Chapter Seven: Sunday

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: this chapter was first beta’d by bunnyhops.  Recently CoquetteKitten lured it close . . . and then whipped it into her own kind of shape!

 

Three forty-five that afternoon found Harry leading Hermione through the castle. The young witch turned a few heads along the way, which Harry helpfully pointed out.

“Just — will you stop it! They’re only curious about why I’m all dressed up. Most of them have never seen me in anything other than robes, jeans, and trainers.”

“Sure, that’s what’s why all the guys are staring.”

“Honestly! Maybe I have something on my face. Do I? Please check! There’s something there, isn’t there?!”

Harry glanced down at her with a concerned look. “Hermione, what happened to the confident witch who helped me defeat a dark lord? You haven’t quite been yourself since the . . . well, you know what I mean; but frankly speaking, you’re a mess lately. If you don’t want to do this, then say the word and I’ll take you back up to Professor McGonagall. Hang the Malfoys — I just want you to be happy.”

She frowned. “This is a lot to process in such a short amount of time, Harry! No, I haven’t changed my mind. A few days ago I’d have said I was keeping my word out of honor and, of course, because the acceptance is binding. Then I didn’t let myself think too much for a while. Do you remember what you said last night, about it being meant to happen? I’m starting to feel the same way — as though this was meant to be. Is this what destiny feels like? I’m just nervous, and hoping I don’t have something on my face, because you’re right, people are staring!”

Harry grinned and leaned in to whisper, “It’s the dress. I can’t decide if it’s incredibly innocent or incredibly sexy, but if you weren’t my ‘sister’ I’d probably be staring, too.”

She mock-punched him, and as he leaned away, he fished his hand into his pocket. Pulling out her necklace with the charm he’d given her, he ordered, “Here, put this on before you go in; Ginny says so.”

They paused at the foot of the staircase leading to the Headmaster’s office, and Harry gave her one last smile as she smoothed the chain against the fabric of the dress. His eyes widened as he took in the sight of the pendant, and he grinned. “Ginny’s a very smart girl. See you later.”

At the top of the staircase Hermione paused outside the closed door.  She knew it was expected that she knock even though they were expecting her, so she rapped her knuckles softly against the solid wood twice.

Professor Dumbledore welcomed her in. “Please come in. Gentlemen, Miss Hermione Jean Granger.” He drew her in with a wave of his hand. “Allow me to introduce Mr. Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, Mr. Draco Hyperion Malfoy, and Mr. Hareton Scurrows, who is here on behalf of the Ministry of Magic to witness the completion of this stake-casting.”

As they were introduced each man bowed formally to her, and in that moment she could have kissed Minerva McGonagall’s cheek because she had prepared Hermione beautifully. Hermione swept a deep curtsy to each man, keeping her eyes at ground level. Professor Dumbledore led her to the center of the room, where a circle had been drawn on the floor. She stepped into its center.

The Headmaster stood directly in front of her, just outside the circle, with the war-stake in his hands.  “Who has cast this war-stake for this lady?”

Now Lucius Malfoy and Draco stepped into the circle, one on each side of her, and they spoke in unison. “It has been cast unanimously by the House of Malfoy.”

He addressed Hermione again. “My lady, a stake has been cast for your hand by the ancient and noble House of Malfoy. Do you accept this stake, and therefore the position of House Wife?”

She curtsied low, and with knees still bent stretched out her left hand as she raised her head to look Dumbledore in the eye. “I accept this stake, my lord.”

“Then as the stake keeper until this moment, I give it to you as pledged Wife to the House of Malfoy. Present to me your pledged husbands.”

Hermione rose to her full height, which felt shorter than usual with the two tall men standing so close to her, and returned the beautiful stake to him. She glanced up out of the corner of her eye to see which of the men stood at her left, then drew his hand into her own and held them toward the Headmaster. “My lord, I present to you my intended husband, Lucius Malfoy.”

Then she did the same with Draco. Dumbledore wrapped the two sets of hands around the war-stake so that Hermione’s touched the scroll directly and the men’s hands covered hers. With his other hand, the Headmaster raised his wand. He traced intricate patterns in the air as he soundlessly breathed the spell. There was light, and heat, and the beautiful war-stake seemed to dissolve. As it did, though, Hermione felt a tingling sensation in her hands and wrists. Looking down, she saw bright silver tendrils curl around the ring finger of her left hand and up the same wrist.

Without thought to the ceremony, she broke that hand free and held it aloft, that she might see it better. There, starting at the first knuckle of her left ring finger and wrapping around it several times only to spread delicately over the back of her hand and up and around her wrist and forearm, was a dragon. She gasped quietly and then blushed when Lucius chuckled.

