Hello, my beautiful readers . Welcome to the first chapter of the main story in 2020
Did you read our last chapter, ‘Love Lessons’? It describes what happened before Hermione and Draco arrived at Rose Cottage and you will find it among the Specials to WHF. More ‘outtakes’ and background stories will come soon.
Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
"I see the Dark Lord was pleased," it came coldly from me. Loud hisses could be heard as everyone took a deep breath when I confirmed where Draco had been and also because of the stoical manner in which I dealt with the situation. Draco laughed dryly, but said nothing. "Oh, it seems he was pleased, wasn't he? However, the way you look, something went wrong... He wants me?" I asked now, sounding serious but serene. Daphne made a quiet, frightened noise, otherwise there was a deathly silence in the usually cheerful room.
"Shit! Yes, Hermione. He found, after realizing what Narcissa's death meant for him-" He was interrupted when he mentioned his mother's death so succinctly. He nipped this interruption in the bud with just a glance from his steel-grey, cold, unfaltering eyes and went on talking. "... and Father and how positive it could turn out for them, he did not care much about Bella's squawking. That was the only funny thing... she kept nagging until he chased her out of the hall with a few curses - very painful curses. It was wonderful! One of the good moments.
"But then... Well, Hermione, he knows he didn't give any orders of that kind. So he wanted to know who killed Mother... Father's mask almost slipped out of place for a moment. I never thought he would be able to want to protect you like this, but he asked for time until the intonation ceremony when I get the mark," he said slightly excited. Everyone looked startled and shocked now and had their mouths pressed together into narrow lines.
"Figures. Although, I'm sure Lucius has toyed with the idea even before that. Remember his words in the parlour... He wants me in the ranks of the Death Eaters," I soberly recalled.
Inside, icy cold seized me and I suppressed the impulse to shudder anxiously. I recognized the possibilities as well as the danger for me. This would be a highly dangerous act. Lucius was a truly thoughtful, unfeeling strategist. I, a Mudblood, in the ranks of the Death Eaters! Essentially impossible; an utterly unthinkable possibility, but that was probably the reason why it was so ingenious and brilliant in its consequence!
Who would suspect such a thing? Who would expect it?
This was the perfect cover and I would be the perfect hidden weapon that could carry out the best jobs. Yes, Lucius was extremely dangerous in that respect. He didn't let anything get in the way of his thinking. Phrases like 'It can't be done!' were probably not part of his vocabulary. He would reply: 'Nothing is impossible. There is always a way to make the impossible possible,' and that's exactly what he seemed to have in mind for me now, after he realized in the parlour what I could do. And he still didn't know everything and yet he had seen me as an added value. And if he did, the Dark Lord would do the same and let himself be convinced by Lucius' point of view, if that was even necessary.
I myself knew how I would be able to convince the Dark Lord of my value, so that he would neither kill me nor take me prisoner, but would be delighted to burn his mark upon me. Not only could I fight, but I offered him something that only Severus could offer: the skill of brewing. Yes, but also through the development and creation of curses and in something else I would be very valuable for him. No one had ever said that I couldn't make a career among the Death Eaters, I thought very pragmatically, but also very cynically.
When the time came, I would face it. We'll work it out somehow and also make it so that Harry was safe from me. Something would come to my mind and I already had an idea. Yes, if the signs were increasing that I was threatened by this fate, I knew how I could and would protect Harry from me!
"Lucius, ... Dark Lord?" echoed Harry in horror and I only glanced at him briefly, as the shrill ringing in his voice had taken me out of my highly interesting thoughts.
"Harry, I promised to be honest with you, and now I am, so stay calm! ... I think I need to tell you something. Draco has been kind enough to welcome me into the Malfoy family at Christmas. I'm one of them now. If you like, that's my name now, too" I attempted a crooked smile and looked into a shocked face that didn't understand a thing. The sisters, however, looked only surprised.
"Huh?" it came truly intelligently from Harry and Draco laughed raucously, squeezing me tight, and seemed to enjoy Harry's ignorance.
"That means, Potter, that I marked her. However, she won't undress in front of you," Draco now tried to explain it snobbishly and the girls slapped their hands over their mouths in understanding and breathed:
"Wicked! ... Really?! No! ... Oh, Merlin. Such a thing is still done?"
The Twins and Blaise were downright indifferent to this revelation, which was no revelation to them, but Narcissa and the Dark Lord seemed to concern them as they frowned.
"Harry, as you well know, I have not yet told you everything. Well, this is one of those. I'm wearing here," I put a hand on my belly there, "... a tattoo that Draco had burned into me with his blood. It's an 'M', so I've been a Malfoy ever since. I live at the Manor... Lucius, is the head of the my family. I-" I wanted to continue my explanation when Harry jumped up spontaneously and bumped into the coffee table. The glasses clinked and wobbled dangerously while he started to rant.
