"If one more person says, 'You're here too?' I'm going to scream. Obviously we're all here, or we wouldn't be here!"
"Your brilliance never ceases to amaze me," said Ron, kissing Hermione's cheek.
"She's got a point, Ron." Ginny looked around at the people who'd come, as requested by owl, to Conference Room Jarvey at the Ministry of Magic at eleven o'clock sharp on this, the third day of June. "Does anyone have any idea why we're all here?"
Harry shook his head, though he was sure Ginny knew this already, and watched the motion go around the table, passing through Neville, Tonks, Lupin, and Andromeda before returning to Ron and Hermione. Teddy, cradled in a sling across Tonks' chest, gurgled as if to say he didn't know either.
"Thank you for that edifying comment," Lupin said to his son, then looked up as the door of the room opened. "Good morning, Minister."
"Forget how to say Kingsley, Remus?" The Minister of Magic shut the door behind himself and took one of the empty chairs. "Good morning, all. Thank you for coming on such short notice."
"What are we here for?" Harry asked, noticing the scroll in Kingsley's hand. "Some kind of reading?"
"Yes." Kingsley set the scroll down on the table. "To be precise, a will reading."
Baffled glances were exchanged. "Who's died that would leave all of us something?" Ginny asked.
Kingsley unrolled the top of the scroll. "The Last Will and Testament of Draco Lucius Malfoy..."
"What?" shouted at least four people. The noise startled Teddy, who began to fuss, and Lupin had to conjure him a cuddly red lion before he would settle down.
"I'm not taking it," Ron said, shaking his head. "Whatever it is. Probably all jinxed, that's just what he'd think was funny."
"You might be embarrassed if I held you to that," Kingsley said with a faint smile. "Your brother Bill was on the team I sent to investigate the bequests listed here and make sure they were safe, or could be made that way. He doesn't yet know you're involved, but he did tell me that whoever was inheriting what he checked out was a 'very lucky bastard.' Direct quote, that is."
Ginny snickered behind her hand.
"If we're all ready, then." Kingsley unwound the scroll several inches. "It's written in a rather informal style, but it's still legal. It's not prescient, though, in case you might wonder; with the war going on, Malfoy couldn't be sure which of his relatives he'd outlive, so he had several conditional clauses set up to cover all eventualities. We've located the pieces that apply to the current situation and put them together for today."
He found his place and began.
"I, Draco Lucius Malfoy, of sound mind and body, do hereby declare, etcetera, etcetera. Greetings from beyond what I hope is not actually my grave. If, in accordance with my wishes, you're reading this thirty-one days after the date of my unexplained disappearance, it probably isn't. I do, however, wish to be considered legally dead from this date and my effects distributed as though I had died, since it's unlikely I'll be back.
"The story of where I am and what happened to me will be told elsewhere, but one cautionary note is in order. I can see what's going on with you lot where I am—it's likely that I'm watching you right now with some friends and a bowl of popcorn—and if anyone starts making a fuss about accepting one of my bequests, my godmother will give you bad dreams every night until you stop."
"Effective," Tonks murmured.
Kingsley chuckled. "Indeed. To my aunt, Andromeda Black Tonks, an amount in gold from the Malfoy vault at Gringotts equal to the dowry my mother Narcissa brought with her when she married, to restore a long-standing inequality. My love and my mother's go with it, along with my wish that I could have known my aunt better. I will miss her."
"As I will him," said Andromeda, smiling at a vision only she could see.
"To my colleague, Neville Francis Longbottom, all estates formerly belonging to anyone surnamed Lestrange," Kingsley went on, ignoring Neville's pop-eyed look of disbelief. "It can never make up for what they took away from him, but it will give him a place to start building his own life. I understand Hufflepuff girls like blokes with huge... tracts of land."
Neville turned beet red as the rest of the table exploded in laughter.
"Is that pause written in there?" Lupin asked when anything could be heard.
"It is." Kingsley turned the scroll so Lupin could see. "Why do you ask?"
"Marveling at the universality of things, that's all."
