A/N : I am truly sorry that it took me this long to write the last chapter.
I hope you like the end of my little tale. I almost can't believe it myself that I wrote over 150k.
A huge thank you goes to my good friend and beta Christine who supported me during these last two years.
30. She's the One (References to the Robbie Williams song are a pure coincidence...)
Severus lay in his bed, wide-awake and the first rays of sun were glimpsing through his curtains. He hadn't slept a wink that night. Too many thoughts that he just wasn't able to suppress any longer.
The holiday he had planned for Hermione and him now was only a week away. Severus had had only positive thoughts in mind when he had planned that holiday. Now, as "the" week approached much faster than he had ever thought possible, he had doubts. Severe doubts about the plans he had made. Cold feet, as any other person would call it undoubtedly. He had planned to ask Hermione to marry him during that holiday. Not right away of course, but some day, when they were both ready for it, or mostly she, really.
Marriage was something Severus had never thought about until he had met Hermione. He had enough time to get used to the thought and felt more than ready for it. But was Hermione ready for marriage? He really had no fucking idea.
She was only twenty-two, still in the middle of her education, living in her own first flat. She surely wasn't ready for marriage yet. All Severus wanted was making his intentions clear. That she was The One for him.
It was time to meet Dean and Thomas for drinks tonight, he had to talk to someone other than Hermione about this.
Narcissa had almost returned to full health. Jason, Hermione and Harry met regularly for coffee so that the two students could keep up to date with their long-time patients' progress. Draco's first visit after her waking up had been quite emotional and full of tears. Something Hermione and Harry hadn't thought him capable of showing - in front of others, at least. Narcissa hadn't suffered any lasting damage and had slowly regained the strength in her limbs during the last few weeks.
She knew that something had severely changed in Draco as soon as she looked at him at his first visit. There were some lines in his young face she had never seen before. But his eyes also shone with happiness, which was a completely new sight for her. She had obviously never realized how unhappy her son had been all those years.
His greeting had been warm and the hug he gave her was not something she had received since his childhood. To see this kind of change in her son made Narcissa deliriously happy.
A couple of days after Narcissa had woken up, Draco finally told her why he was that happy and even felt – optimistic.
After recovering from the first shock that her son was obviously gay, she wanted to meet Blake immediately.
"If this young man makes you happy, I need to meet him as soon as possible. Are you serious about him, Draco?"
"I think I am, mother. I know he is a Muggle but I don't even care. He is the most genuine, honest and tolerant person I've ever met. He knows everything about me, mother. I told him everything. And he doesn't care," he ended pensively, as if he still doubted what we was now saying out loud.
"You told him everything?" Narcissa asked.
"But why? I don't think this was quite…necessary. The war is over, son."
"That is not the point, mother. My life was practically over after the war. I had no friends, no family, no hope. I went to Chicago to distract myself and I met Blake and I was feeling better there. I dared to hope of a new life. When Blake and I became close, I became afraid and ran off which ended in a… suicide attempt, and…"
"You what?" Narcissa shrieked. Draco had not told her about this dark chapter in his life yet, he had deliberately waited with this revelation until his mother was stronger and more stable.
"Yes, mother. I tried to kill myself. There seemed to be no hope for you, I had and still have no intention to see father ever again, and there was no hope for me. Severus was the one who talked some sense into me after I was brought here. Without him, I think I would have tried again," he confessed.
"I told Blake everything because I am serious about him. About his friendship and our relationship. I want nothing in-between us. I wanted him to know everything and then make his decision. And I can't express how happy his decision to leave my past behind us makes me. You can trust him, mother. You'll see when I bring him round tomorrow," he ended in a firm voice.
Her son had grown up.
Blake greeted him with a soft and warm kiss when he returned home after the visit to his mother.
"Hi, gorgeous," Draco greeted him while kissing him back. "I wish you needn't return to the States the day after tomorrow."
"So come back with me," Blake replied, his expression serious.
"I'd love to, but I really can't," he said sadly.
"Mother returns home on Monday and I want to spend at least a few days with her."
"And after that?" Blake inquired.
"I still need to make plans for my life, but I don't see a reason why we should not do this together," he said with a smile.
Instead of a reply, Blake pulled him close again and kissed him.
