Chapter 30 : Duchess
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Hermione had been sitting on the ledge of the window in the astronomy tower that looked out towards The Forbidden Forest, the same window she had looked out of with Draco in her dream months ago, crying for the past hour or so. When she had returned from Hogsmeade she had gone straight to the Prefect’s bathroom to use the large bathtub to calm down. Since the Triwizard Tournament 3 years ago Moaning Myrtle had added the Prefect’s bathroom to her Places-Harry-Might-Frequent list, a list she liked to share with Hermione when she came across her instead of The Boy Who Lived. Myrtle liked to chatter on about all the things she saw while roaming the castle – things girls in the other Houses talked about, what the First Years were up, what kind of messes Filch was cleaning up after tasteless jokes – and even though Hermione wasn’t one to listen to gossip, she usually sat through it for Myrtle’s sake because no one else would. When she popped up while Hermione was crying in the bubbles though, she came with gossip about Blaise.
Hermione had none to politely told Myrtle to piss off.
“Are you ok?”
Through her hair, which was falling in her face, she could just make out the face of Kira. “What are you doing here?”
Kira extended a hand and Hermione was surprised to see she was holding out a tissue. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Please,” Hermione snorted and grabbed the tissue, “Like I believe that.”
The dark haired girl sighed and sat down on the cold ground and looked up at Hermione. “We’ve never spoken in the past 6 years so I don’t blame you for not believing my sincerity. Pansy is my best friend and you know as well as I do that she hates you but what you and I have in common are Draco and Blaise, they’re also my best friends. We all grew up together and all I’ve ever wanted was them to be happy. I still think you’re an annoying know-it-all but you if you were good enough for Blaise, the least I can do is try to be your friend.”
What’s going on with all the Slytherin’s this year? It was true that she had never talked to Kira once despite the numerous times the Gryffindor’s and Slytherin’s had classes together. She knew her nickname was The Raven Beauty because of her dark hair and piercing eyes, and she was pretty sure her class rank was within the top 20. Harry and Ron had mentioned her once during The Yule Ball, something about a drink spilling on her see through dress?
Hermione looked down at her. “Sorry, I was thinking about things.”
Kira smiled. “It’ll be dinner soon, do you want to start heading down? Together?”
Hermione was wary but thinking about showing up to dinner alone, after she was sure word of what happened at The Three Broomsticks was on everyone’s minds, she figured going with anyone would be better than going with no one. What she wanted more than anything was Luna to be there, because she knew the dreamy blonde wouldn’t bring up any painful memories of that day, but sadly her only option at the present was Kira. As much as she hated imagining going down alone after that humiliation, she wasn’t ready to start parading around with a Slytherin.
That’s what had brought her to this moment in the first place.
“Um actually, I think I’m going to head to my dorm and shower. It’s been a long day, I’m sure you understand.”
Kira nodded as she pushed herself up off the ground. “Well you know where to find me if you need anything.”
Hermione nodded back and watched in silence as Kira strode from the room, breathing a sigh of a relief as she heard her footsteps on the stone steps leading downwards. What was happening between the rival houses this year? It was true that Blaise’s intentions at the beginning were less than noble, she remembered all too well the “I get to have you” comment, but as their “relationship” continued it felt less fake and more like… Love. Hermione shook her head, clearing that ridiculous word from her head.
Instead of continue thinking about boyfriends and bad promises, she drew herself away from the window and in the direction of the Head’s dorm. It was likely Draco would be there, not only because it was his dorm as well but because he probably felt embarrassed about rushing to her side earlier, but she was willing to risk seeing him for a few seconds if it led to her spending the evening away from prying and judging eyes in the solitary confines of her room. It was cowardly to hide out, she knew that, but so much had happened in such a short amount of time that she didn’t care if people thought her ashamed or not – she just needed a break from all of it.
