10 Years Later
Hermione was up in the Astronomy Tower when she was nearly startled half to death by a five foot figure zipping over the railing and landing nearby. He stumbled off his broom before it came to a complete halt and came towards her, brandishing a dull looking knife.
"Mum! Look what I found!" He took care to lower the weapon, much to her relief, when he got closer. "Grandfather told me it belongs to you."
She took the object from him, eyes going wide in shock as she took it in. She would recognize the crude lioness in the hilt no matter how long had passed. She thought this had been lost...
Big, brown eyes peered up at her innocently from under a tangle of blond curls.
"And where, pray tell, did you find it?" He looked sheepish then, as if he knew she wouldn't like the answer. She scowled fiercely. "Scorpius Remus Malfoy, how many times do I need to tell you the Ark is off limits! You're eight years old! Five years," she began to scold to no one in particular. "I told him at least five more years before he took you anywhere near there!" Then, as an afterthought, she looked even more appalled. "He did accompany you, at least? Didn't just throw you in and hope for the best?"
Scorpius nodded vigorously.
"Of course, Mum. The Ark is dangerous, I know that! I never left his side once, I swear." She doubted the validity of that, but just pressed her lips into a thin line. Standing up, she shoved the knife into her belt. Picking her squealing son up in one fluid motion, she tossed him over her shoulder and started to march from the room.
He's getting too heavy for this, she thought, gritting her teeth.
"Muuuuuum," came the wail, but she continued to carry him all the way to the dungeons. She threw open the Potions office door furiously, finally letting her son down beside her before all the blood permanently pooled in his head. The visitor turned in his chair to greet her, but decided to remain silent as she stormed towards him.
"How many times," she demanded, slamming the knife down into the desk, "do I have to tell you? He's eight! Eight!" There was a long pause as both men drank in the sight of the dagger, and Draco leaned back in his seat. He raised his eyebrows at Tom as if to say: 'You're on your own with this one', and so Tom turned to his daughter and forced the most innocent smile he could manage. To anyone else, it would have been terrifying.
"I thought perhaps he should start early," Tom offered, knowing full well that wouldn't pacify her. Draco, in fact, had just telling him that if Hermione found out that he had been taking Scorpius to the Ark, she'd probably string him by his toes and skin him alive. "After all, I wouldn't want my favourite grandson to be behind his peers, would I?"
"Behind his peers," she repeated, mockingly. "He could pass second year exams with his eyes shut already, and probably could have graduated back in the old curriculum. He's not going to fall behind. I agreed to let you teach him wandless, despite the fact that you have questionable methods sometimes. And I agreed to let you teach him the less dangerous Dark Arts, didn't I? No, just no. You're not talking me into Ark on top of everything else. We send the fifth years through, even when I still think an extra year would result in less casualties. But eight years old!"
Tom ignored her protests and turned to look at his grandson, who was hiding behind his mother's robes apologetically. Tom smirked – it wasn't the boy's fault.
Truth be told, he wasn't here for just a visit. He had a satchel down by his feet that held a very special gift for his grandson, something that would probably send his mother into another fit. Hermione had once asked if he had anything better to do than aggravate her, and each time he could only smile. He had missed the joys of raising a child, and wouldn't miss it now - especially when the boy already showed so much promise. Though Scorpius spent most of his time with his parents, they were... well, still his parents. They had to lay down rules and carry out punishments for bad behaviour, which worked out well in Tom's favour. He was the grandfather. Grandfathers, by rights, got to break the rules and feign ignorance. In return, he was popular. This made him privy to things that not even Hermione knew about her beloved son. Things like these.
He hissed something at Scorpius – a sound that was threatening to anyone that couldn't understand Parseltongue. Hermione frowned, then realization dawned on her as her son approached his grandfather, nonplussed.
"What is it, Grandfather?" Scorpius looked intrigued, eyes on the satchel and forgetting everyone else in the room. Tom sighed, exasperated that the boy had answered in common, then reached down into the bag. Out came a snake, a hatchling, no longer than a foot. Scorpius gave a cry of delight and took the small creature into his hands.
Hermione froze as she heard the sound coming from her son's mouth. It had always been a possibility, she knew, but to hear him speak fluently in a language that was once considered dangerous, and that she didn't know he knew, was still a shock. He spoke softly to the snake, and in return it flicked out its tongue. Tom leaned forward and joined the conversation, and soon Scorpius was sent into a fit of giggles. The snake crawled up and wrapped itself around its master's small frame, and even Hermione could tell the bond was instantaneous. Scorpius turned to his mother, broad grin and pleading eyes. Oh no, not the eyes.
"Mother, can I have her? Please?" Hermione moved to collapse in the chair next to her father and waved her hand.
"Do you do this on purpose?" she muttered at him, and she caught Draco nodding from behind his desk. Everyone knew that it was Tom's favourite sport. Scorpius, oblivious and about to ask again, turned his attention to the door instead and took off running.
"Headmaster!" Scorpius yelled, delighted. "Look what Grandfather brought me! She's one of Nagini's!" Severus went to one knee, obviously more keen on the snake than Hermione was.
