Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter—he, the other characters, places, beings and magic of the original canon belongs to JK Rowling. Bella Rose is mine! Some of the material for this chapter was taken directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowsp753-759.
Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first of September was crisp and golden as an apple. I was sitting on the love seat swing in the garden, watching the sun rise and sipping a cup of tea in my purple mug. I was so lost in thought, I didn't hear the footsteps behind me until his hands were messaging my neck.
"Good morning, darling," I said, tipping my head back to look up into a familiar set of gray eyes.
"You're tense," he commented on my shoulders.
"Yes, well, our first born son is going off to his first year of Hogwarts today. Eleven o'clock sharp," I replied.
There was a chuckle behind me, "You aren't dreading the hour at all, are you?"
"Oh no, why would I? I mean, it isn't like I've spent eleven years making his breakfasts every morning, or doing his laundry every week—sometimes twice a week, or taking care of any bleeding scrapes, or lecturing him on the importance of keeping his shoes out of the middle of the hall or anything," I said in a sarcastically off-hand tone.
My husband moved around the swing and pressed a sweet kiss upon my cheek as he sat beside me, using his legs to swing us back and forth.
"Don't forget we have two other little rascals to keep the house plenty cluttered and noisy," he said.
"I know," I sighed. "But I'll just miss him so much!"
"We all will."
There was a pop as a little green figure dressed in a home-spun sundress appeared beside us.
"Would master and mistress like some breakfast?" the little elf squeaked.
"Oh, Trinky, you know I'll make it when the kids get up," I said to the house elf. "But thank you."
"I'd appreciate a cup of coffee," mentioned the man beside me.
"Right away, Master Malfoy," and with a pop she was gone.
Since the end of the war, there had been a lot of work done in the Ministry. Hermione had gone back to obtain her N.E.W.T.S. after which she went to work for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She continued her work on S.P.E.W and pioneered new laws respecting the working and living conditions of house elves. Though they continued to work, they were paid well, clothed and given the same benefits as working witches and wizards.
Harry and Ron were accepted directly into the program for Aurors-in-training, and Draco had joined them. All together, with Hermione, they worked to revolutionize and reform the Ministry. I'd been trained as a potions master and began work for the Ministry as a tester of unidentified potions and a creator of new potions. At one point I was offered a position as Potions professor at Hogwarts, but declined so I could stay at home and care for the children.
Draco and I were married about five years after the last battle; Hermione and Ron, and Harry and Ginny had already been married. I'd nearly backed out of the wedding until my matron of honor, Hermione Weasley, reminded me that Draco and I had been together for so long and were more than ready for it:
"You look wonderful," she had said to me, as I stood before the mirror, wringing my hands nervously.
"Fabulous," confirmed her red-headed sister-in-law.
"Easy for you two to say," I scoffed, "You've both already been married!"
The two girls laughed as I collapsed into a cushy chair nearby.
"How long have you two been dating?" Hermione asked me, obviously trying to make me feel better.
"Willingly? Or by force?"
"And how long have you been living together?" Ginny countered, ignoring my comment.
"Because I wanted to? Or because I was being held hostage?"
"Now you're just being difficult," Ginny said, her hands on her hips.
Hermione came to sit on the coffee table in front of me, taking one of my hands in both of hers.
"Bella," she said in her 'I'm-going-to-be-completely-rational-and-prove-to-you-I'm-right' voice, "You love Draco. You have been looking forward to this all year. You are ready for this, and so is he."
The "all year" she was referring to had started on May 12 of the previous year. Draco and I had been eating a lunch picnic in the small park near the lake house he had inherited from his father. After eating way too much, I laid back on the blanket to look for shapes in the clouds as I'd done as a little girl. He laid back with me for a while and we talked about everything and nothing all at the same time.
I'd closed my eyes to bask in the sun, thinking of napping, when Draco interrupted my thoughts.
"Bella?" he asked warily.
"Mm-hm?" I replied lazily.
"Take a walk with me?"
I opened my eyes to look at him. I thought about that nap I really wanted, but I decided a walk wouldn't hurt after such a big lunch.
