"It's Lucius," Narcissa said with an odd little sob. "Oh, Draco, your father has had another stroke."
The world seemed to stop in that moment. Draco's arms dropped automatically from his mother and he took a step back. Her words kept echoing in his mind, but it just didn't seem real. This could not be real. Things like this were not supposed to happen. Not now. Not again.
That was Ginny. She was touching his arm, her eyes seeking his with open concern. He could barely feel her touch. He could barely grasp anything in that moment. All he could think was that his father had had a stroke. His father might be dying. Merlin, he might already be dead.
Draco swallowed, hoping to dislodge the lump that was constricting his throat. "Father?" His voice sounded hoarse, almost foreign to his own ears. "He's not—he's not—"
"He's not dead," Narcissa whispered.
Draco let out a sigh of relief. "Where is he?"
"At home. As soon as I realised what was happening I Flooed Healer Perkins, but I—"
"What?" Draco asked, alarmed at how distressed his mother was getting.
Narcissa shook her head. "I can't bear it. I can't bear seeing him like that." Her body shuddered, as if it were trying its best to stay together, but all the emotion inside was putting too much pressure on strained seams. "I don't want him to die."
This was said so helplessly and with such a broken expression that Ginny rushed over and wrapped her arms around the older woman.
"Don't give up!" Ginny said fiercely. "Lucius is strong. He'll pull through this yet. You'll see."
"The healers don't think he will make it through the night."
"Well, they're wrong," Ginny retorted. "I don't care what any stupid healer says; he's not going to die."
Draco frowned at his wife. As much as he wanted to believe her words, he remembered all too clearly the last time his father had a stroke. The man he had looked up to and admired had been reduced to something barely recognisable. Even then the healers had confessed that his father was lucky to have made it through the stroke alive. Now it was happening again, and even though Draco knew his father was a stubborn old hippogriff, his father was also not a god. Even Lucius Malfoy could not stop the thread that bound him to this world from being cut.
"Can we see him?" Draco asked, turning his attention back to his mother.
Narcissa nodded. "I don't see why not. The healers should be finished giving him the potions."
She wiped her tears and stood up straight, obviously trying to regain her composure. It was a pitiful sight, for though she was trying to re-plaster the marble-like impassivity that characterised her, the cracks of emotion still seeped through to spoil the effect.
"We should go now," she said, voice brisk. "We don't know how much longer he will last."
"I'll be fine, Draco," Narcissa said, if a little shakily. "Just—just let me deal with this in my own way."
He stared at her for a moment, taking in her red-rimmed eyes and the crumbling mask of control she was trying so hard to maintain. Slowly, he nodded. "Okay."
Narcissa thanked him silently with her eyes and then pulled out her wand. "I'll let the healers know you're coming."
Draco gave a quick nod and watched as she Disapparated with a pop. For a moment he just stood there staring at the spot where she had vanished, his brain still reeling after everything he had heard. It was strange to think that only twenty minutes ago he had been congratulating Theo on his engagement to Kitty, his life comfortably carefree. Now, here he was dealing with the knowledge that his father may or may not live to see another day.
Irony is what they called it. Well, it certainly was ironic that while he had been sipping champagne and bantering with his wife, his father had been suffering a painful stroke. Draco decided he didn't like irony. It wasn't really all that funny. Quite overrated, if you asked him.
Ginny walked over to him and took his hand in a warm grasp. "You okay?" she asked quietly.
"I don't know," he confessed, glancing down to meet her gaze. "I don't know what I feel right now."
He had thought he would be more upset than this. His mother had been in tears, yet he couldn't force out one little drop of emotion. It was like his brain still hadn't fathomed what was actually happening, almost as if it were denying his mother's words, even though Draco was well aware that she had been speaking the truth. It was just so hard to believe. Of course they had all known that Lucius's health had been rather precarious after the first stroke; Draco had also known that it was possible his father would not last the year, but in a way he had never truly believed his father was critically ill. Fathers were meant to be invincible; it wasn't right that now there was a very real possibility Draco might never hear his father curse him for his impudence or threaten him with that infernal cane again.
A cold feeling crept over him. What if his father really didn't make it?
