A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 20: A Picnic in the Rain beats one in the Shade, but Nothing Beats a Pony


"Nobody minds having what is too good for them." – Jane Austen (Writer of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Emma, among others)


I never thought I would live to see the day when I would feel unworthy of anything, but the day that little girl called me Daddy I felt I was just a bit unworthy, and perhaps, a bit too happy.” – Draco Malfoy


We are always happy when things are going good, and right now, I have to admit, I’m not sure if things are good or not, so I’m not sure if I’m happy.” – Hermione Granger


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Hermione woke up in the same chair where she had fallen asleep. Draco had left Alice’s room shortly after he arrived, so she stayed put, and after a while, she had fallen asleep. Before she slept, she merely rocked back and forth and thought. She had a lot to consider. She had rehearsed what she would say to him carefully in her head. She knew he would be angry with her this morning, and he had every right to be, especially since he appeared to be in so much pain last night, but she would make him somehow see that she was truly sorry for all her lies and deceit, and that they could still go on from there. She wished she knew how he knew. When was the moment that he discovered the truth? Did he only discover the truth last night, on his own, or had he known for a long time? Had his father told him, or had he deduced the truth from the evidence at hand?


From the moment that she made love to him five years ago, and conceived Alice, she knew this day would come. When she entered into this ‘marriage of convenience’ scheme with him, she knew she would have to tell him the truth, and she always knew he would probably take it badly.


She never thought he would cry. That broke her heart.


He probably no longer wanted to marry her. Lucius, Draco, and Narcissa were probably already contacting the best magical solicitors in London, and as soon as she showed her face this morning, they would probably serve her with custody papers. She was probably in for the battle of her life. She had faced bigger battles and won, so she wasn’t afraid of losing. No one could take Alice from her. Nonetheless, she was a bit afraid of losing the little bit of happiness she had just found with Draco.


Hermione bathed and dressed Alice. Her little girl was in a bright and happy mood that morning. Apparently her ‘grandfather’ had promised her a ride on the ponies. Hermione smiled at everything her daughter said, although inside she was worried. Alice seemed so happy again, and Hermione didn’t want anything to ruin her daughter’s happiness. The little girl deserved happiness. Hermione once thought she deserved happiness, too, but now she wasn’t so sure. Maybe she had forfeited her own happiness for the sake of others. Maybe she had given up all hopes of happiness as repentance for her sins. It didn’t matter…it had been so long since Hermione had any real happiness she wasn’t certain she would recognize it anyway. The most she could hope for was contentment, and even that seemed out of reach this morning.


She dressed and bathed herself, and then hand-in-hand, mother and daughter walked down the stairs. Hermione contemplated leaving Alice upstairs in case things got nasty, but if she had Alice with her, at least things could remain civil.


They walked to the dining room and Narcissa and Lucius were already at opposite ends of the table. Alice removed her hand from her mother’s hand and skipped up to Lucius and said, “Good morning, Grandfather. You said if it doesn’t rain today, you would take me to the cliffs on one of the ponies. It’s not raining. Did you see?”


Lucius smiled down at the girl, but before he could answer, Narcissa said, “Alice, sit down and have some breakfast, and no one is taking ponies to the cliffs. You may ride them out in the garden.” She pointed to the chair next to her. Alice ran over to Narcissa, pulled out the big chair, and sat down.


Lucius looked at the doorway, and said, “Do you intend to stare at us from the doorway all morning, Miss Granger, or will you be joining us for breakfast?”


Hermione figured that Draco had yet to tell his parents that he knew, so she cautiously walked into the dining room and sat beside Alice. She helped her daughter with her porridge, the whole while Alice jabbered to Narcissa and Lucius. However, Hermione remained quiet. She also did not fill her own plate, nor did she take coffee or tea when the maid offered it to her. She was too nervous to eat.


“Is it a Muggle-born tradition to fast in the morning?” Lucius asked, eyeing her empty plate.


“Mummy is a Muggle-born,” Alice stated, stuffing a piece of sausage in her mouth. “And that’s not a bad thing, you know.”

