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Chapter Image by arrietty @TDA

 


    Lucius Malfoy sat in his study with a copy of the Daily Prophet open on his desk. His cold gray eyes stared fixedly at an article that spanned the majority of the front page. Anger pulsed through him with each word he read. He could not believe that his own best friend had kept a secret from him… Might still be keeping a secret from me, he thought, something wasn’t quite right with him the other day.

    CRACK!

    The fire in the fireplace went out with a loud pop, leaving the room dark and cold. Lucius pushed his chair back and withdrew his wand with the lightning quick reflexes his years as a Death Eater had taught him. He then silently lit his wand, searching each corner of the room carefully. The silence of the room and the eerie darkness was enough to make anyone nervous and wary of their surroundings, despite how well they might know them.

    He mopped his brow and wet his lips as his eyes darted around the study. His wand light had not quite touched the far side of the room when the grandfather clock behind him started to chime. The sudden loud noise in the silence caused him to jump. He spun around, his wand at the ready in case it was more than just the clock. There was nothing.

    Satisfied that nothing was amiss, Lucius turned to his fireplace and pointed his wand at the smouldering logs. Instantly, a bright flame burst into life. I really must get my nerves under control, he thought as he began to sit back down in his chair. With all this business about Miss Zabini’s homecoming and Draco’s betrothal to her, it’s no wonder my nerves are shattered.

    Then, the slightest sound of a cape swishing to this left caught his attention. He turned, wand at the ready, and shot a jet of red light at his intruder.

    The Stunning Spell did not hit its mark. Instead, the jinx was deflected and shot straight back at Lucius, sending him flying back into the wall. The intruder easily performed the counter-jinx and the white-blond haired wizard awoke. “Is this how you greet your master, Lucius?”

    Lucius’ eyes widened as a hooded figure moved gracefully out of the darkest corner of the room. “My Lord,” he rasped. “I didn’t… didn’t know…”

    “The Dark Lord has his reasons for not alerting you to his coming,” Lord Voldemort interrupted harshly.

    “Of… of course, my Lord.”

    Lord Voldemort released Lucius, allowing him to drop to the floor with a thump. “I have a task for you, Lucius,” he said, lowering his voice slightly.

    Lucius slowly got to his feet and looked at Lord Voldemort questioningly. “A task, my Lord?”

    “Yes, however before we get to that, I have a few questions for you.”

    “Questions?”

    Lord Voldemort nodded his bald, white head slowly, his snake-like eyes narrowed. He pointed his wand at the chair that had been knocked over and flicked his wrist. In an instant, the chair was turned upright and Lucius was sitting in it. “I see you have been reading this evening’s edition of the Daily Prophet.”

    Lucius answered hoarsely, “Yes, my Lord.”

    “I found the article on the front page very interesting,” Lord Voldemort said. “It seems you did too, considering the rest of the paper does not appear to have been read.”

    Knowing that he need not answer, Lucius remained quiet.

    The evening edition of The Daily Prophet lay unopened on his desk. The entire front page was covered in an article about Hermione’s “miraculous” homecoming. Detailed in the article were the reason for Hermione’s long absence in the Wizarding world, her time at Hogwarts, and a play by play of the Zabini twins Coming of Age party the previous night; including the announcement of Hermione’s engagement to Draco, and Blaise’s to Beatrice.

    There were several pictures that were scattered throughout the article, as well. One picture, in particular, stood out from the others. It was a shot that had been taken right after the engagement announcements.

    Lucius had stared at that picture for a long time; particularly at Pietro and Hermione. There was still something nagging at him in regards to the whole situation. His feelings were justified, he thought, when the article did not give any details that he didn’t already know.

    “Tell me, Lucius; were you aware that Marjorie had given birth to twins?” Voldemort questioned, breaking the long silence.

    “Ye… yes, my Lord,” Lucius stammered, “I… I thought you knew.”

    Lord Voldemort did not deny or confirm whether he had known or not. “Tell me, Lucius; were you aware that Hermione Granger was, infact, Hermione Zabini?”

    Lucius shook his head quickly. “No, my Lord; not until Pietro told me.”

    “And when was that?”

    “I received a letter from him the morning he went to bring her home.”

