A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 6: Smirks and Thoughts of Domestic Bliss:

"It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage." – Jane Austen

Come on people, who would refuse to marry me?” – Draco Malfoy

Why would Draco Malfoy ever ask to marry me? Of course I would say no.” – Hermione Granger.

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Hermione forgot about Draco, forgot about his kisses, and his offer of a familiar sounding wager, and she ran to the doorway that joined the two rooms. She found her daughter, standing in the doorway, her hand on the doorknob, and she was openly crying. Her nanny was standing behind her, a tender look upon her face. Hermione did not ask the little girl what the matter was, nor did she reproach her for coming into the room without knocking or without being announced. Instead, she scooped her into her arms, and sat down on the edge of the bed, rocking the girl in her arms.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Hermione asked.

Ingrid walked into the room and said, “She was jumping on the bed, even though I told her not to, and she fell off.”

“Oh, did you hurt yourself,” Hermione asked, as she began to examine her body for injuries, bruises or pain.

Draco walked closer to the bed, concerned for some odd reason. He wasn’t sure why. “She doesn’t look hurt,” he said in his infinite wisdom. He looked at Ingrid and asked, “Do you even know your job? Aren’t you required to watch the kid once in a while? Were you asleep again?”

“Sh, Draco,” Hermione commanded. “What’s wrong, Alice?”

She continued to rock her daughter on her lap, and finally Alice stopped crying. She said, “I landed on my playhouse, and it’s so broken, Mummy. It smashed to pieces. We can’t fix it. We just c-c-can’t.” She began to sob again.

Something gripped at Draco’s heart while he watched mother and child. Hermione held the blonde little girl in her lap, said soothing words, rocked her back and forth, and he was struck with the oddest thought…That’s mine. I deserve that. I will have that. It wasn’t a vague feeling, or a fleeting thought that he wanted it someday, with someone unspecific. He wanted it now, and with them.

Hermione looked up at Draco and smiled. He understood that smile perfectly, and he didn’t know how he did, but he did. He walked into the other room, walked back one moment later, and said, “Miss Alice, will you join me in your room?”

Alice’s head was hidden in her mother’s chest. She shook her head no. Hermione stood up, cradled Alice on her hip, and carried her to her bedroom. She pointed to the playhouse and said, “Look, sweetheart, it’s like new again. Mr. Draco used magic, and fixed it up just fine.”

She stopped crying, and looked toward the house. She placed her head on her mother’s shoulder, and seemed suddenly a bit bashful, shy. “What do you say to Draco, Alice?”

“Mummy said we couldn’t use magic on the house, Mr. Draco,” Alice said softly. Hermione laughed, and Draco found the corners of his mouth drawing upwards into a smile.

“I don’t have to listen to a thing she says, because she’s not my mummy,” Draco retorted, standing closer to mother and daughter. He placed one hand on Hermione’s back, and the other on Alice’s, and he found that he was rubbing both of them in tandem.

“And I meant that you should say thank you,” Hermione cooed.

Ingrid stood back, and took in the scene in front of her and she wasn’t sure she liked what she saw. Along with Harry Potter, she was one of only two people who knew who Alice’s real father was, and she thought that the fact that he was standing there, comforting both mother and child, could only mean disaster, for everyone. Hermione had been hurt terribly by her divorced, and so had Alice. She didn’t want to see them hurt again. She quickly reached between the two adults, took Alice in her arms and said, “I’ll just take her on into the bedroom. It’s time for her bath.”

They left the two adults in Hermione’s room. Hermione shut the door and turned toward Draco. “Thank you for fixing her playhouse. Little things like that are important to children, you know.”

“And your daughter is very important to you, isn’t she,” he asked.

“Of course she is,” Hermione answered.

He also thought she was extremely pretty and bright, but her light eyes and blond hair baffled him, because Hermione was a brunette and so was her ex-husband. The curls, well, he understood the curls. “She seems like a smart little thing,” he said. “I wonder where she gets that from.” He smiled. Hermione gave him her best smirk. He walked up to her and said, “If that’s a smirk, it’s seriously lacking. I should know. Everyone always comments on my smirk. It’s even been written about a nauseating number of times.” Hermione placed a hand on her hip and tried again. She gave him a smirk, a stare and even raised one eyebrow.

