In Dreams and I have been working on a little project and it is finally live! Over on AO3 we hosted a delightful group of authors for our In Another Life fest... a collection of Dramione AUs across a vast array of worlds. I highly recommend you check them out. We've got pirates, film noir, superheroes, vikings, dickensian... it's pretty flipping fantastic.
I chose to jump in with one of my unclaimed Regency era worlds, and so here it is, chapter 1 of 3. I will post the next two likely by the weekend. Alpha and co-host adoration to In Dreams. Beta love to the incomparable LightofEvolution. Cheerleading, endless and appreciated, to MH Calamas.
Oh, yeah, and I don't own anything. Except the prompt. That was mine :P
Stand by your Emperor, his father had preached at his son, bold and prideful. And, so it was that Draco, barely a man in his own right, was sent into battle under Bonaparte's flag.
The Malfoy family has enjoyed a rich and lavish existence under the self-proclaimed emperor's rule. True, it had waned when the man was deposed and exiled, but, all in all, they had still fared well. His father, Lucius, had slithered his way into the good graces of the new powers that be. The man had claimed to have acted only with pragmatic and loyal wishes for the strength and sovereignty of France. After, when Napoleon had returned, almost as though from the dead, the Malfoy patriarch had shed his traitorous cloak and offered up his only heir to military ranks.
Draco, less than enthusiastic to say the least, had agreed, as was his duty.
Now, he finds himself laying half beneath the corpse of one of his fellows, a blow to Draco's head making it quite difficult to do much of anything other than silently curse his father's wretched name. He praises the heavens for his mess tin, stowed beneath his hat, that absorbed much of the blow. If he had carried it elsewhere, Draco would be as lifeless as poor Monsieur Delacour above him.
To England, he has decided, perspective being strangely clear while lying in the muck. His family, separated by war though they have been, has relatives there. Thoros Nott, he has always been told, an old name with Scandinavian roots, has very little loyalty to any but blood. Lucius had oft spoken of his cousin fondly, though he has not seen him since they were young men, no older than Draco is now.
If he can escape this hell, the smell of sulfur and blood seeping into his skin, Draco will repatriate to England. Let his father rue the day he thought to use Draco to cloak his own inconsistent allegiances. His dear mother, he will miss, but he knows her love will not shield him from death nor his father's ambitions.
As the enemy soldiers begin to rifle through the dead and dying, searching for prisoners of this lost war, he slips carefully away.
There are meager weeks ahead, subsiding on theft and charity, but he finally reaches the shore. Only then, Britain merely a jaunt across the water, does he breathe easier. Taking one last look at his country, Draco Malfoy climbs aboard a small vessel to find his new home.
"Oh, delightful. I see you intend to be boring today."
Hermione Granger glances up from her book to find a shadow blocking the sun, the silhouette of a most irritating man looming above her in the soft grass. "Theodore. I trust you're here to save me from myself, then?"
In a most ungentlemanly fashion, her dear friend plops himself onto the ground beside her, careful to keep a modest distance. He grins at her and plucks the book from her hands. "Mister Nott, if you don't mind!" She makes a grab to retrieve her novel only to have him lean away.
Holding it above her head, he reads with pomp and exaggeration, "Pride and Prejudice, a novel by Jane Austen." Levelling her with a look, he hands it back with a sigh. "Again? Really, Miss Granger, at least do me the service of reading a new book if this is how you are determined to spend our picnics."
She snorts a bit, ever unashamed to be comfortable in his presence. No one understands her quite like Theodore Nott. She had once believed it almost regretful he had never sought her hand in courtship. Though, if she is honest, and Hermione is rarely anything else, she has since discovered she has no interest in him in such a way either. This easy friendship they share is her most treasured possession, and she is grateful it was never traded for a dalliance.
"Not our picnic, you know," she corrects. "Simply the Grangers and the Notts, comparing their gold and their manners. Such a poor use of time."
Hermione sniffs with a bit of judgemental disdain and makes a great show of opening her book back to her place. Theo allows her to fall once again into her literary world, simply sharing the summer day with her, watching their families partake in various games of archery and shuttlecock.
After a time, she glances up, feeling eyes upon her, to find her gaze locked with a pair of eyes as grey as the clouds of winter.
"Have you a new…" she searches for a possibility, finally landing upon, "stable hand?" No, she reconsiders, he is dressed far too appropriate. "Footman?"
Curious, Theodore looks up and finds her gaze on the newest member of his household. "Oh, yes. Quite. Mister Mal-...that is, Draco is the boy's name. He is my personal attendant."
"Skinny," she says, baldly. "Has he been punished for poor work?"
