EEP! Oh goodness, I could have sworn I'd added this! D: Here's the last chapter - a big sad moment, but I promise it ends happily! Thank you SO much to all of you who kept up with this! A special thank you to marksmom and Ralaj, for keeping with me through pretty much every chapter. :D Love to you all, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride!
At twenty-nine, Draco Lucius Malfoy first learned about Life.
He rushed into the study, a bright smile on his face. "Eshe! Penha!" he called excitedly, making his way quickly to his desk. He was still in a dressing robe, despite the fact that it was just past noon.
"What is it, little one?" Eshe asked serenely, figuring she knew the answer.
"Look!" Draco pointed at the lovely ring on his finger, his smile stretching further. "It was amazing!" he exclaimed happily rocking on the balls of his feet.
"Do tell, then," the book said indulgently.
"There was this huge hush that fell over the party when Harry and I were at the front of the room, and that's when I got up my nerve to do it. Harry smiled at me and I took his hands and said, 'Harry James Potter, I have fallen so very deeply in love with you.' Because, well, I have – and he likes that romantic stuff." He gave a short chuckle, waving his hands excitedly. "He looked confused for a moment, but then the most amazing thing happened. He said, 'And I've fallen ever so in love with you too, Draco.' I didn't think it could go better, but then it did!" he babbled quickly.
He paced back and forth, motioning wildly with his hands. "We both started trying to talk at the same time, but then he put his finger to my lips and told me to hush. I mean, I was thinking that he must have some nerve, but I raised an eyebrow and let him speak. He spoke about getting to know me and how important I'd become in his life – up there, in front of everyone!" he exclaimed. "He hates crowds and spotlights, but he did that for me." He beamed goofily for a moment, then shook it off and continued.
"He said he had something very important to ask me, and that's about when I realized what he was about to do. So I Silenced him." He paused in his pacing to roll his eyes. "He looked shocked, but I told him that there was no way in hell that he was asking me at my party. Plus, he was doing it wrong – romantic proposals have the getting down on one knee thing," he said matter-of-factly.
"So I told him that this was the proper way, and got down on one knee. 'Harry James Potter, will you do me the honor of becoming my husband?' I said, taking out the ring I'd shown you two and everything. He laughed and tried to answer, then pointed to his mouth. I'd, um, forgotten to remove the Silencing Charm," he admitted with a touch of embarrassment.
"He then said, 'What do you think?' and took out the ring he'd gotten me." Draco grinned, then glanced at the slim band on his finger lovingly. "I said, 'Say it anyway,' – and he did! He said YES!" Draco laughed in exultation.
"Look at it! Isn't it beautiful?" he asked, striding over to give his book-friends a view. He'd learned long ago that they somehow could see, even without eyes. One day he'd probably figure out the magic behind that. "I'd have come sooner, but I don't think he would have taken kindly to me crawling out of bed saying I needed to tell some friends the good news," he apologized.
When he really focused on the desk, Draco noticed that Eshe was the only one floating above it. Penha was still laying there, unmoving. Come to think of it, Eshe had been the only one who'd greeted him. "Penha?" Draco asked warily, his voice wavering from its ecstatic tone.
The book didn't even give a flutter, as he would when Draco had upset him and he didn't want to talk. "Penha?" he said a little more worriedly. He picked up the book, opening the cover and flipping through the pages.
The pages were all covered in a mass of scribbles, as if the same parchment had been used a million times over in a hundred different alphabets. They had always been blank before. The book was as limp as any other book, moving only as Draco flipped it. Draco began to panic.
"Draco," Eshe began, her tone soothing.
"Penha!" he cried. "Penha, no, wake up! Please, Penha! No! No! What did I do? Did I do something wrong? Please talk to me!" He ran his hand over the old cover gently, then carefully shook the book as if to snap him out of it.
"You don't need him anymore," Eshe stated calmly.
"What? Of course I do! Please, Penha! I'm going to end up getting everything wrong and I won't know what to do! I need you! Please– please talk to me!" he cried, his eyes overflowing with tears.
