It was only a week later that I realized something had changed in my body. The only reason I could know this early was because of my power, and I told Eamon.
"I must go to him, Eamon."
"But you can't! The portal is dangerous, and especially after such a large trip as the last one you just made. Your powers are not stable in the mortal realm yet either. I know everything went smoothly last time, but these things can't be trusted yet," Eamon exclaimed.
"I am carrying his child! Tomorrow I will go to him," I said in a tone that said I am not going to discuss it any further.
"But Hermione -"
"Don't Eamon," I cut him off. "You can't persuade me out of this. He will have to raise her until she's old enough to start coming here in the summers to learn of her duty. If she would choose to take it that is."
"How do you know it's a girl?" Eamon asked.
"I just do."
Eamon shook his head. "It is dangerous, for you and the child. I wish you wouldn't go, but I see that you must..." Eamon drifted off catching my expression, warning him to drop the subject.
"Don't worry Eamon. It will only be a short trip."
And it was. When I arrived, Draco was shocked.
"Hermione, what are you doing here?" he asked as he further opened the door to let me into his office that the house elf unnecessarily led me to, as much as I persuaded him otherwise.
"Are you busy? I don't mean to interrupt if you are in the middle of a meeting," I said, peering into the office.
"No, I'm free today. Come in," he said, moving away from the door to let me in.
I walked over to the couch he had in the corner of the room, where we sat talking about the plan we developed to take down Voldemort little more than a year ago. I was about to sit, but then thought I might be better off if I remained standing.
"I just came to tell you something important," I said, turning to meet his eyes. He looked confused and concerned.
"What is it?" he asked.
He blanched. "You're...wow...you're telling me I'm actually going to be a father?"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you."
"How far along are you?" he asked, looking at my stomach as if for evidence.
"Only a week, nothing will be showing yet," I told him.
He looked at me like I was nuts. "You know after only a week?"
"It's because of the power I have now. I can feel that slight change in my body keenly."
Draco nonetheless stepped forward and placed his hand where the bulge in my stomach would eventually begin to show.
"Will you bring her to me after she is born? I hope to see her..." Draco murmured.
"Draco," I breathed, hurt that he would think I'd never let him see her after coming here to tell him that I was going to have this child. "Do you really think that I would keep her away from you?"
I pulled him into a tight hug, finding myself on the verge of tears. "Oh Draco...she is as much your daughter as she is mine, I will never keep her from you." I pulled away slowly and took his face in my hands. "I am happy to be having this child with you."
A small, yet still sad smile appeared on his face. "I'm happy too," he said.
And then he kissed me, softly at first, to see if I would reject him, but I nearly moaned into his mouth and wrapped my arms around his neck, pulling him closer and closer.
I kept pushing further until I felt his hands starting to move from my hips and around my waist, slowly moving even higher. I pulled away suddenly.
"I can't, I can't...I'm so sorry, it just...it hurts, Draco," I said pleading with him to understand.
He hung his head, but said, "I know. It does for me too, just to see you here...I want to..." he shook his head. "It's no use," he said more to himself than to me.
Determining that one of us needed to initiate the regaining of control and composure, I took a deep breath to calm myself and then said, "There's something I need to ask you though."
"What is it?"
"Well, it is customary, especially when we have a child with someone from the mortal realm, that our children are raised outside of Avalon until a certain age. So I want to know if you'll take care of our daughter?"
Now it was his turn to be hurt by my question. "This is my child and you are asking me as if it's some kind of favor to you? Yes I want to take care of her! Are you mad?"
I couldn't help but smile with relief. "I'm sorry, Draco...I just couldn't know for certain after our talk when the battle ended..."
But he wasn't smiling. "It's always you who is unsure of me! I wish you would stop it, Hermione."
"Don't say that like I have no reason to be! How is ruling the world going for you?" I asked snidely.
"Don't you dare go there again! I am doing what I always set out to do, and I will not be berated by you for it. If you can't support me then...well, we already had that talk and saw where it got us," Draco fumed.
I was staring at the floor now, and we stood in silence. "I think I should go," I said, seeing that this was going nowhere fast. I had said what I wanted, and there was no use lingering given the state of our relationship, or rather non-relationship. "I'll come again after she is born."
