A/N: So here is the Christmas chapter. I'm sorry about the lateness of it…. Oh, and remember that I disregard the deaths of many characters from DH. I couldn't live without Severus because he is a favorite of mine. A word of… warning, I guess: Christmas is meant to be a happy time. But there are many occasions were holidays are bittersweet and riddled with memories of things in the past. People and places dredge up memories all the time.

While writing this I listened to: Halou's song 'I'll Carry You' and 'Just Say Yes' by Snow Patrol.

Chapter dedicated to: lilyforeva. It was awesome to get your review, luv.

oOoOo

Chapter 17

'Christmas'

"Mistress Malfoy, the guests have arrived."

Narcissa nodded and shot a smile to her son who grinned right back. Hermione looked confused.

Guests? She'd thought it was just going to be the three of them for Christmas.

There was a clambering noise and a well clothed house elf entered the room with two people behind it. "Mr. and Mrs. Granger, Madame."

"Hermione!" Andrea Granger came in wearing a pretty knee length dress and a huge smile. Richard stood slightly behind her, dressed in a pair of black slacks and a red button up shirt. He looked down at his daughter and gave a soft smile.

"Mum!" Hermione stood quickly and hugged her mother excitedly. She hadn't expected to see her until spring. "Why are you here?"

Andrea pulled away and gave a look of mock hurt. "Did you not want me here?" Hermione shook her head quickly and smiled brightly at her mother. "Draco asked us if we would like to join you guys for dinner."

Hermione turned to Draco with surprise evident in her eyes. "I thought you might want to see them for the holidays." He said, shrugging off her silent gratitude. He rather liked the emotional state she was in when she was around her parents. She felt safe and loved, and he wanted her to always feel that way.

Richard took his daughter into his arms and held onto her tightly. "You're growing up, aren't you?" Hermione frowned at his odd question. She nodded yes slowly and he pulled her back into a hug. Draco's eyes met her own brown ones and she saw something in them she couldn't quite recognize. Her dad held onto her for a moment longer before pushing her away gently and giving a small, odd looking smile.

"Mr. and Mrs. Granger?" Narcissa stood from her chair and approached the two Muggles. She was adept at making conversation, so she dove headfirst into a chat with Hermione's parents. Pureblood supremacy be damned. These people would hopefully become her in-laws.

With the adults' attention averted towards introductions, Hermione and Draco shared a look.

Draco stood from his chair and moved closer to Hermione, no one taking notice to him as they were too caught up in their conversation. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her close to his side. She smiled as she nestled into him. "They seem to be getting along well. They've forgotten all about us." They both laughed quietly and watched as Narcissa played the part of a friendly host. Draco murmured an 'oh well' and pressed a kiss to her temple. Warmth saturated his body from where they touched. The green cashmere of her sweater was undeniably soft against the pads of his fingers as he caressed her arm. He caught the content smile on her face and felt his veela hum in satisfaction.

While it was becoming more and more difficult for him to deny himself her warm body, Draco somehow held out.

Every tiny touch, soft sigh, and gentle kiss was stowed away in his memory and fueled to the every-growing inferno of his lust. But he made sure to be careful that she never noticed how his hands reached for her even as she walked away after a particularly intense snogging session. He knew that such intimacy made her slightly uncomfortable, so he tried his very hardest to abide by the silent rules they'd set up.

But, damn, was it difficult!

Draco just wanted to touch her, to feel her satiny skin against his. He lost sleep over the fitful dreams that invaded his mind. Dreams of her and him; them, together as a veela and mate were supposed to be.

All that aside, he was scraping by. He desperately hoped that she didn't notice the glamour charms he put on his face so the dark smudges under his eyes wouldn't be visible. She shouldn't have to worry over him. It was her choice and he was respecting it because he loved her. Feeling her next to him as he slept was enough to keep his emotions from bursting free like some sort of wild animal on a mission for blood. But it certainly wasn't enough to keep him from lusting after her and wanting more. More than the kisses, more than the feel of clothes against clothes.

The deep baritone of the Malfoy's head servant spoke, "Mistress Malfoy, the meal is served."

All talking ceased as Narcissa ushered everyone out of the room and into the overlarge dining area. The table was made of some sort of exotic wood. Expensive looking china was set out on top of what looked to be silk blended placemats in a shade of gold that reflected off the jade colored walls. Thin, filmy white drapes were arranged on each of the high windows; reaching from the wrought iron bars to the well polished marble floor. Heavier cream colored drapes were positioned to block just a bit of sun from the room.

