Author's Note: OK, this is it. I can't believe the story is over. It's a bit sad in a way. I've been working on it for nearly 2 years. Some of you have been with this story since the beginning and I'll actually miss your words of encouragement. You've kept me going when writer's block threatened to strike and made me laugh out loud sometimes at your comments and observations. Thank you for all of that. I want to hear from everyone here at the end. What did you think of the end? Of the story overall? All of you who follow this but never reviewed I'd love to hear from you too. And if not, I hope you enjoy it anyway. :)
Epilogue – What Was Missing
Harry leaned back against the lounge chair with a sigh. This was exactly what he needed. He hadn't felt this relaxed since… He couldn't remember, but it was probably since infancy. There was no one after him for the first time in his life. They had even managed to evade the reporters. It still hadn't stopped him from keeping his wand close by. He had discovered that morning that the problem with going to the beach was that there was no good place to keep his wand in swimming trunks.
It was a gorgeous day on the Australian beach. Really perfect.
"I got sand in my shorts again!"
Perfect, except for the whining coming from directly to his left. Draco could always be counted on to find something wrong with nearly anything. Harry sympathized with him at first, knowing that his fair skin would burn easily in the hot Aussie sun. But it wasn't just the sun. Even after they had set up the umbrella, Draco found that the sand was too hot, or got into his clothes. Then somehow he got sand in his mouth and spent the next minute and a half sounding a bit like a cat coughing up a hairball.
"I could try to get the sand out of your shorts, but last time we got funny looks."
"No, it was that one up tight old hag that claimed we were being indecent. Everyone else was gawking and drooling."
"And then that one bloke gave you his number."
"He's been staring at me all afternoon," said Draco, sounding mildly annoyed. "Can't he see I'm with someone?"
"I think he was staring at both of us actually."
Draco's eyebrows shot up and he set his magazine down.
"Well, he can't have us."
There was an edge of jealousy in his voice and Harry smirked at it. Draco got up only to sit back down on Harry's lounge chair, straddling his lover. He didn't really care who was watching. If they were, then they would know Harry was his. He ran his hands through Harry's thick, black hair while they kissed deeply.
A moment later they were interrupted by two extra shadows hovering over them. One cleared her throat to get their attention. They both looked up in annoyance.
"Get a room," ordered Ron. He was trying to sound disgusted, but he hadn't stopped smiling since they left for vacation.
Hermione had her hands on her hips. "You know, I'm pretty sure that having sex on a public beach could get you arrested."
"We weren't having sex."
Ron sat down on Draco's recently vacated lounge and Hermione joined him, resting in his arms. Draco scowled at the theft of his chair, but settled down beside Harry as they all looked out at the ocean.
"Are your parents doing better, Hermione?" Harry asked.
"Yes. They're still a bit upset, but they understand why I had to do it. I think they're just relieved that we're all safe now."
They had been in Australia for a week. Harry was glad to finally be getting his trip with Draco and Hermione needed to finally take away the memory modification that had kept her parents away from the danger they all faced back home. Draco conceded that there were worse things than traveling with Harry's friends and allowed them to all go together. The fact that Hermione had to deal with her parents meant that they wouldn't have to see much of her or Weasley despite the fact they were all sharing the same seaside rental house.
"I'm sure it will take time. You didn't tell them exactly what you were doing before you did it."
She nodded. "I told them to trust me to keep them safe and it worked. I think they almost want to stay here, but they've been using different names, so… I don't know. It will take time before they finish things up here and come home."
"You did what you had to, Granger."
All three of them looked at Draco oddly.
"Were you just comforting Hermione?"
"No," he replied, somewhat awkwardly. "Just trying to bring this conversation to a close. You're all depressing me. You keep this talk up and I'll go flirt with that guy over there because he has no idea who the Dark Lord is or Philip Laurent. He's never heard of Death Eaters and he probably won't be interested in talking at all."
"Okay, we get it," said Harry. "There are better things to do. Like swimming?"
Draco nodded and stood up and led Harry by the hand down to the water. Hermione sighed contentedly as she and Ron watched them go.
"Who would have thought? Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy?"