Lucius raised his eyebrows and said, “I can see she’s been well trained.”


“Now see here, she’s not a dog to be trained,” Hermione began, but she stopped talking when Draco walked into the room. Oddly, he had a smile on his face.


He walked around the table, kissed his mother’s cheek, responded, “Good morning, Mother.” He walked around to Alice, kissed the top of her head and said, “And good day to you as well, Miss Alice.” Then he stopped beside Hermione’s chair. She looked up at him with questioning eyes. He cupped her cheek, leaned over, kissed her other cheek and said, “And an especially good morning to you, love.”


He knelt between Hermione and Alice’s chairs and took Hermione’s hands between both of his. She was weary and confused. Was he going to drop the bomb now? He said, “I thought we could go on a picnic today, you, me, Alice and the sleeping nanny. It looks like it might rain, but if it does, we’ll come right back. Is that okay?” Then he surprised her even more when brought one of her hands to his mouth, gently, to place a kiss on its fingertips.


Hermione wanted to know what in the hell was going on, but instead of asking that question, she nodded. He smiled again and stood.


“Good morning, Son,” Lucius said from behind his paper. “I figured you were never getting around to me, so I thought I would say it to you.” He folded his papers and placed it beside his plate.


“Father,” Draco acknowledged.


What in the blazes was going on? Hermione looked from one Malfoy to the next and she felt as if she was in a surreal, dreamlike state, and she really, really wanted to wake up.


“Did you hear me, dear?” Narcissa asked.


“Mummy, Grandmother asked you a question.” Alice pulled on Hermione’s sleeve.


“What?” she asked Alice, only to move her gaze up to Narcissa as she repeated the query. “What?”


“I said I hope you don’t mind if I start to plan the wedding, since we don’t have much time. I thought we could hold the wedding here at Whitehall in a month. I have a wedding planner coming to meet me today. We have so much to do, don’t we?” Narcissa repeated.


Hermione merely stared at the woman, dumbfounded.


“I don’t think Hermione minds, do you, Hermione?” Draco asked her.


Hermione stood up and said, “What is going on here? How can we all speak so calmly of weddings after everything that’s happened? Excuse me, please.” She walked slowly out of the room, down the hall, out the foyer, and then she stepped out of the front doors and sat down on the large stone porch steps. Was it really going to be that simple, that easy? What about Phillipa and Talbert? And where was Draco’s anger? It was expected, and when it didn’t come, she didn’t know what to do.


“If she wants to plan it herself, I understand,” Narcissa said to Draco, back in the dining room. “Perhaps I should go find her and explain to her that I only meant to help, not take over the whole thing. I know she had a bad experience with Phillipa last night, but she must know that meant nothing to us. I want her to know that I only mean to help.” The older woman stood from her chair. “I’ll go find her and apologize, yes?”


“Don’t you dare try to coddle and mollify her,” Lucius retorted, picking up his paper and snapping it hard on the wood of the table. “I think last night took a greater toll on her than we suspected, but she’s made of sterner stuff than we know, and if you run to her and make a big deal out of last night, you’ll only serve to embarrass her. Give her some time.” He took his folded his paper in hand and stood. He held out his other hand and said, “Alice, come with Grandfather. We’ll spend some time together before your picnic. We can go find the ponies if you want. Draco will come find you later.”


Alice pushed away from the table and took Lucius’ hand. She looked up at him and said, “What does mollify mean, and why do you not want to do that to my mummy? What happened to her last night? Does it have anything to do with why she was crying when I came down the stairs last night?”


Draco snorted and when Lucius gave Draco a stern look Draco said, “Little pitchers have big ears, Father. You must realize that by now. Go on; explain to her what you meant. Tell her what mollify means, if you even know yourself.”

Lucius narrowed his gaze, picked his paper back up from the table, and hit his son on the back of the head with it, as hard as he could.


“Ow!” Draco barked.