"UHH... WHAT?!? You're... What... means THAT? What the hell! I thought it couldn't get any worse," he raged with flashing eyes. I was still sitting relaxed on Draco's lap, who was constantly stroking my back and thus showed himself truly unimpressed by Harry's outburst.
"Well, Harry, it's not so bad; at least not for you and also not for me! You must know that for me, this also means protection. As you know, Lucius wanted me for some less than pleasant games. Draco saw no other way out... and I suppose he wanted me to have the protection and prestige of the Malfoy family! There are many reasons for this, and you should come to terms with them quickly because it is inevitable. It is a magical, unbreakable bond... sorry," I shrugged my shoulders. I had straightened up more and more during the speech, my voice sounding very determined.
This was one of the things that was out of the question, because there was truly no chance of changing it and getting upset about it would do no good.
"And you knew?" Harry didn't respond to me at all, but turned angrily to the Twins and Blaise, who just nodded.
"Yes, from the beginning, Harry. But we agreed with them that they should wait in your case because you have an incredibly fiery temper. And honestly, Harry, for Hermione, Draco couldn't have done better, because Malfoy Sr. would never have given it a rest. You must know that, don't you?" George explained amazingly calmly, holding Fred's hand. The latter also looked at Harry very seriously and nodded. It was amazing how much the Twins had changed. They could still spout mischief, jokes and fun in huge quantities, but they became serious and astonishingly thoughtful young men who took their responsibilities and tasks very earnestly in situations like these. They were thus dangerous and not to be underestimated opponents or allies, since nobody but us knew them like this and everyone else thought that they did not have to take them completely seriously. A mistake, as some would probably have to realize in the future.
Standing there, Harry fell silent because of what had been said. Then he surprised me once again by bringing it to the point that some were willing to overlook. Harry, however, unfortunately saw a lot and that more and more often, increasingly quickly. He, too, had become more mature and adult than before.
"Aha ... Protection? From Malfoy? You don't really think HE would give up, do you?" it came cynically from him. Wow... he could really take people by surprise. Draco certainly was, and thus my boyfriend did what he would never do otherwise: he moaned in torment and caused me to smile. Draco seemed to have his human day today, after the meeting with the Dark Lord seemed to have thrown him off his game a bit. I played reassuringly with his smooth, silky hair on the back of his neck, repeatedly brushing over my mark on Draco's neck.
"Where you are right, Potter. My father can be really stubborn," Draco now acknowledged in a resigned voice.
"Draco, don't say that. Things are going well with Lucius," I turned my gaze to Draco and looked at him urgently, whereupon he created some distance between us while running his hand through his hair in a desperate gesture.
"Well...? Well?! He beat you and then he tried... If it weren't for Severus..." he hissed angrily, his eyes narrowed to slits.
"What?" Fred snapped aggressively and I rolled my eyes. Hey, that had been some light slapping... Men could really overreact.
"Those were the feelings. Remember, he saved me and how! Without him I'd be dead!" I pointed out and only marginally noticed the reactions of the others.
"I know, but he's also collecting the debt from you. What if he wants you?" whispered Draco softly and looked at me hard and unbending. He showed me clearly how much he disliked the idea and I swallowed hard. I didn't want to come between father and son so much, I really didn't.
"Please, Draco, do you think I'm so unimaginative? I have an idea, a brilliant idea, that should solve this problem for good. Some time ago, Severus hinted that Lucius only wanted me only once. Why not take advantage and then escape his pursuits at last?" I said ambiguously and very devious and showed him a very wicked grin.
"No, that... You will not go to bed with Father, damn it!" Draco raised his voice. He was furious and angry, slapping the armrest of the armchair with his flat hand. Ah, that was interesting. I hadn't said I wanted to do that, but well, Draco was letting his guard down again. I'd find out what was behind the fact that he was so vehemently against his father, but could accept Severus. My guess was that he was afraid to be replaced by his father, because he was so similar to him in many ways, while Severus was so different to them. Pah, as if I was that fickle. I may have been calculating, but I wasn't so flighty in my actions.
"Even if I did, would it be bad?" I checked to see if my thoughts were right and if I was judging Draco correctly. "Would you dump me after that and not want me anymore?" I wanted to know.
"Awful! Dump you? Merlin forbid, not under any circumstances! Besides, I know Father can't give you what you're looking for... except maybe fun in bed and... status. But you have only a vague idea of how cruel he can be... Or no, you probably know. Was that part of the reason for your escape from the Manor, or was it because of Severus? Or maybe because of this morning?" he knew me too well already, prompting him to investigate.
