Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the end of the story. I hope you've enjoyed it.
"It's outrageous that you're my father's mate."
"It was a surprise to both of us," Harry said quietly. The anger in Draco's face was something that he expected to face from his best friends in a few hours' time. Well, maybe not Hermione. Like he'd told Lucius, she would probably be more relieved that he'd begun to realize what his frozen image of Ginny really was. "He didn't choose me to make you expire in outrage. It just happened."
"It should have been my mother."
That sent a swift bolt of pain through Harry, but less than he'd seen other Veela mates suffer when their Veela had expected to bond to someone else. Harry nodded. "I know. And I know Lucius was expecting it to be."
Draco leaned forwards. He was sitting in the chair next to the bookshelves, his hands clasped between his legs, but the look on his face said that was probably happening to keep him from punching Harry. "You don't have the right to call him by his first name."
"He said that he did. And his opinion matters more to me than yours."
Draco stared at him in silence for a long moment. Then he said, "So you don't care at all about getting along with me."
"I never said that. I said that he expects me to call him by his first name, and I want to."
"And your vaunted devotion to Weasley that supposedly made you able to help any transformed Veela? I suppose that was a front?"
"No, but my resistance to the allure had a lot more to do with my own will than my love for Ginny." A hiss sounded from behind them, where Lucius and Narcissa were talking. Harry ignored it. "I was essentially offering up my devotion to someone who didn't exist, a woman who was strong and honest enough to tell me when she'd fallen in love with someone else, but also so fickle and weak that she would turn back to me just because I pined after her."
Draco blinked. "That sounds like the kind of thing my father convinced you of."
"He was the one to bring it up, but it's something I'm working through."
And the more Harry thought about it, the more examples he found. Ginny hadn't wanted to talk to him after she fell in love with Wallman. If they had been friends, or if she had thought she could trust him to remain friends, she would have.
He hadn't seen her in five years, except in photographs in the Daily Prophet taken after her Quidditch games. How did he know what she was like now? If she was still the same person? If he would be in love with her even if she came back to him?
It seemed so simple to Harry now, that he'd been dwelling on an idealized vision. But he's also insisted for five years that Ginny was the only person he wanted to love, and his friends had believed and supported him. It had even seemed true, given that most people couldn't fight Veela allure.
On the other hand, if Ginny had claimed his heart, Harry couldn't have come to an accord with Lucius so soon.
So he'd been fooling himself. Well, there were worse things. He would accept that he had been a fool, and go on.
"You wouldn't go back to Weasley if she walked into this room right now?"
Harry took a deep breath and shook his head. "It would be difficult." Another hiss from behind him, and this time Harry granted Lucius a slight dip of his head in acknowledgment, but that was all. "But no, I wouldn't."
"Why not? She was you dream girl."
"It's everything to do with me, nothing with her. I was lying to myself about how invested I was in her." Harry snorted. "Probably trying to have an excuse not to date someone else, the way Hermione sometimes urged me to do."
For the first time, Draco looked scandalized. "You haven't dated anyone else since her?"
"Then how can—how can you possibly be good enough for my father? If you've been isolating yourself all these years?"
Harry blinked, and struggled to contain it, but he felt the laughter bubbling up in him nonetheless. "Excuse me," he said. "Are you arguing that I'm not sexually experienced enough for your father?"
Draco promptly turned pink. "I didn't say those words."
"You implied them." Harry bowed his head and gave in to the chuckles for a second. He didn't want to do it too long. He did want to take his place in Lucius's life as smoothly as possible. But the scandalized look on Draco's face—as if it was so much worse to speak the words than to imply them—was too funny.
When he straightened back up, it was to see Draco eyeing him in resentment. "I could think of so many more people who would be better as his mate."
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, so could I."
"Then why stay with him?"
"You don't know much about what happens when someone tries to separate Veela from their mates, do you?"
Draco folded his arms. "If the mate does it himself—"
"The Veela dies. And the mate, if the bond has been sealed."
Draco stared at him, looking more than a little sick. "But how can you agree to this? My father is older than you. He could die before you do and deprive you of decades of life."
