A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 16: Dinner’s Served with a side of False Pride


A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us." – Jane Austen


Of course I care what other people think of me, but can I help it if I happen to think I’m pretty damn wonderful, and I often wonder about the sanity of those who think otherwise. Is that vanity, pride or insanity?” - Draco Malfoy


My biggest fault is probably my pride. Pride goes before the fall, and I have a feeling the when I fall, it will hurt very, very much.” – Hermione Granger


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“Dinner was wonderful, Narcissa,” Phillipa said, leaning forward and patting Narcissa’s hand. A footman took her plate and placed another plate in front of her, this one the cheese course, right before pudding. She looked up at the man, turned to Draco and said, “Draco, where are all the house elves? If I recall, Whitehall had five or six house elves, didn’t it?”


“Yes, Aunt, but I let them all go free a few years back. I employ only witches and wizards now,” he answered.


Hermione grinned. He glared at her from across the table and raised an eyebrow. She kicked him under the table. Talbert said, “Why? You have to pay people, Draco, and house elves cost nary a knut.”


“Exactly, Talbert,” Draco answered. “There was a girl from school who once had a campaign about house elf welfare, and it made an impression on me. I always thought it was a solid argument, so when I was able, I freed the elves that wanted freedom.” He gave Hermione a lopsided grin, to show that he was joking.


“She sounds like a nutter,” Talbert answered.


Hermione gave Talbert a nasty look. Draco took a long sip of wine and laughed before he said, “Yes, she was a bit deranged, still is I understand, but she made some valid points. I think her campaign was called SPLAT or something. It was an anagram, although what it stood for, I haven’t a clue.”


“It was SPEW, Malfoy, and you know it,” Hermione said, though she had to smile. He smiled back. Phillipa didn’t like the smile that passed between them. She decided it was time to act.


“Miss Granger, I hear you have a daughter.”


“Yes, a four year old, named Alice,” Hermione answered, though she knew the other woman knew that already.


“Children are a wonderful gift, isn’t that right, Narcissa?” She looked at her sister-in-law and continued. “I don’t know what I would have done all these years without my Talbert, and I know that Draco was always the light of his mother’s eyes.”

“Yes,” Hermione said, nodding as she began to eat her dessert, “children are precious. My daughter is the most precious person in my whole world.”


“My fondest hope was always that dear Draco would marry and have children of his own someday, just as my Talbert did. I know that Cissy would like nothing more than to have grandchildren, too. I have two grandchildren, a six year old boy and a five year old girl, Davison and Kristina.”


“Congratulations,” Hermione said toward Constance. The other woman gave her a snide smile.


“By the way, Aunt,” Draco said, “I still have time to have children, and as you know, I intend to marry Hermione next month, so your wish may yet come true.”


“Yes, I suppose so. You will marry this woman and be a stepfather to her daughter,” she said grimly. She turned back to Hermione, who sat next to her, and said, “Is your husband aware that you’re planning to marry Draco, my dear?”


“He’s not my husband, but my ex-husband, and no, he isn’t. What I do or don’t do is of no concern to him,” she said sharply. Narcissa looked at Lucius across the table, about to intervene, but he gave his head a little shake to warn her to wait.


Phillipa laughed and snorted, “Of course it’s of a concern to him! I understand he lives in Canada. Well, you already took his only child across an ocean from him, now you plan to give her a new father, and you don’t plan to consult him at all? That seems rather unfair. He has a right to know what’s happening to his child, doesn’t he?”


“Damn unjust,” Talbert agreed, lifting his wine glass. “I met your ex before. Jolly nice chap. Doesn’t deserve that type of treatment, I say. Someone should tell him, even if you don’t plan to do so.”

Phillipa smiled at her son’s ad lib. He usually wasn’t good at thinking quickly. She said, “How right you are son. How would you feel if someone kept your son or daughter from you, and married someone else, and never told you?”


“I would probably become so angry that I would sue for custody, or something,” Talbert said.


Phillipa turned to Hermione and said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that didn’t happen, dear.”

Through narrowed eyes Hermione replied, “I can assure you that will not happen.”


Draco looked directly at his aunt and was about to tell her his thoughts on the whole matter, and none too nicely, when his cousin’s wife placed her hand on his sleeve. “That reminds me,” Constance said, leaning across Talbert to reach over to Draco. “This came for you as we were driving up and I took it from the Owl. I hope you don’t mind, but curiosity got the better of me and I opened it. Odd thing, it’s a baby picture, Draco. Whose baby is it? There’s no letter or anything.”


Draco took the large envelope from his cousin’s wife and looked over at his father. It was the picture that he had asked his father to send for, which the blackmailer gave Lucius four years ago. His father gave Draco another small shake of his head, just as he had given his ex-wife. He wouldn’t give these people the satisfaction of playing their games.


