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Chapter 15 – What’s in a Name?

Draco turned back to his godfather and said, “I shall not meet your friends in such a state. I shall go home and change. I will throw a dinner party in their honour, tomorrow night.”

“Capital ideal, my boy,” Snape said. “But I still must insist you stay and greet them today.”

“And I must insist that I do not. I will beg my leave,” he insisted. He turned to leave, and once out the door he mounted his horse and then turned back to his godfather and said, “This does not change my mind about either young woman in question. I will not change my feelings for your ward, nor will my feelings for Miss Granger waver.”

He hurried home. He had a plan. He would win Hermione’s heart once again, and in the meantime, find a way to turn Penelope’s affection elsewhere.

The next morning was as grey and rainy as its predecessor was. Lupin walked in the library as Hermione and Harry were playing chess. He held a piece of parchment in his hand and said, “The house of Potter is cordially invited to Malfoy Manor, to dine and be merry, tonight, in honour of Miss Penelope Clearwater, daughter of the former Baron of Clarence, and a Miss Daphne Greengrass.”

Hermione dropped her pawn. She looked up at Harry, who stood abruptly, removed the parchment from Lupin’s hand, and reread the invitation aloud. He then said, “How dare the man flaunt his intended under our noses! I shall not abide it! He makes a mockery of everything! Does Lord Malfoy really think we would be a party to this farce?”

Lupin sat in Harry’s seat and moved his bishop for him. “Harry, my boy, it says we may each bring a guest. It might turn into a lively party. I shall not go, with the full moon approaching, but there is nothing to keep you and Miss Hermione from going. Hermione, move your rook.”

Hermione moved the piece in question, without any notice to the game. Harry turned to Hermione and quizzed, “Do you wish to go, Cousin?”

“Lord Malfoy has asked me to give him time to find a solution to the problem. I granted him the time to do so.” She looked at the floor.

“When did this happen!” he asked.

“Yesterday, at my lesson,” she answered. He did not need to know that she really did not have a lesson.

“Time! The man wants time! He did not take the time to tell you about the woman, but he wants time now? I shall send an Owl right away and tell the man the house of Potter is predisposed this evening!” Harry sat down to write the note. Lupin moved another chess piece.

“Move this piece, my dear,” Lupin pointed. Hermione did so, again without notice. “I still say you should attend. Hermione did nothing wrong, and neither did you. Why hide away?” He moved another piece, and said, “Move your knight, Hermione.” She did. He moved one more piece, knocked over her queen and said, “Harry wins. I like Muggle chest. Less barbaric.” He stood up and said, “You should take Ginny Weasley and her brother Charlie to the dinner tonight. I think they would round out the company nicely.”

He left the room. Harry stopped writing. Hermione walked up to him and asked, “Tell me, Cousin, what happened between you and your intended?”

He was quiet for a moment and professed, “Nothing drastic. We have decided to get to know each other better before we announce anything official. I admit that I still have not been able to find it in my heart to forgive her unkindness to you.”

“You must forgive her, if you truly love her,” Hermione said.

“Do you love Lord Malfoy?” Harry asked. He glanced out the window. He did not want to look in her eyes, in case she wanted to lie. If he looked in her eyes, and she lied, he would know it was a lie.

“I am not sure,” she answered. She felt she was answering truthfully. She had yet declared her love for the man, even in the privacy of her own mind.

He looked at her and said, “I shall Owl Charlie and Miss Ginny, and if they agree to go with us tonight, I will write Malfoy and accept.” He stood up, smiled at her, and said, “I do not want you to do anything you might regret, however.”

“I do not want to meet the ladies in question, but I will not regret meeting them. It would be rude and unseemly not to accept the invitation, even impolite, since he humbly extended the invitation, knowing that you thought lowly of him. You are a viscount, and she is a baronet’s daughter, a future baroness. You simply must attend, if only because you hold the higher rank. Besides, I am every bit as good as they are, Harry,” she answered.

“No, you are better,” he said with a smile. He added, “I would like to know what made Lupin act so alacritous regarding this invitation, however. I still want it known I do not condone Lord Malfoy capricious behaviour. He should never have started a dalliance with you, when he knew he had another, that’s all I am saying.” He left her to her own devices.

