Hermione awoke bathed in sunshine. Draco’s high-ceilinged bedroom at the Chateau de Malfoi was five times as large as his room at Hogwarts, but very similar, with the same blue velvet curtains with golden fleur-de-lis and the colorfully painted furniture. But this room’s main window overlooked expansive grounds dotted with statues and fountains, with vineyards in the distance. The carved wooden desk held his glass Patronus ball on its delicate silver stand.
With utmost caution, Hermione sat up, blinking in the morning light. The long lump beside her, hidden beneath the cream silk coverlet, didn't move. Thank Merlin.
She reached out an arm and pulled her beaded bag off the nightstand, along with her wand. A muttered spell and she’d summoned her LOOP notebook and pen. With any luck, she’d have time to record her thoughts and plan her day. Hermione flipped to a fresh page and touched ink to paper. It was important to keep a disciplined mind.
Her thoughts refused to comply, however; instead they roamed freely over the weeks at Hogwarts since Narcissa’s trial. Pansy had proven very creative at distracting the student body from Draco’s perceived villainy. When the school had settled down a bit in December, and Draco started getting threats again, everybody’s Secret Gift scrolls suddenly vanished. Ernie and his prefects tried to re-create the gift list, but of course half the students lied about their drawn names, which created more chaos.
The Squeaky Mice thrived on the uproar, and Hermione darkly suspected that Leila, with Pansy's encouragement, was happily making things worse. Percival wore his transformed "POTTER STINKS” badge for an entire day before noticing it read "DO YOUR HOMEWORK." He complained to Draco, who spent most of Friday night in his room working to change it back. Hermione watched from his bed, where she was reading Vasile's "Curses of Home and Hearth" book while wearing a small lacey thing and trying not to look smug. The next day Hermione secretly taught the switching spell to Leila, who charmed the badge to flash phrases like “EAT YOUR VEGGIES” and “WRITE YOUR MOTHER” and Hermione’s favorite: “POTTER’S CUTE.”
With all the gift scrolls vanished, Ernie begged Hermione to help him cast the spell again. Hermione airily refused, proposing a nice trivia tournament to take everyone’s mind off things. So the Head Boy recast the spell himself, adding all his prefects' suggestions, and the charm collapsed under the weight of its many amendments and assigned everyone the same name: Marcus Fixe. The student body revolted and the controversy raged on until McGonagall herself took a hand a week before the Holiday Feast, casting an efficient spell that assigned each student a name and prevented any swapping. Hermione drew Ernie’s name, and wrapped up a stack of books on effective leadership and his very own Life Organization Optimization Plan.
At the Holiday Feast, Draco presented Lavender with a pair of socks with Theo’s faces in little hearts, charmed to show Theo blowing kisses. Lavender put on the socks right there at the Gryffindor table and shortened her skirt to display them, and Hermione couldn’t hide her grin at Theo’s outraged expression. Luna gave Draco with a hand-painted model of the “Malfoy Meditation Retreat,” complete with a tiny Fountain of Renewal trickling minute drops of water. Draco managed a pained smile and quiet thank you, but Hermione thought it was lovely and set it up in his bedroom at Hogwarts.
Luna’s model certainly was better than Hermione’s own gift: a book on decorum, titled “To Be Truly a Lady,” from Justin Finch-Fletchley. Hermione glared down at the book, curbing her desire to Incendio it. Bloody hypocrite with his grassy makeout space and bottle of sirenscotch. She ended up reading the book over the holidays and owling Justin six feet of parchment with her notes and annotations. “You stick with him,” she told Brownie as she tied the heavy scroll to his leg. “Don’t leave until he’s read every word.”
The morning after the Holiday Feast, Hermione and Draco prepared to board the Hogwarts Express in a tense mood. The Squeaky Mice were running amok on the platform, each wearing one of Hermione's knit caps. Draco looked a little sour at the sight of Ernie wearing a matching black cap with a big yellow pom-pom. Hermione asked sweetly if Draco would like his own silver-and-green cap — certainly Bloom and Pratt seemed to enjoy theirs and Draco's ears did look a bit pink.
Draco just gave her a haughty sneer. He and Hermione were both sleep-deprived, and not in a good way. Draco had finally realized the night before that Hermione hadn’t been glamouring her Mudblood scars; they had truly faded, with only faint, silvery letters remaining. He’d demanded an immediate explanation and then promptly exploded, ranting about the dangers of brewing experimental potions and testing them on oneself with only a witless painting to help. Then he dragged her off to the infirmary and woke up Madam Pomfrey. The matron gave Hermione an antidote for aconite poisoning, although Hermione insisted her pupils weren’t dilated and she was only sweating from her sprint from the Slytherin dungeons. Draco then broke Hermione's wards around the Potions lab and laid into Snape, who merely raised a painted eyebrow. The portrait had a few choice things to say about Draco leaving a dangerous witch to her own devices while he ran off acting like a bloody Gryffindor.
