Chapter 11: Time in a Bottle
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
It had been a very long day at the Dickens House, one of those days when it seemed that nothing went right. Absolutely nothing, Hermione thought to herself as she pulled the museum’s front door shut behind her and began walking home.
First off, she’d broken a heel halfway to work that morning. Catching it in a crack in the pavement, she’d lurched forward while her foot stayed behind, stuck by the heel, and then there was a sickening crack as the heel parted company with the rest of the shoe. She’d walked the rest of the way in a comical half-limp. Fortunately, she’d left a spare pair of flats in the cupboard near her desk, so that she hadn’t had to spend the day pathetically hobbling about.
Then there were the cancellations. Normally, there might be one, perhaps two in a week, groups that elected to cancel or reschedule their visit to the museum for a variety of possible reasons. Weather was usually the main one, particularly if the group booking the time consisted of elderly people who would just as soon stay at home, warm and dry, as come out and be shown Charles Dickens’ spectacles, or the very desk where he wrote Oliver Twist. It had rained very hard all morning, never a good sign.
But there might be other reasons as well. Today, there was a veritable flood of cancellations, it seemed, and that spelled a great deal of revenue lost. A large school group had had last-minute difficulties with transportation; apart from the lost revenue, this was a particularly keen disappointment for Hermione, as she’d spent the last couple of months working to create and write an interactive educational program, and today would have been her chance to premiere it. But the children never came.
The day became a long, quiet stretch of only intermittent activity, punctuated only by the phone ringing and the occasional tourist coming in off the street. Hermione found herself inexplicably tired, though she couldn’t imagine why, she reminded herself wryly, as she’d mostly sat on her bum all day long.
The streets were still wet from the earlier rain; droplets glistened on shop windows and tree branches, and puddles were mirrors of the fading light as the sun dropped towards the horizon. Hermione passed a rubbish bin, and on impulse, she blithely dropped the damaged shoe and its twin in and walked on, smiling. She was nearly home now, turning the corner from Calthorpe into Wren Street. Birds sang their evening songs from the trees and shrubbery in St Andrews Gardens, and she thanked all the gods once again that they’d found a home in this very special part of the city.
Letting herself into the outer vestibule, Hermione pulled out the key for their front door and then noticed something affixed there. It was a post-it note folded in half with her name on it in Draco’s handwriting. Smiling quizzically, she took it down and unfolded it.
Go straight to the bedroom. Further instructions there. (No questions, Granger!)
He knew her too well. Laughing quietly, Hermione stuck the note in her pocket, unlocked the door, and pushed it open, wondering what in the world Draco was up to. Inside, the flat was dark, the only light from the small candles flickering on every conceivable surface. A cheerful fire crackled in the hearth, casting long shadows on the walls and floor.
Go straight to the bedroom, the note had instructed. Right, then. A thrill of excitement beginning to flutter in her stomach, Hermione walked on past the sitting room and down the hall, peeking briefly into the en-suite. It, too, was filled with candles winking from the double sinks and encircling the rim of the generous bathtub.
Once in the bedroom, she looked around quickly, finding herself still alone. Candles on the double chest of drawers gave the dim room a tranquil calm, twinkling in the mirror and reflecting their light back twofold. On the bed, a number of items were neatly folded, things she hadn’t looked at in at least five years.
One white blouse, one maroon tie with diagonal stripes in gold, a charcoal-grey woollen skirt and matching jumper, a pair of black knit tights, and alongside all of this, black robes with maroon trim at the neck and hood, and the Gryffindor House crest where a left breast pocket would be. It was her school uniform, as fresh and pristine as if she’d just bought it all new from Madam Malkin’s. There was a note too, pinned to the robes.
Put this on and go to the sitting room.
Well. Things were getting interesting. Unable to keep from smiling, Hermione began unbuttoning her blouse.
Fully dressed now, her robes flaring about her, Hermione made her way back to the sitting room and stopped abruptly, her breath catching in her throat.
