Blood Bound

Chapter 22 - Doceo

“Clear your head”

“My head is clear”

“Clearly fucking not if I’m telling you to clear it”

With an exasperated huff Hermione opened her eyes. Prat, she thought. Draco had been attempting to teach her occlumency for the better part of the last four hours, and he’d spent the last twenty minutes whinging on about her lack of ability to meditate.

“Don’t fucking swear at me Draco” she huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, fully aware that she was pouting but any decorum she’d had was long gone. He was sitting in front of her on the floor of their common room, mirroring her cross-legged position. He rolled his eyes at her childish display and roughly combed his fingers through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes.

“Granger you’re never going to be able to do this unless you focus.” He explained, clearly attempting to be patient with her.

“I don’t know why you think I’d even be good at it, isn’t occlumency virtually impossible unless you’re naturally inclined?” she didn’t even care that her words came out as a whine, she slumped backwards so she was lying with her back flat on the carpet and staring at the stone ceiling.

“Yes, but occlumency and legillemency are complimentary, so if you’re good at one it’s likely you’re probably not awful at the other.” He explained, his voice tight with barely restrained annoyance. Hermione couldn’t exactly blame him; it was the third time he’d explained the same thing to her in the last few hours.

The whole process had been so much worse than she’d expected. All hope had flown out the window about forty minutes into their training session when he’d forced his way into her consciousness eight times while she failed miserably to push him out or block him even the slightest.

“Well it’s clearly not the case for me now is it? Also, can we please stop with the ‘Granger’ business? Merlin, I shag you once and we’re right back to last names. It can’t have been that terrible.” She didn’t break her gaze from the ceiling when she joked halfheartedly, her mind was semi-focused on counting the large stones that made up their roof to distract from the oncoming headache. She heard him make a sort of humorous snorting sound before she felt his shoulder brush against hers as he came to lay beside her.

“Oh no you were fantastic Granger don’t worry.” He reassured her, his words warming her cheeks with a blush. “Its just that the whole Hermione thing isn’t working for me, it’s weird. You’re not Hermione to me, you’re Granger. It’s proving to be a tough habit to break.” She turned to face him, he was staring at the ceiling as well and she took the time to appreciate his side profile and the way his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed.

“Well, Granger is horribly unfamiliar, so it just won’t do. If you’d like, I suppose you could call me ’Mione like everyone else, though I’ll admit I’m not overly fond of it after having it directed at me as a whine for years by Ron.”

“I refuse to call you any nickname given to you by Weaselbee” he stated indignantly, rolling onto his side to throw a possessive arm across her stomach. “I suppose I’ll just have to come up with something new to call you.” She rolled her eyes at him, though it was difficult to scold him for calling Ron names when the sensation of his fingers tracing shapes over her ribs was horribly distracting.

“I don’t particularly like any nicknames to be honest, most variations people come up with for ‘Hermione’ are truly awful.” She confessed, remembering her childhood full of Hermy and Herms with a grimace.

“Well it won’t be a nickname obviously, it’ll be a pet name.” his fingers had travelled up from her side and across her shoulder before settling under her chin. Draco leaned over her body and used his leverage on her jaw to tilt her chin up, so their lips slotted together perfectly in a chaste kiss.

“Only if it’s not an awful one” she conceded when their lips separated. “Some pet names are just as terrible.”

“Lovely, now that we’ve addressed that; sit up, I have another idea I want to try.” In a flash he’d pulled away from her side and was once again sitting in front of her, legs crossed underneath him as he waited.

She pulled herself up into a sitting position and looked at him expectantly.

