Chapter 17 : Proposing
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Roughly two months had passed and it was now August 25th. Draco was coping relatively well, considering he’d lost his mother before he’d turned twenty-one. Most attributed this to the ever-constant presence of his loving girlfriend. Hermione had taken great pains to ensure that Draco was all right. She stayed home from work with him (Celeste was understanding, to say the least), took him lunch when he went back to work, and got him out of their apartment at night. Hermione knew Draco was heartbroken and that he was trying to be strong.
But he’d lost his mother.
No one expected him to be strong.
And yet, life moves on and people cope and the world continues to turn. A portrait of Narcissa now graced Draco’s office at home, and Hermione found him in there a decent amount of time talking to her likeness. She didn’t blame him, nor did she discourage it. Draco was a strong, smart young man and she knew that eventually the pain would start to fade and he’d spend less time with the portrait. He was grieving right now, and she had no desire to interfere with that. She’d read a few books on grieving and the human psyche since the war and felt that she should just let nature take its course and just be supportive. Sure, she’d lost plenty of people close to her, but not her parents. She wanted to make sure she was doing everything possible to help him. Draco noticed her effort and couldn’t even put into words how grateful he was for her. It only made him love her all the more, which is why on August 25th, Draco invited his best friend Blaise out to lunch at the one place he knew Hermione would never think he would set foot in, much less set foot in herself. Madame Pudifoot’s in Hogsmeade.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Draco?” Blaise asked when Draco apparated them there. “Are you off your rocker? Do you not remember how many horrid dates we suffered through here?”
“I know,” Draco snapped, “but it’s the only place I can be absolutely certain Hermione won’t catch us…”
“Catch us doing what? We’re having lunch, you tosser.” The pair walked inside and was mentally transported back to their time at Hogwarts. The place hadn’t changed a bit… Well, maybe it had gotten pinker, but Draco and Blaise were too busy holding back gags to notice. After the pair had been seated (with many strange looks by the café’s patrons), Blaise narrowed his eyes at Draco. “You owe me for this. I’m going to need a shower when I get back to wash off this horrid color. I can practically taste it.”
Draco nodded his agreement. “I owe you. I get it, but I brought you here for a very important reason.” Blaise looked at him expectantly. Draco took a deep breath and looked his friend straight in the eye. “I’m going to propose to Hermione.”
Explosions. Three of them. Hermione threw open the door of her experiment room, sprinting down the hall to Charles’ experiment room. Whenever there was an explosion, she knew exactly where it was coming from. It was always Charles. When she reached the hallway that led to his room, she saw Celeste already there with a worried look on her face. Hermione and the older woman met eyes and Celeste shrugged. Hermione finally jogged up to the door just as Charles threw it open and stumbled out coughing. He glanced up through the smoke and saw Celeste and Hermione standing there.
“Bloody women, I’m alright! I’m always alright!”
“Language, Charles,” Celeste reprimanded and Hermione hid a chuckle. “That was three explosions, you fool. What are you working on in there?”
Charles grinned and shook his head. “Celeste, my love, you look radiant today, as usual. And Hermione, my rising sun,” he took her hand and kissed it as he knelt before her. “When are you going to leave that tosser Malfoy and make me the happiest man in the world?” Hermione laughed loudly. Charles, with a mock look of offense, transferred his attention to his boss. “Celeste, you know my heart has always belonged to you.”
Celeste rolled her eyes. “Charles, you are not getting out of the question.”
“You know I can’t tell you what I’m working on, Celeste. It’s against protocol,” he reminded her. And it was. No one knew what anyone one else was working on at the Institute of Experimental Charms. Everything they did was top secret. Hermione hadn’t even told Draco what she was currently working on, but that didn’t keep him from guessing or giving her ridiculous suggestions as to charms she should develop. Evangeline Caldwell, a pretty blonde a few years older than Hermione who had graduated from Beauxbaton, poked her head out of her door across the hall.
