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Inheriting a Heart by DoUMindIfISlytherin
Chapter 8 : Chapter 8
 
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A/N: So sorry for the delay, but I’ve been very busy lately. Without further ado, Chapter 8!

Now this is what I should have to wake up to, Draco Malfoy thought to himself as he fluently stretched his arms and legs so as not to disturb his sleeping partner. Not some conniving wretched joke of a fiancé.

So things had gotten out of hand last night, but so what? He wasn’t complaining. He thought it was even better than the first time he had shagged Granger, and that’s a hard thing to beat.

He turned to look beside him on the bed, and down the length of her exposed flesh just peaking out of the tangled sheet. It was begging to be touched. Her curls were sprawled out in every which direction, covering most of her face. Draco lightly brushed away a lock of brown hair, exposing the peacefully slumbering face of an angel.

Merlin, did he have it bad. No longer could he simply wake up and leave her alone wondering if she would ever see him again. No longer did he feel inclined to just tell her pretty little promises he didn’t intend to keep. So many thoughts rushed through his groggy mind, none of which had to do with leaving.

As if she had felt his eyes lingering upon her, her eyelashes fluttered like beautiful butterfly taking flight and her gaze came to rest on his naked chest.

Am I dreaming, she wondered, as her eyes continued up to Malfoy’s face. Last nights events came rushing forward in her mind as sleepy thoughts vanished. If this was a dream, then she didn’t want to wake up.

“Good morning,” Draco whispered as he grabbed her back, and pulled her closer against his chest.

She closed her eyes briefly, inhaling his scent. She could get used to this; waking up next to him. Only one problem: he was engaged.

Instantly, she pushed him away, turning bright red. His face became amused, as a smirk began to creep across his face as she blinked at him. “You’re really going to have to get used to this sooner or later,” he began.

“Malfoy…” Hermione whispered, trying hard not to look at his nakedness. Scarlet blush wove its way up her neck as her body reacted to the awkwardness. “This…I…” She was struggling for words, and to cover herself with the sheet.

Draco’s finger found the edge of the sheet above her chest, and pulled it lower. The feel of his fingers against her skin almost made her lose her head. Almost, but not quite. She batted his hand away, pulling the sheet to cover herself once more.

“Granger, I’m not at all sorry that this happened again,” he admitted haughtily.

“Have you forgotten you’re engaged?”

“Unfortunately, not yet. But perhaps the fifth times the charm?” He suggested with a darkening look in his eyes.

She left the bed, wrapping the sheets around herself as she did. “Look, this was a mistake. We can’t keep doing this,” she declared as she picked up her clothes off the floor, muttering something incoherent to herself, as she walked to the bathroom.

He stood up to follow behind her into the bathroom before she could lock herself in, looking as if he didn’t care at all that he was completely naked. Did this man have any shame?

“No, I won’t let you just run off again.” His face had lost its previous amusement, and now looked frustrated.

“What? Draco Malfoy not used to hearing the word no?” She replied, her voice all sarcasm. He didn’t budge as she tried to shove the bathroom door closed, while at the same time holding up her sheet. “This isn’t a game, Malfoy! We can’t do this anymore!”

“That’s not what you said last night,” he retorted stubbornly.

“I’m not going to be the other woman!” She cried in exasperation, letting go of the door completely. He then fell into the bathroom as she slid to the floor in a heap of sheets. He could hear her sobbing quietly into her hands as he stared down at her.

He sighed heavily, shaking his head. Part of him wanted to tell her the truth, and the other part was pleased that she was jealous of Astoria. But seeing her crying made him anxious to find a way to make it stop. “You’re not the other woman…”

She acted like she didn’t hear him. He joined her on the floor, unsure about what he should do. He’d never been good at dealing with crying women. Hermione didn’t cry for long though. As soon as her eyes lifted from the floor, and she realized he was sitting beside her--completely naked—her face turned beet red, tears forgotten.

“Did you hear me? I said you’re not the other woman,” Draco repeated firmly, refusing to let her believe otherwise.

“What do you mean? Of course I am. Astoria...” Hermione looked unsure.