    Lord Voldemort stayed silent for several minutes, surveying Lucius with an angry and thoughtful eye. “The article states that she had contracted some rare disease that led to the Zabinis taking her to the Muggle world,” he picked up the paper and skimmed the words, “It says that, for years, there was little hope of recovery. What do you know of the young Zabini’s health?”

    “Noth… Nothing, my Lord, you know Pietro; he’s a very private person,” Lucius stammered, “When many years went by with no word of his daughter’s recovery, she was thought by many to be dead.”

    Lord Voldemort took a threatening step toward him, pointing his wand directly at Lucius’ chest. “If that is so, why then, did you not find another bride for your son?”

    “Pietro assured me that she would return to the Wizarding world… assured me that the pact he and I had made years ago would be fulfilled,” Lucius stammered. “I swear... I swear that’s all I know.”

    “Why did you not question Zabini?”

    Lucius’ eyes widened, fearful of what his master might do. “I did, my Lord,” he replied, “I questioned him and Marjorie many times over the years about their daughter, but neither of them would say much of anything about it. They would simply say that she was ill with something the potions and draughts of our world could not cure. Then they would change the subject.”

    “Very curious.”

    “I thought so, too, my Lord,” he agreed, “Ahem, my Lord, do you think Pietro lied about his daughter being ill?”

    Lord Voldemort sneered. “We shall see. Now, let us discuss other business.”

 

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    Her eyes popped open. Her breathing was labored as she fought to get her fear under control. Mopping her brow with a hand, she felt the mist of sweat that had formed on her skin. What was that, she thought? Had she actually just seen Lucius Malfoy and Lord Voldemort discussing her? How was that even possible? Was this connected to the nightmare Blaise had had that morning?

    These were all questions she could not answer.

    She felt clammy and weak. She imagined this was how Harry had felt every time he’d seen into Lord Voldemort’s mind. Based on her memory of how he had looked anyway. If I looked in a mirror right now, I’d probably look deathly, she thought.

    It was then that she realized her vision had cleared. The pain had not subsided any, however. She sat forward with her head in her hands, breathing deeply.

    When the nauseating pain finally began to lessen, she tried to process what she had just seen. Well, not really so much what she had seen; that was easy enough to understand. Voldemort was suspicious about the events surrounding her being taken to the Grangers. With everything she knew about Lord Voldemort, it was a matter of time before he found out the truth. Troubling, to say the least, but nothing to worry too much about at that moment.

    She had known since her father had shown her his memories that Lord Voldemort would question everything about her “disappearance” and her return home. As evil as he was, he was no dunce. She was also certain that he wouldn’t be the only one asking questions. She knew that were she on the outside, she would have several questions of her own. This was all happening to her and she had numerous questions. I should talk to Harry; see what he thinks, she decided.

    Don’t be ridiculous! You don’t even know if what you saw was real, she told herself after a while, you might’ve been hallucinating.

    Standing up, Hermione let out a frustrated sigh. “If that was a hallucination… Oh what are you talking about?! With pain like that, there’s no way it wasn’t a real vision of some sort.”

    She rubbed her temples to alleviate the dissipating ache. Were she at her childhood home, she would hunt down a bottle of Advil, but this was a wizarding house. “I’ll need a Headache Draught if this pain doesn’t go away. I suppose I should ask someone about where I might find some.”

    “No need; I’ve got some here.”

    Hermione turned sharply with her hand pressed to her chest upon hearing Blaise’s voice. She hadn’t heard him come in.

    “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said.

    She took the small bottle he was now holding out to her. “How’d you…?”

    Blaise furrowed his brow and rubbed the scruff on his cheek. “I’m not sure, really. I just felt that you needed it,” he answered, “Mum usually takes a spoonful, but if your headache is as painful as it looks like it is, then you might want to take a little more.”

    “Thank you.”

    She sat down and drank about half the bottle. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. Blaise chuckled at her expression as he sat down across from her. “Tastes better than you expected, doesn’t it?”

    “It really does,” Hermione agreed.

    “Mum’s got a knack for potions. I think she wanted to be a Healer at one point,” Blaise said thoughtfully, “Anyway, are you all right?”

    She chewed on her lip. “I’m not sure, to be perfectly honest. I’m not sure what to make of it, though, so I’d rather not talk about it just now.”

