A Change of Heart

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Chapter 24 - The Mystery Item -

Draco reached for Hermione, but she wasn’t in bed. He turned to look at the clock. It was almost 7:00 in the morning. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, threw back the covers, and called down to room service to order some fruit, toast, and tea for breakfast. Slipping on his black silk robe, he went to the bathroom to find Hermione. She wasn’t there. He decided to go ahead and get his shower.

He had just finished showering when room service brought up their breakfast. He let them in the suite, and the server set up their breakfast in the dining room. Draco sat down and began to eat, when he really started to wonder where Granger was. She better not be off working this early in the bloody morning. He got up, and something compelled him to look in the other bathroom, off the second bedroom. He walked in the bathroom, without knocking, and there she was, in all her glory, in a big bubble bath. He smiled an evil grin, and realized that she didn’t even know he had come in, because her eyes were closed. Taking only a few steps into the room, she finally opened her eyes. At first she was startled, and but then she came to the realization that it was just Malfoy.

“Hi, Pinocchio,” she said.

“What are you doing, Dorothy?” he asked, but before he waited for her answer, he said, “Do you know that we just picked out each other’s nicknames, and we didn’t even realize it?”

“And they have nothing to do with food,” she laughed.

“I don’t know it I want to be called Pinocchio for the rest of my life,” he grimaced.

“Better than Idiot,” she pointed out.

“So, taking a bath?” he asked, having decided to ignore the idiot comment.

“See, you’re smart, no matter what everyone says about you,” she joked.

He took off his robe, slipped off his shorts, and said, “Shut up and scoot over.” He didn’t care if he had already taken a shower. He wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to take a bath with the woman he loved. He climbed in behind her. “Merlin Sakes, Granger, this water is scalding hot!” he exclaimed.

“You’re just cold blooded, remember?” she teased, as she leaned her back against his chest.

He took a large sponge, and started washing her arms and back. It felt so good, so much so that she didn’t have the heart to tell him that she had already washed. “I suppose you have all kinds of work to do today. Lot’s of last minute details,” he began.

“Nope,” she said.

“What? You’re kidding me, right?” he said, really surprised.

“Draco, I’m the boss. It’s called delegating. My staff will see to all the last little details, if there even are any. Today’s my day to relax and spend it with my lover.”

“Your lover?” he asked. He liked how that sounded, it sounded kind of forbidden. He was Hermione’s lover.

“Yes, and when he gets here, make your self scarce, okay?” she said with a smile.

Draco made a funny face, and said, “You’re no funnier now than you were the day I started dating you. One would have thought some of my wit would have rubbed off on you by now, but alas and alac, no, you're still without a trace of humour.”

She turned her head and said, “Give me a kiss. Maybe I’ll give him up for you.” He did as commanded, and gave her a long, wet, wonderful kiss.

“Well?” he waited to be judge.

“It’s acceptable.” Hermione laughed.

He splashed her. Bubbles went up her nose and made her gag, and that made him laugh. "You're funny after all," he remarked.

After a while she said, “I’m turning into a prune, look at my hands.” She held up her wrinkled hands for him to see.

“Why are you allowed to call yourself fruit names, but I’m not?” he quizzed. Then in seriousness, he said, “Our breakfast is probably getting cold, maybe we should get out now.”

Hermione stood first, and he stood right after. She held onto his hand as she stepped out of the tub. She walked over to the shower, and turned it on, to rinse off the bubbles. When the water was warm, she stepped in and he stepped in with her. They rinsed each other’s bodies, and while it was sensual, it wasn’t overtly sexual. It was nice and comfortable.

They got out of the shower and put on towels. Together they trotted to the dining room and ate their breakfast.

He excused himself from the table before she did, and went to get dressed. She had moved all of her belongings to the other bedroom that morning. She wanted to get ready for the gala by herself. She didn’t want Draco to see her one moment before he was supposed to. As she went to get dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she wondered when he was going to ‘pop’ the question. The waiting was agony. She had hoped he would do it in the bath, or maybe at breakfast. Maybe he’s going to wait until the gala, or perhaps after.

She screamed out loud in frustration, and said, “Stop it!” to herself. She was fretting over the very thing she didn’t want to fret over, and it made her angry. It would happen when it happened.

