Chapter Fifty-Nine: Thursday 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:  Brightki and CoquetteKitten.

 

Hermione gave a luxurious stretch as she woke to the new day.  Her father’s sunrise philosophy came to mind: Set nature as your alarm clock, and every day will begin in glory.  She pressed her fingers to her lips in silent tribute to his wisdom and slipped silently from the silken sheets, pausing only to draw her wand from the bedside table.  A glance to the far side of the decadent bed proved that Fleur slumbered on, silenced once again by a desperately cast Muffliato early last night.  The French windows were still flung wide open, done so by Hermione herself and left that way under threat of dismissal.  The blush of dawn cast its glow around the lovely room, and a veritable symphony of birdsong contributed to the purely magical atmosphere.  This was the time of day she enjoyed most.

 

Hermione tiptoed to the balcony, drawn by a pull so strong that it couldn’t be denied.  She shivered in the cool air, wrapping her arms around herself in an attempt to preserve the lingering warmth of her bed.  A sudden movement had her whirling to her left, to find a familiar Brown Yogle alighting on the balustrade – Harry’s owl.  News from Harry and the girls!  “Good morning, Mouse,” She said in a cajoling tone as she hesitantly stretched a hand toward the letter in the bird’s beak.  “Easy, now.  You know me.”  Hedwig’s replacement regarded her for a moment and fluttered farther down the heavy stone handrail.  Hermione sighed and began what she and Harry had at some point dubbed the Mouse dance.  “Of course you do.  Here, Mouse.  Give me my letter,” She cooed and followed the bird’s retreat, wincing slightly at the chilly stone beneath her bare feet.

 

It had taken Harry time to recognize the need for another owl, but finally he’d caved to convenience and brought home the Yogle from a the Magical Menagerie.  It was obvious from the start that Mouse was ‘just a bit’ sensitive – most especially when it came to Hermione.  Their relationship was strained at best, resulting in any correspondence from Harry being beak-bitten and often delayed.  He’d laughingly suggested his new owl was jealous of their close friendship, but they’d both come to realize that was no joke.

 

“Come on, Mouse – give me Harry’s letter and then we can go find you a nice treat.”  The odd-looking bird stared at her unblinkingly and hopped a few feet farther down the rail.  Hermione bit back a growl, managing to keep her voice even. “Please.”

 

The infuriating owl took flight, soaring overhead and keeping Hermione’s eyes pinned with her own.  This time the growl wouldn’t be contained.  “Give me my letter, you wretched bird!”

 

There was a rush of air slightly behind her.  “Do you require assistance, Miss Granger?”

 

Hermione raised her wand and spun defensively before she recognized the sound of Draco’s voice.  “Sweet Circe!”  He was hovering just beyond the balcony on a good-sized carpet, the early morning light lending him an almost ethereal glow.  “What . . . Is that a magic carpet?”  She walked to him and leaned over the handrail so that they were only feet apart.

 

“It’s a flying carpet; the magic is implied.  I was hoping to persuade you and your chaperone to take an early-morning flight around the estate with me.”

 

She was intrigued.  “I’ve only read about them.  Why not broomsticks?”

 

Draco gave an almost-smile paired with a twinkle, causing her to forget to breathe for a few seconds.  “I didn’t think Fleur would approve of you riding my broomstick just yet.”

 

She blushed at his double entendre and then smirked.  “You’re right.  Unfortunately,” she turned to peer into her bedroom toward the bed at the far side of the room, “Fleur is not what my father would have called an early bird.”

 

“You’re saying she’s still asleep, and not likely to get up any time soon.”  At her nod he sighed and added softly, “You look radiant at dawn, Hermione.”

