Happy Thanksgiving Eve! I'm grateful to everyone who has read and enjoyed my story. Thanks for sticking with me this long, and I hope you enjoy my future stories as well!
It was a well known fact in the Malfoy house that Joanna Rose Malfoy always hid in the back of her closet when she was scared. It started when she was four years old and had broken her mother's hand painted teacup. She'd hidden in the closet for an hour before Hermione finally found her. Without saying a word, she sat down opposite the little girl and shut the door, using her wand to illuminate the small space. A broken teacup was the last thing on her mind as she told her daughter stories by wand light. They'd emerged some time later when Draco found them and asked about the cup.
"We were playing hide and seek, and I must have forgotten to clean it up," Hermione excused, kissing her husband's cheek. "Never much liked that cup anyhow." Then she winked at her daughter and took her hand to walk her downstairs.
Hiding in the closet behind the row of hanging dresses and blouses had started at a young age, and Jo wondered if she'd ever stop. At eleven years old, she was only hours away from boarding the Hogwarts Express for the first time. "I'll never make Gryffindor," she muttered to no one as she sat in the back of her closet.
The tiny sliver of light that passed through the crack in the doors widened to reveal her older brother, Scorpius. Dressed in dark gray pants and a matching sweater with a silver and green tie draped over his shoulder, he set down the shoes he held and sat down in front of her.
"I'm gonna be there too," he said.
Jo hugged her knees to her chest and looked away from her brother. "We won't be in the same house," she replied with a mournful sigh. "I won't know anyone. I hide in closets like some kind of freak. I don't want to go, Scor."
"You know me," he reminded her, giving her ankle a gentle squeeze. "In eleven years, I've never let anything bad happen to you, Joey. I'm not about to drop the ball now just because you're starting school."
"You're not gonna want to be seen with some dumb, scared first year who'll probably get sorted into Hufflepuff," she retorted. "Merlin, Daddy'll kill me if I'm a Hufflepuff."
Scorpius laughed as he shifted to sit beside her. "You know what I like about our mum and dad?" he asked, nudging her with his shoulder until she faced him. Jo looked at him, shrugged, and turned away once more. "They picked us. Mum didn't have to adopt me when she married Dad, and Dad didn't have to adopt you. They both loved us enough to want to be more than just stepparents."
"What's your point?" she asked impatiently as the sound of two sets of footsteps neared.
"Dad would never stop loving you based on the house you're sorted into," he replied. "He'll never stop loving you, Joey. Neither will Mum, and neither will I."
Angling herself towards the right, Jo wrapped her arms around Scorpius's neck. "You're the best big brother a girl could ask for," she whispered.
"Ready to go to Hogwarts now?" he asked. With a smile, Jo nodded. Together they exited her room to find their parents waiting at the top of the stairs. Together, the family descended the stairs, all the while Jo held tightly to her brother's hand. "You should always know to look for this one in the closet," Scorpius stated when they reached the first floor.
Draco wrapped his arms around his daughter. "Haven't I asked you not to grow up?" he murmured, holding her close. There were times he still saw her as the little girl who climbed into her parents' bed in the middle of the night after having a bad dream. He would awaken to the feel of small arms clutching his forearm. She slept peacefully cuddled between her mother and father. The steady rise and fall of her chest and the soft sounds of her breathing would lull him back to sleep. She was his, and he silently thanked Ron Weasley daily for the gift.
"I tried," she replied with a smile, "but I couldn't stop it."
"We should get going," Scorpius interrupted.
Hermione agreed and soon they stood on Platform 9-3/4. The regal, scarlet steam engine waited as families bade goodbye to students. Nervous first years clung to their parents' sides while older children greeted friends and boarded the train to find the best seats. Joanna held Draco's hand as she surveyed the crowded area around her. Her grip on her father's hand tightened when her eyes landed on a tall red haired man. Draco glanced down, brows furrowed, and asked what was wrong. "Over there," she said, pointing with her chin.
Draco tugged on Hermione's sleeve to get her attention. They both stood a little more rigid as Ron Weasley approached. "Did you know he was coming?" Draco muttered.
"Not at all," Hermione replied, watching her daughter. Jo took a hesitant step forward, all the while retaining her grip on Draco's hand. Ron smiled awkwardly at the family. "Hi, Ron. I didn't know you'd be joining us."
"I thought come see Jo before she left for school," he replied, doing his best to avoid eye contact with everyone but Joanna. Despite the number of years that had passed, he'd never quite become comfortable in Draco's presence.
Jo let go of Draco's hand, and took a step closer to Ron. "Hi, Dad," she greeted him, moving closer to hug him.
To Draco, it sounded strange to hear his daughter refer to another man as her father. It had been he who helped her mother raise her. He'd spent night after tiring night tending to her every cry, changing diapers, and handling midnight feedings. He'd been there when she took her first steps, said her first words, lost her first tooth, used magic for the first time. Ron, over the years, had begun to come around more and more, spending as many holidays and birthdays with Jo as he could. The bridge they'd thought burned between Hermione and Ron had been on the mend for years.
Ron returned the hug, smoothing down the long, golden brown curls that hung loosely down the little girl's back. Looking up, he caught Draco's eye and cleared his throat. "Could I talk to you for a minute?" he asked, untangling Joanna's arms from his waist.
With a nod of his head, Draco followed Ron to a slightly more secluded corner of the platform. "What's going on?" he wondered.
"I wanted to thank you," Ron said, nervously running a hand through his hair as he once again couldn't meet the blond's eyes. "I've screwed up a lot over the years, especially when it comes to Jo and Hermione. It shouldn't have taken me this long to say it, but I'm grateful that you were there for them when I wasn't."
"That's what you do for the people you love," Draco replied, with a small shrug of his shoulders. "Besides, you had the chance to walk away completely, but you didn't. I know you love her, and more importantly, I see how much Joey loves you. It doesn't matter which one of us has spent more time with her."
Ron nodded and extended his hand, which Draco promptly shook. "Thank you for raising our daughter," he murmured as Hermione, Jo, and Scorpius joined them.
"The train is boarding," Hermione announced.
"I'm glad you came," Jo said as she hugged Ron goodbye. Next she turned to Draco with a smile. "I'm a pretty lucky girl, I reckon."
Draco held her close, a small chuckle vibrating from his chest as he asked, "Why's that?"
"I have a great mum, two dads who love me, a big brother to help me out when I need him, and a little sister to keep you busy while I'm away," she replied. "I don't know that there's anything more I need. Except maybe a hug from my Daddy." Draco complied and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"I'll keep an eye on her," Scorpius promised, as he said goodbye to his parents. "I won't let her hide in any closets."
Hand in hand, Scorpius led Jo to the train and they climbed aboard. Minutes passed before they'd found a compartment and could wave to their parents. Ron smiled as Jo blew each of them a kiss. It wasn't until after they departed that Hermione turned to the two men beside her. "How about an early lunch before we pick up Genevieve?" she suggested.
"Sounds good to me," Draco replied, taking his wife's hand.
"Ron, are you coming?" she asked.
Once more Ron smiled. "You know I could always eat."