"Oh, not now," I tried to deflect when I felt his hand on my chin, which surely turned me back to face him again. Evidently, we did not care that the others followed our argument silently.
"Has Severus lost control again?" his cold voice now rattled through the quiet cottage. Even Harry seemed to find our discussion very interesting, for he had sat down again without attracting attention. Meanwhile, I nearly jumped out of Draco's lap. He could not imagine that I would admit to the assembled group that I had already shared the bed with Severus! That... that... Help, why always me?
"Draco shut up! You will speak no further. Severus is my business. Be quiet!" I said flatly. Then I walked to the bar and poured myself a fire whiskey, which I needed now. Severus had thrown me a little off balance. This man really got under my skin and I did not feel comfortable admitting this to everyone.
"Well, Hermione, if you react like that he's crossed a line with you again. I'll kill him one day," he hissed furiously, balling one hand reflexively into a fist.
"Draco, you won't do that! Severus doesn't do anything I don't want him to," I lied right, left and centre, which only made Draco clench his lips in annoyance.
"You can't be serious after what he's done! I had to put you back together. Do you know how worried I was? He almost managed to break you when he -" I interrupted him with an enraged scream.
"No! DON'T. SAY. THAT!" I glared at him angrily.
The others just looked at us speechlessly as if we were playing a tennis match. None of them dared interrupt us, probably because they found this new information far too exciting. I, one the other hand, would like to banish my hour of humiliation and weakness from my thoughts and from my memory. I hated it when I lost control like that.
"Draco, stop! I don't want to talk about it! Please respect that," I asked forcibly calm.
"But I thought you had gotten over what he did to you?!" he asked predatorily, his eyes wandering attentively over me. I raised my glass and drank greedily.
"I have! It brought this on myself; I knew that it could happen. I've put this matter behind me." But how could I tell Draco the rest, or try to explain it? I bit my lip nervously.
"Pah! No woman brought this on herself, and it wasn't your fault. This shouldn't have happened. Well, at least tell me what he was doing that made you want to leave the Manor. Even if your arguments were good, you can't fool me. Father maybe, but I saw the look on Severus' face. What happened while Father and I were at St. Mungos?" The nagging Malfoy would not give up. I groaned and I gulped down my next glass.
"Arch, Draco! Why do you always have to be so nosy?" I showed my sorrow and let my head hang down. But like I said, I wouldn't lie to him. It was different when he didn't ask, but this way…
"He... he grilled me about Narcissa, wanted to understand my motives for killing her today. He said that I had decided her first attack on me impressively in my favour. Well, her poisoning could have gone badly. But why I demanded her death afterwards, he was desperate to know. I told him the logical and obvious reasons. I would never have had peace from her and I cannot, we cannot, have that in our plans! That was not precise enough for him, and so I confessed that I had also done it because of Sirius - don't look like that! - because she was one of the reasons it ended like it did...
"Well Severus still doesn't like it when I mention Sirius, and he flared up a bit... Well, we goaded each other. You know how we can get. Then he brought up what happened this morning and threatened me that he was only a man and I had made him a promise that I had forgotten. He reminded me of it less than gently," I admitted, letting my head sink again and my hair fell protectively into my face. I mauled my lips.
"WHAT?" growled a bad-tempered Draco now.
"That he will never have to see more than a forehead kiss. That I'm not rubbing our relationship in his face. He doesn't want that," I bit my bruised lips uneasily, because I understood immediately what he had asked for.
"Well, I guess we overstepped your promise at breakfast. Did he hurt you? Did he force you to do something?" The questions came cold but controlled from Draco.
"No, and even if he did, I could still fight back. The bad thing is, he always knows how to blend into the shadows and appear inconspicuous, so that sometimes you can overlook him! Which is fatal," as I confessed, irritated.
"Hermione, I don't know how to tell you, but until now you have never fought back against Lucius or Severus," he said exactly what I had recognized and what annoyed me deeply and so I growled angrily.
"I realized that, too, and therefore I wanted distance! I must find myself to be able to stand up to them. I'm neither their bloody sex toy nor yours!" I hissed angrily and slammed my hand on the table, whereupon Draco began to laugh resoundingly.
"Bloody hell, Hermione, you enjoyed it; whatever Severus did, you enjoyed it! Please just tell me that it was not in our bed," Draco exclaimed with amusement, but also with resignation.
Ah, there it was again. He didn't seem to mind what Severus did as long as I was not forced. That was really interesting. Draco always managed to amaze me. His last words made me laugh out loud. We were totally bonkers. The others gasped in shock and looked at us with absolutely horrified faces. After all we were talking about our professor and Draco's uncle.
