Here it is - the end. Thank you sooooo much to everyone who's stuck with me through 29 chapters. It means the world to me that you liked the story!
Naya sat before the large tree that filled the manor's foyer. Above her, fairy lights twinkled merrily and around her were a mountain of perfectly wrapped presents. So engrossed in the beautiful decorations was she that Naya hadn't realized she was no longer alone. Beside her on the marble floor sat Lucius, smiling at his oblivious granddaughter. It wasn't until she turned her head to study the gifts to her left that she jumped in surprise.
"I didn't mean to startle you," Lucius apologized.
Smiling brightly, Naya climbed into his lap. "I wasn't scared, Papa," she replied, jutting out her chin in a way reminiscent of her mother. "I'm brave like Mummy."
"Yes, your mummy is quite brave," he agreed. "Probably the bravest person I've been privileged to know. Now, the question is, brave granddaughter of mine, do you think you are courageous enough to sneak a few Christmas cookies past Mum Mum?"
"That's stealing, Papa," the little girl warned. "Daddy got mad when he caught me taking the cookies Mummy baked."
"We'll have to be a bit stealthier then," Lucius replied, smiling deviously as he got to his feet with the little girl still in his arms. Before they could make their escape to the kitchens, the front door opened. Draco entered with a pregnant Hermione in tow.
"It's getting awfully cold out," Hermione commented as she removed a thick cloak from her shoulders.
"I think we interrupted something nefarious here," Draco replied, hanging his wife's cloak of the banister.
Lucius quirked an eyebrow and looked to Naya. "Were we doing anything nefarious?" he asked. "We were just admiring the decorations."
"I don't know what that means, Papa," Naya whispered as she fingered his long, white-blond hair.
Draco took her from her grandfather's arms. "It means you were going to do something you weren't supposed to do," he explained. "And with your Papa as a partner in crime, no less."
"Come now, Draco. One little treat won't spoil her supper," Lucius remarked.
"You're 'one little treat' usually turns into five or six," Hermione retorted with a laugh. "However, one would be fine, and I'm accompanying you to make sure it's only one."
"I have to talk to Mum for a moment," Draco murmured so only his wife would hear. "I'll join you in a few moments."
While his family left for the kitchen, Draco took the stairs to the second floor. There he found his mother in the library wrapping the girls' Christmas presents. "I don't know why I always do this in here," she said with a laugh. "Poor Naya was quite upset yesterday when I told her the library was off limits. It never seemed to bother you as a child though."
"I take no credit for my daughter's intelligence," he replied self deprecatingly. Narcissa frowned, not appreciating her son's attempt at humor. "So, um, there's something I need to talk to you about."
"About this mysterious Christmas present you're looking to give your wife?" Narcissa guessed, setting aside the scissors and tape. "She's been writing her parents for years and not gotten any response. What makes you think you'll fare better with them?"
Sighing, he sat down in the nearest chair and ran his hands over his face. "I don't know that I will," he admitted. "With the baby coming though, she's expressed her disappointment that they've missed out on almost four years of Naya's life. She doesn't want it to be the same way with Ariella. I've already sworn to her that I won't ever leave again, and I hate the thought of being away from her at a time like this. I can't ask Blaise to go talk to them with Pansy due any day."
She stepped away from the wrapping table and bent down before her son. "I raised a good man, didn't I," she mused. "I'll go. Perhaps a grandmother's perspective will nudge them in the right direction."
"Thank you, Mum," he murmured, helping her to her feet before hugging her.
That night as Draco and Hermione prepared themselves for bed, Naya entered their room. "Mum Mum's going somewhere," she told them anxiously. Her left thumb went to her mouth while her right hand clutched a worn pink blanket.
With furrowed brows, Hermione turned to Draco to offer some kind of explanation. He merely shrugged and picked up their daughter before putting her down on their bed. Then he retreated to the bathroom with Hermione on his heels. "She said she was doing a little last minute shopping," he told her when he turned to find her in the doorway with crossed arms and raised eyebrows.
