Lover of the Light
Epilogue: Through the Years
At twenty-three years of age, Blaise thought he would have a life that everyone would envy.
He had hatched a plan when he was young, a guideline of sorts that would schedule and map when and how things were going to occur. He was going to graduate Hogwarts at seventeen, attend university and specialize in business—as it was planned since birth—and travel as much as he could during the holidays. At twenty-one, he was to have his degree and enter Zabini Enterprises to start working under his father's supervision meanwhile handling affairs of his own for the company. If he felt like it at that point, he'd dabble in other sections of the business his family owned, like trading or international affairs. Heading to his twenty-second birthday, Blaise would leave behind his life as a bachelor and fall for a respectable, beautiful, intelligent witch—blood status no longer important due to his radical change and the liberal times—and propose to her by the end of that year. By twenty-three, he was to be married, have a high-position in the company by his sole effort, have done something extraordinary to solidify himself as a brilliant businessman in the corporate world, and begin a foundation for future, independent companies of his own.
That'd been the plan since he was seven. By then, everyone knew perfectly well that Blaise Zabini got everything he wanted at the time and condition that he wanted them. That was just the way things worked. Except, of course, he wasn't counting on Luna Lovegood to suddenly put herself in his life at the end of Hogwarts, but she did. Lovegood fucking did.
He had been against falling for her—as it should've been obvious to anyone who wasn't fucking blind. He didn't date girls like her. Alas, fixing his relationship with his long-lost sister brought upon unwanted consequences: a pack of annoying, goody-goody, untamable people. Her friends, as Hermione had practically shoved down his throat, were not going anywhere if she was to be a Zabini. From there on out, Blaise was to deal with those tossers without complaint. And that's where the Lovegood problem had begun.
It didn't take long, surprisingly, for him to find the Ravenclaw enthralling. Normally, he did not care for the girls in his school, but that was just the thing, wasn't it? Lovegood wasn't normal. She was always smiling, glittering, glowing, talking nonsense, yet being absolutely brilliant...The wench. He never stood a chance! Embarrassingly, really, but he started fancying her the more he noticed her, the more he heard her talk and make no sense whatsoever. Her delicate voice was just so bloody fascinating.
The first time they snogged was when they were alone in a classroom. It'd been a difficult time for him then, a night when he roamed the castle barely there; worrying and dying inside because of his sister's kidnap. She found him in that classroom and sat down next to him. He hadn't heard her come in, didn't even know it was her until he smelled the vanilla off her blonde locks. It had comforted him, especially when she put an arm around his shoulder and pulled him tightly to her. She hummed for a bit and the melody of it made him feel the affection and care he always saw his father give to his stepmother. He felt that for Lovegood, that endearment, that love that he believed to be a mythical thing. Driven by it, he kissed her. It was by far the sweetest, most tender kiss he had ever experienced...
From the kiss onward, he spent all his time with her. If he had been the old Blaise, he would've been inclined to never speak to her again, as he did to most girls he snogged, but he could've never managed that with her. He couldn't have managed to stay away from her because she made him feel hopeful. She made him feel good things, and because of that, he claimed ownership on her.
Of course, Lovegood didn't work the way he did and she continued behaving like she wasn't claimed. She spent too much time with Neville fucking Longbottom, Dean fucking Thomas, Harry fucking Potter, and some other random fucking Ravenclaws. It wasn't until the graduation celebration at his house that he found out that she wanted to be asked properly to be his girlfriend. The next day, he asked properly and the official relationship began.
He was eighteen and she was seventeen when she decided to go to university in Ireland while he planned to alternate between London and America. He had thrown a tantrum over it—what the hell was in Ireland, anyway?—but she had promised that they would see each other frequently. Despite the busy schedules and miles of travel, they did manage to see each other quite often. That is, until she began to travel to Central America.
The holidays they should have been spending together were cut short on various occasions so she could go to Brazil for fieldwork and experience. He hated that she was stealing his time with her, but Hermione had scolded him and tried to make him see that it was Lovegood's career on the line. Grudgingly, Blaise held his tongue and anger about the situation. After all, Lovegood had promised that it wouldn't be forever and that she'd make up for the time lost.
He was twenty-two and she twenty-one when he decided to ask her to move in with him. At that point in their lives, she was working for an important laboratory that was one of the top potion-making companies in all of Britain and he was handling important, international clients for Zabini Enterprises. For being so young, both were fast on the road of success. Blaise knew they were stable enough so he asked her to share a very posh flat in London with him. As it was accustomed in their relationship, she refused the luxury. She wanted to move in with him, definitely, but she suggested a comfortable cottage somewhere by the countryside. He argued about it for almost a week, but when she convinced him to go see a 'lovely' cottage by South West London, he saw how happy she was and he couldn't refuse her. To compromise, he said no to the cottage she'd chosen, but suggested a bigger one just a mile away from hers. She had smiled, kissed him gently, and agreed. A week later, they were moving everything in. They even had a warm house party—or whatever Hermione called it—with their friends to celebrate the move.
Beginning his twenty-third year of life, Blaise was certain that his life was practically perfect. The only matter that impeded complete perfection was the fact that he wasn't keeping up with his schedule. At that age, he should've already accomplished another goal, marriage. Commitment didn't frighten him; he knew from a young age that he was to get married so that he could raise a family to carry on the Zabini legacy. The only thing in the way of that was bloody Lovegood. She had started to travel again. Weeks turned to months and he found himself without her presence more than he'd liked. Their cottage was cold and unbearable without her glow.
After her return from the coasts of Japan, where she'd been for a month and a half, he proposed. He should've seen the signs that something was off by the blank blue of her eyes, the forced smile, and the recoil she did every time he tried to touch her. After he asked, down on one knee and the velvet box exposing the ring extended to her, she began to cry. She closed the box, pushed it back to him, and went outside.
Two weeks after that and he concluded that she wasn't coming back.
He destroyed everything inside the cottage and left it. He got his posh flat in London and focused on work. Hermione hounded him for information, begged him to talk to her, but he gave her nothing. He isolated himself; it was his way of grieving. Malfoy was the only one who understood that, he had seen him do so after the passing of his mother. He took care of Hermione for him; Blaise never said it, but he appreciated it. The last thing he needed was a fallout with his over-caring sister.
He worked all day and drank all night. That was his life at the beginning stages of his twenty-three years of life. Cheers to Luna fucking Lovegood; she ruined his life.
He absolutely despised her, that was more than evident by his raging anger. What was more evident, however, was how much he fucking loved her. He loved her so damn much that it, mixed with her absence, tortured him every second of every day. It was a pain that started bearable when she left for her trips, but it'd gone to absolutely inhumane now that she was gone for good. He vowed drunkenly one night to his father, who had appeared for an unwelcome and unexpected visit, that she was dead to him. Never again would Lovegood see him, he swore it.
Three months after her departure, Hermione had informed him of someone who was interested in buying the cottage. He wanted nothing to do with it so he asked his sister to handle the affair, and she agreed so sadly. One morning, though, she Floo Called and told him that a buyer wanted to meet with him personally. There'd been no way out of it.
A week later, he took three shots of Firewhiskey and headed for the cottage.
When he walked in he saw the place clean and in a perfect state. It was obviously Hermione's doing, but he could still see the anguish and hate he left behind on the walls that she must've missed. Her cleaning spells must've not seen the warm memories that echoed off every corner, either.
He walked into the small sitting room of the cottage expecting to find a stranger ready to make a deal. Instead, he found his demon.
She was sitting on her favorite armchair, a warm, fuzzy blanket that she knitted herself on her lap. There was a dim smile playing on her mouth, blue eyes bright and big, and there was a glow to her that she didn't have last time he saw her.
