Chapter 1: An unexpected guest
Hermione Granger sat at her small desk, laden with a mountain of paperwork. She had been sorting through every law of the British magical community for nearly six months now. There were copious laws— laws which were equally old and ridiculous; written centuries before and yet, were still in effect today.
However, getting rid of these archaic laws was proving to be exceedingly difficult.
She would have to work tirelessly throughout the next few weeks, ensuring that there were no obscure loopholes for the Wizangamot to deny her appeal once again.
Every law amendment she brought before the Wizangamot, was met with a practiced dismissal from those who thought the system neither needed to be questioned nor changed. Many political departments still lived in fear of the ever imposing, pureblood familial hierarchy that had unfortunately remained intact after the war.
Money and status obviously never lost their influence.
With a quick glare towards the far corner of her office — to where the growing piles of her previously rejected appeals were stacked up mockingly high; Hermione huffed and sat up straighter.
She would just have to find a way to sway the majority seats at the next Wizangamot appeal.
After the war, despite her age and heritage; the Ministry had given her considerable merit and distinction within the department of her choice. Hermione, however, was simply not content with the pace at which progress was made within the Department of Magical law Enforcement.
At the current rate, she would be regarded as successful if merely one of her proposed law amendments was approved within the year.
With a resigned sigh, she continued to read through one of the many folders before her. This particular folder, which had first caught her attention last week; contained the aggravating and detailed account of the Muggleborn Restriction Act of 1746.
The start of a new week and the revision of another ridiculous law had begun.
Hermione was not in a cheerful mood.
The morning hours ticked by slowly as Hermione tediously made notes and referenced the various sources of evidence that she would need to support her appeal. It was already nearing noon when her concentration was disrupted by a sharp knock on her office door.
“Yes?” she called out, not bothering to look up from the page she was currently reading.
The door cracked open and Marissa, Hermione’s assistant, nervously poked her head through. “You have um... There’s a — well, Lady Malfoy is here to see you, Miss Granger.” She uttered, stumbling over the words quickly in her flustered state.
Hermione felt the colour drain from her face as she glanced up towards Marissa in shock. The Malfoy’s hadn’t interfered within the Ministry in years. Whatever the reason for Lady Malfoy’s visit, Hermione knew that it couldn’t be good.
“What?” she gaped. “Tell her — ah, no… please kindly explain to Lady Malfoy, that I have no time for complaints today. She will have to make an appointment with the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures. Although I helped create the House-elf Regulation Act, I no longer work there and cannot be of assistance.”
Marissa nodded before ducking back out to inform Lady Malfoy.
Barely a few moments had passed before Marissa once again knocked on the door and nervously entered Hermione’s office, looking positively more flustered than before.
“Lady Malfoy insists.” Marissa all but squeaked.
Now irritated, Hermione’s eyes narrowed perceptively. This same, pretentious behaviour — exhibited by most of the pureblood families, was precisely the reason she was having such difficulty trying to convince the magical community to change for the obvious betterment of all.
“Very well.” She answered calmly. “Send Lady Malfoy in.”
Looking relieved that she wouldn’t have to deny Lady Malfoy a second time; Marissa nodded quickly and retreated to escort Hermione’s unexpected guest to the office.
When the polite knock on her door sounded shortly after, Hermione braced herself as she called out for Lady Malfoy to enter.
The door opened slowly, revealing the very witch that she hadn’t laid eyes upon in over five years — not since the Death Eater trials, which had taken place after the war.
Now, Narcissa Malfoy stood proudly within the doorframe to Hermione’s office, her aura of superiority confidently displayed for all to see.
“Good afternoon, Miss Granger.” Narcissa Malfoy greeted evenly, her heels clicking conspicuously against the floor as she stepped into the small office.
Hermione, who had stood at Narcissa’s greeting; privately acknowledged that Lady Malfoy looked very out of place within the lower levels of the DMLE.
In fact, she couldn’t help but gape at the immaculately groomed witch before her. Narcissa’s silken black, designer robes and ornate jewellery set her apart from everyone who walked the halls of the Ministry.
Lady Malfoy’s expression briefly flickered with a look of distaste as she regarded the disarrayed state of Hermione's office; Though, In the blink of an eye, Narcissa’s expression once more resumed the carefully practiced mask of indifference which she usually wore in public.
Stepping closer, Lady Malfoy extended her long, gloved arm out towards Hermione. “Please, do sit down. I understand that my presence was not expected.” She chimed, gesturing to Hermione’s chair.
Hermione gritted her teeth, only Lady Malfoy would ask someone to take a seat in their own office.
Resuming her usual position behind her desk once more; she observed the way in which Narcissa glanced warily at the single guest chair that had been conjured for her use. Finally, being careful to sit upon only the edge of the chair, Lady Malfoy sat down and crossed her legs daintily — probably ensuring that her expensive robes didn’t crease.
“Good afternoon, Lady Malfoy.” Hermione greeted, deciding to maintain only the necessary politeness needed for this situation. However, she would not be encouraging Narcissa’s visit further.
Narcissa's smile only faltered slightly with the realisation that Hermione would say no more to her.
“You must be wondering why I have decided to visit the Ministry today?” Narcissa began evenly, fixing her gaze upon Hermione’s own indifferent stare. “I have come to ask for your help with a very delicate matter regarding my family, Miss Granger”
“The House-elf regulation laws were first enforced two years ago. I am no longer in a position to hear complaints, Lady Malfoy” Hermione admonished. “I apologise if you are here to seek immediate clarification on the matter; you’ll find that the Ministry rarely works efficiently at the best of times — for anyone.”
Narcissa narrowed her gaze at Hermione’s words; yet, without falter, replied with a politeness that Hermione could only be impressed by. “Thank you for your... concern, Miss Granger. However, I am here on a much more personal matter — I have no complaints with the Ministry, today.”
“You’re not here to contest against the House Elf regulations?” Hermione checked, taken aback by Narcissa’s admission.
“I understand you have received much animosity in the past few years from my... acquaintances.”
She barely contained her laughter at Lady Malfoy’s choice of words. After the regulation had been enforced, she had received numerous howlers and aggravated visits by many who had been deemed unfit to continue their ownership of House-elves.
Although, Narcissa was decidedly more than mere acquaintances with the majority of the elite pureblood population within the United Kingdom — and probably most of Europe too.
Refusing to comment, she simply waited for Narcissa to get to the point of her visit.
“I acknowledge that the circumstances are quite unprecedented; Though, one can hardly proceed normally with such matters, given your unfortunate lack of a magical family to represent you. Thus, I have simply come to proposition you yourself, Miss Granger.” Face devoid of emotion, Narcissa continued in a serious tone. “Speaking plainly — I intend for you to wed my son.”
Hermione spluttered in a very unladylike manner. Her thoughts had started fuming at Narcissa’s mention of her parents; however, it had been Narcissa’s unexpected revelation that had rendered her in an immediate state of shock.
Forgetting how to breathe properly, she stared in mute horror at the witch before her.
Was this a joke? One of George’s indelicate attempts at a prank once again? Maybe she should check Lady Malfoy for spell damage?
“What?” She demanded breathily, still staring at Lady Malfoy in notable disbelief.
“My son, Miss Granger.” Narcissa pressed on, seemingly ignoring Hermione’s bewildered reaction. “He needs your help — my family need your help. Of course, we shall have to discuss the details of a marriage contract accordingly — you’ll find it necessary upon the consideration of the binding ritual you will need to perform.”
Narcissa brandished her wand; and in a single, intricate movement, produced a stack of crisp, white parchment out of thin air. With another flick of her wand, the numerous folders adorning Hermione’s desk neatly stacked themselves up high before they levitated towards the ‘rejection’ corner of the office — depositing themselves on the floor with a loud huff of heavy paper and old dust.
Hermione snapped out of her stupor at the echoing sound of her work hitting the floor. Glaring momentarily at the conjured stack of white parchment — which now solely sat on the desk before her; she looked up to meet the gaze of a very confident looking Narcissa Malfoy.
“No.” She firmly replied, finding her voice at last.
Narcissa Malfoy’s smile dropped and her posture stiffened dangerously upon hearing Hermione’s cold and immediate answer.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Lady Malfoy did not handle rejection well.
“No? don’t be absurd girl. This is a wonderful opportunity. I understand you have neither the breeding nor background for such a contract; though, that can all be amended — mostly.” She bristled, her nose turning up slightly upon the last word.
“I care nothing for your son.” She snapped, trying to remain calm.
“Naturally.” Narcissa added, levelling Hermione with another cold stare. “You will notice that this contract is a traditional Malfoy marriage proposal contract. You only need to read through it to realise that feelings hold little regard within the progression of such a noble house.”
Hermione gawked at Narcissa once more. It was a marriage proposal contract which Lady Malfoy had conjured?
Glancing back and forth between the conspicuous stack of parchment — the contract, and Narcissa’s unrevealing expression; She was about to protest against the whole ordeal once more, before she realised what Narcissa had previously said.
“You said that you needed me to help your son.”
Narcissa’s eyes were her only betrayal of emotion at Hermione’s statement.
“Yes.” Lady Malfoy replied in a clipped voice. “Though, I think the details of my son’s... condition, are hardly appropriate before the terms of marriage are discussed and signed. The personal lives of my family are a delicate matter amongst those with no care for our reputation.”
“I do not wish to marry your son, Lady Malfoy.” Hermione sighed. “However, I may still be able to help him.”
Narcissa laughed without any trace of humour. “Surely, one such as yourself should be grateful for an opportunity to marry into wealth and status? I assure you, Miss Granger; this is the only offer of this nature you’re likely to ever receive.”
“I don’t care for your money.”
Scoffing loudly, Narcissa regarded Hermione with obvious disapproval. “One would think that a mud-muggleborn like yourself would appreciate the chance to dabble in the areas of society still so distant from your — sort.”
Hermione had noticed the obvious slip in language before Narcissa had corrected herself — all traces of feigned politeness were evidently falling away.
Lady Narcissa Malfoy was not to be refused. The Malfoy’s were not to be refused... Marissa had only recently discovered that herself, but Hermione couldn’t care less.
“My sort have access to many aspects of society, revolutionary academia and sciences which many in the wizarding world wouldn’t dare to imagine were possible to exist.” She rebutted proudly.
Lady Malfoy merely smirked. “Such passion, such fight within you... Though, it would do you well to remember the world which you have chosen to be a part of — such thoughts of muggle advancements will serve you little purpose in your Ministry work, Miss Granger.”
Hermione glared at Narcissa in anger. How dare she?
“tut, tut.” Narcissa drawled sourly. “I see that I have caught a nerve. Not so fortunate within the Ministry after all... Are you, my dear?”
“Your offer means nothing to me; you and your family, you have neither that which I need nor want — least of all, your son.”
Narcissa disregarded Hermione’s words with a slight wave of her hand. “I may understand why such a dull girl would have little thought for opulence and comfort; though, I cannot fathom why a career orientated witch such as yourself, would pass the opportunity to wield such an influence over the Wizangamot and the circles in which its members move in. Surely, what I am offering has made its appeal in that regard?”
Once again, Hermione found herself at a loss for words.
It was possible that such a connection with the Malfoy family would effortlessly gain her favour with many Wizangamot representatives. Such an old pureblood name would undoubtably require even those who were still prejudiced, to consider the appeal of a muggleborn witch.
“I assure you, lady Malfoy, the political influences of your family are the only favourable qualities which your offer presents.”
Narcissa Malfoy feigned a polite smile once more. “Indeed.”
“Why not ask another witch — a more suitably bred witch?” Hermione pried, her mind now reeling with all the possibilities.
Would she be able to sacrifice her own happiness in life for the betterment of countless others? However, the actual prospect of marrying Malfoy seemed to halt all her thoughts of heroism.
“I will acknowledge that I have exhausted all possibilities available. There were… a few, whom I deemed acceptable; though, some were already attached to a partner and the others’ proved too weak in both character and magical proficiency to succeed with such a task.” Narcissa admitted solemnly.
“I fail to understand the necessity for such a prerequisite. What is it that your son needs saving from, Lady Malfoy?” She asked curiously. “Have you not sought alternate guidance? I do not believe you would actually want for me to marry the sole heir to the Malfoy line?”
“Miss Granger.”Narcissa paled, seemingly discomforted at having to repeatedly explain herself to a muggleborn. “I would not ask you unless you were the last option — the last chance that I had to get my son back. To restore the most Noble house of Malfoy and the last true male heir of the Ancient house of Black — understand that I must do anything.”
Hermione nodded, choosing to ignore Narcissa’s continuous, subtle insults. She wanted more answers.
“But saved from what?”
“That is not for me to say; I had thought that such a prestigious marriage prospect, would be enough to entice your help.”
“But, I’m a muggleborn. You must acknowledge the complications that would undoubtably arise.” Hermione challenged. “Even if I were to agree to such a ridiculous notion for my own benefit, your son would be as miserable as myself.”
“My son knows the importance of furthering the Malfoy bloodline. It is true that your blood is — unfavourable... Nevertheless, the Malfoy line has been known to discreetly mix with those of lesser blood in the past for the sake of prosperity. Do you know anything of the history of Malfoy and muggle relations before the statute of secrecy was enforced? I do believe you would find it most — interesting.” Narcissa countered with an air of nonchalance.
“Draco willingly agreed to this?” She questioned in disbelief, leaning back in her chair. This was turning out to be very complicated. “I did not realise his situation was so severe.”
“My son does not know that I’m here.” Narcissa sighed resignedly. “He has asked me to let him die.”
“He’s willingly dying!” Hermione gasped incredulously. “Does he not believe that he can be saved?”
“He understands that there are no witches with the ability to save him, Miss Granger.”
“Except me, or so you would have me believe it to be thus.”
How ironic, she thought. The same mudblood he so enjoyed to tease, supposedly held his life within her hands — and he didn’t even know...
“Your talents are not to be doubted, Miss Granger. I assure you; my proposal is not only one of great need, but is also the utmost of compliments regarding both your magical proficiency and perhaps some of your character.” Narcissa declared, drawing Hermione out of her thoughts.
“Why now?” Hermione asked sharply; noticing Narcissa’s suddenly confused expression, she pressed on. “Why go against your own beliefs at your son’s expense? Considering your family’s history — I find it questionable that you would only now put aside your prejudices when there is no other choice. This isn’t the first time your son’s life has been in danger — though I do acknowledge your part in Voldemort’s defeat — why should I help you, when you have given me no other reason to believe your family worthy of such a kindness?”
Narcissa flinched at Hermione’s blunt words. “An understandable question, Miss Granger.”
Hermione waited, interested to hear what Narcissa would say. From experience, she knew that many of Voldemort’s previous supporters held little accountability or recognition for their past actions.
“I was raised to follow orders despite my own convictions. It was only when my son was threatened during the war, that I realised how important it was to protect those you loved despite what is expected of you. You are an intelligent witch, Miss Granger; Surely, you must acknowledge the influence of one’s upbringing?”
Hermione nodded, frowning slightly.
Swallowing audibly, Narcissa continued; her voice now choked with emotion.“My son, Draco — he is my one accomplishment. As a girl, I was raised with the knowledge of my only purpose being to further the line of my noble house, and the distinguished house of my husband. I have taken pride in my family and in my house — for all of my life. I have fought for it when a dark wizard led me to believe it was threatened; I have betrayed for it against the same dark wizard who suddenly sought to harm it. Now, the family I knew as a young girl have all gone; The ancient house of Black is a distant memory and the noble house of Malfoy is doomed to follow. I cling to each final day with my son, knowing that I have failed my purpose many times; as a wife, as a follower, as a witch — but not as a mother — not yet... I beseech you, Miss Granger, spare my son — spare my only boy whom so much of wizarding culture rests upon. He does not deserve the fate his parents have bestowed upon him.”
Hermione stared at Lady Malfoy in awe.
She had not expected such a raw outburst of emotion from the previously demure witch before her. Shifting in her seat, Hermione felt her heart stutter at the thought of what she had to do.
Though, she would bet on Merlin’s beard that Lady Malfoy was not going to like what she was about to say either.
With one last glance at Lady Malfoy, who was now delicately patting her face with a silk handkerchief clutched tightly in her hand — She made her decision.
“I would like to speak to Draco.”
Narcissa had left with the promise that an owl would be sent with the appropriate details regarding Hermione’s audience with Draco Malfoy.
Relieved that Narcissa hadn’t insisted on her immediate accompaniment to Malfoy Manor; Hermione released the breath that she had been holding since requesting to speak to Draco.
