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An Inconvenient Wedding

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To: shellydkitty
From: Your Secret Santa

Title: An Inconvenient Wedding
Author: snegurochka_lee
Pairing: Draco/Hermione, background Scorpius/Lily
Summary: When Scorpius and Lily announce their engagement, it really couldn't come at a worse time for Draco and Hermione.
Rating: NC-17
Length: ~19,000 words
Warnings: Infidelity
Author's notes: shellydkitty, me + your sign-up were a match made in heaven. I have about nine other fics started for you, because you listed so many pairings and things I love that I couldn't decide. In the end, I realized I just had to take your infidelity kink and run with it. In particular, you gave full permission to go with, ahem: infidelity, secret relationships/sneaking around, semi-public sex, sex in inappropriate places, and – I quote – "I would just love the sexy bits to be dirty, hot, and wrong wrong wrong if possible." Happy Holidays! I hope you enjoy. :) Huge thanks to my marvellous beta.

 


Prelude: A Bit of Background

 

Hermione's thighs burned with exertion, and she'd have red marks from his fingerprints on her hips later, but she couldn't even think about that right now.

"Oh," she gasped, tightening her grip on Draco's collar as the old upholstery of the sofa dug into her knees. "Oh. God. Please."

"Shhh," he breathed, burying his face in her hair and thrusting up inside her. The edges of his zip scraped at her, his trousers barely unfastened. His voice was low at her ear. "Soon, Granger." She bit her lip in nostalgia at the name. He knew what it did to her when he called her that. "Soon you'll get to scream my name as loud as you want from your very own bed."

She moaned, wrapping her arms around his neck as she rode him. Her very own bed. She could hardly imagine that. "Like I'd scream," she shot back. "You're not that good."

He laughed against her neck, a deep, groaning sound. "Yes, I am." He slowed his thrusts. Watching her carefully, he pushed up inside her and held himself there. She tried to rotate her hips, wriggling on his lap to get him to move again, to no avail.

She stopped moving. Their faces only inches apart, she held his gaze and watched him wet his lips as he looked at her. This was why he was worth it. She didn't know if anyone else would ever understand that, but she didn't care. No one but him had ever been able to narrow the world only to the two of them with just a look, searching her face as if he honestly thought he'd find something new there, something he didn't know yet, if he just looked hard enough.

He raised one hand to cup her cheek, the other still tight over her lower back. She could feel the gentle pressure of his hand through her blouse, keeping her from toppling off the sofa but also reassuring her. They could do this, couldn't they? All of their plans. It was going to work. She'd thought of everything.

His lips brushed hers, just a soft, gentle slide that made her shiver. He liked to kiss her roughly, with possessiveness. He liked to be dominant, to banter with her, to give as good as he got. But at moments like this, when the intimacy of their relationship – their illicit, inexcusable relationship – overcame him, he put away the masks and let her see him. She liked to think she was the only one who ever got to see it, but she long ago learnt not to dwell on thoughts like that.

He deepened the kiss as he began to rock his hips again, pressing up inside her. His hand slid around her hip and his thumb brushed her clit. She let out a shuddering breath, pulling out of the kiss to lean her forehead against his, looking down to watch their bodies move together.

"Okay, okay," she murmured. "You are that good."

He grinned, increasing his pace. His rhythm burned at her, the swirl of her approaching orgasm leaving her clutching at his shoulders.

"You first," she tried, but he only bit his lower lip, shaking his head.

"As if you could last," he murmured, and he was right, dammit. He pressed his thumb against her and she began to clench around his cock, her release washing over her in waves as she whimpered against his neck.

He pulled his thumb away and grasped her hips, thrusting up hard while she held on, her mouth hot on his skin. He ground up inside her one more time, holding himself still as he came. His chest heaving, he held her tight.

They stayed there together for a long moment, arms wrapped around each other as the sounds from the office outside began to filter back in – the telltale zip of a memo flying off, greetings between coworkers, a coffee pot starting to drip. Hermione felt cold and sticky, the moment gone and reality slamming back in around her. She pulled her left hand away from where it had been clutching the back of Draco's neck, her wedding band glinting in the light.

"Don't back out on me now," he said, as if he could read her mind. He tilted her chin up.

"Who's the Gryffindor?" she shot back. She climbed off him and cast a cleaning charm, wincing as the dampness between her legs disappeared. She righted her skirt and began to hunt on the floor for her knickers, flexing her toes to get the blood flowing in her legs. God, she was too old for this. If she'd known at her wedding that the best sex of her life would always be with a man who was definitely not her husband, she might have reconsidered the whole business entirely.

She leaned one palm into her nearby desk, suddenly overcome.

"I knew it," he said roughly, fastening his trousers and rising from the sofa. "You're going to send me to confront my wife as planned, while you're sitting around that night darning Weasley's socks, aren't you?"

She closed her eyes. "Don't."

But he came up behind her, his fingers lightly touching her shoulder. He was nervous, not angry. She knew him well enough by now to be able to tell the difference.

They'd had it on the calendar for months, counting down. As soon as Hugo finished school. As soon as Scorpius started at Gringotts (although that complicated things; she would rather not have any ties between Malfoys and Weasleys, but it wasn't Bill's fault the boy was an Arithmancy whiz). As soon as Astoria booked her annual French getaway for the summer – the perfect time for her to cool down.

Now it was only two weeks away. The day they were both going to sit down with their spouses and tell them.

Hermione turned, her jaw squared as she looked at him. She'd done her waffling. She was ready to come clean now and face the consequences. For reasons that still surprised her, he was worth it. "Ready?" she whispered, cupping his cheek.

"Is that a challenge?" But his voice was soft.

"Of course."

He fought a smile, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "It's not going to be pretty, you realise."

"Nothing with you ever is."

He narrowed his eyes. "Two more weeks, Granger," he teased. "Then you're mine."

She smiled, arching up to kiss him.

They'd thought of everything. Nothing was going to get in their way now.

***


Phase I: The Engagement Party

 

Draco stepped through the Floo to Scorpius's flat, Astoria right behind him, and stopped dead.

"Father! Mum." Scorpius came forward, taking his arm and giving him a big hug. Draco clapped him on the back, then stood aside for Astoria to kiss him on the cheek, giving himself time to school his reaction into a proper one.

"I thought we were having cocktails," he said to his son, trying to keep his voice low. "What's all this?"

Scorpius couldn't hide his grin. His eyes sparkled, and he laughed as he clasped Draco's hand. "I'll tell you soon enough," he promised. "But come in!" He gestured around at the limited seating space in his small living room.

"What the hell?" Astoria whispered to Draco under her breath, her lips barely moving as she tried to give the people before them her best high-society smile.

"I've no fucking clue," he muttered to her under the guise of helping her dust Floo powder from her shoulders. He was relieved for a moment not to be fighting with her, instead falling back into their old roles – acted out since before their engagement, really – of two captives at the mercy of people more powerful than they.

In front of them in Scorpius's living room sat the entire Potter and Weasley families.

"We're just as curious as you, Malfoy, don't worry." A tight-lipped Harry Potter stood up and held out his hand. Reluctantly, mindful of the onlookers that included his son, Draco shook Potter's hand.

"Ah," he said. "So, my son does not regularly invite your family to tea?"

Potter gave him a wry grin. "Nope. Definitely not."

"Something to drink, Father?" Scorpius appeared again from the kitchen, offering Draco a short glass.

"Merlin, yes," he muttered, grabbing it and draining it in one go. "And get your mother some wine. I suspect we're going to need it."

"Just bring the bottle, darling," Astoria called after him.

As Draco cast about for a place to sit in the crowded room, he finally addressed the glaring issue he had not been able to face yet. Taking a deep breath and trying his best to look simply put out, rather than horrified, he turned. "Granger," he nodded stiffly. "Weasley."

Hermione was sitting nervously beside her son. She raised her eyes to Draco only for a second, her face a mask. "Malfoy." He saw her swallow before she turned to his wife. "Astoria," she said cordially.

Astoria, always the aristocrat, damn her, smiled graciously at Hermione and –

Draco held his breath.

– casually sat down on the edge of the sofa next to her. Merlin. He was fairly certain Astoria and Hermione had never been in the same room together, unless it was a wide Ministry ballroom. He'd made very sure of that. Astoria had passed the Auror qualifying exams back in the day, before giving it up when Scorpius came along. Draco had been mindful of her sharp observations skills ever since. Keeping secrets from her was a full-time job.

"I don't suppose you know what this is about, either?" Astoria asked, and Hermione laughed nervously.

"Afraid not."

"Mum, it's nothing bad," Hugo piped up, slouching back on the sofa and blowing his heavy ginger curls off his forehead.

Her eyes widened. "What do you know?"

"Nothing!"

Across the room, Potter's sons started snickering, and he too turned to them. "What do you know?" he asked, his voice low and commanding, and they immediately sat up straighter, swallowing their laughter.

"Nothing, Dad."

"Liars, the lot of you," said Ginny, smiling and shaking her head. She glanced back at the kitchen. "I think we all might start with the fact that my daughter and your son have been 'mixing drinks' in the kitchen for about twenty minutes now, even before you two arrived," she said to Draco and Astoria, and Draco's stomach immediately dropped.

The entire room was silent for a long, uncomfortable moment, all of them staring at Ginny. Finally, Hermione spoke a very quiet but forceful, "What?"

Draco sagged against the side of the fireplace.

No.

Ginny held up her hands. "Hey, I'm only making an observation." She gave Potter a mischievous look, but he was staring at her with his mouth open.

Just then, Scorpius and Lily Potter appeared in the door of the living room, a bottle of champagne in each of their hands. Draco had never paid the girl much mind before, in photos or on any passing occasion he'd had to see her. He paid attention to Hermione's children as best he could, of course – until now mostly confined to stories and photographs – but the Potters weren't exactly his concern. He squinted at Lily. She certainly took after her mother, with long auburn hair and a smattering of freckles. She wore jeans and a Harpies t-shirt, clearly an athletic type of girl and for that reason alone all wrong for Scorpius. She must have inherited her father's eyesight, though; a fashionable pair of glasses stood out on her face, although Draco could still see beyond them to the excitement in her eyes.

Scorpius, for his part, looked much more subdued. He was dressed nicely, in trousers and a button-down shirt, because dammit, Malfoys had class. His hair was still longer and messier than Draco would have liked, but he was presentable. He also couldn't stop gazing at Lily, nudging her shoulder and then biting his lip over a goofy grin as he shifted from one foot to the other.

As he stared at them, the very clear – if dramatic – image drifted through Draco's mind of his world imploding in on itself. He felt sick, and he struggled to take a deep breath. Against his better judgement, he chanced a look at Hermione. She was resolutely not looking anywhere near his direction. Frozen in place, she was staring at the young couple along with everyone else in the room.

They'd been so close. And now...

"Everyone!" Lily cleared her throat, smiling broadly and giggling as her brother gave her a thumbs up. "We have an announcement."


