He held the ring up to the light, watching as the sunlight streaming through the parlor window glinted on the white gold band. It wasn't a normal engagement ring by any means. The black pearl resting in its diamond nest was far from what one would consider an engagement gemstone, but he couldn't resist picking it out for his soon-to-be-fiancée. She was different from other women, the farthest thing from the norm that he could think of. Moreover, the ring was a statement about his family, a statement that enforced the idea that Malfoys did not need to adhere to social norms. Malfoys were born to be different—at least, that's what his father used to tell him.
The sound of footsteps disturbed his thoughts, and he placed the ring back into the jewelry box, shoving it into his pocket right before a woman walked into the room. She didn't look up at him, her eyes glued to the parchment in her hands, a thoughtful expression on her face. Her hair was pulled back into a chignon, diamond studs in her ear and a simple necklace wrapped around her neck. She was unlike the society women of the time, unwilling to wear gaudy jewelry and flashy statement pieces. Instead, she preferred a simpler style, one that showed she was a cut above the rest but held a certain class about her.
"Good morning, darling. I thought you would be at work," she murmured, not glancing up at him.
"I had something I wanted to ask you," Draco said, fingers trailing across the back of the sofa, which he knew was for style, not comfort. "It's rather important."
"Mhmm." Her eyes remained focused on the parchment, sliding it up to read further. "That's lovely."
"Its life changing," he said, a smirk of amusement gracing his face. "You'll be so happy to hear."
"Yes, that's terribly interesting," she replied distractedly.
"I'm going to become a dancer at that new club in Hogsmeade. I hear the tips are quite good, and I can make a lucrative career out of it," he drawled, arms crossed. "Don't you think that's a good idea?"
"Fantastic," she mumbled, eyebrows knitted.
"I may have to take my clothes off for a few loose women, perhaps some gentlemen too. I hope you're alright with that," he continued. "I wouldn't want you to feel uncomfortable."
Finally, she glanced at him with a puzzled expression on her face. "Uncomfortable? I wouldn't be uncomfortable."
"That's wonderful, especially since I've already taken the position," he said, watching her eyebrows furrow in confusion. "Shall we go out for a 'congratulations' lunch?"
"Position? Draco, what on earth are you talking about?" The parchment dangled from her manicured fingertips as she shook her head in puzzlement. "I thought you were happy with your career at the ministry."
"I've decided to pursue my desire to be a male dancer," he stated casually. "You told me you approved."
She pursed her lips with distaste. "Funny, Draco. I'm certain that girl is the one who is injecting this terrible humor into you."
"No, Mother. That girl is the one who prevented me from walking out the door the minute I realized you weren't paying any attention to me," Draco said, eyes flashing with subdued anger.
"You always did like attention as a little boy," Narcissa said, walking past him and patting his chest. "Now, what is it that you came here to speak to me about? I'm assuming it isn't about your desire to be a dancer."
Draco sat down on the sofa while his mother poured herself a cup of tea, a small flash of distaste crossing his face as he adjusted his position to find comfortable seating. Unfortunately, he couldn't and settled for crossing his legs at the ankles and leaning back, eyeing his mother with a tiny bit of trepidation on his face. He knew how his mother felt about his girlfriend of four years. In her eyes, his girlfriend wasn't good enough for him. She wasn't a replica of Narcissa and never would be, and Narcissa didn't appreciate that fact. However, Draco cared very little for what his parents thought about his girlfriend. He would marry her, and he was simply telling his mother as a courtesy and self-defense. He could only imagine how his mother would react should she hear the news from someone else.
"Mother, I'm getting married." His mother's turquoise colored fine china fell from her hand, and Draco resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her dramatics. "Tipsy!"
A house elf popped in the room. "Master called?"
"Clean that mess up," Draco ordered, waving his hand towards the tiny blue pieces before turning to face his mother. "Mother, don't overreact. It's beneath you."
"Beneath me? Draco, of course I'm going to overreact. My son is marrying a vile woman, who will destroy the Malfoy family name that I have built from the ground—"
Draco arched an eyebrow. "You have built from the ground? Mother, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you're a Black, not a Malfoy."
"Forgive me. I wasn't the one parading around openly in Death Eater robes and destroying my family name," Narcissa said coldly. "If I remember correctly, you and your father certainly didn't have a problem with it, and he has spent the last seven years in Azkaban suffering for it. So for all intents and purposes, I believe I'm the one who should be in charge of the Malfoy name."
