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Chapter 22 : Chapter 34
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“Mi?” Draco called when he apparated home later that night.
“Hi,” she called from the second room.
He went back to the room and opened the door. She sat in the desk chair, her back straight, her face tight, her smiled forced. It was the too bright eyes, evidence of her recent tears, that tore at him.
“Did you and Blaise have fun?” she asked her tone overly cheerful.
“We talked,” he said as he crossed the room to her.
When he got close she jumped up and moved around the desk. She was halfway out the door when she answered, “Oh good. It’s been a while since you two had a night out together.”
He followed her into the living room as she continued her chipper chatter, “How are they doing? Did he get that job he was talking about? I know Beth was excited for him, since he seemed to really want it and she said he…”
“I love you, too,” he interrupted.
She stopped, but didn’t turn, “What?”
He went to her and put his hands on her tense shoulders. “I said I love you, too.”
He felt her deflate under his hands when she asked, “But?”
He stepped in front of her to force her to look at him, “There are no buts, Mi. The other night, you told me you loved me. I never said it back. I realized that tonight. So, I’m telling you now, I love you, too.”
She nodded and looked away, “And?”
“And what? What do you think I’m saying?”
“Nothing,” she said as she stepped back from him. “It’s just, if you want space, you know, time to get away from here, from me, to get some perspective or whatever, I understand. I won’t stop you. And, I won’t get all silly and cry or anything. I know you can barely stand to look at me after all I said, and I understa…”
Draco grabbed her arm and spun her back to him. His lips were on hers, devouring her, trying to express all the things he couldn’t say. When he pulled back to gasp for air, he rushed to say, “I’m not going anywhere. I love you. That’s all I’m trying to say. Well, that and I’m sorry for being such an ass for the past few days.”
Tears she tried to battle back trembled on her lashes when she asked softly, “You’re not leaving me?”
“No. Not unless you want me to go,” he answered just as softly.
She shook her head and asked, “We’re…okay?”
He smiled a little and pulled her close, “We’re okay.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
Later that night after they had talked for a while longer, she remembered something from their last conversation.
When he turned his head to look over at her, she asked, “What did your father give you back then? Before you left and came over to Harry and Ginny’s?”
“It’s…it’s not important. It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
She saw the way his eyes darted away and back and pressed him, “Tell me. I promise to not get overly upset.”
“I don’t think this is really the right time,” he shook his head.
“We’ve had a long, hard week. You don’t need any more stress just yet,” he answered sadly.
“I’m stronger than you think,” she reminded him.
“I know, Mi, but can’t we just forget it for tonight?” he almost begged.
“Show me,” she asked softly.
“This isn’t how this was supposed to go,” he said softly, his voice tinged in sadness, his head in his hands.
“How what was supposed to go?” she asked.
He looked at her for a moment, “Hold a second.”
She watched his graceful strides into the bedroom and wondered what he could be getting from there. She hadn’t noticed anything amiss in the bedroom, so whatever it was had been well hidden. She felt a shiver of fear run through her and almost called out to tell him never mind. He came back before she could though. Her eyes flicked down to his hands and she saw they were empty.
Draco came back across the room and saw the barely concealed fear in her eyes. He smiled at her, retook his seat and took her slightly shaking hands in his.
“Mi, I love you very much. And, what my father gave me, well, I wasn’t sure you would ever want to see. Actually, I should probably still wait, but I don’t see how things are going to change any time in the near future, so tonight’s as good as any.”
He watched her take in a slow breath, but her eyes never left his, so he kept going.
“Stop looking so scared, love. It’s nothing dark or evil,” he laughed a little. “It’s just I didn’t think you would like the implications, especially now. You see, it means a lot to my family. Hell, it means everything. My mother and father gave it to me to give to you. And, as much as I wanted you to have it, two things stopped me. First, I thought you might not want it, for what it represents, and second, well, uh, I…we...”
Hermione was intrigued and worried. He was so serious and nervous that she felt herself shaking. Willing herself to be strong, she said, “Draco, just tell me what it is already.”
