Chapter 24 : Chapter 36
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When they arrived at the loft, Draco and Blaise got drinks for everyone and then moved away to talk. Harry and Arthur sipped their drinks and made general conversation about the weather, sports and the children. And, Ron sat off by himself and stared into his drink.
He looked over at the other men in the room and sighed heavily. With one last look at his glass he threw it back and stood up.
“Malfoy,” he called out.
Everyone stopped speaking and looked at Ron in surprise. Draco didn’t trust himself to speak, so he simply raised an eyebrow at him.
Ron cleared his throat and stood straighter. He glanced briefly at his father and Harry before he spoke to Draco. His voice was gruff with pent up frustration and depression, so he spoke quickly to get it all out.
“Look, the reason I came to see you at your work that day was to apologize. I mean for what Dad and I did to you. To both of you. It was wrong and low and stupid. I shouldn’t have done it and it was my idea. I was just so worried that you’d…I should have trusted her more. I should have…anyway, I wanted to say that I am sorry. I know you hate me, and you have every right to, it’s not like you’re my favorite person, either. But, I miss her. It’s like a part of me is gone. I’m missing important parts of her life and I can’t handle that anymore. She had to go to that awful place all alone and…oh…um, you see, uh I need her, Malfoy. I can’t keep going like this. I can’t have her hate me. I just can’t. I know you have no reason to help me, but I’ll do whatever you want me to do, if you’ll get her to talk to me again. Just to let me explain. Or, try to. I know you two are toge…together. I accept it. Mostly. As long as she’s happy and treated like she deserves, even if it’s you who…ahem, anyway, congratulations, by the way. And, I won’t stand in your way. Not any more. I just want her happy, it’s all I’ve ever wanted for her. I just never dreamed you’d be…and, um, I know it’s stupid to ask, especially after what I…well, if you could just think about it. Thanks. Congratulations again. Make her happy. She deserves it.”
Before anyone could blink, he apparated away. Harry stood quickly and looked as if he wanted to follow his friend. But, when he realized he didn’t know where Ron might have gone, he sat back down heavily on his chair and looked over at Draco and Blaise.
Arthur glanced quickly at each of the men and then back down at his drink. He knew both he and Ron deserved the upset and anger thrown at them. But, he also knew how much his son hurt because of his fighting with Hermione. He hated seeing Ron so lost. He thought of going to Ron’s apartment to see if he had gone home, but he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He knew it was cowardly, but he really didn’t want to bear the brunt of Draco’s anger at Ron so soon after starting to be forgiven.
Draco stood perfectly still. Part of him was in shock at all Ron had said, and part was angry that Ron dared ask him a favor of any sort, after what he’d done. He stared at the spot where Ron had been and willed the man back into the room, so he could pound him. He would feel so much better afterward. Then, maybe, he would listen to what Ron had to say. He opened his mouth a few times, as if searching for something to say, but his mind was a blank.
Blaise blinked a few times at Ron’s abrupt departure and then turned to look at the looks on the other men’s faces. Harry’s showed concern and worry, Arthur’s simple sadness, and Draco’s anger, frustration and disbelief. Then he recalled the look of defeat on Ron’s. The wide mix had an odd affect on him and he started to chuckle. When all three turned to look at him in shock, he doubled over in outright guffaws.
“Blaise, man, what the hell?” Draco asked.
Blaise looked up at him and tried to regain control, “So...sorry, D, bu…but…so funny…your faces…thought Weasley was…gonna cry on you…ridiculous fight…idiot redhead…protecting her from you…”
Draco gaped at him like he’d lost his mind.
Blaise’s laughter finally started to die down and he took a few deep breaths to control himself.
Harry shook his head and smiled a little, “You okay there, Blaise?”
Blaise nodded, “Yeah. Sorry.”
Arthur spoke softly from his seat, “You were right though.”
When everyone turned to look at him, he blushed a little, but continued, “I mean, about Ron wanting to protect her. Hermione, I mean. Not that I’m saying he’s right, but he loves her and…”
“I think we get your meaning,” Draco cut him off.
The silence stretched a little before Harry asked, “So, are you going to talk to her?”
Draco opened his mouth to sneer a retort, but realized he didn’t have an answer. He tossed back his drink and accioed the bottle before he looked back at Harry.
“The sickest part of all this is I understand why he did it,” Draco shocked them all by saying. He shook his head and refilled his glass, “I have a lot of reasons to hate that jerk, but this isn’t actually one of them.”
“Wait,” Blaise interrupted, “what?”
