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Chapter I

Chapter I

You Shouldn’t have waited so long…

She owned a simple flourishing florist shop on the corner between Flourish and Blotts and the newly-expanded annex of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It was a small, crisp, and clean store nestled in between two towering brick-and-mortar monstrosities. Both interior and exterior were painted a bright white, and large picture windows displayed flowers of every shape and color. The entire premises was enchanted, so that the white paint needed never to be recovered, the windows in front never had to be cleaned, and the flowers remained bright and fresh. In addition to stocking the best and broadest variety of flowers and greenery for wizarding and muggle weddings and holidays alike, she stored the freshest and rarest herbs for difficult potion-making, and even Severus Snape had to admit that, although she was a former Gryffindor, her asphodel root was the best around.

Ron Weasley stood in the doorway of her shop, brushing his fingers vaguely over the glistening petals of a golden rose on display as he watched Diana Apollo rush around her store, re-enchanting the odd flower and packaging cuttings of herbs for her never-ending chain of customers. She had changed a great deal in the seven years since they had both graduated from Hogwarts together. Her hair, once flowing to mid-back, was now cropped just below her earlobes, with a thick fringe that hung down to just above her eyebrows. It had darkened a bit, too, from almost a platinum blond when she was seventeen to a deep golden blonde now that she was older. She was wearing loose moss-green robes that accentuated her hips and her hazel eyes, green like her cousin's, though perhaps from a different bloodline. She carried herself differently, too. She stood a bit taller, shoulders a bit more straight, as if she had weathered and finally cast off all the burdens she had accumulated over the years.

It was with more than a trace of sadness that he took note of the white-gold ring on her third finger. He'd heard the rumors, as had everyone else in the wizarding world, but he was unwilling to believe them without first seeing it himself. After all, how likely was it that the ex-girlfriend of Ronald Weasley and cousin of Harry Potter would ever be engaged to Draco Malfoy?

To be fair to the slimy git, Ron acquiesced, Draco had undergone a sort of transformation in the time since he'd left Hogwarts. His father had been out of the picture since the beginning of Draco's sixth year, rotting away in Azkaban with no end in sight, and his mother had been killed a year later when she'd resisted an auror raid on Malfoy Manor. Within a month of graduation, Ron had heard through the grapevine that the new Master of Malfoy manor was seeking to hire a contractor for a complete renovation of the mansion. Another month after that, and Malfoy family heirlooms, valuables, and portraits began to appear in shops all around England. Draco might have changed over the years, but in Ron's view nothing could reverse seven years of torture and cruelty. He had run into him a few times and found him to be still rather arrogant and swaggering, though perhaps without the dangerous edge now. He hid himself in his mansion most of the time, spending his wealth on adding annex after annex to the manor, spending millions upon millions of galleons on it, according to one source (though by all rights the Quibbler wasn't exactly the most reliable of magazines).

Diana was laughing now, and it pulled Ron out of his reverie. An old woman, clothed in brown robes, was examining Diana's ring. He stepped a bit closer to listen in, sliding behind a display of snapdragons which growled at him until he shushed them.

"Exceptional quality," the woman murmured, critiquing the diamond, "not too large, either. The perfect size." Diana smiled slightly at this, then stopped as the woman's gaze became serious. "I see great trouble for you in the future," she whispered. "Happiness, yes, but great trouble as well."

"who are you?" Ron could see Diana's lips form the words more than he could hear her.

"No one of importance, child." The woman said. She lifted up her package of herbs and ambled slowly towards the door. As she passed Ron, she glanced up at him and he caught a glimpse of large thick glasses. "you've waited too long already." Ron wasn't even sure he was hearing the words, they were so quiet. In another instant, she was gone, and Ron looked back to where Diana had been standing a moment ago. A movement to his right made him glance quickly up. Diana stood right beside him, eyes reflecting back the same surprise he was feeling.

"Ron..." she remained still, gripping in one loose hand her alabaster polished wand, the other hand resting on the table beside him. "What are you doing here?"

He glanced down, ashamed to think that he was spying on her. "I just.. I saw your shop, and I wanted to come in and say hello." The expression on her face and the way she pursed her lips told him that she didn't believe him. Slowly, she turned away and ambled slowly over to the cases of golden roses Ron had been admiring when he came in. Hesitantly, he followed her. "its a new breed," she said quietly, "Neville's developed them. He gave me full rights to sell them." She had dated Neville, too, for a short while.

 

"I heard." his throat was dry, and he was terrified that she would simply walk away from him at any moment now.

