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The next day Hermione was relatively happy. For the past few mornings she was grumpy to say the least, but today, she felt rather relieved. She had passed, what she had thought, was one of her toughest tests and it came with a bonus. The only thing that was lingering in her mind was the vague meeting that she had with the two Aurors at St. Mungo’s. She knew they were suspicious of her, and they had every right to be, but figuring that they didn’t have anything to go on gave her hope.

She and Draco were dressed by seven-thirty and walked arm-in-arm as they had been doing for days now to breakfast. Even Draco’s in a good mood… Hermione thought as she took a side-glance at him. He noticed and she quickly regained her composure, pretending to be interested in the portraits instead. Once they got to the patio, Ara greeted them heartily.

“Good morning,” She said, and Hermione had to control herself from looking as surprised as Draco did. Ara was quite many things but jolly wasn’t one them.

“’Morning to you, Auntie Ara… Mother,” Draco added to Narcissa who gave her son a small nod.

“Well, Miss Granger, I must commend you for yesterday.” Ara told her. “You did unbelievably well. Ms. Rothmoore especially was quite impressed with you.”

“Oh, I-”

“And so was Isis,”

Hermione stared at her in mild confusion and frowned. Isis was impressed with her? Ara saw her facial expression and smirked, turning to Draco and adding, “You remember, Isis, don’t you Draco?”

“…Of course I do.” He gritted through his teeth.

“Well, apparently, she and your beautiful fiancée had a wonderful chat at the meeting. Isis was so taken with Miss Granger that she insisted on hosting the induction ceremony! Isn’t that sweet of her?”

“Amazingly,” Hermione and Draco said in unison, and then continued eating in order to hide their sorrowful expressions.

“Anyway, on with business,” Ara told them. “I’m planning a dinner party for tomorrow afternoon. Miss Granger, I’d like for you to plan the guest list.”

Me?” She said in surprise. “You want me to make the guest list?”

“Why of course… We’ve been having functions galore around here with nothing but people we know. You must be feeling awfully alone. Invite your friends and we can all have a good chat and laugh tomorrow. No more than three guests, please.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After breakfast Hermione rushed back to the suite with Draco at her heels. Once they were inside and the door was locked, Hermione let all of her frustration with one phrase:

“Do you know how much of a bloody disaster this is going to be?!”

“Of course I know,” Draco sighed nervously. “But you mean to tell me that Potter and Weasley have absolutely no idea what you agreed to?”

“Trust me, if they did, you’d be dead by now. Only Ginny knows. Harry and Ron have been away for a couple months now on business. They only just came back last evening. For Merlin’s sake, what are the odds that your aunt has this wonderful idea for a dinner party the day after they return? It sounds like more than a coincidence to me.”

“Knowing my Aunt she probably knew that they’ve only just come back. She’s got friends in, well, rather high places.”

“This is going to be a nightmare.” Hermione groaned as she sat on the edge of the bed and put her head in her hands. “Aside from the fact that they completely loathe you, for them to cooperate in this is going to arm-breaking.”

“Then I’d suggest you go see them right now.” Draco advised her. “The earlier you tell them, the better  they can prepare. Auntie Ara won’t accept a ‘no,’ you know that.”

“Alright, fine… I’ve got to go see- um, I’ve got to see a few of my coworkers anyway.”

She almost said that she had to see her mother. As of now Draco still didn’t know what the forty thousand galleons was being used for. It wasn’t like as if Hermione was trying to keep it a secret or anything, but, it was just the way it was. Sighing, she didn’t bother to change her clothes despite the fact that they were a step up from casual wear (a fuchsia blouse with a pencil skirt). The only thing she changed was her shoes into some flats and went over to the hospital to see her mother. The operation happened yesterday and knowing Doctor Andrews, he would’ve ringed her about the outcome. Hermione walked into the hospital and was about to take the elevator up to her mother’s floor when her name was called. She turned and saw Doctor Andrews walking up to her. His face looked none too pleased.

“Miss Granger, I’ve ringed you a few times.” He told her. Hermione nodded understandingly.

“I know I’m sorry. I’ve been, um, away. How’s my mother? Did the operation go well?”

“Oh, it went splendidly, but-”

“…But?”

“It, um, didn’t have the desired effect we hoped it would.”

“What?” Hermione said with a confused look on her face. “What do you mean? You assured me that this would cure my mother. I stretched to the limb to get the money for this operation and it didn’t have the desired effect?!”

“Miss Granger, please calm down.” Doctor Andrews said nervously as he looked about him, but Hermione was hardly in the mood to whisper.

“No, I will not calm down. You give all of this prep talk about how much my mother needed this operation, and when I finally give the consent you come at me with this bad news? No, you’re going to tell me why it didn’t bloody work.”

“It’s not that the operation didn’t work. It slowed the progression of the disease, but…it didn’t stop it as we predicted.”

“…So my mother will die anyway?”

“I’m sorry, Miss Granger.”

Hermione felt sick. She pushed Doctor Andrews out of her way and went into the nearest bathroom. She put her hands on either side of the sink and was ready to throw up. It was all for nothing. It was all for nothing. She literally sold herself to the devil in order to save her mother, but she was going to die as originally planned in the cruel game of life. Hermione looked up into the mirror above her and saw that she was crying. She didn’t even realize when she had begun to do so. She sniffled and wiped her eyes.

“All for nothing,” Hermione said aloud. “All for bloody nothing,”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After cleaning herself up, Hermione made it upstairs to see her mother. She was asleep when she got there, and Hermione couldn’t push herself to go closer to the bed. She just stayed close to the door and watched her chest slowly go up and down. With a small whimper, she slipped herself out of the room, found a secluded place within the hospital out of view from people and security cameras and disapparated.

