Chapter One Pt. One
I had always imagined my wedding to be a lavish, decadent affair; swathes of white fabric and heaps of rose petals strewn artfully on all available surfaces. I would be wrapped in gauzy white layers of lace and satin and velvet. My dark hair would be coiffed perfectly and my cheeks would be as red and bloodstained as the roses I would carry. And there, at the altar, would stand my groom; perfect, hair as dark as night, and eyes focused solely on my descent with warmth and love.
Of course, truth rarely lends itself to the willful dreams of fiction. My true wedding held none of the splendour and majesty I was hoping for.
It was a quiet affair, only the closest family and friends were invited. In total the guests totalled twelve, plus the clergyman, a maid of honor, and a best man. Wizarding weddings don't require the father of the bride to walk her down the aisle, as I found out, and the family into which I was marrying were unwilling to make any concessions for my muggle upbringing. It was enough a sore spot as it was, I didn't press the issue.
We stood outside on the lawns of the extensive grounds, a flimsy looking tent set up for the small reception afterwards. As the clergyman spoke the words which would bind me indefinitely to the man holding my hands with his cold, calloused fingers, fat droplets of rain landed heavily on my face, my shoulders, in my hair. Drops ran gently and swiftly down my arms, over my collarbone and down the front of my dress. My skin errupted with goosebumps and tightened against the cold.
"Miss Hermione Granger, do you accept this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, in the eyes of both the creator and the eyes of your peers?"
I remained silent for a few seconds, enough for him to squeeze my hands in warning. Feeling tangibly the last shreds of my freedom drip from my body, I looked back at the clergyman. "I do."
A burning knot formed in the pit of my stomach, spreading along my veins like fire, molding to my bones, seeping into my muscle. Magic in its corporeal form, binding me to my words.
"And do you, Draco Malfoy, accept this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, in the eyes of both the creator and in the eyes of your peers?"
Without a shred of hesitation, he nodded firmly and said "I do."
"With the power vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I pronounce you to be Mr. And Mrs. Malfoy, Lord and Lady of Malfoy Manor and Malfoy Park, husband and wife. Please seal your vows."
One of his hands left mine and found the curve of my jaw, tilting my head up to meet his cold lips as they pounced gently on my mouth. As soon as his lips made contact with my skin the burning which had shot through me seconds before and vanished came back, stronger and seeking, binding our magic, our souls into one, yet leaving them seperate. Leaving Draco of my own accord with the intention not to return would tear the binding in half and kill me, possibly him as well. Wizards had, for the past thousand years, had a divorce rate of zero per cent.
Something else attacked my core, digging and hacking and slicing me open, pouring magic and stirring my senses, burning me from the inside out. It lasted but a moment, as long as his lips were on mine, but at the end, when the burning was beginning to fade and the use of my limbs was returned to me, I sawthe face of a massive black cat flash across the backs of my eyelids, dark green eyes oddly alight in the darkness of my head, feral and piercing. Frightened, my eyes snapped open and I found the grey eyes of my husband staring back at me, serious and betraying nothing of his thoughts. After years of being able to read Harry and Ron so easily, his stony countenance was alarming; I didn't know how to proceed with him. He left me confused, unaware of where we stood with regards to our relationship, even after we had made the sacred vows to remain together, as close as it was possible for two people to be.
"Hermione," a voice said behind me, and I turned to see the cool eyes of Narcissa, so like the eyes of her son. Slanted and exotic, cold and forbidding. When she looked at me I felt ugly and plain. "Welcome," she said, taking my hand in hers and squeezing, her soft hands cold and thin. It was a very perfunctory gesture, probably only for the benefit of the guests who were watching with avid interest. I thanked her and muttered something about how honored I felt to be part of the Malfoy legacy. Her mouth tightened and her husband looked annoyed and agreived behind her.
Narcissa and Lucius did not understand why Draco would marry me; they didn't know what could possibly have attracted him to me. Sure, I was pretty enough, but I was not of their world, and for that alone, I could never be accepted. I would forever be something to be curiously examined, and then held at arms length. There would be no close family here, no warm family dinners and shared holidays.
But this was what I had chosen for myself.
One year before
I was happy, for the first time in a long time, and peace had finally settled amongst the survivors of the Great War. Those who died were at rest, those who were injured were adjusting, and those who were healthy and well were learning how to live again without the oppressive cloak of Voldemort clinging to the air.
