Actions

Work Header

It's Not Over

Chapter Text

Draco pinned Hermione to the wall with his body, their tongues dueling, lips crashing together.  Hermione’s hands were wrapped around Draco’s neck, pulling him closer.  She rubbed herself against the hard front of his trousers.  His hands kneaded her breasts through her dress, his fingers pinching her sensitive nipples.  She turned her head and inhaled shakily. 

 

“Malfoy, I have to go.  My friends will come looking for me if I don’t show up to the grad party soon.”

 

“Fuck your friends.  Come with me to the Room of Requirement,” he said, kissing the sensitive juncture between her neck and shoulder.  

 

She pushed him slightly, ducking out of his arms.

 

“Malfoy, I’m going now.  Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”  She righted her clothes, avoiding his angry, passionate gaze.

 

“This isn’t over, Mudblood.  I’m not done with you yet.”

 

“It’s over, Malfoy.  But thank you for making it easier for me,” Hermione said, giving him a look of disgust and quickly walking towards Gryffindor Tower.  

 

Draco kicked the wall, angry that he had resorted to such a hateful epithet.  He felt his eyes burn with frustrated tears.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::  

 

During the past school year, they had shared several classes.  There were few students who could keep up with Draco or Hermione, so naturally professors paired them up for several projects.  Hermione had been an excellent partner- hard working, curious, thoughtful.  She never held back compliments about Draco’s equally fastidious work, pleased that she finally had a project partner who could hold their own.  

 

By December of their final year of school, Draco looked forward to their nightly meetings in the library.  Unlike most students at Hogwarts, even those in his own house, Hermione challenged Draco.  She didn’t care about his fortune or his name.  Draco knew she was giving him a chance to prove to her that he was more than a rich, bigoted wizard.  

 

By February, Draco was kissing Hermione in dark corners of the castle, leaving purple love bites on her neck.  He loved to muss up her hair before she went back to her dorm for the night.  By April, he was fucking her in empty classrooms or sneaking into her dorm to wake her up with his tongue against her clit.  

 

In public, Draco acted dismissively of her.  Over time this dichotomy in his behavior bothered Hermione more and more.  Hermione had been hurt and livid when he had asked Astoria Greengrass to the Graduation Ball.  Draco had been bewildered that she was so angry with him for attending the dance with Astoria.  He had assumed she’d go to the ball with one of her Gryffindor flunkies.  

 

When Hermione realized Draco had chosen to hide their—whatever it was—from everyone she needed to move on.  Her parents encouraged her to attend Muggle university, to round herself out as a person, her mum would say.  She was looking forward to attending uni.  It was the perfect way for her to continue learning and would get her away from the constant judgment of the wizarding world.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 

 

Over the summer, Draco dwelled on his past interactions with Hermione.  It would make him chuckle to think of some sarcastic observation she had made or sigh to think of the look of hurt she had the last time they fought.  He regretted calling her a Mudblood during that last fight.  

 

While he did not value her Muggle heritage, he did think she was brilliant and passionate.  He had been with a few girls during his time at Hogwarts, but it was glaringly clear to him that they had been girls, while Hermione comported herself like a lady.  He had been around pure-bloods his entire life and the behavior of those girls lacked thought and grace.  Hermione, with her beautiful posture and giving nature, made those pure-blood girls seem coarse.  Draco knew this should not be the case, but it was.

 

At night, Draco replayed their passionate encounters, masturbating to images of Hermione writhing against him.  She had been so responsive to Draco’s touch.  After Draco would find his release, he found himself longing for her sweet kisses and soft curves.

 

Draco accepted a few invitations from his fellow Slytherins.  He attended a summer get-together at the Zabini estate and found himself in an isolated area of the house with Astoria Greengrass.  She tried talking to him about Slytherin gossip, but he couldn’t be arsed to care.  

 

Astoria was pretty, with straight, dark brown hair and even features.  Draco could tell she had spent a significant amount of time making herself look attractive.  Her shiny lips and strong perfume negatively contrasted with his memory of Hermione’s delicious natural scent and full, pink lips.  

 

Despite his neutral feelings about Astoria, he pulled her close and kissed her.  She threw her arms around his neck and eagerly kissed him back.  The longer the kiss went on, the more suffocated Draco felt.  He untangled himself from her, kissed her cheek and wished her a good evening.  

 

When Draco got back to Malfoy Manor, he lay on his bed, feeling oddly detached.  He had thought he might be able to kindle an interest in someone besides her.  He didn’t feel revulsion from his kiss with Astoria, but he had been able to see a future with her filled with lukewarm physical attraction and insubstantial conversation.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::    

 

Hermione was in her element at London University.  As a first year student, she had to take several general subject classes.  Her classes were challenging and often occurred in lecture halls with hundreds of other students.  She liked that she could blend in.    

 

She worked part time at the Senate House Institute of Classical Studies Library.  Most nights she shelved books or sat at the help desk.  The library, as it had been at Hogwarts, was her place of comfort.  She felt at home amongst the stacks.  

 

Keeping herself engaged kept her from thinking about her last few weeks at Hogwarts.  When her mind would wander, she would feel a stab of betrayal at Draco’s refusal to acknowledge her as anything more than a study partner.  His parting words to her would inevitably make her chest hurt.  She had opened herself up to him and he had never considered her as more than a toy he could enjoy then discard when he tired of it.  She had given him a chance to prove that he was more than a spoiled git.  He was, in fact, worse than she could have imagined.  

 

But her subconscious disagreed with her on some level, because she woke up frequently having dreamt of Draco.  Her dreams were passionate, engaging, and reminded her of the connection she had developed with him.  Some nights her dreams were so real, she sobbed when she woke and discovered that she was alone in her bed.  

 

Hermione acknowledged to herself that she needed closure with Draco, but she would be damned if she sought him out. 

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

         

Draco remembered where Hermione went to school and from there it was easy to locate the university library and wait for her to show up.  He wasn’t pleased to be in contact with so many Muggles, but he needed a glimpse of her.  He had charmed his hair a light brown color and wore a ball cap he had pinched from one of the students.  It helped hide his features, which anyone connected with the wizarding world would recognize in an instant.  

 

On his third night of wandering the massive library, he finally found her.

 

What the fuck did she do to her hair? 

 

He sat a few meters away from the front desk where she was assisting students.  Now that he could study her, he saw that her pixie cut highlighted her big eyes and full lips.  He had grown to love her crazy mane, loved to feel it tickling his skin as she had kissed his body.  With her shorn hair, her graceful neck and shoulders were clearly displayed.  She wore a pink ballet wrap sweater with a pink tank underneath.  Draco thought she looked edgier, but still beautiful.  

 

Her face had that same open quality that he had always found so arresting.  The women of Slytherin never truly showed their emotions, so Hermione’s straightforward reactions were a breath of fresh air.  

 

Draco had thought about her anger at him over the last few weeks of school and had figured out that she had been ready for them to be a real couple, while he was reluctant to be romantically linked to her in public.  

 

His intense feelings for her confused him.  On the one hand, he wasn’t ready to encounter pure-blood ridicule for dating a Muggle-born.  His parents, who had chosen to live abroad for the past two years, would certainly disapprove of Hermione.  But on the other hand, the idea of her seeing someone else made him feel sick.  He saw the way the male students reacted to her, asking her a ridiculous amount of questions to keep her attention.

 

Draco followed her as she left the library.  It was almost midnight when she stopped in front of a building a few blocks from the university.  She entered a code into an electronic pad near the door, then entered the building.  Not wanting to be seen, Draco found an isolated alley and Apparated back to the manor.  

 

Draco paced back and forth before the fire in his bedroom, trying to understand why Hermione would endanger herself by walking home alone at night.  He would have to follow her back to her apartment after her shifts.  

 

Over the next month, Draco figured out her schedule.  She worked evenings Monday through Friday at the library and studied there on Saturday afternoon.  Sometimes she sat at a table with other students while she studied, but usually she sat alone, her books creating a barrier around her.  

 

It was during these isolated study sessions that Draco could see that she seemed somewhat unhappy.  She would stare into space for minutes at a time before she would shake herself out of her stupor to continue studying.  Having studied with her intensely the past year, Draco knew she was not quite herself.  Was it possible that she was thinking of him?

 

Chapter Text

 

The agitation Draco had felt after he graduated from Hogwarts was slightly eased by seeing Hermione again.  The conflicted feelings he had prevented him approaching her, but every time her gaze seemed to rest on him, he thought he might shore up his courage and approach her.  

 

One night as Draco got ready to follow Hermione home, he saw a handsome, tall bloke approach her.  The bloke said something to her and she smiled and nodded her head at him and went to get her things.  She came out from behind the desk and walked out of the library with him.  Draco followed them.

 

What Draco saw next made him see red.  That handsome bastard cupped her face and kissed her!  They joined hands and walked towards a late night café.  Draco couldn’t watch any more.  His hand had been forced.  He needed to confront Hermione.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The next night, Draco was relieved to see that Hermione’s suitor was nowhere in sight.  As she gathered up her things to leave the library at the end of her shift, Draco prepared himself to confront her. 

 

Hermione was a couple of blocks from her building when Draco called to her.  She spun around.

 

“Malfoy?  What are you doing here?”  She put her bag in front of her chest in a defensive position.

 

“Hermione, I wanted to talk to you.  I’ve been thinking about you.”

 

“I don’t have anything to say to you, Draco.  I have to go.”  She turned around and started to walk quickly towards her flat.

 

Draco was able to catch up and got in front of her.  “I know you don’t, but would you at least give me a few minutes and hear me out?”

 

Perhaps I can get the closure I need if I talk to him now, she thought.

 

“Okay.  We’re close to my flat.  You can come in for a few minutes,” she said to him.

 

They walked in silence for the remainder of the trip.  Draco took the opportunity to study her up close.  She had lost weight over the last few months.  Her cheekbones almost looked sharp in her face.  Her skin lacked the luster it had before.

 

She entered her code, Draco memorizing it for future reference.  Her flat was on the third floor.  She opened the door to a small room with a bed, a tiny kitchen and a door to what Draco assumed was the bathroom.

 

“You live here?” he asked incredulously.  I thought her parents had good jobs.

 

She gave him a cold look.  “What was it you needed to say to me?”  

 

She added water to the kettle and put it on the stovetop to heat.  Hermione motioned for Draco sit with her at the kitchen table.

 

“I wanted you to know that I don’t think of you as a…a Mudblood.”  Draco was finding this conversation much harder than he had imagined.  She seemed to want to look at anything except him.

 

“But your actions told me you think less of me. You might not see my value, but there are others who do.”

 

“I do see your value,” Draco said.  Wasn’t the fact that he had sought her out enough to show her he saw something in her?

 

“But you don’t, Draco.  Can you even defend your actions?”  Hermione got up and poured herself a cup of water for tea.  

 

“What actions?”

 

Hermione stared at the floor.  “Are you serious?”

 

“Yes, tell me why you can’t even look me in the eye.”

 

Hermione looked at his face.  Why was he so bloody handsome?  And so bloody sincere looking?  She sat down, holding the steaming cup between her hands. 

  

“We were… becoming friends.  And then we started sleeping together.  I thought maybe you had changed, given up your feelings on blood purity.  But you would make fun of me around your Slytherin mates and hit on girls in the hallways.  When I saw you with Astoria at the Graduation Ball, I knew all I was to you was a shag.”

 

“I guess I wasn’t ready to be raked over the coals by my housemates.  And my parents wouldn’t be thrilled if they knew I was seeing you.  Why can’t we go back to enjoying each other’s company?”  He was taken aback by the anger in Hermione’s eyes.  

 

“I know you aren’t used to people saying no to you, Malfoy.  But I can’t live with this horrible feeling of being less in your eyes. You aren’t good for me, Draco.”  She got up and walked to the door.  

 

“Please respect my wishes and leave me alone.”

 

“No, I’m not walking away from you yet.”  Draco stepped into Hermione’s space, crowding her against the closed door.  He leaned in close to her, caging her in with his arms.

 

Hermione let out a small sob.  “I can’t do this, Draco!  You really hurt me.  Please, please go.”

 

Draco gathered her in his arms, her tears making his gut clench.  She resisted at first, but then let herself relax into his hold.  After all the months of separation from Hermione, his body hummed with the contact.

 

Lifting her chin, he looked at her wet eyes, “You missed this, Granger.”

 

Letting out a shaky breath, she shook her head.  

 

“It doesn’t matter if I’ve missed it or not.”  She pushed at his chest, but he wouldn’t relinquish his hold on her.  

 

“It matters.”  He took a deep breath, inhaling her vanilla scent.

 

Then Draco opened her door and left the small flat.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

On shaky legs, Hermione walked towards her bed, curling herself on top of the mattress.  She had thought hiding in the Muggle world would help her to get over Draco, but her traitorous mind dwelled on their affair at the worst times.  

 

Handsome Grayson, with his tall, muscular physique and thick brown hair had provided some distraction over the past few weeks, but she admitted to herself that she didn’t feel the electricity she felt when Draco touched her.  Grayson was also a Muggle, so unless they became quite serious, she would have to hide a huge part of herself from him.

 

That subversive voice in her head urged her to give into her feelings and continue her sexual affair with Malfoy.  But the logical part of her scoffed at the idea of letting him back into her life when she was someone he was embarrassed to be associated with.   She crawled under the covers, letting her tears lull her into a fitful sleep.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco Apparated into his suite at Malfoy Manor with more insight than he had before his talk with Hermione.  He had never been particularly sensitive to other people’s feelings, but seeing Hermione so broken had unnerved him.  I did that to her.  I made her feel like rubbish.        

 

Draco stared at the ceiling, trying to figure out how he could get back into Hermione’s life.  Their talk hadn’t gone as well as he had hoped.  He didn’t even confront her about that Muggle he saw her with.  

 

What a fucking mess.  He had tried to move on, but something about Granger drew him in.  Draco also felt extremely possessive of her.  That was probably the hardest for him, as he had no claim over Hermione.  He couldn’t exactly take her out to dinner in Diagon Alley. 

 

He got up and started to undress for bed when he noticed his shirt smelled of Hermione.  He held it to his face, basking in this reminder of her.  

 

Why did I have to fall for her, of all people? 

Chapter Text

Hermione spent the next week thinking about her encounter with Draco.  She knew he felt ownership over her, but definitely not love.  He was her intellectual equal, able to keep up with the way she connected arguments and theories.  And the sex, well, it was unparalleled. 

 

But he had broken her heart by refusing to acknowledge their relationship to their peers.  She had wanted to vomit when she walked into the ball and saw Draco, looking handsome in his dress robes with Astoria Greengrass.  Astoria looked at Draco with such admiration and Draco seemed to reciprocate her interest.  How had she so misjudged his intentions for her?

 

Hermione was embarrassed to admit that their time together had consisted of academic conversation and sexual encounters.  She really knew very little of Draco and he of her.  

 

There was a sense of relief that Draco had been thinking about her and sought her out.  She knew his friendships were superficial at best and she had offered him something he lacked with those people.  But she didn’t want to make the same mistake again.    

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Since Draco’s visit, Hermione had been evading Grayson.  She gave a bitter laugh when he sent her a break-up email.  It didn’t matter.  Apparently her stupid heart said Draco or no one.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

When Hermione got home from her morning classes, she had a message from her mum.  Her mum sounded worried.  She told Hermione to call her whenever she could.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

It had been two weeks since Draco had spoken to Hermione.  He had given her time.  