Ginny squeezed his hand reassuringly, as if sensing his thoughts. "Everything will be fine, Draco. Your father isn't going to die."
Draco said nothing. He didn't want to let her see how truly afraid he was right now.
"Come on," she said, changing the subject. "We should get to the manor."
He nodded. "You're right."
In silence they Disapparated to the manor, and it was in silence that they listened to Healer Perkins discuss Lucius's situation. The chances of the elder Malfoy making it through the night did indeed look grim, but Ginny remained confident in her conviction that he would pull through. Draco, however, had to wonder if she too was clinging to denial. She certainly looked paler now that they were no longer in the cheery brightness of their own home, and there was a strained look in her eyes that had not been there before.
The gloomy wealth that adorned the manor was a setting that could have easily fit in a Gothic novel. It was not difficult to believe that death could happen inside its historic walls. It seemed even his wife's optimism was not immune to the sombre tone of the mansion.
"I'm afraid there is nothing more I can do," the healer explained. "The potions can help him deal with the pain, but his heart his weak, and his brain has suffered severely. If he does live, he will never walk again. It's a miracle he can still talk."
"Can we see him?" Ginny asked, hand gripping Draco's tightly.
Healer Perkins gave her a grim smile. "I'm afraid you will find him much altered, but yes, you may see him."
"My mother?" Draco queried.
"Already in the room. She has been waiting for you."
Draco nodded. "Thank you."
"I'm sorry I could not do more," Healer Perkins said, real regret lacing his words. "Medicine can only take us so far, but now I'm afraid it is in fate's hands."
"You did your best," Ginny said. "That's all that matters."
Perkins nodded, excused himself, and once again Ginny and Draco found themselves alone. The time of denial was up. They now had no choice but to face the truth.
"Ready?" Ginny asked, still gripping his hand.
It was a strange sense of déjà vu. When she had first stood outside this room, she had gripped her husband's hand just as tightly, afraid of what was going to greet her eyes on the other side. Now her fear was channelled by different emotions—something far softer and meaningful. Ginny had come to realise that she loved Lucius. To lose him now would be no different than the pain she would feel should she lose a member of her own family.
Draco's hand tightened around hers. It was hard to know who was seeking comfort from whom in that moment. Their eyes met, inexpressible fear and sympathy finding voice in the silent seconds, and then Draco reached out to open the door. The two entered the room together. It was brightly lit, the complete opposite to the dim, gloomy rooms so often described in novels, but the overall lightness of the room only served to emphasise how pale the man in the bed looked. His skin was like death itself, a stark contrast to the shadows that had been etched deep under his eyes—eyes that no longer held their old sharpness, but were tired and battle-worn. To Ginny, it was clear he was, or at least had been, in a great deal of pain.
Narcissa had been sitting close to Lucius, but she stood up from her chair upon their entering and walked over to them. Her face looked almost as pale as her husband's, but her expression was controlled enough. It seemed she had shed her tears and would shed no more.
"How is he?" Draco asked, casting his gaze towards the man in the bed.
"You can ask him yourself," Narcissa replied. "I think he's been waiting for you."
Draco nodded and walked past the two women to take the now unoccupied seat by his father's bedside. Seeing his father's haggard face up close was quite a shock, but he managed to offer a strained smile all the same. "Father," he greeted.
Lucius' dull eyes lit up when he saw his son. He even managed to assume an expression of cool hauteur. "You're going to make me sick with these pathetic looks you're all giving me. I'm not dead yet, so you can stop giving me those long faces."
"Perhaps you should look in a mirror, Father," Draco responded, unable to repress a smile. "Your face is the longest one here."
"I'll have none of that cheek, boy!" Lucius retorted, though his eyes were soft with emotion.
Draco understood. His father had never enjoyed sentimentality, but they were both well aware that tonight might be the last time they would see each other. Though Lucius could not tell his son explicitly how much he loved him, nor could he even show it in the accepted forms, the words were spoken clearly enough.
I love you. I have always loved you. You are my son, and I am proud of what you have become.
