"No," he said with conviction, shifting the pile of books on his hip to get a better hold on them. "Why are you following me? I don't believe it's any of your business in the first place."
"Maybe because I, unlike you, am making an effort in this relationship. That and, like it or not, I do care. It's not everyday you find someone transfiguring books into small animals for the soul purpose of sucking the lives out of them. It's somewhat disturbing."
"And again, your business in this is? To remind me to lock my door?"
"Draco, please. Remember what happened the last time we fought? Parent teacher conference?" she reminded him, quickening her pace to step up to his side. "And the resulting Narcissa Granger that came out of it?"
"You honestly think I've forgotten? Worst bloody day of my life. I'll never forgive Dumbledore," Draco cursed, shifting his books again. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Need help with that?"
"I'm very much capable of carrying my own books to class. Speaking of which, we should be parting at the end of this corridor, so why don't we say our formalities now and part in silence? Fare thee well, and do remember that you've promised to help me write my transfiguration essay immediately post dinner," Draco said, hoisting his awkward literature pile to the very highest point and struggling not to drop any one text on his way. He sped his step and whipped around the corner into History of Magic with Professor Binns, leaving Hermione to stand at the crook of the hall as the start of class siren sounded.
"Draco!" she shouted, stomping her foot, but he merely shrugged and shut the classroom door. In a huff, Hermione retired to the library where she had arranged to meet with Harry and Ron for their free period. They were huddled in the corner, playing exploding snap, laced with a silencing charm, and using the library for anything but its purpose. Hermione didn't bother to scold them as she sat down in a chair, crossing her arms and growling a frustrated sigh.
"Hey, Herms," Harry said distractedly, keeping his eyes on the game. Hermione rolled her eyes at his lack of notice in her current mood and stopped her charade of blatant frustration directed toward Draco and his little blond secrets.
"Hey, boys. Can I play?" she asked softly, sliding out of her chair and onto the floor. Ron and Harry shared a look of surprise, neglecting the game for just long enough to ruin the hand with an inopportune explosion, and Ron nodded, collecting the cards.
"Sure, Hermione. If you want to," he said and she smiled.
"All right. What is this again?"
Draco watched through the little window in the door as Hermione huffed and spun to walk away, stomping down the familiar path to the library. He watched with a smile until she swerved to avoid someone and he was given view of a little too much leg. He wished she wouldn't wear her skirts so short.
"Draco? Are you coming to sit with us?" Pansy asked from half way across the room, drawing attention and making herself blush. Draco waved a hand to brush away her question and continued watching Hermione until she disappeared around the corner. With a sigh, he turned to take his seat behind the blushing beauty that was Pansy Parkinson, and allowed her to hide herself behind him until the raised eyebrows turned in the direction of Professor Binns, who had just floated through the wall and given his apologies for tardiness.
Immediately, he launched into a lecture regarding some war that lasted a hundred years, but had happened seven hundred ago, and meant absolutely nothing to the working wizarding world of present. Draco allowed his eyes to close as he rested his head on his forearm. Beside him, Pansy was scribbling down notes as quickly as her pink feather quill would allow, looking disinterested, but focused for the purpose of obligation. Knowing he would have opportunity to get the notes from Pansy or Hermione at some point in the future, or if at worst had to read the chapter over in the text, Draco did not bother to listen to the monotonous voice of the ghostly professor. Instead, he privileged his mind to thinking of other things. Smart, button nosed, Gryffindor things... with skirts to short and fathers too charming.
It had all started in the Arithmancy hallway, halfway through the first term of sixth year. ommethe room, draawing wished she wouldn't wear her skirts
"Malfoy! Give me back my abacus, please; I'll need it to do my homework." Hermione said, placing a hand to his arm as Draco walked away, and he turned to her with indented brows.
"I don't have it, Granger. Ask your friends."
"But I gave it to you... remember? You asked to borrow it and I..." she continued, looking confused and recalculating the events of their class in her head. Draco looked annoyed.
"I told you, Granger; I don't have it. Bugger off, I've got class," he said, pushing past her and marching down the hall with his book bag draped over his shoulder. Hermione looked lost for a moment, debating rather to go after him or look for her calculator elsewhere. Sure he'd been the one to liberate it from her neatly stacked pile of tombs, she inevitably began to trace his footsteps.
"Malfoy!" she called again and Draco, who was no more than a corridor from where he had last spoken to her, rolled his eyes and turned back, tense with annoyance.
"I told you, Granger! I don't bloody have it!"
"But you do! You have to!" she persisted.
"Don't make me hex you, Granger. I. Have. Class," he repeated, enunciating each word separately.
"So do I! Just give it back!" Hermione demanded and Draco growled in frustration, curling his hands as if prepared to choke her. She stood before him with conviction, unyielding to his torments.
"Granger..." he warned, but any further threat was interrupted by Professor Kimmika, the Arithmancy teacher.
"Mr. Granger? Miss Malfoy? Fighting again!" she reprimanded, placing pristine polished fingertips over her hips. Draco and Hermione shared a look of horror.
"I'm Granger, he's Malfoy," Hermione corrected immediately, and Draco nodded in agreement.
"That's what I said, Miss Granger, and it would do you well not to correct your superiors. I'm sending you both to Dumbledore's office. I think some serious punishment should be in order this time; your little spats have gone far enough. I know you both aspire to become Heads next year, but the way you're acting I can't see you setting a very good example for younger students. Not to mention ever getting anything done! Go, both of you; right now."
"Draco," Pansy hissed, jabbing him in the shoulder with her finger. Draco's head slipped off his hand and fell squarely on the open book in front of him, breaking him from his daydream. He looked up quickly, confused, to see Pansy staring daggers. "Will you at least try to pay attention? I don't want to have to spend my time explaining it all to you again, and I doubt... your sister does either." At this, Draco narrowed his eyes, now fully aware of his surroundings. Binns had dismissed them for a quarter hour to discuss with partners what had happened during the Seventy Two Million Minute War, as to fill in any gaps left by unintentional snoozing, and Pansy wanted to obey. As Greg and Vince had paired up to their side and were trying to figure out how many cupcakes could be baked in seventy two million minutes, she was partnered with Draco and eager to share her opinions.
"Why do you always talk about her like that?" he asked, catching her off guard, and Pansy forgot for a moment all thoughts of war.
