Hermione stood in the slight darkness of an alcove, gaze fixed on a certain platinum blond wizard and his pretty pure-blood princess date. Draco and Astoria, at the War Orphans Charity Gala, dancing, hands all over each other. As if that were not quite enough, they were smiling.
At each other!
It was disturbing to Hermione, the way they were carrying on.
What was also disturbing to Hermione was the sheer amount of wealth being dumped into a party thrown for the over privileged and ever entitled, to raise modest funds for an ever increasing number of under privileged and largely ignored magical children who were supposed to be the future of their world, just so the rich could gossip and socialize and ostentatiously drop a few galleons into the large glass goblet kept on a pedestal in the middle of their party. Her sharp eyes saw that the goblet was charmed to appear more full of gold than it was. However the crystal glasses of expensive wine from the Greengrass Wineries doing the rounds were charmed to appear less full than they actually were. The irony of the goblets was not lost on Hermione as she took in the scene playing out in front of her.
Someone approached the happy couple and Hermione flicked her gaze at the newcomer. Roff Crouch, distant relative and only living heir to Barty Crouch, smiled wide at Draco. Malfoy graciously bowed to Astoria, before tucking her dainty little gloved hand in his elbow as he turned to talk to the other wizard. He talked and laughed and absently petted Astoria’s hand. Crouch left and Goyle and Nott Jr took his place to talk to the couple. Malfoy engaged in more pleasant conversation, nodding occasionally. Pansy Parkinson joined the group, pulling a drunk Marcus Flint along. Marcus straightened and shook hands with everyone but Astoria, who was clutching Malfoy with both her hands at the point. Everybody grabbed drinks from a passing floating tray and raised their glasses in a toast. Hermione couldn’t hear the toast or what they were saying, or even what they were so bloody happy about. All she saw was Draco Malfoy in his element, at ease among his friends and peers, comfortable in his skin, shiny dragon hide boots and bespoke dress robes. His patent condescending smirk had yet to make an appearance. Or his famous scowl or glower.
Had Hermione ever seen him unwind, socialize and practically hold court like this? Had she seen him dance with abandon like this?
Had she ever seen him singling out and showering attention on a witch in full public view like this?
The bitter answer to all those uncomfortable questions was a resounding no.
What Hermione did see was sneers, petty pranks and cutting remarks in school, hexes and posturing out of school, and nowadays, cold shoulders in public and hard fucking in the privacy of his home. War heroine or not, top ministry spy or not, this glittering gathering of the upper crust of her Wizarding World showed Hermione exactly how divided said world still was. How outclassed this divide left witches and wizards like Harry and Hermione who had stepped into this world with stars in their eyes but a few years ago, coming as they did from their clueless muggle upbringing. The puny measures the Ministry had taken after the war to build bridges between the pureblood elites and the rest, fell far short of making her feel part of this stratosphere of Draco’s existence.
Hermione had known she would feel a little jealous and out of place when she came to observe Draco and Astoria at this gathering tonight. She just hadn’t anticipated the sheer depths of insecurity and heights of rage that would consume her.
Astoria pulled Malfoy’s lapels to bring his head down and whispered in his ear. Malfoy settled his hands on her waist and listened. Then he smirked and whispered something back. Such an attractive picture of devotion they cut.
Of all the hits of the evening, the small circles his hands were making on her waist as he whispered in Astoria’s bejeweled ears tipped the scales for the silent Hermione in her dark corner. She remembered the bruises Draco had left on her waist the last time they had sex and how she’d carefully healed them the next morning, torn between wanting the bruises and wanting them gone. How differently his hands touched Astoria, how tenderly. A part of her had wanted the bruises that night, and, she realized with shock, another part of her wanted these tender soothing touches too. The kind of touching that another woman was currently enjoying.
Malfoy kissed Astoria’s cheek and the pretty blond witch stepped away from the group, Malfoy’s eyes following her as she made her way towards the restrooms.