"At 11:30 at night?" she retorted. "Is something going on? Is she thinking about leaving Lucius? Do you think us being here and relying on them so much is-"
"Stop," he said, holding her by the elbows. "Believe me, if we were a burden in any way, we'd know about it. They love you, they love Naya, they love Ariella who isn't even here yet. They will tie you to the banister if you even think about leaving. That's how much they want us here. Now, she really is doing a bit of last minute Christmas shopping, but she's leaving the country to do it. Don't get yourself into a panic over this."
Arms uncrossed and wound around his waist. "You're right," she replied with a small laugh.
"Words I've never heard pass your lips before," he joked as he pressed a kiss to her lips. "Should we let her sleep in our bed tonight?"
"We'll need a bigger bed once Ariella is born," Hermione commented, turning to watch their first born fall asleep. "She's perfect, isn't she?"
"She did bite me yesterday morning when I tried to get her out of bed," he remarked though he smiled affectionately. "I'd say she got all of her best qualities from you. Smart and sweet and brave. She even inherited your hair."
"You know you two have more in common than just similar eye color," Hermione replied. "You're smart too, and loving. She's fiercely protective, like you. She has your sense of humor too. More than a few of her best qualities came from her father."
His hand lightly traced the swell of her stomach. "I think this one will be perfect too," he decided as he gazed fondly upon his first born.
Christmas was a day away, and Narcissa had yet to return. Pansy and Blaise had arrived early to Christmas Eve dinner in order to celebrate Naya's fourth birthday. Hermione waited by the front door, peering through the glass as she observed the front walk. Draco had been mum on the details concerning her absence, and Lucius refused to let on that he knew her reasons for leaving beyond "Christmas shopping."
"Mummy, may we have birthday cake now?" Naya asked, tugging on the bottom hem of Hermione's sweater. "Titi says her tummy is hurting, and Unca Blaise said they might have the baby soon. Will it have my birthday?"
"Maybe," Hermione replied, turning away from the door to join everyone in the dining room. Naya returned to Lucius to sit on his lap at the head of the table while Draco brought out a chocolate cake decorated with lavender colored frosting. "Feeling alright?" she whispered to Pansy, who was seated beside her.
"Fine, fine," Pansy replied dismissively. "I've had a couple of contractions, nothing serious. Besides, he's not due for another week."
"Right, and Naya came three weeks early," Hermione remarked as Draco lit four pink candles.
Before they finished singing "Happy Birthday" the front door opened and Narcissa called for Draco. He waited for Naya to blow out the candles before excusing himself. Hermione craned her head to get a glimpse of her husband and mother-in-law, but couldn't get a clear view from where she sat. "I wonder what's going on," she murmured, ignoring the slice of cake that Blaise had set before her.
"Maybe Narcissa's mystery gift is for you," Pansy suggested.
"Someone's with Mum Mum, Mama," Naya interjected around a mouthful of cake. "Two someones. Do you think it's Mr. Harry or Mr. Ron, Mama?"
Brow furrowed, Hermione placed her napkin on the table and rose from her chair. "No, sweetie, I don't think it is," she replied. Despite their repaired friendship, Harry and Ron infrequently visited Malfoy Manor. The house often brought back painful memories of the war, and neither were comfortable around Lucius and Narcissa.
Entering the foyer, Hermione stopped in her tracks at the sight before her. With tears in her eyes, her mother, Helen, approached her and touched her stomach tentatively. But Hermione stepped back and the hands fell away. "What are you doing here?" she asked. Despite her determination to remain calm, she could feel the prickle of tears in her eyes. "I've written so many letters to you, begging for your forgiveness and hoping that just once you'd reply. I haven't heard a word from either of you since Draco found you four years ago. So, I'll ask again - why are you here?"
