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.
Hermione was awakened in the middle of the night by the light of the moon, which streamed brilliantly through the window nearest her cot and directly onto her face. She’d slept only a few hours but felt refreshed; she slipped out of the cot and peeked around the privacy screens to see if anyone else was in the infirmary.
Putting weight on her injured ankle wasn’t nearly as painful now. It had been dressed at some point while she was sleeping, and there was a telltale purple stain on the bandage from wound cleansing potion. I must have really been out of it, to have slept through that. That stuff stings quite badly. She wished someone had thought to put burn paste on her face – she could still feel the abrasive effects of Lucius’ multiple Scourgifies and pumice scrubbing.
Sometime during her slumber, more isolation bays had been set up, and she counted six within her line of sight. Someone must have added a Muffliato to the wards surrounding her, because there were too many people moving around in the large hall for the silence that prevailed. There were several strangers in the garb of Healers, presumably from St. Mungo’s, as Madam Pomfrey had mentioned contacting that place earlier. The matron herself was bustling toward Hermione now, pushing a heavily laden cart.
She felt the air around her crackle as the wards were lowered, and stepped back when Madam Pomfrey raised her hand in a halting gesture. “Stay there, please. I’m glad to see you’re awake, Miss Granger. It’s time for your scheduled scan. Sit tight – I’ll be right back.”
The wards were raised again except for the Muffliato, and now Hermione was aware of exactly how noisy the infirmary really was. She hugged herself against the chilled air, rubbing her hands up and down her arms. Looking to her right for the first time, she gave a startled jump. Only a few feet away, Lucius sat in his own moonlit bay, watching her silently from his usual wingback chair. His platinum hair was unbound and hung heavy over his shoulders, framing a face that looked as painfully scrubbed as her own, and he wore a pair of the infirmary-issued pajamas. She walked toward the invisible barrier between them, wanting nothing more in that moment than to be close to him. Lucius must have sensed her need, for he leaned forward and gave a small, gentle smile.
A haughty-looking silver-haired man with rather theatrically styled Healer’s robes was approaching her alongside Madam Pomfrey. Lucius unfolded himself from the chair and walked to the edge of his space, gesturing for his wards to be brought down. With a swish of her wand, the matron lowered the Muffliato only and said, “I’m sorry, Lucius, but you have six hours left of your quarantine. I’ll leave the Muffliato down if you prefer.”
“She’s only just woken up. The ankle wound seems to be healing quickly. And for Merlin’s sake, get something for her poor face, Poppy!” Her wizard’s report to the other two made it seem as though he’d been keeping watch over her while she’d slept. He probably has.
The Healer introduced himself to Hermione as Tertius Flambolt, Lead Healer for St. Mungo’s Second Floor Emergency Response Team, and seemed to wait for her to be impressed. When she merely smiled politely, he sniffed disdainfully.
She queried, “Second Floor – that’s Magical Bugs, isn’t it? Contagious maladies?”
“Of course. Who else would be called to a catastrophe of this magnitude?”
“Forgive me – I know that Muggle diseases and treatment differ greatly from the wizarding variety, but how can a venereal disease be considered catastrophic?” Surely there’s a potion and incantation to cure it!
The Lead Healer puffed out his chest. “Venerea morbis et venefici is a magical bug, and as such it is exceedingly contagious and difficult to treat. It can present great permanent risk to its host. Hogwarts has one confirmed case in its final stages, and several more in stage two. That means the entire school must remain under quarantine until the infected have been identified and removed from the population for treatment. The fact that you show no signs of the malady as of yet is remarkable, and can only be explained by the nonresponsive state phenomenon of VMV.”
“Wizarding venereal disease? Well, that figures . . . Just how many stages does it have, and what is ‘a nonresponsive state’? And what exactly do you mean ‘as of yet? How could I possibly have contracted such a thing?” Hermione practically growled the last part.