    “Okay.”

    “It’s strange, though, isn’t it?”

    Blaise gave her a confused expression. “Oh, you mean the fact that we somehow sense what the other is feeling, or thinking?”

    “Yes!” She leaned forward excitedly. “We’ve gone years without knowing anything about each other, and suddenly we can just sense things like when you’re scared, or…”

    “You’re in pain?” Blaise interrupted.

    Hermione grinned. “Exactly.”

    He thought for several moments, casually picking up one of the books in a stack near him. “It is strange, but not unheard of. From what I understand, twins often have a unique sense of each other.”

    “Hmm… Yes, I’ve read several articles on the subject for an assignment I had in school before I started Hogwarts.”

    “That doesn’t surprise me. How’s your head?”

    “Completely fine, thank you.”

    He nodded and stood. “Well, lunch should be ready before long and Draco’s coming so that we can get fitted for some dress robes.”

    Hermione made herself comfortable and picked up the book she had been reading when her vision had hit. “Didn’t you both get new dress robes yesterday?”

    “Yes, but I want to get a head start on things for my wedding.”

    She smiled sweetly at him. “You really like her; don’t you?”

    A grin played on his lips. “I didn’t think I would; but, yeah, I do.”

    “I’m sorry I didn’t get more of a chance to chat with her last night, she seems like a lovely girl.”

    Hermione grinned. “Exactly.”

    He thought for several moments, casually picking up one of the books in a stack near him. “It is strange, but not unheard of. From what I understand, twins often have a unique sense of each other.”

    “Hmm… Yes, I’ve read several articles on the subject for an assignment I had in school before I started Hogwarts.”

    “That doesn’t surprise me. How’s your head?”

    “Completely fine, thank you.”

    He nodded and stood. “Well, lunch should be ready before long and Draco’s coming so that we can get fitted for some dress robes.”

    Hermione made herself comfortable and picked up the book she had been reading when her vision had hit. “Didn’t you both get new dress robes yesterday?”

    “Yes, but I want to get a head start on things for my wedding.”

    She smiled sweetly at him. “You really like her; don’t you?”

    A grin played on his lips. “I didn’t think I would; but, yeah, I do.”

    “I’m sorry I didn’t get more of a chance to chat with her last night, she seems like a lovely girl.”

    “Hermione, you have no idea. Anyway, I should get going.”

    Hermione nodded and watched as he left the library. There was still a sense of fear that she could see in his eyes and feel in her heart. The nightmare Blaise had had that morning was obviously still weighing on him, and it was no wonder. The fear she had sensed from him had been enough to make her heart beat faster with the anxiety of it.

    She couldn’t be sure, but she hoped that when Blaise was ready to talk about it, he would come to her. She had wanted siblings for so long and now that she knew she actually had one, she wanted to do anything possible to help him, to be there for him. It’s what any good sister would do; right?

 

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    Draco straightened his sleek black jacket as he entered Zabini Mansion, bowed in by Gripa. “Master Blaise is in the dining room, Master Draco,” she squeaked as she shut the door. “Is you liking Gripa to take you, Master Draco?”

    Draco smiled and shook his head. “No thank you, Gripa,” he said. “I can manage.”

    Gripa bowed low and scampered off to continue her house work while Draco turned and made his way through the large mansion to find Blaise. As he entered the dining room, he was greeted by the sight of Blaise and Hermione chatting merrily while eating a dinner of chicken, rice, and vegetables. “Good evening,” Draco said.

    Blaise and Hermione looked up at him and smiled. “Hey, mate glad you could make it,” Blaise said. “Care for some dinner?”

    “Um, sure,” Draco replied, removing his jacket, placing it on the back of a chair, and taking a seat next to Hermione.

    Hermione gave him a small smile and began putting food on the plate that had appeared in front of him. Not wanting her to feel as though she needed to wait on him, Draco kindly took the plate of rice and the serving spoon from her and began putting food on his plate himself. “So what are you two planning to do this evening?” Hermione asked.

    “We’re going to do a bit of planning for my wedding,” Blaise told her, taking a bite of chicken. “You know, picking out dress robes and such for the Groomsmen… I think that’s what the Muggles call the men in a wedding party.”