Draco saw Hermione put her hand to her stomach. Her face was frighteningly pale. It took everything he had to stay exactly where he was and not go to her, concentrating instead on presenting his best mildly amused yet annoyed face for his son.

Rose must still be in Romania, but James, Albus and Hugo all sat back lazily in their seats, grinning and shaking their heads at the grown-ups. Ginny and Astoria seemed surprised but mellow, smiling at the kids. Only Potter, Weasley and Hermione looked as aghast as Draco imagined he did himself – although, like him, trying to mask it.

"We've been hiding it until we were sure," said Scorpius, ducking his head down when Draco tried to catch his eye.

"And we're really sorry about that," Lily added. She took Scorpius's hand and gave him an adoring smile before turning back to the group. "But now we really hope we have your support and your love, because... we're engaged!"

***

There was champagne and cake, and the women went out of their way to hug each other and the kids. Draco stood awkwardly with Weasley and Potter, all of them sizing each other up, until Scorpius made his way over and hugged each of them in turn.

"Please, Father?" he whispered to Draco before pulling away. "Be nice to them. For me?" Draco pressed his lips together and gave him a curt nod, but a wave of sorrow crashed through him. All the plans he and Hermione had made were out of the question. That was what Hermione would say, at any rate.

After a few more torturous minutes of idle chit-chat, he headed to the kitchen for more booze, stopping with his hand on the door. It swung shut behind him, and he had to remind himself to step forward.

Hermione had been leaning over the kitchen counter, her head between her shoulders, but she turned at the sound of someone entering.

"Oh." Her face crumpled. "No, don't come in here. Not you. I'm about to lose my mind."

Draco walked in anyway, quickly crossing to her. He didn't touch her, but he came up behind her and placed his hand on the counter next to hers. After a few deep breaths, she moved her little finger an inch to the left to brush his.

"Go away," she moaned. "We'll talk later."

He couldn't shake the feeling that if he let her send him away now, she'd never let him close to her again. He pressed up behind her, his mouth at her ear. "You're not getting rid of me this easily. We'll find a way."

"Are you mad?" She was whispering through clenched teeth. "Your wife and my husband are right out there. And the kids, oh my God, the kids..."

"I don't care." He brushed his lips against the shell of her ear.

"Yes, you do! Draco, don't..." But she sagged back against him, letting him hold her up with one arm around her waist.

She didn't say anything more, and he knew this was a spectacularly bad idea, but he wrapped both arms around her from behind and held her. His chin rested on top of her head, her mess of hair brushing his lips, and he closed his eyes when she clamped one hand over his forearm to steady herself. "We might have to... postpone any announcements," he murmured at last, "but we can still find a way."

She turned her head, giving him an incredulous look.

"She's not your daughter."

"She might as well be!" Hermione turned, wriggling free of him and leaning back against the counter, her hand on his chest to keep him back. The other hand kneaded her forehead. "We all raised those five children together, Draco." She shook her head, gazing down at the floor. "She might as well be. God, how did we not see this? How could they have kept this a secret?"

He gave her a look, and she sighed.

"Yes. All right. Thank you. Such talent the Malfoy men have for hiding relationships."

He stepped back at that, shoving his hands in his pockets and turning away from her. Talent. Yes, that must have been what it was. It took talent to marry the wrong woman and not actually fall in love with someone else until it was too late to do anything about it.

"No. Damn. I'm sorry." She moved toward him and placed her hand on his arm.

He turned back to her, brushing a stray curl off her face and letting his fingers linger over her cheek.

"I don't know what to do," she whispered, her eyes wet.

He glanced back at the kitchen door and then leaned down, kissing her because he couldn't stand not to be touching her right now. He cupped her cheek and cradled the back of her head, trying to let her know everything he couldn't say. She arched her neck to meet him, gasping softly against his mouth, but then she pulled back, her eyes on the door again. He stayed close to her as he reached into his pocket, pulling out a stray coin, followed by his wand.

He took her hand, opened her palm, and placed the coin in it. She looked up at him. "Don't tell me you stole my notification system," she said lightly. "We already have one of those."

"Like I'd need to steal your good ideas. I have too many of my own."

She smiled.

Pointing his wand at the coin, he Transfigured it into a key. He folded her hand over it and leaned down, his mouth at her ear. "The activation code is Paris," he murmured, feeling her instantly tense.

"Oh," she breathed, and he knew she was remembering. "Okay. What is it?"

He kissed her again, just a brief touch of their lips, before stepping back and trying to smooth down his robes. "It's our new flat."

Her mouth fell open, and she looked down at the key in her hand. Before he did something stupid like activate the damn thing right then, Draco turned and strode out of the kitchen, realising only after he was back among the conversational horrors of the living room that he'd forgotten to get a bloody drink.

***

"But what if people don't accept us as a couple?"

The words burned through Hermione. Lily was so young and so damn earnest. She was curled up on an oversized armchair in Ginny and Harry's living room, sipping tea laced with whisky while the women around her tried to offer their own advice on marriage. It was the weekend after that wretched engagement announcement and far too early for a hen party, as far as Hermione was concerned. It was close to her version of hell, in fact; she'd hated these things even during her own engagement. But she kept her mouth shut and tried to maintain a light mood, for Lily's sake.

"Then you tell them to fuck themselves," Ginny said, waving her cup in the air.

"Mum."

"It's true! If you want to marry a Malfoy, I will never entirely understand it–" she held up a hand when Lily threatened to interrupt – "but I'll defend to the death your right to do it, honey. No child of mine is going to be dragged through the press for her choices." She leaned forward. "Anyone who tries it, your father will have their balls."

Hermione smiled at that, as Lily broke into scandalised laughter. "That's a fact," mused Hermione. "You were probably too young to remember, but the press had an absolute field day when Teddy was photographed coming out of that nightclub when he was seventeen."

"Signs," Rose piped up, nodding, and Hermione gave her a warm look.

"Oh, of course you'd know it," she teased, and Rose laughed. "You were probably sneaking in yourself at that age." She held her hand up. "I don't want to know."

Rose just gave her a mischievous grin, taking Athena's hand beside her and squeezing it.

"Point being," said Ginny, laughing, "by the time your father was done with them, the Prophet had to print a front-page apology, ensure its journalists had something like forty total hours in workshops with that media group about how to write respectfully about diverse sexualities, and donated their next quarter's profits to the war orphan charity." She sat back, folding her arms over her chest and beaming.

Hermione felt a sudden jolt of emotion to see just how much Ginny still loved and respected Harry, even after all these years. Well, he was Harry. It was hard not to.

"He would have done the same for us," said Rose.

Hermione turned to her. "So would your father."

Rose ducked her head down. "Yeah. I know. But he's still going to give Lily a hard time. He's already been stomping around about it. A Malfoy, for Merlin's sake!" She lowered her voice to mimic Ron. "They're worse than trolls! Death Eater scum, the whole lot of 'em!" She groaned, letting her head fall to Athena's shoulder.

Hermione pressed her lips together. "He tries, honey," she murmured.

Athena finally chimed in. She was several years older than Rose and certainly the strong, silent type, but Hermione liked her well enough. She seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, even if she did voluntarily harness dragons for a living. "He does, Rosie," she said quietly, giving Hermione a nervous look. "He's been fine with me, anyway."

Rose gave her a fond smile. "Yeah. Although he's decided you're basically a man, you know."

Athena shrugged. "I like working on Arthur's old carburetors."

Rose let out a gale of laughter, leaning into Athena's side. "I know, babe."

"Back to me," said Lily loudly. "He and Dad will be okay with Scorpius eventually, won't they?" She bit at her lip.

"Can't help who you love, Lil," said Rose. She was looking at Lily and didn't see, but beside her, Athena quietly lowered her eyes, smiling, before brushing a strand of hair off Rose's face and tucking it behind her ear.

Ginny caught Hermione's eye across the room, but Hermione's throat was too tight to speak. She'd hidden her affair with a Malfoy for nearly five years now, and only part of it was because they were both married. The rest of it was just as Rose had said: a Malfoy. Potters and Weasleys were not supposed to fall for Malfoys. End of story.

"Yes," said Ginny at last, sighing and reaching for the whisky. "They will be okay with him. We'll make sure of it." She reached out and squeezed Lily's hand. "Don't get any of us old folks started on Draco or even Lucius Malfoy," she added, giving Hermione a knowing look, "but it's been twenty-five years since the war. If you want to marry Scorpius Malfoy, honey, then nothing's going to stand in your way. All right?"

Lily gave her a grateful smile, holding her hand tightly.

On the other side of the room, Hermione excused herself, closed the door to the loo behind her, and tried to remember how to breathe.

***

The first time Draco had touched her, Hermione was eighteen years old and still haunted by the war.

She held tight to Ron and Harry, rebuilding Hogwarts with them and so many others but not letting anyone else get close to her. She studied until her eyes stung and slept with the lights on. Ron tried to kiss her, several times in fact, but she told him she wasn't ready, that she needed more time. The three of them were comfortable together. She didn't want to ruin that.

Draco Malfoy did not enter into that equation whatsoever, until she opened her eyes one day and noticed something: they were always the last two people in the library at night, the torches flickering high above and the stars outside twinkling through the windows.

One night, she decided to acknowledge him. "Malfoy," she said with a curt nod as she passed his table, heading for the door.

He only looked up at her, his face unreadable.

The next night, she did it again. He still didn't respond. Only on the third night did a clear, crisp, "Granger," follow her out the door. She considered it an odd triumph of sorts.

A few nights after that pattern had been established, he waited until the last patrons had left, and then he'd moved his books to her table – the opposite end of her table, to be sure, but the same one nonetheless. He said nothing, although he lifted his chin when she glanced up at him. Then he sat down, opened his books again, and worked until closing time.

"Malfoy," she said as she got up to leave.

"Granger."

She was grateful, in a way, for his silence. She didn't know what she would have said to him anyway. They could be cordial, but they could never be friends. Not after everything that had happened in the war. From the safety of the other end of the table, she sometimes watched him, hiding behind a convenient curtain of her hair. His hair was longer than it used to be – nothing like his father's, thankfully (the small resemblance there was still enough to put her on edge sometimes) – but no longer neat and trimmed. It was thicker than she would have thought, and by late evening, after he'd been running his hand through it while reading, it was tousled and curled around his ears. She began to follow the path of his fingers, skimming over the pages of a book then rising to scratch his temple or lodge in his hair while he leaned on one elbow, then moving back down again to turn a page.

"What did you get for number five with the mallowsweet pulp?"

Startled, she sucked in a breath and realised she'd been looking at him, even though he hadn't raised his head to speak. "What?"


He sighed. "I'm not your minion, Granger. I don't need you to do my homework for me. I just wanted to know if you had aconite and knotgrass as the reactionary ingredients, or aconite and hornbeam bark, because I can't decide if knotgrass is dormant or not in this case."

"I... had knotgrass and hornbeam bark, actually." She scanned her notes, wondering why her heart was beating quicker. "It's the aconite that's too dormant for that mix."

