B/N: When I got the prelim to beta this story, I was hesitant to accept. I've never been a fan of Draco and Hermione together – they just didn't make sense to me. But something about the story intrigued me and I decided to trust instinct and accepted it. I'm so glad that I did. Not only did I discover the delight that is Draco and Hermione together (even if it did take me 36 chapters to figure it out LOL), but I also made a wonderful friend in the process of it all.
I feel the need to mention that chapter 42 is actually the end of the story. However, I was a bit sad at the thought of the story being over without knowing what happens to them beyond the confines of the story. Crazylizzie, my oh-so-awesome friend and provider of coffee and chocolate, ever so graciously agreed to go outside her norm and write an epilogue in order to satisfy my burning curiosity. And so, for your reading pleasure and mine, we bring you a brief glance of what happened after the story ends. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
The young woman watches the pair dance about the room as if they are the only ones in existence. Her eyes, the colour of storm clouds rolling over the sea, are soft, unguarded, unlike her, and for a moment the man across the room sees her for something other than the Slytherin he has always associated her as.
Rising from where he sits, he slowly unfolds himself from his chair, long-legged and well muscled with a shocking crop of black hair that never lies down. He excuses himself from his cousin, brother, and a woman he just barely knows but who is trying to get his attention. Leaves them without thought, moving through the crowds of people to where she stands.
It has been several years since he's spoken to her. Several years since they've argued, threatened to hex, and left with a sneer outlining their names. They'd been opposites in everything: in houses, in thoughts and opinions, and though he is one year older than her, and one year above her in school, they had competed in everything. Grades, Quidditch, always trying to outdo one another in every little thing they competed in. Hated one another really, despite the relation between their families, despite the fact that both of them, repeatedly, got long lengthy lectures about getting along.
They just never could.
But tonight, tonight is different and he knows this as soon as he sees the woman, for now she is suddenly a woman, gazing softly at her parents.
He looks at her, moving through the crowds, noticing that her usually curly blond hair is pulled back off her face allowing the slight neck, almost glowing in its paleness, to stand distinct against the emerald coloured robes she wears. She has only a thin diamond necklace as an ornament, a gift from her father if he remembers correctly, a gift of last Christmas, witnessing the exchange when he'd stopped by to give his Godmother her gift.
He supposes, moving about a dancing couple, that it was then he had noticed her first, the witch, bane of his existence, seeing her in the glow of the morning sunshine in the large manor that was her home. Seen her for the first time, outside of her school robes, outside of the sneer she usually, so very effectively, threw his way.
But tonight there is another epiphany and though he isn't sure what he is doing, he doesn't think on it, not really, and soon he is by her side.
A waft of scent, of something cold, like a winter's morning, freshly fallen snow, the smell of the sea. He stands a head taller than her and for a moment, just a moment, he wants to lean towards her, smell her.
But he doesn't, instead catching her attention by moving ever so slightly by her side, enough to make it so she becomes aware of his presence. When she turns, looking up at him, before the polite look on her face can become a sneer, a sharp retort, he smiles.
It takes her breath away. Staring up at the man, blinking slowly, coming to terms with the smile. The smile coming from a man who she spent her Hogwarts life arguing with, competing with, despising, to see him looking down at her, green eyes twinkling, and a smile, both goofy and gentle, gracing his face, it takes her breath. And she has the almost unbearable desire to flatten the fly away strands of his dark hair with her fingers.
Though she keeps her hands in front of her.
"They are a handsome couple," Fred Potter says quietly, looking over to the pair the ball is for.
Catherine Malfoy looks over to where her parents dance, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the room. Her mother's own curls, brown with slashes of grey, are pulled up into a similar knot at the back of her head, and the lavender robes she wears highlight her warm skin tones and the brilliant sparkle of her brown eyes. Eyes that look adoringly at her husband, who, in turn, looks down at her. His robes, black of course, are immaculate, as is his hair and his person. His face is almost expressionless, though even from where she stands and because she knows her father, Catherine can see the slight expression of tenderness, and the way he holds her mum, gently almost, tells her of his true feelings for the witch.
Even after twenty-five years.
So much between them and she knows she doesn't even understand or comprehend the least of it.
"How long have they been married?" Fred asks next to her and she is pulled back to her present.
