As Hermione and Draco arrived back at the field, the competitors were already leaving the stage. They had run down from Hermione's rooms but the crowd were moving away - the grand announcement over by the time they got there.
"I feel awful!" Hermione fussed, searching the crowd for Scorpius or Ella. "We missed it all! Draco we missed it!"
"It's okay," Draco said, calmly. "Let's just find them."
"But what if they didn't do well?" Hermione insisted. She stopped a horrified look on her face. "What if they did well? What if we weren't there and they won?"
"Hermione - we're here now. Let's find them and we can sort it all out," Draco grabbed her hand and pushed through the crowd.
"Father! Professor!" Ella's voice reached them and Hermione spun around to see Draco's beautiful daughter still standing near the stage, holding a huge, gold cup.
"Ella!" Draco rushed over. "You won?"
Ella grinned widely. "No - of course I didn't win," she said, extremely cheerfully. "But my very clever, very talented little brother did!"
Scorpius was standing behind his sister with Albus, who was also holding a cup. His was silver and slightly smaller. The boys were chatting excitedly, their faces beaming.
"Scorpius? You won?" Draco asked.
Scorpius ran at his Father who grabbed him into a hug. "I won Dad! I won the whole thing! I did it!"
"That's bloody fantastic!" Draco said, still holding Scorpius tightly.
"And Albus came second!"
Draco looked up at Albus who was watching them grinning. "Well done Albus - that is brilliant!"
Hermione walked over to Albus and patted him on the back. She would have hugged him but she didn't want to embarrass him. "Well done boys - I'm so proud of you!" she said. She felt very emotional and could easily have burst into tears.
"Hermione!" Harry's voice came from behind and Hermione turned to see him and Ginny approaching. "Where were you? They won! They bloody well won!"
He grabbed Hermione into a hug that made her giggle. "I know - they've just told me. I'm so happy for them."
"And what about Ella?" Ginny asked. "I think she surprised herself!"
"Ella?" Draco looked over at his daughter, who was still grinning widely.
She waved her hand dismissively. "Oh - don't worry about me - I'm happy to let the boys have the glory for now."
"But you did well?"
Ella's grin widened, if that was possible. "Oh yes I did!"
"Well, don't keep us in suspense!" Hermione said. "What happened?"
Ella looked at Hermione and shook her head. "If you'd been here, then you'd know, wouldn't you?"
The girls words were harsh but they were said in a teasing tone and her grin was still firmly in place. Hermione saw Draco open his mouth to reprimand his daughter but she raised her hand to stop him.
"Yes, Ella. You're quite right - and I'm very sorry about that."
Ella shrugged. "I know - it's okay. I was just teasing."
"So?" Draco prompted her impatiently.
"I got a special award for my flying skills. I've been offered an apprenticeship at the Flying Academy and personal tuition from some of the best players."
"Ella! That's amazing!" Hermione said.
"I can take up the apprenticeship full time when I leave school and part time until then," Ella did a little, happy dance. "I'm so excited, I think I might explode! Oh, and I came fourth overall in the competition! Fourth! Me?!"
Hermione felt tears on her cheeks and wiped them away, embarrassed. She was so pleased for the children that she could have almost exploded herself!
"What about Sarah and Toby?" she asked.
"Yes, they did okay too. I think Toby was sixth and Sarah was tenth, which is good considering she really struggled with some of the tasks. Overall Hogwarts students did the best as a team," Harry answered. "It was bloody brilliant!"
Hermione wiped the tears again, but she was fighting a losing battle because they kept coming.
"Well, isn't this nice." A voice said and Hermione's good mood disappeared in a flash. Pansy.
She ushered the children away, not wanting anything to spoil their mood. Pansy was standing close to Draco. She completely ignored Hermione and Ginny, not even glancing in their direction. Obviously, she didn't want a repeat performance of earlier.
"So, 7pm then?" she asked.
"Yes - 7pm is fine," Draco answered.
"I told you I'd keep to the agreement," Pansy said, indicating the still celebrating children. "I'm not a bad person."
Draco was saved from answering her by the arrival of Erik and Celia.
"Well done, children!" Celia said. "Everyone did very well." She turned to Draco and Hermione. "Where were you? We couldn't see you anywhere."
"It's a long story," Hermione said. Celia raised her eyebrows and smiled. "I'll fill you in later," Hermione answered her look. Thankfully, Celia seemed to have taken Draco's cancellation of their date without any bad feelings. Erik, who hadn't had very much to do with Hermione since he had realised about her and Draco, gave her a big hug.
