Playing with Fire

Chapter 48: Above all, be smart

Song: Sit Next To Me - Foster the People

Hermione took the rest of the day to frolic around the property with Bopsy - or she tried to at least. Bopsy froliced. Hermione moped, but she was thankful the elf didn’t notice, or ask her to sing. She wasn’t really in the mood, unless Bopsy was up to hearing doomsday tunes.

She laughed to herself - doomsday had come and gone. Yet she felt as if she were living it everyday, and more so now that she had a ball with Lord Voldemort himself to look forward to.

“Hmmmm-good to be true! Can’t hmmm-eyes off you!“, Bopsy sang as she held Hermione’s hand and they walked through the gardens.

Can’t take my eyes off of you, Hermione corrected to herself. She truly didn’t mind the elf’s tone-deaf singing, her spirit brightened her days regardless. She couldn’t help but wonder how many muggle songs Narcissa sang to Bopsy when she was alive.

After walking around outside for hours, she felt the need to shower for the second time that day, but she reveled still in the fact that she could. She had about two hours until dinner and her heart beat loudly in her ears in anticipation.

When she was towel drying her hair, she walked into her room to see an outfit already laid out. Just like the first night. She silently prayed this wasn’t another Narcissa dress, but she had a bad feeling there was no other place to get dresses for such occasions, not without raising suspicion. But then again, she still struggled to understand the purpose of these formalities anyway. The Malfoys truly were something else.

Hermione decided to do her hair and makeup first - she’d rather wait until the last minute to put on the dress. She was in the middle of putting on lipstick when she froze at her reflection in the mirror. What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I care?

She quickly grabbed a handful of toilet paper and wiped the color from her lips, feeling foolish for caring about her appearance now when she hadn’t before. He had literally seen her boobs and had his fingers inside of her.

She felt ridiculous but found herself grabbing another lipstick. A nude color this time. She tried to reason with herself that it was odd for her to wear other makeup without lipstick, and odd to dress so nice without wearing makeup at all.

When Hermione couldn’t wait any longer, she turned to the dress that lay on her bed. This one was much simpler than the first - a deep plum color, with silver shoes this time. This dress had a higher neckline, and slit on the left leg that stopped about mid-thigh.

Hermione glanced in the mirror one last time, deciding to throw her curls into a loose ponytail, allowing a few strands to stay out and frame her face. Not that it mattered, but she felt it was more complimentary to the dress.

All that mattered was that tonight, she was learning to play a part. A new game, one she’d be rehearsing for the next two-ish weeks until the final show.

She made her way downstairs alone, not walking into the dining room until exactly 8pm. Malfoy and Lucius were already seated and mid-conversation, but both went silent and turned her direction when they heard the doors opening. “You’ll sit next to me”, Malfoy instructed. She tried to stop herself from showing discomfort with this.

Hermione walked the length of the room, her heels clicking against the floor, until she finally reached the seat to the left of him. Unsure of what to do once she sat and feeling both of the mens’ glances on her - despite the fact that one of them couldn’t even see - she placed her hands on her lap.

The silence was painful in her ears - ringing and empty. Her eyes wandered the table until they landed on the wine glass in front of her. She promptly grabbed it and downed the entire thing without thinking, feeling pleased when it refilled itself magically and she downed it a second time.

“Take it easy, Granger”, Malfoy laughed, placing a hand over hers and forcing her to put the glass back on the table. She scowled at him in response, which he seemed amused by.

“Nothing wrong with a little liquid courage”, Lucius remarked with a chuckle, downing his own drink. Malfoy rolled his eyes at his father, who he clearly did not care to be around.

“Listen, because we don’t entirely know what to expect, we need to practice multiple scenarios. Tonight you’ll eat at the table with us, tomorrow will likely be a different story”, Malfoy informed her. She simply nodded in response, feeling no need to speak at this point.

He sighed, clearly frustrated with her lack of vocal confirmation. “My advice is as follows”, he began, “If you are offered something, take it. Do not speak unless specifically asked or told to. Do not look at someone unless they address you and even then, proceed with caution. In fact, the best thing you can do is to look down at your plate, lap, or feet at all times. It will make things easier. If you are insulted, your friends are mentioned, any number of things, the best you can do is ignore it and not let it get to you. The Dark Lord may need you mentally sound, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be willing to punish you out of anger. Just...don’t be a Gryffindor for once, okay Granger? Don’t be a hero. Be brave, but above all be smart. I know you are, but can you choose to do that for me?”

She stared at her lap, fiddling with her thumbs and contemplating his words. She hated it but he was right. She couldn’t be a Gryffindor that night. And she would have to practice not being one until the 31st.

Finally, Hermione looked up and met his eyes. They looked sorrowful, pitiful even. She nodded in response, feeling unsteady by his words and expression.

The thought of all of this made her sick, and she was suddenly thankful for the conditions she had been living in since the war. Hermione had never truly considered how much worse it could have been.

Her mind began to run through various scenarios - being raped, physically abused and tortured, maimed, any number of cruel things.

Don’t be a hero Hermione, be smart. You are smart. Don’t let bravery or pride get in the way. No matter what they say or do.

And so it began.

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