Draco laughed aloud. Hermione pushed on his shoulder and said, “Fine, I can’t smirk and I don’t care. Leave, Malfoy. I have to get dressed.”

“In the gown I bought for you.” It was a statement, not a question.

She bit down on one side of her bottom lip, looked at the pretty ball gown again and answered, “Yes. Isn’t that supposed to be my answer to your question tonight?”

Now Draco smirked. “Yes, it is, but not to that question. It’s an answer to a question I’ll pose later, so you remember that. I’ll be back in a half an hour. Be dressed and remember your response. Yes, Hermione. Yes. Say it again.”

“Yes, and you’re so strange,” she laughed.

“Yes…I am,” he laughed back. He walked out of the room, down the hall, to the lifts. He pushed the button to the top floor and waited. When the doors opened, Harry Potter and his wife, Ginny, the former girl Weasley, walked out. The two former adversaries stared at each other with equal reserve. Draco rolled his eyes as Harry groaned.

“Potter,” Draco managed to say with utmost disdain, as he walked past him on the elevator.

“Malfoy,” Harry spat back with the greatest of malevolence, before he walked off the elevator. He looked at his wife and asked, “Which room is Hermione’s, do you know?”

“Room 27,” Draco said. Harry turned to face him so quickly that Draco almost laughed.

“How would you know?” Harry asked. He placed his foot in the door of the lift right before it closed.

Draco wanted to tell Potter that he knew because he was announcing his engagement to the woman tonight, but then he realized he probably should tell Hermione first…oh, but to see the expression on Potter’s face, it would be pure joy, extreme bliss, unbridled happiness! Of course, there were other ways to have fun at Potter’s expense. Draco leaned against the back wall of the elevator, crossed his arms and said, “I just came from there.”

Harry walked back on the elevator, and let the doors close behind him, leaving his wife in the hallway. He used his wand to stop the lift from moving. “Why were you at Hermione’s room?”

“I wasn’t at her room, I was in her room, on her unmade bed, by the way, and I was helping her to dress,” Draco said, embellishing the truth, and loving every minute of it. Potter’s face was red. Draco said, “Your face is the exact colour of Hermione’s knickers from last night, or was that the colour of the ones she had on today? I don’t recall.”

“She just arrived today,” Harry responded, arms crossed.

“Oh, then it’s the colour of the ones she has on today,” Draco lied.

Suddenly, Harry turned around, pushed the ‘open’ button and when the doors opened, he exited the elevator. He left the lift, but turned, holding the doors open as he spoke. “You had me for a moment, Malfoy, although I should have known better. Listen, I’ll just say this once, leave her be. You can’t begin to understand the things she’s been through, alright?” He looked at his wife, who was still in the hall and said, “Did you find her room?”

Ginny looked from Draco to Harry and said, “Ah…yes, it’s room 27, just as Draco said.”

Harry quickly switched his gaze back to Malfoy before the doors shut. Draco had the largest smile on his face and he said, “That’s right, she didn’t have any knickers on when I left her room a second ago, only a towel. How careless of me to forget. Have a nice visit with her, Alice and even with that loser of a nanny, Potter.” He laughed as the doors closed completely on a very angry looking Harry Potter.

A half an hour later, Draco stood outside Hermione’s room, confident and extremely happy. Everything was going to work in his favour, of that he was certain. He already told Flint that he would make the announcement of his engagement tonight. Flint was ecstatic. He asked him whom he was marrying, but all Draco would tell him was that he was marrying someone who would surprise everyone. Draco knew that his mother and father would be there tonight, as well as his aunt Phillipa, and cousin Talbert, and they would all certainly be surprised. Oh, it was going to be a night to remember.

Draco knocked on the door to her room. Good old room 27. He grimaced when he had to knock a second and then a third time. There was no way she would stand him up! Not on the night of their engagement! He was about to bang the bloody door down when she opened the door down the hall, the one to the adjoining room. She poked her head out, but that was all.

He walked toward the door. She said, “What kind of mischief were you trying to cause earlier with Harry?”

Ah, so Potter had tattled on him. He smiled and leaned against the doorframe. “Hello to you too, love. May I see your gown?”

“You mean instead of seeing my black knickers, or was it my red ones, or perhaps it was my towel?” she said, with a vexed tone to her voice.

“Potter’s a big baby,” Draco decided and said so. “Now, stop hiding in your daughter’s room and come out here. We have a ball to go to.”

