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“It’s, gone?” Hermione asked, after a moment. “That knife is really gone?”

“Yes,” Draco said simply, taking Hermione’s hand. “I had it melted down. That’s all that survives.”

Hermione took a deep breath, and then another. She reached up and touched the brooch, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks.

“Are you mad?” Draco asked, nervously.

“No.” Hermione breathed. “No, I’m… I’m relieved.”

“Relieved?” Draco asked gently.

“Yes!” I know Bellatrix is gone, but I just never really thought about what had happened to her knife.” Hermione admitted. “But Draco, what about the curse?”

“Yes, well…” Draco blushed. “That’s why I had it melted down. I was hoping the goblins could figure out what curse was imbedded in the silver, and we could fix that scar.”

Hermione was touched. “For someone who claims to be too evil to spend time with, you sure seem to be doing a lot of good.”

“For someone who is meant to be the ‘brightest witch of the age’ you sure don’t take a hint when someone tells you you’re doing something dangerous.” Draco said, trying to change the subject.

“Please.” Hermione scoffed. “Draco, you are probably the least dangerous ‘bad decision’ I’ve ever made.”

“Oh really?” Draco challenged.

“Absolutely.” Hermione insisted. “Bad decision number one: first year, teaching the boys the Alohamora spell. Resulted in being chased by a three headed dog, and drinking a potion that could have meant my death.”

“I didn’t know about the potion.” Draco smirked.

“Bad decision number two: second year, figuring out that it was a basilisk petrifying the students, and getting petrified myself in the process. Actually, that year was rather tame.” Hermione laughed. "Oh, and of course I accidentally polyjuiced myself into a cat.

“Wait, what?” Draco asked.

"Oh, I had brewed polyjuice potion so that Harry, Ron, and I could spy on you because we thought you were opening the chamber." Hermione said. "I used what I thought was one of Millicent Bulstrode's hairs. It turned out to be from a cat, so the boys had to spy on you without me. So that was a bit of time in the hospital wing as well."

"Hold on," Draco said, "you brewed a polyjuice potion in second year?"

"Well, we had to figure out who was opening the chamber!" Hermione said, as though that clarified things.

"And you spied on me?" Draco asked.

"Yes!" Hermione said, "the boy's looked like Crab and Goyle; but we're getting off topic."

Draco rolled his eyes.

“Third year! Chased by a werewolf! Fourth year! Tied to the bottom of the Black Lake for the Triwizard Tournament.” Hermione exclaimed. “Fifth year, fighting Death Eaters, including your dad, at the ministry. Sixth year, really, was pretty simple... I spent most of my time trying to keep Harry from killing you!"

"Ok, ok... point taken. You're an adrenaline junkie." Draco teased.

Hermione gave him an exacerbated look. "Yes, that's it." She said sarcastically.

"I didn't know you fought my father." Draco said, looking at his feet.

"Well, it was a team effort." Hermione admitted. "There were six of us there that night."

"Six students who walked away from an encounter with a mob of Death Eaters." Draco pointed out.

"Well, the Order showed up and lent us a hand too." Hermione said.

"Still. My father can be... brutal." Draco said bitterly. "I doubt he was pulling his punches. He never really told me much about that night. I think he was embarrassed to be caught."

"Well, that was the beginning of the end, so to speak." Hermione said softly.

They both sat in silence for a few minutes, before Hermione spoke up, "I don't want to talk about the war. It's all we ever talk about."

"That's fine with me." Draco said with a smile. "What do you want to talk about."

"Tell me something about yourself that I don't know." Hermione grinned.

"Ha ha, that's kind of a long list." Draco laughed. "I'm not exactly big on 'sharing'."

"Ok, then lets play 20 questions!" Hermione said with a smile. "We each get to ask the other person 20 questions, and they have to be honest!"

"Hmmm, ok. This sounds dangerous." Draco joked.

"It's not, it's easy." Hermione said. "Who was your first crush?"

"See, already dangerous territory!" Draco teased.

"Oooo, is it someone I know?" Hermione giggled. "It's not Pansy is it?"

Draco laughed, "Ha ha ha, no. Pansy was never really my type."

"Ok, who then?!" Hermione pressed.

"I'm never going to live this down." Draco said, and covered his eyes.

"Was it someone famous?" Hermione teased.

"Well, yes... but she wasn't famous at the time." Draco said, meeting her eyes.

"No!" Hermione gasped.

"Well, why do you think I always picked on you!?" Draco cried. "That's what boys do when they like girls!"

"You're teasing me!" Hermione cried.

"I'm not!" Draco said. "I had a huge crush on you, from the first time I met you. And then I found out you were Muggle born and I felt like a traitor. Everything I had ever been taught, you called into question."

