A/N: Here it is - the final chapter! I apologize for the delay, but the dissertation was calling and honestly I think part of me just didn't want this story to end. But end it must! I hope you all enjoy it and thank you so much for sticking with me. The reviews I received for the last chapter were just so absolutely overwhelming and encouraging - I can't ever thank you all enough. I'll post details about my next story on my author's page so stay tuned!
And, as always, everything belongs to JKR. What an incredible gift she has given all of us.
After Draco's a victory, a celebration was definitely in order, and Molly Weasley wouldn't hear of it being held anywhere but the Burrow. Everyone apparated there, including Draco, who was eager to take advantage of his recently-restored wand privileges.
When they arrived, Draco tried to help in the kitchen, but Molly wouldn't hear of it and sent him to the backyard. Another surprise awaited him there: a brand new Thunderclap with a red bow on it – the new racing broom he and Harry had tried out at Quality Quidditch Supplies a few months earlier.
"Welcome back to the wizarding world," Harry told him with a grin. Normally Harry would have made fun of him for the pathetic obsession in his eyes at the site of the new broom, but he knew his own eyes had displayed the same emotion when he picked up his a couple of weeks ago.
This was their bond, after all.
Draco mounted the broom and shot off into the air, no longer bound by invisible borders and free to speed and dive wherever he wished. He soared through the air and felt that this day simply could not get any better.
It might not have gotten better than that, but it certainly did not get any worse throughout the evening. Friends and family gathered to celebrate and Hermione was reminded of the days after Voldemort's defeat.
This was happier, though, for they had no one to mourn after this victory, unless you counted Gideon's Lockhart's pride, and Hermione didn't.
When they had eaten, drunk, and partied to their heart's content, many started to depart for home, wishing Draco luck, high-fiving Ginny for her awesome discovery, and congratulating Hermione on the success of her idea.
There was an awkward moment when they realized that Draco wasn't completely sure where he was sleeping that night. He had access to the manor again (as well as numerous other Malfoy residences) – should he head there? He could do whatever he wanted now – so what did he want?
He was too tired to really think about it and all of his stuff was still at Hermione's flat, so he gratefully accepted her offer of coming home with him.
Not to mention she was there as well – a definite perk.
It was somewhat awkward leaving the Burrow together – choosing to go back to Hermione's flat together instead of being forced to. He noticed Hermione blush as Molly unsuccessfully tried to hide her disapproving look.
When they got to the flat, they were both initially stunned by the silence of the living room. Having been surrounded by people and voices all day, they were now overwhelmed by the lack of noise. The flat also seemed to still possess the tension with which they had left that morning; it was as if the walls did not know Draco was free yet.
Hermione turned to ask Draco if he needed anything, but suddenly realized he was not next to her. She looked around the flat, confused as to where he had gone. She peered into the kitchen, but he was not there. The door to his room was ajar and she could see he was not there either. He wasn't in the bathroom, which meant… oh no.
She raced to her room to find him waltzing around like he owned the place, picking up books and pictures and flipping through drawers.
"Excuse me?" she asked pointedly.
"I've been waiting all year for this," he responded unapologetically. Hermione rolled her eyes. While Draco had been her tenant, this room had been off-limits, a rule preserved by a magical boundary. Now, however, it was fair game and so, apparently, was her stuff.
Draco held a snow globe her parents had sent her from their vacation to Bermuda up to the light.
"Put that down!" she told him sternly, chuckling as he tried to figure out what it was.
Bored with it, he threw it over his shoulder, where it crashed on the floor.
Hermione gasped, but before she could choke out a retort, Draco had already repaired it with his wand.
"Did you seriously break that just so you could fix it with magic?" she asked.
"Maybe," he responded with a smirk.
She collapsed on her bed and rubbed her temples. How was it possible that he was even more annoying now? Maybe she had overlooked it when she was so busy trying to save his life.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a pile of clothing being tossed onto her stomach.
"What are you doing now?" she asked.
"Well, if I'm going to live here, you're going to have to surrender some drawer space," he responded plainly, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. "And I'll need far more than half."
"So you're living here now?" she asked
"Well, most married couples live together, you know," he replied.
Now she sat up so quickly her vision swam.
"Oh, yes, didn't I tell you before? We're getting married. Probably tomorrow." He spoke with such confidence, as if there could be no debate on the matter.
"Draco we're only nineteen! Don't you think we should date before we decide if we want to get married? And stop throwing my clothes on the floor! Those are clean!"
Draco rolled his eyes before turning back to his task.
"I've seen you date, Granger, and you're bloody awful at it. No, we'll just skip that part and get married."
"You've forgotten that I haven't assented yet, Mr. Malfoy," Hermione responded, regaining some of her sass.
Now Draco shot her an incredulous look. "Oh like you would say no!"
