Love and thanks once again to my preview team: In Dreams, LightofEvolution, and Mcal!
Draco walks swiftly back through the corridors and onto the grounds, hardly mindful of the people he passes and with no inclination at stealth or to appear "natural". Some of the strolling lords give him a dark look, a couple of ladies glance after him oddly, but since he is a sheep, no one calls for the guards.
Once he is back to a low stone wall, barely populated, he hops over ("My Lord, Gerald, did you see the leap made by that little lamb?!") and finds a hidden place off the road to remove the pelt. Draco glances right and left before returning to the footpath, walking with purpose back to the gates.
He's getting back to that witch before she remembers she's not supposed to like him. He's had a taste, and, Merlin, but does he want more. Potter and Weasley are going to have his head on a pike, but he's pretty sure she might be worth it, if the sampling he's had is any indication.
And that's to say nothing of the fact that she's clever and humorous and playful to boot. He's replaying their banter, her smile, and those completely delicious snogs, when he spots Theodore fucking Nott leaned against the wall beside the entrance.
Not-Nott looks up, that ever-present smirk on his face. Is that how Draco looks? He should be mindful. It's fucking irritating.
Draco stomps into his space and points a finger into the man's chest accusingly. "It has come to my attention that the King has entertained other adventurers even as you told me he would not be until at least next week!"
He drops his hand and crosses his arms over his chest, daring the guard to deny it.
"Did I?" Faux-Theodor's manicured fingers cup under his chin in thought. "My, my, I must have misspoke."
"Let. Me. In. You. Prick."
The guard looks down at him darkly, hand tightening on the hilt of the sword hung at his hip. Then suddenly a gasping breath flees his lungs, mouth widening into an absolute guffaw. "Man, you are so bloody serious! Isn't he such a complete tosser?"
Draco is taken back, looking from the proxy Theo to where his gaze is now landed; on the other guard that he completely ignored previously…
And, of course, it's fucking Potter.
"Oh, for the love of…"
Draco looks between the two laughing men, watching Theo dramatically wipe his eyes as if his laughter has produced tears. "Look, the King just opened his gates for visiting adventurers a few hours ago, alright? It's not like we have any ruddy idea what he's doing."
Draco sniffs, not at all liking the feeling that he's being laughed at.
"Just a bit of fun," the fake Potter offers unhelpfully. Draco hardly recognized him with the guard's helmet hiding his god awful hair and scar.
Feeling quite disgruntled, Draco asks, "So can I go in?"
"Sure, sure." Theo swings the gate inward, preceding Draco through the opening. He turns once inside and gestures to be followed. "Come on, then. I'll announce you." He's grinning and chuckling through it, and Draco vows to pop him in the jaw before he leaves this place.
Begrudging, Draco stalks through the gate and falls into step behind the guard, watching the same people who stared and tutted and cooed at him as a sheep sneer at him with distaste in his human form, presumably due to his low status. He tilts his head higher, knowing in reality he is better than any of them. Than all of them combined.
Not to mention, they aren't really people. That deflates him a bit. Maybe he is taking this just a bit seriously…
Theo stops abruptly once they reach the chamber Draco remembers he had entered with the peddler. Theo nods to the guards flanking this door; Neville Longbottom and Cedric Diggory nod back.
Draco feels a sharp elbow in his ribs and looks over to find Theo giving him a look, eyebrows raised. "Name?"
Name? Did his character have one? What-the fuck-ever.
"Draco Malfoy," he says proudly, looking down his nose at the lot of them.
"Draco Malf- What the hell kind of a name is that?"
The guards snicker and shake their heads. Longbottom tuts. "Not much of a good English name, is it."
"Right," Diggory offers. "Not like Neville or Theodore or George or something. You from some godforsaken foreign place?"
With a once over, looking disgusted, Longbottom postulates, "Bet he's a Norman."
They all sneer at that.
Draco pinches the bridge of his nose, taking a deep breath and squeezing his eyes closed. "Can we just, please, get on with it?"
