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Chapter 23 : Chapter 35
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Hermione let out a relieved giggle and moved away to accio two glasses and a bottle of wine. When she had them in hand she filled them both and handed one to him.
“To us,” she smiled.
“To us,” he answered with a nod of his head.
Both took a small sip and then moved back to the sofa.
Hermione was quiet as they stared at the fire. Draco watched her think; knowing what was plaguing her.
“No, I didn’t tell him to apologize,” he said softly.
“What? I wasn’t going to…okay I was going to ask that,” she smiled a little. “But, I was also going to ask if you thought he really meant it. I mean, he didn’t really apologize. He just admitted to the past vaguely.”
“That’s an apology from him,” Draco laughed dryly. Then he sobered and looked back at the fire, “I used Legilimens on him.”
Hermione didn’t look at him, but nodded. “I assume he knows Occlumency?”
“Of course,” Draco answered absentmindedly. “But, he didn’t even try to block me. Not until the end.”
Hermione breathed out a slow breath and put her glass on the coffee table. “So, you saw.”
“Yeah,” he sighed.
“I’m sorry, Draco,” she said as she reached out to take his hand.
He finally turned to look at her, “For what?”
“No one should have to see someone they love like that,” she said sadly as she shook her head.
He looked back at the fire, “Gods, Mi, you were so…”
“Not me,” she interrupted him. “I meant no one should have to see a parent they love do those things. I’m sorry you had to see me like that, of course, but, I’m also sorry you had to see him. It makes it more real for you to have seen it.”
“You are too…good, you know that?” he asked softly as he ran his hand down her cheek.
She smiled a little and shook her head, “No, I’m not. I am having all kinds of thoughts about him and what he did. What he’s done to you. But, I can’t keep living it over and over again. I have to let it go if I am really going to move forward.”
He closed his eyes against the images that played in his head. But, with his eyes shut they were all that much more vivid. With a harsh cry he opened them again and leaned forward to drop his head into his hands.
Hermione knew he was tortured by what he had seen in his father’s memories, as much as what she had told him. He needed to banish these horrors if he, too, was to move forward. He also needed to find out why his memories had been taken.
“You need to talk to him,” she said as she reached out to rub his back with one hand.
“I know,” he groaned. “But, what do I say to him? Damn, I could barely look at him tonight.”
“It’s still new, Draco,” she reminded him. “He and I have had years to come to terms somewhat, with it all. You need time.”
He shook his head, still not looking at her, and rubbed his temples, “I don’t know if I will ever be able to wipe it out.”
“You won’t,” she answered flatly. “But, with time the memories will fade, I promise.”
He nodded, but didn’t look up.
Hermione stood in front of him, “Look at me.”
He looked up at her and smiled a little.
“I’m okay,” she nodded. “We’re okay.”
Again, he nodded, but looked back down at the floor.
“Draco,” she said softly, “see me.”
He looked up to see her vanish her clothes. His jaw dropped a little and some life came back to his eyes.
She moved closer and sat down on his lap, straddling his thighs, “Feel me.”
He nodded as if in a trance and put his hands on the sides of her thighs.
She smiled a little, “If I wasn’t okay, would I feel like this?”
She took one of his hands and traced it up her body to rest on her breast. She felt his fingers flex slightly over her, as he felt her heart beat strong and sure under his hand.
She continued, “If I wasn’t okay, would just looking at you do this to me?”
She took his other hand and slid it down her body. She was determined to get him to think about something other than his father’s memories and her pains. With a flick of her hand, his clothes disappeared. Then, with a small grin she replaced the apartment’s privacy charms, so they wouldn’t be disturbed again. His smirk was her reward.
“If we weren’t okay, would you have that?” she smirked down at him as her hand ran over him slowly.
He closed his eyes on a moan and arched a little into her soft hand. She smiled fully.
“If we weren’t okay, would I do this?”
Lifting herself slightly, she settled over him. She released a soft hum of satisfaction, but kept her eyes on his when they opened to stare into hers.
“We’re better than okay, Draco, we’re friends, we’re in love and we’re engaged,” she smiled at him.
He arched up as he held her body tightly to his and finally smiled, “Love and forgiveness.”
“Forever,” she sighed as she felt the waves building.
“Mine,” he said and pulled her head down to his for a kiss.
She breathed in his scent as his tongue swept in to claim hers. Each sigh and moan was a balm to his battered soul; each pull of her warm, welcoming body, a massage to his shattered emotions. When she finally collapsed against him, his name ripped from her throat, he felt less torn, more whole. And, as he finished, his release was complete.
