Author's Note: Many thanks to Laurel and Angel for beta reading this chapter. It's the final installment I'm afraid. I'll miss this story, its ups, its downs... but on the plus side I already have a new (slightly less angsty) story to take its place.
Chapter 17 December 24th, 2000
Things were rather hectic immediately after Draco and I declared our love to the world. I had an endless stream of press trying to secure an exclusive story on our impending wedding, which wasn't even going to happen if things kept going as they were.
Not a word had been said about my blurted proposal, if that was even what it was. Not even Narcissa brought it up, which was unusual, and Draco remained cautiously mum about it as well. Apparently telling all of wizarding England that you wanted to marry and spend the rest of your life with a person didn't equate to a proper proposal in Draco's eyes because we never went ring shopping and he never so much as pretended we were engaged, so I supposed we weren't.
I was too embarrassed to bring it up again, personally. I had thrown caution to the wind and left my heart beating on my sleeve but all it did was get blood on my robes. Draco took the gallant gesture in stride with the rest of the evening's events and we moved on as if it had never happened. We were healthier afterward though; Draco no longer held animosity toward me for trying to keep our relationship a secret. That certainly wasn't a problem now.
Our pictures were in every publication. All we had to do was step out the front door for ice cream or meander through the aisles at Quality Quidditch and we were bombarded with flashes and scribbling quills. It got old fairly quickly and Draco was taking the brunt of it since the wizarding world still didn't trust the name Malfoy, but we both knew it was too late to slink back into the bliss of solitude after the events at the restaurant that night. Eventually we grew used to it and with nothing more exciting than a heated public kiss every now and then, the press got bored with us.
The most lasting occurrence had been the renewed acceptance of the Weasley family. The very next day after our run-in at Anthony's we had gotten an owl from Ron and Hermione inviting us out to dinner with them and we hesitantly agreed. I had no idea what to expect from the evening and I won't lie, it was awkward, but Draco muddled through it with grace and dignity and by the end of the night even Ron was pleased with him, although that might have been in part to the fact that Draco had box seats for the Chudley Cannon games. Either way, I was glad that the two most important men in my life were making the effort to get along. It meant the world to me.
After the successful evening with Hermione and Ron, we attempted a Sunday dinner at the Burrow, and even Narcissa came along with us. She and Molly prepared more food than I've ever seen cooked in that kitchen and it was interesting to see how well the two pureblood women from entirely different backgrounds melded together as if they were sisters. Arthur carried on as if the wedding to Ginny had never been planned or botched and the rest of the Weasley clan had a blast making Draco their new plaything. My boyfriend (fiancé?) quickly became the target of their jokes and schemes. As much as Draco put up a fuss, I could tell he was having fun and enjoying himself because his smiles always reached his eyes.
Ginny was a hard win, but she seemed genuinely smitten with her new man, the French Minister, and eventually even she fell into civility when she saw how happy Draco and I were together, but I think that had more to do with her family's acceptance of us, not her own. I could tell by the way she held herself, only speaking when she was carefully surrounded by the ring of the French Minister's arms, that she was still bitter over my handling of the events that led to my happiness, and for that I couldn't really blame her.
"It's sickening," she commented jokingly, but I could tell from the tight press of her lips that she was not amused. "You don't have to feed him, Harry. I'm sure Draco's upbringing included learning how to use utensils."
"It's just a bit of cake," I defended and she shook her head as if she'd been arguing with a child who would never listen until Luke leaned over and offered her some cake from his own fingers. Suddenly it didn't seem such a silly thing.
Sunday dinners with the Weasley's became a tradition after that night and every week the group grew less angry with me for abandoning their Ginny and more accepting of Draco. Everything was beginning to fall together and I felt as though I'd been working for years on a puzzle that only had a handful of pieces left to put in place.
The morning of Christmas Eve was chilly and through the windows I could see that snow had already begun to fall. Draco had woken up before me but to my great pleasure, he hadn't left the bed. I turned to find him propped up on one elbow watching me sleep with a lazy smile on his face that I knew was reserved for me alone. "Was I drooling?" I asked, my voice hazy with sleep.
"A little," Draco replied with a smile and pretended as though he was wiping it away from my chin.
I rolled my eyes at him but he kissed me in the next moment and that fire built in my gut, the one I always felt when his lips even so much as grazed mine. This was my heart and soul lying right next to me and I often clung to him as if he was the last thread that kept me tethered to Earth, and in a way he was. If Draco parted from this world, even with the support I would get from the Weasleys, I wouldn't be long behind him.
Which reminded me….
"Whatever happened with that blood debt?" I asked. It hadn't been brought up the entire time we were together, I hadn't even thought about it since before the wedding but now the prospect of old magical debts loomed over me like a guillotine blade waiting to fall.
"I still owe it," Draco replied with a yawn as if he was stating that he'd like eggs for breakfast, not talking about something that might very well kill him.
"What can we do about that?" I asked. I didn't think my life was in terrible danger, really. My position as Auror was almost up with the Ministry and even then I had been assigned very little fieldwork lately. Still, I didn't want some unfulfilled ancient pureblood magic withering my lover away.
Draco merely shrugged and looked down at me. "We can talk about it later," he replied. "Would you like to go flying today?" he asked, changing the subject. I was always wary of Draco when he did that, but I nodded. He would tell me what he was hiding when he was ready, of that much I was sure.