"No, Draco, you don't. Please listen to me," Eshe pleaded when he made to interrupt her. He'd hugged the worn brown book to his chest tightly. "Do you know what he exists to do?" she asked evenly.
"To…to give advice. To guide people on the ways of love," Draco stated shakily.
"Exactly. You don't need his guidance anymore, Draco."
Draco shuddered violently, slowly placing his unresponsive friend on the desk. "I've killed him," he stated fearfully.
"Oh, nonsense. He's fine. He's just dormant right now, like we had been before you found us," she stated reasonably.
Draco walked around the desk, slumping down and slipping to the floor before he could make it to the chair. Eshe floated down to hover before him. "You're a part of him now, Draco. You've been a part of us both since you were four years old," she said tenderly. "You have not killed him; you have given him life. And he has not abandoned you. He never will, and neither will I.
"He told you once that we would be here for you as long as you needed us. You don't need him now. You understand. You have found love, and nothing stands in your way. He knew you would never purposefully sacrifice that just to get him to speak with you, so he felt comfortable going dormant," she explained.
"He's my best friend, Eshe," he said through his tears.
"And he loves you just as much. I would know," she added conspiratorially.
Draco barked a laugh, a smile twitching at the corners of his grimace. "Will he ever come back?" he asked weakly.
"If you need him, little one. If you need him, just find him, and he will be there."
Draco nodded shakily. "It won't be the same without him."
"I think you underestimate yourself. Remember what he said last night? It was all you. He just gave you a bit of a reality check every now and again. You have other people around you who can do that, you know. Your mother, your friends, your fiancé – perhaps even your father on occasion," she joked lightly.
Draco gave a short laugh. "Why are you still here then, if I've got everything all figured out?" he asked quietly.
"Oh, little one. You may have figured out love, but there is much more still for you to learn about life," she said over-sweetly. Usually the tone made Draco want to stick his tongue out at the grey book. This time, though, he grabbed her out of the air and hugged her tightly.
"It'll all be okay, then?" he asked quietly, feeling very much like the child Penha had always referred to him as.
"Of course it will. And when it's not, we'll be here," she affirmed.
Draco smiled, wiping his eyes. "Okay." He stayed like that for awhile, curled up around the grey book with his forehead pressed to her cool cover. He didn't hear the door open, or the soft pad of footsteps.
"Hello, child," Penha's voice called cheerily. Draco's head shot up, his eyes wide. He was about to scramble up and turn to the brown book laying on his desk, but Eshe made a soft 'shh' noise.
"Hello. Who's there? Where are you?" a small voice politely replied from in front of the desk.
"I'm here on the desk," was the amicable reply.
"You're a book!" There was a slight shuffle, then a tiny, "Ow! Hey! That wasn't nice!" the little voice scolded.
"My apologies, Scorpius. I mean you no harm. My name is Penha," the book said cheerily.
"How do you know my name?" the boy asked in wonder, his voice barely above a hiss.
"Oh, I know a lot of things about you," the book replied enigmatically. "I can feel you now, child. That's why I had to prick you – for the magic to work."
"Oh. Papa likes knowing how magic works. I think it's fun. How does your magic work?" Scorpius inquired curiously, and pages could be heard turning. "Why are you blank if you're a book? How do you talk? Jamie has The Monster Book of Monsters that growls, but it doesn't talk."
"One question at a time, child. Do you ever remind me of someone," the book said with a goodnatured laugh. "And I am blank because I am waiting for you to fill me up."
"I like drawing things. Can I draw things instead? My letters are good, but it's not as fun."
"If you wish. I'd like to see your drawings!" the book said excitedly.
"I'd show you, but they're in my room, not in Papa's study," Scorpius pouted.
"I don't think your Papa would mind if you took me to see them," Penha said mischievously.
"Okay." There was the sound of falling paper. "What's that?"
"Ah, would you mind leaving that on your Papa's desk? It's something I've been holding for him awhile, but I think he needs it back now."