“Oh, I love baby pictures! Let Hermione and I see it!” Phillipa exclaimed. She reached over for the picture.


Lucius knew that Hermione would recognize her own daughter right away. He took the envelope with the picture from Draco, tucked it inside his robe, and said in his haughtiest tone, “It was addressed to Draco, Phillipa. He’ll look at it later.”


“But a baby picture, how odd,” she snorted. She gasped, with great theatrical flare, and looked at Constance and said, “My oh my, you don’t suppose the old rumors we heard were true, do you, daughter-in-law dear?”


“Mother-in-law, they must be! The mother must have heard that Draco was getting married and she decided to go ahead and contact him! Perhaps there was a letter attached and it fell out of the envelope,” she said back with an evil grin.


Hermione was frowning, tired of these games. Narcissa was fanning herself, suddenly overwhelmed with the vapors. Draco was baffled, as usual, trying to decipher what was going on, and Lucius looked angry enough to spit nails.


Then Talbert said, “Draco, so it is true? Do you possibly have a child out there that none of us knows about? We always heard that was true!”


Hermione stood up, so shocked she knocked over her water goblet.


“How the hell would you have heard that?” Draco asked, also standing, but avoiding eye contact with Hermione.


“Well, your father told Aunt Cissy, who told mother, that some man tried to blackmail him with information that you had a child about four years ago, of course,” his cousin responded. He took a large bite of pie and smiled.


Talbert leaned across the table, and as if he was speaking first to his mother he added, “What if, no….it couldn’t have been her.” He turned to Draco and asked, “Draco, old man, didn’t you sleep with a woman at the pureblood ball five years ago, did you? Perhaps this child is from that encounter.” There was another fake gasp from Draco’s aunt.


Draco felt hot and slightly dizzy. He was afraid to look over at Hermione. No one should have ever heard that, since only he, the woman, and Marcus Flint, knew about it. “Again!” he shouted with true bravado, “I must ask how the hell you would know all of this?”


“As far as sleeping with the woman at the ball, several people saw you entering and leaving the billiard’s room at the ball, and Marcus Flint told everyone that you slept with a woman in there that night. I just assumed the two things might be connected,” Talbert lied, his mouth coming up on one side in a mocked smile. “Then, well, there have been other rumors as well.”


“We all thought it wasn’t true, that it was either a hoax or a rumor, but last month a woman came to us, didn’t she son?” Phillipa also lied, thinking off the cuff, but continuing the charade. “She told us that she had your child, Draco. We thought it was a lie, I mean, it had to be, but she said she slept with you at a masked ball, in a billiard’s room, no less, and that she got pregnant from that single encounter. She never married, because she entertained some romantic notion that you and she would marry someday.”


“She thought you would find her, after she had that man contact your father right after the baby was born, but you never did, because your father paid the man off. She claims he was never there for money, he was only there to tell him about your child, but your father, being who he is, gave him money and told her in no uncertain terms that she was never to contact you.” The woman smiled, pleased with her lies. She looked at Hermione and said, “I told you about Draco’s child at the hotel, dear. Remember? My Talbert, out of the goodness of his heart, gave her some money, right after she contacted us,” she continued to lie. “You did get her name and address, didn’t you son?”


Talbert looked a bit befuddled, not knowing how his mother wanted him to answer, so his wife said, “Only an address in which we could contact her, mother-in-law, dear, as she didn’t want to give her name, but I really think that if Draco has a son or daughter out there, someone should contact her now, before he marries.” She turned to look at Narcissa and said, “You must want to know your only grandchild, Aunt Cissy. I mean, even if it takes months and months to find her and the child, and Draco goes past his thirtieth birthday, surely that won’t matter to you.”


Phillipa looked up at Hermione, who was still standing, stock-still, in total shock, beyond bewildered. Draco looked over at her for the first time. Phillipa stood up as well and said, “My dear, you must see that a marriage between you and my nephew can’t go on at this point. He must have the chance to find his child, and his child’s mother. He once told his friend, Marcus Flint, that he loved this woman. You don’t want to marry a man who loves another, do you?”


“You loved this woman?” Hermione questioned, her eyes flying to Draco. “A woman you spent only an hour or so with? A woman you barely knew. A woman with whom you only ever had sex with once? How could that be possible?”


“He barely spent but a weekend with you, and yet he’s marrying you,” Talbert said, stuffing his face with more pie.


“Shut up!” Hermione bellowed. “Draco, do you love her?”


“I…I thought I might, at that time, but I don’t think I ever told anyone that, not even Marcus.” He felt the world spinning around him. He fell back into his chair.


Lucius said, “Son, say no more right now. There are so many things you don’t know.”


“Let me see that picture, Lucius!” Hermione snapped, holding out her hand.


Lucius turned and said, “Why, we both know who it is.”


Draco didn’t know what that statement meant, but he held out his hand as well and begged, “Father, may I see the picture?”


