A sleek black car with dark black windows slowly entered the grounds of the Malfoy Manor, trailing behind several other muggle cars. Hermione's attention was glued on the window, while she tried to focus her mind on anything else but the feeling of uneasiness that settled in her body. Her hands were neatly folded on top of her bare legs, while her mind was completely absorbed in her thoughts. Sensing Hermione's nervousness, Draco reached over and unfolded Hermione's hands, taking her right hand in his. "Relax." he whispered, giving her a soft smile. "Everything will be fine. Just relax, Hermione."
She turned to Draco and gave him a shaky smile. "I know, but everything depends on tonight right?" Hermione reminded him. "If tonight turns into a disaster, then your mom will seriously throw a fit."
Draco chuckled. "Don't worry about my mother." he squeezed her hand in reassurance. "Just act natural - there's no need to force ourselves to look happy." she turned to him with a strange look on her face. Clearing his throat, Draco said, "What I meant was, all we have to show them is the real us - we don't have to do anything more than that. Now, you look beautiful tonight, Hermione - how about we go out there and just get this whole night over with."
For a short moment, Hermione sat in the still car, fixing her eyes on their intertwined hands. She then lifted her head, and forced a smile on her face. "Alright." Draco smiled once more, ready to give Hermione all the support she needed to get through the night and keep her sanity intact. As soon as Draco stepped out of the car, several photographers immediately took this opportunity to get as much pictures as they could. Camera flashes could be seen through the opening of the car door and Hermione's heart raced. Hesitantly, she held her breath and stepped out of the car, into Draco's waiting arms. She soon faced several reporters, who were all flashing cameras in their faces - eager to get a photograph of the current most interesting couple.
Hermione forced a smile as she stood on the base of the stairs, allowing the photographers to take their pictures. Once she felt Draco tug lightly on her waist, she turned around and slowly walked up the stairs. "Calm down," he whispered in her ear while he led her through the entrance of the manor.
No matter how many times Hermione visited the Malfoy Manor; there was always something new that amazed her. This time, it was the grand ballroom that had been transfigured by Narcissa, in place of their sitting room. "Wow," she breathed, looking up at the large arc that had appeared in the middle of the room.
A chuckle filled her ears as Draco appeared by her side. "You'll get used to it." he said, taking her hand, leading her into the ballroom. "C'mon, mom sat us over there." Draco told her, pointing to a table placed in the middle of the ballroom, bordering the dance floor. "Typical of mum to do this." he muttered to himself.
"I think your mum is just worried about you, Draco." Hermione said, following him to their designated table. She scanned the ballroom, seeing all the men dressed in smart tuxes accompany their dates, who were all dressed in beautiful gowns. She took the seat beside Pansy, who smiled when she saw the couple walking towards them.
"Why, Hermione," she said, grinning from ear to ear. "You look absolutely beautiful tonight - I wonder who's at fault." Pansy - as usual, was dressed in black. She wore a simply black dress, flowing outwards down to her feet. Her legs were covered with sheer black stockings, and her feet were covered in black pumps.
Hermione smirked and flipped her brown hair all over her shoulder. "Well, it's all natural, did you know?" she answered, jokingly.
Draco laughed and slipped his arm around her shoulders. "She isn't lying, you know." Smiling, he leaned forward and planted a chaste kiss on her cheek.
Obviously surprised, Hermione turned to him and stared. Their eyes met for a moment as Draco's face grew serious. Thankfully for Hermione, Pansy jumped up from her seat beside her and straightened out her dress. "Theo." she began, pulling him up to his feet. "Come dance with me!" Hermione and Draco were both forced to look Pansy's way due to her sudden outburst.
Hermione cleared her throat, stealing a glance from Draco. She quickly averted her attention elsewhere, when she was sure that his eyes grazed her. Draco pulled back his arm, and nonchalantly moved his hand down to her bare thigh as he reached forward for the un-touched glass of champagne sitting on the table. Her long white dress draped around her legs like a curtain, exposing her legs from thigh down, when pushed back. Once she felt Draco's skin touching hers, she drew a shaky breath. The unfamiliar contact sent shivers down her back, while memories of their nights together filled her mind. A slight, rosy blush formed on her cheeks and she discreetly attempted to hide her pink cheeks from Draco.
A few moments ago, Draco had made the mistake of reaching forward and planting a kiss on Hermione's cheek. He had sent her the wrong idea - or he himself, had the wrong idea. She quickly turned her head towards him, her hair sending a wave of fragrance to linger in between them. For a moment, he sat there - intoxicated and spellbound as her light brown eyes caught his attention. He couldn't miss the moment to properly see the beautiful girl sitting in front of him. The tempting opportunity made it difficult for Draco to look elsewhere, amazed by what he saw from a simple look. She was afraid - and he knew it. His attention was finally steered away from Hermione when Pansy suddenly shot out of her seat. Noticing their unusual position, Draco moved his arm from around her and immediately cursed his hand for acting upon its own accord. His hand landed on her thigh - a usual and familiar act of possession. In his attempt to hide his obvious nervousness, he reached forward and drank some of his champagne. 'Smooth,' Draco thought to himself bitterly.
Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Draco turned around to find Blaise grinning down at him. "Hullo, mate." He greeted. Draco noticed his eyes moving to Hermione, and he knew that Blaise was thinking the same as he. Hermione was absolutely gorgeous, and there was no one in this room that would even dare of thinking otherwise. "Hey, Hermione." Blaise said, smiling. "You look lovely tonight." Draco mentally scoffed, knowing the word 'lovely' was an understatement.
