Arrogance and Ignorance by AnneM
Summary:

(Story Complete)

When a touch of the hand can cause a stirring in the soul and a simple stare can cause a heart to flutter, two people, one ignorant of the class system of the magical world and the other arrogant beyond belief, might find love. With a dash of romance, and the morals and tone of the Regency era, Draco Malfoy, arrogant and proud, will fall in love with Hermione Granger. (original banner by silverotter1) DRAMIONE 

 


 

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New Library Awards - Nominated for Best Fluff - Won Cheering Charm: Best Fluff: Arrogance and Ignorance


Categories: Fanfiction Characters: None
Fandom : Harry Potter
Genre: Drama , General, Historic, Romance
Genre, Nonfiction : None
Other Languages: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: The Lion and The Snake, Thank You, Jane
Chapters: 37 Completed: Yes Word count: 140426 Read: 15088 Published: Jun 15, 2012 Updated: Jul 14, 2012

1. Chapter 1 - The Girl in the Mirror by AnneM

2. Chapter 2 - A Gentleman's Gentleman by AnneM

3. Chapter 3 - Misunderstandings by AnneM

4. Chapter 4 - Invitations Accepted, no Exceptions by AnneM

5. Chapter 5 - A Dance of Desires by AnneM

6. Chapter 6 - A Crown of Flowers by AnneM

7. Chapter 7 - Compliments to Some are Insults to Others by AnneM

8. Chapter 8 - An Unhappy Situation Turns Happy by AnneM

9. Chapter 9 - Returning Favours by AnneM

10. Chapter 10 - A Ball by AnneM

11. Chapter 11 - Impositions and Invitations by AnneM

12. Chapter 12 - Apparating and Tea by AnneM

13. Chapter 13 - A Hike in the Woods and Holding Hands by AnneM

14. Chapter 14 - Heartbreak and Harbinger by AnneM

15. Chapter 15 - What's in a Name? by AnneM

16. Chapter 16 - A Lie and Two Portraits by AnneM

17. Chapter 17 - Musings and Mud by AnneM

18. Chapter 18 - Admissions and Lies by AnneM

19. Chapter 19 - A Test of More Than Friendship by AnneM

20. Chapter 20 - A Rose Amongst Thorns by AnneM

21. Chapter 21 - Quiet Contemplations and a Scream by AnneM

22. Chapter 22 - Where There is Hope, There is Hermione by AnneM

23. Chapter 23 - Peace and Understanding by AnneM

24. Chapter 24 - A Time to Remember by AnneM

25. Chapter 25 - The Madness Within by AnneM

26. Chapter 26 - Freedom from Want by AnneM

27. Chapter 27 - Web of Lies by AnneM

28. Chapter 28 - A Fortune Told and A Lesson Taught by AnneM

29. Chapter 29 - Naiveté and Humility by AnneM

30. Chapter 30 - Happy Thoughts Indeed by AnneM

31. Chapter 31 - A Night of Discoveries and Imagination by AnneM

32. Chapter 32 - Longing by AnneM

33. Chapter 33 - Revelations and Prophecies by AnneM

34. Chapter 34 - Lost Scenes and Memories by AnneM

35. Chapter 35: Conclusions and Qualms by AnneM

36. Chapter 36 - Pauper to Princess by AnneM

37. Chapter 37 - Of Marriage Vows and Marriage Beds by AnneM

Chapter 1 - The Girl in the Mirror by AnneM

Arrogance and Ignorance

By
AnneM.




Chapter 1 – The Girl in the Mirror-

She stared at her reflection in the mirror and saw nothing special, nothing of consequence, and nothing that would set her apart. As far as she was concerned, she was completely plain, perhaps passable, but nothing that would lead her to a favourable future. She frowned. She did not have money, status, blood purity, or a title. Nothing that would lead her to marry well. She had brains, but in this world run by men, intelligence in a woman meant next to nothing.

If she had to make her own way in the world, she was afraid that she would not be able to, and that one singular thought scared her to death. She was alone now that her mother passed away. Hopelessly and utterly alone. Regardless of the romantic notion that was the folly of fables and fairy tales, being orphaned had no romantic connotations. A woman alone without fortune or future did not equal a happy circumstance.

She packed all of her worldly possession into two trunks and one carpetbag. How sad - her life could be reduced to such a small bundle. She put her wand in her pocket, but not before levitating her bags downstairs. She put her hat on her head and prepared herself for her future.

She stood on the porch of the little stone cottage to await the coach. The sun began slowly to fade from the sky as the day turned to night. She had a long ride ahead of her. She would have had her cousin Apparate with her, but her stepfather did not know about her ‘abilities’ so she had to keep her secret, one last time. The sounds of the country, the nightingale, the crickets playing their night songs, were usually a comfort to her. Now they only caused her pain, as they served a constant reminder of all she was about to lose.

There was no turning back now. Decisions had been made, lives had been changed, and she was not one to mess with fate. Fate was fickle enough as it was. Life left unbalanced soon faltered one way or the other, and often of its own accord. No, she would not let others decide her fate. She would not let others tell her what was right and what was wrong. She would decide these things for herself. She had to, and as she concluded, there was no turning back.

She walked off the porch and looked up at the little house where she had lived since birth. It seemed so empty since her mother died. She tried to remember how it once appeared: a picture that hung above the fireplace, a hook rug beside the hearth, and her grandmother’s little white rocker, with its faded paint, in the corner. Gone, all gone. The house was now empty and abandoned, just as her heart felt empty and abandoned.

She felt she earned the right to feel melancholy. She went back in the front door to make sure she had not forgotten anything, although she already knew she had not. The only things she left were two coat hangers in her closet and some dust under the bed. She bit her bottom lip as she recalled the real reason she was leaving and was never going to come back. She was alone. Alone.

Things would never be the same. In a way, she always knew this day would come.

Her mother married Ernest Simpson when she was fourteen years old. He was a good husband to her mother and a good stepfather. However, he never knew about her magic, and her mother told her she was never to tell. She had only gone away to school for two years, and then was forced to return when her mother became ill. In fact, she lived in a village of all Muggles, where magic was sometimes discussed, but only in hushed tones, and only with fear. Her mother’s sister was a witch, also. She had a son, Harry. She had met her cousin only twice, although they had written back and forth to each other most of their lives. His parents died when he was a child, and his godfather raised him. His godfather died when he was fifteen. Hermione and her mother made the trip to Godric’s Hollow to pay their respects when Sirius Black died.

She found an immediate and kindred spirit in her first cousin. The only other time she saw him was last month when her own mother died. Harry came and insisted that she come back to Godric’s Hollow with him. He told her it was an all-magical community. He said that he was very well off, and he wanted to hire a tutor for her, so she could continue the education that she was forced to abandon. He told her she could learn more about potions, which was her passion. He said he was alone in his large house and he wanted to take care of her. She had nowhere else to go, so she agreed to live with Harry and his former tutor, a man named Remus Lupin.

 Harry was of age now and had just come into his fortune. Hermione had no idea how much money Harry had, or how large his house was, but she knew anything was better than staying here.

Her stepfather remarried already. He married their housekeeper a week after her mother died. They moved to a larger house, and he sold this house. Her house. Rightfully hers, but only in her heart. He did inherit it, so he had the right to do what he wished. He told her she could live with them, but his new wife did not think that would be prudent.

How right the woman was.

Her stepfather walked through the gate and said, “I came to see you off, Hermione. Isn’t the coach here yet?”

“No, Harry said he would send the coach no later than 6:30, so I’m not sure where it is,” Hermione said in a fretful voice.

“I came to help you with your trunks, but I see you managed them. How did you get them down here by yourself?” he asked.

Before she had to think of a response, she saw the coach coming around the bend on the little dirt road toward the little stone cottage.

“Well, goodbye, Ernest,” Hermione said. She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “I hope you are happy.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t take better care of you,” he said to her. He squeezed her hand. “Do you have everything?”

“I think so,” she answered.

“Will I ever see you again?” he asked.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” she said truthfully.

“Your mother loved you, you know,” he smiled.

“She loved you, too,” Hermione said.

The footman climbed off the back of the carriage and loaded her trunks. He took her hand and helped her inside. She leaned out the window and looked at the little stone house once more. It was over. This part of her life was over, and a new chapter had begun. It was the natural order of things. It did not make it any easier knowing it was preordained to turn out this way; it just was what it was.

The world lay at her feet and all she could do was to go where her feet led her. Wherever the wind blew her, was where she was meant to be. No more living on borrowed time. Her life was now and forever her own. She waved to her stepfather one last time. Leaving felt strange, yet it felt right.

They traveled all night. She tried the best she could to sleep in the carriage, but it was uncomfortable. They stopped at an inn near their destination, so she could take a bath and change her clothes. The footman told her that the viscount had arranged it. At first, she did not know whom they meant. ‘Oh, Harry’, she thought. How kind of him.

She cleaned up and changed to a nicer dress. It was teal green, with white ribbons and lace. It was actually her nicest dress, but she knew it would not be considered anything special to the lords and ladies of Godric’s Hollow. She was a little country girl, and things that were fine to her, she was sure would be considered common to them.

Finally, the coach pulled up to the town square. The footman climbed down and opened the carriage door. “Lord Potter told us to leave you here in the village, and he would personally collect you in his private carriage and take you to Potter’s Hall.”

“Potter’s Hall?” she asked.

“His manor, Miss,” the man said.

She looked at her watch, which she wore on a little chain around her neck. She was twenty minutes early, so she would have to find something to do to wile away the time while she waited for Harry. Although this was a magical community, it still catered to the morals of the day, and with this being the 1800’s England, 1818 to be exact, it would be unseemly for a woman to walk around the town square unaccompanied by either an elder male relative, a guardian, a chaperone, or fellow females. Even though the magical community held women at a higher regard, educating them, letting them inherit property, it was still backwards in many ways. She did not want to do anything unseemly, or that might embarrass her cousin, as he was a much-respected member of this community. Therefore, since a single woman of her age could not traipse about by herself, she walked over to the mercantile and sat down on a bench to wait.

After waiting another twenty minutes, in the warm noonday sun, she decided to walk into the little store. The coach had already taken her trunks and luggage, and had left her with only her money purse, her parasol, and her carpetbag. She left her bag outside and went into the store. The man behind the counter smiled at her. “May I help you with anything, lass?”

“I am waiting for my cousin, Harry Potter,” she said.

“Oh my, you are Lord Potter’s cousin? We have all been patiently awaiting your arrival, I shall tell you that much,” the man beamed. “Feel free to wait in here, away from the sun.”

Hermione smiled her thanks and began to look around the clean little store.

Two men entered the store, and Hermione looked up from the book she was looking at, to watch them as they bounded in the store, laughing and acting rowdy.

“I swear, Malfoy,” a tall man with light brown hair said, “You are a cad. Challenging the man to a wizard’s duel right in front of his sister, the one to whom you supposedly spoiled!”

The good-looking blond man laughed and said, “Well, he insulted my boots. These are elf made Hessian boots, and they cost a pretty penny. More money than the oaf and his cow of a sister would see in a thousand years. He deserved it!”

“But to do so in front of so many of his family! You are lucky I came by when I did,” the other man laughed. “And seriously, you insulted his sister, and all he did was to insult your boots!”

Hermione looked over at his boots. They did not seem special to her. She looked back at her book. The exchange did not escape the blond man’s attention.

“Well, Nott, he insulted my companions face!” Malfoy said, as he looked back at his friend.

“Come, come, Malfoy, saying that Pansy has a pug face is the truth, not an insult,” the other man laughed. Malfoy laughed as well.

Hermione reached up to the top shelf to replace the book, and her straw hat, which was tied with a ribbon and hanging down her back, slipped from her shoulders, and fell to the floor. Both sharp dressed men turned to look at her. Her long honey brown and golden curls fell free of their binding when her hat fell, and her hair cascaded down her back and across her shoulders.

She turned quickly to try to catch the hat, and in turn, dropped her book as well. She bent at the waist to pick up the book. When it was secured in her hand, she turned for her hat. The blond man already had it in his hand. He stood up tall, as did she. She curtseyed and bowed her head. He bowed and presented her hat to her. Without a gentleman of either’s previous knowledge there to introduce them, they could not exchange pleasantries. When he passed her hat to her, his fingertips touched hers briefly. She blushed scarlet, and her hand recoiled to her side, at the impropriety of his touch. He looked at her through masked eyes, and she tried to figure out what he was thinking.

They both stood still, merely staring at the other. He finally bowed again, as a form of goodbye, and she curtseyed once more. She knew it would be improper to speak to a gentleman she had never met. He placed his hat on his head, tipped it once, and walked back over to his friend.

Nott said, “Who do you suppose that is?”

Malfoy answered, “I have no idea, but apparently she is someone of breeding and status. I wonder why she is alone, and not with a chaperone or companion.” He turned to the storeowner and said, “You there, who is the young woman in the corner?”

“That is Lord Potter’s cousin, here to stay and live with him,” the man said.

“Too bad, Draco,” Nott laughed, hitting the man’s arm. “Even if she is of consequence, she’s related to the one man you hate the most. Still, she is fetching, and she certainly does not have a pug face.”

Hermione heard the entire exchange and turned around. Draco looked at her, again with an expression that she could not make sense of, but this time, she thought she saw arrogance for some reason. He said, “Yes, she’s very fetching, even if she is related to Potter.” Hermione thought that the man was not only arrogant, but ignorant as well.

He watched as she blushed again and she turned back around. This time he smiled. She was modest, too. He found that refreshing.

At that moment, Harry Potter walked into the store. Harry noticed Nott and Malfoy and merely nodded his head and said, “Nott, Malfoy.”

“Potter,” Draco acknowledged, with a quick bow to the waist. Nott bowed as well. It was not something Draco was happy about, but Harry Potter was a Viscount, even if he was a half blood. The title held him slightly above the other land barons in the community. Potter was of high standing and well liked by most people in their village and though it pained Draco to admit it, their world owed him a large service, for he rid their world of a great threat when he killed the Dark Lord, and for that, even Draco would be thankful.

In addition, his late godfather was Draco’s cousin, on Draco’s mother’s side. Draco grew up with Potter, but still, he never liked him and he never would. The thought that the prettiest girl to come to their town in possibly a century was related to the big buffoon was not something Draco could easily forget. He did wonder though, was she related on the Potter side or on Harry’s mother’s side? It might make a difference if she were pureblood or not.

The real reason Draco hated Harry Potter, though it pained him to admit it, was because he was jealous of him, and now, with the addition of this beautiful young girl in the Potter household, Draco was even more jealous. He was not jealous of Potter’s wealth, because while he was wealthy indeed, his fortune still could not match Draco’s fortune. Moreover, Draco would always have something that Potter would never have: blood status. Draco was a pureblood, Harry was not, and not all the money, fame, and titles in the world would ever change that fact. Draco was superior because of his blood. Yes, he was better than the man was and he knew it, even if no one else did. Now if he could just get over this jealous feeling.

Harry rushed up to the woman, who had her back to the door, and he said, “Hermione?”

Hermione turned and smiled. Draco felt lost in her beauty. His desire for the woman quickly turned to dismay when he realized that once again, her smile was reserved exclusively for Harry Potter. The most striking woman to cross Draco’s path in a decade and she was Harry Potter’s relative. She held out her hand and said, “Hello, Cousin.”

“A handshake, I think not!” Harry grabbed her and pulled her in for a tight hug. It embarrassed her to a certain degree, especially since the two men from earlier were still there.

Draco felt he had just wasted the last ten minutes of his life thinking about the woman’s bright completion and pretty smile, only to find out she was related to the man he hated most. The thought that she was a kin to Potter made him want to retch.

Nott said, “Are you going to introduce us, Potter?”

Before Draco heard another word, he excused himself and walked outside, resolute not to hear the woman’s name, and also not to waste another precious moment thinking of her long curly hair, her warm brown eyes, her perfectly arched brow, her perfect posture, her…damn! He was wasting time thinking about her again. He took his horse from the hitching post and was determined to ride home, and never to think of the bloody woman again, when he noticed what surely had to be the woman’s luggage being stolen by a local thief. He was a gentleman, so he rode after the man to retrieve the woman’s belongings.

Yes, it appeared fate had other plans for Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger.


 

Chapter 2 - A Gentleman's Gentleman by AnneM

Chapter 2 – A Gentleman’s Gentleman

What type of gentleman would Draco Malfoy be if he just let some common ruffian pilfer the young woman’s bag? Even if he detested Harry Potter to his very core, he was not that sort of man. It could never be abided, so he was forced to follow. He caught up with the man immediately, slid off his steed, and said, “Unhand the young lady’s luggage, Sir!”

The man turned around to see Lord Malfoy’s wand pointing right at his chest. “T'aint your business, Sir, lessen you're somethin' to the young woman who left this on the street.”

“I assure you I am not even acquainted with the young woman, however, it might pain you to know that Lord Potter would look unkindly toward anyone who stole his cousin’s bag,” Draco said.

The man said, “Lord Potter? Listen, Sir, I meant no disrespect to his Lordship, you be telling Potter that, right?” He lowered the bag from his clutches and Disapparated away.

Draco was pained that the man did not drop the bag the moment he saw it was ‘Lord Malfoy’ who ordered it such, but the very moment he mentioned the Viscount’s name, the man dropped the offending bag and apologized! Another reason for Malfoy to hate Potter.

Draco bent down to pick up the young woman’s belongings, which fell to the ground when the bag opened during the fall. There were three books, (how did she manage to lift the damn thing?), some clothing, some money, and a small locket. Draco’s curiosity took over, and he opened the locket. It had a picture of a woman and a man, whom Draco assumed were the girl’s mother and father. He shut the locket, and placed it in his pocket for safekeeping. He took the bag, climbed upon his horse, and rode back toward the village.

Harry Potter and Theodore Nott were waiting on the street for Draco’s return. They did not go after the man as well, for they knew Draco was more than capable of returning the bag. Hermione stayed planted on the cobbled sidewalk, near the store. She wrung her hands in front of her frantically. Draco approached the party and handed Harry the bag before he lowered himself from the horse.

“I believe this belongs to the young lady, Potter,” Draco said.

Before Harry could issue a thank you, the young woman, in her gratitude, rushed to Harry’s side and said, “Thank you, Sir! I am forever in your debt.”

All Draco could think was, ‘so she speaks?’ Harry motioned for his driver to take her bag, before turning to Malfoy and saying, “Lord Draco Malfoy, of Malfoy Manor, this is my cousin, Hermione Granger, recently of Kent. She will be staying with me at Potter’s Hall.

Draco bent at the waist and said, “Madam, my pleasure.”

He extended his hand. She grasped his hand, and said, “Lord Malfoy.” The feel of her hand in his made her heartbeat increase ten fold, and when he let go, she felt a loss that she could not describe.

Harry uttered his goodbyes, and called for his carriage. Before Harry could help her in the carriage, Lord Malfoy stood by the side and again offered his hand. It was the proper thing to do, and Malfoy’s were dictated by propriety.

She took his hand once more and stepped into the carriage. Harry walked to the other side. She turned to look at the two men on the street as the carriage rode away. She smiled. A smile, which gripped Draco Malfoy’s cold, stone heart, and squeezed until he could not help himself, and he was forced to smile back. He liked her smile. She had a nice smile.

Nott leaned toward his friend and said, “Beautiful girl, too bad she’s Muggle-born.”

“And that concerns me how?” Draco said, turning to his friend.

“Well, we all know how you hate Muggle-borns, and I was just thinking that it was too bad, because she is lovely. Potter is throwing a ball, apparently, to present both her and the young Ginny Weasley to society. He has yet to have a party since he left his godfather’s house for Potter’s Hall. The whole village is invited and I for one have already secured two dances with the girl.”

“Again, sir, I ask, how does this information concern me?” he asked dryly.

“You don’t mean to go?”

“Of course not. I would never set foot in Potter’s house, and I care even less for this Mudblood than I do for the lowly Weasley girl!” he exclaimed.

Theo laughed and said, “Better for me! I shall steal the affections of the beauty from every other man in the room. I shall have a better chance without your attendance! I for one am looking forward to going.”

Draco stormed away from his friend and got up in his saddle, and rode his horse at a steady gallop all the way back to Malfoy Manor. Could the situation get any worse? Not only was the prettiest girl he had ever laid eyes on a kin of Potter’s, but she was a Muggle-born! Inferior to him in every conceivable way. A common Mudblood. Though one never said such a word in polite society, that was indeed what the witch was and nothing could change that.

After a light lunch and a tour of Harry’s beautiful home, Harry suggested that they take a nice stroll around his property. As they strolled Hermione said, “You don’t have to have a ball for me, you know.”

“Of course I do. You are past the age where you should have been presented to society, and if you intend to live in Godric’s Hollow, you simply must have your coming out. Also, I admit to ulterior motives,” Harry began, “Ginny Weasley, who due to her family’s circumstances has never been presented either, is the woman I love and hope to make Lady Potter in the very near future. She must have her coming out before that can occur.” Harry smiled and took Hermione’s hand as they walked along.

Hermione was happy for her cousin, because as he spoke of the young woman, his eyes lit up, and that sort of devotion to another was rare. She was also impressed that despite the young woman’s lot in life, apparently, her station was below his, her cousin still cared for the girl and it was not a concern to him. “Is she half blood, like you, cousin?” she found herself asking.

“No, she is pureblood. Pureblood doesn’t by design equal means, Hermione,” Harry reminded.

As they walked along, Hermione could not help but have selfish thoughts. What if Harry married this woman and she no longer wanted Hermione to live at Potter’s Hall. She would be cast out, just as she was by her stepfather. She would again be alone. Best not to become too comfortable here. She needed to formulate a plan immediately in which she could either make her own way in the world, or marry. It would be her only hope for survival.

“When shall I meet your lovely Miss Weasley?” Hermione asked.

“Shortly, for her home is down that hill, and I would like to invite her to dine with us this evening. It would not be proper for her to dine with me alone, but now, with my cousin present, I will be able to ask her to dine with us all the time,” Harry said with a spark in his eye.

They approached the top of a hill and Harry pointed to a small grey farmhouse. “Her family owns a small farm beside my property. Unfortunately, they are without money or status, but if she consents to be my bride, all of that will change for them, for I shall take care of her whole family.”

Hermione thought Harry was so kind. They walked down the hillside and he said, “I hope you will consent to my meddling in your education.”

“What do you mean, sir? I am beyond the age of schooling,” she said.

“But, I know your mother sent you to a magical school for only two years, so there must be some things lacking. My childhood tutor, Remus Lupin, resides at Potter’s Hall and has consented to teach you whatever you would like to learn. Likewise, there is a man in the village, Severus Snape, who is a renowned potion master, and I know you love potion making. I managed to secure lessons with him as well. I hope you don’t mind my meddling, but as your only living male relative, I feel it behooves me to think of your future.”

Hermione was pleased. She loved everything about learning. She had managed to read every book on magic that she could obtain, which were plenty since Harry had sent her book after book over the last five years, but to learn things from a teacher, to see the written put into the practical, these were the things that she would be pleased to ensue.

“Thank you, Harry, I would be pleased to learn,” she said with a smile.

Harry started to walk toward the little house, when Hermione said, “Would you consent to my walking around unescorted? I would like to see the rest of your property.”

“I did rather hope to introduce you to Miss Weasley’s brother Ron. He is one of my best friends. I shall invite him to dine with us as well, if you would consent,” Harry said.

“Of course, Harry,” she conceded.

Harry had hoped that Hermione and Ron would find friendship with one another, and perhaps the friendship would turn to love. He wanted his friend to be happy, and he hoped to secure a fixed future for Hermione, also. She deserved some happiness and security in her life. Ron would be perfect for her and marriage to her would help his family, so it would be advantageous for them both. That was why he had his solicitor draw up a document that would give Hermione a rather large dowry. Harry knew she could not hope to marry well without one. He would inform her of this information at another date, because at that moment he was going to see his true love.

Hermione started to walk back toward the house; at least she thought she was walking back toward the house. In truth, she was becoming increasingly disoriented. She would Apparate back, if she had in fact carried her wand, or more importantly, knew how to Apparate. She had lived in a Muggle community all her days; therefore, she did not usually carry her wand in fear that someone would discover who and what she was. She was not yet accustomed to the fact that this was a magical community and no one would think twice if she drew her wand.

To make the matter of her wanderings worse, the sky was now grey and overcast, and large raindrops had begun to fall. She saw a small building, really a ruined building, as the stones were falling and the place was overgrown, but at least it appeared to have a roof, and it would offer her protection from the rain until such a time that she could carry on and try to locate the massive Potter’s Hall.

She ran into the building and took her straw hat off her head. Her hair hung wet around her shoulders. It never stayed on top of her head, but she never took the proper time to secure it, so that was why it constantly fell on her shoulders. She put her hat down on a small pew and noticed that this was once a church. She walked up to the ruined pulpit, reached out, and touched the dark mahogany wood.

She did not see the man who stood in the corner, nonetheless, he saw her. It surprised him when she ran in the old church. This was his sanctuary, his haven. He came to this spot when he needed to be alone and think. He came here this day to think about the very creature that had just crossed the threshold. He could tell that she thought she was alone, so he would alert her to his company. He said, “Good afternoon, Miss Granger.”

She turned quickly, with her hand on her heart and a look of fear on her face. “Sir, I didn’t see you there. I thought I was the single inhabitant of this ruined little church.”

He stepped away from the corner, spread his hands, and said, “Now you see that you are not.”

“My apologies, sir, for trespassing on your solitude, I shall take my leave.” She bowed her head and started toward the door.

He stood in her way and said, “Please, tell me, what do I owe the pleasure of your company here in my little church?”

“Your church? Am I no longer on Harry’s property?” she asked.

He rolled his eyes and said, “Potter only thinks he owns the world, but I assure you, you are now on my property. Tell me, Miss Granger, do you often go walking on private property unaccompanied by a chaperone?”

She did not like his accusations. She told him she assumed this was Harry’s property! Likewise, he had no authority to question whom she walked with, or whether or not she walked alone. “Not that it is your concern, sir, but I was walking with my cousin, and he decided to visit his friends, the Weasleys, and I wished to return to Potter’s Hall and apparently I became lost, and obviously I was caught unexpectedly by the rain.”

Draco did not like how she took liberties and talked to him as if he were of low intellect. As if he were ignorant! The nerve of the woman! “Apparate!” he demanded.

“I don’t have my wand, sir,” she bit back, anger gracing her features. Did the arrogant man think she would not do that if she could? She did not even know how to Apparate, not that he needed to know that.

Draco expelled a small laugh and said, “Not very smart of you, is it?”

Hermione never liked anyone to question her intelligence. She said, “That is none of your concern, Sir. I shall trespass no further on your time or your property, and again I apologize if my presence discomfited you in any way.” She made to walk past him, but he still stood in the doorway. She would have to touch him physically to make him move and she knew she could not do that.

“I think since you came upon my property, and invaded my solitude, I should be granted more than a clipped apology, Miss,” he said. He was going to tell her he felt she owed him a dance at the ball, as he just decided it might be entertaining to attend after all. She apparently mistook his meaning, because he saw a look of horror grace her pretty features.

She felt mortified. What was the man suggesting? “Move aside, sir,” she barked with a false bravado. “I apologized, and I told you I mistook this for my cousin’s property, and to that extent, that is the end of it.”

Draco wondered who the little chit thought she was, to speak to him in such tones? “Well, now you know that my estate runs parallel to Potter’s and you shall not make that mistake again, will you?”

She felt put in her place, and she also felt tears threaten to spring to her eyes. Improper as it might be, she physically pushed him aside and ran out into the rain. She realized she left her hat on the pew, but it would have to remain. She looked to her left and to her right, still confused how to find Harry’s house, and she broke out into a run, going straight instead.

Draco went and retrieved her hat and then ran after her. She could not get far; after all, she did not even know where Potter’s Hall was. He saw her running and only then did he realized two things. If she told Potter how that he acted a cad toward her, he would more than likely be challenged to a Wizard’s duel with the man, in which he was not sure he would win, and second, he did not want her to run away. He wanted to speak to her some more. The latter thought filled him with more dread than the first.

“Miss Granger!” he yelled.

She turned quickly, saw him running toward her in the rain, and then she continued to run. What must he think of her! He was a pureblood elitist who would undoubtedly tell Harry that she behaved badly. Would Harry send her away for causing him embarrassment? Where would she go? She continued to run.

He was faster, but of course, and he reached out and grabbed her arm. He spun her around. “You are a crazy woman, running around in the rain! Come back to the church, I beseech thee, and I shall not say anything else unpleasant to you, I promise. Come just until the rain passes.”

She did not know what to say or do. The rain was becoming more torrential, and she could scarcely see. If she became lost when the sky was clear, what would happen to her when the sky became dark? He again said, “Let us seek shelter until the rain passes.” He offered his arm to her. She nodded and put her hand on the crook of his arm. He held her hat in his other hand and they jogged back toward the little church to await the end of the rain together.


Chapter 3 - Misunderstandings by AnneM

Chapter 3 – Misunderstandings

Arrogance – Contemptuous pride: a strong feeling of proud self-importance that is expressed by treating other people with contempt or disregard.

Ignorance – Lack of knowledge: lack of knowledge or education. Unawareness: unawareness of something, often of something important.

Draco Malfoy had the worst sort of arrogance. He was proud, boastful, and full of contempt for those he felt were not his equals. However, he was also ignorant, but he was so arrogant that he was not aware of his own ignorance. He was ignorant because he was proud, boastful, and full of contempt for those he felt were not his equal, and he did not know why he felt that way. His feelings held no merit. He was not really better than anyone else was, he just did not know that, henceforth, his ignorance.

Hermione Granger was also ignorant, but not in the same sense that Draco Malfoy was. To say that she was ignorant was not to say that she was naïve, or uneducated, or unintelligent. She was ignorant to the social system that existed in the magical world. Never once in her life had she heard the word ‘Mudblood’. She knew that just as there was a class system in the Muggle world, one existed in the Magical world; she just never imagined that to people like Draco Malfoy she was on the bottom of that social ladder.

She was arrogant also, not in the same sense as Malfoy, but arrogant all the same. She felt she was smarter than most people were, and she felt she was superior in her progressive way of thinking and acting.

For two such people to meet was amazing. For two such people to find a mutual attraction, unheard of, but most importantly, for two such people to fall in love, would be the biggest folly in the world! However, folly often turns to truth, as these two would soon discover.

Once back in the little stone fortress, he pulled out his wand and asked, “I shall dry us, with your permission.”

She merely nodded, as water ran into her eyes. After they were both dry, he motioned to a pew in the very back. She sat down and he went around to the other side and sat across from her. He handed her hat to her and she put it on the seat between them so it would act as a barrier. She was not sure why she felt the need for a barrier between them, real or imaginary, she just did.

Hermione said, “If you had your wand, why did you not offer to Apparate me to my cousin’s?”

Draco thought it was a fair question and it deserved a fair answer. “I was where I wanted to be, as I wasn’t the one lost, so why should I have left my little haven here? There is also the matter of wards, Miss Granger. I would not have been permitted in his home I am sure, not that I would ever want to set foot there.”

“You do not like my cousin I take it?” she asked. She stared at him so thoroughly, he felt like she was looking in his brain for the answers she sought.

“You are correct, Madam, I do not like your cousin,” he answered. “He has a tendency for lack of decorum that does not denote his status in the community. Even if he is only a half blood, he is still a viscount, his father’s family was one of the oldest pureblood families in England, and he seems to forget that. He befriends people like the Weasleys for instance.”

“Harry said they are purebloods. Surely you cannot have anything against them, being a pureblood yourself,” she reasoned.

He openly laughed and she took offense. “You really know nothing of our world, do you? The Weasleys, while purebloods, are not the type respectable people associate with, because of their station.”

“Because they are poor,” she stated, as it was not a question.

“Precisely,” he returned.

“Harry means to marry Miss Weasley. Will not an advantageous marriage promote her whole family’s station? Will it not make them more acceptable?” she asked.

“Never,” he claimed. “Everyone knows of his inclination toward the girl in question; however, if his godfather, my cousin, Sirius Black, was still alive he would never even entertain such an unfortunate match.”

“Unfortunate how, sir? If they love each other, they are most fortunate. In fact, they would be more fortunate than most,” she countered.

“You must have seen her family and their home, need I explain more? You are intelligent, you understand. Yes, a most unfortunate match in deed,” he declared.

“But love -” she started.

He openly laughed at her and said, “Love is best kept in fairy tales, Miss Granger, for it is rarely seen in the real world and it cannot change one simple fact, that they are different.”

She understood now. That also meant that no matter what, even if she were a pureblood, she would never be accepted by this world because she had no money, was not of circumstance, and according to Mr. Malfoy, one could not even marry to rise above their station.

She was quiet for such a long time, looking at her hands in her lap, that he finally asked, “Miss Granger, are you quite alright?”

“Fine, sir, I really think I should try to get back.” She rose to leave. “My cousin shall worry, and I know I have been an unwelcome visitor here long enough. I should never have come here in the first place, and rest assured, I shall never return. Accept my humble apologies. I shall trespass no longer.” She walked toward the door.

Draco wondered what he had said to cause her to want to leave so suddenly. He was only trying to educate the young woman. Someone needed to tell her these things and Potter was apt to tell her they were all equal. One would not want to give another person a false impression. He rose from the pew as well, but blocked the entrance.

“If you mean to leave, I shall walk with you to the edge of my property,” he offered.

“I would not want to cause you any distress,” she said softly.

He looked at her suspiciously and finally said, “Walking is of no distress to me and the rain is mostly gone. I swear, you are a tiresome little witch, aren’t you?”

“Sir?”

“I think you know what I mean, so do not play the innocent. Potter should be drawn and quartered for allowing you to walk alone anyway. I have had a proper upbringing and I will do what is right, and it is not right that a single woman should traipse about by herself!” He offered his arm again.

Feeling somewhat vexed by his words, she placed her hand lightly on his forearm, instead of linking her arm with his. She held her hat in her other hand and they started to walk out of the church. He stopped right outside the door.

“I believe I have something of yours, by the way. It fell out of your bag earlier,” he said. He retrieved the locket from his waistcoat pocket.

She held out her hand and smiled. He had to smile as well since she seemed so pleased. “I had yet to discover it was missing. Thank you, sir. These are the only portraits I have of my parents.”

“I take it they are deceased?” he assumed, handing her the locket, his fingertips brushing hers. She felt a constriction across her chest. She could not answer, for he was so close and so tall and she found herself without words, so she nodded her answer.

“Mine are as well,” he answered. She started to put the locket on and he suggested, “Shall I?” She handed the locket back to him and turned around. She lifted her mass of brown curls. He stood behind her and took in her scent. It was a strange combination. He thought it was honeysuckle mixed with morning dew. Her hands trembled as she held up her hair. He laughed and said, “I cannot get the locket through you arm, Miss Granger. You must release your hair.”

She looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. “I am sorry,” she said hesitantly.

She turned away from him once more, and stood compliant as he brought the locket around her body. He held both ends securely and said, “Now you may hold up your hair so I can clasp it.”

She reached back with both hands to hold up her hair and once again, her right hand touched his, and she shivered. He quickly clasped the locket, and before he knew what he was doing, his fingers spread out across the back of her neck for a brief moment, only to retreat just as quickly. She had the softest skin. She dropped her hair and he noticed goose bumps on her skin.

He took off his jacket and said, “You must be cold, you are shivering.”

She turned to face him.

At that moment, time stood still. She faced him, he her. He reached around her shoulders and placed his jacket across them. Then, in an act that would only be described as insanity, he reached across her shoulders and he removed her hair from the collar of the jacket. Her hair was as soft as her skin. His body decided that he liked being close to her, long before his brain agreed to the notion. He liked the way her eyes held questions in them. He loved the way her mouth opened, but no sound came out. He could imagine himself kissing those lips, those high cheekbones, her neck, and her arms. The scent from her hair was now invading his nostrils and he reached up to loosen his neckcloth, as he suddenly felt warm and flushed.

He knew it was improper to be this close and familiar with a woman he had just met. He knew she was below him socially. He knew she was undoubtedly a proper girl who had never even held hands with a man before, but blast it all, he wanted to touch her again. He wanted to, but he did not.

He stepped away instead, and she said, “Thank you.”

They started walking east and he inquired, “What do you plan on doing during your time here, Miss Granger?”

“Harry has arranged for me to fill in the holes in my education. I was only able to go to a magical school for two years. He has provided two tutors for me, Remus Lupin and a Mr. Snape.”

“Snape is my godfather,” he said. “He is a respected Potion Master. He hates Harry Potter, and Harry does not like him either, so it is curious that he would arrange this with him.”

“Perhaps I misunderstood what Harry said,” she answered.

“You do not look as if you are the type to misunderstand,” he offered. “So, you will be educated in Potions and I am sure Lupin will teach you all about Transfiguration, Charms, the Dark Arts, and such. These things are well and good, but what of history, and runes, and Arthimancy? Who will teach you these things?”

“I have taken upon myself, throughout the years, to learn the history of magic. Ancient Runes is a passion of mine and I admit it confuses me, as does Arthimancy. I am sure these are things I can learn at a later date,” she concluded, looking over at him. She tripped on a small rock and before she could fall to her knees, he reached over and grabbed her elbow. She took his jacket off her shoulders as he released her elbow. She said, “I am warm now, thank you.”

He draped his jacket across one arm, and held her elbow with his other hand, just in case she tripped again. When they reached the top of a hill, he pointed toward the large stone house and said, “Potter’s Hall, Miss.”

She turned back to him and said, “You’ve been kind to me, Lord Malfoy.”

“Best not tell your cousin, however,” he decided.

“As you wish,” she said, turning to go.

He called out to her and she turned back around. He took the three steps it would take to reach her and he said, “If you would like, I could let you borrow some of my books on Ancient Runes. I could even help you study, if you would find favour in that. We could meet back at the little church, tomorrow afternoon, say two o’clock.”

What was he proposing? She was quiet for so long that he wondered if she had forgotten how to speak. Finally, he said, “If you would like I will ask your cousin’s permission. If he grants it, is it something that would be favourable to you?”

“You know that I am a Muggle-born, do you not?” she said.

“Yes, I am so aware,” he answered, wondering why she would mention such a thing.

“You are aware I am without money or status,” she continued.

“What are you implying?” he asked, with ire.

“Just that I would think you would not want to even converse with me again, let alone consent to tutor me. Is that not a double standard? People like you do not associate with people like me, by your very admission, so tell me why would you consent to lower yourself to teach me?”

He took a deep breath. The blasted girl had a point, but by all that was holy, he wanted to see her again. He could see her in quiet. No one but Potter had to know. Nevertheless, she would know. She would not settle for that and he did not want to settle for that. He did not know what to say to her statement, for it was the truth.

She rescued him by saying, “Thank you for the kind offer, however, it was appreciated, even if it cannot be executed.” She wanted to let him rescind his offer if he wanted, so she did it for him.

She started running down the hill and she dropped her hat again. She bent down to pick it up, turned toward him, and waved. He smiled at her retreating figure. Gads, he was in a quandary. He did not care what she wanted; he wanted to see her again. He would talk to Potter tonight.


Chapter 4 - Invitations Accepted, no Exceptions by AnneM

Chapter 4 – Invitations Accepted, no Exceptions:

Harry had indeed been looking for Hermione when he saw her walking down the hill. He was not alone. Ginny and Ron Weasley were both by his side. He cocked his head toward Hermione and said to Ron, “Is she not as lovely as I told you she was?”

Ron thought she was lovely. More than lovely, he thought she was beautiful. Still, he was not inclined toward her, though he would hardly tell his friend that much. He loved another, but at the advice of his parents, who had hoped Lord Potter would marry their only daughter, he kept quiet about his affections. If he had to court Miss Granger to secure his sister’s, and his family’s, future he would do so.

After introductions were completed, Hermione and Ginny sat in the shade of a tree and Ginny said, “Harry has always spoken so kindly of you. He loves you like a sister. He always wanted to come and steal you away from your circumstances, but he was bound by decorum, his godfather would not allow it, you see.”

“Oh,” was all Hermione could say. She never thought her life up until now such a plight that she needed rescued. She wondered why Harry thought so. She wished she could tell the pretty, young girl that Harry had spoken fondly of her, but the truth was, Hermione had not heard of the other girl’s existence until now. However, she could see why Harry loved her. She was pretty, affable, and a pureblood. The longer she was here, the more she came to realize just how important that last trait was.

“Harry was very worried about you, Miss Granger, when you did not return to his house. He was ready to set a search party for you,” Ginny said.

Hermione smiled and said, “I became lost, and I wandered unto the land of another, and then I was caught in the downpour.”

Ginny said, “The land of another? You do not mean Lord Malfoy, do you?”

“Well, yes,” Hermione answered.

“He didn’t see you there, did he?” she asked.

“He did, and we conversed, and then he showed me the way back,” Hermione admitted.

“Oh, was he horrible to you? Did he call you a ‘Mudblood’?” Ginny asked.

Hermione looked confused and said, “He was most agreeable, even kind. Why would he call me that name, ‘Mudblood’?”

“That is an offensive term one doesn’t usually utter in polite society,” Ginny said, “However, I have heard Draco Malfoy say the word several times, never mindful of ladies present. It is a term some use for Muggle-borns. It means dirty blood. People like Draco Malfoy do not associate with Muggles or Muggle-borns. He feels they are beneath him. That is the reason for my shock, when you say he was kind toward you. Perhaps he isn’t aware of your birth.”

“He is aware, as I told him as much,” she said.

“Ginny, come see the new rose bushes Harry planted in the garden,” Ron shouted. He waved to his sister. Ginny smiled and waved goodbye to Hermione.

Hermione wondered if all that Ginny had said was true. Did Draco ‘hate’ Muggle-borns, without reason, without grounds, merely because of the situation of their birth? She stared toward the hill where she knew his property lay, and thought of him. He was somewhat arrogant, but he was kind to her. He offered to tutor her. Hermione thought he was handsome, and dare she think, attractive? Her heart fluttered just remembering the feel of his hand on her neck when he placed her locket there, the way he stared at her, and the way he offered his arm to her.

Was she blind? Were these the actions of a man who hated her merely because she was Muggle-born?

Hermione went into the large house to escape the heat of the day and her thoughts. She would not entertain any more gracious thoughts on a man who must hate her. On her way up the staircase, Remus Lupin met her, as he was descending.

“Miss Granger, I heard you gave my young friend a scare when he couldn’t find you today,” Lupin said.

“So I hear as well,” she said. “Mr. Lupin, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course, shall we go in the library?” He motioned back toward the way she had just come, and she joined him in the library. “Now, what shall I answer for you?”

“I hardly know where to start, but, is there any merit to the school of thought that Muggle-borns are inferior to purebloods and half bloods?”

He smiled at her warmly and said, “Why do you ask, my dear?”

“Ginny Weasley said that people like Lord Malfoy hate people like me just because of my blood. However, I found nothing in the man that would present him in such a poor light. He was somewhat arrogant, and aloof, and the first time I met him at the mercantile he was a bit haughty, yet he showed me kindness. He was polite and even offered to help educate me, in matters that you and Mr. Snape may not teach me. Is that the sign of someone who hates me?”

Remus smiled at her innocence. Not being around magical people had skewered her beliefs, but in a good way, he thought. Her ignorance to the ugly side of their world was refreshing. He said, “I am a pureblood, yet there are many who look down on me. I suffer from Lycanthropy. Do you know what that is?”

She nodded and said, “How long have you been inflicted?”

“Since childhood and I am looked down on and cast out of respectable company, by not only other purebloods, but Muggle-borns and half bloods as well. You see, prejudices usually know no bounds. If Lord Malfoy was kind to you, than I am sure it was genuine. You strike me as a young woman whom kindness would naturally be shown to, because you naturally show it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Lupin.”

Hermione rose to leave and he said, “By the by, what did Lord Malfoy offer to teach you that he thought I could not handle?”

“Ancient Runes and Arthimancy,” she answered.

“Ah, Lord Malfoy knows my weakness. Perhaps he should be the one to teach you these things, if you are receptive to learn,” Remus decided. He walked over to the window and said, “And here comes the rogue now. I do not believe he has ever graced our humble abode before.”

Hermione sat upright. Lord Malfoy was here? She heard the ring of the bell, and she slipped to the threshold of the doorway of the library to watch. Harry’s butler answered the door and showed him toward the drawing room. He passed Hermione, and he nodded his head. She acknowledged him the same and then went back into the library.

“I wonder what he is doing here?” she asked aloud.

“Shall we go find out?” Remus asked with a smile.

“I heard him tell the butler he was here to talk to Harry,” she pointed out.

“That does not mean that he cannot say his piece in front of us,” Remus deduced with a laugh. He put his arm out, and she accepted, and they walked toward the drawing room.

Remus entered first and greeted Draco. Hermione slipped in, curtseyed, and sat in a chair far away. Harry entered, and they bowed to each other. “I don’t believe you have ever set foot in Potter’s Hall, Malfoy, so what do I owe this simple pleasure?” Harry asked.

“I’ve come to seek your permission to tutor your cousin along with my godfather and Mr. Lupin. I have always been a student of Ancient Runes and Arthimancy, and she shared her fondness of the subjects to me this afternoon,” Draco explained.

Harry looked over at Hermione and inquired, “You were with Lord Malfoy today?”

“It was on his property that I wandered, and I sought shelter in a little building during the shower, that is all, cousin,” Hermione explained.

“It wouldn’t be right for her to go to your house without a chaperone,” Harry said, “however, if she wants to learn these things, I don’t want to deny her. You will have to come here to tutor her, or perhaps I could arrange for Miss Weasley or her brother Ron to escort Hermione to your house.”

Draco did not think either seemed pleasant, not in the least. He truly wanted to see the young woman in question again, but he did not want to teach her here, nor did he want to have any of the Weasleys in his house. His silence was his answer as far as Harry was concerned, for Harry said, “I see, Lord Malfoy. Then the answer is no, I am afraid.”

Draco stood up to leave, but Remus stood as well and said, “Harry, if you would be willing, I would escort her there and back again, at whatever times they decide. I will take a book, and read outside and wait for her. I think that would be acceptable, as no one would trespass in Mr. Malfoy’s house, and it does make better sense for her to go there, as his library is vast and well known.”

Hermione stood and said, “Please, Harry.”

Draco turned to regard her for a moment. She wanted to come. Draco turned back to Harry and Harry said, “I think that sounds agreeable. Perhaps Tuesday and Thursdays afternoons?”

“Excellent, Potter,” Draco bowed and started to leave the room when Harry called out to him.

“We will dine here tonight at seven. Mr. and Miss Weasley will be here. Your godfather will attend as well. Why not join us, Lord Malfoy? You and Snape and Lupin can discuss her tutoring after we dine.”

Draco turned around. Dine here? With a werewolf? With half bloods? Draco saw Harry’s sly smile. He understood the man’s motives. He wanted him to refuse, so that he could show his cousin, what he felt was Draco’s true character, which if Draco was truthful, he would also admit was true. He said, “I would be honored to join you for dinner tonight.”

“Excellent,” Harry said with a smile. Draco was led to the door and he started to leave. Remus and Harry stayed in the drawing room, so Hermione slipped out unseen. She saw Mr. Malfoy exit the door.

She walked out to him. “Lord Malfoy, I do not wish to be the source of your discomfort. If it would pain you to tutor me under my cousin’s conditions, I would understand if you reneged.”

“Miss Granger, I am a man of my word. I offered to teach you, and I was sincere in my offer. Now, if you have changed your mind…”

She interrupted and said, “No, I haven’t!”

He could not help but smile. She was eager to learn, but was there something else there as well? Dare he hope? If there were something else there, an inclination of affection, would it matter? Could either act on such a liaison? She had her hand on the doorframe. He leaned forward and placed his hand on top of hers. She looked up at his hand, knowing she should pull hers away, but wanting it to stay under the warmth of his touch. She looked back up in his eyes.

He said, “If you haven’t changed your mind, rest assured, I haven’t changed mine.” He felt warmth radiating off her body. He was close enough to count the freckles on the bridge of her nose. He gave her hand a slight squeeze, before he removed his hand entirely, as much as he did not want to remove it. He liked the feel of her soft hand under his.

He walked down the steps, turning once to look back at her. He smiled and she blushed. He laughed as he turned back toward the drive. A servant handed him the reins of his horse, and he rode toward his own house. It was worth putting up with the inferior company, if it meant he could see her again. He did not feel she was inferior. He could not reason the difference in his mind, but a difference there was.

Hermione ran upstairs. Even though it was still early, she wanted to get ready for dinner. She wished she had a nicer dress to wear. She wore her best dress on the carriage. She opened her wardrobe, assuming the elves or the servants had already put her clothes away. She discovered a wardrobe full of pretty dresses. She closed it and started out the door, only to discover Harry there. “Do you like them? I hope they fit, if not, you can use magic and alter them.”

“Harry, why are you being so kind to me?” she asked.

He laughed and said, “Hermione, you are my only living kin. Why should I not be kind to you? Anyway, I want you to look nice tonight. Mr. Weasley will be dining with us, and he has taken a fancy to you, I think.” He turned to leave the room.

Perhaps Mr. Weasley was going to be there, and perhaps she should look pretty tonight, but she knew she wanted to look pretty, not for Mr. Weasley, but for another.


Chapter 5 - A Dance of Desires by AnneM

Chapter 5 – A Dance of Desires

In the drawing room, Hermione sat in a corner by herself to wait for their company to arrive. She chose a simple ivory gown to wear and put her mass of curls on top of her head. Remus sat in another corner, book in hand, and amusement on his face. He looked over at Hermione and said, “Why are you nervous my dear?”

“I beg your pardon, Sir?”

“You seem easily distracted and I wondered if it was nerves?” he repeated.

“No Sir, I am not nervous,” she said. She lied. She was nervous, as she was anxiously awaiting Lord Malfoy’s arrival. She wanted to see him again. She wanted to talk with him again. She must not let that show, however, so she opened her book and pretended to read. Harry walked in with Mr. Weasley and Miss Weasley.

Harry said, “Look who has arrived!” Hermione and Remus stood and exchanged greetings with the new arrivals.

Ron walked over to where Hermione sat and said, “What are you reading, Miss Granger?”

She was not really reading. She merely held a book as a means to have something to do with her hands. She placed the book on the floor by her chair and said, “Nothing of importance. How are you this evening, Sir?”

“Fine, thank you,” he said. He looked over at Harry and Ginny, who shared a small loveseat and he said, “We are all hoping for a happy event by the end of the summer.”

Hermione looked at the pair. The way Harry laughed at everything Ginny said. They way she put her hand on his arm, to touch it lightly, only to draw it away, and the smile on their faces. They were in love. There was no denying that fact.

The butler came in and announced that the rest of their party had arrived. Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy walked in the room. Hermione stood again and was immediately struck by the differences in the two men. “Mr. Snape, may I present my cousin, Hermione Granger, your future pupil.”

“Miss Granger,” he said, drawing out her name. He merely bowed. Hermione was not sure she liked this man, but she would keep an open mind. Severus turned to speak to Remus, as Draco walked over to Hermione.

“Miss Granger, how do you find yourself this evening,” he asked.

“I am well, Sir,” she said.

“You look very nice tonight,” he said. Actually, he thought she looked absolutely lovely. She looked every bit a proper lady. She gave him a small smile, and the blush returned to her cheek. He smirked and said, “Why is it when I pay you a compliment, your cheeks turn scarlet? Could it be that you are not used to compliments, or could it be that you are not aware of your own beauty?”

His boldness shocked her. She looked toward the rest of their party, and no one seemed to have heard his statement. She said, “Sir, please do not toy with me. I know I am no great beauty.” She said it with such sincerity. Draco wondered if she really thought that. It was rare to find a woman who was not full of conceit and pride.

He leaned closer to her and said, “I assure you, I never lie.”

“Never?” she asked with a smile.

“Well, perhaps that in itself is a small lie. I know we all tell falsehoods from time to time, but at the moment I am completely sincere,” he said, returning her smile.

At the dinner table, a while later, Hermione was conversing freely with Severus Snape. She was right in her first assumption, she really did not like the man, but his intellect rivaled her own, and she found him easy to converse with, for which she was grateful.

He had just spent the better part of fifteen minutes telling the party that women made terrible potion makers.

“But, Sir,” Hermione said, “you cannot truly tell me that you think potion making is an art best left to men. Weren’t many of the earliest potion makers women?”

“Women do not have the attention to detail that is needed for potion making. It is best to leave them to charm work and transfiguration. I will teach you basic potions, but it is in my history that women usually cannot handle the delicacy of more intricate potions.” Snape turned back to his soup.

Hermione sat beside him and pouted. She looked across the table and Draco Malfoy had a smile on his face. She cocked her head toward him, as if to ask him what was so funny. He said, “Godfather, perhaps Miss Granger will prove to be the exception to your rule. Perhaps she will be a competent potion maker.”

“I have no doubt of her intellect, just from talking with her now, but she is still a woman,” he said.

Draco’s brows rose and he said, “Yes, on that, you are correct.” Hermione looked down toward her plate, and he was sure her cheeks were red again. He said, “Miss Granger, how would you feel to having your first lesson with me tomorrow?”

Harry answered for her, “Tomorrow is not good, Malfoy. We are having a country picnic tomorrow, to take advantage of the nice weather. We will be a large party, and a few people from your acquaintance will be in attendance. You may join us if you would like, and tutor her out in the wilderness.” Ginny laughed at Harry’s joke.

“I can’t imagine someone wanting to read a book or study, over a day spent with friends and fun,” Ron said.

“I am sure you cannot, Weasley,” Draco said drolly.

Hermione said, “Sir, I would appreciate having my first lesson tomorrow, even if it is outside. Please, join us.”

“I would be honored,” he replied.

After dinner, the men went to the lounge to enjoy cigars and brandy. Hermione and Ginny walked into the library. “You know Harry means for you to make a match with my brother, do you not?”

Hermione turned, shocked by the other woman’s bluntness. “I am aware, but please, do not suppose I have asked him to push for this match.”

“I have to admit, I knew you had no inclination toward my brother from the way you spoke of Lord Malfoy. My brother is in love with another, anyway. Her name is Luna Lovegood, and she will be joining our picnic tomorrow. I hope to reveal this to Harry at that time,” Ginny admitted. “I want my brother happy, but please, do not take offense.”

Hermione was far from being offended. She was relieved. “I am happy to find an ally in this.”

“Then I shall speak with Harry tomorrow. I think I will find a book to read,” Ginny said.

“I think I will walk the gardens,” Hermione remarked, taking her leave. She walked outside, where the moon was high and bright in the sky. The night air was cold, and she forgot to bring a wrap, so she put her arms tightly around her body.

She was afraid that Harry had wanted an attachment between her and Mr. Weasley. She hoped that Miss Weasley had enough influence over her cousin to persuade him that Hermione did not need a man. She bent down to smell one of the pink roses, marveling at its beauty by the light of the moon.

“It is beautiful,” Lord Malfoy said from behind her. She turned around. He wanted to say, ‘it pales next to you’, but he knew he should show restraint. “My godfather was quite vexed with you, Miss Granger.”

“He is an infuriating man,” Hermione said with a slight frown.

Malfoy laughed and said, “At times, but he is a genius. He has a point, about potion making. I have never seen an accomplished potion maker who was a woman.”

“Perhaps you haven’t seen one, because none in your company were given a chance to develop their skills,” Hermione pointed out. She turned and walked down the path. He followed and was soon walking by her side.

“Mr. Weasley doesn’t seem overtly affectionate toward you,” Draco said.

“Pardon, Sir?”

“Oh, one can tell that Lord Potter is pushing for a match between you two, although I think it would be horrendous,” Draco said.

“Because I am Muggle-born and he pureblood?” she asked.

“Quite the opposite, I am afraid,” he said.

“Miss Weasley tells me her brother’s affections lean toward another, a Miss Luna Lovegood,” Hermione said.

Draco laughed loudly. “Goodness, now that is an interesting match!” Hermione gave him a scowl, and he said, “You are not disappointed in the news are you?”

“Of course not,” she said. “But you have to admit, if my cousin marries Miss Weasley, I shall be force to find another situation, and that would leave me with finding a position somewhere, perhaps teaching, which is why I must learn all I can in a short amount of time, or worse, I must marry.” Draco stopped walking. She did not notice that he had stopped until she was several steps ahead. She turned to face him and he was smiling. “Did I say something humorous, Sir?”

“Or worse, marry?” he reminded.

She laughed as well. “I mean, or worse, marry without affection.”

“So if you held affection for a gentleman, it would not be a dreadful solution?” he asked.

“I would hope not,” she said.

“You suppose your cousin would toss you to the curb if he married?” he asked.

She was the one to stop walking this time. She said, “It might happen. It is what happened to me before I came here. My mother died and my stepfather’s new wife couldn’t abide me, so I was left homeless.”

Draco saw the worry on her face. He approached her and said, “As much as I dislike your cousin, I know nothing of his character that would suggest he would abandon you, and leave you homeless.”

“I hope you are right, Sir,” she said, although he could tell that she still seemed worried. She looked up at the sky and she remarked, “Your name is the name of a constellation, is it not?”

“You are very bright, and yes it is,” he said. He looked at her face as she looked up at the night sky.

She pointed upward and said, “The stars are so bright tonight, I wonder if we can see any constellations.”

He stepped closer to her. She suddenly let her hand drop, and he was so close that she brushed her hand against his chest as she brought it back down. She quickly withdrew it to her side.

“You bewitch me, Miss,” he said in hushed tones. “You are of lower birth and station, of impure blood, and yet I find myself thinking of you continually.”

Hermione said, “It is a wonder you waste your time on someone inferior to you.” She started to walk away. He ran to catch up to her.

“I apologize if my words offend, but they are the truth. In our world, Miss Granger, blood means everything. It is more important than money or connections. It is a fact that all the pretty girls in the world cannot change that one simple truth,” he explained.

“Then do not tarry here any longer. One would not wish you to waste your time speaking with a lowly, what was the word, Mudblood,” she said. She tried to hurry off but he grabbed her arm. Her skin was cold to the touch and she shivered under his hand.

“I did not say that word to you, so don’t presume to think that I applied that word to you. I do speak the truth, however. I am sorry if that hurts you. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said sincerely.

“If you are conflicted, then you must deal with it in your own heart,” she said.

He expelled a small laugh and let go of her arm. “Believe me, I am not conflicted. Just because I find you intelligent, pretty, and good company, does not mean that I have mixed feelings. I know the truth.” He wanted to convince himself as much as her.

“Perhaps you should not lower yourself to tutor me, then. I beg your leave, Sir,” she said. She tried to leave once more, but he blocked the path.

“Indeed, you are too proud and boastful. I shall tutor you, as I am a man of my word. Again, I apologize,” he began, but she halted his speech.

“Don’t make false apologies! How rich that you should say that I am proud and boastful. You are the most arrogant man I have ever met. I no longer wish to be tutored by you. I would rather be tutored by a swine, who I am sure has more manners! I shall linger no longer. Goodbye, Lord Malfoy.”

He laughed at her boldness. He followed her back into the house. Miss Weasley met them both at the door and she said, “Wonderful news, my brothers George and Fred have arrived, along with Miss Lovegood, Miss Patil, and Miss Brown. We have all decided to have a small dance to finish our evening. Come Miss Granger!” She pulled on Hermione’s hand.

As Remus Lupin played the pianoforte, the inhabitants of Potter’s Hall began to dance a country-dance. Draco sat out the first dance. He felt he was above such entertainment. However as the dance continued, and he saw Miss Granger laughing and enjoying herself, he decided to participate.

He walked over to Miss Granger and said, “May I have the next dance?”

She wanted to say no. She should say no. He insulted her earlier, but she wanted to dance with him. The music started, and she bowed to him, as an acceptance to his request.

A slower dance started. They stared in each other’s eyes as they approached each other. He touched her hand and turned her around. They walked apart again, as the next couple did the same. He took her hand again, and they paced through the dancers who flanked both sides. They stood opposite from each other, neither averting their gaze. He studied her face, her expression, her countenance. What was it about this slip of a girl that made him so conflicted?

They approached again, and he put his hand on the small of her back, as he strolled with her through the crowd once more. They turned with her hand in his. The touch of his hand upon hers made her weak in the knees. Her mouth felt dry and she knew she was flushed. As they walked side by side for a second time, he looked at her from the corner of his eyes.

He hated to admit this, but he could not deny his attraction to her. As they stood on the sidelines, watching as another couple strolled down the middle, he was struck once again with her beauty. They approached each other once more, neither having spoken the entire dance. Words would be inadequate. His hand once again went to her back as he steered her through the throng. Why did he anticipate her touch? Why did she long for his? They turned, one last turn, and he bowed to her and she curtseyed.

Everyone applauded, and said ‘what a fine dance’. Hermione Granger looked in her partner’s eyes and then looked at the floor. Lord, help her, because she was smitten.

Draco Malfoy had to excuse himself from the crowd. He could not stay in the same room with her one moment longer, and not admit his feelings. He would not, under any circumstance, ever admit his feelings toward her. “Excuse me; I shall bid you all goodnight. Thank you, Potter, for your hospitality.” He turned and left the room with gracing her with a goodbye.

He walked out of the room, unnoticed by most the company, save for her, and she mistook his leave. She assumed he left because he could not abide her company any longer. She too excused herself and ran from the room. She ran down the long hallway toward the stairs. She saw Lord Malfoy as he stood by the front door. They stared at each other once again, for what felt like time without end. He nodded his head toward her and walked out the door. She ran up the stairs, threw herself on her bed, and cried.

Chapter 6 - A Crown of Flowers by AnneM

Chapter 6 – A Crown of Flowers:

The morning light wafted through the lace curtains, awakening the young woman from her slumber. She sat up in her bed and rubbed her eyes. She dreaded just the thought of what lay ahead. A country picnic with friends and foes, the very thought filled her with such dread that she pulled her covers over her head. When she finally managed to come down the stairs, it was well after breakfast. Hermione saw Remus Lupin in the music room, sitting beside a grand piano.

“Good day, Mr. Lupin,” Hermione greeted.

“Do you make a habit of lying about all day long?” said a voice in the corner of the room. She turned quickly and saw Severus Snape.

“Good morning, Miss Granger.” Remus smiled. “Look who came to give you a lesson this morning.”

“I am sorry, Mr. Snape, for I wasn’t aware we would have our lessons yet. Perhaps we could start another day,” she replied.

“Perhaps, since the better part of this day is over,” Severus snapped. He stood up and said, “Tomorrow, you shall come to my house at Spinner’s end. I will give you a rudimentary lesson. You shall arrive precisely at 10:00 o’clock in the morning. My godson shall meet you here and show you the way.”

That thought filled Hermione with a mixture of dread and hope, which was an odd combination. She said, “I am sure my cousin will bring me.”

“No, my godson shall bring you. It is all arranged. Good day, Miss Granger, Lupin.” Snape walked out of the room. Hermione turned to watch him go.

She turned back to Remus and said, “Please, tell me he is not accompanying us on our picnic today.”

“He is not, nor am I,” he said.

“Why, Sir?” Hermione begged.

“I am but a poor tutor, and not received among the bright, gay, young folks that will be in attendance. Do you feel sorry for me?” he asked with a smile.

“Somewhat, if that were but the truth, but I think you do not wish to come today, so on that account, I am afraid I must decline sympathy toward your plight,” Hermione surmised. Remus laughed. “However, you should feel sympathy for me, for I do wish to go today, because I am afraid I might be unwelcome as well.”

Remus said, “But the picnic is in your honour, so you are anticipated to frolic with the crowd.”

“First a dinner in my honour, and then a picnic, as well as an upcoming ball, I must say, I don’t feel adequate for such attention,” she bemoaned with a sigh.

“My dear, I am sure many people think otherwise. Cheer up, and paint a smile on your face. We could have our first lesson, if it would please you.”

“Yes, that would please me greatly,” Hermione answered.

They went to the library, and began work on charms. Remus found that although she did not know all the correct incantations, she was a quick and steady learner. She retained everything he taught, so he did not find that he needed to repeat anything. She impressed him. Their lesson was dwindling to a close when Harry walked by the library and said, “We are ready for our picnic. Are you sure you won’t come, Lupin?”

“Picnics and small talk, no I think not, Harry, but thank you,” Remus replied and then smiled. Harry walked into the room and took Hermione’s hand.

“Is she every bit as smart as I promised you she would be?” he boasted.

“Harry, you inflate my ego,” Hermione said.

“Then it shall be inflated,” he laughed. He kissed her hand and said, “I have an open wagon to take us all up to a pretty little meadow that lies just beyond the house. We can eat, drink and be merry, and laze about in the sun all day. Would that be agreeable to you?”

“Who will be there, Harry?” she wondered.

“Most of the Weasleys, including the elder Weasleys. The ladies from last night will be there, as well as Theodore Nott, whom you met on your arrival. I believe Nott is bringing some of his friends, a Mr. Blaise Zabini, a Mr. Marcus Flint and Lady Pansy Parkinson. Of course, Lord Malfoy will unfortunately be there.”

Hermione had rather he not come. She thought after his apparent snub to her last night, when he left in such haste after their dance, that he would not lower himself to come.

“Are you sure he will be there?” she asked.

“Yes, I am sure.” Harry narrowed his gaze and quizzed, “Do you fancy Lord Malfoy?”

“Cousin, you speak folly,” she said with a small laugh. He was not sure he believed her, but he would say no more, at least at that moment.

They arrived at the meadow just as most of the others arrived. Harry’s elves began to set up blankets and food. Hermione found herself walking through some wild flowers, when she saw Mr. Nott walking up the hill with a dark hair, finely dress, prim woman by his side. Behind him were a black man, tall and proud, and a dark haired man. Coming up last was Lord Malfoy himself. Mr. Nott approached her first and said, “Ah, there is the woman in question. Miss Hermione Granger, may I present Lady Pansy Parkinson, Lord Blaise Zabini, and the honourable Marcus Flint. I believe you remember Malfoy.”

“Charmed,” Hermione said with a slight curtsey. The men all bowed.

Miss Parkinson raised her nose in the air and did not acknowledge her. She turned to Blaise and said, “Lordship, if you would escort me to a shade tree, I would be obliged. I do not wish my skin to burn.”

The woman already had a parasol, so Hermione wondered how her skin might burn. Lady Pansy then said, “Some of the women in our party do not even have hats or bonnets on, and will surely be affected by the afternoon sun.”

Hermione was painfully aware that not only did she not have on a hat, but also her hair was down, which did not seem to be in fashion here. The direct slight, intended for Hermione, only served to anger her, and did not cause embarrassment, as Hermione was sure was the anticipated result. When the party or purebloods walked by, Hermione turned to pick some more flowers, deciding to pay them no more thought.

Draco walked up to her, and while she was aware of his closeness, she busied herself so she could feign apathy. Draco said, “Do you pick the flowers for your intended, Mr. Weasley?”

She looked up and frowned. He was smiling. Why was he smiling? He looked too handsome to abide when he smiled. She said, “No sir, they are for me. No one else would give me flowers, I fear, because I have no hat on today, therefore I must get some for myself.”

“You poor dear, whatever will you do at the loss?” he asked, teasing her.

“I shall abide the best I can,” she said, playing along.

He bent down and picked up a small yellow daisy. He handed it to her and said, “Here, a token of my esteem, hatless or not.”

“Sir, you shouldn’t have gone to the expense or trouble,” she said. He could not help but smile. However, this time, she did not return his smile. She merely walked on, with him close by.

“I heard you missed your first lesson with Snape today,” he offered.

She turned around and said, “He is a strange man. I was not aware we had a lesson today.”

“Well, I would suggest you not miss another. That is why when I was at Potter’s Hall today, I offered to accompany you to his home tomorrow,” Draco said.

“You were at Potter’s Hall this morning?” she asked.

“Yes, a fact you would already have known if you hadn’t decided to lie about in bed all morning,” he concluded with a laugh.

She said honestly, “I was tired. I had a long day yesterday.”

He was quick to cut her off by saying, “You need not offer me reasons or excuses. You deserved your rest, and it did wonders for your appearance today.”

He confused her. He complimented her on one hand, just as he did last night, and then he told her she was inferior on the other. He asked her to dance, and then he rushed away, as if scalded by hot water. He was quickly baffling her. She turned to walk away again, but stopped. She turned back to him and said, “You bemuse me, Sir. I am bewildered by your straight talk and compliments on one hand, and your need for propriety on the other.”

He laughed and said, “Oh dear, my new young friend is confused. I would think you so intelligent, nothing would confuse you.”

She walked away, without comment, back toward the others. She sat on a small corner of a blanket, as Malfoy went to sit on another. Several of the other ladies were picking berries and Ginny asked Hermione if she wanted to help. Hermione was stringing her wildflowers together, to make a necklace. She declined the offer. Mr. Flint walked up to her and said, “May I share your blanket?”

“Of course, Sir,” she said.

“I hear you are Muggle-born?” he stated.

Hermione was quickly becoming tired of the Muggle-born topic, but she would be polite for now. She said, “Yes, Sir, my mother was Harry’s aunt, and she was a Muggle.”

“Fascinating,” he said. “Here in this Wizarding community, most are of pureblood, you realize. They marry other purebloods and have little pureblood babies, so you are an oddity.”

She frowned. An oddity? She placed her flower necklace around her neck, and she set to work on a headpiece. If they thought she was odd, odd she would be. Theo walked up to them and said, “Is my friend boring you, Miss Granger?”

“Not at all, he is telling me how odd I am,” she quipped, not caring what any of them thought of her any longer.

“Well, that’s not nice.” Theo laughed. “Shall I thrash the gentleman?”

“I wouldn’t waste your time,” Hermione said. Marcus laughed at that. Draco walked over. “You may thrash Lord Malfoy, however.”

“What have I done to deserve a thrashing?” Draco asked with a slight frown, sitting down on the blanket.

“Nothing, I was just making small talk,” she said playfully. He liked this aloof side of her. She was trying hard to be above him, for she must be vexed with him. He thought it was charming. Let her be vexed at him all the time.

Blaise and Lady Pansy walked up to the small crowd and Pansy said, “Look at all the Weasleys that are here, even the cow of a mother, and the oaf of a father. How Lord Potter can associate with such people is beyond my reason.”

Blaise helped her to sit and said, “Apparently, he has taken a shining to the young daughter of the family.”

“What an unfortunate match for a viscount. I hope he doesn’t plan to marry her,” Marcus said.

Hermione wondered if she were suddenly invisible. Did not the others realize she was among their company? Did they not realize Harry was her cousin? She stopped making her wreath and stood to leave in time to hear Miss Parkinson say, “What do you expect, Blaise darling, he may have a title, but nothing will ever hide the fact that he himself is a lowly half blood. His own mother was a Mudblood.”

Draco stood as well. Miss Granger turned back quickly and said, “Lady Parkinson, it is my understanding that the word Mudblood is an ugly, offensive term, best not said among mixed company. It makes me wonder what type of lady would say such a word. If I am not mistaken, usually ladies do not utter such obscenities, but perhaps purebloods think they are above obscenities. Good day.” She walked off, in a very bad mood indeed.

“She told you off well, Pansy,” Theo laughed.

Hermione took off in a run toward a set of trees. She would hide in their shade until such time as the others came back from their berry picking.

“Miss Granger,” Lord Malfoy said from behind her. She turned to acknowledge him. “Forgive the rudeness of the others.”

“Why do you make to apologize for them, Sir, when you yourself have the same convictions? You told me so in the garden last night. You think it is an unlikely match. You think less of half bloods and Muggle-borns. Do not apologize for others, when you have yet to apologize for yourself.”

Well, now Malfoy did not like her countenance one bit. He approached her so quickly she made to take a step back, but a large tree blocked her path, so that she was pressed up against the tree.

“I did not once call you that name, as I will once again remind you, and as I said last night, I feel Lord Potter and the young Miss Weasleys match is unfavorable due to her position in society, and due to her family, not because of blood.”

He had a point, but it still angered her. “I just admit that all the prejudices baffle me. I have never been around prouder or more arrogant people in my life.” She looked to the ground. He walked up to her and took the flower wreath from her hand. His fingers brushed hers. Without permission, he placed it on top of her hair, as a crown.

She reached up to remove it, but he reached for her wrist. He held her wrist in his strong hand, making nerve endings tingle and her mouth dry. He said, “Leave it, for it is fitting.” He still held her wrist. Her stomach lurched at the very thought of her wrist in his hand. He removed his hand, slowly, so very slowly. Her hand lowered just as slowly. As her hand went to her side, his fingertips slid down her bare arm and then he removed it all together. Yes, she was baffled and bewildered, but more so by him than anyone else.

She looked down again, for she felt his eyes were looking straight into her heart, and she was ashamed of what he might find there. He would see the effect he had on her, if he looked inside her heart. His hand went up to her chin to raise her face to his. Her skin tingled under his thumb. She swallowed hard and did not know what to say.

“Malfoy, come, let us play a game,” Nott yelled from far off away.

He quickly removed his hand and said, “Yes, the crown of flowers is fitting.” He offered his arm. She took a steady breath, and put her hand on the crook of his arm. He put his other hand over her hand. He turned to steer her back toward the other. He looked over at her once more, and again, she blushed. He was pleased. Dare he hope that his presence caused the same stirrings in her that he knew her closeness caused in him. He had one single thought, blood be damned. He wanted Hermione Granger. He walked them back toward the others, more content than he had been in a long time.


Chapter 7 - Compliments to Some are Insults to Others by AnneM

Chapters 7 – Compliments to Some are Insults to Others:

Draco and Hermione approached the others, his hand resting lightly on her lower back as she walked somewhat ahead of him. Neither thought the gesture was odd, although it stirred emotions in both of them. Both were extremely aware of the gesture, but for vastly diverse reasons. For Hermione, his hand on her back meant security and reassurance. For Draco, it meant entitlement and possessiveness.

“Harry, old man, I thought we might play a game, what say you?” Theo said as Harry walked by.

Draco still walked several steps behind Hermione, but removed his hand from her back as they approached the crowd. He did it for her benefit, not his own, at least that was the sentiment he hoped he conveyed. She made to sit on an abandoned blanket, when Marcus Flint hopped up, and said, “Join us over here, Miss, on our blanket.”

“That blanket seems full, Sir,” she said. Harry walked toward his cousin and gave her a hand, as she sat on the blanket she intended. He sat beside her, and Draco sat on the other side.

