Chapter 22 : Epilogue
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Amadeus stood by the door of the Headmistress' office, watching Lucius Malfoy across the room, curious about how the man would react. His only son had just announced that he would marry a Muggle girl and end their family's pureblood line. They were perhaps young, but they were stubborn, too, and knew what they wanted. The war made things very simple. They had no such luxury as a certain tomorrow.
Lucius seemed calm on the surface, but Amadeus could feel the cold fury emanating from him. He could understand now why he had felt some kind of a connection with the Malfoy boy. He remembered the father he had once had, and the same cruel white rage he now sensed in Lucius Malfoy. The reasons were perhaps different, but the result was the same. There could never be peace in this family.
"I will not accept this," Lucius said, staring down at his son. "I will not tolerate your refusal to accept your responsibilities."
"It doesn't matter if you accept it or not," Draco spat out, hands clenched into fists at his sides.
Dumbledore quickly stepped in between Lucius and Draco, facing the older Malfoy. "They are old enough to choose for themselves. It was kind of them to inform us about their plans. That is all."
Lucius glared at the old wizard, arms crossed. "My son is my concern."
"Now I'm your son?" Draco mocked, stepping to the side, ignoring Dumbledore completely. "The only reason I'm even sharing this information with you is that I don't give a damn about your opinion. This is what I want, and that's why you should know. Just keep your archaic ideas to yourself. I don't care."
"Yes, you do," Lucius snarled, grabbing Draco's arm, hauling him forward violently.
Draco pushed him away with equal violence. "You gave up your right to interfere with my life! I don't want your opinion. You're not my father anymore."
Hermione moved to Draco's side, touching his shoulder softly, managing to calm him a little. "It's okay," she whispered. She leaned to his side, dark eyes fixed on Lucius. She had been expecting this, but still it felt dreadful to see it with her own eyes. Her own mother had hugged them and even her father had shaken Draco's hand, grudgingly perhaps but still.
"Is she pregnant?" Lucius asked suddenly, appalling everyone in the room. "I told you it is all right to use them. Why do you want to tie yourself to Muggle trash?"
Harry took hold of Draco's arms before he could attack his father, pulling him back, saying quietly, "He's not worth it." Draco fought against his hold, but Harry wouldn't let go. They were not there to fight.
Amadeus smiled because he had pretty good idea what was going on; why they had been informed about their plans to marry. "I could do it," he said to no one in particular.
Do what? Ron mouthed to the others, but Hermione beamed at Amadeus.
"Oh, I knew you would say that," she said happily, taking a few steps towards Amadeus and then turning around to watch Lucius again, unsure of what the man would do, but wanting to concentrate on happier matters.
Lucius moved forward, grabbing the front of Draco's robes. "Don't do this," he pleaded. "You have no idea what you're throwing away. You owe this to the wizarding kind. You owe this to our family."
To everyone's surprise, Draco pulled free of Harry's firm grip and charged at his father so fast nobody could do a thing to stop him. He pushed the older man against the wall, hands around his throat. "No! You have no idea what I'm gaining. You have no idea what this means to me. You have no idea about anything that has any value at all." He let go, turning his back on his father, the anger leaving him fast now that he had said what he had wanted and needed to say for so long.
Beside the wall, infront of the paintings of old Headmasters Lucius stood quietly, staring at his son with open malice. Then he straightened his robes in a ferocious manner and walked away, banging the door closed behind him.
"Can you wed us now?" Draco asked Amadeus, taking Hermione's hand, ignoring the pang of hurt that gripped his heart briefly. "Gregory and Vincent will be our witnesses. Harry is... He's my best man."
Ron looked furious, but he didn't say a thing. He had to accept the fact that he couldn't change the path Hermione's heart had chosen. This was her decision, and he would support her. One day, he might even like the blond bastard.
"Ron..." Draco turned to look at the redhead, "can be Hermione's maid of honour."
"Draco..." Hermione said, shocked. She was trying not to smile, though. "Don't."
"Well, my dressrobes make me kind of look like an old-fashioned lady," Ron said, smirking, a look in his eyes that promised years of torment. Draco was a part of their little group now. He would suffer for it.
"Where are Crabbe and Goyle, by the way?" Harry asked Draco.
"Preparing everything for the after-party, I guess. I don't really want to know. I'm afraid it's going to be terrible."
"Drinks?" Harry whispered so only Draco could hear him.
"You haven't been to Slytherin parties before. It's going to kill you in the morning."
Harry smiled. "I can handle my liquor."
"Not this kind," Draco said, grinning back at his friend.
