AN: Not the last update! I swear this isn't the last chapter even though it kinda reads that way… This is just an intro to the end.
THIS WILL BE MY LAST UPDATE UNTIL I FINISH THE EDIT. I think this leaves it in a good enough place so that no one will go crazy while I edit it. I'm going to mark this 'complete', but the edit should include a lot of extra scenes, plus the epilogue. It might take a few months though. I'm not going to lie. I'm going to work on some original writing and finish a couple of very neglected fics that I left unsupervised while I was busy with this beast.
I've spent so much time on this fic that I don't really know how to give it up. Especially Abraxas. I know several readers are looking for his happily ever after…but I don't know that there is room left here to write it really, even if I knew who he was going to end up with…and I don't. I admit, like many of you, I've fallen a bit in love with him. It's hard to imagine a character that deserves him. That said, I am thinking of writing the epilogue during the Marauders time…give everyone a hint at how very much the Wizarding world changes because of the decisions of one pivotal person…and we'll find out what happens to Hermione and Tom…not to mention Albus and Hagrid and all the others.
Sorry it took so long to get this to you.
Hermione was shocked how quickly the last few weeks and months of school passed. 'It had been much more convenient', she thought as she tried to focus enough to scratch out another paper for Charms, 'how Harry's battles always seemed to come at the end of the school year'.
The system had worked much better for her.
Now she found herself facing not only the adoring masses of students, but also the tedium of writing papers that did little more than prove she still remembered what she'd learned on her first go 'round.
It would have all been more than she could take, if it hadn't been for Tom.
Tom, who was still interested in taking the top spot on the NEWTS. Whose enthusiasm was still undiminished by the recent battles. He hadn't lost anyone he loved in the last dying gasps of the Great Wizarding War, as it was already being called. He was unsullied by the kind of entrenched regret that she'd held for so long after the Battle of Hogwarts. Tom, who was the single shining ray of sunlight as she battled the depression that always followed saving the world.
Every damn time she came down off the adrenalin high, it was harder to go back to her 'normal'.
She and Harry had done it often enough as adults after all. Running the Ministry was not for the faint of heart.
"What's the matter love?"
They were in the Room of Requirement. She'd given the excuse that she couldn't study in the library, or even in the Slytherin common room…and Slytherin was miles above her old house when it came to giving others quiet and room to study. But still, if you take out the darkest wizard in a generation, you find that even the house of the snake does a bit of fangirling.
So she'd lured him to the room for a few quiet hours…both to work on her shaky state of mind and to do the actual homework…and because the room was willing to provide them with one other thing…
A soft bed with mounds of down comforters appeared.
Tom turned to her, expression hungry, as it always was when he suspected magic that he'd never encountered. "You can't do that in this room. You have to go outside to change it; this is totally against Gamp's sixth law…"
She didn't often catch him by surprise.
She grinned mischievously. "Yes. You have to leave to make changes. But when I asked the room for what I wanted, I included a bed that would appear when we finished our work, and not until then."
His eyes warmed with admiration. "You really, really get this room."
She looked down, thinking of Neville, and how he would never need to be that boy who had led a resistance within Hogwarts. "I knew a boy once who did, and over the years he told me stories."
Tom frowned but tried to look nonchalant as he put an arm around her. "Harry…Ron?"
"No. Another friend. A boy who lost his toad on his first trip on the express. He was my last friend alive…before. The rest passed before me." She knew her face betrayed her feelings, but tonight, she couldn't put those feeling aside. She raised her pumpkin juice in a silent toast to those heroes who had been, those who would never need to be if she had her way.
Tom wrapped his arms around her. "I…I could take them. The old memories. I could take them and you'd still be you, though I don't think you'd know why you were you anymore. If that's what it takes for you to find some peace…"
She put a soft hand on his face. She knew his reasons. It was something like 99% altruism because he truly did hate to see her suffer, and 1% selfishness because he hated to think she'd had a life before him. As much as she loved him, she knew he wasn't perfect…and that was…surprisingly good. She didn't want perfect.
"Tom, stop. I know you saw in my memories, when you heard them say that too many memories would drive a Champion mad…and we both saw what happened with that child…the one who was born to Lestrange. But I can deal with two lives. I can keep these memories and use them to make a better world. Not just in the big ways, but in little ways. Did you know that Lucius grew up, in the other timeline, as a spoiled rotten bastard that committed numerous crimes and the only reason he wasn't worse was that he didn't like to get his hands dirty. Abraxas died…I'm not sure exactly when, but I think Helga killed him. Now Helga is alive…"
He smirked. "And that's such a relief…"
She batted him playfully. "You can't just keep the people you like."
"You killed enough in the war."
She shrugged. "Yes. Deaths that will change things. Some would have lived. Some would have killed other people. Did you know that I never even heard of Edvard Ollivander in my timeline? I don't know what happened to Helena Malfoy either, but I don't think she was alive for much of Lucius' childhood. I do know what happened to Nicholas and Perenelle."
He knew from her tone it was nothing good. Always the diplomat, Tom didn't ask.
"We'll make sure that never happens."
She kissed him, deeply. "We will. This isn't the end of the war Tom. Remember, we aren't fighting one man, and the bad guys in the world don't often gather in easy-to-identify armies of good and evil."
Tom smirked. "Are you telling me, Miss Granger that this is not the end?"
"No love. I'm telling you that this is only the beginning. And Gellert Grindelwald was the easy part."
