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Lucius remained mute and immobile for several seconds while Hermione regarded him with barely suppressed amusement. She tilted her face upward and kissed his chin. “Hmmm, my aim seems to be off. It’s too bad Miss Delacour probably won’t let me work on it with you.”


He snapped back to life, narrowing his eyes at her. “You gave Draco your knickers?”


Hermione nodded, biting back a smile. Is he the tiniest bit jealous? “I sent him a pair by Owl Sunday night, and then gave him the ones I was wearing today when I saw him earlier. Why, Lucius?” She kissed his chin again. “Do you want a pair as well?” She watched him war within himself. He’s trying to decide if wanting a pair of my knickers puts him in the nineteen-years-old category. “To keep in your trouser pocket?”


Still no answer. I wonder how far I can push him. She decided to find out. “Perhaps not – they might be distracting, especially in business meetings. You’d accidentally pull them out at the worst times, too, when your fingers got caught in the ribbons.” Her hand stroked his chest and wandered to follow the buttons of his waistcoat down over his abdomen, circling a finger around each one. “Those tiny little scraps of lace and silk are far more trouble than they’re worth.”


Lucius caught her hand in one of his right as she’d lowered it to the last button, which was directly above the waistline of his trousers. He opened his mouth to speak, still considering his words carefully. Just then the office door opened, precluding any more mischief on the part of the young witch. She sighed, climbing off her wizard’s lap. Hermione held her hand out to him as she simultaneously ran the other over her backside. She looked at him innocently. “Well, come on, Lucius! Let’s go meet my new chaperone!”


Lucius stood and loomed over her, his brows furrowed over an expression of confused displeasure. “We will continue this later.” He held out his arm.


She nodded, keeping a straight face. I’m going to make Lucius Malfoy beg for my knickers like a nineteen-year-old wizard. They walked into the outer office together formally, Hermione’s arm tucked under his and her hand resting on his forearm.


Professor Dumbledore had come out of his private rooms at the sound of the door, and he stood by his desk talking quietly to Draco. There was no one else with them, and Hermione immediately wondered why the new chaperone wasn’t with him. The two wizards looked up at their approach, and Draco gave her an almost-smile that sent her hurrying to his arms.


The Headmaster nodded his head toward her in acknowledgement and spoke to Lucius. “You are nearly ready to depart, I expect. All that is left is for me to formally approve the new chaperone. I understand she has worked for you before?”


“Yes, sir,” answered Draco. From his embrace, Hermione saw Lucius eye him in a challenging way. She looked up at the younger wizard to see him smirking arrogantly, just as she felt him run a hand over her hip and trail his fingers over her bottom. Lucius’ expression morphed into amusement as he reached their side, and he slapped Draco’s back affectionately. Sensing the possibility for either a tug-o-war over her or something even less appropriate, she stepped away from both of them and sat in one of the chairs facing the Headmaster’s desk.


She glanced toward Professor Dumbledore, who had sat down as well. “How is the . . . errrr . . . fiasco at this point?”


The Headmaster’s eyes twinkled above his half-moon spectacles. “The fiasco is going splendidly. Thank you, Miss Granger.” He seemed disinclined to talk about the quarantine and screenings, and she didn’t press for more information. I’ll bet Minerva will tell me more than I want to know anyway. I wonder if the staff needed to be screened . . . Professor Dumbledore picked up a stack of correspondence from his desk and shuffled it in the sort of way people did as a means of dismissing someone, and so Hermione turned back to her wizards.


“Where is Mademoiselle Delacour?” she looked toward the half-opened door, half-expecting to see a figure waiting in the shadows.


Draco said, “She needed to send an Owl before we left, but should be here any moment. Has Lucius told you . . .?” He trailed off, nodding his head in a meaningful way.


“No, Lucius hasn’t. I was attempting to do just that when a certain minx distracted me.” Lucius glowered at her, but her curiosity rendered her immune to the look.


She looked back and forth between her two wizards. “What? What was Lucius going to tell me?” Maybe she IS a dragon. She pictured Lucius, still furious about her disobedience and the ensuing disaster, buying a dragon and having it guard her in a cave somewhere on the Malfoy estate. Luckily her innate sense of logic prevailed and she shook off the image.


“Miss Delacour has a . . . divergent . . . lineage, and as such usually affects on those around her.”


“I have no idea—“ she broke off as her earlier conversation with Lucius came to mind. He said something about her looks and humanity. Merlin’s beard – she’s part Veela. They’ve hired a Siren to chaperone me. “I see.”


Draco must have seen the realization dawn across her face, because he nodded and said, “She’s one quarter Veela.”


