Chapter Nineteen: Epilogue
I pulled my cashmere sweater tighter around my shoulders as the nip of October air blew through my hair. I relished the idea that for the second year in a row, I could spend an entire month in Switzerland without any interruptions.
My mother and Flynn were in the middle of a Sydney theatre production and I was under no obligations to be anywhere or do anything. I was completely free.
I took in the scenery around me. The back deck of my Lake Lucerne cottage looked out over the spectacular Swiss landscape with its lush green hills and white-peaked mountains. The teal blue water sparkled in the autumn sunlight and in the distance I could hear the church bells of Lucerne, the closest city. It was perfect and something I had become quite accustomed to.
I turned back to go inside my quaint cottage. The back deck jutted off my sunroom, a small enclosure that boasted large bay windows and many plants and flowers interspersed with sofas and comfortable chairs. Behind a set of French doors was my open-concept living room and kitchen. A unique mixture of modern and vintage furniture was arranged around a large stone fireplace. The kitchen was done in pale blues and yellows with wooden countertops and slightly outdated appliances that gave the room an old and weathered look. A staircase that started just back from the front door twisted its way up and around to the second floor of the A-frame building. Upstairs was one bedroom and one bathroom; everything an independent young woman needed.
This was my vision; a place that I could come and just be myself. As much as I tried to be myself with every aspect of my life I had come to accept that there were versions of me that I put forward for different people. My mother, while much closer to me than she had been before, got the responsible and tough-exterior face. My business and social obligations saw the well-brought up daughter of Loden Morris. Racquel was the only person who still saw the Hogwarts-me, someone who had jumped the chance at sleeping with the school bad-boy and done everything in her power to piss off her father. But this cottage saw every day, ordinary and un-amazing me. I don't think it minded.
As I looked around my home, my hand strayed to the black diamond pendant at my neck. I was right before in saying it would become a habit of mine to play with it while thinking. I never took it off. Maybe I thought that by taking it off I would be rejecting my relationship or at the very least trying to move on from it. It had been over a year and a half now, but still there had been no one else.
It was hard to think about moving on when so much had happened with Draco Malfoy. His bad-boy exterior, his tortured-soul interior, his scary as all hell parents and the way he stood up for me with mine were just a few of the many facets of our relationship. It sometimes broke my heart to think that I may never see him again. After he left that day I did my very best to move on but there were always pieces that seemed to slip back underneath my skin. Most importantly was the fact that I never wanted to take the necklace off my neck. I couldn't help but feel deep inside that if I took it off, then he really never would come back to me, and a big part of me wanted him to.
It had been over a year and a half. I had turned seventeen and then eighteen. In the New Year I would be turning nineteen. A nineteen-year-old heiress to a multi-billion dollar company, and I still hadn't a clue what to do with it. I was right in my assumption that my father would spend the rest of his days in St. Mungo's Hospital. He had a very cozy private room that since becoming of-age, I had been paying for, not that it made any dent in the income. Being out from under Loden Morris's thumb actually gave me some thrill and excitement in the job that I had so long resented. I was still the face of BonneChique, but I'd taken a more philanthropic view of my circumstances and delegated a majority of the responsibilities to more senior members of the company. I wasn't even out of my teens, I had no desire to run a company.
I made my way over to the kitchen, drew my mug from the cupboard and set the kettle to boil some water. Tea was one thing that always seemed to relax me these days. I hadn't relaxed completely since hearing the war was over and that had been a little more than four months ago. I'd imagined that the day after the war ended, Draco would appear. This did not happen however, and I had been sitting on the edge of my seat ever since. The anxiety dulled and went from a sharp pain to a dull throb. Slowly and gradually I began to understand that even if Draco had survived, perhaps he did not want to see me after all. The war could provoke changes in people so drastic they altered their entire lives.
My mother, Madalynn, happily married to her second husband Flynn, had proved as much when she told me the story of her father's torture. Something so horrific, being made to watch a loved one suffer; I knew that was what inevitably turned my mother from magic forever.
I walked to the settee and curled myself into a wool blanket. When I heard the kettle whistle I turned my head and began to imagine exactly what I wanted to happen, and before my eyes, it happened. The kettle lifted from the element and poured the water into the waiting mug. My tea collection slipped out of the cupboard beside the stove and upon deciding what kind of tea I actually wanted it popped out of the box and landed in my mug. The silverware drawer then slid open and a teaspoon rose before landing in the mug, beginning to stir it gently.
The tea container returned to the cupboard and my mug levitated across the room, not spilling a single drop. I clasped my hands around the warm ceramic and inhaled the aromatic smell of spiced chai and chamomile. I sipped the hot liquid and then set the cup down on the side table. Magic still had some uses.
I was beginning to feel the tension ease away and was just getting comfortable when there was a sudden fluttering at the window that made my heart leap into my throat. I let out a small squeal but then realized it was only an owl, carrying a letter.
I stood, slid the door open and let the owl come swooping in. She landed on the back of one of the chairs at my kitchen table. I took the letter from her, stroked her back and dug in one of my junk drawers for a treat.
