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Hello again! To make up for the long wait for the previous chapter, I decided to post Chapter Ten extra early :) And here it is....






Chapter Ten: Explanations and Invitations



Whatever Hermione was lying on was as soft as heaven. The same fluffy softness was piled all around her. Through her shut eyelids she could sense a ray of light coaxing her to wake up. She felt as though she had been asleep for a very long time.

As her senses began to reawaken, she detected the presence of another person very near her. In fact, someone's arm seemed to be strewn across her waist protectively. At this new revelation her brain decided it was about time to wake up. She opened her eyes…and immediately shut them again.

She was lying in a king-sized four-poster bed, under silky Slytherin-green covers. She was not in her bed at home. She wasn't even in her bed in the guest wing, with Isabelle and Georgina. No…she was in Draco Malfoy's bed.

What was worse was that the arm that held her so closely belonged to Draco. And he was lying right next to her, asleep and breathing deeply.

Panic and confusion welled up inside of her, building into a feeling of muted chaos. Her first thought was to check that she had her clothes on. She reached down with her free hand, the one that wasn't being pinned to her side because of him, and grasped wildly for something that felt like clothes. She realized she was wearing some sort of silky nightgown, and wondered where and when she had put it on.

After acknowledging the fact that she was fully clothed and slowly coming to the realization that nothing had happened while she was sleeping in Draco's bed, she calmed down a little. But there still remained the fact that she was sleeping in his bed.

Hermione chanced a glance at Draco. He was still asleep, thank Merlin. She noticed the angelic calm in his face, something that was very different from his usual arrogant smirk, and quickly looked away. Now was not the time for contemplation. She had to concentrate on getting out of this very sticky situation.

At the very moment she began to move away, Draco groaned and drew her even closer. She gave a muffled cry as she was forced back onto the bed, her arms flailing in protest. One managed to hit Draco in the face.

"What the hell--" Draco awoke with a start, releasing Hermione as though he had scalded his hands with boiling hot water. Hermione immediately leapt out of the bed, tearing through a sheet that was in her way.

"What the bloody hell is right," she said, her voice rising. "I--"

"Granger, let me explain," said Draco, slowly getting out of bed, sensing an outburst coming.

"Explain what?" Hermione said, slightly hysterically. "Did you drug me? Kidnap me in the middle of the night? What the hell did you do?"

"Stop with the accusations, Granger," he said, somewhat wearily. "I didn't do anything. You were the one who decided to pass out."

"What? When did that--" She stopped short, her eyes opening wide with fright. "Oh!" she said softly.

"You found the drawing room," he continued, running a hand through his disheveled hair. "The forbidden drawing room, mind you. Do you know what I did to conceal that room and hide it away in the depths of the manor? I don't even know how you found it…but you are the brightest witch of our age." His tone was slightly bitter and ironical.

"I didn't mean to…." Hermione said, her voice fading.

"I know you didn't," said Draco. "No sane person would want to revisit their worst memories. There are Dementors for that." For a second Hermione saw a dark shadow cross his silver eyes.

"How did you find me?" she whispered.

"I don't know," he said, frowning. "I sensed that something was wrong. I was running through the manor, checking that everything was in order, when I heard you screaming for mercy."

"I…was screaming…screaming for mercy?" she said, her voice barely audible.

He did not need to answer. "I had to get you out of there," he continued after a pause. "My first thought was to bring you back to your room of course, but then I remembered…. I once had a tortured soul, Granger. During the war--during Lord Voldemort's reign--I was put under that godforsaken curse on a daily basis. You have no idea what it did to me. My father didn't give a damn, but my mother took care of me. When I screamed in the middle of the night, she woke me up and gave me potions for a dreamless sleep. She stopped me from reliving the torture. Even after the war was over, after my father was dead and gone, I still had moments where the torture was horribly real again. But my mother was there."

Hermione could not speak at all. She stared at him, the terror still present in her eyes.

"I was screaming in my sleep?" she whispered at last.

"Every scream was like the twist of the knife in an old wound," he said, shaking his head, his hair falling into his eyes. He seemed to be pleading with her again, imploring her to understand. "Ten years ago, when I stood in that very drawing room watching her torture you, I was scared to death. I was too much of a coward to intervene…and I'm sorry."

Hermione shook her head. "You would be dead if you had done so," she mumbled.

There was an uncomfortable silence in which Hermione slowly recovered and began to understand.

"I hope I didn't scare you," he finally said. "Waking up next to the enemy must have been a fright." He smirked and raised an eyebrow.

Hermione finally cracked a wry smile. "We're not enemies anymore, Malfoy," she said, surprising the both of them with her words. She looked around the room for a door, and when she turned away, she did not glimpse the genuine smile that appeared on Draco's face for a fraction of a second.

"Take this," he said, breaking the brief moment of silence and pulling a small glass bottle out of his pocket. He placed it into her hand and closed her fingers around it. He could feel her trembling, whether it was because of the recent events that had occurred or because of his touch, he did not know. "It'll help to end the nightmares, trust me."

"Thank you," said Hermione quietly. She cleared her throat, feeling a faint blush creep onto her cheeks. "Er--can you show me how to get out of here? This manor is bloody confusing."

"None of this would have happened if you had just followed the rules," said Draco, smirking as he led her into the maze of confusing corridors. "And here I was, thinking that you were a rule-abiding Gryffindor."

"Surely you must know that Gryffindors have a penchant for breaking the rules," Hermione retorted, carefully noting inside her head all the twists and turns.

"So do Slytherins…we just don't get caught as often."

