A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 17: Happiness Comes with A Terrible Price:

"Why not seize pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?" – Jane Austen

Happiness is not a reward. It’s something a person has to work for very, very hard, and even then, it seldom occurs; at least that’s my experience.” – Draco Malfoy

No matter how hard we try to be happy, we are only truly happy when we give up trying, and only then does it come naturally.” – Hermione Granger


Draco started to walk in the grand parlor behind his father and Hermione, but his mother pulled Lucius to the side to speak to him in the hallway. The rest of the family went in before them. Draco was about to enter as well, but he saw little Alice walking down the large staircase, dragging her stuffed dragon behind her. He quickly 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 little Alice. He bypassed his parents, who seemed to be arguing, as his mother was hitting his father, very hard, on the chest.

Walking up several steps, and taking her hand, Draco asked, “Miss Alice, why are you awake?” Better yet, he wanted to ask her why she was constantly roaming around by herself.

“I saw Mummy head in that room. Was she crying?” Alice asked. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand.

“A little bit.” Draco didn’t want to lie to the little girl. He didn’t believe in lying to children. He had a creed about it. He believed lies should be saved for adults and adults only.

“Why is she crying?” Alice asked with a pout to her bottom lip. “Should I go make her happy?”

Maybe he should have lied to her. “No, I’ll make her happy. She’ll be fine.” Draco walked up to meet her on the stairs.

“Daddy used to make Mummy cry all the time,” Alice offered.

Draco didn’t like hearing that. “I’m sorry.” He didn’t know what else he should say.

Alice nodded, sat on the stairs, and added, “Sometimes they would yell at each other, then he would go on another trip and Mummy would go to the bathroom or her bedroom and cry, but she never cried in front of me, but sometimes I still heard her. Once I heard her at nighttime crying, and I thought she was having a nightmare.”

Draco hated hearing this. He hated to think that Hermione was that sad, but he also hated to know that Alice was a party to it. Alice wasn’t done with her story, as she said, “I went into her room and slipped my stuffed turtle in bed with Mummy at night, to take away her nightmares. His name is Thomas. He has a music box in him. He plays a lullaby.” She patted the stairs beside her, and Draco smiled. It was something he had done with Hermione that first day, when he wanted her to sit with him. It was funny how similar Alice and he were.

“I’ll be around to protect Mummy and you from nightmares from now on, so don’t fear,” Draco said, coming to sit on the stairs beside her. He picked up her dragon and said, “What’s his name?”

“I change it a lot. Right now it’s Dragon.”

“Original,” Draco joked. He straightened the tie on the stuffed dragon and placed it on the girl’s lap. “Alice, tell me about your Daddy.”

“His name is Kevin and he lives in Canada, and he’s married to a woman named Lauren, but he’s only my pretend daddy,” she said with a yawn.

“Why do you say that?” Draco wondered aloud.

“Because the last day I saw him, when we were leaving Canada, Mummy told him that he wasn’t getting another red cent from her, and besides, he not my real daddy anyway, so he must be my pretend daddy. I don’t really know what that means.”

Draco was beginning to wonder what it meant, too. “Do you miss him?”

“Sometimes. He was gone a lot.” Alice reached up and pulled on Draco’s tie. He smiled, then he saw that she was touching his tiepin. It was also a serpent.

“Did he work a lot? Go on business trips?” Draco asked Alice.

She stood up, when she did the stuffed dragon slipped off her lap and rolled down several steps, and she started down the stairs. “No. He didn’t have a job.”

“Alice, come back here, please,” Draco commanded. Alice reached down for the dragon but did as she was told. She walked back up the three steps to sit back next to Draco. He placed a arm around her shoulders. “If he didn’t work, why was he gone all the time?”

“I don’t know,” she answered with a slight shrug of one shoulder. She reached for his tie again. “I like this silver snake. It’s like the one Grandfather gave me.”

“It’s just like it, only smaller,” Draco remarked.

Alice looked up with her large grey eyes and said, “Maybe if you give this one to Mummy it will make her happy again. The one Grandfather gave me made me happy. Will you go do it now? I don’t want her to be unhappy.”

Draco couldn’t take much more heartache tonight, and the empathy that this little girl felt for her mother was breaking the last shred of heart he had in his chest. He tried to smile, (it was that, or perhaps cry) and he promised her, “I’ll go in there and make her happy, I promise. Everything will be okay.” He lifted her up and hugged her tightly. He couldn’t imagine loving a child as much as he loved this little girl. He knew that he didn’t love his masked woman from his past as much as he loved Hermione. Nevertheless, if he did have his own little boy or girl out there, then nothing would keep him from it, not hell or high water.

