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Chapter 22 – Finally, The End of My Non Dramione Marriage Story

Part I – The End – A Man and Woman Talking, but Who?

A man asked a woman to meet him in a Muggle park exactly one week after their meeting/confessional with the Minister of Magic. He waited patiently for her, knowing she wouldn't be late. She had never once been late in all the years he had known her. The fact was, she had never once disappointed him or let him down regarding anything. No, letting her down was his job. He heard footsteps approaching from the left. He knew it was she, so he didn't even glance toward her as he felt her body press against his on the bench.

They sat side-by-side on the bench in this Muggle park, huddled close together to ward off the cold January wind. Though the sun was shining, the wind was less kind, and it was blowing hard enough that the woman's hair kept blowing forward. The man finally looked over at her, reached up, and moved it aside, to tuck it behind her ear.

"Why did you do it?" he asked. "Why did you try to take all the blame?"

"It was my fault," she leveled.

He looked to the ground, clasping his hands between his legs as he did. Sighing audibly, he said, "I was going to take care of it all. You knew that. You should have let me."

She didn't have a response to that, so instead, she snaked her arm around his back and patted it through his coat. Leaning onto his shoulder, she placed her face against the soft, herringbone-wool, and closed her eyes to ward off tears that burned against her retinas. "Why? It wasn't your fault," she stated.

Sensing her tears were on the edge of escalating, he brought his arm around her body as well, pulled her to his chest, and said, "It's okay to cry." Therefore, she tucked her head against his body, and she did. He leveled, "And it's also okay to be in denial and to be self-righteous, since you're a boring, former, bloody Gryffindor, and to think that it wasn't my fault, when it was."

Through her tears, she laughed and countered, "I wish you hadn't come in and tried to rescue the situation. I wish Harry hadn't let you through the door, but he also felt that you were at fault, so he wanted you to take the fall with me. However, I had it well in hand." She cried for only a few more moments, then wiped her eyes and said, "Why do you suppose Marcus didn't wait out in the hallway for us? I really want to know what was in that note Blaise told us he received. I've been trying to get a hold of him all week and he's avoiding me." She sat upright and began to blot her eyes with the sleeve of her coat.

He handed her a tissue from his pocket and said, "He's always been like that. He's the most introverted of us all. He always wants to solve his own problems. He thinks he has to be the strong one, and to ask for help shows signs of weakness. Hell, why do you think I had to trick him into changing the names in the envelopes that day? I knew he would never ask for my help, so I had to help him along. In a way, we've always had our assigned roles in our little group, and his has always been the protector, but that leaves him unprotected."

"I know, I know," she agreed. "I've always felt protected by him. Do you think the note had to do with his mum?"

"Yes, and I think Blaise knew all along, though Theo hasn't been able to find out anything concrete yet, neither have I, of course, it's harder for me to find out things now, no longer working at the Ministry and all."

Hermione looked at Adrian and smiled as she pushed completely away from his chest. "You know, you didn't have to resign along with me. There was no need."

"Yes there was. I wasn't going to let you offer yourself up as some sacrificial lamb," he teased. "I can be noble, too." She chortled at that statement, so he pushed hard on her shoulder, causing her almost to fall off the bench, even as he defended, "I can, Hermione! Nobel and Adrian are almost synonyms. Besides, I was the Director of the department. I knew the results didn't work, and though I suspected that you probably knew they didn't work as well, I never discussed it with you. We were all in the wrong, you, the Minister and me. He won't take any blame though, of that I'm certain. The fact that we're ready to take it all will be of consolation to him."

"He did say that he would make sure the Wizengamot voted to overturn the law during its next session, but what if they don't?" she pondered.

"They will," he assured, and he was sure.

She let out a long breath, looked up at the crystal blue, winter sky, and asked, more to herself, "What am I to do now?"

"We can start our own company, as we had talked of doing before," Adrian suggested. He saw a look of incredibility on her face and interrupted with, "I don't think the publicity of this law being overturned will be as negative as you assume. Most will be happy that the law will be overturned, and after a few well-placed interviews from Blaise, Theo, and Malfoy, as well as from me, the people will go from hating us for causing the turmoil, to loving us for cleaning up the mess. I say, strike while the iron's hot. It's a perfect time for us to go out on our own. We'll have instant publicity."