“I won’t apologize to you, because I don’t wish to mollify you, Son,” Lucius spat. Alice giggled and Lucius picked her up and said, “Instead of answering your question, how about I just give you a pony? Would you like a pony of your very own?”


They left the room and Narcissa said, “That little girl is going to be so spoiled.”


“I used to be the spoiled one,” Draco said, still rubbing the back of his head, “and now I’m the abused one instead. I do wonder what’s wrong with Hermione, though.”


“Your father’s right, Son, it was a rough night last night,” his mother replied. “By the way, did you and your intended ever get around to having that talk? Did she tell you that secret she wanted you to know?”


Draco didn’t know if his mother knew Hermione’s secret. He felt certain his father did somehow, but he didn’t know if his mother did, therefore, he didn’t know if her line of questioning was a fishing expedition or mere concern. He decided to be partially truthful and he explained, “No, we decided to wait. Moreover, I told her I didn’t want to hear it right now. Listen, I don’t care what her secret is anyway, because I’ll still want to marry her, alright?”


“And what about your child?” she asked carefully.


“Everything has a way of falling into place, and happening when it’s supposed to happen, Mother, and that’s all I have to say about that.” He took a large drink of juice, another piece of toast, and headed toward the door. He needed to find his future wife. He needed to let her know everything was all right, without letting her know that he knew. He wasn’t sure how he was going to go about that, but he would, somehow. Somehow, he would ‘mollify’ her. Yes, that was a good word to describe it.


Hermione was leaning against one of the large white pillars when Draco walked out the front door. Her legs were trembling and she looked quickly over her shoulder at him as he approached. She had to tell him that she knew that he knew.


She faced him, held up a hand to halt him and said, “Draco, don’t say a word to me.” Then she lowered her hand slowly. “I will have my say today, and if you want to run away again, then you can. It doesn’t matter now anyway. I already know that you know.”


“What do you know that I know?” he asked lightly, his eyes dancing, though his mouth was cocked to the side in a firm line.


A strange sound came out of her mouth, that in no way resembled a word, and she shouted, “I saw you enter Alice’s room last night! I was there, in the corner, in the rocking chair! Draco, I know that you know she’s your daughter.”


“You were? Do I? Is she? You do?” He walked around her as these short questions popped out of his mouth. She turned to continue to face him. “Don’t be foolish, Granger. I know very little, and apparently, so do you. I thought we weren’t going to discuss all of this right now. We have a picnic to worry about, and then later, a wedding to plan.” He held his hand out past the porch, palm side up, and observed, “No rain yet, so everything’s good.”


She frowned with her whole face, grabbed his shirt, to keep him anchored in one place, and shouted, “Stop talking nonsense! You must have questions for me! You must! You must be angry! You must have all sorts of things to say to me!”


“Just because you want to get something off your chest, doesn’t mean I want to hear it right now, love,” he said, completely serious.


“We have to talk about this before we get married, Malfoy!” She pushed away from him.


He laughed softly, shaking his head. He leaned his back against another pillar, crossed his arms, and said, “No, we have to get married before we talk about it, because that’s what people usually do when they have a child together. They get married.” She made a pained face, and he held up a hand and said, “No, correction, they usually get married and then have a child, but you and I have never been traditionalists, have we?”


“Is this the part where you become cruel, and say cruel things, to punish me, without listening to my reasons first? Because frankly, I’ve had a lifetime of a cruel Draco Malfoy, and I’m not a fan of his. I’ve also made a solemn vow never to marry another man who isn’t nice to me. Nice may sound mundane, but it’s important to me.” She pushed away from the pillar and started into the house.


He pushed away from his, grabbed her arm, and said, “No, don’t leave me.”


“Then don’t be mean, and listen to me,” she pleaded.


“I wasn’t being mean, so I’m sorry it came off that way, and I can’t listen to you. Not yet and I don’t know why. Let me deal with this the best way I can. Let me deal with this in my own manner. I’ll ask questions when I have them, and when I want to know something, I’ll let you know, ‘right? This is what I need, love. I need you, I need Alice, and I need to do this my way, because otherwise, it’s too much for me. I’m used to running away when things are unpleasant. I’ve done that my whole life. I’ve avoided unpleasant things. I’m trying hard not to do that this time. I’ve never been a father before, much less a ‘Daddy’. Let me come to grips with it, please.”