The hallways seemed empty, most of the students would be at dinner by now if they weren’t still in town, but she hadn’t expected to run into anyone anyway. She pulled off her jacket as she approached the portrait hole and mumbled the password in exhaustion. It was dark in the common room, as it should be, except for the glow of the fireplace. Hermione cursed out loud and altered her path towards the amber light, screaming as she saw none other than Blaise Zambini standing next to it.
“Blaise! What, how did you, why… Are you… In, here?”
He knelt down and picked up a square object draped with a blanket. “I’m sorry about the way I acted back at the pub, and, well I got you this.”
Blaise held it out to her and Hermione eyed it apprehensively before gingerly taking it out of his hands, their fingers brushing just slight enough to make her hyperconscious of the fact that she hadn’t really been touched since they had broken up.
“What is it?”
Blaise grinned slightly and shrugged before taking a seat on the couch closest to the fireplace, waiting for her to sit next to him. She knew she should be cautious but she had missed him so much, he was here giving her a gift, and after the day she had just suffered through it would be nice to just be happy even if it was only for a few minutes. With a returning smile, she moved to sit next to him and placed the gift on her lap.
It was heavy, and the bottom of it felt like the wires of a cage. With a loud sigh she drew the blanket off and gasped.
“You bought me a kitten!?”
Blaise laughed and casually placed his arm around her shoulders before growing more somber. “You mentioned back at the beginning of the year that your cat Crookshanks had passed away, and everyone knew how much you loved him. I figured you must get lonely up here.”
The kitten was very small, most likely only a few months old, and was completely white from head to tail except it’s piercing blue eyes. It mewed softly as it gazed up at Hermione before rolling onto it’s back and pawing the air. Hermione sighed happily and opened the cage, picking up the soft ball of fur gently and cradling it to her chest.
“Blaise this is… I don’t know what to say! She’s beautiful! Thank you so much, really.”
Blaise smiled and squeezed her shoulder. “I’ve named her Duchess, if that’s alright.”
Hermione nodded and nuzzled the soft fur to her cheek. “She’s absolutely devine. But why in the world did you…”
He sighed. “I think the breakup was a mistake.”
It took a few moments for the words to sink in, but when they did, Hermione nearly dropped the small bundle she had been holding so carefully. For weeks she had waited for this, had waited for him to come back to her and want to be together again, and now here he was finally. But… Did he really mean it?
“I still don’t understand why you left me in the first place,” she remarked as she stood up and wandered to the opposite side of the room where her and Draco had a table they kept food and drinks on. She uncovered a small bowl under a mass of parchment and poured a little water into it from the water bottle she kept at the table. While there was never a need for Muggle items in the castle, Hermione was stuck in her ways and kept little things around like she did at home. I guess I won’t be sitting here alone anymore, she thought as she placed Duchess gently in front of it.
Blaise came up behind her and placed his hands on her hips. “I was jealous seeing you with Davin, the way he kissed your cheek that evening when you walked into the Great Hall. We’ve been friends our whole lives so I know that’s just the way he is, and Merlin knows you aren’t the type to cheat, but I hated it. I was angry, I was rash, I did something stupid. I’m sorry Hermione.”
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief she didn’t know she was holding in and turned around to face him. “Don’t think you can just worm you way back in here, Zabini. I’m a very desirable person right now!”
He laughed, and gods she had missed it. “We can take things slow, unofficial,” he murmured, leaning in to kiss her.
Duchess meowed and Hermione pulled away to look at her, then in the direction she was staring. Draco was standing just a few feet away at the portrait hole holding a bundle of wilting daisies with snow stuck to his clothes and already beginning to melt down onto the floor.
Draco looked between Blaise’s arms around Hermione’s waist and the small kitten on the table that he had never seen before, clearly a makeup gift since the whole castle knew Hermione Granger liked cats. From there he looked down at the wilting daisies he had picked up at the last minute – he wasn’t sure why but he figured she would like them more than something like roses, which he convinced himself he wouldn’t have gotten her anyway because roses were a symbol of love and compassion, and so he had gotten them. The daisies were the saddest looking flowers in the store, obviously not a prime choice like the other elegant varieties, and were already a little droopy when he purchased them. It had begun to snow by the time he left the shop and made his way to the carriages but water made flowers grow, so he made no move to cover them up. In hindsight though he realized what a flaw this was as he saw them now sinking down towards the ground instead of high to the sky.
