A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 25: Fear is a Four-Letter Word


Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived; which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments.” – Jane Austen


Men and women are naturally different. Men are stronger physically, have a mind for details, are less likely to give into emotions, are less likely to gossip, are more likely to use fisticuffs to solve their problems and overall are less afraid of the unknown, and they think that they are better than women. However, women don’t think they’re better than men are. They know that they are, but they let men continue to think otherwise, and that it where the true differences lie.” – Draco Malfoy


I have nothing to prove. As a woman, I am no better and no worse than any man is, and no man is better or worse than I am. We are equal in our shortcomings as well as in our strengths.” – Hermione Granger


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The next two days went by in a whirl, and Hermione barely knew what to think. The day Harry left for London with Kevin, Draco convinced her to follow, to file charges against him. She left a few hours after Harry left, leaving Alice with Draco at Whitehall. Before she left, Draco also reminded Hermione that she needed to tell her parents that she was getting married in two weeks. Therefore, while in London, she spent the night with her mother and stepfather, and then the next day visited her father and his fiancée. She told them everything. They were less than thrilled. After two long days in London, she was ready to come back to Whitehall.


Hermione found that her absence was not greatly noticed by most of the occupants at the big house on the cliffs. Narcissa and the wedding planner, whose name was Bentley, had made a nice headway in planning her wedding, all without her. They had planned the food, sent out the invitations, picked out the flowers, the music, and had even gotten her dress. It seemed the only thing that was required of her was to show up the day of the ceremony.


She found that Alice had spent most of the two days with Lucius while she was gone, and she didn’t seem to miss her at all. She barely said hello to her when she returned.


When Hermione tried to find Draco, she couldn’t locate him anywhere. She was beginning to wonder if this was a precursor of what her life would be like after her marriage to a Malfoy. She was afraid that she would be as lonely and alone in her marriage to Draco as she had been married to Kevin. Was she even needed in this marriage of convenience, or was she merely the most convenient person for him to marry, so that was why she was needed?


She decided to ponder these things quietly by herself out on the cliffs, even though she was hungry and tired from her trip, and even though she wanted desperately to spend time with both Alice and Draco, although apparently neither cared to spend time with her. She changed into jeans and a blouse, and went off to explore the cliffs by herself. She needed time to think. She needed to be alone. She needed time to examine her fears.


Thus, she found herself meandering near the cliffs, an hour after she had returned from London, around two in the afternoon, and as she searched the horizon for things unknown, trying to figure out her place in this fable, she heard someone call her name in the distance.


“HERMIONE?” Draco called her name from across a field of wildflowers. She turned her head and waved her hand. He motioned for her to remain where she was. He jogged to her in no time. He leaned forward, grabbed her hand, and pulled her close. He kissed her cheek and said, “Why didn’t you find me when you returned?”


“I tried to find you, but couldn’t. I only got back two hours ago. I wanted to spend some time with Alice, but your father was taking her into the village, and I since I couldn’t find you, I didn’t want to stay at the house. Your mother wanted to tell me about our wedding,” she said wistfully, “and I wasn’t inclined to listen.” She turned away from him, while still in his arms. He placed his arms around her middle and she leaned against him.


“How did things go in London?”


She merely shrugged before answering. “Harry said that things should be fine with Kevin. Things didn’t go as well with my parents, but I’ll tell you about that later. I can tell things went well here. I feel as if everything moved along fine without me, or maybe in spite of me.”


He didn’t know what that meant, and even without looking at her face, he could tell something was wrong from the timbre of her voice.


She moved away from him and continued to walk down a rocky slope, toward the sea. He followed. He remained behind her, still unable to see her face, still unable to gauge her expression. “Tell me now about what happened when you told your parents about the wedding.”


She stopped, turned to look at him, and said, “My mother said I was going from one mistake to another, from one bad marriage to another bad marriage, from one lie to another, bigger lie. She said that everything I had ever told her about Draco Malfoy made her wonder why I would want to marry the man.”