Dean, Thomas and Severus met in the same Pub on Holy Island, where he and Hermione had shared one of their first meals together, back when Minerva had sent her over after Ron's death. When all three of them had their beer in front of them, Dean spoke up.
"So what's this all about, Severus? It's not that we don't enjoy meeting with you spontaneously, but you said you also needed our advice."
Severus nodded, but kept silent. He now felt a bit embarrassed about having admitted that he indeed needed advice. He was a grown man after all.
"Is this about Hermione?" Thomas asked.
He really was no good spy material anymore, Severus thought. They can read me like a book. He nodded again.
"Out with it, Severus," Thomas demanded.
"I am going on a holiday with Hermione next week," he began.
"And you're worried about that?" he asked.
The sour look on Severus' face silenced him immediately.
"I wasn't finished, Thomas. I have rented us a small Muggle house near Antibes in France. It's quite a romantic place, I guess. No neighbours, a pool, view on the sea, et cetera."
"You must be quite successful with your potions then, Severus," Dean interrupted.
"It is quite expensive yes, but I didn't particularly care when I rented it. I only wanted it… to be a special place," he said, gathering his thoughts. Why was it still so difficult for him to talk about his feelings to his friends? He trusted them and still…
"For proposing to Hermione?" Dean asked, his tone serious now.
"How do you know?" Severus asked.
"It is quite obvious, Severus. Case of cold feet?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," he admitted quietly, sipping his beer.
"Why on earth, Severus? She loves you, she already told you she will stay with you. Where exactly lies the problem?" Dean asked.
"She is so young, Dean. She's only twenty-two and we haven't been together very long, it's only been half a year now. I want her to know my intentions, but don't want to pressure her into anything she might regret later," he confessed.
"Have you talked about marriage at all yet?" Thomas asked.
"No, we haven't."
"Severus, no worries. From what I've seen when you visited, she will be very happy when you pop the question," Thomas replied, his tone reassuring.
"But still,…." Severus began again.
"Oh shut up, you sour sod. She will be happy."
Severus kept silent.
Merlin, I was so sure when I booked this holiday and now it's all gone to hell. Why would she tie herself to me?
"Severus!" Dean almost barked at him. "Will you cheer up now and stop doubting? Please don't spoil this for her with your sudden bouts of self-doubt."
They have to be right, they just have to…I need her to be in my life.
A week later, Hermione ran about in her flat, gathering the last things she would need for her first holiday with Severus.
She needed to find her bikini, and soon. It had to be somewhere in the back of her closet. She hadn't worn it in ages and hoped that it still fitted, but if not, there was still magic to adjust things here and there if necessary. Hermione had no idea why she felt so nervous. The anticipation she had felt for her first holiday with Severus had been immense and now she felt suddenly nervous about it. There was no sensible reason for feeling that way and perhaps it was only because he still hadn't told her where they would go. Just that she needed things for a warmer place than England and perhaps a bathing suit could be useful. She guessed it was Italy or Greece but she wasn't sure and not knowing things wasn't something she could handle well.
Shortly before five o'clock there was a knock on the door of her flat. Severus!
Merlin, I feel so not ready for this.
Hermione opened the door and looked into his face and found him looking as nervous as she felt. Why's that? She asked herself shortly but then relief set in that this seemed to be as difficult for him as it was for her.
"Hey there," she greeted him, pulled him inside and kissed him.
The nervousness they had both felt melted away quickly.
"Ready to go?" Severus asked quietly, breaking the kiss.
"Yes, just give me a minute to check if I have everything. Where are your things?"
"I already brought them there this afternoon. I wanted to give you a hand with your things," he replied.
"So where are we going? It can't be too far away if you've apparated back and forth."
"Patience, Hermione, patience," he said with a smile.
When her suitcase and her beaded bag were finally closed and everything she could think of was packed, Severus awaited her in her living room, smiling.
Only now, Hermione recognized he was wearing a linen shirt and trousers. It really had to be warm where they were heading. She was still wearing jeans and a light sweater as it was raining heavily outside and not more than seventeen degrees.
"Do I have to change before we leave?" She asked.
"No need for that," he replied, his look mischievous. "Let's go."
