One Step Closer
Hermione cast her glamor and checked it in the mirror. It did just enough to change her appearance so that no one would recognize her, but it wasn’t nearly as invasive or dangerous as a transfiguration spell. She shuddered at the thought. The mishap with the polyjuice potion in second year had left enough of a scar on her psyche to last a lifetime.
She almost wished that she’d perfected her glamor charms during the war. There was a chance that she would have been spared Bellatrix’s full wrath and the terror of Harry being discovered. With a check of her list of things to procure and a kiss to Draco’s blond head as he remained sleeping, she slipped out of the large bath towel she had around her into the nicest robes she owned. They were of the French style, enough to make most people think she was foreign and give her a bit more respect than usual.
Carefully, she undid her twists and twisted the waves into a knot out of her face allowing only half of her hair to fly freely behind her. After placing a subtle, decorative pin in her hair, she grabbed her nondescript bag, the second in her spree of making undetectably extended bags, and headed out to Diagon Alley with her list.
She had a wedding to plan. Draco had proved as helpful as he could be, but not the ocean of pureblood wizarding wedding traditions that she’d anticipated.
Pureblood marriage traditions weren’t readily discussed with me.
He’d only been to one pureblood wedding when he was just a child.
The mother of the groom usually takes lead on the preparations, in lieu of her another close female relative.
His voice had cracked and she’d held his hand knowing how much it hurt to think that his mother, the first love of his life, wouldn’t be involved in this page in his life. She’d offered the possibility of him writing to Narcissa with his questions, but he’d turned it down bitterly.
She’s made her choice. It’s obvious, or she would have contacted me. She’s always made her choice.
She hadn’t been convinced of that, but she let it be because it was obvious that pressing on it wouldn’t do anything. She could be stubborn another day when the wound didn’t seem so raw for him. Andromeda had simply shrugged. She and her husband had married according to muggle traditions and Hermione knew enough about those.
The issue of Draco and his parents wasn’t one that would go away, nor one she could afford to look past. They would be happy together, but Draco would never be whole without having his parents there. He’d given up a lot for them, taken on a lot, but it had been out of love no matter how his parents saw it, and no matter what they disagreed about including her in his future.
He loved them too much. As an only child herself, she understood his pain and couldn’t imagine how it felt to have both of his parents alive and willfully out of his life.
Think about it later, Hermione.
She shook the thought out of her mind as she arrived in Diagon Alley and headed to the specialty parchment shop that Andromeda had mentioned. She found it easily and froze as she saw the figure through the glass of the shop. There was no mistaking the sleek blond and stature of Narcissa Malfoy.
She knew that the Malfoys were bold, but to see Narcissa in the shop looking up at a wall of parchment under the banner that read “wedding” was a shock. She guessed that even with the papers talking about Draco’s disowning and the Malfoy family’s new position in the wizarding world, Narcissa wasn’t a woman to shy away from her place in wizarding society.
My mother is a woman of class and distinction, Draco’s voice echoed at the back of her mind. She lied to the greatest dark wizard of our time. The peons of wizarding Britain are nothing.
Hermione almost laughed, but she ducked back away from the window and forced her heart to slow down. It was an unexpected chance. Her mind was assembling a plan faster than she could come to terms with it. She couldn’t tell Draco, he’d be furious and if nothing came of it, it would just tear the wound open again. Could she do this?
Just go for it, Hermione, she thought. There was no time to plan any of the details. Whether she managed to outright ask Narcissa her questions wasn’t important if she didn’t act now. Salazar’s cunning be with me.
The shop owner looked at her as she entered and gave her a tight smile. Her eyes drifted over Hermione’s robes with a calculating edge, and Hermione knew immediately that she was probably in the right shop for the level of quality she wanted, but the wrong shop to expect a sense of respect.
Grin and bear it, Hermione. Even if you were Hermione Granger right now, it wouldn’t make a difference, likely.
From what she’d been able to get from Draco and the bits Andromeda did remember, going to a parchment store specifically for wedding announcements and invitations, the whole process of choosing every aspect of it instead of sending plain letters was a pureblood thing. People who walked into this shop probably had more money on them regularly than she made in a month.
