A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 22: Why Does Everyone Hate Kevin Before They’ve Even Met him? Oh, That’s Right, Because He’s A Bastard


"Human nature is so well disposed toward those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of." – Jane Austen


Either a person is interesting and worth knowing or they’re not. There’s no middle ground. Why waste your time befriending someone who everyone else believes is a total, unmitigated, wanker. My father taught me that.” – Draco Malfoy


People shouldn’t judge people by what others have to say about them. They should always take time to formulate their own opinion. Remember, judge not, less ye be judged, and that includes you, Lucius Malfoy.” – Hermione Granger


She’s quoting the Holy Bible for goodness sakes! I always knew she was a saint, but this is ridiculous.” – Lucius Malfoy


I had no clue Lucius Malfoy even knew what the Holy Bible was.” – Hermione Granger


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After eating lunch and taking another long walk with Draco and Alice, Hermione was ready to rest. A vigorous game of hide and seek with Draco had caused Alice to fall fast asleep. Now mother and daughter hid from the bright afternoon sun under a tree on top of the hill, Alice sleeping on her side, Hermione absentmindedly stroking her hair even though she had long been asleep. Ingrid was feeling ill from the heat of the sun and from the previous climb, so Draco disapparated her back to Whitehall.


Taking one of her daughter’s long curls in her fingers, Hermione twined it around and around, careful not to wake the girl, the strand of hair gently falling back to her lap when she was done. Hermione was deep in thought. She was thinking once again of Draco. She wondered when he would want to know more of her story. She wanted to get everything out in the open before the wedding. She still had to tell Alice the truth as well, and that thought scared Hermione more than anything else did. Alice moved slightly, her ‘sticky’ hand coming to rest on Hermione’s thigh. Hermione silently laughed at the grape jam stains on her daughter’s shorts; the grass stains on her knees, and her very sticky hands, which Draco said had first endeared her to him.


Draco popped back up to the hill and approached the pair slowly, from a distance. Looking at them, he felt he was fortunate, but then another thought crossed his mind just as quickly. As fortunate as he was to have found them, they were equally fortunate to have him in their lives. He was often grim and somber, and oh so very lonely, but things must have been hard for them as well. They had been in another country for so long, without Hermione’s friends nearby, and she in what he could only assume was a hateful, loveless marriage. No wonder she was so close to her daughter. All they had was each other for so very long. Well, now they had him.


Hermione even had the audacity to tell Draco that she didn’t think she deserved happiness and that she hadn’t been happy for a long time. That was shameful. Someone as special as Hermione should have a lifetime of happiness, instead of a lifetime of sorrow. Draco knew that Hermione’s life had often held hard, cold, sad times, long before she even married, but he would make it his life mission to see that the rest of her time on earth was happier. It was the least he could do, since he had been the cause of at least some of her unhappiness as a child.


“Still sleeping?” he asked as he approached. She nodded, her fingers still threading through the little girl’s blond hair. He sat beside her and said, “I think Ingrid went right to sleep when she got back, too. This is the longest I’ve ever seen her awake.”

Hermione smiled.


“How long has Ingrid been with you and Alice?” he asked. He couldn’t stand the jam stain on the little girl’s clothing one second longer. He took his wand and removed it before Hermione had a chance to answer.


Hermione had been waiting for these types of questions. She removed Alice’s head from her lap and placed it on the blanket and motioned that Draco should follow her. They walked a short distance from the child, to a large boulder that overlooked the valley below, and sat down at the same time. Hermione sighed before she answered. Draco thought that was a sign that he wasn’t going to like the response, although he thought his question was straightforward and an easy one to answer.


“She’s been with us since the day Alice was born,” Hermione answered.


“That long?” Hermione nodded twice. Draco observed, “She loves her, aye?” This time Hermione nodded only once. Draco asked, “Excuse me for asking, since in a way it’s not my business, but how can you afford her, since you said Kevin took all your money, or have you not been able to pay her for a while?” If she hadn’t paid the nanny for a while, then Draco would offer the woman her former salary, and then perhaps suggest to her that she should retire. He would even give her a pension. Anyway, he wasn’t sure they needed a nanny. He had no plans to work for a while. He wanted to raise his child himself, and he was sure his parents wanted to spend as much time as they could with her.


Again, Hermione didn’t answer right away. She turned on the rock so that she was gazing out at the valley. She pointed and said, “Isn’t that Whitehall?”


“Yes.”


“It’s so big. I haven’t had the grand tour yet. Maybe when we get back, you can show me around the inside and the outside. It’s seems like it’s a beautiful house.”

“I think so. We can live here, if you’d like. My father still lives at the Manor, and I have a flat in London, near my mother’s house. It’s big, but not really suitable for a child,” Draco remarked. He realized a moment later that Hermione had effectively changed the subject. She was sly. That was almost Slytherin of her.


