Just A Penniless Writer
Standard Disclaimer Applies
Author's Plea: And this is the end. I hope it satisfies. I must say, it's been a strange journey, and much longer than I'd ever anticipated. Now that it's over, I'm not quite sure what to do... There are a few minor Deathly Hallows jokes. I wouldn't call them spoilers, and I certainly didn't bother changing the story to fit new canon. It is, as it has always been, only compliant (if you could even call it that) to book 5. Regardless, thank you for reading, and, as always, enjoy if you can.
Part 13: The Grand Finale
He was glaring in a dull, disinterested manner that made the glare indistinguishable from any other facial expression. She met his glare with a real glare that gave credit to the Malfoy name.
"Miss Granger, please refrain from threatening Ministry employees." His gaze broke for a single moment, but it was enough for her to know she had won. "However," he continued in a droll voice, "as this interview is coming to a close, I have only one more item to discuss."
She snorted. It was perhaps not as cultured as she could have endeavoured, but it was impossible to hold back. Her interrogator was a self-important swot, but he seemed particularly gifted at it. He was still annoying and insulting though and thus would face her soon-to-be considerable political powers. For the next five minutes, though, she would humour him.
"Please describe the events that lead to the mass break of the Do-Not-Recognize spell, and the exposure of your identity."
"I thought that was the most obvious portion of the entire tale. As I can see you are truly an ignorant idiot, I will attempt to correct the ignorance."
The deep breath she took was a necessity. The details of the event were still very fresh, and her frustration was near overpowering. Still, she hadn't made it so far without something resembling patience, and goodness knows she'd never have remained friends with the boys had she not invented new ways of glossing over unpleasantness.
"Despite our knowledge, or perhaps because of it, that the protection on the marriage registry would end, we decided to attend a dinner party held in our honour by our dear associate, Mr. Alias Barnum. It was held at Magnifique, an establishment Mr. Barnum is particularly fond of. It seems only fitting that the secret would be revealed exactly where it first publicly began."
"Are you sure this was wise?" Hermione whispered to her new husband while the dinner party guests began summoning their coats and cloaks. Mr. Barnum had already bid a happy farewell to the couple and was helping a young widower into her fur coat. Madam Barnum was watching with what might have been disdain on a livelier face. It would have been amusing had Hermione not felt so increasingly ill at ease.
"You are too nervous. The night is almost over. It might have been a stretch to come here considering the wedding registry will finally list your name tomorrow, but until then the charm still holds. There is little chance anyone will manage to break the charm before the morning."
Lucius wanted to smile, but there were people watching. He settled for an approving smirk. It was so rare for her to need reassurance anymore that he found he appreciated it all the more when it did happen. He was quickly coming to realize that his new wife was a bit more demanding than he'd suspected so any exploitable weakness was cause to rejoice.
"The odds are astronomical," he whispered into her ear as he slipped her blue cloak over her shoulders.
She settled at that, taking the initiative to lean up and kiss his pointed chin. A few of the women not so discreetly watching the pair murmured their approval while the men cringed at the sappy display. It was one thing to hate Lucius for his influence and money; it was quite another thing entirely to hate him for making them look bad in front of their wives.
The blissful couple took no heed of their audience, instead bidding adieu again to the gracious host and taking their leave. They were so entranced with each other, looking forward to another evening spent in the monstrous master suite at the Manor (studying of course. Hermione required two hours of studying before any other activity was permissible. NEWTs were right around the corner, after all!), that they failed to remember the small crowd of press lying in wait outside the restaurant.
While they were accosted with questions ranging from Helen's favourite colour to whether Helen was actually the new form of You-Know-Who, one reporter was suddenly struck by a pronounced feeling of familiarity.
She'd felt a similar feeling in regards to the mysterious Helen twice before: once when the young woman smirked in a very particular fashion and again when the brat had written a venomous letter to her after she published an article regarding the couple's infamous break-up. Now she felt it again with greater urgency as she saw how the periwinkle blue of the woman's cloak made her look even younger, brighter, grander, as if she was attending some sort of spectacular ball…
"Hermione Granger?" she said dully. However, Rita Skeeter was not known for a low voice, so 'Helen' immediately turned to look at her with an appraising and almost fearful expression.
Almost immediately Rita's dull expression transformed into one of malicious understanding. She repeated the name with conviction and a menacing wink.
The illusion dropped quickly thereafter, and there was nothing either Lucius or Hermione could do to stop the drama that followed. When at last they escaped from the excited mob, it was with the understanding that their world would be drastically different in the morning.
