Title and Registration
Summary: Sometimes a marriage of convenience is little more that a piece of paper signed and registered. Sometimes, it's a lot more.
AN: Written for the LJ dmhgficexchange fall challenge. Enjoy!
Two nights ago (or possibly three?) I was lying in bed trying to reconcile to myself that my bonsai tree really wasn't getting any bigger. Sighing and turning around to stare out the window, it occurred to me that the price of tea in China had everything to do with the fact that Draco and Hermione are ultimately destined for great things. Naturally, you must be wondering what led to this conclusion. I would wonder the very same thing. See, the thing is, tea is probably how it all started. Everyone know that the British are tea fiends (ah, stereotypes!) and therefore, tea is what Dumbledore must have been serving Hermione (probably Head Girl) when he tactfully broke the news that due to the sharp increase of Chinese tea import prices, the tea served at Hogwarts may have to be changed to a new variety, for the sake of cost-saving purposes.
Hermione must have taken the news well, because I think she merely shrugged, and glanced at Dumbledore meaningfully, trying to get to the real reason that he had summoned her to his chambers (password of the week was probably "vanilla drop cakes," too) because it definitely wasn't to inform her that Hogwarts was switching tea suppliers. At this point, Dumbledore probably sighed, probably pretty loudly, too, and even more tactfully informed Hermione that due to the predisposition of genetic factors, etc. etc. and the weakening of the genes in purebloods, etc. etc., the ministry has passed a law "encouraging" all muggleborn witches and wizards to marry into pureblood families.
Hermione probably spilled her aforementioned tea at this point. It was well known that Fudge (imbecile that he is) favoured the suck-ups, and for Hermione to ever attain a meaningful position at the Ministry, she would probably have to follow this new law to the tee. Pausing for a moment to think, then realizing the tea was scalding her lap, she cast a quick cleaning spell and kept thinking. Dumbledore's probably looking at her in one of his significant kind of ways, but she's too busy thinking that she doesn't realize the obvious solution to her problem. Clearing his throat, Dumbledore indicated the Hermione was free to leave (he probably wanted his office back) and that she should go to her Head rooms to work it out.
Since Dumbledore is obviously omniscient, he knows that Draco Malfoy, the obvious choice for Head Boy, is trying to get out of Quidditch practice. He made Team Captain this year, and it wasn't even due to daddy's credit card (do they even have these in the wizarding world? And how come it isn't called the witching world, since the female plays an important role in pagan religions?) But it was simply due to Draco's own skill and leadership talents. In fact, Lucius probably wouldn't have been much help, since he was in Azkaban at this point. However, Daddy did insist the Draco join the Quidditch team, despite his incredible dislike of flying, if only as a method of gaining control and respect from the other Slytherins, and in a wider sense, the entire Slytherin house. Of course, Draco acquiesced to his father's request, despite his own misgivings. Subsequent close calls on broomstick did nothing to alleviate his worries or dislike.
Regardless, Draco Malfoy was at present doing what he does best, being a lovable prat. Having already successfully convinced the Slytherin team that they needed him, he was now attempting the opposite. Through a complex method of flattery, insults, and clever insinuations, he managed to get himself honourably discharged, so to speak, from the team, and was now casually walking up to his quarters. Yes, he is the Head Boy, but in all honesty, who else would possibly fill that role quite the way he does? In any case, once he burst in on a busily thinking Hermione, he bit back his vicious retorts, since she was apparently in no condition to reply in a similar manner, and he hated sparring with unworthy opponents. Instead, he simply went to his room, and pulled out the complex Potions homework that Prof. Snape has given him. In all likelihood, Draco probably assumed that this was what Hermione was busy thinking of, and he didn't entertain any different ideas until a rather large family owl dropped a similar-sized letter on his desk.
"Dear Mr. Malfoy," it must have read. "On behalf of your father," (Draco growled low in his throat; his father does not occupy the role of favorite person, if he ever did) "We would like to inform you of new regulations concerning marriage in wizarding families, most specifically pureblood such as yourself, and the legal options to which you are entitled."
Draco must have whistled low, and the sound caught Hermione's attention, but she went back to contemplation. She was currently considering Ron as an option, but he and Lavender were quite happy, and were probably already planning some sort of wedding or handfasting or some such unifying ceremony.
