Hermione returned to classes the following day and spent the remainder of the week balancing her current homework as well as the assignments she missed while she was at home. Though her classmates had a lot of questions, they refrained from asking her and instead turned their attention back towards her appearance. Despite being overwhelmed with a storm of feelings, Hermione made the decision to commit back to her plan of seducing the boys around her, picking up at the Preparing for the Hunt part of Choosing the Right Victim in The Art of Seduction. Her plan before she had gone home had been to seduce Draco Malfoy in front of Blaise until the boy couldn’t take it anymore and came crawling back.
“Interpretation. Valmont, the Presidente de Tourvel, and the Marquise de Merteuil are all characters in the eighteenth-century French novel Dangerous Liaisons, by Choderlos deLaclos. (The character of Valmont was inspired by several real-life libertines of the time, most prominent of all the Duke de Richelieu.) In the story, Valmont worries that his seductions have become mechanical; he makes a move, and the woman almost always responds in the same way. But no two seductions should be the same – a different target should change the whole dynamic. Valmont’s problem is that he is always seducing the same type – the wrong type.”
After reading that it crossed her mind that this probably wasn’t the best way to get her ex-boyfriend back, and that it would more than likely fail, but she was hooked on this new power of seduction and she wanted to get revenge on the boy who had tormented her since her first day at Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy would fall to her will, and he would be a great prize, especially when she cast him away longing after her. With a coy smile on her face she opened The Art of Seduction hoping to get some new information now that she felt inspired again.
“How do you recognize your victims? By the way they respond to you. You should not pay so much attention to their conscious responses – a person who is obviously trying to please or charm you is probably playing to your vanity, and wants something from you. Instead, pay greater attention to those responses outside conscious control – a blush, an involuntary mirroring of some gesture of yours, an unusual shyness, even perhaps a flash of anger or resentment. All of these show that you are having an effect on a person who is open to your influence.”
It was true that she always seemed to make the Slytherin’s mad, Draco in particular, which obviously meant something about her got under his skin. She didn’t want the feeling nagging at him to be anger and disgust though, she wanted it to be longing and sexual tension.
Well, maybe not sexual tension.
“Like Valmont, you can also recognize the right targets by the effect they are having on you. Perhaps they make you uneasy – perhaps they correspond to a deep-rooted childhood ideal, or represent some kind of personal taboo that excites you, or suggest the person you imagine you would be if you were the opposite sex. When a person has such a deep effect on you, it transforms all of your subsequent maneuvers. Your face and gestures become more animated. You have more energy; when victims resist you (as a good victim should) you in turn will be more creative, more motivated to overcome their resistance. The seduction will move forward like a good play. Your strong desire will infect the target and give them the dangerous sensation that they have a power over you. Of course, you are the one ultimately in control since you are making your victims emotional at the right moments, leading them back and forth. Good seducers choose targets that inspire them but they know how and when to restrain themselves.”
Hermione shook her head and smiled as she turned her head up, surprised to see Harry there. “Harry!”
Harry smiled and looked around the Great Hall, now serving breakfast, and nodded towards the empty seat to her left even though all seats around her were empty. “Mind if I join you?”
She nodded eagerly. There was a Hogsmeade trip that day and she had been hoping Draco would ask her to go with him, if only because McGonagall had mentioned he was to keep an eye on her recovery, but she hadn’t spoken to him since the night before when he told her to light the fire before going to bed.
Harry filled his plate with his right hand and drummed the fingers on his left hand on the table. After the Masquerade he had seen little of Ginny outside of meals, the rest of the time she was Merlin knows where and he had eventually come to the fact that they were over. He and Ron were still inseparable and usually joined by Neville and Luna whenever they had free time. It was obvious something was up, even Ron agreed, but he didn’t want to pry into her life. Even if they weren’t together anymore, he still loved her.
Harry turned his head towards Hermione. “Yeah?”
“Were you listening to anything I just said?”
He shook his head and smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, been thinking about all this stuff with Gin lately.”
Hermione’s brows furrowed. “What’s going on with Ginny?”
Harry sighed but smiled. “Don’t worry about it right now, it’ll work out, whatever it is.”
Hermione nodded and went back to eating. She still couldn’t piece together what happened while she was away, but she could vividly remembering running into Ginny at the library the day after the Masquerade. Was that when her problems with Harry started? Was it Davin’s fault?
