Aaaaahhhh! THIS IS THE LAST CHAPTER. *sheds tears* I'm not sure I'm ready to let go so soon, but I have striven, with this final chapter, to do my upmost to reward you faithful and encouraging and lovely reviewers who have made this such a successful story and such a rewarding journey. You are all close to my heart. Thank you so much, and above all, enjoy.
"You never find yourself
Until you face the truth."
I hesitated just inside the door of the Gryffindor common room. I stood in the shadows—nobody inside knew I had come in yet. I heard several voices I recognized. I peeked my head forward and glanced inside.
All the chairs and couches had been circled around the golden glowing fireplace—the only source of light in the plush red room. Harry and Ron sat in chairs facing each other, with a little table in between. They hunched over a game of wizard's chess. On the couch, closest to Harry, Ginny slept, her head pillowed on her arm, a blanket draped over her. Next to her, I caught sight of Tonks' shock of lately-purplish hair—she sat sideways on the couch, leaning back on the armrest. She held her sleeping baby in her arms, and she stared off, her expression listless. I was absently glad that the castle's laxened magic had let her in, even though she was a Hufflepuff.
On the other side of Ron, Fred and George Weasley poured over a list of new ideas for their shop, while Percy frowned at them and told them that they would bring the future generations of Hogwarts to ruin.
But then Fred caught sight of me. He smiled.
"Why, hello Hermione."
Everybody glanced my direction.
"The folks went down to get some food," George said.
"Told us you might go along with them if you wanted," Fred added.
"But only if you bring us back some butterbeer," George lifted a finger.
"Don't boss her around," Tonks said, still staring out in front of her. Then, she glanced at me, and gave me a small smile. "How are you feeling, dear?"
"Better, thanks," I answered honestly—for though she didn't know the reason for my melancholy of late, she had noticed it, and realized that we were feeling the same. She didn't bother me with questions, and often came to my rescue when I was pressed too hard by others who didn't understand.
"Where did you go?" Ron asked, sitting up from the game. Harry twisted in his chair to look at me.
"We were sure Peeves had eaten you," Harry said.
"Can I…" I started, my heart suddenly hammering. "Can I talk to you two? Alone?"
Fred and George smirked at each other, Tonks gave them a glare, but Ron and Harry's faces changed. They both nodded.
"Sure," Harry said, getting up. "Come up to the room."
I gulped hard, my legs going weak, but I stepped all the way in, then followed Ron and Harry up the steps into the boys' bedroom. When the door was shut behind us, they turned to face me. Ron sat down on the end of his bed, and Harry stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Okay," Harry said, watching me. "Shoot."
"Well…" I took a deep breath, glancing back and forth between them. "Do you…Do you remember the day that I chased after Malfoy, when we thought he'd been the one to curse Katie Bell, and I told you I hadn't learned anything important from him?"
They both frowned, but nodded.
"I…" I took another deep breath. "I sort of…left a bit out."
I told them everything. I hadn't planned on that. I hadn't planned on telling everything—but one event led to the next, and I found myself spilling details that I had once hoped to keep completely to myself for the rest of time. But I should have known better. This was Harry and Ron I was talking to, after all.
However, when I got to the part after we had left Dumbledore's office with his command that Draco and I couldn't speak to each other anymore, my voice trailed off, and I stared into the wide eyes of my two friends.
"What?" I whispered, suddenly blushing.
"I just want to be sure I've got this right," Ron held up a hand. "You snogged Malfoy?"
"I did not snog him!" I suddenly roared, my fists clenching. "That's a disgusting expression! I kissed him." My eyes flew to Harry's. My voice shook. "I kissed him. And I would do it again, because I…" I gulped hard. It hurt. "Because I'm in love with him." I swiped at my eyes. The boys just stared at me. Ron openly gaped—but Harry considered me deeply, his arms crossed.
"I wondered why he was acting so strangely when I saw him in the Shrieking Shack," he murmured. He glanced at Ron. "Hermione'd got a hold of him."
"Apparently," Ron snorted. Then he rolled his eyes and put his hands to his head. "This whole world's gone completely mental."
"Well, it explains why Hermione went mental," Harry said to him. "Going off on her own, crying, biting our heads off about nothing..."
"Yeah," Ron sighed. "Explains a lot."
I stood there, my hands clamped together, as the two of them fell into thoughtful silence. I held my breath, disbelief creeping over me. I had expected their reactions to be more violent, more horrified…
"You're…" I ventured. "You're taking it rather well."
They looked at me.
