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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.

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