All characters belong to JKRowling

Chapter 18 – Epilogue – A Price to Pay at a Terrible Cost

Hermione couldn't tell exactly what it was about the painting before her, but something was definitely wrong with it. She tilted it slightly toward the left, then moved the upper right hand corner down again, but still couldn't get it to appear straight. Perhaps her eyes were crooked. She should move this painting from the foyer altogether and place it in her library. Perhaps she would remove it from her house, instead. Draco once admired it, a long time ago; perhaps she would give it to him. She was about to remove it from the wall when she felt a small hand reached up and tug at the hem of her jeans.

Looking down into the eyes of her 13-month-old daughter, Violet, she smiled and picked the brown-curly haired, chubby baby up from the floor and propped her on her hip. "Do you like this painting, Vi?" Hermione asked the baby. "Did you know that Mummy painted it? It's just a hobby, but someone once told me that I was quite good and I've been thinking of taking it up again."

The baby made a series of gurgles and other noises as a response. Hermione kissed her plump cheek, inhaling in the fresh scent of everything goodness and light along with that distinct baby smell, and asked, "Is that a yes or a no? Is it good or not?"

Sounds of footsteps on the stairs behind the pair made Hermione turn around. "Rose," she started, upon seeing her grown daughter descending the stairs in a mad dash, "You really must hurry, or you'll be late for the train."

"I can't find my tie, Mum," Rose explained, dashing by in a whirl.

Hermione lifted a red and gold tie from the balustrade at the end of the long stairwell and called out again, "Rose?"

Rose darted back down the hall, saw her tie in her mother's hand, laughed, and ran back toward her. "Thanks, Mum." Rose took the tie from Hermione's hand, the wisps of material sliding lightly through the older woman's fingers. Rose grabbed the baby's hand and kissed it before she disappeared back up the stairs.

"Rose!" Hermione yelled in desperation for the third time. "You don't have time to go back up the stairs! You're going to be seriously late! This special train for Hogwarts is just for you, you know!"

Hugo walked in the front door (leaving it open), looking as frustrated as Hermione felt. "Isn't she ready yet?" He took the baby from his mother and said, "I like you, baby Vi-Vi, so much better than I like Rose!"

"That's a horrible thing to say, and you don't mean it, Hugo," his mother scolded. Rose had only been returned to them for a little less than a month, yet her younger brother acted almost as if she'd been away for only a day, instead of a year, although Hermione knew that was all a ruse. She knew Hugo was overjoyed to have Rose returned to them. They all were.

"Close the door, Hugo! It's November, not July. It's cold outside," his mother continued. The young man wrinkled his nose at his mother, put his little sister down on unsteady feet upon the floor of the foyer, and then ran outside, leaving the door wide open.

Hermione sat on the bottom of the stairs, watching as her toddler tottered toward the open door. She wondered which daughter would make it out the door first, her baby or her eldest. She also wondered whom she should go after first…her baby, whom had just started walking a week ago and who might fall out the open front door, or should she go upstairs after her grown daughter, who had been missing for a year, and was going to miss the train to Hogwarts if she didn't hurry.

The decision was made for her when her children's father appeared in the open doorway, scooped the baby up in his arms, keeping her safe from impending disaster. The only problem was, now who would keep Rose safe?

Ron threw the baby in the air, caught her in his arms, and laughed along with her giggles. Hermione scoffed and said, "Ronald, you might drop her! She's a baby, not a sack of flour."

"I never dropped Hugo, and I only dropped Rose once," he said lightly, bringing the baby in for a hug. Rose appeared and said, "You dropped me once?"

"Yes, only once, are you ready to go?"

She sighed. "I'm nervous."

"Why are you nervous?" Ron asked. "You've gone to school tons of times."

"But I've been away for a year," she said softly, hesitantly, dropping down on the steps next to her mum, "and I missed almost all of my sixth year at school, after I left to rescue Mum and Mr. Malfoy, yet the headmistress is letting me enter this year as my seventh year, as it should be, even though I've been…you know, gone."

"Dead, you mean," Ron said, insensitively. "You were sort of dead, in a way. You keep saying you left and or you were gone, but mostly you were sort of dead."

