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. CoquetteKitten has had a subsequent round with it (and she won).
Hermione’s mind raced moved far faster than her feet as she raced through the castle halls. The plot that had sounded so romantic just a while ago now tolled in her ears like a death bell. Why had someone placed a stake on her? Why the Malfoys? She had barely spoken to Draco over the years and only met his father once during the war. It wasn’t a good memory, although it certainly wasn’t the worst. What about her could make her desirable to the Malfoy covenant? Didn’t her blood status exclude her from this whole mess?
She thought about the beautiful war-stake again. It had glowed and pulsated, and smelled divine. Great Merlin — she wanted to be enveloped by that scent! It was subtle and heavy and masculine and mouth-watering.
Her mind flashed back to the second the summons had popped out of thin air and landed in her lap. Luckily it had occurred at the beginning of Potions class, during the lecture and note-taking part. Had it appeared much later, it might have dropped into her cauldron and ruined the beautiful Amortentia she’d been brewing all week. It should have been ready by the end of class today, and she hoped Professor Slughorn had bid some student bottle it for her. She’d spent much time guessing what it would smell like. She wondered if it would be all the things she liked about Ron — the way he smelled of soap and clean, outdoor air, with just a hint of the oil from his broom kit. Now she thought that even her own Amortentia couldn’t possibly affect her the way the fragrance of the war-stake had.
After a short time, she found that her feet had carried her to the chambers of Minerva McGonagall. This was fitting, since Hermione suddenly had more questions. Her professor hadn’t yet returned, and so she sat down on the cold floor of the castle hallway to wait. Professor McGonagall had only one class this morning, and would undoubtedly return to her rooms before lunch. She should be appearing any moment.
In fact, Hermione waited an entire sixty seconds before being struck by an idea. It was one of those lightning-strike thoughts that cut through anything else she’d been thinking of previously and left no room for argument. This thought, plain and simple, was I must go check my Amortentia. Now. She left a note for her professor and set off again. Within twenty minutes, Hermione had raced to the dungeons, collected her potion (which had indeed been bottled for her), and was on her way back. She arrived at Professor McGonagall’s door breathless and impatient at the same moment her teacher returned.
Five minutes later, Minerva McGonagall declared that Hermione’s potion had been well brewed — it smelled exactly like the professor’s favorite whiskey. Hermione cautiously sniffed it, and gave a moan of unadulterated pleasure because the aroma of her Amortentia was in fact the same scent she remembered from the war-stake! Heavy and subtle, and very, very masculine. She told her professor, who smiled tenderly.
“Oh, my dear girl! It’s time we had a long talk about the ins and outs of being a bespoke witch.” And so they talked about all kinds of things Hermione had never known about because she was Muggle-born. She was shocked to find out that most of what she was just learning was common knowledge among her peers.
“But I’m a Muggle-born! Surely this excludes me from this whole mess.”
“That makes no difference to some covenants. I’ll wager your eligibility came from the strength of your magic and intellect. And you’re a lovely girl. You’re quite a catch, you know.”
The young witch opened her mouth to frame another argument, but the professor continued, “Hermione, you’ve accepted the stake, and by doing so altered what you yourself may have planned for your life. Don’t see this as a tragedy before you’ve thought about it from every angle! The way the stake’s magic responded to you, and the fact that its scent matches that of your Amortentia points toward destiny. I plan to help you do it, too. Help you think about it, that is — not run away, lass!”
Professor McGonagall continued this education of her favorite student. Some of the knowledge was shocking, and here Minerva went slowly.
“First and foremost, you need to know that you’re already loved and desired. Wizards who cast stakes don’t do so impetuously. Their covenant won’t let them. You’ve been thought about for years, now.”
They ate chocolate cake and sipped at mulled brandy while they talked.
“But which Malfoy cast the stake?”
“Why, dear! They both did. That’s why Albus used the term ‘Wife of the House’ when he talked about it earlier.”
“Sweet Merlin! What are you saying?! I’m to marry both of them?!” Hermione laughed feebly. The sound stuck in her throat when she saw her professor’s face.
“Yes, you’re to marry both of them.”
“And . . . and be lawfully wedded to both of them?”
“Of course. And yes, you will be bedded by both. Hopefully frequently!” At Hermione’s sharp intake of breath, Professor McGonagall tutted. “Hermione, they’re powerful, handsome men — and according to Witch Weekly, the female population of magical England finds them highly desirable! Surely you’ve noticed that. You’ve gone to school with Draco for almost eight years! Imagine kissing two of him.”
Hermione’s shock prevented her from hearing anything else her favorite teacher had to say that night. She ended up falling asleep on the couch, and woke up the next morning to find herself covered in cozy blankets. The bottle of Amortentia was still sitting on the side table, and a smiling Minerva McGonagall was shaking her shoulder.
“Ah, good. I’m glad to see you awake. Please go and prepare yourself for the day, then report back here.”
