Summary: One-Shot. Family Reunion fic – Hermione's family has gathered to celebrate the 75th birthday of their matriarch. What they didn't expect were the changes that happened to Hermione as well as the news that was in store for them.
A/N: This has been haunting me for weeks, begging to be written. I've been reading stories like this and I really just wanted to make my own version. I tried to make it as different from others as possible. Hope you enjoy it. It took a long time because I kept on getting stuck on several scenes.
Disclaimer: Fortunately, Harry Potter is not mine as the books will never sell if I was the one who wrote it. :)))
~Such Astonishing Surprises~
Hermione Granger let out a sigh as she laid down on her living room couch. She was extremely bored.
It had been a week since she had contact with anything or anyone from the wizarding world. And she already missed it.
It was her grandmother's 75th birthday in two days and members of the Reynolds family – her mother's side – have been arriving for the past few days. Apparently, the celebration was being held in a prestigious hotel in London so her family had to play hosts for several of those coming. Fortunately, many have opted to stay in hotels so there weren't many guests in their home. However, muggles were muggles, so Hermione wasn't allowed to show any signs of being a witch. Furthermore, her mother wanted her to spend time with her cousins while they were there, which was why she wasn't allowed to go back to the wizarding world anytime soon.
She let out another sigh at her thoughts.
"Bored, huh? Couldn't blame you though."
Speaking of her cousins, Hermione glanced up to find Aemilia Learmont – or Emy, as she is fondly called – giving her an amused glance as she perched on the armrest. Emy, who was two years older than her, was one of the few cousins Hermione got along with. Somewhat like an older sister of sorts.
"I am, Emy, I am. When are we leaving for the hotel?" Hermione asked.
"Tomorrow noon. Are you ready to see our other beloved cousins?" Emy questioned with a chuckle.
Hermione groaned at the reminder. It wasn't a widely known fact but her mother's side of the family was actually filthy rich. This was why most of their cousins were stuck-up snobs. Since her mother opted to live a life of simplicity, those cousins of hers usually treated her as some sort of commoner – of course, not openly.
"Don't remind me. I'm just glad that none of them are staying here. Especially those three."
Emy raised a brow as she reached over and played with Hermione's hair. "You mean Lavinia, Miranda, and Paulina?"
"Who else? Oh, and Jessica."
"They're not worth your time, Hun." Emy said while taking more of her cousin's hair into her hand. "Hm, I'd love to do your hair for the dinner and the event."
"I suppose you're right. It's just difficult to ignore them. And what do you mean by 'dinner and the event'?"
"We're having a classy dinner tomorrow night with only the family. The formal party would be on the evening the day after and prominent people would be attending that." The older woman replied as she gently twisted Hermione's tresses, as if contemplating on different styles. "If it had been anyone else celebrating, I would've thought of something to get away. But Grandma's actually one of the people I love in our family."
Hermione sighed. She would've done the same but her Grandma, despite being a socialite who loved being connected with those of the same background, was a kind woman and she adored her. "Yes, I agree. I wouldn't go either if it wasn't Grandma."
Emy let out a mock gasp. "You mean you wouldn't even go if it was my birthday? Where's the love?" She said while dramatically placing a hand on her chest.
Hermione rolled her eyes. Her cousin can be so dramatic when she wanted to be. "What love?"
"Ouch, Hermione, ouch. You wound me." Emy tried to say with a hurt expression but burst out in laughter instead. Hermione couldn't help but join her soon after and, for the meantime; her dreaded meeting with her other cousins was pushed to the back of her mind.
"I don't like this." Luce Reynolds complained as they sat down in the bus. They didn't fit in the car, so the younger ones had to take the bus whilst their parents took the small vehicle to the hotel. "I don't want to 'go see our delightful relatives'. Delightful isn't really the first word that comes to mind when I think of them."
"Relax, Dear." Emy comforted. "Ignore them and everything should be over before you know it."
"As if! They're all horrid, Emy! Horrid!" Curtis Reynolds, Luce's older brother, emphasized with a wild gesture of his arms. "I don't know how you put up with them."
"I'm used to it, dear cousin. I see some of them every summer – which, by the way, is highly stressful that I never dare call it a 'vacation'." Emy said with a smile. "Just exchange pleasantries for the sake of our parents not berating us. After that, you could blissfully ignore them."
"At least you only have to deal with the others, Luce. Lavinia is especially dreadful when it comes to me." Hermione spoke in an attempt to calm the younger girl. It seemed to work as Luce gave her a sympathetic look.
"Oh, right, sorry Hermione. I didn't think about Lavinia."
Hermione waved her hand dismissingly. While their conceited cousins ignored them and spoke of them behind their backs, Lavinia would go out of her way to put Hermione down instead. Ever since they were children, that girl would always do something to reduce her self-confidence. There was one time in their childhood when Lavinia invited Hermione to her birthday party, saying that it was just an ordinary kiddie party. What Hermione didn't know was it was a formal one. So imagine her embarrassment when she arrived there dressed in a plain shirt and a jumper. The kids thought she was stupid not to notice that she was being made fun of. Her confidence took a beating that day.
Lavinia was one of the reasons that she was such an insecure little girl who sought approval from others. There was also her other horrid cousin, Jessica. But she rarely met her as compared to Lavinia.
Thankfully, Lavinia's family moved to America some time before Hermione received her Hogwarts letter. At least that ensured that her confidence wouldn't deplete further than it already had. Now, it had been eleven years and Hermione wasn't looking forward to seeing her oh so dear cousin.
"Don't worry, Hermione, we're here." Curtis assured. "We won't let Lavinia, or those two dreadful twins, lay a finger on you."
Hermione gaped at the sight of the hotel.
No bloody way. Of all the hotels to hold the event, it had to be this one. She knew that they were being accommodated into a well-known hotel; she just didn't care to find out which one. Now, here she was, staring at the big glittering script on top of the huge building that spelt: The Constellation.
Curtis let out a low whistle. "'The Constellation', huh? Fancy. I heard it was difficult to get a reservation here or something – especially when it comes to the ballroom."
Hermione raised a brow at him. "I heard it was Aunt Tamora who arranged all of this. You know how ostentatious she is when it comes to these kinds of things. Especially when it involves Grandma."
Luce groaned. "This is going to be some kind of reunion, isn't it? Oh crap, I hate those kinds of things." Emy reached over and patted her on the shoulder.
"Well, come on. No use waiting here. I got a text from Dad, they're already inside."
As they approached the entrance, Hermione tried her best to keep her head down and let her tresses cover her features. She was doing a great job of it until they reached the lounge.
The lounge was as extravagant looking as the rest of the place. However, there was glass surrounding it to presumably keep out people who were only there to sit around. Unless they were there to check-in or eat at the restaurant, they weren't allowed to enter the lounge. So, when they arrived, they were stopped by a man.
"Good evening, will you be checking-in or dining?" The man asked rather snootily. He was eyeing them with barely concealed distaste. It was expected though – their casual clothing didn't exactly fit into the sophisticated place.
"Checking-in, sir. We just need to meet a few of our companions there." Emy replied calmly.
However, judging from the man's face, he wasn't convinced. There must've been other people who used the same excuse. He was about to say something – probably a comment to make them leave – but Hermione stepped forward and spoke.
She straightened herself and met the man's eyes. "We would be checking-in as soon as we find them."
His eyes widened slightly and, to the curiosity of her companions, he looked almost panicked. Hermione gave him a smile as she spoke again. "Would that be a problem, sir?"
"No, ma'am." He instantly responded. "I apologize for the delay. Please enter and enjoy your stay."
Hermione thanked him and led her cousins inside. Once he was out of earshot, Curtis commented. "I wonder what got his knickers in a twist. He was all sneer-y when we came then, all of sudden, he turns discomfited."