    Hermione smiled kindly at her twin brother’s attentiveness to Muggle sayings. “Yes, that’s right,” she replied. “Have you decided who your Groomsmen are going to be? I take it Draco will be your Best Man?”

    Blaise nodded. “I’ve asked Crabbe, Goyle, Flint, and Bletchley,” he said, “I imagine, if you two decide to go through with the marriage, Potter will be your Maid of Honor; am I right, Hermione?”

    Draco and Blaise laughed heartily while Hermione glared at them. “I’m not at that point yet,” she stated, “Though I’d probably ask Ginny. Despite having a male as a best friend, sometimes a girl needs someone to chat with about girl things.”

    “All right, all right,” Blaise said, raising his hands in defeat and still chuckling. “Didn’t mean anything by it.”

    “Has Beatrice chosen her colors yet? What about your wedding robes; have you decided what you want them to look like?”

    Blaise wiped his mouth. “Well, I’ve got some ideas, but I’m not sure what will be best. As for Beatrice’s colors; she told me at the party that she’s chosen lavender and rose.”

    “Those are lovely colors. Will you have something on your Groomsmen to match?”

    “Most likely.”

    Hermione finished her butterbeer and she wiped her mouth. Checking her watch, she said, “Well, I should be going.”

    “Where you going?” Blaise asked as Hermione pushed her chair back and stood.

    “I’m going to call at the Weasley’s. Ginny asked me to come ‘round.”

    “Give Mrs. Weasley a big ‘thank you’ from me, will you?” Blaise questioned. “For the sweater, I mean?”

    “I’ll tell her. You two have a good evening.”

    And with that, Hermione walked out of the dining room.

    Blaise turned his gaze on Draco and said, “I heard that Muggle Bridesmaids wear ugly dresses picked by the bride.”

    Draco chuckled. “Could you imagine Potter standing up in front of everyone wearing some awful looking dress,” he began, “smiling like a prat, with a garland of flowers in his hair?”

    “That would be a sight worthy of The Daily Prophet!” Blaise stated, howling with laughter.

    “Definitely. I’d buy up as many copies as possible just so I could send them to Potter as a reminder of how ridiculous he is.”

    “That sounds like a great idea!” Blaise said, finishing his food, “Well, shall we get going?”

    Draco nodded and grabbed his jacket. A few moments later, the two boys were standing in Hogsmeade. “Monsieur DuBois’ Fine Linens, then?” Draco asked.

    “Yeah, I’ve always liked going in there; DuBois’ a great laugh.”

 

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    The Burrow. Hermione’s home away from home. With its cluttered chaos, gnome filled garden, and near constant noisy state; it was one of her favorite places in the world.

    She smiled as she Apparated just outside the gate. She raised her hand to shield her eyes as she looked up at the house. Her smile widened when the front door opened.

    Mrs. Weasley beamed as Hermione walked through the gate. “Hermione, how lovely to see you!” she exclaimed, pulling her into a warm embrace.

    “And you, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione greeted, “Thank you so much for the sweater, I love it.”

    The plump woman ushered her inside and closed the door. “Oh, I’m so glad. Did Blaise like his?”

    Hermione took a seat in the kitchen and watched as Mrs. Weasley bustled around. “Yes; he sends his thanks.”

    “He’s most welcome. I was just about to whip up some pies. If you’re hungry, I can make you anything you like; jam tarts, treacle fudge, toast and marmalade… I’ve got some chocolate covered toffees in that tin there on the table.” She briefly turned and pointed to the tin.

    “The toffees will be fine, thanks.”

    “Will you be staying for dinner? We’re having shepherd’s pie.”

    Hermione swallowed the bit of toffee she had been chewing before saying, “I’d love to, but i should probably be home for dinner.”

    “Oh, of course, you’ll be wanting to spend what time you can with your family before school starts,” Mrs. Weasley noted, half to herself, “Another day.”

    “That sounds lovely, Mrs. Weasley.”

    The tone in her voice alerted Mrs. Weasley to how tired and stressed the young woman at her table really was. She had seen it the moment Hermione had stepped through her gate.

    Mrs. Weasley had to admire her. If she were in Hermione’s shoes, she didn’t think she would handle the things Hermione was with nearly half as much grace. Of course, Hermione had always handled things with a poise far beyond a witch of her years. That quality in her was one of the many reasons she had once hoped one of her sons would marry her.

