My Ferret 10

"Of course," Lucius remarked dryly as a very innocent expression appeared on his face. "This will all be moot if Miss Granger can't attain one of the much sought after passes to Almages…"

Draco sighed. That was true. He had forgotten all about the passes the girls needed if they wanted to attend the season. The great matrons kept strict control over them and he didn't see how Hermione was ever going to get one. The matrons were all Pureblood, of course. And rich. It would be a replay of Second Year when he had first started calling her Mudblood. His mother, presuming she would agree to help that is, would escort Hermione into the matrons' stuffy parlor where they would look her over. It wouldn't matter to them if she had spent hours fixing herself up or if she was far more pretty than Pansy. They would only look at her parentage, her blood. And when they discovered that she was a Muggle-born, they'd be horrified. A frown crossed his face at the thought of his distant relatives being disgusted at her very presence. They would probably make some horrid remark and he could imagine her fleeing the room, crying.

/Have I ever made her cry/

In the past it hadn't mattered, as he hadn't cared. But now Hermione was his and he wasn't going to tolerate anyone interfering. The thought itself was shocking and he questioned where it had come from. Yes, she had saved his life and he owed her for that, but was he really thinking of interfering with the matrons? That was sheer suicide. They were worst than his father or so he had heard. And although he acted tough at school, in truth he had no real power, no clout. By Merlin, he was a sixteen-year-old kid scared of his own shadow!

/I must be insane! Why else would I be thinking of sticking my neck out for her Hermione/

Did she really mean that much to him?

/Maybe I really do love her…/

He had told Hermione he loved her, but did he really know what love was? He thought her beautiful, that much was true. Her skin was smooth to the touch, soft and warm. And he could easily get lost gazing into those deep, soulful eyes. They were always alive with so many emotions unlike those of his fellow Slytherins. In the past when he had looked into Pansy's eyes he had met a wall and could see nothing of her true self. And what did that say but that she didn't truly trust him. Possibly it wasn't Pansy's fault. Her parents were Slytherins as well and Slytherins were not known for having warm, open relationships. And so staring into Hermione's big brown eyes had been very refreshing. He could actually see her love for him in them sparkling like a thousand diamonds. Besides beauty, she had brains and her courage. He certainly admired those qualities as well. And the kissing, that had been great.

But what was love?

People often confused love and sex, thinking they were the same thing. Yet they weren't. Draco knew many people had sex with people who they didn't even know really; which was very stupid and dangerous. Yet they did it all the same heedless of disease and other threats. So was it possible that he really loved her? Because he certainly cared about her now, that much was clear. He hadn't been able to stand the thought of his father possibly harming her a short time ago and had even asked the older wizard not to, a risky act on his part.

/So maybe love is caring about someone…/

If that's what it was, then he was in love with Hermione.

/And that wasn't the first time I stuck up for her…/

No, it wasn't. Hadn't he warned Harry and Ron to protect her that night at the Quidditch World Cup? Although he had tried to make it sound, well, dangerous he had meant good. The Death Eaters were up to their old games and the last thing he wanted was to see Hermione floating upside-down in the air and held there by a spell. At the time he had told himself that it was all bragging. It really hadn't been much of a secret that his father was a Death Eater and at the time it seemed the perfect opportunity to rub it in Potter's face. But was that the real reason he had spoken up?

/Have I been in love with Hermione for years?./

The thought was staggering and Draco felt his stomach give a slight lurch. The nightmares were still galloping through the streets and scenery flew past the carriage windows, the colors blurring into various lines and indistinct shapes. Sounds came and went like ghosts or the signals from a fading Muggle radio station there one moment and gone the next.

/Is that why I'm always bugging Potter?./

Lifting a pale and perfectly manicured hand, the blonde Slytherin rubbed at his forehead lightly, and the frown on his face increasing a few degrees. He had thought he knew himself all these years. First Year he had attempted to befriend the famous Harry Potter and the boy had snubbed him. Surely that was why he had been constantly bugging and insulting Scarhead? Besides, it was fun and gave him something else to do besides homework. Potter received all the attention and that annoyed him as well. The dark haired boy with glasses got away with far too much stuff that others would instantly be expelled for. It was no secret that Draco was jealous of the attention Harry received, although he wouldn't want Voldemort on his back. No way! Still, what if there was another reason he kept hanging around Potter and starting spats?

