Title: Betrothal: Chapter Five
Author name: Sanna
Author email: ladyladyswanhotmail.com
Category: romance
Keywords: draco/hermione, romance, malfoy curse
Spoilers: none
Rating: PG
Summary: You've just discovered that your future has already been decided on. It's bad enough that your past isn't what it seemed to be. What's worse is that your present enemy was part of your past and will be part of your future whether you like it or not.

Disclaimer: I'm sure you can recognize for yourselves what does not belong to me. Personally, I'd say the way the plot was used and the words were organized belongs to me, but then again, I don't have a copyright yet, so you could probably plagiarize this. But then again, you'd have to deal with everyone who has read this story. Hee.

Betrothal
by sanna

Chapter Five

An elegant elderly couple stood before her. The man stood tall and regal, with kindness in his eyes. The woman sat in a chair in front of her husband, her expression filled with motherly love. They were strangers, and yet, they were familiar. It was like she had known them her whole life.

Everything around them was spinning so fast. She wasn't sure where she was. First they were in a unfamiliar, yet cozy castle. Then they were in a little hut, and she could feel the presence of magic all around her. And then they were back home, the Granger's residence. For some reason in all three places, she felt a sense of belonging, a sense of comfort.

But she couldn't focus much on their location. She was fixated on the couple before her. There was something about them, a secret she was trying to figure out. It was like they were trying to tell her, but she couldn't seem to understand.

"We love you," the woman whispered, and the man held out a hand to her.

"I love you," the girl hears herself saying to them. She takes a step closer, but they begin to drift away from her. "I love you!" she repeats, this time more sure.

The older woman smiled. "Then please, love him too. If you really love us, try to accept him and love him for what he is." Then, without warning, the couple disappeared, and in their place appeared a tall, blonde boy, staring off into a distance.

She stared at him, willing him to look at her so that she could see his face. As if he heard her silent plea, he turned slowly, until their eyes met. There was no disgust, no sneer on his face that she was so accustomed to. Instead, there was a longing look on his face, a loneliness that she could feel inside herself as well

Like the elderly man before him, he stood before her, extending his hand out to her. "Come with me, please. I need you."

With a gasp, Hermione wakes up, sweat trickling down her face. "It was just a dream," she mumbled to herself, trying to convince herself that they were just mental images and nothing more.

She had been having this dream the past few days, ever since she discovered she was betrothed to Draco. The first time she had dreamt it, the dream had only gone so far as to show Draco with his back turned to her. The next nightly illusion had him turning towards her. This time he had extended his hand towards her, calling out to her. Would she dream tomorrow if she would take his hand or not?

Hermione buried her face into her hands. It had been three days since she had discovered the truth. Her whole existence had been a lie. It didn't matter how Professor Dumbledore had put it, Hermione still felt betrayed and confused.

She didn't know what hurt more, the fact that she had lived her whole life as someone who she wasn't, or the boy in front of her glaring as if everything wrong in his life was solely her fault.

Draco stared at her in contempt, as he shouted to the professors that he would never marry her.

She had gasped, her mind spinning, wondering what the slimy Slytherin was talking about. "What did you just say?" she whispered, not trusting her voice to speak.

"You heard me," he said in a low and dangerous voice. "I will not marry you, even if you're the last Magnar on earth." His words had slowed, as if he was talking to a mere toddler. He tossed her wand back to her, hoping she'd be distracted and too befuddled to catch it. She did however and Draco grudgingly admitted to himself that she'd be good at Quidditch if she managed to keep herself upright on a broom. But why in Merlin had he allowed his thoughts to wander from the situation at hand? With narrowed eyes, he turned away and made his way to the window as if to calm himself down.

Hermione turned to her professors. "What is Malfoy saying Professor? I don't understand. Please tell me he is mistaken." Her hands were shaking, and her skin had paled a considerable amount.

Professors McGonagall and Snape looked down guiltily while Professor Dumbledore looked sad. He straightened his shoulder, a firm but gentle expression on his face. "My regrets, Ms. Granger, but Mr. Malfoy is not mistaken. You are the heir of Magnar, and you are his betrothed."

Sulking in his corner, Malfoy had mumbled something sarcastically, and Professor Snape made his way towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder comfortingly. Hermione stared at his stiff shoulders, wondering how much Malfoy had known. She turned back to the headmaster. "Magnar? They're the leading family in the cause of the light side, but how can I possibly be their heir? They disappeared years ago."

"They disappeared, long forgotten, but definitely not gone forever." The headmaster offered Hermione a seat as he pulled one up for himself next to her. "The Malfoys have been under the service of the Dark Lord for over fifty years—"

"I knew it!" Hermione exclaimed, pointing her finger accusingly at Malfoy. "Death Eater!"

Malfoy's eyes had raged with anger and he looked like he wanted to throttle her, but was prevented by Professor Snape. "I am not, let me repeat, not a death eater."

Professor McGonagall placed a comforting hand on Hermione's. "He most certainly is not. And that is exactly what we are trying to prevent from happening."

The headmaster cleared his throat, and Hermione turned to face him once more. He seemed so old and tired, and Hermione almost felt guilty for everything she had said and done. "They have been under his service, but not willingly."