Surprise came over him as Blaise walked around him and to Hermione's side. Blaise held out his hand, being the proper gentleman he is, and gave Hermione one his most charming smiles. "Hermione, I believe that a beautiful lady like you shouldn't spend the night sitting down with boring ol` Draco here." Blaise earned himself a smack behind his head as Draco scowled at him. "Come dance with me, beautiful." he continued, causing Hermione to blush slightly. "I'll show you that I can dance a lot better than this git."
She reached up and placed her hand in his. "Why I'd love to, Blaise." Hermione answered, smiling. Once she stood up, Blaise offered his arm to his dance partner, and Hermione carefully looped her arm around his. He led her straight to the middle of the dance floor, and they began dancing, joyfully.
"Excuse Draco." Blaise told her, his mouth close to her ear. "He's rather shy around pretty girls."
Hermione blushed for the third time that night. "Draco has no reason to be shy around me." she told him, fighting the urge to smile. "He's definitely anything but shy."
Blaise chuckled and said, "Trust me Hermione. If you were any other normal girl, he wouldn't be sitting down at a table, drowning in champagne." At the word 'normal', Hermione gave him a quizzical look. "Well, let's face it." he said, smirking. "You're Hermione Granger. So far, you're the only person I know that can completely make him all hot and bothered," Blaise winked. "If you know what I mean."
This comment caused Hermione to throw her head back and laugh. Blaise, enjoying her mirth, twirled her around, and brought him back into him. Their dance was cut short once he felt a hand on his shoulder. Blaise immediately grinned when he saw Draco standing behind him with his arms folded behind him. "Well Draco, you certainly took a while."
Draco cleared his throat, and glanced towards Hermione. "May I take my fiancé back?" he asked, slightly amused. "I wouldn't want to put her through anymore torture - not every girl has the ability to deal with your horrid dancing." Draco couldn’t fight the small grin that crept upon his face.
A joyous laugh came from Hermione's mouth once more, and Draco smiled upon looking at her. Blaise scowled at Draco, and let his arms drop from Hermione's
side. He turned to Hermione and smiled. "It was a pleasure dancing with you, my darling." With one last look, Blaise turned around and headed to the other side of the ballroom. Draco and Hermione watched him for a moment, and they both shook their heads with a chuckle once they notice Blaise advancing on a long-legged blonde.
They both turned towards each other, and Draco immediately took Hermione's hand in his, and wrapped his other arm around her waist. Together, they began to waltz across the dance floor as Draco led her gracefully and flawlessly. During their entire dance, Draco kept his eyes on Hermione's face, unable to get enough of her. He noticed the blush that formed on her cheeks when she felt slightly embarrassed, and wondered if it was his effect on her. "You know, if I didn't know any better - I’d say that you're blushing, Granger." he said beside her ear, smirking widely.
A string of curses flew through Hermione's mind once she felt the familiar sensation of heat pooling around the cheeks. Stealing a glance from Draco, she silently hoped that he had not noticed how much she had been blushing."Shut your face, Malfoy." Hermione snapped, embarrassed as she turned away. "I am not blushing." With a deep, throaty chuckle, Draco managed to distract her from her embarrassment, as he twirled her around the dance floor, dancing circles around everyone else. She noticed his flawless steps, along with the way his body moved, in unison with the rhythm of the music. Realization came crashing down on Hermione, once she remembered what he was - an explanation of his fine taste and perfect dancing. The word 'pureblood' crossed her mind again and again, until it was permanently etched into her brain, making it something she wouldn't be able to forget, for the time being. 'Pureblood' - the label she has grown to hate - the label that has put so many barriers around their relationship, that Hermione no longer knew how to get around it. Being a pureblood was simply inevitable, and it was something that Draco couldn't run from, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to in the future. Simply thinking of the word, she scowled wondering why the high status had put them in such a predicament such as this. Doubt has crossed her mind more than it should have in the past few days, leaving Hermione feeling guilty of her own thoughts.
The song slowed, and another tune blended in with the fading waltz. Draco recognized it immediately and smirked. "The next song is a tango, Granger. Do you know how to dance a tango?" he asked in a whisper, leaning forward, closer to her ear. Without waiting for an answer, he drew her body closer to his and grinned when he heard a soft gasp come from her mouth. Knowing Hermione's unfamiliarity with the tango, he began to lead her, knowing she would be able to follow without a problem.
With every move, their dance grew more and more intimate the proximity of the distance between their bodies endlessly teased Draco, causing a throaty growl to slip past his lips and into Hermione's ear. However, no matter how much it pained him to be so close, yet so far from her - he enjoyed the feeling of her body pressed against his. Knowing that the song was about to come to an end, Draco abruptly pulled Hermione against his chest, and he shut his eyes tight the moment her chest made contact with his. Their faces were merely centimeters apart, and he could feel her hot breath on his face. She hooked her right leg around his hip before his hands gripped either side of her waist, and carefully pushed her back, dipping her low to the ground.
As he watched her curve against his hands, he wondered how she was able to move her body so. His hands cradled her waist, assisting her body in creating a perfect arc as her hair fell from her shoulders. He watched as her head dipped lower to the ground, her body moving sensually - artistically. Draco’s eyes fixated on her for a moment, before she slowly drew her body back up, causing her body to accent her chest, as it rose higher. Their eyes immediately met as soon as Hermione stood upright. He could feel the air being knocked away from his chest, windswept by Hermione’s beauty. With their feet rooted on the spot, neither of them seemed to notice the song coming to an end. Draco continued holding Hermione close to him, his arms wound tightly around her waist.
