This story is a FIC CHALLENGE! This was LADY SERPENTINA's required criteria:

1. A possessive Draco Malfoy.
2. A-U fic with magic set in England during the 1800's (Regency or Victorian era)
3. Draco Malfoy would be the typical member of the peerage - rich, handsome, and a womanizer
4. Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy would be dead
5. No info. on Hermione Granger's background, and she works off some "mysterious debt" in a Gentleman's Prostitution Establishment
6. Ginny/Blaise as a second pair. Blaise is Draco's best friend & they go to the whorehouse together, where Ginny works, too.
7. Ron and Astoria to be a part of this fic. Ron is one of the bodyguards or a handyman around the whorehouse where Hermione works. Astoria would be another woman working there who Draco usually visits.
8. Mature rating with graphic scenes. One with at least Astoria and Draco and another scene with Dramione having nonconsensual sex. The rest Hermione has to be willing.
9. Will include jealousy and a cat fight between Hermione & Astoria.
10. Happy ending for Dramione.

Please review and let me know your thoughts!

STORY DETAILS: A Draco Malfoy x Hermione Granger story. Alternate Realty entirely - Regency Era England. Characters are OCC due to nature of the fic challenge (out of character). THIS IS A ROMANTIC/DRAMA/ANGST/MYSTERY STORY.

TIMELINE: Begins Summer 1815

SUMMARY: Draco Malfoy visits a Masked Gentlemen's Club in Diagon Alley called La Cerise (French for "The Cherry"), and meets a new courtesan making her debut - a beauty known only as 'The Princess.' She and her virginity are up for auction to the highest bidder, and Draco's determined to win her! However, La Cerise's mysterious owner, an embittered, tossed-over mistress, and a bastard member of the family are all determined to destroy young Malfoy's dreams from behind the scenes. Will ancient magic save the love he is destined to make his own – and how will it affect others in the House?

RATING: NC-17/M+ rating (including explicit consensual and nonconsensual sex, profanity, violence, use of alcohol, gambling)

IMAGES TO GO ALONG WITH THE FIC (remove all spaces from the URL to make it load properly): http:/ / s905 . photobucket . com / albums / ac260 / RZZMG / La%20Cerise-The%20Sweetest%20Cherry/

MUSIC VIDEO TO GO ALONG WITH THE FIC (remove all spaces from the URL to make it load properly): http:/ / www . youtube . com / watch?v=HjLcdUFT0yk




Diagon Alley - London, England

June 2, 1815 (Friday night)

When she walked down the grand staircase in the main parlor, practically every man turned and held his breath. Even Draco couldn't seem to stop his heart from pounding like mad beneath his trim, light woolen greatcoat. He had just been adjusting the infernal mask he'd been forced to wear by the House Madam when the sight before him arrested his action in place.

"Merlin, what a beauty!" Blaise murmured under his breath in his deep vibrato. "Look at that hair!"

Long, curly, warm walnut-colored tresses were pinned up on the sides, but left free to fall to the petite woman's mid-back. Following French fashion, she wore a high-waist dress made of a dark green dyed crêpe de Chine, the accenting silken, silver ribbon catching just under her breasts, pushing the delicious mounds up, allowing for a nice show of cleavage. However, the fall and flow of the material was definitely Ancient Greek in flavor, hailing back a dozen years in the fashion trends, with light silver embroidery in the classical influence adorning the garment's hems. Across her left shoulder lay a matching shawl, which she fingered nervously with petite, well manicured hands. Her jewelry was tasteful and minimal – an arm band made of silver twining like a serpent about her upper left bicep, a silver rope necklace with a green gem-like pendant, matching green earrings. Her mask was tantalizing, revealing just enough to give an idea as to the perfection of her facial features; made of soft, black silk and cut in a wide butterfly pattern, it lay flat against her face and was tied back with silken black ribbon, allowing spaces for full disclosure of her dark cinnamon eyes, her pert nose and her pretty pinked mouth. As she stepped down the stairs, he caught the peek-a-boo of silver slippers on her feet.