He was frozen in his place and he was glad that he had been so. Something was happening to his insides; they were burning, hurting, dying, and waking up at the same time. It was agony. She was agony.
"Mister De Vita left just ten minutes ago. He was quite upset, but I told him we are not selling the cottage."
It hurt him. It hurt so fucking much. Her voice once had been music, now it was unbearable screeching inside his sensitive eardrums.
"He's a retired potioneer, you know? I invited him for tea next week so he can tell me about his work. He seemed quite inclined to accept that invitation. I think he might bring his wife and their granddaughter."
He couldn't take her voice. He wanted to pull off his ears so her sound would stop brutally murdering every cell inside his body.
"You need to leave," he managed to say. He felt like he gagged the words out, like bile was on its way up. Maybe it was the effects of the three shots of alcohol he took, or maybe it was that he couldn't handle what was right in front of him. "I'm selling this cottage."
The blonde woman carefully placed her palms on her covered lap. "You're not selling, Blaise."
"You have no fucking say in that!" he shouted at her, at her audacity to speak his name so gently and adoring.
She remained calm. "It's our home. We bought it together."
"There is no fucking 'we' in this! This rubbish place stopped being yours when you walked out on me! I'm selling it, so get the fuck off my property!"
She inhaled a shaky breath, but her exterior was in perfect composure. "Blaise—"
"You walked out on me!" he screamed.
How could she sit there and look at him like she'd done nothing terrible? How could she sit there and pretend like she didn't butcher him? She drove him back into the cold, hating abyss he had climbed out of to see the sun and the new world. Now she was sitting there calmly, reminding him of the times when they both sat together in their sitting room to read silently or talk about absolutely anything they wanted to.
"I fucking loved you, Lovegood, and you left without a single word! If you didn't want this relationship, you could've said so from the start!" He kicked a leg of the center, crystal table that held picture frames of her travels and of them on holiday. He knocked down the frames, one shattering onto the floor.
Luna blinked towards the fallen picture and stared at it sadly.
"I knew I shouldn't have gotten involved with you! I knew I was making a mistake, and now I wish I would've never met you, you demented bint!"
She looked back at him. His dark cheeks were undertone with red. His emerald eyes were leaking tears, leaving wet trails on his cheeks. His hands were shaking and his chest was heaving with force. He had unloaded the hate and misery he had carried with him for the three months that she'd been missing.
"The first few days when I was in Japan, I was contaminated with a muggle disease," she spoke with her whimsical, calm tone. "A cold, they called it. Muggle diseases aren't effective for people with our specific immune systems, but somehow I still got sick. I had fever, a terrible cough, and quite the horrible case of vomiting and nausea. I drank several potions, hoping that it would get rid of the sickness, but it didn't. Almost a month into the Japan project and I was not getting better. My co-worker was worried and a Healer was sent to our camp to help me."
She paused for a moment to inspect Blaise. He was still shaking from all the anger he had released, but his emerald eyes looked curious despite it all. She hoped he remembered how sick she looked when she came back from Japan.
"A witch or wizard is only vulnerable to muggle diseases when that person's immune system is not as strong as it should be. I was slightly sick when I left for Japan, Blaise. The Healer ran his tests and figured out the reason why the cold got me."
If he was waiting to hear the answer, he didn't get it.
"I went back to work," Luna continued, "and I started thinking about everything my life was then. I have accomplished most of my goals at twenty-two, haven't I? I became one of the youngest and highly praised naturalists to travel around the world. I discovered new plants, new species of animals...I didn't want to give that up. I was doing amazing things, but you were expecting me to return. I was only go so far because you were holding me back."
His anger was still there, but somehow his misery had multiplied and took over. Her words kept torturing him. His heart dropped from its place and joined him in the dark hole of misery he'd been living in for weeks now.
"Good thing you solved your problem, then," he said through his teeth. "Go on back, Lovegood. You're free now."
"I always loved you; that was true," Luna went on like she hadn't heard him. "Love is natural, but it's so complex to me. Love has rules, doesn't it? And there are various forms of love, isn't there? I love my father; that's permanent and simple. The rule there is that family is the most important thing and that no matter who I am or where I go, our love for one another shall never fade. I love my friends; that's freeing and effortless. The rule for loving my friends is that no matter the distance I go, no matter the time that passes, we are always going to be there for one another. They don't need me beside them every day, they've got their own lives to live. I love you; that's alternating and complicated. The rule for you is that there are compromises to settle on, differences to embrace, and that you need me beside you at all times..."
She took a deep breath and Blaise noticed the shakiness of her fingers over her lap. "I arrived to Japan pregnant, Blaise. When...When I found out, I felt like everything I worked for slipped right through my fingers. I wanted adventure and endless knowledge. I knew I was going to have to give that up. When I came back you asked me to marry you and I couldn't cope with that.
"I left because I needed time to think, Blaise. It never meant that I didn't love you. I just needed to figure out how much. Do you know what I realized? That love has no rules. Loving you, especially, has no rules. All that time traveling for work, being on my own for so long, I never wanted to admit that at night, when the exploring stopped, I missed you so much. Sleeping beside you has always been the only way I get a nice rest. I am only truly happy when you're holding my hand, when you kiss me, when you love me, when we're cooking meals together, when I'm around you. I never wanted to admit just how intensely I love you and I'm sorry for that, Blaise. I'm sorry I never showed you how much I need you, too."
Blaise had fallen to his knees. His eyes were wide, horror and confusion the prime emotions reflecting off of them. He gaped back at the blonde woman, lips parted, but nothing was coming out.
Luna stood from her favorite armchair and placed her blanket over it. For her small frame, for her petite and slim size, the thin material of her summer dress couldn't hide the forming stomach.
She walked over to Blaise. "I don't want to spend my life without you."
He gulped down a ball of emotions as his eyes found her small belly. If his math was correct, she was beginning her fourth month of her pregnancy. With some courage—with a lot of courage, actually—he reached a hand and placed it over her belly. He felt a surge from the being growing inside the blonde. It was magical.
It was healing, too.
"You are completely unorthodox for me, Luna. You made a mockery out of my schedule." With the same courage that it took him to touch her pregnant stomach, he placed his lips over it and gave it a gentle kiss. He looked up at the woman. "I wasn't suppose to have children at twenty-three."
"Yes, I know. Your firstborn was suppose to make an appearance when you turned twenty-five."
He frowned at her. "Have you been rummaging through my things?"
"You could've been a Ravenclaw, you know? You are orderly, punctual, intelligent, and determined."
"Oi, don't tell me that," he snapped at her. "And don't you get any ideas, either. This child is going to be in Slytherin."
"Statistically speaking, the odds of—"
"Luna, shut up." Blaise rose back up to his feet. "We still have a pressing matter to solve."
"The fact that I completely despise you."
"Quite, yeah. Well...definitely less than at the start of this."
"Did the kicking and yelling help?"
"Somewhat. If I would've broken the table I think I would've been completely subdued."
"It's a nice table. Allegra gave it to us; it would've been a shame."
"I understand that you hate me, Blaise. I wish you wouldn't, though."
"Yeah, well, it's your fault."
He sighed and nodded, feeling somewhat odd now. There was less pain. It was almost as if all that agony had been a nightmare.
"Are you still selling our cottage, then?"
"You sent our buyer away, remember?"
"It's a lovely cottage, there will be other offers."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Well, they can piss off. This is our cottage."
She raised a blonde brow at him. "I thought you wanted to sell?"
"I never said that."
"So, we're keeping the cottage?"
"No, I'm selling it. This is no place for a baby to be raised."