“Not if I had anything to do with it, I assure you,” he responded nonchalantly, which confused her more.

“You mean, you don’t love her?” Hermione asked quietly as she wiped her cheeks with the sheet.

“Absolutely not,” he scoffed. “She means nothing to me. She’s no more than a ridiculous sham of a witch that my parents have deemed worthy of the Malfoy name.”

She blinked at him, processing the information. “So this was arranged?”

“Yes, of course it was. Malfoys have had arranged marriages for ages. I always knew I’d have one as well,” he continued eagerly at seeing that she looked a little less upset, but more troubled than ever.

“But why? It seems barbaric,” she was slowly regaining the fiery attitude he was used to.

“Well, many reasons,” he shrugged. She gave him an encouraging look, and he tried to think of something. “Power and money, for starters. Her father and my father have a lot of money, and if we join families than we can also assume that our power will increase as well. And her and I come from a similar background, with similar interests and beliefs. And of course--this goes without saying--but it’s traditional.”

“Is that it? What about love?” She questioned.

“It’s not about love. It’s about status in society and reputation.”

“Do you hear yourself? Have you been brainwashed or something?” She quipped.

“Yes, I suppose in a manner of speaking,” he replied instantly. “Look, this is how I was raised. You may not understand, but it’s the way of things.”

A few moments passed and Hermione was silent—shocked that he had admitted it so easily. So he acknowledged that it was an arranged marriage, but that didn’t negate the fact that they were still getting married. She didn’t know what she wanted from him, but she knew she couldn’t be with him knowing he was married to someone else, even if he didn’t love her. She would be setting herself up for heartache.

She stood up from the floor, letting her sheet stay where it was at her feet. She didn’t look at him, but started to put her clothes back on as he stared up at her from the tile floor of the shabby bathroom.

Draco watched as Hermione slowly put her knickers back on. He couldn’t let this happen. She was slipping through his fingers like the last time he had let her go. He wanted her, but he didn’t know how to tell her. He’d never had to tell anyone before. Didn’t she see that this was far from anything he’d ever had to deal with before?

He stood up quickly, trapping her wrists between his fingers, halting her progress. She gave him a glare, wondering what he was doing. But before she could question him, his face changed into the lonely face she had glimpsed that night in the library. “Don’t go,” he ordered, but it sounded more like a plea in his ears. What had happened to him? He’d never had to beg a woman to stay before, and his ego was flaring up in protest, but he pushed it away. He knew Hermione wasn’t like other girls; he couldn’t simply treat her with distaste and use her body whenever he liked. Hermione required something in return. But he wasn’t sure if he was willing to pay the price for what she asked.

“What do you want from me, Malfoy?” She demanded looking pained.

“I…don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never done this before.” His words had spoken volumes without having to actually explain himself, but he still felt like he needed to try. “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before. Being with you makes me feel like I could be someone else. Someone who wasn’t a Death Eater. Someone who isn’t a Malfoy.”

She looked at his forearm where the dark mark had been so many years ago. All that was left was a light scar, but she could see it plain as day. He needed her, she realized. But he couldn’t say it. She needed to hear him say it. “Tell me what you want.”

“You,” he breathed, and her heartbeat began to dance in her chest. She didn’t know what to say; she was speechless when he was giving her that look. That beautiful look that promised pleasure beyond her wildest dreams. She was slowly taking steps back until she was trapped against the bathroom wall and his solid chest. “I want you, Hermione.”

Her lips fell open as she sucked in a breath. Within the span of a heartbeat he had her by the back of the head and was tentatively kissing her. He wasn’t rushing like before. This time he was slow and deliberate, as if he had all the time in the world, and he wanted to use it to learn every square inch of her body.

The little bit of clothes she had tried to put on was back off again, and she could feel the cold tile against her bare back as he pushed her up off the ground. Her legs wrapped around his waist instinctively, never breaking the kiss, and his practiced hands slid down to cup her bottom, while molding himself to her.

Hermione moaned into his mouth, and he willed himself not to succumb to the pleasure yet. He wanted this time to be special. He wanted to show her how he felt about her by using his lips and hands and body. He wanted their lovemaking to show her how much he needed her, where his words had not.

