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Chapter 47: The Proposal
Ashley took a deep breath, closing her eyes once more to try and calm herself down.
All for nothing.
Anger quickly started to bubble within her. The situation was infuriating.
“How could your father do this?” She shrieked, turning to him.
Draco started to limp over to her, shrugging weakly, “If I had known I would have been here sooner, trust me.”
Ashley nodded slowly, looking over his sorry physical state once more.
Draco looked up to her, grabbing his side in pain, “Tell me you’re not with him, Ash. It would kill me.”
“You didn’t really leave me much of a choice, did you?” Ashley wiped away a tear bitterly, “People turn to their friends when they’re hurt.”
He nearly buckled under the constriction of his chest. There was no way. He was not going to let Potter win. Draco limped over to her quickly, grabbing her face and kissing her hard.
His breath was cool in her face, but rushed and panicked. His tired gray eyes blazed with a mad need to dissipate the growing horror.
“You can’t tell me you don’t feel the same thing that I did three months ago.” He hissed at her as he pulled away, his thin hands grasping her face. “I know he can’t make you feel the way I do.”
She had nearly melted under his touch. His lips were slightly chapped and cold, but it was the same familiar kiss she had come to know and love.
He grabbed the sides of her head, leaning his forehead against hers and stroking her hair.
“You were supposed to be bound to me.” Draco told her hoarsely.
“By what, Draco? A blind hope?” A tear fell from her face, “You weren’t coming back. I had planned for that.”
“Yet you still wear my ring.” Draco stated, fingering the blocky, silver M gleaning with her pale flesh glowing in the moonlight. “There was something that made you hold on.”
Ashley couldn’t help but bring her fingers to his cheek, to feel the newfound roughness that sent shivers down her spine. He had never gone unshaven. The new sensation was foreign, he didn’t feel like himself. He didn’t look like himself either. She had no idea what he had been through in the last three months. Could she be guaranteed that it was still the same boy she fell in love with so long ago?
She knew she should be relishing in the fact that he was here again, but she found herself more torn than before.
“Tell me what I did was right.” Draco’s voice trembled.
Ashley closed her eyes, her face screwing up as she buried herself into her hands. Letting out loud sobs; she leaned into Draco’s embrace, wrapping her arms around him.
“I know that you’re angry with me.” His voice shook, cracking with emotion, “And I know that leaving might not have been the best way to handle things. But it was the only way I knew how.”
Ashley nodded against his shoulder.
“I-I just…when I thought about Potter, and pieced it together, I-I thought maybe you would find that you would rather be with him. I was waiting for the longest time,” Draco told her, hugging her closer, “I thought you had forgotten.”
“It’s hard to forget,” She choked, the words spilling from her mouth like water from a fountain, easy and without thought, “when there is such an empty space when you’re gone.”
Draco swallowed hard, “A-are you not, then…?”
“I’ve been in love with you since you’ve gone.” She looked up at him. “It was always you, Draco. Always.”
Draco didn’t know whether or not to cry from relief, he was just so tired he didn’t know if he could procure emotion either way.
“You don’t know how good it is to hear you say that.” He told her, leaning her head back to kiss her passionately.
Her lips were salty from the tears, but were soft and just as supple as he remembered. He found his battered self renewed in her embrace, and he knew that there was only one person in the entire world who could make him feel so.
“I’m sorry…for everything.” Draco told her, smoothing her hair from her face.
“I wish I would have reacted better,” She confessed, “but I was so convinced the next time I saw you would be on a wanted poster or in a courtroom sentencing you to Azkaban. I was afraid of how far you would go, how far you would fall.”
“You know me better.” Draco frowned at her, “You know I would never…”
He faltered, not sure how to complete the sentence, knowing that he had done many things over the months he had thought he would never partake in.
Ashley gave him a weak smile. “So, what happens now?”
“I was hoping,” Draco grabbed her hands, rubbing them in hers. “that you would start by saying you wanted to be with me again.”
“I think it goes without saying.” She smiled. The moonlight was starting to peak out now, its light whitening Ashley’s hair, the shadows flickering over her face and blue eyes.
He pulled off his ring from her finger.
“That’s mine.” She protested quietly.
“I’d rather you have this.”
He slipped another ring on her finger, unable to be made out by the fresh onslaught of tears that blinded her from seeing the large, oval sapphire surround in diamonds on a platinum band.
Wincing, he knelt down, pressing her hand to his lips.
“Draco, don’t.” Ashley cried, laughing with embarrassment.
“Marry me.” He told her somberly. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I want to make it up to you.”
Ashley cried hard, unable to speak.
“And I know that there’s a lot to figure out.” Draco’s eyes welled up, his jaw tightening painfully as it often did before with the onslaught of heavy emotions, “B-but the Manor’s safe and there’s another house we can stay at until…”
He didn’t know until what. He didn’t know how long it would take for the oncoming war to start. All that he knew was the he wanted to wait it out with her.
