A/N: This is it. The end is here. I cannot express how grateful I am to have received such brilliant reviews in the last few weeks. Your words of kindness and positivity really have turned this story into something amazing. When I started this I had no idea where it was going to end up and I was apprehensive about it at first. Thanks to all of your kind comments I carried through and have perhaps written one of my best pieces of work ever. This story is now my little baby and I have put my heart and soul in it. We have reached our end. I thank you all.


Chapter 26

5 years later

She slowly turned to gaze out of the window. She held the wine glass in her hands; her fingers absentmindedly followed its shape. It was half empty. The bottle stood on the table. Thick drops of rain slid down the glass. Rain was falling steadily from the grey skies, covering the streets with massive puddles. Most of the trees had lost their leaves in the last few days. Autumn was really here. The days became shorter and the weather had changed. The warmth and comfort of summer had slowly faded, only to be replaced by thunderstorms and rain showers. She brushed a string of long curly hair out of her face, pushing it securely behind her air. One of her hands carefully reached for the window and touched the cold glass. On the outside the raindrops kept sliding down. Untouchable. Out of reach. She sighed and her eyes fluttered shut as she rested her forehead against the cold glass.

The living room was dimly lit by several candles. Their flames flickered in the darkness. The shadows on the wall were comforting and frightening at the same time. She no longer feared the shadows. Whatever used to linger in them was no more. She deeply sighed before she brought her glass to her lips and drank from the red wine. As it touched her lips she could feel tears well up behind her eyes and with a brisk gesture she brushed them away. She placed the glass back on the table and her eyes drifted back to the window. The garden was being brutally battered by the rain.

It had been five years since the night Lord Voldemort was killed. She could still recall his empty eyes as the red colour had faded. How he lay still, like all of those who had died before him. She remembered all of them. Many nights she would see them die all over again but as the months and years had begun to pass the nightmares slowly faded too. But still, at least once a week, she would wake up with a start in the middle of the night. Small beads of perspiration on her forehead and in those split seconds she would always believe she could see a pair dark brown eyes lingering on her. But as soon as she blinked they were gone.

"I sincerely hope you did not intend to drink that whole bottle on your own," said Narcissa from the open door. She walked into the living room of the house she now shared with Hermione. It was a familiar room. It had been so for many years. Malfoy Manor had found back its original charm but it found something it had never known before. Kindness and warmth. She strode across the room and wrapped her arms safely around Hermione's waist. Soft lips kissed her in the back of her neck. Hermione leant back against the comforting warmth of Narcissa's body.

"I was going to but you are free to help me if you want," Hermione smiled, her eyes still lingering on the wet, rainy world outside. Narcissa too looked outside. "Why is it that during these hours it sometimes feels as if nothing has changed?"

"Because it is in the darkness we struggle to find the light and see the changes that really do have taken place," Narcissa whispered softly and rested her head on Hermione's shoulders. The younger witch's hands took Narcissa's into her own. She smiled. Being together like this was what made her feel safe and warm. "By the time morning comes everything will be like it was before. You will step outside and forget you even felt this way."

Hermione nodded. She knew those words were true. Since the death of Lord Voldermort the world had changed rapidly. During the dark months of his reign so many had suffered but it almost seemed a distant, dark dream today. People had found their strength back and had moved on in life. The Ministry had rounded up many of the Death Eaters and started prosecuting many of them in the aftermath of Voldemort's death. The only reason why she stood here tonight, with Narcissa's arms around her, was that they had been responsible for his death. It was the fact they turned on their master that spared them prosecution. It did however not spare them from the piercing looks of contempt, disgust and fear when they did go out in public.