    “I thought I heard your voice,” Ginny said as she entered the kitchen.

    Hermione smiled and hugged her friend. “Your mum tempted me with her delicious toffees.”

    Ginny grinned. “Well, they are tempting,” she agreed, “Come on, it’s a lovely day, let’s take the toffees and go sit in the orchard to wait for Harry and Ron; they went to get Luna.”

    Hermione stood and picked up the toffee tin. The two girls then said, “Goodbye,” to Mrs. Weasley and left The Burrow.

    As they made their way to the orchard, they gossiped about various things that were of no consequence whatsoever. This was part of why Hermione enjoyed spending time with Ginny. There was no pressure to talk about things she didn’t want discuss; there was just easy conversation. And, of course, if they chose to do so, they would chatter about girly things, such as hair, clothes, boys, and the like.

    They came to the orchard before too long and Hermione took a deep breath. The sweet smell of apples filled her nose and she closed her eyes. “I love the smell of apples,” she breathed.

    “Isn’t it the best?” Ginny asked as they sat beneath a nearby tree.

    They sat in silence for several moments before Ginny finally asked, “So, how are things really going with Malfoy?”

    Hermione bit into a toffee and chewed as she thought about that. “They’re interesting, to say the least. He’s not the easiest person to get to know, but I think we’re making some progress.”

    Ginny nodded. “And the real answer is…?”

    Hermione leaned back against the tree and sighed. “I’m so confused, Ginny. I mean; one minute he’s being perfectly sweet and polite, and the next… Well, you heard what he said last night.”

    “Yes; it was all Luna and I could do to keep Ron and Harry from trying to throttle him.”

    A gentle smile played at Hermione’s lips at how protective her two best friends could be. “He came to my room last night.”

    “I hope it was to apologize,” Ginny said.

    “It was, though I almost didn’t let him. After the things Pansy had said and done, and Draco’s comments about being under his father’s orders to treat me properly… I was just so angry and hurt,” she explained, “But, he wouldn’t leave well enough alone.”

    “Sounds like you’ve met your match in the stubborn department,” Ginny giggled.

    Hermione gave her a mock look of anger before breaking into giggles herself. She told Ginny the whole story, grateful for the fact that she listened without interrupting. “And then he lowered his head and…”

    Ginny sat up straight. “You two kissed?” she questioned excitedly, “Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”

    Hermione covered her face in embarrassment. “I turned my head at the last second,” she admitted, “so he mostly got my cheek.”

    Ginny threw a piece of toffee at her. “Hermione Granger, I’m surprised at you!”

    Hermione giggled and threw the toffee back. “Why?”

    “Okay, I’m really not, but still… Why didn’t you let him kiss you?”

    “It just didn’t feel right and I’m not ready to take that step with him just yet.”

    “That makes sense,” Ginny noted, “It’s only been a few days; you’re bound to have some apprehensions.”

    “More than some.”

    Ginny picked up an apple and casually wiped it on her pants. “Would you care to elaborate?” she inquired, biting into the apple.

    Hermione sat up, pulling her knees to her chest. “Well, I suppose the most worrisome thing would be my personal history with the whole of the Malfoy family; particularly Lucius and Draco,” she began, “Lucius has had a hand in trying to kill Harry, and several of us, on more than one occasion. He’s doing his best to make nice, but I don’t believe him for a second.”

    “I don’t blame you, especially considering he’s the reason I ended up getting possessed by You-Know-Who in my first year,” Ginny stated bitterly, “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”

    “As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything he could say, or do, that would earn my trust.”

    “Good. Carry on.”

    “Well, Draco, while not the most honorable, seems to be trying to be a better person. Though, like you pointed out; it’s only been a few days.”

    “Do you think he’s being honest in his intentions with you?”

    Hermione thought about that. “He’s difficult to read, but he seems to be,” she sighed, “At least, that’s what I gather when we’re alone, or just with our families.”

    Ginny wiped a bit of apple from her mouth as she watched Hermione with her perceptive gaze. “Want to know what I think?”

    “Yes; please. You know I can’t talk to Harry and Ron about this.”

