up!" Hermione said, standing two steps up the staircase so she could be seen and heard. "Athena, Ariana, and Aurora are waiting in their playroom for all of you." She held her arms out to stop the sudden surge. "But it's a tea party so everyone had better be on their best behavior."
The children, ranging from age 2 to 10, disregarded her completely and broke into an all-out run. The Malfoy playroom was the envy of all their friends.
Hermione shook her head ruefully as she led the way to the west parlor. "Eighteen magical children under the age of 10 in the same room? We'll be lucky to survive the night!"
"Good thing we moved the party to your house, Mione," Harry said, hooking a chummy arm around Draco's neck. "You can stand to lose a wing or two."
"You could stand to lose an arm or two," Draco said, removing Harry's arm from his person as if it were something slimy as they moved into the west parlor. "Front page of the Daily Prophet tomorrow: Harry Potter—The Amazing Armless Auror."
He almost made it through. Almost. Hermione, who was standing by the doors of the parlor, ushering everyone in, plucked her husband out of the throng and pulled him aside.
"Be nice, Draco," she said, as if she were talking to one of the children. "These are our guests, and if you can't at least be cordial—"
"Oh, you know I love it when you get all Professor Granger on me," he smirked, snaking his arms around her waist. "Perhaps detention for my bad behavior later, Professor? Some corporal punishment?"
She crossed her arms, pursed her lips, and gave him a narrowed-eyed look. The effect was entirely lost on him because her pursed lips made them look all the more inviting for a kiss. And Draco Malfoy was not one to turn down an invitation...
Hermione helped by pulling on his immaculate tie and forcing his head down to her level.
"Oi, get a room, will you?" George shouted, picking up the camera that had been carelessly thrown on one of the sofas and threatening to take their picture.
"Front page of the Daily Prophet tomorrow: What Really Goes on Behind the Closed Doors of Malfoy Manor," Fred said, grabbing the camera from his twin and actually taking their picture.
"If you develop the film there, Weasley, there's a picture that will make the front page for a year," Draco said, trying to get past Hermione, but she pushed him back against the wall.
"If you wanted more, you could have just asked," Draco said, leaning down for another kiss.
Hermione jerked her head out of his reach. "I'm warning you, Draco. Behave or I will unveil your S.P.E.W. International plans tonight in front of your most loyal supporters."
"All right, all right," Draco conceded, glancing nervously at the others to make sure no one had overheard. "You know, you can't use that every time you want something done," he grumbled.
"Well, certainly not after S.P.E.W. International happens, but I'm sure I'll come up with a new crusade for you by then," she said serenely.
"Uh, Gin? Lav?" George said uncertainly, holding up a freshly developed photograph. "You might want to take a look at this..."
Draco got pure satisfaction out of seeing the looks on Harry's and Ron's faces as everyone viewed the incriminating photograph. Hermione, who had bounded over the quickest, now sat between Fred and George and was wiping tears of laughter as she watched the picture images of Harry and Ron engage in a highly emotional hug before they jumped apart with extremely guilty looks on their faces.
"Late night practice at the Quidditch pitch?" she asked. "I think not!"
"You know, I don't think Hermione Granger even exists anymore," Harry said, trying to rally the shreds of his dignity.
"You're right, mate! She's a Malfoy, through and through!" Ron agreed.
A tugging at his robes caused Draco to look down. Athena stood before him, looking up with large brown eyes made even more prominent by her light hair and features. Even though Draco was constantly jibbed about how much his daughters resembled him, they all had their mother's eyes.
He picked her up. "What's up, princess?"
She coolly observed the room full of cackling adults. "Why do people laugh?"
Draco hesitated before answering this highly philosophical question. "Because they're happy."
"Is that why Mama laughs all the time? Because she's happy?"
Draco had to smile. "Yes. She's very happy. Because of you and Ariana and Aurora—"
Draco couldn't help it. "Especially because of me."
"Is that why she laughs at you all the time?"
Great, just like her mother. Athena was too damn smart sometimes. She was only five, but Draco would have sworn he caught her looking at Hogwarts, A History the other day. "Yes, she's very happy when she does that."
A few moments passed before Athena began squirming to get out of his arms. He obliged and set her down. She skipped happily away to rejoin the tea party.
Crossing his now empty arms, Draco leaned on the doorway, tilted back his head, closed his eyes, and blocked out all other noise except the sound of his wife's laughter.
Now that was a sound he could live with forever.
And if it came with more than its share of Potters and Weasleys ... well, he could live with that too.
Oh, and just for the record, Minister Malfoy and Headmistress Granger's next child was the much-awaited for son, though to Draco's dismay and Hermione's delight, Adonis Malfoy had chestnut brown hair that was every bit as curly as his mother's.