"What do you mean? She is your sister now, isn't she? That's all that can be inferred from my cataloging."
"You say it as if... you pity me," he accused, spitting the word like chalk from his lips. Pansy did not look offended, nor did she seem to want to correct him.
"Well, Draco... your mother betrayed your father, poor man, locked up all alone with no family now to come home to... and married a muggle, providing you a mudblood sister. I'm sorry, love, but you're going to be pitied. It's inevitable," she told him softly, placing her palm over his forearm. Draco savagely ripped it away.
"You shut your dirty rotten mouth, Pansy. It is not your place to pass judgments like that... and if you ever call Hermione a mudblood again, I will not hesitate to beat the word from your vocabulary. Understood?" Draco hissed, growing angry, and Pansy cowered slightly away.
"All right, Draco. I'm sorry. I didn't realize you had feelings for her," she said, turning her head down to read the assigned section in the text. Draco crossed his arms, leaning back in his chair.
"Well, of course I do. She is my sister now; by blood or not, I have obligation to her. Of course I care about her."
"Exactly," Pansy agreed. "She's your sister. I think that might be illegal in
"Oh, shut your gob, will you? Honestly, Pansy. You must be the worst best friend anyone in history has ever had. Congratulations."
"I was just trying to lighten the mood a little, Drake. Go back to sleep, would you? I'm trying to learn here," she suggested, running a finger under a line in her text to keep her place as she read, and Draco leaned his forehead again against his arms, resting on the table.
"Malfoy," hissed a voice from behind him, and Draco turned to see Hermione Granger rushing her way toward him. He lifted an eyebrow in confusion, then sighed, assuming she meant to ask him about her abacus again. He stood from his seat at the Slytherin house table in the great hall and abandoned his half eaten breakfast, taking merely a step toward her.
"Look, Granger, I gave you bloody checker back, all right? What do you want from me?" he asked, crossing his arms. He had found her abacus in his tote upon retiring to his common room two days ago and had owled it to her the next morning to avoid confrontation. She now approached him, and if to discuss the tool his efforts had been for nothing. Hermione shook her head and took his arm, pulling him away from the open ears of the snitching Slytherin.
"Malfoy, this is important," she said, sounding as if it was a matter of life or death that he listen to her. He lifted an eyebrow, waiting patiently for her to continue. Hermione paused, at a loss for words, and silently fidgeted with the already crumpled piece of parchment in her hands. "I... you... did you get a letter from home?" Confused, Draco calmed his glare, civilly staring.
"No... why? What business is it of yours?"
"Ha," Hermione said, finding humor in his naïve accuracy. "That is one question I cannot answer."
"What is this all about, Granger? I have places to go and..." Draco started, but was interrupted as a little earth colored owl landed upon his shoulder and stretched a mail burdened leg. "I lied, Granger," Draco admitted, taking the letter from the owl. "It appears I have a letter from home. Still I see no concern of which you should be burdened."
"Open it, Malfoy. You'll soon see what this is all about," Hermione said, recognizing her family symbol stamped into the bright red wax keeping the envelope closed. Draco seemed not to notice; he ran a finger below the lip to cut the seal and brandished the letter as if only to humor her. Hermione watched with arms crossed as his eyes began to scan the few simple lines written on the sheet. When he finished, he looked up, mouth open in surprise and eyes narrowed, accusing.
"What is this, Granger? Some kind of joke?"
"Hell, I hope so, Malfoy... but I sincerely doubt it. I got one too; Father asking my permission to allow him to date again. I've told him a thousand times I couldn't care less; it wouldn't surprise me if they'd already gone out. What does yours say?"
"Ha," he grumbled, quickly folding the letter back into its compartment. "Not quite so courteous; 'Draco, I know it hasn't been long since they took your father away, but I feel it's time we started moving on. I've found someone new; his name is Harper Granger. I believe you know his daughter, Hermione? In fact, I know you do, and I know you aren't the best of friends. Please make an effort to make peace, I'm becoming very fond of him'," Draco recited, expertly leaving out the various 'love's and 'baby's, and neglecting to recite the final sentence about his graphic punishment were he to do anything to harm or dishearten Hermione Granger.
"It seems Dumbledore owled them after that fight of ours last week, and suggested they talk over what steps should be taken to reprimand us. Somewhere in the translation, they decided dating would be an operative method of punishment. Sneaky, that."
"I should say so; punishment- posh. Hm, I wonder what your mother would think of this, Mudblood; should we post her?" he asked, smirking in anticipation of the color that would rise in her cheeks. It didn't come; Hermione blinked impassively and shrugged her shoulders.
"If you want. Good luck finding her," she said and Draco lifted an eyebrow, curious. Hermione sighed. "My parents were never very happy; I was the only thing keeping them together. The five sixths of the year I spend at boarding school put a bit of a strain on their relationship; they filed for divorce five years ago. My mother lost custody and I began to hear from her less and less; weekly, monthly... she forgot my sixteenth birthday. I consider her deceased."
"Ha," Draco said. "You think you have problems with your mother, do you, Granger? Have you any idea of how mine has been since final term last year, when they put my father away? I'd have gone insane with her constant sulking and crying and night howling. You'd think her a widow."
"Well, Malfoy, in all due respect, she truly has lost her husband. He may not be dead, but she's apt to never see him again. That'd take a lot out of anyone. I'm surprised you aren't more upset."
"What's it to you, Mudblood? I'll put a stop to this. She can't really mean it; she's just looking for some sort of... fallback crutch. Don't you worry; mark my words, your father won't need your permission to do anything with my mother," he declared, hands forming fists at the thought of Narcissa's betrayal to his father. Draco did hate Lucius for what he had put their family through, but loyalties were higher on his spectrum of values than personal grudge. His mother had proved she did not feel quite the same way. Hermione was still standing before him, regarding his actions warily.
"All right, Malfoy... do what you feel you must," she agreed, nodding. "But I am not taking any measures to break them apart, and I'm telling you now; you touch my father and I will kill you. He can't defend himself against magic, that'd be a cowardly way to fight." She walked away then; Draco couldn't have corrected her if he'd wanted to.
