Chapter 5 : Chapter Five: A Midsummer Nightmare
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Hermione awoke the next morning in a place she never thought she would sleep in again. As soon as she opened her eyes she recognised her surroundings as she had been there so many times before. She was at Malfoy Manor, in Draco's bedroom. This house had once felt a lot like home to her but now it almost felt foreign. Evrything looked the same, everything smelled the same and everything felt the same. It was her. She was different. No longer did she wake up happily in this room as she used to. Now she dreaded to know what she was even doing here in the first place. Suddenly, memories of when she returned home last night flooded through her brain. The tears, the heartache then her parents-in-law showing up. She was embarrassed but at the same time grateful that they had brought her to their home instead of letting her suffer on her own. She recalled Lucius apparating with her to Draco's room and placing her in the bed before Narcissa issued her some sleeping draught and tucked her in.
Looking at the clock next to her, Hermione saw that it was 9:00 am. She knew the rules of the Manor like the back of her hand so she knew that breakfast would be starting right about now. Instead of apparating home like she wanted, Hermione felt she owed Lucius and Narcissa something so she ignored the dreadful sense of trepidation in her stomach and climbed from the bed. Noticing the skirt and blouse Narcissa must have laid out for her, she washed in Draco's bathroom and changed into them, swiftly heading down to breakfast.
The Malfoys had hoped that Hermione would join them, but they knew their daughter-in-law well. She had avoided them as best as she could ever since their son had upped and left her. The two had to practically force their presence upon Hermione to ensure that they were still part of her present life, for that is what they had been doing when they had found her on the floor in her apartment the previous night. They knew Hermione would be thankful for their help and hospitality but she would not voluntarily grace them with her presence. It was admist these musings that evident shock appeared on the Malfoy's faces. Due to their daughter-in-law's lack of communication lately, it was completely reasonable that their faces hung in surpise as Hermione walked into the dining room and made herself comfortable.
"Hermione! Are you alright, dear?", Narcissa asked as she placed a comforting hand over Hermione's and recollected herself.
"Yes, much better now. Thank you for last night", she muttered nervously.
Hermione had never wanted anyone to see her like that, much less so Lucius and Narcissa.
"It's no problem, you should know that you are always welcome here", Narcissa smiled.
Both of the Malfoys were understanding enough to know that Hermione would not want to talk about the reason for her outburst the previous evening so they did not push the matter further. Hermione was thankful of this as the only people who knew about her trauma all those years ago were herself and Ginny. She had made Ginny swear not to tell a soul and Hermione knew that should wouldn't.
Surprisingly, Hermione found herself digging into the breakfast buffet in front of her as if she never been away from the Manor. One thing she had always loved about staying here was the food. Her eagerness towards the delectable servings she was currently helping herself to caused her to miss Narcissa's expression as she smirked at her daughter-in-law's ease. Despite her old prejudices, Narcissa knew from the moment Hermione had put her in place that she belonged in the manor and she was reliving that moment now.
"So, are you exited for the ball tonight?", she asked, conveniently changing the subject.
"Oh my, I almost forgot about that. Yes, I suppose so", Hermione said as worry lines were seen on her forehead.
"You'd think after all these years you wouldn't be so cautious of the press", Narcissa voiced as she knew that they would be the reason for Hermione's doubts.
"It's hard not be when they follow you everywhere. They're nosy little sods that need to mind their own business!".
Lucius chortled at this. Hermione hadn't changed in the slightest. She still held firm beliefs and principles and her temper seemed to be intact.
"They're just making a living", Narcissa said.
It was the same reply she always gave Hermione when she complained about the press.
"Anyway, what are your plans for the day?".
"Oh, I was just going to get ready at home then head over to the Ministry", Hermione answered.
"You're going to get ready alone?", Narcissa enquired.
"It looks that way. Ginny and Aurelie are getting ready at the Burrow and I can't really be doing with all the hustle and bustle over there", Hermione answered.
"Well, you could always get ready here, with me?", Narcissa cautiously asked.
It was Hermione's first instinct to immediately decline but as she looked around she noticed that being here, in Draco's childhood home where she too had many memories, was not as bad as she thought. It was Lucius's words that day in her office that also persuaded her to change her mind and accept her mother-in-law's offer for once.
"That would be lovely", she replied, "We haven't done this in so long".
