Vital Choices

Being Pure-blood isn't as easy as it looks. Draco Malfoy has to marry his soul mate and none other. Out of four possible brides, one would kill him; one would steal his money; one would wrongly report him to the Ministry; and one would love him forever. Yet what they must go through to test the love may bring up losses and wrong choices, but only choices can be made if they survive.

Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters, setting, etc. Applies to full story.

Please review. XD And to keep this story as in canon as a story like this can possibly be, I would advise you to read every paragraph for this first chapter instead of skimming… like I do a lot of times. Heh, heh.

Oh, and, by the way. I'm aware that Durmstrag is an all-boy's school and Ariise comes from there. It'll be explained later.

To Draco Malfoy

Malfoy Manor

From Lucius Malfoy

Prisoner #4862

Occupant of Cell #28

Relation to Receiver: Father

Business: Marriage

Reason of Being in Azkaban: Supporting the Dark Lord Throughout the War

Checked by the Ministry of Magic for Precautious Reasoning,

As Made by Law According to the Criminal Communication and Distribution Precaution Act

Dear Draco,

It has come to my attention that, as you are steadily growing older, you are preparing for matrimony. As much as I grieve in not being able to be there with you to help you, I will do my best through these letters. Azkaban's bars will not hold the heart of me. You have made me proud, son, throughout your years, and I will try to guide you through the Choosing.

Do you remember, Draco, when you asked me when I met your mother when you were four years of age? I told you then, "I met her through a pure-blooded process, a process that is terrible but complete and beautiful. You will learn about it when you become of age." You did not understand then, and you never asked the question once more, but it has come to the time when your choices must be made. A wrong decision may cost you your life.

There are several things that distinguish the pure-blooded wizards and the half-bloods and Mudbloods. One of these items is tradition. You should be proud of these momentous occasions, as am I. Some of these, you will not be particularly fond of, but remember that your ancestors one thousand years ago went through the same ordeals as you.

Fate is working its magic once more. It has found its four maidens of choice, one of which you must choose to wed. One of them would kill you, should you wed her. Another will be compelled by greed and steal your fortune. A third will betray you when you need her most, and the last will be your intended soul mate. Chose wisely, Draco, for I would hate to see you mourn over grief if your bride goes against you.

To aid you in your choice, you will find a silver structure guarded by a glass case in the middle of the sitting room on the first floor, in the main wing. Every week you are use the silver figure as a Portkey to transport yourself and the maidens to an area where you will be given an activity or goal to accomplish. To return, you must find the Portkey and touch it. It can be anywhere. I have been lost in the wilderness for a week and a half before returning to the Malfoy Manor, in desperate need of a shower. On other occasions, you may be led to a ballroom to dance until they deem it worthy you shall return, and the Portkey will appear anywhere, even in the bowl of Firewhiskey. You will not need to worry about your attire; you will automatically be wearing suitable clothing for your adventure. The only thing you need to bring with you is your wand, and locate your wand before you activate the Portkey. One of the maidens had to buy a new one because she had lost it in the wilderness that one time. Your adventures will always be a surprise to you.

There is no easy way out. No one—not even the maidens, for they have no idea what is in store for their future, for none of them can be Seers—can tell you who is to be your future bride. That choice is yours to make. For as long as your Choosing lasts, fate has lost control of you. No Seer can tell you which is your bride of choice. Once the choice is made and the marriage set, however, fate will play once more into your life, into its role. The game shall end once you propose to a maiden.

Do you recall the name of Valice? They were a powerful pureblooded family, but they had but one offspring who had irrationally made the wrong decision and was killed. Their line ended there. Another family, whose name is so low now I myself cannot even remember, had its fortune stolen and lost all reputation. Regulus Black, a fellow Death Eater, had been betrayed on the night of his engagement.

Do not tarnish the Malfoy name, Draco. Do not let it die. Your ancestors have fought so hard to keep it alive, to keep it wealthy. I would hate for you to be the last generation.

I have taught you before there is no such thing as love. For this one time, I must make an exception. It is a rare thing, a blessed feeling, that is to be spared as little as possible. If you are to feel the same passion about a woman as I had felt for your mother, you will have chosen the right one. And when you have a child, you will experience it once more.

