The passage had been hardly more than a footnote, really, a small addendum at the bottom of a rather lengthy page of parchment that was easily twenty centuries old, brittle, and in imminent danger of disintegration. Not surprising that Hermione Granger's predecessors had followed generations of established precedent by keeping this delicate volume in the least accessible part of the Restricted Section of the library. Doubtful that over the centuries, very many eyes other than hers had even found the notation so carefully set down in a tiny, archaic hand. And that, Hermione realised, was probably a very good thing as well. There was clearly far more at stake than just the preservation of a very valuable, old document. There was the passage itself and the incantation to which it alluded, and what the spell could potentially mean for anyone sufficiently curious or adventurous – or perhaps foolhardy enough – to risk trying it.
The Ministry’s research library was a musty affair, a high-ceilinged, cavernous room that held all the most critical texts that the wizarding world had produced in the last thousand years and more. The collection was astounding – daunting, even. The sheer size of it alone was enough to put off all but the most intrepid of candidates for the post of Chief Librarian. The whole thing had devolved into a complete nightmare, in fact, enough to have sent Hermione's immediate predecessor running for the hills after only one rather chaotic year on the job.
The post had remained vacant for six months, during which time temporary hires had taken over, but it was really more for basic maintenance and to keep the entire system from becoming even more hopelessly snarled. But the Ministry had required far more than basic maintenance. There were many highly valuable old texts that desperately needed preserving; apart from that, proper organisation and genuine efficiency were critically lacking, and what was really needed, everybody agreed, was someone who loved books more than anything and would dedicate him/herself to the post with the selfless devotion and ardour of a lover.
The choice of Hermione Granger had been, to say the least, a no-brainer. She had jumped at the position when the offer came her way at the age of twenty-five. That had been eighteen months ago. In that time, she had found herself drawn ever more deeply into the work of cataloguing the many new acquisitions that seemed to arrive weekly, as well as revamping the existing collection. She’d been especially keen to take on the challenge of modernising the hopeless jumble that was the old cataloguing system.
In her capable hands, the library had slowly begun to shed its sluggish, hidebound old skin, gradually emerging as a modern, well-organised and well-oiled branch of the Ministry. It was a job Hermione adored, but it was threatening to swallow her whole. This realisation was slowly dawning on her as, night after night, she locked the doors, pocketed the large, brass key, and went home alone to an empty flat.
It had been a very long day. Earlier, she’d brought several really hefty tomes back to her private office. For the past eighteen months, she’d been systematically working her way through all the volumes in the collection beginning with the oldest ones, combing through each one with great care in order to find pages where there was serious damage and refurbishing those that needed it. These were next on the list and she’d begun going through them. It was painstaking work and very slow going. By six in the evening, she was on the verge of deciding to call it a day. There was a painful crick in her neck and her eyes were beginning to blur with exhaustion. And yet, she felt torn. She'd discovered so much fascinating stuff in these very old books. They were hard to put down.
Slowly, eyes drifting shut, she rotated her head from side to side, her neck bones cracking pleasurably. Then she sighed, leaning back in her swivel chair and stretching luxuriantly, her eyes still blissfully closed.
“Tsk... Do my eyes deceive? Sleeping on the job? What’s the matter, Granger? Does this mean you’re actually human like the rest of us? Where’s that slavish dedication to duty of yours?”
Hermione opened her eyes a crack, grimacing when she saw who was slouched languidly against her doorframe. Then she gave her visitor a glacial little smile. “Oh, it’s still there, I assure you. Which is more than I can possibly say for you, Malfoy. From what I hear, Mysteries is lucky if they can pin you down to your desk for more than five minutes at a time, much less get any real work out of you.”
Draco Malfoy raised his shoulders in a slight shrug. “You wound me, Granger. Truly you do. Can I help it if I’m simply far more efficient than the idiots I work with? Which you would see for yourself if you ever agreed to my requests for a transfer.”
Hermione let out a particularly unladylike snort, at which Draco’s brows rose in momentary amusement before he hastily pulled a straight face once again.
“Dream on, Malfoy. There’s no way I’d approve you transferring to my department. The stacks are tempting for a variety of activities, I do realise, but we actually work here in the library. Something I seriously doubt you’re capable of, at least not in any way that would meet my expectations. Go away, please. I’m busy.”
She closed her eyes again quite deliberately and waited for the sound of footsteps fading down the hall. When silence persisted, she opened one eye in a narrow slit and held her breath. Draco was still there, gazing at her in an oddly circumspect manner. Then he turned on his heel and disappeared into the library proper. A moment later, the heavy outer doors leading from the library to the outer corridor closed with a resounding bang, and she knew that he was gone.
Good. Peace and quiet restored. Just a moment more of shut-eye and then back to the task at hand. It was only – Hermione glanced at her watch – half six. Not that it mattered, really. Her time was completely her own, and if she chose to spend it working past closing time, that was her business. And anyway, it wasn’t as if she had anybody waiting for her. Even Crookshanks was gone now.
It was settled, then. She’d order in some takeaway by Floo from that new place in Diagon Alley and spend the evening perusing another of the texts that now waited on her desk. Pulling the largest, oldest volume from the pile, she opened it to the first page.
Three hours later
It was right there in front of her, in black and white. Or more accurately, dark, somewhat blotchy grey on parchment that had faded to aged yellow.
For the first moment or two, all Hermione could do was stare, transfixed, as she attempted to grasp the significance of what she was seeing. The ink was faded, to be sure, smeared into an almost indecipherable blur in spots. But enough of it was still sufficiently legible for her to make out the symbols. The magic was thousands of years old, from what Hermione could tell. Something akin to the earliest Runic inscriptions, but different too. Automatically, her trained researcher’s mind began an attempt to make sense of it. This incantation clearly predated anything she’d ever come across before. It went back at least two thousand years, and, she guessed, had very likely been used by tribal shamans.
But for what purpose?
Intense curiosity ignited an electric thrill that left her grinning with excitement and eager to begin deciphering the mysterious symbols. Tonight was as good a time as any. Suddenly, her stomach let out a loud and very insistent growl. Utterly engrossed in her reading, she'd completely forgotten about dinner, despite her intentions to the contrary. Walking briskly to the small hearth in her office, she grabbed a handful of Floo powder. Takeaway Chinese would do nicely, and that new place in Diagon Alley had the most divine cold sesame noodles.
Nourishment would be an absolute necessity. It was likely to be a long night.
Five weeks of intense research squeezed into breaks and spilling over into frequent after-hours sessions with the requisite takeaway meals were the price Hermione paid to satiate her burning curiosity. If she’d had her way, all other projects would have been swept aside, but her conscience stepped in, wagging its finger at her disapprovingly and reminding her of the many other responsibilities she had. As it was, she managed to devote a sizeable portion of her work time to the translation, but it was never enough, and something had to give. Generally, it was whatever life she had outside the office.
Eventually, her secretary began to notice the preponderance of empty cardboard cartons, napkins, and chopsticks that Hermione had no longer bothered to Vanish. They’d begun piling up in her waste basket, a pungent reminder of the meal she’d had the night before and of the project that continued to haunt her.
Eventually, others noticed as well. Raised eyebrows and occasional queries along the lines of “You okay, Hermione?” and “Come on, love, you really need to get out of that office!” and “Come out for a drink with us!” became commonplace, until her colleagues realised that their entreaties and invitations were getting them nowhere. Hermione Granger had become a Woman Obsessed. If they knew what was good for them, they’d leave her to her own devices. Which they did. Well, most of them.
A particularly annoying and curiously persistent one seemed to make it his business to stop by her office fairly regularly.
“You know what they say about all work and no play, don’t you, Granger?” he’d said one evening in early May, poking his head round her door with an insouciant grin. “Surely you can find somebody to take pity on you and get you out of that chair. You’re starting to moult.”
At that, Hermione had sat back with a small, derisive huff. “Gosh, thanks, Malfoy," she'd sighed, rolling her eyes. "Your concern is touching. Are you offering, then?”
That had seemed to stop Draco in his tracks momentarily, the expression in his eyes strangely cryptic. And then he’d recovered himself, smiling magnanimously. “Why not? Reckon I can stand your company for an hour or two as long as I’ve a drink in my hand.”
“Don’t put yourself out, Malfoy. I don’t need anybody’s pity, especially yours. Now kindly piss off, would you? I’ve important work to do here.”
Waving a hand dismissively, she’d turned her attention back to the open tome, failing to notice the disappointment that had flickered briefly over Draco’s face before he’d turned and walked out of her office.
Oddly, over the next few weeks, he’d come back several more times after everybody else had left for the night, hanging about in her doorway and making idle, pointless chitchat. Hermione decided he was on a campaign to annoy the hell out of her. After all, he knew she was working on something extremely important and that in those circumstances, she hated being interrupted for trivial rubbish such as the conversations he invariably tried to engage in with her. And yet he’d persisted. Surely that meant that what he was doing was deliberate and calculated to irritate. Git. Some things never changed, did they?
Tonight, however, Hermione’s thoughts were not on Draco. After weeks of intensive and quite painstaking work tracing the origins of the symbols – and heading down many a wrong path, a number of the symbols being quite obscure and with the unfortunate potential for several interpretations – she had finally hit upon what seemed to her a reasonable translation of the spell. More than just reasonable, a small, inner voice told her gleefully. It was right. Taken separately, the words were just that: individual fragments of ideas; small, inconsequential pieces of a puzzle. But she had finally put them all together. The puzzle was complete.
And then, its true import dawned, in a slow-motion series of sudden, heart-stopping realisations.
This was no ordinary incantation. It wasn’t merely a fascinating example of prehistoric magic, which would have had tremendous value all on its own. No. This was something sacred and deeply spiritual, calling on the most primal and self-sustaining of human impulses, that which connects humanity to all its fellow species in the chain of life. The words behind the symbols were rudimentary, perhaps, but their power ran very deep and was incontrovertible.
Alluring and dangerous, this was sex magic in its purest, most primitive, most highly potent form.
She drew closer, hardly daring to breathe, her heart racing along with her thoughts. When had these ancient words last been spoken aloud with intent? And what had happened when they had been? Had the promise of the spell been fulfilled?