Before Draco moved away, he gave her a smile that caused Hermione's insides to squeeze tightly together. She felt her knees grow weak, buckling against each other, and she found herself standing before him - breathless. "I didn't know you could dance so well, Hermione." he commented as he continued to smile down at her.
"Well, there's a lot you don't know about me, Draco." Hermione breathed, still dazed from his smile.
"We're just going to have to change that, won't we?" he asked with twinkling eyes.
Hermione felt an unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach, and she dropped her gaze to the floor. "What's the point?" she mumbled to herself, almost inaudibly. "We're going to divorce eventually anyway,"
Unfortunately, Draco had heard what Hermione had said, and anger bubbled inside him. He abruptly turned around and faced Hermione, before they had even got the chance to return to their seats. "What are you talking about?" he asked with fiery eyes.
Hermione's eyes widened upon seeing Draco's formidable expression. "Well - I uh, I didn't say anything, Draco." she whispered, dropping her gaze to her feet.
He scoffed, and rolled his eyes. "You've never been the best liar." Draco informed her, scoffing bitterly. "Is that really what you think of this marriage?" he demanded furiously. "A relationship that's not even worth a try because you know it’s going to end eventually?"
Sensing the tension, reporters were instantly swarmed around the couple, their quick quotes quill floating beside them - eager to catch what Draco and Hermione were saying. "No, that's not what I m - " Draco had cut Hermione off before she was able to finish her sentence.
"That's just great, Hermione." he said sarcastically, his voice rising. “What a great thing to say.” His voice was cold, and it cut through Hermione like an old, jagged, dirty knife that tore at her skin. It was then when the couple realized just how open their conversation was. With a scowl on his face, Draco stared at each of the reporters crowded around them. He grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her away from the crowd and out of the manor.
He pulled her around the manor, and towards the garden planted in the back. Hermione stumbled against the ground that mostly consisted of pebbles, struggling with Draco's fast pace. Once he had let go of her hand, the cold movement caused guilt to wash over her. She kept her eyes on him, unable to tear them away. He looked severely troubled, and there was a mixture of emotions painted on his face. "I hope you know that they heard everything." Hermione began said softly, attempting to break the tension between them.
"Never mind them." Draco answered exasperatedly, running a hand through his hair. "Mum will take care of them." Another moment of silence fell upon them while Draco walked in small circles in front of Hermione. His hands were tucked in the pockets of his trousers and he pulled his right hand out every now and then to pick at his hair.
She wrapped her arms closer to her body, the moment she felt the cold claw at her skin. The wind picked up, causing her dress to be pressed closer to her skin, and the loose fabric around her legs mingled with the wind behind her body. Her legs felt bare and exposed, and the cold crawled down upper body and traveling to her legs. "Draco," she began quietly. "Why did you bring me out here?"
At first, he didn’t respond. He merely looked up at the cloudless sky, and held his gaze. His eyes traced the pattern of the stars, tracing them back to the moon and around. He kept his eyes away from her, afraid that she would finally see what he’s been trying to hide. Draco knew she was growing impatient – a usual act when she was denied an answer. The thought almost made Draco chuckle; however, he held his laughter, knowing it would simply aggravate the situation.
The moment he turned to her, he wondered what she was thinking. She looked solemn, and rather cold. He wanted to put his arms around her to keep her warm, but he knew better than to spontaneously change his mind in a situation such as this. It angered her to no end, and he would do anything to avoid her wrath. Finally, he spoke. "Is that really how you see us?" he asked, knowing he had to get it out. "Is that all I am to you? Someone temporary - something that you're just going to have to deal with for the next few years?"
"What are you talking about?" she questioned.
"What you said back there!" He exclaimed, throwing his hand up in the air. "That's really what all of this means to you? Just a bloody contract?"
As his words sunk in, Hermione grew angry at their futile argument. "Isn't that all that we are?" she asked, taking a step closer. "That's what we agreed on, isn't it? We agreed on a simple contract marriage. Draco, we both agreed that we'd be divorcing in the span of two or three years - what are you so angry about?"
His features softened as he looked at her. "So that's really it? This is just something you're going to forget when it's all over." He asked. “I mean absolutely nothing to you? Jesus, Hermione! Am I just a bloody CONTRACT to you?”
She glared at him, before she retaliated with her own argument. “You asked me for a favor – we made a contract, we agreed on a set or terms, and we both signed it.” The more they argued about it, the more Hermione felt dirty, and fake. Never in their entire relationship had they felt any more artificial than they had now. “None of this is real.” She reminded him. “We were never real – it was fixed from the start, it’s the simple truth, Draco.” He growled quietly, angering Hermione even more. "What would you like me to do?" she spat sourly. "Hang onto something that has absolutely no possibility of being real?" This time, Draco didn't respond. He stood there in front of Hermione, clearly hurt by the coldness of her words. "What do you expect?" she asked. "We're not real, Draco. This isn't real - we agreed this wouldn't be real."
"I know that, I'm not a bloody idiot." he snapped angrily, ruffling his hair with his hands again. "I just - I don't know anything anymore." Draco finished wearily.
"What?" she questioned.
Draco shrugged, and started sorting the pebbles on the ground with his feet. "These days, I don't seem to know much anymore." a nervous chuckle came from his lips. "I don't know how to do anything, I don't know what I'm going to do at work, or the next day, or in the afternoon - I don't know anything."