His jaw ticked, and he calmly replied, "Of course, Mother. You can take charge of the family name."
"I'm glad we can agree on that," Narcissa said, pouring herself another cup of tea.
"But you have no control over my life," Draco continued, ignoring his mother's thanks. "If you think that you and Father raised me to follow orders, you're wrong. You shouldn't have told me that Malfoys could have anything they desired."
"Clearly your desires are sub par to those of the Malfoys and, to be perfectly honest, the Blacks," Narcissa stated before taking a sip of her tea, eyeing Draco over the rim of her cup. "Where did we go wrong with you?"
"Amusing as this conversation is, Mother, I'm going back to work." Draco stood, with a glance at his mother. "Regardless of what you may think about her, Mother, she will be my wife. I am going to marry her."
Narcissa turned away from him with a small shake of her head. "She's no good for this family, Draco. You know that as well as I do. What will your father say?"
"Father is in Azkaban, Mother. I think he cares more about his sanity than my relationships," Draco said coolly. He grabbed some Floo powder from the mantle and tossed it in the flames, yelling, "Ministry of Magic."
In seconds, he was whirling away, landing in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. The Malfoy family business was ceased during investigations of his family, and it was deemed, by his mother, that it was worth giving up. So he ended up with a job in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, a job that he excelled at and, with a few well placed donations from his mother and a good deal of nights and weekends spent at work, he was promoted to the Head of the Department in his second year of work there.
A female voice sounded in the Atrium, and he glanced back to see a woman, wisps of red hair steadily falling from her loose chignon. She was precariously balancing three folders in her hand and a cup in the other, a book tucked under her arm. She paused and rebalanced the folders before continuing her trek, almost bumping into several people. He waited, slightly impatient, for her to catch up with him before beginning to walk with her to the lift.
"Weasley, volunteering for a position as pack mule?" He smirked as she gave him a brief glare.
"Funny, Malfoy," Ginny said, shoving the folders in his arms. "These are for you."
"What are they?" he asked, opening them to quickly glance at them. "How did you even get in touch with Mackey? Isn't he on some obscure island, spending thousands of Ministry galleons on a vacation?"
"He's in Bermuda on vacation with his family," Ginny corrected. "I spoke to that girl that he's been chatting up, the clerk—"
"Samantha," he drawled. "She is quite impressive."
Ginny raised both eyebrows. "Is that so?"
"She has a very nice set of—" he paused when Ginny crossed her arms, book dangling from her fingertips, reminding him of his mother, "- eyes. They're very nice."
"The ones attached to her breasts?" Ginny queried. The others in the lift glanced at her with startled expressions. She casually stared at them. "I said breasts, not tits. Stop looking at me so scandalously."
"Ms. Weasley, I believe we've reached our floor." Draco grabbed her by the elbow and steered her out of the lift, amusement all over his face. "Remind me to give you a raise."
"I could surely use one, but I think the powers that be might have a problem with you giving me a raise because I provide you with personal amusement." She took a small sip from the cup in her hand and pointed to the folders in his hand. "As I was saying before you decided to inform me of Samantha's well endowed assets, Samantha told me that he offered to pay for her room on his family vacation."
"What a gentleman," Draco stated, stopping when she rested her things on her desk outside his office. "How did you get Mackey to sign?"
"I listed some interesting facts about the place, and by the time I was done, he would have signed over his three children for me to leave him alone." Ginny smiled and removed a quill from the cup on her desk, dipping it in ink. "Sign the bottom so that we can announce the new locations for the World Cup qualifiers, and I can go home early today."
"Think again," Draco said, signing his name at the bottom of the letter. "I need you to write a letter to Hamish MacFarlan and convince him to speak at the Quidditch Hall of Fame induction ceremony in November. Then, get in touch with the legal representative for the Falcons and see if we can't find out what's happening with the lawsuit against the team for that drunken debacle. We need to know whether or not to exclude them from ceremony introductions. I need to see someone from the International Magical Office of Law in my office five minutes ago."
"You could have told me this morning before lunch," Ginny interjected. "Oh, I forgot. You like to exert your control. Carry on."
"Have the final bids for the World Cup final location on my desk in ten minutes," Draco said, closing the folder and handing it to her. "Get one of the lackeys to make twenty copies of these and send them to the proper channels."
As he walked away, she sarcastically asked, "Is that all?"
"No," Draco said. "Bring my usual lunch into my office."
