Title: One Golden Ring
For: the community
Rating: G, nothing objectionable
Couples: Draco/Hermione, with a brief mention of Ron/Luna
Summary: Draco searches for the perfect engagement ring for Hermione for Christmas… over and over and over again.
Warnings: None

Draco looked up at the sky above London and sighed. It was still cloudless, and not a whisper of wind was blowing over the cobblestones of Diagon Alley.

"It's December, for pity's sake," he mumbled discontentedly to himself. "Is a bit of snow so much to ask for?"

The sky, still steadfastly blue, seemed to stare down at him defiantly. Draco grumbled like a cranky Blast-Ended Skrewt as he strode down the narrow street, the ends of his cloak billowing behind him and occasionally whacking small children about the head as he went past. It was December 24, the morning of Christmas Eve, and he still hadn't found the proper present for his girlfriend.

Frankly, in addition to being grumpy, Draco was beginning to panic. He knew exactly what he wanted to get Hermione for Christmas, had known for months now, but no matter where he went, he simply could not find what he was looking for. With a sinking heart that somehow still managed to beat far too rapidly even as it dropped into his gut, he was beginning to think that it simply didn't exist. If he was to present Hermione with the perfect engagement ring for Christmas, it had to be precisely that: perfect. So far every single attempt he'd made had been met with utter disaster in some form or another.

Attempt 1: Mother's Ring

Narcissa looked at her son with a mixture of fond tolerance and vague disgust written across her refined features. Granted, Draco thought, ever since Potter had made that crack about it looking like his mother was smelling something unpleasant, he hadn't quite been able to drop that image from his mind, but today she had a reason for her expression.

"Draco, darling, are you quite sure this is what you really want to do? This couldn't possibly be some passing fancy, like that time you wanted to become a bank teller at Gringotts?" she said, regarding him carefully.

"Mother, I was seven years old!" Draco fairly yelled in exasperation.

"All right, all right, but still… she's so…," she began, pursuing her lips as she obviously tried to think of the right word.

"'So' what, Mother?" he said, his tone suggesting that he was more than up to an argument if the next word bothered him.

"So… different from our usual social circle," she said, getting up to pour herself a glass of wine so she had an excuse to put her back to his furious face. "I mean, look at Astoria or Daphne or any of the other nice pure blood young ladies you could choose from. Don't you think Hecuba would feel out of place in our society?"

"Her name is Hermione, Mother, as you well know," Draco said, controlling his anger rather well, "and I think if I had to spend the rest of my life with either of the Greengrass girls I might just crash my broomstick into the Great Wall of China at full throttle in protest."

His mother turned back around with a resigned smile on her face.

"Fine. I had to give it one last try, you know. A mother's prerogative," she said, walking over to a very finely wrought desk in the corner of the room and taking a jewelry box out of it, then sitting across from her son once more.

"Go ahead," she said handing him the box. "Open it."

He carefully lifted the lid of the green (was everything they owned green?) silk box to find his mother's old wedding ring lying on a bed of black velvet.

"I'm not sure you'll want to use that, though," she said carefully.

Draco stared down at the ring. Somehow, he hadn't remembered it being quite so garish on his mother's finger. He hadn't seen it in the last few years since she stopped wearing it following her divorce from Lucius after the fiasco of the Battle of Hogwarts, but still, Draco had never really looked at it before.

"I'm not sure a girl who once belonged in Gryffindor would be terribly fond of wearing an engagement ring in the form of an emerald serpent," Narcissa said.

The ring lifted its head, letting go of its own tail, and looked up at Draco with a pair of ruby eyes, then opened its mouth and hissed surprisingly loudly for such a small thing. He noticed a pair of diamond fangs in its mouth.

"Ehm… does it actually bite?" he asked.

"I'm afraid so," his mother said, "and, like a great many things in this house, it has anti-Muggle charms on it, in this case, a jinx that causes Snitch-sized boils to erupt all over the hands of any non-pure blood girl. I think your bride-to-be would need to be presented with an accompanying parcel of dittany immediately following your proposal."

"I don't want a ring that's going to attack her!" Draco said, shutting the case on the now fiercely spitting little viper. "Is there a way to undo the spell?"

"I'm sure there must be, but if there is, I've never heard of it," Narcissa said, taking back the box.

Draco wrinkled his nose.

"Thank you for the offer, Mother, but I believe I had better keep looking," he said. "Somehow I think that a ring that intends my future wife harm isn't the best choice."

