Don't own it, don't make money.
AN: And here it is, the final chapter of the story. Or epilogue, whatever you want to call it. Pardon any spelling/grammar errors you see, please, I promise I'll get to them asap. I just wanted to get it up tonight and it is late and I'm tired. I've loved being on this ride with you all and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. This is only my second finished chapter length fan fic and I'm quite chuffed. Speaking of, if anyone wanted to nominate me over at any of those bloody Dramione awards I hear so much about I'd be more than happy. Also, someone really ought to design the new school crest. *pokes her readers* And I'm off! Kisses!
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
When the dragon finally set down Hermione practically took to the air again, leaping from Charlie's arms to the ground and running across the grass into Harry's and Ron's arms. The three of them clasped one another tightly, though only Harry's and Hermione's faces streaked with tears, and Ron simply beamed with relief at them all being safe and alive. A few meters away Ginny and Luna had gathered with Draco and they had formed their own circle of experience and friendship, as tightly knit as the golden trio they all loved so well. Poppy Pomfrey was nearby too, with the students and the injured and Molly Weasley helped her while the rest of the Weasley family joined hands and clapped one another's shoulders. Dean, Daphne, and Cho, Rose too- they had all gathered and were keeping watch with the remaining Order members over the heroes of the hour. Only the house elves stood apart from the gathering of witches and wizards and magical creatures; content to stand on a lonely ridge and give a final salute to the school which had been their home for generations. Only they asked the question no one else cared about just then: where will we go now? Kreacher hobbled up next to the youngest of his kind and gave them a grandfatherly look.
"Now, we will go anywhere we wish," he told them wisely and they all nodded their heads, large ears bobbing in the cool night air. There was nothing else for them to do, really, although Kreacher secretly expected they would stick around to help build the new school, perhaps disperse amongst some of the new families being formed, and over all go back to their old lifestyle- with a few vital changes, of course.
The two trios of heroes eventually converged on one another and then everyone was hugging everyone else. Hermione barely knew where she was from one minute to the next, so many people kept putting their arms about her. Then there was a very particular set of arms around her belonging to a singed and sweaty torso and she looked up into Draco's eyes.
"It's over," she said.
"Still think you love me?" he replied and she managed to smile for him, despite the shock of the moment, despite the tears still streaming down her face.
"Give me a few months of normalcy before you ask me again," she teased before nodding. "But yeah, I'm pretty sure I do. As sure of anything as one can be right now."
"That's good enough for me," he said and captured her mouth. Their mutual exploration was interrupted by a large cheer that rose from the crowd around them and they smiled against each other's lips before breaking away and flushing. Hermione glanced about to see Luna and Ron, and Harry and Ginny in similar positions and she grinned. She looked back up to Draco, who was smirking. The crowd was still cheering and then it seemed that everyone was kissing someone and Draco brought his head down to hers once more.
Voldemort was dead, the school was burned and she was kissing a boy who had once thought her the nastiest girl alive. Life was strange and wonderful.
Hermione ran her hands up into his hair and pulled Draco closer. She thought the sootiness filling her senses, coating every inch of both of them, was the most wonderful thing she'd ever tasted in her life. It tasted like survival and rebirth. Whatever path had led him here, to her; whatever choices he'd made along the way; they had all been the right ones, for her to find herself in his arms now. For her to forgive every past indiscretion; for her to think he was the strongest and best man she'd known in a long time, excepting Harry and Ron…
She kissed him harder and felt him give a little gasp into her mouth. When he pulled away finally, there was a dreamy expression in his eyes. Draco realized that whatever he thought of her real feelings for him, whether they were the results of a savior-complex or something deeper, she wasn't going to let him escape. He thought he was quite alright with that. In fact, it made him the luckiest bastard this side the Atlantic. He idly wondered whether she liked diamonds before he noticed she was tugging his head back down to hers.
"You damned minx," he murmured.
"Your damned minx," she replied, smirking.
And he kissed her again.
"Awww," sighed all the girls.
"Eeew!" cried all the boys.
Luna sat back on the rock, smiling dreamily as Ron approached, attracted by the noise. He took one look at his wife's face and the faces of the children gathered around her and began laughing.
"Which story did you tell them now?" he asked and Luna looked up at him.
"How Uncle Draco and Aunt Hermione finally got together!" shouted one of the little boys, nose wrinkled in disgust.
Ron laughed again before sitting down. "Aw, that's the best one! Did you start at the very beginning, Luna? What did I miss?"
The group of children immediately broke into an argument and the little boys began assaulting Ron to get him to shut up or they'd never hear the end of it from all the little girls. They had no desire to go about kissing girls at their ages, thank you very much.
From a distance, Ginny and Draco watched the little ones tussling with Ron while Luna looked on and laughed before starting in on another story for the little girls; who were all standing up and fluffing their hair in an attempt to look more like the great heroine, Hermione. The children didn't all belong to the Weasleys, Malfoys, and Potters, but some of them certainly did. It was parents' day at the new wizarding school of the United Kingdom.