Nott shrugs and leads forward, the other two making a show of leaning away, lest Draco brush against them.
And his family is French, thanks. These pricks can all go fuck themselves.
Inside the chamber, Theo stops and clears his scrawny throat. "Presenting," he belts out clear and strong, "the adventurer, Draco Malfoy!"
Draco looks up to find the king sitting on a high throne, looking abjectly bored. The woman to his left, presumably the Queen, is not Hermione Granger's real life mother. Draco knows this because, instead, she is Narcissa Malfoy.
"Ah, come forward, young lad! Think you have the stuff to find my most precious gem, do you? I must warn you, another is likewise seeking her hand on the 'morrow, and he is a clever one indeed. A sorcerer, surely. He once gifted me a gilded lamb!"
Draco's mother is watching her husband speak, her lip curling. Even here, she is the epitome of judgment and haughty discontent. Draco misses his mother.
Noticing the room is staring at him, perhaps waiting for a response, Draco clears his throat and steps forward, taking pleasure in elbowing Theo subtly out of his way. "Your Highness" (because Draco swore he would never again call anyone his "Lord"), "I am confident I will be able to find your daughter with no trouble. I'm quite talented at finding missing things, you see."
The king frowns. "A pity, one so young… Are you certain, my boy? Would you forfeit your life at a chance for a princess you've not even known?"
Draco smiles a private smile. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to find her quite fetching, sire. All I ask is the chance."
The king sighs sadly and shakes his head. "Very well. You may also seek her after the breaking of the dawn-"
"Sire? If I may…" Draco licks his lips and steps forward, hoping the Room doesn't find him insolent and change the story to him losing his head. "I have travelled ever so far to find my… one true love…
That's appropriate for this type of story right? Lay it on thick…
"She is said to be of unmatched beauty, clever as any scholar and kind as… as… the autumn sun."
Narcissa softens her countenance. Draco thinks he must be doing well.
"I only ask the chance to find her, so that I might...err… worship her, as she so obviously deserves. Surely, Great King, you only wish a suitor for her that might… ahhh... That will value her as you do, a treasure to be protected and adored."
The room is silent, Draco internally hoping this is the sort of rot the story is looking for. Not that it's entirely put on. She is pretty. And clever… and kind, come to think of it. She forgave him, didn't she? Not to mention, fit as fuck, but he doesn't think that will win any points with her father…
"You speak from the heart," the man finally says, seeming affected and sympathetic. "Who am I to deny you that which I have promised all who would seek? Very well."
He rises on the dais, stepping slowly down and glancing once back at his queen. She purses her lips at him and looks away.
"Come, then, young Malfoy. Let us seek your true love."
He gestures to the corridor to the west, the one Draco knows does not lead to the hidden paths and catacombs beneath the castle.
Turning east, he counters. "I am feeling east is the path I seek, sire. If I may?"
The King nods. "Of course. It is your quest, after all."
Confidently, Draco strides forward, opening an unassuming door and beginning the long trek into the bowels of the castle. The King trails behind, looking a little put out. For all his protesting that he hates to see the young adventurers meet their fate, he does not look happy at Draco's progress.
Though there are few stairs along the way, the semi-constant slope of the floor and dampening, cold air tells him they are relatively far underground. They wind through, silence resting between them, coiled and tense, when Draco finally comes upon a timeworn wall of stone that stretches across their path.
"Perhaps you have miscalculated," the King offers. He sounds entirely too gleeful at the notion since it would mean Draco's death. He even does a little hop in place, rising onto the balls of his feet. Tosser.
"It seems to me, a wall in the middle of a hallway is a little suspect. I would wager magic is afoot."
The King looks nervous then. It is, admittedly, a bit amusing to play it up for the script. Knowing he is about to win the day, his witch waiting on the other side of mere stone, is a fun prize. Making the King look like a fool is just a bonus.
"Oh, yes?" The man sneers at him. "And what are the words then? Shall I say something like 'shut shut shut'?"