"Marvel away. You're next up." Kingsley adjusted his place in the scroll. "To my former professor, Remus John Lupin, my cousin, Nymphadora Tonks Lupin, and their son, Theodore Remus Lupin, the contents, in equal shares, of the Lestrange vault at Gringotts. Fair warning, the items contained therein are under some nasty anti-theft curses, but the goblins should be able to help you get those off. There's also a fake sword of Gryffindor and a fake cup of Hufflepuff; everything else, as far as I know, is real."
"Are you positive this is legally binding?" Lupin asked in a stunned voice after several seconds of silence. "There has to be another heir somewhere..."
"Rodolphus and Rabastan were the last of the Lestranges," said Kingsley, setting the scroll down to sketch a family tree in midair with his wand's tip. "Bellatrix outlived them—only by an hour or two, but that's enough—and Draco is the closest relative able to inherit on her death, since I believe you were legally disowned, Andromeda?"
Andromeda nodded. "My family wanted to be sure I would never have their money, even after they had no further need of it."
"See how well that worked," Ron muttered, drawing scattered chuckles.
Lupin ran a hand across his face, as though hoping to wake himself up. "There must be someone else. I can't possibly take this."
"Oh yes you can," Tonks said firmly, capturing Lupin's hand between her own. "And you will. Teddy keeps us up enough at nights as it is—I'm not dealing with you having nightmares just because you're too damn proud to accept someone's doing you a good turn for once!"
Lupin quirked an eyebrow at her. "Is this the point where I say, 'Yes, dear'?"
"Yes, it is."
"Well, then. Yes, dear."
"Finished?" Kingsley inquired.
"We're done," said Tonks, letting go of Lupin's hand to rearrange Teddy and his lion so that one was distinguishable from the other.
"Thank you." Unrolling the scroll once more, Kingsley continued. "To my cousins, Ronald Bilius and Ginevra Molly Weasley, and to my..." He looked up at Hermione. "I won't lie, this one had us all stumped."
Hermione covered a giggle. "Something about my being his sister?" she asked.
"Complete with quotation marks."
"It's part of the story he told to get us safely out of Malfoy Manor the night we were caught." Hermione's smile made Harry wonder. Surely Malfoy Manor couldn't be a good memory for her? "Calling me his sister turned into an inside joke between us. It isn't a problem, is it?"
"It could have been, but he also listed you by full name, so it's not. Ahem. ...and to my 'sister,' Hermione Jean Granger, the contents, in equal shares, of the Malfoy vault at Gringotts. Fewer interesting artifacts than the Lestranges managed to accumulate, but more gold, even after Aunt Andromeda's share comes out. Also to Ron Weasley, the land on which Malfoy Manor once stood, with the proviso that whatever he does with it make no use of my name whatsoever. Close your mouth, Weasley, you're attracting flies."
Ron sat bolt upright as the girls all laughed. "That is not written in there!"
Kingsley held up the scroll. Ron wilted. "Oh. It is."
Harry wasn't sure how much longer he could keep from laughing himself. Malfoy might have chosen good over evil, but that clearly hadn't changed his desire to take the mickey out of his old adversaries.
And I'm the only one left... wonder what he's got for me?
"To my friendly enemy, Harry James Potter..." Kingsley paused to allow the snickering to die down. "...no gold, not because I don't like him, but because it sets a bad precedent to will money to a person who has a habit of beating one in duels." The reaction to this was rather more than snickering. "Instead, I'd like him to have the journal I've been keeping for the past year, complete with illustrations by my own lovely Luna, with the understanding that he will share the story contained therein with everyone who was involved and, at his own discretion, with the world, by publishing it. There are a few things I think the wizarding world ought to know about."
"So that's what he meant," Neville said in a tone of sudden understanding. "Back at Hogwarts," he explained when everyone looked at him. "The night before the battle, I'd asked him about something that didn't make sense, and he said he couldn't tell me just then but I'd know eventually. He must've meant his journal."
"Do you have it?" Harry asked Kingsley.
