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.
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Hermione was already moving toward the blonde witch before Lucius and Draco had exited the room. When Fleur seemed not to notice her approach, she reached out tentatively and touched her arm with one finger. “Errrrr, Fleur?”
The muscle beneath her fingers tensed as Fleur regained awareness. “What eez it you require?” In an obvious move away from the curly-haired witch that was still garbed in the semblance of civility, she raised her hands to lift the heavy veil and remove the odd hat from her head. Hermione was faced head-on with the staggering beauty of Fleur Delacour.
She fought the desire to pull that shining blonde hair, holding out her hand instead. “I’m going to cast an Interpretor. Your hand, please.”
The Frenchwoman complied stiffly, and Hermione deftly cast the complicated charm that would allow them to hear each other in their native tongues. When she was done, and their hands had briefly been illuminated with a green glow, she said, “There. How’s that?”
Fleur looked mildly impressed, if only for a moment. “It’s fine, I suppose.”
Thank Circe for small mercies. No more zees. Hermione absently went to tuck Lucius’ wand in her robes pocket and remembered she hadn’t worn them. She returned her focus to the matter at hand, setting it on the table nearby. “I’m sorry for my outburst earlier. It was uncalled for.” Fleur blinked, but otherwise showed no emotion. Hermione continued, “You seem . . . sad.” And very unfriendly most of the time.
The beautiful witch narrowed her eyes, but her tone was nothing less than civil. “You don’t know anything.”
“Fleur, two weeks ago I accepted a war-stake without knowing there was such a thing. Believe me, you’re right – there’s a lot I don’t know.”
“You didn’t know?” This seemed to pique her interest, and her body turned ever so slightly towards Hermione.
“Professor Dumbledore tricked me into accepting it. He is – as much as it pains me to say this – a very wise, powerful wizard, and he knows things that are . . . unknowable. He said I would thank him for it eventually, and he was right – I did today, before you arrived at his office.”
Fleur was listening intently now, and Hermione made a calculated gamble. “He knows something about you, Fleur. He told me that.”
This sparked a brief flame of emotion in the Frenchwoman. “What did he say about me?”
“He mentioned a master plan, and then he asked me to trust him.”
“That could be about anybody. Ppphhhh.” She made a dismissive sound.
“”I don’t think so. I’m almost certain . . .” She sighed. “He can be a bit of a drama queen.” Perhaps that’s what Lucius was thinking when he named the peacock after him.
“Why do you keep yourself at such a distance? Wouldn’t it be nicer if things were less . . . chilly?”
“I know that you are affected by the Veela blood in me. You don’t have to fight it and pretend to like me. It’s something to which I’m accustomed.” Any hint of humanity in her expression seemed to refreeze, and Fleur was back to her former icy self.
“You’re right – I am. Affected by that part of you, that is. But I’m not the sort of person to take the easy way out of difficult situations, and I don’t pretend. I’d like to get to know you. Fleur had returned to staring at the fire, and Hermione tried again. “Why did you take this job?”
“I was grateful for the opportunity. It will open doors that would otherwise remain shut to me because of my . . . lineage.”
Hermione felt certain the Frenchwoman was being truthful while at the same time holding something back. “But you’ve already worked for the Malfoys – surely their patronage has already done that?”
A faint flush bloomed across the chaperone’s face but disappeared quickly, and in a lightning bolt of comprehension, the younger witch understood. She’s attracted to one of them. I’d guess Lucius. The thought would have made her angry except that she’d seen Fleur interact with him, and her manner had been professional and within the strictest bounds of propriety. Still, a feeling of possessiveness crawled along her spine. “Oh. I see.”
Fleur had interpreted the minimal answer correctly, for she replied, “It’s not like that.”
“Not like what – not like you have a crush on Lucius and want to be near him?” It occurred to Hermione that she should trust her desire to befriend this witch; after all, the covenant had remained passive since Fleur’s arrival. At this idea, she felt a concurring sentiment stir in the edges of her awareness. Good to know.
Fleur was plainly embarrassed. She shook her head vehemently and began, “I have never even—“ but was cut off by Hermione almost immediately.
“I’m not suggesting you’d act on your feelings – you know he’s found his bespoken one, and you’re obviously taking this job seriously. But you took it because . . .?” She looked at Fleur questioningly.