“Are those daisies?”
Draco looked up at Blaise and nodded. “I, uh,”
“White daisies are her favorite flower,” Blaise said with a nod as he released her from his grasp.
“I had no idea.”
They both looked at Hermione who was staring at the flowers with a mix of confusion and appreciation, her hands wringing together as Duchess licked her arm hesitantly but happily. “You bought me flowers?”
“Dying ones,” Blaise coughed.
Hermione glared at him before looking back towards Draco. “That’s really sweet but you didn’t have to, especially if this is because of,”
“Just forget it.”
Draco took a few steps forward and tossed them down on the table before moving quickly across the floor, up his stairs and into his room. Hermione and Blaise stood in silence after the door closed until Duchess meowed again, bringing them back to the reality of the awkward situation that had just occurred.
“Why don’t we go down to dinner?”
Hermione turned back towards Blaise and offered a weak smile. “I appreciate you coming over, and I love Duchess to pieces already, but I think I just need to go lie down. A lot has happened today.”
Blaise nodded and looked down at the angry bruises on her arms before lifting them up and kissing them softly, but still enough to make her wince in pain. “Do you want me to come check on you later?”
She shook her head. “I’ll see you in class on Monday though.”
Though he was annoyed she didn’t want to see him later, or even tomorrow, he smiled. “Get some rest, beautiful. It’ll be ok.”
It took a long time for Hermione to compose herself once Blaise left; she had fallen to her knees right where he had left her and sobbed her heart out while poor Duchess meowed in confusion and wanted to be held. Like so many moments that had occurred since the term started, she wondered how she had become like this. Had it really only been a matter of months that had caused her to change so drastically? Were the short skirts and seductive glances really worth all the damage they had caused so far? She was known as The Brightest Witch of Her Age, and yet she was on the floor sobbing with bruises on her arms and the whole male population of Hogwarts thinking she was some easy throwaway girl. It had taken over half an hour, but when she could no longer cry anymore and made her way to standing again, she reached out for Duchess and walked towards the stairs.
A soft, barely audible knock aroused Draco from sleep. He knew instantly who it was because of the state she had been in when he had stormed to his room, but even if that hadn’t happened, she would be the only one capable of being on the other side of his door right now.
He padded out of bed, grabbing his robe on the way, and opened the door while yawning. “What is it?”
Hermione gulped back tears. “This is Duchess. She’s my new kitten.”
Draco stared at the ball of fluff, it’s eyes flickering as it tried to stay awake, then back at Hermione. “I can see that.”
“She’s going to be living in the dorm with us.”
He sighed. “Once again, I can see that.”
Hermione nodded quickly. “Just thought you should know.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Well, thanks. I guess.”
She nodded again and turned to leave, embarrassed that she didn’t say what she wanted to, but had only taken a few steps when he called her back. “Yes?”
Draco pulled the robe tighter across him and jerked his head inside his room. “Do you want to talk? About what happened earlier?”
Without thinking Hermione nodded once again and padded into the room and straight over to the bed, placing Duchess down gently before sitting herself and looking around.
The room was spacious, just like hers, but the furniture was a deep mahogany wood and dark curtains framed his windows. It looked luxurious, as she imagined his room at Malfoy Manor looked, and instead of feeling awkward like she had anticipated, she felt kind of at peace. Duchess, already asleep, stood out brightly against the black sheets of his large bed. Draco stood across from her with his arms folded against his chest as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to sit on the bed with her or not.
“Comfortable?” He asked.
Hermione sniffled. “I suppose I should have changed out of my dress first…”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Go change in my bathroom, I’m sure I have clothes in there.”
She shook her head, not caring that it wasn’t seductive to refuse wearing men’s clothing – especially if the man in question was sexy. “I’m alright.”