No one was able to answer since they were greeted by their parents and their gaudy aunt.
Aunt Tamora was one of the aunts Hermione disliked the most. She loved showing off how affluent she was with her expensive-looking clothes and numerous jewelries. She also loved goading about her accomplishments and the like that it used to make Hermione contemplate what it would be like if her aunt lost her voice. Oh, wait, that did happen.
Hermione repressed her smirk at the memory of her ninth birthday. She remembered the woman talking about how her daughter had a well-known person in her birthday, a tiara on her birthday, a five-layer cake on her birthday and, basically, how her daughter had a better celebration than her. Hermione remembered wishing that the woman would just shut up and not speak the whole day. And, lo and behold, for some strange reason, Aunt Tamora was unable to let out a single sound from her mouth.
Ah, isn't magic beautiful?
Unfortunately, the woman was able to speak again the next day.
Hermione was jarred out of her thoughts when it was her turn to be hugged by her aunt.
"Oh, Hermione, it's been so long, dear! You look so grown up now!" Once the woman pulled back and examined her better, Hermione saw the disapproving look in her eyes. "Hermione, dear, you should fix yourself better to attract men. Like Lavinia! Oh, she has so many suitors!"
The witch resisted the urge to roll her eyes but, from her peripheral vision, she was able to see her mother do just that. She also noticed Luce about to say something but was quickly silenced when Emy smacked her hand onto the girl's mouth.
Hermione forced a smile on her face and sweetly spoke. "I'll keep your advice in mind, Aunt Tamora."
"Wonderful! Come on! I'll show you to your rooms. Hermione, Luce, and Aemilia – you'll be sharing a room with Lavinia. I was able to reserve a room with four beds."
As Aunt Tamora left with their parents following, the four cousins trailed behind. The three girls shared a look of horror at the arrangement.
"Crap." Luce remarked. Hermione and Emy couldn't agree more.
"Hermione! It's so great to see you!" Lavinia Phillips greeted with a smile.
Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Did this woman really think she was daft? Her tone was practically oozing false friendliness. Either her relatives were too thick to pick up the tone or they simply ignored it since they use it themselves. But their façade was so obvious that even a first year Slytherin could see right through it.
Now there's a thought.
Perhaps she had grown accustomed to detecting these kinds of things that, even with great acting, it was easy for her to differentiate a false front from the real deal. Hermione inwardly shrugged. Either way, she still had the desire to smack that demeaning smile off Lavinia's face.
Deciding to play the game of the elite, Hermione returned the expression. The difference was, her expression was the perfect mask of affability. "Lavinia, it's been years."
Lavinia replied. "Yes, it has. How have you been, Hermione? I see that your fashion remains unique."
Restraining her fiery temper, Hermione successfully kept her pretence and replied. "Oh, I'm fine. You know me, Lavinia, I never liked to go with the flow." Then her amber eyes glinted mischievously when she added. "How about you? How have you been? I've heard that you have loads of blokes wrapped around your finger." She kept her tone even and her words were delivered with just the right amount of dryness that it would be difficult for some to decipher if she was being sarcastic or it was simply unintentional.
Hermione faintly heard a thud after her words. With a quick glimpse, she found Emy gaping at her. Hermione resisted the urge to laugh at her cousin's expression and returned her attention to Lavinia. The girl was staring at her, like she was trying to discern if she was being insulted or complimented.
Lavinia may be beautiful and talented in other things but she definitely lacked in the intelligence and wit department. Finally, the girl smiled. "Oh, there's so many of them it's sometimes quite troubling. But they're such gentlemen, you see. Maybe I should set you up with some of them. I think you need it." She glanced at the clock. "The dinner will be starting in an hour and a half. I'll go ahead." With that, she picked up her red purse which matched her dress. She flipped her light-brown hair and waved goodbye.
The moment the door closed, Hermione let her mask drop and muttered. "Wench."
Emy laughed outright. Luce, who was in the bathroom during the confrontation, stepped out and gave them a questioning look. The eldest girl noticed her and promptly explained. "You should have seen it, Luce! Hermione practically referred to Lavinia as some kind of slag!"
Luce's eyes widened in shock as she turned to Hermione. "You did not! That's bloody brilliant!"
"She still got the last word though." Hermione sighed. She wasn't upset over what Lavinia said. What irritated her was the fact that she didn't have the opportunity to counter the girl's barb. There had already been an insult at the tip of her tongue and it was unfortunate that she didn't get the chance to use it.
"Don't fret over it, Hun. I know you." Emy said. "If she didn't leave, you would've delivered a witty insult that she would have difficulty countering."
"Why, what were her parting words?" asked Luce while putting on her dress for the evening.
"She implied that Hermione is unable to attract men."
"What?" Luce exclaimed. "But Hermione's pretty!"
Hermione raised a brow at them, as if to say 'Really?'
"Don't deny it, Sweetheart." Emy said as she finished applying her make-up. "Lavinia may be attractive but you, Dear, are a hidden beauty. The only reason no one else sees it is because you don't put effort in your appearance as much as other girls."
Hermione shrugged. "It's not that I don't care about my appearance. It's just that I find it unimportant compared to much more relevant things that I should be doing for the society."
"True. But, you're only twenty, Hermione, you have many years still to come. So, I insist that for tonight and tomorrow evening, you look your best and surprise our snobbish relatives." Emy decided. She picked up the dress on Hermione's bed and examined it. It was long and dark red with sheer black lace on top. "Would you mind if I make a few adjustments to this?"
Hermione's eyes narrowed at her. "As long as I don't end up looking like a slag, fine."
Emy scoffed. "Honey, don't insult me. I'm not going to let you walk out of this room looking like a prostitute. Who do you think I am? I am an artist and you shall be my work of art! And I do not present mediocre works." She said while doing dramatic gestures that had the two other girls laughing.
"You're only looking for an excuse to put make-up on me and do my hair."
"You know me so well! Now, chop-chop! Clean up while I work on your dress." Emy ordered while pushing the younger girl into the bathroom.
Hermione rolled her eyes but smiled nonetheless then sarcastically said. "Yes mother! Right away!"
"Oh my god! Hermione, you look so amazing!" Luce complimented.
"May I now see myself?" Hermione asked in slight annoyance. During the process, Emy and Luce refused to let her see herself until they were finished.
"Yes, your majesty, you may." Luce replied with a mock bow. Hermione ignored that and walked over to the full-body mirror in front of the bathroom. She gasped at what she saw. Her dress was modified by Emy to end just above her knees instead of reaching her ankles. The black lace that was supposed to cover her entire arms was cut just below the elbows. Her usually bushy hair was ironed into soft curls that cascaded down her chest and was partly clipped back with several tendrils framing her face. Her make-up was almost natural except for her eyes; while her cheeks and lips were rosy, her eyes were emphasized with smoky blends of brown eye-shadow.
It always amazed Hermione how different she seemed when there was actually effort in fixing her appearance. She didn't think she was ugly nor did she think that she was a bombshell of a woman. Hermione liked to believe that she was attractive enough to be confident in her looks.
"It's unfair that you look better than me when I'm the one who did this to you." Emy joked. "But you know, I think you look prettier if you went for the natural look. Hey, I think that's what I'll do tomorrow!"
Hermione chuckled. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Of course! It's rare for me to get the opportunity to doll-up Hermione Jean Granger. I plan to take advantage of it!"
Luce came forward and hooked her arms around Hermione's and Emy's. "Let's save that for tomorrow, ladies. Come on, before we become late."
As they proceeded to the dining hall, they chatted about one thing and another. Hermione was so focused on their conversation that she was unaware of the looks she was getting from the males they passed. Luce had pointed it out to her but she was adamant in believing that the looks were aimed at her two companions. Emy and Luce had to roll their eyes at that.
