Remember to check out Theodore Nott and Hannah Abbott's story 'Heartless', if you can! The original version of this chapter was dedicated to Rocka10 and XxCrescentMoonxX and AriesFireGirl.

Happy New Year's (belated), everyone!


Twenty-Fifth Cycle

Passing Time


Mrs. Malfoy was much more reserved than I.

Not to say that I'm a free spirit (Luna and Ginny have that part of the market covered, really) but where I couldn't help but rush out of the lift and up to Draco the minute he strolled off the field, Mrs. Malfoy let herself be drawn in to a huge bear hug from Draco, before whispering something to him and leaving the Top Box.

I was so proud of Draco – so proud! – and I was going to be shocked if he didn't get a position! Harry, too! Not to mention that romantic stunt he pulled in the air…no, not to mention that at all. We went out to celebrate at a fancy French restaurant where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley joined us to coo over Harry and Ronald. There was a slight and somewhat unavoidable uptick in tension between Mrs. Malfoy and Mrs. Weasley but we managed to get through dinner just fine.

Once the parents left, the lot of us headed to some pub. Draco's best mates came along and had a grand time with us all (though Crabbe and Goyle still had a few awkward reservations, the prior was just as big a joker as Dean and the former was quietly observant). I noticed that Blaise and Theo were in cahoots with the twins, and I was a little worried that the four of them were up to no good. But I was distracted whenever I looked at Draco so it ceased to matter. It was all a happy blur as Ron, Draco and Angelina were welcomed into the fold with open arms and smiles all around. All three were grinning endlessly and the atmosphere was light and care-free.

"What does it feel like to you?" I asked Draco. "Talking to me, through the bond I mean."

"Like we're the only two people in a small room." He took a sip of his beer and then put the tankard down. "Which I why it was awful when you yelled, it felt like echoes in this enclosed space. What about you?"

"Like a stream of thought," I replied, "which, obviously, is what it is but I mean…it felt like I was by myself and thinking and then you were there thinking with (or at, really) me. I don't really know how to describe it. But it sounded like you were right next to me."

"Me too. I could tell when you shut me out though."


He nodded and leaned back in his barstool. We watched the others dance.

"It felt like you left the room, so to speak."

"I asked Luna and she said that to her…her mind is a garden and Dean is like this plant," I gestured, "that sort of grew overnight in the center of it. So it's like she's tending the plant when she feels his feelings."

He made an odd face.


"Lovegood is certainly artistic." I laughed. "We all think and imagine things differently, so I'm certain everyone will describe the way they…visualize their bonds…in slightly different ways."

"I'm going to ask everyone and make notes."

"So now that we've got a mental connection, what can we do with it?" Draco asked me while we watched the others dance.

"Anything, everything." I shrugged. "I don't know how far the Ministry thought about forging these sort of mental bonds but do you realize that this kind of magic is uncharted territory? Unprecedented? Well, not unprecedented since in 1835 there was a single case in northern Ireland-"


I cleared my throat and he laughed, then pressed a kiss to the corner of my mouth, and I was content to just stand next to him quietly.

The next day was Sunday and we planned to spend the entire day together to make up for all the time before my pre-exams that we had missed. I was snuggled in my bed looking outside at the muted grey sky and wondering why even summers in Britain were so rainy when the doorbell rang. I was instantly aware of Draco Malfoy inside of my head – it was strange just how clearly I felt his happiness.

"Here already," I muttered to myself as I flung the blankets off and dug around in my new bureau for a brassiere to hold everything together. I did the clasp up and bolted for the door. "I'm coming!"


I swear, my jaw hit the floor when I realized that he was dressed in sweatpants for the second time in the whole time that I had known him. It didn't diminish his natural good-looks. In fact, the nondescript black sweatpants and matching hoodie – it just emphasized the thin eyebrows and straight lashes. I'm pretty sure that as Draco Malfoy stood in the doorway I ogled him with the zeal of one who had seen the light and could not pry her eyes from it.

"I really have to look at that Witch Weekly clipping a lot more," I muttered to myself.

"Good morning," he murmured with a smirk. His face sunk down to my level and he kissed me briefly before pulling back and strolling past me. "What did you just say?"

"Nothing," I blinked hard for a moment and shook my head. "Have you eaten yet?"

"No, are you going to cook something?"

"Perhaps." I smiled to myself as I turned away and padded to the pantry door. "Depends on what you want to have."

"Kippers, eggs, sausages, fried potatoes," he fired off without hesitation. "Do you have any fruit? Like oranges or apples? Definitely pumpkin juice or apple juice. Maybe some cold ham on the side and a loaf of fresh bread and some butter as well. Milk would be good with a bit of cereal too. Toast and strawberry jam is always welcomed."

I arched my eyebrows as I looked at him. He apparently saw no problem with that since he stared at me with clear blue-grey eyes and entirely serious face.

"Draco," I said as I stared at him dubiously. "Will you actually eat all that?"

"Yeah, I am."

"I'm going to need help then," I said as I crossed my arms over my chest and looked at him expectantly. I was met with a slightly wary gaze.

"What kind of help are we talking about?" Draco asked cautiously.

"A cooking kind of help."

"Oh." He looked even more wary. "The Muggle way?"

I nodded.

"Oh," he said again in an even lower octave than the first.

Amusement welled up in me as he looked doubtfully from me to the pantry and fridge and then back to me. Draco Malfoy looked a little lost.

"Well, up you get," I said as I motioned him over. He was definitely pouting as I pulled him around by the hand. "Draco, don't look so excited."

He broke into a smile and I knew everything would be alright.

We spent the next hour and a half mucking about in the kitchen to pull a decent meal together 'the barbaric way' in Draco's very own words. He may have cringed, frowned and muttered under his breath a good deal at the start but by the end he was grinning. I'm not sure why he put up such a fuss over it since he wasn't completely hopeless at cooking. For starters, he cut the fruit beautifully (I know that's not cooking but it was a great start for him). For Merlin's sake, he tried to put an uncooked egg in the microwave and I swear I had a heart attack as I thought of the burning-down-of-the-new-apartment fiasco that would have surely ensued if I hadn't been paying attention to him. At least after wasting four more eggs, he managed to crack it on the side of the fry pan without getting any of the shell in it.

"This could hurt if you weren't careful with it," Draco observed sagely as the oil in the pan began popping. I nodded in agreement with his new found –and very obvious- wisdom and smiled to myself when he couldn't see me.

Once he got the hand of the 'frying' bit, I tried to get him to the sausage patties which he refused.

"I will not touch raw meat," he stubbornly declared as he backed away from the defrosting stuff in the sink. He arched his eyebrows and folded his hands over his broad chest. "I mightn't even be able to eat it now that I've seen what it looks like uncooked."