    Ginny giggled. “Quite right,” she said, “I watched the two of you last night. I was particularly intrigued with the way he danced with you.”

    Hermione quietly waited for her to continue. Thankfully she didn’t have to wait long. “He seemed at ease with himself, like he didn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Dare I say, he looked… Happy.”

    A look of disbelief came over Hermione’s face. Ginny caught it and immediately went into her argument. “You can’t deny that he was at least smiling and laughing. I mean; you were with him practically the whole night. Until all that stuff with Pansy Parkinson, anyway.”

    At the mention of Pansy, Hermione’s eyes narrowed angrily. “Oh, I’d love to get my hands on that twit for ruining what was supposed to be a special night.”

    “I saw Mrs. Zabini speaking with Mr. Parkinson, and Crabbe’s and Goyle’s parents, as well,” Ginny said, “None of them looked very happy about what was being said; especially Mr. Parkinson. He looked like his head was about to explode.”

    “Can we change the subject?”

    “Sure; how are you getting on with the Zabinis?”

    Hermione chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. “To be honest; I’ve spent more time with Blaise these past few days than I have Pietro and Marjorie,” she said, “It’s awkward being around them but they’re not so bad.”

    “I imagine it’s difficult knowing what to call them.”

    “It is! I mean; I grew up believing my parents were my parents, and then, come to find out, they’re not. I’ll always think of them as my parents, of course, that isn’t the problem,” she explained, “What I struggle with is what to call the Zabinis. I mean; if I call them “Mr.” or “Mrs.” it’s just strange, but calling them “Mum” and “Dad” is even stranger.”

    Ginny nodded in understanding. “But they’re treating you well?”

    Hermione smiled. “More than well. It’s bordering on spoiling.”

    “That’s got to be a change,” Ginny giggled.

    “It’s a bit annoying, really, and I think it bothers Blaise, though I’m sure he’d say it doesn’t.”

    Hermione wrung her hands together. She so badly wanted to tell Ginny about the strange things that had been happening to her, but she wasn’t sure that she could find the words. A strange thought, considering she had never had a problem discussing her thoughts and feelings before. She was spared the tough decision, however, because Ron, Harry, and Luna turned up just then.

    Ron immediately began digging into the toffees, claiming he was famished. “You had three turkey sandwiches at my house,” Luna stated serenely.

    The rest of them laughed at Ron’s expression. “How are you, Hermione?” Harry questioned, before giving Ginny a quick peck on the lips.

    Hermione smiled at him. “I’m well, Harry, thank you. Luna, what’s that you’ve got?”

    Luna handed her the magazine in her hands. “The latest edition of The Quibbler; Daddy’s just finished it,” she told her, “When Ron said you’d be coming by, I made sure to grab a copy for you. One of our writers did an article on your party.”

    Hermione groaned slightly as she thumbed through the ridiculous magazine. “Speaking of articles,” Harry said cautiously, “There’s a rather lengthy one about you and the Zabinis in The Daily Prophet.”

    With a sigh, Hermione set down the magazine. “Yes, I read it,” she said.

    There was a lot that article had left out, mainly because the reporter didn’t have all the information. Of course, Hermione knew that had been done for her safety, as well as the safety of her family; biological and adoptive.

    She looked at Harry and could see in his green eyes that he had discovered holes in public story of her “disappearance” and sudden homecoming. “Harry, I can see that you have questions, and I honestly don’t blame you, but I’m not ready to give any answers.”

    Harry nodded and cleared his throat. “So, what shall we do today?”

    Ron, Ginny, and Luna quickly launched into ideas. Hermione caught Harry’s eye and gave him a look of thanks. Harry’s expression, however, clearly told her that he wasn’t dropping the subject any time soon. Regardless of that, Hermione knew that Harry would never force her to talk when she wasn’t ready. That was one of the great things about having Harry for a friend. She gave him a small smile and focused her attention back on the discussion of what they were going to do.

    “Before we do anything,” Ron stated after a while, “I want something to eat.”

    Ginny gave him a disgusted look. “You’re a never ending eating machine,” she commented.

    They all laughed.

 

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    “Ah, Draco, good, you’re home.”

