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Chapter 30 : The Wedding
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CHAPTER 30: THE WEDDING
Hermione stole into one of the rooms in the hallway, and ran over to the closet. “Please have clothes, please have clothes,” she muttered under her breath, over and over again like a prayer. She clutched the bed sheets to her body, heat flushing her skin. Her hair was a mess, but that was only expected with her running about, dodging corners, and into the men’s chamber rooms not to get caught in the hallway naked as she was born with nothing but the bed sheets. She had come close, more than once already.
She yanked open the closet door, and then almost banged it shut in anger. Her eyes narrowed at the men’s clothing put out on the expensive, cherry black stained wooden racks. No dresses. But then again…
Hermione snatched a pair of expensive looking green breeches that were soft to the touch. She quickly folded the bed sheets and put them on the ground of the closet. Then she took a cotton undershirt, and then put a shirt, and after buttoning that, she grabbed a vest that matched the pants and put it on. She ruffled around for a cap, and found one shoved in the back of the closet. The feather on it was slightly bent, but it would have to do. She stalked over to the mirror, and looked at herself.
Merlin, but I am a mess! She took her untamable hair and shoved it into the cap. She pulled the cap down onto her head, and shook her head around a bit. She almost sighed in relief when everything stayed in place.
She took just a single moment, one she really couldn’t afford to give up, to observe herself in the mirror. Her cheeks had hollowed out. There were dark circles under her eyes from not being able to sleep. She looked tired, and weary. Her hazel eyes glittered with worn adrenaline. They sparkled almost to brightly. And if she looked hard enough, she could almost see the madness…
Hermione jerked away from the mirror, and walked over to the door.
It was time to end this. She was tired of it.
She yanked the door opened and stalked down the hall.
Nothing, nothing, would get in her way this time.
The soft kid shoes she had placed on her feet that she had stolen from the closet felt good on her feet. She almost felt bad for stealing, but then she remembered it was only a game. And she didn’t exactly have time to write a thank you note.
The hallways were empty, save for a few guards. They’re all at the wedding, she realized, and her pace became quicker. She couldn’t afford to lose it all now. She started a light jog, holding a hand to her hat. No one was anywhere!
She took a turn down another hallway, and then she saw him.
She ran faster, “Harry, wait!”
The dark hair figured turned around. He looked perplexed. “Do I know you?”
Hermione got closer to him, and then saw the relief flood his face. “Hermione, what are you--”
“I don’t have time to talk right now.”
Harry promptly shut his mouth.
“I need your signet.”
“My what?” Harry asked.
“I need your snitch,” Hermione clarified. “And I need it now.”
Harry’s expression went pained. “I can’t give it to you.”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Why not?”
Harry sighed. “The wigs have it.” He ran a hand over his head. “It’s like an ‘engagement ring’ here. Giving my bride my signet would mean I was giving myself to her. And vice-versa.”
Hermione ran a hand through her hair and closed her eyes, defeat tainting her tongue. The wigs have it. The sentence kept repeating in her brain. She couldn’t believe that when she was this close….No. She thought. I am going to get that blasted thing even if it kills me!
This game would go on forever without her. She didn’t have time to go and un-charm the chest right now, and there was no way in bloody hell that she was going to let Malfoy win!
“Where is it?” She asked, quickly, knowing Harry had to go. He was the king, after all.
“It’s in a ruby colored pouch on the alter. I think we’re Catholic. I’m not quite sure.” Harry grinned ruefully.
Hermione‘s lips twitched ever so slightly into the semblance of a mini-second smile. “So, what are you going to do? What does Ginny think about this?” Hermione asked, concern on her face. Her friends had it bad for each other. She just screwed it up a bit more. A lot more, a snide voice in her mind said. Hermione tried to ignore it; but she knew it was right. In fact, if she had applied herself, she probably could have predicted the next words that came out of Harry’s mouth.
