Bachelorette, Part III
Pairing: Dramione (Draco x Hermione)
Universe: Post-Hogwarts, EWE
Rating: M for language, definite smut later
Summary: Part III of the drabble series based on the reality show "The Bachelorette," wherein eligible men in the wizarding world compete for Hermione Granger's affections.
Additional note: Bachelorette/Bachelor seasons follow a pattern once they get down to the final four. The final four episode is called Hometowns, wherein the Bachelorette visits the homes of each contestant and meets their parents. The final three is called Fantasy Suites and is a real thing where the Bachelorette gets to have a night in a hotel suite with each of them with no cameras allowed. (Yeah. And you think this is ridiculous?)
This portion of the drabble encompasses the previous weeks as well as Hometowns. Fantasy Suites and the final decision will be Part IV.
[Black screen; Lee voiceover.]
"Here's what you missed on . . . The Bachelorette!"
[Dean and Seamus are sitting together in an interview, holding hands.]
Dean: "It's stupid, frankly."
Seamus: [nods] "It really is. I can't believe we didn't see it coming."
Dean: "I think it caught everyone by surprise, honestly."
[Cuts to Ron interview.]
Ron: [Staring at the camera.] "Are you serious?" [Shakes head.] "I have never been less surprised in probably my entire life."
[Cuts to Harry interview.]
Harry: "I mean, I lived with them." [Shrugs] "I've seen stuff."
[Cut to scene of them informing Hermione at one of the cocktail parties.]
Dean: "It's nothing to do with you, of course."
Seamus: "Well, your lack of dick, potentially."
Hermione, faintly: "Right."
[Cuts to Hermione interview.]
Hermione: "I'm happy for them, really!" [She seems sincere after having recovered from her initial confusion.] "It absolutely thrills me that I'm not the only one finding love on this show!"
[Lee voiceover as shots of Hermione and the other contestants fill the screen.]
Lee: "Hermione and Theo heat up on their first one-on-one date."
[Cuts to scenes of their date; they explore a folksy farmer's market, and Theo lays out an elaborate picnic for her; he picks her up, throws her over his shoulder, and when she playfully screams to be put down he lays her carefully on the ground, stretching out against her and giving her a slow, intense kiss.]
Hermione voiceover: "Theo is . . . he's . . . "
[Shots of Theo and Hermione as they attempt to throw grapes into each other's mouths; Theo cheers as Hermione finally makes one.]
Hermione voiceover: "I don't know. He's fun. I'm very relaxed."
[Clip of them wandering the streets, holding hands.]
Hermione voiceover: "It's just very easy to be comfortable with Theo."
[Cut to Theo interview.]
Theo, enthusiastically: "I like her." [Grins widely.] "I like her quite a bit."
[Cuts to scenes from group date; she and Ron have a moment as he offers her a piece of cake, getting frosting on her lip and using it as an excuse to kiss her. She kisses him back, though her eyes stray warily to Harry, who is watching.]
Hermione voiceover: "Things with Harry are definitely more passionate than I expected."
[Cut to Harry and Hermione kissing as they sit with their feet in a swimming pool; she leans against him, and he rests his chin fondly on top of her head.]
Harry voiceover: "There is definitely something between us."
Interviewer, off-screen: "Are you finding yourself at odds with any of the other candidates?"
Harry: "Er." [Shifts uneasily.] "Ron and I aren't doing so well."
[Clips of Harry and Ron occasionally bumping shoulders as they pass, glaring at each other as Hermione casually chats with other people.]
Harry: "Ron, could you pass the - "
Ron: [Throws salt shaker at him.]
Harry, teeth gritted: "Thanks."
[Cuts back to Harry interview.]
Harry: "What's been really unexpected is that with things being shaky with Ron, I've actually been hanging out with Malfoy a bit more."
[Harry and Draco are alone in the manor house's library, reading in silence together; Draco glances over at Harry.]
Harry: [Looks up, surprised.] "Sure."
[Back to Harry interview.]
Harry: "I mean, it's not much, but it's . . . something, I guess." [He suddenly becomes very animated.] "And it's weird, really, because if there's anyone Hermione's getting close to that might be skeptical of me, shouldn't it be Draco?"
[Cuts to Blaise reading a date card.]
Blaise, reading Hermione's note: "Blaise and Draco." [He pauses.] "What? Two of us?"
[Cuts to Lee explaining.]
