All characters belong to JKR

Chapter 50 – The End

The End –

And in the End,

The love you take,

Is equal to the love,

You make


Coughing once before he cleared his throat, Draco Malfoy looked up at the gray sky. "The weather's rather appropriate today, don't you think?" he asked his companion.

The man sitting on the front stoop next to him didn't look up at the sky. Instead, he was watching a small army of ants walking toward a crack in the sidewalk near their feet. Walking in a crooked line, they were, nonetheless, promenading in rank, none of them breaking position or going off on their own. He remembered when the Vipers used to be like that – a long time ago.

Draco nudged the other man's arm. "Did you hear me?"

"I'm not deaf. I heard you; I just didn't know I was meant to comment. If I was going to comment, I would say, appropriate for what?"

Draco sneered, "Appropriate for what? Are you daft? For the event in which we're about to attend – I swear, your head's in the clouds these days, or should I say it's on the ground – whatever are you looking at, old man?"

"I'm watching these ants." He motioned to the insects with the foot closest to the ants.

Draco looked down at the ground, took the toe of his shoe, and smashed the majority of the ants into nothingness. "Ants. I swear. He's watching ants. They're dead ants now," Draco said to himself, since his cohort wasn't inclined to talk about anything but nonsense. "I sent an invitation to Potter and Weasley, you know."

"Did you now?" the other man said, lounging back on the steps. The cement was hard on his back, his long legs stretching out in front of him. "Did they say they would come?"

"Potter did." Draco nudged the other man with his arm, "Look at that." He pointed toward a large, ominous cloud in the sky. "It looks as if it might rain, which will be even better. Yes, an excellent day for what I have planned."

"You're warped and slightly bent," the man replied. "Speaking of warped and slightly bent, how's your father dealing with the news of Daphne's pregnancy?"

Draco laughed. "Pleased as can be, pleased as can be. Mother is as well, even though the pregnancy followed the wedding by only a few degrees. Father said if it's a boy he's by-passing me as his heir-apparent and naming my kid instead. If it's a girl, he's going to do the same."

The other man laughed. "In other words, poor little Draco's out of the will."

Draco joined the laughter. "Yes, but not in other words, in plain words … I'm out of the will."

"Perhaps if it's a girl, she can marry little William someday," his friend said wistfully. "Wouldn't that be nice? It would connect everyone. Really connect us."

"Yes, that would nice, although we're already connected," Draco agreed. "He's a beautiful kid. Having him around was what made me think that – yeah, I could do that – I could have one of those."

"He's good with him," the man on his right said, indicating another man who was pushing little William in a pram not too far from where the two men were sitting on the front stoop of the large, four story townhouse in a swanky, Muggle neighbourhood.

Draco stared at the man and baby a few blocks away. "Indeed. He's great with him." A moment of silence, then, "Hard to believe the little chap was so small and ill at birth, but then, he did make an early appearance, didn't he?"

"He's a big boy now," his companion chimed in with a smile on his handsome face. He turned on the steps to face Draco. "Why didn't you just plan a birthday party for him today, even though it's a few days before his birthday? That would have been enough, Malfoy. Why do we have to have an event to commemorate this sort of thing? It's nonsense. Some people may want to forget."

Draco glared at the man. "You're speaking only for yourself. Most people want to remember the events of the past year." He stood. "Come on. It's time." Bringing his hands up to his mouth, Draco called out toward the other man pushing the pram down the sidewalk. "Come on now! Bring the baby to the back garden! It's time! Potter will be here soon!"

The man on the stoop was still shaking his head no. He didn't think it was time. In his opinion, it would never be time. He stayed on the front stoop after Draco and their friend took baby William around to the back. He didn't care what Draco Malfoy said. Not everyone wanted to remember what happened a year ago. Not everyone wanted to have a damn ceremony to observe anything to do with it.

He knew HE didn't need a ceremony to remember anything from last year. He remembered it all as if it happened yesterday. How could he forget any of it? If he forgot it, then he would have to forget what he felt for her, and then if he forgot what he felt for her, he would have to forget him.

He looked up at the large, gray cloud above his head and wished for the rain that Malfoy said would come. Maybe the rain would come. Maybe a large downpour, a mighty deluge, would wash them all in a holy baptism, washing away all the pain they felt, all the sins they had committed, all the desires they had coveted. Perhaps all the excruciating, sad memories, which were like a heavy anchor around their necks, would float away on a flood of rain water, instead of drowning them in a sea of grief.

