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Hermione sat a table with all of The High Society of Women pretending to be interested in their talk about their men and how much money they had made last year. She had rather stick a fork in her hand than to sit there listening to such unimportant things. Actually, she had rather be in Draco’s arms again, and had to admit to herself that she had never felt more comfortable in all her life. Sure, she could’ve blamed it on the wine and champagne she had drunk, but she didn’t want to, nor was she going to. Hermione was convinced that she was able to discern alcohol induced emotions from real ones, and when Draco was kissing her she knew that they were real. So real that she was hoping it wasn’t all for show. Everyone was watching…Isis included. He could’ve been doing it for her –a sort of, I-don’t-need-you gesture. But as Hermione tasted the remnants of Chardonnay on her lips –the champagne that only Draco had been drinking –she told herself that it wasn’t so.

Internally sighing, Hermione was wondering what was going on. How did her and Draco’s little charade turn her head in so many directions that it made her dizzy? I have to talk to him… She made up in her mind, and said to the women who were carrying on their conversation well without her that she was going to head to the ladies’ room. Hermione was graciously excused, and went in search of her fiancé rather than go to the bathroom.

No one had seen him so the guests had said, so Hermione was out on her own to find him. She didn’t realize how big of a mansion the place really was until she started searching through it. There were doors upon doors, and hallways after hallways. She could say for sure that she was lost now, having her only hopes to get back to everyone by leaning on the faint music that could be heard. Just as she was about to give up and speak to Draco once they were back in their suite, she heard his voice.

Hermione grinned and walked –nearly ran –in its direction, but then stopped when she heard another voice along with his. She furrowed her brow as she leaned against a stone wall and poked her head around the corner. It was Draco alright, but Isis, the wench that she was, was standing right beside him. Ara no doubt… She said in her mind, and recalled how Isis had gotten up from the table a few minutes before she had and wasn’t to be seen again. Hermione should’ve walked away, but was all too curious to hear what was going on between them.

She had to suppress a laugh at hearing Draco’s tone of voice. He sounded like as if he wanted nothing to do with her, and for Hermione’s sake that was a blessing. She was about to turn and go back with the other guests, when her heart stopped at something Draco said. “What would you do if I asked to kiss you?” he had said, and Hermione almost had her whole body exposed so she could fully see the pair. Isis was grinning and replied that she would welcome it.

The look on Hermione’s face when Draco kissed Isis resembled that of a victim in a disaster. She was being crushed by watching them, and it took Hermione everything she had not to shed a single tear. And why should she? She and Draco were false lovers. Every compliment, every smile, every subtle touch, both times they kissed without wanting to end… They were only for show. Hermione knew this now, and realized that it was indeed the champagne and wine that had messed with her head. Though however convincing this was, it still didn’t stop that single tear from falling down her cheek.

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

The party was over pretty quickly. Hermione was told that the induction ceremony would take place after she and Draco got married, and she faked her enthusiasm. Soon after Draco came into the dining hall with Isis trailing behind a few minutes later. She looked sad…upset even, while her fiancée had the happiest expression on his face. Sure, you should be happy… Hermione thought angrily, and fought a wave of emotions as he got closer to her.

“Ready to get out of here..?” He asked with his hand outstretched to take hers. Hermione ignored it, stood up and nodded. There was a small look of confusion on his face, but shaking it off, Draco but an arm around her waist so they could disapparate. Just for tonight, Ara had allowed apparation inside of her Manor, which allowed a gentle journey back to their suite. Once they got there, Hermione eased herself out of Draco’s grasp and went over to the bureau. She took off her emerald green gloves and tossed them on top of the dresser. She kicked off her shoes and then took out her earrings. Hermione had been avoiding Draco’s reflective gaze in the mirror, but almost a full five minutes had gone by and he hadn’t stopped staring at her in bewilderment.

“What do you want, Malfoy?”

Draco cocked a brow at her and was even more confused than ever. Sure they both still used each other’s last name, but Hermione had said his with so much contempt that it actually hurt.

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing,”

“Liar,” Draco said as he crossed his arms. “Come on, tell me.”

Hermione, who had been staring at his reflection in the mirror all this time, turned around and faced him. She took a deep breath and sighed.

“Let’s just say, that I saw what you did…and I shouldn’t care.”

“Shouldn’t care about what? What exactly did I do that’s got you upset like this?”

“It doesn’t matter what you did. That’s not the point at all.” Hermione shrugged her shoulders and bit her lip. “The point is…is that we’re losing focus here.”

“Focus..?” Draco repeated. She nodded and was gaining false confidence at each word she spoke.

“Yes, focus. We’re here together for one reason, and that’s to fool your aunt so you can get your inheritance. We’re not supposed to be lounging around, drinking champagne, and losing ourselves in these lies we’ve spread-”

“And isn’t that what our acting, our pretending is supposed to allow us to do?” He rebutted. “Aren’t we supposed to…to go so deep that it’s real?”

“…In a way,” Hermione replied softly. “And even while doing that, we still shouldn’t forget that it’s just an act.”