Draco looked from one man to the next and sighed, “B, tell me this, what would you and I have done if say, out of nowhere, Harry, a few years back, had shown up out of the blue and started dating Blythe?”
Blaise shrugged and answered easily without thought, “Beat the living shit out of him and ship her out of the country.” When both Draco and Harry looked at him with raised brows, he realized what he had said, “Oh.”
“Yeah, oh,” Draco answered tiredly. He leaned back and slumped down in his chair as he closed his eyes. “I can’t really fault him for reacting the way he has. Not completely. He was always an idiotic hothead, and the one button I could always push in school to send him over, was to insult or anger Hermione. She was hard to anger, and Harry was the more controlled one most of the time, but I knew I could always get a rise out of Weasley by just calling Mi a…that asinine name. I just thought he would be over it by now.”
Blaise nodded, but said, “That still didn’t give him the right to pull that shit on you guys.”
“I know, B,” Draco sighed. “But, honestly, I wouldn’t even have gotten so bent, if he hadn’t hurt her so much.”
Harry leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees, “Ron tends to act first, second and third, and then think. I know it’s assbackwards, but Arthur and Blaise are both right. He did it to protect her in his own way. He figured a little surveillance would prove him right, but if it didn’t, no harm no foul. I’m not saying he was right, but that’s how Ron thinks.”
Arthur nodded, “He really is sorry, Mal...Draco. Maybe you could try to help him talk to her?”
Draco remained silent in thought as he swirled his glass. Blaise looked at Harry and held up the bottle, silently asking if he needed a refill. Harry held up his glass in answer.
Blaise levitated the bottle to Harry and sat back down to look around the room. As always, his humorous side took over, “Some congratulatory party, you guys.”
All three laughed a little in response, but then Draco’s cell phone rang and surprised them all enough to jump.
Draco read the screen and smiled into the phone, “Hey Rich…I can barely hear you, what is all that noise…oh man, I’m sorry…of course you can. We’re over at the loft…I’ll give you the address, but you don’t need a cab, you can floo over, remember…but it’s so much faster, Rich…good, just say Zabini Loft New York City and you’ll be here…put some extra floo powder in your pocket just in case you…no, no, I don’t think anything is going to go wrong, Rich…okay, see you in a minute or two.”
Draco hung up and looked at the three men who all seemed to be holding back their laughter. Blaise, as usual, was the one to let it flow.
“Never thought I’d see the day, D.” He laughed out loud, “You giving a muggle flooing directions and moral support.”
Before he could answer, Hermione’s father stepped out of the fireplace and looked around tentatively. They all watched him breathe a sigh of relief when he saw the men sitting there.
“Made it,” he said proudly.
Draco stood up and walked forward, his hand outstretched, “Of course you did.”
When Rich reached him, he pulled Draco into a hug, “Congratulations. She’s positively beaming.”
Draco tried to control the flush of embarrassment at the hug, and stepped back a little with a grin, “Thanks. I’m pretty happy myself.”
The clearing of a throat reminded both men that the others were present.
“Oh, sorry. Richard Granger, this is my best friend and Best Man, Blaise Zabini. B, Hermione’s father.”
Blaise stepped forward and shook the man’s hand, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Granger. You have a most perfect witch for a daughter.”
Rich laughed and then realized only Harry got the joke. “Sorry, son, in my world, calling a young woman a witch isn’t really a compliment, but I know what you mean. And, yes she is, so thank you.”
“Good to see you again,” Harry said as he stepped forward to give Rich a one-armed hug.
“You, too, Harry. How are the boys?”
“Great. Bill and Fleur have them for the night, so Ginny and I could be here. How’s Julie?”
Rich looked at Draco and smiled, “Almost as happy as my baby girl, thanks to him.”
Draco blushed a little again and smiled.
“Arthur, long time, no see,” Rich continued as he moved forward to shake hands with him.
“I know,” Arthur smiled. “We need to arrange a time to get together again soon. You still owe me a chance to watch you change your car lubrication fluid.”
Rich laughed, “Oil, Arthur, change the oil. And, I still can’t believe you think it would be fun to watch.”
Draco laughed, “It’s messy and disgusting. Why on earth would you want to watch that?”
“What do you know about changing oil in a car, Draco?” Harry teased on a laugh.
“I watch TV,” Draco said with a self-deprecating smile.
Blaise laughed and turned to Hermione’s father, “Mr. Granger, would you like a drink?”
“Call me Rich, son. Mr. Granger is my dad. And, sure, what’ve you got?”
Blaise and Rich moved off to the bar, and Draco, Harry and Arthur were left standing staring at each other.