Catherine glances once more at Fred, studying his face out of the corner of her eye, noticing that the couple of years since Hogwarts have been more than kind to him and the newest Quidditch star is looking very good indeed.
Though she would never say it out loud and glances away before she can notice any more of his attractive face, notice any more of the hair she wants to pull her hands through, the body that she wouldn't mind…
Her mind cuts her litany off harshly.
Answering. "Twenty years now they've been married."
Fred watches the witch and wizard dancing amongst their friends and family. "My mum says they were bonded before that."
Catherine nods. It is knowledge, well known knowledge, of the bond between her parents, though it has been almost ten years since the actual field of magic, the shadow magic, as her mum always called it, has all but faded away. The only ones who truly feel the shadow magic are those born directly after the war and, of course, the direct descendants: her, her two brothers, and her sister.
The four of them feel the shadow magic as part of their usual magic, distinctly different but the same in a way.
She answers him, wondering all the while why she is being civil to Fred Potter. "Yes, fifteen years before that, so thirty-five years all in all."
"Longer then my parents then."
There is a wistful tone there and Catherine can't help but turn slightly to look at Fred, tilting her head slightly so her curls move about her face and the light from the candles throw shadows and light over the contours of her face.
Fred finds the look, the slight tilt of her head, the light upon her cheekbones, across her lips, to be almost unbearably lovely and not for the first time he wonders where the girl he used to try to hex in Potions is. This girl, this woman, is entirely different from her.
Catherine shifts slightly under Fred's intense gaze, moving her eyes away from his brilliant green ones to glance over his shoulder, trying to come up with an excuse to move away from him. Wanting to catch the breath she suddenly is having a horrible time catching.
As if sensing her desire to move away from him, to find an excuse to get away from him, Fred feels something in his gut tighten and blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind.
"Would you like to dance?"
Catherine's gaze snaps back to his, one delicate eyebrow rising slightly. "Dance? Do you know how to dance, Potter?"
Fred feels a rush of irritation that has its roots in their past relationship and he all but scowls. "Yes, Malfoy, I can dance."
Whether it's because of his tone or because he has reverted to her last name as she had, a habit from their childhood, Catherine is amused and she smiles then, a light smile, not a smirk, not a grimace, but a slow lifting of her lips.
Something pulls in Fred's chest. Pulls hard.
"I would like that," she says, realising at the same time of what she just committed herself to. She has to swallow around a sudden lump in her throat when Fred holds out a hand then, offering, and with only a slight tremble, she takes it.
Her long delicate fingers intertwine easily, almost effortlessly, in his large calloused ones, both of them slightly startled at the contact, both of them even more startled when Fred easily moves into the dance, pulling her alongside him and for a moment, a briefest flash of time, their bodies melt against one another before the proper distance is placed between them.
But the both of them felt it and when Catherine looks up and catches Fred's gaze, something in her chest contracts at the desire and heat visible there.
A slight smile as she tries to gain her senses, admonishing herself for acting like a fool. Her, a Malfoy, a Slytherin, acting a fool in front of Fred Potter. It doesn't matter that he is handsome, that his hand is warm against her waist and calloused against her hand and that nerves of awareness are sparkling at his proximity. None of that matters because she still is who she is.
She smiles, a slight, almost seductive smile. "Perhaps," she says lightly, tilting her head once more, "We should start anew." A pause as the smile grows just slightly. "I should introduce myself; I am Catherine Malfoy."
Fred grins then, a goofy grin that causes one side of his mouth to curl up. "How do you do, Miss Malfoy? My name is Fred Potter."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Potter."
Energy sparkles between them.
Across the room Hermione Granger-Malfoy moves easily and without thought with her husband, one Draco Malfoy. She is entirely cocooned in his magic, in their magic, moving with him, no thought but the appreciation of his scent and closeness and ideas of what she can do to him once they manage to get away from the crowd.
But she is now, for going on nineteen years, a mother, and her motherly instincts pull up something, a swirl of shadow about her. She looks over as if pulled by an invisibly source to see a very surprising scene indeed.
"My love," she whispers, gaining Draco's attention.
Draco has also been thinking about what to with this witch in his arms after getting everyone out of his home, and it takes a moment for the lust filled fog to move from his brain before he can focus fully on his wife.
Hermione glances over his shoulder and then back to him. "Don't look now, my dear, but I do believe the world will stop on its axis shortly."