I confess that I have been weakened by such feelings. I assure you that you will as well, for if you protest against it as Regulus had, you will choose the wrong maiden and be shamed forever. You will recognize the feeling once you experience it. Open up; it will help.

Should you need any more advice, or should any of this ritual be blurred in your mind, do not hesitate to respond to me.


Your Father

A man, no older than twenty-one years of age, stood in his room, reading the letter carefully. When he had finished, he set it down, regarding the subject wearily. He was not exactly sure that he was ready for matrimony, seeing as the war had just ended and suffered a dispute in the Ministry. They had argued where to put him. Some had said that he was on the dark side, and he deserved to be put into Azkaban with his father. Others had said he was a mere child and was confused, as any other child would be in his place.

At long last, they had decided he need not go to Azkaban, for he had never committed murder. He had aided in the greatest murder, it was true, but he had never murdered and forced to continue in fear. He attended numerous courts and was so exhausted from them, he wished that they would make a decision immediately, going to Azkaban or not.

"Draco?" a voice called meekly from the door. He turned to greet his mother. During the war, she had been terribly frail, and though she had recovered greatly since it ended considering the situation, she still wore a great stain in her heart that would never be washed away until Lucius returned to the house. "Would you like to meet them? The Maidens?"

He sighed, running a hand through his hair, which he no longer used gel for after the war, due to the fact that it was difficult to find a shower or place to bathe and the mud that dried was harder to wash off when he did locate a pond or lake to wash in. "Allow me a few moments to change, Mother," he said. "I will be back in approximately five minutes."

She nodded as he closed the door, rummaging through his dress robes. He at last settled on one, a black one, like many other of his other robes. He changed into it and combed through his hair one last time before following his mother to the sitting room.

There, on the emerald green sofa sitting against the wall, the four maidens were seated, waiting quietly. "You are limited to only the information your are given," she said softly. Narcissa then began to introduce the first one, a beautiful female with long blond hair and alluring deep green eyes. "This is Liah. She is a year younger than you, born on the sixteenth of May. She graduated from Beauxbatons in the top ten percent of her year."

Liah smiled charmingly as she said, "How do you do?"

He offered a small smile in return and said, "It's enough to say that I am delighted to meet your acquaintance."

"The second," Narcissa said, moving on to a dark-haired witch with pale skin with clear blue eyes, "is a year younger than you as well, born on February 8th. Her name is Ariise. She graduated Durmstrag as the third best in her year."

Ariise did not beam as Liah did, but offered a curt nod. Draco did the same in reply.

"The third, I feel as if I have nothing new to introduce to you. Name of Hermione, graduated as top student in her year in all of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrag, but graduated from Hogwarts all the same. You know all of it already and more, do you not?" Narcissa said.

Draco nodded, watching Hermione peculiarly. She, in return, gave him a terrible cold gaze as she said, "Do not say a word."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he said in response, a smirk growing.

The fourth, a lively red-haired girl, turned out to be a Hogwarts drop-out, Delilah. She was two years younger than him, born on the twenty-first of January. He, however, had been distracted and ignored the giggling girl, wondering why, exactly, Granger was here. What was her role?

When they were finished, Narcissa introduced Draco before leaving them to himself. He led them to their wing, which supplied their bedrooms, bath, dining room, lounge, and library. It came to no surprise for Draco when he understood that Hermione had quickly chosen the one closest to the library. Indeed, he even chuckled and left the girls to themselves.

"Did you see him laugh?" cried Delilah. Hermione noticed a slight hint of an American accent. "Oh, he is in love with me already. Did you see him? He was looking right my way!"

"Do not flatter yourself," Liah scoffed, watching Delilah in a disapproving gaze. "Have you noticed that he is highly educated? What would he want with a drop-out such as yourself?"

Delilah cast a scornful look at Liah. "Just because I am not as clever as he does not mean that I am incapable of his love."

"His love! Do you think it was directed at you?" Liah said, greatly offended. "I would rather die than admit to that!"

"Argue all you want, bicker to your heart's desire," Hermione cut in, "but some of us are tired. Can you please hold it off 'til morning?"

Her request was reasonable, and they found nothing sensible to protest against it. Biting their lip, they reluctantly nodded and stepped aside, casting each other one last cold glance before striding into their rooms with an arrogant air to it. Hermione sighed, slightly exasperated. She looked up to Ariise, who stood there, examining the sculpture in the hallway.

"Do you remember how you came? Do you remember what happened for you to arrive here?" Hermione asked hesitantly.

Ariise considered the thought before replying, "No, I don't. Fate works its magic in special ways." With that, the subject was closed and Ariise departed into her own room, disappearing as the door closed behind her.

Looking around, she found there was nothing to do, and she was, in all truth, rather tired herself. She bid herself a good night as she quickly showered and changed. As she brushed her teeth, she watched her reflection in the mirror. Here she was, one of her arch enemy's four possible brides, looking at herself, via through his mirror. It seemed impossible, unreal. She wished it had never happened. She didn't even understand it--no one had bothered to ever tell her anything.

And oh, how she hated being kept in the dark, being kept ignorant! She was not the brightest witch in her age for nothing!

She climbed into her bed, though she was no longer tired. She had asked herself too many questions and she was anxious to find their answer. She felt once more like the eleven-year-old school girl she once was, raising her hand as high as she could every time that a professor had asked a question, with an eager, unsettling desire to answer.

She didn't dare venture into the library; she would be caught looking this way and that, and she would delay her sleep even further. Rather, she wandered out back to the sitting room that they were in previously and looked out the large window that covered much of the left side of the wall. Hills were rolling and the trees loomed black and large in the distance. The crescent moon was bright, shining with such fervor it seemed impossible that it was also the same cold, cruel, distant orb that hung in the air with a terribly cold air that forced Lupin to transform on those majestic nights.

The stars twinkled with such a burst of energy outside, as if seeing who could outshine the other. She smiled slightly, the still scenery reflecting in her eyes.

And then he came.

He watched her, so developed, so enthralled by the beautiful picture painted by nature that a smile lit up her features. She held no resemblance to the girl that he knew so often, the girl he hated, that always beat him at every academic subject no matter how hard he tried. The girl that would through cruel comments at him, that would cast cold glares over her shoulder, the girl that so mercilessly slapped him that one time in their third year. And watching her now, so peaceful and calm, made him furious.

"Granger," he said, his voice deep and quiet.

Startled, she jumped and looked over. "What--" she started, but she stopped and narrowed her eyes. "Malfoy," she said, tilting her head ever so slightly to recognize his presence. "What do you want? Come to ridicule me, perhaps?"

Draco held in his own retort, his eyes glimmering slightly. It was clear that the bushy-haired girl before him had never heard of such Pureblooded engagements, and it delighted him to know that he was aware of something she wasn't. "What is there to ridicule?" he said, smirking. "Clearly, you have never heard of the ritual."

Hermione stiffened visibly at the attack on her knowledge and crossed her arms, her lips pursed. "One can always learn," she shot back.

"Then it may be time that you learn," Draco said, his eyes sharp, "that the Maidens chosen by fate are not to be considered in ignorance. They have been carefully selected by fate, based on their personality and behavior."

"I don't believe in fate," Hermione said shortly, standing up from her position at the couch. Her hands were placed on her hips as though she dared Malfoy to argue with her.

He dared.

"You don't have to believe in something in order for it to exist," he said in the same clipped tone that Hermione had used, and she had no response for that, for his statement was all too true. She hadn't believed in magic for years before her Hogwarts letter, but it had been there all along. She fell silent and retreated from the conversation--or, more accurately, argument.

Just as Draco was starting to leave, Hermione stopped him and said, "What are the specifics?"

He was so startled at her, know-it-all, bookworm, proud Gryffindor, asking him a question, that he stopped suddenly and said, "What?"

Hermione then grew annoyed, crossing her arms and repeating, "What are the specifics? Your dear mother only gave us a brief overview before you arrived."