He came running into her room and said, “Why did you scream? What’s wrong?” He looked utterly panicked.

Hermione made up a lie, and she made it up quick, “I saw a spider,” she said.

“SO?” he practically yelled.

“It scared me,” she lied.

“You faced the Dark Lord, but a spider, oh my, scary,” he mocked. “Where is it, I’ll slay the mighty spider for my princess, for goodness sakes.” He looked around the room.

She had become a better liar, apparently, since she'd started dating him, because he must have believed her. She didn’t know whether to be happy about that, or upset. “I guess it ran away,” she answered.

He looked around and saw all her things thrown about the room. “Why are your things in here?”

“I want us to get ready for the gala separately. Be a bit of a surprise, you know?” she answered, biting her bottom lip. She didn’t know what he would think of that idea.

“That’s great. I want it to be surprise.” He smiled and walked back out of the room, just like that. She followed him.

“Who are you and where is my real boyfriend? That was too easy. I thought you'd think it was some plot to not have sex tonight, or something,” she said.

“First, remember my promise; no crude sex jokes. Second, remember your promise; mad, passionate, hot, heavy, sexy, sex tonight. Lots of it. Lots of ways.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

“I’ve created a monster, and his name is Draco Malfoy,” she said bewildered.

She went back to her new bedroom, grabbed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book, went out to the balcony, and sat down in one of the chaise lounges. He followed and came out with his book, and sat in the chaise next to her. She eyed him suspiciously at first, figuring that he was up to no good, but when he acted truly interested in his story, she settled back and started to read hers. They read for almost an hour. He got up first, excused himself, and went to his room.

He sat on the bed, and opened the bedside drawer to deposit his book. He took the ring out, and opened the case. Maybe he should just do it now. Get it over with, since she was relaxed right now, and in a good mood right now. She wasn’t fretting or worrying about anything right now. When would he ever have Hermione Granger in such a perfect condition ever again? He started to stand, having just made up his mind to go ask her, when she popped her head in the door. He pocketed the ring as fast as he could.

“Harry and Ginny just arrived. They’re spending the night here as well; first little holiday without the baby,” Hermione explained, “They want to know if we want to have lunch with them in a couple of hours.”

He was shell shocked and speechless, as she caught him off guard. Damn Potters! He merely nodded in agreement, and she left and shut his door. He put the ring back in the drawer. He had things under control. There would be plenty of opportunities today.

He stepped back into the living room, and saw that Hermione had changed into a frilly little pink dress. “What the hell?” he asked, although he didn’t mean it like it sounded. He saw her face fall from a look of happiness to sorrow in two seconds flat.

“I’m sorry; I just didn’t know we were getting dressed for lunch, because you were in jeans and a t-shirt before, and so am I. You really look beautiful,” he amended. He walked up and embraced her. “You look so pretty in pink. I just never thought of you as a girly-girl,” he finished.

“Yes, well, perhaps you’re rubbing off on me, having such a firm grasp on your feminine side,” she tried to joke, although she really thought he was making fun. She would go change.

She started back to her room, and he said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m changing back into my jeans,” she said, crestfallen.

“No way in hell.” He ran up to her, and grabbed her arm. “I want everyone in this whole bloody hotel to see that I’m with the most beautiful woman in the world. Let me go change as well.” He ran to his room and changed into a crisp white shirt and grey trousers. He stuck the ring in his pocket, just in case.

When he came back into the outer room, she said, “Well, you clean up nice.”

“You can never be too clean or too rich,” he said.

She made a funny face and said, “I think the saying is you can never be too thin or too rich.”

“I don’t know how you Muggle-borns say it, but a person definitely can be too thin, you know.” He came up and kissed her hand. Now would be the perfect opportunity to kneel down and slip the ring on her finger!

Before he could carry out his thought, turn it from mere thought to action, she said, “Let’s not let anything ruin us, Malfoy.”

“What could ruin us?” he asked, perplexed.

“Just promise,” she said so sweetly. He would promise her anything at the moment.

“I promise,” he said.

He held her and they stayed like that for many moments until she said, “I still have to fix my hair. It’s not easy to look beautiful, you know.”

“It is for me,” he said jauntily.