"Well, 'Mione," Ron began. "If you'd started with the snog—kissing—part," he amended. "I'd have just held you down and waited for the Polyjuice potion to wear off. But after hearing that whole thing," he gestured aimlessly, then sighed, and looked at me frankly. "I dunno—Malfoy sounds like he's a different bloke."
"Dumbledore dying like that was a setup," Harry breathed, his gaze distant. "To keep Draco from becoming a murderer and Snape from dying from the unbreakable vow."
"What has he been doing since?" Harry asked. I shrugged painfully.
"And what the blazes was he doing when Bellatrix Lestrange was cutting your arm open?" Ron suddenly burst out. My hand flew to my forearm.
"He was using his brain," I shot back. "If he'd tried to help me, all the Death Eaters would have turned on him, and they probably would have killed me." I calmed myself. "As it was, I didn't get killed, and we managed to escape."
"Not all of us," Harry whispered.
"Most of us," I forced out. "Which is better than none."
"Where was he during the fighting?" Ron asked. I glanced back at the door, then lowered my voice.
"Trying to rescue Lupin."
Ron shot to his feet. Harry stepped toward me.
"What do you mean?" Harry demanded.
"The portraits in the hall," I clarified. "They said they saw him break through an upper window during the battle, dragging Lupin, who'd been injured. They accidentally fell into the Room of Requirement, where I assume they followed the passage down to the Hog's Head. That's why you saw him at the Shrieking Shack, Harry."
"Why didn't you tell Tonks that?" Harry demanded.
"Because I don't want to get her hopes up," I hissed. "Not if…I mean, it's possible Remus didn't…" I couldn't finish. Harry lost some of his color.
"This…is a lot to digest," Ron muttered, sitting back down.
"I know," I moaned. "I know, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but if I had—"
"You're right," Harry said, sitting on his own bed. "We would have wigged out."
"Now we're just too tired to wig out," Ron chuckled. "We'll do that later."
"I know," I whispered, my heart sinking. Harry's head came up.
"Wait—does that really bother you?"
"What? Of course it does!" I cried. "I can't have my two best friends vomiting because of or hexing someone I've attached myself to! That would be completely and totally intolerable!"
"Wait. You would break it off with him if we were unhappy with it, therefore making yourself miserable?" Ron frowned at me. I said nothing, swallowing.
"Blimey, Hermione," Ron stood up again. "That's just totally ridiculous."
"But," Harry added bluntly. "If he ever hurt your feelings—we'd be glad to kill him for you."
I chuckled a little brokenly, and my smile remained. Then, surprising him, I stepped to Harry and wrapped my arms around him.
"Thank you," I said, let go of him, threw my arms around Ron's waist and buried my face in his broad chest. "Thank you. You have no idea how awful I've felt about keeping that from you."
"I would have kept it from us too," Ron snorted, but when I looked up at him, he was smiling crookedly.
"So…that also explains why you traipsed through the castle with the Malfoys looking for him," Harry remembered. I nodded, backing up and wrapping my arms around myself.
"But now nobody has any idea where he is," Ron finished. I took a deep breath, and glanced at the ground.
"I wouldn't give up just yet," Harry advised. I met his eyes. He gave me a half smile.
"One thing I've always known about Malfoy," he said. "Just when you think he's gone, he shows up."
"Thanks, Harry," I managed—and unsuccessfully tried to banish that sinking feeling in my heart.
You'll remember me
When the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun
In his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold…
So she took her love
For to gaze a while
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold…
One week later…
At last, we left Hogwarts. It had been restored to some semblance of order, and my parents wanted to see me. I still felt incredibly—irritatingly—needy, so I suggested that they come to the Burrow. Harry and Tonks and Teddy came as well, which almost filled out my contentedness. We spent our evenings in the parlor, playing games, as I sat in my mother's arms and breathed in her soft floral scent. Every evening, my gaze would drift from face to face, studying each of them as the soft glow of the crackling fireplace played across the little group I loved so well. My father and Mr. Weasley often sat together, discussing Muggle technologies—Mr. Weasley was especially fascinated by cars, and my father's dental equipment. Tonks would sit in the rocking chair that Mrs. Weasley had rocked all her children in, softly cooing to Teddy and watching the flames, and talking about Remus with Molly. Fred, George, Ron and Percy constantly discussed—or argued over—plans for the expansion of the joke shop. Harry and Ginny kept quiet company together, sharing many subtle glances and smiles.
I loved them all, so much. And that love just ached inside me like a loss when I realized that I only lacked two things in all the world to make me totally happy.