She was the most stunning creature he'd ever laid eyes on. And she looked as terrified as a young gazelle facing a pack of hungry, calculating hyenas.

He wondered what her alias would be… Every client to visit La Cerise, the most famous, genteel Gentlemen's Club in all of Europe, and every Courtesan who worked there was given a nickname that they would use for the life of their stay – as well as a mask. Both were to maintain privacy and to prevent embarrassing situations outside the walls of the establishment. It was absolutely forbidden to remove the mask or to speak your real name while in the house. The consequence was permanent banishment. This new lovely looked like a Greek goddess. Perhaps her name would reflect such origins?

"You match rather well," Blaise joked, poking him in the ribs with an elbow and jolting him out of his private musings.

Draco frowned, turning his attention to his friend just as the House Madam approached and took the young woman's hand, assuring she would be well chaperoned for this, her debut moment at La Cerise. "What?" His mind had taken a holiday, apparently, if he couldn't keep up with something Blaise had said.

His friend pointed and smirked at his outfit. "I said you match the new girl nicely," he reiterated. "You've got the Slytherin color schema in common. It's a good start. Why don't you ask for an introduction?"

Draco scowled. He had enough women troubles with "Aster." The last thing he needed was a cat fight and to be asked to leave this place permanently; his little, blonde dame de choix was the jealous type, he well knew. "Have you forgotten I'm already occupied with a lady?" he pointed out somewhat bitterly.

Blaise chuckled and stepped closer, speaking low enough for only the two of them to hear. "You don't care for your blonde wench one bit, and you know it. She's only after a marriage proposal from you so she can get her greedy claws on your money anyway." He put a well-meaning hand on Draco's shoulder, meeting him in the eye solemnly. "Heed me well, brother, and don't allow Aster to get her hooks sunk in too deep. This is your chance to possibly be rid of her once and for all... and to try something unique, too - just what you've been whinging on about now for weeks. This one's different from your usual fare." He looked around Draco's platinum head and raised an eyebrow in concern. "And my, oh, my… the wolves are circling already. At least go be introduced. Where's the harm in that? Well, before you lose the chance to Flint, McLaggen, Thomas, Stretton… and is that Nott?"

Hesitating only for a moment, and scanning the room quickly – Aster had not yet come down, as he had not sent for her – Draco turned about, straightened his coat and rechecked the security of his mask, and then stepped in the direction of the new prospect. Perhaps Blaise was right this once.


Hermione was terrified, even with Aurora at her side keeping these strangers at bay. They all seemed too overly eager in her estimation. Was she really that novel, or were these men really that bored?

Some, like the tall, burly fellow with the strapping shoulders and the curly, straw-blond hair who'd introduced himself as "The Prince," had remarked how they were meant to be together because their aliases matched (once she'd introduced herself under her pre-arranged pseudonym, "The Princess"). Such a strong opening line - coupled with his strange, ornate mask (a red and gold glittery thing with high wings set like flames jutting upwards and outwards on all sides) - unnerved her somewhat and made her weary of the man.

Then there was the short, dark haired man wearing a plain white mask across his eyes only who called himself "The Etruscan," but whom she'd heard The Prince openly refer to as Flint. He'd been only a little less aggressive than the blond. In fact, it seemed as if the two had some sort of pre-existing rivalry that was spilling over onto their interest in her. Their magical auras crackled with antagonism, and she'd shied away from both this man and The Prince, preferring to speak to the rest of her potential suitors instead.

The tall, thin, raven-haired man with the long eyelashes and strong jaw seemed somewhat shy and bookish, like her. He went by the nickname "Knot," and she supposed it might have something to do with the leather cord that held his long, straight hair back from his nape in a neat ponytail. His half mask was black with cris-crossing gold lines that intersected all across, giving him a gothic feel. This one was amicable and rather well versed on the theories of Transfiguration, she'd discovered after only a few minutes talking with him, and she discovered quickly that her initial impression was good, so she squeezed Aurora's hand to let her know that this one she would want to learn more about later.