Draco swallowed hard as he watched Hermione grab her nightwear from the first drawer and head into the bathroom. The door gave a small click, letting him know that she had locked it. This was not how Draco had imagined things would go. He had thought that they’d head back to the suite, full of happiness; that they’d talk, and hopefully continue what had been disappointingly interrupted. But Draco, against his gut feelings, had heard and taken in every word Hermione had said. With a bit of sadness, he realized that she was right:

They were actors, damn good actors, and even when things shifted from pretend to reality, they had to remember that it started out as an act and would end that way.

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

The next day was quiet. Draco and Hermione dressed, went to breakfast, and ate, in relative silence. Ara looked up from her meal countless of times and stared at the couple with curiosity, for this was the first time that she had seen them this way. As she took a sip from her glass of water, she sneered, and had the audacity to say, “Trouble in paradise?”

Hermione hid her flinch, but Draco still felt it. He had been holding her hand as they were accustomed to doing, and felt it shake. He didn’t understand why, though. Of all people he should’ve been the one with the anxiety and the nervous hands. Last night, Draco had come so close to telling Hermione that he thought he had real feelings for her, and was sure that she would say the same about him. But after their small talk, his perspective had changed, not by much, but it was still skewed. Unlike last night, when he had been certain, Draco’s thoughts, feelings, actions, everything was now out of sorts.

But what was Hermione’s excuse for being distant? I saw what you did… That’s what she had said, and what obviously sparked her saying that they needed to stay focused. If only Draco knew what it was that he did, because maybe if he could figure that out and they resolved the issue, that they could talk –really talk, and stop Draco’s growing madness.

And so, after Ara said that there was nothing planned for the day, Draco knew that Hermione would want to leave either to see her mother, friends, go to work, or any sort of combination of the three. But he wasn’t going to let her leave today. Neither of them was going to leave the suite until they had gotten everything out in the open, no matter the outcome.

Draco locked the suite door without Hermione’s noticing. He went over to his side of the bed where he slipped off his shoes and sighed. It’s now or never… He thought, and cleared his throat so that he could get her attention. Though, when he got it, his own attention was distracted by a letter that was on the night table that he had failed to notice the previous night. He picked it up and saw the St. Mungo’s insignia.

“Granger, you have a letter.”

“From who..?”

“St. Mungo’s,”

Hermione turned to him instantly and in her mind was cursing herself for not getting to the letter first. She had forgotten that Sophie, her St. Mungo’s advisor, had owled a letter to her saying that she couldn’t come into work for a while until the whole thing with Rodolphus was straightened out, but she was gone before she had received it.

“Give it here,” She said urgently as she walked over to him with her hand open. Draco stared at her curiously and fiddled with the letter between his fingers. “Malfoy,” She said more sternly. “Give it here,”

“Why do you want this so badly?”

“It has my name on it doesn’t it? Stop playing around and just hand it over.”

“No,” Draco readily replied, and began to open the letter.

“Malfoy, what the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Hermione shouted as she lunged for the letter, but he was quick to move, and kept dodging her up and around the bed. “Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Malfoy..!” She said pleadingly, and was trying to wrench the letter out his hand. Amongst her constant snatching gestures made the two of them fall over and onto the soft cushion of the bed. She ignored the fact that she was now sitting on top of him and was more concentrated on the fact that Draco stopped fussing. He stopped because even among the chaos Hermione had created for him, he had managed to read the entire thing, and now was staring at her with awe and speechlessness.

“…You were Rodolphus’ Healer?” He asked. Hermione sighed and shook her head.

“I only attended to him once.” She admitted. “I knew what you did the moment I saw him. So did all the other Healers. Goodness, Malfoy, did you really think that you could get away with cursing him?”

“I was more or less concentrated on your well being rather than mine own when I did it.” Draco said. “I had no idea that he had actually taken himself to a hospital. But the better question Granger…is why did you Obliviate him? You’re a Healer. You could be in Azkaban right now for what you did.”

“And so could you if I hadn’t done it.” Hermione retaliated. “Aurors can never prove it, and I’ll be back to work in no time.”

She let out a breath and took the letter that was still in Draco’s hands. Hermione was still sitting on top of him, and it took all of his willpower to ignore the thought of his ravishing her. She soon realized the awkwardness of their position and removed herself from him in order to go about her business. Draco’s intentions for previously locking the suite door and his earnest to talk to her had faded. She had done one hell of a thing for him when it came to Rodolphus –a dangerous thing to boot. And all learning about this had done, was to allow Draco to admire Hermione even more than he was thinking that he did.

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

Hermione decided that she would go see her mother today, but before that she had to speak to Ginny. Aside from the fact that the last time they had spoken it was at the dinner, things had taken an emotional turn that she hadn’t expected, and she needed her friend’s advice. The only problem now was that Harry and Ron were probably at the Burrow, and the last thing that Hermione wanted at that moment was a row with them. There was enough drama in her life to last a lifetime, and she didn’t want to add any more to it. So she Owled Ginny, asking her to come to the Manor by using the same fireplace on the second floor as last time. Some twenty minutes later, the owl came back with a response saying that she would, and five or so minutes after that, the fireplace was activated and out stepped Ginny with a concerned look on her face.