/Was it just another excuse to see Hermione?./

As a Slytherin, he couldn't just walk up to her and start a conversation. Gryffindors were supposed to be the enemy and so it wouldn't be right to be seen talking to her. That alone would create all sorts of problems, the main one being she wouldn't give him the time of day. Well, that's what he used to think anyway. Besides, Potter and Weasley were her constant shadows just like Crabbe and Goyle were his. Neither was alone enough in a day to try it. And when he did attempt to start a conversation with the Golden Trio one day during Care of Magical Creatures class the dolts had taken his witty remark the wrong way! They had gotten offended and had stalked off, Hermione rolling her eyes at him. So to save face, he had pretended to be a Dementor, pulling a hood over his head and waving his fingers at them. That had earned him a laugh or two, so he had been satisfied for the moment. The truth was, if he wanted to see Hermione he had to deal with Potter. And it was far easier to pretend he was fighting with Potter than to admit the truth to anyone, including himself.

Blinking his silvery eyes, Draco glanced up at his father. "Have I really been in love with her all those years?"

"Draco," Lucius sighed loudly as he gazed at his son. "You've been talking nonstop about the Mudblood since you arrived home after First Year. I'm not that blind or stupid, Draco. I know what it means when a boy is always chatting about a certain girl. Just be glad I have arranged this for you. One knows you'd never have been able to do it by yourself."

"You … you knew?" Draco's jaw dropped and his mouth hung open. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Surely this couldn't be real? His father hated Muggle-borns!

"Of course I knew." Lucius repeated as he leaned back against the padded carriage seat, his black-gloved hands folded neatly atop his walking stick. "Obviously, I would have preferred a Pureblood girl. I'll make no secret of that. But Miss Granger is an acceptable choice, grade wise. The fact that she's Harry Potter's friend is an added plus. I understand young Mr. Potter has the Minister's ear. Your betrothal to her should dispel that rumor floating about the Ministry that we're Dark Wizards as well, as I have stated before. I've been forced to sell many useful items in the past because of them snooping about. It's very annoying."

It all seemed too good to be true and Draco doubted his father's words. He wanted to believe them, to think that his father really meant what he said. Lucius had never lied to him in the past but this wasn't a normal situation. Potter was involved, although indirectly. The prediction Hermione had made still could come true. The Death Eaters could hold her prisoner to get Harry. And Harry would come, the fool and heroic Gryffindor he was.

/And it would be my fault…/

If anything happened to her, he'd never forgive himself. The idea alone was enough to make him sick and he could feel his stomach twist unpleasantly. Heart beating in his chest, he slowly studied his father's face for the truth. But Lucius' face was the perfect mask and showed no emotion. Too many times his father had been forced to act pleasant around people he strongly disliked because of politics and thus he had become an expert at hiding himself away behind the façade. It was also self-protection. People were less likely to pick on someone who was cool and aloof. It was the crybabies, like Neville, that made the best targets. But at times like these Draco wished his parents weren't so Slytherin. Swallowing a lump in his throat, Draco met his father's steady gaze and sought out any emotion to be found in his eyes. Lucius' eyes were so much like his own, the same shade of gray that women seemed to love. Yet if there was anything there, whether deceit or happiness, he didn't see it. Nervously, his mind filled with self-doubt, Draco wet his lips. "Father, are you really going to let me marry Granger? Or is this just a rouse to catch Potter? Because if it is a rouse, it's not fair to her."

"Why Draco," Lucius remarked as a slight smile graced his lips and fatherly pride shone in his steel gray eyes. "You really are growing up. Your mother will be quite pleased."

Draco's dark brows knitted together, his forehead becoming wrinkled. Mouth partly open, he gawked at Lucius in confusion. Somehow he had evidently pleased his father but how? He had just asked a simple question…

"You showed concern for your betrothed." Lucius explained, the faint smile still lingering on his face. "It's the first step to manhood. As a man, it is your duty to protect Miss Granger. That includes physical and non-physical dangers. And questioning my motives is an excellent start. But do not worry, Son. I have no intention of taking advantage of her relationship with Mr. Potter, no matter how tempting it may be. And in case you didn't notice, who ever was dumb enough to go up against him lost. I have no desire to be turned into a pile of ash by your bespectacled classmate. If the Dark Lord chooses that, well, it's his own business. And no, you may not repeat that."