Then, perhaps the torn, delicate fabric of what was once a strong friendship between five men, which was now only a fragile acquaintanceship of four, would start to mend again.

But then again, maybe not.

One year ago:

"Did you think you would get away with the Time Turner spell without someone finding out about it?" Draco asked lazily, swirling his drink in his hand, leaning against the fireplace of the living room of the house he shared with Theo Nott. "Granger's upstairs right now giving Potter and Weasley what for, and I have to tell you, I don't know when I've ever been angrier, so don't let this calm exterior fool any of you."

Blaise looked guilty, while Marcus looked annoyed. Adrian was upset, while Theo's emotions were harder to read.

"Fine, you're angry, and so is the cub. I understand all of that. What I don't understand is how you found out," Blaise said. "When Theo told me you all knew earlier, I was shocked."

Shrugging with one shoulder, Draco said, "There are a few advantageous to being Lucius Malfoy's son. Most of them involve having wealth, a handsome face, being rather well endowed, and having a good hair gene, but once in a while, others come into play. This was one of them."

"I don't know how I didn't find out," Adrian said with a pout. "I'm a damned Unspeakable! A Secret Keeper! The Minister of Magic should have told me, even if my best friends didn't trust me! Furthermore, I'm the one who got Granger into this mess, so I should be the one who gets her out!"

No one said anything to that. Finally, Theo said, "As I told Blaise, there's no way Hermione will let you do this Time Turner spell."

"And as I told Theo, there's no way Hermione will let Theo give his life for hers either, so I think we're at an old-fashioned impasse," Blaise announced, leaning back on the couch, glaring at Theo who was sitting next to him.

Theo refused to look at him. Instead, he looked at Marcus over on the opposite sofa. "You were never going to help me, were you, Flint? Why pretend? Why go with me when I went to talk to Slughorn? For months you were lying to me. You could have been honest with me. I hate dishonesty."

"Really? Do you hate it as much as I do?" Marcus asked, leaning forward on the sofa where he sat, on the other side of the coffee table. "And do you want to know what I hate more than dishonest friends? I hate dead friends. Call me mad, but I do," Marcus said with a lighter tone than he felt.

"Gentlemen, and as it's clear to me, I use that phrase very lightly," Draco began, "I hate to stop all of this fun, friendly banter, but you do realize that the answer's clear, don't you?" Draco placed his glass on the mantel.

"Coaster, please," Theo mumbled, not looking up.

"Oh, give it a rest," Blaise sneered. "Who cares about rings on the furniture or fixtures if you're going to be dead in two weeks? Talk about lying and pretending. You've been lying all summer long – planning a wedding with a woman when you knew it was for nothing! Planning a life, a future, and happiness with a woman when you knew you weren't going to be there to share it! Worst of all, acting as if you loved her – acting as if you loved me – when you thought you'd be dead. You pretended that you were going to help her finish her list, when you really didn't give a fuck about her list, so I repeat, who gives a shite about a few rings on the mantelpiece!"

Theo looked up at that, flinched as he stood, but then composed himself as he picked up a marble coaster from the coffee table. He walked over to the Draco, giving Blaise a dirty look along the way. "Perhaps the next owner of this house will care! In fact, I planned a lot of things this summer, like my will. You see, I left this house to you and Hermione."

"I don't want your fucking house or your fucking coasters!" Blaise yelled, also standing. He threw a pillow at the back of Theo's head. It hit him hard, but not hard enough in Blaise's opinion.

Theo turned, right in front of Draco and the fireplace, coaster still in hand. "Fine! I guess if you don't care, I don't care!" Theo threw the marble coaster across the room, where it broke a vase on a bookshelf, before it crashed to the floor.

"For goodness sakes!" Draco shouted, "I'll use the bloody coaster!" He pulled his wand from his trousers, fixed the broken vase, and then ... "Accio coaster," he said. The coaster flew to his hand. He placed it under his drink on the mantel and shouted, "Sit down, the both of you, or I'll restrain you, so help me I will!"

Marcus pulled Theo down to sit on the sofa next to him, and Adrian stood from his place next to the bar, and then forced Blaise back in his seat on the other sofa, sitting beside him.