"And Fred and George had developed a special chocolate for me to sell in my shop." she wandered over to a case of pink-foil wrapped chocolate. Ron began to realize where this was going. Fred and George had both had the honor of dating her at several points over the past seven years. "Seamus and Dean write me Christmas letters. Ginny's made me godmother of Colin's and her first child." She turned back to Ron, lower lip slightly trembling. "But from you-- nothing. For seven years I haven't heard a word."

Ron paused for a moment, considering his options when confronted with this simple fact. He had been avoiding her, for nearly seven years now. "You left me," he said, not without bitterness. "You told me--"

"Ron," her voice broke in, quietly, as she glanced around the shop. "I have customers. Come back in an hour. We can talk then."

"We can talk now. I'm not waiting for you any more." his voice almost seemed desperate.

"That's just it, Ron," she said, picking out six golden roses and wrapping them up as he trailed after her, "I never asked you to wait for me." She turned around and pushed the roses into his arms. "Give these to your mother for me, and send my best wishes." With that, she turned and strode to the front of the store, where a line of customers was waiting for her attention.

***

"I can't believe she's marrying him!" Ron mumbled in annoyance as he downed another shot of firewhiskey. Harry sat beside him, his brow furrowed in consternation.

"I can't say I'm happy about it, mate," he said, "but you haven't spoken to her in seven years."

"She left me!" Ron exploded in frustration. "she bloody left me!"

"She tried to contact you. For three years, and you never responded." Harry was at a loss. Sure, he hated Draco Malfoy, but for the first time in seven

years, his cousin seemed truly happy. It wasn't a curse or a spell–Diana was too headstrong for that, and Harry knew for a fact that Draco was beyond that now in either case. He gestured for another bottle of mead and took a sip quickly before returning to attempt to comfort his slightly-inebriated friend. "Besides, Draco Malfoy might be an ass, but he's not a bad guy. He's not his father. He'll take good care of her. Not to mention the fact that she's happy. I thought you wanted her to be happy."

"Of course I want her to be happy!" Ron took another shot of whiskey. "I just want her to be happy with me!" His words were slurring together, and Harry wasn't sure whether it was due to the four shots of whiskey, the fact that he looked about to cry, or a combination of both. Irregardless...

"I think you've had enough, Ron." Harry looked an arm around his shoulders and guided him up from the bar, leaving the bartender a galleon. She winked at him. blowing him a kiss, and he blushed slightly. Ron's flat was small, but well-furnished and well stocked with all of the necessities. Harry thought it needed a woman's touch, or perhaps any touch but Ron's. He thought for a moment of Hermione, wondering if perhaps she would be willing to lend a hand. She and Harry were engaged, and had been for quite some time now. The problem was that Hermione had been up to her elbows in research in a dozen different countries for the past year and a half, only returning to England on holidays or when she had a few days to spare. Harry missed her terribly, and he looked forwards to the days when he would awaken to find her in his arms after she'd come in from the field.

Ron didn't have that, though. He didn't even have the anticipation of being with Diana. He hadn't had that for seven years, and it wasn't likely that he'd ever have that again. He knew from talking to Diana that she had no intention of leaving Draco, and his "friendly" chat with Draco had left him thinking the same thing.

What Ron didn't understand is that he'd had his chance, four years ago, and he had lost it. Diana had asked Harry to personally deliver the last letter she would ever send to him if Ron didn't choose to respond this time.

Harry, feeling he just had to know what was going on, opened the letter and read it quickly before sealing it back up again. He wasn't sure whether or not Ron had read it, or even opened it, but Harry did know that he had never responded to it.

Ron had fallen asleep on the couch, mouth open, snoring loudly. Harry sighed and tossed a blanket over him before apparating silently out of Ron's flat to his own. A few moments later, Ron opened one eye and looked around. The room was empty, so Ron slid off the couch. He looked around again with a wistful expression, his brow creased, mouth turned downwards into a confused frown. Sighing, he kneeled beside a cabinet in the corner of his small living room, and drew out from one of the drawers a small flat box. Settling himself on the couch again, he opened it and dumped the contents out on the coffee table. A multitude of envelopes, wax seals still in place, pictures creased from constant handling, and yellowed newspaper clippings fell and fluttered out, landing in a messy pile on the table. He dug around and finally drew out the newest of the envelopes, identifiable by its less-yellowed exterior. Turning it over, he slit open the wax seal and drew the parchment out. It was written in a woman's script, tiny and neat and straight. He read over the letter slowly, trying desperately to absorb each word as it appeared to him. At the end of the letter, he slowly set the paper down, his chest aching from the weight of the words she'd written there.

She had apologized. She had apologized. For everything she'd done to hurt him, but he had never answered her letter. He had never even acknowledged... And now Diana had moved on, past him and onto Draco. Maybe she was happier now, he didn't know. But the last sentence she had written echoed through his mind. "I will always love you..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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