Hermione felt her breath leave her when she entered the dining room. She had completely forgot how handsome the Dark Lord was in person. His dark eyes seemed to light up when he saw her. She took a deep breath and schooled her features. Not only did a Malfoy control their emotions, but she didn't want to come off like her Aunt Bellatrix, desperate for his attention. "Good evening, my Lord." She curtseyed demurely.
Voldemort gestured for Hermione to take the seat at his left hand, directly across from Severus. Draco sat beside her and her mother took the other head of the table. "What news do you have for me, regarding your mission?" He asked her. His voice seemed...slightly strained.
"Tomorrow morning, Professor Snape will accompany Draco and myself to Azkaban to visit father. That is what Dumbledore thinks the sole purpose of our visit is. Then, afterwards, Draco will return here to the manor, and Professor Snape will accompany me to visit the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest."
"And they were...receptive to your meeting?" He asked, waiting to praise her until he was certain that everything was in place.
"Well, I sent a missive in the traditional fashion of the centaurs and they responded in the affirmative by placing a butchered rabbit in the v of two tree branches. That is their way and all of my research has assured me that it is a good sign." Hermione said, proud of the way she had carefully navigated the centaurs' tricky etiquette.
"And the cabinet?"
Hermione blushed. "Yes, I think I've finally found the spell, but I have yet to master it. I am having some trouble producing the correct wand movement." She hated admitting that she wasn't able to get something right after so much practice. It was the same with the broom.
"Perhaps, I can help you after dinner?" Voldemort looked to Narcissa.
Narcissa was uneasy about the amount of interest the Dark Lord took in her daughter, especially after he made it clear that he held her beloved Lucius responsible for the mix up at the Ministry. "Why, yes of course. So long as she has a chaperone."
Hermione cleared her throat and noticed that the Dark Lord had raised his eyebrow. She couldn't believe that her mother would suggest something like that - as if the Dark Lord had any time for romantic pursuits and even if he did, it certainly wouldn't be with her of all people. He quickly smiled though. "Yes of course. I assumed that Severus and Draco would be joining us."
Narcissa returned a tight lipped smile, wishing for the one hundredth time that Lucius was here. She never knew what to do with her sweet daughter when it came to the Dark Lord. On one hand it was wonderful that Hermione was restoring the name of Malfoy, but on the other hand there was something unsettling about the relationship between the two.
When dessert was finally served - perfectly prepared creme brulee - Narcissa cleared her throat and narrowed her eyes are Draco. "Draco, I heard about your failed attempt at matching Hermione with Blaise."
Severus felt his breath leave him, and he seemed to choke for a second on his dessert. He coughed a few times before finally wheezing out, "Whose appalling idea was that?"
Draco's cheeks had turned a delicate pink color. "I thought that Blaise would make a good match for Hermione because he has no tolerance for her bossiness."
"Yes and he has no tolerance for monogamy or public spaces either!" Severus spat back, bitterly.
This intrigued Voldemort immensely. He watched his pallid acquaintance closely after that. He would definitely need to speak with him about it.
"Well Draco, I think you don't have to worry too much about it. I can handle the arrangements for Hermione's betrothal. And your own." Narcissa said in that calm way, which signified the end of a discussion.
Draco ignored the final tone of his mother's voice. "With father away indefinitely, it falls on my shoulders as head of this family to secure a good marriage contract for Hermione!" He immediately noticed his mistake, seeing the stern look his mother gave him. Malfoys didn't lose their temper. "I'm sorry, mother. I will consult with you from now on." He said bitterly, his head hanging looking down at his finished dessert.
The awkward silence that followed was eventually broken by Hermione. "Well, shall we retire to the study to practice my wandwork?" She asked. Her cheeks were tinged with pink, detecting the unintentional innuendo in her statement.
Narcissa stood and showed them to the study, but then bid them goodnight, leaving Hermione and Draco with Professor Snape and the Dark Lord. She was always a bit worried about having her children interact with the Dark Lord, but she felt safer knowing and Severus would be there. He was one of her and Lucius's oldest and dearest friends after all.
"Tell me about the spell." Voldemort requested, sitting on the settee next to the fireplace. He rested his arm against the arm of the settee and he rested his head against his hand, looking inquisitive. Hermione felt her breath catch in her throat. She knew that the Dark Lord was attractive, but it was like seeing him in a new light. The Dark Lord cleared his throat and she realized she had left a long pause.
"Well, it is a variation of several charms including a weaving charm that you would typically use for clothing, a mending charm that you would use for mending flesh, and a growth charm that you would use in the garden. The incantation is silva intexo armarium resarcio."
Severus was pretending to peruse the books on the shelves, even going so far as to pick one up and run his long finger back and forth across the pages. Draco was just sitting next to Hermione trying to seem engaged.
Voldemort conjured a small wooden box, about the size of a jewelry box. "Try it on this, so I can see the movement."
Hermione stood and smoothed her dress. She cleared her throat and raised her wand, moving it through the complex motions while saying the charm clearly and loudly. Nothing happened. She tried it again, but still, nothing changed. She was getting frustrated.
