Disclaimer: I own nothing.
This is it! The end! Thank you everyone who has reviewed, etc, it's really encouraged me over the course of writing this! And special thanks to GiantInflatableWalrus for being a wonderful, wonderful beta!
Three lonely boxes were stacked on top of each other by the front door. Two suitcases were leaning against the wall, almost bursting with all the clothes that she had never realised she owned. It was strange, she mused, how you discover items that you thought you'd lost but were just hidden under piles of junk, and you only find them again when you have a thorough clean out. However, everything else was in its usual place looking as though Hermione had just gone away for the weekend. Except, she wasn't returning after three days - she probably wouldn't step foot in the house for a few years yet. Despite only spending a total of two months and twenty eight days in her cottage, Hermione had developed a deep sense of attachment to her home. She sighed sadly and her eyes landed upon the sofa where her tentative relationship with Draco had started. Remembering how she had tripped and then Draco's unexpected help following, she let out a little giggle, causing the very same man to rest a hand on her shoulder.
"What's funny?" he murmured, smiling down at her.
"I was just thinking about our first meeting. Do you remember? After I fell?"
He chuckled. "Ah yes, I seem to recall you saying that you didn't need my help." He smirked.
She poked him in the rib. "I didn't – it was the path's fault."
"Yeah, of course, because paths just go out of their way to trip people up, don't they?" He returned sarcastically, rolling his eyes. "Are you ready to go?"
That wiped the smile from Hermione's face and she pouted at her surroundings once more. "I don't know if I like the idea of someone using my things."
"I did offer to take them with you," Draco pointed out, "but you said that you didn't want to clutter up my house."
"Well, I don't," she replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. She sighed. "It doesn't matter – we'll come back here one day, I'm sure."
"Yeah," Draco trailed off, unsure. Yeah, the cottage was fairly nice but it wasn't really him. "Shall we?"
"I suppose so," she smiled sadly one last time before levitating the boxes with her wand and leading them outside. She didn't turn around as Draco shut the door quietly behind them, but quickly shrank the boxes and slipped them into her pocket.
"Would you like to walk or Apparate?" Draco suggested lightly.
"Apparate – I'm knackered." Hermione emphasised this point by giving a huge yawn. She latched on to his outstretched arm and then felt the familiar feeling of being squeezed through a tight tube, before landing with a pop! in the grounds of Draco's home. She hadn't actually been to his house since the Summer Ball the previous summer, and if she was honest, not much had changed. That was hardly surprising considering he hadn't actually been at his home; but still, she expected something to be slightly different anyway.
The last week or so had been spent busily packing her needed possessions into boxes and finalising the details for the new tenant. It was a young newlywed couple who had apparently eloped as the bride's family didn't approve of her choice of husband. As far as Hermione was aware, they seemed to be nice and so she was more than happy to lend a helping hand and let out her house. They were, interestingly, muggle, and so Hermione had reluctantly packed some objects which she hoped she could have left, like an old broomstick of Ron's (she wasn't actually sure why she had that still), and a large copper cauldron purely for medicinal purposes. Things like supplies of Floo Powder she simply threw away, and odd ingredients for potions that a Muggle would normally be wary off, joined the Floo Powder in the bin, which she emptied of course – she wasn't one to take risks with this sort of thing.
She pushed those thoughts out her mind as Draco unlocked the front door to her – their new home. That was weird, really weird. She gulped involuntarily as she stepped over the threshold into the still pleasant and beautiful home. Relax, Hermione, you're being completely stupid, she mentally chided herself as Draco turned with a large smile upon his face, arms outstretched.
"Welcome home, Hermione."
Hermione spent the best part of a week adjusting to the new living arrangements. It wasn't as though she hated being there; it was just so strange to be living with Draco even though they'd practically done that when they were at Hogwarts. She still hadn't gotten used to waking up next to him, the house elves bringing them cups of tea regularly every morning and the amount of things there were to do in and around Draco's house! When she had first moved into her cottage, she thought the area wasn't as countrified as she had believed. However, only half a mile down the road and Drac- their home could have been in the middle of nowhere. The garden seemed even bigger than when she had last been there and on the first day there, Draco had proudly shown her a garage with two huge quad bikes. Hermione was shocked that Draco even had these muggle vehicles and when she questioned him about it, he smirked and replied with a simple, "I like driving."
Surprising herself, as she usually wasn't one for extreme sports, she had been itching to have a go and she had waited what she deemed a sufficient amount of time before begging him to let her go on. He had obliged with a laugh and they spent a few hours racing each other around his garden, churning up grass as they went. The next few days were spent walking, swimming (he had a little lake hidden around a corner, and Hermione suspected there was some magic involved – there was no way he could have all this in the grounds … was there?), playing chess, quad biking, reading, sunbathing and cooking. Yes, cooking. The third day after moving in with Draco, she had been wondering around his library with wonder when her eyes fell upon a rather large cook book with lots of delicious looking meals. She had broached the subject at dinner that night.