One hour later she was back, processing still more new information about her predicament. “Wait — you’re telling me I have to marry the House of Malfoy, as in two separate men, but that I am to be formally courted by way of chaperoned visits so as to protect my virtue and honor. What happens to my honor when the wizarding world finds out I’m a polygamist?!”
“Firstly, you must understand that this isn’t at all unusual in the magical world. In fact, most pureblood families follow this practice. Many of the students here at school come from homes where there is a House Wife. In fact, one of your peers will be marrying his now-step-mother when he turns eighteen in a few days.”
“That’s just — ew!”
“Oh, it’s not nearly as ‘ew’ as it sounds. She’s nineteen and quite good-looking. The family covenant clearly saw her as the answer to their low birth rate, because she’s already had a set of twins since she married the patriarch of the family last year.”
“And how does my ‘peer’ feel about marrying a girl who’s not only been acting the role of his stepmother, but also making babies with his dad?!”
“Considering the fact that the boy’s carried a torch in his heart and a rod in his front pocket for her for years, not too badly. Hermione, I know this world is quite different from the one in which you were raised. That doesn’t make it wrong. May I make a conjecture?”
“Errr, yes, of course.”
“The covenant of Malfoy House wouldn’t have chosen you if you weren’t its bespoke witch. That covenant has prospered the Malfoys for over a thousand years, and now it wants to prosper you as well. Give it a chance. You’ll be given time to adjust to all this. Your wizards already understand this is all new to you. Besides, I highly doubt Lucius and Draco will drag you off against your will — at least not right away.”
Hermione saw a brief mental image of Draco as a cave man with her thrown over his shoulder. As she shuddered at the thought, her professor uncorked the bottle of Amortentia under her nose and raised her eyebrows expectantly. Hermione’s shudder turned into one of pleasure as the unearthly fragrance assailed her senses. She fought the sensation and corralled her thoughts.
“So . . . because I ignorantly accepted what I thought to be an innocent scroll but what turned out to be a marriage contract of sorts, I am now bound to marry — wait, is this legally binding?”
“Yes, Hermione. And yes, you will be held responsible for your choice, ignorant as you were. My dear, the fact that your touch activated the stake’s magic is evidence to the fact that this was meant to be.” The professor paused, then added, “I think it might help for you to hear from a House Wife; I’ll see what I can do. Now let’s dump that heavenly brew of yours before it causes unholy mischief.”
Their talk had lasted the entire morning, and they stopped only for a brief lunch brought by a house elf. Hermione didn’t go to any classes that day. In the afternoon, she was led by Minerva McGonagall to another meeting in the Headmaster’s office. The door was open again, and he bade them enter. Hermione’s eyes strayed to the war-stake, which remained where she had left it only the day before. Of its own accord, her body walked to the chair and collected the scroll, and then held it against her mouth as its scent filled her nostrils.
She sat meekly in her chair from yesterday and waited for what was to come. That turned out to be more information from Professor Dumbledore, as well as a plethora of questions (some of which were embarrassing). The last few were the worst.
“My dear girl, forgive me, but I must ask you the most important of the traditional questions of binding. Are you pure?”
“Y-y-yes!” Hermione spluttered as her face flamed.
“Splendid. And, Hermione, have you given your first kiss, or has it been taken from you?”
What a curious set of questions. Why is it that I’m suddenly relieved not to have kissed Ron? “No, sir.”
“Lastly, will you agree to the terms of formal courtship, if Minerva explains them to you?”
“Well, I won’t agree blindly to them, so perhaps Professor McGonagall should start explaining.”
At this the Headmaster smiled apologetically and muttered something about looking for Mr. Filch. Oh, Merlin’s beard. What am I in for, now?
In a nutshell, Hermione agreed (blushing the entire time) to abstain from the following during the courtship of the House of Malfoy: informally addressing any male besides Harry, who was to be considered her brother; spending individual time with male students other than Harry; accepting gifts from any male except Harry; venturing through the castle without an approved escort; wearing inappropriate clothing; being alone with either Malfoy without an approved chaperone; acting in any way that could dishonor her future family; and, best of all, touching herself in any way, shape, or form to provide sexual release. To make matters worse, she was required to take a magical oath. This was ostensibly for the protection of her virtue, but it felt controlling. One thing’s for certain: I will be one virtuous little bride whether I like it or not.
There was an owl waiting in her room when she went to change for dinner. Hermione wondered why it hadn’t handed its letter off to her at dinner, and then realized it must be something she wasn’t supposed to read in front of the other students. She panicked. Sweet Circe, it’s from one of them. I can’t even–
The owl, impatient with her, dropped the letter and flew to the window, hooting at her until she opened it. There was a light rain falling outside; Hermione quickly closed the glass panel and locked the latch. She stared at the small piece of parchment on her bed and then finally crept closer to peek at the return address. Molly Weasley. Wait– what? Does she know? Is she angry? Of course she’s angry! Hermione drew from her Gryffindor courage and quickly ripped open the letter.
Minerva has just passed on the good news to us. Congratulations! Arthur and I couldn’t be happier for you, except, of course, if you had ended up as house witch to our family. Some of our boys did cast stakes for you.