“What game do you wish to play, Nott? Most of our party is out picking berries,” Harry suggested, “so it would just be us few.”

“That’s fine, this is a thinking man’s game,” Theo said. “There are enough of us here without the others. I will say a verse, a rhyming verse, and someone must come up with a new verse, that rhymes. I shall start, and Lady Pansy will follow, and on around. My word will in fact be the word ‘verse’. Here I go: I will try to start this game, with a happy verse.”

Pansy followed, saying, “And when it comes to my turn, I shall be very well conversed.”

Blaise, sounding haughty, said, “For happiness can always be found, in a heavy purse.”

Flint said, “And if we continue playing, we shall sound quite rehearsed.” He turned and said, “Malfoy.”

Draco sighed. He found the game boring. He said, “Playing with such a crowd, must surely be a curse.” He turned and looked at Hermione.

“Then we shall trespass on your company no longer, and I for one will disperse.” She stood up and walked off.

Harry laughed and said, “Such a silly game as this shall see me in a hearse.”

Everyone, save for Malfoy, laughed. He watched Hermione walk away. She seemed in a disagreeable mood. He looked toward Flint, and noticed that he too watched as she walked off, and he felt jealous, but he knew not why.

Hermione picked up a pail and went to pick some berries. The others had already gone toward one direction, so she decided to go another. She turned a corner, after having picked for only a few moments, and ran directly into Mr. Flint.

“Mr. Flint, you startled me,” she said, one hand on her chest.

“That was not my intention. Tell me, Miss Granger, you seem in a foul mood. Was it the company, or was it still the words earlier from Miss Parkinson, which has thrown you off kilter?”

“Both and neither,” she said, wearily. “I must confess that I don’t know what to make of all of you. You socialize with people like me and Harry, but you imagine yourself a cut above.”

“I hope this observation is not aimed toward me. I don’t know what I did to cause such disfavor,” he said.

“Please, do not take exception. I am used to more quiet time. I am not used to constant games and such,” she replied.

Draco had walked around the other side of the berry bush, and he waited when he heard their voices.

“I understand my friend Draco is to tutor you?” he said.

“I am not sure that is still the case,” she revealed. “I think I offended him last night.”

“Surely not, he is thick skinned and not easily offended,” Marcus said, laughing. “But do tell me what it is you think you did.”

“That is the thing, Sir,” Hermione began, “I know not. We were all enjoying a country-dance, after dinner, he and I were partners, and without warning when the song ended, he left in haste. I must have done something, although I know not what.” She bent down to pick some more berries.

Marcus stood behind her and said, “Malfoy is a proud sort. He probably does think he is a cut above you, but I assure you, Miss, not all purebloods think alike.” She stood up suddenly, as he was so close. “You are a beautiful woman; it is a shame if Malfoy does not notice that, but only a shame for him, not for me.” He reached out and touched her hair. This startled her and she jumped away. The exchange was witness by Draco, who was more than startled. He was incensed.

“Sir, you are being forward,” she warned.

“So you are all propriety? You, a common country girl? You mean to teach me, do you?” He smiled. He stepped closer. She dropped her berry pail. Malfoy decided to show himself. He walked around the side of the bush.

“Flint, as the lady said, you are being forward, and I don’t believe her cousin would appreciate your rakish actions toward Miss Granger,” Draco said.

Flint gave a half smile, bowed slightly and regaled, “My apologies, Miss. Lord Malfoy, goodbye.” He walked away.

Hermione threw up her hands in frustration and said, “The whole lot of you confounds me!”

Draco had to smile. “Am I included in that statement?”

“You are especially included in that statement,” she relayed. He bent down and picked up her pail. He handed it to her and motioned toward the berry bushes.

“What have I done to earn such harsh criticism? Why am I to be included with the other? Are we not friends now?” he asked.

“Friends?” she asked, mid pick. She turned with a berry in her hand. “You mean to be my friend?”

“I thought we were already friends, but I must have been mistaken,” he said, contemplating her statement. “That is, unless you wish to amend your statement.”

She looked at him closely, and popped the berry in her mouth. “No amendment from me.” She gave him a ‘so there’ stare and turned back around to her task.

He had to laugh at her audacity. “I overheard your statement to Flint about leaving the other night. I am sorry if my leaving was misinterpreted. I merely left. There was nothing more to it. I meant no insult.” He knew that statement was not true, but he could hardly tell her he left because he was confused by his budding feelings for her. She handed him her pail, and continued to pick berries. He held the pail out and said, “Since I am now your pack mule, holding your pail, does that mean you forgive me?”

“As you said, no insult was intended, so no forgiving needed.” She deposited three more berries in the pail. He looked down in the pail.

“You are a pitiful berry picker. This will take all day to fill up the pail,” he joked.

She threw two more berries in the pail and said, “Insult my blood, my heritage, and even my hair, Sir, but never my berry picking ability.” She smiled and then threw a berry right at him and it bounced off his chest and landed in the pail. He raised his eyebrows, astonished, and she smiled a bright, happy smile. She truly entranced him. He took his wand and filled up her pail. Now he gave her a ‘so there’ stare. “That is cheating, Lord Malfoy.”

“I am not above cheating,” he said sincerely.

“Cheaters never prosper,” she quoted.

“Perhaps not, but they have the most berries in their pail,” he said with a smile. She laughed. He reached in the pail and popped a berry in his mouth. “Shall we go back to the others?” He wanted her to say no.

She did not say anything. She turned away from him and continued to pick more fruit, although their pail was overflowing. He placed the pail on the ground and he picked some beside her. They both reached for the same stem at the same time. His hand reached it first, and hers went on top of his. She slowly turned to look at him. She withdrew her hand, and stood upright, as did he. He plucked the berry from the vine first and handed it to her.

“I believe this one is yours,” he offered, holding the berry out to her slowly.

They stood close. Her mouth was slightly opened, almost forming a perfect ‘o’. She had to crane her head upwards to look in his eyes. He looked down at her, and he realized one thing that was certain. This was no ordinary witch. He held the berry up and she opened her hand. He dropped it in her hand, but then reached for her hand with both of his. He gently closed her fingers around the berry. He held her one hand in both of his. He looked at her small, white hand as it rested in both of his and he got a vision of the future. His future. Their future. And it alarmed him. He stepped backwards, bowed and said, “I believe you can carry on from here.” He walked back toward the crowd, leaving her alone and confused.

Hermione stood on the path, and looked down at the berry in her hand. She threw it on the ground. Why was the man so perplexing? He claimed to seek her friendship, but then he continued to act so incommodious. She sat down by the berry bushes, and ate some more, deciding that she did not think she was up to facing any of them. They tired her so.

She lay back on the ground, and covered her face with her arm, to block the sun. She knew it was improper to lie around on the ground, but she no longer cared what any of them thought. She heard Harry calling her name, telling her it was time to eat. She did not care for food, either. She stood up, left her berry pail behind, and walked away from his calls.

She was not hungry. She had butterflies in her stomach. Perhaps it was due to her nerves at being near the crowd, but she knew it was probably due to Lord Malfoy. He was a confusing man. She walked farther away from the sound of Harry’s voice, and rehearsed in her head what she would say to Lord Malfoy the next time she saw him. She would play as if he did not mean a thing to her. As if she did not give two cares for him. She would be calm and collected. Perhaps she would comment on the weather. Yes, best to leave the conversation to the weather. She walked through some low-lying branches and brambles. Her hair became stuck in the twigs. She moved farther along, away from the path. She could no longer hear Harry’s voice.

She slid on some fallen leaves that littered the ground, and as she reached out for a shrub to catch her fall, she slid on her backside, down a small ravine. She landed at the bottom with a thud. The only thing that was injured was her pride. She looked back up the bank, then down at her muddy skirts, and she had one thought…she would stay here and let the undergrowth grow over her, and that way she would not have to face any of those odious people again!

She heard someone on top of the ravine say, “Do you mean to sit there all day, or are you injured?”

She feared looking up at the voice, but she did. No, no, no! Lord Malfoy. Why oh why would it have to be he that finds her like this? He started to slide down the embankment, to come to her rescue. She started to stand, when she discovered that perhaps she was injured. She had twisted her ankle in the fall. She tried to stand again and winced in pain.

“Goodness, woman, just stay down,” Malfoy lectured. He reached her shortly and said, “So I take it you fell?”

“So I take it you’re dense?” she said back.

He could either laugh at her or not. He laughed. She assumed he laughed because she fell, but he laughed at her temperament, and her harsh words to him.

“Shall I carry you?” he asked.

“NO!” She was appalled at his request.

“Shall I get your cousin?”

“No, leave me be. I have decided to stay here and let the undergrowth cover me. I shall forever be part of the countryside.”

“And what shall you do when the rains comes and floods this little ravine? Shall you stay here and drown?” he asked, amused.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” she said earnestly from her place below him. He knelt beside her.

“I was a rogue again, to leave you like that. My inner conflict is not of your making, so I apologize, once again. It seems I am forever apologizing to you.” That was a lie. His inner conflict was entirely of her making. He loosened his neckcloth and unbuttoned his coat. He scooped her up, without her consent. She folded her arms in front of her, and pouted. He said, “You are heavier than you appear.”

“You are more loathsome than you appear,” she harked back. Her heart was racing, and she was certain he would be able to hear it. She felt safe in the confines of his arms. Safe and right. Why was that? He walked the long creek bed, until the embankment was less steep, and he climbed up, with her still safely in his arms.

“Can you stand?” he asked.

“Yes,” she lied. She knew it would be painful. He placed her on the ground, and she cried out again.

He shook his head and said, “You are truly more trouble than you are worth.” He placed his hand on her arm to steady her.

She looked up toward him with a pained expression. She was causing trouble. That was the one thing she did not want to do. She was more trouble than she was worth. It was a fact she had always known. Harry ran toward them, she turned to him when he reached her side, and she threw herself in his arms. “I didn’t mean to ruin your picnic, Cousin,” she cried out. He patted her back and gave Draco a baffled look. “I am more trouble than I am worth.”

Draco rolled his eyes. What a bothersome girl! He did not mean that literally! Was she always so sensitive? “Harry,” she said, “I would like to go back to Potter’s Hall, please, where I will cause no trouble to anyone. Would you take me back?”

Without warning, Draco came up behind her and picked her up again. He said, “Potter, go back and entertain your guests. I shall Apparate her back to your home and have a healer come look at her ankle.”

Now Harry had mixed feelings. He should see to his cousin, because he feared more than her ankle was injured, but he needed to see to his guests. His future in-laws were there, and he meant to make a good impression. Still, he did not fully trust, or like, Malfoy. He knew he would not do anything to hurt his cousin on purpose, but still he may hurt her without meaning to do so. He could tell that she was beginning to have feelings for the man, and an entanglement between the two would have disastrous results.

He finally said, “I would be in your debt, Lord Malfoy. I shall offer our guests your apologies, Cousin.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Draco walked further up the path, Hermione tight in his arms. He looked down at her with heavy eyes. She looked pretty in her ivory gown of light muslin, her hair long and flowing. She still had on the necklace and crown of flowers. She had pluck and tenacity, he would give her that much. Why did the very thought of her and he together fill him with doom?

“Do you mean to walk me back, or are we Apparating?” she asked in a calm, lilting voice.

“I wish to speak with you before I take you back,” he said. She was forced to listen as she was held tightly in his arms. “I am a man of means, and I have a reputation to protect, do you understand?”

She felt a sharp pain in her heart. He hated her. She looked out toward the path. He continued, “There are certain conventions to be followed.”

Before he could continue she said, “I beg your pardon, Sir, but please set me down if you mean to tell me that we cannot be friends.”

He did as she requested. He placed her on the ground in front of him, but kept his hands on her shoulders. He said, “You silly girl. What I am trying to say, as any gentleman in my position would say, is that although we are not equals, at least by means and fortunes, nor do we make a good blood match, I am going to ask your cousin if I might see you formally. I know it will cause scandal among my peers. I know they will question my sanity, as I myself question it, but I no longer care. I want to become better acquainted with you, no matter how disreputable the pairing might be.”

She was truly without words. What did he say? What did he mean? “What?” she asked.

He laughed again, and picked up her. “Oh, Miss Granger, you are a strange, strange creature.” He Disapparated with her on the spot. He arrived right outside the main doors of Potter’s Hall. He put her down and smiled at her.

She swung her hand back and slapped him soundly on the cheek.

He did not expect that.


End Notes:

x

Chapter 8 - An Unhappy Situation Turns Happy by AnneM

Chapter 8: An Unhappy Situation Turns Happy:

The next morning Hermione had a clearer view of the events from yesterday and she knew one thing for certain: Hermione Granger had met her match with Lord Draco Malfoy, and circumstances were such that neither could declare their feelings to the other. Oh, Lord Malfoy tried to declare his, but he failed miserably. She declared hers with her hand. Oh unhappy circumstances, indeed. She must forget about the man, and his strong brow, and broad shoulders, and smooth fine hair. She must put last night away in her memory and never think of it again. She could scarcely live with the embarrassment and the regret she felt. She headed off for breakfast, her ankle now healed, her pride still bruised.

Once at breakfast, Harry told Hermione and Remus, “Well, I did it. I proposed to Miss Weasley, and she accepted!”

“Congratulations, Harry, my boy,” Remus declared. He stood to shake the man’s hand. Harry’s smile was contagious, so Hermione had to smile also.

“What do you think, Cousin, have I made a good choice for a wife?” he asked.

“You seem besotted with her and her with you. What could be better?” Hermione asked. She was happy for him. She was happy for both of them. If only she could find a man who did not care that their situations were not equal.

She cringed when she recalled the events of yesterday. After she slapped Lord Malfoy, he said, “Well, I now know your feelings, for I felt them resoundingly on my cheek. I shall linger no longer. I will see that Harry’s servant comes to help you in the house.” With his hand on his cheek he rang the doorbell, and waited for the butler, his back to Hermione.

The butler came and Hermione said, “Manning, do you mind giving Lord Malfoy and I a moment?” The man bowed to Hermione and shut the door once more. Draco turned to Hermione. She said, “You tell me that I am no better than the dirt on your shoes, and you expect me to be pleased? I am sorry for striking you, for that was wrong, but you were in the wrong as well.

“You say you want to be my friend, possibly more, and yet you insult me at every turn. How would you feel? I am a human being with emotions, and a bad temper, and I can tell you how I felt. I felt sadden by your words. I felt heartbroken. There is nothing I would liked more than to be friends or more with you, but only when and if you see me as your equal. I will not try to prove my worth to you, for I should not have to, so thank you and goodbye.” She rang the doorbell again. Manning came outside and helped her in the house.

Draco stood there and thought about her words, and for the first time in a long time he truly did not know what to do.

Now here she sat, as Harry talked endlessly about a wedding in a month and how Ginny’s mother and father would be moving to Potter’s Hall, and she knew more than ever that she must seek her education, and quickly, for in a month she would be without a home once again.

Hermione said, “Mr. Lupin, do you think you could escort me to Mr. Snapes’ house for my tutoring session?”

“I thought Lord Malfoy was to escort you,” he said.

“I believe he changed his mind,” Hermione said. Or rather, she changed it for him when she slapped him. Why did she strike the man? Just because he was supercilious and vain, was no reason to slap the man. It was a reason to avoid him, but not slap him.

Harry said, “Did something untold happen between Lord Malfoy and yourself yesterday when he escorted you home?”

“Not at all, Harry,” she said.

“You don’t have affection for him, do you?” he asked. She gave him a shocked expression and he said, “I am sorry, Hermione, but it begged to be asked.”

Lupin stood and said, “On that note, I will beg my leave. I will meet you at ten by the grand staircase, Miss Granger, to escort you to Spinner’s End.” Lupin got up and left the table.

“Hermione, I am waiting,” Harry said with a frown. She looked down at her lap. “I am your only male relative, nay, your only living relative, and your well being is of utmost importance to me. Tell me, do you find yourself in Lord Malfoy’s favour?”

“Not at all,” she reported.

“Then I shall put the matter to rest. There is something else that I must tell you, and the news is grave, I fear. Ron Weasley has sought and gained the affections of another. I had hoped my good friend would turn your head, and likewise with you to him, but he finds himself enamored with another. Miss Lovegood, it seems,” Harry conveyed, raising his eyebrows.

“Is something wrong with the match, Harry?” she asked. “If they care for each other, and are good together, where is the harm?”

“You are right, Hermione, forgive me. On a lighter note, do you recall Ron and Ginny’s brother Fred? One of the twins?”

“I do recall him,” she said taking a drink of tea.

“He has asked my permission to court you. What would you say to that?” he asked.

She almost dropped her teacup at that news. “Harry, you did not give him permission, did you?” she asked as she stood.

“Sit down, Hermione. I told him I would have to think about it, and I wanted to consult you. He is a good man, he owns his own shoppe, and you would be well provided and cared for. He would make you a fine husband.”

“But I would not love him, nor he me,” she said.

“Love would come in time,” he surmised.

“Why is it you are allowed the courtesy of love and marriage? Am I not worth the same courtesy? I promise you, Cousin, when you marry Miss Weasley, I will find my own station, a profession of some type, and a home of my own. I shall not encroach on your kindness once you are a married man, but please, do not seek any more suitors for me.” She started out of the dining room when Harry stood as well.

“Hermione, come back here!” he said tersely. She had never heard him speak to her with such a tone. She stepped back in the room.

“Forgive me, Harry, I will do what you see fit,” she said with a curtsey. She again started out of the room, when he stormed over to her so suddenly that he knocked his chair over.

“Hermione, please do not assume I act in anything other than your best interest. I would never have asked you to come here if I only meant for you to leave again. Potter’s Hall is your home now, forever, if you want it to be. My marriage to Ginny will make no difference where that is concerned,” he pledged. He put his hands on her shoulders and stared directly into her eyes.

She smiled sadly and said, “It makes no difference to you, but it may to her. You cannot speak for the future Lady Potter, Lady of the house, Harry. No woman wants another woman in her home.”

“Hermione, I will not argue with you about this, but please know that if you do not wish for an attachment with Fred Weasley, I will tell him no, and I will take full credit for the rejection. Just think about it, and choose not with your heart, but with your head, please.” He kissed her forehead and left the room.

A while later she was sitting on the bottom step, reading a book on charms that Remus had given her, and waiting for him to come downstairs to take her to her lesson, when the bell to the front door rang. She called out, “I shall get the door, Manning!” She bounded to the door, and opened it with a smile, to see a solemn Lord Malfoy on the other side. She was so surprised to see him that she slammed the door shut again, in shock.

The bell rang again. Manning walked to the entry hall and said, “Miss, shall I get the door?”

“No, Manning, I shall get the door,” she said again. She took a deep breath and opened the door for a second time.

“I think I prefer being slapped by you than to have the door shut in my face, but I am not certain. Neither is pleasant,” he said with a definite frown on his face.

“I could do them both again, so you can make an educated opinion,” she said without humour.

However, he thought she was funny and charming, even if she did rankle him. He said, “Not today, thank you. Are you ready to go to my godfather’s?”

“You still mean to take me?” she inquired, stunned.

“Not this again,” he said more to himself than to her. He labored, “As I once told you, I am a man of my word. I offered to tutor you, so I shall. I told my godfather I would escort you to Spinner’s End, and so I shall. Is one of those concepts too hard for you to understand?”

“But I struck you yesterday,” she retorted.

“I am aware, as is my cheek. I also am aware that I deserved it, slightly. I was wrong to say you were not worthy of me, and I was wrong to assume you would want to see me as anything other than a friend. I would like to start anew, if we may.” He bowed low and said, “I am Sir Draco Malfoy, of Malfoy Manor, first and only son of the late Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. It is an honour and privilege to make your acquaintance.”

She held out her hand to him, and he took the edges of her fingers, and held them lightly in his hand. She lowered her head slightly, her hand still in his, and she said, “I am Hermione Jean Granger, of Kent, the daughter of the late Henry and Jane Granger, cousin to Lord Harry Potter, of Godric’s Hollow. It is an honour to not slap you.”

He smiled and kissed her hand. The simple gesture sent a tingling sensation through them both. “Shall we go?”

“I should tell Remus, for he was going to take me, and I need to change my clothes,” she said. She ran back in the house and a few moments later, she was back. She had on a wide brimmed straw hat, with a red ribbon. She had on a rose coloured dress with a modest bodice

“You changed your attire?” he asked.

She looked down at her gown. She was now embarrassed that she had changed her clothing, especially as she had done it just for him. He quickly added, “I am glad you did, for that dress is fetching on you, and the colour is the exact colour that my cheek was yesterday, when you slapped it.”

Hermione smiled at his wit and bit her bottom lip. He winked at her and asked, “Shall we Apparate?”

“How about side-a-long Apparition?” she asked.

“Is this an excuse to touch my arm?” he asked, amused.

“Sir, I am offended you would think that,” she said with a warm smile. He took her arm and Apparated them to Spinner’s End.

The house at Spinner’s End was dark and ominous. Hermione said, “Mr. Snape lives here?”

“Yes he does, but only in the summer months and on holidays. He teaches at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry during the year,” Draco replied. “You didn’t attend that school, did you?”

“No, my mother was reluctant to have me go so far away, so Harry’s godfather, Sirius, found a small girls school, The Lakewood School for Girls, in London. However, I only went for two years. Once my mother married, she made me come home,” Hermione said.

“Why?”

“My stepfather wasn’t aware of what I was. My mother did not want to risk her marriage or our home. Our village looked down on magical folk. She allowed me to continue my Muggle education, reading, writing, art appreciation, but that was all.”

“That is horrible,” he said, affronted.

“My mother did what she thought was best. She had to secure our future, and for her, finding another husband was the only way to do that. He was a good man, too,” Hermione explained.

“So good that as soon as she died, he remarried, and made you find your own way in the world, without a dowry, or a recommendation?” Draco said. “I beg your pardon, Miss, but that isn’t a good man.” Draco started to walk toward the house but she remained where she was. He walked back toward her and said, “I guarantee if you are late my godfather will not be kind enough to continue to teach you.”

“Am I meant to go in there by myself?” she asked.

“Are you afraid?” he quizzed with a crooked smiled.

“He was rather formable, but I would not say I am afraid. Apprehensive, yes.” She took two steps closer to the door.

He took two steps back toward her, so he was standing a hairsbreadth from her and leaned his face toward hers. He held up the brim of her hat and said in low tones, “Then I shall have to stay to protect you, even though you are not afraid.” His breath was warm on her face. She looked up in his eyes, and noticed for the first time they were silver. What an odd colour for eyes.

She found that she had trouble swallowing. She said, “Your eyes are silver.” Then she shook her head and said, “I meant to say that I need no protection, but fellowship.”

“Ah,” he said, smiling warmly. “And your eyes are a beautiful brown; however, what I really meant to say was that I know you are not afraid. Still, I shall remain close, if you should need me, for fellowship.” And he would…he would remain close to her, always, if she would allow it.

She put her hand on the lapel of his cutaway dark jacket, and leaned up on tiptoes. She said, “Yes, for fellowship, however, if you are afraid, I will do whatever is in my power to protect you.” She fell back down on the balls of her feet.

He could not help but smile. His gaze held hers, and her smile rivaled his own. Snape stood in the doorway and said, “Do you both mean to stare at each other all day, or shall we start our lesson?”

After a two hour lesson, Severus Snape found Hermione Granger irritating, annoying, and one of the brightest women, no, one of the brightest people, he had ever met. She already knew much about potion making, all apparently self-taught or learned from books. Draco knew that potion making was best learned by doing, not reading, so he too was impressed.

With their lesson over, Snape had his servant make them lunch. Hermione asked him about Hogwarts. Snape gave her a book to read, ‘Hogwarts a History’. He told her all about the magical school. She was engrossed in his story. Finally, she asked him, “Do you suppose they might ever employ me as a teacher?”

“Perhaps, someday, if you continue to study,” Snape said. He certainly would never rule that out for the young girl.

When she and Draco left, they began walking down the lane, and Draco asked, “Why did you ask about teaching at Hogwarts?”

“Harry is to marry by the end of the summer. I must find a position by then. He told me that I am welcome in their home, but he means to have her parents live there as well. I think it would be awkward,” she said.

He grimaced and said, “I think it would be horrible, to live with all those Weasleys!”

She smiled and said, “What do you know of Fred Weasley?”

“My amount of knowledge of the man is that he has ginger hair,” Draco drawled.

Hermione said, “He has asked Harry’s permission to court me.” Draco stopped walking. What did she say? She turned to face him. “Lord Malfoy?” she asked, “What is wrong?”

“What did Lord Potter tell the scoundrel?” he asked.

“He said it was up to me, if I decline, he will tell him no.” She walked up to Draco and said, “What do you think I should tell him?”

“Why ask me?” Draco asked with a frown on his face.

“We are friends now. Was that not decided just this morning? I ask you as my friend - what is your opinion on the matter?” she asked.

“It depends on your heart. What does you heart say?” he asked in return. He was closer to her now. She had not even realized he had walked closer. That was because she was lost in his silver eyes.

“My heart tells me to wait for love, but not everyone is lucky enough to find true love,” she waned. She looked down. He closed the gap that separated them, and reached up and removed her hat. The red ribbon, which was tied loosely, fell away. He held her hat by the brim, to his side.

His long, lean fingers of his other hand, all muscles and tendons, came up to stroke her face. A summer breeze blew her hair in her face, and he brushed it away. “I am afraid to say anything,” he admitted.

“Why is that?” she inquired.

“You might slap me again.” He smiled. His knuckles skimmed her cheek, and then skimmed down her bare arm, to grasp her hand. “Do not marry without love, Miss Granger. You deserve love.”

“We all do,” she said simply.

“If only it was that easy,” he countered. He removed his hand from hers, and taking her hat in both of his hands, placed it back on her head. “Perhaps you can see yourself home from here. I have another engagement.”

“Could you point me toward Potter’s Hall?” she asked.

He smiled and said, “I know you have your wand, for you used it in your lesson today, so Apparate there. I am sure his wards will not keep you out, as they did me.”

She suddenly looked apprehensive again. She nodded and said, “Of course, I should Apparate. Well, good day, Lord Malfoy, and thank you.” He nodded to her and Apparated back to the Manor.

Apparition. She had never learned to Apparate. She was embarrassed to say as much to anyone magical. She was also afraid to try it on her own. She knew it could have disastrous results. She continued to walk down the lane. She hoped that the village was in the direction she was traveling, and once in the village, she would find someone to take her to Potter’s Hall.

Draco arrived back at the Manor, and realized that he had not arranged with Hermione the time for his upcoming tutoring session. He wanted to start first thing tomorrow afternoon. Perhaps she had not yet Apparated to Potter’s Hall. He popped right back where he left her, and indeed, he saw her as she was walking down the lane, in completely the wrong direction.

He called out, “Miss Granger, may I ask you where you are going?”

She turned around. He ran up to her as she said, “It is such a pleasant day, I thought I would walk to the village, and then on to Potter’s Hall.”

“The village is the other way. You do have a bad sense of direction, do you not?” he said as he pointed behind him.

“Oh, thank you, Sir. Was there a reason you came back?”

“I want to start our lessons tomorrow. You may still bring Mr. Lupin if you see fit. I will adjust my wards to admit you. Just Apparate there by noon, if that’s acceptable to you,” he said.

“That’s fine,” she said quietly.

He regarded her through narrow eyes. Something occurred to him. She must not be able to Apparate. She only had two years of magical education. Of course, she could not Apparate. That could be one more thing he could teach her. He amended, “I think I shall send my carriage for you instead, if you would like.” He would save her the embarrassment of finding out her secret.

She smiled widely and said, “I would like that, Sir.”

“Until tomorrow, Miss, and try not to get lost between now and then, and please, do not accept any Weasley’s proposals.”

“What if they offer something which is beyond compare?” she said jokingly.

“I would like to see what they could offer that would tempt you,” he bemoaned, though with a smile. He then said, “Do you really want that walk? If you are tired, I could Apparate with you back to Potter’s Hall. I have time before my appointment.”

“Are you certain that you are not just looking for an excuse to hold my arm?” she said, reminiscent of his earlier remark.

“But of course I am, is there any question in that?” he asked with a smile.

He held out his arm. She put her hand on it gently. She stroked the broadcloth of his jacket, looked up into his eyes, and said, “You know my secret, do you not?”

“What secret is that? That you are secretly in love with me or that you cannot Apparate?” he said with a grin. She blushed. How he had longed to see that blush again. He said, “Nevertheless, I realize only one of those statements is the truth.”

“Of course, because I DO know how to Apparate,” she said jokingly, with a sly smile.

“Ah, I see. I thought that one was the lie. Good to know, Miss Granger, very good to know.” Hermione’s hand continued to rest on his arm. He put his other hand on top of hers and Apparated her back to Potter’s Hall.

Once there he bowed to her and said, “Remember, do not accept any proposals of any kind.” In his head he thought, ‘unless they are from me’.

“I will try to resist,” she said before he Apparated away. She twirled in place and ran in the house. How could a day that started so unhappy, end up to be one of the best days of her life? Things really did not make much sense here at Godric’s Hollow and for once, she was happy about that fact.


Chapter 9 - Returning Favours by AnneM

Chapter 9 – Returning Favours:

After the lesson with Snape, Draco had an appointment with his solicitor. He had to see the man to make some inquiries on Miss Granger’s background. It was not that he did not believe she was who she said she was; rather, he wanted to make sure she was not something more. Surely someone with her grace, beauty and charm, had to be at least a half blood. Perhaps if her mother had her hide her magical abilities, her true father hid his as well. On the other hand, perhaps there was more magic in her mother’s side of the family than she knew. Harry’s mother and her mother were sisters, and it was curious that not only was Harry’s mother a witch, but so was her niece. Could there be more witches and wizards in their family? Perhaps someone neither party was aware.

Draco was not sure why it mattered so much to him, for even if his solicitor found a magical background, she still would not be a pureblood. She still would not be worthy of him, at least in the eyes of others.

It mattered, not to him, if truth was known, but it mattered, still the same. He recalled the emotions she expressed when he told her they were not equals. He recalled the pain in her eyes and the anger in her hand on his cheek. All of these emotions paled in comparison to her beauty. Her loveliness was only second to her wit and her mind. Damnation to it all! His heart was full of desire for her. How could he go back to his ordinary, plain life, knowing that she was out there, and available, and could be his! She could be his.

Tomorrow, when he saw her again, he would watch her closely. He needed to be sure of her feelings toward him, before he could proceed. Yes, he would wait for tomorrow.

The next day, Draco paced the long halls of Malfoy Manor, impatiently awaiting the fine woman’s presence. He had sent his carriage over a half hour ago to pick up Miss Granger and Lupin. They should have been here by now. Draco’s lawyer had just left, after telling him that he found no news as of yet. Well, it had only been a day. Perhaps news was coming. At least they did not arrive while Draco’s lawyer was still there. Draco decided to Floo Potter’s Hall, and see as to why they had not yet arrived.

When Malfoy’s carriage arrived at Potter’s hall, Hermione was enthralled at its size and opulence. She and Lupin climbed in the grand carriage and they started their trek. Harry’s carriage, the one she rode in her first day, was grand and comfortable, but it was nothing compared to this. Lupin joked that this carriage was nicer than any house he had ever lived in, save for Potter’s Hall. Hermione had to agree.

After only fifteen minutes in the carriage, it suddenly lurched to a sudden stop, throwing Lupin out of his seat, and causing Hermione to fall forward, where she hit her chin on the seat in front of her. Lupin sat back up and helped Hermione to sit. He took out his handkerchief and put it on her chin, when he saw that it was bleeding. He looked out the window and said, “Driver, why did we stop?”

There was no answer. Lupin opened the door, and found himself at the other end of a wand.

Lord Malfoy Floo’d Harry Potter to ask when Lupin and Hermione had left, because they had not yet arrived. Harry informed him that they left almost three quarters of an hour ago, and now Harry was worried, right along with Malfoy. Harry paced his drawing room while he waited by the open Floo for Malfoy to arrive. They were both going to go look for the lost carriage. Malfoy’s home was next to Potter’s, and although both estates were massive, with many acres of land between them, it should have only taken fifteen minutes or a few more for the carriage to go from one home to the other, so even if they had decided to turn around and come back, they should have returned by now.

Draco arrived with his friends Theo and Blaise. Harry took charge immediately and said, “Perhaps we should take brooms. We can fly overhead and see where the carriage is. Perhaps it has a broken a wheel, or got hung up on a bridge.”

“Lupin or my driver would have Apparated back here or to the Manor, Potter,” Draco said with ire. “I also sent a footman with them.”

“I didn’t bring my broom,” Theo commented.

“I have plenty, let us linger no longer. I am very concerned for both of them. It is not like Lupin to be irresponsible,” Harry retorted.

“Perhaps the werewolf ate the young, lass,” Blaise said, quite seriously.

“It is not a full moon, and he takes a potion made my Snape, so the affects of his Lycanthropy isn’t too severe,” Harry spat.

“We are wasting time!” Draco said. “Potter, get your brooms!”

Back at the carriage, Lupin said to Hermione, “Miss Granger, come out of the carriage, and do not be afraid.” Hermione stepped out into the bright noon sun, her hands covering the tops of her eyes. She saw three men, all with wands pointing right at Lupin and the driver. The footman was missing.

“Who are you?” one of the men inquired. “This is Lord Malfoy’s carriage!”

“We didn’t steal it if that is what you think!” Hermione said. “He sent it for us, now lower your wand.”

“Hermione, perhaps it is best not to make demands of three men with wands pointed at us,” Remus said calmly.

“Give me your purse and your jewels, miss, and no one will be hurt,” another wizard demanded.

She put her hand on her locket. “No, Sir, this is of no monetary value, only sentimental, and it is the only thing I have with my parents’ portraits. You may have my purse, although it only contains three knuts and one galleon, but you will not take my locket.”

Lupin and the driver had already emptied their pockets. The first man walked up to Hermione and put his wand under her chin. The end pressed into her neck. He ordered, “The locket or your life, which will it be?”

Up in the air, Draco and Harry were flying above the road, when they saw Malfoy’s footman waving at them from below. Harry sank down on the broom to discover why the man was on his back on the ground. Draco decided not to waste time, so he flew on to find the carriage, knowing it must not be far. He came upon the carriage, the three wizards, and their captives. He flew to the ground, and hid in the trees.

“That’s the Mudblood cousin of Harry Potter,” the third man said to the other two. “We don’t want trouble from him. Leave them all be,” he decided.

“No, I will get something for my trouble,” the first man said. He pocketed his wand and took out a knife, and said, “Mudblood, perhaps this is more up your alley. Take me serious now, love?” He pushed her up against the carriage and put the knife in place of the wand, and pressed it up against her throat, piercing her skin with its point. A drop of blood appeared on her light blue dress. She sucked in a breath, but her hand still covered her locket.

Draco also sucked in a breath. There was nothing he could do at the moment. He was sorely outnumbered. Showing emotion now would do them no good. He saw Potter fly low and then land beside him. “Your footman saw the ruffians, and jumped from the carriage to get help, but he hurt his leg and couldn’t walk and he couldn’t find his wand,” Harry informed Draco, and then he asked, “What do you see?”

“There are three of them, and one has a knife at your cousin’s neck, and the others have their wands pointed toward the men,” Draco said.

“I will kill them if they hurt her,” Harry said in hushed tones. “I’ll Apparate to the other side. You come up on that side and we will surprise them.” Harry Apparated away.

Tears filled Hermione’s eyes. She did not want to lose her locket, but more important, she did not want to lose her life. She realized it could be worse…they knew she was Harry’s cousin; they could try to hold her for ransom. She ripped the locket from her neck and handed it to the man.

“Ah, little Missy, you must think I am a fool. I want more than the locket. I just thought of something. Your cousin will pay a pretty penny for your safe return. I would bet my life on it.” He turned toward the others and said, “Stun the men, and let’s take the carriage and the girl.”

The one man said, “No, I will not be a party to this,” and he Apparated away.

The second man looked apprehensive as well, but he stunned Lupin and then the driver. He said, “I shall drive the carriage. You ride inside with the girl.”

The first man grinned at Hermione and said, “You better hope your cousin cares for you, Missy, or you will find yourself dead.” He opened the carriage door and pushed her toward it. She climbed into the carriage before the man and saw Draco sitting inside. He placed a finger to his mouth, to urge her to be quiet. The man started in the carriage after Hermione and Draco stunned him immediately, at the same time that Harry jumped from the top of the carriage, and stunned the would be driver.

Draco jumped out of the carriage as Theo and Blaise appeared. Theo was a member of the militia, and he and Blaise took the two men into custody right away. Harry opened the carriage door, to find his cousin, cowering in the corner of the carriage, her head turned toward the wall.

“Hermione, come out, it is safe now,” he urged. He held his hand toward her. She stayed where she was, still in shock. Draco opened the other door, the one in which she was leaning. He held out his hand to her. She looked up into his eyes. His heart melted, for she looked so afraid. He saw the blood on her neck, and her injured chin. He pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her. She took it in an unsteady hand. She put it up to her neck.

“Potter, leave her in the carriage.” Draco shut the door, and gave her privacy. Harry attended to Lupin and the driver. Draco leaned down and picked the locket up from the dirt. The chain was broken, but that was the amount of damage done. He put it in his pocket, as he had the first day he met her.

Draco said to Harry, “We will take the carriage back to Potter’s Hall, and have her attended to there.”

Suddenly, she looked out the window and said, “Am I not to have my lesson, Sir?”

Harry turned to Hermione, as he held up his friend Lupin, and said, “Hermione, you cannot mean to carry on with your lesson after what happened. You had a fright. You need a healer. You need to recover.”

“I am fine. I am not some weak woman who would swoon and faint at the slightest thing. They did not hurt me, only scared me a bit. I want to carry on with my lesson.” She opened the carriage door and started to step down, but she faltered. Draco grabbed her arm, and pulled her to his side, with no intention of releasing her arm.

“It is up to you, Potter,” Draco said. He brought his other arm around her as well, to hold her up.

“She is to come home,” Harry decided.

Draco looked down and said to her softly, “We will have our lesson another day, I promise.”

“No, I want to have my lesson today!” she insisted. She turned to Draco, whose left hand still held her right arm and she said softly, “I must learn everything I can, and I only have until the end of the summer. Time is of the essence, Sir. Do you not see? I could not even Apparate away to safety, though they never took my wand! I have to learn to at least Apparate. You must teach me to Apparate!”

Draco thought she was near hysterics. He turned to Potter, who was helping Lupin and the driver in the carriage, and said, “Lord Potter, if it is amendable to you, I shall give her a lesson at your home today, after she is looked over by a healer.”

“Yes, yes, that is fine and good, just get her back in the carriage,” Harry said, annoyed. He picked up their brooms, and put them in the carriage as well. “I will drive the carriage. You ride inside with them, Malfoy.”

Draco turned to Hermione. He merely nodded to her and she nodded back. He opened the carriage door and helped her inside. She sat down and he sat beside her. His head was reeling. She was in true danger, and she kept a level head. What type of woman was this? He turned to look at her - she had his cloth in her hand, on her lap, and her neck was still bleeding. He knew it was improper, and he would be taking liberties, but he took the cloth from her hand and pressed it to her bleeding wound.

Lupin looked over at the pair and asked, “Is she alright?”

Draco said, “Yes, she is, or at least, she will be.”

“Mr. Lupin, are you alright as well?” Hermione asked.

“Yes, I am, and I am so sorry. I should have looked out for you better,” Remus said, regretfully.

“Yes, you should have,” Draco said, agreeing with the man.

Hermione was going to tell him to be kind to Lupin, but she did not have the fortitude. She found herself leaning against him, her head on his shoulder, his hand still on her neck. He looked down at her face. Her eyes were now red and swollen, holding back tears that needed to fall. He put his other arm around her, and pulled her closer to him.

She looked up into his eyes and with a look of gratitude she said simply, “Draco.”

She did not say Lord Malfoy. She said his given name. She looked back to the floorboard of the carriage, but he knew what she meant by that one single word and that one single word meant more to him than he would ever be able to show.

When they arrived at Potter’s Hall, Draco removed his arm from around her shoulders. Harry opened the carriage door, took his cousin in his arms, and headed up the stairs. He called for his man to go find a healer.

Draco felt he was imposing; therefore, he remained outside for almost an hour, until Lupin came outside and said, “Miss Granger is waiting for her lesson now. She is in the library. I will show you the way.”

They walked through the door and Draco inquired, “May I ask you a question, Lupin?” Remus turned toward the younger man. “What type of woman wants to have a lesson on Ancient Runes only an hour after she was accosted by three men? It makes no sense to me, Sir.”

Lupin smiled and said, “That is the ancient mystery, is it not, the mind of women? This woman in particular finds it necessary for her own peace of mind to secure as much education as she can, in as short amount of time as necessary, because she feels she will soon be without a home. It is best to humour her, or rather, cater to her whims, or she might do something even rasher.”

Draco stopped walking and said, “Such as?”

Lupin turned and said, “Well, we do not want our young student to accept any marriage proposals out of necessity. No, someone like our Hermione deserves so much more than a marriage of necessity or convenience. She deserves love. She deserves a marriage where she will be with her equal, in both intellect, and passion of life, do you not agree, Lord Malfoy? Being with ones equal would secure the happiest of futures.” The older man smiled and opened the library door.

Draco walked through, but turned to look at the man once more. Yes, he agreed. He certainly agreed.

Draco found her sitting at a table, among a stack of tomes, and said, “How are you, Miss?”

“Fine, fine, let us begin,” she dismissed him.

He smiled. She really was amazing. He sat down opposite her and said, “I am without my textbooks. Let us see what books on the subject you found in this little library.”

“Little, Sir? Why, this is the finest library I have ever been! There are more books here than in the library of my former school,” she continued.

He shrugged and said, “My library has twice the books, and is twice as large, so yes, relatively speaking, this library is little.”

She put the quill that was in her hand down and said, “I do not think I believe you, Lord Malfoy.”

He put his hands up to his heart, and said, “You wound me, Miss Granger. I may be a scoundrel, a liar, and a rogue, but lie about books, never! If you were a wizard, and you insulted me so, I would challenge you to a duel.”

She laughed. He liked it when she laughed. “Shall we start?” she asked. “We can study first and duel later.”

They started with basic runes. Draco was impressed that she was catching on so quickly. His godfather was right in his assumption that she was extremely bright.

After an hour of study, Draco stood up to stretch his legs. He walked over to stand by the window and said, “Perhaps we should adjourn for the day, and pick this up next week. You need some respite I am sure, food, rest, and the like. My back is begging me to walk about, and I know for certain that there is a fancy ball tomorrow evening at this very home, and we both need to rest before the happy event.” He turned back to look at her. She paid him no heed. She was furiously writing on a piece of parchment. “Miss Granger, please do not think I suggest we retire for only my own purposes, but truly, you need to stop now.”

She looked up at him and said, “Pardon?”

“Were you listening to me at all?” he asked.

“No,” she admitted. She looked back at the large book in front of her and said, “Help me again, Lord Malfoy. What does this symbol mean?”

He sighed but walked over to her. He stood behind her chair. She could feel his closeness, before he spoke. He leaned down; his right hand on the back of her chair, and his chest touching her shoulder. He pointed to the page in question with his left hand and said, “This one?”

She slowly turned her head, and looked up into his silver eyes. She truly could get lost in his beautiful eyes. When she did not answer, he looked at her questioning face. He stood so close to her back that she felt the heat of his body on hers. She turned her face away from his and closed the book quickly.

She said, “You are right, Sir, we should retire from our studies. I have kept you long enough.” He sat down on the table, his legs next to her chair, trapping her so she could not retreat. She dare not look back up into his face. No, she would melt into a puddle at his feet, if she looked once more in his molten grey eyes.

He folded his arms in front of him and said, “Do you still have my kerchief, Miss?”

She looked back up at him and said, “I am sorry, I do. It is in my pocket. I must replace if for you, for I soiled it with my blood.”

He held out his hand and said, “May I have it, please?”

She scooted her chair out from the table, even though he was very close, and she stood up. He continued to lean against the table as she withdrew from her pocket the fine linen silk square. She held it out to him. She had hoped to keep it, as a silly souvenir. He took it from her outstretched hand and brought it to her face. She was taken aback, even dazed, when he rubbed her cheek with the fine piece of silk. He withdrew the white cloth, and showed her the ink that was on her face, which now resided on the dirty handkerchief.

“Was that on my cheek?” she asked, her hand traveling lightly to her face.

“I am afraid so.”

“How long was it there?” she asked.

“Since the start of the lesson,” he informed her.

She was embarrassed and looked down. She expected to hear him laugh, or say something crass. When neither happened, she looked back up to his face. He was not smiling, nor was he frowning. He was looking down as well, at the cloth. “Our blood does not look very different after all, does it?” he suddenly said. He was examining the dried blood on the cloth.

“No, Sir, I would say it is the same,” she said softly.

He pushed away from the table and examined her features evenly, before he said, “I would say that we are equal on that account, would you agree?” She nodded slowly. He could not contain a slow smile from crossing his face. He said, “It is good to find your equal. It makes for a happy life, and a happy future, or so I was recently told.” He continued to smile, placed the cloth in the pocket of his jacket, and walked toward the door. He turned when he reached the wooden door, and bowed slightly. “Until the next time, Miss Granger.”

“Thank you for all your kindness today, Lord Malfoy,” she returned, lowering her head slightly. He opened the door to exit, but turned back around.

“One might say I granted you a favour or two today, wouldn’t one?” he asked. She merely nodded again. He exhaled a small laugh and said, “Then one would say you owe me a favour as payment, would you not agree to that as well?”

“Yes, one might agree to that, Sir,” she agreed.

He nodded and said, “Yes, one might agree. Then one might agree to reserve the first dance for me, the night of the ball.” It was a statement, not a question.

She blushed again. Lord, he could live to see her blush everyday. She bit her bottom lip and then she said, “One might say that if true gratitude were to be bestowed, more than one dance would be reserved. Do you not agree with that statement?”

“One might agree with that statement,” he allowed. “One might just agree to that, yes, Miss Granger. Until the ball, Miss.” He bowed fully and walked out the door, with a large smile on his face. She walked toward the library door, to watch him leave. He sensed her watching and turned back to face her. “I think every dance should be reserved, but that is only my opinion,” he concluded. He turned again and walked toward the front door. She ran to the window, and watched as he Apparated away.

For a ball in which she was previously dreading, she now found herself anxiously awaiting its arrival. She ran up the stairs, to see if Harry had provided an appropriate dress for a ball in her over filled wardrobe. After all, all her dances were already reserved.


Chapter 10 - A Ball by AnneM

Chapter 10 – A Ball

Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott arrived at Potter’s Hall fashionably late. In fact, the ball had already started. The house was alit with candles hanging everywhere in mid air. Garlands of fresh flowers crisscrossed the ceilings, and swags hung above all the windows. One of Potter’s servants showed them to the splendid ballroom, and it seemed grandeur was the common thread throughout. All the men in the room looked imposing and dashing in their dark coats, white shirts and waistcoats, and Draco Malfoy was especially well groomed tonight. With his boots highly polished, his waistcoat of fine ivory silk, his long pants and coat black as night, he made a handsome picture. He smiled brightly because he was looking forward to tonight. He was looking forward to seeing Hermione.

Hermione was nervous about tonight. She found a perfect gown, and although she was partial to red and rose colours, the green gown she picked to wear fit her beautifully. She had one of the servants help her dress and help her with her hair. The young servant made a crown of green flowers and ribbons, and weaved them through her hair, which she wore on top of her head. All the women in the ballroom looked like princesses tonight. Hermione could only hope Lord Malfoy would find favour in her. She wondered where he was, for she did not see him yet.

“Lord Malfoy,” Theo said, “did you not make some comment about the fact that you would never attend a ball at Potter’s Hall?”

Draco sneered, “You must have imagined I said that.” Theo laughed.

Draco scanned the crowd for a certain someone, when Theo said, “She does not appear to be present, old man.”

“Who?” Draco feigned indifference.

Theo just laughed again and patted Draco’s arm and started toward the refreshments. That was when Draco looked toward the balcony, and he saw her, just outside, standing all alone. She appeared remarkably composed, at least on the outside. She looked magnificent. She had on a green satin gown, with a lace overskirt, and a matching headdress. He thought she looked perfect.

Draco tugged at his cravat, and straightened his jacket. He was nervous, but why? All sorts of emotions washed over him as he looked at her lovely face. Confusion, (why did he feel so strongly for her?), embarrassment, (why had he treated her so shoddy in the beginning?), politeness, (this was a formal occasion), and desire, (a fullness in his heart just at the thought of being near her.)

He strolled out to the balcony and she met his gaze. He bowed politely, and she smiled widely. Perhaps she felt a tinge of what he felt. “Miss Granger, you look lovely. How did you know green was my favourite colour?” he teased.

“I, well, I did not know, Sir,” she stumbled.

He thought she was forever charming. He said, “You have not forgotten that I reserved the first, have you?”

“I have not, Sir,” she said. “I thought we had agreed on more than just the first, but perhaps that was my mistake.”

He smiled politely and came to stand next to her. “You might be correct, now that I recall. I did reserve more than one. I hear a song playing now, shall we join the crowd?” He held out his hand. She swallowed hard and placed her hand in his. He held her hand, and his other hand went to the small of her back, to usher her into the throng. He threaded her through the crowd, his hand not losing contact with hers. He felt the hand on her back belonged there. They took their place in line, and he knew she was bewitching him with the oldest magic around.

Hermione regarded him and his quiet demeanor with quiet confidence. He seemed attentive to her. Earlier tonight, Harry had warned her of Draco’s intentions. She promised Harry there was no mutual affection. She lied, at least on her part and perhaps on his as well. Her body tensed each time he touched her hand.

During the dance, heat flooded his body each time their hands touched. When they parted, and stood apart for the others to dance, his thoughts lingered to her touch. Her brown eyes were brighter than he ever remembered seeing them. His eyes were brighter with the sensual awareness that she evoked in him. His attention from her could not be waned.

Her attention was drawn to his silver eyes once more, as they took their turn in the middle of the crowd. His voice, when he spoke of the song, sounded sweeter than the melody of the music to which he referred. His angled chin, aristocratic features, sly smile, all ached to be remembered. His voice sent shivers down her back. She was more than just attracted to him.

He did not mean to become so attracted to her. He had not meant to fall so hard so fast. What folly was this? They circled again, his hand taking hers. He wished to bring it to his lips and kiss it gently. No, he wished to kiss her lips. As they walked through the other dancers, her natural scent washed over him, and he was intrigued.

They parted again and stared at each other. Time stood still. When his rough hand held her smooth one, she found herself disoriented, and her stomach lurched. Her awareness of him seemed more intense tonight. Who was this man who held her heart captive?

She accompanied him through the crowd one last time, and he was aware of the warmth of her body, as he walked next to her. He felt possessiveness about her, and he felt the need to impose his company on her all night, or be forced to madness. Her lips looked full and kissable. He wondered what her bare skin would feel like next to his. He thought of the immoral thoughts he was thinking, and he hoped nothing in his actions would betray him. She was a lady, and he would respect her, at all due cost.

Hermione was contrary to the tension between them. She picked up on his feelings, but she reveled in it. It did not cause her distress. When she parted from him the last time, her body free from his, free from his grasp, she felt uncertain what to do next. All she wanted to do was to be with him. Nothing else mattered. She had a feeling nothing else ever could.

The song ended, he bowed, she curtseyed, and he escorted her off the dance floor, amidst the sea of applause for the song and the dancers. He took her back to the balcony. From the corner of his eye, he saw her pink lips, and her delicate ear and earlobe. It took him a moment to realize she asked him a question.

“Pardon, Miss?” he said.

“I asked you if you attend many balls?” she said.

“There is always a ball around here. Must keep the masses entertained, mind you,” he said lightly.

“This is my first,” she said.

He found that bewildering. “What about when you came out to society?”

“I never had a coming out, Sir,” she acknowledged. “We kept mostly to ourselves, and did not socialize with others.”

“What a shame, but at least you have this ball in your honour,” he said.

“I rather think the ball is more for Harry to announce his engagement to Miss Weasley,” she revealed, somewhat sadly.

He did not know if she was sad because a ball, which was meant for her, was just a ruse, which he doubted, or if her depression was caused by her thoughts of abandonment. She flashed him a brilliant smile, suddenly, and said, “But this is still a lovely party, is it not?”

“I have seen more beautiful things, Miss,” he said sincerely, looking upon her beautiful face. “Shall I get us some refreshments?” She nodded.

She stepped over to a darkened side of the balcony to wait for him. She did not want anyone to see her outside, because she did not want to waste a moment conversing with anyone else. She stood next to an open window and was surprised when she heard someone inside the ballroom say her name.

“Miss Granger seems attentive to Lord Malfoy tonight,” said a male voice.

“I cannot believe Lord Potter turned down Fred’s request for him to court her, but then would consent to Lord Malfoy’s advances. I am certain he is either not aware of their attachment, or if he is, he is not pleased.” The second voice belonged to Ron Weasley. She pressed herself closer to the wall, to continue to listen. After all, if they were rude enough to talk about her, she could be rude enough to eavesdrop.

“She probably feels the need to go after a rich husband,” said a female voice she did not recognize. “But she has to know that Lord Malfoy would never attach himself to a Muggle-born. Someone should talk sense into her.”

“I think they look wonderful together. I think we should stop talking about them, as it is unkind to do so,” Luna Lovegood said.

“To think, though, Fred Weasley is not deemed good enough for her, but yet, she has her sights on Lord Malfoy, who is so far above her it is laughable!” said a different voice yet.

“Harry’s the one that refused Fred’s request,” Ron pointed out.

“Yes, and I am sure it was at her insistence,” said his sister Ginny. Then Ginny said, “I told Harry that he needed to find her a husband, or at the very least, an occupation, perhaps as a governess, before we wed. A home cannot have two ladies at its head. I will be Lady Potter, and I will have many duties in which to adhere, and I cannot think of them with her still in the house.”

Hermione could not believe everything she had just heard. They were all being so unkind, save for Ron and Luna. They did not know her, so why presume to speak so familiar about her and her feelings and desires. They were as bad as Lord Malfoy’s pureblood friends were. Ginny especially, who acted so kind and sweet, now to say such things, was very revealing of her true character, in Hermione’s opinion. It was as she expected. She told Harry that Ginny would not want her to stay. She expected such dialogue from the pureblood elites, but not from Harry’s friends.

Malfoy walked back out on the balcony and searched everywhere for Miss Granger, when he finally spied her by an opened window. He said, “Miss Granger, I didn’t see you there by the window.”

Ron Weasley looked out the window at the mention of her name from Malfoy, caught her eye, and looked devastated. He knew that she must have heard the entire exchange. She looked over quickly at Lord Malfoy and he said, “Are you distressed?”

She nodded. She walked down off the balcony, taking the steps quickly. He put the glasses down and followed. He caught her at the bottom near the entrance to the gardens.

“What is the matter, Miss? Are you overheated, or overset?” he asked. He truly looked concerned.

Ron Weasley came running toward them. Without pretense, he walked past Lord Malfoy to step in front of Hermione. “Miss Granger, I apologize for my friends’ comments about you. I know they were less than favourable. Please, do not let them concern you. Likewise, I hope you will not tell your cousin, for it may cause problems with him and my sister.”

“What did you say?” Draco had to ask.

Ron turned to the man and said, “Lord Malfoy, some of my friends and family questioned your attentiveness to Miss Granger.”

Hermione stepped forward and said, “That is not entirely the truth. They questioned my attentiveness to you. They feel I am not good enough for you.” She looked from Draco to Ron. She continued, “I guess it does not matter how much money a pureblood has, a pureblood is prejudice through and through, rich or poor.” She walked away. She met Harry on the top step.

“Hermione, what is wrong?” He touched her face.

“I have a headache, and I would like permission to retire,” she said stonily.

“But this ball is in your honour. I am about to announce you to the crowd,” he said.

“The ball is in honour of your engagement, Cousin, which as it should be. I think your future wife would prefer if you did not announce me. I am of no importance, no one should hold a ball for me, and I am sure none of your guests came tonight for a mere Muggle-born. Please, excuse me.” She made to step past him, but he took her arm and led her back down toward the men at the bottom of the steps.

He turned to Lord Malfoy and said, “What did you say to cause her discomfort? Did your friends say something unkind?”

Lord Malfoy looked indignant and said, “Speak to your common friend here. It was he and his friends who spoke unkindly about your cousin. Perhaps you should look to your own circle of friends, and see if they are truly your friends, before you find fault with mine!”

He held out his hand to Hermione. “Miss Granger, I believe you promised me another dance.”

“You truly do not have to dance with me, please, do not assume I beg for your attention,” she annouced.

“No, but I beg for yours.” He took her hand and led her back toward the balcony. He would let Lord Potter sort out this fiasco with his friends. He was not a party to the scandal, and would not be one. When they reached the top, he took their glasses from the windowsill and handed one to her.

“To your health,” he said with a sardonic grin. She nodded and drank.

“Lord Malfoy, may I inquire something of you?” she asked.

“Yes, I had dance lessons,” he joked.

“That’s not it, although I do appreciate that you did not step on my toes,” she quipped. “No, my question is this, do you find yourself thinking about me, when we are not together?”

“How forward of you, Miss,” he said sincerely. In truth, he liked her forwardness.

“Forgive me,” she said, “I was not raised with the social graces that you are so accomplished. I just wanted to know your intentions.”

“I intend to dance with you again, all night if possible. Those are my intentions, and I can guarantee you that my motives are pure and simple. I adore you, and while I know this will be frowned on by all those around, I no longer care,” he said plainly.

She looked at the ground. Harry walked up to the patio and stepped toward the pair. He said, “Malfoy, do you mean to court my cousin?”

“My, I see where she gets her forwardness,” Draco said sarcastically.

Harry frowned but said, “I must know your motives are sincere.”

“My motives, my motives. Everyone wants to know my motives,” he harped. He walked to the ledge and leaned against it. “If your cousin likes my company, I will impose it upon her. Those are my motives, thus far.” He would not claim more, not yet, not now. Potter had no right to ask, before he offered.

“I see,” Potter said. He turned to Hermione and said, “In light of Lord Malfoy’s most obvious disinterest, I am going to give my permission for Fred Weasley to court you, with the intention of a possible marriage. That is the end of it. Now, come in the ballroom, so I can have my company receive you.” He reached for her hand, but she moved away from him.

Hermione truly could not breathe. Why was Harry acting like this? She took yet another step backwards, toward the ledge, and she felt tears upon her eyes. Ron Weasley stepped up to his friend, and Lord Malfoy looked from Harry’s face to Hermione’s. Harry Potter, supposed saint, was a cad, in Malfoy’s opinion.

“It is easy to bully a young woman, isn’t it Potter? Yes, invite her to your home, and then sell her off to the highest bidder, is that it?” Malfoy spat.

“Sir, do not say anything more, or I shall not be responsible for what might happen next,” Harry warned.

Hermione said, “Harry, please, why have you changed your mind about Mr. Weasley? You said it was my choice.”

“Because it was a wrong choice! You are entertaining thoughts that Lord Malfoy cares for you, when he more or less told us just now that he did not. You think you are going to learn enough this summer to further your education, but you will not. You must think of your future, but since you will not, I will think of it for you!”

“Yes, I heard from the future Lady Potter that you and she had already discussed as much, just as I thought. I shall leave here, post haste, and you cannot force me to stay. All your fine talk about this being my home now is a lie, for the minute your intended says she doesn’t want my company, you force me to leave.”

“This has nothing to do with Ginny!” he shouted.

She looked at Ron, and said, “You glossed over your story to him, did you not?” She turned back to Harry and said, “Lord Potter, I appreciate your kindness this past week, and the gifts your have bestowed. I will trespass here no longer. Allow me to stay until the morning, please, and then I will beg my leave.” She ran past the men, through the ballroom and up the stairs. She ran down the hallway to her room, tore the flowers and ribbons from her hair, causing her tresses to fall in waves upon her shoulders, and opened her window to stare out at the starless night sky.

Draco turned to Potter and said, “It is not my place, Sir, to correct you in your own home, but you have made an erroneous mistake, and a grave one at that. It is not your right to speak for my intentions and me. That should be left to me. It was badly done and you owe your cousin and me an apology. While I have made no formal offer, I will say that I hold the fine lady in question in high regard. It is a pity that you do not do the same!” Draco turned and walked back down to the garden. He would Apparate to the back of the house and perhaps he would catch the young woman at her window.

Hermione sat by her opened window to contemplate her next move. What would she do now? She would not cry. That was one thing she would do. A perfect evening, ruined, by such awful actions by such awful people! What madness. Why could she not enjoy a nice dance with a handsome man? Why did it all come back to her future? Her cousin should worry more about his own future, and less about hers.

She leaned out the window and said, “Mother, I miss you so much.” She looked down and Lord Malfoy was under her window.

“Hello, Miss,” he said. “A nice night for a walk, is it not?”

She thought he was mad. She leaned out the window and said, “I think it might rain.”

“I should hope not,” he said. “Why do you let others ruin your night? This was your night. This was my night. Come back to the dance, Miss.”

“I cannot,” she said. “I simply cannot face those people.”

He held up her locket. He said, “You must come back down, if only for your precious locket. If you do not come back down, I shall be forced to give it to another. Perhaps Lady Parkinson would enjoy the trinket. Also, the woman I know would never be afraid to return to a dance because of a slight from a few people whose opinions matter not.”

She smile. “You are right, so I shall return, for this is a special night, and it may well be my last night here. I shall see you shortly, if only for my locket.” She closed the window, but knew in her heart she was returning to the ball for more than just her locket.

Draco said to himself, “I promise you this, Miss Granger, it is far from your last night here.” He put the locket in his coat pocket, and Apparated back to the balcony by the ballroom.

She bent to pick up her flower headdress. She put it back upon her curls, as a crown, and she opened her door to find a remorseful Harry on the other side.

He explained, “I had no previous discussion with Miss Weasley about your future, as you overheard her tell her friends, I promise you that. Perhaps I do not know her character as well as I imagined. Please, do nothing rash. Come back to the party. I shall make no announcements, of any kind, tonight, so you should not feel pressure from me. I will not force you to court someone you do not wish to court.”

Hermione wondered if that meant he was not going to announce his upcoming wedding when he proclaimed he would not make any announcements of any kind. She took his hand and he escorted her back to the ballroom. As they entered she said, “I was wrong to speak to you so rudely, Cousin. I was also wrong to lie to you when you asked me if I held Lord Malfoy in my affections. I admit I do.”

Lord Malfoy, unknown to her, was right behind them. He had his answer. Their affection was shared. He tapped her shoulder and said, “I believe the next dance is mine.”


Chapter 11 - Impositions and Invitations by AnneM

Chapter 11 – Impositions and Invitations

Hermione could only assume Lord Malfoy heard her confession to her cousin. She looked from Lord Malfoy’s face to Lord Potter’s, and saw that Harry was smiling. He assumed the same thing. She took Malfoy’s hand and he led her to the floor. This dance was livelier than the first, for which she was grateful. She would not have to maintain a conversation.

She was perplexed by his earlier attitude. He seemed to, dare she hope, be enamored by her. He even told her he adored her, but when Harry came right out and asked him if he meant to pursue her, he said his motives was of no concern to anyone but himself.

Yes, he confused her. And now he knew she had feelings for him. She had deep feelings for him. She looked over at him as they danced and he smiled at her, a smile that made her weak in the knees.

And so the evening went.

Dance after dance, stolen glances, light touches, meaningful stares. They talked, and laughed, and exchanged ideas. When midnight came, Harry bid his guests goodnight. He never once made any sort of announcement. She would feel sorry for Miss Weasley, if she could find it in her heart to forgive her.

They walked along the balcony, watching the guests as they began to leave, and Draco said, “What are your plans for tomorrow?”

“I have no definite plans, Sir,” she responded. He leaned on his arms against the ledge of the balcony, his hands grasped in front of him. She leaned next to him, and copied his movements. He looked over at her. Her hair was falling down from its earlier perfect coif. The ribbon and flowered headpiece hung at the side. He stood upright and reached up for the headpiece. It became tangled in her hair.

She reached up with her hand, as his hand continued to try to remove the crown, and her fingers accidentally touched his hand. She left her hand on top of his for a moment too long, she knew it, but she did not care. So what if she touched him? They had touched during the dance. She brought her hand back down and placed it over her heart.

He removed the headdress and held it out to her. “It was inviting me to remove it, so I had no choice,” he explained, though she asked for no explanation. She merely smiled. She took the previously, pretty headpiece, and held it in front of her. He reached back over and took one of the small flowers. He put it in his pocket. Next, he pulled out one of the green ribbons. Her eyes held questions, so he said, “To remember the dance.” He would sleep with it under his pillow.

“What shall I have to remember?” she asked, as she placed the remnants of the headdress on the floor of the balcony.

He brought his hand up and brushed her face, from her temple to her jaw, with the back of his hand. He said, “Will you not have fond memories, even without a memento?”

“I hope I do,” she remarked.

“So, as to our earlier discussion, you have no set plans for tomorrow, Miss?” he asked, now leaning with his back against the wall.

She took a step away from the wall, turned away from him and said, “Unless I receive an invitation of some sort, I am free tomorrow.”

He walked up to her. Her back was straight and proud. Her hair, while mostly down from its earlier style, gently brushed her shoulders. He reached for her, to touch the bare skin under her neck. This shocked her and she turned quickly. He said, “My apologizes, I was wondering where your locket was? I did give it back, didn’t I, or was that a dream?”

She smiled and said, “The clasp is still broken.”

“Ah, too bad you don’t know magic,” he said with a smirk.

“Magic? See, I need you to remind me of these things,” she returned flippantly. She took the locket from her pocket, and held it out to him. He took his wand and repaired the clasp.

“If I might?” he asked.

She nodded and placed the locket into his outstretched hand. He stepped closer. She took a deep breath. Facing her, he reached around her, and placed the locket around her neck. She took a step closer, so their bodies almost touched. Almost. He was tall enough to see over her shoulder, to fasten the clasp. Her hand went up to the locket, and he removed his hands from the ends of the clasp, and without warning, or anticipation, on either party’s parts, he brought his hands to her arms.

“Now, have you answered me yet about tomorrow?” he asked. She had goose pimples on her arms. Was she cold? He removed his jacket and placed it around her shoulders.

“I thought I had,” she said slowly. “Perhaps you were not listening.”

“Oh, something about not having an invitation, you are right, I was barely listening, and my mind was elsewhere.” He stepped back away from her, because if he remained this close one moment longer, he would be forced to kiss her, and then one of two things would have to occur. He would have to marry her, or he would have to duel Lord Potter. One of those things would be rewarding, and one would be slightly jarring. Best not tempt fate.

“So, tomorrow, you might like to join me at Malfoy Manor for another lesson.” It was not an invitation as much as an urgent command.

A lesson? That was not what she had hoped to hear. “I don’t want to impose so early since our last lesson. Perhaps we should take a break from Ancient Runes.” She took his jacket off her shoulders and handed it back to him, disappointed.

He draped it over his forearm. “I see,” he said, also disappointed. It was really just an excuse to see her. He knew he had not misread her feelings. Damned if she did not proclaim them to Potter!

He turned from her and she said, “However, if you would like to teach me Apparition, I would be more than happy to learn.”

He turned back with a smile so wide, that he thought his face might crack. “You are a coy one, Miss Granger. Apparition lessons it is. Since it would be improper to attend without a chaperon or companion, I will invite Mr. Lupin again. I believe he will like my library.”

“Than let us seal the deal with a hand shake,” she said. She held out her hand. “Will you shake my hand, Sir? Would that not be the proper thing to do?”

He would hold her hand; he would kiss her hand, so why would he not shake her hand? He took her outstretched hand, but instead of shaking it, he held it and examined it. She had a small hand, delicate and white. She had beautiful long fingers. What would this hand feel like next to his heart? He stepped closer and put her hand on his chest. He covered it with his larger one.

“I am treading water here, Miss, and there is no one to save me,” he said with a breath, a whisper.

“I would save you, if you let me,” she said softly.

He would love for her to save him. He let go of her hand suddenly and said, “I shall go speak to Potter before I leave. If you are not afraid of my carriage, after the last incident, I will send it for you about two o’clock, is that agreeable?”

She was silent for a while. She looked down at her abandoned hand. It felt empty without his. She looked back up at him and said, “I agree.”

He laughed and took her hand again, shocking her more than his action earlier, and he raised it to his mouth. He kissed her fingers. He let it go, bowed, and left the balcony. Her cheeks felt hot, and she looked at her hand again. She could still feel the linger of his kiss. She felt as if she too was drowning, but she did not care.

Draco passed Lord Potter, as he was giving instructions on the clean up to his servants. Only a few guests remained. Draco said, “I would like to invite Mr. Lupin and your cousin to my house tomorrow, if that is to your liking, Potter.”

Harry merely nodded. He turned back to his man, gave him some more instructions, and then turned back to Draco. He said, “Is there something else, Malfoy?”

“You did not announce your engagement tonight,” he remarked.

“Not that it is your concern, but no, I did not. I might have to get to know the young lady in question a bit more, and I have rethought her suggestion that her parents might move here. I think I have a nice house on my estate, which they would be happy to call home,” Harry explained.

Now Draco merely nodded. He turned to go, but turned back and said, “About your earlier question, you know it was out of line, do you not? It should be me who comes to you, to inquire about courting your cousin, not the other way around.”

Harry actually laughed and said, “It’s been a long, strange night, and I am sorry for that. Comportment was never my strong suite.”

“Well, now that you know that, know this as well. I am officially asking your blessing to court your cousin,” Draco revealed. He could scarcely believe the words were coming from his mouth, but the heart wanted what the heart wanted, so be it.

Harry said, “You recall I killed the Dark Lord?”

“Of course, Potter, you bring that fact up frequently, so I do recall,” Draco said with a roll of his eyes. “What does one thing have to do with the other?”

“Nothing, Sir, I just wanted you to remember that, before I gave my permission. If you hurt her, openly or privately, or treat her as anything but a lady, what I did to the Dark Lord will be nothing compared to what I will do to you.”

“Oh, you are so droll, Sir,” Draco said, without a smile or emotion. “Please, do not yet tell her. I do not wish to scare her away. I think she needs to find her way around things first, if you understand my meaning.”

“I do, Sir, and thank you.” Harry walked away and Draco left. He saw Hermione out on the balcony looking out toward the gardens. Lord Mafloy was right. If she thought Harry was again trying to marry her off, she might bolt. He wanted her to know that she had time to consider her heart. Everyone should have that right.

She turned to leave, but she saw Lord Malfoy out in the gardens. He raised his hand to her, in a wave, and then placed it over his heart. She nodded her head and ran inside the house.

Draco decided to walk home. He rarely entertained such Muggle exercise, but he needed time to think about the many events of the evening. He needed time to ponder Miss Granger. He was satisfied that his feelings for her were returned, but he also knew that she needed handled with kid-gloves. This observation was undoubtedly shared by Lord Potter. Draco was a smart man, and he knew though she was attracted to him, (and who would not be), she still needed time. He would have to court her slowly. Make her aware of their blossoming romance. Make her crave his company, more than life itself. He knew which direction they needed to go; now he needed to show her.

And let no man ruin this for them. He would have the head of the next person who dare tread on their intentions. Good, bad or indifferent, their feelings toward each other were between each other, and of no one else’s concern. If one of his friends or inner circle had a problem with that, he would cut the blight out of his life. If one of Lord Potter’s inner circle dared questioned their intentions again, they would likely see the end of his wand.

What he had for her was for her and her alone. Her nearness completed him, warmed the shackles of his soul. The pleasure he felt when he held her hand was for him alone. Convention and consideration aside, their relationship, no matter how it was defined, was nobody’s business but their own. It was his duty to keep the pariahs at bay. No one would spoil them. No one.


Chapter 12 - Apparating and Tea by AnneM

Chapter 12 – Apparating and Tea

Hermione had a hard time trying to figure out what to wear to her lesson today. Normally, she was not the type of girl to care about such things, but for some reason, ever since she got to Godric’s Hollow, things like her appearance became more important, and she was not sure why. She would hate to admit it was for Lord Malfoy’s benefit. No, she was a sensible girl. Things like garnering attention of males did not matter one whit to her. Therefore, to prove her point, if only to herself, she quickly dressed, in the first dress she touched, ate breakfast, and then practically ran to the library, where she knew she would find Remus.

“Mr. Lupin,” she called from the doorway.

He peered over the side of a wingback chair and said, “I have already been informed by Harry that you request my company as chaperone at Lord Malfoy’s today. Just to let you know, I will be ready, should we be accosted again.” He smiled to show her he was joking. She came and sat on the ottoman by his chair.

“You will not find it a bother to come along?” she asked.

“Not at all. I share your love of reading, and word has it his library is ten times the size of this one,” Remus said.

“So he claims,” she said with a smile. “Mr. Lupin may I ask you a question?”

“Of course, my dear, ask away,” he allowed. He closed his book and placed it by his leg on the chair.

She did not know how to ask this, but it was something she felt she needed to know. Mr. Lupin always seemed so dour and melancholy, and most of all, lonely. “Do you have family, Sir? A wife, children?”

“No, I am a confirmed bachelor, Miss.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

“Why is the grass green? It is just so,” he said, resigned. He leaned forward in his chair. “I was best friends with James, Harry’s father. He and Sirius Black were two of my only friends. I was inflicted when I was still young, and cast out of my home. Harry’s grandparents took me in as their own. However, all the kindness in the world could not change who or what I am. I could not inflict my pain on a family. It would be too unkind. Why do you ask?”

“Cannot people learn to overlook infirmities and differences, if they love someone?” she asked, however naïve that sounded.

“They would have to overlook a lot in my case, Miss Granger.” He stood up and said, “There was no way to restore my blemished reputation. Oh, people no longer run and hide when I appear, or cover their children’s eyes, but their intentions are still clear.” He put his book back on the shelf, walked over to her, offered her his arm, and added, “I cannot help but think this has something more to do with you and a certain gentleman than with your curiosity about my bachelorhood. Does it have something to do with the differences you feel others find between yourself and Lord Malfoy?”

She stood as well, and put her hand on his threadbare sleeve and said, “I hope my purpose is clear. I also hope that such differences between people can be overlooked, by all parties involved. More important, sir, you are one I hope to be able to call friend, forever. I truly asked with good intentions in my heart, and not just morbid curiosity.”

