Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Depressing, but true.
The story comes full circle! Hooray!
I've thrown in another twist for you... Two people caught onto it several chapters back (maybe more of you?) and I'm almost glad nobody else did... I like it when things are slightly less predictable. ;)
We've come to the end... It's been fun, folks! Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions. I don't bite. Otherwise, hopefully you'll come check out future stories.
Draco reappeared in the middle of a howling gale.
He was momentarily shocked, unsure what to make of the rain and wind whipping at his body. Apparently the cave was far enough away from the manor that the weather systems were drastically different. A branch crashed down nearby, and he was jolted into action.
With a quick look around, he saw that he was a short way from the mouth of the cave, and took off running.
Even in the relentless rain, each step slick underfoot, everything was familiar to him. The smell of the woods sent memories careening through his mind. Everything here was Hermione Hermione Hermione. It was as though the wind was screaming her name.
It was raining like this the first time they made love.
It was raining like this the night after he healed her.
He could see the cave, and hastily wiped the rain out of his eyes. The magic was affecting him already; a low pulse that he felt in his bones.
How did I not think of this before? If this works, I owe Harry a life debt.
He picked up the pace. Just a few more steps.
Draco ran into the cave, squinting at the darkness. Hermione wasn't here to build a fire. The hammock was gone. But it was definitely their space. It even smelled like her - flowers and woodsmoke. His heart ached. He wanted her back.
He stood there, in the dry and the quiet, for several long seconds, catching his breath.
How will I know what to do?
The cave answered with a hum that shook his entire body. With a deep shudder, the air around Draco electrified, and suddenly he was surrounded by blinding light. The magic swirled around him, brushing his arms, legs, rushing over his ring. The hum intensified. It was as though the magic itself was asking him what he needed.
"She's hurt," he found himself saying. "She's hurt, and I don't know how to wake her up."
It felt almost like a breeze when the magic poured into him. Draco could make out an emotion within the energy... It felt strangely like concern, and it wasn't his own. His shoulders relaxed and he let the magic search him. He had become a vessel, allowing himself to simply be. The magic tore through him like a strong wind now, seeking out information, racing into his blood.
His mind stated to tingle, and he knew the magic was searching his memories. It was flipping through him like an open book. It replayed the scene of the final battle in his mind. It saw Hermione get hit. The magic lurched. It was frantic and terrifying and yet, standing there in the cave, surrounded by this powerful ancient force, Draco felt reassured. It understood. One of its own was in danger. It circled his broken heart, beating in time.
The fevered pitch started to wane, and slowly, surely, like a pulse, the magic backed down and left his body. His ring felt like liquid fire, but he wasn't in pain.
Then it spoke. Or, rather, it's message appeared in his consciousness. There was no voice to speak of, not really.
We bonded with one of your family line a long time ago, it said.
When she came to us, we knew she would join your line. We protected her. We waited for you.
She will begin a new era for your family. She will be the light to your darkness.
We will heal her. Go to her now.
And then, shaking from head to toe, Draco felt his feet move to the mouth of the cave, and he apparated away.
He reappeared flat on his back in the park across from Headquarters, too overwhelmed and disoriented to have made a proper landing. His entire body was tingling with the ancient magic. His head swam as he tried to sort out his thoughts.
Our cave. Our cave was the source. All that time.
It wasn't a coincidence, he knew. It was fated. The magic called to Hermione when she found the cave with Harry and Ron. It called to her again when she needed a place to hide and heal him. They fell in love there. And hundreds upon hundreds of years ago, the magic did the same for Circinus Malfoy, giving him the materials to make rings that would keep the magic with his family, allowing it to stay bonded with his line.
Now, it seemed, Hermione would start a new era for his family. What was it the magic said?
She will be the light to your darkness.
We will heal her.
With a rough gasp, Draco jumped to his feet, and ran to the front door of 12 Grimmauld Place, throwing it open and charging inside.
He knew something had changed because the moment he was inside the threshold, he heard happy shrieks coming from upstairs. Taking the stairs two at a time, he reached Hermione's room within seconds.
And there she was, sitting up in bed, surrounded by nearly the entire fucking Order, awake and beaming.
"Draco!" she screamed, and he pushed his way through the crowd, throwing himself at her open arms. It was all too much. She was clinging to him, sobbing and laughing, and he was probably crushing her with the force of his embrace, shaking like a leaf.
"Everybody out! Immediately!" he heard Mrs. Weasley bark, and the room emptied out in record time, a few disappointed sighs rising up from the group.
The didn't speak for a long while, clutching each other, kissing each other, running their hands everywhere they could touch. Draco relished every single second, particularly the kisses. He could drown in them. Every time a kiss would end and he would pull back to look at her, he would feel drawn back in and start the cycle again. She was like a magnet. He needed more of her. She complied.
