After a time, Darcy became aware of some scuffle happening in the hallway. He ceased spinning, but continued to hold his dear fiancée to him as he listened. Heaven help them if some Ministry worker was trying to get to his Elizabeth now.

"No, Jane, I don't think you need to go in – " Mary was saying.

Darcy took Elizabeth by the hand, led her to the door, and ripped it open, all with such a smile as might split his face in two. "Elizabeth will be my wife!" he shouted at his future sisters.

Jane squealed in delight and, in a display of such emotion as he had never seen from the woman, shoved past him to envelope her sister in her arms. She jumped for joy as she continued to hug Elizabeth and exclaim her happiness.

"Congratulations, Darcy," Mary said. She was not so exuberant as Jane, but Darcy could tell she was very well pleased.

"Thank you, Mary," Darcy replied. He thought of all that Mary had done for him and for Elizabeth, and he could not help but reach out to hug his future sister. It was somewhat awkward, but he did not regret it in the least.

"Did I hear correctly?" Kitty asked. She and Lydia were both poking their heads out a door down the hall.

"Yes, Kitty, you heard correctly," Elizabeth laughed, coming forward and taking Darcy's hand in her own. "We are engaged!"

Kitty's shriek could easily have rivaled a banshee's, and she very nearly knocked the couple over when she ran at them to express her congratulations. Lydia's feet dragged as she walked over with her jaw hanging.

"Are you so very surprised, Lydia?" Darcy asked jovially. He believed he could find humor in just about anything brought before him in this moment.

Lydia snapped her jaw up and a teasing expression reminiscent of her older sister stole over her face. "Surprised Lizzy finally stopped being such a thick-headed dunce!"

"Mary!" Elizabeth scolded, even as she snorted. "Have you been teaching our sisters fresh insults?"

"No, Lydia came up with that all on her own," Mary said with a grin. "I told you that you were being one, did I not?"

"When was this?" Darcy asked curiously. He quite wanted to hear the story behind the insult that seemed to so delight his fiancée. His fiancée!

"Don't tell him, Mary," said Elizabeth while directing a teasing glare at Darcy. "I want to hold it over him as leverage when he fights with me over wedding decisions."

"You could tell me that you wanted to be wed in a crate full of rotten fish and I would believe it to be the most wonderful idea in the world, Elizabeth," said Darcy. He had no intention of arguing against anything his beloved wanted for their wedding day.

All the Bennet sisters dissolved into tear-inducing laughter at such a pronouncement.

"Jane?" called Bingley's voice. "Jane, is everything alright?"

Still breathless, Jane rushed down the stairs toward Bingley, Kitty and Lydia on her heels. Mary expressed her congratulations again, then made herself scarce.

"It is later, sir," said Elizabeth, looking up into Darcy's face. "What did Jane mean when she called this her house?"

Darcy felt some small shadow of anxiety grip him. "This is the house of Charles and Jane Bingley," he said. "Of course she should call it hers."

"Oh, I missed their wedding?" Elizabeth cried.

"Are you very upset?" Darcy asked.

"Certainly, I'm upset!" Elizabeth readily answered. She smiled despite the pronouncement. "Only that I was prevented from attending. I am glad they did not wait for me, however."

"Such is just one more crime to add to the list committed by Malfoy and Wickham," said Darcy. He brought his beloved to him again. It had been a full minute, at least, since she had been in his arms. Truly, that was much too long a span of time.

A victorious whoop sounded, followed by Bingley thundering up the stairs.

"Hello, brother!" Elizabeth cheerfully greeted, freeing herself from Darcy's embrace to fully welcome Bingley.

"Hello, sister!" Bingley exclaimed without stopping his hurried progression toward the couple. "Hello, future brother!"

Every time Darcy, the Bingleys, and the Bennets began to calm down enough to have a discussion, someone else entered the house and started the excitement anew.

Bavishni had been so distracted she was unable to order her thoughts enough to express her congratulations in English for several minutes. Phoebe set to teasing Elizabeth immediately. Josephine had cried. Zebulon had threatened Darcy's life even as he shook his hand in congratulations, as seemed quite appropriate for the friend Elizabeth practically considered a brother. Solveig, who had thankfully changed robes so she was no longer spattered with Wickham's blood, positively beamed as she loudly declared her excitement.

Fitzwilliam, the latest arrival, positively crushed Darcy's hand while telling Elizabeth there was still time for her to reconsider.