I was with my friends; we were walking through the halls and corridors of our old home, Hogwarts, remembering old times and old passed the second floor girls bathroom, and I suddenly remembered something I had hidden there years before, in my third year. I begged off for a moment and left them to wander the rest of the corridor themselves. I went to the fourth stall, the one Moaning Myrtle seemed to inhabit the most, and therefore the least used by human patrons. I lifted the lid to the toilet tank. There floated a shiny tin bowl, in which lay three vials, looking just as they had when I'd left them. The vials shone dark red, the light straining through the viscous liquid and reflecting coppery light into the sides of the bowl, distorted and eery.
I held them up to the light to read the labels, faded with the humidity to nearly invisible script, but they were still there. Draco Malfoy, Dean Thomas, and Hermione Granger. A Pureblood, a Half-Blood, and a Mudblood.
I had stolen Draco's blood from the ground, after Buckbeak had slashed his arm. Dean Thomas had gotten a bloody nose after a fist fight with Seamus. I had punctured a hole in the crook of my elbow, where no one would notice a small wound. Blood from the three basic classifications of magical background, now the foremost priority in my research. I had been planning for years; ever since I learned first hand of the stereotypes and the hatred directed at people like me.
Blood-, such a simple matter, and yet so hard to understand. Humankind had long been fascinated by it, attempting dangerous experiments and asking daunting questions. Why was it so important? What did it do? Why did it determine so many things about a person?
It decided who became king. Blood had the power to kill, and also to heal. Blood shed in sacrafice; blood shed in anger. Blood shed in self-hatred. Blood; everything and nothing. I would find out why.
It was impossible not to notice the coldness in the air, the barely concealed hatred and unsaid slurs. My parents were aware that the elder Malfoys held no fondness for them. My parents kept to themselves, congratulating me and expressing their hopes for my new life to be everything that is peaceful and wonderful. My father shook Draco's hand, and Draco, to his credit, did not look at all disgusted or ill as Lucius would have. I offered a small smile. He did not return it.
The rest of the reception offered more of the same. Ginny gave me a sympathetic smile, knowing how hard it was for me to keep my mouth shut and say the right things. She had displayed vast integrity by even showing up, hated and despised by the Malfoys as she was. Ron and Harry were conspicuously absent, having, for all intents and purposes, excommunicated me after they had found out my plans. They had only helped me strengthen my resolve. The rest of the guests milled awkwardly around, pretending a comfort they did not feel.
Finally, the hour struck midnight, the traditional hour in which the groom would carry his new bride to the bedchamber. Draco snagged my wrist, pecked me perfunctorily on the cheek, and made the appropriate closing comments. I was too nervous to speak. My mother must have caught my anxiousness because she grabbed my other wrist when I passed and gave a reassuring squeeze. My father blushed. When I walked past them it was the last time I would see them for months. They seemed to know it as I did. Their eyes glistened with sad tears, maybe some joy. I had long ago understood that the muggle world held no real place for me, and I had given up my sadness.
The walk to the bedchamber was long. Each step furthered my anxiety until I was almost hyperventilating and my breaths came in short, quick bursts and my hands shook with the increase in the level of blood flowing through the capilaries.
The path was long and winding, I nearly lost count of how many turns we had taken; I was sure that I would never find my way out of the room tomorrow -if indeed I was to be allowed to leave it. I was putting my very life in the hands of my new husband, and it was all I could do to trust that he would not abuse the power that was rightfully his, now by law. Somehow, though, I knew that he could not hurt me. He needed me, almost as much as I needed him.
The hallways were dark and dimly lit by torches flickering in gold- probably solid- holders spaced evenly down the walls. Heavy stone, ancient and clearly well used, a pathway worn into the ground, the stone lighter than along the sides. Generations of Malfoys had made this journey, a thousand new brides tracing this very route. My interest in the history very nearly made me forget my anxiety, but not quite. I couldn't stop my nervous quirks; my hands twisting in the fabric of my dress, my tongue darting out to wet my lips and bring moisture to my dry mouth.
Draco looked at me strangely, annoyed by my nervousness, but when we reached the door he stopped, and whirled me to face him. His hands weren't rough, but they held no gentleness. His cold skin pressed into my own, and I felt a strange, primal urge to duck and whirl away, to run. I forced myself to stand and meet his gaze.
