A/N: Love to reviewers
Having wrested my computer from the Malfoys' grip for a moment, I wanted to take a moment to account my many debts.
No work is created in a vacuum. If I were to try and list the many, many people who have, in some way, aided in the creation of this story, the list would be longer than the chapter. Suffice it to say that while all the flaws are mine, whatever merit is possessed by 'Favor me with Silence' is largely the result of help and support received by the author from many sources.
-To Countess Black, for her support, humor and insight
-To CDC for her help and encouragement
--To my family, who gave me the education I need to write this story
-To the many adults in my life who pushed me to challange myself
-To my boyfriend, for his boundless love and support
Above all, to you. In a very real sense, the readers wrote this story, through their constant encouragement, critiscm and enthusiasm. I literally could not have done it without you. It's been a hard year in a lot of ways, and knowing I was writing something which gave pleasure to people helped me keep going.
For Therese, who gave me the courage to fight when it was easier to surrender
Therefore, the author dedicates this work, with loving gratitude:
AMDG and my readers.
By far, the most awkward of awkward ways to be walked in upon involves one's mother in law and an intimate position; the next awkward would necessarily involve a screeching house elf.
Draco and Hermione were to encounter both within ten minutes of one another, and would have been hard pressed to say which was worse, though Draco was tempted to say Tibby won by a hair, if only due to Granger's reaction.
They were sitting in the Blue salon, his hand on her shoulder as she tried to Occlude him. Draco pressed a little harder into her mind and began to tease out an image of what seemed to be a piano recital. She pushed, more forcefully than he would have suspected, and he found himself fighting to keep mental contact.
The moment shattered and Draco, living, whirled around, barely restraining himself from hitting the elf. "Damn it! D'you have any idea how dangerous--"
"We is sorry, but Madam is needing Miss! We is sorry! Sorry!"
"Oh God, is it the house again? Have they burnt it down or something?"
Draco had to restrain a snort at the tone she used. "Granger, do try not to get too excited, love."
"Madam is telling Tibby to get Miss!" The elf continued to howl, until Hermione stood. "Walk with me?"
Draco rose as well. "Of course. Well done, by the way, you nearly had me." To his pleasure, Hermione blushed and looked away, and his pride increased even further.
They made their way up the stairs and walked to Narcissa's cool, quiet chambers. Everything was done in muted, tasteful tones of washed out pastels and the furniture was deep and soft and lovely. The lady herself was mysteriously absent.
"Mother must've stepped out. What shall we do to pass the time until she returns?"
"Have a conversation?"
"Mmm, could. Or I could reward you for your good lesson just now."
Hermione grinned and raised an eyebrow. "What kind of reward?"
"It's been a while since I warmed your arse."
"Draco, that's a reward for you, not a reward for me."
"Well, darling, what's mine is yours, so I prefer to think it's a reward for us …how about a kiss, then?"
She leant against him and tipped her face up, lips together, and he cupped her cheek, bent his head and—
"Mother! Good afternoon!" They leapt apart, faces scarlet, and Narcissa gave them each a very stern look. "I certainly hope I didn't see what I thought I saw."
Neither answered. Narcissa came in and sat between them. "Hermione, my darling, I was talking to Father just now, and we both feel you need a trousseau, so this afternoon, we're going to go shopping, you and I."
Hermione looked as though she'd swallowed a live beetle. "Yes, Mother."
"You seem unenthused, dearest."
"I've never been much for shopping, is all."
Narcissa blinked. "Nor I, but needs must is needs must, and I think it will be pleasant for us to spend an afternoon together."
Draco smirked hugely, all but rubbing his hands together with glee. This would be great fun, and unlike that hideous, hideous talk a few weeks earlier, there was no chance it would backfire.
Narcissa turned to face her sweet baby. "You're coming as well, Draco. You need new things desperately. Your dress robes will never do, and your jumpers are looking tatty."
Draco gave his mother his very nicest smile. "Mother, can't I just borrow some of Father's? His are very nice, and--"
"You're to be married, Draco. You need your own robes, and you're too old to just borrow from your father. And anyway, it will be fun, like it was when you were small. Unless you don't want to come?" She patted his face and smiled sadly, and Draco knew he was done. "Of course, Mother, I'd be glad to."
Granger was smiling evilly at him. "Get that look off your face, Hermione Jane."
Hermione dropped her eyes demurely. "I've no idea what you mean."
"Yes, you do! You were smirking at me!"
"I wonder where Hermione might have learnt that, Draco."
Draco's ears went pink. "I'll, ah, go and find my shoes."