Harry thought about pointing out that he was an Auror and that might mean he would die long before Lucius, but this didn't seem like the right moment for it. Instead, he kept his voice as soothing as he could. "I'm agreeing to it because this is what happened. The bond is there, and I don't want to reject it and die, or cause Lucius to die. This isn't the way I pictured my life turning out, of course. But it's not the way your father pictured his life turning out, either. There's no reason to fuck everyone over for the sake of spite."
Draco sat back slowly, looking as if Harry had given him a huge lemon to suck on. "I know people who would."
Harry shrugged. "I'm not one of them."
"Funny. Until now, I would have said that you were."
"You never really knew me," Harry said mildly, and left it at that. Forgiving Lucius and talking to him in depth about their past was one thing. He didn't have to have that kind of relationship with Draco, and frankly, he thought it would make them both uncomfortable. If Draco could decide that Harry hadn't changed, despite Harry's years of work as an Auror and someone who helped magical creatures, a few words wouldn't dent that belief.
Draco sighed and stared over Harry's shoulder towards his parents. "They're really never going to get married again."
Harry blinked. Oh. Draco's words were a lot more understandable, when he thought of them as the words of someone trying to cope with his parents' divorce. Harry nodded. "I'm sorry."
"I knew Mother didn't love him for a while and wanted to leave him. I never expected Father to be the one who would make a choice that would…" Draco trailed him off.
Harry didn't need him to say anything else. They sat in a silence that was brittle but not uncomfortable until Narcissa gathered her robes around herself and nodded.
"We all have to live with the consequences of the choices we made," she said, and swept past Harry, turning a coldly-glittering blue eye on him. Harry sat there and let her do it. He didn't have many strong feelings for her. If she really had regretted leaving her husband and longed to come back to him, she would have done it before Lucius took the potion.
And he knew that she wasn't a threat to what he had with Lucius, any more than Ginny was.
Draco rose to sweep along behind his mother, giving Harry an unreadable look. Harry shrugged at him and turned to regard Lucius as the door shut behind the Malfoys.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes," Lucius said, and stared down at his hands for a moment, prompting Harry to get up and move over to sit beside him on the bed. "Narcissa said that I shouldn't have taken the potion."
"Well, I think the same way," Harry had to point out.
"Despite the fact that if I had not, we wouldn't be sitting here?"
Harry sighed and leaned on him. "I don't want to reject the bond, Lucius. But you still could have died. You could have chosen a different mate who either didn't reach you in time or who you decided not to accept. Or you could have had that allergic reaction like the inventor of the potion I told you about had. It's not inevitable that it would have worked out for the best."
Lucius's hand slowly stroked down his hair. Harry leaned harder against him. It was difficult to realize how much he'd missed this, simple human touch. Ron and Hermione would punch him on the shoulder and hug him whenever he wanted, of course, but that wasn't the same as having a lover.
"But you are committed to making it work out for the best now." Lucius's voice held a slight hint of uncertainty.
Harry pulled himself away, ignoring the tug in the center of his chest, and turned to face him. "Hit me with all the allure you have."
Lucius stared at him, but did it. Harry felt the edge of a cool breeze touch him, and that tickling sensation like feathers on his jaw. It made him laugh, but that was all.
Lucius leaned back and stared at him harder. "What was your reason for having me do that?"
"Because I wanted to show you that I am committed to having it work out for the best." Harry stretched out his hand, but didn't move it until Lucius took it. "Not seduced by your allure, not controlled by it into doing something I didn't want."
"But you wouldn't have chosen me. Not of your own free will, not perfectly unconstrained."
Harry rolled his eyes. "If that's your definition of a good choice, then we're both going to have to question most of the choices we ever made. Maybe I only chose Ginny because she was around me all the time and I'd known her for so long. Maybe I could only have a perfectly free choice if I'd fallen in love with a stranger. You only looked among pureblood women when you were looking for a wife. What if the love of your life was a Muggleborn? But that's not the way I think, Lucius."
"What do you think, then?" Lucius was blinking slowly at him, his eyes shimmering slightly silvery.
"I don't think there's only one right and perfect choice, only one way it could have gone," Harry said firmly. "I can't think that, not the way I've lived. I survived that bastard's attempts to kill me only with a tremendous amount of luck. I could have died at any point along the way—"
He yelped as Lucius abruptly grabbed him around the middle and tugged him close, letting his nose rest against Harry's hair. "What are you doing?" Harry managed to choke out as he got his hands braced against Lucius's shoulders.
