Author's Note: This piece was written for the 2018 DramioneLove Minifest. Each prompt was to be related to Alice in Wonderland, with a maximum word count of 2500 words. Only minor edits have been made to the original fest piece. I hope you enjoy.
The Prompt: "A lovely game of croquet they said...nothing but wine and sun they said... how wrong they were".
Warning: This fic contains the following, to certain extents: suggestions of potions abuse and possession, kidnapping and imprisonment, ambiguous mental clarity, and is open-ended.
Many thanks to Kyonomiko and LaBelladone x for being a wonderful alpha and beta on this fic, respectively. And thanks to RZZMG for hosting such a lovely fest with a challenging word count!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Hermione Granger clutched an embellished parchment invitation tightly in her hand as she approached the front gates of Malfoy Manor, the hot summer sun already blazing down though it was hardly midday.
A garden party. It was precisely the sort of thing Narcissa Malfoy would invite her to, as a subtle reminder of their greatly differing social standings. That even though Hermione was dating the woman's son, Narcissa was still the head of house with Lucius in Azkaban. Hermione could only imagine the sort of stuffy afternoon she was in for.
Please join us for a lovely afternoon of croquet, wine and sunshine, the invitation had begged.
Hermione exhaled a breath and clenched her jaw as a house elf dressed in Malfoy livery escorted her from the gates to the back gardens; Narcissa's prized rose bushes were in full bloom.
"Thank you, Tinkles," Hermione said curtly, biting back her more honest sentiments as the house elf dropped into a low bow and left her at the edge of the expansive lawn. Two elegant, albino peacocks strutted past.
Finger sandwiches, dainties, and all manner of hors d'oeuvres Hermione didn't recognize were laid out in an elaborate spread on a long table. Bottles of the finest reds and whites from the Malfoy cellars sat in pails of ice, while an impressive tea service sat steaming on a cart.
The yard was absolutely empty.
The quiet whisper of a light breeze was the only sound as Hermione made her way across the lawn.
"Draco?" she called, clearing her throat, smoothing a crease in her floral sundress. "Draco, are you here?"
Everything remained oddly still and silent. She certainly wasn't so early that no one else would have arrived yet. The invitations had only been uncharacteristically sent out the night before – but still, Hermione had expected there to be dozens of twittering ladies about.
"Narcissa?" Hermione called again. "Draco?"
Hermione clutched her heart, gasping in surprise as Draco suddenly Apparated alongside her, his eyes wide as he took her in.
Her face relaxed into a soft smile. "Hi," she murmured, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
"You made it." He grinned, flashing his perfectly white teeth that her parents loved. Hermione smiled as her thundering heart settled and she observed him.
He wore freshly pressed black trousers and a black vest over a crisp white shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and a bright green tie. His platinum hair was delicately swept to a peak atop one side of his head and his grey eyes sparkled in the sunlight. Hermione thought he looked devastatingly handsome.
"Where is your mother?" Hermione asked, looking once more around the empty yard. "And the other guests?"
"No other guests, love," Draco said and he grinned again, his eyes widening as he gazed at her. "Just us!"
"Surely you can't have had this spread prepared for just the two of us," Hermione said, frowning.
"But we are having a croquet party, of course," Draco said, unblinking.
Hermione stared at him, one brow raising in consternation. "You're acting strange. Is everything alright?"
"Absolutely!" he exclaimed, that bizarre smile still upon his features.
"Did you and Theo get drunk and brew a faulty batch of Calming Draught again?" Hermione poured herself a glass of wine, parched in the heat of the sun.
"Of course not!" Draco said with a flourish towards the lawn. "Let's play croquet!"
"Ah, I see what this is," Hermione murmured with a teasing smile. "You've finally gone off your rocker, haven't you?"
Draco waved a dismissive hand and began walking toward the lawn where a croquet set was laid out.
"I'll offer a wager!" he proclaimed, selecting a mallet. "If you win, you may leave once the garden party concludes! And if I win…" he grinned again and Hermione turned to him quickly as she chose a mallet of her own. "If I win, you'll stay here with me. Forever."
"Forever," Hermione retorted, shaking her head at his odd behaviour. "Right, because I haven't a job or anything. Honestly Draco, what's the matter with you?"
"Nothing." He beamed, his eyes wide again, as if with a touch of madness. "What say you?"
"I can't agree to those terms," Hermione said absently. "And I think you ought to lie down. Perhaps the sun has addled your mental faculties."
"It's a wager!" Draco announced and strode to the start of the course. "My turn!"
"It is not –" Hermione pressed her eyes shut and massaged her temples as Draco lined up and executed his first stroke with skill.
