Nineteen years later.
Seven years later.
"But I want to—"
"He said go away, Nosy, so go away!"
The little girl looked longingly at her brothers, disappearing behind the walls of the sand castle. They were reinforcing them with sea-polished stones, and she would truly have loved to help, but they would simply not let her. She cast them a resentful glance; already they were buried deep in conversation, their white blond heads bent over the ditches, their hands flying about and touching gently to communicate the mysterious words only the twins knew.
Nausicaa sighed, picked up her bucket and shovel, and walked away. Her dark grey eyes brimming with tears, she flitted from seashell to pebble until a flubbery, white mass caught her attention. She quickly shot a look at where the adults were, rarely paying her any attention but always on time to prevent her from making a fun discovery, and, finding them absorbed in their discussion, cautiously inched her chubby little hand toward the gelatinous thing.
"Don't touch it!"
Sure enough, Suleiman stood there, his dark eyes intent on the redhead's, his seven year old body a small but unwavering barrier between the little girl and her treasure.
"What are you doing here?" she snapped angrily, not particularly respectful of her two-years senior.
"Making sure you don't hurt yourself," he retorted calmly, the hint of a smirk at the corner of his lips. Blaise often reproached Draco for having passed it on to his godson in addition to his sons and cherished daughter.
"Like you care."
"Of course I do. I'll get in trouble if something happens to you."
"You're not my brother," Nausicaa went on bitterly. "They'll get in trouble if something happens to me, not you. And they would deserve it, too."
Again, tears threatened to spill from her eyes. Suleiman saw the redness that usually covered his friend's freckles when she was both angry and sad, but fighting desperately not to show it. He stepped aside, took her hand, and put a long stick in it. He himself was holding another branch, and with it he prodded the dead animal.
"It's a jellyfish," he said. "If you touch it, it'll burn you, even though it's dead."
"A jelly-fish? Where are its tentacles?" she asked, having a hard time associating this gelatinous orb with the flower-like creatures that roamed the seas.
In one, precise gesture, Suleiman used the stick to flip the jelly-fish over, revealing the tangled mass of sand-stained tentacles. Nausicaa frowned in disgust —this was clearly not what she had expected—but quickly schooled her features to reflect indifference; after all, she was in the presence of another person, who might mistake her distaste for fear. The youngest Malfoy would not have that.
"We could bring pieces of it back on the sticks and throw them at Valerian and Aurelian," she murmured darkly.
"We could also build a tomb for it," Suleiman suggested airily. "With a stone altar, wooden fences, bottomless ditches and—"
"And?" the little girl asked, wonder sparkling in her eyes.
"Stars," he said, opening his hand to reveal two starfish, a blue one and a red one, still moist from the stone under which he had retrieved them.
Nausicaa looked at him adoringly, all schemes of vengeance forgotten in an instant, too amazed by the incredible things a boy her brothers' age could conjure. They started working on the mausoleum immediately.
From underneath the parasols, Ginny observed her sons with a smile. She had bathed them in sun-potion every single hour, and was glad to see their skin turn golden rather than red. Ever since their birth, Draco had insisted that neither they nor Nausicaa be allowed in the sun for more than an hour at a time, but Ginny had fought that decree, and won. Her boys enjoyed playing outside so much that she could not bring herself to regret it. One of them looked up and smiled, which caused the other to pause and follow his brother's gaze. Upon meeting his mother's glance, his golden eyes crinkled and he stuck out his tongue. Ginny shook her finger in warning and Valerian immediately backed down, while Aurelian, amused at his brother's silliness, shrugged and resumed construction of their castle.
"You'll be hearing about Valerian quite a bit once he begins attending Hogwarts, I expect," Shehzin commented, readjusting her sunglasses.
"About Aurelian too, make no mistake. That child may look cute and innocent, but he will get them out of any trouble Valerian gets them in, granting them many occasions to do it again."
Shehzin laughed, her teeth an immaculate row of white between her plump cheeks.
"You know them too well."