Thank Merlin for Pureblood etiquette when you needed it.
It had all happened so fast though.
Things like this didn’t just happen — they simply couldn’t. It was barely plausible that Lady Malfoy had merely been within Hermione’s office for less than an hour; and yet, every semblance of order and rationality within Hermione’s life had suddenly descended into chaos.
Her head was spinning. Why had she asked to meet with Malfoy?
Maybe, if she owled Lady Malfoy a polite refusal regarding her new change of mind, she would be able to forget the whole situation and continue as she was before — drowning in Wizangamot refusals.
Groaning in defeat, she sunk further into her chair.
No, she couldn’t back out of meeting Malfoy until she had more answers. Besides, how would she feel if Malfoy’s obituary graced the cover of the Daily Prophet in a few months’ time?
She had to be able to say that she had tried — at least, that is what she told herself. Begrudgingly, she had to admit that she was definitely curious as to what the hell had happened to Draco Malfoy.
Hermione had concluded that Malfoy was either under some life-threatening curse, or that he was irreversibly bound to some ancient Malfoy contract that required a skilled witch to perform some pretty complex spell-work — which would at least explain the requisite for her to marry the insufferable wizard.
Hermione itched to go to the library.
She had never heard of someone needing to be magically bonded in order save their life. That area of magic must be particularly dark if it required such a price.
Since she had first entered the wizarding world; Hermione had sought constant refuge amidst the many tomes, books and scrolls of every magical library at her disposal. Unsurprisingly, her relentless need for answers and explanations regarding the complex new world which she had been introduced to, had proven both gratifying and illuminating in every situation.
Though, where would she start with such limited clues? This was like the ‘chamber of secrets’ all over again — equally mysterious and equally petrifying.
Making up her mind and summoning a quill; a hastily scribbled memo was soon zooming out of her office towards the Auror department.
With a glare towards the ominous stack of white parchment Lady Malfoy had so kindly left on Hermione’s desk; she huffed in annoyance for the countless time that afternoon.
Resignedly, Hermione reached out to pick up the Malfoy marriage proposal contract; knowing that it was probably the best place start to find information about Malfoy’s predicament.
She needed to know what was wrong with Malfoy.
She needed to speak to Harry and Ron.
Walking into the Leaky Cauldron had always remained an interesting experience. The smell of freshly baked steak pies and warm Butterbeer contrasted heavily with the ever-present odour of dusty floorboards and numerous patrons.
It was nearing dinnertime by the time Hermione had managed to leave the Ministry for the day. Apparating directly to the Diagon Alley apparition point; Hermione had quickly walked the short distance to meet with her two best friends.
In the memo — the hasty one that she had sent earlier; she had simply expressed her wish to meet the both of them urgently after work to discuss an important matter. Knowing that they would both be there before her, Hermione had plucked up her courage and entered the pub.
The Leaky Cauldron was packed with both wizards and witches; all happily toasting the end of a long day over warm plates of food. With a quick scan around the crowded dining area, Hermione caught sight of Harry sitting happily at one of the tables in the opposite corner.
Squeezing her way through the rush of patrons, Hermione reached the table just as Ron appeared. He was carrying three large Butterbeers in both hands, and with a loud plonk, he sloshed them messily down upon the table before turning and grinning widely at Hermione’s arrival.
“Mione!” Ron exclaimed, wrapping his arm around her cheerfully.
Ron and Hermione had attempted dating throughout her return to Hogwarts after the war. Although, between Ron’s Auror training, her NEWT studies and the inevitable realisation that teenage crushes rarely work out — the trepid, romantic relationship between them had quickly crumbled.
It had been an awkward few months for the both of them; leaving them having to constantly choose who got to meet with Harry in solitude, whilst still trying to rebuild the same friendship that the two of them had enjoyed before the romantic split.
Luckily, it hadn’t taken much longer for both Hermione and Ron to find a comforting normality within their new career routines and post-Hogwarts lives. Before they knew it, the three of them were the easiest of friends once more; happily stepping back into the familiarity of mutual support and comfort that their close friendship had provided over the many years.
“Ron! Harry!” She greeted excitedly. It was always good to see them after a hard day at the Ministry.
The three friends huddled together around the corner table; each grabbing one of the now sticky mugs of Butterbeer before catching one another up on the events of their day.
Hermione listened happily as Ron and Harry animatedly recounted a rather humorous tale about a wizard whom they had temporarily detained earlier that afternoon. The wizard had apparently tried to sell enchanted vegetable peelers, which unfortunately seemed to turn onto the users themselves, peeling their clothes instead.
Many irate witches and wizards had demanded that the wizard be detained and tried for assault; However, Harry and Ron had been required to transfer the case over to the Department for the Improper Use of Magic. Although, much to their delight, they had still been able to enjoy the chaotic spectacle of very disheveled and hastily dressed witches and wizards clambering into the DMLE just before lunchtime.
Both Ron and Harry laughed loudly at the expression on Hermione’s face as they informed her that the same wizard had been planning on expanding his business into a whole magical household appliance line.
It seemed that every department in the Ministry had their hands full these days...
A few Butterbeers later, and she was practically squirming with apprehension. She knew that she would have to tell them about Narcissa’s proposition soon. Already, both Harry and Ron had pried for information about her ‘important matter,’ but Hermione had simply dismissed their concerns, stating that she would rather hear about their day first.
Now, she was running out of time.
Lifting her wand inconspicuously, she non-verbally cast a Muffliato around their table — immediately capturing both Ron and Harry’s undivided attention.
“Narcissa Malfoy came to see me today.” She stated casually, trying to focus on the half-full mug of Butterbeer in her hand.
Ron and Harry remained silent; observing Hermione’s agitated posture, they exchanged confused glances with one another.
Hermione sighed deeply. The extended chaos of Narcissa’s visit had officially begun.
“Oh, come on Hermione.” Harry spoke, breaching the heavy silence. “When are you going to start jinxing those stiff and pompous up-to-no-goods out of your office?”
“Yeah, Mione.” Ron agreed. “Tell ‘em you’re closed for business. You don’t work for the Regulation of Magical Creatures anymore — don’t entertain their tantrums.”
She smiled at their reactions. This was not the first time that they had defended her against the backlash towards the House-elf regulations.
“She came to see me about Malfoy.” Hermione reiterated; helplessly watching as Harry’s face suddenly froze and Ron sprayed a mouthful of butterbeer all over the table.
Choking loudly and sporting a face as red as his hair, Ron bashed his chest with his fist in an attempt to alleviate the convulsions.
“Honestly, Ronald.” Hermione chastised, vanishing the mess with a swish of her wand.
“Malfoy?” Harry asked when Ron had finally quietened. “What’s up with Malfoy?”
Reassuring that her Muffliato was still in place, she leant forward over the table and whispered dramatically. “He’s dying.”
Ron and Harry both gaped in shock at her revelation.
“What? Why?” they each sputtered simultaneously.
“I don’t know — But, I suspect it’s something to do with dark magic; Narcissa mentioned it being the fault of both herself and Lucius Malfoy.” Taking a breath, Hermione nervously added. “She asked me to save him.”
“Why would you save that ferret?” Ron questioned. “No offense, Hermione — you’re brilliant; but, why you?”
Harry nodded, seemingly agreeing with Ron’s line of thought.
With a resigned sigh, she proceeded to tell Ron and Harry all that Narcissa Malfoy had said to her that afternoon.
“Come off it, Hermione — she appealed to your Gryffindor side. She knows you have a weakness for meek and endangered species. That lady Malfoy sure does earn her green and silver colours by portraying her son as a new cause for you to save.”
Hermione glared at Ron. “Narcissa Malfoy is a grieving mother. She is not trying to manipulate me with the thought of her son’s demise.”
Harry smirked into his butterbeer, hiding his reaction as Ron simply laughed heartily. “She has you fooled already, Mione.”
“Malfoy has neither been innocent nor meek since before we’ve met him. There’s no way that he would just step back and let some mysterious magic do him in.” Harry explained. “Lady Malfoy is simply being dramatic. She’s probably still traumatised from nearly losing her son and husband in the war — Of course she’s going to be paranoid if there’s even the slightest chance of losing her precious little boy again.”
“Yeah, Hermione.” Ron nodded animatedly. “Malfoy’s probably got every curse breaker working round the clock for him — don’t fret over the ferret.”
Hermione fiddled anxiously with her mug. Staring at the table with a frown, she contemplated Narcissa’s tactics of persuasion.
It had become clear to her that when Narcissa Malfoy had realised that wealth and status wouldn’t sway her; Narcissa’s approach had taken a more humanitarian stance. She now wondered if those had even been real tears… truthfully, she had never seen a proper pureblood lady ‘lower herself’ to cry in public before.
Maybe she had been manipulated by a Slytherin after all.
“Don’t worry, Hermione — it happens to the best of us.” Harry grinned at her playfully. “So, what did she say when you refused her plea and told her exactly what Malfoy could do with the pointy end of his wand?”
Hermione stilled immediately; ducking her head as she nervously avoided both Harry and Ron’s overly suspicious gazes.
Damn their Auror training, they could read her like a book.
“You did tell her no; didn’t you, Hermione?” Harry looked at her pointedly. She could clearly recognise the panic settling within his expression.
She suddenly wished that she had never bothered going into work that morning. Maybe she could ask Harry to obliviate her? That would solve her problem about feeling guilty at seeing Malfoy’s obituary in the Daily Prophet…
Shaking her head in self admonishment, Hermione lifted her hesitant gaze towards the two extremely shocked faces across from her.
“You said yes?!” Harry shouted, drawing the gaze of a few patrons nearby.
“N—No.” She stuttered frantically as once again Ron began to turn red from his neck to his ears. “I told her that I would speak to Draco first.”
“Speak to Draco? To Draco?” Ron bristled heatedly, finally finding the ability to breathe after Hermione’s previous confession. “On first name basis already Hermione? You sure do move fast these days.”
“Yes, Draco Malfoy — the wizard I’ve been asked to save” Hermione whispered harshly, fighting back the bubbling shame. Telling Harry and Ron was becoming increasingly harder than she had expected.
“You mean the git you’re going to sacrifice yourself for? Catering to the whims of purebloods who see you as nothing more than a useful object at their disposal is not heroic, Hermione.”
“Ronald Weasley!” She bristled. “I know my worth! You will remember that I haven’t said yes.”
Ron frowned angrily, yet remained quiet as Hermione continued.
“I wanted to speak to Malfoy before agreeing to save someone who probably has no business being saved anyway. I won’t say yes unless I know that it’s for a good cause — for a good person.”
Ron snorted loudly. “Malfoy, good?”
“You’ve lost your mind, Hermione.” Harry teased. “You don’t honestly think that Malfoy could have changed so much only five years after the war? Just because he was too much of a coward, doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe in what he was set out to do.”
She took a sip of her Butterbeer.
“I have to know if Narcissa is right about him dying. If he has changed — if there’s a chance — don’t you see how it would benefit the lives of all muggleborns in the future. The heir of the most influential and proud wizarding family — marrying a muggleborn.” she emphasised.
Ron and Harry’s eyes both widened at Hermione’s admission. They hadn’t thought that she would actually take Narcissa’s proposition this seriously.
”You know that Voldemort’s defeat did little to change the prejudiced systems and public opinions already in place throughout wizarding Britain. This could finally change everything — everything I’ve been fighting for since I turned eleven.”
It was a painful truth that after the war had ended, many wizards and witches still retained and believed in the years of propaganda and indoctrination imposed from nearly a century of continuous darkness; firstly as a result of Grindewald, followed by Voldemort’s increased manipulation for decades after.
Each generation of witches and wizards had slowly been led to believe in at least some aspects, if not all, of the unfounded bias towards muggles and muggleborns in particular. Even Ron had apprehensions towards muggles — Though, tales of Harry’s Aunt and Uncle probably hadn’t helped in that regard, she had to admit.
The ministry did what they could; However, it wasn’t as if they could throw everyone who disliked or feared muggleborns and muggles into Azkaban prison.
Healing took time, they all knew that.
Harry leant across the table; taking Hermione’s hands within his own, he gave them a small squeeze in acknowledgement.
She knew that they did not agree with her reasoning; However, they would still try to understand her decision none the less.
“Well, Mione.” Ron joked, downing the remnants of his butterbeer. “If you are idiotic enough to actually marry the slimy git... At least remember to spend lots of his shiny galleons on our Christmas presents, yeah?”
All three friends laughed heartily, grateful for the break in tension.
Now, Hermione simply had to wait.
All would hopefully soon be revealed...
“Good morning.” Hermione greeted Marissa as she approached the reception desk outside of her office.
“Morning, Miss Granger.” Marissa replied cheerfully.
At least one of them had gotten ample sleep the night before, Hermione thought.
After a few more rounds of Butterbeers and numerous hilarious tales told on behalf of Harry and Ron; the three friends had said their goodbyes and left the Leaky Cauldron to return to their respective homes.
Hermione, however, couldn’t sleep.
After scouring through every book in her apartment that referenced curses, magical contracts and dark magic; Hermione had promptly resigned herself to a restless night of wakefulness. Her mind had proceeded to meticulously replay every detail, every word and every interaction of Narcissa Malfoy’s visit.
She had found nothing.
Hours of pouring over various texts had left her more confused than before.
Lady Malfoy had barely relayed enough details to narrow down the search to a single category of books — though, she was quite confident that dark magic was involved.
The few instances of contractual bindings rarely threatened the lives of the individuals involved — at least, not before the binding took place. Of course, there were also a few inhumane, yet popular, pureblood marriage contracts which stipulated harsh infidelity clauses; However, all this had little semblance to Draco’s need of a magically gifted witch...
Entering her Office; Hermione set about re-reading the Muggleborn Restriction Act file from the day before.
The previous afternoon had proven disastrous with regards to her concentration, and today was already proving to be equally vexing.
To make matters worse, the Malfoy marriage proposal contract had provided nothing of value to Hermione’s questions. Although the contract itself had been amended to reflect both herself and Draco Lucius Malfoy; frustratingly, everything else had merely been regurgitated clauses that were probably centuries old.
To her shock, the marriage contract had indeed held nothing resembling a traditional marriage of romantic notions. The contract, which should have been called ‘ the Malfoy business proposal contract’ — was solely designed to negotiate and ensure the most prosperous union possible between the two families involved. Gold, assets and investments took clear preference over if the couple even liked one another.
The only reason Narcissa Malfoy had left the contract on Hermione’s desk, as she soon discovered; was that it contained a detailed audit of every valuable item within the Malfoy’s possession. With disgust, she had nearly closed the contract at that point — until she saw that ancient books and scrolls were considered valuable items too.
She had barely contained her awe at the lists of works and rare titles held within their possession. Hermione wondered if she would ever be able to get her hands on even some of the items within the Malfoy Library…
A knock on the door broke her out of her wistful musings. Before she could answer; the door opened to reveal a rather flushed looking Marissa, who stood holding a seemingly extravagant, white envelope out before her.
Standing from her desk, Hermione reached for the letter with a nod of dismissal.
Marissa had seemed at an unusual loss for words today. Lady Malfoy had definitely frightened the poor girl the day before. Her once talkative assistant, had now been reduced to the timid nature of a house elf at even the mere sight of a letter.
Regarding the envelope before her with narrowed eyes, she noticed the elegant script addressed the letter to a ‘Miss Hermione Jean Granger’; turning it over, the underside revealed an intricate, black wax seal baring the Malfoy family crest.
“Of course, it’s black.” she murmured to herself.
Breaking the seal; Hermione briefly admired the thick and luxurious paper between her fingers, before scanning the contents of Lady Malfoy’s correspondence.
Dear Miss Granger,
I am most pleased to invite you into my home this evening.
I trust that you shall find your visit most informative.
Your presence will be expected at seven o’ clock.
Lady N. Black Malfoy
Hermione gripped the letter tightly in her hand. Once again, Lady Malfoy had failed to extend her even the most basic of courtesies. The ‘invitation’ was no less an invitation but rather a demand for attendance.
Recovering from her irritation, Hermione startled perceptively — the significance of what the letter meant had finally registered within her sleep deprived mind.
She was going to meet with Draco Malfoy tonight!
Jumping to her feet, she summoned a small flask of pepper-up potion and an invigoration draught from the bottom drawer of her desk. Downing both potions consecutively, she was bounding towards the door before their effects could properly kick in.
“I’m spending the day in the archives.” Hermione called over her shoulder, letting Marissa know that she would be detained throughout the day.
She only had ten hours to research everything that the Ministry had in the Archives regarding dark curses and magically binding contracts.
