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 The Cottage, chapter 99

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Aivy
Kniesel
Kniesel
Aivy

Anzahl der Beiträge : 65
Anmeldedatum : 25.10.14
Ort : Bodensee

The Cottage, chapter 99 Empty
BeitragThema: The Cottage, chapter 99   The Cottage, chapter 99 EmptyMo Jan 28, 2019 9:13 am

Chapter beta: Diana / Dani
Chapter translator: (Nik /) Aivy




Standing under the oak tree, I was engrossed as I gazed at the house where we had had such a fun time during the Christmas holidays.

Now that it was summer, the cottage looked even prettier, undeniably romantic and idyllic. The roses that surrounded the house shone resplendent in all kinds of colours, shapes and scents. The intense fragrance of the roses saturated the air. I greedily breathed in the gentle afternoon breeze sweeping towards me, driving away the overwhelming and cloying citrusy smell of the orange scented cleaner.

Inside the cottage, there would be life, so unlike the frigid death that had surrounded me the last few days. The Twins would be there because they had already closed shop that Saturday afternoon. Blaise had arrived either that morning or yesterday evening. I wondered how the two girls had reacted to the Twins. Well, we would see. The most intriguing question would be how they would respond to my presence.

In the sunshine, I sauntered to the cottage and opened the door carefully to eavesdrop. I could have saved myself the trouble, as I soon realised that nobody was inside the house. When I stood in the living room, I noticed the sliding glass doors that led to the garden wide open. I heard the carefree and happy laughter of the Twins; it brought a small smile to my face, which had been so haggard and weary. I felt at once how the burden I was carrying got smaller, and that socialisation would do me a world of good.

As I stepped over the threshold to the garden, I paused in amazement. I saw paradise. I hadn't seen the garden in bloom for years, only recently in winter, but what I saw here took my breath away. It was glorious.

Here, you didn’t have the typical trimmed English lawn, but rather a blooming wildflower meadow. The most diverse and contrasting flowers proudly stretched their colourful heads into the air. Red, white, blue, purple and yellow were interrupted only by the lush green of the grass. I knew the garden didn't look like this when my grandma had lived here, and I didn't recognise the gravel paths on the extensive grounds either. They meandered in playfully winded lines to the large cherry and apple trees which offered wonderful protection from the hot summer sun under their large branches. My goddess, it looked as if it was right out of a dream.

Small, picturesque beds continued the rose-theme. There was an arbour in the middle of the garden which I didn’t recognise. It was made of dark green metal entwining in intricate ornaments in the playful style of Art Nouveau. I liked it. Roses weaved around the winding frame, blooming in vibrant colours.

It was an oasis of calm, peace and beauty. A place where you could forget your worries. Who had made this? The Twins? I was completely speechless. It was beautiful! I would never have believed them to be capable of creating this.

I saw the Twins in the arbour, their carrot red hair like a beacon. They were trying to operate a grill, the ascending smoke testifying to their attempt to master it. The dance they performed around the grill was too funny. I was able to make out Blaise, standing casually with a glass in hand, laughing desperately and shaking his head over the Twins’ antics. Daphne and Astoria were sitting on a bench, sporting a broad grin and happily watching the entertainment provided with great curiosity.

I leaned against the door frame, watching the ridiculous spectacle and being happy that they had so much fun. On the other hand, I was trying to thaw my cold heart enough that I also could feel the fun again. Now so much separated me even from these people here, although they knew a lot more about me than anyone else. Wasn't that bad?

Yeah, I guess so. But as usual, I called myself a stupid cow because I hadn't wanted it any other way and they would take me like that regardless. Maybe I just shouldn't go into too much detail. However, to see them fooling around so boisterously and childishly was in such stark contrast to what I had been doing the last two days that I felt almost sick.

Then I looked at the two girls who had probably never had an easy life either... Not even they could compete with my darkness, very few people could. With a deep groan, I pushed off the door frame and strolled towards the exuberant group, so that through them I might learn to feel more again. That was my hope: that their bright, cheerful friendliness would drive the coldness out of me.

While I approached silently, I was thinking about what kind of face the two sisters would make. The Twins and Blaise had refused to tell them beforehand - at least they had told me that they would - because they wanted me to first cast the spell I had put on all of them. They had found it far too dangerous to mention my name before that happened, so I knew the surprise was on my side.

