Here is it, the end. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me this long. I was absolutely giddy when the reviews reached 200! You know I always appreciate the support.
Epilogue - The Future
Hermione Malfoy smiled dreamily as she rubbed her seven month pregnant stomach. It was their third child, and, Hermione hoped, their last. Liam, their first born and the reason she and Draco had been brought together, would be leaving in only an hour for his first year at Hogwarts. Ella Jean, lovingly nicknamed E.J. by her father, was six years old and an exact replica of her mother. Except for her eyes - Malfoy gray. Baby number three had come as a complete surprise to Hermione and Draco.
The ceremony was beautiful. Held on the grounds of Malfoy Manor, Narcissa had spared no expense in giving her only son the perfect wedding. Hermione had given the older witch a grateful hug when she spotted the Weasley family seated in the second row, a hug Narcissa immediately returned.
"You are exactly the kind of woman I had always hoped my son would marry," the blonde whispered in her ear before releasing her.
"Thank you," Hermione replied sincerely. Narcissa left for her seat beside her disgruntled husband. Next, Hermione watched her two year-old son take the aisle with a soft, white pillow in his hands. Halfway down the aisle, he stopped and turned to look at his mother. Then he glanced to his father, as if torn about which parent to go to. And so he sat down. A smattering of laughter erupted amongst the guests as Draco encouraged him to come to the front. Finally, he rose and continued to the altar.
"Mummy, I wanna go to Hogwarts, too," Ella complained, and not for the first time that morning.
Hermione turned around slowly from where she had been facing the counter to see her children seated around the kitchen table. "Want to, Ella, not wanna," she corrected the little girl. "And you will, in five years."
Draco entered the kitchen just then. "My E.J. would never try to leave me," he declared, scooping up his daughter into his arms. "She'd never dream of it."
Ella leaned her head against her father's shoulder. "I still want to go," she pouted.
Liam rose from his chair with his juice glass in hand. He walked past his mother to refill the glass and drank it down in one gulp before pouring more. On his way back to the table, Hermione grabbed his arm and pulled him into her side. He scowled, trying to wriggle away, but she held tight.
"Love, can you get her dressed?" Hermione asked. "Liam and I will take care of the clean up."
Draco turned around to exit the kitchen, and with a wave of his wand, the breakfast dishes were soaking. When they were alone, Hermione slackened her grip on her son's arm, but only just slightly.
"Talk to me," she said, leading them to the table. He helped her into a chair and sat next to her. Liam remained silent, choosing instead to stare at his folded hands atop the table or attempt to charm the napkins into various shapes. Hermione sighed, trying to remain patient with her first born. "What's bothering you?" she asked. Liam's only response was to shake his head. She threw out several excuses - missing home, not being able to sleep in his own bed, being away from his family for the first time, nervous about what he'd be learning. But to all of them, he shook his head no. Groaning in frustration, Hermione asked, "Then what is it?"
"How did you convince my parents to come?" Hermione wondered as Draco held her close. They were sharing their first dance as a newly wed couple.
Draco shrugged nonchalantly and pulled her tighter to him. "It was no big deal," he replied with his usual casual flippancy. "I merely explained that they were the ones to declare they wouldn't speak to you until we married. And since we were, in fact, getting married, it was about time they put their money where their mouths were. Is that the proper phrasing?" Hermione nodded, smiling at his use of a muggle cliche.
"Anyhow," he continued just as the song ended, "I think they also realized that they've missed out on so much of their grandson's life, and yours. They didn't take too kindly to me being the one to deliver the message, but they came. So, mission accomplished."
Hermione stretched up onto her toes, and pressed her lips to his. "You truly amaze me," she murmured, her eyes watering with joyful tears.
A hand tapped her shoulder as more couples joined them on the dance floor. "May I cut in?"
Hermione whirled around to see Ron standing behind her. She looked back to Draco who gave her an encouraging nod. Ron took her hand in his and placed the other on her waist. "Well, it's better than dancing with McGonagall," he joked with a nervous lilt in his voice. Hermione laughed softly at the memory of the Yule Ball dance rehearsal, but the smile she wore dissolved as she thought of the night of dance. Ron's jealous tendencies had reared their ugly head for the first, but certainly not the last, time.
"I'm a bit surprised you came," she said, her hand feeling clammy in his larger one.
"I thought I should apologize," Ron replied, his cheeks beginning to blush, "to you and your husband. All that stuff I said, well I shouldn't have. You know me, Mione, I don't take change well, and I felt like you had replaced me pretty quickly."
He stood to fill his juice glass once more and leaned against the close refigerator. "You're replacing me," he muttered, sullenly staring at the bits of pulp in his orange juice. "I'm going to school and you're replacing me with another kid. Ellie I could handle until she started talking. Now it's all 'Daddy, pay attention to me!' and 'Daddy, can't you talk the headmistress into letting me go to Hogwarts too?' It's like she thinks the world revolves around her! And now, I get another sibling to put up with. Least I'll be at school most of the year."
