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Chapter 11: A House of Darkness
It was a strange experience for Hermione to be dressed in all black. Her Hogwarts robes were black, of course, but she couldn’t recall a time where she had been decked in black head-to-toe like she was now. Even at the only funeral she had ever attended, that of a distant great aunt, she had worn a purple blouse.
Black was an uncomfortable color for Hermione. It didn’t suit her – largely because it reminded her so much of the dark powers that she, Ron, and Harry were constantly threatened by.
Draco took a moment to take her in as she tied the silky black cloak around her neck. He knew she was uncomfortable, but to him she had never looked more alluring. He loved the color black. It was him personified – his darkness, in heart and soul, woven into cloth. To see her wearing it made him feel connected to her, as if she was in the darkness with him. As if she was there to make him feel less alone.
“Does it look all right?” she asked tentatively, tugging at the ebony dress uncomfortably.
“It looks more than all right,” he replied, smiling as he carefully arranged the cloak on her shoulders.
Draco had used the Vanishing Cabinet to go to Diagon Alley to purchase the black clothing for her. When they Disapparated back to Hogwarts he had run an errand to the Owlery to give her time to change, and had returned to find her looking like the girl he thought would only ever exist in his dreams. He could stare at her all day and never tire of it.
He had chosen a simple but elegant black dress, fitted around the midsection with a flowing skirt. The bust was adorned with beading. He adored the way it clung to her curves and practically had to resist the urge to rip it off of her. She was wearing his best cloak, one of expensive silk that he usually only reserved for dates or special occasions.
“Here, I’ll help you with this,” he said, reaching down to grab the black netting veil she was examining rather cluelessly from her hand.
She bit her lip nervously as he gingerly arranged the veil over her eyes.
“You don’t need to be worried. I’ll be right there with you,” he assured her, pulling the hood of the cloak up over her head and tucking her hair into it.
“That’s much easier said than done,” she said, looking up at him through the veil. He swallowed hard as he gazed at her glimmering eyes behind the netting. And before he knew it, his lips were pressing against hers.
His excuse would be that the kiss was an attempt to calm her, distract her. But the truth was that she was his weak point and he couldn’t control himself. Especially when she looked the way she did.
She kissed him back, softly and sweetly. Though she felt incredibly out of place in her dark ensemble, his lips were familiar. And though it was true that they were still rather new to her, she considered them a safe place.
It would never cease to amaze Hermione how these intimate moments with him made her feel.
Kissing an enemy should feel unnatural and wrong. Kissing an enemy should come with doubts, guilt, and regret. But kissing Draco Malfoy didn’t feel like that at all.
Why? Because Hermione wasn’t kissing a Death Eater. Not really. She was kissing a boy who was scared and lost and needed her. She was kissing a boy who had rejected his past and all he had been taught to believe so he could kiss her back.
With a great amount of effort he finally pulled away. She smiled at him, flattered by the heated look in his eyes.
“I…” Draco tried to explain his actions but he knew nothing would really sound right.
She pecked him on the lips to quiet him. “Let’s go,” she whispered, holding out her hand for his. He cleared his throat in embarrassment and tenderly reached out to entwine their fingers together.
“Don’t be afraid. Everything is going to be fine. I promise. She’s not… She’s not a bad person,” he explained, hoping Hermione would somehow understand what he was trying to say.
She nodded curtly, still looking unconvinced. “Yes… I know. I’m glad you’ll be there in case something goes wrong.”
“Nothing is going to go wrong,” he promised, leading her towards the Vanishing Cabinet.
Hermione stopped, suddenly noticing the cabinet. “We’re… We’re using that?” she asked worriedly.
“I’ve tested it. Don’t worry. It will let us out in Knockturn Alley, and we can Apparate from there.”
She didn’t look convinced at all. He squeezed her hand in reassurance.
“Hermione, this was your idea.”
“I… I know. But I didn’t exactly think it through, or weigh the various options…”
“Yes you did. You always do. You wouldn’t have suggested this if you didn’t feel it necessary,” he countered. She sighed, knowing he was right.
“Okay, fine. Let’s go. But are you sure I look all right?”
“Hermione, you look exquisite. Anyone who sees you is going to think that you’re much too beautiful to be within even ten feet of me. Please stop worrying and just trust me.”
Her cheeks turned slightly pink at his comment but she nodded in agreement and followed him into the cabinet.
There was a rush of air in her ears and then they were stepping into the dimly-lit shop, still holding hands. Her grip tightened as her feet touched the dusty floor, but she kept her head down just as he had instructed her. The shopkeeper was nowhere in sight, much to Draco’s relief. He pulled Hermione closer to him, loving the feel of her womanly curves against his chest. He smiled at her as they Disapparated together from the shop.