The thin, light brown-skinned young man to Knot's left went by the moniker "The Lawyer," and his mask was a simple dark orange piece of leather tied tightly about his head, leaving spaces for his eyes and mouth only. He was friendly and seemed to enjoy talking about Charms, a magic she enjoyed practicing. They got on well for the ten or so minutes they'd chatted, and so she gave another squeeze to Sinistra.

The man dubbed "Jer" had the most intense green eyes Hermione had ever fallen into. They were absolutely beautiful, like spring grass with little yellow motes floating around inside. He didn't say much, mostly listened, but his mysterious air and impeccable manners interested her. His mask was dark blue, purple, gold and bronze iridescent, and cut in a bird-like shape, complete with beak. She indicated to her guardian that this man made the cut as well.

There were others – "Boot" with his flamboyantly carnival-colored mask was a sweet tempered man (if not a little too effete), "Finchy" (who wore a velvet yellow mask that had decorative red corded edging on it) was open and gay (if not a little too talkative for her tastes), and a very tall, dark mocha skinned man wearing a plain black mask across his eyes and calling himself "The Italian" was extremely engaging (sadly, he'd made it clear that he wasn't interested, as he was already sworn to another in the house; he'd simply come over to introduce himself. She thought this a shame, as she'd rather have liked to know this one better).

As she stood, forced to listen to Finchy drone on about Quidditch (a subject she wasn't particularly overzealous about), her mind wandered, inwardly musing.

She couldn't believe she'd actually done it – two months ago she'd run to La Cerise to escape her familial obligations, and tonight was finally her official debut! She wondered if her fiancée would be proud of the attention she'd attracted so far from possible suitors.

Being betrothed to Harry James Potter should have been any girl's dream. He was a well-considered wizard of great talent, a kind soul with smashing looks, a famous Seeker during his school years (leading his team to victory four times), a Captain in the Auror program, and his inheritance would be quite sizable when he came into it at age 21. He'd been her neighbor and childhood playmate up until they'd split at the age of eleven to go to different wizarding schools (he to Hogwarts, she to Beauxbatons Academy, per her parent's request after they'd discovered all about the wizarding world from the Potters). They'd remained friends throughout the years, sending notes by owl to each other to keep up on their lives and spending school breaks together. They'd even attended each other's graduation ceremonies. They worked now in the same department in the Ministry – Magical Law Enforcement (she was a law librarian who catalogued and kept the records straight, he an upholder of said law). It seemed a very smart match by all counts.

The problem was that Harry was very much in love with Miss Luna Lovegood, the pretty, blonde debutante that Hermione had gone to school with. Also, Hermione did not bear any sort of romantic feelings for Harry in any way. Neither of them wanted the other.

The arranged marriage contract had been drawn up when Hermione and Harry were only children - aged twelve, and away at school. According to the terms, neither set of parents were allowed to divulge the contents of the engagement until Hermione's 21st birthday, which had finally come last September (she was almost eleven months older than Harry, and of the two, she would be the first to reach Wizarding legal adulthood). When the duplicity was at last revealed, she had begged her parents to break the engagement, but they were helplessly bound by the magical contract they'd signed as her guardians and could not undo it under pain of death, as it acted as the magical equivalent of an Unbreakable Vow. Neither could the Potters help, as she and Harry had discovered, as no clause was made to this extent in the original contract. Besides, Lily and James Potter made no bones about the fact that they really wanted Hermione as their daughter-in-law, so even if they could annul the contract, they most likely wouldn't do so. They'd come to see her as their son's perfect match.

The terms of the contract stipulated the marriage to take place before or on July 31st, 1815 - Harry's twenty-first birthday - and it was a permanent binding. There would be no divorce, no setting aside or even cheating allowed. The terms were quite specific in this matter. Literally, it was 'till death did they part.