Draco raises one eyebrow, a similar look to the one on his daughter's face earlier, though he doesn't know it.
Hermione smiles slightly, an old smile, gentle, understanding, loving, and because Draco will never get used to such a look on his wife's face, he feels a warmth pool at the base of his spine, at the point on his chest.
She moves her gaze back over his shoulder and the smile grows slightly. Draco, effortlessly and without thought, twirls Hermione around him so he can view whatever it is that is going to make the world stop moving on its axis.
The world continues to move. Draco does not.
Seeing his baby girl, his little blond curly haired girl, in the arms of Fred Potter, and something moves red across his vision.
"Oh, honestly, Draco." Hermione sighs loudly, annoyed.
Draco looks back down at her. "What?"
Hermione rolls her eyes at him, which would be funny coming from an older witch, amusing Draco under normal times, but this is not normal times.
His baby is dancing with a Potter, of all things.
"It was only a matter of time, my love." Hermione says quietly, moving even closer to Draco, feeling his distress, and underneath it sadness, through their bond. Hermione continues. "They always reminded me of us, always arguing, never getting along. It was only a matter of time."
Draco scowls, finally looking away from Catherine back to his wife. "She is too young."
Hermione smirks. "Too young? Do you forget when you were that age?"
Another scowl. "No. And that is my point."
Hermione laughs then, a slight laugh, free, lovely in its sound and Draco can't help but respond to it, even as several people look on them with fondness.
They don't notice, caught up in their world, as usual, as has been the case for the last twenty years.
Draco shakes his head slightly, moving his witch into a complicated dance step before moving back into the slight sway they were in before. He finds her enchanting, pulling her close to him once more, the movement of the dance causing colour to form across her cheeks, her eyes bright as she looks up at him.
"They are just growing up," Draco tries to explain, still able to remember bringing Catherine home, the feelings of uncertainty, of panic almost, at being responsible for this wonderfully perfect being and the vow he made, looking over her crib the first night she was home, to never be his father, to show her love and acceptance no matter what she ended up being, or whom.
He'd made the same vow for the three that followed.
Hermione feels something tug in her chest and she rests her head against Draco's strong form for a moment, feeling the telltale burn of tears in her eyes. "They are," she says against the fabric of his robes.
She inhales deeply, his scent moving through her sense, calming her. She pulls back into his arms. "Can you believe Hannah is in her second year?"
Draco smiles, still remembering the shock both of them received to find that their youngest was sorted into Hufflepuff, though neither of them, really, were surprised.
Hannah, with her long brown hair and large brown eyes, is the picture of a Hufflepuff. Being the youngest she is shy, quiet, and though very smart, nowhere near the intellect of her brothers and sister. But above all, different from all them, is her goodness. It shines in her brown eyes and the radiant smile she partakes on anyone within her care.
Hermione and Draco glance over to where Hannah now sits with her Uncle Severus, talking to him quietly, the older man leaning down to hear the quieter tones. They both smile a slight smile, the irony of the relationship between the old Slytherin and their Hufflepuff daughter not lost on them.
Hermione shakes her head. "I don't know if that relationship is a good thing or not."
Draco smirks down at his wife. "Of course it is. The only reason she's survived her years with the twins is because of Severus giving her tidbits on how to protect herself and get back at them. You know she would have never managed otherwise."
Hermione sighs and shakes her head, looking around the room then for the twins; Steven and Luke, her gaze travelling over the myriad of guests until she finds them, together of course, white hair blazing in the torchlight, identical black robes hanging on their slender forms, identical grey eyes looking down at two very pretty witches.
They are the bane of her existence as she knows it, though she can't help but smile at the easily arrogant way they hold themselves, an echo of Draco's younger days. Younger times.
Though identical in looks, in thought even, the two of them are not entirely the same and Hermione can easily tell the difference between the two, one a Ravenclaw, the other a Slytherin.
Hermione sometimes wonders how she, the Gryffindor princess, managed to sire not one child sorted in Gryffindor, a fact that gives Harry no end of amusement, in addition to hours of contemplation by her husband. Several years ago he'd finally came to the conclusion that the Sorting Hat had, obviously, just messed up and Hermione had, that fateful day, supposed to have been sorted into Slytherin.
