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Goodly they all that knight do entertaine,
Right glad with him to have increast their crew:
But to Duess' each one himselfe did paine
All kindnesse and faire courtesie to shew;
For in that court whylome her well they knew:
Yet the stout Faerie mongst the middest crowd
Thought all their glorie vaine in knightly vew,
And that great Princesse too exceeding prowd,
That to strange knight no better countenance allowd.
-Edmund Spenser

Hermione stood at one of the wooden tables full with food. She awkwardly held a cup full of the amber liquid that she had seen spouting from the black fountain earlier. Apparently, it was “out of this world” and “ten times better than butterbeer”, because Harry and Ron kept bugging her to try some.

She had just told them to get lost because they were becoming a little tipsy, when Malfoy stepped up next to her.

“You’re not drinking,” he said simply, taking a sip from the silver goblet he held in his hand.

“Thank you for stating the obvious.” She didn’t know why she was being so snappy with him, but it felt good. Retribution for all those years of nasty name calling.

“It’s not spiked,” Malfoy said to her snarkily. “These aren’t desperate men, Granger. They could get any woman they wanted.”

“He couldn’t,” Hermione pointed out, nodding towards a troll who appeared to be half asleep on the chairs.

Malfoy picked up an apple, throwing it up a little in the air and catching it. Hermione rolled her eyes at his theatrics and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Try this,” he told her softly, handing her the apple.

She took it from him and studied the fruit. It was a strange apple, the color of molten gold instead of the usual colors that the fruit possessed. She brought it up to her mouth and gingerly bit into it. As soon as the juices hit her lips, her eyes went half lidded with pleasure.

It was sweet, sweeter than anything she had ever tasted, and had a taste that she couldn’t describe. Almost like thick honey. After she had finished biting a piece off, she looked down and realized that the flesh of the apple was a wine red, with tiny veins running through it. The sweet nectar slid down her hands and onto her arm. Hermione licked off the trail of sweetness and looked up to see Malfoy staring at her.

“What?” she asked, licking her lips before taking another large bite of the strange fruit.

“Nothing,” the blonde replied.

She finished off the apple, and took a small sip of the liquid in her cup. She raised her eyebrows at the taste but kept on drinking. The drink was sweet, less so than the fruit, but had a bitter taste also, which provided an interesting contrast. The combination made the liquid delicious.

Malfoy’s eyes locked onto something behind her and she turned around, only to face the beautiful faerie who stood by Queen Mab during their indictment.

“I am Asriel,” he said, taking her hand into his own and giving it a gentle kiss. “I have come to deliver you something.”

When Hermione opened her hand, there was a stone, midnight blue although it changed to different hues when she shifted her hand in the light. She studied it for a moment because it looked strangely familiar. But when she tried to remember where she’d seen it before, she felt a strange pounding in her head and decided not to pursue the memory. The stone was on a silver choker necklace, studded with deep green emeralds.

“Let me put it on you,” Asriel suggested softly, holding the necklace up in his hand.

Hermione nodded and pulled her hair over her shoulder so he had access to her neck. Her eyes met Malfoy’s stormy ones and there was something there that she hadn’t expected to be present. He was angry by the way his eyes were heating up, and how he had suddenly clenched his hands into fists worried her for some reason. She pretended not to notice and looked down at the now dirt floor.

“You have a lovely neck,” Asriel commented. His fingers softly touched her skin and she shivered. “Like a swan…long, graceful and fair.” He had done the clasp of the necklace and his fingertips were now running over where her spine started, tracing patterns on her skin. “You must be careful about your exquisite neck…someone could easily snap it. You are far more fragile than you let other’s know.”

He finally stepped back and she glanced over her shoulder to look at him. The Prince of the Fey stepped around so he was beside Draco, who shot the brunette faerie a deadly look as he approached him.

“Why are you giving me this?” Hermione asked, touching the stone with her hand. The choker felt odd around the once empty expanse of skin and she felt like it would tighten any moment.

“It was meant for you,” Asriel said simply, his silver eyes washing over her. “It looks even more beautiful on you than it did on the last mortal.”

Hermione had to contain an eye roll and instead forced a smile. “Is it just a decoration for another one of your hopeful possessions or does it mean something?”

Asriel raised an eyebrow and gave her a smirk before deciding to answer her. He took a deep drink from a random goblet on the table beside them.

“I like your wit,” he said his smirk morphing into a grin. “You’d make a good wife for one of our kind.”

Hermione fought back a smile as she saw Draco’s mouth twitch. “I’m sorry but I want to stay within my species when I date someone.”

He grinned at her again and picked up an apple, biting into it and then looking up at her.

“My mother wished me to give it to you,” he told her. “I advise that you take care of it…it may be important.”

“Really?” she queried, touching the blue stone. It’s color changed from blue to black in the dimming lights as she twisted it in between her fingertips. “But what makes you think that I need your advice?”

His lips quirked at this and he raised an eyebrow. She decided to continue since she had him off guard.

“If humans are so incompetent and if you have the key, why can’t you take back the mirror yourself?” she asked.

