Chapter Ten: Monday

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

Beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten.

 

Lunch was weirdly nice. Ron was still in the infirmary, allowing Hermione to talk freely with Harry and his girls. She hadn’t seen much of the redheaded wizard lately and so she hadn’t had a chance to tell him of her betrothal. Hermione felt awkward keeping it from Ron yet uncomfortable at the idea of sharing this news with him. It just didn’t seem to be any of his business in light of all the information she’d learned from Molly and Luna. He’d find out soon enough.

 

Her friends agreed; Ginny was even vehement about it. She informed Hermione that traditionally it was the witch’s choice to publicize the engagement or not, and so she should take advantage of the time to adjust.

 

As if two weeks was enough time to adjust for anything! “Won’t it be announced by the Malfoys?”

 

“The wedding will be the official news-breaking. Until then, it’s up to you. My mum says she’d prefer for Ron to find out later, anyways, so he doesn’t make any more of a fool of himself. I think she’s looking forward to setting the rest of the boys on him.”

 

Hermione made a mental note of several questions she suddenly had for Ginny. Maybe I can convince her to give Harry a break later this evening.

 

Ron being gone meant that Harry took full advantage of – well, Ron’s sister. And Luna. Normally his presence would have put a slight damper on their antics, and in his absence the three were putting on quite a show. Luna sat on the table in front of him with her legs hooked on his shoulders, letting him suck cream pudding off her fingers. Ginny leaned over Luna’s left leg, licking Harry’s lips clean with each mouthful, and her hand was moving inside his unzipped trousers. Harry’s hands were under Luna’s robe, and it was obvious by her writhing that he was playing with her nipples. Hermione had seen far worse but this was the first time it affected her. She felt a tugging sensation deep in her gut and squirmed uncomfortably in her seat.

 

She tried to find somewhere – anywhere – else to look and instantly found herself locked in Draco’s gaze from the Slytherin table, which was behind the backs of her friends. He seemed to sense her plight, because he blushed deeply but held her eyes. His lips began curving into a beautiful smirk and Hermione wondered what it would feel like to finger-feed Draco pudding. It was her turn to blush. How much time passed while they smiled and gazed at each other? Neither ate a bite of their meals, and what finally broke their shared reverie were the soft choking sounds coming from Harry. Hermione looked at her friend in concern, only to realize too late that Ginny had accomplished her goal. The redhead sank to her knees under the table just as the Headmaster dismissed the students from the Great Hall.

 

Hermione was at a loss for a few moments. Harry was obviously unable to perform his duties as chaperone at the moment and she needed to get to Dumbledore’s office for the visit with the Malfoy wizards. Draco caught her attention and indicated that she should head toward the back of the hall.

 

She walked the length of the table through the crowd of bustling students slowly, a nervous flutter growing in her stomach with every step. Aside from their traded glances in Herbology they hadn’t interacted since that sweet, overwhelming kiss that had sent her fleeing from the acceptance ceremony, and now she was assailed by the reality of the situation once more. I’m getting married to two wizards I don’t know in two weeks. Then she was at the end of the Gryffindor table and Draco was approaching her, and the fluttering in her stomach increased to wild flapping.

 

Grateful for the cover provided by the milling crowd Hermione set her book bag on the end of the table and pretended to check its contents. From the corner of her eye she saw a flash of realization and something that may have been disappointment pass over his handsome face. He, too, set down his bag and began a mock-search through it, speaking almost too quietly to be heard above the general commotion. “Miss Granger, I think your ‘brother’ is indisposed. Perhaps we should wait for the Headmaster and walk with him.”

 

Hermione had forgotten the pleasant timbre of Draco’s low, husky voice and she smiled in spite of herself. It hadn’t been difficult at all to talk with him at the Slytherin party, and this was no different! And just like then, I won’t think about anything that’s going to happen past today, she decided. We’re just two people getting to know each other. “Good idea. I’m so sorry about that – I don’t understand why someone doesn’t do something about his antics.”

 

“You’ve no need to apologize on his behalf. He’s a war hero; the rules are different for him. He’ll be able to do whatever he wants with his witches wherever he wants to do it for the rest of his life.”

 

She wrinkled her nose and sighed. “Ugh. And here I was hoping the real world would curb his public behavior.”

 

Draco blushed, looked at his feet, and smirked again. Hermione wondered what he was thinking about.