Draco stood there, silhouetted by the firelight, his pale hair lit from behind like a halo. Fully kitted out in his Slytherin House uniform, he stood tall, his carriage erect and elegant, the black robes with their flashes of forest-green sweeping down from his shoulders nearly to the floor. In the shadowy half-light, she could just make out the beginnings of a rakish smile lifting the corners of his mouth.
“Draco,” she began, “what on earth –”
He held up a hand and then pressed a finger to his lips. “Ssh. Hold your questions, woman. I’ll explain everything in due course. Come here and give me a kiss.”
Dutifully, she obeyed, rising on her tiptoes and dropping a soft kiss on his mouth. He drew her closer, bending his head to speak very quietly in her ear.
“Happy anniversary, love.” He quirked a teasing smile. “Did you forget?”
Oh gods, she had. Well, not really. She’d remembered a week before and bought Draco a special present, hiding it well; she’d assumed that on the day, they’d go out somewhere really nice for dinner. But in the last several days, things had gradually got so busy at work, what with preparations for the school program that never got off the ground, that by today – the day – she had forgotten completely.
Her hands flew to her mouth in horror. “Oh Merlin, Draco! I am so sorry! I suppose I did forget! I mean, not really, but just today... it was so crazy at work... please forgive me!”
“No worries. I know you didn’t really forget. I found my present in the wardrobe.”
In the dim light, she could see his cheeky little grin.
“You didn’t open it, did you?” she demanded.
“Would I do that?”
“You really want an answer to that question, Malfoy?”
He chuckled briefly. “No. But anyway, I didn’t, for your information. We’ll do that together later, when I give you yours.”
“When later? And why are we dressed in our house uniforms?”
Draco heaved a deep, rather dramatic sigh. “Such a lot of questions, Granger! All right. I’ll start with the last one.” He drew her closer, threading his arms about her waist.
“I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you. For a long time now, I’ve regretted that we weren’t friends at school. We couldn’t have been, of course, given who I was back then, and the lies I believed about you. But the truth is, even though I treated you like shit, even though I hated you for being so bloody brilliant all the time, you intrigued me. I wanted to know more about you, despite myself. I wanted to figure you out, understand you. How you could be the way you were and still be Muggleborn.”
“A Mudblood, you said,” Hermione reminded him softly.
“Yes. That arse-brained rubbish. I think I knew deep down that it was rubbish even as I said and thought the worst possible shit about you. You put the lie to everything I’d been taught. By seventh year, I was ready to own up to that and a lot more, as you know, but by then, I had to hide it. All those years, I never gave myself a chance to just get to know you. Never had a chance to tell you I thought you were beautiful. Because I did, you know.”
“Even my hair?” she teased gently.
“Even that.” Leaning in, Draco took a whiff and buried his nose in her cloud of curls. “Especially that, if you really want to know. I had fantasies about you, Granger. And tonight, I’m going to do what I’ve wanted to do for years.”
Hermione went very still then, and for a moment, all that could be heard was the sparking of the flames in the hearth, though she was certain she could hear her heart beating as well.
“What did you have in mind?” she asked tremulously, hardly able to breathe.
“A game. A pretend game,” he replied, his own voice seductively low and silken. “Let’s pretend we’re in the library. It’s almost closing time and Madam Pince is getting her desk in order before locking up. Everyone else has gone. You’re in the Restricted Section, looking for a book you need for an assignment. I am looking for the same book, but really, I’m looking for something else entirely.”
“What?” Hermione swallowed hard and licked her lips. Her mouth had gone very dry.
Draco smiled then, and it was slow and deliberate and decidedly wolfish. “I think you know.”
She nodded, a small, delicious shiver raising goose bumps everywhere, and turned to one of the bookcases, pretending to peruse the titles. She could feel him drawing closer to her, could feel the heat of his body now that his robes were very nearly touching hers.