* * * *
“Blimey, Harry. I’ve rewritten this sentence five times and it’s still awful.”
Harry looked up from his half-written essay to see Ron scribbling at his parchment in frustration. They were sitting in the Common Room together, attempting to conquer an essay about Human Transfiguration.
“I’m not having much luck either if it makes you feel better,” he sighed, putting down his quill in defeat.
Ron frowned at his scribbled parchment. “Hermione is going to cry when she reads this,” he murmured, wrinkling his nose as if the essay was actually giving off some sort of putrid odor.
Harry nodded, wondering if he should confide in Ron about what Hermione told him. He was worried about her. He hadn’t seen her all day, and he hadn’t seen her return to the Common Room last night, either. It was a Saturday, which usually meant she was studying in the library.
But she wasn’t there. Harry and Ron had searched the castle for a good hour, wondering about her whereabouts. They had made the decision to start their essays, so that when she finally came back she’d be pleased to find them actually working.
But Harry was losing the ability to concentrate. Hermione didn’t do this. She didn’t disappear like this. What if she hadn’t even come back last night? He had just assumed she’d come back late, but what if something had happened to her?
A familiar whine of panic started in his head and he turned to Ron. “Ron… What if something happened to Hermione? What if she didn’t come back last night?”
Ron’s eyes widened. “Bloody hell, Harry… You think something happened to her? Why? What do you know?” Ron suddenly looked incredibly angry, as if he was aware that his best friend was keeping something from him.
“She told me something… strange. She’s been talking to—”
Harry and Ron both jumped at the sound and turned in unison to see an owl at the window of the Common Room. Harry leapt to the window, his heart beating in his ears, praying that it was from who he thought it was.
He opened the window and gingerly removed the envelope from the owl’s beak. It screeched and flew away, leaving him behind tear open the seal and to gaze at the neat handwriting on the note inside:
I believe I’ve solved the mystery of the dreams, and I’ve gone to talk to the person that I suspect has been sending them.
I’m not alone. Please don’t worry about me. You know how careful I am.
If something does go wrong, I’ve put a spell on this letter to reveal the address of where I am should I need assistance.
I’ll be back very soon. And please… Don’t tell Ronald about all of this just yet. Let me explain it to him when I return. I’ll hopefully have more answers by then.
Ron looked at Harry expectantly, obviously waiting for an answer. Harry looked up, wondering what he should do. Why would Hermione ask him to lie to Ron? He hated doing that.
He soon decided there was a way he could tell the truth without betraying either of his friends. “Hermione has something strange going on right now, but she doesn’t want me to tell you about it just yet,” Harry explained cautiously. Ron’s expression darkened but Harry continued, “She’s gone to find out more about it, and she wants to tell you about everything in person when she returns, because she thinks she’ll have more answers. The only reason she told me about it was because something similar happened to me and she was hoping I could help.”
“Is she okay?” Ron’s voice was hard but he didn’t look angry, at least not with Harry.
“She says she is. And if something goes wrong while she’s away, she has this letter enchanted to show where she is, so we can go and help her.”
He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. He didn’t like this at all. With Voldemort on the move, he didn’t like not having Hermione with him. He didn’t like not knowing where she was. If something happened to her… No. He couldn’t even begin to imagine it. Trying to simply imagine losing her made him feel like throwing up.
He figured that Ron was having a similar experience, and when he spoke it was as if he was reading Harry’s mind: “Harry, this isn’t like Hermione. She isn’t secretive like this. And she knows how much it will drive us mad not knowing where she is.”
Harry nodded. His stomach hurt and his eyes stung from staring too long at the letter.
And then he heard it - a soft, barely audible tapping sound. He looked around in confusion, wondering if the owl had returned. He peered outside the windows of the Common Room, but there was no owl to be found. The noise continued.
Ron was looking at him curiously but said nothing. Harry cocked his head back, his brows furrowing as he strained to listen.
It was coming from upstairs.
“Hold on a second, Ron. I’ll be right back.” Harry hurried hastily up the stairs and practically flew to the window when he saw the owl waiting outside. The hinges squeaked as he opened the glass pane and gently took the letter from the its beak.
It was expensive parchment. And it had the Malfoy seal.
His heart beating in his ears, he opened it.
Hermione’s with me. She’s safe. I give you my word – and my word is something that I never go back on.
If I do, you have full permission to kill me in cold blood.