"I didn't know you had a cook book. How very muggle." She had teased with a smirk.
"Really? I wasn't aware of that …" he'd mused, sipping some wine thoughtfully.
"Would you … like to try some?"
"Recipes. Have a go at them with me." She'd suggested shyly, almost scared of how he was going to react.
"Why? We have house-elves." Draco had replied blankly.
She had rolled her eyes then, a typical Malfoy response. "Come on, it'll be fun. I insist."
So the following day, they spent their time making different meals which they then tried when they got hungry, which was quite often. Their activity left the house-elves in much confusion as they found their most important service wasn't required that day. Hermione almost felt bad. Almost. Truth be told, she wasn't that worried about the treatment of the house-elves in their house – Draco looked after them very well and not only when she was around.
Hermione woke up late one morning, two weeks after moving in with Draco. She yawned and rolled over in their huge queen sized bed and was surprised when she didn't crash into the body of her companion. She sat up in bed then, a frown marring her features with her hair tangled intricately, and glanced around the room expecting to see signs of movement, or for Draco to jump out from behind the chest of drawers and shout, "Surprise!"
When, however, she glanced at the clock, comprehension dawned on her – it was, after all, half past eleven. Feeling a little guilty in sleeping in so late, Hermione quickly hopped out of bed, pulled on her dressing gown and slippers and hurried downstairs. Upon entering the breakfast room for brunch, a house-elf appeared beside her holding out a piece of parchment.
"This is for you, Mistress. Master wishes you have a nice day." The creature bowed with a smile, waited for Hermione to take the note before disappearing with a crack.
Slightly bemused, she unfolded the parchment and read the note. He had gone to see his parents to tell them in person about the most recent stage of their relationship. He kept that quiet, she grumbled to herself, wishing that she could have gone with him to give them a piece of her mind. Sighing, she tucked into her fry up, wondering what she could do today. Draco said that he probably wouldn't be back until late afternoon, so she had about five or six hours to kill. She wasn't really in the mood for going on the quad bike and as the weather wasn't that great – there was an ominous black cloud coming towards the house – she was restricted to inside the house.
Hermione swallowed her last mouthful before she came up with a final solution. Invite Ginny over! They needed some girl time and this was a perfect day for it. She hurried into the living room where she threw some Floo Powder into the fireplace and yelled the Potters' name. Her voice received no attention for a few minutes before Ginny scurried into view, a crying James clutched under her arm.
"Oh, Hermione, hang on a sec." She set James on the floor where she handed him a transfigured plate – it was now a little toy dragon. "Honestly, he's been a pain all morning; I think he may be teething." She sent her son a grimace but he didn't notice, too absorbed in the new toy which had momentarily halted his winging.
"Tough age," Hermione agreed. "Gin, I'm bored, do you want to come over?"
She grinned. "Definitely, though I'll only be able to stay a few hours – Harry's coming back from work early today …" she trailed off, blushing.
"Date night?" Hermione quirked an eyebrow, smirking.
Her best friend nodded sheepishly. "James is going to mum's. I don't know, Hermione, ever since James has been born we've barely had any time for each other."
"That's cool, Gin, you need space. Look, come over now, my knees are beginning to hurt." Hermione severed the connection and called a house-elf to set up some tea. The creature had just disappeared when the fireplace burst into flames and Ginny stepped out, holding a pacified James. The dragon was clutched tightly in his little hand.
"I think he's found a new friend," Hermione remarked, planting a kiss on her godson's forehead. "How's he doing, anyway?"
"Harry keeps saying I should start him on solids," she laughed incredulously. "The weird thing is, mum was saying it too!"
"When did Harry become the baby expert?" Hermione teased.
"That's exactly what I thought!" Ginny said, shaking her head. She sat James amongst some cushions to give him some support before plonking on the sofa and kicking her shoes off. "Sorry, Hermione, but I'm knackered."
"Don't be too tired for tonight," she replied with a wink, joining her on the sofa.
Ginny grinned excitedly. "Oh, I won't be. I went to Diagon Alley this morning for some … things."
"Ginevra Weasley! What would your mother say!" Hermione cried out in mock outrage.
"Hey, no, not those sort of things! I just bought some nice lingerie." Ginny bit her lip before bursting into giggles.
"Lingerie?" Hermione wriggled her eyebrows. "I hope you have fun tonight."
Ginny glanced around the nicely decorated room. "It seems a nice house, Hermione; you'll have to give me a tour. Where is Draco, anyway?"