"What? Rubbish. That's only an issue in leap years, but it says here the aconite was gathered in 1649, so it should be safe."

Hermione checked her figures again. "Yes, but 1649 was a leap year."

His head jerked up, and he glared at her. "No, it wasn't."

"Yes, it was."

"No, it wasn't."

She sighed. "Fine, Malfoy. Whatever you say."

"No. Don't do that."

She looked at him in surprise.

"You do it all the time with Potter and Weasley. Don't do that with me."

She stared at him.

"Who's right?" he pressed, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest.

She considered it for a moment, and then lifted her chin. "I am."

He held her gaze for a long moment, until Hermione began to grow uncomfortable, and then a small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. "All right," he said softly, picking up his quill again and striking something out. "So you are."

Flustered, she grabbed her books and shoved her chair back. "Malfoy," she muttered, more out of habit than anything else. She rushed past him.

"Granger," he said quietly.

She glanced back and found him watching her, his eyes dark. She hurried away.

For awhile after that, he would sit down across from her, not at the other end of the table.

And one day after that, he came in and sat right beside her.

She couldn't concentrate on what she was reading. What was he doing? What did he want? She was both conscious of and confused by the fluttering in her stomach at his nearness. It was Draco Malfoy, for God's sake.

Soon he was sitting beside her every night, arguing over homework points with her and grumbling when he had to change his answers. The one time he caught a mistake she'd made, he lorded it over her for a week – but only at night, in the library. During the day, he paid her no mind, something she found increasingly confusing.

Then, one night, he kissed her.

They'd been leaning close, both pointing to the same passage in the textbook and arguing over it, their shoulders already touching and Hermione's hair spilling over his arm, when he turned his face a fraction more and leaned in, his lips just barely touching hers. She was surprised but didn't pull away. She froze, acutely aware of that tiny touch of their lips, until Malfoy moved his mouth to deepen it. She gasped against him, instinctively reaching out to curve her hand around the back of his neck and pull him closer. Her mind was a blur. She had no idea what she was doing, but Malfoy was warm, and he smelled incredible, and his hair was tousled from running his hand through it, and he had ink on his fingers, and his hand was light but firm against her arm.

She pulled back all of a sudden, breathing hard and staring at him. "Malfoy?" she whispered.

His stunned look melted into a grin. "Granger," he murmured back. After another long moment, he pushed his chair back and rose, making his way back to the stacks. He paused to glance back at her, his fingers against his lips, but then kept going.

Hermione sat there, alarmed, now that she realised it, at how her body had responded to that kiss... and to Malfoy's invitation. She already felt heavy and wet, nothing a boy from school had ever made her feel before – not even Ron. "Oh God, what am I doing, what am I doing, what am I doing?" she muttered to herself as she pushed her chair back, careful to keep quiet lest Pince come looking for the source of the noise.

The stacks were quiet and empty, but she found Malfoy facing a row of books, his eyes closed and his forehead pressed against the cool metal of one shelf at the same height. He turned at the sound of her approach. She didn't let herself think. God, it would be awkward enough later. For now, she closed in on him and touched his shoulder. With a quiet moan, he was on her again in seconds, his hands in her hair and his mouth hot against hers.

His fingers drifted down to her collarbone, tracing the line of her throat as he parted his lips to deepen the kiss. Before she knew what she was doing, she was unbuttoning her robes and her blouse. His eyes widened and he pulled back for a second to look at her, his mouth pink and his eyes hooded. Studying her face for her reaction, his hands moved into her blouse until his fingers brushed over her nipple, inching inside her bra. She shuddered against him and attacked his mouth again, appalled at her body's reaction. Every single bit of her tingled, from her fingertips to her lower belly.

She walked him back against the shelves and pressed into him, moaning with him when her leg pushed against his erection. She was terrified and overwhelmed but couldn't stop herself from reaching down to cup him through his trousers, relishing the strangled noise he made.

"Not a word," she warned, giving him a small smile, and he barked out a surprised laugh.

"Of course not." He smirked at her before leaning in for another kiss, as she lowered his zip and reached in to touch his prick. "Granger," he grunted, his fingers tensing in her blouse. He was hard and the tip of his prick was already wet. She wrapped her fist around him, her thumb pressing against the head, and began to stroke. His smirk disappeared and he clutched at her, both of them watching the motion of her fingers. He came quickly, before she even knew what to expect, her hand coated with warm semen and his whimpers into her neck lighting her up. Her body was throbbing, aching and needy, and his fingers kept brushing her nipple and making her crazy.

With his eyes locked on hers, he slipped one hand under her skirt and touched her through her knickers, enough to make her shudder right away. He moved in slow circles, only pushing the fabric aside at the last minute as she shook in his arms, clenching around him and gasping into the collar of his shirt.

Three days later, she sank down on his cock in an empty classroom after the library had closed, straddling his lap with her knees scraping the cold stone floor. His mouth froze against her throat as he pushed up into her. It ached low in her stomach, but his fingers trailed over her nipples and he clung to her in ways that made her feel safe, and so she ground against him until the ache dulled and she grew steadily more aroused. He came with a whimper, gasping into her mouth, and she kissed him through it, having no idea what else to do. He stayed inside her, his fingers drifting down to rub at her. Her body was already thrumming. She hid her moan in his neck when she came, clenching around him and pushing him out without meaning to.

It was her first time – and his, although she wouldn't find that out until later. They stayed wrapped together for longer than she would have thought possible, neither of them saying a word, until at last Hermione stumbled to her feet, her skirt falling back into place and Malfoy's come trickling down her thigh.

"All right?" He was still breathing hard, hastily pulling his trousers closed and his knees up to his chest, but when he looked up at her, the genuine concern on his face surprised her.

She only nodded, before hurrying away.

It happened twelve more times after that. Hermione kept careful count. On what would have been the thirteenth, just before they were to leave school, she met him as planned, but he stood away from her, looking at a spot over her shoulder, and told her he was engaged. She nodded and told herself it was for the best.

She didn't sleep with him again until eighteen months after his wedding.

***


Phase II: The Pre-Marital Counselling

 

"Father? Are you busy?"

Draco looked up. "No." He blinked at the formality. "Of course not." He came around his desk as Scorpius sank into a big leather armchair near the fireplace of the study. Draco paused at the sideboard, lifting up the brandy as a question.

"Gah. No. That stuff's lethal." He grinned, and Draco shook his head.

"No son of mine," he muttered, pouring himself a generous glass. "Have something else, then." He gestured at the other bottles lined up nearby. "It must be cocktail hour by now."

"It's one p.m."

Draco waved his hand. "Close enough." He sat down in the opposite chair, sprawling his legs out. "So. Is this where we have some sort of father-son chat about the meaning of marriage?"

Scorpius let his head fall back to the chair. "Merlin, no. Kill me now."

Draco grinned, lifting his glass.

But the grin faded from Scorpius's face. "But, I mean..." He took a deep breath. "You are okay with this, right? I don't want you to secretly be angry with me for years or anything, but be all... Malfoy about it and not tell me. I know I should have told you about Lily sooner, but I just, I didn't know how."

Draco swirled his drink, considering his answer. "I'm not angry with you," he said honestly. "When have I ever hidden it when I was?" he added.

Scorpius ducked his head down, laughing. "Yeah. Okay."

"Your mother and I would like to get to know Lily better, that's all. We only know her parents, and that's no way to judge the girl. They're complete idiots."

Scorpius gave him a look.

"All right, all right. We'll make nice with the Potters."

"Thank you." Scorpius went quiet, chewing on his bottom lip. He'd never been very good at the main Malfoy talent, namely, hiding one's emotions. His were always splashed across his face, and right now, they told Draco he was worried.

Draco leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "What is it?" he asked gently.

"I just... I was going to ask you how you know. I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing. Like, what is it about a girl that makes you certain you want to marry her. But then I thought, well, you don't know that, do you?"

Draco's chest tightened. "I don't know what?"

Scorpius looked down at his hands. "What's it's like to marry a girl because you love her so much you can't imagine your life without her."

The study fell silent for a long, uncomfortable moment.

"I'm sorry, Father," said Scorpius at last. "I shouldn't have said that."

Draco shook his head. "No," he said. "You're right. I don't know that." He took a long swallow of his drink, closing his eyes as it burned his throat.

"Because, I love Lily. She's amazing. And she's– I mean, I think we're really going to be happy. But..."

Draco arched a brow, saying nothing.

Scorpius sighed. "How do you know you can do this, and just, be with her, forever? I mean, I love her, but I'm still worried that somewhere down the road, there'll be someone else, and... I don't know. When you didn't even start out in love, how did you ever manage to... you know. Stick it out?"

Sweet fucking Merlin. Draco tried to keep his face neutral. This was not the occasion to lie to his son, but the truth wasn't exactly an option either. How had he managed to stay faithful to a wife he'd never loved? Oh, easy. He hadn't. And what would it be like to marry the woman he did love? He pushed that thought out of his mind. "Marriage is about respect," he began slowly. "And a healthy fear of her father doesn't hurt, either."

Scorpius gave a faint smile.

"You will be attracted to other women over the course of your marriage," he said quietly. Scorpius glanced up, his mouth open as if this were news. "It's just a fact. It's up to you what you do about that. What sort of man you want to be," he added. He drained his glass, his hand trembling. "Do you want to be a man who loves and respects his wife, or do you want to be a man who cheats on her?"

Scorpius nodded, his gaze shifting from his hands back up to Draco. "Yeah. That's a good point. I mean, obviously, no one wants to be that man." He gave a soft laugh. "No one sets out to be. I guess... yeah. I'm going to remember to tell myself that." He gave another firm nod, rising to his feet. "And the thing about her father is pretty good advice, too." He flashed Draco a grin, full of youth and innocence, and Draco rose to pull him into a hug.

"You're going to make a fine husband," he said roughly, clapping him on the shoulder. He stepped back. "It's not like you were raised by wolves."

Laughing, Scorpius gave him a salute, jogging out of the study and letting the door fall shut behind him.

Refilling his glass, Draco sat back down at his desk and slumped forward with his hand over his forehead.

***

Contrary to popular belief, Draco did not make a habit of cheating on his wife. She might not have been his first choice, but she was a good woman, a good friend, and a good mother. Marriage didn't have to be about love, as far as he could tell, but it did have to be about respect. No one had held a wand to his head to get him to agree to the contract. The least he could do was respect her enough to treat her well and not humiliate her with other women.

He told himself for a long time that Hermione didn't count. Hermione was different.


Still, the marriage contract came as a surprise. It was time, his father said. Didn't he agree? Yes, of course he did. What else could he do – fight for Granger? The idea was preposterous. They were eighteen and barely knew each other. They were each other's distraction, that was all.