Hermione rolled her eyes as Rose frowned. "Ron, take the baby upstairs and get her ready to go," Hermione ordered.

Ron rolled his eyes right back at his ex-wife, but did as he was told.

Hermione took her daughter's hand in hers and said, "He always did have the sensitivity of a thimble." She smiled at Rose and assured her, "You don't have to go back if you don't want to go." Hermione knew she didn't want her daughter to leave again so soon after having her returned to her, but she respected her decision to go.

"No, I want to finish my education, it's just that it'll feel weird, being there without, you know, him." Rose bent her head down and clutched her arms around her knees. "What if everyone asks me about what happened, too? If they ask me where I was for a year, and what happened to Scorpius? Even my own father thinks I was dead, though I wasn't really. If I can't make him understand, how can I make others understand? I'm not sure I even understand where or what I was."

"You don't have to tell them a thing," Hermione insisted. "Remember what Uncle Harry told you about his own experiences with Voldemort. He said he never tried to make people understand what he went through. He stopped trying to justify things to other people that they just wouldn't understand anyway."

She rubbed her daughter's back with her hand, in small circles. "Darling, I know I regretted not going back and finishing my last year, and I think you'll regret not going back, and I know the term's already started this year, but you're smart and strong, and you've faced so much to get to where you are. You can do this."

Hermione leaned over and kissed Rose's cheek.

"You're right. I'm just stalling." Rose stood up and smiled down at her mother. "Are you sure you don't want to go with us to the train station?"

"I'm very sure that I don't want to go." Hermione smiled but she felt resolute. "I have something important I have to do." She stood as well and placated her daughter with, "You don't have to take the train you know. Harry could have arranged a Portkey, or you could Floo."

"I want to take the train." Rose took a deep breath and concluded, "It'll be for the last time."

Ron started down the stairs with a bundled-up Violet in one arm and a bag with nappies and toys in another and said, "And look on the bright side, Hugo and your cousins, Lily and Albus have decided to come back this weekend just so they can travel all the way back to Hogwarts with you."

Rose gave her mother a secret look, Hermione smiled, and Rose said, "Yes, hurray for that and bully for them," without any true enthusiasm. Hermione stood, and then Rose kissed her goodbye once more, grabbed her coat and bag, and without another word was out the door.

Ron held their baby out toward her mother for a kiss, and after it was given its due, said, "Well, I'll take Violet to my folk's house after I take the kids to the train."

"Alright, Ron," Hermione said softly.

"Sure you don't want to come?" he asked again. "You missed it last year, too."

Hermione merely glared at Ron for that remark. She was highly aware that she missed taking the children to the train last year, and she didn't need his obtuse observation to remind her. She missed it because she was over eight months pregnant, she was feeling blue and disjointed, she was secretly thinking of leaving her husband, and then Draco Malfoy showed up at her door only moments after Ron and the children left, to tell her that Ron was having an affair with his wife Astoria.

After that, her world turned upside down and was never the same. Draco and she used an ancient amulet called The First Stone to travel back in time. They also fell in love while there. Rose 'died' bringing them back from the past, although in theory she was merely stuck in a stasis form of sleep. Then Scorpius, Draco's son, used the same ancient amulet and brought Rose back to them, after a year.

And it seemed he did it at a terrible, terrible cost.

Of everyone involved with The First Stone, it would appear that Scorpius Malfoy paid the ultimate price. He saved the life of his first love – which was the basic magic of The First Stone. He brought her back from the dead, turned back time, gave his life for another, without sin or prejudice, but somehow, without explanation, the very moment that he did so, he disappeared into thin air.

He was there one moment and the next he was gone. He literally gave his life for hers. Rose woke up, and the first person she asked for was Scorpius, and it wasn't until she asked for him that Hermione and Draco realized he was gone.

Moreover, it seemed that he was whom she was missing today. She didn't want to go to school, finish her last year, without him. Hermione understood that, even if no one else did. She watched as Ron loaded everyone into the car and she didn't close the door until the car was a small speck at the end of the road.

Turning to face the landscape painting she contemplated earlier, which still appeared to be slightly slanted, she lifted it from the wall and decided to take it to Draco Malfoy. It was time for her to forgive, or in layman terms, it was time for those without sin to cast the first stone.