Hearing the theory always amuses Hermione and her usual reply to Draco's musings is a snide remark about her mud blood; a remark she makes just to see the sudden flush of colour cross Draco's face and the thinning of his lips in annoyance.
Hermione still, after so many years, enjoys annoying her husband.
Looking away from the twins and back at the man dancing with her daughter, he probably has some small amount of logic, though she would never say it aloud.
Hermione smiles gently up at him, tightening her hand about his, squeezing it slightly as the bond between them throbs and moves, surrounding them, cushioning them, keeping them safe, secure in what they are to one another.
Draco looks down at his wife of twenty years, sees the expression on her face and lowers his head slightly, a mere pressure of lips on hers, responding in like to the warmth flowing between them.
A pair of dark brown eyes and black eyes watch the exchange, an amused look across the older man's face, a slightly wistful look across the younger girl's.
"They really do love each other don't they, Uncle?" the girl says, leaning slightly against the straight form of her Uncle and favourite person.
Severus looks away from Draco and Hermione to glance down at their daughter, his Goddaughter. The irony of his relationship with this young girl is not lost on him any more than it was on her parents circled in one another's arms.
"They do; however, it was not always as it is now," he replies.
Hannah nods, a smile lifting about her lips, "Of course, I know the stories, Uncle Severus."
A dark eyebrow raised in amusement, "All of them?"
Hannah flushes slightly, a darkening of her skin along the line of her cheekbones, across the bridge of her nose. "Mostly." She pauses, slightly tilting her head, "What I haven't heard from you or Uncle Harry or Aunt Ginny, I have learned through magic."
Severus knows what the small girl is talking of, a secret between them, an ability that she has to use the shadow magic as empathy, a way of feeling others. It is perhaps, the reason the girl is one of the few in the world who love him unconditionally, without reserve, because she can, whereas others cannot, know precisely what is it he is feeling even when he is being thoroughly horrible. Darkness and being very alone for a very long time has made him even more of a difficult man through the years, if such a thing is possible, but Hannah, with her ability, sees past that into what he is, and loves him with all of her young heart because of that core of being. The goodness that lurks there.
Hannah turns her head to glance up at her Uncle, always feeling secure when next to him, feeling as if the people and their emotions lessen slightly, blocked at least partially, by the severe and total control of her Uncle. Protected by the love that the cold and distant man has for her, though he will never say it out loud, and she only knows because she can feel it, tendrils of it, about her person.
She continues to lean against her Uncle, liking the feel of his robes under her cheek.
Severus does not mind, not in the least, and several people in the room look on the sight in amusement, some even in amazement; the old professor, still dressed in black, a scowl still on his face, letting a young girl with eyes of hopeful youth lean against him in conformability.
Two set of eyes, identical in colour, look on the sight with something akin to trepidation.
"What do you think they are speaking of?" Steve asks his brother, turning away from witches in front of him, cutting one of them off mid-sentence.
Luke glances over at his Uncle and his sister, a narrowing of eyes and a slight smirk playing about his lips, giving indication to his thoughts. "I don't know, but I'm sure we can get it out of her."
Steve shakes his head, dislodging the hand of the witch trying to get his attention again, "Perhaps, but you know last time we did that Uncle tricked us into cleaning his potions lab without magic."
Luke remembers clearly, and scowls. "That was entirely unethical."
Steve is the Slytherin and he smiles at his brother. "Perhaps, but it was quite tricky though, a good show if I do say so, getting us in that way." A touch of awe and respect in his voice as he looks on his Uncle. "I suppose there is a reason why he was the Head of Slytherin."
Luke rolls his eyes, a clear habit from his mum, one of the few things about the boys that show Hermione's influence. "But without magic, that is unheard of. There are at least fifty-six different spells that we could have used to clean up the lab faster than by hand."
A wry look twisting about Steve's mouth, "I thinking cleaning wasn't the point, Luke."
Luke shakes his head, looking out over the room, grey eyes, pale locks, so very similar to his father's, scanning the crowd, automatically looking and categorizing, something both boys do without thought. Instinctive.
His gaze zeros and narrows on a pair of dancers.
"Bloody hell," he says, causing Steve to look away, once more, from the witch trying to gain his attention.
"What?" Steve asks, looking about the room, instantly alert.
And then he sees he it too.
His sister dancing with Potter.
Steve raises an eyebrow, "I thought she hated him?"
