Chapter 15 : Keys and Love's Definition
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Hermione set the check down on the bureau and then held her trunk by one of the handles. She was about to leave when she glanced at her left hand and stopped. She had forgotten the ring. It had once been heavy on her hand and was a constant reminder of having to marry Draco once they had gotten pass Ara. After a short while, the ring had felt light, and now Hermione cringed as she slid it off her finger, and placed it on the bureau. She decided to write a small note too, and left it there with the ring sitting on top of it.
Sighing, she took one last look at Draco, saw that he was almost done packing, and hurried her quiet steps out of the suite. Hermione didn’t want to talk to him. She already felt bad enough for ruining everything, but there were so many things that was left hanging in the air between them that Hermione had wanted to address but was too afraid to say anything about. The kiss that they had shared at Isis’ mansion was one of them. It was the big one, actually, but she also wanted to know what Draco had meant when he said that he had stopped caring about his inheritance.
What was that about? What did he mean that he didn’t care? It was the whole reason they had put up with Ara all that time. It was the reason that they slept in the same bed. It was the reason that they held hands every day…laughed with each other, and why he smiled at her in that way that made Hermione want to smile too.
It wasn’t fair, Hermione said in her heart. Damn it, they worked hard. Will or no will, Draco deserved his inheritance. He had deserved something. And that’s why she went in search of Ara after leaving the suite. She eventually found her in one of the many parlor rooms, ironically, twirling the Gringotts Vault key between her fingers.
“Miss Granger, you haven’t left my manor yet. How come..?” Ara asked as she pocketed the key. Hermione realized in an instant exactly how much she hated this woman. It went beyond words and actions, and she smiled at the fact that she had no obligations to her anymore. There wasn’t a voice nagging her that said she should watch her tongue, and it felt good.
“I don’t have to be nice to you anymore, Ara.” Hermione said as she crossed her arms. “There are so many things that I want to say and do, but because I have respect for people no matter how vicious they are, I’ll refrain myself.”
“Is there a point here-?”
“It’s not fair what you’re doing. Mal- Draco and his mother have nothing.”
“And is that my fault?” Ara asked snobbishly. “If you want to blame someone for their misfortunes, blame Lucius. He’s the one who left them with all of that debt.”
“But you can get them out of it!” Hermione shouted at her. “You’re rich for Merlin’s sake, and you have an extra two hundred and sixty billion sitting in your pocket!”
“Look,” Ara said angrily. “Even if I wanted to give Draco the money, he could never get it. The will states that he has to be truly in love and married to a mudblood. You’re a mudblood, yes, but he’s not going to marry you now that I’ve found out your little ruse. Hell, he doesn’t even love you, though the show you two put on was beginning to get very…interesting. Velda’s will is magically set in stone. There’s nothing I can do.”
“You must think I’m a fool then.” Hermione replied passively. “You were the trustee in the will. If Draco doesn’t get his money it all goes to you. Whether you like it or not, and I’m quite sure that you’re enjoying it, that money is yours. Legally yours… You could still give it to him not under the pretenses of the will. Call it a gift. Hell, maybe out of the goodness of your heart. But he could still get it.”
Hermione left Ara in the parlor room before she could respond. She didn’t know what good could’ve come out of their little conversation, but it still felt good that it happened. She had done her part. She had tried. And now Hermione just prayed to Merlin that everything would work out.
Harry and Ron were ecstatic, naturally, to learn that Ara had found Hermione and Draco out. “Now you don’t have to marry the git.” Ron had said. “Consider yourself lucky, and the next time you want to help someone out, try doing something else other than selling yourself.” Hermione told him that she would, but was frowning considerably. The only person who could tell that she wasn’t happy was Ginny, who promptly sent Harry and Ron out of the flat in order to pick up some food. They left without a grumble, and once the flat was empty save her and Hermione, Ginny sat down next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Alright, what’s wrong with you? You’re shot of Malfoy now. You don’t have to marry him and your mother’s all better. Everything’s fine.”
