Epilogue: Nature vs. Nurture
Last Chapter: (The wedding night) When they lay wrapped together afterward, they knew that this time it was forever.
15 Years Later
The young wizard put his hand upon his mother's where it was tucked into the crook of his arm. Ostensibly it was because of the manners that she and his father had instilled in him, but actually he was glad of her presence as they walked through the gates of the Azkaban Wizarding Prison. He had never been to the isle before, but this was something that he had been needing to do for a few years now. His parents had originally wanted him to wait until he reached his majority, but they had received word that the inmate that they were visiting was dying and would not last another year. He had found out that his Mum visited every other month, but as far as he knew his father had never once come to this place. Though it was mid July, the mist shrouded island was chill and damp.
The guards at the gate and within the administrative department spoke to and looked at his Mum respectfully. It was no secret what she had done for the wizarding world in her younger years and she was now well known as a serious author, as well as a top potions mistress. After the appropriate paperwork was filled out, a single guard led them not to a cell, but to an infirmary where inmates who needed to be monitored for their failing health had tiny individual hospital rooms. The chill that he had felt upon entering the prison was not as pervasive here. The ward would not have looked out of place in St. Mungo's if it were not for the guards that were stationed at the entrance.
"Do you want me to come in with you, Sweetheart?" she asked him once they stood outside the appropriate room.
"I don't know," he said uncertainly. Now that he was here, he felt like this might not have been such a good idea after all.
His Mum reached up and smoothed his dark brown hair back out of his eyes. "Why don't I come in with you? I've been here often enough that it may make this meeting easier for both of you."
The young wizard nodded gratefully; Mum always took care of him. Smiling at her son, she opened the door and led the way into the small chamber. The room was sparsely furnished containing only a bed, bedside table, and single chair. His Mum motioned for him to sit in the chair while she went around to the other side of the bed. The woman in the bed was dozing and his Mum gently smoothed the gray hair back from her forehead in a gesture not unlike the one she had used on him in the corridor,
"Daphne," she said gently. "Wake up now. It's Hermione. I've brought someone here to see you."
Hermione's eldest son looked at the woman on the bed and felt a stab of pity run through him. Though he knew that she was the same age as his Mum, this witch looked like she was decades older. Life in Azkaban had not been easy on her. The woman in the bed slowly stirred and opened her eyes groggily. When she saw Hermione, she smiled tiredly.
"Hermione," she whispered, "did you bring another picture of him? He looked so handsome in his quidditch uniform."
"I did even better, Daphne," Hermione answered softly. "Look to your left."
Daphne Greengrass, no longer Malfoy, turned her head and gasped when she saw the young man sitting in the chair. Though she had dozens of pictures, it was different in person. It was like seeing the ghost of her long lost beloved. She couldn't stop herself from reaching one hand towards him and murmuring joyfully, "Theo."
The dark haired boy felt a tightness in his chest, but he gently took the whithered hand in his own and replied quietly, "No ma'am, I'm Marcus. Everyone tells me I look just like my birthfather, though."
Daphne blinked and tears appeared in her faded green eyes. She murmured, "You look just like he did at Hogwarts. You're Marcus. My baby boy. You've grown up so much. How old are you now? I can't remember..." Her voice began to shake a bit. "Where are my books? I need my books," she said in a panic.
"Shhh, Daphne," Hermione said soothing her as she pulled a leather bound portfolio out from from the shelf under the bedside table. "They're right here next to you. Here's the last one."
Daphne eagerly clutched the album to her chest. She lovingly ran her hands over the cover and then slowly opened it to show Marcus the many pictures of him that filled the album. Some were of him by himself, some with his sibling, some with his friends. He saw numerous parchments with his mother's neat script.
...Marcus did an excellent job during the quidditch match. He managed to stop the Ravenclaws from scoring any goals...
...Marcus has been sent a prefect badge with his Hogwarts letter this year. I'm sure you're as proud as I am...
He glanced at the bedside table and saw four more worn albums there. He swallowed a lump in his throat when he realized that his Mum had been keeping his birthmother up to date on his life.
Daphne looked at him with tears in her eyes and said softly, "Hermione has told me what a good boy you are. Will you tell me about yourself?"
He looked at his Mum and she nodded encouragingly at him. He could see that she too had tears in her eyes. He pointed at one of the pictures of him and his siblings and began to speak.
"Well, I just finished sixth year and as you can see from the pictures that I'm a Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat said told me that even though my ancestors had all been Slytherins, my personality was definitely that of a Gryffindor," he told her proudly. "I don't think anyone expected that. Mum said that blood doesn't make a person who he is." He smiled fondly at Hermione, remembering how those words had been used often in their household.