He laughed nervously and ran his thumbs over the backs of her hands, “I’m getting there, Miss Impatient.” He blew out a breath and continued, “The second reason is that it may seem too early to you. But, after this week, I think, no, I know this is what I want. Hermione, I love you more than I ever thought it possible for me to love another person. And, I know this is the worse possible time to do this. I know it is. You’ll probably think I’m insane, but I’m not. In all honesty, I think we’ve been getting here for most of our lives. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to be here with you, I know I don’t deserve it, but there it is. I don’t have to look anymore, I’m home. You’re it for me, Mi. Marry me, Hermione Jane Granger. Let me be home for you.”
Hermione didn’t try to stop the tears that slid down her face. She felt her smile all the way to her toes and felt herself nod. She tried to answer, but all she could do was hiccup through her tears. With one last try, she finally forced “love you, too,” past her shaking lips.
He smiled softly her and reached out to wipe the tears off her face. Then, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the small box he’d received from his father. He looked at her as he opened it and watched her tear up again.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
He nodded, but was looking at her, not the ring. “I meant what I said. I want to marry you and spend the rest of my life with you. But, you don’t have to accept this ring. We can pick out another if you want.”
With a shaking finger she reached out to touch the edge of the simple diamond ring. “Why would you ever think I wouldn’t want it?”
He took it out of the box and held it between his fingers, “Because it’s not just a simple ring, Mi. It’s the Malfoy Engagement Ring. Another Malfoy tradition passed from father to son. And, I don’t want you to feel like…”
“Stop,” she admonished as she placed a finger on his lips. Then she slid her hand over to cup his cheek, “Tell me about the ring please?”
He looked at her for a moment and then nodded, “This ring has been in our family for eleven generations, passed from father to son.”
She looked at the simple gold band and the shining stone in the center in surprise, and then back up at him, “What? How? It looks brand new.”
He laughed softly at her look of shock, “Well, that’s part of the magic, if you choose to take it. But, first I want you to understand what it means, you taking this ring. Why it’s so important to my family. To…to him. For him to give this to me for you, means he believes you up to the challenge of being a true Malfoy wife and mother. If you put this on, you seal us both. You see, each bride adds their own charm to it when she puts it on, ones that they and all future Malfoy brides and grooms must accept and/or meet. I said before the ring has been in the family for eleven generations, but you should know only seven brides have chosen to wear it. Taking this ring means you are willing to accept the challenges they put in our path until the day it passes on to the next. Even then, the magic stays with us. Mi, I want you to hear me and believe me when I say, I will understand if you choose to let it pass to the next, especially after this past week, as long as you still say yes to me. Anyway, no one knows the full truth of it, it’s been too long, but it is said that failure to adhere to any one of the charms could mean anything from severe and continuing pain, to loss of limb, to death. If you accept this ring, you accept for both of us, so I’d understand if you don’t want it. I will accept whatever decision you make. And, either way, believe me when I say I know you would wear it well.”
She nodded and swallowed. Her eyes flicked down to the ring and she wondered how something so innocently simple in looks could hold such power. Then, she looked back at Draco and asked, “What are the current charms?”
He smiled at her, “The first charmed it with bravery in the face of adversity. You, my sweet Gryffindor, have that to a fault and I’d like to think I have finally proven myself somewhat. The next, strength of body and character, again, we excel. Apparently, the next knew we were coming along. She added sharpness of wit and undeniable intelligence. I assume the next had some issues with this, as she added fidelity. Should either of us stray, we would be punished for it. Again, there seems to have been an issue in a past Malfoy marriage as the next added both passion and honesty. Knowing my parents as I do, I don’t think passion has ever been a problem of theirs, and I think they’ve proven that omissions of fact and little fibs don’t count. I think it’s just outright lies for the sake of harming the other which would result in whatever punishment the ring sees fit. My great grandmother had the easiest of lives it seems. She, as had the others before her, married for wealth, privilege and title, but she was happy in her choice and only added backbone to stand for one’s beliefs. The last was my mother. When she put on this ring, she knew its magic, but she didn’t know my father very well. Their marriage was arranged and she didn’t really talk to him all that much until the day he brought her this ring. Not knowing what she faced with my father she chose loyalty to each other. She wanted to ensure they stood by each other, no matter what they faced in the future. She was a scared sixteen year old girl and she knew she didn’t want to have to stand alone. You have seen their unbending loyalty to one another for yourself.”
