As always, I appreciate everyone's support and love for the story. It's a bit sad when a story ends, but you know me. There's always something else up my sleeve!
"Who'd have thought you'd be getting married first," Pansy mused as she lined her eyes with a dark pencil.
Hermione, who was busy fussing with her hair, smirked. "Yes, well, we didn't have to postpone because of a baby," she remarked, glancing down at her best friend's six months' pregnant belly.
"Says the bride who refused to set a date until Lilah could walk down the aisle," Pansy muttered, rubbing her swollen stomach.
Hermione chuckled as she recalled the little girl's first halted steps. They occurred not long after the engagement. One morning while they ate breakfast, Lilah pulled herself up by the edge of the coffee table. Bravely, she let go and took two steps before falling down. Smiling up at them as Hermione and Draco held their breath, Lilah made a second attempt and took the remaining steps needed to reach Hermione.
"Did you see her at the rehearsal?" she asked, grinning. "You have no idea how excited she is to be a flower girl. She's been tossing things around the house in preparation. Draco didn't really appreciate it when she took his wallet and began throwing his money around the hallway."
Pansy laughed as she finished her makeup. "Is that what I have to look forward to?" she wondered. "Or do you think my baby will be as wonderful as Lilah?"
The door opened before Hermione could answer. "Sorry to interrupt," Draco said, entering with a hand over his eyes. "Someone missed her mum."
Lilah ran to Hermione and extended her arms. "Up, Mama," she instructed.
Hermione complied. "Draco, I'm not in my dress yet. You can open your eyes," she said.
But Draco refused to do so. "No, didn't you say it's bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony?" he asked. "Enough has gone wrong in my life. I don't need any more bad luck."
Getting to her feet, Lilah in her arms, she stood before her soon-to-be husband. "Draco," she murmured, pressing a kiss to his lips. "It's okay. Open your eyes."
He did as she asked. "You look beautiful," he said.
Hermione scoffed. "I've managed to line one eye," she pointed out. "And this," she indicated the bathrobe and sweatpants she had on, "is hardly an attractive look. You, on the other hand, look quite dashing in your tux."
"Same ones you wore to the Yule Ball in fourth year?" Pansy inquired as she finished working on her hair.
"Go get dressed," Hermione chided with a roll of her eyes. When Pansy left the room, Hermione turned her attention back to Draco. "Are you feeling okay? Not nervous or contemplating leaving me at the altar, are you?"
He shook his head. "No, I had something I needed to talk to you about," he replied. Nodding, she stepped away from the door, and they sat down on the loveseat. "Remember a few weeks ago when I told you I had to go out of town for business? Well, it was a bit of a lie."
Hermione could feel her temperature rising as her heart pounded. "And this seemed like the ideal time to tell me?" she asked. "Not weeks ago? The day of our wedding, you're telling me this?"
He took her hand, holding it tight for fear she might bolt. "I swear, I didn't do anything bad," he promised. "Please don't be upset."
Hermione remained silent as he detailed his trip to France. He had gone with the express purpose of finding Daphne and asking her to sign over any parental rights she could claim to Lilah. "She didn't even hesitate," he said, shaking his head ruefully. "Didn't ask why I wanted her to do it. She just signed the papers."
"Why did you ask her to do that?" Hermione wondered.
He smiled as he pulled a small stack of papers from his jacket pocket. "Because I was hoping you would adopt Lilah," he stated. "We haven't talked about it, but it's been on my mind. You're already her mother. I thought it might be nice to make it official today."
"You really want that?" she asked. Draco nodded, and looked at her with a hopeful look in his eyes. "Did you bring a pen with you?"
He produced one from his coat pocket and handed it over. "Wait," he said as she took the pen from him. "Just because this is what I want, it doesn't mean you have to do it. If you aren't comfortable adopting her, I don't want to force you."
"I want to do this," she confirmed, signing her name to each line that required a signature. "It doesn't really change anything. At least, not for me. It just makes it official. I was going to be her mother either way."
