Beta Credits: Many, many thanks to my two betas, kazfeist and pokeystar
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to JK Rowling. I write to learn. No money is being made.
Bring me to Life – Epilogue
"I still can't quite believe you're really moving," said Hermione, magically sealing the last box from the living room. The entire room was packed, and the only piece of furniture that remained was the sofa.
"I know," said Pansy, unable to hide her excitement. "Tomorrow, I'll wake up in my new house! I can't wait."
Hermione smiled. "I'm so proud of you, Pansy. What you're about to do is incredible. I know you'll be amazing."
Pansy sat on the sofa and looked around the room thoughtfully. "So much happened here," she said. "So many memories …" She sighed. She was leaving the flat she had first shared with Hermione and then Harry, stepping out into the world of responsibility. Pansy pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees. "I'm going to miss it."
Hermione gave Pansy's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I'll go and fetch some tea."
Pansy nodded. She remembered the first night she'd spent in Hermione's flat, scared and absolutely sure that she wouldn't be there for long, that Draco would come and take her away. That one night turned into hundreds, and with Hermione's help, Pansy had made a full recovery. Since finally letting go on the same bridge where she'd thought to meet her end, she had married Harry Potter, completed her apprenticeship at the candy shoppe, and, finally, successfully landed real estate in Hogsmeade where she would open her own shoppe.
She and Harry would live on the main street in a quaint, two-story flat that sat above the candy shoppe. Pansy never would have imagined she could be happy in such a small place, but with Harry, she found she didn't care where she was.
Hermione returned and handed Pansy a cup of tea with two lumps of sugar and no milk. She sipped it slowly, relishing the feel of the amber liquid running through her, warming her to her toes. Snow was falling outside the window.
"The men will be here soon for the last load," Hermione said.
"Do you miss this place?" Pansy asked, meeting her friend's gaze.
Hermione smiled. "I did, very much." She paused. "At least, I missed what went on inside it. Living with you, the dinners we made, the parties, new friends …"
Pansy smirked. "I imagine you didn't miss it for long. The Manor, and its owner especially, surely proved to be … distracting, at the least."
It never failed that Hermione blushed whenever Pansy referred to her intimate life with Draco, even thought they'd been married for almost a year. Pansy always spoke as though she knew a secret in the matter, one that she dearly loved to skirt about but never actually say. Hermione wasn't even sure Pansy did it on purpose.
"Nevertheless," Hermione said, ignoring her friend's comment, "I missed living with you. Draco is wonderful, of course, but sometimes I missed our girl nights."
"We still have them," Pansy reminded her.
"Yes, when they're scheduled, planned, written on calendars, double-checked … I miss the spontaneous times."
"Me too," said Pansy, sipping from her cup. "As much as I love Harry …"
Hermione smiled. "It's not the same."
"Not even close!" said Pansy. She tipped the cup back, draining the last drops into her mouth. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." Hermione took the empty teacup and cleaned both it and her own before shrinking them and putting them into a Bottomless Bag for safe transport to Pansy's new house. "We'll still get together, of course."
"Naturally. Game Nights and dinner parties …" said Pansy. "Oh! I'll have to throw a housewarming party!"
Hermione smiled. "Any excuse will do."
Before Pansy could respond, they heard the sound of talking coming from the bedroom. They had set up a temporary Apparition station in the bedroom for the task of moving. It was rectangular in shape, and all of the boxes and furniture were placed within the rectangle. When activated, all of the items inside the space were transported to the other side, in Harry and Pansy's new house.
Within moments, Harry, Ron and Draco entered the living room, still in a heated discussion about Quidditch.
"It's Chudley's year, mate. Accept it now, or you'll just feel like a tosser by the end of the season," said Ron.
Harry groaned. "Are you back on the Cannons? We agreed with you twenty minutes ago!"
"All I said," Draco remarked, "Was that Everhard could pay a little more attention at his goal. He's doing well, but I think the recognition is getting to him. If he's not careful, he'll get cocky and slip up."