“She thinks that you’re a backstabbing whore--”
“Ginny!” Harry’s eyes went wide as he looked over Hermione’s shoulder.
Hermione turned to face an angry red head whose hands were on her hips. Ginny’s eyes narrowed angrily, glinting like steel. “Well, if she didn’t try to seduce my boyfriend--”she directed at Harry.
Hermione sighed. “Ginny, I--”
“I don’t want to hear it right now,” Ginny almost hissed, ears red. She was eavesdropping again, but it didn’t matter. She gave Harry one last seething look, and stalked down the hallway, light green dress swishing in choppy sways behind her. Harry sighed, and ran a hand over his face.
“What was that all about?” Hermione asked, as soon as Ginny was out of earshot.
“She’s making me choose.”
Hermione arched a brow in question, crossing her arms.
“Between my duty to marry Cho, and her.”
“And you didn’t say you’d choose her?” Hermione gawked. She punched Harry in the arm.
“OW!” Harry exclaimed. “What was that for?”
“For being a thick-headed dolt!” Hermione retorted.
“I don’t understand. What are you--”
“There isn’t supposed to be a choice, Harry.” Hermione clarified.
“But they’ll kill everyone if--”
“But Hermione wasn’t listening. “And there won’t be one.”
Harry stopped, when he realized what she had just professed. “Do you mean you--”
“Yes,” Hermione answered to the slight hope in his eyes. “Yes, I do.”
Hermione opened her mouth to say something else when a fully armed battalion of guards came down the hallway to ‘get the king.’
Hermione stepped aside. “Good luck,” she whispered and grabbed his hand.
He squeezed it. “You too.” Then he let it go, and without a backward glace, he walked down the hallway, surrounded by the royal guard.
Hermione watched him go. “I’ll be needing that luck,” Hermione muttered under her breath. She waited until he was out of sight to kick into action. She was going to need all the help that she could get.
To bad all of her man power was scattered, behinds in the wooden pews of a church.
She whipped out her wand. “Accio box,” she whispered, and a moment later, a little black box whizzed into her hand. She stuck it in the pocket of her breeches.
Ship in a box.
She leaned against the wall for a moment, and closed her eyes. The next hour was key. She had to do it alone. There was no one--
Then it hit her. A cold feeling of dread flooded her body; but she knew what she had to do. Suddenly, it was all crystal clear. She didn’t want to do it; it would be admitting defeat. But she had to do it.
She was a Gryffindor. She could do it. She had to do it to escape this prison of a game.
It was changing her, and she didn’t like it.
With purpose, she leaned up from the wall, and strode down the cold, empty hallway.
It was time to end this.
~Earlier in the wee hours of the morning: ~
Susan looked at the seven masked faces in the room. It was almost five in the morning; everyone was tired, but she had given them notes throughout the ball, telling them to come here. She omitted some of the group, simply because she didn’t trust them.
She felt the anticipation crackling in the room. On one side sat Thaddius, on the other, stood Blaise. They were both regarding her, as she stood there, hands on her hips. She looked down at Silvester, Blaise, Thaddius, and some of the ex-lioness crew. She was simply happy that all of them had shown up. IT was important to her, to Hermione, to the game.
She handed them each a piece of shiny gold. “You know what to do. Everything I said in the past hour… We can’t mess up. Do it right the first time. We don’t have time to take chances.”
The people in the room looked down at the gold coins: they all knew what they were. It seemed like Susan Bones wasn’t as daft as most people had thought she was throughout the time. Of course, she was under Hermione’s guidance at the moment, and perhaps that was what was going on, but no one really cared at that moment.
“Don’t forget what you’ve been assigned. It’s vital if we want to get out of this game.”
No one spoke, all the questions had been taken care of a few minutes before. Everything was clear. The matches were set, the bets were made, and the time was coming soon. They filed quietly out of the doors, carefully not to make any noise.