He roughly thrust her against the wall and she dragged her nails against his back, opening his skin in spots. Pain mixed with the pleasure, a glorious feeling. Before he knew what was happening he found himself already too far gone to turn back now. He shut his eyes so hard he saw stars bursting behind his eyelids, while he bit into her collarbone to keep from crying out in ecstasy.

A moment later they had both slid down the wall so that she was lying in his lap with her legs still twisted behind him. Neither of them could get a word out, but the hard breathing was enough to explain exactly how they both felt at the moment.


“I…don’t…want…to marry…her,” Draco mustered between deep breaths. She blinked at him, not quite sure what he meant, or where this conversation was going. Did she dare hope? “My father…won’t give me…more money…poorer than…a Weasley.”

She actually laughed then—not knowing where she’d found the energy—completely ignoring his jibe at the Weasleys. “So?” She asked. She could tell that he wasn’t thrilled at the idea of having no money, and it made her smile. He was always such a vain person. If he were willing to give it all up and be as poor as a Weasley, then she’d probably lose the last shred of reluctance.

“So, will you still want me when I’m poor?” He asked slightly hesitant of her answer. She hugged him tightly, as tears leaked out from her eyes, taking in what he was insinuating.

“Yes, of course. Of course I will,” she giggled into the crook of his neck. He even cocked a smirk at her laughter. She broke away to gaze into his gray eyes, gray eyes that were regarding her with a whole new attitude. She felt anticipation surge through her body then as she waited for him to take the next step.

“Let’s do this,” he nodded. “But where will I live? How will I get money?”

The sincerely confused look on his face made Hermione suppress a smile. “The way everyone else gets money: a job. And you can stay with me for now, I suppose,” she blurted out the last part without thinking, but before she could figure it out, Draco was smiling at her again, and she couldn’t help but smile back.


XXX


Draco had agreed to meet her at her flat after he took care of business regarding his new plans to leave his parents and fiancé. She wished him good luck, and then left him in his room at the Three Broomsticks, feeling a slight sense of apprehension. What had she just agreed to? This wasn’t just a date, this was living together. Was she taking things too quickly? Was she even sure he would still want her tomorrow?

As she made her way down the stairs, she could feel heat flush her cheeks. At that moment she felt like such a little tramp. Meeting an engaged man in a shabby inn to have immoral—but definitely wonderful—sex, made her almost dissaparate immediately so as not to allow anyone to see her make her walk of shame. But instead, she sucked up the last shred of courage she had, and began the trek across the pub towards the exit.

She barely made it four steps before someone caught her by the arm roughly. The last thing she remembered before darkness took over was the tugging feeling of apparition.

XXX

The former prince of Slytherin took two steps cautiously towards his father’s drawing room where he could see a shred of light coming in from the bottom of the large double doors. He was about to begin the descent into dethroning himself, and disinheriting himself as well, so of course he had some doubts.

Hermione words from earlier came back to him, You don’t have to do this, Draco. You don’t owe them anything. Just go and pack your things and leave. He did owe them something though. They were his parents after all. Running away may have the same results, but it was without a doubt, the cowardly thing to do.

Draco wasn’t a Gryffindor who could simply run into a trap blindly. He was a Slytherin, and Slytherins would only run into traps if there were something to gain from it. Draco couldn’t see anything he would gain by running into his father’s drawing room and declaring himself no longer their puppet. So of course he was thinking of running. First he had spent his time in his bedroom suite, packing all of his valuables in case things didn’t go as he planned, and he would have to run.

After several hours of coming up with something to say when he got in there, he found himself knocking on the door without a single inkling of a plan. Just as he was about to run away, his father’s baleful voice bid him enter.

Lucius Malfoy sat behind a very large and very old solid wood desk, dressed in his most expensive robes, looking supremely calm and collected. Draco stepped inside the room silently, his father never looking up from his parchment.

“I wondered when you would come back,” his father began, sounding—for all intents and purposes—like he had expected this visit all along, and was annoyed that he had taken so long to show up. “Your mother will be thrilled.”