Having nothing to lose, Hermione got up and knocked on Draco's door. A muffled curse was emitted from... somewhere, and she might have staggered just a bit as Draco flung open the door, and in a low, murderous tone, stated very calmly the following:
"Granger, I know you must have heard about the new Marriage Law. No doubt, you must be ecstatic; you've got a shot at marrying your precious Ronnikins. No doubt I will be hearing your happy news tomorrow morning, possibly at breakfast, which will make my long night that much worse. I'm of age already, you must be soon, too, and if I'm ever going to attain status as befits a Malfoy, I'm going to have to marry one of-"He paused, to look at her disdainfully and then rather carefully, "-your kind. Also, no doubt you have already figured this whole thing out, so if you have nothing more to say, kindly refrain from saying anything. Good night!"
Draco moved to close the door, but Hermione blocked him, took a deep breath, and said the first thing that came to mind.
"Malfoy, will you marry me?"
Draco didn't say anything at all. He was flabbergasted. I probably would be too, if my constant antagonist proposed out of nowhere, and I doubt either of us would even have entertained the thought had it not been for that dratted Marriage Law. Draco simply brushed by her, and left the building in much of the same way as he entered, feeling annoyed yet vaguely satisfied. Stepping out of doors into the crisp autumn air, he contemplated his options. Finally, he came to the conclusion that he could a) not go into the Ministry at all, b) wait for Fudge to die off, c) find some other muggleborn girl or d) just marry Granger. He didn't particularly want to admit it, but option D was looking better and better. It was doubtful that he would find anyone anywhere quite as annoyingly ideal as Granger. Stomping back into the castle and up to the Head dorms (he quite frightened those ickle firsties about to discover the depths of Peeves' wrath) he opened the door, closed it carefully behind him, took a deep breath, and briskly addressed Granger, informing her that he considered her offer, and would accept. Furthermore, as her fiancé, he was under obligation to inform her that her hair was the exact colour of the soft and bright autumn leaves outside, and please don't dye it, ever, thank you.
Draco then turned, and left to inform their Heads of House and Dumbledore of their... engagement, and he left Hermione to contemplate exactly what he meant by 'soft and bright.'
Hermione had no idea what prompt Draco to accept her proposal, and she had only a vague idea of why she offered in the first place. I'm the author, though, and since I know everything, I can give you a bit of history here. Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger have a surprising amount in common. They are both rather bossy and manipulative, but somewhere quite hidden and possibly quite repressed, they've shown already that they care for one another. By all means, Draco must have developed some kind of grudging respect during third year when Hermione dared to slap him, and she obviously thought about that long and hard, since she missed a class (missed a class!) thinking about Draco (thinking about Draco!) She must have realised that he wasn't perfectly evil when he warned her during a Death Eater attack in the Quidditch World Cup in the summer before fourth year. Sixth year must have seen the biggest changes, since Lucius Malfoy was in Azkaban, and Draco was out from under his direct influence. He's a smart one and he probably realised that the mudblood rhetoric was compromised since it was delivered from a half-muggle source.
Regardless, they still 'despised' each other, but Hermione hasn't completely made up her mind about him yet, and Draco is, in all honesty, only moderately and/or slightly confused about the issue.
While Hermione was still thinking about all of this, Draco was showing a calmness he didn't feel (he was quite sick and nervous inside) as Prof. McGonagall opened her office door. He was thinking that this was probably awkwardly similar to approaching his mother-in-law elect, asking her daughter's hand in marriage. Which was, you know, kind of what he was doing.
Prof. McGonagall was only partially surprised to see Draco at her office door. She had been fully aware of the Marriage Law, which had come into effect at midnight the night before. She knew that someone would come to ask about Hermione, and as much as she was fully convinced that the only one for her was Draco, she really didn't think that they would come to an agreement... ever. There seemed to be altogether too much history between them to ever precipitate an agreeable union.
Naturally, I can't expect a happy marriage. At least, not yet. I mean, in all honesty, these people are possibly the most opposite people you will find. They are like night and day, except even more different.
Or perhaps not... obviously they both place some kind of high value on power and attaining position which will afford them that power. They both want the same things out of life, and they seem to both hope that they will find those things in each other. The greater question, really, is: will they last? Can they last?
Dumbledore sat in his office, knowing that young Mr. Malfoy would currently be approaching Prof. McGonagall, asking for Hermione's hand in marriage under the guise of an attempt to 'find out all about her, since I'm marrying her anyways.' We all know that it will no doubt be difficult, but this is the right thing, and like so many right things, it's stunningly hard.
