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Chapter 31: The End, the Beginning:
(One Year Later)
"The things that we should be the most grateful for," the minister said, "are our families and our friends. If you are one of the lucky few, who can have your family be your friends that is even better yet. The love these two provide to the other is a testament to the fact that what started as friends, could grown to produce a family, in both words and actions. When counting all their blessings, they can count one thing as the most important, the fact that their love will never end."
He continued, "When people love each other they can weather any storm. When two people love each other, they will never come to any harm. When they love one another, they become one, one heart, one mind, one body, one soul, forever and all time."
"All of you gathered in this little chapel today shall bear witness to the bonding of this man and woman. Let them travel on together, their journey easy, their load light, the way long and narrow, with no curves, or detours. May their experiences guide them down the path of eternal happiness, which they so richly deserve."
"Now, if anyone here knows of any just cause why this man and woman shall not be joined, please speak now, or forever hold your peace."
Draco leaned over to Hermione and whispered, "Thank the sky above that Monica is still tightly locked up in the loony bin."
She smiled, but leaned over and said, "It's a sanitarium, and hush."
He mouthed, "Same thing," and blew her a kiss. She shook her head, and smiled.
The bride and groom exchanged simple vows, which they wrote themselves, and after their vows, the minister said, "Go in peace, love and happiness, that only you may find with the other. You may now bless this union with a kiss."
Draco leaned over and gave Hermione a simple, but meaningful kiss on her lips. Simple yes, but it meant more than she could tell him.
After the kiss, the Minister said, "May I present Dr. and Mrs. Martin Granger!"
The whole congregation erupted in applause. Hermione felt a tear fall down her cheek. Draco leaned over and wiped it away. As they stood, to watch the newly married couple leave the church, he said, "That will be us up there next, Granger."
"Could be, you never know," she said. She took his hand and they walked outside.
The wedding of Martin Granger and Maureen Mohr was a small affair. It was also belated. They had originally planned on marrying late last summer, but with all that had occurred with Martin's mother, the original wedding was cancelled. Then, Martin decided that he really wanted to learn magic. The Ministry arranged for him to take special classes, which took him over eight months. He still had a lot to learn, but his little sister was an excellent teacher.
Therefore, they waited almost a year. Here they were, a year later, and they were finally married, a complete family, and everyone was incredibly happy and relieved. The reception was held in the back garden of Dr. Richard Granger's house. Hermione watched her father as he made his way around the garden, greeting his guests and family. He seemed happy, but the spark was gone from his eye. He finally divorced Monica; however, he still visited her every Sunday, even though she didn't know him from Adam.
Michael came walking up to Hermione and handed her a piece of cake. "Where did Draco go?" he asked.
"He's showing everyone the baby," Hermione said, sighing.
"Hey, Malfoy," Michael called out, "I brought you some cake. Come and eat it and let me hold my niece please, I haven't seen her all day."
Draco came over with five-week-old Holly in his arms and said, "Careful, Mike. Hold her head, her little neck is very skinny and her head is really heavy."
Mike laughed and said, "I'll try to remember that."
Hermione joined in the laughter and said, "Words of wisdom, from Draco Malfoy, a baby's neck is too skinny to hold up its head."
Draco took a bite of cake and said, "Well, it is."
Mike rocked the baby back and forth and said, "I think she looks like me, with all those dark little curls."
Hermione smiled. She looked like her, too. She also looked like little Kevin Richard. She reached over and stroked the baby's cheek.
Hermione said, "I think she's hungry, give her to her mummy."
Mike smiled at Hermione and said, "Sure." Martin and Maureen had just walked over, and Mike handed the baby to Maureen.
They all sat down, except for Maureen. She said, "I need to take her in to feed her. I'll be back." She leaned down and kissed Martin's cheek, and she said, "I love you."
Martin beamed. Hermione said, "You seem so happy."
"I am. I have everything I ever wanted. I am married to a wonderful woman, whom I love more than I thought possible, I have two beautiful daughters, and you're here to stay, little sister. I have all that I could possibly ever want or need, right here, right now."
"Hear, hear," Dr. Granger said, sitting down. "Does seem to me that you're doing this a bit backwards, though. Usually people get married and then have the baby, not that I'm judging. I'm the last to ever pass judgment."
Michael laughed and said, "Martin always was strange."
Hermione gave her brother a reproachful look and said, "What about me?" as she put her hand on her ever-expanding stomach. He touched the baby bump that was once his sister's flat stomach and said, "You are the exception, however, you and Malfoy are doing this backwards, too, baby and then marriage."
