Chapter Forty-Seven: Wednesday Morning

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 woke to a complete absence of sound from the witch sleeping deeply beside her, and was confused until she thought back to the very end of the previous evening. Who’d have thought the Ice Queen would be a snorer? Thank Circe for Silencio. She smirked sleepily into her pillow and snuggled deeply under the warm, weightless covers. Trinket had closed the side curtains at some point, and what little light permeated them gave little hint about the time, but somehow Hermione was sure it was quite early. Ten Galleons says Fleur will wake up the moment I try to leave this bed. That particular thought would normally have rankled her independent nature, but the huge bed was decadently comfortable, and she was happy to remain. She decided to remain where she was for a while, closing her eyes and remembering the events of the night before . . .

 

No sooner had Lucius murmured his wicked double entendre than she had burst into peals of laughter. The sound seemed to round up Draco and Fleur because they both approached at the same time, and the four of them left the study together. Walking through the Manor proved to be much more enjoyable with her wizards, who indulged her curiosity along the way. They’d eventually arrived at the dining room, and Hermione had stopped short in awe. The table was so long that the far end was barely visible, and down its middle ran what had to be the world’s longest floral centerpiece. Gigantic chandeliers lit the high-ceilinged room. The end nearest Hermione had been set with gleaming silver, china, crystal, and she was confused by the lack of table settings around it until she realized the two ends had been set and also the two opposing places in the exact middle of the table. She had turned to Lucius in dismay. “Well, so much for dinner conversation.”

 

He appeared to be having the same thoughts, because he turned to Draco with one uplifted eyebrow. The younger wizard had replied cryptically, “I agree,” and then called for Trinket, requesting for dinner to be served ‘as usual.’ Then he turned to Hermione and Fleur. “Ladies, will you accompany us back the way we came?”

 

They’d returned to Lucius’ study to find that covered dishes had been set on a low table, with large floor pillows laid out around it on the floor. The young witch was delighted. She watched Draco revert into the relaxed manners he’d used at the picnic, and was shocked when Lucius followed suit. Hermione feasted her eyes on their hands as they ate. Meanwhile, Lucius fed her bites from his plate and Draco unobtrusively rested his free hand on her thigh. The seating arrangement was as perfect and yet as frustrating as possible, with Hermione between her wizards and Fleur directly across. She felt their desire mix with her own, but was unable to do much of anything under the watchful eyes of the chaperone. Every chance the two men got, though, they tormented her with fleeting touches and heated glances.

 

Conversation was minimal at first as the food took precedence, but eventually flowed. At some point Hermione asked, “Why do you eat in here?” She looked from wizard to wizard.

 

Draco laughed. “You saw the size of that table with your own eyes! And if there’s one thing you should know about Trinket, it’s that she insists on symmetry – hence the impossible seating arrangement.”

 

Lucius had a faraway look in his eye as he said, “She set the table that way when Draco was first old enough to sit in a chair, and there was no arguing with her. Since then, we have avoided that battle entirely by eating in the study.” He pulled Hermione against his side, settling an arm around her shoulder. She laid her head against his chest contentedly.

 

Fleur watched their interaction closely. “You let a mere house elf dictate where you sit at your own table?” she asked with a trace of incredulity in her voice.

 

Hermione was surprised at Lucius’ biting tone when he answered. “She has run this Manor for decades and serves in the most faithful and competent of ways. As housekeeper Trinket has the right to decide what is best for this house and its inhabitants.”

 

She was touched by his protective statement, but still found herself responding, “But surely the demand for absolute symmetry doesn’t fall under the heading of what’s best for anything!”

 

Draco laughed again. He had taken hold of Hermione’s legs and curled them over his lap, waving his hands to Fleur before he set them innocently on the curly-haired witch’s knee. “Don’t get Lucius started on what makes sense when it comes to Trink – she helped raise him, and he can’t see any of her little flaws.”

 

“Idiosyncrasies! They’re merely idiosyncrasies, you brat,” Lucius sounded as though he was smiling in spite of his choice of words. “And you’re right. I am happy to bend to her whims most of the time, knowing that if I truly wanted something she would do it regardless of her own wishes.”

 

Hermione realized what he was really saying, and gave voice to it. “You don’t like to hurt her feelings.” Lucius answered with a kiss to the top of her head.

 

The conversation moved on to places the wizards had traveled on business for the Malfoy Empire, and they pointed to some of them on the large magical map that covered one wall of the study. Trinket came to clear the table, and Hermione watched closely as she interacted with the elder Malfoy. It was clear that his high regard for the little house elf was mutual.