"No," he denies," he's only just arrived into our employ."
Studying the boy… young man really… Hermione is glad that he had looked away. Those intense and cold eyes had been intimidating in a way she is not accustomed. A confident and daring young woman, the only Granger child lets very little leave her wrong-footed. The gaze of this "Draco" is one of those small numbered things.
His clothes are well made, but seem tailored to a broader build. He is not unkempt, but there is a haunted and jittery aspect to his features she does not see in polite society. It is a safe assumption he is of worse than common birth. Perhaps from the lowest of Britain's economy, she wonders what must have become of his family; wonders how Theo came upon him.
"It seems the games have reached their end."
She snaps her attention quickly back to her friend, momentarily caught up as she had been with his intriguing new staff. "And to think, I was able to enjoy an entire afternoon without a bow or racket touching my hands."
"Yes, your ever so delicate hands," he smirks. "Appropriate only for care of very boring books and-"
She backhands him lightly on his upper arm, terribly familiar and entirely inappropriate, but he only laughs and finishes, "and that precisely. Books and your constant attacks upon my person."
Theo stands, brushing off his trousers, and offers a hand to help her rise. "Come on then, Miss Granger. Shall we see what Harold has prepared for dinner then?"
Accepting his hand, she rises and follows Theodore, joining with their parents and cousins and following the throng into the Nott's main gallery. She spares one glance back to the grey-eyed servant, and is jarred to find him watching her once again.
After dinner that evening, Hermione is escorted, as per usual at these affairs, to entertain the room on the piano forte. The room is respectful and quiet as her fingers dance across the keys, even the staff sneaking glances at her as they go about their duties to the guests. One in particular watches her from a doorway, his gaze focused. Had she been inclined to ignore his glance that afternoon, or decided perhaps she had misinterpreted the look as something more than curiosity, she is now convinced his attention is laid firmly upon his intended target.
Draco sidles up to his cousin, trying to maintain the illusion that he is of the house staff, while somehow managing not to do any actual labor. It is true that he is accustomed to being in charge of his own team of servants, but he would not trade this freedom for a King's ransom.
His hosts, thus far, have been happy to welcome him into their lives, the promise of the Malfoy fortune more than enough reward. The Malfoy line in France being virtually at its end, the only heir presumed dead, the Notts will benefit greatly upon the death of Lucius. In return, they will treat Draco as family within the home, allowing him the pretense of anonymity outside its walls.
Facing his father, the potential of being expected once again to fight for France…? No. He'd sooner live with Theodore, in whom he has found a friend, sharing a laugh and bantering with biting tongues. His secret is safe with the two masters of the house.
The downside is the lack of social stimulation while simultaneously being forced into these numerous events. Do they spend even one week keeping to themselves? If it happens, Draco has not yet been witness to it.
Tonight is a dinner, maybe five families in attendance. They are currently all milling about, enjoying an early reception with light hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Not one for large crowds, Draco has found Theo at the outskirts of the room, watching the girl with curled hair as she is introduced to an older woman by a lady he presumes to be her mother.
"Is that one in line to be the next lady of Nott Manor, then?"
Theo startles, looking at Draco then realizing to whom he refers. "Oh, heavens, no. Miss Hermione Granger is far too lovely to take as a wife. It would only ruin the easy rapport we share."
"Only to bed then?" Draco asks, slightly bemused, and is rewarded with a rather dark look in return.
"I'll not have you begin rumors or put forth any behaviors," he responds with purpose, "that might damage her reputation."
Draco is a bit taken aback, not usually seeing a sterner side of Theo. "Apologies. Maybe, then, you would elaborate? If she is not for bed nor marriage, why do you spend so much time in her company?"
"Because I enjoy it," he says back, nonplussed, as if such a sentiment is quite normal. "We have always spent time together. I hope I am fortunate enough that might never change."
Draco personally thinks that a naive hope. Someday, a gentleman will find himself taken by her delicate features and her somewhat untamed hair, curls beckoning and seeking freedom from the pins that hold them. He will find himself captured by dark eyes and listening to her honest laugh from afar, wondering what has given her such joy. He will see her alone, reading a book while her family and friends enjoy conversation and games, and he will wonder what has her so enraptured; what has snared her mind away from the frivolity of her peers.
He thinks, if he had a family name for himself, that gentleman could have been him.
But that isn't possible as long as he would like to remain free and safe. His life is comfortable enough without his own wealth, and no woman, regardless that her skin, the colour of milk, beckons to be caressed, would be worth finding himself once again lying amongst still-warm corpses.