"Lunch? I thought you went out for lunch with Blaise today," she said.
He smirked and went into his office, saying, "I got caught up. I highly doubt my lunch is any of your business."
Draco closed his office door and removed his robes, hanging it on the hook beside the door. Immediately, he reached into his pocket and withdrew the ring box, idly turning it over and thinking about how he would present it to his fiancée. He had been pondering the thought since he first picked up the ring two weeks prior and hadn't come up with any ideas to suit her. She liked romantic gestures, and he didn't think slipping it on her finger and demanding she marry him counted. He still held on to the belief that the only reason she liked romance was because it irked him to be sentimental.
A knock on the door made him place the box back in his pocket and sit behind his desk, reaching for the nearest document at hand before calling, "Come in."
Ginny entered the room and closed the door behind her. "Your lunch isn't any of my business?"
"You're my assistant," Draco stated blankly.
"Then I quit," she shot back. "Now I'm your girlfriend. Your lunch isn't any of my business?"
"Don't I get a kiss hello?" he asked with a smirk.
"No," Ginny replied with a withering stare. "I generally don't care what you do for lunch, but when you say you're going to lunch and don't go, I get curious."
"I got sidetracked by my mother," Draco responding, gesturing her to come over. "She wanted to talk to me about going to visit my father."
She slowly walked over to him and sat on the edge of the desk, crossing her arms. "You could have said that to begin with."
"You're adorable when you're paranoid, angry and jealous." He turned in his chair and pulled her onto his lap. "How about that kiss we were talking about?"
She leaned in and placed her lips mere inches from his. "We're at work."
"You quit. I'll hire you back in an hour," he murmured, pulling her in for a kiss. He placed his lips on her own, one hand finding purchase on the thin blouse that she wore under her outer robes, the other resting on her leg. When she pulled back, he raised an eyebrow. "We're nowhere close to done."
She smiled at him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Are you going to visit your father again?"
He groaned. "Ginny?"
"What? If I only have an hour of girlfriend time, I want to know what happened during your lunch hour before I feed you." She gave him a chaste kiss of the lips. "Everything else can wait for tonight."
"Yes, I'm going to visit Father in the morning," Draco said, resting his arms around her waist. "I haven't seen him in over a month, and he wrote me a letter last week."
"That's what rushing into the office was about last week," Ginny said with an understanding expression. "What did he say?"
"He spoke about the walks he takes in the yard," Draco said with a small shake of his head. "The man is slowly going insane."
"Remind me to—"
A knock interrupted them, and Ginny hopped off his lap and moved around to the other side of the desk, adjusting her skirt. She quickly grabbed a piece of parchment from Draco's desk, and he looked on amusedly before calling for the person to enter.
"Am I interrupting a lunchtime affair?"
"Hi, Blaise," Ginny greeted, giving the dark-skinned man a kiss on the cheek. "I hear you were Draco's cover to go to lunch today."
Blaise raised an eyebrow. "You asked her already? Well, what did she say? Should I start planning—"
"No, I did not ask her yet," Draco said quickly, standing to his feet.
"Planning what? And ask me what?" Ginny placed a hand on her hip. "I thought you said you went to speak to your mother about visiting your father."
"I did," Draco said smoothly, eyeing Blaise with unhidden anger. "But Blaise had something he wanted me to ask you."
"What would that be?" Ginny spun around and gazed at Blaise. "Do enlighten me?"
"Yes, Blaise. Since you're here, you may as well ask her," Draco drawled with a smirk on his face.
"I want to host a dinner party and hoped you would bring a female friend along," Blaise lied. "I needed to know if I should start planning the party."
"Blaise, none of my friends are interested in a man who won't remember their names in the morning," Ginny said with a grin. "But I'll see if I can't round up one of our interns for you. Word in the break room is that they're quite easy."
"I need a girl of substance, Ginny. Are you sure you don't want to end things with this tosser and come join me?" Blaise waggled his eyebrows. "I promise to keep you satisfied all day long and no hiding it from others."
"And don't forget all the girls that will be popping in to see if you remember them," Draco said dryly. "She'll have to deal with that, too."
"It doesn't sound so terrible," Ginny said thoughtfully. "Give me a bit of time to think about it. I'll let you know my decision soon."
"Why don't I take you out to dinner tonight?" offered Blaise with a wink.
"I have to break up with my boyfriend first," Ginny stage whispered, pausing to glance at Draco.