“Fantastic. Well, trot her in. Let’s see my beautiful new keeper.” Hermione rolled her eyes. It figures. I’m to spend the next three days under the watch of a gorgeous, cold-hearted bitch. If they so much as look at her twice, I’ll kill them both with my bare hands.


They didn’t have long to wait. Less than a minute later, footfalls could be heard coming up the stairs, and then the door was pushed open the rest of the way by a witch in dark robes and a rather odd hat. At first glance, all one noticed was that she was clothed entirely too heavily for the current weather and that her face was obscured by a veil. A second, closer glance, afforded more easily as she advanced toward them, revealed that she was young and fair-skinned with blonde hair and blue eyes. When she came to stand in front of the group, Hermione finally saw what the veil and heavy robes tried to hide.


The blonde witch was exquisite. Too exquisite. Her pale blonde hair hung like a silk ribbon, catching the light in a fascinating way. Her face was lovely – blue eyes, full lips, and perfect bones beneath flawless skin – and that skin seemed to generate a faint glow. Her robes, modest as they were, couldn’t hide the sensuous curves of her figure. Then, too, there was something about her that made Hermione want to claw out her eyes and scratch her exquisitely sculpted face. I hate her. Gods, that’s pathetic – I don’t even know her! The curly-headed witch smiled as genuinely as she could manage.


She glanced quickly at her wizards out of the corner of her eye and saw them both give a shallow bow, but their expressions were nothing more than polite. Meanwhile, Mademoiselle Delacour executed a graceful curtsy, nodding her head deferentially to Hermione. “Mademoiselle Granger, eet eez a great honor to serve you.” Her accent was so thick and heavy that Hermione found herself leaning forward to catch each word.


Hermione snapped her attention back to her new chaperone. Not wishing to be insincere, she simply said, “Hello.” Merlin and Circe, she’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. Was this part of Lucius’ punishment?


The elder Malfoy spoke. “Mademoiselle, if you will please approach the Headmaster’s desk.”


It seemed to take a moment for the French witch to comprehend the simple sentence, but at last she took the remaining steps to stand before the desk around which the rest of them were gathered. There followed a simple oath ceremony of sorts, which was simplified to sound more like a question and answer time between Professor Dumbledore and the breathtaking witch. Hermione watched with sharp eyes, waiting for one of her wizards to cast even a somewhat lingering gaze. However, neither seemed to have even noticed the newcomer’s charismatic beauty.


The Headmaster was finishing up. “And do you swear to maintain the honor of this courtship by performing the duties of a chaperone?”


Again, there was a pause as Mademoiselle Delacour slowly interpreted the long sentence. “Zees I swear.”


“Very well. Your left hand, please.” The witch gave her hand to the Headmaster, and he performed an intricate spell over it. There was a snap and a shower of gold sparks, and it was done. She nodded to each member of the group and floated to the other side of the room.


Draco and Lucius began a hushed conversation that Hermione was loathe to interrupt, and so she remained seated before the professor’s desk simply watching them. In such close company their similarities were uncanny. Besides the obvious physical resemblance they bore each other, their mannerisms and facial expressions were uncannily alike. They certainly shared the haughtily raised brow and arrogant smirk that played constantly across their features, yes – but there was also their elegant stance and movement. The young witch mentally catalogued each hand gesture and subtle shift in posture, wondering what they were talking about. At one point, Draco nodded in the direction of the new chaperone casually, and Hermione was once again struck by the fact that he seemed unaffected by the French witch’s allure.


Hermione addressed Professor Dumbledore, who had sat at his desk and was once again perusing paperwork. “Sir, may I ask you a question?” At his kind expression, she continued, “I’ve done more than my share of research on magical creatures, and know that Veelas hold significant powers of attraction over human males. Why is it that none of you seem to have been influenced by her presence?”


He smiled kindly. “It is fascinating, is it not, that there are so many types and strengths of magic. For instance, there is the magic that flows through us, as opposed to that which is inherent to magical creatures. Then there are diverse and mysterious ancient magics. One could argue that they all come from the same source, but their differences in use and power suggest otherwise. They flow in harmony, yet there seems to be a hierarchy among them. Have you considered that perhaps Mademoiselle Delacour’s powers are not the most significant magic in the room?”


Her mind quickly grasped on to what the Headmaster was saying in his roundabout way, and she asked, “Do you mean that the Malfoy covenant prevents Lucius and Draco from being influenced by Mademoiselle Delacour?”


“The covenant of the Malfoy family has found its bespoken one and laid claim to her. Your wizards have bound themselves to you, and in doing so have forsaken any other woman. Yes, the covenant lends strength and foresight, but it is their own honor and love for you which grants them immunity.”


Hermione felt a physical pressure in her chest as an overwhelming happiness filled every inch of her body. They love me, and that beautiful woman doesn’t affect them. Tucking away this information and her own emotions for further, private analysis, she asked, “But what about you, sir? Shouldn’t you be affected by her?


