Author's Notes:As promised, here's the closing chapter to Serpent's Bride!!! I know it's still long but the length is quite essential to answer some of your questions. And beside this is the last, long chapter everybody would be getting… ::sob::
Anyway, my thanks, as usual, go to my ever patient beta-readers, Fred, Alli-chan and VioletJersey, and also to all the people who tirelessly reviewed! I dedicate this final chapter to you guys! You're the best!
And to Animagus-steph, thank you girl for the long and touching reviews. I tell you it was always a pleasure reading your comments. They really make my day!
Here it is! The final chapter of Serpent's Bride! ^_^ ::bows::
Serpent's Bride Epilogue – The Squib and The Fifth Guardian
"Good afternoon, sir. A table for two?"
Harry Potter turned only to see the friendly smile the waiter gave him as he entered the famous French restaurant located in the heart of Muggle London. He granted him an acknowledging smile and simply nodded once. "Yes, please," he said, looking around and scanning the crowd of people before him, all commonly in pairs, laughing, smiling, and eating with no cares at all.
The waiter, in turn, led him to a table near the window that out a very fine view of London's busy street of people rushing to and fro. After handing him the menu, his attendant bowed automatically and left him alone to decide in peace. Instead of opening the black, leather covered food list, however, Harry found himself turning towards the window on his left, and gazing at nothing in particular.
"Time sure flies fast,"he thought as his eyes caught a gray pigeon flying low and landing gracefully on the cemented street, joining a flock of its own kind, no doubt in search its lunch, morsels of bread crumbs. His hand flew up only to rake his fingers through his usual messy hair.
He sighed, his mind flashing back.
It had been a year since that fateful night and everything pretty much went back to normal with just a little hint of color to spice things up. Rebecca decided to leave the country, not telling them why and where, Ginny and Draco were on good terms already and were both happy 'INFANTicipating.' Meanwhile, Nathan had just turned three last September 1st with a huge celebration and two weeks later, Sylvia had celebrated her third birthday party as well. All of their close friends were invited, which now included the Malfoys much to Ron's dismay, considering that he had been given no choice about the matter. Of course, Vladimir was more than happy to attend his little 'friends' parties, and to bring and shower them with unusual and expensive gifts.
"Gifts?"Harry found himself snorting. "More like tools for destruction, really," he thought.
With Sylvia's mischievous disposition and Nathan's tolerating nature, surely Vladimir's curious gifts would no doubt give them 'ideas' that would surely lead them to another set of troubles with the Weasley Twins undoubtedly backing them up. Then it made him wonder. The tamed vampire was actually quite generous, in fact overly generous with Sylvia and Nathan. He shook his head. "Perhaps he was so delighted because of the new addition to his family," he surmised wonderingly. He felt an amused smile tugging at the corner of his lips upon remembering how big, moody and whiny Ginny was at that time.
She was complaining about being too big and fat and Malfoy wasn't any better at assuring her that she was still the most beautiful woman in the planet. He thought his wife was being ridiculous. Harry thought so too. Even with Hermione's lamentations about the unfairness of nature (since Ginny's stomach seemed so small compared to how big hers had been when she was pregnant) and the fact that Ginny was in her final month (making her look cute and not bulging) didn't convince the stubborn redhead. That was the only thing he and Malfoy had agreed upon, actually. Ginny may have been a bit big with child but during her pregnancy, she really looked radiant. Maybe it was due to happiness. Just the way she looked at Draco and the way Draco would look back at her, returning the same loving gaze, confirmed that for Harry. For the first time in his life, he never saw Ginny looking so blissful. She was so happy and so much in love while starting a new family with Draco.
A month after that, she gave birth to a pretty and healthy baby girl.
All in all, it was a very happy and fruitful year for all of them.
Harry looked away from the window, his thoughts interrupted. He followed the sultry voice only to make his eyes settle on a raven-haired woman standing before the chair opposite from him, who was staring at him with those mesmerizing violet orbs of hers. She was dressed in Muggle clothes: a purse in her hand and a flattering knee-length crimson dress that was an engaging contrast against her porcelain skin and a pair of delicate looking stilettos on her feet. As usual, she wasn't smiling. This woman rarely smiled at all. He swallowed hard, absorbing the frigid loveliness of the sight before him. When he heard her clear her throat noisily, he blinked, realizing that he had been actually staring. Immediately, he stood up, his manners finally kicking in him.
"Rebecca," he acknowledged instead, pulling out the empty chair for her. After all these months, she never failed to amaze him. Rebecca's eyebrows went up a notch but she nevertheless accepted the kind gesture with ease. She sat gracefully on the chair, murmuring her thanks. "So you finally decided to come," he added, taking his usual seat, facing her.
She raised her eyebrows higher as the waiter suddenly showed up only to fill their glasses with sparkling wine. Rebecca, for a moment, watched as the light yellow liquid filled the transparent glass half way to its brim. Then she shook her head while tearing her gaze away from it only to settle it on him. "How could I not come?" she drawled, once they were left alone. "You were terribly annoying."
Harry just smirked, lifted his wineglass and took a tiny sip of his wine. Rebecca, in turn, let her eyes dance on him thoroughly, taking advantage of the distraction, his eyes too preoccupied with the wineglass. He was having that awed curiosity on his clear face as his eyes scanned his drink. She couldn't help but notice how much better he looked since the last time. He had his usual messy hair tamed, with just a little bit of it stubbornly standing up and sticking out. His cheeks were smooth with a little dash of rose color on them, presumably because of the cool, spring air. He was dressed casually: light blue, buttoned-up shirt, dark, soft trousers, and she assumed, leather shoes. It was very becoming on him, she concluded reluctantly. Though very unlike Draco who was used to dressing rich and looking intimidating and powerful, Harry was looking quite fetching and approachable, simple but with a quiet hint of casual elegance.
When Harry brought his glass down, she immediately turned away and focused her attentions on the clear window. "You thought out loud," continued Rebecca unfeelingly, seeing another set of pigeons landing eagerly on the street where a bunch of tourists had begun throwing and scattering bread crumbs all over the cemented ground. "Out of all them, you always thought the loudest. It was hard to concentrate and study with you screaming and yelling inside my brain."
He laughed without humor. He took another gulp of his drink, surprisingly feeling anxious and tensed. "So you came here to shut me up?" Harry asked after finishing his wine.
Rebecca just raised her eyebrows again mildly and lifted her wineglass too as her reply. She took two sips before placing the delicate glass back on the table. "You can put it that way," she finally replied. After receiving nothing but reticence, she focused her eyes back on him and waited for him to go on.
"So you went to Bulgaria to pursue your study after all?" Harry started after a moment of silence.
Rebecca nodded. "With Dumbledore's recommendation," she replied, crossing her long legs under the table. "Headmaster Dippet became a very accommodating man after he read Dumbledore's letter." She shook her head. "Seems like what they say is true, Dumbledore can really do 'magic.'" She paused momentarily and upon noting the look of slight disbelief on Harry's face, she smirked at him. "Thought I was fooling all of you?" she challenged.
Harry raised his eyebrows at this. "You went away for a year sending us nothing but an owl, Rebecca," he said stiffly. "Just an owl without even stating where the hell you were and—"
"Why so suddenly interested?" she asked, interrupting him.
She looked so vacantly at him that Harry found himself having a difficult time reading her emotions. Eventually, he gave up trying and looked away. Ginny was right, he thought, the woman was indeed the female version of Malfoy.
"Cat got your tongue?" Rebecca asked, amused. She leaned back on her chair comfortably and crossed her arms.
Harry shook his head and returned the same amused expression she gave him. "Hardly at all," he replied. He took a deep breath. "So tell me, what have you learned?" he inquired in a soft voice.
"Oh, I learned lots of mind reading things."
Rebecca sighed and gazed at the ceiling. "Let's not beat around the bush, Harry," she replied instead, her voice gentle but firm. She brought her eyes back on him sharply. "Out with it."
Harry stared at her at calculatingly first. Realizing that she had decided to quit messing around, he decided to speak. After all, from the look she gave him, Harry assumed, this time, she really meant business. "You still have things to clear up, you know?" he said seriously.
Rebecca smirked coldly at him. "I know," she replied icily as she unfolded her arms, her hands automatically settling under her chin. "That is why I came here."