Ron nodded. "It sort of makes sense though. Once you get used to it."
"And if you account for the fact that Draco's changed so much. He really is different now."
"He's still a smug bastard. But Harry seems happy."
"Honestly I don't know how they live together. They're too competitive."
"As opposed to you and me? I just go along with everything you say because you're the smartest girl I've ever known."
"Yes, I quite like how that works out for us."
Ron laughed and kissed her. "We could live together."
"With my family. I mean really live together. On our own."
Hermione grinned from ear to ear. "Whatever will your mother say?"
Ron's face fell. "Maybe we can move out without her knowing?"
Only a little ways away another couple was making their own plans. After complaining for a few moments about how cold the water was, Draco settled for letting Harry hold him as the waves crashed around their legs.
"I like it here," said Harry. "It beats the snow back home. It's nice that the seasons are opposite of us."
"It's okay. To visit anyway. I wouldn't want it to be this hot all the time."
"Well then it's good that we're not staying long." Draco nodded. "What are you going to do when we do go home? I'll be starting Auror training the week after we get back."
"I'll find something. I got good N.E.W.T. scores. And now I'm a bit of a war hero, so I suppose I could find someone willing to work with me."
"It's either that or stay home with Kreacher all day."
Draco made a face. "I was thinking of something political. I'm not sure."
"Kingsley would be more than happy to help you find something in the Ministry."
"No, I don't know yet. I've got time to figure it out. In the meantime, I'll just act like a kept housewife."
"Sounds good to me. Maybe things can get back to normal."
"Normal for us would be fighting and hexing each other in school hallways."
"The new normal then. The normal where you actually like me and my friends and we have hot sex in every room of the house."
"Perfect. Except the liking your friends part. Weasley and Granger are merely tolerable."
"Yeah, sure. Whatever you have to keep telling yourself. I know you don't hate them."
"You stopped hating them sometime last summer. I've known that for a while. For even longer than I've known I loved you."
Draco turned his head to look at him. "And how long have you known that?"
"Since my birthday."
"Really? That long?"
Harry smiled. "When did you know?"
"I don't know when I figured it out, but I think I've loved you since at least fourth year."
Draco nodded. "Remember way back when I said that I didn't want you to die during the Triwizard Tournament? Well, I was pretty obsessed with knowing where you were and what you were doing that whole year. I spent half of the Yule Ball hating that Patil girl you went with. Then the second challenge in the lake… I still didn't know what it was. But it was like I couldn't breathe when they thought you might be dead. It's like the feeling I get every time you go running off to do something crazy and dangerous. I can't breathe until I know you're safe again. It's only looking back now that I can recognize what it was. I think now that I always loved you. Even when I hated you. I just didn't know it."
Harry stared up at him in amazement. "You're such a romantic sometimes."
"Hm. You're right." He pretended to think for a moment and Harry knew that he was up to something. "I have to do something about that."
With that he picked Harry up and threw him into the cold ocean. He nearly doubled over laughing as Harry stood up, gasping from the shock of the cold suddenly surrounding him, water dripping from his mop of hair. He stood, catching his breath for a moment before looking up at Draco and grinning.
"Oh you're going to get it for that, Malfoy."
He launched himself at Draco, throwing them both into the waves. They wrestled like that playfully for several minutes, laughing the whole time. Harry stood and held his hands up to signal Draco to stop then he pulled him closer.
"I like that you're a romantic sometimes," he whispered.
In answer Draco leaned in for a long kiss. They stood like that in the ocean for a long time. For once, they didn't have anywhere else to be. There was no one expecting them to do anything or fight anyone. Harry paused, a thought having occurred to him. After the defeat of Voldemort he had felt lost, confused. He didn't sleep or relax. He didn't know how to live a life where he wasn't hunted or how to move on from war and loss. There had been a piece of him missing, keeping him from moving on with his life. A smile came over his face as he considered this. Draco raised a suspicious eyebrow.
Harry shook his head. "I just figured something out."
"I know what was missing now."
Draco's eyebrows furrowed together in brief confusion, but then rose as he realized what Harry must mean. He smiled, agreeing completely with the sentiment. "Now who's being the romantic?"