“Father, I am only here to tell you that I won’t be marrying Astoria,” Draco lazily drawled, hiding his apprehension behind a calm façade as his father had taught him.

His words made Lucius look up from his parchment, but he otherwise didn’t seem surprised. “I see,” was his only response.

“And…” Draco continued, his voice dying in the air as his father stared at him coolly.

“And you have found someone else, I presume?” His father surmised.

“Not exactly. You see, I won’t be marrying anyone, father,” he replied as evenly as he could, trying hard not to look at his father’s face.

“You won’t?” He repeated in an amused tone. “So, you’ve come to disobey me, do I have the right of it? I always told your mother that some day you’d turn into a spoilt and defiant boy if she continued to allow it.”

“I’m not a boy,” Draco seethed. “I am an adult. A fact that you and mother refuse to acknowledge.”

“Do you expect me to believe you’re an adult when you act this way?” His father replied instantly, his tone hinted that he was close to losing his patience. “Running away from your duties is the epitome of childish behavior.”

“I’m not here to argue with you, father. I only wished to inform you that I shall be leaving this evening, and that I will not be coming back.” Draco was about to leave things like that, but his father had a look on his face that poker players got when they had an ace to play.

“And wherever will you be going, Draco?” Lucius asked rhetorically. “To the mudblood’s house?”

Draco’s blood froze in his veins. His father did indeed have an ace to play, it seemed. Before he allowed his words to penetrate his demeanor, Draco feigned ignorance. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, father. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m afraid I have worn out my patience.”

He heard his father remove his wand from his staff, and immediately brandished his own from his coat pocket. He had definitely underestimated his father, but he wouldn’t allow him to see his weakness—not yet. “You forget your place, boy,” Lucius cooed. He began to step around his large desk, his eyes never leaving his sons, and his wand never dropping an inch. “You have obviously allowed such frivolous things as women to cloud your mind. Tell me, Draco, do you fancy yourself in love with the mudblood? Do you think she loves you back?”

He didn’t dare answer his father’s questions. He merely sat silently waiting for him to get whatever it was out of his system so he could tear out of here and make sure Hermione was all right. He wouldn’t put it past his father to make sure she disappeared. “You see, witches like her don’t deserve a backwards glance from wizards like us. A fact that you’ve obvious refused to acknowledge. There’s not a single chance in hell that we would allow you to run off with the likes of Potter’s whore.”

Draco Malfoy had heard enough insults to last him a lifetime. It was time for answers. “What have you done to her?” He demanded.

“Done to her?” Lucius laughed. “I haven’t done anything to her. If she’s as smart as everyone says then I won’t have to do anything to her, will I? There’s no doubt in my mind that she’s already come to her senses and realized you aren’t worth the trouble. Just because a witch allows you between their legs doesn’t mean that she loves you. You’d do better to accept it now. It simply cannot be.”

Draco’s gaze dropped to the floor. He wouldn’t allow his father’s words to change his mind. Hermione may not have said she loved him, but perhaps with time, who knew? She had told him to run away from his parents. She told him that she still wanted him, even though he would be disinherited. Surely that meant she wanted to see where things went?

Seeing his son’s reluctance to acknowledge the truth, he took the letter from his pocket and threw it at his feet. “I apologize for reading your mail, but when I had thought that you had run off I took to drastic measures to see where you were going.”

Draco looked at the letter at his feet, recognizing the perfect handwriting as Hermione’s, and didn’t care if his father was watching intently. He tore the letter out of the envelope with his heart in his throat. Please let her be okay, he pleaded to no one.

Malfoy,

Before it’s too late, I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry but any plans you had of coming to live with me when you leave the Manor must be taken back immediately. I wasn’t myself when I agreed to such things, and now that I’ve thought about it, I can’t help but feel like I’ve made a brash mistake. Please forgive me, but I don’t want to see you anymore. You’re engaged and that’s how it should be. We could never be together. You’d only figure out later that your parents were right and blame me for losing everything you’ve held so dear your entire life. I cannot live with such condemnation on my conscience, knowing that one day you’d realize I was nothing more than a passing fancy.

Hopefully you will understand,

H.G.