I watched as the Twins’ similar faces lifted up as they spotted me. Blaise followed their gaze next, but the two red ones had already dashed forward and swept me off my feet. Overjoyed, they whirled me through the air and I felt my cramped facial muscles relax and a real laugh formed on my face when they showed their excitement to see me so openly. They kissed me exuberantly.

“Most beautiful, you made it so early!” they shouted joyfully and surprised.

They laughed and put me back down. It was like I didn't weigh anything for them. The training that Snape forced on them and that they themselves had continued even outside of Hogwarts seemed more than just fruitful. Already, I was getting pulled into the dark but strong arms of Blaise who also embraced me sincerely and firmly. When he had released me again, he looked me charmingly in the eyes.

“As long as He isn’t here,” he whispered, showing me his wicked smile, and gently kissed both my cheeks and I returned the affectionate greeting. He was right, as long as the never jealous Malfoy wasn’t there, he was allowed to give me a friendly kiss.

I noticed from the corner of my eye that Daphne and Astoria had also come closer to us and observed everything attentively and curiously. Did they realise who they were looking at? We would see. They were surely already surprised enough that I, Hermione Granger, was greeted here so exuberantly and familiarly by Blaise.

“Blaise, you are and will always be a bad boy!” I giggled for the first time in two days full-heartedly and well entertained. I could feel how not only the sun warmed me but also my heart warmed up and I absorbed that like an elixir of life.

“Just don't let a particular platinum-blond beau see that!” giggled Fred giddily, which made us roll our eyes and caused a slightly confused expression on the faces of the two sisters. As I looked more closely at them, I saw that their great confusion was slowly turning into bottomless horror.

I turned my eyes away and, again, focused my attention on the Twins.

“Is that your work?” I pointed with a far-reaching gesture to this flower paradise that spread before me.

“Do you like it, most beautiful?” Fred asked all puffed up.

“Do I like it? How could I not?! It is beautiful. How?” I showed my joy about the splendour of the garden and witnessed how the two of them proudly exchanged high-fives and how George lovingly tousled Fred's hair.

“George thought you might like something like that. We've been working on it since we moved in here, as a surprise…” Fred's ears turned red at the admission.

“Successfully. The garden was never more beautiful!” I said seriously, and I saw Blaise nod his head in agreement.

“They've been forcing us to plant beds since early this morning. We finished for good only a small while ago. Would you have thought that there was a green thumb somewhere under those devilish, little brains?” he asked me with a painful eye roll, which made him look very attractive, and I laughed roughly.

“No, how the hell would I...? I say they must never move out again. I would kill the garden within the shortest time!” I declared cheerfully. Then my words registered and I stopped short for a moment. Still, I noticed how the three men cast worried glances at each other and immediately started to distract me. They had noticed my falter and they knew me too well and some of what I had done, although not everything.

“Don't be afraid, most beautiful, you won't get rid of us that fast!” George linked arms with me.

“We love it here!” Fred added.

“Hey, you don't think I did this just for you, do you?” George threw in a rebuke and shook himself.

“No, of course not! Never…” Fred agreed playfully and pulled me to the arbour. The two brunette girls had meanwhile stepped out under the flower canopy and stared at us with insecure faces, both wearing flowing, light, colourful dresses that caressed their bodies sweetly, as befits pure-blooded girls, and looked at me with their big green-brown eyes. The stunned surprise on their faces had given way, but it was clear that they had thought and obviously drawn their conclusions, which I now received confirmation of.

“A… Abraxina?” Daphne asked stuttering and brushed her long, straight hair behind her ears. She was clearly very nervous and even Astoria seemed to have difficulty swallowing and was completely silent.

“There's a sharp mind in that pretty little head!” it came from me mockingly, when she already wanted to perform a gesture of submission and Fred stopped her and told her to leave it be.

“Hey, as long as Mister I-have-swallowed-the-court-ceremonial isn’t here, you can act casual... right?” Fred announced affably but still gave me a questioning look. Funny that he assumed I would insist on such manners.

“Of course she has permission!” I gave my consent. It was delightful to observe that even the Twins asked for reassurance. Draco had to spread fear and terror without consciously perceiving it.

“So you, Hermione Granger, are the one who spreads fear and terror in our common room... Some would die a heart attack if they knew!” it came from the little girl very matter-of-factly, which showed that she was not so little after all. “Who would have even dared to think in their wildest dreams that Draco would pick a Gryffindor - and Potter's best friend at that - and you would go through with it!” she said, impressed. Daphne put her hand on her mouth and looked furtively at me in fear.

