A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 27: Bath Time is for Sissies:


With men, other men can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to please, every feature works.” – Jane Austen


I don’t know how to be a father, especially to a little girl. Does it make me less of a man if I admit that fact, or more of one?” – Draco Malfoy.


Alice is going to wear Malfoy down to the ground and I can’t wait to watch it.” – Hermione Granger, laughing


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That afternoon, tea went by with ease. The same could not be said for dinnertime. Alice didn’t eat well that evening. She didn’t like anything that was placed in front of her. Hermione tried to explain to the Malfoys that Alice was a fussy eater, but Lucius said she would get nothing special, and that she would eat what everyone else ate, or starve.


Alice knew from the tone of her grandfather’s voice that he was miffed with her. She was sensitive, and she hated when adults argued or were cross with her. She became quiet and sullen and she scrambled from her seat beside her grandmother and tried to crawl up on her mother’s lap.


Her grandfather told her to get back into her own chair and to finish eating, or she could eat up in the nursery with her nanny. Alice looked up at her mother for a better response. Hermione smiled, opened her arms, and said, “You may sit on my lap, Alice.”


Alice didn’t look at her grandfather for the rest of the meal. When her mummy tried to coax her to eat, she wouldn’t budge. She was stubborn, that much was apparent. Draco tried to bribe her…’eat this Alice and I’ll play a game with you before your bath’ or ‘have at least one bite of carrots and I’ll read to you after dinner’. She still wouldn’t eat.


Lucius declared that dinner was over for Alice and that she should go right to bed, without supper.


Hermione told Lucius that dinner would be over for her daughter when she said it was over.


Narcissa complained of a headache and left the table, frustrated with her ex-husband, her granddaughter, and her future daughter-in-law. Draco wished he could join his mother, but he felt he needed to stay, to act as some sort of a buffer between the three.


When pudding came, chocolate soufflé, Hermione fed Alice a spoonful. Lucius almost screamed. He pounded on the table, stood up, took Hermione’s soufflé dish from in front of her and flung it across the room. Alice turned her head to her mother’s chest, began to cry, and said, “I hate Grandfather, Mummy. He’s mean.”


Hermione stood up, with her little girl in her arms, and walked with her head high, from the room, but not before she said to Lucius, “You are mean sometimes.” So take that, Lucius Malfoy.


Draco sat there in shock.


Lucius hung his head in shame.


Many minutes later, Draco said, “Father, it was only a small bite of soufflé. Where’s the harm? She’s a little girl.”


“Oh, Son, it has nothing to do with that.” His father stood and walked over to the sideboard. He pulled open the top drawer. “This came right before dinner. Phillipa is causing all sorts of trouble again. She’s actually petitioning the Wizengamot to overturn your great-great-great grandfather’s will.”


“Okay,” Draco drawled slowly. “Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Why would she do that? It would only work in our favor, right?”


“No, Draco, it wouldn’t,” he declared. He sat down in Narcissa’s abandoned chair and explained, “I talked to my solicitors. There is a long-standing inheritance clause in the original will of the very first Malfoy heir. If she has your great-great-great grandfather’s will overturned, then the original will is the valid will. It claims that no offspring of any descendent whose marriages end in divorced will be considered legitimate, therefore able to inherit. It also means that no children of those children would be able to be considered legitimate.”


“What, but that’s crazy!” Draco shouted. He stood up. “You and Mother were married for a year before I was born! There’s no way anyone could say that I was born out of wedlock! My birth is completely legal by the laws of our Ministry, no matter what some old time will declares!”


“That’s the point, Draco, it wouldn’t be! Magical wills are ironclad in most cases! Your birth would be reverted to illegitimate, not in the eyes of our laws, but in the eyes of this will, which in this case is what counts!” his father shouted back. “If she can prove that the will of Aldophus Malfoy is null and void, then the will before his goes back into effect, and the fact that your mother and I divorced makes your birth illegal, which means you can’t inherit a thing! It means I’m the last legitimate heir of our line! It means that when I die, everything would go to Talbert, the next legitimate heir.”


“That means Alice…” Draco began, but then broke off. He couldn’t finish.


“Son, Alice would probably always be considered illegitimate by the laws of our Ministry, since her mother was married to another. Your marriage to Hermione in two weeks would never change that.”