After taking the treat from me and giving me a friendly peck she spread her wings and flew back out the window. I smiled and then broke the seal on the letter she'd brought. I wasn't expecting any mail. I didn't recognize the seal but it was so generic it could have been from any post office. I unfolded it and my heart skipped a beat. It just said one word and who it was from.
My hair whipped around as my head snapped to look at the front door. No one could get in. The enchantments on this place were fortifying and impenetrable. Draco must have known that. He would be at the gate down the laneway. It would say one word on the gate sign and I had hoped he would know what it meant. Paradiso.
I dropped the letter and sprang for the door. I ran out barefoot, scampering down the front steps and tearing down the laneway. It wasn't very long but you could just barely see the roof of the house from the gate, and no one could enter unless invited or they were me. I rounded the bend and as the path straightened out to reveal the gate I stopped when I saw someone standing on the other side.
It was him. He had found me. He was tall and lean, wearing a white dress shirt underneath a tan-coloured jacket and blue jeans. I had never seen him looking so casual and…well…human. Before he'd always been this foreboding, intimidating creature, ready to strike at any second, ready to pounce at the smallest sound. This man before me, he was changed, but he was still Draco. I could feel it.
His eyes were on the ground when I first saw him, but as I took a few more steps forward his head shot up and he pinned me with his grey-blue gaze. I was a foot away now and my hand reached out, touching the top of the gate. I felt the magical pulse zip through me as the enchantment subsided, swinging the gate inward. I held out my hand for him to take then, beckoning him forward, hoping this was not a mirage I had dreamed up in my desperation for some semblance of a sign he was alive.
Yet when our fingers touched I knew this was nothing I could ever have imagined. He was real. I pulled him inside our paradise and when the gate shut, because our hands were linked, he felt the magical pulse go through me, locking the world out and locking us inside. I saw his eyes briefly widen at the sensation.
We just stood there for a few moments. Just being in each other's presence seemed to bring some sense of wholeness back into our lives and we didn't want to rush the feeling. I stepped forward, unhurriedly, my right hand moving to cup his cheek. This face was smooth, free of stubble, and his eyes had a sort of dead quality to them that frightened me. Had the war changed him that much? But his arms enveloped my waist and as I lay my cheek against his I knew that no matter how much he'd changed, we were still the same at our core.
Finally he spoke. "I didn't know if you'd be here."
"The owl would have found me no matter where I was," I explained. "I would have found my way here immediately. I would have found a way."
"I didn't know how fortified this place would be, but something just kept drawing me to this gate. I'd dismissed it a few times before finally coming back. Perhaps it was the word on the gate."
I leaned back to look at him. Life was slowly returning to his face. Just being with me was making the change. "Come," I said, taking his hand in mine, "let me show you."
He followed willingly but didn't smile. I lead him up the path and up the front steps of the building and then into the little cottage I'd made for us.
His eyes scanned the open room, taking in the furniture and décor and mountains in the background that could be seen through the large windows. "It's perfect." He was reserved and almost cautious but I let him find his way.
"I hoped you would like it. There is more upstairs but I will show you that later if you stay." I had dreamed he would come, scoop me into his arms and indulge in my body and being the moment he returned to my life. This was not what I'd imagined and so I adjusted quickly to let him be in charge and take this meeting where he pleased.
His head swiveled to look at me. His eyes scanned my face, marking the changes there, and when his gaze dropped to my collarbone I realized I'd been hunched over a little against the cool air outside. I let my shoulders drop and the collar of my shirt then uncovered the black diamond pendant at my throat. His eyes flared and finally I felt his heat.
He caught me up in his arms so fast I hardly had time to think. He lifted me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist as he showered my face with feverish kisses. "Bedroom," he said hoarsely in between kisses.
I replied breathlessly, "Upstairs."
Before I knew what was going on we were ascending the stairs and then falling down onto the cloud bed nestled in the little alcove. I lay beneath him and when he propped himself up to look down at me I tilted my head and smiled. This time he smiled. It was bright and magical…much more impressive than levitating a cup of tea across a room.
He took his time. We got reacquainted slowly, peeling back clothes and relishing in the feel of skin against skin once again. It was slow, unrushed, and yet it seemed to end all so quickly in my mind. I was lost in a state of complete bliss and there were waves of pleasure that rolled over my body gradually at first but then faster and faster. At the brink I cried out and moments later his body dropped against mine. We were a tangle of limbs for a few moments before we had the energy to shift into a more relaxed state. He lay on his back and pulled me to his side. I nestled myself into the little corner of his arm resting my head on his shoulder and throwing my leg over his legs.
It was a while before either of us said anything. But when he started talking I did not dare make him stop. He told me things…things I definitely heard but wished I hadn't. Everything that had happened, even during the time we'd been together at Hogwarts, he laid it all out for me to look at and judge. I could tell sometimes he resented my involvement but I could tell it was all the doubt in the system he needed to pull through.
I admitted first that I was shocked and dismayed, but not once did I move away from him, and I reserved judgment until he'd finished speaking.