A little something, looking alarmingly like hope, broke inside Hermione. She felt the reverberations of the loss echo throughout her body. She hadn’t even been aware that such innocent hope had taken root in her. A tiny tether of feeling, that despite all odds, kept bringing her back to Draco Malfoy. An hour ago Hermione would have laughed her heart out at the mere suggestion of her having feelings for Malfoy. Lust, yes. Passion, hell yes. But affection?
And now, before she could revel in the warmth of real emotion filling her heart, she felt it twisting and breaking, the orphaned wisps of her pipe dreams drifting away, leaving a dead chill behind.
Served her right though. What in Merlin’s name had she been doing, harboring hopes about Malfoy of all people?
And what the bloody hell was he doing with Hermione? What was the meaning of that kiss and his impassioned few words in the Ministry lift? What kind of fool did Malfoy think she was?
Hermione tilted her head and again thought of the last time he had fucked her right into his overpriced mattress and decadent sheets. Sans the light of her small hopes, those nights in Draco Malfoy’s bed started looking a whole lot darker. What was it that he had said the last time they had been together?
Is a shoddy hook up with some broad a couple times a month called keeping exemplary company in your shoddy neck of the woods?
Hermione wished she didn’t have such great memory. Or imagination. Because her imagination and recollections were destroying what little self control she had been hanging on to.
Was he going to hold Greengrass down forcefully and take his pleasure from her after the party too? Or was that sort of fucking frowned upon in their uppity pureblood circles? Could be Malfoy was stringing Hermione along for the sole purpose of satiating needs his well bred girlfriend was too good for. Dates and galas, tender whispers and possible engagement with a proper Astoria. Depraved pleasure taking and perverse uncouth words for the mudblood on the side.
It was good to be a Malfoy!
The opulent ball room was comfortably heated but Hermione felt her hands and feet go cold. Crackling electricity swept through tightly knotted curls and her hair unraveled, the ends twitching with static. For the moment, Hermione didn’t care that she was losing control of her cloaking magic and that her hair were a dead giveaway to her identity. The fact that she was crashing an invitation only event was not important. The fact that in a few seconds, her magic was going to spontaneously lash out was not important. Hurting Malfoy, just as she was hurting now, was important.
Hermione’s gaze locked on her nemesis of old, fury making her see red.
The ornate crystal chandelier in the middle of the ballroom, situated just above Malfoy’s head, exploded in an ear-splitting explosion, a thousand burning, melting candles flying every which way, the cut glass pieces making up the intricate design disintegrating into a million pieces. Shrieks and shouted spells mingled with the bedlam as wizards and witches cast hasty shields to save themselves and others with them from the raining glass, molten wax and flames. The green velvet drapes by the glass double doors leading to the patio caught a stray spark and sudden flames engulfed that side of the ballroom. More screaming and confusion followed as everyone tried to get far from the burning debris and run to safety.
Not everyone was trying to run away though. Draco Malfoy cast a quick shield to save himself and everyone around him from the explosion. Years of hosting the Dark Lord and his entourage of mad death eaters at the Malfoy Manor had made him inherently ready for chaos at a moment’s notice. Panic never helped in these situations. Keeping his head down but his eyes and ears wide open did. That was how he had always survived. He glanced around now, cataloguing the running screaming socialites, looking for anything that was out of place. His eyes fell on a head of dark brown curls in a corner and he froze in shock.
The instant the commotion broke out, five dark sentinel wizards in charge of the event’s security stepped out from hidden alcoves and began casting shields, containment and anti-apparition wards, to minimize destruction, save the guests from the explosion and to prevent the guilty from escaping. One found a witch in a corner, a famous witch, practically humming with residual magic. Her eyes dead, her hands loose on the sides, the ends of her hair still smoking spontaneously. She was not running and not shielding herself in any way. Most importantly, she didn’t have an invitation and had no apparent reason to be all on her own at this gathering of people. The sentinel cast a full body bind on Hermione Granger and raised his wand to signal his team.