Hermione nodded and looked back down at the ring held between his fingers and thought of all it meant. Of the promises she would be making for both of them if she took it; of her own fears and newfound growth, as well as her old wounds.
How did we get here so fast? This is soooo not how I saw this week ending! Bravery, strength, wit and intelligence, fidelity, passion and honesty, backbone, and loyalty. And, it’s all up to me.
Draco tried to control his breathing and stay calm as she looked at the ring. He didn’t want to pressure her either way, but his own nerves were stretched very tight. For the first time, of his own free will, he was willingly allowing someone else to make a decision that bound him for life. And he wanted it to happen. He wanted her to choose him.
Hermione’s eyes finally came up to meet his. He stopped breathing as he waited. She didn’t make him wait too long.
“I get to add love and forgiveness,” she whispered with a smile as she moved her finger forward into the ring.
He reached out with his other hand and pulled her head to his. As soon as their lips met they saw a spark shoot from her finger. They jumped back in shock and watched as a light blue mist poured from the ring and slowly engulfed them. It felt warm and soothing. As it circled them, they heard a light chant of the words she’d promised and smiled at one another. Last, they felt a tug on her hand and a then a bright light shot out, lighting the whole room. The power of it knocked them both back and when all stilled they looked at each other and laughed nervously.
She licked her lips as she sat back up, “Well, that was…”
“Interesting,” he finished for her as he pushed his hair back off his face.
She smiled at him, “I guess this means we’re engaged, huh?”
He nodded, slid closer and said softly, “Thank you. You didn’t have to, you know.”
“I know. But, I think we can manage all those things,” she laughed softly. Then she lifted her hand to cup his cheek, “I know we ca…the ring!”
He had seen her eyes widen in shock and smiled as he pulled her hand down to see the ring.
“That’s the rest of the magic,” he laughed. “I did mention it wasn’t just a simple ring.”
Hermione nodded mutely and stared at the ring on her finger. What had been a very simple ring was now a new thing all together. The simple gold band had shrunk to fit her finger exactly. The simple solitaire was now a larger emerald-cut diamond, surrounded by alternating small diamond and emeralds. The ring had also widened and changed to house channels of diamonds down the sides.
She continued to stare at it as she sighed, “It’s exactly what I would have chosen.”
He smiled and leaned closer to inspect the ring, “Wow. I knew it changed when Mother took it off, but I didn’t know it could look that different.”
“I can’t believe this is the same ring she was wearing,” Hermione laughed. While Narcissa had worn the ring it had been larger, more elaborate, even a bit gaudy to Hermione’s eye. It had been a sign of their power and wealth.
He laughed, “I like it better now.” When she nodded he said, “It’s supposed to be inscribed, too. What’s it say?”
Hermione slid the ring off, but took note that it still felt like it was on her finger. She shook her head slightly and lifted the ring to the light.
HJG & DLM Love-Forgiveness Forever
“Very nice,” he smiled.
“Yeah,” she sighed.
They leaned in and kissed again. She put the ring back on her finger, slid her hand into his hair and turned more into him. He slid his tongue in to enjoy the taste he’d missed all week and pulled her onto his lap. He smiled against her lips when he felt her unbuttoning his shirt and moved his hands from her hips to pull her shirt up. They pulled back slightly to rid each other of their tops and then fell back into their kiss with contented sighs. Both felt it had been too long. Both felt at peace for the first time that week.
A shiver of joy ran down Draco’s spine as he finally realized she was going to be with him forever. The need for her pulsed through him and he moaned against her lips, “Mine.”
Happiness, completion and need all flowed through Hermione as she ached for him.
Draco reached back and unclipped her bra and she wiggled out of it, their lips never parting. But, both jumped in surprise when the chime on her fireplace sounded. Frozen in shock, neither moved as Narcissa stepped out with a wide smile on her face.
Her face registered her shock as she said, “Oh my!”
Her voice propelled Draco to action and he turned his body to shield Hermione from his mother’s view.
“Narcissa!” she squeaked.
“Mother!” he asked as calmly as he could.