Well, that's just stupid. How much of the scripting is part of the original story? Instead of commenting, Draco smirks and answers, "No, I do believe along the lines of 'Open, Sartara Martara of the earth'."
Draco watches the King's face fall, his mouth gaping, as he hears the stone start to slide away behind him. Feeling smug and just a teensy bit giddy, he gestures grandly to the opening behind him. "After you, Your Majesty."
The man glares as he trudges past.
Hermione is enjoying (alright, enjoying is a strong word for anything at this point, ready as she is to get back to Hogwarts) a bit of bread and fruit, when she hears the rasp of stone scraping against stone, usually indicative of her father's visit.
This time, however, she is expecting someone else, and rises eagerly to greet her guest.
The first thing she sees is Frank Granger stomping into the room, looking irritated. Honestly, she's hardly seen this version of her father's face look anything beyond amused or bemused since this whole thing started. She thinks to take that as good news, and is rewarded for that faith when Malfoy steps through behind him, a smirk on his lips.
She doesn't have a chance to speak before the King pouts out. "Yes, so you've found the Princess. Bully for you." A nasty little grin stretches across his face when he adds, "But, now, I will turn her and her maidens into ducks, and you will have to guess which is my daughter. Only then will you have her to wife."
It's a dirty trick, honestly, but they all knew it was coming. Hermione glances at her maidens who give her encouraging nods. Right, clean her feathers when she transforms. She hopes Draco remembers that part of the fairytale.
With a lazy wave of her father's hand, muttering under his breath, a soft blanket of feathers drifts from thin air and lands upon her shoulders and head. She looks to find her three attendants likewise dusted with down.
So her magic transformation is to be as ridiculous as Draco's, is it? She looks up to find him snickering at her expense.
Yes, well, it might be ridiculous, but she has a part to play. But how is one to clean feathers when she doesn't actually have wings? Or a beak? Can't he just point her out without the ruse since he can obviously see her face?
He raises his eyebrows in challenge, answering her silent plea.
So he wants a game, does he? Feeling playful and slightly wicked, Hermione lifts her arm until her fingers, slightly splayed, obscure her mouth from his view. Locking eyes with the wizard, his look turning to one of question, she slides the tip of her middle finger deep into her mouth, then slowly drags it back out along her tongue. Draco gulps as it emerges and she lightly bites the tip.
Allowing her lip to quirk on one side into a bit of a smile, she repeats the motion, this time closing her lips around the digit and hollowing her cheek as she makes a show of sucking at the length of it, eyes hooded as she does. When she finally removes the tip once more, she full on smirks at him as she runs the now wet skin from her bottom lip, down her chin and neck, and finally lets it rest at the top of her cleavage for show.
She watches as his entire frame shudders subtly, a breath stuttering out of his lungs. "The Princess," he starts, but his voice cracks and he has to clear his throat. "The Princess is that one." He points in Hermione's direction, watching her intently with just a touch of wonder. "The duck who… cleans herself."
Hermione giggles at the phrase. That's one way to put it.
For a moment, no one speaks. The maidens, the King; everyone is silent and waiting for a cue. Finally, her father nods and says very quietly, "You've found her, lad. My precious love." He waves his hand once again, and a light breeze carries the feathers away in a swirl of white.
The first to speak is Padma, who approaches Hermione and throws her arms around her shoulders. "Oh, sweet princess, your love has found you. May you live a thousand blessed years at his side."
The other two embrace her as well, genuine in their elation for her, but a bit sorrowful at her departure.
Her father is next, his hold almost bruising as he whispers to her, "My most treasured dove, I know he will be a worthy match. May your days be bright with his love, and know that you will always be held in my heart above all else."
Well, that's sweet, but the man kept her prisoner and boned her servants, so it's hard to be overly emotional about this goodbye. She hugs him back as sincerely as she can then steps back and eyes Draco over his shoulder.
"Princess," he says, low and serious in a way that makes her toes curl. She started the game, of course, but it seems he's ready to pick up the gauntlet. Hermione has a free period after Muggle Studies… maybe they can spend a little time being… acquainted… in the real world once they are back.