Draco Malfoy kicked an ottoman and threw a pillow halfway across the room. Shouting aloud, "What do I know about decorating?" He cursed some more and with a swish of his wand put the large parlor to his new house to rights, but grimaced as he did. He didn't really like his new house. It was large, spacious, a mansion by most standards, but somehow it was just a house. It didn't seem like a home. He remembered Hermione's house feeling like a home.

He blew out a breath and said, "No point dwelling on what I'll never have."

He had never really had a home. The Manor had never felt like a home, even when he was growing up, or even when Scorpius was there. Still, he left the Manor shortly after Hermione's daughter 'died' and then after his own son disappeared, he knew he could never go back there. There were too many painful memories associated with that house.

As soon as Hermione's daughter awoke from her yearlong 'death sleep' and asked for his son, and they saw that Scorpius was missing, Draco's heart broke in two. It shattered for his missing son, for the new pain Rose would feel, for the guilt he saw on Hermione's face, because if mirrored his own when he blamed himself for HER daughter's death.

He waited around long enough for Hermione to call the Aurors and her family. He waited for the bloody inquisition by the Ministry. He waited for his son's mother to show some sort of emotion, although she never did. Instead, she asked for money in which to disappear. Draco's father gave the woman all the money she asked for, along with a curse on the money. As soon as she touched the first knut, the first galleon, she forgot she ever had a son, a husband, or a marriage. In Draco's opinion, it was the best piece of magic his father had ever performed.

Then Draco Malfoy, along with his mother and father, went to visit Harry Potter very late one night, two weeks after his son's disappearance. The Ministry's halls were quiet, but still the sight of three former Death Eater's walking their hallowed halls caused a slight uproar, even at twenty-six minutes after midnight.

A young Auror rushed into Harry Potter's office and said, "Mr. Potter, I think we might have a problem down in the main entrance."

Harry didn't look up from this parchment, because he wasn't the least bit concerned. "What is it, Timmons?"

"Lucius, Narcissa and Draco Malfoy just entered through the Floos and the word is they're looking specifically for you," the young man said steadily.

Harry looked up and dropped his quill, glancing over at the folder on his desk. All day long he'd been finishing up with the Rose Weasley case, which was tied to the Hermione Weasley and Draco Malfoy disappearance from a year ago. That folder lay underneath. Under them all was a new folder, a case just opened, the case of the disappearance of Scorpius Malfoy.

He had already interviewed Draco and Hermione regarding Scorpius' disappearance the day he went missing, two weeks prior. The case was still open, even as the case on Rose was closing. He closed Rose's folder, opened Scorpius', and stood. Spying The First Stone Amulet on his desk, which he had taken as evidence after Scorpius disappeared, he picked it up and placed it in his pocket, even as reflexes caused him to finger his wand. He left his office to stroll out into the hallway, just as the three Malfoys were exiting the lifts on his floor.

Harry and two junior Aurors stood facing Draco Malfoy and his parents. Draco gave Harry a curt nod and said, "Potter, we need to talk." He pulled a battered, black journal out of his robe pockets and inclined his head toward Harry's office behind him.

Harry nodded in return. "Show Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy a seat in the conference room," Harry ordered the younger men as he and Draco stepped over the threshold into his office.

On the train to Hogwarts, all Rose wished for was some peace and quiet. Luckily, she got her wish shortly after the train departed.

She was sitting in a car with her younger brother and cousins, Lily and Albus, when she pulled a book from her bag and started to read, even though she couldn't concentrate because the younger children were talkative, playful, and rowdy. Wishing they would leave her in peace, although she would never tell them that, she tried to block out their never-ending chattering by concentrating on the words before her.

She didn't want to hurt their feelings by telling them to be quiet, because she knew they'd come home specifically so they could travel back to Hogwarts with her to give her moral support, but in truth, they made her more nervous. Closing the book, along with her eyes, she bunched her hands in tight fists in her lap, and was about to scream (internally) when the compartment door opened.

"Hey, Rose," said a familiar voice.

She looked up, as did her family. Everyone yelled at the same time. It was her cousin, James. She stood up and went over to hug him. "What are you doing here? Surely, you're not coming with us to Hogwarts! You graduated last spring!"

