Familiarity

I've Missed You

The wrought-iron gates couldn't bar the young witch admittance. She was too powerful, especially with the added magical energy of determined predecessors. The air around her seemed to crackle with it, evidenced by the return of her carefully-tamed chestnut hair to its naturally bushy state.

"There, you see? I've come as you wanted. There's no one here. Alright, alright," she said, exasperatedly, walking alone up the curving driveway to the large stone mansion, "I'll knock."

She rapped on the door, eschewing the grotesque figure of the antique, brass knocker. "I've tried," she said, "what more can I..."

Suddenly the door opened and the tall young man on the threshold first stared, then smiled at her. She swallowed hard, finding, as she had before, that he flustered her.

"Hermione," he said in a delighted tone.

An equally tall and blond and older man stepped behind him. He sneered at the girl and said with a clipped, imperious voice, "What are you doing here, you filth—"

"Now, now, Father," said Draco, laying a hand on Lucius's shoulder, "remember your public image."

"The public doesn't come to my house and invade my privacy," Lucius said, taking a long draught from his ever-present wine glass.

Hermione stood in front of them, her chin set in defiance. Before she could respond, Draco said, "It's all right, Father. I'll remove her." He raised his arm to indicate that she should head back in the direction from which she'd come and followed behind her, only managing a few steps beyond the sound of the door slamming, before he closed the distance between them, wrapped an arm around her and said throatily, "I've missed you."

She leaned back against him. It was such a heady feeling, being held by him. He was lanky but still had wonderful, strong arms. He stirred her. She pulled away with effort and turned to face him. "I've come to tell you to stop watching me."

"Watching you," he said with a grin, barely restraining himself from grabbing her again, "You make me sound like a stalker."

"What would you call it?" she challenged him, crossing her arms. While it was ostensibly a posture to appear in command, it served the dual purpose of helping to restrain her from physical contact, as well.

They hadn't spoken in weeks, not since their argument in the ski lodge over the Christmas holiday. She'd tried to forget their time together that week, but found it impossible.

He shrugged and grinned. "I've missed you. I've just popped into your new school a few times to see how you are, who you like and don't like. Call it stalking with the best of intentions." She bit the inside of her mouth to keep from smiling with him, but she didn't fool him.

He eyed her intently. "If that's all you wanted, there were any number of ways to tell me." He moved closer. "Why are you here?"

She looked up into his face then slammed her hands on either side of her head. "Because they won't leave me alone," she said in the same tense, raised voice. "I used to have a suggestion or little nudge from them, but now, it's incessant!"

"I knew you'd work it out," he said. "So you know who they are."

Her head rolled in frustration. "I can tell you their names, when they were born, who they loved. I hear it constantly," she said, lowering herself to an iron bench along the pathway and dropping her head back with her eyes closed.

Draco stared at the long line of her throat and her body in repose. He liked it that she was instinctively comfortable enough with him to relax, even while she attempted to keep their contact formal and detached.

"They're not malicious, Hermione," he said, sitting next to her, itching to touch her again. "They're just trying to persuade you. What do they say?"

She sighed, still in the same position. "They say you and I should be together."

He grinned widely and lightly stroked her hand. "I agree. What about you?"

Her hand twitched at his touch but she didn't move it away. "No," she hesitated, "that is...I don't know."

He leaned back with her. "That's why they keep talking to you. There's only one thing to make them stop."

"What?" she asked, snapping her eyes open and sitting up, looking back at the smirking Draco.

He opened his own eyes and rose up also, so that they were very close to each other. "Decisiveness," he answered. "When you know what you want, agree or disagree with them, they won't bother you."

"How do you know so much about it?" she asked, studying his face as he spoke.

He ran a tentative hand over her arm. "I was briefly visited by my ancestors," he said. "I think they were motivated by yours."

"Briefly?"

The hand on her arm became strong, more decisive. "No one had to convince me how I felt about you. They were just giving me encouragement."

She hadn't moved her arm, but Draco could see resentment in the straight line of her mouth. "Were they responsible for your strange and rude comments in the lodge?"

His hands moved to her neck. She kept hers primly in her lap. "That was a rogue baron," Draco explained sheepishly, "not even a close relative. He was obsessed with marrying a complete innocent. He chose his bride when she was nine and locked her in a tower to make sure she'd be pure when she was of age. Just to be safe, the year before he planned to marry her, he cast a charm over her to repel all the men in his realm, other than her future husband. "

"What a horrible man," exclaimed an incensed Hermione. "What happened to her?"

He grinned and scooted even closer. "She was impregnated by his younger brother."

She snickered. "How?"

He hitched a shoulder. "Careless magic. His incantation was for her to be disgusting to all but her future husband, who turned out to be his brother."

Hermione threw back her head and laughed. Draco was naturally enchanted. "What are they telling you now?" he asked in a husky voice.

They were so close. Her chest lifted with her intake of breath. "They're saying I should let you kiss me."

"Smart witches," he said, as he connected his mouth to hers.

Lucius, refilling his wine glass from the bar under the front window, saw his son and the Mudblood. He glowered but drank more before taking action.

Admit it; you've missed this, said the voices in Hermione's head.

But I really don't know him, she responded silently, and most of what I know isn't good.

