A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 5: Dresses and Proposals of Sort:


"Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable." – Jane Austen


I love to surprise people, but I hate surprises.” – Draco Malfoy


Some people take pleasure in surprising others, but I would rather get a surprise than give one.” – Hermione Granger


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Hermione sat on the floor of her daughter’s room, and along with Alice, was decorating a large cardboard box, which soon would be a playhouse for the little girl. The box was as big as the little girl was, and it came just that morning, by Owl, to the resort, with a present in it for her birthday from Hermione’s ex-husband. It came a day late, since her birthday was yesterday. It was apparent that he didn’t pick out the present himself. His new wife must have done it. Hermione knew that to be true, because the box contained a large pink teddy bear, with a polka dot bow on its neck.


Alice hated pink, she didn’t like stuffed bears (she preferred stuffed dragons, turtles, snakes and frogs) and she hated polka dots. Well, actually, Alice had no feeling for polka dots one way or the other, but Hermione hated polka dots. Inside the box was a card that had a clown on it, (which Hermione also hated) and it said, ‘Happy Birthday to a special little girl’, and it was signed, ‘from Your Father, Kevin and Stepmother, Lauren’. Not Daddy & Lauren, but ‘your father, Kevin and stepmother, Lauren’ for goodness sakes! That was how Hermione knew he hadn’t signed the card. Kevin might be a lazy, immature, insensitive lout, but he was always very kind to Alice, even though he had known from day one that she was not his biological daughter. Hermione actually never questioned the fact that he cared for the little girl. She merely questioned everything else about him.


The ugly pink bear had long been abandoned in the corner of the room, and the box now demanded Alice’s full attention. She wanted to make it into a playhouse of sorts, so Hermione and Alice were drawing windows on it, cutting out doors, and they even made a chimney on the side. Hermione had even hung tissue paper curtains on the windows.


She was inside the box, fixing the ‘fireplace’ when someone knocked on the door. She froze. What if it was Draco? What if he really did buy her a dress? She thought he was joking about that, that it was an idle threat, but what if he wasn’t? What would she do? What would she say? What if she couldn’t get out of this box before Alice opened the door?


Alice looked in the ‘window’ of the cardboard playhouse and said, “The door is knocking.”


“Really? Is the door knocking, or is someone knocking on the door?” Hermione asked her daughter, amused.


“I’m not sure, but I’ll go see,” Alice said. Hermione said no, even as the little girl padded over to the door, and opened it. Hermione peeked out the ‘window’ to see, too.


Draco let out a long-winded sigh when he saw Alice. “Why are you answering the door this time? Is your nanny dead?”


“I don’t think so,” Alice said. Hermione was attempting to lift the cardboard house off so that she could let Draco know that she was there.


“Well, I can’t think of any other reason why you’re answering the door, Miss Alice. Is there no adult in your life to teach you these things? Where’s your mother?”


Alice looked back at Hermione, as she scrambled out from under the large box. “She’s getting out of a box.”


Draco looked confused, and he pushed the door open wider. Hermione was coming to a stand as he did. “Do you let your daughter open doors normally, Hermione?”


“Not normally,” she said with disgust. She brushed off her jeans and blouse. Draco smiled at her, because it was apparent was she ‘ready’ for the banquet and ball, but not dressed, because her hair was curled, and slightly up, she had make-up on, and she smelled like a slice of heaven. He held the dress bag behind his back.


“Is that what you decided to wear tonight, instead of that ugly, old dress?” Draco asked with a smirk.


“No, but it’s still too early to dress, and I’m helping Alice make this box into a playhouse.” Hermione reached up to her hair. She patted it into place.


Draco placed the black dress bag on a hook on the door between the two rooms. “Good, because I brought you a dress, as promised.”


“You didn’t need to do that,” she pouted.


Hermione reached over toward the bag and started to pull on the zipper. Draco smacked at her hand, quite hard, and said, “No peeking yet, love.” Hermione winced in pain, holding her hurt hand in the other hand. He looked at Alice and said, “Mummy is a bad, bad girl.” Then he looked down at the box. “It’s an ugly house.”


