This tiny ficlet was written for saras_girl as part of her wedding gifties. :D Just thought I'd post it here while it's still Autumn.
The days may not be so bright and balmy—yet the quiet and melancholy that linger around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.
The leaves crunched beneath Draco's black boots, satisfyingly crisp thanks to recent dry days and cool nights, not quite cold enough to fill the air with dew and turn the multi-coloured blanket of leaves into limp piles.
Harry walked next to Draco, hands buried deeply in his pockets, and the collar of his charcoal coat pulled up to his ears. He had been curiously silent, despite the fact that the walk had been his idea. Something was obviously bothering him.
Draco looked away, glancing at the sky as a flock of geese winged past, honking intermittently in their uneven V, headed for warmer climes. Like the migrating birds, Draco did not look forward to winter. The sky was that curious shade of autumn pale, as if it were merely a reflection of a normal sky. Draco's breath made a barely visible cloud and he wondered if the temperature would drop low enough to freeze during the night.
Of course, he didn't really care about the weather, or even the sky, or the leaves, or the inexorable approach of winter. Right now he only cared about whatever was on Harry's mind.
Their relationship had taken Draco by surprise, turning from a tense working association to one of grudging respect, admiration, and later friendship. Later still, after a different autumn walk had led to a pub and far too many ales, it had become flirtatious and once again tense, but in an exciting, somewhat terrifying, way.
Draco had fled, both literally and figuratively, but Harry, ever the Gryffindor, had pursued, never giving up once he had decided that Draco was what he wanted. Harry's tenacity was definitely part of his charm.
Draco glanced at him again. Harry's eyes were on the ground; he was lost in thought. Without the path to guide him, he would likely have blundered into the pond. Draco smiled at the thought, but there was an edge of worry niggling at his mind that erased the smile after only a moment. Always, there was fear, though Draco seldom acknowledged it. Their relationship was far from easy. It had caused rifts between family and friends, some mended, some irreparable. They shouted frequently; Draco complained about stupid things; Harry was occasionally moody. They had gone days without speaking after an argument. Of course, they always made up, in spectacular fashion.
A stiff wind caught Harry's green scarf and blew the fringe into a haphazard pattern. Draco swallowed his growing anxiety and walked out of his way to step on a particularly large red leaf. It crunched nicely beneath his heel.
Harry stopped walking and Draco looked over to find Harry's eyes dancing with amusement. "What did that defenceless leaf ever do to you?" he asked.
"Since when do I require a reason to crush things underfoot?"
Harry snorted. "Right. I forgot. Big bad Death Eater and all that."
"Damn straight. Former Death Eater and current tormentor of leaves."
Harry nearly smiled, but then the amusement fled his features and Draco felt something sink in his midsection. Damn, it was serious, then. Draco looked away, taking in the brilliance of the autumn afternoon. Fitting, he supposed, that it should end in the same season in which it had begun.
"Draco, I need to ask you something."
Draco nodded, although the "ask" was unexpected. Wasn't it usually more of a tell or a "we need to talk" or something? Draco huddled in his coat, suddenly more chilled than he had been before. He looked back at Harry and admitted to himself that he wasn't ready for it to be over; he might never be ready. Harry was… He had become everything.
Everything. And now Draco wondered if perhaps he should have made that fact clearer.
His fists clenched in his pockets and his eyes took in Harry's face, all sombreness and sincerity, framed in the spectacles that Draco had chosen. He remembered those green eyes dark with passion and sparkling with hilarity, soft with concern and flashing with anger. The very thought of never seeing those emotions reflected in Harry's eyes again left him with an ache that made it hard to catch a breath.
Harry looked up and down the path as if checking for eavesdroppers, swallowed hard, and stepped closer. "Draco," he said and his voice cracked on the last syllable. Draco forced down the panic that threatened to choke him and fought the crazy urge to Disapparate in order to avoid whatever it was that Harry needed to say.
And then fleeing was not an option as Harry's left hand fumbled for Draco's sleeve, gripping it as he lowered himself. For a moment Draco thought Harry was falling, but too-slowly, until he landed on one knee, staring up at Draco with that same serious expression. Harry's other hand came out of his pocket, clenched around something small and dark.
"Draco," Harry said again and his voice was stronger, unwavering. "Will you marry me?"
The words were so far removed from Draco's expectations that he did not fully hear them at first, and it took the combination of Harry on one knee, the question, and finally, the small black box clutched in Harry's fist before it properly registered. Even then, Draco blinked at him stupidly.
"Um. I suppose I should open the box," Harry said, obviously flustered. He released Draco's sleeve and wrestled with the lid. His hands were shaking, so much so that Draco suddenly feared the contents would fly from the box and be lost amongst the leaves. The contents.
Draco's stasis finally broke and he snatched his hands from his pockets to wrap them around Harry's, gripping tightly. Harry's gaze flew to Draco's and his anxiety was both evident and terribly endearing. Draco held tightly and tried to think past the frantic beating of his heart, but all he could seem to concentrate on was the fact that Harry was going to ruin his lovely charcoal trousers kneeling on the dirty path.
"Draco?" Harry asked after long moments.
"Yes," Draco replied, uncertain whether he was answering that question or the question.
"Yes, what, or yes, you will marry me?" Harry's whispered voice echoed Draco's ambiguity.
Draco smiled, knowing he probably looked a bit mad because he felt like his face was splitting in two from the strength of it. "Yes, Harry. Yes, you daft fool; I bloody well will marry you."
The terror squeezing his midsection earlier had turned, in an instant, into something just as overwhelming, possibly even more so, but in a wonderful, incredible fashion. When an answering grin took over Harry's expressive face, a laughed bubbled up from Draco's chest, unable to be contained.
Harry launched himself upwards and enveloped Draco in an enormous, crushing hug. "Oh god," he cried. "I was so afraid-- I didn't know if you would. Oh my god, you said yes." Harry reared back and then kissed Draco soundly without letting up on the anaconda-like squeeze. Draco began to feel lightheaded from lack of air, but he thought it might be the perfect time to die, surrounded by autumn, and Harry, and stunning, unexpected joy.
Harry, of course, released him before darkness could claim him, breathing hotly against Draco's mouth and holding him a bit more gently. Draco drank all of it in, and then kissed Harry a few more times just to tempt fate.
"We're engaged," Harry said in an amazed tone, finally pulling away to stare at Draco through wide green eyes.
Draco laughed. "I believe it's not official until the ring is placed on my finger. The ring that I still haven't seen, by the way. If it's substandard, can I change my mind?"
"Oh! It's… here." Harry, flustered again, let go of Draco completely and opened his hand. The black box still nestled there, full of promise, whatever the contents. "And no, you already agreed, so I'm holding you to it."
"Very well," Draco replied with a put-upon sigh, although the effect was ruined by his inability to stop smiling.
When Harry opened the box and placed the circular band on Draco's finger, he reflected that autumn was often seen as a time of ending, of things winding down and falling away, but for him and Harry, autumn was a time of beginnings, of things wonderful and new, and as brilliant as the red and golden leaves that surrounded them.