Narcissa positively beamed at Hermione's words. She had mentally been preparing herself for the usual excuses Hermione gave her when she suggested they spend any time together so to finally hear her acceptance meant the world to her.
"Oh! Really? Well this will be fantastic, I'll just get on to some last minute preparations".
With that, Narcissa bustled out of the room, no doubt writing and flooing her team of beauticians to ask for extra staff.
As Hermione smiled to herself at her Mother-in-law's happiness, she caught Lucius's eye.
He winked at her as he then looked down to his paper. She chuckled as she realised 'nothing has changed'.
Hermione was pleasantly surprised by how much she had missed Narcissa's company. They had often got ready for the various social events and Malfoy galas they attended and held frequently, but it had been such a long time since then. The pair had sipped on the finest champagne whilst being pampered all day, just as they used to. Narcissa craftily ensured she did not mention Draco once as she knew that it would only scare Hermione away. Instead the conversation flowed and it was as if they were still constants in each other's lives.
As she exited the carriage and bid goodbye to her parents-in-law, Hermione smiled at the cameras and made her way over to Ginny, Harry, Ron and Aurelie, who were all waiting for her near the entrance to the Ministry's grand ballroom. To say they were shocked didn't even cover half of what they were feeling upon seeing Hermione's arrival.
"Did you really just arrive with the Malfoys?", Ginny exclaimed.
"Yes, I - er, went round last night and stayed. Narcissa suggested we get ready together so I accepted. It was quite pleasant actually", Hermione smiled.
"Wow. Wasn't expecting that one. You do know that the press will have a field day though? They snapped you all arriving together", Harry voiced.
"Oh, let them talk. I couldn't give a crap anymore", Hermione huffed.
The group laughed at her statement, knowing that she would be agonising over it being front page news of the Daily Prophet tomorrow.
"Shall we?", Ron said as the group headed inside.
The ballroom looked as grand as ever with its golden walls and marble floor. Little cherubs flew gracefully around the ceiling as intricate vines wrapped around the walls and chandeliers. It reminded Hermione of the Shakespeare play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. As she knew the head of decorations to be a muggle born, she expected that that was where the inspiration for the decorum had come from. It was while she was admiring the mystical beauty of the ballroom that a figure walked up to her.
"Hermione, a pleasure as always", Kristian said as he kissed her delicately on the hand.
"Kristian, it's lovely to see you. You look wonderful", Hermione commented.
Girls were swooning over Kristian wherever she looked. His navy suit and white shirt complimented his tanned complexion perfectly. It also helped that he was incredibly successful in his career and was the heir to the Charleston fortune. A lot of women would have killed to be in Hermione's place but she couldn't say she would have done the same.
"Not half as wonderful as you", he smiled.
It was true. Hermione looked ravishing in her pale pink ball gown. It was backless with capped sleeves that were made of the finest lace which ran all the way over her chest. The lace stopped underneath her bust as soft pink material floated gracefully to the floor. Her hair was curled to perfection and her face glowed in the soft lighting.
"A drink for the lady?", Kristian asked as he handed her a flute of champagne.
"Thank you", Hermione replied.
"Usually, I make it a habit to arrive with my date but it seems you came with the ex-in-laws", Kristian stated.
"Yes, Narcissa and I got ready together. We haven't spent much time together recently so we thought it would be nice to do so", Hermione responded, feeling rather uncomfortable with the current topic of conversation.
"So, you're still close to them?", Kristian probed.
"Well, not like we were but I still care for them", Hermione answered.
"Do you still care for Draco?".
Hermione almost choked on her drink. She was shocked that he would outright ask her a question as personal as that.
"I don't really think that's any of your business", she said stiffly.
Realising he had pushed too far, Kristian held his hands up in mock surrender.
"Forgive me, I am only curious".
Hermione only nodded her head in reply.
"Would you care to join me?", Kristian asked as he held his hand out in offer of a dance.
Knowing it would be rude to decline, Hermione took his hand and let him lead her to the dance floor.
She felt rather awkward dancing with Kristian. Not only were people staring but she couldn't help but compare him to Draco. Kristian's dancing was more than satisfactory but she found he didn't have the grace and fluidity that Draco held. Nevertheless, she grit her teeth and decided to bear it.
After a few dances, they retired to the table where Ginny and Aurelie were sitting. Leaving her to go and get drinks for them, Hermione turned to her friends.
"So, a new lover boy?", Aurelie joked.
"Don't be silly", Hermione reprimanded, "We're just friends".