As he left, his little girl turned to Mother and said softly "Mother?"
"Will you teach me how to do that?"
Lucius Malfoy was sitting in his study, going over that month's accounts. His set the quill down and popped his neck, smiling ruefully. He was getting older.
Draco popped his head in the door. "Father, help!"
"What's wrong, Draco?"
"Mother wants me to go shopping with Hermione and her."
"Oh? What's the problem?"
Draco looked horrified. "Father, it's shopping! With Mother!"
"So you've said."
"Can't you tell her I can't go?"
"Then she might find some reason for me to go, and Draco, I have spent close to twenty five shopping with Mother. My turn is done."
Draco was too old to pout, but one wouldn't have realized it from the look on his face. "But Father…"
"I am resolved in this. One of the joys of having children is forcing them to do the things one no longer wishes to. When I was your age, Grandfather made me do just the same with Grandmother and Mother, and if you think Mother is bad, you ought to have gone with Grandmother."
Draco sniggered despite himself. "Fair enough. I'll see you later, Father."
"Do keep an eye out. Diagon Alley is safe enough, I should think, but…"
Draco nodded, unconsciously fingering his wand. It grieved Lucius to see, a bit, that way the boy's hand went for his wand so casually.
A moment later, he heard the front door open, and saw through the window as they stepped onto the lawn. Draco graciously held Hermione's arm as they Apparated together.
Something flickered into his field of vision. Just for an instant, Lucius felt almost watched. He half stood, going for his own wand, and then made himself relax. Malfoy park harboured all sorts of animals; likely it was a deer, or some other woodland animal.
On the other hand, he hadn't survived as long as he had by ignoring his instinct. Pulling out a piece of fresh parchment and a new quill, he began to write:
I wish to speak to you in person as to the wedding arrangements. Would you do me the honour of visiting me this evening atnine o'clock?"
A flock of birds rose, screeching, and Lucius Malfoy called the mail elf to come and send the letter, deciding this was the right choice after all.
It wasn't nearly as bad as Hermione thought it would be. Narcissa knew what she wanted to get and eschewed ostentation for a kind of clean, quiet simplicity. She'd seemingly memorized a list of what was needed and recited to the cadre of assistants who appeared as soon as they entered the shop.
"We'll need six nightgowns, four of lawn and two of silk, three dozen pairs of stockings and suspenders, silk, two dozen wool, a bed jacket in pink peau de soie, …." And that was simply undergarments. All Hermione had to do was sit on the chair provided for her and listen.
Draco fared worse. He was shooed toward Madam Malkin's with stern instructions to get new dress robes and then the usual place for trousers, shoes and the like. He obeyed, brooding, and soon found himself standing still while Madam Malkin pinched and prodded him all over. The shop was blessedly empty
"Hello, Potter. How goes it?"
"All right." Harry Potter smiled a little. "History's repeating itself."
"Hmm, I hope not. I should hate to lose all this height I've gained since I was eleven."
Potter laughed. "Touche. Where's Hermione?"
"With Mother, getting her trousseau. I'm not sorry to have missed that."
"Do you have time for a drink?"
Draco considered. "I do. The Three Broomsticks?"
Ten minutes later, he was drinking pumpkin juice with his former nemesis. They eyed one another awkwardly, not knowing what to say. Finally, Potter said " You were brave to come out today."
"We can't hide forever. There's only so much one can get sent to the house."
"How are your friends dealing with all this?"
Draco wanted to make a smart arsed comment but made himself take the high road, seeing as Potter was clearly going somewhere.
"I've not received any death threats from them, so I expect the answer is 'as well as could be expected'. Have you informed Aunt Walburga's portrait?"
They laughed a little. "What about yours? The Weasleys and the rest of them?"
Harry swallowed a sip of pumpkin juice. "Everyone was…surprised, but I think most of them respect Hermione enough to have faith in her choice."
"What about Weasley himself? Is he planning on sneak-hexing me when next he and I meet?"
Harry looked away. "Listen, Malfoy…Ron's…Ron's a good bloke. He just needs time. It was a bit of a shock for him."
"Is this your way of telling me to expect trouble, Potter?"
"Not exactly. But it's going to be hard going."
"I'm aware, and so is Granger.' He stood and threw down a coin. 'Speaking of whom, I'm going to find her and Mother. Care to join me?"
Despite his brave words to Potter, Draco thought it wise to avoid the open street. The places they were shopping were places that had been serving the Malfoys for centuries; the shop owners weren't going to alienate customers of such long standing by allowing vulgar people to harass them. But nobody owns the street, and so he hurried, wishing it were winter so he could wear a cloak to hide his features.
