A Change of Heart

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Chapter 26 - The Book and the Ring -

Draco lingered outside for a while longer, feeling lightheaded and confused. He took the ring back out of his pocket and stared at it intently. She didn’t say she never wanted him to ask her, she just said that she didn’t want him to ask tonight. Staring at the ring, for what felt like the millionth time that evening, he cursed the day he laid eyes on Hermione Granger at his office the day she came to solicit for donations for the auction. Damn her.

He remembered how he was walking down the hallway, and he saw a head with curly brown hair bobbing in the opposite direction. He turned to look at her, and she turned to look at him, but didn’t really seem to see him. He asked Theo who that girl was, even though he knew the answer.

Draco was fooling himself. He didn’t regret seeing her that day. He would never regret one moment spent with her. He still longed to spend the rest of his life with her. He just might have to wait awhile.

He next cursed himself. The damn ‘mystery’ item idea seemed like a good plan in the beginning, but she had herself all worked up over the whole thing. At first she worried about what it might be, and later expected it to be a proposal.

He then cursed Harry Potter. He sometimes thought he hated him just as much today as he did when they were kids. He didn’t need to interfere with Hermione’s life. He clinched the ring box in his fist, stuffed his fist back in his pocket, and started back inside. He ran into Ginny Potter.

“Draco, Hermione’s looking for you,” Ginny told him.

“Well bully for her,” Draco said with spite.

“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned.

“I’m peachy, thanks,” he mumbled gruffly.

“Draco, were you planning on asking Hermione to marry you tonight?” Ginny asked him.

“My personal life doesn’t concern you or your husband, thank you very much,” Draco responded to her question.

Ginny put her hand on his forearm and said, “For your information, I don’t agree with my husband on this matter. I think you should ask her to marry you, and you should do it tonight. I think she wants you to do it, whether she’ll admit as much or not.”

“That’s not what I heard her just tell your husband,” Draco said sadly.

Ginny said, “I don’t know what you overheard Hermione tell Harry, but sometimes people put up walls; you should know that since you’re a master wall builder yourself. If she told Harry that she didn’t want you to ask her, I think it was just a bit of self-preservation on her part. She’s probably afraid of you rejecting her. Just act with your heart, not your head, okay?”

He nodded his head, and said, “Thanks, Ginny.” He had never called her by her name before, but she had never given him a reason to before, and she did now. She was being decent to him, so he owed her as much.

He still didn’t know what he was going to do. He decided to go back upstairs, and put the ring away for now. With it in his pocket, it felt like it was burning a hole, not through his pocket, but straight through to his heart. He would put the ring in his room and then go find Hermione.

The band was playing the last song of the evening. The gala was coming to a close. Soon, it would be midnight, and the party would be over. Not very many people remained. Hermione’s assistant told her that they had taken in a lot of money, and that she should be proud. She told Gail that it was thanks to the entire staff, and to tell them that she was proud, but of all of them. Gail told her to get some sleep, and she would see to everything. Hermione hugged her and said thanks.

Hermione had been looking for Draco for a while. He seemed to have vanished, as if off the face of the earth. She gave up after an hour, and since it was almost midnight, she decided to go back to her table and wait to see what the mystery item would turn out to be. Harry and Ginny had already gone to bed, so she was at the table by herself when she felt someone touch her shoulder.

She turned her head upwards and saw Draco. “Let’s dance one last dance,” he requested. She took his hand and he led her to the dance floor, where they were joined by only two other couples.

“Where have you been?” Hermione asked.

“Nowhere specifically,” Draco said.

“Well, try to be specific, and tell me,” she asked again.

“No, I don’t think so,” Draco said, but not with even a trace of anger in his voice.

She tucked her head under his chin, and put her arms tight around his waist.

“Are your alright?” Draco asked, kissing the top of her head.

“Yes, are you?” She looked up at him.

“Not really,” he answered truthfully.

“Really? Me either,” she admitted as well.

He looked at her bewildered, and said, “We’ll both be fine, just as soon as this day is over and done.” It was a statement of fact.