He pulled her to him and bundled her into his embrace. He whispered in her ear, “Can you do that for me? Can you try? Can you promise to still marry me, make me happy, and let us be the family I want us to be, the family we were meant to be? I don’t know how it happened so fast and hard, but I love you, Granger.” His lips moved across her cheek. He kissed the corner of her mouth. “Will you still marry me?”


She didn’t know why he felt so strongly opposed to knowing the whole truth, but she would respect his strange request. She wanted to marry him. She loved him, and she probably had for a long time. She was afraid of her heart breaking again, but everyone who took a second chance at love feared that, did they not? She leaned her whole body against his, in an act of surrender, and with a hand on his cheek she said, “I’d marry you today, if you wanted me to, Malfoy.”


At the end of the porch, out of eyesight of the pair near the front door, Lucius held Alice in his arms. He pointed toward Hermione and Draco and he said, “See, little Alice, I told you that your mummy would be fine. I told you that Draco would see to it and that you needn’t worry. Now, may we go pick out that pony?”


Alice looked thoughtfully across the large porch at her mother and at Draco. She placed a hand on Lucius’ chest, over his heart, and she said, “I don’t want a pony now, Grandfather. I think I’d rather go on that picnic with Mummy and Mr. Draco.”


“Alice, will you do me a favour?” Lucius asked his granddaughter.


She smiled at him and said, “Maybe.”

He laughed and said, “Good answer. Never commit to something until you hear what it is. The favour is would you consider calling Draco ‘Father’? I think it’s important to him. I think it would make him happy, too.”


Alice looked over at Draco and Hermione again. She made a funny face in which Lucius couldn’t read. She looked back to the older man and said, “Will you come to the picnic with us?”


Lucius smiled, knowing that the little girl was avoiding the question, but he said, “A picnic? You want me to go on a picnic?” He laughed, placed the little girl on the ground and said, “I rather think not, but go to your parents right now, and tell them that you’re ready to go.”


She nodded at him, ran across the stone slabs, calling out their names as she ran. “Mummy!” Hermione lifted her head from Draco’s chest and turned to watch her little girl run toward them. When she was almost to them, she yelled out, “Daddy!” with her arms outstretched.


Draco looked quickly at Hermione, then sunk to his knees, held open his arms, and captured his little girl tightly within them. Hermione watched them, hands over her mouth, reveling in the fact that happiness was finally at reach for them all.


Upstairs, Ingrid was picking up Alice’s room when she spied a sealed letter, addressed to Alice, oddly enough. Ingrid tore open the seal and began to read it. It was from Kevin, and it was dated that morning. She frowned. All it said was, “I miss you Alice and I’ll see you soon, I promise. I heard just this morning that Mummy was getting married again. Don’t worry. It won’t change a thing. You will still always be my little girl. Don’t tell Mummy that I wrote to you again, okay? Love, your one and only Daddy.”


Ingrid felt so angry! First, Alice could barely read beyond a few words, so Kevin meant for Hermione to find this note, just as he meant for her to find the other three letters addressed to Alice that had arrived by Owl since they had arrived back in England. Luckily, Ingrid intercepted all of those so far, and Hermione hadn’t seen any of them. Ingrid didn’t know how this one got up to Alice’s bedroom. After it arrived this morning, one of the servants must have carried it up here. Ingrid had already carefully explained to Alice that Kevin wasn’t her real father, but that she wasn’t to tell anyone yet. Kevin was going to ruin everything if he continued writing her letters telling her otherwise!


She decided she would write to him and tell him to stop interfering. Tell him to stop right now! He had caused enough problems for Hermione and for Alice. She wouldn’t have him cause any more. She took the letter to her room, sat at the desk, put quill to parchment, and began the letter… “Dear Son, you must stop writing Alice…” the letter began.

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