“I-I just want you to know that I love you, more than anything, a-and I don’t want to be with anyone else as much as I don’t want you to be with anyone else.”
Draco looked up to her, feeling her tears hit his hands. He was getting nervous, trying to think of all the ways to convince her that although everything was pitting against him on being a decent husband, he wanted to work hard to prove it to her for the rest of his life.
He rose, unable to take the pain of his side and knee cramping, trying to focus on the physical pain rather than the pain of the absence of an answer.
“Sorry.” She mumbled, giving him a weak smile as she wiped the tears away.
Draco looked at her, thinking that if she didn’t give him an answer in a matter of seconds his heart was going to give out.
How quickly did people die of heartbreak?
“The son of Lucius Malfoy would never marry a Mudblood.” She chortled, sniffling.
The words pierced his heart. How he had come to hate it so, despising the word she had used to describe herself, making him regret saying it the bushy-haired girl who had endured the name for so long, who was finishing dinner in the Great Hall at that moment.
“But weren’t you the one who said that it would be impossible for wizards to survive without them? I’m probably not even pureblood.” Draco tried desperately. The tapestry within his mother’s library came to mind, how he fingered the empty space beside his name, only wishing for one other to accompany it.
“I would only taint your name.” Ashley looked up to his eyes.
“No.” He argued, “You would only add to it.”
He smoothed her hair with a shaking hand. He couldn’t decide if this was a test or a real concern of hers.
“I have a few conditions.” She changed the subject, “You have to promise me some things.”
“Anything.” He told her, “Anything, I swear.”
“First.” Ashley began, “You have to promise never to leave again. If I’m going to marry you, we’re one.”
Draco frowned, “But-“
“-but nothing.” Ashley told him, “If you go, I follow.”
“H-he might come after me.” Draco warned her, “I couldn’t do that to you.”
“Then we go together.” Ashley told him.
There was no point in lying to her. Although he had been taught by his father the art of lying, manipulation and intimidation, it didn’t faze the girl who knew all of his secrets.
“Draco.” His name on her lips was pure ecstasy. He had longed to hear her say it for three months. “Promise.”
Draco nodded, thinking that if he didn’t give her a verbal agreement, he didn’t necessarily have to keep his word.
Ashley continued, “Your grudge with the other three stops here.”
Draco frowned at her.
“They’re my best friends. Ron is my brother, and I’m sure one day, he will make Hermione his wife. I’m not going to ostracize myself from my family because of a seven year grudge. Not even for you.”
Her last words stung, only because he would have done the same for her.
But of course I would, I have no family left and those that are still alive are off their rockers and obsessed with Voldemort.
If he thought her first proposal was hard, this was even harder. Hating the three of them had become a part of his behavior at school. It was natural and expected from both sides. The thought that he would have to become a part of them to be a part of her made him squirm.
“You can’t expect me to run in and hug them.” He sneered weakly.
“I don’t.” She agreed, “But no more of your hatred.”
“Then you have to promise me some things.” He blurted, quite unsure of what those things were. He quickly thought that if he had to make sacrifices for her, she should have to do the same, although nothing of the same magnitude came to mind.
“I can’t say when I’ll be able to get out of this mess.” He started, “But promise me you won’t let me slip into the darkness like Lucius.”
Ashley smiled tenderly, her fingers lightly caressing his thin cheek. “I promise.”
“A-and promise me that you’ll love me for who I am.” He looked to her. “My father raised a prideful brat, which hadn’t budged until you came. It might take a while still.”
Ashley laughed quietly, stroking the material of his robe, “I promise.”
“And promise me that you’ll stay with me tonight.” Draco grazed her fingertips, the smooth skin sending a violent shudder through his thinning form.
“Tonight and every night for the rest of my life.” She brought his forehead to her lips.
“You never really accepted.” Draco told her, unable to let her see the blush hinting at his cheeks.
“I will marry you, Draco Malfoy.” Ashley smiled, falling into his outstretched arms.
The sigh he felt like he had been holding for hours was finally allowed to be exhaled. A wave of exhaustion hit him. The traveling, the preparing, the nervousness not only to see her, but what had become of her, flooded out of him like a dam.
It was alright now.
He turned his head on hers and looked towards the castle, a place he had sorely missed. The darkness consumed the structure, save for the lights still on in certain rooms, flickering and dancing in their windowsills.
“It feels good to be home.” His hoarse voice broke the silence.
“Well, in another day, it won’t be.” Ashley sighed heavily.
“I meant you.”
Her smile was buried in the depths of his clothes as she hugged him closer to her, “I agree, it does feel nice to be home.”