"What you need to realize about this entire situation is that despite their differences, my father and my new step-mother are actually very similar in nature. Both manipulative and particular… such refined tastes were bound to be recognized as matching eventually. I have no doubt that, given time, they would still have become partners even without my generous influence."
"You really believe that?" the Auror asked curiously.
"Of course. You continually fail to see the embarrassing truth of this matter. It isn't just that my father married again, or even that he married Granger, a girl my own age. It's more that my father isn't just using Granger. My father loves her. He truly, honestly loves her. It is something of a tragedy for the Malfoy line, but at least he had the sense to love someone with such qualities befitting a Malfoy wife."
"Is love really so terrible?"
"Are you forgetting who you are speaking about? My father, Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, is not a man I even thought capable even capable of falling in love. I'm his own son, and I didn't think him capable of falling in love! How perfect is that? Had anyone told me what would happen, that he would fall in love, back when I first concocted the scheme to entertain him at his birthday, I would have hexed them."
Draco paused then, and looked all around the dreary little room without really seeing any of it, before smirking grandly.
"But I wouldn't change a single thing. Father is in love with her. He's happy and for once his happiness isn't detrimental to our continued state of affairs. I could care less if he married a Weasley if we could still claim such happiness -- though I suppose that is asking a bit much. A Weasley could never compare to Granger as a stepmother."
He was about to speak further, no doubt further explain the ways in which Weasleys were inferior to Hermione, but a ruckus at the door distracted him. A barking, angry voice was interrupted by a loud, controlled voice that he'd become well familiar with. His sneer grew wider.
"Speaking of my cunning little stepmother, I believe this interview has come to an end."
"But-- But--" the young Auror fumbled as he watched Draco stand and adjust his robes.
"By all means, go out there and explain to my new mother why you are keeping me here. It might be interesting."
The Auror was spared the indignity of response by the door unlocking itself before opening. Looking every bit the angry Queen of a disorderly country, Hermione stepped through.
"Hello, Stepmother," the boy stated lightly with a smirk.
"Draco, what have I told you about calling me stepmother?" she said with a wry grin.
"What? Aren't you proud of me, Stepmother?"
"You do not want the answer to that. Now hurry. Your father is waiting at the lift."
Without sparing another thought to the young Auror still frozen in his place, the duo left the room for bigger and better things. However, he would forever tell everyone at the pub everything but the truth. Letting the pair leave after winning a duel against the new Malfoy wife sounded much better than his suddenly waking from his stupor ten minutes later and scurrying off, so the pub patrons didn't much mind.
Lucius was impatient. Though expected and unavoidable, it had still been a trying day. Telling so much truth was wearying, and he'd missed the pleasure of his wife's company the night before. Though he understood why she preferred to be 'summoned for questioning' at Hogwarts instead at the Manor, he was finding it increasingly uncomfortable to spend a night in his massive bed alone.
He idly wondered if perhaps he was becoming too dependent on her. However, his better judgement quickly pushed that thought aside. Despite his former thoughts on the matter, dependency wasn't quite the evil previous experience had taught him -- at least not when it provided such benefits.
Still… wasn't it just a bit too much that she'd 'rescued' him from his interrogation? She didn't come in with her wand ablaze, but she might as well have. For all his work, he was still married to a Gryffindor, and the reminder was unwelcome.
"Are you pleased now?" a snide voice interrupted his thoughts. He acknowledged Severus' presence with but a nod and a smirk.
"Very much so, though it seems my wife is in need of distraction from this mess."
"She was interrogated by Bliley."
"Ah. Such a disagreeable man." Considering he'd known, and befriended, a long list of disagreeable men, he thought his word on the subject to be quite condemning.
Severus, however, said nothing. They stood in silence for a few moments, appreciating the quiet of the little lobby that would no doubt end the moment they stepped foot into the Atrium.
"I understand that your little game was bound to end, and your wife's identity discovered. With the names set to appear on the marriage registry today, there wasn't hope for delaying the inconvenience. What I do not understand, Lucius, is your atrocious timing. A Monday?"
Lucius merely smirked and remained silent.
Fortunately, they did not have to wait much longer. Hermione's sure and steady footsteps rang down the hall long before she turned the corner into their line of sight. Draco followed at her heels like a proud and excitable puppy. It was a spectacle Severus seemed to particularly enjoy.