Thaddius and Blaise were the last to leave, both of them stopping at the door. Susan watched them for a moment, her muscles tensing with the fierce atmosphere in the room. She tried to speak, but she knew her voice would be muffled by the amount of testosterone in the air. She tucked her own gold going into her breast pocket, and watched as they both walked through the door at the same time, careful not to touch shoulders.
She was just about to walk out the door, when Thaddius’s face turned just slightly, and he caught her eye; his lips curled deliciously. She repressed a grin, and shut the door behind her. She heard him chuckle lightly, and then they were both gone. She sagged against the door.
She could only hope that everything went right.
It had to.
Because if it didn’t… she was afraid this game would never end.
The cathedral was decorated like it had never been decorated before. The floors were covered in rose petals, roses were everywhere. The room smelled of the flowery aroma, permeating everyone’s clothing. The guests sat in the pews, the last arrivals entering the room. Laughter floated through the air, the timbre of many voices weaving through the room.
A large wrought iron chandelier was hanging from the ceiling, its hundreds of candles twinkling and flickering like stars. It was surely a sight to behold: after all, the wedding of a king wasn’t something as trifle as baking a cake. There had to be proper lighting!
Everyone who was anyone was there. They were all dressed in their Sunday best. Well, what they thought was their Sunday best. Susan looked over at the woman sitting another pew and almost gagged. The woman in question looked like someone had vomited pink and green lace all over the ridiculously huge dress. Didn’t she know the king was taken already?
She shuddered slightly. She sat in the pew, alone. She knew exactly where Thaddius was standing, half hidden in the shadows. How could she not, when he hadn’t taken his glittering gaze off of her for the past ten minutes. She shifted in her seat, the prickling heat rushing through her body. Stop looking at me! she tried to tell him telepathically, without meeting his gaze. A rush of heat flooded her body.
But she didn’t want him to stop looking at her. She shut her eyes, and took a really deep breath, trying to tie up her fraying nerves. To no avail. It seemed that they were racing to the finish line- a finishing line that seemed to get further away every time they got closer. If she wasn’t careful, she would burn out.
She turned her head the slightest fraction of an inch, and his gaze caught hers. She averted of her gaze again, her cheeks flushing. She was almost not used to this kind of attention. She felt her Hufflepuff shyness seeping through, and tried to push it away. In this extreme reality, she was who she wanted to be; she was who she never had a chance to be at Hogwarts. With this thought, she sat up a little higher, and squared her shoulders.
Everything would go right today. The bets were made, the matches were set, and the time was up. Everything got sent into motion now. She fixated her gaze onto the alter before her; she had to succeed in this. Nothing else mattered. She could do this to be accepted in the general Hogwarts society. Maybe…. Maybe…
She took in another deep breath, and almost felt normal, when a laugh pierced through the air. It zapped towards her from the back of the room, sound waves determined to ricochet in her own head. In an instant, she knew that Thaddius wasn’t looking her. She knew who he was looking at. She turned her head, then her face went white with what she saw.
Pansy had walked into the room, with Blaise on her arm. Her green eyes glittered with a smug victory, her expression condescending as she looked over the crowd. Her pink silk dress made her skin look almost delectable. It was a shame that she wasn’t considered an ethereal beauty. Susan’s eyes traveled to Blaise: he looked magnificent in his clothes. The light blue played with the ebony of his skin: the stark white of his collar a sharp contrast. She felt her throat going dry as his eyes scanned the crowd. His expression was…
Baffled? Susan’s brows furrowed. That made no sense. If anything, he should have been as smug as Pansy, after all, he was trying to hurt her, wasn’t he? Susan turned around and try to find the reasoning behind the expression. Something was off, something wasn’t right.
It started nagging her; and just as that happened, the prickling on her neck started again. She tried to ignore it; she knew she would have to deal with him soon. It almost felt like his blood was calling to hers.
She pushed that thought away. She couldn’t think about that now. She really couldn’t; she had to ignore how much she wanted to.
She forced the fact that Blaise and Pansy were here together to the back of her mind: they didn’t matter right now. They weren’t part of the plan. In fact, she left Blaise in the dark the last meeting.
She had left it up to Thaddius.
She folded her hands, an almost subconscious movement- she prayed that he’d do his job, regardless of his affections. She was just about to look over at him, when a hush swept over the room: men with trumpets walked in, announcing the king’s entrance. They were in the baroque times, somewhere between 1500-1700, Susan decided, because the music implied such.
People craned their necks and heads to get a look at their king. Hushed whispers could be heard amongst other things: a fart, a burp, and the reoccurring sighs from young maidens who wished the king would commit pre-marital…. Adultery with them right then and there.
Not that there is such a thing, mind you.
Harry tried to ignore the multitude of eyes on his person, and found it difficult. You think I’d be used to it by now, Harry thought sardonically, as he kept his eyes fixed on the altar. H e shuddered, not knowing what he was going to do next. What choice he was going to have to make.
You won’t have to. Hermione’s words kept echoing through his head. Harry tried not to cling to it, but it was the only hope he had. He held firm to it, and for the first time, Harry was without a backup plan, without luck. All he had was Hermione to help him, and she always pulled through.
Hopefully this time wouldn’t be any different.
Bloody hell, Harry thought, Marriage sucks. Remind me never to get married. EVER. He made a mental note as his feet dragged him down the aisle, his face set.
It seemed like a mile, but it only took less than twenty seconds to span the distance. Before he knew it, his feet were making their way up the stairs, to the hooded monk who had his head bowed reverently, hands holding the sacred script to the marriage rituals.
Harry took in a deep breath and tried to ignore the papers. It’s just a game, he repeated in his mind over and over. It’s just a game. The only thing that was truly comforting at the moment was Ron walking behind him; even though they had been having their rough times in the game… It was just something that was real. Neville had followed Ron to the alter, and he was succeeded by Sean.
Then a hush fell over the cathedral Harry’s very last footstep could be heard. He shot a look at Neville who looked down at his shoes.
The silence was deafening for a few moments; time stopped. Harry could hear his heart pounding in his ears. Everyone’s eyes were rapt on him.
Suddenly, the ornately-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness (they really looked like overstuffed colorful penguins) trumpeters burst into a fan fare to announce the entrance of the bride.
Ever so slowly, the doors opened to let in the rays of sunlight, casting Cho’s form into a silhouette, casting her as an angel. A collective sigh could be heard throughout the audience, her beauty absolutely radiating in the halo the sun created around her.
She smiled up at Harry as she made her way down the isle- her eyes not quite as happy as her smile. Row by row stood up, as she passed them by, not even nodding their way.
Harry looked above her head to see a slight figure slip through the door, and into the shadows. He caught a flash of green. Harry almost grinned. Hermione. She was clever, he knew. Entering while everyone was looking at the bride was brilliant on her part. But at the same time we’ve been sneaking out for years, he conceded.
For once, it almost felt good to know that someone else was going to take care of everything. Too bad he didn’t know that when one puts the future in someone else’s hands, it might not play out the way they want it to.
Cho came up and stood by him, and the fan fare ended. Harry almost thanked Merlin under his breath for the end of the horrendous racket, but Cho shot him a look just as he opened his mouth to utter it. They turned to face the monk, who was holding out his long fingered hands out to them in greeting. Between the couple and the monk stood a small table, where Cho’s engraved hair stick that was an heirloom from her great-grandmother, and Harry’s snitch lay on a scarlett cushion, glittering for the world to see. The monk paid them no head- his eyes seemed glued to the pages of the book his hands were gripping.
“You may all be seated,” the hooded monk said.
The entire audience made a move to get comfortable. Harry looked over at the monk for the first time. For a moment, he felt an odd familiarity towards the monk. “Do I know you?” Harry asked, curiously, trying to see beneath the hood, but the man bowed his head even further, in reverence to his king.
“All monks look the same,” the hooded monk answered, “It‘s the robes.”