"This is a beautiful place for a baby to grow up, Blaise. There's fresh air, vast space to play, nature to explore—"
"And an ocean he could fall into just around the corner," he added. "We need a place in the city."
"Cities are so noisy."
"The countryside is lonely."
"I hear there's a villa for sell by Bristol. It's populated, but the gardens there are supposed to be quite lovely."
The smile now on her face was contradicting to the next question she asked. "Do you still hate me?"
"No. I fucking love you, actually."
And he kissed her. He kissed her because she was so incredibly breathtaking and so imperfect.
All their time together, Blaise thought that Luna was paradoxically perfect. She was as intelligent as a Ravenclaw and as ridiculously brave as a Gryffindor. He thought that it was that courage that led her to a career that called for exploring unknown regions, coming across unsuspecting creatures and venomous plants. To him, there was nothing that could possibly scare her. But there was; he scared her. Their love terrified her.
There was still an amount of scars that were going to need time to fully mend. There was a part of him, he knew, that did not forgive her. Her departure truly did butcher him. He was lost and broken. He wasn't going to forget how painful it all had been, but he was going to work on it. He was going to work on it because she was terrified of their love.
That was a good sign, isn't it? It was sign that she was human, too. It was sign that she wasn't as perfect as he made her out to be; she was just as messed up as he was. Though he claimed if he were a bit more sane that he wouldn't have gone for her, he knew that if she was sane at all she would've never gone for a bloke like him. Blaise had too much darkness in him that could shadow her. He was selfish, stubborn, arrogant, and prideful. He had always been afraid to love her because she was much better than her ever could be.
The best type of love was the one that was so powerful, so consuming, so fiery that it shook anyone down to their core. A love that is intense is terrifying, but when it's true, that love is whole and healing.
And that's exactly what he knew they had. They just needed to work on being on the same track now.
At eighteen years of age Hermione Granger stopped existing.
Weeks after Abri Vivaldi was securely imprisoned for the rest of her days and Regina Nott had legally disbanded the marriage contract that tied Hermione to her son Theodore, Hermione decided to take control of her life once more. For a long time she let the unexpected situation take over, making her bitterly childish—though very justified—and sometimes cruel to the people that loved her. The Zabinis had been nothing but caring and warm in the ordeal. Now that time passed and Hermione saw things differently, she realized that she owed them something. And repaying them for such true love started with her taking the reigns of her life back.
They were having an intimate dinner one summer night when she decided to gift them with something that was long overdue.
"I had an appointment with the head of the Magical Office of Law this morning," she said to them casually as she lowered her glass of wine onto the table after taking a small sip.
Mister and Mrs. Zabini kept on chewing silently, their gaze resting on their daughter as they waited for her to continue. Blaise, however, hurriedly swallowed his food to be the first to interrupt her.
"They offer you a position to be an Auror and you head straight to the law department? Typical Hermione behavior. Do you really need to go off and fight for human rights instead of bad blokes?"
Allegra frowned at her stepson. "She will not be joining the Auror Department, Blaise. We've discussed this before, it's too dangerous."
Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her mother and brother.
As official Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt had all the power in the British Wizardying World to do whatever he pleased. Being the honest and respectable man that he is, Kingsley never used such power for anything that could be considered favorable for him. That is, until the day he rounded up the Golden Trio and offered them a shiny ticket into the Auror Department. Being the Chosen One, the hero of heroes, Harry was the first to jump onboard and accept wholeheartedly. On the other hand, Ron and Hermione told Kingsley they needed to think it through. Ron had never particularly thought about what he was going to do with his life, considering that there'd never been a guarantee that he was going to survive being Harry Potter's sidekick, but now that Hogwarts was over with, the decision was weighing down on him. As for Hermione, her conflict was simple: she wanted to do good in the world, but did that have to require chasing after criminals?
When Hermione spoke with her parents about it neither of them gave any indication of what they really thought about the Minister's offer. They'd always been talented in hiding their emotions, Allegra and Deon. So when she finally decided to decline the offer, Allegra broke out into a massive, glittering smile and Deon hugged her tightly, kissed her forehead, and announced that they'd be going to France for dinner that night. Meanwhile, Blaise confessed that he would have trained to be an Auror if it hadn't been for the years of business lessons he'd been given by his mother when he was younger. Deon was the type of father that would encourage his son to pursue what he wanted, but Hermione supposed that after having one of his children in constant danger he just wanted them to always be safe; he instead told Blaise he'd be proud of the day he became a respectable businessman.
"I am not becoming an Auror, Blaise. Sorry to disappoint you," Hermione finally responded.
Blaise frowned, a glint of jealousy in his green eyes. "University, then? With Malfoy?"
"I am still going to be in Britain, Blaise. I'm going to see you all the time."
"Yeah, but you are going to a muggle university," her brother huffed with disdain, "and to a Healer institute at the same time. Where is our shared university experience? Where?"
"It is not like you will be entirely alone," Hermione added impatiently. "Although he's taking a few classes with me in the muggle world, Malfoy will still be going to university with you to study business. He too has that rubbish sense of duty to take over his family's company. He'll be working to be a good head for Malfoy Corporations—even though he would've made a brilliant Potioneer."
At her side remark, Blaise grinned darkly. "Old Lucius almost croaked when Malfoy said he was taking a course on muggle international relations. I don't think he quite likes you now, Hermione."
Though she narrowed her brown eyes dangerously at her brother, Hermione decided to ignore Blaise's comment. It was not like she had been the one to tell Malfoy to go to a muggle university, he'd been the one with the idea. He said it would prove to be a good business move in the future when he could integrate muggle businesses to enhance his retail. (Or something.) Hermione agreed, of course. She'd been proud and very, very surprised at his choice, but also selfishly happy. Malfoy didn't say it directly, but she knew he made the choice so he could spend more time with her. After all, he'd been upset for days after she told him that she wasn't going to the same university as him.
"I changed my name," the brunette spoke once more. Her parents looked confused and she smiled at them. "You have accepted the fact that I am never going to look as I am meant to. Removing the Glamour Charm permanently would've been devastating for me, I confess, but I know that my decision to keep my false appearance took something from you, too."
"Whether you want to admit it or not," Hermione cut across Deon. She kept her smile. "If I can't have your eyes, Dad, I can at least legally, on paper, be yours. I entered the Magical Office of Law department as Hermione Jean Granger, but I left as Hermione Sienna Zabini."
Deon was momentarily void of any sort of expression, but his wife was expressing it all. Her honey-colored eyes were sparkling with tears, an overwhelmed look underlining those tears, and a shaky hand resting over her heart.
"You...You kept Sienna's name?"
Hermione nodded. "I know how much you loved your sister, Mum. You gave Aria that second name as tribute to her. It's important for you, so it's important to me."
Sitting beside her, Blaise reached for hand and squeezed it.
Clearing his throat, Deon called for attention. His glass of wine was raised as he looked adoringly, protectively, completely at his family. "To the Zabinis," he toasted.
It took eighteen years, but their family was finally complete...
When Hermione was twenty, after two years of dating, she and Draco ended their relationship.