“No, it’s not all fine.” Hermione argued. “I have what I wanted, sure, but what about Draco? He has nothing.”
“Who cares?” Ginny asked. But then she found that she was being insensitive and said, “Okay, no, I shouldn’t say that. It really is a terrible thing for him and his mother. They have no money and nowhere to live. But ‘Mione, you can’t save everyone. And didn’t you say you tried talking to that beastly woman into giving Malfoy his inheritance?” Hermione nodded, and Ginny shrugged her shoulders. “Well, then, you tried. Nothing you can do now.”
“I know… And I guess, I shouldn’t have cared at all if Draco doesn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“He told me that he didn’t care about losing his inheritance.”
“You’re kidding?” Ginny said in surprise. “Who doesn’t care about losing out over two hundred billion galleons?”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking. And it…” Hermione trailed off her words a bit. She took a hard swallow and continued. “It made me wonder what we were doing then. If he didn’t care, then why go on with the whole charade?”
“…We’re not talking about the money anymore, are we?”
Hermione didn’t answer her. She rubbed her shoulders gently and kept her gaze to her lap. Ginny sighed.
“How many times do we have to go over this?” She asked. “It wasn’t real, Hermione.”
“Then what was the point? If it wasn’t real, and he didn’t care, then what was it?”
“I don’t know, but what was real was Malfoy kissing someone else and you’d do best to remember that.”
Hermione was about to make a rebuttal when her fireplace turned on. She thought for a moment that she’d have to suspend her conversation with Ginny, thinking that it was Harry and Ron who’d come back. Imagine her surprise when it was Ara stepping through her fireplace and all her regal-ness. Hermione stood up in utter shock while Ginny sat rooted to the spot. Ara stood quiet for a moment. She was looking at her surroundings and taking in everything.
After a while she said, “For a St. Mungo’s Healer you have a rather…nice flat.”
That was how Ara gave compliments, and despite how annoyed and angry Hermione was at her, she took it. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to give you this.” Ara said as she slipped something to her. Hermione looked down at her hand and muffled a small gasp. It was the Gringotts Vault key.
“B-but why are you giving this to me?”
“Aside from the fact that I haven’t a single clue as to where Draco is..? Let’s just say that you’ve quite…impressed me.”
“I’ve impressed you?”
“Yes, you have. You see, Miss Granger, no one, and I mean no one speaks to me the way you did in my parlor room. It’s a shame that the only one who did turned out to be a muggleborn.” Ara smirked and went on. “Everyone is so on edge around me. They live to make sure I’m pleased, but not you. Don’t think that I haven’t seen the times when you wanted to say something to me but bit your tongue because Draco made you. You’ve got backbone, Miss Granger. And that’s why I’m allowing you to give my nephew that Vault key. Tell him…it was a gift.”
It took a while for Hermione to find out where Draco was. She had had no clue where to begin, and had decided to start with Harry and Ron. When they had come back from getting everyone something to eat, she told them what had happened. “And now I need to find him.” Hermione said. “Can you help me?” She could see that they were reluctant. Anything that had to do with “help” and “Draco” in the same sentence, the first thing they wanted to do was go in the other direction, but Hermione was persistent, and the next day she found herself in the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Residences.
It was the place where the Ministry housed where everyone lived, and Hermione hoped that Draco had already registered himself there. If he found somewhere to live, that is… She thought to herself, and she frowned, thinking of him off somewhere without a place to sleep.
But, Merlin seemed to be on her side. After almost two hours of searching Harry called her over. He put a folder in her hand and Hermione opened it. She smiled when she saw Draco’s name on one line and Blaise Zabini on another. Now all she had to do was go to the address, give him the key and…go. It’d be quick, simple, and easy, though Hermione didn’t know why she was so nervous.