The two Healers paused to cast Containment charms over themselves and then lowered the rest of the wards around her. Healer Flambolt waved away her questions and gestured imperiously toward her cot. “Please lie down while we run another Scanning spell. And be still, for Merlin’s sake!”
Hermione complied and squinched her eyes shut against the unpleasant crawling feeling of the spell as it traveled over her body. She wondered if Lucius had had to undergo these as well, for all the shortness of his exposure to Ron in the dungeon. Finally the sensation ended, and Hermione opened her eyes. Healer Flambolt gave a peremptory nod and said to the matron, “Still clear. We’ll continue running these hourly scans until six o’clock, when the bug will have run out of time to establish itself. Now that she’s awake, begin regular doses of Vitamix and Pepper-up to bolster her system.”
He looked at the matron expectantly until she answered him in a tight tone. “Yes, Lead Healer Flambolt, sir.”
He turned to leave Hermione’s isolation bay.
She cried out, “Wait! Where are you going?”
“My duties do not include playing nursemaid to demanding patients,” he called over his shoulder. “I shall return for your next scan in an hour.”
“But I have questions!”
“Then I suggest you find someone to answer them.” With that, Tertius Flambolt was gone in a flourish of robes.
She was tempted to yell something uncivilized at him, but caught herself at the last moment. “Well, he’s rather self-important.”
“And you’ve only just met him,” Poppy Pomfrey muttered.
Lucius sighed. “Poppy, please tell me you have some burn paste on that cart, and that you plan to cover my fiancée’s face with it. She looks as though she’s had a run-in with a dyspeptic dragon.”
The matron actually smiled a bit. “I do, and you’re going to get some as well, you big baby. Don’t try to tell me you’re not worried about your own handsome face!”
Several minutes and two potion doses later, there was still steam coming out of Hermione’s ears and her mouth burned pleasantly with the strong taste of peppermint. She could already feel the soothing magic of the burn paste at work on her raw face. In fact, the combined power of the Pepper-up and Vitamix had her humming cheerfully while she watched Madam Pomfrey apply healing salve and a fresh bandage over her dog bite. Side effects of mixed potions can be extremely pleasant. I wonder if people mix these two recreationally.
Looking up from her task, the matron asked, “Miss Granger, how close were you to Mr. Weasley while you were conscious?”
“Errrrr, no less than five feet, I’d say.”
“That’s very close – the pustules on his exposed skin could easily have burst and infected you from that distance.”
“He mentioned them when I asked why he was scratching so, but I couldn’t see them through the Glamour he was using.”
“We were very fortunate the Glamour was dropped when he was rendered unconscious, otherwise Lucius wouldn’t have recognized the symptoms straight away.” Finished dressing Hermione’s ankle, Madam Pomfrey stood. “I need to go and help that St. Mungo’s windbag, but I’ll be back to run Lucius’ scans in half an hour. If you need anything before then, you’ll have to yell.”
As the matron left Hermione’s bay and raised all wards but the Muffliato, she added, “And Lucius can undoubtedly answer most of your questions in the meantime – he’s always been a closet Contagious Maladies buff. Thank Merlin he knew what it was in the first place.” She quickly lowered Lucius’ wards barely long enough to hand him his own dose cup of burn paste, and left to continue her rounds.
Lucius sighed again as he spread the medicine over his face. Hermione walked the few feet to where the wards separated them physically and smiled at him manically. “Please tell me what’s going on as quickly as you can, before the effects of these Potions wear off. I have a feeling I’ll need a sense of humor to hear it all.” I don’t think anything could bother me right now.
“If only our dose schedule were synchronized – then we could laugh about it together,” he mused wryly. “Very well, somehow or another, your friend Mr. Weasley contracted an extremely contagious, extremely malevolent magical bug, which is rarely caught outside of establishments of ill-repute.”
“Ron went to a . . . a brothel? What’s the incubation period?” Even in her giddy state, her brain whirred at its usual breakneck speed.