The big sister seemed to have more difficult times behind her than the little one. She had probably always protected her sister, from everything and everyone, as it seemed and hazarded the consequences. Oh yes, this told me the concern, fear and also anxiety about my possible reaction to the very frank but also true words of Astoria, so openly shown in her cautious look.

“That’s right, little one, that’s me!” I looked deep into her bright eyes. I was no monster, even though my performances in the snakes' common room pointed to something else - at least not yet.

“You better be careful what you say. It's best not to tangle with her when she’s in a bad mood!” George hissed in fun, which was very helpful in dispersing Daphne's anxiety, but it seemed to amuse him. He wasn't really serious, but the little girl took him at his word, now that Daphne was holding her mouth shut, giving me a scared, appraising look. I rolled my eyes in an exaggerated manner.

“Hahaha…. George, hilarious! Say, how old are you, Astoria?” I asked curiously and struck a very nice note, passing over the crazy twin.

Blaise put a glass in my hand and I gave him a thankful smile. Then I sniffed and frowned. Was it obvious that, deep down, I wasn't doing so well? He had pushed a glass of Muggle whiskey into my hand. I shrugged my shoulders, it didn't matter, and drank a generous sip. You couldn’t go wrong with whiskey.

“I’ll be fifteen in October. Unfortunately, come September, I’ll only be in my fourth year,” she replied and I understood. I had the same problem with my own birthday late in the year.

I watched as Daphne seemed to relax a little as I hadn't pulled my wand yet. Harry would have my head if I hexed his girlfriend, I thought amused. What did she think of me?

I just nodded and didn't get a chance to answer at all because at that moment a barn owl sailed towards us and crash-landed quite inelegantly on the table.

“What?” everyone asked and I recognised the official seal of Gringotts glinting in the sun and went to the owl to free her from the letter.

“Shit, George, the grill!” Fred screamed in that minute. I watched the three boys dash to the Muggle grill and Astoria laughed out loud.

“It's been going like that the whole time. If something doesn't happen soon, there won't be any food left!” she prophesied laughing and I looked at the bright, friendly girl who watched fascinated how the men tried to turn everything around very hectically at the same time and stood in each other’s way in the process.

“Is your upbringing responsible for her turning out that way?” I whispered to Daphne who never let me out of her sight and observed everything I did suspiciously.

“Yes!” she answered brusquely. Sweet, but I understood that she was careful, that was good!

She still seemed unsettled by the realisation that I was who I was, somehow understandable! Not only that I, Hermione Granger, was the owner of this house and had invited her here, no, it shocked her even more or just as much that I was also Abraxina.

I sank contentedly onto one of the iron chairs that had beautiful cushions that... guess what, exactly, showed roses. The Twins were too sweet.

When I opened the letter and read it, my good mood passed like a candle whose light was blown out all of a sudden and I pinched my mouth. That hurt... ouch!

I lowered the letter and quickly reached for my glass, thankful that Blaise had been so farsighted and downed it in one, enjoying the strong burning. I closed my eyes to the pain and tried not to think at all. Meanwhile, I knew that several or all eyes lay on me and watched me closely.

“Bad news?” Blaise dared to ask carefully and sat down on the chair next to me and I opened my eyes again, looked at him apathetically and shrugged my shoulders. That was when I felt two hands on my neck which began to knead gently and that elicited a light moan from me.

“The last days weren’t easy, were they?” George asked softly and sounded concerned.

“No, they weren't! But no reason for moping, everything went successfully!” I tried to sound optimistic.

“Well, you should take some time for mourning,” Blaise also threw in a caring shot, apparently my attempt wasn't really successful. The two girls frowned bewildered at the word mourning but didn’t dare to ask.

I laughed dryly and turned my head slightly so that George could reach a particularly tense muscle strang and I felt the looks of the two sisters on me.

“No time. I don't know... oh, right now the day should have more than twenty-four hours for me and even that would be too little. Something always falls by the wayside!” I rubbed my face. I was really broken and the letter yet again was talking about death ... Death here, death there ... Man, that sucked.

“What’s the letter about?” Fred enquired bravely while putting a plate with grilled goods before us on the table. Vegetables, tomatoes and peppers filled with cheese, meat, potatoes and bread. It looked very good and so everyone sat down hungrily. I hadn't answered yet, first I had a question.