The words flowed through Draco, whispering their silent message in a voice that was as piercing as it was gentle to imprint themselves deep in his heart. It was in that moment that Draco realised the full extent of his own love for his father. This man had been a figure of fear and admiration to him as a child, an idol to be worshipped. Things had changed as he had got older: the fear lessened, the worshipful admiration had been replaced with dutiful respect, but he had still loved his father as a son only could. Now, however, Draco realised it was so much more than that. He didn't just love his father: he loved his father, and to lose him now would be to lose the very rock that had founded his world.
Swallowing against the sudden tightness in his throat, Draco reached out and took his father's hand. His grey eyes were oddly bright. "You're going to get through this, Father," he croaked out, still fighting against the emotion that was threatening to overwhelm him. "You're going to get better, and then in three months you'll be holding your grandchild in your arms just like you always wanted. It'll all work out, you'll see. You're going to get better."
Draco was rambling, and he knew it, but it was so much easier to fall back on denial and secret hopes than it was to face the sad truth that stared at him from his father's eyes. He couldn't face that silent goodbye. Not now. Not like this.
Lucius' long fingers closed around his son's hand. "Draco."
The name almost came out as a sigh. A small sniff came from the other side of the room. Both men turned to see Ginny wiping the tears from her cheeks.
"Come here, girl," Lucius ordered, releasing his son's hand as he straightened up in the bed.
Ginny walked over to the bed, still sniffling.
She stepped closer. Lucius leaned forward, and—to the surprise of everyone in the room—placed his cheek against her stomach.
"Ah," he said softly, closing his eyes.
For a moment there was silence. Draco watched Lucius in awed silence and was surprised to see something wet trail down his father's cheeks. Tears. The first tears he had ever witnessed his father shed. It was painful to watch—painful and touching all in one.
"My little one," Lucius murmured, a slight smile curling his lips. His eyes were still closed, but there was a sad sort of satisfaction in his expression.
Ginny had to bite down on her lip to stop a sob from escaping. She couldn't bear this. She couldn't bear watching her father-in-law try to connect with the grandchild she knew he probably would never see, knowing that that was all he had wanted. It wasn't fair. All of this had been for him: the marriage, the grandchild—it was all for him, but now there was a chance he would never get to see what he had wanted most of all.
She could remember the expression that had come to Lucius's face when he had discovered she was pregnant. He had been so happy, so open, and now that happiness was being snatched away from him. It just wasn't fair. He only needed three months. Just three months. Could fate really be so cruel as to steal him now when his dream was so close to becoming real?
Lucius pulled back from her and met her over-bright gaze—all traces of tears were gone from his own. "Thank you, Ginevra."
Ginny shook her head, tears spilling freely down her cheeks. She knew what he had meant with those two words. It was a sign of surrender: an ambiguous way of saying that clichéd phrase so often repeated by people on their deathbeds.
Now I can die in peace.
"There's still hope yet," Ginny said, begging him with her eyes to keep fighting.
A ghost of the old smirk tugged at her father-in-law's lips. "You should know that a Malfoy never gives up, Ginevra. Just think of this as my safety net." His gaze shifted to rest on his son and Narcissa—both of whom were trying hard to restrain their tears—and his expression softened. "I don't plan on dying yet," he murmured more to himself. "Not if I can help it."
And though it was a small promise and one she knew he had no real power to keep, it was enough to keep her hope alive. He would fight.
Draco closed the door softly behind him and walked over to the couch where his wife was half dozing. She stirred at the sound of his footsteps and hauled herself into a sitting position.
"What's the time?" she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
Draco sighed. "It's too early to say."
Ginny nodded, as if expecting this. "Is Narcissa still with him?"
"Yes. She refuses to leave his side. I told her to get some sleep and that I would watch over him, but she said she doesn't want to lose any time with him; if this is all she has then she's going to make the most of it."
Ginny could understand that. If Draco was the one dying, she wouldn't want to lose any time with him either. She would want to treasure every last second. Even if it hurt her, she would stay by his side, waiting for the moment when his heart would stop and there was nothing left to love but a memory.
But for Narcissa it didn't have to be this way. Lucius did not have to become a memory. This wasn't the end. It just couldn't be. Ginny refused to accept that all of their efforts, all of their struggles, had been building up to this—this ending of empty promises and unsatisfied dreams.
