Chapter image by mockingjay @TDA
Hermione’s eyes widened as Draco’s lips lowered to hers. So many emotions were going through her head at that moment that she had no clue what to do. Part of her wanted to give in and allow Draco to kiss her, but the other part of her, the logical part, knew that she wasn’t ready.
Just before their lips touched, Hermione turned her head. It wasn’t much of a turn; just enough so that he brushed the corner of her mouth. She didn’t want to be rude, but at the same time, she needed him to understand that kisses weren’t just something she threw around for the heck of it.
Without really wanting to, Hermione pried herself out of Draco’s grasp and took a few steps back. Her cheeks were burning… And no doubt pink… as she stared at Draco, bewildered. She then quickly moved to her desk chair and sat down. She was so confused she wasn’t sure what she should say… or if she should say anything at all.
Draco watched her silently as she ran her hand through her silky black hair and took a deep breath. “I um…” Draco stammered.
Hermione held up a hand to keep him from talking. “If you’re going to say you’re sorry, spare me,” she said quietly, looking down at the floor.
“I shouldn’t apologize for attempting something you obviously didn’t want me to do?” Draco asked, giving her a puzzled look. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Hermione looked up at him. “It just isn’t the right time,” she explained.
“But you just…”
“Just because I’m betrothed to you doesn’t mean I’m expected to give kisses so freely,” Hermione interrupted, “We hardly know each other.”
Draco ran his hand through his hair. “Hardly know each other? Hermione, we’ve known each other for almost seven years,” he said softly.
“But I’ve only known the cruel, vindictive side of you not the kind, caring side I’ve seen since yesterday,” she explained. “We’re just getting to really know each other… without any pretends, false identities, or hatred.”
“I’ve never pretended to be anyone other than who I am,” Draco argued, “And I’ve never hated you; not really.”
Hermione crossed her legs and leaned back slightly in her chair. “Ah, but if you’ve never hated me, then why would you pretend that you do?”
“Because my father…”
“Your father seems to control a lot of what you think and do,” Hermione interrupted. “I remember you saying that you were told to respect me, and when I mentioned all of this being an act for your father you didn’t make any move to exonerate him.”
Draco cleared his throat. “My father told me that I was to respect you, as I’ve told you already, but he doesn’t control what I do, say, or think.”
“That has yet to be proven,” Hermione said. “However, I’m more interested in why you’re acting as if you hate me if you really don’t.”
“We’ve known for a very short amount of time that we’re meant to be married, everyone we go to school with knows about our fights and alleged hatred for one another, don’t you think it would look strange to people if they saw us looking all happy and cozy with each other so fast?” Draco questioned.
“That’s a possibility,” Hermione replied thoughtfully, “but since when do you care what people think?”
“I don’t care what people think,” Draco retorted.
Hermione huffed. It was clear by his expression that he didn’t believe that statement. If he didn’t believe it, there was no way she did. Oh; it was probably true that he didn’t care what everyone thought of him, but his pride and reputation wouldn’t allow him to not care about the thoughts of certain people. Namely, his father. “It’s obvious that you do, otherwise you wouldn’t still be pretending to hate me.”
Draco didn’t know what to say to that. Hermione, after all, was right about the fact that he was pretending to hate her. He wasn’t sure exactly why he was pretending to hate her though. To him, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Now he wasn’t so sure. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
Hermione stood up and walked over to him. “You confuse me, Draco,” she said. “One second you’re shooting insults at me and the next you’re telling me you care about me. As if my feelings for you weren’t confusing enough, I now have to deal with an indecisive fiancé?”
“Indecisive? Hermione, I’m just as confused and uncertain of my feelings for you as you are of yours for me. Although, there is one thing I’m sure of; I want to see this betrothal through.”
“Well, I wish you’d make that a bit clearer in the future,” Hermione said. “A girl could get a headache with all the switching from kind to cruel.”
Draco nodded and took her left hand in his right, gently rubbing his thumb along the back of it. “I promise,” he whispered.
Hermione suddenly blushed a deep pink as it suddenly dawned on her where they were and what she was wearing. “You should go!” she said, quickly pulling her hand out of his as she turned him around and tried pushing him toward the door.