He didn't think otherwise until eighteen months after his wedding, when they were both sent to a conference in Paris with fifty other Ministry witches and wizards. The hotel food was gorgeous, but on a walk their second afternoon there, he found Hermione haggling in stilted French with a street vendor over some fresh bread and cheese. When he rolled his eyes at her and reminded her there was plenty of bread and cheese in the conference dining room, she put her hands on her hips and told him that it wasn't the same as being able to bargain for it herself, so fuck off, Malfoy.

That was when he knew he was in trouble.

Her chest heaving through her thin blouse, she watched him scribble something on a piece of parchment and hand it to her before he strolled back to the hotel. When he got back to his room, he took his wedding band off, showered and waited.

It was over an hour before she knocked on the door, Glamoured as a house-elf. When she shifted back, she was flushed but with a determined set of her jaw. They watched each other cautiously across the entranceway before striding forward at the same time, meeting in the middle with their hands tearing at each other's clothes and their teeth clacking in their haste to devour each other. When Draco finally broke away, breathing hard, he ran his hands through her tangled hair and brought his mouth to her ear.

"I'm married," he murmured. "You know that. You acknowledge that. You accept that." He felt her tremble beneath his hands. "I'm not saying it to be cruel, believe it or not. I want you so fucking much." She gasped against his throat, her fingers clawing at his chest. "But I can't give you more than this. Agreed?"

It was a huge risk. This was Granger, after all – the morality police of the entire fucking wizarding world. But her response surprised him. She started hitting him in the chest with her fists.

"Why did you have to remind me?" she muttered. "Of course I know that! I was pacing my own room for an hour thinking about nothing but that, you idiot. But I'm here, aren't I? Do you want me to change my mind?"

"No." He tilted her chin up. "Obviously." He kissed her again, slower this time, and shoved down a wave of realisation and disquiet that this was nothing like kissing his wife, who was so polite and pliant and... fuck. "Take your clothes off," he growled against her mouth. "I'm not fucking you like we're still teenagers in a classroom."

She pushed him back, affronted, but she gave a soft laugh. She slipped her shirt off her shoulders as she moved towards the bed, pausing to look back at him, and he was lost at that look. Her hair was wild and her breasts swelled over the cup of her bra. It was the first time they'd ever had the benefit of a bed, and he intended to make the most of it.

It was the middle of the afternoon and Paris stretched out beneath them, but with the curtains drawn and the locks in place, Draco's world narrowed only to him and Hermione. They kicked their clothes aside and fell together to the bed, touching as much skin as they could and moving together with slow, wet kisses peppered with bites and growls, until Draco pinned her to the mattress, her face flushed and her chest heaving. She pressed up against him, her hands moving over his back and cupping his arse to pull him in closer.

When he pushed inside her, she threaded her fingers in his hair and arched her neck against the pillow, her face melting into a mess of emotions. He drank in every response she made, from bending one knee, placing her foot flat on the bed and drawing him in deeper, to directing his mouth to her breasts.

She's done this more, now. The thought flickered across his mind, and he felt a stab of jealousy so acute his rhythm stuttered and he had to pause to breathe. Weasley had been inside her like this, and maybe others, too. It had been a few years since they'd sneaked off to an empty classroom or groped each other in the library stacks. She could have had any number of men since then.

He suddenly dropped his gaze, his hips stilling. He held himself up with his arms locked on either side of her shoulders, but he felt envy and panic welling up.

She reached up and touched his cheek, forcing his gaze. "Draco...?"

He must have given her a helpless look, because she wrapped her arms around him and guided him down, encouraging him to begin moving slowly again. She touched her lips to his, her hands pushing his hair back from his face.

"Do you want to be here with me?" she whispered. "Right now?" Her hands drifted over his back, a light skittering touch.

He couldn't find it in him to be sarcastic or volley something cruel and distant back at her. "Yes," he breathed.

"So, be with me."

This time when she kissed him, he let himself pour everything he could into it, trying to let her know... what? I've never stopped thinking about you. I made a mistake. We could have had more than this, right?

He came quickly, overwhelmed by the feel of her and the image of her spread out beneath him like that, something he'd never dared hope for before, but they were far from done.

She stayed the night in his room, a luxury he still cherished since they'd rarely had occasion to repeat it since. At the time, it seemed impossibly reckless and made them both frantic and eager, devouring each other as many times as they could. He learnt everything he could about Hermione's body that night, stretched out beside her and touching every bit of her to see where she was ticklish, what made her moan, and what she was self-conscious about (in order: her lower back; her nipples; and her gorgeous hair).

When he woke after drifting off and found her still curled up beside him, breathing evenly, he couldn't help himself: he kissed his way down her body, waking her up slowly, until he spread her legs and went down on her while she was sleepy and breathless. She whispered his name when she came, one hand covering her face, and when he moved back up to hold her, her eyes were wet.

"I have to go," she murmured. "You're... God, I can't..."

"I know." He kissed her forehead.

Draco had never forgotten that night. They were twenty-one and filled with energy and idealism. He'd actually thought it would be okay, that he could get away with this just because he wanted to. And he had, as best he could tell. Astoria never found out. But something else happened that night he did not expect. He might not have known it at the time, but that was the night he fell for Hermione completely.

But it would be more than another fifteen years before he slept with her again.

***

"Bloody hell, did you hear the latest? Ginny says it's going to cost seven hundred Galleons just for the flowers. Merlin! Good thing we don't have to worry about Rosie on that score." Ron reached into the fridge to grab a beer. "You'd think the bloody Malfoys could pitch in a bit, eh? Probably trying to take Harry for all he's worth." He sat down at the kitchen table with a grumble.

Hermione's jaw tightened. "I'm sure they are prepared to help. If Harry hasn't asked, then he has nothing to complain about. It's his own damn fault."

"It's called pride, Hermione!" said Ron with a laugh. "He's not going to ask Malfoy for money for his daughter's wedding!"

"Well, fine, but I'm just saying, don't blame Malfoy for not helping if Harry hasn't even asked."

Ron rolled his eyes, but he reached for her hand. "Oh, lighten up." He pulled her off her chair and into his lap, laughing again at her yelp. She sighed but settled on his lap, her arms loose around his neck. "Doesn't it make you a bit nostalgic, though, all this wedding business?" He nuzzled her neck, and she closed her eyes.

"I suppose it does," she said cautiously.

"We never had flowers that nice, but we did all right, didn't we?" He pulled back and looked up at her, his eyes bright and his usual easy smile on his face.

She took a moment to look at him, her fingers tracing his cheek. She bent to kiss his forehead, unable to do more than that. "Yes. We did," she said quietly.

"I still can't believe we have to spend the rest of our lives with Malfoy at every family function, though," he complained. "Can you just imagine what a nightmare Christmas is going to be? I bet he'll hate all our traditions. Can you imagine not having the annual Weasley turkey race just because Malfoy thinks it's for – what does he call us? Plebes. He'll make us go for a fox hunt or something instead." He cackled.

Hermione climbed off him, lowering herself back to her own chair again and trying to swallow around the emotion threatening to envelop her.

"Well, anyway. Hugo and I are heading out to the pitch." He stood and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "You want to come?"

She shook her head, giving him a tight smile. Shrugging, he turned and strolled off, calling to Hugo from the hall.

As soon as she heard the door slam behind them, Hermione was no longer in control of herself. The floodgates opened, and she sat at her kitchen table with her hands over her face as she choked down her sobs. It was selfish of her, so selfish. It had to end. It wasn't about her anymore; it was about Scorpius and Lily. They deserved to be happy, free from the mistakes of their elders.

"Mum?"

Hermione's heart jolted, and she quickly wiped her face, turning. Rose looked stricken, hurrying into the kitchen and wrapping her arms around Hermione from behind. "It's nothing," Hermione insisted, even as her chest heaved. "Just got emotional about... oh, I don't even know, honey. Don't worry about me. It's nothing."

But Rose, for all her intellect, had always been an intuitive child. All she said was, "Okay," murmured against Hermione's hair, and then proceeded to hold her tight, letting Hermione cry until she couldn't cry anymore.

***

Hermione didn't see or hear from Draco for two weeks after the engagement. She knew they needed to talk, but she couldn't face him yet. The fact that he seemed to be keeping his own distance both comforted her that they were on the same page, and disappointed her terribly.

She wondered if she was going through some sort of stages, like after a death: anger, grief, envy, despair... She rolled her eyes at herself at the very thought. It was silly of her, she told herself. She was a married woman. This must be happening for a reason, right? Draco was not the man she was supposed to be with. It only took Lily's engagement to make her see it.

She sat at her desk one lunch hour and closed her eyes. If only she actually believed that.

After a moment, she dug around in her desk drawer until she found what she wanted. Closing her eyes again, she squeezed her fist around the key.

"Paris," she whispered.

After a whirling moment, she landed on unsteady feet in the middle of a flat. Their flat, Draco had told her. It was actually rather unremarkable. There were no furnishings, so her shoes echoed on the hardwood floors. It was spacious enough, with a modern kitchen, a nook carved out for a small den off to one side of the living room – oh, her aunt's antique desk would fit nicely there – and certainly enough space under the broad windows for her sofa and maybe a new armchair.

She wandered back to the bedroom, twisting absently at the ring on her finger. Not much closet space, but honestly, Draco probably had more clothes than her. They could miniaturise anything that didn't fit. There was a little terrace with room for a herb garden. Basil. That was what she'd always wanted to grow. She didn't cook enough to use it, but it always smelled so nice. Back in the kitchen, she opened and closed a few cupboards. There should be enough space in the far corner of the counter for a wine rack, and –

Oh God, what was she doing?

She slumped against the kitchen counter, rubbing her eyes. Coming here was a huge mistake. As she looked around one more time, though, she noticed something affixed to the side of the fridge. Stepping closer, she put her hand to her mouth.

It was a photograph of her.

After her initial surprise wore off, she squinted at it, trying to figure out when it was taken. It must have been a couple of years ago – no, more than that, because she was wearing dress robes that hadn't fit her since Hugo was young. They were a deep red, not really her usual style, but she remembered Ginny convincing her to try them on – and then not letting her leave the shop without buying them. It was a Ministry function of some kind, maybe a holiday party. The camera must have been hidden somehow and had caught her unaware, standing by herself with a glass of wine. She nervously sipped it, glancing around, and then turned towards the camera and laughed at something, someone, on the other side of it.

She carefully took the photo off the fridge and held it in her hands, her fingers sliding over the worn edges. It must have been a time when they were between affairs. If Draco had been at that gala, she hadn't spoken to him. She'd probably avoided him rather carefully, in fact. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, falling in dark waves, and the neckline of the robes was more extreme than she usually wore. She watched herself on a loop, sipping the wine and then turning to laugh, not even aware she was being photographed.

She replaced it on the fridge with trembling hands and left.

***


Phase III: Cold Feet

 

After Paris, Hermione did her best to stay clear of Draco. If she let herself dwell on it, she knew she was perfectly capable of falling in love with him, and that was out of the question.

Instead, she made sure they never worked together, and she finally opened herself to a life with Ron – comfortable, reliable Ron, who had already been to hell and back with her. He would make a good husband and father. She was happy with him.