He took hold of her bags with one hand, the other one went round her waist and he pulled her close.
"Close your eyes, Hermione, and do not open them again until I tell you to do so," he whispered into her ear.
She did as she was told, but the nervousness was back. Apparating without knowing anything about the destination was definitely something she didn't like. She tensed and waited.
"Relax, Hermione. Trust me," Severus said quietly.
She let out the breath she was holding and a couple of seconds later, they both landed on a soft underground, grass she supposed. Her head was spinning and she wanted to open her eyes.
"Are you okay?" Severus asked. She nodded her head and breathed deeply.
Slowly, she noticed the warm air around her, the smell of the sea and the sun on her face. Severus let go of her and took her hand instead.
"Open your eyes, darling." His voice was so quiet she almost hadn't heard him. She heard him hold his breath to wait for her reaction.
Hermione opened her eyes and had to blink. The sun was shining brightly and she was standing on green grass that circled around a small blue pool next to a beautiful little cottage high above the sea. The Mediterranean, she guessed. It was perfect.
"Severus, I don't know what to say. This place is …."
"Magical?" he supplied with a grin.
Hermione could only nod, still lost for words. She turned around and put her arms around Severus' neck.
"This is the perfect place for a holiday. I have no idea where we are but it doesn't matter. It's perfect. I love you." She looked into the endless depths of his dark eyes. They seemed to smile back at her although the rest of his expression was serious.
"I'm glad that you like it, I wasn't sure. We are in France, near Antibes. And I love you, too. More than I can adequately express."
"Kiss me, Severus," she breathed.
Severus happily obliged and kissed his girlfriend, forgetting everything around him. Soon his hands went under her sweater and she moaned into his mouth.
Hermione felt electrified by Severus' touch. Never before had she been aroused more quickly and she could not get enough of her man. Her man. She'd never let him go again. Still overwhelmed by the perfect choice of a romantic holiday location he had made, she broke the kiss and took his hands.
"Show me the bedroom, Severus. Now," she added with an alluring smile on her face.
"I told you there was no need for you to change clothes before we left," he replied dryly. She smacked his arm but laughed.
"Come on," she urged him.
The bags forgotten, they went inside to find the bedroom.
An hour later found them both sated and slightly sweaty on the bed. Their lovemaking had been extensive and Severus had almost slipped up after sex and asked her to marry him in the haze of sheer after-sex happiness. But he managed to stop himself. His plans for this particular event were already in place although at the moment he could not imagine to feel any happier than he did right now.
After a short swim in the pool and a quick shower, Hermione was starving.
"Do we have anything for dinner or are we going out tonight?" Secretly, she hoped that Severus had done some shopping so that they wouldn't have to leave the house.
It really was the perfect place. The house seemed to be quite old but recently completely redecorated in a stylish, clearly Muggle manner. It was a perfect mixture of glass, elegance, stone and metal. The sofa was large and cozy, the kitchen large and bright with a decadent outlook on the sea below.
Bedroom and bath were more or less one room, only separated by a wall and frosted glass for some privacy. It must have cost him a fortune to rent this place, she realized while she dressed. The south of France in the beginning of May must be one of the most expensive places in this time of year. How could they ever top that with upcoming holidays together, she mused, smiling to herself.
Severus interrupted her thoughts with his answer.
"We have wine, baguette, fruit and cheese. Will that suffice for this evening? Or would you rather go out and have dinner?"
"No, option one sounds perfect for tonight, Severus."
After one week at home with his mother, Draco was ready to go up the walls. Of course he was happy that Narcissa had woken up and was recovering nicely. However, her nosiness about Blake and the endless questions about the events during her coma were getting to his nerves.
"Mother, I told you more than once that I'm not suicidal any longer. I was very unhappy and hopeless a couple of months ago, but not so now. Please accept that. I am not going to do it again."
"I wish I could believe you, son. You also always told me you wanted to marry a woman and have children, but now... you are dating Blake."
"Mother, things can change when one grows up. I never thought I was interested in men, either, before I met Blake. But then I met him and I fell in love with him as a person, not specifically with him as a man. I don't know how to explain it better, but I just love him for who he is, and he just happens to be a man."
"And you really wish to leave me here and visit him tomorrow? How long do you really plan to stay in the States, Draco?"