Draco glared at them. "If you two are done plotting adulterous relations, Weasley and I have work to do."
"Weasley. Just like that I'm demoted back to his assistant," Ginny said forlornly to Blaise. "I better get to work before he fires me."
"Don't forget to bring a friend to the dinner party on Sunday," Blaise said as she walked out. He fixed his gaze on Draco with a rueful grin. "Thanks to you, I have a dinner party to plan, although I am quite interested in the girl that your girlfriend will bring along."
"Did the absence of a ring on her finger not signal the fact that I didn't ask her yet?" Draco rubbed his temples, headache slowly forming.
"I thought she said no," Blaise said with a shrug, sitting in the seat in front of Draco's desk with crossed legs. "It's not an entirely impossible assumption. You two have had your fair share of . . . disagreements."
Draco smirked and leaned back in his chair. He thought of the last argument they had over bringing pets into bed. He detested the habit, especially when it came to Ginny's kitten, Drexel. He was a little thing with claws that could gouge the flesh from any human being—or the skin of fruit. Drexel had a penchant for jumping on the kitchen counters, much to the dissatisfaction of his house elf Minnie, and digging his claws into the various fruits on the counter top, especially bananas. Their argument stemmed from Draco finding a fur ball on his pillow one night, and their heated debate turned into a sparring match of hateful words—but then ended with a tumble in the bed.
"Yes, we have our fair share of disagreements. You're right." His eyes twinkled as he steepled his hands and stared at Blaise. "But we also know how to end our fights in an extremely pleasurable way."
Blaise shook his head, though a grin of amusement showed on his face. "I thought we were too mature to talk about our sex lives?"
"I don't think I mentioned anything about sex, Blaise," Draco said with mock disbelief. "I wouldn't be so vulgar. My mother raised me better."
"And your father raised you to hide your vulgarity from those who would find it offensive," Blaise quipped. As Draco moved to speak, Blaise cut him off by asking, "So when are you going to ask the delectable Ms. Weasley for her hand in marriage?"
"When the time is right," Draco replied, removing the ring box from his pocket and tossing it to Blaise. "I picked it up this morning."
Blaise opened the ring box and chuckled. "You're the only man I know that would choose a black stone for an engagement ring."
"I get her diamonds, rubies and emeralds for every special occasion," Draco said, taking back the ring box and staring at the ring inside. "And she doesn't wear most of them."
"Ah, the lovely Ms. Weasley wounds egos everywhere," Blaise said with a dramatic sigh. He stood up and gave Draco a mock bow. "I have places to be that are far more interesting than here. But, before I depart, might I add that you had better put that ring on Ginny's finger before that bloke in the Auror's Department tries to swoop in and capture her. He has quite an infatuation with her."
"What bloke?" Draco's face was deceptively calm as he stared at Blaise, waiting for him to reveal a name.
"McLaggen. We went to school with him," Blaise supplied, a smirk on his face. "Toodles."
Draco watched Blaise retreat from the room, anger and possessiveness in his eyes. Ginny would accept his proposal, and the engagement ring would be a warning sign to any man who dared to flirt with her that there was another man ready to come and kill them. But before he could propose, he had to pay a visit to Cormac McLaggen, just a friendly visit.
"Are you going to tell me why you scheduled us to have a day off today so that we could walk around the Malfoy property?" Ginny batted a piece of hair out of her face and eyed her boyfriend with a bit of disgruntlement.
Draco ignored her and held onto her hand, dragging her further into the forest outside the Manor. He had a plan in mind, a romantic spot to ask her the big question—that's what Pansy kept calling it. She had suggested that he take Ginny to the place where his father proposed to his mother, citing that this would be something truly romantic and sentimental. Draco balked at the idea at first, but after going to see his father, Draco decided it would be perfect. What his father had failed to tell him was that to get to the alcove he had proposed in, Draco would have to trek through a jungle of plants—most of them magical. As they passed another Fanged Geranium, Draco wondered, not for the first time, why he didn't have a house elf take them to the clearing.
But before he could call out for one of them, he saw a small alcove up, flowers littered across the ground. He knew that this was the place his father spoke of because of the Puffapods rooted in the ground. They were magically altered Puffapods that shot large seeds in the air, allowing them to rain down and pop into flowers. He watched as this happened and couldn't help but to think that the effect was beautiful, just like his father said—not in those specific words.