Harry stood. “Will you excuse me? I don’t feel like eating right now.”
Hermione offered a weak smile, disappointed that he was leaving so soon, and watched him retreat out of the Great Hall. The tables were mostly empty since most of the students preferred to wait until lunch on trip days since they could eat in town. The carriages would be leaving soon and she didn’t really want to be around to hear the excited chattered, but she wanted to read a little more before getting up to leave.
“Never rush into the waiting arms of the first person who seems to like you. That is not seduction but insecurity. The need that draws you will make for a low-level attachment, and interest on both sides will sag. Look at the types you have not considered before – that is where you will find challenge and adventure. Experienced hunters do not choose their prey by how easily it is caught; they want the thrill of the chase, a life-and-death struggle – the fiercer the better.”
As she closed the book she knew that Draco Malfoy was the perfect prey. With that confident thought in her mind, she took a last swig of her pumpkin juice and hurried out of the Great Hall before the rush began of students hurrying downstairs for the trip.
When she entered the common room she was greeted by a loud exhale. “It’s about time!”
Hermione watched as Draco stood up from the couch nearest the portrait hole. “Were you waiting for me?”
He nodded and walked towards her. “How are you?”
She shrugged, wary of why he was asking. “I’m alright I suppose.”
“You seem to have jumped back into classes fairly well enough.”
She shrugged again. “I don’t see the point in dwelling on puzzle pieces that aren’t there. Did Professor McGonagall ask you to check up on me?”
“Are you going in to Hogsmeade?”
Hermione ignored the change of subject. “I wasn’t really planning on it, I figured I’d spend the day to myself.”
“Well, I was thinking we could go together.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “We are Heads, what kind of example would we be setting if we didn’t keep an eye on our peers?”
Hermione snorted. “When did you start caring about noble duties?”
“Probably the day I took over your responsibilities for the dance.”
She blushed. “Thank you for that, by the way. I know it was a long time ago but… Well, it meant a lot, I was very stressed.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “It was really no problem.”
The two stood in silence as they each digested the odd conversation that had just passed between them until Draco finally cleared his throat and motioned towards the stairs leading up to her room. With a small nod Hermione turned and scurried upstairs to get ready.
When she came back down 15 minutes later, the fastest Draco had ever seen a girl get ready, she was out of her comfortable clothes and instead in a sweater dress with tights and boots, a jacket over her arm. Draco’s eyes lingered momentarily on her curves where the somewhat fitted sweater dress hugged them before looking up at her and smiling. While she had gone back to her new seductive look when she returned to classes days before, he hadn’t seen her in casual clothes with smoky makeup since the masquerade and as much as he hated to admit it, she looked good. They walked down to the carriages together in silence and waited until all the other students had set off until they climbed into a carriage of their own.
“So,” Hermione began after a few minutes.
Hermione smiled flirtatiously. “What’s your favorite sex position?”
Draco coughed violently as he tried to swallow and process what she had just said, choking on confusion and intrigue. “What did you just say?!”
She leaned against the back of the seat and crossed her legs at the thigh. “Oh nothing.”
He stared at her intensely, willing her to look back at him and fumble with her confidence, but she just stared out the window with a smile on her face the rest of the ride.
When they finally arrived in Hogsmeade the door was opened before either had a chance to stand up. On the other side, Davin beamed back at both of them with the twins on either side of him. “Took you long enough!”
Draco climbed out first. “How did you know what carriage I was in?”
Davin raised an eyebrow. “There aren’t other carriages behind you, you had to be in this one! Now step aside mate.”
Draco glared but stepped aside nonetheless, watching as Davin extended his hand and helped Hermione down out of the carriage. She squeezed his arm playfully and waved shortly at the twins before stopping next to Draco’s side and looking up at him expectantly. “Well? Shall we?”
The twins chuckled as Davin folded his arms across his chest. “You two have plans?”
Hermione knew that whatever Davin and the twins saw would eventually be shared with Blaise because of how close all of them were. If she wanted Blaise to be jealous, she had to give him something to be jealous about. “Oh yes, Draco asked me to accompany him on the trip,” she purred as she looped her arm through his.
