A/N: Yay for another chapter, even if it's much later than I hoped it would be. Fingers crossed for more soon.
A Promise Unspoken
Hermione was nearing hysteria as she stumbled through the halls of Malfoy Manor, seeking somewhere to hide, somewhere to recover. She didn't know what Dolohov had done to her, but she didn't feel right. Something was wrong. Something more than the trigger of memories and horrors she'd sooner forget. His wand at her temple had set something off inside of her, though she hadn't heard him utter a spell, and Hermione felt strange.
She felt jittery and like she had a thousand ants crawling under her skin. Tears trickled slowly down her face, the effect of the memories she endured, but she made no effort to wipe at them. Everyone else was mercifully outside watching the Matching Ceremony she'd stumbled away from and Hermione couldn't be more grateful as she stumbled into a room and found herself, finally, alone.
The décor barely registered with her as she stumbled over to drop down onto a daybed in the corner of the room by the fire, and though it wasn't cold out, she was grateful for the heat. She didn't notice the pair of eyes that tracked her movements across the room and she didn't register the presence of anyone else in the room for several long minutes as she scratched at her skin, trying to pull herself back together and to make sense of why she felt so strange.
"He spurned her, you know?" a low, drawling voice intruded on her thoughts when she'd taken several deep breaths and begun to put herself back together.
"Bloody hell, Granger!" Draco Malfoy hissed, eyeing her like she'd gone mad when she leapt to her feet, her wand drawn and a hex ready upon her lips. "It's just me. There's really no call for screaming."
Hermione frowned, her eyes scanning the darkened room before coming to rest on the wizard in question. He was standing in the doorway that led onto a small balcony that overlooked the festival beyond where the Matching was still taking place.
"What did you say, Malfoy?" she asked, frowning at him.
"I said that Rowle spurned her," he repeated. "Selwyn. When her name was matched with his, he walked away rather than going up. That's the height of rudeness in our world, you know? Spurning someone for a Matching season is the equivalent of declaring a Blood Feud with the family of the person being Matched. Rowle basically just picked a fight with the Selwyn family for you."
Hermione frowned in confusion, blinking stupidly at him and trying to process what he was telling her.
"What are you talking about?" she asked thickly.
Malfoy blinked at her in return, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"I'm talking about the Matching," he jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the party beyond. "Becky Selwyn was Matched to Thorfinn Rowle, and rather than going up and accepting the honour of escorting her for the season, he shoved his way through the crowd to follow you into the house. So, I don't know why you're crying. He spurned her."
"Oh," Hermione said. "I didn't even hear his name called…"
Malfoy frowned further.
"Then why are you crying?" he asked, confused.
Hermione shook her head. "Nothing. It's none of your business."
"If it was bad enough to drive you crying from the party and all the through the Manor up to my bedroom, Granger, then I wouldn't call it nothing."
"This is your bedroom?" Hermione squeaked, blanching when she glanced around the room and noticed that there was, indeed, a collection of things strewn about the place that she recognised as belonging to Draco. His Nimbus Two Thousand and One leaned in one corner, and his school bag hung haphazardly from the back of the chair at the desk across the room.
"Are you drunk or something?" Malfoy asked, his frown deepening even more as he pushed away from the doorframe and crossed the room toward her. "You seem a little out of it, Granger. Did someone hex you?"
"I think so," Hermione admitted, her wand arm lowering once more before she reached for her head with her free hand. "I'm really itchy. And I feel dizzy."
"Have you been drinking?" Malfoy asked, coming closer still.
"Only a mouthful of wine," Hermione shook her head. "Dolohov did something to me…"
"Something to do with this?" Malfoy asked, brushing her hair away from her neck and eyeing the bite mark scarred into her shoulder.
"Don't touch it," Hermine hissed.
"When were you bitten by a werewolf, Granger?" Malfoy asked quietly, standing uncomfortably close to her. "What did you do? Spend too much time with Lupin over the holidays or something?"
"Professor Lupin would never attack anyone!" Hermione defended vehemently.
"I didn't think you were spending the holiday with Potter, anyway," Malfoy narrowed his eyes. "Weren't you supposed to be going to Russia after you left France?"
Hermione nodded, biting her lip and looking away. "I did."
Malfoy narrowed his eyes on her.
"Who bit you, Granger?" he asked in a low voice. "Was it a full moon?"
Hermione shook her head.
"No," she whispered. "He was in human form. A Russian werewolf I made the mistake of getting too close to one day while I was there."
She didn't know why she was telling Malfoy any of this. She didn't know why he hadn't recoiled from her in horror but he hadn't and she was frazzled and more than a little distraught.
