A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 9: Some people are Smart, Some Stupid, and some don’t Matter at All:

"A woman, especially, if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can." – Jane Austen

A Smart woman is a turn on.” - Draco Malfoy

No man wants a woman who is smarter than they are, so the key is to pretend that you don’t realize how stupid he is.” - Hermione Granger

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Slipping off her shoes and placing her aching, bare feet upon a straw basket in the corner of the veranda, Hermione hiked up her dress and said, “Oh, my feet hurt so much.” She thought she was all alone, until she saw the doors from the ballroom were open, and a woman was standing in the doorway.

“Well done, Miss Granger, it is Granger again, isn’t it?” Draco’s aunt asked.

Hermione realized she was barefoot, and she felt slightly disheveled. She remained sitting, but took her feet off the basket. “Yes, I actually never took my ex-husband’s name, even when we married.”

“Will you take Draco’s name?” she asked in her best haughty voice.

“I doubt it,” Hermione answered honestly.

The older woman laughed a laugh that dripped with contempt, and commented, “Won’t Lucius love that.”

“I don’t care what Lucius Malfoy loves or doesn’t love,” Hermione again answered honestly, knowing that she was being challenged somehow. She never backed down from a challenge.

The older woman circled her, like a vulture circling its next meal, and she said, “You’re not right for my nephew. You’re divorced, you’re a Mudblood, and you only have adequate looks. You have nothing to offer him. He, however, has everything to offer you, correct? Yes, you simply won’t do for him, not at all.”

“Of course you would think that, because if Draco marries, your son won’t inherit everything, isn’t that right?” Hermione asked. She stood up, bare feet be damned.

“Is that why you’re marrying him?” Phillipa asked. “For money? Because I have to say, I’ll offer a sizable amount if you leave him alone.”

Hermione could barely believe the gall of this woman. “Do you take me for a stupid fool?”

“No, actually, I don’t,” she answered. “I take you for a very smart woman. My nephew is the stupid one. I also take you for a money grubbing whore, who realizes if she marries my nephew, she will have more money than I could offer, yet I shall offer it all the same. I’ll make you’re life miserable, if you go along with this marriage.”

Hermione wasn’t scared in the least. She laughed and said, “Lady, I’ve faced Voldemort, and Death Eaters, and even school professors who were scarier than you are.”

The older woman knew she was facing a worthy opponent. She walked back to the door and said, “Did you know that there is a rumor out there that Draco fathered an illegitimate child a few years back? Apparently, a man came to his father, wanting money, making such a claim. Cissy told me that Lucius paid the man to keep him quiet, but if this news should ever prove true, and this child is proved to be Draco’s child, legitimate or not, it would inherit everything someday, not your future children with him. Think about that.”

And with a swish of her long skirts, the woman left the veranda.

Hermione stood there in complete and utter shock. Could she be referring to Alice? “Oh, Kevin, what did you do?” Hermione said aloud. When she had Alice, in a fit of utter madness, she told Kevin who the father was. Little did she know he would someday use that piece of information as a sword over her head, for the rest of her life.

Had he really gone to Lucius with the information? It was apparent that he must not have told Lucius anything solid, but did the older Malfoy know that the man in question was her ex-husband? Was that why he seemed so accepting of the engagement?

Damn Kevin to hell! How could she be such a poor judge of character? She had once loved that man. He had once loved her. Yes, they had both built their marriage on lies, so it was bound to crumble, and she was happy to be out from under it. Now she was willing to enter into another marriage built on lies and deceptions. What should she do?

Kevin had always been kind so Alice. Always. He wasn’t a terribly attentive father figure in the sense that he traveled all the time, but he would take her places, play with her in the garden, buy her things. How could he be kind to her on one hand, and hold blood money regarding her birth in the other? Wasn’t it bad enough that when they divorced, he took every sickle, knut and galleon that Hermione had to keep that information quiet? Had he really gone to Lucius Malfoy years ago?

Hermione sat back down on the loveseat and hung her head. Perhaps she wasn’t smart after all. She felt very, very stupid at that moment. She had a lot to consider.

Draco looked everywhere for Hermione. He saw Phillipa walking back in that ballroom from outside. He wondered if that was where she might be as well. He started outside when he was stopped by his father’s hand on his arm.

“Draco,” he said curtly.

“Father, not now. I have to find Hermione.” He removed his arm from the other man’s hold, but Lucius reached for it again.

“She’s outside. I saw her walk out, so she’ll be there when I’m done speaking.” Draco knew when his father took that tone with him, it was better just to let him have at it, and when he was done with his mini lecture, he would join Hermione on the veranda.

“What is it, Father?” he answered. As soon as the words ‘Father’ came out of his mouth, he thought of something. If he ever had children, they would never, ever call him that. It would be ‘Daddy’ when they were little and ‘Dad’ when they grew up, but never Father. Father was a title of awe and respect. He didn’t want their respect. He only wanted their love.

“I have something important to tell you,” Lucius muttered lowly. He drew Draco to the corner of the large ballroom, away from the orchestra, the crowd, and the doors. “I should have told you this years ago, but I didn’t. I meant to protect you, but now that you’ve finally announced your engagement, it can’t wait, not even until tomorrow, because you have a right to know.”

