“And you’re telling me this why?” Granger asked without looking up from the parchment she was scribbling on.
Draco took a deep breath and wondered why she had ever been lauded as the brightest in their class back at Hogwarts when she couldn’t even understand context clues or read between the lines.
“You’re one of her closest friends and her sister-in-law. Don’t you have any advice you can give?”
Granger finally looked up. The smug smile on her face immediately made Draco flush. That sly wench. She’d just wanted Draco to verbalize his plea for help out loud. She twirled her quill between her fingers and said, “I can’t tell you how to propose to Ginny, Draco. That’s something you have to figure out yourself.”
At that moment, Potter and Pansy waltzed into the Burrow’s kitchen from the door that led out into the garden.
Granger’s eyes lit with a mischievous light that Draco had never seen in her before. He immediately became wary as she called Potter’s name, drawing him to the table and pulling him into the discussion.
The color that had just flooded Draco’s cheeks suddenly drained out of it, and before he could pull his wand from his robes to silence Granger, she said, “What about you, Harry? Do you have any advice for Draco? He says he wants to propose to Ginny.”
“Finally,” Pansy said with a roll of her eyes.
Potter smiled. “'Fraid not. I didn’t have very much luck in that department, did I?”
Pansy flicked her short hair. “Lucky for me.”
Draco rolled his eyes as Potter put his arm around Pansy’s waist and tugged her closer to his side. Their gazes were mutually soft and disgusting as they looked into each other’s faces.
Sensing his discomfort—knowing full well how uncomfortable their public displays of affection made Draco—Pansy turned away first, just before Potter’s mouth descended over hers. The yearning in his toad-y green eyes at her rebuff was enough to make Draco retch.
“I just want to know if she’ll say yes.”
The three of them laughed, and Draco’s frustration escalated. Why, why, why had he thought going to Granger about this would be a good idea? He should have known better than to expect her to keep her mouth shut—or to refrain from teasing him.
Teasing him was how she had channeled her dislike for him a few years ago when he and Ginny had begun dating. She’d make snide remarks in his presence and unsuccessfully try to pass them off as light hearted jokes to appease Ginny. But they had always led to an argument because Draco was incapable of not rising to her bait. One day, miraculously, the jokes had become genuine, a sincere attempt at a connection instead of a provocation, and Draco, too, had taken them as such.
The rest of Ginny’s family and friends had come to accept Draco in time as well. It probably hadn’t hurt when Potter had finally moved on from her and started dating Pansy, either. Once the possibility of Ginny and Harry getting back together had finished breathing its last breath, there had been no need to antagonize Ginny’s new boyfriend quite so openly. The only other option had been acceptance—whether her friends and family liked it or not.
Granger reached forward and patted his arm. “We can’t answer that question, as you very well know. Ginny is as free-spirited, stubborn, and unpredictable as they come. She insisted on dating you despite all our objections, didn’t she?”
Yes, she had. From rivals on the Quidditch pitch, to occasional shag buddies when their teams played against each other, to significant others, Draco had always let Ginny dictate the nature of their relationship. Four years ago, they’d been caught hooking up in a broom closet by her family after her team had handily beat his team out for a chance to play at the World Cup. In explanation, she had claimed him as her boyfriend, which had been news to her family. News to Draco as well. And after a few weeks of fighting the sudden turn in their sex-only relationship, Draco had finally come around and claimed her as his girlfriend back. Since then, he had learned that it was in his best interest not to argue with Ginny Weasley anymore.
Draco thought about Granger’s words again and perked up a little. “So you think she’ll marry me despite your objections, too?”
“That’s impossible,” another voice chimed in from the open back door. Ron Weasley came into the kitchen, his expression solemn, and Draco wondered if this conversation could get any worse.
He wiped the thought away with his Occlumency as quickly as possible before he inadvertently summoned Ginny into the house in the midst of this horrid conversation.