At first Draco wanted to believe that his father had written this letter himself to manipulate him, but her abnegation had caused him to feel something he hadn’t felt while he was with her: doubt. Just when he thought he had hope firmly in his hand, fate had ripped it away in a span of a few quickly written sentences.

As his father stood beside him, looking rather smug, Draco vowed he’d never again let a woman wield so much power over him. He’d never again allow a woman’s body to entice him from his rightful place at the head of the Malfoy table--where he belonged. He never had before, so why start now?


XXX


She had always known that the Malfoys were evil, but never had she experienced it first hand before from Narcissa. Narcissa always struck Hermione as the graceful matriarch that sat at home planning parties, and seeing to the social aspect of rich family life. She had been wrong.

The noble Mrs. Malfoy still had the ancient blood of Black running though her veins, and that entitled her to a bit of an evil streak, it seemed. After she had forcefully taken her from the Three Broomsticks, Hermione had learned that not all the Blacks were like Sirius.

Two large wizards had bound her with a leg-lock curse and taken her wand. Several minutes later she was greeted with Narcissa’s intimidating person as she sat frozen upon a chair.

The next two hours had been spent silently having to listen to Narcissa tell her all the reasons why her son would never love her, all the reasons why she should write that letter, and she was becoming angrier by the second. At first she hadn’t wanted to do anything that this woman had asked her, simply because the fact that she had resulted to drastic measures undoubtedly proved just how scared the Lady Malfoy was that her son would actually run off with her.

But as time passed, she was unbound and free to walk away if she liked, but stayed to tell Narcissa exactly how she felt. “He’s not a boy anymore. He has a mind of his own, and he’s free to decide whom he wants to be with. If that person is me, than there’s nothing you can do about it,” she had indignantly replied.

Narcissa merely smirked at her, and immediately Hermione knew where Draco had gotten that evil smirk he sported all the time. “My dear, I have known my son a lot longer than you have. He cannot be left to make decisions on his own—especially about women. If it were up to him he’d never marry and continue to have relationships with half the witches in London. What makes you so special is that stubborn little attitude you have. You and I both know that once he’s over you, he’ll be back to his old ways, and where will that leave you?”

“Don’t patronize me. You and I both know that I wouldn’t be here right now if you didn’t feel threatened by me. But if you’d only allow him to choose whom he wants, then you wouldn’t be losing a son. Instead you cajole him into marriages, and blackmail him with his inheritance,” she scoffed. “No wonder he wants to leave. His whole life’s been mapped out since birth, never having a chance to be himself. Now he feels like his only choice is marry Astoria or leave.”

“How dare you question things that don’t concern you? Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do? This is my family, and Draco is my only son. I will not have him run off with the likes of you,” she spat the last sentence with venom, becoming flustered. “My son will tire of you as he’s tired of every other woman he’s been with. This may be the first time he feels like running away from his duties, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. There will be other women, even after he’s married. You and I both know that to be true. Do you want to be in a marriage where you’re not the only woman? I can’t see you being brought up with the idea that adultery is ok, as Astoria has. She was bred to marry my son, not you.”

Hermione had taken a few minutes to ponder what she was saying. Draco hadn’t promised her anything. He only wished to leave Astoria, not be with her instead. But they would live together after he leaves the Manor. Certainly he wanted to be with her? But would she be ok with the fact that he would undeniably cheat on her as Ron had? No, she couldn’t live like that; one man betraying her was enough for a lifetime.

So she wrote the letter. That blasted letter that promised there would be no more heavenly nights spent in bed with the Slytherin Sex God. Promised that she’d be alone again. But being alone was better than being with someone that she couldn’t trust to be monogamous as long as she would be.


The two wizards had deposited Hermione in the alley across from her apartment building, and vanished a second later. She walked up the stairs lost in thought. So much had happened the past twenty-four hours, and her brain couldn’t keep up. For a moment there she had thought she had fallen for Malfoy. For a moment, she felt like her life was taking a turn for the better. All it took was a third party observation—a mother’s perspective—and it all came crashing down. She felt so stupid for allowing this to happen. So foolish that she let a man bring her to this again.