“What did Charles do now? I was held up. Do we have to evacuate?”
“I swear you women will be the death of me!” Charles lamented. “But don’t worry, my dear,” he continued. “I’ll get the smoke cleaned out of here in a jiffy and get back to work. I didn’t damage anything.” Celeste gave him a look. “Okay, I didn’t damage anything beyond repair. I’ll take care of it.” Hermione and Evangeline shared a look. It was the Charles look. It had only taken a few weeks to develop. Evangeline worked in the experiment room across the hall from Charles, so she had grown slightly used to his antics. However, that didn’t stop her from checking on him every once in awhile when she heard something like… well, like something being blown to bits. Hermione always came running when she thought Charles had killed himself, and so the Charles look was born. It more or less communicated that they couldn’t believe how typical this was and that once Charles finished whatever this charm was he was working on, things were going to be a lot less interesting around IEC.
Celeste put her hand over her heart. “Charles, you have taken more years off of my life than anyone else who has ever worked here.” He suddenly looked horror stricken. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” She couldn’t help but cough as the smoke continued to flood the hall. “Now get this cleaned up and fix whatever it is you broke.” Charles saluted her and returned to his room while Celeste waved her wand and the smoke looked like it was suctioned into the piece of wood. “Well, now that today’s entertainment is over-“ Celeste, Hermione, and Evangeline winced together as a crash sounded, followed by Charles yelling that he was alright through the door, “I suppose we should all get back to work.” She checked her watch, “Or go to lunch. See you later, girls.” Celeste waved goodbye to Hermione and Evangeline and apparated away, most likely to her office again.
Hermione and Evangeline looked at each other with the same thing in mind. “Lunch?” Evangeline asked with the very slightest of a French accent. Hermione quickly agreed. “When I visited Hogwarts so many years ago for the Triwizard tournament, a boy took me somewhere for dinner.” She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “It would be fun to go back there. I haven’t thought of it in ages and I can’t remember the name. I just remember a lot of pink…”
Hermione laughed. “I think I know exactly where you’re talking about. Madame Pudifoots?”
“Yes! That is the place! Even the food was pink, was it not?” Hermione nodded. “Let’s go there. It will be like old times. Even we must reminisce every now and again. Will you apparate us there?”
“Sure. Just let me go grab my satchel and we’ll be on our way. Meet you back here in five?”
If Blaise had been drinking anything, it would have been all over Draco. “You’re what?!”
“Draco… are you sure this is what you want to do? I mean, I know you love Hermione and you know I approve,” Blaise hesitated, “But you just lost your mother, and you and Hermione have been dating less than a year. Hell, you’ve been friends less than a year. Draco, Isn’t this kind of rushing things a bit?”
“That’s exactly the point, Blaise!” Draco’s voice was characterized by passion. “Life is short! We should know this better than anyone. I don’t want to wait. Merlin knows how much time we have, and whether it’s five minutes or five months or fifty years, or a hundred and fifty years, I want to spend whatever time remaining with her by my side as my wife.”
Blaise listened silently while Draco spoke and slowly nodded when he was finished. “I understand, mate. If this is what you want to do, I will supp- DUCK!” Blaise grabbed Draco and pulled him under the table, causing Draco to hit his head on the edge in the process.
“Bloody hell, Blaise. What in Merlin’s name is wrong with you?” demanded Draco as he rubbed his head.
“Hermione just walked past the window outside! She’s on her way in!” Draco looked at Blaise incredulously. “I know you think it’s impossible, but I’m not kidding!” Blaise peeked up above the table. “She’s with… wow, who the bloody hell is she with? She’s beautiful…” Draco elbowed Blaise in the stomach and Blaise glared at him as he ducked back under the table. “It’s really her. We’re screwed. Why in the world is she here?”