When the siren sounded, Pansy slammed her book closed to inconspicuously wake Draco up, who hadn't bothered to unpack anything but a quill and borrow a piece of parchment from Vince, which was stolen back at some point later to aid in their search for the cupcake accumulation.
"Thirty six million," Greg said as he packed up his books, shaking his head and chuckling in disbelief. Pansy left without a thought to him, but Draco lifted an eyebrow.
"Thirty six million what?"
"Cupcakes," he said, grinning. "Can you imagine? In seventy two million minutes... you'd make a bloody thirty six million cupcakes?"
"No, Greg. No, I can't imagine," Draco said monotonously, lifting his bag over his shoulder and leaving the classroom for refuge of dinner in the great hall.
"Hey, Draco," Hermione said from her spot on the couch of the Heads common room as Draco dragged himself inside. "I forgot to ask you earlier; did Mum owl you about Christmas next week?" Draco gave her half a smile as he took the seat beside her; she'd started calling Narcissa 'Mum' about halfway through the summer between six and seventh year, just after she and Harper had officially wed. At first it had bothered him, but now it was just amusing.
"Yes," he said, making himself comfortable. Hermione marked her book and set it beside her, dissolving into a girlish giggle.
"I'm sure they'll let us do whatever we want," Draco told her truthfully, masking any excitement with exhaustion. Hermione was nodding in agreement.
"Oh, I don't doubt that. The whole point of this is to have us get along; didn't you know? It's fairly obvious," she pointed out, shoulders sagging slightly in disappointment. Draco lifted an eyebrow.
"We do get along," he corrected her. "At least better than we ever did."
"I agree, but do they know that?" she asked speaking of their respective parents. "They were so strung on the wedding and the honeymoon this summer that they barely saw us... hell, we barely saw each other. It's easy to get along with someone if you don't actually have to be with them. And you have to admit, we had our share of fights as well." Draco sighed.
"Of course, you're right. They're making sure it's not a fluke... but hey, if it gets us a trip across town, I'm all for family togetherness," he said, smirking, and Hermione laughed, picking up her book again. She stopped suddenly and lifted her head as if startled.
"Oh," she said. "You wanted help with Transfiguration?" Draco groaned and slouched into the couch, calking his feet on the tea table.
"Nah," he said, shaking his head. "I don't feel like it; I'm just not going to do it. What's one assignment?" The minute Draco finished, he wished he had never begun; Hermione was staring as if he'd grown a second head, and burst out in disbelief.
"What?" she yelled, throwing her hands up in exasperation. "What do you mean 'one assignment'! This is important, Draco. If you don't do it and Dad finds out and doesn't let us go on holiday, I swear to Merlin..." she threatened, shaking her fist, and Draco laughed at the angry color rising in her cheeks.
"Okay, okay; don't hurt yourself," he said, bending to retrieve his knapsack and find his text. "As if your dad would do that anyway. Sure, maybe I couldn't owl anyone over break... but even that's doubtful." Hermione dropped her shoulders, nodding.
"Tell me about it. I get my apparition license suspended, and you get a strongly worded harangue," she said, sighing. "Tell me, where is the justice in that?" Draco shrugged and handed Hermione his text book, open to an appropriate page.
"Seems fine to me. Now, explain why there are fifteen types of amphibious transformations for small inanimate objects?"
Narcissa Malfoy Granger stepped up to a wooden door, rapping it twice with a diamond-clad fist.
"Are you packed, baby?" she called, and was answered almost too quickly by Draco, who was soon heard scurrying about his room witlessly.
"Nearly, Mother," he called back to her, and Narcissa stifled a laugh, knowing well that his bags were probably still stored deeply in the closet.
"Come to the foyer when you're finished, then," she said, then took a step to the door across the hallway and rapped on it similarly. "What about you, love?"
"Finished," cheered Hermione a mere moment later, opening her bedroom door and appearing to be more than ready for her anticipated vacation. She was dressed with wishful thinking, wearing shorts and a t-shirt over what appeared to be a bikini, and dragging behind her two stuffed duffels. Narcissa laughed and placed a kiss upon her forehead, which tasted already of tanning lotion.
"We're only going to be gone for three days," she reminded her, gesturing to the bags behind her. "Did you remember to pack your entire wardrobe?" Hermione blushed at the jest and shrugged her shoulders.
"Have to be prepared," she explained. "It's supposed to be dreadfully hot for this time of year, but there could be an unexpected relapse; it's sensible to be prepared for any weather predicament that may arise. I've even packed galoshes." Hermione sounded nearly excited, anxious to depart on a trip she was sure would be an adventure. Narcissa laughed again and took hold of Hermione's bags.
"Always your father's daughter, you are. We're to be leaving in two hours; would you do me a favor and help Draco? He'll forget to pack socks or something equally silly in his rush. I'm fairly sure he'd neglected to begin until a moment ago."
"Oh, I'm certain so," Hermione agreed, rolling her eyes at the expense of her step-brother, and waiting only for Narcissa to turn the corner at the end of the hall before pouncing on Draco's doorknob, spending only a moment on the courtesy of knocking before throwing the door open and stepping inside. "Dra-co!" she sang, dancing into his room and twirling directly toward the closet, ignoring the boy himself, who was currently standing in the middle of the room pulling his trousers quickly up from the knees. He cursed at her as he fastened his belt over the swimmers he wore underneath.
"Don't you knock? Five minutes earlier and you'd have seen something you wouldn't want to have seen," he asked in irritation and Hermione peered over her shoulder from where she was gathering clothing, catching herself a glimpse of his chest as he hurried to pull on a shirt. She smiled, keeping her impure thoughts to herself.
"I did knock," Hermione corrected, striding toward the bed and dumping her pile of garments onto it. "I just didn't bother to give you the time to aptly respond. Anyway, you should dress in the bathroom, if you're so worried." Draco lifted an eyebrow as he watched her fold his clothes and stack them neatly in the open and, as envisaged, empty duffel.
"Do you?" he asked and Hermione shrugged, counting and tying socks, as requested by her step-mother.
"No, but I could care less if you see me. Plus, you've yet to step foot in my room," she told him boldly, stopping to grin for a moment before returning to the closet to gather under dressings and outerwear. At this, Draco began to take notice of her actions and quickly impeded her progress, intercepting the pile of skivvies and sweaters.
