A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 8: Lies are Just Truths that Haven’t yet come True:

"To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love." – Jane Austen

I think I fell in love with her the first time we danced.” – Draco Malfoy

One might say that to fall in love is akin to dancing, you start slow, build up to a crescendo, and then end in a bow.” – Hermione Granger.

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Draco knew if he announced his engagement to this woman whom he hadn’t seen in years, and had barely had any contact with when he had last seen her, that members of his family (Good old Mum and Dad) would see him as mad. He didn’t care. He knew that certain people in the room (Stupid Scarhead, aka Potter) might want to hex him into oblivion, because that faction wouldn’t think he was good enough for her. He didn’t care. He knew that some wouldn’t believe it was true (everyone else), because there was no way Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy would even date, let alone marry. He didn’t care.

He knew at least one person would think it was all pretend (Hermione), and he could hardly care about that either. He only cared about what he wanted. He only cared that he thought it was right. He had been waiting for a phantom, a mystery woman, to reappear and save him from this blight for years. Now he no longer had to wait, because someone else was saving him, and it was even better, because at least he knew Hermione, and she was here beside him in flesh and blood and in all her glory. He already had a history with her, perhaps a jaded history, but even a demented history was better than no history at all, and at least marriage to her would seem somewhat plausible to everyone in the room…not that a thing like that mattered to him in the least.

Therefore, he smiled, and said, “Make the announcement, old man,” to Flint.

Marcus shook his head and said, “Are you sure? Are you one hundred percent certain?” He looked over to Hermione. “Granger, this is Malfoy. Have you taken leave of your senses? You’ve only just come back to the country. Believe me; he’s not changed while you were gone.”

“Dammit man, stop singing my praises and make the bloody announcement, already,” Draco said sarcastically. He gripped Hermione’s hand tightly in his. He looked over at her and she looked pale. He saw her swallow hard, and she was shaking slightly. He said, “Buck up, Granger, he’s not leading us to the gallows, after all.”

“Right you are, Draco,” she returned. “Besides, it’s just a ruse, right? I’m just helping you out in a tight spot. I can do this. I’m nobody’s coward.” She squared her shoulders and smiled.

Draco let out a maniacal little laugh because he WAS a coward and it wasn’t fake. He said, “Do it, Flint, now.” He wanted to hurry before Hermione came to her senses, and realized that Draco was playing her for a fool.

Everyone was already staring at them, and as they mingled around, a low hum of conversation swarmed around the room. Marcus held up his hands and said, “Everyone, as we all know, this ball and banquet is being held for a very specific reason, although we’ve kept that reason from most of you until now. Draco Malfoy has asked me to ask all of you to share in some good news with him. He wants everyone to join in his happiness at the announcement of his betrothal to Hermione Granger. Everyone grab a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and help me salute the happy couple.”

Marcus took two flutes of champagne from a waiter, passed one to Hermione, and kept the other for him self. He clinked his glass to hers. She nodded and took a small drink, then looked out at the throng of people. No one was drinking. No one. Everyone had shared looks of horror and shock. To say that their reactions were unexpected would have been a lie. She thought a few people would be shocked, but not a whole room full of people.

Apparently, Draco didn’t expect it either. He took another glass from a waiter, smiled at Hermione, although inside he was seething. Didn’t he deserve happiness? Why was everyone frowning? Why could no one believe this announcement? Where was all the support? Where were the words of congratulations and best wishes? Wasn’t that the norm when someone announced his or her engagement?

Draco turned to Hermione and could see that she was visibly upset. He said, loudly, “It’s not you, love, it’s me. You’re too good for me, and they all know it.”

“I don’t think that’s it, Draco,” she said softly. She held her glass in her hand, turned to him and said softly, “Perhaps you should tell them all it’s not true. No one seems to appreciate the joke. They’ve expected a real announcement, and they know this isn’t real. I’m sure that’s it. Tell them.”

Draco was now frowning, too. He felt a twinge of anger at her. He held up his glass and said, “Hold up your glass, Hermione.” She did. He twined his arm through hers and said, “Drink up, to your health, and to our long and happy marriage.” He leaned forward and awkwardly took a drink. She did as well.

He took her glass from her shaking hands and said, “Maestro, music please. I’d like a waltz to be the first dance I dance with my intended.”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her through the crowd of still frowning faces. However, a buzz was now present in the hall. Everyone was beginning to make comments. None of the comments was loud enough for either to hear. The only thing either could hear was the music, their entwined breathing, and the simpatico beating of their hearts.