Pansy and Hermione looked at each other and simultaneously rolled their eyes.
"Last load," Hermione said, addressing the men. When their attention was on her, she pointed to the wall near the front door, where boxes were piled. "Just those boxes over there and the sofa."
"Yes, ma'am," said Ron, pointing his wand at a stack and Levitated it.
"Ron, be careful," said Pansy. "Don't be too hasty and drop something."
"Yeah, yeah," said Ron, distractedly. He'd chosen the tallest pile to move first, and it soon became clear that it would be difficult to keep control over the load. Harry joined Ron, using the same spell to steady the boxes, and together they maneuvered them through the flat and into the bedroom.
Draco watched amusedly, and then sat on the sofa between Hermione and Pansy. He put his arm around Hermione and pulled her close to kiss her solidly on the lips. She was so surprised that she responded, wrapping her arms around him and threading her fingers through his hair.
However, it was not the sleek, soft hair she was used to; instead, it was sweaty from the exertion of controlling boxes and furniture as he Levitated them through the air, carefully moving them so as not to disturb their contents.
Hermione pulled out of his grasp, a look of disgust on her face. Draco laughed. "Sorry, love. Forgot to warn you about that."
Then Hermione noticed that her husband also smelled as though he'd been moving all day. She wrinkled her nose. "A shower is your first priority when we get home."
Pansy laughed. "I was just about to tell you two to Conjure a bed and use a Silencing Charm, but I guess that won't be necessary, will it?"
As Harry and Ron returned down the hall, Draco leaned over to kiss Hermione again. She bowed her body away from him, but couldn't go too far because of the arm of the sofa. Draco kissed her lightly on the lips, so softly and deliberately, as though he only existed to brush his lips against hers, that she almost forgot that she had found him in any way unpleasant just moments before. When he pulled away, she missed the contact.
He smirked and stood up to join Harry and Ron.
Hermione followed his movements, then glanced at Pansy, who had a whimsical expression on her face.
"You'll visit, won't you?" she asked, fisting her shirt, as she did when she was feeling unsteady.
"Of course!" Hermione assured her. "Often. Nothing will change. You'll just be farther away, that's all. We'll have a lovely selection of new restaurants to try out when we come for a visit."
"Good. Do you really think I'm ready for this?" Pansy bit her lip, frowning. "Moving away from everything I know, opening this shoppe, running it myself …"
Hermione placed a reassuring hand on Pansy's arm. "Absolutely, I think you're ready. You and Harry need to have your own life, establish your family, outside of the context of Ron and me. And Draco. It's one reason I haven't been as easily accessible recently. Draco and I …"
"You're pregnant!" Pansy exclaimed.
"Whoa!" said Ron, who had returned to the room for more boxes, Harry and Draco trailing behind him. "Congratulations, Hermione!"
"You beat us to it!" Harry exclaimed, rushing over to give Hermione an awkward hug that she didn't quite return. Then he looked at Pansy.
"Don't even think about it, Harry Potter," she said, folding her arms. "Not for a few years yet. Do you honestly think I'd consider it right now?"
"No, reckon not," he said, somewhat sheepishly.
Draco was still standing in the doorway, his wide, questioning eyes soldered onto his wife's face. He felt … blank. No, that wasn't the right word. He wasn't breathing; he didn't hear anything his friends were saying. All that mattered was what came out of Hermione's mouth next. He was surprised to find that he wasn't panicked; instead, he felt as though he were suspended in midair, waiting for the rush of gravity to pull him back down.
Hermione turned to him and saw him waiting. "I'm not pregnant," she announced, not taking her eyes from Draco's. "Pansy jumped to that conclusion for some reason."
Draco let his breath out, then walked purposefully across the room, took Hermione's face in his hands, and kissed her. The others were silent as they watched, stunned, feeling as though they shouldn't be witnessing the scene before them. When Draco released Hermione after the brief but intense kiss, he smiled. "I would have been all right, either way."
"Do you really think I wouldn't tell you first?" she whispered.