Draco Apparated the short distance between them and reappeared close enough that Hermione stumbled back a step.
"Your turn," he whispered, beaming. Then he tugged the mallet from her grasp and offered his own, announcing loudly, "Use this one. The balance is superior!"
"Of course," Hermione said, accepting the mallet with an exasperated sigh, though it looked the same as the one she had previously selected. She lined up her shot and missed, the ball bouncing off one of the wickets and clattering to the side.
"A pitiful effort," Draco exclaimed, clicking his tongue. He reclaimed his mallet from Hermione's grasp and prepared for his next stroke. Hermione rolled her eyes as she folded her arms across her chest, feeling a trickle of sweat break on her brow in the heat of the sun.
"Do you know who we're missing?" Draco declared, stepping back from the meticulous preparation of his shot. Without waiting for her response, he carried on. "My mother."
"You said your mother wasn't here," Hermione said, waiting for him to take his shot so they could continue with this bizarre game. She couldn't comprehend the mood Draco was in and wasn't altogether keen on socializing with Narcissa as well.
"She's inside," Draco said with a chuckle. "Oh, Mother! Why don't you come join us for some tea!"
Draco finally took the shot, his aim true once again, and twirled the mallet in his hands.
"Oh, how silly of me," Draco mockingly slapped himself on the head. "I forgot, she can't speak. Or walk."
"What?" Hermione asked sharply, turning to him. "She can't – Draco, is she alright?"
"She's fine," Draco said, waving a hand. "She's only tied up. Mother, tea!"
"Tied up!" Hermione exclaimed, "what in the name of Merlin –"
Draco lazily drew his wand and waved it with an exaggerated flourish. A soft scream tore from Hermione's throat as Narcissa appeared, her shoulders tense and tied with a length of rope, as her bound hands gripped the arms of a chair Hermione recognized from the parlour. Narcissa's eyes were wide with fright as they met Hermione's; the muscles in her neck strained as she attempted to speak.
Brow furrowed, Hermione gaped at Narcissa's prone form, searching the woman's eyes.
"Draco, she isn't alright! Why is she bound?" Hermione cried, drawing her wand.
"It's your turn," Draco said sternly, his eyes boring into Hermione as she turned to face him. He held out the mallet, resting the face of it on her wand hand. "Mother, drink your tea." With another flourish of his wand, a small end table appeared, and upon it, a steaming cup of tea.
Narcissa's hands remained clenched around the arms of her seat; she made no move for the tea.
"Draco, untie her!" Hermione pressed, trying and failing to release the spell on the woman.
"Take your turn, Hermione dearest," Draco said, smiling serenely. "Mother is quite fine, I assure you."
"No," Hermione said, shaking her head. "I don't know what's going on with you – with this – but I'm going to free her. Then I'm leaving."
Draco cackled loudly to himself. "We have a wager, love. You can't leave the grounds until our match is over. If you win. But remember, if you lose, you'll stay here with me forever." He flashed her that winning smile once more, though it only served to unsettle Hermione further.
"Release me," Hermione ground through her teeth. "I don't know if you're drunk or… or if you've taken some sort of potion. But I'm not staying around to participate in this strange little game of yours."
"But you can't leave," Draco pouted, "we're having so much fun, aren't we, Mother?"
Narcissa's eyes were wide, her face pale.
"Mother, drink your tea," Draco said again. "Before it gets cold, now, really. Don't waste."
"She can't drink her tea!" Hermione shouted, storming closer to Draco. He raised his brows, his expression that of amusement as he took in the scowl she levelled at him. "You've bound her to a chair and rendered her mute, Draco! Your own mother! Now release her and let me go home!"
But up close his grey eyes were glazed – so heavily that Hermione could scarcely recognize the man she had grown to care for. Something was very wrong with him. His lips curved into a delectable smirk; his eyelids lowered as he held her gaze.
He swooped in, so closely Hermione could feel his breath on her mouth, and the sensation only sent a shiver down the length of her spine. Those unfamiliar grey eyes focused on hers again.
"Hermione," he breathed, hesitating for a long moment. "Take your turn." Then he stepped away, a manic grin spreading across his features once more. "Or you'll forfeit the match!"
Shaking her head in disbelief and feeling a thrill of fear, Hermione met the startled blue eyes of Narcissa Malfoy once more.
"I'll get us both out of this situation," Hermione whispered to the woman. She shot Draco a glance, an intense terror gripping her heart. "And then we will find a way to help Draco."
"Draco's fine, love!" Draco called out with a mocking tone. "Your turn now!"
Her heart racing, Hermione took her next stroke in his Merlin-cursed croquet match. She wasn't a great shot, and so it was with no small measure of relief that her ball went through.