 

As he observed her in the library, she was unusually reserved with patrons and her coworkers.  Draco followed her out when her shift ended, worried by the slump in her shoulders.

 

“Hermione,” he said, catching up with her.  Her eyes were wet, her nose red.

 

“Hey Draco,” she said quietly, “It’s not a great time to talk.  I’ve had a shit day.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“My old cat, Crookshanks, died last night.  He was my familiar.”  Wiping at her cheeks, she continued.  “I’m going to my parents’ house tomorrow morning to bury him.”

 

“You could use some company tonight.  Would you come somewhere with me?”  

 

Hermione looked at him expectantly.

 

“My greenhouse.  You can collect flowers for your cat.”  Draco had never had a pet, but flowers were appropriate when one died, he reasoned.

 

She gave a watery laugh, “Alright.”  They found a quiet alley and Draco Apparated them into the Malfoy Manor foyer.  

 

Hermione took in the massive home.  It was silent.

 

“Are your parents here?”

 

“No, they’ve lived in Sweden for the past two and a half years.”  Draco called for his house elf, Beenie.

 

“Yes, Master Draco?”  Hermione was pleased to see that Beenie was wearing a tiny orange dress.  Her big eyes looked at Draco with adoration.

 

“Beenie, will you set up a table in the greenhouse with hot chocolate and biscuits?  Whatever biscuits you have will be fine.”  He patted Beenie’s head affectionately.  Beenie snapped her fingers and disappeared.

 

As they moved through the mansion towards the greenhouse, Hermione absorbed that Draco lived in this huge house by himself.  

 

They exited the back of the mansion and went outside to get to the greenhouse.  Hermione was charmed by the gravel walkway, flanked by huge trees on either side of the path.  Fairy lights were strung on the trees, giving the leafless trees a sense of warmth.  They reminded her of Christmas lights. 

 

The greenhouse was a massive glass structure.  Through the glass, Hermione spied orange and lemon trees in large terracotta pots.  Draco opened the door to the greenhouse for Hermione.  She stepped into the warm, slightly humid air.  It smelled of rich dirt, lavender, roses and citrus.  

 

Draco picked up a pair of shears from the gardening bench and led Hermione around the greenhouse, cutting flowers.  He handed them to Hermione as she watched him clip the fragrant blooms.

 

Draco stopped in front of a large bush of baby’s breath.  “Baby’s breath represents purity of heart.”  

 

Hermione remembered the first time she had seen Crookshanks.  His big eyes had looked into hers with understanding.  She had touched him and felt her magic soothed by his presence, which was a good indication of a compatible animal familiar.  

 

Draco conjured a lovely crystal vase for the flowers they had collected.  He took them from Hermione and added them to the vase, then levitated the vase to the center of the table with their hot chocolate and biscuits.

 

Draco gently rested his hand against the small of Hermione’s back, leading her to a pot of yellow daffodils.

 

“These are for you.  They’ll brighten your sad, little flat.”  

 

She rolled her eyes, but accepted the flowers.  Before she could ask the daffodil’s meaning, he was walking towards the table that held Crook’s flowers and their food.

 

He held a chair out for her, helping her to settle into her seat.  He then sat across from her, taking a sip of the rich chocolate.

 

“What have you been doing since we left Hogwarts?” Hermione asked.

 

“I manage about a third of the Malfoy holdings.  I spend a lot of my time checking the accounting books.  I’m also responsible for the manor’s upkeep.”  Draco took a bite of a shortbread cookie.

 

Hermione had so many questions for Draco, but her unsure heart kept her from asking him more.  

 

“How do you like university?” he asked.  Draco was curious about Hermione’s studies.  

 

She told him about her classes and professors.  She had perked up when talking about her schooling, giving him a detailed account of her favorite class, Medieval Literature.  

 

“What are your plans for the Christmas holiday?” she said, taking the last sip of her drink.

 

“I don’t have any.  I had planned on giving the house elves the day off to celebrate with their clan.”  He gave her a small smile.  

 

“You don’t celebrate with your parents?” 

 

“Usually Mother wants to spend the months of December and January somewhere tropical.  Her last letter said they would be in the Caribbean this year.  My father can work anywhere, so he allows her to choose their holiday destinations.”

 

“When was the last time you celebrated Christmas with them?” she wondered.  She had a sinking feeling the answer would shock her.

 

“Um… third year.  They threw a ball at the manor for one of the Malfoy companies on Christmas Eve.”  Draco saw Hermione was horrified by his answer, but he wasn’t sure what he could say.

 

“I know you don’t care for Muggles, but you could join my family for Christmas.  My parents would enjoy having someone else to dote on,” she said with a grin. 

 

“You don’t think your parents would mind?”  

 

“No, there are a few weeks before the holiday, so they’ll have plenty of time to prepare.”

 

“Alright.  I’ll raid the wine cellar for Christmas dinner.” Draco gave her a smirk, which made her heart contract for a second.  It was the smirk that made her lose all inhibition with him.      

 

She stood up, gathering her belongings.  Draco held the flowers for her.  

 

“Thanks for tonight.  Can one of your elves retrieve the vase in a few days?” Hermione thought the faceted crystal vase looked like a family heirloom.

 

“No, the vase is for you.  I’ll need to Apparate you out of the manor.”

 

“I can walk back from the university if you want to Apparate there.”

 

“I’ll Apparate you to the school, but it’s too late for you to walk home alone,” he said, noticing her getting ready to disagree. “I insist, Hermione.”  Draco’s serious tone quashed any argument from her.

 

“Okay, Malfoy.  You win this time.  But I’ll have you know I walk home alone every night after my library shift ends.”

 

Like hell you do, he thought to himself.  But he refrained from giving himself away to her.

 

He took the opportunity to touch her by placing his arm around her waist before Apparating them to a secluded area of the university.   

  

They walked towards her flat, Draco asking her about Muggle Christmas traditions.  

 

“Santa Claus sounds like a wizard,” Draco laughed.

 

“That’s what I thought once I knew of the wizarding world!  First year, I tried to do some research on Santa Claus at the Hogwarts library, but Madame Pince got annoyed at me when I tried to explain my theory.”  Hermione walked up the steps to her building and entered her code into the electronic pad.

 

Draco followed her up the stairs to her flat.  At her door, she fished out her keys and unlocked the door.

 

“Thanks, Malfoy.”  She leaned into him and kissed his cheek before slipping into her flat.

 

He stood for a minute looking at her closed door, with a very rare genuine smile on his face.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The next morning, Hermione buried Crookshanks in her parents’ garden.  She placed the flowers from Draco on top of the grave.  Crooks was her companion for many years and she mourned his passing.  

 

She went from the garden into the kitchen to get a glass of water.  Her parents were at their dental practice, so the large home was quiet.  She wandered into the living room, then remembered that she wanted to look something up in one of her mother’s books.

 

She found The Victorian Flower Dictionary and looked up daffodils.  She found the specific flower Draco had cut for her, the Narcissus jonquilla.

 

After her emotional morning, her eyes began to water again as she looked at what the flower represented:  

 

Return my affections.  

 

     

 

Chapter Text

Hermione told her parents she had invited a friend from Hogwarts to spend Christmas day with them.  When she told them that friend was Draco Malfoy, they were nonplussed.

 

“Wasn’t he the boy who was mean to you for being Muggle-born?” her father asked. 

 

“Yes, but we were study partners last year and we got on well,” Hermione replied.

 

“He’s welcome here, Hermione,” her mother, Jean, said.  She gave her daughter a reassuring smile.

 

After dinner with her parents, Hermione returned to her flat.  Jean Granger sat at the kitchen island, watching her husband Richard put dishes into the dishwasher.

 

“Richard, I have a confession to make.”

 

“What’s that, love?”

 

“Last summer, when Hermione was at work, I put some of her books back in her room and saw her open diary on her desk.  I wasn’t trying to read it, but I saw a few sentences about her and Draco Malfoy.  They had some kind of relationship and I don’t think it ended how she wanted it to.”  Jean took a sip of her coffee while she looked at her distinguished husband.

 

“Hmm.  She hasn’t really been the same since she left Hogwarts.  I thought she was sad to be graduating and leaving her friends, but now that you mention it, she did behave like she had a broken heart.  I wonder what he did?”

 

Jean laughed, “Oh, Richard, I love how you assume that he did something to her.  She’s your daughter through and through.”

 

“Too right.  Well, I’m curious to meet this young man.  I have to make sure he’s good enough for our Hermione.”

 

“If she thinks he’s good enough, that’s enough for me,” Jean said to her protective husband.

 

“We’ll see.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

After Hermione had been to Malfoy Manor, Draco began to walk her home from work on a nightly basis.  On the fifth night, she invited him into her flat for a drink.  

 

They sat at her tiny kitchen table after she had served them hot cups of creamy, sweet tea. 

 

“Are you still seeing that tall bloke?” Draco asked.  Hermione was taken aback.  How had Draco known about Grayson?

 

She gave him a long look, but shook her head.  “I’m not seeing him any more.”

 

Draco felt a sense of relief.  “Good.”

 

His hands went to her short hair.  

 

“Why did you cut it?” 

 

“I needed a change.  I wanted to be somebody besides the bushy haired bookworm.”

 

Precisely a week after she ended her affair with Draco, Hermione went to the chicest salon she could find and had the stylist make her into someone new.  There was something empowering about chopping off her trademark locks.   

 

“I loved your long hair, but now I can see your face.”

 

Hermione blushed with Draco’s words and his attentions.  He’s beautiful, she thought.  His aristocratic features were intimidating: piercing, light grey eyes framed by expressive brows, a slightly pointed, superior nose, full, almost pretty lips.  He’d let his hair grow over the past few years and it fell to mid back in a long braid.  He was average height and his body was finely muscled from his long and strenuous Quidditch practices during school.  There was an elfin quality to his looks Hermione found charming.  She knew most women were attracted to him for his Malfoy pedigree and his Galleons, but he was smart and funny in a sarcastic, sharp way.  

 

Be careful, Hermione.  Thinking about Malfoy so affectionately won’t end well for you.      

 

She took a deep breath.  

 

“Today was my last day of work for the semester.  Next week I’ll be studying for my exams.”

 

Draco knew how seriously she took her studies.  “Are you staying here when you’re on break?”

 

“No, I’ll be at my parents’ for the holiday.  Let me give you the address so you can floo over on Christmas day around 4:00 p.m.”

 

Hermione handed him the address.  Draco stood and headed for the door.

“Well, goodnight,” Hermione said to him.

 

“I’ll see you in a couple of weeks,” he said and quickly pressed a kiss to her crown.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

It had been over a week and Draco had left Hermione to her studies.  Having observed her over the past few months, he found it ridiculous that she skipped meals so often when she was distracted.  How did she study when she was hungry? 

 

Draco had Beenie prepare a simple meal for him to take to Hermione.  It was dinner time and he hoped she would be in her flat.  Draco Apparated to her building, entered in her pilfered code and walked up to her place.  When he got to the door, he heard a man’s voice inside.  Draco felt his blood begin to boil.

 

His fist banged on her door.

 

In the flat, Harry Potter looked up at the door.  Hermione had the sneaking suspicion it would be Draco.  

 

“Let me get that, Hermione,” Harry said to his friend.

 

Harry opened the door to find a scowling Draco.  Draco looked shocked for a second before he schooled his face into a sneer.

 

“What are you doing here, Malfoy?” Harry spat at the haughty-looking wizard.

 

Before Draco could think about what he was saying, the words were erupting from his mouth.  

 

“Probably the same as you, Potter.  Enjoying a quick fuck from your hot little friend.”

 

Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth, tears burning her eyes.  She walked behind a furious Harry, holding his shoulder, pulling him back into the flat.

 

“It’s okay, Harry.  Just give us a second,” she said, her voice trembling.

 

Hermione closed the door and stepped into the hallway.

 

“What is he doing here?” Draco said menacingly.

 

“I don’t answer to you, Malfoy.  I thought…I don’t know what I thought.  Just go.”  She turned to grab the door handle, but a rough hand on her wrist stopped her.

 

She was facing the door, but something inside her felt the need to tell him the truth.  

“Harry is my friend, Draco.  But if we were together, he would treat me better than this,” she said quietly, shaking off his wrist and going back into her flat.

 

Draco threw the wrapped meal at the wall and Disapparated with a shotgun-like bang.  He didn’t give a bloody fuck if he got fined by the Ministry, he needed to get as far away from this flat as he could.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione jumped at the sharp sound of Draco’s departure.  Harry had been near the door, listening to her conversation with Malfoy.  He put his arm over Hermione’s shoulder, guiding her to the bed.

 

“Tell me what’s going on,” he said in his straightforward way.

 

They sat side by side, while Hermione took calming breaths.

 

“Do you remember that we were paired for a ton of projects last year?” Hermione asked.

 

Harry nodded.  He had felt sorry for Hermione, stuck with that git in the library for hours on end.

 

“We got on, I suppose.  Then we got physically involved.  I thought we were moving to become a couple, but he never wanted anyone to know about us.”

 

“Did you expect differently from him, Hermione?”  

 

“I did.  I have no idea why.  Anyway, I broke it off with him before we graduated.  He didn’t take it well.”

 

Harry looked at her face, wet with tears.  Over the years, Malfoy had made her cry one too many times.  Harry didn’t understand why Hermione would put herself in this position.  

 

“Why was he here tonight?  He looked like he wanted to kill me.”  Harry had always stood up to Malfoy, but there was something feral in the way he had looked this evening.

 

“He thinks he has some kind of hold over me.  He found me a few weeks after the semester started.  I missed him, Harry.  What’s wrong with me?” she cried, dropping her head onto Harry’s chest.  He held her, feeling her thin frame shake.  He wanted to thrash Malfoy.

 

Hermione was many wonderful things, but she’d never be the one thing Draco would want in a partner: a pure-blood.  Harry knew Hermione knew this.  She was torturing herself with this spoiled, mean arsehole.  He’d never put his fortune or his ties to his family in jeopardy for a relationship with a Muggle-born.

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry said.  

 

“Thanks, Harry.  Can we keep this between us?”

 

“Yeah, sure.”  

 

Chapter Text

“Hermione, do you want to go Christmas shopping with me?” Jean Granger asked her daughter.

 

“No thanks, Mum.”  

 

Jean had watched her daughter mope about the house the past few days.  She had tried to get Hermione to talk, but all she would say was that she was tired.  Jean couldn’t dispute that the end of the semester was hard, but Hermione seemed sad, too.

 

“Is your friend still coming on Christmas day?” Jean gently asked Hermione.

 

“Probably not.  I’m sorry I forgot to mention it to you.”  

 

“Did you and Draco break up, Hermione?” 

 

Hermione looked at her mother’s worried face and began to cry.  Jean took Hermione in her arms.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

“It’s just so complicated, Mum.”

 

Jean knew love wasn’t always easy.  Her daughter had inhabited a different world for the past seven years.  Hermione’s gifts were miraculous, but with those gifts came a world where she was looked down upon for her birth.  Jean didn’t understand all the nuances of the bigotry in the wizarding world, but she knew her daughter felt marginalized enough to come back to the Muggle world.  