Darcy did not appreciate his cousin's tease in the slightest. His teeth ground together, and he was quite prepared to open the freshly formed scabs on his hand to express his displeasure.

"I assure you, Major Fitzwilliam," said Elizabeth in a perfect cross between light teasing and harsh resolve, "that there is nothing in this world that could convince me to reconsider this wonderful man as my future husband."

Fitzwilliam had enough sense to retreat, though he smirked at Darcy before doing so.

Darcy took his future wife by the hand and led her from the parlor that had become rather crowded. "Are you well, my love?" he asked once they were alone.

"Quite well, William," Elizabeth answered easily. She rose on her toes to kiss Darcy's cheek. "I don't know if I have ever been better."

Darcy closed his eyes and set his forehead against his beloved's in blissful contentment. Had it not been for her stomach growling rather loudly, he would have happily remained exactly where he was the entirety of the night.

The following week was a whirlwind of activity.

Lady Hopkirk oversaw all the legalities dealing with Wickham and Malfoy. Neither were shown any mercy. The wands of each were snapped in half, the cores removed, and the wood burned. They were sentenced to life in Azkaban, though the Dementor's Kiss had been a close thing. Elizabeth was relieved at the judgement because she did not want such a fate weighing on Lydia's conscious or her own. Darcy was pleased with the ruling because he thought a Dementor's Kiss would be too kind a punishment. He much preferred the idea that Wickham and Malfoy would spend the rest of their days facing their very worst fears until they went absolutely mad.

Bavishni parted with a great many hugs exchanged and tears shed. She declared her home would always be open to any member of Elizabeth's family and extracted solemn promises from the newly engaged couple to come visit her. Solveig left as well, though a few days later and not before Darcy began to suspect an attachment between her and his cousin.

Zebulon and his parents had been able to trace Wickham and Malfoy's spending by virtue of the specifics required for Polyjuice potion. When Darcy learned from Zebulon that some things had been purchased on Lady Catherine's credit, he had immediately raced to Rosings Park to confront the woman. Lady Catherine shamelessly admitted she had agreed to loan some money when "that poor Malfoy boy" had come to her months ago. Darcy had been so very enraged by her statements that he had left without uttering a single word in response. He never returned and any letters that came from the place were immediately consigned to the fire without being opened as long as Lady Catherine lived.

When she had recovered enough that she was able to sleep through an entire night without waking up screaming, Darcy had taken Elizabeth to the Gardiners' to see her father. Mr. Bennet was still frail, but that fact could easily be forgotten by one who saw his emotional greeting of his second child. He wept with joy and relief. When Elizabeth told him of her engagement, he said he was loathed to let her go but knew Darcy to be a good man and as close to being worthy of her as was possible.

It was as they walked back toward Bingley House, for Elizabeth had insisted she was in need of time outdoors, that Darcy raised the question of a wedding date.

"I don't think you'll like my suggestion very much," Elizabeth said.

"Rotten fish," was all Darcy said in contradiction.

Elizabeth laughed. "I think you might just beg for that crate of fish soon. Darcy, I would like to finish at Hogwarts before we marry."

Elizabeth had been right. Darcy would have eaten the crate of rotten fish if it meant a sooner wedding date.

"A year?" he asked, sounding stupid and whiney even to his own ears. "You will make me wait a full year before being able to call you my wife?"

"Not a year," Elizabeth contradicted, and Darcy grew hopeful. She recognized such and gave a teasing grin. "Only ten months and some weeks."

"Elizabeth," Darcy groaned frustratedly.

"We have our entire lives before us, Darcy!" Elizabeth pointed out. "I would very much like to enjoy my last year at Hogwarts while being a full part of it, rather than having one foot in and one foot out."

"But you have already been there seven years, which is as long as most people spend there," Darcy tried. "Think of your last year as a transition! You'll still go to classes daily, eat most meals in the Great Hall, see all your friends and professors – "

"Live off grounds, commute daily, balance learning to be a wife while trying to complete my education," Elizabeth interrupted. "I would feel the need to give up my extra lessons and being on the Quidditch team, as well."

"We could find balance together," Darcy argued. "I would not begrudge you keeping your lessons and captain's badge."

"I would regret losing the time of being roommates with Jo and Phoebe."

"But you could be roommates with me instead," Darcy countered. He found the idea of Elizabeth being the last thing he saw every night and the first thing he saw every morning to be so desperately appealing.