For most of the two years the relationship was close to perfect. Hermione learned so much about Draco than she could have ever imagined. She learned the little things most people would overlook; like how he claimed to be very selective about the food he ate, yet he always sampled anything she made or bought. He was obsessive with his appearance; he shaved every day, had a haircut every three weeks, and his clothing was never wrinkled. He had a fascination with books that he kept hidden, he especially had a taste for Jane Austen novels that surprised her greatly. When he was moody, for example, chocolate seemed to calm him quicker than a glass of alcohol. Unbeknownst to her, he was capable of loving animals. To be specific, he adored the brown terrier he gave her their first Christmas as a couple. He preferred to sleep on the right side and with his hand clutching his wand; a way of sleeping he developed during the war. He would never admit it, but he hated the dark. When it rained he grew sad. She was the only one that could make him truly smile. His relationship with his parents was far better than its ever been, but a part of him would still tense and glare at his father from time to time. He murmured in his sleep and, more times than not, it was Hermione's name that slipped. He had a fascination with Paris and always took her to a tiny, lit-up restaurant when he felt especially romantic. He tended to squeeze her fingers tightly through a crowd, like he was afraid to lose her. When they fought he was always the one to leave, but always the first one to return...
The list of facts that she knew about him could go on for ages. She memorized Draco Malfoy like he was the most precious and unique artifact in the universe. She knew what rested inside his head, how his heart worked, how his soul was starting to glow, and down to every line that his body had. There was no greater work of art than him. He was exquisite and beautiful, but bitterly so.
"You are a fool, Hermione Zabini."
Annoyed, Hermione rose onto her toes to look over a rack of coats. "How exactly am I foolish? It was by far the only logical choice."
"Logical?" Theodore Nott scoffed as he grabbed a grey coat from the rack. "It was not logical, Hermione. It was convenient."
"Convenient?" huffed the brunette.
A ten year-old boy appeared in front of Theodore, arms extended and chin pointed up to the ceiling. "Convenient is something suited to your comfort or needs. An example would be: it was convenient for Hermione to breakup with Malfoy because she was afraid he was going to leave her first."
Theodore smirked and Hermione frowned. "Cheers, Ben."
"I don't like the chunky buttons on this, Theo," little Benjamin Nott said to his brother, pushing away the grey coat and ignoring the brunette's annoyance with him."Can I get a cloak instead? They are more practical than this."
Theo shook his head. "Sorry, Ben, but we're going to the muggle part of Alaska and the cloak would be too much."
Ben looked irate, but he said nothing to express his frustration as he walked to another part of the muggle department store. Hermione watched over him for a moment, making sure he wiggled his way safely past the herd of women bargain shopping.
"You hate to hear it, Hermione, but that's the truth. You left Malfoy because of your insecurities. It was ridiculous for you to assume that—"
"It was not ridiculous," hissed the twenty year-old witch to her friend. "Our fighting was getting out of hand, we couldn't even enjoy an evening together without bickering. The relationship was becoming unhealthy for both of us. I can't even imagine how bad it would've gotten if I moved in with him when he asked." She took a deep breath. "No, this was the best choice."
"Was it?" Theo eyed her carefully, a harsh glint to his black eyes as he approached her. His arms were crossed over his chest and he looked as if he was about to scold her like a father does to a child. "It's been three months, Hermione. How are you coping? How is he coping?"
Hermione swallowed a ball of emotions before answering. "I don't know," she muttered. "I..I haven't...I..."
"You let him walk away so many times, Hermione," whispered the young man to his friend, his hands now gently on her sides. "You let him leave, always counting that he was going to return, but you must've known that one day he would not. As much as he loves you, he was done letting you have your way. He is never going to come back for you."
The brunette bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling, but her coffee-colored orbs betrayed her breakdown. They filled with tears, and they were met with no resistance. They fell and left evidence of her heartache on her cheeks. "I was scared," she confessed with a short shob. "I was hardly seeing him because of scheduling at the hospital. He was investing all the time I wasn't with him in his father's company, too. Time for us was scarce. And then...then she came along. She was taking him from me, Theo."
She stopped to cry and he sighed sadly. He pulled her into a tight hug, stroking her back softly. "She wanted him, that was clear, Hermione, but he didn't want her. From his part, they were strictly friends. And he needed someone, Hermione, but not once was he unloyal to you and you know that."
She did know that, but jealousy and hopelessness in a relationship was uncommon for Hermione. She tried working on it, but she was just beginning her internship in the hospital and the hours were insane and she was committed to it. She never moved in with him after he got a flat in London and asked because she knew she would hardly be there. She lived with her parents, slept at his place from time to time, but that was not enough. A girl came into his life, a partner that was assigned to him to handle affairs in America. She was pretty, smart, funny—Hermione couldn't handle the thought of losing Draco to her. So she pushed him away. She let him go and buried herself in her studies and in her work.
"You didn't hear it from me," Theo pulled away from the hug, his right thumb running underneath her right eye to wipe away the tears, "but he's just as miserable. Zack and I had dinner with him two nights ago and I swear I wanted to use the Killing Curse and put him out of his misery."
She cried a new set of tears.
"Go to him," said Theodore. "Find him and fix it. He came back too many times to you, Hermione. It's your turn."
At twenty-two years of age, Hermione and Draco became engaged.
Most men like to say that they plan proposing ahead of time; that they practice with a ring they carefully selected with the help of someone who knew them both very well and that could keep a secret. Those men would say that they carried the ring in their pocket and that everywhere they went they fiddled with it and contemplated on the perfect moment to pop the question. Those men would then create the perfect scenario: a romantic dinner that involved fine wine or sparkling champagne, exquisite dinner, delicious dessert, the right music, a bit of slow dancing, roses, stars and all.
It would be quite the story to tell for those men, wouldn't it?
The thing was, Hermione knew Draco was not like those men. Hell, Draco even knew that Draco was not like those men and that he'd never be; he loved her in his own way. So the story of how he proposed involved no careful planning, no music, no dancing, and nothing of the cliche sort. It was unexpected and a surprise to her as much as it was to him.
"That was brilliant."
"You say that all the time," replied Hermione with a small laugh as she cuddled into Draco's bare side.
He put an arm around her shoulders, reeling her deeper into him. It was a possessive. He had lost her before; it was months of darkness and isolation, a time in his life that he wished could disappear forever so that he would never have to remember them or count them as true. It left him with a fear—a fear of losing her. He had a fear of losing her since the beginning of their romance, but that came with dating the Brightest Witch of the Age and the enemies she'd made along the way. This was a new version of fear and made him even more possessive.
They got along as best as Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger could, loved as best as they could, but when they fought, they fought like Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger only could. Of course, he never once thought that they could ever end or that she would let him go, but she had and it scarred him. It terrified him. She was the best thing that has ever happened to him; losing her again was not an option. He made sure she knew that, too.
The night air blew in through the open window and past the taupe curtains of their bedroom, cooling the sweat that lightly glistened off their skin. With a shiver, Hermione pulled on the sheets to cover their naked bodies.
"I can't believe you are leaving tomorrow," she murmured as she traced the fingertip of her index finger over the skin of his abdomen. "I miss you already."
"Don't be so clingy, Hermione," responded Draco with malice that only he could produce. It was void of animosity, of course, but it still caused him amusement when she frowned at him.
She pinched him roughly and he winced.
"Bloody fuck! Don't do that."
She moved to look up at him with brown eyes that were narrowed threateningly. She loathed when he was a prat and he knew that. "I would be upset that you are leaving during my month off of work, but I am also very happy that you are accompanying Harry to Wales to visit Andromeda and Teddy."
"You are the one who is choosing to stay, remember? My Aunt Andromeda extended the invitation."
"It's my parents anniversary," chimed Hermione, "and I am treating them to dinner before they set off to Australia for their romantic getaway. It's tradition, Draco, you know that."
He rolled his eyes but he understood perfectly. "The Grangers are fortunate to have you to themselves for two days. If I knew early on that living in the muggle world was the best way to be uncommunicated and uninterrupted we would've originally moved there instead."
She pinched him again. "And Merlin only knows that Harry and the Weasleys are fortunate to have you to themselves for two days. You are going to have loads of fun, Malfoy. Pansy tells me that Harry and Ginny are just so pleasant to have around; especially since they are trying to conceive. It'll be nothing but love and—Ow!"
