A/N: This is a short chapter, more of an epilogue, because I want to spend a little time up here, so to speak.
After eighteen months, 1085 pages, sixty nine chapter, and 340,037 words, it's time to put the Silence-verse to rest. Probably there will be a few more one shots, especially if there are requests, but on the whole, I feel this story has been told.
For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You truly wrote this story-the encouragement and support were vital. To those of you who joined later, thank you as much.
To Countess Black, my dear beta reader and real life friend-thank you so much. Draco says to tell you he likes you better, after all.
To the many, many authors who inspired me, and from whom I took the occasional quote-thank you. If I've failed to cite something, please forgive me.
To the many people in my life who've helped me through some terrible times-thank you.
To my BF-thank you so much. Your support means the world to me.
It's been a wonderful journey, and I look forward to my next project, the first chapter of which is written and will be posted within a day or so, hopefully.
People sometimes ask why I write fan fiction when it will never pay. To them, I would say
"It is not the size of the sacrifice but the love with which it is given." St. Therese of Lisieux
AMDG and to all of you,
PS-Missy: Yes, Harry is still Teddy's godfather. It just never came up.
Before they'd gone to Australia, Draco had performed a duty. He'd spent weeks narrowing down candidates, and finally decided on an old couple who lived near Hackney. Apparating to the house, he knocked, and was bidden in by an old woman who looked like she must cough dust.
Draco took the cup of tea he was offered and sat a little awkwardly on the tiny chintz divan. "I understand your son was a squib?"
"Yes, our Ferdinand. He was a good boy."
"I'm here on behalf on one who can no more speak for herself. Will you receive my suit?"
The old man jerked and called his wife to leave the tarts she was getting and come. "Mother! Hurry!"
"I will. What would you offer?"
Draco calmly set down the bank draft he'd brought. The old man's eyes widened in surprise. "F-five hundred galleons? Is this a joke?"
Draco shook his head. "Not at all. I promised a dowry commiserate with my daughter's."
"Was she a friend, this girl?"
"One could say that."
The old woman was weeping with happiness. She bent and kissed Draco's cheek, still weeping. "Our F-Ferdinand will have a home!" Her worst fear was that her son would become a hungry ghost, and now that would never happen, since because they had no more living relatives, the Malfoys would tend to his needs in the afterlife. Ad theirs, since they were effectively adopting them as ancestors.
"I accept with gladness." The old man signed the draft and put it in his shirt pocket. Hands shaking, he went to a tiny room and, looking around, finally decided on an enchanted toy dragon, carved in wood.
"He was eight."
The old man smiled sadly. "You've no idea how good young people have it these days, with all the protections against disease. We didn't know about Hierophant's Chorea then, let alone how to fight it."
Draco took the toy and tucked it into his pocket. Bidding the older couple, both of them weeping now, farewell, he Apparated back to the manor, where Ridgey had carefully carved the first name. As he watched, the second was applied, and then he lit the brazier and intoned the first blessings.
"Ridgey, have Tibby get Miss, please."
Tibby brought the baby a few moments later, and Draco held his daughter as he chanted the ritual that married the two spirits, freeing them, giving them a sense of place and the world to explore.
He handed the first offering to Drusilla and let her inspect it. Then he gently prised it from her damp little hand and dropped it into the flames. "It's a pocket watch, like big boys have. Remember to wind it." It was made of thin wood, but every piece was in place, and he carefully dropped the little mock key after it. Drusilla herself reached for the second, and he let her explore a moment and then helped her drop it in.
"Hair combs, and a good brush to with them." The flames flared, and Draco felt sure he could see two shapes shimmering at the edges of his vision for a moment. Drusilla laughed and reached for them, then put her arms about his neck instead.
Draco finished by giving sweets and watered wine, and, closing with the proper words, rose. There was a bloodstain on the marble from where Greyback had lain, and it made him fiercely glad. "Shall we find Mother, Drusilla?"