During the days, when we were not eating or playing or listening to the radio for any announcements concerning Remus, I sometimes walked alone through the tall fields of waving grass around the Burrow. Portions of it, near the front of the house, were too tall and itchy to be enjoyable. But out back, the golden grass only came up to my waist at its highest, and I could traipse aimlessly through it, running my hands over the tops of the stalks, gazing at the tall row of gnarled trees beyond, and hurting so badly I could barely breathe. It was during those walks I was especially grateful for my perceptive mother, who would come out and hold my hand and stroll with me, and ask me all about very diverting things like how the moving staircases worked, and what exactly the rules were for Quidditch.
Everyone knew about me and Draco. I'm not sure how it had traveled—probably from Harry to Ginny, then Ginny to her mother, from her mother to her father and Tonks, then to Percy, then to Fred and George. But I could at least be thankful that nobody talked about it. That seemed to be understood. After the war—and especially with the presence of Tonks, who knew full well about loving someone she oughtn't—people were not so apt to joke or poke fun at people who loved each other. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had even expressed a moment of sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy, wondering quietly how they themselves would cope if they lost a son.
Every day, I paused a moment out in that field and gazed up at the blue sky, praying, feeding my hope. And every night I lay awake, trying not to rouse anyone else with the sound of my sobs.
One Saturday afternoon, Mum, Dad and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were gone—Mum had taken Mrs. Weasley to our house for a visit, and Dad and Mr. Weasley had gone to a car show. The boys and Ginny were all in the upper reaches of the house, fiddling with what had looked like a Muggle television set and antennae.
Tonks, Teddy and I sat in the parlor, the windows open, the late afternoon sun and warm breeze blowing in across us, ruffling the curtains. I could smell the scent of sun-drenched grass and blooming heather. I lay my head back against the couch and gazed at Tonks—lovely Tonks—as she cradled her baby and let him curl his little fingers around her long, slender forefinger. Tonks glanced up at me.
"You okay honey?" she asked. An ache rose in my chest.
"Are you?" I whispered. Her eyes flickered, and her jaw tightened.
"I'm not giving up," she said. "And that's enough for now."
She held my gaze until I nodded, then she glanced down at her child and smiled at him. We sat in silence, listening to Teddy gurgle and giggle. I tried to smile.
A great flapping sounded at the window. I sat up straight and twisted.
A huge black owl stood on the sill. His golden eyes found mine and fixed on me. He ruffled his feathers, then spat out a brown paper parcel.
My eyes flew to Tonks. She had stiffened like a ramrod.
"Go get it!" she cried. I leaped off the couch, hit the floor and grabbed the parcel. The owl hooted in irritation, dancing sideways. I ignored it. I snatched up the parcel—it was a thick envelope. I heard Tonks come up behind me, juggling the baby.
"What is it?" she demanded. I stood there for a moment, then broke the nondescript seal—
And a black knight chess piece, and a single head of grain tumbled out into my hands.
"Oh, Tonks!" I gasped, tears springing to my eyes.
"There's a note!" she realized. "What does it say?"
My hands shook so badly I could hardly get the paper out. But when I pulled it loose, I knew the handwriting as well as my own. It bore two words.
I whirled around, hurdled over a short chair, skidded around a corner and threw open the front door. I heard Tonks race after me, Teddy making "ugh,ugh,ugh," sounds with every step.
I dashed outside, the black chess piece gripped in one hand, the head of grain in the other. My eyes searched the reaches of the field. I saw nothing. I flew around to the back, looking, looking—
I jerked to a stop.
There, out in the rippling field, near a very tall, twisted tree, stood a young man in dark trousers and a loose white shirt. He leaned against the trunk, hands in his pockets. His pale face turned toward me. The wind tossed his feathery white hair. He froze.
I broke into a run.
I crashed through the tall grass, the sun in my face, my heart pounding until it threatened to break out of my chest.
He started striding toward me. I saw his face.
Angular, handsome, eyes as brilliant as the sky, and a mouth half curved upward in an expectant smile. A deep scar marked his left cheek—but that was the only difference I saw. I couldn't even summon the breath to call his name.
And then he was in front of me. Right there, an arm's length away. I slowed down. I stopped, my chest heaving.
We stood—Draco Malfoy and I—face to face, breathless, saying nothing. I pressed the black knight to my heart.
Then, he reached out with both hands, and gently took my left hand. I shivered, gasping, and watched him draw my arm towards himself. He held onto my hand with his left, and with his right—with softest fingers—he rolled up my sleeve, pushed it up to my elbow…
To reveal the wicked scar Bellatrix had left on the tender skin.