She steps into his space and looks up at him through her lashes. "Some fresh air, young adventurer?"
He grins and offers his arm. She slips hers through without hesitation and follows as he turns to the corridor.
They've barely made it out of the room, the stone starting to slide together behind them, when he pushes her rather forcefully toward the wall and slants his mouth over hers, his hand cradling the back of her head.
It's a thoughtful gesture, considering his otherwise rough demeanor, and makes her kiss him back hard and desperate, whimpering against his mouth and clinging to his neck.
Instinct dictates she lift one leg to snake around his calf. Draco moans when she runs her foot enticingly up the back of his leg, teasing his resolve, until his palm connects with the back of her thigh, hiking her leg more snugly around him. Hermione thinks she could climb him like a tree and grinds her core against him. She swallows the groans of approval, encouraged to continue; to do more.
Her hand has just started to descend down his chest, trailing her fingertip against the hard lines of his frame, when a very loud clearing of a throat brings her up short.
She had expected her faux-father. Maybe one of the girls. What she did not anticipate was the voice of her dearest friend, sounding an odd mix of surprised, irritated, and relieved.
Her leg drops and she looks up at Draco only to find him staring over her shoulder, mouth gaped. Hermione glances back over her shoulder and finds that the corridor, the wall to her hidden prison, the castle interior, is all gone. The room she is in is merely a black void, like standing in shadows. Beyond the threshold, the stone halls of Hogwarts await her, Harry Potter standing in the door frame, and a rather amused looking Theo Nott hanging back behind him.
"Oh," she intones, casually as she can, "we're back."
Hermione states the obvious then turns fully toward the corridor. She starts to take a step, then feels her hand enveloped gently, Draco's fingers wrapping around hers. She looks at him in question to find his face passive, and she knows the gesture cost him a lot. With a soft half smile, Hermione threads her fingers through his, pressing their palms firmly together. His mask, that expression of indifference, melts slightly away, and he presents her with one of his wicked little grins.
It's infectious, and she bites her lip before smiling back. "Come on, then. I'm starving."
Pulling him behind her, they walk out into the corridor and stand in front of their two housemates. The door to the Room, as soon as Draco's heel is past the frame, slams closed and melds into the wall.
She nods. "It wasn't quite the adventure I'd hoped. I imagine yours was much more fun. Which one of you was the giant?"
Harry and Theo exchange a look, Theo smirking and Harry blushing. "Erm… neither. Theo was Jack, and I was… a less… more of a side… You know, it's not important really. Not one of the main players-"
"He was the harp," Theo throws in, laughing and shaking his head. "The bloody golden harp."
"It was ridiculous," Harry offers, seeming to pout a bit.
"It was adorable," Theo corrects, and Hermione is thrown by the choice of word. Not as much, however, as she is by Harry's deepening blush.
"I wasn't even a proper gold harp!" Harry throws up his hands in aggravation. "Oh, they all said I was gold. The giant kept saying how important his gold harp was, asking me to sing, but I just had like… glitter in my hair, and my face was yellow…"
Hermione laughs then promptly slams her palm over her mouth at the look of ire on Harry's face. It does sound a bit adorable, but she doesn't dare say so.
"Who was the giant?" Draco, who has been quite up to this point, is looking at Theo, an open expression of curiosity on his face.
Nott leans forward like he's about to impart the secrets of the universe. "So, you'd think it would be like Hagrid or that half brother of his, right?" Draco nods, sharing in the conspiracy.
Hesitating, like he's building interest, Nott finally continues. "It was Flitwick. Like this huge version with a giant head and beard the size of a Christmas tree. And he wore these striped socks that he'd fling around everywhere. I used one from his wash for sleeping."
He glances over at Harry and finishes with a bit of dramatics, "And, occasionally, not sleeping."
Hermione gapes at Harry who only rubs the back of his neck and resolutely looks at the corners of the ceiling, cheeks red as the Hogwarts Express.