"She's very beautiful," he murmured, rubbing the underside of her jaw. Hermione thought that if it was a puppy, it would be rolling and lolling by now. She wasn't aware that snakes could look so pleased. Severus, who caught the scathing look she was shooting at him, forced his face into a blank slate. "Your Grandfather is very thoughtful, giving you a poisonous snake for a pet." Tom guffawed at this finally, and even Hermione couldn't help but smile. Her ridiculous father couldn't be stopped, but it was nice for someone to acknowledge that fact. Severus, with more humour, turned his attention back to Scorpius: "When will we need to start administrating the capping draught?" The boy, only mildly aware that poisonous pets had to be temporarily devenomized while at Hogwarts, swung to his father, who had been silent this whole time. Draco just steepled his fingers and looked thoughtful.
"Not for several months still, but I'll start it tomorrow. And, just in case, I will make sure that he carries a vial of antidote at all times." Severus looked pleased at this and inclined his head. "Oh, by the way, the Zabinis should be here any time. Why don't you go and greet them?"
Scorpius gave a squeal of delight and went skidding out of the Potions room, careful not to throw his new friend.
"Charrrrrrrlieeee!" The boy turned to the sound, grinning broadly at seeing his best friend. He ran ahead, leaving his parents behind, and met the other boy halfway
"Cool!" he said, seeing his friend's new pet. "Where did you get it?"
"Grandfather gave her to me!" Charlie pouted at this and looked thoughtful.
"Think he'd let me have one?"
"Absolutely not," came his mother's voice as she came up behind her son. "We'll get you an owl, or a cat, or... something that doesn't eat people while they sleep." Both boys wanted to point out that there had been cases cropping up of owls pecking the eyes of their slumbering owners, but decided to wisely remain silent.
"Oh, come on, Gin, snakes aren't that bad. What are you going to do if Charlie is sorted into Slytherin?" She raised an eyebrow at him, and Charlie snorted. It was a frequent argument between his parents, but he never corrected his Mum even though he knew she was wrong. So what if Weasleys were always Gryffindor? He would definitely be Slytherin, even if he had to threaten the hat. No way would he let himself be separated from Scorpius!
"Uncle Blaise!" Scorpius greeted happily, letting the man examine his gift. "Everyone's down in Dad's classroom." Ginny crouched down beside her husband and also gave the snake a soft rub. She had no problem with snakes - as long as they weren't in her house. As the adults disappeared down the hallway, Scorpius cupped his hands over his friend's ear.
"I'll ask Grandfather about getting you one. If I have to I'll take care of it until first year, then it'll be too late to say no!" Charlie gave a whoop of excitement, eyes shining.
"They'll be the death of me, I swear," Ginny muttered, and Hermione gave a grunt of agreement. She'd been saying that for years. The two women sat beside one another, watching their sons whisper back and forth despite being told three times already to quiet down. True to his word, Scorpius had gotten a second snake for his friend, and together they had raised it in secret.
Madam Hooch had retired the summer before, and so Ginny was now teaching at the school. She had been the last to join the Hogwarts staff, and now all four of them were together again, only at the Head Table. Their boys had been fearful that their plan had backfired, but in the end, Ginny realized that she couldn't really say no. Blaise was all for it, and pointed out that they had dedicated years to this plan. With that fresh in her mind, she was reassured that a pet snake wasn't just a passing fancy.
It was no surprise that Scorpius was sorted Slytherin. The boy was naturally polite, but he often used it to help persuade people into giving him his way. Ginny, having met a younger version of Tom during her second year, could see the uncanny resemblance between the two. They watched him join his house, and knew that the boy didn't need his family's fame to make him popular – he was naturally charismatic.
When Charlie was finally called, the boy strode confidently up to the stool and sat down. It seemed most people, his mother included, still thought that he would go Gryffindor. Hermione had heard Scorpius often claim that they would be sorted together, no matter what. Charlie probably felt the same, and coercion seemed like a good way to get into Slytherin.
So it was no surprise when "Slytherin!" interrupted her thoughts. A murmur of surprise swept through the table. She heard Ginny groan as Blaise gave a whoop of delight. Slytherin was hollering in excitement - they had, after all, got both the Malfoy and Zabini boys. If they didn't take the House Cup for the next seven years, there would be a damn good reason!
Hermione smirked and just held out her hand, waiting for the familiar weight of a galleon to be pressed into it.
A/N: OK, so the epilogue was a little closer than almost done! Speaking of done, I can't believe this is finally finished. Thank you again to everyone who read this story, I hope you all enjoyed it! Thank you also for your reviews, your time, and your patience when it came to updates. Knowing there were so many people reading this weekly, and reading all the feedback, was just as (if not more) fun as writing the story!
Hopefully this didn't happen to anyone, but for those who just come and check for the latest chapter, please take note that there was a chapter release and an epilogue this week. If you missed the Final Battle, you missed a chapter!
Thank you all again, and goooodbyyyye!