“Well, well, what have we here?” said a sultry, faintly amused voice in her ear.
She turned, folding her arms impatiently, and sighed. “What do you want, Malfoy?”
“Still working like a busy little bee, are we? So industrious, and it’s nearly closing time. Don’t you sleep, ever?” Draco moved an inch closer, reaching out to rest his hands on the bookshelf, one on either side of her, boxing her in. He dropped his voice to a near-whisper. “Or have any fun?”
She tried to duck beneath his arms, but he drew them together with lightning speed, cutting off her escape.
“Come now. Mustn’t be anti-social. It’s bad manners.”
Leaning in, he nuzzled the soft skin on the side of Hermione’s neck, tickling her with the tip of his nose and then whispering in her ear. “Mmm, you smell delicious, Granger. I wonder what you taste like?”
At the word “taste,” Hermione felt a pleasant throbbing beginning between her legs, and a gradual dampening in the crotch of her tights. She squeezed her legs together to hide her arousal, wondering if Draco would notice and knowing he would.
He did. Lifting his head for a moment, he sniffed the air and then grinned appreciatively before diving back into the curve of her neck and commencing a series of soft, glancing butterfly kisses. “Is that an invitation, darling?” he murmured, between kisses. “Because I am very happy to oblige.”
And then, before she could think, he had her robe unfastened, peeling it from her shoulders. It slipped down her arms, pooling in a mass of fabric at her feet. Dropping to his knees, he slipped his hands under her skirt, moving them sinuously up her legs until they reached the waistband of her tights. Before she knew it, he was pulling the tights down ever so slowly, his palms grazing the sensitive skin of her thighs, the backs of her knees, her calves and ankles. And then his questing hands found their way back under the skirt, where they cupped her newly bare buttocks.
“No knickers? Well, well, Granger. You surprise me. Pleasantly, of course. One would almost think you were expecting me. Or someone, anyway.” His voice dropped to an even lower register and he gave her bum a firm squeeze. “You dirty girl.”
At this point, there was no pretence of even a semblance of coherent thought for Hermione. The only thing that existed now was need, pulsing and insistent and raw. In the dream state of the candlelight and wearing these clothes that held so many memories, surrounded by shelves of books, their play-acting felt so real, and gods, it was exciting. Suddenly, the thought of Malfoy back then – the “what ifs” of such a scenario – set her heart racing. Like virtually every other red-blooded girl in her year, she’d done her share of discreetly appreciative looking.
Without thinking, she opened her legs a bit, giving him greater access. With a lusty growl, he slid his hand between them and tickling her inner thighs with his fingertips until they reached her most private place, now slippery with her own juices. Dipping a finger inside her, he drew it out, coated with the cream of her arousal, and began a delicate, purposeful exploration of her genitals, sometimes sliding a finger deep inside her and then withdrawing it, stroking and caressing her once again.
Suddenly, he withdrew his hand and, ducking his head down, replaced it with his mouth, and it seemed to Hermione that now he would devour her completely with kisses, nibbles and the lazy meanderings of his tongue. Throwing her head back, she let out a small scream as she felt her legs begin to tremble. They would give out soon unless...
“Oh, Granger, what a naughty girl you are,” Draco murmured huskily, his own breathing noticeably shallow now. “Is this how you act in the library? Such wanton behaviour. I’m shocked.”
“Please, Draco! I mean Malfoy,” she moaned. “I need...!”
And then, thank Merlin, his mouth was back where she needed it to be, and he tongued her mercilessly, her legs wrapped around his neck and squeezing his head ever more tightly as her orgasm soared and peaked and finally shattered her into a million pieces.
As she wilted against the bookcase, her trembling legs still around his neck, he carefully extricated himself and stood up. Hermione gazed back at him blankly, her cheeks flushed and her eyes unusually bright, her chest heaving as she attempted to catch her breath.
“Our little game isn’t over, you know,” Draco told her, smiling roguishly. “Follow me.