"I know, I know," he said with a smile, while ruffling the hair of his little sister. "My dad thought it would be a grand surprise if I came along to supervise the young ones during the trip."

"We don't need supervision!" Hugo protested.

Nevertheless, Rose gave her older cousin the sincerest look of gratitude he'd ever seen. He smiled in understanding and said, "Come along, young ones. I've even absconded some grand sweets in the car down the way, and I might share them with you little tossers, if you beat me at a game of exploding snaps, that is." He winked at Rose as he ushered the children out of the car.

"How did you know that I needed some peace and quiet?" she asked.

"Oh, it was my dad's idea, really it was," James admitted with a wicked smile. "I don't mind, as it got me out of Auror training for day." He leaned over and kissed Rose's cheek. "I think he has another surprise for you, too. All you have to do is sit back calmly and wait for it."

She did, even if she felt more anxious and edgy, if that were possible. Sitting back down in her seat and picking up her book, Rose exhaled a breath that she didn't even know she was holding. Finally, somehow, calmness did settle over her. Calmness she'd not felt since returning to this state of being. Placing the book on the seat beside her, she looked up at the still open car door and waited, although she didn't know for what.

Hermione walked through her quiet house, the once crooked painting tucked under her arm. She decided to give it to Draco Malfoy. She also decided to forgive him. She recalled the conversation they had regarding it over a years ago, when he said it was good, asked who painted it, she admitted she did, and he acted surprised.

Would he be even more surprised if she gave it to him today, or would the biggest surprise be seeing her after all this time? Grabbing her coat from the hall tree and tucking it under her other arm, she Disapparated away to find him. Yes, it was time.

Back at his new house, Draco tried to remember what Hermione's large Victorian home looked like. It was comfortable, inviting, everything a house should look like to make it a home. He recalled that she had a very nice landscape painting in the front foyer. He needed some artwork. Perhaps he could have her paint him something for his new home.

He should call her and ask her to come over and help him decorate, at the very least.

Or perhaps he could have her over for dinner sometime.

Or coffee.

Or tea.

Or sex. Ugh. She would probably never want to see him again. It had been over a year since they had any sort of positive contact, and the last time they'd seen each other his son had just disappeared, after bringing her daughter back. After Scorpius disappeared, he felt anguish and wanted to blame Hermione, but he couldn't. Scorpius was seventeen and he did what he did out of love, and Draco couldn't find fault in that or blame his son or Hermione for something that Draco himself did at that age.

Someone walked through the open train door and Rose stood so suddenly that she almost stumbled. The face of a person before her was someone she hadn't hoped or dared to dream she'd see here of all places, or perhaps ever again, if at all.

The man rushed to her, smiling, and with reflexes fast as lightning, he grabbed her upper arms with both hands, to keep her from falling. She looked up into his familiar grey eyes and said, "What – what are you doing here? How is this possible? You were gone! I never thought, I mean, it can't be, it just can't be."

"Why can't it be, Rose Red? Don't you believe in miracles? Don't you believe that good things happen to good people?"

With his hands still holding her arms, she lifted her hands to cradle his face. Drinking in the sight of him, she began to cry. "You were gone. You vanished. No one knew where you went! You left me, Scorpius!"

"Well you left me, Rosie, and for a much longer time. I grieved for you for a year. I had to wait for my father and your mother to come to their senses before I could get you back. You only had to wait six weeks to get me back," he said contritely, with a smile on his face.

Still crying, she pulled away from his grasp and said, "I know it's my fault. I should have listened to you. My mother told me that they were in the middle of the third path of the stone, and she was already being tortured when the spell happened to bring them back, which means they probably would have come back eventually. I didn't have to do that spell; we could have waited for the magic of the stone to wane, like you said."

Feeling overwhelmed and defeated, and slightly confused, she fell down into her abandoned seat.

Scorpius interjected, "Or they might have been stuck in the past for three years, like the power of three magic dictated. We'll never know, because so much of the magic of The First Stone is still a mystery, so you might have done the right thing, but you paid a terrible price. We all did. And you were gone for a year, Rose. It was the worst year of my life." He sat beside her, lifted her hand to his lips, kissed it gently, and added, "We all paid a terrible price when you left for that long."