Draco folded his arms in front of him and frowned. “Your mum sounds awful.”


Hermione grinned but nodded in agreement. She turned to take several more steps. She stopped at an overlook, a large rock that leaned away from the path, over the cliff. She sat on the side near the path, her feet firmly on the solid ground. He stood over her.


“My mum just has reservations, and I can’t blame her. She knows Kevin and I had some bad times, and that we had a lot of deceit in our marriage. I also told everyone at home about Alice’s true parentage. They were shocked, to say the least.” She started to pick at a scab on her knee. He pulled her hand away from her knee and held her hand in his.


“What did your father have to say?”


Hermione answered, “He said that he was shocked that I would have cheated on my husband, especially with a man who caused me so much trouble and pain when I was young. This coming from a man who was never faithful to my mother. He said that just because you were Alice’s father was no reason we had to marry.”


“Then I take it you didn’t tell them about my need to marry before I reach the age of thirty,” he said, resigned.


“Heavens, no!” She threw back her head and laughed. “They would think I was prostituting myself if I told them that juicy little tidbit.” She was suddenly solemn and somber. “Everyone is going to think that. Everyone who knows that I’ve come back to England without two knuts to rub together will think that I’m only marrying you for your money.”

“Yes, when we both know you’re only doing it for my sexy body,” he said with a sly smile.


She pulled her hand from his. “This is serious! Ron’s family asked me to dinner while I was there, but I told them I had to get back, but I did tell Harry to tell them all about the wedding. Seriously, what will everyone really think? Most of Ron’s family has never liked you much anyway.” She stood up.


“I don’t care, so why do you care?” he asked.


“Oh, Draco,” she answered. She started walking back down the path.


“That’s not an answer,” he complained. He climbed on the large rock where she had just sat, to the edge, and grabbed a hold of a small tree branch that loomed over the boulder. He called out to her, “Potter said that Alice was just like you, fearless, but he was wrong!”


Hermione stopped in her tracks on the path, and turned to face him. “What do mean by that statement?”


“You’re scared of what other people will think about you, not what they’ll think about me!” he accused. “Fearless…ha! Fearful is more accurate. The woman who helped Potter defeat the Dark Lord, from a little girl on, is scared of what a few people will think of her! She’s afraid of being called a few silly names!”

“Okay, right you are, Malfoy. I don’t want people to think badly of me, and that’s wrong how?” she asked, walking back toward him. “Please come down from there.”


“Why should I?” he asked, leaning over the drop-off side. She backed closer to the cliff side, to the edge of the path.


“Because you might fall,” she said soberly.


“I told you the other day that I’m not scared of heights, and that I used to scale these rocks, and the ones on the hill where we picnicked, all the time. Don’t push your fear of heights off on me, Granger. It sounds like you’re trying to push all of your other fears off on me as well! This isn’t about me, it’s about you and your fears!”


“I’m not afraid,” she said, less than convincingly.


He smiled, wobbled on one foot and said, “So you don’t care if I do this?”


“STOP IT AND GET DOWN!” she screeched.


“No,” he shrieked, “Because I’m not afraid of everything like you are!”


She moaned and said, “Fine, I’m sorry if care if people think badly that I cheated with you while married to another man! I’m sorry if I don’t want people to think of my child as a bastard. I’m sorry if I don’t want people to assume I’m marrying you for money, which by the way, was my motivating factor in the beginning! I’m sorry if I don’t want people to talk about me, or call me names! I’m sorry if I don’t want people to think that I’m a harlot, a manipulator, and a prostitute!”


She threw her hands in the air and said, “That’s what most people will think, and I can’t help it if I don’t want people to think badly of me, Draco! You’re used to people not liking you and thinking badly of you, so perhaps to you it’s not a big deal, but I’m not used to it, and it scares me.”

“HEY!” he shouted. “I’m not exactly pleased when people hate me and think badly of me, and I’m not exactly ‘used to it’, in your words!”