"I don't really care to see you again until you can stop doubting me, and questioning what I'm doing here."
I looked up at him to see that he was half turned away from me, his jaw clenched in anger. I was shocked at the harshness of his tone, something I had not heard in his voice when directed towards me in a very long time. Before he could see how hurt I was, I aparated from his home back to the shore of the lake.
It was not much later that I noticed another strange change in my body. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I knew it had to do with the child, so I went to the midwife.
"I don't think there is anything wrong, nothing feels bad, but something is different," I explained as she placed her hands over my stomach to use her magic to read what was going on inside of me.
She smiled after only a few moments. "You sure are right about a change, and it is a good one. You're carrying twins."
I blanched. "Twins?"
She nodded, continuing to smile. "You have a girl and a boy on the way."
Draco would be in for a rude awakening when two babies instead of one were left with him. I might have gone to tell him about this change, but I was heeding his words from our last meeting. Let him find out when the time came.
Eamon was most attentive during my pregnancy, and I was greatly appreciative for it.
"It's partially because I care about you," he explained one night before he left for his own tree. "But I'm also being selfish because I feel your discomfort to some degree. Not literally, but it starts to nag at me and I can't concentrate on anything else until you are comfortable again."
"You are going to be a wreck when the birth actually happens," I said.
A look of extreme pain came over his face and I couldn't help but laugh. "Don't remind me," he said.
When the children were born, I kept them only one night with me before they were sent to Draco. I named them Alya and Orion, and it was painful to give them up after just giving birth to them.
I sent the midwife to take them to Draco, still vowing to heed his words, as much as I wanted to take them to him myself. I waited anxiously for her return, for one to know they were safely transported there and also to know of Draco.
The midwife returned and told me of her experience at Draco's.
"He asked me where you were first thing, why you didn't bring them."
"He did?" I asked, confused.
She nodded slowly. "Yes, he looked devastated when I said you seemed to think he didn't want you to come. He seemed to remember something looked angry."
"Well did he say anything about it?"
She shook her head. "Nothing, he just said thank you and that he could take the children from there. And then he wanted me to tell you that you were right, and that was it. He walked out of the room with the children."
"Right about what?" I asked perplexed.
She had no idea. And I was left contemplating that statement until I saw my daughter and son again, twelve years later, after their first year of school.
When they arrived, I was nearly in tears at the joy of seeing them again. I was astounded by how much Orion looked like Draco. It was startling, and I was momentarily thrown back in time to the first time I met Draco Malfoy at Hogwarts in our first year. Alya possessed more of a combination of our looks, with my mouth but Draco's eyes and straight hair. I was immediately surprised by the color of her hair. When they were born, I could tell that they were both going to be blond, but Alya's hair had significantly darkened over the years. Nowhere near the shade of mine, but it was a light brown.
I was not sure how they would receive me, how Draco had described me to them. But I was relieved with immeasurable joy when they ran up and hugged me once they got off the boat.
"Dad was right, you are beautiful," Alya said first thing.
I couldn't help but laugh. It was quite the ice breaker with my estranged children. It was sad to not have any idea what they liked or who they were in any sense. "Oh he said that did he? And what else has your father said about me? Only good things I hope," I replied still laughing.
Orion was nodding eagerly, "Always good things. That you are beautiful and that you are the smartest witch of your age and you made a great sacrifice for the world and for us."
I was at a loss of what to say, hardly believing that Draco could say such things about me when I wasn't around.
Perhaps picking up on the fact that I was at a loss, Alya then stepped forward with an envelope in her hand.
"Dad wanted me to give you this first thing when we got here," she said.
She handed me the letter, which I held onto until I was alone later. For now, it was time to get to know my children and show them this part of their life and heritage.
"This is my closest friend, Eamon," I said, introducing them to Eamon who was standing not far behind me. He wished to give me privacy upon my first reunion with my children.