He pinched her to shut her up.
Just like she hated him being a complete tosser, Draco hated when Hermione was condescending. "As if I needed more reasons to dislike the Potters." He pinched her once more for fun. "Parkinson is one to talk, the annoying wench. She and Weasel remained two teenagers that just discovered the functions of sex and can't keep it in their trousers."
Hermione grimaced due to the mental image of her best friend and Parkinson always touching and canoodling with each other in the most inappropriate of times.
"Narcissa owled me today," she changed the subject quickly. "She wanted to confirm that we're having breakfast with her and your father tomorrow at Malfoy Manor."
The blonde rolled his silver eyes. "And you confirmed, no doubt."
"Of course! We have breakfast with the Zabinis and the Grangers often, it's only fair we have dates with your parents as well. Besides, Narcissa wants to show me her garden. She said the hawthorn tree she planted grew fifteen feet and sprouted berries since last week. You know how fond your mother is of her garden, Draco; I couldn't refuse. It makes her happy."
She placed several kisses on his ribcage. "Not to mention Mister Malfoy has been patiently waiting almost a month for us to debate over the new law Kingsley just passed. A spot of breakfast and some time with your parents before we are off in the afternoon won't kill us."
With his right hand, Draco cupped the side of Hermione's face. His silver eyes zeroed in and gazed with burning emotion into her brown ones. He roamed them, looked into their window and saw her soul. It was beautiful, just as she was. Behind that brown and those flecks of gold rested the soul that made her everything precious and pure that he loved with all his might.
His heart started beating out of control. Whenever their eyes met it always brought him a sense of comfort, of peace, yet, at the moment, he felt like a shot of adrenaline and desperation penetrated through his pores and into his veins; making his blood run at the same rhythm his heart was pounding away.
For most of his life he never believed in love. The concept was mythical; it was something that he heard existed but never felt or ever saw. He didn't know how it tied people, how it made everything better. He knew respect and duty; that's what ran him. But Hermione Granger challenged all that by taking him to a universe where only love existed. She made him a believer. She made him want what he had only read in books.
Maybe it was because she had a heart of gold, because she was attentive to his family despite everything she had suffered at their hands, proving that there were no limits to her kindness and absolutely perfect soul; or maybe it was due to the high that lingered after their lovemaking that made the next words leave his lips.
"Marry me, Hermione."
Her heart stopped.
Hermione pulled away from him and she pushed herself up to sit on the back of her legs, the sheet wrapped tightly around her. Her eyes were wide; so many emotions flickered through them like someone hastily flipping through the pages of a book.
Draco couldn't catch any indication of what she was feeling. He didn't even know how she should be feeling or what he was feeling at the moment, either. The words spilled out, yes, but he meant them. He had always meant them; ever since the day he realized that he loved her, if he was honest. Those words had just been on reserve for a time when they were much older.
He was about to retract his words, so full of pride that he didn't want to give her a chance to reject him, but then she said, "yes."
"Yes?" He gaped.
Tears sparkled over her gaze and she nodded. "Yes, I'll marry you."
His heart never got the chance to settle down from its frantic dance because she threw herself at him, arms wrapped tightly around his neck when she started kissing him like it was the last day of their lives...
Hermione was twenty-seven when her life changed forever.
Ever since Hermione Zabini became Hermione Malfoy—which occurred when she was twenty-three years of age in a very intimate and beautiful ceremony that was held in the gardens of the Zabini Estate; all her family and close friends present—life had been a breeze. She continued working as a Healer in 's and soon became Head of her department, not to mention that she continued advocating for the rights of all humans and creatures alike and ran a lot of charity events with the support of Allegra, Narcissa, and even her grandmother Zabini. Aside from her career shining bright, her personal life was absolute heaven. Although Hermione and Draco could get into intense arguments, their marriage felt like the first time they kissed—it was all-consuming and brilliant. They had fiery personalities, but all that passion mixed under one roof was mainly used to love one another. And, oh, how they loved one another. Their time together assured Hermione that Draco was her soul mate; that they were going to be together until death did them part.
It was not just her life that was moving by like a smooth current, it was everyone else's, too. Their happiness and well-being added to hers.
Harry and Ginny tied the knot when he was twenty and she nineteen. They proceeded to live in Godric's Hollow in an adorable and quaint house, enjoying the fruits of their labor as an Auror and a Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies. They'd been married for a few years, trying to conceive for the longest, but it wasn't until Ginny was twenty-five when their efforts finally paid off. Aside from occasionally taking care of Teddy Lupin—who they considered a son—James Sirius Potter was their first born. Because her husband was an Auror, Ginny always worried whether or not Harry would make it to another day. Fate was kind to her, however. He always came back to her, though at times a little battered and bruised. Besides those moments of concern, their relationship was still easy as air and they loved each other simply. Their happiness was each other, and raising that little boy that was taking up the characteristics of the original Marauders.
At twenty-seven, Ron and Pansy were the only ones that remained unwed. Raised as he was, Ron proposed time and time again to his longtime girlfriend but the witch never gave in. When they were twenty-four they broke up for eleven months when Ron grew tired of Pansy never accepting the ring he held out to her. They dated other people during their time apart, but the love they had for one another was too strong to keep them apart. For the first time in a long time, all of Pansy's friends watched her be human and sincere when she asked with tears in her eyes for one more chance. Before Ron could grant her that, he demanded to know why she didn't want to marry him; and so Pansy confessed the trauma her parents' marriage left on her. Everyone knew she loved Ron, more than herself, but she just needed to be absolutely ready. Now, they live together close to the Burrow upon Pansy's suggestion—she grew very attached to Mrs. Weasley, seeing in her a mother figure that she always lacked in her life—and they traveled the world together quite frequently. Ron partnered up with George and became an investor for his shop and its branches that opened across the globe, meanwhile Pansy put to use all those years surrounded by refined people and became an interior designer for the crème de la crème of Europe. Though they lived a thrilling life, Ron was still hoping to formally settle down and Pansy was closer every day in giving him that.
At his current time, Theodore Nott never looked happier. In his twenty-seven years of life the graduated Slytherin managed to uplift the reputation his surname had in the business world and build himself an impressing corporation. During and after his studies, Theodore worked in Zabini Enterprises as a trader, earning respect and freedom from his superiors. It didn't take long for him to save enough galleons to start a trading business of his own—Deon Zabini a top investor—and establish a decent fortune for himself. When he was twenty-one he put his brother through Hogwarts—Ben was a Ravenclaw!—and was proud to see him finish his education as Head Boy. Benjamin was seventeen now, a sweetheart of a boy and incredibly intelligent, and was taking a gap year to travel and see ancient cities before heading to university to begin his road to became a Curse Breaker. With what they had, Theo and Ben made their family whole again; just two brothers who grew from a broken home and loved each other dearly. The only scar along Theo's path was Zacharias untimely death. At the age of twenty-two, Zacharias Smith was caught in the middle of a riot after people protested the potential release of a notorious criminal that had caused much despair during that time. Theo grieved for almost two years, but he eventually met another man and found the capacity to love again. He was happy, positive, and at peace.
As for the Zabinis, old wounds started to heal. Nine years after the revelation of Hermione Granger as the long-lost daughter of Allegra and Deon Zabini, Deon and his relatives started mending their relationship. It took some time, but they developed something that he didn't have as a child. He had dinner with them a night many years ago, and that was the only night that everything was revealed and they said what they needed to. Deon's older brother Stefano put away his grudge and embraced his brother for the first time in their lives. The matriarch of the family was beyond overjoyed to see her family come together again, and Mister Zabini allowed Deon to call the original Zabini Estate home once more. After forgiveness was granted from both parts, Deon's parents finally welcomed Allegra into their family. Soon enough—though Mister Zabini won't admit it—they found Allegra absolutely charming, cunning, and valuable.