Draco, in spite of this, stood firm and did not budge. Instead, he turned himself back around causing Hermione to fall slightly off balance and land flush against his chest. He steadied her by wrapping his arms around her waist and whispered playfully, “Kiss me… and I mean really kiss me, and I’ll bid you goodnight.”
Hermione bit her lip in thought for a moment before saying, “You’re toying with me, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Draco told her with a charming smile.
She smacked his shoulder and couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her. “That,” Draco said, tapping the tip of her nose with his finger, “is a lovely sound.”
He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Well, Miss Zabini, it’s getting rather late, and I’m sure my parents are wondering where I’ve got off to,” he told her, “That being said, I wish you goodnight and I hope to have the pleasure of your company again soon. Oh, and I’m eagerly awaiting a response to my letter; particularly the dinner invitation.”
He gave her a polite bow and let go of her hand as he made his way to the door. “Goodnight, Draco.”
Hermione sighed deeply and made her way into her bathroom. As she peered into the waterfall mirror, she gave a little jolt. She was nowhere near being accustomed to her true looks so she was still shocked when she caught sight of herself. With a shake of her head, she picked up her toothbrush and began brushing her teeth.
Her thoughts were a bit sparse as she rhythmically moved the toothbrush over her teeth. She was quite confused as to why Draco had tried to kiss her to begin with. Until that moment, he hadn’t shown the slightest interest in wanting to kiss her, or anything of the sort. So, what had made that moment so special?
Furthermore, kissing was a very special thing to her, almost sacred. She didn’t want her first kiss with Draco to be something that happened just because, especially since they were just getting to know each other. She believed that there was a right time for everything and his attempt hadn’t felt right to her. Although, she had to admit that when they finally did kiss, it was sure to be mind blowing. The way his lips brushed her cheek, there was just no other possible outcome.
And with that, the young woman finished brushing her teeth and went to bed.
After such an eventful day, Draco was glad to be home. As he made his way to his room, he knew it would be a while before he fell asleep. Between the sexual attraction he now found himself having toward Hermione and the adrenaline caused by Pansy’s temper tantrum, his energy level was just too high.
He wanted to punch Crabbe and Goyle for their part in tonight’s debacle. He wanted to thrash Weasley and Potter just for being them. And damn that blasted Hermione for being so… so… Hermione, he thought as he walked into his bedroom, I’d like to…
His thoughts stopped at the sight of the beautiful gift lying seductively on his bed. The smile she gave him with her soft, teasing mouth was all the invitation he needed. He kicked his door shut and strode over to her.
When he reached his bed, he took her hand and pulled her into his arms, crushing his lips to hers. Seconds later, his shoes were kicked off and he was on top of her. Their kiss intensified, fueled by everything Draco had been feeling throughout the night.
Her pleasure at his reaction was evident in the way she clawed at his clothes. Shirts were quickly discarded as they rolled around on the spacious bed. They were both fighting for control of the situation and neither wanted to be out done by the other.
“What a ‘hello’,” Astoria purred as she curled her now, partially naked body around Draco’s.
“What did you expect would happen when I walked in here and saw you lying on my bed?” he asked, gently running his fingertips along her spine.
She kissed his chest and grinned wickedly. “I knew what I hoped would happen, but you’re always so guarded, I never know how you’re going to react.”
Draco chuckled softly and sighed, breathing in the scent of her hair.
The beautiful blonde propped herself up on her elbow. “I saw you with her tonight. The Zabini girl,” she said.
“She’s very pretty.”
The corner of his mouth slid up. “Yes, she is.”
Astoria narrowed her eyes slightly, watching his face. “The sort of pretty I’ve known you to be attracted to.”
Draco put an arm behind his head as he took note of her expression through sleepy eyes. “You’re jealous,” he said with a slight chuckle.
She gave his stomach a sharp slap. “Don’t you dare poke fun at me, Draco Malfoy! Of course I’m jealous!” she exclaimed. “You tell me this afternoon that you’re betrothed and then I find out that she’s exactly your type? How could I not be jealous? Especially with the looks you were giving her.”
“You want her,” Astoria stated.