We spent the entire day leading them through the forest, introducing them to people, and showing them how to travel through the forests on the main paths. I could see already that both were very bright, and were earning top marks in their class. They said that much to Draco's dismay, neither one had been sorted into Slytherin house at school, but instead Alya was sorted into Gryffindor and Orion into Ravenclaw. I loved listening to their stories of school and of the friends they had made. It was through them that I learned of Ron's children with Pansy, Cecile and Armands son and daughter, as well as Nott and Daphne's son. They were friendly with all of them and I was happy for all they had been doing, and yet sad that I could not witness their childhood first hand.
They each had their own tree for the summer and once I had them settled in for the night, I returned to my own, eager to read the letter that had been in the back of my mind for the entire day.
You were right, I cannot even begin to explain how right you were. I have long since given up my plans of complete control. A free world is best. I had been arguing with Weasley and your two other friends, Longbottom and Thomas for many months before I could finally admit that all of you were right. They were on the verge of launching a full blown rebellion, and I realized how narcissistic I have been all my life.
I sat down with Theo and Blaise for a long time, talking about the state of our world and about what our rightful place in it should be. We all came to agree that we had been experiencing doubts for some time after we defeated Voldemort. The unity was gone, and the accomplishment felt hollow as we continued to uphold all of his same doctrines. I wish I could have spoken with you as I experienced these things, as I came to the realization that a world that is not dominated by hate is beautiful, and I cannot tell you how much happier I have become upon adopting a doctrine that is not driven by hatred. Of course it was not easy, and I have lost many friends, but I would not change my decision.
It was a short time after the children were brought to me that I relinquished all orders for the capture of rebels, I lifted the ban on muggleborns and half-bloods in the government offices and I reopened fair elections. And do you know, the people were so shocked, so happy, and then confident in my ability to now uphold fairness and equality that they elected me? I am still the Minister of Magic. You were right that it was the pursuit peace and equality that brings greatness to a man, and I wish I had discovered that sooner.
I was saddened when you didn't come to me after Alya and Orion were born. I regretted those words I said, you know the ones about never wanting to see you until you accepted the horrible things I had planned to do. I am ashamed and sorry. I am sorry for how I have hurt you, and I hope you can forgive me someday.
I hope that it will please you to know that Weasley and I have come to normal, even almost friendly speaking terms (I can picture your astounded expression right now). I know that he misses you, as I do. It was actually inevitable for us to become friends since he had two sons and a daughter with Pansy, and she always insisted as the kids grew up that they play together. Theo and Daphne also have a son. Blaise has settled down with a woman from America but he has no kids (could you imagine Blaise with kids? That would be either a disaster or the most hilarious spectacle in history). Armand misses you too. He and Cecile had a daughter and a son as well, and whether Orion admits it or not, I think he has taken a liking to their daughter. I am sure that you would be curious about Longbottom and Thomas after your reunion with them too. Longbottom is teaching Herbology at Hogwarts now, and has a son with a witch I have never met. All that I know of Thomas is that he settled down in France and he occasionally visits Weasley.
But I don't doubt that you are most curious about our children. Orion and Alya are wonderful. I know they look forward to meeting you. I could not be more thankful that they have always been understanding about your absence. I have been as adamant as possible in explaining why you could not be with us as they grew up, and I told them much of what led to this situation, including my power hungry antics, to which Alya bluntly told me that I was stupid back then. She is candid with everyone, but especially with me.
She is much like you, stubborn and brilliant, but she has your goodness, and is always keeping Orion and me in line. She is going to make a great Lady like you someday. But Orion too has your intelligence, perhaps even more so. Even if not as outspoken as Alya, I can already see that he is going to be sincere and kind. I wish you could have seen them growing. I must say that Orion looks exactly like me, and Alya did too at first, with the blonde hair, blue eyes and all. But her hair steadily darkens as she grows, and it is now a light brown. I can't explain why that would happen, but she reminds me even more of you as she grows.
I know that much time has passed and maybe you have found another, more kind and peaceful man where you are (and I will not pretend that I have been celibate in these years myself), but I hope that someday you might realize the extent of my love for you, and that it has never diminished. I still care and I hope I may see you when you return to this world. I hope that one day, you might give me another chance to treat you the way you deserve.