Falling back in her chair, Hermione drew a deep breath in and let it slowly escape, willing herself to relax. There were no accidents in life, no coincidences. She’d found this book and this particular page in it for a reason, she was sure of it. Where there was need, Fate – the powers that be, a providential alignment of the planets and stars, all the most ancient deities, call it what you will – found a way to satisfy it.
There was need, all right. Merlin, was there ever.
The question was, what – if anything – should she do with this discovery? The most obvious response, the professional one, would be to write an article on it. Of course. Not surprisingly, the idea had a very strong appeal. And even if she weren’t so inclined, it would be expected of her as a scholar and the Ministry’s Chief Librarian.
That wasn’t the issue.
There was, instead, an ethical dilemma. Or there would be, if she were to go ahead and do what was niggling at her now. The question was, would she have the nerve to risk the possible consequences, both personally and professionally?
On the other hand, could she really forego a chance at making a genuinely dramatic change in her life? While it wasn’t clear what the effects of the incantation would be, either immediately or in the longer run, surely some change, any change, would be better than the rut she’d been in for far too long. You’re not getting any younger, a voice inside her head reminded her pointedly.
There was a risk involved, a big one. She had no idea what she might be getting herself into. Then again, she’d certainly taken risks before, huge ones. She’d never known herself to be ruled by fear. Besides, true scholarship and research often involved great personal risk. It had always been so. She prided herself on her unquestionably meticulous approach to every assignment she’d ever had. Why should this be any different? And wouldn’t it be most fair if she herself were the guinea pig? Who better to experiment on? That way, whatever paper she wrote would be based on firsthand experience, the best possible sort. Anything less would pale by comparison.
It was settled, then. There would be an article. And just maybe, if she were lucky, a lot more besides. Win-win.
And no time like the present to start.
She'd done what was needed to ensure complete privacy. Now, her wand still in hand, Hermione held her breath, straining to hear the smallest sound. The library was utterly empty, pitch dark, and deeply quiet. At this point, she was the last one on her floor at least, and most probably in the whole building. Nobody in his or her right mind chose to stay past nine o’clock if they didn’t absolutely have to, she thought to herself, and then grinned ruefully. No doubt there were some who thought she was a bit peculiar, not that she cared.
After a moment or two of reassuring silence, she decided the coast was clear. Funny, her hands were trembling just the smallest bit. With a light, tremulous giggle, she placed them in her lap, one over the other, to steady them, letting out a slightly shaky breath.
For the spell to have any chance of working, she would need to shed most of her clothing. Ideally, of course, the practitioner should be skyclad, from what she knew of the oldest sex magic, but the idea of stripping down completely in her office, even if she were the only living soul in the building, just didn’t go down very well. Casting a spell in her undies would be difficult enough.
Slowly and with great deliberation, Hermione stood and shrugged out of her blazer, draping it across the back of her desk chair, and then she began unbuttoning her silk blouse. The gossamer garment slid like rippling water down her arms. Laying it carefully across the back of the chair as well, she unzipped her narrow pencil skirt, wiggling her hips until it dropped to the floor, whereupon she stepped out of it and scooped it up, folding it just so and smoothing the fabric with her fingertips once it joined the blazer and the blouse on the chair back. Stepping out of her high-heeled pumps, she kicked them under the desk, flexing her toes.
Only her sheer, white lace bra and matching knickers remained, along with a frothy, little garter belt that held up a pair of sinfully soft silk stockings. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but so much nicer than tights, Hermione had always thought. Everyone had a secret vice or two, and beautiful, sexy lingerie was hers, a small indulgence to which she enjoyed treating herself every once in a while. At least her underwear would entice any man, even if its owner wasn’t doing so well in that department.
These few garments she chose to keep on. They were skimpy enough that the requirements of the spell would still be satisfied, she was pretty sure. Now... ah. The lights. With a quiet “Nox,” she extinguished all but one, a small lamp burning atop a high bookcase. Long shadows threw themselves across the walls and floor like dark, silent spectres.
Her hand trembling just a bit, Hermione gripped the small piece of parchment on which she’d copied both the spell and her translation and picked up her wand. She hoped she’d done the spell justice. One way or the other, she would know in the next several minutes.
Facing east, she held out her wand and then cleared her throat. Her voice sounded high and a touch quavery as she called the four quarters, turning to inscribe the sacred circle as she did so. This, must be done first, she knew, to honour and carry on the Old Ways.
Guardians of the East, Powers of Air, you who are thought and the wind upon my face. I call upon and invite your presence to witness this rite.
Guardians of the South, Powers of Fire, you who are passion and the hearth. I call upon and invite your presence to witness this rite.
Guardians of the West, Powers of Water, you who are emotions and pure love. I call upon and invite your presence to witness this rite.
Guardians of the North, Powers of Earth, you who are the stabilizer and nurturer. I call upon and invite your presence to witness this rite.
Earth Mother, giver of all life, I call upon and invite your presence to witness this rite.
Sky Father, your seed quickens in the sheltering dark of the Mother’s womb. I call upon and invite your presence to witness this rite.
The sacred circle was now open, the magic that would happen within it protected and strengthened. Now for the spell itself, the words she’d found to articulate images that repeated themselves over and over on the old parchment.
I call down the fires of need and desire that will not be denied.
Burn in me, Need-Fire.
Ignite my heart’s blood with desire.
The explanatory passage had directed that the supplicant touch his or her body with a staff in several key places as the words were chanted, and this Hermione did, slowly touching her wand first to her forehead, then her lips, then the hollow of her throat, slipping from there down to the space between her breasts. Breathing deeply, she rested the wand’s cool tip first on one nipple and then the other, feeling them firm into tight little nubs, and then on her navel. Finally, she drew it down her belly to graze the narrow patch of silken fabric between her legs, pressing gently so that the tip awakened the sensitive flesh beneath.
Throwing her head back and closing her eyes, she repeated the words a second time, then a third and a fourth, each time even more slowly and with greater deliberation, all the while touching her wand tip to forehead, lips, throat, breasts, and that most secret of places. With each touch, a small spot of warmth bloomed, its heat growing with every repetition of the incantation.
I call down the fires of need and desire... Burn in me... Ignite my heart’s blood...
The heat that was now building in her core and radiating outwards, connecting all points she had touched in arcs of fire – brain, mouth, breasts, belly, genitals – pulsed relentlessly, and Hermione fell back against her desk, eyes shut and small, breathy gasps coming from her mouth, her legs splayed wide and her hands reaching to touch herself and find relief. One hand found her nipples, now almost painfully erect, and she began to knead and pinch them through the thin fabric of the bra. The other hand went to the crotch of her tiny knickers, pulling it aside.
It was almost more than Draco Malfoy could bear. The sight of Hermione Granger practically starkers and pleasuring herself with abandon had most decidedly not been what he’d expected to find when making his way through the darkened library. He’d been passing on his way home for the night – okay, granted, he'd been making something of a detour, considering they worked on different floors – and had spotted a dim light burning at the far end of the room. It was almost certainly coming from her office, a small room tucked into a corner, which meant that she was working late once again, apparently. Typical. He’d decided he’d just stop by and see what she was up to. Not that she’d tell him, necessarily, but tweaking her and seeing just how brassed off he could get her was always good for a laugh or two. The fact that she was rather beautiful when she was riled up was the icing on the cake.
Stealthily, he’d crept through the large, high-ceilinged room, not even using his wand to light the way. Sneaking up on her was always fun – juvenile, admittedly, but fun – and he'd wanted the advantage of surprise fully on his side.
As it turned out, the surprise had been all his.
The door to Hermione’s office had been closed, or so she must have thought, but the latch hadn’t fully caught. A long, thin bar of yellow light streamed out from the narrow crack between the door and the door frame, and as Draco had approached, he could hear soft gasps coming from the interior. They were either the sounds of someone in extreme pain – or in the throes of the most intense pleasure. Either scenario had been unthinkable. She couldn’t be hurt. That was not... No. He'd put that possibility out of his mind. But... Granger in there with somebody? Doing that? No fucking way. Not possible.
With the greatest care, he’d pushed the door open just a little bit more, enough that he could see inside with one eye. And that was when his heart had nearly stopped altogether.
She was virtually glowing; a bright, aura-like radiance seemed to envelope her entire body, pulsating and turning her skin a rosy gold. Even the ends of her hair were lit up, crowned by a fiery halo that sent shooting sparks in every direction. Her head was thrown back in raptures of pleasure, her eyes shut tight and her mouth open and glistening as she licked her lips and panted.
And her hands. They had been like beacons, drawing his eyes to follow them as they'd roamed over her body, which was – fucking hell! –clad in the scantiest of sheer, white lace, the scraps of fabric scarcely covering what Granger’s very proper work clothing only ever barely hinted at. He’d always had to plumb his imagination strenuously in order to conjure a mental picture of her breasts, so well hidden inside blouses buttoned almost to the top. Cleavage wasn’t in Granger’s vocabulary, it seemed. Until now.
Taut little nipples, flushed rosy with desire and looking good enough to eat, beckoned naughtily from inside the sheer white lace of the bra, and he'd swallowed hard, perspiration beading on his forehead. Almost reluctantly, his gaze had moved from her breasts down her slightly rounded, smooth belly to the triangle between her legs, but damnably, what he'd most wanted a glimpse of was covered in white satin. That is, until she'd almost savagely pushed the fabric aside with a desperate cry, plunging her fingers deep inside herself.
Holy fuck. All the oxygen in the room seemed to have been sucked out. There was a pounding in Draco’s temples that travelled swiftly down to his throat, threatening to choke him, as every swear word he knew flooded his brain. He was certain he was on the verge of exploding, both his brain and his genitals, now painfully engorged and screaming for relief. One hand shot down his trousers and he clutched desperately at his cock, commencing a frantic pumping as he watched Hermione do the same.
And now, at last, thanks be to all the gods, he got a good, long look at what he’d been waiting for: glistening, pink folds crowned by a narrow, neatly tended strip of light brown curls, and a sweet little nub of engorged flesh that was crying out for the ministrations of his tongue. And she was stroking it, alternately dipping her fingers deep inside and then drawing the slick moisture out to anoint the tender, sensitive flesh, bringing herself to even greater raptures.
At last, his brain was fully ready to blow, his entire body rigid with arousal and a looming orgasm that was promising to be more powerful, more shattering, than anything he’d ever experienced. But there was something he desperately wanted, and so he slowed his hand, holding his breath and watching Hermione closely.