"I thought I knew my twin brothers well, but I can read these two like none other. Well, better than Draco, anyway," Ginny conceded. "Which means that… Where is Nausicaa?" she suddenly wondered, screening the beach for familiar auburn hair.
"With Suleiman, over there," Shehzin said, pointing to the dark skinned boy who was turning over stones for the little girl.
"You know, I always thought he, Valerian, and Aurelian would become the best of friends, but—"
"That could never compare with what your sons share."
"I'm so glad he's patient enough to play with Nausicaa. She's a difficult one, at times. Draco spoils her rotten."
"But Suli has always wanted a younger sibling, and she's just that for him. No amount of brattiness will keep him away."
A content smile graced Ginny's features, already made brighter by the slight sunburn no parasol could keep at bay.
"I can only hope they'll be sorted in the same house," she added. "It might be hard for her to make good friends otherwise. She's simply too demanding…"
"Don't forget snobby, like her good old dad," Blaise chimed in, leaning over the chaise longue to kiss his wife hello.
Shehzin muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, "Well I wasn't going to say so but…"
"My daughter is not snobby!" Ginny snapped, laughing.
"Neither is her father," Draco pointed out, having noiselessly walked over to where both women sat.
This earned him three dubious looks, which he met placidly. Blaise peered about, searching for his son.
"He's with Nausicaa," his wife informed him.
"That's a surprise," Blaise said, his tone indicating that such was not the case. In one swift motion, he pulled off his business robes, revealing an impeccably sculpted body in boxer bathing shorts. Shehzin gulped audibly, which caused Ginny to choke back a laugh, and moved forward to allow her husband to slide behind her on the chair. She sighed contentedly as she leaned back against him and delight shone in his raven-black eyes. Ginny turned to Draco, clad in similarly formal robes, who stood gazing fondly at their children. Before she could utter a word, and without turning to her, he growled, "No, I will not be displaying my athletic body in a skimpy bathing suit today."
Ginny rolled her eyes but had to smile, remembering the days he had spent after their last sunbath, complaining that the reddish tinge would never leave his skin and that there was a reason parasols existed. She held out her arms to him, and he must have perceived the movement from the corner of his eyes, for he looked at her, at her welcoming gesture and warm smile, at the sunburn on her cheeks which, he was sure, he would find on all three of his children's faces as well. He sat down next to her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly, then held to him tightly as both couples watched their children.
Chalchiuhtlicue was the most isolated island in the archipelago composing the much feared triangle of the Bermuda. Tlaloc may have been larger, Tecciztecatl boasted steeper ravines and lusher forests, and the reefs surroundings Xochipili abounded with fluorescent fish and adventurous oceanids, but one seeking peace and quiet in the most refined, secluded safe-haven would have chosen Chalchiuhtlicue in a heartbeat. That is why Draco, upon being offered this jewel of an island by an immensely indebted business partner, had agreed to the renewal of their deal and presented his wife with a consequent present for the birth of Nausicaa. Ginny had immediately fallen in love with the rocky ravines (although Draco forbid her from walking there unless protected from falls by a spell), with the mesmerizing waters (although Draco always made sure she was protected from drowning by another series of charms), with the luxuriant vegetation and fantastic fauna (by which she and the children could not be harmed, as per a very powerful spell cast between the Malfoys and the island immediately upon their arrival). If Draco had greeted the first tropical rainshowers with furious bewilderment, he had rapidly been convinced of their advantages when, leaving the children with Izha, Ginny had taken him for a few hours of breathless madness under the pouring rain.
Eventually, even Draco had grown to appreciate the cozy, sun-washed beaches nestled in crooks of the cliff. Often he would take Nausicaa for a walk along the various escarpments, listening to her incessant babble as it fought with exotic bird cries for the privilege of breaking the silence. With Aurelian and Valerian, he went for long walks under the canopies, sometimes allowing them to climb up the giant trees' gnarled bark, more often than not having to pull them back from the tangled roots or burrows that turned the rainforest into the ideal playground for children. It had taken three months of relentless begging on Ginny's part for Shehzin and Blaise, accompanied by Suleiman, to be allowed onto the island. As Draco had warned, they never stopped coming from then on; he simply didn't find it within himself to actually mind that fact. Especially when he saw the way Suleiman and Nausicaa could give Valerian and Aurelian [ a run for their money] where sand battles were concerned.