Along the way, they met Curtis and another one of their cousins, Martius Reynolds. Among their cousins who grew up in high-society, Martius was the only modest one. He smiled at them and gave each a hug. However, he stopped in front of Hermione and gaped.
"Oh my god! Hermione? Is that really you?" He asked incredulously. "You look so different! And I mean that in the most positive light. I cannot wait to see the reactions of our relatives." Then he frowned. "Some of them have been bad-mouthing you. Especially Paulina and Miranda. It's getting rather irritating."
"What did they say this time?" Curtis asked, rather exasperatedly.
"The usual." Martius answered evasively. "I don't really want to specify." They all went silent. That answer was enough to tell them what insults were being said. Loser, nerd, loner, having no friends, ugly, and buck-tooth were only a few of those.
"Don't worry about them, Martius. I think Hermione could handle them." Emy smirked.
Martius stared at them skeptically. Hermione didn't blame him though. When they were children, they often had to step in and defend Hermione. Now, she was determined to face her own battles. She may've dreaded the thought of confronting her cousins but she was not about to be jabbed by a bunch of brats.
"You'll be surprised." Hermione couldn't help but smirk.
With that, the five of them proceeded to the dining room. Fortunately, they arrived just on time but they were the last to come so they caught the attention of all their relatives. They were all settled in a long table with their Grandma Celia at the head.
Hermione knew that they were receiving critical looks and she was aware that most of them were directed at her. She could only assume that she looked so different that they had trouble recognizing her.
The five of them approached their grandmother and, one-by-one, greeted her. Hermione happened to be the last one to address the old woman so, to her discomfort, she unwillingly became the center of attention. Trying to ignore the looks directed at her, Hermione walked forward and hugged her.
"Hello, Grandma. Happy Birthday."
"Thank you, my dear. I must apologize though since my memory is not as sharp as before. Please tell me your name."
"It's Hermione, Grandma." Hermione said with a smile. The woman's smile widened as she engulfed Hermione in another embrace.
"Hermione, dear! I'm so glad to see you!" The old woman pulled away to observe her granddaughter better. "You've grown into a beautiful young lady."
Pink tinted Hermione's cheeks. "Thank you, Grandma."
"Well, let's resume our talk over dinner. Sit by your parents, dear."
Hermione gave her grandmother another hug before heading to where her parents were. Fortunately, Hermione's seat was beside Martius so at least she had someone to speak to. It felt like it took her a whole decade to get to her seat. She sensed the looks trained on her as she sat on her chair. Martius patted her arm in comfort which made her smile in gratitude.
"You should've seen their faces. They looked like gaping fish when they found out who you were. Especially the three. Lavinia looked livid. Apparently, according to what I heard, all she got from Grandma was an 'I'm glad to see you here' and not a 'You've grown beautiful'."
Again, that statement caused Hermione to redden slightly.
It was such a painful affair. They were all talking about such trivial high-society matters that it grated on Hermione's nerves. She refrained from speaking unless addressed and, thankfully, that was rare. Aside from Emy, Martius, Curtis, Luce, and their families, Hermione wasn't very fond of the rest of her relatives.
Then, the dreaded interviews came up. The adults started to ask the younger generation about what they've been up to. Their answers didn't surprise her – they ranged from prestigious schools to jobs that, in her opinion, weren't really relevant to the society.
"Yes, Lavinia graduated with an award. She won the inter-school pageant for her school. It's a very big event and I was so proud when I found out she was chosen." Aunt Tamora remarked when Lavinia was asked about her school and what she was up to recently.
"It was an honor." Lavinia said with a smile. "I've received some invitations for modeling jobs but I still have to audition. It's a very competitive line of work."
Hermione ignored the smug look Lavinia aimed at her direction. She was about to start a conversation with Martius when Grandma Celia called her mother's attention.
"Helen, you've raised Hermione well. Her posture and manners are impeccable."
The witch bit her lip. She didn't want to burst her grandmother's bubble. Her poise was, in fact, drilled into her by someone else. She had been trained by said person to be able to carry herself in gatherings such as this and Hermione silently thanked Godric that she did.
"Oh, I can't take credit for that, Mother. Hermione taught it to herself." Helen gave her daughter a mischievous glance. Hermione stopped herself from laughing. Her mother's words weren't entirely untrue. She did practice it by herself even without the instruction of her 'mentor'.
"That's wonderful, dear. I'm proud." Grandma Celia took a sip of her drink before continuing. "So, Hermione, what do you do?"
Hermione, daintily placed her utensils on the table, took a sip of her drink, then directed her full attention to the old woman. The old woman couldn't help but feel impressed by her bearings. "I've been working as an investigator." As expected, everyone gave her an incredulous stare, which she ignored.
Grandma Celia asked in a rather amazed tone. "What exactly does your job entail?"
"We track criminals and apprehend them." Hermione simply replied. That wasn't a lie. Being an Auror required them to do just that. Despite the war ending three years ago, there were still some Deatheaters out on the loose and the Ministry was not about to take any chances of allowing them to cause any sort of havoc again.
"You apprehend them? Isn't that dangerous?" Martius' mother asked worriedly.
"I suppose. But I've been trained and I have experience." Obviously, that was the truth as well. She did have Auror training and she fought in the war.
"Yes. One of the best in their department." William, Hermione's father, announced proudly. "In fact, I remember Harry telling me that you have the title of being 'the brightest wi-woman of her age'." He smiled apologetically at his daughter at the near slip-up.
"Oh, I remember that." Helen said. One look at her and Hermione knew she was playing Aunt Tamora's game. Aside from Martius' and Emy's mother and Curtis and Luce's father, her mother didn't get along with the rest of her siblings. They irritated her mother as much as her cousins irritated her. "She was Head Girl during her last year and was also their Valedictorian. Many companies have extended job offers to her but she settled for her current job."
"That is very impressive, Hermione." Emy's mother complimented.
Hermione smiled. "Thank you, Aunt Margaret." From the corner of her eyes, she could see several of her cousins giving her annoyed glances.
Compared to their feats, Hermione's was the most remarkable.
Aunt Tamora was silenced. It seems that her niece had beaten her daughter when it came to achievements.
Hermione glanced around and witnessed Paulina whispering something to her twin, Miranda. Reading her lips, she was able to make out the words 'show-off' and 'nerd'. Emy, who was sitting beside the twins, leaned back on her chair, lifted her hand and rubbed the corner of her nose with her middle finger. It looked like Martius also saw it judging from his choked reaction.
This is going to be a long night.
Hermione sighed as she made her way to their hotel room. Finally, the dinner was done. It took all her willpower not to lash out at her cousins for the snide remarks they whispered behind her back. Emy, Luce, Curtis, and Martius had told her about it when the dinner ended. But she wasn't daft. Even without their information, she already knew.
She was alone now. Emy and Luce opted to take a night swim while Curtis and Martius decided to tour the place. Hermione, on the other hand, needed to sleep. The whole event had exhausted her. She just wished that Lavinia wouldn't be in the room.
The moment she entered the door, Hermione mentally cursed her luck.
On Lavinia's bed was the girl herself and, sitting beside her, were Miranda and Paulina. The three girls stopped talking at her entrance. One didn't have to be a genius to figure out that she was the topic of their conversation.
Choosing not to acknowledge them, Hermione headed straight for her bed and prepared to go to sleep. As she was rummaging her luggage for night clothes, Lavinia spoke.
"You're a complete attention-whore, you know that?"
Now there was the real Lavinia. The girl never showed her true colors when the others were around, though Hermione's four allies were aware of it anyway. Lavinia knew that Emy and Luce wouldn't hesitate to retaliate and Martius and Curtis were intimidating when they wanted to be, so she only dared to torment Hermione openly when she was alone. She was confident that the once insecure girl wouldn't strike back.
