A/N At long last, the epilogue. Thank you to everyone who has read this story over the long time it has taken me to finish it.
"Wake up, Hugo, wake up," Rose said enthusiastically as she shook none too gently her younger brother.
He carefully opened an eye, and then the second as he was surprised to see his sister up and fully dressed before he had even heard his alarm clock. Rose was never one to wake up early. Actually, now that he thought of it, she could be downright a bear in the morning. And then his brain slowly caught up: today was the first day of September and Rose was going to Hogwarts.
She sat on the edge of his bed, ignoring the hissing protest of an aging Crookshanks who had elected Hugo's bed as his own too. The excitement was blatant in Rose's bright blue eyes. Hugo supposed he would be excited too when it was his turn to go to the famed school but he couldn't suppress the feeling of sadness that seemed to invade him at the thought Rose would leave home today. He would be left alone with his parents and old Crookshanks. He would not tell Rose but he would miss her for, despite all their constant bickering, he did adore his sister and she was definitely a fun person to be around.
"Are you all packed?"
"Yes, I'm so excited. Do you think I'll be in Gryffindor?"
"Is your name Weasley?" Hugo asked in a yawn as he stretched and proceeded to pet Crookshanks, who purred contentedly.
That seemed to reassure Rose before she joined him in petting the cat and murmured:
"I'm gonna miss you, and Mum and Dad."
"You'll have Al with you," Hugo reassured her in another yawn. "Not to mention all our other cousins."
"Yeah, I s'ppose," she replied before adding almost impulsively: "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too," he admitted before he was engulfed in his sister's strong hug and a cloud of abundant and curly auburn hair.
She had barely changed in all these years. Her skin was still the same flawless ivory, highlighting the crimson lips he enjoyed kissing so much. And while his own hairline had seriously receded, her soft brown curls were still intact, without any trace of gray. Whether it was natural or the result of vanity and magic, he knew not. He did know his wife had been the salvation in his life. Two years. It had taken two years for her to forgive him, and fully commit to him by becoming his wife. Now that he had the hindsight, he realized how she had influenced his actions. Malfoy Apothecaries was more successful than it had ever been, thanks in no small part to the venture he had launched, that catered to curing dark magic results. Yes, the name Malfoy was still associated with the dark arts, but as a primary way to conquer its ill effects and Draco had to admit he was proud of this.
But more than a new lease on life, Astoria had gifted him with the most precious thing in his life: a son. Scorpius might resemble him in look and had definitely inherited his skills for flying. Yet, Scorpius was more like his mother in character: highly intelligent, perceptive, well-assured, and still caring. And his pride and joy, his only son, was leaving them today to attend Hogwarts and Draco didn't want to think of the heartache this would create so he went back instead to watching his beautiful and beloved wife.
He was suddenly faced with the piercing blue eyes that seemed to always be able to see through him.
"Are you staring at me?" Astoria asked him in a yawn.
"Perhaps," he replied as a smile formed on his lips.
She returned it before letting out another loud yawn, seemingly chasing away the last vestiges of sleep.
"It's today, isn't it? He's leaving today."
"Yes," he sighed. "Today is the day."
And knowing his only son would soon be so far away from him made him wistfully aware of how much his life had changed. Sensing Astoria's equal dismay at the imminent departure of Scorpius, Draco took her hand and gently told her:
"He'll be back for Christmas. And we'll write."
She smiled wanly before adding:
"I'm gonna miss him."
A floor below, Scorpius was already dressed and enjoying a fabulous breakfast, compliment of Letty, the family house elf. The elf had been in his mother's family before and had doted on him since birth.
"I'm gonna miss you, Letty."
"And Letty will miss Master Scorpius."
"I'll be back by Christmas. I just hope I can make some friends."
And Scorpius was excited to finally get out of the handsome mansion where he had grown up. It was smaller than his grandmother's Manor but still very big, especially when most of the time, his only companions were his cat Mistigris or his parents or the dotting Letty. He knew some of his family's history and not all of it was good and had always assumed it was why his parents, his father especially, had been reluctant to let him see other children his own age. He knew his parents loved him but he often craved the company of someone his own age and he knew that was what he would find at Hogwarts.
"Don't forget to look into your mirror," Hermione said as she felt slightly nervous at having Ron take his first driving expedition after just obtaining his Muggle driver's license.
"Love, your faith in me is astounding," Ron dead-panned as he put the car in reverse and backed out of the garage. "I've been driving since I was twelve."