Hermione smacked him upside the head, partly because she was afraid that he would hurt Alice’s feelings, and partly in retaliation for him hitting her hand. He turned to look at her quickly, his hand on his head, and he said, “Watch the S & M in front of the child, Granger, and it is ugly.”


“Why do you think it’s ugly?” Alice asked, obviously not offended. She pointed to the bear in the corner and said, “I think that bear is ugly. I hate pink.”


“Gads, that bear is horrific looking. Where did you get such a terrible looking bear?” Draco asked her.


Alice cocked her head to the side. “It came from my father, Kevin, and my new stepmother, Lauren, for my birthday, but I like the box better, and my mummy is helping me make it into a house…and Mummy, didn’t Mr. Draco tell you not to look in that yet?” Alice asked.


Hermione turned around quickly, her hand on the zipper of the dress bag, to face Draco and Alice, who were both now staring at her. Draco laughed and said, “You were ratted out by your own kid!” She dropped her hand. Draco turned back to the cardboard house and said, “You know, Miss Alice, with a bit magic, we could make this house the best playhouse in all of England.”


“Mummy said we should use our imagination, instead of magic. She said that we shouldn’t become too reliant on magic,” Alice said plainly.


“Can you spell reliant?” Draco asked.


“No, I’m only four,” Alice said, slowly, as if Draco was stupid.


“If you can’t spell a big word, you shouldn’t use it. Anyway, your mummy sounds like an old bore,” Draco expounded.


“Hey,” Hermione said, “her mummy is standing right here, Malfoy!” Ingrid came into the room at that moment, with a large tray in her hand. Hermione smiled and said, “Look, sweetheart, Ingrid has your bedtime snack! Now you can eat, and then Ingrid will give you a bath, and get you ready for bed, and right before Mummy goes to the ball, I’ll come in and tuck you in, okay?” She bent down and kissed her daughter’s head.


“Can Mr. Draco tuck me in, too?” she asked, taking a biscuit from the tray.


Hermione looked over at Draco. She thought her heart would burst in two. Seeing her daughter, with her ‘real father’ brought Hermione ‘real’ pain. She felt close to crying. Draco bent down again, and said, “I’ll come back and see you right after I pick Mummy up for the ball, okay? I’m Mummy’s date tonight, did you know?”


“No, I didn’t, Mr. Draco,” Alice said. She climbed up on the bed and continued to eat her biscuit.


Draco turned his head to look at Hermione. “Did you know that I was your date tonight, Hermione?” He stood up to face her.


Hermione could only shake her head no. If she spoke, she really might bawl. She reached for the dress bag, opened the door between the rooms, and tried to slip in without Draco slipping in as well. She didn’t succeed. He followed right behind her.


She kept her back to him, and said, “Am I allowed to look at it now?”


“What’s wrong, love?” he asked.


“Stop calling me that,” she said softly.


“Are you upset because Alice’s father sent her birthday present a day late?” he asked.


She turned, in shock, hand over heart, and said, “How did you know when her birthday was?” He couldn’t know about Alice, could he?


“Because she told me earlier that her birthday was yesterday,” he reasoned. She felt instant relief, but then she felt just as distressed as before. Draco should know when her birthday was. He was wonderful with Alice. He had every right to know when her birthday was, yet he didn’t know anything about her. Hermione turned back around and let out a long, ragged breath.


Draco looked with concern as Hermione fingered the zipper on the dress bag. He said, “What’s really wrong, Granger? You know, it’s just a bloody dress, and it’s just a stupid date. It’s an effing ball, for Merlin’s sake, I need a date, and you need a date, so we should just go together. You aren’t upset because I didn’t formally ask you, are you? I didn’t think you would care about things like that.”


“Oh, I don’t care about that, and I don’t mind having a date for tonight,” she remarked, her back still toward him. He took a step closer. She continued talking, except that the volume of her voice dropped considerably, and he had to strain to listen to her. “I guess I’m just melancholy, thinking about Kevin and his new wife, and all that they have, and all that I left behind, and even more that I’ll have to give up.” She didn’t want to elaborate, but she suddenly found that she couldn’t stop talking.