"I believe you're referring to yourself." Hermione replied nonchalantly.
Lavinia glared at her. "Excuse me?"
"How dare you speak to me like that?"
"I was being considerate, cousin dear." The brunette said in a patronizing tone. She faced her cousins then cocked her hips to the side while crossing her arms over her chest. "I apologize. Should I be using simpler words when addressing you?"
There was a pause as the girl went over Hermione's words. "Are you calling me stupid?"
A wicked glint made itself present in the witch's eyes. "Stupid is such a mild word."
"Bitch!" Lavinia screeched and slapped her across her cheek.
Slowly, Hermione's hand touched the reddened skin. There was a moment of silence before she turned to look back at the self-satisfied girl. However, the smug expression on Lavinia's face melted slightly at the dangerous flash in her cousin's amber orbs. Hermione clenched her hands into fists, opposing the desire to grab her wand and hex this wench. Forget the wand; she'd bloody ram her fist into her skull.
Lavinia wasn't aware that she should be thanking the higher beings for the immense control Hermione had over her temper.
"I suggest that you don't repeat that, cousin." Hermione said in a low and dangerous tone. That actually made Lavinia take a small step back. After a final glance, Hermione turned her attention back to what she was doing before the conversation.
Lavinia was livid. How dare she turn her back on her, as if she was unimportant? "You're nothing but a nerd. You think you're so great? Well, you're not! Just because you manage to impress them with your commoner work, you think you're all that? In the end, you're just a loser with no life! All you'll be is an old, prude, cat-lady! No one would ever want an ugly attention-seeking wench like you!" With that, Lavinia smirked haughtily and gestured for the twins to follow her out. "I don't want to be in the same room with the likes of you. I'm staying in the twins' room."
Once the door closed after her cousin's exit, Hermione took a deep calming breath. There was no way she was letting herself stoop down to Lavinia's level and engage in a fight. But Merlin! She needed to calm down! It would do her no good to destroy the room to vent her anger.
"One more day, Hermione. Just one more day." She whispered to herself. "God, I can't wait for this to be over soon."
"Why I ought to go there and give her a piece of my mind. And a piece of my foot while I'm at it!" Luce screeched as she motioned to approach the door. "That no good bint! That's why she prepared for the gala early! Just wait till I get my hands on her!"
However, she failed to even make it to the door as Emy restrained her.
Hermione let out a sigh. Her gaze fell on the black and white dress that she was supposed to wear for that evening. It was shredded in most parts and was completely irreparable.
No one else had access to the room except Lavinia, so it wasn't that hard to connect two and two together.
Hermione, Emy, and Luce had left the room earlier and spent the entire morning in the hotel's spa. After that, they had spent their time with Curtis and Martius until it was time to prepare for the gala that evening. The event was just one and a half hour away and the problem they encountered left them lost on what to do.
"I suppose I won't be attending the ball then." She sighed. Repairing the gown with magic would raise suspicion and conjuring one was also out of the question. Luce had gone through her luggage when they arrived so she knew that Hermione didn't have an extra gown. Furthermore, magic that had something to do with clothes, make-up, or anything fashion related wasn't really her specialty. She didn't take the time to learn them since she deemed them unimportant compared to other spells.
"Nonsense! You're bonkers to think we'd let that happen!" Luce exclaimed in outrage.
"Yes, you could borrow one of mine. I brought extras just in case." Emy added.
Luce regarded the older woman uncertainly. "No offense, Emy. But I think your gowns would be loose on Hermione."
Emy narrowed her eyes. "Are you calling me fat?"
"I'm just saying Hermione is petite." Luce replied cheekily.
The older girl rolled her eyes while Hermione chuckled at the exchange.
"Unfortunately, I'd have to admit that Luce is right." Emy mused. "I think they'll be loose on you, Hun. And Luce's gown wouldn't fit you either – the bust area would be a tight fit and we know Luce's dresses are made to fit her like a glove."
"Are you saying that not only am I flat, but also dress like a slag?" Luce demanded.
Emy gave her an amused stare. "Sweetheart, those are your words, not mine. But let's face it: Hermione is far better-endowed compared to you. But, if it makes you feel better, you have a better arse than us."
Hermione, still chuckling, nodded with Emy.
Luce grumbled and pretended to scowl. "I'll grudgingly forgive you just because you said I have a nice arse."
Moments later, their laughter died down and they addressed the problem again. "So, what do we do?"
As if on cue, a knock on the door caught their attention. Emy, who answered the door, called out: "Hermione! It's Aunt Helen!"
Hermione rushed over to the entrance whilst Emy went back into the room to give the two some privacy. "Mum, did you need something?" She asked while eyeing the big, white, rectangular box her mother was carrying.
Helen smiled at her daughter. "Oh no, I just came here to deliver this." She replied and offered the box. "It came for you yesterday. It slipped my mind to give it."
Her eyebrows raised up as she gingerly took the package. "Who's it from?"
Helen gave her a knowing smile. "I'm sure you know, Dear. Now, go back in and get ready." With that, she lightly pushed her daughter into the room and closed the door. Hermione blinked at her mother's actions before she shrugged it off and headed for her bed.
"What's that?" Luce asked. Hermione shrugged in response. She glanced at the package for a few seconds before proceeding to open it slowly. She removed the lid to reveal layers of white paper with a small note on top of it.
Hermione gently took the note and read the elegant script on it. The corners of her lips slowly lifted as her eyes scanned the message.
I expect you to wear this for your celebration.
You'll look positively delectable in it.
After all, I have exquisite taste, if I do say so myself.
There was no indication of the sender's identity, but Hermione didn't need it. She already knew who sent it. Only he would demand her to do something and expect her to agree whilst complimenting himself in the process. Without her cousins noticing, she slipped the note inside her bag (which sat openly on her bedside).
"Go on, open it!" Luce urged impatiently.
With a laugh, Hermione slowly parted the white paper to reveal a silver gown, a beautiful necklace, and a pair of shoes to complete the ensemble. The three gasped.
"Oh my…" Emy commented in awe. Hermione gently took the dress out to inspect it fully. It was beautiful. Her smile instantly turned into a full-blown grin.
"Who sent it?" Luce questioned.
Hermione winked at them. "That's for me to know and for you to find out." Her two cousins groaned. They knew what that meant – Hermione wasn't about to divulge anything to them. And they were aware that there would be nothing they could do to convince her otherwise.
"Fine… you get to keep your secret-gift-keeper a secret." Emy relented with a pout. "But, I get to do your hair and make-up! You would look absolutely divine, especially with that gown!"
Hermione raised a brow at her cousin. "Weren't you planning to do that anyway?"
"Of course! Now, get your posterior into that chair, young lady, and you are not to see yourself until I am done with you!" The woman ordered while pointing at the seat that Luce had moved away from the vanity mirror.
"Yes mother." Hermione commented wryly.
"Emy, Luce, there you are!" Helen spoke as soon as she caught sight of the two girls entering the room. "Where's Hermione?"
Emy and Luce shared a mischievous smile. "She'll be here in a minute, Aunt Helen." Luce answered.
Then, noticing the seating arrangement, both girls frowned.
The extravagant ballroom was adorned with lavish decorations. The colors were mostly peach and beige: Grandma Celia's favorite colors. Round tables that accommodated ten people were scattered around. There were a lot of guests – all were obviously from the high-class part of society. Most of them were already conversing with each other while eating.
Their family was divided into different tables that sat close to each other. Unfortunately, from what the two girls observed, the adults were seated together and their cousins were gathered in one table. Oh great, they had to sit with their cousins without adult supervision. That often gave those snobs the opportunity to tease them.
