This was my 2012 DRAMIONE REMIX – ROUND 3 entry (dramione-remix . livejournal . com). The fest is over and reveals are out, so now I can post this for you here. This fanfic is finished, and I will put a new chapter up once a week.
My prompt for the fest was: couple - Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia & Ilona Szilágyi
A very grateful 'thank you' goes out to my beta, Ladysashi, who saved me at the last minute by agreeing to take on this piece despite her busy schedule, and to the wonderful Mod for putting this amazing fest on again and allowing me not one, but two extensions!
DISCLAIMER: "Harry Potter" is the property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. This fanfiction was written entirely for fun, not for profit, and no copyright infringement is intended.
TIMELINE: Time line: Post-War, A/U (starts 2006).
MAIN CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name): Hermione Granger-Zabini, Draco Malfoy
SECONDARY CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name): Astoria Greengrass-Malfoy, Blaise Zabini
SUMMARY: He fascinates her, with his snarky ways and his dashing smile, but former Order of the Dragon member, Draco Malfoy, is strictly off-limits to former Order of the Phoenix member, Hermione Granger, who has been given in marriage to Blaise Zabini, per the War Accords Act of 2003. Breaking her vows to her husband to be with Draco could mean an end to the peace between their sides and result in a resuming of hostilities, but it seems impossible to stay away from the charming blond wizard… especially while meeting in secret under the sheltering canopy of the magically-blooming Wisteria blossoms every Christmas Eve…
RATING: R (MA)
WARNINGS: Explicit heterosexual consensual sex; Infidelity; Romance; Happy Ending
Vlad III (1431-1476) was known historically as "Vlad Drakul" and "Vlad the Impaler". He was a Prince of the Royal House of Drăculești ("the House of the Dragon") in the Kingdom of Hungary (known as Wallachia then). He was a Warlord and accomplished soldier, and a champion of Catholicism as a member of the Order of the Dragon (an order of military knights). Vlad's first wife (some unknown Transylvanian woman who he married young) committed suicide; she'd given Vlad his first son and heir. Ilona Szilágyi was his second wife, and a member of the royal court of Wallachia. She married Vlad soon after his first wife's death and gave him two sons. Legend states that Vlad seduced Ilona in a flower garden, but this may just be a local, romantic myth. No one knows what Ilona looked like, although it is assumed that from her heredity, she had the stock-and-trade physical traits of most Hungarians of the time: fair skin, dark, curly hair, and brown eyes (much like Hermione is depicted).
In the language of flowers, Wisteria refers to longevity, beauty, spontaneity, and love, but also serves as a warning against overly-passionate or obsessive love for sadness is sure to follow such emotion.
The Sackman = similar to the Bogeyman.
ONLY ONCE, AND FOREVER (alternatively, 'The Second Wife of The Knave of the Enchanted Wisteria Garden')
In a brilliant flash of neon green, the Battle of Hogwarts had ended on May the second, in what would have been Hermione's seventh year at Hogwarts. Both Voldemort and Harry had ended the life of the other with a simultaneously cast Avada.
In the aftermath, the war had continued, however, neither side willing to give up despite the loss of its iconic leaders.
After five, exhausting years, with heavy losses sustained on both sides, a truce was finally called, offered by a third, nonpartisan group made up of Centaurs, Vampires, Goblins, House-elves, Veela, a Gorgon, and even a Sphinx – all of whom called Britain their home. This group, who chose Count Vlad Drakul as their spokesperson and called themselves simply 'Third Faction', had made it clear they'd had enough of the fighting, and wanted things back to normal. Given the amount of force and power Third Faction represented, and that both the Order of the Phoenix and the Order of the Dragon –the Death Eaters' answer to the Order of the Phoenix, led by the fierce, ruthless Rodolphus Lestrange and his brother, Rabastan- had been worn down from too many years of fighting, it seemed to be in everyone's best interest to finally come to an agreement for the cessation of hostilities.
Every British wizard and witch remaining on the island, along with the members of the Third Faction, sat down to hash out a legally-binding truce, and six months later, The War Accords of 2003 were signed into law.
Part of the Accords had been the enforced nuptials between Order members of opposite factions. Reaching back into ancient European traditions, the determination was made for "aliance"– the old French custom of resolving disputes with matrimony. A random matching of partners had been held, split by gender and faction.