 

When the dishes were gone and the table put back in its normal place, Trinket opened the heavy curtains at the far end of the room and opened the French windows. A cool breeze wafted through the room, and with it the scent of roses. She bobbed a curtsy to the group and Apparated with a crack, and that’s all it took for Hermione to scramble to her feet. ‘Show me your garden, Lucius!” She tried dragging him to his feet in almost childlike excitement and growled when he only chuckled at her.

 

Eventually he stopped his teasing, and they made their way across the room. Draco had sunk gracefully into a chair by the hearth, and Fleur trailed behind them at a surprisingly acceptable distance. “Is she going to be this strict the whole time?” Hermione whispered as they walked through the doors.

 

His answer went unheard when she saw what lay before her. It was far bigger than she’d imagined it. Roses spilled over trellises and climbed arches everywhere she looked. Hermione dragged Lucius down the steps and along a winding path lined with more kinds of stemmed roses than she’d ever dreamed possible. They were obviously magical varieties; some changed color as she watched, others were fantastic shapes and sizes, and one prominently placed group of golden blooms even seemed to glow in the fading light. “It’s . . .”

 

He pulled back against her arm, slowing their pace, and leaned to murmur, “It’s not going anywhere. Never rush your first time doing anything, pet. Look,” he pointed to a pale pink flower that seemed to follow their movement, “The Shepherdess likes you.” Lucius reached out towards the plant, and it leaned towards him in a bowing motion.

 

She looked up at him in wonder. “Do they all have names?” Behind him she could see Fleur, who seemed to be as enchanted with the rose garden as she was. The chaperone had paused in front of the bed of glowing blooms.

 

“Of course, although the names I give them here differ slightly than the ones they have in the rest of the world.” He pulled her along slowly, and Fleur fell behind them a few more steps.

 

“You mean, you give them nicknames?”

 

“Of a sort. This is my Temptress.” He was gently drawing a flower toward her by its stem. It was deep red with petals like flames and a heavenly fragrance. “If you were to see it in another garden, it would no doubt be called rosa elecebra.”

 

She translated the Latin as closely as she could. “Rose seductress?”

 

“Very good, pet.” He was pulling her around a corner, and Hermione once again stopped short. Before her, in a riotous glory of stems and petals, was a large alcove filled entirely with silvery blue roses. She recognized the frothy, full flowers Lucius had brought to her right away – they were stemmed and growing abundantly along the path.

 

“I know these! These are the ones you gave to me at school!” She bent to inhale their sweet scent, “What do you call them?”

 

Lucius pulled a small pair of cutters from a pocket of his robe and snipped one perfect specimen on a long stem. He handed it to her, murmuring “Praestruxit.”

 

Hermione had to tilt back her head to see him as he loomed over her, and comprehension dawned. “Bespoke? You mean—”

 

He pocketed the cutters and drew her closer until she was wrapped in his arms and he was pressing his lips to hers. The young witch sighed through her nose and felt Lucius smile against her mouth. He lifted his head enough to say, “In this garden, they are called Hermione.”

 

Hermione tried to pull his head back down to hers, but he was already standing to his full height. “Let us stop while it’s still our choice.” He led her back the way they’d come and they found Fleur standing where they’d left her, deeply entranced by the glowing golden flowers.

 

The Frenchwoman looked up at them and seemed to come to her senses. “If you think I’m going to let you walk out here alone, you’re mistaken.”

 

Hermione looked at her oddly. “Errrrr . . . of course not.” She glanced at Lucius, who narrowed his eyes at her as if in warning. Instinct cautioned her to say nothing, and she obeyed it. “Are you ready to go in?”

 

It was Fleur’s turn to give an odd look. “Don’t you want to see the garden?” She looked slightly dazed.

 

Lucius gestured toward the study doors. “The air is cooling and the flowers are closing for the night. It would be better to explore it tomorrow.” When Hermione attempted to get closer to the glowing roses, Lucius firmly pulled her away.

 

At the top of the steps, she paused. “Lucius, those flowers . . . what do you call them?”

 

He whispered the answer into her hair. “Rosa Expugnator. My guardians. You would be wise to avoid them.”

 

“OH.” To herself, she whispered “captor.”

 

Inside, Draco seemed to have fallen asleep in his armchair by the warm fire. Hermione took a step toward him, but paused by Fleur. “I’m going to kiss him, and I don’t want to hear you clearing your throat. If we didn’t break the rules when Harry chaperoned us, we certainly won’t on your watch.” She took another step and added, “Try to relax, Fleur.”

 

The curly-haired witch crossed the room and gently leaned over the sleeping Draco, brushing his hair from his forehead in a tender motion. “Wake up, silly snake.” She kissed his temple. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Lucius pouring himself a drink of what could only be firewhiskey. He came and sat in the chair across from them. Hermione balanced herself on one of Draco’s knees, kissing his mouth in an attempt to rouse him.