“Okay close your eyes.” She did. “Your legillemency is almost sentient, so imagine it as some animal or being, whatever you want it to be.” In her mind an image of a snake appeared on its own before she could even consider what animal to think of, it had pale white scales and bright pale-blue eyes. The snake was coiled on the ground, looking as though it were waiting for something. “Now,” he continued “usually with occlumency you would build walls around your mind, or file memories away in books or boxes. I want you to do something different, put yours inside something, maybe a cage.” He instructed her, the timbre of his voice was soothing as it echoed off her ears, sounding far off as she focused on the little white snake. Hermione conjured a small cardboard box like the one people pack office supplies in. She watched behind closed eyelids as the snake slithered into the box and settled in a ball in the middle. She then set the lid on top, hiding the animal from view. “What did you put yours in?” He asked her.

“A box” she replied, her voice barely a whisper as she continued to focus on the box with her little snake inside.

“Okay now open your eyes and look at me, let’s see if your box was enough” She followed his instructions, meeting his silver gaze with half-opened eyes, still able to see the small brown box in her head. After a moment the lid on the box lifted, and a small white head poked out from underneath it.

“Try and make the container stronger, I can still feel your magic trying.” At his encouragement Hermione put the snake back in the box, changing it from the little brown box to a hard-sided cage that resembled Crookshanks’ cat carrier. She could see the snake anxiously slithering in small circles inside the carrier, rubbing its scales up against the metal grate of the door.

She felt triumphant for a moment, watching the small creature circle in its containment. She held Draco’s gaze and his eyes sparkled encouragingly. Her victory was short-lived however, when she saw the small snake climb out of one of the air holes at the top of the carrier.

“That’s alright, try something else, something stronger.” He prompted, he sounded more patient now than he had before. The prospect of making progress obviously erasing his earlier frustrations.

This time she surrounded the small snake in a little dome, it was woven of intricately twisted vines that resembled the pattern on her wand. Acting on her instincts, Hermione conjured thick leaves to sprout from the vines, covering the larger gaps in the plant and containing the small animal. Feeling compassion for the small creature, she also imagined a large wooden piece of driftwood for the snake to perch on and lined the inside of its confines with a rich green moss. Holding this image in her mind as strongly as she could, she opened her eyes the rest of the way to hold Draco’s stare completely.

“Okay, now I’m going to project a thought outside of my walls to see if your occlumency holds alright?” She nodded, focusing her attention on him to see if she could hear him. He closed his eyes briefly before opening them again and looking at her. She could feel more than see the snake starting to move again in its confines, brushing experimentally against the edges of the dome for a moment before it seemed to give up and curl into a tight ball on the mossy bedding.

Taking this as a victory, Hermione smiled broadly at the wizard in front of her.

“Did you hear me?” He asked her when his eyes broke away from hers long enough to notice the expression on her face. She shook her head excitedly before she sprung forward and crawled onto Draco’s lap, kissing him quickly then hugging him tightly to her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and returned the embrace, she could feel the curve of his smile against the skin of her chest as he trailed kisses down her neck and across her shoulders.

“We should go to dinner soon; I want to see if I can do it with other people too.” Her voice came out much breathier than she’d intended, influenced by the feel of his lips on her skin.

“Alright Kitten, let’s go.” He placed a kiss right in between her collar bones

“Kitten?” She wrinkled her nose at the term, at once remembering their conversation about Animagi the other day.

“Well I’m going to have to call you something eventually.” He said, smiling amusedly at her expression. “No?” When she shook her head one side of his mouth lifted into a small smirk. “Guess I’ll keep trying then, I didn’t particularly like that one either.”

--

Hermione took her seat at the Gryffindor table across from Ginny with an excited smile across her lips. The girl looked up from the quidditch magazine she was flipping through and cocked her head to the side inquisitively.

“What’s got you in such a chipper mood? Get laid?” She was in much too good of a mood to even be bothered with her friend’s blunt manner. Instead, she focused on helping herself to some of the vegetables sat on a platter in front of her and a dinner roll.

“Actually, it’s much better than that!” Hermione chirped pleasantly. After a moment to check her little imaginary snake was securely in its cage, she lifted her eyes from her plate and met Ginny’s blue ones. The girl’s eyes widened with panic and she immediately averted her gaze.