“I…I love…you,” he panted.
“Mmmmm,” she answered and rubbed herself against him happily satisfied.
He chuckled softly and held her close, “My beautiful, brave, strong lioness.”
She kissed the side of his neck and smiled. Then she yawned and stretched, “I think it’s time I take my fiancé’ to bed.”
He ran a hand slowly down her body from her neck to her stomach and was quiet for a moment. Then he looked up at her soft smile and said, “Thank you.”
She tilted her head slightly and nodded.
He continued, “I know it’s going to take time, but knowing you’re okay helps a lot.”
“I am,” she assured him. Then she grinned and joked, “I didn’t even balk much at kneeling in front of him.”
“No, you didn’t,” he said with a smile and a shake of his head. “But, I saw the desire to run clearly on your face.”
“But, I didn’t run,” she laughed. “Bravery, strength, backbone and loyalty, all in one action. See, I deserve this ring!”
“Yes, you do,” he laughed and slid a hand through her hair.
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
“They’re off,” she yelled back to Draco from the kitchen the next morning.
He looked up and out of the window from the office in the back of the apartment. He smiled as he watched the ghostly figures drift away quickly from the window. He finished paying the bills he had sat down to pay and got up to join Hermione in the kitchen.
He walked up behind her and placed a kiss on the nape of her neck. “You know, Blaise and Beth are still going to find out first. I don’t know why you didn’t just call her.”
Hermione put her head back to look up at him and smirked, “Well, Mr. Smartypants, I actually thought of that, too.” She pecked his lips and then turned back around to continue fixing their breakfast. “I charmed the patronuses to arrive at each location at the same time.”
Hermione’s desire to tell her friends about their engagement at the same time had led her to the idea of using patronuses to spread the word instead of owls or phone calls.
He smiled, laughed a little, and shook his head at her. Then, he reached out to take down plates and glasses, “Well, how long does that give us then?”
“About ten minutes,” she laughed. “I already opened the fireplace, so they can floo in. I just hope the rest don’t all try to apparate into the same spot.”
“Or, floo,” he smiled. “I can just see Ginny, Harry, and Molly all trying to get out of the fireplace at the same time.”
When she turned and placed the food on the table he asked, “So, what did your parents say after I got off the phone?”
“Just more of the same,” she smiled softly in memory. “But, Mom also said she knew this was coming. Apparently, she and Daddy had a fight so big they almost broke up when they were dating. Then, two days later, they were talking about eloping while they picked out her ring.”
“So, what time are they coming?” he asked as he poured syrup over his pancakes and cut them with his fork.
Hermione giggled at the memory of her mother screaming in the background while she spoke to her father, “Well, Mom was packing already, and Dad was going to call the office to make sure someone covered for them. So, I would guess about half an hour.”
“That’s just weird,” Draco laughed.
“You’re very muggle parents flooing somewhere. They’re just so…normal. It’s kind weird to think of them and magic in the same thought,” he smiled.
“Well, you should have seen me trying to get them in it the first time,” she laughed in memory. “They both trusted me, but Mom was convinced her clothes were going to catch on fire. Dad was worried about what would happen if the fire went out while they were in it and they got stuck somewhere. I had to get Ginny and Harry to come over so we could take turns practicing with them going back and forth to their house. We wasted so much floo powder that day.”
They laughed together and continued to eat in companionable silence for a few minutes, before he reached for her hand and looked at the ring shining on it.
With a sigh he asked, “Now, that you’ve had some time to think about it, did you want to go pick another one?”
Hermione pulled her hand back possessively, “The magic is done. And, no, I don’t want another one. Do you not want me to have it?”
“Mi, no!” he shook his head. “I just don’t want you to feel obligated to keep this one.”
Hermione stood up and came around the table to sit on his lap. She punctuated her words with scattered kisses, “I don’t feel obligated, Draco. I feel lucky. Loved. Happy. But, not obligated. Okay?”
“Okay,” he smiled and held her chin so he could kiss her properly. Then his hands went to her waist to hold her there, “So, we still have about five minutes before the troops arrive. What to do…what to do.”
Hermione laughed softly and leaned closer, “I have an idea.”
Just as their lips touched again, they heard the fireplace bells chime and then a loud pop in the living room.
“Damn,” Draco muttered. “That was quick.”
“Let’s see who got here first,” she laughed and stood up. Taking his hand she led him into the living room.
