Chapter beta: Olivia
Chapter translator: Aivy
I was still smiling after Draco's stately exit from the cottage, when I looked up and saw with raised eyebrows in far too many pairs of eyes, some of them with a reproachful expression.
"Yes? Do you have something to say?"
"Hermione, now that Malfoy is gone... You can' t be serious! You went to bed with Snape?" Harry burst out.
"Harry, it is what it is. Swallow it! Really... Do you know why it came to this? Do you really want to know? Do you? All right. Well... I was at the Hog's Head during the holidays last year, following up on Skeeter's tip-off that the landlord was the hushed-up brother of Dumbledore, and let's just say, if you know it, you'll see it right away. Same idiotic, twinkling blue eyes; check him out sometime. I was there as Minna and Severus was there too, unfortunately! He sat down next to me, bought me a drink and talked to me... What was I supposed to do? I was abrasive, but he still saw in me... what he wanted to see. I..."
No, I didn't want to tell him about the alley. It was too private. I remembered how Severus took control, how he was fond to do, and how he pressed me firmly against the wall and fucked me. Oh, wow... Maybe I'd better not think about that.
"Must you always call him Severus?" Harry now said with a pained expression.
"No, because at school I'm not allowed to. But if I call him Snape in private, I'll get into real trouble with him, as he finds it insulting. Harry, I know you don't understand this, but I am living now very differently than ever before. There are so many rules that I have to watch out for and follow! And believe me, a mistake is always punished... but good behaviour is also rewarded," I tried desperately to explain. It still wasn't easy for me to call Sn... Severus by his first name - he really instilled respect in me - but I would never dare not call him by his first name in private again.
"Hermione, why did you do that? You shouldn't have done that. They are all sick if they punish you," it came sadly, calmly, but also very curiously from Harry. He couldn't understand me - well, who could, really? - but I saw that the snakes present largely understood and could relate to the life I was now leading.
"Harry, even if it shocks you or it sounded like it before: I don't regret anything! I like it where I am and with whom I am there. I really like all three of them. I feel very comfortable in this family, more comfortable than ever in my real one! Even if I have to pay attention to what I do, it is always exciting, exhilarating...! And also consider the reverse case: the rules apply to them too and if they don't follow them, I too have the right to demand or even impose a penalty, see Narcissa. I was allowed to take revenge and there will be no legal consequences for me, since her widowed husband and son are covering for me," I explained, seeing how he gazed back at me uncomprehendingly with incredibly big eyes. Daphne came to my aid.
"Harry, she now leads a life similar to that of us pure-bloods. Of course, very few can match the way the Malfoys live; they are the richest and noblest family. Not even we or Blaise can compete with their lifestyle. But it's similar in the basics, with the rules and expected behaviours, even if the rest of us don't play all these power games because our families aren't important enough," said the Slytherin girl wisely, all eyes on her. "Even though I know Hermione the least, I believe her to be an excellent fit for such a family. I have seen Malfoy Senior a few times; I understand why she likes him, although I think he wears many masks and I have only seen the nice and charming one. A dangerous man, but let's face it, Hermione is a dangerous woman."
Astoria picked up the thread.
"Exactly and honestly, which man - or men, plural, one must almost say - should Hermione have chosen? Well, the selection that wouldn't flee from her after a single day is relatively limited," she proclaimed precociously. Well, when she was right, she was right. The Twins cackled and exchanged a high-five, even Blaise showed a pert grin and Harry nodded sagely.
"But what about Malfoy? Does he really feel nothing? He can't be indifferent to that!" Harry hadn't yet calmed down completely and was already getting worked up again. I moaned in suffering. It wasn't easy to explain.
"Well, he means what he said and you don't need to feel sorry for him now... And I agree with him! We can separate our feelings from sex very well, because we have no other choice," I said.
"What, Draco is cheating on you?" echoing George in horror.