"I don't really know, mother."
"Do you even plan to return home?"
"Of course I do, mother. Just give me some time to… make some plans. Find my place in the world. Something I want to do with my life. Please don't pressure me," he said with a deep sigh.
Finally, Narcissa understood. Her son really was at a turning point in his life. He had hit rock-bottom with his suicide attempt and now, while returning to life, he needed some time away. She understood why he couldn't do this in England, where almost everyone still hated him. Of course he hadn't told her that but it was obvious because he only ever spoke about Severus, Hermione Granger and Blake. She still wasn't sure why Severus and Granger were an item these days, but the war seemed to have changed more than one person around her.
"I won't," she answered him.
"Stay as long as you need, Draco. I understand."
"Do you, mother?" he asked, because he almost couldn't believe that she did.
"Yes, I think I finally do. And I wish you all the best. Come here," she said teary-eyed and pulled her son close. She hadn't hugged him in years but it felt great to do it.
"Visit me after the summer, mom. I'd love you to see Chicago," he murmured into her hair.
Narcissa smiled. Draco hadn't called her mom since he had been five years old.
"I will Draco, I will."
The next afternoon, Draco took the Portkey he had booked directly into the Ministry of Magic in Chicago. Blake would be going to work soon and Draco had planned on surprising him in front of his flat. Of course Blake knew Draco would be arriving today, but not exactly when.
The United States Ministry of Magic had very little in common with the British one. The look and feel was modern and much less pompous. Draco decided that he liked it and would return later that day when Blake was at work.
He left the ministry building and walked to Blake's flat. Just in the moment he reached it, the door opened and Blake came out.
"Good morning love," Draco greeted him.
A huge smile spread on Blake's face.
"Draco, you're here already? I never expected you before tonight," Blake replied, putting his arms around him.
"Guess I couldn't wait any longer,…" Draco replied and kissed him. Extensively.
But it couldn't be helped, Blake still had to leave for work at one point. After a couple of minutes of heavy kissing in the middle of the corridor, Blake finally ended the kiss.
"I really need to leave, Draco. I think I will be back around four, just get comfortable in there," he said, nodding towards his door and handing Draco his keys.
"I can stay in your flat?" Draco said surprised. He hadn't really thought about where to stay in Chicago but would have looked at hotels or rooms during the day.
"Of course you can. Where else would you stay?" Blake said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
"Okay," was all that Draco managed to say to that.
"See you later, love." With that, Blake was gone.
Draco still stood in the corridor, frozen. Had Blake just invited him to live with him while he was in the States?
Blake's flat was tiny and he only had one bedroom and a very tiny couch. They hadn't done much more than kissing yet and still for Blake this didn't seem to be a problem.
Is it for me? Draco had to ask himself, when he finally opened the door to Blake's flat.
The week in France was passing all too fast. Hermione and Severus visited Nice, Cannes, the beaches and Saint-Tropez. Hermione found that she loved France. She had once been in Paris with her parents as a child but it had been in autumn with lots of rain and grey skies. Those memories were now replaced with a France full of light and sunshine and warmth. And Severus.
So far, every day had been perfect. The nights as well. Hermione had to grin when she thought about them. She had dressed for dinner on their last evening and was waiting for Severus to finally come out of that bath- and bedroom.
The outdoor couch beneath the pool had become her favourite place during the week and they had already decided to come here again as soon as possible.
Today, Severus and her had visited Grasse, the town of herbs, scents and perfumeries. Severus had procured some herbs that he needed for his potions and Hermione had bought a new perfume. Together, they had ambled through the old town and the small alleyways and Severus had become quieter with every turn they took. Hermione had no idea what bothered him and when she asked him about it, he had always told her it was nothing.
They apparated back into their cottage after they were done with shopping and Severus had disappeared instantly into the living-room with a book, leaving the bathroom and bedroom to Hermione for getting ready for dinner tonight.
Hermione couldn't help but suspect that he had planned something special for their last evening of their holiday. And she couldn't also help but ask herself why? Every single day and evening had been very special for her. Severus had been the spitting image of a gentleman all the time and it had almost been too perfect for her.