 

She blushed again, smoothing one hand through her wild curls and another down the front of her nightgown.  “Thank you.  I didn’t expect to see anyone out here, so . . .” She waved a hand towards herself.  “And thank you for this.  It’s safe to say the design emphasis was on gown and not night.  It’s lovely.”  Indeed it was.  When she and Fleur had returned to the room after the ceremony the night before, it had been laid out on the bed on her side, ostensibly by Trinket.  Hermione had put it on, feeling the everyday magics of expensive fabric and design flow over her skin.  It was pale blue and completely impractical for sleeping, with its rather snug satin bodice and floor-length skirt made of layers of sheer organza, but altogether the most beautiful thing Hermione had ever dreamed of wearing to bed.  She added almost immediately, “How anyone thought this would be comfortable for sleeping is beyond me, though.”

 

“They didn’t.”

 

“Hmmmm?”  She was momentarily nonplussed.

 

He explained with a husky chuckle that made her stomach flip-flop.  “I mean that I don’t think it’s meant to be left on.  It’s designed to be taken off.”  Now his eyes ran over her figure slowly.  “Lucius was right.”

 

“He often is, in my limited experience.  To what instance are you referring?”

 

Draco’s eyes left their thorough perusal to meet hers briefly, before returning to the task.  “I told him that I had no interest in women’s fashion, and that I felt that the courtship rules regarding your own clothing were there to deter me from admiring your gorgeous body.”

 

The pleasant turmoil in her stomach moved lower, and the result was even pleasanter.  “How does that make Lucius right?”

 

“His response was that a beautifully clothed woman was like a gift.  He said I would come to appreciate the act of unwrapping you.”  Draco’s eyes continued to move over her body.  Finally he met her eyes with a dark look.  “I would very much like to unwrap you right now, Miss Granger.”

 

Hermione shivered, less from the cool temperature than from his words.  At that same moment, Mouse circled their heads and then dropped like a stone to Draco’s shoulder, effectively killing the moment.  Damn that bird!  She hissed, “Get that letter, Draco.  Now.

 

Her wizard glanced at the bird on his shoulder.  “Hello, Mouse.  Good to see you again, girl.”  He reached up a hand and scratched the back of her head lightly.  “Do you have something for Hermione?”

 

The bird’s response was to puncture her sharp beak through the missive, staring at the curly-haired witch unrepentantly.  Draco laughed quietly, earning him his first real glare from his fiancée.  She growled, “I swear to you, Draco Hyperion Malfoy, if you find this funny in any way . . .”

 

Draco’s eyes danced at her, but his response was to Mouse.  “You know, little owl, you and my witch have much in common.”  He regarded Hermione intensely as he continued in a soothing voice, “You’re both such lovely girls, so fierce and smart.  Yes, and you have beautiful eyes and such pretty feathers, don’t you?”  His fingers were stroking along her back now, and Mouse’s eyes were blinking in pleasure.  Her beak was working its way out of the mutilated letter, and finally she proffered it to the blond wizard in a gentle fashion.  “I do love to touch you.”

 

It figures she’d like Draco!  And how can I possibly be so bothered by the fact that a stupid bird dislikes me?!  Hermione shook the thought off, choosing instead to concentrate on the knowledge that Draco’s words were obviously meant for her.  As if to prove that point, he added almost roughly, “I like my feisty girl.”

 

That last bit sent a jolt of desire racing through her system.  “Draco,” she intoned, leaning farther over the railing.  Mouse seemed to realize that her competition was moving in, and dropped the letter in Draco’s lap with a soft coughing noise.

 

He rubbed his nose against the owl’s beak, his eyes never leaving Hermione’s own.  “Such a perfect girl you are.  I could pet you all day.”

 

Hermione shivered again.  Her focus shifted momentarily to the letter in his lap, noticing that it lay across a rather impressive tent in his trousers.  She smiled, gnawing on her bottom lip.  “Why, Mr. Malfoy – I wasn’t aware you found owls so . . . exciting.”

 

The bird gave an indignant shake of her head.  Draco’s fingers dropped to stroke Mouse’s brown and cream-streaked chest, but he never looked away from Hermione. “Thoughts of petting a pretty owl kept me up very late last night and then filled my dreams.”  His other hand dipped to the letter and handed it to her slowly.

 

As soon as it was safely in her grasp, she crowed triumphantly and waved the letter about.  “Take that, you nasty ball of feathers!  Look – and I’ll still be able to read it!”  Internally her exultation sounded a bit different.  Draco just admitted he dreamed of touching me all night!