"I don't like to think about you dying."
Lucius's voice was low and muffled, as if he was fighting against his own embarrassment. Harry kissed his earlobe, and Lucius shivered. Harry smiled. It was good to see that, transformed Veela and formerly feared Death Eater or not, Lucius still had those little human reactions.
"I know. But my point is, there was nothing inevitable about the fact that I survived. Nothing inevitable about the way I won the war. People planned and hoped and dreamed, but that didn't mean it was fated."
"There was the matter of you and a prophecy."
"And do you think anyone believed it would work out the way it did? That all the Horcruxes would be destroyed? That we'd find them in time, or even learn in time that they were what Vol—that bastard had used? Besides, that damn prophecy said nothing about me actually living even if I defeated him, or becoming an Auror, or falling in love with Ginny. Or falling in love with you, for that matter."
"So you are saying—"
"That it's not a matter of fate that we're here. It's a matter of chance, and luck, and you making a stupid decision, and me making a compassionate one." Lucius flinched, and Harry rolled his eyes. "Choosing to take care of transformed Veela and giving a shit about magical creatures, Lucius. Not pity making me accepting the bond with you."
He put his hands on either side of Lucius's face and looked into his eyes. "I make my decisions about what I can live with. And when push comes to shove, I chose to give up that idealized love I thought I had, and be with you."
"Because my allure cannot affect you at all."
Harry nodded. "I made a decision, and I want to live the life that's in front of me. Not mourn the one I don't have, forever."
Lucius eyed him for a moment. Then he said, "I said I wanted someone determined and strong of will."
"And I wanted someone bold," Harry said, laughing a little as Lucius's hand eased up his leg in response. "Not necessarily in that way."
Lucius pulled his hand back at once. He didn't seem upset, and the bond in the middle of Harry's chest didn't twang or pull the way he'd thought it would. It hadn't when they slept in separate beds last night, either.
"Bold enough to come with me and meet my adopted family."
Lucius's breath caught deep in his throat, and for a moment, he looked sick, pensive, caught on the edge of refusing. Harry waited. All he could do was ask.
Lucius finally met his eyes and said slowly, "If you think they would welcome me into their home, then I would be delighted to go with you."
Harry smiled. "I'll Floo them tonight and ask."
And that Lucius was ready to come out of seclusion this quickly meant that his possessiveness was no longer as fiercely aroused.
Other things can be more fiercely aroused, Harry thought, complacent, and accepted another kiss.
"I—of course, dear."
That was what Molly had said when they'd spoken through the fire two nights ago. But now she stood by, staring, with a face full of strain, as Harry escorted Lucius through the door of the Burrow.
Arthur was sitting on the other side of the table, and he nodded stiffly to Lucius, his face unsmiling. Ron and Hermione sat on either side of him, and Bill and Fleur on either side of them, with Victoire and baby Dominique playing on the floor. George hadn't come, and Harry could rather understand that.
But Percy was there, and he stepped forwards to shake Lucius's hand with the skill of a born politician. "Glad to welcome you to our home, Mr. Malfoy. Long thought this senseless feud could have been stopped. Practically no one even remembers how the Malfoys and Weasleys came to hate each other, anymore."
Lucius's glinting eye said he remembered, but he gave a little half-bow of his head to Percy and shook his hand back. "Thank you, Mr. Weasley. I appreciate your welcome, and that your family's hospitality could be extended to me despite all that lies between us."
Harry let his gaze wander to the faces of the other family members while Percy was speaking. Good old Percy, determined to smooth everything over because of the boost that Lucius might give to his career in the Ministry.
Molly had stopped twisting her apron between her hands and looked relaxed now. Ron's eyebrows were about to shoot off his face, if their current location was any sign, but Fleur seemed to be hiding a smile. Arthur and Bill both had their neutral faces on. Hermione regarded Harry with the approval of someone who was seeing all her cherished psychological theories come true.
And descending the stairs from the upper floor—
Harry swallowed air, and was glad that his voice sounded a little normal when it came out. "Hello, Ginny."
She looked nothing like the pictures of her in the Daily Prophet, was Harry's first thought. No, wait, it was more true that she looked nothing like the images in Harry's head. He had always remembered some beautiful goddess who had diminished the light in his life when she broke up with him.