He smiled. She was such a sweet, albeit, unsophisticated girl. She was green to the prejudices that lurked around every corner. He could only hope she would stay that way. “Shall we have a lesson before your lesson, or would that be too much on your poor brain?”

“Yes, please, I would like to learn more about transfiguration,” she said with a smile. Her youthful exuberance was contagious. She made him feel young again, and dare he say it, normal.

They decided to work outside, and as lunch approached, Harry came out as well. “I thought we would take lunch on the veranda. Charlie Weasley is back from Romania, and he is fitting me for a new broom today.”

“Harry, you have more brooms than a man could ever want,” Remus remarked.

“Not more than I want,” he laughed.

“I have never ridden a broom,” Hermione confessed.

Harry said, “There is so much to teach her Lupin, where do we start?” Remus laughed at that statement.

“Do not laugh, Sir. My misfortunate is not to be toyed with, please,” she said with a smile, for she knew their ribbing was in good fun.

Harry smiled as Charlie Weasley came up on the veranda. After introductions, Charlie brought out the new broom he had for Harry. Hermione found this Weasley quieter than the others. He seemed bashful and shy. Introspective. He was not as tall as the twins or Ron, and he was stockier. He was handsome, and seemed kind.

Harry brought the new broom over to Hermione and said, “Feel the grain of wood, Hermione. The smooth oak. I have never seen a light wood make a finer broom, and I have to say, this is a wonderful one, and no exception.”

She stroked the wood, almost as if she were stroking a newborn foal, and remarked, “It is truly exquisite.”

Harry smiled and confided, “I am glad you think so, for it is yours.”

“What?” she said, eyes wide with shock.

Remus laughed. “I thought you would have guessed it! Didn’t I tell you my boy, Harry? I really thought she would figure it out, but she did not.”

Hermione took the broom from Harry and said, “But, I do not know how to ride. Is it even proper for women to ride?”

“It is acceptable if they ride sidesaddle,” Charlie answered for the rest. “This broom has been made to accommodate a woman. It was measured to your height and weight, so it should fit you exactly.”

“Harry, you cannot give me this!” Hermione said, though she had already taken it in her grasp.

“Too late, it is done!” He clapped his hands. “Capital! Now, Charlie, will you join us for lunch?”

After lunch, Hermione was left alone on the veranda with the quiet Mr. Weasley. He walked over to her and said, “Your cousin will have to oblige and give you lessons.”

“That would be nice,” she said.

“I gave him his first lesson, you know,” Charlie revealed, leaning against the side of the house.

“Really?”

“Yes, he and my brothers were friends from school. I taught them all, before they even went to Hogwarts. I could teach you, if you would like, Miss Granger,” he said. “Not to be forward.”

She did not think he was being forward, though she conceded, “Perhaps we should let my cousin teach me. I would hate to fall off my broom and hit my head, and have you feel responsible.” She smiled and he laughed at that.

“No, that might cause trouble between the viscount and myself, and I hear he has enough trouble with my family these days,” Charlie said lightly. Hermione looked at the ground. Was he blaming her? Her silence caused him to say, “Please, do not suppose I meant to imply anything by that statement, Madam.”

She still did not meet his gaze. He walked over to her and she was shocked when he took her hand. He said, “I can see why my brother Fred is so bewitched by you. Take no offense at what I said, please. I also know that you have the affections of another. That is a shame, for my brother. I would have liked to call you sister.” He took her hand, brought it to his mouth, and kissed it lightly. She was shocked, so she withdrew her hand. He gave her a sad smile.

She knew she should be offended, but somehow this man before her seemed lost and sad, almost like Lupin. She sensed in him a kindred spirit. Therefore, she smiled. He smiled back. He said, “To tell you the truth, Miss, you should only marry for love. I did.”

“You are married, Sir?” she asked.

“Not any longer.” He smiled again, but it was a charade. She would not press the matter. He bid her farewell, and she went inside to get ready for the arrival of Lord Malfoy’s carriage.

She sat on a deacon’s bench in the entryway, with her straw hat in one hand, and her new broom in another. Remus walked down the stairs, and smiled. “Will you need your new broom at Lord Malfoy’s?”

“I thought he might like to see it,” she revealed, but then she frowned. “Is that too boastful? I will not bring it, if you think that is best.”

“Lord Malfoy is one of the most boastful men I know, so I am sure he will appreciate that quality in you. Bring your broom.” He sat beside her and looked at the grandfather clock. “The coach should be here shortly.”

“Yes, Sir.” Hermione looked at the clock also and then back to Lupin. “May I ask you another question?”

He laughed and said, “I am an open book, a paragon of information, and you have an inquiring mind, so please, I beg you to inquire whatever you would like of me.”

“Do you know much about Charlie Weasley?” she asked.

He looked solemn suddenly and said, “Why do you ask?”

“He seems sad. More so than you,” she replied. As soon as she said it she gasped. “Sir, I apologize. I meant no disrespect. I am truly sorry.”

Remus took her hand and led her outside. They stood under the portico, and he said, “Do not be sorry, Hermione. Your intuitiveness and honesty is refreshing among the society that I normally keep. Charlie Weasley is sad, and has a right to be. He was married, he had a child, and they both died from typhus. His wife was a Muggle-born, you see. He met her in Romania, where he used to be a dragon keeper.”

“How very sad,” she said. She looked at her beautiful broom, and all the work he must have put in on it, and she said, “I feel so small sometimes, in the scheme of things. There are lives all around us, sad lives, happy lives, lives that have meaning, and purpose, and yet, we are cocooned in our own little worlds, scarcely aware of those around us. It shames me. I acted so happy about a mere broom, and the man lost his wife and child.”

Draco Malfoy walked up the drive at that moment, after having heard their exchange. He did not know to whom they referred, but he knew she was sad, and he could not bear it, one iota. He decided he would make it his goal to make her happy, today, and perhaps, for the rest of their lives.

He clapped his hands and called out, “Who is ready for a ride in my carriage?”

“Lord Malfoy, I did not hear you walk up,” she said with a half curtsey.

“That is because I was quiet, Miss,” he joked. “What do you have there?”

“He wants to know what I have, Mr. Lupin,” she said, smiling. “It is a broom, Sir.”

“Do say,” he mocked. He took the broom from her as she placed her hat on her head. “It is a beautiful one. Do you mean to fly to my house?”

“No, I merely wanted you to see it. My cousin made a present of it to me, today.”  She suddenly seemed embarrassed. She took it from him and said, “I should not brag. It is a most unbecoming trait. I shall take it in the house.” She ran back inside with the broom.

Lupin looked at Draco and said, “Please overlook her lapse in judgment.”

“I do not mind, Sir,” Draco said. “I confess I find everything about her refreshing and honest.”

Remus nodded in agreement and then asked, “Where is your carriage, for I see it not?”

Hermione walked back out and said, “Nor do I.”

“I decided a carriage would not do. I wanted to give you your first lesson in Apparating. Mr. Lupin, if you would be so kind as to show Miss Granger how to Apparate to Malfoy Manor, please.”

Remus smiled, knowing he was being dismissed and said, “By all means, Lord Malfoy.” He touched his wand in his pocket, and was soon gone with a ‘pop’.

“Now, Miss Granger, can you tell me what you noticed about Mr. Lupin’s feat?”

“He made a noise when he Disapparated,” she said slowly.

“Very good, for that, you get one ribbon,” he said. He held a red ribbon out from his pocket and handed it to her. She took the ribbon from his hand and held it lightly.

“I am not a child who needs trinkets or rewards when I answer a question correctly, Sir,” she said.

“My mistake,” he said.

He started to take it back, but she held it back and said, “But if I must, I will relieve you of your burden.” She put the ribbon in her pocket.

“What else did you notice, Miss?”

She thought for a moment and said, “He put his hand in his pocket.”

“Yes, pockets are necessary for magic, we all know that,” he said, condescendingly.

She gave him a frown and said, “If you would permit me to finish, Sir.”

“By all means.”

“He must have needed his wand, Sir,” she concluded, “For he keeps his wand in his right jacket pocket.”

He held out a blue ribbon. “You get another ribbon. Soon, I shall have none left.” He smiled.

“And then what shall you do with you hair?” she teased. She twirled the blue ribbon in her hand.

“Did you notice anything else?” he asked with a smirk.

“I have to say, no,” she said truthfully. “Do I get another ribbon?”

He shook his head ‘no’ and said, “No, you receive no prize for that rejoinder, because that was a wrong answer. Remember these three things, Miss. Destination. Determination. Deliberation.”

“What?”

“Repeat the three words I just said,” he repeated, ignoring her question of ‘what’. He actually looked down at his nails as if he were bored. Or a ponce.

She said, “Destination, determination and deliberation.” She held out her hand, for her reward. He handed her a third ribbon, a green one.

“Look at the ribbons I handed you,” he said. “On each ribbon is one of the three words that I just had you repeat, see, one word on each ribbon. Now, take my arm.”

“Perhaps I don’t want to take your arm, as you are being rather forward, Sir,” she said with a grin.

“I am not being forward, I assure you, at least not yet. I want to Apparate with you to the Manor.” He held out his arm. She smiled and took it and with a swish and a swirl they set foot on a hillside, overlong a magnificent, large, grand estate, which was larger than Potter’s Hall.

She looked around at the massive house and grounds and asked, “This is Malfoy Manor?”

“Yes, indeed,” he responded.

A blush coloured his cheeks this time, much to his chagrin. He was not inhibited by the size of his home, nor was he embarrassed of the pride he felt. No, his blush was directly because of her apparent admiration at his home. He walked with her up to the top of the hill. He picked this Apparition point for the advantage it would give them to view his home. He was not disappointed in her response. He admired his house through her eyes. The majestic structure was large, and the countryside that bordered the home was lovely in its natural state. He was blessed to be sure, but he had always taken it all for granted. But looking upon the beauty that graced her features as she looked at the beauty of his estate, made him appreciate not only his home more than he thought possible, but her as well.

“Sir, this is perhaps the most beautiful home I have ever seen,” she exclaimed. “I have never seen anything so beautiful, have you?”

“Yes, I have,” he said, his eyes never once leaving her face.

She turned back to look at him, and he quickly turned back to look at his house. He had the house memorized, just as he now memorized the colour of her hair, the juxtapose of her neck to her shoulders, the swell of her bosom, and the straight line of her posture. He felt he could barely breathe. Dare he hope that someday she might call this her home? He had not yet had that thought. He was surprised he had it now. He offered his arm again and said, “Let us see it up close, shall we?”

After a tour of the gardens and the home, it was time for tea, and she had no time left for a lesson. Lupin came to join them for tea in the front sitting room. He had a book in hand, and sat at the table, opened his book and then said, “Do either of you mind if I read?”

Hermione smiled shyly, while Draco said, “Not at all, good man, carry on, and take the book home with you if you wish.” He turned to Hermione and said, “I feel rather bad-tempered. I took all of our study time today to show you my home, and now you must feel peevish as well.”

“I do not regret it in the least, Sir,” she revealed.

“We could study more on Monday, perhaps,” he countered. He would make any excuse to see her again.

“I have a lesson at Spinner’s end, Monday morning, which you could always accompany me to again, and Monday afternoon, my cousin promised to show me the little village,” she said. She fingered the three ribbons in her pocket. She withdrew them and said, “But you must teach me soon what these three words have to do with Apparating.”

“Keep them with you, and soon, I will teach you to Apparate from one ribbon to the other, as we lay them on the floor. That is how I was taught,” he responded.

“Then I shall not wear them in my hair,” she smiled. She held them up to her hair and her eyes sparkled with delight. Remus picked up his book and excused himself.

“Odd fellow,” Draco said.

“You should not speak of what you do not know. He is introspective, and sad, that is all,” Hermione defended. “He is such a kind man. A gentle soul. I find he is fast becoming one of my closest acquaintances here.”

Her reproach to him, and her defense of Lupin, caused him pause. He held up his hand and said, “I meant no disrespect, to either of you.”

“I am sorry, but my heart feels full today, at the plight of those less fortunate than us,” she said.

He smiled. “You consider yourself fortunate then?” He could not help but laugh.

“I do not live in a fine Manor, nor have your blood status, or money, but I am very fortunate, Sir,” she said, frowning. She seemed upset. She stood up and said, “I will have Lupin see me home.” She started out of the room and he stopped her, by blocking the doorway.

“I meant no harm, nor was I laughing at you, my dear,” he pledged. “It is just that I feel the fortunate one, and my fortune does not come from my blood, or my wealth, or my estate.” He stepped closer to her, so that she was flush against the large wooden pocket doorjamb of the room. He cupped her cheek, and let his thumb rub back and forth along her smooth skin. Now she was the one that felt she could barely breathe. They both shut their eyes at the same time, unbeknownst to the other.

She opened hers before he opened his. He said, “I am fortunate to have found you.”

He wanted to say more, to do more. Gags, he thought he loved her. He removed his hand. What more could be said, without revealing his love? Without revealing the bequest he made to Harry on her behalf. Without telling her his intentions to not only step out with her, but dare he think it, call her his bride someday. It was ludicrous, and foolish, but it did not mean it was not a truth to be known.

When neither moved, nor spoke, for the longest time, she finally said, “Thank you for all your kindness. How shall I repay you?”

Be mine? That is what he would have said if he were so inclined. “No payment necessary. Your eternal gratitude is sufficient,” he laughed.

She smiled, and her smile lifted his heart to new heights. Thank goodness for the appearance of Lord Potter. Draco would never have thought he would ever show gratitude over such a thing, but if Potter had not walked through the main doors at that precise moment, Draco Malfoy would have been lost forever.

They parted, as if they were naughty children doing naughty things, though they were not even touching. Harry said, “I’ve come to collect my cousin, Sir. It is past teatime.”

“I took tea here, Harry,” she explained.

Harry could only raise his eyebrows as a response. Lupin came walking down the long hallway, from the library. Draco said, “Perhaps the four of us could take a country hike tomorrow. I would love to show Miss Granger more of my land. I believe you like nature; do you not, Mr. Lupin?”

“I do, Lord Malfoy, I do.”

“Potter?”

“That would be fine, Sir. I enjoy a Sunday stroll. We will meet you on the borderline of our properties around eleven in the morning. Cousin, will you take my hand?”

He was not the person she wanted to hear that phrase from, but she would settle. She turned back to Lord Malfoy and said, “Thank you for the best non-lesson I have ever received, Sir.” She nodded her head.

If her cousin and Lupin had not been there, he would have found any excuse, or no excuse at all, to touch her again. He would have to be content to memorize her smile. He bowed low and said, “I anticipate tomorrow, Miss Granger.” Harry, Lupin and Hermione all walked outside, and then Harry took her arm and Disapparated away. The last thing she saw was a smile on Lord Malfoy’s face.


 

Chapter 13 - A Hike in the Woods and Holding Hands by AnneM

Chapter 13 – A Hike in the Woods and Holding Hands

Hermione, Harry and Lupin were to meet Draco Malfoy for a hike. In the woods. A hike in the woods. What foolishness. Hermione agreed, in a moment of madness, to said hike, and now that the time, day, and place, was upon her, she was sure of one thing. She was mad.

It was a beautiful day. The sky was cerulean blue. The white clouds hung in the sky like wisps of white lace. There was even a nice breeze. The day was not what concerned Hermione. It was the exercise. Hermione considered herself a healthy sort of woman. She was not afraid of physical assertion. She just preferred inside activities. She liked to read, and draw, and read. She liked to play piano, read, and read. However, she agreed to this farce for one reason and one reason only. Lord Draco Malfoy asked her to go, and she could not refuse.

They met Mr. Malfoy at the line where Potter’s estate met Malfoy’s estate. Draco waved as they approached. He saw that Hermione was without a hat on her head, and her body was absent of either a spencer or a pelisses. He frowned as they approached and he said, “Potter, how could you let your cousin come for a hike in such attire?” He turned to Hermione and said, “I thought you were a country girl. Where is your hat? Where is your jacket?”

“I am a country girl, Sir,” she said.

“Then you should have a hat, so your face does not get too much sun, and a jacket of some sort, in case the wind picks up.”

“Lord Malfoy, I do not mind brown skin, and it is a warm day. I will be better equipped for the weather in my outfit than you in your fine cutaway coat, and your high boots. Come let us dally on longer. Take me to the woods. I long for a hike.” Pretending bravado that she did not feel made her at least pretend she was prepared for what was ahead.

How wrong she would be.

Harry walked ahead of them, with Lupin ahead of him. Harry looked back once and said, “I have but one request, Lord Malfoy. Please, do not lose my only living relative.”

“How could I lose her, Sir?” Draco asked. He was not amused by Harry’s asinine request, although Lupin and Hermione both laughed.

“She is rather small, Lord Malfoy,” Lupin said. “She might escape your notice, and become lost in the woods.”

“I do not appreciate being spoken about as if I were not present, or as if I were a child. I will not become lost, and I am not that small, Mr. Lupin.” Hermione was no longer laughing.

Draco said, “You are rather small, but still, I promise you. Potter,” he turned to Harry, “on my word as a gentleman, I shall not lose your only living relative. I swear on the house of Malfoy.”

“I am not sure that is good enough,” Harry joked.

Draco would normally accept those as dueling words, but he knew Harry made light. He turned to Hermione and said, “You are safe in my capable hands, Miss.”

“And you are safe in mine, Sir,” she mocked. He had to smile at her audacity.

They had just started their walk as Draco leaned down and picked up a large stick. He handed it to her and said, “A walking stick, to aid you during our hike, Madam.”

“Madam?” She laughed. “When did I turn from a ‘Miss’ to a “Madam’?”

He laughed too, and said, “It has dawned on me that I do not know your age. How old are you, MISS?”

“I am two and twenty, sir, with my date of birth approaching this coming September, I will be three and twenty,” she said.

“Did you know you are older than I? I just turned two and twenty last month,” he remarked. “Thus, I always call my elders ‘Madam’ as a sign of respect,” he jested.

She glared at him. While she was glaring, she was not paying attention to the path, and she stumbled on the trail. He reached for her elbow, to steady her. “Use your walking stick more, and keep your eyes on the path, Miss.”

Harry and Lupin were already too far ahead of them to notice. “The path is well marked,” she said.

“This is a riding trail,” he countered, “and as such, it does become steep in places. I hope you will not regret your decision to come today.”

“I only regret the company,” she laughed.

“You have a sharp tongue today, Miss Granger,” he said with a smile. He was purposely slowing his strides to match hers. She was having some difficulty, but not complaining once. She would stumble over a fallen branch, a root of a tree, and his hand was always quick to steady her pace.

The path was becoming winding and the trees thinner and taller. Soon, the high branches and leaves blocked most of the blue sky and the sun. The path was muddier, because of the absence of sun. Still, she did not complain, neither about her shoes nor her dress hem, both which were caked in mud. The path meandered along by a bubbling creek, and large rocks littered the way. There was a slight drop off to one side.

She looked back at him and said, “The way is getting treacherous, is it not?”

“Would you rather I go first, and lead the way?” he asked. She looked ahead, and saw Harry was nowhere to be seen. Some chaperone he was.

She said, “Perhaps that would be best.” He moved to walk ahead of her. She kept the walking stick in her right hand, the side of the drop off, and she reached for his jacket sleeve with her left, as she once again stumbled.

He said, “Hold onto my jacket, if you must, to steady yourself, or place your hand on my back.”

“No, I faltered only for a moment, I am fine,” she said, removing her hand from his person.

They continued, with him turning often to check on her. Twice he reached for her, to make sure she would not fall. They came upon the creek, and they had to cross. There was a fallen log in which for them to cross.

He said, “We can cross here, at the log, or travel down further, where the water is mostly mud.”

“A log or mud are my choices?” she asked.

He laughed and said, “They are indeed.”

“I shall take the log.”

He started across first, and as she put her foot on the log, he reached for her hand, without permission or pretense. Once on the other side, he let it go.

“Sir, do you think I will be ready for actual Apparition at my next lesson?” she asked as they continued their hike. He was now behind her.

“I don’t think yet, no. We do not want you leaving behind an important body part, do we? You might need your nose or your arm,” he said. She stopped walking and turned to him.

“That doesn’t happen!”

“Yes, it does,” he said seriously.

Maybe she did not want to learn to Apparate after all. “Did you learn to Apparate in school?”

“Yes, I did.”

“What house did you belong? I’ve learned about the different houses from the book Mr. Snape gave me,” she said.

He walked up to her and said, “Which house do you think I belonged?”

She laughed and said, “It is plain. Slytherin. Was Harry in Slytherin?”

Draco laughed loudly and said, “Heavens, no! Saint Potter in Slytherin? He is much too self-righteous for that. He was in Gryffindor.”

“I wonder which house I would have belonged,” she said, mostly to herself. She stopped for him to walk beside her.

He looked at her and said, “Let us examine the information we have, and make an educated guess.” He walked in front of her, because they were starting an incline.

She used her stick for leverage, and accepted his hand. His hand felt warm covering hers, and it offered her more than assistance in the climb, it also offered her comfort.

“You are Muggle-born, so that rules out Slytherin,” he concluded. (He had yet to release her hand.)

“Who wants to be with a bunch of snakes?” she retorted. He looked back at her and gave her a crooked smile. (He tightened his hold on her hand.)

“Shall I continue, or do you wish to make fun?” he asked. (He laced his fingers through hers.)

“No continue, you are fascinating,” she replied. (Her pulse quickened as his hold became more cherished.)

“Well, I have a hard time believing you would be in Hufflepuff, and you are very intelligent, so Ravenclaw might have been a possibility, but still, you are headstrong, but brave and loyal. Damn it all to hell, you would have been in Gryffindor!” (He brought her hand up to his chest.)

She laughed and said, “That is what I thought. Maybe that’s why my favourite colour is red.” (She put her free hand on his arm.)

“And mine green,” he agreed. “By the way, you look lovely in that green dress today,” he said brazenly. (He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed the top quite intimately.)

“Sir, I wore this because it was the only thing that I could find to wear today. It has nothing to do with you,” she said. (Her heartbeat loudly as she became aware that he still possessed her hand.)

He laughed. “You wound me, Miss.” He stepped over a fallen log. He let go of her hand, for only a moment, while he stepped across. He turned back around to help her, but she stumbled and fell before she reached the log. He rushed to her side, and helped her up from her knees. “Miss Granger, I am so very sorry!”

“Look at my dress, now, Sir,” she said, with a smile. It was covered in mud. He took his wand and cleaned it. “I know that spell,” she said. She felt the need to explain. She didn’t want him to think her magical education completely lacking. He looked at her hands, and cleaned them as well. She had a slight scrape on the left palm. He touched his wand to it and said a healing spell. He continued to hold her left hand in both of his. He should never have let it go.

“I do not know that one,” she said breathlessly. She felt him draw her closer.

“Healing spells are more advance magic,” he explained, drawling her so close they were almost touching.

“I have so much to learn,” she rebounded, looking at their hands, then to his face.

“And so many willing teachers, I hear,” he said. He smiled and let go of her hand. He had mixed feelings. He was afraid to let go of her hand, for fear she might fall again, but he was more afraid to keep a hold, for he knew he might never let her go. They started down a decline, and he tried to stay by her side, his hand on her arm. “I heard from Lupin the other day that another Weasley offered to teach you as well. Soon, half the village will be able to call you student.”

“Oh, yes, Ron’s brother Charlie. I declined his offer,” she explained.

“Really, why?” He stopped walking. She did as well.

“I have all the teachers I need, Sir,” she said. She turned from him, started walking again, and said, “Besides, I am fairly certain he had more than learning on his mind.” She meant his melancholy, but he misunderstood.

Draco stopped short and said, “Pardon?” What did she mean by that? “Was he forward with you?”

“Not truly, perhaps slightly,” she said confusingly, as she continued walking.

What did she mean by that? It made no sense! He said, “Stop, Miss Granger!” She stopped and turned around. “What did the blasted man do?”

“It was nothing, I am sure, and I really don’t want to cause anymore trouble with my cousin and his friends,” she said.

“You are addressing me, not your cousin, and I assure you, whatever you say to me will be kept in the strictest confidence. What did the man do?”

Draco walked up to her, face red, anger emitting from every pore. Whatever she said, he had already decided to curse the man! She looked down at the ground. He softened his countenance and approached her. “Miss, I am sorry for my anger.” He had to consider that she was not aware he was jealous. She was not even aware that it was because he considered her his intended. She did not even know they were courting, as odd as that sounded. Of course, the man in question did not know that either. “What did he do, Miss?”

“He took my hand, and without pretense, he kissed it,” she said.

Draco frowned. “That wasn’t proper!”

“I know that!” she said, as exasperated as he. She threw her hands up in the air. “But what could I do? I really don’t think he meant anything by it, nor when he said he understood why his brother found me bewitching!” Hermione felt she had said too much, especially when she saw how angry Lord Malfoy looked.

“I hope you slapped him!” Draco said, as he started back on the path, ahead of her.

“Well, no I did not,” she explained, following him. “That would not have been very nice.”

He turned and said, “You slapped me!”

“But you deserved it,” she reminded with a laugh.

He huffed in anger. Stupid Weasleys! “Kissing a woman’s hand who has not been in your acquaintance for a very long time, or is not your beloved, is wrong, and the man has no manners, of course, look at his upbringing! What does he think... you are a woman of loose morals?” Draco continued to walk ahead of her, still rambling on about the Weasleys and their lack of manners. He finally turned, and saw she had stopped moving, quite a while back.

He walked back to her and said, “Do you need a rest?”

“You have kissed my hand, Sir, several times now, since we were first introduced. You have not been in my acquaintance for a very long time, and you are not my beloved. We are not betrothed. We are not even courting. Was that wrong? Do you think I am a woman of loose morals?” She looked hurt and confused. She even dropped her walking stick.

He did not know what to say to that. “You already slapped me once, that covers all sins,” he said lightly. He saw that she would not be appeased. He said, “Would it make a difference if we were courting? Would it be alright?”

“Would it?” she asked back.

“I think it would,” he said.

“But we are not, Sir,” she said, with a small voice. She found a large rock and sat down upon it. “Do you think lowly of me, because I did not reproach you when you took liberties, such as kissing my hand just now?”

He came and knelt beside her. He took both her hands in his, brought them to his mouth, and kissed her fingers lightly. “This action is from my heart, to yours. It is respectable, and a sign of my respect and admiration to you. It is always proper because I asked your cousin the night of the ball if he would give his blessing for us, and he did.”

She stood up suddenly and said, “Was anyone going to tell me!”

“I just did.” He knew that was not what she meant.

She looked angry. She said, “Sir, I cannot believe I am courting someone, without my knowledge! How preposterous!”

“I just had not found the right moment to ask you yet. I already knew your feelings,” he said.

“Did you now?” she asked.

“Well, yes, I did.”

“Then why didn’t you ask me?” she asked. She raised her hand and said, “No matter, for my cousin apparently said yes, and as my only male relative, I am at his mercy. I shall do what he sees fit!” She walked ahead of him on the path, which had started to incline again.

“Excuse me, Miss!” Draco shouted.

She stopped. She did not turn around.

He walked toward her and explained, “That is why I have not asked you yet. I wanted to be sure that it was something you really wanted, and if it is not, I certainly will not impose my company on you.”

He stood in front of her. “Your cousin did not want you to feel pressured to comply to my request, and neither did I! All that has occurred thus far is that I asked the man for his permission, he granted it, and hitherto, the fate of our relationship rest with you. You shall take your time, and liberties, to decide what is in your heart. If you decide that the answer is yea, than that would make me a happy man. If you decide the answer is nay, than I would abide your decision. I shall not be happy, but I shall abide it all the same.”

She saw that he was sincere. She was not a fool. She cared deeply for the man. She just did not like others deciding her destiny. She continued walking and so did he. He was slightly behind her, once again, walking her pace, and she said, “Do I have an allowance, a time frame, in which to make my decision?”

He knew what she meant. Did she have to decide before Harry’s wedding? Little did she know, Lord Potter had cancelled those plans. That was something else he and Lupin had discussed yesterday. He said, “You are committed to no set time. Just answer me before I am old and grey. Of course, you will become old and grey before me.”

“You have the makings of a comedian, Sir. You should write plays, full of laughs! You have a droll wit.” She looked back at him again and smiled.

“Most women find me alluring,” he said.

“I am sure that is not true,” she waned.

They walked on and on, now in silence, and she was beginning to take ragged breaths. It was apparent to Lord Malfoy that the walk was becoming difficult for her especially this recent slant upward. Whether she would admit as much was another thing.

“I would like to rest, Miss Granger,” he lied.

“Truly, we should keep going. Harry and Lupin are so far ahead,” she relayed.

“They will not become lost. Please, take pity on my soul and sore feet, and let us rest for a moment,” he begged.

She was embarrassed, but she needed to take care of some things of a sensitive nature, and she felt she could no longer put them off, and she did not know how to mention it to him. If Harry was there, she would still be embarrassed, but she could delicately tell him that she needed some time to herself. How could she say this to Lord Malfoy? She could not. She said, “Do you pretend to need rest, because you think I do?”

“Miss, I would never lie,” he said.

“Pish posh, we have already established that you do in fact lie. You think that I am not capable of the walk, because I am female. You think that I am not your equal. Well, I tell you this, I am your equal, Sir!” She was goading him; in hope that they would quicken their pace, and end the walk soon or at least catch up with Harry.

“Nonsense, I know you are not my equal,” he said. She stopped again. He turned to look at her. He pointed his finger at her, approached her, and said, “I do not think you are my equal, because you are my superior in everyway. Moreover, I know you like to spout absolutes that are not true, because you do not think you are my equal either! You think you are my better, as well!”

He was so close to her, she could see the light refracting from the trees shining in his eyes. She could not help but smile. He truly was handsome, especially when she vexed him.

“Put your finger away, Sir, it is impolite to point!” She continued her hike.

Draco thought, ‘fine, let her keep walking until she falls over’. He walked ahead of her on the path. Twice he looked back and said, “Come, equal, do not lose your way,” and “You should not tarry, or we will not reach our destination until night.”

He would show her that he did think she was his equal, just not on the physical front. He would walk far enough ahead, that she would either have to run to catch up, or wait for him to come back for her. He continued walking, until finally, when he looked back for the third time, he no longer saw her. He sat on a log to wait for her.

He walked so far ahead, that she could no longer see him. She knew that he knew that she did not think she was his physical match! For heavens sakes, the man was as tall as these trees, and his legs twice the length of hers. She would take this opportunity away from him to answer nature’s call. She was afraid he might stumble back upon her, so she walked off the path, deep into the woods. Transfiguring a shrub so that it was larger than before, she went behind it to go on with her task.

Draco looked at his watch. It had been ten minutes, at least. He pulled on the fob, and dangled it back and forth. Finally, he stuffed it back in his pocket. Infernal woman! She must be purposely holding back, because even she could not be this slow. He knew she was diminutive, and petite, and normally, he liked that about a woman, but even her short legs could take her from hill to dale in less than ten minutes! He decided to fold his hand, so to speak, and concede. He would go back for her.

Hermione finished what she started and walked back to find the path. The problem was, there was so much undergrowth, and though Lord Malfoy alleged the path was plain and marked, heaven help her, she could not find it again. She felt she was walking in circles. She knew she was once told if a person was lost in the woods, he or she should stay put until someone finds them. So of course, she kept walking.

Damnation! Where was she? He walked back to where he left her, and she was nowhere! He knew better than to think that she would Apparate away, for she was not yet proficient. Why had he not taught her yet? He wasn't certain someone could Apparate in these woods anyway.
 
She could not Apparate, for he did not teach her yet, even though she felt she was ready. She called out his name. She did it twice more. She was not yet afraid, but she would be soon.

Draco called out her name. She either did not hear, or was playing games. However, Harry Potter heard Draco Malfoy call for his cousin. He had taken a break by a small clearing, on the top of the hill. He knew Lupin, who traveled these woods often, was too far ahead, so he would not waste time finding him. He would go back by himself, and find out why Lord Malfoy could not seem to keep track of one small witch!

Draco pointed his wand in the air, and sent off red sparks. He hoped Harry would see them, and come investigate, or perhaps she would see them, and reciprocate. He called her name again. He was becoming frantic. How could he lose one small witch! Potter would never let him live this down. His only instruction was, ‘do not lose her!’

Hermione began to run through the woods. A low branch scratched her cheek, and she cried out in pain. Every sound become magnified. Every pinecone dropping from a tree became the footsteps of a bad man. Every bird that cast its shadow on the ground became a bird of prey. Her active imagination took a hold of her senses, and she soon imagined all sorts of dark things occurring.

She had to keep her head. She could not become panicked. She took out her wand and said, “Point north.” The wand did, but Hermione did not really see how that helped her, so that was a waste of her time. She pocketed her wand and continued on her way. Nothing seemed familiar; this could not have been the way they came. Her cousin would blame Lord Malfoy, and frankly, at this moment, she blamed him, too.


 

End Notes:

x .

Chapter 14 - Heartbreak and Harbinger by AnneM

Chapter 14 – Heartbreak and Harbinger

Hermione was lost, of that she was certain, and so she had to think rationally. By now, Lord Malfoy must be looking for her. At least, that was her fondest wish. She knew this was entirely her fault, and his wrath was bound to be full and swift. He would probably cut all ties to her, out of anger and embarrassment. To think, she did not even know they were courting, and now, they would no longer be. She could not abide such a fate. She must find him before he found her so that she could act as if that she was never lost at all.

She decided to sit on a fallen tree, and contemplate her next move. There was a small patch of little purple flowers, whose name and genus escaped her memory. She bent down and picked a few. She twirled them on her fingers. All she could do was wait to be rescued, like some silly damsel in distress. The humiliation was not to be abided.

Harry ran toward the red sparks. He saw Malfoy, who was bobbing around trees, calling his cousins name. “Malfoy!” Harry yelled, “Where is my cousin?”

“Lord Potter, if I knew where you cousin was, do you think I would be looking for her willy-nilly, and calling out her name?” Draco asked, annoyed.

“I never imagined that you might actually lose Hermione!” Harry shouted. “When I told you not to lose her, it was a joke, Sir!”

“And apparently she took it at face value, and became lost all on her own!” Draco spat in return.

“When did you last have contact?” Harry inquired.

“At least twenty minutes now,” he returned. “I even tried to locate her with my wand, but I could not get a trace. It’s these damn woods. There is such old magic in them that it befuddles spells and charms.”

“Let us stop wallowing on the subject and search for her!” Harry beseeched. He ran down the path, calling her name.

Hermione decided to walk. To sit and wait to be rescued was not to be borne. She thought she found the path again, and began to follow the trail, when she came upon a man, all in black, kneeling by a bush. He turned quickly, raised his wand, and she screamed.

Draco heard her scream and it cut him to the quick. She had come to harm, and it was his fault in its entirety. Potter also heard the scream, and both men ran in its direction.

The man in black lowered his wand when he recognized the woman who screamed. “Miss Granger?” Mr. Snape asked, “What are you doing alone in the woods, and why on earth did you scream?”

“My humble apologies, Mr. Snape, your wand pointed at my person scared me in light of the fact that I am lost in these woods. I was with my cousin, Mr. Lupin and Lord Malfoy, and I soon found myself lagging behind, and then I became lost,” she explained, her hand on her chest to steady her breathing.

“The foolish men let you become lost?” he asked. “They should be whipped for such idiocy.”

She noticed that he had a basket full of plants. “May I inquire what you are doing, Sir?”

“I am collecting ingredients for my potions, Miss.”

She went up to his basket. “Perhaps for our next lesson Monday, you might tell me the names of these plants, so I shall be able to assist you next time,” she urged, fingering the plants in his basket.

‘What a silly girl,’ he thought. Lost in the woods, and she still had the need to learn. If he were honest with himself, he would admit her found it admirable and not silly at all.

“That would be amendable, but now, we should find your companions,” he offered. He presented his arm to her, and she accepted. “It seems that my godson has formed an attachment to you,” he said out of the blue.

“I believe he has, Sir,” she returned.

He stepped over a large rock, and took her arm to steady her. “You must realize his attachment is an alliance that is not fitting for either of you.”

Hermione stopped walking. “Sir?”

“Oh, do not mistake his intentions, I believe they are sincere, as I am sure yours are,” he said, continuing, “It is just, he is betrothed to another.” Hermione’s heart stopped beating in her chest at that statement. His words pierced her very soul. “So you see, Miss Granger, a further attachment would not be prudent.”

“He told me of no such attachment,” she said.

Snape faced her and said, “Nor would he, for he is in denial. It was his parents’ fondest wish, before they died, that he would marry a pureblood, so they signed a marriage contract with a Miss Penelope Clearwater. She is the daughter of a baronet, and my ward. She has been away at school.”

Hermione looked down at the ground. She knew Lord Malfoy would not deceive her, yet Mr. Snape seemed to speak the truth. “I say these things not to hurt you, my dear, but to spare you pain, and to let you know that much is expected of my godson and he must marry well. He must marry someone of his station, and a pureblood.”

Harry and Draco came running toward the pair at that moment. Hermione’s heart felt heavy and full. She ran to her cousin’s arms, not once looking at Lord Malfoy. “Take me home, cousin, take me home.”

Lord Malfoy walked up to her; saw her fresh tears, the scratch on her face, and her disheveled appearance. He reached for her, and touched her bare arm. She turned, placing her body behind her cousin. She held onto Harry’s sleeve and said, “Now cousin, take me home, please, I beg of you.” She would not even look at the face of the man who deceived her.

Harry nodded goodbye to both of the men, and took her in his arms and Disapparated away.

Malfoy turned to Snape and said, “Why is the lady so distressed?”

“Why indeed!” Snape snapped at the younger man. “How could you mislead her? You did not tell her of your intended, so I took the liberty!”

“NO!” Draco shouted.

“Yes! The marriage between you and my ward will take place, Draco! It was the wish of both sets of parents before they died. She will be visiting from her school next week, at which time you will host a party and announce your engagement.” Snape turned, his black robes billowing behind him, and he left Draco to his despair.

Draco sat down on a fallen log and felt his heart break in two. He loved Hermione. He did. He felt his heart belonged more to her than to him, and now she must hate him.

He held no emotions for Penelope Clearwater. He had only met the girl twice, and both times he found her to be a silly, vapid bore. He was under no obligation to fulfill a marriage contract that was signed by their parents when he was a child. Even wizarding law stated that contracts such as those are null and void when the parties involved died.

Why would his godfather tell her these things, and right after he declared his intentions to her. She had not even yet declared hers. The look on her face was pure sorrow. Curse Snape! He began to run through the woods, blocking out all thoughts and sounds and his surroundings. He could only hear the sound of his own heart beating in his ears, and his breath in his lungs. Would she ever forgive him? Would she even try?

Back at Potter’s Hall, Harry placed his cousin on her bed, as sobs racked her body. He was at a loss. He said, “My dear, you look quite done for, shall I get a healer?”

“Leave me, cousin, leave me now!” she cried.

“What happened? Did Snape say something to alarm you? Did Malfoy? I must know these things,” Harry said. He stroked her hair.

“Malfoy told me he asked for your blessing so that we might court,” she said through her tears.

“And that makes you sob?” Harry asked, confused.

“Snape informed me that Lord Malfoy is betrothed to another!” she informed him.

He stood up suddenly, in shock! He drew his wand in his hand. He left her room without a backwards glance.

Harry had been afraid of this. Malfoy’s goal was to humiliate his cousin… cause her distress. He wanted her to fall in love with him and then break her heart. Did he really hate Harry so much that he would hurt an innocent in his quest of hatred? He would make the man pay.

Draco collapsed at the edge of the woods. He looked up at the sky, and cursed the day he was born. Lupin walked up to him and looked down. “Bad day, Lord Malfoy?”

Draco sat up and explained everything to the man. He did not know why, but it was as Hermione said, Lupin was fast becoming one of his own favourite acquaintances, and he felt he could confide in the man. Lupin sat on the ground beside Malfoy and said, “And now, what shall you do, my boy?”

“What can be done?” he asked.

“The right thing. The proper thing. If you do not love the lady in question, you must make that plain to her, and to Snape. You must stand up to your godfather, because you are a man now. I have known him most of my life, and I know he can be difficult, but you alone are responsible for your happiness."

"Lastly, you must make it up to our girl. She is a sweet, trusting sort, and I am afraid that on this day, you may have broken her trust forever. I will talk with her for you, but the responsibility to fix this lies with you. Tomorrow, I will escort Miss Granger to her lesson at Spinner’s End. When we leave, I will make sure you have the opportunity to talk with her before Harry takes her on the tour of the village. Agreed?”

“Why do you agree to help me, Sir? What am I to you?” Draco asked.

“You are a human being, as am I. Is that not a good enough reason for us to help each other?” Lupin said, standing. He held out his hand to offer it to Draco. Just then, Harry Apparated in front of them, and knocked Draco back down to the ground with a flash of red light from his wand.

“Get up, you scoundrel!” Harry shouted, “So that I might once again knock you down.”

“Listen Potter, I can explain,” Draco said from his back, his hands up in defeat.

“Up, I say. I shall duel you the proper way, and when I kill you, and be assured I will, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have avenged someone who hurt a girl who is very dear to my heart!” Harry bellowed.

Draco stood and took out his wand. “She is dear to mine as well, Potter!” he yelled back.

“Lies! You are truly your father’s son!” Harry accused.

Draco went to curse Harry, but Lupin knocked his wand out of his hand with a flick of his own. He quickly turned to Harry and did the same. “There will be no duel, gentlemen,” Lupin said with a calm that was inappropriate. “The lady in question would never have that.” He threw Draco’s wand on the ground, and handed Harry’s to him. “Let us leave, Lord Potter. Our presence is needed with your cousin, I am sure.”

Harry turned to leave, but rushed back up to Draco, and put his wand directly under the other man’s chin. “Do not ever speak to my cousin again. If you wanted to hurt someone, you should have gone after me. She did nothing to deserve this!” He Disapparated away, followed by Lupin. Draco bent down and picked up his wand.

Draco kicked at the ground, and threw his wand as far as he could. Potter was right; she did not deserve such maltreatment. He would make this up to her, somehow. He had wrongs to make right. He would not give up on her, not yet, perhaps not ever. Once Draco Malfoy gave his heart, it was gone forever.

Hermione spent the remainder of the day in her room, refusing company, refusing food, refusing respite of any kind. Harry paced outside her door. He said to Lupin, “How can she be this despondent? She has not even known him long.”

“Harry, old man,” Lupin said with a smile, “the heart is a wondrous thing. A person does not have to know another forever, to love them without end. All it takes is an inclination. She was inclined, he was receptive, and she gave her heart, formally or not. A person does not get over a hurt like this so easily, but she will get over it, in time. Also, we should not count Lord Malfoy out yet. I explained to you that he doesn’t even know the other woman in question.”

“But I know him!” Harry said. “He will do the proper thing, for decorum. Things like love, and a woman’s heart, means nothing to him. Only purity of blood. He will marry this other woman, if only to show his malice toward me! I say when I next see him; I will smite him from the face of the earth!”

Lupin laughed and added, “Now Harry, not everything is about you.”

Hermione stood by her door, listening. What if Lupin told the truth? What if Lord Malfoy did not intend to marry this woman? However, what if Harry knew his heart better than Lupin. What if blood purity did mean more than love to Lord Malfoy? 

Closing her eyes to think, she could still smell his scent on her. She could see his face, hear his deep baritone voice. She was in agony. Fresh tears came, and she did nothing to stop them.

She went to her bed, and looked at the three ribbons he gave her. These were the extent of her mementos of the man. The man she thought she loved. How could she love a man she had only known a week? She knew how. By a tone of voice, a smile, a turn of the head, a touch of a hand. A love from such things was a love that was earnest and true. She was in infinite pain and full of regret. She did not even give him time to explain. Woe was the woman who acted with haste, and who led with her heart and not with her head.

The next morning, she asked for breakfast in her room. Lupin brought it up to her. He informed her that he would take her to her lesson with Snape. Of course, Lord Malfoy was supposed to take her, but those plans had to be changed. Would she ever see him again?

“Would you like to walk or Apparate to Mr. Snapes’ house?” Lupin asked.

“I would like to walk Sir, if that is amendable?” she said.

“By all means,” he said. He offered his arm.

They started along the lane when Hermione said, “You look tired, Sir.”

“We are upon a full moon, Miss, so this is not the best time for me. I feel rather put out, I must say,” he answered. “Do you remember the way from here? I need to rest after all.”

“Of course, Sir,” she assured him. “I can make it on my own.”

“Harry will be back for you, and take you on your tour of the village,” he said.

He held her hand and gave it a squeeze, before Disapparating away. Hermione walked on to Spinner’s End by herself. A light rain was falling. She had only a light shawl over her shoulders, and a thin straw hat. Nothing to prepare her should an onslaught take place of the drizzle.

She stood under a tree, under the ruse that it was because of the rain, but the truth was that she was not feeling up for a lesson. She decided to go elsewhere, when the much-anticipated storm broke loose. Soon, she was wet without end. She started over a covered bridge. She stood by a post, and held onto it as if it were a dear friend. She hung her head, and wondered how her life could get any bleaker. She heard an approaching horse, the steady clip-clop of the hooves as the horse cantered on the wooden slates of the bridge, caused her to look up. It was Lord Malfoy.

He said nary a word. He approached her and held out his hand. Was this a dream? Why was he here? What did his outstretched hand imply? She reached for his hand. Without effort or invitation, he pulled her up and placed her on his horse, in front of him. He placed his arms around her, as she sat sideways. Her hat was in the way, and her hair already wet, so he took it off her head, and put it on her lap.

He said, “I saw Lupin. He asked me to make sure you got to Spinner’s End. Do you realize you were going the wrong way?”

“I decided not to go to my lesson,” she admitted, without looking at him. He took a deep breath in. Her wet hair smelled like cinnamon and vanilla. He kicked the horse, which began to trot over the bridge.

“Where were you going?” he asked, without much emotion.

“I have no idea,” she said.

“Then I shall take you to your lesson,” he decided. He would not try to explain things to her yet, not when she looked so sad and broken. They reached the village in due time, and soon they were at the edge of the village, heading toward Spinner’s End.

“Miss Granger, I have one request. As a friend, will you grant me a favour?” he asked.

She turned to look at him, and her position in front of him caused her face to be a hairsbreadth from his. She looked from his eyes, to his mouth. He stopped the horse, and let go of the reins. He kept one hand around her waist, and the other came up to either wipe a tear or a raindrop from her wet cheek.

He slid her off his horse and came to join her on the ground. The horse bucked slightly, she leaned against the tall mare, and was thrown into Malfoy’s chest. His arms encircled her waist. He said, “You have not answered. Will you grant me one favour?”

She could no longer look at him. She looked at his neckclothe and nodded. He placed one hand under her chin, urging her chin up so that she was looking at him.  “No matter what occurs over the course of the next few weeks, trust that what I feel for you is true, Miss.”

She found herself leaning into his chest. The warmth from his body, despite the rain, or perhaps because of the rain, gave her comfort. She should not grant him anything. She held him no regard, did she? She owed him nothing. Why should she grant him a favour?

“Miss?” he said.

She looked up.

“Please tell me that an understanding still exist between us. Tell me I have not so disappointed you that you will not forgive me. Tell me that I have not disappointed you too much. You are so fair, with an even temperament; I would be astonished if you said you would not give me a fair chance. I will take care of the present problem, Miss. I will. My favour is, trust me. Trust me, and do not lose hope.”

“It is providence that brought me to this place, so who am I to mess with fate?” she answered.

It was all she could say at that moment in time. He brought her to him, and held her, tightly, for the very first time. It would not be the last. He rested his chin on top of her wet curls. The rain fell like sheets, obscuring any passing views, if there had been any homes nearby. As it was, there was only Snapes’ house. He let her go and said, “I will wait for you, outside, until the end of your lesson.”

“You must go. Harry will collect me. You cannot let him see you.” She stepped away from him, but he grabbed her arm. As if slow motion was made for a moment like this, his hand slid from her upper arm, to her elbow, to her wrist, to her hand. She continued to walk away, until his grip on her hand caused him merely to touch the tips of his fingers to hers. It was as if an imaginary rope was pulling her from him, but it was really only she, and she was walking away from him.

Snape opened his door just as they parted. “Draco, is that you out there with Miss Granger?” he asked.

“Yes, godfather, I brought her in Lupin’s place,” he said through the sound of the rain.

“Well, come in and dry off, you too, Miss Granger. I have wonderful news. Your intended, Penelope, and her friend, Daphne Greengrass, have just arrived! I sent my servant to pick them up in the village. Come and dry off so you might be presentable for when they arrive.”

Hermione looked back at him in shock. She looked as if she was in pain, but her pain could only rival his. She shook her head, telling him no… no, I will not go in there, no, I will not wait for you, no, you lie, no, I hate you! He saw these things in her face as she shook her head. He felt a bad omen, as he saw her run down the lane, as if this were a harbinger, a sign, of what was in store for him, in matters concerning her. She ran down the lane, in the rain, away from him, perhaps forever.

Snape walked out of the house, and out into the rain. “Where is the blasted girl going? Did she not want to stay for her lesson?”

Draco had no words. No words at all. How could a man be expected to speak, when his heart was bleeding?

 

End Notes:

x

Chapter 15 - What's in a Name? by AnneM

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.


Chapter 16 - A Lie and Two Portraits by AnneM

Chapter 16 - A Lie and Two Portraits

Dimly lit hallways, and narrow passages, these are the only things Hermione Granger recalled on her way to the room she had just escaped. Theo was speaking so enthusiastically with her on their trek there that she barely recalled the way back. They turned left, right, went up a flight of stairs, through a door, up another flight of stairs and then down a long corridor. She was trying to backtrack, recalling the way they had come, but she was hopelessly lost. She was as lost as she was the other day in the woods, but the woods were less ominous than Malfoy Manor.

She continued to sprint down hallway after hallway, not caring if she went the right way, only caring that she put distance between her and Lord Malfoy, or should she say, between her heart and Lord Malfoy. She finally leaned up against a large tapestry, near an alcove. She heard approaching footsteps, so her instincts told her to hide.

Her hiding proved to be quite revealing.

From behind the tapestry, she heard two voices. One was the annoying voice of Penelope Clearwater, high pitched, haughty, common. The other voice was upper class and impressive, and at first, Hermione had trouble placing its owner. When she finally realized who it was, she was shocked.

“Lord Malfoy does seem taken with her, doesn’t he?’ Penelope said in a whiney, nasal, voice. “We must do something about this Mudblood, and soon. He must forget about her!”

“I told you not to worry about a thing. He knows a marriage between he and she would be frowned upon by all polite society. He will not go against his godfather, besides, there is the contract,” Blaise said.

“But you said the contract was no longer binding!” she whined.

“Malfoy may not know that, and even if he does, Snape holds a lot of influence over him. It will work out, you will marry Malfoy, and his fortune will be yours, and your title will be his, and that is all that matters,” the man said.

“I wish I was so convinced,” Penelope said. “I tell you, he looks at her as if he loves her.”

“He desires her, nothing more. She is good enough for bedding, but not for marriage, of that he will discover. He can keep her for a mistress, if he’d like,” Blaise countered. “The man knows his own heart, but he was raised a pureblood, and one does not just throw such things away for a pretty face. Believe me; she is not good enough to be the future Lady Malfoy. That will be you, even if his heart belongs to her.”

“I don’t care if he loves her, as long as he marries me,” she said.

Suddenly, Blaise thought he saw the tapestry move. He said, “Let’s take our conversation to a more private area.” Hermione heard retreating footsteps, and after many long moments, she left her hiding place. Why was Blaise Zabini conspiring with Penelope for Draco’s hand? What would he have to gain from the union?

How dare he say she was only good enough to be a mistress! The man was a bore and a leech, according to Harry, he had no money of his own, since his mother disowned him, and he lived off the kindness of others. Perhaps Blaise and Penelope had a relationship, and he wanted the security of Malfoy’s money. She could no longer think, for her head ached tremendously, she was still lost, and now, she was curious as to why Blaise and Penelope were conspiring against Lord Malfoy.

She found a door that led to a staircase, and started down the narrow steps. She heard the door behind her open. She looked back and saw the very man with whom everyone was considering…Lord Malfoy.

“You left so long ago, why are you not back with the others?” he asked. He stepped down until he was one-step lower than she was.

“I became lost,” she said truthfully. He smiled.

“First the woods, now here? Do you make a habit of becoming lost? No matter, this house is very large; it is easy to lose one’s bearings. May I escort you back?” he asked.

“May I inquire something from you first?” she asked.

“Anything. Ask me for the moon, and if I can, I will get it for you,” he waxed poetically.

“The stars might be lonely without their guide,” she said back. She smiled for perhaps the first time all evening. He could get lost as well, in her smile. “No, I need to ask you if there is a prior relationship between Blaise Zabini and Penelope Clearwater.”

“As far as I know, they met for the first time tonight,” he said. She put her hand to her head. He leaned toward her. “Miss Granger, are you well? You look undone,” he said.

“I am just disoriented, and tired,” she said. “Although I admit to an impending headache.”

“I am sorry you feel out of sorts. Why did you ask about Zabini and Miss Clearwater?” he asked.

“I overheard them speaking, and believe me, they have a prior acquaintance, of that I am certain,” she said.

“Why do you think that?” he asked.

She knew she should be cautious. She was not sure she should tell him her suspicions. She said, “He told her that you would marry her, no matter what, for you would not go against your godfather.” She backed against the wall and said in a whisper, “And he said that I was not good enough for a wife, only for a mistress, and you would discover that. He said that you would not give up your pureblood values for the likes of me.” She felt tears brim her eyes, but she refused to show them.

He wanted to hold her, comfort her, and tell her all would be well. Instead, he said, “Do not listen to the nonsense of others. Listen to your heart, what does it tell you?” He placed his hand on his own chest, and said, “Listen to my heart and what it answers. Know this, Miss Granger, Hermione, my Hermione, I have never, nor will I ever, feel for another the way I feel for you. These are the basic truths.” He took her hand. He examined it in the dim candlelight of the narrow staircase. He rubbed the top of her hand with his thumb. His other hand came up to hold the same hand. He encased it in both of his. He shut his eyes, and placed her hand over his chest, on top of his waistcoat.

“Do you feel my heart? Each beat of my heart beats only for you.” He shut his eyes once more. She shut hers. They stayed there, standing close, her hand on his chest, until the moment was broken by the sound of someone ascending the stairs. He quickly kissed the top of her hand, and released it.

“There you two are,” Theo said. “Hiding in the servant’s stairwell? No matter, your godfather is looking for you, Malfoy, and the viscount is searching for his cousin.” He held out his hand, and took Hermione’s hand, which felt abandoned since Lord Malfoy released it a moment ago. She started down the stairs, but looked back once at Draco.

“I will be down shortly,” he assured her. She started down with Theo, when Draco called to her once more. “Miss Granger, there is one more matter that must be settled. Please, no matter what happens this week, remember the call of my heart.”

“Sir, until this matter is put to rest, we can not heed our heart’s song. We must be only friends,” she warned.

She started back down and Theo stopped, causing her to stop, when Draco called out, “Is that what we are, friends?”

“For now,” she said. “That is all either of us can offer. I hardly know my own mind anymore, let alone my heart.”

He thought she looked sad, broken. “I will agree to your terms, friend, because I have to, not because I want to do so.”

She nodded in return. She started back down the stairs. He could not help himself, he reached out for her, but it was too late. She was beyond his reach.

Hermione and Theo entered the lounge well before Malfoy entered. Charlie Weasley and Daphne Greengrass were conversing quietly in a corner of the room. They looked intimate indeed. Hermione was pleased. She found nothing about the other woman’s personality, which would not recommend her to a man such as Mr. Weasley.

Hermione sat down on the loveseat, next to Theo, when Blaise Zabini walked up to her and said, “Lord Malfoy has some beautiful artwork, and tapestries, throughout the home, Miss Granger. Perhaps you would allow me the pleasure of your company later, and I will show them to you. There is a particularly interesting tapestry on the third floor, in front of an alcove.”

Hermione almost gasped aloud. He knew! He was referring to the one she hid behind when she eavesdropped on their conversation, and that meant he knew!

She said, “I have already seen that one, thank you.” She would play along with the insufferable man. He smiled at her and bowed.

Harry, who was in deep conversation with Ginny, turned to the room and said, “This is a boring little group. Shall we play a game, or perhaps we could play some cards, if Lord Malfoy has a table we can use.”

“I know some parlor games, which are great fun,” Lady Pansy said.

“Yes, let us play a parlor game,” Theo agreed. He turned to Hermione, as Draco walked back in the room. “Would you like to play a game, Miss?” Before she answered him, he turned to Malfoy and said, “I say, Malfoy, we are all bored to tears. It is your job to keep us entertained, as the host. We demand a parlor game!”

“Fine, do what you will,” Malfoy said contemptuously. He sat down on another couch, crossed his legs, and stared stonily out toward the crowd.

“I know one,” Penelope said, excitedly. “There is one where we all act out important events in magical history, oh, but sorrow, such a game would be unfair to our Muggle-born friend, Miss Granger. I am afraid there is another where we reveal a person’s initials, and three facts, and you must guess their identity, but again, without a magical education, or a magical background, poor Miss Granger would be reduced to a spectator.”

“I am sure she does not mind sitting out,” Pansy said. “Let us stop talking, and play.”

“I will not play a game we all cannot play,” Theo concluded. “Let us play charades. Miss Granger will be my partner.”

“I am sorry, Sir, but I am poor company. I will sit the game out, for now, so you shall all play whatever game you would like.” She walked over to the end of the room and sat in the corner. The others started their game. Miss Weasley walked up to Hermione.

“May I join you?” she asked.

“Do you not care for games?” Hermione asked.

“Not these types of games.” Ginny sat beside Hermione, the others began their game. “Miss Granger, I fear I caused you suffering the night of the ball. If I caused you any discomfort from the things you overhead, I apologize.”

Hermione found it curious that she apologized for causing her discomfort, but not for the words themselves. She was only sorry Hermione heard them, not for saying them. She looked over at Harry, who gave her a smile. He looked happy and reposed. She looked back at Ginny and said, “I accept your apologize, Miss Weasley.”

“I am so glad. I hope we may one day call each other cousin,” she said with a forced smile. She stood up, kissed Hermione’s cheek, and walked back over to the game. Harry beamed widely. Hermione would sacrifice a false forgiveness, for the happiness of her only kin.

The night wore on agonizingly slowly. The other participants seemed to enjoy the evening, but for Hermione, each second of each minute, seemed longer than an hour. It did not help her headache or her fortitude that Lord Malfoy continued to stare at her all evening. The constant appearance of Miss Clearwater by Lord Malfoy’s side also did not help matters. She was on edge as well, by Blaise Zabini’s constant scrutiny.

She was at the point of actual distress, when Theo came up to her and said, “Truly, you are quite done in, my dear. Truly unwell. Your cousin should take you home.”

“My cousin is enjoying the evening and the company,” she said.

“Then your escort, Mr. Weasley, should see your safe return,” he suggested.

Hermione looked over at Charlie, who was laughing at the game, and said, “He too is immersed in the jocularity of the events of the game. I shall not ask him to sacrifice his happiness for my comfort.”

Theo smiled and said, “What an odd, unselfish, person you are. Do you ever think of yourself? Do your feelings have consideration?” He turned to the room and said, “I say, Miss Granger is unwell, and someone should see her home. If I would be permitted by her cousin, I would be more than happy to volunteer.”

Draco walked away from the annoying Miss Clearwater and said, “You are unwell?”

“It is just a headache,” she dismissed. “Go about your game, Sir. Do not concern yourself with me.”

Malfoy looked to Snape and said, “Severus, do you have a potion or an elixir you may give the lady for her pain?”

“Yes, I shall disapparate to my home, and return shortly,” the older man said.

Hermione stood and said, “I would rather go back to Potter’s Hall. Harry, would you allow Mr. Nott to escort me home?”

Harry did not want to leave the game or the company, but his cousin’s welfare came first. “I shall take you.”

Charlie stood and said, “And Ginny and I shall leave as well.”

“No, no, no!” Penelope said. “This cannot be borne! This is my party, and I cannot have all the gay company leave because of one little Mudblood’s headache! I will not hear of it!”

The entire room looked at her in shock. Snape said, “Penelope, that word is one that is best not used in polite society. My apologies, Miss Granger, Lord Potter.”

Harry was indignant. He said, “As it is, I too am seeking the shelter of my home. Thank you, Lord Malfoy, for your hospitality.” He took Hermione’s hand, and he, Charlie, Ginny and Hermione all went to the front door.

Malfoy showed them the way. He said, “Did you get your tour of the village on Monday, Miss Granger?”

“No, it was cancelled by my cousin, due to the rain,” she said.

Malfoy looked at Harry and said, “Let us all tour the village tomorrow, Lord Potter. Theo and I will meet you, Miss Granger and any of your friends, tomorrow at noon, in the town’s square.”

Penelope walked to the door and said, “I must have my share of your conversation! If plans are to be made, they must include me and Daphne!”

Draco took a slow breath in, shut his eyes, and grimaced. He turned to the awful woman and said, “We all shall go then.”

“I will Owl you in the morning with our response, Lord Malfoy,” Harry promised.

He took Hermione’s hand to apparate, but she said, “Wait cousin, I left my gloves and reticule in the house.” She ran back in the door, and down the hall, toward the drawing room.

Draco looked at the company in the lounge, Penelope by the door, and Potter and the rest outside, and said, “I will make sure she finds her things. Excuse me for a moment.”

He joined her in the drawing room. He shut the pocket doors and said, “Did you find your things?”

She held up her gloves and purse. He walked over to her and said, “May I take this opportunity to present you with something?”

“If it is quickly done, we do not want to raise suspicion.”

He gave her a sly smile and reached in his coat pocket. He had forgotten to give her these earlier. He handed her two small frames. They were portraits, intricately painted, of her parents. They matched the portraits in her locket, except they were slightly larger. She took one small frame in each hand, and looked down at her chest. Her locket was still in place.

“How did you manage such a thing, Sir?” she asked, bewildered.

“Magic,” he laughed. “Now, if you lose your locket again, which I have no doubt you will, you will still have your parent’s portraits. You should put them in a place of honour.”

She drew them to her chest and smiled. “This is most kind, Lord Malfoy…Draco. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel. My heart is so full right now.”

Those were the sweetest words he could ever hear.

“Until tomorrow, Hermione. When we are alone, such as now, I plan to take liberties and call you by your given name,” he informed her.

“Thank you, Draco,” she said as her response, saying his given name for the second time.

She said more with that sentence than just a meager ‘thank you’. She put the frames in her small silk purse, and held out her hand. How odd, this time, she offered her hand, willingly. He did nothing to encourage it. That made it all the sweeter. He took her hand in his, and brought it up once more, as always, to his lips. This time, his mouth lingered on her warm hand. He turned her hand over, and kissed her palm, and his breath, warm and sweet on her skin, sent shivers down her spine. He kept her hand, for one last kiss, which he placed on the inside of her wrist. Pleasure enveloped his very being, as her cheeks flushed and her pulse raced. He had to swallow hard to keep his desire in check. She tormented him more than a woman had a right. He felt more than just love for her; he felt possessiveness, but moreover, protectiveness. He would find a way to right the great wrong that was bestowed on them. He would tell Miss Clearwater tonight! A week be damned!

“Malfoy!” Theo said from the door. Hermione and Draco turned to regard him. They had not even heard him enter. “Her cousin is waiting, as are your guests.”

He nodded to her, and she gave her consent back that same way. Theo offered his arm to her and she accepted, turning to look at the face of her beloved, once more.

After they left, Blaise and Pansy left as well. Snape, Theo, Daphne, and Penelope were left in the lounge, without their host. When he did come to rejoin his company, he had but one mindset. He would not wait a week. A week be damned! He demanded, “Godfather, I know I made you a promise, but I shall not be able to keep it.”

Snape stood up and said, “Hold your tongue, Draco! Do nothing rash or impulsive. I told you we would take care of this problem.”

“Yes, we shall, right now,” Draco, said. “Theo, Miss Greengrass, could you leave us, please.”

Penelope smiled. She thought she was to get a proposal. She sat up straight in her chair, her eyes twinkled, and she winked at her friend when she left the room.

Malfoy stormed over to the woman and said, “I don’t know what impression you have been given, Miss Clearwater, but it will not do. We are not betrothed, nor are we to be married. I know not why you believe in such a fallacy, but believe me now, when I say this will never happen. I promised my godfather I would leave you to propriety, and let you have the pretense of releasing me from the contract. If you would like, we can still wait said week before we make it common knowledge, but I want it made clear tonight that this marriage not happen.”

She laughed. The stupid little chit laughed! At Lord Draco Malfoy! Even Snape was surprised at her demeanor. She said, “Where is Mr. Zabini when I need him? You are so silly, Lord Malfoy. Of course you will marry me.”

“I say I shall not!” he spat.

“I say you shall,” she said. She looked at Snape and said, “Tell him, Mr. Snape. Tell him why he will marry me.”

“Draco,” Snape began. “You must marry her, or you will lose everything, Malfoy Manor, your inheritance, even your title.”

“WHAT?” he screamed. “Explain yourself, Sir!”

“You are correct; the contract your parents signed with Penelope’s parents is void now that both parties are dead. However, your father’s will dictates that if the contract is not enforced, you will lose your inheritance. Your estate and fortunate is entailed away, if you refuse. Know this, my boy; I had no say in this. It was your father’s last plan to get his way, I am afraid,” Snape explained.

“See,” Penelope said with a laugh, “you will marry me! You would never give up this lifestyle, your heritage, your name and title, for a common Mudblood. Keep her on the side if you wish, but tell her tomorrow! Tell the world tomorrow that you and I are to be wed. What joy, I shall be a bride. Let us go back to Spinner’s End, Severus. I have much to plan.” She flitted out of the room.

Draco said, “Why did you never tell me this!”

“I was not aware! Your father made these arrangements long before he died. They were just brought to light by your solicitor, who just obtained the documents last week from your father’s former solicitor, Jordan Zabini, Blaise Zabini’s uncle.”


Chapter 17 - Musings and Mud by AnneM

Chapter 17 – Musings and Mud

She wore an off-white muslin dress, adorned with small flowers. With no anticipation, and no excitement, she was getting ready for their trip to the village. There was a knock at the door, and Hermione hurried to answer. It was Remus. He looked tired and haggard.

“Sir, are you quite alright?” she asked, concern lacing each syllable.

“Full moon, tonight, my dear. No worries, I will take my Wolfsbane potion, and you will have nothing to fear,” he said with a sad smile. “But my true reason for calling is to deliver this letter to you. It is from Lord Malfoy.”

“And how did it become in your possession?” she asked.

“I am your advocate, remember?”

“Did the person in question hand deliver this message?” she asked, fingering the fine heavyweight parchment, tied with a beautiful piece of lace.

In fact he did, because he wanted personally to speak with Lupin and Lord Potter. He had explained the entire debacle to them both, and sought their council as to his next course of action. Remus would not tell her that. “Goodness, no, his servant brought it, but I would rather think he would have brought it if he could. He sent a message to me as well. He appreciates that I am a champion to your cause. He explained everything to me. Everything.”

“Such as?” she asked.

“There is an unfortunate situation which has cropped up, and until such time that his barrister can decipher the true nature of this situation, he cannot break his engagement to Miss Clearwater, and for all intents and purposes, he must muddle through, as much as he detests it,” Remus explained.

Hermione felt like someone had stabbed her in the heart. She sat on her bed, and dropped the letter from the man in question straight to the floor. Remus bent down, picked up the parchment, and placed it on her bed. “Read it my dear,” he pressed.

“Why? It will not change things,” she said.

“True,” he agreed. “And I am sure he really did not explain the reasons to you in that letter. However, he made me privy to the information, and I can assure you, Miss, he hides certain things to you, not because of mistrust, but because he does not wish to cause you harm. He does not wish to cause you undue distress, should he decide to carry on with his engagement, or to break his engagement.”

“You mean there is a possibility he will not break it?” she asked.

“I have no inkling, Miss,” he said, “Though he may not be able to break it. Read your letter, and tarry not, for it is almost time for your outing.” Remus handed the letter to her once more. She took it from his outstretched hand, and read.


5, July, 1818


My Dearest Miss Granger,


Please know that my feelings for you are as true as they were last night, and as true as they will be for all time. However, an unfortunate hitch has caused me to halt my plans to break my engagement, but just for the time being. I will say this: your hunch that something was improper between Blaise Zabini and Miss Clearwater was insightful, to say the least. Trust neither of them. Trust only your cousin, Mr. Lupin, Mr. Nott, and the general company your cousin keeps. No other. I am not even sure I can trust my godfather, and that is a sad thing, indeed.


Remember, you have my heart, but you must keep it to yourself for the time being.


I do not wish to cause you suffering, just know that no matter what you see or hear, it is all an act. My feelings for you are true. My feelings for you are also not to be written in a mere letter. Please, wear the piece of silk ribbon that sheathed this letter in your hair, or on your person and I will know that your feelings for me have not changed.


Yours forever, please, believe this if you believe nothing else,


Lord Draco Malfoy, your beloved


Hermione wondered what he thought would cause her distress. What was the hitch he described, and why could he not reveal it to her? This letter explained nothing to her! Was he afraid of the consequences that might befall him if he broke the engagement to that horrible woman? What would those consequences be? He told her not to lose hope, but her fear was that hope was already lost.

With the piece of silk holding her hair up, she went outside to wait for Harry’s carriage, under the mindset to end her relationship with the man. If he could not be honest with her, she saw no reason to continue to have feelings for him. Now, if only her heart would comply. Lupin walked outside with her, as well. The sun was too bright for him, and he held his hand up to shield his eyes. Hermione rushed to his side and said, “Lord Malfoy said he cannot yet break his engagement. How can I abide it, Sir?”

“The best way you can, I would think,” he said. “You will seek joy in the thought that your respite from your suffering will be of a short duration.” Remus saw that she wore the silk lace that adorned the letter, in her hair. He said, “Lord Malfoy will gain strength in his quest, knowing that you are well and happy, Hermione. The ribbon in your hair is an intimate gesture, but appropriate, I should think. Know that I am here for you, if you should need me.”

She touched the silk in her hair. She leaned over and kissed the older man’s cheek. He put his hand on his cheek, and with a look of shock, said with amusement, “My oh my, Hermione, you do the most inappropriate things sometimes.”

“I apologize, Remus, it is only that you remind me so much of my father. I miss him so. He died when I was nine years of age. I was overwhelmed. Excuse my scandalous behaviour, please. You make my unhappy feelings of missing my parents lessen, just with your presence.”

Remus smiled. “That was without a doubt the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, Hermione. You make me wish I had children. In many ways, I think of you and Harry as my children.”

“I would be proud to have you as a father, Remus.” She felt familiar with the man, and saw nothing wrong with using his common name.

Harry rode up in a fancy two-seated curricle, drawn by two white mares. “Is this fancy enough for you, Cousin?”

“Harry, where did you get this carriage?” she asked, in apparent awe.

“I had it for a while. It belonged to my godfather. I want to give it to you, Cousin,” he said. He hopped down, and took her hand.
“You cannot give me this curricle!” she gasped.
“Really? I think that I just did,” he said with a laugh. “Shall we leave now? We are meeting Charlie, Ginny, Ron and Miss Lovegood in the village.” He helped her into the ornate carriage.

As they began their ride, Hermione asked, “Is all as it should be with you and Miss Weasley?”

“I believe it is correcting itself. I have not decided if we should marry so soon, though. I still have much to consider,” he said. “Do you know who will be in our company today?”

“No, Harry, I have not a clue,” she admitted.

“The Owl from Lord Malfoy said that Mr. Nott, Miss Clearwater, Miss Greengrass, and Mr. Zabini would all be in attendance,” Harry told her.

“You do not like Mr. Zabini, do you, Cousin?” she asked.

“No, I do not,” he admitted. “He is a lay-about, and a hanger-on. I cannot tolerate men such as him, but he is Lord Malfoy’s friend, so I shall commit to his company for today at least.”

She was quiet. He put his gloved hand on hers and said, “Remus told me about Lord Malfoy’s plight. He wants to protect you, so trust that all will be well. I do believe his intentions are honourable, if not completely tolerable at the moment.”

“Does this mean you have changed your attitude toward Lord Malfoy?” she asked, with hope.

He took a deep breath. “I may have been wrong, and I hope I may keep a good opinion of him. If he makes the right choice, we shall see.”

“It would be a perfect day if only we could dispose of Mr. Zabini and Miss Clearwater,” Hermione said.

Harry looked at her from the corner of his eyes, and then laughed loud and heartily. “Oh, my dear Hermione, the things that you say! Yes, splendid day it would be, if only those two would find other entertainment. I hope that is what you meant. You surely did not mean that you wished something more permanent to happen to them. Should I confiscate your wand?”

“Well…” she said with a smile and a pause. “If evil befalls them, you might suspect me, so I shall say nothing to incriminate myself. I will remain above reproach.”

He laughed again. It was good to see her merry and making fun. He knew the day would be hard for her. Malfoy had explained everything to Remus and him this morning. He made a rather bold suggestion to Malfoy, and he knew that his plan would hurt Hermione in the short run, but he hoped it would keep her from danger. If Lord Malfoy’s suggestion that Mr. Zabini and Miss Clearwater were conspiring together and the codicil in his father’s will were forged, then Hermione would be safer in the meantime, away from Malfoy. Harry had a hard time believing that Lucius Malfoy would entail his estate to anyone but his only son, no matter whom he married.
Yes, Harry was convinced the documents were forged, but to prove such a thing was another matter. It would all pan out in the end, but it was sad that his cousin had to suffer in the meantime.

Once in the village, Hermione found the company of her cousin’s friends and Lord Malfoy’s friends a true study of contrast. One set was drenched in formality, and tradition. The other group offered a softer ambience, still genteel, but more gracious and affable.

The village, while quaint, was also a beacon of hope to Hermione. She longed for a difference in scenery, and for interaction with strangers. She longed for conversations that would be frivolous, and not fraught with contempt. Oh, let her pretend for a day that all was right with the world, and she had never been introduced to trouble or despair.
Harry helped her out of the carriage, and she looked over at the small crowd gathering outside of a store. Lord Malfoy had Miss Clearwater’s hand in the crook of his arm. He looked over at Hermione, and nodded his head in acknowledgement, but that was all. There was no smile, no warmth.

Theo rushed to her side and said, “Shall I be your escort today, Miss Granger?”