"But to start our own lab, for the basis of screening people for magical matches, I mean, who would want to come to us, after our first tests didn't work?" she quizzed.

He laughed. "You'd be surprised, and we'll do more than that. Your test weren't being fully utilized. Many people will want to test for possible squib births, but also for other diseases, just as Muggles do. In addition, we can use our testing for infertility, like Muggle labs, and for so much more. We can do testing to help discover cures for illness, such as the one that Marcus' mother had."

"The reason we didn't quit a year ago when we wanted to do it then was because we didn't have the start up capital," Hermione reminded him. "I mean, I know you have money, but it's all tied up in your trust fund, which you can't touch yet, and unless you've suddenly robbed Gringotts, that hasn't changed, and I don't have that kind of money."

He shrugged and suggested, "We'll get Malfoy to give us the money." Again, she stared at him, wide eyed, and he laughed. "And did you notice how I said, 'give' and not 'borrowed'? Did you notice? That's his role in our group. He's our, what's the Muggle term, oh yes, our piggy-bank."

She laughed, too, and said, "I've noticed that. Okay, we'll get him to give us the money. He's so happy and besotted right now, he'd probably do anything." They sat in silence for a moment again, and then she broke it by saying, "Will Marcus ever forgive me? I'm not even certain what I did wrong?"

"I'm not certain either," he admitted. "And yes, he'll come around. His pride is bruised, but not beyond repair. He's hurt."

"Why?" she asked, that one word full of righteous indignation. "I did nothing wrong as far as the choice of who was in my envelope! He's the one that changed the names around! I had no choice but to comply with the letter of the law! I had to settle myself to whoever's name was within that damn envelope, doesn't he see that? That doesn't mean I didn't fall in love with him!"

She stood up and stared down at Adrian. He looked up at her with a small smile on his face. He grabbed one of her knitted-gloved hands and slipped it inside his leathered-gloved ones. He answered, "I know that, and you know that, but he's a bit one minded sometimes. As I said, it's his pride. I know it doesn't make sense to you, Hermione, but I think that when you admitted that it didn't matter to you whose name was in the envelope, he was hurt. He's loved you for so long, and he wanted you to have loved him just as long.

"His brain may be able to eventually reason the folly of that, but his heart is ruling things at the moment. He wants to know that you loved him from the beginning as well, and that if someone else's name was in your envelope, that you would've been unhappy and miserable, because he would've been."

She sat back beside him, but kept her hand in his. Pouting, she said, "But isn't it good enough that even if I didn't love him at the start, that I loved him at the end?"

"Well said, Hermione Granger, remember that sentiment and when you see him, state it to him just like that, and yes, it should be good enough, and perhaps when he's had time to consider it, he'll know it's true." He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it through the layer of wool, before dropping it. "And if he doesn't see it soon, I'll make him see it."

"You can't always fix everything, Adrian," Hermione said softly, sadly, almost despondently.

"Yes I can," he argued. "That's my role in our group. I fix everything."

She glanced over at him, under lowered lashes, unsure if he was joking or not, and said, "You're such a, a, I don't know how to say this, but…well…you think you know it all, don't you?" She leaned against the bench again and said, "You really think you know what's best for everyone, and that you can fix everything, and guide everything to go your way, and that you're smarter than everyone else."

He waited a matter of seconds and then joked, "Were you describing yourself or me?"

She hit his arm hard with her fist. He rubbed his arm and laughed hard. "You have to admit, it sounded like you were describing yourself there for a moment."

She stood, faced him, and joked, "Maybe you and I should have been paired up. We are rather alike. We would have been perfect matches, aye?"

He smiled and stood in front of her. He placed his hands on her shoulders, leaned over, kissed her forehead, and said, "We would have been too much alike, and would have killed each other in a matter of minutes. Perfect isn't all it's cracked up to be, Hermione. I think we should all strive for to be imperfect once in a while."