"We cannot share the same bed tonight," he said finally, after staring intently for a moment. I didn't understand.
"But how-" I couldn't bring myself to say 'how will we consumate it'. But he caught my drift. Wizarding weddings, I had recently learned from an extremely disgusted Ron, had a time limit for consummation. If we didn't consumate within twenty four hours, the magic which held us bound would become magnified, drawing us together with magnetic force too strong to resist until we did. There were stories of couples who ended up succumbing in places not fit for such things, unable to resist the spell for any longer.
"I am an animagus. We can't- yet." he ammended.
I understood. In the vows, his magical forms had been transfered to me. Our patronus's would probably now be the same, taking whichever form was most dominant. And I was now, through him, an animagus. If we consumated before I changed for the first time, I would change half-way through due to extreme emotions, which would be problematic.
I nodded slowly. "How do I change?"
"I need to teach you, but not while there are guests still here." I forced myself not to ask why. He continued, dropping his hands to his side, brushing his palms against his robes, as if he were rubbing the feel of me from his skin. I tried not to be offended. "The first few times you will be overtaken by instinct," he said, "and you could become dangerous. I will have to go with you."
The great black cat flashed again against the backs of my eyes when I blinked, and I suddenly grasped the enormity of what I would be able to do; the kind of damage I could wreak.
"A panther." I said. He looked a tiny bit startled, but not entirely unsurprised. He nodded. "When can I try?" I felt young and stupid asking so many questions, when I was supposed to know everything. He had always been the first to comment on my inability to keep my mouth shut in school, mocking me with every opportunity. Being here put me on edge and I couldn't quite contain myself the way I had eventually learned after having had enough of his teasing. I had effectively reverted to my eleven year old self. Annoyance crept through my mind like a net, tainting my vision. My nervousness had fled, but anxiety stuck; I would be an untamed wild animal at some point in the evening, and I had had no time to prepare myself. If I hated anything, it was the unknown.
"This is your room," he said unnecessarily, motioning to the dark door with a lazy hand, "I'll come back for you at midnight."
"Do I need anything?" He shook his head and left me, his expensive dress robes a flurry around his ankles.
I grumbled under my breath and entered my room. I was unsurprised that I would not be sharing Draco's room; this was a marriage of convenience. I was no better than a guest in all but name.
The room was so lavish it could easily have housed the both of us, but I suspected that his was even better. No need to taint his things with mudblood stench more than was necessary, was probably what he had thought. As Lady of the Manor I was entitled to at least the second best room, and by the looks of it, the best had to be incredible.
My bed was massive. I could start at one end and roll over twenty times and still not reach the other side. If I lay with my head directly at the solid mahogany headboard, I would be able to fit another of me at my feet and still have room for extra footspace if needed. There was absolutely no need for so much room, and I couldnt understand why it was more impressive to have to climb twenty feet to get out of bed every morning than to roll gracefully out of a smaller one. It seemed like overkill to me, but what do I know? I'm just a poor, graceless commoner. Or I was.
There was a beautiful writing desk that I could appreciate in front of bay windows overlooking the small lake and the fountain, with a locking drawer for anything I wanted to keep personal. Several bookshelves lined the far wall and a positively enormous door led to an even more monstrous closet, filled to the brim with lavish dresses and robes that I would probably never have occasion to wear.
If I was going to be forced into the enemy camp, I decided critically as I surveyed the carefully put together room, I might as well enjoy it. Truly, it was much better than I had hoped for, and as I poked around, I knew that I could be at least content here. It was much more space than I needed, and I would be able to work in peace in such a secluded room. As far as I knew, the closest inhabited bedroom was miles away at the other end of the manor. I would be quite undisturbed.
I wandered into the closet and flicked a hand to turn the lights on. At the end was a wall sized mirror, broken into three so that I could, presumably, admire myself from every direction. As I neared it I realized that the two side mirrors had small handles on them.
I went first to the one on my left, pushed on the handle, and opened the mirror to a short set of stairs which descended to a bathroom the size of the girls dormitory in Hogwarts. There was a pool, a wall length mirror and a counter covered with every cosmetic potion known to wizardkind, and, I noted with dry humor, a great vat of Sleakeasy Hair Potion. Abruptly disinterested with the bathroom, I climbed the stairs back to the closet and opened the mirror to the other room.