She turned to face him, and then sat on the edge of the bed and said, “I left my home, my business, and everything I held dear in Canada to come back to England, and that’s fine. I would gladly give it all up again, because all I need is Alice, but, well, you see, I thought that I at least had a house to come back to here. We had a large, Queen Anne style home here in England too, did you know?”


How would he have known? However, he said, “No, I didn’t.”


She nodded. She looked down and said, “Yes, along with the bear to Alice was a letter to me reminding me that I needed to sell that house immediately, and split the proceeds with him, or else…” She let her sentence drop. The letter told her to sell the house, send him ‘all’ of the money, or Kevin would come to England and petition for joint custody of ‘their’ daughter. Hermione realized that just because he gave up custody in Canada didn’t mean that he wouldn’t seek custody in England, or at least make things very difficult for her.


Draco sat beside her and he had an overwhelming need to hold her hand, but he didn’t. That would have been a crazy thing to do. Instead, he said, “Why do you have to send him more money? Doesn’t that lazy bastard have a job?”


Hermione shrugged and then said, “Yes, he works, but I guess I’ll still have to sell it. I hate to do that, because it was my house before we married, and I was hoping to use that house as my place of business.” She stood back up, just as he finally decided to reach for her hand. He reached for thin air instead.


She turned around and said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. You don’t care. Why would you?” He was wondering the same thing – why would he care, yet he found that he did, and he wasn’t sure he liked caring this way.


She went over to the dress bag. Without looking at him she said, “It really is incredibly sweet of you to buy me this dress, but I don’t see how I can accept it.”


“It’s a dress, only a dress, and it’s not that important, in the scheme of things. Remember, the only thing that’s important is the word ‘yes’. All you have to say tonight, to everything and anything I ask is ‘yes’,” he reminded her. He stepped behind her and he touched the nape of her neck with one finger, softly. Her hair was up, and her neck was long, lean, and begging to be touched. To be kissed. He leaned forward, without touching her elsewhere, and with his slightly opened mouth, he pressed a warm and wet kiss on her sensitive skin.


She froze at the feeling, and then she shivered. He jerked away from her as she swished around to stare at him. He started to lean forward, to kiss her again, but before he could oblige, she reached around, and pulled down the zipper on the dress bag. Fine, if she was going to ignore the kiss, so was he, for now, anyway. Besides, he wanted to see her reaction to the dress.


Hermione reached inside the dress bag and pulled out a sparkling ball gown, a cross between silver and lilac, with crystals and jewels on the bodice, a high neckline, sleeveless, and netting over the full skirt. It was beautiful. She hung it back on the hook, wrapped her arms around her chest, and leaned against the door of the wardrobe.


“Oh, Draco, I can’t wear this, it’s too much, too pretty. How can I accept this, and from you, of all people?” She envied people like Draco Malfoy. He was so confident, and self-assured. He was so certain everything would go his way. The last time she felt like that was the night she conceived her daughter. Maybe it was time for her to feel that way again.


She felt his arm snake around her waist. She looked down. Why did this feel right, when it should feel wrong? It should feel rushed, or contrived, or forced, but it felt so right. It felt extremely innocent, innocuously so, but it also felt more intimate than anything she had felt in years.


His voice was right beside her ear, his breath on her neck, on her sensitive skin, causing it to pimple and her heart to flutter. “Have I ever told you, Hermione, that I had a massive crush on you in school? I know I acted like a bastard to you most of the time, but that was a cover. I secretly was besotted with you.”


She giggled. She looked over her shoulder at him. “Besotted? Can you spell that, because if you can’t spell a word, you shouldn’t use it?” she mocked him from earlier.


He turned her in his arms and said, “B, E, S,” but he got no further. He cupped her jaw with his hands, framing her face, and he leaned forward, and said, “Tell you what, love, if I can spell it, what do I get?”


She pushed against his chest. Why did this all sound so familiar, and why was everything moving so fast, and why was Alice suddenly standing in the doorway, crying?

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