“Probably for a girls’ lunch, you dolt!” Draco hissed at his friend. “What are we going to do? We can’t apparate. The sound will draw too much attention!” Blaise shrugged in confusion. “Make a distraction and I’ll sneak out.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I’m not kidding! Get back up there!” Draco pushed Blaise back up while he hid under the long pink tablecloth and Blaise hit his head on the table this time.
Blaise closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and turned to face Hermione and Evangeline with a fake smile. “Hermione! How are you doing today?”
Hermione sized him up with confused eyes. “Fine… what brings you here, Blaise? Doesn’t really look like your scene.”
He scrambled for some kind of excuse. “Uhm, I was actually going to meet someone here, but it doesn’t look like she’s going to show up. I’ve been waiting about a half hour.” This scored him a sympathetic look from Evangeline. Blaise shrugged. “You know, you win some, you lose some. I’ll be alright.”
“Anyone I might know?” Hermione asked skeptically. Why would Blaise bring someone here of all places?
“Nah, not this time. Just a girl I met in London one night.” Looking for a different tactic to throw Hermione off, Blaise turned on the charm. “Not near as pretty as your blonde friend here, so things are working in my favor. When are you going to introduce us, Hermione?”
A flush quickly covered Hermione’s face as she was reminded of her manners. “Of course, Evangeline, This is Blaise Zabini. Blaise, this is Evangeline Caldwell. She graduated from Beauxbaton a few years before us.” Evangeline held out her hand and Blaise took it, raising her fingers to his lips.
“The pleasure is entirely mine, Miss Evangeline.” She blushed.
“Perhaps your friend Blaise would like to join us for lunch?” Hermione bit the inside of her cheek, part of her very skeptical of what Blaise was doing here, the other somehow not surprised that he was here and that he was going to woo Evangeline right in front of her. This was ridiculous.
“I’d be honored.” Blaise replied before Hermione could say anything. He pulled up a chair to their table in a matter of seconds and had seated himself. He took his glass of pink water off the other table and placed it haphazardly on the table, half of it landing awkwardly on the silverware and tipping over. The glass spilled its pink contents all over the table. Evangeline shrieked while Blaise apologized profusely and Draco scrambled out from under the table he had been waiting under and made a mad dash at the door. As a waitress came to clean up the mess and Hermione glanced out the window. For a second she thought she saw… no. Couldn’t be. But for a second, she had almost thought she’d seen Draco disapparate in the very corner of the window.
“I can’t believe that happened!” exclaimed an incredulous Draco back in his office a few hours later while Blaise leaned nonchalantly against the door.
Blaise smirked at his best friend. “I’m glad that it did. Evangeline and I have a date this Saturday night.” Draco rolled his eyes and sat heavily in his chair. “Anyway, why do you need me, Draco? I can’t propose to Hermione for you.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “No. Really?”
“I want to make it perfect.” Draco moved on. “I want it to be romantic and planned and all that rot.”
“So…candles and dancing and extravagance then, eh?”
“Yes, all of that. But I want it to be a surprise. She can’t see it coming.”
Blaise grinned. “That’s where I come in, isn’t it?” He brushed imaginary dirt off of his shoulder. “Me and my super stealth.”
“Load of good it did us earlier.”
“Because I had you with me!” Blaise argued. “You’re the antithesis of stealth.” Draco rolled his eyes but Blaise continued. “You have roof access, right?”
“Blaise, we live in the penthouse suite. We have a balcony. Why do we need the roof?”
Blaise only shook his head disappointedly. “You have so much to learn, my friend. So much to learn.”
Draco stepped out of the fireplace and into his living room at home. The second he looked up through the vanishing smoke, his heart nearly stopped. She’d beaten him home, and she was waiting for him. Her dark brown eyes bored into his as she sat on the couch, arms foloded across her body.
“Good evening, Draco.” Her voice was smug. “How was your day?”
He tried to act normal while he panicked internally. She was too smart for her own damn good. “It was fine,” he swallowed, “You know, the usual.”
“Where did you go for lunch?”