 

He raised an eyebrow, in that moment bearing an eerie resemblance to Lucius.  “Why, Miss Granger, if I didn’t know better I’d say you and this fine owl had an adversarial relationship.”  He turned to gaze at Mouse.  “That isn’t so, is it, pretty girl?”  The bird rubbed her beak against Draco’s cheek lovingly, and he chuckled.  “I didn’t think so.  All right, Mouse.  I’m sure there’s a nice frog just waiting for you by the river.  We’ll send back a reply in a bit.”  He wiggled his shoulder encouragingly.  She took his hint and pushed off with one last, almost loving, look his way.

 

As the Yogle flew away at last, Hermione found herself torn between wanting to read the note from her ‘brother’ and the exploring the fascination that was her fiancé.  She found him staring at her hungrily and blushed.  “I cannot believe you were attempting to seduce me by using that horrid owl.  How is it you and she are so thick, anyway?”

 

“I dislike that word.  ‘Attempting’ implies that I was unsuccessful.  As far as Harry’s owl, I assume it’s for the same reasons most females throw themselves at my feet.”  He was smirking at her cockily, and the expression only heightened her growing arousal.  His words, however, caused her to snort indelicately and roll her eyes.

 

“Then in the interests of keeping that handsome head of yours from inflating too much, I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not ‘most females’.”  An unrelated thought struck her.  “I’m assuming that you’d come closer if you could.  Are my room and balcony off limits?”

 

“You think I’m handsome.”  Draco’s grin remained in place.  “Most definitely off limits.  The only reason I haven’t tried it is that I’d get the shock of my life.”

 

Hermione thought back to the zaps she’d witnessed with a shudder.  “No!  Stay where you are!  I don’t suppose . . .” She looked over her shoulder toward where Fleur still lay sleeping, then turned back to her wizard with a questioning look.

 

“Absolutely not, unfortunately,” he replied.  “Leaving the balcony without your chaperone is also forbidden.”  His eyes traveled her figure once more, and he leaned a bit closer.  “Come and have breakfast with me in the morning room.  You can plan your day and avail yourself of my services in any capacity you wish.”  His suggestive comment, paired with the still-roguish gleam in his eyes, caused another jolt of desire to course through her.  The good kind of zap, she thought to herself.

 

“I will, but first I’ll have to wake Sleeping Beauty in there.”  The letter in her hand, temporarily forgotten in the gathering mist of desire, caught her attention again.  “And I have a note to read, a reply to write, and an owl to cajole as well.  It might be a while.”  She broke open Harry’s letter, glancing at the date scribbled at its top.  “She’s quite possibly the evilest owl ever – it looks like he wrote it Tuesday night!”

 

He shook his head as if to clear it.  “Use our old owl, or Floo Harry instead if you like.  Either way you choose, just stop by Lucius’ study.”

 

“In the interests of him getting my message in a timely manner – if at all – I think that’s a good idea.”  She paused and added playfully, “And, Draco . . . I look forward to availing myself of your services today.”

 

He grinned.  “Excellent.  I’ll go bother Molly for a bit, then.  I heard her arrive with a rambunctious crew as I left the house.  Shall we say seven o’clock?”  At her nod of agreement, Draco bowed his head, glancing up at her from beneath his dark blond lashes.  “Until then, Miss Granger.”  He directed the flying carpet away from the balcony, never once taking his eyes from hers until he finally rounded the corner of the house.

 

Hermione gave one last, satisfying shiver of delight at her wizard’s utter sex appeal, and then turned back to her room in a whispery twirl of organza.  Her brain was already going full tilt.  First order of business:  wake Fleur.  She summoned Trinket hesitantly.

 

The little house elf appeared at the bedside with a crack.  “Trinket serves the Lady with pleasure this morning!”

 

“Thank you.  Errrrrr, I was wondering if you might have time to . . .” she trailed off uncertainly, still uncomfortable with the idea of being waited on by anyone, let alone a magical creature.