“Green does nothing for your complexion, love,” Draco told her, kissing her hand.
She clasped his hand and kissed his fingers. “Then ease my worry and tell your father you don’t want to marry her.”
He sighed and rolled away from her. “You know I can’t do that,” he said, standing up and tossing his discarded dress shirt into the laundry hamper, “This is how things are done in my family, you know that.”
Astoria slid off the bed and hunted down her shirt. “It’s a stupid, ancient tradition.”
“You’re only saying that because Hermione’s back in the picture.”
She pushed her hair back with slim fingers and glared at him. “You said your parents had agreed to let you decide if you’d be getting married!”
Draco was beginning to get angry again. “Astoria, I’m done discussing this with you,” he told her sternly, “Hermione and I have made an agreement and I intend to see that agreement through.”
“And what of us?”
“I see no reason why we can’t carry on as we have been.”
Her eyes narrowed at his words. “You ass!” she snapped, “If you think I’m going to take that wench’s scraps…”
Draco walked over to her, taking her chin in his hand. “Hey, you’re free to find someone else to play your games with if you like,” he began, “but if you want me then you’ll make do with what I can give you.”
Astoria pouted and he kissed her lips. “Be patient, love,” he told her, “Come on, let’s have a bath before you go home.”
She allowed him to pull her into the bathroom. “I don’t want to go home tonight.”
Draco started the bath, then wrapped his arms around her. “Then stay.”
She looked up at him, her eyes shining with delight. “Are you serious?” she questioned.
His arms tightened, pulling her closer. “Very,” he confirmed, moving her hair away from her neck. He brushed his lips over her skin. “So, will you stay?” he asked between kisses.
“Mmm… Keep kissing me like that and I’ll do anything you want.”
Draco smirked and continued his kissing.
Suddenly, the bathroom door flew open, causing the two to jump apart. Lucius Malfoy stood in the doorway, his cold blue eyes narrowed at his son. “Miss Greengrass, I wasn’t aware that you had come to call,” he said, eyeing the young woman icily.
Astoria blushed and moved to cover herself a little better; she wasn’t naked by any means, but she wasn’t fully clothed either. “There wasn’t anything to do at my house so I thought I’d stop in and see if Draco was busy,” she said quietly.
“And it’s obvious that the two of you found something to do,” Lucius stated, his tone becoming one that bared no argument, “Miss Greengrass, my son is betrothed to Miss Zabini, so if you would be so kind as to find the rest of your clothes and see yourself out…”
Mr. Malfoy turned his attention to his only son. “Draco, get dressed,” he said, narrowing his eyes dangerously, “You and I have some things to discuss.”
Draco gave Astoria an apologetic look and sighed. “Yes, Sir.”
Mr. Malfoy left the room and Draco hurriedly did what he had to do in order to follow his father’s orders. “Draco, I don’t have to leave,” Astoria said, following him out of the bathroom.
He grabbed a shirt and sighed. “I hate to say this, but you probably should. My father’s angry.”
Astoria finished dressing and turned to look at him with an exasperated expression. “You really need to stop letting you father control every bit of your life,” she told him, “You’re of age and more than capable of making your own choices.”
She kissed his lips and left.
Draco took several deep breaths. She had a point, and he knew it. From the time he was born, his father had controlled every aspect of his life. He had never really thought too much about it, he had just gone with it because it was all that he had known. Family duty and honor had been drilled into him from a young age; so much so that he didn’t really think he could fight against it. Then again, in the case of his betrothal to Hermione, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
He gripped his head and sat on the edge of his bed. What’s going on with me, he thought? Until a few days ago, I knew exactly what I wanted. I had a good life, the perfect girl, and no real care in the world. Then, my parents tell me my betrothed has suddenly risen back to the surface and everything is turned upside down.
Hermione brought up a whole other batch of confusing thoughts and questions. However, his internal debate and reflecting would have to wait. His father would be waiting for him in his study and if he didn’t get down there soon, someone would be sent to fetch him.
With a heavy sigh, Draco stood and made his way through the mansion to his father’s study. Mr. Malfoy was sitting behind his desk, pouring over several papers that Draco was sure to find boring. “Father.”