Picking up her pace, she hastened towards the lifts with new determination.
She would not be walking into the snake-pit unprepared.
So Hermione is going to meet Draco in the next chapter. eeek!
Thank you for reading! :)
It was precisely seven o’clock when Hermione appeared at the edge of the Malfoy estate’s apparition wards. Fortunately, Summer had only recently crept into Autumn and the remains of the sunset lingered in the approaching darkness.
Standing before the large metal gate, she hesitated. Malfoy Manor was not a sight she had ever intended to see again. The large manor loomed eerily over the vast estate; its gothic architecture, though probably once grand, now seemed ominous to Hermione’s eyes.
Stepping forward, the gates swung open automatically; the heavy, black metal moaning audibly with weight and age. This was it. There was no going back now.
She began the long walk up to Malfoy Manor.
An old House Elf had met Hermione at the front entrance. After leading her through a rather grand entrance hall and towards a darkened passageway on the left; Hermione realised that she was being taken to the West wing of the manor — farthest away from the room where she had been tortured only a handful of years ago.
At least Narcissa had decided to use some decency tonight, she thought.
“Mistress awaits.” The house elf croaked, gesturing to an open door that led into a rather well-lit parlour.
“Thank you.” Hermione said kindly as it hobbled away, muttering and grumbling under its breath. Some house elves hated her just as much as the wizards and witches who owned them, it seemed. Smiling to herself, Hermione wondered if the house elf knew Kreacher.
She entered the parlour with her head held high. She wasn’t going to play into Narcissa’s games today. Dealing with a Slytherin was like playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’ — every time you thought you were winning; the snake would swallow you whole and leave you at the bottom again.
The parlour was beautiful, there was no doubt about that. Every detail had been refined to complement the lighting and subtle colour scheme — which surprisingly wasn’t green, but blue. Hermione could easily imagine curling up with a book on one of the luxurious, antique sofas — she doubted that Narcissa would ever put her feet up on any of the furniture.
Lady Malfoy sat perched on the edge of the sofa nearest to the fireplace. With hands clasped tightly in her lap, Narcissa stared blankly into the flickering flames.
“Good evening, Miss Granger.” Narcissa greeted without turning around.
“Lady Malfoy.” Hermione replied politely.
Narcissa barely resembled the same poised and elegant witch that had barged into Hermione’s office only one day prior. Her once radiant glow of refinement had been replaced with an ashen pallor, framed wildly with unkept wisps of hair. Looking almost casual, Narcissa wore neither jewels nor elaborate dress-robes this evening.
Lady Malfoy looked every bit the ‘grieving mother.’
The first thought she had, was to call Narcissa’s bluff and applaud her dedication to dramatic detail. Hermione had come prepared with copious knowledge about curses, magical contracts and dark magic. She had spent all day formulating every possible solution and was quite content with her findings. No curses, magical contracts or instances of dark magic had ever required a marriage or binding ceremony in order to save a wizard or witch’s life.
Over one thousand years of evidentiary support had reassured her that Lady Malfoy was simply over-reacting and severely misinformed.
Unfortunately, the confident mindset that Hermione had brandished all afternoon vanished within moments of Narcissa finally turning to acknowledge her guest.
Lady Malfoy’s deep, grey eyes, were now puffy and rimmed with a telltale redness. Her ever-present, fierce look of apathy, had been similarly marred with obvious hints of distress too.
Narcissa had probably been crying all day.
Taking a seat across from Lady Malfoy, she felt a wave of terror wash over her. Draco really was dying. Narcissa really had come to her in desperation.
How does one even begin to comprehend the enormity of something they never thought they would have to do?
“What is it you would have me do?” Hermione asked quietly.
“Miss Granger.” Narcissa began warily. “I must warn you — I must ensure you understand that my son is not quite himself anymore.”
Hermione listened attentively; her mind spinning with Narcissa’s every word as she already began deducing what could possibly be wrong with Draco Malfoy.
Nodding for Narcissa to continue, Hermione waited.
“I understand that Draco was never a saint.” Narcissa sniffed. “However, I raised him to be proud and proper — and my son always stood obediently by those ideals, even if they are not what you would agree with — I cannot fault him for his past behavior.”
This witch was a whole other level of delusional, she thought.
“Please, do not base your judgement on what you witness this evening, Miss Granger.”
She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. As if her opinion of Draco Malfoy was anything special to begin with?
“— But, the dark curse... It’s been affecting him for many years now; I’m sure you can understand what that would do to a wizard?” Narcissa revealed, staring at Hermione with a desperate expression. “Look through it, Miss Granger — My son is still there.”
Hermione gasped softly. A dark curse? How had Draco Malfoy become the receiver of a dark curse? The possibilities were endless…
This was good news though! Dark curses were reversible. If anyone could find a solution, she could. Maybe, Narcissa hadn’t wasted her efforts approaching her after all.
Of course, dark curses were extremely complex works of magic and varied greatly upon the strength of the caster. After spending almost a year camping with a Horcrux and memorising the darkest of spell books’ during the war; she was fairly confident that she would be able to help.
“Why is Draco cursed?”
Narcissa stilled perceptively. “I’ve already said too much... Forgive me, Miss Granger — it is not my place to reveal anymore than I already have.”
Hermione nodded thoughtfully. She had suspected that Narcissa wouldn’t reveal anything more of consequence to her.
So be it, she decided.
“I would like to talk to Draco now, please.”
“Remember what I told you, Miss Granger.” Narcissa stiffly reminded her as she lead them through the manor. “My son is not himself right now; Do not let him sway you — I know that there is hope in him yet.”
Hermione followed obediently while listening to Lady Malfoy. However, it seemed to her that Narcissa was actually trying to persuade herself about the true nature of her son — rather than convince Hermione.
They had been winding down so many endless passageways and turning so many corners, that she could barely keep up with which part of the manor they were in right now.
Unfortunately, the news of Hermione’s blood-status had obviously spread throughout the manor upon her arrival.
All the portraits adorning the walls, had awakened with immediate vigor. Stunned at the sight of a muggleborn witch freely stalking the hallways of Malfoy Manor; every portrait had proceeded to shout profanities and snarl insults at Hermione with obvious relish.
Merlin’s beard! Did every pureblood home require family portraits to act as a personalised caterwauling charm upon sight of every muggleborn or blood traitor?
Lady Malfoy, ignoring the interruptions; continued to lead Hermione towards a large set of doors at the end of one of the hallways.
Halting outside the entryway, Narcissa turned to Hermione with a serious expression. “Draco is confined to the suite just through these doors, Miss Granger.”
Hermione’s eyes widened at the sight of Lady Malfoy suddenly holding a wand within her left hand. Brandishing the wand in a fluid procession of familiar movements, Narcissa set about removing the wards surrounding Draco’s suite.
Having recognized the counter-charms; she couldn’t help but apprehensively wonder as to why Narcissa had placed confinement wards around Draco’s suite — was Malfoy dangerous?
“I will not be joining you, Miss Granger.” Narcissa revealed, stepping to the side gracefully.
She was about to protest before Lady Malfoy had grabbed her arm and shoved her through the now open door.
“Best to keep your wand in hand.” Narcissa added quickly, shutting the solid oak door with a reverberating thud.
Hermione squeaked in alarm. What did Lady Malfoy just say?
Swallowing the dry lump in her throat, she turned to face the room.
Instantly, her gaze fixed upon the sight of a white-haired figure holding a tumbler of firewhiskey. The figure stood looking out of a particularly large window, casually staring across the Wiltshire countryside with not a care in the world.
In quiet disbelief, Hermione moved across the room; gripping her wand tightly behind her back — she was prepared to act quickly if needed.
“Evening, Granger.” A familiar voice drawled coldly. “I believe I’ve been expecting you.”
She had definitely not been prepared for this.
Draco Malfoy was a sight to behold — and not in the way that Hermione had been expecting. Dressed in sharply tailored black robes; Draco’s pale complexion and pointed features were attractively contrasted. The once sunken shell of a scared teenage boy had been replaced with that of a broader and more confident young wizard.
A very healthy looking young wizard. A very normal and ‘not affected by a dark curse’ young wizard.
“You look… well?” Hermione demanded, utterly perplexed.
“Do tell me, Granger. What has my mother revealed to you?” Draco asked, ignoring Hermione’s questioning remark.
“That you need to be saved.”
Draco scoffed loudly; reaching for a large flask of Firewhiskey on a nearby small table, he poured himself another glass. Noting Hermione’s obvious bewilderment, he lifted the tumbler towards her in a mock toast.
“Keeps the pain away.” He whispered dramatically.
She was not amused.
“Come on, Granger.” He teased. “It’s after five o’clock.”
“Are you not going to tell me anything, Malfoy?” She demanded once more.
Draco sneered before turning around, draining the contents of the tumbler in one gulp.“My mother would have had me unconscious in bed, feigning imminent death upon our meeting, Granger — Don’t be fooled by her theatrics — I’m perfectly capable of solving this myself.” He spoke with his back to her.
Hermione sighed. She couldn't believe that Ron and Harry had been right. “So, your mother lied about you being in imminent danger from a dark curse?”
“I didn’t say that.” He replied cryptically, still facing away from her.
“You’re really dying? But — But you’re so calm about it?”
Draco turned around abruptly and levelled her with the same pointed look that his mother was so fond of. “Don’t be absurd, Granger. We all have to die someday — no one wants a repeat of the last lunatic who sought to escape death by any means.”
“You’re not afraid?” Hermione questioned, discomforted by Malfoy’s attitude towards his own demise. “You’re so young.”
“I’m hardly going to be the youngest to die as a result of the war” Draco chuckled. “Spare me your pathetic sympathy, Granger. We both know I have no want of it.”
“The war? You were cursed in the war?” She latched on, trying to draw answers out of a very uncooperative Draco Malfoy.
“Ten points to Gryffindor.”
“Your mother said that you were confined to this suite — Why?" Hermione pressed; curious as to why Malfoy had been retained within his suite when he appeared so painstakingly normal.
“Now that my dear father is rather preoccupied within Azkaban these days — I do what I can to appease her.” Draco admitted evenly.
“I never took you as self-less, Malfoy.” She clipped in response, refusing to believe that he would go to such an extent for anyone.
“On the days when I’m myself again; I remember who was there for me... even when I wasn’t.”
Her brow rose slightly at the brief show of emotion which had flitted across Malfoy’s expression.
“I saw the confinement wards.” she reminded him.
“My mother was rather persistent that I stay put this evening. Of course, she can’t really be blamed — she does have a new little pet whom she so wanted for me to speak with." Draco smirked coldly.
Picking up the bottle of Firewhiskey once again, Draco continued in his usual drawl. "At least I got to keep this nice bottle of 'Ogden's finest' with me; a few more glasses and I might actually tolerate the smell of dirt in the room." Sighing dramatically, he continued in a bitter tone. "One has to be prepared these days — who knows what sort of mud will be tracked in through the front door."
"You should get used to the smell of dirt, Malfoy." Hermione smirked. "I suspect that you'll soon be six feet under it."
“Why are you here, Granger?” He demanded irately, slamming the bottle back down upon the small table.
“I told you. Your mother asked me to save you.”
“No, Granger.” He snapped. “Why are you here? I fail to believe that Hermione Granger, public advocate for the downtrodden and pathetic — would be interested in helping my family.”
“It’s like you said, Malfoy. I’m the public advocate for the downtrodden and pathetic.”
“Don’t get clever with me.” Draco scoffed, his mouth set in a hard line. “What did my mother bribe you with? I’m quite surprised you were so easily bought, Granger.”
“I haven’t agreed to anything.” Hermione seethed, affronted at such an accusation. “Nor would I want so much as a knut from either you or your mother.”
“There must be something you want from me. We both know you wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
“I would leave right now... Godric knows that the magical community would be better off without another pureblood wizard like you.”
Draco’s smile widened dangerously. “You want to use my name to further your connections in the Ministry. Don’t you, Granger?”
“It crossed my mind.” She admitted reluctantly. “Though, no, Malfoy — If you must know; I’m here because I couldn’t just sit back while your mother claimed that you lay dying. No matter how insufferable you are — I knew I had to at least try to help you.”
“Can’t even negotiate the better end of a deal when it’s handed to you on a golden Malfoy platter.” Draco mocked, rolling his eyes. “I over-estimated you — I assumed that you would have had my mother funding your every political appeal in the next decade — just for you being here tonight... Though, I shouldn’t have expected such cunning from the witch who right now can barely conceal the wand she’s been holding behind her back since entering the room.”
She refused to be baited by Draco’s insults. “Some witches and wizards are just good, Malfoy — They don’t ask for payment when the cost of life is at stake.”
“Always the Gryffindor hero; aren’t you, Granger?” Draco continued to ridicule her. “Though, I guess you couldn’t all escape Potter’s insufferable mantra. I did always think it foolish to have all you Gryffindorks living together at Hogwarts — to live through all those impressionable years —constantly surrounded by so many pathetic influences...”
Draco tittered at Hermione’s shocked expression before continuing.
“You lot all bound about thinking yourselves brave; but, you’re all just thoughtless and reckless in the end.” He gestured to Hermione. “And here we are — another gleaming Gryffindor, come to save the world.”
“You’re hardly the world, Malfoy.” She rebutted. “— and you should be thanking me.”
“Just piss off, Granger.” He snapped at her, all traces of his previous mirth suddenly gone.
“I’m here to help you!”
Hermione bristled. She had no time for such childish dramatics. Throwing up her hands in a sign of aggravation, she stalked angrily towards Malfoy.
“You insufferable, arrogant git!”
“What? What did you expect — that I would want your help?” Draco laughed coldly. “In your dirty little muggleborn dreams, Granger.”
“Then go ahead and die, Malfoy.” She declared. “I know that it’s probably extremely dark magic — curses like that, they don’t simply take you down painlessly. You’ll be begging for anyone to help you before the end. Though, from what I can tell; it seems that you deserve to be suffering.”
Draco’s hands clenched by his sides at Hermione’s words.
“And what of your mother?”
“Don’t bring my mother into this, Granger. She had no right to approach you.” He replied in a harsh voice.
“I would have thought that if you didn’t want to live for yourself, that you would at least want to live for her.”
Draco let out a loud, animalistic growl at Hermione’s words. “Enough!”
Instinctively stepping backwards, Hermione flinched as Draco swung his leg towards the small table laden with the fire-whiskey and fancy looking crystal tumblers. With a distinctive crash, the echoing chorus of shattering glass reverberated within the room as the table screeched along the marble floor.
Hermione’s hand once again remained behind her back, gripping her wand tightly as she stared wide eyed at the scene before her.
“I know that you don’t want to die, Malfoy.” She pressed bravely.
“SHUT UP!” he roared, rounding on Hermione in just a few short breaths. “You know nothing! Brightest witch of her age —and still just as ignorant as before.”
Draco now stood a mere inches away from Hermione. Breathing hard, and eyes wide; he towered over her menacingly.
She acknowledged that Draco Malfoy was like an injured dog; poisoned with fear and pain, he sought to lash out at those who got too close to his wounds.
“Why wont you tell me what’s wrong with you, Malfoy?” Hermione pestered him further. Who was she to be afraid of a mere worked up ferret? “Dark curses can often be removed. What aren’t you telling me — It’s been over five years — I don’t understand what dark curse would only now, suddenly be so bad?”
Draco merely stared at Hermione blankly.
“Why does your mother keep bringing up a marriage?”
Again, Draco met her question with only a glare.
Ignoring Draco’s silence, she continued her tirade of questions.“Your mother left a Malfoy marriage proposal contract on my desk... Don’t you think I deserve some answers?”
Draco paled considerably at Hermione’s words.
“She did what?” He breathed harshly.
Hermione couldn’t blame Draco’s reaction. It was one thing for Narcissa to proposition Hermione with a marriage; However, to present her with an official Malfoy marriage proposal contract — Hermione would only have had to sign it, and Draco Malfoy would have been legally and irreversibly engaged without even knowing it.
Instead of mocking her, Hermione reasoned; Draco should be thanking his lucky stars that she was not a more socially cunning, pureblood witch.
“I assumed you knew.” She countered, arching her brow. “Or does your mother perform all your romantic gestures these days?”
“From what you just said — you obviously didn’t read the contract, Granger.”
“I did.” Hermione quipped. “Nice library.”
Breathing deeply, Draco simply turned and walked away from her. She watched him silently as he stopped in front of an ornate looking wooden chest. Kneeling quickly, he reached in and withdrew a long, narrow box before straightening once again.