Stop. I shake myself out of an implausible daydream, and snapped my attention back to the professor at the head of my literature class. Distracted, I focused on the My Little Pony style tattoo on the shoulder blades of the girl in front of me, and I tried to reason out how, and in which universe, Hermione and Draco could ever end up together.
They are falling in love already, probably. A year has come and gone by now... the school year cycle has ground to a halt, and Hermione must be wishing that graduation wouldn't have happened, that she could go back... smile at Harry and Ron as they watch her back as if they could reading her test paper through her body. She's imagining the fall leaves far below the Gryffindor tower, she's feeling crisp breeze playing across her face and trailing its fingers through her hair.
Snapping back to reality, Hermione descends back to her insipid tea in her bone china teacup, musing over the fact that a year ago today Dumbledore asked her into his office to discuss the changes in tea import, and, oh, by the way, you've got to marry a pure-blood. Try Draco, he seems like a nice guy. Nice guy, like bloody hell. More like insufferable, incorrigible, as well as altogether too distracting for rational thought.
Draco stepped through her front door as if he owned the whole flat. Hermione probably muttered something like it's about time under her breath, and Draco probably whispered back something like it's not like you care. Some things don't change, no matter how often you wished they would.
She does care, though. She's having a hard time admitting it to herself, much less anyone else, but she is kind of glad that this marriage law has brought her and Draco together in a bizarre and almost cruel fashion. She's glad that he glares at her across breakfast, that he constantly berates her choices of confections at the start of the working day. She likes it because he's there. He has an opinion about her, and she knows that he cares, too. She knows, because she does the exact same thing. Not a day goes by that Hermione doesn't veto a robe choice, or flat out tell him that she isn't going to change her life after the wedding, no matter how much time she is putting into planning it, no matter how much fun he is having (and trying to hide) taking her around London bridal shops. They care, but they won't admit it... they are much too stuck in the habit of constant dislike, no matter how much evidence to the contrary.
This particular morning, in the crisp fall weather that always shows up at the end of September, Draco was in a nostalgic mood. He seemed to be having all these different moods of late, and Hermione was rather glad to be rid of the tired, sad, and resigned feelings that had gone through her breakfast the last few weeks. She had somehow managed to miss the shy, happy, and curious moods that were interspersed among them.
"Do you remember that time...-" Draco stopped abruptly, as if he was just hit by an idea. "- Hey, Granger, time..."
Hermione looked over her breakfast, glaring at him. She was rather sick of his sudden conversation changes. This had only started in the last week or so and so she chalked it up to stress. She was having a hard time thinking with him across the table from her, as well.
"Granger, you had a Time Turner in third year, right?" Hermione was a little surprised. Draco sent her one of his annoyingly wonderful smiles. "In all honesty, it was kind of hard to miss. I can hardly believe that Potter and Weasley missed it. Seriously, two classes at once without missing either?" He smiled conspiratorially, and leaned in a little, as if he was going to share some deep, dark secret. "Do you still have it?" he asked.
Hermione's mind worked quickly. It would have to; she was still alive, wasn't she? She knew where Draco was going with this, and immediately shuttered the thought. "I know exactly what you are thinking, Malfoy. (I always do, she thought quietly) and there is no way that we are going to go into the future to find out. " Her voice raised a couple of notes. "We would be breaking so many rules! If you want to know the future, you should have taken Divination!" He smiled wryly.
"I did take Divination. Up until sixth-year. That was when dear Professor Trelawny mentioned my imminent liaison with someone I would never usually associate with. A pretty tame prediction, if you ask me, but I was sick of her teaching regardless, and Daddy dearest wanted me to keep taking it, so I dropped the class." He signed and leaned back against his chair. "Anyhow, I knew about your Time Turner. Forgive my curiosity, but I want to know, you know." He vaguely motioned to the space between them. "I want to know if we work out." He stopped, and his eyes seemed to mock his own weakness. "Not that anything is going to change after the wedding. This is a marriage of convenience after all, is it not?" He paused, as if waiting for an answer, but Hermione just looked at him. His eyes immediately glittered brittle, and he got up to leave. "Try not the miss the rehearsal, darling. I know how are looking forward to this-" He paused, sarcasm fairly dripping off his voice, "- marriage. Indeed, almost as much as I am." He turned and left, Hermione still wondering exactly what happened, what went wrong.
