A/N: This is it…the last installment! This part is nothing but a piece of fluff, but I couldn't resist! I have to have my happy ending!
Hermione heard some-one clear their throat just a little too loudly. Glancing around the room, she took careful note of everyone's behavior. A room full of women could be a scary enough thing, but a room full of slightly tipsy women was downright dangerous.
Ginny Potter ambled over. "So, Hermione. Are you ready to join me in the ranks of being an old married woman?"
Hermione had to laugh. "The married part I'm ready for…the old part, well, hopefully we have some time before it comes to that!"
Minerva McGonagall walked over, leaning heavily on Madame Pomfrey. Hermione had been Minerva's favorite student while at Hogwarts, and now that she was training the younger witch to take over as Transfiguration Professor, well, their relationship had grown even closer.
Minerva was the only one brave enough to bring up the one subject they were all dying to talk about. Minerva knew that with Hermione's mother gone, there was no one to prepare her for what was to come. So, putting her Gryffindor bravery to use, she took the initiative: starting the conversation that no-one else was willing to instigate. She tried to be delicate, not wanting to frighten the innocent girl. Minerva was the only one that still thought Hermione was a virgin: everyone else knew better.
"Hermione, my dear," she said, her words slurring only slightly. "Are you nervous about the upcoming wedding night? Because there's no need to be, you know! The key is in knowing what to expect." Hermione made the mistake of nodding agreement, so Minerva proceeded to explain the details of making love with a man, while Pomfrey helped by throwing in the occasional medical term.
Narcissa laughed. She had been sitting at the table next to theirs, quietly talking with Mallory Crabbe, and happened to overhear the shouted one-sided conversation. "Minerva!" she scolded gently. "What a thing to say to a bride to be! You're not supposed to inform them of details until after the wedding. Otherwise they'll do naught but worry!" Narcissa offered Hermione a broad wink. She'd known for quite sometime that Hermione wasn't a virgin. Indeed, it was hard not to know!
Any time Hermione was visiting the manor, Narcissa made sure to knock loudly before entering any room. Walking in on them once was mistake enough. One she had no wish to repeat.
By this point Ginny was laughing so hard she could hardly stand up straight. Pansy Crabbe, who'd long ago forgiven Hermione for 'stealing her man', spoke up. "So, Hermione, you never did tell me: how well did your idea to hold off for awhile go over with Draco?"
Instantly all attention turned to the red faced star of the party. Hermione had never been so embarrassed in her life! She could have cheerfully strangled the other girl. Ginny certainly wasn't helping matters any as she giggled and pointed.
Great! Now I have to tell them something! If I don't, then Pansy certainly will! At least this way I can control what they hear.
Minerva spoke up again. "My dear girl, don't keep me in such suspense! What deal is Mrs. Crabbe referring to?"
"Well," Hermione hedged. "It wasn't a deal, exactly. I merely offered a suggestion, and Draco declined. Drink anyone?"
There! One masterfully skirted issue if I do say so myself!
Ginny snorted. "Don't you ladies dare fall for that highly abbreviated excuse of an answer! Make her tell you the whole story. It is absolutely hilarious!"
Well now everyone had to hear it. Offering her mother-in-law an apologetic glance, Hermione decided to get it over with.
"I asked Draco what he thought of the idea of us…er, refraining from engaging in any sexual activities for two weeks before our wedding. That way, our wedding night would be a little more special."
Everyone burst into laughter. "What did he say?" Narcissa managed to gasp in between whoops.
"Well," Once again, Hermione could feel herself blushing. "What he said doesn't bear repeating. Suffice it to say he plans on making it special without the use of abstinence." That wasn't all he'd had to say. He'd made it quite plain that he'd gone two weeks without her once before, and had no intentions of ever doing that again! Thankfully, everyone was content with the explanation she gave, and didn't ask for more detail.
The room was once more filled with the happy sounds of laughter. Hermione happened to catch sight of Minerva attempting to do a muggle dance called the 'Macarena'!