“How was your arrival, Blaise? Did everything go smoothly?” I wanted to know.

“Your favourite word, right? But yes. We arrived last night. I wanted the Twins to be there when we arrived. I think you can ask them yourself. They were surprised, but quickly caught on! And when the Twins left us, they had given us explicit instructions on how the flower beds should look like! Poor Jordan; I would think long and hard whether I want to work for those two…” He looked a bit peeved.

Work, physical work, certainly didn’t belong to his preferred occupations, especially lowly garden work. I smirked slightly.

“You made sure we didn't have to go home? Blaise didn't come up with the idea on his own?” Daphne had a flash of inspiration. Amused, I raised an eyebrow. Apparently, she had grasped it only now.

“Yes, that’s our most beautiful for you. Always good for a surprise!” Fred said jovially and dished out plenty of food on everyone’s plates.

Just now, he strongly reminded me of Molly. Should I annoy him and say that out loud? I thought about it very nastily for a moment, but ultimately, I remained silent. I didn't want to burden him with the prospect of resembling his mother.

“Why?” Daphne enquired.

“Why do you think, Daphne? Harry…” I replied curtly and I noticed how she closed her mouth again, speechless, it seemed.

“Will you tell us now what was so bad about that letter?” Fred was nagging like the toddler he sometimes wanted to be.

“I have to go to Gringotts on Wednesday,” I gave in resignedly and bit off a piece of bread.

“Getting information from you is like pulling teeth!” Fred lamented pitifully loudly and George slapped the back of his head in retaliation. He complained in outrage: “Ow! Hey, what was that for?” but his brother only grimaced and rolled his eyes.

“Sirius’ last will will be read,” I announced and at this moment another barn owl landed on the table, or better on the now fortunately empty plate.

Well, and when the owl strode towards the twins with its beak clacking, I remarked succinctly:

“And it looks like you’re invited as well.” I had immediately recognised the seal.

“What? Why?” they were very surprised and gawked at each other in disbelief.

“How would I know?” I retorted dryly.

“It makes you sad?” Blaise asked worriedly.

“Yes. I still haven't forgotten him,” I quietly confessed and received an expression of incomprehension from Blaise.

That's right, he didn't know anything about that. I just shook my head, but I saw George bending over to him and whispering something to him that sounded like “I'll tell you later”.

“Then we can go together!” Fred offered eagerly at once. I answered with a shake of my head.

“No, I'll leave you again tomorrow!” I looked a little sad when uttering these words because I would really like it better here. Hopefully, Snape had told the truth and the Manor wouldn’t become a prison for me.

“Whatwhatwhat… Why?!” I looked into absolutely shocked faces.

“I’ll have to go…!” I admitted tonelessly.

“No…” it echoed in disbelief. “You can’t be serious!”

“Does Draco know what he's doing?” Blaise questioned his friend and leader of his house quite untypically.

“I don't know, guys, I really don't. However, I won’t have a choice,” I sighed, resigned to my fate, and shoved my food around on the plate.

“Blimey... And you really have to?” the twins made certain with unhappy expressions on their identical faces.

“Yeah, I have to, Fred... I'm not supposed to be a prisoner though, so maybe Draco and I can get away after some time,” I said hopefully.

“Then when are you going to get Harry?” George asked, concerned, and I watched as Daphne, who had previously listened to our discussion together with her sister in obvious confusion, perked up her ears.

“I think I’ll head him off during this…” and here I waved the invitation through the air, “...and tell him I'll come and get him that evening. Yes, I think it would be a good opportunity, even if I don't know what Sirius wants from me except to insult me in his will. I mean, you guys know how that ended!”

They both shrugged their shoulders, but that's when Daphne interrupted.

“Harry is coming? You are bringing Harry here?” I heard how she tried not to sound too pleased but could hardly control herself in her hope. Astoria looked at her amusedly. Oh yes, her little sister seemed to know about her crush.

“Sure, what did you think? You want to get to know him better, don't you?” I noticed how she blushed a deep red. Astoria spat into her glass laughing and earned a reproachful look for it.

It was all too funny. This really did me a world of good. The funniest thing was, Daphne didn't dare to ask anything and her sister seemed to prefer to watch everything. The questions would probably come later.

The evening turned out cheerfully and with no shortage of drinks. The magic lights that rose as it got dark bathed everything in a very romantic, cosy light.