Draco wanted so badly to shove her off, mostly for appearance sake, but he knew his friends expected him to be a gentleman about the whole endeavor. He didn’t know what she was playing at, but he had to admit it was nice seeing the jealous faces of his friends again, a sight that still inflated his ego after all these years of being a step ahead of them with women.
He pursed his lips. “We have some Head things to take care of.”
“She’s giving him head?” Michael whispered to his twin, but not quiet enough that Draco didn’t catch it.
“No need to be crude Michael, I assure you we’re not sleeping together.”
Michael chuckled darkly. “Sleeping with your best friend’s ex is pretty bold, Draco. But it’s not like you haven’t done it before.”
Draco narrowed his eyes then looked down at Hermione. “Let’s go.”
Hermione smiled once more at the boys before turning with Draco. He led them off the crowded streets, full of curious glances from their fellow students, and into the first alleyway he saw. She was sure he was going to loose his temper at her but instead he let her arm drop and slumped against the brick wall rubbing his temples.
“What are you playing at Granger?”
Hermione clasped her hands together in front of her. “What are you talking about?”
Draco dropped his hands and stood up straight. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. What the bloody hell was that about?”
She raised an eyebrow. “You DID invite me to accompany you.”
As usual she had a point. “You made it seem like we had a date or something!”
“Well isn’t a date when two people go out together and spend time in each other’s company?”
“And isn’t that what we were going to do?”
“Damnit Granger!” Hermione shrunk back a little as his fists pounded the wall he had just been leaning on. “I’m not some puppet! Blaise isn’t going to take you back!”
Her mouth dropped slightly. “What in the world makes you think I’m trying to get Blaise back?”
Draco laughed bitterly. “I was there when he broke up with you, or do you not remember? I’m not stupid Granger, you might have been gone for a while but we both know you were pining after him the whole time. And I bet now that you’ve returned you’re going to try and win him back.”
Hermione shook her head. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “So you don’t care for him at all?”
She shook her head.
“So then it won’t bother you in the least to know that he’s been sleeping around while you were gone? Not even missing your presence at all?”
Hermione glared at him. “You’re a lying git Malfoy.”
“You’re a bright witch, you can’t honestly tell me you believed he’d wait around for you.”
“He can have any girl in this school he wants, any girl. He’s the one that broke up with you, and now that he’s a free man, he’s getting all the women he wants and then some. Why waste his time waiting for one when he can have two at the same time? Or more?”
She reached out and shoved him against the wall. “Don’t,”
“I thought you didn’t care?”
She did care though. She wanted so badly to believe that what Draco was saying wasn’t true but it was Blaise Zabini they were talking about, he was one of the most desired boys in school, which was why Hermione had needed his help so badly in the first place. There was no doubt in her mind that he was probably back to sleeping around but that didn’t mean she had to have it rubbed in her face. How did Draco know what she was doing anyway? Was she really that obvious? She hated Draco so much in that moment and she wanted nothing more than to slap that stupid smirk off his face.
But instead she kissed him.
Draco couldn’t believe it. This was the second time she had done that, just catching him off guard by kissing him. It wasn’t necessarily that he didn’t enjoy it, he just didn’t understand why she kept doing it. He firmly believed that the only time kissing was an acceptable time to interrupt conversation was if it was sexy conversation that would lead to kissing anyway, and their conversation was the furthest thing from a turn on. It was obvious she seemed to think he could shut up his insults by throwing herself on him but it wasn’t going to work this time, so he grabbed her forcefully and pushed her off.
Hermione stumbled back and bit her lip. “Why’d you do that?”
“Why did you kiss me? Again!”
“Since when is a girl kissing you reason to hurt her?”
Draco’s angry features softened slightly. “There’s no way I could’ve hurt you,” he said, but as he looked into her face it looked like she was about to cry. “Hermione,”
“No!” Hermione glared at him so fiercely that he felt a small shiver. “Whatever I thought I knew about you from the night of the Masquerade is gone now. You’re the same egotistical, violent bully you were when you were 11.”
He watched her storm off down the alley the way they had come until she disappeared around the corner into the snow. Never in his life had he ever hurt a girl before, he might be a stereotypical Slytherin, but his mother had raised him to be a gentleman and gentlemen never hurt a lady. He couldn’t tell if he was upset that he had done something he swore never to do, or upset because it was her.