"What'd you think you're doing, Granger? Who told you that you could touch my things? I should have your hands amputated," he called in outrage, dumping his load into the open bag and neglecting to neatly fold them as Hermione had. She placed her hands ardently on her hips.
"Well," she tutted hotly. "Your mother asked me favor of helping you, and I intend to do just that." Hermione glared for a moment before dropping her mood entirely and breaking into a brilliant smile. "And I'm so excited I can't stand it; I have to do something to keep busy. Come on, Draco; it's less work for you, don't complain." She pushed him away and unloaded his bag, refolding everything which had been stuffed inside. Draco stood to her left, arms crossed over his chest and eyes trained on her fingers as they ran gently over the fabric of his various forms of underclothing. He forced down a blush as she moved to a pile of shorts, but Hermione seemed not to pay mind to exactly what she was doing. She spent no more or less on each item, taking just as much time as needed to fold it properly and smooth out any wrinkles before placing it in his bag among all the other things. Draco kept his eyes on her fingers as she worked, noticing that they were shining with clear polish and looked as if they had been trimmed and scoured before application; possibly even lengthened.
Draco had not seen Hermione wear polish on her fingers since the day of their parents' wedding. He had escorted her down the aisle at his mother's request, remaining gentlemanly and chivalrous though he hadn't cared much for her or her father at the time.
"Come in!" Narcissa buzzed in response to a knock at the door, itching but refraining to move from her perch on a stool, allowing Hermione and her other bridesmaids to smooth out any imperfections in her appearance. Draco cracked the door open just far enough to slip through, making sure that no one saw who wasn't supposed to see.
"You really should ask who it is before calling them in, Mother. Wouldn't want Harper to see, now, would you? Bad spirits and all that grot," he said, smiling for his mother's benefit and humoring her into thinking he was enjoying himself. He wanted nothing more than to be curled in a hole and given a very large aspirin. Narcissa grinned, squealing and picking up her dress before leaping off her stool and throwing an embrace around her son. Draco returned her hug with less enthusiasm, seeing Hermione over Narcissa's shoulder, and taking account of the look of warmth which was plastered to her grinning face.
"Draco," Narcissa said, her voice and eyes filling with tears. "You look wonderful." Draco chuckled, pulling back.
"You don't look so bad yourself, Mum," he returned, kissing her softly on the cheek, careful not to smudge anything. "Are you sure about this?" he asked, voice softer. " We could always change our names and run away, start a cattle ranch in
"Draco, love, as enchanting as that sounds," she began. "I really don't think there are cattle ranches in
"'Course I am, Mum. Just teasing," he said, though only half certain with himself. In an unexpected burst of excitement, Narcissa wrapped him in another hug.
"I love you, Draco," she said softly, smoothing back his soft blond hair. "You will remember that, won't you? Always."
"Sure, Mum," he said and cleared his throat as they again broke apart. "We're almost ready to start," he announced. "I'm here to pick up my escort." He turned his eyes to Hermione, who had been watching the entire scene as if it were a soap opera, and she started, moving quickly toward them. As best man and maid of honor, they would be the first to make the trip down the aisle. Narcissa gasped.
"Already?" she asked, frantic. "Oh, but I'm not ready yet! Lucilla! Come fix me!"
"Relax, Mother, you've still a quarter hour or so. These things take a bit, and we're just setting up as it stands," Draco said, attempting to calm her, but Narcissa ignored him as she scurried back onto her stool amidst shouts of 'Lucilla!'. Shaking his head and allowing his mother her womanly panic, Draco turned to offer an arm to Hermione. "Shall we?" he asked, less than enthusiastic, and Hermione gave half a smile as she accepted his gesture and walked with him through the halls and into the antechamber which led to the chapel. Harper was there, pacing anxiously, but stopped as he spotted his daughter, and stepped forward to kiss her temple.
"You look lovely, Mina," he praised haphazardly, and Hermione smiled her thank you. "How is she?" Draco and his escort shared a look.
"Fine from what I can tell, Daddy," Hermione stated, turning back to her father. Draco nodded in agreement. "They were conversing of cattle and
"Eavesdropper," Draco accused and Hermione smirked.
"You saw me standing there," she reminded, feeling triumphant.
"Please, Pumpkin," Harper interrupted, drawing the attention of both teenagers. He placed his hand on Hermione's cheek. "No fighting, all right? Not today. I've enough on my mind as it is." Slightly ashamed, she blushed, nodding.
"I'm sorry, Daddy," Hermione admitted, bearing him a smile. Harper grinned and nodded.
"That's all right," he said, removing his hand from her cheek and turning to the blond standing idly beside her. ut Narcissa ignored him as she scurried back onto her stool amidst shouts of 'Lucilla!'. Shaking his h"Draco, might I have a word with you?"
He sounded nervous, and Draco was wary. He spared a look to Hermione, who offered no assistance and seemed as surprised as he. Remaining mannerly, Draco properly excused himself and untangled his arm from hers, following Harper a few steps away. Once in as much privacy as warranted, the older man looked upon the face of his soon-to-be son and gave and exhaled in excitement, doing little to quell Draco's curiosity. After a moment to compose his thoughts, Harper reached into his breast pocket, and produced a tiny pair of tin wings, holding them delicately in his hands. Draco seemed more confused than he had before as Harper looked to him with eyes almost tearful.
"Draco," he began, building courage. "I want you to have these." Before Draco could compose a thought, Harper reached forward and pinned the little wings to his jacket, opposite the rose boutonnière. "They were my father's," he explained, smoothing the area around the pin to make sure it was straight and in line with his flower. "He received them for graduating with honors from
"Mr. Granger..." he began, but Harper waved a hand to stop him.
"Please, Draco," he interrupted. "Call me Harper." After a slight pause, he smiled. "I'd really prefer you called me Father, but I wouldn't ask it of you," Harper added as an afterthought, almost as if he didn't expect the boy to hear him. Regaining himself, Draco began again.
"Harper," he said, pausing as if in anticipation of correction. "I really can't accept this. I appreciate the offer, sir, very much so, but this is a family heirloom, and it should be kept in your family. It should go to Hermione, or her children even." Harper was shaking his head.