 

Draco stirred with a smile. “Hmmmmm.” He pulled her head down to his shoulder and closed his eyes again. His hands followed the curve of her spine, slipping along the silk of her dress. He mumbled drowsily, “I love this dress, witch.”

 

She nuzzled against his neck, inhaling deeply. “You’re still exhausted, Draco.” Hermione kissed his jaw and then his lips again, reminding herself at the last moment that Fleur was watching.

 

He roused himself with effort, blinking adorably. “Sorry, I guess I need to go to bed soon.”

 

“Go now, and you’ll see me in your dreams.” She stood and he followed, yawning behind one hand. “Good night, my love.”

 

Draco kissed her sleepily, nodded toward Fleur, and grunted at Lucius. The elder Malfoy chuckled. “Don’t forget our obligation in the morning.”

 

The younger wizard grimaced and made an unintelligible sound as he left the study. When the door had closed behind him, Hermione went to perch on the arm of Lucius’ chair. The heavy silk of her gown fell across his legs in a waterfall of fabric, and he pulled at it until she slipped down with a quiet yelp into his lap. Fleur rose from her chair and came to stand near the hearth, even closer to them that she had been before.

 

Lucius turned to the chaperone with a resigned expression. Hermione was learning to read his subtle expressions, and knew that he was trying to be courteous in spite of his irritation. “Mademoiselle Delacour, I trust that your accommodations are acceptable?”

 

Fleur glanced at Hermione and a trace of a smile crossed over her face. “They are more than that. Not only are they much grander than they were the last time, but the company is much better, thank you.”

 

He spoke to them both, now. “I wish for you to join me here as early as possible in the morning. We have much to discuss.”

 

“What about Draco?” Hermione asked curiously. Surely whatever they needed to talk about included him.

 

Lucius smirked. “He has an obligation in the morning, but he’ll join us when he’s done.”

 

Suddenly Hermione scrambled to sit up. Their topic of conversation had jarred a memory. The slippery fabric and Lucius’ hands worked against her though, and she ended up with her bum wedged between the strong thighs of her wizard. ‘This is familiar’, she thought with a fleeting smirk. Lucius seemed to be thinking the same thing, but after a glance to their chaperone (who had now taken the chair facing them) he simply helped the curly-haired witch to sit up. “Is something the matter, my prize?” He ran one finger down the length of her bare arm, sending shivers racing over her body.

 

Even his distracting touch couldn’t allay the panic welling up within her. “Oh, Lucius – I completely forgot to send an Owl to Molly and Minerva earlier, and now it’s probably too late! Ginny’s going to hex me into next week!” He stroked her arm again, raising one heavy eyebrow in a questioning manner. Hermione explained, “Ginny and Harry asked me to invite Molly to breakfast here in the morning, providing it was all right with you. They wanted to spend their first day . . . Errrrr . . . you know . . .” Here she nodded meaningfully.

 

“Use your words, pet.”

 

She huffed. “You know very well what I mean, Lucius – they want to christen every room in Grimmauld Place with lots of sex. That certainly won’t happen with Molly there, though she certainly wouldn’t try to stop them. She would have come even more willingly had I invited Minerva and Astoria Greengrass, seeing as they’re three sex-obsessed peas in the same randy pod.”

 

He looked as though he was trying not to smile. “I was under the impression you would do anything to escape the clutches of those two women.”

 

“I AM, but I gave Gin my word.” She looked at him miserably. “Now I’ve broken it.”

 

Lucius pulled her against his chest and ran his fingers up and down her back in soothing patterns. “I don’t think you have cause for such worry.” At her questioning glance, he added, “Draco explained the situation to me a few hours ago, and I anticipated that you might be distracted.”

 

A seed of hope sprouted inside the young witch. She wriggled out of his embrace, looking directly into his handsome face. “Do you mean . . .?” Had Lucius actually saved her from the otherwise impending wrath of Ginny Weasley?

 

His eyes were twinkling, but otherwise his expression was impassive. “I may have already invited those three for breakfast in the morning.” Hermione made a noise of pure joy and proceeded to cover Lucius’ face in enthusiastic kisses. He laughed and pulled her head so that their lips were less than an inch apart. “On another note, I think the idea of christening a house holds merit; don’t you, pet?”

 

She made a strangled sound and he lowered his lips to hers, but they were interrupted within seconds by the sound of their chaperone clearing her irritatingly lovely throat.

 

Fleur stirred beside her, and Hermione quickly released her from the Silencio. The young witch slid from the silken sheets, pulling back the curtains along her side of the bed. The room was bathed in the pale light of very early morning. She padded across the carpet to the balcony, quietly opening one door and sneaking out. Hermione left the door open, rationalizing that Fleur could clearly see her from where she lay in bed, and looked out over the still-sleepy world below.