"Oh... you're impossible! No, nothing of the sort. It was in the living room and I gave him the shameful pleasure of watching me flee to the bedroom. Can you imagine? I ran away from him! Don't look like that, I'm really embarrassed. Since that night, I have issues with him coming near me, though not all the time, it's not that, he can hug me..." I tried to explain my emotional life.
"And kiss you, right? That's what he does. Don't you always say he's a good kisser?" he kept taunting me nearly amused. I would probably have blushed at Draco's words if I had any kind of morals, but so I just nodded. The others slapped their hands in front of their mouths in horror and stared at me, aghast that I liked our professor kissing me.
"But when he gets pushy, something happens that I find terrifying. I panic and get really scared," I confessed while catching his gaze firmly and looking at him.
I saw him raise his hand, beckoning me to him and I reluctantly complied as I could not read his sculpted face. Thus, I gingerly set myself in motion and he grabbed my hand, pulled me back into his lap and then said, without even giving a glance to the others who watched all this with incomprehension in their eyes:
"It's only understandable, darling, that you are afraid of this; even if I don't like the fact that it's getting to such a point that he doesn't hold himself back at all. But as I said, you really seem to attract him. You don't see that every day. And today... Am I misjudging or did not all that much happen?" he asked softly and I nodded solemnly.
"No, he warned me and pestered me, but then he caught himself and wanted to leave. You don't have to kill him! But I had believed that after the events of today with you I had shown that the incident was in the past, that there was nothing stopping me, so I don't understand my reaction," I was very annoyed, because I had not minded to act so seductively in front of Lucius and Severus, only when Severus wanted more I froze and I could not allow myself to be inhibited by being afraid of anything!
"I don't know what to tell you, Hermione, 'it'll work out' is not the right thing! My recommendation to get rid of the trauma is one that I don't like and I don't wish for. But as always, here's my advice: If you want to overcome your fears, there's only one way. In itself, I think, that's unnecessary, because he would never be so rough and vicious to you again," he alluded to the fact that I would have to share the bed with Severus again to get over it. He also confirmed my suspicion that I saw it worse mentally than it would be. The mind can be such a nasty thing. And he also showed me that he would not take it as calmly as he pretended to be, even if I slept with Severus of my own free will.
"Just remember, from now on we no longer have the luxury to quarrel with fate or to allow feelings to rule us. As hard as it is for me to accept and admit it, nothing better could happen to us than that Severus is so infatuated with you! I need him now more than ever before, because his word is worth a lot to the Dark Lord, precisely because he says so little and often keeps himself in the dark background! Everything that protects you from the Dark Lord is welcome and Severus would do much for your protection! We have to be pragmatic," Draco explained emotionlessly like the icy, unaffected, calculating strategist he was and I agreed with him completely.
"Do you know, Draco, that you are the most devious and deceitful viper I have ever encountered? I'm so damn proud of you," I sniggered now. Being open and honest with Draco had always been good for me and I snuggled into his arms, which he wrapped around me possessively.
"Is it just me, or are they out of their minds?" whispered Harry quietly, almost inaudibly to the Twins and Blaise, emphasising what he thought of our mental state with a rude gesture.
"Well, Harry... Ice cold is more like it," Fred replied just as quietly as Astoria interjected, whispering:
"Am I getting this right? Hermione was in bed with Snape?" She sounded very incredulous.
"Shh, Astoria," Daphne could be heard rebuking her again.
"Well, I'm not surprised. Do you remember our training session when he tested her in Occlumency? He was lying on top of her at that time... What if we hadn't walked in?" Blaise dared to whisper and I felt that Draco, who was still holding me, was slightly amused.
"Really?! I want to know more," whispered Harry. "And when Snape was injured, she slept in his bed. I always wondered how she could do that without any qualms. I can't believe it! Now it's not just Sirius or Malfoy, no, she is sleeping with the greasy bat as well!" Harry's voice was contorted with revulsion.
"Well Harry, Snape doesn't look that bad," Astoria replied.
"Yes, she is right, Harry. When you see him in tight clothes with his hair tied back, he's quite good-looking. What a mysterious man..." Fred breathed smokily, followed by a hissing inhale. George must have slapped him.
"YUCK... that's disgusting! Fred, stick with George," came the horrified reaction from Harry and it made both me and Draco laugh out loud. Harry was hilarious, and it was nice that you could laugh around here.
"WHAT?" he asked.
"Nothing Potter, nothing," waved Draco off in a cheerful tone, and I was still smiling.
"Now, ask your questions before you burst," I now faced our friends.