Elizabeth stepped in front of Darcy, halting his progression, and her wonderfully teasing expression was overtaken by one of gravity. "There is one reason I have in particular, William, that I cannot be moved on, however tempting your arguments might be."

"And what is that reason?" Darcy asked, searching his beloved's eyes.

Elizabeth wound her arm through Darcy's again and restarted their journey. "When we get back to Jane's, I will tell you. But not here on the streets."

Darcy considered pulling Elizabeth into an alley and casting spells to give them privacy so he could hear her objection without interference, but the seriousness of her face when she had stopped him was enough to convince him to abandon the plot.

When the newly engaged couple returned to the Bingleys', it was to find it in uproar.

"Louisa's had a baby girl," Kitty explained when Elizabeth asked. "Jane and Charles are determined to be gone within the hour."

Elizabeth flew into action and Darcy trailed along behind her. He was disappointed that he would have to wait to hear her main reason for delaying their nuptials, but still did not wish to be parted from her for any period of time. Indeed, he had been staying at the Bingleys' to minimize the time spent away from his beloved. Such had also provided him the opportunity to comfort her when she had her nightmares.

Elizabeth packed her own belongings, checked to see that her younger sisters were doing the same, and fought briefly with Lydia, who was refusing to gather her possessions.

"I'm not going back to Hertfordshire!" Lydia insisted. "I will stay here, thank you very much!"

"Put your things in your trunk, Lydia!" Elizabeth ordered. "Mary and Kitty may go with Jane and Charles if they wish, but you and I will go to the Gardiners to stay."

Upon receiving the knowledge she would not be made to return to the scene of her kidnapping, Lydia went about packing with little fuss and was soon ready to go.

"You and your sisters could come to Pemberley," Darcy offered.

"So you can lock me up in that cellar and refuse to let me out until I change my mind?" Elizabeth quipped. "I think not!"

"I hadn't thought of such," Darcy answered, "but the idea does have considerable appeal!"

Bingley, deliriously happy to be going to meet his niece, led his wife from the house only fifteen minutes past the hour they had originally hoped to be gone by. "Take good care of our sisters!" Bingley had called over his shoulder as he stepped into his carriage. "I will inform the Gardiners of their impending arrival when we stop to gather our father-in-law!"

"See?" Darcy said to his beloved. "Even Bingley agrees that he and I should be brothers quite soon!"

Elizabeth rolled her eyes before guiding her younger sisters out of the house and seeing to their luggage being properly loaded.

While Darcy did not succeed in getting Elizabeth to agree to an earlier wedding date, nor were they afforded the opportunity for private discussion so he could hear her primary reason for such, he did manage to convince her after a few days, with Georgiana's help, to spend the rest of the summer at Pemberley with her sisters. Georgiana, herself, had invited the Gardiners, who regretfully declined to attend as a family, though they did permit Irene to go.

Upon their arrival, Irene and Georgiana quickly disappeared to the room they would share. While the young girls set off to entertain themselves, Darcy offered a tour of his home to the Bennet sisters. He delighted in his beloved's expressions as she took in her future dwelling. Her face told him she would respect and love the place as much as he did, and he was, again, very disappointed it would be such a long time before she would call Pemberley home.

Luckily, Darcy was able to distract himself with the gag he had set up before the Bennets arrived. He showed Mary, Kitty, and Lydia their rooms, then made it sound as though that was the conclusion of the tour.

"Am I not afforded a room?" Elizabeth asked archly. She then sighed dramatically. "I suppose I will just join Georgiana and Irene. I don't think they would object."

"How could I have forgotten?" Darcy exclaimed, feigning surprise that fooled no one. "My dearest fiancée, I have made sure to set up very specific accommodations for you. Come, let me show you!"

Darcy heard the younger Bennet girls laughing as they followed behind him leading Elizabeth through the halls by the hand. Kitty and Lydia made wild suppositions and, though they tried multiple times to get Mary to confide what Darcy had planned, she stoutly refused to indulge them.

"Oh, you haven't!" Elizabeth exclaimed when Darcy threw open a door near the kitchen.

Darcy did not reply, only let his grin widen as he led his beloved and her sisters into the dark, damp halls beneath Pemberley until finally stopping before an open cellar. Inside, a cot had been set up along with a small table and even a pitifully stocked bookshelf.

"Is this it?" Lydia asked incredulously, sticking her head into the cellar and looking around. "Is there a secret passageway to her real room?"