She finally spoke. “I hope to keep my house in London, if I can keep from selling it, but I’d use it for my business, I think. Yes, I’d like to live here, and Alice loves it here. She’s a child that loves to be outside.” Hermione pulled her knees up to her, and tucked her face into her knees, turning her head to the side, her long hair fanning across her legs, and hiding her from his view. He moved so that he was sitting behind her. He sensed that she was hiding something more from him, perhaps more of her earlier story, and since he had said he didn’t want to hear any more of it yet, maybe she didn’t know how to answer the Ingrid question without doing just that. He pulled her back against his chest, his legs on each side of hers. She rested her head on his shoulder, looked up at him, but then gave him perhaps the saddest smile he’d ever seen.


She began, “Ingrid loves Alice as if she’s her own granddaughter. She’s been one of the few people who’s been there for the two of us, when things weren’t very good between Kevin and me. I told you she’s been with us since Alice was born, and I mean that literally. You see, she’s Kevin’s mother.”


Draco stiffened. Hermione turned her head to look back out over the valley. He didn’t ask any questions, instead he waited for more explanations.


None came.


“How can you trust her?” Draco finally asked.


Hermione turned quickly in his arms, looked at him, and said, “Oh, I trust her implicitly, Draco. She’s known the truth about Alice, and her parentage, since the day I told Kevin, and she’s never turned her back on me.”

“She has to go,” Draco said, rather harshly. “I won’t have her here.”

Hermione scooted from in front of him to sit beside him and she said, “No, I won’t send her away. She has nowhere else to go. She’s a squib, she loves Alice, Alice loves her, and she would never, ever betray me. Trust me on this one.”


“Why should I, you’ve yet to give me a reason to trust you on anything?” Draco spat. Damn, why did he say that? That one flippant remark to her looked as if it stabbed her in her heart. She flinched, and then her face almost collapsed in anguish and pain.


“I understand your feelings,” Hermione said steadily, standing on the boulder, the wind flipping her hair around so much that she had to hold it away from her face. “You’ve been very understanding, and you have the right to have anger, but I won’t waver on this. I won’t. She stays, or we go.” Hermione stepped down off the rock, but not back toward the tree. She stepped down the cliff side, a few steps only, toward another rock, which jetted out from the face of the cliff. She sat down and turned her face away from Draco.


Draco felt extreme frustration with the whole Ingrid situation! He had so many questions, but he didn’t want to ask them, yet he was the one that opened this can of worms, and he had to close it. He looked back at Alice, determined that she was still sleeping, and quite safe, and he jumped down to the rock next to Hermione.


She jumped slightly. “Watch out, be careful,” she warned, bringing her hands up to his legs.


“Oh, I won’t fall. I used to scale these rocks. This side is easy to climb up, though granted, climbing down is somewhat harder.”


Hermione laughed and said, “Falling would be harder still.”

“I imagine it would,” he agreed. He sat next to her, his legs dangling off the rock. He took her hand. “When did you tell your stupid husband that Alice wasn’t his, I mean, he must have known, since he knew he had a vasectomy, but when did you let him know that you knew. Was it after she was born?”


She shook her head even before the words formed. “No, I told him the day I found out I was pregnant. I also told him that day that you were her real father, too.”


Draco dropped her hand. “Well now, that’s a shocker. What did he say to that?”


“He wasn’t too thrilled, to be sure,” she said with a smile. “We had a good old fight. Lots of name calling, threats to hex balls off, since I figured he didn’t need them anyway, and he threatened to do similar things to me. In the end, we decided to go on as we were. I can’t even remember why. Back then, we were still friends at least. I know, I know, it’s odd to say that we were friends, because we should have been so much more.”


“Yes, you should have been more, since you were married, yet I’m marrying you and I’m your friend,” he said, and then he leaned over and kissed her cheek.


“You used to be my enemy. Kevin and I were more like good acquaintances, then friends, in all actuality. Also, I wasn’t prepared to uproot my life. I didn’t know how I would ever tell you the truth, I didn’t know how my family and friends would take the news, and besides, I liked my life in Canada. It’s a beautiful country, I had some privacy there that I had never had here, I had my business, and so I decided to stay. After Alice was born, Kevin was very good with her. I never doubted that he cared for her. He’s not an evil person. He’s misguided, he became somewhat lazy and dependent on me, and well, I don’t know.”


“What?”


“I know I should, but I don’t really hate him. I loved him enough to marry him. I loved him enough at one time to want to have children with him. I was married to him, and he was good to Alice, and although toward the end of our marriage we fought a lot, and he ended up having financial problems, and abusing that part of our marriage, I don’t hate him.”