“Alas,” he shrugged apologetically “I am far more affected by your wizards than even a full-blooded Veela.”


Hermione smiled in understanding and changed the subject tactfully. She turned the conversation back to the courtship, specifically to her first chaperone. “Did you do a ceremony like that with Harry? I thought Ginny told him the night of the Slytherin party.”


Professor Dumbledore smiled enigmatically. “I asked Mr. Potter when the war-stake was cast, and made him take the oath then. He may have forgotten. It happens, sometimes.”


He Obliviated Harry! Before Hermione could even splutter her indignation, though, the Headmaster added, “It was his own request. He didn’t want you to find out during the war.”


“He trusted the Malfoys enough to agree to chaperone my engagement to them?”


“Oh – no, my dear. He trusted me.” The old wizard twinkled at her in the way that reminded her of a favorite elderly uncle, and she shook her head even as she smirked at him.


“You . . .” words failed her.


“I found a way to win the war and then some. Let us leave it at that, shall we?” He looked over her shoulder with a thoughtful expression, and Hermione craned her neck in that direction. Fleur Delacour was standing alone far across the room, gazing out the window with a forlorn look on her lovely face. “This master plan of mine goes on, Miss Granger. I do hope you will trust me as your ‘brother’ did.” With that, he excused himself from their company and returned to his private rooms.


Hermione’s brain whirred as she tried to puzzle out what the Headmaster had been saying in his riddling way. In the meantime, she stood and walked to the windowed alcove where the French witch leaned gracefully against the wall. It’s impossible to hate someone just because of her physical appearance. I think she must be affecting me. The irony that she, the only woman in the room, might be the only one swayed by the Veela influence was not lost on her. I will win the Ice Queen over, either through Gryffindor spirit or Slytherin cunning. Drawing near Mademoiselle Delacour, she offered, “I hope that you will call me Hermione.”


The blonde witch replied, “Eef zhat is what you weesh, but we are not friends. I am your guardian, non?”


She’s very blunt. “Errrrr, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be on friendly terms. May I call you Fleur?”


“Bien sur, ‘Ermione.” She gave a crisp nod and looked out curiously to the main office, where Lucius and Draco were still talking. “When do we leave zis place?”


And she doesn’t breathe fire, or seem inclined to bite me. “Soon. You know, if I had my wand I could cast an Interpretor charm and we could understand each other much more easily. I don’t suppose you know that one?” Fleur shook her head, and Hermione continued, “Well you should – it would be quite useful in your line of work. Curse breaking, right?”

“Oui. When my Engleesh eet is better, I weesh to work for Banque de la Gringotts.”


“Oh, I see – you freelance so that you can work on your English while you work; is that right?


Fleur nodded. “I do not speak L’anglais so well, but I ‘ave ze determination to learn.”


“We can speak English all day and night for the rest of the week, if you like.” We might even get along halfway, if I can fight back the urge to scratch her. “Even so, the first thing I’m going to do when I get my wand is make it so that we can communicate with a few less ‘ze’s’.”


“Hermione,” Draco was calling in his soft, low voice, “Miss Delacour – we’re ready to Apparate.” He held out his hand toward the curly-haired witch, and she realized that without her wand she would be relegated to a Side-Along. Ugh. As she began walking toward him, however, her sleeve was caught by Fleur.


“Mais non, ‘Ermione. You are wiz me.” The grip of her delicate-looking hand was surprisingly strong, and her tone was as well.


Hermione protested, “Surely it doesn’t matter who I Side-Along with!” She looked to her wizards for support, but found them both looking at her with resignation. Irritation filled her. “You’re just going to let her manhandle me?” She tried to jerk away from the blonde witch without being completely rude, but Fleur held fast.


“I weel Stun you if I must.” The blonde witch tapped her wand meaningfully against her shoulder.


Fleur’s cool expression was somewhat daunting, but Hermione refused to be completely cowed. “I’m not some animal you can just . . . !”  The look of amusement on Lucius’ face nearly sent her into a tizzy. Suddenly all the things he’d said earlier began to make sense. Mother of Merlin, this is my tower. This woman is going to boss me around for the next three days, and he’s going to let her do it! “And you! You can just wipe that look off your face. Fine.”


The chaperone looked toward Lucius. “Monsieur? After you.”


Hermione braced herself for the familiar, dizzying feeling of non-corporeal travel. Fleur wrapped an arm tightly around her, and then Apparated expertly. The rush of space and time churned the young witch’s stomach long before the reached their destination, and as soon as they alighted on a patch of grass she dropped to her knees, breathing deeply. Eventually her stomach and brain settled into their proper places, and she stood to take stock of Malfoy Manor.




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