He straightened. "No, you're right. I wasn't thinking. I simply reacted."
Hermione gave her friend a pointed look.
"I'm sorry!" Pansy cried, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "Sorry for the mess. I spoke without thinking or information."
When the men left the room, Hermione frowned at Pansy. "Why did you do that?"
Pansy shrugged. "I really am sorry. I … The truth is, I've been thinking a lot about … children, because I know Harry wants a family. I do too, of course. I simply wonder when we'll be ready, and if we'll know when we'll be ready. Will there be some kind of sign?"
"I have no idea. I think, perhaps, that as you think about it more and more, eventually it isn't so frightening an idea. When the idea of kids doesn't send you running and screaming, maybe then you're ready."
Pansy looked down at her lap. "What if I'm never ready? Honestly, I want a family. I just never imagined having to be the one to raise my children."
Hermione lifted an eyebrow. "Oh? Who did you expect would have that duty?"
"A nanny," Pansy replied without a thought. "Or at least a house-elf. What if I'm an awful mum? I don't know anything about raising children. I'll be terrible at it, I just know it!"
"What are you getting at?" Hermione inquired. "Where is this coming from? Are … are you pregnant?"
Pansy's eyes widened in fear. "Merlin, no! I'm still terrified of the idea!"
"Accidents happen though," Hermione said. "Sometimes you're not careful, you forget to cast the spell or take your potion …"
"No," Pansy said firmly. "I make sure I don't forget."
"Then why are you so worried about this now?" Hermione asked.
Harry, Ron and Draco returned then for the last load of boxes. Pansy waited until they were gone to speak.
"I've been thinking about it a lot, is all. Harry showed me some pictures of his parents last week, and he was so enamored with the idea of a family … It spooked me, I reckon."
Hermione smiled in understanding. "Don't be afraid. It's a natural part of life. You and Harry will make excellent parents."
"I don't know!" Pansy whispered, tears welling in her eyes. "What if I'm not? What if I'm a terrible mum?"
"Don't worry about this now," Hermione said calmly. "You've got time yet. Your relationship with Harry needs to grow, until you're more comfortable, more stable, more secure. Then you can think about children."
Footsteps announced the approaching men, and Pansy stood from the sofa, surreptitiously wiping her eyes.
"Ladies, we need that sofa," said Ron, his tone very official.
Harry and Draco moved the sofa while Ron barked directions. "A little more to the left … watch that corner! … Here's the hallway, now—careful …"
Hermione and Pansy stood facing each other, quiet until the men were gone. Then Hermione hugged Pansy, who cried into Hermione's hair.
"It's okay," Hermione assured her, surprised at the strength of emotions coming from the other woman. "You'll be great, I just know it." That only made Pansy sob harder. When the tears finally slowed, Pansy pulled away.
"Thanks," she said. Then she laughed brokenly. "I needed that. I just … my mother was never there for me. We had a nanny and a house-elf. I saw her at meals, and every thought I had, everything I did, was designed to get her to notice me, to be proud of me. But it was like I wasn't really there, like I was just … another ornament to her, something to make her look good for company, a doll she could dress up and parade in front of her friends. I don't want to be like that, but it's all I know!"
Hermione suspected that at least one of the men had come upon Pansy crying, and was keeping the others away, a gesture for which she was grateful.
"Pansy, there's no need to worry about this right now! I don't like seeing you think about this. You and Harry haven't even been married a year, together for less than two."
"I know that, but ever since last week, I've been seeing mums with their children. I mean, really noticing, you know? Watching the way they interact, talk to each other. I never had that with my mum."
"The very fact that you're thinking about this so much assures me that you'll be wonderful," Hermione said. "You don't want to be like your mum, and face it, it would require making certain decisions in order for you to begin down that path, and as long as you don't hire a nanny, you'll be fine. I know Harry won't buy a house-elf. So you'll be raising your children, just you and Harry." She paused. "Have you and Harry talked about this at all?"
Pansy shook her head.