Taking the documents back, he kissed her and stood up. "I'm glad it's you," he told her. "I'll let you get back to getting ready. Want me to take her?"
Hermione shook her head. "Pansy and I will get her dressed," she assured him. "See you in a bit."
Pansy returned shortly after Draco left with a sour look on her face and a comment about looking fat. "I swear, I'm not getting married until you're pregnant."
"Pay back, thy name is Pansy," Hermione muttered before promising her she looked beautiful. "I just hope the media attention dies down after this. It's been nonstop since the Prophet got wind of our relationship."
"Don't think about them," Pansy advised. "Let's get you and Lilah dressed, and while we do that, you can tell me what Draco wanted."
They dressed Lilah in a smaller, fluffier version of Pansy's lilac-colored bridesmaid's dress. While they got her ready, Hermione told her about Draco's trip to France and his meeting with Daphne. She informed her friend that she had signed the adoption paper without giving it a second thought. "I'm really a mother now," Hermione said happily. "It doesn't even bother me that he went to see her without telling me."
"My, he really has changed," Pansy commented as she removed Hermione's dress from the hanger.
Hermione nodded as she undid her robe. "Yes, now if only other people could change," she muttered. Pansy didn't need to ask to whom she was referring. "It was Draco's idea to invite Harry and the Weasleys. They didn't even respond."
She stepped into the dress and Pansy began to lace up the back. "Don't worry about them," she said. "I know that's tough advice to follow, but sometimes things happen and you learn who your true friends really are. You've got Draco and Lilah who love you, I'll always be here for you, and soon you'll have a little nephew to dote on. Adrian is clueless, but you know he cares about you. I know Harry and Ron were your first friends here, but you've got a pretty loyal set with us."
Dressed, Hermione turned to face Pansy with tears in her eyes. "Thank you," she murmured, hugging her friend.
Pansy nodded and let her go. "Okay, time to finish getting the flower girl ready," she decided, gently dabbing her eyes dry.
Lilah stared up at her from her seat on the couch. "No," she declared when Pansy approached. "No Titi. Mama."
Pansy looked disheartened, but Hermione stepped in. "You'll get used to it when your little one comes," she assured her friend. "Sometimes they only want their mum. And sometimes they have to learn that Mum isn't available so someone else has to help them. Lilah, Auntie Pansy has to fix your hair so Mummy can finish getting ready."
The little girl pouted through the task, but allowed Pansy to do it. "Monkey," Lilah requested when she was finished.
"Sorry, baby. Daddy has Monkey," Hermione told her before turning to Pansy. "It's the only thing he could think of to get her to walk towards him. According to him, it's the only thing she loves more than me."
"Did it ever scare you?" Pansy wondered. "Becoming her mother?"
Looking at her little girl, Hermione smiled and shook her head. "There has never been a time since I met her that she didn't feel like mine," she admitted. "I fell in love with her the first time I held her, and that feeling has never gone away."
A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Lilah ran ahead of Pansy and opened the door with a little magical aid. "Day-Day!" she squealed as Adrian picked her up.
Adrian smiled as he twirled her around, despite Hermione's frantic pleas to stop lest she throw up. "Just a little preview of how I plan to dance with the loveliest little Malfoy," he commented. "Oh, Hermione, you'll never guess who's here. That Weasley. The one who runs the joke shop. I saw him talking to your mum, asking where to set up the fireworks show. Should I ask him to leave?"
Adjusting her veil, Hermione shook her head and walked toward him. "No, I want you to make sure he has a good seat," she instructed. "Fred and George were always really good to me even when I was turning them in for selling contraband on school grounds. Oh, and Ade, while you're out there, send my dad back? I'm ready to get married."
Placing Lilah back on her feet, Adrian straightened out his tux. "You sure you want to be a Malfoy?" he asked. "Because there's still time to back out."
Despite the roll of her eyes, Hermione couldn't help but smile. "There's nothing I want more."