Harry stared at the letter in disbelief. So his suspicions were correct. She was with Malfoy.
A year ago, Harry would have gone into an absolutely frenzy and hunted down Draco Malfoy like a bloodthirsty lion seeking its prey.
But something about the letter in his hands stopped him. Something about the words dissuaded him from taking action. Even just looking at the sloped handwriting on the page, he felt it. Harry sensed that something in Draco Malfoy had changed.
And he knew that it had everything to do with Hermione.
* * * *
Malfoy Manor looked just like Hermione had expected it to. It was an incredibly beautiful estate, set on a meticulously cared-for lawn with magnificent gardens and a fountain. The house was a deep tan color, with sharp ebony towers and intricate wrought-iron window frames. But though it was easily the most elegant home she had ever seen, it also carried a certain sad, lonely aura that she recognized all too well.
Hermione and Draco were standing behind a threatening black fence, which was the only obstacle between them and the sloping driveway up to the house. He gently touched her arm.
“You have to salute it to get inside,” he explained, gesturing to the fence. She watched as he raised his hand up to his forehead and slipped like smoke through the fence. She blinked a few times, marveling at the fence’s unique entry enchantment.
He gestured for her to follow him, but she hesitated. “There’s not a charm that prevents… People like me entering?” Hermione asked softly, fearing the answer.
Draco’s chest ached at the expression on her face and he reached through the fence to grasp her hand. “No. And I’m right here.”
She nodded, taking a deep breath and putting the hand he wasn’t holding up in a salute. But she didn’t slip through the fence like she was supposed to. Instead, an angry, contorted face suddenly rose from the metal on the top of the fence and bellowed, “WHO GOES THERE?”
Hermione wrenched her hand out of Draco’s, jumping back in surprise. He murmured a cuss word under his breath and slipped back through the fence to confront the disturbing metal face.
“She’s with me,” he replied sternly, “Let. Her. Through.”
The face frowned and peered at Draco with empty black eyes. “She has dirty blood,” it said in a chilling, gravelly voice.
“She’s with me. If you don’t let her through, I’ll blow you to pieces,” Draco snarled, brandishing his wand.
The face pressed its mouth into a tight line and seemed to be mulling over Draco’s threat. But after a few moments, it sighed begrudgingly and disappeared, melting back into the metal. The fence gates opened slowly to allow them through.
Hermione blinked a few times, willing herself not to be upset. But then he was there, kissing her softly on the temple. “Don’t let it get to you. Please don’t let it get to you,” he whispered in her ear, “You’re the brightest witch of our age, and you’re better than this ages-old prejudice. You know it’s true, and I know it’s true.”
Her heart skipped a beat as she looked at him, his face full of such concern and earnest. She nodded but didn’t reply. He’d said it all. She tried to name the feeling that his words had given her, but couldn’t find an emotion strong enough.
If she’d been honest with herself, a four-letter word would have come to her mind.
Draco, after seeing that she wasn’t able to reply, gently linked arms with her and the two proceeded up the driveway together. Hermione’s heart felt like it was going to burst out of her chest as they drew ever closer to the ornate entrance to the manor. She was about to walk into a house of darkness, and she didn’t know what awaited her – something that made her incredibly afraid. She thought about her parents, and how upset they would be if they knew she was about to enter the home of the people that absolutely despised her and where she came from. She thought about Harry and Ron and how worried they must be, and how guilty she felt for keeping this from them.
But those thoughts flew from her mind and were replaced by the hammering of her heart in her ears as they stepped up to the door. Draco’s hand tightened on her arm before he let it drop, taking a step away from her. They had talked about this. No one was to know what was happening between them. Not yet.
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat as the door gently swung open before them. They hadn’t even knocked. She fought the urge to run as a figure came into view, standing in the shadows of the entryway as if waiting for them.
“Hermione Granger,” a soft voice breathed in disbelief.
The figure stepped out of the darkness and into the sunlight brought in by the open door. Hermione swallowed nervously, steadying herself before she spoke.
“I believe you’ve been expecting me, Mrs. Malfoy?”
* * * *
A/N Author’s Note:
Hello my little bunnies!
So you all gave me three guesses as to who was behind the dreams: Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall. All very interesting guesses but none were correct! I’m glad to know that you didn’t see it coming!
Does it being Narcissa make sense to everyone? If not, you’ll get a chance to read all about it in the next chapter!
A big thanks to those that reviewed – they’ve gone down a bit in number, which is a bit sad, but I did have a long period of not updating. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrangle some new readers!
I’m doing my best to write any time I have free time, so keep checking back for updates. Thanks for your patience!