Annoyed and tired, Hermione rolled her eyes. "Stop with the crap, and just tell me why this sudden outburst about our marriage." she snapped impatiently, hugging herself tighter.
"I'm sorry," he began softly. "I never expected us to end up where we are now."
Hermione looked at him, clearly confused. "And where are we now, Draco?" Draco fought the urge to smile upon hearing her voice. It was as sweet as sugar, so innocent and so curious. It was one of the things he liked so much about her. How he was able to hear the curiosity in her voice, and how it sounded so sweet. No woman he’s met ever asked a question that made Draco smile even the slightest bit.
"We're here, standing behind my parents’ house - arguing about our future." he said in an informative tone. "Who knew, huh?" Still unconvinced with Draco's explanations, Hermione gave him a quizzical look. She didn’t understand his words, what was he saying? "I never thought I'd feel this way - about anything." He quickly added.
"How do you feel?" she pressed curiously, after a couple moments of silence found its way in between them. Hermione's anger completely subsided once she saw how nervous and shaky Draco looked. He still refused to meet her eyes, as he continued staring down at his feet, as if they were the most interesting thing on earth. Hermione noticed the unfamiliar expression on his face while he racked his brain for words to say to her.
Draco gulped loudly before he finally tore his gaze from the ground to look at Hermione. He opened his mouth, and shut it again - repeating this gesture three more times before he finally realized that there were absolutely no words to explain how he felt. There was a mixture of labels for emotions that ran through his mind, but none of them could perfectly describe the she made him feel. Just by staring straight into her eyes, all the anger he had felt moments ago had washed away from his body, leaving him completely drained of any feeling associated with remorse, annoyance, anger and regret. "I - err.." He trailed off; still unable to find words she would be able to understand.
He merely stood in front of her, staring straight into her eyes. Hermione was confused, watching his face soften the longer he held her gaze. However, she was more surprised when he tore his eyes from her, slowly following something moving from behind her. "What are you doing here?" his voice was cold and angry, sparking Hermione's curiosity.
Wesley Carrow was walking towards them slowly, his hands in his pockets. "Draco." he began. His eyes trailed from Draco and landed on Hermione. "Hermione- listen," Wes was unable to finish his sentence before Draco rudely interrupted him.
"What are you doing here, Carrow?" he snapped, glaring daggers towards his former mate. He was surprised to see the effectiveness of the facade that Wesley had managed to hide behind. "We're busy." Draco added, wanting to rip the man standing before them into shreds.
Ignoring Draco, Wesley turned to Hermione with a genuine look of remorse on his face. "Look, Hermione - I'm really sorry about the other night." he said, ruffling his dark hair. "I had no idea - "
"Apology not accepted." Draco snapped, wrapping his arm around Hermione's waist protectively and leading her back into the manor. "Leave her alone, Carrow." he told him before they were out of earshot - leaving Wesley standing in the garden, alone.
"He was trying to apologize." Hermione whispered, attempting to reason with Draco. "You could've at least been a little nicer."
He rolled his eyes. "As smart as you are, Hermione - you're really, really gullible. I stand by what I told you ages ago - stay away from him."
They both stopped before they reached the double doors leading into the manor. Once he noticed the missing warmth in her body, Draco shrugged off his coat and placed it over her shoulders. In response, Hermione smiled thankfully and adjusted his coat around her body. "Let me guess," she began, trying to lighten the mood between them - their previous conversation momentarily forgotten. "People got in the way and deceived us, causing us to argue over something petty like this?"
Draco smiled at her words - slightly comforted to know that she was beginning to able to anticipate his actions. "Not quite." he replied. "Let me handle this one." With a wink, Draco pushed open the doors and was immediately bombarded by reporters and several photographers.
The couple stood outside the entrance of the ballroom, overwhelmed once they saw the crowd that formed around them. Draco wrapped his arm around Hermione, pulling him close to his body, afraid that he would lose her in the swarm of people. As soon as Draco opened his mouth, lies immediately spilled out flawlessly and effortlessly. Hermione stood, rooted on the spot, partially surprised at how easy it was for Draco to feed the press complete lies. Her eyes were fixed on his calm face and she wondered how many more times Draco would have to cover up for their mistakes, and how many more times he would have to tell complete lies to the public. As her mind trailed away from the important matter at hand, she began to wonder how many lies Draco had told her in the past, now that she was fully aware of his impressive ability to lie. His face showed absolutely on emotion - no sign of fear or nervousness. This caused her to wonder why lying was such a painless act for Draco. Did he feel no guilt as he created ridiculous stories on the spot?
It was that moment when Hermione realized that no matter how much lies Draco told and no matter how much times he'll have to lie in the future, he was no better than she was. Hermione was lying to the word as well as he was. They had both fooled everyone in this room, all their friends, their family - everyone. It struck her like a hex. She was a liar, a bigliar, and so was he.
"Darling, let's go." The word 'darling' brought her out of her trance, and she realized that she had been staring at Draco this entire time. He kept his arm around her, and he pulled her through the crowd and into the ballroom. "You can relax now." he whispered to her. "They bought it."
After hearing his words of reassurance, Hermione let out a breath she didn't know she was holding, and followed Draco back to their seats. She noticed everyone's eyes settling on Draco and her as they walked through the ballroom. Attempting to ignore everyone, she quickly strode past several tables, and plopped down beside Pansy.
"Do you guys have any idea what a mess you've created?" Pansy snapped immediately, looking directly at Draco. "Draco, your mother is furious with you! Those reporters will eventually find something wrong with your lies, and trust me when I say this - they will find out everything."