“If you would be content with my company, I should be content as well,” she said with a smile. They fell in line with the others. She tried not to look at Lord Malfoy, but Miss Clearwater’s loud voice was heard above all others, and quickly caused Hermione to pay them attention.

“Oh, Lord Malfoy! You simply must escort me to this quaint little mercantile. I would love to see what the women of this village call fashionable.”

They all entered the store and Lord Malfoy noticed the piece of lace in Miss Granger hair. She gave him hope! She walked over to a shelf, which contained several books. She picked up the one she read her first day.

“Books, Miss Granger?” Zabini said. “You mean to buy a book?”

“I do read, Sir,” she countered.

“Would you not rather have a new bonnet or perhaps a ribbon for your hair, to replace that tired, old piece of lace?” he asked.

She looked at him with questioning eyes. Did he only pretend to suspect everything, or did he really know these things? Malfoy overheard the exchange. He made a motion to Theo, who was privy to the events of Malfoy’s engagement. He walked up to Zabini and Hermione and said, “I like the piece of lace in your hair. It pales in comparison to your beauty, however.” He took the book from her and said, “I shall like to buy this for you.”

“No, Mr. Nott, I have my own pocket money. I shall buy my book,” she said.

“Books, books, books,” Penelope said, trying on a new bonnet. “You will never get a man with books, Miss Granger.”

“I don’t believe a new bonnet is the way to a man’s heart either,” she leveled. She took the book to the clerk, and proceeded to buy it.

They walked around the little village, visiting shops, having tea in a teashop, even visiting George and Fred Weasley’s store. Their last stop was a stationery store, where Hermione purchased a new quill.

Walking along the square, on the old cobblestone streets, Hermione felt at home. She felt at peace. Here in this magical community, she need not hide who or what she was, for everyone else was the same. She could talk magic, and spells, and laugh about anecdotes concerning other witches and wizards. Yes, she was in her element.

The little group decided to take a picnic lunch, which Harry had already arranged, on a hillside near the village square. They sat on blankets, in groups of three and four. Hermione shared a blanket with Charlie Weasley, Daphne Greengrass and Theodore Nott. Penelope was heard from her blanket complaining about the day’s outing.

“Oh, I long for true entertainment, the opera, a play, a large boutique, with all the latest fashions from Paris. Once we are married, Lord Malfoy, I must insist we split our time between London and this little village.”

Draco would not acknowledge his engagement, not yet. Hermione however, felt pain at the mention of his marriage. Penelope continued, “We shall like to have all of you to our home in London. Even your little Muggle-born cousin, Lord Potter, is welcome, although she might find herself out of her element.”

“Indeed madam, do you find the need to raise yourself above the crowd, by purposely lowering others?” Hermione asked. “I am a lady, such as yourself, and I do not deserve, nor warrant, your indignation. I find your company insipid.” Harry and Theo both smiled. Draco openly laughed.

Penelope said, “Lord Malfoy, you shall defend my honour, on your good name, the woman did insult me.”

“And you insulted her earlier, so we shall call it a draw,” Draco said. Hermione stood up and started down the hill.

“Do you require an escort, Miss?” Theo asked, standing.

“No, I require solitude, Sir, that is all,” she said back. She walked onward toward the village, thoughts of unpleasant things happening to Lady Clearwater dancing in her head.

She entered a small church, one not much bigger than the one on Lord Malfoy’s estate. She walked inside, attached herself to a window seat, and closed her eyes. She was not praying as much as she was willing herself to be amiable company toward Mr. Zabini and Miss Clearwater.

She heard footsteps outside her private haven. She stayed by the broken stain glass window, and listened to a private conversation outside the window. “Lord Malfoy, when shall you announce our engagement? I am tired of the wait.”

“Miss, I shall not rush into anything, nor will I allow you to goad me into action. I will have my solicitor look over my father’s will, and if it is as you say it is, then we shall announce our engagement, but not before,” he said.

Hermione could only speculate what he meant by that, but he seemed resigned to marry her. Those words from one single person to another, with no witnesses, could not be mistaken. He was soon to be out of her life.

“Then you have no intention of giving up your title or your home?” she asked, “Not even for the love of a Mudblood?”

Draco said, “Not even that could persuade me to give up all I have known all my life. My home is my lifeblood and my blood purity is my honour. If I must marry you to keep it so, then I shall marry you, but as of now, dally here no longer. Give me peace from the subject.”
Hermione looked out the small patch of broken windowpane, at the frightful woman walking away. She saw hurt and confusion on Lord Malfoy’s face.

Draco walked in the church. Hermione straightened up as soon as he entered, and turned toward the front. He did not seemed surprised to find her there. “I do not wish to interfere with your solitude, Miss Granger.”

She neither acknowledged him nor paid him leave. She moved to sit on the front pew.

“Miss?” he said.

“You must marry her or lose your title, fortune, and home, is that it?” she asked. He walked up to the pew where she sat, and sat behind her.

“Things are not simple, are they?” he answered.

“Just answer me this, Sir, do you mean to marry her, instead of giving up your rank, name and home?” She finally turned to look at him.

“Miss Hermione, it is not as simple as you think. My name is everything. What am I without my name? My home, is more than my fortress, it is my sanctuary. You saw that,” he said. “Truly, I am torn, between my honour and my past, and my feelings and my future.”

“You are a grave disappointment to me, Sir, for your arrogance is greater and runs deeper than I first suspected,” she condemned. She stood to leave. He reached for her arm, to force her to stay. He stood as well.

“I am doing my level best here, Miss! Give me that at least! I have obligations!” He was so torn. “If only it was so simple to pick love over duty! That is where your true ignorance to our world shines through. You think it is simple, but it is not!”

“Sir, I need you to listen to me!” she yelled. “I will grant you one last kindness, and listen to you when I am through. There is something wanting in you. You are not the man I thought you were. You shall never find true happiness in money or titles!”

“Easily said for someone without anything to give up, Miss!” he yelled back. “As I said, I have obligations and duties, of which you know nothing. I do not have the luxury of resting on my feelings. Nothing has been set as of yet, but if things are as they seem, then you must see my dilemma!”

“What do you want from me? My blessing? Did you care for me at all?” she asked.

“Upon my word, Miss, I care for you deeply, and I always will, I shall not waste your time, however, if you do not feel the same,” he pledged.

She rushed up to him and pointed her finger at his chest. “Do not assume to know my heart, Sir, when your own is a fickle beast! I am only glad I found out your true character now!”

He remained constant, not wavering once, and said, “How easy for people like you to think it’s all about love and roses and happiness!”

“Say nothing else, Lord Malfoy, for which we might both regret. And to think, I thought we shared a mindset. I thought we shared a passion.” She reached in her hair and removed the bit of lace. She let it fall to the ground, where it fell gracefully before it landed at his feet.

Hermione added, “I do not favour your presence or pretense any longer, Sir. It must pain you to even be in the same room as I, a lowly Mudblood.”

Hermione started out the door, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her around. She tripped on her skirts, but no matter, as he had both hands on both arms, and was holding her upright. “You are a hypocrite, Miss! You promised me complacency, and compassion! You promised me time. You promised me time to consider all things, and the moment I am even a smidgen truthful with you, about the possible outcome, you renege on your word!”

“Words mean nothing to you, so why should they mean anything to me? Unhand me, Sir!” she said. She placed her hands on his upper arms, as his was on hers.

He felt full of despair and agony. If only he did not have to choose, but he did! She was a lady, he could never ask her to be more than his wife, and now, he could not even ask her that, so she would have to be his nothing.
He hissed, “You are so ignorant to the happenings around you. You are so protected in your own little cocoon!”

“Sir, I am not ignorant,” she said, with a new tear running down her cheek. He loosened his grip on her arms, but did not let go. She said, “All I wanted was someone to listen to me, to utter some words of kindness, someone to be my true friend and companion! You ask more of me than I can ever give, and you offer less than I need. I am a woman with a heart, which beats for you, you told me the same thing once, and now, I find you want your money and prestige more than you want me. How would you feel, Sir?” She took two steady, but still ragged, breaths in and out.
He no longer cared about right or wrong! He knew if she found out the truth, she would suffer. Well, he suffered, too.

“You have a kind heart, Miss Granger. Fine, we will cease our friendship from this moment on, since I cannot give you what you desire, and my options are so few,” he said, resigned. He finally let go of her arms. He was not even aware he was still holding them. He slipped his hand up and touched her face. “There is just one more thing I want you to know,” he said.

She cried freely, wayward tears, which destroyed and humiliated her! His touch lingered on her face and he drew a teardrop on his finger. “I want…” he stopped.

“You want?” she asked.

“I want you…” again, he stopped.

“What, Sir? Say it! You want me what?” she asked through her tears.

“I want you,” he said simply. He put both hands on her face, and studied it intently. It could very well be the last time he looked upon her lovely face.

He let go of her face, and picked up the piece of lace ribbon from the floor. “Keep it, it is yours,” he urged.
He wanted to say so much more. He wanted to kiss her tear-stained cheeks, and tell her it would all be well, but Harry Potter told him today to make a clean break with her now, thinking that would be easier in the long run, if things did not turn in his favour. He agreed and that is why he made sure she overheard his discussion with Miss Clearwater.
The knowledge of all of this did nothing to lessen the pain.

His hand went once more to her cheek, this time, just his fingertips daring to touch her skin, less the encounter burn his flesh. His hand felt empty, without the comfort of hers. He withdrew his hand quickly and looked to the floor.

She dropped the lace on the floor once again and turned to leave the room. She thought to herself, ‘This may very well be the last time I see his face’. With that thought in mind, she turned back around, and simply said, “I hope your money and pure blood makes for a long and happy marriage.”

She left the little wooden building, and ran back toward the mercantile. He said aloud, “Dismissing her was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and winning her back someday will be the sweetest.”


 

Chapter 18 - Admissions and Lies by AnneM

Chapter 18 – Admissions and Lies

Hermione Granger ran in the direction of the mercantile, far away from the church as she could, and down a side alley. She did not care where it took her, as long as it took her far, far, away from him.

How could she have been so deceived by the man? How could she have misjudged his character? How could she have trusted him? How, indeed. The only explanation was love. She loved him.

The question that begged to be answered, or asked for that matter, was did he love her?

Was he correct in his assumptions that someone like her, she could only assume he meant Muggle-born, could never understand his plight? She understood. She understood more than the man gave her credit for, because the one thing she understood, more than anything, was that she freely gave her heart to him, and she felt as if he had just as freely given it back.

It was over. It was done. Whatever was between them, and whatever might have been, was no more.

In the beginning, last night, and again this morning by letter, he asked her to wait for him. He begged her to understand. He told her to be patient, but in the course of all things, in the end, none of that mattered. He dictated that it was over the moment he told Penelope Clearwater that he would not give up his title or home for a Muggle-born.

So be it.

The joys and sorrows each person feels in their lifetime are short and bittersweet, but they make each person who they are. She just did not know why she had to feel such love, only to have it taken away and replaced with pain.

Therefore, she ran away in order to distance herself from the man in question and his warped rules of engagement. Miss Clearwater and Mr. Zabini were duplicitous; she was sure of that. She was also sure that her own guile could rival theirs any day. They thought they were so cunning, crafty, and smart. They were deceiving Lord Malfoy and even he thought so! Why did he not call them out, demand the truth? It was a load of balderdash! If Lord Malfoy would not take care of himself, she might have to do it for him!

She came upon an undesirable little neighbourhood, more like a hamlet, down a long winding trail, away from the village. She was so deep in thoughts of revenge that she had not noticed how far her feet had taken her. Someone else, however, was aware. They had followed her just off the road, deep in the woods. She was so caught up in her thoughts that she was unaware of her location.

The little houses here were run down and dilapidated. Apparently, not everyone in this magical community was as well off as Lord Potter or Lord Malfoy. Furthermore, upon closer inspection, she would hazard to guess that most of these people were not even as comfortable as the Weasleys.

She turned to walk back, not noticing a man coming up behind her.

*******************************************
Draco Malfoy felt like tearing his hair out by the ends! He said all the wrong things, he DID all the wrong things, and now he would pay, and pay severely. He knew Snape and his father’s former barrister had lied about the entailment of his estate. There were no other male heirs, for one thing, so to whom would the estate be entailed? For another, his father would never expect Draco to marry any other than a full pureblood, so why would he make a provision on the assumption that he might not?

Yes, a marriage contract was foolishly made, but that was the way with purebloods. It meant nothing. Thus far, Draco’s solicitor was unable to prove the documents were forged, but he knew they would be victorious in the end. So why were his actions toward Miss Granger so shoddy? He asked, no, begged, the woman to have faith in him, and then he let his insecurities come to the surface and betray him. He was pained to admit the truth; he loved her. He loved her so, and he would not let her go, even if the codicil in the will was authentic. He would give up his life for the woman, as well as mind, body and soul. What was birthright and money, in the grand scheme of things?

He had to find her, in haste. He had to ask her forgiveness. They still must show caution, for he did not trust Blaise Zabini. Her cousin told him just this morning that he had reliable information that Blaise was behind the possible robbery of his carriage that morning. Draco could not reason that thought! Did the ‘would be robbers’ think they were robbing Lord Malfoy, or did the bastards know that she was in the carriage? Either way, both Harry and Draco decided it was best to forge ahead with the false relationship with Miss Clearwater, and to tone down his relationship that was blossoming with Miss Granger. It was easier to keep her safe that way. It would be easier to see who the intended target was that day if they were not together.

It was just hard for him to admit as much. He did not want to be apart from her. He must find her, if only to make sure she was safe. He ran the direction that he thought she had gone. He felt as if he had spent the last week literally chasing her, and he also felt as if he had not yet caught her, and perhaps never would. Damn it all!

***************************************************

“Miss Granger!” a man yelled, walking out of a thatched roof cottage. “Whatever are you doing in this little part of the world?”

“Mr. Flint?” she asked. The man that was following her quickly turned back toward the woods when he saw Mr. Flint. “Imagine my surprise as well, you do not live here, do you?” she asked, pointing to the cottage.

He laughed and said, “Goodness no! Now, tell me, why is a proper young lady, such as yourself, out alone, without chaperone, and in this seedy section of town?”

“I am with a selection of friends, some which claim your acquaintance. We are exploring the town, and having a picnic,” she said.

“And still, you evade my question. Unless you are exploring alone, or planning on dining here, I beseech you to tell me your business here,” he demanded.

“Sir, I wandered here, unnoticed by my friends, and totally unaware. That is the truth of it,” she said.

“Tsk, tsk, you are foolish, are you not? So far from a friendly face, well except for me, and far, far, from your friends,” he said. He offered his arm. She inspected him for a moment, and accepted. He turned them back toward the road to the village.

“And what is a gentleman such as yourself doing here? Charitable work?” she asked, bemused.

“Ha! The lady is so forward, and yet, so amusing. If you knew of my character, you would never have asked such a thing,” he remarked. He gestured back toward the cottage he had come and said, “I was visiting a friend.”

“A friend? Perhaps a lady?” she asked.

Again he laughed. “Are we to be truthful to each other?” he asked.

“I know no other way to be,” she admitted. “I am so tired of lies.”

“Fine. Then yes, a lady friend. My lover, to be exact,” he answered plainly.

“Oh,” she said slowly. “Your lady friend lives here, does she?”

“Yes, my lover does,” he corrected her. “She is a Muggle-born, just like you.”

Hermione was beginning to understand. “So she is a Muggle-born, hence the reason she is your lover, and not your wife?”

“Miss Granger, you do have a knack for being honest, do you not? I find that annoying,” he lied. “You know, not all Muggle-borns are as lucky as you, to have a rich viscount as a cousin, a pureblood lord as a patron, or so many friends at their disposal. Not all of them had understanding parents, who treated them kindly, and were not afraid of them, or considered their magic a gift and not a curse.”

“Sir, if you think highly of the woman, why do you not marry her, raise her from her station, and treat her with respect? Do not seek to put me in my place, when you are in the same place,” she mused.

“No pretense about you at all,” he said in a booming voice.

“So I’ve been told before, a few times just today,” she said.

“My lover is a married woman. Scandalous, is it not?” he inquired, seeking no real response. “Otherwise, I would indeed marry her, but as it is, she will not have me. Odd, aye?”

“Very,” she laughed.

“Are you thoroughly shocked by my admissions today, Miss Granger?” he asked.

“I don’t believe anything more about this village or its inhabitants could shock me, Mr. Flint,” she stated.

They had just reached the village when he removed her hand from his arm. “Well, I think this is where I will beg my leave. It seems I am no longer welcomed.”

“Sir, you did me a service, and though I know we did not have a happy introduction the first time we met, I have appreciated your honesty,” she said.

He smiled and said, “While I value that, Miss, I only say these words out of respect. Respect for you, and for myself, since Lord Malfoy is standing across the street with the most foul expression upon his face. Is he waiting for you, do you suppose?”

Malfoy started across the street, already within earshot of their conversation.

“I would think not, Sir. He and I are not even friends any longer,” she said. She looked over at Malfoy, knowing he heard her declaration, and she thought he seemed depressed. ‘Good’, she thought quickly, and just as quickly felt remorse at her own attitude, and at his depression.

“Why are you no longer friends?” he asked. Malfoy was now upon them. “I say, Malfoy, why are you and the lady no longer friends?”

“My engagement to Miss Clearwater, I would assume,” he answered curtly.

“Your engagement? So, Zabini was right. Do I offer congratulations or condolences?” he asked.

“Neither would be welcomed or expected, Flint,” Malfoy huffed. He turned to Hermione and said, “Your cousin must be sick with worry. You should get back to the party.”

“Your intended must be worried as well. You, too, should return,” she said back, with a bite.

Draco turned to Flint and said, “Sir, my engagement, as it is called, is not yet made public, and I would appreciate your discretion.”

“Oh, I am all discretion, am I not, Miss Granger?” he asked, smiling at Hermione. “I admit, I thought Zabini was lying when he gloated that you were to marry the little annoying chit.” He turned back to Hermione and said, “I know I misrepresented myself when we last met, and I apologize. I find you delightful, and while my manners are not as genteel as Lord Malfoy’s or Mr. Nott’s, I am still a gentleman, especially when compared to Mr. Zabini.”

He tipped his hat to Draco, kissed Hermione’s hand, and ended with, “Another day perhaps, Lord Malfoy, you will make time to see me, so that I might explain to you my reasoning behind that statement. It is a good story, I promise.” He turned for the last time to Hermione and, with an air of indifference, said, “I hope to see you again, Miss, if only to look upon your pretty face.” He kissed her hand again, and held it entirely too long, in Draco’s opinion. “Since you find yourself unattached, may I be your escort to the fair that will be in town next weekend?”

Draco’s jaw clenched. Hermione said, “I do not think so, Sir.”

Draco took her hand from Flint’s, dropping it quickly to her side. “Meet me tonight, at the Manor, and come alone and tell me what you know,” Draco demanded.

“Fine, fine, Malfoy,” Flint acknowledged, with a laugh.

“Are you laughing at me, Sir, or Lord Malfoy?” Hermione asked.

He did not answer. Draco said, “I would think both of us, Miss.”

Instead of confirming or denying the accusations leveled against him, he said, “Have fun on your outing. Good day to you both.” He disapparated on the spot.

Hermione turned to Lord Malfoy, who looked cross and angry. “Why were you with that insufferable man?” he shouted. He took her arm.

“Why do you care?” she asked sharply. “You cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim you want me and ask me to give you my heart, when you cannot reciprocate. You cannot want me one minute, and demand my leave the next. You cannot expect me to give you my heart, when I already have, and return it broken and bruised. You cannot beg indifference, and then act like you care.”

Draco knew she was right. He wanted to believe that things were not so broken that they could not be mended.

When he released his hold, she tried to run back toward the others, but only proceeded to make it as far as the mouth of the alleyway. He caught her again by her arm. Before they went back to the others, he had to say what was in his heart. “I have changed my mind, Miss Granger.”

“Surprise! He has changed his mind again,” she said. He turned to glare at her, but saw a smile on her pretty, sweet face, so he knew she said it in jest.

“I will break my engagement, no matter what might occur,” he said humbly.

“No, Lord Malfoy, I do not want you to do that,” she said honestly.

That sentence surprised him. He stopped walking and turned to her. She continued, “You would come to resent me, and the reasons behind it.”

“Truly, I say, I cannot live without you.” He took her sleeve, and took her back to the alley, behind the mercantile, from prying eyes that might look upon them. “This is my decision to make, right or wrong, good outcome or not, and you have no say in the matter.”

Hermione huffed, “I do. I do have a say. I say I no longer desire your company.” She would do the right thing. If he could not be strong, than she would have to oblige.

“You lie, and I am ashamed. I know you profess feelings you do not feel,” he said. For some reason he smiled at her, and that caused her anger. Perhaps she was angry because HE professed to know her heart better than she did, and he would be correct.

“Perhaps I do, but allow me my prerogative of doing so. Now, let go of my arm before someone sees. We should get back to our company,” she begged.

Again, he said, “You have no say in this.” He put his hand on the back of her neck, which shook her to her core. His hand touched her bare skin, his fingers skimming the small curls that fell there. He drew her into his chest. She felt lightheaded and had an odd tickling sensation in her lower abdomen. Her body dared to touch his, with his hand strong and unyielding on her neck, and his other hand on her upper arm, his head descended to hers.

He was going to kiss her!

Her, a single woman that was not his intended!

Her, a Muggle-born!

Her!

She wanted him to kiss her, but it would be wrong. He would come to regard her in the same manner that Mr. Flint regarded his lover, which was that Mudbloods make acceptable lovers, but not wives. Even Mr. Zabini and Miss Clearwater stated that he could have her for his mistress, as long as he took Miss Clearwater for a wife.

Was that what he was proposing with this possible kiss? Was that what he expected from her? Did he hold no respect or love for her? Did he think she had none for him? It would not do. Her defenses would be down, and she would do whatever he asked, if his lips touched hers. All would be lost!

He wanted to kiss her!

He was always a selfish man, who placed his wants and needs above those of others. He was willing to live without his title and fortune, but he was not willing to hurt her in any way, or ruin her reputation. Subsequently, he could not kiss her, for now, not until, or unless, they came to an understanding. Instead, he embraced her. He brought her to his chest, her soft, but obdurate body, molding perfectly to his. His mouth next to her ear, his breath on her neck, he said, “I love you. I cannot live without you.”

She let him hug her. She felt defeated. She also felt at peace. She placed her hands on his chest, embraced him at first, and then pushed him slightly away. His hold remained slackened, but constant.

The same person who watched Hermione from the woods witnessed this entire exchange, and he was not amused! Not at all. He would not let the Mudblood win!

She wished she had learned to apparate! If she had, she would take herself away! Far, far, away, to places unknown. “Please, let me go!” she finally pleaded.

“I cannot leave you in such a state,” he explained. “Or before I hear the same words from you,”

“Teach me to apparate,” she suddenly said. “You owe me a lesson. I remember the three words. Teach me, now!” She began to cry.

His hand left her upper arm to stroke her face gently. He had to smile at the strange creature, which he adored. “Where would you go?” He held her hand.

“Away from you,” she admitted.

“Would you really leave me?” he asked.

“Yes,” she lied.

“If that is the case, than I shall never teach you,” he said. “I do not want you to ever leave me.”

“HERMIONE!” Harry called.

“Please, Sir, my cousin is calling!” she said urgently.

“I no longer have you in my hold. Go to him, if you must, as long as you return someday to me,” he said.

She hung her head.

“MISS GRANGER! WHERE ARE YOU?” Charlie Weasley yelled.

She looked up at him and said, “I need…”

“You need?” he asked.

“MISS GRANGER!” another shouted.

“I need you…” she broke off, wanting to end the sentence with, ‘to let me go’, but unable to finish the words.

“You need me to what?” he asked back. This was almost identical to his conversation with her in the church.

Once again, she said, “I need you,” but that was all she managed. That was what she needed.

She ran from him, toward the sounds of her name. She reached the front of the mercantile, glanced back, and ran toward him once more.

She said, “Do nothing rash as of yet. Wait and see if you can prove the codicil is real. I know all will be right. Mr. Flint knows something about Mr. Zabini and Miss Clearwater. I am sure of that. Stall the wedding, even the formal engagement, as long as you can, but do nothing to cause any ire or ill feelings about the two of them, for now. I love you, too, and I will wait for you. I shall suffer until the day I can truly be yours. I need you, Sir.”

Her admission filled him with hope. It replaced his despair with anticipation. He nodded and she ran toward the square. He waited a few minutes and followed. Another waited a little longer, and followed them as well.


 

Chapter 19 - A Test of More Than Friendship by AnneM

Chapter 19 – A Test of More than Friendship:

The next morning the sun was much too bright through the lace curtains, so Hermione could tell the hour was early. She stretched her arms above her head and sat up. She still felt tired, that was, until she remembered that she had a lesson today! That being a lesson with Lord Malfoy!

She scrambled from bed and quickly washed and dressed. After their ‘alleyway confessions’ yesterday, Lord Malfoy went to Harry and asked his permission to continue to teach his cousin. Miss Clearwater was not pleased, nor was Mr. Zabini, but Hermione did not expect them to be. Harry gave his consent, on one condition, that it took place at Potter’s Hall. Lupin would be indisposed, Harry had business to attend, and he could not send her to Malfoy Manor without a chaperone.

What joy! She was to have a lesson! What it was she had to learn, she cared not! She was going to see HIM, and that was all that mattered.

She was reading a book, in the entry hall, waiting for his arrival, when at last the door chime rang. Hermione flitted to the door and threw it open. “Lord Malfoy,” she said with a nod of her head.

“I say, Miss Granger, do you make a habit out of answering the door? That is what servants are for, you know,” he said with feigned disdain. “Propriety states that a young woman, such as yourself, should never answer the door on her own.”

She stared at him for a moment and said, “Is this my lesson for the day?”

“I didn’t know you needed decorum lessons, but if so, then yes, it is,” he said back. She shut the door in his face. He frowned. She had a bad habit of doing that, too. It almost made him laugh. He was pleased with her amiable nature today.

He stood there, wondering what to do, when she opened the door again. She had a content smile on her face and she said, “Ring the chime again, Sir, so I can show you that I learn from my mistakes.” She shut the door.

He laughed and rang the chimes again. He waited and waited and waited. Finally, Harry’s butler opened the door.

“Lord Malfoy to see Miss Granger,” Draco said.

The man turned to Hermione, who stood behind him and said, “Lord Malfoy for you, Miss Granger. Are you receiving visitors?”

“Let him be received,” she said. He opened the door all the way and Malfoy stepped over the threshold.

“You are not supposed to stand there and wait for a gentleman, either, Miss,” Draco responded.

“When I see a gentleman, I will be sure to remember that piece of astute wisdom. Now, would you like to have a real lesson, or not?” she asked. “I thought we could have our lesson outside. There is a gazebo out in the rose garden. It is fully encased in glass, with windows all around. It would afford us protection from the impending rain, but right now, it is such a beautiful day and there is hardly any wind. The gazebo is already one of my favourite places to hide from everyone.”

“And you are willing to share it with me?” he asked, smiling.

“If you promise you will not tell anyone,” she said with a grin.

“Lead the way,” he said his hand out in front of him.

He followed her through the massive home, to the conservatory, and beyond. They walked beyond the rose garden, to a large, enclosed gazebo, when he noticed something. She had a bounce to her step, which was sorely missing on last inspection. She looked relaxed and happy. Should he even dare to deny that she looked pretty? She wore her hair up, with wisps of hair hanging in curls down her back and on her shoulders, which bounced right along with her step.

She looked back at him as they entered the edifice and said, “What shall we learn today, Lord Malfoy.”

“Please, when we are in each others company, permit me to call you Hermione, and you shall call me Draco,” he said.

“Draco.” She wanted to try that out, and see how it sounded. The name rolled off her tongue.

“Hermione,” he returned. The name accompanied the face of the girl that haunted his dreams at night. Hermione. “I thought we could learn Apparition. I do not have my Ancient Rune books with me, nor do I care to teach you Arithmancy today, and I thought you needed to learn to apparate more than you need to learn anything else. You do want to learn to apparate, do you not?”

“Very much so,” she said.

“I think it would be prudent, since you find yourself so frequently lost, at least once a day now, that you should be able to get yourself home, if the need arises,” he mocked. He removed his gloves, and his brown cut-a-way jacket, and draped them over a chaise lounge. She looked at him with a smug look.

“I did not become lost yesterday,” she reminded. She wondered why he removed his jacket. It was quite warm in the little room, all enclosed with glass, and even with all the windows opened it was humid. It was warm and bright, and suddenly, Hermione felt claustrophobic. It had nothing to do with Lord Malfoy, of that she was sure. She asked, “Do I need my ribbons?”

“Do you have them handy?” he asked.

She removed them from her pocket. “Yes, and to clarify, since you had no remark to my previous statement, I was not lost yesterday at any point. Just to clarify.”

“No, yesterday you were just a run-a-way.” He reached over to her and held open his hand. “Ribbons, please,” he ordered.

She, too, held out her hand. He reached for her hand with his, his fingertips brushing the palm of her hand in an intimate gesture. She blushed and looked down, and he seemed pleased. He did not know where their relationship stood, but at least she still honoured him with a blush.

He placed the three ribbons on the floor, at even intervals. He walked past each one and read the words aloud. “Determination, Destination and Deliberation. Commit these to memory. These are the only three things you should have in your mind when Apparating. You should clear your mind of everything but these words. Now, have you your wand?”

“In my pocket, Draco.” She almost said, ‘Sir’ but remembered to say his name at the last moment. He smiled. She was bewildered by his recent activities, but she was happy she could still make him smile.

“You must have contact with your wand to Apparate. Sometimes, people have wards and anti-Apparition charms in place, so that a person cannot Apparate in or out of a home, or so that only certain people may do so. I am sure this little gazebo has no such wards. We will be safe, I am sure.”

“I am sure, as well,” she said. She took her wand from her pocket.

“Lord Potter has such wards in his house, though, I assume.” Draco was curious.

“I really do not know,” she admitted.

He would find out, somehow. He needed to know that she was safe from harm. He walked up to her and said, “Good, you have your wand, now stand on the first ribbon.” She walked over to the first ribbon and stood on top of it. He walked behind her and said, “Now, clear your mind of all thoughts. With deliberation, think only of your destination, this will be the next ribbon. With determination, think only of our destination. Think only of this. Leave your mind free from all other distractions.” He walked back around in front of her.

She shut her eyes.

“You do not need to shut your eyes,” he said.

“But I find you distracting, milord, and I am sure that is not one of the three D’s,” she said truthfully. He smiled. He even expelled a small laugh. She opened one eye and said, “Your laughter is distracting as well.”

“Close your ears as well as your eyes, then,” he said.

She frowned and opened her eyes. “How does one close their ears?”

“Should we stop?” he asked. He folded his arms in front of him.

“No, but stop distracting me,” she said. “I cannot help it if I find you distracting.”

“Likewise, Miss, and I cannot help it if I am distracting,” he answered honestly. With her eyes still shut, he walked closer to her, his body still facing hers.

“Do I have to say anything?” she asked, barely above a whisper.

He heard her, but leaned in anyway, so he would have an excuse to be even closer. He asked, “Pardon?”

She opened her eyes, and his face was right in front of hers. She gasped, and put her hand to her chest. She started to take a step backwards, but he reached out for both her arms. “The ribbon, Hermione. Remain on the ribbon.” After he steadied her, he let go of her arms.

She started to repeat her question, with once again closed eyes. “Do I have to…” was as far as she got.

“Shhh,” he urged.

“But,” she began.

“Shhh,” he hushed her again, more urgently this time. He put his index finger up to her mouth, and in one of the most cherished, endearing gestures he had ever shown her, he placed his finger on her lips. The touch was so brief she could have imagined it. She did not try to repeat her question.

He said, “Miss, just keep your tongue and try to concentrate.” When no other words came from her mouth after many long seconds, he said, “Are you concentrating?”

She was. However, she was concentrating on the wrong things. She was concentrating on the sounds of his deep baritone voice, and the way it caressed her skin, the tones resonating against her body like kisses. His voice washed over her like pure velvet.

She was concentrating on his fine clothing, part of which he removed, and how handsome he looked. Even with her eyes closed, she could see him in her mind’s eye. He looked dashing in his beige breeches, his long brown boots, his green baroque waistcoat, and his fine silk shirt, with the white neckclothe.

She was concentrating on his grey eyes, so soft and warm despite their cold colour, and how they could look deep into the windows of her soul.

She was concentrating on his almost silent breathing, which was becoming louder, which meant he was even closer than before, if that was possible. Hermione could tell that he had moved from in front of her, and was now standing behind her, from the sound of his breathing, and from the fact that she felt his warm breath on the back of her neck.

She opened her eyes. She slowly turned her head, over her shoulder, very slowly, to peer up into his face.

“Are you still concentrating?” he asked.

She admitted, “I still find too many things distracting.”

He wondered what could be distracting her. The small room was quiet and there were no others around. He was her only company. Could he possibly be distracting her? He found she distracted him. The curve of her neck, her creamy white skin, her hair, which smelled like strawberries, the rise and fall of her chest as her breathing increased... all of these things were distracting to him. Hence, the reason he moved behind her, but she was just as distracting from behind.

Her shoulders, her arms, the way her hair was tied up with the same piece of lace from yesterday, all distracted him. Yes, he was distracted. He said, “Close your eyes again and try to relax. It will do you no good if you cannot relax.” With her back to him, he placed his hands on her arms, the bare skin under his touch warm and inviting. He moved his hands down to her hands. He held her wand hand, her right, in his right. He said in her ear, “Picture nothing but the red ribbon in front of you. Not the green one in which you stand, not the blue one in front of its brother. The red one, Hermione.” Her breathing increased as the soft-spoken words echoed in her ear. Each word tickled her neck.

And he continued. “Relax your body; your hand is holding your wand so tightly it might snap in two.” His fingers laced through hers, on the end of her wand.

He removed his hands and put them back over her eyes, which was not necessary, for she still had them closed. He said, “The red ribbon, Hermione. Picture it and nothing else. Let it draw you to it.”

She finally relaxed and saw nothing but the red ribbon. He removed his hands. She felt a pull, deep from within, starting in her stomach. Her arms and legs felt tightly bound, and her chest constricted. She tried not to let her mind wander to what was happening to her body. She tried to think only of the red ribbon. Her body felt squeezed, and then as if it was going through a tunnel. She tried very hard to remain calm, and after only a few seconds, all feelings ceased.

She opened her eyes, and sighed. She said, “I am sorry, Lord Malfoy, it did not work. Perhaps Apparition is too difficult for me at this time. I will try again.”

He laughed. She turned to face him, and he was smirking at her. From across the room. She looked down. She was on the red ribbon, and he remained behind the green one.

She was shocked beyond words! She did it, and on her first try! She felt she was meritorious, and should be praised for her feat! She put her wand back in her pocket and ran to him, in exulted jubilation! She threw her arms around his neck, and jumped into his arms, stunning them both.

She exclaimed, “I did it! Did you see? I did it!” She removed her arms from his neck; he lowered her feet back to the ground, and she grasped her hands tightly in front of her. She stepped back across the room. “Oh, I am so sorry. I need another etiquette lesson now, I am afraid.”

“I’m not so sure, Miss. I think that response might have been appropriate. I have never seen anyone complete Apparition on the first try.” Her happiness was contagious. His skin burned from where she had just thrown her arms around him.

Now they were both suddenly distracted, and once again, with each other. Each was painfully aware of the other. He took two meaningful strides toward her. Her feet remained planted in the same spot, as if she were rooted to the ground. He wanted to embrace her again. That was the single most exciting thing that happened to him today, or perhaps, ever. He was certain his happiness had more to do with her happiness, than with the successful Apparition. She smiled. She looked lovely.

He said, “You did so well, Hermione. I have never seen anyone do so well. Please, let us try it again.”

Therefore, they did. They tried several more times, from the red ribbon to the blue, from the blue to the green. He continued to place the ribbons farther apart. The last time he put one outside the enclosed glass structure. Each application was perfection. After the last one, she ran in the gazebo, with the blue ribbon in her hand.

“Did you see, Draco? I did it again! From the inside to the outside!”

He laughed. “Yes, from the inside to the outside, Hermione. You should come and sit down now. It is unwise to Apparate and Disapparate too frequently in one day. You must rest and regain your energy. Apparition takes much magic from you, and it is best not to do it too many times in succession.” He pointed to a small scrolled, wrought iron, loveseat. She followed his lead, and sat down. He sat beside her.

“I am surprised I was able to do it once, let alone several time,” she admitted. “Perhaps we could learn something else now.”

“Perhaps you could let me rest as well,” he said with a smile. “Besides, I told you earlier, I do not have any of my books, and I wager you have already read all of Lord Potter’s books on Ancient Runes.”

He was correct, of course, but she did not want to learn more Ancient Runes. She said, “It is not Runes or things I wish to learn. I would like to learn more on the Dark Arts. Mr. Lupin gave me a book to read on the subject, and I think it is important for everyone to know everything there is about all branches of magic, light and dark. When I spoke with my cousin, he seemed upset, and I would assume that had to do with his fight against the Dark Lord.”

Draco stood up suddenly, his back to her, his brows furrowed. “You would be correct, I am sure.” He turned to her and said, “While I agree that you should have a well rounded education, I am not the one to teach you these things.”

She stood as well, “Then who should, Sir? Mr. Lupin will not, because he does not want to go against my cousin’s wishes. He told me to hide the book from Harry. I need to learn these things. I know the basics, and I know most of the dark spells, and about the three unforgivable curses, but I need to learn to combat them! Reading is not the same as learning and doing.”

Her urgency caused him to feel anxious. “Do you assume there is danger around the corner, ready to strike you at a moment’s notice?” Was she afraid? Did she sense danger? Did she know something that even he and Lord Potter did not know? He frowned again and took her hand. He sat her back down on the bench. He said, “I cannot teach you the Dark Arts, I am sorry. My father was a Death Eater. Are you familiar with that term?”

“Yes, Sir, I know they were the followers of Voldemort’s. I did not know your father was one. Forgive me, Sir, I meant no disrespect. I did not mean to bring up bad memories for you. I would never want to cause you distress or pain.”

She looked at him so compassionately that he felt bad for rebuffing her so quickly. She should learn the Dark Arts. “You should learn from a qualified wizard, I agree. I would not wish to practice these spells with you, however. Your abilities might cause me harm, and I am already slightly afraid of you.”

She laughed a true and heartfelt laugh. “You fear me?” She laughed again. “Then you do not wish for me to practice on you?”

“You already have me at your mercy, so perhaps you already have me under the Imperius. You cause me great anguish at times, so I am sure you have already performed the Crucio curse on me. I hope you never use the last curse on me. That would be unpleasant.”

She smiled and said, “Quite.” Her bare arm was against his clothed arm. She was suddenly very aware of his closeness. More so than before, so she decided to remedy that. She stood up and said, “Have you heard from your solicitor yet? Is there cause to rejoice, good news, perhaps?”

“Not as of yet,” he replied. His solicitor had found out nothing about his father’s will, or anymore about Hermione’s past. If only she were a pureblood, his problems would be solved. He said, “Theo pointed out something interesting, which no one had yet considered. Even if the codicil in my father’s will is genuine, and I do have to marry a pureblood to retain my home and title, nowhere does it state that the pureblood in question must be Miss Clearwater. My solicitor agrees with this assumption. I have yet to inform my godfather or the young lady.”

“Do you have another pureblood in mind?” she asked softly. She went to look out the window of the gazebo. A gentle rain began to fall. The smell of the rain soaked her senses, and swirled in her mind. Was she still going to lose him to another? She placed her hand on the windowsill of the opened window, and let the cool rain drench her hand.

“I have no one in mind, Hermione.” He came and stood beside her. He placed his left hand next to her right hand. Their little fingers touched. “Since the marriage contract with Miss Clearwater is not the deciding factor, and is no longer binding, I find no reason to continue my dalliances with the insipid woman. If I must remain single until we discover a way out of this, so be it.”

So be it. He said, so be it. Yes, Hermione thought, so be it. She took a deep breath. He looked over at her face, and she looked anguished. He was not so vague that he did not know the reason for her state of mind. It pained him as well, but it was the best solution, thus far.

“I am going to tell Miss Clearwater and Snape both, tonight at dinner.”

“I am happy you found a solution to your problem, with Mr. Nott’s help,” she said. She tried to walk away from the open window, as the rain was now spraying in on them both. He placed his hand on top of hers, so she was captive. She looked upon his face.

“It is not the best solution, but it is the only hope I have at the moment,” he said gently. “I beg you to still offer me time.”

She expelled the breath she did not even know she was holding. She said, “I would offer you more, if you would only ask me.”

Would he ask her?


End Notes:

x

Chapter 20 - A Rose Amongst Thorns by AnneM

Chapter 20 – A Rose amongst Thorns:

Hermione Granger told Draco Malfoy that she would offer him more than friendship, if he only asked. What did she mean? He told her that he could not marry, not yet, maybe ever. Therefore, what did she mean by her declaration? It mattered not, because he would never ask more of her. Never. She was too precious, too dear to him. She was the proverbial rose amongst the thorns.

The rain continued to fall, and what was at first a simple summer shower, was now a torrential rain, with all the tale-tell signs of an impending storm. Humidity surrounded the pair in their enclosed glass structure. Hermione and Draco went around the octagonal room, he to the right, she to the left, to close all the windows. They met on the other side. The panes of glass developed a thick condensation and fog. Neither spoke as they set about their task, nor when they met on the other side. Neither required conversation. He did not respond to her statement, and she did not elaborate. He walked over to the chair to pick up his jacket and gloves. If he did not leave immediately, he would take her in his arms and make love to her. He would ask her, no, command her, to stay with him forever, marriage or not… but he could not do that to her.

He threw his jacket over his arm and he looked over at the lithesome, ethereal beauty that stood before him. She had her back to him, and was drawing circles in the condensation that had developed on one of the panes of glass. Was she ignorant to his stares, wants, and desires, or was she playing coy? It was rude for him to continue to stare, but such amenities as politeness and demeanor no longer had a place between the two. It was an unspoken alliance. Besides, he could not look away.

He wanted her. Just the thought of her sent a fire to his soul. He wanted her with a passion and a desire that few men ever felt, and only a handful would admit to feeling. He dare not admit it himself. He wanted her with a desire that was bound to be his doom. She filled his mind, body, and soul with a blinding, unabashed love.

She bowed her head, almost as if in silent prayer. Whatever deity she was calling on, let her say a prayer for him as well. He wanted to walk away, but instead, he drew nearer. She reached back with her left arm, in an understanding. Reaching, reaching, and reaching, for him. Somehow, she knew he would come.

One-step closer was all it took. His left hand took her outstretched left hand. She leaned her forehead against the cold, wet glass. Did she feel the anguish and the loss he felt? The frustration that came just from the thought that they would soon have to part?

He stretched out her left arm, and while her back was still to him, her left hand in his left hand, he placed his right hand on her waist, as if she was a fine instrument, a harp, or a cello, and he was about to bring forth beautiful music. He raised her left arm straight out from her side. The fingers of his right hand grasped the material of her dress at her waist. He placed a small kiss on the inside crook of her arm, by her elbow. Still holding her arm straight out, he kissed down her arm. Her head bent to the side, he looked back at her face, and the long column that was her neck, and he was in turmoil. He wanted to kiss her neck as well, but her arm begged for his attention. He placed his last kiss to her pulse at the wrist, which he swore he could feel transferring each beat from her body to his.

This was improper. By all that was holy, this was not right! This would not do! However, appropriateness be damned! Where was the harm, when two loved as greatly as these two?

He let her arm drop to her side. He pulled her back toward him, his right hand still on her waist. His left hand skimmed back up her left arm, to her neck. His hand came around to the front of her neck, his fingers splayed out, and her head fell back on his shoulder. He finally kissed the skin on her neck, which he had so desired. The only distinct sound that could be heard was the sound of the rain pinging on the copper roof, mixed with their joint breaths inhaled and exhaled in a quiet unity.

Still he pressed on; still aware it was wrong, still not caring. He placed another kiss on the sensitive junction of skin between her neck and her shoulder. His right hand left her waist, and snaked around her middle. His left hand cupped her face. She was his captive, and he would never let her go. He took one more deep breath, and moved away from her. She remained where she was, in the same position, almost as if she was carved from stone or carefully captured on an artist’s canvas. She held such an elegant pose that he did not know what to do or think.

He turned her around, and put his hands on both sides of her face. He ventured even farther, and kissed her forehead. She turned her face slightly, to mold her cheek into his cupped hand. She placed a kiss on his palm, and that was his undoing. He dropped his hands and shut his eyes, and willed it to be a dream, for if it were a dream, he could do what he really wanted to do. He could bring her arms over his neck, and kiss her round, sweet, red, ripe lips. He could carry her far away, where no one would ever find her or hurt her. He finally opened his eyes, which seemed glassed over, and he willed himself to stay still and not impede upon her more. The humidity of the room mingled with the coolness of the rain, and a slight fog filled his mind just as surely as condensation formed on the windowpanes.

Her hands, small and pliant, went down his shirtsleeves, to grasp both of his hands. She held his arms out, and surveyed the man in front of her. They stood, facing each other, hands holding hands, stares holding stares, hearts holding hearts. She dare not speak, although words were swirling around her brain, fighting to be let out. Hermione brought one of his hands up to her mouth again, and this time, she kissed the top of it, before releasing them both quickly. His breathing quickened, not from exertion or vigorous exercise, but from want.

He had to close his eyes again. He had to. He wanted those lips next to his. He opened his eyes, and decided he would have to be contented with her temple, which would be just as sweet. He drew her to him, she clutched the opening of his green waistcoat, and he place a well-sought kiss on her left temple, touching a wisp of hair with his lips. He was dying inside.

Her nimble fingers raced up and down his cloth covered chest, to find their way in his hair, and then she traced the outline of his cheeks, and eyebrows. Her fingers went over his jaw line, and one finger touched his bottom lip. He willed his eyes closed again. He could not look at her a moment longer! Sweet, sweet, agony! He would surely die soon if he did not touch his lips to hers.

And the rain continued.

Her hands went back to his chest, clutching tightly to the green material, and her forehead fell against the smooth silk of his vest. He placed one hand gingerly around her back, touching the bare skin between her dress and the falling tendrils of hair. His other hand was useless, for it could not do what it wanted, because it would surely betray him if he did not keep it in check. Her sweet, soft body seemed to form into his. Finally, his other hand found a home in her hair. She looked up at him.

He made a decision. He was going to kiss her. If Lord Potter demanded his head on a platter when he was through, it would be worth the sacrifice. Denying his need served no purpose. It was what he wanted, and what she wanted, and that was all that mattered in the world. Nothing else existed. No reason, only insanity.

With his decision made, and her defenses lowered, he was resolute. His head descended toward hers, when they heard the sound of the door to their little haven open, tearing them forever apart. They parted so quickly, that no one would have ever have suspected what almost occurred. As it was, what did occur was a godsend. If he had kissed her, he would never be able to stop. Whether it was fate or a higher being which intervened, Draco no longer cared. He was just thankful. He wanted her, but not like this. Not at this cost. When he took her, and claimed her for his own, it would be as his wife!

He walked to the other side of the room, and stayed put, as a servant informed Miss Granger that she had a guest in the library. The maid left, and Draco went back to the chaise, picked up his jacket, placed it on his body, and rushed to the door.

She remained where she stood.

He turned to face her, so small and alone. So willing, so wanting. Still waiting. He said, “By tonight, Hermione, I will be free. My father’s will be damned. I will have you. I will be appeased! I will!” He seemed almost angry. She had no misunderstanding. His was a righteous indignation. She felt it was well. He disapparated on the spot, leaving her alone in the little structure. She walked to the door, and looked out at the grey sky, even as the sun tried to come back out to play. He was gone, but she knew in her heart he would return, and he would return a free man.

Hermione walked in the large mansion, and into the library, to greet her visitor. When she entered, it was not at all whom she assumed. “Mr. Snape,” she said, curtseying low.

“Miss Granger,” he returned. “I have several roots and mosses I need to collect for potions and as the rain is abating, I wondered if you would like to accompany me. You seemed eager enough to help me the last time I collected specimens, and it seems I owe you a lesson, as the last one went awry.”

“Would you join me for lunch first, Sir?” she asked.

He bowed and said, “It would be a pleasure.”

Lunch was a quiet affair. Mr. Lupin kept to his rooms, since it was the day after the full moon. Harry was still in London on business. Hermione found it difficult to speak with the man. Between courses he said, “My cupboards are bare, Miss, and there are several main ingredients for several important potions which I am completely out, for example, the root which is necessary for the Wolfsbane potion, which Remus Lupin depends on so heavily, is complete dissipated.”

That concerned Hermione. If Remus had such a difficult time with the potion, what must occur if he did not have the potion readily available? Mr. Snape must have known he struck a nerve with the girl, for she said, “I would like to learn to brew that potion, so I might be able to help Mr. Lupin. He has been such a dear friend of mine.”

“I will teach you, but of course, as soon as we collect the proper ingredients. We will set to work straight away.”

The rain finally stopped. This small window of clear weather afforded both Snape and Hermione with the time they deemed necessary for very different tasks. She wanted to find the ingredients to help a very dear friend. He wanted the opportunity to talk to the young woman, to try to convince her to stay away from his godson. Neither would get what they wanted.

He pointed out several species and types of flowers and plants to her, telling her of their potion making properties. She placed them in her basket, and continued with her work. He said, “I look forward to our continual tutoring sessions, Miss Granger. I know you are an fervent learner. I spoke to the headmaster at Hogwarts about you, and he agrees with my assessment. I told him of your thirst for learning and of your intelligence. You would be a bright addition to our staff. He thinks with a year of constant tutoring, and another year of apprenticeship, you should be ready to teach.”

Hermione stood up from the bush she was examining, and tried to think of a response. Was he still under the impression that she wanted to teach? She did not fully trust this man. She was eager to continue her education, but now, that was all to which she could commit. She responded, “Sir, I appreciate your patronage, but I am no longer convinced that teaching is the path that I must take. I need time to weigh all my options. I also must consider my cousin’s views on the matter, and take his wants and wished into consideration.”

She bent down and picked up a small white flower, and put it in the basket.

He scoffed at her words and said, “We both know it is not your cousin to whom you speak. You want to wait and see what Lord Malfoy thinks of the plan, is that not true?”

She straightened up slowly, and looked across the path at him. She knew not what to say to that statement. “Sir, I only speak of my own wants and desires. I do not know if I want to pursue the path in which you speak. That is all.”

She tried to turn back around, but he was suddenly in front of her on the mud-riddled path. He took both her arms in his hands, and shook her so hard that she dropped her basket. He said, “I was under the assumption that you wanted to secure your future before your cousin married and left you homeless and penniless once more! Perhaps I was wrong. I shall not seek any more opportunities for you in the future!”

“Please, Sir,” she said, “I did not mean to insult or imply that I was not grateful. As for my cousin, his marriage is not yet set in stone.”

“Neither is Lord Malfoy’s!” Snape snapped. He let go of her arms. “Which I am sure plays an important role in your indecisiveness!”

She would not discuss such matters with such a horrid man. She picked up her basket, and started up the path. When she was almost out of his view he shouted, “I know of his plans to break his engagement with my ward!” She turned to face him. “I will never allow that, Miss Granger. I will never allow a common Mudblood to come between the love of two people whom I love, is that clear?”

She marched over to him, threw down the basket, and said, “The only thing that is clear is that I will not be threatened by you, Sir. As for the love you speak, between Miss Clearwater and Lord Malfoy, I can guarantee, it is non existent, at least on his part!”

“Because of you!” he shouted.

“No, because of him!” she spat back. “This has nothing to do with me!”

“You would like me to believe that, wouldn’t you, girl? However, I have eyes! I can see! He is infatuated with you and of course, a woman of your intellect sees what he can give to you in return. A stable, comfortable life, free from hard work and strive! A title, wealth, but one thing he will never be able to give you, Miss Granger, is pure blood! Believe me, it is more important to him than even he realizes at this juncture!”

She tried to storm past him, but he caught her arm. He shouted, “One thing is certain! He will never marry you and give you the respectability that you crave, unless your muddy blood suddenly turns pure, which will never, ever, happen!”

“Hold your tongue, Sir, before I curse you into the ground!” she threatened as she drew her wand in anger. “I did not seek your opinion, so trust me when I say that you should keep it to yourself! Good day, Sir!” She stormed off, down the rain soaked path, anger seeping from every pore and fiber of her body.

She thought she was rid of him when he Apparated right in front of her. She screamed in frustration. Why would he not leave her be!

He said, “You will never be more than a mistress or a lover to him. Perhaps someday you will be a simple regret! He will never lower himself to marry you, for he knows what a unholy union it would be. Ask Lupin what such a marriage did to your cousin’s parents, your aunt and uncle! Lord Potter’s father gave up a great deal for his mudblood, and what did it get him? A death sentence for them both! He should have let her go, and perhaps they would both still be alive today, married to others, and happy!”

Hermione had no idea of what he was referring, nor did she frankly care at this point. She thought he was a horrible man, spouting unsolicited thoughts and judgments. She sprinted away, as she heard his booming voice say, “Do not be a fool! Give up on Lord Malfoy, before it is too late!”

She continued to run through the dense woods, and once again, as Lord Mafloy suggested earlier, she was hopelessly lost. She did not know if she was proficient enough to Apparate from places unknown, and from distances unknown, but she would have to try.

She concentrated very hard on the gazebo. Their gazebo. She knew it had no wards, and she would almost be home. She imagined it in her mind. She grasped her wand, and though Lord Malfoy told her it was not necessary for her to shut her eyes, shut her eyes she did. She was knocked over with a spell as soon as her eyes closed.

Pain coursed through her, the likes of which she had never experienced before. Her body was on fire! Someone put out the flames! Each nerve ending felt severed! A blazing, prickling heat, akin to an actual fire befell her and she heard a scream that she did not even recognize as her own.

The last thing she remembered was blackness, which overwhelmed her, sending her into a pit of utter despair.


 

End Notes:

x

Chapter 21 - Quiet Contemplations and a Scream by AnneM

Chapter 21 – Quiet Contemplations and a Scream

Lord Harry Potter arrived back at Potter’s Hall later than he had expected. He had spent the day in London, trying desperately to find some proof, either documented or from eyewitnesses, who could give him insight into his mother’s past. His mother and her older sister, Hermione’s mother, were both born in London, and at around the ages of seven and five, they were left at an orphanage. This fact was just brought to light by Remus Lupin. Furthermore, they were taken from the orphanage, six months later, by an elderly aunt, and that was where they stayed until the went out on their own.

The reasons for Lord Potter’s search were two-fold. He had a burning desire to know more about his mother. He knew a lot of his father, from Remus, from Sirius before he died, and from residents of Godric’s Hollow, who knew him when he was young. Much less was known about his mother, and Harry ached for knowledge of her, just as he had ached for her arms around him when he was a boy.

Second, Lord Malfoy had hired his solicitor to find out as much about Hermione’s past as he could, and he informed Harry of this quest. Harry was also curious, hence his trip that day. His endeavors were fruitless, however, and he garnered no new information about his mother, his aunt, or his cousin. He even visited Hermione’s stepfather, but the man did not even know Hermione was a witch, so he was of no help at all.

One thought occurred to him. What if, somehow, his mother’s parents were magical? Would that not explain why Hermione was a witch, just like his mother? Perhaps her own mother was a witch, and she chose to hide the fact, or never developed her skills. Things would be so much easier for Hermione, and also for Lord Malfoy, if it could be proven that she was not a Muggle-born. No proof had been obtained thus far, however.

It was well after dinner when Harry arrived home. He asked his housekeeper to send dinner up to his chambers. He started upstairs when his personal valet came up to him, solemn faced, and silent.

“Yes?” Lord Potter asked.

“Mr. Lupin requests your presence in the drawling room, Sir,” his valet said.

“Tell him I have had a long, hard day, and I am tired and hungry. I will speak with him tomorrow,” Harry said, as he untied his cravat.

“Sir, I believe it is urgent. It pertains to your cousin,” the man said.

Harry turned to the man, and saw the concern on his face. He ran down the hallway to Hermione’s room. It was empty. He ran down the stairs, all the way to the drawling room, and threw open the double doors. He said, “Where is Hermione?” He saw the somber face of Remus Lupin, who appeared much older than his years, as well as Ron, Charlie, and George Weasley, and Theodore Nott. The person he sought, Hermione, was missing.

Remus stood and met Harry’s gaze. He put his hand on the younger man’s arm and said, “We do not know where she is. She has not been seen since lunch.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Sitting by the fireplace in the lounge at Malfoy Manor, Draco Malfoy threw his glass of firewhiskey across the room. He was done in for, but it was over, it was done! He informed his godfather and Miss Clearwater of his intentions NOT to marry the young lady, and it went badly, very badly indeed. The young lady cried, threw things, and even struck him. His godfather told him he was ashamed of him. In the end, Draco had to draw his wand on the pair. He ordered that they leave his sight. They both left, but with ominous, though very different, messages.

Miss Clearwater said, “This is not over, Lord Malfoy! There are ways around things, and you will see in the end that we are a fortuitous match. I shall consult my friend Mr. Zabini, and ask for his guidance.” That message left Draco confused and concerned.

Severus Snape said, “You have shamed me more than I ever thought possible. I, who have been like a father to you, to be cast aside so you can throw away everything for the love of a Mudblood! Do not be a fool, Draco! You will come to your senses and see that she is not a good match for you! You will be forced to come to that conclusion, Draco!”

Draco told Snape that it had nothing to do with Hermione Granger, except that it did.

Snape said, “I tried to convince her just today to leave here and go to Hogwarts, to teach! I feel she is convinced. I would not be surprised if she had already left! She is not meant for you, Draco.”

“Leave Miss Granger alone, Snape, or you will answer to me,” Draco warned the older man. Draco did not believe Snape told her that! After all, when would he have seen her today? No matter, Snape was lying. She promised she would wait for him. After their silent declaration of love this morning, he felt they shared an understanding. She would wait for him! She was a woman of her word.

He used his wand to levitate the entire bottle of firewhiskey to him, and he drank right from the bottle. He would drown his miseries in drink tonight, and pray for an anchor tomorrow.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry paced the room like a caged animal! “Who was the last to see her? Who was her visitor today? Why did she not tell anyone where she was going?” These questions were poised to the other occupants in the room, but none of them had any answers.

The only thing they knew for certain was that Lord Malfoy, per the butler, arrived this morning, and gave her a lesson. The butler also saw Lord Malfoy leave. He said that after Lord Malfoy left, Miss Granger received a guest, but the guest was admitted into the home by a downstairs maid, who had suddenly disappeared as well. After that, there were no answers.

Remus said, “We have searched everywhere for her. We have combed the woods and the town. We used every spell and charm I can think of to locate her. She is either far away from here, or under some sort of concealment charm. I called Mr. Nott, since he is a member of the militia. He has men out looking for her as we speak. We tried to get a message to you earlier, but no one knew where you were.”

Harry felt helpless, standing there, and doing nothing. He marched out of the house, to try to find her himself.

Theo Nott slipped out as well. He wanted to tell Malfoy.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Well, good riddance, it was over and done. Everything from this point on could go to hell in a hand basket, and Draco would care not. It did not ease his heart however, because he was still not at liberty to take Hermione as his wife, though it be his fondest wish. Someday, perhaps, hopefully, some day. Thus, the reason for the thrown glass. He was heading upstairs when there was a loud banging on his door. He smiled when he thought how he told Hermione it was improper for her to answer the door herself, and how she shut it in his face. He called out to his butler that he would answer the door. He opened it, and outside was Theodore Nott.

Draco opened the door to let him gain entrance and said, “Well, it’s over old man. I told them both. I told them that while I may still have to marry a pureblood to retain my title and home, I could also just as easily remain single. It would appear neither gave that little notion a thought. I owe you, Nott.” He smiled widely at the man, who did not return his smile.

Draco said, “Whatever is the matter with you? You look like the man who has just lost his best friend.”

“It is not I who has lost their best friend, Malfoy,” Nott said. He put his hand on the other man’s arm and said, “Lord Potter request your help in locating his cousin.”

Draco gave a short laugh and said, “Did she become lost in that massive house of his?”

“No, she is missing, and has been missing since right after your lesson today,” Nott informed him.

Draco felt his heart sink to the floor. He buttoned his jacket, and rushed out the door, to Disapparate away.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

In a cold dark room, in places unknown, Hermione Granger lay on the hard ground, with nothing but some hay for cushioning. There was no use denying it, she was alone and afraid. She was bound and gagged, with a blindfold over her eyes. She had been cursed, although with what curse, she did not know. If she knew more about the unforgivable curses, she might have thought it was the Crucio, for the pain she felt while the curse was rendered still coursed through her body.

She was confused. She did not know where she was, or why. She did not have any notion to the day or time. She was utterly alone and full of fear and despair. She willed darkness to overcome her again, so she would not have to feel afraid. If she could just sleep, perhaps her nightmares would be less frightful than her real life.

She wondered if she was missed. Had Harry returned from his business, to find her gone? Had anyone told Lord Malfoy? Her thoughts had gone to him frequently over the last few hours. She wondered if she would ever see him again. She regretted that she might die and never feel his lips upon hers. She knew it was a strange thought, since it might be her last, but she thought it all the same.

Someone walked in the room. For a moment, Hermione thought she might have heard two sets of footsteps, but than only one person approached her, and by the way the person carried himself, and the way his footsteps fell on the rock surface floor, she knew it was a man. He knelt beside her and without compassion or gentleness, pulled her to a sitting position. Then a spell was cast, the same spell as earlier, and all she could do was scream. Her body was a beacon of pain. When the pain subsided, for it never completely stopped, a familiar voice said, “That is enough. Lord Potter has just discovered you are missing, Miss, and by now, so has Lord Malfoy. We do not have much time. Think of him one last time, before he ceases to exist for you!” Hermione was jerked into a standing position, her blindfold removed. Then someone pointed a wand at her and said, “Obliviate!”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry stood in the middle of the town square, with half the residents of the village around him. They all respected and admired the young viscount, and if they could help him, they would. He begged for silence, while he held his wand aloft and uttered the four-point spell. He demanded his wand to point him to his cousin. It pointed due east, so Harry and company followed.

Draco Malfoy stayed behind in the village. He went to the little church, sat in a pew, and waited.

His mind went to this afternoon. What would he say to her when presented to her once more? Would he finally admit his love outright? That was his fondest wish. His biggest regret was that he left her alone this afternoon, especially after he and Lord Potter admitted that she was not safe. Harry had received an anonymous letter stating that the attack that day on Malfoy’s carriage was actually an attack on the young lady. Though two of the rakes did not know Miss Granger would be in the carriage, the third did. It was his intention, nay, his order, to find her and cause her harm. He did not succeed, but that did not mean he would not try again.

What would he say when he was once again face-to-face with the young woman? He could offer her no more than he offered her this afternoon. How he wished it were as easy as giving up his title and home, and running away with the woman her loved, but it was not that easy. It was not that simple.

During their lesson that morning, after she had successfully completed three Apparitions, and before she tried the one from the inside of the small structure to the outside, she told him, “I have never felt more like a witch than I do right now.”

He smiled now when considering that comment. It was a sweet, endearing comment. If this young woman had, had the opportunity to hone her skills over the years, it was hard to tell how powerful she might be. The magic that coursed through her veins, be it from magical ancestry or not, was prominent.

Had it really been only a week and a half since they had met? What madness. When he lay in bed at night, he longed for her touch, her smell, and her hands upon his body. Was it desire that drew him to her, or love? He was certain it was love. For if it was only desire, he would have taken her in the gazebo this afternoon. She was willing.

No, it was love, for only love could have given him the resolve to stop his lovemaking. Only love could make him long to just look upon her face. Only love could warm his soul, and cause the fire that existed deep down inside his very core. He loved her, and the next time he saw her, he would tell her as much.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hermione Granger, no longer bound, gagged, or blindfolded, walked up an abandoned lane of the village, all alone. The surroundings were unfamiliar. She did not remember this path. It would do no good to cry. She needed to find someone, to beg for his or her help.

She entered a small village square. The only light, as the day was coming to an end, and darkness had begun to envelope the daylight, was coming from a candle in the window of a small church. She walked toward the church and opened the large doors. A man, who seemed isolated and sad, sat at a pew in the front, with his head low. He did not sense her entry. She made her attendance known by opening the door wider and making her footsteps louder than expected. The man stood, faced her, mouth agape, and said, “Where have you been?”

All she said was, “Excuse me, Sir, but I seem to be lost. Can you tell me the way to Kent? My mother must be worried for me.”

Draco approached the lady in question and said, “Miss, do you know where your are?”

“No. This place does not seem familiar. I must be lost. Where am I?” she wondered.

Draco took in her appearance, which had so altered since he last saw her. Her hair was down and wild. Her pretty dress was covered in dirt, and what appeared to be blood. He approached her slowly and said, “The date, Miss, do you recall the date?”

She looked worried and confused. She said, “You must think me a simpleton, Sir, but I do not recall either.”

“Do you recall me?” he asked.

“I do not believe we have ever met. My name is Hermione Granger,” she said, with a slight bow at her waist.

Draco Malfoy felt he could not breathe. His world was falling in around him, and he was useless to stop its impending fall. He said, “My name is Lord Draco Malfoy. Do you know Lord Harry Potter?”

“He is my cousin, Sir, do you know him? Are you a friend of his?” she asked.

“Where does he live?” Draco inquired.

“A small village, called Godric’s Hollow,” she said.

“That is where you are,” he explained, approaching her slowly. “What is the last thing you recall?”

“Just pain, Sir. I recall terrible pain and a scream, which I know was my own,” she said softly.

Draco wanted to scoop her in his arm, but he did not want to scare her. She actually held her hands out in front of her, as if to ward him away. He said, “You will be fine, Miss. I want you to stay here, while I go outside to send my patronus to your cousin.”

“You are a wizard, Sir?” she asked.

He wanted to answer, “I am a wizard and so much more,” but instead he just said, “Yes.”

He knew not what had happened. He just knew she was back and safe. He went to the door of the church, and sent his patronus to Harry Potter. He walked back in the small church, where true to his order for her to stay put, she had not moved a muscle.

“I beg you to sit, Miss, before you fall over,” he demanded. She sat in the very last pew. He sat on the wooden, scrolled arm of the pew across the aisle. He did not know how to proceed. He asked, “When did you last see Lord Potter?”

“I do not recall if I’ve ever met him, but we have corresponded often during my life. He is my cousin. My mother and his late mother were sisters.”

Draco just realized something. She did not know her own mother was dead, because she had met Harry at her own mother’s funeral, though she didn’t recall meeting the man at all. That was when Harry invited her to come live at Potter’s Hall with him. At first, he thought her confusion might be the result of stress, or a head injury, now, he knew it must be the result of a curse or spell. If he ever found the person, or persons, who did this to her, he would kill them. It was as simple as that.

Harry Potter ran alone up to the small church. He opened the door and started to run to his cousin, though Lord Malfoy stopped him. The young girl in the pew coward in the seat, afraid of the man rushing toward her. He took Lord Potter’s arm and said, “I believe her memory has been Obliviated. I also fear she is suffering the after effects of the Cruciatus curse.”

Harry approached her more slowly than before, and said, “Hermione, I am your cousin, Harry Potter. Do you recall me?”

“Yes, we have written often,” she said. She stood up, but instead of walking toward the aisle, where Harry and Draco stood, she walked toward the other end of the pew, and stood by the far wall.

“We have more than written, you live with me now,” Harry said.

“That is not possible, Sir, I live with my mother and stepfather in Kent,” she said, now afraid.

Harry felt his heart beating out of his chest. He raised both hands toward her, walked closer, and said, “Hermione, your mother is dead.”

The girl sank to the floor and screamed.


Chapter 22 - Where There is Hope, There is Hermione by AnneM

Chapter 22 – Where there is Hope, There is Hermione

Neither man knew what they could do to help the poor girl. Her anguish was apparent. Harry could not believe that she had to relive losing her mother all over again, even if she did not recall losing her the first time. This was not any form of justice that he knew. He approached her slowly. It was only when he came upon her closely that he noticed that she had wounds all over her body, no doubt from withering on the ground in pain while under some dark curse. He took one step closer, and she scrambled to stand, tripping slightly over her dress hem, and backed into the corner of the church.

“What kind of evil trickery is this?” she pleaded. “Take me to my mother! You are not my cousin! My mother is not dead!” However, even as she stated these words, the realization that the truth was something very different descended upon her, and she cried, long, anguished tears. These fresh tears and sobs came from the very pit of her soul.

Draco Malfoy’s heart broke. He felt pain for this girl, because of the ordeal she had been through, and the one she was presently facing, but he was unable to help her in any way. He could also not help but feel slightly responsible, and he was not sure why. He also had remorse and self-pity, for any love she might have felt for him must surely have disappeared just as her memory had disappeared.

She sunk back to the floor, her back heaved with a wave of fresh tears. Malfoy walked up to Lord Potter, who stood in the exact same place, his hands still out toward his cousin. Draco said to Harry, “Only a very powerful wizard could have Obliviated her memory.”

“Do you have anyone in mind?” Harry asked.

“No,” he said. ‘Yes’, he thought.

“Hermione,” Harry said slowly. “I would never lie to you. Before you came to live here, we met twice, both times when we were very small children, if you would only try to recall that. Also, we have written to each other often. Surely I have not changed so much that you do not recognize your own kin?” He walked slowly up to her, until he was by her side. He sank to the floor and said, “May I escort you to Potter’s Hall?”

Through her heaves she said, “What is Potter’s Hall?”

“My home.” He stood and offered her his hand and clarified, "Our home." She shook her head no.

She pointed to Draco and said, “Are you my kin?”

“No,” was all he could manage to say.

“Where is my stepfather?” she asked.

“Back in Kent,” Harry said.

“Does he wonder where I am?” she asked.

“No, he knows you came to live here with me,” Harry said. “Hermione, he has already married another.”

With that declaration, a fresh wave of sobs broke through. She stayed on the floor, and the two men who loved her most stayed by her side. Twice, others entered the church. Once it was Remus, who after a few minutes, understood and went to tell the others they found her. The other person, looked in unnoticed, and closed the door and walked away, secretly pleased. This girl would never remember that she loved Draco Malfoy, and perhaps she would leave this place as suddenly as she entered.

After a few long, agonizing hours, she finally stopped crying. The sky outside was now pitch black. There was still a gentle rain falling, just as it had fallen for most of the day. She was on the floor, on her side, curled in a ball. Harry finally thought he should approach her. He walked up to her and put his hand on her arm. That was a mistake. She stood up and ran to the other side of the church.

“I do not know you!” she screamed in terror.

“Hermione, we have written to each other since we were small children. I know you must remember me,” Harry said, with remorse.

She pointed at Malfoy and said, “Who is he, then, if he is not kin?”

“A friend,” Harry said.

A friend? Was that all he was? Would she even accept that, if she would not even accept her own cousin? Malfoy approached her, and lit his wand. She ducked her head. The full extent of her injuries now before him, a laceration on her cheek, and bruise on her forehead, her beautiful gown torn in place... but those were only her physical wounds. Her memory was gone, which was perhaps the greatest wound of all.

Draco said, “Miss, you must let either your cousin or I help you. You need to see a healer for your wounds. You need some nourishment, and you need to rest. I know you are afraid, trust me, I know. I know you are confused, but we speak the truth. We would never hurt you. We both care for you very much, and only want what is best for you.”

There was something reassuring in what he said. She felt she could trust both of these men. She looked at Harry and said, “What was my mother’s name? If you are my cousin, you will know this.”

“Rose. Her name was Rose, and she was two years older than my mother was. My mother’s name was Lily, and my father was James. Your father’s name was Edward. You were born in September, and your favourite colour is red.”

She exhaled a breath and sat on the front pew. She said, “I don’t want to live without my mother.” Harry walked up the aisle and stood beside her. “Cousin Harry, may I have a word alone with this other gentleman?”

Harry looked from Draco to Hermione. He was confused, but he conceded. He nodded and walked down the aisle, and out of the little wooden doors. Draco walked up to her, and as she tilted her head up, he looked down at her and smiled. She stood up and said, “I want to remember. I need someone to help me remember. If you are truly my friend, will you help me?”

His heart was filled with joy! She wanted to remember! Perhaps she wanted to remember him! “I want you to remember, too. What can I do to help you?”

“You seem kind, Sir. First, tell me if what my cousin said is true,” she pleaded.

“To the best of my knowledge, it is all true,” he said.

“Are you a friend of my cousin? He said you were a friend,” she asked, tears still rolling down her face.

“No, I would not say we are friends, Miss,” Draco said truthfully. “What your cousin meant was that you and I are friends.” He approached her with caution, and said, “We are good friends.”

“I need friends,” she said sadly. “I can hardly believe my mother is dead.” She stood stock still and wept. He took the remaining steps toward her. Without warning, she rushed to him and put her arms around his neck, just as she had earlier in the day, in the gazebo. Her raw emotions made her lack of decorum all that more endearing.

He left his arms to his sides, and when Lord Potter reentered the church, he approached the pair and looked over at Malfoy, before turning to his cousin. Harry reached for her, placing her in the confines of his arms, and Disapparated with her to Potter’s Hall.

Draco knew one thing for certain, as he turned to watch them leave, his face half-in shadow, half-in moonlight. Whoever did this to her, to him, to them, would pay with his life. He may be a man in love, but he was also a Malfoy, and he would have his revenge.

Unable to bear it any longer, Malfoy walked down the cobblestone street, as a cold drizzle fell around him. All the noises of the night, the occasional footstep, the sound of horse hooves, and the occasional sound of voices in houses, all ceased. He heard and saw nothing as he traveled on the quest before him. He had to find who did this to her, and his first visit would be to Marcus Flint.

He went to the home of Marcus Flint’s mistress. It was well known that although the lady was married, her husband lived elsewhere, in a city unknown. Since there was a fire in the chimney, Draco was reasonably certain the man would be within. The streets in this little run down hamlet were quiet, and there were no lights from street lamps. Lord Malfoy would not merely knock on the door. He wanted to take the man by surprise. He took his wand, and rapped on the nearest window. Soon, Marcus Flint went to the window, and threw up the sash. Draco Malfoy took his wand, uttered “Incarcerous!” and bound him in no time, pulling him out of the window and onto the ground.