Severus did not seem to enjoy the enthusiastic welcome Hermione gave Lucius. While he was by now accustomed to shows of affection between the two, this was downright indecent. Rather than feel a voyeur, he cleared his throat loudly, nodded at a happily smirking Draco, and took his leave. Whatever their plans now, he wanted no part in it. They were very much capable of taking over the world without his help.
Besides, he was very much of mind to begin working on the sad state of his own life. His speech to Dumbledore was already well planned, and it was only a matter of time before he'd be free of Hogwarts and the damnable children. Once his freedom was assured, he was in mind to find his own love interest. He wasn't the marrying type, but there was certainly no reason for his bed to remain cold. The scandal and his part in it almost assured that he could lure a witch with a well told back-story, possibly involving a tragic past love. It would be all too easy.
With a bounce in his step, he left the Malfoys to their own devices.
The happy couple took no notice of Severus' departure. It wasn't until Draco began to feel similarly uncomfortable that they parted and set forth. They primped in the elevator and presented a grand united front to the masses of reporters and spectators that filled the Atrium. Many questions were answered in florid tones, but they stated nothing further than the reality of their marriage, their ensuing happiness, and their disappointment with the Ministry for questioning them for the better part of a day.
When they finally managed to escape the building via the less crowded visitor's entrance, they found themselves quite happy with the quiet, empty alley in which they could finally speak without fear of being arrested or quoted.
"I think that went well," Hermione said with a happy sigh. "Certainly better than expected."
"It seemed the press was particularly pleased," Draco stated.
"Yes, but they seem to be pleased in our favour which should not be discouraged," Hermione responded with assurance. "They may be overwhelming, but their influence is invaluable."
"Certainly," Lucius agreed while patting his wife's arm. "And if they do make villains of us, there is hardly anything they could suppose that would measure up to the truth."
"Which truth would that be?" Hermione replied with a grin.
"Neither. Both. It hardly matters. The story we just told has just as much truth as any."
"Does that work in reverse as well? Do the real events contain just as many lies?"
"Of course. Otherwise we would not be so happy."
Hermione pondered on that as they slowly walked further into the shadows of the alley.
"I wonder if the true timeline will ever be revealed," she said contemplatively. "Our story was so perfectly contrived; I doubt anyone will spot the errors. It will probably be listed in the history books as fact."
"Probably. I, for one, see no point in revealing that the true circumstances included a failed attempt at Imperio, a fouled batch of Polyjuice, and a lot more blackmail than was inferred."
"We wouldn't want anyone to cast aspersions on your character."
"Most of those mistakes were Draco's, but family is still family."
The couple ignored Draco's indignant exclamation and simply nodded in agreement.
"Regardless of the actual truth, the present truth will be perfectly acceptable in advancing our plans," Lucius continued.
"I've already been recommended for an apprenticeship through the Department of Mysteries. They can hardly revoke it because of the present circumstances."
"If anything, a scandal of this magnitude can only further recommend you for the position," Lucius stated idly. "
"Yes, and once in office, it will be a simple matter to rise through the ranks. We should still be on course for Minister of Magic within ten years."
"There hasn't been a female Minister in quite some time."
"You might have some setbacks. My influence and your undoubtedly high NEWT scores will not be enough. We should be prepared."
"Yes, I know, which is why we'll all be donating our time and money to some very notable causes. Also, we'll strive to remain in the public eye and strive to maintain an unquestionably positive light on all our doings as well."
"And what of our family life?"
"Draco should stay in the Manor well after Hogwarts to promote the strength of the family. Also, we should consider having children in a few years. Childless women are still heavily prejudiced."
Lucius perked up at that mention. While he didn't particularly enjoy the messiness of parenting, he did appreciate proof of his virility. As he was married to a young woman more than twenty years his junior, it was of particular importance to him.
"Of course. Draco has been wanting a brother."
"Has he now?" Hermione said with a smirk as her eyes slid to her stepson. The youngest Malfoy refused to meet her gaze, but his pink cheeks answered her question just as well.
"Very well. What do you think of the name Hugo?"
"Absolutely dreadful. I've always been partial to Ambrose."
With an expression that promised all sorts of fun, Hermione Apparated away. Lucius smirked grandly, seemed to rise to her unspoken challenge, and Apparated as well.
Draco alone remained in the dark alley. With no witness to the event, he smiled broadly. It was perhaps the first honest smile that had dared to grace his face for years and made the pointed features less sharp.
His parents, both new and old, were happy. His future was being planned for him.
His smile slowly became a smirk before he wiped his expression clear of anything suspicious and Apparated home.
All was going according to plan.