I stood, brushing the dirt off my bum, and took Draco's hand as he led me down to walk along the beach. We took off our shoes and socks, leaving them on the dock closest to our picnic site and walked barefoot down the beach,.
"I want to ask you something,"Draco said after we'd been walking a while.
I tossed a glance his way. He was looking down at the sand, one hand in mine the other thrust deeply into his pants pocket.
"What is it?" I asked.
"I want you to answer me honestly, okay?" he said looking up at me.
"Okay," I smiled, taken aback by his seriousness.
"Don't feel obligated to answer one way or the other."
"Okay," I laughed a little, almost uncomfortable.
He took a knee, right there in the sand, holding both my hands in his.
"Bella, will you marry me?" he asked, fiddling with the ring already on my left ring finger, the one that had stayed there since my 19th birthday.
I laughed, but the look on his face was terrified, so I was quick with my explanation as to why.
"Draco, we're already engaged!" I said, "And have been for quite some time."
"Yes, but the last time I asked you, you were forced to say yes. This time I want to know it is what you want; I want it to be your own decision."
"Oh, Draco!" I lifted him from his kneeling position so he was standing in front of me, "Of course I'll marry you!"
"Even though we fight?"
"We don't fight!" I countered.
He gave me a look.
"Okay, we do occasionally. But it's nothing like we used to! We're doing much better."
"We fought this morning," he said thickly.
"That wasn't a fight," I replied, "That was a-a-a-spirited debate!"
"You called me Ferret boy," he deadpanned.
I looked at him apologetically.
"You haven't called me that in at least three years."
"Well, you called me a traitor last week," I pointed out.
"I was teasing you!" he exclaimed. "And you know it!"
A slow smile spread across my lips.
"I know," I said softly, "And if you'll have me, the sarcastic traitor that I am, for a lifetime, I'd love to have you, Ferret boy."
A smile spread across his face as he directed my chin up to meet his mouth in a kiss.
"So you'll marry me?" he said cautiously and slowly.
I nodded, refraining from rolling my eyes just barely.
"Next week?" he asked excitedly.
"How about next year?" I giggled in response.
His face fell quickly.
"So I can plan it, silly!" I explained, "You know your mother and I will need lots and lots of time."
At that, he laughed knowingly, and pulled me into a kiss before he'd finished his chuckle.
Thinking about all that, sitting next to Draco on the porch swing, made me smile happily. I was finally content with life, finally finding out who I was and becoming the woman I really wanted to be—without pressure from anyone else. Draco and I had created a beautiful home and had three beautiful children: our eleven-year-old Tobias, our eight-year-old Alexander, and our five-year-old Aurora. Lucius and Narcissa were wonderful grandparents, and were gracious enough to give Draco and I the Manor after our marriage, relocating to their lake house.
Trinky returned with a cup of coffee for Draco as I stood to head to the kitchen, "I'd better go prep breakfast, because we know getting Toby up and ready in time will be the battle of the century."
"No, I think that battle's already been taken care of," Draco commented.
I looked at him for a moment before realizing what battle he was talking about.
"That was last Century, dear," I reminded.
He just chuckled at me as I walked away with Trinky.
Once up, dressed, fed and fully packed, it was all I could do to keep Toby from bouncing off the walls as I got Rory ready for the day.
"Draco, can you please distract your eldest son for a few minutes, so I can finish helping Rory get dressed?" I called down the hallway as I helped Rory with the buttons on her blouse.
"But Mo-om," Toby whined as only an eleven-year-old can.
"Tobias Malfoy, please treat your mother with the respect she deserves," Draco appeared, leaning against the doorframe of Rory's room where Toby was tapping his foot impatiently. "Now, why don't you come downstairs with me; I have a surprise for you."
Draco's eyes twinkled, and I had a pretty good idea what the surprise he was referring to was. We'd gotten him his first owl, but saved it as a surprise for the first day. I nodded with a smile as I helped Rory into a pair of tights with little autumn leaves imprinted on them to match her orange jumper.
"Now would you like pigtails this morning? Or maybe a french braid?" I asked the little girl as I watched her carefully buckle her brown Mary Janes.
"Pigtails!" she said, looking up at me with the big green eyes she definitely inherited from her grandmother, "Curly ones!"
"Okay," I laughed, "I'll see what I can do."