She giggled as the heavily inebriated witch kept spinning herself in circles, thus becoming so dizzy that she would nearly fall over. Well, Ginny promised me a night to remember, and she came through. I will definitely remember this night for the rest of my life!
While Hermione and her friends were making use of the upstairs portion of Malfoy Manor for their little get-together, Draco and his companions occupied the downstairs.
Most of the males were drinking, but none of them very heavily. Judging by the sounds they heard from the upstairs, there were enough tipsy people in the house.
They were sitting around and talking fairly quietly. At least they weren't making as much noise as the girls. They were also playing a half hearted game of poker. Harry was kicking everyone's tail. He won every hand except two. Those had been claimed by Snape. Blaise tried to cheat, but got nothing for his troubles other than a small hex from his friends.
It was quiet, relaxing, and all together enjoyable. Just what Draco had hoped it would be. He should have known it was too good to last.
Out of the blue, Blaise made a seemingly innocent comment about Draco enjoying this while he could. "It won't be long until the little woman's ordering you around and the only thing you can do is stay home with her. Every night for the rest of your life!" Holding up his glass of brandy in mock solute he teased. "To my friend. Bloody glad it's you and not me!"
Knowing that his friend was merely trying to pick a fight, Draco just snorted. "I don't know about you, Blaise, but I personally am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with Hermione. It's what fate planned for me, after all, and I can't fight fate!" There, see what he makes of that!
That set the others into howls of laughter.
Crabbe and Goyle were as lost as ever. They knew they must have missed something important from the way everyone was laughing, but for the life of them they couldn't think what it could be! Had the comment really been that funny?
Snape let out one last chuckle. "You mean to tell me that you now believe in fate? I seem to recall a young boy who told me 'only a fool would believe in fate', or how about, 'that's something only a bloody Gryffindor would do'!"
Draco grinned. "So I changed my mind."
Harry snorted. "More likely, knowing Hermione, I would say that your mind was changed for you!"
That started a new round of chuckles from the other men men. A few months ago no-one would have laughed at that, no matter how funny it might have been, but now they were all beginning to accept Potter as part of the group. It was still a favorite hobby of theirs to pick on him, but that was a given. Some things would never change.
Blaise stood up and pounded Draco's shoulder harder than he normally would have, but the momentum seemed to throw off his balance. Okay, so maybe Blaise has had a little more than I first thought.
"I have to ask. Remember how much you hated me when I first won that bet?"
Draco nodded warily.
"Looking at all that's happened because of that, I have to wonder: do you still hate me?" Blaise was grinning widely.
"No." Draco smiled happily. "In fact, I think that was one of the best things you've ever done for me!"
Harry, who hadn't been part of their 'group' back then, looked up in confusion. "Bet? What bet? You mean to tell me that all this happened because of some bet?"
Draco laughed. Lord, I forgot he didn't know about that part. This ought to be interesting! "Yeah, Potter. Let me tell you. You see, I liked Hermione, but because of how I'd been raised, I wasn't sure how to show it. Some how, I still have no clue how, but Blaise here found out about it and he made a bet with me that…."
…flash forward several years…
"…so, after a long struggle, one thing led to another, and I decided that I loved your mommy so much, that I was willing to leave everything I had, just to be with her!"
"Wow, Daddy! That was so romantic!" Five year old, Elaine gave her father a winning smile and a kiss on the cheek.
"You mean gross!" Eight year old Ethan's look was one of pure disgust. "Dad, did you have to tell such a girly story?"
Draco chuckled. "Sorry, son. Tomorrow night it's your turn to pick the story, okay?"
Draco barely resisted a chuckle. Boy that reluctantly accepting grumble sounds so familiar.
Hermione came waddling into the room and Ethan was quick to confirm what he'd heard. Rarely would he accept anything on one person's say so: he often required further proof. "Hey Mum, Dad just told us a silly story about how you two met. He said that it all got started because his friend made him a bet to see if Dad would really ask you out!"
Hermione laughed at the way her husband had changed a few facts to make the story more kid friendly. "I'm afraid it's true."