Can life get any better? She asked herself when Severus finally emerged from the house in black trousers and a dark blue shirt. He looked stunning. A glamour was covering the scars on his neck and the first two buttons of his shirt were open. If they had the time, she would gladly remove the shirt again from his body. She had chosen a black dress she had bought shortly before the holiday, which he had never seen before.
It seemed that it had the desired effect. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open when he saw her lying on that couch in a very relaxed, but tempting position.
"Ready?" Severus asked with more confidence in his voice than he actually felt, after he had found his voice again seeing Hermione in that dress.
"Yes." Hermione stood up and Severus eyes widened even more. Her cleavage was entirely too open-hearted and he had to keep his distance from her before he ripped that tiny dress off her.
"Like what you see?" She asked, her eyes sparkling.
Severus had to clear his throat before he answered.
Severus had cursed his nerves at least seven times now. It had all started in Grasse in the afternoon, when he and Hermione had looked at some bridal dresses in a window. Hermione had taken particular interest in one dress that only had some very thin straps, a tight corsage and a voluminous skirt, all in cream-white and with paste gems on the corsage.
"I would love to have a wedding dress like this one day," she had said and that had shut Severus up for the rest of the afternoon. He was certainly able to imagine her in a dress like this. And now he stood there, at a loss at what to say, having an engagement ring in his right pocket.
"Where are we going?" Hermione asked innocently as she stood up, straightening her dress.
"Just a very small Brasserie down in Antibes," he answered and managed a tight smile.
I still wonder what has gotten him in this mood since Grasse, Hermione mused. Ever since we looked at those wedding dresses he's gone mute….Oh my God, wedding dresses..! But, it can't be… he wouldn't want to marry me, would he…? But what if he does?
Her thoughts flipped over but she had to stay calm for this. Not getting too excited by the thought, because if she got it all wrong… how would the evening end?
They shared a small kiss and apparated into Antibes.
"So, where exactly are you taking me tonight, Severus?"
"It's called "la fleur" and I've read about it in a tourist journal, but it looked small and intimate, that's why I chose it," he replied, his tone finally almost back to normal.
Perhaps I'm just imagining things…, Hermione couldn't help but think, albeit secretly a bit disappointed.
The small restaurant was indeed very cosy and romantic and the waiter showed them to a small corner where they sat privately, hidden away from other guests.
They started with a soup and then both Severus and Hermione ordered a Boeuf Bourguignon, the very meal they had shared when they had gotten together, which already seemed to be a long time ago now.
"I really think that your Boeuf Bourguignon is better than this one, although it is pretty good," Hermione said quietly.
"You mean that?" Severus asked, delighted by her compliment.
"Yes, I do."
Conversation hadn't been easy this evening. Usually they talked about all and nothing, never running out of topics. But tonight was different. It felt as if they were both dancing around one certain topic.
"Would you like a dessert?" Severus asked after the waiter had taken their plates away.
"I'd rather take a walk to the seafront, to be honest. It is far too beautiful out there. You okay with that?"
"Of course," he answered. This isn't going as I planned. I did want to ask her through dessert but now… I'll have to find a different way.
He paid for the dinner and together they left the restaurant and walked through the narrow alleys of Antibes.
Severus shortly thought about not proposing at all. But his heart really wasn't in it. He loved Hermione and he wanted her to know how much exactly she meant to him. This week had been the best week of his life and he intended to tell her that.
Hell, he had lied Voldemort into his face for years and he wasn't able to tell Hermione the truth? The absolute truth about how he felt about her?
Thinking about Voldemort suddenly brought reality back to him.
He was here in France, Antibes, with the woman he loved and suddenly he felt nerves he hadn't felt since he had become a Death Eater.
Is this the final step to my healing? Am I finally dealing with all my emotions, my fears, my life and no longer hiding from anything?
His confidence returned.
Hermione was at a loss what to think. Since they had left the restaurant, Severus remained mute and seemed deep in thought.
Have I done something wrong? This week was perhaps a bit too perfect…
His voice finally interrupted her unwelcome thoughts. Somehow, they had reached the seafront without her noticing it. The lights of the city were starting to reflect on the water and the sun was setting, the sky glowing in a beautiful orange and pink.