Draco sighed. "Not now, Pansy."
However, Pansy chose not to listen to Draco. "Your mother had to lock the entrance down so that they couldn't leave the bloody manor! It took her ages to sort the lot out."
"Pansy, I said not now." he snapped angrily, taking two glasses of champagne from a waiter walking by.
Attempting to hide her annoyance from Hermione, Pansy turned away, only to find herself staring at a tall blonde standing under the arc that led to the ballroom. "What in the name of Merlin -" she turned to Theodore and whispered to him, "I'll be right back - make sure Draco and Hermione don't see her." She instructed, placing her small beaded bag on the table. Pansy straightened out her dress at the request of Theo, and made her way to Miranda.
At the sight of Pansy, Miranda smiled forcibly, and flipped her blonde hair over her shoulders. "This is just like you, Miranda." Pansy said once she realized the eyes of many men being drawn to the gorgeous blonde dressed in red. "Arriving fashionably late, and wearing something that's nowhere near acceptable for a social event such as this."
Miranda smirked, taking Pansy's words as a compliment. She wore a tight red dress - practically molded with her skin. Her legs were bare, and she wore high, four inch heels, with the purpose of emphasizing the length of her legs. "I couldn't resist." Miranda grinned, placing one hand on her hip. "You know how I love the attention, Pansy."
"What are you doing here?" Blaise demanded, appearing by Pansy's side. "I was told that you rejected Narcissa's invitation."
She shrugged in response. "I changed my mind." A small devious smile formed on her lips. "Who could resist crashing a party like this one?" Miranda finished. The devilish smile played on her lips while she walked around Blaise and Pansy, and to the table she had set her eyes on. The smile grew wider once she saw Draco's surprised expression as his eyes landed on hers. "Hello, Draco." her charming demeanor caused Pansy to scowl as she returned to her empty seat.
Miranda inwardly frowned while she watched Pansy explain their current situation to her boyfriend, Theo, who was seated beside her. Her frown grew once she turned back to Draco, and much to her dismay, she noticed that he had turned his attention away from her, and to Hermione instead. She continued watching the couple with a slightly disgusted look on her face. Miranda watched Draco, who was intently staring at Hermione who seemed to have his complete and undivided attention, while she blabbed on and on about something undoubting boring. Miranda grew more and more curious as she paid more attention to the strange dynamics of the couple. Hermione talked, and rambled on about anything and everything she could possibly think of. All the while, Draco sat beside her, absorbed in her words, listening to every single syllable - every single letter that came from her mouth. It was then when she knew that no matter what Hermione said, no matter how boring she was - Draco would sit there and listen to anything she had to say. Jealousy suddenly washed over her, a feeling that she grew familiar with ever since she returned to London.
"You're staring." Miranda didn't have to look to see who the voice belonged to. Wesley took the empty seat beside Miranda, once he silently acknowledged the rest of their company. "It's quite rude to stare."
She turned away from the couple, and placed her attention on Wesley. "It's quite rude to fool people as well, Wesley - yet here you are."
He chuckled at her sourness, and casually leaned back against his chair. "You're plotting something." he said, as he watched her intently.
Miranda drank a sip of her champagne, her gaze not moving from Hermione and Draco. "You see those reporters over there?" she asked Wesley, pointing to a crowded corner of the ballroom. "By the end of the night, they're going to be having a story that's good enough to make the front page."
"What are you going to do?" he asked, hesitantly. Miranda merely stared at him in response, drinking the last of her champagne before she set the glass back on the table. "Whatever you do, Miranda - leave Granger out of it. I’m serious – leave her out of it.”
She ignored Wesley's request and turned her attention towards Draco once more. “You know, Carrow.” She began, her eyes staying on Draco. “I don’t think Draco’s the only one who’s fallen for this leech.”
Making her decision, Miranda forced a charming smile on her face and stood up and slowly strutted towards Draco, placing a steady hand on his shoulder. "Come dance with me," She invited softly. "I'm sure Hermione wouldn't mind, right?" Miranda glanced at Hermione while she attempted to hide her distaste behind her words.
Hermione chose to ignore her, and simply smiled at Draco. "Go," she said, offering her approval. "I'll manage on my own, you don't have to stay."
Before Draco could even respond, Miranda pulled him up to his feet and roughly dragged him onto the dance floor. Disappointment - something she knew she shouldn't be feeling, caused her to look away from Draco, who had turned around to look at her one more time.
"Hermione." she looked up to find Wesley standing before her with his right hand extended outwards - and invitation to dance."Would you like to dance?" he asked, incase his gesture needed more words. His expression looked hopeful, almost desperate, with a hint of nervousness.
Her reply was hesitant, and a solid 'no' almost slipped out of her mouth, but Wesley cut her off before she could reject his request. "C'mon, Hermione." he said, offering a small smile. "It's just a dance." Wesley didn't wait for a response. Instead, he took her hands in his and pulled her to her feet.
Together, they walked to the middle of the dance floor, stopping not far from where Miranda and Draco were. They began dancing immediately, and Hermione slightly stumbled against his feet. “Look, Wesley, I don’t really think I should be dancing with you.” She said, feeling guilty for speaking so harshly. “You saw the Daily Prophet – if these reporters see us then -”
He scowled. “In other words, Draco told you to stay away from me, correct?” Hermione didn’t respond. Instead, she merely twirled as Wesley extended his arm slightly, moving Hermione’s body outwards. "So you're letting Draco make your decisions for you now?" he asked her cynically, once she was close to him again. "I never pegged you as the type of girl that could be made into a puppet."