"Right here." Reaching into his pocket, Kingsley extracted a miniature box with a lid, which he set in the middle of the table and tapped with his wand. Ron jumped and Tonks muttered something which earned her a smack from her mother as the box grew to its full size, fifteen inches long and six inches wide and deep. "Shall I finish?"
"Just one paragraph."
"Please, go on," said Andromeda. "I doubt anyone objects."
"All right." Kingsley folded back the bottom of the scroll. "Most of all, I'd like to leave everyone my apologies for the stupid things I used to do. I won't say I didn't know better, because I was old enough to think for myself, which means I should have known better. In any case, I've made up for as much of the damage I did as I possibly could. The rest is up to you. I don't expect I'll see you again, so please accept my wishes (and Luna's, of course) for your future health, wealth, and happiness. Mine, by the time you're reading this, will already be a sure thing."
Silence fell as Kingsley stopped reading. Finally Harry stood up and reached for the box. "Can we come to your house?" he asked Andromeda.
The words slowly trickled through to Ron, to Ginny and Hermione, to Tonks and Lupin and Neville. One by one they stood up, pushed in their chairs, and filed out of the room, nodding to Kingsley as they went. They were silent in the lift to the Atrium; once there, Ginny accepted Andromeda's arm for a Side-Along and the rest of the group Disapparated, Harry holding his box tightly.
Finally, we get some answers.
Once everyone was comfortably seated, Harry flipped open the box. It was filled with scrolls, a shorter one lying conspicuously on top labeled "Read me first." He picked it up, broke the green wax seal, and began to read aloud.
"More mornings than not, I wake up, look around me, and wonder how I ended up where I am..."
For the rest of that day and most of the next, the box of scrolls traveled around the room, each person taking it in turn to read a passage aloud. Teddy spent his time alternately napping and squirming happily on the carpet with father or mother sitting beside him. Ginny and Andromeda took turns cooking, and the guest rooms were pressed into service for the intervening night. No one wanted to leave until the story was finished.
"It's like we never really knew him," said Neville musingly late on the afternoon of the fourth, after the final scroll had been read.
"He never knew himself until this happened," Lupin said. "He used other people's definitions of himself all his life, until they turned into something he could no longer stomach. I've seen that before, but usually the results are far less pretty than this."
"I want to know about that prophecy," said Harry. "It makes less sense than mine, and I didn't think that was possible."
Hermione scoffed. "That's easy. Give it here."
Ron rummaged through the box of scrolls and tossed one towards her. She caught it and unrolled it to the right place. "The beginning is just establishing when it's going to happen. When darkness shall be master of the night, when the dementors are everywhere after dark. Everything about serpent who comes forth is puns on his name and his parents'. Very bad ones, too."
"No such thing as a good pun," Tonks grumbled.
With a snicker, Hermione went on. "We read about three of the four times he had to despair: the first was before it all started, the second when Lucius made him take the Dreamless Sleep, and the third at Christmas when he thought he and Luna had been caught. I think the fourth one was right after our battle; the last thing he saw before Luna put him into that trance was Voldemort's Killing Curse, and if he hadn't worked out that you saw him as more a friend than an enemy now, Harry, so the Elder Wand wouldn't kill him..."
"You sure about that?"
Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry and went on. "Luna probably set it up to make him think he'd died and we'd lost here, so when he learned the truth he'd be happy enough to drive all those dementors away. That's the darkness shall be struck a blow. Then the ending is about their getting married—Luna, the moon, is the argent orb, and become forsworn is a pun on her taking the name Malfoy, 'bad faith'. So the dementors will stay locked up as long as there are Malfoys in that world."
"Another entry on the list of things I never wanted to think about." Ron ground his knuckles into his eyes. "Malfoy's sex life. Gah."
Amid the laughter, Harry noticed Ginny beckoning for Hermione to follow her into the other room. He started to get up, but Ginny shook her head at him.
Girl talk, then. Fine by me.
"You don't like guessing about things," Ginny said when she and Hermione were alone. "But you sound awfully sure about this."