“Alice isn’t asleep yet,” she said, “and in fact, she seems a bit upset that I’m going out tonight. Can you wait a moment longer?”

He looked at his watch and said, “No. Go to your room. I’ll come in there and tell Alice goodnight and then I’ll go back to your door, knock on it like a good date would, and you’ll bloody well answer the door and then dazzle me with your beauty.”

“I will not have a man ever tell me what to do, Malfoy,” she said. Then she smiled and said, “And what if I don’t dazzle you?”

“Then I’ll turn around and walk away.” He smiled and pointed his finger toward the left. “Go to your room. Leave this door open, and I’ll give you ten seconds.” Draco literally counted to ten in his head, and then he opened the door. Hermione was gone, Ingrid was sitting in the corner of the room, knitting, and Alice was sitting up in bed, with a book on one side of her, and a green stuffed dragon on the other side.

Draco walked in and said, “Now that’s a better stuffed animal than that bear over there in the corner. What’s his name?”

“Donald,” she answered.

“What an extremely logical name for a stuffed dragon, don’t you think? Donald the Dragon.” He sat on the little girl’s bed and said, “Did you mummy look pretty tonight?”

The little girl nodded.

“Are you happy that she’s going to a fancy ball and that you get to go to bed?” Draco teased.

The little girl shook her head no.

“Why not?” he asked. “In the morning, she’ll have so many exciting stories to tell you. Won’t that be wonderful? You get to stay here, and have happy dreams, and in the morning, she’ll tell you all about how I danced every dance with her, and how we ate too much, and maybe she’ll even tell you that I kissed her.” He winked at her.

“I don’t want another daddy,” Alice said pithily. “I didn’t want another mummy either, but Daddy still married Lauren. I never see Daddy anymore.” She turned on her side, away from Draco and said, “I’m sleepy. Go away, Mr. Draco.”

Draco didn’t know what to make of this ‘new’ Alice. He thought they were becoming friends…but of course, she didn’t want another father. Hell, his parents had been divorced for ten years, and every time one of them dated, he still hated it, and he was a grown man. What must this little girl think? He leaned down, and touched her shoulder.

“I will never be your daddy, Miss Alice, but I’ll always be your friend,” he said softly. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a galleon. He knew when he was young and sad, money always made him happy. It still did. He rubbed the coin down her arm, and then placed it in her hand.

She looked at the galleon, and then she looked over her shoulder at him. “If you kiss her tonight, tell her to be sure to tell me about it,” Alice said. She clutched the galleon tightly and closed her eyes.

“Certainly,” he answered. He walked over to the adjoining door. He looked at Ingrid before he knocked and said, “Now, are you sure you’re awake tonight. Not feeling sleepy, are you? You’re not going to leave the child alone or anything, are you?”

Ingrid glared at him, huffed, and then raised her knitting needles higher.

He smiled and knocked on that door. Hermione was expecting him at the door that led to the hall, but she opened the adjoining door.

The sight before him astounded him. There was no pretense with her. She was what she was, which was all beauty, goodness and light, and he knew instantly that he didn’t deserve her, that he was the exact opposite of her but that he didn’t give a damn. He was selfish, bad, and dark, and he wanted her anyway. He realized that asking her to marry him would not be a mistake. It would be perfect, because at that moment, she seemed perfect. She even put his mystery woman to the farthest recesses of his mind for the first time in years. He was afraid if he spoke, he might incriminate himself somehow. She would find out that he wasn’t good enough for her, and turn him away. He stepped over the threshold, and closed the door once he was in her room.

He took both her hands, and looked her up and down. She smiled widely and said, “Well?”

“Remember your promise,” he said. He let her hands drop to her sides. She turned to the bed to collect her wrap and her purse.

“Yes, I mean, yes I remember,” she said with a blush. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and he couldn’t stop smiling. “However, when are you going to ask me this daunting question, in which I must say yes?”

“Very soon, love, very, very soon. Shall we?” He held out his hand to her. She placed her hand in his. He was about to drape it over his arm, when instead, he raised it to his mouth. In a gesture that was more intimate than courtly, he turned it over, holding her hand in his, palm side up, then he raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the center of her palm. She blinked several times, and then looked down at the floor.

He urged her toward the door and repeated the sentiment in his head. ‘Yes, very, very soon.’

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