It was difficult for Hermione to comprehend what Wesley was saying. Her eyes were glued on Draco and Miranda, who seemed to be dancing circles around them. They were a perfect set, and there was no denying it. Miranda followed Draco around flawlessly with poised and graceful movements. Miranda had no trouble following Draco's lead, and they both spun around in perfect circles like magic.
"Hermione," Wesley said, snapping her out of her gaze.
She turned back to him, and gave him an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, I was just - distracted." Hermione apologized. "What were you saying?" she asked.
Sighing, Wesley repeated himself once more. "I never took you as the type of girl that could be treated like a puppet." Hermione was taken aback by the coldness and bitterness of his tone - something he didn't bother to hide from her. "You know, I think I'm even starting to see the strings tied around you."
Hermione angrily stepped away from him. "Don't be rude." She snapped. "You don't know what you're talking about."
A small gasp came from her throat as Wesley roughly grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the ballroom. "Wes, let go of me." she ordered in an affirmative tone. However, Wesley kept his hold on Hermione until they were both safe from the crowd, standing in front of the coat room. "What do you think you're doing?" she demanded impatiently, rubbing her arm.
They stood there for a moment - Wesley leaning against the counter of the cloak room, and Hermione walking in small paces in front of him. "Wesley, why did you bring me here?" she inquired, keeping a safe distance between them. After the previous nights' events, Hermione found it harder to trust Wesley, no matter how much of a gentleman he was.
Wesley ignored her question and leaned against the counter top with a sulky expression visible on his face. His eyes seemed to be glue onto his feet as if they were suddenly the two most interesting thing in the world. "Why are you doing this?" Wes asks her abruptly. "Why are you marrying Draco?"
Surprised by his words, Hermione merely stared at him. “What kind of silly question is that?” she finally replied. “I’m marrying Draco because I care about him.” It’s not a complete lie. She thought to herself before guilt could even think about coming over her.
He scoffed louder than he had intended. “That’s a load of shit.” Wesley spat, glaring towards the entrance of the ballroom. “Look at you.” He told her. “You’re becoming a puppet controlled by strings – I always thought you were free.” Before Hermione was able to speak, Wesley continued rambling, his voice growing louder and louder as anger rose in his body. “Free to make your own decisions, free to do whatever you wanted! Not to be controlled by a whole family of purebloods!” he exclaimed loudly.
“I am free.” Hermione replied sourly. “They don’t control my actions or my decisions.”
Wesley rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, please.”
“You were once friends with Draco.” She told him, as if to remind Wesley of his past. “You two were friends, almost like brothers. Why do you speak so badly of Draco now?” As she spoke of Draco, she suddenly missed his presence. Hermione turned around, her eyes moving straight inside the ballroom as she searched for Draco’s familiar head of blonde hair.
“I don’t like what he’s doing to you.” Wes forced the answer out of his mouth. “He doesn’t deserve someone like you.”
Hermione’s head turned back to Wesley, looking confused. “What is he doing to me, Wesley?” she asked. “He’s not doing anything to me.”
He rolled his eyes again. “You can stop pretending for now, Hermione.” He answered. “I know all about your fake marriage.” She blinked, surprised. “Are you really surprised? Draco doesn’t do well lying to people that’s known him for years.”
“I- I – I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Hermione replied quickly, looking away.
A bitter scoff drew Hermione’s attention back. “And you’re not a very good liar either.” He added. “Draco may care about you – sure, but he will never love you. I hope you know that, Hermione.” As Hermione stared at his face, she noticed the genial look that had replaced the scornful expression on his face. There were no tricks or hidden acts of deception – it was the pure truth. “His heart is set on Miranda, it always was.”
She let out a breath. “I know that.” Hermione told him. She closed her eyes tightly, wishing that she was sitting on her seat back in the ballroom – back beside Draco. “I’m not asking for anymore than that.”
“You don’t care that your future husband will never learn to love you?” his tone sounded surprised. “Hermione, you don’t have to put up with this.” Wesley reminded her. “You don’t deserve any of this – you deserve your own life, and not a life that’s tangled with Draco’s. It was cruel of him to ask you to marry him, dragging you into this lifestyle. You can walk away right now – and forget everything.”
It wasn’t much, but it reminded Hermione of something very important. She had a choice. She was able to chose between this and freedom. There was always the choice of turning back, and falling back into her old life. It wouldn’t be hard to forget – no, for Hermione, it was always simple. Here he was, standing before her – giving her the choice that no one bothered to give her. Hermione was given the choice of marrying Draco, or turning away and leaving it all behind. He was asking her to run away – and she knew he would help her.
Feeling guilty again, Hermione shook her thoughts out of her head, and turned to Wesley again. “Why do you care so much?” she asked, ignoring his questions. “This matter has absolutely nothing to do with you, Wes. Why is it that you keep pestering me about marrying Draco?”
He stood there quietly, pondering to himself for a moment. “Because I care about you,” he answered quietly. “I care about you, Hermione – and I don’t want you to get hurt again because of Draco.”
Draco’s words rang in her ears once Wesley’s words sunk in. ‘He’s going to try and steal you away again. Just like before.’ “Look, Wesley – you don’t have to worry about me. I can take care of myself.” She turned around and slowly began walking back into the ballroom.
“He’s got you wrapped around his finger, and you know it!” he cried, causing Hermione to stop in her tracks and turn back. “When I first met you Hermione, I thought you’d be the one to make the Malfoys adjust to you, not you to them.”