One hand on her back, on bare skin, which was warm and soft, the other holding her hand possessively, against his chest, he looked down at her and said, “Well, that went well, don’t you think?”

She looked up at him with questioning eyes. “Draco, this was a huge mistake on your part. Everyone is merely staring at us. No one believes this anyway. At the end of the dance, you should tell them it’s bogus.”

“No,” he said, holding her closer. “You don’t understand. I was expected to make this type of announcement tonight. I told you that. I made it. Now I can relax and enjoy myself.”

She turned her head to the right as he turned her to the left. She scanned the crowd. No one was dancing. All eyes were still on them. Some people looked angry. “How can you enjoy yourself?” Hermione looked directly at Draco’s mother, and then quickly looked away. “Draco, I would think this would only make things harder for you when you have to make the real announcement, because you’ll have to explain why you lied tonight. After the dance, just tell everyone it was a joke. They don’t have to know that you meant it as a lie, to save yourself some time.”

Again, he repeated, “No.” He was frowning harder. He held her so tightly she almost winced. Why couldn’t she see that he wanted this to be real? He looked down at her and then he knew…why would she? This was a madcap idea, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want it. He would have to convince her to want it somehow, too.

“Enjoy the dance, love, and relax. Will you do that for me? Remember your answer for tonight.”

She closed her eyes slowly, gave in to the sound of the orchestra playing, the feel of his hand on her back, her other hand captured in his. She placed her cheek against his shoulder. She gave in to the feel of his chest rising and falling, and of his breath fanning against her cheek. She wondered something…why couldn’t this be real? He needed to marry by the time he was thirty. That was only three months away. She needed the protection that his marriage could offer her. She would have no more money woes, she would no longer have to worry about Kevin telling the world that Alice wasn’t his, (because that was his threat all along), and Alice would be with her real father.

Maybe she should go along with this, keep up the ruse, and in the end, convince him that a marriage to her would be convenient for both of them. She finally opened her eyes when the song ended, and when it did, she realized that she could no longer deny her heart. She had denied it too long, so she said, “Yes.”

“I didn’t ask you anything this time,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. He took her hand as he walked off the dance floor. To her amazement, the crowd applauded as they walked off the dance floor. People began to pat Draco’s back, shake his hand, and offer their felicitations. People Hermione knew smiled at her and did the same. A few people still stood back in shock, but for the most part, they were greeted with warm enthusiasm.

People were finally beginning to mingle around, and the low buzz of conversation was now a loud drone. Music started again, and more and more people filed upon the dance floor. However, the two of them headed straight toward a woman with black hair, piled high up on her head, and a small man, with a pinched nose, and greasy blond hair.

As they made their way to them, Hermione said, “That went better than I thought.”

“It did, love, it did. Let’s see how well the rest of the evening goes, before you make your final judgment,” he whispered in her ear. His hand was still holding hers. She liked that more than she should have. It felt right and she found that she wanted it that way.

“Hermione, may I introduce my Aunt Phillipa and my cousin, Talbert Malfoy. Phillipa was married to my father’s youngest brother, who died long ago. Aunt, Talbert, this is my intended, Hermione Granger.” Draco stared at the two in a challenging way, before he took a step back to watch their reactions.

The woman smiled at her, but Hermione could see her contempt. She held out her hand. Hermione grasped it, and it felt like a limp fish. She turned her gaze to Draco and said, “How convenient that you finally made your announcement, nephew. I knew you were a smart boy. Your mother and father were beginning to wonder if you would do the right thing, but of course, you didn’t really do the right thing, did you? Marriage to a Mudblood isn’t exactly right, but I suppose it still fulfills the requirements of the will.”

Hermione ignored the sounds swelling around her…the crowd, the music, the people, and focused her attention on the odious woman in front of her. Before she could defend herself, Draco, in his most contemptuous voice, stated, “And how positively appropriate that you, Aunt dear, show everyone your true colours. I shall not sink to your level by calling you a name in return, but I will point out the fact that if you call my lovely fiancée a “Mudblood” one more time, I will have you tossed out on your ear.”

He turned to Talbert and said, “How have you been, Talbert old chap?”

The other man merely smiled, elicited a nervous laugh, and said, “Famous news, Draco. Capital, really, congratulations.” He shook Draco’s hand and then told Hermione, “I’ll expect a dance later.”

“Her dances are all taken for the rest of her life, Talbert, but how kind of you to offer,” Draco said back.