Hermione landed in the living room of Ginny’s flat. She looked around and began to think that her friend wasn’t home, but then saw her coming out from an adjacent hallway.

“Oh, ‘Mione, hi… I didn’t hear you apparate in. What are you...-? Have you been crying?”

“Where’re Harry and Ron?”

“Well, they went to Diagon Alley to see a few friends. What’s wrong?”

“…It didn’t work.” Hermione said in just above a whisper. “Gin, the operation for my mother didn’t work. She’s going to die anyway.”

“You’re joking. B-but that was the whole reason you’re marrying Malfoy for Merlin’s sake!” Ginny said astounded. “What are you going to do?”

“What else? In the next couple of months I’ll be planning a funeral along with my wedding.”

“You’re still going to go through with the marriage?”

“I gave him my word, Gin. I’m not going to cut back on it.”

“So, that’s it then?” Ginny huffed. “You’re giving up your life to bloody Malfoy so he can get what he wants, and you get absolutely nothing out of this anymore? It’s not fair, Hermione, and you know it!”

“Who said anything in life was fair?!” Hermione retaliated. “If life was fair my mother wouldn’t still be dying! What you have to understand is that I took the money from him and said yes to the deal. There’s no backing out now.”

“Oh yes there is. There definitely is, but you just don’t want to and it’s not because you gave your word.”

Hermione watched as Ginny walked off and headed upstairs. She let out an aggravated sigh and ran her fingers through her hair. What did Ginny know? Hermione never broke a promise in her life and she wasn’t going to do it now just because her end of the deal wasn’t going to work out. If she did, she’d be leaving Draco in a deeper hole than he originally had been in with the forty thousand galleon loan he had over his head. That’s your problem, Hermione… She thought to herself. You care about others too much. And suddenly with a soft chuckle, she began to wonder when she ever started caring about Draco.

Shaking her head, she was about to go upstairs in order to look for Ginny and apologize when she heard the fireplace coming to life. Hermione turned to see Harry and Ron stepping out of it and then remembered the reason she came there in the first place. With a deep breath, she greeted her friends.

“Hey, you guys, had fun in Diagon Alley?” She asked them after giving and receiving hugs. Harry shrugged his shoulders as Ron took a seat on the sofa.

“It was alright. Spent most of our time in the Quiditch shoppe anyway,”

“Oh well, that’s…nice.”

“Where’s Ginny, ‘Mione?” Harry asked.

“She’s upstairs, but, uh, listen I came here to invite you both, and Ginny too, to a, um, dinner party tomorrow.”

“A dinner party..?” Ron snickered. “Sounds ritzy, since when do you have dinner parties?”

“Well, it wasn’t my idea.” Hermione said hesitantly. Just blurt it out. Just do it. “It was…the aunt of my fiancé’s idea.”

Harry and Ron looked at her with their mouths open and Hermione was biting her lip so hard that she could taste a bit of blood. What was she supposed to do now? Technically speaking, they had the invite. She could just pick up her things and leave, but they weren’t going to let her get off that easy.

“Your fiancé..?”

“You’re getting married?”

“When did this happen?!” Harry said in shock. “We weren’t gone for more than a few months!”

“I know, but it was kind of sudden.” Hermione told them. At least that was the truth… “Here,” She showed them her left hand and their eyes bulged. She had almost forgotten how gorgeous the ring really was.

“Merlin, how rich is the bloke you’re marrying, ‘Mione?” Ron asked her. “This thing is huge!”

“’Mione, are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Harry questioned her with a brow cocked. “You never do rash things. You always think things through. Who are you even marrying?”

Hermione swallowed hard. She clenched her fists, grit her teeth, and with difficulty, she said, “Malfoy,”

“WHAT?!”

“Hermione, are you insane?” Ron said to her as he grabbed her by the shoulders. “What the hell happened that you’re going to marry that git?”

“It’s hard to explain.” She pleaded as she shook Ron from off of her.

“You have no choice but to explain it, ‘Mione.” Harry told her. “If not we’re having you committed. This is crazy.”

“I’m doing it to help him. He has a multi-billion galleon inheritance to collect on and he can’t get it unless…”

“Unless..?”

“Unless he marries a muggleborn and stays married for at least a year.”

“And you agreed to that!” Ron shouted at her. “Just to help him? You don’t even like him!”

“It wasn’t just to help him, Ron it was to help me too!” Hermione struck back. “I needed money for my mother to have an operation. It was a good idea at the time.”

“Well, now you need to get out of it.” Harry ordered her. “You can’t do this!”

“It’s too late, I already used the money. This marriage is going to happen whether you like it or not. And you have to come to the dinner party.”

“We’re not going anywhere.” Ron said arrogantly. Hermione was so frustrated that she was on the brink of tears.

“But you must! If you don’t this, this whole thing would’ve been all for nothing!”

“It already is all for nothing,” Ginny said. Hermione looked up to see her coming down from the stairs. She had her arms crossed and was frowning. Hermione shook her head and threw her hands in the air in defeat.

“Fine, don’t come.” Hermione said to the three of them. “I wasn’t asking you to come for Malfoy. I was asking you to come for me. Thanks anyway.”

With that, Hermione grabbed a handful of Floo Powder and went back to Ara’s Manor. She thought wearily that today was the worst day of her life and that tomorrow would be the day that Draco would lose his inheritance.
________________________________________________________________
author's note: when i say that my imagination for this story has been going, its been GOING!! :) i already have half of the next chapter written, and with that said, sadly, i can see the end of this story coming :(.....

im not too sure when, i might have a better idea after the next chapter comes out, and i'll be sorry to have it go. but, enough of that because its not over yet! :) please remember to review as you always do and until next time!

-WP

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