Hermione couldn't seem to stop crying, but they were tears of happiness, and she didn't bother to hold back. She cried and kissed and cried again. Her decision to jump in front of Draco and take the spell had come to her so quickly, it was over in a flash of light and a horrible pain over her heart. Then she was locked in a nightmare, with visions of gold and black clashing like lightening behind her eyes for what seemed like eternity.
But right before she jumped, she had noticed the strange gold aura that was building around her. She felt her ring hum. Fuck, on some level she even recognized that hum. And she jumped thinking, I might actually come out of this alive, but if I don't, at least he will. At least he'll survive. It will be worth it.
The long nightmare had ended with a brilliant wash of gold, a calming throb, and the most peculiar message that appeared in her consciousness as she slowly woke up.
"Draco," she murmured as he peppered her mouth with kisses. "Love you."
He whimpered, and kissed her again, hard.
"I was worried I'd never head you say that again," he breathed.
"You're going to hear me saying it constantly from now on," she smiled.
"Thank God." He kissed her again.
"Draco," she murmured. "It was the cave, wasn't it? The source of the power? The rings?"
Draco didn't respond, but nodded as he continued to kiss her. He didn't want to talk. He wanted to absorb her.
But Hermione had something that she needed to say.
"The magic spoke to me, Draco."
He stopped smothering her for a moment, and held her gaze.
"It spoke to me too," he said. "Told me it would heal you. Begin a new era for the family or something."
She thought about that for a moment.
"My message was a bit more... Specific," she said, shyly.
Draco looked at her, confused. What had the magic said?
"It told me it would continue to watch over the family..."
"Okay," said Draco, desperately wanting to get back to the kissing.
"It told me we were fated for each other..."
Draco leaned in for another kiss, feeling a bit panicked that his lips weren't on hers. Yes yes, fated, he knew all this.
She placed her finger on his lips and held him a few inches away from her mouth.
"And it told me that it's pleased our daughter was conceived in the cave."
Draco's mouth hung open, his eyes wide.
"Our... Our what?"
"Our daughter," she said, grinning nervously, searching his face for a reaction. "Funny, with both our brains, top of our classes and our ability to stay alive despite all odds, we didn't remember to cast a contraceptive charm."
"Our... We're... Our what?" he said again. It seemed the news had short-circuited his brain.
"Draco, we're having a daughter," she said, gently. Her mind was also catching up to the news, remembering now when she felt sick before the final battle. She had assumed it was nerves, as usual. Apparently she had been wrong. It didn't happen often. This just happened to be a fairly large oversight.
He stared at her again, trying to process her words. Eventually, a wide smile took over his face.
"Just when I think this day can't get any better, you go and say that. I'm going to marry you a million times over, woman. I hope you're ready."
With a happy growl, he pounced on her, and she responded with a delighted shriek.
They continued kissing and whispering excitedly to each other for the next half hour, so astounded by the news of the pregnancy that they almost forgot about the other news: Hermione was awake, and her loved ones wanted to see her. Eventually Hermione noticed the shadows under the crack of the door, and realized with a sigh that they had better stop cocooning themselves away.
"Draco," she said as he nuzzled her neck. "I think there are people outside wanting to come in."
"Fuck 'em," he murmured, trailing his tongue up her ear.
"That would be inappropriate, seeing as how we're engaged," she replied with a smirk.
"Clever witch," he said, drawing her into a deep kiss. When he finally broke away, he acquiesced with an eye roll, saying, "Okay, I know, people and all that."
"What do we say about the pregnancy, Draco?" She looked a little worried. Although they were both thrilled, having a child was wasn't in the immediate plans, and the news was a bit overwhelming. What would everyone say?
"Let's keep it just between us for now," he whispered with a fond smile. "Give us some time to process it."
"Okay," she grinned.
Draco waved his hand at the door, and it opened suddenly, with Harry, Ron, Ginny, Lucius and Narcissa on the other side. There was a chorus of excited yells, and the group tumbled in.
"WE'RE HAVING A BABY!" Draco shouted happily. Everyone froze in their tracks.
"What the fuck Draco!" Hermione exclaimed. "Whatever happened to keeping it quiet for now?"
"Uh, sorry, I don't know where that came from," said Draco, obviously embarassed. It's like his mouth had muscled his brain into submission, wanting to share the news too badly to wait. Awkward.
"Is it true?" asked Narcissa, a gleeful smile on her face.
Everyone looked at Hermione.
"Yes, it's true," she said with a happy shrug, obviously not angry with Draco for his dramatic case of foot-in-mouth. "We're having a girl!"