She agreed, nodded and said, "I thought the very same thing just this morning. Gee, we are alike. Scary." Rising to her tiptoes, she kissed him again, his cheek this time, and ran away, yelling over her shoulder, "Call me in a day or two, or if you hear from him!"

He lifted his hand to wave. After she was completely out of sight, he sat back on the bench and placed his hand on his cheek. It felt scorched from the imprint of her kiss. He said aloud, "We would have been a perfect match indeed. Nevertheless, my real role in the group is as I said earlier – I'm the noble one. Really, I'm nobler than anyone knows, because I let Marcus have her, instead of taking her for myself."

Part II – The End – Two Men Waiting Under A Tent During a Special Occasion

Two men sat next to each other on folding chairs on the left side of a makeshift pew under a large white tent in the middle of a wooded area of a rather large estate. One placed his foot upon the empty chair in front of him, to save it for his other friends. The other man threw his jacket across the chair next to that one to do the same, as the chair next to him was already occupied.

All the chairs were beginning to fill up quickly, and both men were rather surprised so many people were coming today, as their friend had told them that he had intended to keep this event small and low key. Likewise, it was planned rather in a hurry, with the notices going out only last night. Still, an event such as this usually did draw big crowds, especially when it regarded one of the oldest, pureblood families of their world.

One of their friends approached the two men and sat directly in front of them, removing the second man's jacket and throwing it back to him. He turned to face them and said, "I told you to save us a couple of seats in your aisle."

The man at the end said, "It was filling up too quickly. I placed my foot on the seat in front of me. It was the best I could do. Blaise did the same with his jacket. Why did we need to save so many seats? We know Anna and Draco won't need seats, since they'll be up front. Who are the other seats for?"

"Well, Granger for one," Adrian answered.

Blaise said, "I was rather hoping it was for someone else."

"Who?" Adrian asked.

"Nevermind," he answered flippantly. Adrian remained facing the other two and asked Theo, "Where's Astoria?"

"Sitting with her family. They wanted to show a united front. By the by, heard you broke it off with her older sister before the law was even overturned. Bad show, Adrian," Theo lectured.

"Mind your own, Theo," Adrian bit back.

"Gentlemen, please, this is not the time or place," Blaise commented. "This occasion hardly calls for fighting amongst friends."

Before the others could respond, Hermione ran down the long aisle, holding Harry Potter's hand. Ron Weasley and his sister Ginny were behind them. In fact, the entire Weasley family was walking down the aisle, filling seats here and there.

Hermione stopped by Adrian and said, "There doesn't seem to be enough seats for Harry, Ron, Ginny and I to sit with you all. We'll go sit somewhere else."

"Wait," Blaise said. He turned to the person next to him, reached in his pocket, pulled out some money and said, "This is yours if you go sit somewhere else."

The man and the woman with him left. He looked over at Ginny, hopefully, and said, "You and your brother can sit next to me." He said it rather optimistically. Theo smiled to himself.

"I'm going to go sit next to my fiancé," Ron said, pointing toward a woman a row over, "but go on, Gin." He pushed his sister toward Blaise, and then shook Blaise's hand. He gave Hermione a peck on the cheek, turned toward the row of seats on the other side of the tent, and sat next to a woman who had saved a seat for him.

"There's still not room for Harry and me," Hermione complained, looking at the lone seat next to Adrian.

"Are you kidding?" Theo said. "He's Harry 'Bloody' Potter, if someone won't move for him, I don't know what our world is coming to." Theo leaned forward, placed his hand on the shoulder of the person in the seat next to the empty seat in the aisle in front, and said, "Excuse me, kid, but you're accidentally in the assigned seat of the Saviour of our world. You should be ashamed. Move along, move along."

The younger man looked up, saw Harry, apologized profusely, and moved over two seats. Harry gave Theo a very dirty look even while Theo, Blaise and Adrian laughed, but he sat down, with Hermione sitting next to him, Adrian on the end.

Hermione leaned toward Adrian and said, "Be truthful to me, did you know about this last week when I saw you in the park?"

"I swear I didn't. I received the Owl about it last night, just as you did. I think the only ones who knew were Anna and Draco. They arranged everything very quickly."

She nodded slightly, but didn't respond.