"You slept with Snape?" Astoria was all excited with flushed cheeks. While she ducked away skillfully under her sister's slap, I blew a strand of my hair out of my face. The question was not so easy to answer, but Draco seemed to have decided to let Harry & Co in on it, otherwise he would never have let it come this far. Well, then, they would learn about it.
"No, and yes, it's not that simple. You mustn't think too badly of him," I warned and could hear Harry's disparaging snort. Although he had a better relationship with Severus since the disaster, this news seemed to shake him, but this was understandable.
"No really, he didn't sleep with me but with Minna," I said and got to gaze into very smart and intelligent looking faces. "This is a cover identity of mine. Wait, I'll show you."
I cast the spells and now I became short-haired and blond, blue-eyed and wore heavy make-up. After everyone had stared at me with big eyes, I undid the spells.
"He thought I was a hooker and, well, so I became his whore," I glanced bashfully at Draco, who looked back at me with amusement and I knew he was thinking of the day he had seen me with Severus at Hog's Head. I was tempted to stick out my tongue at him. "Unfortunately, he found out that I am ME, and then, our usually well-composed Professor... lost control. It wasn't pretty. Draco helped me-" I was interrupted in my stutter.
"Did you really not care that your girlfriend was sleeping with your uncle?" a wide-eyed George now wanted to know.
"Did he hurt you very much when he discovered it?" Daphne now asked cautiously and I remained surprisingly relaxed when Draco answered.
"It was alright... She doesn't like to talk about it. And to answer your question, Devil: Well, 'didn't care'? Who says so? But it was Minna, not Hermione, so one has to be pragmatic," Draco shrugged his shoulders lapidary and showed everyone with an angry look that the one who would dare to utter the word of what had happened back then would get in trouble.
"I can't believe it. Even if you looked different, you can't just go and sleep with Snape, right? I mean, this is insane. Snape!" Harry shook his head in disbelief, but remained surprisingly calm. He seemed to be working hard on himself and I was incredibly proud of him for trying to control his temper.
"Since he knows, nothing has happened," I objected.
"Snape. Blimey... Wow, the things our Hermione gets up to. You naughty girl," Fred said, tearing at his hair, and looking very flustered, as did the others about the news of what I had done. They seemed pretty shocked, to put it mildly, as I sarcastically admitted to myself.
"Well, that was not what it sounded like to me," Harry commented disparagingly, folding his arms in front of his chest and glaring at me. Again, I was worried that he would freak out. "But you know what? As long as you can handle it and don't want my help - which you'd always have if you said something - I don't care. Otherwise, if this keeps up, I'm gonna start competing with Dumbledore on the amount of grey hair on my head way too fast! I trust you and if Malfoy can stay calm, so can I," he said determinedly and left us all speechless for a moment as he sank back into the couch, exhausted but determined.
"Harry, you are not disgusted by me?" I dared to ask and the others all looked at him confusedly.
"No, why? You must have had your reasons. As long as I don't have to! And let's be honest, we know Snape, he doesn't seem like the type who asks twice! If he ever does," he raised his eyebrow skeptically and shrugged his shoulders. I saw from the corner of my eye how Draco gave him a respectful nod. He seemed to find the way Harry had just behaved towards me quite acceptable.
"What interests me greatly, though, is what happened between you and Narcissa," Blaise stepped into the breach.
"Well, I'll answer that. Mother noticed that Hermione was living with us and attacked her, but she lost the fight. Afterwards she tried to use poison, which Father didn't find amusing at all. He saved Hermione's life at the last minute. You must know that we all don't like Narcissa. And now, today, it all ended, because our Hermione here poisoned Mother... Narcissa passed away tonight-" He was cut off.
"And your father thinks that's good?" Fred looked at him with big eyes
"Well, you must know that Mother and Father never liked each other. It was an arranged marriage. After they had finally succeeded and I was on my way and then born healthy, Father never entered Narcissa's chambers again. She had done her duty and that was that. I was raised by him and Severus. And Hermione explained very well what advantages such a public death will have for Father," Draco said completely emotionlessly, sounding totally indifferent.
"Public? How so?" Daphne now enquired curiously.
"I took the liberty of committing my attack in Diagon Alley," I now made myself heard.
"Are you crazy?! You were the cause of the commotion today?" echoed Fred in horror, but I saw the admiring sparkle in his eyes. It appealed to his sense of drama.
"There was a rumour going around about something going on involving the Malfoys, but nobody knew anything for certain, and the biggest topic was the bloody battle in Knockturn Alley. The Aurors didn't look so good there," George explained.
"That's what you told us earlier?" Daphne asked in a curious whisper and the two redheads nodded.