Hermione slipped her jacket on to cover up the red marks from where Draco’s hands were before crossing her arms over her chest and stalking through the snow. As pissed as she was that he had been forceful with her, she wondered if maybe her angry exit would cause him to pine after her, even if it was out of guilt. She knew he was the right victim because he was difficult to get to and she brought emotions in him, angry ones, but emotions nonetheless. But… If he knew she was trying to use him to make Blaise jealous, would she still be able to seduce him? And what if Blaise didn’t become jealous? Worse, what if Draco told Blaise what she was trying to do?
Without realizing it Hermione had walked straight to The Three Broomsticks. She looked through the frosted glass trying to see if anyone she knew was in there. The Patil sisters were sharing a table with some Hufflepuff girls Hermione recognized, though she couldn’t place what their names were. Neville, Seamus, Dean and Luna looked to be playing Wizard’s chess near the bar and walking towards the back booths was Harry. She was sure that no matter what Harry was doing he wouldn’t mind having her as company, so she entered the tavern and quickly made her way over to him.
Harry turned and it took a moment to register who it was, but then he smiled at Hermione. “Hermione, I didn’t expect you to be here today.”
She shrugged. “I hadn’t planned on it but he figured we should come.” When she noticed the puzzled look on Harry’s face she added, “Draco. I mean, Malfoy. For Head’s duties. To make sure everyone’s ok, and, you know.”
Harry chuckled awkwardly and forcefully. “Well you should probably get back to that…”
Hermione shook her head. “We had a fight. I figured I could just stay with you for a while, if that’s ok.”
“Here I’ll get us booth!”
Hermione walked past him and turned to her right where the back booths were hidden and stopped in her tracks. In the only occupied booth, directly in front of her, were Fred, George, Ron and Ginny. They stopped mid conversation, their hands still on the mugs of butterbeer she assumed had just been brought to the table, and stared at her sheepishly.
Harry came up and placed his hands on her shoulders, steering her down into the empty spot at the end next to Fred. She sat down nervously, even though all of them had been like family to her for years, and folded her hands on the tabletop. Why were the twins still in Hogsmeade? Fred smiled down at her but cleared his throat awkwardly after George elbowed him in the side and jerked his head in the direction of their siblings and Harry on the other side of the booth.
“I didn’t know you two were in town…” Hermione said cautiously.
Ron rolled his eyes as Ginny reached across the table and placed her hand on top of Hermione’s. “It’s ok, we know they snuck in the castle to see you the other day.”
Hermione blushed. “I thought they would’ve told you before they came to see me...”
Harry slid his drink across the table to Hermione. “Why didn’t you tell us about your father as soon as you got back?”
That was direct, I guess Mr. Weasley or the twins finally let it slip to them why I was gone for so long… Hermione shrugged sadly. “I wasn’t really sure what to say and we had all just started talking again…”
“You know we would’ve been there for you though, your father disappearing is a big deal Hermione.”
“I know but,”
“I can’t believe we weren’t there when you needed us!” Ginny butt in, squeezing Hermione’s hands.
George reached across his brother and swatter his sister’s hand. “You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him before turning back to Hermione. “If you need anything at all, you can talk to me. I know we haven’t exactly had a fantastic year so far but you’re still like a sister to me.”
Hermione smiled. “That really means a lot Ginny, it’s been beyond difficult. I can’t remember anything that happened during the time I was gone though, it’s like it was all just erased from my mind.”
“Here’s yer food!”
The six teenagers turned and stared up at the waiter carrying a tray full of food. Hermione felt bad that she had interrupted not only an important conversation, one that she should have already had with her friends, but their lunch as well.
“I’ll let you guys eat,” Hermione said as she stood up and squeezed past the waiter.
Fred jumped up after her nearly spilling his drink. “I’ll walk you out!”
No one payed much attention as he followed her out except Ron. He was used to seeing the twins around Hermione; whenever they had new inventions or ideas they liked to try them out on her because they knew how strict she was about rules. Try as he might though he couldn’t remember ever seeing her alone with either them. But Fred knew he had fancied Hermione for the longest time, surely he wouldn’t be trying anything. Hermione had changed though, maybe Fred was attracted to her now? Instead of voicing his thoughts he chose to stuff his face and sulk in silence, still angry at the girl he had once called his best friend and thought of as future wife.
