Courting Miss Granger
Chapter 1: The Malfoy Marriage Contract
By Marmalade Fever
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any related insignia.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. --Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Hermione Granger had been eating lunch at home, minding her own business. Salad again... her mother had sent her four heads of lettuce, and she didn't want it to go to waste. She had another twenty minutes before she had to go back to work at Flourish and Blotts. She was manager now. It hadn't taken her very long to work her way up the ladder. They loved her there. It was ten times better than the ministry job she'd had a couple years ago. She could read as many books as she pleased and get paid for it. She especially enjoyed helping the Hogwarts students find their new books.
Hermione was twenty-five now, unmarried, and hadn't dated for over a year. Her best friends Ron and Harry were both married and living elsewhere. She missed them.
She had just speared a carrot on the end of her fork when an owl came through her kitchen window, dropped a letter flat on her plate, and flew off again. She picked it up, dusted her salad dressing off, and looked at the address. Miss Hermione Granger, it read. The handwriting was exquisite and the ink was pearly and green. She opened it and pulled out a very nice looking sheet of paper. Down at the bottom was the most unlikely name that she would have ever expected, Draco Malfoy! Intrigued, she read:
Dear Miss Granger,
I would be most appreciative if you would meet me at seven o'clock tonight at Basil Garden. Please do not be alarmed. I have a very important matter to discuss with you. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you again.
Basil Garden was a very nice restaurant that Hermione had only been to once for tea with her mother on her birthday. The last time she had seen or heard of Malfoy had been nearly seven years ago when they had left Hogwarts. What in the world would he want to discuss with her? But then, he had sounded very sincere in the letter. It would be rude to not show up. She made up her mind to go, but to bring her wand in case things got ugly.
At seven o'clock, Hermione walked through the door of Basil Garden and an aproned man directed her to a table in the far corner of the room. Looking highly nervous was Draco Malfoy, who had just taken a swig from his water glass. For a moment she just stood there, surveying him critically.
"Er, please, sit down," Malfoy said at last, gesturing to the seat opposite him. His hair was as blond as ever and the only notable difference in his appearance apart from age was the sad and nervous expression in his eyes. Indeed, she had never seen him like this before. He even looked... scared. What on earth could he have asked her here for?
"What's this about?" Hermione asked, settling her napkin carefully in her lap. Malfoy didn't look up at first.
"Well," he said at last, "I've just had my birthday." Hermione raised her eyebrow appraisingly. "That is, I turned twenty-five yesterday. My father called me into his study to talk to me. I expected him to give me a present or something... That wasn't it, though."
"Okay..." Hermione said. She was following him thus far but couldn't guess where this was headed.
"He had me sit down and opened up his drawer and pulled out some parchment. He, er, read it to me... I didn't really understand at first. I had to read it a few times over to really get the seriousness through my head." Malfoy reached into his pocket and pulled out some very old papers. Hermione took them and glanced them over for a second.
"These papers are six-hundred-years-old!" she gasped, looking at a date.
"And written in Middle English," Malfoy said, nodding. "My father explained it to me. It seems that if a Malfoy isn't married by their twenty-fifth birthday, they have one year to do so." Malfoy looked uneasily at a bread-stick. Hermione could feel a slight dizzying in her head... but surely... no, that couldn't be it... "If I don't get married by my twenty-sixth birthday I'll become ineligible to receive my family fortune... worse, I'll be cursed."
Hermione let out a low whistle. Being cursed was not a thing to be taken lightly. Most cursed people died within a few days from odd incidents such as falling pianos landing on their heads. It was kind of like the whole broken mirror thing, only permanent.
"Then my father explained to me that the contract is very specific about who I can and can't get married to. For one thing, she has to be from this country. At the time that the contract was being written the family had a lot of foreign enemies. Second, she has to be a witch. No muggles... not that that would ever happen," he added more to himself than to her. "Last, she has to be unwed, of course. Oh, and she also has to be my age." Hermione was still confused. She fit all four categories, but there were bound to be scores of other girls that did, right? Malfoy was looking even more uncomfortable than ever and there was real fear behind his eyes. "My father looked really grave about those rules," Malfoy said. "He said he'd tried to prompt me to settling down years ago, but I just wouldn't listen. I didn't know a thing about the Malfoy Marriage Contract until yesterday."
"So what does this have to do with me?" Hermione asked, feeling a little fearful herself.
"Well," Malfoy said, averting his eyes. "My father pulled out a list of girls who fit the criteria. There weren't many... He started crossing name after name off. Apparently they'd all gotten married... all except you." He looked up at last, and if she weren't mistaken, he looked as if he were about to be ill. "Grang-Hermione," he said, "it seems that you are the only girl in the entire world that I can marry. In other words, you're my only hope."
"They're all married?" Hermione gasped.
"Every last one," Malfoy said, nonchalantly. "Everyone from our year and the ones directly above and below."
"And you're allowed to marry a muggleborn?" Hermione gasped.
"In those days the idea was so ludicrous that they didn't even bother putting it in."
"So what are you trying to say?" Hermione asked.
"I'm trying to say that if I don't marry you by the end of the year, I'm done for," Malfoy said. Hermione couldn't believe her ears. Had Draco Malfoy just proposed to her? She shivered.
"What's in it for me?" She could hardly believe that the words had left her mouth.
"Well... Money, for one thing," with a glance from her he quickly changed his strategy, "but overall knowing that you did the right thing. You wouldn't just let me suffer, would you? That's an awful lot of guilt to put on your head." He had struck a chord and he knew it. "Look, I'll make you a deal. We'll go out for eleven months, and if you truly decide that you hate me, then you can leave me, and I'll die knowing that I at least tried. If you decide otherwise," a look of panic came into his face, as if he knew how farfetched that was, "we'll marry."
They didn't say anything for about ten minutes. A waiter kept glancing over at their table, wondering if he dared offer them a list of the specials. "Eleven months, huh?" Hermione asked.
Malfoy looked chipper. "Eleven months, that's all I ask."
"Well, I'm thankful you didn't just kidnap me and force me into it," Hermione said, sincerely. "Or, possibly worse, try to make me fall in love with you and not tell me that you had no other choice." It looked for a second as if he hadn't even thought of either of these suggestions and was about to kick himself, but his face went back to being neutral. "So... I guess eleven months is the least I could do. No guarantees though."
Malfoy let out a huge sigh. "Good, good..." The waiter came over and they ordered. This would be one interesting year.
April 2008: I am slowly trying to edit this for grammar and some content. Please note that because this was written several years ago, it no longer reflects the writing style of the author. Please also note the extremely short chapter lengths were due to my trying to write whole chapters in single sittings once a week.
In the original version, the MMC (Malfoy Marriage Contract) was 400-years-old and written in Old English, but now that I'm actually enrolled in an Early British Literature course, I'm trying to put more sense into it.