Tears tumbled from my eyes.
Draco ran his fingertips across the scar. Thrills ran up my arm. And then he bent, and pressed his warm lips against the scar.
The moment froze in time.
My heart surged to bursting.
He lifted his face. His crystal eyes met mine.
And I took his dear head in my hands, leaned forward and captured his mouth with mine.
He threw his arms around me, crushing me to his chest. I ran my hands through his hair, then encircled his neck. I kissed him over and over, memorizing his lips, withdrawing only to press back in. He returned it, hungrily, desperately. I tasted mingled tears, and joy pierced me straight through.
His mouth gentled on mine. And the last kiss he gave me was so sweet, like a feather dipped in honey…
He backed up, just a fraction, and looked me in the eyes. I held my breath.
"I am in love with you, Hermione Granger," he whispered.
"I'm in love with you, too," I answered, laughing, more tears falling. He quickly caught my face in his hands and wiped my tears away with his thumbs.
"Stop crying. Really," he urged me, grinning, even though he was crying as well. "You'll force me to kiss you again."
I chuckled, tears running down, and he leaned in and caught my lips deeply and passionately, stroking my cheekbones with his thumbs, sending my heart straight into the sky. Then, he just wrapped me up in his strong arms and buried his face in my neck, and I held him so, so tight…
I felt his head lift. He looked at something behind me. I turned to see.
Tonks stood there, holding her baby, staring at Draco with wide eyes. She wasn't breathing. Draco swallowed and straightened.
"Tonks," I managed. "You…You know Draco Malfoy?"
Tonks gave a short, absent nod—her eyes were fixed on his face. Draco's lips parted.
"I think I have something that belongs to you, Nymphadora."
Tonks opened her mouth to object—
Draco turned back toward the tree, and I looked there too—
And a tall form stepped out from the shade. A tall, scarred form with light brown hair and a mustache. The wind caught his ragged clothes and hair, and the sun lit up his smile.
"Remus!" Tonks cried, and ran to him with all her force. They met in the middle and threw their arms around each other, kissing and kissing, and laughing, and Remus picked her and his baby up and twirled them around. I couldn't control my tears—they just poured down my face and I swiped them away, and leaned my head against Draco's chest.
Movement caught the corner of my eye. I turned—
Harry, Ginny, Fred, George and Percy stood at the edge of the mown lawn behind the house, staring. And then Harry saw what was happening.
"Remus! Remus!" he shouted, in a voice that broke my heart, and pelted through the grass toward us. Ron followed on his heels, and then the rest of the group came after. I let out a watery laugh, and Draco wrapped his arm around me and kissed the top of my head.
Remus put Tonks and Teddy down to catch Harry, who leaped into his arms.
"Oh, Harry—Harry, my boy," Remus gasped. "You did it! You did it—I'm so very proud of you!"
"You're all right!" Harry crowed, backing up and taking Remus by the shoulders. "What happened to you?"
"Draco saved me," Remus gestured to the tall young man I held in my arms, and gave him a brilliant look full of affection. "Antonin Dolohov was going in for the kill—clipped me with a fine rendition of sectumsempra, but Draco got to me in time and hauled me up through a Hogwarts window."
Remus was now speaking to Draco directly, and everyone else was gazing at him. I lifted my eyes to his face, and then couldn't look away.
"We fell into the Room of Requirement," Remus went on. "Which took us all the way down to the Hog's Head. Draco had been hoping to find Professor Snape, who could reverse the spell, but Snape was dead by that time." Remus reached out and wrapped his arm around his wife. "And so, brilliant boy, he apparated us to Snape's house, quickly found the countercurse written in one of Snape's diaries, and saved my life." He gazed steadily back at Draco. "And he's stayed with me ever since, nursing me back to health, until I was strong enough to stand, and come back to you all in one piece."
"Is that how you got that scar?" Fred asked Draco. Draco stiffened against me for a moment, and he swallowed.
"Yes," he said.
Tonks, her eyes overflowing, stepped away from her husband, slid an arm up around Draco's neck and pressed a kiss against that scar on his cheek. When she withdrew, Draco gazed at her in open wonder.
"Thank you, sweetheart," Tonks said, placing her hand on his face for a moment. "Thank you."
Draco's gaze suddenly flicked to something past her, and he hurriedly swiped the tears from his face. Tonks, sensing someone behind her, turned and got out of the way.