"How so?" Hermione asked, honestly curious.

"Well, all my life I had been taught that Muggle borns were hardly better than squibs." Draco explained. "So I expected any that I met to be complete rubbish at magic. Instead I get you beating all my marks."

"Sorry about that." Hermione joked.

"Don't be." Draco said seriously. "It was the first time I ever questioned what my father taught me."

"Well, I guess that's a good thing." Hermione said.

"So do I get a question now?" Draco asked.

"Sure, we can switch off." Hermione said with a smile.

"Ok, you and Krum?" Draco asked with a smirk. "What was going on there?"

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, "He asked me to the Yule Ball."

"Sure, but did you date after that?" Draco pressed.

"Not really, he and I never quite... connected." Hermione admitted. "Viktor was sweet, but I think we both knew that there wasn't much point in getting too serious with him going back to Bulgaria. Plus, there was always something of a language barrier."

"Hmmm. What about you and Potter?" Draco said curiously.

"Isn't it my turn?" Hermione teased.

"I think that question is an extension of my first." Draco argued.

"Hmmm, then you should have just asked about all my past relationships." Hermione teased.

"Alright." Draco said, unfazed. "Tell me about all your past relationships."

"Well, that's it." Hermione laughed.

"What, just Viktor in fourth year?" Draco asked.

"Yeah." Hermione said. "Unless you count one really unfortunate date with Cormac McLaggen to the Slug Club party. And I only invited him to upset Ron."

"No, I wouldn't count that." Draco laughed.

"So nothing ever happened between you and Potter or Weasley?" Draco teased.

"No, Harry is like my brother." Hermione said.

"And Weasley?" Draco pressed.

"Well." Hermione stumbled on her words. "He and I have a... complicated history."

"Complicated how?" Draco asked. "This sounds interesting."

"Complicated as in, we've both been interested in each other at different times, but never at the same time or at an appropriate time." Hermione admitted.

"Appropriate time?" Draco asked, curiously.

"Like, we kissed one time." Hermione said.

"What, was it a bad time to kiss?" Draco laughed.

"Um, no... well, yes..." Hermione blushed. "It was in the middle of the battle, ok!?"

Draco burst out laughing. "You stopped in the middle of a war to snog Weasley?"

Hermione scowled at him.

"I'm sorry, that's just the funniest mental picture." Draco chuckled. "What happened after that?"

"Nothing, it was just one of those 'heat of the moment' type things." Hermione said. "Afterwards things were awkward, and eventually we settled back into our regular friendship."

"But he escorted you to the Ceremony last week?" Draco asked, nervously.

"Is that what you're on about?" Hermione laughed. "He didn't escort me, he helped me out of the car."

"But all the pictures in the paper showed you two together." Draco pointed out.

"Sure, because most of those pictures were from the same five minute walk down the red carpet into the party." Hermione shrugged. "I walked back out with George, there just weren't as many pictures."

"Was it a fun party?" Draco asked, sounding honestly curious.

"Honestly?" Hermione sighed. "It felt like I was an exhibit at the zoo. Everyone was taking pictures of everything I did, like me eating dinner is newsworthy. And everyone wanted to know my opinions on the oddest things."

"Was the food good at least?" Draco teased.

"Yes, the food was very good." Hermione laughed. "Do I get a question yet?"

"Fire away your Highness." Draco grinned.

"Well, we got to do my relationship history, which was fairly obvious. What about you?" Hermione asked.

"That is a rather complicated question." Draco admitted.

"How so?" Hermione asked.

"Well, because my parents getting thrown in Azkaban changed my life in more ways than you can imagine." Draco said.

"I never asked, what sentences did your parents end up getting?" Hermione asked quietly.

"They both got life." Draco said. "Due to Potter's testimony, they can appeal after 10 years."

"I'm sorry Draco." Hermione said softly.

"You're sorry?!" Draco exclaimed, surprised.

"Well, I won't say that they don't deserve it, but I'm sorry you've lost your family." Hermione said.

"Hermione," Draco sighed, "I'm just as afraid of my father as everyone else is. I got a chance to live my own life when he got locked up. And my mother tries, but she doesn't see who he really is."

"Well, I'm glad you're making the most of it then I guess." Hermione said, squeezing Draco's hand.

"But back to the question at hand though," Draco said. "The reason that my parents arrest changed my life, is that prior to all this, I had a marriage arranged."

Hermione stared at Draco, "You're not serious!"

"I'm completely serious!" Draco said. "It was set up the day I was born."

"I didn't know people still did arranged marriages." Hermione said finally.

"It's a Malfoy tradition. Actually, remember that ancestor of mine who married a muggle?" Draco asked, and Hermione nodded. "Well it started right after that.”