He chuckled as he began unbuttoning her uniform blouse. "Well my love. What armies of darkness shall we conquer next?"
She grinned. "I think Albus needs to be the next Minister of Magic."
"Have you been smoking potions ingredients?"
Hermione smirked, actually smirked at him. She looked like a Malfoy when she did that, and Albus had to admit to himself that the expression left him more than a little uneasy. She was, for a moment, a little inhuman, like she might actually be Loki, God of Mischief, in disguise.
"In my visions, the ones we changed, you never took the place as Minister. You let men who were less able to lead do it because you feared the corrupting influence of power."
"I'm right to fear it."
"The man who knows to fear it is less likely to succumb. If you could see some of the idiots you babysat through the process while you "guided" them from Hogwarts."
Albus cringed. "Hogwarts needs me."
Hermione cocked her head to the side. "Hogwarts will be fine. Get Nicholas and Perenelle to take the headmaster's place after he retires for a few years and come back after you take care of some of the more egregious problems."
Albus pinched his crooked nose. "That would take a lifetime."
Edvard wrapped an arm around his waist. "Not with my knowledge of the Ministry, your power and fame, and Abraxas' contacts."
"Tom and I will be there to help once we have some experience under our belts."
Albus cocked a brow at his young tormentor. "And what do you intend to do to get that experience Miss Granger?"
She smiled at Tom, who was never far from her side, and the boy…no young man, wrapped an arm around her. "Hermione is accepting Nicholas and Perenelle's offer of an apprenticeship. I have accepted another with Garret Ollivander to learn wandlore." Albus' eyes widened and Tom blushed lightly. "The knowledge is generally only passed down through families so, it's far too good of an opportunity to give up. To be honest, I don't think he'd have offered it if he thought I was actually interested in using what I learned for wands…he has a keen eye for competition."
Edvard chuckled. "There's a reason why the only decent place to buy a wand in Diagon is Olivander's. My family tends to marry anyone who comes to our shores with new wandlore. It's been very effective."
"I want to use the knowledge to make other objects. I eventually want to study other elements of magic that are generally ignored, but the potential of using wand cores for other purposes…"
The two young lovebirds clasped hands and shared a long moment.
Albus cleared his throat. "And in the meantime, you expect me to slave away at the Ministry, cleaning up the mess of centuries of infighting."
"And the intolerance and agoraphobia."
Albus looked at her smug little face and stroked his beard. "I suppose someone needs to take them in hand."
Looking into Edvard's eyes, he didn't fear the power anymore. He knew there were people in his life that would keep his soul safe as he wielded it, and would hex him if he ever went too far.
Abraxas sat in his study, finishing the last of the financial papers for the quarter, when the flames leapt to life, surprising him.
His wife's 'friend', the lady he laughingly called the 'Fair Janet' (not that the chit was homely my any means, just entirely too quiet for his taste) stepped out of the fire.
"I apologize for the intrusion Abraxas. I need to see Helga."
Abraxas motioned for the door and poured himself a measure of firewhiskey. He'd been trying to cut back, but any interaction with Helga was sure to require a measure or two of it.
"Janet? Why did you come through this floo?"
She turned to Helga, her eyes shining with something Abraxas had never seen in her before. "I did it."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"I told them I'm not marrying Harold Rosier. That I wouldn't marry him even if I liked wizards, and that I'm not going to marry one just to keep up appearances. I told them in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't do it."
"Oh Janet! I'm so proud of you!"
"I'm shocked you didn't end up in St. Mungo's, with your mother's temper." Helena walked in, Lucius following like a little blond duckling.
Janet chuckled. "I'm better with a shield charm than they ever gave me credit for."
"Good for you, dear."
Janet turned to Helga. "I don't have much, just the gold my grandmum left me in my own name. But I could afford a farmhouse somewhere. If you'd like…"
Helga met Abraxas' eyes. He chuckled darkly. "Oh don't mind me darling. I don't think a marriage should stand in the way of true love, but you might want to settle matters with Jean Claude Bassett before the two of you begin officially keeping house together. He's quite enamored of you. And you know Lucius will only be a floo away. Unless the two of you would rather have the dower house. Mater is never going to use it."
Helena looked at her only son morosely. "Dear, you may want to remarry eventually."
"Even if I did, a wife who would ask you to give up your place as mistress of the manor would not suit me." He kissed his mother's cheek and plucked his son out of her arms, making eye contact with Helga.
"Let me know what you decide."
He tiptoed downstairs with Lucius in his arms, grinning. While the women were busy, he'd break out the little training broom he'd bought Lucius in secret. He knew if the female contingent in the house saw it before he gave it to the boy, they'd forbid him to give it to their 'little angel'.
It was rough being outnumbered in the household all the time.
"What do you say? Should we invite your godfather and godmother over this weekend?" Lucius clapped as Abraxas settled him on the broom. "Merlin knows what I'll have to bribe Dippet with this time, but it will be worth it to preserve my sanity."
The tiny blond boy giggled madly and did his first barrel roll, albeit, probably not on purpose, though he did manage to stay on. He squealed with delight and did it again.
Abraxas watched his son zip around the room on the little broom and smiled until his face hurt.
This was what he'd fought a war for. His son. His family. His friends.
Looking at his son, he knew he would never stop trying to make the world a better place.
Because there was nothing that was too good for a Malfoy. And the best things in life couldn't be bought.
Thus, he withstood the inevitable recriminations when his laughter and Lucius' giggling attracted the rest of the household…and he did it with a smile firmly on his face.