Attempt 2: Hecate's Jewel Emporium

Draco had next attempted buying a ring from the finest jeweler in Hogsmeade. Hecate's Jewel Emporium was well known as a shop filled with the very finest Wizarding gems available, and Draco opened the door, hearing the little bell above it jingle in welcome, with cautious hope. The proprietor, an unusually tall, middle-aged witch wearing silver robes that looked immensely expensive, immediately came out from the back room.

"Good morning, Mister Malfoy," she said, bowing to him. "Is there some way I may assist you?"

"I'm looking for an engagement ring," Draco said, and he was surprised to hear he sounded rather nervous. He hadn't expected her to know his name.

"Congratulations," the witch said. "Let us see what we have for the fortunate young lady."

She walked behind a row of glass-topped cabinets, unlocked one, and removed a tray of glittering gems.

"Do any of these catch your eye, or would you prefer to see another selection?" she asked.

Draco looked at each one in turn, but he found something not quite right with each one. They were simply too ordinary. Each ring tended to look just like the next: a glittering white stone surrounded with gold. Hermione was not ordinary, and he wanted her ring to reflect her.

"Do you have anything more… unusual? No snakes or cursed biting rings though," he added quickly.

Hecate gave him an odd look for a moment then smoothed her features back to their accustomed placid expression.

"Of course, sir," she said, and brought forward another tray of rings, these all enchanted. Some glowed in different colors, others read love poetry written by famous Wizards if they were tapped correctly, and still others emitted the scent of roses or lilies. They seemed more like novelty items than real rings, though, almost as though they were phony.

"I'm sorry," he said as he left. "Perhaps another time."

Attempt 3: Bijoux Parfaits Pour Les Dames

It was with extreme trepidation that Draco had approached Fleur Delacour Weasley to help him. He was the first to admit that she had exceptional taste, and somehow as matron of honor to Ron and Luna's wedding the previous month she had managed to guide the bride away from anything too odd in their ceremony, including a complete absence of Butterbeer cork necklaces. When he tentatively asked for her assistance, he'd been surprised by how delighted she looked.

"Of courze I would be 'appy to do what I can," she said smiling broadly. "'ermione iz in need of a bit of style."

Draco's smile became a little forced at this, but he gamely went through with the shopping expedition. They had Apparated to a small boutique in the city of Arles in her native France, which Fleur assured him was the perfect spot for the best rings on the continent, Wizarding or otherwise.

"Bonjour, Monsieur Jardin!" she called out pleasantly, and a little old man looked up rather blearily from his morning coffee at them.

"Bonjour, Madame Weasley," he said, nodding at her before going back to contemplating his coffee.

"It iz alright. We can look at whatever we like. Monsieur Jardin knows me well," she said, striding over to one of the display cases. "Now zat might be ze right ring for 'ermione."

He looked at the ring she was pointing to, and his jaw dropped. The stone was the size of a baby's fist.

"Isn't it a little, well, large?" he asked gingerly. He thought to himself that Hermione would need to start lifting weights with her left arm just so she could gesture normally with that thing on her hand.

Fleur sniffed delicately.

"It iz a very lovely ring," she said, "but perhaps a bit too large, maybe. What about zis one?"

The next ring was smaller and more what he had in mind, but he noted that there was a Muggle phone number next to it.

"Who am I supposed to call and why?" he asked, completely confused.

Fleur stared at him for a second then said, "Zat is ze pricetag."

Draco's eyes widened as he stammered, "Uhm, Fleur, my family's assets aren't exactly what they were before the war."

She gave him a withering look, and he was almost sure he heard her mutter "avare" under her breath, which he reminded himself to look up later, but she continued searching through the piles of gems in the store. Unfortunately, although her taste was very good, most of the rings she brought forward were either too expensive or simply not right for Hermione.

"You are very difficult to pleaze," she said, shaking her head.

"I'm sorry. It's just… none of them is her. Do you know what I mean?" he asked.

She smiled at him warmly.

"You love 'er very much, no?" she said. "Zat iz why you look so long."

"I suppose so," he said.

"You will know ze right one when you see it," she said as they left the shop. "Au revoir, Monsieur Jardin," she called over her shoulder.

The old man grunted, still contemplating his coffee, though Draco couldn't help noticing that his gaze changed to follow the path of Fleur's derriere as she walked through the door.

Attempt 4: Muggle London

This brought Draco to his current state. After trying everything possible in the Wizarding world, he'd thought that perhaps, just maybe, a Muggle-born bride matched with a Muggle-made ring. Tightening his cloak around him, he strode through the Leaky Cauldron and out into the flow of Muggle traffic in London.

While Draco had ventured outside of the Wizarding world several times now to visit Hermione's family, the change from his own surroundings always struck him as strange and a little exotic. The cars trundling down the streets, belching exhaust and honking at one another crazily, the bizarre trainers people wore, the sound of Muggle music blaring from speakers in the stores he passed, all of it was very different from his usual life.