Luke nods, "I thought so too."
Steve's expression turns sly suddenly, a tilt of his lip, "They don't look like they are hating on one another now?"
Both boys idolize their elder sister, though neither of them would say it out loud. But to them, all growing up, she was their hero. Only three years older than the twins, she was the one that first taught them how to use magic. She was also the one who taught them how to get away with things, like getting past wards and spells to sneak out of the Manor. Though, having the smartest witch in history and the once Slytherin prince as parents made it nearly impossible to do so, and more often then naught they were caught and punished.
But without Catherine's help they probably would not have succeeded at all.
They adore their older sister as much as they enjoy terrorizing their younger, and to see her dancing closely, very closely, with Fred Potter makes both boys slightly uneasy, and slightly annoyed.
"Should we break it up?" Luke asks, fingering his wand.
Steve snorts, "Protect her virtue and all that." His tone is light, though his words hold a certain edge.
"Neither of you will do a thing," another voice reprimands suddenly, behind them. A voice both boys know very well indeed.
They turn, in tandem, to look down on their mum.
Hermione glares at both boys in equal amounts, Draco standing slightly behind her so she can't see the amused look on his face, though his sons can.
Hermione taps her foot beneath her lavender robes. "You leave your sister and Fred Potter alone. I do not, and I repeat, do not want either of you putting your noses in where they do not belong."
Steve smiles at his mum, mischief moving across his features. "She's our sister, Mum, she is our business."
Hermione narrows her eyes, and Luke immediately tenses, knowing that look well, and being smarter than his brother, knows to heed that look.
"You will not, and if I so much as hear a whisper of your involvement of any sort, I will have your Uncle Severus put you to work in his potions lab again." A pause as she looks back and forth between her sons. "Without magic and in his company the entire time."
Both boys pale considerably.
But Hermione is not done, "And, you will do well to remember that I am a Professor at your school and I can give you detention with Filch."
Their faces pale even more.
"You wouldn't do that, Mum, that's abusing your power as a Professor." Steve says, instantly wanting to bite his tongue when Hermione's eyes narrow even more and he sees his father shake his head slightly at him in warning.
"You don't think I would?" she says, rising an eyebrow that has both Luke and Steve swallowing. "I have had to live with Slytherins for far too long to not take in a bit of their ways. You don't want to push me, Steven."
Luke and Steven, though their father's sons, clearly are, in the end, scared of their mum much more than their father, and seeing the look in her dark brown eyes and the way they almost shoot sparks, they know they had best leave it alone.
Hermione stares back and forth between the identical grey eyes, gauging them, using their shadow magic to see their true intent. None of her children can lie to her due to it.
Draco, who has been watching his wife thoroughly lash his sons with the harsh side of her tongue with amusement, places a hand on her arm.
"I think they get the point, love," looking back at Luke and Steven, "Right boys?"
"Absolutely," Luke, the smarter one, says immediately.
Steven nods in agreement.
Hermione glares once more at her boys and then the glare softens to a smile as she puts a hand to their cheeks, one soft hand on each cheek, gentle, causing both her boys to smile back.
"You two will be the death of me," she says quietly, softly.
The boys, underneath it all, love their mum and they lean into her hands for a moment before remembering they are sixteen and shouldn't be doing such things, then straighten and step back, putting on their Malfoy faces once more and turning away talk to the pretty witches behind them.
Hermione sees it and her smile grows, shaking her head and turning back to Draco. "There is too much of you in that pair."
Draco smirks. "That's probably why you love them so much."
Hermione rolls her eyes, "No, I love them because I have to."
Draco's smirk turns liquid then, one hand coming up and tucking that curl, always the same curl, behind her ear. "And me, do you love me because you have to?"
Hermione's breath catches at the look on his face, a look she has never gotten used to and will grow never tired of. Eyes, quicksilver, face soft, unguarded. She smiles up at him, "Of course," she says quietly, "There has never been any other way."
They meet each other for the kiss this time, white hair and brown curls intertwining, a sliding of lips, promises, thoughts, emotions, moving between them.
Several people witness the kiss and wonder at the passion there, so clearly underlined by tenderness. More than one pair of eyes tear at the sight, not knowing the full story, but understanding on some level, that on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary there is as much love between the two of them as there was years prior when Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy watched the day dawn on their first night together.