“That horrible woman doesn’t know I’m here, does she?”

“No,” Hermione told her, checking to make sure that the door was properly closed and locked. “This isn’t the main fireplace, so no, she wouldn’t. Gin, I need to talk to you.”

“I got that impression from the letter.” Ginny said as they both sat down on the sofa. “This is about Malfoy, isn’t it? What did he do to you?”

Hermione bit her bottom lip. What did he do to her was right, because that was the same question that she was asking herself. Sighing, she looked up at her friend and shrugged.

“What would you do if you saw Harry kissing someone else?” She asked her. Ginny’s eyes grew wide, like as if this had actually happened. Hermione had asked this for a reason, because Ginny and Harry had been tip-toeing around each other for a couple years now. They weren’t dating, probably close to doing so, but there was flirting, and obvious infatuation.

“Um, well, I don’t know.” Ginny replied nervously. “I guess I’d be a bit jealous, maybe a little hurt… You didn’t really see him kissing someone, did you?”

“No, no, I didn’t.” Hermione answered quickly. “But I saw Malfoy do it.”

“So? It’s not like you two are committed to each other or anything.”

“I know that. And maybe if I had seen him doing it earlier in this whole charade, it wouldn’t have mattered. But the fact is, is that now…now it matters, and I don’t know why.”

“Merlin… Are you trying to tell me that you’re actually starting to like him?”

“Oh, Gin, I’ve liked him for a while now, as much of a stubborn arse he is. He’s annoying, arrogant, argumentative, but he’s also –or at the very least, can be –sweet, caring, unselfish-”

Malfoy..?”

“Yes, Malfoy… For goodness sake, Ginny, do you see what’s happening to me? I’ve been feeling like this ever since I kissed him-”

“You kissed him?! You never told me that!”

“I didn’t have time to.” Hermione defended. “Besides, I dismissed it completely after that. I was just grateful for what he did for my mother. And for going to the Burrow to make you, Harry, and Ron come to the dinner.”

“Well, it’s a little late to tell you this, but there are other ways to show your gratitude, you know.”

“I know that. But since then, it’s like Malfoy changed. I mean, he had been changing long before that, but that night did it. And then last night we were at a stupid party and he kissed me and everything’s been topsy-turvy. I just don’t know why all of a sudden I can’t tell the difference between our façade and reality.”

“Because you two are damn good liars, that’s why.” Ginny argued. “Remember when you ranted to me one night about muggles in cinema? About how when they’re in love films and their playing characters who are madly in love with each other, those emotions go into the real world? Well, ‘Mione, you and Malfoy are just like them.

‘I mean what do you expect? I’m not going to lie and say that he’s not handsome. You’re living with him for Merlin’s sake. You’re sleeping in the same bed with him. You’re with him every day. This was bound to happen. But what you have to remember is, is that this all started out with a small verbal contract, and it’ll finish that way.”

Hermione wished those words hadn’t come out of Ginny’s mouth. It reminded her of what she had said to Draco the previous night. She had told him that they shouldn’t forget that they were just an act. She had said it with certainty, but on the inside with difficulty. So much force was needed to say what she had told him, when all she had really wanted to do was pull him towards her and finish what had been interrupted at the party. But thinking of the party, made Hermione think of Isis, and the fact that her lips were the last that had rested upon Draco’s.

Soon, Ginny left, and Hermione had made up in her mind that she was just going to keep quiet. Draco hadn’t said anything about the kiss. In fact he hadn’t said anything about either of the two kisses that they had shared. So if he wasn’t thinking about them, then why should she? That was a good enough incentive, Hermione thought, and she figured –with a bit of sadness –that after she and Draco were out from under Ara’s thumb, they’d have no reason to be together. After Ara made her final decision on the status of their “love,” they’d be able to leave the Manor, but still keep up mild appearances. And once they said, “I do,” Draco would get half of his inheritance –one hundred-thirty billion galleons. Maybe then they’d immediately get divorced. He certainly didn’t need all. What he’d get would most definitely be enough, and Hermione and Draco would go their separate ways.

Yes, that’s what would happen… Hermione thought, and left the room she was in and carefully closed it behind her. As she began to head back to suite and was hoping heavily that Draco wasn’t there, did she see Ara, walking pass her. There was something different about her, Hermione was thinking. There was something nerve-wracking about her as well, for when Ara slowly trotted pass, there was a smirk on her face, and her eyes seemed like as if they were laughing. Hermione shook off a shiver and went to her and Draco’s suite as fast as she could, because there was a nagging sensation in the back of her mind that screamed,

She’s up to something…
__________________________________________________________

author's note:wow, so i love how i eas so excited about getting this chapter up that i forgot to write my little author's note *embarrassed face* lol

hope u all liked this chap and, unless a brilliant stroke of genius hits me and i cant possibly write everything into one chapter (i refuse to squeeze everything in if it wont), the next chapter will be the last!!

its sad i know, and i LOVE this story, but they all have to end sometime :(

-WP

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