Narcissa took a seat at the head of the table with Hermione and Draco to her left and the Granger parents to her right. They all proceeded to tuck in to their meals, each equipped with perfect table manners.

Silence settled over the group and Narcissa delicately cleared her throat, not wanting things to turn south so quickly.

"Draco, Hermione, has anything new happened at school?" Narcissa knew well the things that had happened. But she also knew that Hermione was reluctant to tell her parents about school and magic in attempts to shield them. As a mother herself, she knew that parents wanted to know every aspect of their child's life; the good things, the bad things, the things that make them cry, and the things that make them smile. She simply couldn't imagine what she would do if Draco shut her out. They had an open relationship or, at least as open as it could be with a mother and her teenage son. He told her things that bothered him and she tried to help him as best as she could because she loved him.

Richard and Andrea shared a look. They knew nothing of what had happened during their daughter's everyday life. They knew her favorite drink, book, meal, and subject. But they didn't know what she did when she woke up.

Did she still brush her teeth like a zombie in the morning? Was her hair still a mess after showers because she refuses to use conditioner? Did she still talk aloud when she read something she didn't understand?

It was heartbreaking for them. Their daughter was growing up and she wouldn't tell them things of the war she had fought in. Hermione wouldn't breathe a word about the torture she'd endured or the loneliness she felt after seeing people die during battle. So, they looked on eagerly, hoping that either she or Draco would speak up and tell them something.

Hermione shrugged and Draco saw the disappointment in her parents' eyes.

"Mother," he spoke, "Did you do anything about Olsen?"

Hermione's eyes widened as the name registered in her brain. Why was he bringing that up? Of all the things for her parents to hear about at a meal! She shot a pleading look at Draco which he seemed to ignore.

"Laurits Olsen." Narcissa's eyes narrowed and the room's other two older occupants frowned in confusion.

Who was this Laurits Olsen?

"I had his father kicked off the board in the company."

Hermione choked on her wine and quickly dabbed at her lips with a linen napkin in an attempt to save face. "You mean his whole family is going to suffer?"

Narcissa laughed lightly. "Oh, dear, I've been looking for an excuse to get rid of them for years. They're all bad news, the whole lot of them."

"If you don't mind me asking," Andrea piped in, "Who is Laurits Olsen? Why did you… dispose of him?"

Another pleading look was sent Draco's way, and he found his resolve dwindling. The veela in him didn't want to make her uncomfortable and the slightly pouty set of her lips was making it all the worse. But, the thing was, her parents deserved to know everything about their daughter. He knew well that Hermione was only worried for their safety. What she didn't know was that they were under the protection of the Malfoy family. No ex-Death Eaters were coming close to them. He'd left that little bit of information off, knowing that she'd throw a tantrum or something of the sorts.

"He's a seventh year in Slytherin who…." Hermione grappled for the right word. Saying he was a rapist was extreme, but saying he merely accosted her was too slight of an explanation. "He felt the need to be horribly rude to Draco and me during a presentation in Potions class."

The elder Granger's shared an exasperated look. "Hermione, you're being vague. Nothing you tell us, nothing, will make us think of you differently. You need to talk to us, darling."

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek and felt Draco's hand sooth her own cool one. She nodded slightly. "Draco and I were giving a presentation, as I said. It started with me cutting Draco." She looked slightly amused at the gaping looks on her parents' faces. "I needed some of his blood for the potion. And, you see, he heals fast. Draco told them that his veela blood is closely related to that of a vampire's because vampires heal quickly. Olsen... he said something about how he wouldn't spend his time on my blood, but rather my body." The look on her father's face went from shocked to well hidden anger.

It was another one of those taboo moments for Richard Granger. Sure, he knew that guys looked at his daughter. They'd been doing it since she turned thirteen. But he hated thinking about it, really. Part of him was thankful for Draco. The boy was obviously protective of her, so he, as a father, had less to worry about.

"Well, I'm glad he's gone." Hermione goggled at her normally docile mother.

Narcissa nodded in agreement.

"Hermione… What else has happened? Stop trying to protect us. Please. We want to know everything." Her father begged.