She started to laugh. He didn’t find that statement funny. Okay, he did, in the ‘irony’ sort of way. “Granger, be brave, throw all caution to the wind, just like you did the night Alice was conceived. Don’t give a shite what other’s think of you. Do what you think is best for you and for your child. Do you want to marry me? Do you want us to be a family? Those are the only things you have to consider. Everything else is rubbish. Stop being afraid. Conquer your fear!”


“But I’m scared to conquer my fear,” she said in hushed tones. Now he laughed at the lunacy of that statement, although once again, he didn’t find that declaration remotely funny.


She continued, “And you’re right, I’m not usually scared of things, but lately I feel afraid of everything, and I don’t like it. I do want to conquer these fears, but how? It feels like I’ve been afraid for so long. I was afraid of not providing for Alice, I was afraid of divorcing Kevin, I was afraid of losing everything, I was afraid of coming back here and of someday having to confront you, and I did all of those things, so why can’t I do this? Why can’t I throw all caution to the wind and marry you without a care?”


Before he could comment, she added, “None of those things were half as scary as the two hours Alice was gone with Kevin, which was fear personified! I’ve been a jumbled mass of fear for years!”


“Okay, let’s examine these fears you’ve just mentioned,” he began. He remained on the high rock, and he stepped closer to the side facing the valley below. He looked down, his back to her. She reached for him, but stayed on the path. With his back to her, gazing down to the valley below, he said, “The way I see it, and as you just stated, you’ve already conquered some of your fears.” He looked over his shoulder at her and added, “You left the wanker, you left Canada, you told me about Alice, you told Alice about me, and you told your family about both of us. What else is there? Marriage is the easy part!” He spun around fast, and for a moment, he acted as if he was about to fall. He looked shocked, his arms spun in the air, and he gasped.


She rushed up on the large rock and grabbed his hands. He smiled and said, “Were you afraid I was going to fall?”


She hit his chest and said, “And to what purpose did that prove? You, Draco, are an arse. Get me down from here.” She took his hand and turned toward the path.


He held her hand tightly and explained, “The only way you’re getting off this rock, Granger, is by the hard way.”


“What, by pushing you, you grabbing me, and we both plummeting to our deaths?” she asked, grabbing his other hand, and peering over the edge.


“No, that would not be pleasant. It’s by conquering one fear you have control over, and that my dear, is your fear of heights. Conquer it, and the rest is easy. We’re climbing down, love, to the very bottom. Come on, it’s easy.” He removed his hands from her iron grips and actually jumped down to the next lower rock. She gasped, closed her eyes, and clenched her fists tightly together.


Hermione had been afraid of heights as long as she could remember. She never climbed trees, she wasn’t a very good flyer, and she hated to be on top of the towers when they were at school. Things weren’t as bad when she was on solid ground, such as the other day, on top of the mountain, peering down at the valley. She didn’t mind that. She couldn’t really FALL into an unknown abyss on solid land. This was quite different.


This was terrifying, but she began to follow him down, without another word passing between them. Draco led the way and she followed. He reached for her hand when necessary, and told her where to place her foot occasionally, but on the most part, they didn’t speak. She couldn’t speak if she had wanted to, because she was too terrified. She held onto a small branch, maneuvered over a slippery slope to another rock, but then she made the mistake of looking down to the great vastness below.


Hermione Granger realized was terrified. She was aware that it was a smart thing to be afraid at such a thing. This was sheer madness. Draco was barking mad to insist that she do this, yet she did it anyway. She didn’t do it for him. She did it for herself, and to prove a point.


No…the point wasn’t that she was fearless. No one was truly fearless. If someone claimed to be fearless, they were lying. Hermione had another point to prove. She had to prove that she was in charge of her own destiny. That she made her own decisions and that she could do anything that she set her mind to do, even if that thing was a crazy thing like a marriage of convenience to Draco Malfoy.


He was several meters below her. She looked down at him. The breeze ruffled his blonde hair, and he looked so happy and carefree. He smiled up at her. She tried to concentrate of that smile, instead of the terror welling inside of her.