He continued on at a deliberate pace, ignoring her question. “The symptoms would have been as mild as those of a cold at first, and then he would have developed a rash . . . in a rather sensitive area. We can only assume Mr. Weasley treated this himself, as he did not visit the school infirmary.”
“I think he mentioned using burn paste,” she interjected brightly. I truly love this feeling!
Lucius raised an eyebrow and she mimed zipping her lips together, barely suppressing a grin. “This first stage of the disease is easily treatable but rarely caught in time. It can span years, and can only be spread through sexual congress. Unfortunately, since heightened arousal is almost constant, the transfer rate is ridiculously high. Then the symptoms change. The rash disappears in the second stage, but the face is subject to flushing a deep, dark color when emotions are strong, and thought process becomes increasingly impaired. The libido is even more elevated.”
“Yes! Ron’s have been like that for the last two weeks! I remember thinking his blushes weren’t nearly as attractive as Draco’s. Oh, and-”
“Are you quite done, pet?” Her wizard was looking down his aristocratic nose at her with eyes narrowed in a hint of mock irritation.
“Yes, Lucius.” She looked at him with as much contrition as she could muster in such a buoyant mood. It actually felt like she was floating a few inches above the ground.
“The second stage is much more contagious, as the bug seems to need only a responsive host. This is the least understood part of VMV.”
“What exactly is a responsive host?” I can’t wait for another dose of this blessed stuff.
“I think you’ll find this fascinating: the earliest recorded outbreak of VMV occurred some three hundred years ago on the fourth floor of St. Mungo’s, in ward 49.”
“The Janus Thickey ward!” She beamed.
Her cheerful mood seemed to be rubbing off on Lucius just a teensy bit, or at least that’s how she interpreted his raised eyebrows and twitching mouth. “Yes. A patient was unknowingly admitted with VMV, which he passed on to every conscious member of the ward. It was like a perfectly controlled experiment. There were no casualties, curative potions and Healers were both plentiful, and copious notes were taken.”
Hermione gave an uncharacteristically girly squeal. “I love notes!” And this wonderful potions regimen! – I get to take it again and again and again . . .
“I’m sure you do, pet.”
“Well, don’t stop now that you’ve got to the good part! And stop sighing like that; you sound so grumpy, Lucius!” She scolded in a singsong voice. It’s almost better than champagne! I’d like some more, and soon. Already she could feel a dwindling in her synthetic euphoria, although it was so slight it was hardly worth complaining about.
He looked at her pointedly, and she stuck out her tongue at him as he continued, “Of particular interest was the fact that, despite the same amount of contact, the ward 49 inhabitants who were in unconscious or comatose states were unaffected by the VMV. Recent research validates this phenomenon – that the bug seems to require a host who is both awake and aware during initial contact.”
As Lucius said this, a little bell was going off in Hermione’s head, and it was such a cheerful little sound! At the same time, the presence of the covenant shimmered brighter than it had in the past and seemed to pass on a feeling of satisfaction. She crowed in delight, flapping her hands in impatience until he was finished. “Do you think . . . Could it be why . . .?”
Lucius seemed to have come to the same conclusion, because he finished her thought. “Yes. It would appear we have found a plausible reason for your swooning.”
“Because it knew I would want to touch Ron at some point – probably to smack him, or push him away! Or that he’d touch me. And here I was, thinking it was ineffectual! We should tell Aberforth Dumbledore – he’d think this was fascinating! I do – I think it’s fascinating, Lucius! I love our covenant! I can’t wait to get to know it better. Oh, just think of the personal research possibilities!!!!”
She was positively giddy and found Lucius’ lack of humor to be hilarious. Eventually he smiled indulgently at her effervescent spirits. “You do realize the effects of the potions should be wearing off shortly, pet?”
“Yes, yes – I know; they already are.” She grinned at her wizard. “But even without their influence, I think I’ll find it amusing that we’re being screened for the first stages of this venerea morbis et venefici, even though I’m a virgin and you’ve been celibate for as long as I’ve been alive. That’s really quite funny!”