"I'm sorry," she said sincerely.

"I know," he replied just as earnestly in return, "so am I."

Moving her hand from his, she cupped his face again and asked, "But where were you for the last few weeks? You literally vanished. My mum told me that you did the spell to wake me, and when I woke up, the first words I uttered were, 'where's Scorpius' and that's when she and your dad noticed you were gone."

He frowned slightly, removing her hand from his face. "That's the thing, Rose Red. I'm not sure where I was. I might have been in the same place you were when you were gone, stuck somewhere in limbo, between living and death, in a different dimension, between times – the future, the present, and the past, but I wasn't aware of anything."

"How then…?"

"Well," he began, "there was one last safeguard on the stone, the last one from Slytherin. I think I might have mentioned to you, and I know my dad knew about it, and it was in that book given to your mum. If the stone were used as Hufflepuff ordained, truly to save someone from death…not from dying, as my dad saved your mum, but from true death, then the person casting the magic of the stone would forfeit their own life – giving one's life to save another's."

"However, Rosie, you weren't really dead, so neither was I, and that was Slytherin's safeguard – albeit a particularly obscure one. Slytherin's magic dictated that anyone with Slytherin's blood could bring the person who cast that magic back. That's why Tom Riddle, or Voldemort rather, wanted the stone so badly in the past. He knew of that magic."

Rose looked confused and said, "Who in this time would have Slytherin's blood? Who would have been able to save you from your fate?"

He smiled. "Your uncle, Harry Potter. Seems he still shares something with old Voldemort, and my dad was counting on that when he asked your uncle for the favor of all favors, and here I am."

"I'm so glad you're here," she said happily. "I can't imagine even going through my last year at Hogwarts without you, let alone my life without you."

"Nor I without you," he returned. Placing cautious hands upon her face, he kissed her lips softly, hesitantly, but with joy and bliss. Parting, he sat down on the bench and pulled her down beside him, keeping her hand in his. "Are you sad that we aren't having the seventh year you always dreamt of…head boy and girl, and all of that?"

"No." She took a deep breath. "We almost didn't even have this year, and we only had a small part of last year. I'm thankful for what we have, and I'm never again going to wish for something else, or try to change the past or future." Her hand went to her chest. Underneath her school robes, her tie, her white oxford, she had a heavy, ruby amulet lying heavy against her heart. Her Uncle Harry gave it to her, and told her to wear it always, as a reminder of the heavy price they all paid for love.

Turning back toward Scorpius she said, "I only hope that my mum and your dad can learn to love again. I wish they would forgive each other, be reunited, and find their happiness again, the way we found ours." She leaned her head on his shoulder.

He stroked her long, red hair, placed an arm across her shoulder and looked out the window as he said, "Something tells me that they will, Rose Red. They will."

Now that Draco had his son back, he needed to provide a solid and stable home for him, even though Scorpius was grown and would probably be leaving soon. He would spend this year finishing his education at Hogwarts (with his 'Rose Red' as he called her) but when not at school, he'd need a 'home' to come back to during holidays and the like.

After school, Scorpius would go on to Uni and then probably marry Granger's daughter. If that wasn't enough of a reason to call Granger and ask her to forgive him, than he didn't know what was. Hell, perhaps she would even fall in love with him again. With Scorpius and Rose in love, and if he and Granger fell back in love, he hoped that didn't make any of their relationships incestuous. He would think about that later.

Thinking on things now, Draco was surprised how easy it was to convince Potter to do the magic to bring Scorpius back. The stupid prick didn't even question the magic in the book, nor did he hesitate. Harry told Draco he would gladly do anything to bring Scorpius back to them, if only to shake the hand of the young man who gave them back the life of their beloved Rose.

Damn Scarhead and his effing hero complex.

Still, Potter didn't question it, think twice, or object. He did it without qualms, and for that, Draco SUPPOSED he would be forever grateful. Scorpius should be on the train about now. Draco smiled, wondering what Rose was thinking…was she happy to see his son again? Was she crying, overjoyed, ecstatic? They would get to have a happy seventh year at Hogwarts together, even if it had started late.