"As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted," Draco started, "the course is clear. We must let things go as they were intended to go in the beginning. We'll let 'the list cure' commence. Granger is upstairs wringing Potbelly-stove and Weasel-mutt through the wringer as we speak, telling them the same thing. We both feel it's the best course of action. Theo and Granger will marry tomorrow, and then she'll have the babe, early of course, a week later at St. Mungo's. Her birthday will be a week after that."

The room was extremely quiet, but Draco continued. "We've already talked to her Healers, and they have everything planned. They've even contacted some of the best neo-natal Muggle doctors, and with magic and Muggle medicine, the little tyke will have a good chance of survival."

Theo exhaled a heavy breath. "But why should she deliver the babe early, if you think the cure will work? She won't have to deliver early if you let me do my anti-curse. That way, both she and baby William are assured to live."

Blaise picked up another pillow, was about to throw it at Theo's head, but instead he practically flew over the coffee table and jumped on top of him. He started hitting Theo with the pillow, hard, shocking the other Vipers. "But you'll be dead, you arse!" Finally, he threw the pillow on the floor and sat his own arse on the coffee table, to face the sofa in front of him.

Theo's arms were still around his head (where they were previously protecting it from a pillow attack), but lowering them, he said, "There's a chance I'll die, and a chance I won't, but it doesn't matter, because I'll do what I must for her, and even for you and your baby." He stood up, and walked around the sofa, to stand in the doorway. "But apparently, it's a moot point now, and this conversation's over. It seems I've been outvoted, so be it. If Marcus won't help me, then fine, I guess we have to do what we have to do, but only if Blaise and Marcus promise they won't do the Time Turner spell."

"He's giving in too easily," Adrian said, suspiciously.

"I think so, too," Marcus agreed.

"Still, he can't do the spell alone," Blaise added, a trace of truculence in his voice, "Which means we must trust him, I suppose."

"Then I say you two agree, and let's all get some sleep. Big day, tomorrow, you know," Draco proclaimed.

Theo shook his head. "Everyone's talking as if I'm not in the room. Just agree, gentlemen, blah, blah, using term loosely." He slumped against the wall. "I'm going to bed, because I'm getting married tomorrow."

He climbed the stairs slowly, but once in his room he sent an Owl to Gregory Goyle.

Back to the Present:

Greg Goyle joined Draco in the back garden of the large town house where Draco used to live with Theo Nott. "Where is everyone?" Greg asked.

Draco sighed in disgust. "Most of the invitees are here, but they're dawdling around inside. Daphne is changing little William's nappies. He soiled them right before the ceremony, the spoiled little bugger."

Greg laughed. "So the other Vipers are coming?"

Draco inhaled sharply through his nose. "What's left of them. They were just outside with me. As to whether I'll get them out here is another matter."

"Maybe the back garden holds too many bad memories for them," the larger man said insightfully. "It was the place where only a year ago Granger and Theo married … and well, you know, think of what happened here all those years ago with Astoria and Theo."

Draco hit Greg upside the back of his head and snapped, "Thank you for the history lesson, Goyle. I'd forgotten all about everything."

Greg winced. "No reason to get all touchy."

"You know," Draco barked, "some people didn't even want to invite you!" Draco walked over to the grove of pine trees that sat around the stone patio and placed a small, wooden box on the stone bench that was there.

"Why?" the man asked, confusion written all over his face.

Draco whipped around to face him. "Why? Why indeed. Some might blame you, you know."

Greg folded his arms over his chest and stated, "He asked me for help and I helped him. None of you would, so I did. I didn't see the harm then, and I don't see the harm now. It was for Granger, Malfoy. For Granger. I would do it again, if I had the chance, and nothing and no one can make me feel guilty about the choices I made. If you want me to leave, I'll leave."

Draco stared at the other man for a mere few seconds. "What happened to the boy I used to bully when we were younger?"

"He grew up to be a decent man, somehow," Greg replied. "I'd like to think Granger influenced me a bit."

"Wonders of wonders," Malfoy smiled. He patted Greg's arm. "Here, help me with the box. We'll get everything ready while we wait for the rest to appear."

One Year Ago, Moments before the Wedding:

The Vipers were in Theo's room helping him get ready for his wedding, laughing at his nerves, joking about the upcoming nuptials. Personally, he would prefer that they leave him alone. Even so, these men would always be a part of him. Somehow, they haunted him even when he was alone. When he was a child, they stood beside him, through every heartache and battle, through every hurt and conflict.