Wait, wait... a moment longer... just...
Suddenly, Hermione stiffened and let out a guttural scream, arching far back over the desk and bucking up against her fingers, still frantically stroking the delicate flesh beneath the satin triangle of her knickers, slick cum seeping through the material in a large, damp stain. And that was it. Draco let go, and his own orgasm roared through him, forcing a strangled and protracted shout from his lips.
In the next second, Hermione was staring in abject horror, humiliation, and dawning fury in the direction of the door. In the darkness, Draco dropped his cock, now spent and beginning to wilt, and took a step backwards, absently wiping a hand on the seat of his trousers.
A moment later, the door was flung open wide and a furious and intensely embarrassed Hermione was glaring daggers at him, unmindful of the fact that she still stood there in her very scanty underthings. Sucking in deep breaths, she struggled to calm herself down while Draco tried very hard to keep from staring openly at the rather luscious breasts threatening to spill from her lacy bra cups with each heave of her chest.
“You slimy, filthy-minded little perve!” she screeched. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, spying on me like that? Don’t tell me!” Hermione gave a mirthless little bark of laughter. “I’d say wanking off for starters, from the looks of things!” Folding her arms across her chest (thus pushing those sublime breasts even higher, Draco couldn’t help noting), she surveyed the creamy splotch of semen that still adhered to the door and was now sliding south in three runny, white rivulets.
Hermione’s outburst had given Draco just enough time to collect himself, and now he stepped back, smiling lazily as he pulled his wand from a back pocket and circumscribed a careless arc in the direction of the mess.
“Scourgify!” he murmured, his eyes never leaving hers. “You know, Granger, I might ask you an even more pertinent question. Just what the hell were you doing, wanking off in your office – not that most people don’t do it, of course, at one time or another. I’ve done it often enough myself. But I must confess...” A slow, decidedly wicked grin spread across his face. “... I never took you for the type. And wearing such extraordinarily...” Pausing again, he allowed his gaze to travel slowly and with obvious appreciation over the length of her body before returning to her face, whereupon he licked his lips. “... naughty attire. Didn’t know you had it in you, sweetheart. Wherever have I been all these years?”
Amused, he sighed and shook his head, reaching down to pat his cock, which was now safely tucked inside his trousers once again. Provocatively, his hand lingered there as he awaited her reply, fingertips gently caressing himself over the fabric, his eyes never leaving her face.
“I was... I was...” Hermione spluttered, suddenly at a loss. Because honestly, how in the world could she possibly explain what she’d just been doing? Especially to Malfoy, of all people?
One word from him in the wrong ear and that was it. Her job would go straight down the toilet, everything she’d worked so hard for in the last couple of years. Gods, how could she have been so bloody careless? In her excitement, she must have rushed the locking spell, getting it wrong somehow. Or maybe she'd forgotten it altogether, a truly chilling thought. She couldn't be sure. Whatever the reason, such negligence wasn’t at all like her. She’d remembered the silencing spell, she was positive she had, but fuckfuckfuck, maybe somehow she'd botched that one too! Not that it mattered, she thought wildly, feeling the urge to laugh and cry all at the same time. The bloody door had been open.
Meanwhile, Draco was gazing at her expectantly with an innocent little smile. Trust him to turn the situation to his own advantage, she fumed silently. He’d been the Peeping Tom, but she would be the one covered in incriminating hippogriff shit!
There was only one thing for it. She would have to tell him the truth.
Expelling a deep sigh, Hermione turned and retreated into her office, beckoning backhandedly for Draco to follow. She gestured towards a chair and silently, he dropped into it. This was going to be good.
Mechanically, she pulled on her clothing, doing up the zip on her skirt and then sinking into the upholstered desk chair with another, smaller sigh. “Right,” she began. “I may as well tell you everything. But what I’m about to say has to stay between us. Can I trust you to keep it to yourself?”
“Probably not,” he drawled cheerfully. “But I don’t see that you have much choice at this point. Fire away. I’m all ears.”
And cock, he thought ruefully, feeling his give a decided twitch inside his clothing as the image of Hermione in that incredibly erotic get-up flashed before his eyes once again. This could get painful. A sublime torture, in fact. He wondered, suddenly, if the whole thing had been concocted to drive him slowly and methodically round the bend. No, the very idea was patently absurd. Whatever else she was, Granger didn’t have that sort of premeditated cunning and cruelty in her. And besides, there was no way she could have known he’d be stopping by her office at that moment. Even he hadn’t planned it beforehand.
“Well,” she started slowly, running her hands lightly over the pages of the very old volume before her. “It’s something I found in this book, see. An incantation. Very old.”
“How old?” Draco sat up a bit straighter, interested despite himself.
“I’m guessing something in the neighbourhood of about two thousand years, give or take. And it’s... Wait a minute.” Hermione paused, frowning briefly. “What exactly did you hear?”
“Nothing at all,” he replied, shrugging. Then he grinned evilly. “Except for a lot of hot and heavy moaning.” The mere recollection of her throaty, urgent screams had his balls clenching again.
Oh gods. Hermione tried to ignore the hot blush that flooded her face. “Really? That’s all?”
He nodded avidly, eager to hear the rest. “I swear.”
“Right, well... I’ve been working on the translation for weeks now. I’ve only just finished. And now I know what sort of spell it actually is.”
Draco raised an expectant eyebrow but held his tongue as she took a steadying breath.
“Sex magic,” she said at last, her voice a near-whisper. “Ancient and, I suspect, tremendously powerful as well. I thought... I thought I would test it, see. On myself. Because of course, I plan to write it up... “ Her voice trailed off as embarrassment turned to complete mortification. Even to her own ears, what she was saying sounded preposterous, no more than a feeble excuse to cover for the underlying agenda, which she felt certain Draco had worked out for himself. Feeling sadly pathetic suddenly, she prayed he hadn’t.
“Sex magic, eh?” Leaning back in the chair, he stretched luxuriantly. “So... that little display just now was all in the name of research, was it? Admirable, Granger. Your dedication, I mean. How very noble, staying after hours like this, putting your private life, such as it is, on hold so that you could pursue your research. Risky, too, using yourself as a test subject. And yet...” Draco heaved a dramatic sigh. “I can’t help feeling that the Minister would not look kindly on the notion of his Chief Librarian prancing about nearly naked whilst indulging in what amounted to rather lewd behaviour, research or no. You brought yourself off on your desk. That’s Ministry property, Granger. Tsk...” He waggled a cheerfully disapproving finger at her.
And then, as she gazed at him, utterly horrified, he smiled indulgently. “However, I might be prepared to look the other way.”
Hermione sat forward, eyes narrowing. Right. He’d want in on the research, she was sure of it. Exactly what she’d feared. Equal credit for all the hard work she’d already done. The very thought turned her stomach. “Oh yes?” she said, her voice dangerously soft. “Just what did you have in mind?”
“Well, surely you realise that such research cannot possibly be conducted on one’s own. Not properly, anyway. You may have found that your initial...” He paused, searching for precisely the right word, and then he smiled roguishly. “...explorations yielded the expected response, but if the magic is as old and powerful as you suspect, what you experienced is by no means the full extent of what the spell is capable of producing. Don’t you want to know what else is possible? Purely for the purposes of research, of course.”
Hmm. He had a point. “Well yes, of course I do, but... “
“It’s settled, then."
Here it comes. He wants his name on my article, the git. "Settled?" she echoed blankly.
"You need a partner. For the trials.”
A partner? For the... Things had suddenly taken a very startling and completely unanticipated turn. “Who?”
Merlin, for a smart woman, Granger could be surprisingly dense at times. He would have to spell it out. Ha. ‘Spell.’ Suppressing a chuckle at the neatness of the pun, Draco flashed her a cocky grin.
Hermione gawked at him, giving a convulsive little swallow. “And... if I refuse?”
“Well, you could do, of course. It’s your decision. But I’d start looking round for another job, in that case. Just make sure you haven’t left any telltale stains on the desk before you go.”
“But that’s... that’s blackmail!” Hermione whispered, stunned.
Draco shook his head, clucking his tongue ruefully. “Such an unsavoury word, ‘blackmail.’ I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to pool your resources with mine and expand the research possibilities a hundredfold. It’s me or the want ads, darling. Take it or leave it.”
Late Friday night
Hermione’s favourite ceramic mug sat on the low table beside the sofa, clouds of fragrant steam rising from the tea it contained. Absently reaching for the mug, she cradled it between her palms, raising it to her lips and blowing gently on the tea. There was much to think about.
Blackmail. It wasn’t a happy prospect. In fact, it infuriated her to think that he was holding what he’d seen over her head in such a sleazy, manipulative way. In exchange for his silence, she would have to include him in the testing of the spell, share its very physical manifestations with him, whatever they might turn out to be.
But… did she really have to? He wanted her to believe she did, but in fact, the Ministry provided all the proper official channels for reporting sexual harassment, and she could certainly avail herself of such channels so that theoretically, she need not fear losing her job. Then again, what would actually happen if she did make a such report? The Ministry’s grapevine being what it was, the report’s contents would become public knowledge almost before the ink was dry on the parchment. In the end, she’d lose for winning, because everyone would know what he’d caught her doing. And if the grapevine didn’t spread the word, no doubt Malfoy would. And he was quite right; such conduct in the workplace was not something the higher-ups would smile upon. She’d have a case on paper, but the reality was, she had done something incredibly stupid that would only rebound disastrously right back on her. Reporting him wasn’t an option, she concluded. Not if she wanted to keep both her job and her dignity.
Then, there was the issue of the incantation itself. Until now, she hadn’t really considered the lack of a partner a serious deterrent to her investigation. In theory at least, its parameters could be tested by a single individual of either sex. And of course, if what she was after, ultimately, was a deeper, more profound connection to her own sexuality, she could certainly achieve that on her own as well. Already, she’d seen what invoking the spell could do. It had given her the most intense sexual experience of her life.
On the other hand, given that, it stood to reason that the power of the spell could be much more deeply and powerfully experienced with both a male and a female subject acting together. It simply hadn’t been an option before; now, however, by virtue of Malfoy insinuating himself into the proceedings, it was. Potentially, that could be a good thing, at least as far as the research was concerned, Hermione reasoned, trying to remain dispassionate and ignore the electric frisson of nerves that flared in the pit of her stomach whenever she contemplated what lay ahead:
Sexual experimentation, generated and fuelled by the oldest and most primal of magicks. And, if what she’d already experienced was anything to go by, it would be stunning, absolutely mind-blowing sex.