"How bad was it?" Malfoy asked, frowning at her and moving closer still, invading her space.
Hermione's whole body trembled as she relived the memory of being chased and caught. The pain of the wounds felt fresh as she brought her hand to her midriff, her nails digging in just as Antonin's had done; just as Romanov's had done.
"If it weren't for Antonin, I'd be dead," Hermione whispered.
When she lifted her gaze, she found Malfoy standing less than a foot away from her, his eyes fixed on her carefully. He regarded her coolly, holding her gaze for several long moments before he nodded.
"The world is becoming a darker place, you know?" he said quietly. "It seems you've tasted a little of it since we parted ways in France."
Hermione nodded, too.
"And Rowle?" he asked.
"What about him?" Hermione asked.
"Are you betrothed to him?" Draco asked quietly, tipping his head to one side, eyeing her intensely.
Hermione opened her mouth to answer, but before she could speak, the thought she'd had slipped away.
"Thorfinn brought me home after what happened in Russia."
"Home? To London?" Malfoy frowned.
"Home to Rowle Tower," Hermione shook her head, barely registering that she'd referred to his place as home. "I've been staying there since I was attacked."
"He'll be in some trouble for spurning Selwyn tonight, you know?" Malfoy asked quietly. "If the two of you aren't betrothed, that might as well have been a declaration of love."
Hermione blinked at him, scratching at her stomach where her scars were.
"Why are you hiding out in your bedroom with the lights off, Malfoy?" Hermione asked, changing the subject with her thoughts went fuzzy for a moment, making her dizzier.
"I wasn't about to risk getting myself Matched to anyone by being in attendance in the circle down there for the ceremony," Draco rolled his eyes. "If you're not there, you can't be Matched. And since the witch I want didn't wear white, I excused myself. Like any proper gentleman would."
The sneer in his tone gave away what he thought of Thorfinn being there if he was intent on being with Hermione and she frowned at him for a moment, recalling suddenly what Theo maintained about Draco's crush on her. Wiping at her eyes, Hermione looked up, meeting and holding his gaze.
"I wasn't aware there was an etiquette to it," she said, tipping her head to one side and grateful for the distracting conversation that took her mind off her trauma.
"We're wizards, Granger," Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Of course, there's etiquette. Not that I'm surprised you don't know what it is. If you're not bred into the knowledge, you can't be expected to grasp the magic of a night like tonight."
"Can I ask you something, Malfoy?" Hermione said, her lips twitching.
He looked wary.
"Why do you constantly seek to remind me of my muggle parentage after spending so long tracing my magical lineage?" Hermione asked him. "Why do you always have to remind me I'm muggleborn – as though I might forget – when I bear the signature of both the Dolohov and Malfoy bloodlines upon my magic?"
"Who said anything about me tracing your lineage?" Draco asked, his eyes narrowing.
Hermione smirked. "You did."
"No I didn't," he said stubbornly.
Hermione almost laughed, feeling slightly better and more sure of herself as whatever Dolohov had done to her wore off just a bit and the distraction of tormenting Malfoy took her mind off her memories.
"You walk around Hogwarts going on and on about my muggle parents and how I'm such a know-it-all and yet, we both know you spent the better part of a year trying to prove to your father than I had magical blood," Hermione said, her fingers toying with the bracelet on her wrist. She couldn't quiet recall why the bracelet was something that meant he'd turned his attention to being rude to her at every turn, but she knew when his eyes dropped to it and narrowed hatefully that whatever the reason, his hatred for it was deep and abiding.
"If you're done sobbing like a pathetic twit, get the hell out of my room, mudblood," Draco hissed nastily and Hermione didn't know why, but it made her smirk all the more.
"You spit venomous words, Malfoy, but I think we both know you don't mean them," Hermione whispered, enjoying the way he jumped when she lifted one hand to pat his chest patronizingly before she turned away.
"You don't know anything, Granger," he snapped at her retreating form.
Hermione laughed gently as she reached the door and turned to look back over her shoulder.
"Don't be foolish, Draco," she said. "I'm a know-it-all. I know everything."
With a sly little smile, Hermione shot him a wink before sauntering back the way she'd come and leaving him to hide out in his room all by himself, pouting because she hadn't worn white.
When he found her, she was wandering across the ballroom of Malfoy Manor, nibbling on an orange and looking around the room and the portraits lining the high walls with interest. Everyone else was outside for the Matching and so she was alone in the vast hall, uncaring for her bare feet, her slightly smudged make-up that revealed recent tears, or the sticky juices from the orange that were dripping on the floor.