Harry stared fixedly at her, capturing her eyes with his so that Rebecca, for the first time, noticed how beautiful his eyes were behind his round glasses. It sparkled out a deep emerald hue, making it more intense. But then— She frowned. What the hell was she thinking? She shook such admiring thoughts away and set her lips in a thin grim line. She looked at him narrowly.
"What do you want know?" she prodded on, her voice crisp with icy politeness.
Harry didn't tear his gaze away from her.
"Who are you?"
"You know we've discussed this already."
Draco let out an audible grumble that afternoon as he sulkily made his way across the bare and unfurnished room, towards the enormous desk of the empty Muggle estate Ginny insisted on viewing. In truth, she had wanted simple house a little outside of London, just a simple house. But Draco had shooed her away and insisted on looking at estates and not little houses if she wanted to live in a new one. He slumped himself impatiently into its comfortable leather-cushioned seat while Ginny remained standing before the room's enormous windows, admiring the breathtaking view of the estate's woodland.
"No daughter of mine will become a squib," Draco said stubbornly. He turned away from her irritably, the tiny wheels of the chair emitting soft, squeaking noises. "I am a Malfoy and she is a Malfoy! There were no squibs or non-magic folks in the history of the Malfoy ancestry and I assure you, there never will be!" he declared loudly.
Ginny sighed. "Oh, dear," she thought tiredly, "here we go again."
Ever since Hope was born, Ginny had brought up the dreadful subject of his daughter's big chances of becoming a squib, much to Draco's horror. She later informed him that her great-great grandmother Eloisa Mae Wellington was indeed one. She suggested that they consider the possibility and look for a suitable Muggle settlement if Hope ever became one. Ginny was most unwilling to raise her non-magic daughter, if ever she ended up becoming like her great-great-great grandmother, in the racist wizarding world.
Ginny turned around to face him. "But we've already talked about the possibility, don't you remember?" she asked mildly. Then she smiled sweetly at him. "Remember, you said yes."
Draco rolled his eyes in exasperation. "How could I say no when you were looking so hot and when you were kissing me and stuff every time that subject would be brought up to my attention?" he said incredulously. "You tricked me into saying yes."
Ginny exhaled wearily and made her way towards her husband who moved the seat a little to get a perfect view of her. Draco stared at his wife for a moment, his well-trained eyes not missing the subtle but provocative sway of her hips whenever she would walk. Luckily, Ginny had gotten most of her genes from the Weasley's side of the family since her body had gone back to being small and dainty again right after giving birth. But then again, Draco would never, ever dream of having someone other than her even if she got too fat for him to handle. He surely wouldn't mind. After all, he was indeed a changed man.
"You know that's not true, right dear?" she cooed while slowly settling her light body on top of his lap, fully aware that the real estate broker left them alone to think in peace. Draco found himself lost for a moment when Ginny subtly moved her hips a little, intentionally rubbing the most sensitive parts of his anatomy deliciously. She kissed his lips lightly, making it linger from his mouth to his cheek then down onto his neck. "Come on, what do you say?" she asked, in between her kisses. "After all, Adrienne is our daughter. Surely you want what's best for her regardless of what she would become, right?" And without waiting for him to reply, Ginny planted her lips on his.
Draco finally released a pleasured groan as he found himself finally giving into his wife's advances. God knows he couldn't resist her! He pulled her closer to him and leaned back comfortably, urging her to part her legs. When she finally obliged, he easily lifted her up, giving her the advantage to straddle on top of his thigh, her lips not leaving his.
It was really amazing at how much emotions Ginny could stir inside him with just a kiss, he thought. Her simple kiss was enough to generate an infinite number of tender but fervent feelings inside of him so strong that the normal thing to do was to pour it all out on her, making her feel weak and hot and loved all in the same time.
Just then he stopped much to Ginny's surprise and disappointment.
"See, you're doing it again," he said, forcefully tearing his lips away from hers. At that, Ginny giggled. Draco frowned at her in mock exasperation. "Since when did you learn to use your sexual prowess to get what you want?" he demanded good-naturedly.
Ginny pouted. "Whatever do you mean by that, Draco?" she asked with sweet innocence. She leaned a little towards him, the strands of her flame-red hair hanging all around them, creating a fragrant, red curtain for their faces. "I'm just kissing you. Since when did it become a crime to kiss my husband, hmm?"
"You know very well that that is the kind of ploy that we men can't fight," argued Draco. He paused for a moment only to steal a kiss from Ginny's enticing lips, to which she didn't mind at all. When Ginny lightly traced the smooth skin of his mouth with her tongue in retaliation, Draco emitted a low cry of pleasure. "Good God, woman, you're becoming too hard to handle, do you know that?" he exclaimed softly.
The giggles died only to be replaced by a lazy but suggestive smile. "I learned from the best," she replied huskily, her fingers playfully twiddling his tie. "I have the best teacher."
Draco smirked arrogantly at her. "You're in the mood, yes?" he asked hoarsely. "Mr. Dumont won't be back till five. That gives us," he paused only to fish his pocketwatch out of his pocket, "twenty minutes to finish whatever you, my dear wife, have started," he finished, his eyes narrowing dangerously at her. He returned his hands on her waist, dropping the pocket watch on the floor, already forgotten. "We have this big and sturdy table all to ourselves."
Ginny merely raised an eyebrow at him. "Oh, I'm in the mood, all right," she said while busily detaching herself from his arms, much to his disappointment. "But that will have to wait, dear. Other than we'd be running a little late for Mother's birthday dinner celebration, giving us absolutely no time to 'dally' inside our chamber, there are just some issues more important for us to talk about." She stood up from his lap and picked up Draco's pocket watch from the floor. She handed it to him. "Goodness! Just what will we tell Mr. Dumont when he asks us about what we think?"
"Well, we could always tell him about the quick but fantastic snogging session we had," said Draco with mild sarcasm, standing up from the chair as well. When he earned a reproachful look from Ginny, he cried, "It's not my fault! I didn't start it."
This made her roll her eyes. "Don't tell me that you didn't like it," she answered back. At that, Draco chuckled. She shook her head. "In the meantime, what about Adrienne and this magnificent estate?" she inquired, changing the subject.
"She's Hope," Draco corrected, taking his pocket watch from her. "Honestly, Ginny, until now, I can't seem to figure out why you chose that name for our daughter."
Ginny eyed him darkly.
Draco cleared his throat. "Well, not that it's a— terrible name, really," he stammered upon noting the disagreeable look Ginny gave him. But then, who could blame him? Adrienne was a guy's name and for heaven's sake his child was a girl! Now he was beginning to regret the agreement he made with her, that if the baby would turn out to be a girl, Ginny would have the right to name her and if a boy, Draco. It took him a hell of a time negotiating with her before she finally conceded on adding a 'Hope' to her name, which he thought about out of nowhere.
"There's a story to it," said Ginny softly.
Draco raised his eyebrows questioningly, waiting expectantly.
"Back in the orphanage there was this boy named Adrian," she started while straightening her skirts. "He was five years old, really sweet. But he was sick. Anyway, I kind of became close to the boy to the point that I nearly adopted him as my own." She paused and granted him a sad smile. "I already had all the legal papers drawn up and signed. I didn't tell him because I wanted it to be a surprise but then, he died even before he even learned that he would have a mother and that he would be leaving the orphanage."
"Sick?" Draco asked curiously, his hands making an unsuccessful attempt arranging his disarrayed tie. "What sickness?"
"Leukemia," replied Ginny, seeing Draco struggling. When he gave her a blank look, she sighed and pushed his hands away from his tie, replacing it with her own. "It's a term used by Muggles for the abnormal increase of white blood cells in the body." She paused, her hands working quickly against the knot. "It was a blow to me since I knew how badly he wanted to leave the orphanage. You see, Draco, spending two years of my life with them made me realize how hard it was to be an orphan. Believe it or not, those children hated to be inside the orphanage. All of them wanted to leave, all of them wanted to have a family and Adrian was one of those children."
"Oh," murmured Draco, nodding as Ginny smoothed back his collar.
"It pained me to see someone so young die," she continued, stepping back from him, finally through with his tie. "It was just like yesterday, he was so bright and bubbly, laughing and the next moment, cold, lifeless." She stopped to breathe in deeply. "So, at that moment, I promised myself that if ever I get married and have children, regardless of what my first born will be, I'll name it Adrian. Well, since I have a girl, I changed the spelling, of course."
"I see," Draco whispered understandingly. When Ginny felt his unusual silence, she turned to him and grinned. "But everything's all right now. It was a long time ago," she started cheerfully. "So what about our Adrienne?"
Draco's somber look changed into an objecting frown. "She's Hope," he corrected again. Then he sighed thoughtfully, letting his fingers rake through his fine hair. "I don't know, Ginny," he started. He looked at her seriously. "I'm not really sure if this is a good idea," he added truthfully as he walked towards the windows, his back on her.
He gave a worn out sort of sigh as he shoved his hands gracefully inside his pockets and sank into deep thought. He had considered matters like that nothing but trivial in the past. Malfoys didn't concern themselves with those kind of issues because each and everyone of them was a certified, pure-blooded wizard. They were sure that a squib would never turn out in the family considering what their bloodline and heritage was like. It was a strict family rule to be born with magic and so far, that rule hadn't been broken. It had just never occurred to him that that he would now be seriously facing something he considered nugatory before. The entire idea was new to him.
"That's what you told Mother when she suggested that you sell Malfoy Manor," replied Ginny as she made her way towards him. She stopped just inches away from his warm body only to smell the familiar scent of him. No matter what Draco did, he always smelled good, she surmised for a moment. She shook such thoughts away and continued on. "But eventually, it relieved you to have it off your hands, did it not?"
Draco snorted. "That is different," he answered back. "Any normal person would do that," he added dispassionately.
Ginny decided to turn around to place herself behind his tall frame. She could do nothing but raise her arms and coil it around his waist, hugging him with gentle and silent understanding upon hearing the tone of bitterness in Draco's voice when the name Malfoy Manner was brought up. After all, anybody would've done what he had, right? Malfoy Manor only made him and his mother remember nothing but pain since they had spent most of their miserable lives there. She was actually not surprised at how quick Narcissa was able to convince her son to sell the whole property at a low price and move into Vlad Manor (much to the delight of the old man), considering how shrewd Draco was when business and Galleons were concerned.
When Draco felt her arms around him, he automatically lowered his head, took her right arm and lightly kissed her hand as an acknowledgment. Then he frowned with disbelief, murmuring, "I just can't believe I haven't thought about it sooner." He let out a humorless chuckle. "Why haven't I thought about that sooner?"
"It's because you hated Grandfather's guts so much at that time that you couldn't take the idea of moving in his manor and living with him under one roof," Ginny answered for him. Then she dismissed the nonsensical chatter by bringing up the subject about the Muggle estate again.
"Look Draco," she started softly. Hearing the grimness in her voice, Draco turned around causing her to loose her embrace. "We don't actually need to buy this estate immediately. In truth, we don't even need a house as big as this. All I'm asking is for you to reconsider the possibility of her chances on becoming a squib with an open mind." She paused and slowly let her hands down, staring fixedly at his silver eyes. "That goes the same for finding a new home suitable for her. You very well know that it would be really difficult for us and especially for Adrienne to live in a place where everybody is so different from her. I don't want her to feel inferior." Just then, her brown eyes narrowed dangerously. "And I won't have you disowning her or anything of the sort when she turns out to be a squib," she warned sternly. "I'd be your worst enemy if you do that, Draco."
The last statement made Draco's eyebrows wrinkle in incredulity. "Are you crazy?" he exclaimed at her. "I will never, never do something as stupid as that to my one and only child!" he exclaimed at her. "Whatever made you say that thing? " he added with disgust. When Ginny just regarded him silently, he smiled and took her hand in his. "I love Hope and I would most certainly and definitely accept her and NOT disown her, squib or not," he whispered reassuringly. "I'm not insane like my father."
That made Ginny smile. "All right," she said finally. "I believe you."
"Good," he said, kissing her hand first before letting go of it. Then he looked around the spacious chamber before pulling her with him towards the doors. "In the meantime, why don't we look for Mr. Dumont and tell him what we just decided?"
"After that, are we going straight at the Manor then?" asked Ginny as they made their way towards the estate's second floor hall as she purposely linked her arm with his. She secretly hoped that Draco wouldn't have any more business to attend to. She was already missing Adrienne.
"Yes, I'm sure by the time we get there, dinner will already be starting," replied Draco. "We will later earn a scolding from Grandfather, no doubt about it."
Ginny grinned at him. "Oh, let me handle that," she said sweetly. "Meanwhile, why don't you drive for a change? You need some practice," she suggested. After all, she had been driving since that noon and she was feeling tired.
At that, Draco stopped and turned to her as though she had gone insane. "What?" he exclaimed. "I am not going to associate myself with something as Muggle as--,"
"Oh come on, Draco," lamented Ginny tiredly. "You already know— well, though against your wishes… But still, I already taught you how—"
"And I was most unwilling," he quipped, seeing her eager face. He just couldn't understand how his wife was able to stand living for more than a year in a Muggle settlement and actually learn their pathetic ways for survival. What's more, he couldn't even understand how the hell Ginny forced him into learning something as stupid as that! He turned away, shaking his head vigorously. "There is absolutely no way that I would uh— drive that blasted thing again!"
For a moment, Ginny fell silent. Then another one of her syrupy smiles grazed her face as an idea struck her. She turned to him and lightly tugged at his arms to get his full attentions. "Too bad," she said, her voice a little somber. "I'm sure if Harry was here, he would love to take that baby for a test drive." She looked at him in satisfaction upon seeing Draco's crabby expression slowly changing to that of being reluctantly thoughtful and aversely considerate. "After all, that's a slick, red convertible, surely—"
"Potter drives?" Draco suddenly cut in. When Harry's name finally registered in his brain, his eyes slowly narrowed into slits.
Ginny raised her eyebrows in mock wonder. "Well, it's not surprising if he does," she replied innocently. "After all, he was raised in the Muggle community and I'm fairly sure that he—"
"Come on," said Draco as his left hand automatically went for his pockets, no doubt in search for the keys. If that imbecile can drive, I can drive better, he thought with gritted teeth, fully unaware that he, Draco Edward Malfoy, had successfully fallen into one of Ginny's cunning traps again. "Where the hell could Mr. Dumont be?" he asked impatiently as they reached the stair's final step only to see the front hall empty.
"I don't know," said Ginny gaily, quite pleased to learn that her scheme had actually worked. Spending most of her time with him made her finally learn one of his cunning ways to getting what she wanted. "After all, this is such a huge estate," she added, careful enough not to broach the subject of cars and driving again now that Draco was willing, though unconsciously fooled, to take his turn behind the wheel.
If she had just known that it was quite rewarding to be the slick, cunning and old 'Draco Malfoy' once in a while, then she would've gladly taken some lessons from him way back when they were still studying!
She suppressed the urge to laugh.
"Are you sure you want to know who I am?" Rebecca asked philosophically while studying the stern expression Harry's face projected. "I'm asking you because it can take us all day or," she paused and raised one delicate eyebrow, "who knows, you might not like what you will hear later on."
"Believe me, I can deal with it," said Harry firmly. "I've had worse," he murmured darkly, remembering the struggles forcefully thrusted onto him at the very young age of thirteen. He cleared his throat and said, "You have the Patronus Eye. Why?"
"You think that Hermione and Ron are the only ones?" she asked knowingly. She looked at him and waited for his reaction.
"Not only Hermione and Ron," replied Harry. "But also Dumbledore and McGonagall." He stopped, inhaled deeply and exhaled. "The Patronus Eye is a symbol of the guardians," he continued softly. "It has always been like that, even centuries ago. The Guardians are born and reborn again and again, generation to generation. It's a never ending cycle as long as the likes of Voldemort is around."
Rebecca just stared at him silently, waiting. She took her slender fingers from her chin and placed them on the table. Her forefinger moved as it tapped itself against the cloth-covered mahogany.
"Before I faced Voldemort, the Orb of Truth revealed the five guardians of our time bearing the symbol of an eye. Apparently, the five guardians were to help me defeat the present evil, which we all know was Voldemort."