“What the hell ’Mione!” Ginny’s cheeks were flushed a furious pink, and she fiddled with the rolled-up magazine in her hand nervously. Hermione narrowed her eyes in suspicion at her friend, Ginny didn’t fidget.

“Relax Gin, you get to keep your secret tryst a secret a while longer.” She assured her with a roll of her eyes. The red head met looked up at her again at her words, once more tilting her head to the side curiously.

“What do you mean?” She asked. “You figured out how to fix it?”

“Not completely,” she started slowly, wondering how exactly she intended to explain this without mentioning Draco. “I just kind of figured out a way to keep it all under wraps, so I can use it selectively if I wanted to.” Ginny smiled a toothy smile at her words and reached across the table to squeeze her hand affectionately.

“That’s amazing ’Mione, does this mean you’re going to stop with the potions?” Hermione stiffened at the question. She hadn’t really gotten that far into her victory yet. She knew she didn’t need them any longer as long as she could maintain her occlumency, but her body was still highly addicted to the stuff even if her magic no longer relied on it. Did she want to stop? She remembered how much pain her body had been in this morning, how much of it was from withdrawal and how much of it was from her magic?

Realizing she’d yet to answer Ginny’s question, she smiled at the hopeful look in her friend’s eyes.

“I’m going to try Gin.” She was being truthful, she would try. Hermione didn’t want to be dependent on the stuff forever, plus she’d burned through more than enough galleons feeding her problem over the past months. Silently, she vowed that she would never touch a drop of numbing potion again if she could help it.

“So,” Hermione decided it was high time to turn the conversatio away from herself. “When are you going to tell me who this mystery wizard is?” Ginny choked on the pumpkin juice she’d been sipping, and her face flushed almost as red as her hair.

“Merlin!” She exclaimed after juice had stopped running from her nose. “What happened to me getting to keep my secrets?” Her friend was fidgeting again and kept scanning their surroundings as those someone were going to overhear their conversation.

“I mean I suppose you can” Hermione felt a smirk grow on her face, reminiscent of the kind she had been on the receiving end of a lot lately curtsey from both Draco and Theo, though the latter had been avoiding her since the day Draco claimed to have punched him. “But you know you don’t have to keep anything from me Ginny, so long as you’re happy that’s all that matters.” Ginny smiled at her words.

“That means a lot to me ’Mione, and you know I feel the same way. I always thought you were too good for my git of a brother anyways.” She smiled at the younger girl, Hermione wanted nothing more than to confess to her friend everything about Draco, but she held back. It’s not that she didn’t trust Ginny because of Ron, but there was a difference between her confessing she was dating someone harmless like Anthony or Michael Corner than if she were to admit to her relationship with Draco.

“Thanks Gin.” She said finally, returning her attention to her dinner.

“Do you mind if I spend the night in your dorm again tonight?” Her friend asked sometime later when they’d mostly finished eating. Ginny hadn’t slept in her bed for some days, Hermione had assumed she’d been spending her nights with her mystery guy.

“Of course not Gin, come by before curfew.” Hermione truly didn’t mind, it always helped sleeping in the same bed as someone else when the nightmares returned, and she knew it was the same for the red head. Draco won’t be happy she thought absently, which was a barmy thing for her to think because they’d only slept in the same bed once before; and that was only because they’d shagged and then gotten absolutely pissed before passing out. It’s not like they were at the point where they shared a bed just for the purpose of sleeping, he’d never even called her his ‘girlfriend’ for Godric’s sake!

Physically shaking the thought from her head, Hermione focused her attention on the little snake in her mind. It looked quite cute curled around the wooden perch she’d created for it. She conjured up some small flowers on the inside of its terrarium, remembering that she’d read somewhere introducing new smells can entertain snakes. Though, those were real snakes not figments of her imagination that represented her uncontrollable magic. Still she thought, can’t hurt to try with the little creature, I quite like him. She’d have to give the small animal a name, maybe Kaa.

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