Draco squeezed her hand in encouragement and silently urged her on. This was why he had invited her parents over. He wanted her to open up to them because he knew they deserved that much. Pretty soon she would be off to university, and then a job, and then hopefully married to him. Hermione was growing up as her dad had said. Growing up didn't necessarily have to mean growing apart, though.

"Well… Harry and Ginny finally got together this year…" Hermione teased, watching her parents roll their eyes. They could care less about the dating habits of her friends, and she knew it. "Ron and I had a bit of a falling out early in the year." Draco fought back a derisive snort. Falling out indeed.

"Well, how did it happen?"

Hermione grimaced. Telling her parents about Ron and Parvati's little game of tonsil hockey wasn't exactly a table-safe conversation. "I let myself be walked all over. I was doing his school work and Harry's too, sometimes. But I was starting to feel that it wasn't right. I finally cracked and he got angry at me." Hermione looked to Draco who nodded. "Draco kept things from getting too horrible. We didn't talk to each other until one night when I was doing rounds at night. He tried to… ah… apologize. But he was inebriated. It really wasn't much of an apology being that he… um… Bit my lip and was awfully rude." Now Draco did snort. His mother gave him a disparaging look and he promptly sobered up.

"Draco was there to help me." Hermione's hand pressed into his and she flashed him a smile. "But after my little… trip down the side of the Astronomy Tower, Ron came and asked for forgiveness the right way. I forgave him and that's that." She promptly ended the story and dug into her potatoes with a false sense of bravado. She knew well that all eyes were on her, but she chose to ignore everyone and focus on the delicious meal on her plate.

"Anything else?" Her mother urged her on with wide, innocently curious eyes.

"Honestly, no. This year hasn't been all that exciting," Hermione stopped eating and smiled a bit, "And I quite like it that way. No more chasing after pieces of a soul, no more looking over my shoulder." She laughed a bit and wondered if her parents thought she'd gone mad because she was laughing at nothing. It was just such a relief to feel safe after the constant danger she'd been in since the age of eleven. There was finally a sense of freedom in the world, and she intended to soak it in for as long as possible. Sure, there were still ex-Death Eaters out there looking for her because of the large bounty hanging over her head. But Voldemort was gone and Draco would make sure she was safe.

"Pieces of a soul?" Richard inquired interestedly.

Hermione nodded. "Voldemort," no one flinched at the name, which surprised her, "split his own soul into seven parts. Harry, Ron and I had to destroy them in order to get rid of Voldemort. One of them was a diary from Tom Riddle who became Voldemort. The other Horcruxes were a ring from Marvalo Gaunt, Salazar Slytherin's ring, Helga Hufflepuff's cup, Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem, Voldemort's snake Nagini, and Harry himself." Her parents sat entranced by the things she was telling them. She'd never told them any of the things she'd had to do during the war. Never had a word been uttered about the trials she, Harry, and Ron had endured during their time in the forest. They only knew the basics; there was a war and she was a key part of it.

"We went from place to place in search of the Horcruxes, from the Forest of Dean, to Hogwarts."

"What about that time you were captured?"

Draco, Narcissa, and Hermione all stiffened at that seemingly innocent question. They all knew what happened when the Golden Trio had been captured. They knew where they went, what happened, and just how horrible it had been.

Richard sensed the change in emotions and cocked his head to the side, inquisitiveness clear in his brown eyes. "Hermione, you've told us of the capture, but not about it. What really happened?"

Hermione breathed in deeply, a frown playing on her lips. Draco gave his mother a worried look which she returned.

"There were Snatchers out looking for Harry, Ron, and I. When they found us, they took us…" Hermione looked at Draco with sad, ghost-memory riddled eyes. "They took us here where many Death Eaters were. I cast a jinx on Harry so he didn't look exactly like himself because he was in the greatest danger and Voldemort would've loved to have him in his clutches." Her hand came up to Draco's cheek and he caught the look of admiration in her gaze. "They asked Draco if he recognized us and he didn't give us in. He saved me from being killed and Harry from becoming Voldemort's pet."

Draco didn't see it that way, really. He saw that moment as one of his worst. He had been a coward for not doing anything to help her. Sure, he hadn't known she was his Mate then, but she was still a blameless party then. She had screamed so loudly then that he'd thought his eardrums would burst. He had watched as she writhed on the ground like a fish out of water gasping for air. His aunt had been laughing like the deranged maniac she was; taking joy in torturing a 'mudblood'. The Crucio hadn't been enough for her, though. Her little dagger had dug into his Mate's skin and brought up blood.