 

Professor Dumbledore must have anticipated their need. He walked through the crowds of students toward them. “Aah! Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy! Excellent — we are due in my office, it seems. Will you suffer my company on the way?”

 

It occurred to the young witch in that moment just how true Draco’s words must be, because the Headmaster of the prestigious Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry hadn’t batted an eyelash at the sight of a post-coital Harry Potter, still openly fondling Luna Lovegood’s breasts while Ginny Weasley cleaned him up with her tongue under the table. She shook off the image. Some things really were best left ignored.

 

The three arrived at the appointed meeting place minutes later. Lucius was waiting at the door, leaning against the wall and swinging his walking stick. He bowed his head in silent greeting to them in a general way as the Headmaster opened the door.

 

There was a fire roaring in the grate, and the room was exceedingly warm. Draco and Hermione immediately shrugged off their robes. Formal greetings were exchanged, Hermione’s hand was duly kissed by each of her wizards, and she was whisked away to the chair in the alcove by Lucius. Once again, he sat down and drew her onto his knee. As they had the day before, his large, warm hands settled around her waist. His thumb brushed back and forth against the soft knit of her sweater-clad stomach.

 

“It’s good to see your face again, lady. The last I saw of you was your hair streaming behind as you fled this place.” His eyes were smiling at her, but his mouth remained straight. That look must be hereditary.

 

Hermione blushed and bit her lip. “I’m sorry, Mr. Malfoy; there’s no excuse for my behavior yesterday. I won’t run from my own discomfort again. Did I offend you?”

 

Lucius raised his eyebrows and barely contained a smile. “Yes, I am afraid the ancient and noble House of Malfoy has suffered a great blow; one that can only be repaired by a kiss from the offending lady.” He tapped his cheek and twinkled at her.

 

He can’t be serious — but great and mighty Merlin, if I don’t do it I’ll offend him for sure. And how is it both of these wizards seem to know that twinkling is my Achilles’ heel? Hermione leaned in cautiously and brushed her lips against his cheek. Her brain catalogued the sensory input for later perusal.

 

As she began to draw away, Lucius brought one of his hands up to the middle of her back and the other to her thighs. He drew her further into his lap and tucked her body against his chest, guiding her head to rest on his shoulder. Now she found herself sitting across his lap like a young child might be held. Lucius wrapped his arms around her loosely and spoke into the hair on the top of her head. “Now, my prize, tell me about your time away from me.”

 

In this position, Hermione realized, there was no eye contact and therefore much less tension on her part. Yesterday, after the initial awkwardness, it hadn’t been difficult talk with Lucius; now it was downright enjoyable. And why do I suddenly like being called a ‘prize’? She found herself telling him about running to the professor’s chambers, and about how terrible she felt when she realized she’d broken a rule. She told him about meeting Astoria, and of seeing Draco in Herbology. She even told him about the awful things Ron had said and Draco’s subsequent hexing of him.

 

Today no bell rang while she spoke, and so it was quite a few minutes later that she realized she’d been talking for far too long. And that she found her new niche in Lucius’ arms quite comfortable. Sweet Circe, how long have I been playing with the button of his jacket?

 

Hermione raised her head slightly, catching his eye. “How rude of me to go on like that! Will you please talk for a while, now?” Then she hid back down against his shoulder, her nose buried into the fabric of his beautiful robes. He smells divine. Almost as good as the war-stake. He’ll be my husband soon. Aaagh – think of something else! Anything else!

 

Lucius spoke into her hair at length, telling her of his recent comings and goings. Since she knew nothing about him or his life, and because she needed to keep her mind on something slightly smaller than the elephant in the room, she interrupted from time to time with a question. He seemed to enjoy this, and they conversed for a long, long time. Eventually, though, the sound of the bell rang out from somewhere in the office. Lucius sighed and helped her to sit upright again.

 

“I find myself looking forward to our next visit already. Perhaps it can be sooner that I had originally planned.”

 

Hermione smiled at him, relieved that their time together had been so . . . nice. She nodded her head in agreement, and, on impulse, kissed his cheek again. His hands tightened around her waist for a moment, and then he helped her to her feet. They stood together for a moment and the only sound was that of the Headmaster’s quill scratching across the parchment on his desk.