Flint looked up from the ground by the window and said, “If you wanted to talk Malfoy, you only had to knock on the door.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

The healer left Hermione’s room, and walked down to the Library. Harry turned to the man and said, “Well?”

“Trace magic shows definitively that the Cruciatus curse was used on her, repeatedly I would wager, and Lord Malfoy’s assumption that her mind was Obliviated would also be correct. She remembers nothing that has occurred at least in the last six months,” the man said. “I have tried a counter curse, but it has not helped. She may never regain her memory. She may have to start over, from this point in time.”

Harry Potter was angry! He had suffered much in his life, but his one consolation was that that his only living relative, a simple, intelligent, beautiful being, was always safe from the perils that plagued their world. During the war with Voldemort, she was in danger, just for the fact that she was his kin, and a Muggle-born, so safeguards were put in place to watch over her. Kind neighbours she had known all her life were really witches and wizards who kept her from safe from harm.

The tinker who worked in the square was an Auror, who worked for their government, and he helped to keep her safe. The woman who worked at the Inn near her home was a witch who watched out for her. Yet here she was, the threat from the Dark Lord over, and Harry could not keep her safe. Where was the fairness?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Tell me what you know, Flint,” Draco said, with a gleam in his eye, and his wand under the man’s chin.

“Draco, my man, let me stand and I will be more inclined to speak,” he said.

“No, I think I will keep you bound, and that way, it will be ever so much easier to throw you in the river, and let you drown. You are liable to sink to the bottom,” Draco said with his foot now on the man’s chest.

“Fine! All I know is that three men tried to sabotage your carriage that day because they knew Miss Granger would there. Only one in the party knew their real mission. The other two thought they were robbing you. The third was to take the mudblood far away, and then Obliviate her memory so that she would no longer remember you, and the way would be clear for you and Clearwater to marry.”

Draco unbound the other man. He stood and leaned against the side of the little house.

“Who hired these men?” Draco asked.

“I don’t know, but I heard about it from Blaise Zabini, so perhaps he did,” Marcus said, brushing the mud from his clothing.

“Why would Blaise Zabini care if I married Miss Clearwater or not? Why would he want to harm Miss Granger?” he asked.

“Because you need to marry a pureblood to retain your fortune, which Zabini plans to live off of, like the leech he is. He and Penelope have, shall we say, a prior commitment to each other. However, not all worked out as planned. I know nothing more.”

“The Viscount’s cousin was abducted today,” Draco said.

Flint looked concerned. “Seriously? I did not know. Have they found her?”

“Yes,” Draco leered, “with her memories Obliviated. What would be the purpose of that?”

“Perhaps the interested parties realized that you and she care for each other. They could not very well wipe your memories, as if they would even try, so they did the young lady’s. Although, still, I am not sure that makes much sense to me, but I am not as clever as the rest of you, am I?” Marcus said. Just then, his lover looked out the door. “Go back inside, my love. I am fine. Lord Malfoy is just conversing with me, and nothing more.”

“Are you the one that told Lord Potter of this plot against my carriage?” Draco asked.

“No, because I found this out after it happened,”

“He wasn’t told until after it happened,” Draco said.

“It still was not I, for if I knew, I would have warned you all,” Marcus continued. “Blaise was drunk the other night, as he is apt to be, and his tongue wagged while I listened. I know nothing more. I do not think it was Zabini who went after the young lady this time. He was seen at the Inn earlier. He was kicked out, due to failure to pay. I believe Lady Pansy took him in. Good luck finding out what happened to the young miss, but know this, Malfoy,” Flint said, looking around to make sure they were alone, “I don’t believe it is over, but I do believe it has more to do than just with you marrying Penelope. Call it my intuition.”

Draco shoved the man against the wall one last time, and Disapparated home. He had much to think on, and much to uncover.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Draco arrived at Potter’s Hall the next day, to inquire on Miss Granger. He was greeted at the door, and taken to the lounge. Harry told him that she had not spoken a word about her mother since the previous night. She seemed finally to accept all they said as the truth. He told Draco what the healer told him.

He said, “She was cursed, with pain and malice, and I, the one who should have protected her, was powerless to do so.”

Lord Mafloy saw the anguish in the other man’s eyes. How could he tell him that he felt just as much at blame? He could not, so he did not.

“Come to the garden with me, and see if you can help draw her out of her shell,” Harry pleaded. Harry walked Lord Malfoy to the edge of the garden, and pointed.

Sure enough, Miss Granger was walking alone, looking peaceful, but he was sure that she was feeling so very much different. The tightness in his chest would not disappear as long as she looked so forlorn. He felt he was intruding on her solitude, and was about to walk away, when she looked up and saw him. She quickly averted her eyes.

The sounds of his boots on the graveled path were secondary to the sound of the blood that rushed through his ears. He wanted to run to her, hold her, and kiss her sweet lips fervently. He was transported to the day before, when he held her in delight, and now they were once again strangers. He found that hard to abide. He wanted to shout, “REMEMBER ME!”

He continued his approach and he thought she continued her indifference. She looked beautiful as always. At least he still had his memory, so even when he parted from her, he could see her beauty. He took in the sight of her long neck, her ample bosom, her red cheeks, her long curls, hanging partly down, her lips, parted and wet, and her eyes, deep, full of expression, and at the moment, staring right in to his.

He walked deeper into the garden, and watched as she walked up the path between the rose bushes, looking more herself, but incredibly sad. Her hands were clenched together, and her eyes, which were once upon his, were now downcast. Her lashes fell upon her cheeks until she heard him approach, when she once again looked up to his face, the rise of her bosom apparent with the intake and release of rapid breaths.

The morning air was crisp, due to the rain the day before, and there was a cool nip to the breeze. The breeze caught her long curls, which hung around her head, falling from their crown on top, and she reached up to capture one long tendril, and tucked it behind her ear. She once again held his gaze. He wondered, what did she see?

He slowed his strides until they were together on the path. He said, “Your cousin said you are not fairing any better today than yesterday, Miss. I am sorry for your loss, and for your pain.”

She curtseyed and said, “Thank you, your lordship. My apologies, but I do not recall your name. I have met so many kind people today.”

There was no denying the truth: he loved her more today than the day before, and she did not even remember his name! It was, as he feared. Was it all for naught? Would she ever remember? Could he start from scratch? Could he contain himself with simple stares, simple touches, when he felt they had already surpassed that? He remembered with great delight the feel of her bare skin against his fingertips. Just yesterday, she brought his palm to her mouth and kissed it, as if it was his lips! It was something he would give all his possessions, just to feel again.

His heart faltered when she said, “My cousin told me just this day he was to be married. I wonder what will become of me.” He wanted to hold her and tell her not to worry once more about that. He could not.

“I wasn’t aware your cousin’s marriage was a set arrangement,” Draco said honestly. “I thought he and his intended were to give it some time.” Hermione began to walk back toward the middle of the garden, so he followed.

“He said that after what happened to me, he knows that life is precious, and not to be wasted,” she said.

Truer words, Lord Malfoy thought. Truer words were never said.

She stopped walking and tilted her head, to regard him. “Are you betrothed?”

He laughed. If only she knew. “No, I am not, nor I doubt that anyone would have me,” he said.

She laughed and said, “Are you a cad?”

“If I said yes, would you hold it against me?” he joked.

“No, I would not.” She sat on a stone bench that was at a meeting point of two paths, one that ran north and south, and one east and west. There was another bench across from the first. He sat upon it, and looked upon her face. Their eyes met and he found he could not pull away, nor will his breathing to quiet, or his heart to stop its loud symphony. She held so many questions behind those beautiful, brown eyes. He ached to answer them for her. He ached to tell her it would all be fine. Nevertheless, no words would form on his lips. Therefore, he just stared.

“Mr. Lupin tells me that he and you were tutoring me,” she said. “I always loved learning. Tell me what you were teaching me.”

“Apparition and you were quite good. You mastered it your very first time,” he revealed.

“I always wanted to learn to Apparate,” she said with a small smile.

“You do not need to learn, for you already know,” he answered. If he continued with such formal exchanges with her, his heart would surely burst. His arms ached, an actual, but unnatural, ache, to hold her. An ache to hold her and never let her go. He found that she was smiling at him when he returned his attention to her. He tried to gain his senses, to return the smile, and it turned out wrong.

He stood up and said, “This will not do!”

She stood as well. “Excuse me, Sir? Did I do or say something to offend?”

He wanted to turn to her and smile, and exchange pleasantries, but more than that, he wanted resolution! He wanted the end to his torment! He wanted to turn to her and say, ‘you and I were in love! I am sorry if that shocks you, but it is true. I do not just speak of my own heart, but of yours!’ He could not utter a word, for if he tried, those would be the exact words that would escape, and he would scare her away forever!

She kept his stare, and he said, “I am sorry for my outburst. You said nothing offensive. I am saddened by the loss of your memory that is all. Yes, it is true, and you may not remember, and remembering might cause you pain, but there you have it. Sometimes a person must feel pain to feel alive! The truth must be spoken. I cannot hide my feelings, nor do I want to hide them.”

“Then do not, Sir. Tell me the truth. At least, tell me one truth. I ache for the truth,” she pleaded. “I do not even know you,” she said, suddenly afraid. She stood from the bench and backed away. “I am sorry.”

He stayed rooted to the spot, but said, “Do not fear. I spoke out of turn. I should have let you remember these things on your own.”

She stepped back again, and said, “Were we intended?”

He wondered what made her ask that. “No,” he answered truthfully.

“Were we more than friends?” she asked hesitantly, with downcast eyes.

“Not in so many words,” he said.

“So we were not to marry?” she asked.

Those words cut him deep, to the bone, until he felt openly wounded, and exposed. They were not to marry, because he was not free to marry! He could not say, ‘I love and desire you!’ when the next sentence could not be, ‘and I want to make you my wife’. Perhaps it was best that she not remember. It would hurt her less.

He finally said, “No, we were not to marry, I was set to marry another.”

“Then I do not understand, and I think that I do not want to, Please, do not say anything else which might cause us both pain and regret. You must know, I no longer remember, and I have no idea how I felt about anyone or anything!” She seemed as desperate as he felt. She finally said, “Perhaps it is best that I don’t remember you. I feel like I might have cared for you, but apparently, if we were not intended, and you say we were not more than friends, and you were engaged to another, perhaps my feelings were one sided. I feel nothing but embarrassment at my current words and actions. Forgive me, milord. I beg my leave!” She ran down the path, but stopped.

He could see she was crying, by the heaving of her shoulders. It would have hurt less if someone had taken a sword and cut out his heart. He wanted to tell her what they were to each other, but he knew not how to express it in words, for words were insufficient. He loved her, yet he had made her no promises. He loved her, yet he could hardly stake his claim. He felt alone and lost, in a sea of uncertainty.

She turned back to face him. He bowed at the waist and said, “I shall cause you no more grief, madam. Know that I never intended to cause you discomfort. I can scarcely tell you what we were, when I hardly know myself. Perhaps what I thought was a mistake. It would serve you better if you never remember me, and maintain your indifference. I bid you farewell.” He bowed once more and stormed down the path, his right hand beating his left one with a closed fist.

“Lord Malfoy!” she called after him.

He turned.

“I am sorry.”

“No, don’t be,” he said. “You merely asked a question, of which I have no answer. The fault lies with me, not you.” He turned again, when she called out once more.

“Lord Malfoy!”

He took two deep breaths before he gained the courage to turn around. He could feel her eyes upon him. He heard her footsteps, as she walked closer to him on the path. She was directly behind him.

“Sir, beg my pardon. I do not wish to cause you pain. Perhaps I will remember in time,” she pledged. He felt her small hand on his forearm. The fleeting gesture, for it was fleeting, there one minute, gone the next, sent a storm into his brain. He turned around to face her. She said, “I do not wish to feel indifference toward you, because I know deep in my heart, indifference is not what I felt before.”

He tried to smile, but it came out false. “Let us start anew, and let a new friendship bond us,” he said. The pained expression he was sure he carried was erased when a look of delight crossed hers.

“I agree that we might become friends. Perhaps you can give me another lesson,” she said.

“Apparition or Comportment?” he asked with a wirily smile.

She smiled as well and said, “Sir, I believe you do know me.”

His eyes could not leave hers. His thoughts once again were in turmoil, but he took her hand, and brought it gently to his mouth. He kissed the warm skin of her hand. Once again, he would be content with that. He said, “Yes, Miss, I do know you, as well as I know my own heart.”

He let go of her hand, and she looked at it. He wondered what she thought she saw. The image of her now, and the image of her, almost at his mercy yesterday in the gazebo, dwelled in his mind, swirling around until it was a mumbled mess, and he could not decipher one thought from another. What was real, and what was not? What happened before, and what was yet to happen?

He reached out, no longer caring about the consequences, and tucked another stray curl behind her ear. “I shall see you again, Miss, that I promise.”

He bowed to her and turned to walk away, glancing back only once, to gaze upon her perfect loveliness. He would not trifle with her memories and feelings yet. He made her fall in love with him once, and rather fast at that. He could do it again, after all, he was Draco Malfoy, and she seemed less hesitant than the first time she fell in love with him. She seemed opened and approachable, and accepting of his attentions. She was not beneath his touch, nor was he above hers. This time, no one would get hurt. No one would touch her. He looked back for the last time, and there she stood again, his constant. He would not waver, and he had a feeling neither would she.


Chapter 23 - Peace and Understanding by AnneM

Chapter 23 – Peace and Understanding:

Walking around the massive house called Potter’s Hall, Hermione Granger had a purpose and a mission: she wanted to remember! The last few days had been frustrating. No one seemed to want to tell her anything and everyone walked around her as if on eggshells. They were treating her like a fragile, breakable figurine, and she was anything but.

She could not help but think that there was more than friendship between her and Lord Malfoy. When she looked at him, her heart skipped a beat. He was handsome, one did not need to regain one’s memory to make that observation, but it was more than just the physical. She thought, or rather she felt, she might love him.

If that was the case, why would he not tell her so?

She sat in the front drawing room on the settee and did nothing but think. She had to remember. She felt an urgency to remember. Miss Weasley walked into the room. Her cousin had introduced her to the young lady a couple of days before. For some reason, Hermione did not like her. She seemed treacherous.

“May I impede on your solitude?” Miss Weasley asked.

“By all means,” Hermione said sweetly, although she felt quite the opposite. “To what do I owe this visit?”

“Your cousin is just so worried for you, he asked me to make sure you were well,” Ginny said.

“You may report back to him that I am quite well,” Hermione said back.

“It is hard not to remember, am I correct?” asked Ginny.

Hermione said, “That would be true, and likewise, it is hard that no one will help me remember. I remember most things about my life, but almost nothing about Godric’s Hollow.”

“I will fill in the gaps, if you would allow,” Ginny volunteered.

Hermione sat upright, full of excitement. “Why do I feel a connection with Lord Malfoy?” she asked.

“Oh, well Harry asked us not to talk with you about that subject,” Ginny began, “but you are an adult, and you deserve answers. You had feelings for the man, but they were unreciprocated feelings, I am afraid. He was intended for another, and you made things very difficult. So difficult that his intended broke the engagement, even though he did not return your feelings. In fact, he made it very clear to you that he did not do so.”

Hermione may not remember things, but she knew what type of person she was, and that was a statement that she simply did not believe! “That’s insupportable! Whatever do you mean?”

“The Lordship was kind to you, danced with you at my engagement ball, was kind enough to help Mr. Lupin tutor you, always a perfect gentleman, but you misread his intentions. You became infatuated with him. The day you went missing, you heard he had broken his engagement, so you threw yourself at the gentleman. He politely refused you, and after that, we do not know what happened, for it brings us to the present.”

Hermione felt the girl was lying. Before she could say as much, Ginny continued, “To save his own face, and to save you any embarrassment, Lord Potter has asked Lord Malfoy not to tell anyone these things, or else people will think lowly of you, and believe you to be a fallen woman. You will not marry well, or find a suitable arrangement if all the facts become known. Even I was sworn to secrecy, but I want you to know the truth.”

Hermione stood up and looked out at the grey morning. This could not be true. Nevertheless, when she last met with the man in question, he did act noncommittal. He seemed pained by her presence, to the point that he even had an outburst when he yelled, “This will not do!”

The younger woman came up to Hermione and said, “I wish to put your mind at ease, Miss Granger. After Lord Potter and I marry, we will help you find employment, or else a husband, so do not worry on those accounts.”

Hermione spun around quickly. “My cousin told me just yesterday that this was my home, and when he married, I was to stay.”

“My dear, he knows you are fragile right now, and he feels guilty about your accident,” the other woman started, “but it was always the plan that you would leave when we married, you merely do not recall it. Goodness, now, Harry will be cross with me for revealing too much to you.”

Hermione felt the floor give out underneath her feet. None of this made sense, but what would be the young lady’s purpose in lying? She put her hand on Hermione’s arm and said, “My own brother Fred, whom you re-met two days ago, asked for your hand at one time, but your one-sided feelings for Lord Malfoy made you convince your cousin to turn him down. Also, I know that Lord Malfoy’s godfather sought you employment at his school. See, you have options, all is not lost.”

“Why would Harry bring me here only to send me away again?” Hermione asked.

“Oh, my dear, poor girl, you are so confused, for he did not bring you. You took it upon yourself to come, and he could hardly refuse his own cousin, his only relative, when she showed up uninvited at his door, could he?” Ginny lied with a small smile. “Buck up my dear, you will find a solution, I know you shall.”

Ginny started to leave but Hermione called out, “Miss Weasley, one more thing, if I may?”

Ginny turned around and said, “Yes?”

“Why did Mr. Malfoy break his engagement to another?” she asked.

“I would have no idea, but I would not be surprised if it is not reinstated. You see, they are both purebloods, and so it would be a fortunate match. In Godric’s Hollow, a pureblood simply does not marry one of lower birth or station. It is just not done,” Miss Weasley said with an unfaltering smile.

Hermione felt indignant, so she said, “Then I find I must ask you a second question, if I may."

"But of course," Ginny replied, smiling.

Hermione took in a deep breath. "Why are you lowering yourself to marry my cousin, since you are a pureblood and he is only a half blood?”

Ginny laughed, what Hermione knew to be a forced laugh, and said, “It is different with him, is it not? He is a viscount. His father’s family comes from one of the longest pureblood lines in Great Britain. He vanquished the Dark Lord. He cannot be held responsible for the misfortune of his mother’s birth, or that of yours.” The girl smiled again.

Hermione felt her blood boil. She felt forced to ask, "If all you say is true, of people marrying those of equal birth, blood and station, then I wonder why Harry would lower himself to marry you, seeing as your station is so far below his?" She raised one eyebrow as the yonger woman's face turned red with anger. However, Ginny didn't reply. Instead, she turned on her heels and walked out of the room.

Hermione looked at the door long after she left and thought two things. The girl was lying, and Lord Mafloy did return her feelings! She knew he did, the stupid girl!

.

A few days later, Hermione sat alone in the music room at Potter’s Hall by the small pianoforte, feeling every bit as sad and blue as she had the days prior. She hit a key, the sound of the ‘G’ resonated around the room. She put her whole hand on the ivories, black and white, and played a ‘C’ chord. She took a deep breath, and placed her other hand there as well. She began a sad, melodic, song. She did not even know what it was called, or who wrote it, or how she remembered it. That was the way things had been for the past week. She would remember things sporadically, recalling some things from the past, and not others. She had no idea how far back her memory went.

She continued to play, unaware that she had a silent visitor, who was already in the room when she entered. Remus Lupin sat in a Queen Anne chair, and he closed his eyes to savor the rich tones of the song she produced. When she was done, he applauded. She stood up suddenly.

“I’m sorry,” he said, also standing. “I should have made you aware of my presence, but I did not want to ruin the moment. You play beautifully. That was Bach, was it not? Mass in B minor?”

“I really do not know, Sir,” she said. She bowed slightly and started to leave the room.

“Please, do not leave on my account. Stay and play some more. If you do not wish an audience, I shall take my leave. I have things to attend to, I should think,” he said politely.

He started to leave but she said, “Sir, what is your relationship to Harry?”

“He informed you that I was his father’s best friend, did he not?”

“He did, but I wonder if there was more,” she said.

“Such as?” he asked.

“I mean no unseemliness, Sir, nevertheless, you seem more like a father to him,” she revealed.

He smiled. “You once told me that you and Harry would be my proxy children, since I had no children of my own.”

“I did?” she asked. She sat down on the piano bench. “My father, Edward, was a kind and generous man. You remind me so much of him.”

He wanted to remind her that she had said as much before, but instead, he smiled and said, “Thank you, what a kind and generous compliment, to be compared to a kind and generous man. I shall cherish it always. Now, off to my studies. Please, continue your pursuits.”

He walked from the room, and she turned around and began to play another song. This one she recognized. It was the Brandenburg Concertos, also by Bach. It was her mother’s favourite. She played the entire piece, with tears in her eyes. When she finished, a flash of her mother lying in bed, and a physician pulling a sheet over her head, telling her and her stepfather that she had passed away, flashed through her mind.

She slammed the keyboard shut and stood up abruptly. She threw some sheet music across the room, and took a vase with flowers in it, picked it up, turned around, and threw it toward the door. It hit the doorframe and shattered to pieces. Flowers and water were strewn all around, mingled with broken glass. A very haggard looking Draco Malfoy was standing by the same doorframe, speechless, and slightly damp, from the spilled water.

“Was it something I said, Miss Granger?” he asked with a frown.

Instead of niceties, such as, “I beg your pardon, Lord Malfoy,” Hermione Granger barked out, “What do you want?”

"That is not very kind of you, my lady,"’ he said, “especially after I have gone to great lengths to procure these text for you, so we might have a lesson today. That, was what I wanted, Miss. Conversely, if you deem it necessary to break the furniture and throw vases, go at it, I will not protest. This is not my home. I will keep my head low, and my wand out, just in case, however.”

“I – well, I had a memory, an unpleasant one, and I overreacted, but I will not apologize. I had no intentions of hitting you with the vase,” she retorted. He was glad to see she had not forgotten her spit and vinegar. He took out his wand and cleaned up the mess.

He said, “Is a lesson amenable to you, or would you rather throw some more crystal? I am sure Lord Potter has some wine flutes we might toss.”

She smiled. He had not seen her smile in over ten days. He missed everything about her, but he did not realize that he missed her smile most of all, until he had gone so long without it. “I am fine now, Sir, you do not need to fear.”

She walked up to him and held out her hands. He could only assume she wanted the books. He handed them to her and she went to the large window seat at the bay window, and sat down. He sat next to her. She read the title aloud. “Numerology and Arthimancy, and Ancient Runes of Great Britain”. She put the Ancient Rune book down beside her and began to finger the other one, her finger stroking the spine, her hand opening the cover, and flipping through the pages.

She looked charming, engrossed in the book as she was. He wondered what it would be like to wake up to something so sweet every day. He wondered what it would be like to go to sleep beside something so sweet every night. Would anything be as sweet as that? He should not have such errant thoughts, but he could not escape them. Luckily, his sense of honour, and his need to keep his life unless Lord Potter killed him, kept his thoughts in bay, and likewise kept his thoughts from turning into actions.

She looked up from her reading and said, “Do we mean to have a lesson, or are you content to just stare at me all day?”

“I am content to stare at you all day,” he said seriously.

“Stare away,” she pressed, her nose still in the book. However, she could not concentrate on her reading with him staring at her. He did not seem like a man who found disfavour in her, as Miss Weasley suggested.

Her little statement of ‘stare away’ made him laugh, hard. She looked up at him as he laughed and then back at her book. She leaned toward him several times, to ask him what something meant, but before long, she was so engrossed in her reading that he wondered if she realized he was still there.

Finally, she yawned, which drew his attention to her once more. “Have you not been sleeping, Miss?” he asked.

“In truth, Sir, no I have not. I am plagued with worries,” she admitted.

He knew he should not ask, but conventions held no merit where they were concerned. “Tell me your troubles, my lady.”

“I wonder what is to become of me. My future, if you will. If I do not marry, I must make my own way in the world, but who would hire me, seeing as I can't remember? For what employment am I fit?”

“We actually have already had this discussion, several times actually, though you must not recall it,” he said with a sigh. He took the book from her slender fingers, and closed it. He fingered the spine for a moment and without looking into her face said, “Your cousin will provide for you.” He wanted to be the one to provide for her, but he could not tell her that. He would do things differently this time. He would not show her his feelings until he was free to make her his wife. His damn solicitor was being paid a mild fortune to uncover a way around his father’s illogical will, but until that time, he must not encourage her feelings.

“But when my cousin marries….” she started.

He put his hand up to hush her and repeated, “He will provide for you, I promise. You will still have a home here.”

“No, I will not,” she insisted. She stood up and paced the room. Should she confide in this man, this man she did not remember, who said they were not even really friends, although she begged to differ. Should she find in him a confidant, and tell her secrets to him? Miss Weasley said he was indifferent to her, but he did not seem indifferent to her.

She stared at him, minute after minute, until Lord Malfoy said, “Honestly, Miss Granger, tell me why do you worry?”

“I beg your pardon, Sir; I do not wish to speak out of place. Thank you for the lesson, and the books,” she said, turning to leave, having decided NOT to reveal her discussion with Miss Weasley with him.

Apparently, he was being dismissed. She started to walk away from him, but was shocked when his bare hand touched her arm. He too, stood. She looked down at his arm, and then up in his face.

“What worries you?” he reiterated.

He asked, so she would comply. She said, “May we take a walk-about through the estate grounds? I would feel better discussing such things to you away from others.”

Draco did not see any others around, but a walk with her would be glorious, so he agreed.

Hermione put a light shawl around her shoulders, but wore no hat. She was as improper as ever, and Draco loved her for it. She did not even place gloves on her hands, and a lady should never go in public without gloves. As they walked out the front doors to the grounds, Draco placed his gloves in his pocket. He would rather be able to touch her skin at his leisure, and not worry about the impediment of gloves, since she did not worry about them.

They started their walk and at first, Hermione was perfectly content just to walk. No words went between them. Draco thought this was to be a ‘walk and talk’, but this was nice as well.

She stumbled over a rabbit hole, and he reached out his hand to steady her. He laughed and said, “Perhaps you should take my arm, to ensure you do not turn your ankle, or hit your head. There are a host of troubles that could befall someone like you.”

She put her hand on his arm, but then moved it so her arm was linked in his. He placed his free hand gently on her arm, the feel of her skin as sweet as it was the last time he touched her.

“So, is this to be just an amiable walk about, or shall we talk? We could discuss the weather,” he said.

“The sky is gray and the temperature chilly,” she said in response. He stopped walking and looked at her. Were they really to discuss the weather? She added, “Your eyes are gray as well.”

“Thank you for informing me, I was not aware,” he said with a smile. They resumed their walk.

“Your Lordship has a biting wit,” she returned. “Let us see, what else might we discuss? What is the proper topic for two people who are not as intimate as lovers are, but are apparently more than acquaintances? I know, have you read any good books lately?”

He laughed again. “I read a fascinating book on Numerology and Arthimancy, but I seem to have misplaced it.”

“I happen to have a copy you may borrow,” she said, teasingly. He turned his face to glare at her, and she smiled. “It is your turn to find an appropriate topic.”

“My turn?” he asked.

They walked by a large tree, with a large canopy of leaves, and he leaned against the trunk. She was forced to abandon his arm. She clasped her hands together. He bent down and picked up a stick and threw it across the grass. “I know no more proper topics,” he suddenly said, irritated. He pushed away from the tree and ambled on, under the impression she would follow. He looked back, and she had taken his abandoned spot against the large trunk of the tree. She leaned her shoulder against it, her back to him.

He walked around to face her and she said, “Why are you so easily irritated by me? We were not friends, were we? You find me an imposition, just as Miss Weasley stated.”

He put his hand under her chin and brought it up, so she was forced to look in his eyes. “You are under a false impression, one which I shall rectify right now. You are not an imposition, you are anything but, and we certainly are more than friends, but I cannot tell you more at the moment, because I myself do not know what else we are.”

She tried to walk away, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back. She leaned her back against the tree and sighed. He placed his body directly in front of hers and said, “Pray tell me what the cunning Miss Weasley told you?”

“It is a secret,” she said. She turned her head to look over the landscape.

The sight of her profile gave him pause. He wanted her, not just for making love, but as his wife, although he definitely wanted to make love to her. He loved her too much to offer her one without the other. Was she so unaware of the way she was affecting him? Was she unaware of her influence? He would find out.

If he could sneak her off somewhere unnoticed, he could replay the kisses and caresses that they had already shared. He leaned forward, taking in her intoxicating scent. Her face turned to his suddenly and they stared in each other’s eyes. He brought her hand to his mouth, and gently kissed each finger separately before kissing the top of her hand. He leaned forward still more, and whispered in her ear, “A secret between two, such as we, is intolerable. Tell me your secret.”

She leaned her body slightly to the right, which caused him to place his left hand beside her head, in case she fell over. She said, “It is not my secret to tell. It is Miss Weasley’s.”

“To hell with Miss Weasley,” Draco barked. He let his nose skim her cheek, and without notice, to either of them, he let his lips linger beside her ear, and then kissed her ear gently. Her hands came up to his chest. He placed his other hand beside her head, trapping her.

Damn it all, he wanted to kiss her. So much for taking the high road, or a different course. “I have a secret, which I will reveal to you, and then you can reveal yours, agreed?” he asked in a mere whisper, directly in her ear.

She could not speak, because she could barely breathe. Her arms and legs tingled. She nodded her response.

Each word he spoke was barely above a whisper, and each syllable of each word was like kisses to her soul. He said, “My secret is that I completely and utterly adore you. No, that is not true. I love you,” he admitted. She turned her face to his. “I am sorry I did not tell you that before, but there you have it… that is my truth, my secret, such as it is.”

He brought his right hand to her cheek, and stroked it with his thumb. He leaned forward, and without any urging, he placed his lips softly upon the pillow of her mouth, and it was pure heaven. The kiss lasted no more than a few seconds, but she met it eagerly. Hermione grasped the collar of his jacket, and he leaned his face next to hers, and said, “I want you so much.”

Her mind was in turmoil, a storm brewed inside and would not rest. Her instincts about this man were right, which meant that Miss Weasley lied, but why? Her mind was still reeling from the shock of it all, her lips still on fire from his kiss.

She was happy for his body in front of hers, for it kept her from collapsing right at his feet. She wanted to throw herself in his arms, and beg him to kiss her again. He put his hand back on her cheek and said, “If one kiss could bring about such a blossoming of emotions, what does that say for me? For us? You must know I love you.”

“Do I love you in return?” she asked without guile.

He laughed and pushed away from the tree, her question making him as giddy as the kiss they had just shared, chaste though it was. He said, “Only you can answer that question, Miss.” He took her hand and pulled her from the tree so they might resume their walk. “Now, I shared my secret, and yet, no secret from you is forthcoming. Where is the justice? I demand justice!”

She smiled and said, “Miss Weasley said that my attentions to you were one sided, and an embarrassment to you and my cousin. She said that you were betrothed to another, and that I caused friction there, and your intended left because of me. She also said that Lord Potter only has me here as a sense of obligation and that I forced myself upon his good nature and that as soon as they marry, I am meant to leave Potter’s Hall, and even Godric’s Hollow.”

Her admission shocked him to his core. He was forced to stop walking. He was so angry he saw red. She could tell he was angry. She said, “Sir, I apologize. If there is any truth in her words, please, have the decency to tell me.”

He turned to her, and placed her hand over his heart, his hands over it. Holding it captive he said, “Even without a memory, look into my eyes, feel my heart beating, and tell me what you think might be the truth.”

The sounds of someone Apparating nearby caused Draco to release her hand. Remus Lupin stood beside the young lovers and said, “You must bring Hermione back up to the house. The young maid that was there the day she disappeared has just been found. She is dead.”


Chapter 24 - A Time to Remember by AnneM

Chapter 24 – A Time to Remember:

The trio of Lord Malfoy, Miss Granger and Remus Lupin, were close to the great home, so they ran toward the entryway and entered the front doors. Theo Nott was already there, informing Lord Potter of their inquest. When Harry saw Hermione he said, “Cousin, go to the conservatory with Miss Weasley, please.”

“Forgive me, Harry, but I shall not. I need to know what happened to this young girl,” Hermione maintained.

Harry showed everyone to the back sitting room, and Remus, who was the last to enter, shut the doors behind him. They all stood around as Theo said, “As you are all aware, the day Miss Granger disappeared she had a visitor, and we are still in the dark as to his or her identity. However, we know from the butler that a downstairs maid led the visitor into the house, because the butler was indisposed. This same maid served them lunch in the small dining room, and according to the kitchen staff, she did inform the cook and staff that Miss Hermione’s guest for lunch was Mr. Malfoy. We know the butler saw him leave before lunch. Consequently, that much is a lie.”

“Shortly after, it was brought to Mr. Lupin’s attention that the staff could not find Miss Granger,” Theo continued.

Remus looked at Hermione and said, “Miss, I suffer from Lycanthropy, and I was done in, and resting in my rooms that day. That is why I was not aware of your plight.” The man looked anguished. Hermione had already surmised his condition, although she was not sure why. 

“Do not worry yourself, Sir. I do not hold you responsible, so neither should you.” She turned to Theo Nott and said, “Sir, what connection do you believe the young girl has with my abductor? Also, how and when was she found?”

“Her sister reported her missing to the militia several days after you came back, although the housekeeper here at Potter’s Hall had already reported her missing as well,” Theo said.

Harry interrupted and said, “As to how she was found, I would prefer not to discuss this in front of Miss Granger.” He turned to his cousin and said, “I demand you join Miss Weasley.”

“Who are you to demand anything of me, Lord Potter?” she asked. Her tone shocked all in the room. “This concerns me, so I shall stay.”

Harry was incensed! Not at her outburst, but because he felt she was being influenced to act as such. He turned to Lord Malfoy, and then back to his cousin and said, “Perhaps the company you have been keeping has not been good for you, for you are beginning to pick up some of Lord Malfoy’s more ungracious qualities.”

Draco was about to defend his honour, when Hermione said, “And perhaps you should look at the company you keep, cousin! And by that I mean one who spouts lies and innuendos, causing others undue concern, and I refer to your intended.”

Harry seemed confused by her statement, and she had no wish to explain at that point, so she turned back to Mr. Nott and said, “Please Sir, continue.”

“We will leave it at the statement that she did not die a natural death,” Theo said. “Her sister, a Mrs. Smith, found her just this day, dead, and we do not feel it was a coincidence. Her sister told us that the day before she went missing, she gave her family one hundred galleons, which is a small fortune, and there is no way such a girl could have earned that type of money. It must have been a pay off for her help in your abduction. As to why she was killed, we do not know, perhaps she had remorse, and threatened to tell the authorities.”

Draco knew who Mrs. Smith was. She was Marcus Flint’s mistress, which meant Marcus may have known more than he admitted to Malfoy, or he knew more now. Theo bowed to leave and said, “When I find out more, I will inform you, until that time, I think it wise to keep a closer watch over Miss Granger. Do not let anyone unknown to her near her.” Theo bowed once more, and left the room.

Draco finally spoke. “I would go one step further and say that it may have been an acquaintance of hers who shared lunch with her that day. I think that only the parties in this room should know of this discussion, and only the parties in this room should watch over her. I even think she might be safer elsewhere.”

Hermione turned to him, as did the others, and said, “Sir, you know my circumstances. I cannot leave here, as I have no other home as of now.”

“I think you should come to Malfoy Manor where I dare say you would be safer. Of course, an appropriate chaperone should accompany you,” Draco explained.

Harry did not like the idea, but he was resigned that Lord Malfoy may be correct, so he suggested, “Miss Weasley could go as her chaperone.”

Hermione and Draco both said, “NO” at the same time. Hermione explained, “Cousin, she is the one to whom I referred when I said you should watch the company you keep. She has been filling my head with lies, or else, you yourself have lied to me, or Lord Malfoy has lied, but I prefer to believe she is lying.”

“What are you saying?” Harry asked.

She explained most of what occurred. She left out the part about Draco kissing her. When she was finished, Harry looked dumbstruck. He said, “How could I let myself be deceived again? I, who knew she had lied before, allowed her back into my confidence. I can only say that love blinds a fool.” Harry sat on the couch, and hung his head.

Remus said, “Perhaps I could go with the young Miss Granger to the Manor. I also believe it wise for us not to question Miss Weasley’s intentions at this moment, for we are apt to find out more from her, and if she is privy to more, if she does not suspect we know she lied to Hermione.”

“How can I pretend when my heart is utterly breaking?” Harry asked. Hermione felt bad for her cousin.

She sat beside him and held his hand. “Cousin, we have all been deceived by her, and I know that your heart is in pain, but know this, you are one of the most honourable, loving, gracious men I have ever met, and you will rebound from this. I feel it is my entire fault, so please forgive me.”

Harry brought her clasped hand to his mouth, kissed the top, and said, “Cousin, you merely helped me locate a cancer, which had continued to fester unnoticed, and one which I must now extract from my life, so instead of seeking forgiveness, I must thank you instead. However, I will not lie to the young woman. I will not tell her we know the truth, but I will break my engagement again, and not grace her with my company. I cannot live with lies.”

“Stop being holier than thou,” Draco said crassly. “I know that you’re hurting, man, but Mr. Lupin is right - we need to keep Miss Weasley in the confines of our company to obtain her secrets. She might know who abducted Miss Granger!”

“Harry, my boy,” Remus began, “Lord Malfoy is also correct. We must act cautiously. I feel there is so much more here than just a young girl’s lies to protect her possible future. I am confident that she is aware of the plot against Miss Granger. Let us act accordingly. We will say that Hermione and I are going to the Manor, to step up her education so that she may find employment at Hogwarts in order to have a place after your marriage. That will be our story.”

Hermione, who still had Harry’s hand, said, “Do not lie for me, if it will cause your heart too much distress. I would rather really leave this place, than cause you unwarranted hurt.”

“No, I vowed a long time ago to protect you and I will,” Harry vowed.

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked. “How long ago did you make this vow, and to whom?”

Harry knew he had said too much by the look on Remus Lupin’s face. Harry said, “I just meant I made a promise to myself, after your mother died.”

Hermione thought there was more to his statement, but she would not pursue it at this time.

Draco, too, thought it was an odd comment. He saw the strange looks exchanged between Remus to Harry. There were more secrets abound than he previously thought. He would try to uncover those secrets later, but for now he had more pressing things in which to attend. Addressing Mr. Lupin, Draco said, “I shall go ready the Manor for your arrival. I will send my men for your belongings, and change my wards so you may Apparate directly there.”

He turned to Hermione and said, “Until then.”

She said, “I do not know how to Apparate, but I am sure Mr. Lupin will let me side-along.”

Draco smiled and said, “Must I remind you? You do know how to Apparate, for I taught you the day you disappeared, but for the time being, it is a prudent choice to side-along with Mr. Lupin.” Even with Harry and Lupin still in the room, he felt compelled to reach out for her hand. He squeezed her hand, for encouragement, and then dropped it just as quickly.

He left Potter’s Hall, and once on the grounds, he Disapparated. As he entered his house, he thought back to the day he taught her Apparition. It was both the best and the worst day of his life, at least since he had met the young woman. It was the best because of how proud she was to learn to Apparate, and at her zeal at showing her appreciation. Likewise, for the intimate moment they shared in the gazebo.

It was one of the worst due to her abduction, torture, and the modification of her memory. He still had a suspicion as to who was responsible, but he must tread lightly. It would be a terrible thing to accuse a person who was innocent.

Draco told his staff to prepare the largest guestroom in the east wing for Miss Granger, a smaller room in the same wing for Mr. Lupin, and to make something grand for dinner. His bedchamber was in the west wing, so there could be no lack of decorum, or innuendo that would lead to gossip or ruin of her character. He would keep her reputation in tact. He was almost giddy with the expectancy that she would soon share his roof, no matter for the duration or the reason. He felt having her with him in his home was as it should be. He hoped that one day she might call Malfoy Manor her home. Was that too much to wish? It might be, given their present situations, but a man could still wish.

He continued to run around the house, barking orders… “Yellow roses in her bedchamber,” and, “Not the mutton, the roast beef!” In fact, he was so busy giving out commands, that he had not heard his butler approach.

“Lord Malfoy, your godfather, Master Snape, is waiting for you in the library. He requests an interview.”

SNAPE! The man Draco did not want to see. He hated the fact that he held suspicions about the man, but very few wizards had the talent to Obliviate a memory, and leave the mind in tact. Usually recipients of that particular curse went mad if the curse was not performed correctly. He also knew that usually the person lost more than a few months; they usually lost years and years worth of memories unless correctly done. Snape was also a powerful Occlumens and Legilimens. He would be able to tell immediately if Draco suspected him. Did he seriously suspect Snape of her abduction? Did he really think his godfather guilty of using an unforgivable on her?

Yes, he did.

He would hate to think that Snape would kidnap a young girl, torture her, and leave her in the woods. But Snape had done much worse things in his life, although not without provocation. What would prompt him to harm Miss Granger? Surely not just a broken engagement to a ward he had not seen in four years. No, if Snape was responsible, there had to be a larger plan, but what it could be, Draco knew not.

He would have to block his mind, the best he could, and find out what the man wanted. He walked into the library to find his godfather roaming around the room, his long black cloak billowing around him. Draco thought he resembled a bat. “What may I do for you today, Godfather?”

“Before I state my business, please tell me that the information I just obtained from one of your servants is a lie! Tell me that Miss Granger and Remus Lupin are not to stay here! It’s inconceivable! Tell me it is complete and utter folly.”

“It is complete and utter folly,” Draco said with a straight face. “Except it is not.”

“What kind of madness plagues your mind, Draco?” the elder man asked, pointing his finger at Draco’s forehead. Draco moved to the other side of the room.

“No madness, Godfather,” Draco said. “Mr. Lupin and I have decided to step up her education, in case she decides she would still like to teach at Hogwarts someday. She will have access to more books here, and she will be out from underfoot, as her cousin plans his wedding to Miss Weasley.” Draco waited to see if he convinced the man.

Snape stared at him for several long seconds and then said, “You lie to me, my boy! Do you fancy yourself an educator now?”

“I may not be an educator, but I do know many things, you can be assured of that,” Draco said knowingly. Let the man surmise what he would of that statement. He sat down on a large settee and said, “Have you heard of the young lady’s misfortune as of late? Her abduction, the use of the Crucio on her, and her memory being modified? Most unfortunate, do you not agree?”

“I agree, and I had heard,” Snape snapped.

“She had a mysterious visitor that day, one only a single maid was aware of, and this maid is now dead. Dreadful, do you not agree to that as well?”

Snape’s eyes narrowed and he said, “Quite.” He walked over to the settee, and stared in Draco’s eyes. Draco immediately put a block on his mind. Snape was trying to read him, the rake!

Snape knew Draco was blocking his attempts to read his mind, so he settled down in a chair opposite the Lord, to state his business. “Let me tell you why I came, and then if you want to make accusations, you may. I am here to implore you to reconsider, one last time, your engagement to Miss Clearwater.”

Draco stood up and said, “That conversation is over! I need not reconsider a thing, since I was not engaged to her in the first place.”

“Then as her acting proxy, I must inform you of her intention of seeking damages. She feels she had a promise made to her, and that you reneged on such promise. If she does not get a financial restitution, she will seek justice in the courts,” Snape informed him.

Draco smiled, and then laughed out right. “Gads, Godfather! No promise was made to the witch! A marriage contract between my parents and hers is invalid with their deaths and invalid yet again since I am of age! I shall not pay her even one knut and you can tell the little chit that for me!” Draco laughed again and said, “Honestly, take me to court, will she? I never once made a formal proclamation to the woman. Find her another suitable match! Why would she desire me, when I know her fortune is great, and she herself titled.”

Snape stood and said, “So that is what you wish for me to tell her?”

“No, I wish for you to tell her to go to Hades, but since that is unlikely, unless she makes haste and dies soon, then tell her whatever you deem fit! Now, if there is nothing else, I must ask you to leave. I have company on the way, as you already ascertained.”

“About that, boy,” Snape said, “I do believe you were on the verge of accusing me of something, were you not?” He walked up to Draco, and though his godson was taller, he knew he was still imposing.

Draco said, “The only thing I have to tell you is this, if one strand of Miss Granger’s hair is put out of place, if one jot of harm befalls her, I would find the person who injured her, and I would not stop until I killed them, Sir. I know the Unforgivable curses, too.”

Snape sneered and said, “Of course you do, you are your father’s son.”

“Yes, I am, and my wrath at the rogue who hurt the one I love would be swift, but very painful,” Draco said with a small smile.

“The one you love?” Snape asked, truly shocked by that admission. “No, you do not love her, you cannot! You don’t know what you are saying!”

“I do know, and I do proclaim it as so, Sir,” Draco announced.

Snape growled slightly, said, “I will deliver your message to my ward. I am sure you will hear from her soon. I will forget your bad manners to me, my boy, since I think so highly of you.” Snape strode quickly out of the room, walked outside, and Disapparated away. He had to go find Remus Lupin, before Lord Malfoy declared his feelings to the young woman.

Little did he know, the sentiment was already declared and reciprocated. Draco immediately changed all his wards so that Snape could never again enter at his leisure. He would take no chances with Hermione.

His guests arrived two hours before dinner. Lord Malfoy had a lady’s maid assigned to Miss Granger, and had the housekeeper show her to her room. He wanted nothing to seem improper. He wanted to visit her room, but he would not.

There was still time before dinner, so Hermione started out the great doors for a walk. Draco stood on the large, spiral staircase and said, “Running away already, Miss? Is the house not to your liking?”

“You know I love this house,” she said plainly. Her simple words brought a smile to his face.

“Then, may I inquire where you are going? Dinner will be served in two hours,” he said.

“I have two hours for a walk, then,” she conciliated.

He sighed, and came down the remaining stairs. He said, “Why should we all work hard to protect your pretty little head, if you are going to walk directly to the gallows yourself.”

Hermione frowned and said, “That is not a pleasant thought, hanging at the gallows. However, I assure you, I want only for a walk.”

“You must not go without a protector,” Draco warned. He really did fear for her safety, and if she were far away from him, he could not look after her.

“I need not a protector, but if you would like to walk with me as a friend, I would abide the company,” she said with a smile.

“A friend,” was all he said as he returned her smile. My, she looked so lovely today. She had a pale yellow muslin dress on, that was quite fashionable with the high waist and the low neckline. Capped sleeves showed off her elegant, slender arms. She was brown from the sun, but Draco admired that about her. She was beauty personified. He said, “You still have the piece of lace I gave you, do you not?” He reached up and touched the lace ribbon, which adored her upswept hair.

“You gave me this lace?” she asked.

“Yes, I did,” he confirmed. Her hand went up to the piece of lace, just as his went back to it. She was quicker, and his hand came to touch hers. Instead of either drawing away, they both brought their hands down slowly, his still on top of hers. Not holding it, but merely resting on it, in mid air. Their hands parted, fingertips skimming fingertips, and Hermione felt a familiar jolt in her stomach, which resembled butterflies. Maybe she did love him? She could not help but to smile again.

He smiled as well and said, “Get your hat, pelisse and gloves. A storm is brewing outside.” Inside as well.

“I told you that day of our walk in the woods, I am a country girl, used to walking around without such finery. I need no hat, no coat, and since I am not among company, no gloves.”

Her statement made his heart stop. Not because she had no qualms about the proper attire of young women, but because of her statement - she remembered. “You told me what?” he asked.

“That day we took a walk, in the woods, and you condemned me for not wearing a hat or a jacket. You even asked Harry how I could….” She stopped. She remembered. She started to breath hard. She closed her eyes.

How did she remember that? She did not remember anything else, did she? He approached her so suddenly, and grabbed her arms without foresight,that when she reopened her eyes, she screamed.

“Pardon, my lady, I did not mean to cause alarm, but do you remember?” he asked.

“I do not know. I recall that specific conversation as if it occurred this morning. I remember tripping in the mud, I remember the walking stick you made me, and I remember getting lost! Lord Malfoy, I remember!” she said, excited.

He swallowed hard, afraid to think if this was a momentary thing, or a sign of good things to come. He said, “Do you remember anything else?”

“When I was lost that day, I ran into your godfather, a Mr. Snape,” she said. She suddenly began to shake. He put his hands on her arms again, and she pressed against his chest with her hands. “Let me go, Sir!” she cried.

“What is wrong, pray, tell me!” he shouted.

She turned to step away from him, and ran as far as the stairs, where she fell to the ground, sitting upright, by the stairs, with a fresh wave of tears racking her body.

Draco looked around for a servant, or someone who might give him reprieve. He did not know what to do with a hysterical woman. What happened? What did she remember? He knelt beside her, and touched her back. She got up on her knees, threw her arms around him, and said, “I remember who came to visit me that day! I remember little else, but remembering the walk in the woods and meeting your godfather, made me remember another occasion with the gentleman.”

“Please, tell me,” Draco urged. He sat on the stairs, and drew her up to sit beside him. However, she stood suddenly and backed away from him, her hand out in front of her, the same as she held them the day she walked into the church. It was as if she was trying to ward off evil.

He stood and said, “I command you to tell me who was your visitor!”

“Mr. Snape!” she said quickly, walking backwards toward the wall. Just as the words left her mouth, she recalled something else. “I know who came to me in the cave, when I was abducted! It was not the same man, or voice of the man who blindfolded me, kidnapped me, and cursed me, nor was it my visitor that day,” she said through her tears. She was back against the wall, with nowhere else to go. She was still shaking, her arms still out, to ward off some unknown evil.

Who hurt her?

Draco approached her very slowly, his hand also up, to show that he meant her no harm. He finally approached her, and placed his hand on her shoulder, bringing her toward him, and away from the wall. He rubbed his hand in small circles on her back. Did her memory mean there was more than one man after her? Why? He said, “Do you know who that man was?”

She merely nodded. She tried to stop crying, her tears now subtle hitches in her throat. He led her to the closest room, which was the drawing room. He shut the pocket doors, and said a silencing spell. He sat her on the sofa, and sat directly beside her. He grasped her hand and brought it to his lips. He kissed it gently and then said, “You are safe to tell me now. No one else will hear if you do not wish it to be so. Tell me, who caused your memory loss?”

She looked into his cold grey eyes, which she found warm and inviting, and said, “It was Mr. Lupin.”


Chapter 25 - The Madness Within by AnneM

Chapter 25: The Madness Within

Draco thought what she was saying was sheer madness! Her cousin’s closest confidant could never be responsible for the harm that was inflicted upon her. That thought was not credible. “Do you mean to tell me that you think Remus Lupin is responsible for your abduction and torture?”

“No... I mean, I don’t know,” she said, her words jumbled. She felt only despair. She did not know what to think, or feel, or what was real and what was not real. She ran toward the door, but he reached it first. He stood in front of the door to block her exit. “I don’t know who stunned me in the woods or who cursed me. It was not Mr. Lupin. I had a blindfold on, but I heard the man’s voice. Nonetheless, Mr. Lupin was the one who pointed his wand and Obliviated my memories! He took me to the outskirts of town and started my way back. I recall that. I do!” She was still murky on the finer details.

She continued, “He removed my blindfold, and said a healing spell for the pain, then he said that Lord Potter knew by now that I was missing, and so did you, and for me to think of you one last time, before you ceased to exist for me.”

Draco asked, “How can you recall this event so clearly, and precious few other memories?”

“I do not lie!” she shouted, clearly agitated that he would not believe her.

“I do not say that you lie!” he shouted back. “You might be confused.”

She pushed him away from the door, which any other time he might have found amusing, but at that moment he was becoming as frustrated as she was.

She opened the door, and said, “If you do not even believe me, then I know that my cousin shall never believe me! All hope is lost! I am alone and abandoned. I shall stay here in your home at that man’s mercy. I fear what he will do next.” With a swoosh of her skirts, she ran from the room, down the hallway to the library, and with much drama, she slammed the door shut.

Draco thought even under her distressed state that such an act was rude. He went to find his butler, but the man found him first. Draco said, “Do you know where Mr. Lupin is?”

“He has stepped out, and informed me that he will not be joining you for dinner,” the man said with a bow.

Draco found that odd. Was she telling the truth? Did Lupin suspect she knew? Draco found her memory to lack credibility. As far as he knew, Remus Lupin had only ever been her friend. He seemed to have real, genuine feelings for the girl. He knew him only as a beacon of diligence and one who always upheld the highest morals and values. Miss Granger had to be mistaken. She had to be.

Draco called back to his butler and said, “When did the man leave?”

His servant replied, “He left right after your godfather arrived. They left together.”

That new shocked Draco to his core.


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Severus Snape was an unhappy man. As long as he could remember, he had been unhappy. What reason would he have for happiness? He had no wife, for the only woman he ever loved married another. He had no children, and the one person he thought of as a son now held him in contempt. He had his profession, but he did not even derive pleasure from that. He made many sacrifices in his life, all for others, and he was never compensated. No one understood what he gave up during all those years working for the Dark Lord, but also working as a spy for the light side. No one remembered these things. No, they would rather malign his character.

.

Remus Lupin was a lonely man. He had been lonely since he was a child. He was ostracized and vilified, because of an infliction over which he had no control. He never married nor had children. His three best friends in the world left him. All were dead. Two died fighting against the Dark Lord, and one fighting on the side of the Dark Lord. All he had in the world was his best friend’s son, and he was afraid of losing him as well. When Harry discovered the truth, he would truly cast him aside. He had to do what was best for the greater good, but Harry and Hermione may not see it that way. He could do nothing about it now but pray for forgiveness, and try to carry on the best he could.

.

Harry Potter was a troubled man. He felt conflicted. He loved the young Miss Weasley, but she showed that she was not to be trusted. That was how his whole life had been. He could never trust anyone. No, that was not true; he trusted his late godfather, Sirius Black, his father’s former best friend, Remus Lupin, and his dear, sweet cousin, Hermione.

After his parents died, he was taken to an elderly aunt and uncle’s house, from his mother’s side. The same aunt and uncle had raised his mother and her sister. He was miserable there, and was treated like vermin, like a scar on society. He had no idea he was the son of a viscount until he went off to school. After that, his godfather, Sirius Black, took him in and raised him at Potter’s Hall as his own son. Sirius died during the war against Voldemort. From age eleven, Harry was told that he was meant to be the saviour of the wizarding world. That was a lot to put upon the shoulders of such a young man.

Still, he did all he was told to do, with many sacrifices. After he finally defeated the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, he thought his life would be easier. All he wanted was to bring his only living relative, Hermione Granger, to his home, marry Miss Weasley, and finally have some happiness, which every man deserves. Every man except Harry Potter, it would seem.

.

Draco Malfoy was a confused man. Raised proud and boastful, he lived his life with a certain arrogance, which he felt was his birthright. He evoked envy from all whom made his acquaintance, and he felt that was as it should be. He was raised to believe things were a certain way. There were no shades of grey. There was right and wrong, black and white, purebloods and the rest. He was raised to believe the lies of the Dark Lord.

To this day, deep inside, some of those lies, which were so deeply embedded in his soul, would resurface. He wanted to change. He did. He wanted to find a sweet girl to marry, one who was intelligent, with a sparkling wit, beauty, and compassion. He found that in Miss Granger, but alas, he was not free to marry her, because he was proud, and not ready to give up all that he had ever had or had ever known. Maybe someday he would. He would die for her, but not give up his name. What did that say about him? He was confused.

.

Hermione Granger was an intelligent woman. She was also a dreamer, but not so much that she had her head in the clouds. She was often described as levelheaded. Still, she felt that everyone deserved redemption, and that though everyone had good and bad in him or her, it was what he or she did with their choices that made the difference.

She stored away everything she had ever learned or discovered for future reference. She felt every living thing on the planet had a purpose, a reason for being, and a reason for living. Everything influenced everything else. She was a woman who believed in first impressions, but was not afraid to change them upon closer inspection. She was often thought to be wise and shrewd, and a good judge of character. If that meant she was ignorant to the real purposes of the harsher things in life… she would be ignorant.

No one could tell her she was not every bit as good as the next person was. She felt they were as good as she was, so she must be as good as they are. Now, she just had to convince everyone else of that.



                                                                                  XXXXXXXXXXXXXX



Severus Snape met Remus Lupin at Malfoy Manor, and from there they Disapparated outside of the village, in a small hovel that Lupin often used when he was under his transformation. Snape roamed around the room as Lupin sat by the fireplace, where there was not even a fire.

Snape roared, “This is not good, Lupin! My own godson just accused me of having something to do with Miss Granger’s disappearance!”

Lupin, who continued to stare at the floor, said, “Well, you were involved, were you not?” He finally looked up at the man. “Did you have anything to do with the death of the downstairs maid from Potter's Hall?”

“Of course not! How dare you ask me that?” Snape bellowed. “And you know I had nothing to do with Miss Granger’s kidnapping and torture. That was never supposed to happen. What if someone else saw her with me that day? What if someone saw me at the house? You were supposed to make sure no one was aware!”

Lupin, who kept a steady voice, stood up and said, “Well, it would appear nothing happened the way it was supposed to happen. You were supposed to speak kindly to her, try to convince her to go to Hogwarts, where she would be safe and under protection, and without revealing our true intentions, but you never were one for civility.”

“You should have handled it yourself, then!” Snape scold him.

“Yes, in hindsight, I see you are correct,” Lupin said steadily. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. “You do realize that I only Obliviated her short term memory. She will remember soon. What will happen then? She will want answers, and I cannot give them to her.”

“You were wrong to Obliviate her in the first place, Lupin! I expected better judgment from you!” Snape said. He sat down in the seat Lupin had just vacated and used his wand to start a fire.

“I know. You are right. Perhaps we should just tell everyone the truth,” Lupin said.

“And what truth would you tell them?” Snape asked. “The one you told me, or the real truth.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Lupin was tired, so very tired.

“I wonder,” Snape began, “if there is not more to the story you told me. It makes some sense that you wouldn’t tell me the whole story, after all, you never fully trusted me.”

“We could never be certain whose side you were really on during the war,” Lupin explained, “Therefore, your statement holds truth. I never told you the whole truth for that very reason. I never fully trusted you, and I still do not.”

“What would it have mattered if I had told the girl the truth as I knew it? Would it really have been the end of the world?” Snape asked.

“It would have been the end of her world,” Lupin surmised. “I wanted to spare her pain. I also thought I could wipe out the memory of her being tortured. Do you swear to me you had nothing to do with it?”

“I swear, man! I would never have tortured a young girl!” Snape scoffed. “I merely took her to the woods, as a ruse, to try to convince her to go to Hogwarts. It went badly. She was too enamored with Malfoy by that time. I had no idea that the true culprit would appear. I now realize that she ran right into his clutches. I looked all over for her, but she just disappeared. As soon as I got back to Spinner’s End, Marcus Flint told me of the man’s plan. It was when I realized that the young miss was with the bastard that I told you where you could find her.”

“Yes, and when I found her, I Obliviated her memory, because YOU told me that you had told her the true circumstances of her birth. Therefore, I thought I had no choice! I made sure she was safely on the road back to the village, and that someone would find her. It was all I could do,” Remus pointed out.

“Well, I lied, did I not? I never told the girl a thing!” Snape said, standing once again. “I told you that I confided to Miss Granger merely to cause you distress! I might remind you that you lied too, did you not? Did you think no one would ever find out the truth?”

“How would you know the truth?” Remus asked.

“From the girl’s own adoptive mother, and right before she died. I went to the woman, in Kent, in the hope that she might recognize me from when we were younger, and she did. She confessed it all on her deathbed, the poor woman. Why did you see fit to lie to me, Lupin? Did you think it would make a difference? Did you think I would not help hide the child, if I knew of its true parentage?”

“There was always that thought, yes,” Remus said. “Still, you should have told me you knew the 'real' truth. You should not have run off like a wounded puppy, spouting revenge, and claiming you were going to tell the girl your version of the truth, when you already knew the real story. It was badly done on all of our parts. She will never forgive me, once she starts to remember, and neither will Harry.”

“And that is sad why?” Snape snapped. “Who are they really to you? You told me years ago to hide the child, because she was your own, but that was the lie, was it not? You told me that she was the child of yourself and Andromeda Black, which would make her a pureblood, and also make her Draco’s cousin. You told me that after Andromeda died in childbirth, you were afraid of Lucius Malfoy’s wife staking a claim on your child. You told a lie, Sir! And I see no reason for it! How did Andromeda really die?”

“That is not important at this time. Her family would have killed her anyway, if she had not died. It was a convenient, however heartbreaking, happenstance,” Remus said sadly.

“The girl’s mother... was she at least a pureblood? I have to know!” Snape asked.

“The truth is not far from that,” he said.

“Not far! There is a great and vast difference from a pureblood and one that is not!” Snape said. "WHO WAS HER MOTHER? WHO WAS HER FATHER?"

“It makes no difference now. The only difference is that if you had known who her father was, no matter who her mother was, you would not have helped me. Telling you that Hermione was mine was the only way to get you to help me all those years ago. You do not hate me, no matter what you want people to believe, but you did hate her real father."

"Futhermore, I cannot help but think that you would like to dispose of her, because if she is a pureblood, your godson would be free to marry her, without reproach or fear that he might lose his estate. You were thinking of that, perhaps, when you tried to force your ward on him,” Remus concluded.

He walked over to the window, as the sun was setting low in the sky, and said, “It is over. The lies, as well as the reasons for the lies. I don’t know why we kept the farce up this long.”

“I think you do know why,” Snape said. “If you think you can make the real circumstances of her birth public knowledge, and not hurt someone, mostly her, you are mistaken.”

“She said she thinks of me as her father,” Remus said, wistfully.

“There’s the rub, man,” Snape remarked, “Apparently, you are not. No matter the lies you told yourself or me all these years that you are, YOU ARE NOT! I feel I know who her real father was, especially as you said it was someone that I hated. It was Potter Senior, wasn’t it? No, don’t answer, I know Potter was her father, but my question is, who was her real mother?”

Lupin laughed and said, “If the lies no longer matter, I see no reason to cleanse my soul. That story will go with me to the grave.”

“You know there are still those who mean to do her harm,” Snape reasoned. “You and the rogue Sirius Black worked so diligently during the war to protect her. You made Harry Potter do the same during the second war, and in the end, she is still unsafe. Even without the knowledge of who her mother is, she is unsafe, and do you want to know why? Because she IS James Potter’s daughter, and the people who wanted to do her harm will still want to do her harm, no matter who her mother was.” Snape started to leave.

He turned back and told Remus, “I wash my hands of this. I can no longer help you. I have risked too much. I only helped you in the beginning because of the prophecy. Now that the Dark Lord is vanquished, and her enemy is someone unknown, I know not how we can help her. I know there are more people involved in this than just the man Flint gave up. However, those things are unimportant, because someone might have seen me with her that day, and suspect me, as Draco does.

“Therefore, I must leave here to go back to Hogwarts, were I belong. This is a turn of events over which I have no control. Good luck keeping her safe. You will need it, but I shall not help you this time. I cannot bear the thought of losing my godson’s affection.”

Snape turned to leave the little cottage, his cape bellowing out behind him. As he reached the door, Remus asked, “Would you change your mind about protecting her, if you knew who her mother was?”


                                                                             XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Lord Malfoy went to the library, where Hermione was sitting at the desk, writing a note, fast and furious. The quill broke when he entered.

“It is just me.” Holding up his hands, he asked, “What are you doing? Are you composing a letter?”

“I am writing you a goodbye letter,” she said.

He laughed at her. “You are not leaving, so save your goodbyes.” He meant to make light, because he did not want her to know that he was secretly worried that there might be truth to her story, especially with the news that Lupin left with Snape. He did not want to cause the young Miss any more alarm, and he wanted an air of contentment around her. “Now, go changed into something pretty for my eyes to feast upon for dinner.”

She threw the letter she started on the ground. He thought she was a spitfire. That was certain. She made to walk past him, but again, he blocked her way.

“Let me leave this place, Lord Malfoy, for when Remus Lupin returns, I will be unsafe,” she pleaded. She ran past him out the door, and down the hallway, and he reached out, but his hand merely skimmed her skirt. She ran up the stairs and he waited at the bottom. She had nowhere to go. He knew that and he knew that she knew it as well. She was merely afraid of what she had uncovered.

Draco finally ran up the stairs and down the long, dark, cavernous hallway to the east wing. He found her standing against the wall, outside her bedchamber door. He pulled on her arm, spinning her around to face him. When he turned her around, he saw she was once again crying. “Miss, listen to me! You have nowhere to go! You may not even know what you are saying is true! You may be remembering another event. Your memory may be sketchy.”

She bent her head, in silent contemplation, and in a voice that was barely audible, she said, “I know what I saw. I know what I remember.” She shook her head back and forth. “I trusted him. I loved him as a father.” 

Malfoy’s heart was breaking for the girl. She stood with her back against the wall and her arms to her side. Her chest was heaving with each tear shed.

He watched her chest rise and fall, with anguished sobs, aware of a pain in his own chest, a steady presence, which was more than pain. What was this odd feeling he was feeling? Could it possibly be empathy? He had never felt empathy like this before. It was more than sympathy for he actually felt her hurt. If only he could look inside her mind and discover if what she remembered was true. He knew nothing he said to her could mitigate her distress. He only knew one thing to do.

He approached her, and placed first his right hand beside her head on the wall and then he placed his left hand on the other side. He leaned his forehead to hers, his added height causing her head to lean back against the wall. She ventured her gaze into his eyes. Her eyes were red and shadowed. Bringing his hands quickly to her cheeks, he leaned his face down to press his lips upon her forehead for swift kiss.

“Hermione. Sweet, sweet girl.” With each word mumbled he kissed her right cheek and then her left. He quickly pulled her to him, and swathed her in his embrace. His Hermione. His love. His cherished one. He lifted her from the ground, standing his full height, her body pressed intimately against his, her feet off the floor. He murmured soothing words in her ear, as his arms held her tightly, her arms arms tied around his neck. Her pain was almost too much for him to abide and the notion that she was still in danger troubled him even more. He placed her feet back on the floor, but his hold remained steadfast.

Her sobbing finally ceased, and she was completely hushed and somber. He lifted her from the floor completely, his arms around her back and under her legs, went to her door and kicked it open. Her lady’s maid approached.

“Is something wrong, Milord?” she asked.

“The lady is unwell. Send someone to fetch her cousin, Viscount Potter, immediately.” He still had her in his arms. He laid her on the bed, and knelt down beside it. She turned to her side, and closed her eyes, and her tears began again. He brushed the hair away from her face.

“I will protect you from harm,” he said in hushed tones. He leaned against the bed, and placed a kiss in her hair.

“I have no hope,” she said without effort. It was how she felt.

“There is always hope,” he countered. Seeing her misery pulled at every fiber of his being. His soul was screaming anguished cries right along with hers, yet he was powerless to help her.

“Lord Malfoy, I remember it all. I remember being stunned, and tortured, but not only that; I remember my life since I came here. Most of all, I remember that I love you. I do. And you are not free to love me in return, so when I say there is no hope, then I mean that there is no hope.” She sat up, and in her effort to leave again, she pushed him, causing him to stumble back, and to fall to the ground from his kneeling position. She ran down the stairs, near hysterics.

At the bottom of the stairs was Remus Lupin. From the look on her face, he knew she remembered. He just knew. She saw him and ran back up the stairs, past Lord Malfoy. Remus and Draco both followed her, where she ran into the upstairs lounge, both men at her heels. She threw open the double doors that led to an upstairs veranda, and without further ado, or a fare-the-well, she Disapparated away.

Remus looked at Draco, who stared at nothing. He merely stared into the space where she once stood. She was gone - just like that. When Draco changed his wards, he did not think to change them so that SHE could not leave!

Draco said, “At least she remembered how to Apparate!”


Chapter 26 - Freedom from Want by AnneM

Chapter 26 – Freedom from Want

Lord Malfoy turned to Mr. Lupin and said, “You do know why she is so distressed, do you not?”

“Yes,” was his humble reply.

“Please tell me that the girl’s memory is false,” he pleaded.

“I wish I could,” Lupin remarked.

Draco drew his wand. Lupin sat down on the chaise and said, “Do put your wand away, my boy. She was never in any harm from me. All I have ever done her entire life is protect her. Your godfather has also tried to protect her. We both acted in her best interests. Your friend Marcus Flint knows more of this latest plot, but there are even greater dangers to her out there than what happened when she was kidnapped.”

Draco regarded the older man for a moment and lowered his wand. He said, “I am sure I will need to hear this story later, but as for now, we have more pressing matters, since the young lady in question has become lost, once again.” He put his wand away. “I already sent for the Viscount. You will need to explain to him whatever you feel necessary. As for me, I am going after our young friend.”

“You know where she went?” Remus asked.

“I believe I do. She only just regained her memory, hence her ability to Disapparate. She has only Apparated and Disapparated from one place, and that was the place where I taught her. It has no wards, and I believe it would be the first place she would have thought to go. Stay here and meet with Lord Potter. I will return with Miss Granger.”

Lupin stood and said, “She truly is in danger, more than from just the man who kidnapped her, but from herself. Please bring her back.”

Draco arrived outside the gazebo on the grounds of Potter’s Hall. The sky was turning dark as evening overtook the late afternoon. The little enclosed room was also dark inside, but he was certain he would find her within. He opened the door to the glass structure and saw her immediately, sitting on a wrought iron bench, her back to him, and her hand upon one of the glass walls. He lit his wand and approached her.

She was staring at the burning embers of the setting sun. She did not turn around at his approach, because she knew it was he. Without acknowledging him, she said, “I am a burden to you, am I not?”

“Why would you say that?”

“Is that not how you feel? Have I not complicated your life, and the lives of everyone here?” she asked.

Draco said from behind her, “Do not presume to speak for me, dear lady. Nothing could be further from the truth, or further from the feelings in my heart. We will unravel this great tapestry of deceit, and come up with an answer, I promise you this.”

“I remembered something important. I remembered that you are not free to give me your heart,” she said sadly.

He took another step closer and she finally turned to face him. She looked up at him from the chair. He inquired, “Is that what worries you?”

She turned around again to gaze back toward the setting sun and said, “I long for the simpler days.”

It was apparent to Lord Malfoy that she was not going to reveal her worries. She bowed her head and placed both hands in her lap. He came to sit on the bench beside her, his legs facing the opposite direction. Should to shoulder, they sat, as intimate as lovers, but as distant as mere acquaintances.

She continued, “When I was younger, this was my favourite time of day. Twilight, dusk, nightfall. It was when my father, mother and I would all be together. We were not well off, at least not in the sense of you and my cousin. My father was a teacher at a private school, so I grew up with only two servants, a husband and wife who worked our garden and served our house. My parents were often busy with our home, but they always made time for me in the evening.”

“We would sit around the fire, often with only one or two candles burning, and we would read or play the pianoforte. Usually my father would read to me, but when I became older, I would read to them. I was lost when he died. I was so young. I longed for him to return. I felt a fatherly connection such as that with Mr. Lupin.”

“What was your father like?” he asked kindly.

She finally lifted her face to look upon him; a small smile graced her lips, which warmed his insides. She said, “He was tall, almost as tall as you. He had a wicked laugh, and he was a gentleman. He helped others whenever he could. He was kind and generous. He loved my mother very much.”

“Tell me about her,” he urged.

At this, she was again bowed her head. The pain and memories were too raw, too fresh, for her. She said, “I look nothing like her, you know. She was tall for a woman, with light hair and blue eyes. I have been told all my life that I look more like my aunt Lily, as they were complete opposites. Lily was dark and my mother Rose, was light. Since coming here and seeing her portrait, I see that I do indeed look like her. My mother loved music, animals, and literature. Most of all, she loved me very much and I love her."

Draco smiled and put his hand on her face to force her to look at him again, and said, “It is nice to be loved.”

“I agree,” she said.

“I love you, you know,” he admitted.

Her heart felt like it skipped a beat. She almost wished he did not love her. That way, she could pretend her feelings were one sided, and all of this could be nothing more than a schoolgirl crush. To have him declare his feeling so blatantly made the situation much more complicated for her.

She finally spoke. “I know you do, and I love you as well.”

He knew she loved him, and he knew that her love caused conflicted feelings in him. Their love could not be openly shared. It was more than a conundrum; it was a massive problem to be solved, with no obvious solution. He smiled at her and dropped his hand from her cheek. Her skin on her face was so warm and soft. He had a flash of curiosity as he wondered if the rest of her skin was as soft.

“What do you think of that? Our shared love and admiration?” he asked with a forced smile. He stood back up and placed both hands on her shoulders. He leaned down, her hair tickling his cheek and said in her ear. “It does not have to be a bad thing.”

“It is not up to you to decide whether it is good or bad,” she stated.

“I would be good to you, you would never want for a thing, you could read all day, give to charities, and tend to your studies. You would be safe from harm. You must come back to the Manor with me. You are my other half, Hermione,” he said.

“Your lesser half,” she said sadly.

“No, my better half,” he amended. “You are more than a beautiful woman. You also have a beautiful soul. I love you, dash it all. It does not have to be so hard.”

“No, but it does have to cease,” she insisted, “for you are not free to marry me, and we cannot show our love openly without marriage, or at least a betrothal.” She leaned back against his strong body. Her head fell to one side. He felt as if he were a man possessed as he leaned down and kissed her exposed neck; three small kisses, near her ear, at her pulse point, and one on her shoulder.

He leaned over to her mouth, and placed a small kiss on her placid lips, soft, warm and sweet. She completed him. She responded hopefully. She pressed her lips to his and it was love divine. His mouth drew away, but his face remained close and he said, “I want you, so.”

“So you said.” She put her hand to her mouth. Her lips tingled and she felt slightly in a haze. She would let him throw her to the floor and make love to her right there and then, but then where would she be?

He stood her up, with the bench separating them. He said, “We will find a solution so we can be together.” He just did not know what that would be at this point.

She asked, “As husband and wife? You cannot give up your title and fortune for me, and I would never ask that of you, so we are lost.”

“I will find a solution,” he reiterated, more for himself. “I don’t know if it will be as husband and wife,” he added quietly.

“And I don’t know any other way, Lord Malfoy,” she affirmed. She stood and backed away from him, and turned back toward the outside, touching both hands to the cool glass of the window. The sky was almost completely dark now.