“Dear, Merlin, there you are!” Someone shouted when she had reached her floor. Her best friend Ginny was rushing down the hallway towards her. “Where in the bloody hell have you been, Mione? I’ve been here for an hour!”

Instant awareness pushed to the forefront of her brain. “Oh no, I’m sorry!”

“You had better have a good explanation,” Ginny said in concernment. “I was so worried.”

“Come inside, and I’ll tell you all about it,” Hermione unlocked her door, and let the redhead go in first.

“Everyone’s waiting for us in Diagon Alley,” Ginny informed her. “Why don’t you tell me on the way?”

“Yes, of course, I’ll just change clothes,” Hermione said distractedly, and went to the bedroom, Ginny hot on her heels.

Ginny glanced around the bedroom, noticing the bed was made, “you didn’t sleep here?” She surmised. Hermione’s cheeks flared pink, and Ginny’s eyes widened. “Malfoy?”

“Yes, but it’s over,” Hermione insisted. “I won’t be seeing him again, I swear.”

“Why? What did he do to you?” Ginny wondered as she sat on the edge of Hermione’s bed.

“He didn’t do anything. Things just got too serious, and I ended it,” she answered while putting on a fresh jumper.

“Too serious? Merlin, did he propose? I thought it was just a bit of shagging,” Ginny sounded confused.

Hermione laughed mirthlessly. “It’s my fault. I wanted too much from him, and he’s too busy being engaged to give me anything more than whatever we had going on before.”

“But, does that mean you wanted more?”

“I don’t know what I wanted!” She declared, feeling all the anger at herself coming back. “I just…wanted him.”

“But, he’s engaged,” Ginny pointed out as if Hermione had forgotten already.

“But he told me he didn’t want her—that it was arranged by his parents,” Hermione defended. “But it doesn’t matter. I don’t want him. He’s a rake and a phony. I fell for his charm—I admit it—but like you said, Ginny, a dragon doesn’t change his scales.”

At Hermione’s despondency, Ginny softened. “I’m sorry, Hermione. I wish it could have worked out, truly, I do.” She nodded in understanding, and quickly changed the subject.

“Enough about me, today is your day! We’re going to have so much fun dress shopping!” Just as quickly, Ginny had forgotten her situation, and was focused on the day’s plans. They flooed to Diagon Alley, and walked to the little boutique that she bought all her formal gowns at, but Ginny didn’t feel inclined to talk about Malfoy anymore, to which Hermione silently thanked Merlin.

Madam Farrington’s boutique, and Madam Farrington herself was the best wedding dress designer in England. Some say she even designs dresses for the Queen, and Hermione wouldn’t doubt it. Every witch in the London area would die for a gown designed by Madam Farrington, but only select few could arrange a consultation. Being that Ginny was the soon to be Mrs. Potter, there was no question that Madam Farrington would be designing the wedding dress of the century.


Mrs. Wealsey sat on a very white couch near the entrance, sipping tea from fine china when they had arrived. The witch beside her nearly made Hermione growl in frustration. She squeezed Ginny’s forearm rather painfully, and gave her an exasperated glare. Ginny returned her glare with a silent plea, and Hermione forced herself to smile as they approached the group.


She had no idea why Ginny had invited Lavender Brown to tag along, but whatever the reason, Hermione felt slightly betrayed. Mrs. Weasley got up to hug Hermione, and ask her a million questions. “I haven’t seen you in ages, Hermione dear, have you been eating? You look so thin! How do you like working at the DMLE? Have they promoted you yet?” This went on for several seconds, before Madam Farrington greeted Ginny, and Mrs. Wealsey lost interest in her. Hermione pointedly ignored Lavender the entire time, instead greeting Luna Lovegood.

Once Madam Farrington had led Ginny away from her friends with Mrs. Weasley trotting beside them, Hermione struck up a conversation with Luna before things could become weird. “So, Luna, how are things going on your search for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?”

“Not very good, I’m afraid. Haven’t been able to uncover one yet, but we did come across several other species that haven’t been discovered yet, which is pretty good,” Luna explained in her usual dreamy voice. Hermione knew better than to encourage Luna about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, but if it meant avoiding Lavender’s contrite stares then so be it. She didn’t have the patience to put up with the drama today.

