Chapter 22 : The Ride
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“Vain lot they are,” she muttered, throwing the clothing on.
“True, but we’ve got so much to be vain about,” Hermione found Draco leaning against the open door frame and scowled. “Going somewhere? Remember, you need an escort.”
“Lets not and say you did,” Hermione suggested coldly.
“My, you are turning into a Malfoy fast. You are planning to lie and forming plots. Oh, and don’t forget the expecting people to follow your commands part,” Draco smirked, knowing he had pushed a button.
“Do not ever say that again,” her cold and threatening voice rang out across the room, with a killing glare accompanying it. “Don’t you dare. Fine, you can come. What’s the best way to travel around here? Correction, best way for you? I was planning to go panther,” there was no little amount of smugness as she reminded him that she could do something he couldn’t.
“We’ll ride, my father owns a large stable,” Draco tried to make her seem ignorant but the only that showed was envy.
“Let’s go then,” she said, grabbing a sweatshirt and walking out of the room. She followed him out to the stables and the whole time both were silent, each dwelling on the stinging comment the other had made. Was Hermione falling into the Malfoy role? The fact that Hermione could do something so grand and he couldn’t made Draco’s blood boil with jealously.
“Why would a muggle-hating wizard have a stable? Surely he wouldn’t need the horses for transportation and muggle money means nothing to him,” Hermione asked with true curiosity as they drew closer to the barn.
“It was actually started by my grandfather. He was trying to breed the perfect horse for his wife to ride when she was among muggles. Apparently she had more respect for them and became a popular person around them. My father only keeps the horses as a tribute and because it’s a source of pride. Our horses race against ones raised by muggles to win and it’s amusing to him to triumph over those breeders who think they are the best. Since winnings mean nothing to him and he can’t use them so the money he wins is just stuck in some chest in the basement,” Draco answered. They had come to a large pasture and Hermione could see several horses milling around. Draco grabbed a lead and halter from the group hanging on the fence and walked over to the gate.
“I’m going to grab mine, since he would trample a house-elf and then we’ll order a house-elf to get my mothers. She’s gentle and wont throw you if you royally screw up, though she will bite your leg when you do,” Draco was acting superior again, but among the arrogance was what seemed to be a sliver of care. That was because if she was injured it would be his head, so his care was only for self-preservation.
“Change of plan. I don’t need to be baby-sat, and I definitely don’t want some lazy nag who will only move because the horse in lead is moving.”
“ It’s my head if you get into trouble, so if you refuse to ride the horse I picked then you will be magically secured,” his tone said that there was no negotiation, and though she was sorely tempted, she decided not to put up a fight about it. She also didn’t bother mentioning the fact that magic by him was forbidden; his father could have that lovely problem removed from every record available. As soon as he realized she wasn’t going to argue he gave a sharp whistle.
“Wow, they’re beautiful,” Hermione whispered when two horses finished their race to the fence.
“He’s my stallion,” he motioned to the black stallion before slipping the halter over his head. Draco tossed her a lead and halter before turning back to what he was doing, which was leading his horse through the gate. “That’s his mate and your ride. Don’t ruin her, we need her.”
She was beautiful, a white angel with black splotches. The mare eyed her as Hermione finished with the buckles and lead her through the gate. By then the two males were a good couple of yards away. As soon as the mare was completely clear of the gate she bolted for them, or tried to. Hermione stopped her with a small jerk and was extremely annoyed; certain Draco had set her up to look like an incompetent fool.
“Draco, your ass better stop before I let her loose to trample you to her heart’s desire,” she warned, fully prepared to follow up on her threat. Surprisingly, he did take heed and they reached the barn together without further incident. The house elves in charge of all horses insisted on saddling the horses, so it wasn’t before they both swung up into the saddles and rode away. Draco didn’t perform the charm and she didn’t remind him. Hermione had obviously passed as test when she refused to let the mare run away from her and proved she could take care of herself.
Their ride was silent as they passed through the first shadows of the forest. The only sounds besides normal woodsy sounds was the rhythmic beat of hooves and an occasionally snort from one of the horses. Draco did not look at her or even acknowledge that she was there. It was his own fault he was out here; he was the one who wouldn’t let her go off on her own. Grateful for the silence however, Hermione dwelled slightly on something she had seen last night and was now part of her memories as well.
“You never drank that potion did you? You don’t love me, it’s all an act,” she broke the silence. A startled look passed over his face at her accusation.
“What makes you say that?”
“I don’t know, just an assumption. I saw flashes of a vial filled with something, then something that looked like it going down a drain, then an empty vial. You told me that you had to go through the same thing I did for this relationship, so it would make sense,” Hermione shrugged. Draco sighed and didn’t say anything for a while. He finally looked at her.