Even though she knew it was a possibility, she wasn't prepared for her reaction when she saw Draco with his family at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters that first year. She'd known Scorpius existed, of course, but she'd never seen him up close or given him much consideration. The sight of Draco with his hand on the shoulder of this trembling little boy, both reassuring him and standing proudly with him as if daring anyone to question the regality of the Malfoys, dammit, made her lose all rational thought.

Distantly, she heard Ron and Harry grumbling around her about the Malfoys, but she couldn't stop staring. He caught her eye at last and returned her gaze for a long moment, his face inscrutable. She only clutched Rose's hand and tried to calm herself down. It wasn't memories of Paris, or even the times before, that were rolling through her mind, though; it was purely conjured thoughts she'd never actually experienced: Draco touching his son's face when he came home from the hospital for the first time, a little bundle wrapped in his arms; Draco kneeling before that little boy and laughing as he took his first steps, gathering him in his arms when he'd made it a few paces and telling him some nonsense about how Malfoy toddlers would win any race against a Gryffindor of the same age and height.

She put her hand over her chest, steadying her breathing as the thoughts washed over her.

Draco buying the child his first broom. His first cauldron. His first wand. What would he actually have told Scorpius about Gryffindors, or any other House? What sort of stories did he read to him at night, lulling the boy to sleep in a room fit for a little king? Did he and his wife ever discuss having more children, a little girl, perhaps, or did Draco want Scorpius to have as much love and attention for himself as Draco had had?

She wondered, and wondered, and wondered until, back at her office that afternoon, she sent him an owl.

She'd held her quill over the parchment for half an hour before sending a blank note. Her initials weren't even on the parchment. But he would know what day it was. He would understand that she didn't know what to say.

An hour later, a blank note came back from him. She laughed, smoothing her fingers over it.

An hour after that, as she was still trying to decide what to do, he stormed through her office door, giving her secretary a rude salute as she tried to stop him. "Legibility, Granger," he snapped. "Or should I say, basic literacy. If you're going to involve my department in your little memorandum club, at least have the fucking decency to turn your chicken scrawl into something I can actually read."

"I'm sorry, Hermione," Jeannette said, hurrying in behind him, but Hermione cut her off, pointing to the door.

"No, it's all right." She stared at Draco for a long moment; with his back to the door, he gave her a sly smile. Her stomach did a slow, steady flip. "Malfoy," she snarled, "how nice of you to finally get off your high horse and visit us down in – what have you called it in the past? – the bleeding heart zone of the Ministry."

He arched a brow. "If you have something to say to me, Granger, you should just say it, not litter my office with useless memos."

"Fine!" she shouted. "I'll just say it!" She fired her wand at the door to slam it closed, satisfied any onlookers would not suspect anything but a classic row between childhood enemies. She cast another spell to simulate muffled shouting to anyone on the other side of the door, and then she came around her desk and stood two feet from Draco. Her gaze softened. "Scorpius is... beautiful," she murmured.

His lips parted. "Oh," he breathed, but he couldn't stop the grin that spread across his face even as he tried to mask it. "Thank you. And... yours too. Merlin, so much hair."

She clucked, pushing him lightly on the shoulder, but he caught her hand, holding it to his chest. She moved closer, the tip of her nose brushing his cheek as she took a deep breath. "I didn't realise it until today, but... I miss you."

"That's not exactly the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."

She laughed, her head falling to his shoulder. "Sorry. That came out wrong."

"No, it didn't."

"Draco–"

"Don't say no. Not yet. Just... meet me. To talk." He tilted her chin up towards him, but she ducked away. God, if she let him kiss her now, she'd have her knickers around her ankles before Jeannette could even get a new pot of coffee on. She was completely helpless when it came to him. The last twelve years melted away as if they'd never existed.

But still, she nodded.

They set a time later that week for the middle of the workday when no one would miss them.


When she arrived at the rented room, Draco was already there, sitting in an armchair drumming his fingers on the side. He looked up as she entered, and they regarded each other for a long moment.

"You look older," he said at last, resting his index finger against his cheek as he appraised her.

She dropped her purse by the door and threw a pillow at him from the bed.

He ducked and laughed. "That's not a bad thing, you mad bint." His gaze was still roving over her, and Hermione felt her face grow hot. She'd had two children since he'd last looked at her like this; she was thicker than before, and she no longer wore fitted jeans and trainers. "So do I," he added, running his hands through his hair. It wasn't grey quite yet, but she could see how it was on the way there; the white-blond of his youth had dulled, and the maturity on his face suited him far better than all that fresh-faced bravado of the Draco she'd grown up with. He unbuttoned the top of his shirt and loosened his tie. Hermione's mouth went dry.

"This was a mistake," she whispered, stumbling in her haste to turn around. She grabbed her purse and hurried back to the door.

"Wait."

"I'm married, Malfoy."

"Oh, it's 'Malfoy' again, is it? And so am I, or have you forgotten?"

"Of course I haven't fucking forgotten," she snapped.

He stared at her, his mouth open as if he'd never heard her say that word before. Maybe he hadn't. "All right," he said quietly. "So it was okay when it was my marriage on the line, but not yours?"

"Yes! Okay?" She rubbed her forehead. "It's different now. I can't." She thought of Rose, fresh off the Hogwarts Express and just trying not to get on the wrong staircase. She thought of Hugo, playing nicely (she hoped) with Molly right that moment while Hermione was here in this bloody hotel room with Draco Malfoy, scrambling for reasons not to sleep with him. She thought of Ron, and –

She squeezed her eyes shut. No. She couldn't think of Ron right now.

"Well, then, don't you just have a high opinion of yourself."

She stared at him, but he just settled back in the chair, stretching his legs out in front of him.

"You seem to be under the impression I invited you here for..." he lowered his voice, scandalised. "... something sexual? Merlin, no." But his eyes were heavy on her and his lips quirked. "What I wanted," he continued, "was to see pictures of those brats of yours. If they're going to be sharing classes with Scorpius, I should know more about them, shouldn't I?"

She stared a moment longer before a hiccough of a laugh bubbled up inside her.

They ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together, sprawled on the hotel room floor surrounded by photos of their children and regaling each other with tales of how Scorpius's first word was brandy, and how Rose used to think Hugo was a Mandrake. Draco stretched out on his side, propping himself up on one elbow as he sifted through the photos. Hermione sat up with her knees tucked under her to one side, leaning on her palm and trying to remind herself of all the reasons she couldn't do this.

"... so I said, 'Well, Mother, if you're going to put the little bastards in the pond and think that child won't know exactly how to get them out, then you've just lost the annual Hinkypunk race to a six-year-old.'" Draco gave a low laugh, rubbing his eyes. "She's never forgiven me for that one."

They fell silent, and Hermione felt Draco's gaze weighing on her.

"Granger," he said softly, that teasing lilt from their eighth year dancing on his tongue.

It would be so easy. She could climb right over him and have him on his back right there on the floor. She could tell he was trying not to push her, but still, he wanted her; that was plain in his expression and the fact that he'd actually suffered through her pile of photos. "Malfoy," she murmured, pressing her lips together as soon as it was out of her mouth.

He looked surprised. "Don't tease."

"I'm not."

He paused. "No. I know."

"I... have to go." She rose to her knees.

"Stay?"

Her heart stumbled, but with every bit of willpower she had, she stood and brushed the lint off her skirt. "I want to, more than anything in the world," she told him truthfully. "But I just can't."

He nodded. "I suppose I should be impressed."

She laughed, short and stilted. "Maybe... another time."

"Another universe?" He glanced away, but he looked sad. Her chest tightened.

"Yeah," she said as she gathered her things and reached for the door. "Something like that."

It would be another five years of thinking about him, of wondering, of trembling at the sight of his name in the papers and dreaming about what his touch used to feel like, before she would cheat on her husband for the first time.

***

"Mum, are you home? Lily and I are coming through!"

Hermione stepped into the living room from the kitchen, her cup of tea at her lips, just in time to see Rose and Lily stumble out of the Floo. Rose had a deep frown on her face and Lily was dabbing her eyes. "Oh, dear," she murmured to them, Summoning the teapot and more cups, as well as a plate of biscuits. "What's happened?" She suspected Albus had worn Lily's favourite scarf to play Quidditch in the rain, or Hugo had tricked her into working his shift at the joke shop; these were the sorts of things that generally set Lily off.

"Her fiancé's an arse," Rose sighed, guiding Lily to the sofa and rubbing her back as they sat down.

Hermione stood stock still for a moment, carefully moistening her lips. "I see." She swallowed. "What's he done?"

"I keep telling you to stop going out with men," said Rose with a sigh, but Lily just gave a loud sob, covering her face with her hands. "Just can't keep their dicks to themselves, can they?"

"Rose." But Hermione's stomach tightened. "Where's your mum, honey?" she added, turning to Lily.

"Don't say anything to her yet," Lily begged, clutching Rose's arm. "I don't want to call the whole wedding off, but I don't know what to do." She sniffled again. Good grief. Hermione was the worst possible person for Lily to talk to about this, but maybe they were right: Ginny would only march over to Malfoy Manor and string every man she found there up by his balls.

"All right." Hermione sat down across from them. "Tell me what happened."

Lily took a deep breath. "He said his dad told him it's all right to be attracted to other women when you're married, and so he should be ready for that, so Scorp told me that I should be ready for that, too, but that he'd try to be a man about it and not cheat on me, but he just didn't know because sometimes you can't help these things. Or something like that. Honestly, I have no idea what he was on about!" She started sobbing again. "Is that what men think, Aunt Hermione?! Do you think he's already found another girl? Oh my God, what should I do?" She put her head down on Rose's shoulder.

Hermione placed her teacup down as calmly as she could, but it still rattled against the table. She had to restrain herself from her first instinct, which was to storm through that Floo and smack Draco right across the face. He'd told Scorpius what? "I think you need to talk to him about this some more," she said carefully. "I don't think it means he already has someone else in mind, but you might as well ask him. If he does, it would be better to know now, don't you think?"

Lily started wailing even more, and Rose shot Hermione a death glare.

"It would." She held firm. "Finding out a month after the wedding – or a year, or even ten – that your husband had always wanted another woman instead of you... It would be much worse than knowing in time to break things off."

"Do you really think that?" Rose asked her.

Hermione tried to keep her tone even. "Yes. I do."

Rose gave her a strange look before dropping her eyes. "Do you... I mean, are you talking about Dad?" she asked quietly. Hermione's throat tightened.

"Oh. No, honey." She reached for Rose's hand. "I'm just talking in hypotheticals. Not your father." A blast of what could only be a Draco-inspired Slytherin sort of mindset washed through her all of a sudden. She could stop this wedding. She could put the idea in Lily's head right now that Scorpius likely was unfaithful, or if he wasn't yet, what he'd told her was clearly a signal that he would be. She could make more tea and offer Lily a box of tissues, and tell her she had to move on and find someone else.