Turning to face Hermione, Draco walked over to where she stood; still refusing to meet her questioning look.
“You wouldn’t believe me If I told you, Granger.” He stated, running a hand through his hair in frustration.
“Try me.” She challenged.
Sighing, Draco opened the box and pulled out a finely made, Hawthorn wand.
“It’s not some special or cursed wand, Granger.” Draco chuckled, having witnessed Hermione’s immediate reaction. “It’s my wand — Though, I haven’t had any need of it in quite some time.”
Holding up his hand in a gesture of silence, he prevented Hermione’s next onslaught of questions.
“It will be easier if I show you.”
Hermione watched nervously as Draco hesitatingly lifted the wand out before him.
Why did he suddenly look so scared —why did she suddenly feel so scared?
Gripping her own wand reassuringly; she waited with bated breath as Draco pointed his wand at the mess of broken glass.
Carefully and clearly, he uttered the incantation for a simple vanishing charm.
Hermione had been expecting a loud explosion, or the spell somehow backfiring — or even her more obscure thought of exotic cursed fire that would have hopefully chased Malfoy around the room. What she hadn’t expected — or even imagined possible; was Draco Malfoy suddenly dropping to the floor the minute the incantation left his mouth.
She wasn’t proud to admit that for a few short seconds, she had simply stood back — rooted with shock.
Gaping at the listless wand — which had now rolled a few feet away from Draco’s convulsing body; Hermione felt a loud pounding in her head that she couldn’t quite place before she realised that it was the horrifying sounds of Draco’s screams echoing throughout the room, plaguing her mind.
Snapping out of her shock upon this realisation, she was kneeling by Malfoy’s side within the space of a few heartbeats; watching with wide eyes as Draco lay tightly clutching his left forearm with his right hand.
Without warning, Draco let out a particularly loud, bone chilling scream as his whole body started to shake violently. His body twisted and arched in a way that reminded Hermione all to familiarly of the effects of the cruciatus curse. Placing her own shaking hand on his back, she attempted to soothe him as his body writhed from the pain.
Panicked and confused, she could only watch helplessly as Draco fell victim to what was obviously the dark curse’s sudden attack.
With one last scream; Draco’s muscles convulsed tightly — before falling limp entirely.
Hermione’s heart clenched at the sight of Malfoy, now lying eerily still, his body splayed out awkwardly on his side. She hadn’t realise that she had been holding her breath until Draco took in a deep, rattled breath himself — finally prompting her to exhale loudly.
Although the attack had only lasted a few minutes, to her — it had seemed like hours.
She continued to kneel by his side helplessly as Draco, groaning weakly, suddenly rolled onto his back with obvious difficulty.
The glass shards which were still all over the floor, had cut into him while his body had convulsed as a result of the curse. With his robes now torn jaggedly, and a small cut starting to drip a trail of blood from the side of his brow — Draco Malfoy looked as if he had just been tortured for hours.
To him, it probably felt like it; Hermione thought grimly.
Leaning forward, Hermione sought to inspect the small cut on his brow. Reaching out to carefully move a lock of Draco’s hair away from the bloodied area; a strong, pale hand shot up and caught her wrist tightly before she could touch him.
“Don’t.” He rasped, weakly pushing her hand away from his face.
“Malfoy?” Hermione whispered, leaning forward once more.
Pained, grey eyes slowly opened to meet Hermione’s own concerned gaze.
“Malfoy, what has happened to you?”
That was an interesting development, huh?
I would love to hear your opinion on Draco in this chapter.
Thank you for Reading! :D
Hermione stole a glance to where Draco now sat — his body propped up stiffly against the wall.
Earlier, when Malfoy had regained consciousness — and much to his dismay; Hermione had immediately examined him for any other signs of injury. Before he could protest further; she had mended his torn robes with a quick procession of basic spells — wordlessly vanishing the broken glass in the process too.
Hermione had then politely attempted to help Draco up from the floor. Though, to her disbelief — it seemed that Malfoy had managed to retain his obstinate mood from before; stubbornly refusing any more of her help as he stumbled towards the far wall and sank down heavily to the floor.
Having noticed how Draco’s body had responded awkwardly to his will — his muscles still weakened and limp from the convulsions; Hermione currently wondered what type of curse could affect someone in this way.
Besides from the cut on his brow, Draco appeared relatively fine. However, Hermione knew the opposite to be true.
The pain that the curse had inflected, had been completely internal; relentlessly attacking the muscles and nervous system in the most abhorrent manner — not dissimilar to the cruciatus curse. Though, while the cruciatus curse attacked the mind with an intense illusion of pain — overwhelming the body into complete dementia. This particular dark curse, seemed to actually physically attack Draco’s entire nervous system — crippling his every cell as the dark magic coursed venomously through his veins.
An advanced diagnostic spell had revealed an expansive, layered web of magical scarring that left Hermione with little wonder as to just how often these attacks occurred.
Draco, of course, still refused to provide Hermione with any solid answers. After all that had happened, they were back to square one again.
With a huff of frustration, Hermione fixed her gaze onto Malfoy; watching him closely — waiting for him to break under her persistent need for answers.
The wizard in question seemed not to notice at all. With his eyes closed and his head bent up towards the ceiling, Draco Malfoy contentedly remained sitting against the wall — breathing deeply as his body shook with the occasional, subtle tremor.
Having noticed these spasms, Hermione conjured a goblet of water and walked over to Draco’s side. Holding the goblet out with a steady hand, she silently offered it to him.
Draco cracked one eye open before glancing upwards at the proffered drink. “If that isn’t firewhiskey, I don’t want it.” He croaked, voice still hoarse from screaming.
Hermione rolled her eyes. What an utter twat, she thought. Thinking back to the various ways Malfoy had insulted her while ignoring her every question; Hermione’s hand acted before her mind could tell herself otherwise.
It had only taken a slight bend of the wrist — one small decision, before a torrent of cold water was being poured out from the goblet and straight onto the head of a particularly frustrating, unsuspecting Slytherin.
“What the fuck, Granger?!” Draco spluttered, glaring upwards at Hermione with a dangerous expression.
“Not as impervious to water as you are to help, are you, Malfoy?” Hermione smirked, thoroughly amused. She knew that there were better ways to get Draco Malfoy’s attention — considering his current condition; Although, Hermione reasoned, a nice cold shower did help with muscle recovery — at least, it might.
Draco gritted his teeth in contempt. His hair, face and most of his robes had been drenched during Hermione’s childish act of retribution.
With a still shaky hand, he pushed the wet locks of hair away from his face and irritably leant back against the wall once again.
“You’re lucky, Granger, considering that I can’t move right now, I’m going to pretend that you didn’t just do that.” Malfoy breathed angrily.
“Oh please — what would you do, Malfoy? — you’re practically a muggle.” Hermione retorted. “Tell me, are you really dying? Or is not having magic as good as a death sentence around here?”
“I have magic.” Draco seethed. “I just can’t use it.”
“You know what I meant.”
Sighing, Draco turned to Hermione with a n annoyed look. “Will you really not stop pestering me until you know what is wrong with me, Granger?”
“You told me that you would show me.” Hermione berated, her hands resting on her hips defensively. “Now, you’re just sitting there; refusing to answer any of my questions — even after everything I just witnessed.”
“I had hoped that it would scare you away.”
Hermione felt a touch of sympathy at Draco’s revelation. She could only guess that there was a semblance of truth within his words. How many other witches had witnessed what she had seen this evening — and walked away?
“I’m a Gryffindor, remember?” Hermione smiled sadly at the still very wet Draco Malfoy. “We don’t run away from a challenge.”
“How original, Granger.” Draco snorted mockingly; Though, Hermione could see the hint of a new emotion forming within his eyes.
Close to cracking his resolve, she knew that she would have to press harder.
Tucking her wand up into her sleeve, Hermione sat down next to Malfoy; copying his stance as she too leant her head back against the wall.
“Things were supposed to have gotten easier after the war.” She sighed deeply.
“Don’t blame the world for your own reckless need to run head-first into every confrontation.” Draco drawled emotionlessly.
The corners of Hermione’s mouth lifted slightly. “For once, I’ll agree with you, Malfoy.”
Draco remained quiet, staring blankly across the room — deep in thought.
Hermione had neither the urge nor the thought to fill the silence. There was nothing more that she could do. She would have to wait. Wait for the wizard next to her to place his trust in the one witch he regarded the least — but was about to be forced to rely on the most.
Thus, the silence between them dragged by lazily. Each minute fading into the sounds of Draco’s ever slowing breaths. The remaining tremors had now ceased completely and even the barest hints of colour had returned to his cheeks.
Before Hermione could ask how he was feeling, Draco turned his head towards her — staring blankly, he met her questioning gaze as they sat, side by side — facing one another.
“What is it that you want to know?” He whispered defeatedly.
Hermione’s eyes widened with surprise; calming her reaction, she tried not to gape at the sudden, close proximity between them.
“Start from the beginning.” She uttered quickly, her voice catching in her eagerness. “Why are you cursed?”
Chuckling darkly, Draco held out his left forearm between them; pulling back the long sleeve, he calmly revealed the underside of his arm for Hermione to see.
“Take a look for yourself, Granger — I told you that this would be hard to explain.” Draco quipped emotionlessly.
Hermione stared mutely at Malfoy’s left forearm. She had expected to see the typical remnants of the faded Dark Mark marring his skin. However, the same pinkish, scarred remains of the Dark Mark that all Voldemort’s previously favoured followers still bared — was not there.
No, Draco’s forearm revealed a Dark Mark that looked exactly the same as every other Dark Mark would have looked before Voldemort’s magic had lost its sway on the world.
The stark, jet black design of the skull and snake still appeared very prominent — and very much active. Watching transfixed as the Dark Mark seemed to breathe with life against the pale skin of his forearm; Hermione felt her own breath leave her body as she almost fainted in fright.
She had seen it, felt it... The mark — the curse.
Hermione would never have thought that it would all come down to this.
The Dark Mark on Draco Malfoy’s left forearm still radiated with magic.
“Granger.” Malfoy snapped, drawing her out of her paralysing thoughts. “Voldemort’s dead. He’s not coming back. You don’t have to act as if a swarm of hopeful Death Eaters are about to come clambering through the door.”
Hermione nodded robotically; her eyes still fixed in a trance as she watched the angry, black design moving agitatedly across his still exposed skin.
“Granger!” Malfoy admonished; pulling his arm back before hastily rolling down the sleeve once more.
Hermione couldn’t think straight. Voldemort was dead — every Horcrux had definitely been destroyed. Yet, Draco’s mark looked as dark and as angry as if Voldemort himself had pressed his wand against the harrowing design.
“Who. Who — How?” Hermione stuttered at a loss for words, staring wide eyed at a very uncomfortable looking Draco Malfoy.
“You sound like an Owl.” He scoffed, looking away nervously and quietly adding. “The curse imbued into the mark — mine’s still active.”
“I don’t understand.” Hermione mumbled, her brow furrowed with confusion. “The magic within each Dark Mark was severed when Voldemort died.”
“It was.” Draco sighed; bringing his hand up to his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Except, when I took the dark mark — the bond was never finished. Yes, the mark was placed on me, but never fully… set.”
“What?” Hermione gaped, thoroughly confused.
“The remnants of the Dark Mark that the other Death Eaters all have; the dark curse within each of those marks had already been lifted long before the war ended — only Voldemort’s vile magic seeped through their veins at the time of his death.” Draco admitted. “However, the same dark curse within the marks, which they all so freely escaped — is still very much active within me today.”
“I’m not following you, Malfoy.” Hermione protested, battling to comprehend the inner workings of Voldemort’s ranks.
“Look, Granger.” Draco breathed sharply. “The Dark Mark was not just a token of Voldemort’s favour. It was an honour to be in his innermost circle. The most absolute way for one to belong to his cause, to serve his cause — to kill for his cause.”
Realising what Draco had been trying to say, Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. “You had to kill someone for the Dark Mark to fully bind to you, didn’t you?”
Draco nodded solemnly. “That’s the problem — I’ve never killed anyone.”
To say that Hermione was shocked, was an understatement. “So, Dumbledore…?” She asked, voice thick with emotion.
“Yes.” Draco nodded heavily. “You could call it an initiation — a test, maybe. What better punishment for my parents than to set me out with a target I could never kill? Though, he probably expected for me to be killed in the process — I don’t assume to know the workings of Voldemort’s mind, Granger.”
Hermione blinked back her tears as she tried not to think of that hateful night all those years ago.
“Surely, you must have wondered why Voldemort branded me so young — why I wasn’t simply given the task and sent off to Hogwarts just the same?” Draco inquired.
“That does make sense — though, in a completely messed up way.” Hermione acknowledged, realising the depth of Tom Riddle’s paranoia. “Voldemort had a failsafe; he would know who was loyal to him — who was truly willing to not just take the mark; but prove that they served him above all else — who better to trust, than those who would willingly blacken their soul for you?”
“He was rather obsessed with death, wasn’t he?” Draco smiled darkly. “A merry little group of followers all linked by subservient murder — how fitting.”
“Malfoy?” Hermione asked quietly. “If the ritual for the curse attached to your Dark Mark was never fulfilled — why — how is it able to affect you after all this time — how can an incomplete dark curse affect you like it did today?”
“You weren’t listening, Granger.” Draco mocked humourlessly. “The curse requires the sacrifice of a life to complete the bond.”
“It’s using your own life to complete the bond!” Hermione gasped.
“Yes.” He stated evenly. “Every day, since I received it, the curse grows stronger as it feeds from me. At first, after the war ended — I didn’t even notice it.” Laughing coldly, he added. “It took me two more years, two bladdy years for me to realise that it was because of the Dark Mark — because of the curse — that I had been weakening so drastically.”
Sighing defeatedly, Draco continued his explanation.
“As you saw earlier, it affected my magic first — I still have magic!” Draco stated hastily, noticing Hermione’s bewildered expression. “The curse attaches itself to every source of energy it can find. Using magic — casting even a basic spell; it’s like calling the dark magic of the curse to the surface. I can’t even distinguish between its darkness and my own magic these days.”
Hermione frowned at the thought of such darkness corrupting her own magic and shuddered perceptively.
“Every day, I feel its grip tighten on me.” Draco shakily admitted, his voice cracking noticeably. “Soon, I won’t have the energy left to fight it anymore.”
“It’s slowly draining the life right out of you?” Hermione confirmed; horrified that someone could live with a curse like that within them — and for so long.
Draco nodded stiffly in reply, his gaze fixed intently on Hermione’s own.
“There you have it, Granger — now you know why I’m dying.”
Tucked deep within the confines of Malfoy manor, the unlikely pair sat leaning against the cold stone wall; side by side, both of them nursing newly conjured tumblers of firewhiskey — firewhiskey that Hermione had all too happily retrieved from the well-stocked cabinet on the far side of the room.
There they sat, Hermione thought ironically. Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger, bonding over expensive firewhiskey — wordlessly toasting to Draco’s imminent demise.
It was all so … confusing, she decided; thinking back to everything Draco had told her. Sipping the burning, amber liquid contemplatively — Hermione attempted to puzzle all the pieces together.
“Malfoy.” Hermione questioned thoughtfully, idly swirling the remains of her drink within the short glass. “Why haven’t you been able to remove the curse?”
“Ah.” Draco chuckled softly. “I was wondering when you were going to start asking better questions.”
Hermione shrugged and took another burning sip.
“May I assume that you know the basics about Dark Curses?” Draco asked with a pointed look.
Hermione rolled her eyes and gestured for him to continue.
“The Dark Mark is made up of dark magic; that’s obvious, yes? — but it’s not just a single dark curse attached to the mark itself. Voldemort, despite his forthcomings — was a very powerful and very talented wizard.”
Hermione scoffed, but nodded her head; agreeing reluctantly.
“The dark curse — the magic currently swarming within my Dark Mark; it’s imbued into my very being. There are tiers of curses; multiple layers of blood magic intertwined with binding magic – magic that roots itself through the very fabric of my soul.” Draco’s voice faded darkly with each word. “Voldemort himself spent hours weaving his own poisonous magic through me; not stopping until every part of me was strung to the curse by a thread — forever linking me to the darkness.”
“Careful, Malfoy — you almost sound disgusted by Voldemort’s actions.” Hermione mocked, raising her eyebrow at him challengingly.
“I was — I still am.” Draco drawled, downing the contents of his tumbler before slamming it down on the floor next to him. “There isn’t much that I wouldn’t do just to escape the remnants of his clutches.”
