2 – Meet Your Future Spouse
Draco Malfoy walked up to Marcus Flint, who was standing around the back garden of The Manor, on a stone patio, with Adrian Pucey and Blaise Zabini. After acknowledging Zabini and Pucey, he turned to Marcus and asked, "Are you dating anyone these days, Flint, old man?"
Marcus leaned against a tree, crossed his arms over his chest and said, "You're not my type, Malfoy, anyway, isn't this your engagement party, making you officially off the market?"
The other men snickered while Draco pointedly laughed sarcastically, "Ha, ha, very funny, Flint. I was just making small talk, that's all."
Adrian said, "Yet you've hit a sensitive topic with our mutual friend, hasn't he Marcus?" Adrian patted Marcus on the back and added, "He hasn't found the right woman, isn't that right?"
Marcus merely glared at his friends. He wanted to tell them to go straight to hell, but this was an engagement party so he refrained.
Blaise leaned forward, hit Marcus playfully on the arm and said, "He's the bloke who used to always tell the rest of us that he couldn't wait to get married someday and here he is, waiting forever, apparently."
"Yes, he's the last to make the plunge," Adrian concluded. "We thought Draco would be the last, but now he's getting married, too. That does make Marcus the last man standing, so to speak."
Marcus still had no reply. His oldest and dearest friend, Adrian Pucey, had a point. Adrian married his long time girlfriend five years ago and already had two children. Blaise married a Muggle almost three years ago. Oliver Wood married a former Ravenclaw last year. Theodore Nott married a few months after that. Of his closest friends, that left only he and Draco, and soon, Draco would be joining the ranks of 'happily married', leaving Marcus the only bachelor.
How did that happen?
"Best not wait for 'Miss Right' too long, Flint," Blaise said with a sly smile. "All the good ones are going to be gone."
Well, hell, he already knew that, didn't he?
He was about to walk away, when Draco grabbed the sleeve of his shirt and tugged him toward a table full of former Gryffindors. "Come, Flint," he said, dropping his grip on his arm. "I have to make nice and thank our former foes for coming to my party, and I'd rather not do it by myself.
Deciding anything would be better than staying with Adrian and Blaise while they talked about his bachelorhood, Marcus went with Draco to greet the former Gryffindors.
That was when he saw her. Hermione Granger. She was sitting around a large table, under an old oak tree, with Harry Potter on one side of her and Ron Weasley on the other. Beside Harry was his wife, Ginny Weasley (a very good Quidditch player, in Marcus' opinion) and beside Ron was a woman he didn't know, but could only assume was the man's wife, given the fact that they were holding hands – hands that had wedding rings upon them.
Granger seemed to be alone. Why was someone like her alone? Marcus saw her frequently at the Ministry, although he never had any direct dealings with her. He always thought she was smart and pretty. Today, however, under the dappling sunlight floating down between the leaves of that old oak tree, she looked radiant – beautiful even.
He knew she was smart. He knew she was kind. He knew she was a good friend. It was apparent she was lovely. Why was she alone? And most importantly, why did it matter so much to him?
Then it hit him. It hit him like a ton of bricks. She was a good woman, wasn't she? Good in too many ways to mention.
And he needed a good woman. He'd waited a long time for a good woman, and here she was, sitting under an oak tree at Draco's engagement party. It couldn't be that easy, could it?
As he and Draco approached, he saw her look up and stare directly into his eyes. Her stare was like a piercing arrow passing through his brain into his heart. He wanted to kiss her. He wanted those full, sensual lips under his. He wouldn't hold back, either. He would grab her and kiss her and make her his before the end of the day.
Or at least, he could dream.
Draco began talking… here's Harry Potter, there's Ron Weasley, etc, etc, etc. The only problem was that Marcus couldn't concentrate on anything but the pretty brunette sitting in front of him. He felt hot and bothered and irritated just thinking of the fact that there were so many people around. He wanted them all to leave, except for her.
Then Draco said, "And I know you know who Hermione Granger is, Marcus," and for a moment, Marcus faltered, his hand falling down to his side. Had Draco suddenly developed divination? Could he derive Marcus' thoughts? Of course not, so gaining his composure, Marcus placed his hand back out in front of Hermione, kept his eyes firmly locked on hers, and said, "Of course I know her."
She placed her smaller hand in his much larger one and he found he didn't want to let it go. He wanted to pull her from her seat, find a secluded spot somewhere, find out everything and more that there was to find out about her, and then snog her senseless.
What in the bloody hell was wrong with him? He'd never felt like this before. He felt like a combination of caveman and romantic fool.
Releasing her hand, he smiled slightly. This was the woman he'd been waiting for all his life. This was the woman that he was going to someday marry. Again, Marcus thought, 'What the bloody hell?' Where did that thought come from? Before he could examine it, Ginny Weasley said, "Hell of a play you made in last weeks game, Flint. Taking your team all the way this year?"
Marcus smiled and said, "I hope so; I truly hope so. Your team didn't do too badly."
Ron snickered. "If not too badly you mean they are now out of the finals, then sure, they didn't do too badly."
His sister threw a piece of bread at her brother's head. It hit its mark fabulously and everyone laughed.
Ron threw the piece of bread on the ground (after it bounced on his head) and turned to Marcus. "You play with Oliver Wood, don't you?"
"I count Oliver Wood as one of my best mates," Marcus explained, glancing slightly toward Hermione and then away again.