/Father thinks Harry is going to win?./

The news was outrageous. Truth be told, Draco really hadn't considered who might win the war very seriously yet. He just presumed the Dark Lord would squash Potter because he was older and more experienced. Yet what his father had just said made perfect sense. Harry had beaten every opponent to date, including a nasty dragon. The dragon had done its best to kill the boy and had failed miserably. No one had really expected him to live through it, either…

Yet he had.

And so Lucius was looking ahead. If Harry Potter defeated Voldemort, it would be very useful to have solid connections with the wining side and what could be better than a marriage into the Golden Trio? It very well may excuse him of all Death Eater activities and keep him out of Azkaban as well. It certainly wouldn't do for the Ministry to have Hermione Granger's father-in-law in prison. No, it would be an awful scandal! And like his father had just stated, Harry had the ear of the Minister if he wanted it or not. Draco had seen that for himself at the Quidditch World Cup when Fudge was so eager to greet Scarhead. At the time it had made his blood boil but now…

/This is starting to make more sense…/

Yes, his father was just being the usual scheming, far-seeing Slytherin who thought ten steps ahead of everyone else.

/Maybe he really does want me to marry Hermione…/

The carriage paused as the black wrought iron gates outside of Malfoy Manor opened. When they were open all the way the trip continued, the gates closing behind them silently. It all was controlled by magic, of course. The grounds of Malfoy Manor were very secure and it was virtuously impossible for intruders to break onto the grounds. Still, one needed to be cautious. The carriage was pulled up the winding path that led between tall rows of stately pines and yews. Although it was just spring, the day was unusually warm and he could already smell the fresh yet sweet scent of the green pine needles. Finally they reached the circular drive before the Manor and the nightmares came to a stop. Within moments a house elf appeared and opened the carriage door, bowing low. Allowing his father to climb out first, Draco followed him a moment later. After being trapped in the confined area, it was nice to stretch his legs and Draco did so, the muscles loosening up. Although he was loath to admit it, the seats of the carriage were hard and sitting inside the wheeled vehicle for any length of time could be difficult. He had heard rumors from some classmates that Muggles now padded their Motorcars seats and even had leather interiors; yet he was unsure what to think of that. Still, on long trips he would be grateful for a little padding.

Straightening to his full height and throwing his shoulders back, Draco gazed up at his home. What would Hermione think of Malfoy Manor? The outside of her home had been covered in some unknown long white strips of Muggle invention. Its real purpose was unknown to him. Was it some sort of protection or was it just for looks? The bottom line is that her house had been very small and had no real glamour, no sense of history. The architecture was as simple as can be, little more than a square box. How anyone could stand living there was beyond him. The Manor, on the other hand, had style and history.

To many people, a Manor simply meant a big house but Draco knew it was much more than that. His silvery gray eyes fell on his home now and a feeling of pride swelled within him. He would be proud to show Hermione his house someday. The first thing his eyes fell on was the huge porch and stairs that led up to the front door. The steps were made of a smooth dark gray stone that sparkled in the fading light, wide enough for a dozen adults to climb them side-by-side without crowding. They were lined on both sides by fine stone railings, these the same light brown as the house itself. The roofed porch, or portico as it was more commonly called, was dark arched openings supported by tall columns. Behind this rose the house itself made of large squared off blocks. Malfoy Manner was built in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style with the house being equal on both sides. Towering chimneys rose up from the bright red clay tiled roof. Elaborate molded frames surrounded the windows and rusticated masonry surrounded the front door, the deep grooves in the stone framing the door as one would a painting. Wrought iron decoration jutted up from the top of the house, giving it a slightly sinister look that suited the Malfoys quite well. The many windows reflected the sky, proclaiming the home was well cared for by a crew of loyal and hard working house elves. Dressed stones, called quoins, were located on the corners of the house. Pale cream, they were laid so their faces were alternately large and then small. And the upper windows even had their own tiny triangular roofs called pediments to keep the sun at bay or to protect from rain. It was all these little details that added up to create a stunning masterpiece that people actually lived inside of and Draco loved them all. Of course, the inside was so much more spectacular.

