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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.

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