As I sat her down at her vanity and began brushing her hair, I called out down the hall in a way that would have made Narcissa and Lucius cringe for lack of decorum, "Zander? Are you about ready?"
He straggled in to his sister's bedroom, his hair sticking up in odd directions, rubbing his right eye with his right fist, "Jus' 'bout."
"I don't think I believe you," I said, looking his snitch-covered pajamas up and down.
"Jus' finished breakfast," he mumbled.
"Obviously," I muttered, and then louder: "Well, you need to get a move on if you want to come to see your brother off at the station."
"M'kay," he said, shuffling out of the room.
I shook my head in dismay as I fastened another hair tie around Rory's golden hair, "Whatever will we do with those boys, Miss Aurora?" I asked the little girl in front of me.
"Send them away to school!" she said happily.
"Well, Toby yes, but Zander will have to wait a few more years," I said, "and we will miss them when they are gone, won't we?"
"No way!" she said matter-of-factly.
"You'll be surprised, I think," I said quietly, picking up my wand so I could curl her pigtails into two large ringlets.
"I'm surprised Hermione and Ron aren't already here," I commented to Draco once we'd gotten onto Platform 9 ¾. "Hermione is such a stickler for punctuality."
"You mean for being super-early," Draco corrected as he took the owl's cage off of Toby's trunk so he could load it onto the train.
"Well, yes," I smiled. "But I suppose Ron runs late, so they balance each other."
"Where are they?" Toby said, tapping his foot again.
"When will you ever learn patience, my love?" I asked him, brushing his blond hair out of his face.
"Patience is a virtue, young man, and Malfoys are virtuous people," came the comment from my husband, who always seemed to be trying to bestow knowledge on his children.
I couldn't refrain from snorting. Draco sent me a glare, so I quickly tried to hide it with a cough, "You're right, of course, dear. Patience is a virtue." He tried to keep glaring at me, but I could see the smile behind his eyes. Rory looked from her father to me and back again, shrugged and returned to staring at all of the other children and families loading the big red steam engine.
"I think I see red hair," Draco commented as we peered through the dense vapor. "Yep, that's definitely red hair, I see. I think they are here."
"Hi Rose!" Toby broke into a run to greet his friend and my goddaughter, who was already wearing her brand-new Hogwarts robes. She reminded me so much of Hermione on her first day.
Rose beamed at him, "Hi Toby!"
Ron pushed the trolly the rest of the way to greet us. Hermione and I embraced, marveling at the insanity of sending our children off to school. Ron shook Draco's hand as they discussed something about work. It was such a relief to see them getting along, especially since it took Ron the longest to welcome Draco into our tight-knit family group. It wasn't long after Ron had loaded Rose's things next to Toby's on the train that the Potter family appeared through the mist.
"Hi," said Albus, sounding immensely relieved to see his cousins.
I embraced Harry, who had a happy expression on his face, though his eyes held a little bit of worry.
Rose beamed at her cousin, showing off her robes. Toby greeted Albus and they all began animatedly talking about Hogwarts.
"Parked all right, then?" Ron asked Harry. "I did. Hermione didn't believe I could pass a Muggle driving test, did you? She thought I'd have to Confund the examiner."
"No, I didn't," said Hermione, "I had complete faith in you."
I looked at her skeptically, but she ignored my knowing eyes.
"As a matter of fact, I did Confund him," Ron whispered to Harry, but I overheard. Together, they lifted Albus's trunk and owl onto the train. "I only forgot to look in the wing mirror, and let's face it, I can use a Supersensory Charm for that."
I shook my head as I turned back to listen to the children talking. Lily, Albus's younger sister, and Hugo, Rose's younger brother, were having an animated discussion about which House they would be sorted into when they finally went to Hogwarts.
"Oh we'll be in Gryffindor for sure!" said Lily.
"Well, since all of our parents were, it would only make sense."
"Mum and Dad were in opposite houses, weren't you Mum? So who knows where I'll end up," interjected Zander from the sidelines of the conversation.
"And you needn't worry about it, the Sorting Hat will put you all exactly where you will do best," I said, stroking Zander's hair.
"If you're not in Gryffindor, we'll disinherit you," said Ron, "but no pressure."
