Hello, Lovely Reader! I don't own Harry Potter or The Princess Who Was Hidden Underground or Mourning Madam's Fairy Tale fest... but that doesn't stop me from participating!
My usual and grateful props to In Dreams, Alpha of my life, LightofEvolution, Beta to the stars, and Mcal, Cheerleader squad of 1. Much love ladies!
"She's lost her bloody mind," Ron Weasley whispers into Hermione's ear, none too quiet in her opinion. She shushes him with vigor and turns her attention back to their professor of Muggle Studies. Her friend never having been entirely respectful to their instructors, Hermione is hardly surprised by Ron's rude behavior. She, on the other hand, is very interested to hear how one has a "hands on" experience with Muggle history.
The woman, a forty-something half-blood from somewhere near Vancouver, is giving them the details of their next assignment.
"Muggles have been telling stories involving magic for centuries, both before and after the Statute of Secrecy was put into place, perhaps with even more passion now that they believe it to be safely the stuff of fantasy. And so, our next project will involve an in depth study of Muggle fairy tales and their perception of magic."
Hermione hears a scoff across the corridor. She glances through the crowd, the entirety of returning eighth years huddled around their professor in one of the freshly rebuilt hallways. Considering a battle took place here just a few months ago, Hogwarts is looking pretty solid.
The scoff, she discovers, seems to have originated from a cluster of students with green ties and sour faces. Slytherin is a little thin on the ground this year. Theodore Nott, Daphne Greengrass, Millicent Bulstrode, and, the scoffiest of scoffers, Draco Malfoy, are the only eighth year Slytherin students who have returned to finish their final year.
Hermione narrows her eyes, offended by Malfoy's presence as much as his attitude. How dare he scoff at Muggle creations! She fought a war for the right for her own culture to be treated equal and she won, thank you very much. He catches her looking and almost seems surprised by her expression. She must look extra cross.
He turns away, jaw set in anger or anxiety. He always seems a little something along those lines: irritated and stressed and pretty much unpleasant. Hermione wouldn't consider herself a petty person, but she sometimes takes just a little pleasure that the poor, little rich boy has been knocked down a peg.
She allows herself a private and smug grin while she turns back to hear the rest of the introduction.
"If anyone has any questions before we begin? No? Well then, let's head this way and get you paired."
A general groan sounds through the crowd like a wave. In general, no one likes working in pairs. Professor Jayne's grouped projects have consisted of such delights as cooking together the Muggle way (Ron set Hermione's apron on fire), cleaning without magic (Harry managed to catch the skirt of her uniform in a vacuum), and employment roleplaying (Hermione fired Theo Nott for sexual misconduct within roughly three minutes of the start of the exercise).
She just can't imagine what this will entail.
Beginning to lead the group down the hallway, Jayne gestures ahead. "As you can see, we are nearing the renowned Room of Requirement."
Hermione can pretty much feel her face drain of colour. Surely, they will not be expected to utilize the Room... Does it even work? Her breath comes shorter, and she is grateful when she feels a hand lightly touch the small of her back, offering and taking comfort in kind.
He may have been a shite boyfriend, but sometimes, Ron surprises her. She glances over her shoulder and gives her 'ex' a nod of solidarity and thanks.
"For centuries a well-kept secret, few know that originally the Room was Rowena Ravenclaw's personal collections suite. It was only over time, years after Ravenclaw left the school, that the Room of Hidden Things become the mountains of brick-a-brack it was known for at the time of its destruction."
Hermione chances a quick look, merely a glance, toward the Slytherin cabal. Malfoy looks pained. She isn't so heartless not to understand that he likely feels the loss of his minion-
He lost his friend.
It's a constant battle, trying not to think the nasty, bitter things that come first to mind. Hermione is on the fifth step of a dozen that are meant to enhance compassion and inner piece. She is working on 'mindfulness' with zeal.
She shakes her head and is back on task. The twelfth and final step, loving your enemy, is a long way off. No reason to rush through.
"Well then, time to pair up!" Jayne claps her hands together with barely concealed excitement that no one seems to share. She has no parchment, her wand is stowed away, and so her pairings seem to be random and arbitrary. Hermione doesn't particularly care for thoughtless, "off the cuff" planning.
"Let's see…. Let's have Potter with Nott, Abbott with Thomas, Weasley with…" A pause, and then, "Bulstrode…"
The room at large sucks in a breath, most everyone seeming to know Ron Weasley is the last student to put with a Slytherin, but the professor seems to neither notice nor care. She continues on, pairing across house lines, until finally Hermione feels like she's the only one left. She glances around and sees students grouping up, edging closer to their partners. Even Ron is trudging slowly toward Bulstrode. For a rather sturdy built witch, hardly the shy violet type, she looks quite nervous at his approach. She seems to be looking for strength when a pale hand gives her a reassuring pat on the back.
