Oh my goodness. It's coming to an end. You can't see me, but right now, I've got my grumpy face on.
Wow. Over 100 reviews. I must say, I never expected anything like this.
It's been a fun ride, kids. But it's official. There WILL be a sequel, and I've rewritten the ginormously huge epilogue that used be here: vvv (those are meant to be down arrows). Here's to all those who have shared their thoughts with me: Lollipop Shoes, xxxxcrazychickxxxx, flamingbunnies, Twitchy the Squirrel, BlueSpottedDog and MadeNew. Thanks, guys! The first chapter should be posted as soon as I possibly can be bothered.
A short warning... for all of you who hate fluff/cheese, you should probably either grab yourself a barf bag or stop reading right about... now. I couldn't resist giving them a bit of happiness. Also, if any of you are called Quincy... I apologise. It's Draco talking, not me!
And, without any further ado, I give you... the epilogue. Enjoy.
A Catchphrase, a Beginning, and the Dress
"You're meant to applaud," said Draco, sounding a little miffed.
Hermione clapped her hands sarcastically, standing in front of Malfoy Manor. Truth was, she didn't think she could be trusted to speak. It was so huge. So... Malfoy-ish.
"You know, that was a joke, dear," he added casually as he swung past her. "You know, a humorous comment that you're expected to laugh at?"
"Laughing on the inside," was her shaky response, as she stood at the gate surveying the huge house in front of her.
It was more of a castle, actually. Lucius' grandfather or something had bought it from a gambling prince and made it a little more... classy. Draco surveyed it with her, and shrugged. It wasn't that impressive. Just a big house with an even bigger chunk of baggage. He shuddered to think of what skeletons were hidden under the floorboards in Lucius' study.
That was part of the reason they were there. Apart, of course, to spend the holiday together, per Draco's promise, he also had to clean out the house. His mother had vamoosed, and, other than a postcard with a dancing flamingo on it, he'd had no correspondence with her. Dumbledore had taken care of informing her of Lucius' death, thank Merlin. Draco wasn't sure how he would have handled her happy dance. He wondered lightly whether she cabbage-patched.
But, now that Lucius' will was read and Narcissa had nicked off with a sizeable hunk of his fortune, Draco was free to renovate or modify his new house. Well, not new, seeing as he'd lived here from the cradle, but newly his. He supposed the picture frame made of dried pasta from kindergarten had done the trick. Either that, or he hadn't had time to cut Draco out of his will, in his haste to don his Death Eater robes again.
"It's amazing," stated Hermione, looking around her at the snake-shaped hedges, up at the black and white manor.
Draco glanced back at her, still standing behind the wrought-iron gate. He rolled his eyes, and held out his hand encouragingly. "Coming? It won't eat you, unless you piss it off."
Hermione shot him a scathing glare, her nails biting into his palm. Draco chose not to inform her that the house, knowing his father, probably could eat her.
He withdrew the iron key from his pocket, and inserted it into the lock. This door was retarded, but his father had refused to get rid of it because of the dragon's head knocker. There was a ritual involved. He wiggled the key in the lock, kicked the door twice, put pressure on the hinges, and twisted the door knob. His father wasn't aware of the incommodity of this arrangement, because all he had ever done was whack the door with his staff – no wonder the poor door was in such bad shape – or knock the knocker with extreme force, and wait for the butler to arrive.
Quincy had been with them since the end of Draco's second year, when Dobby had been set free by that stinking Potter. Draco hadn't wanted another house elf to go and bitch to Harry Potter about him, so he'd demanded a human this time. Lucius had agreed, a little too hastily. Draco had a feeling Dobby hadn't been all that kind about Lucius, either.
"You've got to be kidding me," murmured Hermione, mostly to herself, with wide eyes when the door opened to show Quincy standing there sombrely.
"Miss Granger," he said, nodding at her. Looking at Draco, he pulled back his lips into a scowl, and said, sounding a little forced, "Master Malfoy."
"Please, Quincy," said Draco, grinning slightly. "Lose the 'master'. You can call me 'King' or 'Emperor'. Everybody does."
"Oh, Lord," said Quincy.
Hermione jumped a little, recognising the curse. Quincy was, needless to say, a muggleborn. How could you not be, with a name like Quincy?
"How do you put up with him?" Quincy asked her.
"Truthfully... I've no idea."