"Maybe you should," Hermione suggested. "He didn't even have his own parents to raise him. He lived in a cupboard for eleven years! You two are going to be very interesting parents, at the least."
Pansy smiled at that. "I think we can do better than a cupboard," she said softly.
"Without a doubt. Are you better now?"
"Yes," Pansy replied, sniffing. She threw her arms around Hermione. "Thank you, really."
"That's what friends are for," Hermione said.
Game Night was hosted by Harry and Pansy the same evening they moved into their new home in Hogsmeade. The table was set up, chairs set around it, and the boxes in the kitchen were open, with unnecessary tools covering most of the counter space. Plates, cups, and flatware were retrieved, and since no one could make anything in the cluttered kitchen beyond a glass of water, food was ordered for take away from the Three Broomsticks.
Harry and Pansy, Draco and Hermione, Ron and Suzette sat around the table after beginning their final game of the evening, one that Suzette had discovered while on a trip to the States with her family.
"I call blue!" said Hermione, reaching for the bag of blue trains.
"White!" said Suzette.
Pansy quickly snatched the pink, even though no one else would have wanted that particular color. Draco took green, Ron red, and Harry black.
They talked as they set up the board, shuffling the cards and serving more food. Hermione noticed that Ron was behaving oddly all of a sudden, not talking to anyone and staring at the ground. She was about to say something when Suzette let out a gasp. Ron's head whipped around to her, his eyes intense and searching.
"Oh, Ron!" Suzette cried, holding something delicately in her hand.
Ron's face turned red, but he took Suzette's hand. All attention in the room was on the pair. "I … I'm not too good with these things," he said nervously. "But for some reason, I'd gotten in my head that asking you to marry me tonight, with our friends, was a good idea." The laugh that followed was anxious. "I'm not so sure now …"
Suzette practically leapt out of her chair to throw her arms around Ron. "Do you mean it?" she asked breathlessly.
"Yeah, course I do. I love you."
"J'taime! Oh, Ron, you 'ave made me so happy!" She pulled away, happy tears glistening in her eyes, and held the ring that had been in her bag of white trains out for Ron to place on her finger. "Would you?"
He grinned and, despite his shaking hands, slid the diamond onto Suzette's hand. Then she leapt onto him for another hug.
Hermione smiled as the others congratulated the pair. Harry was first, and then he went again after Draco, grinning as big as he had when he and Pansy had married. They seemed to move in slow motion, shaking hands enthusiastically, clapping shoulders before giving up all pretenses and embracing. Harry's eyes misted over a bit, and Hermione knew that he was thankful for his life, that all of his closest friends were happy and well. She thought of Ginny, whom they all dearly missed. Ginny would be proud of her brother, and equally happy to see her friends doing well.
That night, Hermione lay contentedly in Draco's arms, skimming her fingers lightly across his chest. His attention had been solely on her during their love-making, but now he seemed deep in contemplation, his thoughts far away.
"What are you thinking?" she asked, nuzzling closer.
He pulled her close and kissed her head. "You really want to know?"
"Of course," she replied, meeting his eyes with her own full of question. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Pansy earlier … at the flat. What was the matter?"
"Oh." Hermione propped herself on her arm. "She was struggling with the idea of becoming a mother someday. She didn't have the best childhood, or a good relationship with her mother, and she worried that she wouldn't be a good mum."
"Mmm," Draco mumbled, his brow creasing slightly. "My upbringing was very similar to Pansy's. I had a nanny and house-elf that cared for me, just like she did. We've talked a lot about our similar pasts."
"Are you worried you won't be a good mum?" Hermione joked.
Draco smiled slightly, then returned to the frown. "Not exactly," he said finally. "A good father though, absolutely. I worry about that. Look at the one I had. But … that's not what I've been thinking about. All day."
"What then?" She returned to lying beside him, her head nestled in the crook of his shoulder.
"Earlier, at the flat. When I thought, for those few moments, that you really might be pregnant."
"Oh," she exhaled, her own brow wrinkling with concern. "Were you upset?"