So, he doesn't respond, watching instead as Theo drifts over to Miss Granger's side, inserting himself into the conversation as a brother might. He leaves Draco to shoulder a small amount of envy as Theo leads her to the dining room, his hand lightly held to her back.
Hermione has the frequent pleasure, his words, of Theodore's company. The Grangers and the Notts holiday together, host parties and various forms of merriment together, and generally exist in each other's spheres more often than not. Both families had at some point entertained the notion that Hermione and Theo might one day wed, but both of the family heirs had denied the desire for such a union. Young and with many options, they had not been forced to consider one another and enjoy a friendship built upon years of memories, uncomplicated by more intimate considerations.
Following the summer picnic, the Grangers arrived within a week for a lavish event, a dance to welcome the acquaintances from Scotland.
Hermione dons a modest gown of soft lavender, her sleeves never too puffed, nor her skirts too frilled. If not for her mother's insistence that she dress well, Hermione would much prefer simple fashions. As is, she lost the battle against the feathered hair adornment, and had promptly whispered to Theo, "I look a trumped up pigeon," after she was introduced to the room.
She allowed her father to walk her about the room, her hand laid upon his sleeve, and met some of the guests of the house.
"Master Slughorn, sir. You are looking well." Hermione's father had greeted the older gentleman and proceeded to enlighten Hermione on the successes and esteem of the Scottish scholar. While she had been impressed by his acumen, he'd seemed a rather weak, simpering sort, and she was quick to find her escape, citing a need for the powder room, and dashed from the receiving hall to the distant west wing.
An hour or more has passed, and Hermione is enjoying the solitude she has found in the Nott library. She's relaxing in a most unladylike manner, her leg brought over to dangle from the arm of a fireside, and loving every moment of her small rebellion. She turns a page in Oroonoko, but starts when a voice, lightly accented, breaks the silence.
"What are you reading, if I may?"
With a gasp, Hermione quickly adjusts her legs and rights her skirt, cheeks going crimson. "I'll thank you not to scare me so!" A more in depth tirade is on her tongue, but she loses her voice when her gaze lands on those now-familiar tempest grey eyes. "Oh, hello. Draco, is it?"
The man grins. Oh, he is a dangerous thing, she can tell. No smile should bring such devastation. "It is. I'm honored, Lady Granger, you give me the consideration of remembering."
There is a moment of silence before she realizes he had asked her a question. "Oh. The book. It is titled Oroonoko. Are you familiar?" She hardly expects a man of his station to have read it.
The man… servant, she reminds herself...wrinkles his nose. "My father never much approved of that book."
She masks the surprise that his father was learned, instead settling on a bit of bristling on behalf of the book.
"Because it was written by a woman?" she challenges, ready to take up a gauntlet. She may not hold the power in this world she feels she is due, but Hermione Granger will not allow a servant to trod upon her gender without contest.
"Not at all. It was more he did not appreciate the notion that no man might be beholden to another."
Hermione frowns at him. "Odd sort of opinion from a commoner."
Draco shrugs and glances away, but then he counters with, "Odd sort of book for an heiress to be hiding away reading at a ball."
She feels like maybe she should be offended. Indignant. But she can't seem to dredge up anything but amusement. "Touché," she says through a grin. Cocking her head to the side, she ponders, "It seems to me you would have some tasks to be completed, such a large gathering in process."
One blonde eyebrow cocks at her. "I did not hear a question, yet you seem to be seeking an answer."
"Merely observation. Perhaps you were looking for work to occupy you?"
That dangerous grin widens, and Hermione suspects she is playing a game she might not know how to win. "Have you a task for me then, Miss Granger?"
She glances about the room, buying herself a moment to find a clever answer, to decide if she needs to volley back in kind or put an end to the game.
"Perhaps you would be so kind as to return this book to its home? It was on a perilously high shelf, you see, and you seem to have considerable height on me."
With confident strides, he crosses the room to her and offers his hand, palm up. "If you would be so kind as to direct me to the appropriate shelf?"
Laying her gloved palm across his own, she allows Draco to assist her to rise. Standing together, she has the briefest moment to study his features. His stance is proud and his face chiseled and appealing. He looks every bit the Lord of a manor, regardless she knows he is not. To say he is pleasing to the eye is a gross misuse of the sizeable vocabulary Hermione boasts.
"This way," she says quietly but hesitates another moment before she turns away, a shuddering breath leaving her lungs as she crosses the room. "Just there." She points to an empty bit of shelving, between two other older works.
It is no accident that she does not move away, ensuring that Draco reach over her head, his long arm extending and bringing his chest close to hers, as he places the book on the high shelf. His arm drops once complete, but he does not back away either.