A pale hand belonging to a seemingly unpaired Malfoy.
Hermione closes her eyes and swallows just as their professor finishes, "And Miss Granger with… ah, yes. Mister Malfoy. Perfect."
Hermione thinks Perfect is a terribly inappropriate conclusion to reach.
Of course. Of fucking course it would be Granger. Of all the witches, or wizards for that matter. At this point in his life, Draco thinks maybe Potter would be preferable to being paired with Hermione bleeding Granger.
It's not even that he hates her. There's no love lost between them, that's for sure, but Draco hasn't had the energy to hate anyone in a long time. Except maybe Tom Marvolo Riddle. That guy was a fucking tosser.
No, it's more that she seems so... judgy. She's always been a little judgmental, since the day he met the girl. Running around a train, looking for a toad, and lifting her nose at anyone who dare think there is anything else on earth she should be doing instead. But now? Merlin save him, she's a bleeding hero. The poster girl for all that is light and good and Muggles being vindicated.
And what is he in comparison? A villian? A failure? At the very least, Draco knows he is a snotty little shite with Daddy Issues. He'd never admit it, but that doesn't mean he can honestly deny it.
Luckily, honesty is overrated.
All of that in mind, her general self-righteous demeanor has become something Draco very much doesn't enjoy dealing with. The little swot is now coming from the perspective of an entire wizarding war proving her correct. If he thought she had high regard for her own brain before, now she's downright impossible.
Easy on the eyes, of course, but impossible.
He pulls a blank face and watches Granger shuffle his direction. She takes up a position near the Weasel, who seems equally unsure about standing too close to Millie. Poor girl. No one but Draco knows she's had a crush on Weasley the Wanker for nearly five years. The distaste oozing off the redhead for all things Slytherin house is likely breaking her rather soft heart. Millie may look tough, standing nearly six feet with solid limbs and a moderately full build, but in actuality, she's delicate and feminine in the ways of the heart. She's almost as tall as the gangly Weasley beside her, yet she seems to be making herself look small, like he might not notice she's there.
Draco might have to have a little Come to Salazar talk with the wizard later. He'd best be nice, is all Draco can say.
"All matched up and ready? On to the assignment!" The professor paces back and forth in front of the door, making Draco remember some things from sixth year he would really rather not.
Professor Jayne opens the door with a flourish and gestures toward the opening. Inside, Draco can see the Room looks almost like the corridor they are standing within. Stone floors and walls with tapestries tossing color onto the otherwise grey canvas, it looks like the castle interior continued within. Is the Room broken? Is this what it looks like when it doesn't project anything?
"Mister Potter? Let's have you and Mister Nott take the first round. You will be acting out roles in a muggle story called Jack and the Beanstalk. The Room will decide who will be portraying which characters. Once you've completed your story, I'll be looking for 30 inches of parchment on the use of magic in the tale and what Muggles might take from a story that is otherwise impossible for them to believe in. Good luck!"
Potter gives a worried glance toward Granger as he follows Nott into the room. Draco has a feeling the story title is not unknown to him and has a twinge of trepidation slither up his spine at the look returned on Granger's face. What kind of experiment is this?
The door closes behind the two wizards, the scene within seeming to morph into a picturesque countryside, and Professor Jayne claps her hands together. "Lovely. Who's next?"
Next, as it turns out, is Hannah Abbott and Dean Thomas. The professor sends them on their way into what looks like a small village, thatch roofed houses dotting the landscape, and tells them their story is called The Snow-Queen.
Sounds like a poncy little tale if you ask Draco.
Students continue to pair off, set by set, two by two. Millie and her buffoon of a partner are given something called Beauty and the Beast, and Draco would swear Weasley's body had started to change as the door closed in that uncomfortable way of Polyjuice or an Animagus transformation. He snickers to himself until Granger sends him a glare.
"And then there were two," Jayne comments, looking them over. "For you two, best in my class, I have a more obscure story for you to enjoy. It's a German tale called The Princess Who Was Hidden Underground." She shoos them with quick motions of her hands. "Go on then. I can't wait to read your accounts!"
Draco looks down at Granger to find her staring back. There is a nervousness about her than seems completely out of character for the typically bold and cocksure Gryffindor. He almost makes a comment, starts to open his mouth to speak, but thinks better of it and shakes his head. He doesn't really know what he would say, and he'll probably end up hexed for his trouble.
Without looking back, he steps through the door into another world. The ground beneath his feet is hard-packed earth, dry and rocky with brittle grass in clumps here and there. He's on a road of sorts, though it does not look well-maintained. Draco wrinkles his nose, very much not liking the downtrodden atmosphere of their story.
