Hermione paced back and forth, chewing at her lower lip. Silk, taffeta, and chiffon crinkled and rustled with every move she made. She reached up to fret with her curls.
“Stop!” Narcissa yelled at her from the lounge across the room.
Her hand immediately dropped and she realized what she had been about to do. She glanced in the mirror to make sure she hadn’t ruined the hours of work that had gone into preparing her hair for the event. It was still twisted up neatly, with the curls showering over the crown of her head and falling back down over the twist. Sprigs of baby’s breath adorned her hair and the small tiara sparkled in the golden candle glow.
She glanced away and began pacing again, swishing the layers of expensive white material all around her. Her heels clicked loudly on the marble floors.
“There are no other dragons associated with ‘dark lords’, Narcissa,” she finally said as she stopped and turned to face her soon-to-be mother.
“It has to be a mistake. Think! There has to be another explanation!” The elder woman said.
“The dragon shall fall and rise again. Isn’t it obvious?” Hermione whispered harshly. “Draco, thedragon, fell from favor with his peers after his botched attempt to kill Dumbledore. The dragon fell. And rise again, he’s going to find a way to regain favor with the pureblood community.”
She paused and thought over the rest of the prophecy.
“A new dark lord but the same within.” She frowned. “Well, he would be a new dark lord if he rose to power somehow, and the same within? I assume that means they have the same goals: the eradication of Muggleborns, half-bloods, and blood traitors.”
“That’s ridiculous, he’s hours away from marrying you,” Narcissa said. “Why would he become involved in something that would so closely impact his own marriage?”
“Maybe he doesn’t intend for me to be around that long?” Hermione said softly.
“But if it is a true prophecy, you’re going to give him a son and a daughter… he must not get rid of you very quickly if that’s to happen.”
Hermione covered her face with her hands. She was trembling.
“How does he plan to do it? How can he put himself in a position, after everything your family has done? A position of power where he could… could… make those types of changes?”
Both women considered the thought.
“Minister,” Hermione said and her heart skipped a beat. She couldn’t stop the freefall plunge her stomach had taken.
“Of Magic?” Narcissa asked in confusion.
“Yes, he wants to be Minister. It’s the only way he’d be able to make such radical changes and enforce them.”
“The Dark Lord attempted that already. It got him nowhere. Controlling the Ministry will do nothing for him.”
“You’re wrong,” Hermione said as she turned to face the older woman. “It does everything. He will succeed where Voldemort failed. Tom Riddle thought he’d have power and control by taking the Ministry by force. If Draco gains the favor of the Wizarding world and is elected as Minister, he’ll be able to do whatever he wants without starting a civil war.”
“He’d never be elected…”
Hermione paled slightly and swallowed. After several long moments of silence, she spoke.
“I can’t go through with this, Narcissa, I can’t marry him. I see it now. I’m the crux of this entire plan.”
“What do you mean, dear?”
“He’ll win favor through me. Don’t you see? If I marry Draco Malfoy, he must not be evil; he must not be that bad. The people will think I saw the good in him, that I changed him. And if we have a child together?” She reached up and covered her mouth, choking back a sob. She turned and looked out the window.
Dark rain clouds seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. It was fitting.
“Narcissa… If I tell you something… can I trust you? Will you take an oath not to betray me?” Hermione looked at her through teary eyes.
Narcissa looked dumbfounded at the young woman.
“I won’t betray you, so long as I am not putting my husband and son in jeopardy.”
Hermione nodded. “Perhaps it’s best if I don’t tell you.”
Hermione looked up at the woman as another tear rolled down her porcelain cheek. “I thought I’d be doing good by coming here. I thought I could somehow help other people by leaving behind my old life. And it seems… I’m only going to cause harm through my sacrifice.”
Narcissa knelt before the girl and pleaded, “Don’t give up on him. There is good in him. He’s been taught to be this way his entire life. He couldn’t kill Dumbledore, just as I know he can’t kill thousands of innocents. Give him a chance; try to help him see the light. Don’t fear him; help him be a better person as only you can.”
Hermione glanced back out the window as a roll of thunder rattled the pane. She whispered, “I don’t fear him, Narcissa; I fear what he may become.”
A soft rap at the door caused both women to jump slightly. Narcissa stood and moved to the door, stopping it just as the handle began to turn.
Hermione turned and gazed out the window. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks, her reflection had its own real tears, large raindrops that trickled down almost mirror paths.
She watched the business far below her window. Several white tents were setup in the gardens. Fairy lights lit the walking paths and cast a soft glow. She could see guests piling into one of the tents and felt a fresh wave a tears creeping up on her.
She touched the cool glass with her palm and rested her forehead against the pane.
Whatever had she been thinking when she agreed to this?
Vaguely, she heard the door click shut and footsteps approach her.
“Hermione, love,” a voice behind her spoke softly.
She whirled around and flung herself into his arms.
“Shh, easy there, what’s the matter?” he asked in soothing tones.
“Harry, I can’t go through with it. I can’t.”
She told him of the prophecy and explained her theory to him. All the while, he watched her pensively.
When she finished, he spoke, “I brought you this.”
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a dark vial.
Understanding and relief flooded her face. She took it and swallowed it in one gulp.
“Hermione! You should know better than anyone you aren’t supposed to take it like that.”
“I know full well the effects of taking a calming draught too quickly. And I don’t give a damn.”
She handed him back the empty glass.
Harry dropped it in his pocket and sighed. “Who have you told about the prophecy and your theory?”