Draco’s head was still spinning from everything he'd heard from Harry and Hermione, and then from what Ginny had told him. He heard every word they all said, and his only response to it all was damn, Damn, and bloody DAMN! Yes, that was what was going on inside Draco Malfoy. Outside, he was the picture of composure. He would remain aloof, keep his head up, and act as if none of this mattered in the least. He was a Malfoy after all. He must remain dignified.

She could feel his anxiety. She didn’t know what had suddenly happened to cause him such distress, but his body was stiff, his gaze averted, and his grasp on her tight, but not warm and inviting in any way, shape or form.

“Draco?” she asked.

“WHAT?” he said curtly.

“Never mind,” she said again. She wanted to ask him what was wrong. She wanted to ask him why he was suddenly so upset. She really wanted to ask him if he ever intended to ask her to marry him. Instead, she remained quiet. Suddenly, she stopped moving to the music. He did as well. He looked down at her, and she looked up at him.

“I can’t do this, Hermione,” and he left her alone on the dance floor, and retreated to a place she knew not.

What did she do wrong?

Why was he angry with her?

She went outside. She looked everywhere for him. She felt like she was spending her whole evening looking for Draco. She sat down on a chair on the patio, and put her head on the nearby table, when she heard two passing voices, both whom seemed to be discussing Hermione and Draco.

“I can’t believe they’re dating either, they’re such an unlikely pair,” said the first voice.

“And didn’t you say you went to school with them?” the second voice said.

“Yes, I was a year behind them, and believe me, there was no love loss between them. He was terrible to her in school. He would call her mudblood every chance he got.”

“That’s awful. Why would she date him now?”

“I know millions of reasons, and they’re all sitting in a vault at Gringotts.”

“That’s not nice.”

“Well, why else would she date him? She was always smart, and that’s the smart thing to do.”

“In a way,” the second voice said, “I don’t see what he sees in her. She’s pretty and all, but he could do better.”

The voices soon faded away. Hermione didn’t lift her head yet, but now it was because she was crying. Did people really think she only dated Draco for his money? And was it really so hard for people to believe that someone like him would love someone like her?


She stood from the chair, and started down the dark, but now familiar pathway that would take her from the hotel to the beach below. She knew it was probably after midnight. She would miss seeing what the mystery item she won was. The enchantment would have lifted by now, but she didn’t care. At this point, she didn’t care about anything. She just really wanted this day to be done. She started to run.

Draco came outside in time to see Hermione running down the dark path. He started to follow, at first just walking briskly, but as she started to run faster, so did he. Did she even know he was following her? He started to call out her name. At one point she fell, and he was still a short distance from her, but before he could see if she was hurt, she stood and continued her sprint.

The path was rocky and slippery even during the day. At night it was absolutely treacherous. He called her name twice more and she never turned and acknowledged him once. It was a chilly evening, but Draco was warm, from adrenalin and anger. Where the hell was she going?

He temporarily lost sight of her. He stopped in the middle of the path and looked around. He called her name once more. “HERMIONE!” Should he continue down to the shore, or go back up to the hotel, and get some help? He decided to continue on his journey, but he didn’t get far. He saw her huddled under a tree, in a heap, on the cold hard ground. He ran up to her, and for a moment didn’t even speak. He could tell she'd been crying. When she looked up at him, he could see her tear soaked face in the bright glare of the moon.

Kneeling beside her, without touching her, he said, “Hermione, you had me worried. What’s wrong?”

She still didn’t speak. She averted her eyes from him, and then she sprang up, knocked him over, and continued her jog to the sea. Now he sat on the cold ground, and screamed out of frustration. He struggled to stand, and when he finally got to his feet, he continued after her. When he reached the beach, he saw her on the very rock that they had sat on together yesterday. Was that just yesterday? It seemed like it was a lifetime ago.

This time he stood behind her, but put his hand on her back. He wasn’t going to let her get away this time.

Before he could ask her again what was wrong, she asked, “Do you think I only love you for your money?”

He was confused. “Did I ever say that I did?” He thought she was accusing him of something, and he felt the sudden need to defend himself.

“No, but apparently that’s what everyone else thinks,” she said quietly.

“Hermione,” he said, out of breath, “what the hell's going on here? Why are you running around like a mad woman?”

“Why did you leave me on the dance floor?” she asked, instead of answering. She still couldn’t look at him.