“Carrow – leave her alone.” Hermione was in utter shock to see Miranda standing a few feet behind her. “I’m serious – leave her alone. You’re talking nonsense. If Draco were to hear you say those things, you’d be dead by now.” Miranda snapped.
Hermione stared at her, simply surprised. Why is she doing this? She asked herself. “Uh -”
Miranda turned to Hermione after sending a glare towards Wes. “Listen, Granger – I want to talk to you.”
“Can we not do this right now?” Hermione asked, looking past Miranda and scanning the ballroom for Draco once more. “I would really like to sit down for a while.”
Miranda shook her head. “Now, Granger.” She walked towards the main staircase, forcing Hermione to follow after her.
“Remember what I said, Miranda.” Wesley told her quietly while Miranda walked by him. “If anything happens – I swear -”
She turned around and looked at him. “If anything happens, it won’t be by my hands. It will be by yours.” Miranda turned her head back and quickly walked towards the base of the main staircase, leaning against the intricate railing.
Hermione followed suit, resting her body on the other side, facing Miranda. “What did you want to talk about?” she asked hurriedly, not bothering to hide the twinge of annoyance in her voice.
Miranda sighed. “Look, Granger I know I’m the last person you want to talk to right now, and to be honest, I’d rather not spend my night conversing with you.” She began. “I know I’m not your favorite person in the world either, and if I were you – I wouldn’t believe anything that came out of my mouth but -”
“Then why are we having this discussion?” Hermione snapped, interrupting Miranda.
“But,” Miranda continued, ignoring Hermione. “I think you should know something.” She paused, contemplating on what to say.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Let’s hurry it up shall we? I’d like to get back, if that’s okay with you.” Her attitude surprised her, as well as Miranda – however, they both chose to ignore it as Miranda said the next set of words.
“Draco’s in love with you.” She told her. “He’s seriously and genuinely in love with you.”
Laughter bubbled in Hermione’s throat after a few moments of unbroken silence. As she continued laughing, Miranda stared at her, clearly exasperated by her immaturity. “I’m not bloody kidding.” She snapped. “I’m being serious – he loves you. Merlin! You’re the only one that can’t see it! Everyone else see’s it – why can’t you?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Miranda.” Hermione responded once her laughter subsided. “Draco is not in love with me – that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard all night.”
“Granger – that man walks around as if he’s ready to die for you.” She informed her. “He’ll kill any man that even dares to touch you, and he’ll hex any person that disrespects you in anyway. He believes in you so strongly that he’s willing to defy his parents and the rest of those silly pureblood rules. He’s willing to go through hell just to marry you. That idiot is completely restless without you by his side, he doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s stumbling over everything! Nothing can compare to you in his eyes, not even me. He cares about you so much that – tha - that he let go of me without even giving it a second thought.” Miranda finished quietly. “If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.”
Hermione stared at her, completely baffled. No, it couldn't be - it just couldn't be. Several million things were running through her mind, and she
couldn't completely understand everything that was going on around her. She moved her eyes to the floor with horror and then back up to Miranda's completely serious face. Then she realized - she wasn't lying. This time, Miranda wasn't spitting out lies for her own benefit. She was really telling the truth, and it scared her more than ever.
“I know you’re in shock right now, but let me just tell you something, Granger.” She continued. “You’re the one person in this world that is capable of hurting him. I’ve giving you a warning – watch yourself, and watch out for him too. Things are going to get ugly from here, and you know as well as I do that it’s the inevitable.” Without another word, Miranda left Hermione standing by herself, leaving her with her own thoughts.
It was too much to take in. He doesn’t love me. She repeated in her mind, over and over again as if she was trying to convince herself that it wasn’t the truth.He doesn’t love me – he loves Miranda. We’re just friends. For the next few minutes, she ignored everyone around her. She closed up her mind and forced herself to believe that she was the only person in the manor. Hermione attempted to bring herself back down to earth, pushing all the information she had retained tonight, into the back of her mind.
As she closed her eyes, she wished that she was back in her old flat, lying in her comfortable bed with an open book by her side. Stop thinking about the past. She said, forcing herself to forget about everything. After a few more minutes by herself, she finally decided to search for Pansy. She needed to know something – and she just wouldn’t be able to wait to get her answer.
Upon entering, Hermione immediately scanned through the crowd and the tables, searching for a familiar brunette. She found Pansy and Blaise standing by the windows on the right side of the ballroom. Blaise had a tall legged blonde wrapped around him, and she seemed to be laughing at something Pansy was saying.
“Pansy,” Hermione breathed as soon as she reached her side. She had skillfully avoided Draco, knowing that he wouldn’t leave her alone once he found her. “May I speak to you please?”
“Oh, are you Draco Malfoy’s fiancé?” The blonde asked with a thick French accent. If she hadn’t caught Draco’s name, and the word ‘fiancé’ she wouldn’t never know what the blonde was talking about.
“Yes I am.” Hermione replied slightly impatient.
The blonde smiled widely. “You must be a tough girl to agree to marry someone like him.” She commented, rather naively. “I bid you both happiness.”
Sensing Hermione’s uneasiness, Blaise turned to his company and said, “C’mon love, let’s leave these girls alone to chat.” He said, pulling her away. “Hermione – relax,” Blaise told her, looking back. “Oh and by the way, Draco’s been looking for you for ages. The nutter’s going crazy trying to find you.”