High born, wizarding nobility like Narcissa and Neville would have been welcome, regular, even expected. Her modified features and her vaguely foreign cut robes were not.
Her lips quirked thinking of Neville being in the same class as Draco. The Longbottoms weren’t poor, but Neville exuded none of the sense of aristocracy Draco did.
“Welcome,” the woman said with a patient smile, “Is there something I can help you with?”
“Well,” Hermione said, “I’m getting married.”
“Oh, how delightful! Where’s your mother?”
Hermione sucked in a breath, “She… is no longer with me.”
The woman flinched, “You poor dear, well, the cheapest parchment is towards the back of the shop and…”
Hermione had half a mind to slap the woman for the insinuation when Narcissa approached her. She linked arms with her and took her hand.
What– just go with it, Hermione!
“There you are dear,” Narcissa said kindly, meeting Hermione’s gaze, “Come along, I have a few already picked out to look through.”
The shop owner stammered, eyes wide as Hermione smiled at Narcissa, and her heart sped up.
Roll with it!
“I was worried that I was a bit early. Fantastic!”
Narcissa took her gently by the arm and led her towards the selection she’d been perusing. The shop owner, for whatever reason, saw fit to shut her mouth for the rest of the time they were in the shop as Narcissa offered Hermione a few samples to examine. Her eyes were misty as she pulled her favorite parchment down from the wall.
“This is the parchment maker, I favor,” she said, “It’s a formal announcement style that is very rarely used any longer save for old families.”
It was high quality and simple in its elegance. Hermione didn’t care about the price as she had plenty of money allocated for the wedding since they were holding it at the house on Spinner’s End, but she wasn’t surprised to find out how expensive it was.
“It’s lovely,” she said, “I think his mother would love it.”
Narcissa’s eyes widened, and they turned sad before smiling at Hermione, “A woman of class.”
She bought enough for their wedding list and a few extra. After purchasing them, she placed them in her bag before walking out arm and arm with Narcissa out of the store as if they had planned it all along.
What now, Hermione?
“You will have to forgive my meddling, dear,” Narcissa said as they were far enough from the shop’s door. “I just could not believe the gall of that witch… To insult you that way, to insult any customer that way, she deserved to be put in her place. The shop had once been one of the highest quality parchment distributors in Britain, but it seems that it has fallen a great deal from its former glory.”
Merlin, you sound like your mother, she thought wryly and laughed, “Thank you, truly. I… was feeling a bit overwhelmed.”
“Your mother-in-law will not be aiding you?”
So that’s really serious.
She let her gaze drift away and a little pained smile drift onto her face. If she had to pull out every trick and drop of deception she had in her to make this work, she would do it.
Draco might kill her, but maybe he’d appreciate it.
Only one way to find out.
She tilted her head, “My groom and his parents are… not exactly speaking at the moment. They don’t approve of us.”
“But you are getting married,” Narcissa said with wide eyes and glanced at the ring on her finger, “Surely they understand that this is not the time to be proud? Wizarding marriages made for the right reasons are rare and sacred for the wizarding world, especially after so much misfortune.”
Hermione shook her head, “They don’t know we’re getting married.”
Narcissa’s eyes widened, “What?”
She gave her a tight smile, “His parents were on the other side during the war. I have no family to speak of now. As far as I know, they want him to marry for contract and pedigree here in Britain.”
Narcissa looked away with guilt written all over her face. Hermione wondered what she was thinking, “That… must be quite a burden for you two, not just emotionally.”
She shook her head, “It is not so bad. We both work and are paid decently. His godfather left him property, so we don’t have to rent a venue. The rest will be manageable with decent planning.”
Narcissa sighed, “I am not sure how I would react if my son were to get married without me being involved, let alone not at the wedding. I don’t think I could ever forgive myself.”
“I don’t believe it will come to that,” Narcissa looked at her as she smiled, “You just saved a young woman from embarrassment and a great amount of confusion. A woman like that is not one a good son would not at least invite to his wedding regardless of the strain between you… If he doesn’t, let me know, and I’ll set him straight.”
She laughed, and Hermione grinned, “Thank you, dear. Are you headed home now?”
“Oh, no,” she said, “I was hoping to get a bit more picked up and sorted out.”