"Stupid, stupid, stu—"
"Luca, watch your language," a deep voice reprimanded.
"But it's not a bad word! Papà told Mamma that it wasn't."
"Yes, but your father has always been a thickhead. You mustn't follow his example."
With his tan, skinny arms crossed over his perfectly ironed navy polo shirt, a four year-old boy frowned at the people before him. His blue eyes reflected his irritation at being called out, but he didn't say anything about it as he lowered himself to sit beside the girl on the floor and across from the blonde man on an arm chair.
The little girl smiled with satisfaction as she turned her green eyes to the adult in the room.
Draco Malfoy stared back at them and shook his head. The two, Luca and Lumen Zabini, were the oddest twins he'd ever come across. He was well aware that they were just four, but they had developed their personalities fast and gave hint to what was to come. All they shared was the same tan skin, light brown curls, and facial characteristics that were evenly inherited from their parents.
With her deep emerald eyes that she inherited from the Zabini side, Lumen was a little know-it-all. She liked to be in control and always spoke as if she was right. Her vocabulary was extensive at a young age, she used it to learn as much as she could. She was terribly curious; something that she definitely got from the Lovegood side. Though she was dangerously curious about things, she was the well-behaved one. She listened and stayed in place. She was absolutely adorable, too.
With his wide and doe-like blue eyes that he inherited from the Lovegood side, Luca was a little troublemaker. It wasn't his intent to be one, everyone could see that, but he had gotten his father's Italian passion for things. He was too young to handle his interest in things and that ultimately ended up in things being broken, lost, or caught on fire. He was fairly intelligent as well, but he liked exploring and playing. He was also the sweetheart of the set. Whenever he sensed negativity, Luca went to battle against it and brought everyone a smile.
"Are you going to apologize to each other or not?" pressed Draco as he continued to survey the twins with a hard look.
Lumen appeared to be ready to argue about it but she saw her uncle's serious gaze and gave in. "I'm sorry, Luc," she sighed, hunching her shoulders and looking down at the plush carpet beneath them.
The little boy wanted to smirk back but he refrained himself. Instead, he did the honorable thing and put an arm over his sister's small shoulders. "S'okay, Lum."
Lumen looked up at her brother and they exchanged a smile. They were different, they loved competing with one another, but those twins loved each other as proper siblings should.
"Let the meeting continue, then," spoke Draco. "What have we planned for Allegra's birthday?"
"Daddy said that Nonno wanted to have her party in Italy," replied Lumen with complete focus now. "Daddy said that Nonno Deon bought Nonna Allegra a house there, but that we can't say anything because Nonna will cry."
Draco raised a blonde brow. "Why would Allegra cry?"
The twins shrugged.
"Okay, well, what is your dad getting her? I know he was looking through Hermione's office last week in hopes to find what she was getting Allegra. Your father is a dunce when it comes to buying gifts and he is getting desperate, that makes him dangerous. I need to know whether or not we might end up as human confetti during the party."
Luca looked momentarily confused. He thought his dad bought wicked gifts—he should know, he gave him a real tiger last month after Luca showed his first signs of magic!
"Mamma got Nonna a pretty, pretty, pretty necklace, Uncle Draco! But I dunno what Daddy got her. He didn't let us see it."
Draco tapped his left fingers on the armrest of his chair. "Twins, your mission is to find whatever it is he bought when you return home, understood?"
Hermione had been standing by the doorway of her parents sitting room, watching the interaction with a smile on her face and finally decided to make herself seen. Her nephew and niece beamed at her and her husband rolled his eyes at her.
"How long have you been standing there?" Draco questioned.
Hermione picked up Lumen, who had her arms stretched out and demanded attention, and stopped directly in front of the armchair. "Long enough to know that you are trying to sabotage Blaise's gift for my mother. Don't you think this prank is getting a bit old? It's been five years, for goodness sake."
"Revenge has no time limit, Hermione. Your idiot brother ruined an antique with his prank those five years ago."
"A chess board is hardly an antique, Draco."
"It is when Salazar Slytherin owned it, Hermione."
It was Hermione's turn to roll her eyes as she kissed her niece's forehead and placed her on her tiny feet. "How many times have I told you not to involve Lumen and Luca in your petty battles against Blaise? They're not tools for your revenge, Draco. They're children. You should be setting examples."
"But we love Uncle Draco, Aunt 'Mione," said the twins in unison when it appeared that their aunt was getting annoyed with her husband. "He's brilliant."
Malfoy smirked infamously. "You see? I'm absolutely brilliant."
His wife sighed. "Yes, I know they love you. Just behave yourself, will you?"
With a snort, Draco changed the subject when he asked, "why are you late? Your shift ended two hours ago."
Immediate silence surged.
Hermione cleared her throat, fiddling with her wedding ring as she glanced away from her husband's intense silver eyes. He was right, she was supposed to meet him at their place and Floo together to her parents' house for a Sunday dinner but something came up. And something always came up. This time, however, it wasn't a patient or some crisis in her department. It was her. She was the delay—better yet, her inner functions were the ones that were late. Two months late to be precise.
"Hermione," called Draco.
She took a deep breath and glanced up at him. Because he knew her, he had an expectant look on his face. He knew the difference when she was worried, saddened, angry, and when she had something to say.
"I was dealing with results of a medical exam I did on myself this morning." His expression didn't change; it was signal that she needed to continue. "I'm...I'm pregnant, Draco."
That expectant expression on his pale face turned into that mask of nothingness that he always sported when they were younger. She hadn't seen it in so many years that her heart started to beat with fright.
What if he didn't want children?
They talked about their life together, of course; loving each other until the end of days, but the subject of children never came up. He had planned their entire life side by side, she agreed on most of it, but expanding the family that only consisted of the two of them was never discussed. Not once had she thought that the reason for that was that he didn't want children, but she took his silence over the matter as a job of fate: if it happened it happened, if it didn't then it didn't. She thought that silence on the matter, letting fate decide, was a good thing considering that they worked hectic hours and only found time to be with one another.
Hermione watched as her husband rose from the armchair and towered over her. His frozen gaze, so void and metallic, transformed the moment his arms wrapped around her waist and his lips captured hers in a strong and thrilling kiss.
Tears splashed on her cheeks and they weren't hers.
Before she could pull away to see the wonder of Draco Malfoy crying tears of joy, someone else input the interruption.
"Oi!" Entering the sitting room, Blaise picked Lumen up and covered her eyes with his giant right hand. "You're supposed to be taking care of my children, not kissing like a teenage couple in front of them!"
Never far from Blaise, Luna appeared beside her husband and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. "Blaise, it was a kiss of celebration."
Blaise snorted, still holding his hand to Lumen's face as the little girl struggled to pull it off. "What is there to celebrate? She married him; her entire life was thrown away."
"Aunt Hermione is pregnant, Papà!" exclaimed Luca as he helped his sister free from their father's hold. "We're getting a cousin!"
Lumen squealed, Luna smiled bright, Luca danced, and Blaise took a step back.
"Father! Allegra!" He shouted as he turned back on his heels and ran out the door. "Cissy! Lucius! Hermione is pregnant!"
With an almighty glare, Draco pulled his wand out from his pocket. "I hate him."
Hermione just shook her head as her husband went after his brother-in-law to murder him. "I'm really hoping the baby gets everything from me. It doesn't need any Zabini or Malfoy genes," she said to Luna as she placed a loving hand on her belly...