Asriel’s eyes darkened. “It is your race that contacted us for aid.”

“But if you had been able to protect the mirror,” Hermione began, twiddling with the pendant, “we wouldn’t be in this predicament.”

They stared at each other for a moment, malice in her eyes and surprise in his. Draco took another sip of his drink and turned away, knowing that some words were going to fly that weren’t going to be too pretty.

Asriel suddenly drew her body to his and tilted his head so that his lips were brushing against her ear. His ragged breathing stayed there for a moment, sending sweet shivers down her spine.

“You’ve heard of the vamperum, yes?” he asked softly, nuzzling her neck with his forehead.

Hermione could merely nod, her body numbing at being in such close contact with such a beautiful being.

“Vamperum and our race…we don’t get along. I will tell you that Voldemort plans to use them somehow and we can’t come into direct contact with the mirror. He is a threat to your world. What he’s trying to unleash is a threat to ours.”

“So why can’t you defeat him yourself?” Hermione asked, her eyes slowly closing with the skin on skin contact.

“Why do we need to lose men over a man who isn’t directly a threat to us?” Asriel explained. “You kill him, we stop what he’s trying to let lose on this world that would kill, not only us, but your kind as well. I’d say that’s a fair trade, human.”

Hermione pulled away from him although his hands were still wrapped around her upper arms.

“I will also tell you not to fool yourself into thinking that you have nothing to do with this, that you’re a victim of mere circumstance. This pendant was meant for you and you’ll find out soon enough why your destiny is hidden from you so well.”

Hermione suddenly felt very tired and her eyes flickered shut. She had to struggle to keep them open. “Why is it hidden, Asriel?” she asked.

“To keep you from destroying yourself.”

Hermione, Harry, Ron, Draco, Ferro and Meier sat in the small but extremely valuable library that was connected to their rooms the night after they arrived at Queen Mab‘s court. They were around a round wooden table with the Daily Prophet in the middle of them.

“Thirty muggles?” Hermione repeated, her voice soft, yet incredulous. “All around the area of my house?”

Harry had a dismal look on his face as he nodded. “I’m so sorry Hermione.”

She slumped sideways so that she was leaning on Ron, who began to run his long fingers through her hair and whispered to her in a soothing voice that everything was going to be alright. Harry took her hand in his own Quidditch calloused one and gave her a reassuring squeeze. Half of those people she had known. They were neighbors, patients of her parents, childhood friends. It was the first time that Voldemort’s actions had intimately affected her.

“My parents?” Hermione asked in a rather small, yet strong voice. “Are my parents okay?”

Harry looked at Meier, who took a rather deep breath. Hermione’s heart clenched, not knowing what her reaction would be if she did lose her parents.

“Yes. It seemed that the Deatheaters found what they were looking for in Spain though, because they attacked and killed many more muggles there”

Hermione sat up straight, although Ron still had an arm around her bare shoulders.

“Well what happened?” she asked, her voice still grim.

“Your house was attacked, but nothing was irreversibly damaged,” Meier told her, giving her a tiny smile. Even if he didn’t show it, she could tell that he felt empathy. “Your father has broken his leg and your mother has a few cuts and bruises from the ceiling falling in, but other than that they’re both fine.”

“Where are they?”

“Protected,” Ferro interrupted. “At their cottage by the sea, they told us?”

Hermione let out a brief grin. “We have a house on the beach. They must be under the Fidelius Charm.”

Meier gave her a brief nod. “Dumbledore,” he told her.

There was a lengthy pause before Hermione decided to speak.

“I have some information,” she said quietly, reaching down to get her notes that she had taken on spare pieces of parchment.

Meier raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?”

“About the runes?” Malfoy asked, leaning forward with his forearms resting against the table.

Hermione met his eyes fully before continuing. “The Queen mentioned the Black Mirror to us and we believe that it is what Voldemort needs for immortality. This is obviously in connection with the recent incident where he wrote the runes Isa, Hagalaz, and Uruz. Underneath them, along with his name, he wrote another word. I’ll give you a brief description of each before I go on. Uruz is a rune that stands for masculinity, strength and courage. Isa, a challenge and Hagalaz stands for the wrath of nature. Voldemort inverted the runes, changing the meanings. Instead of courage, Uruz stands for violence, instead of a challenge, Isa represents illusions and deceit. Hagalaz symbolizes loss and suffering.

There is a connection between the runes. Isa is ice and Hagalaz is hail. They are to be coupled. Now Uruz is a completely different story. Every rune to it’s opposite is negative but I think that Uruz is for a different reason, although I‘m not sure what it is yet. I mentioned another word…underneath the runes. It was written in runes, and when translated into our phonetic alphabet, spelled novem.”

“Novem?” Harry asked. “Nine in Latin?”

Hermione nodded before drawing her bottom lip in between her teeth in concentration.

“You’re too smart for your own good,” Meier said, a smirk on his handsome face.

“So what do we do now?” Ron asked, his fingers slipping from her hair as he stood up.

Hermione sighed, pressing her fingertips to her temples before answering.