"The storm is coming," Blaise said, propping himself up to see beyond Shehzin's leonine mane. "Suleiman, Nausicaa!" he called.
The children looked up to see dark clouds gathering, and finally noticed the strong winds lashing out at them. Valerian and Aurelian, on the other hand, were lying on their backs in the center of their castle, hands a few millimeters apart, eyes riveted to the hurricane forming.
"Valerian!" Draco called shortly, as Ginny shouted, "Aurelian!" her voice warm yet imperative like only mothers' voices can be.
The twins sat up as one. One boy helped the other, then both picked up their shovels and buckets before running toward their parents. In his childish haste to get back to his parents, Valerian pushed past Nausicaa and Suleiman, causing the little girl to trip and nearly fall, but Aurelian was there and prevented her from falling. He ruffled her dark red hair. A light rain started falling.
"Come on, slow poke. Suli, I'll race you there!" Aurelian chirped.
"You're on," Suleiman said, smiling. He handed the rake he was holding to Nausicaa, who grinned mischievously and watched as Blaise's son effortlessly beat her brother.
By the time the children had reached the adults, the sky was black and the tide significantly more violent. A strong rain splattered against the sea. All watched with mingled excitement and anxiety as the hurricane sped closer, gathering clouds to it as it went as though twirling gray cotton candy on the stick of its axis. It reached the island a few minutes later, forecasted by high waves that moved right through the island without moving a grain of sand. Nausicaa, eyes wide with delight, grasped Suleiman's hand as the sea coursed through them as though part of a parallel dimension, pulsing and foaming like blood gushing from a wound. The wind about them blew furiously, they could tell, from the slight tremors they could feel despite the protective spell around the island.
There was a moment of silence as time stood still and they found themselves in the eye of the storm, surrounded by swirling masses of wind and water, minuscule creatures at the heart of Nature's unleashed wrath. Ginny, buried in Draco's arms, ringlets of copper hair flying about her face, nudged him. He followed her gaze toward Suleiman and Nausicaa and frowned, every bit like the demanding and jealous father his had been. Ginny shook her hair, smiling at his reaction, and turned against him, her hands tenderly on his cheeks. He smirked. She rolled her eyes. He kissed her. Valerian and Aurelian, their white blond hair like a halo around their identical faces, shone in the twisted penumbra of the storm's eye.
The hurricane moved on, water and air once again merging into a devastating force of nature, heading toward the coasts of other, similarly protected Wizarding isles. As soon as the wind had died down, the sea level sank back, and the fascinated silence that had fallen upon Chalchiuhtlicue was broken by bird cries, shortly followed by Shehzin's voice.
"Who wants to go for a swim?"
A chorus of "Me! Me! Me!" followed her and Blaise to the sea. Perpetually in awe of their children, Ginny gazed fondly at them, her fingers entwined with Draco's. Knowing that she was too engrossed with the kids to even notice his gesture, he looked down at her, relishing the smoothness of her skin and the constellation of freckles on her shoulders, made obvious by a few days in the sun.
Suddenly, a cry of excitement rang, making both Ginny and Draco turn in surprise. Lorelei, now a pretty teenager of more than satisfactory magical skills, was walking toward them, holding the hand of Faolan Lupin.
"It's beautiful!" he exclaimed, eyes trained on the ocean, as his hair turned a greenish blue to match that of the water.
Lorelei laughed and ruffled his hair affectionately.
"Wait until you try the water: it's warmer than in the bathtub."
"Impossible," he replied with the childish assurance of kids who know everything.
"See for yourself," she said, and together they walked to the seaside after brief hellos to Aunty Gin and Uncle Draco.