“Why?” Draco pleaded.


“Unless we can have her first marriage annulled, which would also nullify her divorced, then she’s marrying you as a divorced woman, a divorced woman with a child from her previous marriage, no matter who the biological father might be.” Lucius stood up and began walking as he spoke.


“I’ve thought long and hard on this. We can declare that her husband lied to her about being able to have children. We know that. We have proof, correct? Or else, we can get proof. Then, we declare that you had knowledge that you both knew in your heart that you meant to conceive a child that night at the ball, whether that was your intent or not, and that your intention was always to marry your child’s mother. The Ministry would postdate the marriage certificate. It has been done in rare cases before. I think they would do it, but it would take time, son. My lawyers tell me months, maybe even a year to get the paperwork in order, to plead the case before the Wizengamot, and for a hearing, and by then, your thirtieth birthday will have come and gone.”


Draco stared at his father. “So I can’t have it both ways, is what you’re saying. I can marry Hermione, and have other children, but in the eyes of the law, Alice would never be legitimate, and could never take my name?”


“Correct,” Lucius said. He put his hand on his son’s shoulder.


Draco continued, “Or, I give up my inheritance, and try to have Hermione’s first marriage annulled, and then Alice can really be mine in name as well as in blood, but I will never inherit the Malfoy inheritance.”


“Yes.” Lucius seem absolute. “So perhaps Phillipa’s plan to go to the Wizengamot to have the will overturned doesn’t even matter to you. Perhaps you would throw away everything that will one day be yours for your daughter, anyway. On the other hand, you might see that it doesn’t matter if she shares your name, because no matter what, she’s your child, and nothing can take that away from you. It’s a fine line to walk. It’s a choice that would bring King Solomon to his knees. I’ve been worried about it all day. I’m afraid I’ve let my worries carry over to others. I’ve taken out my worries on that poor little girl.” Lucius sat back down in Narcissa’s chair and hung his head.


Draco stood and this time placed his hand on his father’s shoulder. “Does mother know about this?”


“No, and she’s planning an engagement party for you and Hermione in two days time. It’s to be a surprise. I told her to cancel, but I didn’t tell her the reason. She refuses to cancel. She says it’s too late. Should I insist that she cancel?” Lucius placed his hand over his son’s hand.


“No, not yet. Let me speak to Hermione.” Draco started out of the room.


“Son?” Lucius called out. Draco turned to his father. “Tell Alice that her grandfather is mean sometimes, but that he loves her very much, and that he’s sorry for causing her pain.”


Draco nodded and ran from the room.


He went up to the nursery. Ingrid was picking up toys, which seemed to be everywhere. “Where are Alice and Hermione?”


“Bathroom,” Ingrid said, pointing over her shoulder.


Draco walked into the bathroom off the nursery. Alice was in the tub. She had toys all around her in the water. She was playing with a plastic tugboat, and a plastic mermaid. Hermione was leaning against the wall, reading to herself. She looked up and smiled at Draco. He sat next to her and said, “Father’s sorry. He’s under a great deal of pressure. Something untold has happened.”


“What is it?” she asked.


“Step out of the room and I’ll tell you,” he said, looking at his daughter in the tub. Hermione called for Ingrid to come watch Alice.


In the bedroom, Draco explained everything to Hermione. He asked her what they should do. She told Draco that it was his decision. She said that Alice would still be his daughter, no matter what, even if she never had his name. She also told him if he wanted her to have his name, then they didn’t need the Malfoy money. “I’ll make more money. I’ll go back to work. You work, don’t you?” she asked. Then she gasped and said, “My heavens, I don’t even know what you do for living, and I’m marrying you in two weeks!”


Draco laughed and said, “I really don’t do a hell of a lot. I work with Flint, and we work for my father’s company, but it’s a courtesy job, love. I’m a slacker. The thing is, I do have some of my own money, of course. Money I inherited from my mother’s side of the family, and I’ll get money from my parents someday. I’ll never be broke. I’ll always be rich, but I won’t have Malfoy Manor, or Whitehall.” He sighed.