She thought she knew why Lupin was so eager for Harry and her to accept the invitation. It was plain that he was siding with Lord Malfoy. His motives, however, were plain to her. He did it for the common good. He did it for her. He was such a good man. She decided to seek him out and see if her hunch was correct. He was sitting in one of the lounges, with a book, of course.

“Mr. Lupin, is there a hidden motive behind your eagerness for Harry and I to attend the dinner at Malfoy’s Manor?”

“Of course there is,” he laughed.

“Would you share that motive with me?” she asked. She sat down on the loveseat next to him.

He closed his book and said, “You are so like Harry’s mother, did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing her. My mother talked of her younger sister a lot, and she always said I reminded her of Lily as well,” Hermione said with a smile.

“She was beautiful, red hair, emerald green eyes; Harry has her eyes, and her heart was vast and deep at the ocean. She had a foul temper, but was as lovely as the day was long. She despised the former Lord Potter, Harry’s father, when first they met. It is a wonder they ever married.”

“Is Harry like his father?” she asked.

Lupin smiled and said, “Very much so. Even tempered, usually kind and generous, loving to a fault.”

“Why did Lily not love a man like that right away?” Hermione wondered aloud.

“Who knows when it comes to matters of the heart? I just know that I had to intervene those many years ago, and I fear I have to again. I want you to give Lord Malfoy a chance to make things right. He is not earnest of the woman in question. He did not tell you of her, because he seriously never gave her a consideration. He must walk a fine line with his godfather. He feels Snape is all the family he has left. You must not forget, Lord Malfoy is as alone in the world as you, well, more so, for you have Harry.”

He stood up and patted her shoulder. She hadn’t thought of that. She had Harry, but Lord Malfoy had no kin. He was a proud man and would never admit to loneliness, but loneliness was surely a constant in his life.

Staring out at the never-ending rain at Malfoy Manor, Draco turned from the window, the weight of the upcoming event finally pressing deeply upon him. He felt exorbitantly lonely and forlorn. Everything must go well tonight! Miss Hermione Granger was so ingrained in his blood, his mind, his veins, that he was inescapably drawn to the woman, like a moth to a flame. He could never love another.

He loved her. He had yet to admit as much, but it was true. She captivated him. His heart beat out of time, just at the thought that she would share his table tonight. Perhaps she would someday share his name. He would wait in silent agony for the day he could freely ask her to be his. When he could look in her entrancing eyes, and with overwhelming emotion, say, “Sweet Hermione, will you be mine?”

All was set for tonight. Potter sent his reply that he, Hermione and two others would dine with them. He invited Theo, Pansy, and Blaise, as well as Snape and the two young ladies. He was eager to see Hermione again. Just the thought of her name set his soul on fire. He spoke it aloud, “Hermione. Hermione.”

It had just been a day since he had seen her, and one of the longest days he had ever known. His thoughts became muddled as he wondered what he would say to her. He could not act familiar with her tonight. He knew she would understand. The sounds of footsteps broke him from his errant thoughts. His butler told him, “Some of your guests have arrived, Sir.”

All Draco thought was, ‘let the games begin!’

The first to arrive were Snape and the two young ladies. Daphne Greengrass was a tall, handsome woman, blonde, blue eyed, and shy. Her friend, Snape’s ward, was the complete opposite. She was small, with a round face, midnight black hair, and deep blue eyes. She was pretty, but in a common way. She spoke too much, and out of turn. After Draco’s friends arrived, she monopolized every conversation. Snape smiled in delight, while Draco and his friends were appalled at her lack of manners. And to think, she was a noble woman.

Potter and his company arrived last. They walked in the room, having been introduced by his man. Draco immediately looked in his beloved’s eyes. They held him hostage. She smiled at the party, and curtseyed. She was quiet and demur, and only joined the conversation when asked a question, or when she had something intelligent to say. Unlike the future baroness, she was a woman who could hold such company, and reign over all the rest.

“Miss Granger, Mr. Snape informs us that you have no education at all, how is that possible?” Penelope asked, with a laugh. “You are really just a Muggle, who has magical ability, are you not?” No one joined her laughter, not even Draco’s pureblood friends. They were all embarrassed by her.

Before Hermione could answer, Charlie Weasley said, “One does not have to have a vast education, to be a powerful witch or wizard, Miss. Magical ability is ingrained in the soul, not learned from books.”