With a glance to ascertain that the nightmares were being led around back to the stables by house elves, Draco followed his father up the stairs onto the portico. He would like to lie and say he was perfectly at ease, but he wasn't. Very soon he'd be facing his mother and telling her that he was now engaged to a Muggle-born. Taking a deep breath, he attempted to release his stress with the exhalation but it didn't work. Instead, he could feel Cornish Pixies starting a wild dance within his stomach and his palms grew wet again. His father opened the door and they entered the front hall. The front hall was as big as Hermione's bedroom and was simply used to hang one's cloaks. The floor was polished until it shone and made of the finest hardwood available. Curved black metal hooks lined both walls at shoulder height, serving both the Malfoys and any guests that might arrive. His mother's black cloak hung from one of the hooks and Draco stared at it for a moment. He could imagine her sitting in the lady's parlor and pretending to do her needlework. Not that Narcissa ever touched the needle, of course. It was all done by spells, of course. But one needed to keep up appearances and fine needlework was something to be admired. It also helped diminish the Dark Wizard thing as well for what Dark Wizard would do needlework? And even though it was just a front hall, the room had ornate woodwork, beautifully carved by hand. The wood gleamed, dark and rich with not a single fingerprint to dull the fine surface.

The blonde Slytherin shook his head. So much of the things his family did were fake and there just to deceive others. Everyone suspected them for Dark Wizards because that's exactly what they were. How else could they own nightmares? Snapping out of his momentary reverie, he saw his father smoothly remove his cloak and neatly hang it on a hook. Lucius also removed his black leather gloves; now that he was home he needn't wear them anymore. He himself wasn't wearing a cloak. He still hadn't changed out of his school robes and he hoped he didn't smell ripe. He had worn them for a full day, a night and now he was going onto the second day. Frowning with disgust, he thought of the hot bath that awaited him upstairs in his private bathroom. He felt positively grimy and he didn't see how Granger could have kissed him at all. His breath must have reeked from not brushing his teeth last night after stealing her supper, a positively unheard of thing for him. Malfoys were always neat and clean, no matter how many Muggles they might have tortured. Still, the poets said love was blind and he suppose it was nose-dead as well.

"Come, Draco." Lucius said as he strode forward into the next room. "Your mother will be worried about you."

"Yes, Father." Draco dutifully followed his father into their large living room. A red and gold Persian rug lay in the center of the room, a glistening golden chandelier hanging above. The chandelier had a basic round design and had twenty curving spokes reaching outward, each spoke holding a lit candle. The candles were tall and white, the best money could afford. More candelabra were placed around the room, some on end tables and others on the mantelpiece. The room had a warm glow and as they passed through it, Draco glanced at his reflection in one of the Manor's many mirrors. His platinum blonde hair appeared yellowish and limp. Worst, his face had a slightly greasy appearance and he vowed to go bathe as quickly as he could. The paintings on the wall followed his progress but he ignored them and idly wondered how they would react to the news he carried. The inhabitants of the paintings were just as snobbish as the old matrons Hermione would have to face.

Passing through a doorway, Draco entered the lady's parlor. This was the room where his mother entertained her guests and by looking at it, you'd never guess they were dark wizards. The room was one of the most beautiful in the entire house, the textured walls being a rich cream. Curved three-dimensional designs were built into the walls and then painted over for a look that screamed wealth. The four long windows were framed in rich red draperies, the blood red matching the upholstery of the twelve chairs that circled the walls of the room. The draperies were tied back with thick ties so the sun could enter the room. A fireplace stood on one end of the room, situated between two of the windows. An oblong mirror was directly above the fireplace and matched the other mirrors in the room. Candelabra framed the mirror on each side, the lit candles giving off a faint vanilla scent. All the furniture had the carved legs of antiques, the legs and frames of the chairs a stylish gold color. A rich red and gold Persian carpet lay in the center of the room, a small coffee table crossing it on an angle. The corners of the room held potted palms, their dark green fronds adding a hint of contrasting color. Two white plaster busts, each on its own side table, rested in the corners in front of the plants. They were of the current owners of the Manor: Lucius and Narcissa. Even the ceiling was decorated. Many of the rooms in the Manor had tin ceilings. Like the walls, they had three-dimensional designs built in. The design was centered in the middle of the ceiling and another golden chandelier hung from the center.