What he wouldn't give to have a seventh year at Hogwarts with Hermione - No. That thought filled Draco with guilt. It was thoughts such as these that got Draco into trouble in the first place…wistful AND wishful thinking. He couldn't live in the past, especially a past that never existed.

Draco sat down on his uncomfortable sofa and continued to think of Hermione. Harry had told her what he'd done to save Scorpius. She knew that Scorpius was back, and was going to join her daughter on the train. Draco had hoped that when she'd found out that Scorpius was back that she would have sought him out, but she didn't. Did that mean that she didn't still love him? Did that mean that she hadn't forgiven him for tricking her into using The First Stone? He hadn't forgiven himself yet, but that was beside the point. She'd moved on – she divorced the Ginger-boy Weasel, she had her daughter back, she had her new life…so that must mean that she didn't need Draco. She wouldn't want Draco.

Suddenly, his doorbell brought him back to reality. Firstly, he wasn't aware anyone knew where he lived. Secondly, he had extensive wards set up, so no one should be allowed to merely come up and 'ring' his bell. Thirdly, he didn't know he had a doorbell.

He had a doorbell?

Draco walked from the parlor to the large, almost cavernous foyer, his boots clicking on the black and white marble tiles. Stopping at the white, double doors, he paused, already knowing who was on the other side, just by the sudden calm that filled every pore in his body. Opening the door just a crack, he peered outside.

"What?" he asked, surprised but happy to see her.

"Nice to see you, too, Malfoy," Hermione Granger said, affecting a bored tone that was reminiscent of the same bored tone he had affected when he had visited her house so long ago. She leaned her once again slight body against the doorframe, placing her small foot with its leather, sensible brown shoe, inside the door as she did.

He laughed. Goodness, it was wonderful to see her. He raised an eyebrow in the air, as only he could, and asked, "Really, Granger, do you think I'll let you in merely because you placed your little foot in my doorway? I do have a wand you know. Actually, I probably weigh three stones more than you do. I could pick you up and throw you out if I wanted to, now what do you want?"

"Do you want to throw me out?" she asked in all seriousness.

With equal seriousness he said, "Not bloody likely."

"Then stop being an arse," she leveled, "and let me inside. It's cold out here and I have a housewarming present for you."

"Speaking of housewarming presents," he repeated, pointing his chin to the painting, which faced backwards to him, "how did you know where I lived?"

"Harry told me, when he told me what he had planned for Scorpius and the train today," she explained. "Seriously, Malfoy, it's very cold out here."

"Another moment, if you will," he said with a smile. "I might not want you to come inside. Why aren't you with the husband and kiddies yourself, Granger?"

"Must I remind you, its ex-husband, and you asked me that same thing a year ago and it led to no good," she sighed in irritation, thrusting the painting in his hands, pushing him aside, and walking into his house uninvited.

"Oh, well, do come in," he said acerbically.

He bit his lip to keep from smiling. Acting as if he couldn't remember a thing about the painting in his hand, he repeated what he said to her in her own foyer, so long ago, as it hung on the wall by the living room entry. Holding it away from his body he said, "This is good, who's the artist?"

"I am," she said proudly.

"Really? I never would have thought you'd have an artistic bone in your body."

He placed the painting on the floor and walked up to her, slowly, surely, expectantly. She waited for him anxiously, wondering what he would say. Would he apologize? Would he demand an apology? Would he ask to start anew? Would he tell her that he loved her?

Therefore, she was surprised when finally he stood only centimeters from her and instead of saying anything, not one word, he grabbed her arms and brought her chest up to his. Then with one arm coming around to cup the back of her head, pulling on her hair, he brought her face up to his, lowered his face to hers, and he kissed her, and kissed her, and kissed her, and kissed her.

It felt as if the kiss lasted forever, but seriously, forever was a long time. When they parted, too soon (if forever was the measurement of time for this kiss) Hermione looked up to Draco, Draco looked down to Hermione, and he asked, "Will you come live here with me, with your children, and make this house a home?"

"One on condition," she said, placing her right hand up into his hair. With a smile on her face she said, "We really have to do something to impede your hair loss."



Thank you for reading!