Despondent, but refusing to give up, she and Harry had unanimously turned to the law library where she worked for guidance. After nearly six months of searching, they had succeeded in finding an obscure legal loophole that they could exploit to get out of the bond: as the woman being "sold off" to the man in the contract, all Hermione had to do was exceed the funds the Potters had collected as her dowry by a single galleon and she could buy herself out of the contract, effectively cancelling it for all involved parties. The problem was, she had to make the money herself; it could not be gifted to her, especially by anyone involved in the initial agreement. That meant Harry could not offer her any help, nor could her parents, or the Potters. None of her friends had the kind of money it would require – 100,001 galleons – to satisfy the debt. She couldn't take out a loan at Gringotts either, because of the way the law was written. She clearly had to earn the money herself to buy her "debt" off.

Just when things had seemed hopeless, she'd heard of La Cerise and the auctioning off of a woman's virginity, which could net 200,000 or more galleons in one fell swoop, depending upon the betting (the highest amount paid in history had been a whopping 450,000 galleons paid out just thirty-years before for a woman who had insisted upon anonymity in the official records). The tradition was an old one, harkening back to the days of the Greek city-states, and it had always been seen as honorable in the Wizarding world to apprentice oneself to a courtesan. No shame was attached to the woman who wanted to empower herself by learning from a place like La Cerise, and she was assured a good financial start in life doing so, since the auctioned woman kept half the amount of the final bid (the other half going to the house). From Hermione's way of thinking, overall this plan seemed the most logical trade off to get out of a loveless marriage and to allow her best friend the happiness he so desperately wanted with Miss Lovegood. Unfortunately, it also meant giving her body away, but she reasoned that one night's physical pain and a little personal shame would be worth a lifetime's freedom for her and Harry. She loved her best friend and wanted his happiness, and she desperately wanted her own sovereignty back. She had plans for her life!

Harry had tried to talk her out of the idea, of course, calling it utter madness and degrading, but Hermione had insisted that this would solve their problems quickly, as time was fast running out. Quite frankly, they had no other options. It took her two weeks of constantly hounding him and showing him facts and figures, and reminding him that Luna would be fair game to any eligible suitors should he end up marrying her, before he eventually agreed. It didn't stop him from crying on her shoulder and begging her forgiveness for what he and his parents were responsible for doing to her, however, but at least he had finally come around to common sense, by Hermione's way of thinking (ironically, she still hadn't forgiven her own parents for their meddling, despite their claims of good intentions; that would take much more than a few hugs and some tears, she'd decided).

The very next morning, she and Harry had side-along apparated together to Aurora Sinistra with their proposal, and the House Madam had taken it upon herself to spend the next two months coaching and educating Hermione on the fine arts of flirting and seduction, fashion and beauty, etiquette and public speaking, singing and dance (all of the skills she hadn't learned at school, preferring to sign up for classes like Ancient Runes and Advanced Potions instead).

Now, tonight, all her training was being put to the test, and so far, the response had been positive.


As he neared, Draco caught the lovely, new woman's voice raised in tinkling laughter and things in his guts clenched tight. He circled around the group of males closing in for the kill, and came up behind instead, placing a hand on the House Madam's arm, knowing this was the proper way into the situation. "Madame Sinistra, you look ravishing tonight, as usual," he flirted outrageously, pasting on the charm thickly.

Aurora turned to him and smiled wickedly, obviously recognizing his voice, her rouged lips twisting up in knowing. "And you look exceptionally scrumptious tonight, Monsieur Dragon." The French expatriate, who had lived in Britain now for the better part of a decade and who's accent had been worked so that it was hardly noticeable any longer, looked him up and down carefully, taking in his impeccable dress and demeanor. "Well, well, it seems we have a theme coordinating tonight with color!" She broke her newest charge off of a discussion with Theodore Nott and turned the girl in his direction. "Might I introduce you to La Princesse?" she initiated, turning her head slightly at the beauty to her side. "Princess, this is Monsieur Dragon."