Hermione offered a small smile. “Thanks Blaise.” Once Blaise was out of earshot, she turned back to Pansy. She let out a deep breath, and crossed one of her arms across her chest, propping the other arm against it and dropping her head in her hands.
Noticing this act, Pansy grew concerned. “Are you alright?” she asked.
She ignored her question, and asked one of her own. “Does Draco love me?” She asked bluntly.
“Err, what?” Pansy asked, confused.
“Does Draco love me?” Hermione repeated. “It’s a simple yes, or no question Pans.” She said, irritated. “Please, just answer this question for me.”
Sighing, Pansy said, “To be honest, I don’t know. Draco has never said anything like that, only because he’s not the type or person to talk about his feelings so openly.”
Hermione let out a breath, slightly relieved by Pansy’s answer. “But I do know this.” She continued. “He cares about you more than anything. To him – this isn’t fake, to him, this is all real. Everything he says to you, everything he does, and he does it for you and not for all those people out there.” Pansy said, pointing to others in the ballroom. “Draco’s careful to say when he loves a woman, because it’s still so new to him. After going through betrayal, I’m afraid it’s just not the same for him anymore.”
“Thank you, Pansy.” Hermione responded, still thinking deeply about Pansy’s answer.
“He means well, Hermione.” Pansy reassured. “Whatever he says to you, he means well by it.”
Hermione nodded in response. “I know.”
For the rest of the night, Hermione hid away by the main staircase, sitting on the steps of the first landing where no one would be able to see her. After her conversation with Pansy, she managed to avoid Draco for the second time that night, hiding behind small groups of people before she finally managed to find her way out of the ballroom. For a short moment, Hermione considered forgetting everything that happened, and returning to Draco’s side. She knew he would be looking for her for the rest of the night, but she couldn’t seem to face him. Not after what happened.
Frustration ran through her as Miranda’s words ran through her mind again. ‘Draco’s in love with you. He’s seriously and genuinely in love with you.’ It wasn’t his feelings that became a problem for Hermione. It was the consequences that came with it. They both knew that they were in nothing more than a fake relationship. ‘You’re the one person in this world that’s capable of hurting him.’ Either way, no matter what her decision was – to marry Draco or to run away – either way, he was going to get hurt. The price to pay for marrying Draco was too high for Hermione’s standards. There will always be someone in their lives who will try to intervene in their marriage, making it impossible to momentarily live happily together. There will always be reporters and photographers following them around, eager to hear about their latest mistakes.
If Draco did truly feel this way, what would happen if they had to part? It was the inevitable – parting was. They would have to do it sooner or later, and Draco chose later. Would he let her go when the time comes? Or will he ask her to leave her old life, her past desires and her old goals, so she can start a different – a real life, with him? Hermione groaned in frustration. There were so many things to consider, so many things that could go wrong. No kind of love ever came easy. Hermione thought bitterly to herself. Would we both be willing enough to create a compromise? Then she chuckled sourly. What kind of compromise could we possibly make in a situation like ours? It’s either all or nothing.
Hermione sighed, remembering Wesley’s words. ‘You can walk away right now – and forget everything.’ It was true. She had the choice of walking away and to return to her old life –the life she once knew. However, walking away meant leaving the one person she never expected herself to care about. Walking away
meant leaving Draco behind, forced to clean up her own mess. No matter how difficult it was, or how much it hurt her to be restrained from the world – she
couldn’t leave him, not now. He had so much to deal with, and it would be immoral to leave him alone to fend for himself. They had grown accustomed to
each other and fallen into a constant routine. They needed each other in their lives, and they both knew it. Hermione knew that he was the only one keeping her
from packing her bags and running back into Burrow, and into the arms of her family.
My old life can wait. She decided. It’s not going to run away, it will always be there as long as I still want it. And she did still want it – she wanted and missed it terribly. Hermione wanted to wake up in the morning and go to training, then have lunch with Ginny in a new restaurant they had chosen for the day. She wanted to visit the Weasley’s in the Burrow, and see Teddy grow. She missed her nights out with Ginny, and her afternoon’s with Harry and Ron. There were a whole handful of memories that she wished she could repeat for the rest of her life.
“Draco.” She whispered to herself, as he crawled back into her thoughts. There had been so many things she wanted with Draco as well. Surprisingly, she was okay with the thought of spending the next two to three years as his wife. He made it easier for her to adjust to her new lifestyle, and she was sure that it would’ve been enjoyable to be married to him. However, nothing ever stayed perfect in their world.
“I wanted so many things.” Hermione whispered, staring at the patterns on the railing. “Can I really just throw it all away?”
A flash brought her out of her thoughts. Her hands immediately flew to cover her eyes and her face as the camera flashed again. After her eyes had adjusted to the sudden light, she found herself face to face with an unfamiliar face. The man smirked, and picked the camera up and the camera flashed for the third time. “Smile, Miss Granger.” He said. Hermione looked to his right and noticed a quick quotes quill floating in the air beside him. “You just made the front page of the Daily Prophet.” The smirk stayed plastered on his face, after he saw Hermione’s eyes on the floating pad of paper beside him. There were pages and pages used, and Hermione knew that it was impossible to gather that much information from watching her sitting and sulking to herself.
She merely stared at him, surprised as she pieced everything together. She gulped loudly when she realized that things had just gotten a little bit out of hand.
A/N: edit 8.7.10. hey guys. i finally managed to fix this one :) tell me what you think of this chapter! i got a few reviews saying they got confused about what happened in the end, but it will be cleared up in the next chapter, hopefully.