Draco pulled away from her just enough to look her in the eye. "Upset? That was the farthest thing from my mind! Why would you ask that?"
Hermione shrugged and Draco moved back. "Pansy and I were talking, is all. She's not ready to have children, and I've done some reading on the subject. There are a few different reactions people have when they learn they are going to be a parent. One of them is anger, another is fear. She's terrified. Since you mentioned the similar upbringings, I thought perhaps, at this point, you would share her sentiment."
"Quite the contrary. I expected to be petrified, frozen to the spot, feeling like my lungs were collapsing and my heart would break through my chest. But … that didn't happen."
He stopped, and she waited for him to continue. When it seemed as though he wouldn't, she spoke, softly. "What did happen?"
"I … I waited. It felt like an eternity. I wanted you to either deny or confirm the statement, and it seemed as if the entire room stopped existing except for you and me. The seconds seemed to stretch into hours, and I hoped … I found myself hoping, deep inside, that you really were. That it was true."
Hermione gasped and sat up, the sheet falling to her waist. "What?"
Draco stared at her, desire and something more evident on his face. "Of course, I didn't realize that until after you'd said it wasn't true, and I felt a strange, monumental disappointment. It went all the way to the heart of me."
"We haven't even been married a year!" she said, trying to ignore the heat from his eyes.
"I know that, love. It's been amazing so far. I simply wanted you to know how I feel, how I discovered it today. I'm not asking for us to start thinking about it, or trying." He shrugged and reached out to grasp the arm closest to him. "I'm ready, whenever you are. But I think it's an important thing for me, a big step. I love you, and I want to have a child with you," he said. "I want us to make a child together."
Hermione felt the sparks where his hand was slowly and lightly running up and down her arm. He'd given up not ogling, and stared at her, making his immediate wishes known.
She didn't want to be distracted; not yet, at least. "Draco … the thing is … I don't think I'm ready."
He smiled at her, the desire momentarily displaced by all the love he could channel into the expression. "I know. I don't expect you to be, just because I said I am. But I wanted to say it."
"Okay," she said, relief coursing through her. "I'd like a few years with just you, all to myself. Is that being terribly selfish?"
Draco smirked. "No. I quite like the idea, actually."
"Me too." She took his hand in hers and traced the outline of his hand, pausing when she reached the finger on which he wore his ring. "Just us …" she said softly, more to herself than to him.
He waited a few moments, then pulled her face toward his and kissed her. Hermione sighed into his lips, knowing what this kiss meant. It was slow, almost painstaking, as he plotted and mapped every inch of her mouth. When he pulled away slightly, she frowned.
"Patience, love," he chuckled. "I was thinking that, although we might not consider children for a while, that we should get in as much practice as possible, so that when the time comes, we'll be, ah, fully prepared."
Hermione grinned. "I love practice. It's a bit like homework."
At five minutes to close on Monday, November first, Pansy bid farewell to her last customer of the day. When the door shut behind the woman, a small bell chiming, Pansy sighed in contentment. The day had gone well, though, being her first day of business, she had nothing to compare it to. People had been in and out all day but she would worry about the sales sheet later.
Pansy walked around the small showroom, straightening the boxes on shelves, making sure all the merchandise was in perfect position for the next day—her second day. By the time she reached the door, it was closing time. She flipped the sign and used her wand to close the shutters over the windows. She had expected Harry to join her by now, but perhaps he had been kept late at his job.
She found she was thankful for the quiet moment by herself with her shop. It was hers. Sure, Harry had helped, put up the down payment and the capital for all of the equipment, but she had made it warm and welcoming. More importantly, she had created all of the delicacies on display for purchase.
Pansy picked up the paperwork from the day and a small bag of her most special chocolates, looked around the shop one last time, and turned out the lights, heading through the kitchen and up the stairs into the flat she shared with Harry. She was in a celebratory mood and Harry had never experienced the chocolate she held firmly in her grasp, a recipe of her creation that she had saved especially for this occasion. She smirked as she neared the door, knowing he would be in for quite a surprise.