The Malfoy divorce had been measured out broadly in the Daily Prophet in the weeks after Voldemort's fall, especially when the story about Narcissa living with Hermione Black in Malfoy Manor was leaked to the public. Lucius did not only lose his wife, he was also sentenced to spend the next ten years in Azkaban for his actions as a Death Eater. He never once attempted to plead for his innocence. The man that stood in the dock at the day of his sentencing did not resemble the pure blood wizard Hermione had once known. His arrogance had evaporated and he looked weak and old. Five of those years in Azkaban had passed now. And Hermione could not remember the last time they had heard from him. His name no longer lingered between the walls of the house that was once his home.

But most of all, Hermione had been forced to come to terms with what she had done. The knowledge that she had been the one who killed Harry Potter followed her every day. Though she had realized, and with her many others, that if perhaps she had not killed him when she did the war would not have ended. But it did not erase the feelings of guilt that had invaded her chest. Narcissa at the same time had to live with the feelings after having taken the life of Minerva McGonnagal. They both would carry these stains on their lives with them forever, until the day they died. It was a burden they had to carry and in the aftermath of the war, both had come to realize that they would not want it any other way.

"I saw Molly Weasley yesterday," Narcissa murmured into Hermione's brown curls. Her young lover smelled of roses and vanilla and she took a deep breath in. Hermione tensed up underneath Narcissa's hands at the mentioning of Molly Weasley's name. "In Diagon Alley. She was there with Ronald and Ginevra. Apparently Ginevra is getting married soon."

Hermione swallowed. Since the battle at the Burrow in which both Minerva McGonnagal and Fred Weasley had died she had only set eyes upon the Weasleys a hand full of times. She had never found herself in a more uncomfortable situation then during the moments she met them. In the beginning they hadn't spoken to each other. Then the deadly silences were replaced with a curt nod. The last time she had run into Ronald Weasley he had stopped and asked her whilst stuttering over his words "You all right, Hermione?" That was eight months ago. She knew he had asked her because of her situation. She had seen his eyes. She had muttered a polite reply and just about managed to return the question. He too told her he was fine.

"She asked if perhaps we would like to meet for tea some time," Narcissa spoke, her voice shaking. It had been painfully awkward finding their way back into a world that held them responsible for so much of the suffering. But slowly it seemed people let go of their judgements and as the years passed it seemed that most had moved on. It was now just their own guilt that haunted them. "She said she'd love to see you again, Hermione. All of us."

Hermione shook her head. It was hard to believe Mrs Weasley would say such a thing after everything that had happened and yet she knew her well enough to know she had not lied. The years had eased the pain for everybody. She turned to face Narcissa. Tear filled hazel brown eyes met blue and she slowly rolled up the sleeve on her left arm.

"This happened today," she whispered and held out her arm for Narcissa to see. Her skin was pale. But most of all it was bare. The final shadows and lines of where the Dark Mark had once been burned into her skin had faded. She had never known any Dark Mark to disappear on anyone. "I don't know why or how but it has truly vanished."

Narcissa leant in. Her lips brushed against Hermione's and she ran her brown curls through her fingers. Hermione answered her kiss, her eyes fluttering shut under her touch. Narcissa's voice was reduced to a whisper. Her breath warm against Hermione's skin. "It does not matter why, my love. It is gone. It means there lies a new future ahead of us. With all the changes that come with it. All you need to do is keep your head up high and allow yourself to look into this new world." Her fingers stroked the part of Hermione's arm where the Mark had once been. "It means it is over."

Hermione nodded. She smiled. "Perhaps we should talk about a lighter subject, Cissy." She pointed at the bottle of wine and both witches sat down on the sofa. Narcissa magically made another glass appear and Hermione filled it. They toasted each other with a silent smile and sipped from the wine. Hermione glanced at her lover. Narcissa was still as beautiful as the first day she met her. "When is Draco coming?"

That had been another thing. After the fall of Voldermort Draco had fully learned to which extent the relationship between his mother and Hermione went. He had appeared shocked but supportive and one night he had spoken to Hermione in confidence, telling her he had never seen his mother look at anyone like she looked at her. Not even his father. And when the divorce came through he was the first to ignore his father as he rotted in a cell in Azkaban. He moved out not long after but returned every other weekend. And these days he came with his fiancée.