"Well I'm not saying yes and I'm not marrying you! At least not until we've dated!" she responded.
"How long do I have to date you?" Draco asked. "Two weeks? Three?"
"At least a year… maybe even two or three," Hermione responded pragmatically.
"A YEAR!" Now it was Draco's turn to be affronted. "Well that's just ridiculous. I have to take you out to restaurants, pretend to listen when you talk about your day, and buy you random flowers roughly once a month for A YEAR?"
"Actually, you sort of have to do that stuff even after we're married," Hermione broke the news to him.
Now Draco collapsed on the bed.
"Forget marrying you, you're far too high maintenance."
The two sat in silence. The exhaustion of the day was beginning to catch up with them.
Finally, Hermione spoke in a quiet voice. "We are dating, though, right?" she asked.
Draco sat up and looked at her exasperatedly. "Of course we are, Granger, don't be silly."
Now she grinned and leaned over and kissed him. The peck turned into more… and lasted several minutes until Hermione broke off the embrace.
"Well, if we are dating, I really don't think we should live together."
"Hermione, we've lived together for the past year."
"But not as girlfriend and boyfriend!" She hated how childish those words sounded.
"Fine, Granger. Gosh, you're so demanding. You know that if I'm not living here, you're going to have to cook and clean for yourself."
She considered this.
"Well I guess you'll just have to visit pretty often then," she said with a smirk that he couldn't help but be proud of.
Draco narrowed his eyes at her and she shot him an innocent grin.
And that's how it was with the two of them. They would bicker and poke at each other's buttons, but loved each other with such confidence and such depth that this never bothered them. They couldn't imagine it any other way.
They fought perhaps more than other couples did, but they were both fighters and it was in their nature. They were passionate and brave, never afraid of hurting the other's feelings when a strong point needed to be made.
And they were forgiving. After a childhood of conflict and war, they had learned above all the power of forgiveness. And they practiced this power each day, with each other and with the rest of the world.
They grew together, but remained individuals, always encouraging and supporting each other. They learned more about each other, sharing secrets and memories, until their lives seemed to have never been lived separately.
When they joined together to work toward a single purpose, the rest of the world cowered: they were invincible. They led the movement to bring people formerly considered evil and incapable of reform back into society. They knew firsthand the power of hatred and loss, as well as the power of redemption and friendship.
They loved and lived, lived and loved, and that is where we find them, five years to the day of Draco's trial victory.
"Ginny, will you please tell Lavender to stop pulling the laces so tight! I can barely breathe!" Hermione gasped.
"It's your funeral – you made her your maid of honor," Ginny retorted, with only a hint of bitterness.
It was truly one of the most surprising relationships that had developed after the war, Hermione and Lavender's friendship, but now Hermione couldn't imagine a day without her.
It was, of course, not the most surprising relationship – that was the one being consecrated in twenty minutes.
"Don't you want Draco to be floored as you walk down the aisle?" Lavender asked as she laced the corset back of Hermione's wedding dress tightly.
"Yes, but I'd also like to actually be able to walk down the aisle to him without passing out," Hermione responded.
Lavender rolled her eyes and loosened the laces a little bit, relief filling her friend's lungs.
"Who would have thought we'd ever get to this day?" Ginny mused.
"I know, I know, the most unlikely of couples," Hermione replied, a little sick of hearing about how they were the wizarding world's "Romeo and Juliet."
"No, I don't mean that," Ginny said, turning to face her with a grin. "I meant I never thought you two would stop dragging your feet! Five years, honestly!"
Now they all laughed and Hermione rolled her eyes amicably.
It was surprising to everyone that they had waited this long, but as they quickly discovered, they were in no rush. For the first time in their lives, they were living without time limits and deadlines. They could take their time and move their relationship forward when they wanted to, not when they "should" in order to conform to someone else's expectations.
Theirs was a world of peace and they would not be rushed into happiness.
The girls finished getting ready and waited for the minister to fetch them for the ceremony.
Hermione thought that she should be terrified, or at least nervous, but there were no butterflies in her stomach. She had, after all, faced far scarier fates than marriage, and after almost losing Draco once, she would never fear a life with him.
Finally, it was time to head up to the sanctuary. Hermione, Ginny, and Lavender climbed the narrow back staircase, trying not to trip in their heels. Ginny levitated Hermione's train as they walked so that none of them would step on it.
Hermione heard the music playing and watched from the shadows as her bridesmaids began to walk down the aisle. Finally, it was her turn. Taking her father's arm, she walked into the doorway and looked down the aisle in front of her, pausing to take a deep breath and savor this moment.
In front of her, at the end of an intimidatingly long aisle, stood the boy she had hated as a child and the man she had learned to love more than anyone else in her life: her best friend, her confidante, and her favorite sparring partner. Next to him stood her two platonic best friends, with whom she had experienced every trial and tribulation life could throw at them. They grinned at her confidently.