"No, he doesn't! Only at the celebrations that sometimes take place, and since he has no rights yet, the Lestrange brothers force him to have sex with some of the poor abducted Muggle girls in front of them for their own amusement. And, yes, right, the ladies don't participate willingly, but since Draco doesn't either, it kind of fits... Don't tell him though that I told you. I don't think he'd mind, but he wouldn't like you knowing either."
"Wow, he really has to do that?! And you say nothing..." Fred tousled his hair and Harry had buried his face in his hands. His voice was muffled as he spoke now.
"So... great, really great, that he doesn't like to do this. I actually believe him. As conceited as he is, he probably thinks that every woman should get down on her knees as soon as she sees him! But I feel sorry for him and you too! I don't think you are totally indifferent, even if you say so. That doesn't make it any better. Like you say, there's nothing you can do about it, and I don't think he can either. Let me tell you something, Hermione... I hate this so much! In what kind of fucked-up world do we all live in? Why should I save it again?" he asked cynically.
"Damn... the way that sounded, it's pretty shite," Blaise said, sounding rather bitter. "I know before HE came back, Draco would have despised all this. He hates to hit women. Until then, he only ever gave them a verbal dressing-down, even Pansy. But since the Dark Lord came back, Draco's gotten physical with the girls when they don't obey," he said sadly and the girls nodded affirmatively. "Not what you think. Controlling Slytherin is not easy. There are power-hungry bitches and a little curse here and there and the balance of power is restored.
"However, the painful rebukes, they were reserved for the boys before the return of the Dark Lord," he elaborated and everyone looked troubled.
"Yes, things got really bad at home when HE came back. Father rushed to the first ceremony to join him at the request of the shrew. She got even worse afterwards, babbling the whole time that finally there will be fun parties again. I think she meant the ones you just mentioned. When I imagine my father at one of these revels, I get sick," Daphne almost whimpered and pressed a hand to her stomach and Astoria looked unhappy too. Harry stroked his girlfriend’s back soothingly and took over the floor again.
"Yes, it looks like we'll have to learn to live with it. I am only glad that there are no more big secrets between us. I have to say, this is the most important thing to me personally. The rest I can, must and will have to deal with, that is... But, Snape..." he whined sufferingly. "And now I also feel guilty because it happened after you went looking for information again," Harry said still slightly indignant. That's when I burst out laughing after all.
"Oh, Harry, you're not responsible for my decisions! My decision, my fault. But would it be very bad if all of you, and especially you, Harry, could just accept that? And could we talk about something else? Okay...? Good, thank you. Harry, one question: what about the visions, your Occlumency?" I enquired, brushing back a strand that had fallen out of my loosely tied up hair.
"Good. Daphne practices in bed with me every night. Oh, quit laughing so stupidly!" he exclaimed.
The Twins were giggling meanly and the younger boy's cheeks reddened slightly. Too sweet, really!
"Uh... where..." Harry needed a moment to get back on track. "Um, yeah, exactly. Well, so Voldemort doesn't seem to have tried to enter my mind since the Ministry. It seems I hurt him pretty badly back then. Only once, I ended up in a session, or whatever you want to call it, after he got upset. No, Hermione, don't look so doubtful. Honestly! But I get better. I take this very seriously." His whole demeanour convinced me of the seriousness of his statement.
"Well, we've got to go or Lee will be swamped at the store. Since the start of the holidays, it's been like a madhouse! And we'll take care of the Lovegoods," the Twins laughed happily and waved at us as they left.
"The poor Twins," Astoria sighed unhappily and I looked at her questioningly.
"Why? I've known them a long time and they seem happier than ever. They've had difficult times. Especially the last two years have been very tough for them," I related.
"Why? That they have had difficult times, I believe you and if they had, they have been strengthened by them, but I am sorry that they have family problems. Their mom just can't get herself together. The time after the reading of the will, two howlers arrived here. She reproaches them for knowing about you and Sirius and wants to know what they are doing with so much money; that they should invest it and finally start at the Ministry. All very sad. They would like so much that their family at least has a share in their success, as they will probably never do so in private. They are very happy, but I think also very sad," Astoria described very empathetically.