Reaching out to tussle her son's sleek blonde hair, she scrunched up her nose. "Sorry Ethan, but you are just going to have to accept that your Father is a romantic at heart."
Pouting slightly, Ethan flopped back onto his bed. "Do not." He muttered quietly so they couldn't hear.
Draco turned to his wife. "Is Sebastian asleep?"
They shared a look of mutual love and exasperation. With Hermione being due to deliver within the next month, they'd decided it was time to change their two year old into a 'big boy' bed.
He loved the freedom of being able to 'escape' any time he wanted. This was his first night in his new bed, and he had quickly discovered that he had freedom. He'd immediately taken advantage.
Hermione knew that she could put up wards to keep him in but, as with most things involving her children, she preferred the Muggle way. It was more hands on. So, that meant she'd spent the last hour sitting where she could see his door, and every time his little head poked out, she had to send him right back in.
By the time he'd fallen asleep, Hermione herself was completely exhausted. Not for the first time, she found herself wishing she could borrow a little of her children's energy. Tucking in their older two, Draco and Hermione passed out hugs and kisses and headed for the door.
"Mom?" Ethan's sleepy voice pulled her to a halt.
"Did Dad really end up marrying you because of some stupid bet?"
"Of course not!" Draco said feigning offense. "I would never marry some one because of a stupid bet! You forget that we're wizards. This wasn't a stupid bet, it was a magical bet!"
Chuckling, Hermione answered her son. "Yes, darling, I'm afraid he did. No matter how many times you ask me, the answers going to be the same. Okay? Now, go to sleep!"
With a sigh of defeat Ethan laid his head back down. As he drifted off to sleep they heard him mumble. "I guess it's okay if you're romantic, Dad. As long as none of my friends know!"
Hand in hand Draco and Hermione slipped out of the room. They knew their son had inherited a stubborn nature from somewhere (neither were claiming that trait) and he would likely pick up the argument again in the morning.
That night, lying in his bed, Draco thought of all the blessings that came into his life since the fateful day when he'd made the bet.
First of which was his mother. She'd done a complete about change. The woman who'd once tried to keep him and Hermione apart, thinking they wouldn't be good together, was now their biggest supporter. She loved Hermione to pieces, and became very offended if some-one referred to her as a daughter-in-law, instead of just a daughter. And heaven help anyone who brought up the subject of Hermione's blood not being pure.
Details! Details! Narcissa would say. She's a Malfoy now, and that's all that matters.
Being a grandmother was the light of her life, and she spoiled her grand-children rotten! They, of course, lapped it up.
And she was just the beginning.
All three of his children were healthy, independent thinkers who had already performed a few basic spells. This was a great source of pride for their parents, but it was also an irritation. Even Sebastian had recently discovered that when mommy took his blankie away, if he cried for it really hard, it would come back on its own. (He liked taking advantage of that as well.)
Hermione snuggled closer, and sighed in her sleep. Automatically, he tightened his grip. Draco never would have believed it was possible, but his love for her had done nothing but grown over the years. Sometimes he still couldn't believe she was his.
Remembering his son's disbelief that all this came from a bet, he smiled in the darkness. He supposed, when it came right down to it, it was a little unbelievable. A bet leading to marriage and kids!
But that's how it had happened.
Draco didn't worry himself with explaining it, because he wasn't sure he could. Closing his eyes, he began to drift off to sleep. His last thought made him smile. That really wasn't just any old bet!
A/N (s): WOW!!! I can't believe it, I'm finally done! (And a few days before my goal!!!) To all of you who read my story, I just want to say a big Thank You!! Please know that I couldn't have done this without you.
Special thanks to those who made MuggleNet, as that website has proven itself to be an invaluable resource.
Okay, I don't usually beg over much for reviews, but seeing as how this is my last chapter, I am asking…Please, Please, Please, write a review and tell me what you thought.(Even if it was a quick note about what you felt about the story overall.) I really appreciate you guys, and hopefully one day inspiration will strike again, and I will be back!
Until then…Happy Reading!