“I do,” Draco said, adamantly. “He got five years with my daughter that I didn’t get. I didn’t get to see her crawl, or sit up, or get her first tooth, or take her first step. What was her first word? I don’t even know that. He also got five years with you that I didn’t get. I didn’t get to see you preggers. I bet you got big and fat.”

She smiled, hit his arm, and said, “I barely gained a stone, I’ll have you know!”


“Right, right,” he laughed.


“I did,” she laughed back. “And her first word was poop.” Hermione began to laugh hard. Draco stared at her, disbelieving, and she crossed her heart with her fingers and said, “Cross my heart, it was. Her very first word was poop.”


“Sounds delightful and I missed it,” Draco said with a smile. “I can’t wait to tell my parents her first word. See, that’s the thing. I have to get to know you both, and he already does, and he doesn’t deserve it, so yeah, I hate him without knowing him, and I think you should hate him, too.”


“It’s not that simple. Things aren’t black and white. People aren’t all bad or all good. I can’t hate a person because you tell me to hate him. I may not like him, and I don’t love him anymore, but I don’t hate him, and in a way, he’s been a good father to Alice.”


That statement made Draco angry. He stood up on the small precipice and said, “Yes, well, those days are over. He’s never setting eyes on her again. I’m her father, you’re her mother, and that’s why Ingrid has to go, because she’s nothing, just like that bastard is nothing!” He turned to climb back up the rock.


“No,” Hermione said softly.


Draco turned back around, pointing his finger at her, angry. “Hermione, I hate to do this, but I will have my way with this.”


Hermione stood on the small rock as well, staggering a bit at first. Draco reached out to steady her. He kept his hand on her arm. “Draco, did you know that Alice has always had trouble sleeping? It started when she was a tiny baby. I would have to rock her in the rocking chair every single night to get her to sleep. Sometimes, even then, she wouldn’t go to sleep. And she never slept through the night. She still doesn’t. Ingrid used to be the only person, besides me, who could get her to sleep. I know one night, I had the flu, I felt horrible, and Alice was only two years old at the time. Kevin was off on one of his many trips, so Ingrid came to take care of us both that night. I crawled from my bed around two in the morning, to check on Alice, and I saw Ingrid standing by Alice’s crib, stroking her hair, and singing to her.”


“Stroking her hair was one of the ways we could get her to go back to sleep, and she loved to be sung to. Ingrid wasn’t in the best health herself, she still isn’t, and she was tired, and had been up all night, and instead of waking me to take care of my toddler, she stroked her hair, and sang to her. Draco, I can tell you a hundred stories, all the same. Ingrid loves both Alice and me, and she won’t betray us. Believe me.”


Draco would never know these things about his daughter. He would never know that she was a light sleeper (like him) and that she loved to have her hair stroked, (as he did when he was a child) or that she loved to be sung to, though that one wasn’t from him. Perhaps his anger about Ingrid was the fact that she did know all of these things, and he didn’t. It didn’t matter. Ingrid was the mother of the man who had stolen Alice from him, at least in his mind, and that meant she had to go.


Draco insisted, “I don’t care what you say, or if you threaten me. Ingrid will leave here by tonight. Let’s go back down to the house, and we’ll discuss this later. I won’t fight up here. Alice might hear us, and I don’t want to fight in front of her. I fear she’s had enough of that.”


“Fine, but I won’t change my mind.” Hermione tried to hoist herself up to next rock on the cliff, but she faltered. Draco tried to assist her, but she turned and said, “I can do it on my own.”

“You probably can do everything on your own!” Draco hissed. “Too bad you couldn’t save us all some heartache and get pregnant on your own!”


Hermione turned on the small rock and faced him, mouth open. “What a hateful, hurtful thing to say! Do you regret that Alice is your daughter? Do you regret knowing it, Malfoy? Do you regret this whole marriage of convenience now, because it’s not too late! I’ll take Alice, and Ingrid, and we’ll leave tonight.”

“You and Alice aren’t going anywhere,” Draco said steadily. He closed his eyes a moment and said, “And to think, only a few moments ago, I thought that I wanted nothing more than to make you happy, and I regretted all the terrible things I had done to you during our youth, and here I am, being hateful and mean again. I’m sorry, Hermione, but to ask me to accept Kevin’s mother into my home is akin to asking me to invite the man here himself. You have to see that!”


Before she could respond, Alice shouted, “Mummy!”


“Coming Alice! I’m right here, sweetheart,” Hermione shouted back. “We’ll discuss this later, Malfoy.” She started to climb back up the rocks, toward her daughter’s voice. Draco took the lead, and held Hermione’s hand to help her climb up the stony slope. He was looking back at her, but she was looking forward, where they had left Alice. Suddenly, Hermione said, “Draco, Alice isn’t there!”


Draco rushed past Hermione, took her hand, and pulled her the rest of the way up. Under the tree was the blanket, but the only thing on it was Alice’s dragon. Alice was inexplicably gone.

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