I burst into loud laughter so that tears came to my eyes. The little witch was delightful. Everybody looked at me as if I wasn't all there anymore. Eventually, I pulled myself together.
"You're sweet, Astoria. Just don't say that to them or you could easily become the target of their jokes! Now, the Twins love their family, but don't underestimate them. They have long since emotionally detached themselves from their family, otherwise they could not maintain the intimate relationship they have had for years. They decided a long time ago that they don't give a damn about the opinions of others. It leaves them unaffected, and the opinions of their parents even more so. Because honestly, if the elder Weasleys ever find out about them, this is nothing but a shallow joke! What would happen then is probably unimaginable!
"The Twins may be upset about their family's present behaviour, but see themselves confirmed in their decisions regarding their professional and private lives! They are successful and they love each other! So believe me, they are not poor and I mean that materially as well as emotionally," I chuckled and saw that I was understood. The Twins would have hated it if they had known that the others pitied them behind their back.
Then I rose and handed the metaphorical reins to Blaise. I wanted to watch his lessons and as it was cloudy today but not too cold, the training would be held outside.
What I got to see made me very happy. I would only participate in the practices on my last day. I didn't want to shock Harry and Co. No, joking aside: Harry had already been really good at the DA. He was a fighter and thanks to Blaise he became a proper little warrior, nimble and agile.
Through the training, he was aware of his physical strengths and weaknesses, using his small, agile and flexible build for himself, making it one of his greatest strengths. Now he didn't only use his wand, but also whirled through the air like a Capoeira fighter. Wow, he seemed to be really talented in this! But he had always been sporty and the style of a boxer or wrestler, no, that was not right for him. Blaise's choice was very farsighted. Judo, karate and similar disciplines were obviously better suited for Harry.
It was astonishing how skilfully he now incorporated some of the dark spells and caused severe damage to some of the plants and trees in the garden. But well, at least they would have something to do when they tried to revive the plants. I liked the way they trained very much.
The girls surprised me too; they were doing well. Even if they hadn't really mastered pure combat, they would probably pass a non-magical fight against Lav or Parkinson. They practiced more the movement sequences. But did I see them in a real battle? Well, Astoria maybe, but Daphne... Maybe I'd better test her for her healing ability, although her curses were of a frightening intensity. Nobody said Daphne was a loser, oh no, she wasn't a snake for nothing!
For a while, I watched the spectacle, which was accompanied by loud cries, groans and sighs. Every now and then, colourful curses shot through the air and struck loudly into the ground or elsewhere. Occasionally, earth fell from the sky after a spell had struck the earth.
After I was satisfied with the development, I tried to fade out the noise and devoted myself to the family trees and the stupid children's book, which lay on the table in front of me. I was not allowed to forget the medallion either! It would be best if I split myself a few times, I thought cynically. I had so much to do. When was that not the case? I should have kept the Time Turner back then, I concluded.
At that moment, Blaise let himself flop on the bench next to me.
"Phew! Most beautiful, you're not participating?" He greedily chugged a full glass of iced tea and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"No thanks, I'm good! I'm glad I caught you. I have a question: What's going on between you and Astoria?" I took a close look at him and he raised his hands defensively.
"Easy, beautiful. I haven't forgotten your threat. No, certainly not," he fended me off energetically and sparkled at me from his dark eyes. "If you are wondering if Astoria is sleeping in my bed, then yes! But not because I want her to-" he rambled, until I interrupted him doubtingly.
"Please, Blaise, don't kid yourself, of course you do," I admonished him. In reaction, he ran a hand through his short dark hair, taking a deep breath.
