So, this is it. The epilogue. I hope everyone enjoys it. Originally, I had a letter talking about how this one reader continues to anonymously flame me, but I decided not to go out like that. Alas, I would like to thank everyone for their support and kindness and everlastingly interesting thoughts. I'll be honest, the reviews were inspiring. Sometimes I felt like quitting, but then I'd get a review from someone begging me not to quit and I'd think, "Ok, one more chapter." A lot of the time, these reviews gave me ideas of where to go next. And so, here we are. You all shine like little stars in my own personal galaxy. I love you guys.
Also, I'm writing a book (a lot of which was inspired by this fic). So I'll post back on here if I ever decide to publish it.
I wish all of you the best in life.
"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace."
― Chuck Palahniuk, Diary
Achilles walked proudly down the cobblestone street, his features aristocratically beautiful, much like his father's, but warmed by the fire of his mother's brown eyes. His sister, Blaise, toddled beside him, her arms thrown out to each side as she walked an imaginary tight rope, what was in reality the curb of the sidewalk. Her red hair was pulled into a high ponytail, her knobby knees and untied shoelaces causing her to trip as she walked.
He had been named after a great warrior, for the fact that he was born during a time of distress and that the mere thought of his possible existence had given his parents the strength to rise against it. They had often thought of having children, of making the world a better place for their future sons and daughters, during their darkest days. Days spent camping on forest floors and running from death. The possibility of his birth had been like a light leading them and giving them strength.
He had given them the strength to recover after the final battle.
She had been named for a fallen comrade, someone taken too early from life. She was giving a second breath to the name.
Neither of them knew this. They didn't know that their last name, Black, shouldn't truly be their name. Their father had taken it after his mother's death, as a testament to the love she had once shown him, the fact that she had been the only parent he had ever truly had, however briefly. The Malfoy name would never overcome the stain left by Lucius, no matter the deeds his son had done.
The two children lived in a world of safety and warmth, one their parents had fought valiantly for.
Both Ginny and Draco had begun working as Aurors in the Strategy department. Their legacy had allowed them to begin work without finishing school. Ginny also volunteered her time at St. Mungo's Hospital, doing her best to utilize her healing skills. She spent her days much as she had during the war– surrounded by plans and dying people. But this time, she felt her own strength, she felt the hope she gave as she healed others. Ginny no longer relied upon any one else. The Order still lived, run by Dumbledore who, if the rumors were true, would be succeeded by Draco. The Infernal Division had continued to live, both through the Order and the Auror department. With Draco in both the Order and working as an Auror, the two organizations had found a way to work together and coexist peacefully, something that had been impossible when Voldemort had taken over the Ministry. Now, both the Order and Aurors trained young people to be part of the Infernal Division. The Infernal Division now focused on espionage– spying on has-been Death Eaters and other possible threats. They had deep-cover missions, most of which were strategized by Draco and Ginny themselves. Of course, the Aurors and Order dictated which people would be sent where and the reason for their mission.
The small family was walking through a city, down the same road Ginny and Draco had fled on during a night of panic. On their way to see Nana, their great-grandmother, and Uncle Sev, as Snape had come to be known by his adoring god-children.
Ginny wrapped her hand around Draco's, their Order tattoos gleaming in the sunlight. On the nape of their necks, another tattoo shone- it simply said Inferno, knotted into an infinity symbol. It was a tattoo borne by all of the survivors of the Final Battle- a tribute to the fact that they had traveled to the pits of hell, fought the greatest of evils, and lived. And yet, the fight would always continue. Evil always lurked. And thus, the Order was still running.
Draco remembered the time Ginny had told him she was pregnant. He had been scared shitless and had promptly run out of the room- and then back in, realizing he was being an ass, to grab her face between his palms and kiss her, before sprinting out of the room again- to seek advice from Snape, who had told him the obvious, he had to man up. Draco had already known this. He'd gone to ask the man to be the godfather of his children. Snape was the only remnants of family Draco had left, aside from kindly Rosemary. In the event of Draco's death, Snape, along with Ginny's remaining brothers, would preside as fathers over their children and teach Achilles how to be a man.