She trailed after him into the bathroom, her heart still racing, and sat down on the seat of the toilet while he began to run a bath. As the tub filled, steamy air clouding the mirror, he returned to her.
“Let’s pretend, shall we,” he drawled, “that this is the Prefects’ bathroom. You know, the really big, luxurious one on the fifth floor. I’ve come in for a bath after a Quidditch match. I’m filthy and exhausted and my muscles are terribly sore. You arrive just after I do, but I’m already in the tub.”
Hermione nodded. This would be fun.
“Now turn around whilst I undress,” he ordered. “No fair peeking.”
He threw in some bath salts, swished them around in the warm water, and then quickly stripped off his uniform, tossing everything onto a stool in the corner. Before long, the large tub was filled with steamy, fragrant water, its surface a thick mass of bubbles.
“Right, you can turn around now.”
“Malfoy! This was my time for the tub!” she snapped, her hands on her hips.
Convincing. Hiding a grin, he looked back at her innocently, the thick, white bubbles cresting his shoulders.
“I signed up for the seven o’clock slot ages ago! This isn’t fair!”
“Oh, did you? I hadn’t noticed,” he replied with casual indifference. “Anyway, who cares? I got here first. First come, first served. Come back later.”
“I will not! It’s my turn! Get out of the tub right now!” She stamped her foot petulantly.
Draco seemed to consider this; he paused to think and then smiled lazily. “I could do that, I suppose. But no, I don’t think I will. Of course...” – he paused – “... there is another way...”
“What’s that?” Hermione raised an eyebrow and waited.
“You could always join me. Plenty of room for two. Environmentally better as well. I’ll scrub your back if you scrub mine.”
“Okay,” she replied slowly, feigning reluctance. “Just... turn around and don’t look.”
He would, of course, and she knew he would; that was all part of the game. Well, she would give him exactly what he wanted, what he’d apparently fantasized about since the age of sixteen: a good, old-fashioned strip tease.
She pretended not to notice that although he had indeed turned around, he was secretly watching her over his shoulder. Feeling his eyes on her made her strangely jumpy, breathless.
Her robe and tights were already off. Now she peeled the woollen jumper over her head and casually tossed it to the floor. Her house tie was next. Very slowly, her fingers trembling slightly, she undid the knot and then slid it around and off her neck until she could drop it where she stood.
Now the white oxford. There were, it seemed, about a million buttons that needed undoing, and she opened them one at a time, with great deliberation. Finally, the blouse was completely unbuttoned, and this, too, she allowed to slip down her arms.
Only her bra and skirt remained now. With studied slowness, she leaned well over the tub, making sure that her cleavage was fully on display to the tub’s occupant.
“Must check that the water temperature is just right,” she announced airily, swishing her hand in the water and then shaking the droplets off so that they landed on the smooth skin of her breasts. “Remember, no peeking now!”
“Not looking, wizard’s honour,” he lied, his cock rising to the occasion and popping impudently out of the water as he sneaked glances at her bouncing breasts.
Straightening, Hermione reached around to unhook her bra and then stopped.
“Oh dear,” she murmured. “The hook must be caught on something. I suppose you’ll just have to help me, Malfoy. You have my permission to turn around as long as you don’t actually look.”
And with that, she came to the tub’s edge and perched on it, her back to Draco.
“I reckon I can manage that much,” he quipped, though at this point, he wasn’t sure how far he could trust either his fingers or his patience.
“Thank you,” she told him primly and let the bra fall to the floor, turning around to face him again.
This time, he made no pretence of looking away.
Her magnificent breasts, their nipples erect and rosy, along with the image of her lovely pussy and bum, utterly naked as well beneath the skirt, were Draco’s undoing.
“Granger.” The name – half shuddering groan, half growl – dragged itself out of him from somewhere deep in his chest. His arousal was becoming painful now. He couldn’t wait much longer for relief.