At thirty-nine years of age, Hermione was finding that her life was loud, busy, tiring, frantic, mental,worrying—but that she wouldn't change it for anything in the world.
And today, like every other day, as the noise and chatter boomed, she counted her blessings and gave thanks. Though it left her with a headache at the end, her heart swelled when her house was full to the brim with her family and friends. Especially considering why they were together on this specific day. With a smile, she headed from the back garden to inside of her home; ruffling the hair of one of Harry's sons along her path.
"All I'm telling you lads is to combine the orange pack with the black one. The flames are far more intense, that's definite, but the sight is bloody brilliant. You won't regret it."
"I trust you, Uncle George, but the black pack is part of the deluxe version of the Demon Dun Crackers. Brilliant invention they are, mind you, but the mess they make...I can't handle the chaos. Especially not when Mum is 'round."
George Weasley raised a brow at his twelve year-old nephew. "You're scared of your mother, Al?"
"Yes!" exclaimed a boy with unruly black hair and tell-tale green eyes. "She's scary!"
George scoffed loudly.
"Oh, leave him, Uncle George," clipped another boy with unruly black hair; this one fourteen years-old and with brown eyes. "Little Albie can't handle any Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products—aside from that Pygmy Puff you gave him for Christmas last year. He's a baby."
"I am not a baby!" fumed Albus Potter at his older brother. "And don't call me Albie!"
Bored of the conversation amongst the Weasley/Potter clan, Scorpius Malfoy put a hand on his best friend's shoulder. "James is only trying to get you in trouble, Al. You know if you light those firecrackers Ginny will kill you."
"Am I?" smirked James.
"Is he?" added Louis Weasley, son of Bill and Fleur and cousin to the two Potter boys. He was standing beside James, loyally as ever. And among the gang of fourteen year-old boys that thought they owned the world was Fred Weasley II, George's eldest child. The three grinned dangerously at Scorpius and Al.
James crossed his arms over his chest. "Albie can't handle a prank without wheezing about it, but can you, Malfoy?" He tossed him the two packs of fireworks. "How about you light them up and put on a show for everyone?"
Though he was just twelve years-old, Scorpius Malfoy was not a force to be reckoned with. He was intense, resolute, and un-intimidated. Al bought everything his brother and cousins said, always falling for their jokes and their teasing, but Scorpius was far from naive. He fought back just as much as James, Fred, and Louis.
Scorpius looked down at the wrapped pyrotechnics and contemplated. He rose his head high and his silver eyes scouted around the garden of his home. Not far from the business transaction Mister Weasley wanted to make was a group of girls in their summer dresses that were sipping pumpkin juice and giggling about something. He grinned.
From the group of girls, a five year-old redhead looked up to the person that called for her. Following her line of sight was Rose, Ron and Pansy's twelve year-old daughter, Charlotte, Theo's adoptive eleven year-old, and Roxanne, George's twelve year-old.
And little Lily Luna did as she was told.
Scorpius turned in an angle and spotted a group of adults. "Mrs. Potter, James gave Lily two packs of fireworks!"
Halting her conversation with Luna and Pansy, Ginny's eyes scanned for her only daughter. Within a second her eyes were ablaze and she turned that fury towards her oldest son. "James Sirius Potter!" she screeched.
James' eyes widened, Louis and Fred stepped away from him slowly and fled from the apparent danger, and Scorpius kept his infamous, heredity smirk.
"Mum, I-I...Mummy, I didn't—"
"How can you be so careless, James?!" belted the redheaded woman as she had made her way to him, grabbed him by his ear and tugged. "Lily is five, James! Five! How many times have I told you about playing with fireworks?! Your father is going to hear about this, come on!"
As a terrified and protesting James was led away by his mother, Scorpius turned to his best friend and clapped him hard on the back. "There you go, Al. Little Jamie is equally as scared of Ginny as you are."
Albus roared with laughter.
"Gotta hand it to you, lad," began George as he looked on with approval, taking a sip of the refreshing Piña Colada he was surprisingly fond of that Mrs. Granger had made for the party, "you're ruthless. Normally snitching on someone is considered the lowest of the low, but since Ginny is the mother in this, it's just bloody brilliant." He took another drink from his decorative pineapple. "Also, good looking out for my nephew. Warms my heart to know Albie is in good hands while at Hogwarts." Like Hermione had done, George ruffled his nephew's hair and turned on his heels.
"Don't call me Albie!" snapped Albus at his uncle's retreating figure. "I hate it when they—" The boy stopped his frustrated rant when two Malfoys exited the back door of their home and entered the garden. He paid no mind to the woman—his godmother whom he adored so much but at the current moment was completely irrelevant. His green eyes lingered on the freshly turned eleven year-old girl. She was absolutely beautiful. The rays of sunlight captured her glowing hair and golden eyes.
"Close your mouth, Potter, before you swallow a wasp or something." With one of those muggle pineapple drinks in hand, seventeen year-old Luca Zabini appeared on the scene with a bemused grin directed at the Potter boy.
Al cleared his throat and frowned. "I'm admiring the cake Hermione brought out."
"You were not," chuckled Luca. "What you were admiring is Lyra. Careful, little Albie, my cousin can't have a boyfriend until she's thirty. Uncle Draco's rules, you know."
Al's cheeks turned pink. "I don't want to be her boyfriend."
Luca sipped his drink before replying. "You say that now, but you know that when she heads to Hogwarts come September and is sorted into Gryffindor, you're going to spend all your time watching her, talking to her, and eventually you'll want to."
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "Lay off him, Luca."
"My cousin here is perfectly fine with you fancying his sister," continued Blaise's son. "You've got one fifth of a blessing; go for it, mate."
"One fifth?" questioned Albus.
"Scorpius might like you for a brother-in-law, Albie, but you still got to go through Uncle Draco, my dad, Grandad Deon, and Lucius."
Albus glanced quickly at Lyra Malfoy. She had joined the circle of girls and stood out from all of them. (His relatives didn't count!) Granted, Charlotte Nott was pretty and all, but Lyra was absolutely beautiful. They've been close since before they could walk; and just as he could call Scorpius his best friend, Al considered Lyra something pretty close to it. He was just twelve, but he knew something magnificent when he saw it. Lyra was exactly that.
"She might end up in Slytherin like you, or Ravenclaw like Lumen and I'll never see her."
Luca snorted. "If Scorpius ended up in Gryffindor what makes you think Lyra will be in Slytherin? That girl is a mini Aunt Hermione!" The teenage boy laughed. "Of course, there's also the matter that Lyra might not even fancy you back, Albie. She does spend a lot of time with that muggle boy she met in her piano lessons."
Al looked immediately worried.
Before Luca could further embarrass and amuse himself off Albus, a few yards away his Aunt Hermione called for attention. Scattered among the garden of the Malfoys home, the guests started grouping together and making their way towards a long table suited for the multitude. The dishes had been cleared and removed of the evidence that they had a massive feast for lunch; in their place now were sets of tea and pitchers of milk, platters of fruit, ice cream, and bowls of toppings also were on display and for public consumption.
On the north end of that long table sat a cake that was four levels high. Each layer was iced green to make the illusion of a plain field, and every layer was decorated with candies in shape of leaves, frosting swept upwards to appear as grass, twirled to appear as vines. To top it all off and make it an alluring cake was the giant, extremely detailed, icing in shape of bright yellow sunflowers scattered on the four layers of pastry.
Lyra was born early June, just a couple of days after her father's own birthday. Hermione said that though she was named after a constellation, she was vibrant like a summer's day. 'Bright like the faraway stars, but alive like the flowers,' Hermione would say about her daughter.