With Draco Malfoy.
The tea had gone cold and Hermione put the mug down with hands that were trembling. Suddenly, the air in her flat seemed to have become rather thin.
Okay, just... breathe.
The admonishment was not helping much with the rather graphic images that insisted on intruding into her thoughts. Forcibly, she shook her head, attempting to banish them and regain some mental clarity.
Sitting back amongst the sofa cushions, she expelled a long, deep sigh. This whole thing needed a lot more thought. She set about reviewing her choices.
One: she could keep her mouth shut and proceed, with Draco as her partner. Hermione felt a shiver run through her, leaving every nerve feeling raw. Visualising the ramifications of that choice had just left her breathless only moments before.
Two: she could report him and then deal with the inevitably toxic fall-out of such a decision.
But there was something else, a possibility she hadn’t yet considered at all: abandoning the project altogether. She could pretend she’d never found that rather obscure passage. Nothing and nobody were forcing her to go on with the research, and certainly nothing but her own intellectual and physical appetites propelled her to use the incantation on herself. All of it was strictly voluntary, driven by her own desires: for knowledge, of course, but also for knowledge of herself. Deep in her gut, she sensed that in working the spell, in opening and then abandoning herself to its magic and allowing it to take her over, she could potentially learn a great deal about herself, feel herself more truly alive than she had ever done before.
If she decided to abandon the project, just let it all go, it was possible that Malfoy would try to force her to continue it anyway, for the sake of his own pleasures. But somehow, she doubted it. Even he wasn’t that base. Besides, in all honesty, she didn’t want to abandon everything she’d done so far. She suspected he was counting on that. If so, perhaps he knew her better than she’d given him credit for, or he was keenly intuitive. Because as much as she detested having her back up against a wall (figuratively, at least. A fresh wave of excitement washed over her when she realised that such a scenario could quite literally be in the offing if this project went forward), it was absolutely killing her to imagine giving up on the project altogether. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it. A significant chunk of scholarly ego hung in the balance, of course. As it was, she couldn’t wait to publish her findings, and it was taking all her self-restraint not to discuss them with anyone. Even telling Malfoy had actually been a relief, she’d been surprised to discover.
No, giving up the work was not the answer. It was too important and she’d come too far. Besides, damn it – she would not be bullied into submission. A new perspective was needed here, and suddenly, one presented itself in a tiny but startling epiphany: having a partner could be rather a good idea. This was research, and it required a cool head and a clinical approach: hers. Handled properly, Malfoy could turn out to be incredibly useful. He was quite easy on the eyes, no doubt about it. She’d been aware of that for quite some time, a small blush heating her cheeks now as she remembered just how often over the past several years she’d caught herself looking appreciatively. Not only that, his skills with the ladies were legendary. He would surely bring the fruits of all that experience into the mix. And she already knew he was attracted to her. That helped enormously. Working up sufficient enthusiasm for the experimentation would not be too difficult. In fact, if the mere thought of them together like that sent her heart rate into overdrive, actual physical contact between them could prove to be positively incendiary.
Right, she told herself. This new turn of events could actually work to her advantage, if she managed things carefully. Contrary to what he might think, he wouldn’t be using her. In point of fact, she would be using him. This was her project and she would be driving it, whatever he might imagine.
Wrapping herself snugly in the quilt that lay across the sofa, Hermione sat back, that same frisson of nervous excitement coursing through her again, causing her heart to race and a tingling, fluttering sensation in the pit of her stomach.
This time, however, a tiny, satisfied smile curled the corners of her mouth. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.
Her pulse quickening, Hermione surveyed her sitting room with a critical eye and then glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time. Everything was in order, neat and tidy. Malfoy would be here in a matter of minutes. Reaching over to fluff the sofa cushions yet again, she straightened and then sat down, hands fidgeting nervously in her lap, uncertain of what to do to pass the remaining time.
Preparing for this first session had taken the better part of the day. She’d scrubbed herself several times over, first soaking in a hot tub and then lathering up and standing under the pelting spray of the shower until she’d been quite waterlogged. Her hair had received particular attention, with three vigorous shampoos and extra conditioning. A careful once-over with her wand had Vanished all unwanted body hair. And her best lotions and creams now scented and smoothed her skin.
Then, of course, the issue had been what to wear, not that her clothing would remain on for all that long, but it would be helpful to feel that she looked enticing. Her favourite red silk blouse, low-cut and flirty with little cap sleeves, along with a pair of skin-tight black jeans that rode low on her hips, would do nicely, she decided. But it was the underwear she took particular care with. He’d already seen her lacy whites. Fortunately, her penchant for beautiful lingerie being what it was, her collection was sizable and there was no shortage of choices.
The minutes ticked by and she could feel the beginnings of a throbbing tension headache. Pressing fingertips to her temples to ease the pain, she cast a last glance at herself in the hall mirror. Her reflection showed a girl with high colour flushing her cheeks and dark eyes that were rather too bright. She bit her lip, gazing back at herself pensively, and reached to tuck an errant tendril of hair back into place with fingers that were now clammy with nerves. Would he like her hair this way, swept up into a high, slightly messy ponytail?
Wait. For Merlin’s sake, what did it matter whether he liked her hair this way? He was coming here to participate in an experiment that he’d wormed his way into. It shouldn’t matter what his preferences were. This wasn’t a date, after all. And if anything, she reminded herself, he was there to please her, no the other way round.
Nodding, Hermione set her mouth decisively and was just turning away from the mirror when she heard a single knock. Her heart jumping and her mouth suddenly bone dry, she hurried to the door, taking several calming breaths before pulling it open.
Draco stood there, a bottle of wine in hand. His gaze flickered briefly over her, taking her in, and then returned to meet her own. When she merely stared back, he quirked an eyebrow, an amused grin blossoming slowly.
“Reckon we could always carry on here in the hallway, but I do have my scruples about total strangers seeing me naked, not to mention engaging in rather intimate activities.” He paused and then, when she still didn’t move, he laughed out loud. “Well? Are you going to ask me in or not?”
It was as if somebody had thrown a pail of ice water in Hermione’s face. Startled, she came back to herself with a jolt. “Oh! Yes, sorry! Where are my manners? Please come in!”
Stepping aside, she allowed him entry and watched as he strolled into the centre of her sitting room and looked curiously around; peeling off his burgundy-coloured woollen jumper, beneath which he wore a close-fitting black t-shirt, he absently handed both the bottle of wine and the jumper to her. Rolling her eyes, Hermione shook her head. Typical Malfoy. Even here, in her own flat, he expected her to cater to him. Laying his things down on a chair, she watched, fascinated despite herself, as slowly and very deliberately, he made his way around the room, examining everything.
His curiosity was evident and he made no attempt to disguise it. Every knick knack and framed picture on her shelves seemed to hold a certain intrigue, for he stopped to inspect them all. One in particular held his attention longer than the rest. It was a photo that somebody had taken at the year-end feast following their first year at Hogwarts. In it, Hermione was flanked on one side by Harry and on the other by Ron as they sat at the Gryffindor table, huge, silly grins plastered on all three faces as they waved cheerfully at the camera. The House cup had just been awarded, and overhead, a sea of red and gold banners fluttered. In the background, the Slytherin table was visible, and one young boy, white-blond hair shining beneath his peaked wizard’s hat, sat glumly, chin in hand. Draco picked up the photo and stared at it, his expression suddenly inscrutable. After a long, quiet moment, he replaced the photo on the shelf, moving on to peer at the adjacent book titles.
“D’you actually read all these books or just collect them because you want to impress people?” he asked offhandedly as he bent to study several on a lower shelf.
“Why? Have I impressed you, then?” Hermione retorted, crossing her arms over her chest.
Draco straightened and turned to look at her. And then he grinned. “You have now, love,” he replied lazily, his gaze settling on the generous, creamy cleavage that had just popped out above the neckline of her top. “Not that War and Peace doesn’t do it for me. Just not in quite the same way.”
Oh. A slow, hot blush made its way from her neck up to the roots of her hair, and without thinking, Hermione dropped her arms to her sides.
“Come now,” he replied, leaving the bookcase and crossing the room to her, until he was standing so close that she could feel the heat from his body. “No need to go all shy and modest on me. Seems a bit silly, really, considering why we’re here, not to mention I’ve already seen a good deal more of you than that –” Here, he dropped his eyes to the swell of her breasts with an appreciative little grin. “ – lovely as it is. By the way, I must say,” he added, his voice becoming a sultry murmur, “I like what you’ve done to yourself. Did you buy that fetching little blouse just for me?”
His tongue flicked out over his lips as he gazed down at her, his grey eyes darkening, and in that moment, all coherent thought fled Hermione’s brain.
“I certainly did not,” she muttered, though her voice lacked real conviction.
Apparently, her reply amused Draco, because the corners of his mouth turned up in a smug little grin. “No?” he asked softly. “I wish you had done. I like it very much indeed.” He reached out and laid a finger lightly in the hollow at the base of her throat and then slowly drew it down, letting it stop between her breasts. “I can feel your heart beating.”
Suddenly, things were coming to a too-rapid boil, and as she felt her breath constrict at just the touch of his fingertip on her skin, a sense of panic swept over Hermione. She had to slow things down, had to regain control before the entire project – and Malfoy – carried her off into a lust-driven oblivion. It would be all too easy, she could see that now. But this was an experiment. It was research. The two of them were no more than lab rats. She had to maintain a healthy emotional distance, remember the goal here. She’d been so sure she could control her own emotions while using herself as a guinea pig, that she would be able to maintain the necessary clinical distance between what she learned and the way she learned it. Was that notion already shot to hell by one touch and a single, smouldering glance from Malfoy?
Brushing Draco’s hand away, she stepped back and forced a smile and a change of subject. “You brought a bottle of wine.”
“Yeah, I thought it might make things a bit more... relaxed. You know, this being a rather weird situation right from the off. Not exactly the usual way a man and a woman get together.” He shrugged lightly, moving to retrieve the bottle from its place on the chair.
“We’re not ‘together,’” Hermione told him pointedly. “Don’t forget that.”
“Oh, I haven’t forgotten.” Draco held up the bottle. It was champagne, a very good vintage. “Glasses?”