Lee: "Gentlemen, a two-on-one is simple. You both go on a date with Hermione, but." [Pauses, grinning mercilessly.] "One of you will be sent home immediately, while the other will receive the rose that keeps them safe from elimination."
[Scenes from the date follow on the screen; Hermione can't stop looking at Draco, and when he pulls her aside for a moment alone, she sighs with relief. Scene then cuts to the end of the date; Hermione is sitting at a table with Draco and Blaise.]
Hermione: "I hate having to do this, as I've gotten so close to both of you . . . " [Pauses, letting her eyes flick to Draco.] "But this rose is for Draco."
Blaise voiceover: "It was pretty obvious. I'm not too terribly upset, though she is a lovely girl."
[Cuts to scene of Hermione and Draco talking alone in a dimly lit corner during the date; they do not appear to know they are being filmed from afar.]
Hermione: [Indistinct whispering.]
Draco: "I know." [Lifts her chin to kiss her softly.] "It's okay."
Hermione: [Whispers something; at his nod of reassurance, she wraps her arms around his neck.]
[Cuts to Draco interview.]
Draco: "We . . . get each other." [Shrugs.] "I don't know how else to explain it."
[Cuts to Lee, who is again standing in front of the manor house.]
Lee: "And on tonight's episode - Hometowns!"
[A montage of the various candidates' family homes cut across the screen.]
Lee: "How will Hermione fare after spending a day in each remaining contestant's hometown? Will she feel right at home at the Burrow?"
[Cuts to scene of her walking in the front door, being accosted by a starstruck Molly Weasley.]
Lee: "Will she be traumatized by her visit to Malfoy Manor?"
[Narcissa Malfoy embraces Hermione coolly as the younger witch's eyes dart around in desperation.]
Lee: "What surprises await at Nott Manor?"
[Theo is covering Hermione's eyes as he nudges her in the door; camera shows her face as she gasps in delight.]
Lee: "All that and more when we return on . . . The Bachelorette!"
"Ladies - ladies, what is happening?" Minerva exclaimed, rushing over to the corner of the Great Hall where the two fourth years were arguing, their fists clenched tightly around their wands.
"She's being crazy - "
"I am not crazy, you're blind!"
Minerva looked up, gesturing across the room to the girls' Heads of House. "Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick," she said frantically. "Please get your house members under control - "
"What's the problem?" Filius squeaked, rushing over to stand beside the young Ravenclaw as Pomona hurried in his wake.
"My mum's just owled me the results of last week's Bachelorette," the Hufflepuff explained, huffing. "Which, by the way, we only missed because she insisted the rest of us had to wait for her - "
"I had quidditch!" the Ravenclaw replied angrily, glaring. "And she thinks it's going to be Harry that Hermione chooses, which is absolute rubbish - "
"Like you would know!" the Hufflepuff squawked gracelessly, needing to be restrained by a very flustered Pomona. "You're Team Theo, which doesn't even make sense - "
"This is about that ridiculous Bachelorette competition?" Minerva exclaimed, aghast. "Ladies, this is a school - you should be focusing on your studies - "
They each shuffled under her disappointment, loath to meet her eyes. "Yes, Headmistress," they groaned in unison, shooting each other angry glares.
"Ten points each from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff," Minerva declared, crossing her arms. "Now run off and forget all this nonsense."
They both nodded quickly, pausing to offer apologetic nods to their respective Heads of House before scurrying away, appearing to mutter quietly to each other as the argument continued.
Minerva sighed. "This Bachelorette nonsense has to stop," she proclaimed wearily. "This is the fourth time this week I've had to listen to them go on about that insipid farce."
"Oh, I don't know, Minerva," Filius said kindly. "I mean, Miss Davenport did have a point - Miss Granger does seem quite likely to choose Potter - "
"What?" Pomona exclaimed, affronted. "Filius, have you gone mad?"
Filius crossed his arms, a quiet challenge. "Don't tell me you really think Nott will be Miss Granger's choice?" he scoffed. "After teaching them both?"
"No," Pomona retorted quickly, defensive in her disagreement. "I am quite sure it will be Weasley; there's history there, you know, and they were so obvious while they were in school." She turned to Minerva, who rubbed her temples in exhaustion. "Surely you agree, Minerva!"
"I do not," Minerva snapped. "I think this is a waste of energy to consider," she said, raising her chin haughtily, "and don't think I haven't heard about the faculty pool you're all part of!"
