A Fool In Love: Chapter Two
Disclaimer: Only the plot is mine. The characters, setting, and everything else belong to JKR
At precisely seven o'clock, Hermione activated the Portkey to take her to Malfoy Manor.
After Draco had left, she had immediately sent the other two Portkeys to Ginny and Lavender, including a letter with the Portkeys that implored the two witches not to tell Harry and Ron where they would be going tonight so that they might give Draco a chance. Thankfully the letter seemed to have reached both of them before they said anything to her friends as no other wizards darkened her doorstep that afternoon.
That disaster averted, Hermione had then set about finishing her work diligently. That enabled her to leave work early so she could take a shower and change into nicer robes. Narcissa Malfoy was still a fashion icon in the Wizarding World, despite her family's disgrace, and Hermione was determined not to look frumpy in front of the witch.
An all-too-familiar tug later, and Hermione was standing in the middle of one of the most richly appointed rooms she had ever seen in her life. She had only been in Malfoy Manor once before, and she hadn't really been paying attention to the décor at the time.
A delicate cough alerted her to the fact that she wasn't alone, and she turned towards the source of the noise. "Mrs Malfoy!" Hermione took a step back in surprise. She hadn't expected the blonde witch to be the one to greet her for her impression had been that Draco would meet her here and then take her to see his mother. She smiled weakly at her hostess. "Good evening," she said, recalling her manners and pasting a smile on her face.
"Good evening to you as well, Miss Granger. Draco should be here shortly." The other witch waved an arm at Hermione, indicating she should take a seat before she glided across the room and sat on the sofa.
"Oh! I'm sorry," Hermione replied. She bit her lip, feeling embarrassed that Narcissa had to take time away from her own preparations for the evening because the younger witch had arrived too early. "Draco had asked me to come before everyone else and I didn't realize that—"
"Please don't worry about that," Narcissa said lightly. Her tone more than her words eased Hermione's fears. "Undoubtedly the boy meant to be here before you but got caught up in fixing his hair." The blonde witch rolled her eyes. "It's a bad trait that he has inherited from his father. You would not believe how long that man would spend on his hair in the evenings before going to bed."
"In any event, I am happy to have this chance to chat with you, witch to witch," Narcissa said as she folded her hands into her lap.
"Oh?" That sounded rather ominous to Hermione's ears.
"Yes. I understand that Draco is…well he is very serious about you."
Hermione blushed and looked away as she wondered just what Draco had told his mother about her. "I don't think I would put it that way. We enjoy each other's company, that is true, but—"
"It is more than that. Please don't bother to deny that. This is the first time he has ever insisted that I meet any witch after all."
"Oh. I didn't know that," Hermione replied weakly. She silently cursed Malfoy in her head for taking so long and leaving her to his mother's tender mercies.
"Because of this, it would behoove me to make one thing perfectly clear between the two of us. As I think that you should know what you're getting into." Narcissa leaned forward in her seat, her gaze skewering Hermione where she sat. "You will never have your dream wedding with my son."
"Excuse me?" Hermione wasn't sure that she had heard Narcissa right.
"Normally, I don't care to repeat myself but I shall make an exception in this instance. I was warning you that you shan't be having the wedding of your dreams with my son. I'm not certain what sort of things he may have promised you, but I assure you that it simply will not happen."
Hermione was in shock. Of all the topics for the older witch to bring up, this had been the one furthest from her mind. "With all due respect," she said haltingly, "Draco and I are hardly at that stage."
"Is that so?" The way Narcissa tilted her head and arched an eyebrow implied that she didn't believe Hermione. "Well I suppose that doesn't really matter. It is something that you should know in advance, and Draco would never tell you that himself."
"Tell her what myself?" Hermione turned her head towards the direction of Draco's voice. He was standing in the door way, dressed all in black from head to toe, and looking quite debonair. Hermione couldn't help but be affected. She did her best not to stare as he walked towards the two of them, but she wound up failing miserably as she found that she just couldn't bring herself to look away.
"You finally fixed your hair to your liking, I see," Narcissa noted with an ironic grin.
"Mother!" Malfoy looked aghast as he raised one hand to his head. "Don't tell me that you telling Hermione about—"
"The way you fuss over your appearance?" The blonde witch shrugged her shoulders eloquently. "Don't worry, my dear. I am certain that is hardly a secret. Now that you're here, I think I shall go check in on the elves one last time before our guests arrive." Narcissa made good her exit, and Hermione couldn't help but admire the way she was able to avoid answering Draco's question without him ever realizing it.
That was what she thought at least.
Malfoy turned to her with a suspicious look in his eyes. "So was Mother really telling tales about me fussing over my hair? Or was she trying to cover up what she was really talking to you about?"
Hermione's mouth dropped open. "How did you guess that?" she asked.