Fleur covered her face with her hands for a second as though to regain her composure. “Because it’s very difficult to say ‘no’ to Lucius Malfoy.”
“Even when saying ‘yes’ means you’ll have to see him with me? Don’t you want what I have?” Hermione was completely confused even though she understood exactly what the witch was saying.
“He’s handsome and charming, yes. I enjoy working for him because of this, but it’s only a – how did you say it – crush. And you’re right – I do want what you have, but not who you have. He just happens to have a certain . . .” The chaperone looked at her apologetically.
Hermione couldn’t help it. She’s right – Lucius is irresistible. She smirked, quipping, “Je ne sais quoi?”
Fleur tried to hold back her answering smile but eventually it broke through. “Something like that.”
“You must be a connaisseuse of dangerous wizards, too. Well,” she concluded, “I have a wand now, and I won’t hesitate to use it if you so much as look at him inappropriately. Understand?”
“I do, but that would never happen anyway.” She looked at the curly-haired witch intently. “Do you really think Professor Dumbledore was talking about me?”
“Absolutely, and I will trust him. It’s the only thing he asked me to do. Why do you ask?”
Fleur looked into the fire with a new look – one that was full of hope and hinted at happiness. “Maybe – just maybe . . .” she nodded firmly, but left the thought unfinished. “It’s enough to hope.” After a few minutes of silence between the two witches, the blonde asked, “Hermione?”
The younger witch raised her eyebrows expectantly. “What is it?”
“What I said before, about not having to like me . . .”
Hermione finished, “but that I have to stay with you?”
Fleur nodded and explained hesitantly, “You don’t. Have to like me, that is. But I hope that you will. I like you already.”
“Everything within me wants to like you, Fleur – really. But I’m constantly fighting the urge to disfigure your perfect face.” Hermione grimaced in acknowledgement of this failure on her part.
Without warning Fleur laughed, and (of course) it was the most beautiful laugh Hermione had ever heard. She was instantly irritated. “Not helping! Can’t you do anything in a less than lovely way?”
“If you’re generous enough to joke about the fact that I have a – did I use the right word? A crush? – on your wizard, then I can certainly allow you to fantasize about clawing me to shreds.”
“Is this how all your friendships are?”
The smile turned affectionate. “My sister suffers the same fate as I, and we are immune to each other.”
I think she just admitted that she has no friends other than her sister. Tactfully, Hermione directed the conversation that way. “Tell me about her.”
For the first time, Fleur’s eyes lit up. “Gabrielle is lovely! She’s fifteen, and is just home from Beauxbatons for the summer. I promised to take her to England soon, but haven’t decided where.”
Her only friend is fifteen years old. Hermione was finding that if she looked away from Fleur while they spoke, the urge to hurt her diminished greatly, and so she was currently looking around the enormous great hall. “Why not have her come to the wedding this weekend? I know I loved fancy gatherings at that age.”
“She hasn’t been invited.”
Now Hermione was studying the high ceiling, which was as ornate as the rest of the room. “I’m inviting her right now. I’ll tell Lucius when he gets back.” Her eyes glanced toward the door. I miss them already.
“She would love that.” Fleur’s gaze had traveled back to the fire, and she was quiet again.
It was silent in the great hall for a long time, and then there was the crack of Apparation. Hermione jumped. A few feet away stood the house elf who had been summoned to Hogwarts earlier. The little creature curtsied. “Trinket serves the Lady with great happiness!”
She seemed to be waiting for some response, and so Hermione replied, “Errr, thank you, Trinket.”
The little house elf beamed and clasped her hands together ecstatically. “Would the Lady and Miss Delacour like to prepare for dinner? The Young Master has ordered it for eight o’clock, unless the Lady wishes otherwise.”
Hermione glanced at Fleur, who now stood at her side. “Errrr, yes. We would like to prepare for dinner. Would you please show us to our room?”
“Oh, yes! Trinket has prepared the Lady’s room! Please follow Trinket!” The little elf began skipping away.
Hermione picked up Lucius’ wand and gestured toward the Frenchwoman. “Well, come on! We have to stay together, remember? Otherwise I’m to be fitted with a collar and bell!”
Fleur did as she was bid, looking the tiniest bit interested. “What did you say?” They passed out of the great hall and turned into a huge passageway that must have been a main corridor.