Narcissa sat on one of the chairs facing the doorway and her pale face brightened upon seeing him. She had the same whitish-blonde hair as her husband, the long wavy strands falling in wisps about her face. The majority of her long straight hair was piled neatly on top of her head in a sophisticated hairdo. She wore a dark green Empire dress that hung of her shoulders, the neckline a bit low and showing pale skin unblemished by the sun. The long sleeved dress pushed her bust up, the waist starting right under her bust line and falling smoothly to her ankles. A simple silver chain with an emerald pendant in the shape of a snake hung from her neck. She didn't sit in the direct sunlight, allowing the solid wall behind her to block most of it to preserve her skin. Yet the open curtains allowed her plenty of light to see her needlework, the needle moving up and back through the stretched cloth that hovered in the air by itself. Narcissa smoothly rose to her feet and rushed over to him, hugging him. "Draco, you're home! I was so worried about you."

"I'm sorry I worried you, Mother." Draco replied as he closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of being held by his mother. It wasn't often that she held him and he was determined to enjoy it, because most likely she'd be angry with him later. He could sense his father's presence off to one side, silently observing. Although the room was filled with the faint scent of vanilla, he could smell the familiar scent of Spring in Paris filling his nostrils. He had been right about the dusting powder and a feeling of satisfaction filled him momentarily, yet it was darkened by the knowledge that he would soon break his mother's heart. He wished he could put the news off. Just the thought of telling her filled him with a nervous dread. The Cornish Pixies were still in his stomach, except now there were more of them and they were holding a wild party that involved lots of spinning mid-air. Feeling slightly faint from the nausea, he swayed faintly on his feet. If it weren't for Narcissa's arms about him he may have fallen to the plush carpet.

"Draco, are you ill?" Narcissa asked, worried. Lifting a pale hand, she brushed his limp bangs aside and pressed it to his forehead. "Where were you anyway? We waited for you at the train station but you weren't on the train. I was so worried and those aurors are incompetent! If it weren't for your father and that ring he had made up…"

"I'd still be a ferret." Draco admitted as he allowed his mother to lead him towards one of the plush red chairs. Sighing, he sat on the chair and wondered how he was going to tell her the awful truth? Well, not awful to him as he wanted to marry Hermione, but possibly awful to her.

/I don't want to loose Mother…/

Would she hate him once she knew? Or wouldn't it matter to her whom he married? Somehow that was hard to believe. Although he liked to think differently, Narcissa was just like the other Purebloods. They looked down on others of lesser blood, those of Muggle heritage. Before he had been just like them and he really hadn't seen anything wrong with that attitude. But this whole thing was an eye-opener. For the first time in his life he was seeing the world through two viewpoints almost. He had his own and now he had Hermione's as well in a way. Take Almages. As the son of Lucius and Narcissa, he was automatically accepted into society when he reached the correct age. It was a well-known fact he was pure of blood, had wealth and magic. But for Hermione it would be near impossible.

/Unless Mother helps her…/

"A ferret?" Narcissa said, her mouth partway open in surprise. "What in Merlin were you doing as a ferret?"

"Well, Weasley turned me into one." Draco admitted as he could feel the blush creep up into his face. It was extremely shameful at his age to admit Weasley of all people had bested him. The two families had a sort of long feud going on between them. They were like cats and dogs. "I … I let my guard down and he got me. Then the stupid git had me outside the train window, the moving train mind you. I think he wanted to kill me…"

Pausing in his tale, Draco shifted his gaze up to his mother's face.

Narcissa had a look of pure horror on her face, one pale hand pressed to her heaving bosom. Her blue eyes were open wide, emotion clearly visible in the pool-like depths.