Blood that was the exact same color as his and his father's.

That had been a defining moment for Draco.

If Muggleborns had dirty blood, why did she bleed red? Why did she surpass him in every academic subject?

Why was she pretty?

Draco was dragged back from his horrible memories when Hermione pinched his arm rather painfully. "You're not blaming yourself, are you?" She gave him a pointed look, her dark almond eyes in a slight glare.

"No." Hermione didn't look convinced.

"Why would they have wanted to kill you? I thought they only wanted Harry because of that Prophecy." Andrea interjected. She really didn't know how close her daughter had come to dying. And on many occasions, at that.

"I was the best friend of the Boy-Who-Wouldn't-Die. I was and still am the brains of the three of us. If I were gone, Harry and Ron would honestly be pretty lost." She didn't say it to be arrogant. It simply was the truth. "And, many Death Eaters wanted me dead simply because of my blood." Hermione put down her fork and looked at her lap.

"And because they were angry that you beat their children in every school subject." Draco supplied with a smile, trying to ward off the heavy weight the bad memories were bringing with them.

"Yeah, that has to be it." She rolled her eyes and grinned before giving him a kiss on the cheek in a sign of appreciation. All those bad memories were close to suffocating her.

There was the sound of a door opening and two maids came in and took away their plates. The head servant had a tray with smaller plates on it, each with a glass dish filled with a sweet smelling dessert.

Narcissa nodded her thanks to the manservant and he nodded back, a smile playing at the corners of his aged lips.

"This is a soft cake soaked in an Australian Semillon wine with white chocolate and American raspberries." Draco said, his dessert fork already plunged into the gooey, sweet mess. "It's one of mother's favorites." He looked to his mother who smiled fondly.

"Yes, when Draco was little he asked if he could have some of mine. I told him no because the alcohol content in it was too high for him to take." Narcissa mused fondly. "After that, I left and came back to find an entire thing gone. Poor little guy passed out after being sick."

Hermione laughed as she tried to imagine a tiny Draco stealing his mother's dessert and eating it all. It just seemed like something he would do; being that he was such a spoiled, petulant child.

The bad mood was instantly lifted from the room as each occupant focused on their dessert, not wars and torture.

oOo

"Bye, darling." Andrea hugged her daughter, her eyes tear-free because she knew she'd be seeing Hermione soon enough.

"Bye mum." Hermione pulled away from her mum and gave her dad a quick hug. She watched in amused fascination as Draco was pulled into a hug by her short mother. He didn't look all that surprised by the show of affection and returned her hug gently. There was a silent moment where Draco and her father shared what Hermione liked to call 'silent male communication'. No words were passed, but Draco nodded to the man and they shook hands.

Hermione turned back to Draco, watching as her parents grabbed handfuls of Floo powder and disappeared into the large stone fireplace. She let out a content sigh and rested her head on Draco's shoulder. "Thank you." She murmured.

"Of course." His arm tightened around her waist and he pressed a kiss to her temple, his eyes closed as he breathed in her scent deeply. Little moments like this made his abstinence somewhat bearable. "I have something waiting for you upstairs." He pulled her gently behind him. Hermione eyed him warily. Draco had already gotten her a gift. In fact, she was wearing the silver chained necklace right now. The little lion represented Gryffindor, or, as Draco said, her temper. She'd rolled her eyes then. The silver book inscribed with 'Hogwarts: A History' was another one of Draco's little ideas of a joke. But she absolutely adored it all the more because the two charms symbolized her perfectly.

Hermione trailed her hand thoughtfully over the veined marble railing leading up the grand stairs. The Manor truly was beautiful once she got over the fact that it had been used to house the most evil wizard of her time. Everything had been redecorated by Narcissa who had wanted the mansion to resemble warmth and sunshine rather than darkness and foreboding. White and silvers were the main color scheme to the entire place, as well as gold, surprisingly.

Draco stopped at a door on the far end of the west wing. He nudged it open and Hermione sighed deeply.

The entire room smelled like Draco. Everything about it was perfectly tailored for his being, from the overstated silk bed sheets, to the large bookcases that showed off his lust for reading that rivaled her own. She moved to rifle through her drawer, feeling Draco come up behind her.