"Well, Granger, let's find out what drivel we are to be subjected to-"
He stops short when he turns around and finds only an expanse of dry earth, cottages in the distance, and no Granger to be found. The door from the Room is gone, leaving Draco feeling momentarily lost and slightly panicked. He takes a few breaths and remembers he's still in the castle, still at Hogwarts.
Taking stock of his surroundings a bit more closely, he notices people in the distance as well. In all great stories, some hapless git is mucking about on some asinine quest. Draco figures he might as well find out what he's supposed to be doing and makes his way down the road to a small crowd in what must pass for a town.
Hermione watches Draco saunter forward into the room and glances back toward the entrance one last time. The professor gives her a wink and then closes the door. It fades immediately into what looks like bricks of silver, bleeding into a large brick wall that seems to take up her whole vision. She turns back to Draco to find that he is gone as well, as is the countryside scene. Instead, Hermione is in a large room, all silver brick walls with no windows or doors. Lavish furniture with cushions of the deepest plum, ornate rugs in bold prints, and gilded fixtures glinting in the low light surrounds her. There are bowls with lush fruits, carafes of clear water… It is a beautiful room in truth, but Hermione focuses across to a large chaise lounge and a man draped across it, three woman laying around him.
Hermione's jaw drops. "Dad?"
The man, who can't possibly be Frank Granger, smiles. "My daughter, come and sit on my knee."
The women, it appears on closer study, are Padma Patil, Lavender Brown, and Cho Chang. But Hermione knows for a fact that Lavender Brown is dead. And Padma Patil just entered her own Cinderella nightmare with that nasty Zacharias Smith. Cho Chang… Well, Hermione isn't really sure what happened to her, but this is not her.
So the room has popped real people into the supporting rolls. How absolutely jarring. A grotesque Oz of the supporting cast in Hermione's life…
And she is not sitting on this man's knee. He's fucking creepy, thanks.
Clearing her throat, she tries to start a conversation. Honestly, Hermione has never read this fairy tale and has no idea what it's about. Probably some asinine quest she needs to go on. Best get to it.
"Dad, it's good to see you. Are we…" She searches her mind, trying to find a question to lead him forward. "Any plans today? Are we... going anywhere?"
The man laughs at her. Not with her, either; at her. He sounds like an arse.
"My flower, of course not. I will make my way back to the castle proper shortly, but you will remain here, my beautiful turtledove, until a proper and worthy prince can be found. I've only come to visit you and your," he glances around him, lecherous eyes on the three young witches, "very accommodating ladies in waiting."
She continues to smile, though her lip tries to curl in disgust. "Right. Of course. And how long have I been living down here again? Awaiting my… worthy suitor?"
He thinks for a moment, though he seems distracted by this fake Padma Patil's breasts pushed against his arms, cleavage nearly spilling over her tight blue top. "I suppose it's been some time." He chuckles, like imprisoning his daughter is just a bit of a lark. "I guess it's been almost seven years now. Time does fly. Why you and your," another sweep of his gaze across the ladies, "attendants were hardly more than girls when we first built the room. My, my how you've all grown." Fake Lavender giggles like a slutty little loon.
This is the most disgusting thing Hermione has ever seen. The Room could have at least used someone other than her actual father for this. Her face scrunches.
Rising somewhat reluctantly, the king kisses the hand of each lady then approaches his daughter, hands outstretched. When he reaches her, he places a hand on each of her shoulders and pulls her close to brush a kiss against each of her cheeks. "You are the most precious thing in all the world, my daughter. I vow that no one will take you from me who is any less than perfection."
Hermione plasters a smile back on her face on nods.
First, how presumptuous, how misogynistic, that he thinks he has a right to lock her away like a bit of treasure.
Second, he's waiting for someone perfect? Guessing who the lead romantic role is in this little story, she can't imagine that is in the cards. Downright laughable, in fact.
Her faux father leaves after that, and Hermione is alone with three of her least favorite people in the world. Granted, Lavender isn't actually in the world anymore, Merlin rest her soul, but the point remains…
What follows is what feels like a very tedious few days of eating fruit and listening to the women giggle and watching her father subtly paw at them when he visits. Hermione disappears behind a folding screen to what is the closest thing to privacy she has. A canopied bed with far too many pillows seems to be her only respite. She asks her father for parchment and ink and makes herself busy by beginning her assignment for the class. There isn't much to say yet, magic not really being a part of the story up to this point, but she takes meticulous notes while she waits.
And where the hell is Draco Malfoy? She's sure he's just having a swell time, chatting up wenches and drowning himself in ale. Typical male in a medieval fantasy.
He'll rue the day he made her wait this long.
The feather quill jabs through the parchment in her irritation.
Draco Malfoy is not having a good time.
What he discovered by engaging in conversation and listening at doors, is that the king of this sad little village has a daughter with what must be a twat made out of gold, and every man from fifteen to fifty is trying to find her to wed and bed.