The next day, Draco was still moaning about the Scar Solution, not to mention his precious badge, which despite all of Draco’s efforts was now stuck at "POTTER THE WONDER AUROR." He and Hermione bickered the entire train ride to London and their friends left them both at Platform 9 3/4 with obvious relief.
With Draco’s parents in Azkaban, Hermione had made the reckless decision to bring her still-annoyed boyfriend home with her for the first week of the Christmas holidays. After all, she reasoned, if her mother didn’t send Draco screaming out of her life, nothing would. Mum behaved quite well at the train station and drive home. But alas, it couldn’t last.
“So, Draco,” Mum said as they ate dinner that night in the Grangers’ wood-paneled dining room. “I understand your family did their best to kill our Hermione during the war.”
Draco blinked and set down his fork. “Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“They weren’t very competent about it,” Mum observed with a sip of her wine.
“No,” Draco admitted. “I was a shit Death Eater myself.”
Dad barked a laugh, but Mum looked disapproving. “So I’ve heard. Cursed necklace? Poisoned wine? Shockingly inefficient.”
“Yes, well, you see, my heart wasn’t exactly in it,” Draco said apologetically.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Mum, we should all be grateful that it wasn’t.”
“I suppose,” Mum said, but she fixed Draco with a cold eye, and her thoughts were clear: Slacker.
Mum was quite impressed by the Gloriana Set, however, and looked Draco up and down before suggesting that Hermione infuse the Malfoy ring with similar magic. “He’s a very good-looking young man, dear,” she commented. “I can see why you might forgive a questionable work ethic.”
To Draco’s surprise, Hermione insisted on telling Mum and Dad all about her adventures at school. She had sworn not to keep things from her parents anymore and tried to keep her promise, although she did skim over the rougher parts at the Nott Hunting Shack. She even told them about Petrifying Draco in the charms classroom. (Mum nodded approvingly at Hermione while Dad frowned at Draco.) Dad adored Squeaky Mice stories, and Mum was extremely interested in anything concerning the Malfoy family. Both of her parents were appalled by the blood messages, although Mum only nodded thoughtfully at the news that Narcissa had cast the spell. After Christmas services, Hermione told the story of Astoria’s necklace and her own visit to Lucius’ Azkaban cell. Dad and Draco were both scowling when she finished describing her talk with Lucius, but Mum just looked smug.
“Well, dear, that’s what happens when you don’t keep your men in line,” Mum said as she served them all eggnog. “They fall into bad company with masks and all and next you know, they’re getting tattoos and chasing younger women. This whole Voldemort thing was obviously a badly managed midlife crisis.” Mum smiled kindly at Draco, who sat frozen in horror, clutching his untouched eggnog.
“That’s it,” Draco hissed at Hermione while her parents went upstairs to fetch more presents. “It’s official. Your mother is scarier than mine.”
Draco practically ran from the house to Azkaban Christmas afternoon to visit Narcissa while Hermione went to The Burrow. For New Year’s Eve, they attended Harry’s party at 12 Grimmauld Place. Harry and Ginny circled each other all evening, but shared a passionate kiss as the clock tolled midnight. Then Ginny danced off with those annoying Harpy friends of hers (who would not stop ogling Draco). Hermione checked in with Harry, who said with a smile, “She’ll come back.” Then Hermione went to Ginny, who gave her the exact same smile and said, “He knows where to find me.” At that point, Hermione just gave up and rescued Draco from Luna, who’d shown up with Bloom (the slightly more intelligent former Beater) and was making very suspicious hand gestures. Ron and Draco later met by accident at the drawing room’s makeshift bar and traded nods and pained smiles.
Hermione and Draco stayed at the Leaky Cauldron that night and the next morning took the inkpot portkey to the Chateau de Malfoi in Southern France. The Chateau lived up to all Draco’s promises: the library was extensive and the fishing village truly seedy. The only disappointment was Aimee; whenever Hermione said “freedom” or “money” or “clothes,” the elf cried, “Je ne comprends pas!” and ran off sobbing. It was maddening.
Hermione frowned down at her LOOP notebook, thinking of the elf. Then she took a relaxing breath: five beats in, five beats out. She’d consider the Aimee problem another time. The lump under the covers had shifted slightly and some people had small respect for life organization plans. She cracked open the journal and rapidly wrote the date and time.
Five Things To Look Forward To:
1) The Chateau library's 1750 copy of Perenelle Flamel’s “Magical History of France” that Draco promised to start translating aloud to her after lunch.
2) Her plan to take waterproof cloaks to the fishing village today, along with jars of caulking material. Some of those wretched boats the villagers were squatting in were quite leaky.
The body under the covers beside her was definitely moving, and a warm hand brushed her ankle, moving up her bare leg. Somebody was waking up and unlikely to take no for an answer. So spoiled.
She wrote a large “3” in her notebook, but her attention was distracted now as a rough palm moved to her knee and she felt a hot breath on her hip. The hand moved slowly higher and the breath moved to meet it.
Hermione wrote quickly. The first two items on her “Five Things To Look Forward To Today” list often changed these days, but the last three never wavered: