Chapter Twenty-Eight: Saturday Evening

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.

 

When she became aware of her surroundings again, Hermione found herself in the infirmary with a blurry host of familiar faces surrounding her cot. Harry, Ginny, and Luna leaned over her, while a pale blonde head did the same on the other side. Someone with a very large hand was holding one of hers, she thought. She must have dozed off again, because when she awoke, Lucius sat near her head. She tried to sit up, but he held her to her pillow with a finger to her forehead. Is it Sunday evening already? I don’t think I’m ready for our visit. I’m wearing hospital pyjamas.

 

Just then, Madam Pomfrey pushed between Harry and Luna, ordering, “Back away, all of you. She’s not dying, for Merlin’s sake!”

 

The matron carried a laden tray, which she set on the cot-side table. She poured out a glass of water and a large dose of something strong-smelling. “Now sit up and drink this down. And don’t bother with these malingerers until your head feels clearer. I’ll be back shortly.”

 

The young witch downed the potion obediently. Oh – just Vitamix Potion, thank Circe. Its strong peppermint fumes seemed to penetrate her skull, and she began to feel more like herself almost immediately. She turned to Lucius, who sat nearest her head. “What on earth are you doing here?”

 

His eyebrows were drawn in displeasure, or perhaps concern. It was the same frown he’d worn years ago, when she’d been brought as a prisoner to his house. “Draco Floo’d me after they’d brought you here, and I Apparated directly here with Albus’ permission. What happened?”

 

Hermione sat up slowly, and Ginny stepped forward to rearrange her pillows. “Stop fussing over me – I’m perfectly fine! I think I . . . fainted,” she replied in a questioning tone, looking to her friends for an answer.

 

“You did. It was the same thing that happened Wednesday,” answered Draco.

 

“Well, this is just ridiculous. If the covenant is responsible, it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, really — how are vertigo and fainting going to do anything to help when I’m around someone it doesn’t like? I can’t even defend myself,” she huffed.

 

Harry spoke up. “The headmaster is looking into it right now, ‘Mione. Until we know more, Ron will be forbidden to approach you. He won’t be able to get near enough to cause you any more trouble.”

 

She reached for the glass of water on the table and glared when three sets of hands shot out to help her. “If you insist on treating me like a damsel in distress, I will insist that you leave at once. All of you,” she added to her wizards in particular.

 

The Vitamix Potion was a good antidote for her condition, and by the time Madam Pomfrey returned, Hermione was determined to leave. “Oh, no, Miss Granger. You’d better make yourself comfortable, because you’ll be spending the night here. The effects of Vitamix are temporary, and from what your friends have told me, your symptoms persisted for several hours earlier this week.”

 

It was true, but Hermione stubbornly refused to admit it. She argued, “I don’t know why it matters where I sleep. I’ll have three other Gryffindors to see me safely to the tower, and then what could possibly happen to me?”

 

“You’re staying, and that’s final. I’ll be back later with your bedtime potions.” The matron turned at the foot of the bed, adding, “Don’t make me magically restrain you as well, Miss Granger. I won’t hesitate to do so.”

 

She crossed her arms over her chest and slumped back against her pillows crossly.

 

Harry smiled in relief. “Now there’s the Hermione we’ve all missed this past week! Welcome back.  And,” here he turned to Draco and Lucius with a knowing smile, “good luck, you two. Come on girls, time to go.”

 

Ginny squeezed her hand and Luna checked under her cot for red-trembled umbloots. “All clear, ‘Mione! Sweet dreams,” the blonde witch called sweetly as she was dragged away by the other two.

 

She glared at the ceiling for as long as possible, until finally Lucius cleared his throat. The sound struck a chord within her, and she was sure it was part of some recent memory. Where have I heard that before? She refocused and looked toward him, only to find that he looked amused. “What’s funny about any of this?”

 

For once his twinkling eyes had no effect on her, and she ranted, “This is all your fault, you know — you two and your possessive covenant. A week ago I could have knocked Ron’s lights out, and now I’ve been reduced to a swooning maiden! Is that what you want — a weakling, unable to defend herself? Because that’s what I feel like!”

 

The familiar voice of the headmaster spoke from behind Lucius and Draco. “In my humble opinion, such a witch would be a much less suitable Wife for your wizards. The three of you are quite like-minded. Have you not noticed how well matched you are in character? Perhaps instead of being reduced to something less, you have been given different tools with which to achieve your goal. Sometimes the things we see as weaknesses are merely undeveloped strengths.”

 

His short speech was met with a somewhat stony glance from the young witch, and he continued, “Good evening, Miss Granger. I trust you are feeling better?”

 

“If by better, sir, you mean frustrated and confused, then yes. And I’m not sure why I’m even here. There’s nothing really wrong with me other than a possible inner-ear imbalance.”

 

“I hope to help with that. What do you know of covenants, Miss Granger?”

 

Oh, here we go again. If he holds out something — anything — for me to take, I’m going to hex him. “Nothing, other than what you told me after you’d got me to accept a war-stake imbued with one.”

 

He ignored her jibe, continuing, “No two are alike. Some are quite simple and easily satisfied, while others are extremely complex. I believe we talked about their varying degrees of sentience. And, of course, with sentience comes emotion. Love, hate, protectiveness, jealousy – -these are things all sentient beings are capable of feeling. I have been talking with my brother; you do know of Aberforth, Miss Granger?”

 

“I’ve met him, yes.”

 

“He spent a good deal of his earlier years researching covenants. Fascinating things, he says.”

 

“And does Aberforth know why this is happening to our witch?” Lucius’ voice cut in sharply.