Hermione’s brow furrowed at Draco’s words as she realised a very obvious solution which Draco had been presented with from the start.
“I’m confused.” Hermione whispered hesitantly. “If killing someone would save you from the curse — why didn’t you do it, Malfoy? — why didn’t you just kill someone? It couldn’t have been that hard to find some unsuspecting muggle…”
Draco’s head snapped up abruptly as he stared at Hermione in horror. “Why didn’t I Just kill someone?” He seethed. “So, that’s what you really think of me, Granger?”
“Is it so hard to believe that I do?”
“I’m not that fucked up, Granger.” Malfoy exhaled slowly. “I wouldn’t give Voldemort the satisfaction of controlling my choices again. He’s done enough to my family already — He won’t get me, not now that I have a say in it.”
“He already controls your Life, Malfoy.” Hermione muttered. “You’re dying from his curse, remember?”
“No, Granger. He doesn’t.” Draco replied firmly, steeling his gaze as he became emotionless once more. “I will die proudly knowing that I never killed for him; that I fought against his control to the very end — too many have already lost their lives because of this mark.”
“Exactly, Malfoy.” Hermione challenged. “Too many have lost their lives because of that mark.”
“I’m aware, Granger.” Draco rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to repeat what I say.”
”You have to survive this, Malfoy.” Hermione declared.
“You know that I can’t.”
“There has to be a way — Curses aren’t set in stone. Magic that strong, it has to have a core. You merely haven’t found the right angle to approach it yet.”
“You’re worse than a child, Granger.” Malfoy drawled, his eyes flashing with annoyance. “There’s no way around the curse. You can’t just stomp your feet and expect the world to bend the way that you want it to.”
“I do not stomp my feet, Malfoy.” Hermione balked.
“Yes, Granger, you do — I bet you stomp around the Ministry all day, throwing a tantrum at every witch and wizard who doesn’t agree with your view on how to solve something.”
“I don’t see you providing any solutions other than comfortably sitting back and choosing the flowers for your own funeral.” Hermione retorted heatedly.
“I spent three years consulting every curse breaker that I could find, hoping to find the breakthrough I needed.” Draco supplied. “Finally, I found an answer — but it destroyed me to hope...”
Hermione waited anxiously as Draco Took a moment to think. Given the morbid nature of the topic; she knew that it was probably rather difficult for him to talk about.
Hermione, however — was still confident.
“Truthfully.” Draco admitted, continuing where he left off. “The ritual was never finalised so, in theory… yes, Granger; the dark curse could possibly be removed — given ample time and effort.”
Hermione brightened cheekily; though, before she could boast, Draco cut her off.
“But, the curse attached to the ritual; the requisite to perform the darkest act of magic — taking a life — it’s the very essence of the Dark Mark itself... Surely, you must realise the part of oneself a curse like that would attach onto?
“The soul.” Hermione sighed, releasing the confident breath she had taken only moments before.
Draco nodded in affirmation once again. “The curse is woven through my soul — It’s immovable; anchored to me like the veins across one’s heart.”
“But, that means — if you tried to — if you were to remove it...” Hermione gasped, staring at Draco with wide, horrified eyes.
“Yes, Granger.” Draco finished. “It would shatter my soul in the process.”
Hermione paced back and forth; huffing and mumbling under her breath as her hair suffered the abuse of her agitated hands. Pulling and twisting at the messy nest of tangles and knots she had created; Hermione was at a loss for words — and not for the first or even the second time that day.
“If you pull out any more of that mangy hair of yours, Granger — I’m going to risk trying to hex you just to save the floor from your disgusting shedding.”
Hermione stopped her muttering mid pace; rounding on Draco with a shocked expression before narrowing her gaze suspiciously.
“You!” She practically shrieked, stalking towards where he was still leaning against the wall.
Draco cringed as Hermione’s previous ire now settled on him.
“There’s something you haven’t mentioned, Malfoy.” Hermione accused in a high-pitched voice.
“I’ve told you everything that you need to know.” Malfoy sniffed, playing with the hem of his robes dejectedly.
“Aha!” Hermione shrieked again, pointing her finger at Draco accusingly. “That’s just it, isn’t it? You think I’ve forgotten. I’ll admit that I was distracted while obsessing over the nature of this ridiculous curse — but I remember, I remember why your mother came to me!”
Hermione knew that Draco had purposefully directed her away from this very topic all evening. Slowly but surely, Malfoy had steered her mind away from her more rational thoughts as he artfully avoided each question — continuously riling her up.
Not realising that Malfoy had been intentionally misleading her; Hermione had become more and more distracted from her original questions as the night wore on.
Draco watched with narrowed eyes as Hermione suddenly let out a shrill laugh.
She really needed to work on her Slytherin interaction skills, she admitted to herself grumpily. Hermione had thought that she had been the one in control of the conversations between Malfoy and herself.
“What now, Granger?” Draco moaned.
“You said that you couldn’t be saved, Malfoy. But your mother explicitly said that I would be able to save you — by marrying you.”
Hermione’s smirk dropped as she remembered that particular detail. How in Godric’s name, would her marrying Draco … save his life?
Malfoy smiled tiredly. “You couldn’t save me, Granger — even if I let you try.”
Refusing to let Draco rile her Gryffindor side once more, Hermione pressed for the answer she wanted.
“Why does your mother think that me, marrying you — would save your life?” She demanded, gesturing wildly between them with both of her hands.
“If only it were that simple.” Draco scoffed. “There’s no need to ask these questions, Granger — I will never go through with it.”
“Marriage, simple? … that’s—”
“She wants you to soul bond with me.” Draco spat, cutting her off mid-sentence; He was done with Granger’s continuous spluttering tonight.
“You can’t seriously expect me to believe that your mother wants us to — to soul bond.” Hermione gaped.
“Believe what you want, Granger.” Draco shrugged. “Dear mother believes that if the curse were to be removed from my soul whilst I was soul bonded — that I could survive it.”
“A way to stabilise your soul and safely remove the curse.” Hermione breathed in awe. “I would never have thought of that — it’s … yes, I can see how it has potential. But — no…”
Draco rolled his eyes at Hermione’s perplexed state. Getting up slowly, he dusted off his robes while waiting for her inevitable realisation of what it all meant.
Hermione, of course, had read all about soul bindings before. There were hundreds of rituals that a witch or wizard could perform. Soul binding magic ranged from simple rituals that served as part of most magical marriage ceremonies; to rituals that tested the brinks of humanity in the darkest of ways — like binding a broken piece of one’s soul to an object…
Out of all the rituals, Hermione could only think of one that would potentially allow someone to stabilise their soul against such a powerful expulsion of dark magic.”
“Malfoy.” Hermione paled, looking up in clear bewilderment. “Your mother wants me to perform one of those ancient, soul tethering rituals; doesn’t she?”
Nodding seriously, Draco moved closer to where she stood.
“She really expects that I would want to tether my soul?”
Draco smirked coldly. Granger really was such a naïve little Gryffindor — always assuming that she would be the one to make all of the sacrifices.
“No, Granger. She expects me to want to tether my own soul — to you.”
That was a really tough one to explain and write... phew! (Sweats nervously)
so, who guessed correctly?
Thank you for reading! Your interest is much appreciated.
Hermione had panicked.
Staring at Draco Malfoy with an unfathomable expression, she had done the only that thing she could think of at the time — she ran for it.
Well, she had turned around and walked as briskly as she could manage in her frazzled state.
So much for her Gryffindor courage.
Lady Malfoy wanted Draco to perform a soul-tethering ritual — with her! The nerve of that witch. Who was Narcissa to think that Hermione would agree to such a dangerous feat of magic — just to save her son’s life? Her insufferable, arrogant son….
Malfoy made no move to stop her.
Hermione noticed that Draco remained rooted to the floor where he stood; clearly surprised by her reaction. It was almost as if he had expected her to latch onto the idea of soul-tethering and demand to save him immediately — jumping eagerly at the chance to irrevocably tie their souls together for all eternity… not likely!
Though, Hermione had to admit, she had been acting annoyingly headstrong and confident about breaking the curse all evening... However, breaking a dark curse was one thing — being bound to someone through your soul was a whole other bucket of Flobberworms.
Her instincts were telling her to flee. Her heart was telling her to stay and fight.
Right now, her instincts were winning.
After everything she had witnessed and learnt tonight, Hermione had too much to think about. Her thoughts of self-progression within the Ministry now seemed miniscule compared to Draco’s own suffering.
How could she agree to help him, when she was primarily focused on her own reasons for saving his life — what type of witch did that make her?
Even if the ends justified the means, was she prepared to take on such a responsibility?
If she agreed; Malfoy would be saved and the Wizangamot would probably start to take her appeals more seriously — but at what cost? Would she be able to live a life filled with Draco’s cold animosity in sight of her own selfless devotion? Could she give up the romantic passions of her heart in the pursuit of her passions for change within the magical world?
Hermione knew that she could.
However, would she be able to be soul-tethered to someone who hated her so ardently? Not just for this life — but the next too; joined by their souls for all eternity and more…
That was something Hermione wasn’t sure she could do.
Terrified at having such an immense decision suddenly laid out before her; Hermione found herself confronted with the rare instance of being at a complete loss as to what she should do.
She had only found out a few hours beforehand that Draco Malfoy really was dying from a dark curse.
Hermione worked well under pressure, however, there were so many factors she hadn’t been given a chance to even consider.
How could she be expected to make such a life changing decision in one evening?
“You’re not, Granger.” Draco snapped, finally confronting the retreating witch before him.
Had she really said that last thought out loud?
Hermione balked; swivelling to face Malfoy from the other side of the room and fixing him with an incredulous stare.
“I told you that I didn’t want your help, Granger!” Malfoy furiously strode over to where Hermione now stood near the door, and towered before her menacingly. “I’m not your next fucking charity case! Saving my life — this curse — it’s not some grand opportunity for you to portray yourself as the hero you think you are.”
He rolled his eyes at Hermione’s angry expression.
“Save it, Granger. I don’t care about why you think you need to help me — or why you don’t want to help me at all — I was never going to agree to actually bind myself to you. Nothing you could ever say would change that. So, do us both a favour and piss off! — you’ve already been here long enough.”
Hermione was speechless. The calm and vulnerable Draco whom she had caught a glimpse of tonight, was now gone. Had her reaction at the mention of soul tethering catalysed this sudden transition in behaviour, or was he just reverting back to his usual, arrogant self?
“You say that — but, you will die without my help!” Hermione fumed. How dare he act as if he were still above receiving help from her?
”We’ve been through this — I. don’t. care.”
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. She had to say something, but what? Staring at Draco with flushed cheeks; her mouth opened and closed around words that refused to part from her lips.
Was she any better though, thinking herself above being soul-tethered to a Malfoy?
“Just leave, Granger.” Malfoy drawled bluntly, his face completely bare of emotion once more.
“I’m sorry, Malfoy.” Hermione’s gaze reluctantly swept around the cold and disarrayed room; her thoughts lingering over everything that had transpired this evening. “I must — I must go.”
“I already told you to leave.”
She had exhausted so much energy tonight thinking about the curse and fighting Draco about his choices, that Hermione hadn’t given any thought as to whether she would choose to help him — and it was obvious that Draco didn’t even want her help...
However, did that make her decision easier, or harder?
This is not how she had expected the evening to end.
Any reasonable wizard would have been on his knees; begging for Hermione to lend her mind to the task of uncovering a solution and saving his life.
But Draco Malfoy was not a reasonable wizard. He would never beg for Hermione Granger’s help, even if his life depended on it — and it currently did.
She wanted to stay and argue with him; to tell him that he was being ridiculous and needed her help. She wanted to shout at him for being so pig-headed that he thought death was better than being bound to her. She wanted to scream at him for being the arrogant wizard he was and for doubting if she could save him.
Hermione wanted to say everything on her mind, and yet, her mind wanted her to say nothing at all.
It was all suddenly too much.
She needed air. She needed to breathe. She needed to get far away from Malfoy manor.
“I have to go — I have to — think.”
Malfoy didn’t reply.
“I have to make a decision.” She added, louder and less broken than before.
“There’s no decision to make, Granger!” Draco shouted towards Hermione’s already retreating form.
Fighting the urge to turn around and meet the hate-filled gaze of the wizard she knew was watching her every step; Hermione continued one foot before the other — making her grand escape.
But why did she feel so conflicted to leave, when she was clearly walking away from Hell?
The rest of the week passed by slowly.
Each day, Hermione nervously confided herself within her small office — constantly expecting Lady Malfoy to suddenly reappear and demand her immediate return to save her son.
Narcissa Malfoy didn’t appear all week.
There had been no owls with any letters baring the Malfoy family crest — and no howlers either; Hermione realised thankfully. It was as if she had never been to visit Malfoy manor that Tuesday evening.
Lady Malfoy had turned her back on Hermione, the way that Hermione had turned her back on Lady Malfoy’s son.
The morning after Hermione had been to speak with Draco, she had immediately been flooded with guilt and shame for her cowardly actions. Who had given her the right to pester him all night with unrivalled confidence, explicitly demanding to help him; only to turn on her heels and run away with her tail between her legs when it had all become too much?
Destroying Voldemort’s curse and potentially becoming a Malfoy didn’t scare her — but soul-tethering did?
Thus, Hermione had spent the majority of Wednesday morning with her head in her hands as she sulked behind her desk; the memory of Malfoy writhing on the floor in agony repeatedly plaguing her mind and sending relentless shivers across her skin.
As she had expected, Harry and Ron had been waiting anxiously for Hermione during their lunch.
Without pause, they both attempted to pry information from her regarding her visit with Malfoy. However, with little more than a shrug and a poor excuse, Hermione had successfully avoided their questions until they no longer sought her out for answers.
Assuming that Hermione had probably been wrong and that Lady Malfoy had indeed been over-dramatic; the two wizards had left her alone to sulk for the rest of the week.
Let them think what they want, Hermione thought. She was a terrible excuse for a Gryffindor — and for a witch.
Thursday had been more self-forgiving.
Hermione had been furious. How dare Lady Malfoy approach her, the muggleborn whom had been tortured in that very manor — the manor which Narcissa had so carelessly demanded for Hermione to visit.
Who was Lady Malfoy, to ask Hermione to save the life of a wizard who had simply stood and watched her dirty blood spill on their cold marble floors?
Why should Hermione feel guilty over someone who had endeavored to make her life miserable from when she first stepped foot into Hogwarts?
Hermione reasoned that she should have hexed Malfoy for good measure. If she were being honest, she felt more pity for the curse having to feed off of Draco’s miserable self, than she felt for Draco being stuck with said curse.
Friday had offered no resolve for her battling emotions.
Hermione had mistakenly assumed that Malfoy, upon soothing his wounded pride — would have sought out Hermione within the week — If not him; then definitely his mother.
Conflicted and confused, Hermione had spent the day bargaining with her mind; trying to rationalise just why either of the Malfoy’s hadn’t contacted her — and why hadn’t she tried to contact them in return? … Had Draco confronted his mother and barred her from approaching Hermione again? … Was he already dead?
Hermione knew that she shouldn’t care this much about neither Narcissa nor Draco and their lack of contacting her; however, the unmistakeable feeling of rejection was something she couldn’t easily shake.
Had she made the right decision?
Had she made an incredible mistake by walking away?
Even if she had agreed to Narcissa’s plea to save her son, Draco would have refused her help anyway — It was the one thing Draco had been sure to make abundantly clear that evening.
There was no hope, Hermione’s agitated thoughts persisted with their torture on her emotions as her mind sought to create reasonable explanations for all that had transpired over the past few days.
As the weekend fell, so did Hermione’s spirits.
Feeling guilty, angry and conflicted —Hermione took to shutting herself away in her flat with a multitude of books for company.
Having plundered every book regarding dark curses and soul-bindings from the Ministry archives; she was determined to figure out a way to solve the obstacle of Draco’s curse being intertwined with his soul — without having to be soul-tethered.
Hermione still couldn’t believe that there was no other way to save his life — Draco Malfoy had simply given up too easily. Sure, Malfoy had admitted that he had spent three years consulting various sources and experts regarding a solution; But, maybe he had resigned himself to his fate without much of a fight in the first place?
Hermione knew that Draco’s hopes for the future couldn’t have been very promising from the time of Voldemort’s return to power…
The young wizard that had sat next to Hermione whilst telling her about the curse, was not the same angry and proud pureblood she had met at the beginning of the evening — or at the end of it.