And then, he had returned and proposed to Ginny. Their wedding hadn't been big or lavish, but their closest friends and family had been there and that had been enough. After all of the exhilaration and fear, loss and triumph of the past months, neither of them wanted the drama attached to a large ceremony. They wanted to keep their loved ones close, rather than in a sea of faces as they said their vows. As Ginny had walked down the aisle toward him, Draco couldn't help but feel that he was the luckiest bastard in the world. Everything he had ever wanted, had ever dreamed and hoped for, was in this beautiful, fierce woman. His entire world was held in her eyes, his being in her soul. They were like two parts of a whole, fitting together perfectly. She had looked into his eyes and smiled at him, her red hair gleaming against the white of her dress, and in that look, Draco had seen his entire world. He had felt lost, afloat with nowhere to go, before he had met her. And now, he had something to anchor him to this world, a sun around which his entire life beautifully revolved.
The first time he held Achilles in his arms, Draco had sworn to protect the child fiercely, with all the strength he had. He hadn't known he could be so scared and love something so fiercely at the same time. Achilles had seemed so tiny and fragile but, like his namesake, had turned out to be anything but. Draco had watched with pride as his son grew, learning to walk and to speak, to catch a ball and to ride a bike. He had been there for every milestone of Achilles' life, helping his son when it was needed, but allowing him to learn on his own as well. Perhaps he wasn't the best father in the world, but Draco knew, after seeing all the shitty relationships that existed, he had to be pretty damn close.
And then, Blaise had come along and Draco hadn't known how much his heart could swell at the sight of his beautiful baby girl. She had him wrapped around her little finger from the moment she opened her silver-blue eyes and smiled at him. She had smiled at him as if she had known- how spellbound he was, how he was completely under her control, how he would do anything for her. He knew he owed it to his long-gone best friend to name his child after him. He'd spoken to him in a dream- Zabini had seemed pleased and had admitted that Blaise made for an interesting girl's name, after feigning insult about Draco's first child not being named after him.
He still received visits from his friend, even now, more than five years after his death. Draco was still relieved every time he saw his best friend's face– still seventeen after all these years. It was probably selfish, but Draco felt as if he would die if he ever truly had to let go of Blaise.
They occasionally saw the remaining members of their team. Neville, Luna, and Ron had died during the battle.
After Ron's death, Hermione had fallen into a depression- one only George could save her from. They had been dating for the past couple of years and Ginny said George planned on marrying her. Hermione had begun working at the Ministry in the Research Department, while George worked as an Auror. He was still a member of the Infernal Division, his missions often sending him to faraway lands. The Death Eaters had executed Hermione's parents anyway, despite her efforts to get them back. There was no honor among the Death Eaters, after all. It had been childishly naive for Hermione to have thought they would spare her parents.
Harry had become the new Minister of Magic- and the youngest one in history. Draco suspected that it was partly Harry's influence that had allowed them to obtain jobs as Aurors. The majority of wizards didn't know that he had betrayed the Order. After some deliberation, the Order had decided not to slander the good name of Harry Potter and instead to quietly expel him from the organization and let him lead the wizarding world. Draco had been one of the deciding factors, as well as Ginny, in the duo's fate. Their argument had been that, although Hermione and Harry had made a grave error that had cost countless lives, they had done so with a gun to their head. Harry had receded into his office after the death of his best friend and married Cho Chang, fading into as much anonymity as possible, his voice only heard when a new law was passed into effect. He hadn't contacted any of the Order since. It seemed to Draco that Ron's death had been the last Harry could bear to witness. Both he and Hermione had been pardoned for their betrayal of the Order due to the dire circumstances, but would never be allowed membership to it again.
Fred had married Angelina Johnson, the lovely dark-skinned woman Draco had seen him kissing during their Occlumency lessons. She was one of the people they had freed from the dungeons of Malfoy Manor on June 5th. It seemed that Fred hadn't known she had been captured. He had begun working at Hogwarts, teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. Apparently, he utilized a few of Draco's techniques, but not the ones that focused on building a small army. Fred said the children often asked him about the war, having heard of him from their parents and history professor. He never responded to their questions, refusing to relive those times. He and Angelina had been trying to have children, but were so far unsuccessful. Draco suspected her time at Malfoy Manor might have rendered her infertile.
Charlie was still single, enjoying his life while he wrestled dragons in Romania and undoubtedly got laid most nights by beautiful foreign women. Once a year, he visited Hogwarts to teach children about dragons, visited with his brothers, and dodged the questions thrown at him by students about the war.