“Yes... hang on a minute...” Hurrying into the kitchen, she pulled out a folding step stool, opened it, and scrambled up to the top step. The glasses were tucked away in a high cupboard overhead. Draco waited below, eyeing her long, slim legs and the pert curve of her bum in those tight jeans as she stretched and strained to reach a pair of champagne flutes that were all the way in the back.
“Need help?” he asked. It was an entirely perfunctory question, as he had no intention of moving an inch. The view was just too good from where he was standing.
“No, no... I’ve got them!” Clutching the glasses, she handed them down to Draco. “Here, take them. I’ll just...” Her voice trailed off as slowly, carefully, she began to make her way down the narrow folding steps.
Draco edged closer, so that as she set one foot on the floor and rocked back slightly, she found herself pressed up against him, his arms around her and holding her securely.
“Can’t risk you falling and hurting yourself, now can we?” he murmured in her ear, his warm breath stirring wispy tendrils of hair that fell loosely about her neck and causing her breath to catch jaggedly in her throat. “Then the whole project would be a bust. And what a shame that would be.”
A shame indeed. Not that he really cared a fig about the research, except to garner some credit for it and have some fun with her in the process. Extricating herself from his embrace with a small shiver, she moved to the table where he had set the glasses and held out the bottle. “Do the honours?”
“Gladly. Stand aside,” he commanded, and then withdrew his wand from a back pocket of his jeans. Making a quick pass over the bottle, he muttered, “Extrahe cork!”
A moment later, the cork came flying out, followed immediately by a frothy white river that burst over the top and slid down the bottle’s smooth glass sides, puddling on the table beneath.
“Thank you, Father!” Draco murmured in satisfaction, adding a quick “Scourgify!" almost as an afterthought. The mess disappeared instantly, and he bent to fill the two flutes to the brim with the bubbly elixir.
“This was your father’s?” Hermione accepted her glass, eyebrows raised.
“From his cellars, yeah. He’ll never miss it.” Draco shrugged lightly, unconcerned. “I help myself to a bottle of something good every now and then. Why not? It’ll all be mine one day anyway.”
“Oh, I see...” she snorted. “How very convenient for you. Anyway, thanks. Here’s to –”
“Partnership. The fruits of our labours,” Draco cheerfully supplied, raising his own glass and touching it to hers with a bell-like clink. “And the pleasures. Those, most of all. Cheers!” And with that, he gave her a teasing wink, the meaning of which was unmistakable.
Hermione looked away, fighting the overwhelming impulse to grab Draco and plant a kiss on that smug, sexy mouth. Gods, what was happening to her? If only she could switch off her reaction to that wink and all the other small liberties that he was taking with his eyes, his voice, and his touch; it flooded her almost like an uncontrollable reflex now, fogging her brain and shutting down all rational thought. Yes, like every other red-blooded woman at the Ministry, she'd noticed his good looks, but such a visceral response to him hadn’t ever happened there. She could only surmise that it was a product of two things: one, the spell itself, now that she’d attempted it once and had successfully worked its magic. Perhaps there was some residue of the spell’s power left inside her that made her especially receptive to further suggestion. That would make sense.
Two (and this was something Hermione really didn’t like to admit, even to herself): there had been something rather provocative, positively titillating, in fact, about being watched, even if it was Malfoy doing the watching. The disturbing notion that she might be a closet exhibitionist was something she didn’t like to entertain, but truth be told, despite her horror and embarrassment, the discovery that he’d been watching had been a turn-on. An undeniably attractive man had witnessed her pleasuring herself, satisfying his own needs while he did so. He had found her beautiful, desirable. Moreover, he had seen her with all inhibitions cast to the winds, in a primal display that was deeply private and yet, precisely because he’d seen, it had become something that, in a strange way, now belonged to him too. Malfoy carried his part in the experience with him now, and her keen awareness of all he’d seen and done that night, unwitting though it had been at the time, was acting on her responses now, sharpening them, making her feel raw. Apprehensive.
Fifteen minutes later
Hermione had stationed herself in the armchair and Draco was sprawled on the sofa adjacent to it. Between them was the low, rectangular table on which was the incantation Hermione had carefully copied out, both the original runic symbols and their translation. Two generous glasses of champagne each had rendered both of them comfortably relaxed and content.
Draco finally put the question, leaning on one elbow and regarding her expectantly and with obvious amusement. “Shall we begin, then?”
Oh. Right. That. The reason he was here at all. Amazingly, for just a couple of alcohol-laced moments, Hermione had actually forgotten. But his question brought her up short and suddenly, a certain thrill – anxiety and desire, in equal parts – shot through her.
“Yes, yes, of course. First we’ve got to cast the circle we’ll work within. And then... well, here, look – I’ve copied out the spell.” Scooping up the parchment from the cocktail table, Hermione thrust it in Draco’s direction for him to examine.
He did a quick scan of the words and then nodded. “Go on, then. This is your show.”
Well, hmm. Good thing he remembered that much, anyway. “Right,” she replied, and proceeded to repeat the words she’d said the night before, casting the sacred circle and enclosing both herself and Draco within its protective border.
“Now,” she continued, slipping her wand into a back pocket. “We say the incantation together. It would probably work best if there were some... some sort of... physical contact as we do this.” She gave him a quick, shy glance, trying to gauge his reaction.
Draco was way ahead of her, for even as she spoke, he was already repositioning himself in front of her, scant inches away. A slow, decidedly wicked smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he raised a hand, mime-like, inviting her silently to press her palm to his.
Okay, Hermione. You can do this.
Swallowing hard, Hermione wiped a hand suddenly clammy with nerves on the seat of her jeans and pressed it unsteadily to his. She could feel herself trembling.
“I call down the fires of need and desire that will not be denied,” she chanted. “Burn in me, Need-Fire. Ignite my heart’s blood with desire.”
Nodding to Draco to say the words of the spell along with her, she repeated the incantation a second time. Now his voice, its timbre deep and just a bit edgy, joined hers, which sounded strangely high and tremulous to her ears.
A curious warming, tingling sensation began to grow between their pressed palms as the words of the spell were intoned a third time, and on the fourth, the heat that had begun in their joined hands began spreading up her arm. She knew that he must be experiencing the identical sensation, for abruptly, he stared first at his arm and then at her face, his eyes wide, questioning. She nodded mutely as the tingling and heat intensified, spreading, setting her skin on fire, becoming almost intolerable in its demand for a very singular relief. She could see, in the fierceness in his eyes, that he was feeling very much the same.
And then, abruptly and without warning, his fingers threaded themselves through hers, gripping her hand tightly. There was a split second when their eyes met, wildly searching, and then he yanked her hard against his chest, his other arm threading itself around her waist and pressing her to him with an almost punishing intensity. All at once, it was exactly what Hermione needed most, and yet, not anywhere near enough to satisfy the powerful craving for Draco that swept over her now.
That craving crystallised into a single, driving need she could no longer ignore. Reaching up, she grabbed his head, pulling it down and slamming her mouth onto his. Teeth met the soft flesh of their lips and there was pain. But then... then, time seemed to slow, and all Hermione knew were the dizzying scent and feel of him, his lush mouth answering her mounting ardour with kisses that were alternately tender and demanding, impossibly sweet and need-filled, and then harsh, greedy.
With trembling fingers that seemed to have a mind of their own now, Hermione began to pluck at Draco’s t-shirt, pulling it out of his jeans and slipping questing hands beneath its hem. There she found a smooth, taut chest and belly, his navel crowned by a halo of soft, fine hair that disappeared in a narrow trail below the zip of his jeans.
The touch of her hands on his skin was electrifying. Draco’s eyes, which had drifted closed in the trance-like fervour of their kisses, now flew open. He gazed at her, and she could see in his eyes the shock of a dawning awareness, coupled with desire that was plainly growing and deepening.
Kisses were no longer enough for either of them. He would ask for more, and she would give it gladly, requiring the same of him.
Her blouse found its way to the floor, along with his shirt. And now he gazed down at her in wonderment. A small part of his brain had managed to hold itself away from the madness of the magic that had overtaken the rest of him, and now it was as if he were observing himself from outside his body. Merlin’s balls, he was here, in Hermione Granger’s flat, and he’d just removed her blouse, beneath which were a pair of beautiful breasts only barely encased in a frothy, powder-blue confection of a bra. A tiny diamond glinted and winked at the base of her throat, its delicate silver chain a shining circlet around her slender neck. And her eyes, as she looked up at him, were filled with desire. For him. It was almost more than he could comprehend. But the wish to try was quickly forgotten, overcome by a far more primal urge.
Those gorgeous breasts were a land that cried out to be conquered. He wanted to explore, plant his flag between them, and declare them his own. Gently stroking the creamy rise of flesh above the bra for a moment, he let his fingertips slip down to where little nipples jutted impudently, teasing them into even harder peaks over the filmy lace and evoking a deep, shuddering sigh of approval from their owner.
Draco smiled to himself, even as he felt yet another powerful surge of his cock, which was now straining mightily against the seam of his jeans. Roaring to life at the first touch of their hands, it had only grown harder and more demanding of release after that. But he knew he could hold it a bit longer. Somehow, he sensed that the spell’s magic would give him that much. At least he hoped it would. A fine sheen of perspiration dampened his brow, and he gritted his teeth, struggling for mastery of urges that were insistent and unrelenting.
The bra had to go. Swiftly, he unhooked it, and it slipped unimpeded to the floor between their feet. And now, at last, he feasted his eyes on what he had only ever imagined in the past, when appreciative, though furtive, glances had been covered by the usual sly jokes and sarcasm, exactly what she expected from him. She’d never noticed anything else, and in a way, he’d been grateful for that. There had been comfort in the subterfuge, because at least it had allowed him the continued contact with no risk of outright rejection. Cowardly and ultimately unproductive, he knew, but safe.
And then, this… this thing had come along, like a gift from the gods. He could have her now, body and soul, at least for a while.
She stood before him silently, her bare breasts rising and falling with the deep, quivering breaths she was taking in a futile effort to contain herself. Her dark eyes were wide and fearfully bright; she watched him warily, but he could practically smell her arousal. Every small movement – the way she breathed, the nervous tension evident in every part of her body, her tongue flicking out to moisten her lips – gave it away.