"No, Draco; after today, you will be family. Names and blood don't matter here, that's not what lines are drawn by," he said, then started again as if beginning an entirely new conversation. "You know, I always dreamed I'd have a son, and that I would give him the family wings. Always he would do just what you did... refuse, because it meant so much to me. This proves it to me, Draco. If I had any doubts about today, this would confirm everything for me; it's fate, destiny. We're doing the right thing, following the right path. Isn't that an amazing feeling?"
Harper walked away then, patting Draco on the back, and, with a final farewell to Hermione, hurried into the chapel and around the pews, taking his spot at the altar. Pairs of others in the wedding party were now in a queue behind Hermione, making a line which stretched down the hall where Narcissa resided, no doubt biting her nails and making Lucilla furious. Slightly shaken, Draco slowly made his way back to his sister's side, eyes riveted on the pin fastened to his chest. Hermione received him gratefully, joining in his visage.
"You're lucky, you know," she said after a moment, sounding almost sad. Draco looked up, eyes joining hers. "When I was a little girl, I dreamt that one day Daddy would give me those wings. I thought they were an angel's wings, I thought that they could make me... make me fly. Ironic now, I suppose; all I need is a broom." She looked up, suffering a smile. "If I could have chosen my inheritance ten years ago, I wouldn't have asked for anything else. To this day, he wouldn't even let me touch them. You're lucky, Draco. Daddy really does care; about you, and your Mum..." She trailed off, and lifted her hand to hover over the wings. "Do you mind if I...?" Draco shook his head, watching as her polished fingers traced the grain of the feathers on each side, pressing the cold metal clip into the cotton covered skin below. She smiled. "This is it," she told him. "It has to be. This is really happening, Daddy means it."
If Hermione wished to continue her heartfelt realizations, she would not have been permitted, as the coordinator alerted Draco to the fact that it was nearly time to begin the procession and both teenagers were forced to focus on the task at hand. After a period of silence, Hermione smiled, holding tightly to his arm.
"Bet you never thought this would happen," she started and Draco laughed softly, placing his hand over her polished fingertips.
"Which part, exactly? I really wasn't expecting anything of this magnitude."
"You're about to walk me to the altar, Draco. Can you believe it? Interesting prospect, I'd say," she said, effectively lightening the heavy mood. He smiled.
"Oh, but you're mistaken, dear... sister," he began, and she looked up at him in slight surprised. "I'm about to leave you at the altar. That, I do decree, is much more believable."
"Draco!" Hermione called for the umpteenth time, snapping her fingers in front of his face. He snapped finally from his dreamlike trance, and lifted his head to glare at her for disturbing him. His anger melted immediately, replaced by rising embarrassment, as he took account of the situation. "Welcome back," she greeted sarcastically, eyebrows indented and hands placed firmly on her hips. One of which held a dark red, triple clasp, under wire brassier. She held it up for him to see. "Now, would you mind explaining why I just found this in your night table?" Draco stumbled over his words for a moment.
"Erm... laundry mix-up is all. I've been meaning to give that back to you. Since summer, I think," he said smoothly once his embarrassment had been bridled. Hermione looked suspicious for a moment, as if she didn't want to believe him, then shook her head and let it pass, throwing the garment onto his pillow and making a mental note not to forget it.
"All right," she said, looking over her piles of clothing and double checking to make sure he had everything she believed he would need. Once satisfied, she turned back to the blond boy who was watching her again and stretched her arms behind her. "Do you need anything else? I want to get everything downstairs. Maybe, the faster we're ready the faster we'll leave," she said, sounding excited at the prospect. Draco laughed at her and shook his head, trusting her oversized brain to remember everything. "Well, you've not been properly paying attention, because I've packed you only clothes. If you plan not to brush your teeth for four days, note you will be sleeping in the parking lot, because I will not allow you within the compass of the hotel walls."
"You know, you're really quite the control freak. Care to tone it down a bit? I'll brush when I bloody well want to brush, and it wouldn't be the end of the world to forget such a thing. They're not that expensive."
"Well, be that as it may, it would do you well to get one anyway. And isn't there anything other than that which you want to bring? A book perhaps? Maybe some homework?" she asked, hinting less than subtly, and Draco snapped his fingers.
"Hey," he said. "Do you think Mum'll let me bring my broom?" Hermione placed a hand to her forehead and slowly shook her tresses.
"No, Draco, I really don't. Flying over a muggle island which also happens to be an attraction to holidaymakers like ourselves, probably isn't the best idea you've ever come up with," she assured and paused before continuing. "Then again, I've seen your ideas and this may very well be your best, but that doesn't mean it's good." Draco stood stiff.
"I can't believe I almost forgot," he said, all joking left aside, and started toward the mini-trunk ouldn't be the end of the world to forget such a thing. They're not o brush your teeth for he'd brought from Hogwarts. Hermione crossed her eyebrows at him.
"What did you almost forget?"
"My wings," he said, opening the carton and pulling forth a small wooden box from the mess inside. He opened it carefully to view the shining, polished surface of the little military wings. He and they hadn't spent a day apart since the unforgettable time they were fastened to his chest, and he was not about to leave them unguarded while spending a weekend in
"Well it's a good thing, then. You'd surely have been a riot worrying about them," she joked, knowing well that Draco would be a nervous wreck. She smiled and punched him in the shoulder, gaining herself proper reciprocation, and dissolved into a laugh. "I'm going downstairs. I can't stand this anymore," she declared, balling her fists and nearly shaking in excitement. "Do hurry up, won't you? Lazy git." Hermione pranced out the door and trampled down the stairs, jumping onto the bottom landing with a stomp heard even by Draco. He shook his head at her and turned back to his packing, noticing instantly that she'd forgotten to retrieve her Gryffindor spirited under wire. He slipped it back into his bedside drawer, glad she had been preoccupied by her excitement.
Draco was sitting cross legged on one of the unoccupied docks, letting his hand hang over the side to be kissed as the tide drew high. He was content to sit on the rotting wood for hours, smelling the sea and letting the sun draw some color into his pale and placid skin. It was abnormally warm for winter, even in a semitropical location such as
Hermione had frequented the hot spas the day before, alone to her displeasure. Draco had accompanied her in anticipation of sitting down in the warm water and having a conversation, but the amount of people decorating the outsides of the springs was sure to foil his plans. Even had he wanted to be squished against a stranger, there was no where near enough room between any two tourists for both Hermione and Draco to be seated. As she knew that he was not well committed to contact with any unfamiliar person, Draco only needed to give Hermione a pleading look before she shooed him away and seated herself between two elderly ladies, who were often giggly and obnoxious as they enjoyed the bubbling waters.