Hermione rose with great care from her seat and walked over to him. She put her hands on his arms and looked him directly in the eye. "We could never replace you," she said adamantly. "We've never wanted to replace you. You are the best thing that's ever happened to us. Your sister wants to be like you because she admires you. You're her big brother, Li. Sometimes you just need to cut her a little slack. She's going to miss you just as much as you'll miss her."
The tears that had welled up in her eyes before slowly began to spill over. "I never wanted to replace you," she stated. "I just have always wanted to be your friend, even when you're being a git."
Ron smiled. "I've missed you."
Hermione returned his grin. "I've missed you too."
"I won't miss her," he grumbled, moving into his mother's embrace. "You and Dad, you'll write to me, right?"
Hermione smiled and kissed the top of his head. When he came home for Christmas, he would probably be taller than her. "We'll probably write everyday, multiple times a day. And we'll send care packages and photos and anything you need," she promised. "Your dad even mentioned arranging it with the headmistress to allow you to come home for a bit when the baby is born."
He nodded stiffly and stepped out of her embrace when his father reentered the kitchen. "Ready to go?" Draco asked. Liam nodded and left to gather his belongings. Hermione remained where she stood, her hands supporting her back. She smiled at her husband as he approached, resting his hand on her swollen stomach.
"Still hope it's a girl?" she asked, placing her hand over his.
Draco nodded. "I know what he thinks," he replied, his expression somber. "It's kind of why I'd prefer a girl. Any other boy we had would just pale in comparison to Liam."
"Because he brought us together," she finished for him.
Draco leaned down and brushed his wife's lips with his own. "I'll always be grateful to him," he murmured against her lips. "I love you."
The pair winced when they heard Ella's cries followed shortly by running footsteps. "Love you too," Hermione replied just before the kitchen door burst open.
"Daddy, Li-Li said he's gonna use a jelly legs jinx on me," Ella cried.
Draco pulled away to pick up the little girl. "And you tell him you know how to break that spell," he whispered conspiratorially to her.
Ella nodded. "It's still unjellify, right, Daddy?"
"That's right," he told her with a smile. They reached the foyer where Liam met them with his trunk. "It's Hogwarts time!" Draco declared.
The family floo'd to the train station, King's Cross, and crossed trough the barrier to Platform 9 ¾. It had been years since Hermione and Draco had last been there, but nothing had changed. The red steam locomotive was parked as children trudged along with their parents and trolleys loaded down with luggage.
Hermione took Ella by the hand as Draco pulled Liam aside. "I want you to have this," Draco said, pulling the charmed galleon out of his pocket. Liam looked unimpressed by a coin he'd seen thousands of times. "Your mum gave me that when she was pregnant with you. It's charmed so that we could communicate short messages to each other. Just hold it in your hand, think your message, and it'll burn on our end when we get it."
"Thanks Dad," Liam replied, slipping it into his pocket. He ran a hand through his blonde hair, pushing it away from his eyes.
"Just...use it once in a while. It'll make your mother happy," Draco requested. Liam nodded in agreement and allowed Draco to loop his arm around his thin shoulders. "Just one more favor - when you're at school, be more like your mum than me."
"So then Uncle Harry's stories are true?" Liam asked, the first bit of excitement he had felt all day danced in his brown eyes. Rolling his eyes, Draco nodded. "You were really turned into a ferret? Finally, some explanation as to why Mum calls you that when she gets mad."
"Shouldn't you be getting on the train now?" Draco inquired, fighting the smile that played on his lips. The Malfoy men hugged goodbye before Liam moved over to his mother and sister. They watched as he boarded the train, disappearing from their sight while he searched for a compartment near where they stood on the platform. A window opened, and the familiar shock of blonde hair greeted them once more. Heads stuck out of other windows as the train began to leave the station.
Later that evening, long after dinner and Ella's bath, Hermione sat in front of the fire staring into the bright orange flames. When Draco joined her after putting Ella to bed, he looked more exhausted than she felt.
"Sorting and the welcoming feast should be over by now," Hermione grumbled, turning her attention to the window.
"And the owl has to fly all the way from Scotland," Draco reminded her. His arm wound around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. He pressed a kiss to her temple and sighed. "I can't recall the last time the house felt so quiet."
Hermione laughed. "That's because it never was," she pointed out, taking hold of his free hand. "We never did the whole 'just us living together' thing. But now we've got another one to prolong empty nest syndrome. Speaking of which, there's something I found out when I had my check up the other day."
"Twins?" Draco guessed, groaning at the thought.
"Better," she replied. There was the tap of a owl's beak on the window, and Draco rose to retrieve the letter it carried. "You're getting your girl."
Draco smiled happily as he opened the letter from Liam. "And my son is truly a Malfoy," he added, handing her the note.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "As if there was any room for doubt," she mumbled, taking the letter from him.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Guess I've already ignored your advice, Dad. I just got sorted into Slytherin. Don't worry, Mum, I promise to get good grades like you did to make up for it. Send me a message back on the coin. I want to make sure it works. Give Ellie a hug for me, and tell her I miss her already. I can't wait to see you soon. Maybe by then I'll have made the House team.
Love from your favorite (and hopefully only) son,