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Hermione went back to the suite a little later with a small smile on her face. When she got there Draco was in the middle of undressing, him too, wearing a smile. He turned to face her when she closed the door and let his hands fall to his side.

“Did you see the look on Auntie Ara’s face when Weasley’s sister spoke?” He asked her. Draco shook his head and grinned as he slipped off his shirt and stuffed it into the top drawer. “It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“Yes, well, that’s Ginny for you.” Hermione said as she kicked off her shoes. “She doesn’t back down from anybody. Though, I was a tad afraid that your aunt was going to kill her.”

“Oh, she’s not that crazy.”

Hermione met Draco’s eyes and cocked a brow at him. He chuckled and nodded, saying, “Alright, maybe she is.” The two of them finished dressing for bed –Draco in the bedroom, with Hermione in the bathroom as usual. By the time she had come out, he was already on his side of the bed, with his book in hand and wearing those rarely-seen glasses. She sighed, thinking in her head that he did look a bit dashing with them on, and then cursed herself for having that thought cross her mind. Without letting another thought like that come near her, Hermione crawled onto the bed and lay on her side, not sleeping, but just reflecting. She still couldn’t get over the lengths that Draco went through to make Harry, Ron, and Ginny come that night, and for what he did for her mother.

What on earth possessed him to do that? Hermione was asking herself. It was such a genuine act to come from somebody like Draco. He was one of the most heartless people she knew. But now, after spending more than a week with him, heartless was a terrible word to use. Maybe apathetic was better… Selfish…? At least that’s how he started out to be… Hermione concluded, and for the first time realized how odd this felt. As of right now she would go as far as saying that Draco actually cared about her. Vice versa for herself, she supposed, since they were both, without him knowing, each doing something to protect or help the other. Draco saved her from Rodolphus, Hermione Obliviated Rodolphus’ mind to keep Draco out of Azkaban, he sent her mother to Merlin’s Hospital, and now Hermione was wondering what heroic act she was going to perform in order to straighten out the imbalance.

It was too much to think about, she decided, and took a short peek at Draco who had fallen asleep with the book laid across his stomach. Rolling her eyes, Hermione eased herself out of bed and walked around it to his side. With a small bit of hesitation, she slowly removed the glasses from his face and the book that was on him and placed them on the night table. Hermione grinned and shook her head at him. Once she was back on her side and snuggled up in the covers, she heard Draco move, and say, “Thank you…” Though by this time, Hermione was already drifting off into sleep and was sure that she had only dreamt it.

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

In the morning their daily routine was followed: wake up, get dressed, and go down for breakfast. Breakfast that morning was rather amusing, because Ara seemed bitter (when wasn’t she?). Ginny’s insubordination couldn’t have bothered her that bad, Hermione was thinking, but in all truth she didn’t care. After the emotional and mental torture she put her and Draco through, Ara deserved a bit of it for herself.

“Your friends were refreshing.” Ara murmured as she sipped her morning drink. Hermione hid the urge to laugh, and simply replied,

“I’m sure they were,” which (from the corner of her eye, she could tell) made Draco want to snicker.

“Either way, that was last night’s business. You must be ready to leave the mansion by eight this evening. Tonight, as I have been informed, a formal gala has been constructed in your honor, Miss Granger, for being inducted into The High Society of Women. Think of it as a pre-induction ceremony. Isis will be hosting it at her estate.”

Hermione nodded in understanding and put on the fakest smile she was sure Ara could see through. Was she honestly supposed to be happy to be seeing that horrible woman again? She didn’t want to see any of them again to be frank, but of all people not Isis. But, of course, she kept those thoughts of hers to herself, and made sure to voice them once she and Draco were back in the suite after breakfast.

“We just had a bloody test.” Hermione said irritated as she superficially checked herself in the mirror. “I mean surely we’ve proved that we love each other by now.”

“Yeah, well, this one will be different…and hard.” Draco added uneasily as he stared at her. She turned to look at him and bit her bottom lip. Yes, she knew why it would be hard, and then sighed.

“…Do you still love her?”

“No,” He answered quickly. Hermione nodded and then put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“In that case, then it should be easy.”

After taking a small breath, Draco declared that it would be, and then watched her don a waist-length jacket which hid the exposed flesh that her pink sundress didn’t cover.

“Where are you going?”

“To see my mother…” Hermione replied. “Just to see how she’s doing; and besides, she’s probably waiting for an explanation as to who you are. That won’t be much of an easy conversation to have, I assure you.”

“Yeah, well, good luck on that, and make sure that you’re back here before noon.”

“What, why..? The party isn’t until eight-”

“Exactly,” Draco said as he walked over to the closet, and motioned for her to look inside it. “And as you can see, Auntie Ara hasn’t provided any clothes this time. You’re going to have to go shopping with my mother, and then she’ll have to contact the stylists-”

“No,”

“No, to what..?”