Draco pouted. "Oh, that's right, go bond and paint your toenails. I'll be here, waiting, in case anybody remembers that there's a little boy freezing outside."
Quincy ushered them both – Hermione first – into the house, and shot at Draco, "You aren't inside anymore."
"Still freezing," he noted, physically shivering at the chill that lingered around the room from Lucius' presence her. It even smelled like him in here.
Quincy and Hermione were ignoring him, tentatively exchanging remarks over some incident in the Muggle papers. Draco, with a loud sigh, dragged both his and Hermione's bags inside, and handed Quincy an envelope.
"What's this?" he asked suspiciously. "Not Bubotuber pus again, I hope?"
Draco stifled a smirk. Quincy'd had to wear bandages on his hands for weeks.
"It's a ticket," he said abruptly. "Living with my parents for four years deserves a celebration. Pick anywhere in the world. The plane's yours for a year. Oh, but I'd stay away from Majorca. That's where Mother is, and we both know that she's likely to get her claws into you if you're within a twenty mile radius of her."
Quincy nodded solemnly, and Draco thought he could detect the first hint of a smile he'd ever seen on his face.
"Don't think I don't know what you're doing," he said suddenly as Draco pushed him out the front door. "You just want alone time with your lovely girlfriend."
He nodded sheepishly. "It's true. Buh bye! Get a tan!"
The door clanged shut, and Hermione glanced curiously at Draco. "That was... nice of you," she said, sounding a tiny bit too suspicious for his liking.
"What can I say? I'm a wonderful person!"
"And modest too," she noted.
"Well, you knew what you were getting into, I hope," he said, smiling slightly as he led her through the foyer and up the stairs to the bedroom next to his. "
"This mine?" she asked casually, looking around. It was obviously difficult for her to affect nonchalance. He had a feeling she didn't have a swimming pool in her bedroom back home. Frankly, Draco didn't know what he'd do if he couldn't go for a dip at two in the morning without taking more than two steps.
"Yes, it is. Unless you'd rather share mine, of course..." He let his words trail of seductively. Hermione threw a pillow at his head.
She sat comfortably on the bed – green silk, in case you were wondering – and gazed around. "You know, I think I'll be fine in here, alone... The pool is great though. Especially if I feel like going for a swim in the middle of the night, and don't really feel like putting a costume on..." She gave him a coy smile that looked strangely content there on her face. Draco scowled. If there was going to be any late night nudity, he was definitely going to be there.
"Don't be disgusting," she snapped suddenly, probably sensing what he was thinking about from the expression on his face.
"I'm not," he said innocently, clutching at his heart.
She rolled her eyes, and stood up. He took a moment to admire her behind as she walked past him, and another moment to wonder why she was walking away. Once it registered in his too-slow brain, he chased after her. She was already downstairs, standing bewildered in the cross roads between six different hallways. She looked lost. Draco grinned.
"Lost?" he inquired, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her.
"Nope," she said, flashing him a smile. "Just pondering."
"Liar," he muttered, kissing the side of her head.
"I think," she said slowly, "you should feed me."
He rolled his eyes, and pulled her to the kitchen. "One track mind, much?"
She perched on a stool, and retorted, "You can talk."
He looked around the kitchen, a little confused. How was he supposed to feed her? All he knew was how to be fed. Then it hit him.
Hermione burst out laughing, and slid off her stool. "I know, I know. We're going out. The look in your eyes... have you ever cooked in your life?"
He shook his head. "Not once. I'm going to go get dressed."
He went back up to his room, replacing his travel clothes with a suit. The place he intended to take Hermione was very fancy. As in, no barefoot patrons fancy. As in, overpriced meals and good wine that he could procure using his status fancy. Always big fun having waiters thrice your age kiss your feet.
"Draco!" complained Hermione from outside his door. "Where are we going? I need to see what I should wear."
He opened the door, dangling a black dress bag from his index finger. "I'd suggest this, but if not, a tracksuit should be fine."
Hermione was gaping at his outfit, mouth slightly ajar. "A suit? You've got to be kidding me."
"I sense a new catch phrase," sang Draco, flicking at her with the bag. She reluctantly took it from it and carried it into her room. "Go, change. I'll leave without you!"
Her voice sailed through the walls. "But then you'd be a loser, sitting alone at a restaurant... ooh, wow!"
He smirked smugly to himself, and called, "I'll be downstairs."