Ginny looked over and grinned at Draco. "That little boy of yours isn't afraid to jump in the fray, I see."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Please. That's not mine, he's Luna's. Little Art. You're confusing all blond haired children for Malfoys again. May I remind you that Jane has her mother's hair-"
"It is so Scorpius," she insisted, pointing. "Look, he's got that ferrety face of yours."
Draco glared at her, but peered at the group harder. "Holy- Scorpius!" he shouted. "Scorpius, you get off that boy right this instant!" And then he was stalking towards the group while Ginny stifled a giggle and turned to Daphne, who had hobbled up on a cane. She'd taken too much of a beating in the second war and she had sustained a permanent injury. Fortunately, Cho didn't seem to mind witches with limps.
"Seen Professor Thomas?" she asked politely.
"Dean? He's over somewhere with Hagrid and Longbottom, I think. They're organizing the blast-ended skrewt races."
Ginny nodded and started off in that direction. She passed Harry and Hermione on the way, who were seated side by side on a bench.
"Alright there, love?" she asked Harry, leaning over to give him a peck. He smiled up at her and nudged shoulders with his bench mate.
"Alright," he answered.
"Oh, Draco's with the kids now," she told Hermione. "Scorpius is fighting again," she warned her before sweeping away.
Hermione smiled and thanked her, then faced forward again.
"Fighting again?" Harry asked delicately, though his honest opinion was that if he'd been named Scorpius, he would have gotten in loads of fights as well.
"Er," said Hermione. "He idolizes Draco," she explained. "Thinks the only way to be like his dad is to take on as many tossers as possible."
"Defending young witches' honor, you might say."
Harry looked skeptical. Scorpius was a pretty awful name, surely Hermione could see that.
"And starting fights too," Hermione admitted. "He claims they're for good reasons, but we're at our wits' ends."
Harry looked thoughtful. "You should sign him up for one of the extracurricular courses," he suggested. "You know, karate or something. Fencing, cricket…work off some of that energy." It would be easier than changing the kid's name, anyway.
"Of course! Why didn't I- you don't think he's too young?"
Harry laughed. "Not at all. Besides, there's always the private tutors if you don't want to put him in a class. But I think he'd do fine with a group. James likes his well enough. Why not take advantage of what's offered? Isn't it why we rebuilt? So we could make things right, blend the worlds, increase understanding and tolerance? How can we expect our children to live by our example if we never give it?"
Hermione laughed. "Okay, okay, I know what you mean. When did they make you headmaster, Harry?"
Harry grinned. "Oh, they offered, didn't I tell you? But I had this auror thing I wanted to do…"
"Right, how could I forget?" Hermione joked. "I do think the school is a good place for Percy, though, don't you? He's much less of a prat in an academic setting."
"Yeah, but only because he's in charge of the entire place," Harry grumbled good-naturedly.
They both fell quiet for a bit and resumed their contemplation of the place. After the war was over and they were certain the entirety of the castle had been destroyed (excepting the books, which Hermione had been extremely pleased to find out had a fail safe charm on them that removed them from the premises in case of fire, flooding, or other calamity); they had rebuilt, as promised. They'd scrapped the site of the old school altogether and the new one stood in a heavily wooded valley in the south of Cornwall. It was enchanted so that anyone looking for it would find only another long sunken valley. Fortunately there hadn't been any local muggles to move; and the only people who noticed anything going on were those of the small wizarding village on the hillside high above the trees. Though it was settled in amongst its own enchanted (but not forbidden) forest, it still boasted some lawns wide enough to hold festivities like family weekend activities. There was a deep river nearby and the coast was only a short broom ride or slightly longer hike away. Overall, the survivors (and the ministry) felt that they'd done a good job of choosing a new site and were well pleased. The old site remained heavily warded despite being cleansed of dark magic; the Forbidden Forest was still a dangerous place, after all; and the giant squid and merfolk of the lake didn't take kindly to unexpected swimmers.
With a new site came new designs for the school and its administration as well. It was just as large as the old castle, but better built and less hodgepodge. There was a large, central building with three outcroppings that were the dormitories. All classes took place inside the central building, unless said classes required specialized materials or spaces, such as the astronomy tower, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, or broom lessons. In addition to a Quidditch pitch they had materials in a storage area that they could use to set up for rugby, cricket, or football, and there was a track that ran around the pitch. Incorporating muggle sports was one of Harry and Hermione's more brilliant ideas to bring understanding and camaraderie of muggles to the wizarding world, they felt. Plus, all that extracurricular activity kept the energy levels of a bunch of young wizards and witches healthy. They had a proper muggle teaching Muggle Studies as well, which they'd felt was quite a coup. Ron had looked at them like they were batty, but Arthur Weasley had been over the moon.