He stood up, with Alice in his arms, and walked to the bottom of the third floor stairs and sat on the bottom step. He wasn’t quite ready to give her up yet, or put her to bed. He placed her beside him and said, “I like those pajamas.”

She looked down at her nightclothes…they were green with dragons and she shrugged, and in a very adult move she said, “You know how much I like dragons.”

He laughed and hugged her shoulders, bringing her closer to him. “Alice, tell me more about your father. Tell me again, honestly, do you miss him?”

“Sometimes,” she said. She began to play with the ivory buttons on Draco’s jacket. He placed a finger under her chin to force her to look at him.

“Have you seen him any since your Mummy and he divorced?” he inquired.

“Mummy said I won’t see him too much anymore.”

“Why is that?” Draco asked.

Alice stood and started to walk up the stairs. He pulled on the back of her shirt and said, “Where are you going? Aren’t you going to answer my question?”

“I’m not supposed to talk about this,” Alice revealed.

Draco frowned. What type of things was a four-year-old little girl supposed to keep secret? “You can tell me, I promise I won’t become angry, and neither will Mummy.”

Alice took several steps up, and then back down and then back up, before she sat back down several steps further up than him. Draco turned slightly on the narrow stairs leading to the third floor to look at her, and instead he saw Ingrid hurrying down.

“Mr. Malfoy, I swear, I wasn’t asleep this time, but I thought Alice was!” the older woman claimed.

“It’s fine, Ingrid, but please, take her up to the nursery and don’t let her come back down at all. There are things going on tonight that aren’t fit for a little girl to hear, understand?” He passed Alice to her nanny.

The older woman nodded and asked, “Is everything okay?”

“It will be.”

He ran back down the stairs, saw his parents arguing in the hall, and bypassed them just as Phillipa was saying, “He’ll probably come to England and sue you for custody and no one could blame him! You’re trying to steal his only child from him just as surely as this woman stole Draco’s child from him! Your ex-husband deserves that child more than you do, you dirty Mudblood!”

Hermione balled up her fists and screamed, “For your information, I paid that bastard off! He took all the money I had! I gave him every galleon, in exchange for him never having anything more to do with my daughter! For that’s what she is – she’s my daughter! He left me flat broke, but it was worth it, because I have my daughter, I have my dignity, and no one and nothing is taking either of them away from me!”

“If you care for your daughter so much, you should put her welfare before your own!” Phillipa bellowed, and then adding salt to the wound, she said, “And if you truly had any dignity at all, you would certainly never marry a man who doesn’t love you and especially not one who is only marrying you so that he can get his inheritance!”

Draco was about to protested, adamantly, and finally, but with that last sentence said, Hermione started toward the doors that led outside, but first she turned back and said, “Fine then, I won’t marry Draco!” and she ran from the room just as Draco entered it.

“Well, Draco, my boy,” Phillipa said as she looked at Draco from her perch on the sofa, “I guess that’s your answer. That’s your proof. She’s only marrying you for your money. She’s not pretty enough for you, good enough for you, or dare I say, pure enough for you. Let Talbert help you find your child, Draco. Don’t you want your own child to love, not some wayward little stepchild? Who knows? The mother might not even be married. You could marry her, have your child, and have a happy conclusion to this sordid mess. I admit that the woman from the masquerade ball might not be your child’s mother. I’m just putting two and two together, and coming up with four, because I know both stories, so you need to take time and sort all of this out, and find out what’s true!”

Draco glared indignantly at the woman, at a total loss for words.

“True, it might not happen in two months, in time for you to inherit everything, but your father and mother have plenty of money. I’m sure they wouldn’t see their only son destitute, and your father will get to live in Malfoy Manor until his death, so it’s not as if he will be without his home. It only means a different Malfoy might inherit it when he dies, instead of his son. Why does that matter? You have your own house in London. You don’t need Malfoy Manor, or Whitehall even. You never have, and you never will.” Phillipa’s argument was ending, and she was incredibly pleased with how the evening had progressed.

She finished with, “Think about it Draco. This Mudblood and her dirty, half blood, little brat isn’t good enough to wear the name of Malfoy, let alone be in the company of Malfoys.” Phillipa stood up in triumphant, and smiled with glee.