"Yeah, okay, sure, of course I do. She is a beautiful woman! But I don't want to hurt her, even though I see that she does come on to me, very much so. For such a young thing, it's amazing how she goes at it. I've never restrained myself like I do with her! You can believe me," he defended himself further.
"Then why are you resisting it so much?" I pulled an interested eyebrow up and watched him.
"Why? Stupid question. If I go back to Hogwarts and start something with another witch, you'll kill me," he looked at me seriously and piercingly.
"Yes, but I see your looks. Is that what you want?" I wanted to know. He seemed so sad.
"I'm not used to anything else," he said haltingly.
"What does that mean? How would you like it to be?" I continued my enquiry with great interest.
"What? Good question? I don't know. If I look at it that way, I'm sort of wishing for what Harry and the Twins have. I never had anything like that," he said regretfully.
"Have you sought the closeness and affection in your fast-changing love affairs?" I asked him analytically.
"I don't know, maybe. As I said, I don't know anything like that! Before Hogwarts, I was always alone and then, most of the girls were nice and fun. But always, it was only for a little while, after that they got on my nerves, seriously. But Astoria has a sense of humour and she is so cheeky, very different from the other Slytherin girls," he enthused.
"Stop, stop, but you had lovers from other Houses," I objected.
"Sure, but the Hufflepuffs are all so homely, even personality-wise. You can win them over easily, but otherwise, as I said, unbearable, boring and the Ravenclaws? They look quite good and have other advantages," he showed a wicked smile, "but they are and act so clever, so know-it-all, unbearable! And the snakes, well, most of them act all proper and well-mannered, and some, like Daphne, are well-behaved, but there's nobody quite as cheeky! She is something special," he gushed.
"You do realize you sound like a man in love?" I pointed out bluntly. "I just don't want you to hurt her. We can't afford that here, when all the fuss starts! I won't tolerate a quick affair, but if there's more..."
"I know that too! Really? Like a man in love? Yeah, I guess so. Since I've arrived, I see things differently, as early as Christmas. I know what I'm looking for and I know I found it here with you and that's also what I don't want to lose," he explained to me seriously and thoughtfully.
"What? What have you found?" I pressed into him.
"Closeness, security, friendship, togetherness as it does not exist in Slytherin," he confessed very honestly and looked at me openly.
"That is good! But why should you lose it if you give in to Astoria?" I wanted to know now.
"I've never been to bed with a woman thrice, I change them too fast for that! What if I'm not capable of having a relationship? Like my mother. Come on, you don't think all her men died of old age? What if I can't? Harry will kill me, Daphne will kill me, and then you will, so I don't even have to talk about the others. Draco would probably look at me grimly too; he likes the Greengrass sisters," he admitted and I understood him. Blaise was at a crossroads. He was accepted here in our community, felt comfortable and I hoped for him to find his happiness.
"Don't worry so much. My so-called threat was just that you shouldn't play with her like you do with your other bed bunnies. With the amount of thought you're giving it, I would never believe that. It's just that - I know this too - feelings cannot be forced. Try if she can give you what you are looking for and if so, work on a relationship with her. If not, then I'm the last to condemn the failure of that attempt. Really, Blaise, you too are a valuable part of our community here, with the same rights and duties as the others," I put my hand on his arm and my pale white skin stood out against his dark skin colour as I continued to speak "... and now please send Astoria to me," I asked him determinedly.
"What? ... No," he refused in the heat of the moment. I didn't back down an inch and said nothing until he buckled and shook his head in defeat. Standing up with a heavy heart, he went back to the practising students. He addressed Astoria, whispered something to her and then she hurried towards me. With rosy-red cheeks and her hair tied back into a long, swinging ponytail, she looked so young and fresh.
"Hermione, you want to see me?" she asked timidly and slightly out of breath. She sat down and first poured herself a drink and quenched her thirst.
"Yes. What did I have to hear? You're harassing Blaise?" I raised the question and saw her take on the colour of a tomato.