They had been astonished by how well Harry and Ron had taken the news. Hermione was even a bit disappointed how unsurprised they had been. Had it been so clear all along that she would marry Draco Bellator Malfoy one day? It made her happy, though, that she could finally be herself around Draco, that she had the right to touch him, to talk to him about anything, to include him in any plans she might have. He was a part of her life; they were together in this now.
Dumbledore coughed, drawing everyone's attention to him. "We need to talk first."
"About what?" Draco asked. He wanted the wedding ceremony to be over and done with; this waiting was making him nervous. His hands were already slick with sweat.
"You have questions. We will answer them," Dumbledore simply said, watching his students with care. They had all grown a lot this past year.
"You would give us straight answers?" Harry sounded surprised.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Well..."
"Then could you please tell us what the pairing magic was for?" Hermione asked, looking at Dumbledore with keen eyes.
"Yes, of course. What about anything else?" He looked at Ron and Harry and then locked eyes with Draco. "Do you want to know anything?"
Draco stared at him for a moment and then smiled such a genuine smile that Hermione couldn't believe her eyes. She had seen that smile only in private. It was shining so brightly now.
"No, Sir. I know everything I need to know." Draco pulled Hermione closer. "I think I'm happy not knowing for a few more hours what I'm supposed to do in this war. Can you let us have that?"
Dumbledore nodded. "If that is what you want."
"Thank you," Draco said, moving towards the door, gesturing for Harry and Ron to follow them. "We'll have that talk later." He turned to face Amadeus before leaving. "Could you meet us by the lake in twenty minutes?"
When Amadeus bowed courtly and then nodded, Draco smiled at him, hugging Hermione, closing the door and the room full of people behind him.
"Why'd you decide that for us?" Ron asked when they descended the stairs of the Headmistress' office.
"That we don't want to know?"
"Because we know already. Because it's not fun. Because it means that the war is only a heart beat away," Draco explained, stopping at the end of the stairs, opening the door there.
"What do we know?" Hermione asked, puzzled. She was pretty sure nobody had told them anything about the pairing magic unless it had happened while she was gone.
Harry glanced at her, saying, "You're going to be some kind of an elite force, protecting me. At least that's what I'd do if I were Dumbledore."
"Seriously?" Ron and Hermione chorused, bewildered.
"That's what I'd do, too." Draco leaned against the wall in the corridor outside the office, still holding Hermione close to him. "The best of us can do quite amazing things without our wands. With our partners we can do even greater things. I don't think he could have made a better choice than this. You can't teach grown-ups the same things. They can't learn this. He chose us because our minds are still adaptable."
Hermione pulled herself free of Draco's embrace and started pacing the corridor. "But... but... We're children."
"So is Harry," Draco said. "And Dumbledore knows this. He can't survive on his own. Look at him; he doesn't even eat enough."
Harry laughed a funny little laugh, looking at Draco with curious eyes. "Thanks."
Draco grinned madly. "You're welcome."
"I would've wanted to ask questions, though." Ron sounded irritated. "I have questions. Lots of them."
"We all do," Harry agreed, "but I don't think they would give us straight answers, not even now. We just have to keep our eyes open. And I'm thinking of sneaking into the War Room and stealing the Book of Dreams. I want to learn to use it."
Hermione span around, staring at him sharply. "No! We should destroy it. If it got into wrong hands it could destroy you. We don't need it. We can win without it. And besides, it's very unpredictable."
"Let's not have this conversation now." Draco pushed himself away from the wall and moved to Hermione's side, taking her hand again. "We're... We're getting married. We need to get ready... and find Vincent and Gregory, too."
She tilted her head up, smiling at him sweetly. "I think I love you," she said quietly, staring into his eyes. "I think I do."
"Oh..." He had no idea how to respond to that. She had said it infront of her friends without any warning, making it all seem so very easy. How could she always do that? "I... think... I... really..."
Ron hit him in the arm and said, "Just shut it."
It was somehow odd that this was their life now. Harry was supposed to be a great leader, and they were all supposed to support him, but in the end, when they gathered together, when they met somewhere quiet and private, they were just friends, too young to have the responsibilities they carried and too old to stay safe in the warm homes of their supposedly loving parents. It had never been like that, would never be like that, but they all wanted to pretend for a little while that their lives were not so cold and demanding. This, the wedding, the party after it, was their way of saying that no matter what came later, they had already won.
A/N: I am very grateful for all of you. I would not have been able to finish this without your lovely comments, without knowing that there are new readers wanting to see this finished. The story is so much bigger than what I ever could have written. There are deleted scenes, and hundreds of tiny ideas that I never put on page. I know everything that has happened and what will happen; that's the way it is for me. And it was always more about friendship, love and acceptance than the fierce battle between Light and Dark. This is for you. This journey took me almost five years, and I've carried this with me all these years. It makes me sad and it makes me relieved. ^_^ Thank you. For everything.