A Stranger Life

A Civilized Conversation

Elina said nothing as the other four led her away from the nightmare bedroom. When they were seated in the kitchen however, she felt the need to speak. "Hermione, Draco," she began, "who are these two and how in the world do they know who I am?"

Hermione looked up at her for a moment, then over at Ariella. "You know, that really is a fair question that I wouldn't mind hearing the answer to myself. It wasn't Dumbledore was it? He told us not to tell another soul, and I don't think he'd go against his own advice and tell someone."

Ariella shook her head. "It wasn't Dumbledore. Valerian cleared his throat and began to speak.

" It's actually quite simple, really."

"What?" Hermione asked again.

"We have picture frames at Elina's school," Valerian explained. "The school is contained within Alstere house, which I left for the first headmaster in my will. We were old friends, you see and I always admired his desire to create a school that's less sectional then Hogwarts."

Hermione looked at him, impressed and stunned. "This is really weird. First, you're a Malfoy who willingly marries a Gryffindor, then you become a philanthropist, pushing for the mixing of pureblood and muggleborn wizards? That is so weird. And so admirable. Ariella must've had an effect on you." She gave Draco a look. "Pay attention to him," she said, nodding towards Valerian. "You could really learn a lot from him about how to be more then the substandard shell of a person that you are now." She smiled at him sweetly.

He scoffed and said nothing in response to her comment. Instead, he looked at Ariella, who was frowning slightly. "You see what I have to put up with now? And she calls me a substandard shell of a person. You know, she hasn't said one nice word to me since I don't know when."

Hermione's eyes narrowed. "You've done nothing to warrant any compliments, that's why I haven't mentioned anything. Besides, wasn't it you who expressed a keen desire to have things back the way they were? And the second they get that way, you start whining and complaining about how no one appreciates you and everyone treats you like dirt. It's madness, that's what it is."

Elina let out a small growl. "Can we please remember why we're here? If the two of you don't suck it up and fall in love with each other in three days, I'm going to disappear, and from the state of this, you're never gonna see me again. Now can the two of you grow up enough so that we can have two minutes of civilized conversation?"

"I will if he will," replied Hermione, glancing moodily at Draco from her spot across the table.

"All right, fine. But let me tell you that I won't like it." he said.

"See, now was that so hard?" Elina grinned. Ariella and Valerian gave her looks of approval.

Elina smiled back in thanks, but then took on a more businesslike manner. "Now that that's settled, where were we?"

"We were discussing how Ariella and I know who you are," Valerian supplied quickly. "As I was saying, I admired the first headmaster of Elina's school for his desire to create an educational environment that is more open and less sectional. Naturally I got my picture put up in the front entryway as the school's benefactor once it opened, along with Ariella, since we both owned the house."

Elina's eyes widened. "The picture of the old guy in the front hall is you? You look so different!" then, realizing what she had just said, she blushed. "Please don't take that the wrong way. So you're Valerian and that's Ariella, but what do the two of you have to do with Draco and Hermione?"

Ariella allowed herself a small smile. "Last summer, your parents had to do some work for Dumbledore," she told Elina. "But they were pretty much acting the way they are right now. So Dumbledore summoned us to make them cooperate with each other."

"See Elina, truth be told, I'm technically not muggle-born," Hermione broke in before Ariella could say anymore. "Ariella is my great-grandmother and she was a witch, who, due to a bunch of bizarre circumstances, lost her magic, got turned into a vampire, and then married Valerian after living with a muggle man for a few years and having his kids, the eldest of which became my grandfather. I know it might seem really confusing, but I really can't explain anymore. It's a very complicated story."

"Sounds like it," Elina agreed. "But the two of you aren't distant cousins or anything like that, right?"

Ariella shook her head. "No. We did have children, but neither of them lived long enough to have families of their own."

"I'm sorry," Elina told her quietly.

"It's really all right," Ariella said reassuringly. "Because there's nothing like getting your parents into shape. Now do you remember the exercise we made you two do to admit your real feelings to one another?"

