Chapter 23 : xxiii.
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My role in this mess
Is not something that I can be proud of
“It looks like a castle.”
“So does my house.”
Hermione turned an arched eyebrow in the direction of her husband, who, in turn, just smirked devilishly.
“Can we at least look inside before you step all over my toes?”
“Fine,” Hermione sighed, and Draco just smiled pleasantly, kissed her on the cheek, and led her through the open, tall white gates.
The large Manor at the end of the cobblestone walkway was a pretty pastel blue with white shutters and a black roof. Large, white double doors were propped open and, when they entered, Hermione’s jaw dropped. Beyond the front hallway lay an enormous foyer complete with a wide staircase along the left wall. They entered slowly, Draco’s arm snaked around Hermione’s waist, and a woman with a tight blonde, curly ponytail and a pleasant smile greeted them.
“You must be the Malfoy’s,” she said, handing each of them a pamphlet.
Hermione looked up at Draco, who just kept his gaze fixated on the woman, though he couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face at her incredulous glare.
“The front hallway you just came through houses a coat room to the right and a small sitting room to the left. It’s nothing much, though it provides the perfect space for a gentlemen’s smoking night,” she said, winking at Draco, “If you’ll follow me.”
The woman clicked on through the foyer, leading them through a set of double doors positioned in the middle of the right wall. A bare room greeted them with a large bay window on the opposite wall of the door and an unlit fireplace to their left.
“This Manor, in particular, has been on the market for quite some time, so the previous owners have already left.”
Draco nodded, turning to look at Hermione, though she was paying them no attention. She’d left his side and was standing near the middle of the room, looking around. When she finally realized they were awaiting her, she turned with a beam and followed them back through the foyer and toward another set of double doors near the end of the staircase. Through that was a wonderfully large kitchen.
“There’s only three rooms on the first floor as they’re so large, though we’ve got another two floors to explore.”
“Two?” Hermione squeaked, and the woman just nodded before leading them back out and up the grand staircase.
Upstairs found them with a spacious study, a master bedroom, a master bathroom, and an empty-shelved library.
“Oh, Draco,” Hermione sighed as they entered the library, “It’s beautiful.”
“The east wing is all connected with similar double doors to the rest of the house,” the woman said with a pleasant smile.
While the bedroom and bathroom were on the west wing, the library and study were on the east wing, leaving an elegant and chandelier-furnished hallway with a winding staircase at the back. It curled up to the third floor where two more bedrooms sat in the east wing and a gargantuan living room, though not nearly as big as the other, took up the entire west wing.
“The previous owners had two children, which is why they transformed this room into another living area.”
“Well,” Hermione said softly, “I’m sure that will work out for us.”
“And we’ll end outside. It’ll be covered in snow now, of course, though it is quite beautiful in the spring and summertime. If you’ll just look in your pamphlets, there are plenty of pictures.”
They followed the blonde back downstairs, through the kitchen, and through a small, well-lit hallway that led onto a deck that stretched along the entire length of the house. Hermione was reminded of Narcissa’s sun room as she took in the white stairs that led down into a now-snowy area where tables and chairs sat.
“Excuse me,” Draco said, interrupting Hermione’s thoughts, “Is there a dining room?”
“The previous owners never used it, though there is one. If you’ll follow me.”
She led them back into the kitchen, where she stopped, motioning toward another doorway on the right wall, “The food would be brought through that hallway, though all guests would enter through the foyer,” she continued as she clicked back through the kitchen, into the foyer, and toward yet another set of double doors on the back most wall, “and be seated accordingly.”
It was a long room, though not quite as narrow as Narcissa’s, and it was empty save for a sparkling chandelier in the center.
“Could you give us a moment?” Draco asked politely, and the blonde just nodded before stepping back out into the foyer and toward the front door.
“Draco, I love it,” Hermione instantly said, to which he laughed.
“And you didn’t even want to look,” he murmured, pulling her against him and kissing her temple, “We can afford it, especially with my inheritance.”