Hermione leaned into him and said, “If only your parents would just get their divorce annulled, instead of mine, then it wouldn’t matter if Phillipa succeeds in having the will overturned. I’m sure that would mean that someday you would still inherit everything, no matter what. That would solve everything. That would be sweet, wouldn’t it? Have Phillipa go to all that trouble, make her think she’s winning in the end, and then spring it on her that Lucius and Narcissa are back together, so you’re legitimate after all? If it’s quicker than an annulment of their divorce, they should just get married again. Perhaps that would legitimize you.”


Draco laughed and said, “That would never happen. My mother said when she divorced him that nothing could ever convince her to get back with him, short of a miracle.”


“We’ll think of something else,” Hermione said. She kissed Draco. “I need to write to Percy Weasley. He’s an expert on Magical Law. Will you finish Alice’s bath?”


“What do I have to do?” He looked afraid.


“She needs her hair washed, and her body washed, and then you dry her and get her in her nightclothes, Malfoy. It’s not rocket science,” Hermione said, exasperated.


“What’s rocket science? You need to explain it to me, Hermione,” Draco said to Hermione’s retreating figure, as she left him outside the doorway to the nursery. “Seriously,” he said to himself, “What’s rocket science?”


Narcissa stood in the stairwell, shocked at what she had just overheard. She had a lot to consider and to think about, and then she needed to talk to Lucius.

Draco walked back to the bathroom and said, “Ingrid, will you finish Alice’s bath?” There, that wasn’t too hard.


“She wants her papa to do it,” Ingrid said, with a smile. The older lady left the bathroom. Draco looked tremendously shocked by that statement.


Draco stood in the doorway, in fact he backed up a bit. Alice looked at him and said, “Daddy, it’s time to wash my hair, but I have to warn you, I hate it when I get water in my eyes, so don’t do that, okay?”


“How do I wash your hair without getting water in your eyes?” Draco asked. He backed completely out of the bathroom. He was standing in the bedroom now, peering into the bathroom.


“Do it the way Mummy does it,” Alice decided. “That’s a good way. Ingrid does it good, too. Grandma Granger gets water in my eyes. I don’t like that, so don’t do it like her.” She held up a cup and said, “Now, Daddy.”


His heart still melted every time that little girl called him ‘Daddy’. He rolled up his sleeves and walked over to the bathtub. He knelt down and picked up the cup. He said, “Hold your head back really far and shut your eyes super tight.” Alice did as requested. Draco filled the plastic cup with warm water and then placing one hand on her forehead, (to stop the water from flowing on her face) he tipped the cup back and let the water flow down her back. He repeated the action three more times, until her hair was completely wet.


“What now?” he asked.


“You’re so silly,” was Alice’s answer.


“That doesn’t answer my question,” Draco complained. He spied the shampoo in the corner of the tub. He placed a dollop on his palm and then worked his hands together, and then placed his hands on her head. This wasn’t too hard yet. He lathered her hair, massaging the shampoo throughout her long curls. When he was done, he dipped his hands in the water.


“How do I rinse it?” he asked.


“With the cup, but remember; don’t get water or suds in my eyes. It hurts and I’ll cry, I promise you that,” Alice said.


Draco had to laugh. “Oh you promise, do you?” He picked up the cup full of water and carefully started to rinse her hair, starting with the bottom. When he got to the top, he placed his hand over her eyes again. He was going to place a shield charm in front of her eyes, but decided to forgo magic. He was a father now. He could do this without magic.


After he rinsed her hair, without one drop in her eyes, (but half the tub of water on his clothing, or so it seemed) he asked her if she was finished.


“Oh no, Daddy,” she said clearly. “You have to wash me now. I’m very dirty. Remember my sticky hands.” She held up her hands. He felt one. It felt wet and clean to him.


He lathered a washcloth with soap. He picked up a foot. She laughed and said, “You start at the top, Daddy.”


“Why?” he asked.


“Because Mummy says so,” she answered.


“Mummy isn’t the boss of me,” Draco announced.


“Aww, I’m telling her you said that,” Alice said seriously. “I bet you’ll be in trouble.”


“Tattletale,” Draco said with a smile. “We Malfoys have to stick together, Alice.”


“I’m not a Malfoy. I’m a Granger, like Mummy,” she announced, turning her stare from her father to play with a little boat and mermaid.