"And?" Rebecca prodded on.
"Hermione had one and Ron too," he replied. "After that, Dumbledore found himself having one again, the second time around and then McGonagall." He stopped and turned to her sharply. "The Orb of Truth said there were to be five but as I saw it there were only four."
"I don't see what that has to do with me," quipped Rebecca delicately.
She tapped faster.
"When I was facing Voldemort in a one-on-one combat, the five guardians fed me their magic by sending their own Patronuses therefore making me more powerful," he supplied ignoring the clear amusement in Rebecca's eyes. Harry knew Rebecca was deliberately being difficult and he was not going to give her the pleasure of seeing him vexed. "Hermione's Patronus was an owl and it was blue. It gave me wisdom and cleverness," Harry continued on with a straight face. "Ron's was in a form of a wolf and it was a brilliant white. It was his Patronus that pretty much balanced my sanity after receiving so much power from the remaining three."
"And those three would be—"
"Dumbledore's was a phoenix. It was red and it gave me strength and courage while McGonagall's Patronus was a cat, as usual, it gave me wit and resourcefulness." He stopped abruptly, his eyes narrowing behind his glasses. "And you wouldn't guess what the fifth one gave me, Rebecca," he whispered, his voice soft but dangerous.
Rebecca smiled at him without mirth. "Humor me," she said with mild sarcasm.
"It gave me darkness, a negative energy," answered Harry, his inquiring eyes not leaving hers. When Rebecca regarded him with cold silence, Harry decided to go on. "It was the most powerful of the five. It was so powerful that I believe that it was the one who really made me defeat Voldemort. The Patronus was a falcon and the color that I saw was violet." He momentarily pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Deep, dark violet." He shook his head. "And you know what?"
Rebecca merely raised a questioning brow at his direction.
The tapping stopped abruptly.
"It was you all along," he finally said. "I felt it in you a year ago, when we were helping Ginny." He looked away. "Why is it that your identity wasn't revealed? I didn't even see you during the war." he asked after a moment.
Rebecca stared at him first. "The Orb of Truth is not a Dark Artifact," she finally answered. "And as you can see it, it was darkness that you felt."
Just then, realizations hit Harry full force. "I defeated darkness with darkness as well," he said breathlessly. Does it mean the he was one of them after all? Does it mean that he was no different from the Dark Lord, that there was a darker side of him that he wasn't aware of? Was he really evil without him knowing it? After all, the first time he defeated Voldemort, he somehow got a part of his power. Could it be possible that, other than his ability to talk to snakes, he got something of his dark nature, something more evil? Such a thing sent his mind reeling. It was a horrifying thought that Harry found his insides twisting as confusion and anger battled within himself, sending his state of mind into a turmoil.
"But I'm not like that!"he insisted on himself. "I am different. I have proved it countless of times already, haven't I?"
Rebecca finally decided to take some action. "In that particular battle, it wasn't a question of whether you were evil or not," she said, reading his mind, feeling his struggles clearly. "It was a question of power, Harry. It was clear that you and Voldemort were equal in measure when it came to that matter but that's where the similarities ended."
This time, it was Harry's turn to be silent. He looked at her, his eyes hungry for answers, craving for comforting justifications that only she could give. He was not just staring at her, he was pleading with his mind, with his heart. It was so loud that Rebecca felt it, heard it. As of now, in his state of mind, he was completely under her mercy. He would believe anything from her. Whatever would come tumbling out of her mouth could either destroy him or strengthen him. At this particular moment, she had the choice— and she never felt so powerful! She began to relish the feeling… but then… Rebecca turned to him, her eyes growing soft.
"Sure the 'fifth guardian' gave you darkness but Voldemort had it as well. You had wit and cleverness and again, Voldemort had it too. But there was only one thing that you did that Voldemort didn't do. It was that one thing that caused his downfall." She smirked arrogantly at him. "You used that power for the benefit of everybody whereas Voldemort used it for his own selfish desires." She stopped and purposely flipped her long hair aside. "You have your friends backing you up. They were doing it whole-heartedly because they wanted to and not because they would get something in return. It was a complete opposite in Voldemort's case. With him, there was hesitation among his supporters but with yours there was none. And that made you, stronger, more powerful." She sighed and stared at Harry's furrowed brows. "You see, Harry, all people have their own negativity, not just you. It was just up to them on how they use it. That makes us solely unique from one another. But sadly, that is one of the most trivial things people tend to ignore. They don't know that whatever negative things happen to them, it is all up to them on how they will use such negativity for their advantage and betterment. It's a blessing in disguise, Harry. A very ugly disguise, that is."
Harry's eyes widened at the short speech.
Rebecca fixed a piercing gaze on him. "You're different from him, Harry," she finally said, her voice soft, full of enigma. "You have negativity, but on the other hand, you have goodness. You used that negativity for the betterment of everybody and not for your own personal purposes. That almost makes it positive, don't' you think?"
And that was the sort of thing Harry wanted to hear. With that, his lost expression changed into a relieved, thankful smile. Seeing the miracle those simple words brought to the man, Rebecca knew she did the right thing. She snorted impatiently, masking the overwhelming blissful feeling she used to have when doing something good for others. And it wasn't her. Feeling it just didn't make her. It was rather disturbing.
"You should've known that right from the start," she suddenly grouched haughtily. She momentarily rolled her eyes heavenwards only to make them land on him once again, completely miffed. "Idiot!"
Harry grinned at her gratefully. She was really terrible when it comes to being appreciated by others, he surmised. "I see," he murmured, finally understanding everything. He turned away from her piercing gaze. "Tell me the truth," he started. "Are we going to face Voldemort once again?"
As her reply, Rebecca opened her purse and produced a yellowed parchment from it. Then without a word, she threw the paper on the table. Harry brought his eyes back to her and automatically reached for it, bringing it closer to his face. Just then, his expression thoughtful upon realizing that it was actually the wizarding newspaper, the Daily Prophet. He briefly read the bold headline with pictures of Aurors moving around frantically, wands in hand:
Zabini Heiress Disappears Mysteriously; Victor Zabini Commits Suicide
"Everything's just the beginning, Harry," said Rebecca while reading the look of disbelief written on his face.
"I don't get it," said Harry after reading the article. He shook his head thoughtfully. "So Blaise suddenly disappears and Victor Zabini decides to kill himself. It's—"
Rebecca merely raised her eyebrows at him, waiting.
"So what if one of Voldemort's minions decided to be insane and commit suicide? There's nothing surprising about it, knowing how insane they were in the first place, anyway." Harry babbled on. "Surely it was," he broke off, realizations hitting him. He looked at Rebecca, his eyes widening. "You don't say that this has a connection, do you?"
"I just have my suspicions, that's all," she replied simply. "After all, strange things have been happening, one after the other. It wouldn't hurt if we're all on our guard at all times."
"Speaking of such, there is one more thing that I need to know right now," said Harry, turning to her once again.
"Nothing surprising there," gibed Rebecca softly.
Harry ignored her. "When Ron asked about the accomplice, why did you look at Malfoy accusingly?" he asked. His eyes suddenly turned piercing. "You think it was him."
"It wasn't him," replied Rebecca quietly. She looked down.
"When I asked Malfoy about it, he told me that it even got him confused," continued Harry. "He told me that before we came, Bianca was literally trying to kill him, which I think was true considering that we found him all bruised and beaten up. But then, she started to look at him softly—"
"It was an illusion," she cut in, remembering the other unseen presence she felt a year ago.
"An illusion?" echoed Harry curiously.
She finally looked up. "When Bianca was inside me, I saw everything. Her past, her present, as in everything that had happened. The planning, the killing--" her voice trailed thoughtfully, remembering the scorching pain it brought. She was actually writhing in pain because of it. That particular incident nearly drove her mad. "It was actually difficult for me since it was an overload of memories. I have her memory and mine as well inside one brain. Too much for me to handle, you see. And then I saw blonde hair and a pale face, a face that vaguely resembles Draco, inside her past and her present." She blinked her eyes as though searching, trying hard to remember. "But then again, it was a different aura, a different energy. Considering the resemblance, making it impossible for me to confirm anything, I couldn't do anything but to rely on their auras." She paused momentarily, frowning. "With the real Draco, I saw nothing but an uncommon combination of silver and green. Cold silver and warm green. But with the pale-faced man inside my twin's memory, I saw nothing but--," she took a deep breath, "I saw nothing but smeared black."