“You heard me – Lucius said if I left a room without you, he was going to fit me for a collar and bell so he’d be able to find me.”
The blonde witch’s lips twitched slightly, but she said nothing. They followed Trinket up a high, winding staircase and along an open gallery. It looked down onto a vast room lined with arches and columns, a molded ceiling hung with at least a dozen enormous chandeliers, and a parquet floor laid out in the design of two mirror-image peacock tails. Hermione slowed her pace, wanting to catalogue every intricate detail. “What is that beautiful room?”
Trinket was hurrying them along with frantic hand motions. “The ballroom, of course. Come! Come!”
Hermione took one last, lingering look at the room below and would have been left behind had it not been for a strong, petite hand and its iron grip on her wrist. She looked at Fleur, who had taken hold of her and pulled her along even now. I think she might be nice under that chilly demeanor, but it’s going to take a lot of work to thaw her out. I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that it’ll be worth it.
They seemed to be moving to the top and back of the Manor. Several different hallways and staircases later, the little house elf stopped in front of a pair of ornate double doors. She curtsied again and hopped up and down manically. “The Lady’s rooms!” Trinket opened the door with a wave of her hands and urged the witches to enter. Hermione took one look at the room and stopped short, causing Fleur to run into her from behind.
She was instantly transported to every one of her childhood fairy tales. This is where the princess sleeps. It was Rapunzel’s tower, Sleeping Beauty’s bower, and Cinderella’s bridal suite woven together lovingly. Hermione crossed the room in a daze, her shoes sinking into a thick Persian carpet. The high arched French windows opened onto a balcony that looked down over the back of the house. She pushed one open and walked out to the stone balustrade. Directly below her several stories down, she saw the formal gardens on the river terrace and realized they, like the floor of the ballroom, followed a fanciful design of mirror image peacock tails. Even further below, the river stretched out in a lazy serpentine, edging fields and forests that were now steeped in the still-bright sun of a late spring evening.
“Hermione, please come back inside. It appears we must keep to the schedule.” The chaperone’s no-nonsense voice interrupted her exploration. The curly-headed witch sighed and went inside. Fleur was already following Trinket to the other end of the room.
She had only a glimpse of the space as she hurried to a door along one side. It reminds me of the color of the dress I wore to . . . Harry’s words from the walk to the Slytherin party two weeks ago came back to her. She paused in the doorway, looking back over her shoulder at the huge canopied bed. “It’ll be the Yule Ball all over again. Draco just stood by the punchbowl and drooled.” Merlin, he . . . Draco had found the color of her formal robes from the Yule Ball and had the room – and most specifically the bed linens – decorated in subtle variations of it. Hermione was certain that this room had been ready and waiting for her for a very long time. Oh, Draco.
There was no time to do anything but gain a quick impression of the large, airy bedroom, though, as Fleur pulled her through the door at the behest of Trinket. They passed through a dressing room lined with doors and littered with dozens of boxes wrapped in suspiciously familiar green paper with silver bows. Then they had passed into yet another room, and there they stopped. Hermione blinked, trying to process everything. Meanwhile, Trinket was gesticulating toward the enormous marble tub, which was slightly reminiscent of the Prefect’s bath at school. It’s more like a small pool. “The water is ready. The Lady must summon Trinket when she is done with her bath!” She levitated two robes from a long cupboard and let them fall to the edge of the tub.
With a snap, the house elf was gone, and the two witches exchanged a glance. Fleur pointed at the tub. “In, now.”
She has really got to stop bossing me around. Although it makes sense that she does, if her only friend is a little sister. Hermione complied, throwing off her clothes and sliding into the scented bubbles with a sigh of pleasure. She looked up at Fleur, remembering at the last moment not to focus on her. “Well, get in! You’re obviously expected to bathe as well – she left two robes.” At the Frenchwoman’s raised eyebrow, she added, “What, you think you’re the only one here who can tell people what to do?”
The look on Fleur’s face was priceless. “Very well, but close your eyes.”
“Oh, for Circe’s sake – like I want to see how perfect the rest of you is, anyway. Of course I’ll close my eyes. Really! Didn’t you ever bathe with your housemates at school, or with Gabrielle?”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Fleur, this tub is so huge we can both stretch our legs out and not touch each other’s toes.” Hermione felt the water disturbed into ripples as the Frenchwoman complied. “You’re a bit uptight, you know.”