Harry stood there, watching Draco's face. Draco let go of me. For a moment, neither said anything. Then Draco gave a half smile.
"It's true, then. What they've been saying all over England," he said. "Harry Potter lives. And you, Weasley," Draco lifted his eyes to Ron, who stood just behind Harry. "I've heard that every horcrux on earth is terrified of you. Well done." He paused a moment, then drew himself up, a flicker of nervousness crossing his frame. He held out his hand to Harry. "I'm Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
Harry gazed at him a moment, glanced at me, then took Draco's hand and shook it firmly.
"Good to see you again."
"If that's not a strange sight," Fred and George chorused, sniggering.
"Get used to it," Ron shot back. I grinned.
The next moment, I heard a rumbling sound near the house.
"Oh dear, they bought one," Ginny muttered. I turned to see Mr. Weasley and my dad drive up in a red antique car. I reached down and took hold of Draco's hand, entwined our fingers, and lifted my eyes to his.
"Come with me," I urged, smiling. "There's somebody I want you to meet."
(dedicated to Miss Elizabeth12)
"I fought against my better judgment,
My family's expectations,
The inferiority of your birth,
My rank and circumstance,
All of these things—
But I am willing to put them aside and ask you to end my agony.
I love you.
Please do me the honor of accepting my hand."
-Mr. Darcy, to Elizabeth
I tucked my feet underneath myself and nestled closer to my husband on the black leather couch. I glanced up at his pale profile and stroked his white hair from his temple to behind his ear. I glanced down at the three-year-old boy in his arms.
"You think he's getting sleepy?" I asked, resting my chin on Draco's shoulder.
"I think he'd be quite content to fall asleep right there," Tonks said from across the room. I smiled. Little Teddy certainly did look comfortable. He was lying back against Draco's black-clad chest, and Draco's arms wrapped around him, creating a soft nest on Draco's lap. The little boy blinked slowly, and absently rubbed his little thumb up and down Draco's thumbnail. Draco set his chin on top of Teddy's curly head.
"That would be fine by me," Draco murmured. I had to resist the sudden urge to kiss him on the lips right then. Instead, I just nuzzled closer to him, reveling in his warmth. I felt Tonks smirk as she leaned back in her chair and took another sip of wine. She sat across from us, to the left of the towering, sparkling Christmas tree. On the other side of the tree stood the great stone fireplace, full of dancing gold flame. Ron sat on a footstool in front of the fire, next to Draco, facing us and warming his back. Harry and Ginny shared a loveseat off to my left. Ginny wound a piece of red and green ribbon around her fingers, and Harry sat forward, his elbows on his knees, his spectacles glittering in the firelight. All of us wore our dress clothes—we had recently come back from church—my green dress was made of fleece, Harry and Ron wore trousers and comfortable sweaters, and Ginny and Tonks wore stunning gowns of velvet, and Draco his customary black suit.
"So," Tonks canted her head at me. "How has your first Christmas been in this house?"
"I like it," I grinned. "I have never had so much fun decorating in my whole life."
"What does that mean?" I demanded, poking his ribs.
"Nothing, nothing," he stifled his smile. Harry caught his expression and gave a rueful smile.
"I know what you mean, Draco," he said. "Hermione can get carried away sometimes."
"I think the house looks brilliant," Ron spoke up.
"It's beautiful, Hermione," Tonks added. "And I would love to sit up and look at this lovely tree some more, but I have to get Teddy to bed—and Remus will wonder were I've got to." Tonks got up, set her wine on the mantle, stepped across and held out her arms. Draco shifted, straightening and grunting a bit, then lifted Teddy up by his underarms. Teddy made an unpleasant face.
"Noooooo…" the three-year-old whined.
"Shush, shush," Tonks soothed, taking him up and setting the drowsy kid against her shoulder. Then, she leaned forward and kissed Draco on the forehead. "Happy Christmas, cousin."
"Happy Christmas, Nymphadora. I love you," Draco answered.
"Love you too. All of you," Tonks said as she stepped around the couch, not saying a word to Draco about disliking her first name—in fact, she never had. Then, she winked at us. "Oh, and feel free to be noisy—I think you would have to set off a cannon for us to hear you from where our room is."
We all chuckled, and chorused "good night" and "happy Christmas" as we watched her go. Then, as the door shut behind her, I turned to Harry and Ron.
"All right, you two—what is it that's had you bursting your skins half the day?"
"No kidding," Ginny prompted.
"Nothing," Ron said, gesturing to Harry. "Just this."