"Yes! Mother' Drusilla yawned and nuzzled into his neck. 'Father?"
"Yes, my darling?"
Drusilla giggled again and surprised him by giving him a kiss on the cheek, the first time she'd ever done spontaneously. He smiled and brought his daughter back with him to the living, and left the dead behind them.
There was one more thing. Draco went to his mother in law one night in the kitchen of the muggle house. They'd been living as much as possible in the present, avoiding any but the broadest questions about the past. "Mother Granger?"
She turned, looking very like Hermione, and smiled. "Draco?"
"I, ah…Hermione…did she tell you about my aunt?"
"Beatrix, wasn't it? The mad one?"
Draco snorted. "Bellatrix, yes."
"She tried to kill you both."
"Yes, she did. She was aiming for me, when she hit Hermione with that curse."
"She said." Anne Marie began to wipe down the counters and Draco flicked his wand, setting the rag to do it automatically. "She's never said how you met, though. Really met. She used to complain about you, and then, before Cyril and I…left…she'd stopped. Her Dad asked her and she said she thought you'd grown up quite a lot."
Her daughter's tall, thin husband actually blushed a bit. "One could say. But she and I…she helped me through a difficult time."
Anne Marie nodded. "I imagine. If I were Narcissa, I would have gone mad, whilst you were doing whatever that awful man made you do."
"Mother told you?"
"Your father mentioned it. What was it, if you don't mind my asking?"
"He wanted me to kill Headmaster Dumbledore." Draco could say it without cringing these days, though it still hurt and always would, a little, the memories of that night.
"When we thought Hermione would…she made me promise to tell you how happy we are. So I am. The best day of my life was the day Hermione told me that she wanted to be with me."
"When was this?"
"October of sixth year, give or take a month or so. We'd been seeing each other since December of the year before."
Anne Marie nodded. "Did she know?"
"No. I thought He might try to hurt her."
"How did you tell her?"
Draco swallowed hard. "I didn't. She gave me a book to read-The Scarlet Letter?-and I underlined a passage for her to find."
Anne Marie continued to study him, and Draco said, very quietly "My aunt was only one of the people who were at our house at the time, Mother Granger. If they'd found out-if she'd tried to stop it-she did try to stop it, and Greyback would've killed her if Tibby hadn't been there. He'd mauled Bill Weasley almost to death just before."
Anne Marie reached out and gently touched his arm. "I'm not judging you, Draco. It's all rather a lot to take in, is all."
He nodded. "It is. It was a lot to live."
"I imagine. But you're both very strong."
He shook his head. "She is. I was just lucky."
Anne Marie hugged him and said, "I think it's time we talked about this as family, don't you?"
Draco nodded. "Has she ever told you she fought a troll first year?"
Hermione was chatting with her Dad when her husband and mother came from the kitchen."What's this about a troll, Hermione Jane Granger?"
Hermione set down her tumbler and shot her husband a Look. "Draco?"
"Draco." He bent into her ear. "Told you I'd tell them. Not so funny now, is it?"
Hermione gave him another Look and Cyril, snorting, bent closer to Lucius. "I'll go and make up the camping cot for your son, I reckon he'll need it."
Lucius chuckled. "Quite." Greg, sitting with his Milly, grinned at Draco until Draco mouthed a obscene word at him.
"Well, you see, Mum…"
That story led to others, and it took most of the night. Greg ended up with a snoozing Teddy on his lap, relaxing into he and Milly. 'And then I started to write children's books."
Teddy opened his eyes and said 'They're good. Not like 'Morella'. 'Morella' is tripe."
Everyone stopped and stared. "Who told you that, Teddy?"
"Snape." Teddy happily cuddled his stuffed dragon and popped his thumb in his mouth. "Well, Severus, there's yet another young mind corrupted."
"Can I help it if Morella is an insipid shrew?"