Mr. Scurrows stepped forward at that point to congratulate the Malfoy men and to thank Professor Dumbledore for the simplicity of the ceremony. I’m sure that translates to the speed of it. I wonder if some of these involve a lot more pomp and circumstance. Lastly, the ministry official bowed before Hermione and thanked her for the honor of validating such an esteemed stake-casting. Hermione curtsied back, making a mental note to ask Professor Mc– Minerva — about that later.

The easy part was done, now. She had known exactly what to expect and do at every step and now she was on her own: it was time for conversation. She would have waffled in uncertainty, but Lucius Malfoy prevented that. “My lady, there is time now for us to become acquainted. Will you honor me with your company?”

He was already guiding her to the windowed alcove at the side of Dumbledore’s office, where a single wingback chair sat facing the outside scenery. Hermione was confused for a brief moment about the seating arrangements, until Lucius sat down gracefully and drew her to sit on his lap. His hands wrapped loosely around her waist, and for the briefest of seconds Hermione panicked. Then it occurred to her that things couldn’t possible be any stranger, and that she was, after all, going to marry this man in the very near future. Still, she was at a loss for words. She concentrated on her breathing until Lucius spoke.

“You have honored my House with your acceptance, lady, and your mastery of the ceremony was commendable. Surely, though, as a Muggleborn you have many questions still?”

She raised her eyes to meet his, feeling like the proverbial deer caught in the oncoming headlamps of a car. They were mesmerizing: distant, glacial blue, and set widely under heavy brows. She stared until he lifted one of those handsome brows, at which she blushed and glanced quickly out the window before her. “I don’t even know where to begin, sir. I’m at a complete loss.”

He pinned her in place with his piercing gaze. He seemed to be considering something. Finally, he said, “I cast my stake when you were sixteen. However, I recognized you as bespoke much earlier. Draco and I were shopping for his first year school robes when you brushed against me in Madam Malkin’s shop. Your magical signature was already so well defined.”

Her mind was off and running with the information. Why had he waited? Would it be rude to ask?

“Perhaps you will indulge me by telling me of your year so far instead.”

She glanced at him quickly, and was struck by a sudden softening in his expression. He looks kind. “Well . . . it was difficult to come back to this place after the final battle, but necessary. You see, I wanted to leave Hogwarts on my own terms, and that didn’t include memories tinged by hate and pain. I returned to vanquish my deepest fears once and forever . . . ”

A small bell sounded somewhere, returning Hermione to the present. She became aware that she was still perched on Lucius Malfoy’s knee, that his hands were still at her waist, and that he’d been listening to her babbling with rapt attention. He gently lifted her off his knee and then bowed before her. “Thank you for indulging me, my lady. Until our next visit.”

With those formal words Lucius raised her newly marked left hand and placed a kiss to the dragon’s back. Hermione was surprised by her inner reaction to the simple gesture; it caused her breath to catch and a warm flush to spread over her cheeks. He led her to the inner office, where Draco stood by the fireplace.  “My time has ended for today, it seems. Draco . . .?”

Draco bowed slightly over her hand. “Miss Granger, will you visit with me?”

She smiled, thinking back to their time at the Slytherin party. “I’d like that.”

Draco led them to the alcove, but instead of sitting himself he offered her the chair. She sank into it gratefully. Draco leaned against the window, facing her, and gave her an almost-smile.

“You’re here.”

“Yeees . . .?” Her response came as a drawn-out question.

“You didn’t try to run off.”

“I haven’t fled screaming yet, have I?” Hermione attempted a smile and was sure it looked more like a grimace.

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know — not running out screaming? I don’t think this is how Muggles do things.”

“Not for a very long time, but in any case I’m not a Muggle any more — haven’t been since my parents died. It’s helped that my friends are mostly Purebloods; the fact that they accept this as normal makes it . . . real.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For . . .?”

“Your parents. I lost my mother so long ago I can’t remember her. I wouldn’t wish that for anyone.”

When had she moved from the chair? Yet here she was, standing in front of Draco, looking up into his handsome, solemn face. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

He almost-smiled at her and quickly changed the subject. “You’re wearing my favorite color again.”

Hermione blushed and toyed with the material of her skirt until Draco said softly, “If you don’t stop, I’ll be forced to hunt you down a glass of champagne.”

That brought a delighted smile to her lips as more memories from the previous evening came to mind. “Are you keeping me from fun, Mr. Malfoy?”

His smile lifted both sides of his mouth for the first time, and Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. He’s so handsome.

“And that necklace — I’ve seen you wear it many times. Is it significant?” His eyes were on her charm, where it rested at the very top of the slight valley between her breasts.

“Harry gave it to me, but that’s not really why I like it so much. I don’t know why, but it’s been my favorite for as long as I’ve had it.” She reached up unconsciously and stroked its smooth silver shape.

Draco was smiling again in a way that made the world go sideways for a moment, but just then the bell rang again, signaling their conversation was at an end. He held out his hand to her, and she offered hers with a self-conscious blush. He pressed his lips to it so gently she barely felt the pressure, and then they walked back toward the inner office.