“No, I’m not. Aaaah, this is lovely.”
It really was. Beneath the bubbles, the water was hot and thick with redolent oil. The two witches soaked in silence for a long while, until Hermione ventured, “What’s it like, knowing that you affect nearly everyone around you?”
Fleur snorted delicately. “Women dislike me right away. I have come to expect their petty rudeness and desire to scratch my face. I know that my personality doesn’t help, either. I’m not very . . . tactful.” She glanced at Hermione with a relaxed smile. “You’ve done better than anyone else I’ve met in years. Thank you for your kindness.”
The words filled the younger witch with a certain amount of guilt. I don’t feel very kind when I’m looking at you. “And men?”
The question was met with an exaggerated roll of the eyes. “If I were a different sort of person, it might be enjoyable. However, I’m not interested in playing the games some women seem to like so much. I want to be admired for who I am, not what. I ignore men whenever possible.”
The fragrant steam lulled them back into companionable silence until the curly-haired witch finally lifted one hand out of the water and sighed. “I’m all raisin-fingered now – time to get out. Here.” She pushed one robe along the side of the long tub towards Fleur and then stood, wrapping herself in the other. “I wonder if Trinket—“ Hermione had no sooner uttered Trinket’s name in passing than the little elf popped loudly into the room. “Oh! I was only saying—“
“Yes, yes! Hurry! Mustn’t be late for dinner! The Master will soon return, and Young Master is already waiting in his study!”
The two witches were hurried into the dressing room, and Trinket directed them proudly to one of the doors along the wall. “Lady and Miss Delacour, your belongings have been unpacked. Trinket is sorry for the mess,” here she waved toward the stacks of boxes strewn across the floor and couches of the room, “but the Masters have forbidden her from touching anything that was wrapped.” She wrung her hands in distress for a moment, but then she caught sight of Hermione’s smile and her small face brightened. “This does not displease the Lady?”
“Not at all. I’ll open them tomorrow.” She added a self-conscious explanation to Fleur. “Lucius and Draco seem to have developed an extreme need to give me presents.”
“Aren’t you an orphan?” The Frenchwoman tossed over her shoulder as she headed to the indicated closet door.
“Well, yes, but—“
Fleur cut her off impatiently from where she had stepped into the storage space. Her voice sounded muffled. “Then it’s their responsibility. It’s a pureblood tradition – they must provide your trousseau.”
“And here I thought it was a romantic gesture,” Hermione replied wryly. She rolled Lucius’ wand between her fingers. Each time she held it in her hand, it felt less odd and more like something she had a right to use.
Fleur had taken the storm-colored silk gown – the first one that Draco had given her – from the closet and held it aloft with an approving look. “Well, if the rest of it is anything like this one, it is very romantic. You’ll wear this one tonight.”
She was back to her bossy former self, but Hermione took it in stride. We’re getting along, and that’s more important. She bossed back good-naturedly, “Worry about yourself, Fleur! I can be ready in ten minutes – what about you?”
Shortly after, they left the beautiful suite behind and set off for Lucius’ study. Trinket curtailed all gawking this time, and they arrived in a previously unseen part of the house by a straightforward route. If she had to guess, Hermione would say they were in the southwest part of the Manor. The little house elf slowed as they approached an open door and gestured for them to enter it.
“Thank you for your help, Trinket.”
The creature smiled widely at the simple words and bobbed her head enthusiastically. “Trinket serves the Lady happily!” Then she was gone in a crack of Apparition.
Hermione peered into the room. It was a man’s space, replete with dark paneling, leather furniture, bookshelves, and a large hearth with a roaring fire in the grate. Draco seemed to appear out of thin air, until Hermione realized he had entered the room from outside through heavily curtained French windows. He was in the rose garden. She immediately crossed the room and pointed to the hidden doors. “May I . . .?”
Draco shook his head, a serious look on his handsome face. “Absolutely not. Lucius would have my head if I let you out there without him.” At her questioning expression, he explained, “If it were anyone but you, I’d say it was because he doesn’t trust anyone alone with his prize plants. In your case, however, it’s because he wants to be the one to show it to you.”