When he died someday they would probably haunt him to his grave.

The same thing was true of Hermione Granger. She was a part of him now. He could no sooner let her leave him than he could sever his own heart. He didn't want to die – to leave her – but he didn't want her to die either.

How unfair was his life? Why couldn't he find love and keep it? It was as if he was sentence to a lifetime of hell here on earth, a lifetime of half pieces, a lifetime of false starts. It was as if the devil himself was forever tempting him, showing him love, giving him a sense of peace, only to take it away again, only to laugh in his face, tempt him, telling him he was never meant to know true love.

He didn't want it taken away this time. If anyone took it away this time, it would be him. Therefore, no matter what anyone said, he knew what he had to do. That alone made him more nervous than any wedding ceremony ever would.

"Where's your tie?" Marcus asked Theo.

"Somewhere," Theo said, as if in a daze.

"Good answer," Draco laughed. "He is nervous, chaps!"

"Give him a break. It's his wedding day," Marcus censured, right before he gave Draco a two finger salute.

Adrian swatted Draco on the thigh, and then pushed him off the bed completely. "Malfoy was sitting on the blasted thing!" Adrian accused. "Here, stand up, Theo, and let me put your tie on you."

Theo stood, still in a daze.

Blaise slumped in the corner of the room, watching. "Adrian, hold off a moment," he suggested. "Theo's not even shaved yet."

"Haven't you?" Draco asked. "Well, Granger's a Muggle-born. She probably likes them on the slightly homeless looking side."

Adrian laughed. "That makes no sense!" He threw the tie at Marcus who said, "It does if your brain is in the head of Draco Malfoy."

"Can everyone leave for a moment," Theo said softly. Blaise was the only one who heard.

Adrian, Draco and Marcus continued to laugh and rag on each other, until finally, Theo shouted, "LEAVE! EVERYONE! LEAVE!"

"Touchy, touchy!" Draco teased. "He's nervous about the wedding night. Let me give you a couple of pointers. First, don't worry; because I have it on good authority that she's not exactly a virgin."

"Please," Theo said again, falling on the side of his bed, eyes shut tight.

Draco placed a hand on Theo's shoulder, leaned down and whispered something in his ear, then he said, "Out Pucey, you too, Flint." They started to leave, as did Blaise. "I think he wants you to stay, Zabini, old boy."

"Do you?" Blaise asked. Theo nodded numbly. Once the rest left, Blaise asked, "What did Draco whisper in your ear?"

Theo smiled. "He told me not to worry either, because he got me a book on how to have sex with a Muggle-born for a wedding present."

"Good old Malfoy." Blaise walked up to stand between Theo's legs. He placed one hand in the other man's hair, brushing it back and forth. "You should have gotten a hair cut before the wedding."

"I know," Theo agreed. "But I've had other things on my mind the last few weeks."

"Right, trying to figure out how to kill yourself for Hermione." Blaise's fingertips drifted down to Theo's cheeks. "And you really should have shaved."

"Too nervous. I would have cut my throat." Theo held up a hand. He was shaking.

"Remove your shirt," Blaise ordered, pulling out his wand. "We'll do this the way my mother taught me. It's part magical, part Muggle. We'll still need a good lather. Where's your shaving lotion?"

Theo pointed toward the bathroom. Blaise walked in the other room, came out with the lotion, a towel, and a few other things. He worked a small dollop of lotion into a quick lather between his hands and then placed both hands on Theo's cheeks. "Chin up," Blaise ordered.

"I'm not upset," Theo said.

"I meant literally, chin up, or I might cut you. My wand is now an instrument of destruction and grooming, thank you very much." He passed over the other man's face several times with his wand, cleaning the wand off on the towel as it draped across Theo's thighs. Once Theo was clean shaven, Blaise took another towel and patted Theo's cheeks. Pulling him to a standing position, he helped him back into his shirt, buttoned it up efficiently, shoved the shirttail back into the trousers, and then stood back and said, "Not too bad."

"I like it when you fuss over me," Theo decided.

"Those days are done," Blaise said lightly. "You'll have your wife to do all of that now."

Theo's throat felt tight. He pulled Blaise into an unyielding hug. "Do you forgive me for leaving you out of this?"