So, of course, that must be Granger. What a joke, thrusting that swotty little prig into the role of a princess. Draco might admit she's not bad to look at, but a gilded princess she is not.
Which, of course, that means Draco is going to be expected to find the stupid witch before this can end. But apparently, that's bleeding impossible, and if you fail, you literally LOSE YOUR FUCKING HEAD.
And this place… ugh. Draco hates it here. The witches are handsy and crude and keep putting their grubby little fingers on his person.
"Well, what 'ave we 'ere? Fancy wee lad, ain'tcha? Come let ol' Tillie set you to rights."
He shudders at the thought. That particular case… he's still not entirely sure if she was, one, a prostitute, two, selling something more innocuous than her body, or, three, if she wanted to murder him.
There is exactly one inn-slash-pub-slash-restaurant in the wretched setting, and it's all in one dirty old building at the edge of town. So, guess where Draco gets to sleep and drink and eat?
Got it in one. Draco congratulates you on your powers of deduction.
The ale, in case anyone is curious, tastes like dirt, and Draco is only drinking it because it's cleaner than the water. The food?
Draco doesn't like to think about the food. He's not sure what it was before it was cooked but is fairly certain he doesn't want to know.
The barmaid gives him yet another wink across the room, and he squeezes his eyes closed, praying to Salazar for strength. Is she amorous or does she have a condition? As often as her eye twitches like that, he's not entirely sure.
Not to mention, she looks a bit like that Molly Weasley. He's only seen her from afar and never really studied her, but it's too eerie to be a coincidence.
When a new face enters, Draco perks up. Surely this will be a plot progression, right? The man has a distinct look of 'foreign' about him. His dress isn't like anyone else's in town and he looks… cleaner than most. Not to mention, he appears to wear the face of Gilderoy Lockhart.
The Room seems to have a sense of humour as to the players it puts into position.
"Mind you if I share your table, sir?"
At least the tosser is polite.
And knows proper English.
Draco nods toward the empty seat across from him and waits for the man to settle in. He gestures to the Weasley-wench, and she promptly brings a tankard of the same disgusting wheat ale Draco is choking down. She winks at least twice during the brief exchange.
An affliction, surely. Maybe she's possessed…
"I appreciate the company," the Lockhart doppelganger tells him. "Travelling is lonely business with only pelts for company."
"Skins. Animal pelts, my dear boy. Though I began a simple herdsman, I've used my wits to pursue a more lucrative path."
"Ah," he replies, and doesn't really know what else to say. Why would someone walk around with dead animal bits? And he's proud of this?
"I've had this thought," the man says, and Draco feels a tingle down his back. Here it is, he's pretty certain: The plot point. "This quest the King has proposed… They say this princess can never be found. All the finest adventurers failed and died. Some say," he says, leaning in for dramatic effect, "she's just a myth."
Draco snorts. If any of these adventurers spent five minutes alone with the harpy, they'd think myth.
"It seems a young man would need to be clever to find a princess like this. A cunning plan is what you'd cheerly need."
Draco lays his cheek on his hand, resigned, and deadpans, "Do tell."
The man leans even further in, as if Draco had been enthusiastic. He supposes the characters are following a script.
His voice lowers, secrecy on the menu when hatching a brilliant conspiracy. "For instance, if I were to disguise a young man such as yourself as a creature of such compelling beauty, the King would be tempted… nay, obligated… to bring you before his daughter. In a disguised form, you would be able to know his path, memorize the way to the young maiden, and then return to her as a man."
Draco frowns. This story is far more stupid than he'd feared. "If you take me as a… a pet… how will I escape from wherever he keeps her?"
Lockhart leans back, that shit-eating grin Draco remembers from second year curled across his face. "Well, because I will explain to the King the animal is only to be loaned, of course. I will return in three days time to collect my property, and he will release you to me."
Scowling now, Draco shakes his head. "Because kings notoriously do exactly as they are told and never take anything by force." If this is one of those tragic tales, they are all losing their heads.
As if Draco had not spoken, the buffoon claps his hands together in what seems like delight. "It's settled then! Oh, what a story we will have to tell. And when you are prince, you may shower me in jewels befitting your gratitude."
Draco rolls his eyes and sarcastically agrees, "Yes, I will grant you all the jewels that properly show the gratitude I will surely have upon meeting Princess Granger."
"Let us not waste a moment. Come! I will show you the perfect disguise so you might find your lady love!"
Draco follows, not much liking where he's headed, but eager for this ridiculous fantasy to come to an end.
Molly Weasley pinches his bum on the way past.
Thank you for joining me on this story! As always, reviews will make me giddy!
Special shout out to AussieSweet. I didn't make it for your birthday, but you were on my mind while I wrote this piece!
This story is complete, so I will, as is my usual style, post fairly quickly. I hope you like it! Internet love to all of you!