Harry's jaw dropped slightly. "So it wasn't Malfoy?" he asked. "So what do you know," he thought silently, "the moron has a heart after all!"
Rebecca's eyes turned sharp. "I heard that," she snapped. When Harry grinned at her apologetically, she shook her head. "It wasn't him," she said. "It was somebody else. I assumed that a very powerful illusion charm was used."
"So you were saying that she had been, indeed, following orders from HIM thinking that it was the real Malfoy? Bianca thought it was really Malfoy who was ordering her to kill Ginny?"
"Yes, I reckon so," Rebecca nodded. "But I'm sure it wasn't Draco at all."
Harry sighed. "Yes," he agreed just remembering the surprising and extraordinary love and care the man gave Ginny. After witnessing that, he was sure that, no matter how cruel that man could be, Malfoy wouldn't do something as horrid as that to Ginny. "It definitely was not Malfoy."
That made Rebecca brows furrowed while she looked at him curiously. "So, I take it you're friends already?" she asked deliberately. It was common knowledge to everybody that Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy were not exactly on good terms with each other.
At that, Harry's resigned expression turned to disgust. "Friends? With Malfoy?" he spat. The very word nearly made him fall off his chair. He shook his head vigorously. Well, although he did invite Malfoy and his family to his son's birthday party— it was just all because of Ginny, right? He couldn't possibly invite Ginny only. If he wanted Ginny for Nathan's birthday party then surely he would have to invite her new family, and that included Malfoy. It was the polite thing to do. But then again, after seeing the lighter side of his being, he suddenly found out that the feelings of contempt he was harboring towards the man had slowly melted away.
He was not a friend, but he was not an enemy, either.
"I— I," he shook his head, breathing deeply. "To tell you honestly, Rebecca, I don't know what he is," replied Harry slowly, the truth dawning upon him.
"He's a paradox," Rebecca replied simply. Harry stared at her only to see the implied significance in her eyes. The answer, though simple as it was, contained a lot of meanings when it came to 'who the real Draco was.' Seeing all the things her eyes conveyed made him finally understand.
Yes, Draco Edward Malfoy was, indeed, made up of an unending number of paradoxes. But a good one at that, if he put his heart into it, that is.
He smiled resignedly.
She gave him an amused but unsmiling look. "I assume you'll be going later?" she asked, changing the subject.
Harry frowned. "How did you know?" he asked.
"I was invited," she said, taking out a mild scented invitation out of her purse. She dangled it in front of him that Harry could do nothing but to merely nod and take a sip of his water. "What's the girl's name?" she asked after putting the invitation on the table, in front of her.
He swallowed first before uttering, "Adrienne Hope." He stared at her rosy face. "You're going, aren't you?" he asked her. If Rebecca wasn't mistaken, there was a hint of hope in his voice.
She let out a tiny, almost non-existent smile. "You know me better than that, Harry," she drawled.
At that, Harry nodded in acceptance. Just then, he grinned. "Then why don't we have dinner here?" he suggested, taking the menu and opening it. "At this rate, I won't be able to get there on time. I'm sure dinner will be over by the time I arrive there."
"You're mixing business with pleasure, yes?" she asked. Harry looked up from his menu only to see Rebecca staring at him, her lips set in a grim line.
Harry desperately weighed his answer. Although he did ask for her to come and meet him for some clarifications, he was also hoping that this would be a very enjoyable evening for them. That's why he had asked her to meet him in this splendid French restaurant. He felt that Rebecca needed a break, needed to loosen up a little bit. He couldn't help but feel that the woman was definitely holding back something. And besides, any normal man would do that, right? Rebecca was a very attractive woman, after all. He just wasn't sure on how to ask her out so he used the idea of 'mixing business with pleasure' to which she smartly figured out.
"This is one of those moments that I really wish I was that prat Malfoy,"he thought with a little disgust. Draco Malfoy sure would know what to do and what to say in a situation like this. Much to his very surprise, though, Rebecca choked on her water. Harry's eyes widened a little as he began to see a chink in the iron maiden's armor. If she was really shielding a sense of humor under there somewhere, it would require investigation.
"You heard that, didn't you?" Harry asked rather lamely as Rebecca hastily put her glass back down. He smiled with embarrassment.
She shook her head, a smile of genuine pleasure clearly fighting to get free from her austere lips. "Next time, ask politely, Harry. I won't bite," she said as she too picked her own menu from the table. She looked at him, clearly amused. "Being cunning doesn't suit you, you know."
"And why, may I ask?"
Rebecca smirked at him.
"You're a Gryffindor."
Draco and Ginny were rushing towards the main sitting room that night. They had just gotten home and had practically dashed straight to their chambers to quickly change for dinner, ignoring the overwhelming desire to go straight to the nursery to give Adrienne a visit. Other than it was already too late for that, they have this feeling that by this time, Adrienne was already downstairs entertaining their guests with Vladimir and Narcissa present.
"It was your fault," hissed Ginny as they quickly sailed down the stairs, the silken skirts of her flattering lilac dress billowing all around her with her every step. She turned to look at Draco crabbily, only to see him unsuccessfully struggling with his tie.
Draco's eyes widened in disbelief. "My fault?" he asked breathlessly. "Excuse me, but are you forgetting that it was you, Madam, who insisted that I drive?"
They finally reached the enormous front hall. They turned left. Ginny halted abruptly and held Draco by his arm, stopping him from entering the huge doors of the enormous family room. Draco turned to her, confused. "What?" he whispered.
"You're tie's not fixed," she answered, her hands automatically reaching up to arrange it properly. Draco stood perfectly still as Ginny worked furiously. He let out an almost goofy smile as the faint sweet scent of her hair wafted to him. After having finally done with task, she smiled at him and stepped back. "All done," she said, letting go of it. "You look good in black, did I tell you that?"
Draco instantly turned serious. "You look beautiful." And with that, he pulled her to him for a quick kiss. But then, when Ginny responded eagerly, the quick kiss became a long, heated one, and the dinner and Grandfather's wrath was already forgotten. He would've purposely wrapped his arms around her waist to pull her closer if not for the loud, booming voice coming from the door.
"I should've known!"
Draco and Ginny both jumped in surprise as they immediately sprang apart from each other, like two magnets of the same pole. They both turned only to find Vladimir eyeing them disagreeably, his hands sternly on his hips.
They grinned at him sheepishly.
"You young scamps!" the old man bellowed as he pushed the laughing young couple into the room. "You're late!"
"I'm sorry, Grandfather," said Ginny buoyantly. "After all, we're practically newlyweds. Surely, you do understand that." Then her span of attention wandered on immediately as she saw her family comfortably lounging about, glasses of champagnes in their hands. Before Vladimir could retort, she hastily sashayed her way to the group of ladies who were ogling the a tiny crib located at the center of the room, leaving the tongue-tied Draco together with his Grandfather, who was looking after her with amused disbelief. All the ladies were there with the exception of Fleur who had decided to stay a little longer in France, and Molly, her mother, who decided to take a little kip in one of the manor's chambers, complaining of a headache.
When he suddenly found his voice, Draco cleared his throat. "Grandfather," he acknowledged more seriously with a slight nod.
"We'll talk later. You're mother's been waiting for you," was all Vladimir said as he led his grandson inside the sitting room, dismissing thoughts about Ginny. They entered only to see nothing but red and blonde mixing quite delightedly inside the cozy room. Draco hurriedly went to his mother to give her a polite birthday kiss. Vladimir, in turn, wandered off towards Sylvia and Nathan, whom Harry left in Hermione's care.
"Happy Birthday, Mother," he whispered in her ear after giving her a light smack on her cheek.
Narcissa let out one of her dazzling smiles. "Thank you, dear," she said. Just then, to his surprise, his mother's usual calm demeanor began to crack as a pair of lovely pink tints crept onto her cheeks. He turned around and saw a man, standing behind him, holding to glasses of champagne. He was smiling.
