Hermione had spent the rest of the evening and night laying low. Over the course of the following morning the house began to bustle with the coming of even more friends of the Malfoy’s. Most of the arrivals she knew or had met at the engagement party.
Her stomach was in a permanent state of knots as she absorbed the fact that all of these people, Slytherins mostly, had gathered to watch her marry a man, that by all rights, she should not be marrying. The gathering of Draco’s family and friends made the impending marriage that much realer to her. She dreaded it. She did everything she could to forget about the quickly approaching event. But no matter how hard she tried, every corner, every room, every path had something that reminded her of her quickly approaching fate.
Never before in her life had she felt so nervous about something. She lost her breakfast a short hour after she had it. She had avoided most of the newcomers for the better part of the morning but by mid-day, her luck ran out.
Perseus was proving to be something of a nuisance, always present wherever she thought she might escape him. She had not a moment’s peace for his constant prodding. He wanted to know all about her.
“So,” he said, breaking the silence she had only briefly found in the library, “you and Draco?”
She sighed. She knew sooner or later he’d approach this subject.
“Yes,” she said shortly, as she tried to regain her place in her book.
“How, exactly, did that come about?” he asked.
She slapped the book closed and shot him a glare. She hesitated a moment thinking of a way to explain it without revealing her ulterior motives.
“We have an … arrangement,” she finally said.
He studied her face with his dark eyes and grinned at her. “An arranged marriage?”
She nodded but offered no further explanation.
“And how long have you known Draco?”
She rubbed her eyes before succumbing to the inevitable questioning. “Oh dear, let me think.” After several moments she finally spoke again. “I guess about twelve years now.”
“Mmm,” he replied as he crossed an ankle over his knee and steepled his fingers. “You went to that Hog school with him then?”
He snorted softly.
“What?” she asked.
“It’s an odd name.”
“Well what was the name of your school?”
“I didn’t attend any school. I had private tutors.”
“Of course,” Hermione said and rolled her eyes.
“So, you and Draco fell madly in love at this school?”
“Hardly.” She couldn’t suppress the laughter that escaped her. “We hated each other very much.”
“Did he pick on you?” Perseus questioned.
“Well… he was quite cruel at times. He disliked my friends and my heritage.”
“Your heritage?” He furrowed his brows before speaking again, “Oh… I see… you’re a Muggleborn.”
“Yes,” Hermione answered and awaited a slur of obscenities to flow from his lips.
“Well, that makes things very interesting,” he said with a crooked smile. She gaped at him for a moment in shock. “So he picked on you and was mean to you.”
“Yes.” She stretched out on the couch she had been sitting on and made herself more comfortable.
“He liked you,” he said softly.
Hermione burst into a fit of giggles.
“Oh, yes, I’m sure he did!” She said between giggles.
“I’m serious,” Perseus added quietly.
Her laughter stilled and her brow creased. “No, he’s hated me for years.”
“Maybe that’s what he wanted you to think.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You’re a likable witch, why wouldn’t he?” He sat up and rested his elbows on his knees, leaning closer to her.
Hermione looked at him with an almost fearful look on her face, trying to think of a proper argument. He couldn’t possibly be right. Her mother had always told her when she was little about boys pulling pigtails. But he simply couldn’t be right. If he were right, it might shatter her preconceptions about the boy she once knew.
This was how Draco found them. He stepped into the sitting area and glared at the both of them.
“Cousin!” Perseus greeted him good-naturedly.
“Perry,” Draco answered in almost the same disdainful voice he saved for Harry. “I’ve been thinking. I believe it’s time for a rematch.”
A slow smile crossed Perseus’ lips. “Are you sure about that, Draco?”
“Yes,” Draco said as he shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. “I’ll gather the others, be on the pitch in half.”
“Right-o, guv-nah,” Perseus said in his best British as he rose from his chair.
Draco narrowed his eyes at the other man before turning and briskly exiting the room.
Perseus looked over his shoulder and gave Hermione a winning smirk before following after Draco to prepare.
And so, Hermione found herself standing on the sidelines of the Malfoy’s Quidditch pitch, in a borrowed pair of grey wool slacks, a cream cashmere sweater, and a violently red scarf wrapped around her neck.
She stood next to Narcissa and Millicent, who had only arrived with Goyle moments earlier.
Narcissa sighed heavily as half of the two assembled teams began rising into the air. The two Keepers (Lucius and Julius) and the two Seekers (Draco and Perseus) stood in the center of the field. They clutched their expensive looking black brooms as they discussed something with serious looks on their faces.