They stopped walking and faced each other. There were lots of people around them, some tourist but mainly locals. They didn't pay attention to the couple that stood in the middle of the seafront walk, staring into each other's eyes.
Severus' eyes shone with warmth and love and Hermione relaxed instantly.
"I need to apologize for the mood I was in today and especially tonight. I want this night to be very special for us and I am afraid I ruined it."
"There's no need to apologize, Severus," Hermione interrupted him.
"But there is. Please, let me say what I need to say," he almost pleaded.
And then he went down on one knee in front of her.
Hermione's heart almost stopped when she saw Severus kneeling before her.
"Hermione, I love you. I love you more than I can ever adequately express. If I´d die tomorrow, I would do so as a very, very happy man. You've brought light and happiness back into my life. You even saved my life at a point where I was entirely unworthy of being saved. You were the only person who ever tried to look beyond my mask and did not judge me by my action only. I am so very thankful that you saved me. We both went through difficult times in our lives, but some of the most important parts we experienced together and this is what matters to me. You make my soul complete and I don't want to live without you in my life."
He had to take a breath and saw tears welling in Hermione's eyes.
He hoped they were. He took the ring out of his pocket and held it up in front of her.
"I know you are only twenty-two years old and you probably don't want to tie yourself down to a forty year-old man. I just need you to know my intentions. One day, if you feel ready for it, I would like you to become my wife. More than anything I ever wanted in my life before.
Hermione, will you marry me?"
A couple of people had stopped their evening walk on the seafront and had watched a handsome, dark-haired man kneeling in front of a younger woman. The woman had tears in her eyes but her smile was happy and joyful. The evening sky was a deep pink and the last bit of the sun could be seen setting on the horizon. It was almost a too soppy picture.
Hermione did not answer but pulled Severus up from his knees and kissed him. She kissed him as if there was no tomorrow. When Severus needed to breathe he broke the kiss and smiled at her. "Does that mean yes?"
"Yes, Severus. A thousand times yes. I love you and of course I want to marry you."
Before he hugged her close to him he slipped the ring on her finger and almost could not believe his luck. She had said yes. Only then they registered that people were applauding around them.
Obviously they had given people quite the show. He wanted to disapparate immediately but that wouldn't have been a good idea with only Muggles around them.
"Thank you," Hermione said to the people standing around them. "Merci beaucoup. Je suis très heureux."
Quietly, she added: "Come on, let's get home."
Blake returned early from work on Friday. Draco had now been staying with him for four days.
The realization that he didn't need vast rooms and a huge house to be happy with his life had hit him hard. Of course it had only been four days, but he couldn't be close enough to Blake.
The days Draco spent getting reacquainted with Chicago through long walks, the nights he spent with Blake. Their intimate relationship had also undergone extensive progress during the last four days.
From kissing and getting it each other off during their first night, they had tried having full sex the night before. It was the best thing Draco had ever done in his life. Being this close to another person, having nothing to hide and giving everything that he had made him incredulously happy.
He had applied at the United States Ministry of Magic for a job as well. They were currently searching an assistant to the Minister for Magical Education.
Draco had told his entire story in the application in a very short version and now waited on their decision, or judgement rather. He had been open with his role in the English Wizarding War. He didn't expect too much but he had explained in detail that he wanted to redeem his deeds and wanted to be involved in the education of US American Wizards.
Of course he couldn't be sure that his relationship with Blake would last but he wanted to take the chance he felt he was given in his young life.
Draco was still waiting for an answer from the US Ministry of Magic. He had sent in his application three weeks ago and had almost given up on them replying at all. At the same time, he had begun to look at other options within the Wizarding World of the States. Working in Muggle surroundings would be too dangerous because he was bound to slip up one day doing magic.
Blake still was utterly speechless whenever he saw Draco performing magic. Whether it was only reheating some cold tea or letting the dishes wash themselves (although Draco had to look that one up in a book, there clearly had been no need to learn those spells at Malfoy Manor). Draco liked being admired by Blake for his abilities but never pointed out that he was the only one in their relationship who was able to perfrom magic. He wondered how that would work out in the future.
The future was one thing Draco couldn't stop thinking about.
Could he stay with Blake for an indefinite time or should he ask him if it was okay if he officially moved in?
Would they be able tolive with the differences in their lives if they stayed together?