Drawing even closer, he reached for her, cupping her breasts in his hands. Gently running the balls of his thumbs over her nipples once again, he revelled in the feel of the velvety flesh, so responsive to his touch.
It was a warm night, far warmer than average for late May. Bone-weary and drained for hours after Draco left, Hermione was only too happy to crawl into bed at last. But as tired as she was, sleep eluded her. Now, after two hours of fitful tossing, along with every palliative she could think of – warm milk, tea, and a sleep potion that had failed utterly – she lay sprawled on her bed, captive to the memories that insisted on flooding her thoughts.
The parade of images was disturbingly potent, all the more because they went beyond simple mental pictures to fully realised sensory memories that were virtually three-dimensional. The warmth and sweetness of his lips on hers... the feel of his mouth and tongue as they tasted her, exploring her mouth, her jaw, that highly sensitive spot on the side of her neck, the hollow of her throat, her breasts... that indefatigable and very skilled tongue playfully tickling and teasing her nipples and then wandering south to dip into the small well of her navel (an intensely erogenous spot, to her surprise)... his hands, moving swiftly over her body as if he couldn’t get enough of her, and oh... she had been insatiable as well! The recollection sent a delicious shiver throughout her body right down to her fingertips and toes.
Wonderfully smooth, warm skin had been hers to claim, his body all hard, taut planes and lean muscle, his shoulders just broad enough, his hips slim, pale blond hair lightly feathering his chest and trailing down below his belly. He’d smelled heavenly, too, very clean and masculine. His scent had been like a drug and Hermione had found herself craving it, pressing her nose to his skin everywhere she could and then devouring him in a series of voracious kisses.
All of these sensations washed over her in a powerful wave that engulfed her as the memories passed before her eyes, gripping her body and leaving her raw and wanting.
A phantom lover now shared her bed, and it was Draco Malfoy.
It was the spell, surely. Its very ancient magic now inflamed her blood, heightening her senses and leaving her craving him like an addict. Merlin, what had she wrought, experimenting this way? She’d wanted a way to connect with her own sadly neglected sexuality, awaken a side of herself that had too often been shunted aside because of professional ambitions or, as she told herself, a lack of men really worth her time. Not that hordes of men of any sort were exactly queuing at her door, of course. And as time passed, opportunities had seemed to shrink, despite the occasional date, every one of them a dead end. As they had, so, too, had her sense of herself as a vibrant, desirable woman. Determined to get it back, she’d jumped at the chance that finding the old incantation had offered. The risks had seemed minimal, her excitement overshadowing any prickings of concern.
Agitated and drenched in her own sweat, Hermione threw off the light coverlet. Raking one hand through her hair, she pressed the other to the throbbing between her legs and tried desperately to think of something other than Malfoy fucking her blind. Multiple times a day, and in every possible orifice.
There were two possibilities, her fevered brain managed to tell her: one, that the wild hunger gripping her would be satisfied and then extinguished, finally, once she and Malfoy had consummated this... this whatever-it-was they had together. The alternative was rather grim by comparison: that she (and he) would never truly be free, that it would plague them forever, a monkey on both their backs.
There was only one way to find out. They’d have to finish what they’d started.
They needed to have sex, and soon.
That was a notion with which Draco heartily concurred.
Twenty of the twenty-four hours since he’d left Hermione’s flat had been spent wanking furiously. Or so it seemed, at least, to his lust-addled brain, now thoroughly intoxicated with the sweet, womanly softness, the lush beauty, the sheer sexiness, that he’d discovered beneath the buttoned-up exterior she showed the world. Because after he’d staggered away and Apparated home, just barely managing to honour their agreement to pace themselves for the purposes of scientific observation of the spell’s effects, he’d been overcome by the feeling that his balls were on the verge of violent explosion.
‘Lucky I didn’t splinch myself and leave my bollocks behind somewhere,’ he thought, laughing grimly and then squeezing his eyes shut with a wince of pain. The raging case of blue balls he had now was the worst he’d ever experienced, probably the worst in recorded history, if anyone had ever bothered to keep track of such a thing. Briefly, he wondered if permanent damage could be done to his bits from being forced into such an unnatural state for so long.
Sleep had been scant at best the night before; what little there was had been fragmented and fraught with wild, perfumed dreams, and now he found himself hollow-eyed and still frustrated as he dragged himself around his flat, barefoot and naked except for a pair of comfortably loose cotton pyjama bottoms. It was all he could stand wearing now; fuck, even his skin hurt in the aftermath of what had transpired between him and Hermione the night before. Every part of him felt raw and exposed and on fire.
This was not what he’d bargained for when proposing the idea of a partnership to Hermione. True, the sex – what they’d had of it anyway – had been amazing. Better than amazing. It had defied description, and he could only imagine what was still to come. However, he’d rather expected to come out of the whole thing alive, in one piece, and mentally sound. At the moment, every part of that expectation was in grave doubt. And there was nothing for it but to continue, because now... now he needed her like breathing. He had to see it through. There was no turning back, no walking away.
Stepping under the icy needles of another cold shower, Draco shivered. Tomorrow. It had to happen tomorrow, or he would surely go mad. But what then? Resolutely turning his face into the spray of chilly water, he pushed that question from his thoughts.
You’re an unfenced fire
Over walls we’ve trampled...
Monday, late afternoon
The summons had been terse, brooking no argument. One minute, Draco’s office had been quiet, and the next, Hermione’s head had materialised in the hearth, eerily green amidst the flickering Floo flames. “My office” was all she’d said before disappearing again. No clue what she wanted, but Draco had a pretty fair idea. At least he hoped so, anyway.
Incredibly, just that momentary glimpse of her face and the sound of her voice had him hard and wanting her. Such, apparently, was the residual power of the spell as an instant trigger. Like a reflex. Like bloody Pavlov’s dog. See/hear Granger = instant hard-on.
This was taking physical attraction to a whole new, rather scary level. He wondered if she’d experienced anything akin to that upon seeing him just now. Admittedly, the thought was rather pleasant, enough to make him smile through his discomfort. It would be worth the agonies of self-restraint he knew he’d face in her company just to find out if thoughts of him were keeping her up at night. And what would it be like, seeing each other in person for the first time since their experience two days earlier? Whatever the answer to that turned out to be, at least he’d have some real relief before the day was out, with any luck at all. Or find himself in even deeper shit. There was that possibility as well, if scratching the itch only made it itch more.
Only one way to find out. Heaving himself up out of his chair, Draco headed to the library.
Hermione was pacing in the small open floor space of her office, head down and a frown of deep concentration on her face, when he poked his head around the door. A light rap on the frosted glass made her glance up, and impatiently, she beckoned him inside.
“Sit down,” she told him quickly, gesturing at the chair facing her desk and then dropping into the chair behind it and threading her fingers together. They didn’t stay still for long, instead twisting in unconscious agitation, Draco noted.
“Look,” she began, her tone noticeably tense. “We need to talk.”
An understatement of gargantuan proportions. Expelling a deep sigh, Draco sat back, folding his arms. “Agreed. Ladies first.”
Flustered, Hermione paused to collect thoughts that had begun to wander at the mere sight of him.
“Yes, well... I thought we ought to compare notes… for the purposes of gathering data… about… you know… Saturday...” she trailed off, flushing a rosy pink.
“Right.” Draco grimaced as he tried to ignore the growing tension coiling in his scrotum once again. Casually, he laid a hand in his lap, hoping to mask the bulge that had already begun to tent his trousers. “Happy to oblige. Shall I start, then?”
By now, beads of perspiration had begun to dampen his forehead, but he soldiered on gamely through gritted teeth. “There was that heat. In our hands. You remember. It moved right up my arm and then it was everywhere… like I was on fire from inside, like my blood was –”
“Boiling,” she murmured, her gaze suddenly far away as she remembered. “Yes.”
“And then, suddenly… suddenly, you were… you were so… I just… I just had to have you.” Draco’s voice grew low, dreamy, almost as if he were talking to himself now. “I wanted you so badly, I couldn’t see straight.”
“Yes,” Hermione whispered. Memories were rushing back now, forceful and almost alarmingly vivid. “That’s exactly how it was for me too. Like all my senses were on overload. And afterwards… It was like it kept happening over and over, as if you were still there. I could actually feel you there with me. I wanted you desperately… Since then, I haven’t been able to sleep... and I can’t think about anything but… well… you know.” Blushing furiously now, she chanced a sideways glance at him. “Has it been like that for you as well?”
He nodded miserably. “Seems like I’ve had a stiffy for most of the last forty-eight hours. Does that answer your question?”
She swallowed hard. “We can’t go on like this, can we… it’ll drive us mad. I think… I think there’s really only one way out.” She looked at him beseechingly, her eyes wide and very dark with the stress, utter exhaustion and keen, mounting desire all warring within her now.
As one, both slowly rose from their seats, and then Draco opened his arms. Trance-like and trembling slightly now, Hermione climbed onto her knees on the desk, the faster to get to him, and threw herself into his embrace. They clung tightly to each other for several seconds, and then he drew back, gazing intently at her, his expression curiously cryptic. Confused and verging on panic with the need that was consuming her, she searched his face anxiously. And then, the same simple, unalloyed need took him over, blotting out everything else. Eyes squeezed shut with the exquisite pain and pleasure of his arousal, he bent to kiss her, abandoning himself utterly to the magic.
There was no hesitancy on her part. She returned his kiss eagerly, gratefully, with a sigh of relief that sounded almost pained. Hands clasped, fingers entwining and gripping each other, and the kisses became bruising in their intensity. Neither of them noticed the bright aura that began to envelope them now, pulsing and shooting sparks from their hair and skin.
“Come here!” Draco growled suddenly, yanking Hermione off the desk completely. She stumbled and fell against him, but even as he steadied her with one hand, the other was already beneath her pencil skirt, single-mindedly sliding up her thigh. Ridding him of his clothing was her sole concern now as well, and swiftly, she jerked the zip of his trousers down, hooking her thumbs in the waistband of his underpants so that she could dispense with all material obstacles at once.
Suddenly, Hermione froze, Draco’s trousers and underwear halfway to his knees. “Malfoy, wait!” she hissed, wild-eyed. “We need to –”
“Way ahead of you, darling!” he muttered, awkwardly twisting around to pluck his wand from the back pocket of his trousers and then pointing it at the door.