 

“We support whatever you want, love.  If you’re supposed to end up together, he’ll do right by you.”

 

Hermione nodded, wiping her eyes.  

 

“Let’s get you out of this house.  I’ve noticed you could use some new clothes.  We’ll make it a girls’ day, okay?”

 

“Can we eat lunch at Selfridges?”  Hermione asked.

 

“Absolutely.”  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Several hours later, the Granger ladies walked back into the house laden with bags.  Jean hadn’t had many opportunities to spoil her daughter and it was a treat to buy her clothes that showcased her beauty and style.  

 

The Grangers ate dinner together, the ladies telling Richard about their marathon shopping spree at Selfridges.  He was pleased to see Hermione in much better spirits than she had been the past few days.

 

After the family finished dinner and watched some telly, Hermione said goodnight to her parents, leaving them to watch a re-run of Doctor Who.  Jean cuddled into Richard’s side, enjoying his comforting scent.

 

“Did you find out what’s going on with our girl?” he asked.

 

Jean sighed.  “I think she and Draco are on the outs again, but she didn’t give me very much information.”

 

“He won’t be coming for Christmas, I suppose,” Richard said.

 

“Hermione doesn’t think he’ll show up.  I had hoped to meet him.  Maybe he’ll surprise her.  I’ll prepare enough for a guest and have a small gift for him, just in case.”

 

“My Jean, the eternal optimist.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::    

 

 

Christmas day dawned cold and snowy.  At the end of his bed, Draco found a few presents from his parents.  All the items were high-end and impersonal.  Draco had given the elves the day off, so he went to the kitchen to figure out what he could scrounge up.  He found several baked goods and made himself tea.  

 

Sitting in the library, eating his scone and sipping his hot Earl Grey, Draco decided he would go to Hermione’s family home.  He had bought her a gift several weeks ago.  If she didn’t want him there he was certain she would tell him to leave.  He knew he had let his anger take over last time he had seen her.  Again.  He was fairly certain that if she forgave him, he wouldn’t get another chance if he fucked up one more time.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco took a deep breath as he walked up to the Granger house.  Her home was modest compared to his, but it was pleasant looking.  He could see the glowing Christmas tree in the front window.  A fresh pine wreath adorned the front door.

 

He had chosen two bottles of wine from the cellar and picked a small rosemary topiary potted in terracotta from his greenhouse for her parents.  Hermione’s gift was in his pocket.  He would give that to her when they had a moment alone.

 

He knocked on the door.  A petite, confident-looking woman answered.  She had curly, shoulder length hair and warm brown eyes.

 

“Draco?” she said, smiling.

 

Remembering his manners, he nodded.

 

“Yes, ma’am.  I’m Draco Malfoy.  It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

She beckoned him into the house.  “Call me Jean.  I’m Hermione’s mother.  Hermione, your friend is here,” she called.

 

“These are for you and Mr. Granger,” Draco said, handing her the rosemary and wine.

 

“Thank you, dear,” she said, taking the gifts from him.

 

Draco saw Hermione walking towards him from the back of the house.  The look she gave him was confused.

 

“Hermione, I’m going to help your father in the kitchen,” Jean said, squeezing her daughter’s shoulder.  

 

Hermione waited until her mother was out of the room before saying anything.

 

“What are you doing here, Draco?”  Her navy blue sweater dress hugged her slender form.  Light makeup accentuated her dark eyes and full lips.  Draco thought his gift would be gorgeous on her.

 

“I told you I would join your family for Christmas dinner.”

 

“That invitation was given before you humiliated me in front of Harry,” she said wearily.  “Look, Draco, my parents don’t need to be witness to one of your outbursts.”

 

Draco wanted to roll his eyes, but held back.  “Hermione, I promise to be on my best behavior.”  

 

He grabbed her hand and pulled her into the formal living room, away from the front door.  Standing close to her he looked at her distrusting face and knew he had to give her something to work with.

 

“Can we talk for a moment?”

 

Hermione nodded.

 

“I was really horrible to you at your flat.  You don’t deserve that from me.  When it comes to you, my jealousy knows no bounds.”  He held onto her hands and examined her pensive expression.  

 

“Draco, you have no claim on me.  You aren’t my boyfriend and you never were.  I think we could be friends, but that’s all.  I won’t get involved with someone who would never have me meet his parents or even take me to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink.”  She took her hands from his, carefully watching his face for evidence of anger.

 

He looked down at the floor.  “I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stay away from you.  I think about you all the time.”  Draco pulled a gold box out of his pocket.  “I got these for you after I saw your short hair.”

 

Hermione slowly opened the box and gasped when she found a pair of round sapphire studs surrounded by a halo of tiny diamonds.

 

“This is too much, Draco!”

 

He waved her off.  “Hardly.  I noticed you never wear earrings, but they’d look stunning with your new hair.  Will you put them on?”

 

Somewhat reluctantly she agreed.  These earrings were now the nicest things in her jewelry box.

 

Draco smiled when she showed him the round dark blue gems on her ears.  He led her to a mirror and stood behind her as she admired the twinkling earrings.  

 

“Thank you for the thoughtful gift.”  She turned and hugged him.  Draco enjoyed the embrace for a moment before she stepped out of his arms.

 

“Come on.  I bet it’s time to eat,” she said, leading him towards the dining room.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::  

 

Hermione’s parents were kind, polite and intelligent.  Draco wondered what it would have been like to grow up with so much love.  It was clear they knew enough about Draco not to put him on the spot, which he very much appreciated.  He didn’t want to talk about the Malfoys, his parents or what a cock he had been as a kid.  

 

After they ate a rich chocolate and orange soufflé, Hermione offered to clean up.

 

“No, darling, spend some time with Draco.  Your father and I can clean up,” Jean replied.

 

“Thanks, Mum, Dad.”  

 

“Thank you for the wonderful meal, Mr. and Mrs. Granger,” Draco said, excusing himself from the table.

 

They walked to the Christmas tree.  

 

“I got you this before graduation,” Hermione admitted.  “Oh, and Mum and Dad have a little gift for you, too.”  

 

Draco felt his stomach clench at her admission.  He would push that feeling aside and focus on enjoying his time with Hermione.

 

Two wrapped gifts were presented to him.  He opened the gift from Hermione’s parents first.  Inside was an assortment of Muggle candies.  

 

“I told Mum you liked sweets,” Hermione chuckled.  “You’ll like the Lion bar.”

 

“No doubt.  I’ll be sure to thank them.”

 

Hermione’s gift was wrapped in shiny green paper with a silver ribbon.  Draco carefully unwrapped it to find an ornately engraved silver Snitch with his name on one of its delicate wings.  Seeing how careful Hermione was with her money, Draco knew she must have saved for such a fine gift.  She didn’t have the resources of other girls he had dated, yet her gift was the most personal present he’d ever received.

 

“It’s amazing, Hermione.  Thank you.”

 

She didn’t understand the impact her gift had made on him.  She smiled.

 

“You’re welcome.  I’m glad you like it.”   

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::    

 

“Richard, did you see Hermione’s earrings?” Jean asked her husband in a hushed whisper.

 

“I did,” he nodded.  “What do you make of that, love?”

 

“He clearly has strong feelings for our girl, but she’s so wary of him.  I think he’s trying.”  

 

“I agree.  The earrings aren’t the type of gift you give someone you aren’t serious about pursuing.”  Richard had liked the interested way Draco Malfoy had watched his daughter when she talked.  He was clearly a smart fellow and had been an enjoyable dinner guest.  

 

Jean thought about the dynamic between her daughter and her fair-haired friend.  They were well-matched in many respects.  Although she liked Draco, she was first and foremost concerned with her daughter’s happiness.  She hoped Draco had the strength of character to pursue a meaningful relationship with Hermione.  Her daughter deserved a partner who appreciated her myriad of gifts.

 

Jean sighed.  “I wish I could protect her from heartbreak, but she’s an adult.  She’s been taking care of herself for a long time.  If she loves him, we’ll come to care for him as well.”

 

Richard hugged his wife to his side and kissed her cheek.  He knew Jean worried about their only child, but he had faith that even if she did get her heart broken, Hermione would learn from the experience and move on.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The family watched It’s A Wonderful Life with Draco seated close to Hermione on the loveseat.  His introduction to film was mesmerizing.  He’d always thought Muggle life would be primitive and crude, but the way Hermione and her family lived was rich and dynamic.  

 

Richard and Jean fell asleep during the movie.  Draco took advantage and pulled Hermione into his arms as they watched the television.  Over the course of the evening, she had warmed to him.  It had helped that her parents were accepting of his presence.    

 

“Come to the manor for New Year’s Eve,” he whispered into her ear.  She shivered.

 

“I don’t know, Draco.”

 

His fingers lightly trailed up and down her forearm.  

 

“Just think about it.”  

 

Having Hermione this close made Draco inwardly groan.  He’d never gone so long without sex.  He hadn’t been with anyone since he’d last slept with Hermione.  

 

“Do you miss it?”  Draco’s hands softly massaged her scalp.  

 

“What?” she breathed.

 

“Being intimate.”  His voice was so quiet, she wasn’t sure if he’d said what she thought she’d heard.     

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Me, too.”

 

Not wanting to ruin the closeness he had developed with Hermione over the past few hours, Draco refrained from pressing her for more.  He was working towards getting Hermione to trust him again.  After all the times he’d screwed up, he knew she wasn’t going to jump back into bed with him.  He couldn’t even blame her.  Self-preservation was a Slytherin’s greatest trait.

  

When the movie ended, Draco decided it was time to go.  He looked over at the elder Grangers and marveled at their attachment to each other.  After all their years together, they still relished each other’s company.  Mrs. Granger’s head rested on her husband’s chest while his cheek rested on her curly hair.  There was something sweet and compassionate about their love.

 

Hermione walked Draco to the fireplace in the formal living room so he could floo home.  

 

“Thank you for inviting me into your home.”  He leaned down and pressed a chaste kiss to her lips.  Hermione stood still, unsure about how to proceed with this mercurial man.

 

“Come get me at 8:00 on New Year’s Eve,” she said impulsively.

 

Draco grinned at her.  “Okay.”

 

He threw floo powder into the flames and disappeared.

 

Hermione watched the green flames die down before taking herself up to bed, her mind replaying the unexpected evening.  

 

 

    

 

Chapter Text

In the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Draco thought about Hermione and their tenuous future as a couple.  On one of those nights, he’d gone out with Blaise Zabini and Theodore Nott to a bar, but he could not imagine going home with any of those girls.  Blaise and Theo endlessly razzed Draco about his lack of interest, but none of those birds did it for Draco.  Between Blaise and Theo, they thought Draco might be gay.  Draco had no idea how his friends might react to his connection to Hermione.  Hermione’s ultimatum made Draco realize that he was becoming unwilling to give her up.

 

Draco had thought about how his parents could view his union with Hermione.  One- they could accept it, albeit unhappily, because he was their only child.  Two- they might disinherit and shun him.  Three- and this was one he worried about, Lucius might try to intimidate or use violence to keep Hermione away from Draco.  There was no Malfoy rule that prohibited Malfoys from marrying half-bloods or Muggle-borns, but tradition was almost as binding as a contract in Draco’s family.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione waited near the fireplace for Draco’s arrival on New Year’s Eve.  She wore a purple cowl neck dress with three-quarter length sleeves.  It was short and made of the softest pima cotton.  Black tights and leather riding boots completed her outfit.  The sapphires from Draco twinkled in her ears.

 

At 8:00 p.m. sharp, Draco came through the Floo.  He was casual in grey slacks and a black sweater.  His long hair was loose and magnificent.  Hermione thought it was unfair for a man to have such perfect hair.

 

“Hi.  Are you ready?”  Draco was pleased to see Hermione wearing the earrings he’d given her. 

 

“I am.”  Hermione took Draco’s offered arm and they stepped into the green flames.

 

The Floo Network spit them out in a grand parlor.  Sumptuous furniture made the large room feel inviting.

 

“Thank you for coming tonight.  I was looking forward to spending the evening with you.”

 

Over the past few days, Hermione had made a decision.  If she and Draco were to end up snogging, she would enjoy it, but she wouldn’t let it go farther than that.  She did miss touching him, but she knew if sex were involved, her intense feelings for him would come back full force.  She knew she was taking an incredible risk letting him back into her life at all, but at least now she knew their relationship would go no further than these hidden sojourns.

 

“Are you missing fabulous parties to spend the evening with me?” she wondered.

 

“I received four party invites, but I’d rather spend it here.  What about you?”

 

“I had a few invitations, but I had thought I’d spend the evening with my parents.  But they surprised me and took a short overnight trip this year.  They’ll probably be home tomorrow afternoon.” 

 

Draco noticed that Hermione was more open to his touch on this evening than she had been in months.  Maybe she had finally warmed up to the idea of them resuming their physical relationship?  Draco thought that he could make Hermione happy, even if it was in the privacy of their homes or the Muggle world.  Why did everyone have to know about them, anyway?

 

Draco took Hermione’s hand and led her to the dining room.  An intimate table was set with bright white linens and heavy silver platters of fresh fruit, canapés and flutes of champagne.  Votive candles gave the dimly lit room a romantic glow.  Draco helped Hermione get into a chair before seating himself.  

 

“How did your parents meet?” Draco wondered.  He was intrigued by the closeness of the Grangers.

 

Hermione smiled a twinkly, happy smile, the kind Draco knew signified a story or lesson.

 

“Mum and Dad went to the same university.  Mum had been dating the same bloke for a couple of years when she and my dad met in a class.  She says as soon as she met my dad there were sparks.  But Mum kept dating the same guy, I think his name was Alexander.  My parents were paired as lab partners, um, that’s like being potions partners.  Anyway, Dad said they worked really well together and he really liked my mum, but he didn’t want to ruin her relationship with Alexander.  At the end of the semester they parted ways.  Mum’s told me she kept thinking about my dad, but she was invested with her boyfriend.  A year later, they were in a class together and Mum was single.  They started dating and both my parents said they knew it was right.  They were married six months later.”

 

“Have they always been so, um, affectionate?”

 

Hermione laughed.  “Oh, yes.  They hold hands, tell each other how much they love the other, cook special meals to celebrate whatever random thing.  Every year they take a week long vacation to ‘bond as a couple’.  They’re best friends, too.”

 

Draco could understand why Hermione demanded more from him.  She’d grown up with parents devoted to each other.  Of course she’d want the same.

 

“What about your parents?” she asked.  Draco didn’t talk about his family often, but he diligently followed their rules.

 

“They met at Hogwarts.  Father’s a year older than Mother.  My Grandfather Malfoy was conducting business with the Blacks and he sealed that business deal with their marriage contract.  Romantic stuff,” he chuckled mirthlessly.  

 

“Do they get along?”

 

“Actually, they do.  I think they’re companionable.  Every so often I would see Mother pat Father’s hand or squeeze his shoulder.  Sometimes Father would bring her a trinket from a trip to Diagon Alley.  Older pure-bloods don’t openly display their affection.”

 

Hermione shuddered imagining a future like that.  “My family must seem bizarre to you.”

 

“Knowing you, I expected your parents to be somewhat demonstrative.  I rather like your family.”  Draco gave her a grin.  