Mr. Malfoy didn’t look up. “Sit down,” he said coolly.
Draco sat, waiting silently for him to finish what he was doing. He knew he was in for a lecture. His father was a master at masking his emotions, but he had seventeen years of experience reading him.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mr. Malfoy set the papers aside. “I ask so little of you, Draco,” he said, “and yet you are determined to defy me at every turn.”
“How have I defied you?” Draco wanted to know.
“You were specifically told to sever your relations with Miss Greengrass and I find you, mere hours after your engagement to Miss Zabini is announced, well on your way to having relations with her.”
Draco fought not to roll his eyes. “Snogging, Father, we were snogging.”
Mr. Malfoy stood, his temper flaring. “Do not make light of this, Draco,” he snapped, “You were given direct orders and you will follow them; is that understood?”
His voice got dangerously low. “Is… that… understood?”
“Yes, Father,” he replied, his tone angry.
“Good. This family has an image to uphold and I’ll not have you spoiling that. Especially not with Astoria Greengrass.”
Draco huffed. “Oh yes, because everything’s about image with you,” he muttered.
Mr. Malfoy glared at him. “What was that?”
“Nothing,” he lied, standing, “May I go now, or was there something else you wanted to lecture me on?”
“I know you’re not pleased with the engagement, Draco, but it’s a good match and we Malfoys must always honor our word.”
“Your word, Father. I never made a promise to marry Zabini’s daughter.”
“You are a Malfoy and you will honor this agreement between Pietro and I,” Mr. Malfoy stated, “Your mother and I have already agreed to give you and Miss Zabini time to get to know each other; we didn’t have to do that. We’d be well within our rights to see the marriage through without your consent.”
Draco wasn’t shocked at hearing that. It was just the sort of thing his father would do. “I have no intention of going against my word, Father.”
Mr. Malfoy arched a brow questioningly. “And if Miss Zabini isn’t so accommodating?”
“I’m a Malfoy; I’ll convince her.”
The next morning…
They were right behind her. The slightest pause and she would be caught; her life over. Sweat stung her eyes as she ran, nearly blurring her vision of what was ahead in the dark wood. She wanted to ignite her wand but that had been lost several minutes ago as she had begun running.
Tree branches that hung low cut into her skin as she used her hands and arms to move them out of her way as she ran but she didn’t feel them. She was too focused on her safety to notice that blood now covered several parts of her body, nor would she have cared if she did notice. She knew the important thing… Get out of this alive!
The thunderous footsteps behind her told her that her pursuers were not far behind her. She could almost hear the heavy breathing caused by the golden skeletal masks they wore. Just a little bit further and you’ll be safe, she told herself.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, a tree root seemed to pop out of nowhere causing her to trip and fall face first onto the hard, damp floor of the forest. That was all the opportunity the Death Eaters had needed. The one closest to her quickly grabbed the back of her shirt collar and hoisted her up to her feet, turning her to face him as he did so.
She opened her mouth to let out a scream for help, for she knew her friends weren’t too far away, but no sound came. The Death Eaters sneered and laughed at her as she kept trying to scream. “Your voice ain’t gonna help ya now, lassie,” said one of the Death Eaters to her left. “Go ahead and scream all ya like, no one’ll hear ya.”
Then, everything went black…
“Blaise… Blaise! Wake up!”
Blaise’s eyes snapped open and he quickly gasped for breath as he sat up. He pushed the covers away from him and ran to the bathroom.
Hermione followed after him, concerned. She had been in her room when a sudden feeling of fear had overwhelmed her. She didn’t know why, but she had immediately run down the hall to check on Blaise. What she had found when she walked in had scared her.
Blaise had been thrashing about, clutching at his throat as though someone were choking him. Sweat covered his face and neck, dampening his hair, and he was deathly pale. Hermione hadn’t exactly been sure of what to do, but she knew that he needed to be woken. So that’s exactly what she had done.
Her worry elevated when Blaise began vomiting into the toilet. She had intended to give him some privacy, but hearing her brother sick threw that thought from her mind in a hurry. She walked into the bathroom and grabbed a washcloth. She quickly wet it and wrung the excess water from it before pressing it to the back of Blaise’s neck.