Thorfinn frowned at the sight of his little witch. She looked fine. Evidence of crying aside, she seemed completely alright and Thorfinn wondered how that could be. He knew that what Toshka had done to her meant that she'd relived the terrible wounds she'd endured at the hands of that cunting werewolf in Russia and he'd been sure she would be curled in a corner somewhere, sobbing.
But she wasn't.
She looked fine. Thorfinn shook his head slowly, crossing into the ballroom and converging on her while she faced away from him, peering at a portrait of one of the Malfoy ancestresses.
"Princess?" Thorfinn asked softly when he was a few feet away, not wanting to startle her.
She turned toward him slowly, her eyes a little unfocused before she blinked. When her gaze settled upon him, Thorfinn would swear there was something in her eyes he'd never seen before.
"You shouldn't have done that, Finn," Hermione said softly, tipping her head to one side as she regarded him before eating the last segment of her orange and licking her fingers in a way that made his cock twitch.
"Shouldn't have done what?" he asked.
"You spurned the Selwyn girl," Hermione said. "You all but declared a Blood Feud with them."
Thorfinn frowned before recalling the sound of his name being called out in the yard, during the ceremony. He blanched slightly, expecting his father would have a few things to say about him spurning the witch and declaring war with the Selwyn family, especially with the second rise of the Dark Lord looming in the distance.
"You were upset about something. I had to come after you," Thorfinn shrugged sheepishly.
"You didn't even hear them call your name, did you?" she asked him quietly, looking intrigued, as though he were some kind of puzzle she was trying to figure out.
Thorfinn shook his head. "Not really," he admitted. "I was a bit preoccupied that my best mate was upsetting my witch."
She smiled slowly, the lustful gleam in her eyes making his cock twitch when she raked her gaze over him from head to foot. She looked like she wanted to climb him like a tree, and Circe's cunt, Thorfinn wanted that. She looked ethereally beautiful in her pretty dress and the cut of the cleavage revealed that, youth aside, she was a desirable young woman.
"I like it when you call me your witch, Rowle," she said quietly.
Thorfinn smirked charmingly in return, his hands itching to bury in those wild curls of hers and his lips tingling with the need to kiss her sweet mouth until he couldn't think straight. She hadn't called him by his surname in a long time, now that he thought about it, but Thorfinn kind of liked it. She always called him Finn. Or Superstar. The sound of his surname on her lips reminded him of the old days, before he had to worry about being so bound to her; before he had to endure the rage and the jealousy and the wretched pain of their soul bond tearing every time anyone else laid a hand on her. He almost missed the easy, cutting banter they'd traded. He also found that he very much liked the sound of his name coming out of her mouth when his mind zipped with the thought that one day, if he played his cards right, it might be her name, too.
"Good," he said, holding a hand out toward her and hungrily watching her close the distance between the two of them to take it. "Are you alright, baby-girl?"
She nodded, sighing as she stepped into his embrace and Thorfinn curled his arms around her protectively, holding her close and lowering his head to breath in the sweet scent of her hair. She trembled in his grip and Thorfinn held her tightly. She'd had a rough summer, and the year ahead was only going to get worse. Thorfinn just wanted to hold her and to promise her that it was all going to be okay, but he knew it would be a lie. It wasn't going to be okay, and he was going to lose her all too soon. The thought alone was like a crushing weight pressing on his heart and making it hard to breathe.
He pulled her even tighter, wondering how she'd react if he confessed his feelings for her and if there was some way they could undo the blood oath she'd take for the fucking Rites.
"Finn?" she murmured into his chest, her arms looped around his waist as she huddled in his embrace, all too eager to be held and to hold him as surely as he held her.
"Mmm?" he hummed softly, dropping a kiss to the top of her head.
"Take me home?" she whispered, and Thorfinn felt a smile pull at his lips, pleased by the sound of her calling Rowle Tower 'home'.
Salazar's sack, but he prayed that it would be her home until they were both old and crotchety and too senile to remember who was who when they could both just be Rowles. What he wouldn't give to spend his days with her, raising children and grandchildren, and showing her every day how much she meant to him. He couldn't even bring himself to care about the Blood Feud he'd likely invoked with the Selwyns because he'd rather die a thousand fiery deaths than to ever stand with a witch who wasn't Hermione Granger and Thorfinn realised he was well and truly fucked.
"Hold on, Princess," he said, pulling her tighter into his embrace. She burrowed deeper into his hold, clinging to him so tightly that it was almost hard to breathe and Thorfinn closed his eyes, savouring the feel of her in his embrace, knowing that all too soon, she'd be gone. He dropped another soft kiss to the top of her head and took a deep breath before disapparating them both with a sharp crack.