"Okay." There were more sounds of the paper being picked up and left on the desk, then Scorpius was happily trotting out. "Do you know where Papa went, Penha? He wasn't at breakfast."
"I'm sure he'll be down shortly," the book assured.
"Oh. Okay then. You can call me Score – everyone does except for Papa and Grand-mère and Grand-père." The door closed quietly behind them.
Draco sighed from his crouched position. "Merlin. I should probably warn him about other talking books, shouldn't I?" Eshe chuckled. Draco took a deep breath, letting it out gustily. "He'll take good care of Scorpius, won't he?" he asked fondly.
"Just like he did for you. He's bonded to you both now. He'll hear your hearts until the day you die, and he'll remember every bit of it forever afterward," Eshe said softly.
Draco smiled, getting up off the floor. He patted himself down for invisible dust, straightening his dressing robe. Sighing resignedly, he set Eshe down gently on the desk. The corner of his eyes spied the slip of parchment, wondering what it was that Penha had left him. He quickly unfolded it and scanned the familiar writing.
It was the note his mother had written him in third year.
Life is hard, and it is filled with many complications. Some of the hardest things we have to do are some of the most complex things we will have to deal with. Sometimes you like the result, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you can be surprised.
Though there are a million complexities woven all around it, I will tell you the one most simplistic thing in all the world: I love you.
I have loved you since you were only the most abstract idea in my mind, and I have loved you more every moment of every day since I knew you to truly exist. I know, no matter what happens, that I will continue to love you ever increasingly into and past the bounds of infinite time, and even still after the very concepts of you and I have ceased to exist.
Stay strong. We will persevere, in some form or another.
Draco clapped a hand over his mouth, smiling as the tears came. He took a moment to let it all out, not holding the emotion back like he usually did.
"See, I told you he wasn't dead. And that he loves you very much, too. You should really listen to me more often," the remaining book drawled.
"Oh shush." Draco glared affectionately at the book. "Sometimes, still, I really don't like you, I hope you know," he informed her matter-of-factly. He didn't really mean it, but theirs was a friendship rooted in antagonizing one another.
"Most people think I'm a bitch until they escape me," she shot back, making Draco laugh. A thought occurred to him then. "Why didn't you call out to Scorpius too?"
"I figured you needed me more right then. I would like to meet him as well, someday."
Draco nodded. "Thank you. Perhaps I'll bring you along when I give him that lecture on talking books." He paused. "You know, how does your magic work exactly? No, I'm serious!" he said as Eshe just laughed. Draco rolled his eyes and grumbled, fairly certain the book wouldn't tell him.
"Draco? Love?" he heard Harry calling outside it study, then the man's head popped in and smiled. And then his face fell. "Were you crying?" he asked worriedly, quickly dashing across the room to Draco's side.
Draco wiped at his face, clearing away the tear tracks. "I'm fine. Don't worry," he said with a smile. "It's just that a very dear, very old friend of mine, ah, passed on today, and I was a bit upset for a little while."
"Oh baby, I'm so sorry." He squatted down beside Draco's chair, putting a comforting hand on his leg.
"Don't be. It's okay. I think it was for the best," he assured. "I'll miss him terribly, but I think he's gone to a very good place."
"Who was it? Not Blaise?" Harry asked, stating the only one of Draco's old friends he could think of that he wasn't well-acquainted with.
"You didn't know him. His name is Penha." He hesitated for a moment, biting his lip. "Perhaps I'll tell you about him one day," he offered.
Harry smiled. "I hope you will. He seems like he was very important to you." He reached up to wipe the last of the water from Draco's face. "Anyone that you care about that much certainly has to be an amazing person, in my book."
Draco burst into a fit of snickers, confusing his poor fiancé, but he wasn't quite ready to explain just yet. Settling down, he smiled back down at Harry, running his fingers through the other man's unruly hair. "He helped me find you. He helped me to believe in love. I'd say that makes him one of the most important people I've ever known." He leaned down to press a kiss to Harry's forehead, making the other man smile.