He continued speaking, "Da was grumpy for a while, saying that we already had one Gryffindor kid and needed another Slytherin like him in the family. He meant my older sister Emmie; that's her. She was Head Girl this year and the seeker on our team. Da was even madder when my next sister, Helena, was put in Ravenclaw. She's fourteen and boy crazy right now. She's really smart, but can be a real know-it-all someti..." He stopped when he saw his Mum frowning at him.
Marcus hastily continued to point at the others in the picture, "Da shouldn't have worried though. That's Lavender and Luc, the twins. They just finished their first year and were put into Slytherin. The Hat didn't even have to be on either for more than two seconds before that was decided. Da calls them "double trouble", but they don't really hurt anyone. They're good kids, if a little pesky. I just know to keep my room at home locked when I'm not in it. This little guy is Sev, Severus really. He's only eight and we have no idea where he's going to be put when he gets to Hogwarts. He's a quirky kid."
Daphne smiled at Hermione and then at Marcus squeezing his hand gently. "I'm glad you have a wonderful family," she said. "Tell me more about you."
"Well," the the teenager added, "I don't get the as good grades as Emmie or Helena, but I do all right. I got two A's, two O's and even an E on my O.W.L.'s when I was in fifth year. Mum and Da were really proud of me. He got me a new broom as a reward. I hope I'm made quidditch captain next year, but it's not certain yet. I have a bit of competition. It's kind of weird because there's a girl that's been on the team just as long as me and," he looked a little embarrassed here, "we're kind of going out. Her name is Callista Weasley. She's in my year too."
Marcus paused as he thought about what else to say and remembered their family travels. "We went to America to visit our cousins for two weeks when school ended. It's always fun, but this time Helena kept making sheep's eyes at Brendan Michaels. He's not really related to us but he and his parents, Uncle Donovan and Aunt Susan, are always around when we visit so they may as well be. For some reason, Da was really annoyed about it, even though he's always let Emmie and me date whomever we want. Oh well. Anyway, we go there every summer and they come here during the holidays too. Now that we're home, we get together with the Weasleys, Potters and Longbottoms a lot. Emmie, Helena, Callista, and Edward Longbottom usually hang out with me. The rest of the kids are the twins' age or younger, so they do their own thing."
Daphne smiled encouragingly but was still looking at him expectantly, so the teenager added, "I like Tranfiguration best. Grandma Minerva, we don't have to call her Headmistress when we're not at school, says I'm really good at it too. Grandpa Severus said I should go into Potions like Emmie and Mum, but Grandma Narcissa says I should do whatever makes me happy. I think I want to be an auror like Da when I'm done at school. His job is so much cooler than just making potions."
He suddenly realized that he was insulting his Mum's work. He quickly looked at her, but she was just smiling at him ruefully. He lost his train of thought and tried to think of something else to say, but couldn't seem to find anything. He just looked at the two women and shrugged.
Daphne became serious all of a sudden and hesitantly asked him, "Marcus, have you been happy? I never meant to leave you. I just wanted to be with your father and it all went so wrong."
He was silent for a moment before answering truthfully, "Mum and Da told me your story when I was fourteen. I'm sorry that you're here and that my birth...I mean that Theo died, but they said that it doesn't have anything to do with me. I have a really great family and I like my life. Mum and Da never treated me any different from the other kids. I didn't even know I was adopted until I was nine.
"Daphne and I agreed that it would be best," Hermione told him wiping away a few stray tears. "This isn't actually the first time you've been here, Marcus. I brought you here when you were almost two. Your father was furious with me and didn't talk to me for almost a week. I just knew as a mother that it would have killed me to not be able to see any of you ever."
Hermione took a different album from the shelf. She opened it to one of the first few pages and there he was: a chubby toddler being held by a tearful younger version of the woman in the bed.
Daphne had a far away look in her eyes when she said, "I was so angry and full of hate before then. I thought everyone had wronged me. It was eating me up inside. When Hermione brought you in to see me, I realized what I had lost by my own selfishness. I told her not to bring you back or tell you about me until you were old enough. Azkaban is no place for a child to be. I wanted you to have a happy childhood, not tainted by this." She had to rest a little before continuing. "I thank Merlin every day that she and Draco took you in. If anyone in my family or Theo's had gotten a hold of you, you would probably have turned out to be as twisted as we were."
She and his Mum exchanged understanding glances. Hermione had forgiven Daphne years ago. There was no point to the hatred. The woman in the bed had been paying for her transgressions every day for the past sixteen years. She had lost not just her freedom, but also the man she loved and her only child. Hermione could not think of a worse fate.