"No, this is almost exactly as I meant it to be," said Darcy as seriously as he could. "I was unable to procure the dragon in a timely fashion, but perhaps there is a creature in the kennels that can serve as the guard to the door in the meantime."

"You, sir, are incorrigible!" Elizabeth laughed.

Mary, smiling in great amusement, took her younger sisters by their hands and began leading them away. "Come along, Kitty, Lydia! Let us leave Lizzy to explore her room."

"Why should Lizzy be put in the cellars?" Kitty asked. She and Lydia continued in a similar vein, though Mary continually failed to provide answers.

"So you do mean to lock me up," Elizabeth said with a delighted gleam her eyes. "How horrid of you."

"It is for your own safety, of course," Darcy said. "Have I not outfitted it properly?"

"Oh, no, the room is most agreeable," Elizabeth answered.

"Then I suppose there is nothing left but for you to step inside and me to turn the key."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Alright, you have had your fun. The joke is over, sir. I would like to freshen up after the carriage ride now."

"There's a basin there, on the table," said Darcy, pointing. "I'll bring your trunk, myself, once I see you safely inside."

"What a ridiculous man you've become," Elizabeth said lightly, and turned to make her way back to the main part of the house.

Darcy grabbed his beloved's wrist and turned her around to face him once more. "We have not had time to talk, just the two of us, since the Bingleys left London."

"And you concluded that bringing me down to your cellars and threatening to make me your prisoner was the best way to secure a private conversation?" Elizabeth asked with a raised brow.

Darcy could not help but smile. "I do so love when I have the chance to tease you, my dear, for it is very often the other way around."

"Well, seeing as you went through so much effort setting up these accommodations," Elizabeth said in a cross between being caustic and amused, "I might recommend Menace be installed here. He will appreciate having mice for company far more than I would."

Darcy laughed, settled Elizabeth's arm in his, and began leading her out of the cellars. "I think that to be a fine idea, but it might be best to consult Georgiana before installing Menace in his own quarters. She's become quite reattached to him since we left for India." Mrs. Gardiner had not wanted Menace in her house, and so Georgiana had been caring for the cat for the entirety of the summer thus far.

"If she is so very attached, I could be persuaded to leave him with her when we go back to Hogwarts," Elizabeth said.

"Perhaps the two of you could reach a compromise," Darcy ventured. "You could both see him regularly if, for example, you were to occupy the same house in Hogsmeade."

Elizabeth suddenly looked very tired. "This again?" she asked dully.

"You never told me that reason you said made you immovable," said Darcy. "I am determined to convince you, my love."

Elizabeth sighed and flattened her lips as she studied her fiancé. "Show me my real room, Darcy. Once I have cleaned myself up, we can go for a walk and I will explain myself fully."

Darcy obliged. He showed her to a chamber he had chosen for her specifically because it would put all her sisters, as well as his own, between them. He did not at all regret inviting his beloved to Pemberley, but it did make it more challenging for him to think of her as anything but his wife in full.

Half an hour later, Elizabeth and Darcy wandered away from the house and down one of the various paths leading into the woods that made up Pemberley's grounds. Once out of sight, Darcy drew his wand to reveal Elizabeth's nose ring, which still utterly delighted him. Impulsively, he kissed her nose. He was quite decided that, once Elizabeth was Mrs. Darcy, she would not conceal the emerald on her face again.

"Did Bavishni ever sneak an explanation of it to you?" Elizabeth asked, smiling from Darcy's ministrations.

"No, she did not," Darcy answered. "Would you enlighten me?"

Elizabeth told Darcy what the jewel represented, then said, "I got it because I thought of it as a sort of step toward being able to commit to marrying you."

Darcy felt his throat constrict with a tumult of emotions. "We may need to go back to the house, Elizabeth."

"You were told about the henna, were you not?"


"I'll take that as a yes," Elizabeth said without faltering in her step. "I liked learning of all the different ways women prepared for their weddings across the world. I thought I was being sneaky, but Bavishni found me out soon enough. Encouraged me, I daresay."

Darcy leapt away from Elizabeth and breathed heavily. "Unless you're about to tell me you'll marry me tomorrow, Elizabeth, I don't think I can trust myself to be left in isolation with you." And he meant it whole heartedly.

Elizabeth smiled sweetly. "There is a part of me, William, that wants to do exactly that."

Darcy grit his teeth. Oh, how this woman drove him mad! "But?" he asked tightly.