And Harry held out a small, square box wrapped in silver to Draco.
"Where did you hide that?" I demanded. "I thought we'd opened all the presents!"
"We're far too clever for you, Hermione—just know that," Ron answered cheekily. Draco was staring at the package, then he glanced at the other two men.
"What is it?" he asked, leaning forward and taking it from Harry.
"That's the point of the wrapping paper," Harry joked. I frowned and sat closer, watching as Draco undid the ribbon, tore off the paper, and held the small box in his palm.
"It's rather heavy," he noted. And then he lifted the lid.
"We had to bribe Madam Hooch with our firstborn children," Harry explained. "And then we had to dig through miles of dusty, old equipment in the castle basement, but we finally found it."
"At least," Ron winced. "We hope we did."
Draco reached inside the box, and drew out the perfect orb of a golden snitch. We all held our breath. And then—
The little wings burst from the sides and began to flutter. Draco let go of it. It hovered in front of his face.
Harry and Ron cheered, and struck hands. The slap rang through the room. I covered my mouth with my hand.
"It's…It's your snitch!" I cried. Draco gazed at it for a long moment, speechless. Then, finally, he tore his eyes from it and glanced at Harry.
"I hope you know," he said. "That the two of you have just earned yourselves box tickets to the Quidditch World Cup."
Harry and Ron instantly went silent. Ginny's mouth fell open.
"Huh?" Ron choked.
"I bought three tickets already—and Hermione dropped a line to Viktor Krum, so the three of us can meet the teams beforehand." He paused. "That is, if you would like to come with me."
My two friends just sat there, flabbergasted.
Then, slowly, Harry grinned.
"Are you balmy?" Ron yelped. "Of course we'll come with you!"
Draco got to his feet, and Harry and Ron jumped up as well, smiling brilliantly and laughing. Draco stuck out his hand to Ron, who shook it.
"Thank you for the present, gentlemen—really," Draco said, glancing back at the snitch. He then shook Harry's hand, giving him a sincere and earnest look. "I can't believe you found it."
"I thought you might like it," Harry said, gripping Draco's fingers. "Dumbledore gave me mine—I enjoy it. Helps me not feel so homesick for school."
"Who's playing in the Cup this time?" Ron asked Harry as they sat back down.
"Not the Cannons," Harry shot back.
"Stick it in your ear," Ron retorted. Draco, chuckling, sat back down next to me and wrapped his arm around me. I lay my head against him. He picked something up, then held a small red box under my nose. I lifted my face, my brow furrowing.
"What is this with late Christmas presents?" I wanted to know. His eyes just twinkled. So I took the box from him, untied the ribbon and peeled off the wrapping paper, listening to Harry, Ron and Ginny's disagreement in the background. But I forgot all about it after I lifted the lid.
"Oh…my…" I breathed. Carefully, I reached inside and pulled out a diamond-studded hair barrette—one exactly like the one Draco had given me so long ago in the willow room. My eyes flew to his. "Is…Is this—"
"My grandmother's? Yes," he finished. "And it was my mother's. I asked her about it—but it was actually her idea to give it to you."
My eyes went wide.
"Really?" I looked at him sideways. "They won't come to Christmas, but she gives me a present?"
"Hey," Draco smiled crookedly and lifted an eyebrow. "We are overcoming centuries of Malfoy snobbishness, here. This is a grand step in the right direction." His voice lowered, and he gave me a pointed look. "You can't expect everything to change in the course of an hour."
I blinked, and I couldn't look away from him.
"Do you like it?" he asked me.
"It's beautiful," I murmured, but suddenly my eyes drifted down to his soft mouth.
"Good," he said wolfishly, advancing on me until his lips brushed mine. "Because I'm not giving it back."
I started to giggle, but he cut me off when he closed the distance and pressed a kiss so deep that I swooned and lost my balance. For just an instant, I blushed in embarrassment—but my foggy senses detected Harry, Ron and Ginny still arguing about the Chudley Cannons—so I ran my fingers through my husband's feathery hair, draped my arms around his shoulders, tilted my head, closed my eyes and answered the kiss.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Author's note, added August 17, 2016: Dear friends, you have encouraged and uplifted me so much. Because of all your encouragement, I have become an author! You can find my work on Amazon—just type in my name, and you'll find everything I've written. And I am certain you will find something you enjoy, because my original works bloom with all the things you love about THIS story: romance, magic, adventure, fantastic locations, terrible villains, nail-biting tension and of course, happy endings. Come on another adventure with me. I'd love to have you along!