Malfoy wrinkled his nose. "So she's up to her usual tricks, I see. And to answer your question, I thought something was up when she didn't answer my question directly. Mother's like that, you know. She is very good at dodging questions, to the extent that most people don't realize it. It doesn't work on me that well, however, because I've seen her do it all my life."
"That makes sense," said Hermione. "As to what the two of us were actually talking about…well let's just say that I don't think your mother approves of the two of us being together."
This time it was Malfoy's jaw that dropped open. "Excuse me?" he said. A look of concern appeared on his face. "You think that Mother is…no, you must be mistaken. What ever she said, she must have meant something else. She can be hard to understand like that. If Mother disapproved, she would have told me upon my telling her that I want her to meet you rather than try to scare you off behind my back."
"I hardly think I misunderstood her. I mean she couldn't make it more obvious the way she was insistent that we wouldn't be getting married."
"Really? I'm sorry, but I find it hard to believe she meant that. What were her exact words?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. She kind of felt sorry for Malfoy and the way he kept insisting his mother was above trying to sabotage his love life. "Her precise words, if I remember correctly," said Hermione, "went something along the lines of if I want to have my dream wedding then I had best part ways with you."
"Oh! Is that what she said?" He heaved a sigh of relief. "That's good. For a moment there, you had me worried."
"Yes, it is. That means she approves of you if she is already looking forward to the wedding."
"Okay," Hermione said slowly. "Telling me that I shouldn't get my hopes up of marrying you is her way of expressing approval. It's so obvious now that I can't believe I made such a mistake in the first place."
Rather than angering him, her sarcasm drew a small smile from Malfoy. "Sarcasm does become you, my dear. In any event, I guess I can understand why you thought she was trying to scare you away from me and all. If you took her literally…but no. Mother said that because…well it has to do with one of the more twisted traditions of the Malfoy family."
Hermione's eyebrows both shot up at those words, and she wondered just what she had got herself into. The Malfoys were rather infamous for their forays into the dark side of magic. For Malfoy to refer to a tradition of being one of his family's more twisted one… if Hermione wasn't a Gryffindor, she probably would have turned tail and fled.
"You see, for ages, a Malfoy bride has never planned her wedding," he explained. "That's always been the domain of the mother of the groom. Because of this, Mother has been planning my wedding for years. From what I've gleaned over time, my grandmother was overly fond of ruffles and bows." Malfoy shuddered slightly. "Needless to say, I haven't seen any pictures of my parents' wedding."
"You mean they don't have an album?" Hermione asked curiously.
"Oh there's an album…unfortunately. Please don't ever mention it around Mother for that's certain to set her off. She would destroy it, you see, except for the fact that my grandmother saw fit to enchant it to protect it against all harm. So it's locked away in the attic, far, far away from prying eyes.
"But that's what Mother meant when she told you that you wouldn't be having your dream wedding. She wasn't trying to drive you away. If anything, I'm slightly surprised that she didn't try to encourage you to propose to me," said Malfoy. "Merlin knows she's been hounding me about that ever since I mentioned to Mother that I had invited you and your friends over to dinner tonight."
"But it's only been a couple of hours, right? So it couldn't have been that bad," said Hermione.
"Trust me. You have no concept of just how much Mother wants me to get married so that she can finally have the wedding of her dreams. She tried to marry me off straight out of Hogwarts, but to her eternal disappointment, I refused. Don't get me wrong. She isn't desperate per se. She would never lower her standards, but since I'm currently with a witch that meets them—"
"Wait! I meet her standards?" Hermione privately reflected that if that were true, then Narcissa must have changed her standards over the years.
"Of course. Why wouldn't you? But as I was saying, Mother will be pushing for us to set the date incessantly. Stubborn doesn't begin to describe her. She rather reminds me of you at times." He shrugged his shoulders. "I am just happy that she does approve of you otherwise tonight would be an absolute nightmare."
"I can only imagine," said Hermione. She winced despite herself, thinking that Narcissa Malfoy wasn't a witch she would want to cross. It was reassuring to hear from Malfoy that his mother approved of her. She wouldn't feel safe eating or drinking at dinner tonight otherwise.
"No, actually, you can't," Malfoy said, frowning momentarily. "But that's neither here nor there. Let's be glad that Mother approves of you and move on to a pair of wizards who I am certain won't approve of me."
Hermione emitted a soft groan. "You mean Harry and Ron," she muttered.
"Alas I do." He took one step and then another until he was standing right in front of her. "Something tells me that they are probably already plotting how to free you from my evil clutches," he said with a large grin.
"You look positively excited over the prospect," Hermione noted dryly. "But no, I don't think that's what they're currently doing. I asked Ginny and Lavender not to say anything to them so I could break the news to them myself. Seeing how they never dropped by to drag me into St. Mungo's, I think it's safe to say that they don't know yet."
"That's reassuring. It's nice to know that they won't be coming in, wands blazing."