Hermione looked at the floor, her face red. Draco sighed. He could not abide this stupid woman a second longer. Any further communication with her would have to be judiciously limited. His butler announced dinner. Penelope practically threw herself at Draco, putting her hand on his arm. Theo, thank his soul, offered his arm to Hermione, and Charlie offered his to Miss Greengrass.

Draco watched Hermione from across the table. He watched her lips as she talked to Theo. How he would love to caress those lips with his. He felt contentment, just staring at her. Truly, his desire for the woman was too much. He was about to speak to her when Penelope said, “I have finished with my schooling, Lord Malfoy.”

“Good for you,” he dismissed her.

“I shall be coming to live in Godric’s Hollow. My ancestral home, Clarence Manor, will suite me fine, until such a time I move here with you.”

Everyone at the table stared at the woman. She was very forward! Snape smiled and said, “The sooner the better. I think a wedding by fall would suffice.”

Harry looked over at his cousin. She looked in utter pain. Draco could barely breathe. Should he risk his godfather’s anger and say something, anything, to dispute the woman’s claims. After all, he had barely said two words to her since she arrived, and she and Snape were talking marriage!

Draco said, “I would not be so quick to assume things, Miss Clearwater of Clarence.” Draco stood up and threw his napkin on his plate. He said, “Brandy and cigars for the men on the patio. Ladies, we shall meet you in the lounge in a moment.” Draco left the dining room, Snape and the other men quick on his heels. All the ladies left to go to the lounge, save for Hermione. She stood as well, but hung back. She walked back to the dining room, and sat down.

“Miss Granger?” a voice from the hall said. It was Theo Nott.

“Mr. Nott?” she inquired back.

“My friend loves you, trust in that. This is a terrible mess he finds himself in, but all will work out in the end.”

He loved her? “Will it? Or is it too late? The woman apparently assumes they are engaged,” she said.

Theo laughed and said, “The woman is a ninny. She thinks her title and money holds her above the rest of us, but she is not worth our effort. Please, allow me to escort you to the lounge.”

“You will not get your share of brandy and cigars, Sir,” she said with a smile.

“I never liked either, so I can live without,” he said. He offered his arm. She gladly took it.

When they reached the lounge, Pansy was at the piano, playing a classical piece. She was quite accomplished, though she missed several notes. The men entered and applauded.

“Who else plays?” Blaise asked.

Harry looked at Hermione. “My cousin.” He stood up and escorted Hermione to the piano.

“Oh, yes, Miss Granger, play us a small country melody. I love those simple little songs,” Penelope said with a false laugh.

Hermione was livid. She sat down and played the most difficult piece of classical music she could remember. She played it flawlessly. Draco considered her with ardor and pride. When she finished, everyone broke out in applause, save for Snape and Penelope.

“Well, the country bumpkin knows the classics, how quaint,” she said. Pansy laughed at that, but no one else did.

“Do you play, madam?” Draco asked her.

“Of course, all accomplished women play the pianoforte,” she said.

“Prove it to us. Play us a song, any song will do,” Draco said with disdain in clipped tones. Snape glared at him.

Penelope said, “I do not wish to play, Sir.”

“Of course you do not, you are tired still, from the long journey yesterday,” Snape commented.

“If her ladyship would not mind, I shall play,” Daphne said to her friend.

“Yes, friend, you play in my place,” she said.

“If everyone would like to dance, I could play a passable jig or reel,” the young lady said. Charlie smiled at her as she looked through the sheet music. She looked up at Charlie and said, “Will you turn my music for me?’ He nodded.

Harry took Ginny’s hand, and said, “Will you dance with me, Miss Weasley?” Ginny agreed.

Blaise asked Pansy. Penelope practically ran up to Malfoy and offered her hand. What a brazen woman was this, to offer herself for a dance without being asked. He looked over at Hermione, and then to Theo. Theo understood. He went to Miss Granger and said, “May I?”

Soon, all partners were in their places, and a reel began.

Draco continued to glance at Theo’s partner. She had his heart, tied up with an invisible string, and he was choking on it. He wanted to rush to her, and claim her as his own. He envied Theo’s embrace. His hand on her arm. The very essence of her mingled in his mind, confusing his senses. He found he could not pay the slightest attention to the dance. Twice he went the wrong way, and once, completely by accident of course, he stepped on Miss Clearwater’s foot. The dance ended, luckily, and without pretense, he bowed, and left the room.