“So your family has arranged all its marriages to keep from marrying muggles?” Hermione asked agog.

“Well it started that way, and it’s been happening for so many generations that I don’t think anyone ever thought to question it.” Draco explained. “To be perfectly honest, it didn’t seem that unusual to me, because I grew up with the idea. It wasn’t until later that I started having second thoughts.”

Hermione thought about that for a moment, and said “I guess, if you don’t know any differently, it wouldn’t seem as strange.”

“Exactly. To me, it was just one of the things that was expected of me.” Draco said.

“So, you said this was before the war, what changed?” Hermione asked.

“We lost the war.” Draco said, picking at the edge of the table with a fingernail. “The Malfoy name doesn’t have the clout it once did, and the state of our family fortune is dependent on what the ministry seizes. Her father thought that she could do better, so he called off the betrothal.”

“When was this?” Hermione was still somewhat fascinated by the idea that such an old fashioned practice was still alive and well in the Wizarding World.

“Just after I was released from Azkaban.” Draco said, “He requested that we dissolve the contract, and to be honest, I leapt at the opportunity.”

“There was a contract?” Hermione was beyond curious now, “Like an actual contract, on parchment?”

“Sure.” Draco said, as though it were the most normal thing in the world. “Prenuptial agreements, percentages of estates that were to be inherited, what property would change families, how many children we would have. It was all in there.”

“Goodness!” Hermione exclaimed. “That doesn’t sound very romantic!”

Draco chuckled. “Well romance wasn’t really the point. It’s all about keeping the wealth in the family, keeping the bloodlines pure, insuring that the next generation of Malfoy’s are as stuck up as the last.”

“Did you like her?” Hermione was still curious.

“I didn’t dislike her.” Draco said. “She was always kind of like a ticking clock, waiting in the wings. To be honest I was always more fond of her sister.”

“Do I know her?" Hermione asked.

"Sure, it's Daphne." Draco said.

"Daphne Greengrass?" Hermione exclaimed.

"Yeah. Our families have always been close; we grew up together." Draco explained. "Like I said, I was always closer to her sister, so I wasn't exactly disappointed that her father wanted to void the contract."

"Wow." Hermione couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Surprised Granger?" Draco teased.

"Well, yes." Hermione said simply. "To be perfectly honest Draco, I never really considered what your home life might be like."

"Yeah, it just shows you that you don't really know as much about people as you assume." Draco agreed. "I mean, look at Potter. I always assumed his life was rather charmed, he always seemed to get away with everything here, but he lost his family and lives with muggles, so what do I know?"

"Harry was actually rather abused at home." Hermione said honestly.

"You're kidding?" Draco exclaimed.

"No, I'm serious." Hermione said sadly. "His aunt and uncle were terrified of magic, so they locked him in a broom cupboard for the first half of his life. It was rather miserable. He doesn't talk about it much, but I've pieced it together from a dozen conversations.."

"Wow, I wouldn't have guessed that." Draco said honestly. "Don't tell me you have a horrible home life, or I shall lose all faith in humanity."

Hermione laughed, "No I had a lovely childhood. A bit confusing perhaps, before I got my Hogwarts letter."

"I never really thought about how odd that must have been for your parents." Draco laughed.

"Yes, I think when McGonagall showed up with my letter my parents were actually a bit relieved." Hermione smiled.

Draco laughed, and then asked, "Do they know... about last year?"

Hermione sighed. "They know now, I modified their memories and sent them into hiding last year, so we're not on the best terms right now. They think I should have just told them what was happening and trusted them to handle it. And they're rather confused by the attention I've been getting at the train this year."

"You haven't explained about your Order of Merlin?" Draco pressed.

"Well, I told them I got an award, but I'm already living so much in this world and not theirs that I didn't elaborate too much." Hermione explained.

Draco seemed upset by this. "Hermione, you should tell them! They sound like nice decent people, and they should know that you're a hero!"

"I don't want them to treat me differently." Hermione whispered. "Everyone treats me differently."

Draco said nothing, but simply put an arm around Hermione's shoulders.

"New subject?" Hermione asked.

"New subject." Draco agreed, with a smile. "I believe it's my turn for a question?"

"Fire away!" Hermione jokingly commanded.

"Ok, I'm honestly curious about this, and you can just answer yes or no. I don't need details. And I won't be offended if you don't want to answer." Draco said.

"Well now I'm intrigued." Hermione laughed.

"Have you... been with anyone?" Draco asked.

"Draco Malfoy, are you asking me if I'm a virgin?" Hermione cried.

"Well... yes." He said, ducking his head. "I'm just curious, you don't have to answer."