“Blaise, are you all right?” she asked after a minute, or two, “Are you sick?”
Blaise finished vomiting and flushed the toilet. “Not sick,” he said weakly.
He sat back and scooted himself until his back was against the wall. He took the washcloth from Hermione and mopped his face.
“You’re scared about something,” Hermione stated.
He took a breath. “It’s nothing… Stupid, really.”
Hermione knelt in front of him. “Blaise, talk to me,” she said gently.
Blaise peaked over the washcloth at her. “It was just a nightmare.”
Something in his tone gave her the impression that he wasn’t being completely honest. “Blaise, you’re scared out of your mind, I can feel it. This was obviously more that just an ordinary nightmare.”
“What do you want me to say, Hermione?” he asked, pushing up off the floor and walking over to the sink, “I had a nightmare. It was strange and confusing, so yeah, it scared me, but it was just a nightmare.”
“Nightmares don’t cause people to thrash about and pull at their throat as though they’re being choked.”
Blaise looked at her through the mirror. “Hermione, please just drop it. It’s over and done now; nothing to fret over.”
Hermione had to admit that he looked a hundred times better than he had moments ago. He had stopped shaking and his color was starting to come back. That didn’t keep her from worrying, though. “But I’m worried, Blaise. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I need to take a shower. I expect breakfast is nearly ready.”
“Don’t ignore this,” Hermione said, grabbing him by the arm as he moved by her. When he faced her, she continued, “The last time I saw someone react the way you did to a nightmare was when Harry was seeing into Voldemort’s mind.”
Blaise furrowed his brow. “Harry, what?”
Hermione smacked her forehead with her palm. “I shouldn’t have said anything. Forget it.”
He sensed that this was something Hermione really didn’t want to discuss, and as much as he wanted to push her for answers, he dropped it. He, however, wasn’t so lucky.
“Blaise, are you sure you’re all right?” Hermione questioned again.
He gripped his head and groaned. “Hermione, I’m begging you, let it go!”
She gave him a stubborn expression that mirrored his own and sighed. “All right; I’ll let it go… For now,” she finally agreed, “I’ll leave you to your shower, but, Blaise, just remember that I’m here whenever you want to talk.”
“Thank you, Hermione,” he said with a small smile, “Oh, before I forget, Mum was able to repair your gifts. If you call Gripa, I’m sure she’d be happy to bring them to you.”
And with that, Hermione left Blaise and made her way to her own room. She had already showered and dressed so there was no rush to do that. Instead, she sat at her desk and removed Draco’s letter from its place in the box Blaise had given her. She opened the letter and re-read it, quickly figuring out what she wanted to reply with.
After setting the letter aside, she pulled a quill and parchment out of her desk drawer and began writing. Once she finished the letter, she read it over and carefully folded it. Seconds later, she was standing in front of the window with Callidora perched on her shoulder with the letter tied to her leg. “Take this to Draco Malfoy,” she said.
Callidora hooted softly and took off into the morning sky. Hermione watched until she could no longer see Callidora in the sky and then she went back to her desk and began writing another letter; this time to the Grangers. It was only moments after she finished stuffing the letter in the envelope that a loud crack sounded near her.
Hermione jumped slightly at the sudden noise as she turned to find Gripa standing a short way away from her loaded down with a pile of presents. “Gripa is sorry to disturb you Mistress Hermione,” she squeaked, “but Mrs. is wanting you to have your presents.”
Hermione smiled and quickly got up to help Gripa with her load. “It’s no disturbance at all, Gripa,” she said. “Please, feel free to pop in whenever you like.”
Tears welled up in Gripa’s eyes as Hermione took some of the presents from her and set them down on the bed. “Mistress is very kind.”
Hermione smiled once more and sat down on the bed. “I certainly hope that you’ve been treated with kindness the entire time you’ve been in the service of this family.”
“Oh yes, Mistress,” Gripa replied. “Gripa’s family has always been kind to her.”
“Good, I’d hate to see you mistreated.”
Gripa gave her, what Hermione supposed was a kind smile, and bowed low. “Excuse me, Mistress, Gripa must bring Mistress’s other gifts.”
“Oh, um… Thank you.”