She perched on a particularly narrow span of dirt between two rocks. She couldn’t decide where to place her foot, and where to place her hand. She turned so that her back was toward the open air, looked down once again, and found that Draco was almost halfway to the bottom. She hated that he was better at this than she was. She stood as close to the rocks as she could and found that she could no longer move. She was virtually a statue.


And that was when she began to think. WHY WAS SHE MARRYING DRACO? They hadn’t yet shared many close moments, she and Draco. They had only made love once (twice if you counted five years ago), they had kissed only a hand full of times, they hadn’t spent many moments alone, or had any real meaningful conversations, yet she thought she loved him, and in two weeks she was going to marry him.


If she didn’t fall to her death first.


She just realized she had more important things to be afraid of than heights. When she hadn’t moved for a very long time, Draco looked up at her. He called up, “Love, are you alright?”

“Mmmmm,” she hummed a low sounding, deep-throated moan, finding that coherent words could no longer form in her throat. She clung to a vine and closed her eyes.


“Granger?” he inquired.


“Ah…ah, help,” she said with a small voice.


He started to climb back up toward her. “If you want, Granger, I’ll come up and get you. Just stay there.”


“Seriously, Malfoy, where do you think I’m going?” she said with sarcasm.


“Well you do have your wand,” he laughed, climbing closer.


“Yes, and to get my wand I would have to let go of the only thing keeping me from falling to my untimely death,” she explained, one hand holding the small vine, the other clutching the side of a rock.


“Oh, I see,” he said, amused. He was almost to her now.


For the briefest of moments, she thought she might die. They were too high, and the rocks below them too pointy, and when she looked over her shoulder to see if he was almost to her, she imagined falling and screaming and…”HURRY, MALFOY!” she shouted. She closed her eyes again. She couldn’t even watch him.


He climbed up only to stop right below her. “Hermione, open your eyes, and step down here to me. This rock I’m on is right below you and is big enough to hold us both.”

“Just come up and get me, please!” she begged.


“I don’t think so. I think this is something you have to do,” he lectured.


“Are you bloody kidding me? Am I getting a lesson on values and morals and life lessons and doing things for myself from Draco Malfoy of all people!” she cried out.


“My feelings are close to being hurt, love,” he said, though they weren’t really. He stopped below her, pulled out his wand, just in case, and said, “Now, there’s a nice size rock to the right of your right foot. Place your foot there, hold onto that branch that’s coming out between the rocks, and step down. After that, you can practically jump down here with me.”


“JUMP? Please, come get me,” she pleaded, real tears forming in her eyes.


He almost did. He wanted to, but he wanted her to do this on her own even more, and he wasn’t sure why. He reached up, his hand just touching the bottom of her leg. “I’m really close, Hermione. I can reach out and touch you. Just step to the right, a bit lower, and then jump down here with me. We’ll go down to the bottom together, and once there, we’ll make love by the sea. Have you ever made love on the sand before? You get sand in every place imaginable, but it’s ever so much fun.”

“I don’t want to make love anywhere,” she almost cried. “I want to hex your balls off, just like Narcissa did to Kevin.”


“Ouch, is what I say to that,” he laughed. “We won’t have a very happy honeymoon if you do, and I can guarantee my promise of more children will go unfulfilled.” He kept the contact of his hand on her ankle. “Please come to me, Hermione. I need you. See, that’s my fear. My fear is that you won’t really come to me, and that I need you more than you need me. My fear is that you won’t want to marry me, and not because I won’t get my bloody fortune, but because I won’t get you and Alice. I fear that you don’t really need me, but that you might not really want me.”


He laid his fears out in the open to her. They were real, raw, and blowing in the breeze. “More than anything, I fear I want and need you more than you want and need me.”


“All I need is for you to get me down from here,” she cried, having ignored his heartfelt words. Real tears fell down her cheeks. She opened her eyes and turned her face slightly to peer down at him. His heart almost broke seeing her sad again. Was it his destiny to continually break her heart and make her sad? It seemed he had been doing that his whole life, and he was tired of it.