Her last thought before turning the old doorknob was given to deciding what she should wear for him that night. Harry seemed to favor the red, but then they always ended up having more fun with the light blue.
She opened the door and found the room pitch black. Frowning, she flicked on a light and—
Pansy gasped, nearly dropping the things in her hands. Harry, Ron, Suzette, Draco and Hermione, along with a group of their extended friends, had shouted all at once.
Harry went to her, took the paperwork and chocolates and set them aside. "Congratulations on your first day of business, love," he said, kissing her cheek and slipping a miniscule box into her hand. "For … later," he whispered suggestively, causing Pansy to blush despite what she had been thinking just moments before.
Then she smiled and threw her arms around her husband. "Thank you!" she said, first to him and then to everyone in the room.
Harry released her and then Hermione hugged her. "We've got hors d'ouvres going now, and dinner will be ready in about forty-five minutes. You really had no idea?" she asked.
"No, none!" Pansy chuckled. "I'm completely surprised!"
Draco joined his wife and brought Pansy a drink. "I'm very proud of you, Pansy," he said appreciatively.
Pansy smiled. "Thank you, Draco. You'll have to stop by and see it. I'll give you a free sample." She thought about the special chocolates she had made and decided to make a few more batches to share. Hermione would thank her later.
They left and Pansy began speaking to her other guests. Suzette could talk of nothing but her upcoming wedding, while Ron looked as though he just wanted the bloody thing over and done with. Blaise Zabini was there with his most recent girlfriend, Hannah Abbott, though Pansy didn't miss the longing looks he sent Hermione all night. Poor Blaise, she thought. Hermione was a once-in-a-lifetime woman, and Draco had snatched her up. There was nothing Blaise could have done.
The evening was perfect, but Hermione began ushering everyone out right after dinner.
"Remember, Pansy—and all of you, I might add—have to work tomorrow. She needs her sleep."
Most of those present rolled their eyes, either visibly or internally, but Pansy didn't care. Hermione was doing what she thought was best for Pansy. However, Hermione didn't know that Pansy had no intention of turning in early, that she planned to spend the majority of her evening with her husband.
Finally, everyone was gone save Draco and Hermione. As she had gathered her cookware, shrunk it and stowed it in her purse, Pansy slipped two pieces of chocolate, wrapped in parchment, into Draco's coat pocket.
Hermione gave Pansy one last, long hug as they said their goodbyes.
"Thank you," Pansy said. "For everything."
"My pleasure," Hermione returned, slipping into her coat. "This … what you've done, is amazing. I'm so, so proud of all you have accomplished. Have a wonderful evening, and we'll be by the shoppe soon." She looked at Harry. "Hope you're ready for what she's got in store for you, Harry. Be sure to drink lots of fluids to keep up your strength. Night!"
With that, she smiled wickedly and walked out the door, leaving two confused men and a red-faced Pansy behind. Draco fished in his pocket for his gloves and found the chocolates.
"What's this?" he asked, starting to pull his hand and the candies out of his pocket.
Pansy grabbed his arm and shoved his hand back. "Just go home. One is for you, the other for Hermione. Enjoy." She pushed him, still confused, out the door and locked it behind him.
Harry was staring at her predatorily. "What's going on?"
She smirked. "It so happens that I have a gift for you, as well. Let's retire to the bedroom and we'll open, shall we?" She took his hand and the bag of chocolates and led him down the hallway. For the first time in her life, Pansy finally felt completely happy and content. She had a wonderful husband, great friends, and she was now the owner of a business where she produced confections and sweets that made people happy. Finally, her life was exactly where she wanted it to be.
End Notes: The game they played is called Ticket to Ride, available at boardgamegeekdotcom. It's designed for 2-5 players, but in this story, I decided they played a special edition, for more than 5 players.
Thank you to everyone who has stuck with this story through the long break and editing. I truly hope you've enjoyed this epilogue. Your reviews have been amazing and more encouraging than you can know! THANK YOU!