Bill and Fleur had returned to their cottage. Soon after, Fleur had given birth to a beautiful girl- Veronique. Bill had become the history professor at Hogwarts, being old enough to compartmentalize his time at war better than his siblings. He sacrificed his inner pain for the students- giving them the knowledge of what it was truly like, under Voldemort's reign and what it was like to fight the death eaters. Apparently, he had kept a journal the entire time he was on the run and had copied a few pages for his students. His teachings also explained the questions Fred and Charlie often received from curious students.
But nothing was normal. It would never be normal. Draco knew the other members still suffered from nightly terrors.
He still had nightmares too. Nightmares of torture chambers and battles and deaths- His father's, his mother's, Ron's, Remus', Tonks', Kingsley's, Luna's, Neville's... Blaise's. The list went on and on. He saw the faces of the men and women he had killed sometimes, all of them lining up, their hands outreached as if waiting to drag him into death with them. And he knew Ginny had them too, though in some ways hers were worse.
Draco squeezed Ginny's hand, willing the bad thoughts to vanish. Their glimmering tattoos pressed together. To them, they were symbols of the darkest times and of surviving. But to their children, they were pretty, meaningless pictures, covered in words of a forgotten language, symbols of crimes and injustices that had never existed.
Perhaps one day they would teach Achilles and Blaise their story, but understanding would never truly come. The children would never understand the pain that came with the scars that twisted parts of their parents bodies; or the fear that had ingrained images into the minds of their parents so that they relived the horrors night after night. They would never understand what it was like to be attacked or to kill someone. They would never comprehend the despair that came with losing someone the way their parents had. And they would never fully realize the feats their parents had accomplished. And that was perfectly okay with Ginny and Draco. Perhaps one day they would tell the tale, softly whispered, the violence of it hidden, as Draco's mother had once read beautiful stories to him and protected him from the blows of his father. Perhaps one day they would know, but not today. Ginny and Draco had the rest of their lives to explain the truth- to explain the scars and the nightmares and the pleasure they found in the little things. They had the rest of their lives. Because they would never forget.
And perhaps that was what made moving on so hard for them. For a while, they had had a hard time adjusting- sleeping with knives under their pillows, jumping at the sound of the wind. They had become used to it- that world of scars and fear and killing. And it had frightened them to let go of it, to finally relax and have normal lives, to not outrun death every day. It was like waking suddenly one day in a different world. It had happened so suddenly, and yet, it had taken them years to get there. One moment, they had been hiding in the woods, the next the sun was rising on a new day and they no longer had to live in fear. Ginny remembered standing outside Malfoy Manor, watching the Order spill out of the dungeons, dragging the wounded and dead off. She remembered staring off into the sunrise and wondering how it had all happened. Part of her hadn't believed that it would happen. But it had; they had defeated the Dark Lord and the reign of terror had ended.
They hadn't known where to begin from then, where to go or what to do. During the war, they had always had a plan, a goal and a set of rules to follow. But afterwards, they had nothing, no place to go, no jobs, no diplomas, barely any family, not even a last name. The war and the things they had seen had prevented them from being able to create new relations, they were mistrusting and they were alone because of it. A large portion of their friends and family had died during the war, especially during the battle they had helped design. It was so difficult to make new friends after that. Every time Ginny had met someone new, someone she thought she might grow to like and possibly even trust, she had seen the faces of her dead friends –Ron, Remus, Tonks, Luna, Neville, her mother and father – and had promptly shut down. It was her fault, hers and Draco's that those people were dead. How could she be so cold, so callous, as to replace them? They had fought against these feelings of guilt, of isolation, of helplessness, but there was no way to stop them. They were alone, alone in the responsibility.
One day, though, Draco had looked at his pregnant wife. He could see the grief in her eyes, the knowledge that she was responsible for the death of her friends, the self-condemnation, and he knew he couldn't let it continue. He didn't know if she knew he felt the same way, but he had finally seen her emotions and he knew the truth– they couldn't continue like this.
They had survived one of the deadliest wars in history, but the aftermath was killing them. They had to move on. And eventually, they did. They picked themselves up and began rebuilding their lives. They had bought a house in the countryside, as secluded as Ginny's parents' house had been. They had befriended their neighbors and written to Ginny's brothers. They had visited the Ministry and found jobs, having been welcomed with open arms and praise of their feats. And it had frightened them immensely. Because a Phoenix does not fear the ashes, but rather its own rise from them.
" I'll tell you a secret. Something they don't teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again." -Achilles, Troy