 

Said creature was frowning at her as if she had spoken aloud.  “Does the Lady need reminding that this is Trinket’s House to care for, or does she doubt that Trinket is able to perform her duties as housekeeper?”

 

“Oh, no!  Nothing like that!  I just don’t like bothering you.  I’m sorry, I’m not used to being served.”

 

The frown deepened into a look of definite disapproval.  “You will be Mistress soon, will you not?”

 

“Yes, I suppose . . .”

 

“No respectable House is run without a housekeeper, and Trinket’s House is respectable.  I will not let you bring down my House,” the little creature growled.

 

It was the house elf’s use of personal pronouns that sealed the argument for Hermione.  That, and her slightly threatening tone.  She means business, and I don’t think I want to cross her.  “I have no such desire, and my mistake is based purely on my apparent ignorance of the place of house elves in Pureblood Houses.  I will work to remedy that.  Please forgive me, Trinket.”  The curly-haired witch bowed her head respectfully.

 

There seemed to be an odd balance of servitude and dominance on the part of the Malfoy housekeeper, evidenced by the way she accepted Hermione’s apology almost regally.  “The Masters have explained you have much to learn.  Trinket is happy to help.”  She swept her hand in a general way around the bedroom.  “What does the Lady require this morning?”

 

“Would you please bring coffee for Mademoiselle Delacour?”

 

The issue resolved to her liking, Trinket gave an approving smile and nod.  “Right away, Lady!”  She was gone in another crack of magic.

 

She plans to train me.  Shaking off the irksome thought, Hermione hiked up the skirt of her nightdress and clambered up onto the high bed, doing her best to disturb Fleur in the process.  She released the Muffliato and yelled out, “The Weasleys are here!  The Weasleys are here!”

 

At the noise, Fleur first dragged a pillow over her head and then bolted upright with wildly disoriented eyes.  “Whaaa . . .?”

 

“Time to rise and shine, Fleur!  The Weasleys are here, and we need to be headed downstairs for breakfast by six-thirty!”

 

Fleur seemed to be reassuring herself that she wasn’t dreaming.  She stared at Hermione for a few seconds before flopping back onto the pillows.  “Coffee.

 

“On its way.  Do not fall back asleep.  You have,” She glanced at the nearest timepiece, “an hour and a half to be ready.  I’ll be in the shower.”

 

As she walked into the adjoining room, Hermione heard the crack of Trinket’s return.  Perfect timing.  She perched at the dressing table, Harry’s letter in hand. It was written in typical Harry fashion.

 

Hello Love,

 

Hopefully Mouse isn’t in a mood, and this gets to you relatively intact and within the week.  I am sending it a bit early just in case, though.

 

The girls and I settled in to Grimmauld Place tonight as expected.  Kreacher has been behaving unusually well, and seems to have a terrified admiration of Luna.  I’ve decided not to question it, as it’s working in our favor.  He’s even suggested replacing Walburga’s picture with one of her!  Ginny’s in full bossy mode, with all the decisions that are required to set up house.  You’ll be happy to know that I’ve had the lion’s share of kinky sex already, and we’ve only been here a few hours.  In fact, I’m using the excuse of writing this letter to catch a breather.

 

Hope things have gone similarly for you (with the obvious exceptions), and that you’re enjoying your time with your wizards.  I’d like to see you before Friday as would the girls, although it sounds as if you will see them Wednesday for the shower DISREGARD THAT.  How about Thursday morning?  Molly has asked us to be meet there for some last-minute things.  I’m thinking of you fondly.  The girls are getting restless and I need a bit more recovery time.  I’m going to suggest they each add a note to this.

 

Harry

 

Slightly farther down the long piece of parchment, written in purple sparkly ink, was a message that could only be from Luna:

 

‘Mione,

 

It will be the green one first, I think, and then Draco’s.  The star charts show Thursday night to be a portentous time for you and your wizards.  Do watch out for umbloots of any variety.  My latest tealeaves were in the distinct shape of a trifle bowl.  Very interesting, don’t you think?  See you Thursday!