But the look of utter despair on Lily's face right now would never allow Hermione to do such a thing. No, these bloody kids had the real thing. The realisation slammed through her. They weren't young and foolish. This wasn't some accidental, faux relationship based on lust, or a dare, or... whatever else kids these days might get up to. She gazed at Lily, squeezing her hand, and thought of herself at Lily's age – too afraid to go after what she wanted.

Scorpius and Lily weren't going to make that mistake, she realised. She envied them more than she cared to admit.

"Scorpius's father can take some getting used to," she continued carefully. "He's fairly... blunt."

"He sounds like a prick," grumbled Rose.

Hermione found herself gazing out the window, her finger circling the rim of her teacup as her mouth curved into a gentle smile. "He doesn't mean to be," she said at last. Lily's sobs subsided, and she reached for the teapot with one last sniffle.

When Hermione looked back at them, Rose was watching her. "Mum?"

Hermione lifted her cup to her lips, waiting.

"Why don't you tell us about him?"

The words were so quiet, Hermione almost thought she'd misheard. Her heart pounded. "Who?"

Rose gave her a patient smile while Lily, unconcerned, rooted through the plate of biscuits for her favourite kind. "Scorpius's father." She held Hermione's gaze for what felt like forever, before finally lowering her eyes and reaching for a biscuit herself. She cleared her throat. "If he's going to take this much deciphering, we'd better get a head start, right?" She grinned at Lily, who rolled her eyes. "We can't have Lils filing for divorce every time her father-in-law says something asinine."

Hermione laughed, deep and sudden, her hands warm around her teacup. "All right," she said softly, not meeting Rose's eyes. "What do you want to know?"

***

In the end, their final downfall had come back at Hogwarts. Full circle, or something like that, with Hermione clamping down over his fingers in an empty classroom and biting the collar of his shirt to stay quiet.

Bring Your Parent to School Day, as part of careers advice for the sixth-years. Draco didn't know whether to laugh or cry when Scorpius and Rose chose not to invite their other parents, dammit, and he and Hermione found themselves sitting amidst the cramped desks trying to make Ministry drudge work sound exciting.

He'd been perfectly willing to proposition her – again – but this time, it was all her. He heard her tell Rose she was going to look around the grounds a bit, for old times' sake, and she'd meet her back in the Great Hall for dinner. Then she'd slowed her pace as she walked away, glancing back over her shoulder at Draco with her lips pressed together.

Merlin, that was the thing that always got him. Her moral compass could run circles around his, and so getting Hermione Granger to do something wrong was always something of a thrill. A wave of heat crashed through his body without warning at that look on her face. Ten minutes later, after finding a similar excuse for Scorpius, Draco found her in the same classroom where they used to fuck when they were teenagers, stupid and desperate and with no clue what they were doing.

She held her hand up as soon as he'd slipped inside and put up as many shielding charms as he could think of. "Don't make me talk about it," she said, "and don't make me even think too hard about it, or I won't be able to do it."

He leaned against the wall, his arms folded over his chest, and appraised her with amusement. "I don't see a wand to your head."

"You know what I mean." She glanced back at the door. "And take the Impervious off. It's too obvious."

"No, it isn't."

"McGonagall will sense it in a heartbeat!"

Draco rolled his eyes, but waved his wand again anyway, the door rippling to shed one layer of charms. "Happy?"

She gave him a tiny smile. "What else would you do, if I insisted I was right about it?"

"Why don't you come over here and find out?" He began unbuttoning his shirt, but he didn't move. This was all up to her.

She walked towards him slowly, unbuttoning her blouse until the swell of her breasts was visible. She gave him a slow smile when his gaze dropped to them. His fingers slid over the edge of her bra, just a light touch that had his cock aching, but she grasped his hand, her fingers tight around his wrist. Watching him carefully, she moved her legs apart, brought his hand down and guided his fingers under her skirt.

His lips parted and he had to bite down over a hundred sly comments on the tip of his tongue.

Don't make me talk about it.

She pushed his fingers past the seam of her knickers until they came back soaked, moving through her wetness with an instantly rigorous pace. Her other fist bunched in the front of his shirt, and she gasped like – Merlin, like she'd been starving for this for years.

He decided he was allowed to think that she had been.

"I can't explain it," she whimpered into his shoulder, "but as soon as I bloody saw you today, I..."

He groaned, imagining her sitting in that classroom earlier getting wet just from sneaking glances at him. It had been too long since he'd felt this, that searing heat that only she could ever make him feel. He pushed his fingers inside her as she moaned, moving quickly in a rhythm over her clit and then back inside, briefly, then over her again.

"Draco."

His name on her lips lit him up as it always did. He wrapped his other arm around her and held her tight, working her on his hand until he could feel her trembling in his arms. When she came, she held onto him as if for dear life.

"Sorry," she gasped. "Sorry. Here, let me–"

But he batted her hand away, lowering his zip himself and fisting his prick. Her lips parted as she watched him.

"Here." She lifted one of her legs to the wall behind him, trying to find a decent position.

"No," he breathed, his other hand buried in her hair and cupping the back of her neck. "Just... I'll fucking sprain something."

She laughed, clinging to him, and he bent to kiss her, both of them gasping into each other's mouth. Her bare stomach pressed up against him where her shirt hung open, every pump of his cock nudging her, and hot, dirty thoughts crowded his mind of covering her with come, ruining her for any other man – especially her husband.

Furious at the very thought, he increased his pace, pressing his tongue against hers and groaning as she slid her hands over his chest, her fingernails catching on his nipples. "Fuck," he breathed, his cock jerking in his hand. He pushed it against her, riding out his fantasy and groaning again when she didn't pull away. She only lowered her head and watched, oh, Merlin, as he came against her stomach, dripping down over the front of her skirt.

She kissed him again, slower, a dirty little smile on her lips as she met his tongue again in a slow slide. "Oh, to be a teenager again," she murmured, and he grinned.

"Hand jobs in empty classrooms, Granger, really?"

She laughed, still clinging to him. Her forehead rested on his shoulder, and he felt her grin fade. "Saturday mornings," she said quietly. "Ron plays Quidditch with Harry and Ginny."

Draco held his breath. Surely she wasn't suggesting...

"I usually go into the office while it's quiet to get some work done."

He pulled back a fraction, tilting her chin up to look at him. "Sorry, I'm all booked up for another five or ten years." He had to make light of it. The alternative – actually acknowledging the step she was prepared to take – was too much.

She punched him in the arm. "You're a nightmare," she muttered.

He nodded. "Mm. You already knew that."

"I did."

"And you don't care?"

She hesitated, holding his gaze, and then shook her head. "I don't think I can wait another five or ten years," she murmured. Her lips slid over his throat, wisps of breath warming him. She worked her way up his jaw to his mouth and kissed him, tugging his bottom lip between her teeth. "You're the one with more practice at this than me for once, though," she sighed, "so you have to tell me if I'm ever about to go home with my skirt on backwards, or what not."

He stared at her. She meant affairs, he realised. He was the one with more practice cheating on his spouse, she thought. He didn't correct her. "All right. Saturday morning."

"Yes, but don't call it Saturday. Let's call it... Thursday."

Merlin, she looked fit to make a chart. His chest ached to look at her. "Thursday."

"Right. I'll– here, I'll write it down for you."

"I can remember."

"I–" She closed her mouth and sighed. "It's never worth it, is it? For people who do this."

He paused, his fingers light against her cheek. "That depends."

She didn't press the issue, nodding instead and casting a cleaning charm on herself. "Yes," she murmured as she slipped past him to the door. She gave him one more lingering look, her eyes on his mouth. She bit her lower lip and closed her eyes for a brief moment, taking a breath. "I suppose it does."

***


Board meeting. Tues. 4pm. If those reports aren't finished by then, Granger, you're fired.

Hermione set the memo on her desk, taking a deep breath. It had been their code for years now. The phrase 'board meeting' had to be in there somewhere, although usually it was adorned with something else as well. To use it on its own meant Draco was either in a rush or that this was really important. Hermione suspected both. Tuesday meant Wednesday, and 4pm meant 10am. She ran her index finger over the last line. That was new. Draco's own flourish, it seemed. She smiled, her hand on her chest, as she heard his clipped voice saying something like that to her right before slamming her office door and pressing her down over her desk.

No.

She closed her eyes for a moment to clear her head and reclaim her resolve. It had to end. There was no more debating it.

There was a doodle of a key at the bottom of the parchment, so Hermione bypassed their usual hotel room and went to the new flat. When she arrived, she let herself take a moment again to appreciate it before trying to shelve all the furniture plans she'd made. Draco didn't need to know about that. He was in the kitchen, opening a bottle of wine. He looked up as she entered, his expression unreadable. Well. He rarely smiled at her in greeting, but he was never cold like this, either. She cautiously approached him.

He held his distance by offering her a glass of wine. She shook her head. "It's ten a.m." She gave him a little smile, but he only rolled his eyes and knocked his back like it was scotch. When he finished, he stared down at the kitchen counter as if debating what to say to her. When he raised his head again, his eyes were sad.

"So," he said briskly. "How are you?"

"Miserable, you idiot. How do you think I am?" She dropped her purse on the counter and shrugged her cloak off, throwing it over the windowsill. "Sorry." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "I mean, fine, thank you. How are you?"

When she looked up at him, he was giving her a little grin. "Attitude, Granger," he murmured, as if they were still those eighteen-year-olds who fought like dogs and then kissed and made up in the library stacks every week.

She reached for him, smoothing her hands up his chest and backing him against the kitchen counter. She let her head fall to his shoulder as she breathed him in. "I can't do this," she whispered.

"Then we won't." He rubbed her back.

"We have to," she moaned, pushing back from him again. "Besides, are you actually going around telling your son that it's perfectly normal to be attracted to other women over the course of his marriage?"

His mouth fell open, but then he closed his eyes, grimacing. "He told her I said that?"

"Yes, and then Lily and Rose came to me about it."

"What did you tell them?"

Hermione threw her hands up. "I told them you're not actually as much of an arse as that makes you sound like, and no, you don't hate Lily, and no, you weren't trying to split them up." She glared at him. "You don't actually think that, do you?"

He blinked. "Of course I actually think it. You don't?"

"No, it's not normal!" she cried. "You're supposed to be in love with your wife!"

"I didn't say it's normal to be in love with other women, just to be attracted to them," he said through gritted teeth, but Hermione rolled her eyes. "And I have not actually seen you complaining about this fact over the past five years."

She stepped forward. "And who would I complain to?" she shot back. "Oh yes, you and your women. It's just so natural to–"

"That's not what I'm saying!" he shouted.

"Look, it doesn't matter." She rubbed her eyes. "We have to end this anyway, so..." She squared her shoulders. "Goodbye, Malfoy."

He stared at her, his hands curling into fists over the kitchen counter. "Don't you dare," he whispered. "Don't you dare call me that, and walk out of here like that."