He would say something more to comfort her, but he had no words. She was right. They were lost. He could not give up all her had. He wanted to offer it all to her instead. Did that make him a bad person? He would argue with her, encourage her, but with what? Words? Words seemed false and empty. He would not give false predictions of future happiness that may never come, not to her.

He felt frustrated by the entire situation. He was frustrated with her, himself, and the state of his own heart. He wanted her, and he wanted to be free to want her. He said, “I do not have much to offer you at this time. I apologize that I cannot give you what you want. What you want and what I want is not so very different, is it?”

She turned to face him and said, “I want to marry you. You want to keep your home and title. You would not give it all up for me, would you?”

She walked back up against one of the glass wall, her back pressed against the windowpane. The outline of her silhouette against the darkening sky filled him longing and despair. He said, “I wish I could say I would, but I cannot. I wish I was free from this want!” He went to the other side of the small building to put distanced between them.

“If it is freedom from this want that you crave, then I should leave. If I leave, you will soon forget me, and you may yet fall in love with another.” She walked around to the door, but stopped before leaving. When he did not try to stop her, she walked through. He finally ran to her as she stood outside. He touched her arm, burning her skin with his ache.

With a calm look on her face and a steady voice, she turned and said, “When you kissed me, under the tree, and again just now, you were offering nothing, correct?”

“I was offering my sincerest love,” he told her.

“And nothing more?” she asked.

He became angry. More at himself than her, but she would never know. He turned to the glass structure door and slammed his fist through the pane of glass, shattering the glass, which fell in shards like icicles falling on a winter day. He held his hand.

She approached him, but this time, he backed away. He stood from her and said, “I offer you everything and nothing! Damnation! I do not know what I offer. I only acted on instinct. I cannot live without you, I know that.” He hung his head.

Her heart went out to him. Before she had come to Godrics Hollow, when she lived in her family home with her mother, she wondered if someone had asked her to give up her home, family, and friends what she would choose. Of course, the choice was taken from her. She did have to give it all up. It was taken from her. She approached him slowly and took his hand. It was obviously broken and blood was running down it freely. She gingerly examined it and asked him to sit down on a bench outside the gazebo.

“I have read several books on healing spells, may I?” she asked.

“Are you sure you will not hex me for my indecisiveness?” he asked with a small smile.

“Not today,” she answered.

She took her wand and with his hand still in her left hand, she said a healing spell. She placed her wand back in its concealed pocket of her dress, but continued to hold his hand. She rubbed the top of his large, strong, sinewy hand in both of hers, her thumbs rubbing back and forth against the veins. He clenched his hand tightly in hers. She dropped his hand and stood before him. She brought her hand to his face, hesitated, drew back, and then reached out again. She touched his cheek.

He closed his eyes. She was so gentle, so loving. It was moments like this that he thought he could give it all up; his wealth, title, and home. She continued to touch his face with her right hand, and her left hand traveled to his shoulder. He leaned his face into her caress. With one finger, she traced a line from temple to chin, from chin back up to brow. She touched his eyebrows with her fingertips, and as she did, her thumb touched his lips. With his eyes still closed, she felt braver, so she touched his lips with just one finger.

She traced the outline of his lips, one direction and then the other. She finally touched the middle of the bottom lip. Then, to his utter amazement, he felt her lips feathery soft upon his. He opened his eyes as she was standing back up.

“Do you know what I offer with my kiss?” she asked.

Dare he ask? “What, Miss?”

“I offer myself, but as I am.” He placed his hands intimately on her waist. Her hands still on his shoulders, his head tilted slightly up to look at her, she continued, “I will not allow you to set me up in housekeeping while you marry your pureblood wife and have your heir. I will not allow you to visit me at night, as if you are ashamed of me, to steal moments such as this. I have nothing to offer you in exchange, but I have my respectability and my honour, and you want to take that away from me.”

“NO!” he shouted. Yet, as he grabbed her around the waist, and pulled her tightly into his embrace, he knew that was indeed what he had thought, just in passing. He would not have really considered it, because he would rather stay single all his life, and have nothing more than a glance and a touch from her, than to take away her innocence.

“I will ask once more, Sir, to satisfy my curiosity, is this what you offer?” she asked softly.

He dare not look at her. He let go of her waist and stood with his back to her. He turned back to face her and said, “I can offer you nothing at this time except my friendship and my protection, which you are powerless to refuse.” He took her wrist and Disapparated them back to the front of Malfoy Manor, instead of inside, so he might have one more moment with her. Once they set foot on solid ground, she pulled her wrist from his grasp.

Pulling on her wrist, although it remained in his tight grasp, she argued, “I do not require your friendship or your protection! I will take your godfather up on his offer, to attend Hogwarts, and accept the position of professor. I think I could find peace there, and a modicum of happiness. My cousin would be better off without me, as would you. Marry your pureblood, and if not Miss Clearwater, then another. Forget I existed. Obliviated me from your memory. I only regret that Mr. Lupin did not Obliviate you completely from mine.”

He released her wrist and she started to walk away from the house, but he actually reached out for her again and this time, he grabbed a handful of the muslin material of her dress.

“No, you do not get to decide and you do not get to leave me again!” he shouted. As improper as it was, he reached in the small sleeve in the side of her skirts where he saw her pocket her wand earlier, and he placed the wand in his own pocket. She reached up and slapped his face hard. He grabbed her around the middle and pulled her toward him. Her face was red with anger, but his countenance was so much more intense than hers was.

“I regret meeting you!” she spat. “I regret loving you.”

“You are a terrible liar, Miss Granger!” he said. “Would you have me give up this home?” He turned her to look at the massive home and estate. He held onto her upper arm with a hard grasp. “Will you not give me the time I need to try to solve this puzzle? I want you and this! My truthfulness does not mean I am unworthy of your love!”

She looked up at him shouted, “I would never ask you to give up anything!”

“But you do!” he said with bile. “You want us to live in a hovel, and both take up trade and work hard as our penance, as your parents did. You want me to give up my home, my life, my title, and my fortune!”

She removed her arm, with defeat, from his grasp by pealing his fingers from her arm with her other hand. “I only want you to love me.”

“You speak of want?” he said desperately. “I KNOW WANT!”

“And what of you?” she said quietly. She looked at the ground. “Do you want me to give up my honour and respectability? My reputation? My heart and soul? It is all I have.” She sunk to the ground, totally overwhelmed. Without looking back up at him, she gazed at his long shadow as it lay on the ground in front of her and said, “Do you not concur, that for both of our hearts, we should forget what we want, and act accordingly?”

She was right, heaven help them all, she was right.

“Damn you,” he said, not meaning a word. He lifted her by her shoulders, as if she weighed not a thing. “It is too late for that.” He pulled her flush to his body, her body melding into his. His left hand held her waist, and his right hand rested on her upper back, on her warm skin. With his mouth close to her ear, he said, “I am totally, and utterly lost. I am lost with you and without you. How can my heart choose?”

His heart flooded with blood, 'pure' blood, that threatened to spill out of his chest. He had never felt such pain and longing before. He closed his eyes to ease his yearning. He would keep her in his embrace, figuratively or literally, to keep her from harm, his own heart be damned. He would place his heart on a shelf, and forget that it ever existed. His breathing became harder as he held her tightly in his arms.

Suddenly, without resistance, he pushed her away from him. The taint of her blood mattered to him. Lord help him, it did. Nevertheless, the thought of her going away, and toiling in a profession that was beneath her was unacceptable. He reached for her again, and placed his face next to her hair. He wanted more for her. He did not want her to turn into a hollow shadow. He wanted more for her. He wanted more for him. He would find an acceptable solution. If he did not, they both would end up lost and forlorn.

“We both deserve a chance at happiness, Hermione,” he said softly to her, as if he were cooing to a small babe. “I will not give you up, as I stated before. I promise you, if I cannot find an expectable solution to purchase our happiness, then I will give it all up.”

She took a step back and observed him. She believed him.

“I will go back with you to the Manor, but only if Mr. Lupin leaves. Nonetheless, I have to warn you, we must be friends only, you and I, until such a time that you are free from either your convictions, or free from your wants. It will be one or the other, but not both, understood?”

He did. He knew what she was saying. Give it all up for her, or lose her forever, and in the end, he could not find fault in her statement. The part of his mind which held reason, argued with the part of his heart, which held his longing.

He started down to the house, with her closely beside him. He slowed his pace so she could keep up. He ached with actual pain for her. It would be a test of his composure to see if he could stay in the same house with her, and not touch her, kiss her, want her. Before they reached the house, he offered his arm. This would be his first test. She looked into his grey eyes, which she thought held a question. Finally, she placed her hand gently upon his sleeve. His arm did not fall off and his skin did not melt. His heart was another story, but he would take it slowly.

They went inside and Lord Malfoy asked his butler, “Are Mr. Lupin and Lord Potter still here?”

He nodded in the affirmative. Draco smiled down at her and said, “I will escort you to your room, and have dinner sent up to you.” Together, her hand still on his arm, they walked the long distance to her room. Outside the door he said, “If you should need me, no matter the hour, or the need, do not feel you are an imposition. Seek me out, please.

Everything about the woman before him, her entrancing face, her small but well formed body, promised to make him betray his word. To take her in his arms and to touch her sweet face, and to place his lips softly on hers, just as she did earlier, would be wrong, but it would feel right. His desire threatened to replace his resolve. His brain finally came into place, seeking a rational end to this later encounter. He took a step backwards and bowed. He took her hand and could not resist placing a gentle kiss her top. Friends kissed friend’s hands, did they not? He released it and stormed down the hall, barking at one of the servants to take food up to her room. He had to see Lupin. He needed answers.

As he stormed through his house, he knew he could not play the friendship role with her. He was becoming increasingly desperate just to steal touches with her. His want was too much to ignore, as was the sudden realization that she was more important than all other considerations. That realization did not lessen his ardor or his indignation. His love could not be terminated. No, what he sought was not an end to his want and love, but answers to help him win her hand in marriage.

He stopped to lean against the wall. No other man could have her. The thought of another’s hands on her body, her soft white skin, in her silky hair, made his heart lurch. He inhaled and exhaled slowly, and went back into the second floor lounge, where he found the other two men.

Both rose when he entered and Lord Potter asked, “Did you find her?”

He took her wand out of his pocket and placed it on a desk. He poured himself a glass of firewhiskey and said, “She is once again safe in her room, so do not fear gentlemen. She is safe in the confines of these walls. However, Lord Potter, either you must stay as her chaperon, or send another, because Mr. Lupin must leave.”

“Why?” Harry asked.

Draco drank the entire contents in one drink and said, “I think Lupin will be more inclined to answer your questions than I, although I know one thing: he is the man who Obliviated her memories.”

Chapter 27 - Web of Lies by AnneM


Chapter 27: A Web of Lies:

“I hardly know where to begin,” Remus began to Harry and Draco while sitting down on a hardback chair. Although he was tired and hungry, he wanted to tell his tale, or at least the part that he could.

“Remus, is it true?” Harry asked, disturbed and shocked. “Did you Obliviate Hermione’s mind?”

“Yes, I did,” he admitted, his eyes upon the man he considered a son.

“Why?” Harry asked, appalled. He sat down near Remus. Draco preferred to remain standing.

“I still cannot reveal all to you, but I will tell you that Marcus Flint told Severus that Hermione was in danger from Blaise Zabini. He said that his mistress’ sister, Miss Ward, your downstairs maid, informed Mr. Zabini that Miss Granger would be alone in the woods with Severus, so Mr. Zabini went there to abduct her.”

“Why would Blaise Zabini want to abduct Hermione?” Draco asked.

“Blaise Zabini is a man who lives well above his means. He lost a lot of capital during the war, and he has gambled away most of the rest. According to Marcus Flint, Blaise Zabini has been having an affair with Miss Clearwater, whose fortune is not quite what it was. He wanted Miss Clearwater to marry Lord Malfoy so he could siphon off some of Malfoy’s money through Miss Clearwater.”

“Do you know his intent that day?” Draco asked, his jaw tight.

“Mr. Flint said that Mrs. Smith’s sister was also one of Mr. Zabini's sweethearts, and he reveal to the woman that he wanted to make sure that Hermione was gone long enough so that Miss Clearwater could find a way to convince Malfoy to marry her. Snape also tried to convince Draco to change his mind that day, although he was not part of their plan. If their mutual convincing did not work, Zabini would hold her for ransom. He was involved in the carriage incident, as well. He hired the three men to abduct her that day, but again, Marcus Flint foiled that plan."

"I surmise that Mr. Zabini is the one that killed Mrs. Smith’s sister because she probably told her sister and Mr. Flint his intent... or else Mr. Flint would not have known of his plans, and the young girl in question would not have been killed.”

“Why did you Obliviate Hermione?” Draco asked, since Harry seemed to be too shocked to ask any questions.

“Two reasons. I thought I would erase any pain she might have felt from the Cruciatus curse Mr. Zabini inflicted upon her, and I wanted to ease the fear of her kidnapping. It was apparent when I found her that she had been cursed. Second, Snape lied to me. He told me that he told her what he believed was the truth of her parentage and I wanted to buy myself some time to figure out what I was going to do, so I Obliviated her short-term memory. Little did I know, Snape did not tell her a thing. He just said that to me to hurt me. It only ended up hurting Hermione,” Lupin said with remorse.

Harry finally found his voice and asked, “What do you mean? What is the truth of her parentage?”

Lupin stood up to face the window. He could not look upon Lord Potter’s face because he did not want to see the disappointment he knew would come with the truth. He said, “Twenty-two years ago was a dark time for us. The Dark Lord was in power. He believed in blood purity, although he himself was a half blood. Our world was in chaos and the light side seemed to be losing the fight.”

“There was a prophecy at the time that a child born of a Muggle-born and a pureblood would rise and bring an end to the Dark Lord.”

“Yes, the prophecy about me,” Harry said.

Lupin turned and said, “We did not know at the time who the prophecy meant. A child was born from a Muggle-born and a pureblood, and the babe’s mother came to me, having already confided her condition to me previously. She asked me to hide the baby for fear that it might be the baby from the prophecy. I did. That baby was Hermione.”

“Who was this mother?” Harry asked.

“I cannot say, for I took a wizard’s oath never to reveal that secret, and I never have. However, I will tell you the lie that I told everyone at the time. Andromeda Black, Sirius Black’s cousin, and Lord Malfoy’s aunt, was secretly involved with a Muggle-born named Theodore Tonks. Andromeda and I were very good friends. She came to me around the same time and said that she was with child and afraid. The Dark Lord and his followers had just killed Theodore Tonks. She feared for her baby. She too knew of the prophecy, and wondered if her baby could be the one. She knew that her brother-in-law, Lucius Malfoy, was a close follower of the Dark Lord.”

“I had made arrangements with the same person who was to take this other woman’s child, to also take Andromeda’s child as well, but it was too late. Andromeda’s confinement ended and she died in childbirth just as her baby died, tended only by a midwife. That same night my friend delivered her baby with only myself in attendance. And that was when I came up with my lie.”

“I told Sirius and Severus Snape that Andromeda was pregnant with my child, and that Andromeda died but that baby lived. I took the child from the other witch, this child being Hermione, and asked Severus to leak the information to the Dark Lord."

“I thought that would protect the child, as it would appear that she was born from two purebloods. However, Sirius never believed that Andromeda was pregnant with my child. He asked who the baby’s real father was, and since I could not convince him it was my child, I told lie number two. I told him it was James Potter’s child. To this day, I am not sure why I said that. I had to say it was someone and I knew that Sirius would do anything to protect James and his children.”

“Lupin, why all the deceit?” Harry asked. Then he gasped. “Hermione is not really my sister, is she?” He stood up and turned the man to face him.

After a long pause, Lupin answered, “No, she is not James’ daughter. But I told Sirius that because the truth was that Hermione was HIS daughter. My wizard oath to the mother prevented me from revealing WHO the mother was to Sirius or anyone. In addition, it was a convenient lie, and that is what I told Hermione’s adoptive parents as well. They were sister and brother-in-law to James’ wife, so I told them Hermione was really James' child and they happily took in the child, assuming it belonged to Lily’s husband.”

At that moment, Hermione stood outside the door, about to knock, when the sound of voices made her instead stop to listen.

“Sirius and I made a pact to protect Hermione throughout her life. Sirius did so thinking she was the child of his beloved cousin Andromeda and his best friend James. I did so, because she was the child of my other best friend and a woman I care for greatly. I also thought she would be in danger from the prophecy. Snape agreed to help take care of her out of obligation to the light side, but still believing she was mine. When Hermione’s adoptive mother was dying, Snape went to the woman. He had grown up with Rose and Lily, and was fond of them both.”

“On her deathbed, Hermione’s adoptive mother told Snape her version of the truth, which was that the child belonged to James Potter.” Remus stopped for a moment, to pour a glass fire whiskey.

Hermione had heard enough, even though she hadn’t heard the truth. She ran back to her room. She believed that she and Harry were brother and sister! She was filled with joy but also with confusion! If James Potter was her father, who was her mother?

Remus continued, never once aware Hermione had only heard part of the story, and that part being the lie. He said, “I would never have told Snape that lie for he hated James Potter. I also could never have told him the truth about Sirius, for if there was anyone he hated more than James Potter, it was Sirius Black. That is why I told Snape she was mine. After Snape talked to Hermione’s adoptive mother on her deathbed, he knew I had lied to him all those years, because he now thought James was her father. With regret, I had lied to him, just not the lie he thought. Snape told me that day in the woods he revealed to Hermione that James was her father, hence the reason I felt the need to Obliviate her memory, although I found out later that he did not tell her a thing,” Remus said.

“Pray, tell me, who is her mother?” Harry asked. “I do not care for she will always be like a kin to me, but I would like to know.”

“I cannot,” Lupin said. “I will, however, say she is related to someone in this room.”

“Yes of course she is!” Draco shouted. “If she is Sirius Black’s daughter, that means she is my distant cousin!” Draco, in frustration, made a display of himself by clearing the top of the desk with his hands, aggravated with the web of lies, and the hurt they had caused everyone.

“Tell us who Miss Granger’s mother is! You already told us her father was Sirius Black! Unless her mother still lives, your wizard’s oath is no longer binding!” Draco shouted. All he could think was that Sirius, his mother’s first cousin, was pureblood. What if the mother was as well? What if Lupin continued his lies to this day and Hermione was never in any danger from the prophecy? If she were a pureblood, they would be free to marry!

“You can throw things, hex me, call me names, but I shall not reveal that. I made a solemn oath, and I intend to keep it,” Remus vowed.

“Does Hermione know any of this?” Harry asked.

“No,” Remus answered.

“Then we shall not tell her,” Harry decided. “We will tell her that you Obliviated her memory so that she would not recall being hexed. We will say nothing else at this time. She may never trust you again, Remus, but I am not sure that is a bad thing. I am not sure I trust you anymore. You are still welcomed in my home, but trust will have to be forged again.”

“What of Miss Granger? Is her only threat Mr. Zabini?” Draco asked.

“I believe that there are more threats out there then we may be aware of, but that is just a gut feeling. I may be wrong. I think Snape must have told his version of the truth to Miss Clearwater. She must assume Hermione is pureblood, and that her parents were Andromeda and James Potter. She must have told Mr. Zabini this. That means they assume she is free to marry Lord Malfoy and they may try to stop that,” Remus answered.

He continued, “However, what we must hide from everyone, at least at the moment, is that she while she is not pureblood, she is still free to marry Lord Malfoy and without him losing his estate.”

“What do you mean?” Draco asked.

“Do you not see, Lord Malfoy?” Remus asked. “If your father’s will is valid, you will lose your estate if you marry anyone of less than pureblood. Therefore, your estate will be entailed to your only living relative.”

“We have discussed this!” Draco said. “There is no one! All my relatives are dead!”

Harry understood what Remus was referring to and said, “No, not all. You yourself said that Hermione would be your cousin.”

“Yes, on my mother’s side,” Draco said. “The will says it must be entailed to someone from the Malfoy side.”

“Lord Malfoy,” Remus said, “Were your mother and father not second cousins themselves? Were Sirius Black and your father not second cousins? That would make Hermione your only living relative, Lucius’ second cousin once removed, and she would inherit the estate. I already ascertained the validity of this from a solicitor, and he confirms it.”

Draco was shocked beyond words! This could be the answer to his prayers!

“Again, I say this information should not go beyond this room, for she could still be in danger. I think she should still be protected. My biggest fear is that someone, someday, might still connect her with the original prophecy, and that some rogue follower of the Dark Lord, though he is gone, may still try to harm her. There is also the possibility that someone might seek to harm her if they think she could inherit such a large estate. Let us not act too quickly on these events. Let us stay the course and watch her as we always have.”

“Then we shall protect her,” Harry said. He turned to Malfoy. “Remus and I will go back to Potter’s Hall. I shall send Daphne Greengrass to stay here tomorrow as a chaperone, if that is acceptable. My understanding is that she had a falling out with Miss Clearwater because she accepted a marriage proposal from Mr. Charlie Weasley. She has nowhere to stay now, and I invited her to stay at my home. I am sure she would be willing to come here instead.”

Draco merely nodded.

Draco looked at Remus and said, “Someday, old man, you will need to tell us the whole truth, promises made or not, do you understand?”

“I have been threatened all my life, and by more intimidating men than you, Lord Malfoy, no offense. I will consider your threat a mere consequence of your tired state of mind. Goodnight.” He went out to the veranda and Disapparated away.

Harry went over to Malfoy and said, “I will work on him. We will find out the mother. I know you are hoping it will be a pureblood, are you not, so you may marry her?”

“I do hope that,” Draco conceded, “but I have to admit, the other outcomes are just as favourable. Either she may be a pureblood, or if not, she still stands to inherit my estate, which means I could still marry her.”

“Do not put too much hope in that first notion,” Harry said. “I do not think Remus would have spent his lifetime protecting a pureblood, for a pureblood baby, born illegitimate or not, would never have been in danger from Voldemort. We must watch for those who mean her harm, such as Blaise Zabini.”

“If I find Blaise Zabini, he is a dead man,” Draco told Harry with an icy stare.

“Theo Nott said that Zabini is still missing, so he may already be dead. Do not seek vengeance, Lord Malfoy. It will destroy you. I say you visit your old friend Flint, and see what more he knows. No matter what, I still love her like a sister. I hope your love for her is as sincere. Again, do not hope for things that may not be true.” Harry went to the veranda and left as well.

Draco knew there was truth in those words, but damn it all, he could still hope.

                                                              XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Elsewhere, in the village, Ginny Weasley was walking down the dark cobblestone street alone when she spied a man standing by a lamppost. She approached him and stopped.

“You did a right fine job mucking everything up, girl,” the man said.

“I tried, and it cost me my engagement! Lord Potter now hates me!” Ginny said.

“You did not really try, did you? I know what you said to his cousin. You were supposed to persuade her to seek the solace of Lord Malfoy. You were supposed to make sure to secure their union! All you did was try to secure your own!” he chastised. “You tried to convince her to leave, when your job was to drive her in to the arms of Lord Malfoy.”

“I am sorry, sir, but if what Mr. Zabini told you was the truth, that she is really the child of James Potter and Andromeda Black, then that would mean that she would be the firstborn child of James Potter and she would inherit Potter’s Hall over my Harry! You know the ways of magical inheritance! The firstborn inherits the estate, male or female, and I had to think of his future over yours!”

“That is your problem, not mine. Although, I have to tell you, I know for certain her mother was not Andromeda Black. The story about James Potter being her father may very well be true. I doubt Severus Snape would have told his ward that if he did not believe it. However, no one ever need know that. You still should have encouraged her union with Malfoy!”

“Answer me this, why is that so important to you? Why do you want Hermione Granger and Lord Malfoy to marry? You know he will lose his estate! It will be entailed away until they find an heir,” Ginny said.

“As I said, I know that Hermione Granger is not Andromeda Black’s daughter, because I am the child that was born that night. I am the child of Andromeda Black and Theodore Tonks!”

Ginny gasped. “No, that cannot be. That's why you want them to marry! That means you would inherit the Malfoy estate if Malfoy marries Miss Granger, because his estate would go to his closest living heir, and you were born before her!”

“Of course, that is why I wanted you to encourage their liaison, but you failed. Therefore, I am forced to go ahead with the charges against your brother George. He will be arrested tomorrow, and thrown in prison!”

“NO, please, give me more time! She is at Malfoy’s estate now! They will fall back in love, I am sure!” she said.

“I do not think so. I now feel he will not give it all up for her,” he argued.

“If you do not give me more time, I will tell your secrets! I shall!” she injected.

The man laughed and said, “The little witch threatens me? You will not tell a soul, but perhaps you could serve another purpose. Your brother will retain his freedom for now, but if you continue to act for selfish reasons, I shall be forced to go ahead with the prosecution. Find a way back into Miss Granger’s favour. Find out where she stands with Lord Malfoy.”

“But what of Harry?” she asked.

“Harry Potter is an honourable man and I am afraid he is lost to you, and that is your own fault. You could have persuaded Miss Granger into the arms of Malfoy, and you yourself would now be the upcoming mistress of Potter’s Hall, if you had only followed my orders. You ruined your chances for that, so your only recourse now is to act to save your brother. Do it or your whole family will face ruin!” He Disapparated away and she sat on the curb and cried.



Draco sat alone in the library at Malfoy Manor contemplating the day and everything he had heard... lies and truths. He wondered if he should reveal anything he had learned to Hermione. He wanted to tell her everything, very much. What a turn of events. Even if she did not turn out to be a pureblood, she would be his only living kin, being the child of Sirius Black, and would inherit Malfoy Manor if he married her.

He chuckled at the thought. His father never thought of that, did he? What did Draco care if the estate was in his name or hers? Magical inheritance was different from Muggle inheritance. Not only could women inherit estates, but also once a party married, they automatically shared all monies, titles, and property. He would keep his home, fortune, and title, and have the woman he wanted.

Yes, he wanted to tell her these things, but he felt some duty to Potter and Lupin. He would wait. He would protect her until the threat of harm had passed. He would keep his distance and be nothing but cordial to her.

Well, he would try.

One of the servants knocked on the library door. “Enter!” Malfoy shouted.

“Excuse me, Lord Malfoy, but you told the servants to keep an eye out for Miss Granger,” the footman started. Draco stood up and urged the man to continue. “Well, Sir, she is out walking in the statue garden, by the large fountain. I sent one of the other footmen to keep watch.”

“Thank you, Miller.” Draco stood up and straightened his cravat. He placed his jacket back on and looked at the clock. It was almost midnight. What could she be doing outside at this time of night? She was going to be the death of him yet.



Hermione sat on the edge of the fountain, thinking. Could the news she heard earlier possibly be the truth? Was her father really James Potter? Was she a pureblood? Who was her mother? She should have stayed and listened longer and perhaps Remus would have revealed her mother to her. She felt a ray of happiness at the thought that she and Harry were brother and sister, but also a pang of guilt. She felt as if she were betraying her mother and father by being glad at the news. Her father was not her father, and her mother was probably not her mother. However, if she turned out to be a pureblood, she could marry Lord Malfoy!

She turned slightly on her perch by the fountain to place her fingertips in the water, skimming them back and forth lightly. It was a cool evening, so she pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders, then she heard footsteps. Looking up at the sound she saw it was Lord Malfoy.

Draco held out her wand to her. “If you are going to wander around outside at night, you may need this.” She took it from his hand. She placed it in the concealed pocket of her dress and stood to leave.

“Wait, do not leave yet. Shall we talk?” he asked.

“It is very late,” she said, even as she sat back down on the fountain's edge.

“And?” he asked.

“Surely you are tired,” she said.

“So you only seek my comfort? I must be tired, so you must leave?” he asked.

“Of course,” she answered.

“You are much too generous. I do not seek your comfort, so you should not seek mine.” He smiled to show her he was making fun, but she did not smile in return.

“I am tired of your frown,” he scolded. Walking up to her, he pulled her to stand in front of him. He looked at her face closely. The moonlight was barely visible, and the night was almost pitched black, due to the clouds. He put his hand on her cheek and said, “Smile for me, Hermione.”

“It would be false,” she said.

“Laugh for me,” he said with a smile.

“More false,” she said.

“Sing,” he said.

“You are mad,” she said with a smile.

He hand slid down her face to her arm, held her wrist, and he interjected, “I may be mad, but I made you smile. That was my goal.”

“Do you always get your own way?” she asked.

“Usually,” he answered honestly.

“How are we to proceed?” she asked.

“In what sense?” he asked back.

She could not reveal that she had heard that James Potter was her father, so she said, “We must act as if we are merely friends, is that not correct? How can I ask my heart to feel something it does not?”

“You are not a skilled liar, I take it?” he asked. “On the other hand, it is a skill I practiced many long hours to achieve. I am an accomplished liar. One might even say I am a liar of the first degree.” He smiled again.

She smiled in return.

“Teach me to lie,” she requested. The gentle wind blew the wisp of curls around her face. He came up to her and gently pushed back her hair.

“To lie effectively, you must not let anything about your words or actions betray the truth, for instance, I can touch your hair, like so...” His hand went to her hair again, but this time remained, “...and I can say, your hair is not soft, nor is it beautiful.” He waited a moment and said, “What did my eyes say? Did they betray the lie?”

Hermione reached up, took his hand from her hair, and said, “Your eyes held truth, but your hand remaining in my hair betrayed you.”

He made a sour face and said, “That was a bad example, let me try again.” He placed his hand under her chin and said, “Your mouth is merely adequate and not ripe for kissing. Do you believe me?”

A small smile crept over said mouth. She knew he lied. What sort of folly was this? She said, “You are definitely lying, Sir, for your eyes have not left my mouth since that statement left YOUR mouth.”

He grimaced. He was just having fun, but now he felt he had something to prove. He walked slightly away from her, but when he turned back around, she still had a smile on her face. He said, “At least you are now smiling, although it is beginning to irritate me. Come and stand before me, Miss.”

She walked over to him and looked up at him. It was so dark, she could barely make out his expression. He said, “Touch my cheek.”

“Are you going to prove that my touch is a lie?” she asked, amused.

“Gads, woman, just touch my cheek!” He took her hand and put it on his cheek. Unlike her cheek, his was rough with a day’s growth of beard. She moved her thumb slightly over his cheek. He said, “Now, I say that your hand on my face leaves me cold inside. I feel nothing. Your touch lacks the desire that I seek.”

She continued to smile and said, “You are correct. Your eyes do not show that you lie, but I wonder….” She reached up with her other hand and held his cheeks in her hands. With the tips of her fingers, she moved her right hand slowly down his face, to his neck. She felt his pulse. “But your body still betrays you. Until you can teach your body to lie, you will deceive no one.”

She let go of him and he asked, “How did my body lie?”

“Your pulse, Sir, it was beating quickly. I can only assume it was because you lied,” she replied. He amused her, but also she felt confused. What did this little practice have to do with the price of tea in China? It was fruitless. She turned and started to walk over to a Grecian statue of a nude man holding a bow and arrow.

Her hands went up to the smooth marble back of the statue. He watched in awe as she touched the statue all the way up its strong, well-formed back, to its equally well-defined chest. He imagined she was touching him. She let her hand roam the statue’s long arm to its bow. The arm was as tall as she was. She looked around the waist at him and said, “Now, if you could teach your body to be as cold and stone as this statue, then you might have me believe your lies. However, it is not me you must convince, but the people of the town. If you can convince others, I will go along with the ploy.”

He approached the other side of the statue and said, “Rest assured dear lady, I am a practiced liar. You are the one that must act indifferent to me. You are the one that must convince the masses, not I.” Hermione playfully hid behind the statue again. He reached around for her, and touched her sleeve. She laughed and ran from him.

He said, “I chase no one dear lady.”

“Good, for you would not catch me anyway,” she said playfully. At least this little exercise in lying made her feel happier, at least to a certain degree. She sat on the fountain once more and added very softly, “You will never catch me.” Suddenly, that thought filled her with regret.

He heard her soft words. As he approached he said, “I would not count on that.” He laughed aloud and said, “Tomorrow’s lesson will indeed be a lesson on teaching you to lie better.”

“Tomorrow there is a county fair and my cousin long ago promised to take me. You may attend as well, if you would like, since you have free will. I will practice my new indifference to you there,” she said demurely.

“I would love to attend with you, and have you ignore me, and show me disdain. Nothing would make me happier.” He laughed.

“Now I think you might lie, Sir,” she said. She stood back up and walked to the mouth of the path, where she waited for him so they might leave the garden. “It is late, will you walk me back, or would that be too troublesome, since you dislike me so?”

He walked up beside her and said, “I will only dislike you in the presence of others and only for a short duration. I know a secret, and once it is revealed, you will see that hope is not lost. I asked you before to give me time, and I ask that again from you, will you do that for me?” He pulled on one of her curls and watched it bounce in the dim light of the night sky.

“A secret?” she asked. “One that you are not at liberty to tell, I presume.” She wondered if the secret was the one that she heard, that she was James Potter’s daughter.

“Not yet, but we will be together and all will not be lost, but until I can reveal my secret you must lie and pretend that you do not care for me,” he said blatantly. The sooner he could tell her that she was Sirius Black’s daughter, the better it would be for them all.

A man stood in the shadows, behind a large statue of a Grecian woman with a large basin at her feet. He had just Apparated to the garden, because he heard from one of the servants that she was outside. He had no idea Lord Malfoy was there as well. What was the secret to which he referred? How would it set their course straight? He must find out the secret, and soon. Then, the man Disapparated away.

Draco heard the sound of someone Disapparating. Quickly, he scanned the area around them, instinctively placing his arms around her shoulders. “It is very late and you must get your rest if you want to go to the fair tomorrow.” He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand at alarm. Someone had been watching them. He would have to set men out to guard the grounds starting tomorrow.

“Is something wrong, Draco?” she asked.

He smiled slightly. She called him Draco. She seemed in a better mood, was showing signs of enjoyment again, was teasing with him, and most importantly, she called him Draco. He said, “Nothing is the matter, Hermione. Let us go back inside, for once again, your body betrays you.” His hand went from her shoulder and he turned slightly to place his large hand on her neck. “Yes, your pulse beats louder than you claim mine did. Your body tells me that you care deeply for me.”

She removed his hand from her neck and started down the path, turned her head slightly, and said, “I have no idea what you mean. I could not give two snaps for you.” She snapped her fingers twice, smiled and turned back.

He marched up to her, took her hand, kissed the top and said, “Liar.”


End Notes:

Coming up, someone shows interest in Hermione, and Draco shows he is a terrible liar after all.


Chapter 27 ½ : Synopsis of A Web of Lies:

To aid in any confusion the reader might have, I will give a brief summary of the facts that have so far been presented in chapter 27.

Twenty-two plus years ago, a woman got pregnant by Sirius Black. The reader does not yet know her identity. She went to Remus Lupin, her good friend, for help. She was afraid her child would be in danger from the prophecy about the Dark Lord, because she was Muggle born and Sirius was pureblood, and they were not married, so she did not want to ruin her reputation. Sirius never knew this woman was pregnant.

Lupin asked Lily Potter's sister if she would take the baby, which was Hermione, because he thought she would be safer raised by Muggles, and raised by someone who understood about magic. Lily's sister was happy to do so, because Remus told her Hermione was James' child.

Meanwhile, (on the other side of town) Andromeda Black fell in love with a Muggle-born named Theodore Tonks. Death Eaters killed him. Fearing for her baby, (thinking it might too, fulfill the prophecy, and because she was not married, and she did not want to disgrace her family) she went to Lupin for help as well. He asked Lily's sister to take that child as well.

Both children happened to be born on the same night, Hermione first, and then this other child.

Andromeda, alone with only a midwife, died in childbirth. The midwife told Lupin the child died too, but really, this midwife, (identity to be named later) took the child and gave it to a pureblood family to raise, giving it a letter telling it who its real mother and father was. The identity of this child is not yet revealed to the reader.

Thinking his duty was done with Andromeda, when both she and her child died, Lupin enlisted Sirius' help with the protection of Hermione. He did not want to tell Sirius Hermione was his child with this unnamed woman, so Lupin told Sirius that Hermione was the child of Andromeda (Sirius' cousin) and James Potter. He told a slightly different lie to Snape... that Hermione was the child of Andromeda and Lupin.

Therefore, here is what we know so far...

Andromeda died in childbirth. Her child, a son, was taken and given to a pureblood family to be raised. He knows his birthright, and he wants Hermione and Draco to fall in love, because per Lucius’ will, Draco would lose everything if he married less than a pureblood, and this man thinks he would inherit Draco's estate, because he believes Hermione is not a pureblood. (Which is actually true, she is not - but she is related to Draco, a distant cousin, so she could still inherit his estate, which this man does not yet understand, because he believes she is the daughter of James Potter and an unknown woman.)

Snape also believes Hermione is the child of James Potter and an unknown woman, because on her deathbed, Hermione's adoptive mother told Snape that James was Hermione's father. He told this to his ward, Penelope Clearwater and to Blaise Zabini.

Hermione's real mother's identity is unknown by all but Lupin. It will remain unknown for now.

Hermione's real father is Sirius Black, not James Potter. She is the true heir if Draco loses his estate, because she too is related to Draco, but is one hour older than Andromeda's child. This unknown person does not yet know this fact about Hermione. That is the real secret that needs kept, because when and if this man finds this out, he will try to kill Hermione.

Complications aside, the romance will continue, and the mystery will continue to unravel.

Thank you!

Chapter 28 - A Fortune Told and A Lesson Taught by AnneM

Chapter 28 – A Fortune Told and A Lesson Taught:

Her hat had little blue flowers on it. That was the first thing he noticed. Well certainly, the first thing he noticed was her in her entirety, but the second thing he noticed was her straw hat with little blue flowers on it. Walking along the throng, down the country lane toward the fair with the others in their party, Lord Malfoy took no notice of anything except Hermione Granger’s hat.

He did not notice the azure blue sky, though it was bright and beautiful. He did not notice the company, though they were loud and boisterous. He did not notice Lady Pansy’s arm hooked through his, although she continued to talk to him nonstop. He only had eyes for Hermione and her hat.

All the Muggles around them seemed invisible. The bright colours of the tents were undetectable to his eyes. The loud voices of the children were mute to his ears. A straw hat with little blue flowers around the brim, and the lovely woman underneath it who had yet to look at him once that morning, were the only things he noticed.

He was not sure what it was about her little hat and its intricate design that caught his eye. He noticed it first when she glided down the stairs this morning. He noticed it again when Lord Potter lifted her into his carriage on their way to the town. Now they were on a lane in a Muggle village called Little Hampshire, visiting a little fair, and heaven help him, all he could see was a hat!

He could not avert his eyes, for the hat was upon the head of the woman he adored.

Miss Granger walked down the country lane, her hand in the crook of her cousin’s arm, and a smile on her face. The day was warm; warmer than most. The sun was blazing in the sky, and she was extremely mindful of the fact that Lord Malfoy had not taken his eyes off her all morning. So much for his lessons last night! He apparently was not a proponent of living what he preached. If he wanted everyone to assume they were merely friends, he should stop staring at her. She really did not mind, for she rather liked his attention. Nevertheless, in the name of ‘deceiving others’, he should not take such an interest in her. She was trying hard to ignore him, but it was a hard task to accomplish. He looked so handsome in his doe skinned breeches, his brown jacket and waistcoat, his ivory silk shirt, and his top hat and gloves. He was the most handsome man of their party and perhaps in the whole town. Moreover, he was staring right at her.

Hermione had been looking forward to this little fair since her cousin told her about it. The thought of all the Muggles around them made some of the others somewhat uncomfortable, but Hermione was perfectly at ease. They arrived as a large group, each in their own curricles or carriages: Hermione, Harry, Daphne and Charlie in one carriage, Theo, Pansy, and Draco in another. Ron Weasley and Miss Lovegood met the group there. When they arrived, they saw that Ron Weasley brought along his younger sister Ginny. Harry acted as if he had never met the young woman. He remained distant and aloof. Hermione felt somewhat bad for the girl, even though she had meant to cause Hermione distress with her lies. Twice Miss Weasley tried to engage Hermione in conversation, and twice she was rebuffed.

It was the same with Draco and Hermione. Per their arrangement the night before, Hermione acted completely indifferent to Malfoy. He acted the same toward her. The only notice they took of each other was the fact that he could not stop staring at her, and she could not stop pretending to avoid him. Theo remarked to Lady Pansy, “Lord Malfoy and Miss Granger are acting as if they had a falling out, but I am not so sure.”

Malfoy told his friends earlier that she was staying at his house per Lord Potter’s request for her safety until they found Blaise Zabini, and for no other reason. Pansy did not believe it, but she smiled politely and raised her eyebrows to Theo. Theo shook his head incredulously. If that was what they wanted people to believe, who was Theo to pretend otherwise?

They walked along the tents and Theo offered his arm to Hermione. She gladly accepted, although it left Harry’s arm empty. Miss Weasley was unaccompanied, but it was apparent to the group that Harry was not going to offer her his arm. Draco felt a smattering of pity for the girl. He whispered something in Pansy’s ear and she quickly left his side. Draco then offered his arm to the youngest Weasley, for he could see she was ill at ease.

Pansy walked over to Harry and said, “Lord Potter, I think the roasted chestnuts look quite good. Perhaps we could buy some?” He smiled at her and offered his arm to her. Now everyone had a partner. Draco was not with the one he wanted to be with, but at least she was safely in the arms of his best friend. Draco cringed when they met up with an old acquaintance, Earl Adrian Pucey.

“I say, Lord Malfoy, how odd to find you here among these sorts of people,” Adrian said with a supercilious air.

“I could say the same for you, Pucey,” Malfoy mocked. He never liked Adrian. He was the worst sort of pureblood. He openly mocked those of lower birth. He had no class as far as Draco was concerned. Never mind the fact that his mother was a countess, and he inherited an Earldom. He was still beneath Draco as far as Draco was concerned.

“I believe I do not know all in the people of your little group, Malfoy,” Adrian said. “Everyone knows the viscount, of course, but who is the lovely young woman on Nott’s arm? I know it is not your former intended Miss Clearwater, for I heard she left never to return. I don’t believe it is Lord Potter’s intended, for I heard that engagement was over as well.”

At this Ginny Weasley walked over toward a little stand selling chestnuts and her brothers. Miss Greengrass and Miss Lovegood joined her.

Harry sighed. The earl was speaking as if Harry could not hear him. Harry said, “Pucey, may I present my cousin, Hermione Granger, from Kent. Miss Granger, Lord Adrian Pucey, the Earl of Chanceford.”

Adrian took the young woman’s hand and kissed it, aloofly. “Ah, yes, the little Muggle-born cousin. I heard of you from Lady Clearwater. You are not a popular lady, I must say, or so I have heard.”

Hermione frowned and removed her hand. Theo openly laughed. Theo said, “What are you doing out and about with respectable people, Pucey?”

Adrian did not seem offended. He said, “I am here to make fun of the little Muggles at their fair. I haven’t had a good laugh at a Muggle’s expense in such a long time.”

“You are abhorrent, Sir,” Hermione said.

“Oh, the little mudblood knows big words,” he laughed. “Who is the lovely little red haired creature who was on your arm, Malfoy?”

“That was Miss Ginny Weasley,” Draco said.

“Is she a pureblood?” he asked.

Harry said, “She is a pureblood, but she is spoken for, so her blood matters not.” That statement shocked the entire group. Did Harry still consider Ginny his intended? Harry joined the others buying roasted chestnuts.

“I say, are there no single ladies for an earl?” Pucey asked. “Potter’s cousin is perhaps the prettiest one here, but alas, people like Draco and I could never abide a little mudblood, no matter how fair her skin, or slight her frame.”

Hermione flinched. Draco saw her actually reach in her hidden pocket for her wand. “Well this mudblood will not impede on you any longer, Mr. Pucey.” Hermione started to walk away, when Theo laughed again and offered his arm to Hermione.

Let us go elsewhere, Miss Granger. The air here is suddenly quite foul,” Theo said loudly. She took his arm and walked along with him.

“That man is not your friend, is he?” Hermione asked Theo when they were out of earshot of the man.

“That ponce? Not at all, nor is he friend to Lady Pansy or Lord Malfoy. We only acknowledge the man because of his title,” Theo said. “May I ask you something, Miss?”

“Of course,” she said.

“Have you and Lord Malfoy come to an impasse?’ he asked.

“An impasse?” she asked for clarification.

“Forgive my boldness, but I could have sworn my friend was enamored with you, and now you seem distant with each other, and yet you are staying in his home. I am perplexed,” he said. “Have you had a falling out of some sort?”

She stopped walked to consider his question. He was a close friend of Malfoy’s, so she wondered if she could trust him with the truth, and then she decided to err on the side of caution. “We are friends, but nothing more. I am only staying in his home, because of the threat of Blaise Zabini,” she said convincingly. “Speaking of Mr. Zabini, have you located him? Do you have any leads at all?”

“I fear we have not,” he admitted. “We are still convinced Zabini was the one to kill Lord Potter’s maid. We still believe it has to do with your kidnapping. I wish I had more news for you. Miss Clearwater has gone home, and she feigned innocence, as she claims to have no knowledge of his whereabouts. In truth, he may never be found. I am sorry. The entire Militia is on alert, but he could be anywhere by now. Marcus Flint is being quite tight lipped with any knowledge he might hold.”

Just then, the awful Earl of Chanceford, Adrian Pucey, walked up to them and said, “Did I hear you say the name Marcus Flint? He is a rogue, a ruffian, and a menace. I can scarcely believe he is pureblood, the way he gallivants around with common mudbloods and the like.”

Hermione glared at the man and said, “I admit the first time I met the man, I did not like him, but on further inspection, I have come to like him a great deal, whether he associates with mudbloods or not. Usually my first impression is a lasting one, but I like to give the benefit of the doubt, however, sometimes first impressions are the best.”

“Are you speaking of me?” Adrian asked. “I do not recall asking your opinion on the matter.”

“I am not speaking to thin air, so yes, I am speaking to you, and I do not remember asking your opinion either,” Hermione said angrily.

“Of course, being a mudblood yourself, you would think Flint is honourable,” Pucey laughed.

“And I suppose just because you are an earl, you think you are a cut above the rest?” she asked.

“Hear, hear,” Draco said from the side. He agreed with her.

Adrian said, “Potter really should tell his country cousin not to speak in such a manner to her betters.”

“Believe me, Sir,” Hermione seethed, “when I see my betters, I will remember that sage piece of wisdom. However, I only see a sorry excuse for a wizard in front of me.”

“Tsk, tsk, little mudblood,” Pucey said with a snarl.

They were away from all the rest of their party, but Draco was watching, and he saw Hermione frown. She went from a vision of loveliness to a vision of despair in two seconds. Draco nodded to Harry and then cocked his head in their direction. Harry stormed up to the trio and said, “Lord Pucey, I must beg you - do not insult my cousin any longer. I can tell you have caused her distress, and distress to her means distress to me. I will not take the insult lightly, do you understand?”

Everyone around them understood. Everyone. Pucey merely smiled and said, “Just because you defeated the Dark Lord, viscount, do not assume you have any power over me. You scare me not.”

“I do not mean to scare you, just to warn you. I could care less if you are afraid,” Harry threatened.

“Very well, as Nott said earlier, the air around here is putrid. I shall tarry no longer,” he said. He waved his hand and was off.

Theo leaned toward Hermione and said, “And now that he is gone, the air is again fresh and clean.” Hermione smiled. It warmed Draco’s heart that his friend was being so kind to her.

Lady Pansy came up to Harry and said, “That was very nice of you, to take up for your cousin. The earl really is a bore. Now, let us go enjoy ourselves at this little fair. Lord Potter, may I take your arm again?”

Harry smiled and offered his arm to her. Draco was shocked. He was also now without an escort, and his arms felt incredibly bare. The group walked along the tent-lined streets, stopping to examine every tent and exhibition.

When they came upon a fortuneteller, Hermione said, “I must have my fortune told.”

Harry laughed and said, “You need Muggle money, cousin. She does not read it for free.”

She held her hand out to Harry. He shook his head and said, “I will not waste my money on a Muggle fortune teller.”

She actually stomped her foot. She looked at Theo and he said, “I am sorry, Miss, but your cousin and I are of the same mindset. There are several reputable seers back in Godric’s Hollow. I would be more than happy to take you to one of them.”

“But this will be fun. It is because she is a Muggle that it will be entertaining,” she deduced. “It is not as if I would believe anything she had to say.”

“Do you not have your own pocket money?” Harry asked.

“No, not with me,” she said sadly.

“I am sorry, then,” Harry laughed. The others all walked on; however, Theo and Draco remained. She looked at Draco.

He glared right back at her.

She held out her hand.

He shook his head no.

She stomped her foot again.

He had to laugh. He thought she was very amusing.

Theo grinned. Hermione looked at him for help and he said, “It is between you and Lord Malfoy. I will leave you two to your silent debate.”

“Please,” she said with a smile to Draco.

“It will be a waste, and besides, it would not do well for our cause if I give you money,” he lectured. He leaned toward her and said, “We would not want anyone to think you are a kept woman.” He laughed again.

Ginny walked up to the trio and said, “It will be my treat, Miss Granger.” She held out a small coin, took Hermione’s hand, and led her to the opening of the tent.

The fortuneteller walked to the door of her tent and said, “I shall give the young woman a reading for free, if she would like.”

“Thank you, I would,” Hermione answered.

She walked in the tent with the old hag. Ginny followed closely behind. Draco looked toward Theo and said, “After you old man.” They too walked into the tent.

The air was thick with smoke. The mixture of smells were nauseating. The little old woman sat at a round table and told them all to sit down. Draco wished they were with the others, who were off enjoying other amenities. Draco placed some Muggle coins on the table and said, “The young woman is not indigent. She needs not your charity, nor does she seek your counsel. Come, Miss Granger.” He held out his hand. He wanted to leave.

“But I see something in her future, and I feel compelled to tell her,” the woman said. She pointed to a chair and Hermione sat down opposite the woman. Draco stood wearily by the door of the tent, his hand on his wand in his pocket. Theo stood on the other side, and Ginny joined them at the table.

The old woman looked in a crystal ball and said, “There is so much deception in this room. One person lies to protect another. One person lies to secure their future. One person lies for personal gain. And the last person lies without knowing they are lying, although their secret is the foundation of all the others.”

Draco had heard enough. “Come, Hermione,” he said more intently than before.

“I agree,” Theo said.

Ginny said, “Which lie is mine?”

The woman said, “You know which is yours. The outcome you seek will not happen unless you lay truth at the door of your beloved. Seek his forgiveness and be content with what comes.” Ginny stood up and ran out of the tent.

“I shall go with her,” Theo said taking his leave.

The old woman turned to Hermione and said, “I see recent sadness in you and I also see danger ahead.”

“Come, Miss Granger,” Draco said once more, with finality. “We should not linger here. Your cousin awaits us.”

Hermione started to stand, but the old woman grabbed her hand. She said, “You are not safe in Godric’s Hollow. There are those whom you call friend who seek to do you harm. You must leave there and never return. There are those who will kill when they find out your secret, and there are those who would die for you, as well. What you believe to be the truth may be a lie. Trust no one and nothing that you hear. Unless you want their deaths on your head, you need to leave.”

Hermione had begun to breath heavy. She looked over at Draco. “Help me, Sir.”

Draco pulled out his wand and said, “Do you know what this is? Let go of the girl.”

“Yes, I know a wand, Sir, and that does not mean I do not speak the truth. The danger is within your own circle. Your selfishness may cost this girl her life.”

Suddenly, the tent filled with a red smoke. Draco began to cough and sputter. He could not see anything in the little tent. He said a spell to disperse the smoke, and when the smoke lifted, Hermione was on the floor, on her side, breathing heavily.

Draco pointed his wand at thin air. The old woman had vanished. He put his hand on Hermione’s arm and said, “I have to get you out of here. Can you stand up?”

“I feel so dizzy,” she said. She tried to stand, but could not. Draco looked out at the tent, and yelled for Theo. Theo came running.

“Tell Lord Potter his cousin took ill. I am taking her to my carriage and I will take her back to Malfoy Manor.”

“Do you need any help?”

“No, it is just a headache,” Malfoy lied. Theo nodded and left to tell Lord Potter Malfoy’s story. Draco walked back into the tent and helped Hermione to stand. They walked toward the end of the lane where they left their carriages.

“That woman was a witch, I would stake my life on it,” he said.

“Then perhaps she spoke the truth,” Hermione said. She came to a stop. Draco saw her frown.

“Miss, listen to me,” Draco began, “Did she say one thing that we did not already assume ourselves? You do seem a magnet for danger. You do seem to be in harms way. There are lies that surround you. You do not need the guise of a fortune teller to know such things.” He took her arm. “The crowd is rather large here and I would feel safer if we left now.”

Hermione could not just dismiss what the old woman said out of hand. She did not want anyone to die on her account. Her happy day had turned all wrong.

Draco noticed her changed demeanor and mistook her apprehension as tiredness. He asked her if she wanted to go home, or would she be up for a ride. She admitted that she was tired, but she would enjoy time alone with him. “I would happily go for a ride,” she said.

He placed her hand on his arm and they started down the street when they saw Lord Pucey.

“Not enjoying the fair, Malfoy?” Pucey laughed.

“Not at all,” he frowned.

“Enjoying other things, I see,” he said with a sneer. Hermione was much too anxious for a verbal duel with the man.

“Of course, old man,” Draco said. “I beg my leave, the young woman is ill.” He pulled her away from the awful man and took her to his curricle so they could leave. He turned to Hermione and placed his hands around her waist. He lifted her into the carriage. Once again, his heart raced just by touching her so intimately. He only hoped his body lied, since she told him last night that it might betray him, seeing that Lord Pucey’s gaze had not left them since he told them goodbye.

On the lane out of the village, the feel of her skirt covered thigh next to his caused him comfort, rather than discomfort. Each bump in the road caused them to draw closer. He wanted to marry this witch. He did not know when like turned to desire, desire to love, and love to marriage, but that was the thought that was the strongest. He wanted to marry her and make her his forever.

He wanted to make love to her as well. There was no mistaking that, and nothing could change it, but he wanted to marry her more. He wanted to touch her in intimate places. Kiss her in places no one else would ever know. He had never felt this way for a woman before. Women usually threw themselves at him. He never had to encourage their affections. He knew she felt the same and it caused him pain that they could not act on it. He was becoming more and more frustrated the longer they sat side-by-side, thighs and arms touching. He wanted to seduce her, take her in his arms and never let her go. It was plain and simple. He wanted her.

“I believe our little charade did not fool anyone,” she finally said. “I am sure Mr. Nott believes we are still more than friends.”

“Friends?” he asked. “Well, Mr. Nott is not really a danger, is he? Young Miss Weasley looked upset by the attention your cousin showed Lady Pansy.”

“I noticed that. That almost seemed cruel of Harry,” Hermione regaled. “However, he did tell that terrible man, Lord Pucey, that she was spoken for, which I found odd.”

“I found that odd as well, after the lies the woman told about us,” Draco agreed. “Although I admit, I felt for her as well when she was left out of the group. I am not sure from where this sudden sense of charity came, but I do not like it a bit.”

Hermione laughed and said, “Do not offer charity when it would never be offered to you.”

He turned to her, smiled, and said, “Is that your only advice? That is the backwards versions of do unto others, you know.”

“Perhaps,” she said. “That Pucey man was horrible.”

“Yes, he is, and let us not spend one more moment speaking of him,” Draco said.

They were almost to Godric’s Hollow when Lord Malfoy slowed down the bays and stopped the carriage. He jumped down from the carriage and threw the reins over a post and he started to walk around to her side.

She said, “Will you help me down?”

He walked to the open carriage, to her side, and placed his hands up to her waist. Without taking a step backwards, he moved her body so that it slid down his. When her feet touched the ground, they were so close that they were touching. She had to crane her neck to look up at him. He kept his arms around her.

“I can not hide my feelings any longer, Miss,” he said. He placed a small kiss on her forehead.

“Then let us not hide. If someone ask my opinion, I will say, Lord Malfoy is my friend,” she mused.

His mouth lifted in one corner and he laughed. “That is your opinion of me? Truthfully? So if someone asked your opinion of me that is what you would say?”

She placed her hands on his chest and stated, “I would say that you are one of the most arrogant men I have ever met and I am very fond of you.”

He stepped away from her, mainly because he wanted to kiss her again, but he stepped away, laughed, and mocked, “Fond! You are FOND of me?”

“I called you arrogant, and you take offense at the word, fond?” she asked. “You are a confusing creature, Sir.”

He walked over to a tree and placed both hands on a low-lying branch. He shrugged and said, ‘I cannot take offense at something that is true. I am arrogant. However, you lie, and badly still, when you say you are only fond of me. Did you learn nothing from our deceit lesson last night? Saying that you are fond of me makes me sound like I am your favourite hat.”

Hermione walked over to him and he reached for her hat, which held his attention all morning, and lifted it off her head. He placed it gently on the ground. He took one of her hands and pulled on it slightly, pulling her ever closer, and he said, “You are fond of things, Miss, not people.”

“Then I admire you,” she amended.

He smiled again and he let go of her hand and stood on the other side of the tree. He looked around the tree and said, “You admire the countryside, a piece of art, good literature. Try for another word.”

“What word would meet your approval?” she asked. She walked around the tree, her hand lightly touching the bark as she walked around the circle of the oak. She never removed her hand. He walked along too, so he was a constant distance from her. “Would you rather I say that I like you, I respect you, or that I hold you in high regard?”

He suddenly took her hand and pulled her around the tree. He started running with her, her hand in his hand, across the open meadow. He stopped in the middle of a field of heather, placed his arms around her waist, swung her around twice and collapsed on the ground, with her on top of him. It was inappropriate, unthinkable, and borderline wrong, but he did not care. He was caught up in the moment. It was just as it was earlier, when he only noticed her hat and nothing else. At his moment in time, he only noticed her, and the rest of the world ceased to exist.

He said, “Love is a nice word. Can you not say that you love me?” He let go of her and she sat beside him, he continued to lie on his back and stare up at the blue sky.

Her face flushed scarlet and her hair had fallen down freely on her shoulders. He reached up for it. It felt like gossamer silk. She turned her head to look over her shoulder at him. He was now on his side, his fingers still twirling around her hair. She said in jest, “Love? I know it not.”

He put his hand to his heart and said, “Never have words wounded me more. You slay me, my dear. Do not insult my intelligence or your own. You know love when it stares you in the face. You know I speak the truth.” He sat up beside her.

“You try the word on me first, and if I like it, I might reciprocate,” she said bashfully. She straightened out her legs, and pulled on the heather around them.

He stood up and offered her his hand. She looked up at him, and helping her to stand, he said, “I am not a lovesick fool who spouts love sonnets, verses or prose. I shall never say those words.” He smiled sheepishly, to show his disdain was a ruse. She smiled back at him sincerely, and walked back over to the tree. He followed closely behind.

“Then perhaps it is time for another lesson,” she said shyly. She walked around him, her fingertips touching his chest lightly, just as she had just done earlier with the tree. She walked around to his side, her hand following the path from his chest to his shoulder, to the middle of his back, back to his chest. He was under her spell.

“What am I to teach you this time?” he asked.

“No, no, no, you misunderstand,” she said. “I am the teacher this time and you are the pupil. I shall teach you about love, for your education in the finer things, such as love, is sorely lacking.”

“You know, Miss, love is more than mere words. It is about the touch, the feel, and the emotion. Do you mean to teach me all of these things?”

“Not only that, but I will teach you that you are indeed in love, Sir,” she promised. She stood in front of him, and she reached out to stroke his face with one hand. Draco once again took no notice of his surroundings. This time the only thing he saw was her, and she was about to teach him about love. He could hardly wait for his first lesson to begin.


Chapter 29 - Naiveté and Humility by AnneM


Chapter 29 – Naiveté and Humility:

Hermione removed her hand from Draco's face and said, “A lesson in love shall be our goal this day.” She walked around him and the look on his face  combined his usual smirk with another look that denoted his amusement.

She removed her lace gloves, for they served no purpose, and threw them on the ground with her previously admired hat. She took the rest of her hairpins out of her hair, and her soft brown tresses fell in waves upon her shoulders.

He was mesmerized. He was also confounded. What did her lovely, long, bare arms and her mass of curls hanging down her back have to do with a lesson on love? If this were a lesson on desire, he would understand. Hats and hairpins meant nothing when she herself embodied love at its purest form. He removed his hat (which had fallen off earlier when he toppled to the ground, and he had since replaced), and his white leather gloves, then placed them gently on the ground next to her things.

He stood back up and cocked one eyebrow and actually said, “We match in our states of undress, now continue with the lesson.”

She grinned and said, “I felt encumbered, that was all, Sir.” She bent down and picked up a long blade of grass, stood two strides from him, and with an animated look upon her lovely face she said, “Love is the most important lesson to learn in the world. Without love, a child cannot flourish, for unlike a blade of grass, a child needs more than sunshine and rain, or mere nourishment to grow. He needs love.”

“But, Miss,” he interrupted, “the nourishment of love alone cannot sustain a man. He needs other things. He needs clothes on his back, food in his belly, and money in his pocket.”

“No one really needs money. They want money,” she chastised, pointing her finger at him.

“I beg to differ; a man needs money to buy food for his belly and the roof over his head. He cannot live without these things. He can live without love,” he confided. “Money can even buy love, in some forms, for that matter.”

“It can only purchase a shadow of love, not love itself,” she countered.

“You are wrong.” He smiled. She was right and he knew it.

“You are more wrong than I,” she leveled with a grin. She knew he knew it.

“A man can live a life without love, but he cannot live without other things,” he said to provoke her.

“But what sort of life is that?” she asked.

“A sad, unfulfilled life, but a life nonetheless,” he said, suddenly serious. He would give up those things for love. He did not think he would, but he now knew that to be true. He glared at her and begged her to continue by his stare.

“Is love so unimportant that a man would pick riches over its pleasure?” she asked.

He felt she was accusing him somehow. “Is this meant to be a debate or a lesson?” He strode toward her and she stepped backwards to maintain her distance. Soon, he had her back pressed against the same magnificent oak tree as before.

“Fine, I will not argue the point that a man needs other things as well as love, but love is the most important. Love is the reason for the person’s life in the first place. An act of love leads to an act of marriage, which leads to an act of passion, which leads to a life being born,” she explained.

He was so close that she felt his breath on her face when he stated, “You are either naïve or ignorant to the facts of life. A person needs neither love nor marriage to produce a child. The only need the passion.”

“I am neither naïve nor ignorant and I assure you, I am aware of the fact that passion can lead to a child, with or without love,” she said steadily. She was referring to herself, since she was apparently produced out of wedlock.

“Shall we have a lesson on passion next? I am an expert on the subject,” he said with a smile. He reached for a long tendril of her hair and pulled his hand down its entire length. When he let it go, it landed on her breast. He stared at it intently.

She pushed on his chest with her hands and moved away from him. She turned back around and said, “Love is more than an emotion. It is more than passion and desire. It is an all consuming entity in its own right.”

She circled around him, so that he was forced to turn to continue to stare at her. She stepped forward, her hand still on his chest, and pushed him so that his back was pressed against the tree, as hers was before, which surprised him. He could not help but smile down at her. He reached over and smoothed the same piece of hair that had been consuming him since he first touched it. He pulled on it again, his fingers skimming the bare skin of her chest as he lifted it. He wanted to touch more than her hair, but he kept his passion in check since this was a lesson on love and not desire.

He smoothed down the hair and said, “Continue.”

“Love is a thought,” she said, touching the side of his head, her fingers threading through his hair. She had often wondered how soft it was. “Love is a tangible feeling,” she continued, taking his hand in hers and holding it. “And as stated before, love is an emotion, displayed many ways.” She brought his hand to her mouth and kissed the side near his thumb. She released his hand and said. “You portray your love through your eyes, your smile and your breathing.”

Both hands went to his brown waistcoat and she fingered the upright lapel. She placed her forehead against his chest, and as his chest continued to rise and fall with each breath he took, so her head moved gently as well with each breath he took.

“Look up at me, please,” he urged. His hands went around her waist and she peered up at him.

“Your eyes are the eyes of a woman who loves me. They betray you so clearly. I know it is true. I know my eyes tell the same story. I do love you. I hope you understand how much. I have never loved a woman before. You are the first.” He kissed the side of her head and felt contentment just to hold her in his arms.

He finally asked, “Has your cousin found the time yet to tell you why Mr. Lupin Obliviated you?” She pulled away from him and walked across the field of heather, beyond a field of gold. He ruined the moment. It was not his intention, but it happened all the same.

He watched her walk away. He looked back to the horses; he made sure they were well secured with his wand, and then followed her.

She found a weathered old fence and leaned against it. It was in the way of her walk and she felt tired anyway. He did not need the rest, so he did not lean beside her, but stood in front. “You should tell me what you know,” she finally said.

“I will tell you some,” he said. “My godfather apparently told Mr. Lupin a lie. He said he revealed something to you, which he did not. He found out from Mr. Flint that Zabini was holding you, so Lupin went to the little house where you were bound on the floor. Lupin said it was apparent Zabini used the Cruciatus curse on you. He was also afraid that Snape had revealed secrets to you, therefore he Obliviated your memory to take away the memory of the curse, and the story he thought Snape had revealed to you.”

She looked confused. She said, “That’s not entirely true. I remember being cursed with the Crucio again right before I was Obliviated. It was from the same hand. He did both,”

“You must be wrong,” Draco insisted.

“I am not, and please stop assuming that,” she said in anger. “I remember someone walked back in the room. The person knelt down beside me and pulled me into a sitting position, and then they cast the same spell that was cast upon me earlier, and I felt incredible pain. I recall that I screamed. When the pain subsided, he pulled off my blindfold and I saw Mr. Lupin, who said these words exactly, ‘Lord Potter has just discovered you are missing, and by now, so has Lord Malfoy. We do not have much time. Think of him one last time, before he ceases to exist for you,’ and he stood me up and pointed his wand at me and Obliviated my memory.”

The recollection of her memory seemed so detailed, so complete, that he could hardly refute it, but why would Remus Lupin Crucio her before wiping her memory? Draco took her by both shoulders and shook her. He implored, “Think hard. You were still blindfolded when the curse hit you again. Was it Lupin?”

“I do not recall another in the room,” she said reflectively.

“How was his demeanor? Did he speak with malice, or in that even temperament of his?” Draco asked.

She closed her eyes, to help her remember. She opened them again quickly as a new memory flashed to her mind. She said, “I recall thinking that the way the person walked across the floor boards, with such a heavy walk, that it was a man.” She shut her eyes again and then opened them suddenly! “I recall something else!” She looked shocked at her silent discovery. She placed her hands in front of her body, the way she did at the church the day she was kidnapped, when she first recalled who she was and why she was there. She stepped away from him and he held out his hand to her.

“Are you afraid of me?” he suddenly asked, reaching for her.

“No,” she said.

“Then why are you so guarded? Why back away?” he asked. She was stepping back carefully so as not to trip and fall. He kept his right hand out to her, to beckon her to stay. “What else do you recall?”

“When Lupin walked in the room, I now remember there was another already in the room with me. He was lowering his wand when Lupin removed my blindfold. He stood beside Lupin. It wasn't Lupin who used the Crucio curse on me, because the other man had just cursed me mere seconds before Lupin Obliviated me.”

“If you remember that, then just tell me who it was!” Draco said desperately.

“It was Blaise Zabini,” she revealed. “But now, I recall that there was someone else in the room as well. He was there before Lupin entered. He was there with Zabini, which is why I only recalled hearing one set of footsteps when I was blindfolded, because this man was actually there before Lupin."

"Just as Zabini lifted the Crucio curse from me, this other man cursed him. I did not see it occur, I only heard it, but when Lupin lifted my blindfold, I saw the other man before Lupin removed my memories. It was Mr. Flint. I recall Mr. Zabini falling in a heap beside me as I sat on the floor right before I was Obliviated. He fell silent from the effects of the curse.” She did not seem upset at her memory; instead, she seemed to be concentrating, trying to remember more.

He took her arms in his hands, rather roughly, and said, “Are you sure? You must be sure!”

“I am sure!” she yelled back. She broke from his grasp and said, “I recall something else. After I was Obliviated, I started to collapse, but Mr. Lupin caught me and laid me gently upon the floor. I remember that he stroked my hair and he said that all would be well. He turned to Marcus Flint and said, ‘Why did you kill Blaise Zabini? Now we may never know why he took her,’ and Marcus said, ‘I killed him and that is enough explanation. You do not need to know everything, Wolf.’ Then, Mr. Lupin said one more word, ‘Why?’ and Flint said, ‘You know why, old man. Take her out of here before I change my mind’, and Mr. Lupin bent down, picked me up, and Disapparated with me.”

“I recall him placing me on my feet on the road that led to the village. He kissed my forehead and said that he was sorry. He said he did a terrible job of protecting me. He told me to walk straight toward the village and if I found someone, I was to tell them to take me to Lord Harry Potter.” She did not seem upset by her rash of new memories, but relieved.

“Does that mean Zabini is dead?” he asked.

“Yes, and if he died, then we may never know why he kidnapped me,” she answered. “It cannot be merely the fact that he found out from Snape that I am James Potter’s daughter,” she concluded. “It cannot be only because he feared we would marry.”

Draco took a step back, aghast. His mouth was in a firm line. He said, “Where did you get that idea? Why would you say that about James Potter?”

She was disappointed in herself! She did not mean to reveal the fact that she knew the secret yet. All the memories were just rushing toward her, and those words just came out. “I overheard Mr. Lupin say that to you and Harry in the upstairs lounge last night.”

He did not know what to do or say. She heard the wrong thing! She believed the wrong secret! Should he let her continue to think that? He said, “Miss, what you heard was the lie that Lupin told everyone at the time! You are not James Potter’s daughter.”

“But it makes sense,” she insisted.

“No, it does not. He revealed the truth to Harry and me that night, but the lie that you are James Potter’s daughter was merely a lie perpetuated by Lupin to manipulate my godfather and Harry’s godfather. I am so sorry, but Potter was not your father.”

She looked as if she was about to cry. He moved his hand toward her, and she backed away again. “Then what is the truth?”

“The truth is too complicated to repeat and you are not safe at the moment, so I shall not tell you the truth. I do not even know the whole truth. I think we need to get back to the Manor. I need to tell Theo and Harry of your memory of Marcus. I don’t know why Lupin never told anyone.”

He motioned for her to come to him with his hand, yet she lingered. He said, “We shall Apparate back to the Manor, and I will have a groom come and collect my carriage and the bays. Please, take my hand.” He smiled at her, to gain her trust. “Besides, we did not finish our lesson. I also have a lesson I would like to teach you later, and a present for you. Please, let us go home.” He needed to distract her from her troubles.

“I no longer have a home,” she said meekly.

“Home is a subjective word,” he replied.

He stepped closer, her hand in front of her be damned, for it served no real purpose. It could not stop him from approaching her if he did not want it to stop him. “Home is here,” and he pointed to her head, “And here,” he pointed to his own. “If you would finish your lesson on love to me, perhaps I would also be able to say that it is here,” he pointed to his heart, “and here.” He ended by pointing to her heart.

He stepped closer, and this time she did not back away. He placed the tip of his finger above the neckline of her dress, touching her chest lightly. She felt heaviness in her chest, even though his touch was feather soft and did not linger.

She placed her hand on his face just as she had at the start of their lesson. The feel of his face under her hand made her want to cry, not from sadness, but from pure, unbridled bliss. She wanted to show him how very much she loved and trusted him. Hermione removed her hand from his face and stared into his slate grey eyes. She took a breath to steady herself and she said, “How do I begin to tell you the things my heart feels? My heart is at this very moment overflowing with emotions for you.”



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Back at the fair, the other members of their party were all leaving. Ginny Weasley told her brother Ron that she would see herself home. He felt badly for her. He wanted her and Lord Potter to commit to each other, but he knew that her selfishness might have permanently cost them their love, and it was a price she would have to pay. She had confided everything to him, and while he thought it was admirable that she was looking after her family, her brother George’s problems were not hers to solve. Furthermore, if Miss Granger did turn out to the Harry’s sister, it would soon become known anyway. Ginny should not have interfered, no matter what. The only thing she did not tell Ron was who her blackmailer was.

She started down the lane, to find a secure spot to Disapparate, when a man approached. He jumped from the shadows. “Miss Weasley.”

“Lord Potter, I thought you were someone else,” she said. She thought it was her blackmailer. She had worked all day to avoid him.

“Who did you expect?” he asked.

In truth, it was not that she expected anyone. She feared someone. She looked down and said, “You and Lady Pansy seemed very happy together today. Has she replaced me in your heart?”

“I will not be made to feel guilty for not forgiving you,” he said with a frown.

“I do not want you to feel guilty,” she said. “I did a wrong deed and I will face the outcome of my indiscretions.”

“Why did you seek to hurt Hermione? What did she ever do to you?” he asked.

She started to cry. She told him everything. Just as the old hag told her, she cleansed her soul and laid it bare at his feet. She told him that George had many gambling debts, and that he skimmed some profits from his business that did not belong to him to repay the debts. She told Harry that to save George from prosecution, a man asked her to do him a service. She said that man was Blaise Zabini.

He was the one to whom her brother owed the debt. Zabini told her that Snape told Miss Clearwater that Hermione Granger was the daughter of James Potter and Andromeda Tonks. Mr. Snape was afraid Lord Malfoy would marry Miss Granger if he found out that she was now a pureblood. That is why Miss Clearwater and Mr. Zabini decided to kidnap Hermione.

She confessed that in the beginning, she was supposed to make sure to drive a wedge between Hermione and Harry, and Draco and Hermione, and try to convince Hermione to leave Godric’s Hollow. That was her intent the night of the Ball. That did not happen.

Next she was to make sure Hermione was left alone with Professor Snape, but only with the intention that he was going to convince her to leave Godric’s Hollow. She said she was the one who paid off the downstairs maid that day, so that Snape had time alone with Hermione. She said she did not know anyone would kidnap Hermione. She swore that to Harry.

She told Harry that Zabini was dead, killed by the same person who killed Harry’s maid. While Ginny was dismayed by their deaths, she thought the blackmail was over. She thought she was free. She had no more reason to try to sabotage Hermione, or so she thought. She started to cry and Harry begged her to continue.