The flight of stairs was longer, and led up instead of down, to a vast room with domed cielings and a ventilation system that made the room exactly the temperature of the outdoors. There were five long tables, each holding enough room for five cauldrons, and a storage room in the far wall, which even from the door, I could see was packed full of ingredients. I could have cried.
I knew then that I had done the right thing in marrying Draco Malfoy. I had not expected him to honor my conditions to such a degree, and I was astonished at his willingness to aid my research. But then, afterall, it affected him as much as me.
There was a clock on the far wall and it told me that Draco would be back for me in a few moments. I gave a final glance to the lab and went back to the main room, happier than I had been in months. I may have lost my freedom, but at the same time, I had gained the ability to win it back.
Chapter One Pt. Two
He came precisely at midnight, just as he had promised.
I wasn't sure how the mechanics of the change worked. I had researched the general effects and the spellwork involved, preparing for the eventuality that Harry, Ron, and I would become animagus's before the wars end, but the war ended before we had the chance. The spell didn't seem so very important afterwards, and it slipped my mind. But never having had the chance to research the intricasies of the spell, I wasn't sure what to do with my clothes. Did they change with me and become part of my external landscape when I changed? Or would the change rip the clothes into shreds and leave them littered on the ground, left for someone to find?
It would be a shame to ruin my dress, I thought ruefully. It was quite beautiful, in a simple, understated way. It had none of the over the top haute couture elegance that I had always imagined for myself, but the graceful lines draped from my form in a way that I could imagine I was a grecian princess. It had one shoulder with a golden circlet holding it into a narrow gathering and it widened over my collarbone and covered my chest with one piece of white fabric, clinging softly and sweeping under my arms to meet at the back, a golden staple holding it into place. Golden bands of ribbon wrapped around my waist, emphasizing the few curves that I had, highlighting without being vulgar, and then tied in a knot below the gathering of fabric at my back. Overall the effect was far more flattering than anything I had worn before, which was to be expected as it was picked out by Narcissa.
I supposed that if my change wrecked anything, it could be easily fixed. It was silly, but I had a vision of myself creeping silently through the grounds with bare feet and arms and my hair a mass of perfect curls around my shoulders, a wild beauty with grace and poise, stealth in every line. The moon would cloak my form with a subtle blue glow and I would be something out of a fairy tale. A priestess or a warrior.
"Hermione," a voice said from the doorway, sounding impatient. I looked up from my place on the bed, embarassed at my thoughts. I was not and never would be that sort of girl; the kind that easily inspired tales of excitement and intrigue and found mischief around every corner. I was the strong, dependable, bookish girl with aspirations only to be the smartest and the brightest. To imagine differently was to be foolish in every sort of way. Ginny was that girl, even Luna on occasion. I was not.
"Ready?" he asked me. I nodded, standing. He looked me up and down, his lip curling a tiny bit at my attire. He waved his wand and the dress disappeared, replaced by a skin tight pair of leggings and a black tee shirt. My daydream disappeared like a puff of smoke.
For a moment I thought his eyes darkened, maybe with lust, but his eyes quickly resumed their cold look of disinterest and he beckoned me with a hand to follow him. I did.
He led me to the lake, a small beach with coarse sand and sparse patches of grass.
"Changing requires concentration," he said, "You already saw the form?" I nodded. "Good, concentrate on that. It doesn't require a physical spell once you've already been made an animagus. Try to visualize the form, as much as you can. You have to push your bones to change with your mind. It might take a bit longer, but I'll change first so you know what to aim for."
I nodded again, nervous all over again, my palms getting sweaty at my sides. But I clenched my hands into fists, new determination setting in. If there was anything I was good at, it was tests.
He closed his eyes, squeezing them briefly and then relaxing again. His jaw muscles were taught, as, I noticed, were the rest of his muscles. His forearms were like tight wires, pulled straight. Then he started to change. It was almost too fast to see every detail. His forearms lengthened, his upper arms shortened, sinking into his shoulders, which were squishing together and moving sideways. His ribs reoriented, like a vise was on his middle and tightening, flattening him. His head became smaller and flatter, his nose and mouth shooting forwards into a snout, darkening as hair sprouted all over him. His thighs shortened, growing muscle and his shins all but disappeared, his feet lengthening into where they were.