"To recap: You, Draco, don't mind that Hermione poisoned your mother?" Astoria checked incredulously and Draco just nodded gravely.
"Even if you don't believe it, but I think Potter can relate. She may not have been quite as crazy as Bella, but not by far. Yes, I'm glad, because Hermione is much more important than she ever was," Draco warmed my heart with such fervent words.
"Okay, one less crazy person. Although I still don't understand what good it will do for your father," Harry wanted to know and showed himself quite unfeeling.
"Harry, isn't it obvious? He'll look like a tragic widower and everyone will think the Death Eaters killed Narcissa. She didn't have a Dark Mark and so it is clear to the public that he is on the side of the good guys, the Ministry. After the events in the Department of Mysteries, there were whispers and rumors about his affiliation to the Dark Lord. What better publicity for Lucius than the public assassination of Narcissa, from which he can distance himself, since everyone saw that an unknown little witch murdered his wife?
"Why do you think I didn't do it at the Manor? This would only have unsettled the broad masses, and Lucius' reputation would have suffered further, for many would have wondered what was going on behind those impenetrable walls. But so, in Diagon Alley, well... It rather shows that it can happen to anyone and he, Lucius, reaps sympathy and also the Lord will be happy about this strengthening of Lucius' position in society. He has a good standing on all sides; that's what makes it so perfect for Lucius," I explained and saw Harry now baring his teeth.
"Could you stop saying 'Lucius'?" he hissed angrily and I shrugged my shoulders apologetically. "Because, Hermione, no matter what you want the public to think, I - no, we all know that he is Voldemort's Right Hand!"
"Of course, Harry, his position is not at issue here," I immediately agreed with him, to calm his mind.
"Yes, of course. Then why are you doing this?" His eyes looked huge behind those round lenses.
"Why? Why?! Because I want what's best for my family, Harry, and hell, for me, too. I needed Lucius' permission. If I didn't have that, I wouldn't have been allowed to take Narcissa's life, and the other one, that's a nice side effect! But let's face it, for the fact that I can LIVE in peace, it's worth it to me. Seriously!" I burst out. Did I ever mention that I hated to justify myself?
"I must agree with Hermione, Potter, Mother wouldn't have given it a rest. Only what's going to happen now... I can't foresee it yet. We went to the Dark Lord earlier to inform him of the new circumstances. He was pleased that Father could use Mother's death so farsighted-ly, only... Well, the Lord isn't who he is for nothing! He wants the murderer and after Father and Severus intervened too much, he laughed out loud.
"Guys, this is sometimes more frightening than when he's angry. He had a crazy sparkle in his eyes and said to Father with a smile that he did well, if he had arranged it that way, he had his blessing. But he wants to meet the person who did it. That put the three of us off our guard a bit, which made him sit up and take notice. The Lord is very suspicious, but Father and finally Severus' vote tipped the scales. Father asked that the Dark Lord give him time until my initiation; that he would need this time to prepare the Lord for the surprise. Then I was dismissed and here I am. The other two are still planning with him," he shook his head resignedly.
"You don't seriously want to suggest that your father and Snape want to give Hermione to the... yeah, the... the Unmentionable?" George echoed in complete disbelief. Draco didn't reply, he just nodded unhappily.
As I had said, my brain was already working at full capacity on how to do this. I licked my dry lips and now bent over the table to enjoy the midnight snack that Daphne had brought earlier. I do not know why, but this new development, which I would not have dared to consider until recently, whetted my appetite. Crazy, I know, but well... and so we all remained silent.
It was all a bit much; more for some in the group than for others, but I was the only one who ate, which earned me a few curious glances, but it tasted good.
When I took the last bite, the plan was set and I now showed a satisfied smile. I loved it when I could make such well thought out plans so quickly and this one was a success! Thus, I turned to the group that was watching me strangely. I slipped snuggly onto Draco's lap and made myself comfortable.
"Now, guys, don't make faces as long as fiddles. Seen from different points of view, it might not even be that bad," I protested, whereupon George slapped his hand painfully against his forehead, Fred groaned, Blaise shook his head, the eyes of the two sisters grew large in disbelief and Draco let out a deep sigh.
"We should take her to the closed ward at St. Mungos," Harry said. He sounded incredibly dry and sarcastic; the cottage did not do his humour any good. I grimaced in annoyance. Couldn't they see the possibilities?
"Potter, you have my blessing," Draco left me speechless, but so was Harry. They were in agreement! Well, then, that was just fine, I thought spitefully.