"Do you mind if I take a bath?" Hermione pulled out her trademark white robe and looked at him over her shoulder. His hands rested on the top of her shoulders and he leaned down to kiss the nape of her neck.

"If you must." Draco's tone was teasing, masking how serious he really was. She didn't need to know how hard it was for him to let her go for even a moment. Standing without her by his side felt so cold and desolate, even if she was only in the other room.

Hermione grabbed a pair of long silk sleep pants and a black camisole, before giving him a kiss and disappearing into the adjoined bathroom.

Now Draco sighed deeply. His hand came to the front pocket of his dark slacks where a box was nestled safely. He hadn't come up with the right time to ask her yet.

While he knew well that Hermione loved him, he wasn't sure how she'd react to an engagement ring. If she thought it too intimidating, would she back away?

Draco shook his head in a desperate attempt to rid his mind of all thoughts. If the word 'engagement' was too overwhelming to her, would she accept it as a token of how much he cherished her? He wanted nothing more than to show her her importance and how highly he thought of her.

He took out the box and carefully pinched the top lid to open it. The shiny metal and bright stone glinted even in the meager lighting of his bedroom. Draco smiled to himself, remembering the reaction Hermione's mother had had to the ring.

(Flashback)

Draco shuffled his feet, momentarily forgetting the years of training he'd had in showing complete composure. In all honesty, he was anxious and worried, and everything a boyfriend should be when asking his girlfriend's parents for her hand in marriage.

Richard looked him up and down and Draco knew well that the man was curious as to why he was visiting them without their daughter. Andrea came in with a tray of tea and an array of freshly made biscuits. She set them down and wiped her hands on her casual denim jeans. Her eyes met her husband's and they shared a look only married couples could.

"Why don't you sit down, Draco." He did so mechanically, seeming to be in his own little world. "Nothings' wrong, is there?" Draco shook his head, breathed in deeply, and finally reached the level of cool, calm collectedness that he had wanted.

"No, nothing is wrong." Draco fingered the box in his hand before clutching it in his palm like a mini lifeline. He let it channel his worry before it disappeared into the soft velvet box. He could do this. The worst they could was refuse. And if they didn't… He wasn't sure what he'd do. Hermione would most likely agree to marry him, but feel sad because her parents didn't approve. He wouldn't let that happen to her. He wanted her to be happy if she chose to marry him.

"My daughter isn't pregnant, is she?"

Draco gave Richard a weird look.

Honestly, what was it with that man and thinking he got Hermione with child?

"No… She isn't…" Draco paused as he stirred his tea with his spoon. "But the reason why I'm here has something to with that." He frowned to himself before looking back up from the utensil in his hand to Hermione's parents. "I want that with her someday." He saw the shock on their faces but didn't stop to let them speak, "I'm here to ask if you'd let me marry your daughter." Neither Granger looked as if they could speak, so Draco went on hastily.

"I originally got this," he opened the ring box and placed it on the table for her parents to see, "because I wanted to show Hermione how much she means to me. As you know, for me to live we're going to have to consummate our relationship." They seemed to snap out of their stupor at that last bit. "Because of that, I didn't want her to feel… immoral. Hermione's too good for anyone to see her as anything but virtuous person she is. But I don't want her to feel bad about giving herself away before marriage… because that's what she had intended all along. I want to respect that wish as much as I can."

"Do you feel obligated to ask her to marry you because you have to have sex outside of marriage?" Andrea asked quietly, her eyes fixated on the beautiful ring nestled safely inside of the box.

"No, not really. I want to ask her anyway. But I just think she'd appreciate me asking her before our consummation." Draco took a sip of his tea, surveying the married pair before him.

His mother and father had never been close like the Granger's were. They had been cold and detached from each other. He had pretty much been raised by his mother. She was the one who taught him the real right from wrong and manners. Lucius hadn't been there, as a real husband or father should be. Draco had witnessed his mother being hurt by the sight of his father bringing home prostitutes and the like. He wanted to have a real marriage, like those in love had. He wanted to treat Hermione right, not degrade her as Lucius had done to his mother.

Andrea nodded and looked to her husband whose brows were knitted together in a show of concentration.

"What about university and a job and life? Is she going to have to jump right into being a housewife or a mother? Because I know she wouldn't want that."