No, in those moments, Draco Malfoy had merely been a broken young wizard — only a handful of years older than what most would still consider a boy — he was but a mere extension of a young wizard whom had been used and manipulated from before he could barely think for himself.
In theory, Malfoy had been just as much of a victim of the war as the rest of them had been — and in some aspects, maybe even more so.
Hermione gritted her teeth as she set about her task with a new vigor. Malfoy had become her new charity case after all…
However, Saturday passed with not much success. Realising that there really was no other way to remove the curse without damaging the soul in the process — Hermione had admitted defeat.
By the time Sunday rolled around — Hermione just wanted to be left alone.
Unfortunately, her friends had other plans for her.
An owl from Harry had arrived promptly Sunday morning; pleading for Hermione to finally let go of her pride and come over to the Burrow for the usual Weasley Sunday lunch and family festivities.
Not being up to discussing the events of the week with Harry and Ron quite yet, Hermione had politely made her excuses once again; declining the invitation in favour of her books and solitude.
Facing Harry and Ron, had Narcissa indeed been exaggerating — would have been an easy enough task. Yes, Hermione was proud and stubborn to a fault; However, admitting that she had been wrong to others was something she had learnt to increasingly do — It was admitting to herself that she had been wrong, that she was still having trouble with.
How was she, Hermione Granger, supposed to sit back and accept that Draco’s curse had no cure; that she couldn’t help — and that her help wasn’t wanted?
Even when it meant certain death...
With an uncharacteristic growl of frustration, Hermione slammed the large book that she was reading shut. How dare that insufferable Malfoy think that even death was better than having anything to do with her — than accepting her help.
Just as she was about to slip into Thursday’s mood all over again; a sharp knock sounded on her apartment door.
Snapping out from the brink of her tirade, Hermione’s head swivelled as her now startled gaze landed on her front door.
The Weasleys’ and Harry were all at the Burrow today...
Who could possibly be knocking on her door?
Slowly, Hermione stood and walked to the front door. Holding her breath — and her wand; she stooped to peer through the keyhole.
What in Merlin’s beard? She thought, taking a deep breath as she prepared to confront the intruder of her peace.
Opening the door to stick her head through, she glared at the red-haired witch who was waiting in the hallway while casually leaning with one arm up against Hermione's doorframe.
“Afternoon.” Ginny Weasley greeted, grinning widely and flicking her hair at Hermione’s perplexed expression. “The boys said you were having a bad week — So, I thought we could do a girls day.”
As if to emphasise her point, Ginny lifted a bright magenta bottle of something bubbly — her grin stretching impossibly wider as Hermione threw open the door, beckoning her inside.
Entering Hermione’s flat excitedly; Ginny Weasley took one look around before stopping dead in her tracks.
“What in the blazes happened to your flat?” Ginny gaped, staring with wide eyes around Hermione’s sitting area. “It looks like a library threw up in here — more so than usual.”
There were books everywhere. There were books lining the windowsills in small piles, there were books balanced precariously along the sofa edges and the fireplace mantle. Books were scattered all over the tiny flat — no room had been left untouched and no surface had been left bare.
“I may have borrowed a few books from the ministry archives.” Hermione mumbled, blushing under Ginny's knowing stare.
Picking up the book nearest to her, Ginny’s eyes only widened further with shock upon reading the title.
“Norridge’s guide to the perfect marriage-binding ritual — suitable for any witch or wizard.” Ginny read aloud, her voice startlingly high pitched.
“It’s not what you think.” Hermione stated hastily, cringing slightly at Ginny’s bewildered expression.
“Hermione Granger — you explain yourself right now!” Ginny demanded in a voice that distinctly reminded Hermione of an irate Mrs. Weasley.
At least it wasn’t Ron or Harry, she supposed.
“Find a place to sit, Ginny.” Hermione sighed, thinking back to what Malfoy had told her. “You’re not going to believe me.”
“So, let me get this straight.” Ginny uttered, looking over at Hermione for reassurance. “Malfoy is dying from Voldy’s curse — he doesn’t want your help — but you’re the only one who can help him?”
“Something like that.”
“Why you though?” Ginny asked, her brow furrowed with confusion.
“You really are related to Ron.” Hermione rolled her eyes playfully. “It’s easy to forget sometimes.”
"Very funny, Hermione.” Ginny pouted, sticking her tongue out mockingly. “I'm trying to ask why you are the only witch who can supposedly save him?”
“I’m — I’m still not sure.” Hermione sighed, twisting a lock of her hair in concentration. “Though, I think it’s because of the soul-tethering ritual — tethering two souls is no easy feat of magic.”
Hermione shuddered at the thought of performing the ritual to tether Malfoy’s soul to her own…
They would become Soulmates — in the very literal sense, Hermione acknowledged; scoffing loudly at the thought of Malfoy hearing her use that term in reference to the two of them.
“I get why you would have to be magically proficient… Breaking a curse that powerful requires a lot of strength — and Malfoy can’t even use magic — so, it would all be down to you.” Ginny mused aloud. “Though, I don’t see why he couldn’t just bribe some 'pureblood princess' and hope that nothing goes wrong.”
“Are you offering your services, Miss Weasley?” Hermione pried in a mockingly serious tone.
Both witches looked at one another in surprise before laughing hysterically.
“Oh, Harry would just love that.” Ginny managed breathily, trying not to giggle. “Sorry Potter, I love you — but I’ve always dreamt of becoming a Malfoy.”
Hermione laughed loudly as Ginny continued an animated portrayal of declaring her love for Malfoy. She could only laugh harder as Ginny proceeded to admit that she had always wondered if Weasley and Malfoy children would have red hair, white hair — or pink hair.
Not long had passed before both witches were lying on the floor in the middle of Hermione’s flat; breathless from laughter and wide smiles brightening their faces.
“Thank you, Ginny.” Hermione met the lively gaze of the redhead next to her. “I needed that.”
“You take your work too seriously, Hermione.” Ginny arched her eyebrow at Hermione pointedly. “I still can’t believe that you’ve moved on from House Elves to endangered ferrets.”
Hermione groaned; covering her face with her hands in embarrassment. “I wish that I could tell him what a pompous bigot he is — and to go soul bind with a mountain troll.”
“Yeah, that would go down well.” Hermione snorted, pursing her lips at the thought of confronting Malfoy again.
“No, Hermione — send him a letter. You told me earlier that you were thinking of contacting the Malfoy’s if they hadn't contacted you by Sunday.” Ginny reminded her. “Today is Sunday!"
Hermione gaped at Ginny in disbelief before her face broke out into what could only be described as a mischievous smile.
“I need to find some parchment.”
The two witches clambered around Hermione’s flat; searching hopelessly for a piece of parchment that had been left unscathed during Hermione’s frantic researching all weekend.
Finally, Ginny emerged from behind one of the sofas; wielding a single piece of blank parchment in her hand as she excitedly shouted for Hermione to hurry over.
However, upon lifting her quill to the page, Hermione found that her hand wouldn’t move — despite her intent.
She simply couldn’t do it.
How could she confront Malfoy after spending the whole week hiding somewhere between her guilt and anger. She had chosen to walk away — and Malfoy had stuck to his decision — He didn't want Hermione Granger's help.
There was only so much that she could do for a wizard who didn’t want to be saved...
Patting her back reassuringly, Ginny told her that it was okay — that she would be okay.
Nodding solemnly, Hermione put down the quill and parchment; tucking them away in a draw for safe keeping.
A whole week she had spent obsessing over Malfoy. A whole entire week she had dedicated to thoughts about saving him; spending countless hours researching every book and magical record that she could find in the process.
Hermione was used to being rejected on a weekly basis. To her, Malfoy would just have to become another closed file unceremoniously dropped in the rejection corner of her mind.
She would have to respect that Draco Malfoy would rather die than admit that he needed help from Hermione Granger.
Closing her eyes and sighing loudly, Hermione reached for her wand.
It had only taken a few moments before her small flat resembled a liveable space once more. The numerous books which Hermione had been using for research, had all been cleared and magically stored away.
Draco’s ‘file’ was now officially closed.
She was moving on.
The start of the new week was upon her — and Hermione had countless other folders on which to place her focus on.
Holding her head up high; she met Ginny’s approving smirk with a confident smile of her own.
If Malfoy wanted saving, he would have to come to her.
Thank you for reading!
Do you think Hermione choked, or do you think she had every reason to be frightened?
lots of kudos to you,
Chapter 6: Everything you thought you knew
Thank you to everyone who has left a comment or kudos on this story so far. As always, your support means everything to me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was a typical Wednesday morning; typical, in that Hermione Granger was swamped with too much work and too little time to do everything.
The head of the research department had promptly ordered her to collect all the information she could find pertaining to an upcoming Wizangamot trial. Apparently, a wizard had been experimenting with levitation charms on livestock again — despite the Ministry’s previous warnings. It was something which had not gone unnoticed by muggles when a herd of floating cows had been spotted in a field just outside of Glasgow, yesterday morning.
Clip. Clip. Clip.
Hermione listened to the sound of her sensible heels echoing throughout the corridor. Sighing in frustration, she fumbled momentarily with a large stack of scrolls, trying to keep them balanced within her arms as she walked briskly through the Ministry.
It was useless.
With a quick swish of her wand, she cast a stasis charm on the scrolls before continuing at her determined pace towards the Head of the research department’s office.
She was running late.
Hermione Granger was never late — except for today.
Damn these scrolls. The Head of the research department treated her like a personal assistant whenever he became blatantly uninterested in whatever case was soon to be brought before the Wizangamot.
Today of all days, Hermione had been sent deep within the ministry archives to gather all the necessary information regarding levitation charms and the laws surrounding them. A task which was definitely not in her job description.
Just her luck.
The annual wizarding economic conference was taking place that morning. All the magical economic sectors of wizarding Britain — and the corporations the sectors were comprised of — would be presenting their annual business pitches and economic projections, in the hope of obtaining Ministry funding and exclusive Ministry contracts.
Despite the fact that there were numerous independently run businesses and stores within wizarding Britain; the majority of the market share — and the primary resource distributors, were all controlled by a select few corporations.
One’s potential business venture would have to be supported by the ministry first, especially when dealing with muggle investments or international trades.
However, it was no secret that the Ministry’s decisions were based upon which corporation was in favour with the Ministry at the time, rather than the public’s best interest.
It was a rare occasion when a small business was approved for a Ministry funded project. Thus, the major corporations — and subsequently, the pureblood families, controlled the majority of the magical economy as a result.
It was no small coincidence that more than half of the gold in Gringotts belonged to only a handful of families...
Hermione fairly acknowledged that most of the old wizarding family corporations had started hundreds of years ago — growing in both wealth and influence over the many years. However, the practiced ease at which these corporations manipulated and bribed the Ministry with regards to obtaining exclusive trade contracts, was not something Hermione could easily condone.
She had made a point of attending every economic conference over the years; vainly hoping to accumulate enough evidence to oppose a few underhanded Ministry funded contracts, each year.
Although she had never been successful, Hermione made a habit to keep trying.
They couldn’t ignore her forever.
Someday, she would figure out how to expose them.
It was a short while later when Hermione had managed to find a seat near the back of the large Ministry Auditorium.
This particular Auditorium, could seat hundreds of witches and wizards. The numerous, receding rows of chairs all curved around the central podium where the speakers would address both the Ministry and all those from the public who were in attendance this morning.
Not that it mattered.
Hermione knew that the Ministry had already made all the respective deals with each corporation — off the record, of course. A quick handshake and a promise to support the next political campaign was all it took these days to gain Ministry support.
The whole conference was a farce. A mere opportunity for the ministry to show off.
Hermione scowled at the sight of countless reporters sitting along the first few rows of seats nearest to the podium. Naturally, the Ministry wanted to publicise all the great work they had generated within the magical community.
With a deep sigh, she pulled out a neatly stacked bundle of parchment from her small bag. Laying the parchment on her lap, Hermione was about to reach for a quill when a brief flash of white hair caught her attention.
Looking up, Hermione almost dropped her stack of parchment in shock. Heart stopping momentarily, she gripped the parchment with tightly clenched fingers until the edges started to curl slightly.
What was he doing here?
Standing near the doors to the bottom left, talking to Blaise Zabini — was Draco Malfoy.
Hermione couldn’t help but notice that Malfoy looked… Terrible.
She had seen him just over a week prior, and yet, he looked completely different. Cringing slightly at the thought of just how many attacks he must have experienced since last Tuesday; Hermione had to remind herself to look away before he could notice her blatant staring.
It was no use. He had seen her.
She hadn’t been able to tear her eyes away fast enough. Malfoy had looked up — and for just a moment — their equally shocked gazes had met briefly.
Hermione panicked noticeably as Malfoy proceeded to say something to Blaise while gesturing to where she sat. Blaise grinned widely, answering him with a short nod of his head, before making his way towards the opposite side of the Auditorium.
Draco, now alone; turned towards the flight of stairs which led directly up to where Hermione was currently sitting.
It was fine. This was fine. Malfoy would just walk straight past her. There was no way that he would approach her — definitely not so publicly.
In the span of a few heartbeats, her shock only quadrupled as Malfoy stopped his ascent in line with Hermione’s row of seats.
Why had she chosen to sit so close to the aisle?
This could not be happening, she thought; her cheeks flushing dramatically as she tried to look anywhere else but at Malfoy — who was currently appraising her with an intense expression.
“Granger.” Malfoy greeted her stiffly.
“Malfoy.” She replied evenly; reaching for her bag as she dug for her quill in an attempt to distract herself from his presence.
Malfoy continued to watch Hermione with narrowed eyes before he casually sat down in the vacant chair next to the aisle — right next to her own!
“What are you doing?” Hermione almost squeaked, eyes widening at Malfoy’s choice of seat.
Draco shifted uncomfortably in his chair at Hermione’s question. “I — I wanted to say — thank you.” He murmured; his voice still stiff.
Hermione gawked at Malfoy’s statement. He was thanking her, for what?
Clearing his throat, Malfoy continued. “I wanted to thank you for not — for not going to the Daily Prophet — or telling the whole of the wizarding world that I still had an active Dark Mark.”
“I would never… ah… Malfoy, are you alright?”
“It’s been a long week.” He admitted awkwardly, looking away from Hermione’s own scrutinising gaze.
Malfoy’s hair hung limply across his face and though it seemed almost impossible, he was even paler than before. Hermione could practically see the pain swirling within his now dark, grey eyes. It was overwhelmingly clear that Malfoy had been suffering, a lot.
“I — I understand.” Malfoy didn’t want her help, she reminded herself firmly.
The Auditorium continued to fill with witches and wizards as the start of the conference drew nearer.
Malfoy never moved from his seat.
Hermione had assumed that he would move to another seat at the earliest possible chance. However, Draco continued to sit calmly next to her as if there were nowhere else he would rather be.
Fidgeting nervously with the quill between her fingers; she watched from the corner of her eye as Draco sat completely still. His attention was solely focused on the far right of the Auditorium, to where most of the corporation representatives were sitting.
At eleven o’clock sharp, the Auditorium became abruptly silent as an old wizard dressed in bright turquoise Ministry robes, stood from his seat. Swiftly walking the short distance to the podium; the ministry official proceeded to address the audience, commencing the start of the conference with a rather dull speech.
One by one, each corporate representative took to the podium to brag about their latest improvements and contributions to the magical community. About an hour had passed, and Malfoy had made neither a single movement nor any further attempts to interact with Hermione.
Trying to focus on the rhythmic scratching of her quill against the parchment, Hermione continued to meticulously take notes on what each representative was saying. However, she could barely concentrate through each speech without stealing a glance towards Malfoy.
This whole situation was messing with Hermione’s nerves. Why was Malfoy still sitting next to her?
When the current speaker finally ended his particularly long speech, Hermione let out a large sigh. How much longer would she be able to endure this awkwardness?
Next up to speak was Sebastian Nott: uncle to Theodore Nott and the current Head of Nott Industries. Hermione flipped over to a fresh piece of parchment — ready to take notes; when she noticed Malfoy immediately stiffen at the sight of Mr. Nott stepping up to the podium.
Glancing down to where his hands were clenched dangerously around the edge of his seat, Hermione arched her brows at Draco’s unsettling display of emotion at the sight of Sebastian Nott.
“Malfoy.” She whispered apprehensively. “What’s gotten into you?”
Draco snapped his head towards her, his gaze immediately flickering downward to the parchment resting in her lap. Noticing her quill poised eagerly to write notes; his eyes brightened perceptively while the corners of his lips tugged upwards into an amused smirk.