I wonder why it is so hard to just say what you are thinking. Why is it so damned difficult to just admit it, why does one live in mutual agony, hoping and longing for him to say everything you wish he would say, and he is hoping and longing for the exact same thing. No one says a word, no one breaks the silence. You look at each other and you know, but you can't bear to say it and have your heart broken. You can't bear to be the first to give and then to lose.
Music plays in the background. Hermione, the clever and blind witch that she is, enchanted a stereo to play CDs, tapes, and live conversation. She's gone over countless times after Draco has left, and listens to his voice. She likes the sound of it, a sense of the forbidden, soft shahtoosh wool to her ears. She listens to their muted conversations. She likes to pretend that he is saying other things, softer, gentler things.
Sighing, she turned off the stereo, and got back to work, deciding that she had wasted enough time already. Harry would be stopping by soon; he always does after Draco comes by. She sometimes heard stiff and polite conversation outside her door, on the few days when Draco lingered. Hermione didn't want Harry picking up the pieces of her and Draco's conversations, she just wanted to talk to someone whom she was absolutely sure she could trust, someone with whom she wasn't afraid to show emotion.
Soon enough, Harry stopped by. "Hello, Hermione!" Harry said as he stuck his head through the doorway of her study. He didn't nearly have the same proprietary air as Draco (she's be lying if she didn't say she liked it).
"Hi, Harry." She said, smiling. "Come to talk me out of marrying Malfoy again, have you?"
Harry grinned wryly, and perhaps slightly jealously. "No, I've figured out that you want to marry that lovable prat. I mean, he is absolutely hideously annoying-" Harry shrugged "-but at least he is better that nearly every other offer you've gotten." They laughed together. Hermione had indeed gotten some strange and bizarre proposals (including the semi-distinguished Professor of Arithmancy in a tiny college in Latvia. Apparently he had hear of Hermione's essay, entitled, "On the Usage of Symbolism: A Study of the Intertwining Arts of Ancient Runes and Arithmancy" which had managed to garner some praise in highly academic circles.) Hermione actually hadn't told Harry that it was she that proposed to Draco, and that he had accepted. She wasn't sure if Harry would understand. Or, perhaps he would. He seemed to be developing a strange little affection for Draco. She hoped it wasn't serious.
She watched him talk. She was used to his rambling on and on, and she took this opportunity to drift away and think about what Draco had suggested, and how reassuring it would be.
Hermione is just like any of us. She longs for love and acceptance. I guess that is the one thing that she would avoid anything to have. This is probably what prompted her course of action.
"Harry-" she said suddenly, interrupting his discourse on the Cannons and their latest achievements.
"Eh. Hermione?" He asked, looking at her quizzically.
"Harry, I have an idea."
Draco is completely sure of what he is doing. Or, at least mostly sure. Every once in a while, he gets a slight doubt in the back of his mind (What if? What if?) but since he is a Malfoy, and Malfoys are always confident (or, at least always pretend to be confident) he quickly hid away that fear. He knew what he was doing. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was marrying someone who didn't love him back.
He had left Hermione's flat with a sense of loss; he was hoping that his constant presence would be some kind of positive influence, but no he wasn't so sure. He still wanted to know, he still needed to know.
Minutes later, Harry and Hermione were fifty years in the future. Or, somewhere thereabouts, they had given up counting turns, and had settling on just spinning the damn thing. The fifty years bit was really an estimation. They had a plan, really. Just... go find out if Draco and Hermione were happy. It was a simple plan, and it all hinged on the hope that a) Dumbledore was still alive, b) He was able to help them and c) He wouldn't turn them in for this flagrant indiscretion in the use of time and time-altering devices.
I think that they were only slightly surprised when the bell to Hermione's flat rang. Naturally, since Dumbledore is so obviously omniscient when it comes to his students, he must have intrinsically known about Draco and Hermione's concerns. Therefore, he prepared himself for the possibility that one, or both, would be paying him a visit soon. In the future, I mean. Soon, regardless.
"Harry, Hermione, I must confess that I may have expected you. For clarity's sake, let me ask: to what do I owe this honour?"
Hermione sighed wryly. "You must know that I'm virtually days away from marrying Malfoy, in my present timeline, at least."
"Yes, Hermione, I am well aware. I'm afraid I can guess where this is going."
"Headmaster (old habits such as calling Dumbledore 'Headmaster' die hard, apparently) The truth is that I am desperate for reassurance of a kind, of any kind." She looked down shyly, as if she hated to admit that little weakness.
Dumbledore slid a sly look at Harry, who was standing a little to the side. Harry shuffled his feet, but he smiled.