"Now, don't get impertinent. Your father is right! I am valuable to the Dark Lord. Who would suspect a Mudblood in his ranks? And who would think that I, the best friend of the hero of the Wizarding World, could join him? Brilliant and ingenious in itself! I am important! And I have even more to offer: I can fight, I am a gifted burglar and I can brew, not as good as Severus, but almost as good as him. Then my passion, inventing and creating curses and spells; very few people can do that and I really have a talent for it. And," I showed a diabolical smile - I couldn't name my last trump, but I knew the Dark Lord would consider me very valuable for that - "... and I think it could go well," I concluded somewhat lamely.
"Darling, I don't know how to tell you, but I think Harry would be in great danger," Blaise cautiously remarked.
"Hermione, the first thing the Dark Lord would demand would be Potter from you and what do you think he'll do with you if you don't deliver him?" Draco hissed angrily and glared at me as if I had lost my mind. All I could do was chuckle. Did they think I was stupid? And so I hopped off Draco's lap, went to the bar and poured for all of us, magically sending the glasses to everyone while they talked their heads off and looked very upset. I was very amused listening to them.
"It's all your fault, Malfoy. Hermione never used to be so... so..." Harry's hands waved through the air in agitation.
"So 'what' Potter? She used to do much sillier things than that because she was alone and had no possible backing from me, Severus, or, I must admit, from my father now! It's not my fault. She can do it all by herself. You tell me, with your impossible luck, what should we do?" Draco hissed.
"Well, I vote we take her to a Mind Healer. He might be able to help her," it came helpfully from George.
"Maybe this thing with Snape has weakened something in her upper storey," Fred interjected and I was about to giggle.
"Well, I think if Hermione thinks it will work, she's got something in mind," Astoria amazed me and I saw Daphne nodding her head carefully. Wow, I was totally amazed; the girls were taking my side even though they didn't know everything yet. Hats off, I didn't expect that, especially since I usually didn't get along as well with my own sex as with the male population.
Finally, I stepped in before Harry and Draco were at each other's throats over the question of who was to blame for the way I ended up being.
With my glass in my hand, I went into the middle of the room, planted myself clearly visible in front of everyone and waited until one voice after another fell silent and then the last one after Daphne gave Harry a shove as Harry kept bending over to Draco and it looked as if he was about to really try and strangle Draco. After the push, he looked up in surprise and eyed me in confusion about me standing there so motionlessly. Draco also abruptly turned his gaze over his shoulder.
When everything had become still and quiet, I smiled kindly, raised my glass, drank, set it aside and then spoke.
"Harry, would you be so kind as to come over here to me? I hope I still have your trust after all," I extended my hand to him invitingly. It did me good to see that he immediately stood up without hesitation and came towards me. He took my hand. I returned his grip and did not release his hand from my firm grasp, now beginning to speak monotonously.
"Harry, as prompted and suggested by Dumbledore...after you were released from the infirmary when the Dark Lord rose again, you and I went to the Gryffindor Tower. Then we followed his, Dumbledore's, advice and did this," I spoke seriously and looked him firmly in the eye, but could only read absolute incomprehension and hear the others whisper excitedly. I continued speaking undisturbed.
"And so we went down on our knees," I sank down on mine, my long dress billowing out around my kneeling figure, and pulled Harry along with me until he took up the same position before me. We knelt face to face and our entwined hands were raised between us. Now I heard horrified gasps of breath as Draco and company could see what I was about to do.
"RON came to us now," I ordered and beckoned George to us bossily with my free hand. I heard him stand up and wordlessly follow my command. Although the others seemed to be surprised by what I was doing, they didn't interfere. "...and he drew his wand," which George did, aiming at us.
All the while, Harry looked at me with big, questioning eyes.
"He touched our hands with his wand," I demanded, and George followed suit. "And so, I, Hermione Jean Granger, vow to you, Harry James Potter," I performed the ritual vow. From George's wand, a red-gold flame coiled itself around our clasped hands. "...not to betray you to your enemies, to keep your secrets and never to turn you in to them."
When I spoke the solemn, impassioned final words, our wrapped hands lit up, glowing in rich, golden-red colours, sealing once and for all the Unbreakable Vow I had just taken, knowing that if I did not keep my word, I would die, as I was only too aware.
It was brilliant. I would never be able to endanger Harry. The flame dissipated into nothing, and Draco immediately jumped up angrily, snapping at me.
"Are you nuts? Nobody gives the Unbreakable Vow voluntarily, it is much too dangerous! You are no longer worth anything to the Dark Lord! He won't want you anymore! He'll kill you! That's too final! What were you thinking?!" he raged and I laughed contentedly, because I thought otherwise. Harry stared at his hand in horror and now looked at me with his mouth open.
"Draco, calm down. Trust me. The Dark Lord will want me and value me highly, believe me, even if I am not the key to Harry! And you Harry, don't look like that. This idea came to me out of nowhere, but it's very well thought out. With it in place, I will no longer be a threat to your safety," I proclaimed, looking at him with satisfaction.