/Good. It's working…/

His only chance was to show how much they owed to Hermione, to rub in the fact that she had saved his life. Wizards held that in high regard usually. It was a thing that crossed boundaries between houses although some if not all Slytherins would loath owing a favor to a Gryffindor. Technically, only he owed Granger and his parents weren't bound by her heroic act at all. Still, he hoped the story would soften them up a bit to her plight. Making sure his face showed no trace of his sneaky plan, he continued the story. "And than Miss Granger showed up and rescued me. Of course, she thought I was a real ferret and took me home. That great oaf that teaches Care of Magical Creatures has ferrets and she just presumed that Weasley had stolen one of those. So I was by her house all night…"

Narcissa blinked, her hand slowly sinking off her bosom. "All night?"

"Yes, all night." Draco confirmed, his face growing hot. Now he understood how Hermione must have felt when her parents had come home. It was darn right embarrassing to actually admit he had spent the entire night in a girl's bedroom to his mother. Maybe a lot of guys would brag about that sort of thing among themselves and clap the lucky bloke on the shoulder or back, but this was his mother! He felt jumpy, his nerves on fire. Leaping off the chair, he started to nervously pace the room. His black patent leather shoes strode over the expensive carpet, his strides long and fast. "I spent the entire night in her bedroom, OK? I slept on her bed, next to the pillow! And in the morning she was prancing around in her underclothing. And well, I'm engaged!"

"You're … engaged?" Narcissa repeated in a flat voice, a shocked expression on her face. Lucius stepped forward and gently gripped his wife by her arm and led her to the nearest chair. Once she was seated, he stood next to her chair, a warm hand on her shoulder to comfort her.

"Yes, Mother, I'm engaged." Draco repeated red faced. "I didn't mean for it to happen but it has. And you might as well learn it now than later. Hermione is a Muggle-born but I'm sure you already know that."

"You mean she's that Mudblood you're always talking about?" she asked, the shocked look slowly leaving her face. A contemplative expression soon replaced it and for some reason it made him nervous.

"Yes, that's the one." Draco confirmed slightly uneasy. He had expected her to throw a fit by now but she wasn't doing that and he didn't know why. The fact was troubling and he unconsciously let his mouth drop open slightly, his brow wrinkling. "Why? Aren't you angry she's not a Pureblood?"

"Well, not all Purebloods are good, Draco. I thought you knew that." Narcissa stated coolly, her chin held up in the air. "You do, don't you?"

A dark brow shot upward. "No?"

"Look at that dreadful Parkinson girl!" Narcissa said as she focused her eyes on her son, a serious expression on her face. "Did you know I once saw her wearing make-up! Muggle make-up! Can you believe that? And she was out in public with it on her face! Her parents should be ashamed letting her parade around like a trollop! Her lips were actually red!"

Draco stood nervously on the Persian carpet, unsure what if anything he should say to that remark. He had seen Pansy wear make-up a few times at school as well and really hadn't thought about it. A lot of the older female students did. Make-up was a good example of the contamination that Muggle-borns brought with them when they joined the Purebloods at school.

"Tell me, Draco." Narcissa continued as she motioned for him to come closer. "This girl. Does she wear make-up?"

"No, Mother." Draco replied honestly. He hadn't ever really seen Hermione with make-up on, except for possibly for the Yule Ball in Fourth Year. But he truthfully couldn't remember if she had any on that night or not. It was too long ago. He only knew she never wore it at school. "She's a bookworm and isn't interested in that sort of thing. She beats me in all the classes I'm afraid…"

"She's the brightest witch of her age I've heard." Lucius added from where he stood beside her chair.

A sparkle appeared in Narcissa's blue eyes. "Really? And here I thought you'd be stuck with that Parkinson girl. She can't even wear her hair properly! Did you see how short she has it cut? Now tell me, Draco, does this girl of yours have short hair or long hair?"

Draco's mouth dropped open. "You only care about her hair length? What about all the Pureblood stuff?"

"Well, having pure blood doesn't mean much if you don't act like one or live like one, does it?" Narcissa remarked as she sat up straight on her chair. "When I was a girl I was taught how to properly behave. Obviously lots of the families are not enforcing those rules anymore on their daughters and you end up with people who are pure of blood but act like Muggle-borns. Their blood isn't worth much then, is it? They think acting arrogant is what it's all about and it's not. It's about class, but one needs to follow the rules."

"So … you're going to accept her?" He asked as a spark of hope came to life within him. This was more than he could hope for! It was fantastic! If only it would really work!