Draco looked Arthur in the eye and watched the man’s gaze drop to the floor. He hated that he felt actual guilt at a Weasley’s discomfort. He looked at Harry and saw him looking sadly at Arthur.
With a heavy, put upon sigh, Draco said, “Fine. I’ll talk to her, okay. I’m not forcing her to do anything, but I will tell her what he said.”
The look of gratitude on Arthur’s face almost made Draco grimace, but he held his face in check.
Harry held back his wide smile of approval, so as to not push Draco. Instead he took out his cell phone and said, “I’m going to call over and let Snoop know he left. She may want to go look for him.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
Later that afternoon the group, minus Ron and Snoop, went out to an early dinner to celebrate Draco and Hermione’s engagement. Hermione had asked how thing had gone for them and Draco had said fine, but that he would tell her more later when they were alone.
Her mother and Molly sat together and discussed all the things they felt needed to be included in the wedding. Molly also tried, as tactfully as possible, to answer Julie’s questions about her soon-to-be in laws. Arthur and Rich caught up on each others’ lives and talked about grandchildren. The younger couples talked about the engagement and then started to discuss different aspects of the wedding. That was when Hermione turned to Blaise and Draco.
“I have a question for you two.”
“What is it, babe?” Blaise smiled at her as Draco turned to look at her.
“I was thinking, I’ve got Ginny, Beth and Snoop to stand with me. I know Draco is going to have you, but I was wondering if you would mind if I asked Blythe to be there, too. She’s like Draco’s family, too. What do you think?”
“She’s gonna freak,” Ginny laughed.
Blaise nodded and answered, “Yes, she will. Thank you, Mione. I think it’s a great idea. But, it’s D’s choice.”
“Brilliant idea,” Draco nodded. Then he leaned over to peck her on the lips, “Thank you.”
Beth asked, “So, if she is going to be on Draco’s side, will she be wearing a suit?”
Draco laughed, “No way. I’m not standing in the way of her and dress robe shopping. She’d kill me.”
“A serious shopper, huh?” Harry asked with a knowing smile.
Blaise groaned, “Like no other. I swear she can stay in one stupid dress shop for a whole day deciding on one outfit.”
Everyone laughed and then Draco turned to Harry, “Actually, I was kind of going to ask the same kind of thing, Harry.”
“What? If I was going to wear a dress?”
Draco smiled and shook his head, “No, smartass, if you would stand up with us. I know Mi would want you there. And, I do, too.”
“Oh, Draco,” Hermione smiled.
“I would be honored,” Harry answered and reached out to shake Draco’s hand.
“But, what about Ro…” Ginny started to ask.
Silence followed her question.
Hermione finally cleared her throat and fiddled with her napkin as she answered, “Gin, you know I want him there. I never imagined my wedding without him, but he…he wouldn’t come, much less stand with us.”
Draco sighed heavily and glanced at Harry. He clenched his jaw a little before he said, “Actually, I believe he would. If you want him there, ask him.”
Hermione looked at him in question, but decided to wait until they were alone to find out more about what had happened at the loft. “Well, we can discuss it later.”
She then shook herself a little and said, “So, back to clothing.” The men groaned playfully and the girls laughed.
“Why can’t we talk about something interesting, like the food and cake? Or, even better, that garter bit,” Draco asked with a laugh.
The rest of dinner was spent laughing and relaxing with each other. Draco was pleased to see Blaise talking easily with the other men. He didn’t know how it had happened, but in the space of only a few months his entire world had changed. A part of him had always felt a little guilty about dragging Blaise into his problems; into his life. But, as he sat and looked around the table, he realized all that pain had brought them here. He was happy. He loved and was loved. And, he had more real friends than he’d had in his entire life. All thanks to the woman who sat next to him and wore his ring.
Hermione saw the pensive look on his face and put her hand over his on the table.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly.
He smiled at her and nodded, “I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever been better.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
“Love you,” Hermione called out to her parents as they flooed back home.
Draco stood next to her and they leaned against each other heavily in exhaustion.
“Are you as tired as I am?” he asked with a low laugh.
“Oh yeah,” she answered around a yawn. “I am going to sleep like the dead.”
He stepped back and stretched as he pulled off his shirt, “That makes two of us. Thank goodness tomorrow is Sunday. We can sleep in.”
Hermione pulled her top off as she walked toward the bedroom and laughed, “As long as your mother doesn’t send us anymore gifts.”
“Yeah, remind me to send her an owl tomorrow about that,” he grunted as he kicked off his shoes.