"If I tell you, you have to tell me." Hermione demanded.

"Fair enough." Draco smirked. "I am not."

Hermione nodded, taking the information in stride. "I am."

"I thought so." Draco said.

"Well it's not exactly a stretch." Hermione laughed. "I've had one boyfriend, and we only dated for a few weeks during the school year. It's not like we had the option even if I'd wanted it."

"Hey, I don't know what you got up to last year! You said yourself it was a small tent." Draco teased.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "We were a bit preoccupied with other things."

"I suppose." Draco joked. "And by the way, there's plenty of opportunity at Hogwarts if you use your imagination."

Hermione's eyes bugged out. "No!"

Draco laughed, "Yes."

"This is a school!" Hermione cried.

"And you, oh Princess of Light, clearly do not have a dirty mind." Draco said.

Hermione gave an exasperated sigh, "Ok, new subject!"

Draco laughed, "I believe you have the floor."

"Why did you change your mind." Hermione asked softly.

"What do you mean?" Draco replied.

"About me. You've been pushing me away all year, why change your mind now?" She pressed.

Draco laughed bitterly, "Because I'm a fool."

"No seriously," Hermione asked. "You didn't speak to me for weeks, you avoided me. And then all of the sudden you buy me a dress!"

"I... couldn't stand to see you so unhappy." Draco admitted. "That dress fiasco was making you more stressed than I've ever seen, and that's saying something because I've seen you push through a fair few stressful situations!"

Draco paused for a moment and then continued, "And then McGonagall made me come to the Ball tonight, and then made me dance with you! I wasn't going to come until she said the prefects had to attend. I don't think she even remembered that I'm a prefect."

Hermione giggled, "I made have put that idea in her head."

"Of course you did." Draco sighed. "Hermione, you really don't understand this situation."

"You can't back out now." Hermione exclaimed.

"I'm not, I just... Hermione." Draco struggled to get the words out. "I want to be with you, you have no idea how badly. And I'm beyond thrilled that you're even entertaining the idea! But I don't think you understand what you've signed up for!"

"I understand perfectly!" Hermione argued.

"No, Hermione, you don't!" Draco said. "Just listen... I told you we could try this and I'm not changing my mind, but you have to listen to what I have to say, ok?"

Hermione nodded.

"No one. No one in the world, is going to accept us as a couple. And Hermione, that is because I am not a good person." Draco said, putting a finger on Hermione's lips before she could argue. "You say it's because I was in a bad situation, and maybe that's what gave me the opportunity, but I made my own choices. I believed in what I was doing, what we were doing. I only started to rethink things after I became a Death Eater."

"Ok, but I know you've changed." Hermione stated.

"And I'm not arguing with you." Draco said, "But you still need to understand where I'm coming from. Just because I'm trying to be better doesn't mean I'll succeed. And even if I do, no one in their right mind would ever trust me!"

"I trust you." Hermione said softly.

"Don't give your trust away so freely Hermione." Draco said sadly. "Maybe I can earn your trust, but right now I need you to keep a bit of caution."

"Draco, I can handle myself." Hermione said, sounding frustrated.

"Believe me, Hermione, I know that." Draco said. "I wouldn't even be considering this if I didn't know you could beat me in a duel."

"Draco, why would we ever duel?" Hermione groaned.

"I'm not saying we would," Draco smirked. "I just like a girl who can hold her own."

"Ok then." Hermione said. "I've heard your crazy speech, I promise I will be careful. Can we please just try to be happy now? I think we both deserve it!"

"I absolutely do not deserve it." Draco laughed, "but 'I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.'

Hermione laughed. "I still can't believe you've read anything by Jane Austen, much less Pride and Prejudice."

"I like books." Draco shrugged.

"So do I." Hermione said with a smile.

"You know what?' Draco asked.

"What?" Hermione replied.

"I want to dance with you again." Draco said.

"Ah yes, but wouldn't that be a bit suspicious if we suddenly showed back up at the ball together?" Hermione teased.

"Who said anything about going back to the ball?" Draco smirked.

He flicked his wand and transfigured a discarded book into a music box. After stowing his wand he turned, lifted Hermione off the table, and they picked up where they had left off.

Authors Note:

Hi everyone!!! I usually don't do this, because I don't like breaking up the flow of a story, but I wanted to give a shoutout to Bhdeering and AppreciativeReader for their frequent reviews! They mean so much to me, and your feedback is always welcome!

There will very likely be a small break in posting after this chapter, as I'll be at Comic Con International this week, and won't have much of an opportunity to post. Don't give up on the story, there's still lots more to come!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of your reviews!

xoxo Lady Tartan

The book quoted in this chapter is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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