She was still beautiful. But she was a human, who gave him a welcoming smile and held out her hand, and Harry took it.
He didn't think anyone else heard the growl that rattled out of Lucius's throat in response. It was nearly subvocal. Harry stepped back, let Ginny's hand drop, and stepped neatly on Lucius's foot.
He stopped growling and looked constipated, although since he was a Veela he of course did it in a beautiful way. But the moment that might have crashed to the floor and burned was saved when Fleur stood up and came forwards.
"You are a true Veela," she said to Lucius, surprise and the slightest of French accents tinging her voice. "I have met others, those transformed, and they do not let themselves grow into their heritage in such a way. But you have. You have embraced it. What is the cause?"
Other people were looking at Lucius with more interest now. Hermione asked the obvious question. "What do you mean? I thought people transformed by the potion were all true Veela, at least if they survived the transformation."
"There are different degrees of it." Fleur eyed Lucius as if measuring him on an invisible scale. At least Lucius had dropped the constipated expression, and merely looked bored now, although the bond in the middle of Harry's chest sang of nervousness. "They can go further along accepting the bond and accepting that they have changed, or they can rage against it and only accept a shallow version of the bond. Malfoy, he has gone deep."
"Well, with the chance to have Harry, why wouldn't he?" Ginny asked.
Again Lucius tried the subvocal growl, and again Harry introduced Lucius's foot to the bottom of his boot. "Thank you, Ginny," he said. "That's nice of you to say."
Ginny gave him a gentle smile. "It was never your fault, Harry."
That reminded him of their last conversation, the breakup conversation where she had told him that she'd fallen in love with Wallman.
It's not your fault. It's nothing you did. It's just that Ernest is Ernest, and he's the one I want to be with.
And suddenly, Harry thought he might know why Ginny was here. That he was bonded with Lucius argued that this was going to be a permanent commitment, at least for anyone who knew anything about the potion or the natures of Veela. Ginny no longer thought that he might be waiting to ambush her or lure her back into a relationship. He was safe now.
They could be friends again.
Harry smiled at her, and this time Lucius just laid a hand on his arm instead of growling. Harry leaned into his shoulder and said to more people than just Ginny, "Well, of course. I'm perfectly charming, and I am the Chosen One. Who wouldn't want to embrace the full depths of their Veela nature just to date me?"
"And bond with you," Lucius added. "Don't forget the bond."
"It's taking up too much of my attention for me to forget it." Harry tapped the center of his chest and watched Lucius's eyes soften and bleed human grey again.
"And you're happy, dear?"
Molly sounded anxious. Harry turned to her with another smile. He knew why she had agreed to welcome Lucius into her home, despite the horrible things he had done during the war, and to Ginny at that. Harry was important to her. His happiness was important to her. She had urged him to give up on Ginny because she thought his love and grief were making him unhappy, and only stopped when he said he didn't want to.
"Yes," Harry said, because it was true at the moment, standing in the home of his adopted family with his bonded lover, and he would work to make it true in the future. Relationships weren't a worship session between a mortal and a god, or a goddess. They needed that work. "I am."
"I'm glad that you finally saw the truth."
Harry rolled his eyes at Hermione and passed her yet another clean plate to put away. He was drying, Ron was washing, and Hermione was putting away in the kitchen, which both gave Molly a chance to rest after cooking the huge meal she had and gave Molly and Arthur the chance to talk with Lucius. It was going to be necessary, these conversations, no matter how stiff, if they stood a chance of building a lasting peace.
"Yes, yes, you were right about my projection and my dissociation and the other thing. Totally right."
"Different psychological terms, mate." Ron grinned at him as he ran an ancient plate that had several chips in the rim beneath the soapy water. "Projection is when you slather your emotions all over someone else, and dissociation is when you go mental quiet-like."
"Ron, that is not what they mean."
Ron stared at Hermione in a besotted way. Harry smiled. If I can be a tenth as happy with Lucius as they are together, I'll be happy for life.
And I think I can.
"Anyway," Hermione said, dragging the conversation back where she wanted it to go, "I'm glad that you saw pining after Ginny was no way to live your life."
"And you couldn't have been pining that much," Ron added, "if you could move on in a few days."