Fred caught up to Hermione and put himself between her and the door leading out of The Three Broomsticks. “Are you ok?”
She nodded and slipped her jacket off, the crowded room making her hot in her sweater dress. “I’m sorry I,”
“What the hell happened?!”
Hermione and Fred turned to see Blaise, Davin, John and Michael at a corner table staring directly at them. Blaise was standing up, his eyes fixed on her arms, and when Hermione looked down she realized that there were bruises forming where Draco had grabbed her earlier.
She crossed her arms hoping to cover them up without putting her jacket on, as that would just bring more attention to the bruises. “Blaise, I didn’t know you were here,” she said, ignoring the flutter in her chest.
Fred glanced between Hermione and Blaise before draping his arm around her shoulder. “Maybe we should go talk outside?”
“The hell she’s going anywhere with you! You did this, didn’t you?”
Out of the corner of her Hermione could see that her friends were peaking around the corner, obviously wondering what all the yelling was about. Ron looked furious and George look confused, as if he was trying to decide if he should intervene or not.
Hermione shook her head at Blaise and took a few steps closer to Fred, hoping he’d get the hint and start walking out the door. “Calm down Blaise,” she said shakily, “Fred didn’t do anything.”
Blaise pushed off the table, causing Davin and the twins to jump up as their drinks spilled everywhere, and took a few short strides to them. “If you hurt her one more time I swear to Merlin I’ll tear you from limb to limb.”
Hermione’s head felt dizzy as Blaise defended her, even though it was against the wrong person, and for a minute she forgot that they were no longer together. She began to reach out to grab his arm, stop him from doing something rash like punching Fred, but before she could she felt Fred stumble into her. Draco Malfoy had pushed the door open right onto him and as Fred stumbled into Hermione, Hermione fell to floor.
She wasn’t sure who got there first – Fred, Blaise or Draco – but all of a sudden their three heads were above her. Blaise was yelling at Fred that it was his fault, Fred was asking if she was ok, and Draco was just staring at her. She tried to open her mouth and tell them all to just stop, but no sound came out. Exhaustion hit her like a wave, and while she knew it was a long time coming, it still startled her. A hand was reaching down to her and without knowing or caring who it was she took it and was hauled to her feet. Instead of it being one of the boys, or even one of her friends, it was Kira Raventhorpe – the last person she ever expected to help her.
Kira shoved the boys out of her way as she pulled Hermione to her feet before picking up her fallen jacket. “Honestly, you’re going to make her faint if you crowd around her like that!”
Fred looked at Kira warily but Blaise and Draco just stood there solemnly, clearly not enjoying being scolded. The silence that had fallen in the tavern was unbearable so instead of waiting to see what would happen next, Hermione pushed past all of them and out into the cold snow. She didn’t care where she went as long as it was far away from each and every one of them. Hogsmeade was the last place she wanted to be – her mind was overflowing with thoughts about her father’s disappearance, her conversation with Draco earlier and the way Blaise and Kira had both jumped up to her rescue today. Everything was so topsy turvy and she just wanted to sleep, she wanted to go home, but there was no home anymore was there? Dumbledore said her mother went to France with Hermione’s grandmother, and as much as she loved Hogwarts, her time in the castle was and always had been temporarily limited to 7 short years.
The biting cold of the falling snow, a sensation she usually loved, now only made her upset. Carriages could take students back to the castle whenever they were ready to leave, so Hermione made her way into a waiting one and slammed the door closed. She would get back to the castle, take a hot bath, then sleep the rest of the day. That’s what she needed to do. She didn’t want to see any of that lot anytime soon, as far as she was concerned, they could sit in the cold all night.
I’m sorry it took me so incredibly long to write this chapter but hopefully you guys enjoyed reading it! (I enjoyed writing it) I’ve been really active on the facebook page recently (if you search The Art of Seduction – HPFF on facebook it should pop up) and I have to say that it’s been really cool getting to talk to you guys on there! I (slowly) answer all my reviews but it’s nice to be able to quickly talk to all of you on the fan page.
Ok so what do you guys think so far? Didn’t see all those plot twist coming now did you! Hopefully you guys aren’t too upset with how things are going, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I love you guys :D