"Yes, but Hermione, how are you going to solve the Voldemort problem? I don't know if that was so clever," Harry said. We were still kneeling opposite each other, and now we locked gazes.
"Harry, I'd have been worse off before as I'd have been dead anyway for not ratting you out. But this way, even if I wanted to, I can't do it. He'll see that. He may be evil, but he's not an idiot. Now I can't give you to him even if I wanted to! And that's the genius part: I put in this funny tale with Dumbledore and vividly imagined the scenes in my mind, so that when I lower my Occlumency walls, I can show him my invented illusion of what happened.
"We were kids; Dumbledore gave us the idea and Ron took the vow. He can punish me for this rash action, yes, but he won't kill me for it, especially in view of the fact and background that I'm a Malfoy and Severus and Lucius and Draco want me alive," I smiled slightly arrogantly into the room, but I thought it was really brilliant!
"This is madness. Wicked! ... But I can see it, you're right," Fred exclaimed, ruffling through his red hair. "Draco, she's really got it figured out. Nothing major can happen to her now and nobody expects you to be close enough to Harry to turn him in," he showed his keen sense of the facts and circumstances and I saw Daphne nod cautiously.
Then Draco was already at my side. Pulling me up from my kneeling position, he held me at arm's length and looked skeptically into my face.
"I can only hope you are not miscalculating, darling," he then said, "or we'll both be dead, because I won't let him kill you. So keep your fingers crossed for us." He shook his white-blond head of hair and looked at me searchingly. I tried to make him feel that he could trust me on that. After all, I still had something up my sleeve that would make the Dark Lord happy as a last resort.
"Hermione, you're completely off your rocker. Were you always like this?" Harry still knelt on the ground with an expression of complete bewilderment and announced: "I won't let you go to that madman!"
Now he quickly picked himself up, grabbed my shoulder and pulled me away from Draco, exclaiming:
"You cannot put yourself in such danger!"
"Harry, even if I could bask in the glory of my sacrifice right now, I'm not just doing this for you. The Malfoys are my family. How long do you think, realistically, they could have hidden me, the new family member, from the Dark Lord? ... Exactly, not long, and Lucius soon realized that, which is good. He's one of those who generally stays on top of things; that's GOOD! I trust that he and Severus will prepare the Dark Lord for a surprise and that he will hedge his bets... Even though he probably won't tell his master beforehand, as he, as a Malfoy, loves the big, spectacular performances too much for that.
"And believe me, my appearance at Draco's party will be a grand, spectacular affair. Sooner or later, I would have been dragged more and more into the orbit of those people. Wouldn't I, Draco? Be honest!" I looked at him over my shoulder. He pinched his lips angrily together and crossed his arms, but then answered reluctantly.
"Yes, I think that's probably the most logical conclusion."
"Oh, Hermione, don't say things like that all the time, so cold and indifferent. It'll be hard for you," exclaimed Harry. He alluded to his visions and I knew what he meant; this company was not a pleasant one.
"Once again, I agree with Potter. That's a turn-up for the books. YOU, as Mudblood, will not have an easy life in our ranks, ... but I'm sure you're aware of that," Draco expressed resignedly and I could only laugh about it. Oh, yes, I would have to stand up to everyone, but unlike the sexual aspect that had made me a little reluctant today, this prospect of confirmation gave me a real energy boost and I started to feel a tingling of excitement. I would have to prepare and train even more intensively for the three weeks leading up to Draco's ceremony. Oh yes, my spirits were completely awakened again.
Slowly, a devilish smile spread on my features and I said with twinkling eyes:
"Then I guess I'd better sharpen my daggers. That will be great! A woman needs a little fun once in a while!" I clapped my hands and found it very uplifting. I loved the competition and the moments when I could prove myself and my skills. In response to my words, I only saw Draco rolling his eyes as he understood that I was deadly serious about looking forward to the battles I would have to fight. The others just looked like they thought that the idea of St. Mungo's again had some appeal.
Suddenly, everyone shook their heads, stood up and Draco grabbed me by the hip.
"WHAT?" I asked.
"We're all going to bed now. I have to get up early in the morning, because the first people to deliver their condolences will arrive very early. But before that, we'll all have a little talk," Draco, the leader of the group, decreed and everyone hurried to get to their rooms. Even Harry moved quietly and obediently when Daphne took him by the hand.
"Come on, darling," Draco determinedly pulled me along with him, and so we all went to sleep very tiredly. My mind spun and raced like a computer until I fell into a deep, restful sleep in Draco's possessive arms.