“Almost done,” she told him, her voice as creamy and silken as his had been earlier.
He watched the skirt do a slow, sensual slide down her bare legs. A moment later, the water in the tub shifted a bit, and she was beside him.
Slipping into position behind her, he placed soapy hands on her shoulders and began to massage them gently, his fingers moving first to her neck and then further and further down her back with each stroke. She could feel him kneading her spine all the way down to her lower back, and it felt positively marvellous.
“Oh, that feels amazing!” she sighed, leaning back against him. “Sod the game, Malfoy! This just feels too good! Don’t stop!”
He laughed softly and stepped up his attentions. But now, his hands wandered from her back around to her stomach and then down from her shoulders, so that he was able to touch her breasts with every stroke. They felt so good in his hands, so firm and smooth, the flushed nipples hardened and wonderfully responsive under his palms. He knew that his touch was equally pleasurable to her; small, tremulous moans and shuddering sighs told him as much.
“Ready, love?” he asked softly in her ear, still massaging her breasts and belly, and occasionally slipping a couple of fingers between her legs.
She nodded mutely, her eyes closed tight. Smiling, he lifted her gently and angled her so that he could draw her back down onto his cock. He slid inside her with ease and for a moment, they sat that way, intimately joined, before he began to move them both.
“Relax, sweetheart, let me do the work,” he murmured, strong hands gripping her waist and lifting her just enough that she slid up and off his cock and then down again, her body taking him in whole and deep.
Their coupling gradually grew more frantic and driven, and as it did, water sloshed liberally onto the floor, but neither of them noticed or cared.
And then, suddenly, Draco turned her so that she was facing him, hooking her legs around his waist as he entered her once again. Bouncing up and down ever more urgently, Hermione pressed her mouth to his in an ardent kiss, her fingertips leaving an imprint on his shoulders from the strength of her grip.
Raw need thrummed through his body, building so powerfully that he was nearly blind with it, and then he could hold it no longer. With a cry that sounded almost like pain, he gave in to it, emptying himself into her in what felt like never-ending waves and spasms. Her own climax rocketed in on the heels of his, and she gripped him between her thighs and grabbed fistfuls of his hair as she came.
The fire had died down a bit by the time they returned to the sitting room, comfortably wrapped in warm, flannel dressing gowns, their hair still wet. Draco crouched by the hearth, waving his wand over the logs so that the flames shot up strong and bright once again, and then he stretched out on the sofa, pulling Hermione down next to him.
They dozed briefly in the warmth of each other’s arms, the pop and crackle of the fire lulling them halfway to dreams. Eventually, though, Hermione roused herself. There was something she’d been wondering.
“Did you really have those fantasies about me?”
“Yeah, I did. Often. There were others too, but those two were my favourites.”
His answer had left her nearly speechless, and so, for a bit, they lapsed back into a comfortable silence, which Draco broke a few minutes later.
“Forgot to mention that dinner is on the way,” he murmured lazily. “I’ve ordered takeaway from that place around the corner.”
“Oh, that’s marvellous! I’m absolutely famished! What did you order?” Practically purring with contentment, Hermione snuggled closer to Draco. Every part of her body was so utterly relaxed, she felt nearly boneless.
“Eggplant piccata, since you liked it so much last time. Spaghetti carbonara. A Caesar salad. Sauteed spinach. Two slices of chocolate mousse cake, and two cappuccinos. Oh, and a bottle of Shiraz. Sound good?”
Hermione nodded, her wet curls fanned out on Draco’s chest. “Mmm, it sounds heavenly!” Then she raised her head, squinting slightly. “You ordered wine, but… I see a bottle of something right there.”
“Well spotted. I wondered when you’d notice. Thought we should have a bottle of champagne for a toast or two. We can have some now, if you like, whilst we wait for dinner to arrive.”
Happily, she nodded again as he reached over to uncork the bottle. The cork came away with an emphatic pop and the requisite white plume rose from the neck of the bottle before Draco filled two flutes.