Before anyone can respond, however, Hermione glances around and interrupts the banter. "Wait, where's everyone else?"
The other three turn their heads and also look puzzled. "Surely the Professor would have waited, even if the others had finished their stories."
Nott is the first to move, sauntering down the corridor, unhurried but with purpose. "Well, then, we'll just have to find her. I expect top marks for his. I even let the harp seduce me into rescuing him."
Harry meets Hermione's eyes. She starts to say something. Honestly, she's surprised but also incredibly amused by his embarrassment. But then he looks at Draco and gives her a lifted brow full of significance. Understanding passes between them like a shared breath, then Harry turns on his heel and follows after Nott.
Hands still clasped, Draco guides her along, throwing her a wink over his shoulder as he leads the way.
Nott and Potter shagging in a giant's cave is mildly amusing, but Draco is far more interested in the fact that Hermione Granger is holding tightly to his hand, knowing full well they are going to be seen by their peers at any moment. He glances at her often as they walk, trying to both shake the jarring sensation of being with her like this in this setting, and also luxuriating in the feeling of something new: a beginning.
The castle is quiet, no other students in their path, as they make their way to the Muggle Studies classroom. They anticipate a successful audience with their instructor, complete with top marks for finishing a very unorthodox lesson.
Draco has certainly not forgotten his feeling of gratitude either. The woman is going to be receiving a fruit basket the size of a fucking house come December; apples as far as the eye can see.
At her door, they all pause. She's already teaching another classes. Sixth year Claws and Puffs by the look of it. Is that always the next group after the eighth years? Draco had been sure it was second year Snakes and Lions…
As soon as she looks up, the wand in her hand clatters to the floor. Students whip their heads around to see what has caught her attention, then immediately start the mutterings and whisperings of excited, gossip-fueled children.
"Miss Granger, Mister Nott…? Where did you four come from?!"
Exchanging a look between them, Hermione speaks first. "We apologize if we are a bit late. Perhaps our fairytales ran a little longer than most? Was there… We won't lose marks for that, will we?" She looks pale... Ashen. Poor witch. Draco smiles at her fondly, charmed by her concern over marks when everyone knows she's the top student by a mile.
"I… Miss Granger, you all have just come from the Room?!"
"We hardly dawdled, Professor," Theo chimes in, looking a bit indignant.
"Right," Harry adds, supporting the claim. "We came straight here. Pretty much right away."
He blushes as he says it. Draco thinks he's protesting a bit much, and secretly wonders if the two of them had been snogging like mad just before they caught him and Hermione doing the same.
Speaking of, if everyone could move this along, Draco is quite looking forward to backing her into an alcove, or sneaking into a broom closet, or, hell, just taking her in the middle of the Great bloody Hall for all he cares. He's not picky, and he doesn't care who knows it. He can imagine slamming her against the wall just outside this classroom and hiking her leg back round him as they had been moments ago before being so very rudely interrupted. He would grind against her, and she would moan and whimper into his mouth. All those pretty little sounds that shoot straight to his groin and drive him forward. His hands have yet to explore all she has to offer, and he would focus there next, touching and kneading and grazing over all her most sensitive spots, Granger begging all the while for more, more, more...
"-over two weeks!"
He snaps from his reverie, catching the gist of conversation and eyes going wide at the current topic.
"We've been gone for… oh, Merlin, everyone must be so worried!"
Draco looks at his witch, her face full of disappointment and concern. So sweet of her to think of others. He squeezes her hand to show his admiration.
"Well, they weren't exactly unconcerned, Miss Granger," their professor comments, looking a bit harried. She glances this way and that before looking back into her classroom.
"Jeffries!" A young wizard with a Prefect badge on his chest looks up with attention. "You're in charge until I get back or the hour is up. Continue work on your essays. I want twelve inches on the "microwave", benefits and drawbacks, by tomorrow."
With that, she sweeps from the room, closing the door behind her. "Come along then. McGonagall will be pleased you've returned. She was none too happy I lost her favorite students."