 

Then, from Ginny:

 

Hello, witch!

 

If I know Mouse, you’ll be getting this Thursday morning (Lu and I took bets against that damned bird, but Harry is still defending her).  How’s the Manor?  I’ve heard it’s breathtaking, and can’t wait to visit.  I hope you’ve finally figured out how to dress yourself.  Really – ‘classic Hermione’ is a look that should never come back.  Also, I’ve let you wallow in ordinariness for a year and now it’s time to remember how extraordinary you actually are.  Whatever.  Lu is babbling again – since she got pregnant, she’s been quite keen on Divination.  I love her, but we couldn’t be more different.  In local news, I think we wore Harry out, but we’ve agreed to torture him until he admits that aloud.

 

With a snort of laughter, Hermione left the letter on the dressing table and went to shower.  There, standing under the hot spray of water amidst clouds of steam, she made mental notes about the upcoming day.  Finally – no more house arrest!  Explore grounds.  Wait – Draco mentioned a crowd had already arrived – they’re here already!  Scratch exploring grounds!  Quick visit, then research in the library.  Pureblood weddings and full moon ceremonies for sure. Hopefully Pureblood history and the Malfoy House Wife diaries, too.  Four hours?  Six?  Talk to Molly about reception – I guess I should really know what’s going on before tomorrow.  I can do that at breakfast if they’re all there.  Lucius, too – his viewpoint will be important.  Errrrr, maybe that should be when we’re alone.  What is tickling the back of my mind about weddings . . . Oh, for Merlin’s sake – I need to find a present for them both!  How am I going to-  We can go to Diagon Alley, maybe with Gin and Lu this morning.  Scratch research in library!  Ok, reprioritize . . . very quick visit, skip breakfast, find presents, then talk to Molly and Lucius about our reception, Pureblood weddings in general, and full moon ceremonies.  Sandwich in library with critical reading material.  Circe’s left – I’m done for.  No – wait, wait – I want to spend time with Draco, too!  aaaagh!  She tugged at her hair in frustration.

 

As if shortening her shower by a few minutes could lengthen the day measurably, she attacked her regular routine competitively.  When she had scrubbed every inch of skin nearly raw and shampooed and conditioned vigorously, she shut off the water and charmed the stubble from her legs.  Then, slathering her skin with redolent oil and wrapping a robe around herself she raced to back to the dressing room.  All focus now on being ready as soon as possible, she flew through the rest of her morning routine as she had done so many times in years past.  This time, however, she made sure to place proper emphasis on the state of her hair and face, barely avoiding putting her eye out with the mascara wand.

 

As soon as each curl spiraled over her shoulders in controlled chaos and her face had been charmed with a tasteful amount of makeup, she dashed out to the bedroom.  Adrenaline was coursing through her body, and her heart was racing.  “Fleur, you now have fifteen minutes.”

 

The Frenchwoman was still lounging in bed, coffee cup in hand.  “Absolutely not.  It’s only been half an hour.  I have sixty more minutes before we have to leave.”

 

Hermione narrowed her eyes dangerously.  “I lied.  If you get up now, you may have thirty.”

 

Fleur must have sensed the desperation in her charge at that moment.  She sighed and set her cup down on the bedside table.  “Very well.  But only because-”

 

Don’t patronize me,” the younger witch hissed.  “I am getting married tomorrow and entering a society about which I have no clue and it has just occurred to me that I have a lot to pack in to one day.”  Her chest was heaving, and her voice and hands were shaking.

 

The chaperone was looking at her with concern.  “Hermione, are you alright?  I think you should sit down.”

 

She felt the covenant reach out to her tentatively, but in her fretfulness pushed it away.  Stop!  Go away!  You’re part of the reason I’ve had such ridiculous priorities the past two weeks!  I could have been reading, and researching, and- She dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands in an attempt to control what seemed to be an inevitable anxiety attack.  “I can’t . . . I can’t breathe!”

 

Fleur was guiding her back to the dressing room, to the comfortable leather couch in the middle of the area.  She forced Hermione’s legs up until they were bent at the knee and her chin was between them, and now she was rubbing the younger witch’s back comfortingly.  “Hermione, if you can feel your covenant right now, let it help.”

