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.