"Hermione can go to any university she wants. I want her to do whatever she wants with her life," Draco thought for a moment, "except for being an Auror. I don't think I can really handle her being in so much danger. But if she goes to university then wants a job, I will support her choice. As for being a housewife… There really is no need for her to deal with the house. We have others to take care of all that. And my mother is still the Lady of the Manor until Hermione accepts the position." He breathed in deeply now, his eyes meeting Richards.

"I do want children with her someday. More than anything. But I will wait until she's ready. And I'm going to want her to myself for a bit, I think."

"Why do you want children so young? Men your age don't often think of children and a wife and the like." Andrea drew her finger on the lip of her mug, a small frown line forming between her brows.

"Because they would be a part of her and me together… And veelas have a mating instinct, to reproduce and such. I can't really help that bit."

Both Grangers nodded.

"If we say yes, can you promise us something?" Draco looked at Andrea warily. His inner Slytherin was telling him not to say yes. Promises manipulated you to someone else's advantage.

"Possibly."

"Can you make sure Hermione talks to us? I just want to see her more often and," Andrea took a deep breath, "and get to know her again." Richard nodded in agreement. They both missed their daughter so much. She was, as Draco had put so well, a piece of them. They loved her dearly and wanted to be more important parts of her life.

"I can do that." Draco stood to leave, knowing Hermione would be wondering where he had gone. Andrea stood as well, crossing over to him until she stood in front of him. She patted his face and gave him a motherly kiss.

"Give Hermione a kiss from me." Richard grimaced from his place behind his wife before giving Draco and swift handshake and a nod.

With that, he left.

(End Flashback)

The door opened and shut and Draco was shocked at how long he had just been sitting there thinking. He quickly snapped the box shut and shoved it into his pocket, looking up to see if Hermione had noticed it. Instead he saw her in the process of putting her hair in a plait. She noticed his glare at her fingers and promptly let the pieces of hair fall back naturally with a roll of her eyes.

He never let her keep her hair up for long.

Draco reached for her hand and pulled her close so she was standing right in front of him, between his legs. His hands slithered up her arms and to her shoulders before mapping out her torso where his thumbs grazed against the sides of her breasts then settling on her hips. He placed small kisses on her stomach, feeling the barrier of her clothing between his lips and her skin. How he wished it was his lips on her bare skin.

Hermione threaded her fingers into Draco's hair and watched as he closed his eyes in contentment and nuzzled her abdomen. There was a slight glimmering which made Hermione stiffen.

He wasn't crying, was he?

Her hand caught his chin and she felt him stiffen slightly under her imploring gaze.

Draco's eyes were dry.

So, what had that glimmer been?

Hermione turned his head and he willingly complied, his head following her gently guiding fingers. There was that flicker of shininess again. She frowned before realization dawned on her. Well placed glamour charms flickered just like that.

"Drop them." She requested quietly, watching as Draco reached for his wand to remove the charm. His hand moved as if he was under the Imperious. Which, in a way he was. His veela mind was weak against her when she ordered him to do something outright. He flicked it and a quick gasp was drawn from Hermione's lips. The area just underneath his eyes was startlingly dark, as if it had been bruised by someone's fist. She reached her hand out and stroked her thumb over the unnaturally dark skin. Draco didn't flinch like one would when someone touches a bruise. Instead he nestled against her palm like a small wounded animal would.

Another realization hit her.

This was her doing.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Hermione asked quietly as she cupped his face in her hands. Tears welled in her eyes as her fingers periodically soothed the skin beneath his eyes as if the rubbing motions would somehow get rid of the obnoxious, hideous dark coloring.

"You don't need to worry about it." Draco said gruffly.

Hermione sniffed and wiped the tears from her eyes and, with deft fingers, flung her shirt over her head. Her hands went back to Draco, this time resting on his neck, in the area where it met his shoulders. Her thumb guided his head up to look at her. His dark grey eyes slid up her body, widening as he took in her state of undress.

"Hermione, no…"

She ignored his protest. "Draco, you should have told me." Hermione chastised; happy that the tears in her eyes were dried up. They tended to make her look a whole lot less intimidating.

"Hermione, I can deal with it." His voice was hoarse as he attempted to keep his eyes locked on her face. It was proving to be impossible, seeing as her bra covered breasts were right in front of his face. His eyes drank in the golden tone to her skin and the beautiful round curve of her chest.