"I have missed you!" he said.
"Draco - he is taking all your time!"
"Yes, he is!" Hermione grinned. "Well, the competition is over now, so before you go back to Durmstrang, we should all spend some time together."
"Ah! I am not going back," Erik said. He grinned widely at her and she returned it.
"You're not going back to Durmstrang?"
"No. I am staying her for a while - we need to give the shop some...L.T.C.? Is that how you say it?" Erik frowned, struggling with the English abbreviation.
"T.L.C.," Hermione corrected him. "Tender, loving care."
"Yes - that is it! I am staying here to help with the shop and to set up the lessons at Hogwarts."
Hermione grinned at him. "That's great news, Erik."
Erik leant closer to her. "You and Draco - it is good, yes?"
Hermione pulled a face. "Your timing of that question isn't great," she said. "But I think we may have finally sorted things out...well almost..."
"Do not let him mess you around," Erik whispered. "Ah but I am teaching my mother to eat eggs." Hermione bit her lip so not to laugh at him. He watched her fighting her amusement and shrugged. "I got that wrong?"
"You did, but it doesn't matter. I know what you mean."
"Well, we have a problem," Celia said and Hermione turned towards her.
"What's the matter?" Draco asked.
"No-one won the bet!" Celia said. She folded her arm across her chest and looked put out. They all laughed at her. "It's not funny!" she said. "If I hadn't won, then I knew one of you would have and I could have swung an invite!"
Draco leant closer to her. "You already have it booked," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"You don't have to win the bet to get an invite to The Lodge."
"Are you inviting me?" Celia raised her eyebrows and glanced at Hermione. Obviously, Erik had explained some things to her. Perhaps that was why she'd taken Draco's sudden change of heart so well.
"No," Draco nodded towards Erik. "I'm not inviting you."
Celia turned to look at Erik who was grinning, a little shyly.
"You're inviting me?" Celia asked, sounding surprised.
"I have asked Draco if I can use The Lodge at the end of this month. I would like it if you came with me." Erik put his head to one side, questioningly.
"Oh!" Celia's expression was so shocked, it was comical. Hermione actually gave a little chuckle. She had no idea that Erik liked Celia, but she was glad. They'd all become friends and she could see they would be good together.
"You do not have to answer me now," Erik volunteered. "Just let me know."
"No!" Celia practically shouted at him. "I mean...yes...I mean," she paused and started again. "I'd love to come with you - thank you so much for thinking to ask me."
Erik winked at her and Hermione found herself smiling from ear to ear.
Hermione looked down to see Scorpius standing by her.
"Are you and Father friends again now? Why did Father hex Albus' Mother?"
Hermione bit her lip - all this celebration was lovely but she and Draco had a very important thing to do before he could tell Pansy that he wouldn't be going with her tonight. It was a shame they had to do it now because it would deflate the mood but they had no choice.
"How about we go and have a little chat?" she said to Albus. "Go and fetch Ella and we'll go to my rooms."
Draco sat both his children down on Hermione's sofa and Hermione gave them a drink and a plate of chocolate biscuits. They both watched the adults with interest.
"I'm sure you want to know why Professor Granger and I were arguing," Draco began.
"You hexed Ginny Potter!" Ella said, accusingly.
"Yes - I did," Draco answered. He explained who Pansy was and how they knew her.
"She was your girlfriend at school?" Ella asked. The expression on her face told them very clearly what she thought of that.
"Maybe you should let your Father just explain," Hermione suggested.
Draco carefully explained about Pansy's threats. Hermione watched Ella's face as he spoke and she could tell that she was annoyed on Draco's behalf. Draco did well, speaking clearly and his voice didn't falter as he started to explain about Astoria. He chose his words delicately, keeping the details at the children's level. Surprisingly, it was Scorpius that interrupted him.
"So, you didn't want to marry Mother?"
"Not at first - which is wrong, Scorpius. I was wrong to do that. But once I met your Mother then things changed, completely. Once I got to know her, I wanted to marry her very much."
Scorpius nodded slowly. "You loved her - I know you did."
"Of course I did!" Draco glanced over at Ella, who hadn't spoken. "Ella? Are you okay?"
"Is that all you have to say? Don't you want to ask me anything?"