"No," Hermione and Draco said at the same time.

"Valerian, you take Draco, I'll take Hermione. Elina, come with me."

The two once again grudgingly followed their respective relations into separate bedrooms, Draco grumbling all the while about how the show his parents were at was going to be over soon, and there would be a lot of trouble if they found Hermione there.

"And by pointing this out," Valerian asked, sitting down on Draco's bed, "are you saying that you are concerned for Hermione's safety if your parents find her here?"

Draco should his head. "No, of course not! What I'm trying to express is concern about what my parents will do to me for letting a mudblood into the house! Anything can happen to her for all I care. At least I won't have to explain about Elina. The girl is smart. She put a spell on my parents so they have no idea who she actually is. They think she's the daughter of a family friend who was sent here for the holidays."

Valerian looked at him. "Elina is the daughter you and Hermione bring into this world. The smarts that you admire in her: where do you think they come from?"

Draco looked up. "Not from me, that's for sure. At least not from what I've seen."

Valerian nodded. "Exactly. Something that you admire in your daughter came from Hermione."

Valerian smiled and nodded. "That's progress. And knowing what you know about her family history, you can't really call her a mudblood, can you?"

Draco's jaw dropped. "First you make me admit that I respect her and even like her at times, and then you make me give up the name?"

Valerian nodded encouragingly. "Come on, you gave it up before. You can do it again."

Draco looked heavenward. "I said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll do it, but I won't like it."

Meanwhile, Ariella, Hermione and Elina were making some revelations of their own in another bedroom.

"It was so weird at the beginning of the year," Hermione admitted. "Elina showed up at school, and since she was in an environment that was so different from her own, she sort of clung to Draco and I because we were the only things about our own time that were familiar to her. Every time she had a problem, we would have to deal with it together. And then there was the fact that Dumbledore said we couldn't tell anyone about her, lest they get the idea in their heads to do something nefarious with the information. That was something else we had to work together on."

"And how did you feel when you were working together to help Elina get through hard times or to keep her from getting into trouble with other people?" Ariella asked.

"Well, we were working together, so that was nice and just the fact that we had a goal, you know, something in common. And even though every crisis that came up made us yell at one another, at least we were willing to work together and get it solved."

"What about now?"

Hermione took a deep breath. "I feel kind of nervous, actually. I have this fear that since Draco and I don't have to work together on a daily basis anymore, we've drifted apart. And that if something bad happens to Elina, we won't be able to come together quick enough to do her any good."

"You mean, like if I start to disappear, you won't be of any help to me." Elina said.

Hermione nodded. "Yeah, that's what I mean. You're a wonder, Elina Ophelia. You're practically the only thing on the planet that Draco and I have in common. You have enough of each of us in your personality that if we don't work together, it gets overwhelming, I guess. You make us have to spend time with each other, and listen to each other if we want to get anything accomplished. And that's something even Dumbledore couldn't do." She grinned.

Elina grinned back and fell back on the bed. "Just call me Elina Ophelia Malfoy, girl wonder."

Ariella laughed, then looked at Hermione. "Anything else you want to say, or do you think you're all out of confessions?"

Hermione thought a moment. "I think I'm good."

"Good enough to be civil to Draco?"

Hermione nodded. "I'm at civil, not at love. Keep that in mind. And what is it about you and Valerian that makes Draco and I confess our innermost thoughts and feelings to you?"

Ariella shrugged. "Maybe it's because we're related. Or maybe you two look at Valerian and I and realize we show you what's really going on with the two of you, even if you can't admit it to yourselves."

Before Hermione could reply, there was a knock at the door. It was Valerian with Draco. "Is Hermione ready for civil conversation yet?"

"Yes," Ariella replied as the other two stepped into the room. "Is Draco?" Valerian nodded.

"All right," Elina declared. "Let's go to the parlor and have a civilized conversation!"

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