"You needed to fulfill her list, that's all this wedding is," Blaise said, patting Theo's back in small, uneven pats. "I'm not being left out, so I understand. I'll still be around. You are having my kid, you know."

"Do you forgive me for thinking about leaving you?" Theo asked. "Please, forgive me."

"You weren't going to leave me, not really," Blaise said, even though he knew that – yes, he really was going to leave him – Theo had planned to leave everyone. He thought he was doing what was right, but Theo had a warped sense of right and wrong. He didn't know love, not truly, not yet, not fully, and not completely. "You thought you were going to leave her with me, so I understand, but I'm not happy about it all. Don't expect me to be. You can bloody well leave me out of your life forever, Theo Nott, just don't ever 'leave me' leave me, understand?"

Theo nodded.

Adrian stood in the doorway watching the other two men embrace, a note from Greg Goyle for Theo in his hand. He balled the note in his fist, placed it in his pocket (after having already read it), and cleared his throat. He said, "I was sent to get you. Draco said to hurry. We're on a schedule."

"You would think he's the one getting married," Blaise laughed, taking Theo's hand and leading the way down the stairs and outside to Theo's wedding ceremony.

Adrian patted both men's backs as they walked by him, and only then did he take out the note from Greg Goyle that he had stuffed into his pocket, which had arrived by Owl only five minutes ago. The note said that Greg would be happy to take Marcus' place in the spell to help save Granger, and that Greg and Slughorn would meet Theo right after the wedding.

Adrian knew that by now Theo probably thought that Greg wasn't going to show. It was all for the best. Really it was. He tucked the note further into the depths of his pocket and ran down the stairs into the back garden.

Right after the Wedding:

Theo was a bit frantic.

He had been searching for Hermione for over a half an hour and couldn't find her anywhere. Nothing was happening as he had planned … first, his plan to save Hermione by sacrificing his life for hers was uncovered by his mates. Then, his second plan to do the same spell (without Marcus, but with Greg Goyle) was also unraveling due to the fact that Greg not only didn't show up for the wedding, but he did even bother sending word as to whether or not he would help him by Owl or any other means.

Likewise, he knew the Time Turner spell was safely tucked away, because Lucius Malfoy assured him of this to his face BEFORE the wedding. Therefore, he had no safety net left that Hermione would live after her birthday if 'the list cure' didn't work.

And now he had lost her, not figuratively, but literately.

Theo started to wash his hands in her little bathroom, which was where her cat was hiding, when he spied her bathroom window partly open. Ah, could it be that she was out there as she had been one time before?

Sticking his head out the window to stare at the slanted roof that was over the eave off the bathroom area, he spied her, huddled in a small ball (even though she was now rounder than a ball).

"Are you hiding out here, on the roof no less, brave little Gryffindor that you are?" Theo asked Hermione.

She smiled, held out her hand, and nodded. "Yes. Don't tell anyone where I am. Will you join me?"

"What if I'm afraid out here on the roof?" he asked, one eyebrow raised, a half, crooked smile on his handsome face.

"I'll protect you," she promised. "It's fun to be up here. We can spy on everyone down below."

He placed his hand in hers, but barely made it out the small portal. Once beside her, he said, "The last time you were out here you were crying. I think I see a tear this time, too. Are you happy or sad that we ended up getting married here in the back garden, instead of at Blaise's club?" Theo leaned down to scoot his body next to hers, and then placed their joined hands on his lap.

"Seriously, these are happy tears, and although I'm sure you had the club decorated very nicely, a true autumn wonderland, this was wonderful," she beamed. "Harry and Ron did a magnificent job decorating the back garden, changing all the leaves' hues to red, yellow and orange. I heard Blaise left the club in shambles after he found out what you had planned. No, this was superb. My boys are very handy with Transfiguration." She smiled proudly.

He laughed. "You sound like a proud mother."

She placed her head on his shoulder, while he placed an arm around her. "I taught them everything they know." Her hand went to the front buttons of his shirt, and she fiddled with them slightly. "I was so lonely before I found them."

"Were they lost back then, too?" he asked lightly, his chin upon the top of her head.

"No, but I think I felt that way before I found you. Funny, that." She laced her hand in his. "You know, I shouldn't let you off so easily. I shouldn't be so happy right now. I should be angry with you." Her hair tickled his nose. "I was meant to yell at you for planning on leaving me before our lives began, but I was too tired last night, and then today was my wedding day, and I think I read somewhere that a bride shouldn't tell her groom to sod off on their wedding day, don't you know, and you recited such lovely vows to me during the ceremony, so it didn't seem the right time to yell at you."