He turned up his nose when I tried again and I gave up. Can't ask for too much from him, I suppose. I handed him a couple of potatoes in a large bowl and a knife and told him to make of it what he would. He retreated to the island counter to peel and I handled the sausages and bacon on a sleek new skillet.

He was quite deft with the knife so I didn't fret about it at all. Sure enough, Draco was done with five large ones in less than ten minutes and then sat watched as his child-like wonder took over.

"So, what do you call that miniature weapon below the knife rack?"

I turned to see what he was talking about.

"Apple peeler."

"And the white box on your right?"


I heard a shuffling behind me and then Draco was next to me at the counter, bent over to peer at the sleek white microwave with critical eyes.

"What does it do?"

"Put food in it and it cooks it by heat," I explained as I varied between monitoring the frying meat and monitoring Draco. His face was skeptical but interested. "It cooks things much faster than the stove or oven, but you cannot cook everything in a microwave."

"And the plastic disc thing in it?"

Disc thing? I thought, tickled by his highly descriptive words.

"Microwave cover," I responded patiently. "It's used to cover the food that you place in it."

Draco nodded slowly and returned to his seat.

"And the weird contraption next to it?"

I looked again then answered over my shoulders.

"Sausage stuffer."

I heard a shallow intake of breath.

"So sausages don't come like that," he murmured to himself. I grinned to myself at the sink, quite sure he was having one on. "Well, as I live and breathe."

"It was actually a present from my Mum that I have never used in my life,"

He asked me many more questions. With all of his inquisitiveness, the bacon and sausages were done within the half-hour. I was tempted to laugh much of the time at his antics but my hunger overcame the humor.

"Are you going to get out the milk and the juices that you want?" I asked him pointedly as he made to start another round of questions.

"Yes ma'am," he said smartly with a large grin.

We worked as an efficient team, pulling pretty dark green dishes out of the cabinets and matching silverware from the drawers. It must have been a pretty dance, all that whirling around with hot dishes and forks and the one near-miss time where the glass cup nearly slipped from the dinner table and crashed to the floor.

When asked what he thought about the Muggle way of cooking, Draco paused thoughtfully with a dish of mashed eggs and a large jug of pumpkin juice in hand. His eyes were clear as he finally answered the question earnestly.

"Well I don't know about the raw meat bit but everything else was alright."

I hoped I'd be allowed to cook whenever I liked at the Manor, though I'd risk the ire of the house elf on staff. You'd better get used to it, I thought in my head, because I will certainly wish to prepare a meal in a kitchen some of the time, mistress of the Manor or not.

We finally sat down to eating around half-past eleven and, true to his word, Draco ate most of the things in sight. The cereal was half-gone before I had a mind for it and I was thankful that I had taken my share of juicy bacon and tasty sausage before Draco dove into it. Mind you, he was entirely mindful of etiquette, using the appropriate utensils when needed although I thought the napkin part was a bit overdone.

That is very likely the kind of thing that Mrs. Malfoy is going to have her masters and mistresses take care of in me.

We abandoned the dishes for the couch.

"Hm," I murmured as I collapsed into it. Draco wasn't too far behind me and thought ahead to bring a blanket to cover us with. We lay on our sides – Draco's back was against the couch and I was closest to the edge. The blanket covered us and it felt…good.

It felt good.

"I'm full," he murmured and his breath warmed my curls.

"Me too."

There was a comfortable silence as his arms wrapped around my middle and he tugged me into his arms. We lay together as cuddly as two peas in a silver pod.

"I have a question, Draco."

"Go on then," he said.

"So," I asked thoughtfully. "What are you?"

A small pause then an amused chuckle.

"A human being?"

"That's not what I meant," I said as I felt him move against me. "I meant what technical term do you fall under in relation to me?"

Draco was silent for a moment behind me.

"Hmm…a boyfriend, I suppose?"

"Boyfriend," I murmured. The word rolled off my tongue smoothly. His only answer was to pull me in closer. "You remember that you're going to see my parents tomorrow, right?"

He instantly became alert.

"I don't suppose you remember when that was decided."

He couldn't see the grin on my face as I thought of vicious payback. The arse hadn't had the decency to prepare me to meet Narcissa Malfoy and I had first met her in silky peach nighties. At least I'm giving him warning, I thought gleefully. Thoughts of telling Mum and Dad to be extra mean to him just to serve him right floated around in my head.

"Last week," I replied silkily. "You're not meeting them in pink silk pajamas and bed-hair so you'll be alright."

"I thought you looked right cute in that outfit," he teased.

"You were the only one," I replied tartly and shifted in his arms but he nuzzled my bare neck so I relented.


"Dinner, around six maybe."

We fell asleep right after that.


We woke up three hours later in unbearably good moods. I awoke facing inwards with my head tucked under Draco's chin and my nose almost up against his collarbone. The black blanket that Draco had conjured was still over us and the rain seemed to have ended a while ago. Faint afternoon sunlight from the emerging sun filled the room and I blinked the sleep away slowly. I was a lot of things wrapped up into one – happy, content, a bit excited, warm and well-rested. I hadn't ever fallen asleep in any other guy's arms but Draco's. Waking up in them after a nice nap was even better. Our legs were a bit tangled up and he was still been asleep, the rise and fall of his chest betraying his slumber. I pulled my head back and raised my eyes to gaze at his face. The strong jaw, slightly pointy nose, thin eyebrows, smooth forehead and his child-like demeanor in sleep…As if we were all normal after the War. He was still where he was supposed to be, Draco was. He wasn't battered, flawed or damaged goods. Draco was strong…and handsome.

Perhaps I needed two or three more Witch Weekly clippings to add to the collection soon – I couldn't very well be stunned into silence whenever the Adonis that was Draco Malfoy came into view.

One of my hands uncurled and I reached out to follow the line of his jaw. I couldn't help letting the index finger trail very softly all the way down his smooth chin. He didn't seem to be awake and there was no significant mental activity so I continued my exploration. I drew my hand behind his free ears and then frowned – there was a difference in texture. I carefully pulled myself up to crane my neck and see what the problem was. There was a very slight scar, a mere sliver of white underneath his left ear for approximately two centimeters. I ran my hand over it and Draco shivered.

"Hm? Wha-"

"You're adorable when you sleep," I teased and he opened his grey-blue eyes slowly. "I especially like the drool on my throw pillow."

"Malfoys don't drool." He yawned loudly. "Nor snore. You're a boldfaced liar, Hermione Granger."

I arched my eyebrows and tilted my head in a play at innocence.

"I'm a Gryffindor, we don't lie."

"This from one of ten individuals who has managed to sneak into every single off-limits location around Hogwarts."

"We don't lie, Draco, we smudge the truth."

"To your own ends."

"Which usually results in the general benefit of all parties involved," I smirked, "and several who aren't."