Before she could answer, Lucius appeared and stepped out of the fireplace. His eyes swept the scene quickly and his gaze fell on the couple.
Hermione’s initial shock disappeared in a wave of embarrassment and she fell off Draco’s lap and dove for her clothes, “Shit shit shit.”
Draco quickly stood in front of her in an attempt to cover her, “Father!”
Hermione dashed from behind him to run to the bedroom. He heard the door slam and looked back at his parents.
In his dazed and surprised state he could only sputter, “What are you…why are you…”
Narcissa stepped forward with a laugh, “Put your shirt on darling. And, stop stuttering.”
He nodded dumbly and picked his shirt up off the floor.
Lucius moved to the bar and took off his outer robe. His face was a bit flushed in his own embarrassment as he said, “We apologize for the interruption, but we were at a party when your mother said Hermione had accepted the ring. We left immediately.”
Narcissa nodded happily, wiggled her fingers, and reached up to kiss her son’s cheek, “I felt it.” Then she stepped back and headed to the back of the apartment. “Now where’d she go? Hermione,” she called as she went.
“Mother, please. Let her…” Draco began.
Narcissa cut him off happily, “Pish tosh. No need for all this silly embarrassment.”
She was gone before he could stop her and with a resigned sigh he glanced back at his father. Lucius appeared to be giving his nail beds a thorough inspection as Draco straightened his clothes. When he again looked over at his father it was with new eyes, as he now saw Lucius partially through Hermione’s eyes. And, the need to know the full truth propelled him to whisper a harsh, “Legilimens!”
Lucius was caught by surprise and glanced up in time for the spell to wash over him. His initial instinct was to block his son’s attack, but something in Draco’s eyes gave him pause. With a heavy sigh he let his memories be carefully picked through by his son.
Draco was very specific in his searching. He didn’t meander through all of his father’s memories, but dove straight at the ones he most needed to see. He found the one with Tom Riddle’s diary and moved forward from there.
Lucius watched in dawning realization and when it flashed in his mind he remembered laughing when Bellatrix’s spell sliced through Hermione. It was knowing that Draco now saw this memory that caused him to end it. With practiced ease he shut down his mind to his son and stared back at the eyes so like his own. The horror and disgust in them would have buckled the knees of a weaker man, but Lucius simply inhaled sharply and looked away from his son.
“How could you?” Draco hissed. The pain of the truth made him ache for all of them; for Hermione who’d had to suffer it, Lucius who had to live with it, Narcissa who had been dragged into it, and himself. He ached for the young boy who had so worshipped a person capable of those kinds of atrocities and had patterned himself after the man for most of his young life. And, he yearned to strike out at the loss of the rest of his memories.
Lucius did not look at his son as he said in a voice that carried quietly across the room, “We cannot change our actions of the past, Draco. We can only learn to accept them, hope to gain something from the knowledge of them, and then move on. It can’t be undone.”
“But, Narcissa, I…” Hermione whined from the hallway, ending the men’s conversation.
“Come on darling. This is a time for celebration,” Narcissa almost grunted as she tugged Hermione from the bedroom.
Hermione struggled fruitlessly against the hand on her arm, surprised by his mother’s strength. She was mortified that they had caught the two of them like that and really didn’t want to see Lucius Malfoy again so soon. But, with one last harsh pull on her arm, she found herself back in the living room. Her eyes immediately went to Draco’s, but then against her will they were drawn to his father’s. When his grey eyes met hers, she had to refrain from whimpering in embarrassment and just a trace of fear.
Lucius was just as uncomfortable. After all, it isn’t every day I see my future daughter-in-law half naked on top of my son. Nor is it everyday that I am reminded that only a few years ago I would have easily and cheerfully ended her life. He swallowed his discomfort and cleared his throat. Then, he looked away from her reddened face and smoothed his features.
His voice was as cool as ever when he said, “Ah, you’re back. Good. Now, Narcissa, can we can get this thing done?”
Draco found his voice when Hermione stood next to him and put her hand in his, “What thing?”
Narcissa answered happily, “We have to complete the charm process, of course.”