He told her the story about the friendship of Auctor Malfoy and Tom Riddle, and how the Malfoy's came into their service. He also told her about the countercurse. It was nothing Draco hadn't heard before, and it did nothing but fuel the bitterness burning inside of him. "This is where you come in," said Dumbledore. "Your families had the two of you betrothed, because they believed that you two could bring hope into the world once more by fulfilling the prophecy."

"Some hope," Draco scoffs. "We can't even stand each other, are you telling us that we have to fall in love with each other in order to help save the world?"

Hermione glared at him, but she was glad he had asked the question that had been on her mind. He could have at least asked it in a nicer way, but then Hermione doubted she would have, with all these strange feelings building up inside of her.

Professor Dumbledore shook his head. "It is not in your fate that you are to fall in love and wed. But if you do, then the possibilities of the prophecy coming true with will be most likely."

Hermione closed her eyes. "So that's it, isn't it?" she couldn't help sounding bitter. "It's either the world suffers, or we do. It's a lose-lose situation."

"If you would try, you would be surprised to discover it isn't. But that is only if you try."

Hermione sat in bed, hugging her knees, wondering what she should do. "I need my parents," she whispered, hugging her knees tighter, rocking herself gently as she tried to stop a tear from escaping her eye.

Unaware to Hermione, Draco was also up, sitting by his window, trying to block out the snores of his roommates. He was thinking about her, and wondering what his future had in store for him, for them, if there even was a 'them'.

Why her? Why me, he asked himself. I don't want to have anything to do this.

He could say no, Professor Dumbledore had made it clear last night. Draco thought about it, but all he saw were his parents' disappointed faces. He hated disappointing them. Even in school, he did things that he knew would please them, or rather, that he thought would please them. He realized now why Lucius had been very vocal to him about hating Muggles and Muggle-borns. It was all for appearance's sake, so as not to alert the Dark Lord of their plans to fulfill the prophecy. Draco's parents probably cringed every time he insulted Hermione.

Draco remembered the summer before second year had started, he and his father were at Flourish and Blotts buying the books he needed for the school year. While his father was looking at books, Draco wandered off and saw the golden trio. He was laughing at them and insulting them, when his father had appeared at his side. What was it that he had said towards Hermione?

"And you must be, Miss Granger? Yes, Draco has told me all about you. And your parents. Muggles, aren't they?"

Lucius Malfoy had looked at Hermione so carefully, Draco had assumed it was because he was assessing the Muggle-born who had beaten his son in every subject. Looks like he had been wrong. His father had been assessing the pureblood who was to fall in love with his son and wed him. Fat chance of that happening.

Lucius had always been a big influence in Draco's life. Ever since he was little, his father had doted on him and Draco had already wanted to become just like the strong man. His father had been his world, a man of both physical and mental strength that Draco was sure no one could beat.

As Draco grew older, his love for his father hadn't diminished. When Lucius brought home his creepy friends, Draco sneered at them knowing his father was better than all of them. He prided himself at having a dominating father who would fear no one no matter how eerie they were. When Lucius made Draco play with the sons of his friends, Draco treated them the same way his father treated his friends—he was obviously better than all of them, so who better to be the leader of the group but himself?

Everything Lucius said, Draco would imitate. After he had overheard a conversation of his father's about Muggle-borns, he immediately began enlighten his two friends, Vincent and Gregory, about Muggles and Muggle-borns and how useless they were. He later started calling them by their last names, Crabbe and Goyle, because that's what his father called his friends, who were their fathers. When he met Pansy Parkinson, the daughter of another one of his father's friends, he treated her with respect as one does in the upper crust of society and would dutifully play with her when he needed to or was instructed to do so. Pansy was a sweet girl and Draco was almost fond of her. If she wanted to play house and have tea with him, Draco would do as she wished.

But outside of the duties that society had demanded of him, Draco had been a mischievous child. But of course, he also had Lucius along when he was in his mischief-making moods. He and his father would pull pranks on the house elves, shouting orders while throwing their voices around the house, confusing the poor creatures. Another time Draco had locked his mother out of the house and kept her busy as she tried to get in the house through the windows, towers or secret entrances while Lucius filled the house with flowers as a surprise. Of course, aside from pulling pranks, Lucius taught Draco how to play Quidditch and would spend all Sunday afternoons playing with him.

But that all took place before Draco entered Hogwarts. The few months Draco was home happened to be the same times the Dark Lord called upon his Death Eaters, leaving Lucius too occupied to spend much time with his son. The few moments they had were precious and spent educating Draco on life.

Of course, Draco had other qualities which differentiated him from his father. While Lucius' strengths lay in making people feel his powerful presence, Draco was more calculating and played on people's strengths and weaknesses in order to make them take notice of him in any way he chose. Draco was prone to, and enjoyed making scenes, his father preferred to keep his temper in check and take good care of what was left of the Malfoy name.

Narcissa figured Draco loved and idolized his father a bit too much and was intimidated by the thought of filling in his shoes and not being able to be as good as him. But of course, she never told either of the Malfoy males that. She knew they would both deny it vehemently.

Draco frowned as he recalled everything his parents, especially his father, had done in order to make him the man that he was today. Had it not been for the deception, they might have even made it easier for him to accept Granger before. But now, it seemed too late, they had grown accustomed to hating each other for so long that they could no longer imagine doing anything else.