"A mere technicality," he said as he rolled his neck, "and one that your House seems to take advantage of to come out roses in every situation."

My gaze was drawn to that funny silver line. My fingers traced the scar.

"What's this from?" I asked softly.

His entire demeanor went dark for a minute as he looked at me, grey eyes going completely still and he simply gazed at me with a completely shuttered look.

"Initiation ritual."

I looked at him, really looked at him.

"It looks painful."

"It was." He took the hand that touched his face and turned it over gently. "Many things were."

There were more? He stroked the inside of my wrist steadily while I looked at his face. His eyes slid closed again so I leaned into his side. The dark look soon faded away and he was content and limp against the couch again.

"You know," he said thoughtfully, "my initial plan was to come here and have the longest snog with you known to mankind."

"You're failing terribly then."

"Odd thing is I don't mind," he replied. "Did Mum give you the news?"

"Etiquette lessons."

"I can't imagine your reaction." His long fingers began to massage my scalp gently and the simple pleasure of a gentle touch had me closing my eyes. "When do you start?"


His fingers moved locations to rub the nape of my neck and I think I actually purred.

"Seems like someone likes that very much."

"Don't stop that," I hummed. "What should we do today? It's probably wet from that rain outside but I want to get out today. How much time do you have?"

"I'm here at your service all day, Mistress Granger."

"Your false gallantry really is odd to listen to," I rolled my eyes. "Should we go catch a matinee although it's half past two already so it'll be a regular movie."

He wrinkled his forehead.

"A what?"

"Flicks shown in the morning," I responded easily. "We can apparate to Diagon Alley and then go to Muggle London from there, walk around for a bit."

"Fine with me," he answered seriously. I squawked as Draco suddenly rolled over, pulling me completely under him so that I sunk into the soft cushions of the couch and he was laid out flat against me. His hair was now everywhere, across his shoulders and on my chest like a thin fine blanket. My hands were pinned to my sides since his elbows were now down on either side of me.

"Granger," the snot said as he chuckled. "Your mouth makes the most horrid noises."

"You are not light," I protested as I tried to lift my arms but he only laughed. Then the situation shifted from comical to serious when Draco leaned forward so that his side bangs tickled my nose, his shocking grey-turning-to-blue eyes were less than a millimeter away and his lips were even closer. I was extremely aware of him, physically in that moment, his incredibly lean torso with the stomach completely bare of extra fat and his toned arms in addition to muscular thighs and-

"I intend to get in a good dose of snogging before anything else," Draco murmured even as he smilingly closed the distance between us.

We never did get to the movies.


"Meeting the parents, eh?" said Blaise from the comfortable armchair on the other end of the room. Strangely enough, it was a workday and he should have been…at work…but here he was being a nuisance at approximately four-thirty.

I was lounging in my favorite chair with feet propped up on the table in Drake Wing in my favorite private study. Unlike most of the Wing, it was done up in earthy colors and dark oak was the wood of choice. It was a way to pass the time until I picked Hermione up, and although I was extremely nervous about changing their impression of Pureblood families, I was hoping that the 'Draco Malfoy' charm that many knew and loved would come through for me.

If not, I'm tossed.

"You nervous, mate?"

"Not at all," I sighed, "because what awful impressions could they have possibly retained from my father and I back in Hogwarts?"

Zabini made a sympathetic face that quickly fell apart under a sly smirk.

"Insult them to their faces, did you?"

I stroked the leather cover of another book on the heavy desk in front of me before staring off into the blazing fire on the other side of the room. My legs remained propped on the desk.

"Well." Blaise brushed off imaginary specks of dust from his cloak. "I wish you the best of luck, mate, because you are most definitely going to need it."

I actually didn't recall the bits of brief conversation that had ever taken place but I didn't doubt that I'd been awfully unpleasant, and my father even more so. And since we weren't the best lot at hiding expressions or feelings, I could only imagine what sort of looks we'd given them. I was sorry for it, even more so now that I was meant to meet with them.

"She's an only child, isn't she?"

"I imagine that her parents heard her very first word, which was probably dictionary or something ridiculous like that, and decided one would be quite enough."

Blaise snorted and we both took a sip of water.

"I still am amazed that there have been no great calamities concerning this arranged marriage ploy by the Ministry," I said slowly. "In fact, all the couples I know excluding Theo and Hannah seem to be getting along fabulously."

"Awful business," he muttered, "and something about her has been on my mind. I do wish Nott would let us meet her, though."

"Bothering you?"

He looked up.

"It's like…a feeling that I've been remiss."

"I have no idea what you're on about," I said blankly. "And while I've been self-absorbed to the extreme this summer, I'm just noticing that she doesn't sound like the typical Hufflepuff scatterbrain…which is exactly what she'd been in Hogwarts."

"I was strongly minded to investigate any of our future betrotheds should there be a problem," Blaise mused aloud, "but then Nott seemed so close-mouthed about it, I'd thought I'd better not. Abbott…Hannah Abbot…it's obvious something happened to her during the War. Didn't she have a mother and brother?"

Something definite popped into my head.

"I think the more appropriate question," I muttered slowly, "is 'Didn't she have a brother?'. "

Blaise was just as silent as I had been moments before.

"Miles Alfred Abbot," Blaise abruptly rattled off as his memory and natural logic kicked in. "Aged twenty-three at the start of the War, and a few years above us in Hogwarts. He was killed the second month in, during a major battle, I believe."

My best mate, ladies and gentlemen. Honestly, he was a walking talking encyclopedia with a mind like a sponge.

"Do you think Theo knows?"

"I can't imagine how he wouldn't," responded Blaise with certainty.

I can't imagine how he would, I thought doubtfully to myself.

I wouldn't be the one to bring it up, though, unless he came to me with problems. And Theo spoke more to his older brother Max than anyone so it would be very unlikely that I would have a chance to tell him. Blaise didn't appear to regard it as important and switched tracks quickly enough to be an honorary Lovegood.

"What are you doing Thursday night? I'd like to arrange dinner with you, Granger, and Pansy."

"Meet her?" I scoffed. "We were all friends two years ago."

" 'Were' being the operative word in that sentence, mate." He gave me the look that usually meant I had no room to maneuver or disagree. I bit back a sigh. "Although I take into consideration past…friction…between her and Granger so perhaps we'll just drop by Thursday evening and make plans for next week."

Sweet Circe. Well, 'twas his funeral if we ended up in a sea of tension over three courses no one was actually tasting…due to said tension.

"Zabini, how slowly are you taking this relationship?"

That obviously threw him over.

"Speak in proper intelligible English."

"Not that I'm not infinitely pleased about not hearing about the different ways Pansy is beautiful on a daily basis and all, but I actually mean…how are you and Pansy? What are you and Pansy?"

