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.