“What did Molly and Arthur say about your departure?” I asked curiously.

“Raving would be putting it mildly,” George said despondently and I saw Fred narrowing his eyes to angry little slits.

“That bad?”

“Worse. But thanks to our friends, we were more than independent in our decisions. It's a proper ice age. If we let it escalate, it could be like Percy, but we'll stay cool,” George casually explained their point of view and shrugged his shoulders indifferently. “The business is already going great and now, during the holidays, it will take off in earnest. Lee moved in upstairs yesterday!”

“Mum can't get over the fact that she doesn't know where our money comes from. How would she know that we have such generous contacts? And she can't understand why we moved out,” Fed winked cheekily and I chuckled. Poor Molly.

However, I understood the Twins. Here they could live out their love carefree and in all seclusion. They deserved it.

“How good that my mother prefers to give her attention to her husbands or lovers. I think I would suffocate if I had such a mother!” Blaise declared terribly blasé while he was toasting himself.

“You get used to everything, Blaise,” the Twins showed themselves resigned with a desperate groan.

“You are a strange bunch,” Astoria announced confidently.

“Hey, you want to insult us?” Fred shouted, pretending to be upset but not serious and gave a wolfish grin.

“Uhm, yes… I never thought you guys could be so serious,” she said as an explanation for the Twins and Daphne squealed in shock.

“Astoria, how dare you be so rude! It is very kind of them to help us and spare us... home! For that, I must still thank you. Please excuse me, I was a bit overwhelmed... Learning all those news... You... you understand?” She waved her hand excitedly through the air.

“Her name is Hermione,” George threw in stupidly and Blaise laughed dryly, whereupon Daphne uncomfortably wriggled on her chair.

“They're right, you can call me that. Actually, we have been there before,” I reminded her of our introduction through Harry.

“Thank you,” she replied softly.

“So, now we come to the serious part. As you two pretty girls must be aware, we have to protect ourselves and for that, I would have to cast a spell on you. May I?” I asked a purely rhetorical question because it was clear to everyone that they would not escape me and my spell.

“You have a wand?” Daphne asked visibly surprised and we all burst out laughing. That was too funny! If I didn't have one, well, a lot of things would have gone differently.

“Yes, I do. Alas, may I?” I still chuckled slightly.

“What kind of spell?” Daphne asked sceptically.

“A spell that guards our secrets. You can't tell anything about this, so it would also protect you because it is absolutely safe…” I pointed at us.

“I don’t know any spell like that,” Daphne remarked thoughtfully with a deep frown.

“Oh, Daphne, you underestimate our Hermione. It’s her invention, she is a real genius!” Blaise explained. Daphne stared at me with huge eyes and I smiled slightly as her little sister already nodded her head in agreement.

I didn’t hesitate, pulling my white wand, pointed it at Astoria, and spoke:

“Credere Tacientiae.” I added all our names, as well as those of the absent Malfoys and Snape’s and, of course, most importantly Harry’s.

“Astoria…! Don't be so hasty! What kind of spell is it? What exactly does it mean?” Daphne hissed angrily.

“‘Bound to secrecy’. Nothing happens, you just can't talk about the secret in front of uninitiated people,” I explained once more.

“Daphne, do it, please! They help us and I like them. It didn't hurt at all either,” Astoria spoke quickly to her older, more cautious sister and she nodded - finally giving in - very slowly. But I understood Daphne; she was cautious for understandable reasons. No one could blame her for that.

I repeated the motions. After that, I felt better but I also keenly aware that the last days had been draining my strength. I closed my tired eyes after the spell was done.

Necromancy seemed to take it out of you when I thought of how I had felt my magic flow out of me and into the room.

Yes, it was no simple magic and so I allowed myself to show weakness inside the trusted circle and brushed my hair out of my face, rubbing lightly over my aching temples.

“What's the matter, Hermione, do you feel unwell?” Daphne now enquired in a motherly fashion after she apparently hadn’t been able to notice any change in herself after the spell.

“Mhmh, oh, it’s alright, a little tired maybe!” I waved off her concern.

“Since when do you get tired?” Fred immediately shot his question at me with great anxiety because that wasn’t like me.

“You hardly ever sleep!” George added very attentively.

“What have you done this time?” it sounded reproachfully from two mouths and I admitted defeat and laid back in the face of their care and enjoyed it maybe, a little bit.