 

A thin mist hung over the river and far bank, but directly underneath the balcony the formal garden was clearly visible. Hermione leaned over the edge, memorizing the beautiful design of the beds and walkways below. From behind her Fleur called in her usual bossy tone, “Hermione, I’m not ready to get up. Now, come back in here or I’ll tell Lucius.”

 

That comment rubbed Hermione exactly the wrong way, and her eyes narrowed in fury. No one tells me what to do! She quickly amended that thought. Except Lucius. And sometimes Draco. But only because I let them. Her mind began whirring, and by the time she had made it to the French windows, a small, wicked smile was spreading slowly across her face. So she wants me to stay close, does she?   She made her way to the bed and climbed back up onto it, snuggling down beside her chaperone. “Good morning, Fleur!” She began in a chipper voice. “I usually get up before the sun – what about you? Hmmmmm?” Hermione pulled the covers from Fleur, who had begun protesting loudly. “Oh, no you don’t – you work for me! That means that as long as I’m following the rules of the courtship, you have to follow mine.” Hermione continued pestering Fleur as she practically dragged her from the bed. “Get up now. I want to take a shower and get ready.”

 

Fleur was definitely not a morning person, and this gave Hermione no small amount of satisfaction. The curly-haired witch proceeded to sing in the shower at the top of her lungs, all the while keeping her wand at the ready should Fleur decide to exact some form of revenge. After that, she dragged the chaperone into the dressing room, where she chatted away about a recent article trying to link the very dissimilar studies of Arithmancy and Divination. Fleur had sunk to the floor, leaning back against the wall in a defeated position as Hermione gave herself a final glance in one of the many floor-length mirrors. Her hair hung in long spirals, her face glowed under a soft layer of makeup, and her sundress flattered her slender figure. She finished up triumphantly, “And so, you see, the author’s entire premise was flawed by a very simple error in translation. Disappointing, really. Don’t you think?” She blinked innocently at her companion.

 

Fleur moaned dramatically. “For Merlin’s sake, shut up! It’s five o’clock in the morning. The birds are still asleep. If I must be awake, let me have some peace!”

 

Hermione smiled at her grimly. “There will be no peace for you, Mademoiselle Delacour, as long as you continue to be such an ogre of a chaperone. I will not be bossed around, and I will not be kept from my wizards.”

 

“It is my duty to—“

 

“Bollocks. Astoria Greengrass is soon to be wife to the House of Nott, and her chaperone just goes into the next room and leaves the door open. That’s what Professor Dumbledore did for us as well, when we visited in his office! You enjoy being in charge far too much, and I’m calling you out, Fleur.” Fleur stuck her nose up in the air and managed to make the look alluring. “And don’t you dare pout. Now, you have half an hour to make yourself presentable. After that we’re going down to Lucius study, and you’re going to sit in the corner and mind your own beeswax.”

 

Fleur flounced off to take a shower, and Hermione wandered back out onto the balcony. There was activity in the garden below now. Several people on brooms were flying very low back and forth over the garden under the direction of a screeching, redheaded woman who couldn’t be anyone other than Molly Weasley. When one of the flyers paused in mid-air, she caught a flash of more red hair under his hat, and realized that she had dragged at least one of the boys with her to help.

 

Well, this might be awkward. She pondered the situation: she was engaged to the Malfoys and now living here with her chaperone, and here were some of the Weasleys, who had also cast a war-stake for her. For her the worst part was knowing that these men, whom she thought of as brothers, did not think of her as a sister. I hope it’s the twins – at least they’ll find a way to joke about it. She decided not to worry about it, and to avoid them so that she didn’t inadvertently break any rules.

 

As she came to this conclusion, another person came into sight. She would have known it was Draco even if he’d been wearing a hat, although his platinum hair was a dead give away. Even so, she recognized his smooth, confident stride and the set of his shoulders immediately. The two flyers landed on the ground near him, and the three shook hands and stood talking. That must have been what Lucius meant about Draco’s morning obligation. He’s meeting with the Weasleys. Must be about the wedding.

 

At that moment, Fleur appeared. Her hair hung in waterlogged strands, she wore no makeup, and her outfit was similar to the one she’d worn yesterday. Still, she was radiantly beautiful. Hermione tried not to growl as she looked away from the Frenchwoman’s face. “Could you do something to look a little less perfect?”

The chaperone gave her a chilly look, but the air between the two witches was decidedly warmer than it had been the day before. “You’d better pray there’s coffee waiting for me downstairs.”

 

Hermione stuck out her tongue, and Fleur actually smirked. “Yes, yes. You’re terrifying. Now be a good chaperone and take me to see my wizard. Chop, chop!”

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