Hermione rubbed her right wrist, smiling. "I am."
"I thought that might be it." Ginny reached out and touched Hermione's hand. "So there's a part of him still here, with you. And they haven't noticed it. None of them."
"You remember how long it took them to spot my teeth, don't you?" Hermione laughed. "I think it bothered them so much to see me without my hand that they're just relieved it's back and blocking out any thoughts of how or why. It could stay that way forever for all I care. What matters is I have it, and it works, and every now and then I just... know things. Not much, but a little."
"A little is all we should need." Ginny frowned. "There was something else, what was it—oh, right. Can I see the prophecy?" She accepted the scroll from Hermione and scrutinized it. "I thought it sounded short. You missed a line."
"I skipped a line," Hermione corrected. "We'll go back to it some other time, but they've heard all they want to hear about Snape today."
"You're right. But what's this about life with no sight? He's not going to be blind, is he?"
Hermione giggled. "Do you know what 'Cecilia' means?"
Ginny sighed. "Someday I'm going to meet whoever writes prophecies," she said. "And I'm going to tell her she has a bizarre sense of humor and she's far too focused on puns."
"How do you know it's a she?"
"Would a man write something this complicated?"
The next afternoon, Harry, Ron, and Hermione Apparated onto the estate where the rubble of Malfoy Manor still lay. "What am I supposed to do with this?" Ron complained, kicking a chunk of lacquered wood.
"Build a Quidditch pitch?" Harry suggested.
"That's crazy. I like it."
Hermione chuckled to herself and strolled away, knowing she wouldn't be missed. The only thing that might distract them from talking about Quidditch would be Voldemort returning, and I'm not sure about that...
Music caught her ear, a piano introduction to a song she vaguely knew. She followed it to see where it was coming from, hardly noticing when the open space around her gave way to paneled walls, until she was peering through the open door of a crowded ballroom and hearing a cultured voice say, "Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and groom's first dance."
Hermione pressed her fingers to her mouth for joy as Draco and Luna took their place on the floor, Draco in black, Luna in spotless white.
They're married! It must have just happened today!
The lyrics of the song rang faintly familiar to her. Certainly it was a Muggle composition, not magical. Still, the ideas behind it—losing one's way, making mistakes, but never stopping or admitting defeat—made it the perfect choice for this moment.
They deserve this. Both of them.
Draco drew Luna close and spun her out again. Every touch of hand on hand, every look from eye to eye, proclaimed the hope and faith the newlyweds had in one another, and the love that had bound them long before their wedding vows. The road which had brought them together might have been rocky and hard, but now they had each other to help along the way, and nothing could ever daunt them both for long.
I hope. But nobody could dance like that together and not trust each other with all their hearts and souls.
The blurring of her vision forced Hermione to look away from the dancers, changing her focus to the rapt wedding guests. So these are their friends. They do look like us—Merlin's hair, there's the other me! And she really is—well, good for her, but I'm in no hurry for that.
She continued scanning the room until she was brought up short by a pair of familiar black eyes. Severus Snape, his arm around a woman who could only be Draco's mum Cecilia, gave her the faintest of smiles before turning his attention back to the couple on the floor.
I guess he can see me since we come from the same world originally. A gleam of gold on his left hand made Hermione smile. I'll let Harry and Ron work out what happened to him on their own. Then they can do their screaming about mental images somewhere else.
The song became tender once again for its ending, and Draco leaned down to Luna and kissed her, making their guests cheer wildly and Hermione blink back a tear. "Good luck," she whispered. "Goodbye."
As the scene blew away with the final note of the song, she could have sworn she saw Draco wink at her.
Harry went on to become one of the best Aurors the Office had ever seen, sometimes amusing himself by clerking at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes for an afternoon and denying his identity. Ginny played professional Quidditch for four years, then moved to an administrative position with her team when she became pregnant. She, Harry, and their eventually three children lived at a thoroughly renovated number twelve, Grimmauld Place, with Dobby to do the heavy housework and Kreacher to interfere with him.
