Playing with Fire

Chapter 61: Amity

Song: BANG BANG - GRAE

Everything felt out of control. A week went by. Draco hadn’t returned.

Hermione was losing patience. He was the last thing she had that kept her sane. She was ready to have control again.

She woke up the day Lucius departed for the first time, entirely alone in the manor. She got out of bed and showered until her pale skin turned pink. Dressing in a black jumper, jeans, and trainers, she set off to yet another day of research.

Notes were quickly filling the notebook Bopsy had retrieved for her. The pages were already stained with coffee and tea, scribbles crowding the pages, and it looked years worn. Hermione reviewed the most important points she had thus far:

Multiple variations of S.S. found in different languages ***Sanguis Stigma.

Some require regular bloodletting, strange “connection” rituals, etc.

None exactly like Yaxley’s - appears to be pieced together from others

It didn’t appear that Yaxley had followed any one specific ritual. Hermione proceeded to annotate the texts, noting which aspects were present in Yaxley’s journal. What still unnerved her was the lack of information from his specific version of the spell.

If this was, truly, a unique mesh of the variations, there was no way to know things without testing them. And what did testing them require? A wand. Something to channel her magic. Hermione hadn’t so much as touched one in months.

She had spent much of the last week looking into wandless magic, but it could only do so much...Hermione managed to levitate things, use engorgio and reducto on items, but it was as far as she could manage. It wasn’t going to be enough, and she felt foolish even considering the possibility. She needed Draco here. Needed his help. She hated that.

Hermione wanted more than anything to be able to do this on her own, but she couldn’t. The nature of the magic upon them prevented it. They needed to push their limits. But what was worse...she knew Draco wouldn’t like some of those limits. Meaning...she would likely have to be the one to push them. There was no choice here.

A few of the European versions of the Sanguis Stigma were removable, others weren’t. Death being the only parting in those instances. She prayed to Merlin this wasn’t one of those cases.

One thing that seemed consistent in all versions - both were marked in some way or another. Was he? He would have told her...right? Surely if all others were this way, then Yaxley’s would be as well. He wasn’t original or powerful enough to change that - she was sure.

It seemed that more questions than answers presented themselves over the past week. What are the limits to commanding your mutual? Are there limits? Is Yaxley’s version permanent? She needed inside his head. That was the only way to find answers. Which was an entirely separate problem altogether.

A new game now - a waiting game. That’s what presented itself. She needed Draco back but she couldn’t risk his life. Commanding him to come back, well, it could have consequences. And there was a possibility it wouldn’t even work. Hermione tucked that option into her back pocket as a last resort.

~~~

Song: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room

Luckily, Lucius returned that night. Draco still didn’t. Hermione stopped asking about Draco after the 3rd day, and they hadn’t spoken of him since. She boldly forwent the formalities this time, opting for the same outfit she had worn that day. Fuck it. That’s the least important thing right now.

“Good evening”, she confidently greeted Lucius when she entered the dining room. The man’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Good evening to you Miss Granger - no gown for you this evening?“, he asked with a smirk. Her feet stopped, skidding to a halt. How did...?

“By all means, have a seat. I know playing dress-up isn’t your style”, he continued, ignoring the confusion he caused her in his previous statement.

Hermione cleared her throat, having lost the mental momentum she entered with, but tried to catch up to it as she took the seat next to him.

“Lucius”, she said, hesitating, unsure.

“Miss Granger”, he countered, turning his colorless eyes in her direction. It made her shudder slightly.

“I know I’m not in a place to make demands or even requests...I’m obviously, well, the situation is...“, she tried not to stutter her words.

“Anything. Just ask”, Lucius cut her off. Hermione’s face warmed. She still wasn’t sure of this request.

“Alright, um, I need a wand”, she said brazenly after a deep breath.

“Done. Bopsy! Bring me Narcissa’s wand”, he said as the elf briefly appeared and disappeared on his command.

“W-wait I...I didn’t mean”, she began but he held a hand up to stop her.

Bopsy reappeared with the wand, handing it to Lucius. He held it softly, stroking the length in admiration as if remembering his wife. He handed it to Hermione, but she stared at it in fear. She hadn’t meant this.

“Take it. Put it to good use”, Lucius smiled softly. It wasn’t a suggestion, but he said it that way for her benefit.

She hesitantly reached out for it, immediately feeling the magic in her veins surge to life at the contact. She gasped as the lights flickered in the room.

“Hm...curious”, Lucius commented. But he didn’t appear surprised by her compatibility with Narcissa’s wand at all. Hermione admired it for a moment, marveling at the hum under her palm. She didn’t even want to put it down. She had missed that feeling.

She held it in one hand the entire time she was at dinner, discarding any other questions that she brought with her. He had already given her a world of possibility in this one gesture.

As they finished the last of the wine, having had more conversion that night than any others, Lucius cleared his throat before speaking. “I have something for you”, he stated.

“For me?“, she asked in disbelief. “But, you’ve already-”

He cut her off - no surprise. “That’s what I said isn’t it?“, he chuckled slightly. He waved his hand and a bright red box appeared in front of Hermione, a golden bow adorning the top. She stared at it in surprise. “Well go on then”, he insisted, “I didn’t get you a gift for you to simply stare at the wrapping, Miss Granger.”

She quickly undid the bow, took the top of the box off, and her jaw dropped. Inside was a beautiful, green-eyed tabby cat. It mewed happily as she scooped it up into her lap. Crookshanks.

She was overwhelmed by the gesture, tears forming in her eyes quickly. “Lucius I-”

“Despite my loathing of cats, I thought you might like one. Thought it would help with being alone in the manor since I know you like them. All I ask in return is that you don’t come to dinner again in those ridiculous muggle pants”, he teased.

She chuckled softly through her tears of joy. “How would you know if I did?“, she asked, teasing as well, but more out of curiosity.

“Nothing gets by me, remember?“, he said with a smirk, giving a genuine laugh. The first she had ever heard from him. It sounded so much like Draco’s. “Don’t let it roam around the manor making a mess”, he added as he scooted his chair back, standing to leave the room.

“Wait!“, Hermione said, standing with the cat in her arms. He glanced over his shoulder slightly, waiting for her to speak. “Thank you”, she said, hesitantly pulling him into a hug, despite the size difference between them.

He froze in place for a moment before accepting it, wrapping his arms around Hermione in a way reminiscent of her father. “Now you won’t be lonely...“, he said in a whisper before pulling back and leaving her there. He was lonely. She could hear the subtle admission behind his words. Her heart ached for the man.

Hermione nuzzled against the cat in her arms. She was beautiful. She wasn’t Crookshanks, but she felt so familiar. So calming and nurturing already. She decided to name her Amity, in honor of their new friendship.

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