“You don’t think I’m good enough for her to marry, then?” Draco asked, his mood deteriorating. He was just about to give up on the whole marriage idea—or at least shelve it for another four years—until Weasley finished his thought.
“No, mate, that’s not the problem. The problem is that we don’t object.” And the look on his face indeed made the statement sound like a serious issue with which they had all been struggling for too long.
A weight in Draco’s shoulders suddenly released, his whole body feeling lighter. Light enough to float until his head bobbed against the ceiling like a liberated balloon, his doubts bursting into non-existence upon contact with Weasley’s sharp needle of reassurance. As Potter and Granger nodded in agreement with him, Draco realized it wasn’t Ginny’s rejection that he had feared all this time—it was theirs.
“I don’t mean to interrupt what is clearly a very important meeting,” Mrs. Weasley interrupted irritably, again from the back door. Everyone in the kitchen (even Granger, who had been given a reprieve from physical labor due to her finally swelling belly and the baby therein) looked at the floor sheepishly. “We have not finished setting up for the party.”
Weasley, Potter, Pansy, and Draco filed outside and through the garden to the orchard, where Mr. Weasley, Ginny, and Bill were transfiguring tables and chairs underneath a large white tent while former Beauxbatons Tri-Wizard Tournament champion, Fleur Weasley, and her toddler supervised.
As soon as Draco saw Ginny, his hand automatically went to his pocket and palmed the ring box that had been burning a hole in there for the last several weeks. He gulped, his heart racing in anticipation. Which was ridiculous. He wasn’t about to propose right this second in front of everybody.
After four years of dating, she knew him too well, because when they arrived under the tent, she lowered her wand and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
He began to shake his head, to reassure her, but then he thought, Well, why not now? The sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could get on with his life. Hopefully with her by his side.
Draco took her hand and pulled her away from the tent.
“Mum won’t like–”
“We’ll take care of her!” Weasley, Potter, and Pansy all said in unison.
She stayed silent as he led her around to the front of the Burrow, finally stopping at the chicken coop. He let go of her hand only to fiddle with the ring box again, trying to think quickly of all the things he needed to say.
Of course he had planned this moment in advance. Of course he’d written down multiple variations of his appeal, all of them sickly romantic with the kind of saccharine sentiments that made Draco gag when he witnessed other people saying them. Of course he’d brought the ring but left his script at home, and now he scrambled to remember all the flowery words that had come from his heart when he’d been alone in the dark of the middle of the night.
Maybe getting straight to the point would be the best. He opened his mouth—
“Will you marry me?”
—and then he closed it. He had not said those words.
As his brain short-circuited, she smiled and reached for the hand still shoved deep in his pocket. She withdrew it, the velvet box still clutched in his fingers.
“You knew,” Draco said, and he wasn’t sure if he was angry or disappointed or relieved.
She shrugged. “I found this in the drawer by your bed a couple months ago. I was starting to think you might propose to someone else.”
She knew damn well there was no one else in his life. Just her. Only her. Always.
“I should have known you’d wait until Harry’s birthday. Still can’t stand it when he’s the center of attention, can you.” Playfulness filled her expression in the upward curve of her lips, her glittering eyes.
He didn’t tell her that he hadn’t intended to steal Potter’s thunder on his own birthday. Instead, he smirked at her, letting her believe what she wanted, and flipped the ring box open with one hand.
Her eyes widened just a little, and he could tell that he had pleasantly surprised her by the way she stared. The ring he’d chosen was simple for a Malfoy’s tastes, but he’d designed it for her. Flashy and ostentatious would never do.
A modest gold band sat on a cushioned bed of satin. Etched in the gold was a delicate snitch that flew around the ring, inside and out. It was a ring she could wear safely during her Quidditch matches, which was exactly Draco’s goal. If she accepted it, if she accepted him, he never wanted her to have any reason to take it off.
“So?” she asked. “Will you marry me?”
The answer was yes, of course.
And the proposal, unpredictable as it was, was perfect.