Ron invested a large portion of his inherited gold in the British gaming industry. His family called it the stupidest thing he'd ever done until the end of the first year, when they discovered he was making money on the deal. Thereafter it was referred to as the second-smartest move of his life; the smartest, as he admitted himself, was asking Hermione to marry him immediately after she'd opened the letter confirming her start date with the Ministry.
Hermione's wedding present to Ron was to raise enough gold, with the help of Harry, Ginny, and George, to make what he'd once called crazy into reality. Thereafter she split her time between the small house which stood in a corner of the former Malfoy estates, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and the Department of Mysteries, where the Malfoy Papers (as Draco's journal had come to be known) were studied for clues about the mysterious otherworld. Winky the house-elf found happiness with a new master, mistress, and two children to look after, and almost never punished herself anymore.
Neville wooed and won Hannah Abbott without revealing the existence of his "tracts of land" until after the marriage, just in case. The Leaky Cauldron benefited from their existence, though, as did buyers of produce throughout the wizarding world. The gratitude of Hogwarts students towards their Herbology Professor for making it easier for their mothers to get fresh vegetables in any season was noticeably lacking. Still, thanks to Professor Longbottom's growing friendship with Professor Lupin and his wife the Auror, no one ever tried anything, and Teddy Lupin and his brother and sister devoted hours of their young lives to successful raids on loosely guarded greenhouses, never seeing the smiles their parents exchanged with Neville behind their backs.
Draco pursued theater as a career, gaining fame for his deadpan delivery of comic lines and his flamboyant portrayal of villains. He and Luna, who joined the Ministry as a professional magical creature rescuer a year after her marriage, moved into Cecilia's old townhouse in London, where Abby joined them once she had finished school. Since Luna was then coping with an illegally trafficked thestral foal, a husband in the throes of dress rehearsals for The Mikado, and a gleefully destructive two-year-old, not to mention the final weeks of her second pregnancy (the girls' long-ago prediction of four small Malfoys would prove true), she welcomed the help.
Severus made sure that none of his students ever saw him in private moments with his wife or their one child, born after two years of marriage. The façade of the terrifying and all-knowing Potions Master would have been hard to reconcile with some of the phrases he found himself uttering in the capacity of husband and father. He never descended into outright baby talk, but there were moments when he came close. The only two personal remarks he would allow himself to make in class were that a happy marriage was the best beauty potion in the world, and that no one needed recourse to a cauldron to make their dreams come true.
The dementors, after their initial "driving back" and being "struck a blow" on the first of May, had retreated to what was in another world Azkaban Island, where the fifth of June saw them "sealed away," as their very presence interacting with the joy-fueled magic streaming north from Hogwarts and Fidelus Manor created shields around the island's perimeter. It was theorized that the reason the dementors could not break these wards as they could others was that the emotions powering them were partly of another world and thus, as Tom Riddle put it with a smile, indigestible. Those dying of incurable diseases or old age often chose to bid their families farewell early and travel to Dementor Isle in company with someone capable of a Warrior Patronus, so that eventually all the captive souls might be freed.
And so, as much as was in their various capacities, they all lived happily ever after.
For certain values of ever.
(A/N: Yes, that's a hint that there will be some form of sequel. No, I don't know what it will be like. Yes, I'm going to work on FD now. No, I don't know when the next chapter will be out. Yes, I want you to review. No, you don't have to, but it'll make me happy if you will!
Draco and Luna's wedding song, which I decided on two full years ago, is "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts.
Thank you again for coming on this journey with me.
Update as of June 2012: I am now a published author! Go to Amazon or Smashwords dot com to check out my first original novel, A Widow in Waiting, an exciting historical fantasy about a noblewoman who has to keep the truth about her husband's death a secret if she ever wants to marry the man she really loves...
Second update as of February 2013: If you enjoy the Dangerverse, please check out the first original Dangerverse-based fantasy novel, Homecoming, a Cinderella story with a twist... what would you choose? A life of luxury filled only with loneliness, or one of hard work where there nonetheless is love?)