“Would you terribly mind company, dear?” Narcissa asked.
“Not at all,” Hermione said, “Please, call me, Mia.”
“Narcissa,” she said kindly, “What is next on your list?”
“Flatware,” she said, “You… wouldn’t happen to know much about wizarding noble traditions would you?”
Narcissa beamed at her, “I know quite a lot. If you are… amenable, I wouldn’t mind helping you plan a wedding that will help your endeavor to smooth the way with your soon-to-be in-laws.”
She had never imagined that it would come so easily.
Hermione smiled, “I would be eternally grateful. My beau is practically in the dark about his own family’s traditions.”
“Is he the firstborn?”
“He is the only.”
She chuckled, “Young heirs are blissfully kept unaware of the details as to keep them from making things more difficult than necessary. I can’t imagine what my husband would have done trying to plan our wedding.”
Hermione laughed at the thought of Lucius trying to choose types of parchment for their announcements, “Do tell.”
They spent a long day walking Diagon Alley for what Narcissa suggested was best. No matter how many times Hermione insisted that she didn’t need to, Narcissa had insisted on paying for it. They ate lunch in wizarding France after walking through the international floo channels, and she found out that Narcissa did not speak French.
It was lucky that Hermione spoke it fluently. Narcissa beamed at her, and Hermione had the feeling that she’d won an unknowing ally against Lucius and Draco’s pride.
“Thank goodness, my dear. I hope my daughter-in-law is as versed in the language, or we might have to include my son,” she shook her head and laughed, “I don’t believe he would farewell.”
“Well,” Hermione said, “I’m sure he inherits, at least, his strength from his mother.”
Narcissa smiled at her.
“And her kindness I’m sure.”
Narcissa chuckled, “You flatter me. Come, perhaps we could take a look at your gown and his robes, hm?”
She smiled and nodded, allowing her to guide her into a shop. Narcissa told her more about the minor details of pureblood traditions, and Hermione had done her best to sneakily take notes on everything from the decorations to the use of enchanted robes for the ceremony. Men didn’t wear jewelry, like a wedding ring, but the bride was typically given an ancestral ring upon her first dinner at her groom’s family house after they were married and their marriage chest was placed in the vault.
She had no idea how she was going to swing that, but she took note of it as well as the box she was meant to bring with her and the things that were meant to go into it.
“The announcements should be sent to parents as a matter of course,” Narcissa said primly, “But they are not to respond.”
“Their copy of the announcement is meant to complete the marriage box that goes into the family’s collection when it’s brought to the family house. If they were a part of the ceremony’s planning, they would know exactly where they should be.”
“They are all near ancient traditions, but adhering to them is a marker of wizarding nobility from the Ancient and Most Noble to the Noble class families.”
Hermione nodded, “Do all families follow them?”
Narcissa gave her a decidedly Slytherin smirk and Hermione wondered if Draco had not inherited more than his strength and kindness from her, “Anyone who believes themselves to be of the wizarding upper class will to some extent. I suspect that your mother-in-law is one who will rue the day the invitations arrive and be quick to change her tune about her approval, likely scramble about in an attempt to find the whereabouts of your wedding. Your fiance’s parents will likely bend in the face of it or risk hearing about how perfectly traditional, elegant, and tasteful the wedding was. Imagine them having to explain that they had no hand in it? The scandal.”
“I’m sure he’d relish the idea.”
“As should you,” she said, “If they cannot get out of their way to acknowledge that their one and only son has chosen a remarkable young woman to spend his life with they deserve to bear the shame and ridicule of their contemporaries for the rest of their lives.”
Harsh, Hermione thought and wondered if Narcissa would say the same thing if she knew that she was talking about herself.
They parted at the designated Apparation point in Diagon Alley and promised to exchange letters as Mia continued to gather things for the wedding. Hermione promised her an invitation for everything that she’d done for her. Narcissa hadn’t asked who she was marrying, respecting her nervousness without talking to her beau about it.
She would dare say that Narcissa thought of her as her daughter though she found out so little about Hermione and her family other than the fact that she was from a fairly well to do family and her parents had been healers who had been lost in the war.