"Professor Remus Lupin?" Draco said, befuddled, quite surprised to see the kind-looking professor for the first time in eight years. He turned to his mother and gave her a questioning but meaningful look. Narcissa just shrugged delicately, her cheeks turning from pink to scarlet. Seeing that, Draco turned his attentions back to Lupin only to see the older man's confused expression. He immediately fixed his face and smiled. "Professor Lupin!" he greeted graciously. Lupin, in turn, decided to hand Narcissa her promised drink. The woman, in turn, thanked him shyly.
"Young Draco Malfoy," the professor said as the two men shook hands. "How are you?" the gentleman inquired before taking a sip of his wine.
"Fine, thank you," replied Draco cordially. He stared at him only to see a hint of gray sprinkled quite dashingly against his brown hair. Though nearing his mid-forties, Professor Remus J. Lupin still looked quite young. He looked somewhat different, in fact, better. He was no longer garbed in those shabby robes of his he was used to seeing and he was looking healthy, his cheeks rosy and his eyes with a ready smile, quite unlike the pale and sickly man he met before. Maybe it was because of the ready grin he always had on his face or maybe it was because of the way he could always handle his worries. He shook such unimportant thoughts away, clearing his throat. "And you?"
"Oh, just fine, just fine. Positively cheerful. "
"I heard that you've been given a very prestigious teaching job in Bulgaria?" asked Draco as he slipped his left hand reflexively inside his pocket. It was clear that a pleasant conversation was about to take place. "Deputy Headmaster, is it?"
Lupin shook his head, clearly embarrassed. "Everything wouldn't be possible without the help of good, ol' Dumbledore," he replied good-naturedly.
"Indeed," said Draco, nodding. Then his brows furrowed curiously. "Any news of Sirius Black?"
After having his name cleared off of his supposed crime, Sirius Black, much to Snape's displeasure, had gone back to being his old self once again: obnoxiously funny. He had been given a teaching career, instructing DADA, handling most of the younger set of new female professors at Hogwarts, breaking hearts along the way and practically repeating history by making Severus Snape's life miserable once more, this time without the able help of Prongs, Moony and Wormtail. Not that he needed the help anyway. Then two years after that, he was recruited to work with the Elite Defense Force in the Department of Magical Law and Enforcement. Recently, the Ministry of Magic sent Sirius Black with Percy Weasley to head a team of Elite Aurors to investigate an abnormal activity brewing in the Southeast.
"Oh, Sirius is fairly much enjoying his time in Asia," replied Lupin, chuckling softly. "He sent me a picture and the old chap's brown as a nut. The last thing I heard, according to his last letter, was he had met a gorgeous, exotic beauty and has finally decided to settle down and start a family of his own." Draco chuckled at the tone of Lupin's voice. "Oh, I do hope that that woman knows what she's venturing into," he added, good-naturedly but nevertheless, shaking his head in pity.
"Does Potter know about this?" Draco inquired curiously.
Lupin raised his eyebrow as he studied the delicate, crystal flask on his hand. "I'm pretty sure that Harry's quite anxious to meet the woman who had finally trapped his philandering Godfather into submission," said Lupin, clearly amused. "To congratulate her, maybe. Or warn her."
Draco was about to say something again when he noticed his mother staring at him quite oddly. He frowned at her with confusion at first before looking past the professor only to see Ginny's father and brothers standing by the fireplace, talking and jesting with each other. He turned to Lupin and caught him gazing longingly at his mother, who, in turn, smiled at him understandingly. At once, he finally got what his mother had meant. It was actually not his habit to be a third wheel anyway. He cleared his throat and smiled apologetically at Remus. "You have to excuse me Professor, but my wife's family—"
"Oh, of course, of course," said Lupin quite enthusiastically. Draco couldn't tell if the professor was just happy to be relieved of his endless questions or extremely glad to be left alone with his mother. He shrugged. Either way, he was glad to leave them alone. "Don't let me keep you."
Draco nodded, said his temporary farewell and immediately flaunted towards the Weasleys, smiling engagingly. When Bill saw him, he quickly left the group to welcome him with a firm hand shake.
"Congratulations, brother-in-law, for a very beautiful baby girl," said Bill happily. Draco smiled and accepted his congratulations with grace. Not long after that, he shook hands with his father-in-law and the rest of his brother-in-laws including Ron, who was surprisingly acting civil and polite.
"I heard that Malfoy Manor was brought by a Japanese wizard?" Charlie asked after the very enlightening topic about the Muggle Judicial System had come to a close. Before Draco could answer, Vladimir had suddenly popped in to join them, heaving and quite sweaty after a very tiring goose chase with Sylvia. Ron politely excused himself, murmuring something about finding Hermione or waiting for Harry outside. Actually, he was debating whether to go and check out the Malfoy's magnificent Broom Collection or go and wait for Harry outside. Much to his reluctant delight and surprise, Draco invited him quite generously to lounge about the Broom Chamber whenever he wished to. After thinking things over, he shook his head, the latter winning. He made his way silently towards the Broom Chamber.
"Er— yes, yes," replied Draco after taking a sip of his champagne. "Sold it for a mere 11 million."
"And why is that?" Fred asked while busy eyeing a beautiful Picasso portrait hanging comfortably on the wall. It was actually taken from Draco's Muggle painting collection. "That manor is sure worth more than that, I can tell."
Draco waved a dismissive hand in the air. "Oh, I couldn't care less about the price, actually," he replied truthfully. "All I wanted was just to get rid of the place."
"So how are things going on about the Zabini estate, Charlie?" Vladimir suddenly butted in. The last thing that he wanted was to spoil this lovely night for his grandson by bringing up a conversation about that blasted Manor.
Charlie Weasley grinned. "Oh, very well, thank you," he replied as he raised his glass a little bit to show his acknowledgement. "I tell you, it was a splendid idea to buy that place and turn it into a very useful and magnificent research facility. We can't thank you enough for donating such a place for research."
"Any new magical creatures found yet?" Arthur Weasley inquired suddenly. Bill and Draco turned to Charlie expectantly, interested.
"Well, mostly, we're currently trying to breed a new flock of Golden Snidgets," informed Charlie in a business-like voice. "I have recently taken an interest into breeding one since the number of Golden Snidgets began to fall lower than the previous year."
"Are you going to cross-breed dragons?" George asked eagerly. "Maybe you could try cross-breeding a Hungarian Horntail and a Chinese Fireball or— or a Romanian Ridgeback?"
"George, cross-breeding, even breeding, dragons is illegal," Charlie replied tiredly. "And besides it's quite dangerous. Can you just imagine what it would be like if we had cross-bred dragons roaming around here?"
"Ooh, Charlie's talking about how dangerous dragons are," chided Fred as George laughed out loud. "Now that's something you don't hear everyday." With that, the rest of the men laughed.
Charlie looked at his twin brothers disagreeably. "Pillock!" he said, shaking his head. Then he turned to Vladimir once again. "The acres of rich fields, if you must know, is also being put to good use. Recently, a team of young Herbologists, headed by Neville Longbottom, was sent there to try their hands at breeding Philippine medicinal herbs in English soil since it's quite expensive to export a bunch of those here. I've heard, according to Mr. Longbottom, that indeed, this particular herb is not only for medicinal purposes but also quite an important ingredient for most of our other potions."
"Indeed," said Vladimir thoughtfully. He shook his head in wonder. He couldn't help but feel happy to see how much help he had contributed to their community.
Draco smirked, somewhat humored. "What do you know," he thought secretly, remembering how stupid and pudgy Longbottom was before. That boy had the worst memory than anyone in Hogwarts. It was actually a surprise that Neville Longbottom, in his little way, was finally making a name in the wizarding community. "Neville Longbottom has a future after all." He let out a twisted sneer of amusement. "His grandmother must be so proud," he couldn't resist adding. Just then, his thoughts were interrupted when his grandfather gave him a sound clap on the shoulder. He quickly wiped the sneer off his face and turned to him seriously, his eyebrows raised.
"I've heard you've been out their looking at Muggle estates?" the old man asked in his usual loud voice. However, from the tone of his voice, Draco could tell that it was not a question, it was a demand for clarification.
"You were?" asked Arthur, suddenly perking up at the mere mention of the word 'Muggle' before Draco could answer his Grandfather. "Are you planning to settle there?"