Draco stepped around the small assembled group and stood by his wife's side. "I asked them to come," he told her, turning so his body would block her view of the parents by whom she felt abandoned. "They didn't respond to me either. I don't know what my mother said or how she did it, but she got them here. Just hear them out."
"Narcissa told us about Naya for hours, and she showed us pictures," Helen told her as they were led to the parlor. "You were a beautiful bride. I wish we had been there."
Hermione glared at the two people sitting across from her. "Narcissa said she sent you an invitation," she replied bitingly. "I wrote to you about it. There were pictures included with that letter. Did you see all the photos I sent of Naya? Or did all of my letters just happen to get lost en route?"
Robert Granger cleared his throat and leaned forward. "We received them. All of them," he confirmed. "We were just so...angry about what you'd done."
"I don't think we ever stopped to think about what you were going through," Helen added remorsefully as she wiped her eyes. "When we first met Draco, he told us about the war. He told us what an important role you played in saving your world. It's just...it's hard as a parent to know your child is fighting in a war and there's nothing you can do to protect them. Narcissa told me she felt the same way, and I'm sure if it were your child, you would agree."
"And the three and a half years between the war and now?" she wondered. "I am sorry for altering your memories. I wish I had come up with a better plan, but it was the best I could think of. Protecting the two of you was all I cared about."
As Draco and Narcissa left to give them their privacy, Helen moved into Draco's vacated seat beside Hermione. "I understand that now," she replied, wiping away her daughter's tears. "You've always been a brilliant, selfless woman. When we met Draco, and he explained to us what happened, he told us you would never use your magic against anyone if you didn't think it was absolutely necessary. You did what you thought was right because you knew we couldn't defend ourselves against someone else's magic."
"Did, um, did he tell you that I was pregnant?" Hermione asked. Robert nodded his head in confirmation. "And he told you what happened? I mean, how it happened."
"He told us you would both be killed, and it was the only way to ensure you survived," Helen told her. "He told us he would take care of you and the baby though. He made sure we knew you were alright, and that you were with people who could help you and would love your daughter. I must admit I was shocked to find out you weren't with the Weasleys."
"Draco told us about that too," her father added.
"Things are fine with them again," Hermione told them. "Draco fixed that one too. Do you want to meet her? Naya, I mean. She's heard about you over the years, and I know she would be excited to meet her grandparents."
Receiving a nod from her mother then her father, Hermione left the parlor for the dining room. "Got her all ready for you," Blaise greeted her. "I took pictures. She was covered in purple frosting. Oh, and she dropped cake in Lucius's lap when I picked her up. Pans got those pictures."
"Was he mad?" Hermione wondered, thrilled by the mental image of Lucius Malfoy wearing purple and chocolate cake.
Naya took her hand when Blaise put her down. "He laughed, Mummy!" she replied, smiling brightly. "Were you crying, Mama?"
"A bit, but they're good tears," she replied. "There's some people I want you to meet. Will you come with me to the parlor? Blaise, if Draco asks..."
He nodded and kissed her cheek before returning to his wife. Taking a deep breath, Hermione led Naya back to the front parlor and introduced her to her parents. "Are they here for my birthday?" Naya wondered. "We already had the cake."
Helen knelt down in front of the little girl. "I think we're more of a Christmas gift for your mum," she replied.
Draco joined them then, and stood behind his wife. Naya looked from her new grandmother to her parents. "Did we save Gamma and Gampa any cake?"she asked, gray eyes filled with worry. Without waiting for a reply, she took hold of Helen's hand and led her from the parlor. Robert followed, and Hermione and Draco were left alone.
"Mad at me?" he asked. Shaking her head, Hermione turned to face him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Is everything alright between them and you?"
"I think it will be," she replied optimistically. "Ya know, when I was 11, if someone had told me this is how my life would have turned out - married to my childhood enemy, estranged from my parents for five years, a mother of two before the age of 23 - I would have thought they were crazy."
"And now?" he wondered.
"I can't imagine my life any other way."