When she returned, Draco was awake and drinking coffee, and she was beside herself with joy. She kissed him as she slid into his lap. He sputtered and grinned, catching her in his arms.
“Well,” Draco said when they parted. “What have I done to deserve such a greeting?”
“Hello, mon amour,” Hermione said, “Slept for quite a while, did you?”
“I did… Where have you been?”
“Shopping for our special day. I met a very… generous woman, a wizarding fairy godmother, who has promised to help me with the arrangements. I’m inviting her to the wedding.”
“Fantastic,” he said, “Anything I can do?”
“Get yourself measured at Arc de Chartreuse.”
He frowned, “Who… did you meet in Diagon Alley?”
“A rather spiteful Slytherin who relishes the idea of making your parents have to squirm when people see how perfectly traditional, elegant, and tasteful our wedding is,” she grinned, “She seemed positively ecstatic at causing your parents the embarrassment of having to admit that they had no hand in it.”
Draco grinned, “I like this woman.”
She grinned, “I thought you would.”
It was nearly a month later, several weeks before the wedding that she was ready to send out the invitations and prepared for the fight.
“What did you say?” Draco asked looking up as Hermione charmed the last invitation in the stack.
“Your parents,” Hermione said, “This is their invitation.”
“That is sweet,” Draco said, “But it will be a waste of parchment.”
“I know,” Draco cut her off, “I know why you are saying it, and I appreciate the sentiment but whatever relationship we had is gone.”
Their eyes met, and she knew that now was the time to be stubborn for everyone’s sake. She had spent time with Narcissa, had even met Lucius, and shared several meals with the couple while Narcissa was helping her pick out the proper ribbons to twine the chair in and teaching her the wand work for it.
She had been to the Malfoy Manor for tea with them both and had somehow kept the charade up and laughed with them both over lunch in the gardens of the manor. His parents were different people than she’d imagined from what Draco had said of them. Whether that was because his memories of them were tainted by the stressors of the war or some other issue, she couldn’t know, but if Draco was to ever meet them as Lucius and Narcissa, this would be the first step.
“I do not like that look on your face.”
“You will never forgive yourself if they have to hear about our wedding from the Daily Prophet.”
His eyes hardened as she placed the invitation between them, neatly sealed and enchanted the way Narcissa told her. Attached to it was a neat card of parchment detailing the location and time of their wedding that would reveal itself so long as they agreed to come.
“You will never be able to mend your relationship if you don’t try.”
“Why should I be the one to try?” Draco asked, “They are my parents and after everything… After–”
He stood up and turned from her, “I don’t want to talk about this. I’m not inviting them.”
Hermione left the invitation there and set the rest aside, listening to him leave the house and take off on his broom as she checked her lists and packed up her planning notes for the evening.
When he returned she was on the couch, practicing the wand work to tie the ribbons properly and ward the parental seats. He was flushed, his eyes red as if he’d been crying, and he came to her. She set the ribbon she was working with aside and wrapped him in her arms as he crawled onto the couch and lay against her.
He sniffled, “They won’t come.”
“You don’t know that.”
“They won’t come,” he said, tightening his hand in her clothes, “Things won’t ever be just as they were.”
“Maybe not,” Hermione said and made him lift his head, “But maybe, they could be better.”
Draco searched her eyes, his silver eyes she had once thought so cold were molten with emotion, trembling and grey in sorrow. She stroked his sweat-slick hair back.
“But you won’t know until you try.”
In the morning, as she prepared to head to the public owlery, she found Draco with his owl, Alexander, on his arm and the invitation in his hand looking out the window.
The Malfoy Manor was far, but not so far that the invitation wouldn’t arrive in enough time. With a sigh, he looked at Alexander.
“Take this to mother,” he said, “And come straight back, Alexander.”
He hooted and took the letter gingerly before flying off.
“I won’t hang my hopes on this,” Draco said, his voice haunted and empty, but maybe in it was a bit of hope. “I won’t… I won’t let them ruin our day or the rest of our lives when they don’t come. I’ve done all I can.”
Hermione wrapped her arms around him, “That’s very noble of you, my Slytherin.”
“And you’re turning out to be very cunning, my Gryffindor,” he said and chuckled as he wiped his face, “What do we have to do today?”
He groaned but conceded.