Draco had always obeyed his father and done everything he could in order to please him. Loving and marrying Hermione Granger was one task that his father wanted him to do which Draco could not imagine doing. Now that he was sixteen, Draco knew that he no longer had to copy his father's every move in order to be pleasing. Draco was his own man, and his parent's respected him for that. But how would his parents react if he denied them this?

The next morning, Hermione stepped out onto the ice, rubbing her hands on her shoulders, trying to keep warm. It was a cold day, and it seemed even colder not talking to Harry and Ron. They had noticed the change in her attitude recently and pressed her for details. Hermione had snapped at them and told them to leave her alone. She wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone, she just wanted to be left alone to her thoughts.

Last night, after she had woken up from her dream, Hermione had spent the remainder of her evening, and early morning, staring out her bedroom window, thinking. And then she saw it. She saw the pond near the South tower. It brought back memories of the pond near her own childhood home. She spent the remainder of the morning transfiguring a pair of shoes into ice skates, and when there was enough light, she left the tower for the pond. She testing the ice to see if it was safe enough to skate on, thrilled that it was.

After doing some stretches, Hermione practiced her basic skating lessons and twirls. She didn't want to attempt to do anything fancy just yet, she hadn't skated in the longest time and was a bit rusty. She closed her eyes and began to twirl when she heard a voice.

"Are you sure you ought to be doing that, Granger?" a voice drawled. "You better leave skating to the pros, we wouldn't want you to get your muggle-raised blood all over this lovely frozen-over pond, now would we?"

Hermione stopped twirling and gracefully fell into a stop. Even with her eyes closed, she already knew the owner of the drawl. He might not have spoken to her the past few days, but his voice was already imprinted in her memory, probably for life. She opened her eyes and glared coldly at Draco Malfoy, her betrothed. "What do you want, Malfoy?" She noticed the skates on his feet, and watched as he began to skate in a circle around her.

"This is my pond, Granger." Even though he was her almost-fiancée, he was still an irritating git.

"I don't see your name on it."

"I don't need to. Everyone knows this is where I, and only I, skate."

"Well apparently not everyone."

"That's because you've never torn yourself away from your two buddies and your snowball fights long enough to look this way. What's the matter? Potty and Weasel get tired of playing with you?" he taunted, as he stood behind her, whispering in her ear.

Hermione stiffened, apparently he had already heard about the fight she had had with the boys. Nevertheless, she wasn't going to let Malfoy get to her. "Sod off," she retorted as she turned to face him. She then began to skate backwards and began to make her way to the other end of the pond. It was certainly big enough, maybe he'd stick to his side and leave her alone.

No such luck. He skated over to where she was and started doing a figure eight. "So how long have you been skating, Granger?"

"Since I was seven… my Muggle dad, Leonard Granger, taught me," Hermione said, before she could stop herself. She wondered why she had answered Draco's question… him of all people. She looked up at him, and surprised he didn't look as if he was coming up with a sarcastic remark. Rather he looked sort of thoughtful actually.

"Well, what do you know, Granger. We actually have something in common. My dad taught me how to skate when I was a kid."

"You? H-he did?" Hermione gasped. "But it's a muggle thing!"

Draco shot her a look. "As much as Malfoys are powerful, you should also realize we're hypocrites when we want to be."

Hermione pondered this for a moment. She couldn't find much fault in that. As Hermione began to skate in a cris-crossed manner, she found herself watching Draco as he skated. His eyes were closed, so he didn't notice Hermione staring at him. She had to admit, Ferret Boy certainly had filled out since they began Hogwarts. In fact, had he kept his mouth shut, she might have even had a little crush on him, smirk and all. Almost all of the female population at Hogwarts had noticed him change from a scrawny, smart-assed bully to that of a tall and muscular, smart-assed bully. Girls no longer rolled their eyes when he insulted someone weaker than him, rather they swooned as he insulted in a quiet but mysterious voice. Sometimes Hermione would imagine his voice late at night, his husky tones enough to make her knees weak.

But she could only recall his voice taunting herself and her friends which would make her change her mind about swooning.

She snapped out of her thoughts and decided to try a twirl she hadn't tried in the longest time. She picked up speed, closed her eyes and raised her hands above her head. Her back slowly began to arch as she twirled, and Hermione felt like she was almost flying. It was a wonderful feeling to experience.

Unknown to her, Draco had stopped skating and began to watch her. He wanted to see how good the Muggle-raised witch was, and while watching her, Draco felt his mouth open a bit. Her hair was tied up in a bun, so as not to get in the way while she skated. He had always imagined her, twenty years from now as the next Professor McGonagall, her hair tied up in a tight bun and her prim lips tightly pressed together, opening only to scold students. Seeing her now, like this…. It didn't exactly dematerialize the image of her being the next McGonagall, rather, it lessened the thought of it being a bad idea.

For some strange reason, he began to imagine themselves after the wedding, and how it would feel like… her in her tight bun, prissy lips scolding him and 'punishing him for being a bad boy'. Not that Granger would ever agree to doing that for him, much less there even being a wedding in the first place—he could decide to reject their fate and run away.