Narcissa told Draco that they were going to stay with her cousin, Antlia, but he heavily protested it. He said that he’d rather kill himself first before even considering living with her. She groaned and said that he was being unreasonable. Draco said that he didn’t care. After that he wrote to Blaise and told him of his current situation, not really asking if he could move in with him just for a little while. Draco wasn’t a beggar. He never asked anyone for anything and found that even the thought of it gave him an unbearable itch. But Blaise was his best friend and knew him well. In his response he said, “You could always stay with me for a bit if you needed to.”
It wasn’t a real invite, but rather a suggestion. That was all he needed, and Draco let his mother part her way so he could go his. He found himself at his friend’s flat around eleven that night and going to sleep immediately. Now he was sitting at Blaise’s small dining table eating a light lunch after waking up from a fourteen-hour sleep.
“I thought you were dead.” Blaise said as he sat down in front of Draco.
“Might as well be,” He replied, and pushed his plate away from him.
“Oh, don’t talk like that. You’re a smart guy. I mean, sure you’ll have to work, and that’s a scary thought, but pretty soon you’ll probably be working for a top of the line company and be rich again. It’s only a small slump. And look on the bright side, you’re finally shot of that mudblood.”
“Don’t call her that.”
“Sorry… But I knew it, mate.” Blaise smiled. “I knew it had to be a lie. You couldn’t have really loved her. You would’ve told me-”
“Well, I’m telling you now.” Draco blurted out. He looked up at Blaise who was staring at him in disbelief. “Don’t look at me like that…”
“I’ve got every right to. Merlin, you just said that you loved the mud- Granger. It’s bloody ridiculous.”
“Damn right it is.” He agreed. “We argue all the time. She’s sarcastic as hell. Annoying as hell, and I…can’t help it.”
There was the sound a fireplace going off somewhere downstairs. Neither of them moved because one of the servants would attend to whoever it was that came. After several seconds of silence, footsteps came near to the dining room, and Blaise was looking beyond Draco’s shoulder in surprise.
“Miss Hermione Granger to see Mr. Malfoy,” The servant said, and then left. Draco turned around in his chair and then stood up in confusion as to what she was doing there. Blaise, unknown to either of them had slipped out of the room via another door.
“How did you know I was here?”
“The Department of Residences,” Hermione said simply. “It didn’t take long.”
“…What are you doing here?”
“I just came to give you this.”
Draco watched Hermione take out something from her pocket. She put it in his hand before he could get a good look at it. When he did, his eyes widened and saw that it was the Gringotts Vault key. He stared back and forward from it to Hermione, until he could finally catch his words.
“Your Aunt came to my flat to give it to me to give to you. She says it’s a gift.”
Draco let the key slide between his fingers and then he chuckled. “The only way she’d do this is if she was threatened to. Did you threaten her?”
“I talked to her.” Hermione admitted with a small twist of a smile. “All I did was talk to her.”
“Apparently it was a very good talk. Why did you do it, though?”
“Because it wasn’t fair… I messed up and you shouldn’t have gotten penalized for it.”
“Thank you,” Draco said after a short pause. Hermione nodded and then said that she would ask a servant to see her out, but he couldn’t let her leave yet. He couldn’t let her leave at all actually –not without first asking one small question. “Why were you mad at me?”
“When..?” She asked. “You’ve got to admit that I’ve been mad at you plenty of times throughout all of this.”
“When we got back to Auntie Ara’s manor after the party as Isis.’ You said that you saw what I did. What did I do that made you so upset with me?”
Hermione struggled to keep her gaze up straight to meet his eyes. She was hoping that none of this would come up. She was just there to give him the key and then leave, but she soon realized that he wasn’t going to let her go that easily without an answer.
Sighing, she replied, “Because I saw you kissing Isis,”
“That’s why you were mad at me?” Draco said in one breath. She nodded and he couldn’t believe it. That’s why she had said that they needed to be more focused. She saw them kiss, which means she must’ve thought…she must’ve felt… Draco’s mind was going at a million miles a minute that he didn’t even realize that Hermione had continued speaking.