"You shouldn't have hexed Ginny Potter - you should have let Pansy tell us - I don't care what someone else says about you. It doesn't change anything," Ella shrugged. Hermione felt admiration for this amazing girl. Did nothing phase her? "What I want to know is why you and... Hermione were fighting?" She paused before using Hermione's first name but Hermione just smiled encouragingly at her.
Hermione decided to come to Draco's rescue. "I was angry because Draco had hexed Ginny. I wanted him to tell Pansy to shove off..." Both children laughed at her term of phrase and she smiled at them. "But he was worried what we would all think of him if she told us all what had happened when he met your Mother."
"Are you still fighting?" Scorpius asked.
"Of course they're not!" Ella said, in a typical big sister scathing tone. "Would they both be here now?"
"I was just asking!" Scorpius snapped. "I don't want you to fight," he said and Hermione felt a rush of affection for him. He'd never been vocal about her friendship with his Father, like Ella had. She actually had no idea what he felt about it.
"So, you'd like us to be friends then? Your Father and I?" she asked.
"Yes, of course I would!" Scorpius nodded. "You're great!"
"Thank you, Scorpius."
And then Scorpius did something that affected Hermione more than anything else that had happened that day. He stood up, walked over to Hermione and grabbed her into a hug. This was so out of character that it brought tears to Hermione's eyes.
"Anyway - they're not friends," Ella said, from the sofa.
"Yes they are!" Scorpius turned round to his sister. "Professor Granger just said they are."
"I mean," Ella leant forward. "They're not just friends." She gave a knowing, little grin that made her look a lot older than she was. When no-one answered her she looked at her Father. "Are you?"
Draco stared at his daughter and rolled his eyes. "I think you might be the death of me, Elladora Malfoy."
Ella, completely un-phased by his comment, just grinned. "You're avoiding the question."
"You're being nosey."
"Have you asked her yet?" Ella asked and Draco sighed.
"Ella - in case you hadn't noticed we've all been pretty busy dealing with the competition and everything else that has been going on."
"Well, we're not too busy right now, are we?" Ella said.
Hermione watched their exchange with amusement and interest. It was lovely that Ella had just accepted Draco's story and moved on. Just as children do. Hermione now understood what Draco meant about them accepting his story if he explained it the right way. He was wiser than he gave himself credit for and he'd handled it perfectly. Brilliantly, in fact. She glanced over at him and felt a little tingle. Things were falling into place.
Draco spread his arms out in front of him. "Why don't you ask her then, Ella?"
"Oh, I already have," Ella said, bluntly. "I asked her when you said I could take some friends." She turned to Hermione." I invited you to The Lodge with us, didn't I?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows but before she could speak, Draco answered his daughter.
"This time I think it should just be us," Draco said, quietly and Hermione tried to hide her disappointment. She understood completely that he might want to spend some time with his children after the madness of the past few weeks. She shouldn't take it personally. Why did it hurt then?
"Just us?" Scorpius frowned. "But you said we could ask Professor Granger!"
"Yes, you did!" Ella snapped. "I'm not going without Hermione."
Hermione raised her hand. "Children - I'm sure your Father can't wait to spend some time with you as a family. I'll be here when you get back."
Draco shook his head. "What are you on about?" he asked, no-one in particular. "I didn't mean just us...I meant just us..." He laughed at his own words. "I meant, no friends this time. Just the four of us." He glanced over at Hermione. "Of course I meant the four of us."
Hermione smiled over at him as the children jumped up and down.
"She hasn't said yes, yet," Draco reminded them.
"Of course I'd like to come," Hermione said.
"Excuse me children," Draco said, approaching Hermione. Before she even realised what was happening, she was being pulled into Draco's arms and being kissed firmly on the mouth. It didn't last long, the children were standing watching, but it still managed to make Hermione feel hot all over.
As Draco let go of her, she straightened her hair, feeling self conscious in front of the children. Scorpius was turning his nose up.
"Yuk - why did you have to do that in front of me?" he moaned.
Ella, however, was grinning like the cat that had got the cream. All she said was, "Yeh!"
Draco straightened his back. "Now I have to go and tell Pansy to..." he paused and looked over at Hermione with a grin, "to shove off?" He laughed at having used Hermione's words.
Well - hope you liked it - it didn't have the romantic ending that some of my other stories have but I didn't think it would be right. Anyway, I'm going to do something I've only done once before - I've written an epilogue. I don't like them much, I think they have a tendancy to be overly sickly sweet or out of character. I just thought this story needed it - so here goes - it'll be posted next...x