In the end, Hermione had been given to Blaise Zabini, and Draco had been paired with Astoria Greengrass, her fellow Phoenix member, as his wife.
Three years and one unconsummated marriage later, and Hermione was beginning to doubt that the Accords had been as successful as anticipated in reunifying Britain's wizards and witches.
Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire, England – 24 December, 2006, Evening
A moment's peace, that's all Hermione had wanted. It's why she had escaped out back, to hide amongst the sweeping, fragrant Wisteria arches in the Malfoy gardens.
The dark, secret tunnel created by the bushy, lavender flowers that surrounded and insulated this part of the yard provided a sanctuary for one's senses. It was a refuge from the outside world, from its flashy colours and its vibrant noise.
Beyond the curtain of magically-bespelled blooms, the sounds of the Malfoy's holiday party were muffled into insignificance, and Hermione could pretend as she stood in the shadows, if for only a few moments, that none of the people on the other side of this beautifully cultivated shelter existed. Pretend that most of her friends had not died in the war. Pretend that she was not married, was not tied to a man she didn't respect or care very much for, and was not starving for real companionship and love. Pretend that the world as she knew it was not the real world at all, but merely a smoke-and-mirror dream that haunted her subconscious, much as the Sackman had done to her when she'd been a small child.
"This is my hiding spot, Granger."
Hermione shook her head and sniffed with cynical amusement. It figured he'd be hiding out here, too. If there was one thing she'd learned about Draco Malfoy in the last three years, it was that the man was a consummate dodger. The only thing he'd ever been pinned down on was honouring the War Accords that she'd helped negotiate.
"Zabini," she reminded him with a small smile, used to him referring to her in such an irreverent way by now. Still, she stuck to the script of their funny, little ritual; every time he called her 'Granger', she reminded him of her married status to his best friend. "I haven't gone by my maiden name in a long while now… as you're well aware."
Oddly, Draco was quiet for a moment in the face of that gentle admonition. Usually, he'd immediately quip back something about 'Hermione Zabini' sounding like some sort of poorly conceived Italian dish, or worse, a viral epidemic. This time, however, there was a strange pause, as if he were considering his reply with some serious thought.
"Habit," he finally replied in excuse, stepping into a sliver of light cast from the direction of the fully-lit house across the yard. "I knew you by your family's moniker a dozen years before you married Blaise. You'll always be Granger to me, no matter how you sign your last name." Slim, elegant shoulders raised in a nonchalant shrug, dismissing the matter with casual ease, returning them to a more comfortable level of friendly antagonism once more. "So, why are you ducking out of my party?"
"Why are you?" she countered. "You're the one throwing this shindig, after all."
That roguish smirk that had always secretly amused her crawled up his cheek and the light of mischief sparkled in his eyes. "Actually, it's Astoria's idea. I loathe parties - too much politicking for my tastes."
"You're fibbing. Everyone knows your new nickname over at the Ministry is 'The Knave'," she pointed out, "and for good reason. You're as sly as a... ferret."
His smirk bloomed into a brilliant grin. "You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"
She laughed. "Not in my lifetime, no."
He stepped towards her then, until they were improperly close. "What would it take to induce you into forgetting?"
Discomfited by the uncharacteristic quick switch in his moods once more and by how near he stood, Hermione tightened her fur coat around her shoulders and stepped back to put a little space between them. The gardens hadn't been charmed for warmth, only for beauty, and winter's chill had set in. And, if she were completely honest with herself, Draco Malfoy did things to her sanity with a simple look, and she felt vulnerable before his unwavering silver gaze. It was mortifying to know the boy she'd openly despised throughout her childhood had grown into a man she was secretly attracted to – that, despite the fact he'd been a member of the Order of the Dragon, her enemy in the war, and that she was married to his best friend.
"Don't you think you ought to get back to your guests?" she asked with a hint of nervousness, taking another step away.
Draco stepped forward a second time, closing the distance between them once more. "I'm not concerned. Why are you? You despise most of the people in there anyway."
It was her turn to shrug... and take another couple of steps back. "True, but you're being a terrible host."