They looked away guiltily, but Minerva pressed on. "Frankly, you could both do with a reminder that you have a much higher purpose than expending any effort guessing who Miss Granger may or may not choose to marry within the confines of a superficial competition!"
Both Filius and Pomona looked sheepish, giving her the same look the young fourth years had only just tossed her way.
"Besides," Minerva added, squaring her shoulders and starting to walk away. "Seeing as I was Miss Granger's Head of House, I am quite confident that you're both incorrect."
She paused just before exiting the hall.
"Put me down for five galleons on Mr. Malfoy," she instructed briskly, brushing some nonexistent dust off her robes before she swept out of the room.
His voice was a low growl as he followed her down the hall and she turned to face him, startled.
"Draco," she said, bringing her hand to her chest to slow her thudding pulse. "You scared me."
"How dare you?" he said bluntly, standing too close to her and looking down from his rather intimidating height. "How fucking dare you?"
"Malfoy!" she hissed warningly, looking around. There were no cameras, but they could arrive at any given moment; she yanked him into the bathroom behind her.
"What is this about?" she snapped, adjusting the straps of her gold evening gown as the door shut behind them. "What on earth has gotten into you?"
"A two-on-one?" he demanded, his grey eyes flashing. "You picked me for a two-on-one?"
"You knew I wasn't going to eliminate you!" she exclaimed, still not clear on the source of his apparent frustration. "I was always going to choose you - "
"I don't care, Granger!" he half-shouted, his arms motioning widely. "You'll be alone with Potter and Theo, but not with me?"
She gaped at him. "Are you - jealous?" she sputtered, completely bewildered by his sudden fiery response. "Draco, I - you - " she paused, stumbling. "You can't be serious."
"I'm not jealous," he spat unconvincingly, beginning to pace the master bath. "It's not jealousy - but I don't understand it," he admitted, his lips pursed tightly. "Why not me?"
His voice had softened and now he was looking at her with a sincerity stripped so bare she felt an incomprehensible shiver thunder up her spine.
"Why not me?" he asked again, his chest rising and falling as he struggled against his more impervious nature.
"Draco." She took a step towards him, taking hold of his suit lapel and shaking him playfully. "Draco, I didn't need to waste a one-on-one to know for sure I want to keep you here." She shook her head, finding herself surprised at the candidness of her own response. "I didn't know about Harry, or Theo, so I had to spend time alone with them - but you - I know exactly where I stand with you, you can't really think there was a question - "
He was shaking his head, looking down in a humbling mix of humiliation and relief.
"And for Hometowns I get a whole day with you," she reminded him softly, nudging his chin up with her hand to meet his grey eyes. "A whole day."
"Right," he croaked, nodding. "Right." He sighed, taking a step away from her. "I'd forgotten."
They were quiet for a moment, until the absurdity of the situation finally hit her.
"Did you really say 'how dare you'?" she asked, smirking at him. "So dramatic, Malfoy."
He opened his mouth to respond and she lifted her chin defiantly as she waited, anticipating a "Shut up, Granger," or even "You give yourself too much credit" - but instead, he picked her up roughly and sat her against the lip of the sink, kissing her fiercely, his breath ragged in her mouth.
"Fine," he said finally, pulling away. "Wear the black dress to meet my mother," he added briskly, stepping out of her reach and slipping quickly out of the room.
He left her staring at the door, her hand held numbly against her lips for almost five full minutes after he walked away.
[Camera pans to Lee, who is standing outside of the Burrow.]
Lee: "Welcome to the Burrow, the family home of Ron Weasley! In an unprecedented move, Harry and Ron will both be using the Burrow for this very unique episode of Hometowns."
[Cuts to interview with Harry.]
Harry: "Well, I grew up with muggles, but I certainly wouldn't subject Hermione to any time with them." [Shrugs.] "And really, the Burrow feels more like home anyway."
[Ron interview; Ron has his arms crossed tightly and looks more than a little upset.]
Ron: "This is bloody ridiculous."
[Cuts back to Lee, who is standing at the front door with Hermione.]
Lee: "Ready to meet your potential future in-laws?"
Hermione: "You know that I know them, like, really well. Right?"
Hermione: "I feel like you haven't really thought this through, if I'm being honest."
Hermione: "Okay great, so we're on the same page."]