Draco scoffs a bit, knowing he's not included in that estimation. No one counters it, but Hermione does stroke her thumb across his hand. Honestly, he's not that upset about it, but he accepts the affection greedily, flashing her a smile.
The group of five marches its way to the office currently occupied by the Headmistress, waiting only momentarily for the gargoyle to shift aside. On the other side of the door, McGonagall stands from behind her desk, gaping at them.
Her mouth clicks shut, and she straightens, adopting her typical, unaffected demeanor. "Professor Jayne, it appears your wayward ducklings have found their way home."
"It does," the woman agrees. "I've brought them straight here to give an account, but they say they were just released from the Room."
McGonagall eyes them, and Draco has that feeling he usually does when the woman looks down her nose at him. Like she's judging him for wrong-doing. Which is rubbish by the way, since he's the victim here.
He lifts his chin with a bit of the old Malfoy pride.
"Miss Granger, would you like to briefly recount your time in the Room of Requirement?"
Hermione looks a bit nervous, but steps forward toward the Headmistress. Refusing to release her hand, Draco follows. "We have been living in the fairytale as assigned to us. In my particular story, I had to wait for Draco to rescue me from a hidden room, but the king wouldn't let him for many days. As soon as he was able to secure my release, the room disappeared from around us and the door opened."
McGonagall nods, then looks to Theo. "And you two?"
Theo grins. "Well, I was a handsome adventurer, but with a very poor and difficult mother…"
He looks over at Draco and throws in, "Who happened to be Pansy's mum, by the way. Every bit the harpy she is in real life."
They snicker together.
"Anyway," he continues back toward the pursed lips of their Headmistress, "I was to sell a cow, but then George Weasley turned up and offered me some charmed beans!" Theo's voice is growing steadily more dramatic, caught up in his little performance. "How could I say 'no' to that, honestly? Primrose Parkinson was none to happy, let me tell you. You could not imagine how she railed and carried on! Sent me to sleep without any dinner and everything. Completely uncivilized. Well. The next day, a huge beanstalk had grown-"
"I am quite familiar with Jack and the beanstalk, Mister Nott. Was there any reason the story took you particularly long to get through? Like Miss Granger's king stalling their departure?"
Theo glances at Harry. "Well, there was this harp you see, stuck with the giant atop the stalk. I took it upon myself to become not only an adventurer, but a rescuer." He flashes a gallant grin that makes Draco roll his eyes.
There is a quiet that falls across the room like a shroud, all parties just looking at each other in anticipation. Finally, McGonagall pinches the bridge of her nose, then speaks.
"Twenty points to Slytherin and Gryffindor for perseverance and camaraderie in unique circumstances. You will earn full marks for any assignments missed."
She turns, then, to Professor Jayne. "And we will have no more use of the Room in Muggle Studies. Or indeed, any class situation. I dare say Miss Ravenclaw's humour from beyond the grave has always eluded me, and I've no time for these sort of shenanigans."
Draco is a bit stunned and has trouble keeping his tongue. "Wait, so, this was what? Some sort of… prank, and we were the joke?"
She looks down her nose at him, over her frames. "Indeed."
"That ancient bitch," he breathes out, and is surprised when the Headmistress chuckles at him.
"I have a long history of butting heads with the woman in subtle ways. Sometimes I think her aspects of the castle focus against my top students. Just like a Ravenclaw to need to feel superior to the best around her."
There is no question of his own inclusion in the statement, and he looks away both honoured and shamed.
McGonagall claps her hands together, the conversation seeming to have reached its end. "Now then, I trust you are well enough? You seem fed and healthy. Dinner will be served in the Great Hall in about an hour. Until then, the day is yours to alert any of your friends as to your well-being. Welcome home."
Draco turns in a daze and follows the others from the room, glancing back one last time to find the Headmistress and their Professor grinning after them.
The King's dialogue before Draco said the correct magical password is indeed right out of the myth. As are the magic words themselves.
Almost the end! Thank you again to all of you who are following, reading, reviewing... You are appreciated :)