"A lovely game of croquet, they said," she whispered desperately to herself under her breath. "Nothing but wine and sun, they said."
While Draco was fiddling with the mallet, lining up his next shot, Hermione sidled up to Narcissa's armchair; a thin sheen of sweat had broken out on the woman's temples.
"You need water," Hermione breathed, keeping a close eye on Draco. "Can you blink?" Narcissa blinked once. "Did Draco do this to you?" Narcissa blinked again.
Her breath catching as her heart began to race, Hermione glanced back across the lawn to where Draco stood, humming idly to himself. He dropped flat to the ground, eyeing the trajectory of the ball.
"What's wrong with him?" Hermione whispered, then shook her head and quickly corrected herself. "Is something wrong with him?" A blink. "Is it a curse, or –"
Hermione jumped away, startled, at the loud clack which signified Draco's shot.
"Your turn again!" Draco announced, handing Hermione the mallet with a flourish.
Trembling with nerves, she took the mallet from his hands and crept forward for her next shot. Unnervingly, Draco was at an advantage, and only a few shots from victory.
Hermione needed to do something, and now. For all she knew, the twisted old magic of the Malfoy grounds had somehow sealed the wager she hadn't agreed to.
"Draco," she said, turning on the spot to face him, finding her wand in her pocket.
"Yes, love?" He Apparated the few feet between them once more and Hermione twitched.
In one swift movement, Hermione levelled her wand at Draco and exclaimed, "Finite Incantatem!"
Draco blinked. For an instant – one so fleeting, Hermione couldn't be certain whether it had even happened – his grey eyes flashed with terror, from somewhere deep within. But then it was gone, and his features settled into a lazy grin, his eyes glazed over once more.
"What in the name of Merlin's bollocks are you trying to do, Hermione?" he drawled. He snatched the mallet from her grip. "You've taken too long; it's my turn again."
"You can't do that!" Hermione declared, reaching to reclaim the mallet but he was too quick, as he strode toward his ball. Lacking the considerable forethought of his previous strokes, Draco took his shot before Hermione could catch him. "That doesn't count!"
"Of course it counts, Hermione dearest, because I've made the rules in our little match." He flashed his teeth again. The glimpse of her Draco was long gone. It both unnerved and terrified Hermione.
"What happened to you?" Hermione pleaded, holding his gaze. "Was it a curse? Or a potion? Please, Draco. I want to help you." Her voice dropped, her shoulders sagging. "Please come back to me."
"We are having a very serious croquet match, Hermione," Draco said, clicking his tongue. "If you aren't going to compete, then we will simply declare the match finished as is."
"I'm competing," Hermione breathed quickly, even as her heart raced faster. She stepped up to her next shot, taking the mallet carefully from his grip. She found her hands shaking as she lined up the shot, and her ball went wide of the next wicket.
"You aren't very good at croquet, are you?" Draco drawled, inspecting his cuticles.
"No," Hermione gasped, as he swiped the mallet back once more. She ground her teeth and forced herself to simply breathe and participate in the match. If she could escape, and somehow release Narcissa from the curse – if she could figure out a way to save Draco – She trembled as she took her next shot.
"Oh Hermione, the game is nearly finished and you're so behind," Draco mused with a tight-lipped smile. "Don't be frightened. We'll have so much fun here together when you lose!"
Hermione flinched as she realized he was facing his last wicket, and his ball was positioned at a good angle.
"Draco! Please let me go. I want to help you! I'll find the counter-curse, or brew an antidote or – I don't know, Draco."
Draco prepared for his shot, humming idly to himself once more. Hermione strode forward, grasping him hard around the wrist, forcing him to meet her gaze.
"Draco," she grit, pleadingly. "Fight it."
Draco blinked, several times, and the fog in his eyes dissipated slightly as the mallet slipped from his grasp. He ground his teeth and clenched his hands into fists, his breathing heavy with the effort.
"Hermione," he bit out, feeling anxiously for her fingers, his brows knitting together. "Please... help me – I can't –"
He winced, sweat breaking out on his forehead. His eyes darted around frantically, widening in fear as he spotted his mother. Hermione watched with despair as the glaze drifted back into his eyes and Draco threw his head back with a booming laugh.
"Nice try, Hermione!" he declared, and Hermione's eyes widened in horror as he picked up the mallet and delivered his final shot with skill, the ball rolling clean through the final wicket.
Hermione was gripped with panic as Draco turned to her with that wild grin once more. She felt the embrace of magic swirl in the air, taking her within its feral grasp.
"Now you'll stay here with me – forever."