"He's going to make it."
Draco stared at her. "What?"
"He's going to make it," Ginny repeated. "I know he will."
She shook her head. "I know what you're going to say: that reality doesn't have happy endings and not everything works out how we want it, but it can, Draco. I know it can."
"He's dying, Ginny. You must see that."
"But he's not dead."
She sat forward and gripped his hands tightly in her own. "Didn't your mother ever tell you that if you wished for something hard enough it would come true?"
"Well, mine did. Right now I want to believe that. Your father is trying his best, Draco. He's fighting so hard to stay alive, but maybe we need to fight for him too. It's corny, I know, but what if it worked? I'm not asking much—it's not like we're trying to move mountains here—but surely it's worth trying a bit of faith if it means getting a miracle of our own?"
For a moment Draco just stared at her. Then, slowly, a smile tugged at his lips. "That has got to be the corniest speech you've ever given, but I guess it's worth a shot."
If it meant prolonging the inevitable, if it meant not saying goodbye to his father when there was still so much to say, then he knew he had to try. He would try her faith. Maybe reality wasn't always kind, and maybe happy endings didn't always happen the way one wanted them too, but he saw now that one simple question still remained:
Shadows had come and faded: symbols of time that shifted along the four walls of the manor, slowly ticking down to that crucial moment when all would be decided. Words had long been abandoned. Draco and Ginny had been too caught up in the hopeful but anxious thoughts of their minds to express anything more than unspoken reassurance. They just waited—waited and hoped.
The door opened. Narcissa entered the room and stood before them, tears sparkling on her cheeks. Draco stood up immediately, his eyes fixing on his mother in a question. For a moment there was silence, no one quite daring to speak, and then Narcissa did something incredible. She smiled.
"Yes!" Ginny exclaimed, crying and laughing in one as she rushed forward and pulled her mother-in-law into a hug. "Thank Merlin he's okay!"
Narcissa pulled back. "He's still very weak, and he probably will never walk again, but the healers believe he's past the worst of it." She turned her gaze to Draco, a soft smile lingering in her eyes. "I believe your father will be with us for a while yet."
Draco held his mother's gaze, even as a smile of his own tugged at the corners of his mouth. No words were exchanged, but the relief and happiness was still there in their shared glance. Today, there would be no goodbyes, just as it always should have been.
Some months had passed. Though Lucius remained paralysed from the waist down and had never truly recovered from the second stroke, he had managed to find his feet back in the world again as the tyrant of the family—only now he had competition. Time had seen Ginny's stomach grow larger, and with that had come the ever-increasing volatility of her temper. All who knew the young mother-to-be privately began to call her The Tyrant. Ron usually added 'fat' to that description, but after being hit by a Bat-Bogey hex from his loving sister—who had unfortunately overheard—he chose to keep his mouth shut from that point on to save his own skin.
Even Draco felt like he was walking on eggshells around his wife. There were times where she was the most loving of all females, but then there were times where he thanked Merlin for his Quidditch reflexes. She was disconcertingly quick with those hexes, not to mention the habit she had picked up of throwing at him whatever was handy at the time. Still, they were happy together. It was a struggle, there was no doubt about it, but he still loved her as he only could, just as she still loved him. He just wished she would channel her frustration somewhere else. He was not so heartless that he could not appreciate her situation—indeed, her ailments had become old friends to his ears—but that did not mean it was his fault. Okay, so technically it was his fault, but still…
He glanced towards his wife. She was reclining on the sofa, one hand resting on her stomach, and her long hair cascading around her. One shoulder peeped out from where her dress had slipped down her arm, and for a moment he was struck by how beautiful she looked. There was something so natural about her beauty. Being pregnant had only heightened that, and it was all the more emphasised in the way she was resting now. She looked like she should be posing for an artist trying to capture the divine essence of motherhood.
"Is there something on my face?" Ginny asked, a slight frown creasing her brow.
He laughed lightly. "No. I was just thinking how beautiful you look right now."
Ginny let out an inelegant snort. "Please, I'm a waddling penguin with a belly the size of Hagrid. There's nothing 'beautiful' about me."