Draco was slightly worried. At first, he thought this little conversation was going to be Lucius telling Draco his true thoughts on his impending nuptials to Hermione. Instead, it seemed to be something so much more. The old man actually seems pensive, anxious.

“Father, you’re not ill or anything are you?” Draco asked.

The old man made a snorting noise and said, “Your concern for my health and wellbeing overwhelms me, boy. No, this has nothing to do with me. Almost four years ago, a man came to me with some information. He kept his identity a secret. However, he told me a story, about another ball you attended, years ago.”

Draco stood with his eyes wide and mouth agape. “Go on.”

“He said that you had a liaison with a woman there, and that it resulted in the birth of a child. This man claimed it was your child,” Lucius said.

Draco felt as if his world was crashing down around him. Lucius had to be talking about his masked beauty. Had she conceived a child that night and never told him? His child? His thoughts immediately went to Alice for some reason. Could he have a little boy, or a little girl, like her, and not even know it?

Draco’s voice rose in anger as he asked, “Father, why didn’t you ever tell me this?”

Several people nearby turned to look at father and son. Lucius turned Draco around so no one could see the anguished look on his face. “I didn’t tell you because I thought it a lie. The man only had a picture to show me, and it was of a baby, who was bald, and looked like every other baby I’ve ever seen. He wouldn’t tell me the name of the mother, nor even if the child was male or female. He could offer no other proof at that time. I figured he was lying, but I also knew his lies might cause you trouble, so I paid him off, and told him if he ever contacted you that I would kill him.”

“Son, I only tell you this now because if this news should be true, or if this woman who had this child should challenge your engagement, then it might prove difficult for you and Miss Granger. I should have told you before, but to be truthful, I hardly expected you to really make such an outlandish announcement tonight, when I know for a fact you haven’t been dating anyone.”

“How would you know?” Draco quizzed. “You never see me.”

“Perhaps not, but I know everything about you, just the same. Draco, I don’t care if you marry Hermione Granger. She’ll probably make you an adequate wife. There will be some advantages to marrying her, number one being that you shall keep your inheritance.”

Draco only heard one word in that sentence. “Adequate?” Draco spat.

“Yes, that’s the word I meant to say,” his father said in return. “However, you still need to be prepared. Wizarding laws state that even illegitimate children can inherit, if their parentage can be proven. Also, this child would be a pureblood, because it’s my understanding that the ball in which she was conceived was a pureblood only ball.”

“And that makes a difference, how?” Draco said. He felt dizzy with all the thoughts going on in his head.

“It makes no difference, well, perhaps it does to me, but your future children with Miss Granger may have their inheritance challenged someday, that’s all I wanted to say. As I said before, I should have told you this years ago, but I wanted to protect you. You aren’t a child any longer, but you’re still my child, and that’s what parents do. They protect their children. Someday, when and if you have children, you’ll understand. We’ll talk more of this when we all go to Whitehall tomorrow.”

Draco inquired, “You’re going too, Sir?”

“Of course. Did you think I wouldn’t go and become better acquainted with your future wife and her child? Yes, I know she has a child, and that she’s divorced. There’s very little I don’t know.”

Draco wasn’t sure about that, because he was certain his father didn’t know what was in his own son’s heart, because if he knew him better, he wouldn’t have kept this news from him for years. Years…for years he had mooned over this woman, and now to think that she might have had a child, his child. He was confused and anxious. He also felt incredibly stupid for some reason. He should have searched for the woman when he could have, and now it was too late. He had to see Hermione. He turned to go, without a word to his father, but then he rushed back quickly.

“Father, do you still have the picture of the baby the man claimed was mine?”

His father nodded. “It’s at the Manor, but I’ll have it Owled to Whitehall.”

Draco nodded in return, took a deep breath, and walked out to the veranda.

And there she was.

That’s what he thought when he saw Hermione sitting on a small wicker loveseat…there she was. The mystery woman couldn’t hold a candle to Hermione, but if she had his child, well, that might be a different story. He would have to search for her, not for her, but for the sake of the possible child – his child.

Yet, there she was. He wanted this woman. He knew it to be true. He may be a stupid man, but he was smart when it came to his own heart. He had waited years and years to marry, almost until it was too late, the whole time convinced he was waiting for a masked woman, when he was really waiting for HER, Hermione.

Yes, there was she was.

Draco loosened his tie and plopped down on the loveseat next to her. They were the only two people on the veranda, and it had been a long and tiring night. He, for one, was happy it was almost over. From the look on her face, so was she. He pushed the conversation with his father out of his mind and said, “I’m sorry about letting you out of my sights for a moment. I hadn’t anticipated Talbert swooping in and claiming that dance from you.”

Hermione smiled, deciding to forget about the comments of Draco’s dreadful aunt. “Oh, he is a smarmy little man,” she said with a look of utter distaste. Draco laughed. “I think he purposefully stepped on my toes.”

Draco laughed again and said, “At least you didn’t have to contend with Mrs. Potter. She’s a shrill after her own mother’s heart. I had to hear her not only tell me what not to do with you, but what I WAS to do with you, too. Then, when her little speech was over, she said, ‘If you think Harry’s scary, you’ve not seen anything, Blondie.’ I mean, seriously, as if I would be scared of Harry.”

Hermione nodded and said, “But you should be afraid of Ginny.”

“Oh yeah,” he agreed, “She scares my balls off.” They laughed together. Draco had to admit, if only to himself, that he had enjoyed one of the nicest nights of his life. It ranked up there in the top three nights, if he didn’t take that last little conversation with his father into the equation. He scooted to the edge of the loveseat, clasped his hands between his legs, and while looking at the slate floor he said, “I have to admit, I had a nice time being engaged to you tonight.”

“Me too,” she answered. “And you’re mother invited me to come to Whitehall with you, tomorrow morning, just as you assumed she would.”

He didn’t look at her. He couldn’t. He continued to look at his hands and said, “I thought she might. So, what do you say to an extended engagement, fake though it might be? Do you have plans for the next week or so?”

“No, no plans at all,” she answered softly. She brought one of her feet up to her hands and rubbed it. Draco looked over at her, watching her with interest. She let her foot drop and she reached for her shoes. He leaned over and reached for them first.

Holding her shoes in his hand, he said, “Did you tell my mother about Alice?”

Hermione’s heart leaped in her chest. She switched her gaze to him suddenly and said, “What do you mean? Tell her what?” Did he know somehow? Did he suspect? Was that the reason for all of this?

“Did you tell her you had a daughter?” he asked. He knelt in front of her and slipped the first shoe on her foot. It felt erotic, and sensual, with one hand on her calf, and the other on her shoe. Hermione forgot to breathe for a moment, so she certainly couldn’t answer. He slipped the other shoe on the other foot, placed his hand on her knee, and stood. “Well, did you?”

“No, I didn’t. Will that matter, I mean, since we aren’t really engaged, should we even bring that up?” she asked. She stood up, and was directly in front of him. He hadn’t moved, so they were very close.

He smirked and said, “What do you plan on doing with Alice while we’re at Whitehall? Are you going to leave her in your suitcase?”

Hermione smiled and then expelled a small laugh. “Right, that would never do, even if I put in air holes. You already think I’m a bad parent.”

He cupped her face with his hand and said, “I think you’re a wonderful mother. I think your nanny is a mess.”

She placed her fingers around his wrists, bringing his hand down from her face. “The thing is, Draco, your mother tells me Whitehall is in Wales. That’s a long way away.”

“Apparation is a wonderful feat of magic, Granger, love,” he mocked. “So are portkeys.”

“And Alice is too young to apparate, and she vomits every time I take her on side-along apparation, and in my opinion, she’s too young to use a portkey. We had to fly here, and it was a hell of a plane ride. If you’ve never ridden in a plane with a four year old and her sixty-seven year old nanny, then count yourself lucky. I can’t subject her to that again. I think she should go back to London with Harry and Ginny, and they’ll take her on to my mum and step dad’s house.”

Draco didn’t like that suggestion, not one bit, and he couldn’t articulate why, not even well enough to satisfy himself. He sighed and said, “Listen, you’re a package deal, right? My parents are bound to know that you’re divorced and have a daughter, (he wouldn’t tell her that his father already knew, which meant so did his mother.) They’ve probably already asked everyone in that ballroom about you tonight. They have to come with us, even if it is a hoax. Besides, I’d like to show Alice the sea and the cliffs. I spent many summers at that estate. She’ll like it there.”

“But Draco, the only way we might do it is by train,” she whined.

“We’ll arrange that,” he said, pleased. He took her hand and began to lead her back inside. “You and I will apparate, and the sleeping nanny and Miss Alice will come along on the train.”

Hermione frowned. She wondered how much that would cost. As if sensing the expression on her face, Draco said, “Of course, it would be at my expense, since you’re doing all of this to benefit me.”

Was she doing it to benefit him? Was she doing it to trap him? To trick him into really marrying her? Was she merely doing it for his money, as his horrible aunt suggested? It would be the smart thing to do. She placed her hand to her forehead and said, “I feel tired. I wasn’t even going to tell Alice about this in the beginning, and if we go to Wales and continue to pretend, that means I’ll have to lie to my daughter. I don’t want to lie to her. I don’t know what to do. Can I think about it and let you know, tomorrow?”

“But we have to leave in the morning,” he explained. “You’re doing me the biggest favour. Alice will be fine. We’ll find a way to keep it from her. I know you’re anxious to start your new life back in London, but I think a small holiday in Wales is in order, don’t you?” He had to convince her somehow, someway, to come with him.

She didn’t know how to answer that question, and she found that she didn’t have to do so, because at the very moment she was about to tell him that she couldn’t possibly come with him, his aunt, mother, cousin and father all descended upon them. Hermione stood quickly, her hand going immediately to Draco’s hand. If he was a man who was prone to showing his outward emotions, he might have smiled at that.

They turned to the four in people in question, and Draco said, “Well, is everyone as excited about going to Whitehall as Hermione and I are?”

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