"Um... well... don't tell Daphne! But yes, I do," she then admitted sheepishly and her eyes flitted restlessly back and forth.
"Well, that should be possible if you explain it to me," I offered.
"Okay, thanks, Hermione! Well, what can I say, he's been my crush for a long time and I wanted to take my chance. At school, he never paid any attention to me, although I know that he has had classmates of mine in his bed, from the other houses and even some from Slytherin. This means that my age cannot be the thing that inhibits him. Am I ugly? Anyway, I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself to me here so fortuitously," she explained. If there was one thing she wasn't, it was ugly, and so I laughed amusedly.
"No, you are not ugly! You're pretty and, unlike the other girls, you're beautiful for Blaise, too, and there lies, or laid, probably the problem too! What did you do?" I wanted to know exactly.
"What? Well, ever since Harry and Daphne started sleeping together, I've been with Blaise, and I climbed into his bed from the first night and snuggled up against him, hoping he'd do something, but nothing, nada! Can you imagine that? The biggest Casanova and he does... nothing... absolutely nothing! I am so disappointed," she moaned heartrendingly. I could understand her, it didn't sound like validation, and I patted her shoulder encouragingly.
"Astoria, look on the bright side: he would have taken everyone else without hesitation! I have to ask you, do you just want to fuck him or do you love him? What do you want from him?"
Then she surprised me, because her answer came quick like a shot:
"Everything I can get!"
"Come again?" I was confused.
"I want everything from him, if he'll only have me! A relationship like Daphne has would be my dream, but he won't want that, of course. Once I've had him and he'll be back at Hogwarts bouncing from bed to bed, I don't know how I'm gonna handle it, but... I... argh... I fell in love with him a long time ago," she confessed, lowering her head in shame.
"Well, confidentially: he's scared. He is afraid that he is not capable of having a relationship. Thanks to us, he realizes that he wants this in himself, but as I said, he is insecure! If you really want to, show him that you are willing to take the risk and dare to do it, but then seriously Astoria! Because I think you are the first one he could feel more for, but this is no guarantee that it will work! If it doesn't, you'd have to stand above it, that he belongs here just like Daphne, Harry and you. Can you do that? Are you mature enough to see that if it doesn't work, you can't just blame him and demand, like a little kid, that we all beat him up?" I pursued seriously and in detail to be sure.
"No no, I don't want that! Is that his concern that if he starts something with me and it doesn't work out, he'll be excluded here? Oh Morgana, I wouldn't want that, I really wouldn't," she showed herself shocked.
"Well, think about it then and whatever you decide, you have my blessing... One more thing: you would make a nice, very sweet couple and it would do Blaise good not to be alone, even though I think he is not low-maintenance! You'd have to be very sensitive. A relationship with Blaise is certainly not easy, and would most likely also mean one or two setbacks for you. I hope you're strong enough for that. However, I also think that he would do a lot for you to be happy. Weigh carefully, Astoria," I cautioned her. She looked a little overwhelmed and so I waved her back to the others. She now had enough to think about.
Astoria hadn't come far when I called her back to me.
"Would you please tell Daphne that I would like to speak to her?" I asked her now and she looked surprised but nodded immediately and joined the others.
"Her... mione," Daphne rushed to me. She seemed about to burst, had a bright red head and was completely out of breath. So I poured her a drink and pushed it over to her when she sat - no, collapsed - into the chair. After she had drunk greedily, she was still panting like an old steam engine while her chest rose and fell quickly; I told her to keep quiet.
"Yes, I wanted to talk to you, but first calm down. Not... I wanted to know how you like the fighting," I enquired curiously and saw how she grimaced before managing a tortured smile. Slowly, her pulse seemed to calm down as well, because now she was about to give her answer.
"Well, I find it exciting, thrilling, and I'm also proud of what I can do. I never knew until now that I could enjoy exercising! That's not what a woman does where I come from. Well, my stepmother also strengthens herself physically, but otherwise pure-blooded women don't do such things! You understand? I like it..." She now looked to the side, avoiding my gaze.