Today, Hermione had allowed him his choice of activities. Narcissa and Harper, contrary to their prior belief, were treating their holiday more like a second honeymoon than an adventure into family bonding. Hermione and Draco shared a bedroom at the hotel, under impression that "You share one at school, don't you?" and answer of "That's not a bedroom, it's a dormitory. There is, most definitely, a difference.", and were for a majority of their stay left to their own devices.
As this day had been Christmas, the teenagers joined their parents in their bedroom and participated in a few hours of Christmas gifts, cookies, and cheer, before the adults rushed off to catch their ferry into
As the charming and caring brother that he was, Draco suggested they improvise. For three hours, he and Hermione sat contentedly in their swimmers, enjoying the amazingly large hotel bathtub, complete with jets and fragrance. They immersed themselves in conversation and forgot about the rest of the world. She was the only girl he had ever met who owned a white bikini. In fact, Draco was pretty sure it was illegal. And, if not, it very well should be. He could see everything from the color of her skin, slightly charred from the previous evening spent basking in the sun, to the obvious chill she felt from contrast with the warm water and cool air. He tried his hardest not to stare, but it became increasingly difficult to do so. Hermione seemed not to notice anything, chattering wildly about anything that came to mind.
At the end of it all, she had kissed him. Standing, dripping, in the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her and wet tendrils caressing her collarbone, she had placed a hand on his shoulder, effectively getting his attention, and pushed herself onto waterlogged toes to press her lips to his in a less-than-sibling-like lock. He'd responded after a moment, though he didn't know why, and Hermione didn't seem to care. She smiled at him as they broke away and turned to head back into their room.
Draco, from his spot on the dock, looked down at his fingers with a smile. There were still visible creases in his fingertips and the skin was roughly as white as death, though it had been two hours since that kiss.
Once they had both dried and dressed again in swimmers Hermione had consulted him about what to do next, determined to be given something he wanted to do, and not another chivalrous attempt to make her happy. He had admitted that he wanted to see the bay, and it was to it that they departed. As Hermione was not one to be fond of deep water, she positioned herself on the beach as far from the small number of people roaming as possible. Being Christmas, even the high rate of tourists could not clutter the beach.
"Draco!" came a voice from far away, startling Draco and causing him to spin quickly toward its source.
Hermione was standing on the beach, wearing the t-shirt he had left in her care and waving frantically. There were two well-built boys standing to either side of her, looking over their shoulders in the direction of her calls. Draco's initial instinct was to label them as Harry and Ron, but their build and hair color quickly corrected him. It was then that he noticed Hermione looked somewhat panicky, and quickly stood to hurry toward her.
She intercepted him a few feet away from the two boys, who stood where they were, but kept a close eye on her retreating form.
"Draco," Hermione said, placing her hands on his bare chest and pressing herself to him. "You have to help me." Confused and concerned, Draco placed his hands automatically on her shoulders, thankfully covered by his abandoned t-shirt.
"What, Hermione? What's wrong?" he asked quickly, squeezing her. She stole a quick look over her shoulder to see that her hopes of an easy leave were merely wishful thinking, as the two boys stood stock still, sizing Draco up and imagining that they could take him two on one.
"You have to pretend to be my boyfriend," she said softly, turning to look him straight in the eye. Draco was stunned for a moment, taken aback.
"They accosted me, and I wasn't thinking, and I told them that my boyfriend would come and save me, so now you have to pretend. Please, Draco. They're beginning to scare me," Hermione pleaded and Draco him. "You have to help me." Confused and concerned, Draco placim seeing her than she wanted tlooked up to the boys, eyes fiery.
"All right," he said, pushing her gently to the side, and stalking up to the duo waiting intolerantly. The one to Draco's left held a smug smirk on his face, as the other opened his mouth to speak. Any words were cut off by Draco's fist, which connected with the boy's jaw and chided a sickening crack. He fell to the sand with a cry of pain, holding his chin and sniveling. Satisfied, Draco then turned to the other boy, who was looking more than mildly surprised. "Do you have something to say to me?" Draco asked coldly, brandishing his throbbing fingers. The remaining assaulter shook his head quickly, helping his friend from the ground.
"No hard feelings, right mate?" he tried, breaking his oath to keep quiet. "Just a little fun. Didn't hurt nothing." Draco clenched his fist.
"A little fun, you say? I'll show you a little fun..." oath to keep quiet. "Just a little fun. Didn't hurt nothing." Draco clenchhe threatened, taking a step forward, but the two boys turned and dashed off, disappearing down the beach, in the direction of the snack stand. Draco assumed for some ice. Hermione stepped up behind him and hugged his back tightly.
"Thank you," she praised, and he turned in her arms to hold her properly, shaking his head against her gratitude. "You know," Hermione said as she pulled away, tugging him toward her towel in the sand. "You actually punched the nicer one." Draco smiled and gave half a shrug.
"He was on my right, and I happen to have a nice right hook. Sucks to him," he said and took the offered seat beside her in the sand. Hermione smiled, pulling his damaged palm toward her and inspecting his fingers. The redness from such forceful contact clashed with his pale skin and suggested he might experience bruising in the near future. At this realization, Hermione frowned and gently pressed her lips to the first knuckle of his middle finger.
"I'm sorry," she said softly, looking up at him. "I didn't mean for you to hurt yourself." Draco pulled his hand away, using it instead to prop him up in the sand.
"Nothing that can't be fixed. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine; I think I might have overreacted a bit. They were harassing me, sure, but they didn't attempt to lay but a perverted finger on me," she admitted, shrugging, but it did little to raise Draco spirits. He shook his head in shame.
"I hate people," he declared monotonously, and Hermione laughed. He turned to her. "I'm serious. This just proves why." She pretended to pout.
"Oh, so you hate me too then?" she asked, projecting her bottom lip and coquettishly flashing her eyelashes. Draco smirked.
"Yes, I do," he said, and Hermione's expression dropped. "I hate you for wearing my shirt. Honestly, woman, how many times do I have to tell you not to touch my stuff?" He felt a warm rush as her face lit up in relish of his joke, and she began to pull her arms through his sleeves.