Next, the pair headed toward his mother and father. Hermione was aware from what he had told her that they were no longer married, but they appeared as a united front as they waited for Draco and her to come forward. Hermione stood taller, and painted on a mask of defiance. She wasn’t afraid of these people, or what they might say to her. If his father called her a Mudblood, as his aunt had just done, she might pull her wand out of the fold in her dress where she’d hidden it, and hex him across the room.

Imagine her surprise when they approached the pair and his mother leaned forward, grasped Hermione’s shoulders, and pressed a light kiss on her cheek. “Oh my dear, this is such wonderful news. Draco promised he was going to make the announcement tonight, and I am so glad that he did. This is perfect, isn’t it Lucius.”

Somehow, Hermione imagined Lucius would disagree, so again, she was completely shocked when the older man said, “I didn’t think he was ever going to do it. I was certain he would let his entire heritage go to that tosser Talbert someday. I was bound to die, never knowing if my home and fortune was going to go to nephew, merely because he was married, and because my own son was not. Now I have no reason to worry. Well done, son.” He shook Draco’s hand and then turned his attention to Hermione.

Hermione quickly looked at Draco who shrugged. He was surprised by their apparent support as well. Lucius held out his hand. Hermione tentatively placed her hand within the larger hand. He pumped it up and down three times, then before he dropped it, brought it to his lips and kissed it. “You will make my son a wonderful wife, Miss Granger.”

Draco thanked his parents and then took Hermione’s elbow, and led her away.

“Draco, that was beyond odd,” she said.

“I concur, but I’m happy about it. I think they’re just pleased that I’m finally taking the plunge, and that they won’t have to support a thirty year old man someday. They evidently don’t care who I marry, no offense.”

“None taken, I guess, but what are you going to tell them later? Are we going to act as if we had a big blow up, when we break the engagement?” she asked.

“Here comes Potter, it’s your turn to say something nice about me to him,” Draco said amused, all the while ignoring her question.

Hermione looked up at him and said quickly, “You didn’t answer my question, nor did you say anything nice about me to anyone…oh, Harry, hello.”

Harry had taken her hand and was pulling her away from Draco, who still had her elbow in his hand. He slid his hand down her arm, to take the other hand. It sent shivers down her spine. She ignored Harry’s grasp on her right hand, to look at Draco holding her left.

Harry demanded her attention again when he hissed, “What the hell is happening here?”

She said, “It’s fake, Harry. Draco had to make this announcement tonight, because that was the purpose of the ball, but he didn’t have a woman to whom he was engaged, so he asked me to play along.”

Draco said, “But now we might just really get married, because it would be advantageous to both of us, so put that in your scar and smoke it.”

Hermione laughed, turned to Draco and said, “I repeat, you are so odd sometimes.”

Draco laughed and said, “But that’s my appeal, right love?”

Harry shook his head and said, “You are both certifiable! This is a lark! Is that what you’re saying? It’s not real? Because, I have to tell you, Hermione, if it is real, it’s the biggest mistake of your life, well, maybe the second biggest mistake.”

Hermione dropped both men’s hands and stared daggers at Harry. “What do you mean by THAT statement?”

“I think you know precisely what I mean, and it involved this git as well,” Harry said, while pointing toward Draco.

Hermione’s eyes became wide and she rushed closer to Harry, poked her finger in his chest, and said, “How dare you ever say that was a mistake!” He was referring to Alice, and no one said something about her daughter like that and got away with it. “Take that statement back or I’ll never forgive you!”

Draco was utterly confused, but he was also pleased that Hermione was giving the wonder boy his due.

“I stand by my statement,” Harry said. He turned around and walked away from her. She turned around and rushed from the ballroom. Draco stood there, and wondered whom he should follow. Should he follow Potter and ask him to explain that statement to him, or should he follow Hermione and comfort her for a slight in which he was clueless?

He followed Hermione.

She was standing in a small hallway near the bathrooms. Her back was facing him, and she appeared to be crying.

He touched her shoulder and said, “Don’t let Potter upset you. He’s not worth it.”

“He’s my best friend,” she defended. She turned to face him. She wiped away a single tear that went down her cheek with a swipe of her hand. For some reason, he wished he had wiped it away.

Draco laughed and said, “We should really twist his knickers in a knot and marry for real. That would show them all.”

She smiled and made a small sound that resembled a laugh. “Yes, yes it would.”