"He's gone to see his parents or something, tell them about me moving in with him." She rolled her eyes slightly.
"Really?" Ginny frowned. "I swear I saw him earl-"
There was a crack as the house-elf reappeared with the tea for them both. It bowed before leaving again, and Hermione poured them both a cup and settled back into the cushions of the sofa. "Sorry, what were you saying?"
Ginny hesitated. "Oh, it was nothing, don't worry." For some odd reason, she had thought it best not to repeat what she had been about to say. A nagging feeling in her stomach told her it would not have been a good idea. "So, everything's fine with my git of a brother, then?"
Hermione chuckled. "Yes, I suppose it is, though he and Draco are still on tenterhooks with each other. I doubt it'll change anytime soon."
"You never know, Ron might come round."
"As if," Hermione rolled her eyes and stared incredulously at Ginny. "Oh, watch out!"
James had lurched forward in an attempt to grab the dragon that had fallen a few feet away and proceeded to bump his head on the floor. He paused for a moment before opening his mouth to let out a low wail which got louder and louder until Ginny picked him up and shushed him.
"Don't be silly, James, it didn't hurt! Just the shock, come on, now." She rocked him back and forth for a moment until he quietened down, then she held him at arm's length and scrutinised his face. "You see? No tears, James, you can't fool me." She smiled and then pecked a kiss on his forehead before setting firmly back down amongst the cushions, making sure the dragon was clutched tightly in his hand.
"You're a good mother, Gin." Hermione watched her, impressed. "Would you like anymore?"
"Children? I think I would, actually." Ginny said thoughtfully. "We'll probably wait another year or so, though."
"Quite soon then," Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Have you come round to the whole motherhood thing?"
Ginny snorted. "I guess I have. I can't believe I even entertained the thought of getting rid of this little chap." She fondled her son's hair softly. "Honestly, the very idea makes me feel sick."
Hermione smiled sympathetically and looked down at her hands. "I really want kids."
"I know you do …" Ginny paused. "Can you see yourself and … Malfoy?"
A furious red crept up Hermione's neck and cheeks and she bit her lip before nodding. "Yes, I can, I really can."
"Wow, Hermione … you haven't been together a year yet!" Ginny exclaimed, but a huge grin was on her face all the same.
"I know, I know, but it feels right." She insisted. "It really does, Gin, it sometimes feels like we've been together for ages." She shook her head. "I just hope he feels the same way … I – never mind."
"Say, come on," Ginny coaxed, leaning forward to place a hand on Hermione's knee.
"I just hope this isn't enough for him, us living together." A feeling of dread swept through Hermione as she imagined herself living in this house for years without a ring on her finger. "Being married would just make it more … concrete, more final."
"Aw, Hermione, don't say that! He's head over heels for you and if I'm honest, Malfoy doesn't strike me as the sort of bloke to just be your 'partner'." Ginny took a sip of her tea. "He's a Malfoy so that means he's traditional. He'll want to do things the correct way."
"You better be right, Gin!" Hermione waggled her finger at her best friend, trying to lighten the serious mood. "Hey, how about that tour now?"
Ginny was amazed by the house. It was big, but not massive, but the way Draco had decorated and furnished the place really gave the home character. There was a mixture of period and contemporary designs throughout the house, but neither outweighed the other and the overall effect was rather pleasant, balanced effect. By the time they had finished, James was falling asleep on her shoulder.
"Would you like to go on the quad bikes? They are so much fun!" Hermione gushed, eyes sparkling.
"Quad what?" Ginny repeated, perplexed.
"Muggle invention. You drive on these mini tra-" She stopped as she realised Ginny wouldn't know what a tractor was either. "Look, just come and see and then decide."
"What about James?"
"Levitate him beside you?" Hermione shrugged and then laughed at her horrified face. "Okay, I was joking. We'll think of that in a bit."
Ginny warily obliged and Hermione took them over to the garage where she showed her best friend the machines. She swallowed nervously but, when Hermione hopped onto one and started the ignition, she thought it looked rather fun.
"Look, this is what you do." Hermione showed her the controls quickly before speeding off into the garden, shrieking as she went. The roar of the engine stirred James and he winged a little before Ginny rocked him back into a slumber once again.
When Hermione eventually returned from a brief circuit, Ginny motioned for her to cut the engine quickly. "He'll wake up, Hermione, turn it off!"
The loud grumbling ceased and she grinned at the red head with her sleeping son. "You both look so sweet. Well? Fancy a go?"
"What's this here, ladies?"
Ginny turned to see Draco strolling towards them, a smile on his face. "Hermione was just showing me these … things."
"Ah, the quads." Draco grinned cheekily and kissed Hermione on the cheek in greeting. "Have you had a go yet, Weasley?"