 

“Well, I hope you get paired with someone you like,” Hermione said carefully.  Draco liked her and wanted to spend time with her, but eventually reality would set in for both of them.  Hermione had to keep this in mind.

 

“Not everyone has the freedom to do as they please.  Some of us have responsibilities to our families and our community,” Draco said stiffly.

 

Looking down at the table, Hermione thought about the bitter, angry way she could respond to him, but knew nothing she could say would change what Draco would ultimately do.

 

“Of course.  You should do what you think is right.”  Appetite gone, Hermione took a thin sip of her crisp champagne.

 

They sat in silence for a minute.  

 

“I would pick you if I had the choice,” he said quietly.

 

It was too painful for Hermione to hear.  “Please, please stop.  I accept the limitations of our—affair—but please don’t act like you don’t have a choice.  We all have to make hard choices, Draco.”       

 

“So you’ve already written me off?” Draco could feel the familiar anger rising.

 

Hermione stood, giving him a crestfallen look.  “You will eventually marry Astoria or Pansy or some other pure-blood witch, Draco.  Your parents will be happy with your wife and you’ll have a life together.  I don’t want to talk about this any more.  You have to understand that your choice will never permit me to be in your life.”

 

She turned and headed back towards the fireplace.  Draco was amazed at how quickly the evening had deteriorated.  He followed her, catching up to her on the long walk back to the fireplace.  

 

“Granger, just stop!” he said, wrapping his fingers around her arm.  He was surprised to see tears in her eyes.

 

“I thought I could do this, Draco, but I can’t.  It’s depressing for me.  But I’m not angry at you any more.  Can we just leave it at that?”  A tear trailed down her cheek.

 

“No, we can’t.  We have passion and a connection.  Why are you so willing to throw that away?”  He wiped her face with his fingers.  

 

Arm around her slim shoulders, Draco led her to the sofa in front of the fireplace.  They sat, Hermione avoiding eye contact with Draco.  She sighed.  Finally, Hermione looked at Draco’s serious eyes and firm mouth.  She cupped his cheek in her hand, her thumb brushing the corner of his lips.  He closed his eyes, knowing she was saying goodbye.  She pulled him into a gentle kiss.  Draco hugged her close, memorizing her smell, her feel.  

 

“Goodbye, Draco,” she whispered before calling out her address into the Floo Network.

 

Draco felt his wet face and realized that for a second time, Hermione had ended things with him. 

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Over the next month, Draco went out with Blaise and Theo several times a week.  He drank until he almost passed out and he fucked beautiful girl after beautiful girl.  He didn’t kiss the women or even find out their names, although he was sure they knew who he was.  Blaise found his antics amusing, but Theo knew something was wrong with their friend.  He knew Draco slept all day, often skipping meals in favor of alcohol.  Draco’s eyes were bloodshot and he was losing weight.  If Theo didn’t know better, he might think Draco had a broken heart.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

By February, Lucius Malfoy realized his son was no longer managing his portion of the Malfoy estate.  His business contacts in England were none too happy with this.  Lucius didn’t know why his son had reneged on his responsibilities, but he was going to find out.

 

Lucius and Narcissa arrived at Malfoy Manor and were greeted by Draco’s house-elf, Beenie.

 

“Where is our son?” Lucius asked the wide-eyed creature.

 

“Master Draco’s asleep, sir,” Beenie squeaked.

 

“It’s almost three in the afternoon!” Narcissa said.  “Is he sick?”

 

“No, Mistress.  He likes to sleep during the day now.”   

 

“Narcissa, please settle in while I check on our son.”  Lucius began walking towards Draco’s suite, but Narcissa stopped him.

 

“Lucius, let me join you.  He hasn’t seen us in years.  We can’t just go in demanding answers.  I believe there is something wrong.”

 

Lucius acquiesced to his wife’s wishes.  They walked through the manor, finding Draco’s door on the far west end of the third floor.  Lucius knocked, but Draco did not answer.

 

Using Alohamora to unlock the door, they stepped into the dark, stagnant room.  Their son was lying naked in his bed, a tangle of blankets around him.  Narcissa used her wand to cover him with a sheet.

 

“Draco,” she said gently.  She approached him, noticing the dark circles around his eyes.  She shook his shoulder carefully.

 

“Hermione?” he mumbled, his head pounding from all the firewhisky he had consumed the night before.

 

Lucius was opening the curtains, letting some light into the room.  He turned and looked at his wife with a questioning look.

 

In a louder voice, Narcissa said, “Draco.  It’s Mother.”

 

Draco groaned.  “Please, for the love of Merlin, close the bloody curtains!”

 

“Draco!  Get up and be in the sitting room in fifteen minutes!” Lucius boomed, tired of his son’s disgusting behavior.  

 

The elder Malfoys left Draco to drag himself out of bed.  

 

“Oh, Lucius, we gave him too much responsibility at such a young age.  We needed to be here to guide him.”  Narcissa hated seeing her son so…disheartened.

 

“He was at Hogwarts most of that time, but I understand what you’re saying.  We can stay here as long as needed.”  Lucius was not an indulgent man, but he did believe in supporting his family.  If his son needed his assistance, he would oblige.  

 

They made their way to the sitting room and waited for Draco.  Narcissa had Beenie bring tea and sandwiches.  Twenty minutes passed and finally Draco entered the room, showered and dressed.

 

“Mother, Father.” He took a seat and served himself tea.

 

“Draco, your father has received word that you have stopped managing your portion of Malfoy Holdings.  We want you to tell us what’s happening,” Narcissa explained, trying to understand when her gangly boy had become this surly, long-haired man in front of her.  

 

Draco sipped his tea and looked at his parents.  “I don’t know.  I suppose I’ve been busy with other things.”

 

“What could be more important than managing our family’s resources, Draco?” Lucius asked sharply.

 

“Yes, how could our family live with less money than Croesus?” Draco sneered.

 

“Draco!” Narcissa admonished.

 

“I have plans tonight.  Please excuse me,” Draco said, walking out of the room.

 

The Malfoys watched their son walk out of the room, baffled by his behavior.  

 

“Who is Hermione?” asked Narcissa.

 

“Could he be referring to the girl at Hogwarts?  She’s Muggle-born, isn’t she?”  Lucius asked his wife.

 

The Scandinavian community had been wonderful for the Malfoy’s businesses, but they were intolerant of the bigotry so present in England.  Lucius and Narcissa had become very careful not to use slurs.  They had many half-blood and Muggle-born business connections and socialized with a mix of witches and wizards while in Sweden.  They were still most comfortable amongst their own kind, but their kind was dying out.  The majority of wizards and witches throughout the world were half-bloods.  

 

“Yes!  But I thought Draco despised her.”  Narcissa thought about her son and the witch in question.

 

“It appears he doesn’t,” Lucius observed.  

 

“Merlin, do you think she broke his heart?  Is that why he’s acting so…so recklessly?”  

 

“Maybe.  Let’s give him some time and see what we can learn.  We can be patient, my dear.”

 

“You’re right, Lucius.  He deserves our patience.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

After exhausting the limited supply of wizarding bars in England, Scotland and France, Draco, Blaise and Theo decided to venture to Muggle bars.  Theo enjoyed drinking and dancing, with an occasional dalliance, but his role was as the responsible friend.  Blaise had always been irresponsible and Draco was a right fucking mess at the moment.

 

The Slytherins made their way into a loud bar with a thumping bass beat shaking the floor.  Draco and Blaise disappeared into the crowd, but Theo wanted to enjoy the novelty of a Muggle club.  He approached the bar, taking an empty seat.  He noticed most of the men ordering beer and decided to do the same.  

 

Theo was handsome in his own way: thick, dark blond hair, warm brown eyes, a strong, square jaw.  Like most well-to-do wizards, he had beautiful, white teeth and clear skin.  His body was lightly-muscled.  At 5’10’’, he was slightly taller than average.  Next to Draco and Blaise, it was easy to overlook Theo, so Theo didn’t mind his friends’ abandonment.  It allowed him to be himself.

 

Theo’s greatest asset was his quick mind.  He had been Head Boy at Hogwarts and was interning at Gringotts with a curse breaker.  The work was challenging and he liked that he was learning a skill so he wouldn’t live the idle life of most rich pure-bloods.

 

Theo drank his beer, absorbing the differences in Muggle culture.  He liked the tight jeans and short skirts worn by the women.  The women were just as beautiful as witches.  A woman came up to the bar right beside him.  He turned and looked at her and was shocked to find Hermione Granger ordering a drink.

 

“Granger?” he said, admiring her chic hair and graceful body.

 

“Theo!  What are you doing here?” Hermione had an amiable relationship with Theo when they were Head Boy and Girl.  

 

“I’m here with some friends.  Can I buy you a drink?”  

 

“Sure,” she said, smiling at Theo.  “Let me find us a seat at a table.”

 

Hermione found a small table near the back of the bar.  The music was loud, but if they sat close to one another, they could talk.

 

Theo walked towards her, carrying two drinks.  Hermione admired him in his Muggle jeans and a black polo shirt.  She hadn’t known Theo well before they became Heads, but she’d come to consider him as a friend.

 

“What have you been up to, Hermione?  I haven’t seen you in months.” 

 

“I’m a student at London University.  You know how much I love literature, so it’s academic heaven for me.  I’m on break right now or I’d be at the library studying.  What about you, Theo?” Hermione had come with some girlfriends from her building.  She’d enjoyed their company in the past few months.  They had helped keep her mind off of Draco.

 

“I’m learning to be a curse breaker at Gringotts.  I work with Weasley’s brother.  He’s a good bloke.”

 

“Bill is a good guy.  I have to say, I’m impressed you’re doing that.”  Hermione leaned in so she could hear Theo better.

 

“I’m not just another lazy, rich prat, you mean?” Theo smirked at her.

 

Hermione playfully punched his arm.  “I already knew that.  But you can do anything you want and you’ve chosen to work.  I think it’s admirable.”

 

Theo warmed under Hermione’s praise.  

 

“Do you want to get out of here?  Go somewhere where we can talk?”

 

Hermione nodded.  “Yeah, let me tell my friends I’m leaving.”

 

“I’ll do the same.  Meet me at the door.”

 

Theo waded through the dancing crowd, finally finding Draco grinding into a tall, black haired girl.

 

“Hey, I’m taking off.” Theo said near Draco’s shoulder.

 

“Have fun, Theo,” Draco smirked at his friend.

 

Theo made his way to the door, spying Hermione.  He took her hand and led her to a secluded spot for Apparition.

 

“Where are we going?” she asked.

 

“Let’s go to Diagon Alley.  There are lots of restaurants open late on Friday night.  Have you had dinner?”  

 

“Uh, no, I haven’t had dinner.  But we don’t have to go to Diagon Alley.”

 

Theo was confused.  “Would you prefer to stay here?  You’d have to decide where we ate.”        

 

“No, it’s not that.”  Hermione had wanted to give her friend an out.

 

“Are you seeing someone?  I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable,” Theo said, trying to understand her hesitation.

 

“I’m sorry, Theo, I’m just not very good at this stuff.  I’d love to have dinner with you in Diagon Alley.” Hermione took his arm and with a pop, they were gone.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione woke late on Saturday, having been out with Theo until almost three in the morning.  They had plenty to talk about and Theo was both interested and interesting.  The Greek restaurant they had dined at was filled with people Theo knew.  He introduced Hermione when people approached their table.  Most people were polite, but some were surprisingly nice to Hermione.  She had been taken aback with the easy way Theo had included her.

 

She learned that Theo’s mother had died when he was a baby.  His father was much older than his mother, but her death had caused him to age even more.  By the time Theo was enrolled at Hogwarts, his father was bedridden.  He died during the summer between fourth and fifth year.  Theo had a grandmother who he had stayed with over holidays and during the summers, but now he was sole heir to the Nott fortune.  His grandmother was quite elderly and reclusive, so Theo was very much alone.  Yet, he seemed to have adjusted to his circumstances.  He was open minded, thoughtful, and introspective, qualities Hermione found very appealing.  

 

During the year they were head students, Hermione had come to respect Theo, but her attention had been on Draco.  She hadn’t noticed how Theo would light up when she complimented him or how her laugh would make him smile.  She remembered he had asked her who she was going to the Graduation Ball with, but she had told him she had been seeing someone and she assumed they would go together.  Hermione hadn’t considered that Theo might have been making an attempt at asking her to go with him to the dance.

 

When they arrived at her building, he invited her to join him for brunch on Sunday morning.  He’d heard of a new place in Hogsmeade and thought they would enjoy browsing the shops if the weather permitted.  After a kiss that left Hermione’s eyes glassy and her skin tingling, Theo took his leave.

 

Hermione felt a pang of sadness that Draco had been unable to treat her as Theo did.  Draco and Hermione had forged a bond that was hard for them to break.  She knew Draco didn’t enjoy the freedom that Theo did, but she thought it was also possible that Draco still thought Muggle-borns were inferior and that had been the biggest barrier to their relationship.  

 

It doesn’t matter, Hermione.  You will always be Draco’s secret, his mistress.  You deserve more than that.  You’re worth more.    

 

Hermione groaned, casting away Draco’s ghost from haunting a promising new relationship with Theo.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Blaise and Draco Flooed to Theo’s home when he didn’t show up for their regular evening of carousing.  They found Theo fiddling with a wooden box, oblivious to their presence.

 

“Why aren’t you ready, Theo?” Blaise boomed, smacking the wall with the flat of his hand.

 

“Bloody hell, Blaise!  I’m going out tomorrow morning, so I’m going to skip tonight.  I sent you an owl, you wanker.”  Theo watched Blaise and Draco get comfortable in his leather club chairs.

 

“Why are you going out on Sunday morning?  Do you have to visit your grandmother?” Draco asked.

 

Theo laughed, then smiled slyly.  “You’ll never guess who I met up with at the bar last night.”

 

Blaise gave him a lascivious grin.  “Yes, who did you leave us for last night?”

 

“Hermione Granger, looking more beautiful than ever.  She was wearing a little black dress and heels…”

 

Draco felt the blood drain from his face.  How could this be happening?  Theo only dated pure-bloods, right?

 

“But she’s a…” Draco began.  

 

“So?  She’s a Muggle-born.  I don’t care about that shit like you do, Draco.  I would have asked her out last year, but she said she was seeing someone.  She’s stunning and brilliant.”

 

“Did you shag her?” Blaise asked, his mind in the gutter as ususal.

 

“No, she’s not some slag like one of Draco’s girls.  I took her to the new Greek restaurant in Diagon Alley.  We were there until they kicked us out at 2:30 when the staff was leaving.  I’m going to pursue her, so you two losers better get used to seeing a lot less of me.”  

 

“What do you mean ‘pursue her’?” Draco asked.  No, no, no!  No. Fucking. Way.      

 

“There aren’t many witches like Hermione, Draco.  I know you two never got along, but she’s different than the girls that were thrown at us.  She’s confident and warm.  She laughs easily, she’s nice to people, she actually listens when I talk.  I could see a future with her.”

 

Blaise stood up, clapping a hand on Theo’s shoulder.  “Good for you, mate.  I hope you get what you want.”

 

“Let’s go, Blaise, before this pussy starts talking about weddings and babies,” he sneered.  He turned to Theo.  “She’s not the one for you, Theo.”