“No one sees anything right now,” Narcissa shouted, standing suddenly, her chair falling behind her as she stood. “Let’s all go in the grand parlor for drinks and a discussion. I know I need a tall glass of gin right now!” She walked away from the table and began to lead the way. Phillipa followed, proud of herself and with a smile on her face, because she thought she had won. Constance linked her hand in Talbert’s arm and followed behind the older woman.


Lucius offered his arm to Hermione. She refused the offer, glared at Draco and said, “Draco, I have to talk to you right now.”

“Let’s clear all of this up first, Hermione. Please. I’m so confused right now. I don’t know how Phillipa and Talbert know these things, but only I, the woman in question and one other person knows about the masked ball and the billiard’s room, and I find it hard to believe Marcus told so many people that the rumor came out, so it has to be true. If I do have a child out there, I’m not saying that it means I won’t marry you, but for Merlin’s sake, I have to know for sure!”


“Because you still love this woman,” Hermione said softly.


Lucius ordered, “Let’s go in the other room, now!”


Hermione’s hands went to her face and she quietly began to cry. She looked over at Lucius and said, “How could he love someone he only made love to once? If I only knew. It would have changed so many things, Lucius. It would have saved us all so much heartache.” Draco frowned, because he didn’t know what that statement meant, nor did he want to know. He only wanted to clear this mess up and for Hermione to stop crying.

The older man smiled at her and took her hand. He tucked it in his arm and led her toward the parlor. Draco walked behind them, feeling like a fool, a coward, and the worse person on earth. He loved Hermione now, but he had to know if he had a child. He had to.


They started in the other room, but Narcissa stood outside the doorway and grabbed Lucius’ arm. Hermione walked on ahead without him, still in tears. Draco started to walk in the room behind her, but he spied little Alice walking down the large staircase, dragging her stuffed dragon behind her. He looked inside the parlor, saw Hermione head for the bar, thought that she would be okay for a moment alone with his relatives, and he headed for Alice.


“Lucius?” Narcissa hissed from outside the grand parlor. He swirled a drink in his hand, bid his excuse from their company as everyone else went into the grand parlor, and met his ex-wife in the hallway.


“Yes, my love?” he asked.


“First, don’t call me that,” she said, slapping his chest hard. He winced in pain. “Second, what in the world do you think you’re doing, encouraging that woman and her lies? We both know she’s lying! She’s openly trying to provoke Miss Granger!”


“I don’t think so, my love,” he said. She hit his chest again, hard. “Cissy, please, stop hitting me. I’m older now and I tend to bruise easily. If you finally want to try some S&M, of which I had wanted you to try back when we were married, we can do so later.” She hit him even harder.


He almost cried out, but instead he said, “Phillipa apparently knows nothing. This only works to our advantage. She’s pretending to know the identity of Draco’s liaison from five years ago. She has absolutely no clue it’s Miss Granger, and of course she has no clue that we know.”


“But Draco doesn’t know that!” Narcissa seethed. “She’s trying to cast doubt in his mind! She’s trying to make him believe that there’s a child out there, so that he’ll give up on Hermione and Alice, in favour of this possible love child, when his child is safely under this roof at this very moment!” She hit his chest with her right hand, and then her left. He made a painful face with each slap.


He placed his drink on a table in the hall (most of it had already spilled on the carpet anyway with each hit) and took her hands in his. “So? Even if she waltzes in an imposter, with a child, we’ll be able to prove that they’re not who she claims they are! We still hold all the cards, Cissy. We know! We know the truth and she does not. It’s perfect. Let her be caught in her web of lies. The only thing this might do is to force Hermione to tell Draco before the wedding, of which I was hoping to avoid.”

She pulled her hands away. “And if he reacts badly? If he acts sullen and spoiled and runs away, as is his way, and he takes off without marrying her? What then, Lucius? Worse, what if he tries to take little Alice away from Hermione out of spite? A child without a wife will not keep our son with his inheritance, or make him happy in the end!”


Lucius was quiet for a moment. Narcissa slapped his chest again first with one hand, then the other, the then the first hand again, the whole time barking, “You…didn’t…think…of…that…did…you!” She hit him one last time, very hard, and then said, “Or what if Hermione runs away and takes Alice and we never see them again? Phillipa made all those comments at dinner about her ex-husband and how he must miss little Alice! That’s bound to scare Hermione away!”


Lucius took Narcissa’s shoulders in his grasp and said, “No one takes my granddaughter from me, and my son WILL marry Hermione Granger, and he WILL inherit everything he is meant to inherit! Once in the Malfoy family history, someone will have a bloody happy ending and I swear if you hit me one more time I just may hit you back!” He pushed her away and went back into the parlor, with Narcissa hot on his heels.


They arrived just in time to see Hermione running out of the room, yelling to Phillipa, “Fine then, I won’t marry Draco!”

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