"Are you asking me for dating advice right now, mate?"

"I'm asking for marriage advice," I said sternly. "When are you going to propose?"

Now he looked completely shocked.

"Draco, why?"

"Because Vince and Greg have fallen in love with their fiancées so quickly that it baffles me." I stopped myself and thought a little bit. "I mean, I like Hermione."

I did. Truly. I could even pinpoint the exact moment that hatred moved into something less vicious (the dark alleyway), and I didn't think it had so much to do with the bond and more the close proximity. I hadn't hated her, per say. Okay, so perhaps I had had a strong enduring dislike for her but honestly, no one ever truly forgives the first person to slap them across the face. And we were so…volatile…together. Oil and fire, at times - that huge fight over nothing had convinced me that Hermione Granger was a silly witch who would drive me insane with her stupid questions and marriage was out of the question. But then her crying…when I first came upon her, unrecognizable except for the wild mane of hair, I couldn't bear to see her cry. Something shifted.

"You like Hermione Granger?" Blaise asked neutrally.

"Well, of course, I do," I shot back. "Why on earth would I deign to meet her parents otherwise?"

"Because it's the polite thing to do."

"And Malfoys have always been polite?"

"Aren't you the one always going on about the importance of etiquette?" He looked amused. "Not that I'm not proud of you for finally looking such an enormous character flaw in the face, but this sudden about-face is just that…sudden."

He was being purposefully stubborn.

The point was that something had shifted that night, and that 'something' survived the terrible night in the club and the date after that to come into full blossom the night of our first real date. She was sometimes shy, usually engaging, almost always headstrong, and wickedly book-smart. It made her even more attractive (and Merlin knew I now found her attractive already) and being around her all the time had pretty much predisposed me to like her.

Beyond all doubts and despite how awful the first three weeks had been and the fact that we'd never truly discussed our past, I liked Hermione Granger.

"Do you care about Granger?" he asked, still in that damnably neutral tone of voice.

"Are those two separate things?" I asked.

"Perhaps," he shrugged.

Not for me.

I didn't like that many people, or at least I hadn't back in school. I could see that for Blaise and his logical mind, 'to like' and 'to care' might be two totally different not-necessarily-inclusive ideas. But I? I found it hard to do one without the other. And if there had been any doubts, those had been wiped clean when I had been magically pulled back into the room to see her still body below blood smeared on the wall. Even as I thought it, a wash of anger swept through me and I tightened my fist.

So yes, I cared about her.

When I looked up Blaise was watching me without judgment or expression.

"I care about her."

"I know."

"So why did you ask then?"

"So you would know."

There he went again, being wise and mature for no real reason. I rolled my eyes.

"Do you like Pansy?" He nodded. "Do you love Pansy?"

"I believe that I care about Pansy. She's beautiful and rude, and unafraid of using dirty tricks to get her way – very much the quintessential Slytherin." He smiled ruefully, looking unusually thoughtful. "But I'm also a naturally possessive and jealous guy, which means knowing that she has the irrefutable stamp of mine means no one else should be able to touch her or have her is good. It doesn't necessarily mean I love her."

He took a moment to press the tips of his fingers together and then he dropped his gaze to the fire.

"Truthfully, I'm not sure that I have the faculty of romantic love."


"I have long since suspected it. I suppose I believe that love exists but it such an…illogical- such an…impractical idea – not love, I mean not love itself, the way people are who are who are in love."

This was the absolute first time I was hearing this and, for all his brains, I didn't think Zabini was being practical about this. And the fact that he was stumbling over this explanation meant he was either grappling with something beyond his ken or he really truly was mystified by romantic love.

Which…I wasn't sure I believed for a minute.

"What I mean is that I believe in love," my best mate said impatiently. "I know it exists because I've seen it. What I don't like about it is the way people act who are in love. Fools who make mistakes, rely on extremely…extreme feelings, make impetuous decisions and lose all sense of logic."

"Ah," I said delicately. "You the ever-practical, logical, brainiac can't wrap his head around love's most common symptoms."

"Shut it," he said loudly in displeasure. "I just can't see myself acting that way."

I wisely said nothing.

I'd leave the all-knowing Blaise to himself to figure out that he was already exhibiting some of the signs. Yes, he was naturally jealous and possessive but threatening your best mate with death if he ogled his girlfriend? Extreme. Thinking about strangling blokes who fell over themselves once she stepped in the room? Extreme. And that odd bout of listlessness after his worst fight with her to date? 'Extremely…extreme', in his own words. Blaise was certainly looking a little bit like a fool in love to me.

"In any case, we will have to talk later since I need to begin getting ready."

"Because you're secretly a girl and need the whole two hours to prepare," Blaise taunted as he stood and moved toward the fire.

"Ha-ha," I sarcastically said. "You're very funny. Get on, then!"

"Don't forget Thursday," he tossed the Floo powder into the fireplace, "and good luck."


I had a sneaking suspicion that I would need it.


"Stop fidgeting, Draco." Hermione looked at me with a slight smile on her face, looking very pretty in a yellow sundress that flared around her knees. She even had a daisy the same soft yellow color stuck in her curly hair, making her look carefree. "You can't seem to remain still."

Why she was worried about my fidgeting, I didn't know. We were already standing on the block of large sprawling houses that that her parents' house was located on. We had arrived only a moment before, and were making our way to the home with Hermione leading the way. The sun was setting and the sky was ablaze with the beautiful bright pinks, gentle purples and soft yellows characteristic of sunset around here. A gentle breeze played with Hermione's hair and for a minute I was distracted by a couple of curly locks that floated in the breeze.

"Stop fidgeting," she repeated and I broke out of my reverie to see that Hermione looked at me with a definite smile on her face. I frowned at her and began walking briskly.

"I am not fidgeting," I responded haughtily.

"Alright," she replied and rolled her eyes. She started moving forward again and left me in peace to take my measure of the neighborhood. It was a nice one, I could see, despite the sizes of the houses that we strolled by. They were rather small, nowhere near the size of the Manor, and certainly not as big as the Burrow where the Weasleys lived. But the atmosphere was at once soothing and lively. Children played in the lawns in front of houses, some throwing flat green disks or chasing colorful balls or just riding around on strange metal apparatus that seemed to carry them as long as they moved their legs in a lively manor.

"A bike," Hermione answered my silent question.

She turned to look at me over her shoulders, smiling so mischievously that I stuck my tongue out at her in exaggerated childishness. When she laughed, I grabbed one of her hands.

"Whatever are you laughing about, Hermione Granger?" I asked smilingly.

"Nothing," she said in a perfect imitation of the same snooty voice that I had adopted before and pulled her hand out of mine. She looked back once, before flouncing up ahead. I grinned, and then shook my head at her antics.