"Miss Granger," he begins, speaking low though only the books can hear. Her breath is trapped in her lungs, eyes wide as she waits for whatever is to come.
"There you are!"
Draco and Hermione both step away, careful not to jump or rush lest they seem more suspicious. Theo approaches them both, and Hermione is not sure which of them he was searching for.
"Miss Granger, you mother and father asked me to locate you. They are about to take their leave."
"Oh," she says, still having difficulty with her own breath. "Yes. Right then. I was just returning a book."
Her friend smirks at her. "Yes, I can see that. Had you forgotten the general order of the alphabet and required my man's assistance?"
Hermione eyes flash toward Draco before she mumbles, "It was up rather high."
Some sort of look passes between the men. Hermione can't, nor does she think she wants to, decipher it. She follows Theodore from the room, feeling a churning of elation and dread at what that interaction had begun.
Hermione has no lack of interactions happening across the mysterious Draco with his accented English and piercing eyes. Their next meeting is much the same. He finds her at the Nott stables, visiting her very favorite of their prize stallions. Helios accepts her apple and nuzzles her hand, fond and gentle in spite of his massive size. She pets his broad nose, his warm breath pulsing from his nostrils as she does.
"Are you an equestrian, Miss Granger?"
She startles, but only just, nearly expecting him to make an appearance. Glancing his direction, he is approaching from the run, the sun at his back and blinding Hermione terribly. She reaches a hand to shield her eyes. "Hardly, sir. I adore them, of course. Respectable creatures. Though I regret I am much more comfortable with my feet on the ground."
He nods at her, finally entering into the shadows of the stable so she might drop her hand from her eyes. "He seems to have taken a liking to you."
Hermione glances back at the horse and laughs lightly. "As he should. I've been smuggling him apples for years now. Helios knows who his friends are… Do you not, darling?" She directs the last to the horse, patting his neck gently. When she looks back, Draco is studying her.
"You are different than other ladies I have met."
She isn't entirely clear how to take his comment. A compliment or criticism? She can't know, and so she simply asks. "Is that something I should take kindly or with affront?"
The man grins at her. That devastating grin of his. Surely she will build an immunity to it with increased frequency…
"I certainly did not mean it in offense," he answers.
"Yet, not entirely to flatter?" She dares a soft smile of her own, though has no illusion it will affect him as much as his seems to affect her.
"You do not strike me as a woman that might respond to flattery, Miss Granger. Or have I misread? Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
At that, she actually snorts, immediately covering her face in embarrassment. It's not uncommon to laugh in earnest when in the sole company of Theodore, but she usually manages a better facade amongst others.
"I see why Theodore enjoys you so," he says, grin turning into something lopsided and boyish before her eyes.
"Oh?" she questions. "And why is that, might I ask."
Draco shrugs at her, stepping a bit closer. "As I had mentioned: you are unlike other ladies I've had the misfortune to know. Not many would be moved to honest mirth by Shakespearean recitation."
"And I must say," she can't help but mention, "you are uncommonly engaging for one of your station. Well read and quick. Also, I note, not cowed by your employers. 'Theo' is it? You speak rather familiar of your master…"
"Are you offended on his behalf?" There it is again; that bemused expression. Hermione is not sure if she finds his candor refreshing or unnerving. Likely, it is both.
"However Mister Nott allows you to address him is of no concern to me. Simply making an observation."
"Ah, I see." She thinks that will be the end of it, a pause leaving her looking for something to say, when he continues, "So you are observing me, then? Now it's my chance to be flattered."
"That is not what I meant at all," she huffs.
"No? Pity. I was rather enjoying the notion you might have noticed me."
He has taken another step. When, she can't say. All Hermione knows is that one moment he was innocently across the yard, while now he is looking down his beautifully sculpted nose at her, proximately much as it had been in the library the week before.
She lets out a slow breath, feeling the rate of her heart picking up within her chest. "You are dangerous, sir. I am certain of it."
He smiles broad, all perfect teeth and a dimple inset into his cheek. "Terribly dangerous, my lady. Has Theo not warned you away from me?"
"Should he have?" she asks quietly, barely awareo of her surroundings, Helios nickering behind her sounding like he is quite far away.
His hand in her peripheral is rising slowly toward her face, plucking one of her difficult curls, then placing it carefully behind the shell of her ear. His fingertip graze against her skin, trailing her jaw as he retracts. "I'm not all that threatening, am I? Harmless as your Helios."
"Helios is a beast," she counters. "Powerful, regardless that he allows me to caress him."