You must have so many questions, and I would be happy to talk with you whenever you like. I became wife to the House of Weasley right about your age. Minerva and Albus have agreed to allow me to Floo in to join your meetings with them. Perhaps hearing my point of view will help your understanding of this part of our world.
Sweetheart, the Malfoy family (here there were several smudges in a row, as if Mrs. Weasley couldn’t decide exactly how to describe the Malfoys) is an ancient one, and therefore powerful. This is an excellent match for you! Honestly, I cannot think of another house worthy of such an intelligent, lovely young witch.
Well, I will see you at tomorrow’s meeting. I believe we meet in Albus’ office at 10:00.
Until then I hope you will keep your mind and heart open to this new part of your life.
Obviously, Molly was trying to reassure Hermione. However, the letter was like a can of worms — once opened, there was a slithering mass of new information that needed to be processed immediately. Molly is a house wife? Who else is there besides Arthur? Some of the Weasley boys cast war stakes for me? I think of them as brothers! It’s a good thing I have such a light course load – apparently it’s no longer anyone’s priority.
Unfortunately, it was dinnertime. Not only did she need to eat, but Professor McGonagall wouldn’t be in her rooms. Sighing (something she had begun to do frequently in the past twenty-four hours), she dragged a brush through her tangled curls and went down to join the student body.
Draco was absent from dinner, much to Hermione’s relief. The Slytherin table sat just beside that of Gryffindor, and her customary spot faced it. Many times she’d been aware that Draco was within her line of vision as she talked with her friends, although she couldn’t remember ever looking directly at him. If she were to be perfectly honest with herself, she did wonder where he was.
After dinner, Ginny and Luna came to make plans for the Slytherin party. Hermione stammered through the conversation, and was sure her face was flaming red, but the other two didn’t seem to notice. They only left when they realized Harry had been waiting in bed for them for almost an hour. As soon as they were gone, Hermione raced from her room, through the commons, and all the way to Professor McGonagall’s quarters.
When the door was finally opened (she’d knocked at least three times!), she nearly pushed past her professor in her quest for answers to her sudden bout of questions.
“There’s a party tomorrow night–”
“Yes, in the Slytherin dungeons,” Minerva McGonagall interrupted her.
“And I was planning to go, but now I don’t know if I should.”
“My dear, why wouldn’t you go?”
“Well, the terms of the courtship and the vow I took today. I mean, my dress might be considered inappropriate, and there’ll be boys there who might talk to me, and-”
“And Draco will be there?” The professor supplied with a kind smile.
“Yes” she whispered, shamefaced.
“Hermione Granger, I’ve never seen you in anything even remotely inappropriate. You have no trouble telling boys you’ve no time for them. And Draco Malfoy most assuredly is hoping you will attend his party.”
“But it’s all so awkward! Wait — how do you know that?”
“I know because he is also anxious about the party, and for many of the same reasons. Actually, he has more reason to be worried — he publicly cast a war-stake in your name. It was accepted by Albus on your behalf and became binding. Then he and Lucius sent it to you. You accepted it without knowing its significance, and he is now unsure of himself. Will you honor the stake only out of a sense of duty? Would you have rejected his pursuit? You see, he has put his heart on his sleeve, while you carry yours hidden from his view.”
The idea of a vulnerable Draco hadn’t occurred to her. It humbled her. “Still, the dress I bought for it . . . might be a bit on the naughty side.”
“My dear, if Hermione Granger thinks it might be a bit on the naughty side, then it’s probably perfect for the occasion.”
“But Ron will be there! It will be so awkward. I mean, I’ve always assumed we’d eventually be together; only now I find myself engaged to one of our classmates whom I hardly know. How will I manage that?”
“My advice is to not tell Mr. Weasley until you’re good and ready-”
“Is he your boyfriend?”
“Well, no, but-”
“Do the two of you have some sort of understanding?”
“Not that we’ve ever talked about, but . . . you know.”
“No, I must say, I do not. Young lady, I’m aware of the comings and goings in my house, and Mr. Weasley has been doing quite a lot of both with quite a few witches. This is not the behavior of a young man who has an understanding with a lady.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Hermione whispered, dropping her eyes to her lap. Years of hurt and shame overwhelmed her, and she was unable to meet the gaze of her favorite professor.
“Another reason I believe your destiny lies elsewhere. I have known the Malfoys a very long time; Lucius would die before he hurt and humiliated someone he supposedly cared about, let alone planned to marry. The family’s covenant must run strongly in both men, for I have seen the same strength of character in Draco. In my opinion, you have been saved from a lifetime of heartache and disappointment. If you want proof that you’re bespoke for the house of Malfoy, look no further. Its covenant has already sought to protect and prosper you.”
“But . . . but I don’t know what to do, or say. I don’t know what’s expected of me in the least.” She was trying not to cry, and her voice trembled.
“Be the same witch you’ve always been — be yourself. You’re bespoken, sweetheart — I don’t think you can disappoint him.”
Obviously, Hermione got no sleep that night.