"All of that's true," he reflected, her cheek now over his heart. He rubbed his thumb under eye to capture what was left from the moisture of her tears. "But let's get back to these tears. Remember right after you moved in here, and I found you crying out here on the roof? My heart almost broke for you that day … actually, that was the day I found out that I still had a heart."

"And that was the day I knew I loved you, too," she said softly, closing her eyes. "Not to change the subject, but I'm so exhausted I could honestly fall asleep." The breeze lifted her hair, and caused her to open her eyes, but only for a fraction of a second, before she closed them again. "Do you mind if we miss our little honeymoon trip to Draco's chalet? I'm so tired."

"Sleep, love," he suggested, even as he saw Blaise leaning through the small bathroom window.

"I'll Disapparate out there and bring her inside, if you'd like. Shall I take her from you?" Blaise asked.

Theo had many things he could say to that one little question. Instead, he nodded, moving her gently, easily, toward the open window. Blaise Disapparated outside, extracted her from Theo's arms and then popped back inside, leaving Theo alone on the roof.

Back to the Present:

Harry Potter walked into the back garden, followed by Daphne Greengrass Malfoy, Marcus Flint and Blaise Zabini, who was holding his son, William Theodore. Draco looked up from his toil as they came into view and harped, "About bloody time. Hurry up now. Are you lot the only ones coming?"

"I would say so, since we're the only ones here," Marcus replied. "I would have brought my friends the ants, but you squashed them with your foot out on the front walk."

"He's talking about ants again," Draco said, shaking his head. "Fine, let's get started.

He picked up the little wooden box he had previously placed on the stone bench. The box was made of a dark mahogany, and it had fine inlaid etchings on the tops and sides. "I found this box in Diagon Alley with Granger, right before her wedding. She picked it out, just in case we'd need it for this very thing," he said clearly. He looked up at the others.

Harry alone was looking at him, his clear green eyes meeting Draco's cool silver gaze. The Vipers, what was left of them, were each staring elsewhere, and Greg was looking at the wooden box. Daphne was cooing softly to William, who was babbling back to her in return.

"I also promised her that I would hold this ceremony, come hell or high water, no matter what, and she said that if I did, to at least do it on a day that would be memorable. She made me promise NOT to do it on the anniversary of her wedding day, which was last week. She said not to do it on little William's birthday, which is iin a few days. She said if anything should happen to her or anyone else, not to do it on those days. Well, that didn't leave me much choice, did it? Her birthday was out, next Tuesday's out, as that's the anniversary of his death, so I picked today."

Draco turned to Greg and instructed, "Go on now."

Greg picked up a small shovel and manually began to shovel away dirt and debris near the small grove of trees. He shoveled until the hole under the trees was big enough to house the box.

Draco and the others gathered close. "I won't make a big speech, even though that's Granger's favourite thing to do. I'll merely say, rest in peace … ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Yes, finally, rest in peace." He knelt down, placed the box in the ground, slowly, reverently, and then sprinkled a small amount of dirt from the mound beside it on top.

Blaise handed the baby to Daphne, knelt down next, pushed a mound of dirt on top of the box, and repeated, "Rest in peace."

Harry merely looked down in the hole, but then he turned around and walked back toward the townhouse to go inside.

Marcus kicked a small amount of dirt inside with his foot, but he didn't say anything while doing it. Instead, he looked at Draco and said, "Why wait a year?"

"I made a promise to her that I would," Draco replied. "For some reason it was important to her to wait. I think she needed it."

Marcus pulled Draco into his arms, held him, and said into his ear, "You're a good friend, Malfoy. I've never appreciated that fact." Pushing him away, he walked toward Daphne, took William from her arms, and walked with Blaise back toward the house.

Draco smiled and held out his hand to his new wife. "Do you think I'm a good man, darling?"

"You're the best," she offered, and they also started into the house, pausing only long enough for Draco to turn back once. "Are you coming, Goyle?"

Greg stood from his place on the ground, rushed to Draco and Daphne, and laughed while he said, "Did I tell you about the time Granger hit me after I called her mudblood?"

"No, do tell," Draco said sarcastically.