Casting silencing and locking spells with record speed, he tossed his wand onto the desk and fiercely pulled Hermione to him again, not even noticing that his trousers and underpants were now pooled around his ankles. Just now, his cock, turgid and throbbing, was vigorously pointing due north and he wanted one thing only. With shaking hands, he set about his task. The obstacle immediately before him was a blouse with about a thousand tricky buttons. Grabbing a fistful of silky material in each hand, he gave a mighty tug and the buttons went flying in all directions, landing everywhere like a shower of tiny hailstones. The blouse slid down her arms to the floor, unnoticed.
Bloody hell, Granger could open a lingerie shop! Today’s bra selection was even more enticing than the previous two, if that were possible. Elegant, cream-coloured satin, demi-cut and trimmed with a froth of peek-a-boo lace, it showed those luscious breasts of hers to their most mouth-watering advantage. But he didn’t have the luxury of taking things slowly just now; there was no time to enjoy the tantalising eroticism of such a garment. What he craved now was skin on skin, and being buried as deeply inside Hermione Granger as he could possibly get.
The lovely bra dropped to the floor, joining his trousers and pants and her blouse. All that remained were his tie, comically askew, and his shirt, mostly unbuttoned now and flapping about his naked body. Hermione remained dressed from the waist down, but the skirt was bunched up at her waist where he’d shoved it; beneath, to his delight, Draco had discovered silk stockings held up by a lacy garter belt and the tiniest thong known to man, all of it matching the cream satin of the bra. He actually had to swallow down the saliva that had suddenly pooled in his mouth at the sight of those long, slender legs encased in silk, ending in a pair of stiletto-heeled pumps. The flesh that peeked out between the tops of the stockings and the lacy fringe of the garter belt was smooth and soft and begged to be kissed, but he couldn’t even stop long enough to attend properly to something so tempting. He needed to be inside her right now or he would surely expire on the spot.
“Gods, Hermione!” he groaned, clutching at her hair with one hand while slipping the other arm around her waist. He’d got her lying back against the desk by this time, her head nesting in a pile of paperwork, and he was pressing his painfully erect cock against the warmth of her belly and getting no relief whatsoever. “Please!”
“Yes, yes...” she murmured brokenly, parting her legs and reaching down to pluck at the thong. “Help me!”
Draco didn’t need asking twice. Yanking hard at the offending scrap of fabric, he ripped it off her, accidentally scratching her tender skin in the process. On some half-conscious level, this did register, but just now, there were far more pressing objectives. Her beautiful pussy, for one thing. There it was at last, its soft mound covered in a neatly trimmed patch of brown curls and the delicate flesh of its opening glistening with the abundant and deliciously fragrant evidence of her arousal.
Leaning down, he tickled her gleaming slit with the tip of his tongue, dipping it inside the folds just enough to get a taste. She let out a soft, keening moan, opening her legs wider and bucking up to get herself closer to him. Regrettably, though, that particular pleasure would have to wait, much as Draco desperately wanted more.
Hermione was now clutching at Draco feverishly, pulling him down between her thighs, now spread wide. Reaching between their bodies to snag his cock – rock-hard, flushed a mottled, rosy hue, and hot to the touch – she guided it to her opening, swiftly hooking her legs around Draco’s waist.
He hoped fervently that this wasn’t a one-off, that there would be a next time that they could enjoy at their leisure. After all, once they’d done it, the spell might be broken and that could be the end of everything. But he had neither the time nor the mental energy to worry about that now, not when every nerve ending in his body was screaming for release.
With a single, urgent thrust, he was inside her, like a hand into a perfectly fitted glove. The immediate sense of completion was immense, overpowering, right. As one, there arose from both a shuddering, full-throated moan of pleasure coupled with enormous relief. And then Draco began to move, pressing Hermione tightly to his chest and rocking his hips in a steady rhythm as he drove into her, each thrust deeper and more powerful, fuelled by the imperative of the ancient magic heating their blood and calling to them with its siren song. When their climaxes came, first hers and then his erupting mere moments after, they were like nothing either had ever experienced before. It was pure, potent animal sensation, instinctive and primal, no room or need for thought. Shattering and all-consuming, it left them dazed in its aftermath; boneless and incapable of speech, they lay together on the desk, its contents in disarray all around them. At last, Hermione curled, childlike, into Draco and he drew her close. Utterly emptied, they slept.
Friday, 6 PM
Draco needn’t have worried, as it turned out. Post-orgasm recovery time had been remarkably brief, considering the profound intensity of their coupling, and before very long, both he and Hermione had had both the energy and the desire to go again. And again and again. In fact, it was ten o’clock that night before they’d emerged, dishevelled, famished, exhausted, and a bit shaky on their pins, from her office. The rug had left some painful burns, but they’d healed each other of those quickly enough. The wall had been somewhat more forgiving overall, given that it was smooth plaster, but the bump on Hermione’s head – the product of a nasty collision with a book that had flown off a high shelf when their vigorous and prolonged activities had jarred it loose – would be sore for some time. Neither one of them had known what to expect afterwards, whether the spell had now run its volatile course and would abate gradually or if the relentless cravings would continue. Both were too shell-shocked at that point to even guess.
Four days later, Draco still had no clue. He hadn’t seen Hermione since that explosive night – they’d agreed that putting some distance between them would help clear their heads, the better to judge where things stood with the spell – but she was all he could think about now. And the devil of it was, he couldn’t be sure if what he was feeling truly belonged to him or if the spell were still clouding his thoughts and impulses. Or maybe it was a bit of both, an even more frustrating and confusing prospect.
Because of course, the truth was, he fancied her and had for some time, though until now, he'd never come out and admitted his feelings in so many words – not even to himself, much less to her. The attraction had been bubbling away inside him for ages, though, causing him to loiter outside her office more often than pride should have allowed and engage her in conversations that were fairly pointless and stupid, cast surreptitious glances in her direction in places like the caff or the fourth-floor lounge, and wait, like clockwork, for her to pass his office door on her way up to the library every morning. And for what? She’d never once given him the slightest indication that she was interested.
Then again… could any spell, no matter how ancient or powerful, evoke the degree of wild, no-holds-barred passion she’d shown him, if at least some small kernel of attraction hadn’t already been there?
Oh hell, he was just fooling himself, wasn’t he. Of course it could. And it had done. Just because he wanted things to be otherwise didn’t mean they were or ever would be. How was she feeling right now, he wondered. Probably completely back to normal, he decided sourly, the spell gone and the entire experience now just fodder for an article.
Frowning, Draco threw down his quill, running a hand distractedly through his hair. The outlook for any real productivity at this point was pretty dim. Might as well pack it in and go home. He wondered if he’d still need his umbrella.
One floor up, the high, arched windows on the west wall of the library were being pummelled by rain sluicing down from a sky heavy with roiling storm clouds.
It was just past six, approaching the end of a day and a work week that had not gone particularly well for Hermione. Getting anything substantive done had been a joke, and it had been that way all week long. Instead, more often than she cared to count, she had found herself right where she stood again now, gazing out at the rain and wondering why on earth she’d ever thought that experimenting with the sex magic incantation had been a good idea.
In retrospect, the potential for disaster was far more glaring than any possible benefits she might have gained, either personally or professionally. She knew now that she would never write an article detailing what had actually happened to her. How incredibly naïve she’d been to think she ever could! There was no way she could remain objective and dispassionate about what she had experienced, alone and especially with Draco. It had been far too personal, too close to the bone, too raw and beyond the pale, revealing a part of herself she hadn’t known existed, a part of herself that frightened her with its intensity. Hunger that deep-seated and demanding had been far outside the circle of her knowledge. And as for her previous experience, such as it was? Another planet altogether.
The problem was, she realised, wandering absently back to her desk, those feelings were still with her. Not to the same degree, of course; mind-blowing, orgasmic self-incineration was no longer constantly imminent, thank Merlin, or even threatening. No, this was… different. Quieter. More subtle. A sort of low-level electrical charge humming inside her and igniting periodic sparks of longing, mostly triggered by memories of what she and Draco had done together, what he looked like naked, and most powerfully of all, how he’d looked in the throes of passion. For her. Remembering that sent simultaneous shivers and coils of heat straight to her core.
Mostly triggered by those memories, but not entirely. That was the other thing, the really confusing bit. Because, in fact, she’d also found herself daydreaming about Draco with no particular sexual associations attached, just his face swimming into her thoughts unbidden, teasing her with that cocky little smile of his and a flicker of amusement in his grey eyes. This had brought a small, unconscious smile to her own lips, until she realised why she’d been smiling and then, blushing, she’d banished him from her thoughts... until the next time he’d appeared. There had been quite a few next times over the past several days. Not seeing him had been the right decision, she was still certain; how else could they possibly get a handle on what had happened and know whether the spell still had a hold on them? Article or no, this was something they both desperately needed to find out, for their own peace of mind. Well, she was finding something out all right.
She missed Draco. Missed seeing him and talking to him. Missed him just being around. Suddenly, there was no Malfoy lounging in her doorway, no cleverly snarky little bon mots she’d only ever half-acknowledged in the past though she’d secretly enjoyed them, no Malfoy eyeing her in the caff and giving her a pleasant little case of goose bumps. No Malfoy glancing up from his desk whenever she passed his office, as if he had some sort of weird radar with her name on it.
The plain fact was, she missed him. Ergo, she must be attracted to the man himself and not just to his body. What was she to do with such a surprising epiphany? If she tried to show an interest now, he’d never take her seriously, instead chalking it up to the spell. She was hopeless at flirting anyway, always feeling, when she did try, as if she’d sprouted a second head instead of appearing vivacious and sexy. She was positive there was a pheromone deficiency somewhere along the line, and that whatever signals other girls managed to send out to men without lifting a finger were conspicuously absent coming from her. Hence the lushly erotic underwear. At least she felt like a woman under her clothes, even if nobody else ever saw it.
Nobody until Draco Malfoy, that is. Of course, it had taken him coming upon her unawares and in the thrall of a sex magic spell to see and appreciate her the way she’d always hoped a man would some day. So it didn’t count. Not in any real, true sense.