"It's Potter, if you'd care to remember, Malfoy." Ginny reprimanded him sharply but there was a twinkle in her eye.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Fine, Potter, have you had a go?"
She shook her head, face paling a little. "James will wake up and I can't leave him alone."
"Draco will hold him, won't you?" Hermione flashed her boyfriend a large smile and he sent her a glowering stare.
"Yes, I will," he replied stiffly, holding his arms out for the baby. "Oh, Merlin."
Ginny laughed. "He's sleeping, you've got it easy."
When she made sure that Draco had her son securely in his arms, Ginny hopped onto the second quad bike and froze. "What do I do now?"
Hermione went over to her and quickly went through the controls once more. When she made Ginny repeat them back to her several times, she was satisfied and went back to her own bike and kicked the engine into start. "Ready?"
Ginny waved her hand so Draco would step further away – as to not wake up James – before she followed Hermione's instructions and started the quad bike. She jumped a little, took a deep breath and flicked her red hair out of her face before twisting the throttle. The bike leapt forward and she screamed before releasing some nervous laughter. "Okay, come on, Ginny, where's that Gryffindor courage?"
Draco watched with amusement as Ginny eventually got the hang of the machine and the two girls drove off over the grounds. James squirmed a little in his arms and he panicked when the child opened his eyes sleepily. "No, go to back to sleep, Potter, go to sleep."
The infant had another idea, however, and didn't want to close his eyes again despite being incredibly tired. So, he decided to do the next best thing – wriggle around and then open his mouth to cry.
Draco gritted his teeth and tried to do what he'd seen Ginny and Harry do that afternoon at lunch. It wasn't working and James continued to wail, his cries getting louder and louder until they drowned out the low rumble of the quad bikes completely. Grimacing, Draco attempted to hum a lullaby but to no avail. The mini Potter was having none of it.
It was only when Draco's ears seemed to have gone deaf when Ginny and Hermione both returned, faces pink and glowing. "Finished?" He asked loudly over James's cries.
"What did you do?" Ginny exclaimed, rushing forward to take her baby.
"What makes you think it was all me?" Draco asked grumpily, moving away from James and rubbing his ears. "He woke up and wouldn't go back to sleep. I had no idea what to do – it was all him!"
Ginny sighed and tried to calm her child. "Look, I don't think he's going to sleep anytime soon without his cot. I'll have to head back, thanks Hermione, Malfoy."
"I'll see you out," Hermione offered and the three of them headed back to the house leaving Draco with two quad bikes still running.
He huffed and rode them back into the garage before finally gathering his thoughts, reaching into his pocket to fiddle with a black velvet box.
The following evening, Draco and Hermione were relaxing on their bed when there was a tap at the window.
"Do you think you could get that?" Draco asked her, eyes wide and innocent.
She sent him a withering look. "And what's wrong with your legs?"
"They ache so badly from my intense work out I did earlier."
"What work out?" She asked, eyes narrowing.
"My work out which I do every other day?" Draco said, rolling his eyes.
"No you don't, you don't do any work outs, Draco, stop lying." Hermione poked him in the shoulder.
He laughed. "Fine, you're right." He sighed dramatically. "You just foiled my real reason."
"And what's that?" Hermione asked, smirking as she leant over him, hair tickling his cheek.
"I wanted to watch your bum." Draco whispered, leaning up to kiss her. "You have a rather nice backside, did you know?"
She laughed and shook her head. "You're unbelievable, you are. Fine, just so you can see my bum, I'll get the owl."
"Good girl," Draco grinned and felt a tightening in his chest as she slipped off the bed and walked seductively over to the window. She sent him a cheeky look over her shoulder and he wiggled his eyebrows, sitting up in the bed. Breathe.
Hermione opened the window and the bird fluttered in, perching itself inside on the windowsill. Draco watched her as her face turned into one of confusion.
"There's no letter?" She frowned.
Draco got up from the bed and padded over, scratching his head. "Are you sure? It's not a rogue owl is it?"
"No, I don't think – oh, here we are, there's a little pouch." Her fingers worked at the little leather case attached to the bird's foot to untie it. Draco swallowed nervously. His mouth was dry.
It seemed like an age to him before Hermione finally opened the pouch. She tipped the contents out onto her hand before gasping aloud.
"Draco?" She whispered, her eyes transfixed on a silver ring with a diamond set on top. It glinted in the evening summer light as Draco gently took it from her hand and knelt on one knee. This is it, he thought to himself, stomach constricting with the nerves from this one question he was about to ask.
"Hermione Jean Granger, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?"
With the biggest smile Draco had ever seen cross Hermione's face, she responded with the answer he desperately wanted to hear: "Yes."