Ginny waved Hermione over before she could reply to Luna, and found herself slightly relieved. “I want your honest opinion since my mother has decided to tell Madam Farrington to make my dress look like something professor McGonagall would wear,” Ginny said offhandedly as Hermione browsed the dresses along the racks.

“Yes, of course, but first I’d like an explanation as to why that no-good-lying slag was invited,” She whispered furiously to her best friend once they were out of earshot.

Ginny glanced over at Lavender to make sure that she wasn’t watching, “I’m sorry, but Ron and I had a row the other night because I wouldn’t invite her today. I didn’t want her to come, but mother and Ron insisted, and you know how they get,” Ginny explained. “Please, for me, just ignore her. She won’t talk to you, you know she’s too afraid.”

Hermione cocked a smile at her best friend. “Yes, I suppose she is rather scared of me. But she should be! She’s the one who broke up a ten-year relationship. And her and I were dorm mates!”

“I know, but Ron’s my brother, and I don’t want to fight with him over this, so I let her come. Don’t be mad,” Ginny pleaded.

“All right, but forgive me if I’m not overly nice to her,” Hermione smiled at the redhead to show her there was no hard feelings. They hugged, and Hermione took a look at the sketches Madam Farrington had drawn up for Ginny’s consultation. “Ugh, you’re right. Are those shoulder pads? What is this, nineteen eighty?”

“I know! Please help me, the dresses you get from here are always so pretty!” Ginny pointed out.

“Ok, do you remember my dress I wore to George and Angelina’s wedding?” Hermione asked. “The green one with the lace for sleeves? Why not go with something like that, that way your mother is happy too.”

“Oh, you’re so smart! I love that idea. Here, let’s tell Madam Farrington.” The rest of the consultation went smoothly, and after Madam Farrington had a general idea of what Ginny wanted, they decided to go to lunch.

On the way out of the boutique, they nearly ran into Madam Farrington’s next appointment. Which—to Hermione’s horror—was none other than Astoria Greengrass.

Astoria glared at their party, as she fluffed up her voluptuous blonde hair, and straightened her ugly dark green hat, which had a peacock feather in it. Narcissa stood at her side, smirking at Hermione in a knowing sort of way. She immediately felt like bolting down the cobbled path, but instead stubbornly stood her ground as the two snobby witches scrutinized them.

“I thought that Madam Farrington only designed dresses for the wealthy,” Astoria innocently wondered while giving Ginny a insulting look. “Oh well, perhaps we should see about someone else designing it? I wouldn’t want my wedding to be in any way connected to the filth she allows in here. Draco wouldn’t mind, surely?”

Narcissa agreed, and they fluently strode from the boutique, their insults still fresh in everyone’s mind. Mrs. Weasley had to hold Ginny by the arm so she wouldn’t chase after them. Meanwhile, Hermione was in her own little world—which consisted primarily on Draco Malfoy.

Seeing Hermione’s angry face, Ginny patted her shoulder, to console her. It didn’t work.


XXX


There is something going on here lately, Astoria thought to herself as she ascended the stairs in the west wing of Malfoy Manor. She may be a welcomed guest at the Manor, but that didn’t mean that anyone would tell her anything. So she resorted to eaves dropping and snooping to obtain any information whatsoever. Which was enough to know something had happened, but what that something was—was beyond her.

Draco had been acting weird lately—if he ever came out of his bedroom that is. It wasn’t odd for him to act like she wasn’t standing right in front of him, but it was odd that he wasn’t fighting it anymore. It’s like he had given up and accepted that they were to wed. Astoria found herself wondering what could possibly lead Draco to act like a broken dog. Whatever it was, she was pleased he had come around.

That meant that she could come up to his room, right? She thought so. And so she found herself standing in front of his bedroom suite, anxious beyond belief. Would he throw her out? Would he be mad that she had tried to give him the potion? It was Christmas after all, and she thought that she ought to get more than a mere glance before he rushed off to bed earlier.