Her wizard, who had slowly been catching her good mood, became serious once more. “All because a certain bespoke witch couldn’t be bothered to follow her rules of courtship. ‘Rule number one: never be without your chaperone.’ I would have thought that would be an easy one for such an intelligent witch.”
Her pleasant buzz was all but gone and was quickly being replaced by an overwhelming sense of guilt and a slight headache. Hermione dropped her eyes to the ground. “Lucius, I’m sorry for leaving Professor Vector.”
“Look at me,” he commanded, pausing until she complied. “For what you have done, by ancient law, I have the right to revoke my stake. I would never do such a thing, but you must understand the serious nature of your actions. Never again, Hermione. You will not disobey me again.”
The last of her buoyant mood evaporated instantaneously as Lucius’ stern words sank deep. She stood with her head bowed, ashamed of herself. Suddenly it reminded her of her earliest remembered transgression: sneaking cookies out of the cupboard before dinner. Her parents had discovered her in the act of filling her pockets, and the treats had been banned from the house for a time.
“And do these ancient laws require punishment?” she asked in a small voice. She met Lucius’s eyes again, only to find them unusually bright. Are those tears?
He lifted his hand as if to touch her but was rebuffed by the wards. “My role is to protect you at all costs – not to punish, my love.”
She sagged with relief, but he wasn’t finished, “However, as soon as this ordeal is done, Draco and I will mark you as our Wife. We will take our time seeking out the most perfect spot of skin on your body, where we will bind a rune so that no mad man can ever attempt to dispute your acceptance of our stake again. This will be done according to the most ancient rites of binding.”
Did he mean for those words to have such a trichotomy of effects on her? Her intellect processed the fact that this sounded like an archaic ceremony of sorts, her ego bristled at such a plan to brand her as one would a possession, but her body responded with an unexpected surge of pure desire. She felt it lick like flames outward from her belly, consuming every inch of her being. Hermione’s heart picked up speed and her breath hitched. I can’t remember how to swallow. She gulped noisily. “Do I have a choice in this?” Her voice sounded breathless to her own ears.
“We will have the wizarding world know that you have chosen the House of Malfoy. It is our right.” Lucius was still looking at her sternly, but his eyes traveled a circuit that seemed to go from her head to her feet. Has he already decided on that perfect spot? She shivered at the thought. He added in a softer voice, “It would have happened before our wedding in any case. We waited to give you time to adjust, but now I see that your education in ancient traditions and the laws protecting them is severely lacking. We will correct this straight away.”
Several mental images of her first few post-acceptance meetings came to mind, and Hermione panicked. “Tie me down! Mark me with your rune! Anything would be better than another educational breakfast with Minerva and Molly! Please keep those two away from me, Lucius – they’re awful!”
For the first time since Hermione had awakened, her wizard laughed. It was a deep, happy sound. “And lose the pleasure of watching you squirm? Although, it would be an enjoyable task for me to take upon myself. What do you think, pet — would you like for me to be your teacher?”
What did he mean about watching me squirm? Something about his comment stirred another recent memory, something to do with the sound of a throat clearing . . . but then the rest of his words arrested all brain function. Lucius is going to educate me. Hermione tried to shake an instant wave of arousal by peering out into the bustling infirmary again, deciding not to answer such a loaded question.
The pompous Lead Healer from St. Mungo’s returned with Madam Pomfrey to run the next series of scans on Lucius, who refused to lie down for them. Instead, he stood motionless and glaring down at the shorter man until the Healer finally quailed enough to satisfy the taller, more commanding wizard.
Hermione found the silent interaction between the two amusing, and it seemed Poppy Pomfrey did as well. The two witches exchanged smirks during the scans more than once. “Still VMV clear. You may finish here, matron.”