Other sentinels and a few enterprising witches and wizards worked together to control the spreading damage. The fires were put out, the shattered glass started clearing itself away to form heaps in two separate corners. The half hanging broken iron shell of the chandelier gently detached from the ceiling and floated to join its other broken pieces. The guests stopped panicking and started looking around in commiseration towards their friends and acquaintances.
Malfoy saw Granger getting caught and bound and swore loudly, drawing the attention of the witches and wizards around him. All of them turned to look where he was looking and took in the sight of an intruder getting apprehended. Igor Karkaroff, Pius Thicknesse and Theodore Nott Sr stepped out from amongst the masses and moved towards Hermione and her captor.
“That’s Potter’s Mudblood.” Karkaroff hissed.
“What the bloody hell is she doing here.” Nott exclaimed, “I didn’t invite her. How did she get in?”
“Find out if she was accompanied.” Thicknesse ordered the sentinel and sent him away. He then turned to grab Hermione’s arm and started dragging her towards the ornate carved wooden doors of the ballroom. “Defuse the situation Nott. Igor, you come with me. We need to find…”
Draco didn’t hear the rest of what the man said as he and Karkaroff swiftly reached the doors, Granger in tow and stepped into the hallway outside.
Astoria materialized by his side and squeezed his arm to gain attention.
“What do you think that was all about?” she asked, doe eyes wide in confusion.
“I’ll find out.” Malfoy bit out. He removed her hands from his arm, not tenderly this time, and walked off in the direction Thicknesse, Karkaroff and the witch that was the bane of his existence had gone. He found them in the first sitting room he looked in. Hermione sat, magically tied to a chair, glaring at Karkaroff as he bent at the waist and got in her face, whispering furiously while Thicknesse piled more magic onto the knots at Hermione’s wrists, ankles and torso.
“Gentlemen.” Malfoy drawled.
Both older wizards stopped and stared at Malfoy. Hermione turned to look at the door too, some emotion other than anger entering her eyes. Malfoy didn’t look at her.
“Young Mr Malfoy.” Thicknesse burst out, the pitch of his voice higher than usual, “What are you doing here?”
“Better question, what are you doing with that particular witch?” Malfoy jerked his chin towards Hermione and smirked. “You do know who she is don’t you? You know you cannot hold her captive without half the Wizarding World riding your arse by, let’s say, luncheon tomorrow?”
Karkaroff ground his teeth and took a few menacing steps towards the younger wizard.
“None of that now young Malfoy. You leave this matter to your elders and go check on pretty little Miss Greengrass. Must’ve gotten quite a scare, poor little darling.”
Hermione snorted. Thicknesse chortled. Malfoy studied the odd group and found their lack of respect for him and his date severely lacking.
“Fools.” He ground out under his breath and cast a muffling shield over Hermione so that she wouldn’t hear the next part of the conversation.
“Let her go. She is not a threat.”
“Say that to Nott’s destroyed chandelier!” Thicknesse huffed.
“Young Mr Malfoy-” Karkaroff started…
“Stop with the young Mr Malfoy pretense!” Draco cut in coldly. “The Mudblood is my sidepiece. She is just ticked off that I was here with and have been accompanying Miss Greengrass to a few events. I am sure you can grasp how vicious a woman becomes if she thinks she’s been slighted in any way, especially her kind of woman. I’ll take her home and have a little talk with her. Mystery solved and problem handled.”
Karkaroff stared at Draco, outrage giving way to disgust on his face.
“Well! That explains it then.” Thicknesse sneered at the witch and then at Malfoy.
“No it most definitely does not!” snapped Karkaroff. “She decided to follow you and your date to a secret invitation only party. She could have eavesdropped on any number of conversations not meant for her ears or for those that she cavorts with. And she created quite the scene outside. All present witches and wizards of our inner circle have seen her capture and we cannot make them unsee it. I will not make them unsee it. We won’t sweep this under the rug for you Malfoy. She has to be made an example of!”
“So what are you planning to do Igor? Kill the fair maiden of the Golden Trio, hide the body and pray that no one looks for her?”