"Draco, this is amazing." Ginny stepped into the alcove and smiled as seeds floated down on the outside of the clearing. She picked up one of the flowers that appeared and placed it in her hair when a small table and two chairs appeared in the center of the clearing, food being spread out. "This is lovely, Draco. It's definitely worth my ruined shoes."
Draco pulled out a chair for her and gestured for her to sit. "I'm not so sure it was worth your complaining the entire way here."
"Well, if you had told me where we were going, I would have been more pleasant," Ginny said, lightly slapping his arm.
"That would ruin the surprise," Draco deadpanned, sitting down across from her.
They ate their lunch, exchanging conversation about work and the latest Canons Quidditch match. He teased her about her team choice, and she threatened to let him sleep on the couch for the night. But they both knew it wouldn't happen because Ginny hated sleeping alone. She suffered from nightmares and was less prone to them when Draco was in the room. He thoroughly exploited that fact, and she knew he would if she ever tried to kick him out of the room—his room in his flat.
"Draco, is there another reason why we're here?" Ginny stared at him with hopeful eyes, and he wondered if she knew the exact purpose of him bringing her here.
"Does there have to be another reason?" asked Draco with a raised eyebrow.
"No, of course not," Ginny said, her eyes downcast. "I—this is beautiful and amazing. I'm glad you brought me here."
A beat of silence passed, her face forlorn as she stared around the tiny alcove. "You know, my father proposed to my mother here."
"Is that so?" She turned to face him, a twinkle in her eyes.
"Yes, he got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage in that spot right over there." Draco stood and held out his hand for her, leading her over to the spot by a large tree with flowers blooming on its leaves. He smiled, out of character for him, when he recalled the story his father told him. "She didn't say yes immediately, and my father started to get nervous. She kept asking him questions and pacing the floor. Father eventually went and stood by that spot, waiting for her to calm down."
He pointed to a nearby flowering bush, and when she turned around, pulled the ring out of his pocket. But when he went to get down on one knee, a nearby Fanged Geranium extended it's neck and snatched the ring from his outstretched fingers. Quickly, he pulled his hand away as the plant snatched after him. When it couldn't reach, it slowly reached for Ginny, causing Draco to grab her hand and yank on it. It happened in slow motion: she fell back onto him, and he lost his balance, the two of them toppling to the ground, his head banging on a rock.
"Draco, what in Merlin's name—" Draco heard her stop and saw her look at him, a surprised expression on her face. "Draco? Oh Merlin!"
He couldn't understand what she was on about until he realized that he was bleeding from a wound in the back of his head. His vision started to turn black and all he could think about was that, if he died, he would haunt Pansy since this was her idea to begin with. The last thing he saw before he blacked out was Ginny hovering over him as a house elf appeared.
Draco stormed into his bedroom and tossed the ring onto his dresser. After he had woken up in St. Mungo's and been discharged, he insisted that he had to visit his mother to tell her he was alright and sent Ginny home, much to her disappointment. Instead of visiting his mother, he went back to the alcove with a house elf and killed the Fanged Geranium, effectively extracting the ring, covered in green goo, from the vines of the plant. A day later, he invited Ginny to a romantic dinner at a restaurant in a secluded, private room.
The date was going swimmingly. Ginny regaled him with tales of her brother's wedding planning, including a horrendous bridesmaid dress that Ginny had no interest in wearing, and he listened, throwing in an occasional barb or two about Percy's need to have flowcharts for every aspect of his life. Draco was a little surprised that he didn't have a flowchart for the wedding. It would have been right up his alley.
In any case, Percy's wedding news aside, Draco waited for the right moment, making sure there was proper mood lighting and a small string orchestra in the background, which Ginny was impressed with, much to his amusement. After all, orchestras were extremely common for Malfoy dinner parties or special occasions. However, he acted appreciative, knowing it would score him some bonus points.
Just as the orchestra began to play the right song, the waiter came out with the ring placed inside a truffle with two glasses of champagne. Ginny was confused as to why she was the only one eating, but Draco simply told her that he wasn't in the mood for sweets. As she bit into the truffle, Draco waited with great anticipation, completely perplexed when she simply polished off the truffle. His first reaction was that she ate the ring, but that was quickly proven wrong when she didn't start choking. His second reaction was that he would kill the people in the kitchen for messing up his order. He had excused himself from the table, expressing his desire to thank the kitchen staff, much to Ginny's surprise, and went in to have a word with the staff. The ring turned up in someone else's truffle, and it would have been comical, the woman's reaction to the ring, one of great shock and happiness followed by disappointment and rage at her boyfriend, had it not completely ruined his night.
