And we've come to the last chapter. As always, I'm greatly appreciative that you liked and read my story!
"It's too soon," Hermione complained.
Draco rounded the bed and retrieved a clean pair of socks from the dresser. "You say that about everything," he said with a smile. "What is it now?"
She pulled the covers over her head, leaving behind a muffled voice as she spoke. "Allie going to Hogwarts. It's too soon. We didn't get enough time with her, and now she's just leaving us. Just like that. Leaving."
He moved to her side of the bed and pulled back the comforter. "First of all, you knew that she would get her letter the day she turned eleven," he said calmly. "Second, it's not like she's never coming back. And third, we have two other children who are still years away from going away to school."
"But couldn't we have continued to raise her as a muggle and hidden the letters when they came in?" she asked, sounding more and more desperate to hold onto her first born as the minutes ticked away.
Pushing away the blankets completely, Draco grabbed her hands and pulled her into a seated position. "Yeah, that definitely would have worked," he replied, rolling his eyes. "Didn't Harry's family try that? It worked out real well for them from what I've heard. I don't want Hagrid breaking down our door."
With Hermione finally out of bed, he ushered her from the room and down to the first floor. They entered the kitchen to find three children patiently awaiting their arrival. Allegra, the oldest, was already dressed in her Hogwarts uniform with her brown curls neatly plaited down her back. Beside her sat seven year old Caleb, whose blond hair and gray eyes mirrored his father's. Across from the pair, in the seat beside the one usually occupied by Hermione, Ayla bounced excitedly when she spotted her parents. Her light brown hair hung in tangled curls to the middle of her back and her brown eyes sparkled when she reached for her father.
"Was Mum crying again?" Caleb asked Allegra, trying his hardest to keep his voice at a whisper.
Allegra looked to her mother and frowned sadly. "Yeah, Cale, I think so," she replied.
Vacating his chair, Caleb rounded the table and hugged his mother. "Don't worry," he told her with a smile. "By the time Ayla goes, Leggie will be done."
"Not helping," Draco muttered, sending him back to his chair. With Ayla in his arms, he turned to the kitchen and soon breakfast floated out to the table. He sat down with the four year old on his lap, but she quickly scurried to her mother's side.
"I won't leave you, Mama," she promised, slipping her small hand into Hermione's.
Smiling, Hermione kissed her round cheek and scooped a small portion of eggs onto her plate. It was an innocent vow, one Hermione knew the little girl would not be able to keep. Ayla had already begun to show signs of magic, and in seven years, she would leave for school.
The family of five ate in silence. Occasionally, Caleb would open his mouth to say something smart, but a look from Draco made him close it once more. When Allegra finished, she pushed her plate away and cleared her throat. "Are Uncle Harry and Auntie Pansy coming to the train station with us?" she asked. She spoke softly; a trait Draco often accredited to his mother.
"They'll meet us there," he told her.
Draco clenched his fists beneath the table. Eleven years hadn't been a long enough time for him to forgive his father, but his children had developed a definitive attachment to the older man. At Hermione's behest, he was invited to birthdays and holidays, but the children had never visited Malfoy Manor.
"Yeah, baby, him too."
"What did you tell your friends?" Caleb asked. "Ya know, when you said you weren't coming back to school this year."
Allegra looked to her silent mother before answering. "Mummy said she told her friends she was transferring to a boarding school in Scotland when she was my age," she replied. "So, I used it too."
"I'm coming up with something better when I go," he declared. "Like alien abduction or..."
"Military school," Draco provided. "Keep it up and you really might wind up at that academy we drove past last week."
Hermione cleared her throat and her plate. "Are you all packed, Allie?" she inquired, rising from the table. "You found the blue sweater you were looking for?"
"Yeah, I found it," she replied, taking her plate and following her mother to the kitchen. She put her plate in the sink and turned to Hermione, wrapping her arms around her waist. "It's okay, Mum. It's like you said - Hogwarts will be different now, safer. Teddy will be there, and I know you and Daddy and Uncle Harry and Nana Andromeda all asked him to look after me."
"You forgot Aunt Pansy," Hermione added, cracking her first smile all morning. With a sigh, it slipped away just as quickly as it had come. "I just hate the idea of you not being here."
Allegra clenched her arms. "Christmas will be here before you know it," she pointed out. "And I'll write everyday until you and Daddy are sick of hearing from me."
"Not possible," Hermione murmured. Draco stuck his head into the kitchen to remind them that they had to leave soon.
"Were you excited to learn magic when you were my age?" Allegra asked, pulling away to gather her luggage. "I don't remember you or Daddy doing a lot of magic when I was little. Not until after Ayla was born. Why is that?"
Hermione chuckled and helped pack the last few items into Allegra's trunk. "We don't really do that much now," she replied. "There was a time, just before you were born, when your father and I needed a break from the wizarding world. Living here, you have to be careful how and where you use magic. Remember the time Daddy used it to fix the car and the mailman walked by? Sometimes it's just easier to do things the regular way. Plus, we thought it might be better for the three of you to have a few normal years before going to Hogwarts."
The young Malfoy shut her trunk and sat down on top of it. "I just hope I make a friend like Uncle Harry," she said wistfully, staring at the tree outside her bedroom window. The house had been renovated shortly after Hermione learned she was pregnant with Caleb, and a room had been made in the attic for the oldest.
"Uncle Harry got your mother in more and more trouble as each school year passed," Draco interrupted. "You don't want a friend like Uncle Harry."
"Okay, what about that other guy?" she asked. "Rob or Rick or whatever."
"Ron," Hermione corrected. "He, um, wasn't a bad friend to have around when you needed a good laugh."
Allegra quirked an eyebrow. "And when you didn't need a laugh?"
Draco scowled. "Then he was pretty much useless," he muttered. Taking her by the hands, he pulled her off of the trunk and levitated it downstairs. If his father had been a sore subject for the past twelve years, then the Weasleys had been a dull ache that never went away. Despite her efforts, Hermione had never been able to convince Molly to be involved in her children's lives. Shortly after Allegra had been born, the first Weasley grandchild came into the world and occupied all of the older woman's time. Ron had been petulant, insisting that he and Hermione could never again be friends after their break up. Then there was Ginny, who stopped speaking to Hermione after the announcement of Pansy and Harry's engagement.
"But he's related to the guy who runs the joke shop in Diagon Alley, right?" she asked, following Draco downstairs with Hermione a few steps behind her. "I like him, and he was funny."
"How much free stuff did he give you?" Draco inquired, setting the trunk down by the front door.
Allegra's cheeks warmed. "Just a couple of things," she mumbled. "He gave me a notebook that never runs out of pages and a quill that's charmed to always stay inked. Said he made one for you too, Mum, when you were still in school."
"I still have it," Hermione confirmed. "Only Fred, his brother, made mine. It had a little two-way communication feature to it so Fred and I could write to one another. It's a simple charm really. One I could put on yours if you wanted me to."
Nodding excitedly, the little girl removed the journal from her bag and waited patiently for her mother to work her magic. Caleb and Ayla joined them just as Allegra returned the journal to its place for safekeeping. She turned to her father and slipped her hand into his. "Ready, Daddy?" she asked.
Draco gave her hand a gentle, loving squeeze and shook his head. "It's too soon."