 

Theo stepped closer to Draco, his voice low and angry.  “Fuck off, Draco.  I make my own choices.  I don’t have my father make all my decisions for me.” 

 

Holding himself back from pummeling his oldest friend, Draco stalked out of the room and left Nott Hall.

 

   

 

Chapter Text

After Theo’s bombshell, Draco retreated from his friends.  Blaise tried to get his stormy friend to join him to no avail.  Theo didn’t contact Draco, angry that Draco had tried to discourage him from seeing Hermione.

 

Draco slept hours and hours, missing meals and evading his parents.  When he did join Lucius and Narcissa for a meal, his conversation skills consisted of grunts and one-word answers.  

 

When Draco had found out Theo was willing to buck tradition and court Hermione, he had wanted to simultaneously hurt Theo and congratulate him on having the courage to withstand the ridicule that would inevitably result from dating a Muggle-born.  Theo’s level-headed behavior, hard working nature and overall mature attitude contrasted with Draco’s spoiled, judgmental, volatile actions.  When he compared himself to Theo, Draco knew his chance with Hermione had passed.  She may have wanted him, but she told him what she needed and he had been unable to provide her the basics of a relationship.  His depression deepened the longer he dwelled on his mistakes.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

On a lovely spring day, Narcissa had lunch with Rose Parkinson, her old roommate from Hogwarts.  They met at The Magic Pan, a restaurant that specialized in French cuisine.  Diagon Alley was bustling with people enjoying a respite from the spring chill.

 

“How is dear Pansy?” Narcissa asked her friend.

 

“Pansy’s well.  She’s traveling with her older sister.  They’re in America, staying with my cousin in Florida.”

 

Narcissa thought Draco maybe needed a change of scenery to pull him out of the funk he’d been in for several months.  Over the last few weeks his behavior had taken a turn for the worse.  

 

“I haven’t seen Draco in so long, Narcissa.  How is he?”  Rose could be catty, but she did care for Narcissa and her family.  She’d heard rumors that Draco had been partying and womanizing on an almost nightly basis.  She suspected that was the reason for the Malfoys return to England.

 

Narcissa laughed it off.  “He’s sowing his wild oats.  Lucius assures me his behavior is normal.”  

 

The tightness around Narcissa’s eyes did not escape Rose’s notice, but she didn’t press her friend for more information. 

 

The ladies looked up when a striking couple came into the restaurant.  Narcissa recognized the young man as Draco’s friend, Theodore Nott.  As the couple passed by the table, Theodore looked at Narcissa and smiled.

 

“Hello Mrs. Malfoy, Mrs. Parkinson.  It’s lovely to see you.  Let me introduce you to my girlfriend, Hermione Granger.”

 

Hermione greeted the well-maintained women.  Narcissa studied her, appreciative of her poise and bearing.  

 

“Miss Granger, did you graduate with my son?”  Narcissa asked.  She suspected this was the woman Draco was pining over.  What had happened?

 

“I did, Mrs. Malfoy.”  Hermione gave her a small, tight smile.

 

Oh, yes, there was a story there, thought Narcissa. 

 

“Ladies, enjoy your lunch,” Theo said with a small bow, leading Hermione to their table.

 

“That girl is…” Rose leaned in.  “…a Mudblood.  Theodore’s father is probably turning in his grave.  Such a shame.  He’d be perfect for my Pansy.”  Rose sighed at the state of things.

 

“Hmm.  I did notice she favored Muggle fashion, but so many of the young do,” Narcissa said.            

 

Throughout the rest of their meal, Narcissa covertly looked at Hermione.  She wasn’t one to interfere in her son’s life, but she wanted to know how this woman had changed Draco.   

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“I think I understand why Draco is in such a state,” Narcissa said to her husband as she brushed her hair before bed.

 

She looked at him in the mirror, admiring his muscled body as he lounged in the bed.  He raised an eyebrow in question.

 

“I had lunch with Rose Parkinson today and Draco’s friend, Theodore Nott, came into the restaurant with his girlfriend, Hermione Granger.  I asked Miss Granger if she had graduated with Draco and her face became quite stiff.”

 

“We know something transpired between them.  Theodore Nott?  Hmm.”  He was surprised the Nott heir was courting Miss Granger.

 

“I think Draco had feelings for her, but for some reason she chose Theodore.”

 

Lucius looked at his wife, trying to understand what she wanted from the situation.  Did she seriously want Draco to pursue the Muggle-born witch?

 

“Would you want him to bring her kind into our family, Cissa?  We really should allow Draco to figure this out for himself.”

 

Narcissa shook her head.  “I don’t know what I want, Lucius, but I’d rather welcome that witch into our family and have our son be himself again than to watch him waste away of a broken heart.”

 

Lucius knew his wife was upset, but she didn’t know the whole story.  “Let’s talk to him tomorrow and try to get some information out of him.”  He walked over to her and rubbed her tense shoulders.  “Come, Cissa, let’s go to bed.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::  

 

“That was unbelievable, Hermione,” Theo said as they settled into the back of her parents’ Range Rover.  

 

For Richard Granger’s fiftieth birthday, his wife had treated him to a very rare Bob Dylan acoustical concert.  Jean Granger bought tickets for her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend as well.  The experience had been a once in a lifetime gift for Richard, but everyone had enjoyed the croaky singer’s epic music.

 

“I wasn’t sure what you’d think.  It can take time to truly appreciate Dylan.”  Hermione leaned her head on Theo’s shoulder.  He held her hand, tracing the lines on her palm.

 

“My favorite song was Like A Rolling Stone.  It reminded me of how I felt after my father died--untethered.”

 

“How did you center yourself after his death?  You’ve always seemed so together.” 

 

“I moved on.  I did my best at school and on the Quidditch pitch.  I always had a picture of my future in mind and it helped me stay sane when I felt alone.”  Over the weeks that they’d been dating, Theo had grown attached to Hermione.  He knew it was fast, but since she’d come into his life again, he could see a future with his Muggle-born girlfriend.

 

Hermione squeezed his hand, once again impressed with Theo’s resilience and character. 

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco lay in his bed reading Frankenstein.  He’d found the novel in the recesses of the manor library.  His room was dim and quiet.  When a knock sounded at his door, he ignored it.  No thanks, he thought.  But the knocking came again, this time more forcefully.  He got out of bed, his body stiff from staying in a prone position for a prolonged period of time.  

 

Expecting to see his father, Draco was startled to see Theo.  

 

“We need to talk,” Theo said, pushing his way into Draco’s room.

 

Theo appraised his friend.  Draco had lost weight.  His lank hair was almost to his waist and hung around Draco like a curtain.  His face was covered in stubble.  

 

Draco sat in a chair in front of the fire, motioning for Theo to join him.

 

“What did you need, Theo?” he said, his voice hoarse from alcohol consumption.

 

“What’s going on with you, Draco?  You look like shit,” Theo observed.

 

Draco just stared at him.    

 

“I stayed with Hermione last night,” Theo said, noticing Draco flinch almost imperceptibly.  “In her sleep, she kept saying your name.  Why would she do that?”

 

“I don’t know, Nott.”

 

Theo slammed his hand on the wooden side table.  “Quit fucking around, Malfoy!  Tell me why you said Hermione wasn’t the one for me.”

 

Draco looked at the orange flames of the fire.  Besides Potter, no one from the wizarding world knew of his affair with Hermione.  While he didn’t want Theo to have Hermione, he knew Theo could give her what he couldn’t.

 

“We were together for most of seventh year,” Draco said, continuing to stare at the dancing fire.  “She broke it off with me when I refused to take it public.  I sought her out after she started university, but she didn’t want to resume what we had.  I told her I’d never be able to present her as my girlfriend, let alone my wife, even though I wanted us to continue to see each other.  She didn’t accept that.”

 

“You’re a fool, Draco.  If you had her love and you threw it away, you don’t deserve her.”

 

Draco looked at Theo.  “I don’t deserve her, but I love her.”

 

Theo shook his head at Draco and stood up to leave.  “She’s not some dirty secret, Draco.  She comes from a good family, even if they’re Muggles.  I intend to keep her in my life.  You need to make peace with that.”

 

Draco heard the door close behind Theo.  

 

She dreams of me in the bed of another man.

 

Chapter Text

The semester had finished and Hermione was once again spending her summer at the Granger house.  Theo had convinced her to work a few hours a week for the goblins, doing complicated Arithmancy problems for Gringotts.  She made more money in one week solving equations than she made in a month as a waitress.  She liked the challenge and the work was one more way Theo had tried to include her in his life.  

 

Hermione immersed herself in her relationship with Theo, but in sleep she dreamed of Draco.  Some dreams rehashed things that had actually happened between the two of them, but other dreams were exhilarating, scary or worse, pornographic.  

 

Theo was a gentle, thorough lover.  Hermione was satisfied in bed, but if she was being honest with herself, the interactions lacked the heat of her joinings with Draco.  Making love to Draco was the only time in her life that Hermione had let someone else take control.  She hadn’t thought she’d like feeling possessed, but now she dreamed of the knowing way he’d lay claim to every part of her body.

 

On this cool, humid morning, Hermione had woken from a nightmare about Draco.  In the dream, Draco was being pulled under water by a strong tide.  Dream Hermione watched helplessly as Draco’s head would get pulled under, only to have him reappear a few seconds later looking worse and worse.  Hermione’s body was unable to move in the dream, so she was stuck watching him struggle and gasp for life.  

 

Finally, she woke and sat up in bed, her muscles pained from the stress of the dream.  The worst part of the hazy sequence was the heartbroken look on Draco’s face as he had stared at her.           

 

Hermione held the opinion that dreams were the subconscious’ way of trying to help the waking mind make sense of certain problems.  But something about this dream left Hermione feeling bereft.  She had the sense that Draco Malfoy was drowning in reality.  She dressed and Apparated to the gates of Malfoy Manor.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione held her wand to the heavy gate, allowing her magical signature to announce to the household that a guest had arrived.  Draco’s elf, Beenie, opened the gate and ushered her into the house.  Narcissa came to meet the unknown guest and was shocked to find a pale, red-eyed Hermione Granger in her foyer.

 

“Miss Granger?” she asked, confusion in her voice.

 

“Mrs. Malfoy, I apologize for coming uninvited, but I need to see Draco.”  Hermione had no idea if Narcissa Malfoy would allow her into the house, let alone permit her to see her son.  Hermione knew how the Malfoys felt about Muggle-born witches and wizards.

 

Narcissa had the distinct impression that whatever brought Hermione to their house was crucial.

 

“Follow me.”

 

Narcissa led Hermione to Draco’s suite, a distance from the front door of the home.  Neither said a word.  When they reached his door, Narcissa knocked and opened the door a crack.

 

“He isn’t faring well,” Narcissa whispered, looking into Hermione’s frantic eyes.

 

Hermione nodded and made her way into the dim room.  She could see him lying in the bed.  Merlin, he’s lost so much weight.  His long hair covered his face.  Hermione sat next to him and pushed his hair out of his face.  Her eyes welled with tears at the dark circles under his eyes and the drawn look of his unshaved face.

 

Draco looked at her for a second.  “Hermione?”

 

“I’m here, Draco,” she choked out.

 

She got into the bed and faced him, her fingers gently stroking his face.

 

Narcissa, who had been watching, closed the door silently.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

For the next few minutes, Hermione stroked Draco’s face, his neck and his chest.  His breathing was ragged at first, like he was holding back tears, but after a while his breathing evened out as his mind processed that the object of his thoughts was here, comforting him.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“She’s here, Lucius,” Narcissa said, shutting the office door behind her.  

 

Lucius looked at his wife, tears welling in her blue eyes.  She wiped her eyes with a quick swipe.

 

“Who?” 

 

“Hermione Granger.  She’s with Draco.  I watched them for a moment and it’s so clear they love each other.”  Narcissa sat down, tears coursing down her cheeks.

  

“He’s tried so hard to be a good son to us, to follow our beliefs that he let the witch he loves go because she’s Muggle-born.”

 

Lucius sat next to her on the settee.  “I thought he’d get her out of his system, get over her, but his depression has only gotten worse.”

 

“He’s not going to get over her.  We need to accept his choice or we’ll lose him.”  Narcissa allowed her husband to pull her into his body.

 

“We only taught him what we believed to be in his best interest.  I’m not thrilled with his choice, but I don’t want to lose him.”  

 

The Malfoys were quiet for a minute, both acknowledging that Draco had lost the will to live over the past few months.  He was withering away in his lonely, dark room and they could do nothing to prevent it.

 

“She’s intelligent and comports herself as well as any pure-blood.  Maybe she’ll be an asset to our family.”

 

Lucius didn’t know, but if this young woman stood between his son and death, he could accept her.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner.  I’ve been dreaming about you, almost every time I close my eyes.”  Hermione’s fingers combed through Draco’s long, tangled hair.

 

“I know,” he murmured.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Theo came to see me.  He wanted to know why you kept repeating my name in your sleep.”

 

Hermione felt a wave of guilt.  “Oh, poor Theo.  He must think the worst of me.”

 

“He doesn’t.  He thought I was a fool for letting you go.”  

 

“Theo’s been so good to me,” Hermione said, shaking her head.

 

“But you don’t dream of him,” Draco pointed out.

 

“No, I don’t.”

 

Draco pulled her under his chin, her warm breath tickling his chest.

 

“Why did you come today?” Draco asked.

 

“I dreamed you were drowning.” 

 

“I am drowning,” he whispered.

 

“I didn’t know.”

 

Hermione breathed in Draco’s pungent musky scent.  He smelled like he did in the throes of passion, when his pheromones overwhelmed his system.  Draco’s arms held her tight, as if he was worried she’d slip away otherwise.  

 

“I’m tired,” Draco said, closing his eyes.

 

“I’ll be here.  Just rest.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco woke to Hermione nestled against his chest, just as she had been when he’d fallen asleep.  

 

“Draco?” she said quietly.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Can I use the loo?”

 

Draco moved his arms, allowing her to get up.  She went into the large bathroom, taking in the white marble and large sunken tub.  In truth, she needed a moment alone to process what she had witnessed over the past few hours.  Seeing Draco lying listlessly in his huge bed had wrenched her heart in two.  

 

She splashed cold water on her face trying to clear her head.  Finally, she shored up her Gryffindor courage and walked out of the bedroom.  Draco was staring up at the ceiling.  Hermione climbed into the bed, lying next to him on her back.

 

“What happened to you, Draco?”

 

“You left me,” he said accusingly.

 

“You’re right.”  

 

He was right.  She had left him after yet another fight about why she’d never be acknowledged as his.  

 

“Do you love Theo?”  Draco needed to know this, because if she had given Theo her heart, he was done.

 

“No.  But we haven’t been together that long.”

 

He sighed with relief.  “You wanted me to treat you like Theo does.”

 

“In some ways, yes.  In other ways, I prefer your imperial attitude.”  There was no point in hiding anything from Draco.  He was laid bare before her, his sadness manifested in his isolation and his inability to function.  

 

“When Theo told me he was dating you, I shut down.  I always thought Theo and I were so alike, but there he was doing everything with you I should have done.”

 

Hermione didn’t need to verbally agree, it was true.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“Should I check on Miss Granger and Draco?” Narcissa asked her husband.