“Much... too much. I've slept maybe five hours the last two day, at best,” I confessed tiredly.

“Then you go to bed now. When you get there tomorrow you have to be rested. Draco will kill us if you show up as a walking corpse!” Blaise decided and everyone nodded. I had to swallow heavily at his ignorant words. They didn't even know what kind of truths they alluded to, I thought cynically.

“I -” I began but I was quickly interrupted.

“I'll carry you if you don't follow. I don't care whether I have the permission!” Blaise growled positively aggressively. These Slytherins were all the same, I thought, shaking my head, and rose slowly as I was a little dizzy after eating, drinking, and spell-casting. I wasn't the youngest anymore, I tried to take it with humour.

“Wait, I’ll take her,” Fred jumped on his legs, hugged me tightly and steered my sluggish steps towards the cottage.

When we left the garden behind, Fred was unstoppable and he took me completely by surprise when he lifted me up in a smooth and swinging motion. I squealed in shock as I suddenly lost the floor under my feet and floated in the air.

“Fred! Are you crazy? What are you doing?” I squealed. He carried me amazingly securely in his arms.

“Nobody can see us here, most beautiful! I will carry you up... You know, you don't always have to be strong!” he whispered to me conspiratorially and showed me a seriousness in his gaze that I had never seen before with him.

The time in which they had to stand on their own independent feet also seemed to have changed the Twins.

“Thanks,” I said resignedly. I wouldn't argue about something like that and I watched how a satisfied expression appeared on his face.

He carried me into the bedroom I had already shared with Draco, which surprised me.

“What…?” I was already cautiously laid down on the bed.

“We chose your aunt's bedroom. This is the biggest one and therefore yours!” he announced weightily and I frowned.

“But I’m rarely even here!” I protested.

“No buts!” he refused decidedly. “This is your room and Draco's... Hihihi, you should have a look at ours, we decorated it pretty colourfully.”

“Oh goddess, not your colour schemes! It always took some time getting used to them,” I shuddered in pretended disgust.

“That’s what I say. However, I think it turned out well,” he grinned very devilishly but then became serious seamlessly and sat down next to me on the edge. “Are you really all right, Hermione? You look very pale.”

“Yeah, I'm really fine. The magic of the last days was just unfamiliar and probably therefore so exhausting... Don't worry. Tomorrow I'll take you apart!” I grinned with a relaxed smile and still enjoyed just being able to lie down.

“We're looking forward to it... Sleep well, most beautiful. If you need us, we are there for you,” he offered caringly and quickly disappeared. I took off my clothes lying down and covered myself naked as I was now. I was so tired. The contemplative evening had been good for me. My eyes closed already and I fell asleep quickly.

Unfortunately, the night proved very restless. I would have been in need of someone next to me.

Hence, I woke up with a sigh. Pooh... I had dreamed weird stuff, nothing pretty... But when I could see the dust grains dancing in the light of the rising sun, I was surprised. What time was it? When I spoke the Tempus, my mouth opened in amazement.

It was almost eleven... Heavens, how long had it been since I had slept for so long?

Laughing, I fell back into the pillows. They had deliberately let me sleep for this long... Well, now it didn't matter anymore and I went naked as the gods had created me into the bathroom and drew a bath.

Today, I would do a lot for myself. I wanted to look good!

I enjoyed paying so much attention to myself for once, lit the scented candles and poured the oils into the warm water, threw in some dried rose petals and inhaled the spreading scent in the small bathroom. During the time until the tub was full, I brushed my teeth thoroughly. After this was done, I slipped into the water and submerged myself.

I put so many rinses and cures into my hair that I spent over an hour in the water. When I came out I was all shrivelled and my skin thanked me when I slathered myself thoroughly with body lotion. It started to smell pleasant after absorbing it like a sponge and became wonderfully soft. I had chosen a cream today that brought a light golden shimmer to my skin and I loved the way I glittered in the glow of the sun.

As soon as I sat in front of the small dressing table in my bedroom, I conscientiously plucked my eyebrows and applied make-up, but very discreetly. I kept to a light golden shimmer on my eyelid, even my eyelashes were only lightly dyed in brown. It was as if I was preparing for tonight like for a fight. My toenails and fingernails also got a slightly golden shimmering nail polish, I was just a perfectionist and I was excited, I admitted it, but what was I supposed to do?

I combed and brushed my long, curly hair with devotion until it flowed over my back in soft, big waves. I looked pretty and the signs of exhaustion had disappeared as well despite the restless night. I seemed much healthier again.