 

“I’m sure someone is growing impatient with my dawdling. Until next time, lady.” Lucius kissed her hand and excused himself from the room. Hermione was confused until Professor Dumbledore explained that the senior Mr. Malfoy would come and go from these visits according to the demands of his schedule.

 

Draco must have left at some point, because he reentered just as Lucius exited the door. He was carrying a tray laden with food and a pitcher of what could only be pumpkin juice. Hermione’s stomach rumbled loudly. He grinned and gestured with his head toward a table, which had been set up in front of the fireplace. Together they transferred everything from the tray to the table, and sat down to the small feast.

 

“Oh, this is perfect! Thank you, D– Mr. Malfoy. How did you know?” She had almost used his first name, but something had stopped her.

 

He gave her one of those smiles that completely lit up his eyes but didn’t quite reach his mouth. “Well, you didn’t actually eat anything at lunch, Miss Granger.”

 

The memory of the lunch hour came back to her, and she was filled with a burst of giddy happiness. He likes me very much, and I like him as well. He’s very thoughtful.

 

Draco suddenly seemed to remember the Headmaster, who was still seated at his desk. “Won’t you join us, sir?”

 

Dumbledore looked up and twinkled at the two of them. “Alas, as I had no one to distract me from my own lunch, I find myself stuffed almost uncomfortably. I thank you for your kindness, though.”

 

Some time later, they finished and left the table for the semi-privacy of the alcove. Draco looked at the chair speculatively, and for a brief moment Hermione pictured herself sitting on his lap, her head resting on his shoulder. The mental image morphed to something far less innocent, and in it his hands were toying with her breasts while she lapped pudding from the corner of his mouth. Sweet Circe, I cannot believe I just thought that.

 

Her face flaming, she couldn’t bring herself to look at the wizard beside her. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, and when she finally glanced up his face was as red as hers. What could he be thinking that’s as embarrassing as that? She gave herself a mental shake and proceeded to help them both out of this difficulty by transfiguring the chair into a small couch. It could have been a bit larger, but the alcove was small and she was still a bit rattled.

 

In the relief of the moment, Draco took her by the hand and pulled her to the new seating arrangement. It was a cozy fit. As was her custom, Hermione automatically curled up on the couch with her knees bent. In this position she faced Draco directly, her stockinged knees brushing against the fabric of his trousers.

 

She waited for him to speak, but he seemed to be at a loss. She watched him swallow once, then twice. Nothing. She was struck with the realization that he was as nervous as she was, and this caused her to blurt out, “I kissed your father. On the cheek. Because I was so sorry to have run out on your both yesterday. Shall I kiss you, too?” Why is my mouth moving without help from my brain?

 

That offer was enough to bring Draco to life. He snapped his eyes to hers and nodded without hesitation. “Yes, please.”

 

“Where would you like me to kiss you?” Merciful Merlin, take pity on me and seal my mouth shut. Her nerves propelled her forward too quickly, and she fell against Draco, her mouth landing in the corner of his mouth. She remembered that she had kissed Lucius twice, and it seemed only fair to do the same to Draco, and so she kissed him again. He moved his head at the same moment, though, and caught her lips with his. It was a short, sweet kiss, but when they broke apart they were both short of breath.

 

She stayed where she was for a moment, her supporting hand leaning against the couch arm on the far side of Draco. The position caused her chest to press up against his. He grasped her by the shoulders and moved her back to her original seating, a wild look in his eye as he tried to gently put distance between them.

 

Clearly Draco recognized the safety in conversation at this point, because it was his turn to blurt.

 

“He could be my brother, you know.”

 

“What?”

 

“Abraxas could just as easily be my father.”

 

“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

 

“Abraxas was Lucius’ father. Lucius was born to Calpurnia, and I to Narcissa. But Narcissa was bedded by both of them before I was conceived.”

 

“How is fatherhood determined for legal purposes?”

 

“I’m a son of the House of Malfoy legally. Still, people assume he’s my father. It’s more believable because of our age difference. Abraxas died before I was born, and Narcissa shortly after. Lucius raised me as a son, but I have always looked on him as a brother. It’s easier to go along with the misconception. And, you know . . .”

 

“Draco, I know it’s hard to remember this, but as a Muggle-born I don’t know anything. Please, no matter what we’re talking about, try to talk to me as though I’m an idiot.”

 

He flashed her a beautiful smirk at her and continued.