The dark haired beauty extended her hand, palm down, with some measure of wary politeness and smiled hesitantly, and Draco took it in his gently. When their fingers brushed, they both reacted with small gasps, their magic jumping between them, sparking, igniting.

This was the first time such a thing had ever happened to Draco, and for a second, he lost his composure, staring at the ravishing beauty before him with nothing less than blatant surprise. The Princess equally stared back at him, a glimmer of fear creeping into her eyes. She tugged once to try to remove her hand from his, but as she did, his manners returned full force. Gripping her to keep her from withdrawing, he bent over her knuckles and placed a reverent kiss upon them, then straightened. "It is a manifest pleasure, my lady," he managed to save the moment and keep them both from looking the fool.

The Princess seemed to recover at the same moment. "The satisfaction is mine, Monsieur Dragon."

He lingered for a moment longer than propriety allowed, and then released her hand, executing a more formal bow at the waist.

Sinistra looked between her charge and Draco, her hazel gaze measuring carefully, he noted. "Perhaps we could arrange for a more private audience for the two of you, chaperoned by me, of course. That is, if you'd like, Monsieur."

He traded a look with the House Madam, knowing that she implied nothing more than an acquaintance tea for starters – and understanding the ultimate cost involved should he continue to pursue The Princess. There would be no opportunity to bed this woman tonight, which meant Aurora intended on auctioning off this beauty at her side. This debut was nothing more than an opportunity to give the bachelors in the house the chance to meet The Princess one-on-one to decide her worth. So, in the end, it would come down to a question of galleons versus want - both of which he had plenty of to spare when it came to this Greecian lovely before him.

Without a second thought, Draco nodded his acceptance. "I would paramount enjoy the opportunity."

"Tonight then," Sinistra invited. "Come to my private drawing room on the third floor, one o'clock." She started to turn herself and the Princess back to the circle of men, who were now jealousy looking at him, anger in their gazes. "Don't be late, Monsieur." It was a polite dismissal-warning, and he knew that if he did not show up exactly on time, Aurora would reject him from the bidding later. He nodded in acceptance of the terms and made his way back over to Blaise, calming his racing heart with mental discipline.

His friend took one look at Draco's smirk and grinned brightly. "You're in," he guessed - not a question, but a statement.

Draco nodded. "For the first meeting," he confirmed. "I believe she's to be auctioned."

Blaise's eyebrows shot up. He looked over Drake's shoulder. "You're going to have fierce competition. McLaggen's got more money than you, and Nott might be a close second. Both are evenly titled, practically."

Draco's mind whirled through the possibilities in seconds, coming up with several workable solutions. "Then I'll have to make sure she turns them away before the bidding starts, won't I?"


Hermione's heart was pounding, and her mouth was suddenly dry. She accepted the offer of a drink from Knot, who smoothly walked off to get her some water. In that time, she barely heard a word any of the other men spoke to her. Instead, her mind was focused only on the memories of a cool, pale, strong hand, and a pair of wintery, smoldering grey eyes, and the feeling of electrifying magic igniting her all the way from her heart to her core. Her thin undergarments were suddenly rather damp, and she blushed over the knowledge that the man called The Dragon could arouse her with a simple touch.

If only she could see his face! That blasted mask (a beautiful black thing with silver eyelets and a single, trailing silver teardrop down the left cheek) had covered half of his face.

"Here, my lady," Knot offered her a glass of refreshing water, looking at her with mild concern through the slits his own mask favored. "Do you grow faint? Your cheeks are flushed."

Sipping at the water, Hermione took her fill and then handed him the glass back, fanning herself as soon as her fingers were free. "It is the excitement of meeting you all," she lied, recovering quickly, remembering her training. "It is my debut, after all."

Knot's piercing eyes were mulling her over as he clearly deliberated how best to respond. "Certainly, that must be the reason," he smoothly replied in agreement, although his tone spoke a different language all together; doubt mixed with uncertainty. For a few seconds, Hermione felt skewered under that knowing gaze, and then she was swept up into a new conversation by something Boot had said.