Hermione sat on the bed and removed her shoes as she sighed, “Don’t be too hard on her. She was trying to be nice.”
“Okay, who are you and what have you done to Hermione Granger?” Draco asked only half joking.
Hermione just pulled a face and continued to get ready for bed.
“You are too nice sometimes,” he said shaking his head as he put his clothes in the hamper. “She’s going to take over if you aren’t careful. If there’s one thing Mother loves, it’s planning a huge party.”
Hermione stripped and reached for her bathrobe, “Well, it’s my wedding, so she’ll have to step back a bit, but I don’t mind her being a part of it. You’re her only child. She’s going to be involved, Draco.”
Draco headed into the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth. He called back, “OUR wedding, love. Just don’t let her push you into things you don’t want. She can be a tad manipulative.”
Hermione entered the bathroom with a laugh as she pulled her hair back in a ponytail to wash her face. She teased, “Being related to the former Prince of Slytherin? No way!”
He made a face at her in the mirror and finished brushing before he spoke again.
“Weasley apologized to me.”
Her eyes flew to his in the mirror and she asked, “And?”
He turned to look at her, his face blank, “And, he wants to talk to you.”
Hermione looked at him for a moment and turned to finish at the sink in silence. She then turned off the water and took the towel Draco held for her.
As she headed back to the bedroom she said, “Start from the beginning.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
I was very glad to hear about your third date with Todd. You still haven’t explained how you were able to meet him in Muggle London. You know I love you, hon, but you have to remember to be careful. I know you think he’s nice, but all this sneaking…it worries me. And, you have to start thinking about whether or not to tell him about you being a witch. Make sure you keep your wand with you at all times. I know you aren’t supposed to do magic outside of school, but I know the Ministry would understand if it’s for protection, just in case. Okay, enough of me acting like your mother. Ha ha ha Sorry, I’m just protective of my friends.
So, I have news. Draco and I are engaged. It happened two nights ago. And, I promise to tell you every detail when I see you, which I hope is sooner than later. I’d like to take you to lunch at least when you get your measurements done for your attendant’s dress. I’m thinking it will be muggle dress code as so much of my family will be there, so your mother might want to accompany us. (giggle) Oh, did I forget to ask? Sorry about that. Will you please do me, and Draco, the honor of standing with us? You are the sister of his heart and my friend. It wouldn’t be the same without you. The only decisions so far are that we are getting married back there at home, the attendants are you (I hope), Ginny, Harry, Beth, Blaise, Snoop, and (brace yourself) possibly Ron, and there will be no pink or orange used. Ginny insisted. J
Once I know more about what on earth is happening with Ron, I will let you know. All I know right now is he’s sorry and he apologized to Draco yesterday. I have a lunch planned with him today, so we shall see what that brings.
Anyway, please owl me back when you have made your decision on if you will stand with us. I pray you say yes. Draco does, too. Take care of yourself.
ps. Please try to avoid any reporters for a while, okay?
Hermione sat back and reread the letter over before sealing it. She smiled to herself as she thought of Blythe’s reaction. The younger girl would quite probably squeal herself hoarse.
“All done?” Draco asked as he poked his head into the study.
Draco shook his head and smiled, “We’ll probably hear her answer all the way from here.”
Hermione nodded and laughed. Then he moved across the room to lean on the desk and look at her. He put his hand on hers and cleared his throat before he spoke.
“Thank you again for doing this. It means a lot to me. She’s…she’s…”
Hermione smiled softly up at him, “Family.”
He nodded, “Yeah.”
She stood and leaned forward to give him a hug, resting her cheek on his chest. They stood in companionable silence for a minute before he spoke again.
“So, do you know what you want to say?”
She didn’t need to ask about what. It had been hovering over them all morning. The night before he had explained what Ron had said and his own feelings on it. She had listened and remained very quiet. Part of her was elated that Ron had finally come around. But, another part was still saddened and angered by the whole thing. Even in his acceptance of them, Ron had been unforgiving to Draco. She knew she would forgive him, but she still wasn’t sure what she would say to him at brunch.
With a shake of her head she moved away and took up the letter to Blythe. She placed it in a fireproof tube and left the room.
Draco sighed and followed. He had a lot on his mind, too, as he was going home to speak to his father. He needed the truth. He needed answers.
As he looked across the room at Hermione he knew she needed to figure out how she felt about everything with Ron, and he didn’t want to push her. But, her continued silences all morning, on top of his own stress, were bugging him. She usually expressed every thought and feeling she had; to see her so withdrawn bothered him. And, it renewed his anger with Weasley. Even in his apology he caused trouble.