“This won’t end well…” Millicent muttered.
“It never does,” Narcissa responded as she pulled her silk shawl tighter around her shoulders.
Hermione watched nervously as the four men approached them.
“Oi!” Blaise yelled from the air above, cloaked in the black and silver robes his team had chosen. “Hurry it up, would you? Looks like a storm’s coming in!”
Draco waived a hand at him noncommittally without looking up. Blaise shot off down the pitch towards the hoops at the far end.
“Draco,” Narcissa said, once her son was close enough, “behave yourself.”
She reached up and tightened the leather fastenings around his neck and shoulders. She turned her attention to Perseus, who had followed, and checked the black robes he wore as well.
“Perseus,” she shook her head at him, remembering the quarrels of the past. “Be good.”
“Always, Aunt Cissa,” he said with his charming smile.
Narcissa moved away from the boys and Hermione to where her husband stood. She began muttering angrily at him, but Hermione couldn’t make out what she said.
Perseus stepped into her line of sight, blocking the two elder Malfoys from her vision.
“A kiss for luck?” he asked mischievously and she noted his eyes darting up to catch Draco’s response.
She snorted at him and shook her head.
He grinned, knowing she already was on to his game even if his cousin was daft to it, “A favour then?”
“Will you go away?” she asked.
“If it’s what you wish.”
“Fine,” she unwound the red scarf from her neck and tossed it at him. She said with a friendly smile, “Now go.”
He smirked and tied the scarf around his broom before he kicked off and flashed into the air above them, the tails of the scarlet fabric whipped fiercely around his legs. There he hovered carefully watching Draco approach the young witch.
Hermione looked up at him when he stood before her. His green robes flicked about in the strong wind that had started blowing.
He looked up at Perseus, who was still smirking, and spat, “He’s a pest.”
Hermione couldn’t help the grin that spread across her lips at his evident jealousy. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, surprising him in the process.
“Good luck, Draco,” she said before stepping away from him to stand by his mother.
He pushed off the ground and joined his team in the cloud-darkened sky.
Millicent stood in the center of the pitch and carefully reached down to a shining black box. She unlatched the lid and jumped clear as all the balls burst free of their cage. The Snitch exited last and vanished into the stormy sky.
Millicent hurried to join the other ladies at the side of the pitch, reaching them only just as it started raining.
“Oh lovely,” Narcissa murmured. She withdrew her wand and flicked it.
In moments, a large green canopy came floating from the nearby building, the one Hermione suspected Draco had Apparated her to to fetch his broom. The tent was followed by three chairs, they approached dutifully in a line before the tent erected it’s self and the chairs followed suit.
The women took their seats and set in to watch what was sure to be an interesting game.
Hermione didn’t know how long she had been watching the green and black shapes darting across the sky. Ten minutes? Fifteen? An hour? Longer?
She was only sure of the terror unfolding before her. It all progressed in frighteningly slow motion.
She watched Zabini sling his arm back and make contact with a Bludger. It went soaring through the sky, its aim true on its intended target, who never saw it coming.
“No,” she whispered, rising from her seat with wide eyes.
The ball soared straight for the blonde haired young man it was meant to hit.
Lightening struck nearby, fully illuminating the pitch and the rain pounded down. The sodden ground splattered loudly with every drop.
She withdrew her wand and took off at a dead sprint across the field, long before the Bludger ever made contact.
“Draco!” Narcissa yelled but was barely heard over the din of the storm.
Across the field, high above the ground at the goal posts, Lucius also watched the flight of the crazed ball with wide eyes.
“No!” he hissed angrily.
The ball made its contact, hitting Draco squarely in the chest, effectively dismounting him from his broom. He began a long freefall.
“No,” Lucius whispered again, and extended his right hand, wordlessly casting a spell and willing it to reach.
Hermione shrieked as she saw the ball hit him. The lightening cracked again, lighting the sky and she saw him falling to the earth. She ran faster.
She stopped and pointed her wand at him only seconds before he would have touched the soaked grass. Between her cushioning charm and Lucius’ wandless attempt to slow his son’s fall, Draco hit the ground with a light thud.
She immediately kneeled over him and began casting spells. His father landed next to her within seconds.
He was followed by the rest of the players.
Blaise began immediately apologizing, mumbling incoherently about how it was an accident.
“Shut it, Zabini,” Lucius growled.
Hermione ignored the bickering that was beginning around her amongst the gathered men. She surmised the only injuries he’d attained were from the actual Bludger hit and that was most likely a fractured rib.