 

“Well, what do you know about the succession of House Wives?”

 

“Umm, nothing at all. Although it occurs to me that your family hasn’t had one in, what — nineteen years? Why the long wait?”

 

“If he had managed to find a bespoke witch earlier I would have been too young to wed. The marriage laws of the ancient Houses are quite firm that a witch must be sixteen to be wed, and a wizard must be eighteen. That would have left Lucius in a common marriage until I came of age. And then I would have been marrying a witch at least sixteen years my senior. His instinct told him to wait.”

 

“If he had remarried, what then?”

 

“Any child born to that marriage would be in violation of the Malfoy covenant. I would have been left as the last of my House, which is a risk no wizard from a family such as ours wishes to take.”

 

“So he waited nineteen years to remarry? Surely he had relationships with other women in the meantime.”

 

Draco looked as though he was shocked but trying to hide it. “The traditions of the ancient Houses are quite clear on this point: wizards are to remain faithful to the hope of their bespoke witch. Then they are to help maintain the virtue of their witch until they are wed. If she is lost, everything reverts back to the first part — remaining faithful to the hope.”

 

Hermione let out a sound of quiet amazement. So much for them being sex addicts and perverts. They’re the purest men possible. How is it that my questions multiply faster than they’re answered?

 

“Wait — you said a witch had to be sixteen, and a wizard eighteen. If that’s the case, why did you wait until now to redeem the stake?”

 

She turned her puzzled face to Draco to find him looking at her thoughtfully. “Would you have been ready?”

 

Hermione needed more of an explanation, and Draco didn’t disappoint. “Would you have left the war? Left school? Would you have been ready to accept the stake? Believe me, if you had been, we would have redeemed it on my eighteenth birthday.”

 

If Draco and Lucius had set this in motion last year, I would have laughed in their faces and run for my life. I’d still be in hiding. And he just admitted that he’s wanted to marry me for at least a year.

 

He was still talking, though. “And no one should ever compel anyone else to give up what they love out of selfish desire. You’re the most brilliant witch of our time, and you belong here. You deserve to finish your coursework and graduate with every honor, and then you deserve to go on to do what you were meant to do after that. It’s been my hope that perhaps we can find a way to work together. We’re well-suited for it.”

 

His words made Hermione turn to goo inside. She was briefly in danger of melting off the couch and all over the floor. He thinks I’m brilliant. He wants us to do great things together. I think I might want that, too. This man owns me.

 

The topic, while unexpected, had set them on the course to relaxed conversation and any hesitation to talk about the courtship and impending wedding was gone. It was a relief for Hermione especially, because now she had yet another person who could help answer her questions.

 

“Tell me something else I don’t know.”

 

“Lucius is smitten with you.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“And I have a hard time waiting for my turn with you during these visits.”

 

She knew she was blushing, and bit her lip. Sometimes a little pain stopped the rush of blood to her head. “Ummm, we don’t have to wait for the visits to see each other . . .”

 

Draco gave one of his patented almost-smiles. “Do you think you could get Potter to tag along with us to the library to study later?”

 

“Yes – I have some reading that I need to get done for Arithmancy before class tomorrow – Harry said he’d take me there after dinner! You could . . . meet us there?”

 

“I’ll be there.”

 

Something occurred to Hermione. “Only . . .”

 

“What is it?” Draco looked like he was preparing to be disappointed.

 

“I sort of promised Harry he could bring the girls. And you know what that means . . .”

 

“I’m sure we can distract ourselves.”

 

Professor Dumbledore needed to speak with her at the end of the visit, and so she said good-bye to Draco at the door. She returned to the Headmaster’s desk and was surprised when he handed her a small velvet box.

 

“I have approved this gift from the House of Malfoy on your behalf, my dear. Go on, you may open it.”

 

Hermione’s hands trembled slightly as she pried up the lid of the box. She gasped when she found a beautiful hair comb within, intricately wrought of silver and with several green gems set in it.

 

“Oh, it’s lovely. Who is it from?”” She looked up to see the Headmaster smiling at her.

 

“The gift was given in the name of the House, but Lucius delivered it to me this morning.”

 

“Shall I thank him, or both of them? Or is that something I need to relay through you?”

 

“Thank them by wearing it. Now let us get you to class! Enough of your academic time has been stolen for today.”

 

They left the office together.

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