“Can we stick to one subject at a time, please?” he said smugly. “Now, tell me who said that you only loved me for my money?” He sat down beside her, facing the opposite direction. They would almost be facing, if she was not looking at the ground.

“I overheard two women say that we made an unlikely pair, and that I must only love you for your money, and they couldn’t even come up with a valid reason why you would love me.” Her shoulders started heaving up and down. She was crying again.

He reached his right arm across the front of her body, and pulled her to his chest. “Are you only interested in me for my money?” he asked. She kept her head against his body, but shook her head no. “So who cares what a couple of stupid bitches think?”

She looked at him, and he now had both his arms around her. “Why are you interested in me?” she asked.

He stood up quickly, so frantically that she almost fell off the rock. “Damn, Hermione!” he yelled. “Why do I constantly have to tell you this? There are too many reasons to mention, but I shouldn’t have to mention them, because by now you should know what they are. I love you, and that’s enough said.”

She stood as well. She made quite a sight. Gone was the beautiful fairy princess from the start of the evening. Before him stood a woman with a ripped dress, smudged makeup, and hair in every direction, and yet he still found her stunning.

She plucked up every ounce of courage she had and said, “Draco, my self-esteem isn't so low that I can't understand why you wouldn't love me. That's not why I'm upset." She took a few deep breaths then asked, "Were you planning on asking me to marry you tonight?”

He stared at her hard and long. He wanted to say, ‘why do you care?’, but he also wanted to be truthful. He ached in the depths of his soul to tell her the truth. Instead, he said, “I told you I wouldn’t.”

“And we all know you never lie,” Hermione seethed.

Draco was beyond all reason when he yelled, “Granger, leave the whole bloody thing alone! What difference does it make if I was going to ask you or not? You probably would have said no anyway.”

“It makes a difference to me,” she said softly.

“Why?” he inquired just as softly, as he stood almost next to her.

“Because, I wanted you to ask.” There, she said it. “So I guess I’m just a bloody, romantic fool. I wanted the mystery item to turn into a marriage proposal. I can’t help it, that’s what I really wanted, but once again, I’m the fool. I’m the one that misunderstood everything, once again.” She started to walk away from him, but he put his body in front of her to block her way.

She took a step to her right, and he stepped to his left, so that he was still in front of her. She took a step to the left, and he went to the right. She put her arms out in front of her, and pushed him away. He put his arms out and pushed her back.

“You said you didn’t want a marriage proposal,” he said with scorn.

“Well, I guess I’m becoming a better liar than you thought. You must be rubbing off on me,” she said with sarcasm.

This time, when she tried to pass, he let her. She hung her head in defeat. He sat back down on the rock and let her walk up the path alone. He didn’t know what she wanted from him. Ginny Potter was right though, Hermione had a lot of walls up, and she didn’t always say what she meant.

She walked into the hotel, and up to their suite. Draco was directly behind her, by only a few minutes. But, instead of going to their suite, he went back to the now almost empty ballroom.

The overhead lights were on now, and the magic was all but gone. The place looked messy and ugly and represented all that had gone wrong with the evening. He went to the table where they had sat, and picked up her winning item, which by now, (since it was after midnight), was revealed because the charm had lifted. To all who would care to see was her copy of Hogwarts, a History, second edition, which he had planted for her to win exclusively. He went through a lot to get the damn book back for her, and she didn’t even know. He picked up the book and left the ballroom to go upstairs to their suite.

Hermione was sitting on the bed in Draco’s room when he walked in the door. She had opened the bedside table, and was holding the small black velvet box, which contained her ring. When he entered, she looked at him with not even a stitch of guilt on her face. He threw the book on the dresser and said, “My, oh my, what a little sneak you’ve become. You’re right; I’m rubbing off on you.” He held out his hand for her to hand him the box. Instead, she threw it at his chest, where it hit him hard and landed on the floor. He didn’t even bend down to pick it up.

“That wasn’t nice,” he said somberly.

She didn’t know what to say. She stood from the bed, and tried to pass him, but he pushed her roughly back down on the bed.

“How did you know there was a ring in that drawer, Granger?” he asked, although he already knew, since he heard her tell Harry. He wanted to see if she would be truthful with him.