Hermione: [Sighs deeply] "Yes, let's do it."
[Lee knocks and the door opens, revealing a very enthusiastic Molly Weasley.]
Molly: "Hermione!" [Embraces the young witch warmly, her eyes straying to the camera.]
[Cuts to Hermione interview.]
Hermione: "Am I surprised by her reaction? A bit." [She bites her lip nervously.] "She didn't react well at all to the rumors about me being with Harry during the Triwizard Tournament, so I didn't think she'd be happy to see me."
Interviewer, off-screen: "Were you worried about her reaction?"
Hermione: "Definitely. To be honest, I'm not even sure whether she would prefer I choose Harry or Ron."
[Cuts to Molly interview.]
Molly: [Preening a bit for the camera.] "Honestly, I'm torn. Obviously Ron is my son, but . . . " [She hesitates.] "She does look quite good with Harry, doesn't she?"
[Cuts back to Hermione hugging Molly.]
Hermione: "Hi, Mrs. Weasley." [Looks up to see Arthur.] "Hi Mr. Weasley!"
Arthur: "Hello, Hermione." [Hugs her warmly.] "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
Molly, aghast: "Arthur!" [She glances nervously to the camera.] "It's for the show, remember? For Harry and Ron?"
Arthur, bemused: "Ah." [Shrugs, walking back into the house and calling over his shoulder.] "Carry on, then. I'll be in the garage if you need me!"
Hermione stood uncomfortably in the kitchen of the Burrow; she could only guess at the number of household cleaning charms Mrs. Weasley had had to use, considering she'd never seen the place so clean - not even for Bill and Fleur's wedding. Hermione supposed having all her children out of the nest might have been part of it, but still, Molly Weasley had always been a bit of a hoarder of sorts. At least half of the house's possessions were likely stored elsewhere; the garage, Hermione could only guess. Arthur made exceptions for undetectable extension charms when it came to the happiness of his wife.
Not a bad thing to have learned from a father, she reminded herself, eyeing Ron where he was gazing rather sulkily into space. Beside him, Harry also stood rigid with discomfort, and Hermione wondered yet again what had possessed them to decide to share ownership of this particular family and dwelling. It seemed The Bachelorette had driven them all to inarguable madness.
"So," she ventured uncomfortably, fidgeting in front of the camera. "Any plans?"
Ron and Harry opened their mouths at the same time to answer, and then only glared at each other.
"Ah," Hermione said, fighting the impulse to rub her temple wearily.
That was only the beginning, of course. Molly had prepared a vast spread - far more than she would normally have done, even with her generally ample cooking - but it was difficult to appreciate her enormous effort. The food was difficult to taste over the stiff tension between her two best friends.
"How's it going?" Lee whispered in a low voice, pulling her aside.
"Not well at all," she replied, which was obvious. Lee grimaced.
"I just got instructions for this week's elimination," he said regretfully, and Hermione sighed, knowing what was coming. She lifted her chin, gesturing to a quieter spot in the house.
"I have to cut either Ron or Harry, don't I?" she whispered, her face falling once they were safely out of earshot.
"Yes," he said, anxiously picking at his fingernails. "I'm so sorry, Hermione."
"It's really better for all of us," she remarked, trying to be logical about it. "We're supposed to be best friends, and I know they'll get over this eventually, they always do, but - " she sighed. "It can't go on like this."
"Well, you know my thoughts on the matter," Lee said wryly. "I have my favorites."
"I saw you tear up last week," she reminded him. "I'm perfectly aware."
"I'm very invested," he insisted, shrugging.
"What if I just walked away now and didn't pick anyone?" Hermione said hopefully. "Dean and Seamus had the right idea." She paused, then looked up at Lee with a start. "There's no chance you want to marry me, is there?"
He glared at her.
"Fair enough," she sighed, turning to rejoin her hosts.
[Camera pans across the stately facade of Malfoy Manor; Lee steps into view.]
Lee: "Welcome to Malfoy Manor, the elegant home of the Malfoy family." [He gestures to Hermione, who joins him. She is wearing a tasteful and elegant black dress.] "Hermione, as we all know, there are some bad memories here."
Hermione: "'Bad memories'? That's what you're going with?"
Hermione: "It doesn't strike you as, I don't know - the understatement of the century?"]
Hermione: "Yes." [Her voice is strained and she has never looked more nervous.] "A long time ago, of course. Practically a different world."