He shrugged and sat down at his desk, folding his hands together as his elbows came to rest on the top of the smooth wood. “I’m not going to pretend to know what it’s like to get over a breakup, because frankly I do not have the slightest clue.”
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“I do, however, know what it’s like to want something you can’t have,” he said with a slight gulp, his eyes not meeting hers. “I assume that getting over Blaise was hard, and with the way you’ve been acting since the start of term, I can only guess that you wanted to make him jealous for hurting or humiliating you or whatever he did. Girls like you, and no I don’t mean mudbloods,” he added as she opened her mouth, “Don’t understand what it’s like to be desired.”
“You’re such a git!” Hermione spat, hoping he’d understand that it was for the comment on her blood as well as implying she wasn’t desirable. She couldn’t believe she had come in here hoping he’d apologize for hurting her!
“Shove it Granger! God you are insufferable, you don’t let people explain themselves!”
Hermione looked down, somewhat embarrassed, and took a deep breath as she wiped the tears threatening to fall from her eyes. “Continue then.”
He shook his head at her. “Whether you want to admit it or not, even if blood status isn’t involved, we are from different worlds. Blaise and I come from very old wealth, our lineage is traced back into history further than we’d care to recount. If we’re talking about hierarchy, both the Zabini and Malfoy names are near, if not at, the top. Our generations before us, and the generations after us, will always be sought after. In regards to what we’re talking about with your failed relationship, every single girl will chase after us because we’re wealthy whether we’re attractive or not, but as it is, Blaise is a very desired male, though not quite like myself.”
“Your ego is getting in the way again.”
“There’s nothing wrong with knowing your worth! But as I was saying, Blaise is a very desirable male. He has the looks, the grades, the money, so why should he sit around bored? You had the audacity to flaunt Davin kissing you in the Great Hall the evening Blaise returned with news that his father had passed away, can you blame him for being angry and breaking up with you? If he can’t have the support he needs from his girlfriend, then he should damn well find a new one – and he has more than enough girls to choose from! So he hurt your feelings and made you cry, so what? You can’t make someone like him jealous.”
Hermione shook her head at him. “I think you’re too full of yourself. Blaise cared about me, and he still does!”
“Oh does he now?”
“He gave me Duchess,” Hermione exclaimed as she gestured at the sleeping kitten, “and he defended me in Hogsmeade! Not that he would have had to if you hadn’t hurt me!”
At this Draco swore under his breath and looked down. “I’m sorry I hurt you, but you can’t just go around kissing people because you don’t want to hear what they’re saying!”
“You were saying he didn’t care about me which was a load of crap!”
“Was it though? Did he come here tonight saying he wanted to get back together? No. I didn’t think so.”
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “As a matter of fact, he did. He thinks the breakup was a mistake and he wants me back.”
Draco laughed. “First you’re kissing people for no reason and now you’re lying to make yourself feel better?” He stood up and crossed the few steps to stand in front of her, staring her straight in the eye as he wrapped a finger around a loose strand of hair framing her face. “If you’re telling the truth, you better be careful. Blaise doesn’t date twice.”
Hermione flinched as goosebumps rose on her arms. “I don’t believe you,” she whispered.
His eyes narrowed and he smirked. “Don’t come looking for comfort when he hurts you again.” He let his finger drop, her hair curling from his tight grip, and moved around the bed back to where he had been lying. “You know where the door is.”
Hermione bit her lip as she pushed up off the bed and hurried out of the room, tears falling from her eyes before she had even crossed the doorway. Blaise cared about her, that’s why he had come back. Malfoy was just a lying, jealous best friend, the way Ron had always been. She was the exception to the rule, she knew that. Blaise was going to fall in love with her and she wasn’t going to let some stupid, egotistical hothead tell her otherwise.
She turned around, hand on her doorknob. “What do you want now? Haven’t you hurt me enough today?”
Duchess was asleep in his arms. “You left your stupid kitten in my room.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and stomped back across the landing over to him. “Just give her to me before you hurt her too!”