Trying not to become self-conscious under Malfoy’s sudden scrutiny; Hermione continued to fidget uneasily while doing her best to ignore him for the second time that day.
Crossing her legs, she settled upon writing down all the international sales figures Mr. Nott was currently boasting about. However, Sebastian Nott had already been speaking for about fifteen minutes, when she realised that Malfoy had yet to look away from her.
“What?” Hermione breathed sharply.
Malfoy simply regarded her contemplatively. “Are you really serious about trying to change the Ministry?”
Hermione fixed Draco with a pointed glare. “Obviously.”
“You’ll never succeed.”
“I do not care for your opinion, Malfoy.”
“You’re going about it all wrong, Granger.” He whispered, chuckling under his breath. “If you’re determined to start dabbling in Politics, you don’t start in the courtroom — everyone knows that.”
“If you want to change any laws, Granger… You’ll need to start getting people to pay attention to why the laws should be changed — not just for you, but for them. No one is going to support something unless they can see how it benefits them too.”
“That’s terrible reasoning.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?” Hermione quipped back, arching her brow challengingly.
“This, is your perfect opportunity — not for taking notes!” He snapped as Hermione gestured to the stack of parchment in her lap. “You can’t approach politics head on like that.”
“There’s no other way to get the Ministry’s attention.” Hermione grumbled, jabbing her finger on the top of her parchment pointedly. “You have to fight to be taken seriously around here — I’m making a case, Malfoy.”
Draco ignored Hermione’s flustered state as he continued. “We both know this is all for show. A way for the Ministry to preen under the spotlight regarding all the good they’re doing for the magical community.”
Hermione huffed, nodding her head in silent agreement.
“So, change the public perception, Granger.”
Hermione’s eyes briefly widened with surprise before narrowing once more. “That’s precisely what I’ve been trying to do.”
“I told you, Granger. You’re going about it all wrong. You have to make the right moves — apply pressure to the right weak points.”
“What weak points… What do you know about politics?”
“More than you’ll ever know.”
“Sipping firewhiskey at elaborate galas does not make you an expert on Ministry politics.” Hermione sniffed, raising her head in a show of disbelief.
“I’ll prove it to you.” He drawled, leaning back in his chair with a smug smile.
Holding his hand up in a gesture for Hermione to wait, Malfoy sat silently for a few moments; listening attentively to what Mr. Nott was currently saying.
“Just listen to me and do what I say.” Malfoy suddenly hissed under his breath; both of his eyes still fixed directly on Mr. Nott.
“Put your hand up, Granger.”
“Why?” Hermione asked nervously, her gaze lingering over the hundreds of wizards and witches seated within the Auditorium.
“Because for years, I’ve longed to see your swotty hand raised in the air one last time before I die.” He bit out sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “Just put your hand up, Granger.”
“Why are you helping me?”
“Don’t you trust me?” Leaning back in his chair once more, Draco chuckled at Hermione’s narrowed expression. “Relax, Granger. I have my own reasons in this particular instance.”
“What am I supposed to say to Mr. Nott, Malfoy?” Hermione pried anxiously. “And why would I trust you?”
“You can trust me in this, Granger — I’ll tell you what to say.”
Glaring at Malfoy suspiciously, Hermione slowly raised her hand in the air.
“No one can see you sitting all the way up here, get his attention.”
Well, if she was going to do this, she thought — she might as well do it properly. Pulling her wand out from the inside of her sleeve; Hermione subtly cast the sonorus charm. Holding her wand up steadily before her, she proceeded to attempt her best impression of Dolores Umbridge.
“Hem-hem.” Hermione cleared her thought.
Her one hand was raised high in the air while the other was holding her wand at just the right angle for her voice to be projected clearly and loudly, across the Auditorium.
Mr. Nott stopped talking abruptly; shuffling his papers upon the podium in annoyance, he glanced upwards to discern who could possibly be the cause of such a disturbance. It took only a moment before his beady eyes settled upon the small form of Hermione Granger — sitting near the back of the Auditorium, confidently raising her hand for all to see.
The Auditorium became abuzz with a low murmur as the audience assessed the sudden rise in tension. No one ever interrupted the speakers, definitely not a speaker in charge of such a powerful corporation like Nott Industries.
“You have a question?” Mr. Nott drawled coldly, notably unimpressed with the interruption.
“Stand, Granger.” Draco whispered.
Hermione stood up calmly; levelling Mr. Nott with a stoic expression as she began to repeat everything Draco was discreetly instructing her to say.
“Mr. Nott, you claimed that Nott Industries has experienced a profit margin increase of over sixteen percent within the last annum?”
“That is correct—” Sebastian Nott bristled proudly.
“However.” Hermione cut him off mid-sentence. “There have been numerous reports that Nott Industries’ is behind the recent potion ingredient shortage across Britain — intentionally withholding stocks in order to increase the demand and prices of many common ingredients.”
“While St. Mungo’s has reported a severe decrease in successful patient recovery, due to their critical lack of a sustainable ingredient supply. Tell me, Mr. Nott — is it true that Nott Industries is responsible for more than seventy percent of all potion ingredient trades across Britain — particularly with St. Mungo’s?”
Mr. Nott gaped at Hermione in both shock and anger.
“Look at him squirm.” Malfoy smirked viciously. “Nott Industries is clearly guilty of manipulating the ingredient supply across wizarding Britain.”
Hermione, not realising that Draco had finished instructing her on what to say, repeated his mocking statement for the whole Auditorium to hear.
“Look at him squirm — Nott Industries is clearly guilty of manipulating the ingredient supply across wizarding Britain.”
The Auditorium erupted with loud chatter as Mr. Nott scurried away from the podium; desperately trying to avoid the multiple flashes of cameras and questions suddenly been directed at him.
Sebastian Nott hadn’t even attempted to dispute the accusations.
She had exposed Nott Industries before the Ministry officials, the reporters, and a large majority of the public too.
Hermione sat down with a triumphant grin stretched across her face.
She had done it.
Malfoy had — Malfoy had helped her.
How had Malfoy known that Nott Industries were involved in such a scandal?
She hadn’t even recognized that anything was amiss regarding the potion ingredient shortage currently affecting the magical community.
Everything she thought she knew, suddenly seemed irrelevant...
Hermione was so busy musing over what had just happened, and how; She failed to notice the stunned expression Draco Malfoy had been looking at her with since she had so openly mocked Mr. Nott by repeating that last statement.
If she had looked over. If she had merely spared a single glance to meet his watchful gaze; Hermione would have seen the small, proud smile which had appeared for just a moment on Draco’s features, before he hastily schooled his emotions once more — and looked away.
The moment the conference had been dismissed for a short break, Draco Malfoy had bolted from his seat and disappeared into the mass of witches and wizards leaving the Auditorium.
Hermione blinked rapidly in confusion as she watched him weave determinedly through the jostling crowd, making his way towards the doors.
After her confrontation with Mr. Nott, she had tried to gain Malfoy’s attention again. However, he remained distant and quiet once more — refusing to meet Hermione's questioning gaze or utter a single word further.
He had helped her... and yet, he had receded straight back into his hateful demeanour before she could even thank him.
Malfoy had revealed that he had his own reasons for calling out Nott Industries; Unfortunately, she was still baffled as to why he had bothered to act so nice to her, only to resume his usual, distant conduct immediately afterwards.
Earlier, Malfoy had made a point to greet her politely enough; However, he hadn’t even cared to say goodbye merely an hour or so later.
She was starting to believe what Narcissa had said about Draco's condition making him act so out of character at times.
He had approached her... He had chosen to sit next to her... He had helped her — so why had he fled so suddenly?
He had approached her!
Hermione gasped as her eyes darted over the crowd once more, searching for the familiar head of white hair. If she could just find him… She could demand an explanation.
Had this been Draco’s attempt to approach her regarding the curse?
Jumping to her feet, she hurried from the Auditorium; craning her neck as she sought to peer over the crowds of witches and wizards standing just beyond the entrance — all of them discussing the events of the conference so far.
He was nowhere to be seen. Draco Malfoy was already gone.
Wanting to move away from the mulling crowds; Hermione was about to make her leave, when she turned around and walked straight into the person standing directly behind her.
“Hello, Hermione.” A dreamy, feminine voice sounded; ignoring the fact that Hermione had just bounded into her. “I noticed you are looking for someone — are you alright?”
Hermione perked up immediately at the pleasant sight of Luna Lovegood standing before her.
“Luna!” She smiled brightly, enveloping the witch in a friendly hug. “What are you doing here?”
“Dad couldn’t make it, I’m here to represent the Quibbler.” Luna replied cheerfully while holding up a stack of magazines for Hermione to see. “Would you like one? I’ve been handing them out — there’s a rather interesting article about why toads are more sensitive to magic than frogs.”
“Thanks, Luna.” Hermione took one of the magazines with a polite nod. “Did you happen to see where Malfoy went?”
“I saw him disappear down the main corridor before you exited the Auditorium. He looked very confused, must be from all the wrackspurts floating around — what with so many people.” Luna finished in a serious tone, glancing around at the numerous witches and wizards still standing about.
Hermione frowned at Luna’s revelation. Malfoy had definitely left the Ministry already if he had taken the corridor leading directly to the Atrium.
“I saw you sitting next to Malfoy, you know. You were whispering to each other — when you questioned Nott, too... Are you friends now?”
“No, Malfoy and I aren’t friends… I really can’t tell you why Luna, I’m sorry.”
“Is it because of the curse?” Luna asked, blinking at Hermione with a blank expression.
“How did you know Malfoy was cursed?” Hermione gaped, staring at Luna with newfound awe. Would Luna Lovegood ever stop surprising her?
“He came to speak with Ralph once — years ago. He was looking for unicorn blood. Though, Ralph did manage to convince him otherwise.”
“He what?... Never mind.” Hermione sighed, placing her hand over her forehead in frustration. “Lady Malfoy wants me to save him.”
Letting the events of the previous week flow through her mind once more; Hermione proceeded to tell Luna everything that had happened between herself and Malfoy — including how he had helped her stand up to one of the largest pureblood corporations only moments before.
Curious to hear what Luna’s perspective would be, Hermione waited patiently as Luna pondered over all that she had said.
“Hmmm.” Luna looked at Hermione thoughtfully. “I suppose it is a difficult decision to make — Malfoy’s that is... One’s soul is not to be readily tampered with.”
“He’s dying Luna — it can’t be that hard of a decision for him.”
“Maybe.” Luna smiled sadly. “Although, I think he must be rather confused right now, considering that he’s losing the one reason he had to ignore your existence.”
Hermione snorted. “What, that I’m supposedly the only witch who can save his life?”
“No. That before recently… He had never truly spoken to you before. If I were Malfoy, I would find it much easier to disregard someone if I knew nothing real about them.”
Hermione grimaced as she contemplated Luna’s words.
Was Luna, right? Had she actually gotten through to Malfoy last week? Is that why he had shown up today, not to thank her — but to approach her?
Malfoy had looked particularly unwell today...
Steeling a glance towards the main corridor where Malfoy had exited through not too long before; Hermione wondered if she was ready to confront Draco Malfoy about the curse again.
Thank you for reading! I would love to know your thoughts on this chapter. Luna Lovegood is particularly difficult to write... but, I love her, so I had to.
Next update will be on Friday.
Lots of Kudos to you,
A faint tapping on Hermione’s kitchen window pulled her from her thoughts. Placing her cup of tea on the countertop next to her, she opened the window to let the delivery owl through.
The rather fluffy, tawny owl swooped in and dropped the latest edition of the Daily Prophet onto the kitchen countertop. After holding out its leg for Hermione to place exactly three knuts into the small leather pouch; the owl promptly disappeared back through the window before she could even notice today’s news headline.
Reaching for the paper with interest, her breath caught in her throat as she glanced over the front page.
‘NOTT INDUSTRIES UNDER INVESTIGATION!’
Gripping the paper with excitement, the cup of tea lay forgotten as Hermione devoured each word in the article. Nott industries was being investigated. Sebastian Nott was due to appear before the Wizangamot within the month.
A closer inspection into Nott industries had uncovered probable cause for suspicion regarding the recent potion ingredient shortage. The public outrage — particularly towards St. Mungo’s being negatively affected, had enforced the Ministry to take immediate action.
Reading further, Hermione assessed that Sebastian Nott had been asked to temporarily step down as the head of Nott Industries for the duration of the investigation. None other than Theodore Nott had been elected as his replacement.
Malfoy would probably be pleased with that outcome.
Malfoy! Hermione gasped, letting the paper flop back onto the counter.
This was all because of Malfoy’s help.
She couldn’t believe it.
For months, she had been desperately trying to get the Wizangamot to pay attention to any of her appeals. Countless folders read and revised, countless hours spent hunched over dusty books and barely legible scrolls, and in merely a few minutes — Malfoy had achieved what she hadn’t been able to.
That damn, no-good-for-anything Malfoy.
Furiously ranting under her breath, Hermione yanked her coat off from its hook on the wall while storming towards the front door.
Slamming the door behind her in her haste, she disappeared down the hallway to the echoing sound of the doorframe rattling.
She was done playing nice and respectively sitting back while Malfoy refused to even acknowledge her.
She had a ferret to confront.
Hermione landed just beyond the Malfoy apparition wards with a resounding crack. Looking up from the same spot where she had stood just over a week prior, Malfoy manor consumed her vision once more.
Although, it looked considerably less foreboding in the bright sunlight of the morning...
Determinedly walking up to the large, black gates, Hermione barely had time to be surprised when they automatically swung open again; permitting her entrance into the vast estate — without an invitation.
Narrowing her gaze at a brilliant white peacock strutting across the gravel path before her, she didn’t even flinch as it squawked loudly upon her passing.
She couldn’t hesitate. Not now.
Hermione knew that she needed to make it into the manor before either of the Malfoy’s noticed the intrusion — And she wouldn’t be leaving until Malfoy had finally answered the one question which still harassed her every thought.
Nearing the grand, front entrance, she steeled herself as she prepared to demand for an audience with Draco Malfoy.
However, it wasn’t long before the same house-elf that had greeted her previously, was once again leading her through the darkened hallways of Malfoy manor.
The house-elf hadn’t even blinked at the sight of Hermione standing in the front entrance. Considering her unexpected arrival, she had expected at least some resistance from the dutiful creature.
She had been simply allowed to walk right into Malfoy manor unfettered.
When the house-elf had proceeded to take her to ‘young master, Malfoy’; she could only follow suspiciously while it continued to mumble under its breath, its ears bobbing as it stomped along with Hermione in tow.
It was almost as if she had been expected to show up.
After a few, tense minutes, the house-elf halted before one of the large sets of doors along the first floor. Noticing the intricate, golden details swirling over the patterns in the wood, Hermione stilled immediately as she assessed the sinister doors before her.
She knew this room.
She had been in this room before. She had been tortured in this room during the war.
Holding her breath, she slowly pushed one of the heavy doors open — slipping through into the cold room before she could change her mind.
She could do this. She had to do this.
With eyes lingering over the harrowing marble tiles, to where she had lain a few years before; Hermione realised that it was like being drawn into a nightmare. Everything seemed so distant and yet, so horrifyingly real.
The war was over…Voldemort was dead. Bellatrix was dead.
She was safe now, wasn’t she?
Hermione looked up as she caught a glimpse of movement from across the room.
“I told you, mother.” Draco Malfoy’s voice rang out in frustration. “I want to be left alone.”
Taking in the sight of Malfoy from across the room, it was like reliving the previous Tuesday evening all over again. Only this time, it was much worse. She no longer held the hope of removing the curse and saving his life… No, Draco Malfoy was merely a dying wizard; standing with his back towards her once more — still wanting to be left alone.
And she would leave him be… Once he answered her question.
“Why am I the only one who can save you?” Hermione asked, her voice rebounding clearly within the otherwise desolate room.
Malfoy turned around abruptly, his expression darkening as he took in the sight of her.
“Granger, what the fuck are you doing here?”
Still irritated, she stalked across the room; each step bringing her closer to Draco, who was retreating backwards towards the wall in an attempt to distance himself from the irate witch.
“Nice to see you too, Malfoy.” She spat angrily, cornering him between herself and the wall.
“How did you get in?” Draco demanded.
Hermione smirked as she observed Malfoy glance nervously around the room, looking for a way to escape her oppressive stance.
“It seems that I still have free entry to Malfoy manner.”
Draco’s eyes snapped to meet her own as he breathed in sharply. “I need to have a word with my dear mother — again.”
“At least your mother is more polite to guests.” She pointed out. “And that’s saying something.”
“Go to hell, Granger.”