“I worked through lunch.” Draco took a seat on the chair adjacent to the couch she was sitting on, brushing the last bits of dust from his robes.
“Oh?” Hermione raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You’ll never guess where I went.”
Draco smirked. “I know where you went. Blaise told me. He also told me that he’s got a date with your friend this weekend.”
“You know,” Hermione mused, not acknowledging what he said, “it was the strangest thing. Blaise being there by himself. Blaise rarely goes anywhere by himself. Said he was meeting someone, but that they stood him up.” She locked eyes with Draco again, “Blaise does not get stood up, Draco.”
“First time for everything, I suppose.”
“Uh huh… Except that for a moment, I could have sworn that I saw you outside. Only for a moment, in the corner of the window.” Hermione smiled when Draco’s face turned white. “Why were you there, Draco?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re lying about this. I know you were there, Draco. I saw you!”
Draco searched his mind for an excuse. “I…I just… I like the food, okay? I blackmailed Blaise into going with me, but when we saw you outside I didn’t want to stay because I was ashamed of the pink!”
He was lying. She knew he was lying. There was something he wasn’t telling her… but why? With a deep sigh, she shrugged. “Fine.”
Knowing that this would probably be his only chance, Draco changed the subject. “How was work today at the Charms Institute?” He watched Hermione’s eyes cloud over and hid a smirk. Success.
“I’m so frustrated!” she exclaimed. “I’m trying to invent a charm that uses l-“ Hermione quickly caught herself. She wasn’t allowed to talk specifics with anyone concerning her work. “It’s just harder inventing successful charms than I thought it would be. The words have to be right, and the motions have to be right and it all has to be timed perfectly and for some reason I just can’t get this charm right.” She smiled, “Charles blew something up again today though. I don’t know how Celeste stays so calm about it. He reminds me of Seamus. No matter what he’s working on, something always explodes.” Draco finally took a seat on the couch next to her and draped his arm around her shoulders.
“You’ll get it.” He reassured her. “You figured out how to destroy horcruxes and battle dark magic. You just have to get the hang of it and then it’ll never trouble you again.”
“If you say so,” she sighed. “If you say so.”
“Will you do me a favor?” Draco suddenly asked, trying to keep the nerves from his voice.
Hermione eyed him skeptically. “Maybe… Of course I won’t guarantee anything until I’ve heard your full proposal.”
Proposal. She just said the word. Draco tried to keep his heart from stopping right then and there. She didn’t know. How could she know? She couldn’t possibly know. It was completely a coincidence. Draco realized that it had been a bit too long since she had spoken and he swallowed. “Just… keep Friday night open for me, okay? We haven’t done anything special for awhile and you’ve been tense lately.”
A smile graced Hermione’s lips as she finally let the struggles of the day drift to the back of her mind. “Yes, I will keep Friday night open for you.” She shyly kissed his lips. “Thank you.”
Draco certainly did his research when trying to decide on how to propose to Hermione. He and Blaise went to a local video store and rented movies in which the proposal scenes were said to be excellent. After being overloaded with scenes of Tiffany stores, unlimited shopping sprees, climbing up fire escapes (he finally understood the Pretty Woman reference Hermione had made a while back), moonlight dinners, and kisses in the rain, he felt he was finally prepared to plan that Friday night.
Hermione had made it overwhelmingly clear that she wanted the promise ring he’d already given her to serve as her engagement ring, so that was one less thing he had to worry about. At this point, his biggest concern was keeping the whole ordeal a secret for the rest of the week. Because of how insightful she was, keeping a secret from Hermione was about as easy as defeating Voldemort had been for the golden trio… which would have been impossible without her skills of deduction anyway. The only saving grace that Draco had was that Hermione was so wrapped up in her work lately that she’d been a bit oblivious to other things that were going on. In addition to that, he had recruited Ginny to keep her busy that Wednesday and Thursday while he was putting the finishing touches on things.
