It was a busy day and I decided to change the epilogue late last night, so I'm sorry for posting so much later than usual. Hope you enjoy the final chapter!
Hermione stared into the mirror, tracing the wrinkles that had formed over the past eleven years. Alexandra was a recent Hogwarts graduate, Emilia would be starting her sixth term in September, and Liam was three years away from starting his first year at Hogwarts. She was old, she decided. Forty felt decidedly old.
"You get lovelier every day," her husband of ten years said, kissing her cheek.
Turning, she smiled at him. "What broke?" she inquired.
"Nothing," he promised. "The kids want you to come downstairs. You know Emmy loves to surprise you."
Groaning, she stepped away from the mirror and followed him downstairs. The living room was decorated with balloons and streamers and a large banner that read "Happy Anniversary!" Her daughters popped up from behind the couch and yelled "Surprise!" Tears blurred Hermione's vision. She could still picture that day ten years ago when she and Draco became husband and wife. Her daughters, only eight and six at the time, had stood by her side as she pledged herself to another man until death parted them.
"Alexandra, kitchen! Now!"
Hermione looked to her youngest daughter. "Who's in the kitchen?" she inquired.
Emma hugged her. "Daddy," she replied. "Did he tell you he's dating the new Transfiguration professor? I wonder if that helps my grade next term."
Hermione shook her head and smiled. "Slytherin," she muttered. "Where's your brother?"
"The kitchen. That's probably what Dad called Lexi in to deal with."
Draco wrapped his arms around his wife. "She's never allowed to leave us," he decided. "Poor little Ravenclaw's brains are going to go to waste as we force her to raise our kids."
Hermione frowned, offended by his comment. "Alex didn't raise our children," she stated.
"I was kidding," he replied as she walked away.
"What's wrong with Mum?" Emma wondered when she and Draco were alone.
Draco shrugged. "You know how she gets about change," he told her.
"What's changed?" she asked. "Dad's the same, you're the same, the three of us are the same. I can't think of one single thing that's changed, except her mood."
He shot her a warning glare, cautioning her to remember that she was talking about her mother. "Your sister has been talking about leaving home, getting a place of her own," he shared. "Your mother isn't happy about it. I think she thought she'd get more time with Lex now that she's done with school."
"So, what? We're never supposed to grow up and leave home?" Emma replied.
Draco shook his head. "No, we want you to grow up and do what makes you happy," he clarified. "Your mum just...do you remember what it was like when Lex first went away to school? All she wanted was for her to come home, and it was the same when you left. You and your sister and your brother, that's all she cares about. She didn't get nearly enough time to spend with her own parents, and you know how much she always regretted that. I think she just doesn't want the three of you to have that same regret."
Sighing, Emma nodded. She remembered just how depressed her mother had become. Try as she might to hide it, her daughters knew that their departure upset her. "Lex loves it here," she said. "She and Mum have always been close. I remember thinking that Mum liked her better when we were kids. I know you're going to tell me that she never plays favorites, but you can't deny that there were times she liked Lexi better."
"Your mother loves all three of you," Draco told her. "She's always told you that you and Alex are the reason she got through leaving your dad."
"I'm still glad she did," Emma admitted. "Dad came around eventually, but you were always a better father to us. I love him, believe me I do. It just took him too long to be a dad."
Draco held his daughter close. "You Flint girls are hard not to love," he murmured. "Come on, let's go celebrate."
Entering the kitchen, they found a spread of salad, pasta, and meatballs on the table. Marcus filled four glasses with red wine and the other two with pumpkin juice. Hermione was seated next to Alex, and looked happier than she had before. "Why can't I have the red juice too, Uncle Marcus?" Liam asked.
Marcus laughed. "It's only for grown ups," he replied, ruffling the boy's blond hair. The two had been close since Liam was young. Marcus was a hero in the youngest Malfoy's eyes, mainly for his impressive Quidditch career. It didn't hurt that he was also the Hogwarts flying instructor, and often allowed Liam to ride his broom around the yard.
Liam scowled as he sat down. "Then why does Dad always let me try it if it's just for grown ups?" he inquired. Draco reddened as he hushed his youngest. Liam smiled and turned to his sister. "Lexi, you know how you always get mad at me for eavesdropping?"
The eldest daughter looked suspiciously at the little boy. "What did you do?" she asked warily.
Shrugging, he smirked. "I saw the letter you got from St. Mungo's," he stated.
"The one saying she was accepted into the Healer training program?" Emma asked, receiving a swat on the arm from her sister. "What? We've shared a room for sixteen years. I know all your hiding spots."
Alex shook her head. "I hate the both of you," she muttered. "I only just told Mum about it. We were talking about the possibility of me living here for the two years it'll take me to get through the program. Dad, is that okay?"
Draco smiled and rounded the table. "That's more than okay," he whispered in her ear as he hugged her. "I'm so proud of you."
Alex smiled. "I think Mum's pretty happy," she replied. "She was smiling until those two ruined the surprise."
"It doesn't matter how we found out," Hermione interjected, staring down her two younger children. "What matters is that you got in."
Later that night as Hermione and Draco laid in bed, she stared at the ceiling and sighed. "She's staying," she said.
Draco draped his arm across her waist. "That news seemed to turn your mood around," he commented. "Now we'll only be down one come September."
Hermione sighed and turned to face him. "I don't think she should stay here," she decided. "She's eighteen. It's time she's on her own. The flat above the bookshop has been empty for awhile. She could live there and be close to the hospital. Plus, I'll be there every day, so I can see her whenever she's home. This way she has her space and I can still be with her from time to time."
"Have you talked to her about it?" Draco asked.
"Not yet," she admitted. "I'm a bit afraid that suggesting it will come across as controlling and desperate to hold onto her. That's what Emma thinks anyhow."
Draco groaned and shook his head. "That kid," he muttered. "Don't listen to her. Do you know what I would have given to have parents who wanted me around? My father died and I found out about it from the paper. My mother ignored our wedding invitation and Liam's birth announcement. I think it's great that you want them around, and Lex wants to be around."
She smiled a small smile and kissed her husband of ten years. "I'm sorry I was in such a bad mood today," she murmured.
Shrugging, he returned her smile. "I still love you," he replied. "Bad mood and all. Happy Anniversary."
"Will you always love me?" she asked.
"Forever and ever," Draco replied. "Think you'll always love me?"
Hermione smiled. "Forever and always. Happy Anniversary."