"Hermione, I am sure that you are well aware of the fact that your mere presence here, at this time-" His eyes twinkled brightly. It was quite charming, actually "-is breaking various laws, which are in place for a reason. However, I will indeed help you." Dumbledore withdrew a small envelope from his robes, and handed it to Hermione, who looked at it as if it was the Holy Grail.
"It's not much, Hermione, but I do think that it will give you the help you need." Hermione smiled at him, and Dumbledore smiled. "Go back now, and don't fast forward time again, alright?"
Hermoine nodded, and she looped the Time Turner's chain across both her and Harry. Spinning time, they came back.
Harry understands Hermoine's distress. Really, he does. He's been watching her and Draco over the last year, and he has noticed a couple of very important things. Draco hasn't called Hermione anything derogatory since sixth year. Hermione doesn't remember that little fact. She's intervened on his behalf on more that his fair share of occasions. He doesn't recognize that. Harry's been watching them, and he's really quite astonished that their mutual dislike is the only thing preventing them from being really and truly happy together. The fact that they can't see past their own petty problems and issues to the truth beyond is really driving him mad.
The fact that he himself has a bit of a crush on Draco doesn't really help, of course. I mean, Draco is getting married to Hermione, for heaven's sake. Harry still gets that mad little feeling whenever he sees Draco, but he doesn't dare admit it. Harry Potter is a straight man, damnit, and something as petty as emotion is going to change that. Too bad that he is completely contradicting exactly what he just thought about Hermione.
Finally, they got back to their present time. Hermione released the Time Turner's chain from around their necks, and sighed deeply.
"I'm sorry for dragging you into that, Harry. This is really my own problem... I shouldn't have let anything make me break rules..." She grinned at what she was saying, evidently remembering her many rule-breaking experiences at Hogwarts. Harry, having played his small but vital role, realised that Hermione needed to think, and that she needed to read what was in the envelope that Dumbledore gave her. He left quietly, giving Hermione one last hug.
Hermione turned to the envelope that Dumbledore of fifty years in the future gave her. Ripping it open, she read it aloud.
"Love is an androgynous, suicidal monkey poking at people's arses for it's own amusement."
Hermione laughed, a long, deep laugh that seemed to irradiate all of her worries. She had been going about this the wrong way. She had been wondering what the future would hold, what destiny had in store for her and Draco. She had forgotten one small fact, one tiny vital fact.
The future is what you make of it. Nothing is decided until you have decided it. She had been worrying that it was destined that she and Draco have a long and unhappy life together. She was worried over things she had no control. It was time for her to take control; it was time to face the music, to face her own feelings, and to finally do something about it.
"What do you mean, she was just here?" Draco asked a fifty-year-in-the-future Dumbledore.
"Exactly what I said. She was just here." Dumbledore smiled at young Mr. Malfoy. He and Hermione were more alike that either of them wanted to admit. Draco looked a little stunned, as if he thought that he was the only one who was having doubts or worries. As if he was the only one who thought that his feelings were one-sided.
"You mean, Granger took my idea after all?" He looked a little put out. "Oh."
Dumbledore smiled, and patted Draco's shoulder.
"Go home, Mr. Malfoy. You have a wide open future, you have a lovely fiancée, and you've got everything you want. It's right in front of you. You just have to find it."
Draco grinned, and nodded, and came back to his own time.
The next morning could have been a little awkward. Draco showed up for breakfast, like he usually did. Hermione sat across from him at the table, like she usually did. She watched him read The Daily Prophet (which she had skimmed, already. She liked reading the back of the pages that Draco was reading while he held the paper up.) and he watched her pour his coffee (black with two sugars, thank you). Finally, Hermione shyly broke the silence.
"You know, I was given a most interesting quote yesterday, Draco." She said quickly, digging up the quote she had read in Adbusters a couple of months ago. "It said this: 'The more I contemplate death and my own mortality, the more is inspires me to live my life as a work of art." She held her breath, waiting for him to say that it was terrible, or it was wonderful. She just wanted to know what he thought.
He smiled at her, a low, soft, crinkly kind of smile that held so much promise.
"You know, Hermione, I think that we are going to be alright."
I came back to my own world, too. I came back to reality, and wiped the mist from my eyes. It was dark out, and I thought back over my day. Dumbledore is right, you know. Everything you want is right in front of you, everything has always been right in front of you, you simply need to gather together to courage to take hold of it, to live it to its fullest.