Against All Odds

Chapter Seventeen


"I'm going to Ryan's," Daniel announced the following afternoon, as soon as they finished eating lunch. It was Sunday once again; Hermione had hoped to spend the day with Daniel and try to forget about Draco, whom she couldn't get out of her head.

"But I thought we'd go out together," she said to him. "I thought we could have some fun today. Yesterday you weren't home all day. I'm hardly seeing you around anymore."

"I'm sorry, but Ryan has a new comic book he wants to show me," Daniel lied. "I'll be back before my bed time. I think I'll have dinner at his place. Bye, Mom."

"Bye, Dan," Hermione sighed as Daniel walked out.

Daniel knew his father was going to propose to his mother that day. He wanted to stay and watch the proposal, or at least listen to it from his room; but he knew they wouldn't like that, so he decided to hear everything later.

Ryan was not surprised when Daniel arrived. "Well, hello, young fella," he said and sat down in front of him. "How are you doing? You look a little troubled."

"I am," Daniel said. "My Dad might be proposing to my Mom at this very moment."

Ryan's jaw dropped. "Are you serious?"

"Yes," Daniel answered. "I told him to do that, and he thought this was a good idea. I only hope Mom says yes. She's been rejecting him for like a month or so."

Ryan gazed at him, his brown eyes full of understanding. "I hope so too."

----

Draco stood in front of Hermione's doorstep and took a deep breath. You can do it, he told himself. You are going to propose to the woman you love. You have nothing to lose. Even if she turns you down, things can't get worse than they are now.

But they could, and Draco knew it. Up till now, he had been rejected and hurt. But if she turned him down this time as well, he would be not only hurt, but humiliated. He wouldn't be able to take it anymore. He knew he had sworn to keep trying until he got her, but now he knew this was the last try. He was not going to beg over and over again.

And what if she did turn him down?

This thought made Draco shiver. He wouldn't be able to see her again, to look into her eyes. Maybe he'd be better off somewhere else, far away from her, as far away as possible. He would go there and this time, he would never return. He would start a new life – without her.

But then he remembered Daniel, and knew he could never do that to him. You've already left him once, before he was born, Draco told himself sternly. You cannot do this to him again. You promised.

And he had also promised another thing: he had promised to do everything he could for Hermione to take him back. So do it, Draco!

Taking another deep breath, Draco raised a shivering hand and rang the door bell.

He waited for several minutes, and when nobody answered, he rang again. And again, no one answered. Draco pressed his ear against the door. He couldn't hear anything. "Hermione?" he called. No answer.

Draco sighed deeply. Of course. He had come especially to propose to Hermione. And she wasn't even home!

He turned to leave, but then changed his mind. He hadn't suffered all those sleepless nights, painful self-monologues and heart-aches for nothing. He had put so much effort into this issue; he would not give up just because Hermione wasn't home at the moment. She would have to return at some point. And when she did, he would be here, waiting for her.

----

Hermione came back two hours later. As she walked into the hall, she immediately noticed Draco sitting on her doorstep, his head leaning on the door. He had fallen asleep.

She let herself examine him for a moment, taking in every part of him: his soft, white-blond hair, his smooth and pale skin, his beautiful lips, which she had to gather up all her strength to stop herself from leaning in and kissing. She recalled how close she had been to him, only a short time before, and her heart constricted in her chest. She collected all her will power, kneeled next to him and touched his arm to wake him up.

Draco moved a little, but didn't wake up. Hermione shook his arm, and finally, he opened his eyes.

At first, his sight was blurred. When it cleared, he saw Hermione in front of him, realized he had fallen asleep – and gave a jump that startled them both.

"I'm sorry," he said immediately.

"Sorry for what?" Hermione shrugged and stood up. "I guess you wanted to come in."

Draco stood up as well. He was very aware that his hair was a mess and that his eyes were probably red from the sleep, but tried to smile anyway. "If it's okay with you."

"Sure," Hermione muttered and opened the door. She walked in, and Draco stepped in after her.

"Want to drink something?" Hermione asked as she took off her cloak and threw it on a chair.

"No. Hermione, I need to talk to you."

"Can't it wait? I've just got back, and I'm kind of tired."

"So what do you think I am?" Draco asked angrily. "Waiting for you for so long, I eventually fell asleep. D'you think there's any chance I'm not more tired than you are?"

"At least you got some sleep." Hermione examined him closely. "What are you here for, anyway? To yell at me for being less tired than you are?"

"No," Draco sighed and sat down on the couch. "I'm sorry. I'm usually a little grumpy if someone wakes me up when I'm really tired."

"Well, it's not my fault," Hermione replied. She shook her head and sat down on the armchair. "So, what did you want to talk to me about?"

Draco blinked. It was the perfectly wrong time to say it. He hadn't pictured the proposal that way. Why had he had to insult her like that? It really wasn't her fault! He knew he had to tell her as soon as possible, before he lost his courage; but he couldn't, not now. It would be wrong to propose at such a situation.

"Got my owls?" he finally asked, avoiding the issue.

"Yeah," Hermione said, and a softer look came to her eyes. She even gave half a smile. "Thank you for the roses. They were beautiful."

"Did you read my letters?" Draco went on.

"Of course I did," Hermione replied softly.