Hermione let her eyes wander Draco’s form while he was talking, and she noticed for the first time that he was every bit as dressed for dinner as she. As usual, his dark robes hung and clung to his beautiful body in flattering lines. Eventually, her eyes made their way back to his face. He was regarding her with unconcealed desire as he held his arms out to her. She went to him without hesitation and they kissed as if they’d spent the entire day apart. They broke apart almost immediately at the sound of Fleur clearing her throat, but Draco didn’t relinquish his hold. His hands slipped against the dark grey silk, reminding Hermione of the night she’d first worn it. Draco seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because his hands wandered over the luxurious fabric. Fleur made the irritating noise again.
He gave their chaperone an apologetic look that somehow managed to convey slight displeasure, and then a shallow bow. “Good evening, Mademoiselle Delacour.”
“Good evening, Mister Malfoy.” The confused look on Draco’s face made Hermione realize that the Interpretor charm would have to be widened to include her wizards. It allowed Fleur to revert to her native tongue when speaking to Hermione, thus adding difficulties to larger conversations. She explained this to him, and performed the charm over all three of their linked hands. Fleur wandered a short distance away to browse the bookshelves after giving Draco a warning look, and he drew Hermione across the room to the furthest couch possible. No sooner had they sat then they were immediately encased within a bubble of intimacy. Her wizard’s hands once again traveled her silk-covered back and sides, although this time he managed to do so in a way that didn’t draw their chaperone’s attention. He leaned down to kiss her, but thought better of it at the last moment when Fleur moved into their line of sight. Draco groaned quietly. “You smell divine. Let me guess – you just took a bath.”
“Yep – me in a tub of bubbles and scented oil,” she said mischievously.
He groaned again, and the hand that was hidden between his body and the back of the couch slid upward to the curve of her breast. “You look so lovely in this gown, Hermione.”
I want to crawl into his lap and wrap myself around him, and Fleur won’t even let us kiss! Harry’s definitely my favorite chaperone so far. Hermione tried to think of something else besides her hormones. “Speaking of dresses, Draco, my room— it’s . . . did you choose the color?” She looked up at him with a knowing smile.
He was blushing slightly, but his smile was confident. “It required a Pensieve and a very accommodating decorator. Did you like it?” The question was asked in a quiet voice above her ear.
“I barely got to see it, but I think the fact that you went to all that work might be even more romantic than the Transfigurations text you gave me Monday. It’s beautiful.” She leaned toward him to trace the buttons of his shirt where they showed above his waistcoat. “Tonight you can think of me sleeping in that bed wearing your Quidditch jersey.” His hidden hand hadn’t moved from the side of her breast, and she felt his fingers flex around the yielding flesh. Her hormones were becoming increasingly harder to ignore.
Draco seemed to feel the same way, because his eyes were traveling over her hungrily. He’s looking at me as though I were something to be eaten. That thought caused her stomach to growl loudly, and the mood was lost. Draco chuckled as she glanced around the room, looking for a timepiece of some sort. The tall grandfather clock in the corner of the study showed ten minutes to eight. “I’m starving. Where do you suppose Lucius is?”
“He Floo’d the Director of St, Mungo’s and went to meet him there. He should be here soon.”
Not long after, there was the sound of footfalls in the hallway, and the elder Malfoy wizard came into view. He looked triumphant and was twirling a familiar wand in his hand. “I don’t suppose one of you has misplaced a vinewood wand with a dragon heartstring core?”
Hermione flew across the room, flinging her arms around him briefly before practically snatching the slim length of wood from his hands. “Oh, my wand! My beautiful, perfect wand! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She handed him back his own and, mindful of Fleur, pulled him down for an enthusiastic series of chaste kisses. At the end she added, “And thank you again for lending me your own.”
Lucius drew her against him in a tight embrace and kissed the top of her head. He leaned his mouth to her ear. “Did it continue to respond for you?”
She laid her head against his broad chest, inhaling his inherent scent. “It did. At first it felt strange even just to touch it, but the longer I held it, the more comfortable it became. I liked using it – it’s almost like the masculine version of my own.”
“I am glad to hear it.” His hand stroked over the back of her neck, and she shivered appreciatively.
Hermione glanced up at Lucius. “It was like having a part of you with me. I found myself touching it even when I didn’t need it.”
A subtle look of amusement crossed his face. “That is most gratifying, pet. In the future, you may touch my wand whenever you like.”