Her shoulders collided with a thick Wisteria vine, bringing her retreat to an abrupt halt.
She turned her head for only a moment to look for an alternate escape route, but before she could move, Malfoy was suddenly standing in her personal space, pressed in very close to her. His arms shot out to either side to block her hasty flight when she attempted a dodge and weave manoeuvre.
Her heart in her throat, she was suddenly, painfully reminded of that one time back in sixth year, when they'd been in this same exact position...
"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded of him.
Draco's expression was now completely unreadable to her, as he'd moved into a rather dark shadow. His body was silhouetted by the light behind him, however, and his hair was as bright a beacon as a star against the black backdrop of the night-time sky.
"Testing a theory."
So, he wanted to play a game of flinch with her, just as he had back at school. Well, she wouldn't be the one to back down first! Never had she let this wizard intimidate her before, and she wasn't about to start now. "What theory - the one where I hex you into oblivion for attempting to intimidate me?" She shook her head in disappointment. "Really, Malfoy, I thought we were beyond such base amusements."
His low, suggestive chuckle stirred the hairs on the back of her neck and caused a shiver to dart up her spine. It was not a reaction brought on by fear, though. No, it was the crackling heat of unexpected desire that shot through her, making her pulse race.
"I'm shocked you think that way, Granger. There's absolutely nothing sordid about you."
As his head dipped, lowering until their noses brushed, the instinctual voice of sanity in Hermione's mind screamed at her not to let this thing that was about to happen actually come to pass, for once it did, it knew that everything would change for her, for him... for their spouses and the Accords they had vowed to honour three years ago.
"But you're certainly a recreation worth pursuing," he whispered.
"That's not what I meant-" she disputed in a half-hearted whisper of her own.
His chilly lips brushed with all the softness of a butterfly's wings against her own lips, cutting her off. Once, twice, three times her sensitive mouth was plucked before all rationality slipped away and she opened up to him, responding to his coaxing kisses.
Hesitantly, gently they explored each other, kissing for but a fraction of a second and pulling away over and over again, teetering on the edge of full commitment. Their breaths mingled, and she tasted upon his tongue and lips the champagne and fresh fruit that had been served as a social appetizer by the wait staff inside.
To her pleasant surprise, Draco Malfoy kissed with a reverence and care she hadn't expected a man of his temperament capable of displaying, especially to the likes of her. Was this what it might have been like if she'd closed those inches between their mouths back then in that darkened corridor, back when they'd been children standing unknowingly on the brink of a war about to explode around them? Would he have claimed her lips with this same, gentle touch?
When he ended the kiss with a final nip to her and pulled back, she longed for him not to put distance between them again.
"I knew... you should have been mine." He murmured so low she almost didn't catch his words.
They registered a beat later, and it suddenly occurred to her that she was in a very compromising position - with her husband's best friend! Pushing against him at the same time as stepping to the side, Hermione managed to move Draco enough to squeeze by and to put some distance between them. "I... I should-"
Draco's tone suggested he was not advising her so much as proposing that she had a choice in the matter. The implication was, of course, that if she decided to shun the party to stay put, she would end up doing more than just a trivial, pardonable amount of kissing with him.
True to his Slytherin legacy, The Knave merely proposed an alternate path for his opponent's consideration - and would allow whatever happened next to fall entirely upon the other party's head. Her head, in this case.
Gathering the edges of her long coat, she pulled it tight around her middle. "Yes, I think I'll go back inside." That was the smart move, after all, as it prevented not only an act of recklessness that was sure to bring regret and consequences later, but it was also a win for her self-respect. Besides, meaningless kissing could be blamed on one too many glasses of wine, but anything more could not. She'd get out now with her pride only a tad bit dented, but still intact. "Thank you for a lovely party. Happy Christmas, Draco," she formally offered.
He stepped into a sliver of moonlight coming through the vine canopy above, and that sexy, damnable smirk was back on his face. "Happy Christmas... my Granger."
She beat a dignified retreat, heading towards the house on shaky knees, but with measured step, returning to the world of lights and noise. Every step took her closer to unhappiness, and yet Hermione knew she was helpless but to go forward, for going back was much too dangerous a hazard for both her sanity and her lonely heart.
TO BE CONTINUED…