A joyful cheer rose up through the old house. Harry and Ron grabbed each other's shoulders and shouted, "We're going to be uncles!" It was so Fred and George, Ginny looked perturbed. Other Order members started flowing back into the room, and Mrs. Weasley's shrill scream when she heard the news had everyone's ears ringing for the rest of the day.
"You know what this means, don't you, darling?" Lucius murmured to Narcissa, his hand slipping around her waist while everyone celebrated. She raised a perfectly-sculpted eyebrow in his direction.
He leaned in close to her ear, and whispered, the words "shaggable" and "grandmother" escaping to the ears of those around them.
Narcissa giggled like a teenager again and everyone in the room blanched.
Draco narrowed his eyes at his parents. "I have the misfortune of remembering what that giggle means, mother."
Ron, who had found something to eat, managed to mumble out a "Can't blame your father, mate... Your mum's a fucking fox," before Ginny smacked him upside the head and the celebrations resumed, going well into the night.
Not wanting to wait, Draco and Hermione had a tiny wedding the following week, with only Harry, Ron, Ginny, Lucius and Narcissa present, along with a few select members of the Order. Arthur Weasley officiated and Molly sobbed through the whole thing.
They kept it small for several reasons, the main one being that, at Hermione's insistence, they held it in the cave. Hermione wouldn't hear a word against it, and as usual, nobody wanted to argue with her.
Besides, that cave was the only reason she was there with them all. It was an act of extreme thanks, if nothing else.
Hermione also felt strange holding a big event when the Order was mourning its losses - Remus's death had rocked her, as had Seamus's and Kingsley's. Bill Weasley was still in recovery and Dean Thomas had vanished. No, any celebration that happened this close to the battle had to be subdued out of respect for the loved ones they were missing.
They did plan to have a bigger wedding after the baby was born, much later on in the year, and they needed time to find Hermione's parents and reverse the memory charm before that happened. Draco was shocked to hear that she had wiped their memories and hidden them away, caught again wondering how a witch with such strength and courage had ended up with him.
Not that he was going to argue. He wasn't about to give her up. He had it on good authority that they were fated for each other, after all.
He was also quite looking forward to meeting the two people who had raised his ferocious lioness, and was deeply curious about this mysterious "dentist" profession. Sounded hazardous, frankly. The Grangers were brave people.
So the small wedding was just that: everyone was cramped inside, shoulder to shoulder, but it was such a joyful occasion that nobody seemed to mind. Hermione was dressed in a flowing cream gown, accented with light gray lace capping the shoulders and a matching ribbon around the waist. She had promised Narcissa that she would do a more traditional white for the larger wedding, but this time she wanted it simple and sweet.
Actually, the words she used when explaining it to Ginny were more along the lines of, "I don't want any girly bridal bullshit distracting me from marrying Draco."
She hardly needed to justify the simplicity of it all - with her waist-length curls, her flawless skin and her luminous eyes, she had everyone present stammering about her beauty. It helped that she had a tell-tale glow about her, even though the pregnancy hadn't quite started to show.
Harry and Ron were quite literally without words, gaping like fish and then crushing her into giant hugs when they saw her enter the cave. It had been lit with about fifty floating candles, and everything was bathed in a warm glow.
"We're cool, right 'Mione?" Ron whispered in her ear as he squeezed her tightly. "You know we're totally fine with this now, right?"
"Yeah, honestly, I think we're both sorry about all that madness when we were on the run last year," Harry added, gently moving a lock of hair away from her eyes. "I mean, we love you so much, but that bloke you're about to marry is right for you."
"Thanks, both of you, for everything," Hermione said with a tearful smile. "I think he's right for me too. I'm so glad we're all okay."
With a last hug, Hermione turned to find her husband-to-be waiting for her at the widest part of the cave. She realized with a start that this was also the exact place where they had hung the hammock. Where they had... Where their daughter was...
Huh. Didn't really consider that when I insisted on having the wedding here.
Hermione glanced up at Draco's beautiful gray eyes and saw them twinkling with mischief. He had obviously realized it too.
No matter, she thought. We can be grown-ups about this.
Hah! We're going to be married in the exact spot we shagged each other's virginal brains out.
Be a grown-up, damnit.
Merlin, he looks gorgeous.
He really did. Settling on dark gray formal robes that made his eyes stand out even more than usual, wearing his platinum hair long and shaggy the way Hermione liked it, he looked like a vision.
He was similarly taken with her, breaking out into a hungry smile as his eyes roamed her body.
"Why Mr. Malfoy, keep looking at me like that and people will start to talk," Hermione grinned as she walked up to him.
"Mrs. Malfoy, I can assure you that everyone here is looking at you with similar adoration," he grinned back. "I'm just the lucky bugger who gets to marry you."
"Alright everyone, we'll just get started if you don't mind," said Mr. Weasley, decked out in while formal robes and looking very official on such short notice. The small group quieted down.
Draco took Hermione's hands in his, and felt his heart speed up in his chest. They locked eyes, hardly able to believe that they were about to be wed.
This is it.
"Draco, Hermione, you have opted for the 'short and sweet' version of the marriage ceremony today. You are here in the presence of your loved ones, friends and family, to declare your everlasting love for each other. You are here to swear, in their presence, that you will love and protect each other for the rest of your days. I understand you have prepared some vows?"
Hermione nervously cleared her throat, tightening her hands around his. They weren't 'vows' so much as 'rambling' and she hoped she wouldn't say anything too stupid.
"Draco, everyone here knows that we didn't exactly get off to the best start when we were young. In fact, anyone here who remembers our relationship to one another in those days would attest that it's completely insane to think that we are about to be married."
"Tell me about it," whispered Ron, who winked at the couple cheekily. Several people chuckled.
"But when the war started, and I found myself running through a strange forest, unsure if I would make it out alive, I had the incredible fortune of finding you, my childhood nemesis, my tormentor, my soon-to-be-love."
Narcissa sniffled into her handkerchief and Hermione continued.
"I didn't know that night what would happen between us," she said, her voice faltering a bit. "I didn't know I would fall in love with you so deeply, that I would fight for you so hard, or that I would one day gladly give up my life to save yours..."
Both Draco and Hermione had tears running down their cheeks now, and they paused to wipe them away.
"But I don't regret a second of it. I wouldn't change a thing if I could. I'm honoured to spend my life with you."
Draco let out a shaky breath, wondering how he could top such a heartfelt declarartion.
"Also, I'm sorry for calling you a slimy ferret all those years. But you deserved it at the time."
The entire cave erupted into laughter, breaking the tension and giving the couple a much-needed break from their public waterworks.
Draco cleared his throat with a grin.
"Well Hermione, I could very easily rehash what you've just said and it would all be true, but instead I'll say this: starting with the night you found me in the woods, at death's door and without a hope in the world, you have given me my life back. Literally. In fact, if I count it out, I do believe that you have saved my life four times since that first night in the forest. Four times. Hermione, you either have a death wish, or you're a bloody Gryffindor. I think it may be a bit of both."
Hermione chuckled and squeezed his hands.
"But in all seriousness, you are the absolute light of my life. You've given me a reason to live. When you were hit by Voldemort's curse - " Draco's voice broke as he tried to form the words.
"When you were hit with the curse and I thought you had died, I felt my life collapse. My magic broke apart, my heart crumbled, and I was lost to the world. I wanted to die too, just to be able to join you."
Hermione was crying again, and he rushed to finish.
"But by some incredible miracle, by the ancient magic in this very cave, you were returned to me, and I never want to be apart from you again. I will honour you and love you for the rest of our days. You are everything to me."
Draco felt his hands shake as he gripped Hermione's.
"Well," rasped out Mr. Weasley, his own cheeks wet. "I see no point in delaying this wonderful union any further."
He held up his wand, closed his eyes, and started to speak as a white light enveloped them.
"In the name of all things magical, mysterious, ancient and true, I declare you husband and wife."
Draco and Hermione rushed into each other's arms, kissing each other with a ferocity that surprised even them.
Suddenly, a rumble that might as well have been an earthquake took over the cave, and the space shook with approval. The hum of magic was so strong that the guests had to steady themselves against the walls or floor, whichever was closest.
A ribbon of gold snaked up from the ground and enveloped the couple, swirling around them and levitating them in the air. Hermione giggled happily and Draco held her close, knowing they weren't in danger. Far from it.
The magic spoke to both of them this time.
We are pleased that your love has brought you back here today.
You will live long, happy lives, and your daughter will be a true joy, watching carefully over all her siblings.
Take care of yourselves, and cherish each other.
Hermione's eyes snapped up to Draco's as the magic slowly put them back down, the sound of everyone's celebrations echoing around them.
"I'm sorry... Did the magic just say 'all her siblings'?" she stammered.
Draco stared back with bug-eyed shock, and swallowed heavily.
"I believe it did."
"Draco, does this mean what I think it means?" she said, an astounded smile on her face.
"That we will have to shag a lot to make plenty of babies?" he smirked, wiggling his eyebrows at her.
"I was going to say that life will never be dull, but I guess we both knew that already." The shock was wearing off quickly, and Hermione wore a lazy grin as she gazed at her new husband.
She considered her future for a moment, the happy cheers of her loved ones ringing in her ears. Living as a Malfoy in a house full of her and Draco's children? With Lucius and Narcissa as grandparents and Ron and Harry as surrogate uncles? With the Weasley brood as their extended family and her own parents to teach them about Muggle culture and dental hygiene?
No, life would never be dull. Not for a second.