Theo leaned forward toward the others and said, "Most of these people abandoned this family before, but now they come out for something like this. It doesn't make sense to me."

"Bunch of hypocrites, that's what they are," Harry retorted, agreeing with Theo's sentiment. "That's how it's always been in this world."

He turned around in his seat so the members of his party in both rows could hear and said in low tones, "By the way, there was a secret meeting of the Wizengamot this morning. The marriage law is officially overturned. The Owls will go out tomorrow, along with a press release. The wording is such that it won't even mention that there were flaws with the testing, because that would dirty all of them as well. The official reason is that they've decided that this law goes against the very thing that we fought a war to end… discrimination, intolerance, injustice, bigotry, and most of all, blood prejudice, in this case meaning reverse prejudice, not allowing purebloods to marry whomever they please."

He turned back around in his seat.

Hermione leaned her head on his shoulder.

Adrian turned around and looked at Blaise and Theo. They had different expressions on their faces. He was about to say something else to them, when he saw Marcus walking up the aisle. He turned back in his seat and pulled on Hermione's coat sleeve.

She turned slightly when he did. She looked up as Marcus walked past her, followed by Draco, then Anna and some woman she didn't know.

Then, all eyes were on the people up front.

Draco approached the front of the crowd first and said, "Thank you all for coming at such short notice. My best friend, Marcus, asked that I say a few words today, and I'm happy to do so."

"First, Mrs. Flint was one of the warmest women I've ever known. Of all of my friends' mothers and I know it's hard to believe, but most of my friends had mothers, (people laughed) she was the best. She was from a long line of purebloods, but she was never haughty or arrogant. She would hug us, tell us stories, and show us affection at every turn. Imagine that - a bunch of evil little Slytherins, up to no good, flying too high in the back garden, or playing in the front parlor on a rainy Saturday, tossing century old vases as if they were Quaffles, and she would never yell at us. She would offer us biscuits and butterbeers, give us hugs, and sometimes even join us in our games. Can any of you imagine my mother doing that?"

Again, a few people laughed.

"The point is, she was a wonderful, warm woman, who doted on her only son, and we will all miss her very, very much."

He turned toward Marcus, shook his hand, and then went to stand next to Anna and the other woman.

Marcus stepped forward and said, "I only have one thing to say. I'd like to read a poem, actually. My mother loved poetry, and someone else I love has an affinity for it as well. Now, I don't know if they ever read the same poetry, or had a fondness for the same poet, yet I found this book in my mother's room, and while leafing through the pages I found this poem, and I wanted to read it for her and for the person that I love. It's by a Muggle poet named Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and it's called, 'That Day'."

Hermione sat upright and strained to listen, clutching tightly to Harry's hand.

Marcus read:

That Day

I stand by the river where both of us stood,

And there is but one shadow to darken the flood,

And the path leading to it, where both used to pass,

Has the step of but one to take dew from the grass –

One forlorn since that day.

The flowers of the margin are many to see;

None stoops at my bidding to pluck them for me.

The bird in the alder sings loudly and long;

My low sound of weeping disturbs not his song,

As thy vow did that day.

I stand by the river, I think of that vow;

Oh, calm as the place is, vow-breaker, be thou!

I leave the flower growing, the bird unreproved:

Would I trouble thee rather than them, my beloved –

And my lover that day?

Go, be sure of my love, by that treason forgiven;

Of my prayers, by the blessing they win thee from heaven;

Of my grief (guess the length of the sword by the sheath's)

By the silence of life, more pathetic than death's!

Go – be clear of that day!

When he was finished, he closed he book and stood with his eyes facing toward the earth, his chest heaving. Hermione was weeping softly. He explained, "I was told by someone special that poetry was subjective. It could mean whatever you wanted it to mean. It could mean different things to different people. I won't tell you what that poem means to me, because that's sacred, to be shared only by me and one other, but perhaps it meant something to my mother as well, and I find solace in that thought."