Draco lounged against the post at the bottom of the staircase, adjusting his position so that he would look his very coolest when Hermione came down.
She called from upstairs, out of sight, "It looks awful! It's too tight!"
"What are you on about?" he yelled back, irritated. "I got your measurements from Kim! Come down anyway, let me see."
He heard footsteps at the top of the stairs, and then she appeared. Draco forgot about everything, about looking cool, about whether Kim had purposely given him the wrong measurements... She looked beautiful, and she was very wrong about the dress. So far from wrong, in fact, that the sight of it had immobilised him. He was like marble as she glided down the stairs, an uncertain look on her face.
"It's horrible, isn't it? I told you so."
His hand tingled, and he realised that he could move it again. He stretched it out to her, and the second her hand closed around his, he pulled her to him – pulling her off the ground, in fact – and kissed her.
"It's absolutely disgusting. Take it off this instant," he whispered in her ear.
She hit him lightly in the back, and glanced down. It was blue, about the same shade as her Yule Ball robes had been, back in fourth year when he'd thought she was an annoying know-it-all. Even then, he hadn't been able to ignore her in blue. Now, with a curtain of love clouding his judgement even further, it was even harder. Especially with the dress being as tight as it was.
He guided her to the front door, and out into the limousine.
"You have got to be kidding me."
He rolled his eyes.
"Something about this makes me feel like this was planned," said Hermione, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Plan? Who, me?"
He opened the door and ushered her in. She looked very suspicious, but calmed down a little when a band she recognised started to blare from the stereo. He hadn't expected her to be a Ramones girl, until he'd walked in on her singing in the shower. He laughed, remembering the expression on her face when she realised that he had seen her... in the shower...
"What are you laughing at?" she demanded.
He certainly had no qualms about pissing her off. But somehow, she didn't snap at him like she usually would. She just waved a hand dismissively at him and started intently surveying the buttons on the control panel.
"Buttons," he observed.
"Good boy!" exclaimed Hermione sarcastically, and then smiled sweetly, looking just a tad guilty. "I'm sorry. You really are clever."
"I know," said Draco, leaning back into the freshly-upholstered seats and sighing contentedly.
Once he got a little bored of looking sexy, he turned his attention onto his next favourite hobby: admiring Hermione looking sexy. It was almost as fun , too, especially when a pink tinge painted her cheeks and she scowled nervously at him, trying to tug his arm, from where it was resting on her bare shoulders, around her to cover her up a little more. Well, of course, he interpreted that as her wanting him to feel her up.
"Draco! Gerrof me!"
He grinned, but shifted away in his seat a little. "Don't pretend you don't love me."
To his immense surprise, this time it was Hermione who closed the gap between them. She moved closer to him and whispered, "You know I do."
A second later, his hands were twirled in her carefully coiffed hair, and he was pulling her mouth against his. One of her hands was travelling aimlessly, frantically, over his back, and the other arm was curled around her neck, her fingers buried in his hair and ruining the style. Oh well. If this was the alternative to having perfect hair, he'd choose this in a heartbeat.
"Lars!" he hollered hoarsely, breaking away from Hermione momentarily and banging on the separator. "Take us home. We're blowing off dinner."
Hermione laughed, and fell against him as the car did a U-turn and headed in the way it had just come.
His stomach growled loudly, provoking another fit of tinkling laughter from Hermione. He ordered Lars to make a detour to the nearest take out restaurant, but the paper bags lay disregarded on the seats on the way back to the manor. Hermione and Draco were too busy making out to take any notice of the food.
The drive home didn't seem so long this time, probably because Hermione was distracting him in a way that made him lose track of everything, the time included.
He led Hermione through the house, up to his bedroom. It wasn't like he was intending on stealing her virtue or anything. He just thought they'd be more comfortable there. He hated eating in the cold dining room. It brought back memories of the long, silent meals forcibly shared with his parents. He shuddered slightly at the thought, and accidentally ran Hermione into the door.
"Sorry," he said hastily, dumping the food on his desk. They perched on chairs, strewn haphazardly throughout the room, and ate. Hermione, he was amused to see, tucked a napkin into her dress like a bib. Draco couldn't care less about getting his clothes messed up, and he was determined to make Hermione feel the same. Because, after all, what was his was hers. Not officially, or anything, but that was how he saw it.
"What're you laughing at?" asked Hermione suspiciously, delicately dabbing at the tomato sauce around her mouth.