"Uh, yes-- no," answered Draco quickly as all eyes turned to him. "Actually, Ginny and I, well, we haven't decided yet."
"Maybe you'd like to venture into managing a plantation? Sugar or a vineyard, perhaps, since you seemed to be fond of wines," suggested Vladimir after drowning the remaining contents of his glass. "It's pretty lucrative, you know. Good investment."
Draco went silent for a moment. Now that was a good alternative, he thought to himself. After all, Vladimir decided to have his will changed and leave all his assets to Draco and Ginny. Since Ginny left the money matters to him, Draco suddenly found himself a multi-millionaire once again. But where to put all the money wisely, that was the catch.
"Yes, that's a good idea," chimed in Bill. "You'll surely earn Muggle money and I tell you that the demand for it is increasing. Those goblins suddenly found Muggle money quite interesting, those demented brains of theirs. But then, the exchange rate is higher than last year's."
"If you do decide to buy it and settle there, let me know," said Arthur quite importantly. "I'm sure I'd be able to be of some help there."
Minutes passed by and the conversation about Muggle estates was slowly extinguished by an amiable conversation about the new Minister of Magic when suddenly, Hammilton glided past the wall to give Draco a message, informing him that Dumbledore was patiently waiting in his study's fireplace. Excusing himself politely, he immediately detached himself from the debating group and made his way towards his private study.
"Oh look how beautiful she is," cooed Jane, Percy's wife, when she saw little Adrienne gave out a very adorable yawn. Nathan edged a little to his left to give the woman a clear view of the baby, a sweet, smile on his face. She looked at Ginny and grinned. "She looks exactly like you."
Ginny smiled and let her eyes settle on her baby only to notice her cute and red curly tresses. "Yes," she whispered as she let Adrienne grip her forefinger. She laughed softly. "The only thing that she got from Draco is her eyes," she added, noticing her daughter's mystical gray-green eyes.
"It was just yesterday, Sylvia was that small," said Hermione wistfully as she looked on. "And Nathan too." The she sighed. "Oh, I wish I'd be pregnant again. After all, Ron and I are still trying. He is in wanting of a boy, actually."
"Good thing Fleur isn't here to hear that," said Jane, laughing softly. Fleur DeLacour Weasley decided, for the first time, to let one of the Malfoy's social functions pass her by, much to the surprise of the entire family. It was common knowledge to all that the beautiful French, half-veela always made it to a point never to miss a social function in her entire life. "You know how that woman is when it comes to having babies again. I've heard that Bill wants to have another one and she flatly refused, telling him that she won't go through that again."
"Poor Bill," said Ginny as her baby gurgled in delight. "I don't see the fuss about it. Having a baby is a wonderful thing!"
Hermione shook her head. "Wait till Adrienne reaches her toddler years," she said, smiling. "Let's see if you still want to have babies after that."
"Couldn't agree with you more!" Grace and Jane chorused agreeably.
At that, Ginny giggled as the ladies laughed when Adrienne decided to open her eyes for a second only to grant them one of her sweet, rare, baby smiles. "Oh and speaking of husbands, any news from Percy, Jane?" she asked, turning to Jane.
Jane smiled at her and nodded. "He sent me an owl informing me that he would be home before Christmas," she said, her eyes shining. Then she shook her head in disbelief. "Can you actually believe that Sirius Black decided to get married? He told me!"
"Really?" Hermione asked, suddenly perking up. She turned to Jane, her eyes wide as saucers. "You don't say!"
"Ask Ron," Ginny replied. "Pump him for information. I think he knows something."
"I think I'll just do that," said Hermione as she turned around and made her way outside to accomplish her new mission. "Do watch Nathan for me, will you? Thanks!" And with that, she was gone in a flourish.
Grace chuckled. "Of all the pathetic excuses to be with Ron," she trailed, shaking her head. Then she turned serious. "Speaking of Nathan," she began suddenly. Ginny and the rest of the ladies all turned only to see little Nathan patiently standing by the crib as though glued to the floor, watching little Adrienne sleep. "I don't know, but the kid's sweet. He was practically standing there all night, just watching Adrienne, ever since they got here."
With that, Ginny smiled and made her way towards Harry's little son, who was gazing at the baby adoringly . She knelt down beside him and kissed him fondly on the cheek. "Her name is Adrienne," she whispered softly. Little Nathan turned to her and smiled sweetly.
"Andyiane?" he asked, his green eyes, wide, his voice a little gibberish. The ladies gave a female sigh of delight.
Ginny laughed softly at the young boy's attempt to speak the name correctly. "Yes, Nathan, her name is Adrienne," she cooed. "Now you promise to be her friend, okay? You promise to take care of her and Sylvia when you grow up, all right?"
Nathan nodded. "Andy?" he asked while turning his attentions back at her sleeping baby. He let one his tiny hands reach out and touch her. Then much to Ginny's delight, Adrienne opened her eyes, smiled and reached out as well, grabbing one of his fingers, squeezing it with all her might. Nathan let out a giggle as he let little Adrienne have her way.
"Good evening, Professor Dumbledore," greeted Draco as he settled himself comfortably on a couch facing the fire, which was having an unsuccessful attempt at giving out the actual shape of the old professor's' head against its flames.
"Ah, young Draco Malfoy," the hazy image repeated, his voice nevertheless clear. "I'm terribly sorry I couldn't come."
"That is quite all right, Professor, though I'd say Grandfather misses your presence very much," said Draco as his right hand instinctively went up to his temple as he automatically crossed his legs. "How are things going down there?"
"Oh, marvelous!" exclaimed Dumbledore. "Never been on a real vacation all my life!" At the happy tone of his voice, Draco assumed that the old man was, indeed, having the time of his life. "The sun's good for me. Lots of beaches and drinks and lemon sherbet--- how about young Virginia and the baby? I heard it was a lovely girl."
"They are quite fine thank you," said Draco, a proud smile lighting up his eyes. "Her name is Adrienne Hope, by the way. She's turning one this coming November."
"Ah, yes… what a lovely name…" his voice trailed momentarily. When Draco raised an inquiring eyebrow at the image, the old man cleared his throat. "I have finally found out what you've been asking about your heirlooms, Mr. Malfoy."
At that, Draco straightened up from his seat. "Yes?" he asked.
"However, I cannot exactly say if they are indeed genuine Magical Artifacts," continued on Dumbledore.
"But how could you explain the weird things—" Draco stopped and shook his head. "The rose pin Ginny gave me lets me feel what she was feeling. It lets me see where she is if I put all my heart into it. The serpent necklace too, from what I've heard from her, does the same." He stopped abruptly, looking quite thoughtful. "But there was this incident that it didn't work, you know and—"
"May I ask if the incident was an argument?" the old man inquired gently.
Draco looked at him. "Yes, it was," he replied quietly.
With that, old man smiled. "There you have it, young Draco," he replied. "The only explanation that I can give is that perhaps your heirlooms serve as a window for you to be able to feel each other. It worked before because, as you've said, you've put your heart into it, all of your being though how unaware you were. And you must consider it as a gift, a rare gift that you have to be thankful for. However, at that time of your argument, you're thoughts were being clouded with grief, possibly anger, doubt— am I getting close?" Dumbledore asked, his orange eye twinkling amidst the blaze all around him.
"Yes," murmured Draco thoughtfully, remembering all the doubts he had had back then. He had actually suspected Ginny running away with Potter, didn't he?
"But then again, I'm not saying that you ignore this matter," supplied Dumbledore. "I firmly suggest that you talk to Professor Snape about this and have the heirlooms brought to him for further investigation."
That made Draco a little reluctant. He never left without the rose pin safely inside his pocket. He always took it whenever he went. "Yes, professor," he forced himself to say. "Thank you for all your help."
"Oh, the pleasure is mine Mr. Malfoy," said Dumbledore, smiling. "I assume your guests and relatives are already waiting for you?"
Draco nodded, standing up. "Yes, actually," he replied truthfully. The old man gave a jovial laugh.
"Then don't let me keep you, I have a whole glass of lemon shake, waiting to be imbibed, quite large enough to last me a lifetime. Cheerio!" And with that, Dumbledore's fiery image disappeared in a snap, leaving Draco there to contemplate about what he had just said.