To Hermione, that poem was a testament of his constant love for her. It spoke directly to her. It said that he still loved her, he forgave her, but most of all, it meant that he forgave himself. It reminded her of the day in the enchanted woods at Malfoy Manor, when they stood by the stream, and she reached her arms around his neck, kissed him with care, without thought, with qualms, and told him freely that she loved him. That day. 'That Day' she admitted that she loved him, although she had probably loved him long before 'That Day'.

He finally looked up and said, "Most of you know I'm a man of few words, but I wanted to share that poem and I wanted to thank you all for coming today." His eyes scanned the crowd and connected with Hermione's eyes. He gave her a sad smile and then he turned toward an ivory casket that was behind him. He placed a hand on the closed casket, said, "Goodbye, Mother. I love you. I hope you'll be happy now and forever. I hope I will be as well. I finally realize that we both deserve it." He took a long ivory rose from the bouquet spray of roses on the top and placed it inside his coat. He walked toward the side of the tent and soon disappeared in the woods.

Hermione and the rest stayed until the casket was lowered into the ground.

Part III- The End – A Man and a Woman and a House

Hermione walked into the old Victorian house that Marcus was renovating without invitation. She had knocked twice upon the door, but no one answered. She tried the latch, and the door opened, and she knew from Blaise that Marcus was supposed to be here, so she let her inside.

She hadn't seen him since his mother's funeral a week before, though they didn't talk once that day. Before that, she saw him the night everything went downhill, the night before they all went to confess their sins to the Ministry of Magic, two weeks ago.

Even if she hadn't resigned without notice that day, she wouldn't have seen him at work, because she found out that the day after she and Adrian resigned that Marcus had resigned as well. She didn't know the reason for it at the time…no one knew that his mother had passed away the morning they all waited to talk to the Minister, well, no one but Draco and later Blaise. She didn't know what his plans were. She didn't know where they stood. She DID know, however, that he still loved her, or he wouldn't have read that poem at his mother's funeral. She also knew that she still loved him, or she wouldn't have been brave enough to come here today.

In addition, he wouldn't have sent her a very special present last night if he didn't still love her, and she wouldn't have worn it for the very same reason. She looked down at her wrist. Usually she only wore a watch on her wrist, which she would move around and around, nervously, but today she wore her watch on her left wrist and the present he had sent her on her right. She had admired the bracelet in the Muggle department store the day they bought the present for her mother. It was made of solid silver and the bracelet looked like a vine, with small gardenias hanging from it. He identified the flowers for her that day because she couldn't tell what type they were, even though he claimed to be a man who didn't know one type of flower from another, and she claimed that gardenias were her favourites.

Now he had given it to her. She wore it proudly.

She walked from the foyer into the front parlor. That room was completely finished and she stood in awe for a moment, admiring the lovely room. She walked from that room to the next, which he claimed could be a second parlor, later calling them 'his and hers' parlors. It too was finished. The front room consisted of blues and browns, the second room was made up of greens and golds, but the colours and themes flowed together nicely. She walked through the small hallway into the next room; the one that he claimed could someday be her library.

She remembered suggesting red for this room to him that day. He laughed at her and said, "Really, red?" She told him red stimulated the brain and thinking. He joked that her brain didn't need stimulated.

However, the room was painted red, for the most part. The bottom parts of the walls were white wainscoting, the middle parts of the walls were wallpapered with a French toile de Jouy design and the top parts of the walls were red. The room had built in white bookshelves on two walls, and the insides of the bookshelves were painted red. There was a large window seat, with red and floral pillows. She fingered a fringe on one of the pillows and then sat down on the window seat and hugged the pillow to her chest.

He walked through the room, paintbrush in his hand, not noticing her. He started out the other door when she called his name. "Marcus?"

He turned to face her.

He looked surprised to see her.

"You went with the red in this room, I see," she said.

"It stimulates brainwaves, or something, or so I heard," he said with a lopsided grin. He moved the paintbrush awkwardly from one hand to the next, finally opting to place it on a small ladder in the hallway. He stepped back into the room and asked, "Have you been here long?"

"No, just got here. I love what you did with the front rooms. They look smashing."

"I'll need help picking out the furniture and wall decorations, though," he said with a grin. "I have to admit, Malfoy and Anna have been very helpful. I was going to paint this whole room a solid red, but was told to break it up with the toile."