    Draco paused on the stairs and turned to face his father. He had just gotten home from his afternoon with Blaise and all he wanted to do was relax. His father had a knack for ruining his plans. This was no exception. “Did you want to see me, Father?”

    “Yes, put down your shopping and come to my study,” Mr. Malfoy said, “I have something to discuss with you.”

    Draco set the few packages he was carrying on the stairs and followed his father. “If this is about last night, you don’t need to say anything else; I got the message loud and clear.”

    Mr. Malfoy sat behind his desk and looked at his son. “While it pleases me to hear that, that isn’t why I want to speak with you.”

    Draco sat and waited patiently for his father to begin. “Draco, the time has come for you to show your loyalty to The Dark Lord.”

    His brow furrowed. “Show my loyalty?” he questioned, “Father, what are you talking about?”

    His father cleared his throat. “There is something he wishes you to do.”

    “Father, I’m just seventeen, what could he possibly want with me?”

    Mr. Malfoy sat up proudly. “As it just so happens, you have a very special skill that The Dark Lord is in need of. Draco, this is great news! Should you succeed in your task, the reward shall be great!”

    Draco listened as his father laid out the details of the task he was supposedly more than qualified to carry out. The more he heard, the more ridiculous he thought it was. It wasn’t that the plan itself was absurd, but the fact that it was believed that he could pull it off was ludicrous. Oh, sure; he could manipulate the situation to make it work, but that would prove to be more trouble than it was worth. He would have to be much more sneaky and conniving than he had ever been in order to remain undetected. Considering who this plan involved, being undetected wasn’t going to happen.

    The things his father was saying, that it was possible that Hermione was a part of some prophecy, just didn’t make sense to him. Of course, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t true, but why, when things were starting to go well, would he want to make them worse?

    When Mr. Malfoy finished his explanation, he gave him an expectant look. Draco cleared his throat. “It’s a well laid out plan, Father, but it’ll never work.”

    Mr. Malfoy huffed. “What are you talking about? Of course it will.”

    “You’re forgetting a very simple fact.”

    “And what’s that?”

    Draco stared at him disbelievingly. “Hermione’s too smart to fall for it.”

 

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    When she arrived home, Hermione was exhausted. While at The Burrow, she had spent several hours watching Ginny, Ron, and Harry play Quidditch. Harry and Ginny took turns tossing apples for Ron to catch. While he still wasn’t the best Keeper she had seen, he had definitely improved since their fifth year.

    Luna had kept Hermione laughing by commentating the way she would if they had been at a school match. The lazy, distracted way she talked about the plays being made and then went off topic about some sort of made up, by Hermione’s logic anyway, creature was uncanny. It made what had started out as a worrisome day much more enjoyable.

    Being able to relax with her friends and forget about all the things going on in her life had been a joy. And something she had sorely needed. The amount of stress she had accumulated in just a few days was insane. The school year hadn’t even started and she already felt the way she normally did in the weeks before end of year exams. Not exactly a good way to start the year, she thought as she climbed onto her bed.

    Callidora hooted softly and flew over to perch on Hermione’s knee. Hermione smiled and stroked her soft feathers. The gentle Boreal owl blinked lazily and settled herself comfortably.

    Hermione closed her eyes as she continued petting Callidora rhythmically. Being in a place that was still new to her, and wasn’t exactly the most settling, it was comforting to have something that would show her unwavering unconditional love.

    Just then, a knock on the door broke her dreamlike daze. “Come in,” she called, shaking her head and moving Callidora off her knee so that she could get more comfortable.

    Her bedroom door opened and Blaise walked in. “Have a good visit with the Weasleys?”

    “Yes, quite good,” she said, allowing Callidora to perch on her knee once more, “It was just what I needed. How did things go with Draco?”

    Blaise smiled as he closed the door and walked further into the room. “Brilliantly,” he said. “I managed to pick out some really smart dress robes for myself and Draco; I’ll have to take Crabbe, Goyle, Flint, and Bletchley another day.”

    Hermione rolled her eyes slightly. “Oh I can just imagine how much fun that’ll be.”

    “Oi, I don’t trash-talk your friends in front of you,” Blaise reprimanded.

    “I’m sorry, but I just can’t say anything nice about Crabbe and Goyle,” Hermione said sincerely. “Especially not after they helped Pansy Parkinson destroy our Coming of Age party. I actually can’t understand why you’d consider making those two Groomsmen after that, but it’s not my decision.”