Then learn more, the voices advised.

"Draco," she said, her voice muffled by his wandering lips.

"Yes?"

"Tell me something nice about you."

"What?"

"I don't know many instances of your being nice or kind," she explained. "Give me an example."

She continued the light kissing while he momentarily panicked. There really weren't instances of his being kind to others, except...

"Dobby's favorite food was rice pudding," he said haltingly.

"Hmmm?"

He nodded and continued. "When I was little and we had rice pudding for dinner, I would pretend not to like it. After my mother and father had left the table for me to sit alone and choke it down, I'd share it with Dobby." In a quiet tone he added, "He was my first friend."

"Oh, Draco," she said, laying a hand on the side of his face.

He dropped his eyes. "As I grew older and strove to be more like my father, I stopped sharing with Dobby or thinking of him as a friend. I never hurt him," he assured her, seeing the beginning of anger in her expression, "but I treated him as a servant. I ignored him."

He looked to the side then lowered his head. "He's dead, isn't he?"

She nodded; he took a sad breath.

"Would you want me to take you some time to where he's buried?"

His grey eyes were liquid but contained. No tear would stain his sculpted face. "Yes," he said, "I'd like that." He held her closer. "You're kind enough for both of us."

Hermione allowed herself to find pleasure in his arms. You're right. I have missed this, missed him, she admitted to the ladies in her mind.

"I can show you something nice about me," he said, standing and pulling her up too. "Come with me."

They walked hand-in-hand across the grounds, followed by a pair of peacocks from the famous Malfoy flock. It was warm for February, the sun unusually bright in the late afternoon. Draco realized it was the perfect light to reveal his secret.

He led her to the ramshackle shed at the back of the property. Inside its dusty, spider-web filled interior, he ordered, "Artis Revelio."

Instead of the dilapidated building, she now found herself in a spacious art studio, filled with paintings and sketches of herself. "What..." she said, walking into the midst of the Hermione shrine, staring at one exquisite image after another.

"I couldn't get you out of my mind, but the mental pictures weren't enough," Draco said. "I've always dabbled with art, but I needed inspiration to really create something."

"It's beautiful," she whispered, overwhelmed, "and very flattering, but..."

He smiled sheepishly. "I know you don't feel the same way about me...yet. I have years of caring on you." He walked up to one of the large paintings and touched it lovingly. "I just wanted you to know. You're the nicest thing about me."

Silently, she went to him and put her arms around him.

"I want you to go to Madam Puddifoot's with me for Valentine's Day," he said.

"Madam Puddifoot's?"

He nodded and smiled. "It's the perfect place for people we know to see us together. They'll be shocked at first, then accept it, as they see how mad I am for you, and that you shine when you're with me." She blushed. "And then they'll forget it," he concluded.

"Are you sure there's no way for people to have a memory or record of whom they see there?"

"Positive."

Her eyebrows drew together with a new puzzle. "What about cameras?"

"No."

"Writing the names?"

"They disappear when you walk out."

"Then maybe..."

"People have looked for an exception for years, my sweet. Don't tax your brilliant mind with it. It's simple and foolproof magic, perfected over the years, and not worthy of your time. Just appreciate its benefit to us."

Something he said...a glimmer of an idea sparked in the brilliant mind. "I should go home now," she said.

He reluctantly followed her out, careful to mask the shed again.

"So I'll see you next week for Valentine's Day," Hermione said, as they neared the gate.

Draco shook his head. "Tomorrow," he clarified. "I'll walk you to your school."

"No, Draco, I look terrible in the morning. The ancestors harass me all night and I can't get any rest."

"My cheer section," he said with a snicker. He kissed her forehead. "Let her sleep tonight, ladies. You'll see me in the morning."

"Draco," howled Lucius from the house, having drunk more courage and rage.

"Ignore him," said Draco, clasping Hermione again for a last, long kiss. "I'm much happier now that I do." He had her pinned against the gate.

"But it really is time for me to go." She waved her wand behind her and the great fence disappeared. She took a couple of steps backward, then restored the barrier between them. They grinned at each other and touched fingertips through the iron filigree.

"Draco," came another cry from the perturbed Malfoy patriarch.

"Coming, Father," Draco snarled over his shoulder. He winked at his source of inspiration and niceness and turned toward his house.

Hermione watched him approach his father with confidence and...decisiveness. "You're really going to let me sleep tonight?" she asked her inner quartet.

"Of course, dear," said Hester, the only magical person on her mother's side. She had sailed to the American colonies with her husband in the 1600s.

"We only want what's best for you," added Jean Granger, the last witch in the family, before the birth of her great-great-granddaughter.

In the house, Draco faced his parents with arms crossed in determination. "I love her; live with it!"

"And you all think he's best for me?" asked Hermione, walking away from the gate and down the curving driveway to reach the point where she could Disapparate.

Clothilde, the first conjurer on either side of the family and thrice-married, answered, "At this point in your life, yes, he is."

Hermione grinned. "Maybe you can give me a little dream about him tonight," she suggested to the passionate, Irish druidess, Finola. "Right now, I want to talk to all of you about a new project."

She returned to the home of her Muggle parents with the spirits of her ancestors in tow, the five of them chattering like girlfriends.

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