"Why are you still pretending this can work? We've been sneaking around for years now, not even caring who we hurt–" she put her hand to her chest, struggling against the emotion slamming through her – "but now it's these kids at stake. How could we ever explain ourselves to them?" She raised her eyes to the ceiling. "Draco, we can't."

"Don't tell me you can walk away from me that easily. I know you better than that."

"No, you don't," she said coldly, but she was fighting back tears. "And don't tell me that you actually think we can keep fucking after this."

Draco took a step back, as if physically recoiling from her. He looked stricken. "Fucking," he said lightly. "I see."

Hermione sighed. "That's not what I–"

"No, no." He held up a hand, his tone nasty. "I'd like to be a witness to this – the moment Hermione Granger admits she put her marriage, her family, everything she cares about, on the line... just for a fuck."

Her head swam. "Don't twist my words."

"I can fuck anyone I want," he snarled, "at any time. I don't need to fuck the same woman every time I see her over twenty years–" he pointed his finger at her to emphasise the words – "especially if she's not even my wife."

"What do you want me to say?" she cried, throwing her hands up.

"I want you to admit you can't walk away from me." He held her gaze, his eyes blazing.

"Oh, what do you care?" she spat, feeling vicious. "Go find someone new to fill my shoes. Might as well go with someone younger and with perkier breasts while you're at it. I refuse to believe the end of an affair is actually such a hardship for you. I already knew I wasn't the first woman to catch your eye."

She was shocked by his reaction. His face shifted and he stood stock still for a long, horrible moment. Then he strode across the kitchen to her and cupped her face. He looked at her with dark eyes, his thumbs anchoring her cheeks. Then he kissed her breathless. He was frantic and furious about it, controlling the kiss completely and sending shivers down her spine. She clung to him despite herself, overwhelmed. When he broke off at last, he continued to hold her face in his hands, her hair spilling over his fingers. He touched his forehead to hers, breathing hard. "There's never been anyone but you," he whispered fiercely. "Never. Not before, not now, and not in the future."

He stood there a moment longer, breathing her in but not kissing her again. When he stepped back, he wiped one hand over his face, pausing to touch his fingers over his mouth, and then he strode to the front door. He flung it open and left.

Hermione reached for the counter to steady herself, her chest tight and her hands trembling.

***

A few days later, Hermione popped in for coffee with Ginny on her way to work. Her own family had become a source of stress and tension for her, something she regretted more than anything else about this whole mess. She could hardly look Harry and Ginny in the eye; Rose kept giving her covert looks when she thought Hermione wasn't looking; even Lily's bubbly excitement only saddened her; and every time she saw or spoke to her own husband – not to mention every time he touched her – her stomach tied itself up in knots.

"Did Lily tell you the latest?" Ginny said, amusement on her face as she sipped her coffee.

Hermione tried to hide her sigh. "No."

Ginny leaned forward. "Malfoy bought them a flat." She laughed, throwing her head back. "Harry's beside himself, trying to think of ways to out-do that one. Leave it to fucking Malfoy," she muttered, still grinning. "Scorpius's place was nice enough, I thought, but he said his dad thought it was too small for them."

Hermione gripped her mug. "Where is it?" she managed.

When Ginny told her, she took a deep, shuddering breath. "That's... wow." Her heart broke, even as she tried to keep her voice steady. "I can't believe it."

"I know, right?" Ginny pounded her fist on the table, but she was still laughing. "Bloody Malfoy! Honestly, Hermione, I don't know how we're going to make it, being in-laws with him. What's he trying to prove? We might not flash it around like he does, but we have money too! He doesn't have to buy the kids an entire flat just to compete with Harry."

Hermione was staring into her mug, her head swimming. "That's not why he did it," she muttered to herself.

"Hm?" Ginny was across the kitchen, rooting in the fridge for more milk.

"Oh. Nothing." Hermione swirled her cold coffee, gazing down at the table.

***


Phase IV: The Big Day

 

He certainly hadn't intended to let it get to him so much, but when his son's wedding day finally arrived, Draco found himself rather emotional.

Both the ceremony and reception were held at the Manor, one under a charmed sky outside on the lawn, the other in the main ballroom. He had to admit that Astoria, Ginny and Lily had planned it all competently. He merely had to show up, shake Potter's hand, and wait with his wretched new in-laws for the bride to appear.

He couldn't help but feel relief on Scorpius's behalf that this wedding was a much more subdued affair than Draco's own had been. Merlin, his mother had brought in tailors from France to fit his and Astoria's robes, and the bonding magic had been performed by a trio of hunched, albino wizards from a cave in the Highlands or somewhere, who must have been a thousand years old between them. His father had insisted they were the best of the best, though, and so Draco and Astoria had only exchanged bewildered looks as they crossed their hands together and tried not to touch the old buggers.

Scorpius and Lily had asked Potter to do the honours, and even Draco had to admit it was probably a wise choice. That idiot's magic could run circles around any Ministry drone, anyway.

He watched his son take Lily's hands in his, his gaze locked on her. They both wore white, their fresh faces and light-coloured hair making them look far too young and angelic. But Draco couldn't help but give Scorpius a proud smile when he caught his eye. They looked so happy.

Astoria slipped away from Draco's side as soon as it was polite, heading back to the house to direct the elves for the coming feast. He didn't try to stop her.

He hadn't looked at Hermione once the entire afternoon, or so he thought, yet still he knew she was wearing immaculate bronze robes with a dark, roped sash at her hips, that half of her mane of hair was pinned back but her curls still spilled down her back, and that she'd twisted her wedding ring with the fingers of her opposite hand while she watched Scorpius and Lily take their vows.

As he headed back to the house after shaking enough hands and kissing enough cheeks to last a lifetime, Draco swept his thumb over his own ring finger, jolted for a moment when he remembered that it was now bare.

***

Hermione excused herself, wandering down one of the elegant corridors that veered off from the ballroom. Photographs of Malfoys and Blacks lined the walls, each of them with their chins raised, judging eyes staring down at her. She tried to steady her breathing, telling herself that today was for Lily and Scorpius, that she could do this, that it was a matter of her family's happiness that she put her own aside.

That thought didn't help, though. She paused, leaning against the wall for a moment with her hand folded in a fist over her mouth. Well. She would simply have to find her happiness elsewhere – like focusing on getting Rose and Athena to move back to England soon, or making a project of finding out who on earth was ever going to hire Hugo with those grades of his.

"Well, it's unusual, but not completely impossible. You'd have to take the qualifying exams again, though."

That was Harry.

"Oh, I know. It's been far too long for the results to stand. Who should I talk to?"

Hermione froze, backing herself against the wall as Astoria's voice floated from around the corner.

"Me, I guess." Harry laughed. "And Kingsley. I can set something up. How soon did you want to do it?"

"As soon as possible," said Astoria quietly. "I need a distraction, something new."

"I've heard of the mid-life crisis," Harry said, "but joining the Aurors isn't really a common way to go about it."

"It's not my mid-life crisis," she said with a sigh. Hermione's chest tightened.

"Yeah. Sorry. So..." Harry cleared his throat. "Is Draco... sure? His timing's a bit–"

"Absolutely terrible?" She sighed again. "He told me last week, but I can't say it was a surprise. As soon as the wedding's over and the kids are back from the honeymoon, he's going to tell Scorpius he's leaving me."

"I'm really sorry. Ginny and I had no idea."

"Well." She paused. "Let's just say it was a long time coming. It doesn't run in the family, though, so don't worry," she said wryly. "Scorpius and Lily are actually marrying for love. Imagine that."

"Oh. No. I'd never think Scorpius would–"

"I know, Harry."

They fell silent for a few moments. "Well, why don't you come by the Ministry on Friday?" he said at last. "We can start the paperwork."

Their footsteps approached around the corner, and Hermione finally broke out of her frozen state and hurried back down the hall. Her mind reeled. She nearly stumbled over the hem of her robes as she emerged into the main room again, still bustling with guests plucking hors d'oeuvres and glasses of wine from passing trays.

"Whoa!"

A warm hand wrapped around her arm to catch her, and she looked up to see Rose giving her a curious look.

"All right, Mum?"

She could hardly speak. She only clutched Rose's hands, taking deep breaths, and nodded. "Come here," she murmured, pulling Rose into a hug and trying to calm her racing heart.

"What is it?" whispered Rose, concerned.

She pulled back. "Just emotional. It's a big day." She laughed before she could stop herself, covering her mouth.

Over Rose's shoulder, she caught sight of Draco. He was watching her from behind his champagne flute, surveying the room with his other hand in his pocket and an aura of calm authority radiating from him. Her heart started to pound. He was leaving his wife. Hermione had no idea what to do next, but she couldn't stop staring at him.

He held her gaze, then finally lifted his glass a little bit, nodding at her with a sad smile.

Only belatedly did Hermione realise Rose had followed her eyes. She looked back at Rose helplessly. "I–"

"I'd better go find Athena," Rose interrupted, squeezing Hermione's hand. "Last I saw her, James was challenging her to a shot contest. He'll be under the table by now." She gave Hermione a mischievous smile. "You should be polite and go say hello to the host."

"Oh. No. It's not... Rose..."

But she melted back into the crowd, leaving Hermione alone at the side of the room. This was madness. She desperately wanted to talk to Draco, to ask him if it was real, but she couldn't do that here without losing herself completely and doing something horrifying like launching herself into his arms in front of all these people. Avoiding his gaze, she hurried out of the hall again, wandering until she found a staircase that led down to the kitchens.

"No, no, pretend I'm not here," she said to the house-elves who immediately swarmed her, offering her everything from a leg of roast chicken to an entire chocolate cake. At the order, they disappeared just as quickly as they'd come, returning to their stations behind the counters and continuing their work.

"I do pay them, you know."

Hermione closed her eyes, not turning around.

"They've even got a union, of sorts. It's that little one, Pinky, who's their ringleader. You'd never know it to look at her, but she's a fierce negotiator."

Hermione gave a soft laugh, even as her eyes welled up.

Draco touched her shoulder, and she leaned into him automatically.

"Why were you looking at me up there like the world's ending?" he asked softly, his mouth close to her ear.

"I heard Astoria talking to Harry," she murmured.

He pulled back a bit, and she finally turned to him. His face was neutral, but he was watching her carefully.

"She's joining the Aurors again," Hermione added. "Should you be worried?"

His mouth curved, and he seemed to release a breath he'd been holding. "Probably."

She flattened her palms against his chest, moving them slowly up to his shoulders and back down as she tried to collect her thoughts. "She didn't seem angry, though. Just... resigned."

He touched her face, his fingers skimming down the side of her cheek before curling around the back of her neck, but he didn't try to pull her closer. He just let them stay there as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "It was shockingly painless, actually. If I'd known she wasn't going to throw the crystal at me, I might have done this years ago."

Hermione lowered her eyes, overcome.

"She agreed, in fact. Scorpius is grown, obviously. He won't care, not really. And she should find someone who will..." he sighed. "Treat her better."