Draco swallowed hard and appeared to look bored as Hermione came to a stop and saw him watching her. "Nice, Granger. But can you do this?" he asked, picking up speed before he performed a triple axel. For some reason he felt he had to prove something to her – prove that he was better, or at least that he wasn't amazed the slightest by her stunts.

Hermione hesitated. Her dad had attempted to teach her that tricky move, but she had mastered once, and was too scared to try it again. Apparently, Draco had seen her uncertainty and taunted, "what's the matter, Granger? Scared?"

Glowering, Hermione gave him a slight shove. "Of course not." She then proceeded to prepare herself for the leap. She leapt into the air, crossing her legs. Hermione almost lost her breath. She couldn't believe she was doing it. But her joy was short lived, for when she landed, she landed on the wrong leg. Hermione cried out in pain after she fell.

Swearing out loud, Draco raced over to Hermione. "Damnit, Granger… are you alright?" He knelt down next to her.

Dazed, Hermione replied, "Great wizards, Malfoy, what do you think?" She attempted to stand up and instantly felt a searing pain in her leg. She mumbled a curse under her breath.

Draco winced. "Come on, let's get you to Madame Pomfrey."

Hermione shot him a look. "In case you haven't noticed, Malfoy, I can't even stand!"

He threw her an exasperated look. "You're a witch, use your wand!"

She bit her lip. "Erm… I left it in the Gryffindor tower."

Draco rolled his eyes. "You're lucky I never forget my wand," he said, as he began to look into his pockets for his wand. Hermione waited. And waited.

"Well," she asked, "where is it?"

This time it was Draco's turn to look sheepish. "I left it in my other robe."

Hermione groaned. "Great, I'll just freeze out here."

Draco stared at her in silence for a moment. "Now there's no need for that… even if we are enemies." He placed an arm around her back, trying to ignore the tingling feeling he suddenly experienced where he was touching her.

"Malfoy, what are you doing?" Hermione asked softly, as he placed his other arm below her legs and lifted her up. She was finding it difficult to breathe, maybe because her heart was pounding quickly. Hermione tried to convince herself it was just because of her accident.

"What does it look like I'm doing, Granger?" he asked sarcastically, and yet, Hermione thought she heard a trace of gentleness in his voice. "I'm bringing you to Pomfrey."

"Th-thanks, Malfoy," Hermione said, unsure of what to say. She fought back a yawn. All of a sudden she felt tired. The sleepless night had finally caught up to her, especially after such an exhilarating twirl on the ice.

Draco just nodded to her, not used to replying to that statement, for he wasn't even used to doing favors like this at all! He walked in silence, and felt his heart beating louder as Hermione leaned her head against his chest, feeling very tired all of a sudden. Just as they were approaching the doors leading to the castle, Draco finally found his voice and said, "don't expect these kind of favors from me again, Granger. This is a one-time thing, the next time I see you with Potty and the Weasel, don't think I'm not going to pick a fight with you too, I—"

He stopped his babbling when he realized Hermione was fast asleep. Draco paused, finding it ironic that he was carrying Hermione Granger… who happened to be his enemy and at the same time, his betrothed. With her cuddling up against his shoulder, Draco gazed down at her with a faint smile forming on his face.

If anyone in Hogwarts had seen what he had done next, they would have fainted on the spot. Draco brushed back a stray stand of Hermione's hair and tucked it behind her ear, an affectionate gesture wherein he allowed himself to be gentle with her for the very first time.

"Cockroach clusters."

The gargoyles guarding the entrance to the Headmaster's office began to move and Hermione wondered to herself what would make the Headmaster choose a Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes product as his password. Any trouble-maker who happened to be passing-by and mentioning the product would instantly get access to the Professor Dumbledore's office! Wait, she realized, that might be a good thing.

"Miss Granger, to what do I owe this pleasure?" Professor Dumbledore greeted, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Hermione found his statement ironic for it seemed that every other time she saw him she was in trouble because of Malfoy. "Have you and Mister Malfoy talked this over yet? Set a wedding date? Picked out your dream home?"

"Sorry, Professor," Hermione couldn't help but smile a bit back. "No marriage plans yet." Hermione belatedly scolded herself for using the word 'yet.'

Hermione hesitated and began to look around the room. It was filled with the quirky odds and ends that Dumbledore had collected over the years. What Hermione noticed most about these strange objects was that they did not give visitors an apprehensive feeling, rather, they made the room as welcoming as the headmaster himself. Rather than making her feel even more guilty for her actions the past few months, Hermione was comforted by the room's atmosphere and felt like she wanted to make things right.

But how, a part of Hermione's mind nagged. As typical as it was for Hermione, her mind swarmed with questions. It was unfortunate however that for the first time she felt she was unable to ask those questions. Malfoy was making her life extremely complicated. How does one ask questions concerning a guy one hates? Worse yet, how does one ask questions concerning a guy one might have to marry? How can one make sense of it all? Just because she was Hermione Granger, bookworm queen, she couldn't answer every question she was given. She needed help. Too bad there weren't any books to help her. That's why she was here. Unfortunately, getting the nerve to ask those questions were just as nerve-racking.

"Have you owled Dianna and Leonard yet about your recent discoveries?" the headmaster asked, making things easier for the prefect by opening the conversation.

"Yes, I owled them a few days ago. They sent their love and told me they would still be there for me if I were ever to need them…"

"But…?"