He handed one to Hermione and raised his own. “Happy anniversary, sweetheart. To us!”
Simple, but at that moment, Draco felt almost tongue-tied, unable to put what he felt into words that would be close to adequate. It had been a momentous year, one of three and a half years of life-changing firsts in his life, and virtually all of them had been shared with Hermione, going right back to their very first month at Oxford.
“To us!” she echoed, raising her glass and touching it to his. “I love you, Draco Malfoy! I want things to stay like this forever!”
That was what he had been wishing for too, though not wanting to tempt fate, he’d chosen to keep it to himself. “I love you too, Granger. More than I can say. Thank you.”
For what precisely, he didn’t say, but she seemed to understand perfectly. For a moment, they were quiet, enjoying the flickering warmth of the fire. Then Hermione sat up straight and sucked in a breath.
“Ooh! I nearly forgot! Your present!”
Springing off the sofa, she hurried out of the room, returning a moment later with a festively wrapped box. Thrusting it into his hands, she plopped back onto the sofa, grinning expectantly.
“Go on, open it!” she urged.
Smiling, he caught her eye briefly, winked, and then began to rip the paper off the box.
“Oh, wow,” he breathed a moment later. “Look at this!” It was the volume he’d been eyeing in Niall’s shop the last time they were there, a rare edition that he’d hoped to read following the one he’d borrowed from the library at the Manor. Apparently, she’d noticed him examining it and gone back to buy it for him. “Animagic Dreamwalking. You knew I wanted this! I can’t believe it! Thank you, Hermione!”
She reached over and gave his hand a squeeze. “I’m so glad you like it! Niall said you would.”
Draco nodded. “It’s exactly what I wanted!” Then, reaching behind the sofa pillows, he drew out a small box decorated with a pretty scarlet ribbon. “Now yours.”
“What is it?” Hermione asked as she fumbled with the wrapping paper and ribbon.
Draco laughed. “Open it and see!”
The paper and ribbon finally off and discarded, she lifted the lid of the small, square box. Inside, resting on a bed of black velvet, was a delicate silver bracelet, shining like a string of stars. A small but perfect gemstone was set in one of the links: a sapphire cut in the shape of an aster, a cluster of tiny diamonds winking in its centre.
Hermione understood its significance immediately. She gave a small gasp and looked up at him with shining eyes.
“My birthstone and my birth flower! This bracelet has very strong magic!”
He nodded. “I know. Asters are a symbol of deeply powerful love, and sapphires signify love and healing, protection and strength. I thought… well… that’s us, isn’t it. All of it. It’s what you mean to me, Hermione. You’re everything. I wanted you to know that. The bracelet is so you’ll never forget.”
The tears that came then were unavoidable, and Hermione buried her face in the front of Draco’s dressing gown, clinging to him tightly. Smiling tenderly, he stroked her damp curls and waited till she calmed herself. Eventually, she raised large, liquid eyes to him.
“You’re everything to me too, you know. My whole world. I couldn’t bear it if anything ever happened to you! I shall treasure this beautiful bracelet forever. Thank you, love!” She stuck her arm out. “Put it on me, please! I’m never taking it off!”
“Never?” he laughed fondly, as he did the clasp for her.
She shook her head emphatically. “Never!”
Just then, the door buzzer sounded. Their dinner had arrived. Dropping a quick kiss on the top of Hermione’s head, Draco hopped off the sofa and headed to the bedroom to get his wallet.
Their anniversary celebration was off to a magnificent start, everything pointed to a wonderful year ahead. He was young and healthy, he had work he enjoyed – well, most of it, anyway – good friends, and a comfortable first home. Best of all, the love of his life was waiting for him in the next room. What more could a man want?
His reverie was broken by the sound of Hermione’s voice.
“Malfoy! Where are you? We have to pay for our food!”
“Coming!” he called, grinning.