He sank down onto his bed, running a hand through his hair. His two plans had been botched so far, and he was beginning to think that he had lost all ability for romantic actions. Throughout his relationship with Ginny, he was the suave, endearing Draco Malfoy. He went on private vacations with her, keeping out of the public eye. He bought her flowers, jewelry, chocolates—anything that she asked for. She only had to express her fondness for something for him to get it for her, something she didn't seem to appreciate all the time. She said he spoiled her rotten, but he thought that was the point. It pleased her, and she pleased him, in every way she possibly could. He smirked at that thought.
With a sigh, he began to unbutton his shirt, mentally running through his wardrobe to figure out what he would wear. Tonight was Blaise's dinner party, and he was attending it with Ginny and whatever friend she desired to bring along. He would soon find out since she was scheduled to arrive at any minute. He balled his shirt up and tossed it on the floor, paying no attention as it swiftly disappeared. The house elves were adept at cleaning, and he appreciated it. He didn't like mess.
Just as he began flitting through his shirts, he heard Ginny calling for him and poked his head out of the closet. Her mouth formed a small 'o' as she saw him there, almost as if she wasn't expecting him to be home. Seeing a piece of parchment clutched in her hand and a worried expression on her face, he sauntered out of the closet, giving her a questioning gaze.
"Is everything alright?" He raised an eyebrow as she fiddled with the parchment in her hand, biting down on her lip. "You look like a twelve year old."
"I—I didn't think you would be home yet," she murmured quietly, looking down at the floor. When she looked back at him, tears shone in her eyes. "Draco, I—"
"Ginny," Draco said, crossing the room and holding her face in his hands. "What happened?"
"I love you," she said, pressing a hand to his cheek. "But in a month, we'll have been dating for five years, Draco. As much as I love you, I need someone who will be able to make that big commitment to me. Blaise said something in the office the other day, and I couldn't help but to think about it."
"Think about what?" Draco's face went blank when he realized what was happening.
"We rarely go out together in public," Ginny said exasperatedly. "My parents ask me if I made up our relationship because you're always named as Bachelor of the Year in every major publication."
"I told them I was dating," Draco stated coolly. "It's not my fault they don't believe me."
"Well, I can't take it anymore, Draco. You don't want me to quit because you need me at work, but you also want to keep me as your secret lover. It's not where I pictured my life going," Ginny said, anger flashing in her eyes. "And all that stuff—"
"Stuff? You'll have to be more specific," Draco cut in scathingly. "Or has your intelligence fled in the sight of this stupid decision?"
"Stupid decision?" Ginny crossed her arms. "At the moment, I think it's the best decision I've ever made, certainly better than ever giving you a chance."
"Perhaps you should be careful what you say," Draco warned, his jaw ticking. "I wouldn't want to say anything that you may regret."
"You know, I was such an idiot," she said, turning away from him. "For a minute, I thought you were actually going to propose to me. You took me to the place that your parents got engaged, and then that romantic dinner the other night. It was all so beautiful. I thought—it doesn't matter what I thought anymore. Obviously, from your attitude, I can't expect anything more to come from our relationship."
"Don't even bother to send me the things that I have here," she said with a shake of her head. She walked away, eyes filled with tears. When she reached the door, she stopped and whispered, "Bye, Draco. It's been fun."
In an instant, she was gone. The argument happened so fast and blindsided him. His first reaction was to be defensive, to throw up all those walls that were ingrained in him. He was a creature of habit. When he felt attacked, he would attack back and be more hurtful. It was just the way he was raised by his parents—always expect the worst and counteract with speed and pain. But he didn't think they would apply that particular lesson to this situation. Well, maybe his mother would.
Part of him told him to go after Ginny, the other part disagreed. He wondered if she was right. He'd tried proposing to her twice, and so far, both attempts had failed. Perhaps it was a sign that they weren't meant to be, after all. Maybe some higher being, not that he particularly believed in them, was warning him away and telling him that he wasn't ready for such a big commitment, to be permanently joined to one woman.
Draco let out an angry growl and called for a house elf, ordering it to bring him a bottle of Firewhisky. He uncorked the bottle and took a large swig, the warm liquid running down his throat. He felt it burn as it passed through his system, tasted the awful, bitter residue left behind in his mouth, the same aftertaste he got from an argument. Draco was angry and confused, two emotions that didn't sit well with him.