"But I feel as if they will not be able to answer the questions I have. Did they want me? Did they know my real parents? What were they like? What will happen to us all now? What will happen to me? What should I do?" What should I do about Malfoy, she asked herself quietly. "Oh Professor Dumbledore! Everything is so confusing! I cannot stand not knowing the answers but I do not even know where to begin looking! It was impossible to find anything about my family in the library, and I'm more likely to find any information there than from Malfoy."

"And you felt that I could answer your questions for you, Miss Granger?" Professor Dumbledore asked, looking deeply into Hermione's eyes. Any feelings of doubt about coming to this office that Hermione had, immediately washed away.

"I had hoped," she said, not daring to look at the headmasters eyes.

Professor Dumbledore got up from his chair and turned to his shelf and began shifting through some papers. "I do know the answers to some of your questions, Miss Granger. But I believe they will not be enough for you and will leave you feeling more dissatisfied."

Hermione's heart plummeted. "Oh. Well, thank you Headmaster, I apologize for taking up your time." She stood up from her chair and began to turn to leave when she heard him continue.

"I am certain, however, that your parents, Lord and Lady Magnar, will be able to help you find the answers to the questions which you seek."

For a moment, Hermione found herself unable to speak. "My- my parents? They're alive?"

A twinkle appeared in the elderly wizard's eye. "Oh yes. They are hiding in one of the special rooms in St. Mungos. Here, let me give you directions on how to find them."

Draco hesitated a moment before knocking on the door to the potions classroom before entering. He found the classroom empty save for his favorite professor. "Good afternoon, Professor Snape. Are you busy? Could I possibly talk to you for a few minutes?"

Professor Snape began to put aside the papers he was grading. "Of course, Mr. Malfoy. I always have time for my most diligent student. I could use a break from grading these atrocious Gryffindor papers."

Draco simply gave him a weak smirk. Professor Snape raised an eyebrow. "I take it you're not here to talk about your studies?" He opened one of the desk drawers and took out a shallow plate of jelly beans. "Here, take some of Bright and Beaming Berna's Better-feeling Beans. They're not chocolate frogs, but they'll do the trick. I keep them here to assist me when I'm feeling particularly furious at Mr. Longbottom for blowing up yet another cauldron."

Draco took two green beans and popped it into his mouth. "That was a mouthful."

The elder wizard scoffed. "Hardly. You only ate two."

The Slytherin rolled his eyes. "I was talking about the name of the beans." He picked up another green jelly bean and chewed in thoughtful silence. "Actually, Professor, I was hoping I could talk to you about… my… situation."

Professor Snape gave a slight nod in understanding and brought out his wand, muttering a privacy spell. Draco watched in awe as the spell sent colorful sparks forming a dome around them. "Thank you, Professor, although it wasn't really necessary. I just wanted to ask you a few things and was planning to speak abstractly in the first place."

The potions master threw him a pointed look. "Of course it's necessary. I wasn't made your parent's secret-keeper for nothing, Mr. Malfoy."

Draco stared at the wizard that sat before him. "You are? But which secret are you keeping for them?" Then realization dawned upon Draco. "Oh. That secret. But- why? Why are you doing this for them? For us?" Draco paused for a moment, wondering who he included when he said us. "And no offense, Professor. But why did they pick you? Were you close to my parents?"

The professor took a deep breath. "I went to Hogwarts with your parents, Mr. Malfoy. They were my best friends and I would do anything for them. I owed them a great debt for all these years of their friendship and support."

"Oh," was all Draco had to say. He ate three more green jelly beans while he thought. A nasty thought popped into his head. "You weren't in love with my mother or anything, were you professor?" Draco's nose wrinkled in distaste. "Or the half-brother of my father?"

"Good Merlin! Of course not. What ever possessed you to think that, Mr. Malfoy?"

Draco shrugged. "It was just a thought. Since we're getting all chummy right now and there is a privacy spell around us, I thought I'd throw caution to the wind and ask the most absurd thing I could think of."

Professor Snape glared at him. "Well then, Mr. Malfoy, I suggest you stop eating Bright and Beaming—I suggest you stop eating these beans. They've done plenty for your disposition, but done nothing to improve your thinking process." Having said this, Professor Snape began to pull the dish away from the Slytherin prefect just as he was about to pick up another green bean.

Draco wasn't able his green bean, but two red beans spilled out from the dish before the professor was able to keep the dish and put it back in his drawer. Feeling put out for not being allowed to eat another green bean, Draco stared sulkily at the two red beans. Red was for Gryffindor. Draco only liked the green Slytherin beans. Professor Snape watched his favorite pupil, the ends of his lips twitching and felt a smile threatening his lips. Forcing himself to look grim as he always did, he growled, "well, what are you waiting for? I'm not going to put it back in the dish. You might as well make the most of what is given to you."

Draco pouted. "I'll only eat them if you tell me more about my parents." Without waiting for Professor Snape to agree, Draco popped the last two beans in his mouth, expecting as a Malfoy should that everyone would agree to each and every request he made.