"I know you can." Hermione forced away the hot blush that fought to cover her face. 'Gryffindor courage.' She chanted in her mind as her hands moved gently up his shoulders and then knotting in his somewhat mussed blonde locks. "But you shouldn't have to." Draco looked ready to speak, but she didn't let him, "I've been selfish about this, Draco. How long has it been since you really slept?"

Draco turned his grey eyes away; like a petulant child refusing to answer their teacher.

"How long?" Hermione demanded; her fingers no longer gentle in his hair. Rather, they yanked his head up so he was now meeting her gaze. "Tell me."

"Since October."

She couldn't help the unbidden sob-gasp that left her lips. "Oh, Draco." Hermione wrapped her arms loosely around his shoulders and he rested his head against her warm upper body. "You really should have told me. I'm sorry." She knew well what type of things veelas went through when they weren't close enough to their mates. They suffered insomnia, moodiness, and distractedness. She hadn't seen Draco exhibiting any of those. She had thought that he fell asleep along with her each night, but apparently not. He had been awake and watching as she slept the night away so selfishly.

Draco let out a shaky breath and closed his eyes, relishing in the feeling of her supple bosom beneath his ear. He wanted nothing more than to kiss that skin, to leave marks on her skin that would show his ownership of her body and being.

"You can touch me, you know." Hermione said, her words answering his silent longing. Draco looked up and saw nothing but truthfulness in her chocolate eyes.

"Hermione…" She thought he was going to start refusing again, but he held up a hand, motioning for her to wait while he got his bearings. "Before we do anything, I have something I want to give you." Hermione frowned. She had already gotten her Christmas presents. What was he talking about? Draco stood up, his body suddenly towering over her much shorter frame. His hands gently pushed her onto the bed where she took a seat. Draco knelt down in front of her so that their heights were more equal. One of his hands held onto hers and the other was closed around something.

Hermione's curiosity grew.

"I love you, you know that, right?" She nodded; the gears in her brain working overtime to figure out where he was going with this. "I have something for you and something I want to ask you. Just hear me out, alright?" Hermione nodded again.

Draco opened his palm and inside it was a velvet covered jewelry box. Her breath caught for a moment. She knew what was happening now.

Draco let one of his hands move up to her face where he stroked her cheek with his knuckles, his eyes noticing the understanding in her dark irises. "I want to ask you to marry me, Hermione. But I know that marriage or even engagement may seem a bit… daunting. If it is, then I still want you to have this ring." He paused for a moment before going on. "I wanted you to have something to show you how much I respect and love you. I wanted you to see that I'm not trying to disregard the things you believe in and want. I don't want you to feel bad about having to have sex before marriage, because I know you wanted to wait. This ring, even if you don't accept it as an engagement ring, can signify our bond to each other. If you say yes to marriage, we can wait for as long as you'd like." Draco took a deep breath and looked up at Hermione, his fringe brushing over his eyes in an endearing manner. The open box rested in his palm, now open so she could view the unbelievably pretty ring inside of it. "So, Hermione will you marry me? I promise you everything I have." His hand cupped her face, the tips of his fingers under her ear while his thumb stroked her cheek.

Hermione bit the inside of her cheek. Getting engaged so young was common in the wizarding world… But she'd never thought it would happen to her. And Draco had said they could wait for as long as she wanted. She knew that he would let her pursue a career or uni first if she wanted. So that was why she said, "Yes."

A wide grin broke out on Draco's face, the sudden happiness there seemed to make him all the more attractive. Even the bruise-like marks under his eyes seemed to fade from the light of his smile.

Draco leaned up and kissed her lips excitedly. Hermione laughed a bit at his boyish attitude, her fingers curling in his hair so their kiss could deepen.

Once they pulled apart Draco took the ring out of the box and took Hermione's hand. She gasped as it slid on and instantly resized so it was perfect for her finger. She tilted her hand from side to side and watched as the light caught on the diamond. Hermione took Draco's hand and placed it over her heart, her own smaller one on top of it. The coolness of the metal of her ring felt perfect on his skin; the way it was meant to be. His eyes darkened as he finally noticed the proximity of his hand to her breasts. He looked up at her and she nodded, her lips quirked in a nervous little smile.

Draco kissed her again and they both let the kisses lead to touching.

Needless to say, Draco slept very well that night.

oOoOo

A/N: Please leave a review! I know I don't deserve one after the ridiculous amount of time I made you guys wait… But, hey, a reader's got to eat.