And with a pop, Gripa was gone.
Blaise stood in the same spot he had been standing in for the past five minutes. He kept thinking about the nightmare he had had. It had seemed so real, as if it had happened before, or was going to happen. He wasn’t sure which, and he didn’t like it. Never before had anything like this happened to him and he didn’t want it to happen again.
Realizing that he still needed to take a shower, Blaise rubbed his face and finally moved toward the shower. Twenty minutes later he turned off the water and stepped out, quickly performing the drying spell he had seen (and heard) Hermione use before. After that, he dressed and made his way downstairs for breakfast, not really certain he’d be able to eat.
Hermione’s smiling face greeted him as he entered the dining room. “You’re looking better,” she said.
“Thanks,” he replied with a meek smile.
Hermione’s smile faded as she continued to look at him. “Something’s bothering you,” she stated.
“It wasn’t a question, Blaise. Listen, I’ve had lots of practice reading the emotions of guys; my two best friends are guys, remember?”
“How could I forget?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Blaise shook his head.
“All right then, I want to look up a few things I’m uncertain of for school, I remember seeing a library but I can’t remember where it is.”
“Third floor, fifth door on the left.”
“Thanks,” Hermione replied, eating the last bite of her breakfast. “Come find me if you change your mind about talking, ok?”
Hermione then stood and made her way through the house until she found the library. She hadn’t exactly been truthful about what she had wanted to look up. There wasn’t anything that she needed to research for school, she was quite confident in her knowledge in that respect; however, she wanted to do a little research on the prophecy about her. She wasn’t sure if she’d find anything, but it was worth a shot.
The library of the Zabini Mansion nearly took Hermione’s breath away. It was nearly three times as large as her bedroom and book-filled shelves lined the walls from floor to ceiling. There was a staircase near the door she was standing at, leading up to the second floor of shelves, and a third, and so on. Ladders, of course, were sporadically placed around the room and on each floor so that anyone looking for books could reach the top shelves of each floor.
Hermione walked around the massive room wondering where she should start. There was so much that she wanted to know and she didn’t have a single clue as to what she should look for. Well, I guess I should start with books on Prophecies, she thought. And so she began spanning the library for any books she could find about Prophecies.
About thirty minutes later Hermione was sitting on her bed surrounded by small mountains of books. The majority of the books contained information about Prophecies but there were a few containing information about her family. She had gotten curious when she had laid eyes on a book entitled “Pureblood Families and Their Origins”. It was this book she was looking through when Callidora came flying through her open window and landed gracefully on her bed.
Hermione smiled sweetly at the beautiful bird and took the letter that was clutched in her beak. The increasingly familiar writing on the envelope caused Hermione’s smile to broaden as she tore the envelope open and began reading the neatly scribbled note.
I was so pleased when Callidora brought your response this morning. I was afraid I had upset you so badly last night that you might refuse my invitation to Hogsmeade on Saturday. I’m glad to see that I haven’t.
I’d like to apologize, again, for the things I said last night, and for how they made you feel. It was never my intention to upset you and I regret that I did. That being said; I’ll be calling on Blaise this evening and I very much hope to see you while I’m there.
P.S. You looked lovely last night. I don’t think I ever got around to telling you that.
Hermione folded the letter and put it back into its envelope. Draco would be coming to visit later that evening. Her stomach did a flip. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but there was something telling her that destiny had brought them together. Yet, there was also something telling her to be wary of him and his family; particularly Lucius Malfoy.
At that moment a sharp pain hit Hermione just behind the eyes, blurring her vision. It was the most intense pain she had ever felt, and she had felt some pretty harsh pain in the past. Her hands flew quickly to her eyes, trying to ease the pain but it was no use, the pain just got worse.
It was more intense than any headache she had ever gotten. Her stomach rolled with a wave of nausea, but she fought the urge to throw up. She rubbed at her temples and blinked. The ache lessened minimally. She shook her head and fought back the tears forming in her eyes at the hurt. Then suddenly, her vision began to clear.
No, not her vision.
She was seeing something, but it wasn’t the piles of books she knew that sat in front of her. There was a man, a man with long white-blond hair and a pointed nose… Lucius Malfoy.
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