 

“No, Cissa.  We’ll know more soon.  Let them have their privacy.”  Lucius wanted to know more, but he knew Draco wouldn’t appreciate them intruding on his time with Miss Granger.

 

Narcissa nodded her assent walking back to her room to complete some correspondence she had been putting off.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“Will you eat something?” Hermione asked Draco.  Beenie had brought a tray of tea and food for them.

 

Draco nodded, allowing Hermione to make a small plate for him.  

 

“I always liked the way you fixed my tea,” he said, taking the steaming cup from her.

 

She smiled at him, taking a bite of a delectable finger sandwich.  Surrounded by all this luxury, Hermione could understand why Draco would be reluctant to give all of this up for her.  His family’s wealth was at a level beyond her practical understanding.  Draco’s life had known very few boundaries besides those imposed by pure-blood society.  He knew the best of everything and was rarely told no.  However, she wasn’t sure the Malfoys would so easily cast their son aside for courting a Muggle-born.  Since Draco had never confronted them about her, she could only speculate.

 

“Will you walk me to the door?  My parents will start to worry if I don’t get home soon.”

 

The light was starting to wane.  Draco hadn’t realized it was so late, but time hadn’t meant much to him the past few months.  

 

They walked through the manor, Draco uncaring that he wore only a pair of sleep pants.  Hermione smoothed her rumpled clothes and hair as they walked, conscious of how they might look to an outsider.  When they reached the high-ceilinged foyer, Draco opened the door for her.

 

“Will you come back?” he asked.

 

“I can come back tomorrow afternoon, about 2:00.”

 

“Okay.”  He looked so damn lonely, standing in this ridiculously large room with her about to leave.  She hated seeing his ribs poking through his skin.

 

Hermione threw her arms around his waist, hugging him tightly. “I really did miss you,” she murmured into his neck.  Even at his absolute worst, she still found him enticing. 

 

Finally, she let go, walking into the night to Apparate home.

 

 

Chapter Text

The next afternoon, Narcissa met Hermione at the manor gates.  Wordlessly, Narcissa led her to Draco’s room.  At the door, a manicured hand gently rested on Hermione’s arm.

 

“Please let us know if we can do anything,” Narcissa said.

 

“I will.”

 

Narcissa knocked and pushed the door open for Hermione.  Hermione stepped into Draco’s dim room.  She could hear the shower raining down water in the bathroom.  

 

He’s up and showering; that’s a good sign.  

 

Hermione used her wand to make Draco’s bed and open the curtains.  She hoped today she could get Draco to leave the comfort of his bed.  Draco came out of the bathroom, a towel slung over his narrow hips.

 

“You came back.”

 

“I told you I would,” she replied.  “Do you still want me here?”

 

“I want you here,” he said, sitting down in front of the fire.

 

Hermione sat in the chair next to him.  “Your hair is so long.”

 

“I’m sick of it.”  

 

“I’d kill for hair like yours,” she said.  “Why don’t you cut it?”

 

Draco was silent for a moment, then walked to his desk and got out a pair of scissors.  He handed them to Hermione.

 

“Will you?” he asked.

 

“I’ll cut it, but I’m no expert.”

 

Draco walked into the bathroom and Conjured a chair.  Hermione took a fluffy towel and placed it over his shoulders.  

 

“I trust you, just cut it off.”  

 

Draco closed his eyes as Hermione combed through his tangled hair, enjoying her sweet smell and the warmth of her body.  Her gentle ministrations made him tingle wherever she made contact with her hand or the brush.  He sighed in relaxation.

 

Hermione tied his hair in a low queue.  “Last chance, Malfoy.”

 

“Cut it,” he murmured.

 

Ever so carefully, Hermione cut off Draco’s silky, long hair.  She handed him the bound platinum locks.  

 

“It’s done.  I’m going to start cutting it shorter now, okay?”

 

“Alright, Hermione.”

 

Hermione thought he’d look best with his hair slightly longer near the front, with the rest of the hair cropped close.  She carefully clipped and cut, until his hair fell in a way that showed off his features.  Her hand brushed stray hair off his neck.  She cupped his bristly face, running her thumb over his cheek.

 

“Are you trying to grow a beard?” she wondered.

 

Draco actually laughed.  “No.  I just haven’t cared about shaving lately.”

 

“I like a bit of stubble on a bloke,” Hermione said, shrugging her shoulders.

 

He scratched at his face, feeling the itchy hair under his fingers.  

 

“Thank you,” Draco said quietly. 

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“I’m going to invite them to eat dinner with us,” Narcissa said to her husband.

 

He looked up from his work to take in her anxious, hopeful face. 

 

“Alright, dear.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco dressed in the bathroom.  He liked the way his hair looked.  When he walked into the bedroom, he found his mother speaking to Hermione near the door.  Narcissa looked at him, then quickly looked at his hair, her eyebrows raising in surprise.

 

Hermione almost laughed.  It was such an odd expression on Mrs. Malfoy’s face.

 

“You’re looking well, Draco,” Narcissa said with a smile.

 

“Thank you, Mother,” Draco said, running a hand through his hair.

 

“Son, your father and I would like you and Miss Granger to join us for dinner tonight.”  In times past, Draco would have complied, but over the past months, Narcissa didn’t know what to expect from her son.

 

“I can stay if Draco would like,” Hermione said to Narcissa.

 

Narcissa was perplexed by Miss Granger’s response.  She had the impression that Miss Granger was an independent, confident young woman, but she deferred to Draco as if he would deny dinner on Miss Granger’s behalf.

 

“We’ll join you for dinner, Mother.”

 

Narcissa nodded and shut the bedroom door.

 

“You don’t have to do this,” he said to Hermione.  “I’m not sure what they’ll be like.”

 

“They’re worried about you, Malfoy.  If they’re unpleasant, I’ll leave.” 

 

“Okay.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco led Hermione to the dining room.  While he thought his parents now guessed there was something between him and Hermione, he knew they would want to know more.  

 

On the morning she had shown up, he thought he had died.  He had thought he would never have her in such close proximity again and then she was there, laying next to him, whispering soothing words and gliding her soft hands over him.  She was pulling him back into the world of the living, but he didn’t know if she wanted to inhabit that world with him. 

 

Lucius motioned to two adjacent chairs at the dining room table.  “Miss Granger, we’ve never met formally.  I’m Lucius Malfoy.  Thank you for joining us for dinner.” 

 

“Thank you for inviting me to dinner,” she replied, surprised at his politeness. 

 

“Draco, that haircut suits you,” Lucius said to his son.

 

“Hermione convinced me it was time for a change,” he said, referring both to his hair and so many other things.

 

Watching the Malfoys interact was painfully awkward, but she could see Draco’s parents were trying to stay on his good side.  Hermione knew how Draco’s mood could turn on a Galleon, so she could appreciate their caution.  

 

The Malfoy’s meal was much simpler than Hermione had anticipated and for that she was glad.  Two house elves served lamb chops and roasted vegetables with dark rolls and rich butter.

 

Narcissa decided it was time to use this scarce opportunity to learn about her son and his connection to this girl.

 

“How did you two become friends?” Narcissa asked.  Draco continued to eat, so Hermione answered.

 

“During seventh year we had several advanced classes together and the professors paired us for projects in almost every class.  Your son is a formidable student.”

 

“Hermione was Head Girl and our class valedictorian,” Draco added.  

 

Lucius noticed his son seemed to have pride in Miss Granger’s accomplishments.

 

“What do you do now that you are no longer in school, Miss Granger?” Lucius asked.

 

The wizarding world was a small place and Hermione knew her clothing gave her away as a Muggle-born, but she was not so sure the Malfoys would be comfortable with her discussing her Muggle heritage and Muggle schooling.  Despite that, she decided to be honest with them.

 

“I attend London University as a student.  My main area of study is medieval literature.”

 

“Is formal schooling for adults commonplace?” Lucius asked.

 

“Yes, sir, it is quite common.  For most Muggles, the more schooling you have, the easier it is to find good employment.  Both my parents are the Muggle equivalent of healers and they went to school for eight years beyond their secondary schooling.”

 

“Do you plan to stay in the Muggle world once you’ve graduated?” Narcissa wondered.

 

“I’m not sure.”  Hermione wished she knew exactly what she wanted to do, but the truth was that she hadn’t felt valued in the wizarding world and a large part of that had to do with Mrs. Malfoy’s son and their pure-blood values.

 

They finished their meal with the minimum of polite conversation.  After making her goodbyes to the Malfoys, Draco walked Hermione to the door.

 

“I’m going out of town, so I won’t be able to visit until the end of next week.  Will you be okay?”

 

“Yeah, I suppose,” he said, his mind whirring with thoughts of her lying on the beach with Theo.  “Where are you going?”

 

“My mum’s sister lives in Italy and we’re going to visit their family.”

 

“Is Theo going?”  

 

Hermione looked at the ground.  “Why does that matter?”

 

“You know why it fucking matters!  Do you plan on telling him about visiting me?  Or will I be your bloody secret now?”

 

Narcissa and Lucius heard Draco’s raised voice and came out to find their son staring heatedly at Hermione.

 

“He’s my boyfriend, Malfoy.  And I haven’t done anything with you since I’ve been here so please don’t treat this like some illicit affair.”

 

“You’ll never be satisfied with him,” Draco said cruelly.  

 

“Now that I’m with Theo, you’re willing to change your tune, is that it?  I think you want what you can’t have.  If I was in your place, you wouldn’t care.”

 

“I care and you know it.  Go.  Enjoy your bloody trip!”  Draco turned and saw his parents watching him.  He pushed past his father, stalking towards his quarters.

 

Hermione looked up to see Narcissa watching her sympathetically.  She turned and walked out the door, embarrassed that the Malfoys had witnessed their fight.  Too upset to Apparate, she decided to walk the dirt path once she shut the ornate manor gates.  

 

When Hermione had sufficiently calmed down, she Apparated home.   

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Lucius and Narcissa stood in the foyer shadows for a few moments after Hermione closed the front door.  Narcissa began to follow Miss Granger, but Lucius’ hand on her shoulder stopped her.

 

“We need to speak to our son,” he said.

 

“Yes, that’s probably appropriate.”

 

The parents made their way to Draco’s room to find him using his wand to tear his bedding to shreds.  

 

“Draco!” Lucius yelled, Summoning Draco’s wand from his hand.

 

Draco’s thin frame was heaving from the anger and frustration coursing through his system.  He turned that anger on his parents.

 

“I love her and I couldn’t admit it because I was worried about disappointing you!” Draco screamed, kicking his bedside table.  

 

He sat on the edge of his destroyed bed, his head dropping into his hands.  Narcissa gingerly sat next to her son, patting his knee.  

 

“If we had known the depth of your feelings for Miss Granger, we would have accepted her.  We accept her now, if you two can put aside your differences.”

 

Draco looked at his mother, then his father.  “Do you feel that way, too?”

 

“I do.”  Lucius held out a hand to his wife.  

 

“I had no idea,” Draco said, finally seeing his parents in a different light.  “She’s dating Theodore Nott.  He’s serious about her.”

 

Narcissa nodded.  “I’ve seen them together and I believe he has stronger feelings for her than she does for him.  And from what I’ve seen the past couple of days, Miss Granger cares deeply for you, Draco.”

 

Draco groaned and shook his head.  “I keep fucking things up with her.  No matter how much she cares, I’m not sure she’s that forgiving.”

 

Narcissa hoped, for her son’s sake, that Miss Granger could forgive him.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“Hi Mum,” Hermione said, sitting next to her mother on the sofa.  Jean put down her book.

 

She looked at her daughter and knew something was wrong.  “What is it, sweetheart?”

 

“Oh, Mum.  I just don’t know what to do.”  Hermione wiped fat tears from her cheeks.

 

Jean knew from her years as a mother that Hermione would tell her more if she didn’t ask too many questions.  So she waited patiently for her daughter to continue.

 

“A couple of nights ago I had a nightmare that Draco was drowning and I stood by helplessly and watched.  It was so real.  I finally woke and I couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed my help.  I went to his home and his mother took me to him.”  At this, Hermione gasped out a sob before continuing.  “Mum, he was lying in bed and he looked like he was dying.”

 

“Hermione, love, I’m so sorry.”  Jean rubbed soothing circles on her quaking back.

 

“I stayed with him all that day.  He was doing better when I left and I visited him again today after I dropped off my work at Gringotts.  He’s severely depressed and he said it’s because I wouldn’t see him anymore.”

 

Hermione had confessed to her mother several months before the main problem that plagued her relationship with Draco.  Jean had been saddened by what her daughter explained.  But Hermione had been right to expect more from her relationship with Draco.  

 

“Theo’s such a wonderful boyfriend, but I feel like I gave my heart to Draco and no one else will do.  I can’t seem to get over him, Mum.”

 

Not wanting to influence her daughter either way, she continued to keep silent about the two men her daughter held close.

 

“Have you thought about the scholarship?  You received another letter today,” Jean said.

 

Back in February, Hermione had applied for a scholarship exchange program.  The month before, she received word that she’d been accepted to the program, but she had yet to decide if she would go or not.  Jean knew she needed to decide soon.  It was an excellent opportunity to see part of the United States and continue her studies.

 

“I had thought I’d decline it, but maybe I need to get away from England for a few months.”

 

“It might give you some perspective, love.  I know it might seem counterintuitive, but make your choices for yourself and don’t worry about Theo’s or Draco’s feelings.”

 

“I’ll think about going while we’re in Italy,” Hermione agreed.  

 

“Dad and I will help you, if you want to go.”

 

Hermione hugged her mother, appreciative of the nonjudgmental way she listened.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

During the week the Grangers were in Italy, Hermione decided to accept the scholarship offer.  

 

Chapter Text

Theo stared at Hermione after she told him she’d be leaving for the United States in a few weeks.

 

“I didn’t know you were interested in studying abroad,” he said quietly.

 

Hermione took a drink of her wine.  She cared for Theo and didn’t want to hurt him.

 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to study what I love with a group of brilliant students and professors.”

 

Theo beckoned her over and pulled her onto his lap.  “Don’t go.  I can get you access to anything you want in England, Hermione.”  He held her close.  

 

“You’ve been amazing to me, Theo, but I need to do this for myself.”  Despite knowing how hard it would be to tell Theo she was leaving, Hermione’s eyes started to tear up.  “I’m really going to miss you.”

 

“You want to end things, don’t you?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

 

“I think it would be easier for both of us to make a clean break.”  She laid her cheek on his soft hair.  “The scholarship can extend for up to two years.”

 

“I’ll miss your parents,” he said.  

 

“Prat.” She pinched his side, earning her a chuckle.  “My parents like you.  You won my dad over with the enchanted toothbrush.”

 

“Will you write me and let me know how you’re doing?” 

 

“Yeah, of course.”

 

They looked at each other for a long moment before their lips met in a gentle kiss.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

A large white owl delivered a letter to Draco on a warm Tuesday morning.  He thought the owl looked familiar. 

 

 Is that Potter’s owl?

 

Opening the parchment, he found a short note from Hermione asking him to come to her flat the next evening.  He scribbled an affirmative and sent it with the owl he now knew belonged to Harry Potter.

 

After his explosion in front of his parents, Draco had not heard from Hermione.  Frankly, this was their pattern.  He’d act like an arsehole, she’d stay away from him, then he’d seek her out for her forgiveness.  Getting her request gave him pause.  He wondered what she wanted to say to him.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione sat on the floor surrounded by boxes when Draco knocked on her door.