I wish I knew what life was like for you in Avalon. I wish I had a more regular means of communicating with you. I've wanted to tell you all of these things and more for ten years now. I hope you are happy.
Silent tears were sliding down my face as I finished this letter. I never dreamed he would come to his senses so early in his career. I was in fact astonished and pleased that he was finally friendly with Ron. I hoped that I could someday see that simply because I never dreamed it was possible for those two to overlook history. The man in the letter was completely different and yet exactly the same. What shined through in the letter was the kindness that I always knew was there but always suppressed. I was also surprised at his honesty by telling me that he had been with other women in my absence, but rather than feel jealousy or disappointment, I was relieved, solely because no more than a year after the children were born I embarked on a more serious relationship with Eamon. One that was amazing and enlightening at the time, but I think we both knew that it was not forever.
It lasted for almost seven years, and then slowly we stopped choosing to seek physical pleasure from each other. It was not even sad, but natural. We enjoyed each other for a long time, but not any longer than we were meant to. We felt, and still feel a deep love for one another, but the passion was never the same that is felt between those meant to be lovers for the long term. We had a passion that was bound to fizzle out, and it happened without so much as a discussion. It was already an understanding between us. There is a time and place for everything, Eamon always reminds me in his never-ending quest to teach me his level of patience. We had our time, and it was wonderful, but it ended as it must.
I instantly set to writing my short response for Orion and Alya to return to him with.
I cannot pretend that I am not astonished as I read your letter, but happy beyond words. I always knew there was the capacity for good in you and I am proud of you for recognizing it. I have never been so proud for you. I have no doubt that you are a brilliant Minister of Magic. I wish I could hear more about that, and about everything that you have been doing in the past eleven years.
To hear from you makes me happier than I have been in a very long time. Not that I haven't been happy in Avalon, I have been. It is beautiful here, as you saw yourself, and I have developed close friendships as well as greater knowledge than I ever dreamed of possessing. But you have always brought a level of happiness to me that exceeds all else, and it is something I cannot explain.
But I have been very happy here in this peaceful world, and I wish I could share it with you now, but although the portal is just about in perfect working order, we are still debating how we want to interact with the mortal realm now.
I wish I could have been there for you as you struggled through those times, but like many things, it is something you could have only experienced on your own. But I still wish to know all of your thoughts, your ideas, and to talk with you again.
I have little to tell you here in this letter, all that I can explain of this place is only fitting in person, but I want to tell you. When I leave here, I hope to see you. And while time has healed the worst wounds that our history together has created, I have always retained a love for you that I know will never disappear.
I hope you remain happy, that you continue to succeed in these next few years before we can see each other again. It won't be long now before I am back in the mortal realm and we will talk again, I promise you that.
P.S. It is now the end of the summer and tomorrow Alya and Orion will return to you, as much as I would like to keep them here with me. They are amazing, and I could not be happier to finally know them. You have raised them brilliantly and I know they look forward to seeing you again. While Alya is still young, and cannot fully grasp the scope of the responsibility she would have here if she took my place when she comes of age, she has already felt a deep connection with Avalon. I can see it in her, and everyone here can see it too, and they have taken to treating her warmly as though she is already a permanent part of the realm. I think even Orion has a great interest in the world, and he spent much time with Eamon, learning about the history and life here.
I hope all is well with you.
While I was not quite willing to wish away the next six years, I was now eagerly looking forward to seeing Draco again in all of his newly embraced kindness. Still, a lot could change in six years and I could not rush into anything when I left in the future. It was for that reason that I did not guarantee giving him any second chances. I wanted to right now. I was amazed at how quickly I could forgive him, but I couldn't rush.
Eamon was happy when I told him about the letters the day Alya and Orion left. I didn't tell him immediately, because I for some reason enjoyed the intimate exchange by letter that was completely private between Draco and me.
"You were always right about him," he said as we walked down the bank of a slow, winding river.
I nodded. "I always knew it was there, and I am happy and relieved he eventually recognized it. Reading his letter is like hearing from a completely different man."
"A man you still love?"
"Of course. It was that side of him that I always loved most."