It was Friday and, when asked, Draco would tell you that this had been the longest week of his life. He had taken Blaise’s advice and transformed the roof of the building. A charm had been cast above the area so that no matter what the weather was the pair of them would stay comfortable and dry (always a hazard in Britain), and lights were strung above everywhere to provide a soft, romantic light in the dark. Soft jazz music lilted through the air from a record player he had borrowed from Ginny, playing a record he knew to be one of Hermione’s favorites to relax to. To top it off, Draco had Twylla make Hermione’s favorite dinner and had it charmed to remain piping hot throughout the whole evening. He hand selected champagne to follow the dinner and ordered cheesecake from a bakery in town for dessert.
Draco waited impatiently for Hermione to get home, pacing the living room floor in front to the floo. She was late. Forty-five minutes late. What could possibly be keeping her? He sat down, only to stand back up seconds later to pace more. His mind raced, his hands sweat, his heart skipped beats all over the place. He raked his fingers through his hair and continued to pace. Fifty-three minutes late.
Fifty-Six minutes and forty-one seconds late.
Fifty-eight minutes and four seconds late.
Flames lit up the fireplace as Hermione stepped through and into the living room, dusting powder off of her shoulder and shaking it out of her hair. She looked exhausted, drained. She didn’t even notice Draco standing off to the side as she dropped her bag and sunk into the closest chair she could find and closed her eyes. Draco couldn’t decide whether or not this was good for his cause.
Hermione opened her eyes, startled and finally noticed Draco standing in front of the large windows looking out over the city of London. She nodded tiredly. “It was. I’m sorry I lost track of time. I’ve tried everything to make this charm work and I just… I’m sorry. I can’t tell you about it.” She dropped her head into her hands and rubbed her temples in an effort to ease her headache.
“It’s alright. Why don’t you go get cleaned up? I’ve got dinner covered for tonight anyway.” Draco tried to keep his voice from shaking. He was getting nervous. Terribly, terribly nervous. Lucky for him, Hermione was too tired to notice. She nodded her head, lifted herself off of the couch, and shuffled her feet back to their room. Draco finally sat down and looked at the ground. What if this didn’t work out? What if she said no? All of these thoughts and more flooded his mind until Hermione walked back out some 15 minutes later. Though she still looked a bit tired, she didn’t look quite as drained. She had pulled her hair back out of her face and changed into a cute, casual teal dress that flowed around her knees. Draco allowed himself a quick glance at her right hand.
She was wearing the ring.
Draco stood and smiled, offering his arm to her. She looked at him quizzically. “Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Are we going to apparate?”
“No, it’s close enough to walk,” Draco assured her. Hermione took his arm and Draco led her out of the flat. He turned just before they reached the elevator though and opened the door to the stairs. Hermione gave him a questioning look. Draco shook his head to tell her he would give nothing away. “Just trust me.” After a very Hermione-like look, she hesitantly continued up the stairs as he held the door open for her. Draco followed behind Hermione, reminding himself to try to stay calm with every step. He wasn’t even going to ask her until the end of dinner for Merlin’s sake! It was time to relax.
Who was he kidding? He needed Firewhiskey. Now. Well, more Firewhiskey. He might have had a shot or two while waiting for Hermione to come home.
“Oh, Draco…” Hermione breathed in when she opened the door to the roof. It was beautiful. The night was clear, the roof was warm, and the atmosphere was nothing less than magical. Stars and strung lights mingled overhead to create a sort of ethereal glow over their heads and music lilted softly through the air. She stood for a few seconds taking it all in before striding to the set table in the middle as Draco followed a few steps behind. “I can’t believe you had time to do all of this.” Hermione smiled gently at him as she took her seat across the table. “It smells delicious, by the way.”
Draco shrugged nonchalantly, but was smirking. “I just thought it’d be a nice break from the usual.”
“It is. It’s just what I needed.” Hermione exhaled a long, relaxing breath. “Thank you.”