Harry’s lip quirked. A monk with a sense of humor. But before he could make a comment, the monk held up a slender hand to silence the little bit of chatter that remained. He waited a moment for Harry’s consent, and when Harry nodded, only then did he begin his speech.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here today…”
Harry peeked over at Cho, who was starting at some point above the monks head. He tried not to sigh- but then he saw something move in the shadows. His eyes immediately narrowed- someone was creeping in the wing of the cathedral.
Harry’s mind went whirring. He wasn’t going to be an auror for nothing in the real world. He made a move to speak, but then realized where he was.
I hate, I hate, I HATE weddings, Harry thought in his mind.
“Into this holy estate these two persons…”
Harry tried to shift his attention away from whatever was going on in the shadows and focused on the monk, who had come to the most dramatic part of the speech. Had Harry not been paying attention, he would have missed it completely.
“If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”
Then one voice spoke out into the crowd, loud and clear as crystal.
Harry whirled around, his arm almost knocking into Cho’s form. His eyes locked with the last pair of eyes he expected to see.
Pansy smirked smugly at him, arms crossed. “He’s in love with me.”
Harry nearly choked.
Just as he was about to speak, Ginny, who had been sitting in the front row, stood up, her ears a ferocious red. “You’re psychotic, Parkinson,” she screeched, turning to Pansy’s direction. “He’s in love with me.”
The murmurings grew louder, suspicious. People started milling around in their seats.
Pansy raised a brow. “Oh really, Weasley, then how do you explain this?” Pansy lifted her hair to show a hickey on her neck. “He was with me all last night.”
Ginny turned on Harry. She stomped up on the altar, shoving Cho aside. “Is this true?” She demanded, poking him in the chest. “Are you… are you… with that…. Parkinson?”
Harry shook his head vehemently; he was surprised his neck didn’t snap. “I haven’t done anything with Parkinson.”
Pansy’s laugh echoed through the room, floating over the ever louder conversations of the extra’s trying to deduce what was going on. “You think--”
“I think you should shut up!” Cho Chang said loudly. A hush fell over the room. “This is my wedding, Parkinson, and you’re not going to ruin it for me.”
A loud snort was heard from the left side of the room. Cho turned and saw Susan Bones grinning in the third pew. “What so funny, Bones? Care to share?”
“This is a game, Cho. Aren’t you being a little melodramatic?”
Cho narrowed her eyes. “This isn’t about you-”
“That’s right,” Pansy drawled. “It’s about me. And the chain of chandelier that’s about to fall on everyone if you don’t get out of here now. He loves me, end of story. Now shoo,” she said.
For a moment, no one believed her- until suddenly an earsplitting crack shot through the room. Every single eye In the room looked up as they watched the main chandelier jerk towards the ground. Then someone emitted a loud scream- others followed suit.
It was like a stampede was running out of one pair of doors, albeit large ones. Susan ran over to the wall, and held one of the ropes as she saw a flash of green disappear into the crowd. Oh, please, Merlin, let it work!
Harry dove and grabbed Cho's arm. With his other hand, he ripped the button off that held her train, and swept her down the stairs. "Take her," Harry yelled to Ron over the racket.
"Sure thing," Ron nodded, and grabbed Cho by the arm. His face was puzzled and shocked, but he'd deal with that later. Just as he was reaching out to grab her, Neville pushed him out of the way, and picked Cho up bridal style. With a look that almost knocked Ron dead, Neville disappeared through a doorway.
Ron, at loss of what to do, decided to get into the crowd and out of the place. There was no one else here to take care of. His red pony-tail dove into the crowd.
Harry ran over to the front pew, where Ginny was lying on the ground- her ankle at a completely wrong angle. The screams faded away for a moment, as Harry saw a single tear run down her cheek. He leaned down and gathered her up into his arms, trying to remain passive as she whimpered in pain. "It's going to be OK," He said fiercly. He looked for the exit that had the least people and moved briskly towards it, but someone flew right into them, almost knocking Harry off of his feet. Ginny cried out.