Martius and Curtis, who left three seats in between the two of them, smiled sheepishly at the two. Despite their displeasure at the organization, Emy and Luce returned the gesture before looking back at Aunt Celia.
"Sorry for being a tad late, Grandma." Emy started. "There was a bit of a problem we had to fix."
Grandma Celia gave them a concerned glance. "What was it? Are you alright?"
"No worries, Grandma. It was nothing dangerous. It's been dealt with."
"Good. Where is Hermione?"
Luce, after casting a glare at Lavinia direction, piped up. "She'll be here in a – oh, never mind. There she is." She pointed at the entrance as a beautiful young woman walked in and glanced at them.
Hermione's hair was pulled back in an elegant French twist with several silver clips adorning it and a few tendrils escaping the hold. Her make-up was natural with hints of silver highlighting her eyes whilst her cheeks and lips were rosy. An exquisite necklace garlanded with plated gems that garnished her neckline ended just above the top of her gown. The strapless dress hugged her body then flowed down to her feet in a cascade of shimmering silk. Sparkling jewels of black and silver embellished the corset-like bodice from the chest to the waist. Her feet were clad in pearly shoes encrusted with small pieces of gems.
Over all, she looked just as eminent as those in the room.
She gracefully made her way to the table while a number of men she passed took a double take. Women gave her ensemble either a jealous look or appraising glance. Her relatives gawked at her in utter shock. Emy and Luce glanced at Lavinia and the twins – and generally in their other cousin's direction – to find their eyes widened and jaws slackened. Glad for a job well done, Emy discreetly gave Luce's offered hand a slap before they both took their seats.
"Sorry for being late, Grandma." Hermione smiled apologetically at her grandmother.
"Not a problem, dear. At least you're here now. You look utterly stunning." Grandma Celia complimented. The praise made Hermione's cheeks rosier as she thanked the woman.
Helen earned her attention when she whispered: "You look beautiful, Hermione. I must say, Sweetie, he has good taste."
"Funny." Hermione replied in an amused tone. "He said that too." Mother and daughter shared a laugh. "I'll go to my seat now."
"Alright, Sweetie. Enjoy your night."
Hermione nodded then proceeded to the table where her cousins were. While taking a seat, Hermione discreetly sent a fierce glance at Lavinia. She held back a smirk at the mix of fear and anger that flashed in her cousin's blue eyes. Good. At least the silly girl now had an inkling that messing with her wasn't very wise. But then again, she'd probably forget about the warning later on.
"You look amazing, Hermione." Martius complimented, still astounded at his cousin's appearance. "Why did we have to be related?"
At the raise of Hermione's brow, Emy laughed. "You may not be able to to date her but I'm sure you're allowed to dance with her."
Martius grinned at Hermione and winked. "In that case, do you mind saving a dance for me later on?"
The brunette chuckled. "I'll think about it." That earned her a pout in response.
"You look like a whore." One of their cousins sneered.
Hermione's head snapped towards her and she replied in a sweet tone. "Oh, Jessica, you shouldn't say that about yourself. It gives other people the permission to say it to you too."
Jessica reacted with a glare. However, she smirked when another of their cousins, Duncan, entered the conversation. "I guess commoners can clean up well too. Let her experience it since she obviously hasn't been to high-class galas like this."
'Shows what you know.' Hermione thought while mentally laughing at her cousin's words. She noticed Curtis about to snap back but Lavinia interrupted.
"So, Hermione." Lavinia started, clearly having forgotten the non-verbal threat Hermione cast at her earlier. "Where did you get the dress? It must've cost a fortune. How were you able to afford it?"
"Actually…" Luce replied with a leer. "Hermione received it from an admirer."
For a fleeting second, Hermione could've sworn that a flash of jealousy flickered over Lavinia's features. "That's a very funny joke, Luce. Admirers don't go for dull nowadays. Looks are what matters now."
Merlin, she wanted to wring her cousin's neck. Not only did she call them a liar but she had basically referred to Hermione as uninteresting and unattractive.
Emy tilted her head. "I suppose you have a point. That would explain why Hermione has an admirer and you don't."
"I have plenty of admirers. That is more than any of you could possibly get."
Paulina added with a snigger. "Besides, any admirer of Hermione's is bound to be hideous. In fact, anybody that Hermione befriends is hideous. Just look at you lot."
"If we're 'hideous', what does that say about you?" Martius countered.
Emy snickered and added. "It says they're positively repugnant."
"Foul, disgusting, abhorrent, repulsive, revolting… shall I go on?" Hermione asked innocently. With a smirk, she and Emy slapped their hands together.
"I can't believe this is Hermione. When did she gain a backbone?" Curtis whispered to Luce. Her response was a simple shrug. They weren't about to complain about this change in their cousin. Confidence was something they had wanted her to gain, so this transformation was actually very welcome.
The hostile air remained throughout the dinner. Insults were thrown back and forth, only stopping when an adult approached their table. Once the grown-up departed, the battle of vituperations resumed and Hermione, Emy, Luce, Martius, and Curtis never hesitated to counter each remark. To both the shock and amusement of her cousins, Hermione's retaliations were the hardest to argue against. Her words were too witty and she also had the ability to turn their responses against them. Even when their table was cleared, the spiteful atmosphere remained.
"Well, if you're so great, then why aren't you out dancing on the dance floor." Miranda challenged. "Oh, that's right; no one has asked you."
"I don't see you out there either, Miranda." Hermione remarked.
Paulina donned a haughty smirk. "Just you wait, Hermione, we'll be on the dance floor and you'll be here, watching all alone. Look…" she gestured with a tilt of her head. "… there's someone heading this way."
"Watch, Hermione, and learn how to catch a guy's eye." Jessica said. "God knows you need it."
True to Paulina's word, someone stopped right behind Hermione and Emy. "Good evening." The man greeted.
Miranda batted her lashes and smiled flirtatiously. "Good evening. Is there something you need?"
Hermione didn't bother looking at the man, opting to watch her annoying cousins make a fool of themselves. She rolled her eyes and mentally chuckled. 'Subtlety doesn't suit you, Miranda.'
"I would like to ask one of you ladies to dance." He replied. Hermione's brows scrunched together – his voice was somewhat familiar.
This time, it was Jessica who sent him a sensual look. "Do you have someone in mind? I'd love to dance with you." She motioned to get up but the man spoke again.
"As a matter of fact, I came here to ask someone specifically." That was when Hermione found a hand just beside her face and the voice closer than before. "May I have the honor of dancing with you, fair maiden?"
To Hermione's utter amusement, Jessica and Miranda looked positively scandalized. Lavinia and Paulina had their jaws agape unbecomingly. Emy and Luce were smiling smugly whilst Curtis and Martius seemed to be judging the man behind her in a protective manner.
Hermione, though finding satisfaction in shutting her cousins up, wasn't quite in the mood to dance. She didn't fancy waltzing with a stranger. So, with that in mind, Hermione turned around to politely decline when she caught sight of who the man was.
"Why hello there, Granger. Fancy meeting you here." Blaise Zabini said with a smirk, making it obvious that he had been aware of her presence for a while now.
Hermione's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What are you doing here?"
"Asking you for a dance, of course."
"Blaise, if you don't want to experience what I learned from various books I've read in the school library, you'd answer my question properly."
"Do you have any idea how scary you are when you want to be?" Blaise inwardly flinched when Hermione sent him another warning glance. "Alright! We're here to accompany Narcissa."
"Wait a minute, are you talking about Narcissa Malfoy? The owner of this hotel?" Jessica interrupted.
Hermione directed an annoyed look at her cousin for the rude disruption. But it slowly turned into a denigrating smirk when she replied. "Of course. Do you know any other Narcissa Malfoy?"