And what else had she got from the experience? Granted, it had certainly opened her up, reassuring her that she was, indeed, a woman with the full complement of normal, red-blooded, female desires. All the properly functioning bits as well. Oh yes. But having had such an experience, now she was left with the knowledge that she’d never again know that sort of passion and fulfilment. It hadn’t been real. It had only been the spell. So in a sense, she was worse off now than before. Because now, she knew what she would be missing for the rest of her life. Perhaps ignorance was bliss after all.
The weekend loomed, and it was bound to be a lonely one. No doubt Malfoy had moved past what had transpired between them by now and had plans he’d be eagerly anticipating. Hermione gave a small, melancholy sigh. There was nothing to be gained by hanging aimlessly about the office. Might as well go home. She would just shelve one last pile of books on her desk that still needed sorting and then call it a day.
And I bet that I can make you believe
In love and sex and magic...
By a quarter past six, the Ministry’s corridors were fairly empty and quiet. Most employees had made it their business to hightail it home to kick off the weekend as soon as they could. Lost in thought, Draco exited the lift, not noticing which floor he’d stopped on and not really caring. All roads led to a weekend that would surely be a profound let-down after the one he’d just had with Hermione.
Wandering down the hall, his feet seemed to have a mind of their own, and suddenly, he found himself standing before the large, imposing double doors of the library. Staring at them, he was gripped by sudden indecision. Should he go in? She might have left by now. But if not, would she even want to see him at this point? Was it too soon? Maybe she wouldn’t be ready. Maybe she’d be overcome by embarrassment or confusion. Maybe they both would be. Maybe the whole thing had just become too weird.
Overwhelmed by excitement after witnessing the spell’s effect on Hermione that first time, he’d never imagined that inviting himself along for the ride – an idea he’d thought positively brilliant at the time – might possibly have a down side, that things might just backfire on him.
Sod it all, though – what did he have to lose at this point? He doubted he could feel any more miserable or frustrated than he already did. Not that he had the slightest idea what he would say or do, exactly, but he felt compelled to see her, to try. Something. Why not go for broke and see what might come of it? If it turned out to be nothing, well, at least he’d be no worse off. And just maybe…
Resolutely pushing on the heavy doors, he entered the large, high-ceilinged room and moved quietly through the vast, open space towards the back, where Hermione’s office was located. Just then, there was a sound coming from above, a quiet, shuffling noise and then the click of high heels on hard wood flooring. Instinctively, he looked up towards the open stacks one floor above. All that separated them from the main library space below was a metal railing. Squinting, he could make out a small, backlit figure moving along the rows of books. Hermione was working late.
Draco’s heart took a tiny leap, and, swallowing hard, he headed towards the curved staircase that would take him to the upper levels of the stacks.
Three fairly weighty volumes remained in the trolley Hermione was manoeuvring along the narrow space between two very tall bookshelves. She would be done soon and could go home. Not that the prospect of home was all that cheering. The stacks were equally inviting right now. Pathetic.
Heaving a sigh, she reached for one of the books, hefting it into an open space on the shelf. Just then, there was a slight noise behind her. Turning quickly, her hands still on the grainy spine of the book, she peered in the direction of the sound.
Draco stood at the far end of the row.
Instantly, nervous excitement flared deep in the pit of her stomach. He was here. He’d actually come despite their agreement. But she couldn’t assume. She mustn’t. It was probably just to discuss lingering effects of the spell.
“Malfoy, what are you doing here? We agreed...”
Moving closer, he gave her a small, apologetic grin. “I came to borrow a book...?”
Undaunted, he tried another tack. “Actually, I was just passing, see, and I saw the light...”
Hermione raised a dubious eyebrow, desperately clinging to common sense that was quickly shredding as her heart began to race faster. “You did not. You couldn’t have done. I switched the main lights off. The only ones still on are up here in the stacks.”
“All right, yeah. I just... I wanted...” He shuffled his feet nervously. “The truth is, I couldn’t stay away.”
The ball of nerves that had been fluttering in Hermione’s stomach now shot up to her throat. “Why?” she asked softly, her voice trembling ever so slightly despite a concerted effort to stay calm. “It’s the spell, isn’t it. It’s still controlling you.”
Draco shook his head, edging closer still. “I don’t think so.”
He was standing only inches from her now, gazing down at her with mesmerising intensity. That close, the temptation to launch herself at him was strong. This was the spell for her too, it had to be. Hadn't it? The urge was just too powerful. ‘Do it!’ an inner voice urged. ‘Just do it, and find out once and for all!’
And then, for one of only a handful of times in her life, Hermione allowed an impulse to govern her entirely, a mad, spontaneous impulse that threw all caution, propriety, and reason to the winds.
Grabbing him by the lapels, she smashed her mouth into his, kissing him with everything she had. His surprise was evident; stiffening momentarily, he stumbled backwards a step. But then, she felt his mouth softening against hers and relaxing into the kiss, and in that moment, everything changed.
The fervour with which she’d initiated it was gone, replaced by something altogether different. The kiss warmed and became leisurely, feeling to Hermione as if he meant to savour her now, the way one would a fine wine, exploring the scent, feel and taste of her mouth with his own, inch by inch, so as to mark the experience and remember it.
This was nothing like the earlier kisses they’d shared, fuelled by sex magic. Those had been mindless and desperate and greedy, frantically need driven, crazed. Their relentless hunger for each other had been very nearly painful at times. This was quiet, more deliberate and purposeful, tender by comparison. Without even realizing it, they had slipped into an embrace, arms winding comfortably around each other.
At last, they broke apart, breathless and still embracing; sudden awkwardness set in a moment later and both stepped back, arms dropping to their sides.
Draco now regarded her with a small, eminently satisfied grin; he looked, Hermione decided, like the cat that swallowed the cream. Several gallons’ worth, in fact.
“So, Hermione,” he said softly, and on his lips, her name sounded like a caress now, sensuous and intimate. He reached out to snag a tendril of her hair, playfully curling it around his index finger. “What d’you reckon? Was that the spell? Or possibly something else? I’ll leave it to you to judge.”
That nervous, tingly flutter had returned full force the moment he’d reached for her hair. In point of fact, the effect he consistently seemed to have on her now was most inconvenient. Feeling absurdly jumpy and scatterbrained whenever he was around, all at sixes and sevens at the mere thought of him, was not something to which Hermione was accustomed, and she was quite certain it couldn’t be a very good thing. Then again... just at the moment, she was also feeling more alive than she had in ages, and it wasn’t the spell doing it. It really was something else altogether, and incredibly, the source of it was standing in front of her, a smile in his grey eyes.
She moved a bit closer, resting the palms of her hands on his chest and cocking her head to one side. “Hmm. I shall need a bit more evidence before I can decide.”
Draco chuckled quietly, bending his head to nuzzle the soft skin of her cheek. “I think I can manage that.” Then he dipped his head lower, his breath tickling her neck and his mouth very close to her ear. “It wasn’t the spell. Not for me,” he whispered.
Hermione drew her head back to stare at him, wide-eyed. “You mean...?”
Grinning at her, he shrugged lightly. “What can I say? It seems I fancy you. Reckon I have done for quite some time, if I’m being honest.”
That explained an awful lot, suddenly. “Oh!” was all she could manage, still stunned.
“Any chance you might like to give it a go?” he went on. “Give us a go, I mean; do it properly this time.” At this, there was, very briefly, something in his eyes... an expression that was unguarded, cautiously hopeful and suddenly, so very young. She caught just a flash of it and then he averted his gaze.
Repressing the huge smile that threatened now was really difficult, but somehow Hermione managed to keep a straight face. She lifted an eyebrow. “Define ‘properly.’”
Draco brightened. There was definite encouragement in her words. Well, a bit, at least. Enough to be going on with. “Dinner,” he continued. “Tonight, say. I know a marvellous little Italian place not too far from here.”
Dinner sounded very good indeed, especially as all at once, she found herself positively famished. She nodded, all seriousness. “And?”
“And... breakfast tomorrow, perhaps? I could call round at about ten,” he hastened to add. “Look, we can take things at whatever pace you like. No rush. I didn't mean to suggest –”
Silencing him with a gentle finger pressed to his lips, she twined her arms about his neck and sighed. “You know, Malfoy... Draco... I’ve been rethinking your request for a transfer into my department. I believe it might be a good idea after all.”
“Oh yes?” Draco’s smile was teasing and just a bit cocky now, but it was clear that he was pleased. Lowering his head, his lips grazed hers ever so lightly. "I’m actually a very hard worker, you know, contrary to popular opinion. When the subject matter takes my fancy, that is.”
After that pronouncement, there was only blissful silence, one sweet, lingering kiss followed by a second and then a third, before they came up for air at last. Finally, tucking her arm firmly in his, Draco led Hermione down the winding staircase to the main floor of the library.
“I’ll just get my coat, shall I?” she said over her shoulder as she headed into her office. “Be right back.”
“No hurry,” he replied, glancing around with a newly appreciative eye at what would soon be his new work environs. “Hey, Granger, do I get my own office?”
“Getting a bit ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?” Muffled laughter rippled from the interior of her office, and then she emerged, her coat and umbrella slung over one arm.
“Okay, okay...” Chuckling, he commandeered her other arm once again as they headed toward the tall double doors. “At least tell me one thing, anyway.”
Hermione looked at him curiously. “What’s that?”
“What you’re wearing today. Under that fetching outfit, I mean. Purely informational, of course, and just for old times’ sake, as I’m clearly not going to be seeing for myself.”
‘Well played, Malfoy,’ Hermione thought to herself with an inward grin. Her mouth twitched with scantly concealed amusement. “I suppose I could tell you that much.” Leaning in, she whispered into Draco’s ear as they approached the lift that would take them to the outside.
Instantly, his eyebrows shot up, his mouth fell open, and he turned his head sharply to stare at her. And then his astonishment turned to pure and very wicked appreciation. Hermione smiled blithely in return.
Pushing open the camouflaged phone box doors, he shook open his umbrella, large enough for both of them, and together, they stepped into the teeming street. Torrents of rain and wind buffeted them, and Draco slipped a protective arm around Hermione’s waist, pulling her close.
Dinners, lazy weekend breakfasts, lunches too – wretched caff food, brown bag, the little café around the corner – wherever and whenever possible... Muggle films and the theatre if she fancied that, expeditions to bookshops, strolls in the park... whatever it took and however long. He didn’t care. This brilliant, tenacious, sometimes infuriating, always surprising and perfectly gorgeous girl would be his.
Her and every stitch of her delicious underwear.