With a resigned sigh, he plopped down on the bed ungracefully and tilted his head back, pressing the bottle to his lips. Ginny left him, and he would drink himself into an unfeeling stupor.
"I think he's dead."
"No, his hand twitched."
"Bodies twitch after they're dead."
"What? That's cra—"
"Shut up," Draco growled, cutting the person off. His head was pounding, and the sunlight beat down his face, the light shining on his closed eyelids. He knew that if he opened his eyes, his head would explode. "And close the drapes."
"I'm not your bloody house elf," a distinctly feminine voice intoned.
"There," said a male.
Draco cracked one eye open, blearily looking at the occupants of the room. "What are you two doing here?"
"You and Ginny and didn't show up to my dinner party last night," Blaise said with a pout. "I was both disappointed and worried. Ginny would have sent word to me if something happened."
"Judging by the engagement ring in the fireplace, I would say something happened," Pansy said, flipping her black hair over her shoulder. Calculating blue eyes stared down at Draco, who was sprawled on the floor shirtless, as she asked, "What happened?"
"Clearly she came to her senses and said no," Blaise said dryly.
"She broke up with me," he intoned without feeling. Beside, these were his best friends, two of the only people he could trust. "She said I wasn't committed."
Draco chuckled at the absurdity and turned his head to the side, eyes on the ring he had thrown in the fireplace the night before. He was committed, so much so that he bought her a ring. Of all the things she could have ended the relationship for, she chose commitment. Someone was playing a cruel joke on him and having a laugh at his expense.
"Get up," Pansy ordered sternly, nudging him with the tip of her stilettos. "You are going to find her and propose."
"I tried, Pans," Draco exclaimed, slowly getting up from the floor. "There's nothing I can do. She's gone. She said she loved me, we fought and she left. The only girl that ever managed to make me fall in love with her walked through the door, and I'm not going to chase her. I'm a Malfoy."
"Malfoys get what they want."
Draco turned to the door at the sound of the newest voice in the room, surprised to see his mother standing in the door. Pansy and Blaise excused themselves and left him in the room with his perfectly coiffed mother. He suddenly felt conscious of his current state, hair standing at an odd angle and trousers slung low around his waist. The room didn't look any better. Ashes were littered by the fireplace, and sheets were haphazardly strewn about the floor as if he had pulled them off the bed in the middle of the night.
"Mother," Draco greeted calmly.
"Well, it seems that things aren't going so well for you," Narcissa said, eyes sweeping across the room. "I'm assuming that you didn't get to propose."
"Why would you say that?" asked Draco curiously.
Narcissa moved to the fireplace and bent down to retrieve the ring. She blew the ashes from it and turned it over in her fingers. Draco waited for her to do something characteristic of her feelings towards Ginny. He didn't know what he expected. Perhaps she would pocket the ring, call him foolish and walk out. Maybe she would simply toss it away and tell him to come to his senses. He didn't know. All he knew was that the minutes ticked away slowly with her staring at the ring intently.
"I spoke to your father," Narcissa said slowly as if she were still processing the information. "He told me you came to see him and asked him about our proposal."
"I did," Draco said, feeling the need to fill in the gap.
"It reminded me that we were young and foolish once. Do you know that your father wasn't my first choice in suitors?" Narcissa smiled and faced Draco. "I thought he was unrefined and scattered. At the time, he was beginning to go mad with this need for power, and I wanted someone who already had power."
"Why did you say yes?" asked Draco, sitting down on the unmade bed.
"I loved him. He was everything that I didn't want, but I knew I wanted him." Narcissa walked over to Draco and grabbed his hand, placing the ring in it. "She's not Malfoy material. We both know it. But you want her, and you will get her."
"She left, Mother. You got what you wanted." Draco closed his hand around the ring, feeling it press into his skin. "I will find some other suitable woman, one you approve of since you seem to know better."
"Draco Lucius Malfoy," Narcissa called, making him raise his head to meet her gaze, "get up, take a shower and find that girl. Do not come back to me until you have that ring on her finger."
Narcissa gave him a kiss on the cheek and moved to leave. He called out for her. "Why such a sudden change, Mother?"
"Lucius said I might lose my son, and I couldn't bear the thought," Narcissa said simply.
"But you won't lose me now," Draco said in confusion. "If I don't marry her, you'll have everything the way you want."