"Where are the rest?" Ginny called to them.
But Faolan and Lorelei were much more absorbed by the sea than they were by the prospect of giving more detailed information, so the adults had to wait a few additional minutes for Remus, Tonks and Leo to join them. The men were thoroughly engrossed in their conversation, which centered, as it usually did, on Defense Against the Dark Arts. Leo was so absorbed by the topic that he often helped their new teacher, Helena Burkes, who in his opinion could not compare to Remus but did not have the misfortune of being a werewolf. Tonks trailed behind them, amused, and occasionally corrected her husband while keeping an eye on the now sea-star coloured hair of her son.
"Hey guys!" she said with her legendary enthusiasm as she plopped down next to her cousin.
Draco eyed her neutrally, never completely at ease in her presence. Ginny suspected that, in addition to the bad blood between their parents, her energy and lack of tact had something to do with his behaviour, though she had more than once caught him giving her a fond glance; she knew he admired Tonks' resilience and her ability to make the best with what she had. All Ginny had to do now was to get Draco to come to terms with his own feelings.
"Oh, Ginny, you got an owl, by the way," Tonks said shortly after Remus had settled down by her side.
"The poor thing arrived right before the storm and was half scared to death," he added, smiling peacefully as he drew a reclining chair. "We figured we'd wait for it to end before meeting up with you, so here's the message."
He handed Ginny a scroll of fine parchment, wrapped with a beautiful ribbon. Ginny suspected it came from Narcissa and was therefore surprised to find it addressed to her rather than Draco.
"Where's Lorelei?" Leo asked as Ginny unrolled the parchment.
"Over there with Faolan," Draco said, keeping his eyes on Ginny and waiting for her reaction.
He saw her smile as she went over the beginning lines.
"I imagine that you are currently on the beach, trying to convince Draco to get his albino skin under the sun. I figured I would interrupt that struggle – as you are bound to fail – and convey some matters which may be of interest to you."
Ginny smirked, recognizing Izha's tone and her distant mockery of Draco.
"You'll be happy to hear that the Manor is still standing despite your prolonged absence, though the house elves have resorted to scrubbing clean every inch of the Manor to stave off boredom. Several times a day. I've been reading your mail as promised and thus received from Hermione the revelation that the fight is finally won. This morning, the Wizengamot court ruled the Laws of Blood Purity as unconstitutional. Hermione and your colleagues at Equality for Magical Beings are celebrating as we speak this new hope for the wizarding community. She will soon be able to return to England with Harry Arthur, as will Remus, his family, and the countless other wizards exiled because of these ridiculous laws."
Ginny let out a scream of triumph.
"The Laws have been abrogated!" she squealed. "We did it!"
Tonks hugged her fiercely and rushed to her husband, soon finding herself caught in a very tight and very relieved embrace. Ginny turned to Draco a bit sheepishly, belatedly realizing what she had just admitted.
"I, uh…" she began. "Please don't be angry with me – I know you will and you've every right to – but I've –"
"Been working for EMB for the past four years," Draco completed.
She eyed him warily.
"Yes, I have. It's really not what you—"
"I know, Gin, I know," he said softly.
"You know?" she asked, dumbstruck.
"Of course. Did you really think I wouldn't find out?"
"And you aren't angry?"
"Of course not. It's what you want, right?"
"Well, yes, but –"
"Then it's what I want, too," he said, and took her in his arms.
She kissed him very tenderly, in a gesture of surrender and gratitude that was but another facet of the complex love they bore each other, feeling more relieved than she could have hoped for.
"Besides, where do you think the one million Galleons donation came from?" Draco asked softly in her ear.
Her eyes widened in shock.
"What? But – no… You?"
He shrugged, elegantly refusing to answer her question, but the self-satisfaction that emanated from him was proof enough. Ginny's eyes welled with tears.
"Do you have any idea what that donation did for our efforts? It particularly ensured us victory!"
Draco kissed his wife soundly on the temple.