Blaise hid a snigger behind his hand at the sight of the impudent girl turning puce. But he was silenced when Hermione turned to him again.
"You said 'we'?" She questioned with a raised brow. "Who's this 'we'?"
Before Blaise could respond Jessica cut in... again. "How could someone like you know someone like Hermione?" She spat Hermione's name as if it was some kind of poison. There was no way her humdrum of a cousin could know this fine young man in front of them.
"It's rude to interrupt, Jessica." Emy reprimanded. Jessica glared at her and hissed. "Sod off, Emy."
Blaise raised a brow at the hostility of this woman whilst Hermione sent her cousin another irritated look. They were seriously tap-dancing on her last nerve. "Blaise and I went to the same school."
"So you must be acquaintances since you two are surely not friends." Lavinia said sweetly. "You don't seem to be the kind to spend time with uninteresting people."
Hermione's eyes narrowed at the girl while Blaise's expression slowly melted into comprehension. So that's it – Hermione didn't get along with her relatives. And, it seemed to him that her cousins were determined to put her down one way or the other. "Yes, I suppose you're right about that. I don't associate with those I cannot have a stimulating conversation with. Which is why I am acquainted with her and not with you." Then he glanced back at the amused-looking brunette and ignored the gawking girls he just insulted. "As I was saying, Granger, would you like to dance?"
"Oi, Zabini, you wanker!" Someone exclaimed, catching their attention. A tall, lanky redhead rushed towards their table and shoved Blaise's hand to the side and offered his own to Hermione. "We agreed that I would get to dance with Hermione first!"
"You did say something like that but I don't remember agreeing to it, Weasley."
Hermione's eyes widened. "Ron?"
Ron Weasley grinned at his female best friend. "Hey Hermione!" He then proceeded to pull her out of her chair and engulf her in a hug, which she promptly returned. "I missed you!"
"It's only been a few days, Ron." She laughed. "And you didn't miss me. You missed my cooking."
"Well, yeah, but if you spent days tracking some criminals with an awful cook like Harry, you'll understand my suffering."
That elicited another laugh from her. However, her moment of happiness was, again, interrupted by her bothersome relatives. Sweet Morgana – she was really considering disregarding the rules and hexing the lot of them.
"How do you know Hermione?" Jessica practically demanded. How on earth did Hermione get attractive friends like these?
Ron – dear, oblivious Ron – didn't notice the tension between his sister-figure and her cousin, and replied. "We've been best friends for years."
"Right." Jessica snorted.
"Your sense of humor becomes you." Lavinia purred. "Would you like to dance?"
"Uh, no, I'm here to ask Hermione to dance." Ron replied.
"And, in case your daftness got in the way of your hearing, Weasley, I've already asked her." Blaise smirked at him.
"So? I'm her best friend. That overrules you."
Hermione let out a sigh, though her lips were slightly quirked upward. "Don't I get a say in this?" Not surprisingly, the two ignored her input. She rolled her eyes at them. Men.
"Well, aren't you Miss Popular?" Martius teased. She simply glared at him in return. "Shut up, Martius."
Luce giggled. "Although, I have to say, you have good-looking friends."
Blaise pulled away from his argument with Ron and smiled charmingly at Luce, making her blush. "Why, thank you."
Then, to the astonishment of the others, someone from behind Blaise smacked him over the head.
"We leave you for a while and you go and start an argument in front of these people." A young woman with the same red hair as Ron scolded. "Is it so difficult to behave yourselves even for just a while?"
"Of course it is, Ginny. They're men." The dark-haired woman beside her commented. Ron and Blaise cried out indignantly. "Oh, sorry, I don't want to insult other men. I meant they're idiots."
"I couldn't agree more, Pansy." Hermione chuckled. The two girls finally glanced at her direction and both smiled.
"Hermione!" Ginny Weasley wrapped her arms around her friend. "Finally, we found you."
"How did you know I was here in the first place?"
Pansy stepped forward and gave her a hug as well. "Narcissa found out that you were here. So she invited us to come with her. Apparently, you managed to intimidate the manager at the lounge when you arrived just by your mere presence. And, several of the staff members recognized you instantly and reported it to Narcissa."
"Oh, so that's why." Hermione mused. "So, what's this about dancing with me?"
Ginny giggled. "We really didn't know how to approach you when you came in. So, the boys decided that the best tactic was to ask you to dance." Then, she gave the boys a look that Hermione couldn't quite decipher the meaning of. "They've been arguing who goes first." She rolled her eyes. "You know them and their Alpha Male traits."
Hermione laughed, knowing exactly what the younger girl meant. "I'm assuming nobody won their little argument."
"Actually, someone did." A man with untamed dark hair and glasses interjected. He passed in between Blaise and Ron, took Hermione's hand, and proceeded to guide her to the dance floor before she could even protest. He raised a hand in a gesture of adieu as they departed.
The rest gaped for a few moments before Pansy and Ginny burst out in laughter. The looks on Ron's and Blaise's faces were just too hilarious.
Blaise turned to the male Weasley. "When the bloody hell did Potter learn to be so smooth?"
"I have no idea, mate." Ron replied.
Ginny grinned. "You and Malfoy must be rubbing off on him."
A horrified expression made its way onto Ron's face as he looked at his sister. "Bloody hell, I hope you're joking. I don' think I could deal with a Slytherin-Harry."
Pansy smirked. "You're not the one dealing with it, Weasley. Besides, I rather enjoy Slytherin-Harry." Then, to add emphasis, she licked her lips. "It's very sexy."
"Bloody hell! I didn't need to hear that!" Ron cried while placing his hand over his ears.
"Ehem." Someone cleared their throat. The four turned to the source to find Lavinia smiling at them. She batted her eyelashes as she eyed Blaise. "Would you like to dance?"
Ginny's eyes narrowed and she proceeded to wrap her hands around Blaise's arm. Blaise inwardly reveled in the girl's possessive nature. "He can't. He's taken."
Martius snickered. "You heard them, Lavinia. Now leave the man alone and go do what – what did Hermione call her again?"
"Wench." Emy supplied. Martius nodded in approval. "Yeah, that's right. Go and do what wenches like you do and stop bothering Hermione's friends."
"Besides…" Luce added. "… With how you lot treat Hermione, I doubt that they'd ever consider associating with you."
Jessica scoffed. "As if. They like 'ol boring Hermione… what makes you think they won't find us more interesting."
If possible, Ginny's eyes narrowed even more. Ron glared at the bint and was about to step forward to give her a piece of his mind. Blaise had instantly grabbed the back of Ron's coat, figuring that Granger wouldn't appreciate them hexing her cousins. Though, looking back to her interaction with them, Blaise figured that there was also a chance that Granger wouldn't mind that much.
"To answer your question, you idiotic little muggle, you are far too daft for us to find interesting." Pansy sneered at Jessica, not even bothering to cover up the wizard term.
Ginny added. "How you're related to Hermione with that empty head of yours escapes me."
"How dare you!" Jessica gasped in outrage.
"You're forgetting that this is our grandmother's gala. We could have you thrown out of the ballroom if we wish to." Lavinia stated; venom lacing her tone.
Ron was about to yell back a reply but was stopped by Blaise, who slapped his hand over the irrational Weasley's mouth. The Slytherin smirked at the girls maliciously. "And you are forgetting, you inane girl, that we are the companions of this hotel's owner. We are friends with Narcissa Malfoy's son – we could have you thrown out of this hotel. You wouldn't want that, would you?"
That left Hermione's cousins gobsmacked. After seconds of silence, Martius, Emy, Luce, and Curtis started snickering whilst Jessica and Lavinia turned red in both anger and embarrassment. With a huff, they turned to leave with Paulina, Miranda, and the rest not far behind, only leaving Martius and the other three.