Could he imagine staying with Blake for the rest of his life?
What would Blake say if he explained that Draco would outlive him by at least fifty years? And would he be able to handle this?
Blake came home to find Draco staring at the wall, laying on his small couch.
"There's a letter for you, love," he said and closed the door.
"Mother?" Draco asked. She wrote him every few days, using the Muggle mail system now and it took the mail literally ages to get to Chicage.
"No, from this Ministry of yours," Blake said casually, as if this information wasn't that important.
Draco jumped from the couch and immediately grabbed the letter out of Blake's hands. He ripped the envelope open and pulled the letter out of it.
"What do they say?" Blake inquired when Draco stayed silent.
"They invite me to an interview, tomorrow at three p.m. They say that it is not likely they will hire me but would like to hear my arguments before they come to their final decision."
"But that's good, isn't it?" Blake said, wondering why Draco wasn't happier about this.
"Yes, I suppose so."
"What's the matter, Draco?"
"I need to talk to you, Blake. Come on, let's sit," Draco invited him on the couch.
"Why do I have the feeling that this isn't good?" Blake asked, looking unhappy. "Are you unhappy here?" He couldn't help but ask.
"Because before you say anything, I need you to know I've never been any happier in my life before. Now say what you need to say."
Instead of saying anything, Draco kissed him.
"Thank you for saying that. I can return the compliment," he said, smiling.
"Listen, Blake. I've had a lot of time to think since I came here. There are some things we do need to talk about, like me staying here."
"What about that?"
"I mean, you just invited me to stay here when I arrived, but I'm neither paying any rent nor did you say when I had to leave again. When I am getting this job, or any other job, do I search for my own flat or should I assume that I could just stay here? You never said that when I arrived." Draco stopped and waited for Blake's reaction.
"Draco, sometimes you can really be stupid. Or your English heritage makes you quite oblivious to things. I invited you to live here with me and I'm sorry if I didn't say this clear enough. If you want to pay a part of the rent, please feel free, I wanted to talk to you about that anyway as soon as you found a job. Or don't you want to stay?"
"Of course I want to stay. I feel comfortable here. Thanks, Blake and I'm sorry for being so dense about this," he said, feeling already a lot happier.
"Was that all you wanted to talk about?" Blake inquired.
"No, there's something I haven't told you yet. About being a wizard," he began.
"So?" Blake asked when Draco didn't elaborate.
Am I assuming too much? Does he really want me in his future? But I do need to be honest with him. He had never felt more insecure in his life.
"If we stay together and things work out between us, you need to know something. I don't want to sound presumptuous but if you'd like me to stay in your life, you need to know that Wizards do not age the same way as Muggles do. They age a lot slower. My life expectancy is something around 150 to 170 years. When you are in your seventies, I am not more than a middle-aged man in the Wizarding World. You should know this before you decide to stay with me. I never…expected to fall in love with you the way I did. But I want to be honest with you."
Blake took Draco's hand and caressed it gently.
"Draco. Thank you for telling me, but - I knew all that. Severus and Hermione told me when they picked me up from the airport and brought me to your home. They talked about it in a very casual way but clearly intended to let me know all this before I fell any further for you. It's okay, Draco. It doesn't change a thing for me. I love you and I want to stay with you, no matter what. Okay?"
Draco didn't know what to say to that so he kissed Blake instead. It was a kiss full of love and promise and in that very moment he knew he was finally home.
The three weeks since their return from France had been a mix of happiness and lots of work and learning for Hermione.
Hermione and Severus had told Hermione's parents immediately about their engagement after their return home. Hermione's father took the information very calmly and Hermione suspected that Severus had asked him beforehand. Sneaky man.
Then he dropped her off at her flat, leaving her to study for the next part of her training. Never before in her whole life had she had this much trouble concentrating on a book. Her mind continued wandering to Severus and their upcoming marriage. He had promised he would wait until she felt ready for marriage and she loved him even more for being so considerate but secretly she wondered if she truly needed any time to feel ready for marriage.
He was right that she was still in training for being a Healer but why couldn't she be a married apprentice? They would have to wait with having children after she had finished but she couldn't see herself waiting three more years until she married Severus.