Ron saw to the heart of it, the way he did so many things. Harry held his eyes for a moment, and then nodded. "Exactly. I think I'd turned myself into this pining caricature in my head. That was what I did, pine for Ginny. It was a convenient reason to refuse dates and pretend I was a martyr."
"But you did love her." Hermione, soft and with a touch to his arm that nearly got in the way of Harry handing her a bowl.
"At one point," Harry said, and rubbed vigorously at the huge wet platter Ron had just handed him. "I did. But how easy is it to love someone when you never see them, never hear from them, just pant after the idealized image in your head?"
"Mate. She's my sister."
Harry grinned at him. "Consider it revenge for all the times I walked in on you and Hermione in the Gryffindor common room after the war."
Ron winced and whinged, but Hermione took over again, saying, "So what changed?"
"Someone who needed me for more than just a few hours, someone who could need me for life, asked me to reconsider," Harry said simply. "No one's really done that since the war, you know, except for you two, and you have each other. Lucius didn't have anyone who could do that for him. He and Narcissa got divorced months ago, and, well, I don't know exactly what his relationship with Draco is like now, but it's not so close that he could just depend on his son and never need anyone else."
"It's so like you to go from one committed passion to another." Hermione frowned at him. "I still worry that you won't be happy. Or that you had your will stolen by the allure."
Harry snorted. "Have I been acting like it?"
"No, but it could be subtle. Or a different kind of allure than any I ever heard of. Fleur said that not that many transformed Veela fully embrace their nature. Maybe there are unusual gifts that come along with it."
"Hermione, I love you, but you're wrong sometimes," Harry said gently. "I asked Lucius to hit me as hard as he could with the allure a few days ago, and nothing happened. Oh, I felt sensations like someone was tickling my throat with a wing, but that's it. I can resist allure. I think I can be happy."
"You don't know?"
"You knew that you would be happy with Ron every single minute of the day, every day of the week, every week of the year?"
"No, but that's different." Hermione nibbled her lip, then abruptly dropped the bowl she was holding on the corner and flung her arms around him. "Oh, Harry, I'm happy for you, but I'm just so worried."
"She's not the only one, either," Ron added. "I mean, I'd hug you, too, but I doubt you want water all down your robes."
Harry laughed and held the dripping platter away from Hermione so he could hug her with one arm. "I think it's not perfect. I think we'll probably fight a lot more than most Veela and their mates do, since a lot of them are people the Veela already knew or perfect strangers who don't have the kind of history Lucius and I do. But yes, I think I can be happy with someone who puts my happiness first and who needs me."
"Why would he?"
"Because he's a Veela, and that's what they do," Harry said softly. "I've helped a lot of them over the past few years, Hermione. I never wanted to succumb to the allure, but I did envy people for having someone who would put them first. That's something it took me a long time to admit to myself, sure, that I wanted to be taken care of sometimes. Not all the time. But that's the great thing about being someone who's not affected by the allure. I can defend Lucius and pamper him when I need to, and he can do the same for me."
Hermione sighed and finally pulled away from him, looking around for a second. Ron offered her a handkerchief, and Hermione gave a wet laugh and used it to wipe her face. "Thanks, Ron. Well. As long as you're sure, Harry."
"I'm sure. I want to see what happens."
"That sounds like you, too," Hermione muttered, in a voice without a lot of approval in it.
But she had clearly said what she felt she needed to say, and they went back to the dishes.
"I am sorry."
Harry paused. He had left the kitchen to find that both Lucius and Ginny were missing from the table, and, well, he was sure they wouldn't be in the same place. He had wanted to see if he could find a chance to talk to Ginny privately.
But it turned out that Lucius and Ginny were in the same place after all, on the narrow staircase. Harry stopped around the corner from them and wondered if he should say something to announce his presence.
Hearing the apology, though, he thought it would be best to let it play out. And, well, maybe he hadn't entirely conquered his addiction to sneaking around and trying to hear what people were saying.
"Sorry for what, exactly?" Ginny's voice was cool.
"For causing you to be possessed by a Horcrux of the Dark Lord."
Harry nearly choked. He hadn't expected Lucius to be that direct. He could feel, from the stunned silence that hung around them for a minute, that Ginny hadn't, either.
Then she said, "Apology not accepted," and proceeded up the staircase. Harry heard the sharp click of her shoes retreating, and the almost inaudible sigh that Lucius gave.