As she reached out to take Duchess, he grabbed her hand, not so much as disturbing the kitten. “I’m sorry about your bruises, ok? I am.”
She didn’t believe him. “I’m not the one you have to explain yourself to. The whole school is going to want to know what happened.”
He scoffed. “If you’re expecting me to tell everyone, you’re wrong. An apology to you should be enough.”
“If you don’t tell, everyone will think Fred did it!”
“And what do I care?”
Hermione glared at him and brought her finger up to his face accusingly. “You are not going to get away with this Draco Malfoy. You physically hurt me and you just think there won’t be any consequences. Blaise is going to be furious.”
Draco, with his free hand, cupped her face softly and brought his face so close to her ear that just his breathing alone tickled. “Even the sweetest peach gets bruised once in a while.”
Something inside her stirred as he whispered into her ear, but whether it was longing or fear, she couldn’t tell. She closed her eyes wishing for it all to just go away, wishing that things could back to the way they had been before she had received The Art of Seduction on her doorstep.
But she knew too much had happened to turn back.
So instead of cowering, playing into his superiority complex and mind games, she stood on her tip toes and brushed her lips against his. “I like to be hurt other ways, Draco Malfoy, and Blaise knew exactly how to fulfill those needs.”
Is she really trying to seduce me right now? It wasn’t a completely unfounded notion – he had seen her work her way into getting what she wanted by those other means since her first “new” appearance in the Great Hall back in September. And while he was sure the school was buzzing about his sexual conquests, he hadn’t slept with anyone since Amelia all those weeks ago and it was killing him. It wasn’t that he didn’t have anyone to mess around with, Merlin knew he had more than enough, it was that he hadn’t found anyone worthy of his time recently. While he was thinking about it, he had to admit that he was beyond angry with Blaise for aiding in the male population’s excitement towards Granger, and maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to sleep with her. She had let slip that night of the Masquerade that her and Blaise hadn’t had sex, as well as something about a bargain, which could work to his advantage. Blaise Zabini needed to be reminded of his place at the top of the pureblood chain, and there was no better way to really hit that point home than to screw the girl who had gotten him off track. Besides, it seemed as if she wanted to sleep with him to get back at Blaise too, so really, he’d only be doing both of them a favor.
Because that’s what best friends were for, right?
Draco smirked. “The offer still stands about you changing out of your dress in my bathroom.”
Hermione smirked back and pushed his arm, the one cradling Duchess, back into his chest. “See to it that she’s comfortable for tonight, we wouldn’t her waking up in the middle of something now would we?”
He nodded and stepped aside as she brushed past him and glided into his open bathroom. After she closed the door, though, all her confidence shrunk back down to nonexistent. What in the world was she doing?! He probably thought she was going to sleep with him! With a sigh she went to the sink and splashed water on the back of her neck. What was she hoping to accomplish by flirting with him anyway? Of course he would automatically assume she was coming on to him for sex, any guy would have thought that. Maybe she just wanted to get back at Blaise, or maybe she was hoping he’d hold her while she slept (unlikely now that she clearly thought about it) but either way, she was stuck now. There was always the chance that he’d fall asleep before anything ever managed to happen, and with that hope in her head and heart, she looked around the bathroom for the clothes he said he had in there.
When she emerged a few minutes later she found an expectant Draco propped up on one elbow on his bed, Duchess curled up in a makeshift bed of blankets in the corner by the window. She felt beyond exposed as she stood in the doorway of the bathroom, scared to move, as he looked her up and down.
“I’ll admit you look good in my shirt, Granger.”
The only article of clothing she had found in the bathroom was one of his white button up school shirts and once on it came down to her thighs, and while he was taller than she was, it still barely covered her to the degree she would have liked. “Isn’t a fantasy of every man to have a woman in a white button up?”