"Well, that depends." His mother coolly replied. "Is her hair long or short? Can it be put up in a proper hairdo? Because when hair is too short it simply can't be put up right."

"Well," Draco called forth of mental image of Hermione, brown fuzzy hair and all. "It's not really long or really short. It's kind of in the middle somewhere?"

"It's a horrid tangled bush." Lucius stated dryly. Pulling his wand free of his walking stick, he pointed it at an empty space in the room and caused an image of Hermione to appear as they had seen her last. The image was life-size but transparent like a ghost. It was also three-dimensional so one could walk around it and see her from different angles. Slowly Lucius walked a circle around the ghost-like Hermione, his face thoughtful. She still wore her burgundy dress. "As you can see, she appreciates our life-style and is attempting to fit in. It is a lot more than most Muggle-borns do."

Narcissa rose gracefully to her feet and joined her husband in circling the image, her sharp eyes studying it from different angles.

/I don't believe this…/

If that had been the real Hermione, their behavior would have embarrassed him to no end! Still, if this was what it took to get them to help him…

Pursing her lips, Narcissa considered what she had learned from studying the image. "The dress is all wrong, of course. Not that the poor thing knows that. At least it goes to the floor though. That shows she's trying to make an effort. And I think I could do something with her hair. We women do have our spells. Once I get a proper corset on her…"


Draco's pale face turned beet red. "Mother, please!"

"Oh, did I embarrass you?" Narcissa asked innocently. "You are engaged, are you not?"

"Yes, but it's going to be a long engagement!" Draco made sure he stressed the proper word. He couldn't even believe his mother had said the word in front of him. "I'm not ready to hear of such things!"

Lifting a finger to her chin, Narcissa studied the image before her. "It's going to take a lot of work to make a presentable Pureblood out of her. And I presume she'll be attending the Season?"

"If we can acquire a pass for her." Lucius stated. "Her parents have somewhat agreed, although they strongly dislike the idea of her marrying. They say she's too young."

Seeing his parents busy with the plan, Draco lifted his silver gray eyes to the tin ceiling and the hot bath he knew that waited upstairs. The house elves would have drawn it already and it would be waiting, the steaming water filled with his favorite scents. Then he'd sink in and relax. He felt grimier now than ever and he swore he could actually feel the layer of grease and dirt on his skin. The curse of having such fair hair and skin was that he had to bathe so much, not that he minded. But if something came up like this unexpected incident than his hair got all weighed down and he felt miserable.

/Yet I must not have looked too bad this morning…/

It was clear Hermione thought he looked great and that lifted his spirits somewhat. But what he really needed was to soak and think. Maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to think up a way to get her that pass.

/Mother probably is way ahead of me on that…/

And as a male, he really didn't know much on the matrons anyway…

"Mother, Father. May I be excused?" Draco asked politely as he brought his eyes back down to his parents.

"Of course, Draco." Narcissa smiled at him, a twinkle in her blue eyes. "You run off and go write a love letter to your betrothed."

/A love letter?./

Sighing, Draco left the lady's parlor and headed up the grand staircase, the enchanted carved wooden animals inside the railing moving. There were unicorns, dragons, mermaids and centaurs. Normally he'd spare them a glance but his mind was occupied by a new problem.

/How in Merlin's name do I write a love letter?./

To be continued…

Author's Note: OK, there's another complete chapter. Yes, it was entirely Draco but I'll get to Hermione next chapter. Women in the Regency era did not wear make-up. Only prostitutes 'painted' their faces. The most common hairstyle of the era was to have wispy curls around the face and the rest of the long hair piled atop the head. The Manor I described is based on a real one in my city. In it's day is was the grandest of the manors and was owned by a wealthy business man. It was built in the late 1800s so it's more 'modern' than the Regency era, but I'd rather describe a real place I'm a bit familiar with than make one up. This way you get to see some of the grandeur the old manors had. They really are beautiful and like Draco thought in this chapter, it's all in the detail and not just the size. The furniture, tin ceilings, etc is as I described it. I'm not sure the proper name for the chairs in the lady's parlor. They are made of wood and have red padded cushions built into the seat and into the back. The legs are curved like on antiques. I'd rather base as much on fact as I can for realism…