Everything was silent on the other side of the door, and Astoria wondered if he had left in the night. But no, he wouldn’t. He hadn’t left the Manor in days, as far as his house elf knew. She slipped open the door silently, and let herself in. The room was dark, aside from the lit fire, which had died down to nothing more than a dim orange glow, and the faint light from the full moon streaming in from his balcony.

She took a few cautious steps towards his bed, and found it completely empty. She frowned, and looked around for any sign of him. She heard him before she saw him.

“What do you want?” He asked not unkindly. She could tell by his voice that he was drunk. She smiled to herself at her luck as she stepped towards the chair in which he sat overlooking the Malfoy gardens. Next to him was an empty bottle of Ogden’ finest, and a piece of parchment that looked like it had been crumpled up and opened many times.

“I just wanted to give you your Christmas gift,” she replied, stopping close enough to see him more clearly. His hair was disheveled, and stuck out at odd angles. He only wore a plain white button down shirt—thoroughly wrinkled by now—with a loosened black tie, and matching black trousers. His shirt had been pushed up to his elbows, and Astoria could see the scar of the Dark mark plain as day, glistening in the moonlight. He looked like hell—if truth were told—but there was a dangerously sexy hint there as well, all his own.

He grunted quietly in response, not looking at her at all. Instead he looked at that piece of parchment on the table beside him, burning a hole in it with his glare. She walked a few feet closer, enough that she could touch him if she wanted to.

“What is it?” He finally asked when he took his gaze off that parchment, his gray eyes narrowing at her now. She didn’t waste a single moment, but untied her robe, and let it fall onto the Persian rug silently.

He stared at her naked body unseeing as if he was unimpressed. A moment later he leaned back in his chair, and crossed his legs. His eyes never leaving her chest for a solid minute. “You can put that back on,” he demanded, and set to pouring himself another glass of firewhiskey, but half way through neglected the glass and instead drank whatever was left straight from the bottle itself.

She lowered herself onto her knees in front of him to capture his attention once more. He looked at her, but didn’t say anything. She took that as encouragement, and went straight to unbuttoning his trousers. His hand clamped onto her wrist to halt her. “Leave me.”

She just frowned at him, not bothering to abide. “But—”

“I said leave,” Draco ground out, suddenly angry. This time she heeded his warning tone, and grabbed her robe, putting it back over her shoulders as she walked to the door. When she glanced back, she couldn’t see him sitting in the chair anymore, and as she closed the door behind her, she wondered if he had even been there at all.

Oh yes, something was definitely going on. Draco didn’t get drunk and sit in the dark for nothing. And what was that parchment he had been looking at with contempt? She had to get her hands on that parchment, and then she’d know. But being turned down like that was embarrassing. Her own fiancé didn’t want her, and it left her feeling reckless as she wove through the darkened corridors. Suddenly she made a last minute decision, walked through the first exit she found, and far enough away from the Malfoy’s anti-apparrition barriers to vanish from the grounds entirely.


Astoria clenched the robe tightly around her waist as she walked up the familiar marble steps, and through the opened door. It seems he has been waiting for me again, Astoria thought with delight. She found him standing beside the lit fire in his drawing room, silently staring into it. She knew he wouldn’t deny her as Draco had. His ego wouldn’t allow it.

“I thought you might not come. And especially on Christmas…” He began in a chiding tone.

“I was delayed,” Astoria lied smoothly. She knew he hated hearing about Draco, but also craved it at the same time. “He watches me closely these days.”

Blaise turned around to look at his guest sharply. “He doesn’t deserve to look upon your beautiful body. Tell me you haven’t shared his bed.”

“I only do as I’m told,” she gave him a suggestive smile, and let her robe slip to her waist. He thought of nothing else as a carnal smile took over his face.

“One day soon, you’ll be mine. Then Malfoy can see what it’s like to lose everything he holds dear.” Astoria didn’t bother telling Blaise that Draco couldn’t care less if he lost her—in fact, he’d be doing him a favor if he did—but instead reveled in the idea that someone would fight for her. Someone knew her true worth, even if he was only doing it out of revenge. She knew that Blaise didn’t stand a chance against the Malfoys, but it’s Christmas after all, and she can pretend that someone loves her—at least for tonight.
 
 


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