He was resigned to the fact that he needed to apparated to the narrow space beside her, grab her into his arms, and take her back up to the top, or perhaps down to the bottom. He didn’t have it in him to continue to torment her any longer. She was his responsibility now, although she would never see it that way, but he did, and he had to love, honour, and protect her, not mock, torment and tease her into doing something she feared.


The wind was beginning to blow hard, but it was no hindrance to their task. Although these particular cliffs were steep, they were not dangerous, and there were plenty of places to place hands and feet for climbing, but if she was too paralyzed by her fear to move, who was he to question her?


She stayed where she was, quietly paralyzed, perhaps pondering her fate and he remained an anchor for her, his hand on her leg, unyielding, unmoving, a constant source of comfort, at least that was his wish. He began to coo soft words to her, “I’ll right here,” and “I’m right below you now.” When he climbed to the rock to her right, the one he wanted her to step onto, he said, “I’m almost there, now, love. Don’t be afraid. I’ll never let anything hurt you again.” He wanted to keep that promise more than he had ever wanted anything.


She glanced at him again. He always seemed so sure of himself, so fearless. Nonetheless, he had fears too, fears he had just placed at her feet, and she had yet to say a single word to comfort him. Even so, now that they both knew each other’s fears, they could start fresh, start new, start over. She said, “I’m sorry you’re afraid of things too, Draco.”


She turned on her rock slightly, determined to climb down on the rock with him, when a loose pebble slipped from her foothold, the pinging of it hitting the rocks the only sound audible over the sound of her broken breathing. She was clinging tightly to the small vine above her, and when the pebble broke loose near her foot, she looked down, her foothold still secure, but her grasp on the vine vicarious. She began to slip. The thought of her falling, and lying motionless on the ground hundreds of meters below them became a real possibility, and he became overwhelmed with an even greater fear.


Especially when she cried out, swung outward, and began to actually fall. He grabbed her hand, pulled her to him, and sunk to his bum on the rock below her, pulling her onto his lap.


He held her tighter than he had ever held anyone before. Their arms were unyielding around each other, their lips and mouths kissing the other with urgency, need, and yes, with fear of what they had almost lost.


“Oh, love, I’m so sorry, it’s all my fault!” he finally said.


She was splayed across his lap, looking up at his face, and she commented, “Yes, it really was your fault.”


He laughed. “I love you for some insane reason. Tell me why that is?”


“If I knew, I would tell you, but since I can’t even understand why I love you, I can’t be expected to tell you why you love me,” she said, less than eloquently.


He cupped her face with his hands. He looked down at her. Timeless moments sped by where they merely stared at each other. His thumbs traced her cheeks. His right thumb went over her lips, the top one, then the lower one, lightly, back and forth, until his thumb was moist from the wet flesh of her mouth. He replaced his thumb with his lips, and kissed her softly, with longing and want, but no fear, and only briefly.


He withdrew his mouth from hers and said, “Well, have you conquered your fear?”


“Not in the slightest. I may be more afraid of heights than ever, but I’m no longer afraid of having a bad marriage like I had with Kevin, and I think that was my original fear all along, because Kevin would never have come back up to get me, and you did.”


“I’m your knight in shining armor.” He smiled.


“No, you’re my git who’s full of shite,” she laughed back. “Seriously, how are we going to get down from here?”


“I don’t know, but we better apparate or something, because I want to make love to you right now, and I’m not above doing it on a rock. We’ve done it on a pool table and in a boat house, so really, doing it on a rock is a step up for us, and won’t be that hard.”


She pushed against his chest, pulled her wand out of her pocket, and with his hand in hers, she disapparated them both down to the ground, to the shore, near the sea. He was startled, and he staggered a bit. She said, “I’d rather do it on the sand.”

“That would be a bit more pleasant, even if we do get sand in our bits,” he agreed.

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