A Year Ago:

The child was born. He was so small and fragile. Hermione was worrying herself sick over him. She was exhausted and scared.

Potter finally convinced her to leave St. Mungo's for a full night's rest at the townhouse. She moved like a zombie through the house, at first going up to her old flat, but then remembering that she had moved her things down to Theo's room. She started to walk into his large bedroom then faltered in the threshold of the doorway.

Some invisible force kept her from entering. Shivering, she remained in the doorway. A man walked up behind her, placed his hands on her shoulders. "Are you cold?"

"No, just tired. So very tired," she said in a whisper.

He felt the worn fabric of her favourite brown jumper under the palms of his hands. "Didn't you promise Malfoy you'd throw this old thing out?" he asked lightly, turning her around to face him.

"I can't right now. I need it. It gives me comfort. I'll throw it out when I no longer need it." She leaned closer, her nose pressing into his chest and his jaw tightened. He glanced into the bedroom and sighed. Inwardly he cursed, brushing a lock of hair away from her cheek.

There were dark circles under her eyes. "William will be okay." He didn't know what else to say.

"No one else will be," she mumbled.

He knew what she meant. It was as if a wild animal with teeth jagged and raw had savagely come into their folds and had torn out all of their hearts. Heart like hers were especially easily broken and fragile, so she was in the most pain at their recent loss.

Why did he do it? He held her closer and growled under his breath. Why hadn't he waited? Hadn't they all agreed that they would let 'the list cure' unfold? Now there was no way to protect Hermione and William. There was no way to protect any of them.

And he was dead. Slughorn's little counter-curse was set into motion. Greg Goyle helped him, and there was no way to know if it worked yet because Hermione's birthday was still two days away. So on top off her worrying about her tiny, ill baby, and the death of someone they all loved, she still had to worry about her possible impending death.

He didn't think about that, did he? Did he do it for love, or for selfish reasons?

He looked back down at Hermione as she stood in his arms and noticed that she was asleep on her feet. He picked her up, walked into the bedroom, and placed her on the bed. Then, he Disapparated to St. Mungo's.

The baby was so small. This was the first time he had seen him. He had a shock of dark hair on the top of his head. His skin was darker than his mother's, lighter than his fathers. He would be a truly beautiful little boy.

He reached down and placed a finger on the baby's cheek. A Healer walked up and said, "You can pick him up."

"Is he well enough?" he asked.

"Yes, he is," she answered.

He picked the baby up from the crib. He weighed no more than a feather quill, and didn't make a single sound. With closed eyes and a puckered mouth, the baby was beyond beautiful. The man lifted the tiny baby to his mouth, kissed his cheek, then placed him gently back down into the crib.

"I love you, William. We'll all be there for you forever," he promised.

He Apparated back to the bedroom where he left Hermione and glanced at the bed. She looked beautiful even when she was utterly exhausted and full of grief. Would she be here beyond tomorrow? Would she be here to see her child grow?

How selfish of his friend to do that spell on the pretense of love. Leaving this woman behind wasn't love. It was madness.

He turned from her and touched the black, polished piano in the corner of the large room. Then he sat down and began to play.

Present Day

Hermione stood by the window of the bedroom watching the scene below while Theo played the grand piano. He began to sing, so she turned to watch him. He truly sang like an angel, and played with the intensity and passion of an artist. Watching him, she felt awed and inspired. She felt as if she stood in the doorway of a great cathedral, one if which she wasn't worthy to enter.

"The Beatles," she said, moving closer.

He finished his song, and then turned on the bench to face her. "It's called, 'The End'. Are they done with Malfoy's little ceremony?"

"Yes, it appears so. I feel guilty that we didn't go down, but I truly wasn't up to attending. Not very many attended. Just Blaise, Marcus, Greg, Daphne and Harry, oh, and William," she said, wrapping the ends of her new cream colour jumper tighter around her waist.

"That's a pretty jumper," he said, smiling.

"Cashmere," she said. "Malfoy promised me a year ago that if I let him bury my old brown jumper he would buy me a cashmere jumper in every colour imaginable. He kept up his end of the bargain by buying me over 42 jumpers, and today, when I finally relinquished my old brown one, I kept up my end of the bargain." She turned back to the window. "I almost hate to see the old thing go – especially being buried under ground – but it was time."

"If I recall," Theo started, "you told him he could have it after our wedding."