They both stopped in shock at the sight before them. The room was an explosion of colors, fabrics, and sewing accessories.
“What the hell is all this?” Draco demanded.
The two helpers, a young man and woman, jumped at the sound of his voice and dropped the boxes they held in their arms. The lead seamstress straightened in surprise, but smiled at them happily.
“Oh good, you’re up,” she twittered. “Mrs. Malfoy said not to wake you. But, since you’re already awake, we can get started.”
Draco groaned in realization, “Mother.”
Hermione blinked stupidly at the woman and her assistants. “Get started with what?”
“Your dress and robes of course!” the woman giggled. “There are so many styles to choose from, it could take ages to find the right one for you. And, then there’s the color scheme and the dresses for your attendants. Do you know when they will be available for their fittings? And, what colors are you interested in, that will give us an idea of where to start. Of course, some things are just out, with your coloring and all, but…”
Hermione eyes popped as she listened to the woman go on and on, barely breathing between her rapid fire sentences. She had barely processed that she was engaged and now this woman was demanding answers to questions she hadn’t even thought of yet.
“Wait,” she interrupted, “Who are you? Narcissa sent you? Why?”
The woman paused in her diatribe her mouth still open on her last words and looked lost. Then she smiled and laughed.
“Oh, darling, I am so sorry. I didn’t introduce myself or my assistants. I am Madame Zendall, and these are my assistants, Aiden and Crystal.” She bowed a little and motioned for the other two to follow her lead. Hermione’s eyes flicked over to the two of them and watched as they dropped into a deep bow and curtsey.
“This is ridiculous,” Draco huffed. Then he turned to Hermione and said, “I should’ve known she would do something like this. I’m sorry.”
Hermione was still in too much shock to have any real feelings about the situation yet. She simply nodded and turned back to Madame Zendall.
“Why did Narcissa send you?” she asked.
“Um, aren’t you getting married to Master Malfoy?” Madame Zendall asked, her giddiness fading a bit.
Hermione nodded dumbly as everything fell into place finally.
“Wait! You’re here to help me with wedding plans?!” she squeaked.
Madame Zendall let out a held breath and smiled again, “Exactly! Now, why don’t we just…”
“No! Wait!” Hermione said as she backed up from the woman quickly and slammed into Draco. “Oomph. We just got engaged last night, I can’t start planning anything yet. I don’t even know what I want and…”
DING (Beth) DING DING (Harry and Ginny) POP (Blaise) DING (a short woman) POP (Snoop) POP (Ron) DING DING (Molly and Arthur)
Most everyone stumbled over the many boxes and yards of fabric to hug and congratulate the couple. Arthur and Ron hung back and moved to stand near the living room window. Meanwhile, the sewing group stared in awe at the numerous famous people who had just popped into their midst.
I knew it was coming!
She really is the real Hermione Granger!
Let me see the ring!
Is that Harry Potter?
What is all this stuff?
I can’t believe our little girl is so grown up.
And, Ron Weasley! That must be his sister! She married Harry Potter.
What does it feel like to have snagged the wizarding world’s most eligible, rich bachelor?
My goodness, it’s gorgeous, Hermione!
Who are these people?
Yeah, and there’s Ron Weasley over there.
Take care of her, man.
Welcome to our family!
Wow, that must have cost a fortune!
I’m so happy for you!
So, she took the ring?
How did you propose? Did she say yes immediately?
Is she with them?
Yeah, what did he say?
Did she make you suffer?
Draco and Hermione stood back to back and gaped at all the questions being fired at them. Then Draco held up a hand to stem the tide and looked down at the woman to his right. In the silence everyone’s eyes followed his.
He raised an eyebrow, “Who, may I ask are you?”
The little woman smiled a sickly sweet smile and held out her hand in introduction, “Ona Tagly, Daily Prophet. The floo was open, so I…”
Hermione drew herself up and glared at the woman, “Get out!”
Ona backed up slowly toward the fireplace, but continued to ask questions. “Just give me something. Anything! This is huge news. How did you propose? Did she say yes immediately? What did your parents have to say about you marrying a muggleborn witch, no matter how famous?”
Draco’s low growl stopped her rush of questions. He stepped forward, but Hermione stopped him. She then walked slowly toward the woman, her look fierce.
“You want a headline? How’s this? Lowly reporter, Ona Tagly, found obliviated, drooling on herself in Hyde Park, after trying to Skeeterize the engagement of Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy!”