He beamed at me and we started to get ready for the day. We had dinner plans at Molly's that night for Christmas Eve, but we had plenty of time for a long shower, made even longer by the fact that we couldn't keep our hands to ourselves, and a leisurely breakfast with Narcissa. She was in high spirits that morning and kept sharing silent conversations with her son through pointed looks. I was beginning to feel like I was being left out of something important but I kept my mouth shut. After all, Christmas was only a few hours away and it probably had something to do with that. I wouldn't hear the end of it if I spoiled a surprise Draco had planned.
These days when we flew we didn't use separate brooms and we weren't in any hurry to beat one another to the Snitch. We still played the occasional game of Quidditch, especially when Ron came to visit, but today was just for us.
Draco wanted to steer, so he sat in front and I curled my arms around his waist, nuzzling into his warmth. I felt safe with his body pressed against mine and his scent was practically absorbed through my pores. We flew north, and the chilly air grew crisper around us until I was nearly shivering against Draco's back. "Can we maybe turn around?" I requested.
"Not yet. I'm looking for something," he replied and I shot a menacing glare at the back of his head that he obviously couldn't see.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on or are you going to continue being cryptic until I get angry?" I asked, trying to keep my tone as level as possible.
"Cryptic, was his one word answer and I could tell he was grinning; Draco was mighty proud of himself about something.
We flew for another half-hour when finally Draco cheered and dropped us into a steep dive. I looked at the ground around us but I couldn't see anything of note. No restaurant or hotel, nothing aside from expansive fields frosted with snow. The clouds above us were ominously gray and I began to wonder what Draco had been looking for when I looked over Draco's other shoulder and saw the most vibrant rainbow I'd ever seen.
"Wow," I whispered, my voice filled with awe. In all my years of flying I'd never flown so close to a rainbow. It was like I could reach out and touch it.
"Have you ever been to the end of one?" Draco asked and I shook my head before I realized he couldn't see me.
"Never," I replied. "It's so beautiful."
"The Weather-Witch said that the forecast around here looked good for rainbows today," he told me.
He continued to dive, following the broad arc of colorful light until we were near the ground, and then I saw what we were after. At the end of the rainbow was a tear in the sky. It was as if the air all around us was made of shimmering silk and that fabric had torn and left a jagged hole in its wake. Draco flew toward it and before I could protest or even process what he was doing, he flew through it.
I hadn't realized that I'd slammed my eyes shut, as I braced for impact, until I had to open them to see what happened. The transition into this new world wasn't jarring but rather smooth instead. I knew we were in another world altogether because the field now surrounding us didn't remotely resemble the one we'd just left. There was no rainbow, and in place of the cloudy sky was pure crystalline light.
Below us there was a meadow filled with golden flowers, and when I say golden I don't mean yellow, I mean real gold, just as brilliant and tangible as a Galleon. They sparkled and swayed in the breeze along with the tall grass that resembled shiny pulled taffy. I saw a single tree in the meadow, its leaves were still colored in autumn crimsons and ambers and I realized when Draco flew us closer that they weren't leaves at all. What I had thought was a leaf on the tree was actually a single gemstone, perfectly cut and shimmering in the afternoon sun.
"Draco this is magnificent," I breathed, terrified my voice would irreparably disturb this magical world around us.
"I thought it was the perfect place," Draco said as he landed us under the canopy of the tree.
"Perfect place for what?" I asked, gazing around the meadow from a different perspective now that I was on the ground.
"For this," Draco said and when I turned back to face him he was on one knee. I gasped, not expecting for a moment what it seemed Draco's intentions had been all along.
"Draco," I whispered, my eyes going wide. "What are you doing?"
A flicker of doubt ran across his smoldering eyes but it was banished just as quickly as he steeled himself and reached into his robe pocket to fish out a tiny black box. "I figured if I wanted a proper proposal, one that was private and just for us, I'd have to arrange it myself. So, Harry?" he asked and I grinned uncontrollably before falling to my knees as well, grasping his hands in mine.
"Will you make me the happiest wizard alive and marry me?" he asked and I could barely speak my answer I was so choked with emotion.
I nodded at once and eventually got out a strangled 'yes' before smothering his face with wet and sloppy kisses. He chuckled and captured my face to still it before planting a deep and passionate kiss on my lips where it belonged. A ring was slipped on my finger and when I looked down I recognized it at once as the ring he'd given me that day the war ended.
"I didn't think I'd ever get to see that on your finger again," he whispered, his throat tight and raspy with his own withheld emotions.
"What does this mean?" I asked, knowing there was more significance behind the ring than just an engagement symbol.
"It means we're bound now. You accept me freely and the blood debt will be satisfied with our marriage," he explained.
"I think it's already satisfied," I told him, my voice still whispering.
He quirked a delicate blond eyebrow and stared at me. "Why is that?"
"Because you saved my life when you showed me you loved me," I told him, and that was the honest truth. Several times I had sat awake at night as Draco slept beside me and I wondered how different my life would have been if I had gone through with the wedding, or if I hadn't attended Lucius' funeral, or if I hadn't saved Draco's life that night in the Room of Requirement in the first place.
In the scheme of my life -one filled with wars and terribly powerful wizards - these all seemed like relatively small events, but every decision had been life-altering and each choice had led me to this place and this time. Now more than ever, here in Draco's loving and tender embrace, I was the man I was meant to become.
Author's Note: Don't get used to all this fluff and ending on a sweet note! I am evil, remember. I have a few dark and tragic things in store for all those willing to venture there with me. Until then, I'm content that another Drarry couple ends with an awwww.