"But only because you lot aren't quite as brave and daring in your rule-breaking." They had reached the foyer. The air was silent. Evidently the rest of the inhabitants of the Malfoy Manor were fast asleep, as they should be.

"I'll be seeing you in a bit, Granger," Draco said as he began to leave, a shadow of a smirk appearing onto his face.

She looked back at him, confused.

"We're going on a date," he clarified, throwing in a wink.

And he left Hermione staring at him openmouthed. A date! She had completely forgotten about the actual contest. She quickly returned to her room and sure enough, a pink owl was perched on her windowsill, a pink envelope tied to its leg.

Hermione strode across the room briskly, noting that Isabelle and Georgina were not in their beds (she wondered vaguely where they could be), and took the letter from the owl. She ripped open the envelope and read:


Granger,
It's your turn. We're going to a professional Quidditch game. Transylvania vs. Bulgaria. No objections, correct? Join me (and four other women) at the main entrance at 10 a.m. sharp. Don't be late. Wear something sexy.
--D.M.



In a second, Hermione was furious. He had the nerve to tell her to wear something sexy. Well, she was going to deliberately defy him. She would wear a turtleneck and old-lady slacks.

"Where's my disgusting green turtleneck?" she said out loud.

"Why on earth do you want to wear that for?" a familiar voice retorted.

"Ginevra Weasley Potter!" Hermione shrieked, spinning around.

"That's my name, don't wear it out," said Ginny cheerfully. "So what's this about the turtleneck? Ooh, you're going on a date, aren't you? Where are you going? Skiing? That's not possible, not in this weather!" She stopped talking for a second and tackled Hermione for a hug.

"Oof! Hello, Ginny, nice to see you too. But honestly, why do you keep sneaking up on me like this?"

"Just doing my duty as a good friend," said Ginny briskly. "Anyway, if you're not going skiing what are you doing?"

"Quidditch game," Hermione grumbled. "Transylvania versus Bulgaria."

Ginny's eyes widened. "Did you say Bulgaria?"

Hermione nodded. "Yes. Why?"

Ginny raised an eyebrow. "You can't be that daft. Viktor Krum will be there."

"Ah." She had nearly forgotten all about the Bulgarian Seeker, but now all her memories of fourth year came flowing back. The meetings in the library…the Yule Ball…being what he would 'sorely miss'…the long letters afterward….

"Earth to Hermione," Ginny was saying, waving her arms in front of her face. "You shouldn't think about Viktor. You're dating Draco now."

"Er, no I'm not," said Hermione, glaring.

"Oh, let's not start this again," said Ginny, sighing dramatically. "As I was saying, you're in the Game of Love--"

"D'you have to remind me?" Hermione muttered.

"--and you're trying to win Draco's heart--"

"No need to make it sound like I'm trying to court him," Hermione groaned.

"Let me speak!" said Ginny, stamping her foot impatiently. "You need to focus on the bachelor. Not some international hotshot of a Seeker."

"If I remember correctly, you brought him up in the first place," Hermione snapped.

"True," said Ginny. "But forget that for now. We have more pressing matters at hand."

"What do you mean? Is there something wrong with Harry or Ron?" said Hermione, suddenly urgent.

"No, no, they're fine," said Ginny, rolling her eyes. "I meant that we have to find you something to wear! You are most definitely not wearing that disgusting green turtleneck that should have been tossed into the fire the second your Aunt Gracie bought it for you!"

"It was my Aunt Lucy, mind you," said Hermione, disgruntled.

"Whatever," said Ginny impatiently. "You get my point. So, are you supporting Transylvania or Bulgaria?"

Hermione sighed. She knew she was not getting out of this. "Bulgaria, I suppose, for old times' sake."

"Good choice," said Ginny approvingly. "Your skin tone is more compatible with red." She flung open the armoire doors and began pulling out various articles of clothing, tossing them onto Hermione, who realized she was being turned into a mannequin.

Ginny would have gone on for two more hours had Isabelle and Georgina not entered, yawning and wearing their pajamas.

"Oh! Hello, Hermione and friend," said Isabelle, stopping with surprise.

"Hello," said Hermione, struggling under the multiple tops Ginny had piled on her.

"Good lord, eet's ze red 'ead again," said Georgina disdainfully. "What are you doing?"

Ginny grimaced at Hermione before saying in a falsely sweet voice, "Finding an outfit for Hermione. What do you think, the denim miniskirt or the black shorts?"

"Depends on what you are pairing zem with," said Georgina shortly, sounding for half a second as though she genuinely cared.

"This red top," said Ginny, brandishing a shirt that had a certain lack sleeves Hermione would never be comfortable in.

"Ze black shorts," said Georgina. "And you should bring zat gold clutch, eet would look nice."

Hermione was just about to begin to change her perspective of Georgina when the bubble burst.

"Are you quite done now? You shouldn't even be 'ere," said the French girl grumpily.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, I'm leaving," said Ginny, rolling her eyes. To Hermione she said, "Tell me how it goes!" and with a crack, she Disapparated.

"How what goes?" said Isabelle curiously.

"My date," said Hermione.

"Oh," said Isabelle. "Well, have fun!"

"Thanks. So where were you two?"

"Ze same could be said for you," said Georgina mysteriously.

"If I don't ask you, you won't ask me?" Hermione tried.

"Okay," said Isabelle quickly. She blushed, and Hermione tried not to pry despite her growing curiosity to find out what exactly Isabelle was hiding.






Hehe, the next chapter should be lots of fun for you to read. As always, please review! Thank you so much for reading my story :)
Yours till Xeno's diadem falls apart,
Queen Luna

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