Honestly, she's too much for me sometimes.

The small houses were all uniform…white, square, two windows at the face of the second-story, a porch and one large window on the first floor. The windows reflected all sorts of shades of color.

Another child swung by on a…bike – face upturned, eyes closed, before they snapped open and he moved his legs wider. I turned to watch him speed up behind me and I grinned as he whooped loudly. A brief feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed me as I watched him disappear into the distance.


I turned. Hermione was waiting for me with her arms crossed over her chest and a half-exasperated, half-tender look on her face. I made a funny face at her and the look on her face intensified.

"I can still tell them to be unbearably mean to you," she said in the primmest voice I'd ever heard.

Too bad she was still smiling as she said it. I walked as slowly as I dared to and watched agust of playful wind again tossed locks of her gorgeous hair into her face. When I reached her, I stopped all her words with a kiss.

"Please tell them to be nice to me," I smiled against her mouth. Her breath hitched. I slid my arms around her waist. "I'll be good and stop fidgeting, I promise."

She pulled away with a smile she couldn't quite hide.

"Behave yourself."

She pulled me down the pathway to the steps. We climbed the white porch steps together and stood still for a minute. I was threatened to begin fidgeting again but I just shook my shoulders out.

I am amazing.

Hermione rang the doorbell and we waited patiently on the steps. I had to give myself a nice pep-talk to get ready and stood tall – gathering all of my 6 feet and an inch.

I am amazing because my name is Draco Malfoy.

Footsteps approached the doorway and Hermione looked up at me. I supposed that she was feeling what I felt through the link since her glance was questioning. I smirked at her reassuringly and squeezed her hands.

I am amazing because I am every mother and father's fantasy – charming, blonde, handsome, and intelligent, and exactly what their daughter should bring home.

I squared my shoulders to meet my fears head on as the door opened up to reveal Mr. and Mrs. Granger. Hermione was immediately pulled into a hug by her mother, Mrs. Granger, who looked nothing like her daughter on first glance. An older woman with the same brown eyes as her daughter, she was dressed very well in a formfitting black and white dress that fell down to her ankles. Mrs. Granger was the same height as her daughter who was being enfolded in her arms, standing at 5'6, but she was thinner and there was silver at her temple and throughout her dark blonde curls.

So the hair is most definitely from her mother.

"Mum," said Hermione with a large grin as she pulled away from her mum. She flew into her father's arms next.

I tried my best to sneakily size Mr. Granger up as father and daughter embraced. This was where Hermione got her looks – her nose, the tan of her skin and the dusting of freckles that only turned up with the summer. The only difference were the eyes – a dark blue that seemed to put everything in focus and focus on one thing at a time. He was shorter than I by a little bit, but he was built like the Weasley twins – broad and a bit stocky. He was unconventionally good-looking – his features individually didn't seem to be anything special but the picture altogether created a handsome older man. He also looked strong but quiet, and I suppose that the glasses he wore influenced my 'quiet' conclusion.

"Mum and Daddy, I would like to introduce my boyfriend to you." Hermione stepped off to the side so that I was facing both Mama and Papa Granger head on. "This is Draco Malfoy."

Time to put my charm to work.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Granger." I lifted one of Mrs. Granger's hands to press a kiss against her knuckles. "I've heard so much about you."

"It's lovely to meet you as well," she responded with a large smile. She smiled like Hermione.

"Well met, Mr. Granger." I shook his hands and the strength that I had judged was ascertained. The man had the muscle of a bear. Imagine if he really tried to hurt me, I thought wryly as he released me from his hold.

"Likewise," he said politely. His eyes still looked me over once up and down and I felt a twinge of apprehension. "Please, do come in."

Does he remember what I was like back then?

They turned in unison and led the pair of us down a spacious passage into the house. The house was nice – fancy rugs underfoot, good woodwork and paintings on the wall. On the walls of the passage were paintings by Muggle artists, I assumed, mostly landscape waterworks. At the end of the long passageway was a pedestal that held a vase, much like the one that Hermione loved, except her parents' was pink on a light blue. I suspected that that was entirely Mrs. Granger's touch because I couldn't imagine Hermione's strong stocky father picking out a piece like that. Hermione walked ahead with her mum, arm in arm, leaving her father and me to stroll behind them.

Something flowed through the link and I nearly stopped in my tracks.

Draco. Twitching as I walked next to her father would not leave a good impression. You alright?

It wasn't nearly as distracting as it had been a week ago at the tryouts or on the three or four other times we'd used it. That said, I still had to take a moment to ground myself in the room before responding to her via link.

Yes, of course.

"So Mr. Granger," I said politely. The quiet and stern man on my left turned to me. "Hermione has told me that you're interested in her career as a Healer. Does that mean you're just as interested in medicine?"

"Yes," he responded in surprise, "I am, actually. Hermione is very happy doing what she's doing. I'm happy with whatever she's doing as long as she's happy with it.

"Has Hermione taken you to St. Mungoes, the enormous magical hospital?" I asked curiously as we walked side by side.

"No," he said thoughtfully. "She hasn't taken us – but we have both been there. With all the time that Hermione has been taking lately to enter into trouble, her mum and I have been to that hospital more often than we would like."

"I know exactly what you mean," I said dryly.

For the first time that evening, Mr. Granger grinned. And I saw Hermione in that smile, the way she turned up the sides of her mouth first before everything else curved too. It's strange, the things we inherit from our family.

"Dentistry is the term that describes the field of any healing having to do with your teeth, correct?" I asked carefully.

Mr. Granger nodded.

"I love being a dentist yet I am just as interested in medicine," he continued with a slight smile. "I like to keep up with it. It is baffling the amount of things that your magic can fix, but all knowledge is worth having. My profession is just another way of your healing."

I nodded and we walked companionably into a cozy looking living room. There were books on the coffee table and a newspaper besides the stack, the furniture in various shades of crème looked inviting, and warm apple-red curtains hung by the windows. Hermione's parents sat together on the two-seater and Hermione and I made ourselves comfortable on the small couch on the other side of the coffee table.

"How old are you, Draco?" asked Mrs. Granger.

"Eighteen years of age," I said firmly.

"And whereabouts do you live?"

"Wiltshire," I replied easily. I want to invite them over to the Manor, I thought to Hermione. She perked up beside me.


But Mother would want me to be formal and fancy and owl them with invitations.

There was a momentary pause before I felt her give the equivalent of a mental shrug. Then do as your mum wants.

"And what do you do?" asked Mr. Granger.

"As of this moment, I am waiting to hear back from the U.K. Quidditch Teams Committee," I responded confidently. "At the same time that Hermione was taking her preliminary exams, I was trying out for one of the two open Seeker positions."

"Quidditch," murmured Hermione's mum with a look on her face that I could neither read nor decipher. "An athlete, then?"