"I'm assuming that you already know that both your parents were in Slytherin? Although they were two years older than me, I looked up to them as the rest of the Slytherin house did. Even before they became prefects, both Lucius and Narcissa were very protective of the members of Slytherin and would get into fights with the members of the other houses, defending our honor. I became close to your parents because they would get me out of a lot of tight spots with Potter's gang." Severus Snape's face tightened as he began to recall the agitating Gryffindor foursome. "Your parents were the heroes of Slytherin during their time."

Draco felt a sense of pride rush through him. "Yeah, they are pretty protective aren't they? Potty—I mean Potter says I'm too spoiled and pampered, and maybe I am a bit, but they made me strong too. They've made sure that I take care of the other Slytherins as well."

"Well, it wasn't only Slytherins they would protect." Snape hesitated a bit. "Narcissa was very fond of a Hufflepuff girl in my year and took care of her as well. Anyone whom Lucius and Narcissa deemed worth protecting, they would make sure was taken well care of."

Hufflepuff, Draco thought in shock. Surprise surprise, you learn something new about your parents everyday. And it seemed to Draco that he was doing so a lot lately. "How many more secrets did my parents keep from me? Were they betrothed as well? Why does it sound like they had a partnership rather than a marriage?" Draco fought to keep the bitterness from his voice and knew it was a losing battle. What the bloody hell is wrong with me? One moment I'm angsty, the next I'm witty and now I'm back to being bloody bitter! I shouldn't be as moody as some silly witch.

He looked up and saw Professor Snape's expression and immediately forgot all his selfish thoughts. The potion master looked absolutely deadly. "You're wrong, Draco," he said, using the boy's first name. "Your parents were more than partners, they loved each other more than all the magic in the world. They had a greatly difficult task at concealing their love for each other, especially your father. He knew about the Malfoy Family Curse from the start. He loved your mother enough to save her from living a life of servitude to the Dark Lord. But she loved him just as much as to stay by his side through all this."

Draco stared in stunned silence. "Do not tell me your parents did not love each other. They did. That kind of love you see only once in a lifetime. They had a choice: staying beside each other and risking losing one another at the hands of the Dark Lord, or to play it safe and deny their feelings. They chose love. They chose their duty. Hand in hand, your parents created you and raised you, in hopes that you would help break the curse. And yet, they still gave you a choice. You still have a say in the matter."

Professor Snape seemed as if he had reached the climax of his story-telling. "I have heard the insults Misters Potter and Weasley about you being brought up cold-hearted and unloved. Both you and I know this is untrue. Would you not want to prove them wrong?"

Draco felt his shoulders tighten. He stood up from his chair. "Thank you, Professor Snape. You have been most helpful. But I must go." He turned and began to walk towards the door.

"Make the first move, Draco. That's all I ask. That's all your parents expect you to do." Draco stopped and remembered the words of his father before the end of the Holiday Break. Draco turned and looked once more at his professor. In a softer voice, the professor continued, "You're a Malfoy. You are Draco Malfoy. Just do what you would normally do. That will be enough for us. You have already made us all so proud."

Draco nodded slightly, and began to turn back towards the door. In mid-turn, he paused and faced the elder wizard once more. "Who exactly is 'us all?'"

Professor Snape gave his favorite pupil one of his rare smiles. "Have a good afternoon, Mr. Malfoy." With that, he turned back to his papers, leaving Draco as confused as he had been when he entered the room, but not as disheartened. For someone who had entered hoping to find answers to questions about his supposed-fiancée, he had gotten answers to something even more important. Something which could even help him answer his questions.

Hermione sobbed on her mother's shoulder as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Granted, it was, but considering that she hadn't seen her mother since she was born, it should have been quite awkward.

But the moment Hermione had laid eyes on her parents, of course she had already known what they looked like—having seen them both in her book and in her dreams, she had fallen in love with them instantly.

"Oh Hermione," Lady Magnar sighed, stroking her daughter's curls. "I have missed you so."

"As have I," said her father, Lord Magnar. He was standing beside them, holding Hermione's hand and squeezing it every now and then.

Hermione looked up from her mother's shoulder and grinned at her parents beneath her tears. She hugged them both. A feeling of comfort, washed through Hermione. Being with them made her feel as if she was home. Truly home. Of course, she felt the same way with her muggle parents, in fact, Lord and Lady Magnar reminded her so much of Dianna and Leonard Granger that she never felt awkward around them for a single moment.

Lord and Lady Magnar both looked as regal as Hermione had recalled. But they had a very welcoming personality, quite the opposite of what she had dreaded. She had begged Professor McGonagall, who escorted her to St. Mungos, to come up with her. Now, however, she was glad that the Transfiguration professor had declined. She had nothing to fear, only to learn and gain.

Now, Hermione and her parents were strolling around the grounds of St. Mungos. Her father was in a wheelchair and her mother was dressed as a medi-witch. Hermione was carrying with her a backpack and some parchment, as if she was there on community service. Her parents explained to her that they were still in hiding and if anyone were to recognize them for who they truly were and the reason for being together, all of the careful plans of the Magnars and Malfoys would be put to waste if the Dark Lord were to figure it all out.

"How can you live here? Like this?" Hermione blurts out all of a sudden, breaking their silent stroll.