By the time she finished she was nose to nose with the woman. Ona took a step back and bumped up against the fireplace. “Are…are you…threatening me?”
“No, of course not,” Hermione said very sweetly, an obviously fake smile plastered on her face. “I am just saying if you print one word of what you heard or saw this morning, I will make what I did to Rita look like child’s play!”
Everyone in the news world knew Hermione and Rita Skeeter had a past. No one knew exactly what had happened, but it was widely known that Rita refused to print a word of news good or bad about Hermione Granger because of it, without her express permission. There was a lot of speculation about what she could have done to the older witch, but since neither confirmed nor denied any of the rumors, they continued to grow.
Hermione smirked at the suddenly pale faced witch in front of her, “Now, I think you were about to leave?”
Ona nodded silently and reached for some floo powder. Before she could throw it in Draco stepped forward, “Hand it over.”
The young reporter sighed heavily and took off the rose broach recorder on her chest. With a look of regret she handed it to him. She looked ready to ask another question, but Hermione raised an eyebrow and effectively shut her down.
“Sorry to have interrupted,” she mumbled. Then with a shout and a flash of green flame, she was gone.
Draco looked down at Hermione and she smiled back at him.
“What the hell did you do to Rita Skeeter?”
Hermione, Ginny, Harry and Ron burst out laughing at the shared memory. Then, when several sets of eyes turned on him, Ron sobered and looked down at the carpet, his hands shoved in his pockets.
A tense silence filled the room for a moment before Arthur stepped away from his son and approached them. He and Ron were uncomfortable, but neither could bring themselves to stay home. Even if on the periphery, they wanted to share this with her.
Arthur’s faced flamed red as he faced them, “I know you, two probably don’t want me here, but I wanted to say congratulations. I will leave, but I couldn’t not be here. She’s like my own daugh…” He cleared his throat and looked at Draco somberly, “I am so very sorry for what we, I, did to you. I have no right to ask your forgiveness, but I am sorry, Draco. You are a good man and I know you two will be very happy together.”
Draco nodded slowly. He wasn’t a Weasley family fan, but he didn’t like seeing the normally jovial man, so broken and sad. Before he could formulate an answer though, Arthur turned to Hermione.
“Mione, I will do everything in my power to earn back your trust someday. I know it was wrong, but my only excuse is my love for you. You’re part of my family. Please know that I am as happy for you today as I was for Ginny. I am so proud of the woman you have become. And, I just want you to be happy. I love you. Congratulations on your engagement. Both of you. That’s all I came to say. I’ll go now.”
By the time he was done, both he and Hermione had tears sliding down their faces. She stepped forward and took his hand, “Don’t go.”
He looked at her, his chin trembling. She stepped closer and looked up at him. “Yes, you hurt me, but we will get past it. Okay?” When he nodded, she continued, “Stay. This is a big day for me and I need my family with me.”
He fell against her and pulled her into a tight hug. Then he whispered in her ear, “Thank you. Thank you.”
She pulled back and smiled softly up at him. “Thank you.”
Draco then stepped forward and held his hand out to the older man, “New beginning.”
Arthur nodded and smiled a little as he shook Draco’s hand. Then in his happiness he pulled Draco in for a hug. Draco’s startled gaze flew to Hermione, who winked and giggled at him. Arthur pulled back and smiled at the two of them. Then he reached out a hand to Molly who came over with tears streaming down her face.
“Can I finally see the ring now?!” she demanded.
Everyone laughed and the tension melted away for most of them.
Madame Zendall and her assistants had stayed quiet throughout both exchanges. She now looked at the women in the room and began calculating.
“So, Ms. Granger, are any of these young ladies your bridesmaids?”
Hermione had forgotten the seamstress’ existence and groaned at having been reminded.
Ginny’s jaw dropped, “Damn, Mione, you have a seamstress already? How long have you two been keeping this a secret?”
“We didn’t. We weren’t. Narcissa sent them this morning,” Hermione sighed.
Harry shook his head and leaned down to hug Hermione, “Well, congrats hon. I’m happy for you. But, since it looks like this is about to get super girly, how about we guys kidnap Draco for a while?”
“Thank you!” Draco almost shouted. Then he looked at Hermione, “Sorry. Um, uh, do you want to me to stay or something?”
She almost laughed out loud at the slightly panicked look on his face. “No, you go have fun.” Then she stepped closer and leaned up to whisper, “Thank you for what you said to Arthur.”
He smiled and said in a low voice, “Anything for you,” and leaned down to kiss her.