"Sorry about that." Emy apologized. "We've been trying to put them in their place for their horrid attitude. I guess that being told off by those who aren't related to them finally got through. I'm Aemila Learmont – Emy for short."
Ginny grinned at her. "Ginny Weasley."
"Thank you for taking care of Hermione. She doesn't speak about school that much…" at this, the four wizards shared a knowing look. "… But she speaks highly of the friends she has."
With that, the two groups got acquainted with each other.
What nobody noticed was the glance Blaise shared with Harry Potter as well as the almost unnoticeable nod the latter sent in return.
"Have you been practicing, Harry?" Hermione teased. "Your dancing has considerably improved."
"Very funny, Hermione." Harry retorted while leading her across the dance floor.
"So, how was the case?"
"It wasn't as difficult as the others since he wasn't at all powerful. It only took long because he hid himself well."
"That's good. When's your next assignment?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. But I'm not complaining – I rarely get breaks nowadays."
Hermione gave him a sympathetic smile. People expected a lot from him – being the defeater of Voldemort and all – that sometimes, they seem to forget that he wasn't exempted from stress. "
They danced through the whole song, conversing while doing so, when Harry stopped. "Hey, Hermione, I'm thirsty. Can you accompany me to the refreshments?"
Hermione raised a brow at him but nodded nonetheless. They both headed to refreshments table and got their respective drinks. After a while, Harry started to massage his temples.
"Harry, are you alright?" Hermione asked worriedly.
"Yeah… I think. Maybe all the work is getting to me. Would you mind if I step out for a while?"
"No, go ahead. Would you like me to accompany you?"
Harry nodded. "I'd appreciate that."
With that said, the two headed for the nearest balcony. As they walked out, Hermione noticed that Harry had stopped in his steps. Worried, she glanced at her friend to find him inching backwards. Her eyes narrowed. "Harry, what are-"
"Remember, Hermione, we're best friends, you're like a sister to me, and I love you." He said rapidly that she almost didn't catch it and proceeded to close the door. Judging from the click, he had also locked it from the inside.
Hermione stood there, in the middle of the veranda, gaping at the entrance. Realization dawned on her as she looked back on the events that just transpired. They had tricked her! For what? She had no clue. But, for Godric's sake, how could she have missed that? She had this urge to bang her head on a hard surface repeatedly for not suspecting anything at all.
She was about to reach for her wand – which was strapped to her thigh – and open the door to give Harry and her conniving friends a good earful, when someone grabbed her by the wrist and snaked their arm around her waist. Hermione tensed until she heard that familiar drawl against her ear.
"Now, now, none of that, Love."
"You scheming ferret, you planned this."
"Of course, Love. Did you expect anything else?" Hermione rolled her eyes. She could practically hear him smirk.
"From a sneaky Slytherin like you? No."
"You know you love it, Granger." He said as he turned her around without detaching his arm from her waist. "I must say…" he started as his grey eyes roved her entire form, drinking in the sight she made. "… You look positively stunning tonight."
Hermione was unable to stop the blush that graced her features. She was still not used to receiving compliments – especially from this undeniably handsome man in front of her. A smile made its way onto her lips. "You don't look half-bad yourself, Draco."
Draco Malfoy's smirk only widened even more. "Don't be like that, Granger. We both know you find me irresistibly good-looking."
"Prat." She said, refraining from rolling her eyes at him again. He simply chuckled in response before bestowing a kiss on her lips.
"So, what's all this about?" She asked right after he pulled away.
Draco gave her an amused glance. "Not one to waste time, are you Love?"
Hermione raised a brow at him. "Neither are you, Draco."
"True." He agreed. Slowly, he stepped to the side and rested his hand on the small of her back, gently leading her forward.
What Hermione saw left her absolutely speechless. She had been too caught up with the earlier events that she completely missed it.
Garnishing the elegant banisters of the veranda were vines with numerous beautiful silver flowers in the shape of bells that seemed to glow softly beneath the moonlight.
"Moonlight Bells." Hermione breathed out as she tenderly caressed one of the blooms. "Oh Draco, they're amazing." She said while looking over her shoulder to find him staring at her with a strange look in his eyes.
Draco couldn't take his eyes off the scene. In that ensemble of hers which matched the color of the flora that surrounded them and in that poised stance she was in, she looked like a powerful nymph standing in the midst of her domain. It was utterly breathtaking.
"Draco?" She spoke again, breaking him from his reverie. "What are these for?"
Draco strode forward until only inches separated them from each other. "I have been waiting for an opportunity to do this but it never seemed to be the right time. Then, this event came up and I thought that it might be easier to tell your family about it since they are already gathered."
He was nervous – Hermione could tell despite the fact that his facial expression hid it well. Draco was a man who possessed a great deal of self-confidence that it bordered on egoism. Seeing him prattle like this was enough to worry her.
"Draco, you're babbling."
That made him pause for a moment before Hermione noticed the resolve settle on his features. He appeared to have gained back his bearings when he leaned forward and kissed her again. "You're a smart witch, Granger. What do Moonlight Bells signify?"
"Well, they usually denote -" Hermione cut herself off as realization dawned on her. With that ever-constant smirk on his lips, Draco stepped back and dropped on one knee. He pulled out a black box from his pocket and opened it to her, revealing an elegant antique ring with a circular diamond surrounded by small gems of green.
Hermione's hands flew to her mouth, covering her gasp of shock.
"Marry me, Hermione Granger."
Lavinia glanced around the room, looking for someone to dance with. It was a shame that the most handsome ones happened to be friends with that annoying cousin of hers. A frown marred her features as she remembered the humiliation they caused her earlier.
"Look, Lavinia. I think I'll ask him to dance." Jessica announced, pointing at someone from afar. Lavinia's eyes followed the direction of where she was gesturing to find an amazingly breathtaking man walking through the crowds. She looked at her companions to find Paulina and Miranda gawking at the man as well.
"I believe he'd take to me instead of you." Lavinia said, making Jessica glare at her.
"I saw him first."
"Well, he would probably agree to someone more… attractive."
"Of course, that's why he'll like me more than you."
"We all know that he'd notice me first." Paulina cut in.
Lavinia pinned her with a glare. "We'll just see about that." With that, all four girls walked up to the man and smiled flirtatiously at him.
The gentleman raised a brow at the girls. "May I help you?"
"Would you like to dance?" Jessica asked boldly, obviously expecting him to accept her offer.
"I apologize but I must refuse. I'm with someone."
"Really?" Miranda questioned, not believing him.
He nodded. "Yes. Now, if you'll excuse me." He then continued on his way.
Either the girls were oblivious to his annoyance or they simply chose to ignore it since they decided to follow him.
"We don't see her around." Paulina tried to convince him.
"Well she is." He replied curtly and strode past them.
Jessica and Paulina huffed indignantly, Miranda glared in the man's direction, and Lavinia simply flipped her hair to the side – making it look like she had not been at all affected by the rejection. As they looked around to find another man to dance with, they noticed Aunt Tamora gesturing for them to come over.
As they approached the table of their parents and grandmother, they found an unfamiliar woman there as well. Standing beside her was the man they had spoken to earlier. Lavinia and Jessica immediately donned their flirtatious smiles once again. However, their smiles threatened to slip off their lips when they also spotted Hermione's friends and their four cousins speaking to the man.
"Lavinia, there you are." Aunt Tamora said. "I'd like you to meet Mrs Narcissa Malfoy."
Lavinia stepped forward and smiled at the beautiful lady. "It is my pleasure to meet you, Mrs Malfoy."
Narcissa regarded the girl calculatingly before replying. "Likewise."
"And this is her son, Draco Malfoy."
Lavinia greeted him courteously, trying to impress him as well as his mother.