He watched her set the letter tube in the fireplace to floo it to Blythe. He smiled at her ingenuity. She had explained a while ago that since most of her letter correspondence had been to her parents, she had never needed an owl. So, she devised the floomail method for the few times she had to correspond with the Ministry or anyone from back home. He wondered for the hundredth time why someone else hadn’t thought of it before.
“I’m going to tell him how I feel, I guess,” she said, interrupting his thoughts. She kept her back to him, her eyes on the dying flames. “I love him, Draco. But, he hurt me in more ways than one. And, I know he didn’t so much hurt your feelings as your pride, but he still hurt someone I love in his zeal to be right. You don’t know him really, but he’s one of the best people I know. He’s been a significant part of my world for most of my life and he’s honestly a good man. I don’t know what I’m going to say exactly, but he has to know he was wrong. He has to know his apology stunk, no matter how much he meant it. He has to know that you aren’t going anywhere. And, he has to REALLY accept that. I know you two will most likely never be friends, but…”
She was interrupted by his snort and shot him a look over her shoulder, her brow raised, “You have to try, too, you know.”
“I know. Sorry.” he sighed. “Go on.”
“Well, friends or not, you two are going to have to spend time together, get to know each other, get over each other. I love you both and I never want to go through this again. He has to know all that. And, he has to apologize to me.”
Her voice trailed off and he tilted his head to the side as he asked, “You’ve already forgiven him, haven’t you?
She heard the mix of derision and laughter in his voice and shrugged. Then she moved away from the fireplace and sighed, “I don’t know. I’m still upset with him, but I just want this over. I want to be happy and have him be happy for me. In a perfect world, this goes away like it never happens and you and he are the greatest of friends…”
“Keep dreaming,” he muttered with a short laugh.
She smiled and walked over to him, “Well, I said in a perfect world, love.”
He smirked and leaned down to peck her lips lightly, “When are you leaving?”
“No time like the present, right?”
She picked her cell phone up off the corner table and dialed the number.
Draco leaned back against the couch and crossed his arms as she paced away. He listened to her end of the conversation.
“Hey…well, I wanted to come over, but I didn’t want to interrupt you two if…ewww Snoop! Stop. I don’t need that picture in my head…yeah right, so anyway, can I pop over?...No, I think it’s time…yeah…no, you should stay…well, okay if you’re sure, but…I know, but it’s your flat and I…fine, but only a half hour or so, okay?...No, we should be done, one way or the other, by then…okay, see you in a while then. Thanks…what?...oh, okay, I’ll tell him…will do…buh bye.”
“Tell me what?” he asked as he came up behind her and rested his hands on her hips and his chin on her head.
Hermione turned to flash a grin up at him, “Snoop said to tell you thank you and that I should, uh…give you something special for being so forgiving.”
“Oh, she did, huh? Any ideas come to mind,” he leered down at her.
“One or two,” she giggled. “But, first, I have to deal with Ron.”
He sobered for a minute and looked at her for a moment before he spoke, “You know that perfect world of yours is never going to happen, right? Not completely.”
“I know, but if you two can be at least civil, I’ll be happy.”
He nodded slightly, “That I can do.”
“Good.” Then she reached up to smooth the worry lines from his brow, “Are you sure you want to do this today?”
Draco closed his eyes and leaned into her hand as he nodded. Then he sighed, “As you said, no time like the present, right?”
“But, Draco, he…”
He shook his head, eyes opening, and interrupted, “No. I have to get this done. I can’t keep avoiding it. I need to know why…how he could have done all that. And, why after everything was over, I had my memories stolen. Everything is finally coming together, Mi. I just need to close this last door, you know?”
She nodded and leaned forward to pull him close, “What if he doesn’t give you the answers you want?”
“Well, I will never know if I don’t try. He let me see it, so he knows it’s coming. I gave him time, but I need answers now.”
She nodded against his chest and took a breath. Then she tilted her head to look up at him, “Are you coming back home tonight?”
“I plan to. Depends on how this talk goes, I guess. But, I will call you later and let you know, okay?”
She nodded, “Okay.”
They pulled apart long enough to gather their things and then met back in the middle of the living room. In silence they came together; their kiss one of love, support, and hope. Without another word he stepped back and moved to the fireplace. When he stood floo powder in hand in the fireplace, he nodded once and blew her a kiss. She smiled back softly and shut her eyes to apparate to Ron and Snoop’s. The last sound she heard was his strong voice calling out the Malfoy Manor address.
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
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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