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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.

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