"My entire time at Hogwarts, I have worried," Elizabeth admitted. "When Jane and I first learned we would go, I worried how we would get there, how we would pay for all our things, how we would make new friends, how we would keep our old ones."

Darcy kept his distance very purposefully, but gently encouraged his beloved to continue.

"I love learning about the magical world, but I have always pushed myself beyond just what interested me," Elizabeth went on. "I took in everything that I could, took advantage of every class and independent study I thought might be beneficial. I worried, William, that the time would come when my family would become dependent on me, and completely. I was determined to be ready for it.

"When most little girls daydream about who they might marry, what their wedding dress will look like, and how many rooms their future home will have, I worried about keeping my younger sisters' bursts of magic hidden from the neighbors and tried to convince my father to apply himself to correcting their wayward behavior, as well as that of Mrs. Bennet. You know from some of my more recent conversations with Mr. Bennet that I became an adult well before my time," Elizabeth added as an afterthought.

Darcy sat on a fallen tree and gestured to the rock across it, which Elizabeth sat upon. She was winding up to the reason she had mentioned before. Already, he thought he might be able to guess it, but recognized she needed to voice her thoughts.

"Whenever I was at Longbourn, I corrected what I could and did my best to talk sense into my father," Elizabeth continued. "Whenever I was at Hogwarts, I worried what was happening in my absence."

Silence settled and Darcy used it to think on his next move. "Did you still have those concerns once Kitty and Lydia joined you at Hogwarts?"

"I spent more time this past year worrying than any other!" Elizabeth said with a sudden laugh. "I thought having Kitty and Lydia within reach would make things easier. How very wrong I was!"

Darcy smiled sadly. "And now? Do you worry now?"

Elizabeth sighed. "No. No I don't. And that's just it, William. For the first time, I'm not worrying over what the next year holds. I'm not concerned for how Kitty and Lydia will handle themselves. I don't feel the need to worry over every knut I spend, wondering if there was a way I could get something cheaper. And perhaps most importantly," here, a devilish smile spread over her features, "I'm not worried about some overly posh transfer students wreaking havoc in my favorite place in the world."

Darcy could not help but smirk. "Yes, those pesky transfers."

Elizabeth simply smiled at Darcy for a few moments more before saying anything else. "Darcy, I am at peace with, looking forward to, my final year at Hogwarts. I plan to enjoy it fully."

Darcy hung his head. His arguments just became much more difficult to justify.

"That is only the selfish half of the reason, though."

Darcy snapped his face back toward Elizabeth so quickly his neck popped.

"I am very much looking forward to being Mrs. Darcy and hope to be able to devote my full attention to learning the role," Elizabeth said. "I do not think I would be doing you, Georgiana, or Pemberley justice to take the title before I can do so. None of you deserve that."

Darcy leapt off the fallen tree, stepped further away, and began pacing, all without looking at Elizabeth. "I am not angry," he assured. He could feel his beloved's anxiety at his actions and wanted to address it, but he did not trust himself to say more just yet.

How very much he loved the woman sitting on the rock across the little clearing from him! How very much he wanted to call her his wife! How very much he wanted to be at Pemberley with her forever!

Finally, Darcy retook his seat. He dug his fingers into the bark upon which he sat to keep himself grounded, then met his beloved's eyes. "I understand and respect what you've told me, Elizabeth." Her eyes glowed upon hearing his declaration. "Unfortunately for you, that only makes me want to marry you all the more. I don't know that I can possibly stop trying to convince you to agree to a sooner date. If not for the fact that I think your sisters might very well kill me for it, I would Stun you, throw you over my shoulder, and bring you to Gretna Greene this very instant."

"I appreciate your restraint, sir," Elizabeth laughed. "I should hate to be made a widow so quickly!"

"My restraint is not going to last if I am with only you for much longer," Darcy growled.

"What a wolf you are!" Elizabeth cried.

"Only for you."

Elizabeth leaned slightly forward with a twinkle in her eyes that Darcy thought just might break him. "Do you know what advice I've been given in reference to wolves, sir?"

"What advice?" Darcy asked. He felt himself leaning toward his beloved without making any conscious effort to do so.


And run, Elizabeth did. Before Darcy could do so much as blink, she had launched from her perch on the rock and begun to speed through the woods back to the house, laughing all the while.

"You maddening woman!" Darcy shouted before giving chase.

Author's Note

Awwww, yay things being happy!

What thoughts have you on the wedding not happening for a year yet? Share in a review!