“Draco,” she started, but he immediately hushed her, “Hermione, it’s either this or living with my mother until she passes away. And do you really want to live in that Manor? All the horrible things that have happened there,” he shook his head, “I want to start in a new place with you, I want to build our life in our own home. Let’s do it.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m absolutely positive. We’ve been in that flat forever. It’s high time we moved on. Plus, with starting a family, we need somewhere to raise our children.”
The phrase rung in Hermione’s mind, and she smiled. They’d finally decided that they wanted to have kids, especially with Ginny and Anna trying. She just loved the idea of her children being in the same year as her best friend’s.
“Okay,” she said after a few moments, nodding, “Okay.”
Draco just smiled and kissed her passionately before leading her back to the blonde where they finalized everything.
Hermione opened the door to Flourish and Blotts, smiling when Anna let out a little shriek.
“You’re not supposed to be here!” she exclaimed, leaving Jane at the counter and hurrying over.
“Look at you!” she exclaimed, “You’re practically glowing!”
“Can you believe it?” Anna cried, hugging her tightly, “I’m so excited!”
“How’s Ron taking it?”
“He’s really happy, Hermione, you should have seen his face. He can hardly wait.”
Hermione just smiled. Anna had found out a few days prior that she was expecting. Ginny, however, was already almost four months along with her second.
“I’m so happy for you. And, I know, stop looking at me like that, I’m supposed to have the week off, but I came by to invite you and Ron to dinner tomorrow night. Draco and I have finally got the house all settled, and we’d love if you came over for our first official night there. Harry and Ginny should be coming as well, and Blaise and Pansy.”
“Oh, that would be lovely! I’ll let Ron know tonight, though you can definitely count us in.”
“Alright, I’ve got to head out. Dinner will be at seven. Jane, you take care of her!”
Jane just smiled and waved before Hermione headed back out into Diagon Alley. She continued down to Gringotts where she made a quick conversion, and then she was back in London food shopping.
Draco shrugged out of his jacket after placing a kiss on a cooking Hermione’s cheek, and he left it leaning on one of the stools before sitting himself.
“So, what’s the menu tonight?”
“Can you break those pomegranates and get them ready? They’re part of the appetizer. When you’re done with that, slice the peaches and peel them, but do it over the bowl. I want the juices to mix in.”
“Menu?” he repeated, and she just threw him a quick smile before heading toward the fridge.
“After the fruit, we’ll have lobster raviolis and linguini in a white wine garlic sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms. Dessert is a surprise.”
“Oh, well then,” Draco said with a smirk before going to get a bowl and preparing the fruits.
They continued on with small talk until seven o’clock eventually rolled around, and Blaise and Pansy showed first, and Draco chatted with them in the front hall for a few minutes before showing them to the dining room. Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Anna were not far behind, and, soon, everyone except Hermione was sitting at the long table, enjoying tall glasses of wine and bowls of pomegranate and peaches. They provided a beautiful color, one that Draco admired. Hermione entered after only ten minutes of them conversing, a bright smile on her face.
“My apologies for the display,” she murmured before sitting in the empty chair on Draco’s right; Ginny and Harry were next to her while Pansy, Blaise Anna, and Ron sat opposite, “How is everyone?”
“Fantastic. Hermione, this place is gorgeous,” Ginny sighed, “It really is something amazing. Oh, and Mum says hello.”
“Give her my love,” she said, turning her gaze when the small door opened and two house elves marched in.
Though Hermione was quite against the idea of having them, Draco had assured her that they would be treated as equals, and so she’d relented. So far, though, she’d found them quite endearing. They helped her in the kitchen whenever she asked of it, and they were always smiling. She loved talking to them and hearing about their lives, so it wasn’t such a bad thing.
The two of them, Mimmy and Pip, were balancing a long white dish between them. On it were large, round lobster raviolis kissed with spices and a light cream sauce. They disappeared after allowing Draco to take the dish from them and set it down. Hermione, though she’d steadfastly pleaded with them to let her bring the dishes in, had relented to allow them; they seemed quite fond of the job, though. When they returned, it was with another large dish, though this one was in the shape of a deep bowl. This contained the thick pasta, plum and sundried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and white wine garlic sauce.