Hermione’s mind was working at lightning speed. The conversations had been exhausting, and yet easier than she would have imagined. Both men had been courteous, and they’d both done their best to put her at ease. It was hard to think of them both without the use of comparisons. Lucius had taken charge from the moment he’d spoken to her — placing her on his knee, settling his hands about her waist, directing the conversation. The word dominant came to mind. Draco, on the other hand, was hesitant and treated her as an equal of sorts. It had been obvious that he was affected by the slightest brush of their hands. Draco in one word? Perhaps, at this point, safe. So much to think about, but not right now. The Headmaster was summoning them together for the last few rites, or so she guessed.

Professor Dumbledore’s face held no clue of what was to come next. Now for the ceremonial bits Minerva said would be best if spontaneous. A hint would have been nice. Hermione had never liked pop quizzes. The Headmaster bade them join hands and then placed them one atop the other. Then Lucius placed his unoccupied hand on top of the hand-knot, and Draco did the same on the bottom.

“This witch has accepted your stake, and I have given her to you for the furthering of your House. How will you keep her?” intoned Dumbledore.

Draco answered, “She will dwell with us in the halls of our House.”

Then it was Lucius’ turn. “She will be bathed in honor and wrapped in glory.”

“She will be filled with sons by us, and she will birth our champions,” replied Draco.

“She will sit between us and sleep in our bed, and her breast shall bear our mark.”

As Lucius finished speaking the last part, Dumbledore performed an intricate spell above their hand-knot. Hermione saw sparks and felt warmth flow through her hands from the Malfoy men. Her mind, ever busy, was thinking about the poetry of this ceremony (if she didn’t think too much about the whole being filled with sons and bearing a mark on her breast. And what was this about ‘our bed’? Hopefully the whole thing was metaphorical).

The men released her hands. Hermione tried to catch a glimpse of theirs, to see if they had been marked as well, but was unsuccessful. They both took a step back to stand slightly behind her, and wrapped their arms around her waist from each side. It was a cage-like feeling, and Hermione tried to focus on the next part of the ceremony itself rather than her own feelings about it.

The headmaster began the next segment. “A House is founded on its warriors and furthered by its Wife. Who takes up the burden of care for this Wife-to-be?”

Lucius started this time. “By my hand shall her lips be fed.”

“By my hand shall her body be clothed, “ responded Draco.

“She will know the depth of my heart,” said Lucius.

Draco finished, “And her pleasure shall be mine.”

Regardless of her embarrassment with parts of it, it was beautiful and her body responded to the sensuality of the ceremony’s language. Are the words always the same, or are they composed by the casters? She shivered slightly at the idea that Draco might have written his lines with her in mind.

There was more to come, it seemed. Lucius and Draco released their hold on her waist and stepped forward so that they were a step in front of her now.

“Who brings a gift to this circle?” asked Dumbledore in a solemn voice.

“I bring a gift for my bride-to-be, and I will receive one from her,” answered Lucius Malfoy.

“What is this gift, and what will you take?”

“I will take her maidenhead, and in return I will give her my fidelity,” replied Lucius.

Hermione flushed deeply, and she kept her eyes fixed firmly at a spot to the left of the Headmaster. He reached down and took her hand, placing it in that of Lucius Malfoy.

“Your gift is acceptable and shall be given on the wedding day. Who else brings a gift to this circle?”

Draco’s soft, husky voice spoke firmly from above her.  “I bring a gift for my bride-to-be, and I will receive one from her.” He turned and reached out, taking her other hand in his and holding it to his chest.

“What is this gift, and what will you take?”

Draco looked down in to her face with his silver eyes, and Hermione was struck by the sudden confidence in his gaze. His hand dropped hers and gently touched her chin. Her own hand hovered uncertainly between them, fingers still tingling with the warmth of his grasp.

“I will have your first kiss, and in exchange give you mine.”

“Your gift is acceptable. Yours shall be granted this day.”

He lowered his face to hers determinedly, leaning slightly to the side and gently pressing his lips to hers. It was tender and sweet, and the kind of kiss that Hermione had dreamed of all her life. His scent washed over her then, an echo of the war-stake’s incredible fragrance, and when he pulled away mere seconds later, her heart was racing.

Draco looked uncertain and as though he wanted to speak, but he kept silent and watched her response.

Hermione stepped away, backing out of the circle. “I . . . I need to go. Now.” She turned and felt the eyes of the Malfoy men on her, following her retreat. Neither moved to stop her, nor did they say anything. Hermione fled the office at a pace much faster than her usual walk, although she forced herself to keep from actually running.

She fled to the chambers of her favorite professor — the very one who’d helped create the beautiful dress she wore and prepared her for the ceremony — and knocked at the door frantically until, finally, it was opened.

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