“To everything you just said,” Hermione told him with a small chuckle at the end of it. She placed her hands on her hips and continued, “Listen, despite what you and your mother might think, at twenty-six, I’m quite sure that I can dress myself. So, I will go shopping for a gown, alone, and I will do my hair, make-up and everything else, alone. Understood?”

Draco stared at her in disbelief. No one had ever dared to talk to him like that, and even though he wasn’t surprised that Hermione would, it still brought awe to him. And as he stared at her hands which were sternly placed on her waist, Draco crossed his arms, and felt a smirk curl onto his lips as he said, “Yes, Ma’am.” That made Hermione want to laugh, in which she did whole heartily. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing, it’s just, well, you’re almost cute when you’re obedient.”

“Almost..?” Draco asked with a raised brow. Hermione was halfway out of the door, when she turned and smiled.

“Yeah…almost,”

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

Merlin’s Hospital was the best in all England. It was huge, taking up possibly two, maybe three blocks. Though it was a hospital for muggle patients, it was only for those who had blood relations to a witch or wizard. Because of this the hospital still had its magical protection so that it looked like a condemned building, but once close enough, it transformed into a magnificent place.

Hermione went inside and asked the receptionist if she could see her mother. The woman said yes, but thought that a talk with her mother’s Healer was in order first. After agreeing, she let the receptionist contact the Healer, who came down to the waiting room moments later.

“Miss Granger?” a woman who was slightly older than her asked. “I’m Healer Groves and the head Healer looking after your mother.”

“…How is she?” Hermione asked, her heart thumping madly in her chest. Healer Groves motioned for her to follow her, and then began speaking again.

“Your fiancé brought her in just in time.” She told her. “Any longer and there would’ve been nothing that we could’ve done. The muggle operation that was done blocked some of our magic, but not all of it. Your mother will have to stay for a little while in order for us to perform a couple mini-surgeries, but for the most part, she’s going to be fine.”

They were on the third floor now, and Healer Groves opened a door on her immediate right and ushered Hermione in. In the room was her mother with color in her face that she hadn’t seen in a long time. Her mother looked up at her and smiled.

“I’ll leave you two alone.” Healer Groves said, and left. Hermione conjured a chair and went to sit next to her mother who pulled her into a huge hug. There was strength in her arms too, Hermione noted and soon let her go.

“Magic is a wonder, isn’t it?” She told her. Her mother laughed lightly and nodded.

“Yes, and I’m very thankful for it. I didn’t even know a place like this existed for people like me.”

“Well, you do now, and Healer Groves says that you’re going to be fine. You’ll be here for a bit, but soon you’ll be home and I won’t have to make preparations.”

“And I’m looking forward to that, but I’ve been wondering something …Hermione, who was that man that brought me here?”

Hermione bit her lip and sighed. She knew that this question was going to come, but hadn’t exactly thought up of a valid excuse. With a small frown on her face, she figured that it was best not to lie. Technically she was a liar already, but she didn’t want to be one to her mother.

“Well, mum…um, his name is Draco Malfoy.” She said slowly, took a breath, and then came right out with it. “And, uh, I’m marrying him.”

“Marrying him?” Her mother asked with confusion on her face. “Since when have you been engaged? This is so sudden. It’s not like you, Hermione.”

“I know that and it’s…a bit complicated.”

“If you’re honestly getting married there should be no such thing as it being ‘complicated.’ Do you even love this man who you’re supposedly to be getting married to?”

“…I care about him.” Hermione answered honestly, but her mother pursed her lips and shook her head.

“That’s not what I asked you-”

“But that’s the answer I’m giving. Mum, he brought you here for me. Surely that must mean something to you.”

“It says what he feels about you, not the other way around. And if you can’t tell me that you love this man, then I approve of absolutely none of this. Not to mention that this is the first time I’ve ever heard anything about him.”

“Well, I’m sorry to say this, but...” Hermione sighed and stared her mother in the eyes. “I wasn’t looking for your approval in the first place. I came to see how you were.”

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

Hermione didn’t want to leave her mother on bad or unsettling terms, but there wasn’t much to say after that. They sat in relative silence, watched a bit of television, and soon she left and told her that she’d see her again soon. She didn’t feel like going back to the Manor right away, and she couldn’t without a dress and other essential things for the party that afternoon anyhow. As Hermione left the hospital and began walking down the rue, she couldn’t help but think about her mother asking her if she loved Draco. The obvious answer was no. She couldn’t say that she didn’t have any sort of feelings for him, but just not the ones that her mother were hoping that she had. Hermione began picturing what the day of the wedding would be like if she and Draco ever made it pass Ara. She was imagining the “if anyone objects” speech and could see her mother being the one fully objecting.