“Well,” she began, “you’re the exception to every rule.”

When Hermione was all dressed and ready, the couple met the Potters downstairs, in the dining room of the hotel. Hermione told Draco she was going to check on things in the ballroom, while they waited for their food. He knew she wouldn’t be able to resist meddling in things today. She left the table, walked out of the dining room, and went down the hallway to the ballroom. Her staff was making all the last minute details come to life. The items to be raffled were all place on the long table at the end of the banquet hall. When the raffled item was actual ‘item’, it was placed on a gold placemat with a placard explaining what the item was. When the ‘item’ was a deed or service to be rendered, such as ‘win a weekend at the Grand Marsh Hotel,’ there was only a placard.

Hermione perused the table, checking on each item. When she reached the very last item, there was only the gold placemat with a placard, and a large envelope, each with a large ‘question mark’ on them. This was confusing. Among the ‘free new top of the line firebolt’ and a ‘hundred galleons gift certificate to George Weasley shop’, was this envelope with a question mark. She had never seen this item before, and hadn't approved it. What did it mean?

She asked several staff members, and they were told that the hotel manager set that last item up himself. She went over to Jeff; he was talking to the chef who was preparing tonight’s feast, and she said, “What does that last placard represent, and who donated it? We don’t have a listing for it.”

He said, “It was donated anonymously, and I have no idea what the winnings are. Apparently there's a concealment charm on the placard itself, and at midnight the package will become the winning item. At least, that’s what I was told.”

“Who told you that?” Hermione inquired.

“It was all right there in a letter,” Jeff explained.

Hermione asked, “May I see that letter?”

“I’m sorry, I no longer have it. I don’t know what happened to it.”

He started to walk away, and she said, “We must take it down. It might end up being bogus. I can’t run that risk.” She didn't want this event to turn into another auction debauchery. She didn’t need someone to buy a bunch of raffle tickets for an item that may not even be real, or perhaps it could be something worse. What if the item was something gruesome or some type of joke?

Jeff said, “We can’t take it down now. We’ve already sold all of the raffle tickets.”

“How could you have done that? The Spring Fling doesn’t even start until 6:00 pm tonight, and I doubt that any of our guests that arrived early today, or stayed the night last night, would go ahead and buy tickets,” she stated.

Hermione looked back at her watch. She should get back to the dining room. She walked back, fully expecting Jeff to remove the item from the table, and never dreaming that he wouldn’t.

As she walked back to the dining room, the “mystery” item was weighing heavy on her mind. Who authorized the item? She would have to talk to her staff about it later.

She was silent during most of lunch. Draco bent close to her, and whispered in her ear, “What’s wrong.”

Suddenly, talking to the whole table, Hermione said aloud, “I just discovered that there’s a ‘mystery’ item being raffled off, and no one knows what it is, because it’s under a concealment charm, and no one knows who authorized it. What if this turns out badly? I feel like it’s the whole thing with Theo Nott and the auction again. What if someone is setting me up to fail?”

Everyone looked at each other with different emotions across their faces. Harry took a ticket out of his pocket and said, “I bought a raffle ticket for that item earlier, as a lark. I was told by your staff it was the last ticket. I was going to give it to you, but maybe I should keep it, since you’re so upset by the damn thing.”

Hermione grabbed the ticket from his hand. “For your information, Harry, I’m upset by its sudden appearance, and everyone’s apparent lack of information on the bloody thing. I’m going to go remove it right now!” She stood up and walked out of the dining room, with her three friends in tow, forgetting about lunch. She said, “I don’t care if every one of the tickets were sold. We'll just reimburse everyone their money!”

She entered the ballroom, and with determination went up to the envelope with the big question mark on it and tried to remove it, but it wouldn’t budge. She took her wand and tried to sever it with a severing charm, but it still wouldn’t move. Her assistant Gail came up and said, “When we saw you didn’t know about the item, we already tried everything to remove it. Apparently not only does it have a concealment charm, but it’s can’t be removed either. At least, not until midnight, as the card in front says.”

Hermione hadn’t seen the card. She picked it up and it said, “Mystery item to be reveal to the winning raffle ticket holder at midnight tonight.”