She heard scuffling around her and the slipping and thudding of bodies hitting the water-soaked ground.
“Draco,” she called to him as his eyelids started to flutter open.
“What the fuck,” he whispered painfully.
“Are you alright? Do you hurt?” she asked quickly, having to raise her voice over the raucous shouts of the wrestling mass of men behind her.
He tried to sit up and groaned loudly.
“Lucius! No!” Narcissa screeched in the distance. More scuffling and thudding could be heard along with the unmistakable sound of flesh meeting flesh and bone meeting bone. More cursing and yelling followed. The Malfoy matriarch continued trying to curtail the foray, “Stop this! Lucius! Julius do something!”
“Be still,” Hermione told him. She leaned over him and began unhooking the leather straps that held the protective Quidditch gear on.
“Here, Granger?” Draco asked with a naughty smirk.
She stopped and looked at him. Her eyes flashed angrily. “Don’t get cheeky.”
She peeled back the leather and the silken, green robes to reveal his milky white torso. The rain began drizzling down his chest. She immediately saw the large purple bruise forming over the injured ribs. She reached out a hand and gently touched the spot.
He hissed loudly, “Shite, woman!”
“What?” she asked, withdrawing her hand quickly.
“Your hands are bloody well freezing!” he yelled at her.
She rolled her eyes and went back to prodding his chest. She hovered her wand over the broken bones and began softly muttering the necessary spells. Orange light glowed from the end of her wand and the bruise began to slowly fade.
The fighting on the field seemed to have progressed in the short time since she had last subconsciously noted it. The yelling was more primal than it had been; it had become a series of grunts and yells, groans and war-cries. Several women had joined Narcissa and shrieked obscenities and threats at their stubborn husbands.
“Better?” Hermione asked Draco as he watched the happenings behind her with a look of shock and disbelief.
“Is that my father?” he asked.
Hermione looked over her shoulder.
“Oh my,” she whispered.
She stood fully and faced the tumult. Ten grown men wrestling in mud and throwing fists and insults at one another was truly not something she expected to see that day.
“What on Earth,” she whispered as she watched. Peripherally, she saw Draco rising to stand beside her and fasten his robes over his healed chest.
Hermione and Draco stood gaping as what once-upon-a-time would have been Lucius Malfoy separated himself from the writhing mass and took two steps towards them. He looked like something from a 50s horror film, the Swamp Thing came to mind immediately. He closely resembled a freshly unearthed Inferi. His white hair was completely brown and matted with mud and grass, his face was hidden beneath the muck. Only the length of his hair and the crisp silvery blue of his eyes identified him.
The duo stood watching as Draco’s father took another step towards them and reached out a hand.
“Draco, you’re alright,” he said.
Before either could reply or he could inquiry further he let out a strained ‘hurrumpff’ as a large mass bodily tackled him to the ground.
“Good heavens,” Hermione said softly and placed a hand over heart.
She looked to Draco who was grinning at the fight. He faced her when he noticed her look at him. His grin widened and he purposefully lowered his gaze.
Hermione blushed carmine. She followed his gaze to her now translucent, white sweater. She immediately crossed her arms over her chest and looked at him in shock.
He looked away while trying in vain not to beam mirthfully.
“Barbarians, the lot of you,” she said angrily before stomping off through the rain to where Narcissa stood covering her mouth and watching the atrocities unfolding before her.
She was shaking her head at the juvenile behavior when Hermione reached her.
“Have you ever seen such?” Hermione demanded.
Narcissa’s eyes widened at something Hermione wasn’t watching.
“It’s best if we go now,” Narcissa said and grasped Hermione’s arm before popping them back into the house. “I’d advise you to run and hide.”
Hermione watched with wide eyes as the woman began scuttling down the hall and darted into a dark room. She narrowed her eyes as the door remained cracked open and blue eyes observed the hall.
Hermione shook her head at such odd behavior and turned to go to her rooms. She stopped dead.
Several puffs of black smoke materialized before her and joined the already waiting two that stood watching her.
Draco, no longer simply wet, bared a feral grin at her and held out his mud-dripping arms.
She grimaced in horror and heard Narcissa’s door slam shut and the lock click.
“No,” she said in her strongest voice, abandoning any hope of modesty as she brandished her wand at him. “Stay away.”
She began backing down the corridor away from the muddy men stalking her.
“Go torment someone else,” she said before flicking her wand at one of them, Rodolphus from the sound of it, and making him trip over his jelly-legs.