"If you say so."
"You're not supposed to agree," she retorted with a scowl.
"But you don't like it when I lavish you with compliments either," he pointed out. "You're becoming very difficult to please, I hope you know."
"That's because I just want this baby out of me," Ginny huffed, glaring down at her stomach. "I'm overdue by three days."
"Don't stress. The baby will come when he's ready to."
"Easy for you to say," his wife muttered. "You're not the one dealing with all of this, and this is only the easy stuff. The birth is going to be ten hundred times worse!"
Draco stood up and knelt down before her, reaching up a hand to smooth back her hair. His hand lingered a moment longer on her cheek. "You'll be fine," he murmured, meeting her eyes with a smile. "It's not like the old days. They have plenty of charms to numb the pain."
"I know, but still—" Ginny froze and her eyes widened.
"What?" Draco exclaimed. "What's the matter?"
"I—" She screwed up her face in pain. "I think I'm having contractions."
"But you've had them before, right?"
Ginny shook her head. "Not like this. I think—I think these are real ones."
Draco went rather pale. "Okay. Um, just relax and I'll—I'll go Floo Mother."
He stood up quickly, nerves tingling through his body as he went to the fireplace and grabbed the Floo powder. It was really happening. The baby was coming, but good Merlin he didn't have a clue what he was doing! Despite all of these weeks of trying to soothe his wife's fears, he now felt just like the twenty-one year old man that he was: young, inexperienced and hopelessly inadequate when it came to dealing with a pregnant woman about to give birth.
The flames glowed bright green from the powder. Draco called out the address of the manor, then found himself greeted by his mother's startled face.
"Draco?" Narcissa exclaimed. "Whatever is the matter?"
"It's Ginny. She thinks she's having contractions."
"I'll be over in a minute," Narcissa said, standing up. "Just let me get my things ready."
Draco nodded. "Alright, I'll just tell—" He broke off as he heard Ginny say something in the background.
"What?" Narcissa asked, seeing the colour drain from his cheeks.
"Ginny says her water just broke."
Narcissa's eyes widened. "I'll Floo Healer Perkins. You'd better tell her family; they'll want to know."
Five hours later Ginny was shut up in the bedroom with the healer, his assistant, Molly, Narcissa and Fleur. Though Draco had been invited to stay in the room as well, he had found it all rather awkward and had decided to wait outside with the men. There was a rather large collection. Arthur, Ron, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred and George were all waiting, pale faced, on one side of the room, while his own father sat impatiently in his wheelchair on the other. Draco himself had spent most of the time pacing up and down outside the door, too nervous to sit or even talk to his family.
His wife was in labour right now. There was no saying how long it would take—Draco had heard it sometimes carried right on to the next day—but that she was truly in labour was well established. It had all happened so quickly, taking everyone by surprise, and now all they could do was wait. Draco hated waiting.
Just in that moment three loud cracks resounded in the room. Everyone jumped—even Lucius—and all turned to see Silas, Desiree and Armand Malfoy appear out of thin air.
"We are not too late?" Desiree asked in her thick, French accent. "The baby has not yet come?"
Draco's face cracked into a smile. "No, Tante, you're not too late."
"Voyons. I am pleased."
Desiree promptly entered the room to join the rest of the women. Silas clapped a hand on his nephew's back, then made his way over to Lucius. The brothers quickly fell into discussion. Apparently, they were able to put their differences aside for such a momentous occasion.
"Wow, so you're really going to be a dad," Armand said, coming to stand next to Draco.
Draco couldn't believe it himself. It all seemed so surreal right now.
"Scared?" Armand asked.
"What do you think?"
Armand laughed. "True."
A frown creased Draco's brow as he realised that one member of their family was missing. "Where's Alexia?"
A snigger escaped his cousin's lips. "Alexia has gone and eloped. I believe she would be on her honeymoon right now."
"What? With who?"
Draco's jaw dropped. "Smith? That Hufflepuff? How on earth did that happen?"
"He was visiting some friends in France and their paths happened to cross. Apparently, it was love at first sneer."
"I can readily believe that," Draco said with a laugh.