"Ah…a woman's touch," Hermione said grinning, shaking her head.

"No…Anna didn't suggest it, Malfoy did," Marcus contradicted with a truthful grin. Hermione bit her lip to keep from smiling.

"Well, show me the rest of the place." She stood from the window seat and threw the pillow back down. He brushed his hands on his slacks, for no apparent reason, and held his hand out toward the door in which he had come from in the beginning. She knew he was merely showing her the way, but she acted as if she misunderstood and placed her hand in his. He looked surprised, but happily so, and he held her hand tightly as they crossed over to the large dining room. "I'm still painting in here, as you can see, so I've not really thought about it a lot."

"I love the gold and pumpkin colours though," Hermione said. "I really do. This way you can accent with the plum colour, like I suggested."

"Yes, but you thought sage green would be good in here, you said that one day," he reminded her. He dropped her hand, bent at the waist and picked up a drop cloth to fold it in two. She moved over to help him, her fingertips touching his. They stood and stared at each other for a long time, before they parted and folded the drop cloth together.

He took the cloth from her, threw it in the corner and said, "The kitchen." He held open the door and they stepped inside, moving through the doorway together, facing each other, slowly. It was sensual and meaningful and she was about to say something about it to him when she noticed the beauty of the room and gasped. "Oh, Marcus, it's beautiful. It's the best room yet."

"Thanks. I like the cherry cabinets. I made them myself, and I even cut the granite countertops myself." His hand went smoothly over the granite countertop, as did hers, and their fingers touched in the middle. They held hands again, naturally, as he finished, "I've been working in here the hardest, trying to get it done, because, well, you said that your family always considered the kitchen to be the heart of their home, and I knew that would be important to you."

She didn't look at him as he made this admission, though she wanted to ask him why it mattered what she had said, or what she thought. Was she to assume that they were still engaged? Were they? What did he think? Instead of asking, she dropped his hand to examine every nook and cranny of the large eat-in kitchen, and then stepped down to the breakfast nook below it, then down to the sunroom behind that, chatting all the way.

Gazing out into the garden she said, "Come spring, you'll need to do a lot of work out there. Good thing you know so much about plants and things, too."

He stood closely behind her. She pressed her nose against the glass of one of the many windows, and he placed his arms on each side of her body, so that he boxed her in. With a whisper in her ear he said, "I might need help out there. It looks like a big project, and I still have the upstairs to do yet."

"I'm pretty handy with gardening," she said softly. She knew he could conclude whatever he wanted to from that statement. She felt his warm breath on the back of her neck, and she looked down.

One of his hands came around to her waist. She placed one of her hands over his. He placed his mouth next to her ear and said, "Will you have time to help me, with starting your new business?"

"Yes, I think so," she said, turning in his arms. She gazed up at him and said, "Will you have time? Have you gotten a new job yet? Not that it matters to me, I mean, doing this is a full time job, I know, and it's not like we will need the money or anything, so I don't care." She didn't want him to think that she wouldn't marry him if he didn't have a job.

He placed his arms tightly around her waist, pulling her closer to him. He explained, "Blaise has decided to open a naturalist park on the Flint family land, with me as the head naturalist, and Malfoy has granted a very large endowment toward the park, and is even allowing some of their magical plants, animals and so forth, to be transplanted there, for the Wizarding public to enjoy."

Marcus smiled as Hermione smiled and he continued, "Malfoy's so damn in love, that I think he would agree to do anything anyone wanted him to do right now." Hermione laughed at that. "You and Adrian wanted start up money for a lab, boom, he gives you start up money. I wanted some of the one of a kind magical plants and animals from the Malfoy enchanted woods, boom, I have them. Anna wants to get married in a Muggle church, and continue to live in a Muggle neighbourhood, and boom, she's going to get her wish."

Hermione gasped, pushed Marcus away from her, and put her hands over her mouth in shock, before she yelled, "NO!" Marcus threw his head back and laughed. "I don't believe you!" she continued. "A church! Will a church remain standing if Lucius Malfoy enters it?" she asked seriously.