Dinner went on smoothly with her friends commending her on her excellent cooking skills, to which Hermione just blushed and waved the compliments away.
“I’m honestly not that good. I’ve got a wand for a reason,” she laughed.
“She’s lying,” Draco argued, sending her a wink, and she just smiled in return.
Dessert turned out to be a chocolate encrusted cake with strawberries frozen together with chocolate syrup drizzled over them. When it finally came time for everyone to leave, it was nearly midnight, and Hermione bid them all long goodbyes, Draco making his short, and, when he swept Hermione into his arms, she smiled and sighed into him.
“Do you even know how much I love you?” she whispered, closing her eyes and leaning against his chest.
“Probably as much as I love you,” he returned, holding her close, happier than ever.
“So,” Anna began, wiggling her eyebrows and bumping hips with Hermione, “What’s going down tonight?”
“You’re scaring our customers,” Hermione said, though she couldn’t help but grin.
Anna sighed obnoxiously before waving Jane over obnoxiously.
“Hermione and I are going on our lunch break. Do you think you can handle it alone?”
“Pfft, yes,” she laughed, “Go on ahead, I can just see you jumping around trying to pry it out of her. Tell me after,” she added in a whisper.
“Anna, we can’t leave her alone,” Hermione protested, though she didn’t stop the brunette from tugging her away.
“She’s not alone. She has Isabel.”
They’d hired Isabel at the start of the Christmas season, and it was her first job since graduating Hogwarts the semester previous. She was a small, quiet girl, much like Jane had been when she first arrived (though Anna had quickly opened her up), with straight blonde hair that fell to her shoulders and sharp blue eyes. She minded Hermione very much of a Malfoy.
“I want to know everything,” Anna said before smiling up at their waiter.
“And where’s your lovely redhead?”
“Two steps behind you,” Ginny laughed, going around him and sitting in next to Anna in the booth; they came here quite often and ate together, so they’d become something like regulars.
He took their orders before the two girls turned to fix their gazes on Hermione.
“I’m talking where, what are you wearing, everything,” Anna continued, arching both of her eyebrows, “Go.”
Hermione just laughed before starting, “I’m not sure exactly what restaurant, but he told me I needed to wear something beautiful, a long dress, specifically, and that I was to look elegant. However, we’re not going out until eight, and I get off of work at six, and he said that our night began when I got home, so I’m assuming—”
“Oh, your genius idea,” Anna interrupted, “Ginny, did she ever tell about this?”
“Sex then food? It’s absolutely brilliant. I never thought of it that way, but it makes so much more sense,” Ginny said with a nod, “Good thing he’s such a romantic, too, cos it’s not like, well, I’m sorry, Anna, but it’s not like Ron, who would just show up before dinner and be like, well, let’s get hungry, or something.”
All three girls burst into a fit of laughter of this, only calming when their waiter returned with their drinks.
“So, have you picked out something?” Anna continued after taking a sip of her soda.
“Oh guys, you just have no idea. Pansy and I went out shopping last week because he’s had this planned for a while, I guess, and I got the most beautiful dress I have ever seen. It’s long, obviously, and black. I think there’s a few layers because it’s not exactly flat, and it’s just a straight across cut, though it goes along, like, here,” she said, motioning to a few inches below her collarbone, “There’s one strap, just a small little jeweled one, and there’s an open section from my shoulder to where a small sleeve is that almost reaches my elbow, but this is only on one side. The other side actually dips a little. It really is gorgeous, and I’m wearing these simple silver heels and a red coat.”
“Wow,” Ginny and Anna chorused, looking at Hermione with smiles.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Ginny nodded, “I’m sure of it. Are you excited?”
Hermione just nodded fervently, beaming, “I can’t wait.”
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling. Lyrics from Wow belong to Snow Patrol.
Did you notice the new part and the time skip? It is now 2006, my dear readers, and we are at our final part. Also, I’m sorry for the delay in update for Thank You, Briony and that I have no preview for February Stars for you with this chapter. I finally found the inspiration to start my third novel, and so my time has been occupied by that recently, which, as terrible as it sounds, always comes first before fanfiction. I’ll try to get it up soon, promise, :)
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