"I'm sorry," she said, laughing lightly. "They were looking at me. It felt dirty, I had to do something." Draco frowned slightly and stopped her.
"Keep it," he said, reaching behind her to push in the tag that was now erect from the collar. "It's getting a little cooler," Draco noted, lying back against the sand, warm from the sun. Hermione tilted her head as if judging temperature, and nodded.
"Yes, it seems so..." she agreed, shivering slightly at the thought. Draco lifted his head from the ground.
"You want to go back?" he asked, but she shook her head, dropping to lie close to him and curl up against his side.
"No, no," Hermione assured. "I'm just fine." Draco, smirking, tied an arm around her shoulders.
"You know I'm on to you, don't you?" he asked, draping his other fingers over the arm she rested over his chest. Hermione smiled, eyes closed. "This game you're playing with me."
"Of course I do, Draco," she agreed, nuzzling against his skin. "And don't you know that I've noticed every move you make to keep us playing?"
"Mm," he mumbled, in passive agreement as he drummed his fingertips on her forearm. "Don't you think... don't you think it's wrong?" Hermione shook her head.
"No," she said. "No, I don't. I've thought about it, Draco, and it actually seems quite right to me. I'm told incessantly that I am definitely of my father's gene pool, and even I can see how much of your mother you have in you. If they can be happy together, why can't we?"
"Theoretically, you are being completely logical... but in reality, there's quite a lot against you in this argument. Most prominent, the fact that they've already..."
"It shouldn't be first come first serve, Draco," Hermione interrupted. "The only thing making us a family is a slip of paper locked away in a safe deposit box somewhere. There's no blood standing in our way." She pushed herself onto her elbows, leaning over him to press a soft kiss on his lips. "What if we had been dating?" she insinuated, receiving for her trouble a raised eyebrow. "Last year, when we had that fight. What if we were caught snogging instead? Or, truthfully, having that same argument? If we hadn't told our parents, which I highly doubt we would, they very well may have done the same things they did. Would it have been wrong then?" Draco was silent for a moment, and exhaled a deep breath.
"I don't know," he confessed, shaking his head. "I really don't know. I wish things could be different, and at the same time I’m glad they are the way they are. It's hard to pass judgment." Hermione sighed, relaxing and dropping her chin to rest on his chest.
"How about, for the rest of the afternoon, I'm just some girl and you're just some boy, who met on the beach and had a blissful whirlwind romance?" she suggested, tilting her head to the side. Draco smiled and moved in to kiss her.
"I'd like that," he admitted, and Hermione smiled, bending a leg over him and settling in for a comfortable nap on the beach.
A crash of thunder, not far in the distance, made her jump. She lifted her head in a panic and turned to Draco, who had his eyebrows knitted.
"Did you hear that?" she whispered, as if her voice could disclose her position to an unwanted source. Draco sat up pulling her with him, and stared out into the horizon. Behind them, the small clusters of tourists were frantically packing their belongings and scurrying up toward the clusters of shops and diners that lined the beach, separated by a six foot wall.
As Draco watched, he could see the rain come. It started across the ocean and danced on the water as if it were alive, gaining momentum and closing in on them. He had nary enough time to cover them with Hermione's beach blanket before the torrential showers hit the beach, marking daggers in the sand. There was a tense silence for a moment; Draco locked his arms around her instinctively, balling the ends of the fabric in his fists to assure the blanket was securely wrapped around her, and all that could be heard was the coarse rain.
Then, unexpectedly, Hermione laughed. She placed her palms to the sides of his face, turning him to stare her in the eye, and laughed heartily at the expense of the weather.
"I sure hope this isn't some sort of omen," she joked airily, and Draco smiled, lowering himself to devour her mouth. Hermione leaned back in the sand and he straddled her, covering their lower extremities with the blanket and leaving shoulder to crown susceptible to the moisture emitted by the now dark and foreboding sky. Another crash of lightning, closer than the first, startled them apart and made Hermione laugh once again. Draco smiled at her, then looked up at the surrounding expanse. His smile grew as he focused back on her waiting maple orbs.
"Looks like we have a private beach," he stated quietly, pressing another kiss to the corner of her mouth, which was now upturned in an arch smirk.
"Hm, now... what would two teenage lovers do in the middle of a storm, with no one around to see?" Hermione asked suggestively, placing a mock pensive finger to her chin. Draco, feeling a rush of adrenaline caused by her sultry suggestions and the intensity of the situation, gave her a questioning look. Hermione's smirk grew into a smile and she tied her arms around his neck, pulling him down to meet her lips. Draco nearly devoured her.
Huddled beneath the now nearly useless beach blanket, Draco helped Hermione climb the hill to where the sand stopped and the grass began. They followed the path of the stone wall until they came to an entrance, which was roofed and wide enough to shelter them from the now cutting wind.
"We should stay here," Draco said, wringing out the blanket as Hermione seated herself against one of the walls, breathing slightly heavily. "At least for a while, to see if it lets up. Mum'll worry if we stay out too late, but I don't really want to walk back in that if it can be avoided." Hermione nodded her silent agreement, pulling her arms inside Draco's shirt and hugging herself tightly. Now that the passion had faded, the chill of the rain was more than evident. Draco came to sit beside her and enclosed her with his arms as he noticed her shivering. Hermione smiled, leaning into him, and felt kisses on the top of her head. She sighed, trying futilely to quell her shaking.
"I had fun today," she told him, nuzzling his neck as she had before. "A lot of fun." Draco held her closer, continuing his train of kisses over the part in her damp hair.
"Me too," he agreed, and let them fall silent, listening to the rain.
"Do you still think it's wrong?" Hermione asked softly, sounding almost as if she were afraid of the answer. Draco squeezed her.
"I don't know," he answered truthfully. "But right now, I really don't care." She smiled into his skin.
The storm ended almost as quickly as it had begun, petering out into a light sprinkle before disappearing completely. It wasn't ten minutes later that the sun came back out, drying the sand and cheering the gloomy atmosphere. Hermione was the first to break from their cocoon of warmth and safety, preferring the heat of the sun to the damp, muddy ground inside the antechamber. She pulled Draco out into the penetrating rays, allowing herself to slide into a reclined position and bask for a moment with in them.