Scorpius wedged his way to the head of the table, standing beside his father who placed an arm around his shoulders. As the crowd started to sing for the birthday girl, Scorpius looked at his silent but beaming father and said, "I promise to take care of her when she starts Hogwarts in two months, Father."
Draco looked down at the boy who resembled him and all the generations of Malfoys before them. Though they had the same silver eyes, Draco saw so much of Hermione's spirit in them. That Malfoy metallic gaze was saved because of Hermione and fully alive and brilliant because of his son. He never said it, but he loved seeing the life and the evidence of love in them.
"You're a good brother, Scor," whispered Draco to his twelve year-old son. "I trust that you will."
Though he looked exactly like him, though it was said that Scorpius had a lot of his serious characteristics, Draco knew that his son was much better than he was, could, and will ever be.
"Al will be looking after her, too," added Scorpius with a smirk.
"Just as you look after his cousin Rose, right?"
Scorpius' smirk disappeared the same moment the singing amongst the crowd ended and it appeared tugging on his father's mouth. He frowned at him and turned, muttering under his breath about how unfunny his father was.
"—Me first! Move! She's my niece!"
Shaking her head in disapproval as Blaise started shoving the people of the crowd who were lining themselves up to give Lyra a massive embrace, Hermione ended up being pushed to be beside her husband. "He's impossible."
"He has his own daughter, he needs to lay off mine."
"Jealous?" grinned Hermione as she blinked her brown eyes at Draco. He glared at her. "Oh, come on, Malfoy. Blaise is just going through a phase. Lumen is seventeen now, a woman, and she's busy with her boyfriend and starting a life. He just wants a little girl to spoil."
"Your brother needs a dog," snapped the blonde man. "Better yet, Lovegood should give him another kid so he can stop being possessive of everyone else's."
Hermione pinched her husband's arm. "You know perfectly well Luna can't have anymore children after her accident all those years ago. Don't be insensitive."
"They can adopt."
She pinched him again, this time more roughly. "Git."
He smacked her hand away. "I am jealous and possessive, okay? Lyra is our little girl."
"Not for long," reminded his wife. "Seems like yesterday when she was just a little thing. Now look at her, Draco. She's starting Hogwarts in a few weeks. Time was quick before, now we'll barely feel it pass."
Draco watched her turn to the crowd, her brown eyes focused on the two blonde children that belonged to them.
"Scorpius, too," she continued. "He's my baby boy, but he's growing into a man every day. I remember being pregnant with him, watching my belly develop, feeling him kick...He cried when I went to work, remember? He was so attached to me, my baby, that I ended up taking him to St. Mungo's with me. He said he was going to be just like mummy when he accompanied me around the hospital. He wanted to save lives."
"Now he wants to be a Seeker for Puddlemere United," grunted Draco. "I blame Potter."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Draco, you were the one that bought tickets for the Quidditch Cup last year and invited Harry to bring James and Al along. It's your fault."
Because of her comment Draco pinched his wife's left arm. "Quit being a Saint Potter fanatic." He pinched her once more, she raised her right hand to smack his chest, but he caught it and held on to it. "I've done good, right? Been a good father?"
"You've been a fantastic father and fantastic husband, Draco." He released her hands and now they crawled their way to wrap around his waist in a full and tight hold. She looked up at him and she knew he could see the love in her eyes because that grey in his melted into precious silver. "We have two beautiful children, an enormous family consisting of in-laws, adoptive relatives, and friends, and sixteen years of marriage. Life with you is amazing."
He placed a hand on the side of her face, his thumb tracing the outline of her jaw gently. "I'm happy, Hermione," he said for only her to hear. "You have given me everything I never thought I could have, everything I thought I didn't deserve...I love you with all my being."
"And I love you with all of mine," she murmured back before lifting herself with her toes to gather his lips into a kiss.
Just like all those years ago, back when they were teenagers themselves, the kiss held the same pure love and need from then. It traveled with them along their road together, always keeping them warm, connected, enthralled, and blissful. A sign that with just one kiss Hermione's knees grew weak and Draco's sky burst into fireworks...
Yards from the party, sitting underneath a hawthorn tree Narcissa Malfoy had given to her daughter-in-law years ago, Fate, Love, and Hope watched calmly from the shade. Hope was sampling a plate of cake she nicked from her old friend Theodore Nott.
"Well done, ladies," congratulated Fate. "You did an amazing job with this lot."
"It was challenging, but it worked itself out," replied Love as the wind blew through her hair and the summer day filled with an aroma of memories. "I'm proud of them."
Fate nodded, tears making her vibrant eyes glitter. "Many times I saw Tragedy coming for them, Pain and Misery persecuting them, that it was hard to remember that I knew how the story was going to to end. But they're beautiful, aren't they? These humans." She turned to her accomplices. "They dance a violent dance with Pain and Fear, but when Hope and Love come to cut in, you can see life in their eyes. They love beautifully after so much hurt."
Hope swallowed a piece of cake as she nodded. "Through the darkness there is always a light. It takes some people more effort than others to see those beams of hope, but there are always those who have light in their veins and become the guides for the blind."
Fate let Hope's comment be carried out with the summer breeze as she turned back to the scene ahead.
Draco and Hermione had ended their kiss as the party continued. Draco sat with Harry, Ron, Theo, and Lennox—Theo's long time boyfriend. Each had a glass of Firewhiskey and talked about the weekly Quidditch match they had. Hermione was serving tea to Allegra, Mrs. Granger, Narcissa, her Aunt Bianca, and her grandmother Zabini. The women congratulated her for such a lovely party and Hermione beamed.
Deon was with his brothers Stefano and Jenoah, chatting about the hotel in the Caribbean they wanted to open together. Their father Domenico listened on with a serious expression, but his dark eyes were at peace. Beside them, uninterested with the conversation the Zabini men were having was Lucius Malfoy and Mister Granger. Those two talked about politics in the muggle and magical worlds like old friends.
Ginny and Luna sat with Pansy, watching her shove a fourth piece of cake down. Ginny wanted to make fun of her, but she glanced down at her sister-in-law's swollen stomach and decided against it. Pansy was having twins, her hormones were doubly as unstable and she didn't want to be in the position of hexing a crazed pregnant lady.
Blaise was with Lumen and her boyfriend Jared. Lumen was beyond angry that her curls started to frizzle and her emerald eyes turned black. Her father paid no attention to the signs, instead Blaise continued to grill the nineteen year-old boy that was replacing him in his little girl's heart.
Not far from them all were the younger generation of that hectic family. They all sat in a circle, eating their cake and enjoying the summer day. They talked about nothing, yet everything. James wanted to plot a Hogwarts take-over now that more of their clan were starting school, and Rose asked Charlotte, Al, and Lyra what House they wanted to be sorted in.
"I know that look," spoke Hope, bringing Fate back into the focus and away from the party ahead. "You have something up your sleeve."
Fate grinned. "Don't I always?"
"You need a holiday."
"I'm Fate, there is never a holiday for me. Even now, sitting under this tree, I have started a million stories all over the world."
Love laughed as Hope rolled her eyes at Fate. "I'm excited to start."
"You stay away from this lot," commanded Fate to Love. "And I mean it literally. Remain far from them, they won't need you fully until a few more years. Confusion and Jealousy are up first with them."
"Fine." Love laid her back down on the grass and closed her eyes. "But I am starting with Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy. I'm going to hit them hard."
"That's part of the plan." Fate followed Love's actions and laid down, too. She closed her eyes and let the breeze kiss her skin and her ears hear the melody composed by nature.
For now, everything is where it should be.