Chapter Eighteen: Thursday

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

Beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten.  Long live beta readers!

 

Early morning brought a note from Minerva, inviting her to another breakfast with Molly. I wonder if Lucius talked to either of them about wedding plans. She looked at her bedside clock and went to wake her redheaded friend. This time when Ginny went to find Harry, she didn’t return. Instead, Hermione received a Galleon message: vry bsy. 1 hr. It seemed that Harry would be indisposed for some time, and so she fussed with her curls and face for a bit longer than usual. Ginny’s recent loan of a book of beauty charms was coming in quite handy.

 

The end result wasn’t dramatically different, but enough so to put an extra sway to her hips. When Harry finally stumbled down the stairs to the commons, robes in hand, he remarked on the sparkle in her eye. “Good dreams last night, ’Mione?”

 

Hermione smirked self-consciously and nodded. Then she took in her ‘brother’s’ appearance and gave an exasperated noise. “Harry, I know you’ve had a busy morning, but for Merlin’s sake please button and zip your trousers. And . . . turn your shirt the right way ‘round.”

 

“Will do.” Harry grinned good-naturedly, and he complied as they left through the portrait hole entrance. Their trek took place in companionable silence today, and eventually she found herself being dropped off at the top of the steps to the Headmaster’s office.

 

Molly and Minerva were already carrying on a lively conversation by the time she joined them. She quietly filled her plate, listening to the two witches gossip about the latest Witch Weekly articles. Minerva had a penchant for a section called Wizard Watch, which highlighted the comings and goings of the wizarding world’s favorite bachelors. Molly apparently favored Which Witch, a segment following the lives of wealthy celebrity witches. Hermione’s thoughts began drifting elsewhere, but she was called to attention when Molly mentioned Lucius’ name.

 

“What’s that?” She asked.

 

“Hmmm? Oh, Lucius has just announced the development of a new species of rose from Malfoy Seed, to be marketed shortly. He hasn’t published its name yet.”

 

“What’s Malfoy seed?”

 

Minerva spluttered into her tea. “It’s what’s going to fill you quite soon–“

 

“My dear!” interrupted Molly. “Have you never seen the breathtaking roses sold in Diagon Alley?”

 

Hermione was grateful for the reprieve. She didn’t have to think hard to recall the vendor’s cart in question. “Why, yes! I stop and drool over them each time I’m there. I’ve always wanted to buy one, but they’re so . . . extravagant.” And the kind of gift better received from someone other than oneself. She’d always dreamed of getting one from Ron.

 

“Those are Malfoy roses, from the Malfoy Seed Establishment. It’s been around for almost a thousand years! Lucius continues his family’s talent for Herbology – he’s quite the hobbyist.   His flowers are known all over the wizarding world, and there are some that have only ever been grown at the Manor.”

 

The curly-headed witch offered, “Lucius gave me a rose yesterday.”

 

“Very romantic,” said Minerva in an approving voice. “What color is it?”

 

“Blue,” Hermione blushed and added, “The same shade as his eyes.”

 

Minerva seemed disappointed. “I would have put money on them being deep orange!”

 

Molly tactfully ignored that and clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, how lovely! How lovely, sweetheart!”

 

“Yes, it is, “ she agreed dreamily. “Errrr, what’s lovely?”

 

“If I know Lucius, and I certainly do, he’s spent these last few years developing a new rose in your honor! Such a perfect gesture to make to his bespoke witch!”

 

Hermione found Molly’s syrupy interpretation to be slightly embarrassing. Or, he could have stepped out to the garden and clipped the first flower he came across this morning. She tried to direct the conversation in a different direction. “He and I talked about the wedding ceremony yesterday. He suggested I ask you two for help deciding details. I need to give him a list on Sunday.”

 

The two older witches weren’t surprised, and Hermione was led to believe that Lucius had indeed talked with at least one of them.   In fact, Minerva summoned a conveniently located parchment and quill from a nearby table. Unsurprisingly, Molly took control at once. “All right! I’m sure the Malfoys have already discreetly invited a numerous amount of people, but you’ll want to add to that list. Apart from that you’ll need to decide how you’d like the tents decorated, and what food will be served to the guests. Now, as far as . . .”

 

Molly was the obvious choice for food planning. Not only was she an excellent cook herself, she had first-hand experience feeding a crowd. Hermione suggested Molly talk with Lucius about heading up that part.

 

“Have you thought about entertainment, dear?” Asked Minerva at some point. No, she hadn’t.

 

“Because there’s a very circumspect, very reputable company that hires out male—“

 

“How about a string quartet?” countered Hermione, hastily cutting Minerva off at the pass.

 

Hermione learned that an outdoor afternoon reception would come first, and it would undoubtedly involve a large guest list. It would last until the sun set completely, at which point guests would leave. The actual ceremony would only include Hermione, Lucius, and Draco, a Ministry official, and perhaps some select relatives.

 

“You’ll want a good cocktail bar, with beer for the younger wizards and kiddie drinks for the children,” advised her favorite professor. Hermione nodded politely. My main priority is going to be keeping you sober and in possession of your dignity.

 

Molly and Minerva argued amongst themselves about tent choices and decorations, and completely forgot the bride-to-be in their excitement. She could have been offended, but the truth was Hermione realized she had very little interest in the planning after all. The long and the short of it was that Hermione decided to hand off the whole thing to the two older witches – actually, just to Molly. Her only stipulation was that, if possible, she wanted lots and lots of Lucius’ beautiful blue roses.   Molly agreed to send the completed list to Lucius herself.

 

Having delegated that concern, Hermione’s curiosity got the better of her, and she asked, “Molly, what will happen to Ron this weekend?”