He nodded and shrugged slightly, showing his lack of concern. "Of four maidens," he explained quickly, "one will kill me should I marry her; another will betray me. The third will run away with my fortune and the fourth shall be my soul mate."

At this, Hermione let out a ridiculous laugh and repeated unbelievingly, "Soul mate?" Draco nodded, not seeing what was quite so funny. He had grown up with the term as a fact of life. "Don't tell me you actually believe that rubbish." The scowl on his face told her enough. He opened his mouth in defense but she quickly interrupted him, saying, "Well, if that's what you think, I guess it's acceptable that I leave."

"You can't," he said quickly. "Maidens can only be dismissed through either death or when a Maiden has been chosen."

His response left Hermione agape. "Through death?" she repeated, horrified. When met with Draco's solemn face, she collapsed back onto the couch, holding her head with her fingers. She then shook her head, unwilling to believe such an absurd idea. "You're crazy. You're bloody crazy!"

Draco paid no attention to her rants as she grew more and more hysterical, the idea of being trapped in a household belonging to one she hated so. Seven years of seething hate and great dislike has its mark, and the mark was a strong one that was not easily washed away. Naturally, she was horrified, aghast, and all things that are synonyms with "terrified" and "repulsed."

Draco was faring much better than she, having anticipated people that he strongly despised. Granted, Granger was nothing like that, but he had prepared himself somewhat better than she had. He could understand her pain, though he'd never voice the thought out loud. To suddenly find oneself in an unfamiliar place, all plans ruined--like a piece of your memory had been washed and wiped out. It could be terrifying, it could be aggravating.

It could be everything at once.

She didn't break down and cry. He didn't expect her to. Instead, her eyes suddenly grew hard. "Well, now I know, Malfoy," she said bitterly. "Not only are you an egoistical jerk, but you're also a damned Pureblood." She then departed, leaving not another word between them, heading back to her own room.

Sleep came, and she was grateful for it, able to relax her mind and hopefully escape the terrifying thoughts about her, even if it were just for a few hours.

They awoke the next day, some earlier than others. Hermione was one of the first up in her wing, and Ariise rose not many minutes after her. They dined in utter silence, apprehensive about the day. Last to wake was Delilah, who was not a particularly pleasant morning person.

"What are you looking at?" she shot at Hermione as she exited her room, dressed and rubbing her eyes.

Hermione looked up, startled. "My pancakes?" she replied, rather confused. Shrugging, she returned to her food and ate, ignoring her surroundings the best she could as Liah and Delilah continued their previous night's bicker. It was obvious it wasn't to be a very pleasant stay.

And when they had, at last, all eaten their fill, they walked over to the sitting room together. Delilah's and Liah's arguments never faltered once on the way there. Draco looked up at them and said, "I trust you slept well?"

"I did. Your manor is simply excellent, Draco," Liah said, smiling brilliantly. Delilah readily agreed.

"I'm glad," he replied, though his eyes held no emotion and remained blank. "You'll need it today. We're going to our first adventure."

"Adventure?" Hermione repeated, somewhat startled.

"Adventure," he repeated, confirming Hermione's words, smirking at her. He tapped the glass cage he was standing nearby and and it disintegrated, revealing a silver figure. "If everyone would kindly hold a part of this figure," he started, "we can continue."

Though hesitant, they obliged, and the Portkey activiated. It was wiry yet smooth, with a cool metal feel to it, Hermione realized, as she clasped her hand around it. Then the world was swirling around them, and at last, it calmed and was still.

They were at a shore when Hermione looked around, the sand cool beneath her feet, the sun hidden behind the clouds. The waves gently rolled, slapping onto the rocks and spraying a fine mist into the air. A calm, cool breeze brushed through. They were the only ones present.

"What do we do from here?"

Draco did not reply immediately, but set his gaze out at the horizon. "As there is nothing here on shore," he began, turning to look straight at Hermione, a small smirk playing at his lips, "I'd assume we have to go underwater."

Hermione turned back to the waves and the water, and suddenly, what once looked calm and peaceful now appeared to be cold and forbidden.

Terrible cliffhanger, if you ask me. Ah well. What's done is done. I haven't finished all the story yet, either; I never find enough time.

Please review. :D