“I saw it earlier today, when I went to get your book to inscribe it to you.” She was afraid to try to stand back up; he would probably just push her back down.

“Were you going to tell me you saw it?” He sat next to her, not as angry as before, since she was truthful to him.

“I was afraid to,” she admitted, “because the last time I asked you if you were going to marry me, we had a big fight, you know. You said I ruined the element of surprise. I didn’t want to do that to you again. I wanted you to be able to surprise me, if you wanted to; although I guess the surprise was on me, since you never asked me anyway.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” he said.

“So, were you? You know, going to ask me?” she quizzed with a small voice.

Draco said, “I was going to, but my plans changed.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I overheard you and Harry talking earlier on the patio. You told him it wasn’t the right time to ask you.”

“You had a full evening in which to ask me, before you were eavesdropping, so why didn’t you ask earlier?” she inquired.

“I wanted to several times, but I just didn’t,” he told her.

“Why? Did you change your mind? Do you not want to marry me now?” she asked him, looking directly in his eyes.

Without answering he said, “Why did you come up here to see if the ring was in the drawer?”

“I thought if it was still there, that meant you had never planned on asking me. Which, I guess I was right. The ring’s still here and you won’t answer my question, about whether you’ve changed your mind. It’s fine. I don’t care.” She stood to leave. He grabbed her dress to pull her back.

Draco said, “Let me get this straight, Granger - you’ve become a liar, a snoop, and a sneak, all in the matter of twenty-four hours. Impressive. I am rubbing off on you.”

She slapped his hand to release it from her dress. He stood up and pushed her again.

“Stop pushing me!” She pushed him as hard as she could, and as he was falling back on the bed, he grabbed the skirt of her dress again, and ripped it further from when she had torn it earlier. He kept pulling on the skirt until she was down on the bed, practically on top of him. He held her by the waist, tightly, so she couldn’t escape. She yelled, “Why did you decide to not ask me?”

“Why would I want to marry someone like you?” He said it to be mean, but as soon as he said it, he regretted it terribly, because she put her hands up to her face and started to cry.

His hold on her relaxed some and she looked at him through her tears and she said, “Who’s the liar, now?” He released her altogether, she finally stood, and was going to walk by him, when for some odd reason he pulled her back down again.

“Please, Hermione,” he said to her, “please enlighten me. Why are you really upset with me? Is it because I decided not to ask you to marry me after all? Or is it because I went against your original wishes and was going to ask you anyway? It’s so hard to keep up with you sometimes.” He didn’t say it with malevolence or cruelty. He just needed to know.

“I’m not angry, but heaven knows I wish I knew why you were.” She was tired as she said this, and fell back completely on the bed, to stare up at the ceiling, to wait for his reply.

“You asked who’s lying now, well, I say you are. You’re angry, and I demand to know why,” he said, this time with more force. He joined her down on the bed. He was propped up on his side. He put his hand on her stomach so she couldn’t escape, and also because he really needed to touch her again.

“I’m really not angry. I’m just tired. So tired, and I missed the reveal of my mystery item, which has me rather peeved.” She turned her head to look at him, and he laughed. He stood up, went to the dresser, and threw the book at her. He then bent down and picked the ring box up off the floor, and put it back in the bedside drawer.

“How did you get the book back?” she asked while sitting up.

“That’s your prize for the winning raffle ticket. When Scott, the wanker, revealed to me, under duress I might add, that he was the one who originally bought the book from you, I convinced him to sell it back to me. That’s why he wouldn’t sell it back to you that night you went to go see him, because he’d already sold it to me.”

“I hope you didn’t pay a million galleons for it this time,” she said with a small smile. She didn’t even realize she was actually hugging the book, but it was an action not lost on Draco. Just to see her happy with the book made some of tonight worth the hell they had gone through.

“So, are we all right?” He sat next to her again.

“Yes, we’re fine, and I was never really angry, mostly tired and confused,” she said back. “I was also terribly disappointed, but not angry, and I’m disappointed in myself, not in you. The fact that I had unrealistic expectations isn’t your fault, it’s mine. You know, I really did think the mystery item was going to be your proposal, but the book’s better.”