Lee: "Certainly." [Forges ahead awkwardly.] "Do you have any reservations about this day?"
Hermione, in interview: "Do I have reservations? DO I HAVE RESERVATIONS?"]
Hermione: "I'm sure everything will be fine." [Her knees buckle slightly and she has the distinct look of someone who may take off running at any given moment.] "It's Draco. It'll be fine."
[The door opens, revealing an elegantly garbed Narcissa Malfoy and an unusually relaxed Draco, whose attire is uncharacteristically casual; he is wearing a soft sweater, dark trousers, and his hair is swept back as though he has recently been flying.]
Narcissa: "Miss Granger." [She opens her arms and Hermione enters, giving her what is perhaps the world's most awkward embrace.] "Such a pleasure to meet you."
Hermione, coolly despite her frantic expression: "Likewise." [She turns to Draco, looking relieved to see him.] "Draco."
Draco: "Hermione." [He pulls her in and kisses her softly; Hermione is surprised, her glance drifting immediately to Narcissa, but Narcissa has a surprising look of contentment on her face.]
Hermione, breathlessly: "Hi." [Draco tucks a stray hair behind her ear and Hermione finally seems to relax a bit at the contact.] "Shall we go inside?" [She is still somewhat hesitant.]
Narcissa: "Actually, I thought the garden would be better."
[Cuts to Narcissa interview.]
Narcissa: "I may never forgive myself for what happened to that poor girl in my house. She hardly needs a tour." [She shivers.] "And why keep up the gardenias if nobody sees them?"
Tea with Narcissa seemed to put Granger vaguely at ease, Draco noted, keeping an eye on her and watching the weight slowly lift from her shoulders as time went on. He reached for her hand on occasion, lightly massaging her knuckles with his thumb as he considered his mother's advice.
"I understand what you have to do," Narcissa had reminded him. "You have to woo her, Draco." She squared her shoulders as they waited for Lee's knock, ever the aristocrat. "Be sure to kiss her, darling. Women want affection."
"In front of you?" he'd asked, startled. "Doesn't that seem . . . disrespectful?"
"You think I am that easily disrespected?" she countered, giving him a look. "Please do me the kindness of not underestimating me, Draco. It offends."
"But - "
"Woo her," Narcissa commanded again, sweeping over to the entry table to rearrange some freshly cut lilies. "I trust you've not forgotten the purpose to all this."
"No," he'd permitted glumly, watching her fuss over a nonexistent mess. "She's really not so bad, though," he admitted, the words tumbling out of his mouth before he could stop himself. "I don't think you need to worry so much."
At that, Narcissa had promptly straightened, turning sharply to glance at him over her shoulder.
"Draco," she'd said slowly. "Is there something I should know?"
"Hide the house elves," Draco grunted. "Seriously. It's a thing with her."
"No," Narcissa chided him, waving her hand as though to shoo away his unsatisfactory response. "Is there something I should know about you?"
He'd been silent, not wanting to give her the answer she was looking for. Feeding Narcissa information was always a gamble; she was a master manipulator, after all, a consummate Slytherin. She was not unkind, but she certainly had no shortage of agenda.
But despite his best efforts, she was still his mother, and it was difficult not to confess.
"She's not that bad," he grumbled, looking at the floor.
"Do not mumble to yourself, Draco," she scolded, and he fought his childish protestations. "If you like the girl, just say so." She softened, coming over to rest her hands warmly on his shoulders. "Women do enjoy being liked, you know," she assured him. "This one is surely no exception."
"It's Granger," he argued, eyeing her with unconcealed skepticism. "Are you really telling me you've no qualms about that?"
"Darling, I am not so one-dimensional that I cannot evolve with the times," she returned stiffly. "What's important to me is you, Draco, and only you." She paused. "And shoes. I care a great deal about shoes."
"You're not bothered by her birth?" he echoed, vaguely amused.
"Don't get carried away, darling," she sniffed, fussing with a speck of dust on her bodice. "Her birth may not be an issue, but there are a great many other things I could be bothered by." She looked up, thinking. "Her manners, perhaps; or the noise level of her chewing - "
"I think all of that will be fine, Mother," Draco interrupted, unable to prevent a covert eye roll. "She's not a barbarian."
"Then I expect we'll get along swimmingly," she declared, and in typical Narcissa fashion, that was that.