Luckily, Potter had similar ideas, and they walked quickly to the shop where he'd left the ladies. They walked into the shop and breathed in the smells of perfume, face powder and freesia that hung like some sort of pink cloud.
"Harry! Draco, how nice of you to ask him to come!" She beamed and gave Potter a kiss on the cheek. Potter smiled back and then studied her a long moment. "You look different, Hermione."
"Do I?" She turned to Draco, who raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "Don't look at me, love, I think you always look radiant." Hermione looked away, cheeks faintly pink, and Draco gave Potter a slightly smug look.
"It's not a bad thing. You look' he tried to find words for the way she'd looked when she saw Malfoy; her face had lit up. She looked older but in a good way; and thankfully, she was gaining weight.
"Happy." Hermione's face relaxed and she lightly pressed his arm. "I am happy, Harry, very happy. I wish my parents could be here, but other than that..."
"Any news of--"
She inhaled. "No. How is Ginny?"
"Fine. You know Bill and Fleur are expecting?"
"That's wonderful! We'll have to send them a note." The last was to Draco, who nodded dutifully. Weaselbee's kin was almost as bad as he, and numerous as boomslangs in a riverbed. The bell above the door tinkled again and Draco winced. Xanthippe Parkinson had just come in, accompanied by her daughter Pansy.
"Hello Pansy, Madam Parkinson. You know my fiancée, Miss Granger, and Harry Potter, of course."
Xanthippe Parkinson nodded but didn't extend a hand. She smiled and said loudly "Yes, of course. How are you today, dear?"
"Fine, thank you, Madam. And yourself?"
"Oh, we're quite well. Pansy and I thought we'd come and get some dress robes for the ball. Is Narcissa choosing yours?"
Hermione didn't know which ball they meant but decided asking would be a mistake. "Mother is always so generous with her help and guidance; she's helping me with everything."
"Of course she is. After all, it isn't as though your own mother could help you, now could she?"
Hermione went rigid. "Pardon?"
"Well, dear, she is a muggle, after all. Isn't she?"
"Yes, she is." Draco could smell danger, and so could Potter. Both men stepped a little closer, though to support Hermione or restrain her neither was sure.
Pansy was watching the whole thing with a look of simpering affection on her face, but under it Draco could sense she was anticipating her mother humiliating Draco's mudblood slut.
"Then she could hardly be expected to understand the niceties of these things. I imagine muggles do things differently. Do they even have weddings?"
Hermione's cheeks were crimson. "If I didn't know better, Madam, I'd think you asked me whether my parents are married."
"One does hear stories, Miss Granger. Things I would not repeat to an… innocent… such as yourself, horrible things."
Parkinson smiled. "Don't worry, Mother, I'm quite sure Miss Granger can handle it. Living in a tent with those boys for months, she must have been partner in a great many peculiar things."
Draco felt heat rushing to his face and neck. "I'd be careful what I implied, Parkinson."
Hermione put a hand to his arm and smiled tightly. "Draco, I feel a little faint. Let's find Mother."
Parkinson's smile widened. "Oh, dear, are you ill? Nauseous, perhaps? I'm sure you'll be…back in the saddle…in no time at all."
Draco's world had gone very quiet and very dim. "If you-- were a man--, I would—killyou –for-- that."
Hermione stepped up. "I had wanted to be civil for Draco's sake, Parkinson, bit something tells me it won't be possible. Good day to both of you, Draco, escort me home, please."
Narcissa, having had everything sent to the manor, entered the circle in time to see the tag end. "Is everything all right?"
"Fine, Mother. Madam Parkinson and her daughter were just saying goodbye."
"Actually, Cissy dearest, we wanted to see for ourselves whether this whole thing with the Granger girl was true."
"I've no clue what you mean, Xanthippe. Lucius and I could not be more thrilled that Draco is marrying Miss Granger." Narcissa put a hand on the back of Hermione's neck and gave a terrifying smile to warn the Parkinson woman to back off.
"And here we thought it was a tasteless joke. I must say, I think it terribly ill advised. If you ask me--"
"No one did." Hermione was close to her breaking point. Beside her, Harry had quietly put a hand to his wand. None of the others had…yet. She didn't want a problem, truly, but the things they were saying were inexcusable.
"Don't you interrupt my mother! Draco only likes you because you let him do things to you."
Hermione looked Pansy dead in the face. "That's a lie."
"Is it? The kind of girl who'd spend all her time alone with men? They call you his mudblood whore!"