 

“He is willing to explain what he can. Obviously, he will not be acquainted with the specifics of your family’s covenant. I have asked him to meet with us in the morning.”

 

Draco asked, “And she’ll be safe here? He’ll stay away?”

 

The ‘he’ was obviously Ron, and Hermione sat up quickly.  “Actually, I’d like to have a come-to-Merlin meeting with that idiot. Draco, you heard what he said at the party — he’s completely deluded. Someone needs to set him straight, and I want it to be me.” It seemed that she had sat up too quickly, because the room had begun that tippy thing again, and she felt her body sway along with it.

 

Lucius gently but firmly pushed her down so that her head was once again on her pillow. “Lie down like a good girl and stop worrying me.”

 

She opened her mouth to say something she knew she’d regret later, and closed it when she saw the look on his face. He really is worried, and here I am having a tantrum because I don’t like not knowing what’s going on. My poor Lucius. Hermione reached out and stroked the back of his hand, which was still lying on her pillow.

 

Madam Pomfrey arrived, announcing that visiting hours were over. She handed Hermione another dose of Vitamix and watched her swallow it down before handing her another small vial. The young witch sniffed it cautiously. “Sleeping Draught?”

 

“Yes. I find it’s the best way to keep obstinate witches where they’re supposed to be. You’ll drink it and then say goodnight to your wizards,” ordered the matron crisply.

 

The headmaster took his leave, as did Madam Pomfrey as soon as Hermione had emptied the vial. Lucius and Draco drew near on either side of her, and she reached out to hold their hands. It’s not as though I’m actually upset with either of them. Silly snakes.   The potion was already meddling with her thought processes, making her feel tipsy. Hermione raised the two large hands to her face, kissing them both even as she yawned. “I’m sorry I was so awful.”

 

Lucius leaned down to give her a sweet kiss. “My concern for you is perhaps excessive. It will take time for us to learn each other’s ways, pet.” His edges were blurring slightly as he sat up.

 

“I want to learn all your ways, Lucius, ‘specially the wicked ones,” she said drowsily. My verbal filter went night-night. Now he was almost completely blurry, except for his beautiful blue eyes. She turned her head to find Draco.  “Kiss me g’night, Draco, ‘fore I start snoring, please.” She assumed he was the hazy shape moving toward her, and was proved right when she felt his soft lips press against hers once, then twice. Her eyelids were suddenly very heavy, and she struggled to keep them open.

 

“Sweet dreams, witch.”

 

Her breath was evening out. She smiled peacefully and mumbled drunkenly as sleep overtook her, “Mmmmmmm. ‘Gonna to lick you all over.”

 

Late that night, her drugged sleep passed into a more lucid state. Her body slept on, yet her brain whirred to life. It was as if her mind was a giant blackboard, and on it all the little things of the past week that hadn’t seemed worth noticing suddenly added up to meaningful sums. It was the kind of Arithmancy that was so perfect it could only be achieved in a dream state such as this, and Hermione struggled to follow the columns of hints and meanings that were spelled out with such clarity. She was aware of another presence as she stood in front of the blackboard, but was so preoccupied with the puzzles before her that she barely acknowledged it.

 

Professor Dumbledore’s words were looping through her mind. Like-mindedness. Is that the case – that we’re well matched? Will we learn each other’s ways, as Lucius said? Something warm and encouraging within her was pleased with this thought, and she realized it was the presence. It seemed to whisper back softly, ‘yes.’

 

That’s the voice that kept saying ‘not yet!’ earlier this week. It’s you, isn’t it! It was less a form than a feeling, and it shimmered against the edges of her mind as she focused on it.  The components on the blackboard were still shifting about and being recalculated, but Hermione’s curiosity had moved to seeking out this gentle presence. It was obvious to her that this was a manifestation of the Malfoy covenant within her.  ‘Hello? Are you there?’

 

The warmth increased, the sensation of being embraced returned, and with it images of her wizards looking at her in love and desire. Hermione felt delight and a sense of rightness, and realized these emotions, although appropriate, weren’t her own.   ‘Are these your own emotions? This is how you feel about me?’ The warmth abated, and she tried again. ‘This is how you feel when Lucius and Draco look at me that way?’ She was assailed by a wave of happiness, and knew she’d guessed correctly.

 

A quick succession of images ran through her mind, and with each came a different emotion from the covenant. For Minerva there was tolerance. For Molly and Harry’s girls, affection. Harry himself seemed to inspire admiration and amusement. For the headmaster, there was respect, but also resentment. That one made her pause, seeking clarification. ‘How can you resent the one who got me to accept you?’ This kind of communication wasn’t easy, but Hermione liked a good challenge. She ran through as many possible reasons for such a response, and finally felt a flicker. He tricked me, and you don’t like that. Well, I would have chosen you and your wizards in the end either way. I’m starting to think Dumbledore just set things on a faster track. Now let’s stop beating around the bush and talk about Ron Weasley.

 

The covenant’s obvious displeasure rattled about in her brain with a jarring sensation, and even in sleep Hermione felt awash in waves of vertigo. That’s exactly what you do every time I don’t walk away from him! Why do you do this? You need to stop! But the covenant would not be calmed, and finally the young witch gave up and tried to ride out the storm of emotion passing through her. Eventually the presence quieted, and nudged her thoughts in what could only be interpreted as an apology.

 

I’m not going to let him hurt your wizards, and I’m certainly not going to let him hurt me. Have you even met me? I can take care of myself! Please trust me – your way can only end badly. The presence retreated until Hermione could no longer feel it. She eventually grew tired of waiting for it to return, and slipped into a sound sleep.

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