Hermione stomped her foot and turned to her comrades. “This is not going to be good, I have a feeling.”

“Maybe you’ll win the raffle, and no harm will be done,” Draco said to appease her.

“Sure, 100 tickets sold, and my one little ticket is going to win.” She actually pushed him and in her mind she thought, 'idiot'.

“You have a one in one hundred chances,” Harry stated the obvious.

Hermione pushed Harry now and said, “Thank you, Einstein. I couldn’t do the math!” Again, she thought, 'IDIO'T!

Ginny said, “Hermione, let’s go finish our lunch, and then in no time it’ll be time for the gala. Come on.” She put her hand on Hermione’s shoulder and walked her toward the door.

Harry stayed back, and grabbed Malfoy’s arm. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this Malfoy. It’s causing her undo distress. Why not just give her the damn thing.”

“Listen, Potter,” Draco began, “I appreciate your help with this thing, but I think I know what’s best, and as far as Hermione goes, she isn’t happy unless she’s worrying about something. It’ll be fine.” Draco didn’t tell Potter, but he was having second thoughts as well. He wanted this to be a good day for her. He wanted to have the perfect day in which to propose, but now she was all upset and worried, and it was his fault.

As the two men headed toward the dining room, Harry spoke again, “By the way, Malfoy, you owe me, for all the raffle tickets I bought for your little mystery item. Remember, I had to buy all of them, to pretend to Hermione that I'd bought the last one.”

“Are you serious, Potter?” Draco turned to him. “I know you like to live like a pauper, but I happen to know your wealth almost matches mine, so don’t worry about the money, consider it your engagement gift to us.” Oh no, Draco had said too much.

Harry pushed Draco up against a wall and said, “You’re going to propose to her? When, today? You promised her you wouldn’t. Do you know the meaning of being truthful? Sometimes I think all the drama you two cause each other is deserved!” Harry stormed toward the dining room, with Draco close behind.

After lunch, the couples parted. Hermione and Draco went back upstairs. She was still distracted. He fingered the box in his pocket. Now certainly would not be a good time to ask her. He said, “When we get up to the room, let’s change back into our jeans, and take a drive along the coast, until time to get ready for the gala.”

“No, I don’t want to take a drive,” Hermione answered, still irritated by the mystery item.

Entering their suite, and Draco said, “Well, what do you want to do?”

“I just want to go to my room and have a lie down,” she answered.

“May I come?” he asked. He really thought she might say no. She nodded yes. He followed her. She slipped off her dress, and put her jeans and t-shirt back on, and he took off his shoes and pulled his shirt from his trousers. They lay on her bed, in each other’s arms.

“I want everything to be perfect tonight,” she whispered in his ear.

“It will be,” he answered back.

“I don’t want any surprises, that’s all. I just want to know what’s going on, so I have a minimal amount of control at least,” she told him, touching his cheek. She wanted to give him an opening to go ahead and ask her to marry him. She wanted him to do it before the gala, so she could relax tonight.

He didn’t take the bait.

To his mind, she was telling him, ‘I don’t want anything unexpected.’ Asking her to marry him would be unexpected. He decided right then to wait until tonight, after the gala, to ask her to marry him. If only Hermione knew that.

He said, “I’m not tired, I think I’ll read some more of my book. See you tonight, for the gala. I’ll pick you up here at your bedroom door at 5:45, okay?” He got up, bent back down and kissed her, dragged his fingers down her arm, ending at her fingers, and then he grasped her hand, which tonight would wear his ring.

He went back to his room, put the ring back in the drawer and opened his book and started to read.

She stayed in her room, thinking about her ring, and wondering when he was going to give it to her.

Around 3:00 pm, Hermione decided to start getting ready for the gala. She felt like Cinderella getting ready for the ball. She took another shower, fixed her hair and makeup, and then went to retrieve her dress from the closet. She unzipped the dress bag, and pulled out the pretty gown. She put on her new undergarments, and her stockings, which went to her thighs. She put on her dress next. She realized she would need help with the back.

She called down to the boutique, to see if the lady who helped her pick it out could come and help her. While she waited for her to come, she held the dress up to her body, and looked at her reflection. She wanted to look pretty tonight. Draco was going to ask her to marry him tonight, and she wanted it to be a memorable occasion.