Hermione winced. That was all too apt a description of her friends. "Umm…yes. That also means you'll have time to hide behind me."
"Hide behind you?" He rolled his eyes at her. "Perish the thought. A Malfoy would never hide behind his witch."
Hermione sputtered in surprise and blushed at his words. "Yes…well um…that may be so, but I think that it would be prudent for you to—"
"Let you step between us as you don't think your friends would fire any spells off at you?" he finished for her. "I don't think that's a good idea. What if they launch their spells right as you intercede? You would get hurt, darling, and that's simply not acceptable. But fear not. I have an absolutely brilliant idea."
"Excuse me?" she asked, feeling as though she had lost the plot somewhere. However Malfoy didn't answer. Instead he closed the gap between them, until his nose was almost touching hers. Hermione let out a short gasp and tried to take a step back, but Malfoy reached out to grab her hands.
It was hard to concentrate when he was so close to her. All Hermione had to do was lean forward, and her lips would be touching his. She frantically pushed such thoughts from her mind and tried to focus on the situation at hand. It was difficult, especially as there was some small part of her that desperately wanted to kiss her, but she somehow summoned the strength to speak. "Umm…Malfoy?" she said hesitantly. "Care to share what you're planning?"
"I think it would be better to show you," he declared. Then he dared to do what she had not.
He bent his head forward and kissed her. She closed her eyes and leaned into it, reveling in the intimacy, but it was over all too soon.
"Well?" Draco asked as he rocked back on his heels, a pleased smile on his face.
For once in her life, Hermione didn't know what to say. "You kiss me as though you love me," she said without thinking.
"Imagine that," was his reply.
"But that's not possible," she said.
"Oh?" He lifted an eyebrow. "Care to share with me why not?"
"You know why!"
"Suppose I don't. Actually scratch that. I don't know why so please enlighten me."
Hermione huffed in exasperation. She couldn't believe that Malfoy was going to make her say it. "Because you're you and I'm me!" she exclaimed. And wizards like him didn't go for witches like her, she silently added. She was far too plain, far too clever, and far too outspoken for a philandering playboy like him, but she wasn't about to humiliate herself by saying that out loud. "To put it simply, I'm not your type," she concluded with a stamp of her foot.
"Now this is interesting. Pray tell, what do you think is my type? A buxom blonde with nary two brain cells to rub together?"
She gave him a look. "Are you trying to say that you've never been seen with such a witch?" she asked archly.
He coughed awkwardly before answering. "All right. You got me there. But they were just diversions. It wasn't like I was serious about them." Then he caught himself, emitting a soft groan. "And that just sounded awful, didn't it?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Blast. Serves me right for not thinking before I talk. But my point was that a wizard can't be blamed for—"
"Sowing his seeds while he's still young and virile?" Hermione suggested.
This time it was him giving her a look. "No, actually, what I was going to say was that I can't be blamed for occasionally going out with another witch while trying to figure out how best to approach my witch. Who evidently has been listening too much to what her witch friends—and believe you me, I'm using that term in the loosest connotation possible—say about her own attractiveness."
Hermione blushed and looked away from him, but Malfoy reached out and tipped her chin up so that her eyes were staring straight into his. "I shan't belabor the point at the moment," he said, "as we really don't have time right now. However let me make it perfectly clear that you're the only witch I've ever met who hasn't bored me to tears within seconds."
"That's hardly a ringing endorsement," Hermione said, jerking her face away from him.
"Oh! Well then would it please the lady for me to describe how I've been obsessed with her enchanting curls and enticing curves for far too long"?"
"Stop that!" Hermione cried. "That's cruel, saying things you don't mean like that!"
"But I do mean them. If you ask me, you're the one being cruel for thinking that I lie."
"You can't possibly—"
"But I do." Suddenly he embraced her, his arms circling around her as he placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head. "There, there. You have been listening to those witches more than what's good for you. They're just jealous, you know. They wish they were half as lovely as you." He paused and smirked. "Though your fashion sense does leave something to be desired."
"Hey!" Hermione protested weakly. She closed her eyes and leaned against him. The sincerity he was projecting was something hard to fake. Still it was hard to believe that he could ever be interested in her and so she asked, "Do you really mean it? Because if you don't, say so right now because I'm on the verge of thinking that you really do and it would be absolutely horrid of you to lead me on—"
He answered her with a kiss.
Which was interrupted shortly thereafter by a 'pop' signaling an arrival by Portkey, a rather girlish scream, and a sudden thud followed by twin shrieks of despair.
Of course her blasted friends would choose now to arrive.
Author's note: My thanks to everyone who took the time to review! And as a bit of a clarification what I meant about not taking this fic too seriously is that I intend for it to be long on fluff but short on plot. Obviously not everyone's cup of tea, but I thought it might be a nice change to get Draco and Hermione together sooner rather than later for once. :D Thanks to Hino-san again for betaing this so quickly.