 

The presence pushed against the edge of her consciousness, moving like the cat she had come to imagine it to be.  It stretched and nudged in a repetitive pattern until Hermione latched on to the feeling, letting go of everything else.  It sent her images of the past two weeks and then other, different images.  The first was of a slightly younger version of herself in the library.  Instead of the image being from her point of view, it was from someone else’s – as if they were watching her from between the shelves of the nearest bookcase.  Her head was buried in a thick book, and she looked pale and thin.  The emotion that accompanied the memory was one of pain and longing.  Awareness flooded her.  Draco.  Another mental picture, this one of her collapsed on the floor of the Malfoy Great Hall, even paler and thinner.  Her face was bruised, her clothes stained with blood, and suddenly she was overcome with a feeling of protectiveness and desperation.  Lucius.  The covenant purred at her comprehension.  So this has been about them.  They needed me more than I needed to know what’s going on.

 

More images came – of her face looking up from a hundred different angles, each happy.  Shy blushes gave way to soft smiles, and they in turn became quietly amused half-grins.  Hermione realized she was watching the courtship through the eyes of her wizards, and that she had opened slowly to their attentions like the blue rose to which Lucius had compared her.  She watched the mental slideshow with fascination, not even realizing that her heart was calming, as the covenant’s memories of her face continued to change.  The grin morphed slowly into a coyly bitten lip, then a confident grin full of teeth, and then, finally, a look of confidence that radiated love and even lust.  That’s me – that’s how much I’ve changed since I took that stake from the Headmaster.  And the truth was, she realized she liked the change.

 

This is because you guided me, even when I didn’t know it.  Did you know what would happen if I’d spent my time otherwise?  A feeling almost like a belly-laugh pervaded her awareness.  And I’ve just mentally yelled at you to go away.  I’m so . . .

 

 Her internal dialogue was cut short when the covenant pushed so hard against the edge of her consciousness that it broke through to the epicenter of everything that was Hermione – it felt as though it had wriggled its way into the place her parents had called her soul.  She could feel its emotions flow alongside her own, and a voice that could only be described as Other spoke.  ‘You are not the first Wife I have guided.  Trust me, and I will prosper you and your House.’

 

You mean trust you blindly.  Let you decide what I do and think.  I know how to think for myself!  The words seemed disrespectful, but they were honest.

 

An almost physically palpable chuckle rumbled through her consciousness.  ‘Trust melittle Bespoken One.’

 

I don’t like someone else making my decisions!  It isn’t natural for me to just trust.  I need control!

 

The covenant seemed to hug her comfortingly.  At least, that’s what it felt like to Hermione, who still sat curled up on the small couch, head between her knees and eyes screwed shut.  ‘Trust me.  You bear the rune of the Great One, and I guided her to birth the foundations of this House.’

 

Can I think about it?  She winced at the impertinence of the question, but somehow knew the covenant found no affront.

 

On the contrary – it laughed again deeply.  ‘Witch, I have not met such a one as you since my awakening.  Together we will bring glory as yet unseen to the House of Malfoy.’

 

IF I trust you – blindly.  It went against everything within her, and yet this new proximity of the covenant within her was the equivalent of . . . Everything.  She addressed it one more time.  I recognize that you have protected me from the moment I accepted you, and that you have only worked for in the interests of my wizards and me.  And . . . I have come to enjoy the sense of you within me.  I accept that you had reason to steer me from what I would have chosen to do on my own, and hope you have a plan for today that doesn’t involve me going spare.  So, for now I guess . . .

 

The covenant was purring again deep within her, sharing its amused contentment with her.  As she became aware of the space around her physical body once again, she hastened to add, but if you so much as cause my husbands-to-be a moment of needless pain or anguish, I will reject you with every part of my body and mind.

 

There was one more ripple of unbridled amusement that wasn’t exactly her own, and then she was back in the dressing room, suddenly aware that the space held three more bodies than it had before.

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