Hermione smiled sweetly. "You ought to hear what they used to call you, Parkinson. Mother, are we finished?"
Narcissa nodded. "Indeed. Good day Xanthippe, Pansy."
They left. "Mr. Potter, I'm sure my son has invited you to tea already, but I'm afraid we must reschedule, as all this excitement has been too much for Hermione. How's Saturday afternoon at four?"
"Uh, fine, thank you."
"Excellent. We'll see you then. Are you ready, children?"
Hermione and Harry embraced. "Thank you, Harry."
"Welcome. Goodbye, Madam Malfoy, Draco."
They Apparated home, and were met by Lucius. "How did it go?"
Narcissa shook her head. "Draco will tell you. Hermione, love, go straight upstairs and lie down, I'll be up in a moment with a calming draught."
Lucius raised an eyebrow. As the ladies made their way up the stairs, he waved his son into the study and motioned for him to sit down. Draco related everything that had happened as his father listened, occasionally asking a question here or there.
"It sounds like you both reacted very well, all things considered."
"Thank you, Father. What shall we do?"
His father looked grim. "Do? What can we do? Surely you knew this was coming."
"Well, yes, but I never thought they would attack Hermione. And Mother."
"Was any of it true?"
Draco looked away. "I wouldn't know. I've seen Granger's parents' wedding photograph, so they must be married. And nothing happened between her and Potter and Weasley that I know of."
"Were there rumours about your relationship?"
"At school? I doubt it. Parkinson only knew because Alecto was there the night Snape… she must have heard me threaten Greyback."
"What about the Parkinson girl?"
"She and I had a rather nasty confrontation in…February? March? Don't recall…anyway, we had a run in. She's been mad ever since."
"Because you chose Hermione over her?"
"I presume." Draco shrugged. One couldn't expect a woman to behave logically about things of this nature. "Hermione has spoilt us, I think. She's always so reasonable about these things."
Lucius smiled. "Yes, she is, but remember she's still liable to the same frailties as every other woman. Is she really ill?"
"I think she just wanted to get away from Parkinson."
"Something will need to be done. I hadn't meant to tell you, but I've written Galten Goyle and…"
Upstairs, Hermione was obediently lying abed, propped up on several down pillows, holding a goblet of water. Narcissa sat next to her and said finally "It really didn't bother you?"
"The things that woman said about my parents did. What Pansy was talking about…of course not. She didn't spit, either." Hermione smiled but Narcissa remained solemn, deep in thought.
"That's a small mercy. All the same, I can't help but feel there was something we should have said or done."
Hermione considered. "It's better we not make a scene, I think. They'll get bored with us."
"I quite agree, but in the interim…what was it they used to call the Parkinson girl, anyway?"
Hermione looked away. "I might have made that up to anger her."
"You might have, but I can't believe it. You're too good, love. It's all right, Hermione, you may tell." Narcissa did smile then, and Hermione got an abrupt peak of the girl she'd been, a cheery, fun loving girl who'd never been as pretty as Bellatrix, perhaps, but still lovely beyond words when she was happy.
"They used to call her…"
Draco's face was lit up like the Great Hall at Christmas when his father had finished. "Father, tonight? Truly?"
"Unless you wish to wait…"
"No! I mean, whatever you think best, sir."
Lucius laughed. "I nearly believed that. It will quash the worst of the rumours, and as for the rest…like you said, who's to believe a drunkard and that ugly daughter of hers?"
"I quite agree. May we tell Mother now?"
"Mmm, yes, but not Hermione. She's had a very long day, and she needs to rest. You aren't to give anything away, understood?"
"I'll be the soul of discretion, Father."
"I rather doubt that." But he grinned as he said it, and watched as his son darted up the stairs, happier than he'd seen him in ages. As would his wife be, and Lucius himself. Snape had had the potion ready for over a week, and if they were rather foreshortening the traditional waiting period, it was in the service of the greater good, and well worth it to see Draco run like a child to tell Narcissa.
Dinner that night was a strangely fraught affaire. Hermione was sent upstairs with strict instructions to stay in the sitting room of Narcissa's quarters and not to dare move. She was inclined to obey; she had a good book and the company of her devoted, irritating, slightly mad house elf.
At nine o'clock Galten Goyle arrived, younger brother in tow. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, they got straight to business. "Tomorrow, then?"
"That would be ideal. I understand it's rather sudden…"
" 'S'All right. If that thing this afternoon was as bad as you say, it'll stop anymore like that, anyway."
"That's what I said. And it isn't as though there's any doubt on any of our parts."