His single mindedness to leave the current situation was not lost on a soul in the room. His performance caused all parties involved distress, but for very difference reasons.

Hermione felt Snapes eyes flicker to her. He blamed her for Malfoy’s shoddy performance as host. Why was she invited? Snape walked out of the room to find his godson. He would not find him right away, for Draco did not want found.

He stood alone, in an abandoned wing of the house, in a darkened room, and he tried to recover his senses. Theo, who practically grew up at the Manor, and knew right where to find him, decided to intervene. He led the unsuspecting Miss Granger right to the door. He opened the door, and as Malfoy continued to gain his cognizance of being, his object of distraction came walking in the very door.

“Oh, Malfoy old man, my friend and I would never have trespassed in here if we knew it was occupied. Forgive us.” He made to leave, Hermione’s arm in his, when he turned to her and said, “I have just recalled that I promised to show you that landscape I painted. I shall be right back. Lord Malfoy,” he said, turning to Draco, “Could you entertain the young miss until my return?” Without expecting an answer, Theo left.

Now it was just he and she. Draco held his breath as the impulse to take her hand and kiss her fingers overwhelmed him. He grasped the back of the chair, where he stood, to busy his hands.

Here was the woman of his desire. Beautiful, intelligent, and at his very fingertips. Out there, in the cruel world, was the fate his godfather wanted for him, and here in the confines of this small room, was a gift to behold. She looked away, and then back to his eyes. He could not speak, and neither could she.

What would he say if he could? What words would she want to hear? Just then, Snape walked in the room. He saw the pair, and he said, “Miss Granger, leave us now.”

She turned to leave, but Draco shouted, “NO!” He took the few steps he needed to take to reach them both, since both Hermione and Snape stood near the door.

“Godfather, I am so sorry to disappoint you, but either you need to tell Miss Clearwater that I have no intentions of ever marrying her, of I will, but either way, it will be done, the only debate is whether it will be done with tact, or without it, and with malice, or without. It is your choice.”

“You have never spoke to me as such, before, Draco!” Snape snapped.

Hermione felt she was in the middle, witnessing something that did not include her, yet she could not leave.

When Draco remained silence Snape answered. “Fine, I shall tell her, but not tonight. She will be here a week and a week only. I shall tell her by the end of said week, but leave the girl her honour. Let her allow others to think she decided against the match.”

He looked at Hermione and back to Draco. “Give her that much dignity, Draco. You can stay away from Miss Granger for a week, surely.” Draco nodded. Snape walked up to Draco and said, “I am not without heart, Draco. You know that I once loved a woman, very much, and was not free to show her. How things might have been different if I could have. Just come back out, and pretend, for just a while. Upon my honour, I will tell her. Give us this night and save us embarrassment.”

“I agree,” Draco said. Snape turned, his robes swinging behind him, and he exited the room. Hermione was quiet and reserved during the entire exchange. Draco said, “One week, Hermione, one week.”

“Lord Malfoy,” she said, although she had no words to follow.

He approached her slowly and said, “Say my given name, Hermione. Whisper it for only my ears. I long to hear it on your lips. You said it once, that day in the carriage. I hold that memory in my heart, for it is dear to me. That is all I want from you. It is all I need and desire. Help me get through this passage. Say my name, Hermione, as I say yours. I say your name, but I mean so much more.”

He was still a few yards from her. He reached out his hand, but was too far to touch her. “My name, I beg you, just say my name.”

Still, she remained quiet. “One week, Hermione! Give me this time to make this right!” he shouted.

He felt beyond frustrated. He felt pulled in a hundred different directions. Why would she not comply? Did she not understand his urgency? She turned to leave. He rushed to the door, and pushed it shut as she pulled it open. He stood behind her, his warm breath on her neck. She let her forehead fall to touch the cold wood of the large paneled door. He put one hand on one side of her, and the other on the other side.

They stood like that, timeless and motionless, facing the same direction, his chest against her back. Neither knew what else to do. He took one-step closer, and she put her cheek on the door. He put his face in her hair, which she wore partly up, but with several tresses down long, hanging on her shoulder. He had never been this intimate with a woman, and he would never find another woman in which to be intimate. He could hear each breath she took. His head dropped, along side hers. He pressed his body against her back, intimately, his cheek next to hers.

“My name, please.”

“Draco,” was all she said. She pushed him away, and opened the door and ran down the hall.

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