Draco hovered near his lovely all the rest of the night, refusing to call for Aster, listening in on The Princess' conversations. How easily the woman fell into intense discussions about politics and magical theory one minute, then fashion and Muggle theatre the next. Over the course of three hours, Draco was more than intrigued with the witch who was highly educated, well-spoken and culturally sophisticated. Was she equally as powerful with a wand, he wondered? If the aura he'd accidentally touched earlier was any indication… His fingers still tingled with the residual magic they'd shared.

"She's quite a woman," his best friend remarked, having spent some time earlier engaging his lovely in a discussion of Arithmatical formulas for deriving future predictors in weather cycles. "Bloody brilliant, actually," he complimented. "I think she helped me figure out a way to protect my money better when investing in commodity crops," he grinned cheekily.

Inside Draco's chest, he felt his heart skip a beat. "I want her," he growled possessively, his eyes glued to her emerald-clad form while his mind contemplated how to make the fantasy idea a reality.

Blaise was quiet a moment. "And Aster?"

There wasn't a moment's hesitation; Draco shook his head negatively, speaking volumes without words.

"When will you tell her?" his friend politely inquired. Blaise was nothing if not a gentleman about women's feelings - even those he couldn't tolerate, like Aster.

Pale, grey eyes wandered to Aurora hovering protectively over her ward, like a fierce dog keeping burglars at bay. "As soon as Sinistra accepts me as a bidder."

"Do you even care to know this girl's lineage?" his former housemate asked, nudging his chin in The Princess' direction. "What if she's only Half-Blood?"

Everyone knew that La Cerise only catered to pureblood families, so it couldn't be possible that his lovely Princess was anything but of the best stock. He reminded Blaise of this fact. "Besides, she's too beautiful not to be pureblood. Look at that bone structure." He made up his mind right there and then, lacking any proof other than the feeling warming his heart. "No, she's pureblood through and through. She has to be."

Neither said another word for long minutes, and then "Le Renard Rouge" came down the stairs to greet her beau, and Blaise was swept away in the beautiful red-head's arms and led up the stairs to her chambers where they could be alone, waving a final good luck to Draco.

At just before the ten o'clock hour, he watched as Sinistra led the Princess away, back up the stairs. At her side walked Theodore Nott. Obviously, the man's title – the son of a German Margrave - made him an attractive first candidate. Draco bit back his envy and spent the next three hours biding his time, considering what he would say to his pretty bird in green, watching as one man after another took his turn up the stairs to stay for the designated forty-five minutes. After Nott, there was Dean Thomas, and then Jeremy Stretton.

At quarter till one, he took his own walk up the grand staircase, feeling the eyes of every remaining man on his back, knowing he was going to have to make an outstanding impression if he wanted to be invited to return for a second tea later in the week so he could beat out the competition.


Stretton passed him in the hallway and gave him a tilt of the head in polite greeting. Draco returned it and stepped past without a backwards glance, reminding himself to appear reserved. When he knocked on the door precisely at one o'clock in the morning – still playtime for The Wizard's Ton, who often remained awake until the wee hours of the morning during weekend excursions - he was told to come in.

He'd only been in Aurora's drawing room once, when he'd first been a candidate for acceptance into La Cerise. Every male client was screened carefully for appropriateness before invitation, and a personal interview with the House Madam was required before entry would be granted. He'd been found suitable to mingle by Aurora within half an hour of their first handclasp, and after their meeting had adjourned, he'd been encouraged to take his pleasures as he saw fit from then on, so long as he obeyed the rules of the house. It had been two years since that initial conference, and he'd finally narrowed down his interest to Aster just a few months back. The petite blonde had been the most appropriate candidate for a wife of the available lot, even though he hadn't felt a spark for her.

He hadn't really been interested in any long-term fling with any woman here, honestly - that was, until tonight.