Draco sat back, the washcloth in his hand, and he frowned. Dammit. Why did she have to say THAT? “Do you want to be a Malfoy?” he asked her.


“Sure, if Mummy becomes one, I’ll become one, too,” she answered with a smile.


Draco had his answer to his problem with that one little answer from his daughter. He felt a weight was lifted from his shoulders. He took the cloth and began to wash her cheeks. She said, “Don’t forget my ears.”


He washed her ears, her neck, her shoulders, her belly, and her back. She laughed. He washed her arms, legs, and feet. He refused to wash some things, because after all, she was still a little girl, he was a new father, and he felt slightly uncomfortable. He rinsed her with a cup again.


He played with her boat while she played with the mermaid until the water become tepid. When her fingers were wrinkled as prunes, he lifted her from the tub. His shirt became soaked in seconds. He placed her on top of the vanity, and then dried her with a towel. Wrapping her in a dry towel, he sat her on the closed toilet seat and asked, “What do we do with your hair?” It was a daunting project, to be sure. Her hair looked like a rat’s nest. It could rival her mother’s hair any day.


“Comb it, but don’t make me cry. It will hurt,” Alice explained.


“Damn, there are so many rules and so many things might make you cry,” Draco said seriously. He picked up a wide-tooth comb and began to comb through her tangles. She cried out twice. He stopped and asked, “Would you like a short hair cut, like mine?”


“NO!” Alice shouted, appalled.


He picked up his daughter, towel and all, comb in hand, and went to find a woman, preferably Hermione. He spied Alice’s dragon pajamas on the bed. He picked them up before he left the room. He climbed down the stairs, went to Hermione’s room, but she wasn’t there. Next, the duo went to his mother’s room, but she was missing, too.


In an act of desperation, Draco went to his father’s room. The older Malfoy was sitting in front of his fireplace. The room was dark except for a diffused fire in the grate, and he had a glass of scotch in his hand. Draco knocked on the door.


“Father, may Alice and I join you?” Draco asked from the doorway.


Lucius placed his drink on a spindled leg table beside the wingback chair, sat upright, and motioned with his hand for them to come inside the room. Alice hid her head in Draco’s shoulder. It seemed she had not yet forgiven her grandfather’s gruffness at dinnertime.


“Father, I need help. I can’t comb Alice’s hair without her crying, and she doesn’t want me to cut it off.”

Lucius thought his son was joking, but when he saw that Draco wasn’t laughing, he said, “Of course you won’t cut off her beautiful long, curly hair!”


That proclamation made Alice lift her head to look at her grandfather. Draco sat down on the floor, by his father’s feet, in front of the fireplace, and dressed the little girl in her pajamas, explaining to his father that he bathed her by himself, but that he couldn’t find a female to comb her hair.


“Draco, sometimes I wonder about you,” Lucius huffed. “How do you manage even to take care of yourself? Leave her here with me. Go find her mother.”


Draco asked, “Alice, will you be okay here with Grandfather until I come back for you?”


The little girl only nodded twice. Draco started to leave when his father called out, “Leave the comb, Draco!” Draco laughed and placed the comb in his father’s hand. Lucius patted his knee and said, “Come sit on Grandfather’s knee, Little Alice.”

Alice didn’t move for a moment. Instead, she said, “Do you like me, Grandfather?”


“Oh, my sweet little Alice, I love you,” he answered. “Believe me, I don’t say that to very many people. I’m sorry I was, as you say, mean to you at dinnertime. Do you forgive me?”


She nodded and climbed up on his lap. With the help of a spell, Lucius combed through the child’s hair until it was tangle-free, and almost dry. He wondered why his son didn’t think of that.


He placed the comb by his abandoned drink and pulled Alice back into his lap, with her legs over the arm of the chair. He placed both arms around her and his chin on her head.


“Tell me a story,” she asked.


“Grandfather is terrible at telling stories, Alice,” he said with a sigh. “Especially stories suited for the ears of little girls. I’m afraid I don’t know any stories with happy endings.”

“Shall I tell you one?” she asked.


“I’d love that,” he said, looking into the flames of the dying fire. He held her tighter, and she began her story. He closed his eyes and listened. He really, really listened, and he really, really was very sorry. No matter what, she was his granddaughter. Nothing would change that.

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