“Only Narcissa knows,” she answered and sat in one of the large wingbacks by the window. She already could feel the potion circulating in her veins, like half a bottle of Firewhiskey numbing her mind and senses.
“Good. Though… I’d rather she didn’t know, but make sure no one else finds out. Do you think she’ll talk?”
“No, I don’t. I think she wants to stop whatever he’s doing as badly as I do, just for different reasons.”
“Well, I’ll trust your instincts. If you’re right, we may have a huge advantage right now. If he’s got his sights set on the Ministry, we can head him off. Prevent his plan from coming to fruition.”
“How do you plan to accomplish that, Harry? Really… if the people fall in love with him, you can’t stop him.” She gazed at him with heavy-lidded eyes. She looked on the verge of passing out.
“Rita Skeeter still loves a good or bad story. Maybe she’ll be inundated with Malfoy gossip.”
“Please, you think she isn’t in his pocket yet? Honestly?”
“I…” Harry leaned back into his chair and sighed. “I hope not. I don’t have any good plans just yet.”
“Well, we better think of something soon. Tonight, the ball is set in motion. If only we could prevent it from starting.” She stared out the window with a glazed look. “Take me away, Harry. Take me away from here before I do irreparable damage.”
Harry looked as if he might cry as he gazed at his longtime friend. “You know I can’t. It’s binding, no matter where you run to.”
“Yes,” she whispered, “I know.”
After a long silence, she finally spoke.
“Did you know when you sent me here?”
“No, not that it was this far along. I would never have let you come if I’d had any idea.”
“Did Remus know?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t think so.”
“I’ll never forgive myself if I help him do what I fear he wants to.”
“I know, but it will never come to that. I swear to you. I will stop him.”
“I know you will,” she said with a slight smile. “And … I feel lovely, Harry. Thank you.”
Harry snorted and a smile crossed his lips.
Someone knocked twice and the door opened.
“It’s time, dear,” Narcissa said.
Hermione and Harry stood in unison, though Hermione wobbled slightly. Harry caught her forearm and steadied her.
They met Narcissa at the door. She fussed over Hermione’s smudged makeup a little and repaired what she could.
“We’re off to see the wizard then?” Hermione said with a smirk.
Harry laughed quietly while Narcissa looked slightly confused.
Well of course they were off to see the wizard, Narcissa thought as she watched her almost-daughter-in-law exit the room. Who else would they be going to see?
Hermione hesitated outside the curtains that would lead her down the aisle. She tried to turn and run but Harry held her arm fast and gave her a reproachful look.
She heard the phantom orchestra strike up their march.
Her heart leapt and she knew without the effects of the calming draught it would have been a deafening roar in her ears.
She swallowed deeply and waited.
The curtains were drawn back and revealed a would-be terrifying sight. Nearly three-hundred guests, separated by an aisle (which could have plainly said Death Eaters this way, Order Members that), stood looking at her. Some beamed at her with tear stained faces. Some glowered at her with pure loathing and disdain. Some were completely indifferent. Some, she knew instinctively, there was Mrs. Weasley with her fiery hair. But most were indistinguishable behind their masquerade masks.
Harry squeezed her hand reassuringly.
She watched them, through her bejeweled mask, watching her.
Harry began to pull at her arm slightly, urging her forward.
She fell into the slow rhythm of the bridal walk, all the while feeling like a once-loved queen approaching the guillotine.
“Breathe,” he whispered to her and continued leading her down the aisle.
And she did. She had been oblivious to holding her breath. Once she the fresh air hit her lungs, she felt a fresh surge of calm circulating her veins.
Then she saw him there. Draco was standing there waiting like some Venetian prince. He was robed in pure black and only the platinum of his hair, which glowed silver in the candle light, made him noticeable.
For a moment, she felt like a princess. She was taken in by the splendor of the white tent, lit by a thousand floating candles. She was enthralled by the guests, unable to tell who was friend and who was foe. She was entranced by the music, floating ethereally on the air.
She let Harry guide her all the way to the archway where Draco and the vicar waited. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of her since she had step foot on the aisle.
Briefly her mind registered the fact and she smirked as Harry handed her over to Draco’s awaiting palm.
I knew I looked fantastic, but hot damn… she thought and her grin widened.
Draco gave her a curious look.
The vicar began his speech.
“Are you drunk, Granger?” Draco whispered so only she might hear.
“Calming draught, you dolt.” She waivered slightly in his hand and he tightened his grip to keep her from losing balance.
“And I assume you chugged it?”
“Affirmative,” she hissed. She gave him an eye that told him to shut up.
“Charming.” He looked slightly irritated, but she couldn’t figure out why on Earth he might be. Would he have prefered she not had the potion and retched all over his shiny black shoes?
“Not particularily,” he muttered.
She raised a brow at him slightly; she hadn’t spoke, had she? Well she might have… she thought she hadn’t, but there was always the chance. What with being so relaxed and her thoughts just bouncing about, maybe she did unintentionally share something…
Draco squeezed her hands tightly, verging on painfully.
She snapped back into the moment.
“…do you Hermione, take Draco to be…”
She breathed and waited.
“I do,” she said softly.
Chapter 23... at last. I wish I could say it was worth the wait, but I hardly think it was. Almost a year and this is all I have? I know... I'm terrible. But I think there will be more where this came from, soon. And I really must dedicate this chapter to aidanlynchrox for hounding (encouraging) me into continuing :). I probably wouldn't have picked up the ... keyboard... without you. :) I love hearing from everyone. Your comments are very inspiring! I promise I won't keep you waiting long for the next chapter. <3 T_S_P
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