The older witch looked as though she were about to snarl at the Healer’s back, but she replied, “Yes, Lead Healer Flambolt, sir.”
The wards raised behind the back of the retreating Healer. Lucius asked, “Where is Draco?”
“Since the chances of him having contact with Mr. Weasley were negligible, I scanned him in the dungeons and put a containment charm around him before sending him straight to help Horace make potions.”
Lucius was immediately upset. “Good heavens, Poppy — the boy won’t have been able to meet his most basic needs under such a charm, and you’ve left him in the care of a man who is most likely in his cups as we speak!”
The matron scoffed. “You think I didn’t anticipate that? Miss Greengrass is assisting the two of them, having been in detention with Horace at the time this all started. She’s more than capable of releasing Draco from the charm as needed.” Poppy Pomfrey dropped her voice to a confidential level and gossiped, “Incidentally, I couldn’t help but notice she’d been tied erotically beneath her robes – I recognized a shibari knot at the back of her neck. I think she may have climaxed while I was speaking with her!”
Not her as well! Hermione blushed and squeezed her eyes shut against the images Madam Pomfrey’s words brought to mind. All desire flushed out of her system immediately. She ground her teeth in vexation as she asked as calmly as possible, “I don’t suppose you were in Ravenclaw house, Madam Pomfrey?”
The matron looked surprised and blinked several times before answering to the affirmative. Damn the female staff of Hogwarts and their obsession with sex! Damn the house of Ravenclaw and their fixation with rope! Oh, and might as well damn Molly Weasley, too, while I’m at it! (Much later, Hermione would reconsider her sub classifications of the randy females she knew and clump them together in one larger, simpler group: the general female public of the wizarding world).
Lucius was watching her with amusement even as he redirected the conversation smoothly. “Have the potions shipments begun arriving?”
The question piqued Hermione’s curiosity, especially when Madam Pomfrey answered, “Thank you very much for sending those orders to your warehouse, Lucius. St. Mungo’s sent some supplies, but we would never have had enough without your help. The school is once again in your debt.” The last part was added in a quiet, deferential tone that the matron hadn’t used with him before.
Madam Pomfrey’s words caused a surge of possessive pride to course through Hermione’s being. There was so much she didn’t know about her Malfoys yet — their history, their apparently prominent place in wizarding society, the business ventures that funded their wealth . . . But what she did know was that they were honorable wizards. MY wizards. The covenant seemed to purr deep in her consciousness.
The combination of Vitamix and Pepper-up barely affected Lucius, and Hermione was disappointed to learn that each consecutive dose had an increasingly diminished effect on the recipient. Not only would she eventually completely miss the pleasant side effect herself, but also she felt cheated of what well might have been her only opportunity to see Lucius Malfoy in a silly mood. When she gave voice to this regret, he attempted his usual intimidation routine of loom-and-glare, but the wards separating them diminished the effect.
“You’re not nearly so terrifying with all these wards between us!” she teased.
Lucius smiled darkly. “I wonder if you will be so brave when they are lifted?”
Bantering with Lucius was quickly becoming one of her favorite activities. “Said the snake to the lion!”
“Ah yes, I seem to remember having this same conversation last night. At this point you proudly admit to being foolhardy, brash, pig-headed and blindly trusting.”
“You seemed to like those traits quite a bit — or were you just distracted by the ruffles framing my arse?”
“They were indeed distracting.” His eyes twinkled at her, and his mouth twitched.
“Perhaps I could distract you again.” She fingered the drawstring of her pajama bottoms.
His eyes were drawn to the action of her hands playing with the cotton cord. “Careful, pet. You’re missing that particular layer at the moment.”
“How would you know?” She lifted her eyebrow haughtily, biting her lower lip harshly to keep from smiling.
“Regrettably, I was forced to use an Incendio on that particularly small scrap of lace you were wearing earlier.”
She smiled triumphantly. “And did you find them distracting?”
He grinned wolfishly. “My only regret was not being able to remove them myself.”