Taking a seat across from The Princess and the House Madam, he crossed his legs and sat back, determined not to be wound up for this initial meeting. He wanted there to be an air of comfort, if possible, as he was sure that by now, after three suitors, his lovely was probably at her whit's end. "Hello again," he broke with tradition and spoke with The Princess directly. "Survived the tsunami of suitors intact, I see."

Her perfect lips twitched in amusement. "Barely keeping my head above water, truth be told," she bantered back, and he found he was pleased with her sharp wit.

"Good thing," he teased, flowing along with the conversation, interested to see how far she would take the innuendo before offense was given. "It's too pretty a head to lose to the… squalid… seas you've encountered thus far."

Now her smile was dazzling. "Do you offer me safer shores and calmer waves, then, Monsieur?"

He snickered, loving her willingness to play along. "Hardly calm, but certainly safe. And the temperature's nice, too."

"Warm and tropical?" she inquired, looking at her nails as if she were disinterested, but her whole demeanor said otherwise.

If that wasn't a sexually charged opening, he didn't know what it could be classified. He decided to lay his cards down and see where it took them. "Definitely," he agreed, lowering his voice into seductive, honeyed tones. "Sometimes hot and steamy, too. Depends upon what you want."

She dropped her hand back into her lap and looked him dead in the eye, a sultry gleam reflecting outwardly. "Are you always so accommodating, my lord?"

He leaned forward slightly and tilted his head. "I can be." His eyes dipped intentionally to her lips. "For the right price."

She laughed then, and it was a beautiful sound that captured his heart once more. "I think that is my line, Monsieur." She turned to Aurora and nodded. "I think I will keep him. He is fun," she teased, throwing him a mischievous smile.

Draco stood, knowing he'd passed this round, and in record time, it seemed. He crossed over to her, again breaking tradition, and knelt down, making sure their knees brushed against each other "accidentally." He took her small hand in his boldly, feeling that spark between their magic flare once more. His cock tightened in his pants, and he thanked heaven that he wasn't wearing a cutaway style coat, but one that could fall across his crotch and hide his straining erection from this woman's delicate eyes. "We've only just begun having fun, Princess," he promised, bending his head and dragging his lips lightly over her fingers, taking liberties that he knew would astound her before actually landing his kiss on the back of her soft skin. In a quick move, he stood and wrapped his dark green coat about him, letting it cover his front completely. "When shall I have the honor of sparring with you again, my lovely?"

"Come back next Friday night at eleven o'clock in the eve," Aurora told him, her face showing her pleasure with this introduction. "Bring a suitable gift to show your intentions."

He bowed to both women deeply. "Until then, ladies." He started out, but stopped at the door. "Oh, and Princess-" She turned about on the couch to his call, clearly interested to hear his parting shot. "Wear something green again for me next time," he suggested impishly. "It's my favorite color." He knew it was arrogant to assume she would do so – too bold even to ask it, but he wondered if she really would. If so, it would indicate her interest in him.

As expected, she raised an eyebrow at him and smirked. "Perhaps I will wear red instead, just to spite you."

"Hmmm, green and red? You would look like a Yule tree then," he joked.

She shook her head in part amusement, part exasperation, he could tell from her grin. "You will learn that I do not take orders well from men, Monsieur Dragon, and you most certainly do not own me."

He chuckled darkly. "Not yet, my lovely, but I will." With that promise made, he slipped out of the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.


After Monsieur Dragon left, there was still forty-five minutes remaining until her next appointment. It would be with The Prince. She was dreading that meeting, especially after this last one.

"You must meet and encourage them all, to assure a good bidding war," Aurora reminded her.

Hermione sighed. "I know."

Her guardian stood and went to a dressing table, pulling out a make-up bag. "Fix your gloss and rouge," she advised. "And your mask is slipping. I will correct that for you when you finish."

Doing as she was instructed, Hermione reapplied her pinkish-red lip paint and cheek powder. As the House Madam was adjusting her mask, assuring it remained tight to her face, she smiled knowingly at her charge. "You liked him best, I can tell."