"Hopefully, yes," I said with a confidence I didn't entirely feel. Unworriedly, I stretched my legs out in front of me and threaded my fingers more firmly through Hermione's.

"Excellent," said Mr. Granger with an interested look on his face. "Harry and Ronald did show me the game after we got used to magic. Went to the Burrow a few weeks ago, it was very interesting."

Daddy's fallen in love with the game after seeing all seven Weasley kids and Harry in action. Hermione sounded highly amused in my head. Can't say the same for Mum though.

"Excellent," he repeated. "And when are you supposed to hear back from them?"

"I'm actually not quite sure but anytime in the next two weeks, I suppose."

"Although he's confident that he'll get it," said Hermione from my side.

"How much does that make?"

"Hundreds of thousands of galleons for the largest games," I responded after a momentary pause to think. The money didn't really matter to me since I was already wealthy and I wanted to play for the love of the game. But more money can't hurt!

"Translation?" said Mrs. Granger looking to her daughter with an amused expression.

"More than professional football players do," she put in helpfully.

Mrs. Granger's eyebrow arched while Mr. Granger looked suitably impressed.

Those blokes who ran around kicking things?

In response to my thought, Hermione flooded my mind with images of young men kicking balls about at rectangular-shaped netted goals. It was scary how good she was at picking up my thoughts but I was starting to get the trick of processing her input and paying attention to the external situation.

Thanks, love.

Not a problem.

"Not bad," said Mrs. Granger with a slight smile. "That resolves the 'can you support our daughter if she needs it?' question, then."

When everyone laughed a bit, I knew it was going to be alright.

"Going through the formalities," Hermione's mum said with a half-smile. She stood on her feet and my training kicked in because I immediately stood as well. "And now that those are through, shall we start dinner?"


"I can see that we have our work cut out for us, ladies and gentlemen."

Those were the very first words that flew out of the thin lips of Lady Daphne Willard upon my arrival at Malfoy Manor Tuesday morning promptly at ten.

It was a little difficult to stand tall and straight in front of five witches and wizards above the ages of forty who were meant to teach me etiquette. Each witch or wizard had already spoken their piece and now stood there examining me with critical eyes.

The leader, Lady Daphne Willard of Hedgeshire, was the woman who was to rule my life for the next month. She was the Mistress of Magical Social Etiquette, a business that apparently taught 'comportment and carriage'. So imposing was she that I was already referring to her simply as 'Lady' in my head.

The two gentlemen to her left dressed identically in dark blue robes were Master Gumford and Master Twill. The shorter and larger of the two, Master Gumford would teach me how to correctly use forks, spoons, knives etc. while thick-browed elderly Master Twill would instruct me in the finer techniques of sewing and stitching.

The large part of me that advocated equality and gender rights wanted to sneer – had I suddenly been transported to seventeenth century England? Was I also going to be expected to produce only male heirs and where hoop gowns? I had absolutely no intention of being taught anything about sewing and stitching, for the sake of being 'feminine'.

This was beyond ridiculous.

Mistress Coxin, the tall lady in the form-fitting charming dark green robes, was in charge of making sure I knew how to speak (forgive me if I've been doing it for the last eighteen years and am still deemed terrible). Mistress Merry White, dressed in robes the same color as her last name, would teach me all manner of dancing, everything from elegant waltzes and the foxtrot to country two-steps. Lady Willard had also informed me that Mistress Merry was the expert on all thing hair and dress – she would help me.

"Firstly, her clothes…" murmured Master Twill in thinly veiled disapproval.

I stiffened, talked myself into breathing and remaining calm, before I purposely forced my muscles to relax. They could laugh all the want at my favorite and most rugged pair of jeans, the overlarge pink tee-shirt and worn sneakers – it was supposed to be ironic.

"I understand that she has even had a negative effect on Master Malfoy, as he has twice been seen wearing-" He snapped his bony fingers in a physical effort to help him recall the word. When he did, his lips pressed themselves into a thin line. "Sweatpants."

His voice pronounced the word as if it were clothing the Devil would wear himself.

"Her posture is terrible, Daphne," sternly said Mistress Coxin. I kept my face as blank as possible to betray no irritation and said nothing. "Shoulders slumped, spine curled, head slightly bent, feet pointed away from each other…"

I counted to ten in the silence that followed.

"She goes out in public like this?" The round Master Gumford sounded both amused and disdained, a feat indeed.

Alright, it was obviously time for me to count to fifty instead. I was startled when the one who had identified herself as Mistress Merry stepped out from the line to make a full circuit around me. Her eyes never strayed from my hair.

"But her hair," she said happily, "it's gorgeous and well taken care of. She has the most marvelous curls I've ever seen. Surely, that may be her saving grace."

One point for me, I thought wryly with no little amount of anger.

Mistress Merry gave me a slight smile before she turned on her heels and returned to her place at the beginning of the line. I blinked in surprise.

"Well," Lady Willard said firmly. She motioned all the others to one of the forest green couches with beautiful gold embroidery, and sat down herself. Her piercing brown eyes narrowed to slits as she critically gave me another once-over. "I'm sure we shall find a way to whip her into shape."

"Introduce yourself, child," commanded elderly Master Twill.

I took a deep breath – more like I prayed to hold on to my volatile anger long enough to make a good spoken impression – and began.

"My name is Hermione Granger-"

"I am," interrupted Lady Willard sharply. My forehead wrinkled in confusion as I stared uncertainly at her. She looked right back.

" 'I am' ", she repeated sternly.

My mouth dropped open – surely the good woman did not think that repetition without explanation would induce understanding.

"For a stronger first impression," she said severely, "one should use the phrase 'I am' rather than 'my name is'. You want to sound like an adult, not a tot in nappies. Kindly close your mouth then start over."

I snapped my mouth shut with alacrity but couldn't fight the wave of dismay that washed over me. And this was only the first day! Day one! Day one of what looked like another two months of seeing these awful people five days a week.

"I am Hermione Granger," I said with what I hoped passed as a sweet smile. "I am eighteen-"

A pale hand went up and I had to bite back an audible huff of irritation.

"You weren't asked for anything but your name," said Lady Willard with another disapproving look. "Do not volunteer unnecessary and unasked for information."

I tried to remember that I had been through worse than this – Draco had done worse than this in school – and took my tenth deep breath in as many minutes. I could do this. I could get through this without displaying any negative emotion. I slapped a smile on my face and nodded like I cared.

"Have you ever sown before?" asked Lady Daphne. I shook my head.

"Do you dance?"

I shook my head again.

"I will also make the assumption that you neither know how to dress your body nor your hair."

I wanted to strangle her but settled for pinching the sides of my thighs through my faded jeans in silence. The Lady stood to her feet and peered at me through her spectacles. Besides her, the quill was poised in the air.