With a slight frown, Hermione decided to head over to St. Mungo’s to work just for a few hours so she could keep her mind focused. She dressed in her mandatory white coat and put her wand in the pocket. As she walked down the hall to perform a few duties and check on some of her patients, she turned upon hearing her name being called.

“Hey,” a woman named Sophie greeted. “Since you’re here I, um, guess you didn’t get my owl.”

“Oh, no, I was out pretty early this morning. What is important?”

“Well, it just said that you couldn’t work today...”

“You’re kidding.” Hermione said with a small chuckle. “Usually the administrators love to have me here even when it’s my day off.”

“Actually, Hermione, you can’t come in to work for…a couple of days. It has to do with the Rodolphus Lestrange case. They tested him. He was Obliviated most definitely and since you were the last person to see him… And before you say anything, I know how ridiculous this is. You’re you for Merlin’s sake! You’d never do something so against St. Mungo’s policies and against the Ministry for that matter, since it is tampering with evidence. Anyway, that’s the ruling for now. Once this thing has blown over, you’ll be right back with those patients and getting a good laugh at the mishaps they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Hermione took a deep breath and nodded. She watched Sophie walk away and then changed out of her Healer’s coat. As of right now, she dimly noted, she was out of a job. She didn’t know why the Aurors didn’t give up. If they were smart, they would’ve done a backtracking spell on her wand the first time they had talked to her. They would’ve seen that she had used the spell and could’ve arrested her for it. But by now, Hermione had used her wand countless of times, and the spell was probably out of the wand’s history. Aurors had nothing to get her on, but it still hurt to know that she was practically banned from stepping into the one place that took her mind away from everything.

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

It was just about seven-thirty now and Draco was a wreck. Hermione hadn’t gone shopping with his mother and she didn’t have the stylists do anything with her hair or make-up. She had done everything alone like she had told him, and to top it all off she didn’t get back to the mansion until five that afternoon. When he tried to take the dress that was in her hands to see what it looked like, Hermione scolded him and said to loose his knickers from its knot and that that he’d see it later.

“That was two and a half hours ago.” Draco muttered angrily under his breath as he fixed his cufflinks. He only wanted to make sure that she was perfect –no, beyond perfect. She was going to be in a room with Isis for the whole night. And if his memory served himself correctly (and it did) Isis was one for competition, and Hermione could win, she really could, but only if she had allowed him to help her.

“I can’t believe that you let her get herself together.” Narcissa grumbled as she sat on a conjured chair. “This evening will be horrific.”

“Well, what did you expect me to do? Restrain her?”

“Most assuredly..!”

Draco rolled his eyes and was about to comment, when Hermione came out of an adjacent room. He took a deep breath and waited to see the damage that she had done, when his eyes widened in surprise.

“Well, Miss Granger….” Narcissa said with a curious smirk. “I think you’ve truly learned a thing or two.”

Hermione smiled and clutched her shawl about her shoulders. To her surprise shopping had done her some good after leaving St. Mungo’s. In the spirit of competition and sheer amusement, she chose an emerald green floor-length dress with a short trail. It was strapless and cupped her chest so perfectly that she at first thought that it might be too revealing. From chest to waist the dress clung tightly and was fabulously jewel-decorated. And from the waist down was pure silk which swished and swayed when she walked. Green gloves up to the elbow accompanied the dress, and her accessories ran from silver shoes, necklace and earrings. As for her hair, it felt to her shoulders in gentle curls and bounced healthily.

Narcissa grinned and casually walked out of the suite. Draco didn’t even notice that his mother had left. He had yet to take his eyes away from Hermione, who, he had to admit, exceeded all expectations he had set for her.

“You see?” Hermione said with a smile as walked over to him. “I told you that I could dress myself.”

“…Do you always have to prove me wrong?” He asked her with an amused smirk. Hermione shrugged her shoulders and allowed him to take her arm.

“Well, let’s just say that I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take a bit of pleasure in it.”

Draco watched her smile whole-heartily and he instantly wondered what he would do without her. She was entertaining to say the least, a pain in the arse when she wanted to be, and more, though he’d rather not admit the rest, because if he did, well…Merlin forbid.
_________________________________________________________

author's note:and i present to you another chapter for your enjoyment :)! hope you liked it just as much as the others and i must take the time out to say that all of you are fabulous for supporting my story! so thanks to those of you who read and review, and to those who simply read....you're all great and give me my insprirations

as of now i'll say that this story will probably come to an end within two chapters. that's my estimate, but i'll definitely let you know if that changes. i'll be sad to see it go, but i enjoy(ed) writing every minute of it!!

-WP :)

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