He took a map from his pocket and stared at it, wondering if he was going the right direction. He simply couldn't understand how Muggles managed with maps that didn't move. After several wrong turns and a rather terrifying ride on the Tube, Draco did manage to reach his destination, a small jeweler's shop near the edge of the city. It was strange, but the moment he put his hand on the doorknob, he knew he was about to find what he was looking for.

He had been more than right. No sooner had he stepped into the shop than his eyes fell on exactly the perfect ring for Hermione, only… only it needed a little something, and that he could do himself.

"How much is this ring?" he asked the gentleman behind the counter, who looked rather surprised.

"That'll be 4000 pounds, that will," the man said.

"Four thousand pounds of what?" Draco asked, confused.

"Say, what are you, some sort of comedian?" the man said, suspecting a prank. "Four thousand English pounds!"

Oh, Draco thought. Muggle money. He'd nearly forgotten that's what it was called.

"Bit of a joke there, sorry," he said, smiling weakly. "Yes, I… I think I have that with me."

As the man stood in shock, Draco proceeded to pull dozens of bills from a pocket of his robe.

"Blimey, son, you're asking to get robbed walking around with that sort of cash on you!" the man said.

Draco waved the suggestion away as though it were silly. A ten-year-old capable of doing a Jellylegs Jinx would be able to defend himself from any Muggle thief. Actually, he thought he might rather enjoy an attempted robbery. He hadn't had the need to use any serious defensive magic since the war, and he didn't want to be out of practice.

"There you are, sir," the man said, handing him a small bag topped in red tissue paper. "I do hope the young lady says yes to you."

"Thank you," Draco said, and he began to become nervous for the first time over what Hermione's answer would be. He'd spent so long agonizing over the ring that he hadn't stopped to think that it was possible she might say no.

Christmas Day

Draco Malfoy was not, as a rule, a nervous person. His goal in life was usually to make other people around him nervous. This morning, though, as he stood outside of Hermione's flat with a small pile of parcels in his hands, he was starting to perspire in spite of the cold. Still not a single flake of snow had broken the expanse of cloudless sky that lingered from yesterday. As he waited for Hermione to open the door, he listened to the shrieks of delight coming from children in the flats to either side of her. He hoped it was a good omen.

"Happy Christmas!" she said, the door opening with a pop to reveal Hermione, still cladin her pajamas and robe, who immediately wrapped her arms around him, packages and all, and gave him a sound kiss on the doorstep.

"Well, I quite like that gift already," he said, smiling happily at her as he followed her into the living room.

She had a small Christmas tree decorated in paper chains the two of them had made the previous week, a tradition she told him she'd had since she was a little girl, and the branches were studded with sparkling ornaments of green and red. It was simple and pretty, and warm in a way he associated with her. They began to exchange presents at once, though he kept the ring in the pocket of his robes. After the traditional books and a new jumper for her and a pocket watch and set of season Quidditch tickets for him, he knew it was time.

"I have one more gift for you," he said, his voice cracking a little with nerves.

"Oh?" she said, and it might have been his imagination but he was fairly certain she sounded nervous as well.

He had to admit he felt like a bit of a prat getting down on one knee, but her answering gasp made him feel immensely better about his lack of dignity. Carefully, he took the small white satin box from his pocket and opened it to reveal the Muggle-made ring, an antique gold setting with a small flower made of six tiny diamonds in the middle. As the light caught it, his own addition to the gem glittered brightly as his own charm that had trapped bits of silver moonlight in each diamond made them sparkle more brightly than any Muggle jeweler ever could. He felt the very well rehearsed speech he'd repeated to himself for the last nine hours straight completely fly out of his head.

"Marry me?" he blurted out inelegantly.

Hermione stared at him and the ring, then back at him and to the ring once again before blurting out equally inelegantly, "What are you, stupid? Of course!"

With a ridiculously wide grin, he pulled the ring from the box and slipped it on her finger. Something, however, was wrong.

"Why's it so big?" he asked stupidly as he watched it dangle ridiculously from her finger.

Hermione giggled, then asked, "What size is it?"

"Rings come in sizes?" he said. "You're kidding, right?"

She laughed again, saying, "Don't worry. We can just have it fitted. Where did you go to get it?"

"Where didn't I go is a better question," he said, joining her laugh, and then kissing her happily.

As he looked out the window, he noticed that the first delicate, lacy flakes of Christmas snow were dancing through the morning air, making the whole world look merry and bright. As he kissed his fiance once again, he decided they could go back to that jeweler tomorrow. Much, much later tomorrow.