"Who says he'll enter?" Marcus commented. "All I know is that Anna wants to get married in the church where her parents married, and since they're no longer living, he says it's the least he can give her. She also wants to live in a Muggle neighbourhood, because she said she could never live at the Manor, so Draco just bought an old, run down house on this very street. It's ten times larger, of course, which they'll need because of all her animals, and they want me to help fix it up, with magic, of course, and in exchange, I get whatever I want for my naturalist preserve, and Blaise is letting the land for the reserve remain in my family's name."

She hugged him, and he kept her embrace, as she said, "Oh, that's so wonderful, Marcus." Falling back to the heels of her feet, she took one of his hands and was going to press a fleeting kiss to it, out of spontaneity, or love, whichever, but she noticed that it had paint all over it.

She pulled him back into the kitchen, to the sink, and turned on the warm water. Placing her hand under it at first, she splashed back and forth with her index finger, testing the temperature. When it was just right, she pulled his hand under and said, "Soap?"

He made a motion with his head. There was a pump dispenser with soap on the back of the sink. She pumped two globs of soap in her hand, and then lathered both of her hands together before she lathered them around his hands. She moved her fingers in and out of his smoothly, softly, between his large fingers, across his bony knuckles, around his flat nails, over the veins and muscles of the tops, and the somewhat callous and rough surfaces of his palms.

She loved his hands. She loved him. She rinsed them carefully, then picked up a kitchen towel and wrapped them both together, patting them dry. When she was finished, she kept them in her own and looked up into his brown eyes, which were boring holes into hers. "Marcus?"


"Are we going to live here when we marry?"


"Can I make a suggestion?"


"I think we need to start on the upstairs master bedroom next, okay?"

"It's already started, my Hermione. It's already started." He placed his clean hands on her face, leaned down, and kissed her mouth gently, but surely. "Would you like to see?"

"I hope you didn't let Malfoy help you decorate it," she said, taking his hand to hold again. They walked hand-in-hand toward the doorway that would take them up the back staircase. "I love the French country design in the library, it has just the right amount of femininity to it, but I think the master bedroom should reflect both the masculine and the feminine, for both of us."

"Oh, well, someone else helped me," he said with a sly smile, while he led her up the back stairs.

"Who helped you?" she begged.

"You'll find out. As soon as you open the door, you'll see," he answered.

"Oh please, just tell me who it was. I feel as nervous as I did the day I wondered whose name was in my envelope after the Marriage Edict. Just tell me. It wasn't Blaise was it, because I don't want my bedroom to look like a brothel?"

They were crossing over the top step and starting down the hallway when he said, "Guess again."

"Please, not Theo. He would make it all white and sterile looking, and the only picture in the whole place would probably be one of him," she said. He pulled her down the hallway.

"Another guess."

"Adrian? Because frankly, Adrian and I have very similar taste. But still, I hardly think I want him to decorate my future bedroom," she said, adding, "And no offense, but if I left it to you to decorate all on your own, it would probably be a Quidditch theme, with little broom sticks hanging everywhere, and Quaffles and Snitches and the like on the walls."

He pulled her to stop right outside the closed bedroom door, with a false look of hurt on his face. "You liked the rest of the house, and I'll have you know, that I usually make very good choices, when left to my own devices, after all, I chose you, didn't I?"

She leaned into him, stood on tiptoes, and kissed his lips with a full kiss before saying, "That you did, sweetheart, and I couldn't have been happier with your choice then, so I'm sure I'll be happy with your choice now, if you did indeed decorate it. Let me see. Open the door."

He smiled, threw open the door, and as she stood there in shock he said, "Well, Blaise really is the one that decorated it, and I think it's perfect. It's your perfect master bedroom."

She looked inside and screamed, in true horror, at the black and pink velvet monstrosity that was supposed to be her master bedroom, and he laughed, but only for a moment, and then with a swish of his wand he changed it back to the tasteful way it was really supposed to look and said, "Sorry, I couldn't help myself. This is how it's really supposed to look."

She hit his chest, hard, said, "I was afraid for a moment that you had lost your senses. Now my only question is if that bed is real in there or not?" She took his hand and led him inside, then closed the door.

~The Real and Utter Perfect End~