Draco’s smile was genuine. “You’re welcome.”
A comfortable silence settled between the two of them as they ate. Considering that it was later than they usually ate dinner both of them were practically ravenous and nearly inhaled their food... and Draco couldn’t have formed a sentence to save his life he was so nervous. Luckily, by desert they had slowed down eating and started an easy conversation about unimportant things, helping to put Draco’s mind at ease. He pulled out his wand and summoned the champagne to go along with their dessert. As he poured the glasses, he began to talk nervously and quickly. He did not look at her, for fear that he would lose his nerve.
“So, Hermione, there’s actually a bigger reason that I did all of this tonight. You see, I think we know better than anyone that life can be very, very short. I know this is sudden and that we haven’t been together very long compared to a lot of other people who take this big of a step, but, Hermione, I love you. I love you and I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life without you.” Draco finished pouring their glasses and finally looked up. “Hermione, will you marry me?”
She wasn’t looking at him. Well, she was looking at him, but it was more like she was looking through him.
“Hermione?” Draco asked gently and waved his hand in front of her face.
“Oh!” She shook her head a little and refocused her eyes on him. “I’m sorry, Draco. I was thinking about work. Were you saying something?”
Frustrated, Draco nearly knocked over everything on the table when he suddenly stood. “Something? No. I wasn’t saying anything. I was only proposing, but don’t let the romantic night I planned for the occasion distract you from your work.” Draco turned to look at her, realizing that he had been pacing madly. Her eyes were full of tears, but she didn’t look unhappy. She looked overjoyed.
“You’re proposing?” she choked out.
“Oh, Draco! Do it again! I missed it. I’m sorry.”
Draco sighed, but he was obviously bemused by his soon to be fiancé. Taking a cue from all the muggle movies he had seen, he walked over to her side of the table and lowered himself to one knee. “Hermione,” he started as he slid her promise ring off of her right hand, “I love you. I love you more than I thought possible, and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone other than you. You are the most exquisite creature I’ve ever seen, and if I don’t get to see your face every morning when I wake up, I don’t want to wake up at all.” Draco took a shaky breath, looking deep into Hermione’s misty eyes. “Will you do me the extreme honor of marrying me?”
Speechless and with tears threatening to spill from her eyes, Hermione nodded yes quickly, and Draco slid the diamond ring onto her left hand at last. Still holding her hand, Draco stood, the smile on his face wide. Hermione stood too and threw her arms around him. “Draco, I love you.”
And then she stiffened. Draco pulled away, concern etched on his face. “What?”
“Love…” she whispered. “That’s what I was missing. It’s the missing piece. I tried incantations and words and wand movements, but never love. It’s love! That’s what’s missing, Draco!”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “You’re thinking about work right now?”
“Yes, but,” Hermione looked up at him and blushed, “this is my breakthrough! It’s what I’ve needed for weeks! I know it will work.” Hermione stood on her tiptoes and kissed him deeply. “Please, I have to go back.”
Knowing that whatever it was she had to do could wait but that it would drive her crazy until it was finished, Draco allowed Hermione to leave, and oddly enough, he was okay with it. She was his fiancé. She would come back.
She was his. Forever.
And if he could help it, nothing was going to take her away.
A/N: Oh you wonderful, wonderful people. If you are still reading my story after this terrible absence, I love you more than you know. This story has been going almost a year now. I cannot thank those of you who have been so loyal enough!
I've had the most terrible case of writer's block, and I apologize for this chapter being a bit shorter than the others. Just know that I'm still going and there are 3 more chapters left! But even though the end is drawing near, I have plans for another story (which is partly why I've had such trouble with this one!). It's going to be a completely canon Marauder's Era story. Everyone loves Sirius, right? Anyway, I love you all! Please find me on twitter if you'd like! Every once in awhile I post updates for the story! There is a link on my blog on the forums! I'm TheMelodramatic there!
I love you all.
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