"Hell, we aren't even that far, as she won't agree to marry me, yet. She won't make an honest man out of me," Draco said, leaning back and putting his arm around Hermione's shoulder. He put his hand on her stomach and left it there.
"Maybe you are the strange one, Mike," Martin said. "At least we both have someone. All you have are the cows and pigs."
Everyone laughed and Mike said, "On that pleasant note, I shall go find better company, someone more my maturity level, and bid you all one big fat goodbye." He called out to Erin and they went to play on the rope swing that hung from a tall tree. Everyone laughed again, and then their father excused himself as well, and left the table.
Martin moved over to Michael's abandoned seat next to Hermione. "So, any day now, aye?"
"Yes, any day, and it won't be soon enough. My feet are so swollen. This didn't happen with my first baby," she said. "I mean look at all the weight I've gained!"
"Well, this one is half Malfoy, so its head is probably very large," Martin said. Hermione tried to suppress her smile, and Draco gave him a stare, but then shrugged. He didn't care. He could say whatever he wanted. His baby had to be at least as pretty as Martin's baby, so Draco didn't care if it had a big head, not understanding that Martin meant in the egotistical sort of way.
Martin excused himself as well, which just left Hermione alone with Draco.
"So, Granger, do you still not want to know what the baby's name is going to be?" he asked. He asked her this everyday. The reason being, she told him he could name the baby, and he was the only one who wanted to know the gender. Hermione and her family didn't want to know, for some odd reason. Draco actually felt that Hermione didn't want to know, because she didn't want to form the tight connection with this baby the way she had when she was pregnant with Kevin.
He would be wrong.
She already had a tight connection with this baby. In fact, in many ways, she felt even closer to this baby, if that was possible. She felt like it had its own little guardian angel, its brother, watching out for it. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what Kevin would look like now. He would be a chubby little toddler, running around the yard, with Uncle Michael chasing after him. She put her head on the table and began to cry.
Draco rubbed her back and said, "Hormones?"
She chuckled and said, "Why do you always assume its hormones?" She wiped her eyes. "Take me home, Draco, I'm tired."
He helped her to stand, and they started the walk across the field. He said, "I can go get one of the cars, if the walk is too taxing."
"No, I want to walk," she said.
The truth was that she hadn't been in a car since she knew she was pregnant. The healers always came to their home. She walked everywhere else. She was even planning to deliver at home. He didn't make her feel bad about her phobia at all. He was secretly glad for her fear. He felt he could rest easier, but he would never tell her that.
(Four Months Later)
Hermione sat by her son's little gravestone, and placed a single white rose on the ground. Draco stayed in the distance, holding their new son in his arms. He rocked the little baby back and forth. She remained there for a while, and then looked back at Draco. He understood. He came by her side. It was December, and there was a light dusting of snow on the cold, hard ground. Draco didn't care. He kneeled down beside her. He handed their baby to her.
"This is your brother, Kevin. His name is Nicholas Martin. Someday, I'll tell him all about his big brother." She started to cry. She said, "Take the baby from me, Draco." He reached over and took the baby. He looked over his shoulder, and Martin rushed up, and took the baby from him, and then went back to stand next to his father, brother, wife and children. They had all gathered today, for Hermione and Draco's wedding. Hermione wanted to come to the grave first. Perhaps she should have done it after the ceremony, for she was becoming quite undone.
Her happiness was palpable, it hung thick in the air, wrapped around her guilt and sorrow, and she wasn't sure what she was going to do with the hodgepodge swirl of emotions. She took out the words that she had wanted to say to her son, and as she held the piece of parchment, her hands shook. Draco reached over for the paper, and without permission, he decided to take over and read it for her.
Draco read, "To my son: Dear Kevin, no one will ever understand what your life meant to me. Throughout my life, and throughout the years, my days are filled with happiness, but also with sorrow and tears. I hope that someday the memory of you will offer me a peace, eternity, but until then, every place I go and all that I have ever wanted to be, is easier, because your life continues through me."
Hermione reached over for the parchment, and continued. "My values and traditions have been passed on through ages, they shape our past, and develop our futures, and they calm our fears. When I look in the distance, or I look in your brother's eyes, I see your future unfolding, and though it has passed, it is still alive. I know that the memories of you will forever comfort me, and give me tranquility."