"Perhaps considering three years old is a bit young for literary criticism might help?"
"Uncle Percy says I'm not too young to start paying attention to things." Teddy took his thumb out to deliver this gem and put his thumb back in with a satisfied smile, then wriggled from Greg's lap and climbed into Snape's. "Least he didn't want to know about babies, Professor."
Snape nodded tiredly and Teddy, attention piqued, said 'Drusilla's a baby. I'm a big boy."
"Big enough to repeat what you've heard, certainly."
"Drusilla came from Hermione's belly?"
"Yes, she did." Teddy's brow creased. "How did she get in Hermione's belly?"
The younger people in the room, especially the Slytherins, were nearly purple with holding laughter in. Snape sighed tiredly and turned to Cyril. "Have you anything stronger to drink? Like hemlock?"
Lucius was well pleased. "This will teach you not to corrupt the innocence of childhood, at least." He smirked hugely and, as Teddy went by, handed the little fellow five sickles. "Well done, love."
The story continued, with everyone adding something as it came to their part. The past and present wove into a single tapestry, all of them telling about the bits they'd woven, and those whose weaving was done forever.
"I wanted to show you-show everyone, really-I just got it before we left." Hermione went and retrieved the book from her little pocketbook, which had served her so well for so long.
'How Much Do We Love You?'
'We love you so much that when we heard you were coming, Father and Mother cried for joy. Then we told Grandmother and Grandfather, and they cried too, because they wanted so much for you to be part of our family.
'We were so glad to hear you were coming, and we waited a long, long time to finally meet you.'
Hermione paused. "The mass published edition is slightly different. This one is tailored to Drusilla especially. Teddy has one too." Andromeda smiled and snuggled her grandson, who'd climbed in her lap to sleep, little face peaceful and calm.
'When Mother and Father were young, some people didn't think that Purebloods and muggleborns should be friends. But Father and Mother loved one another so much they refused to listen, and became friends anyway.'
'At the time, Father and Grandfather were friends with some people-called Death Eaters- who weren't very nice. Their leader was angry at Grandfather, and he tried to make Father do something very bad to punish the family.
'Mother didn't know any of this. But Father was very glad to have someone to spend time with, and he started to think that he loved Mother and wanted to be with her always. But the Death Eaters wouldn't like that, so he didn't say anything.
'Mother wanted to be with Father, too, so finally they decided they wouldn't tell anyone. When it was time to do the bad thing, Snape stepped in and helped, because he didn't want Father to be hurt. Mother and Father didn't see one another for a long time.'
The words surrounded all of them, the names of the dead and the living, reminding them of what had been won and what had been lost. As they listened, all of them had the sense the dead, called by the love they bore the living and the living bore them, had come as well. Vince was resting between Greg and Draco, looking at his niece and his best mates in the whole world, and thinking that things tend to fall right in the end. Crookshanks was beside him, grumbling softly, ears perked up.
Dora and Remus were flanking Andromeda and Teddy, looking at their son with love and longing. Next to them, Cygnus smiled down at his little Newt, who'd gained the weight back and lost the circles from under her eyes.
Albus Dumbledore was to Snape's left, nodding, eyes bright, and Rose next to him, standing at her daughter's shoulder, with Drusilla the elder perched on Lucius' lap, head on his shoulder, listening to his heart.
Fred Weasley and Colin Creevy both came to hear, grinning at one another, along with Blaise and Polynices. Hecuba stood behind her daughter, eyes closed, and was just present in the moment, feeling her freedom, and knowing the world was hers to explore.
There were others as well, who, with effort and patience, might someday be welcome here .
Bellatrix managed to come for just a second, and see what she'd given up. She touched her great niece's cheek and felt a stab of grief, and then was gone. It was a start.
The dead cast long shadows, and those who'd woven their part in the story waited, knowing they'd get their own turn in due course, and that, like everything else, there is a time for silence and a time to speak.