"So, do you want to do it, or shall I?" Draco asked Hermione when they arrived at the restaurant with her parents. The elders were away from them at the moment, checking their coats and recovering from their first experience with Apparation.
Hermione's tension from their introduction to Draco hadn't eased yet and her mind was a little distracted. She asked for clarification, "Do what?"
He helped her off with her coat then whispered in her ear, pressing himself against her back, as he reminded her, "Alter your mother and father's memory of when they first saw me and I was clutching your bum, not to mention any thought they ever had of He Who Must Be Lame."
She sighed. It was such a heady feeling, leaning back in his arms and feeling his breath on her face. It felt as though she were back in the dream. It was very unlike herself, and she almost forgot to be affronted at his suggestion. "We're not doing that to them. I told them I chose you over Ron. They were willing to give you a chance too."
"You what?" He turned her around to face him. "Well, thank you very much for not telling me. They were probably expecting someone safe and boring, like Weasley, and instead, there I am, definitely not safe, and unable to keep my hands off of you."
Hermione frowned. He was right that she had effectively set him up for failure. She and her guiding witch ancestors relented. She dropped her eyelids just enough that her thick lashes screened the maple color of her irises. "I'm sorry. I should have told you. But all I wanted when I saw you was to kiss you," she said, lifting her head back up and tilting it slightly on the last words, as if making the offer again.
Omission of critical information, unilateral decision on something that affected them both—it didn't matter. Looking down at her, Draco knew in that moment that he'd forgive her anything. The dimly-lit anteroom suddenly seemed much too full, as he only wanted to be with her. "Well, I suppose I can't blame you for that, can I?" he said, placing her coat over his arm. "But since their introduction to me was disastrous, I'll have to work harder on their second impression." He dropped his chin so his eyes were nearly level with hers. "That means you'll get nothing more from me while we're here, than a lingering handshake."
"And later?" she teased, arching an eyebrow and moistening her lips.
The intensity of the couple's gaze at each other matched the brilliance of the emerald, sapphire and ruby on Hermione's charm bracelet Draco had given her. Their ancestors, restored to harmony and manifesting themselves through the gems, were even more committed to a happy union for them.
"That's a very nice dress, Hermione," her mother said, as she and Mr. Granger rejoined them. "Where did you get it?"
"Oh," Hermione answered, "thank you. I got it...umm...I don't remember, but it is pretty, isn't it?"
"Yess," Mrs. Granger responded with her eyes narrowing. "And what about that bracelet?"
"It's a gift from Draco," Hermione said as they walked to a table. "Isn't it lovely?"
Mr. Granger took Hermione's hand and lifted the bracelet for close inspection. "It seems a bit excessive for such a new acquaintance. It isn't magical, is it?" he asked, looking at Draco with suspicion. He pulled out the chair for his wife and continued. "Those stones seem abnormally bright. I come from a family of jewelers."
Draco held the chair for Hermione and laughed nervously. "Well, it is goblin-made, but that only means that it will never tarnish. I assure you that it isn't enchanted in any way. I wanted to win over your daughter on my own merits. I believe everything just shines more around her," he said, looking across the table and smiling at her.
She returned a radiant expression, made even more lovely by the candlelight from the small votive in the center of the table.
The look the elder Grangers shared was, by contrast, worried, as if to say, This is worse than we thought.
"Malfoy? Is that French origin?" asked Mrs. Granger.
"Yes, it is," Draco answered, turning his smile in her direction.
"Bad faith," she said shortly, demonstrating where Hermione had gotten her strong jaw.
Draco's smile dropped and Hermione glanced at her mother, her eyebrows knitting in tension.
"That's a very literal translation," he said. "We've always interpreted it to mean slow to trust, or independent."
"And I would say that's a very forgiving translation," said Mr. Granger, his voice clipped, yet low in the public setting. "Malfoy Manor," he growled, turning to Hermione and lifting the arm that Bellatrix had mutilated with the word Mudblood. "Did you think we'd forget?"
She looked at her father, stunned, with gaping mouth and eyes, unable to say a word.
He turned back to Draco. "And where were you while my daughter was screaming in agony at the hands of your crazed aunt? I know you were there, because she's told us about your acting as though you couldn't identify Harry Potter."
"I..." Draco began, then hesitated. "I was sent to lock Potter and Weasley in the cellar, while my aunt..." He lowered his head. "interrogated," he said through clenched teeth, "Hermione."
Bristling with ire, Mr. Granger rose from his chair. "Yes, well, I think we have the measure of you. Let's go," he commanded his wife and daughter. "We'll take a cab. It might be a bit slick, but certainly no more dangerous than present company. Hermione," he coaxed as she remained seated.
She stared at the downcast and humiliated young man across from her. "I'll be there soon, Dad."
"You're coming n..."
She shot him a defiant look, her lips pressed tight in determination. Mrs. Granger laid a silencing hand on his arm and led him out of the restaurant.
Hermione moved to the seat vacated by her mother and scooted closer. "Draco," she said softly, placing her hand over one of his fists, pressed tight on the table.
"How can you even look at me, Hermione? Had you somehow forgotten about that?"
"No," she said, loosening his fist and cradling his hand in her lap, "but you asked me to put aside our differences, so I did—all of them. Had you forgotten about it?"
"Hmph, I think of it every day." He raised his head and stared at the flickering candle. "I made her pay, you know, in my own way."
"How?" she asked, looking down at his hand, as her fingertips lightly moved over it and his lower arm.