“You’re daft,” he said. “You seriously think this is better?”

“I do for now, yes,” she answered.

Draco then said, “Hey, I just had a thought. Stupid Scott is now a wealthy young man, thanks to me. With the money from the book, and the money from the severance package, you might want to reconsider your thoughts on him now. He’s quite a wealthy young fellow. He might take you back.”

“Money isn’t everything,” she said, standing to walk out of his room, still holding onto the book for dear life. At the moment, she thought it was all she would have from him. She couldn’t let it go. She crossed the living room, to head to her bedroom, when he stopped her yet again.

With his hand on her arm, he said, “By the way, I won. I’ve officially given you the book more times than you’ve given it to me. And I only have one request, don’t sell it, give it away, burn it, destroy it, bury it, hide it, lose it, spit on it, get it wet, or anything else I might have forgotten to mention. Do you understand these simple instructions?”

“Yes,” she said, “and, thank you.”

“For the book?” he asked.

“For the book and for a wonderful first date,” she said with pure joy on her face.

“You must have had some rotten first dates before,” he retorted. “How does this classify as a good first date?”

She sighed and said, “Compared to all of our ‘undates’, this went exceptionally well, don’t you think? We didn’t get food poisoning, there were no broken bones, no one died, we didn’t end up in a gay bar, you didn’t go to jail, we didn’t have a knock down drag out fight, just a mild argument, so yes, this was a good first date, for us that is.”

“When you put it like that, I have to agree. But I can think of one way to make it even better.” He took the book from her hands, threw it on the couch, grabbed her left hand, got down on his knees, pulled out her ring, and said, “Marry me, Granger.”

“I saw you put the ring back in the drawer!” she said disbelieving.

“I will say this only once more, so try to wrap your mind around the concept, but IT IS CALL MAGIC!” He slipped the ring on her fourth finger, then he pinched her arm.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked.

He stood up and took her by the shoulders and said, “If I didn’t love you so much, I swear I would strangle you right now. Stop over-analyzing things. Just answer my bloody question.”

“Yes, I would love to marry you,” she said, and then she smiled, jumped up and down, and then jumped into his eagerly awaiting arms.

Draco said, “By golly, if an engagement ring doesn’t get me some sex tonight, I don’t know what will!”

Hermione rolled her eyes and said, “What happened to your ‘no crude sex’ remarks?”

“It’s a new day. It’s after midnight. I remember that promise vividly and accurately, and it was good for only one day, and one day only,” he laughed.

Hermione said, “Then by all means, make all the sex jokes you want.”

He wrapped his arms around her and said, “No joke, but if you recall, you once promised me sex on our first date. Maybe we should live out my fantasy. I bet the photo booth is still in the ballroom.”

She shook her head and said, “Not likely.”

“How about on the lifts?” he suggested.

“It would have to be quick, which I’m sure you could accommodate, but still, I say no,” she relayed.

He placed his hands up to his heart, as if she had wounded him.

“How about near the ring toss game? It holds happy memories,” he said playfully.

“Not hardly,” she answered.

“You know you’re no fun, don’t you?” he told her. “But, I know all of your shortcomings and somehow I still love you. Will you at least kiss me? I did just ask you to marry me.”

“But of course,” she said, coming to him. He pulled her closer and held her tight. His mouth met hers. It was a soft kiss. It was as if he was kissing her for the first time. He felt that stimulating electricity that passed through them the first time they kissed. She felt he was the prize to an overly long journey. He felt she was his completion. He pushed away from her for a moment, and he knew in his heart that her lips were the only ones he would ever need again. Then he pinched her arm. Hard.

“OUCH! Are you still angry about something?” she asked.

“No, this time it was to make sure you were real again,” he said. He pulled her to his room. “Now, let’s have some amazing make up sex, or first date sex, or ‘thank goodness we're finally engaged’ sex. The point is, let’s just go have sex.”

“No,” she said as she pulled away from him.

“WHAT? Granger, you are slowly, and I am sure deliberately, killing me, and I’m sure it's for my money!” He put his hands in his hair, in frustration.

“I just meant I don’t want to have sex,” she tried to explained, “I want to go make love.”

“Even better!” He picked her up and carried her to his room.

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