Draco glared at the pinched faced woman and before he could tell her where she could go, what she could do, and what he thought of her, Narcissa walked up to her, pulled back her arm, and slapped her across the face. She said, “That’s because I can’t hit Lucius again because he might hit me back! Now, leave this house immediately, Phillipa and take your whimpering son and your cow of a daughter-in-law with you and if you ever say anything against Hermione and Alice again I will personally hex you into next week!”

Draco smiled at his mother and ran out the doors to go look for Hermione.

Draco was appalled at the behaviour of his family, though he expected everything to be even worse than it was. He was sorry that Hermione had to be caught in the crossfire. He knew she was capable of taking care of herself, she had proved that during most of their lives, but he felt it was now his time to take care of her, and he had failed miserably.

Failure was an emotion of which he was well acquainted, unfortunately. The sight of her at the end…her raised chin, her fingers curled into the palms of her hands, her hand balled into fists at her sides, her clenched jaw, would forever be etched into his brain. He knew his aunt was lying! Why couldn’t Hermione see that? Then the moment she said, right before she ran out of the house, “Fine then, I won’t marry Draco,” shocked him to his core.

He should have stayed by her side every single moment. He could feel the tension in the room, and in her body, from the moment that he walked into the door of the parlor! Despite her fake smiles and her calm demeanor during the attack at dinner, Draco knew she was upset. He had known her for most of their lives, and he had seen that look of despair on her face before. Growing up, he was usually the cause of it. Hell, if he wanted to be truthful, he was the cause of it tonight.

It was his idea that they fake an engagement; it was his plan to come to Whitehall. It was his plan all along that it would become a real marriage, even though she thought the marriage of convenience was hers. It was his fault that his father had a younger brother who married a bitch who had a stupid son! Okay, that last one wasn’t his fault, but his grandfather’s fault.

Draco wandered around the cliffs and across the hills looking for Hermione for over an hour (with the help of the four-point spell) and he was worried. What if she took Alice and left? What if she fell off one of the cliffs? What if, the moment he found her, she slapped his face as she had when they were in third year at school? That hurt like hell, but it was nothing compared to the pain he would feel if she left. He should have stopped his aunt’s attack during dinner, but he didn’t, and for that he would always feel regret.

He finally saw her in the distance. She was sitting on the ground next to an old lean-to, which was propped up against the side of a cliff, and used to keep boating supplies.

The night was so dark that he almost wouldn’t have seen her if she hadn’t started a small fire in a rock circle beside her. He approached her, going over what he might say in his head, but before he could contemplate the correct words, she looked up and said, “What do you want?”

He sat beside her, his long legs stretched out to the side of the small fire and he said, “I’ll tell you what I want. I want to marry you, Hermione. I really do. Nothing else matters to me.”

She pointed toward a small building and said, “What’s over there?”

Draco was confounded. Were they going to discuss what had happened during and after dinner, or was he going to take her on a midnight tour of the grounds? He said, “That little building is the boathouse. The docks are beside it, see?” He pointed as well.

She stood up, took his hand, helped him up and said, “Come on.” They walked in the dark toward the small enclosure. He hurried and turned around to put out the fire they left behind, with his wand, before they got too far away.

“Are you kidnapping me?” he asked.

She gave no response. She walked faster, still towing him by his hand toward the small boathouse.

“Are you going to take me in there and murder me so no one up at the house can hear me scream, because I have to tell you, I scream really loud and like a little girl,” he joked.

She turned and glared at him then turned back around.

There was a small dingy and a large rowboat tied to the dock. They stepped up to the grey-weathered, wooden structure and Hermione tried the door handle. It was locked. She flicked her wand, said a simple word: “Alohamora,” and the door opened. It was darker inside than out, but there was a single candle on a low table by the door, so Draco lit it. They both stood in the middle of the room, looking around.

“Well, you brought me here, what do you intend to do with me?” he asked, seriously.

“Do you really still mean to marry me, even after everything that horrible woman said, even after that Owl you received, even after it all?” she asked, wearily. “Even though I’ve lied to you. I have, you know. I have a terrible secret. I’ve lied to you for years about something, and you’ll never forgive me.”

“Yes, love, I want to marry you, I know I’ll forgive you anything, and for some insane reason,” he said, looking around the dark room, “I’m not afraid that you’re going to murder me any longer.” The small light on the table exaggerated all the shadows in the room, elongating some, and shortening others. He turned back to look at her. The candle offered only partial light upon her face. Half her face, the upper half, was in shadow, and the lower half was illuminated in soft, flickering light, almost as if she wore a mask.

Then he knew.

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