“Obviously I had to take some so that I could pretend well enough to be convincing and so that traces of it could be picked up to make everyone else happy that I was an obedient boy. So no, I don’t love you, though I doubt you care too much. I would worship Potter if you actually had all of yours,” he smirked as he said that last bit, as if she cared that he knew.
“Okay, so the secrets out. I had about the same amount of for the same reason. Do they seriously think Dumbledore wouldn’t recognize it for what it was and furthermore give it to me? The feelings mutual, I don’t love you either,” Hermione smirked right back at him.
“That’s a relief to know. It’s bad enough that I had to be stuck with you, but having you obsessed about would make me insane.”
“No fear, you are still the same vile, pompous git to me. The thought of you loving me makes me sick to my stomach. I would get myself locked up in Azkaban if I had to deal with a love sick Malfoy.”
“Nice to know, so now what do we do?” Draco and Hermione were laughing. To finally admit that they still couldn’t stand each other was wonderful. However, that didn’t change the issue. Everyone still had to believe that they were in love.
“We do what we’ve been doing, keep up the act. That won’t ever change unfortunately,” Hermione said simply, and hen remembered something with a groan. “And I still had to get pregnant. Can’t it just be with someone else and say its yours?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. And no, Voldemort will check using magic. He’ll punish both of us if he found that that was what had happened,” Draco’s face was unreadable.
“And it’ll be hell until we do. Will someone just kill me now?”
“Like you don’t want it, no female can resist a Malfoy,” Draco smirked and Hermione could almost agree with him. Seems like everyone thought he was handsome.
“None except for one. Too bad you had to deal with that one. Just the sight of you repulses me,” Hermione mocked hiding her face and throwing up and that made them laugh again. Things had changed between, and well, how could they not? They were being forced into a relationship that nobody liked because of some wizard bent on ruling the world. Kind of crazy circumstances and those changes people in more ways then one.
“Want to start all over again?” Hermione asked, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.
“You mean to completely erase these last six years?” that seemed to startle him.
“Why not? Things had definitely changed around here.”
“I’ll give that to you. Sure, it can’t hurt anything. Although there are sometimes that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
“All right,” she held her hand out to him. “Hi, I’m Hermione Malfoy, the former Hermione Granger, a mudblood married to a poor pure blood.”
“I’m Draco Malfoy, a pompous devil who was forced into an unwanted marriage by the Dark Lord. Nice to meet you,” he took her hand. Their introductions drew a grin from Hermione and a brief smile from Draco.
“Friends?” she asked him.
“Unusual ones but sure,” he agreed.
“I can deal with unusual. Who ever though that a pure Slytherin and a muggle-born Gryffindor would ever come together?” Hermione could just imagine all the looks and glares, whispers and comments that would be made by every student at Hogwarts, probably even a few of the teachers too.
“Not my father, that’s for certain. He was so furious when he found out about this marriage,” Draco said dryly.
“The thing I don’t understand is how did Voldemort know that I would come to him?” Hermione looked to him for an answer.
“He didn’t, I was supposed to be the ‘bad’ influence to bring you over to the dark side by showing you to the darkness in you. Obviously you found your dark side by yourself, so there was no need for me to do anything. He did know that you would be part of the Order, so he was planning from the start to use you as a spy,” Draco explained. The two rode in silence for a while, but it was a comfortable silence that friends share. It was growing dark, so they turned around and headed back towards Malfoy Manor.
“Do you think your parents are back?” Hermione asked nervously.
“Undoubtedly,” was the fast reply.
“Will they be watching for us?”
“Of course.” They both sighed, time to play the lovesick couple again.
“What’s our act now?” Hermione didn’t feel like acting right now, much less thinking it up.
“You’ll come sit with me and your horse will follow mine. They will see you being trusting and totally relying on me. I will seem protective and completely in control of everything. They won’t suspect a thing.” Hermione just nodded, knowing that she was expected to be weak and helpless, though she hated it. They halted the horses and Hermione slid out of her saddle. It took a few moments of rearranging and adjustments before it was workable for all. Neither was comfortable with the arrangement, but that made it agreeable. The rest of the ride seemed to last forever. Finally the mansion came into view. They let the house elves deal with the horses and walked up to where Draco’s parents were waiting together. Draco’s arm had somehow sneaked around her waist after they had showed respect to the adults, and she didn’t mind it too much. It was all for an act, right?
“Where have you been?” Lucius demanded.
“We were out riding,” Draco’s answer was short, simple, and obedient.
“Go get cleaned up and change for dinner,” Narcissa told them. “Make it fast and formal. We are having a guest.”
“The Dark Lord is coming, now move!” Lucius shouted and the two adults left. Draco and Hermione gave each other bewildered looks before running off to do as they were told. They could not believe it, they were going to have dinner with the most feared wizard of all time!
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