He though of his cousin's snobbish nature and the obnoxious hauteur that characterised the ex-Hufflepuff. Still, it was amazing to think that Alexia had run off with Smith of all people.
"Dad seems rather pleased by it all," Armand continued. "The Smiths are a well-respected pureblood family and, of course, he always wanted Lexy to marry an Englishman."
"She wasn't very happy that they chose to have a secret marriage, but she settled down once she got the letter from Lexy explaining everything."
"Well, as long as Alexia is happy, right?"
Armand sniggered. "You're just saying that because now you know she's no longer going to fawn all over you."
Draco's mouth twitched. Before he could make a retort, the door to the bedroom opened. He turned, watching with a pounding heart as his mother walked towards him. This was it. This was the moment he had been anticipating for nine long months.
Narcissa smiled. "Congratulations, Draco. You have a son."
The room erupted with cheers and congratulations, though Lucius refused to demean himself by acting so exuberantly. Draco was a bit too stunned to do anything, and only started functioning properly again when his cousin gave him a jolly slap on the back.
"Can I see him?" Draco asked.
"Of course," Narcissa said with a laugh. "Come, they're all waiting for you."
Draco sucked in a breath and followed his mother into the bedroom. Molly, Fleur and Desiree were all talking in delighted voices; the healer and his helper were writing something down on their clipboards, but Draco ignored them all. Instead, his gaze went straight to the bed where his exhausted but satisfied wife lay with a small bundle cradled in her arms.
Ginny smiled up at him with tears clinging to her eyelashes. "We have a son, Draco. You're now a father."
"A father," he repeated, still trying to get used to the foreign thought.
"Come hold him," Ginny encouraged.
As if in a trance, Draco made his way over to the bed and took the small bundle Ginny was offering to him, making sure to hold it just as she advised. He stared down into the layers of cloth and found himself meeting the tiny blue eyes, just faintly bordering grey, of his newborn son.
Every time he thought the words a swell of happiness would balloon inside him. This was his son; this tiny, helpless baby resting in his arms was his son. If there really were such things as miracles, surely this creation of life, this newborn baby, was just such a miracle.
"He likes you," Ginny observed.
Draco glanced up, meeting his wife's smile with an equally broad one of his own. He couldn't help it. He was holding his son—their son.
"He's amazing," Draco said in awe, turning his gaze back to the newborn.
The baby was so tiny, with a little red face and a rather screwed up expression, but this was to be expected. Still, for all that their son followed the usual norms of newborns, there was no denying the love Draco already felt for the baby. This child was a part of him, just as much as the child was a part of his wife.
"You two look good together," Narcissa remarked, watching the whole scene with an appreciative smile.
"Wait, where's Lucius?" Ginny demanded, peering around the room for her father-in-law.
"Right here," Lucius said, breaking a path through the crowd hovering at the door as he was wheeled into the room by his nephew.
Draco walked forward and carefully handed the newborn to Lucius. "Congratulations, Father," he said gently. "You're now a grandfather."
Lucius cradled the boy in his arms with surprising tenderness. Even his eyes shone with a softness rarely seen in one so cool and reserved. It was a touching moment for all who were allowed to witness, but for Ginny it was like seeing a dream finally fulfilled. For three months she had feared for her father-in-law, knowing that any day he could succumb to the weakness of his body and pass on before he got the chance to see his grandchild. Now, the moment had finally come, and here Lucius sat, wheelchair and all, finally holding his newly born grandchild in his arms.
"My little one," Lucius murmured, echoing the sentiment from a time long past. His eyes flickered towards his daughter-in-law. "Do you have a name for him?"
"I did have one—if you don't mind that is," Ginny replied.
"And what is that."
For the first time Lucius seemed truly stunned, though he made a show of trying to cover it with his usual smooth control. "You would name your son after me? Your firstborn son?"
"It seemed fitting, but if you don't like it then I'll change it."
Lucius seemed even more surprised by this disclosure. Still, all who knew him well enough could see that he was touched by her gesture. True to form, however, his reply was hardly complimentary.
"Well, if he has my name, he'd better make sure he lives up to it. I'm not having any namby-pamby grandson ruining my legacy by following the Weasley half that runs through his blood."