Afterwards, I put on a short, light summer dress in vintage style in powder blue. The narrow lace straps merged into a filigree embroidery and lace that surrounded my décolleté. Below the chest the dress fell in gentle folds over my body, became a little wider and, at hip height, the thin, powder blue fabric was replaced by a transparent fabric embroidered with gold floral patterns.

Only a thin chemise prevented that you could see my skin through the gold-embroidered material or the following, fine organza. The dress ended well above my knees, with fine lace. Accompanying the dress, I chose half-height, matt-gold sandals with a small spiked heel and thin straps. Dressed up as I was now, I went down to the kitchen to get my urgently needed dose of caffeine.

Blaise stood at the bar and noisily choked on his juice.

“My goodness… like… a dream!” he breathed, admiring me with slightly glazed eyes. What, did I look that much different than usual? “Heavens, Hermione, you'll drive them all out of their minds if you go there looking like that,” he whispered hoarsely and it seemed he couldn't take his eyes off me.

“Hey, what has you drooling…?” the Twins asked, entering the kitchen from the garden, and stopped abruptly in amazement when they caught sight of me, immediately making panting noises.

“Guys, I don't look that different today!” I dismissed their stupid behaviour and poured coffee for me.

“Oh, really? I don't know, Hermione, most beautiful, how to tell you this... I'm gay, I'm in love and I'm stiff as hell!” Fred stated very dryly and I almost choked on my coffee.

“You're too vulgar. But he's right, you don't leave me cold either!” George admitted, blushing lightly.

“Maybe we should ask a professed heterosexual. Blaise?” Fred wiggled his eyebrows provokingly and very provocatively and what never happened to such a hardened Slytherin happened: Blaise turned slightly pink.

“Ohohoh, there's something stirring in his pants!” both Twins cackled devilishly and I broke out in loud laughter. I mean, what else is there to do in this discussion? And when the two sisters also came into the kitchen, giggling, an embarrassed Blaise let his head meet the tabletop with a bang.

“Good morning, Hermione,” Daphne greeted me in a good mood. She seemed to have settled in and was beaming openly at me. “They're absolutely right, you look radiant today!”

“Thank you, Daphne. You, too, look more relaxed than you did at Hogwarts!” I tried my best in polite smalltalk.

“That's right, but I didn't know back then that I didn't have to worry about the holidays,” she explained cheerfully and with sparkling eyes.

“Come on, let's sit outside. The Red Devils didn't go to all this trouble for nothing,” I said, going outside and taking a deep breath. It was wonderful here, I didn't want to leave at all.

“Red Devils?” Astoria asked giggling.

“My nickname for the two rascals, it fits them perfectly. I give you an advice: Always take them seriously and never underestimate them!” I warned urgently while I kept firm eye contact with her. She returned my look and then nodded very solemnly.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling conspiratorially.

“Anytime!” I enjoyed the sun, savouring how the men cared for me and served me a light brunch. It was too beautiful to behold how they swarmed around me.

“And you like it here?” I asked the sisters after a while.

“Yes, you have created a paradise here, Hermione,” Daphne replied kindly.

“I'm glad you like it. Will you get along with the Twins?” I enquired.

“Sure, I like them but I'm worried about Astoria. She'll be very hard to control, with the Twins around; she’s always planning some kind of mischief.” Daphne was relaxed and open, telling me her concerns.

“Leave her be. You don't have to look out for her here. She can do whatever she wants. And let's be honest, she is not that small anymore! Didn't you notice the looks Blaise is throwing at her?” I asked and she groaned deeply.

“Then I didn't imagine it... unfortunately! Yes, I did! What should I do?” she asked my advice confidentially.

“You really want to know what I would advise?” I made sure.

She just nodded and together we observed the four young people who continued to beautify the garden with enthusiasm. Even Blaise, who allegedly didn't want to, was participating with zeal. Only the two of us sat under the shade of the arbour and watched them work.

“Leave her alone, you'll only make it worse. Astoria certainly appreciates your protective nature, but she's coming… or better, she already is at an age where she won't thank you for it anymore. Don't ask what I did at her age... She is no longer a child, don't make the mistake of seeing only that in her. She is a young woman with - and I am sorry to tell you that - a strong character. She probably got that from you!” I flattered, trying to prevent any discord or quarrel between the siblings.