He smiled with real joy for me. "I couldn't be happier for you, Hermione." I smiled too, but couldn't help but feel almost sad as I looked at him.
"Will you ever love another woman the way you loved the one you lost all those years ago?" I asked.
He took a moment to think. "Well you know that I have loved you deeply, but I see what you are asking, because what we have isn't quite the same is it? You are the closest I have felt to it, but I can't say for certain if I will feel that ever again. I have the capability. It has been many, many years and I am not holding on to anything, but I haven't met anyone to bring me such immediate and uncontrollable joy. I don't doubt that I may again someday though. There is no predicting who I may meet in the future. But don't look at me in that way, Hermione. I am not saddened by it."
"I'm glad you aren't. I do hope you will feel that happiness again someday though," I said.
He took my arm in his and said, "Don't worry about that. Avalon is my first love, and while I am here, I will always be happy and never lonely. But it's very late and I can sense you are getting tired so let's walk back."
"I am. Having kids around to look out for is draining. And two of them! How did Draco do it when they were even younger and rowdier?"
"I've never had kids myself, so I couldn't tell you. But it's more work than I'd imagine, I'm sure."
And walking back slowly through the woods at night, we shared thoughts and memories until I reached my tree, at which point he said good-night and retired to his own.
Six years later, Alya finished school and agreed to take on the responsibility after coming here every summer between school years and thoroughly falling in love with the land. I guided her through the rituals, taught her the magic in the same way Lady Awen had for me almost twenty years ago.
On the final night of the rituals, I had retired to my tree, leaving Alya to celebrate with her new brothers and sisters, and the man she was bonded within the realm.
Eamon stood with me beside the fountain I would return through. Without even touching him to see his thoughts, I knew he was more upset than he let on at seeing me go.
"You know, it is customary for the one bonded with the Lady to leave Avalon with her when her time comes. That's why Una left with Lady Awen."
"You never told me this before!" I exclaimed.
He smiled sheepishly. "I didn't because I wasn't sure what to do. Because of our bond, I want nothing more than to come through with you. Yet I cannot bear to leave Avalon...and to embrace a mortal life? I don't have it in me for that, I don't think. But if you ask it of me I will, and I will gladly follow without looking back."
"Eamon, I could never ask you to give up your life here! I won't lie, it breaks my heart to leave you, but if this is where you want to be then you have to stay here. Forget what's customary!" I said.
Eamon smiled broadly, and with visible relief. "Thank you, Lady Hermione."
"Oh, stop that nonsense. You are like the other half of me. For you to call me Lady Hermione is ridiculous. Come here," I said and I pulled him into a tight hug.
"Such a strong part of me is pulled to come with you though," he said in my ear. "Maybe in time I will join you in the mortal realm."
"Well don't wait too long if you want to or I'll be dead," I joked. "I know how you are with that patience of yours."
He laughed too.
"And besides," I continued. "That may be unnecessary since the portal is almost completely perfect now. You all just need to finally decide how much you are all permitted to pass into the mortal realm."
"I'm going to have to start urging for us to finish these debates sooner then. But you should be warned, that you are going to age much slower than everyone else." he agreed.
"How slow?" I asked.
"Given the amount of time you were here, you'll likely live another two hundred years in the mortal realm."
I blanched, amazed. "My goodness, that's unreal. I can't even imagine such a long lifetime, but I can't say I'm disappointed."
"I'm happy too. If I thought I would be losing you even sooner than that, I believe I'd be thoroughly depressed."
"I love you, Eamon. And I'm going to miss you," I said pulling him into another hug.
"I love you too. But you will see me again. Even if we don't agree, I'll have to come see you again soon. With this bond, it will be to unnatural and uncomfortable for me to remain here for too long without seeing you. I'll be making visits."
"My door will always be open to you," I promised.
And I stepped away from him for the last time, and looked down at the water in the fountain.
"You will watch over Alya?" I said, still lingering, still not feeling ready to leave.
Eamon smiled. "Of course, as much as I can. She is smart and she has Tristan. She won't be needing me all that much."
I nodded in agreement and then laughed at myself. "I need to stop lingering. Good-bye for now, Eamon."