“What’s the point? You’ll probably be joining me soon after.”
“I cannot have this argument with you again... I came here to avoid my mother — she won’t come in here… I can’t do this. Not today.”
Draco’s body trembled as he turned his head away from her, closing his eyes.
Hermione’s irritation collapsed as she regarded Draco’s defeated posture. She hadn’t even given thought to what manner of health he would be in today.
Though he looked considerably better than he had the day before, she could still see the dark rings under his eyes and the stiff way that his body reacted with his every movement.
He was weak.
Too weak to uphold his usual, snobbish temperament. She never thought the day would come, when Draco Malfoy wouldn’t have the energy to bite back at her.
How could she be angry with someone, who was clearly still in so much pain?
“I wanted to thank you.” Hermione uttered softly; taking a few steps back as she abandoned her previous reproach.
Malfoy leered at her words.
“Do not presume that my act of thanking you yesterday, has given you the right to treat me as a friend.”
“We are definitely not friends.” Hermione stated resolutely. “I’m trying to thank you for instructing me — for helping me —against Nott Industries yesterday. I saw the article in the Daily Prophet this morning… It worked!”
“I assure you, Granger, I did not do it for you. Take your gratitude elsewhere. It will never happen again.”
“Why did you do it then?”
“Call it an act of penance, for an old friend.”
“Theo Nott.” Hermione breathed, eyes widening upon the realisation. “You knew that he would be instated as the new head of Nott Industries.”
“Aren’t you observant.” Draco stared at her blankly.
“You never told me why it had to be me?”
“Well, it could have been anyone. Honestly, I wasn’t even planning on it — but you were so willing; and what better way to appeal to the public than through the voice of one so… heroic.”
“Why do I have to be the one to save you, Malfoy?” Hermione reiterated sharply.
Draco’s careful disposition dropped effectively at Hermione’s statement. Shuddering once more, he leant against the wall in a move that Hermione had come to recognise was an indication of his weakening resolve.
He wasn’t going to argue with her anymore. He simply didn’t have the energy to spare.
“Why does your mother think that only I can save you? I read about soul-tethering — everything I could get my hands on.” Noticing the way his jaw clenched at her words, she calmly pressed further. “It’s a complex ritual, but there’s no shortage of capable witches across the world.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I know exactly what I’m talking about — what I’m asking.”
“It’s not – I don’t have to tether my soul to you.” He rasped; staring over her head to across the room, his thoughts elsewhere.
“You said that I was the only one, Malfoy. The curse is latched onto your soul. We both know that the only way to save you, is to anchor your soul so that it doesn’t get ripped apart when the curse is torn from you.” Hermione sniffed, placing her hands on her hips. “I did my research too.”
“It’s not because you’re the only one I can bind myself to… Soul-tethering, it’s part of it; but you’re right, there are many adequate witches capable of succeeding with such spell-work.” Draco sighed shakily. “It’s because you’re the only one who can perform the ritual to remove the curse, Granger.”
“What? That’s ridiculous! If I can remove the curse from you, why would your mother insist that I need to be soul-tethered to you too? It doesn’t make sense — you said there was no other way.”
“You really have to know?” Malfoy gritted through his teeth before moving away from the wall. “Fine. Have it your way. The sooner you know, the sooner you’ll leave again.”
“That’s not fair— ”
“Skabby!” Malfoy called out, cutting her off with a hard glare.
Hermione could only gape as the same house-elf she had come to recognise, suddenly appeared next to Draco — bowing so low that the tip of its nose brushed the floor.
“Young master, Malfoy.” The house-elf croaked as a greeting.
“Fetch me the book, you know which one.”
The house-elf bowed deeply in reply, its floppy ears now grazing the floor. Hermione continued to watch with a stunned expression as the house-elf disappeared and then reappeared within moments; clutching an old, leather-bound book in its arms — a book which was almost the size of the elf.
With a nod of his head, Draco dismissed the elf after taking the book.
“Knock yourself out, Granger.” He sneered, shoving the book out in the space between them.
Hermione’s hands immediately reached out to take the book from him; However, in her haste, her warm, eager fingers brushed over his own cold hand as she sought to obtain a grip on the rather heavy, magical tome.
Stiffening immediately at the contact, Draco ripped his hand away; clenching his fingers at his side while Hermione barely managed to catch the carelessly dropped book.
Narrowing her eyes at him in disbelief, Hermione curiously raised the book up before her.
“It’s written in… Latin?” She checked, marvelling at how old this book must be.
“Most of it.” Malfoy rolled his eyes. “My own additions are all in English — look for those.”
Hermione furrowed her brow at the thought of Malfoy marring such an old magical tome with his own notes; however, upon flicking through the pages, she could only be impressed.
Malfoy’s notes were… they were perfect. The details and penmanship were beyond amazing. He really had spent years consulting various professionals while researching about the curse. Every addition he had made, supported and extended upon the information already held within each page.
Skimming over a few of Malfoy’s written entries, Hermione realised what Draco had been trying to do.
“You’re trying to combine the soul-tethering ritual with the ritual needed to remove the Dark Mark?”
“Yes.” Draco admitted stiffly.
“It’s not.” He snapped, glaring at her in exasperation. “I thought so too — at first. It took me three years… but I discovered a way.”
“Combining two rituals is dangerous. Experimenting with rituals was ruled out decades ago.” Hermione was anxious to protest before she caught sight of Malfoy’s expression. “Right. Sorry — you know that already.”
Nodding sharply, Malfoy attempted to explain further.
“Combining two rituals is dangerous. You have to find a link between the two — a strong link. It took me a while, but I figured it out. There’s a way to combine a blood-magic ritual with a soul-binding ritual… It’s all ancient spell-work and requires — a lot. However, it is very much possible.”
“You’ve altered a blood-magic ritual to remove the curse? A blood-magic ritual combined with a soul-binding ritual… That’s brilliant.” Hermione breathed out slowly. "With the blood-magic ritual, you’re approaching the curse at its basis... because the Dark Mark ritual was never completed — it’s not fully bound to your body.”
Again, Draco merely nodded in affirmation.
“I still don’t understand why you would need to perform both rituals simultaneously. Why couldn’t you just figure out a way for me to remove the curse after you’ve bound yourself to a more suitable witch?”
“You’re asking too many questions with obvious answers, Granger.” Malfoy stated evenly before replying anyway. “The curse cannot be removed after the soul-tethering — it wouldn’t work. The curse would just latch onto the connection to the other soul… I think you can imagine what would happen then.”
“The curse would.. It would take the other person’s life — claiming their soul, instead.”
Hermione paled significantly at the revelation. Soul-tethering rituals and blood magic rituals were complicated enough already, the curse was indeed proving to be a formidable opponent.
“And the curse cannot be removed before the soul-tethering ritual, for reasons we have already discussed. It’s anchored across my soul, removing the curse without binding myself too — it would tear apart my soul in the process.” Draco ran his fingers through his hair as he stood before Hermione dejectedly.
Satisfied with Malfoy’s explanation, Hermione resumed flipping through the pages of the book; eyes searching for the one page which she knew she needed to read.
There it was, the latest entry — the notes pertaining to the finalised ritual. The descriptive details for the combined blood-magic ritual and soul-tethering ritual, it was all there — glaring out from the page in Draco’s diligent penmanship.
Every detail was there, down to the precise wand movements and pronunciations of each enchantment. Each runic transliteration had been meticulously researched and drawn by hand, even the Latin verses had all been translated into English. At a closer look, Hermione noticed that the corresponding page numbers and references to various sources, had also been carefully recorded next to each element the ritual entailed.
This was not the work of someone who wanted to die.
Reading further, her thoughts halted upon one of the entries — Ultra Velum Animarum.
“The Veil of Souls.” Hermione whispered in awe, noting Draco’s translation.
“It’s a historic magical artefact that was used in many of the ancient soul binding rituals.” Malfoy explained hesitantly. “It’s located in—”
“The Department of Mysteries.” Hermione finished, her hands trembling as she gripped the book.
Draco arched his brow curiously but neither commented nor asked how she knew.
Refocusing on the book, Hermione could feel her heart beating steadily against her chest. She had been wrong… combining the two rituals was indeed possible.
The spell-work and ceremonial processions within both rituals, seemed to intricately dance around one another. Each enchantment complemented and fuelled the next. The magic was seamless. Malfoy had stripped each ritual down to the roots before layering them on top of one another again; alternating every step — every spell and movement, piece by piece.
The magical core of the combined ritual — the magical link, it held all the different elements together without falter.
In the blood-magic ritual needed to remove the Dark Mark; the link provided a surge of magical energy into the severing enchantment and amplified the castor’s control of the ritual. In the soul-tethering ritual needed to anchor Draco’s soul; the magical link interwove with the raw magic of the soul binding enchantment — binding the two magical elements of ‘body’ and soul together seamlessly.
Without the magical link, the combining of the two rituals wouldn’t be possible.
The magical link — which Draco had underlined at the bottom of the page, stared up at her tauntingly.
Magicis sanguinem novi.
Hermione’s eyes shot up to meet Draco’s own expectant gaze. She didn’t need to read Draco’s translation to know what that sentence meant.
New magical blood.
Or as most would call it...
Draco needed the blood of a muggleborn to link the two rituals. Not just muggleborn blood in itself. No, he needed the blood of the castor — the muggleborn — performing the rituals. The magical link formed a bond between not just the two rituals, but with the magic of the castor too.
It was absolute.
A muggleborn would need to save Draco Malfoy.
“You need me to remove your curse because I’m a muggleborn?” Hermione seethed; shoving the book against Malfoy’s chest before he could bring up his arms to stop her. “You arrogant, shameless toe-rag.”
“I would have expected laughter, Granger.” Draco gasped, trying to catch his winded breath after Hermione’s assault with the book.
“There are hundreds of muggleborns across the world — and you’re placing this on me?”
“My mother approached you; don’t bring me into this.”
“Oh no you don’t, Malfoy. You’re all over this.” Hermione pointed at him accusingly. “You could have chosen to be saved by any other muggleborn witch — months ago!”
Draco laughed coldly.
“None of them would help me — is that what you want to hear? That after I realised there was no other solution… I was rejected by more muggleborn witches than I ever thought possible.” Draco’s demeanour shifted with each word; eye’s hardening, he glared at Hermione, challenging her to doubt him again. “They all took one look at my Dark Mark and refused to even hear what I had to say.”
“You could have bound yourself to a muggleborn wizard.”
“We both know that soul-tethering is more concrete than any marriage binding ritual.”
“What’s wrong with marrying a wizard?” Hermione countered, arching her brow. “It’s not a loving relationship that you’re after.”
“Nothing. Except for the explicit reason that a Malfoy needs an heir.” Draco’s features were pinched as he looked at Hermione. “You know that after being soul-bonded, I will never be able to look for company… elsewhere.”
“You never said anything about heirs!”
“One would think that it was clearly stipulated, Granger.” He drawled emotionlessly. “I thought you read the Malfoy marriage proposal contract.”
“I had more pressing matters on my mind.” Hermione grumbled in defence.
“Regardless, it doesn’t matter. Even if I wanted to explore alternative options to solving this – and believe me, I have looked into it. There’s no way to perform both rituals simultaneously without a magically proficient and willing muggleborn witch — or wizard.”
Draco breathed sharply through his nose before continuing.
“Everything else, it’s all irrelevant. Its not even an issue right now — and it probably never will be. Tell me, Granger, do you know any muggleborns who would willingly sacrifice their own wants; who would risk their own life on the slight chance that they would be able to successfully perform a soul-tethering ritual whilst simultaneously removing Voldemort’s curse?”
Hermione stared at Draco with a defeated look. What sane muggleborn would ever do that?
“I thought so.” He scoffed, dropping the book onto the floor without care. “Not even the Malfoy gold would entice a muggleborn to risk so much for a former Death Eater — I tried that route too.”
“You never came to me — why?” Hermione breathed shakily, staring at Draco with wide eyes.
“One would think that, that too, would be obvious, Granger.”
She couldn’t believe it. Either he really was an idiot, and didn’t want her help… or he didn’t think that she would want to help him.
Yes, Malfoy was a cowardly, selfish bully — but that didn’t mean that she would just let him suffer and die from such a horrible curse.
“I would have — I will help you.”
Malfoy’s hands twitched slightly at Hermione’s statement.
“I told you that I didn’t want your help, Granger.” He replied flatly, refusing to show any emotion.
Why did Malfoy have to be so stubborn?
“I’m not asking for your permission.” Hermione bristled, folding her arms across her chest.
“I won’t let you help me — and don’t you dare remind me that I’m dying. I don’t need your pity.”
“You don’t have it — not entirely.” She amended, noticing him narrow his eyes. “I — I also need something from you.”
“Oh. A Gryffindor trying to construct a deal.” Draco smirked bitterly. “This should be interesting.”
“Yesterday, with Nott Industries — with your guidance, I’ve never seen that type of reaction from the Ministry before. Never from something that I’ve said or done.”
Hermione breathed in deeply as she fought to stay in control of her shaking voice.
“Even with the Malfoy name — if I were to bind myself to you, it would never be enough. I don’t — I don’t know the politics surrounding the Ministry, not like I thought I did. Creating laws for house-elves is one thing; But wizards and witches… I’ve never been great with people. I want you to teach me.”
“You want me to what?”
Hermione stood up straighter. “If I save you. You have to teach me how to get my way with the Ministry.”
“You want to control the Ministry of Magic?” Draco gaped. “That’s a little ambitious for a muddy lion, don’t you think?”
“I can do it... with your help.”
“Well, it’s too bad that I don’t want your help, Granger.”
“I know you’re desperate, Malfoy. Why else would you have bothered to approach me yesterday?” Hermione levelled Draco with a confident look. “You said it yourself, there’s no one else but me who would go through with the combined ritual. Technically, your decision has been made for you.”
“Don’t you dare say that.” Draco visibly angered at Hermione’s last sentence. “I told you — I will never let anyone make my decisions for me again.”
“Is that what’s stopping you, fear? Or are you going to just wither away because you’re too proud to admit that you need my help?”
“It’s too late for me, Granger.” His hands continued to shake with a slight tremor as he spoke.
“How much longer do you have?” Hermione questioned bluntly, observing his weakened state once more. He really did look as if he were constantly being put under the cruciatus.
Draco’s darkened, grey eyes flashed with annoyance as he met her now concerned gaze.
“I told you that I don’t want your pity, Granger.”
“How long, Malfoy?”
“A few weeks, maybe.” He replied, growling under his breath. “The attacks are getting worse — they’re occurring more frequently and are increasingly… unbearable. You’ve noticed my appearance. It’s been taking me longer to recover lately. I suspect that soon, I’ll stop recovering at all.”
Hermione sucked in a shallow breath. Weeks. Malfoy had mere weeks left to live.
“Let me help you, Malfoy.” She insisted. “Please.”
“You think it’s an easy decision, tethering your soul to someone? To someone you don’t even care for…” Malfoy pried incredulously. “You come here — unannounced, and you think that I’m going to just change my mind about binding myself to you, simply because you want me to?”
“Yes. I do.” Hermione stood her ground. “Because I know you want to live, just as much as I want you to.”
“Why do you care if I live?”
“Everyone deserved to be saved from Voldemort – I’m sorry that you weren’t.” Hermione moved forward, slowly closing the distance between them once more. “That night, when you could have identified us — you didn’t. Inadvertently, you saved our lives. Maybe, you didn’t do it for us… but right here, in this room — you chose a side. The fact that the curse is killing you right now, is a testament to that.”
Hermione watched Draco closely.
He had stood listening to her with his jaw clenched tightly; his whole body occasionally twitching with a slight tremor
Was he even considering her offer?
“You will help me, if I help you with the Ministry?”
“Yes.” She nodded tensely, slightly taken aback by his hoarse tone.
The irony was not lost on her that here she was, standing before Malfoy, in the very room he had watched her get tortured in — wanting to save his life.
“You don’t expect anything else from me?” Draco straightened to his full height as he regarded her intensely. “I will never love you. I will never want for you — this arrangement, it’s all that there will ever be between us.”
“I’m aware.” Hermione tilted her head to match his own gaze. “You’ll remember that I did read the Malfoy marriage proposal contract.”
Draco nodded stoically. “Did you bring it with you?”
“What.” She gaped. “Why?”
“Because, I’m going to need you to sign it.”
Okay, that was a long chapter. (Hides in shame). But! hopefully I have managed to answer most of the questions everyone had... hopefully.
Thank you for reading! Many kudos to you.