Draco frowned. "I thought I was your best mate."
"You're a close second," Marcus joked. "Besides, the woman you're to marry should be considered your best friend now."
"Astoria?" Draco said while raising one eyebrow. "I hardly think so. Keep friendship out of the marriage, that's what I always say. I'm only marrying her because the old man thought it was high time I did so. He even threatened to disinherit me, if you can believe it."
Hermione leaned forward and asked, "You're not marrying Astoria just to keep your inheritance, are you? You're not serious about that?"
"Yeah, give it up, Malfoy," Ron rejoined. "Are you saying you're only marrying Astoria Greengrass for money?"
Draco laughed. "I'm sure there are a few fringe benefits with marriage as well, Weasley, but that's at the heart of things."
Hermione couldn't believe what she had just heard. Draco Malfoy had shocked her numerous times in their lives, but his admission shocked her more than anything he'd ever said. "Draco Malfoy, marriage is a sacred trust, not to be entered into lightly," Hermione quoted, but believing every word she said. "You should marry for companionship and partnership and most of all, for love and happiness, but never, ever for money."
"I am marrying for love and happiness," Draco said lightly. "I love money, and without it, I would be unhappy."
"But that's so wrong, Draco," Hermione said, standing quickly. She knocked her chair back in her haste and it clattered to the cobblestones where they stood. "That's no reason to marry!"
"Says the woman who claims she's never going to marry," George said with a laugh.
Hermione gasped and looked over at George.
Ron added, "Yeah, what would she know about it? Apparently nothing will ever entice her to marry! Not love, happiness or money… am I right?"
A few people snickered. Only two laughed. Harry looked disgusted and Marcus Flint looked downright angry.
Hermione felt instantly deflated and leaned back in her seat, which Harry had immediately straightened.
"Now who's out of line?" Harry spat toward Ron.
"What's out of line about the truth, Harry?" Ron asked innocently enough.
Ginny added, "It is true that she' never wants to marry, Harry."
Hermione was about to point out that she never once said she never WANTED to get married, just that she never thought she would, but she didn't get the chance, as Ron said, "She never wanted to marry me, in any case, which worked out just fine." He turned to his wife and smiled. "She's the last of our friends to marry, and I can only imagine that this is probably the first and only time Hermione's come in last at anything."
Marcus was about to come to Hermione's defense, somehow, someway, when they were suddenly joined by Blaise, Adrian, Theo, and their wives. Blaise said, "If it's a race AWAY from the altar, then it will be a close one between Granger and Flint. It's beginning to look as if he'll never marry either."
Marcus turned his attention toward his friends. His anger was now twofold – against her friends and his own.
Draco looked from Hermione to Marcus and then laughed as he said, "Then I suppose I must assume neither of you have told your mates your happy news, have you?"
"Who are you talking to, Malfoy?" Harry asked with a suspicious gleam in his eye.
"These two," Draco said, motioning to Hermione then to Marcus with his right hand.
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked, again leaning forward in her seat.
Marcus felt confused and slightly afraid. "Our news?" He looked directly at Hermione. She shook her head at Marcus.
Draco clapped his hands together and said, "Well, well, well, isn't this interesting, and here I thought Potter and Weasley were Granger's best friends, and that Adrian was Marcus' dearest and oldest, however, they only deemed ME important enough to share their happy news with. Yes indeed, makes me feel rather important, it does."
Draco turned to Marcus, "I know you didn't want to outshine me at my own engagement party, but I really feel as if you must disabuse these imbeciles from their foolish notions regarding you and Granger."
"Imbeciles?" Harry repeated with a frown.
"Foolish notions?" Adrian said right after.
Marcus could only imagine that he looked as confused as Granger looked, still, he decided to play along. He said, "Of course we didn't want to take away from your engagement party, Malfoy."
Hermione, whose mouth was opened in noticeable shock, said, "Why don't you go ahead and make the announcement yourself, Draco, since you seem so eager to share." Marcus wanted to add, 'and since neither Granger nor I know what you're talking about', but he was beginning to catch a whiff of what Malfoy was trying to imply, and he thought it might just be a brilliant idea.
Draco walked around Marcus, and then grabbed his sleeve, pulling him closer to where Hermione sat next to Potter and Weasley. Once the men were standing behind her, she turned in her seat in time to hear Draco Malfoy announce, "Let me be the first to congratulate the newly engaged couple." He reached out and took a champagne flute from a passing waiter, drank a large drink, and then said, "To the next two of our groups to marry! To Hermione Granger and Marcus Flint, never have I known a more appropriate couple then them!"
Hermione gasped, Marcus frowned, and all of the other people sitting and standing around the table began to murmur, making protest, asking questions and making comments such as:
"When did this happen?" one person asked.
"I didn't even know he was dating anyone," another said.
"Why did they tell Malfoy first?" a third shouted.
"She never told a single soul," a fourth said, while another replied, "Why did Malfoy ask Flint if he was dating anyone earlier?"
Instead of denying the obvious lie from Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger stood from her place at the table, said a general, "Excuse me everyone," to the table at large and then she ran inside.
Draco looked at Marcus and said, "You best chase after your intended, Marcus. Can't let her get away from you now."
And then Marcus swore the other man winked at him.
That was when Marcus knew that Draco Malfoy was a first rate prat and arse, but he was also perhaps the best friend he'd ever had.
And his future wife was getting away at that very moment, so he followed the other man's advice and followed her.