“We wait.”

“Why are you really here?” Hermione asked Draco in a soft voice, laying on the large couch by the fire.

It was only the two of them in the library since he had stopped being an arsehole for a moment and offered (almost reluctantly. It was a suggestion of Meier’s) to help her research the significance of the number nine. Harry protested but realized how tired he was after he walked straight into a marble column. Ron had to help him to his room.

Draco was sitting across from her in the matching loveseat, his legs so long that they hung over the armrest.

He turned his head to look at her and met her eyes from beneath his molten colored bangs.

“I thought I’ve already explained this to you Granger,” he said, trying his best to sound angry. That was the last thing he wanted to sound like, since he was looking at her in a way he’d only witnessed twice.

Hermione had to contain a smile at his scathing comments. For the past couple of days, he had stopped insulting her and they had actually had a few decent conversations. She found that they had a lot in common, despite their differences.

Draco watched her gaze flicker with thought. She was unguarded and soft in the jaws of sleep. Her eyes were threatening to close any minute now and her breathing had become heavier. It was in these times that Draco tried to take in as much of her as he could because those times would be the only ones where she wouldn’t look at him with contempt in her eyes.

“Humor me, Malfoy,” Hermione told him, a sleepy smirk gracing her lips. “Do tell me again.”

Draco took a breath, sitting up from his comfortable position on the couch. The pillow his head had rested on fell to the floor and it seemed as if that sound was what really brought Hermione out of her reverie. Her eyes seemed to awaken, the spark that was absent in sleep springing forth as she witnessed Draco’s reaction.

“I don’t need saving,” he explained to her, gazing into the fire. “So don’t even allow yourself to think that.”

Hermione sighed and propped herself up on one elbow, twisting a loose thread on the blanket that covered her between her fingers. “There’s something more than just looking out for your own skin. There has to be.”

“Why?” Draco asked, his intense gaze trained on her now. Hermione felt shivers go down her spine, although she didn’t know why. “So you can believe that there’s something worth saving in me?”

“I think that the reason why you’re here is what you think I assume,” Hermione said. She averted her gaze as she heard Draco make a noise that would most likely morph into a protest. She hurried on. “You need to believe that there’s something in yourself worth saving, that you can be a good person. You need confirmation that you won’t be like your father.”

Draco’s gaze seemed to darken when he fully heard her accusation. “Why do you think that?” he asked, his voice going cold.

“Because you aren’t him,” Hermione said, as if it was a simple concept.

Malfoy let himself fall back to the couch. “Sometimes I doubt that.”

“Malfoy.” Her voice was serious now, losing it’s playfulness. “You may look like him, and you may’ve been brought up like him, but you’ll never be him.”

“I don’t want to end up in Azkaban with a wife and son who hate me,” Draco went on, his eyes looking at her again with an emotion so deep that it moved her. “And I don’t want to throw my life away to some half- blooded hypocritical lunatic who raves about Pureblood aristocracy when he isn’t pure himself.”

“You’re going to be similar to him,” Hermione told him truthfully. “Merlin knows that you have the same attitudes about blood, the same arrogance and snobbiness and you two could be brothers. But you’re as different from him in as many ways that you’re the same.”

“How do you even know this?” Draco snapped at her, his eyes once again like ice. “You don’t even know me.”

“True,” Hermione retorted. “But there are general conclusions that I can draw to tell you that you aren’t going to end up like your father, at least not in the ways that you think of.”

“Like what?” he asked, his angry gaze a little hopeful. “Tell me Granger.”

Hermione seemed to think about it for a moment before she answered. “For one, you had enough courage or whatever it was to leave behind a lifestyle that you’ve been accustom to and born into, turn on your family who controlled your life, and reject the maniac who your family and friends worship. I think that’s a pretty big difference between you and your father, even if you’re only helping us out for your own good, as you so eloquently put it. He lacks the strength that you have.”

He didn’t smile but she could see some warmth in his eyes now.

“What else?” he questioned, his voice less harsh and a little softer than the tone he should’ve been using to talk to somebody of her status.

“You look a little like Sirius,” Hermione said, her voice quiet now also. “You have his nose, I think.” Draco made a face at this but she ignored it. “I presume that that comes from your mother…and you’re less cruel. You have emotions, Malfoy, as much as it pains me to say it.”

“Anything else?”

“You’re talking to a mudblood,” Hermione said, giving him a tired smile. “You’ve touched me, helped me, given me your coat. And you haven’t killed me yet. Or burned off your own hands due to contamination. I’d said that’s a major difference, Malfoy.”

There was silence. Although this time it wasn’t awkward. They sat like that for a little bit, staring at the flames dancing in the hearth. Hermione felt her eyes weighing down with exhaustion once again. The warmth and the smell of leather books was like a sedative. It was Draco’s voice, soft yet strong, that woke her a little, although she was sure he had said it.

“I think that I’m starting to like you more than I should, Granger.”

“Like saving a silver flower’s breath
To save someone from decaying blackness
Is to save them from a darker death.”

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