Lily and Hugo laughed, but Albus, Rose and Toby all looked solemn.
"He doesn't mean it," said Hermione and Ginny, but Ron was no longer paying attention. Catching Harry's and Draco's eyes, he nodded covertly to a point some fifty yards away. The steam had thinned for a moment, and three people stood in sharp relief against the shifting mist.
"Look who it is."
Pansy Parkinson—only she was no longer a Parkinson, I assumed—was standing there with her husband and son, a dark coat set her sharply against the white mist. Her hair was longer than it had been in school and was pulled back in an elaborate twist. The young girl beside her resembled her almost precisely as Albus resembled Harry. She caught sight of us staring at her and nodded curtly, turning away again.
"So that's little Amaryllis," said Draco under his breath.
"She looks just like her mother," I breathed to my husband. Though I had never been jealous of Pansy, she had still pursued Draco throughout our years at Hogwarts and even after. She made me uncomfortable. Draco obviously sensed this, and took my hand. I looked into his face, which met mine with an expression of "don't-be-ridiculous" mixed with "I-love-you-more-than-anything."
"Make sure you beat her at every test, Rosie. Thank God you inherited your mother's brains," Ron's comment pulled me back to reality.
"Ron, for heaven's sake," said Hermione, half stern, half amused. "Don't try to turn them against each other before they've even started school!"
"You're right, sorry," said Ron, but unable to help himself, he added. "Don't get too friendly with her, though, Rosie. Auntie Bella would never forgive you if you befriended a Parkinson relative."
"Ronald!" I burst out.
Rose just laughed, "Auntie Bella's too nice to think that."
"Thank you, Rose. At least you inherited your mother's sensibility," I glared at Ron.
"Hm-mm," Draco cleared his throat to ease the tension, but he was interrupted:
James had finally appeared; he had divested himself of his school things, and was evidently bursting with news.
"Teddy's back there," he said breathlessly, pointing back over his shoulder into the billowing clouds of steam. "Just seen him! And guess what he's doing? Snogging Victoire!"
He gazed up at us adults, evidently disappointed in our lack of reaction.
"Our Teddy! Teddy Lupin! Snogging our Victoire. Our cousin! And I asked Teddy what he was doing—"
"You interrupted them?" said Ginny. "You are so like Ron—"
"—and he said he'd come to see her off! And then he told me to go away. He's snogging her!" James added as though worried he had not made himself clear.
"Oh, it would be lovely if they got married!" whispered Lily ecstatically. "Teddy would really be part of the family then!"
"He already comes round for dinner about four times a week," said Harry. "Why don't we just invite him to live with us and have done with it?"
"Yeah!" said James enthusiastically. "I don't mind sharing with Al—Teddy could have my room!"
"No," said Harry firmly, "you and Al will share a room only when I want the house demolished."
He checked the battered old watch that had once been Fabian Prewett's.
"It's nearly eleven, you'd better get on board."
"Don't forget to give Neville our love!" Ginny told James as she hugged him.
"Mum! I can't give a professor love!"
"But you know Neville—"
James rolled his eyes.
"Outside, yeah, but at schools he's Professor Longbottom, isn't he? I can't walk into Herbology and give him love..."
Shaking his head at his mother's foolishness, he vented his feelings by aiming a kick at Albus.
"See you later, Al. Watch out for the thestrals."
"I thought they were invisible? You said they were invisible!"
But James merely laughed, permitted his mother to kiss him, gave his father a fleeting hug, then leapt onto the rapidly filling train. He waved, then sprinted away up the corridor to find his friends.
"Thestrals are nothing to worry about," Harry reassured the three first years, especially Albus. "They're gentle things, there's nothing scary about them. Anyway, you won't be going up to school in the carriages, you'll be going in boats."
Ginny kissed Albus good-bye. Harry hugged him.
I turned to my own son. "You be good, Tobias," I said, my voice wavering. "Learn a lot, be kind, have fun, remember your manners..."
Toby began to roll his eyes and Draco patted my shoulder to calm me down.
"Make us proud," Draco said in a stern manner that reminded me a little too much of his own father.