"Hermione, is there – "Draco swallowed, then said: "Is there any chance that you feel the same... even a little... about me?" And before she could answer, he added: "No matter what you say, I know I'll always love you. I just want to know if there's... even the slightest chance that..."

Hermione's eyes started to well up again. Draco was horrified, and hoped this wasn't a bad sign.

"Of course I do!" Hermione suddenly said, loudly and angrily. "Of course I love you. How can you even think I don't? After everything that happened between us? Do you think I would kiss you if I didn't love you? Do you think I would sleep with you? Do you think I would feel so terrible about turning you down even though it breaks my heart every time, if I didn't love you like crazy?"

Draco tried to move closer, but Hermione stopped him with her hand: "No! I've already told you, Draco, this is not going to happen. You and I are only harming each other. If we start this all over again, we'll make the same mistakes we did the last time. I'm telling you, Draco, we'd be better off apart, without each other."

"Maybe you'd be," Draco said and felt his heart tearing from the inside, "but I wouldn't. I've already tried living without you. I don't know what you went through, but I know what I did, and my only conclusion is that I can't."

He heard her crying, and now he knew there was only one way. He got off the couch, and moved closer on his knees towards her. She looked down at him, her chocolate eyes full of tears and pain, and said nothing.

Draco took a deep breath. Here we go, he told himself. He reached out and put his hand on hers. She didn't pull her hand away, just gave a sob.

"Hermione," Draco said very clearly, "this may sound crazy to you, because you think we're bad for each other. But I love you more than words can say, and I can't live without you, so I'm going to follow my heart, even if you don't follow yours."

He put a hand inside his cloak and took out the small jewelry box with the wedding ring. He saw her eyes widen almost in fear, but he wouldn't stop, not now. "Hermione," he said softly, "will you marry me?"

Hermione breathed heavily through her tears, and didn't answer. Draco inched forward; she didn't stop him. He looked at her and then kissed her hard on the lips.

He felt her tears on his face as he reached out with his hand to her hair; she kissed him back, but Draco didn't know if he could take it as a 'yes'. He wanted to hear her say that... He pulled away.

Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck and still didn't say anything. Hoping this would help, Draco kissed her softly and looked deeply into her eyes. He wondered if this had been good enough. Her eyes were moist and teary, but not miserable; he dared to smile at her.

She gave a small smile and leaned her head on his shoulder. He thought this was a good sign, pressed his nose against her hair and took in its amazing scent before kissing it.

"Draco," she said in a small voice, "I'm afraid."

"What are you afraid of, darling?" he asked, put his hand under her chin and raised her head so he could look into her chocolate eyes again.

"I'm afraid to trust you again," she replied, her bottom lip quivering. "I'm afraid that if I trust in you, you will let me down and go abroad again. And it's not only me this time. It's Daniel, too. He's too young to be abandoned like this, and he loves you so much. I'm afraid he won't be able to stand it."

"Hermione," Draco said seriously, "if I went again somewhere, I would be the one who won't be able to stand it. Not only will it kill me that I can't see Daniel, I'll also be devastated that I broke your heart again. And moreover, I can't live without you. I just can't. If they ask me to go abroad once more, I'll refuse, no matter what a huge raise they offer me. I am not going to do this again, not to you and not to Daniel."

Hermione didn't answer.

"If you don't trust my love for you, at least trust my love for Daniel," Draco said and felt tears form in his eyes, too. "I will not abandon him. Never. I promise you, Hermione. Can you believe me?"

Hermione nodded, tears streaming down her face.

"I've seen you crying too many times lately," Draco said painfully, stroking her cheek. "If you let me, I'll do my best to make you happy. And I will make you happy, happier than ever before. It kills me to see you crying, Hermione."

Hermione bit her lip.

Draco looked deep into her eyes again. "Trust me, Hermione... can you?"

Hermione gazed at him for a long moment, and then her eyes finally lit up again, and they both knew the answer.

"Yes, Draco."

"Yes Draco what?" Draco asked, finally able to talk mischievously again. "Yes Draco, I can trust you, or yes, Draco, I'll marry you?"

"Both," Hermione answered as she threw herself in his arms.

They fell onto the floor and rolled on it, laughing while they kissed each other over and over again; they felt as if a heavy weight had disappeared from their hearts and shoulders. They continued to laugh and kiss and laugh some more, until Draco sat up, pulled Hermione up to sit in front of him and placed the ring on her finger. Then he moved closer, and before pressing his lips against hers, he whispered:

"Let's go to Daniel. Would you like to be the one telling him that Mom and Dad are getting married?"

THE END.

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A/N: Oh my God... It's over... I can't believe it's over... I almost have tears in my eyes... Oh God – I loved this story so much, and it has been my most successful one so far. I don't want to stop writing it... But I know that it's over now. And I must say goodbye to Daniel... I might write a sequel – I'm not sure I won't, but I think my next story will be about something else, maybe a new ship. But who cares now? God – Against All Odds is over. I can't believe it. It's very much thanks to all of you and your lovely reviews – you were really amazing, and I love you all! If you have any comments, suggestions, requests or anything else you'd like to say, about this story or about my next one – please say it.

I don't want to finish, but I have to upload this chapter now because I know you've been dying to read it... So bye for now, see you in the next story, and kisses to all of you –

Love you so much –

Roni Black.