The woman knocked on the suite door. She peered around the corner, and yelled, “Stay in your room, Draco, I’ll get it.” She ran and answered the door.

After the woman left and Hermione had her dress on, she looked at her reflection once more. She thought, ‘not bad.’

Her dress was cream and gold. The underlay was a satin cream colour, with a full skirt and a fitted bodice. The neckline was square shape, and low, so that a hint of cleavage could be seen. Under the full skirt were layers of gold tulle crinoline. There was gold embroider netting over the entire skirt. The bodice was held up by thin gold satin straps, and the same gold satin ribbons went along the back of the dress, holding it in place, in place of a zipper or buttons. Around the waist was a similar gold ribbon, which tied in the back. On her feet she wore gold beaded slippers, which matched her gold beaded handbag.

She wore her hair up in the front, but long and curly in the back. She had small tendrils frame her face. She heard a knock on her bedroom door. Thinking Draco was early, she still went to open the door, only to find Harry and Ginny there instead.

Ginny had on a gown of deep forest green. It was beautiful, and Harry had on traditional black dress robes. “Just wanted to say ‘hi’ before we went down to the ballroom. You look gorgeous!” Ginny said, kissing Hermione’s cheek.

Harry took her hand, spun her around once, and said, “That bastard, Malfoy, doesn’t deserve someone as pretty as you.”

“I’ll have you know I certain do deserve her!” a voice from the other doorway said. Draco came up to Hermione. He felt like his throat was closing, and he couldn’t breath. That’s how beautiful he thought she looked. He immediately wondered if she would she be this beautiful on their wedding day?

He took her hands, and held them out and said, “Well, well, well. Aren’t you a beautiful woman? And to think, you’re all mine.” He hugged her, being careful not to mess her hair or dress.

Then he said, “You know what, maybe Scarhead’s right, for once in his miserable existence. Maybe I don’t deserve you.” He kissed her cheek.

“You look beautiful, too,” she said unabashed. He did too. He had on traditional dress robes as well, but he looked better than she'd ever seen him. Maybe it was because he was happier than she'd ever seen him.

Harry came up to the couple and said, “Malfoy, may I talk to her for a moment, alone?”

Malfoy was afraid Harry was going to spill the beans about the mystery item, so he said, “I don’t think so, Potter. You have your own woman, don’t try to steal mine.”

“Shut up, Ferret,” Harry chastised, as he gently took Hermione’s hand and tried to lead her away from Malfoy. Malfoy held on to her other hand as long as he could, but when she was finally stretched as far as she could go, he was forced to let go of her hand. Harry walked Hermione to her bedroom.

“Really, Harry, calling him ferret; what are you twelve or something?'' she laughed. She really couldn’t be angry. She called Draco worst things on a daily basis.

“It’s just that he’s such a prat,” Harry pouted.

“Did you bring me in here to discuss Draco’s prattiness?” she pondered with a smile.

“No, but we can talk about that later if you wish. I have a lot of things to say on the subject,” Harry said with a smile. “I just don’t want you to worry about things tonight. All I’m going to say is that I actually know what the mystery item is, though I'm not going to tell you what it is. But it’s nothing for you to worry about, so have a good time tonight.”

“How do you know what it is?” she asked.

“Seriously, now you’re going to worry about how I know, aren’t you?” Harry hugged her again, and laughed. “Try to have a good time, okay?” He led her by the hand back to the suite’s living room, and took his wife by the hand and said, “Shall we?” And with that, the Potters left.

“What did Potter say to you?” Malfoy was curious.

“He just told me to have a good time,” she confessed. He didn’t need to know the rest.

“Shall we go down to the ball, Cinderella?” he asked, and offered his arm.

“Am I Cinderella, or Dorothy?” she chided.

“Tonight, you’re Cinderella,” he answered, going into the hall, and pushing the lift’s button.

“I just hope I don’t turn into a pumpkin at midnight, because you’ll bake me in a pie,” she jested.

“Not tonight, and who knows, maybe the mystery item will turn into a pumpkin at midnight,” he replied with a laugh. The doors to the lift opened and they walked in hand-in-hand. They were going to the gala, but both felt as if they were going toward their future as well.

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