Harry looked down at the person who had tumbled to the floor. His eyes went wide- "Herm-"
"You're welcome," She interjected, not even looking at Harry, but past him. Then she disappeared, brushing right past his shoulder and into the throng of screaming people. Her hat had come off, her hair sticking up at crazy angles, some of it even plastered to her forehead.
That had happened in less than a minute.
Hermione dove through the openings in the crowd- like a fish. She looked up: the monk was frozen in place, a faint glitter in the shadows was telling her that he was alive. Is he in shock? She wondered briefly- then she almost got elbowed in the face, and she stopped thinking.
She had but a single mission to complete. She moved determinedly forward, twisting her body in ways that were almost unnatural to get to the steps of the altar.
Still, the monk didn’t move.
She ran up to the platform with the snitch on it as another earsplitting crack followed this time by a huge groan flew through the air.
“You need to get out of here!” Hermione said to the monk, her hair plastered to her forehead; she must have looked comical. But for some reason, he didn't seem like he was listening. The monk simply stood in silence.
Hermione tried to catch his face, see it in the shadow, but she couldn’t. Her hand shot out to grab the snitch, her fingers curled around it, holding it in her grasp… and then suddenly, a cold, viselike grip caught her wrist.
“Let go of me!” Hermione said, trying to pull herself away. She couldn’t afford to waste time right now. He could be anywhere!!!
The monk laughed, a chilling, yet far too familiar laugh; Hermione’s blood froze in her veins. “Oh, no.”
The monk’s free hand reached up and jerked back the hood in one ferocious moment.
“Stealing, Granger?" He asked, lips curled in an amused sneer, eyes an ice cold grey. "Tsk, tsk. Whatever shall we do with you now?”
Hermione gulped- her throat suddenly dry. “Let me go, this has nothing to do with you.”
Draco’s eyes glittered dangerously. “Oh, but it was everything to do with me.” He looked down at the snitch wing trying to flutter in a gap between Hermione’s fingers which were closed in a death grip. Draco looked at the wing as it continued its futile mission, eyes puzzled. “Now why would you need that?”
Draco’s eyes shot to Hermione’s for a moment. Hermione looked him in the eyes, eyes softening ever so slightly…. Then she kneed him with all the strength she had.
Draco’s eyes went wide as he fell down to his knees, his hand loosing his grip on her wrist. Hermione looked down at him, her eyes shooting sparks. She squatted down, so she could be on his level, and pocketed the snitch. She looked him dead in the eye, holding his steely, furious gaze locked with hers as she whispered three words to him. “Catch me," she dared him. And then, for a moment, as if she ever doubted he could, she cocked her head, her honey eyes piercing right through him with hardcore determination. "If you can.”
She stood up hastily, and with one wary and angry look his way, she ran into the crowd- the chandelier finally gave a final snap and plummeted to the floor, right where Hermione had been moments before.
Draco watched her silhouette disappear into the blinding sun that was filtering through the open door. The anger inside him reached fever pitch as he etched her face into his eyelids. “Oh, don’t worry, Mudblood. I will. And when I do….”
Draco pulled himself up, using the podium, and bent over slightly, hands on his knees, to catch his breath. He closed his eyes. The pain was excruciating. He hung his head and took in another deep breath. Slowly, but surely, he felt the pain leave. His eyes snapped open, as he stared at the open doorway.
Then he broke out into a run, one single thought in his mind before he busted through the doors and after Hermione. It’s time to end this, right now.
He caught sight of her bushy hair and sped up, knowing he could catch up to her easily. He was less than ten paces away when something caught his ankle- before he knew it, he was flying in the air, and the world fell around him. His body hit the ground with a resounding THUD. He tried moving for a second,. But his limbs didn’t want to function. He was aware of people running, of the sound of horse heels and a carriage coming closer and closer..
Then, the world went black.
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