“Another man took up Zabini’s cause. He was the one that killed Zabini and the girl. He said he was the one who held the proof of George’s recklessness, and that Zabini never did. He said that I had a new goal. He said I needed to make sure Hermione and Lord Malfoy fell in love. It was such a turn of events. Zabini wanted them apart; this new man wanted them together. However, I was afraid. I admit that I was more afraid of this new man than I was of Zabini, but still I thought I could act in my own self-interest. I tried to convince Hermione that she and Lord Malfoy meant nothing to each other. I thought she did not remember anyway, so I didn’t see the harm.”

“Why, Ginny? Why would you do that to her?” he asked.

“Because Blaise Zabini told me that she was your elder sister. He said that she was the daughter of James Potter. I wanted her to leave, because I thought she would take your inheritance from you, since Magical law dictates the eldest sibling, regardless of gender, inherit the home, title and land.”

“You should have come to me in the beginning, exposed Zabini and this other man, and I would have taken care of everything. You are wrong about one thing; however, Hermione’s father is not my father.”

“But Snape said….” she started.

“Snape was lied to all those years ago. Lupin told us who her father was. It was not my father, and her mother was not Andromeda Tonks. Now, tell me who is blackmailing you. I will go to the head of the militia immediately and we will stop this,” Harry said.

Her tears continued. “I cannot. He will hurt my family. I cannot tell, and neither can you. Please, do not go to anyone, especially the Militia. Give me time to consider things.”

He took her in his arms and held her. “If you love me, you will trust me. You will tell me the truth.”

She looked up in his green eyes and said, “You start. Tell me one truth first. Who is her father?”

“Sirius Black,” Harry said.

A man in the shadows, who had followed Miss Weasley, heard their exchange and wanted to scream. Well, this changed things, did it not? He Disapparated away, followed moments later by Lord Potter and Miss Weasley.



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Hermione closed her eyes and reached up for Draco’s face again with her delicate hand. She touched his lips and said, “My heart is opened and consumed with love for you. I can no longer deny what I feel.” She opened her eyes and the brightness of the noonday sun overwhelmed her senses, and she once again closed her eyes quickly and leaned her forehead to his chest. His hands came up to grasp her face. He stroked her hair from the top of her head to her shoulders, then placed his hand back to her face, forcing her to look at him once more. “I do not know how to continue our lesson. I feel too much right now,” she told him.

“You meant to teach me a lesson on love, and you had a wonderful start. Please, do not give up on me yet. I am very fast learner. Perhaps not as fast and competent as you were when you learned Apparition,” he said with a smile. He rubbed her cheeks with his thumbs. “But, I intend to have my lesson. You promised me a lesson.”

“I can no longer think, let alone teach,” she repeated in a voice that was barely above a whisper.

He brought his hands away from her face, to her slender neck, to her shoulders. His eyes landed on the sweet swell of breasts. Now he closed his eyes, to memorize this moment forever. With daring and bravado, which he did not even feel, he placed one hand on the exposed skin above the low-cut neckline of her dress. He could feel her heart beat. Her arms hung limply at her sides. He had to let her go, or betray them both, for her warm skin felt as if it was on fire under his touch. He stepped away from her quickly, and she fell, like a leaf, to the ground in a sitting position. It was both elegant and shocking. He was in awe and could not even move to help her to stand.

He took another step back and she continued to sit upon the ground, her left hand in front of her body, her right hand on her lap. He fell to his knees in front of her. “I demand you continue my lesson.”

Without further ado, she came to her knees, and threw both arms around his neck. The moved surprised them both, and he tumbled onto his back, bringing her on top of his body for the second time that day. She placed her head on his chest and began to cry.

He understood her tears. She was plagued beyond words with her love for him, but also at the recent turn of events. This was the best lesson he had ever received. She ventured a gaze into his eyes, and saw that he was as bewildered and besieged as she was. Overwhelmed with love for her, he rolled her to her back. He placed his forehead in the crook of her neck, and kissed her collarbone.

She brought both hands up to her face to cover it in shame. She began to take deep ragged breaths. He rolled onto his back beside her, inundated with the love he felt. If he continued to touch her, he would not be able to stop.

“This will not last, you know,” he said, sitting up so that he was facing away from her. He rubbed his hands through his hair in frustration. He meant so much with that statement. He felt her hand on his back. She sat up beside him, and leaned her lithesome, supple frame against his strong one. Her cheek came to rest below his shoulder. He clutched both his hands together in his lap. “It will work out.” He did not know if he was trying to convince her or himself. The words merely needed said.

“You are a fast learner,” she finally said, coming up to her knees.

He glanced over his shoulder at her and laughed. “And you are an odd woman, Miss.”

“So I have been told,” she said, “and so I know.” He stood up, without pretense, bent down, and lifted her to stand as well.

“What an interesting lesson,” he finished. “You said practically nothing, yet you brought me to my knees. I think you are indeed very fond of me, as you stated earlier. I no longer even feel as arrogant as before. You taught me love and humility, curse you.”

She laughed at his sarcasm. “You will have to teach me something now,” she said.

It took every ounce of her resolve to walk away from him. Little did she know that when her back was turned to him, he reached out for her. Good thing for her she was quick, for if he caught her, he would be forced to teach her a lesson in impropriety. He would have to kiss her long and hard and with passion. Passion would be their lesson, and desire their goal.

“I should teach you to produce a Patronus Charm,” he said suddenly. He felt ill at ease and was not sure why. Once again, just as last night, he felt as if someone was watching them. He needed to get her back to the protection of the Manor and now.

She turned to face him. “I read about that, I even tried it on my own, but I could produce nothing but a small wisp of white smoke.”

“You need me as a teacher, then,” he said with a cocky smile. “You also need the happiest of memories, which perhaps before you did not have. After today’s lesson, I would gather that you would have a few.”

She smiled. He was right. She could consider any number of moments from today as her happiest memories. She stepped to him and said, “Tomorrow we shall have another lesson. You will teach me the Patronus Charm and I will teach you something else as well. Agreed?”

He eyed her with a fake dubiousness, and held out his hand. “We will shake on the matter.”

She put her hand in his. He Disapparated them to the same hillside right outside the Manor.

She took her hand from his and said, “You should never Apparate a lady somewhere without her expressed permission, Sir.”

“I will remember that in the future.” He smiled. “Was that another lesson?”

“It was,” she said. “What of our things, my hat and gloves?” she asked.

“The groom can pick them up with the horses. Believe me, I like that little hat, and I would be as distressed as you if you lost it.” He would be twice as distressed if he lost her. “The day is still upon us, let us have some lunch, and we will start our lesson immediately after.” He held out his hand to her and without hesitation, she set her hand in his.

They learned love this day, she learned he was not only arrogant, but he also had humility, so she did not care who saw them holding hands. He learned she was not as naïve and ignorant to the ways of love as he thought, and frankly, he was tired of hiding his feelings for her. Let the world see and rejoice in their love, and if the world held them in disdain, then the world could go to hell.


 

Chapter 30 - Happy Thoughts Indeed by AnneM

Chapter 30 – Happy Thoughts Indeed:

Harry Potter had a heavy heart. He wanted to forgive Ginny Weasley because he still loved her, yet he could not forget that she did lie to him. Her lies caused an enormous amount of problems. In addition, she still withheld things from him. She did not fully trust him to tell him the truth, and that hurt him the most. He felt that a tiny string, which was woven by Lupin, and unraveled by Ginny, held aloft the whole mess. All the people he loved lied to him, and for all of his life.

Hermione had never lied to him, which was what he must concentrate on, for she was the one that needed him the most.

Instead, he was the one that was lying to her. He was not sure he could abide that thought. What harm would there be in telling her the truth as he knew it. He had to find out who her mother was before he told her the truth of who her father was. When he went to London, the day she was kidnapped, his search turned up only dead ends. That was before he knew she was Sirius Black’s daughter. That probably meant she was born in Godric’s Hollow. Someone from the village must have known Hermione’s mother was pregnant. He decided to do some more sleuthing. He had some lunch and then went to the village.

Hermione was in the solarium at the end of Malfoy Manor waiting for Lord Malfoy. They had just finished lunch, where Daphne had informed her and Draco that she and Charlie Weasley were having an engagement dinner tonight, hosted by Lord Potter at Potter’s Hall. She also said, “Your cousin has agreed to host a wedding for Charlie and me in his garden this coming weekend.”

Hermione was surprised. Not at Harry’s generosity, but at the speed to which the two were marrying. They had only known each for a couple of weeks. She was not only surprised, but also slightly jealous. She would marry Lord Malfoy if he asked and she only knew him a bit longer. She smiled and said, “That is so wonderful. I am happy for you.”

The tall, pretty girl flitted out of the room quickly to get ready for the evening’s event. That was when Hermione decided to go to the solarium, a book in her hand, to wait for her lesson with Lord Malfoy. She had just picked up her book, when suddenly, a smoke-like induced snake traveled around her body, causing her to drop her book and stand up in fright. The snake rounded and rounded her body, from her toes to the tip of her head, and then it slid away in mid air. She heard laughter. Turning to the doorway she found Lord Malfoy.

“My patronus must like you,” Draco said, “for he seemed very familiar with you. If I was a smaller minded man, I would be slightly jealous.”

“That was your patronus?” she asked. She walked over to him with her mouth slightly open, the awe still etched on her face.

“Yes, it was,” he asked.

“What form will mine take?” she asked.

“That will be unknown until you cast it,” he said. “Are you ready for your lesson?” he asked.

He told her about the basics: how a patronus was cast, why a person might cast it, and the incantation that went along with it. He told her to take her wand and, “Think of the happiest thought you have.”

He stood beside her as she raised her wand. She thought long and hard. Before she came to Godric’s Hollow, she would have said she lived a happy life. Sadness was first introduced to her when her father died. All of a sudden, she became even sadder with the thought that he was not her real father. Then, the woman she knew as her mother died and she was forced to move here. Life as she knew it ceased, and a new, different, not altogether happy life began.

She lowered her wand.

He turned to her slightly and said, “No happy thoughts? I could suggest one to you.”

She shook her head no and raised her arm again. She would not concentrate on anything from her childhood, for although it was filled with happy memories, it was also tinged with a newfound sorrow. For that reason, she would think of happy thoughts that centered on the man beside her.

The feel of his arm as it touched hers... that was a happy thought. The smell of his masculine scent or the way his lips touched her lips so softly... both were happy thoughts indeed. The way he would frequently place his arm around her and protected her without pretense. Those were the happiest times. She closed her eyes.

“Why do you always close your eyes when you are about to do magic?” he asked, slightly amused by the beautiful woman beside him, and her strange but subtle ways.

“Sh, quiet, I’m concentrating,” she said, eyes closed.

The way her lips formed a kissable ‘o’ when she hushed him, filled him with so much happiness that he could produce a hundred patronuses right now. “Any time will do, Miss.”

“Sh,” she hushed again.

Perhaps if he said something else, she could hush him a third time and he could lean down and kiss her. Then, she would have her happy thought. He was about to act on that when she opened her eyes and pointed her wand and said, “Expecto Patronum!”

A tiny wisp of white smoke left her wand. She lowered her wand, disappointment reigning over her.

“May I ask what you where thinking?” he asked.

“No,” she replied. How could she tell him that she was remembering the day in the gazebo? The day of their last lesson, when he taught Apparition, and they had shared such an intimate moment after the rain had started. Perhaps she should think of the first time he kissed her under the tree.

She closed her eyes and pointed her wand again. She thought of the gentle pressure of his lips next to hers, and the feeling she got in the pit of her stomach and how her entire being felt as if it were on pins and needles. She raised her hand and said the incantation again, but with the same results.

She threw down her wand and said, “Gads! It is hopeless!”

He chuckled and bent down for her wand. “Do not give up so easily. This is very advanced magic. There are plenty of wizards, fully qualified, who cannot produce a Patronus Charm,” he assured her. He handed her wand to her and said, “Take your wand and try again.”

She reached for her wand, pointed it outward again, and shut her eyes. This time, she felt his strong body behind her back. His right hand traveled slowly down her outstretched right arm. The feel of his bare fingers on her bare arm sent shivers down her spine. He placed his other hand firmly around her waist. She could barely breathe, let alone think of happy thoughts! His face came up behind hers, his mouth to her ear. His breath tickled her cheek when he said, “Now, think of a happy thought.”

This was a happy thought. This was pleasure and happiness and love all bound together, and held in place with his arms. With his right arm still parallel with her arm, his hand grasping her wrist, she flicked her wand and said, “Expecto Patronum!”

She opened her eyes in time to see a smoky silver otter swim from her wand, gliding and sliding around their heads. She moved from his grasp and turned to watch it as it finally disappeared. She looked at his face. He was staring right at her, smiling.

She smiled in return and said, “I did it.” She said it softly, and almost to herself, but loud enough for him to hear. She said it again. “I did it!” She ran to him, and with the same euphoria she felt when she Apparated for the first time, she threw her arms around his neck and jumped up, so that he had his arms around her and her feet were temporarily off the floor.

He placed her feet back on the ground, and with his arms still around her waist, and her arms still around his neck, he leaned down and gave her a chaste, but meaningful kiss on the lips.

She stepped back, placed the tips of her fingers on her lips and asked, “Why did you do that, Sir?”

“To give you a happy memory for the next time you need to produce a Patronus Charm,” he said with a smirk.

She smiled but said, “I wasn’t thinking of you. You have an ego the size of all of Great Britain.” She knew he would know she lied.

“You were thinking of me,” he said knowingly. “You still have much to learn about lying, and I know I was thinking of you earlier when I produced mine.”

She sat down on a wooden bench that was around an inside planter and inquired, “What memory did you use?”

“That day on the picnic and we picked berries,” he said. He sat next to her. “What moment did you use?”

“Our first real kiss, under the tree,” she said sheepishly. She looked at the ground. He took her hand in his hand and brought it to his mouth. He turned it so the palm of her hand was facing him.

“That was a rather nice memory,” he said, his thumb rubbing the middle of her palm seductively. “I will have to use that one next time.” He continued to rub her hand. He brought her hand to his mouth again, cradling it in both of his. He kissed her palm with a partially open mouth. He then kissed each fingertip, starting with her thumb, with soft, sweet, quick kisses. She closed her eyes again to relish the feeling.

After kissing her last finger, he kissed her palm again, then her wrist, then up her arm. He kissed the inside of her elbow last. She opened her eyes, as his face was lifting from its arduous journey up her arm. Her eyes stared right into his. He slowly placed her arm back at her side and he stood up so he was directly in front of her. He put his hand under her chin and she craned her neck up to stare at him. He had a mask on his features, because she could not interpret his thoughts. He quickly let her go, or he would undeniably give her very happy thoughts. He would take her and kiss her so soundly that the earth would tip off its axis.

He felt intoxicated by the sight of her… her smooth skin, her silky hair, and her eyes, which burned a hole into his.

She demanded something with her eyes, but for the life of him, he did not know what that was. He stepped backwards; one step, two steps, and three steps. She followed, and it was as if they were choreographing a dance. He cupped her face, when she finally backed him against the wall.

He said, “You are so lovely.” She took the last step needed so she was pressed against his body. She rolled her head on his chest, and let it rest upon his shoulder. He put his arms around her protectively.

“You do make me happy,” she said. “When I first met you, I did not even like you.”

He smiled at her admission. He stroked her back with his hand, reassuring her, and said, “Most people do not like me until closer inspection, and after that, they usually hate me.”

This time she smiled. Looking up at him, she said, “Well, upon closer inspection by me, dislike has turned to love, and I am a smart person, so I think my judgment matters the most.”

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

She pushed against his chest and looked at him with a combined look of shock and bewilderment. What did he ask that? Why would he ask that? “What?” she asked.

“Will you do me the honour of being my bride?” he asked again, passion lacing each syllable with the desire he felt for her.

“You know we cannot! You would lose your fortune and name! I could never do that to you,” she said sadly.

He smiled. “You can and you will,” he said seductively. “Remember, I told you I knew who your father was? What if I told you the answer to that question, is also the answer to our prayers?”

She was quiet for a moment and then asked, “Who is my father?”

“Sirius Black. Lord Potter’s godfather was your father,” he said.

She looked on the verge of tears. What did that mean? “I do not know what to say or how to act. Are you certain?”

“Yes, as much as I can be,” he answered truthfully.

“But how does that help us?” she asked.

He took her hand and led her to the same bench as before. “My solicitor informed me that my father’s will is valid, unfortunately. My estate will be entailed away to my nearest relative if I marry anyone of less than pure blood. However, I thought I had no living relatives,” he explained.

“And you found out that you do? Again, I must inquire, how does that help us?” she asked.

“You are that relative. Sirius Black was my mother’s first cousin. His mother and her mother were sisters. My father and my mother were second cousins. His father and her mother were first cousins. Sirius Black’s mother was first cousin to my grandfather as well. That would mean that you are my third cousin, and my father’s second cousin once removed.”

She was literally without words. She tried to contemplate what he said, but it all confused her so. “I am your kin?”

“It would appear so. My solicitor told me we would need a living witness to testify with an affidavit, he would have to testify under oath. Remus would have to be that witness, if he will,” Draco concluded.

When she stood and crossed the room, he gave her space. He knew she needed time to consider all things. When she turned back to him to look at him intently, he understood, and said not a word. When she ran out of the room, at full speed, he stood up to follow. She ran down the long corridor, her shoes clapping on the tile floors. He followed at a brisk walk. He knew she was just upset, although he rather thought she might want to kiss him again when she heard the news.

However, when she finally reached the entryway, flung open the massive front doors, and crossed the threshold, he finally decided he should take her actions seriously. He followed. She continued to run across the grounds of the massive estate. He followed. She ran to the long drive, which circled the front garden. Again, he followed. She was not fast enough to outrun him and he was not really trying to catch her - yet.

She ran to the wall that signified the beginning of the estate. Now he knew he needed to stop her, for the wards only went that far. He ran full speed, caught her arm, and pulled her into his chest.

Her hair was wild, her cheeks red, perspiration spotted her brow, and tear tracks marked her face. He held her to his chest, and while breathing hard, he finally managed to say, “What is wrong? Is this not good news?”

“Who is my mother?” she asked.

“I know not,” he said.

She pushed away from him. He grabbed her upper arms. She beat on his chest with her fist. He said, “Stop it! What difference does it make if James Potter is your father or Sirius Black?”

“Because, that means my mother is not my mother!” she said.

“Did you not already suspect that?” he asked back.

“NO! Yes! I don't know,” she said. She managed to pull her arms from him. With defeat and no purpose, she leaned her shoulder against the high stonewall, and with her face away from him, she said, “I imagined that somehow my mother might still be my mother, at least, I held that hope. I thought perhaps that she and James had an affair. My mother never met Sirius Black. She told me so when he died.” She turned slightly so she faced the wall, and both hands were flat on it, giving her purchase, in case she collapsed from exhaustion and confusion.

He walked up behind her and put first his right hand on her right hand, and then his left hand on her left hand. He drew them down the wall slowly. He wrapped her hands, still in his, around her middle, and pulled her back toward his chest so she was standing flush against him. He placed his cheek against hers, which was still wet with new tears cried.

He said, “Don’t fear. We will find out who your mother is, I promise. And the woman who raised you will always be your mother where it counts: in your heart.”

Her knees started to buckle and he quickly held her steady. He turned her around and she clutched his shirt. He placed one hand in her hair and one on her back. “This means Harry is not my kin,” she said.

“It means that I am, although distant. Is that not better?” he said with a grin. She looked up at him and could not help but smile. “Truthfully, I thought this would make you happy. We can marry now. You will inherit the estate, and when we marry, it will convert back to me,” he said.

“I will be a rich woman,” she said, moving from his grasp. She leaned against the wall. “I might like to entertain other suitors.”

He glared at her and said, “If you were not emotionally upset at the moment, I might not be so generous in my reaction to that statement, but since you are, I will recognize that as the joke it was, and not become angry or jealous.”

“Draco, why can we not tell everyone this news? What does it matter now?” she said. “Blaise Zabini is dead, so he is of no concern. Penelope Clearwater left town. We no longer have to hide or have secrets.”

“Mr. Lupin seems to think we do. He thinks there are other dangers to you. He thinks there might be rogue Death Eaters out there who will want to harm you, although I find that doubtful,” Draco said, thinking hard. He took her hand and started back to the Manor. “Even if that were true, I could protect you just as well if you were my wife as I protect you now. I think he knows more than he says.”

“He knows who my mother is,” Hermione said plainly.

“He says he will never tell. He says he made a solemn pledge never to tell. I told him if the party is dead, which I am sorry, my love, but I assume she is, then the oath no longer holds merit, but he remains strong in his convictions. He will not budge.”

“He will tell me!” Hermione shouted. “We need to go see him.”

“Later,” Draco said. He wanted to talk to Remus and Harry first, and explain to them why he went back on his word not to tell Hermione.

“Now,” she countered.

“Please, later,” he insisted. “We are invited to Potter’s Hall tonight for an impromptu engagement party for Miss Greengrass and Mr. Charlie Weasley. We will talk to him there.” He started walking toward the house, and she had no choice but to follow.

He escorted her to her room, and instructed her to have her maid draw her a bath. “I want you to look beautiful tonight. I have something I want you to wear. Will you do that for me?”

She nodded. He reached in his inside jacket pocket, and handed her a small box. She opened the box and inside was an emerald ring, which seemed very valuable and very old.

He said, “You see it is on a gold chain. Wear it around your neck, next to your locket, until we can announce our engagement, and then you shall wear it on your hand.”

She smiled and said, “How did you know I would accept this? In fact, I have not yet said yes to your question.” She handed the small box with the ring back to him.

He grinned and said, “You did not say no, and I always carry the ring with me.”

“Liar,” she said. “I told you that your eyes always betray you.” She approached him guardedly, placed one hand on his chest, near his heart, and leaned toward him to kiss his cheek. “And of course my answer is yes, but I cannot yet wear the ring, not until we tell the world our news.”

“That means we have our own engagement to celebrate tonight, though we must still keep it to ourselves for now.”

He placed the ring box back in his pocket, and then he kissed her cheek, just as she kissed his, and watched as she went in her room. Someday soon she would be completely his and at his mercy, and he could kiss her and openly show his love for her, all others be damned. She could run as far as she wanted and never get away. He would kiss her all day, all night, and every minute in between. He smiled once more. He smiled a lot these days. Producing a patronus used to be difficult for him, but now that he loved her, he would never have trouble producing one again.

He turned around, went down the hall, and when he felt he was safely out of her sight, he Disapparated outside of Potter’s Hall.

He rang the chime. When the butler answered, Draco pushed the man aside and yelled, “Lord Potter!” Harry ran down the stairs. Draco said, “I made an error in judgment! I told your cousin who her father was.”

Harry came to stand in front of Draco and said, “And I made a worse one, for I told Ginny Weasley, and now she is missing.”


Chapter 31 - A Night of Discoveries and Imagination by AnneM

Chapter 31 – A Night of Discoveries and Imagination:

Harry was hosting an engagement dinner for Charlie Weasley, whom he had always admired, and Miss Daphne Greengrass, who was a sweet natured girl. It was to be a small party attended by few. He was happy to oblige them and just because his engagement to Charlie's sister was over, did not mean that a celebration should not happen for an engagement that had just started. He had heard from Ron Weasley that his sister had returned home after several hours away. She would not tell anyone where she had gone, or whom she had seen. Harry could feign indifference and pretend he cared not just because his engagement was over, but he could not. Those feelings would be lies. He still loved her. He hated that he loved her, but he did.

Hermione arrived to the dinner on the arm of Lord Malfoy. She looked lovely in an ivory satin gown with gold trim. Harry smiled as she entered. He felt his world was turning upside down. He lost his intended and his cousin, all due to happenstance. Even if Hermione was no longer his kin, he still loved her as a friend, and he would take care of her always.

He could tell Lord Malfoy loved her also. The way he took her shawl off her shoulders, and the way he brought his hand up to touch a stray curl that had fallen from its place on her head, were unspoken gestures of his love for her. Harry could also tell he loved her by the way that he gently took her elbow to lead her to a seat. Harry felt a tinge of jealousy. He wanted that kind of love. He felt he would never have it again.

He walked up to the sofa and bowed to Hermione. She stood, curtseyed, and said, “Shall I still call you cousin?” Draco told her that he had explained to Harry that he revealed the secret of her father to her.

Harry kissed her hand and said, “I had hoped you might call me brother, but alas, that was not to be. You may call me friend, ally, confidant. You shall call me one of your closest acquaintances and ardent admirers.”

She smiled, placed her hand on his arm, and leaned forward and kissed his cheek. It was such a sweet gesture. He placed his hand on his cheek and said, “Thank you.”

“I love you, and if you would permit me, I would like to continue to call you cousin,” she decided.

“Cousin it is,” he said with a smile. She sat back down on the sofa.

Draco sat beside her and said, “Who else will be in attendance tonight?”

“It will be a small party with only Charlie and Ron Weasley, Miss Greengrass, Miss Lovegood, Mr. Lupin and us.” Harry looked uncomfortable.

“Miss Weasley is still missing?” Draco asked.

Hermione looked shocked. “Miss Weasley is missing?”

“No, not any longer, but she will not be attending. She will never attend another function in this house, I fear,” Harry said. “She confessed to me her part in your kidnapping, Hermione. While not directly responsible, she still was the reason many things happened. I cannot forgive her. I do not wish to. I regret that I felt the need to inform Theo Nott and the Militia of her part in the scheme. Her fate is now in their hands. She did shed some light on some things, which we will discuss after dinner.” He gave them a false smile and said, “I have some things to which I must attend. I shall return shortly.”

Draco took their time alone as a cue to kiss her, so he leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek. She smiled, bowed her head, and placed her hand on her face to trap the whispered remains of his kiss on the blush of her cheek. She was growing accustomed to his gentle caresses, his loving embraces, and his chaste kisses. It was a relief to be open with their affections. It was also good to know that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

She said, “If you continue to kiss me, I may have to kiss you back.”

Draco took a steady breath and leaned over once again. He placed his hand on her face and stroked her chin gently with his thumb. “One kiss from you and I shall fall at your feet. Would you have me collapse on the floor before Lord Potter’s guests?”

“That would be unfortunate,” she countered. He put her chin in between his thumb and forefinger, countered her head slightly toward his, then brought his lips to hers once more. The sweetness of her mouth, and their innocent - yet meaningful - kisses, intoxicated him. She let out a little ‘mew’ and he moaned deep in his throat. He turned slightly on the sofa, and moved his hand down her arm. How he longed to deepen the kiss! However, he could not do that yet.

He placed his forehead on hers and said, “Death, take me now.”

“You are so dramatic,” she said with a smile.

“No, I am a cad to steal kisses from you when you do not yet wear my ring,” he argued.

He had a ring for her in his pocket. It was an old family heirloom. He presented it to her earlier and longed for her to wear it on her finger so everyone knew that she belonged to him. He longed for her to wear it as a symbol of their relationship because he already felt linked to her thoughts and emotions.

He had never felt so closely connected to another person before. Though the ring was just a symbol of their bond, their true bond was heartfelt. Their true bond existed in their souls. They needed no earthly symbols to join them, but he still wanted others to know they were linked. He would give it to her before the evening was through. With Penelope gone, Blaise dead, and the matter of his father’s will a moot point, he saw no impediments to their happiness. He would have his way.

The butler came in and announced the rest of the guests.

During dinner, Harry stood and offered his congratulations to Charlie and Daphne. They were set to marry in a week at the chapel on Potter’s estate. Everything was working out well for them. Hermione felt their happiness was contagious as she found herself stealing glances and smiles toward Lord Malfoy.

He smiled as well and stood up, raised his glass, and said, “If you all would allow me another toast, this time, to the lovely young woman sitting across from me. I have asked her to marry me, and she has accepted.”

Instead of the usual congratulations, which followed Lord Potter’s announcement of Mr. Weasley’s wedding, a hush came over the guests at the table. Draco was confused. Where were his congratulations? Where were his best wishes? Someone congratulate him, dammit!

Even the woman in question sat with her head bowed and her hands on her lap. Lord Potter stormed out of the room, and Remus Lupin, who had so far not said a word the entire night asked, “Why?”

“Why?” Draco repeated, still standing, wine glass still in hand. “We love each other.”

“What of your father’s will?” Daphne asked.

Draco could not tell them of his new plan, the one where Hermione would inherit his estate, so he merely said, “Love conquers all.” He took a swig of wine and sat down. With a hooded expression he said sternly, “My apologies, Mr. Weasley, Miss Daphne, I did not mean to steal your thunder.”

“No harm done,” Charlie said. “This is a happy time for us all.”

Lupin stood up, threw his napkin on the table and said to Draco, “You have no idea what you have just done, Sir. You have set wheels in motion, which I have worked a lifetime to keep asunder. It will be on your head now, not mine, if trouble befalls her.” He looked at Hermione and said, “I hope it is worth it. I hope this insane romantic gesture is worth your life.” He stormed from the room after Harry.

The remaining guests felt awkward, since their host left, and after Mr. Lupin’s outburst. Daphne said, “Perhaps we should all go to the lounge. Harry has a card table set up. I feel up to some cards. Luna, Ronald, would you join Charlie and me in a game?”

As the others filed from the room one by one, Draco remained seated, staring at Hermione. She had yet to lift her gaze to him, not even once. When he was assured they were alone, he said, “You are upset with me?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I thought we came to an understanding today,” he clarified. “If I was mistaken, I will remedy the situation by informing the others I spoke in haste.” Draco frowned.

Hermione shook her head. “It was unexpected, that is all.” She stood to leave, but he stood quicker and caught her arm.

“What is wrong?” he asked.

He came to stand in front of her. She said, “We discussed that we were free to marry, and you said we would rejoice in our own engagement tonight, even if we were the only two to know, yet you announce it to the world, and you have not even formally asked me, not in a true sense, nor have you asked permission of my nearest relative. Harry must feel betrayed.”

“The last time I checked, I am your nearest relative, not Potter,” Draco huffed in anger. “And I assumed when I asked you to marry me earlier that was my way of asking you to marry me! And need I remind you, madam, you gave your consent to that formal invitation! Forgive me if my happiness overruled my brain for once and I told others of my intentions. I also was not aware you were a silly female who wanted a proposal on bended knee. Let me take care of that now.”

He bent at the knee and grabbed her hand. She pulled it from him and urged him to stand. “Stand up, Lord Malfoy. You know such trite is not of importance. I am just confused.”

“Why are you confused? Are your feelings not real?” he asked, coming to his full height. “Are my feelings not real? Have you changed your mind about being my wife?”

“I have not even had time to consider it,” she said.

“And yet, I have done nothing but. Perhaps I was wrong. You are just a child. You think on different lines than I do. You are naïve, Miss. I said it before, and the description still holds! Naïve and ignorant! Ignorant to the ways of your own heart!”

“And you are still arrogant! You make proclamations without consulting others!” she argued. “I do love you! You know it is true! But there are so many factors to consider.”

“You yourself said the danger was past us since Zabini was dead,” he reminded her.

“But others are not so sure,” she said.

“Who, the old werewolf?” Draco shouted. “He is a crazy old fool, who has shown his true colours time and time again! How do we know he does not lie still? How do we know his true motives? I will not be kept apart from you! I will not let others drive me away from you, nor will I let you drive me away!”

Hermione did not know what to say or do. He took the ring out of his pocket. It was the large, square cut emerald, surrounded by diamonds, which he had shown her earlier. He threw it across the room in anger. “If you change your mind to accept that was your ring. If you change your mind to forfeit, destroy the damn thing. I care not either way.” He rushed out of the room and went to the front door. He left them all behind. He was disappointed and confused. She loved him! He knew she did! Why did she hesitate?

After he left the room, Hermione walked over to the fireplace, where the ring had landed, and picked it up. It was a beautiful ring. She loved him so, but this was not the right time. She should come back to Potter’s Hall and stay. He surely would not want her to stay at his home now, and besides, if what he said was true, she was no longer in danger.

She walked outside to the back garden, where she found Lupin. “Did Lord Malfoy leave?” he asked, not even looking up to see if it was she.

“Yes, he is hurt and angry,” she said.

“Did you turn him down?” he asked, sounding more hopeful than she thought he had a right to sound.

“No, he did not give me a chance, although he did give me a ring,” she said. She sat down next to him. “It is chilly tonight.”

“Do you need my jacket?” he asked.

“No, I need some answers,” she begged.

“Please, don’t ask such things from me. I cannot tell you anything,” he said.

“Why do you not want Lord Malfoy and me to marry? Blaise Zabini is dead, but you knew that, did you not?” she asked.

“I see you have regained your full memory,” he said.

“Yes, I have. I have not told anyone yet, but I have,” she said. She was not aware if Draco had already told Theo and the militia about Blaise. “We will soon have to tell the Militia he is dead, so they can call off their search. Why did you keep that information to yourself?” she asked.

Remus Lupin stood up and walked over to the fountain, tilting his head to gaze up at the quarter moon. “If only I could turn back time. I would do so many things different. I would have convinced your real mother to tell the father of her child the truth. I would have had her tell her husband, also.”

He turned around when he heard her gasp. “Oh, yes,” he said, “she was married to another. However, he was gone on a mission for the light side, during the war when she became pregnant with you. Simple math would have proved to him that you were not his.”

“Please tell me her name,” she pleaded.

“It matters not,” he said.

“It matters to me!” she begged.

“You are still in danger. You should go back in the house. Have Harry make the others leave. We will add extra protection spells. You will be safer here than at Malfoy Manor. Harry told Ginny Weasley who your father was tonight. He acted without forethought. By now, she has told a certain someone, who will be shocked beyond words. That person will be able to get to you at the Manor. Have Harry take you back in the house,” Lupin demanded.

“I am not sure I am welcome at Malfoy Manor anymore, anyway. Lord Malfoy is angry. He too told me who my father was,” she said.

“I know. In a way, I knew they both would tell if I told them. I did not want that to happen. I was a fool,” he said. “I found out something of consequence the night you were kidnapped. I found out that you are in more danger now than before. I found out that another person exists who can lay claim to Lord Malfoy’s inheritance, and if it is discovered that you are Sirius Black’s child, and therefore the person next in line to inherit the Malfoy estate, this person will not hesitate to harm you, or kill you.”

She felt afraid. “Why keep this information to yourself. Tell Harry and Draco. Tell Theo. You have it in your power to keep me safe,” she begged.

“It is too late,” he said softly.

She stood up. “Do you want me to come to harm?”

“If I wanted you to come to harm, I would not have helped you all these years!” he said, walking in front of her like a caged animal. “I gave up so much for you that you will never know.”

“Let it not be in vain! Help me now!” she said, moving so that she was standing directly in front of him.

“The best thing for you to do is to leave Mr. Malfoy’s company. Do not return his affection. Give him back his ring! Never see him again. Do not tell a soul who your father is!" He stopped and hung his head. "Never mind, it is too late,” he said resigned. He turned to leave, but turned back. “I wash my hands of the whole thing. It is up to others to keep you safe now. I wish you luck. I loved your parents very much. I love you, too.”

He left Hermione alone in the dark of the night, in the garden, with more questions than answers. She sat down on the empty bench and pulled the ring out of her pocket. She placed it on her finger. She immediately thought of Draco.

Back at Malfoy Manor, Draco paced his study back and forth, like another caged animal. He was a fool! He had a treasure at his fingertips and he let it go. He loved her more than life itself, and he let her go. He swore to protect her, and he let her go. Still, even if she had not accepted his ring, she had accepted his proposal. That thought gave him some peace.

At Potter's Hall, Hermione stayed outside for hours, until the guests had left. Finally, she went to find Harry, to ask him if she could stay with him again. She could not find him, so she opted to go back up to her former room. She asked one of the upstairs maids to have a groomsman go to Malfoy Manor for her things, then she asked another maid to draw her bath.

She took another bath, her second of the day, by firelight. The water smelled of roses. Her hair hung in wet tendrils around her face. The long windows of her room were opened, and the cool breeze that blew the lace curtained cooled her bath quickly. She stepped out of the tub, and placed a robe over her body. She lay on top of the covers, still wet from her bath, in only her robe, and she went to sleep, dreaming of Draco.

Draco lay in bed unable to sleep, so he threw back the covers and stared at the ceiling. It was almost as if he could feel her lying beside him. He wondered if she had put on his ring. He turned to his side, and placed his hand upon the empty space next to him. It was where he imagined her lying almost every night since he knew he loved her. He longed to kiss her cheek goodnight. He longed to stroke her hair, kiss her neck, and splay his large hands across the bare skin of her back. He loved her. He would make whatever sacrifices she wanted him to make. If she wanted to wait, he would. He wrote a letter to Theo before the dinner party, telling him that he suspected Marcus Flint knew more than they thought, and that Blaise Zabini was undoubtedly dead. He hoped that Theo would straighten everything out in the morning.

She was sleeping when the clock on her mantel chimed three o’clock. She woke up, in a start, and looked around. She had changed beds so frequently as of late, that at first she did not know where she was. She slipped out of bed, took off her robe, and threw a cotton nightgown over her head. She went to the window and gazed up at the completely black sky. She admired the ring by moonlight. For some reason, she felt compelled to kiss the ring, so she put her ring up to her mouth, and did so. It was as if she were kissing him.

He dreamt he was kissing her. Not the simple little kisses they had thus far shared. Real kisses. A kiss from a man to the woman he loved. He woke up and immediately went to his window. It was as if he could see her clearly, though she was at a different house. He saw her by a window. He saw the white cotton gown she had over her beautiful body. He closed his eyes, and he could see her standing in a dark room, a washed only by candlelight, the faint echo of skin from her legs and her arms present, glowing wraithlike in the dark night.

She closed her eyes and she could almost feel him standing behind her. She imagined his hands stroking her bare arms up and down, causing goose pimples to form on her skin. She pressed her back against his firm body. She trembled in his arms.

MY GOD! He honestly could feel her skin beneath his hands! In his mind’s eyes, he turned her around, and pushed back her silken gown so that it fell over her shoulders and landed on the floor. He left a trail of kisses from her neck to her ample bosom. He was in heaven.

Her breathing was coming quicker and quicker. In her imagination, he dropped to his knees in front of her naked body, and he kissed her leg, starting at her toes, to her thighs. She held on to the windowpane for support. If this was dark magic, or if this was just the result of an active imagination, she cared not. It felt real. She wanted it to be real.

His hands stroked higher and higher. She was a goddess, his muse, his love, his joy. Let him never recover from the spell he was under, for it was the sweetest thing he had ever felt. He yearned to make love to her like this, and even if this was just a dream, it was more than he could ask for, and more than he could handle. He imagined that he stood back up and kissed her in a way he had never kissed her before.

Each kiss was a new sensation for her, imagined or not. His kisses awakened a fire in her soul that she never wanted to be put out, as she felt his hands roaming her body, and his lips and tongue played against hers. She was certain the moaning sound she made was real. She felt hot and anxious. She imagined he carried her to her bed, and placed her on top of the sheets, and he covered her body with his.

He imagined he was lying side by side with her on his bed, touching and kissing places that were only for him. Their bodies came together in an ancient magic known as making love, and he was at the height of his euphoria. Hermione! He called out her name. That part was not imaginary.

Hermione could not think! She actually thought she heard him call her name. She could only feel and act on instinct. She felt an ultimate rapture, entrapped in his arms. He touched her, stroked her, caressed her, and whispered endearments in her ear. He told her he loved her and would never let her go. This was real! This was happening! She started to cry.

He imagined that she started to cry as her hands clutched his shoulders. He thrashed around on his bed, with the thought that if this was not real, than this was the blackest of magic. His kisses followed the path of his hands. The world exploded around them. The sun caught fire, the earth stood still, and the night came crashing upon them.

Suddenly, it ended. Hermione opened her eyes, expecting to be on her bed, expecting to see Draco beside her, but it was all a lie.

She opened her eyes to see Miss Weasley standing before her. Ginny said one thing, “I am so sorry.” Then she drew her wand and Hermione fell on the floor.

A man walked up behind Ginny, said, “Set the house on fire, now!” He knew he could not Disapparate with Hermione from the house, due to the wards imposed by Lord Potter. Miss Weasley would have to get herself out of the house. He ran down the stairs with Hermione in his arms and left by the front door.

Ginny Weasley took the candle that was burning on Hermione’s mantle and set the lace curtains at her window on fire.

Draco woke up, sweat on his brow, and his arms empty. Help him it was a dream and it was over abruptly! No, it felt real. It had to be real. He heard one of his servants banging on his bedchamber door. He ran to the bedroom door, threw it open, and the man said, “Hurry, Lord Malfoy, Potter’s Hall is on fire!”


 

Chapter 32 - Longing by AnneM

Chapter 32 – Longing:

When Draco arrived at Potter’s Hall the back wing of the large estate was fully engulfed in flames. The back wing was where, just weeks before, he stood under Hermione’s window on the night of the ball. It was now a window he could not even see due to the smoke and flames. Most of the residents of the village were already at the grand home, lending a hand. They were using a combination of magic and good, old-fashioned hard work to put out the flames. Draco started to run inside the house, but was stopped by Theo.

“You cannot go in there, Malfoy. Though the fire is contained to the back wing, it is still too dangerous. The place is too hot. All the staff and family have been evacuated. It is too dangerous to risk going in there now.”

“Everyone was evacuated?” Draco asked with urgency.

Theo did not know what to say. He shook his head and said, “Everyone we could evacuate, we did. I am sorry, friend. She was not one of the evacuees.”

Draco ran to Lupin and said, “Where is Miss Granger?”

“I do not know,” the man said wearily. He looked so much older than his years. He leaned against the side of the house and hung his head.

Draco took him by the collar and said, “Has anyone seen her?”

“I really do not know,” he answered.

Draco let him go and ran over to where he saw Harry sitting next to a tree, tears running down his face. He had his hands in his hair and soot and water all over his clothing. Draco grabbed him by the shoulders and stood him up. “Where is she?” he screamed.

“She did not get out,” Harry cried.

“You lie! You hate me and that is why you lie!” Draco shouted. “She must be helping the injured. She must be somewhere. Why do you lie to me?”

Harry pushed Draco back and said, “She’s dead! She did not get out!” Harry sat back down by the tree, defeated. Without looking up he said, “If only she had gone to the Manor tonight, none of this would have happened!”

Draco said, “Do not lay the blame at my feet, Potter! If she is dead, which I refuse to believe, then you killed her! You should have protected her! You told Ginny Weasley about Hermione’s parentage! Ginny Weasley, the girl who is waist high in guilt! Where is the bitter harpy? I would not be surprised if she was not responsible in some way! She knows where Hermione is! Hermione is not dead! Where is Ginny Weasley?”

Harry pointed toward another tree. Draco looked over and saw the dead body of Ginny Weasley, and all her relatives hovering over her, crying. Harry said, “She just died. They pulled her out only moments ago. Before she died, she said she started the fire in Hermione’s bedchamber. She said she was sorry. She said Hermione was dead. She said she did not get out, and that she died quickly.” Harry stood up and pointed toward Hermione’s bedroom. “She is there, in the smoke and fire!” He turned back to Malfoy and said, “SHE IS DEAD!” He pointed to Ginny and said, “And so is she. And so should I be. And so should you.” He sat back by the tree and cried.

Draco Malfoy sunk to the earth and screamed.

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Morning came with a brilliant bright light. All that remained of the fire was an occasional puff of black smoke, and the awful smell of burnt embers and death. Theo stationed members of the Militia all around the mansion to make sure there would be no flare-up of the flames.

Lupin was nowhere to be found. The Weasleys took the body of their only daughter home with them. Harry was still under the same tree, but silent now. No more tears could come if he tried. Draco remained pacing back and forth. He had to get in that house and make sure for himself! He had to see if she was there. He still would not believe she was dead until he saw it himself.

Finally, Theo came out of the house. He said, “The room was mostly destroyed. It appears the fire started with the curtains. We saw no obvious body remains, but everything in the room and the surrounding rooms are nothing but ashes. There was no way someone could have survived that. I am so sorry, Draco.”
Theo walked over to Harry and said, “Lord Potter, Lady Pansy is here. She wants to help you. Will you let her see to the burns on your hands?”

Without a word, Harry nodded. Theo helped him to stand and Pansy took him over to a chair to tend to his wounds.

“Why would the Weasley girl try to kill Hermione?” Draco asked. He was in shock, but he still did not believe she was dead.

“Revenge for her lost engagement, or perhaps she was continuing the work she started for Zabini. We still need to find Flint. From what you and Harry told me, Flint killed Zabini. Flint was the one who blackmailed the Weasley girl. It all points to him, and when I sent men to find him, he was gone. His mistress, who was sister to the dead maid, claims she has not seen him in days. The strange thing is that, no one can find Lupin now, either. He disappeared just before dawn.” Theo patted Draco’s shoulder and walked away.

Draco looked up at the window of her bedroom, black and broken from the fire. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He knew two things, if he knew nothing else. One, she was alive, for he felt it in his heart. Two, she was in danger, but she would survive, because if she died, he would, too.

                                                                             XXXXXXXXXXX

Hermione awoke and was aware of two things. One, she was no longer at Potter’s Hall. Two, Draco would find a way to find her, because she felt him as if he was as close as the next room. She was aware of little else. All she could think was ‘Please, not again. Let this be over, and not happen again!’

The last time she was in a similar predicament, she was in a great deal of pain. This time, only her head hurt. The blinding pain she felt from the Crucio was not present. She was not bound, nor was she blindfolded. She was not gagged and she was not on a cold hard floor, but a soft, warm bed.

She tried to sit up, but a man walked over to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Lie back down. When Miss Weasley stunned you, you obtained a head injury. I am sorry. She forgot the cushioning charm, either on purpose, or not. You have a nasty gash on your head, which I tried to heal the best I could.”

“Why did you take me from my cousin’s home, Mr. Flint?” She had to admit, she was surprised to find her in his company. She was also surprised to find what appeared to be kindness in his words.

He pulled a chair next to the bed and said, “I am not prepared to answer all of your questions yet.” He stood up, poured some water in a tin cup, and walked over and placed it near her mouth. “Water,” he explained. She took a drink, and then was forced to lie back down, due to the pain in her head. “Ask me something else, and perhaps I can answer a different question,” he told her.

“That’s the one I want answered the most,” she said.

He laughed. “I can see what Lord Malfoy sees in you. You are as stubborn as he is. You would have made a good pair. If I had my way, you would have made a good pair, but now it is too late. I have things to attend to, and you will be alone here, but quite safe.” He put the chair back in the corner and said, “I left you some books to read on the table, next to the pitcher of water. There are fresh linens, soap, and water in the washbasin. There is a chamber pot under the bed. I left some food on the table, by the books. There are even clean clothes in the wardrobe. I think they will fit you. I am not sure. I think that covers everything. I will return tonight and we will figure out what we are to do with you.”

“Are you going to kill me?” she asked, sitting up again.

“If I was going to kill you, you would already be dead,” he said bluntly. “Now, lie back down. I won’t be gone long.”

“How long is not long?” she asked. She wanted to remain strong, so she would not cry in front of this man, however, a tear slipped down her cheek on its own.

“Please do not cry,” he said with a gentleness that surprised her. “I cannot answer that question at this time. You will be here until after your funeral, at least. It would be risky to move you too soon.”

She sat up with a start, her head spinning, and said, “You said you were not going to kill me!”

“I am not, but that does not mean that Lord Malfoy and Lord Potter do not assume you are dead. I heard from Lupin that Miss Weasley died as well. That is unfortunate, but she was a liability, who knew too much, so it is just as well.”

“She died?” Hermione asked, shocked.

“Yes, in the fire, along with you, at least, that is what is assumed,” he said.

“Did you kill Blaise Zabini?” she asked.

“Ah, so you have your memory completely back. Yes, I did kill him. I also got rid of Penelope, although I did not have to kill her. Threatening her seemed to work well.” He actually shrugged, and then, in an act that seemed too familiar, he sat at the end of her bed and said, “Do you have any other questions, which I may or may not answer, before I beg my leave?”

“Are you sure you are not going to kill me?” she asked.

He smiled and said, “I am a scoundrel and a cad. A miserable excuse for a human being. Unfortunately, I also seem to be a man of my word as well. I will not kill you. We will keep you here a while, and then Remus Lupin will come do the job he was supposed to do in the first place. He will Obliviate your memory so completely that you will forget all about Godric’s Hollow and its residents. He will take you away and tell you that you are his daughter. I think you will have a good life together. You can find happiness and even love again someday.”

“Second question, please,” she said, holding up one finger as she sat up in the bed. Before she asked her question, she placed a hand to her throbbing head. “Do you have a headache potion?” He nodded and stood to retrieve it, but she was quick to add, “That did not count as my second question, however.”

“Yes it did,” he smiled. He handed her an elixir.

She took a drink and placed it on the table next to the bed, and then she took another drink of water. “Why are you doing this?” she finally asked.

“Well, my lady, thanks to Remus Lupin, I have to clean up his mess. He was supposed to make sure you and Lord Malfoy had the chance to pursue your admiration for each other. It was a simple enough task, seeing that you already liked each other. Then, the Weasley girl was supposed to do the same, but she too missed the mark.”

“Also, Remus made the fatal mistake of telling Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy who your real father was. He had not even told me that, yet he told them. He had to see the chain of events his truthfulness would unfold. He had to know that they would not be able to keep the secret.

“I overhead Draco tell you the happy news of Sirius Black being your father in the garden the other night. Miss Weasley had informed me that Lord Potter told her. It is unfortunate, for it is hard to tell whom else she might have told. If you and Malfoy had just fallen in love in the first place, none of this would have happened.”

She wanted to tell this man that they were in love, but he did not need to know of their connection. “But Lord Malfoy would never have continued to pursue me if he thought he would lose his estate,” she said.

“Of course he would have. He was already hopelessly in love with you. You would not exactly have been poor, you know. Lord Potter set aside a very large dowry for you. In fact, the night he found out you were Sirius Black’s daughter, he told Mr. Lupin he was going to see that you inherited the entire Black fortune, which is vast indeed, with money, titles, and an estate of its own called Grimmauld Place. You and Lord Malfoy would not have been destitute.”

“Why do you care?” she asked. She sat up, her head still throbbing. “What would you gain by the marriage between Lord Malfoy and me?”

“Well, nothing now. That doesn’t matter and I am not yet willing to discuss this with you, but it is a moot point, because now that you know who your father is, my plans have changed,” Marcus said. “Please, do not try to get out of bed yet.” Marcus walked over to her and put his hand on her arm, as she tried to stand.

She sat back down and said, “How will sending me away solve anything? Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy will continue to look for me. When they find me, and I am sure they will, I would still inherit Lord Malfoy’s estate if we marry. Even if he does not find me, and we do not marry, he will keep his estate, so your motive cannot be money, so what is your motive?”

“Let me say that they will not search for you, for at this very moment, they are under the assumption that you died. I just came from there, and they were both beside themselves with grief.”

Hermione let out a gasp. She did not understand what he meant by the funeral comment before, but she understood now.

“Also,” Flint said, “Nothing will be gained by anyone if Malfoy continued to live... you are right on that account.”

She could stand it no longer. She stood and slapped his face. It was a feeble attempt, and he did nothing to refute it. She said, “You will not kill Lord Malfoy!”

“I can see you are upset. You need to lie down again,” he said. He scooped her up in his arms, and as she cried, he sat on the bed with her, actually rocking her back and forth, tenderly. “I am so sorry. This was never supposed to turn out like this. None of this was suppose to turn out like this. If Blaise Zabini and Penelope Clearwater had not had their own agendas, my plan would have worked.

“If Miss Weasley and Mr. Lupin could have been trusted, things would have turned out differently. You would have married Malfoy, and even if Harry hadn’t known about your true father, and had not planned on giving you the Black inheritance, I happen to know that he set aside a rather large dowry for you.”

“You and Draco would have been happy, alive, and none the wiser and the Malfoy estate could go to the rightful heir. You would not have been paupers! You would have money, status, and love! Damn Remus Lupin! I could have taken care of the Zabini and Clearwater problem, if he had just not told anyone his secret.”

She continued to cry. If she had been in her right frame of mind, she would have noticed how odd it was that the man who held her hostage, also held her on his lap, stroked her hair, and said soothing words to her to stop her tears.

She finally said, “May I ask one last question?”

“Where is the harm?” he answered, “After Remus Obliviates your memory again, this time for good, you will not recall anything I tell you anyway. Ask away.”

“Do you know who my mother is?”



                                                               XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX



Draco walked around Malfoy Manor, still in denial, still in a state of shock, waiting for Lord Potter to come to his home. Potter was so distraught from losing his cousin, his love, and his surrogate father that he was not aware of his surroundings anyway. Lady Pansy kept vigil at his bedside.

Back at her hideaway, Hermione walked around the little room where she was being held captive. She had no idea where she was. Marcus Flint told her who her mother was and the news was most surprising, but gave her some comfort in the face of her recent horrors.

He told her he was almost complete certain that Lily Potter was her mother. She was Harry’s sister and he might never know. She was born not even a year before Harry - only ten months before infact - and yet Harry would forever think she was dead!

It also gave her comfort knowing that the woman she thought of as her mother all those years was in fact kin to her, for the woman who raised her was Lily's sister. She wondered if she would forget her too, when they Obliviated her mind. She did not mind forgetting about Lily, for that was new to her, but she did not want to forget the only mother she ever had, and she really did not want to forget Draco. She refused to believe she would ever forget him.



Draco refused to believe she was dead. He still felt a connection to her. It was more than the connection of a man to a woman when they are in love. He felt a connection to her in his soul. She was alive.

He walked to the room in which she had slept while at the Manor. Her belongings were still there. She had sent a groomsman to collect them the night before and Draco refused to let the man enter. The truth was that he wanted her to return, so he held her clothes and belongings captive. How he regretted not holding her captive as well. He acted like a child…a spoiled child, when she told him she was shocked by his declaration of their engagement at dinner. She had every right to her feelings and opinion and yet Draco cast them aside without consideration!

He opened a book that was on the bedside table. It was the book on Ancient Runes he had given her. He held back a cry as he sat on the bed and opened the book. He recalled how happy she was when she read it for the first time and how she continued to lean over to him to ask him to translate different runes.

She was so pretty that day. Was that the day he knew he loved her? No, he knew he loved her in the mercantile that first day, when he thought he hated her. He smiled. He really knew he loved her when she imposed on his solitude that first day, when she entered the little church on his property to escape the rain. He closed his eyes to try to remember what she looked like that day. She had removed her straw hat and had placed it on the pew. She had on a teal dress, which looked lovely with her hair colour, little lace gloves, which she removed and put in her small drawstring reticule, which she wore on her arm. When she looked up at him, she was shocked. He almost wished she had not discovered him so soon, because he remembered that he wanted to stare at her for a while longer.

When did she first decide she loved him? He longed to know. He longed for her.


Hermione sat by the window on the small chair. Marcus Flint left hours ago. She did not know how long ago, but at least three to four hours. She washed and dressed in one of the dresses he left for her. She tried to read, but could not concentrate. She was worried for Draco and Harry. Were they mourning her right now? Were they in pain? She put her hand on the glass of the window and looked at her engagement ring. She wished she had acted better. She wished she had put it on in front of him. She should have told everyone how happy she was at his proposal. She was afraid, that was all. Now she might not ever see him again.

When did she first fall in love? She hardly knew, for it felt like she had always loved him. Perhaps that first meeting in the little store, when she dropped her hat, and he passed it to her and their fingers touched. More likely, it was several hours later when she was walking back to Potter’s Hall from the Weasleys, and she became lost and wandered into the little church on his property. When he made his presence known, she was secretly happy to see him again. He wore no hat and his coat was thrown over a pew. His waistcoat was open. He still looked splendid. He was the most handsome man she had ever met. He was arrogant, proud, boastful, and opinionated, and she loved him from the start.

How odd that he would pick the berry-picking incident for his happy thought for his patronus. If she had to pick a moment from that day, she would have picked the moment he picked her up, and carried her out of the ravine. She had never felt so safe in her life. She longed for that now. She longed for him.



Draco placed the book down to lay upon her bed. He turned to his right side. He placed his hand on the empty space beside him. He remembered the moment in the gazebo. Not the lesson, but the moment after the rain started: the intimate moment they shared. Their desire for each other that day was as thick as the condensation that covered the glass windows. He closed his eyes so his mind could wander back to that moment.



Hermione lay back on the bed on her left side. She placed her hand out in front of her and imagined he was there in front of her. Her dream, if that was what it was, that she had last night before the abduction was so real. She actually felt him kissing her, touching her, and all of his intimate gestures. It felt as real as the day in the gazebo. That was truly her happiest moment. If she shut her eyes and thought hard, she could feel herself transported back to that day.



He kept his eyes closed and said, “I know you are alive. I feel you beside me. Tell me where you are.”

She kept her eyes shut, to hold her tears at bay and said, “Draco, come find me. I am here. I am alive. I need you. Please, I know you will find me.”


 

Chapter 33 - Revelations and Prophecies by AnneM

Chapter 33 – Revelations and Prophecies:

Two men stood outside a little stone cottage with a winding creek in the back. One looked more tired than a man had a right to look, and the other seemed resigned. It mattered not, for they were assigned fates in which they were forced to follow. One had sworn to protect the girl inside the cottage for all the days of her life, a pact made with her mother. The other had sworn to make things right, to right the wrongs of others, and to make sure things worked out the way they should have.

“It is done,” Marcus Flint said to Remus Lupin. “I can do no more. My part is over, thankfully.”

“I only wish it had not gotten this far,” Remus returned. “Does she know your identity?”

“No one knows,” Flint said. “No, that is not true, for you know. I told Miss Weasley a convenient lie, as a means to an end, but seeing as the girl is dead, I no longer see the harm. As far as Hermione goes, I only told her who her mother was today.”

At first Remus Lupin looked shocked. How did this man know who Hermione's mother was? After a few moments of quiet reflection, he knew that he no longer cared. “What does it matter now?” Remus said. “I only wish there was another way. I hate the thought that she will be lost to everyone who loves her and them to her.”

“If we had not trusted others, there would be another way,” Marcus Flint said. “You will find her in the cottage. Go do what you have to do, and then I will find you both and lead you to safety.”

“I hate that everyone thinks she died,” Remus added.

“Better that they think she’s dead and she lives, than for her to really die,” Marcus waned. He put his hands through his black hair and said, “Soon it will be over.” And with that Marcus Disapparated away.

Remus looked toward the cottage. He knew he had to do… he had to make sure she really forgot everything this time, but he could not do it yet. He had one place to go first, so he Disapparated away right after Marcus did with a vow to return.

Malfoy Manor was like a tomb and Draco Malfoy felt as if he had been buried alive. He felt there was no longer enough air to breath. Lord Potter was a walking shell of a man, mourning his lost love and his only ‘kin’. Everyone kept telling Draco that he needed to have a memorial service for Harry’s cousin, so Harry might find some peace. Let the man never have peace, for Draco would not hold a service for someone for whom he knew was not dead.

When he was a child, his mother told him that an old seer blessed him at birth. She said that this old woman made a prediction that Draco would someday fall in love, and it would be a love of a lifetime... a love to last beyond a lifetime. His mother told him that the old woman said that once he gave his heart to another, there would never be anyone else for him. The old seer predicted a bond so tight would be formed that time, distance, and even death could not put it asunder. All he had to do was find the right woman, pledge to her his love, and ask her to be his wife.

He used to laugh at his mother when she would tell him such fairytales. He would pay her no mind. He was not the type to care about love and such things. Now he saw what a fool he was to mock things he did not understand.

He had that bond with Hermione. Testimony to that fact was the way he ‘felt’ her the night of the fire. He was in a different house than her, yet he actually felt her in his arms. His lips actually felt they were upon hers. It was real, not imaginary. The bond was there, and with that an attachment, a link, connecting her heart to his, her mind to his, her soul to his, and even her body to his.

Draco refused to think it was over, not when he was still so certain that she lived. He decided to go to the old fortuneteller in the Muggle village. He knew it was insanity, but this woman was no mere Muggle and she knew something about Hermione. He knew she did.

Therefore, he rode his horse into the neighbouring village and hitched it outside an inn, then walked along the street, asking a passerby if they knew where the old fortuneteller resided. Finally, he found a young boy who led him to her hovel. He paid the boy a Muggle coin and knocked on the door.

The old woman answered the door and said, “I knew someday you would come.”

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“Lord Malfoy,” she said.

“You are a witch?” he confirmed in a form of a question.

“Of course I am,” she said. “I made a prediction about you to your mother the night you were born, a prediction about love.”

“So you are originally from Godric’s Hollow?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered. She pointed to a little wooden chair, by a spindled leg table. Draco pulled out a handkerchief, wiped off the chair, and sat down.

“What do you know?” he asked.

“Twenty two years ago, Lady Lily Potter heard her husband had succumbed to the Dark side. Blinded with anguish and pain, and in a fragile state, she lay with his best friend, Sirius Black, for she needed consoling. The result was that she became heavy with child while her husband was still missing. While still pregnant with this babe, she feared this child would fulfill the prophecy set out by myself. I foretold of a child, born of a Muggle-born and a pureblood, who would be the downfall of the Dark Lord. She had this child, a baby girl, mistaken that this child was the child from my prophecy. However, that child was not the child of whom I spoke. My prophecy was for her second child, her son with Lord Potter, the viscount, Lord Harry Potter, whom she had a mere ten months later.”

“Nevertheless, I believe her real motive was fear, for if her husband should find out that she had a child while he was held captive by the dark forces, he would know that the first child was not his own, but that of his best friend. So, when she had this first child, a girl, she gave the baby to her trusted friend, Lupin, who took the child to Lily’s sister, who raised it as her own.”

“Hermione Granger?” Draco asked.

“Yes, the young woman who was with you the other day,” the old woman said. “The woman you love.”

“Lily Potter was her mother?” he asked to clarify.

“Yes,” she said. "Hermione Granger is Harry Potter's half sister, the child of Sirius Black and Lily Potter."

“Are you sure?” he asked again, shocked.

“Yes, for I was the midwife that was to attend to the birth, but another needed my services more than she on the very same night. After I was sure that Lily would deliver without complications, I went to the other woman and Lily Potter delivered her child first, with the aid of Remus Lupin. The other woman, Andromeda Tonks was not as lucky.”

“My aunt,” Draco said.

“Yes. She was having a difficult birth. She was afraid that Death Eaters would kill her and her child, just as they killed the child’s father. She would not let your mother, who also attended the birth, call a healer, so they called me. I could do nothing for the woman, who was bleeding badly. She died while delivery her child.”

“And the child died as well,” Draco said, as if it were a fact.

“No, the child lived,” she rebuked, “and he lives still. Your own mother knew that he lived. She took the baby and gave him to a pureblood family to raise. She never told them who the child’s father was. They knew the baby, a son, was the child of Narcissa Malfoy’s sister, but that was all they knew. They took the child and raised him as their own flesh and blood, for they could have no children. I was the only witness. I was the only one who knew of the true parentage of either child.”

“And you have never told anyone until now?” Draco asked.

“I never said that. While your mother, Lady Malfoy, lived, she paid me well. I came to the Muggle village and gave up magic. When your mother died, I had to make a living. I started to tell fortunes, for I was always a gifted seer. One day, two young men came into the village. I knew right away they were wizards, and after giving one of the young men a reading, I knew he was the child of Andromeda Tonks. For proof, I asked him to undo his neckclothe, so I might see if he had birthmark on the side of his neck that the child had at birth. He did, so I told him who he was. He believed me right away. He and the other man left, and I have only ever seen him one other time.”

“Why?” Draco asked. “Why did you tell him who his mother was?”

“Doesn’t everyone have a right to know who they are?” she asked.

“Is he the one who took Hermione?” he asked.

“She is gone?” the old woman asked back.

“If you are a seer, you should know that,” he sneered.

“I know one thing,” she said. “You love her. Your connection is strong. You were meant to be together. The moment you pledged your loved to each other, and promised to be man and wife, a bond was formed, a lifeline. Such a bond is rare, even among the magical, but when it is forged, not even death can erase the connection. You can sense her now and she you. You can feel her though she is miles away. You will be able to find her, if you just listen to your heart.”

“So she is not dead?” Draco asked with relief.

The old woman stood up and ordered, “Close your eyes.” Draco did as instructed. She placed her hand on his chest and said, “Listen with your heart, not your ears or your brain. Concentrate on her. You will find her. She is hidden from you. There are those whom you trust who betray you, and will try to take her from you. The child of Andromeda Tonks feels this girl is an impediment to getting what he thinks he deserves.”

Draco opened his eyes. “Who is that?”

“That is for you to find out, but know this - he does not want her dead. However, your death is much coveted. She stands in the way of what he wants, but you block the way completely. Your life is now in more danger than hers.”

Draco stood up and said, “Please, tell me who he is!”

“I cannot, for I do not even know his name. He has a birthmark, in the form of a rose, on his neck. It is usually covered with clothing. He is a friend of yours, but just on the surface. Find him, and find your love, or find her and find him. It is your choice.” The old woman Disapparated away, leaving Draco alone and confused.

He got on his horse and started back to Godric’s Hollow. If the old lady was right, and a bond was formed when she consented to be his bride, then he should be able to feel her, and know where she was. He rode along on his horse and closed his eyes again. He imagined her, and soon he saw her clearly in his imagination. He saw her fair skin, her wavy brown hair, and the sparkle in her eyes.

He said, “What shall I ask for and what shall I seek? Do I ask for help, guidance, strength, or courage? I need too much and my want is too great. Let me feel your strength. Guide me to you, my love, Hermione.”

He let his horse amble down a road, which did not lead back to Godric’s Hollow. He saw a little stone cottage down in a valley, with a narrow, twisting creek in the back. There were tall trees all around. He felt a yearning to go to that house, so he did.

Hermione sat in the same chair she sat in the day before, thinking the same thought, “Why do you not come for me?” She knew Draco was looking for her, but she did not know how to tell him where she was. She felt he was near, so she closed her eyes, and willed him to find her. She laughed silently and thought, ‘he always thinks it is odd that I shut my eyes when I perform magic,’ so she opened her eyes and immediately she saw a man outside the cottage on a white horse.

She stood up so quickly that she knocked the chair over. It was him! Was this another dream? Was this her imagination? The night she imagined he made love to her felt as real, but it was not, therefore, this could not be real! This was a mirage. She placed both hands on the wavy glass and closed her eyes again. She did not want to see him if he was not real.

He climbed off his horse and tied the reins to a hitching post at the side of the cottage. He took out his wand and started around the backside of the little stone house. He felt her presence. There was a battle raging inside him and his hunger for her masked all his other senses. He could only sense her. In his world of darkness, he needed some truth. Even though she was not within his eyesight, he felt her. He heard her calling to him. Her voice was the sweetest song he had ever heard, full of hope, promise and undivided love. She was guiding him to this little cottage. He knew she was inside.

She opened her eyes once more and he was gone. She knew it was not real. She sat back in the chair, leaned her arm on the windowsill, placed her forehead on her arm, and gave up. He would never find her and very soon, she would forget that he ever existed.

He waved his wand toward the backdoor of the cottage, but it would not open. She was locked away from him. Nothing was easy. He held his wand in front of him; his heart almost gave flight when he looked in a back window and saw her, sitting in a chair with her back to him, leaning against an opposite windowsill.

He said to her, knowing she would be able to hear, “I knew in an instant that if I gave into your love, I would be your prisoner never to escape. My love found you. Turn around and look at me.”

“This time, it seems so real,” she said aloud. “You seem real. I can actually hear your voice. Sometimes it is wrong to believe in such things, but sometimes believing gives a person freedom. I want to believe you are real.” She did not look up once. It was almost as if he was in the room with her.

Though a wall separated them, he could hear her plain as day. He felt as if he were right behind her. Why was she so sad? Why did she not turn around, find him, and run into his arms? “When I fell in love with you, it was forever. You can never forget about me. Your heart is the key to unlocking my heart,” he said in a voice barely above a hoarse whisper.

“I am tired of being alone and unhappy,” she whispered in return. She stood up, still facing the opposite window. “What type of cruel world do we live in, when I can actually hear your voice, and sense your presence, and yet you are not real? Where is the fairness in that?”

“Turn around, Hermione,” he said louder.

“No, for you are not but an illusion. I felt you near me that other night. I felt your hands on me, your lips on mine, you body next to my body, and it was all false. It was not real, and this is not real. I do not want to hurt again. Go away, illusion. Forget about me.”

“Turn around!” he urged.

“Only the strong survive,” she said. “The truth is that I used to think I was strong, but now I know that I am weak. I feel torn apart. You weaved your life together with mine, and left me with nothing but an empty shred of an existence. I cannot turn around. I am powerless to obey.”

‘Please, turn around,’ he thought. He imagined that he touched her shoulder.

“Even your touch feels real,” she said again in a whisper.

“I am flesh and bone and blood behind you. I know it feels too simple, too contrived, but I found you, but I am here to take you home,” he said louder. Still, she did not turn to look at him through the window. How could he reach her? He finally decided to cast his patronus. He had to think of a happy thought, but just the thought that he found her, even if she would not acknowledge him, was the only thing on his mind. It would have to do.

He raised his wand and said, “Expecto Patronum.”

A silver snake, made of smoke and haze, left the tip of his wand and went under the door. It twirled and swirled around her body as it did that first day. She looked down, confused, before she realized what it was. She turned around slowly, so slowly that the anticipation was killing him. She faced the opposite window and only then did she finally see him.

He placed his hand upon the glass. She ran to the opposite window and brought her hand up to the pane, near his face.

“You are not real,” she said.

“Then a shadow loves you. A mirage will take you home. A dream will take care of your forever,” he said with a smile. He placed his other hand, still holding his wand, to join his first hand on the cold glass. “Who brought you here?”

“Marcus Flint,” she revealed. She placed both hands hesitantly on the glass so it appeared her hands touched his, and said, “Are you real?”

“Dear lady, do I look real?” he asked. He longed to have her hands on his face, to turn his face into her hand, captured one hand in his, and to kiss her palm. “Can you open the door?”

“Do you not think I have tried that already?” she asked.

He grimaced. Of course, she would have tried that. He tried every unlocking spell he knew and none worked. He finally said, “I must go get help. I have to go to Theo and Potter. I will return.”

She banged on the window and said, “Do not leave me! Remus Lupin means to Obliviate my memory again, and this time, they said that all thoughts of you would be wiped from my mind forever! He was just outside with Flint. I am sure he will return any moment. Please do not leave me!”

“I shall Disapparate as soon as I can, but I shall return. Trust me,” he begged.

“NO!” she cried with a sad anguished cry.

He could no longer hear her, for he had already taken his horse and rode away from the little cottage. When he felt safely out of sight, he let the horse run free and he Disapparated back to Malfoy Manor.

He returned moments later, with Lord Potter, Theo Nott, and several other men from the Militia. He told them what the old lady told him, and that Draco thought Marcus Flint had to be Andromeda’s son. As they stood a distance from the home, they saw Remus Lupin Apparated by the front door. That proved Malfoy’s theory that no one would Apparate in or out of the little cottage.

Remus used his wand to open the door and disappeared inside the cottage.

“We must hurry, for Hermione claims he is to Obliviate her again. I cannot risk losing her.” Draco rushed to the front door.

Theo and Harry rushed around the back of the cottage, as Draco opened the front door slowly. He saw Remus sitting on a chair by the bed, as Hermione lay very still on the bed. He could not be too late!

Draco raised his wand. “Tell me you did not wipe her memory, old man, for if you did, I shall kill you.”

“Kill me,” Remus said without looking up. Draco approached the bed slowly. “Are you alone?” Remus asked.

“Yes,” Draco lied, even as he saw Theo and Harry out the back window.

“Take her away. Keep her safe. I cannot do it any longer.” Remus stood up, leaned over, and kissed her forehead. “I wasted my life and for nothing. She will still come to harm, and I am powerless to stop it, but perhaps you can protect her better. Love is the best protection.”

Lupin walked from the chair and saw Harry outside the window. “You lied, Lord Malfoy, for I see Harry outside the door. The wards are lowered, tell Harry to enter. I would like to tell him goodbye before I leave.”

Draco did not yet do as the man requested. Instead, he lowered his wand and rushed to the bed. He placed a hand on her cheek. “Why does she not wake?”

“I gave her a calming potion. She will wake soon. If Marcus Flint came back, I wanted him to think the deed was done.”

“Did you know that you lied to us when you said Andromeda’s child died?” Draco asked. He pulled Hermione’s body closer to him. He kept his hand on her arm, in case he would need to take her quickly to safety.

“I did not always know that, but that was brought to light right before Hermione came to the village. That is why I kept telling you she was in more danger than you knew,” Remus said. He looked up once more, back out the window, and said, “NO! You brought Theo Nott here. You stupid man!” Remus withdrew his wand and pointed it toward Draco. At that moment, Nott, followed by Harry, rushed in the back door, and before Remus could react, Theo said the killing curse and the man fell over dead.

Harry ran to Remus’ body. He was shocked. He had lost so much. He was not sure he could mourn again. Draco picked up Hermione and said, “He was to Obliviate her mind.”

“Did he succeed?’ Theo asked with urgency.

“I do not think so,” Draco said.

“Where is Flint?” Theo asked.

“That is also unknown, but I think he may be the son of Andromeda Tonks, just as I told you the fortuneteller told me. He must have wanted to be rid of Hermione, because he felt she stood in the way of him inheriting my estate since she would have inherited it over him. That must be why at first he wanted us to marry, so that my father’s will would revoke my ownership of the estate, and it would be rightfully his.”

“You stand in the way of that, not this girl,” Theo said. He went over to Remus’ body, placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder and said, “I am so sorry Lord Potter. I was sure he was going to kill Lord Malfoy.”

Without a word, Harry turned around and walked over to Draco, who now sat on the bed with Hermione cradled in his arms. Harry placed his hand on her forehead. “At least it is over,” he said. “We will find Flint.”

Hermione opened her eyes, saw Harry and said, “Did you know that you are my brother, Harry?”

End Notes:

p>(Coming up, the lost scene and some memories.)

Please don't hate me for killing Lupin.  I know he was such a sad, lost, figure in this, and I felt bad for killing him, too, but he was slated to die since the beginning.  Look at it this way, he lived longer in this than he did in JKR's story, and instead of hating me, hate Andromeda's son, whoever he might be!!

Chapter 34 - Lost Scenes and Memories by AnneM

Chapter 34: Lost Scenes and Memories:

Harry Potter could not believe that Hermione Granger was his sister. None of that made any sense to him, and given that Theo Nott killed Remus Lupin, he could no longer ask the older man if the story was true. Of course, it had to be true. Why else would Hermione say it, if it were not true?