I pushed Zander and Rory forward to say goodbye to their older brother. Rory began to cry. Much to my surprise, her eldest brother knelt in front of her to give her a hug. "I'll write to you as often as I can, Rory, and tell you all you have to look forward to. Christmas will be here before you know it!"
When he released her, Rory ran straight into my arms. I picked her up as she buried her face in my shoulder.
"I'm already proud of you," I whispered to Toby as I kissed the top of his head.
He looked into my eyes as I teared up. He had always been acutely aware of my emotional reactions, and I knew he was feeling just a little guilty that he was leaving me because it made me sad.
"Go on," I pushed him towards the train with my free arm. "See you at Christmas."
I turned back to stand by Draco, who had his arm around Zander. I saw that Harry was crouched down, reassuring Albus of something. Ginny could obviously hear, but was being ever tactful, pretending to be waving to Rose and Toby, now settled on the train, but hanging out the window.
"Are we having dinner Friday night?" I asked Hermione, referring to the tradition we'd kept since the end of the war. As the Golden Quartet, one of us had made dinner for the other three every Friday night. Ginny joined after she and Harry married, and slowly Draco was incorporated as the others became more and more comfortable with him being around. Not surprisingly, Ron was the last to accept him, only doing so when he realized Draco was the Wizard's Chess adversary he'd always waited for. This was exceptionally convenient for the rest of us, because we'd much rather play Exploding Snap or a Muggle board game than be subjected to hours of Wizard's Chess with either of those men.
"Of course," Hermione responded, blowing a kiss to Rose.
"I think we should meet at our place this week," I commented, "I have a strange feeling the house is going to be too quiet."
"I think we all have that feeling," Ron commented.
The doors were slamming all along the scarlet train, and the blurred outlines of parents were swarming forward for final kisses, last-minute reminders. Albus turned from his father, his face beaming, and I knew Harry had found the exact right thing to say to his son, who seemed so worried about his first year at school and living up to his brother's and parents' achievements. Albus jumped into the carriage and Ginny closed the door behind him. Students were hanging from the windows nearest them. A great number of faces, both on the train and off, seemed to be turned toward Harry.
"Why are they all staring?" demanded Albus as he, Toby and Rose craned around to look at the other students.
"Don't let it worry you," said Ron. "It's me. I'm extremely famous."
Albus, Toby, Rose, Hugo, and Lily laughed. Hermione, Ginny and I just rolled our eyes. The train began to move, and I walked alongside it, watching my son's thin face, already ablaze with excitement. I kept waving, though my smile faded; it was like a little bereavement, watching my son glide away from me...
The last trace of steam evaporated in the autumn air. The train rounded a corner. My hand dropped to my side, and a warmer hand took it.
"He'll be all right," Draco murmured to me.
I looked at him.
"I know," I said, turning to kiss my husband. Over his shoulder, I saw Harry touch the lightning scar on his forehead, absentmindedly. I caught his gaze over his own wife's shoulder.
"I know he will," I heard Harry murmur to Ginny, knowing she had just reassured her husband of the same thing Draco had just reassured me. And from the glint in Harry's eyes, I knew that that scar had not pained him for eighteen years. All was well.
AN: So, in this version, Rose was named after Arabella's middle name, hence why she is the godmother. Toby's name comes from Snape's father. Alexander was chosen last minute partly because it means "Defender of the people" and partly because Moody's first name (Alastor) is the Scottish form of Alexander. Aurora means "Goddess of the Dawn" and kind of came from Sleeping Beauty, since I'm pretty sure that little girl created by Draco and Bella would look like that Aurora, but also because I love that name. I hope you enjoyed!
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you to all of you have read this story, even more to those who have reviewed. Without you all, I wouldn't have completed it. So yes, this is the end of the road for Bella's Story.
I have gotten a couple of requests for sequels. I'm not promising anything because I'm looking forward to working on my own original works. Buuuuuuuuut, I will confess I have ideas for more flashbacks for Bella as well as stories about her kids in my head. I have also contemplated a story about Ann Marie at school. Sooooooo, depending on how many requests I get for sequels or another story entirely, I may do one (or two...). But I'm warning you, nothing will appear for at least a couple months.
Thanks for sticking with Bella to the bitter end!