 

“Come in,” she called.

 

She hadn’t seen him in close to a month, but he looked better.  Draco had gained some weight and his eyes were clear.  His short hair and facial stubble made him look like a reckless, handsome movie star.

 

He observed her packing.  “Did you finally find a better flat?”

 

Hermione laughed and got up.  “You look good.  Thanks for coming tonight.  I needed to clear this place so I don’t get charged rent for next month.”

 

“Where are you moving?”

 

“I was accepted into a prestigious literature program in the United States.  I’m leaving in a couple of weeks.”

 

“Are you serious?”  He sat down on an old wooden chair in her tiny kitchen.

 

“It’s a great opportunity for me, my studies are paid for and I’ll get to see a part of the world I’ve wanted to explore for years.”

 

“How long will you be gone?” he choked out.

 

Hermione mechanically continued to pack her belongings, fighting with herself not to cry.

 

“Up to two years.”  

 

Draco saw her try to hide the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.

 

“But what about Theo?” he asked, terrified to find out if Theo would be following her to America.

 

Hermione shook her head and looked at the floor.  “We broke up.”

 

Draco let out a breath, but found himself feeling sympathy for his friend.  He knew Theo had wanted a future with Hermione.  But Draco did, too, and he was going to do everything he could to ensure that she ended up with him.

 

“I’ll escort you to the United States.  It would give me the opportunity to check on the New York branch of the company.”

 

Hermione turned away from him and began packing dishes from the kitchen cabinets.  “I don’t know, Draco.  My Dad was going to fly out with me.”

 

Draco placed his hand on her waist and turned her towards him.  “Granger.”

 

Hermione laid her head on his chest, letting herself relax into his touch.  His arms circled her.  

 

“Just let me do this for you, alright?”  

 

 When she had been at Malfoy Manor caring for him, she didn’t let herself get absorbed into him, but she did now.  He smelled like aftershave and male musk and…sex.   

 

“Okay, Draco.”

 

They embraced until Draco tipped her chin up to look at him.  He was shocked to see how heated her gaze was.  Her mouth was slightly open and when she licked her full, pink lips, he was on her.  His mouth crashed into hers and his tongue took advantage of her surprise.  

 

As soon as Draco’s tongue began stroking her compliant mouth, Hermione’s body felt electrified.  She pulled him closer, feeling his erection against her stomach.  Her breasts pushed into his chest, her responsive nipples begging for attention.  It had been so long since she’d lost herself in Draco and her dreams never let her forget.

 

“Bed,” he grunted after dragging his mouth from hers.  He took her hand and pulled her to the still made bed where he resumed their searing kiss.  His hands began unbuttoning her shirt and after a moment, he felt her hands on his belt buckle.

 

Oh, Merlin, I’ve missed this, Draco thought.  Head back, he relished her deft hands undressing him.  Her fingers ever-so-lightly stroked his sensitive length as she helped get him out of his slacks while her mouth pressed hot kisses to his chest.  He reached behind her and unhooked her simple, white bra.  Hermione let it fall to the floor.

 

“Take your jeans off,” Draco growled.  He was ready to remind her just why they were so combustible together.

 

Sitting on the bed so he could watch her undress, Draco stared unabashedly at her high, round tits and the triangle of curls covering her core.  

 

“What is it?” she asked, noticing his entranced gaze.

 

“Fuck, Hermione.  You’re so bloody beautiful.”  

 

She straddled him, looking at his hungry expression.  

 

“In some of my…sexual…dreams about you, I’d come so hard I’d wake up orgasming,” she confessed.  He groaned at her words.

 

He could feel his cock barely hitting her wetness as he pinched her nipples the way he knew she liked.  She moaned at the slightly rough way he played with her.

 

Not able to wait another minute, Draco pushed Hermione onto the bed and nudged her legs apart.  Her pussy was wet and pink and he leaned down and licked her.

 

“Merlin, Draco!” she gasped, her hips thrusting up.

 

On another day, when he wasn’t so desperate for her body to surround him, he would lick at her cunt until she came around his tongue.  But on this day, a day he had been fantasizing about for over a year, he planned on shagging her into the mattress.         

 

He positioned himself between her smooth thighs, the head of his wide cock glistening, and pushed into her tight sheath.  Her nails bit into his back as she adjusted to him once again.  

 

He slid his cock out and plunged back into her again and again.  Her hips bucked into his as they kissed each other wildly.  When he reached between them and rubbed her clit, Hermione tore her mouth away from Draco to let out a keening scream.

 

“Yes, Draco, yes!  Fuck, fuck, fuck, I’m coming!”

 

As soon as he began to feel her body rippling around his cock, he let himself go.  Hermione wrapped herself around him as he pounded into her.  He gave a hoarse shout as semen spurted into her for what felt like minutes.  Finally, he collapsed on top of her, breathing into her ear.  Her hands stroked his back as his body recovered.

 

With regret, he pulled out of her welcoming body and rolled next to her.  His arms hauled her toward him so she could rest her head on his chest.  All those months ago, when she had been so free with her body and so damn loving to him, he had taken it for granted.  He had chastised her and used her.  He wished he had known what he would be missing without her.

 

“Do you have to get back to your parents’ house?” he asked.

 

“No, I told them I was staying at the flat tonight,” she murmured.

 

“Good.”

 

She kissed his chest as she nuzzled into him.  “I’ll miss you.”

 

“I’ve missed you for months, Granger.  I’m done with this.”

 

He felt her body stiffen and realized how his words had been misconstrued.  

 

“Look at me, Hermione,” he quietly urged her.  She shook her head.

 

“Granger, will you please let me say something to you?”

 

She finally gave him a wary look.  

 

“I’m done with missing you all the fucking time.  I want you to let me court you.”

 

The warring emotions on her face told him how conflicted she was about his words.

 

“What?”

 

Draco gave an irritated sigh.  “I want a bloody do-over.  Let me try to win you like I should have done to begin with.”

 

“You want to court me?”

 

“Yeah, I do.”

 

“I don’t really understand, but I want to talk to you when I don’t feel so tired.  Will you stay?”

 

Draco saw the disbelief on her face and her body language had quickly become awkward, even in the small bed they were sharing.  He folded his arms around her, until her body relaxed.

 

“I’ll stay.” 

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco woke when dawn began to gently light Hermione’s little flat.  He wanted to get them breakfast before she woke, but he didn’t want her to think he had abandoned her.  He found paper and a pen and left her a note letting her know he’d be back shortly.  

 

He walked to a bakery a block from her apartment and bought pastries and coffee for them.  When he got back to the flat, he could hear Hermione showering.  

 

Taking a drink of the strong coffee, Draco began rehashing what had occurred the night before.  He couldn’t believe they’d slept together.  When he had been using sex to try to forget Hermione, he would feel angry with himself after each encounter.  He had known what it was like to be with someone who cared for him and so the meaningless fucking he had engaged in only highlighted how shallow his life was.  

 

Hermione was the opposite of shallow in every way.  That didn’t mean she wasn’t fun, passionate or interesting, but she was sincere in her undertakings.  Since they had become friends during seventh year, Draco’s superficial existence had undergone a transformation.  He was still volatile, moody and jealous, but now he (sometimes) looked beyond blood status or wealth as a means of understanding others.  It had come as a surprise for him to learn that Theo and his parents had more depth than he had expected.  Draco hadn’t thought his parents, particularly his father, would put his feelings about a Muggle-born above blood status.  He had expected his parents to punish him for even considering Hermione Granger.

 

Steamy air wafted out of the bathroom as Hermione came out, rosy cheeked and dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.  She gave Draco a shy smile.

 

“Good morning,” she said, joining him at the little table.  

 

“Hey,” he said, smiling at her.  He handed her a cup of creamy, sweet coffee.

 

They sipped their brew in silence for a few moments.

 

Hermione nervously fidgeted with the lid of her cup.  Finally, she met Draco’s eyes.  

 

“I’m ready to talk.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“Thanks for getting us breakfast,” Hermione said, taking a bite of a raspberry, chocolate chip scone.

 

“My pleasure.”  Draco had told her he wanted a chance at a real relationship with her.  He knew Hermione hated to be pushed into making a decision, so he waited for her to begin the conversation.  

 

“Tell me why you can acknowledge me now.  What’s changed?”  Hermione knew in her heart they were inexplicably drawn to each other and that was why she had to be so cautious with him.  He was going to have to offer her a truthful, sincere explanation.  

 

Another part of her hesitation was the intensity of Draco’s feelings for her.  Even as children they had interacted in such fiery way and over the years those interactions had changed, but were still just as extreme.  Hermione knew you could care for someone, even love him, but not quite trust him.  Draco’s actions over the years put him in that category.

 

“You know I never wanted us to end things, but I can understand why you did.  You deserved more from me and you’ve been more generous with me than I was with you.  That isn’t to say that I took your rejection well.”  He looked at her as she considered his words.  Draco appreciated that Hermione was hearing him out.  In the past he would have been humiliated to confess so much to a woman, but Hermione had seen him at his worst.  

 

“After New Year’s Eve, I went on a bender for several months.  I was trying to get over you.  I eschewed all my responsibilities to my family, which is why my parents came back to England.  When you started seeing Theo and he was so bloody serious about you, I sort of, well, lost interest in everything.  I was drinking day and night and I think my parents overheard me asking for you.”

 

Merlin, this is so humbling.  Draco stopped to take a sip of his cooled coffee.  

 

“I suppose that’s why your mother didn’t seem totally shocked when I showed up at Malfoy Manor,” Hermione guessed.

 

“My parents, but my mother especially, wanted me to tell them more about us, but I didn’t really know what to say.  Her hints were very subtle, so mostly I ignored her requests for information.  But you know how Slytherins read a situation, so I think they understood what was going on.  By the time you showed up at the manor, my father had tried to convince my mother they needed to send me to St. Mungo’s because I had stopped eating and hardly got out of bed.”

 

Draco stopped talking when he noticed Hermione’s eyes fill with tears.

 

“Seeing you like that…I thought you were dying.  I’ve never been so scared in my life,” she said, voice hoarse with trying to hold back tears.

 

“I…I wanted to die.”  He took a deep, shuddering breath.  “What made you take that dream seriously?  I thought you’d had a few dreams about me.”

 

“Not a few, Draco.  I’ve dreamed of you almost every night since we left Hogwarts.  The dream that led me to Malfoy Manor was the most realistic dream.  I woke and knew I had to make sure you were okay.”

 

Draco threaded their fingers together.  “After my parents saw us arguing, we talked.  They’re not what I expected, Granger.  I haven’t spent very much time with them over the past few years, but they actually cared about what I want.”

 

“Oh, Draco,” Hermione murmured, squeezing his hand.  

 

“They’re grateful you came to my aid.  I told them how I felt about you and they…”  Draco shook his head in disbelief.  “They accepted you, Hermione.”

 

It was almost anticlimactic to hear those words from Draco.  She had fought for every ounce of his affections when they were seventh year students, but after having been burned by him so often, Hermione wasn’t sure they could actually make a relationship work.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t accept his faults, since she had plenty of her own, but it was more that she worried that Draco didn’t have the character necessary to face public ridicule.  Having his parents acknowledge her as his love interest was certainly a big hurdle, but she wasn’t sure how he might act if someone criticized her.  Would he defend her?

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“Lucius, I don’t think Draco came home last night,” Narcissa said as they ate breakfast.  

 

“He went to see Miss Granger,” he said, going back to his newspaper.  

 

“He told you he was going to see her?” 

 

“I asked him to have a drink with me and he turned me down due to his plans with her.”  Lucius had been cautiously optimistic about his son’s improvement.  After Miss Granger came to the manor, Draco had started pulling himself out of bed, eating meals with his parents, and assisting his father with some of the Malfoy accounts.  

 

“I hope they’ve reconciled,” Narcissa said with a sad smile.  “I’ve gathered that Draco was mostly at fault in this situation, but I think he’s grown up over the past few months.  He’ll need to prove to her that he’s worthy of her love.”

 

“I believe you’re right, dear.”

 

Lucius went back to his reading and Narcissa drank her tea, lost in thought.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione wanted nothing more than to throw caution to the wind and immerse herself in a relationship with Draco, but she knew they needed to move slowly.

 

“You have to understand that I’m hesitant because you’ve hurt me, Draco.”  Hermione pulled her hand out of his and cupped her face in her hands.  

 

He debated telling her the next part, but he thought she probably knew what he was about to say.  

 

“When we first started sleeping together, I did like you, but I didn’t think there was any kind of future for us.  I treated you like I could discard you at any time.  You have no idea how I regret that.  I know you think I wanted you more after you started seeing Theo, but I was already a fucking mess.”

 

Hermione knew Draco had used her, but it was an intense reminder of the initial painful heartbreak she had experienced.  Yet…yet, Hermione had seen Draco layed low by his unrequited feelings for her.  

 

“Why me, Draco?  Any witch would be thrilled to have you as their boyfriend.”

 

Even though Draco knew Hermione intuited his strong feelings for her, it was a different matter altogether to detail why he cared for her as he did.  He hadn’t told her why he wanted her, but after how shitty he had been to her, it was likely she needed to hear why he wanted her back.

 

“Even after what a git I was as a kid, you still kept an open mind and treated me with respect when we started studying together.  You’re brilliant, but you treated me like I was, too, although not in the simpering way I was used to from other students.  I know you didn’t care a whit about my wealth or my family, so I felt that you were honest with me.  I trust you.  But you hold me accountable for my actions and that’s been a different experience for me.  You seem to understand how to care for me in a way no one has ever done before.  And obviously I find you beautiful and desirable.  I know I haven’t offered you very much, but I want to make you happy to be with me.”

 

“Thank you for telling me how you feel.  I just needed to know what I would be getting into.”  

 

Draco hoped he understood what she was insinuating.  “Does that mean you agree to let me court you?”

 

“Yes, Draco.”  

 

Draco got up and pulled Hermione to her feet.  He wrapped his arms around her waist.  His stomach fluttered with butterflies.  

 

“You know I’m still an arse, but I’m really trying.”  His hand slipped under her shirt to stroke her smooth back.

 

“I know.  You’re worth the risk,” Hermione said.  She looked up at his expressive face to convey her sincerity.  

 

“How do you feel about me?” Draco murmured.  He knew she cared for him, but he had put all his cards on the table.  It would be nice to know to what extent his feelings were reciprocated.

 

She closed her eyes for a moment before looking at him.  “I feel incomplete without you.”

 

Draco hugged her close.  “You won’t regret this.”

 

Chapter Text

Hermione touched up her lipstick and looked at herself in the mirror.  She took the sapphire earrings from Draco out of her jewelry box and decided to wear them.  Tonight they would have dinner in Diagon Alley.  This would be the first time they had gone anywhere in the wizarding world together.  

 

The dress she had chosen was an olive green sundress with thin straps holding up a fitted bodice.  It was just above knee length.  She paired it with tan wedge sandals and a tan leather clutch purse.  Her short pixie hair had lightened over the summer and her skin was tanned from helping her parents with their garden.  

 

She heard the whoosh of the Floo and went downstairs to meet Draco.  

 

“Hi,” she said giving him a smile.