Suddenly, withing a few seconds, I was facing an enormous, pure black cat with light grey eyes and long, razor sharp white teeth.
For a moment, I was gripped with fear. I forgot that this was Draco, a fully grown man, capable of self restraint. He knew me. But I didn't know him.
I backed up, faster than I should have and I fell to the ground. The cat, Draco, sat on its haunches, staring at me without moving. He bobbed his head down, urging me on. Some of the terror receded and I could appreciate the beauty of the creature in front of me. Moonlight glimmered on his shiny coat, highlighting the rippling muscle and the form that was created for speed and killing. In the back of my mind I heard a feral growl rip through me, a longing to become such a strong, fierce creature. Without closing my eyes, I tightened my muscles, looking Draco in the eye, visualizing every aspect of the form I suddenly wanted more than anything.
It was intoxicating, dizzying. The instincts I had inherited choked me, erasing inhibitions, fears, worries. Dull pain shot through me as my muscle creaked into new places, pulling bones and tendons along, reshaping me. My fingernails hardened into claws, and my teeth sliced through my lip as they lengthened and sharpened. My tounge grew sharp, tiny spikes made for rasping meat from bone. Smells became sharper, more intense. I could smell the sheep in a field a mile away. My ears grew large, flat, with tiny hairs that caught the faintest vibrations from all around me, the tiniest rustle in the grass, the ripple in the lake from a fish that jumped on the other end. The raucous cocophony that was the splashes from the fountain. The dark night atmosphere was suddenly illuminated, my perfect vision no longer relying on the sun and seeing perfectly in the subtle moonlight. I could see every hair on Draco's face, every blade of grass and every crawling insect from where I sat to the treeline twenty meters away.
Without even realizing, my form was completely changed. I could feel the incredible strength in my body, able to propel me twenty feet in a single push, able to climb a tree in four seconds. I could do anything. If I wanted, I could fly.
My instincts tried to push away my rational thought, but I struggled to retain control. I was not like Harry; I would never be able to overthrow an imperius curse, or resist a skilled legilimens. But I could resist invasions of my own making. I repeated my name in my head over and over, concentrating on keeping myself sane. If anything, the fear of accidentally killing someone kept my thoughts in a straight line. In about five minutes of intense concentration, the instincts which had tried to make me flee into the cover of the forest receded to a manageable level, and I could reasonably explore without losing control. I padded over to the waterline, pleased to discover that walking with four legs came as naturally to me as two, and my tail created a sense of balance that I had lacked in my human form. For a girl who had never held much grace, I was now as graceful and lethal as they came. I could fall from a tree and land on my feet. I could leap from one tree to another and my feet would automatically find support even from a thin branch.
I saw myself in the water.
I had never had much to be vain about. I had never had the stunning beauty which Ginny had; tall, poised, lithe and exotic. My claim to recognition was my intelligence. No one stopped in the hall and whispered about me behind their hands at the ministry like they did for Ginny. She could stop traffic.
I wasn't jealous. Truly if I had been beautiful I wouldn't have known how to handle it. I am comfortable with being unnoticed. I am comfortable with my quiet reserve. I don't have the spark that allows beautiful people to subtly exert their influence. My cases always had to be won with hard, blank logic.
But as I looked at myself in the water, the sheer, agonizing beauty in this other form, suddenly I knew how it was. I was sleek, muscled, graceful. I noted with odd pride that I had kept my dark brown eyes.
I turned to Draco. Like so many other things that day, it was all thanks to Draco.
I inclined my great head and he padded over to me. He was bigger than I was, although not my much, his tail extending a little bit past mine, and his shoulders broader and more sheerly muscled. He brushed past me, dragging his hind leg in the sand. For a moment I thought he was hurt, but then I realized he was making a line in the sand directly in front of me. He stepped onto the side of it with me, and faced the field in front of us. He put his foreleg out and scratched something into the sand. It was a tree. He pointed to the field. In the center of the massive field that made up the grounds, there was a great oak tree. He tapped the top of the tree again in the sand, and then crouched into a tensely coiled position, his muscles taut under his coat. Suddenly I realized what he was doing.
He was going to race me.
I sat back on my haunches and flicked my tail over my back. Well then, I thought.
As you wish.
In one swift movement, I leapt over the line and started to run.
A/N: Review! Don't know how long it will be, but its my first ever Draco/Hermione story, so I'm pretty excited. :)