A Strange Engagement

Ramstock Tower

Hermione looked at Dumbledore's grinning face and groaned internally. Was he really serious? Did he really mean that he wanted them to be married right here and right now? Suddenly, she felt a slight, insistent shove in the small of her back. She turned around to find Harry gazing at her urgently. Get up there right now, his eyes urged.

Looking away from him, Hermione tossed her hair and began to walk towards Dumbledore, with Draco meeting her up front from the opposite side of the yard. As soon as the two of them were firmly planted in front of the headmaster, he looked at them, smiling some more. Then, he spoke.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the joining of two souls into one. At this moment, Hermione Isabel Granger and Draco Lucius Malfoy will pledge their lives and souls to one another for all time. Draco, do you take Hermione to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"

Draco looked Dumbledore straight in the eye. His jaw was set, and he looked pale and determined, as if he were about to say his last words before death rather then say his wedding vows. "I do." He said it quickly and without emotion.

Dumbledore then turned to Hermione. "Hermione, do you take Draco to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"

Hermione nodded. "I do."

Dumbledore looked away from them to gaze at the crowd of onlookers for a moment. The entire yard had gone silent. "Very well," he said finally. "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."

The newly-wed couple looked at each other hesitantly. They'd known it was coming, but now that it was actually here, they didn't know what to do. Finally, Hermione shut her eyes and leaned in and Draco did the same. But just as their lips were about to touch, a voice suddenly rang out, causing their eyes to pop open in surprise.

"Excuse me," it said, "but I believe you forgot a line in the vows."

Dumbledore looked up. "Oh?" he answered pleasantly, "and what line would that be?"

Hermione turned to face the crowd and try to locate the speaker. Once she saw him, she gasped.

"It would be the line," he said as he strode confidently towards Dumbledore, "where you ask 'if anyone has just cause why these two souls should not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace'."

"Oh, yes, that line," Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. "I did not say it because I did not think that it would be necessary. Every person here seemed very amenable to having the ceremony preformed."

The young man frowned. "Well, I'm here Dumbledore. I know what you're trying to do, and why you're doing it and I object."

Dumbledore looked at him steadily. "On what grounds do you object?"

For a moment, the young man looked nervous. He seemed afraid to speak. Finally, he managed to choke out "I object on the grounds that you are trying to ruin everything!" Then, he collapsed on the ground, and shut his eyes. His breathing became shallow and labored.

Hermione looked at Dumbledore. "Is there anything we can do for him?" she asked. He looked so pitiful just lying there on the ground.

Dumbledore nodded. "Draco, you try and stand him up, get him into the house where he can lie down, Once he's had a rest and a glass of water, he should be able to talk to us."

"Is he in grave danger?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "No, just in shock. This little performance apparently robbed him of the last of his nerve."

Hermione nodded and proceeded into the house with her mother fretting at her heels.

"Mum, would you relax?" she finally snapped. Dumbledore says he isn't going to die, and for your information, you should not like him! He tried to kill me once!"

Her mother was silent for a moment, then suddenly began to mutter about making a nice pot of tea for anyone who wanted it. Hermione watched her go. Then, she felt the tap on her shoulder.

"Are you all right?" Draco asked her. Hermione nodded.

"I'm more all right then I ought to be, I suppose. Why do you think that is? I should be terrified for my very life,"

Draco sighed. "Maybe you aren't so frightened because he's weak. He's not dangerous to you now."

Hermione looked up. "Yes, but he'll get better. Then, I'll have to fear for my life."

Draco took her hand and led her into the parlor, where the young man sat propped up on a couch he seemed more awake now, and he gazed at Dumbledore with a look of hatred.

Hermione looked at Draco again. "Why does he look so awake? A few minutes ago, he looked like he was going to die!"

"Dumbledore took the glamour charm off him," Draco explained. "It was meant to make him look tired and sickly. Now he's going to talk. I'm so glad we didn't miss it."

Dumbledore looked stern as he began to question the young man,

"Fallon, why are you here?"

Fallon glared and held his lips together tightly, as if he wanted no words to escape them. But that lasted only a moment before everything poured out of him like a waterfall.

"I'm here because he knows. Everyone knows. You aren't doing such a good job of covering you tracks, Dumbledore." He laughed madly.

"Are there others here?"

Fallon nodded. "Yes, of course there are, you stupid old man. We're everywhere. And this time, we won't fail."

Hermione's eyes widened at that, then she looked at Draco. "If Fallon was wearing a glamour, why did I recognize him so easily?"

Draco looked at her, surprised. "You did? Really?"

Hermione nodded. "I saw him right after he started talking, and I just knew."

"Weird."

He turned away from her and watched as Dumbledore continued to question Fallon.

"What are your plans?"

Now Fallon was looking defiant. "You will loose someone very near to you. Like so many others, they will disappear."

At once, Hermione felt what seemed to be a cold breath on the back of her neck, then, in her head "Fanez-vous,"

She opened her mouth to cry out, but she couldn't make a sound. Things suddenly seemed to slow down. She reached out a hand to Draco, but he didn't make it in time. Instead, he and Dumbledore could only watch as she faded into nothingness, as a deep, wicked laugh roared in their ears.

The air around her was cold, but as she gazed to her right and left, she couldn't muster any fear, at least not at the moment. The room was furnished completely in gold, and sweet singing seemed to echo from the walls. Then, a shape formed in the far corner of the room. It was tall, and broad, and when it had finished materializing, Hermione saw it to be a young man.

He was beautiful beyond anything she could imagine. He smiled at her, and she felt her knees give way. He began to walk toward her, and once they were eye to eye, he took her hand.

"You are not here, but you will be, very soon." His voice was cultured, soft, velvety, and his rich brown hair neatly framed his face.

"Where am I not?" Hermione asked meekly, wondering how she could not be in such a beautiful, definite place.

"You are not in the Otherworld. But you will be very soon. Now, you must go." And as suddenly as he had come the young man kissed her hand and disappeared. At that moment, things seemed to shatter.

She opened her eyes again in a very dark room. She tried to move, but it was impossible. She looked around again, pinching herself to make sure that she wasn't still dreaming. The pain was real. This was reality.

The people surrounding her were robed, tall and dark. They were also silent. She looked up at the one closest to her. "What just happened to me? Where am I?"

"Merely a distraction so you wouldn't run." His voice, the sound of shattering glass, sent chills down her spine. He pulled down his hood, and grinned, wickedly. "Welcome, Miss, to Ramstock Tower and the end of your world." He turned to bark at two burly men beside him. "You know what to do. We wouldn't want to lose our guest of honor before we have a chance to show her what excellent hosts we are."

The two men nodded and left the room. Then, two women came and grabbed her, releasing her from her bonds and dragging her to a pit at the far corner of the room. Then they tied her down again.

She began screaming, but they paid her no mind. Finally, she got out "What is this?"

That made them stop. Then the leader came to stand over her. "You were promised to us by the wizards in return for our services. Now we are taking you. Before you have a chance to get away again." He looked up and snapped his fingers.

A young man appeared then. Hermione gasped. He was identical to the young man in her vision or whatever it was. As she watched in helpless fascination, the leader stepped away from her, and she found herself gazing into the young man's cold, green eyes. Before she could even open her mouth to scream, his lips parted as he eagerly went for her neck. She closed her eyes, and waited for the pain.

A/n- At least ten reviews before I update again! (yes, I know I'm wicked!) This is still Northern-Southern Belle. Forget I ever did the name change. smiles reassuredly

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