Lord and Lady Magnar share a look and Lady Magnar stops pushing the wheelchair. They were in the middle of the garden and the nearest wizards were more than fifty feet away. Lord Magnar motions for Hermione to sit on the ground next to him while his wife sat on the opposite side of his wheelchair. "My dearest Hermione, it was never a question of our preference. Everything we did was to keep you safe." He lifted a hand and motioned to the garden around them. "This place has been our home for the past sixteen years. While your mother and I cannot hold you in our arms we occupy ourselves with others to care for. Sometimes we help the medi-wizards and medi-witches take care of the patients, other times we help cheer up the patients. In the past, I have even helped care for this garden while your mother has helped redecorate the hospital."

"These past sixteen years without you, Hermione," Lady Magnar spoke up, "has been hard for us. But we've never regretted allowing you to grow up with the Grangers. Just look at how beautifully you've grown." Mother and daughter exchanged a smile, and Hermione blushed, believing that all mother's thought their children were beautiful.

"I know you feel as if you weren't given a choice in the matter," Lord Magnar said. "We had you betrothed to the Malfoy heir as soon as you were born. But a betrothal is just a promise. We are still giving you the chance to choose now."

"I know that, Professor Dumbledore explained that to me," Hermione said, feeling a bit impatient, but at the same time wishing she hadn't interrupted her father.

Lord Magnar saw the guilt on his daughter's face and caressed her cheek gently. "I know. You're wondering why we had to give you away. But Hermione, whether or not we had promised you to the Malfoy's, the Dark Lord would have targeted our family no matter what. We are the most prominent family on the Light side, and he would have killed us for that fact alone. Before us came the Potters and the Longbottoms, your mother and I knew what we had to do."

Hermione leaned her head on her father's knee as her mother began to stroke her hair once more. "I-I understand now. I truly do. I just wish it was easy. That I could be strong like you. And do what you ask of me."

"Hermione, love, it's alright. Marriage is a big commitment, before I married your father, even I had a few doubts. Being asked to marry someone you've fought with most of your life makes it so much more difficult."

The waterworks immediately turned on again and Hermione found herself crying uncontrollably. "It's just so hard! It's like everything has changed, and yet, he's still the same prat he's been the past six years. What if we don't fall in love? What if we kill each other before the prophecy is supposed to come true?"

"The Malfoy boy can't be that bad… can he?"

Hermione sat up straight, and her sad eyes became fiery. "Oh yes he can! Oh father, you won't believe how mean he is to me and my friends!" And so Hermione proceeded to tell her parents about the "adventures" she had had with Malfoy, beginning with his insults towards her muggle heritage in their first year to their detention sprees in this sixth year. She hesitated to tell them about the incident in the pond yesterday, it would just make her whole story even more confusing as it was.

The Gryffindor frowned as she realized that her parents were fighting to keep their smiles. She had expected them to be sympathetic like Harry and Ron were, rather they were smiling as if Malfoy had done her no wrong.

"I'm sorry, dear," Lady Magnar said, alerted to the fact that her daughter was becoming more upset. "Your stories have just brought back these wonderful memories of when we were in school. Your father and I studied in Beauxbatons and although we didn't have full blown fights as you and Draco do, we did have our share of passionate arguments." Husband and wife shared another loving glance, almost forgetting they had their daughter in their presence.

"You did grow out of your petty arguments, right?"

Lord Magnar laughed. "Actually, darling, the number of arguments we had only increased. Of course, the best ones we had ended in the bedroom, if you know what I mean," he said with a wink.

While Lady Magnar laughed in embarrassment, Hermione's eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open. "Father!" she scolded, but she was unable to stop her mind from picturing herself and Malfoy in that situation. Hermione shuddered, or was that shivered?

"Don't be such a prude," Lady Magnar laughed. "How do you think you were created?"

"Mother! Father! Please stop!" Hermione cried, laughing along with her parents. "Oh Merlin! You're staring to remind me of him! He always makes crude jokes like that!"

Lord Magnar raised an eyebrow. "Well, then I guess he isn't that bad after all." And then the three of them began to laugh all over again. After the laugher had died down, Lord Magnar sobered instantly. "But seriously, Hermione. Is that all he does? Irritate you with his crude jokes? Because it that's the case, I will have some words with him—"

"Of course not, Father. But he does like to pick on Harry, Ron and I and the other Gryffindors an awful lot. Malfoy's always been such a prat! Making others feel bad just because they aren't as good as him in Quidditch, or aren't as smart as him. He used to insult me a lot because of my "origins." Once he even called me a Mudblood!"

Lord Magnar looked perturbed. "But you're not, dear."

"I know that now, Father. But it doesn't make the insult any less painful."

Lady Magnar placed her hand upon Hermione's. "I understand dear. I'm sure it must have hurt being called that. But, like you said, he called you that once. He must have been very furious at the time."

Hermione pondered this for a moment. She had just insulted him in front of the entire Slytherin and Gryffindor Quidditch teams. His ego must have already been bruised by the fact that he had to buy his way on the team—insulting him in front of everyone must have been a terrible blow. "But that doesn't excuse him for being a prat the rest of the time."

"No, it doesn't," her mother agreed. "But you have to remember that he is a Malfoy. Lucius and Narcissa must have good reasons for raising him in such a way. Probably in order to make the Dark Lord believe that Draco would indeed grow up and serve him as his father and grandfather did. The Malfoy's must have had their reasons. Both Narcissa and Lucius are really wonderful people, have you met them?"