She continued backing up and found herself passing Narcissa’s door. “Narcissa!”
“Sorry, dear,” she heard muffled from behind the door. “You’re on your own!”
One of the dripping figures stopped at the door and immediately began whispering to it. Lucius, Hermione surmised when the wood swung open at his will and Narcissa shrieked.
“No! This is French silk, get away, you filthy beast!”
Hermione blanched. She really hated mud. She could handle dirt on its own when it was dry. She could handle being sopping wet from rain. But she really hated mud. It smelled horrible and mucked everything up before it dried and cracked.
“Bugger off,” Hermione growled. “Don’t make me hurt you.”
One of the creatures chuckled.
“I’m warning you,” she repeated.
Draco lunged at her and she dodged, giving him a good push on the way so he landed on his stomach on the floor and cursed at her. He slipped about and had a hard time of getting up to attempt to catch her again.
She continued slowly backing away, not once trusting them enough to turn her back and run.
Lurkin popped into the hall and shrieked loudly. “My floorses! Oh dear, oh no! So dirty!” He fell to his hands and knees and began scrubbing the mud away in the wake of Hermione’s pursuers.
Hermione flicked her wand at another approaching brown figure and he froze solid before falling over onto the floor.
“Sorry,” she added at the blinking plank of a person, “I did warn you.”
“Oh!” Narcissa screeched down the hall, “What have you done, Lucius!”
Red light flashed and Lucius tumbled out into the hall. He began quickly searching his Quidditch suit for his wand whilst rolling aside of another red blast. He laughed loudly when a priceless vase toppled over and shattered.
“Funny is it?” Narcissa demanded as she stomped into the hall. Her light blue dress robes were mottled black and blue from the mud her husband had transplanted there.
She slashed her wand and Lucius rolled again avoiding another blast, all the while continuing to laugh and draw more of her wrath.
The pack was distracted by one of their own being attacked behind them. Hermione struck again. Ropes appeared and lashed one of the figures to an eight foot tall statue of some wizard or other.
“Oi!” he bellowed. The others turned back to face Hermione.
“This is absurd!” Hermione said, “Aguamenti!”
A jet of water burst forth from her wand and she thoroughly doused all the pursuers in the hall, save Lucius, who had managed to escape further down the corridor from Narcissa. The mud and grime washed away from them revealing Theo, Rabastan, Rodolphus, and Draco.
“Well, where are the rest of you?” Hermione asked with a grin.
“You minx!” Draco spat at her through his smirk.
Just as she was about to yell her triumph to Narcissa, two large arms wrapped around her. Her face contorted in shock and disgust, quickly followed by pure, unfettered anger.
“Here, Draco, hold her a moment,” Perseus said from behind her.
Draco stepped forward and wrapped her in a bear hug against his chest.
“Release me!” she shrieked against him. “Let me go!”
She resorted to animalistic instincts and bit his breast.
“Ahh!” Draco yelled, but held her fast. “No biting, wench!”
“Alright, pass her back,” Perseus said.
Draco shoved her away from him and began massaging his assaulted chest as he glared at her. Hermione felt herself wrapped in cloth and the overwhelming funk she detested surrounded her. It permeated her hair, her clothes; it mashed against her skin.
Draco watched the manic emotions that flittered across her pretty face. He noted the crazed twitch her left eye adopted.
“Ugh… I think we better…” he motioned over his arm before adding, “run!”
The two relatives took off down the hall in a sprint, leaving their friends to her mercy.
Hermione cast off the mud-soaked cloak.
“MALFOY!” she bellowed.
She raised her wand and began shooting off random spells at any who tried deterring her from her course. She’d scour high and low until she found the both of them. And they’d pay.
Merlin, would they.
AN: Well there's Chapter 21! Aren't you happy! Three chapters in 2 weeks (well maybe 3 by the time this clears the queue), rejoice! Anyway, hope you all liked it! We're getting so very close to the wedding. More mayhem will ensue, worry not.
Thank you so very much to all my reviewers. I truly appreciate your kind words. They are so motivating to keep moving forward. Thank you so, so, so much!! Cookies for all of you! :)
Stay tuned for Chapter 22, it's coming soon!
AN Update: Changed the word that was so troublesome! Thanks to those of you pointing it out to me, my brain has been crossing all it's 'i's' and dotting the 't's'. :)
Also changed back to the old banner, was in the mood for something new but I won't stray from what it seems most of you prefer. :)
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