Now, three weeks later, they had talked about children and found they both wanted at least one child in a couple of years.
Hermione had slept at her flat only once since their return from France and that had been the first night after their return.
She studied there and did her homework but in the evenings she apparated to his house and they had dinner together and she just loved sleeping in his bed, waking up to the sound of the sea. Secretly, she wondered if she should ask Severus if she could just move in but perhaps he still needed some more time for this step.
When she had searched for her flat, she had been sure she would need it to have a place to be alone and study.
The need to be alone had evaporated into thin air and Severus had told her she could always use the spare bedroom in his house for studying.
Thoughts like this went through her head when she apparated to Holy Island exactly three weeks after the return from their holiday. It was a warm evening in late May, the sun was shining and the view on the sea was stunning. She had apparated to the small bench a mile away from Severus's house to get some fresh air and a much-needed evening walk after a whole day over her books. She also had to come to a decision.
When she finally entered Severus's home half an-hour later, she found him in the kitchen, preparing some spaghetti for dinner.
"Hello, love," she greeted him with a kiss.
"How did your studying go today?" He asked her while stirring the tomato sauce.
"Fine, although I sometimes think that there is a lot more to learn at St. Mungo's than from the books," she answered pensively.
"Would you repeat that for me?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.
"Why? What?" Hermione asked, clearly irritated by his reaction.
"You just admitted that not everything could be learned from books. I think I need to hear that again," he said, smiling whimsically.
As a reply she knocked her elbow into his ribs and left the kitchen.
"Oh come on, Hermione. Don't be a spoilsport. You have to admit this is funny, coming from you," he called after her.
When Hermione had finished her spaghetti and sipped on her glass of water she decided it was time to speak her mind about what she had been thinking about for the last three weeks.
"Severus," she began, sounding serious. "I've been thinking." She cleared here throat, this more difficult than she had thought it would be.
"Yes?" He asked when the silence went on too long.
"I've been thinking why I couldn't be a married apprentice. I've been thinking about reasons why we should wait with getting married for another three years."
"And?" Severus asked, although he almost couldn't believe what he had just heard.
"I haven't found any. I love you and I want to marry you. As soon as possible. I don't see a reason why we should wait. I won't change my mind and I hope you won't change yours. So why wait?" She asked, waiting for his reaction.
"There's only one thing you would need to do first," Severus replied, not answering her question.
"Which is what?" She was getting impatient.
"Move in with me." He replied with a smile.
*** Epilogue ***
Hermione and Severus married on the nineteenth of September, on Hermione's twenty-third birthday. It was a small wedding with only their closest friends. Draco and Blake had come from Chicago and seemed happier than ever. In fact, Harry and Ginny overheard them talking about marriage as well. Harry was still having trouble to believe that Draco had fallen in love with a Muggle but he had also never seen Draco looking happier.
"Have you seen Severus ever look any happier?" Ginny whispered to Harry during the marriage ceremony.
"No, and I also haven't seen Hermione looking more beautiful than today. I mean, look at that dress," he said, openly staring at his best friend.
"Harry," Ginny shot him a warning look. "What? Can't I admire my beautiful best friend? Who is currently getting married to another man?"
"Okay, okay," Ginny admitted.
Hermione was wearing the dress she had seen in Grasse in France. Severus and her had returned in the summer to buy it there. They both could not imagine her to wear any other dress for their wedding.
After the ceremony was over and Hermione was finally Mrs Snape, Severus addressed their guests.
"First of all, thank you for coming to our wedding today and enjoying this day with us. Trust me when I say that I never expected to marry at all in my life. In my young years, I fell in love with a woman who never loved me back and it took me years to realize how stupid I'd been. Hermione and I became friends after Voldemort was defeated by our friend Harry Potter here and Hermione had saved my life. She has saved my life in more ways than I want to say out loud here but our friendship was the base for the love we only discovered months or almost years later. She is the most tolerant, warm-hearted, wonderful and beautiful woman I have ever had the luck to meet and I still can't believe she married me today.
Thank you for loving me, Hermione, and thank you for sharing your life with me. You are the one for me and you make me the happiest man in the world. I love you."
Applause erupted and Hermione blushed but kissed her husband enthusiastically in front of their guests. Life could not get any better. All was well.