"Tomorrow afternoon," Narcissa leant back and let her fingers run through her long blonde hair, blue eyes looked at Hermione. She smirked. "They said they have something exciting to tell us but he refused to tell me what it was. He said they would tell us when they see us. I truly hope he has not taken on that job in Spain, you know. I am not sure if I'd want my son to move away that far."

The unexpected sound of a baby crying made both witches look up and Narcissa could not suppress a sigh. She pushed herself of the sofa and started for the door. Hermione watched her for moment, a warm feeling flooded through her heart. "You'd think that by now she would sleep through the night." She rolled her eyes and then glanced at Hermione who also stood up from the sofa and followed Narcissa through the hallway "When did you give the last bottle?"

"Two hours ago," Hermione answered as they climbed the marble staircase. Most of the Malfoy portraits had been removed over the years and the Manor had been redecorated in certain parts. They reached the landing and walked into the bedroom adjacent to their own. It had been turned into a cream coloured baby room. It was dimly lit by a small chandelier on the ceiling. The curtains were drawn but through a small crack silver moonlight fell on the floor. The cot stood by the wall and Hermione walked over whilst Narcissa waited in the open door way. Hermione leant over and picked up the crying child and carefully rocked her in her arms.

"Ssssh, Bella, there is no need to cry," she whispered as she brushed the dark curls out of the baby's face. Her hair was growing remarkably fast and needed cutting every three to four weeks. It was one of those curious things about magic that could not be explained. A pair of sparkling blue eyes looked up into Hermione's face and the crying almost instantly stopped. A little smile fell over the child's face as she recognised her mother.

"Perhaps she had a bad dream," Narcissa said as she strolled into the room and looked over Hermione's shoulder and softly tickled her daughter's cheek. The smile on the baby girl's face widened as she attempted to grab hold of Narcissa's finger. Narcissa then kissed Hermione somewhere in her hair. The situation almost seemed like a dream. Never had she believed she got another chance to do things different. But the chance had been granted. "She seems to have taken over your bad sleeping habits."

Hermione smiled at the comment. She sat down in the rocking chair in the corner of the room. Narcissa sat down on the arm rest and her arm slipped around Hermione's shoulder. Hermione looked down on their daughter in her arms. She was the most perfect thing she had ever seen. Giving birth to this little human being had been an experience she never wished to forget. The last few months had been amazing. The feeling of being a mother and the love she felt for this little girl was simply amazing. She knew Narcissa felt blessed with another chance to undo the mistakes she had made before. Bella was seven months old now. Her hair was as raven black and curly like her own, and just like someone else she had once loved with all her heart. Her eyes were as blue as Narcissa's and when she smiled Hermione recognised the women who both held her heart.

She glanced up at Narcissa who at her turn looked back down at her. They sat like this, together. Outside the rain finally stopped falling and the night began to clear up. Thousands of stars appeared in the sky. Hermione knew she was watching her from somewhere. And it felt good. She knew Bellatrix was watching over her out there. She closed her eyes and rested her head against Narcissa's arm. Narcissa's fingers ran through Hermione's hair. And in Hermione's arms little Bella fell back into a peaceful sleep.


End.


Note:

Why did I choose Narcissa to kill Voldermort:
I chose Narcissa because out of the two of them it felt as if Narcissa was the one most desperate to gain back all the things she had lost. She had already lost her family. It had fallen apart because of the Dark Arts and the obsessive standards of Blood Purity. Once Hermione received her Mark she felt the fear of losing her like she had lost Bellatrix before. Both realized their love for each other would make it unable to live without each other and make it impossible to fight. It seemed to me it would be more profound if Narcissa killed Voldermort since Hermione had killed Harry. They had now both taken down the nemesis in their life in a way.