Severus shut his book and then commented. "Your downward flick is a little too zestful and should occur precisely on the emphasized syllable of intexo."
Hermione bit her lower lip and nodded. She tried again and was still unable to produce even a meagre spark. She felt tears begin to form in her eyes and a hard lump form in her throat. She was just so frustrated. She was used to excelling at everything, but no matter how hard she practiced she was completely unable to master this spell! She bit her tongue until she tasted blood to prevent herself from crying in front of the Dark Lord. She couldn't believe how weak she must seem. Malfoys didn't cry!
The Dark Lord stood up, gracefully, as he did everything, and moved to stand behind her. She felt her breath leave her as he pressed his body flush against her backside and placed his hand around hers. The whole room was silent save for the crackling of the log in the fireplace, until he spoke, his breath tickling against her neck and ear. "We will just try the motion first." His arm began to move, guiding her hand and wand through the motions effortlessly. After Voldemort felt that she had practiced that sufficiently, he said, "And now with the incantation."
Hermione cleared her throat and tried to focus on the wooden box and not the man behind her. "Silva intexo armarium resarcio!" She felt his arm guide her through the motions and to her glee, Hermione watched as a series of green sparks left the tip of her wand and surrounded the box.
"Excellent job, Hermione." Voldemort told her, pleased that she was able to accomplish quite a complex spell. "Now, I think you and Draco should go to bed - you have a big day tomorrow, seeing your father and meeting with the centaurs."
Hermione nodded. "Thank you so much, my Lord, for helping me with the spell. Goodnight. Goodnight Professor Snape." Draco stood from the couch and offered her an arm. He also bid the two men goodnight before leading his sweet little sister to her room.
Voldemort sat back down on the settee and resumed his pose. "Severus, come join me." He demanded, softly.
The other man complied, placing the book back on the shelf.
"Severus, tell me about this Adrian Pucey."
Severus's eyebrows knitted together in confusion, but he tried to give Voldemort a fair assessment. "He has reasonable intellect, but didn't apply himself enough in school. Played quidditch in school and seemed to actually be a fair player - he didn't cheat. I think he is an Arithmancer for the Ministry or something like that." It was quiet for a beat, before Severus added. "Why do you ask?"
Voldemort decided to pull Snape into his plans. "Well, it is not secret that I find Hermione Malfoy to be a particular gem of a witch." Severus felt his breath leave him, but kept his face emotionless. "She possesses a superior intellect and magical ability, plus an innovative streak that I find highly appealing to my plans. I would hate to see her go to waste. It is clear to me that Draco, though well intentioned, might not be seeing what is best for his sister when arranging a marriage contract for her. Can you imagine what would happen if she married someone like Crabbe?" He asked with a sneer.
"That would be unfortunate." Severus conceded.
"I just want to make sure that we don't lose her potential. I would like to meet this Adrian Pucey. Perhaps he would like to join us." Voldemort peered into the fireplace. He didn't notice Severus's face sour at the thought.
Hermione had a sense of dread the whole day through. Draco had held her hand when they took the tiny boat across the strait that separate Azkaban from the mainland with their dour professor. Since they got in the boat she had been overcome with a cold that seemed to chill her to the bone.
Now, it was just herself and Draco waiting in the dingy stone room for their father. The room and a table and three chairs, but nothing else. Their father's arrival was heralded by a dementor which stayed in the room with them the whole time, not actively attacking them, but seemly removing their happy emotions passively with its presence.
When their father entered the room, Hermione nearly didn't recognize him. She jumped up from her set and helped him to his own, giving him a hug first. He was weak, not able to walk well on his own, and even sitting in the chair he was hunched over and looked much older than his forty years. She felt tears come to her eyes. "Father! What have they done to you? Your beautiful hair..." she lamented, while Draco remained silent. She reached out and grabbed his hand.
His once beautiful silver blond hair was ratted and dirty. He had the beginnings of a beard, which made him look scruffy, not like the noble man that he was. "Don't you worry about me darling. How is your mother?"
Draco spoke up at this point. "Mother is fine, but lonely. She has been keeping busy with her friends though and remains loyal to the cause." Lucius nodded and smiled.
"And your school work?"
"Hermione and I are in the tops of our classes. We were invited to join the Slug Club."
This pleased Lucius even more. He patted the top of Hermione's hand. "Good, good."
"Papa, don't worry, we will get you out of here. I don't care how many appeals it takes. I promise you!" She clutched his hand in hers. If Lucius Malfoy could be strong in this situation, Hermione knew that she could complete her tasks.
A/N: Thank you for reading. I know that I went like a ridiculously long time between posting and it means so much to still have so many people review or favorite the story. It's really encouraging and I will try to get better about posting more often!
I have had several people worry about the interest that Severus has in Hermione...don't worry - it has a purpose! You just have to wait it out with me!
Let me know what you thought of chapter six (hopefully I will have an update for Rest My Chemistry soon too!) and keep an eye out for chapter seven. Thank you!