After reaching a decision, he turned around and left for the family room.
"I'm terribly sorry I'm late."
Everybody turned their heads towards the door to see Harry hurrying towards them. Vladimir Malfoy shook his head and made his way towards the young man to welcome him inside.
"No, you were just in time," the vampire said jovially while shaking his hand. "Ginny and Draco went in late too, making us wretchedly hungry. Now that's everybody complete, we'll be staring dinner in a short while."
Harry frowned. "You mean, you haven't started dinner yet?" he asked. He gulped guiltily. Now, how in the world could he eat considering that he just had a wonderful dinner with Rebecca a while ago? "Uh, where's my son?" he asked the old man instead.
Vladimir gestured towards the little crib. "He has been standing there all night, watching little Adrienne like a hawk."
And with that, the old man clapped him on the shoulder with his big hand good-naturedly and made his way towards the bunch of men. It was a sign of mild good will for the old man, but it was a hard knock against the shoulder for Harry that sent him stumbling forwards.
Harry was about to make his way towards the ladies to get his son when he felt someone watching him. He turned around only to see Draco who was about to enter the family room, his expresssion grave. The moment Draco saw the familiar new face inside the room, his silver eyes instantly turned wary. As a proper gesture, Harry made his way towards the other man, offering his hand. "Malfoy," he said with starchy politeness. He shook his hand rather crisply.
Draco nodded. "Potter," he acknowledged, handing him a glass of champagne in return, after quickly letting go of the other man's hand. Harry accepted it unemotionally.
Then they stood there in momentary silence, their eyes not leaving a particular beautiful red-head among the crowd of people. She was laughing with the ladies and giving Nathan kisses and candies. And she never looked so pretty. She was practically glowing. Harry took a sip of his champagne first before finally opening his mouth. "Congratulations," he said quietly.
"Thank you," replied Draco automatically. Then he smirked at Harry's direction. "You might want to take your son's scrawny little hands off my daughter for a change, Potter," he began good-naturedly, seeing the obvious adoration plastered on Nathan's face when Ginny picked his daughter up against her arm. "I swear I could see him coming onto her."
With that, Harry turned to him with disgust. "Oh, for goodness sake, they're just babies!" he exclaimed. "Can't you for once think of something without malice?"
"Don't you know the meaning of 'I'm just joking?'" asked Draco sardonically.
"You know how to joke around?" spat Harry sarcastically. "From what I know, Draco Malfoy doesn't joke around, he makes a fool of himself."
"Chalk one up, for you then," said Draco, actually commending him for the smart insult. That made Harry's eyes widen in surprise. Then he sighed tiredly, looking up at the ceiling only to see the delicate looking chandelier looming above them.
"You're becoming lousy at this, did you know that?" he asked lamely as his eyes darted at the impressive painting collections hanging against the walls of the enormous and elegant sitting room. "Or are you just getting too old for this kind of thing?"
Draco snorted. "I'm just feeling so damn cheerful that nobody, not even the likes of your miserable self, can put a damper on my moods," he replied jovially. Just then, the two stopped abruptly when they saw Ginny making her way towards them, smiling prettily, Adrienne snug her arms.
Harry gulped as he finished his champagne, his eyes not leaving her. It was like déjà vu. He was having that same dazed look that he used to have whenever he would see Cho walking towards him, a smile on her lovely face. He was pretty sure that Draco too was feeling the same way since he heard his deep intake of fascinated breath. It was the kind of reaction where Draco wasn't sure if he was in a dream or not. He knew it because once, in his life, he had felt it too. When she reached them, a most peculiar feeling settled inside his chest only to drop onto his stomach. When she automatically took her rightful place beside her husband, he swallowed hard as the beginnings of subtle pain sliced within his heart.
"I'm so glad you came, Harry," she said, smiling up at him, quite oblivious of what was going on inside his mind and heart. Draco, without a word, decided to take Adrienne from her. For a moment there, the sight of Draco holding a baby against his arms and actually looking quite proud and happy about it distracted him.
Ginny cleared her throat to get his attention.
Harry immediately turned his eyes back to her only to see the amused look she gave him. It was clear that she knew what he was thinking. He smiled back, ignoring the emotional ache. "Of course," he replied. "I wouldn't miss Narcissa's dinner party for the world." Then he fell silent. "Not to mention the chance of seeing you."
He was about to inquire after the health of her mother when suddenly Hammilton breezed inside the room, announcing dinner. A rustle of clothing and boots was heard as the crowd began to make their way towards the splendid dining hall, with Vladimir leading the way. Ginny smiled at him one last time as Draco offered his free arm and escorted her towards the dining hall.
"Where's Potter?" he hissed as they slowly followed the group, keeping a certain distance away from them. Then much to his pleasure, he heard Adrienne giggle against his arms. He chuckled and kissed his little daughter fondly on the cheek. Until now, he couldn't believe the extraordinary happiness this little miracle gave him. Ginny made him complete but having Adrienne made him fulfilled. "For all the things I've done wrong, I must've done something right to deserve this, haven't I?" he thought skeptically, looking at Ginny then at Adrienne. When his daughter yawned adorably, the qualms immediately melted.
"He went back for Nathan," said Ginny softly, looking at him with an adoring smile, a blissful intrusion to his thoughts.
Draco's eyes narrowed with amusement at her direction. But nevertheless— he let out a rueful, contented sigh as he took his usual seat beside his grandfather with his wife at his left, the cradle in between them. He looked around only to see the happy faces of his guests before him, taking their respective seats as well, chatting merrily. A light smile tugged at the corner of his lips. He noticed Vladimir laughing, his mother smiling, looking more beautiful and striking than ever and Ginny looking lovelier every second. He heard the laughter all around him, a very distinct set of laughter so much different from what he was used to hearing before. It was a laughter that conveyed nothing but an odd combination of happiness and tranquility. Everybody was in good spirits.
Then he remembered Ginny… The bickering, the endless fights… their first meeting, their first kiss… He almost laughed. It was an endless comedy of errors that came to a close with a not-so-perfect fairytale kind of ending. But then again, perfection was a dull thing, wasn't it? Impossible to have. It would just make life unbearably boring.
But who said that this was the end?
It was only the beginning, right?
At that moment, he felt fulfilled, satisfied.
He had nothing more to ask for.
"Life,"he thought as he felt his wife giving his hand a warm and reassuring squeeze under the table as the food was being served, "is definitely looking up."
And with that last thought in mind, Draco Edward Malfoy felt his lips letting out a smile he had long ago forgotten. It was a rare, boyish smile, showing genuine pleasure and contentment.
Author's Notes:Woohoo!!! All done!!! All done! ::throws confetti around:: Thank you, thank you everybody for tirelessly reviewing and reviewing and reading and reading!!! Oh my god, I can't believe it's finally over!!! To tell you honestly, I don't know whether to feel sad or happy about this. ^_^ But anyway, there's more to come… I'm still thinking of writing a sequel to this but first, taking VioletJersey's advice, I'm going to take a break. I have to 'de-toxicate' my brain cells first before starting a new one. Thinking nothing but Draco and Ginny for almost seven months nearly drove me crazy ^_^ I have to condition my brain again. ::lol:: The first chapter of the sequel would take me quite a while, that is, if I still have the urge to write ^_^
Adrienne Hope Malfoywas also from VioletJersey. I kind of liked the name… it's really catchy. I think that girl's having cute boy's names are cool. Thanks VioletJersey and to all the people who gave me their lovely suggestions! It was really a hard time deciding.
My thanks also go to Trinity for the wonderful e-mail. Hey, I've read you TNHPB assignment and I couldn't agree with you more! Really, I like your concept about the fire and ice... may I use it for future fics?
I couldn't resist adding Sirius Black in this chapter! ::cackles:: I always thought him too sexy for his own good… heh ^_^… breaking hearts everywhere he went… now that's just me thinking. Although I think that Sirius Black is drop-dead sexy, I kinda like Remus better. I'm more on the quiet, intellectual type of guy. ^_~
Dang it! I'm gonna miss you guys! Thanks again for the all wonderful support you have given Serpent's Bride. ::sob:: I guess this is it. Oooohhh… I hope I'd be able to write a sequel!!! ^_^ Bye!