"I hear a but," I helped her out of her visible embarrassment.
"But I see that I am not nearly as quick or as good in reactions as Astoria, for example, not to mention the boys. I'm too slow because I'm too thorough, or at least that's how it seems to me," she explained. I marveled at her self-assessment, as she expressed exactly what I had seen and what had made me ponder. Therefore, a happy grin now adorned my face.
"Very good Daphne! You not only see a lot, you also know how to see yourself in the right light, not everyone can do that! You are right, that is why I wanted to talk to you. I do not want to say that you are bad, neither in physical combat nor in magic. Your spells have power! However... you think too long, you are not impulsive, instinctive or intuitive, but you think too much, consider too much, which costs you precious seconds, no matter in which fight," I put my observations to her and she looked at me unhappily and I patted her hand to cheer her up.
"So you think I'm unsuitable?" she asked.
"No, absolutely not, but I think we should use your talents as they lie. You must continue to practice in both areas, but I don't see you on an open battlefield at the front line. That's not your... No, you shouldn't be there! But I wanted to ask you if you know how good you are at healing. Do you have experience?" I came to the point and saw her looking at me with astonished eyes.
"But how could this help?" she showed her incomprehension and dabbed her shiny face with a napkin.
"Well, where we're just heading, injuries are the first thing I expect and you should know how to defend yourself when you bustle around and heal, but stay in the back rows rather than in the front," I explained and she nodded slowly and seemed very thoughtful.
"What I can do? Well, at home I always took care of everyone. Somehow it stayed with me from the beginning, like as a housemother. Really funny when you consider that I was a child, but I was even allowed to care for my stepmother when she was indisposed. But you can never, ever compare that to the injuries you alluded to," she now objected doubtfully, shaking her head in doubt and her light brown hair bounced in her ponytail.
"No, you can't," I agreed with her. "However, nobody's saying that you're not capable of learning this. My question was also more about whether you can see yourself in that role! Sometimes it is more disgusting to heal than to kill or hurt," I spoke from experience and thought of Severus when I sewed his wounds. Such effort! And let us be honest, it had been a mess.
"Yes, I think I understand what you mean and yes, I think I could do that; that would not cause me any problems," she said seriously and I would not probe too much. If that's what Daphne said, then she had thought about it and wasn't just saying that. Still, I wanted to make sure she really knew what I was asking.
"Even with black magic spells?" I asked, because they could do some pretty nasty things.
"Yes, Hermione, I'm sure. What shall I do now?" she showed herself determined, impatient and made it clear to me that she wanted to know more.
"Then I want you to work through the books on white and black healing magic that I will give you. "You will practice and become our nurse. I can't spare you the training so that you stay physically fit, for you must be able to defend yourself, no matter what the situation," I offered her and saw how she suddenly smiled at me radiantly and seemed very happy.
"Great, then that's how we do it! I am glad. I felt so useless because I saw that I could not keep up. Merlin, that's a load off my mind! And I don't want to stop training. It helps, but I'll be able to practice as much as I want, I'll never be as good as Astoria," she stated and I agreed with a nod.
"Fine, then that's it. I'll give you the books tonight and you can get started." Daphne heard the dismissal in my words and jumped up, positively glowing.
"All right, it's a deal. Then I'll go back to training." She ran to the others with renewed enthusiasm after I had nodded to her again.
I looked at the four of them, lost in the martial arts, then let my gaze wander over the beautiful, picturesque garden. A beautiful, large weeping willow, which, I would like to emphasize, I had never seen here before, captured my gaze. I saw its low hanging leaves and how they played softly in the wind and let my thoughts wander. It did me good. With all this new information, I felt strong and absorbed the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. Slowly everything was developing!
Next up: Special chapter ”The Art of Temptation”