The Weasleys (and even some of the Malfoys) exchanged glances at this, but Ginny only laughed. "I'll try not to let him become too Weasley for you."
Lucius smirked. "That's my girl."
Narcissa rolled her eyes. Her husband would never change.
"So his name is Lucius, then?" Draco asked, turning his gaze to his wife.
"That's what I want," Ginny said decisively. "Why? You don't like it?"
Draco shook his head. He had never been one for sentimentality and what he deemed the corny gesture of naming one's child after a person in one's life as a tribute, but he understood why Ginny had done it. She was right. It was fitting to name their baby Lucius; without Draco's father, the little boy would never have come to be. Lucius was the one who had demanded Draco marry, just as he was the one who had wanted the grandchild as soon as possible. All of this might never have happened had Lucius not first pushed his son into a marriage of convenience.
More than that, though, Draco knew that ever since the second stroke Ginny had discovered a deeper bond with her father-in-law. If this was how she wished to express that then he was not going to stand in her way.
"Lucius it is," he agreed.
The healers interrupted then to say that both the baby and his mother needed rest. All who had gathered in the room reluctantly filed out, retiring to one of the sitting rooms to discuss the day's proceedings. It was a strange sight to behold. Never had the Weasleys and Malfoys been on such genuinely good terms with each other. As Draco watched his family—both extended and close—smiling and laughing as they discussed the new addition to their large circle, he couldn't help but give a smile of his own at the effect his newly born son was having on the normally hostile group.
This was a new beginning for everyone—more especially for the newly made parents themselves. No longer were they simply a married couple; they had become a family. Their journey in the realm of parenthood had only just begun, and though Draco knew it was going to be difficult, and probably filled with many tears and tantrums from all parties involved, he also knew that he wouldn't miss this opportunity for anything. It was a new adventure: one that was just as daunting as his last, but for all that he knew it would be a good one.
Draco smiled to himself as he thought of little Lucius. Yes, it would be a good one.
It was another sunny day, just like it had been every other year. The field was empty, apart from the usual marble stones that broke the endless sea of green, but this did not trouble the couple making their way along the grass. Indeed, the woman was more concerned with the wandering behaviour of her small child.
"Don't go too far, Lucius!" she called, her expression becoming anxious as she watched the small figure moving beyond her reach.
"He's alright," her husband said, tightening his hold on her waist. "Just leave him."
She seemed to hesitate, but then she let out a small sigh and nodded. "Fine, but you'll be the one to take the blame if he gets up to any mischief."
"Aren't I always?"
She rolled her eyes, though a smile tugged at her lips. Wordlessly, she dragged him towards the further regions of the field. The couple came to a halt once they reached the marble stone that drew them to this place every year.
"There he is," the woman murmured.
She knelt on the ground and reached out to touch the cold stone. A sad smile curved her lips.
"Here," her husband said, handing her the bouquet of flowers.
The woman placed the flowers tenderly down and stood back up. Her husband wrapped his arm around her waist and stared at the stone with her. They stood like that for a few minutes, neither saying a word. Then, as if a silent agreement had been made, both turned away.
"Lucius!" the woman called across the field to where her son was playing. "We're going home now."
The little boy, adorable with his strawberry blond hair and blue-grey eyes, came rushing towards them. "Are we going already?" he asked.
"Okay then," Lucius said, taking her hand.
The little trio moved away from the stone. It was one that was no different from any of the others in the field except for the inscription that had been engraved on its surface:
LOVING MEMORY OF
LUCIUS ABRAXAS MALFOY
All our thoughts are with you forever
'Till the day we'll be back together
WOW! I can't believe it's the end.
Seriously, I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who reviewed. You have all been amazing! I could not have finished this without all your support, and I really do mean that. There were many times where I wanted to give up on this story, but all your reviews made me realise that I couldn't just abandon it, so thank you!
I should also make a note that the little epitaph at the end is actually lyrics taken from Within Temptation's Bittersweet—the song, coincidentally enough, that I used to write most of this chapter.
Again, thank you for the support, and for those of you too shy or lazy to review, I hope you enjoyed the fic!