“…And I know that it must be ridiculous for you to hear.” She was saying. “I guess I had just got caught up in everything –especially after we danced-”
“I only did it to prove a point.” He interrupted. Hermione stared at him in confusion.
“To prove what..?”
“That I didn’t love Isis anymore. And that I…loved you instead.”
Hermione nearly fell. Her knees had lost all support, and she was sure that she would’ve collided with the floor. She couldn’t have heard right. She just couldn’t have. She had just heard the thing that she had been hoping to hear, but was now shaking her head.
“No, you can’t.” Hermione told him. “You can’t. It was a lie. It was an act for Merlin’s sake. It was only to get your inheritance and you –you have it now!”
Draco could see that she was conflicted, but all the other times before, he knew that she wasn’t. Right now she was in denial, and all he felt like doing was laughing. He smiled and rolled his eyes as he pulled her close to him. She fixed her mouth to say something, but he kissed her to shut her up. In that kiss everything that he felt that he was confused about had suddenly cleared up. And when he finally pulled away, Draco took out his wand, put the Vault key on the table and pointed his wand at it.
“When I told you that I didn’t care about my inheritance, I meant it.”
Hermione stared at him in amazement as he muttered a small incantation that melted the key before her eyes. All it was now was a small puddle of gold with no chances of being repaired.
“We might fight like hell, but I’d be a liar if I said that I didn’t enjoy it.”
Hermione couldn’t help but laugh . She nodded and said that it was true. She didn’t know what she’d do if there wasn’t one day if she couldn’t argue with him, tease him, and just…be with him she supposed. Without her realizing, her left hand had become heavy once again. Looking down, Hermione saw the engagement ring that she had taken off just the day before.
“What if it stops?” Hermione asked him. “What if it really was just all an act?”
Draco shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t really think of that. He didn’t really think about his feelings going away and horribly realizing that instead of deceiving his aunt, they were really deceiving themselves. But as he held Hermione in his arms, he shook his head.
“It won’t stop.”
“I hope so.” Hermione said. She smiled and hugged him. Before she let him go, she whispered in his ear, “By the way, with the proper identification and a relative to vouch for you, you can get a replacement Vault key.”
“Thank Merlin,” Draco breathed, and the two of them shared a laugh. It was a risk for the two of them. A big risk… They could love each other now, and hate each other tomorrow, but what was love without hate? What was love if there was no sense of doubt? People always said that there were no questions when you loved someone -that it was perfect and a fairytale -but that just wasn't true. Doubt meant that you cared if something went wrong and it meant you were thinking of the future and not just the here and now.
And so with the adrenaline rush coursing thoughout Hermione's body, relentlessly questioning what in Merlin's name was she doing, she knew that it was better than thinking of things with an unrealistic eye.
Later that night with two hundred and sixty billion galleons in his pocket and a new manor –large, but modest –Draco crept up behind his fianc and said, “I want to get the ring inscribed. What do you want it to say?”
Hermione thought hard. She really didn’t know. She didn’t want a cliché –something that was written on every ring in the world. But after a few minutes of reflecting on everything that had happened, she knew exactly what she wanted.
“Love is deception,” She told him.
“Innocent,” Draco added with a smile. “Innocent deception,”
Hermione nodded and knew it to be true. Love was innocent deception indeed.
author's note: well, here is the end of my fic Innocent Deception. I'm sad to see it go, but I can definitely say that I've enjoyed writing this story and reading your reviews that helped give me inspiration :)
and so, thanks to all of you who've been reading. thanks to those who've been reviewing. and....yup, i think that's it. hope to see you all on some of my other fics that are still going on (and i know i will since i've seen ur SNs floating around in a review or two haha)
hope you liked the chap
and thanks again!