Harry stepped around the corner and embraced him.
Lucius turned to him with no surprise, which in turn was no surprise to Harry. The bond would have announced that Harry was there. "You are not upset that she didn't accept the apology?" he murmured into Harry's brow. For a moment, his lips passed over Harry's scar.
Harry shook his head. "She has to make her own decisions, and for me, it's enough that she accepted your presence here without fuss. That's all we can ask. For her first time being in the same room with me in five years, this didn't go too badly."
"That is true," Lucius said, while the bond thrummed between them. "Perhaps she cares more about your happiness than whether or not I apologize."
He sounded as if that was a foreign concept to him. Harry grinned up at him. "Can I give you something?"
"Of course, but why—"
Harry tugged Lucius sharply towards the back door of the Burrow that gave out on the garden, and Lucius went with him, almost stumbling. As they came out the door into the cool grey day, he was alert, shifting as though his wings were about to burst through his shoulder blades any moment. He seemed to assume Harry had sensed a threat.
Harry tugged him behind a tree that meant they would be out of sight from any casual glances through the windows—something he and Ginny had discovered not long after the war—and then kissed Lucius, deeply and passionately.
Lucius finally seemed to grasp what Harry had meant when he said he wanted to give him something, and melted against him with a soft croon. The warmth that crept over Harry was wonderful, but not seducing. He had never felt clearer-headed than when he reached down and unbuttoned the ice-blue robes Lucius had chosen to wear today.
Once he had Lucius's cock in hand, long and smooth and itself warm, Lucius groaned, and his head went back, and the croon ceased. He looked entirely human as Harry began to stroke him.
Harry let his eyes wander over Lucius's pale face as he did. Tight lines around the eyes and mouth as Lucius panted, his lips slightly parted. Handsome, but not supernaturally so. A face that could be kind or cruel, depending on what its owner said and thought and did.
Like the rest of us.
Harry pressed closer to Lucius, no longer able to ignore the swelling in his own groin, and Lucius abruptly lifted a thigh and began to move it exactly right without ever opening his eyes. Harry's own surprised gasp mingled with the groans Lucius was still uttering, and he thought he saw a glint of smug silver under the lowered lids.
Maybe not everything is exactly like the rest of us.
Harry had to twist his hand a little further than before to work it into place and stroke Lucius, and Lucius altered the pace and the height of his rubbing thigh without faltering. Harry breathed hard, jabbed his other hand down as he shuddered, and managed to cup Lucius's bollocks just as his own pleasure overcame him.
He had forgotten what it was like to do this with someone else, to have heat pressing back against him and the sharp shocks of someone else's climax shaking his body. And he had never done it with a man.
For the first time, this was pretty damn good, sudden and unplanned as it had been.
His own hand wet, Harry opened his eyes and found Lucius watching him again. His face was bright and fond, and full of wonder.
"You are generous simply because you can be," Lucius breathed. "Kind because you can be."
"Yeah, well, I am the Chosen One." Harry pasted a pompous expression on his face. "What would I be without those traits?"
"I can't remember the last time I acted that way," Lucius said abruptly. "Or interacted with someone who was that way. But I think I'd like to, from now on." He reached up and cupped Harry's chin, holding it still, letting their eyes meet. "I would like to try many new things, from now on."
The bond in the middle of Harry's chest practically purred.
Harry smiled back at him. "So would I."
And if his life wasn't the same as it had been even a week ago, well, neither was Lucius's. At least they were both the same degree of wrongfooted, if one wanted to see it that way.
One doesn't have to see it that way, Harry concluded, and leaned in to kiss Lucius.
"Harry!" Ron yelled from the Burrow. "I have my eyes closed, and I'm going to count to twenty! By then, you had better be cleaned up and back in the house for some more stilted conversation, or I am not going to be the one to defend you!"
Harry stole a quick kiss anyway, over the sound of Ron's loud but slow counting, and cast a Cleaning Charm as Lucius did up his robes. "Thank you for coming with me," he whispered.
Lucius looked at him, steady and unblinking. "Thank you for coming into my life."
Harry was smiling as he came around the tree, and if Lucius caught his arm and turned their walk back to the Burrow into something stately and like a parade—
If he was on the edge of preening, the edge of strutting like a peacock with its tail spread—
Harry didn't think either of them needed defending.