"As we have already explained to you what each of us is here for, Hermione Granger, there is no need for any delay. Your schedule for the first week of training is as follows."

The quill began madly scribbling away.

"You will meet with us in this living room every morning at 9:30 for a short meeting with all five of us. Dress well, Miss Granger," Lady Willard said with a flicker of displeasure as her eyes swept me from head to toe, "for the sole purpose of those meetings will be to examine you from head to toe. You will then see Mistress Merry for all things related to hair, clothes and makeup for the duration of an hour. Once that hour is up, dancing will ensue for an hour and a half. Lunch will be with Master Gumford for two hours in the dining room that Narcissa provides. Then you will leave with Master Twill for an hour and a half of sewing and stitching. Elocution with Mistress Coxin for another hour and carriage with me for an hour and a half will end the day."

My jaw was in danger of dropping again. Every single day…for four weeks.

Every…single…day…for nine hours…for four weeks.

I watched them look at me, clearly expecting me to protest at the very least, and straightened my shoulders. When I said nothing, Mistress Coxin's lips appeared to turn up very very slightly.

"Be aware, Miss Granger," she cautioned, "that we are expecting the most from you. You must be punctual, focused but most of all, determined."

With the way they seemed to expect me to fail, there was no doubt that I would be determined.

"You have much to learn in a given amount of time," said Master Gumble in his peculiar high voice. He dusted imaginary crumbs off of his silk blue robes, but when he looked up, he seemed to have a speculative smile on his face. "As the brightest witch of your age, you may even be up to the challenge."

"Everything begins on the morrow," Master Twill said. I watched in silence as the five of them began to leave.

"We shall see you tomorrow promptly at nine-thirty," said Mistress Merry with that same slight smile. "Take the parchment with you."

Only when they had filed past me and I could hear their footsteps down the hall did I slump down. Sewing? Really? And I had agreed to do this because of what? Pureblood notions of what a lady could and couldn't do?

What had I gotten myself into?


"What have we gotten ourselves into?" said one very disgusted Lady Daphne as she looked me over from head to toe.

I was beginning to hate that bloody quill floating beside her, scrabbling madly.

It was 9:30 Wednesday morning in the same expansive living room of Dragon Wing and I was standing there ready to be critiqued in one of my cutest sunny summer day outfit. Preparing myself this morning had been a ridiculously stressful ordeal as I had tossed outfit after outfit over my shoulders in the search to try and repair the damage that my terrible first impression had already done.

I had considered talking to Mrs. Malfoy but knew I was still too angry to try and approach this logically. I wanted to question the need for these lessons, the necessity for sewing in particular since Purebloods didn't strike me as a lot that would do any labor if they didn't have to, and why comportment was so necessary to my standing as the future lady of the manor.

And here I was, experiencing an awful case of déjà vu as they made turns around me.

"Stand up straight," Lady barked as she reached out with her wand to prod me in the back. I gasped loudly - instantly and magically, I had snapped up and my spine had been rearranged to her liking. Invasive!

"Shoulders squared and chin lifted."

I gritted my teeth mentally but outwardly smiled prettily before doing as she commanded.

"Feet together," Lady said as she looked at my feet. "Really, Miss Granger, posture makes the lady."

She turned to her companions.

"What do we think?"

"Not," announced Master Twill in the deep considering voice that contrasted with his great age and hoary mustache, "not terrible."

"Though white is not the color that showcases her coloring best, it is a great improvement over yesterday."

"The brown cloak was the worst wardrobe choice she made," said Mistress Coxin with an appraising look on her square face.

"I loved the curls," twittered Master Gumble with a grin, "but the straight hair makes her look elegant paired with the white. I do agree with Rebecca, though. Miss Granger, take off that horrid brown cloak."

Like the dutiful pupil I was attempting to roleplay, I slipped out of the light robes and levitated it besides me.

"All in all," said Mistress Merry with her faint smile. "It's an acceptable outfit for a young Mistress of Malfoy Manor. I approve."

"On to discussion then," said Lady Daphne.

She motioned everyone into the comfortable plush chairs all around the room. With her wand, she formatted the chairs into a semi-circle with a single chair facing all the others. I shrewdly guessed that I was to be sitting in that single chair so I sank into it.

"Although you must take these lessons in order to successfully assume the role of Mistress of Malfoy Manor," said the Lady, "it shouldn't always be excruciatingly painful for you. What do you want out of this experience?"

I briefly weighed the pros and cons of speaking truth rather than tempering it with pretty lies. Honesty won out.

"I'm willing to take all the lessons and learn all the necessary information," I said, "granted that all subjects are indeed necessary. I fail to see the use of knowing how to knit or sow or dance and I find offense in the fact that I am being assigned a teacher for eloquence."

They remained impassive.

"However," I said on the very edge of a sigh, "I am not one to complain once the gauntlet has been thrown. I will speak to Mrs. Malfoy again, of course, but I will do my very best to learn everything you set before me."

"I do however expect these hours to be shortened to accommodate my studying schedule for the final Healer examinations taking place in little over two months." I tried to smile invitingly. "I do have this compulsive need to study that I need to fulfill."

An obliging twitter of laughter from master Gumble and Mistress Merry made me smile before I continued.

"What I'm trying to say is that I want to exceed expectations and make both my parents, Draco and Mrs. Malfoy proud of me but I will not do so at the expense of my studies."

The silence that met that monologue was profound in the fact that had managed to remain impassive in the face of all of that. I fought the urge to shift in my seat. Eventually, the Lady nodded.

"Should you feel you need more time to study, let me know as soon as possible," she said firmly. "We expect much from you, Mistress Granger, and we are quite certain that you can rise to the challenge. You have a sponge for a mind, we've been told."

I didn't know how to respond to that so I just thanked her.

"Mistress Merry will take you now."

Makeup and hair…oh, joy.

I followed the witch out of the room and into the hallway. She led me down four hallways, down two flights, and down another five hallways before we arrived in a lovely sitting room that was more like a bedroom than anything else. The walls were pink, everything done in shades of rose gold, deep cream carpet underfoot…I had to admit that as I stepped across the threshold, I wanted to sigh at the very dreaminess of it.

It seemed to be set up in stations.

On the closest wall was an old-fashioned vanity desk with a large undecorated mirror on the surface. Numerous vials of foundation, blush, powder and a small jar of black stuff was ready and waiting to be used. The second station was on the wall opposite the open door and it was all hair products. As much gel, styling wax, mousse, oil as anyone could ever want plus lots of combs and brushes were available. There was a massive walk-in closet from what I could see where I was turning in 360 degree circles to get a good look at everything but the door was open a smidgeon and I couldn't see inside.

"Take a seat, Miss Granger."