"I hexed her to make her repulsive to Voldemort."
He sighed and nodded. "Physical pain meant nothing to her; she liked it. But rejection from her Dark Lord and Master, who she was willing to do literally anything for and she had no idea why he didn't want her...that made her last days a living Hell."
Hermione gave a small laugh. "My hero," she said, resting her forehead on his upper arm, as her hand continued its caressing.
He turned to her and kissed the top of her head. "I'll take you back to your cabin," he said, standing up and pulling back her chair.
"What? I thought you wanted me to come to your room," she protested, as they exited the restaurant and Disapparated.
The wind screamed around them, and they raised their voices to be heard over it. "Not now," he said.
"Why? What's changed?"
Draco looked down at her confusion and teeth chattering—the wind, snow and her hair swirling around her, then transported them again, this time to the lodge so he could explain. He led her to the fireplace.
She sat in the middle of the couch and frowned when he chose one of the chairs, rather than sitting next to her. "I don't understand. You said you wanted us to be alone."
He huffed and sat forward, the tension in his shoulders evident under the expensive fabric of his perfectly-tailored suit. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but there's nothing like being reminded that you'd allowed your...prospective lover...to be tortured...to kill the mood."
She'd heard that self-disgust in him before and she'd seen the damage similar feelings had done to Ron. Reassurance didn't seem to counter it, so she thought she'd try another tactic.
She stood before him and took his hands. "I'm not your prospective lover, Draco; I'm your imminent lover," she said, pulling him to sit with her on the sofa. She nuzzled his neck and rubbed her leg on his. "I dreamed about you this afternoon," she added, slipping her hand under his jacket to run over his back. "I dreamed about us."
"You did?" he asked, suddenly alert.
She smiled seductively in response.
"So did I," he said in a flat tone.
She ceased her petting. While another couple might have taken the occurrence as a romantic coincidence or fate, this smart, magical duo was more suspicious.
"What was it like?" Hermione asked.
"No, I don't mean that," she said, shaking her head, not quite able to hide her blush and secret smile. "Where were we?"
"In my room here," Draco answered.
She nodded. "And in the first part of the dream, we were lying on the bed, talking..."
"Right," he continued, "and I pointed out to you..."
"...the bug on the ceiling," she concluded.
They stared at each other.
"Someone or something is manipulating us." Her growing concern and anger showed in her narrowing eyes and, as she began pacing, Draco couldn't help noticing, in the tension in her buttocks.
"Is this bracelet enchanted?" she asked, holding out her arm in front of him.
"I told you and your father it wasn't," he said, now on the defensive. He stood next to her. "I care about you. I want you to feel the same and I want it to be genuine. I'm not going to use magic to influence you."
They both tried to keep their voices low, so as not to attract attention from the other people milling in the lobby, or huddled in groups, watching the storm through the large front windows.
"Well, if you didn't do it, who did?"
The bracelet's stones suddenly lost their extraordinary sparkle, as their meddling ancestors retreated to avoid the pair's deduction and detection, save for a lone, glimmering facet in the emerald.
"I have no idea," answered Draco with a new coldness in his voice, "but I suppose it explains your behavior."
She frowned. "What do you mean, my behavior?"
"Suddenly you're so aggressive, rubbing yourself against me, touching me inappropriately. I thought you were different from the other girls."
"Are you serious?" she asked. "This morning you were pouting because I didn't want you to kiss me in public."
What am I saying? Draco wondered. I liked it when she was touching me, didn't I? He saw the hurt in her quivering lips.
"I'm sorry if I'm not quite innocent enough for you," she said, crossing her arms in hostility, "but we've already established I'm not a virgin. That field's already been plowed, remember?" she said, purposely coarse.
"Plowed?" Draco responded with a sneer. "I'll bet Weasley didn't know what to do with his spade."
Hermione's breathing increased and her chest heaved with anger. "You'd be surprised. And stop making jokes about him. You've done it all day and I've had enough of it."
He stood so he looked down on her. "I do apologize," he said with acid in his voice. "I didn't realize you'd still be so sensitive about him."
"I told you I love him. That didn't just stop when I sent the owl away."
He glared at her, the small voice in his head gaining dominance over the twisting in his heart caused by her words. "If you feel that way, why did you send the bloody bird away? Why are you here?"
Her eyes clouded over. The angry tension in her face settled into disappointment and resignation. "To be honest," she said, "right now I have no idea why I'm here." She removed the bracelet to hand to him.
"What do I want with that? Keep it. You can sell it for a few quid. Muggles," he said with scorn, "they cheapen everything, even their currency."
"And we all know the Malfoy reverence for it," she retorted, tossing the bracelet on the sofa. She picked up her coat and, just before stalking out, threw out with the last drop of her animus, "Bad faith, indeed."
Much like the first day there, Draco watched her leave then dropped to the sofa. What was that? Where had that...puritanical rejection of her come from? The Malfoys hadn't been so judgmental about sex in centuries. Of course, there were some real characters in the family tree in that regard.
One baron, in particular, had used his magic to preserve the virtue of his chosen maiden, by making her repulsive to all the men in his realm.
Draco snorted, as he realized the similarity between that and his spell on Bellatrix. Like great-great-great-great...grandfather, like...
He picked up the gleaming silver bracelet, the symbol of so many hopes that he'd just dashed, with the help of the Malfoy family curse of self-doubt and loathing. Bad faith, indeed.