“Oh... Hermione, what a pity that I can only get to know you now and I understand why Harry... why he likes you so much!” she stuttered uncertainly, turning red.

“Not ‘like’, Daphne, he loves me… and I love him too!” I made it clear with determination to set the course and she nodded anxiously when I showed her her place. I immediately tried to dispel her visible concerns. “But don't be afraid, I see in him what you have in Astoria.”

“I know you're a lucky girl. But do you really think I shouldn't get involved? Blaise is…” she voiced her concerns.

“I trust Blaise. He will flirt with her but he will not go all the way, I promise; I will make it clear to him. Let's see what develops and be glad if Astoria doesn't put on an act and does it secretly, because honestly, Daphne, that's what most girls do,” I explained calmly and was glad to be able to talk to her, that the atmosphere had become relaxed.

“Mmm, you're right, but for me, she'll always be my little baby girl,” she whispered calmly, but also anxiously.

“You are sweet. are you looking forward to Harry’s arrival?” I distracted her.

“Yes, very much. Although I know so little about him, only the whispering and gossiping and what I have heard about him in the last five years, which wasn't much…” she confessed sadly and I smirked at her.

Alas, I showed compassion and began to tell her: About our meeting on the train, our first year and how Harry and Ron saved me from the troll, about his fight with Quirrell. About his second year when he was cut by the student body because he could speak parseltongue and about his fight with the basilisk, which she didn't believe me because it sounded so incredible. About our third year and Sirius, which again made me slightly melancholy. About our fourth year and how I helped Harry to survive all this. Regarding fifth year, I told her the light version of the Ministry.

She also asked about his family, but here I refused, pointing out that Harry would have to tell her personally, as I was not in a position to reveal this, which she accepted immediately. But she caught my allusion that this was a sore point in Harry's life with razor-sharp wit, as I could see from the sad, knowing sparkle in her eyes.

This somewhat reserved girl showed excellent observation skills and empathy that could stand up to Harry's whims. Because one thing should be clear to all of us, Harry was no easy character either. But this pretty girl had gone through a hard school and knew patience and perseverance, which everyone needed when confronted with Harry and she seemed capable of deep feelings. I liked her very much and enjoyed talking to her; she was a good listener.

It was late afternoon when Astoria suddenly gave a high, frightened scream because a large, silvery boa constrictor slithered towards us and showed the sour facial expressions of its creator and George jumped up immediately.

“I'm going,” he shouted in a hurry.

He ran past the house and probably wanted to open the garden gate for him. I fell silent, consciously brushed my hair back again and took a deep breath. The game was on. I put on my mask, taking control of myself, and waited for him.

A ‘good-humoured’ black-haired man, next to a serious George, came striding quickly towards us over the meadow around the cottage. Today, he had also renounced his black cape, wore only the tightly cut, long frock coat with the high collar and the white plastron, which peaked out at the front, otherwise, every little button was meticulously closed. His face was sour. Well, anyone who walked around like that in this heat could only be in a bad mood, I showed myself to be cynical.

I felt Daphne stiffen at the sight of Snape, which was a surprise for her.

He held in front of me with an ironic grin on his face and a greedy glow stepped into his deep, dark obsidians at my dressed-up appearance, which he couldn't hide from me but I knew none of the others noticed as you had to know him really well to spot the signs. I, too, had to think about our intermezzo two days ago.

My outfit seemed to appeal to him as well if the slight upwards motion of the corners of his mouth was any indication, but such an obvious reaction as from Blaise or the Twins could really not be expected from a Snape.

I had stayed seated and looked at him calmly, waiting for his inspection to end.

“Come on, we do not want to be late. You are expected!” he just snarled coldly and Daphne looked hectically and dismayed back and forth between us.

“Oh, and I thought we would have the chance to offer you a glass of iced tea!” I smiled sardonically.

“Very funny. Now come!” he pushed and I rose obediently, not wanting to irritate him too much. “Miss Greengrass, Mr Zabini, … the red plague!” he said goodbye to the round in his own charming way.

“Hermione, take care of yourself. Get in contact!” They all said goodbye somehow anxiously. Snape rolled his eyes. Now probably at the end of his nerves, he still offered his arm very gallantly and I obediently laid my hand on the black fabric, waved goodbye and walked outwardly calm and silently towards my fate. What might they have planned? What would await me at Malfoy Manor?
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The Cottage, chapter 99
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