"Do you think loving me was wrong?" I asked softly.
He shook his head. "No. No it kept me alive. Whether you were a dream or not, you were my salvation, and for that I will never regret loving you. You," he kissed my forehead gently, "kept me sane throughout it all."
"There were moments," I told him, "when I didn't know if I wanted you to return. You were so different from my life, but there was always that flicker of doubt in me that said I needed that change. You were like a force of nature though, driving me towards only one possible conclusion."
"What conclusion was that?" he asked.
I lifted myself to look down at him. Brushing back his white-blonde hair I smiled. "The only conclusion that ever made sense to me: freedom."
"And do you feel free?" He trailed his fingers through my hair gently.
I took a few moments to respond. "I thought you'd be angry. I thought you would be different after the war, and now, knowing the things you've been through and the things you've seen, I find it almost impossible that you are still some semblance of you, the man I fell in love with. I won't ask you how you did that, because I'd like to think I know the answer. Because of you I am free, so it is only natural I feel most like me in your arms."
He kissed me sweetly and I melted into him again. It was hard to believe that I had gone so long without this tender feeling of being so intimate with someone, namely him, my Draco.
We soon fell asleep. When I woke I found myself alone and started to panic. I looked around frantically until my eyes fell on the form of my lover, encircled in the pale light coming in from the window. There must have been a full moon in the sky tonight. I slipped from the bed and went to him. I could not bear being so far when I could clearly see how tensely he was sitting.
My hands met his shoulders and I softly drew myself around him, holding him to me. "What are you looking at?"
"The lake," he replied.
"Mmm, it's beautiful, isn't it?"
"You kept your promise. This is definitely a place hidden from the outside world. It is too bad we can't stay here."
I blinked. I supposed I hadn't really thought about that. No, I wouldn't be able to stay there with him; we did have lives beyond the four walls of this cottage.
"What will you do?" I asked, praying for the answer.
"Don't you mean, 'what will we do?'" his tone was playful and I let out a sigh of relief. So there was a future for us. I hadn't thought too much past his return to my life. I didn't want to disillusion myself into thinking I had a life with him for fear of it never happening. "Sadie." The way he said my name was such a welcome sound. He drew me into his arms once again. "You are my wild girl, my sanity, the very reason I am still alive. I will never let anything tear us apart again."
"No longer have a say in my life, nor will they ever."
I smiled. It would seem that while he had helped me escape my own demons, I had done the same for him. "What do we do now then?" I asked, my mind racing at the possibilities. The only thing I really cared about was that he was here.
His smile was bright and engaging, a smile I had never seen before and my whole heart lifted with happiness. This was a truly happy Draco Malfoy. "That's the beauty of it really," he said. "We can do anything we want."
If someone asked me now to describe myself with three words, these are the words I would choose:
Happy. Loved. Free.
None of those words would have meant a thing to me five years ago. I was not happy. I was not loved and above all I definitely was not free. These days I am more happy than not, and I never cease to feel loved. My freedom is the one thing that makes me so happy and I owe it all to one man.
My kindred spirit Draco Malfoy, a boy I thought would stir the pot and cause my father to really look at me, my mother to come to her senses, and a game to keep me amused. Oh how wrong I had been.
My father never really saw me, not even when I was standing in front of him, refusing to do anything and everything he wanted, refusing to even continue being his daughter. Unfortunately for him I was not someone who could be bought and paid for like the rest of his employees. I wanted and needed a life of my own and in the end he got exactly what he deserved I suppose. Now I run my father's company in a less vigorous and more generous manner than Loden Morris was ever capable of.
It turned out I really didn't need my mother to come to her senses, we just needed to find a common ground to stand on that wasn't polluted by secrets and lies and pretending. My mother is my best friend and I am grateful not only to her, but to her husband, my new father and the man who finally made her feel completely safe and completely herself.
As far as the amusing game I had been chasing, it was only a game for a very short period of time before it, like a spark to a flame, took on a much greater role in my ever evolving life. It's all fun in games until someone gets hurt, so the saying goes, or until someone falls in love. I was in love with Draco Malfoy, and I still am. Sometimes I wondering which path I took to get to where I am. I crinkle my brown, fiddle with my necklace and ponder over the choices we made and the decisions that got us to where we are today. I never think about it for too long though, because it will never make any sense to anyone else but us.
He gave me a ring to prove it too, a black diamond to signify how different our love really was. I wore it for several years while we got our lives sorted, while we figured out where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. When everything once again made sense, we took vows in front of friends and family, promising to love and cherish and make a world of difference. If not for the world though then just for ourselves, to make sure nothing came between us ever again.
I still wear the necklace he gave me and the diamond ring on my right hand that now rests against my swollen belly that promises a new life with new hopes and dreams. We made a promise to myself the day we found out I was pregnant. We said we would never behave like my parents did. We will not use their example as our own. We will use love and not discipline to shape our children. We will not try to tame them into submission. Sometimes there are forces of nature that just can't be tamed. Instead, we will raise our children to be something we both learned the hard way: to be unbreakable.