“I mean, it would be simple, and solve all of our problems,” he said nervously, hoping she would think he was merely joking. He reached toward her and ran a single finger down her shoulder. She expelled the small breath that she had been holding.

Again, she said, “Yes, it would.”

“My mother is probably in there planning our wedding as we speak,” he replied, apprehensively. Could it really be this easy, or was she merely playing along with his suggestions because she was upset?

His finger went back up her arm, over her shoulder, to her collarbone. The dress was high in the front, with a halter style, so he couldn’t see cleavage, but her breasts swelled against the tight-jeweled fabric of the bodice, and his groin swelled against the confines of his trousers when he looked at them.

He let his roaming finger move from her collarbone, to her neck. He placed his whole hand on her neck, his fingers spread wide across the smooth skin there, touching, holding, his fingers moving to the back of her neck, to feel the wisps of hair there. His thumb remained on her pulse, which was rapid and strong. Everything about her seemed familiar and it filled him with want. Even her scent was familiar. He leaned in, and placed his nose along her jaw. She moved her head to the side, to allow his pursuit, and then she sighed.

He kissed her pulse point and said, “You smell so nice. What’s that scent?”

“Just something I’ve worn since I was a young woman. My mother had it made especially for me for my twentieth birthday. It has cherry blossoms in it.” She could barely speak, as his lips kissed across her neck, and then her shoulder. His hand moved to her bare back, his other hand resting on the wall. The hand on her back moved down the column of her spine, sending shivers back up it.

She placed both hands on his shoulders. He raised his head to say, “What we should do, is leave here tomorrow and go to my estate near here, by the sea. It’s called Whitehall, and my mother and aunt are staying there temporarily. It wouldn’t be well done of us if we didn’t show up there. Don’t you agree?” He hoped he wasn’t pressing his hand. He resumed his kissing, this time, kissing her jaw and cheek, but avoiding her mouth at all cost. He would be doomed if he kissed her mouth. He wouldn’t make it back to the ballroom.

When she didn’t answer, he continued, “You should show them all, and make me really marry you. That would be a triumph, wouldn’t you say?”

He decided not to let her answer. Instead, he wanted her to think about things. He stared deeply in her eyes, placed his hands on either side of her face, and gently stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. Her eyes were slightly closed, he assumed with desire, because he knew he was filled with that emotion and more.

Why oh why did this seem so real to him? Why did he really want to marry her? Why did it feel like he had been waiting for her?

He couldn’t wait any longer. He had to kiss her mouth. His head lowered, lips touched hers softly, firmly, enticing her to open to him. She parted her lips; her hands went from his shoulders to his waist. For the moment, his hands stayed on her face. His tongue curled in her mouth, stroked the roof of it, the sides, even her teeth, before twirling around hers. Suddenly, they were clutching each other tightly, as the kiss deepened and continued.

His hands were now lightly roaming her body. Hers were clutching his jacket. She was clinging for life, feeling as if she were drowning in a sea, and he alone could rescue her. A raw, real passion passed through him to her, just as it did that night almost five years ago, and it left her feeling a sad remorse, instead of happiness. She could have had this all along, if she had only shown him her face that night at that ball, almost five years ago.

Well, this ball would turn out differently. He ended the kiss, and rested his forehead on her shoulder. “At least that was quite real, and very, very nice, if I do say so myself.”

She would have to agree. She had made an erroneous error in judgment five years ago, but she wouldn’t make it again. She wasn’t sure if Draco was joking earlier when he said that they should make it a real engagement, but she would leave nothing to chance. She pushed away from him, to make sure she could stand on her own, since she felt her knees buckle while they kissed.

He didn’t let her go far. He kept his hands on her bare forearms. She kept her hands on his chest. She said, “Yes, that was very nice. If you were earnest with the offer to travel to your estate, I would love to extend my holiday, and I think Alice would love it. Draco, don’t you think that perhaps, we could continue this charade while we’re there?” Inside, she was chanting, ‘say yes, say yes, just say yes!’

“Now you want my answer to be ‘yes’?” he asked. She nodded. He could turn this charade of an engagement into a real one given time, and she just offered him the time he needed to do so! He would have her and Alice and his fortune, and all would be perfect. Hell, he would even keep the narcoleptic nanny! Given time, she would want this as much as he did. He grabbed her hand and got down on one knee. “I think it would be a good idea to keep up the charade for a while longer. Hermione Granger, will you pretend to marry me?”

Pretend. She could pretend for now, and make him want it to be genuine later. She answered the way he instructed her to, she said, “Yes.”

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