    “Look, I know Crabbe and Goyle are thick, and they usually go along with whatever someone smarter than them says, but they’re my friends, Hermione,” Blaise argued. “They’re Draco’s friends too, and seeing as he’s doing his best to respect your choice of friends, you might want to do the same.”

    Hermione took a good look at her brother and noticed the stress on his face. When she saw that, she sighed and quietly said, “You’re right, I’m sorry, Blaise.”

    Blaise shook his head and rubbed his face. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like i did,” he said, “I guess I’ve been a little on edge since this morning.”

    “It happens to us all from time to time,” she forgave. She studied him with her perceptive eyes. “You wanted to talk to me about something?”

    He chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “You’re sure you’ve got the time?”

    “Of course,” Hermione said, patting the spot next to her on the bed, “As I’ve said before, I’ll always have time for you.”

    Blaise slowly strode over to her and sat down on the spot she had patted. He looked nervous, almost sick, as he looked down at the floor and swallowed hard. “Has… has anything strange happened to you since you’ve been here?”

    “What makes you ask?” Hermione questioned apprehensively.

    “This morning… the nightmare I had. Nothing like that’s ever happened to me before,” Blaise said. “It was like I was seeing things through someone else’s eyes… like I was someone else.”

    Hermione gasped softly. “Wha… what happened?”

    Blaise ran a hand over the back of his neck in an attempt to calm himself. “I… I was running. There were trees… so many trees. Death Eaters were behind me. I tripped and one of the Death Eaters grabbed me.”

    “Blaise, do you have any idea whose eyes you were seeing from?” Hermione asked.

    Blaise shook his head and finally looked at her. “All I know is that it was a girl,” he whispered. “I could tell because I remember feeling a lot of hair flowing around me… her.”

    “And this happened for the first time this morning?”

    Blaise nodded.

    “Something odd happened to me this morning too,” Hermione confessed. “It was after we had spoken and I went to the library. While I was looking through the books, I got a sharp pain behind my eyes and my vision blurred. When it cleared again, I was looking at Lucius Malfoy.”

    Blaise looked surprised. “What was he doing?”

    Hermione wasn’t quite ready to divulge the details of what she had seen. But, considering Blaise had shared his nightmare, she didn’t see why she couldn’t, at least, share something of her vision. So she said, “I don’t know exactly. All I could really see was Lucius sitting at his desk looking over some papers. He didn’t look pleased. Then, my vision went blurry again and I was back to staring at the books around me.”

    “What do you think it means?”

    Hermione shook her head. “I’m not sure,” she said, “I remember reading something in Magical Connections a couple of years ago about some sets of twins having powers of telepathy and cryptophasia, but…”

    “Crypto-what?”

    “Cryptophasia. It’s a phenomenon of a language developed by twins that only the two can understand. It basically means secret speech,” Hermione explained, sounding like a dictionary, “Now, I’ve seen the cryptophasia in action before, being around the Weasley twins, but I’ve never actually known a pair of twins to have such powers as telepathy, or visions; have you?”

    “No; I don’t know many sets of twins,” Blaise replied, “Hey, do you suppose this thing we have… you know, where we just somehow know what each other is thinking, or feeling… is some form of cryptophasia?”

    “I suppose it could be,” Hermione began, chewing on the nails of her left hand. “I’ll ask Fred and George Weasley next time I see them. The Patil sisters might be worth asking…”

    “Hermione, I’d prefer to keep this as quiet as possible, if you don’t mind.”

    “All right, then I’ll just ask Fred and George,” Hermione told him. “Is that all right?”

    Blaise thought for a moment. “I suppose they can be trusted?” he asked. “I mean; they run a joke shop.”

    “Of course they can be trusted. They’re not ones that would blab something a friend asks them to keep secret.”

    “All right, you can ask them… Just don’t tell um… Ron and Harry.”

    “Or Draco,” Hermione added with a small smile at Blaise’s use of her friends’ names.

    “What are we going to do in the meantime?”

    Hermione grinned, walked over to her desk, and picked up one of the many books that were piled on it. “What do I always do when I’m looking for answers?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

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