"Ah, but you see, victory is but a small price to pay for my wife's happiness."
She beamed at him; then her eyes twinkled mischievously.
"When I'm done reading this letter, I think you and I should go take a nap," she whispered.
"I think I'll be donating a lot of Galleons in the near future," he replied as he went from proud to downright eager.
It amazed Ginny how, even after eight years of marriage and three kids, Draco could still look forward to making love to her. Then again, the way her skin tingled whenever he approached her was proof enough of the physical attraction that bound them tighter than their wedding vows. She turned her eyes back to the letter to avoid dragging him back to the house then and there.
"With this endeavor completed, the harm brought about by my father is, if not erased, at least significantly diminished. Draco and you are the very proof that the havoc wreaked by the war is vanquished and has engendered a generation of wizards that can and will put their ancestors to shame where tolerance, generosity, and cooperation are concerned. (You might want to ask Draco about that. If he pretends not to know what I'm talking about, mention the one million Galleons donation and don't let him pretend that he's innocent.)
So, Ginny, you now have a home, a husband, and four adorable children. That which my father took from you has been, in an admittedly ironic way, returned to you, and though that will not make up for the deaths of those you cherished, it's all you need to be happy. My task in Malfoy Manor is completed, even though, with another boy on the way, you could probably use an extra hand. But I miss my country, and my cousins, and as your need for my help dwindled, theirs has been growing. Wanting to spare us the sadness of goodbyes, I decided to let you and your family head to Chalchiuhtlicue without warning you of my decision. When this owl reaches you, therefore, I will be long gone, probably on my way to Delphi to visit Aunt Narcissa before I head home.
Please don't resent me for leaving this way, but I was never one for emotionally charged moments. Tell Draco that I'll miss his sarcasm and natural propensity to belittle anyone but you. I expect to see all four little Malfoys within the next years, and trust me when I say that I won't let them forget Aunty Ee. I love you, dear Ginny, and will miss you sorely. You have become my sister, and your forgiveness, though our friendship, has allowed me to regain a part of my soul that my father had taken away.
Take care of yourself, and may the stars watch over you.
Izha Merope Ummayyad."
A fat tear rolled down Ginny's cheek as she read Izha's parting words. She knew that she would see the witch again, but the understanding that she would no longer share her days with the woman came as a shock. She looked at Draco to find him staring intently at her.
"She left," she said morosely.
He nodded, but Ginny saw the hint of sadness that tinted his gaze.
"I knew she would eventually."
"She was watching over us."
"What makes you think we needed watching over us for so long?" he asked, amused. "Other than your political activities with EMB, of course."
Ginny had the good grace to blush and kissed him. She glanced over to where their children were playing, having been rejoined by Leo, Lorelei, and Faolan. Tonks stood nearby, watching fondly as Blaise, ever the child at heart, helped Nausicaa build sand fortifications despite his son's glare. The twins had teamed up with Faolan and Lorelei to build a fort several feet away and were busy stocking up on balls of wet sand. Leo, Suleiman and Nausicaa stood opposite them, garnering as much ammunition as they could.
"Valerian, I saw you putting a stone in that one!" Ginny bellowed suddenly. "Take it out immediately or you'll have to answer to me!"
Obediently, the fair -haired strategist discarded his projectile.
"Three against four truly isn't fair," Draco observed.
"Since when are you concerned about fairness?" his wife asked.
"Since my daughter happens to be on the loosing side."
"But Blaise is helping them."
"Not if Suli gets his way. Look at him! I think he'd like to defend Nausicaa on his own." Draco's face grew serious. "I think he and I might need to have a little chat."
"Don't be ridiculous," Ginny laughed. "He's only seven. Besides," she added conspiratorially, "I think I may have someone to even the odds."
Draco raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Him," Ginny said, pointing to her belly.
He looked at her with such wonder then, such ecstatic bewilderment, that her chest tightened with the weight of what that meant to him.
"Him?" he murmured.