"See you soon," he said and I finally willed myself to leave.
I found myself on the shore of the lake and recognized it was midday. Being back in the mortal realm felt strange, I felt unbalanced. And even more pronounced was the realization that my power was gone. I pulled out my long forgotten and unused wand. I aparated to the one place I was longing to go to most.
I landed outside of Malfoy Manor, on the front step as I did all those years ago when I came to tell Draco I was pregnant. I hoped Draco was in and not in a meeting now. I didn't even know what day it was here. Before I could even knock, the door was thrown open before me, and Draco was standing before me.
He was expecting me, but he still couldn't help the surprise that played out on his face. He stood before me, apparently speechless.
"You haven't aged at all," he said eventually, astounded.
He had though, there was no denying that, but he had aged well. Here he was, now closer to forty-five and he could still pass for thirty-five. If there was one thing he would be eternally blessed in, it was looks.
I shook my head. "Not yet, but now that I'm out here I will."
"I just can't believe you're here. I've been waiting, hoping that nothing would change since I got your letter, that you would come see me when you left there." And then suddenly getting a hold of himself, he said, "What am I doing? Come inside," he said and stepped aside for me to walk in.
"You seemed to be expecting me," I said.
He nodded. "I was, someday soon. I was at the office today actually, but when you aparated onto my property, my alarms went off, because no one aparates here anymore. I knew it was you, so I left."
"Is Orion here?" I asked. I hadn't seen him since the summer after his sixth year.
Draco shook his head. "He has living in an apartment of his own. He's working in the Ministry too of course, but he wanted to have a home of his own. When he knows that you are here, he will come over tonight for dinner though."
I smiled, pleased that I would see him again. "I would love that," I said.
"How is Alya?" he asked after a slight pause. I could tell he wanted to say something desperately, but was holding back.
"She couldn't be better. She truly loves Avalon, and I expect she will actually want to stay there longer than I did. She told me she is in no rush to have children yet. She wants to really get to know the land, and to focus on rejoining it with this one."
"I hope it'll be rejoined so we can see her," he said.
I nodded in agreement and he led me to a set of couches in the main living room, one of the many sitting rooms he had in this mansion. He sat next to me on one of the couches and took my hand in his, looking at me with complete seriousness.
"Hermione, I know that I apologized in my letter, but I need to tell you again how sorry I am for everything I've done to you. Capturing you, urging you to go to Avalon, using you the way I did to achieve my shallow goals. I never should've done those things, and I did them to you...the one person I love more than any other! I'm still ashamed of myself," he said, pleading with me believe the sincerity of his apology. I could see that he had been preparing, and in some ways agonizing over this day for a long time.
"Draco, don't apologize again. It might have only been written in a letter, but I know you were sincere, and I don't doubt you for a moment," I replied squeezing his hand.
"You don't?" he asked, shocked. He seemed to think that he would have to talk me into giving him another chance. I suppose because my letter only said that I would like to see him and talk to him again, and that I still loved him, but I gave no indication of under what terms I would see him again. He didn't know for certain if I would take him back as a lover.
"I always knew you had it in you, Draco. Because you are capable of loving. You could never be quite so horrible as Voldemort because of that. I tried my best to always keep up hope that you might one day change. There is nothing holding me back from trying again."
"So you are here again...to stay?" He didn't allow the hopefulness he felt creep into his voice, but it was all over his face.
"Let's not rush into things," I said. "Like you said, it's been a long time, but I think we can see where things may go."
His eyes lit up. "I never dared allow myself to even imagine you would be here again. I can set up a room for you and -"
"Ah no. We are going to do this like normal people. I'm living in my own home for now," I said cutting him off.
He looked like he wanted to pout but said, "Fair enough. Tonight, we'll eat with Orion, just because it's right and I know he wants to see you, but tomorrow night, I want to have you all to myself and take you out for a real dinner."
"Are you asking me out on a date?" I asked with amusement.
"It's a date," he said and I allowed him to pull me to him for a kiss.
Going on a real date with Draco Malfoy. Who would've ever thought?
AN: Alya is a star in the constellation Serpens.