"Quite. So we'll take her now and be here at dawn?"
"That sounds exactly right. Draco, have you anything to add?"
"No, Father. Should Greg and I seal our vow, though?"
The boys rose and called for two goblets of wine. They joined hands as Galten drew and swished. "Do you, Gregory Andrew Goyle, vow to protect the lady Hermione Granger from all harm, whatever may come?"
"Do you, Draco Lucius Malfoy, vow to give Gregory Goyle aid and succor whenever called upon, as long as you both shall live?"
They drank and Greg grinned broadly. "It'll be just like old times."
"Well, no, I haven't those lead knights anymore." They both chuckled and waited to be dismissed. "May we go, Father?"
"By all means, but do make sure Hermione doesn't see you."
"Yes, sir. Come on, Greg." The two walked for the stairs and the men watched them go.
"They're good boys."
"Yes, they are. Your father would be very proud, Galten, of how you've handled things in his…absence."
"Tiggy is expecting you both?"
"I'll ask my wife to get Hermione."
Hermione's first hint that something had changed was the sight of Narcissa, clad in a dressing gown, bustling in, potion phial in one hand, trailed by Tibby. "Here, love, drink this down. Good girl."
The stuff tasted of menthol and something else, but Hermione had very little chance to decide what, as her midriff suddenly tingled strangely. She pressed her hand to her navel, but nothing else happened.
"Yes, love? The purple, Tibby, and those old brown shoes. Yes, those. Hold out your hand, Hermione."
Hermione obeyed and her bracelet, the bracelet that Draco had given her that night after the Slug Club party, flicked open and dropped into Narcissa's palm. The older witch sat down and took Hermione's hand in hers.
"It's all right, precious. Nothing's the matter, but I need you to listen carefully to what I tell you."
After she'd got done, Hermione was silent for a full minute. "But we've not sent invitations."
"A wedding is a family ceremony, love. Guests will come to the ball in a month's time, and we'll invite all your friends." Well, some of them, and only if they'd behave, but Narcissa didn't mention that part.
"And that was the potion Snape made?"
"It was. Everything should be fine now."
"It's all so sudden."
"Given what happened today, it seemed wise to move the date. They won't dare impugn you if you're married to my son. The bride and groom aren't supposed to know the exact time, anyway, and we thought you'd prefer soon rather than later. Tibby, dress Miss for travel via Floo."
"Why did you take my bracelet?"
Narcissa spent the rest of their time explaining what was to happen, and at midnight, Hermione stepped through the Floo with Galten Goyle. The Malfoys watched her go.
" Hermione is a wonderful girl, but I just can't believe our baby is getting married."
"I can't believe Draco doesn't complain when you call him that."
Narcissa smiled. "He's good, but I'm better. Are the boys settled?"
"They'd best be. I've told Minky to wake them at four o'clock."
"I feel a little strange, marrying them so abruptly."
"This way we can call in all those debts of honour if someone insults the girl again. How was she?"
"You would have been proud. Even Mother would have approved of the way she handled it."
Lucius frowned gravely. "Oh dear, I shall have to watch out, then. Your mother had a way of getting what she wanted."
"She did ."
"Are you happy, love?" Lucius pulled his wife closer and she pressed her head to his shoulder. It was strange, he thought. Making the preparations for a wedding made him feel so old, and yet being here with Narcissa, he felt eighteen again.
"Tremendously. Seeing that Parkinson girl made me realise how lucky we are in Hermione."
"I quite agree. Do you suppose our grandchildren will be brunets, though?"
Narcissa shuddered. "Don't even joke, Lucius!"
In the vaults, the elves prepared for the ceremony. Bottles of the finest wine in the Malfoy collection, heavily laced with datura and juice of poppy, were set beside the big gold braziers, along with tins of incense and fruit for offerings. The tombs were garlanded with wreathes and bouquets by the dozen, and the cushions on the benches were cleaned and plumped. After they'd gone, all was quiet.
Outside, a small group straggled along the edges of the park, unable to get within sight of the house, due to the Marks which still tainted their magic. They were quiet too, but their quiet was the quiet of the living, not the dead.
Greyback sat amongst them and waited. He'd been careless that day, but now he would be more cautious. Too much was riding on this to make a stupid error. The animals had long since fled the wolfman, and the only company the Death Eaters had was the stars.
The world wore a veil of peace that night, and if it was a troubled veil, it was enough for those who waited the morning's soft tread, thief like, to change everything.
And it did. But for now, favored with silence, they slept.
A/N: The sequel is started and should be coming soon.