"We were just discussing how it would delightful if there was an arrangement between the two of you. It would be beneficial on both sides, don't you think?"
Jessica, Paulina, and Miranda silently fumed at the good fortune of their cousin. The smug look on their cousin's face annoyed them even further. What confused them, however, were the sniggers that came from the group they disliked.
"If that is your decision, I wouldn't mind." Lavinia said, trying to sound nonchalant.
Aunt Tamora looked to Narcissa expectantly, but it was Draco who spoke in his mother's stead.
"I'm afraid I would have to decline such an offer." He announced.
"May I ask why?" Aunt Tamora looked affronted. Lavinia seemed shocked at the response whilst Jessica and the twins appeared relieved – perhaps he'd rather choose one of them.
Narcissa glanced at her son curiously, wondering what he'd answer, with Helen and William doing the same. Though the parents knew each other, they silently came to an understanding that they would make it seem as if they weren't acquainted to avoid any questioning. It was not their place to disclose their children's relationship to the family.
Harry, Ron, Ginny, Blaise, Pansy, Emy, Luce, Martius, and Curtis also focused their attention to the Malfoy heir, awaiting his response as well. The four cousins had been made aware of the situation. The manner of which they had obtained the knowledge was purely accidental. When Harry had returned from his dance with Hermione, Ron immediately took him to the side to ask him what happened. What the two didn't expect was Curtis overhearing their conversation when he was making his way to the loo. Of course, that led to a confrontation between the two groups with the cousins demanding an explanation. The wizards had considered obliviating the muggles, but feared the wrath of the Gryffindor Princess if she ever found out about their use of magic on her relatives.
Draco smirked before he replied. "I am already engaged."
"You are?" Aunt Tamora asked incredulously. She had already spoken to Narcissa about pairing their children up but the woman had refused it. She had thought that, perhaps, Narcissa just didn't meddle in her son's affairs. So, she had decided to breach the subject directly with the young man. Since Narcissa didn't mention anything about her son's betrothal, she was skeptical about this young man's answer – which very much perplexed her. Her daughter possessed looks that women envied and men desired – who would even think of refusing a marriage with Lavinia?
"Yes, I am."
Before Aunt Tamora could even inquire about his fiancée's identity, Pansy and Ginny squealed.
"She said yes?" Pansy clarified.
Draco rolled his eyes at the woman. "That is a ridiculous question, Pansy. Of course she did." Then he smirked again. "Who could resist the Malfoy charm?"
Pansy simply rolled her eyes at him.
"Finally settling down, eh." Harry teased. "Good for you, Draco." The blonde nodded at him in thanks.
Ron sent him a warning look. "Hurt her, Ferret, and I won't hesitate to kick your arse."
"We all know you're a poof, Weasley. You didn't have to announce it by implying that you look at my arse." That comment made Ron go red in anger but he was held back from charging by an amused-looking Harry.
"Congratulations, Mate." Blaise grinned while patting Draco on the back.
"What's all this congratulating about?" The familiar voice of Hermione cut in. She had gone to the loo for a while just to come back with all this celebrating.
Ginny and Pansy instantly engulfed her in a hug. "Oh, Hermione, you're getting married!" Ginny exclaimed, at the same time Pansy said. "You're finally tying the git's arse down!"
"We want details on his proposal!" The female Weasley insisted, with Pansy nodding in agreement.
Helen and William jumped to their feet and embraced their daughter as well. "Congratulations, Sweetie! I can't wait to plan your wedding."
Hermione laughed. "Mum, we haven't even set the date yet."
"I can't believe my little girl's getting married." William sighed in mock despondence. He then released his daughter and turned to Draco. "Hurt my daughter and you will have me to answer to."
Draco straightened at the threat. Despite the fact that William wasn't magical, there was something about the man that really intimidated him. "Yes sir."
Narcissa approached Hermione as well and hugged her. "Welcome to the family, Dear. Although, I suppose you have already become part of the family since the start of your etiquette training. You've done well, Hermione. I'm pleased to call you my future daughter-in-law."
"Thank you, Narcissa." Hermione replied, returning the woman's embrace.
As soon as the Malfoy matriarch let her go, it was Harry and Ron's turn to envelope her in their arms. "Congratulations, Hermione."
"Yeah, congratulations. I'm not too pleased that you chose Malfoy of all people but as long as you're happy."
"And if he ever hurts you in any way, tell us immediately. We'll beat him up for you." Harry added.
"I can hear you, you know." Draco drawled.
"You were meant to, Ferret." Ron countered.
Hermione laughed and hugged her best friends closer, touched by their concern for her welfare. Afterwards, she was again swept into her cousins' arms.
"You have some explaining to do, young lady." Emy jokingly chastised. "How could you not tell us that your secret-gift-giver was such a good-looking lad?"
Pansy elbowed Draco's side when she noticed the incredibly pleased expression he wore at the compliment.
Martius and Curtis went over to Draco as Luce and Emy spoke with Hermione. "She's like a sister to us." Martius started after they introduced themselves. "Just take good care of her."
"Or else we'll have to come along with Uncle William when he decides to beat some sense into you." Curtis added.
He wasn't at all intimidated… okay, maybe he was, but he couldn't really help it. They had the same look that Hermione's father had when he confronted him just moments before. So he nodded and shook hands with them. He then sauntered over to his fiancée and wrapped his arm around her waist.
As this was happening, the rest of the family gaped at them. Grandma Celia had been shocked at first but eventually wished the couple a good future. The aunts and uncles were either in stupor or giving the Granger family jealous looks for becoming closely tied with such a wealthy family. Lavinia, Jessica, Miranda, and Paulina gawked as they watched the incredibly handsome man whisper something in their cousin's ear, making her laugh. But how – Wha – there's no –
Before Jessica could stop herself, she blurted out. "You're engaged to Hermione?"
Draco and Hermione abruptly stopped their conversation.
Hermione couldn't help but smirk at her cousin's reaction. Vaguely, she noted to herself that she should probably watch herself around Draco – she was starting to pick up on his habits. "Yes, he is. He is getting married to – what was that term a certain someone used again? Oh yes – an 'ugly attention-seeking wench' like me."
Lavinia turned red as her words were thrown back to her. She caught the threatening gazes she and the other girls were getting from Hermione's group, as well as the scolding look of their parents.
"Merlin, I love your vindictive side." Draco whispered in her ear. "It's positively Slytherin and absolutely sexy."
Hermione chuckled. "I blame you. You're rubbing off on me."
"I could rub it off on you in more ways than one." He said suggestively with a slight wiggle of his brow. Her cheeks reddened at the double entendre and she proceeded to hit him on the arm. "Ow! Bloody hell, woman! Do you have to be so violent?"
"Do you have to be such a prat?"
"I was kidding, Love."
"You better have been." She mock-huffed.
Draco smirked and pulled her to him, completely disregarding their audience. He leaned his forehead onto hers and whispered for only her to hear. "I can't wait to marry you."
"Me too." She answered and stood on her toes to bring their lips closer to each other.
"Ugh, not again! I don't want to see this!"
"Shut up, Ron." Thwack!
"It feels so weird seeing this."
"Be quiet, Harry. I think it's sweet."
"Sorry, Pansy, but I'll have to agree with your boyfriend on this one."
"Silence, Martius, you're ruining the moment."
"Why, Emy, are you getting off on them making out?"
"No, William, you are not breaking it up."
"But Helen! My little girl's over there getting molested!"
"They look so adorable together."
"I agree with Grandma on that one."
The commotion around them ensued, but Hermione and Draco were too immersed with one another to pay attention. They were in their own little world, drinking in each other's presence. It seemed that nothing would break th –
"OI! YOU TWO! GET A BLOODY ROOM!"