I obliged.

"So this is what you and I will be going over for the next hour," she said and gestured all around the room. "Do you know how to do your make-up?"

"I have been doing it the Muggle way since I was fifteen," I responded truthfully. She nodded.

"I had suspected as much. This way, I will not have too much to teach you." Mistress Merry smiled that faint smile before moving her wand over the vials. All the tops and caps came off neatly and aligned themselves in front of their corresponding bottles.

"Please select the colors that you normally use for foundation and blush and eyeshadow."

I quickly looked through it all to pull out a three shades of foundation close to my sun-kissed skin, a nice rose blush. For my eyes the glittery flat jars that held all sorts of shimmery powders captivated me. But-

"I assume it's to match the outfit I have on?"

Miss Merry arched an eyebrow.

"Did I say that? I only said pick out vials for a regular day."

"Okay," I murmured as I chose a simple eye-shadow. It was an array that was entirely suited to me. With no corrections since I'd been chosing palettes for years, Mistress Merry went on to show me how to use wand magic to apply the music in less time. There was more danger in messing up with magic (her last student had somehow managed to apply shadow to not her eyelids but her eyes and had to be rushed to St. Mungoes as her eyes swelled and burned) but as I am an excellent magic user, I wasn't worried. We spent an hour exploring four different looks for 'normal everyday'. After that, Mistress Merry pulled out a couple of reading materials – three books and five magazines Teen Witch Weekly, Witch Weekly, Miss Magic and some other stuff. Some of the books had easy steps for the doing makeup and of course the magazines had no end to the helpful hints and ideas.

To think, I'd been made fun of in Hogwarts for not knowing what to do with my hair or face…yet, here I was, swindled into being tutored in it. The irony was not missed by me, that's for sure.

We worked on hair after that, although we didn't do much.

"Go to the closet," instructed Mistress Merry, "and I want you to pick out anything and everything that catches your eye."

I simply looked at her with a questioning gaze but she waved me across the room. I went over and opened up the magnificent in-door closet which was small but well-lit with clothes on every rack.

"You have five minutes," she said with her distinctive faint smile.

It's not that this wasn't interesting – because it was – but this just seemed so incredibly…superficial. I loved dressing up and looking good as much as the next girl but this was making it more about how important it was to look the part than to feel good.

I sighed, told myself to tighten my bootstraps and apply myself, and started picking out clothes left and right. Anything in bright blue I picked out because I'd been told that that was my color. Dressy blouses with ruffled sleeves or ruffled necks I pulled out in all different colors. Pencil skirts, summer robes that were cut short and in pastel colors, close-fitting tees and khaki capris went on the bed as well. I fingered the fur lining a very warm looking maroon cloak that looked practical and cozy for colder temperatures. More coats, some fur-lined but most of them wool by natural preference, and I avoided anything silk because of that crazy…interaction with Mrs. Malfoy and Draco weeks back. I loved dark grey so that all went and I kept in mind that I would be Healer so everything that I thought would be good for work was also chosen. After what I thought was only three minutes, Mistress Merry clapped her hands behind me. With a magical pull, I was tugged out of the closet and the wardrobe door closed with a soft thud.

"Alright," she said softly before looking over all of the clothes that I had chosen. With magic she lifted every garment into the air: shirts all here, pants all there, dresses in one place and everything else somewhere else.

"What pants and skirt would you pair with this red ruffle-neck blouse here?" Mistress Merry inquired.

With my wand I brought over two pairs of slacks – black, grey – and two skirts – a flared white skirt that should drop down to my knees and a pencil skirt of the same dark red. Mistress Merry nodded her approval. Thirty minutes sped by before she deemed it time to begin the dancing lesson.

"Come with me," she said formally as she flicked her wand so that the pink-painted wardrobe opened all the clothes flew through the opening and the door again slid shut.

"We shall be using the smaller of the two ballrooms of Malfoy Manor," Mistress Merry informed as she led the way down more hallways, up more tirelessly long stairs and across rooms. This place is like Hogwarts, I thought wryly as we crossed a casual living room to walk through a door that appeared from nowhere in the bright yellow plaster of the wall. Draco probably had easy time navigation our old school then.

It took a little while but we got there.

Good heavens.

I stepped into the most dazzling ballroom that I had ever seen. The ceiling was at least three stories away, decorated with intricate designs and curlicues in thin gold inlay to make for a dazzling golden dome above my head. The floor was of dark cherry wood, polished to within an inch of its life so that it shone. It looked like glass, so smooth and reflective of the ceiling above it. And the walls? They each of which seemed to stretch on for miles.

And this was the smaller of two.

Of course…because the Malfoys definitely needed something bigger than this in another wing.

I tried not to be dazed at the notion.

Mistress Merry looked around the room and that smile reappeared. I suppose she appreciated the beautiful room that she saw. Regardless, she stepped into it and motioned me through quickly. The floor felt just as smooth as it had looked.


Master Twill bowed when I turned, his beautiful deep blue robes sweeping the ground. Oddly enough, I was charmed after being overwhelmed by the opulence of the ballroom. I dropped into a stilted courtesy.

He seemed amused by the attempt, his pencil mustache twitched over a smile that was barely visible but apparent all the same.

"We shall begin with the must-know dance," started Mistress Merry sternly as she walked away from us, "the waltz.

With her long thin wand, she strode of to the wall that began on the left side of the closed door and whispered a spell that I couldn't hear.

"Minute Waltz," I heard her say clearly. And then something magical happened.

The room sang Minute Waltz in D major, and it was beautiful.

I wasn't shocked that they knew a piece of Muggle music but I was a little taken aback when Master Twill asked me to step off the floor to watch himself and Mistress Merry first. Their eyes were trained on the other and posture tall and correct. They two-timed it across the floor in graceful even movements that made me go still and pay attention. When the music came to an end and Master Twill beckoned me forward expectantly, I was uncharacteristically nervous.

An hour and a half later filled with stepped-on toes (poor Master Twill) bruised pride (mine) and lots of pointed snide remarks (Master Twill), I was finally done with my dance lesson from the depths of a dragon-filled hell.

Lunch might have been enjoyable and delicious if it weren't immediately apparent that I wasn't to enjoy it in peace. Master Gumble was appalled at how lacking I was in basic ('who taught you to hold a spoon between thumb and forefinger?!' he said to me as he daintily picked up a teacup with his pinky dangling stupidly in the air.) I grimaced but sucked it up and kept it in to get through it.

This too shall pass, I kept repeating in my head. This too shall pass.

The day went by in a whirlwind of new information that I soaked up like a sponge and which I knew I would have to practice or study at home in the apartment. And when I got to bed that night, I dropped into my luxurious grey sheets determined to make the best of this.

I could do this.

And I could do it with a smile on my face.

And I would.