"Yes I did, but then it was so touch and go with the baby those first couple of days, and then everything that happened after the wedding, I needed the comfort of my old brown jumper," she said, walking toward him. "Accordingly, I made him promise to wait until I was ready, and I was ready until now. I thought waiting a year would help us all heal."

He held out his hand. She placed her hand in his and sat on his lap as he sat on the bench. "I understand. You needed it. I recall how exhausted and fragile you were after the baby was born, and after Adrian died. It was so soon after our wedding. I recall carrying you up here from St. Mungo's, and you had it on that day. I placed you on the bed, and you were wrapped up in it, and it was as if that old brown jumper was the only thing keeping you together." He said it softly.

He knew he didn't need to remind her of any of the rest of it. He didn't need to remind any of them what Adrian had done for them.

She nodded. "I still wonder sometimes which cure save me. Was it 'the list cure' or was it the cure that Slughorn gave you, but which Adrian did. We'll never know."

Theo swallowed the lump in his throat, clenched his teeth and agreed. "No, we'll never know. But, his intention was to give his life for those he loved, you and me, so I like to think he didn't die in vain. I like to think Adrian is the reason we're all alive … you, me, and William."

She placed a hand on his cheek and smiled. "That's a nice thought, Theo."

"Let's go downstairs and join the others, and then we'll go home. I can hardly stand being here these days." Theo ran his hand along his old piano one last time, and then sighed loudly. They both stood. "It's a wonder Marcus kept the piano in here, since this is his bedroom now and he doesn't even play."

Hermione said thoughtfully, "Maybe he likes it here, as a reminder of you."

Theo grinned. "Blaise took over Draco's old room. I wonder if he kept the mirrors on the ceiling as a reminder of Draco or for other reasons?"

Hermione looked disgusted. "Draco had mirrors on the ceiling of his bedroom? Why?"

"Why do you think?" Theo grin grew larger. "Do you want to go see?"

"Of course I want to see!" she shouted, grabbing his hand, and pulling him down the hallway, laughing. She leaned over the upstairs balustrade and shouted down two stories below, "Emergency Viper meeting in Draco's old bedroom! We must see the purpose of the mirrors on the ceiling! I have to judge whether Blaise is as perverse as Draco used to be!"

Blaise and Marcus stood in the downstairs foyer of what was now 'their' townhouse, little William in the pram between them. Blaise looked at Marcus and said, "I am. I might even be more perverse, or is the word 'perverser'? It sounds as if Theo and the little cub are already in my bedroom. I might go up and join them, and give them a demonstration of just how perverse I can be." He smirked and raised one eyebrow.

Marcus sighed and said, "Could you try not to be a pervert, or is the word, 'perverter' in front of your son?"

"That's the best time to be a pervert, because he's bound to be a bit too proper, growing up with Theo and the proper, little Gryffindor. Someone needs to set him a bad example! Come on, let's go corrupt them together, Viper style, to honour Adrian." Blaise smiled and ran up the stairs.

Marcus ambled up the stairs slower. Draco walked toward the stairs, with Greg behind him. "Where are you going?" he asked Marcus.

"Granger called an emergency Viper's meeting in your old bedroom," Marcus said with a smile. "She wants to examine the reason you used to have mirrors on your ceiling, and then discuss who is the bigger pervert, you or Blaise."

"Really?" Draco drawled. "Well, I can already answer that. I am, but of course. Still, we haven't had a Viper's meeting since Adrian died. Alright then." He pushed the baby's pram through the living room. "Potter, watch the kid for a while, will you. Don't make him into a self-righteous prig, if you don't mind." Draco started up the stairs, right behind Marcus; he turned back, just as he had out in the back garden. "Are you coming, Goyle?"

"But, I'm not a Viper," Greg said, confused

"You are now, because we have an opening," Draco smirked.

The heavy-set man ran up the stairs as quickly as he could.

~The End ~

A/N – Someone had to die and it was Adrian, because he started it all, and he died for both Theo and Hermione. Oh, and the brown jumper died as well. The good news it that the cat lived. This was two chapters, but I decided to make it one, so I could just finally finish this story. I will be starting my new one, "Rules of Engagement" (a romantic comedy – with multiple characters) very soon. It will be posted on Fanfiction.

Thank you all for seeing me through this one! So much happened to me during this story and it was quite a ride and I appreciated all the help and support I received during it. Thank you!