Both she and Hermione had felt the undercurrents in the room, but both refused to acknowledge them. Whatever Draco and Lucius had discussed or fought about could wait. Narcissa wanted to celebrate something good for a change. And, Hermione didn’t want to think about what could have been said between the two men in her absence.
“There’s more?” Hermione asked. She almost slapped herself for bringing everyone’s eyes to her and dropped her eyes back to the floor.
“Just one more thing. I was sure I told Draco about it. But, oh well,” Narcissa answered and shrugged her elegant shoulders.
Draco shook his head, “No, you didn’t mention anything after the changing of the ring, Mother. So, what more needs to be done?”
Lucius straightened away from the bar and began, “One final spell. Ms. Gra…ahem…Hermione, by accepting that ring you’ve chosen to…”
“Oh! I almost forgot! Let me see it,” Narcissa demanded.
Lucius tutted at the interruption and Hermione stepped back in surprise when Narcissa reached for her hand. Then she remembered what they were there for and put her hand out for inspection. When Narcissa oohed over it and began chattering about the differences, Hermione realized this was the first of many people who would do so and finally relaxed a little and grinned at her.
I’m engaged! To Draco Malfoy. Oh my lord! How on earth did this happen? What a week! Eeeeeeeeee! I love love love that man! I have to call Ginny and Harry! Oh, and Beth, Snoop and R…. No, don’t think about that right now. And, I need to pick a dress. Should I go with strapless or sleeves? And, when? Is the end of autumn too soon? Well, I really do want a winter wedding. It would be so pretty and…
“Mi,” Draco said in her ear, as he gave her a little shake.
She jerked and looked up at him, her smile wide, and her eyes slightly dazed, “Huh?”
“Stop planning the wedding and pay attention,” he teased with a laugh. “And, Mother, give her hand back, please.”
When Draco turned back to his father his grin faded, “You were saying?”
Lucius snapped at Narcissa, “Woman, would you stop fiddling with that ring and come do your duty!”
She smiled at Hermione’s hand one last time, patted the back of it, and then went to stand next to her husband. When she reached him she admonished, “Really, Lucius, calm yourself. This is a joyous occasion, remember.”
He sighed heavily as if the entire ordeal was costing him his sanity.
“As I was saying,” he said to the three of them. He was so exasperated that he didn’t even stumble over her name as he continued, “Hermione, by accepting that ring you’ve chosen to promise to become part of a long standing tradition of pride, excellence, and family. It is now my duty…and honor as the senior surviving Malfoy male to finalize that promise with this last spell. Both of you, come kneel before me.”
Hermione’s brain immediately rebelled against both his order and getting any closer to him. But, her heart told her to follow Draco’s lead. With his height, his bearing and cold, grey eyes, Lucius was an imposing figure, even with his hand lightly holding his wife’s. Hermione was proud of herself when she was able to keep her back straight, her chin high and her hands from shaking as she took her position on the floor in front of Draco’s father.
Draco took both of her hands in his and when she looked at him, he held her gaze. He knew she was nervous and uncomfortable, but he was proud to see her look as sure and in control as ever. And, he was moved by her strength. He knew it took all she had to kneel before a man she detested and feared. He closed his eyes for a moment to absorb the feeling of knowing that she did it for him.
Lucius and Narcissa removed their wands from their robe pockets and lowered them to their joined hands. The lights in her apartment went out, even the fire place darkened, and a strange, yet peaceful, quiet swamped them all. When the tips of the wands touched the ring a light shot out of it again and formed a circle around the four of them. Lucius’ normally low drawl, took on a soft, enchanted sound as he completed the ritual.
From this day forth may it be known
That this magical couple is one.
Let the power of this ring
Join them together
And, protect them from all under the sun.
With the past charms in control and in place
We add yet one more to its power
When the words are intoned
And, added to those
Let them, as one, never cower.
“Hermione Jane Granger please speak your choice?
She was slightly startled when he said her name, but was sure in her answer when she looked up at him, “Love and forgiveness.”
She saw him smirk in a way so reminiscent of Draco’s that her jaw almost dropped.
“And, do you promise before us, your intended, and the spirits of the witches and wizards that came before you, to embrace, live with, and abide by the laws and powers of the ring?”