Draco joined her, listening to the silence and the even sound of her deep breaths. He allowed them a quarter hour of rest before piercing the silence with an unwanted truth.
"We should head back; your Dad's probably called the police by now," he said, moving a hand to lace his fingers in hers. Hermione turned her head toward him, but did not open her eyes. Draco sighed. "Come on, Hermione," he prodded. "When we get back, we can go straight to bed, and get up early to see the sunrise. Doesn't that sound better than lying in the dirt for a while and being skinned alive?" Hermione couldn't help but to giggle, opening her caramel eyes and drawing a grin with her lips. Draco mirrored her.
"All right," she agreed, but teased him with a sultry kiss before getting to her feet. Draco followed momentarily, slipping an arm around her waist to direct her again toward the alcove, where he retrieved their soaked beach blanket and continued forth down the quarter hour path back to their inviting bedchambers. Neither were wearing shoes, but the pavement was smooth and cool from the rain, allowing an easy ride into a difficult situation.
"Oh, thank Merlin!" Narcissa bellowed the moment her children entered their room, and nearly pounced on them. Draco was quick to remove his fingers from Hermione's, busying them instead with closing the door. A moment later, both Draco and Hermione were given red lines across their foreheads from contact with Narcissa's collarbones as she pulled them toward her. "I was so worried! Where were you? Did you want me to have a heart attack? Gone for hours, and with practically a monsoon on the rise!" Draco laughed, pushing her away, and Narcissa reluctantly released them.
"Mum, we're fine," he said. "I promise; we stayed together, just like you said, and just got caught in the storm is all. Couldn't see much so we waited it out before coming home; better that than be taken down by traffic trying to cross the street with low visibility." Hermione nodded her agreement and Narcissa cast a look between the two of them, searching their innocent faces for foul play. She sighed.
"Well, as long as you're both all right. I have to go ring your father; he's been out for half an hour looking for you; since the moment the rain stopped. Then we'll order up for dinner, so get yourselves dried off..."
"Actually, Mum," Hermione said, drawing eyes to herself. "I'm really rather spent from everything; I'd just like to go to sleep." Narcissa frowned, looking concerned. She lifted a hand to feel Hermione's face for sign of fever.
"If that's what you want, love. Are you feeling all right? Dizzy, warm?" she asked and Hermione shrugged, giving her a winning smile.
"Maybe a little chill, that's all."
"Well, all right," Narcissa permitted, then turned to Draco. "What about you, baby?" He smiled.
"I like Hermione's idea," he voiced, sharing with his roommate a sidelong glance. Narcissa nodded and planted a kiss upon both their foreheads.
"All right, then," she repeated. "Happy Christmas, I love you both."
"Love you too, Mum," they chorused, and Narcissa left them with a smile, treading footsteps next door and to her own room.
Hermione groaned softly and dragged herself to her duffle, speaking not a word to Draco as she pulled some fresh pajamas from the bag and slipped into the bathroom for a warm shower. When she returned, refreshed and ready to salute her inviting berth, it was to find him curled in her bed, dry, dressed, and smothering a pillow. Whether it was on purpose or he had fallen into her sheets on purpose, Hermione did not care. She shuffled to the unoccupied side and joined him in bed, curling up against his chest and ignoring the irritating grains of sand he had transported from the beach. With a kiss to his slightly parted and swollen lips, she settled in for a well deserved rest, thinking of nothing but sunrise.
Draco stood on the back of the little ferry, semi loaded with people, and watched as the sun set on the infamous
He sighed, absorbing as much of the calming sight as he could before it would be gone in the mist forever.
"Draco?" Hermione asked, cautiously stepping up behind him, and he turned to her with a half hearted smile.
"Hey," he greeted, accepting her into his reverie by tying an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. The weather had not been so kind since the storm, and the wind was less than tepid. Hermione leaned into him gratefully, bundled in long pants and sweaters and clutching a foam cup of cocoa. Still, she shivered slightly and sniffled. "How're you feeling?" he asked, resting his chin atop her head. Hermione laughed softly and took a sip of her scorching chocolate.
"Bit better. Glad I over packed," she joked, and Draco smiled into her hair. The rainstorm had not been so kind to Hermione in aftermath; she was left shaking, sneezing, and in desperate need of tissues upon waking the next morning. Draco's only reminder was the oval mark she had left below his collarbone. She envied him.
"I'm going to miss this island," he said suddenly, sounding sad. "Left some memories there." He felt her hug him tighter.
"Looks rather like a prison from here; reminds me of
"Hey! What was that for?"
"Mum and Dad could be watching," she hissed, daring a look over her shoulder. "This position is enough to get us in trouble, we don't need a snog on top of that."
"What snog? You want a snog, I'll give you one," he countered, sounding mildly intimidating, but smeared the illusion as he trapped her in a heated osculation, tasting with amusement the chocolate on her lips. When he pulled finally back, exhaling in satisfaction, Hermione laughed.
"That'll certainly rouse suspicion," she commented, settling back into his embrace.
"Damn right it will!" shouted an angry voice from behind them, and Draco and Hermione pulled quickly apart, spinning to see a livid Narcissa glaring between them, followed by a very pale Harper, who looked as if he were about to become a seasickness statistic. "I'm going to give you ten seconds to explain yourselves!" The teenagers shared a panicked look.
"Well, you see..." Hermione tried, lifting a finger. "Erm..."
"It's quite a long story, Mother," Draco picked up for her, trying his best to remain calm and collected. Narcissa pressed her fingernails to her forehead, groaning.
"Well," Harper quipped, stepping up to the plate. "It looks like the wings really will stay in the family after all."
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter or:
Sha la la la la, my lady- in the sun with your hair undone
Can you hear me now, calling your name from across the bay?
A summer's day, laughing and a-hiding, chasing love out on
She was the color of the Indian summer, and we shared the hours without number
Until one day when the sky turned dark and the winds grew wild
Cut by the rain and blinded by the lightning, we rode the storm
Out there on
And we fell down laughing in the wet grass, both our bodies drying in the sunshine
Sha la la la my lady, in the sun with your dress undone
Now every mile away and everyday cuts a little bit deeper
I'll remember the nights in the cool sand, making love out on Thunder Island