They'd scrapped the old names as well, which was partly why they only needed the three dormitories. Having three gave them a sort of triangle symbol and the triangle, being one of the strongest shapes known, seemed appropriate. They weren't messing around with this second chance at life. They wanted to found the new school on strength, compassion and knowledge. The ministry, once it had gotten back on its feet and a new minister had been elected, had initially put up a fuss about all the changes Harry and the other members of the Order wanted to make. In fact, some fool on the Wizengamot had actually recommended they be prosecuted for burning Hogwarts. He'd been silenced rather quickly when faced with Hermione's pensieved memories. So, rebuilding had taken a little more effort than they'd expected, but once they'd received the final okay and funding from the ministry, things had moved quickly. The new school had been built in three years and so it was that Harry and Hermione found themselves, some ten years after the second war, sitting side by side and admiring their handiwork. The long nightmare followed by the long dream was over.
Dumbledore School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was hardly Hogwarts, but it was nice enough, what with its boarding section and the attached day school; which was where all three couples' children attended. There was a specialized floo system which recognized the children and their parents, allowing for the safety of the school's secrets. Oh, there was still a train that swept into the village above at the start of the year and spilled forth the older wizards and witches, eager to be away from home and back with their houses once again; but if a student missed the train there was no longer a need to steal a flying car to get there.
Nevermind that Prince, Black and Potter houses didn't have the same ring to them as Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin, but at least the names stood for something other than centuries of prejudice- on both sides. Harry had originally suggested Snape, but Ron had pointed out that Severus had hardly liked his father and that he'd always referred to himself privately as a Prince. Black had seemed an obvious choice, what with not only Sirius to consider (though he'd had his moments as a complete git), but also Narcissa and Draco. Malfoy had been right out of the question, not that Draco was complaining any. Harry had objected strenuously to Potter, but the ministry had put its foot down at that, as had just about every member of the new staff. (With the exception of its headmaster, Percy, who sniffed with disdain every time he walked by the Weasley Quidditch Pitch and Sports Arena. He'd much rather have had the McGonagall-Granger library under his family's distinguished name.)
Instead of the Sorting Hat, which had been completely confused by the new school and its strange dormitories, students were now sorted by a random drawing of names from a hat. (The hat in question bore no resemblance to the Sorting Hat, which was still used to sing the school song. No one seemed to care that it hadn't learned the words to the new one yet.) A bold red phoenix was emblazoned across the school crest , though each house had its own colors and animal. (Hermione had lobbied hard for Black's Kneazle and Harry had lobbied equally hard for his namesake's owl. They'd given Prince a stag, which Ron had finally reminded Harry was his dad's form, whom Severus had hated with a passion. At which Potter got the stag and Prince the owl.) The motto had even changed, since Charlie and Draco had argued that it was prejudiced against dragons; and now proclaimed, "The Dragon is Strong and Free." None of the new students were quite sure of the significance, though it gave many older witches and wizards pause as they recalled Hogwarts' motto.
No, it was no Hogwarts, but that was for the best, really. It was a safe, happy environment that was new. There were no terrible memories here; no built in prejudices other than those that a few of the orphaned children of Death Eaters managed to bring along. But even they saw the error of their ways after a few months of living with their kind, compassionate adoptive parents. There would always be a few that tried to cause trouble, Harry figured, but the numbers were definitely stacked in favor of wisdom and understanding this go round. He glanced over at Hermione, who was still staring at the tall, sandy stone pillars of the school's towers and smiled.
"What are you thinking?" he asked.
She blinked and returned his gaze, smiling as well. "How glad I am we're here, that we've been here since the start of all this. It's done more for me than anything, save maybe Draco," she admitted.
"Then I'm glad, too," Harry responded, taking her hand and squeezing it. "You don't regret anything, then?"
"I'll always wish some things hadn't happened, hadn't needed to happen," she replied. "And there will always be a nightmare or two. But on the whole, no. No regrets."
"You don't know how glad I am to hear that," came a voice from behind them and then a wriggling and shame-faced little blond boy was dumped in her lap.
She laughed ruefully and looked up to Draco. "He's your son."
"Yes, but you're his mother. Take him. I can't do a thing with him. Jane and I are going to watch the skrewt races."
Hermione held onto her son and watched Draco begin to wander off, a little girl with sleek brown curls holding his hand. She turned back to Harry.
"To the skrewt races?" she asked.
Harry laughed. "That's one way of putting it."
He stood up and held out a hand to the little boy, who took it gladly and the three of them caught up to Draco, who glanced over at Hermione and smiled wryly. Her face broke in a grin and she leaned up to give him a peck on the lips.
"Eeew, Mummy!" Scorpius whined and Harry joined him in heckling the couple while Jane looked up at her mommy and daddy with wide, adoring grey eyes.
She had the bravest, most handsome, most in love parents in the whole world. Her seven year old mind wondered, not for the first time, how she'd gotten to be so lucky.