"I still see glimpses of your future, which was never allowed to unfold, and you'll always be my child, no matter how old I become, or where I go. You are my child, so dear, so sweet. What would you have looked like? Who would you have been? Did you mean more because you came from me? Don't worry, little boy, your life will continue through your brother, and all the others yet to come. We'll never forget you. I love you so much. I miss you even more." She crumbled the paper, and lay down on the earth again. Draco's heart broke, because Hermione's heart broke the day her son died.
Well today, he was putting her heart back together. He picked up the crumbled piece of paper, and put it in his jacket pocket. Even if she didn't want to keep it, he did. He put his hands on her shoulders, and forced her up. He stood them both up. He leaned over, kissed his own fingertips, and placed them on the smooth white marble headstone. "Goodbye, son," he said. "We both love you."
He turned her around and they walked toward the house. The others had already gone inside. When they reached the porch, she sat down on a bench under the front window. He sat beside her and picked up her hand. He brought it up to his mouth and kissed it and said, "Are you ready to get this life started, Granger?"
"I think I am, Malfoy, I really think I am."
"Do you finally feel like you belong, here, with me and our family?" he asked.
She let a small smile creep to her face and she looked over to him, slyly, and said, "You said you loved Kevin."
"I know, and I really do. Odd, isn't it? I didn't even know him, yet I feel I really love him. Maybe it's because how much I love you, or maybe it's because how much I love Nicholas, and maybe it's because I don't even want to imagine what I would do if something happened to him or you. I don't know the reason." He looked embarrassed, as he studied her hand, as he held it in his.
"I do belong here, with you, don't I?" she said.
"Well, seriously, Granger," Draco said, smiling, "I have only been trying to say that to you forever, but you can be so dense sometimes. Maybe that could be my vows to you, at the wedding today. How does this sound: I once knew a girl, who had many curls, right up on top of her head. She was so dense and dumb, and I think she sucked her thumb, and she slaps me really hard on the face when she gets very angry."
"That doesn't even rhyme, and it has no flow," she said, as she laughed.
"Well, hell, Granger they're wedding vows, not a bloody limerick. They aren't supposed to rhyme."
"They aren't supposed to be stupid and arcane either." She shook her head, and said, "And you'll feel really stupid when I say my wonderful vows to you, if you say those stupid vows."
He sighed, a feigned sigh, and said, "Do tell me Shakespeare, what wonderful moving, spiritual words are you going to say to me today?"
She stood up and took his hands. He stood up and faced her.
"Although my path often stumbled, you were there to take the load. My burden was never too heavy for you, and unknown to you at the time, that was the biggest gift you could have ever have bestowed on me."
"My memories trace their beginning to this place, but as my future unfolds, my thoughts change to what is unknown. My happiness comes when you laugh, when you smile, when you take yourself too seriously. If only we hadn't wasted so much time and energy, we could have found this happiness such a long time ago."
"Like fools we rushed around with our hands reaching up toward the heavens, looking for comfort, peace and love, when everything we ever needed was right here in front of us the whole time."
"And I no longer feel guilty for loving you. I hear other people crying, and I know somewhere in this world there are people broken and abused, and I know there's wars raging, and people dying of starvation, and while I can cry for them, I no longer take the blame. I will offer them my scars, but never bury the guilt of my loving you deep inside me, nor lock it way, ever again. I offer you my love freely, and openly, and without shame. I also offer you rapprochement from our past. I love you." She ended her vows and smiled at him.
"Well, hell, Granger, that's not half bad. Not as good as my vows, but I can tell you put a bit of work in it. Would you like to hear mine?" he asked.
"My beautiful girl, I know there are things that confuse you, and I know you have been abused, and you have felt pain, and while others have misused you and treated you less than kind, know this one thing for certain, I love you more than life itself, and I shall never hurt you."
"Tears sometimes fill our hearts, but they serve a purpose. They cleanse the dust that covers our mind, and they wash away the guilt. They teach us what is real. So my one wish today, on this our wedding day, is that you let laughter fill your soul, and let your heart feel the renewal that my love can give."
"My heart has felt all your pain, and the one thing that is certain, is that if I could take away your pain, so that you never cry another tear, I would gladly do so. But, since I cannot do that, I will offer you my hand, so that we at least can face the pain together. So my second wish for you today is that you let laughter fill your heart, and forget your burden and begin our new life together."
She put her hands tightly on the lapels of his jacket, and buried her head in his chest. She said, "Well now, I feel my vows are inadequate. Let's just go in there and say I do, and keep our vows to ourselves, will you do that for me?"
"I do." He smiled. He loved her.
"I do, too," she said. She loved him, and even more important, she finally had a place where she belonged.