Draco turned to Granger now, his own lips twisting into a smile as she laughed at a story from Draco's youth. He would normally have been embarrassed by his mother's choice of story, but there was something slightly wonderful about the way Granger leaned forward, hanging on every word as though she wished to lay claim to the memory itself.
"Darling," Narcissa said after a while, her eyes traveling knowingly to Draco's. "Perhaps you might show her the ballroom?"
A woman likes to be courted, Draco.
Of course she wanted him to dance.
Granger was a surprisingly decent dancer, he determined, though perhaps he shouldn't have been surprised. He was a particularly well trained lead - all Narcissa's doing, of course - and Granger was almost shockingly coordinated. The music in the ballroom, which was charmed to change with the dancers' steps, prompted a particularly beautiful melody, and he felt a renewed surge of confidence as he watched Granger's eyes glimmer appreciatively.
"Cameras," she whispered to him, and he dipped her carefully, his eyes helplessly following the line of her neck as she slowly allowed herself to be brought back to his level.
"And my mother's not watching," he muttered back in her ear, pulling her into his chest.
A knowing smile spread across her lips and he lifted her up, his hands tangled in her hair as she wrapped her legs tightly around his waist.
"Convincing show," she murmured, and he pulled her lips to his.
[Camera pans the front of Nott Manor, which is very similar to Malfoy Manor in extravagance and age. Lee once again steps into view, Hermione on his arm.]
Lee: "Welcome to the final Hometown destination - Nott Manor." [He turns to Hermione.] "How are you feeling?"
Hermione: "Seriously, stop asking how I'm feeling."
Lee: "But - "
Hermione: "It's not good, Lee. It's never good."
Lee: "But - "
Hermione: "If you ask me too many times I'll have to start being honest, and I swear, if I tell the truth, you'll be out of a job."
Lee, resignedly: "Fair enough."]
Hermione: "I'm great." [Looks at Lee as though she may very well strangle him.]
Lee, appearing to sense danger: "Okay, let's just go in then, shall we - "
[Theo opens the front door a crack and darts out, rushing towards them.]
Theo: "Hi, hi, apologies." [He is breathless.] "Have a bit of a surprise for you."
Hermione: "Oh?" [She looks startled.] "What - "
Theo: "Come on." [He gestures for her to come towards him; Lee tosses the camera a helpless 'what can you do' look, and Hermione hesitantly joins Theo.] "It'll be fun, I promise."
[Cuts to Hermione interview.]
Hermione: "Not sure how I feel about surprises at an estate that once belonged to a notorious Death Eater." [She looks queasy.] "I don't even like surprises much to begin with, but this seems particularly questionable. 'Fun' would not be my terminology of choice."
[Cuts back to Theo, who is holding his hands over her eyes.]
Theo, gleefully: "Ready?"
Hermione, the opposite of gleefully: "Sure."
[Theo nudges the door open and pushes her inside; the camera pans first to Hermione's look of complete surprise, and then to the interior of the house. The entry hall is filled with brightly colored balloons and a large banner that is blurred for explicit content but very clearly reads 'Fuck parents.']
Theo: "My parents are dead!" [He is practically shouting with unbridled enthusiasm, and Hermione can barely contain her entertainment.] "It's just you and me!"
[Cuts to Hermione in an interview segment, who is practically crying with relief.]
Hermione: "I had a wonderful time at Malfoy Manor and at the Burrow, but frankly, this is just what I needed."
[Camera cuts back to Theo and Hermione; Theo has grabbed Hermione and is kissing her, his arms wrapped around her waist.]
Lee: "Uh, so." [He looks uncomfortably at the camera.] "This - um."
Lee: "Honestly, am I just supposed to watch them snog all over this house?"
Lee: "Okay, but have you seen how big this house is?"]
Kingsley stared at the scroll before him, determined to finish the paperwork that littered his desk despite his unrelenting headache.
"Mafalda," he called, but to no response. He frowned, rising to his feet. It was possible she had gone home, as it was well after work hours, but she normally stayed behind when he did, and he was surprised she did not scurry in at his beckoning.
He walked out of his office to the location of her desk, discovering that at least four other members of the department were crouched around her workspace, with Mafalda herself at their center. He entered the fray quietly, glancing over their shoulders; The Bachelorette was playing on a tiny, charmed screen, and they all seemed to be enraptured, unconcerned by his presence.
