It's a bit short, but sweet. I had actual work to do today, which is why I'm posting later than I usually do. Thank you all so much for reading!
One Year Later
"Draco, shouldn't you maybe help your wife?" Pansy inquired as she breastfed her three month old son, Luca.
"Shouldn't you maybe do that somewhere else?" he retorted. "Besides, I've asked her several times how I can help, and she informed me that staying out of her way would be the greatest service I could give. Keeping Athena out of her hair while she sets up the party is the one thing she'll actually allow me to do."
Blaise entered the Malfoy house with an armful of bags. "I don't think there's a pink balloon left on this continent," he complained, dropping the bags beside the door. "Don't you think Hermione's going a bit overboard?"
Draco shrugged and watched as his daughter banged her small hands on the book he held open before her. "I seem to recall Pansy going much crazier for the twins' first birthday," he replied. "Bouncy castles and pony rides if I'm remembering correctly."
Rolling his eyes, he sat down beside his wife. "Don't remind me," he muttered. "They could barely walk. Inflatable bouncy houses are just great when you've barely mastered the art of putting one foot in front of the other. They cried the whole time, and then we introduced them to the ponies."
Draco laughed. "Full on shrieking," he recalled. "Speaking of your children, where are they? Didn't you take them to the store with you?"
"They're out back helping Hermione," Blaise said. "Unlike you."
Rolling his eyes, Draco put aside the book and stood with Athena in his arms. "Fine, I'll be back in two minutes when she tells me to stop interfering," he stated before leaving the room. Making his way to the backyard, he watched his wife hang pink streamers from the trees while Isabella and Vincent blew up balloons. "Having fun?" he asked.
Three heads turned and Hermione smiled at him. "There's my birthday girl!" she greeted them excitedly. She set the streamers to hang themselves and joined her little family on the back porch. She stroked her daughter's soft brown hair and kissed her round cheek. "Are Harry and Astoria here yet?"
"Not yet. They're not supposed to be here for another hour," Draco reported. "The food is ready. I'll dress Tiny closer to the start of the party. Anything I can do to help out here?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, this is mine," she said softly.
He nodded understandingly and returned to the house. If Athena's first birthday was a milestone for her, it was a miracle for Hermione. Born two months prematurely, Hermione feared that her baby would not survive. For weeks after Athena was discharged from St. Mungo's, Hermione slept in the nursery by the bassinet, fearful that her baby would stop breathing in her sleep. Draco had been right when he said that Athena would become the center of her universe, but he hadn't realized until she was born that his world revolved around his daughter as well.
"She sent you back in?" Pansy asked when he returned to the living room. He nodded in confirmation and reclaimed his chair. "So, is Weasley coming to this shindig?"
Draco shrugged. Hermione and Ron Weasley talked frequently, and he had been kind enough to help them move when they bought their house. But he wasn't as constant a presence as Harry. There was still tension between the Ron and himself, but Draco made an effort to be polite for his wife's sake. Ron, who attended their small, impromptu wedding a week after Athena was released from the hospital, had congratulated Draco and confessed that he was glad that Hermione had found someone who loved her as much as she deserved. The pair shook hands, and Ron took his leave for the evening.
"Rumor has it he's close to proposing to Marietta Edgecombe. Talk about trading way down," Pansy continued.
"Getting Hermione to date him was clearly a fluke," Blaise added. Draco rolled his eyes and got to his feet. "What? Don't feel like making fun of a Weasley? Fatherhood really has changed you, mate."
Draco frowned. "The two of them breaking up was one of the best things that's happened to me," he stated. "He and I aren't going to be drinking buddies or anything, but I'm also not going to continue treating him the way I did when we were children. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna get her dressed for the party."
When he was out of earshot, Blaise remarked, "Well, at least one of us has matured."
Pansy nodded. "I blame Hermione," she joked.
"For what?" Hermione inquired, passing the living room with the twins behind her.
"For making Draco grow up," Blaise told her with a smile.
She nodded hesitantly before making her way upstairs. Joining Draco in the nursery, she told him that the decorations were finished. "Thank you," she said, "for putting up with me these last few weeks. I know I sometimes get a little crazy. And I'm sorry I didn't let you help. I know her birthday is just as big a deal for you as it is for me."
Draco slipped a pale pink dress over Athena's head and stood her up to do the buttons. "There's nothing to thank me or apologize for," he replied. "We'll have a hundred more birthdays to celebrate with her. I can handle you taking charge of this one."
Smiling, she kissed his cheek. "Still love me?" she asked.