"Yeah and the way he was looking at you was oh so friendly. Honestly, it was like he was mentally undressing you!", Ginny laughed.
"Ginny Potter! Don't be so crude".
"Well, it's the truth", Aurelie added with a smile, "It's about time you put yourself out there anyway".
"I am not putting myself out there, I am simply accompanying him as a friend", Hermione defended.
"Yeah, whatever you say 'Mione", Ginny said as she giggled at Hermione's discomfort.
"Are my ears burning?", Kristian asked as he came back over to the table and handed Hermione another drink.
"I don't know about your ears but I think your eyes are", Aurelie said.
"Yeah, burning with all of that sexual desire!", Ginny exclaimed as the two girls snuck off before Hermione could reprimand them.
Turning her red face to Kristian she started to speak.
"I'm sorry about my friends. They seem to have the minds of hormonal teenagers".
"Well, they're not wrong are they", Kristian smirked.
Hermione was taken aback by his abrupt forwardness for the second time that night. She didn't know how to handle the situation so she swiftly changed the subject.
"So, how is work?", she asked.
Looking slightly crestfallen that the conversation had not gone as he had wished it to, Kristian answered, "It's good, same old stuff really. Although, we've just managed to secure a treaty with the Bulgarian Minister of Magic. That's why he's here tonight".
"Oh, that's great news. I'm sure you're very proud", Hermione replied, delighted for Kristian's achievement.
"I certainly am", he beamed, "It's not every day we reach a peace agreement with one of the most reclusive countries in Europe".
"I can imagine your negotiations with the Bulgarian minister were most amusing", Hermione laughed.
The Bulgarian minister had quite the reputation for lording his power over people and being immune to the persuasion of joining other countries in any way possible.
"You imagined right. Honestly, it was like trying to persuade a two year old to let go of his toys".
The pair laughed at Kristian's words and when they settled down Hermione managed to excuse herself to the restroom.
Apart from Kristian's very forward words, she was having a wonderful night. It wasn't often she could say so after these events, as she always seemed to miss Draco more when she attended them alone. Maybe coming with Kristian wasn't such a bad idea after all.
As she powdered her nose, a familiar face came out of the stall behind her.
"Hermione! Oh it's wonderful to see you!", Pansy Parkinson, now Zabini, beamed as she rushed over to Hermione in her red strapless gown.
"It's good to see you too Pans", Hermione smiled as she returned Pansy's hug.
Despite the awkward tension at first, Hermione and Pansy had become the best of friends when she was with Draco. However, due to Hermione becoming so involved in her work, they hadn't seen each other half as much as they used to.
"So, I saw you arrive with Lucius and Narcissa? That felt like a blast from the past".
"Yes, we decided to get ready together before coming. It was actually nice to spend some time with her. I've missed her to be honest".
"Just like old times then?", Pansy winked.
"Yeah, apart from the obvious".
Hermione had always felt more at ease about speaking of Draco with Pansy than anyone else, it was probably because she knew him so well, although it was still a rarity.
"Obviously. Still no news of him?".
"Of course not. There never is", Hermione said glumly, "I don't even bother trying anymore, I gave up years ago as you are well aware".
Pansy nodded her head in recognition. It had been she who had helped Hermione search high and low for Draco after months of her moping around. Unfortunately, they never found anything. Wherever Draco was, he was hiding himself pretty well.
"So, I see you're here with Kristian Charleston", Pansy stated, "Care to elaborate".
"Oh, yes I know him from work", Hermione replied, "We're just here as friends".
"Well, if I know Charleston that's not what he will be thinking".
"What do you mean?", Hermione asked confusedly.
"Just keep an eye out that's all", Pansy assured her as they exited the bathroom.
Excusing herself from Pansy's presence, Hermione left the ballroom to get a little fresh air. She was beginning to feel slightly suffocated inside. Unfortunately, she had picked the wrong exit.
Camera flashes blinded her as the press bombarded her with photos and questions.
"Hermione! Hermione! Is it true you're now dating Kristian Charleston?".
"Over here Mrs Malfoy! Have you been in contact with your husband? Was that the reason for your arrival with Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy?".
"Do you feel as if you are betraying your husband by sleeping with Kristian Charleston, Mrs Malfoy?".
"Hermione! How are your in-laws taking your new relationship?".
She felt a hand tug on her arm and pull her back into the ballroom.