Filling the pews to her left and right as she walked down the aisle were friends and family of all ages and backgrounds. She glanced to her left and saw Pansy Parkinson sitting with Luna Lovegood and George Weasley. In front of them sat the Patil twins and Gregory Goyle. To her right, the parents of Colin Creevey (now Hermione's neighbors) sat with their son Dennis and his girlfriend, a friendly-looking muggle. In front of them sat Narcissa, still a little shaken and mentally unstable, but there. Her sister Andromeda sat next to her, holding her arm for support.
This was the world Hermione had fought for, the world where she belonged. These were her people who she knew would stand by her through thick and thin and fight for her just as she had fought for each of them.
As she reached Draco, she noticed a tear in his eye and reached for his hand. They both knew how serious this moment was.
When it came time for them to read their vows, each pulled a small piece of paper from a hidden place: Draco's from his pocket, Hermione's from the lace around her bouquet.
Draco spoke first, looking up briefly after every few words, trying to keep eye contact but also focused on reading every word correctly.
"Hermione Jean Granger, I stand here in front of our families and a crowd of people I never would have considered friends if it were not for you. You showed me a life of friendship, kindness, and love. You introduced me to feelings and values that I had never known. Through our years together, I have fallen more in love with you every day – and I have felt myself become a better person every day in the process."
He took a deep breath before looking her directly in the eye, no longer reading from his script.
"Today, I vow to continue to grow with you every day. I vow to be brave and kind to you, to respect you, support you, and love the hell out of you every day for the rest of our lives. I vow to work every day to become the man you see in me and to strive to fulfill at least 1/10 of the potential you find in me. I vow to work with you to build our lives together and to grow more in love with you each and every day."
Hermione wasn't sure how she could be expected to read her vows after that. First of all, she could barely read the paper through her tear-blurred eyes. Second of all, how could she compare to that? How could her words even come close to what Draco had just promised her?
All eyes were on her, and she knew she had to speak.
"Draco Lucius Malfoy, if you had told me six years ago that I'd be standing here pledging to spend the rest of my life with you, I would have assumed someone was holding a wand to my head."
Draco smiled and a few giggles could be heard in the crowd.
"But I think that's what I love most about life – it throws you curveballs you never expect, and you often come out the other end better for it. Draco, I would not trade the last six years for anything on the planet. You have made me smile and laugh more than anyone ever has. You challenge me every day and push me to be the best that I can. I am so happy that we are standing here today and that life brought our paths together. Today, I vow to have faith in you and to trust you. I vow to support you and to be grateful for you. I vow to never stop arguing with you and to never suppress who I am when we're together. I vow to work with you to build a life together in this world, the world we have worked so hard to ensure for our children."
With the vows exchanged and a surplus of tissues circulating among the guests, the minister preceded with the service. Rings were exchanged, passages from Hermione and Draco's favorite books were read, and a final kiss sealed their promises.
Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy were married.
They celebrated long into the night with butterbeer, a magnificent feast, and plenty of dancing. Draco even convinced his mother to join him out on the dance floor for a short slow dance.
"I'm so proud of you," she whispered in his ear. He was proud of himself too.
For the bride and groom, the night flew by. They were constantly pulled this way and that for photographs and conversations.
Hermione finally snuck off to a corner to steal a plate of cake and survey the reception. She smiled at the sight of so many loved ones. They had been seated at four long tables and, for the first time, Hermione realized that they resembled the tables in the Great Hall at Hogwarts.
At Hogwarts, those tables separated students. Here, however, friends and family from all houses – and even from the Muggle world and other wizarding schools – comingled and sat together, laughing, chatting, and toasting.
She couldn't help but think that maybe this was how things should have been all along. Why did the world create divisions that were so unnecessary? She was proud to be a Gryffindor, but in the end, what did it matter? She was married to possibly the bravest, kindest, smartest, and most ambitious man she had ever met.
She thought, then, about her recent job offer. She had just learned about it a week ago, had just told Draco a few days ago. She had been offered a position at Hogwarts as the new Transfiguration professor. McGongall had juggled this position with Headmistress for the last few years, but was now hoping to dedicate herself primarily to her role running the school.
Hermione was excited for the opportunity to teach and to do research, but now for the first time she thought of an additional purpose for taking the job: continuing to fight for tolerance and acceptance in the wizarding world. Where better to start than at Hogwarts? She thought about all of the changes she could push…
But then when Draco grabbed her elbow and pulled her to the dance floor, she remembered she was at her wedding. There would be days and weeks and months and years to think about work and the future, but tonight was about tonight.
And as Draco pulled her in for a dance and she burrowed her head into his shoulder, she thought that this night – and her entire life, in fact – was pretty undeniably fantastic.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Head to my author's page for details on upcoming stories :-)