Harry and Draco took Hermione home to Potter’s Hall. It truly was her home now. The back wing was burned so badly and there was too much damaged to her old bedchamber, so Harry had his mother’s old bedroom, the one across from his, made up for her. It was her mother’s room as well, after all. It was nicer than her old rooms anyway.

Draco carried her into the mansion as Harry barked orders right and left to his staff. Draco took her to the lounge to wait for the room to get ready, placed her on a sofa and knelt down beside her. The calming draught Remus had given her was still having an effect on her, so she was still sleeping. However, she opened her eyes briefly, put her hand to Draco’s cheek, and said, “I know you are real this time.”

He was real. She was real. This was real.

When the room was ready for her, Draco carried her up the long flight of stairs, down the long hallway, to the west wing. He entered a big room, which faced the front of the house. It had two sets of bay windows in the front, and window seats in each. It had a large sitting room that was connected to bedchamber off to the side. He placed her gently on the bed. Harry told Malfoy to go home and get some rest.

“I am afraid to tell you that I shall never leave her again,” he said to Potter.

Harry merely nodded, relieved that at least one thing had a happy conclusion. He was resigned with the fact that he may never find that type of love and happiness. He left the pair alone. Draco sat in a red wingback chair in the corner of the bedchamber to watch her sleep. This reminded him of the day she fell in the ravine and hurt her ankle and he brought her back to Potter’s Hall.

On that day, right after he carried her home, he sat in the corner of her bedchamber, much as he sat now, with his eyes opened, his attention paid directly to her. Yet on that day, she was not even aware he was there.

Was she aware now?


(Flashback to the Day of the Picnic:)


Draco carried her out of the ravine and then Disapparated with her back to Potter’s Hall. He had just told her that despite their obvious difference, he was going to ask Harry if he might court her. She slapped him. She apologized a moment later, but she still said that she did not feel remorse for the slap, because he deserved it. She thought he had told her she was no better than the mud outside his door, yet he wanted to pursue a relationship. He had told her that he would be the laughing stock of his friends, but he could not help his feelings. She told him that he might not be able to help his feelings, but he did not seem to embrace them either.

Therefore, she said she was sorry that she slapped him. She should not have done so, but she did and she could not take it back. Harry’s butler, Manning, came back to open the front door and helped her in the house. He sent one of the household staff members to fetch a healer. He had another one carry her to the lounge, placing her on the sofa, with a footstool under her injured foot.

Draco stood outside Potter’s Hall for the longest time, feeling ashamed. Not for her, because she had every right to slap him, but for his own actions. He should never have told her that she was beneath him. He Apparated back to his home, and as he walked in the door of Malfoy Manor, he knew he had to make it up to her somehow. He had to make her see that he was a product of his upbringing, which could not change in one day, but if she had the patience and the resilience, perhaps she could teach him to change for the better. They could teach each other so much.

She told him that his words broke her heart. She apologized for striking him, and in the next breath, said that there was nothing she would like more than to be friends with him, or even more than friends, but that she did not want to have to prove her worth to him.

Damnation! She was right. Why was she right? Why did it take a mere slip of a girl to teach him a lesson in comportment, especially a girl whose own manners were so lacking? He smiled at that thought. She was unconventional in many ways: the manner in which she spoke, the way she voiced her opinions, the way she dressed, the way she would forgo all that was seemly, the way she often forgot her gloves, hats, and parasol when she was out among the crowd. Even the way she often wore her hair long and wild, was unconventional, and even when she wore it up, it always found its way back down to her shoulders.

He admired more things about her then he admonished. He decided to go back to Potter’s Hall. He would not apologize, nor would he let her apologize. He merely wanted to go back and make sure she was well. He told Potter he would call a healer for her ankle, and look after her, and he meant to do so.

He Apparated back just as the healer was walking up the walk. “Lord Malfoy,” the man said in greeting.

“Are you here for the viscount’s cousin?” Draco asked.

“It would appear so. She injured her ankle, so one of the servants has told me,” the man explained. He rang the bell, and then was escorted inside. Draco followed.

“The young lady was taken up to her bedchamber,” Manning said. He gave Lord Malfoy an inquiring look as he started up the stairs behind the healer.

Draco said not a word as he entered the room behind the man. Miss Granger had her eyes shut, with a cold compress on her brow. The curtains in the room were drawn, and the only light came from a lantern on the wall. It flickered gold and yellow shimmers across the darkened room.

Manning explained, “She now has a headache. My guess would be that she got too much sun today. She did not have a hat or a parasol, and the sun was bright and warm. Young ladies cannot take such extreme heat, you know.”

Draco wanted to snicker. If Miss Granger were in her right state, she would probably slap the old butler for his assumptions. The healer merely nodded. Draco sat quietly and unassumingly in the far corner of the room, in a hard, ladder-back chair by the fireplace and watched.

“Miss, my name is Healer Browning. Do I have your permission to ascertain if your ankle is broken?”

She nodded without removing the cloth from her eyes.

He lifted her dress slightly. Draco leaned forward in the seat. He watched with much interest as the older man reached up under her skirt, thinking, ‘Oh to be that healer.’ He watched closely as the older man rolled down her long white stocking. She already had removed her shoes. The healer put the stocking across the end of the bed and felt her ankle. He said, “I do believe it might be broken. A simple spell will tell me.” He raised his wand and said a spell, then proclaimed, “Yes, a small fracture. I can heal it quickly.”

He healed her ankle and then placed it on top of two throw pillows. Hermione was still quite unaware that Draco was in the room. The healer said, “May I give you something for your headache? If the sun induced it, you might have a mild case of heat exhaustion. I shall give you something to take away the pain and help you to sleep.”

“Thank you,” was her answer. He looked inside his bag, pulled out a vile, and put it to her lips. Draco watched her mouth with much interest, as her lips went around the top of the small bottle as she took a drink. She fell back down on her pillows and placed the cloth back on her eyes.

The healer turned to Manning and said, “She should rest now. Tell Lord Potter she will be fine, but to call me if she needs my services again. I shall leave some more potions for her head, as well as pain potion for the ankle. Someone should watch her for a couple of hours to be sure she does not try to walk on her ankle, or try to get out of bed while under the influence of the medicine.”

Manning said, “I shall send up one of the upstairs maids. The young miss does not have a lady’s maid. Her cousin tried to assign one to her, but she would not hear of it.” Manning placed several gold coins into the man’s hand and escorted him out the door.

Draco went to the bedchamber’s door and said softly to the butler, “I shall take up the first watch, until at least her cousin returns.”

“That would not be prudent,” the butler said. “She is a single woman, you are a single man. That would be most unwise.”

“Do you not trust me?” Draco accused. He wanted to see the man squirm. “Her cousin knew I was coming to watch after her. He trusted me with her care. Why do you not offer the same courtesy?”

“Very well, Lord Malfoy, but just until her cousin returns,” he said resigned.

Draco slipped back inside the room. With her eyes still closed, and the room still dark, she said, “Whoever that is, will you please take away one of the pillows from beneath my ankle?”

Draco did not know what to do. He expected her to sleep, but now he had to interact with her. He went to the foot of her bed, and with an intake of breath, he gingerly lifted her swollen, mostly healed, ankle. His fingers on her bare skin caused him pain and discomfort of a different sort.

He removed one of the pillows and placed her foot back on the remaining one. His hand lingered longer than it should have on her bare skin. He lifted his hand, and with a soft voice so she might not recognize him, he said, “Is there anything else, Miss?”

“Will you blow out the lantern and open one of the windows? Keep the blinds shut; it is just that I am warm.” To emphasize, she threw the cover that the housekeeper had placed over her down so that it was off her upper body, but still covered her legs.

Draco turned around and extinguished the lantern, then he licked his lips, and in a true act of bravery, he removed the lightweight throw from her legs. There was still a small trace of light coming in the room from the bright light of the afternoon. He could see her bare skin, and the contrast of her skin next to her beautiful muslin gown made his heart skip a beat. She turned her head away from him as he walked over to the window. He opened the slash, and pulled the blind so it covered all but the small opening.

He walked back over to her and said, “Anything else, my lady?”

Her eyes were still closed and for the longest time she said not a word, so he assumed she slept. He walked up to her and stroked her cheek. He took the cloth off her head, dipped it in the basin on the bedside table, rewet the rag, and before he placed it back on her brow, he smoothed her hair away from her forehead, where it was wet and sticking to her skin. He rubbed her forehead slightly with his thumb, and then placed the wet compress back to her warm skin. He started to walk back over to the chair, when she reached for him. In her temporary blindness, she grabbed the sleeve of his jacket.

“Please, do not go far. I feel quite ill, even a bit dizzy. It must be the potion the healer gave me for my headache,” she said. She held his sleeve. He held his breath.

“I will stay close, never fear.” In a very quiet voice, he stood over her, placed his hand over hers on his arm, and said, “Did you not have a nice time at the picnic?”

“No, I did not. All of the purebloods there made me feel inferior,” she explained.

She let go of his sleeve. He said, “All of them?”

“Yes, all of them,” she reiterated. “Well, there was one that was kind.”

Draco assumed she meant him, but she continued, “A Mr. Theodore Nott was kind to me, but he always is.”

“Lord Malfoy was not kind?” he asked.

“He hurt my feelings the most,” she said. “He will never think we are equal. I will never be good enough for him.”

“I am not sure that is true,” he said in the softest tone possible. He reached for her again, hesitated, brought his hand back to his chest, but then reached for her a second time, and touched the side of her face. He leaned over her and said, “People often say things they do not mean, to cover for a faux pas they might have done, or the like. Give the man another chance to prove that his is worthy of you.”

“It is I who is not worthy of him, or so he thinks,” she said.

“You are worth ten thousand Lord Malfoy’s,” he said truly. “Do you not know that?”

“Who are you?” she asked before she answered.

Draco took a few seconds to think. Had she met all of Potter’s servants yet? He finally said, “Your cousin’s personal valet.” He assumed that she would not have met that man, since he probably never left Harry’s quarters.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

Damn. Why would she want to know that? He didn’t know if he knew the man’s name. Finally he said, “Donnelly.”

“Will you read to me, Donnelly?” she asked.

Draco was in a real pickle now. The more he talked, the more likely he was to expose himself. He lied, “I cannot read.”

“That is sad. I shall teach you if I have time. I have my own lessons to attend, first. Mr. Lupin and Mr. Snape mean to teach me more about magic. Lord Malfoy was to teach me as well, although, now that I offended him, he probably will never talk to me again,” she said sadly.

Draco did not know how to respond to that. He really could not say much, because he did not want his ruse to end and he was certain she would recognized his voice if he asked her why she felt that way, so he remained quiet. Perhaps she would merely volunteer the information.

That was not to be. He stood by her bed, for perhaps ten minutes, and by the steady rise and fall of her chest, which he knew he should not be watching, he could tell she had fallen back to sleep.

He went back over to the chair and fell asleep himself. He only woke when Harry entered the room some two hours later. He nudged Lord Malfoy’s arm, thanked him for his attendance to his cousin, and bade him farewell. Draco had no choice but to leave her.

He walked over to the bed, looked down on her sleeping form once more, and more to himself than to her, said, “I will prove my worth to you, my lady. I promise you that.”

(End of Flashback)


Draco recalled that scene fondly as he once again watched her sleep. He had not gotten much sleep himself in the last two days. He felt mentally and physically exhausted. He found he could no longer remain awake. He found it increasingly hard and soon, very soon, his eyes closed and sleep overcame him.

Hermione awoke and opened her eyes, which went immediately to the man sitting in the chair in the corner of the room. She decided to watch him. He looked sad, even in his sleep. She was sad as well. She knew that Remus had died. She did not want that. She was also afraid if Theo and the Militia found Marcus Flint, he too would die, and for some reason, she found that she also did not want that.

She heard Harry and Draco discussing their theories earlier when they thought she slept. They thought Marcus was the son of Andromeda. Draco also told Harry what the old fortuneteller told him in the village. If two men went to visit the old woman that day and she told one of them he was the son of Andromeda, might Flint had been the second man? Might he have been working to protect her along with Remus? She had a hard time believing Remus would have had anything to do with someone who would want to harm her.

She looked back over at Draco. He had taken his black cutaway jacket off and it hung on the bedpost. His boots were crossed at the ankles, and his hands clasped in his lap. One would have thought he was deep in prayer, or was in silent contemplation, rather than sleeping.

Hermione’s mind wandered to the day she and Remus were accosted by those three men, while in Lord Malfoy’s carriage. After Harry, Theo and Draco came to their aid, he rode in the back of the carriage with her back to Potter’s Hall. She knew she was silly that day to insist they still have their lesson. While she claimed it was because she had to learn to at least Apparate, the real reason was that she had looked forward to spending time alone with him that day, and no one, not even three bad men, were going to take that away from her.

The way he sat beside her on the ride back to Potter’s Hall gave her hope. Hope that he would someday think of her as his equal, hope that he would someday look beyond her blood status, and hope that he might one day want to call her his wife. She wondered that day if it was it wrong to hope for such things.

When he took his handkerchief from her hand, and pressed it to the wound on her neck, she was no longer cognizant of fear or pain. She was only aware of the gentle pressure of his hand on her neck, the feel of his strong chest as she leaned against it, and the way his arm went around her shoulder and held her tightly.

She found herself leaning against him in a most familiar way, with his left arm holding her shoulders. It was as if it always was and always would be. She started to cry, though she fought hard to hold the tears back. He could sense her tears, and he handed the cloth to her, so that she held it next to her wound, and then with the hand that was previously holding the cloth to her neck, he placed that arm across the front of her, and clasped his two hands together, trapping her in his eternal embrace.

She remembered looking over at Lupin, who had his eyes shut. She glanced at the man who held her encompassed in his arms, and said one word, “Draco.” She meant so much with that one word. She meant, ‘I love you’ in that word. She meant, ‘I owe you a debt’, with that one word. She meant, ‘I want to be yours’, in that one word. One word spoken… no other word was needed because that one word meant so much to her.

Little did she know that it meant just as much to him.

Remembering that incident, she longed to say his name again. She brought her head up from the pillow, and with her stare still on his sleeping form, she said, “Draco.”

He opened his eyes slowly, stood up, and walked over to her. He sat beside her on the bed, brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed the top of it in an act of familiarity, which signified his love and admiration for her. Leaning over her, he placed his head on her chest. She brought her arms around his body, holding him in comfort, the same as he held her that day in the carriage.

He said, “Hermione.”

It was enough said for them both.

Chapter 35: Conclusions and Qualms by AnneM

Chapter 35 – Conclusions and Qualms:

Hermione walked into the breakfast room, but instead of joining Harry and Draco at the table, or even greeting them good morning, she went over to the window and looked out at the hot, hazy, gray morning. There was rain in the air. She could smell the rain as it weighed down the clouds in the sky, threatening to spoil the day. It did not matter, for the day was already spoiled. Every day was spoiled, but today most of all, as they were holding Remus Lupin’s funeral later.

She placed her hand upon the windowsill, reminiscent of how she stared out the window of the little cottage just days before, and said, “It looks as if it might rain.”

Neither man made inquiry nor comment to her statement. Harry continued to eat, concerned for his ‘new’ sister. Draco stopped eating to stare at her, wondering if she would ever completely return to him.

It had been five days since Theo killed Remus, and everyone felt the aftereffects. Harry felt he had lost another father figure. Hermione felt she had lost a friend whom she was just beginning to know. Even Draco missed the man, with his quiet demeanor and wise eyes. Theo apologized time and time again. He felt badly, but he said he truly thought Remus was about to kill Draco. No one blamed him. Nothing could make this loss easier on anyone.

Harry stopped eating and said, “Come sit down, Hermione. Lord Malfoy and I have things to discuss with you before the funeral.”

She stayed put and said, “I wish I could go to the service.”

Draco said, “Women do not go to funerals, it is just not done.”

She turned and said, “I went to my mother’s,” and then she turned back to the window.

He had no response to that statement. Harry pushed back his seat, the legs of his chair scraping sharply across the tile floor. He went up to her, took her hand, and led her to the table. He pulled out her chair, but instead of sitting, she moved over to the buffet, sat in a chair next to it, and looked out yet another window. Harry pushed the empty chair back under the table and took his spot back at the table’s head.

Draco’s back was now to her, but he could tell she was still melancholy and morose. He had never seen her so beaten down. He stood up and walked over to her. She looked so pretty today in a royal blue gown, with a hint of lace at the bodice. Her hair was up, with an intricate design of flowers and ribbons weaved through it. Harry must have finally convinced her to consider the notion of a lady’s maid because Draco knew her hair would never have looked so grand if she had dressed it herself.

He almost wished for the unconventional Hermione back, with the long, flowing hair, and the mass of curls on her shoulders. Touching her chin, he forced her to face him. “I insist you eat something, Lady Black.”

Since the discovery of her true parentage, Lord Potter, who had previously inherited all of Sirius Black’s possessions, home, and wealth, as well as his title, reverted everything to Hermione. A solicitor made the final arrangements just the day before. A simple magical test proved her parentage, and as soon as it did, she became Lady Black. Her new estate was on the other side of Potter’s. Grimmauld Place was often thought to be a dark, foreboding, and a massive home and estate. It was roughly the size of Potter’s Hall, which meant it was slightly smaller than Malfoy Manor. It had been empty for so long that it was barely fit for humans to live. It really did not matter, for neither Harry nor Draco intended to allow her to live there.

Draco would give anything to see her smile again. Harry stood up and said, “Bring her into the library in a moment, so she can read the letter.” He walked out of the room.

Now that they were alone, save for a servant or two, whom Draco quickly released with a mere wave of his hand, Draco knelt down before her chair, and took a hold of both hands. He said, “My lady, I would give away all my earthly possessions to see you smile again.”

She looked at him and said, “Good thing you do not have to make that choice now, is it not? If you had come to that conclusion earlier, perhaps Remus would be alive, but alas, your worldly possessions were more important than your love for me, so this vicious cycle began.”

He frowned and stood up. “Do you presume to tell me that this is my fault?”

She stood as well and said, “No, we both must take the blame. I for encouraging you, and you for not loving me enough for give it all up.”

“That was uncalled for, and I believe you are saying things that you do not mean to cause a schism in our relationship. I will not take the blame for the secrets and lies of Remus Lupin. I will not even take the blame for his death. He alone is responsible for the misfortunes that befell him.”

“Was he responsible for his ailment? He was but a child when he was bitten!” she yelled.

Harry, who had come back to the doorway, was listening with sadness.

“I am sorry for that, but that does not have anything to do with our argument at hand!” Lord Malfoy pointed out.

“Did he ask to hold the secrets of a desperate woman, his best friend's wife, Lily Potter? Did he ask to hide my identity? Was it his choice to give it all up to protect me all those years?” she asked with urgency.

“NO! But it was not yours either! Stop playing the martyr, Hermione! The ailments of the world are not your concern, nor were they his, he just took them on his shoulder to balance his own sense of regret and guilt!” Draco said.

“It is uncalled for to speak ill of the dead,” she countered.

“And it is unseemly to put them high up on a pedestal for which they do not deserve!” he said back.

She cried out, an anguished cry, and turned from both men. “I am trying to lay blame, on you, on Harry, on anyone I can, even Lupin, when the blame really lies at my own feet! It is so high that I cannot step over it! Remus died because of me! Ginny Weasley died because of me!” She turned back to face them, her cheeks flushed, and tears running down her face, evidence of her anger and shame.

“Sister,” Harry said, approaching her. He stopped in his tracks and said, “How odd it is to call you that, and yet, how right it feels.” He stepped closer and said, “Sister, none of this is your fault. Remus died because Remus held our mother’s secret out of some sense of nobleness, which was misplaced. He should have told us both about your parentage when she died. If he had, you would have been brought here and we would have always been a family. Ginny Weasley was misguided. If she had her right mind, she would never have tried to keep you and Lord Malfoy apart, for just because you are Lily’s daughter, that does not mean you would have inherited the Potter’s estate. You are not a Potter, so the estate would have stayed with me. She let her own selfish wants get in the way of what was right and wrong. She is to blame for her own actions.”

He took her hand and then he pulled her into the circle of his arms. Harry stroked her back while she placed her head on his shoulder and cried. “This will not do. You cannot continue to wallow in self-pity and guilt. You are not to blame. I am not to blame. There is a subtle difference between sadness for losing a friend, and self-indulgence. Please, try to see the light in this matter.”

She continued to cry and said, “I cannot help but think that Remus Lupin would be in a corner somewhere, with his nose in a book, right now, if I had not come here.”

He moved her slightly away from him and said, “Then why do you not blame me? I brought you here. Why not blame your mother for dying? Why not blame your stepfather for not providing you with a home? Do you not see how anyone of us could take the blame, but that would not make it anymore right. Please, try to come to an understanding.”

Draco walked up to her, and actually pulled her out of Lord Potter’s embrace and into his own. He circled his arms tightly around her and said, “I frankly think you are both too noble. If it is anyone’s fault, the person who lays claim to being Andromeda’s son is at fault! If it is Flint, I will see him dead! I will never let another soul hurt you, Hermione.”

“Nor will I,” Harry said from behind her. He placed his hand on her back and said, “Will you come to the library now? Lord Malfoy and I have some things to discuss with you.”

She nodded. Harry walked ahead of them, and Draco took her hand and placed it on the crook of his arm.

Walking arm in arm into the library, Draco ushered her to a sofa. Harry said, “We have decided that for your own protection, at least until Marcus Flint is found, you should go away.”

She stood up. “NO! You two are no better than Marcus Flint and Remus! Why does everyone want to send me away?”

“You won’t be alone,” Draco said. He walked up to her and said, “We shall be together. We will get married, this coming weekend, and then you and I will go away together under the ruse of a honeymoon trip. We will draw out Marcus Flint. Harry and Theo are certain they will find him.”

“We are to marry in two days?” she asked.

“Do you no longer want to marry me?” he asked.

“It is just all so soon,” she answered. She placed her hand on his face, her fingers feathery soft as she stroked his cheek. “It is not due to doubt of our love that I act surprised, for I long to be your wife.”

Harry sat on the edge of the desk and said, “There is something more. Remus left letters to you and me. He apparently wrote them the day he died, right before he came back to the cabin to get you. He apologized for all the lies, and he confirmed what Marcus Flint told you. My mother was your mother. Would you like to read yours?”

She nodded. He handed her the letter. He said, “I only read the one addressed to me. The second is addressed to you. Read it while we are at the funeral today. It will make you feel closer to him.” He smiled and said, “Speaking of Remus, Lord Malfoy and I must be on our way to the funeral. You will be quite safe here, for Theo has offered to come stand guard. He feels too guilty to come to the funeral.”

She sat down on the sofa, clutching the letter. Harry left the room and Draco sat beside her. He took his index finger, placed it on her upper arm, and ran it down her arm slowly, drawing little loops along the way. When he reached her hand, he turned her hand over with his free hand, and ran the same finger back up the inside of her arm. His eyes followed his finger. Her eyes studied his face. When his finger finished its journey, he looked at her expectantly. “Well?” he asked.

“Did you ask a question?” she asked with a small smile.

“I believe I did, though it was silent.” He closed his eyes, clasped her hand in his, and leaned toward her. She leaned toward him, and found his lips. His lips were slightly dry, but warm and inviting. He reached up with his left hand, and cupped her face as his lips continued to move lightly over hers. He removed them too quickly, and leaned his forehead against hers. With eyes still closed he said, “Soon, we will not have to stop at simple kisses.”

“Soon,” she returned. He stood up, bowed slightly, and left the room. She stood up, letter in hand, and added, “Very, very soon.”

She waited until she was certain the men had left for the funeral to read the letter. She walked along the long corridor that led from the library to the entrance hall. She sat on the wooden deacon’s bench, where she had sat only a little over a month before, the day of her first lesson with Lord Malfoy, and read the letter that Remus Lupin had left for her.


My Dearest Hermione,

Why do men do foolish things that they know they will regret? Who knows the answers? My life is full of regrets, but it will soon conclude. I am not sure I find solace in that thought.

I need to cleanse my soul. I need to give you a semblance of truth. I need you to forgive me. The tragic events that have unfolded and which have led us to this point in time were not of your making, so please, do not feel even a shard of guilt. I have felt guilt all my life, and it is a sad thing that I would not wish on an enemy, let alone someone I love as much as I love you.

When Lily gave birth to you, she handed you to me right away. She cried for you. She mourned so long, but she was afraid. She was afraid of fulfilling the prophecy when she thought her husband was gone, and she was afraid if her husband returned, but found out her sin, he would leave her forever. She picked him over you. It is sad, but true. She should have trusted him. He would not have made her give you up, but she was not certain of that.

The moment she placed you in my arms, and cried her anguished tears, I promised to give my life for you, and always to keep you safe. I hope I have done that. Over the years, when I would think of you, which was often, I wondered if you were safe and happy. I now know you were. For that, I am thankful. The mother who raised you, (Lily’s sister) loved you greatly and raised you well.

Know this one thing - while I cannot reveal whom Andromeda’s son is, because Marcus Flint never told me that much, this one fact is true: Marcus Flint is not Andromeda’s son. Marcus Flint, while misguided, tried to help you and me. I have not even told Harry or Lord Malfoy this. This I leave for you to do. Flint’s protection, I later found out, had a large price to pay. A very large price.

He wishes for me to Obliviate your past, but I cannot do that to you. Instead, I intend to see this to fusion. I will confront him; demand that he tell me who Andromeda’s son is, even if I have to kill him. He will betray his friend if he wants to keep his life. Then, I will kill her son. It is the only way for this to end. If, somehow, I die instead, you must see that this task is done.

My hope is that you will never get to read this letter. My hope is that this will have a happy ending. My hope is probably futile.

I have loved you since you were a babe in my arms. Remember, you were a child born of love. Not the love of a man to a woman, but a loved shared by a man and a woman for James Potter. Lily and Sirius both loved James more than life itself. Let that give you comfort.

If I should die, and you should read this letter, I give all my books to you. I hope you use them well. Take care of Harry. He has lost so much. Take care of Draco. He loves you so much. Take care of yourself, for that is all I have ever tried to do.

I will love you forever. The happiest day of my life, besides the day you were born, was the day last month when you said you felt like my daughter. To call you daughter just once would be heaven on earth. Enclosed in the smaller envelope is a letter your mother Lily wrote to you the day you were born. Read it now, after all, where is the harm?

Love, your father in his heart, Remus


Tears flowed freely as she clutched Remus’ letter to her chest. She ran from the entryway, toward the lounge, and down the long hallway to the dining room. She was going to run outside, to the gazebo, to read her mother’s letter, but before she reached the door, she ran right into the arms of Theo Nott. She placed her mother’s letter in the bosom of her gown, next to her heart. Remus’ letter fell opened on the floor. Theo bent down to pick it up.

“What is wrong, Miss?” he asked. He looked down at the writing on the parchment. His eyes scanned one line. The line that said, “Marcus Flint is not Andromeda’s son.” That was all he needed to see. He handed the letter back to her.

She took the letter, folded it, and said, “It is a letter from Remus. I was crying because I miss him so.”

“I know. You know how much I regret what happened, do you not?” he asked.

She said, “Please, do not blame yourself. You thought your friend was in danger, and you acted accordingly.”

“Thank you for that, Miss,” he said. “Have Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy returned?”

“No, I do not believe they have been gone very long,” she said.

“Shall we take a turn about the garden?” he asked.

“It looks like rain,” she said.

“I am not made of sugar, so I will not melt in the rain,” he said with a smile. “However, you are very sweet, so you may. Perhaps we should stay indoors.”

“No, I need to take a walk, if only to clear my head.” She told him she would meet him back outside in a moment. She ran up the stairs to grab her hat and gloves, clutching the letter tightly to her chest. She smiled at the thought that she was becoming more and more a lady everyday. Just a few weeks ago, she would have walked without them.

She placed Remus’ letter, opened, on her bed, and grabbed her things. As an afterthought, she placed her wand in her pocket of her dress. She decided to take her mother’s letter with her. She wanted to read it as soon as she could.

When she met him out in the garden, she said, “It looks as if it may storm.”

“If it does, I shall bring you right back. Would I ever let you come to harm, dear lady?” he asked with a sincere smile. She smiled back and placed her hand on his arm.

They started their jaunt, and Hermione said, “Cousin Harry, oh, I mean, Harry asked me to stay in the house, you know. He is still afraid of Marcus Flint, but I am not so sure he means me harm. He was uncommonly kind to me in the cabin.”

Theo thought about what he read in that letter and said, “Is that the only reason for your change of heart about the man?”

She did not want to reveal what Remus said to her in the letter before she told Draco or Harry, so she said, “Yes.”

He clenched his teeth, but smiled outwardly. He did not relish what he was about to do, but it needed done.



Harry and Draco walked back in Potter’s Hall, mentally and emotionally spent. They handed their hats and gloves to one of the servants, and then Draco said to another, “Go find Lady Black and tell her I need to see her.”

Harry said, “While you talk to Hermione, I need to take a nap. I have never felt this old or broken.”

“That was an unpleasant thing, was it not?” Draco asked.

“Very unpleasant. Death is never easy.” Harry sat down in a chair by a portrait of his parents. He looked up at it and said, “Hermione is all I have now.”

“She is all I have as well,” Draco said back.

“Funny, we have her in common, even if we never have anything else,” Harry said. He rubbed his hands together and said, “Odd that Charlie and Daphne should still go ahead with their wedding today. When Ron told me that they were meeting in the magistrate's office after Remus’ funeral, I was shocked, to say the least.”

“Let someone have peace and love, if it can not be us,” Draco said. He looked at the portrait over Harry’s head. He said, “You have your mother’s eyes, but Hermione does favour her. Her hair is a different colour, but besides that, she could almost be her doppelganger.”

Harry stood up to examine the portrait next to Lord Malfoy. “Yes, I never really noticed it until now.”

One of the servants walked up to the men and said, “One of the upstairs maids said that Miss Granger went for a walk with Mr. Nott.”

Harry said, “Well, it is about to storm. They should return soon. I am going upstairs for that nap. Have one of the servants wake me for lunch when she returns.” He walked up the stairs.

Draco felt ill at ease all of the sudden, and he did not know why. For an unexplained reason, he ran up to her bedchamber. He did not know the reason, except it was what he felt he needed to do. As soon as he entered the bedroom, he saw the letter Remus had written her on the bed. He read it, knowing he should not, but again, he felt compelled. Once again, he sensed her, felt her, just as he felt his right arm. He knew he had to read it. It was almost as if she left it for him.

When he got to the sentence that said, “Marcus Flint is not Andromeda’s son” and he came to one conclusion. HE KNEW WHO THAT SON WAS! He threw the letter on the floor and ran to Lord Potter’ bedchamber. Without protocol, he threw open the door. Harry had not even had a chance to shut his eyes. He sat up on the bed and said, “What is it?”

Draco could barely breathe when he said, “I know who Andromeda’s son is! We have to go find Hermione and Theo Nott, now!”

Chapter 36 - Pauper to Princess by AnneM

Chapter 36 – Pauper to Princess:

Even though it was not yet noon the sky was dark. Large, ominous clouds hung low in the sky, towering over Hermione and Theo as they walked. They had walked a fair distance from Potter’s Hall, in fact, Hermione was not even certain they were still on Harry’s property.

Theo said, “So tell me, Miss Granger, or should I now say, Lady Black, how does it feel to go from pauper to princess?” He pulled a flask from his coat pocket and took a drink.

“Truthfully, I would trade away all my newfound wealth to have everyone happy and alive again,” she said.

“That is always how it is... those you need it do not have it and those who have it do not need it,” he said cryptically.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean nothing. Would you like a drink? It is only water.” He held the flask out to her.

She was hot and the air was humid. She accepted his offer, since she was parched. She took the flask and took a large drink while Theo said, “You are now heiress to the Black fortune, I hear. In addition, if you and Malfoy marry, his fortune will revert to you. You are soon to be the richest witch in all of Godric’s Hollow, if not in all of England.”

Handing him back his flask, she spat, “I sincerely do not care, nor do I want anyone’s money, title, or lands.” She was somewhat put off by the fact that he would not let the subject rest. “Things would have been simpler I had never found out about my parentage.”

“Things would have been simpler if you had never come here,” he ended.

She walked away from him, pretending she had not heard his rude comment, and said, “We should start back. Harry and Draco must be worried, and there is a storm coming.”

He ignored her request to head back and continued walking, taking her elbow in his hand. “I do feel bad for you,” he said. “You did not ask for any of this. You did not ask for Lord Malfoy’s attention. You did not ask for Remus Lupin’s lies and deception. If only you and Malfoy had just married without trouble, if only he loved you enough to give up his estate at the start, then you would be together today. Poorer perhaps, but alive and together.”

She turned and said, “He loves me, and we are alive, and we will soon be together.” She was growing more upset with him by the second and she was not sure why.

“But he loves his fortune more and that has been a problem from the beginning,” he replied. “Even though Harry meant for you to have a very large dowry, Malfoy would not have been content. He had to stir the pot, and inquiries had to be made into your background. Remus Lupin had to get involved. Furthermore, if only Zabini and Clearwater had not come into the picture, well, you see, things could have been simpler.”

She no longer understood what he was talking about, nor did she care. She walked away from him, took out her wand, and was about to Disapparate back to Potter's Hall, when instead, she got a lacerating pain in her chest. She walked over to a nearby tree, placed her hand on the bark, and bent over in pain, dropping her wand to the ground.

He said, “I was beginning to wonder when the poison would take affect.” He walked over to her and as she started to collapse. Placing his hand on her back, he revealed, “You see, I only pretended to drink, but you took a large drink, did you not?” 

She reached up to him and scratched his face and neck. He hissed in pain. He guided her gently to the ground. He then put his hand to his neck, looked at the blood on his fingertips and said, “You drew blood. Ironic, since blood is the cause of all of the ills of our world, and the source of all of our present problems.” He removed her hat and brushed back her hair. “Your hair looks so pretty today, with the ribbons and flowers.”

He sat on the ground next to her body as she began to shake. He leaned toward her and said, “Try not to be afraid. This poison will not cause any pain besides the pain you felt in the beginning. It will be over soon. I am so sorry you must die. I never meant for you to die. Malfoy may now live, so that should give you some comfort. In the beginning, I would have been content if you two had just gotten married. I would have gotten his estate, but now, I shall be content being the only heir to the Black fortune, seeing that I am Andromeda's lost child. Oh, had I revealed that to you yet? So anyway, you see, it will work out in the end.”

“When Remus Lupin told Marcus Flint who your father was, I saw my original plan would no longer work, for you would be the heir to the Malfoy fortune over me, because you were older, if only by a few hours. Before then, I thought that only Draco had to die, along with Remus, because I thought I would inherit Malfoy’s estate, and no one would be the wiser as to your true parentage, since only Remus, Marcus and I knew of it. But damn, Remus had to tell Draco and Harry who your father was. That complicated things.”

“Zabini, Snape and Clearwater had their own agendas, but we took care of them. I later found out Flint had his own agenda all along as well. He will be sorry for betraying me.

“You see, I'll let everyone believe that he's the one that killed you. It might be a hard thing to prove that Marcus Flint would kill you, but that will still be my story. I will say that Marcus Flint wanted you dead because he was under the false allusion that he was the son of Andromeda, believing something a fortuneteller once told us, though of course, he does not really believe that. He knew the fortuneteller meant that I was the heir, but no one need know that, not yet. Once everyone is out of the way, I will prove that he was delusional, and then I will prove my parentage.

“I will then kill Flint as well, in retaliation for killing my best friend’s true love, meaning you, and then I will reveal that I was truly the heir all along. The fortuneteller told us that a letter testifying to that fact exists; written the night I was born by Malfoy’s own mother, my mother’s sister, and hidden at Malfoy Manor. This was never revealed to my adoptive parents, who were good people, purebloods, but terribly poor. It was only revealed to me by this fortuneteller, who attended my birth. She, Marcus and I, are the only ones who know of its existence. Soon, only I will know. Marcus will be dead, and the fortuneteller will meet with the same outcome.

“By a lucky turn of fate, I will inherit the Black estate. See, it still works out for me this way. If you had never known of your parentage, you and Malfoy might have just married, and I would have gotten the Malfoy estate. The Black inheritance is not as large, but I will manage, and my childhood friend, Lord Malfoy, shall keep his life. Of course, he might find that he is beside himself with grief with your passing. If he should kill himself in his depression, I would inherit twice as much.” He looked down at her quickly and said, “I will try not to hope for too much, however.”

The whole time he spoke, he looked out into the woods. He did not look down at her until that last sentence. She, however, stared up at him the entire time. She was unable to move, but a tear started falling down her face. He finally looked back down at her, and he wiped the tear off her face as it made its trek to her ear.

He said, “Please do not cry. You might make me feel guilty. I have had enough guilt. I tried it without killing people. Flint tried to convince me that we could do this without killing anyone. He worked as hard as I did in the beginning, so you might marry. He even lied to Ginny Weasley, and said he was the son of Andromeda, to try to get her to do the dirty work. Her greed, along with damn Zabini and Clearwater spoiled that.

“If only Lupin had Obliviated your mind completely the first time, after Zabini took you, we would not be where we are today. The second time you were taken, that time by Flint, he was convinced that Lupin would protect the secret he had kept all his life, but which Flint found out about one night when Lupin was sick with fever and pain from his condition. You see, Flint shares the same condition, and they have been each other’s confidants these many years. If Lupin had Obliviated you that time, Flint was convinced you could go off and live with Lupin unharmed. He told me that I could then concentrate on the Black fortune, since Lupin revealed your father to be Sirius Black. He said Malfoy could keep his, I could have the Black fortune, and no one else would have to die. He was wrong.

“Self righteous and wrong. Flint tried to be a friend to us all, and in the end, it will cost him his life. I cannot leave a living witness to my deeds; also, I need to blame someone.”

He reached over and placed her hands on her stomach. Another tear escaped her eye, and he wiped it again, and then closed her eyes with the tips of his fingers. She tried hard to maintain a steady breath, but was finding the feat harder to accomplish. The poison ran through her body and caused her terrible pain. He was wrong when he said it would not cause her discomfort, for she was in a great deal of pain. It was then that she realized that the poison must have been in the flask, and when he said he only pretended to drink, he meant the poison. She was so stupid to leave the house today. Poor Harry and Draco, they had both lost so much, and now she was leaving them, too. She wanted to stop him, but she lay dying, so what could she do?

She felt totally debilitated. He stood back up and said, “I really am sorry. I wish you could have lived. We are cousins, after all, and we are not so unalike, you and I. We were both robbed of our rightful names. If only things had been different.” He soon walked away and left her alone, as thunder finally sounded overhead, and the first raindrop fell on her face.

                                                                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry and Draco recruited most of the Weasleys and some of the other town members to help find Theo and Hermione. Draco told only Harry of his suspicions about Theo. Harry was beside himself with grief. He never suspected the man. He was the one who asked him to stand guard over her today. If she died as well, he knew he could not continue to live. Losing Ginny and Remus was hard enough, but losing his only sister, just a week after finding her, would leave his life without meaning.

Draco decided to alert his staff to the missing couple. He Disapparated to Malfoy Manor and told the staff to help locate them, but to be careful if they found them. He was about to go join the search when the devil himself showed up at Malfoy’s door.

Theo rushed in the grand reception area of Malfoy Manor just as Draco was running down the stairs. Draco’s first instinct was to draw his wand, but he did not yet want to cause mistrust. He rushed up to his oldest friend and said, “Where is Miss Granger? We are all worried for her.”

Theo said, “Marcus Flint surprised us on our outing. He stunned me and then he disappeared with her. I have no idea where they are. I will set out for the Militia and we will find her, Malfoy. Rest assured we will find her.”

Draco wanted to kill the man as he spoke, but instead he said, “Why would Flint want to hurt her?”

“He is under the misguided notion that he is the heir to the Black estate, and your own. He thinks he is Andromeda’s son,” Theo said.

Suddenly, Draco had a spark of hope. Perhaps Theo was innocent. He said, “Why would he think that?”

“Many years ago, we went to a Muggle fortuneteller, the same one Hermione saw that day of the carnival. I am convinced she was a witch. She told us that one of us, either Marcus or I, was the son of Andromeda. She said she was the midwife who helped deliver the woman’s child. She said that your own mother took the child away, to be raised by purebloods, to protect it from your father and the Dark Lord. Marcus was convinced that child was he.”

“Is he?” Draco asked, ever hopeful. “Is he her son?”

“I am not sure I know. The old woman claimed there was a letter, written in your own mother’s hand, which gives her son’s name, but I myself have never seen such a letter,” Theo said. “He is crazed. We must find him, and kill him.”

“Why are you bleeding?” Draco suddenly asked. Theo reached up for his neck.

He said, “I must have cut my neck when I fell. I feel responsible, Malfoy. I should have protected Miss Granger.” He took off his neckcloth, and dabbed at his wound with the same cloth.

That was when Malfoy saw it: a birthmark on his neck, shaped like a rose - just as the old witch had warned him.

His mouth was suddenly dry. He said, “You claim that Marcus Flint knows of a letter naming him as Andromeda’s son?”

“Yes, the old fortuneteller claims the letter was hidden here in this home, behind the portrait of your mother and her sisters when they were young. It will prove or disprove his claims. I tell you Malfoy, he is a mad man,” Theo said. He continued to dab at the blood on his neck.

Draco ran to the portrait in question. It was in his mother’s old bedroom. He took the portrait from the wall, and on the back, was a yellowed-piece of parchment, with a wax seal. He took the letter and placed it in the inside pocket of his coat. He returned to leave the room when Marcus Flint stunned him, and he fell to the floor.

Marcus walked up to Draco’s unconscious body and said, “It is for your own protection, Malfoy.” Then he disappeared as quickly as he came.

                                                                                 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hermione had no idea how long she was on the uncomfortable, hard ground. A steady, warm, and humid rain was falling, and even under the canopy of leaves from the tree above, she was soaked to the bone. The water splashed all around her. Her eyes were once again open. She wondered why she was not yet dead. She was still immobilized, but very alive. Her tears continued to fall silently, since she could barely move. They mixed with the rain on her face.

She was suddenly aware of an animal of some sort lying next to her. She felt its fur on her bare arm. The animal stood and walked over to her face. It was a doe. It was small, and mist like, but real, not a phantom. It lay back down, this time by her head.

She was then aware of another animal. This time she was afraid. A large black dog nudged her arm with its cold, wet nose, before it too lay down by her feet. It placed its legs and head across her legs. She found comfort in the fact that though she must die, she would not die alone.

The doe and the dog remained with her, the dog whimpering occasionally, as it would stand to walk around her in a circle. The doe remained by her head. Twice it put its face next to her face. The dog picked up her wand and tried to place it in her hand. She felt the cold wood by her fingers, but she could not grasp it. If only she could send out her patronus she could summon help, but she could not even hold her own wand. She was dying, she was alone, and she was scared.

She would never get to read her real mother’s letter, she would never see Harry again, and more importantly, she would never again feel Draco Malfoy’s arms around her, feel his lips upon hers, and see the love in his eyes.

The dog and the doe both ran off suddenly. NO! Stay! She did not want to face death alone. She felt a pair of hands reach under her body, one under her neck and one under her legs. The man said, “I hope it is not too late. The poison may be beyond your ability to stop it.”

“Not if you replaced the Rosemary leaf extract like I told you to do. If you did, then Theo would have still believed the poison was deadly. However, the antidote I have with me should work,” the other man said.

The two men Disapparated with her to an unfamiliar bedroom. The man that was holding her placed her on a bed. He leaned down and for the first time she saw him clearly. It was Marcus Flint. “I am sorry, Hermione. Draco is alive and well. Theo, however, will soon die, believe me.” He ran out of the room.

She was next aware of someone placing some sort of liquid between her lips. It tasted horrible, and it was warm and tickled her throat. The face of Severus Snape leaned forward. He said, “You will not die. I cannot have my godson live a life without the woman he loves. I know that is a fate worse than death, from my own personal experience. I loved Lily Potter very much. I only wish I had been in a position where she could have trusted me with her secret, a secret I have just come to know. Everything might have been different. Perhaps I would have raised you as my own child. We will never know.” He put her wand on the table beside the bed, along with her hat. He touched her hand lightly and said, “All you must do now is sleep, and dream happy thoughts, and when you awake, this will all be over.”

                                                                                XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Draco woke up with Theo standing over him. Theo asked, “What happened to you? I came up here, and you were on the floor, stunned.”

Marcus Flint stood in the doorway and said, “Good question, but I have a better one for you, my friend Theo, and that would be, what happened to you?”

Draco was confused. He also had a headache from being stunned. He was just beginning to think that Theo might be the culprit, when Marcus Flint caught him off guard, hexed him to the ground, and now stood with his wand pointed at his supposed good friend. Draco sat up against the wall, as his hand went to his pocket, to withdraw his own wand.

Theo smiled at Marcus. “Marcus, my friend, so we meet again. I have been busy you know, cleaning up your mess.”

“That is where you are wrong. I am the one that has been busy cleaning up your mess,” Marcus countered.

Theo looked at Draco and smiled. “Draco, old man, did you know that I killed your beloved this afternoon. As we speak, she is dead on the floor of the forest, and only the rain and the trees were her comfort during her last moments on earth.”

Draco wanted to scream. The man had to be lying. He struggled to stand. Marcus offered his hand, his wand still on Theo.

“I shall get up myself. You are the rogue that cursed me,” Draco said as he stood. He looked back at Theo and said, “And if you killed Miss Granger, a thousand deaths will be too good for you.”

“She is alive, but barely,” Marcus said. “Snape and I found her and he is administering the antidote to the poison he gave her as we speak.”

Theo growled and kicked a chair. Then he turned back to the other man and said, “It matters not. It will be too late! There is no antidote for the poison I made!”

“Who helped you make it, friend? Was it not I? Are you certain I gave you the right ingredients?” Marcus said with a sneer. “The time has come for this to end. Your madness must stop. I entertained it as folly at first. I understood your pain. I tried to help you, where no one would get hurt, but you took it too far.”

“You are the one who killed Zabini!” Theo shouted.

“And I would kill him again!” Marcus said. “You killed the Weasley girl.”

“You are the one who took her to Potter’s Hall with you that night!” Theo shouted.

At that moment, Harry walked up the stairs, and stood outside the bedchamber where all three men were, unnoticed by all, and listened closely outside the door.

“Yes, I did, but I did not kill her. You must have done something, for there was no way she would not have escaped that fire. She was right behind me and Hermione, and you killed Lupin, too!” Marcus shouted.

“The old man deserved to die! He could have told me of my parentage from early on, but he did not. He kept too many secrets for too long! He kept your secret! Do you want me to tell Lord Malfoy your secret?” Theo sneered.

“I no longer care. I will not be blackmailed any longer by the likes of you,” Marcus said. He turned to Draco, who stood against the wall, his wand pointed at the floor, since he still did not know who was friend and who was foe, as Marcus said, “I suffer from the same affliction as Lupin. Your godfather introduced me to him when I was first afflicted. He was a friend to me all these years. I made our Wolfsbane potion, and one night, when he was especially ill with his ailment, he confided things to me, which I regret I later confided to my then best friend, Theo. Little did I know, my supposed best friend would blackmail me, and use the information I gave him, although I have only ever tried to help him.”

“Stop being so self righteous! Remus Lupin was a blight on society and deserved to die! End of story! I was raised without means or a title, when I deserved more! Malfoy looks down on people like you and I, Marcus! The fact that we have pureblood means little when we have to toil for a living!” Theo shouted.

“I never looked down on you!” Draco contested.

“If I had come to you, and called you cousin, would you have accepted me, shown me kindness? Shared your wealth? Look at Lord Potter! Look at what he did for a woman he barely knew! He thought she was his kin, so he took her in, gave her lessons, and gave her a dowry. He was prepared to give up his engagement to keep her safe! He meant to give her a home all of her life!”

“You know you would not have done the same for me and the reason is because you think you are better than me! You are the worst sort of arrogant person, Malfoy, because nothing can sway you from your precious beliefs!”

Draco rushed up to the Theo and knocked his wand arm away. He backed handed him, and watched as he fell to the floor. He said, “That is where you are wrong! I could not love Hermione, a love that is true and pure, if that was the truth! You do not know me! You call me arrogant, but that is where you are ignorant! You are the more arrogant of us two, for you are over-confident and supercilious. You believe in your own lies and folly. You think you know what is in another man’s heart, but you know nothing, Nott!” Draco took the letter from the portrait out of his pocket and threw it on the man as he lay on the floor. “There! There is your proof as to your parentage! What will you do with it when you rot in hell?”

Draco turned to leave; Nott raised his wand, pointed it at Malfoy’s back, aiming to kill. Marcus Flint shot the death curse at his best friend and Theo Nott fell dead on the floor.

Harry ran in the room, Draco turned around, and Marcus Flint fell on his knees on the floor and said, “It is done.”

                                                                         XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

She felt lips on hers, vivid, yet like a dream. She felt his warm embrace as he scooped her into his arms. His scent enveloped her. She heard his footsteps softly on the floor as he took her from the lion’s den and heard him say, “You are finally safe. I am taking you home.” She used every ounce of energy she had to open her eyes, to make sure this man was real, to make sure this moment was real, and to make sure this was not another mirage. She placed her hand on his face. She felt her own heart pounding out of her chest.

He was real.

The next time Hermione awoke, she found herself in her own bed. She struggled to sit, but felt too tired. It was night, she knew that much. There was barely any light in the room. Her throat felt dry. She moved her head back and forth, searching for someone, anyone, who could tell her that the nightmare was finally over.

In the briefest of moments, he was by her side. She knew not where he came from, only rejoiced that he was there. He leaned on her bed, and again, she felt his lips touch hers. This time, he did not hold back. His tongue traced her upper lip, flesh on flesh, his mouth moist, and hers on fire.

Her mouth was liquid sweetness, moist desire, tempting want. He opened his mouth slightly over hers, and felt her tongue with his. What madness was this? Her fingers clenched at his shirtsleeves, as the tip of her tongue met his. Hermione felt as if she were slowly dying from this one kiss. Eyes closed, they both were lost to the touch and feel of their desire and love. She kissed him back, so he opened his mouth wider, as their lips and tongues danced, sending an aching pleasure throughout both their bodies.

He had to stop, or he would not be able to stop. He lifted his body away from her, and she met his eyes and said, “Draco.”

“Did you think someone else would kiss you like that?” he said with a smile. “Let us make one thing clear, my love, no man will ever kiss you like that, but me. Do we have an understanding?”

She placed her right hand in his hair and her left hand went down the front of his waistcoat. He was without his coat, and he looked as if he had not slept for days. She said, “Is it over?”

“Theo was Andromeda’s son. If you had not left Lupin’s letter on your bed, and if you had not scratched his neck, we may never have found out. You saved the day, my dear girl,” he said. He leaned over, and placed his head on her chest. She stroked his head.

She felt a bump and said, “Are you injured?”

“Slightly, but since you are in no condition to nurse me back to health, I will muddle through the best I can,” he said with a smile.

“You are always so dramatic,” she said. “I tried to cast my patronus, to tell you where I was, but I was under the influence of a poison. I could not move. Theo wanted to kill me for the Black inheritance. At that point, I no longer cared if it meant he would not kill you. Where is he?”

“He is dead. Killed by Marcus Flint. I am still not sure of Flint's role in all of this, although I rather think he was like Remus - too caught up trying to save everyone that he almost lost himself,” Draco finished.

“Draco, when I was in the woods, and I was alone and afraid, the strangest thing occurred. A doe and a black dog came to me and stayed with me until Mr. Snape and Marcus rescued me,” she said.

Draco gave her a funny look and said, “The affects of the poison, I would assume, made you imagine things.”

Harry walked in and said, “Or it was divine intervention. Our mother’s patronus was a doe, and Sirius Black’s animagus form was a black dog. Perhaps since your parents could not help you while you were alive, they at least wanted to help you while you lay dying.” He had their mother’s letter in his hand. He was going to read it to her, as he had just read it, but he decided to wait. He placed it back in his coat pocket. It was only then that he noticed Draco leaning against her bed. He gave him a strange look and said, “You should not be so familiar with my sister, Sir, unless you want to duel me. Such familiarity and I might force you to marry her.”

“Then you might as well know I kissed her, too,” Draco said, standing up and straightening his waistcoat.

Hermione said, “Actually, that was our third kiss, I believe.”

“You are not helping matters here, Miss,” Draco said as he leaned toward the bed. “I am in a weakened state, and your cousin's skills at dueling, I hate to admit, surpass mine. Do you want me dead before you have the chance to call me husband?”

“I am a wealthy woman, I am sure I would have plenty of other suitors,” she said seriously.

Harry laughed and said, “She has a point, Lord Malfoy. What do you intend to do now?”

“Gads, man!” Draco said. “I shall be force to marry her, I suppose. This weekend, as planned.” He sat on the bed, took her hand, and kissed her fingertips, one by one. “Is that acceptable? There is no longer a threat, so we do not have to rush the wedding now, if you would rather wait.”

“I cannot wait,” she responded. “I yearn to be your wife.” He stroked her cheek, leaned down, looked over his shoulder at Harry, and said, “Turn your back, Potter, I plan to kiss her again, and I do not want the threat of a duel over my head.”

“One kiss, and then I insist that she rest,” Harry remained in the room, but turned his back.

“Blast it man, leave the room!” Draco said.

“Kiss her and make it quick,” Harry said with his back still to him.

Draco frowned and said to Harry, “After your sister and I are married, there will be no such thing as quick kiss.” He turned back to Hermione and she was asleep. Draco smiled at her and kissed her forehead. Harry turned back around. “You ruined it for me, Potter. She is sleeping.”

“You have a lifetime to kiss her,” Harry said. “Do see that you treat her well, will you not?”

“I shall,” he said. He stood up and walked over to the chair. He pulled the chair next to her bed and sat down. He took her hand, brought it to his mouth once more, kiss the top, and repeated, “I shall love her all the days of my life.”

Harry smiled and walked out of the room.

Chapter 37 - Of Marriage Vows and Marriage Beds by AnneM

Chapter 37 – Of Marriage vows and Marriage beds:

It was the little things that mattered that most to Draco Malfoy. Therefore, he noticed the little things about his beloved on the day of the wedding, such as the intricate design in the lace of her veil, the blush of her cheeks when he grasped her hand, and the perfect smile which graced her perfect mouth when the officiate announced them man and wife. Yes, he had lived his life under the impression that bigger meant better, but he was wrong. The small, simple things mattered the most in this life. The most simple of all was the fact that he loved her.

He would never hurt her. He would try to make her happy. He looked forward to debates with her. He even looked forward to her scorn, for he thought she was most beautiful when she was vexed at something.

He wanted to make love to her. He wanted them to have a houseful of children. He wanted to protect her from harm and he wanted to feel safe within her arms. He loved her.


She had never recalled a time when she felt so incredibly happy. This was a joyous occasion for Hermione Granger. It had moments of sorrow - missing the people who were no longer with them being the most sorrowful - but somehow she knew that all of those people were with them in spirit. They were in her heart, her mind, and her memory. She took comfort in that. She knew the trials she had faced had brought her to this place and to this point in time. To Draco. To stand beside him as his wife.

She also knew that he would make her happy all the days of her life. He would strive to keep her happy. He would challenge her mind along with her patience. He would fill her life with joy. He would look after her, protect her, cherish her, and allow her to be who she was, not the person everyone thought she should be.

When he took her hand during the ceremony, she felt a blush tinge her cheeks. It was not due to bashfulness, but embarrassment, for there was nothing she wanted more than to throw herself in his arms at that moment and never let him go. That was why she blushed - she loved him.



Harry Potter knew there were few things in life that were truly important. One was truthfulness. With the truth, one could always find their way home. With the truth, the path was always straight and narrow. With the truth, one could find ultimate happiness, which was love and freedom.

Truthfulness was the most important thing to any successful marriage, and for any successful life.

The other thing that mattered in this life, which was more important than truthfulness, was love. The love of a man to a woman, and a woman to a man. A love where a person placed their lover's wants and happiness before their own. A love which caused strong men to fall down on their knees, women to weep, and in which all great poetry was written. Love which was all consuming, gut wrenching, all powerful, all possessive, raw, unbridled, all abiding, but without selfishness. Such a thing was hard to find, but Hermione found it with Draco. Perhaps he would find it someday, too. He turned his attention to the woman beside him. Lady Pansy smiled at him and then blushed. Yes, he might find such a thing after all.



When Lord Draco Malfoy and Lady Hermione Granger were announced man and wife, he lifted her veil from her perfectly coifed hair, which sat under a perfectly pretty bonnet, and he had visions of her hair long and down, with flowers around her hair like a crown. He would like to see that again. He leaned down, and kissed her mouth with a soft, simple kiss. There was time for exploration later. A whole lifetime.

They walked out of the little ruined church on Malfoy’s estate, where he first fell in love with her, to the joyous applause of their friends and most of the village. Hermione looked toward a line of trees, and she swore she saw the doe, the dog, Remus and the mother and father who raised her. She blinked once, and the vision was gone. He looked down at her and asked, “Are you alright?”

She smiled up at him and answered, “I am now.”

In an act that was all too familiar, as it was frequently done, he brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it gently. Soon there would be more than simple kisses to the top of her hand.

They walked around to his curricle and he placed his hands around her waist to lift her up. He felt possessive of her as he lifted her in the small, light carriage. He felt a purpose and a peacefulness, which had often eluded him in the past. She was his, plain and simple.



When his hands circled her waist to lift her in the carriage, she found a comfort in knowing that such a simple touch was now allowed, was favored, and was more than anticipated. She found not only a comfort, but also peacefulness, which she had rarely felt any other time in her life. She had always lacked purpose before this. She had often felt restless, and overly aware. She knew in that instant when she became his wife that she belonged there by his side. He sat beside her on the seat, as if to emphasis that point. He smiled down at her, and this time she reached for his hand, and brought it to her mouth, in which to kiss. He belonged to her, now and forever.

They drove to Potter’s Hall for a wedding reception. They could have Disapparated, or walked, but he wanted the first few moments of wedded bliss to be just the two of them. He said, “Remember the time at the Manor when I begged you to say my name? I said that one word would give me comfort.”

“I recall. You asked me to call you Draco,” she reminisced.

“I have a new request,” he stated. She looked over at him. “I want you to once more utter one word to me, one name, one command, and then if I should die before the light of day, I should die a happy man.”

She said, “Will the dramatics never cease? You will not die before you wake, however, I will oblige your request. What is the one word you wish for me to speak?”

“Husband,” he said to her.

He stopped the carriage. She placed a lace-gloved hand against his rough cheek, leaned toward him, and said, “Husband.”

“Wife,” he said back.

Those were the only words they ever needed. It was right.

After the reception and the gaiety of the event was over and done, he escorted her to her new home. They walked up the stairs and he said, “It is customary for husband and wife to have separate bedchambers, so I had your things put in the room next to mine. However, it is my hope that tradition aside, you will share my room, as you share my name, and will soon share my bed. I understand if that is not to your liking.”

She thought he seemed nervous as to what her response would be.

“I assumed we would share a room. If I ever need peace and solitude, I am sure I could find one place in this massive home where I might seek solace. Pray tell, Lord Malfoy, how many rooms are in the home?” she inquired.

He liked that she called it a home instead of a house. He said, “By Jove, I do not recall.” He was telling the truth. She laughed.

“How can that be? How do you not know how many rooms you have?” she asked.

“I will tell you what, Lady Malfoy, after we have had a proper wedding night, and we return from our honeymoon, we will set out and count them all. We will make an adventure out of it. Of course, with your terrible sense of direction, you will undoubtedly become lost.” He stopped walking, as they had come to the double doors of his bedchamber.

“It is a good thing that you taught me Apparition. If I become lost, I shall merely Apparate back to a familiar room,” she joked, leaning back against his chest. He placed his arms around her.

“You could always send out your patronus. I could follow it back to you,” he said. He kissed the top of her head.

“Harry looked sad tonight,” she suddenly said.

He stroked her back and said, “I thought he looked at peace. I dare say that he seemed attentive to Lady Pansy.”

“I have nothing to say on that matter.” Hermione laughed. She did not really like or dislike Lady Pansy, but if her new BROTHER liked her, that was all that mattered.

“Shall we?” he asked, pointing toward the double doors with his head.

She seemed resigned and nervous. He took her hand and she was shaking. He said, “I am not leading you to the gallows.”

“More like a firing squad,” she said.

That made him laugh, and he was sure she did not know why he laughed so hard at her statement, but deuce it all, she was a funny little thing. He led her in the room, shut the door, and took her hand again. He walked with her to the center of the large room.

He took off her bonnet and shawl. He even peeled her gloves, one at a time, from her arms. She was still shivering. It was summer, so he knew she was not cold. He removed his jacket, and unbuttoned his waistcoat. Then he took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and said, “You know I shall never hurt you, do you not?”

“I know, Sir,” she said.

“It is not, Sir, any longer. Nor shall I call you, Miss. We shall find forms of endearment for each other. You pick one for me first,” he said. He placed his hands on his hips.

She seemed really to give it some thought. She even circled him, which he thought was beyond amusing. She said, “But I really like, ‘Sir’.” She laughed to show she was joking. She finally stood in front of him, and said, “I want to call you ‘beloved’.”

“But that is my name for you, so you must pick another,” he said with a smile.

“You have no reservations on the name. You told me to pick first, and I picked. Beloved. It is so. You must pick a different name for me.”

“No, it will not do for us to pick the same name, Hermione. It would be awkward. Try another name on for size,” he urged.

She sat on the edge of his bed, crossed her legs, and a look of concentration graced her features, but the only thing he noticed was that SHE SAT ON HIS BED!

“Fine, if I cannot call you my first choice merely because you have taken it for your own, then I shall call you Lord Malfoy the Arrogant,” she finally revealed.

He approached her slowly, with an absolute leer on his face, and said, “No. You shall have ‘Beloved’ for me, and I shall call you ‘Evil One’.”

She stood up suddenly and said, “Wait! That is a good one for you!”

He pulled her to him, and said, “What shall I do with you?”

“Love me,” she said.

“I already do,” he said back. She started to breath hard again. The merriment from the moment before already lost, as she again became preoccupied with the wedding night. He started to sway back and forth with her in his arms, lightly going to and fro. He said, “Shall we dance first. That might remove your jitters.”

“Dance?” she asked.

“Yes, will you dance with your husband, Hermione?” he asked.

“There is no music,” she said.

“That is easily fixed.” He took his wand out of his trouser pocket and pointed it toward a music box. The lid opened, and music began to float along the air, all around them. He threw his wand on the bed. “I mean to teach you a new dance; you always seem so receptive to learning.”

She took two steps backwards from him. He reached for her. He approached her as if she were a scared animal. He decided to keep talking, so he said, “It is called the waltz.” He finally reached her and he took her hand in his. “It is all the rave among the fashionable Ton in Muggle London. Have you heard of it?”

“I admit, I have not,” she said. She was beginning to relax.

He said, “In this dance, the man and the woman dance together, in each other’s arms, throughout the entire dance.” He raised one eyebrow and he said, “Is that not disreputable?”

“Admittedly so, but I have never been one to shy away from scandal,” she said.

“True,” he agreed. “Place your left hand on my shoulder, Hermione,” he instructed, taking the last step needed to be close enough to dance. She placed her hand on his bare shirtsleeve, no coat encumbering her, the feel of silk delicious beneath her touch. He placed his right hand on her waist, more intimately than he ever had before, now that he called her wife. She cocked her head to the side to look at said hand, and he said, “My hand is needed at your waist or back to guide you. It is the custom of the dance.”

He explained, “Now, take you right hand and place it in my left.” She did as instructed, and he held their arms upright. He started to move around the room, gracefully, and she met him step for step. He marveled at how she was a fast learner at everything he taught her.

He continued to move them around the room, the sun was setting outside the large wall of windows, and the curtains were open to show a pinkish hue to the sky, which wafted through the room, casting them in a soft, glowing light. It was an awakening to their souls. Bathed in the soft light of twilight, it seemed apropos that as this day ended, it would indubitably be followed by a new one tomorrow. It was as if this chapter of their life was ending, to be followed by a new, better one tomorrow.

It was as it should be.

He said, “You are a good student. You have seemed to have picked this up most nicely.” He continued his gentle swaying and circling, giving her a sense of security. Then he gently pulled her tighter; he could feel her breasts pressed against his chest.

“You are a good teacher,” she said, finally finding her voice.

“That goes without saying, you must remember that,” he said. He had so many other things to teach her.

He twirled and twirled her around and around. When the song ended, as it must, he kept her in his arms. No longer moving, her head on his chest and her arms around his neck, he said, “May I teach you something else?” He asked it so softly. He felt her head nod. “Look at me, Hermione.”

She looked up into his eyes.

“I want to teach you the way a man and a woman show physical love to each other. Remember, I shall never hurt you. You believe that, do you not?”

A single nod of her head.

“Are you frightened?”

Another nod.

“Of me?”

A shake of the head. He took that to mean no.

“Of consummating our union?”

A nod and a glance to the floor.

He lifted her face to his and said, “I shall be a kind and generous lover. I will teach you the way to love much as I taught you everything else, with patience, and kindness. Do you not trust me?”

“It is not a matter of trust, Draco,” she started, “for my mother explained to me once that the with the act of making love, the woman can sometimes experiences pain the first time.”

“I would not wish to cause you pain,” he said, “but neither will I lie to you. Sometimes it is painful; nevertheless, the pain will not last, and will seem inconsequential compared to the passion.”

He guided her to the bed. He turned her around and proceeded to unbutton her outer dress. When he finished, he left it on her shoulders. She turned back toward him. At least she seemed a willing student, if not a willing participant at yet. He wished she were a bit more eager and earnest to learn this, as she was with other things, but he knew that would come with time.

He started to remove all the hairpins from her perfectly styled hair. He deposited pin after pin into his open hand. When he finished, he placed them on the dresser, and then walked back over and combed his fingers through her luscious, honey brown tresses.

He walked back over to the dresser, removed his cravat, his watch fob and watch, and his waistcoat. He slipped his shirt over his head, and let it fall aimlessly to the floor at their feet. He put both hands on her face, leaned in, kissed her, and then his hands traveled down her face, to her neck and then to her shoulders. He slipped her dress down her body, where it too fell to the floor.

She stood in a light corset over a chemise, and her stockings and small shoes, and he thought she looked more desirable than if she had on nothing at all. He removed his own shoes, and walked over to her. Her corset was laced in the front, so he proceeded to untie it at the bottom, and he pulled the lace though the hole, as if he was unwrapping a present. When it was loose, he slid it down her body, and she stepped out of it accordingly. That left only her light chemise, which was more of a shift. He could almost make out her naked body under the light cotton undergarment.

He got down on his knees, and lifted one leg. He placed her foot on his leg, removed the small silk shoe, and reached under her shift to touch the top of her white stocking. He rolled it down slowly, her skin like silk under his fingertips. He never took his eyes off hers.

He repeated the gesture to the other foot and leg, removing its shoe and stocking. He bent his head to kiss her knee. He stood back up, drawing her intimately into his arms. He placed his mouth upon hers, opening it, entering his tongue, and circling her tongue with his. He kissed the long column of neck leading to the hollow of her throat. He kissed the exposed skin at the top of the chemise and he gently brought his hand up to mold it to her breasts, and through the thin material under his hand he felt her returned desire.

He burned with want for his wife. He continued to kiss her, as her arms went tightly around his neck. When she started to rain kisses against his jaw and neck, he became unbridled with his own passion. He had to have her now, yet he had to show caution. If he lost her respect, he would lose her forever. He promised not to hurt her or cause her pain, and he promised that she would enjoy this, and damnation, he was a man of his word.

He removed her shift and in that moment, she was naked before him, though the room was now mostly dark. He thought she was the loveliest thing he had ever seen, long legs and arms, beautiful round breasts, a slight swell of abdomen, slight hips... He was in awe. He drew is a slow, steady breath.

He removed the rest of his clothing and said, “Sit on the bed.”

She sat on the bed, and he placed his hands on her shoulders, dipped his head, and kissed her mouth once more. She closed her eyes, and her cheeks pinked, at the fact that he was unclothed, and she was unclothed, and what was about to happen next. She was breathing so hard that he was slightly alarm. He sat beside her and took her hand. “Are you ready?”

This time, instead of a nod, she said, “Oh, yes, Draco.”

He pulled down the covers and walked back to the end of the bed. To her surprise, he picked her up and walked with her to the side of the large bed. He placed her on the turned down bed, and came to lie beside her. He leaned over, kissed her lips again, and placed his hand on her bare stomach. She tried to reach for the coverings, but he would not let her cover them. It would serve no purpose and such modesty need not exist between them.

While he continued to kiss her, his hands started to move all over her body, touching her, fondling her, arousing her. Then, true to his brave, earnest wife’s reputation of fearlessness in the face of learning something new, she reached down and touched him, lightly and hesitantly. He was enraptured.

They made love, in a blinding, epic, battle of her will against his will, with the winner of the battle never determined, as it was a draw. He probed, she scratched, he rolled to his back, and she rolled to hers. She spread her legs without further ado, and they came together, hard muscle over soft flesh, hips and legs entwined and pressed together.

If he caused her pain, she did not show it. He felt an urgency, his heartbeat so loudly, like a drum in his ears, yet he had to slow himself. He knew it would not do if she did not enjoy it. It would jade her to their future prospects. He wanted nothing to ruin the first time, or any future lovemaking.

He moved with slow, deliberate, long strokes for as long as he could. She began to make small noises, so he knew it was time to quicken his pace and deepen his strokes. When she began to raise her hips and meet him thrust to thrust, his control finally slipped, and he felt a passion that closely resembled pain.

Her arms tightened around him and she threw her head back on the pillow. All he could think was, ‘Please, please, Hermione, find your release so I may find mine’, and she did, and so did he, and so they did together.

When she was finally silent underneath him, he rolled to the side. His hand went possessively to her breast, and he pulled her yielding, willing body to him. He kissed her mouth and said, “Well, my dear wife, what did you think of our first lesson?”

“I think it was a very fine lesson indeed, although I am sure I still have much to learn,” she said.

He laughed. She was a funny thing, after all.

They finally slept after long hours of talking, and making love twice more, each time, taking it a step further. She did have a lot to learn, but he did seem a good teacher, after all.

She felt warm and safe in his embrace, but she longed to do something. She had wanted to do it at the beginning of the day, but she was so busy getting ready for the wedding, she had not had time. Therefore, after they made love the third time, and Draco was quite asleep, she slipped from his embrace, removing his arm from her body, and tiptoed from the bed. She found her shift, placed it back over her body, and went to the room next door, where she knew she would find her belongings. She found her wand in her trunk, and lit the sconces on the walls, and the candles by the bed. She went back to her trunks, found Lily’s letter, sat on the made bed and began to read.

Draco awoke, and panic immediately hit him like a blow to his stomach. Where was his wife? He still felt their happiness and togetherness was precarious at best, perhaps it was still too close to him having almost lost her, and perhaps that was what caused his panic. He climbed from their marriage bed, placed his trousers over his body, leaving them hanging lightly on his hips, and he walked to the other room, where he found her on her side, huddled in a ball, on the bed, crying.

His heart broke for her, and he did not know why. Just seeing her in so much distressed caused him pain. He ran to her side, sat next to her on the made bed, and stroked her arm. Was this pain borne of their lovemaking? What was causing this reaction?

“What is wrong, beloved?” he asked. He leaned down and kissed her shoulder. He pulled her up to sit across his lap. Stroking her arms and hair, as a parent would a frightened child, that was when he saw the piece of parchment in her hand. He understood. She had read her mother Lily’s letter. He had already read it the night she was rescued, shortly after Lord Potter read it. It was a heartbreaking account of a mother’s love and a mother’s loss, and a mother’s regret for her only daughter.

“I am so sorry this letter has upset you,” he cooed softly in her ear.

“She loved me, she really did. It was easier thinking that she did not. It was easier assuming that it meant nothing to her to give me away. It was easier to believe her thoughts never went to me. Now, I know she paid the ultimate price. It was easier to hate her, and blame her, for being weak and choosing her husband over her child, but I cannot hate her, no matter how much I want to. She was a human being, with human frailties and human emotions, and she was not perfect. She made mistakes, but she never once believed me to be one of them.” She continued to cry. He rocked her back and forth.

“Is it not better not to hate her any longer?” he asked. “You started with hate for me, and now you love me, is that not better?”

She looked up at him and oddly enough, she smiled. “You silly, silly, man. I do not think I ever hated you. From that moment you walked into the mercantile talking with Nott about dueling with a man who insulted your elf made Hessian boots, I think I loved you.”

“And when you lost your hat, and then your book, or was it the book first and then the hat? Well, no matter, but that was when I knew I could not live without you. I wanted to forget about you. I wanted to say, ‘good riddance’, but damn it all to hell, I wanted to love you more,” he declared. He scooted from the bed, and lifted her in his arms. “Let us go back to our room. I want to fall asleep with you in my arms.” He carried her back to ‘their’ room and placed her on the bed, and then he climbed in beside her.

She said, “Do you think we could commission someone to paint portraits of Lily and Sirius, just as you had the portraits painted of my other parents?”

“We shall have new, larger portraits done of all four, and they will hang wherever you want them to hang. I only want to make you happy,” he said, kissing her cheek.

She placed her hand on his cheek and said, “Then you have done a job well done, for I am blissfully happy.”

“And you have returned the favour, for I, too, am blissfully happy, and it is all due to a little Muggle-born country girl named Hermione Granger Potter Black Malfoy.”

She laughed. “Just Malfoy, which is the only name I need.”

“It is the only name I want you to have,” he said. “Well, except for one more. Shall I say it again?”

“If you do, I shall,” she said.

“Wife,” he said.

“Husband,” she returned.

Their titles were no longer just Arrogant and Ignorant, they were now so much more, and always would be. Therefore, that makes this…

The End

End Notes:

And it's done. Completely re-edited. This story was plagiarized a few years ago and posted on a well known Indian fanfiction forum, changed from a HP story to another story. It has always made me very sad to think about that, but I'm thankful that a very keen reader realized this, and that other people helped me get it taken down from there, so thanks to all.

Remember, plagiarism is wrong on so many levels. Don't steal other people's work.

This story archived at http://www.themaplebookshelf.com/Literati/viewstory.php?sid=74