"Are you alright Hermione? They can be vicious little vultures when they want".
She smiled as she recognised the familiar voice of Blaise Zabini. Blaise was always a laugh and it comforted her to see that he still had the same happy go lucky aura around him.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Haven't been called that in a while though", Hermione said as she remembered the press calling her Mrs Malfoy.
"Well, that is who you are", Blaise smiled as he placed a comforting hand on Hermione's shoulder.
"Actually it's not. I legally changed my name back to Granger", Hermione stated.
It was surprising to her that Blaise actually looked saddened for a minute. He was one of the few that had always thought Draco would have gone for good reason and he would be back with Hermione soon enough. To see his hopeful vision fading must have been a little upsetting. He didn't want to realise that after so much struggle and change, Draco had done a complete U-turn and abandoned his wife.
"Oh. I just thought that it was the tabloids calling you that".
"No, it was my doing".
Just as Blaise was about to speak again, a voice interrupted him.
"Ah, Hermione, there you are!".
It was Kristian and by the look on Blaise's face, he wasn't impressed that he was anywhere near him or Hermione.
"Charleston", Blaise said coldly.
"Zabini", Kristian countered as his normally bright eyes turned dark, "Well, as much of a pleasure as this is, my date and I must be off".
His eyes gleamed in triumph as he emphasised the words 'my date' and Blaise looked on in shock and anger.
Grabbing Hermione's arm before Kristian whisked her away, he whispered something in her ear.
"Just be careful with that one Hermione".
She was confused as she followed Kristian over to the bar. For some reason Blaise and Pansy were very wary of her being near Kristian and she wanted to know why.
"Kristian why is it that Blaise and Pansy seem to dislike you?".
"Just some petty childhood rivalries. We knew each other when we were kids", he said as he brushed off Hermione's question.
Before she could retaliate, Kristian had taken her arm once more and led her to the dance floor. If she thought the last time they danced was uncomfortable she was wrong. This time it was almost unbearable. She was constantly trying to step back, as he pushed their bodies as close as possible, and she had had to remove his hand from rather inappropriate areas several times.
Having finally had enough, she suggested that they grab another drink rather than dance. He didn't look impressed with her idea at all, but he led her over to the bar anyway. After receiving their drinks from the bar tender, Kristian looked to Hermione.
Stroking the length of her bare arm with his fingers, he spoke in a husky voice, "You know, Hermione, you most definitely are the sexiest woman in this room tonight".
"Oh - er, thanks, I guess", Hermione replied feeling excruciatingly uncomfortable.
"I really could just take you right here right now, but I'm too much of gentleman to do that", he said as he stepped even closer to her.
Hermione couldn't help but think that there was nothing gentlemanly about what he had just said.
"I don't think that's really, um, appropriate, do you?", she said meekly.
"Oh, I think it's more than appropriate", he said darkly as he licked his lips and leaned in towards Hermione.
She stood rooted to the spot as she saw his mouth loom closer and closer to her. Knowing she did not want to do this, she pushed at Kristian's chest stopping him from kissing her.
"What are you doing?", he questioned.
"I- I just. We're here as friends, Kristian, nothing more. I don't want this", Hermione awkwardly answered.
"Of course you want this! Everyone wants this!", he snapped as he leaned in again more forcefully this time.
"No! I don't!", Hermione exclaimed as she pushed him harder.
This seemed to only anger him more.
"Just thought you'd lead me on did you? No one does that to Kristian Charleston! I know you want me, Hermione!".
"No, I don't!".
Amidst her protests Kristian had painfully grabbed hold of the top of Hermione's arm and her opposing wrist.
"Let go! You're hurting me!", Hermione pleaded, trying not to draw any attention to them.
She wasn't one for making a scene.
"Don't be ridiculous!", he snarled as he squeezed Hermione's arm harder.
She winced in pain but it seemed that luck was on her side as a hand shot from behind her, grabbing hold of Kristian's wrist. The pain and shock forced him to release his grasp but his hand still lay there. Hermione breathed evenly after the pain of his hold subdued. As she was about to launch some verbal abuse at Kristian, the voice of her saviour beat her to it.
"Get your hands off my wife!".
So he's back!! How did you like the twist? Was you expecting it? How did you like the chapter as a whole? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! I really appreciate them and I always reply :) Until chapter 6, MM :)
Also, I do not own the play 'A Midsummer Nights Dream', it belongs to William Shakespeare
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