There was no need to ask who she was referring to.

"He was interesting," Hermione admitted. "But I really do not know anything about him other than the fact he flirts very provocatively and his mask is rather sad."

Sinistra chuckled. "You spark whenever you touch."

Hermione blinked and looked down at her hand. "Yes, what was that? It felt… warm. I-" Here she paused and blushed, but she and Aurora had discussed such bawdy and naughty things before. Why should this time be different? She forced herself to continue. "He caused my body to react, to prepare itself."

A delicate, dark eyebrow raised at that. "Did he? How did it feel exactly? Describe the moment."

Hermione closed her eyes and pulled up the memory. "Like being hit with a stunning spell, only… it was as if liquid fire poured through my middle, starting in my heart and continuing downwards into la pêche." She shuddered, opening her eyes, feeling her cheeks blooming with heat. "Truly, I have never felt such a thing before."

Sinistra was looking off at the wall, but her mind was obviously elsewhere, lost in a memory. "Incroyable! It couldn't be-" she muttered to herself, but her words were not lost on Hermione.

"What do you know?" she asked of her teacher, suddenly suspicious.

With a wave of her hand in dismissal, Aurora shook her head. "It is no matter yet. We will see if I am right." She reached out and readjusted the mask over Hermione's face again, making sure it covered where it was meant to. "You must prepare yourself for your last four visits tonight. Then, you may seek your bed." When she was satisfied that the ribbon was tied securely around, she nodded. "Eight suitors in one night. You have done quite well, oui."

Hermione beamed. She'd never dreamed of so many men showing interest in her. She'd always believed herself to be rather plain and bookish, honestly. It had only been because of Aurora and her instruction that she had discovered the woman hidden deep inside.

"But that is not enough," the House Madam informed her. "Some will drop out as you grow to know each other better. I have seen this many times. It is best to encourage as many as possible. We will meet more men tomorrow night and Sunday night. Then, we must wait to see who returns next weekend."

They'd have to do this again? Hermione was already tired, having been up most of the afternoon and evening preparing for tonight. That she'd have to go through this two more times, meeting strange men, some of whom were obviously ill-suited. She dreaded the idea.

"The most famous woman to cross this house thirty years ago, she had ten bidders in the end, and that was after meeting more than two dozen to start," her educator explained.

Two dozen! Hermione's eyeballs almost fell out of her head.



For the record, this fic takes place in England during the early 19th century (Regency Era, 1795-1837), but I have bent the cultural rules of those times for this Alternate Universe fic. Because our characters are living in WIZARDING England, not MUGGLE England, and the Wizarding world is much more liberal in its cultural norms according to our beloved authoress – J.K.R. - many things that wouldn't be possible in the Muggle world during this time period are quite possible in the Wizarding world during the same age (i.e. Blaise being a free man of high status, despite being a man of color). I've further decided that some things are the exact opposite of the Muggle world (for instance, I've made it clear in this story that high-class whorehouses are places of distinction, not shame, and that to work in one was seen as a rise in a woman's status, as it gave her real life 'skills' that she could take with her into marriage). This story takes place BEFORE the rather conservative Victorian Era's morales and morays take effect on the Wizarding & Muggle world alike, remember. Hopefully, I can pull this off trying to rearrange our beloved HP characters into this earlier time period, while keeping that sense of historical realism, and combining it with what JKR established for us with her books. This is the only way to give us all a happy Dramione ending, as the challenge requests.

La Cerise = French for "The Cherry."

La Belle Femme = French for "The Beautiful Woman."

Crêpe de Chine = French for "China Crepe," which is a type of silken fabric.

Dame de choix = French for "lady of choice."

Madame = French for "Madam/M'am."

La Princesse = French for "the Princess."

Monsieur = French for "Mister/Sir."

Le Renard Rouge = French for "the red fox."

Mademoiselle = French for "Young Miss."

La pêche = French for "the peach" (old slang term for a vagina).