"We beasts only indulge in what the lady allows," he whispers, and she thinks she may just faint. His eyes volley between hers, searching for something she isn't sure she has to give. "The lady has the real power, and we are helpless in her wake."
"Then, perhaps," she offers softly, "Theo should have warned you to be wary of me."
"Oh," he breathes, "he did. I'm to stay far away from you, lest I lose myself to your numerous charms. I'm afraid it might already be too late to escape you, unfortunately. I may as well enjoy your warmth before you scorch me where I stand."
His lips are so close to her own, she could merely lean her weight onto her toes and join him, flesh to flesh. Hermione feels her eyes flutter and her breath stutter from her lungs. Who is this man who makes her forget all the ways in which a lady should behave? It is as though he rose from the very earth, clay made flesh like a mythical hero, set upon the world merely to entice her from her virtue.
With a deep, indulgent breath, consuming his scent of bergamot and clove as she regretfully leans away, Hermione gives Helios one last pat and steps around Draco into the sun. "Do be careful out in this heat. You seem of fair complexion. I fear you would easily burn, indeed."
She manages to keep her back straight and stride slow until she turns the corner and is facing the back gate. At this point, she picks up her skirts and hurries for the house, wishing she could confide her confused feelings with someone, but also relishing the secret tucked away in her heart.
The stables become an easy place to find her. The library, of course, is often his first attempt, but on these warm summer days, Draco more often finds Miss Hermione Granger in the company of her favourite steed, though never astride its back.
He is careful in the coming weeks, never allowing himself to stand so close to scare her away. What began as a base attraction to her form and flesh has grown into intrigue, curiosity, and fondness.
Miss Granger is many things, not all of them conventionally pleasant, though he cannot seem to mind any aspect of her person. She sits in judgement even as she would champion tolerance. She speaks kindly to most, but is sharp-tongued in private. She carries herself with grace, a beautiful creature to be sure, but falters in step when distracted by her own thoughts or a book perilously read while in motion. She is also quick to temper, especially when he teases her or plays coy regarding his intentions.
And what are his intentions? Even Draco cannot find answer to that. He had decided early that no woman, even the very interesting Hermione Granger, was worth the risk of his return to France to reclaim his title. Yet, he seeks her out, a moth to flame, on every available occasion.
It is on their fifth quiet rendezvous that he asks, "Theodore mentioned he would not court you. Have you other suitors who might interrupt our very entertaining meetings?"
She seems surprised by the question, thought he isn't sure if it is shock he might ask something rather bold, or her own surprise she had not considered the same.
"I am not currently being pursued, no. Why? Have you an eligible gentleman to which you might introduce me?" She smirks, and he grins back. He finds her, as always, quite engaging.
"I'm afraid I've left all the eligible gentlemen back in France. I suppose you will have to continue flitting way your afternoons with only me for company."
"I can find no reason for complaint with that arrangement," she confesses quietly. She is nervous, fidgeting the apple in her hands until it falls to the dirt beneath her feet.
Draco leans over to retrieve it for her, bending low, then rising even closer than he had been before. He presents the apple between them and feels her delicate fingers brush his own as she accepts the offering. "Nor can I," he answers back. It is with great effort he does not wet his lips in anticipation of something that is not his to take.
From the house, a voice shatters the quiet around them, calling for Hermione's return. "It seems we are to make for home, then."
"Yes," he nods in agreement, not stepping away. He notes she also makes no move to hurry from his side.
"Perhaps I will see you when next we call on the Notts."
"I should like that, Miss Granger."
"Right… well, then. Thank you for a pleasant afternoon…" He watches as she takes a small step back and then circles around him, her head low and a blush suffusing her cheeks.
She makes it two, maybe three paces behind him when Draco turns abruptly, a muttered "Dash it all," under his breath. He is gentle when he lays a hand on her arm as not to startle, but turns her with confidence and leans in to press one insistent kiss to her lips. It is brief but full of intention; full of all the words he is not allowed to say. He feels her lips part beneath his, an exhale escaping between them as he pulls away. "Apologies," he offers, but his small smile belies the truth.
"You don't mean that," she notes with very little accusation, still seeming out of breath.
"No," he agrees, "I most sincerely do not. If this day is my last, I will have lived more fully than most, if only to know the feel of your kiss."
"That is high regard for a mere touch of lips," she comments softly.
The call comes again, Hermione's name again breaking through the private world they create together. "I really must go. They will look for me…"
He simply nods, sorry to see her take her leave, but elated she allowed him the infraction.
Hi again. Thank you for reading and reviews would be, as always, much appreciated :) I hope you enjoyed this very stark departure from my wheelhouse lol... see you soon with chapter 2!