Hermione frowned. "I've only met Malfoy's mum once before. She didn't say much, but she looked kind of snobby. Lucius Malfoy however I've seen a number of times and he seemed just as bad if not worse than his son." She watched both her parents open their mouths to contradict her, but she beat them to it. "Yeah, it was all probably to deceive the Dark Lord." Hermione didn't sound like she believed it much, but her parents knew better than to push the issue.

Lady and Lord Magnar exchanged a look. Somehow, they probably weren't helping Hermione much with regards to her decision. Lady Magnar decided to take another approach. "Well, Draco Malfoy isn't all that horrible, is he?"

Hermione was silent for a few minutes, playing with the petals of the flower beside her as she thought. "No," she grudgingly agreed. "He isn't completely horrible. He's awfully smart—although he isn't as smart as me, and terribly athletic—although he isn't as good as Harry. He has a naughty sense of humor and a wicked smile. I guess he isn't so bad."

Lord Magnar laughed. "Merlin, Hermione! Even while complimenting the poor boy you still manage to talk about him as if he was evil! Awful, terrible, naughty and wicked! Couldn't you have used better words to describe him?"

Hermione pinked as she realized her father was right. "I could, but I guess my subconscious mind was speaking it's opinion on the prat." She smiled at her parents. "He isn't though—evil, I mean."

Taking both her daughter's hands into hers, Lady Magnar smiled a gentle smile. "That's all we need to know. Give him a chance, Hermione. I'm sure there is much you can discover about Draco Malfoy than you ever thought could be discovered."

Lord Magnar hugged both his daughter and wife. Hermione smiled at both of her parents. "I'll try, I promise I will give it a try."

Draco had spent the remainder of his afternoon and evening holed up in his room, thinking about his future and whether or not he would even consider having Granger as part of his future. He lay on his stomach, his upper body propped up by his elbows.

Vince and Greg had come in the room earlier reminding him about dinner. But Draco had told them to bugger off. In truth, he wasn't at all hungry. Must have been Bright and Beaming Betty's Better-feeling Beans. He needed to remember to pick up a pack on his next trip to Hogsmade. Or Knockturn Alley. Wherever the professor had gotten the strange candy.

Before the boys left, they noticed that Draco was playing with a silver, medium-sized ball, looking at it hesitantly. It was only after the blonde-boy decided that he was the only one in the room and that it was safe, did he allow himself to open it. The silver ball was Draco's pensive. So much had happened in the past few days, Draco wanted to relive every moment without bias, able to recall things his unconscious might have normally decided to leave out. The young Slytherin closed the curtains around his bed and used the same privacy spell Professor Snape had used earlier that day.

Draco spent the entire evening reliving his entire sixth year. After watching his numerous assignments which involved Granger, he began to notice the pattern of the three conspiring professors concerning their—his and Granger's—set up. He saw the Holiday break with his parents, and saw once more in their eyes how much they loved him. He was given another chance to see how fiery Granger's eyes got when they were in the middle of an argument—as if he could ever forget those.

The last thing Draco remembered seeing before he drifted off to sleep was the passion and fire in her eyes…except that this time they looked softer, almost as if it was filled with excitement and need.

Draco didn't know where the pensive had ended and his dreams began, because they were both filled with images of the former Gryffindor-Mudblood-turned-Magnar. Sleep was quick, as if he had barely rested his eyes at all. This was why at six-o'clock in the morning, Draco's roommates were awoken by a loud exclamation made by the Slytherin prefect.

"I've made my decision!"

…to be continued…

Author notes: This chapter is dedicated to three wonderful people: Palm D'or my absolutely terrific beta reader (no wait, he's terrible… you can't have him! He's mine! Hee)! cheriiemrei who left me the sweetest comment when I was ranting at the whitescreen, and most especially to the boy I love most in the world, my Coffee, who I wish could be my Draco.

Thanks also to my awesome reviewers at ffn.net: lilliss, v0xlos, kou shun'u, scholz03, Bladefanatic, fairylightbabe89, paprika90, mystripedskirt, Draco-FutureBF, SaNgUiNe SiStaR, pyroprincess4rmeverwood, Zephyr Seraphim, v son sayian, star fantasy 29, shadowcat15, Arafel2, fishin Pippin (sorry, sean's not my type :D), Palm D'or (alabshu! :D), Tracy3, dracodolenz, Angel, jules37, desperate fan, ChIcKa, westmc, Anyanka, TennisAngel, lgobgirlie15 (how's your story? Last I check you were revising it. Good luck :)), Calypso in Love, moonsilk, beautybunnymouse, leonsalanna (he ducked :)), Keaira Malfoy, dawn1, swtgrl4eva06, CarEtoDreaM, tiggertrouble, Naira (don't worry, I intend to finish this fic no matter how long it takes :)), alka, deejayD, Jenna-chan, argentenipinkini (I know, im torn between wanting draco to be mature but seeing as he's an only kid, hes gotta be a bit immature :D), Sam8, GeaN bLu sAppHire (thanks for the nice long review :) I'll try to use some of your ideas), imogenhm, Bookworm2003, Edalene, siriusforeva, Anora Potter, m.s., cocovanilla (erm.. which fic "Blood"? I never wrote a fic entitled that)

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