"A bib, Hermione?" he asked, stifling his laugh.
She sniffed haughtily. "I don't want to risk spilling on this beautiful dress."
"So you admit it! You do like it!" he exclaimed triumphantly, jabbing a finger at her dress. Well, more specifically, her chest, which was, to his defence, partly covered by the dress.
"Yes," she admitted grudgingly. "But you don't have to buy me nice things to make me like you, Draco. God, I liked you even when you were an arrogant jerk."
He smiled widely, knowing she was right. "Thanks, sweetheart! So nice of you!"
She flushed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that-"
Music started to stream from unseen speakers on his wall. He smirked to himself. Clap on clap off stereos were the bomb. He started sniggering, unable to believe he had just called something 'the bomb'.
Hermione didn't seem to notice though, because her glance was darting around, trying to find the source of the music. That's why it took her a few seconds to process that Draco Malfoy was standing in front of her, one pale hand extended. As soon as she did realise, she took it, and let herself be pulled to her feet.
Draco was an expert at this. Not just wooing women, but dancing. He was truly wonderful at it, as he wouldn't hesitate to inform you if you asked. The thing that surprised him, though, was that Hermione could do it just as well. He sent a silent thank-you to Viktor Krum in his head, and used the hand on the small of her back to bring her closer to him.
She had her eyes closed, a heavenly smile on her face as they swayed. Draco laughed quietly, and her caramel eyes opened, an inquisitive spark in them. He plucked the napkin from her dress, and sent it in a screwed up ball towards the wall. She joined in laughing softly, before she leant her head against his shoulder. It was a good thing he was so tall, because the hollow in his shoulder fit her head perfectly.
That is when, as Draco danced with Hermione, he was hit with an astounding epiphany. She was perfect for him, and he'd never let her go. Not for as long as he lived.
"Hermione," he began, not sure why he was whispering, "I-"
His shiny shoe slipped on a small puddle of pool water, and, with flailing arms, he fell into the pool. Hermione stood there, horrified. That is, until the splash from his fall hit her in her front. And then another one, which he'd sent at her just for fun. She let out a shriek, and Draco burst out laughing.
"What is wrong with you?" she yelled, gazing down at her sopping dress.
"Come now, Hermione," he said, wading over to the side of the pool and getting a firm grip on her ankle. "It's not so bad."
Before she registered the evil grin on his face, or that his hand was wrapped around her leg, she was tumbling into the pool.
"Draco!" she screamed, shivering in water that wasn't so cold.
He swam over to her, having a little difficulty in his dinner suit. So he discarded the shoes and the jacket, hurling them onto the floor. He wrapped his arms around her, and, with a little sigh of contentment, she murmured, "Better."
He raised her face up to him and kissed her on the mouth. She responded immediately, of course. What half-sane woman wouldn't? When she pulled away, gasping for air, she whispered, "You've got to be kidding me. What did I do to deserve you?"
"Got extremely lucky," said Draco cockily. "Perhaps you were a nun in a past life."
"Oh yes, that's got to be it," said Hermione, only a little sarcastically, and kissed him again.
As they stood there in each others arms in the pool, Draco mulled over the past few weeks. It was almost incredibly to cast his mind back to the annoying, occasionally obnoxious and prejudiced Draco Malfoy that he had been up until Hermione had saved him. He really had to thank the gossips at Hogwarts, throwing them together like they had. He supposed, grudgingly, that this meant he had to be nice to Harry and Ron from now on.
Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. An owl flew through the open window, framed against the full moon shining through it. It sailed over his head, dropping a newspaper on Draco. He caught it before it hit the ground, and surveyed it quickly. On the front page, a picture of the two of them in the coffee shop they'd visited a few days before, holding hands and talking intently as they sat in the window of the café. The headline read, in thick print, 'Best friend and worst enemy of Boy Who Lived reconcile. By yours truly, Rita Skeeter.'
Draco let out a laugh, and threw the newspaper out the window. The grapevine strikes again. Right now, all he wanted to think about was the girl opposite him, who had wriggled from the pool to pay the owl. He felt a difference with this new attack of publicity. Stronger, somehow. Like this was the beginning of something special. Well, he could have told you that. He loved her.
Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks so much to all of you who have stuck with me. Feedback, as always, is appreciated, and be ready for the first chapters of the sequel within the next few weeks.