He nodded appreciatively and beckoned her over with one finger. Never in his life had he slept with a mud-, Muggle-born, but he found that if he didn’t think about it, she was actually very fetching. All too quickly the memory of her at the Masquerade came flooding back to him – the way the dress he bought clung perfectly to her hips, how beautiful she looked when the lights hit her face and the mask, the way her hair blew wildly around her as they stood out by the lake. It was such a surprise to him that he’d be remembering all these things about her, much less having thought them in the first place, but he couldn’t deny it anymore.
Hermione Granger was beautiful, Muggle-born or not.
She slipped carefully and gracefully onto the bed and positioned herself on her right side, facing him. In the time it took her to collect her thoughts and change, he had slipped off his rob and was back to being in only his black pants. His eyes danced with amusement; he could see that she was nervous, though she hid it very well.
“It’s quite late, isn’t it?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you tired?” She nodded sheepishly, causing him to grin evilly. “I’m sure you’ll be wide awake soon enough.”
Hermione pursed her lips and cocked her head to the side, exposing the long curve of her neck. “Why don’t you go down to the kitchens and bring up some hot chocolate?”
Draco reached out to gently run his fingers along the exposed skin of her thighs. “Chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac you know.”
She bit her lip and nodded. “Exactly. And don’t forget the whipped cream.”
He appraised her hungrily before rolling over and pushing himself off the bed. “Don’t go anywhere while I’m gone.”
“Where else would I want to be?”
She watched as he grabbed a discarded undershirt off the back of his desk chair and slipped it on while walking out of the room, closing the door behind him after one last look back at her on the bed. After a few moments of holding her breath, in case he came back, she finally exhaled and rolled onto her left side facing the bathroom. His bed seemed so much more comfortable than hers, and she’d only close her eyes until he got back.
As Draco took his time down the long road that was the Grand Staircase he thought about what he was about to do. Michael had been right in Hogsmeade when he mentioned Draco having slept with his best friend’s ex before; to be honest, many of the girls his friends had slept with came to him shortly after and frequently over and over. Blaise, John and Davin never seemed to care much, but Michael had always been a little more emotional than his fellow Slytherin’s.
When he finally reached the kitchens he was greeted by the sight of frantic House Elves wailing so high pitched and so fast that he couldn’t understand even a single word of what was going on. He had been around these creatures his whole life so he was used to them being overly hyper, but he had never seen them sharing a single emotion or so worked up. With an annoyed sigh he grabbed the closest House Elf by the collar of it’s ratty shirt and bent down so they were almost eye level.
“What in the world is all this commotion about? Answer me quickly!”
The elf seemed frightened but squeaked out, “The fire! The forest!”
Draco let go off the elf, who took off running, and quickly left the kitchens. He noticed now that other students were up and about in their sleepwear, all scrambling towards the closest high arched window. He stood watching, wondering what was happening, until he was knocked into by a boy running hand in hand with a girl.
“Watch where you’re going!”
The boy looked up at him with frantic eyes, and Draco could clearly see that he was young enough to be a First Year. “I’m, I’m sorry Mr. Malfoy!”
The girl he was with looked up at him as well, her eyes full of fear and disbelief, but also lust just like so many of the girls her age were as they looked at him. “The Forbidden Forest is on fire! Yo-you should get out of here!”
Draco watched as they ran off, and up ahead at the base of the stairs he saw Mr. Filch and Ms. Norris hurrying along in the direction of the dungeons. Was The Forbidden Forest really on fire? If so many other people hadn’t been awake and panicking he wouldn’t have believed it, but he saw the fear with his own eyes, and the first thought that crossed his mind was that he had to get Hermione.
Because they were Head’s, of course, and they needed to be there for the students. Or something.
Ok I know it’s been a long wait, for which I’m truly sorry, but I had a lot going on! Either way, I hope you enjoyed the chapter and please please please leave me a review!
If you want to see a picture of Duchess, Hermione’s brand new baby kitten, it’s up on the FB fan page! If you haven’t already liked the page, make sure to check it out! I do updates and chapter previews on there as well as talk to you guys :) Just search The Art of Seduction – HPFF on the FB website and it should pop up with the same picture as the story banner!
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