"Then I owe him everything," he replied, voice full of love. He tilted his head up, pecking Draco's lips where they'd lingered. "Will you be okay?"
"Yes, yes, I'm okay now," Draco replied, waving his hand as if to brush off the worry. "It was just a bit of a shock. I know he's still watching over me. And maybe I'll see him again one day."
"Of course," Harry affirmed, looking happy.
Draco's look suddenly turned calculating. "Now then, fiancé, I think you promised me chocolate chip pancakes," he demanded imperially.
Harry laughed and nodded. "With extra chocolate chips," he promised. He stood and extended his hands out to Draco, helping the other man up.
"You spoil me!" Draco teased.
"No, I'm just hoping that with enough chocolate and unending praise I can maybe factor out the blood-flavoured lollipops and keep you forever anyway," he replied cheekily.
Draco laughed. "Not a chance, Potter." Arm in arm, they waltzed out of the study. Eshe slowly floated up, watching the boys as they left.
I won your bet, she sent to Penha smugly.
Oh hush. Bothersome woman.
I'll take good care of him.
I know you will, darling. And I'm certain I'll be around here somewhere if he needs me, the other book drawled in amusement.
Eshe sighed in exasperation. I love you, you soppy stack of parchment.
Penha laughed in response. I love you too, my dear.
"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." – Paul Sweeney
Extra Info/Easter Eggs:
~ Eshe: means 'life'; she is essentially the Book of Life; http : / / www . babynames . com / name / ESHE (Remove Spaces)
~ Penha: means 'love'; he is essentially the Book of Love; http : / / www . babynames . com / name / PENHA (Remove Spaces)
~ In part six, the 'dark, dank, dreary' comment about Durmstrang was a reference to My Little Pony: The Movie, which I watched obsessively as a child. X3
~ Draco's little elf owl was named Tetra, short for 'tetraodondidae' – the scientific name for a pufferfish – because when she was little she was just a puff of feathers. X3 I couldn't find anywhere to add it in, though. *sad* Also, it's somewhat a tribute to one of my favorite cosplay groups: http : / / parleproductions . spreadshirt . co . uk / luxy-s-pufferfish-girls-t-shirt-A11535053 (Remove Spaces)
~ My beta Tyoko has apparently adopted Draco/cute-little-Hufflepuff-girl as her new OTP thanks to Part 6. XD
~ The phrase "fardels borne" in Part 10 is a reference to Hamlet's soliloquy. I am in love with that play, and slipping that in made me giggle.
~ Secrets of Rare Herb Gardening - S.R.H.G. - Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor in reverse alphabetical order. XD
~ Snowdonia Hawkweed: http : / / www . vincelewis . net / hawkweed . html (Remove Spaces), possibly the rarest plant in the world.
~ Tacca Chantrieri/Black Bat Flower: http : / / cdn . webecoist . com / wp-content / uploads / 2008 / 11/ black-bat-flower . jpg (Remove Spaces), I saw it and thought of Severus. Don't look at me like that!
~ Monkshood: also known as…wolfsbane. *giggle*
~ The bright green drink I had in mind for Draco was a Midori sour. Mmm, so tasty.
~ The arbitrary dates I came up with for the children's birthdays are as follows(in age order, since I'm pants at remembering what years it should be): James, 7th September; Rose, 11th November; Al, 18th December; Score, 21st August; Hugo, 5th September; Lily, 12th October; and OC Briar, 4th August. (Why yes, Hugo was born two days before James's birthday. *innocent whistle*)
~ I sort of envisioned it was Seamus who tackled Harry at his birthday party. *snickersnort*
~ Guess what the real reason was that Harry didn't want to get in the way of Narcissa's party planning. ;D
~ "Most people think I'm a bitch until they escape me." – Life's a bitch and then you die. XD
~ I see Draco likely needing Penha later on when he freaks out at having to deal with his PRECIOUS BABY CHILDREN starting to date. :|
~ In the end, Life teaches us, and Love guides us into understanding the lessons. :)