"Your father's enchanted Anglia doesn't count. Besides, if I remember well, that trip didn't end well."
"The car is a permanent fixture of the Forbidden Forest. Maybe Rose'll see it, won't you, Rosie?
"I thought the Forbidden Forest was off limit," Rose ventured.
"It is," Hermione said while glaring at Ron. "And don't you even think about going there."
The rest of the trip to King's Cross station was punctuated by her parents' light bantering and each passing minute reminded Rose how much she would miss them.
Her trunk was already in the train when she was deeply relieved to see her aunt, uncle and three cousins walk toward them. That was the other exciting part of the day: Al would be with her so she wouldn't be alone on her way to Hogwarts. Of course, there were many other cousins already there but she had to admit Al was the one she was closest to.
She turned her head in the direction her father had indicated when he mentioned the name Malfoy with obvious disdain. She saw the boy standing there, with a pointy chin and ash blond hair. There was nothing threatening about his appearance, she mused. Quite the contrary.
The good-byes were quick but no less poignant. She had promised herself she wouldn't cry and she didn't but the hug she gave her parents and brother definitely lingered for twice the time they should have lasted. She waved to them until they became dots on the platform as the train moved out of the station.
It was a struggle to stop waving and turn around, even as there was nothing left of the scarlet engine. His little girl was gone. Ginny and George had both warned him it would be a difficult time, letting go his first-born on the train to Hogwarts. Instinctively, his arm tightened around Hermione's shoulders and he knew she was feeling the same sense of bereavement he did when she lay her head in the crook of his neck. He inhaled deeply as her voluminous hair came close under his still too long nose. It was her smell, her, the light of his life.
"She'll be all right," he heard Hermione murmur, as much for himself as to convince herself.
"It was scary when I got on the train the first time," she told him. "I knew nobody and making friends had not been a speciality of mine in Muggle school. And then I met a living legend who had no clue who he was and this boy who was horrible at spells and had dirt on his nose."
The memory made him smile.
"I'm sure we can convince the living legend to skive off if you don't mind lunch at the Leaky with the boy with dirt on his nose."
She ignored the almost gagging sound coming from their son standing a short distance away as she turned to face Ron and lay a soft kiss on his lips.
"I'd love that."
"Come on, Rosie, we have to find a compartment," Al told her gently as he grabbed her arm. "I don't want to share with James."
Rose followed her cousin through the length of the train finding no empty compartment and deciding to venture in the one that looked the least frightening, the one with the blond boy her father had talked about.
"Can we come in?" Al enquired. "Everything else is full."
"Oh, sure, come in," the boy said as he moved some of his books and a rather fat gray cat out of the way.
"I'm Scorpius Malfoy," he said extending a hand.
"I'm Al Potter, and this is my cousin, Rosie Weasley."
"Rose, please," she said while shaking the offered hand.
"Charmed," Scorpius replied. "And this fur ball is Mistigris. I've been told he's a cat but he looks more like a furry rug if you ask me," Scorpius said as he petted the feline with obvious affection.
Al managed to stroke the cat and be rewarded by a purr but the cat just hissed at Rose when she attempted the same.
"I get the same reaction from Crookshanks sometimes," she laughed. "He's my Mum's cat. I'm more of a dog person but mum said no dog."
"Is that a chess game you have?" she asked him as she spotted a box amidst his possessions.
"Yeah. You play?"
"No, she wins, all the time. A bit annoying, really," Al interjected.
"Really? You wanna play," Scorpius asked Rose, undeterred.
"Yes, I do."
And after they had settled and put out the chessboard, the game began. Rose had to admit Scorpius was a worthwhile opponent, obviously knowing more than his fair share of chess strategy. Yet, in the end, as Al had predicted, she won the game, along with the three next ones.
"I told you," Al said as Scorpius frowned as Rose pronounced the fatal "Check Mate" for the fifth time.
"Where did you learn to play?"
"My Dad. He's always had a certain talent for it."
"My grandfather Greengrass taught me," Scorpius said. "He'd probably love to play against you," he added, smiling. "And I will beat you one day," he added with cheerful competitiveness.
"I doubt that," Rose replied with self-assurance, "but you're welcome to try."
As they chatted, played more chess, and scarfed down sweets from the trolley, their journey to Hogwarts went by very quickly. Rose found herself liking the boy her father had warned her against as he happened to be pleasant, rather funny and quite a valiant chess adversary. Whatever had happened between their parents had obviously tainted their perception of the other family. It didn't matter, really, Rose thought. Sometimes, some paths were just meant to cross.