"Now, Daphne, none of that," Hermione gently admonished her. "You know Draco and I love Marcus. We should thank you for bringing him into this world. Our family wouldn't be complete without him." She looked with love upon the young wizard.
"I'm sorry, Marcus, for not being there for you. I loved you and wanted you so much," Daphne said. "I'll always love you, my son."
The young man looked helplessly at Hermione asking her what to say. She looked at him with her wise eyes and mouthed, "It's okay to say it back if you want."
"It's all right, Mother. I love you, too," he said very quietly.
Daphne eyes filled with a flash of joy that turned into an expression of contentment when she heard his words. She looked at him memorizing his face before she spoke her final words to him.
"Thank you, Marcus, I've always wanted to hear you say that," she told him. "Live a full, joyful life. I'm glad to have seen what a fine wizard you've become. But don't come back here again; this is no place for a good person like you. I won't be here much longer, but don't grieve for me. I'll be with my Theo finally. Go now and let me talk to your Mum."
Marcus had tears in his eyes as he leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek.
"Goodbye, Mother. I'm glad to have met you," he whispered hoarsely before stepping out through the door.
Daphne looked at Hermione who had tears spilling down her cheeks. "Thank you for raising him so well. Theo and I will be in your debt forever."
Hermione squeezed Daphne's hand and said softly, "Goodbye Daphne. I hope you find him and can be together at last."
When Hermione left the room she found her oldest son in the hallway facing the wall with his head bowed and shoulders shaking. She went up to him and put her hand on his back. He turned to her and hugged her tightly. She rocked him a little just as she had when he was an infant. They didn't say anything until they had left the prison to walk to the only apparition site on the island.
"Mum?" he asked her a bit anxiously. "Were you mad that I called her Mother?"
"No, Sweetheart," she answered him gently. "I understand and she did give birth to you."
"I know, Mum," Marcus explained, "but you'll always be my real mother. She was just so sad. I thought that it would make her happy."
"It did, luv," Hermione told him. "You did a good thing and anyway you know what I've told you children a million times: There's-"
"...always room to love someone if you open your heart," her son finished for her grinning.
"Know-it-all," she teased him. "Come on. Let's get going. Everyone is waiting at the house for us. "
Hermione took her son's arm and side-apparated with him to the edge of their property. When they arrived, he saw his siblings playing a game of quidditch above the field beside the house. He looked at them indecisively and then turned back to her. It always made him feel better to be with them when he was upset, and the physical activity would help him get his mind off of the sad woman in that bed. However, he didn't leave his Mum's side because he could tell she still wanted to talk to him.
Hermione looked at her son knowing exactly what he was thinking. Ironically, she had always understood him best out of all of her children. He wasn't as complicated as the others and hardly ever pulled any tricks like some of them did. He always tried to do the right thing. In a strange twist of fate, Marcus was more like the man he was named after than the one that he resembled or the one that had raised him.
Hermione reached up and hugged him once more. "Go on, Marcus. You know you want to be with them. You can talk with your Da and me later tonight."
She always knows what to say. He looked at Hermione knowing that he was the luckiest kid in the world to have her as his Mum, so he told her simply, "Thanks Mum."
He had gone to see Daphne Greengrass because he had wanted to know where he came from. He wasn't confused about who he was now. His parents had made sure of that. I'm Marcus Flint Granger-Malfoy, eldest son of Draco and Hermione Granger-Malfoy. Nothing could ever change that.
The sixteen year old kissed his Mum on the cheek then turned and took off full speed towards his brothers and sisters. The bright sunlight and the rushing wind washed away the shadows that were left over from his visit to the prison isle.
Five pairs of silvery-grey eyes looked at him happily when he reached them and his sister, Emmie, smiled brilliantly calling, "I brought your broom out, Marc. It's under the big tree." He grabbed it quickly and took his place among them where he belonged.
Hermione walked on alone towards the house. Before she reached the front door, it opened and the man who had been waiting anxiously for her return appeared in the doorway. She looked at the tall blond man that she had loved for more than half of her life. His eyes held the adoring look that he reserved just for her and he opened his arms in welcome.
"How is Marc? Is everything all right?" he asked, his silver eyes skimming over all of his children and landing on his first born son.
"He'll be all right," the brown eyed witch told her husband. "Everything is just the way it's supposed to be."
As Hermione stepped into Draco's embrace, they both knew it was true.
It's finally finished! Thanks for sticking with the whole story and leaving so many reviews. The encouragement and suggestions have been fabulous.
Secret Nom de Plume