The catcalls, whistles, and joke gagging broke them apart. Draco smirked at the room, while Hermione blushed and laughed.
Draco, Blaise and Harry all gathered their things to apparate to Blaise’s loft. But, Draco noticed Harry look back at Arthur and Ron, and stopped. He couldn’t bring himself to do it, as he still wanted to throttle then redhead, but he nodded to Blaise. He knew Blaise would know what to do.
Draco disappeared with a pop, his slight sneer evident to everyone in the room. Blaise stared at Harry for a long moment before he said, “Weasleys. You two coming?”
Arthur stepped forward with a grateful smile and took Harry’s arm for the side-along apparition. Ron looked surprised and a bit scared. He looked around at all the wedding paraphernalia, at the faces of the women in his life, and last at Hermione, who refused to look at him. He didn’t know which choice was worse, joining the men and risk getting beaten to a pulp by Draco, or stay and risk being hexed and then cursed by Hermione.
With a nod, he moved across the room and silently took Blaise’s arm. He sighed heavily when he noticed Harry wouldn’t make eye contact. When they disappeared, the remaining occupants of the room continued to stare silently at the now empty space where the men had been.
Finally, Madame Zendall cleared her throat softly, “Maybe this isn’t a good time. We can just…”
“No, it’s not. But, since you’re here, and I’m sure Narcissa is paying you a small fortune, why don’t you get the measurements you need. We aren’t discussing styles or colors or anything else yet, just measurements. You can get the men’s information later, I guess.” Hermione turned and introduced the group.
“Ladies, this is Madame Zendall, and her assistants, Aiden, and Crystal. This is my Matron of Honor, Mrs. Ginny Potter, and…”
“Really?!” Ginny squealed as the realization that she had fully been forgiven hit her. She then jumped up to hug Hermione, “Thank you!”
“Of course, dummy,” Hermione hugged her back. “You’ve been my best friend forever.”
Then she turned back to the seamstress and her assistants, “And, these are two of my attendants, Mrs. Beth Zabini, and Mrs. Snoop, I mean, Georgina Weasley.”
Both women smiled and hugged her.
“And the other attendants?” Mrs. Zendall asked.
Hermione answered, “Just one, but she doesn’t even know about the engagement yet. I will make sure she comes to see you as soon as possible.”
Last, she indicated Molly and said, “This is Mrs. Molly Weasley, one of the two mothers of the bride.”
“Oh, Hermione,” Molly cried and engulfed in her in a tight hug. “Thank you!”
Hermione tried to talk, but could only gasp, “MwowyIcantbweeve.”
Molly pulled back a bit and cried happily, “I can’t wait to talk to your mother.”
“That’s probably her now,” Hermione smiled.
“Made it!” her father exclaimed as he fell out of the fireplace.
Hermione ran across the room to jump in his arms, just as her mother tumbled out.
“Where’s my baby?” her mother squealed. “Let me see this ring!”
Everyone crowded around again and oohed over the ring. Then Molly asked where Draco had purchased it. Hermione made them wait for the story while she introduced her mother and father to the seamstress. Then she asked them to move their sewing equipment and things to the study. Once they left, she placed a silencing charm on the room and conjured up drinks for everyone. Finally, she sat down to tell the story.
She didn’t give them all the details of the night, but even her abridged version made most of them ooh and aah at the romance and magic of it. Ginny gasped twice during her story; once in horror at the thought of Hermione kneeling in front of Lucius, and the second time in shock at his parting words.
When Hermione reached the end of the story, she smiled at the soft sniffles from both mothers. Then she looked around at her friends and family and sighed, “And, this morning he still offered to exchange it for another one.”
“That’s so sweet, Mione,” Beth sighed. “You didn’t say yes, did you?”
“Hell, no!” she laughed. “The way I see it, I’ve already earned it.”
They all laughed and saluted her with their glasses. After Hermione removed the silencing charm Beth and Ginny went to the other room to get measured first. The mood was light and the women enjoyed each other’s company as they started to talk about general plans for the wedding. And, Ginny, Snoop, and Beth reminded her of pitfalls she could fall into, based on their experiences. After her story, her father had called Draco to see where the men were and soon after he had nervously stepped back into the fireplace and left to join the other men.
As the other woman toyed with colors and fabrics, Molly pulled Hermione aside, “Um, dear, I don’t mean to cause trouble or anything, but, uh, they wouldn’t hurt Ron, would they?”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
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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