Kingsley squinted at the scene that was playing, nearly leaping back in shock as he caught a close-up of the Nott boy's hands on Hermione's upper thigh.
"That's a bit gratuitous, don't you think?" he rumbled softly, a little scandalized. The other ministry workers jumped about a foot in the air, hastily stepping away and eyeing their feet as they returned to their desks.
"I have to say, Theo's grown on me," Mafalda remarked, unaware of what had happened behind her. "I dare say if things don't work out with Hermione, I can always make myself available - "
"Mafalda," Kingsley exclaimed in alarm, and she turned slowly, her face nearly purple.
"Sir," she managed, her voice inhumanly high.
He bit back a grin. "He does seem to know what he's doing," Kingsley conceded, pivoting quickly to re-enter his office.
[Camera pans across the remaining four contestants and then down to the three roses that have been placed beside Hermione; she is wearing a long navy gown, and her hands are shaking as she picks up the roses.]
[Draco steps forward and she seems to cling to him nervously; he holds her a beat longer than he should, but then returns to the others.]
Hermione: [Swallows and looks terrified.] "Harry."
[Harry looks relieved and gives her a comforting squeeze; she nods once and sighs, as though reassured by her choice. Harry rejoins the other candidates and chooses to stand beside Draco, who gives him a curt nod. The interaction is surprisingly amicable.]
[The music becomes dramatic and intense as the camera zooms in on the only remaining rose.]
Hermione: "This is the hardest rose so far, and I hope you'll forgive me." [She starts rubbing anxiously at her clavicle as though she is struggling to breathe.] "This rose is for . . . "
[She trails off and the music is excessively dramatic.]
Hermione: [Takes a deep breath.] "This rose is for Theo."
[Theo grins rather knowingly at her and she sags a little in his arms; he kisses her cheek and joins Harry and Draco, leaving her to face Ron.]
Hermione: "I'm so sorry." [She is whispering and a tear slips down her cheek.] "I'm so, so sorry."
Ron: [Looks a bit shell-shocked, but nods.] "I just want you to be happy."
Hermione: [sobs] "I want that for you, too."
[Cuts to Ron interview.]
Ron: "Look, I'm upset, but I think I know as well as she does that we weren't going to work out." [He gazes out the window; slow, soft violin music plays.] "We tried it before and it didn't work then, so it's okay if it doesn't work now. She's great, you know." [He manages a smile with difficulty.] "Any of these guys will be lucky to have her."
Interviewer, off-screen: "Do you have any particular preference for who she might choose of the remaining contestants?"
Ron: [chuckles.] "Well, as weird as it is for me to say this, Harry really is the best guy there." [He shrugs somewhat cheerfully; he seems to be much happier now that he has been eliminated.] "I'm always going to be on his team."
[Cuts back to a shot of the manor as Lee steps into view.]
Lee: "And next week on The Bachelorette . . . Fantasy Suites!"
[Cuts to scenes of an elaborate tropical hotel.]
Hermione voiceover: "Fantasy Suites is the first time I get to be alone with these guys and, I don't know. I'm quite nervous."
[Cuts to Draco interview.]
Draco: "Of course I'm not in love with her." [He does not look like he believes this.] "How could I be? It's only been a couple of months!" [He buries his head in his hands, sighing as though he knows he is losing this battle.]
[Cuts to Harry interview.]
Harry: "Do I love Hermione? I've always loved Hermione." [He looks startled.] "Dear god, do I love Hermione?" [He doubles over, mumbling to himself.] "Oh no. Oh no. What is happening."
[Cuts to Theo interview.]
Theo: "Sure, I love her." [He shrugs.] "What's not to love?"
[Cuts back to a smiling Lee.]
Lee: "All that and more coming up next time on . . . The Bachelorette! And don't forget to stay tuned for our new series, 'Newlyweds: Dean and Seamus Take on the Wizarding World.'"
Lee: "Oh, I've got an owl from my mum, hold on."
[He opens it and makes a face.]
Lee: "She doesn't even ask how I am. She just wants to know if I have any insider information for her book club pool." [He shakes his head.] "Godric's teeth, do I not exist?"
Lee, yelling: "HAVE I DIED OR SOMETHING?"]
a/n: The absurdity never ends. This one is for ShayaLonnie, who for whatever reason is reading this (YES, I KNOW, I HAVE ARRIVED) and has gone as far as to put it on her rec list.
I know. I'm as surprised as you are.