His heart beat strongly under her hands, and Hermione felt herself drawn to him even more than ever before. He was free, or nearly so. "Did you tell her about... me?"

Draco tilted her chin up. "Not yet." He paused. "Is there anything to tell?"

Hermione made a noise in the back of her throat as she surged forward, capturing his mouth. Her hands slid up his chest until her fingers were digging into the back of his head, her thumbs tight across his jaw. She pressed her chest against his and melted into him, relief crashing over her. He caught her, wrapping her in his arms to steady her as he deepened the kiss. She pulled back briefly, his lower lip still caught between hers, and rested her forehead against his. "You gave away our flat," she said, panting.

He laughed, but it turned into a groan. "Well. You pissed me off."

"You have a temper."

"This is hardly news to you."

She jabbed her index finger into his chest. "You gave away our flat!"

"You accused me of sleeping with other women!"

Her mouth opened, and she stared at him. "I..." She touched his face. "You really haven't?"

He growled at her, walking her backwards until they hit a wall and pressing his body against hers. "Why," he muttered, his mouth moving over her neck, "would I ever want anyone but you?" He took control of her, and Hermione immediately recognised his possessive mood. Oh, God. They couldn't do this here, not with the reception going on just upstairs, but Draco was already touching her breasts and biting at her earlobe, and sensation flooded her.

"Not here," she breathed, but she arched her neck to give him more access. He was unbuttoning her robes and pushing his hands inside, her satin camisole light under his fingers. "Oh. God, Draco."

He lifted himself off her for a moment, but his thumbnail still slid slowly over her nipple. He was watching her reaction carefully, his dark eyes fixed on her. "Say no," he challenged.

God. She was wet in seconds, her body thrumming. She shifted her legs apart without even realising it. "The house-elves," she said weakly, bunching her fist in his robes and tearing at his buttons.

With an exasperated groan, he turned and barked at them to stay away and not let anyone in, then he walked her backwards into the spacious pantry and shut the door. Soft light filtered in from a high window, and the place smelled like cinnamon. "Happy?"

Her robes fell to the floor and she kicked her shoes off, leaving her in her camisole and knickers. He stood back and gazed at her, the hungry look on his face nearly undoing her right there. She leaned back against a table with a rough wooden surface for chopping, watching as he tore his own robes off and started in on his immaculately pressed shirt and trousers. She always loved watching how such a carefully put together man could wrinkle his clothes and become completely dishevelled with her.

He paused with his shirt unbuttoned and framing his chest, as she reached out to touch him. Her fingers slid up his stomach and chest, and he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.

"Come here," she whispered.

He stepped towards her and she put her mouth against his shoulder, her hands grasping the edges of his shirt and peeling it down over his upper arms. She trapped his arms behind his back like that as she bit at his shoulder and up his throat, her breasts pressed against his chest. "Nice trick," he breathed, "but how long can you stand not being touched?"

"Not long," she admitted, grinning as she tugged his shirt the rest of the way off and let him throw it to the floor. He pressed her back against the table and devoured her, his mouth hot against hers and his hands roaming over her body. His fingers skimmed along the edge of her knickers, nudging her thighs apart and caressing the soft skin there. She shuddered in his arms, gasping for breath. No one had ever made her feel the way Draco did, not just physically but in her heart. He was completely maddening but also so fiercely devoted to her, it made her head swim.


She felt safe with him, she realised. And completely adored.

"Touch me," she whispered, covering his moan with another kiss as his fingers slipped under the seam of her knickers. She was soaked already, and his light touch drove her mad. "Please. Come on."

"Bossy," he murmured, but he obeyed, pressing two fingers slowly inside her while his other arm wrapped around her waist to hold her up. She clutched at his shoulders, whimpering, as sensation washed through her. He moved his hand so slowly she could have cried, pressing deep and working her over until she was shaking. He withdrew every few strokes to slide over her clit, a new jolt roaring through her, before pushing inside again. Her legs trembled and she could feel her fingernails digging into his bicep. "Not so fast," he murmured, his tongue light against hers. "I'm going to fuck you blind before you're allowed to come."

She collapsed against him, clenching over his fingers as her orgasm shot through her just at those words. "Oh. Oh. God, sorry, I–" She gasped for breath as his fingers kept moving, absorbing her convulsions as he laughed softly into her neck.

"Oh, you liked that, did you?" he growled. "What else can I say to you, Granger? That I'm nowhere near done with you, that I'm going to hold you down right over this table and come all over you? Make you mine," he added, kissing her fiercely.

In an instant, she turned in his arms and leaned over the table, stretching her arms out in front of her and glancing back over her shoulder at him. Her knickers still hugged her arse, soaked between her legs.

"Good girl," he murmured, stepping up behind her. "You want to leave these on?" His fingers slid under the elastic again, snapping it against her hip.

She propped herself up on her elbows, looking back at him with her bottom lip under her teeth. "Why don't you rip them off me?" She narrowed her eyes, and he gave a delighted little laugh.

He must have used some magic to help, but it felt like he'd just tugged at the seam and her knickers came away in his hand. He grinned at her as he threw them aside, already smoothing his hands over her arse. Her cunt was still rippling, her stomach clenched and her body dripping wet for him. She spread her legs as he unfastened his zip, pushing his trousers down his hips. His cock nudged at her a moment later, and Hermione lost herself to sensation.

His hand smoothed up her back, the camisole fluttering against her skin, as he guided his cock between her legs. He held himself outside of her, though, pressing the head of his cock gently through her wetness and over her clit. She moaned, reaching one arm around to pull him closer. "Draco," she whispered.

"What do you want, baby?" His mouth was hot at her ear as he leaned over her.

She turned her head to the side. "Make you mine," she murmured, grinning, and he bit at her earlobe.

"Yeah?"

"Mm." She nodded, curling her fingers around the opposite edge of the table. The rough wood scratched at her nipples through the camisole, sending sparks through her. She felt him begin to enter her, pushing slowly inside at a steady pace until she was filled with him. Then he stilled, draped over her back and kissing the shell of her ear.

"You want to get fucked?" he murmured, the harsh words a sharp contrast to the slow, sensual movements of his body as he began to slide out again.

She shuddered, grasping at the table.

"I think I'm going to need you to say it." He pressed back in, still agonisingly slow, every inch of him aching inside her.

"Draco," she protested with a moan.

He held himself still. "Say it, Hermione." His voice was low. She hid a smile, knowing how much he loved feeling like he was debauching her. Even after all this time, she was still that prim girl at school who had to abide by all the rules.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder, her heart clenching a bit to see how flushed he was, his hair messed up from her hands in it, his lips full and pink, and his gaze rooted to her body where his cock was piercing her. "Fuck me," she whispered, the words crisp and clear.

His eyes shot to her face, and he gave her a tiny, mischievous grin. On the next stroke, he slammed inside her, his fingers tight around her hips as the breath whooshed from her lungs. She clung to the edge of the table and turned her cheek to the side, letting him ride her as hard as he could. He thrust into her deeply, establishing a rough rhythm as he groaned behind her. His cock was so thick inside her, ramming into her with fierce, possessive strokes.


She gasped at the sensation of being taken so thoroughly, as if he really was trying to make sure she was his. Her body trembled. He wrapped his arms around her waist, his fingers brushing over her breasts as he lifted her up a bit, his breath hot over her shoulder blades.

"Hermione," he gasped, still thrusting deeply. His rhythm began to falter.

"Harder," she murmured. "It's okay."

He pistoned his hips, grinding against her. She could feel his heart hammering against her back, and she moved her hips to keep him going, encouraging every stroke. Her body was a mess of sensation. Still sensitive from her orgasm, she felt deliciously full and used, overcome by the warmth of his body and the strength of his reactions to her.

He was leaving his wife. It was already done. They could have this, if only Hermione found the courage. Buoyed by that thought, she moaned against the table, pushing back against him as he stilled, gripping her hips to hold her in place. "Please," she murmured. "Come on."

He gasped his release against her back, his teeth pressing into her shoulder as his cock pulsed. She clenched around him just to hear him shudder like that again, and he clung to her, one hand moving up to smooth over her hair while the other slid around her stomach. Wetness flooded her, and she could feel the last jolts of his orgasm deep inside her. His heart beat wildly as he bent to kiss her over her shoulder.

He slipped out of her with the movement, cursing under his breath. She felt a trickle of come follow him out, and she shivered at the sensation. As if reading her mind, he turned her in his arms and dipped his hand down between her legs again, gently moving through the wetness. "I don't... oh... think I can come again," she protested, feeling swollen and sensitive.

He didn't move away. "You like this, though," he murmured against her mouth. "When I make you dirty."

She moaned, deepening the kiss.

Draco's fingers slowed to a gentle touch, cupping her and playing lightly between her legs as the kiss also slowed. He finally pulled his hand away but wrapped her in his arms, and Hermione felt a surge of emotion at his protectiveness.

"What now?" she whispered.

"Now..." He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "...we go back up there and celebrate a marriage just beginning." His eyes were sad, but he forced a small smile.

Something in his words and that look on his face broke through Hermione's muddled thoughts. The clarity of it surprised her, and her lips parted as she gazed at him. "One that's actually meant to be," she added, touching his cheek.

"Mm." He was silent for a moment before sighing. "I hope so, at least. Potter stuck me with the bill for those fucking flowers. They cost a fortune."

She laughed, resting her head on his shoulder.

***

Back upstairs, Draco surreptitiously checked that his clothes were on straight for the ninth time, drank as much as he dared, and politely danced with all manner of ginger-haired women. He stood with Astoria when necessary, thanking their guests and giving each other tight-lipped smiles, directed the house-elves when needed, and quietly asked Scorpius to get James Potter's head out of the plant he was slumped next to, talking to it like it was his date.

He avoided Hermione as much as he could. He could still feel her skin on his, and his fingertips burned with the memory of touching her. There was no sense getting his hopes up, though. She hadn't given him any reason to believe she'd changed her mind, even though she'd... No. He had made his decision for himself. If Hermione couldn't leave her husband, Draco told himself it didn't matter. He knew how he felt, and he couldn't lie to Astoria anymore.

Near the end of the evening, however, after the newlyweds had already left, Draco stood against a far wall, enjoying a moment of peace. He turned at the sound of Hermione's voice, but when he saw her with Weasley a few paces away, he quickly turned away again.

"Are you all right, Hermione?" Weasley was saying to her, concern in his voice. "You look really pale."

When she didn't answer right away, Draco chanced a sideways glance at them. She didn't meet his eyes, but she had to know he was there.

"I... no. Actually, I'm not." She took a deep breath, taking his hand in both of hers. "Ron, when we get home... we need to talk."

Draco closed his eyes, his throat tight. He let the last swells of the ballroom's violins wash through him, glasses clinking around him as the remaining guests concluded their stories with tinkly laughs, remarked about what a lovely wedding it had been, and made their way to the Floo. Around him the celebrations faded away, but life was just beginning.


-fin-