“I do,” she answered as she nodded. When Narcissa sniffed softly and wiped a tear away with her other hand, Hermione had a thought. Her eyes flew to Draco’s.
Wait! This isn’t the wedding is it? This isn’t how I want my…
She saw Draco shake his head a little and felt him squeeze her hand in reassurance.
She smiled a bit to let him know she’d gotten the message.
“And, do you, Draco Lucius Malfoy, accept the choice of your future bride?”
His voice was strong, “I do.”
“And, do you promise before us, your intended, and the spirits of all the witches and wizards that came before you, to embrace, live with, and abide by the laws and powers of the ring?”
Lucius nodded in pride at his son before he continued.
From this day forth may it be known
That this magical couple is one.
Let the power of this ring
Join them together
And, protect them from all under the sun.
So, as it is said
So, let it be done
They removed their wands from the ring and reality whooshed back in on them. Hermione squinted against the now brightly lit room and Narcissa and Draco both jumped a bit. The normal sounds of the apartment and the street below, sounded extremely loud after the dreamy, quiet of the spell.
Draco stood and pulled Hermione to her feet before he placed a chaste kiss on her lips. Then he turned to his parents, “Is that all?”
Lucius nodded, “My congratulations to you both. You will, of course, keep us informed of any plans.”
“Of course,” Draco agreed for them both.
Narcissa reached out to hug Draco, “I am so very happy for you, my son.”
Draco smiled at his mother and ran his thumb over the back of Hermione’s hand at his side, “Thank you, Mother.”
Narcissa then turned to Hermione with tears in her eyes, “As Draco’s mother, I am extremely pleased with his choice of you to walk by his side. As a witch who wore it, I am very proud of you for your strength in accepting the ring, as well as your choice of charm. And, last, as a woman who knows very well our shared history, I…I thank you for accepting the Malfoy name as your own and for your forgiveness.”
Hermione’s eyes widened slightly at Narcissa’s statement, but she nodded and accepted the light hug and cheek kiss.
“Now, we shall leave the two of you alone to, ahem, continue your celebrations,” Lucius said with another slight smirk.
This is so surreal! Am I taking his name? Gotta give that some thought. Hermione Malfoy. Ha ha ha Gods, Ginny is going to die when she hears this! Where was I? Oh yeah! Hermione Jane Malfoy. Hermione Granger Malfoy. Hyphenate it? Ugh. No. Hmm.
They moved to the fireplace, which had relit itself at the end of the spell, and Lucius put his hand on Narcissa’s back to allow her to go first. Hermione noticed a few looks go between them and then Lucius’ nod. Narcissa took the offered floo powder, called out the address and was gone in a flash. But, Lucius turned back to face them and his eyes met his son’s.
“Draco, I know you and I have not seen eye to eye on many things in the past. And, I have no reason to believe that things will change in the near future, as you are even more strong-willed than your mother. I have made my choices, my own…mistakes. I will not apologize for them again. You have also made your own choices. But, most importantly, you are my son and I am proud of you and the decisions you’ve made. I support and accept your choice.”
Hermione felt the shudder run through Draco when he answered stiffly, “Thank you, Father.”
She was surprised to see Lucius look at her. She stared back at him as he spoke.
“We have been enemies and adversaries, Hermione. Our views differ in ways too numerous to count. I…today…acknowledge being part of things in your past that we would both rather forget. But, as of today, you join my family and I am sure you understand how much that means to me, above all else. I know we will disagree again in the future, as that is our nature, but for tonight we put that aside and I welcome you. You, Hermione Granger, have proven to be an extraordinary witch. My son has chosen well.”
As these were the very last things she had expected him to say, Hermione sputtered her eyes wide and disbelieving in her flushed face, “Oh! Um, I mean, thank you.”
Lucius nodded and bowed slightly to them both as he too stepped into the fireplace. With one last glance at Draco, he disappeared.
Draco and Hermione stood in silence for a minute as the events of the past half hour played in their minds. Then, Draco turned to look down at her and laughed a little, “Promise me you’ll remind me in the future when this happens to us, that we need to give them an hour or so.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
Author’s Notes – Every read is a treasure, every review a gift. And, I thank each and every one of you!
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