“We could obliviate her.” Thicknesse offered and tried to direct a conciliatory smile towards Draco. Mistresses and affairs out of betrothal or marriage were not new or frowned upon in their society. Secretly he was a little in awe of Malfoy to have bagged Potter’s mudblood to carry on with. Oh to be young and rich!
“We don’t know how much she knows. Obliviation works only when we know exactly what she knows. We cannot start looking through her head, erase things left and right and still risk missing something. Better to make her disappear and deal with the consequences as they come.” Karkaroff ground out.
“Obliviating all her memories would solve our troubles though.” argued Thicknesse, “She would be little more than a vegetable. No one would know what happened to her. Her friends would die wondering and our lot would consider it punishment and consequence of her trying to spy on us. The world would be less one annoying Mudblood although young Malfoy might need to find his fun somewhere else. I say it is still a win win.”
Karkaroff stared off absently out the huge windows of the sitting room as he seriously considered Thickness’s suggestion.
“They would know we did this though.” Draco Malfoy interjected, “The ministry has been like a bloodhound on our heels. They know of my association with her. If she has a hair out of place, they’ll descend on me just to be pests and consequently on you.”
“They will be onto you. They will not be able to prove our hand in it though. Can’t say how your lady issues are our problem.” countered Karkaroff.
“You won’t be suspected for her memories. But they have carte blanche on investigating any of us. If Granger is attacked, they will investigate her comings and goings thoroughly. They will get to me and won’t find anything out of the ordinary. Then they will widen the circle to known associates of mine, or father’s. By the time they get to you, the ministry hounds will be foaming at the muzzle to get anything against our inner circle. Might I remind you what all they could find?”
The three were silent for a moment as if thinking about the ramifications of a thorough investigation into their affairs.
“What have you dragged into our midst Malfoy?” Thicknesse shook his head. “You couldn’t have fucked a relatively unknown witch who could disappear conveniently? I am sure there are females prettier than her.”
Malfoy grit his teeth and controlled his desire to inflict injury upon the older wizards. He couldn’t lose Granger. He needed to direct their thought in the direction of his choosing without them realizing it over much. Bashing their heads together till they bled was not the way to do that. He would need to move earlier with his plans but this might just prove to be her tipping point and work in his favor. He stood to lose little and gain everything if he succeeded.
“We need to find a way to discredit her good word, get her mired in some scandal. To the extent that her ministry friends will not trust what she has to say against us. That way, we redirect attention from us to a scandal where she sits neatly in the spotlight. The Golden girl’s fall from grace and all. The righteous masses do love to judge an upstanding peer don’t they?” Draco said casually, trying his best to not sound like he was instructing the fools what to do.
Karkaroff and Thicknesse visibly brightened at the suggestion.
“But how would we find a big enough scandal to orchestrate her fall soon enough to suit us?” asked Thicknesse.
Karkaroff smirked and cocked a brow at Malfoy.
“Hasn’t our boy Malfoy here given us one already?” he leered at the witch and smiled genially at the young wizard.
Draco inwardly cringed. He had gotten from “young Mr Malfoy” to “our boy Malfoy” with the old guard. All it took was a plot to besmear the name of a witch heretofore considered untouchable by all and sundry in the inner circle.
“Whatever could you mean.” He asked, his tone dry as a desert in summer.
“We advertise the fact that she’s been sleeping with the enemy, a known death eater, and cheating on her war hero boyfriend, good guy Weasley.” Karkaroff grinned evilly at his own smarts.
“And that she is unstable and jealous.” Thicknesse supplied eagerly. “She caused a huge accident in a fit of pique at a Charity event. She cannot be trusted to be discreet. She lost control in front of a society event with reporters present.”
There were no reporters present but they wouldn’t let the story dwell on that. Any gossip rag would be too glad to get ahold of the story as they told it. Even if facts were checked at a later date, the damage would already be done.
“So whatever she says would be construed as the ranting of a woman scorned by her lover and his friends.” Karkaroff finished, all smug and satisfied, as he turned once again to face the girl, pleased with his realization that he could still ruin a mudblood if not outright kill it.