Losses beyond imagining

Chapter 32

After the debacle with Draco’s father, Hermione reluctantly did stay the night. She wasn’t going to let him win! Even so, she did worry if he was right. Had Lucius spoken out of mere spite, or was Draco hiding something significant from her?

How could she find out without antagonizing him? Hermione didn’t feel much for the alternative course of action, which was interrogating Harry. The risk of him gloating was far too great!

But she wasn’t looking forward to another row with Draco either… Not when she was staying over for the first time. The thought of sleeping in this house was bad enough…

If Hermione had thought Grimmauld Place, before the purge, had been stuffed to the brim with items of dark magic, Malfoy Manor was simply soaked in them.

Every corner, every nook and cranny, oozed evil. Hermione couldn’t contemplate how Draco could feel so at ease when there were items hissing, skulls rotating… Strange light flashes and creaking sounds… Even shouts and moaning….

Hermione thought the Shrieking Shack seemed peaceful compared to this.

“Doesn’t it bother you…? All the noise?” she inquired when they were climbing the stairs towards Draco’s own private wing.

“What noise?” he asked curiously. “I don’t hear anything…”

“The howling… and the moaning… like it’s coming from the cellars…” Hermione stammered.

“Oh.. that’s just house elves being tortured…” Draco said, his lips tugging at the sides…

“It’s not funny!” Hermione bristled, as Draco laughed out loud.

“It’s just your nerves… The portraits are playing on them…” Hermione looked around and saw a couple of black hags in a cavern giggling devilishly at her.

“Shakespeare’s three witches…” Draco said off-handily, “always in for a laugh…”

Draco’s own wing was slightly better, though nowhere near as cozy and warm as Hermione’s own house. However, the leather furniture was comfortable enough and Draco’s bookcases were filled with interesting choices.

“I should have known you’d go straight for it…” Draco grumbled. “Just the sight of some books and I don’t even exist anymore...”

“What?” Hermione said, looking up puzzled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that…”

“Am I the attraction or is…” he took the book from her hands… “The Rise and Fall of Muggle Reign capturing your attention…?”

“I haven’t seen any of these before…” Hermione mumbled, blushing. “They weren’t in the library at Hogwarts….”

“No wonder…” Draco said sneeringly. “The Dark Arts collection was always rather limited…”

Hermione looked around at the room. Bookcases, a large ornamental desk, a large considerably plainer desk…

Stuffed owls and foxes… An actual skeleton in a corner… Dusty, heavy, dark green drapes at the windows…. But no bed…

“Is this your.. study?” she asked curiously. “How many rooms do you have?”

“A fair few…” he replied, boasting. “This is my own private library. My study is across the hall.”

“Oh…” Hermione fell silent.

“I haven’t read most of these books in a while…” Draco said, feeling a sudden need to defend himself. “My study contains more recent editions… The latest in healing and also some…”

“Muggle books…” Hermione understood.

“Since mum discovered them in my closet, I’ve decided to put them out in the open…” he said, a smirk appearing on his face. “Obviously, father wasn’t too pleased.”

“Obviously…” Hermione agreed.

After spending a few pleasant hours in Draco’s library—Hermione reading treasures from his book collection and Draco pretending to be reading, all the while observing both her and some curious portraits in case they intended to harm her— it was time to sleep.

Draco began to yawn, trying to catch her attention. It didn’t work and so he called out to her.

“Hermione… It’s getting pretty late…”

“Sorry… sorry… It’s all so fascinating…” She sighed when she closed the book. Hermione had skimmed a number of books before settling on the history of the Malfoys. The book didn’t make her happy, although some ancient pictures of Malfoys had made her laugh… The family resemblance was too eerie sometimes.

“The pride and joy of my father, that book…” Draco said.

“Definitely… All the heroics recounted…” she replied. “The tales of your ancestors…”

“It used to really boost my self-esteem,” he confided. “I was so proud of their achievements…”

“What about the black sheep of the family..?” Hermione wondered, “were they blasted of the family tree, like Sirius mother’s was known to do?”

“Probably…” Draco answered. “My father threatens to let the house elves do it sometimes… but so far he hasn’t yet…”

“He probably will though… if we stay together,” Hermione said. “He hopes that you’ll get rid of me someday…”

“Don’t let him get to you…” Draco whispered, touching her cheek with his fingers. “Mind games are the only weapons at his disposal…”

“You’re right…” Hermione conceded, as she leant forward to kiss him. Draco responded eagerly and their tight embrace was only interrupted by them staggering back towards his leather Chesterfield couch.

Hermione had never known that she could feel so wanted and loved, amidst skulls and snake skins, so utterly satisfied in the creepiest of places.

Panting heavily, Draco rolled off her, as Hermione heard Lucius’ howls coming from far beneath them.

“Looks like they told him…” Draco smirked. Hermione quickly lowered her skirt. Was there no privacy in this house?

“Let’s go to my room…” Draco grabbed her hand and they made their way across the hall. Draco’s bedroom was fortunately portrait-free. Hermione immediately felt more at ease. At least now no-one would be watching…

The silver satin coverings of his four-poster bed were cool and enveloping. Hermione slowly relaxed. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought about them. She felt secure in Draco’s arms…

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