 

Molly looked startled. “How on earth do you- Ginny told you, didn’t she! I specifically asked her not to!”

 

“I just wondered . . .”

 

The motherly witch shook her head firmly. “Never you mind, dear.”

 

The topic was obviously closed. Hermione struck out in a different direction entirely. “How do you know Lucius so well?”

 

That seemed a perfectly acceptable question, if she interpreted Molly’s pleased smile correctly. “The Black family, dear.”

 

“The only Blacks I know of are Sirius and Bellatrix. Where do they fit?”

 

“Bellatrix’s sister was Narcissa Malfoy!”

 

You’re joking! Even if that’s true, I don’t see how it explains my question.”

 

“No, no, sweetheart – the Weasleys and the Blacks are related. Arthur and Narcissa were cousins, which makes Draco—“

 

Hermione made the connection and interrupted triumphantly, “Family! You’re part of his extended family!”

 

“We certainly don’t run in the same social circles, but we’re related. Narcissa became the Malfoy house wife the year Bill turned seven. He was part of their ceremony.” Molly had faraway look in her eyes as she spoke. “Of course, Lucius and Cissy were never at school with us – they were that much younger – but Arthur was always her favorite cousin. When she passed, we tried to look after Lucius and Draco as best we could. Yes, we’re family.”

 

This was all the validation Hermione needed to act on her intuition. Ignoring what could potentially be an awkward situation with Molly, she begged the two older witches, “Please, will you be my relatives at the wedding ceremony?”

 

Yes, they would, if their shocked and happy faces, Molly’s streaked with some tears, meant anything. Molly gathered Hermione into her arms for a warm, motherly hug. Minerva patted her arm and nodded approvingly as she rapidly blinked her own watery eyes.

 

At the end of breakfast, Minerva gave her a note, and she recognized the expensive vellum at once. It simply read,

 

My Lovely, I have been called to the States last minute. Regretfully, I must postpone our next visit until tomorrow night. Until then I remain yours, L.

 

Mine. Why do I like that word so much? She mentally calculated the hours until she saw him again. She pursued a daydream until Minerva cleared her throat meaningfully.

 

“Sorry, Minerva.”

 

“I understand, dear girl. It’s a note worth pondering. Now let’s get you to class.”

 

She read my mail. Why am I not more upset that she read my mail? The rest of the day passed in a blur.

 

Dinner was another awkward dance of flirting with Draco and avoiding Ron while chattering away with Harry and his girls. Her wizard’s eyes rarely left her during the meal; her skin felt hot under his stare. The fingers of her right hand toyed with her dragon charm between taking bites of her meal, and Draco watched with a smile on his beautiful lips. Hermione was perfecting the art of holding her fork with her robe-wrapped left hand, and fortunately no one seemed to think anything of her sloppy sleeves.

 

When dessert was served, he used the distraction to mouth the word library as he shaped his hands like an opened book. Then he nodded in Harry’s direction. Hermione needed no further encouragement. She turned to her brotherly friend immediately. “Harry, come to the library with me after dinner? I have an essay to write.”

 

Ron butted in loudly, spewing chocolate cake crumbs from his mouth. “Oh, come on! How could you possibly have any homework? We’re done – free – and no one expects a thing from us. Besides, Harry owes me a game of chess.”

 

Behind Ron, Draco looked up at the redheaded wizard with a dark look on his face. Hermione answered as politely as she could in the moment, “I think the choice is up to him.”

 

Ron turned to Lavender Brown, who was draped over his shoulder. “I’ll bet she can’t find a boy other than Harry who’d want to meet her in the library! Go figure!”

 

Hermione felt a flare of irritation within. She quelled it with difficulty and turned back to Harry. She said playfully, “Pretty, pretty please come with me?”

 

Ron added loudly enough for everyone around to hear, “Yeah, that’s what you should be doing, ‘Mione. Begging. Don’t hear that enough from you.”

 

Harry seemed equally irritated with Ron. “Don’t listen to him. Sure, I’ll go to the library.   The girls are off doing something anyway. Let’s go.”

 

Ron stood up from the table just in time to be jostled almost violently by a passing shoulder and was pushed forward into the remains of his dessert. Looking up to see who had accidentally pushed the redhead, Hermione saw Draco glance back over his shoulder and wink at her.

 

“Come on, ‘Mione. I think we’re done here,” urged Harry. He threw a disgusted look in Ron’s direction. As they were leaving the table, he added innocently, “I assume you’ll want the arithmancy section?”

 

Yes, Harry.”

 

The Headmaster intercepted them as they were heading out the doors. “Miss Granger! A word, please?”

 

She followed him back to his office. On his desk there was another gift. This one was an armful-sized box wrapped in ornate green wrapping paper and tied with a silver bow. Hermione glanced from the box to Professor Dumbledore. “Is that for me?”

 

“Yes, my dear. Only, I promised Draco you wouldn’t open it without him. You’ll have to bring it to him for opening.”

 

“Thank you, sir. I’ll see him later tonight, actually.”

 

“Such a gift might raise more questions than you’re ready to answer as of yet. Perhaps we should give it a disguise?” As he suggested it, he transfigured the box into a copy of Hogwarts: a History. How does he know I’m not ready to announce the binding?

 

They walked to the door. “I took the liberty of summoning Mr. Potter. He should be here any time, now.”

 

“Good night, professor, and thank you for . . .” For what, exactly? Offering me as a prize? Offering the stake to me without making sure I understood its significance?   She finished in a much different tone of voice, “Errrr, thank you.”

 

He paused, giving her a look that was full of understanding and completely devoid of apology.   “You’re most welcome, Miss Granger. And I do think, eventually, you will have reason to be truly thankful.”

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