She nodded, feeling joy well up inside her. He took her face between his hands as though she were made of crystal – he tended to act like she was whenever she was pregnant – and kissed her with infinite tenderness.
"Get a room!" Blaise snapped, coming to hug Shehzin, who sent him to rinse off as soon as she saw how covered in sand and algae he was.
Ginny laughed and huddled into her husband's arms. With pride, with hope, with joy, they watched their children running along the beach, throwing sand balls at each other under the tropical sun. In silence, they prayed that they would not grow to replace the harmless projectiles with spells, and that the saltiness of tears would never replace that of the sea. But as their cries of joy flew from the seashore, Draco and Ginny knew that the wizarding world would once again rise from its ashes, the perfect environment for the Malfoy family's already immeasurable luck and happiness.
Well guys, it's the end of the road! Thanks for sticking around for so long. Please don't expect a sequel, as there will not be one. I am debating rewriting some parts of this story, but this won't happen until I'm settled in my new home / life and might not be for a while. Should you care for an uber-crazy family tree, and the slightest hint of what could happen post-epilogue, check my livejournal at: .com/ . And now, for the moments of gratitude…
First and foremost, I would like to thank my beta-readers for putting up with me until the end! Though Naycit Malfoy is responsible for the fact that my first set of chapters wasn't utterly ungrammatical, Lyndsie Fenele soon tagged along. This relentless team has allowed for my fics to be published without an outrageous amount of mistakes, and I owe these ladies a lot for that reason. Naycit, Lyndsie, for your corrections but also for your comment, encouragements, questioning, and the digital friendship that, I would like to think, stemmed from these three years of collaboration, I thank you.
I am incredibly grateful to all the readers who, having appreciated or disagreed with my chapters, took the time to leave a review. Some of you left a review for every single chapter I put out there (including on different fanfiction sites!) while others came up with fewer, more thorough and lengthy reviews. I can safely say that though I began writing this story for a contest (and missed the deadline by, oh, three years), I truly came to enjoy you guys' comments. Whether they were urging me to UPDATE!!! or complimenting me with squees, oohs, and ahs of delight, these reviews have, chapter after chapter, made my day(s). I'd like to address special thanks to the following reviewers for their particular dedication, and apologize if I forgot anyone. Please know that each and every single one of your reviews was important to me – including the ones that corrected my latin or improper assessment of certain cultural details.
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THE WORLD OF FANFICTION
Let's be honest: who, amongst us, isn't utterly, absolutely, irrevocably enthralled by the world of fanfiction? Six years ago, Schnoogle opened its doors to a story written jointly by two of my friends and myself. The years that fallowed allowed me to discover new sites, new authors, new ships – an entire world of fascinating literature and very generous people. They are the ones I would now like to thank, the ones that have made Harry Potter a possibility and such an amazing outlet for creativity. Many thanks to the moderators of the following websites, for going through the administrative and computerized hassle of keeping fanfiction up and running: .com, .org, .net, .org, .com, .com
Thanks also to the hundreds of writers who have made fanfiction an acceptable pastime, and such an enjoyable one at that! For sharing your writing, for opening up your hearts and minds to the tons of avid readers like myself, for inspiring us, for showing us that, yes, Dumbledore/Giant Squid is actually a viable pairing, for making us laugh and cry, for having composed epic stories that will never get old, thank you!
A special shout-out to the world of D/G fiction, because the fics about that pairing have made me smile on days when I needed to and what more can one ask for, nowadays? Mynuet, Anise, Jade and Sarea Okelani, Peki, Cinnamonbadge, Tudorrose1533, Sugarbear_1260, Mourning Broken Angel, and all the other phenomenal writers out there, thank you!
I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I should have begun by thanking Her. For merging mythology and magic with reality, for creating the phenomenal world of Harry Potter and letting us play with its characters, JKR, you are The One as far as I'm concerned!
PS: I'm joking about the Dumbledore/Giant Squid. I have yet to see sufficient character development allowing for that pairing to rank as number #1 in my heart, but who knows?