"You'll never be happy if you let her get away, Draco. You don't have to admit it. I'll do it for you," Narcissa said with a small smile. "She's been wreaking havoc in your life since she was first hired to be your assistant. Don't make this one bump in the road completely destroy the path you've been going down, Draco. You'll regret it until the day you grow old and die."
With those parting words, Narcissa walked out, leaving a pensive Draco.
Draco straightened his back and knocked on the dilapidated door of the Burrow with his free hand, the other holding up a bouquet of roses. He hadn't stepped foot in this place for months. In fact, he avoided it like the plague. It was never a good idea to go anywhere that Weasleys gathered. Other than her parents, who barely tolerated him, no one in the family cared for his relationship with Ginny. If they could, they would have persuaded her away from him the minute she told them about the relationship. But by that time, they had been too far in their romance, three months of secret trysts to be exact.
The door opened and a balding man appeared. "Ahh, Mr. Malfoy. What can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for Ginny," Draco said. He quickly added, "Sir."
Arthur smiled. "I thought you might be. She's been quite popular today."
Draco didn't bother to ponder the statement too long, stepping inside the house that he often thought of as the Muggle idea of hell. Arthur directed him into the kitchen where he saw Ginny sitting at the table, a smile on her face. In front of her was a man that he had become all too familiar with over the past week, Cormac McLaggen. He had warned the man off Ginny, but it seemed that he was stubborn.
"Draco?" Ginny looked up at him, shock on her face. "What are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" Draco dropped his arm, roses forgotten. He gestured to Cormac and asked, "What is he doing here?"
"Is there something I don't know about?" Cormac stood up with a confused expression, hand reaching up to his curly blond hair. "First, Malfoy threatens me away from you, and now he shows up at your house? That's odd for a boss."
"He's not my—I mean I quit," Ginny said, eyeing Draco with the same confusion Cormac expressed. "There is nothing between us but that of a boss and former employee."
"I never got your resignation," Draco stated, his focus on Cormac. "And I would still like to know what he's doing here."
"Wait," Ginny said, holding her hand up. She pointed at Draco while staring at Cormac, a sudden rush of anger in her eyes. "He warned you away from me?"
"He told me that you were seeing someone who wouldn't appreciate my advances," Cormac said while Draco glared at him. "But I asked around and everyone said you were single."
"I am," Ginny stated defiantly.
"You are not single," Draco drawled. He tossed the roses down on the table and shoved his hand in his pocket. "I'm tired of this game."
"Have you gone mad?" Ginny crossed her arms perplexedly. "What in the world are you talking about? What game?"
"This—this idiotic ordeal of proposing to you," Draco seethed. He pulled the ring out of his pocket, crossed the room and grabbed Ginny's hand. Picking the right finger, he slipped the band around it and stared at her with anger, relief and trepidation in his face. "You're going to marry me."
"Yes, you will," Draco drawled.
He pulled her into him and leaned down, gently placing his lips on her own. When she didn't pull away, he deepened the kiss, wrapping his arms tightly around her as she wrapped her own around his neck. A triumphant thrill ran through his body when he felt her hand pressed against his skin, the cool band of the ring brushing against his neck. To him, at that moment, there was no better feeling in the world.
Hesitantly, he ended the kiss, poising his lips millimeters from her own. "Yes?"
"You already assumed—"
"Ginny, will you marry me?" he asked, resting his forehead against her own. "I should rephrase that since you are going to marry me. But are you willing to marry me of your own free will?"
She grinned. "Yes, Draco. I will marry you . . . of my own free will."
"I love you," he murmured quietly. Behind him, he heard Arthur tell Cormac that it was time to leave. "I hope I didn't ruin your evening."
"You only made it better," Ginny said softly, extending her hand over his shoulder so that she could see the ring. "It's beautiful."
"And unique, just like you," Draco said, placing a kiss on her nose.
"Love you," Ginny mumbled.
Just then, the fireplace lit up with green flames, and Molly Weasley stepped out, a perplexed expression on her face. "What in Merlin's name?"
"Congratulations, sweetheart. We're planning a wedding," Arthur said from behind the couple. "Now why don't we leave them to sort things out?"
"Arthur, you can't be—"
"Come on, dearest," Arthur cajoled.
Ginny chuckled. "You truly do things in a different way than others."
"I'm a Malfoy."
He kissed her again, happy to finally be rid of the ring.
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