 

“You look lovely.”  He kissed her cheek.  “Are you ready to go?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

They Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron.  Draco brushed himself off and took Hermione’s hand in his.

 

“Where are we going?” 

 

“Michelangelo’s.  Every dish is a work of art.”

 

“Well, that sounds perfect, Mr. Malfoy,” a sultry voice said from behind them.

 

Hermione found herself looking at a gorgeous blond, blue-eyed witch.

 

“You never owled me after that fantastic night,” the woman said, a sassy pout on her pink lips.

 

Fuck.  He vaguely remembered shagging this woman, but he had been so consistently inebriated he couldn’t recall a single detail about the experience.

 

“Nor did I plan to.  Good evening,” Draco said coolly.  

 

He ushered Hermione out of the Leaky, trying to get away from his error in judgment.  Hermione’s movements were stiff and she hadn’t said a word.  He didn’t feel like he owed her an apology for what had happened in the past.  Hermione had been the one to end things with him. 

 

They walked in silence until they got to the restaurant.  When they were seated, Hermione asked Draco about the woman in the Leaky Cauldron.

 

“Just a lapse in judgment, nothing more,” Draco said nonchalantly.  

 

Hermione felt unsettled with what had happened, but decided to focus on their date.

 

“Where are you living this semester?” Draco asked.

 

“I’ll be in the dorms.  Since I don’t know the area, I thought it might help to be on campus.  It’ll give me more access to the library, too.”  She smiled at Draco, trying to dispel her feeling of unease.

 

“Why did you apply for something so far away?  I thought you were enjoying your university experience,” Draco said.  

 

“I did enjoy it, but I…well, after New Year’s Eve, I decided to take a chance to do something for myself.”  Damn.  She really didn’t want to talk about how their estrangement made her feel cut off—from him, from the wizarding world and from herself.  She still had issues with how Draco had defended pure-blood ways to her for so long.  Even though she would give this difficult man a chance, she still wasn’t sure he had it in him to truly be in a relationship with her.

 

“Were you trying to get away from me?” he asked.  

 

“We don’t have to talk about this now,” Hermione said, horrified to feel the prickle of tears in her eyes.

 

But if Draco noticed her discomfort, he ignored it and persisted in finding out why she was leaving.

 

“I want to know,” he insisted.

 

Hermione glanced around and was relieved to see that the other diners were immersed in their own dinners and conversations.  She lowered her voice.

 

“Of course I was trying to get away from you!  I tried to get away from you in the Muggle world, but you sought me out.  I thought if I went across an ocean, we could try to move on.”

 

“You seemed to have moved on with Theo.” As soon as he said it, he knew he had gone too far.  She dashed a tear away from her cheek.

 

“A woman you slept with just propositioned you.  It appears to me that you moved on as well.  I know you were drinking and sleeping with anything that had tits, so I don’t appreciate what you’re insinuating about me.”  Hermione took a deep breath.  “Please excuse me,” she said, heading to the loo.

 

With clenched fists and a tight jaw, Draco waited for her to come back.  The waiter brought their food.  Finally, Hermione came back to the table and carefully sat down, arranging her napkin in her lap and looking at her food.

 

“This does look like a work of art,” she said, the corners of her lips tilting up in a tiny smile.

 

Oh, thank Merlin.  He returned her smile and took a bite of his ravioli.  The air between them was still a bit awkward, but both tried their best to enjoy their meal.  

 

“You have to taste my scallops,” Hermione said, spearing a scallop for Draco and holding it to his lips.  He took the succulent scallop into his mouth, enjoying the intimate way she fed him.  

 

Hermione heard a familiar laugh and turned.  Draco’s gaze followed hers and they were met with an unexpected sight.

 

A few tables away sat Pansy Parkinson and George Weasley.  George was sipping wine and watching Pansy tell a story with obvious amusement.  Hermione could tell they were comfortable with each other by the easy way they interacted.  George was dressed in slacks and a dress shirt.  His hair had grown and he wore it in a low queue.  He looked quite handsome.  Pansy’s severe black bob had grown out and her hair fell in waves to the middle of her back.  Hermione had always thought Pansy was harsh looking, but she had a glow about her now.  It was clear as day that they were in the process of falling in love.

 

“I never would have pictured those two together,” Draco said with a smirk.

 

“I wouldn’t have either, but they seem happy with each other.”

 

They watched their friends and housemates for a few moments before looking at each other and grinning.  The anxious feeling dispelled and they both relaxed into their chairs.  Draco waved the waiter over and ordered tiramisu for them to share.

 

“How long do you reckon they’ve been dating?” Draco wondered.

 

Hermione snuck a quick look at Pansy and George as the continued their dinner.  

 

“I don’t know, but I’d guess a couple of months.  They seem comfortable together.”

 

The waiter placed their dessert on the table with two forks.  

 

“Mmm.  This is incredible,” Hermione said, closing her eyes in bliss.  Draco admired her full lips and long dark lashes.  He slid the sweet dessert onto his fork and fed it to her.  Hermione watched him with heavily lidded eyes.  

 

From across the room, Pansy spotted Draco and whispered something to George as he paid the bill.  They walked towards Draco and his mystery date as they were leaving the restaurant.  Hermione looked up at them as they approached the table.  Pansy realized Draco was with Granger.  Well, stranger things have happened, she thought, squeezing George’s hand.

 

“Hermione!” George said.  Hermione stood to hug the red haired trickster.

 

“George, it’s so good to see you!”  Hermione turned to Pansy.  “Hello, Pansy.  You’re looking well.”

 

Pansy startled Hermione by air kissing her cheeks.  Granger’s grown into herself.  She looks sexy.  She turned to Draco, who looked older and more serious than he had when they graduated from Hogwarts.  

 

“Draco, what a surprise,” Pansy said, kissing his cheek.  Draco murmured a greeting to his friend.

 

“Weasley,” Draco said to George.

 

“Malfoy.”  George nodded to Draco.

 

Pansy spoke to Draco while Hermione spoke to George.  The situation was surreal for all four of them, but everyone refrained from asking questions.  Finally, George reminded Pansy that they needed to leave soon.  Draco and Hermione watched the couple depart.

 

Draco paid the bill and they left, feeling much lighter than they had when they had entered.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“What the bloody hell was that?” George asked with a laugh.

 

Pansy shook her head and chuckled.  “I’m sure they said the same of us.”

 

“I thought they hated each other!  But, they seemed comfortable together.  How long do you think they’ve been dating?”  George asked, echoing Draco’s question to Hermione earlier that night.  He draped his arm across Pansy’s petite shoulders as they walked.

 

“Well, Granger had been dating Theo Nott.  But she and Draco didn’t act like they had just started seeing each other.  They spent a lot of time together seventh year for projects…” Pansy said, trying to figure out what the connection was between those two.

 

“Probably some illicit affair that’s finally come to light,” George joked.

 

Pansy thought about what he had said.  George was probably right.  During seventh year, she and Draco had stopped their infrequent romps in the sack.  Perhaps he had been secretly seeing Granger. 

 

“I know you’re kidding, but it’s a possibility.”

 

George had spent enough time with Hermione to know she didn’t suffer fools.  If she was with Malfoy, they had a connection and it had some depth.  Hermione was one of the most sincere people he knew.

 

He led Pansy to his apartment above WWW, ready to enjoy some private time with the witch who had surprised him with her sharp wit and sense of humor.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione and Draco walked to Flourish & Blotts after they finished dinner.  Draco had promised his mother he would pick up a book she had ordered.  He had only agreed to pick up the book during their date because he knew Hermione would love the opportunity to visit the bookstore and browse.  His parents often enjoyed an afternoon of browsing the prodigious bookstore.  A leisurely visit to F&B certainly combined two of his favorite activities: time with Hermione and finding new reading material.

 

As they perused the stacks, Draco thought of something he had learned about his parents a few nights before.  

 

“The other night I was having dinner with my parents and my father told me how he fell for my mother.”

 

“Hmm.  I thought they had an arranged marriage.”  Hermione turned to face Draco, giving him her full attention.  She knew he didn’t share personal details with many people.  It pleased her that he thought to share with her.  

 

“Well, they did, but my father orchestrated it.  My father tutored my mother when he was a prefect.  They met several times a week and my father said they got on well.  Then my mother said to me that she thought she’d have to marry a Romanian wizard, so she didn’t want to get too attached to my father.”  Draco fingered the spine of a book on the history of Gringotts.

 

“I assumed they knew each other, but from what you’ve told me, I thought their relationship was based on practicality.”  

 

“My father was smitten with my mother and asked her to the Yule Ball, but she said no.  They stopped their study sessions and my mother began totally ignoring my father.”

 

“Your poor father!”

 

Draco smirked.  “Well, Mother said she didn’t feel too bad cutting him off since he had girls hanging all over him.  Even though she had turned him down, he followed her and sat near her in the library and in the common room.  Mother said what he was doing was painfully obvious, but she thought a match with the other wizard was inevitable.”

 

“I didn’t know stalking was genetic,” Hermione said, bumping Draco with her hip.

 

Draco looked perplexed for a second before choking out a laugh.  “Oh, Merlin!  You’re right, the Malfoys are absolute stalkers.  But it seems to work for us.”

 

“So, how did they end up betrothed?”

 

“Well, my father learned my Grandfather Black was having trouble selling several buildings in Diagon Alley.  His father, Abraxas Malfoy, bought real estate and flipped it, so my father told his father of the opportunity.  My father told his father he was friends with my mother and they studied together on occasion.  You know how Slytherins are, so my father couldn’t confess his feelings to his father.  But, he knew Abraxas would use any advantage to secure the best deal on the buildings.  Grandfather Black was amenable to giving Abraxas a good price on the buildings if he could secure a Malfoy marriage contract for one of his daughters.  Luckily, my parents were the closest in age, so they were matched by their fathers.”

 

“How did your mother feel about the contract?”

 

“After the contract was completed, she and my father talked and began to see each other in earnest.  My mother said she had friends at Hogwarts, but my father became her best friend as well as her betrothed.”

 

“What you’ve described to me of their relationship seemed cold.  Did I misunderstand?” Hermione asked.  

 

“No, I think I misunderstood their relationship.  I knew they were companionable, but I think on most subjects, they’re of one mind.  Now that I’ve been able to spend some time with them as an adult, I can see they really love each other.”

 

It made Hermione sad that Draco had gone his whole life thinking his parents were together for wholly pragmatic reasons.

 

“Do you think…” Hermione said, clearing her throat.  “…your parents could understand us because they love each other?”

 

Draco arched an eyebrow at her.  “Like we love each other?” 

 

Hermione’s eyes widened.  “You know that wasn’t what I meant.”

 

“But we do,” Draco said simply.  His hand came up to her cheek and he rubbed his thumb over her cheekbone.  

 

Brown eyes met grey.  “It’s always so complicated between us.”

 

“I know,” Draco acknowledged.  

 

They walked to the till, Draco grabbing the books Hermione had seemed interested in, which amounted to a stack of at least ten books.  

 

“Draco, you don’t need to buy those for me.”

 

“Is this not the way to your heart?” he said jokingly.

 

“You never have to buy me things.”  Hermione knew Draco had mountains of Galleons sitting in Gringotts, but she never wanted him to think she put his money in the same category as his personal attributes.

 

“I know you don’t expect me to buy you anything and that’s what makes it so much fun.  Besides, they’re books.  A few Galleons at most.”

 

Draco paid for everything and they walked out into the balmy evening.

 

“Come back with me to the manor,” he murmured into her ear as they walked to the Apparition point at the Alley’s edge.

 

“Draco!  What would your parents say?”  Hermione worried the Malfoys already knew too much about their relationship.  

 

“They’re not at the manor.  They went back to Sweden to pack up their property.”

 

“My parents will worry if I don’t come home tonight, so I can’t stay.”

 

“Fine,” he sighed.  He hadn’t actually expected Hermione to agree at all.  At least he’d have her to himself when he accompanied her to the States.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco Apparated Hermione directly into his bedroom suite.  The windows were open to let in the cool evening air.  A quick incantation lit the lamps in the room.  

 

Hermione felt unusually shy with Draco.  They’d slept together many times, but there was something different about doing this in his bedroom, in his family’s home, after they had been on a legitimate date.  She supposed she wanted sex to be something they worked up to, not something expected just because they’d done it before.  Not that she was opposed to doing other sexual things.

 

“Um, Draco, can I talk to you about something?”  Hermione fidgeted with her purse.

 

He sat on the bed and patted the space next to him.

 

Hermione sat and faced him.  “Can we take this slower?  I want us to get to know each other better.”

 

Truth be told, Draco was disappointed, but her feelings were not unexpected.  He knew she didn’t totally trust him and their date had been fairly uncomfortable after the witch approached him at the Leaky Cauldron.  But, damn it, he was a Slytherin which meant he was resourceful.  Hermione would leave this room with weak knees and a satisfied body.

 

“Will you let me do other things to you?” Draco murmured, kissing her brow.

 

Hermione loved the way Draco smelled: his skin, his hair, his breath.  He wore a light cologne, but his natural musky scent was an incredible aphrodisiac to her. 

 

“Yes,” she said breathily.  Draco’s fingers lightly stroked the sensitive skin of her neck and shoulders.  His mouth grazed her cheekbones and jaw.  

 

Hermione turned her head to allow their lips to meet.  She adored kissing Draco.  His kisses were always demanding and forced her to focus on him.  For someone always focused on multiple ideas at once, it was a telling experience to narrow her thoughts on one person.  

 

Hermione opened herself to Draco, allowing his tongue entrance.  He stroked her mouth provocatively.  His hands ghosted over her breasts, causing her to gasp and break their kiss.  

 

“Did I strip your clothes off in your dreams?” Draco whispered into her ear, his breath making her shiver.  Hermione nodded.  She stood and let him unzip her dress.  The dress she wore didn’t necessitate a bra, so she only wore sheer pink knickers.  

 

Draco spread his legs.  “I’ll unbuckle your shoes.”  Hermione lifted a foot to the space between his legs, allowing Draco a view of her barely covered slit.  He took his time with her foot, removing her shoe and massaging her calf.  Hermione switched feet and he gave her other leg the same treatment.

 

“Mmm, that feels good,” Hermione murmured as he finished kneading her calf.

 

“Lay on the bed, on your stomach,” Draco said, kicking off his shoes and rolling up his sleeves.  

 

Hermione followed his order, making herself comfortable on the bed she had become acquainted with the previous month.  She noticed the plush bedding was different.  She fluffed a pillow and laid on the cool comforter in the center of the bed.

 

Draco came back from the loo with towels and a bottle of massage oil.  He kneeled on the bed next to her.  He used his wand to warm the oil and dribbled some over her back.

 

“I don’t really know what I’m doing, so tell me if something hurts.”

 

“Okay, Malfoy.”  Hermione relaxed her body as his hands began to journey up and down her back.  

 

Her skin was warm and smooth and Draco liked that he got to study her body with time.  They’d never had the opportunity to explore like he wanted to.  Massaging Hermione was one of his fantasies.  He could imagine all kinds of filthy things he could do to her with warm oil and their naked bodies.

 

He stroked her shoulders and neck.  She moaned when his fingers lightly scraped her scalp.  Draco took his time, enjoying her little moans and exhalations.  He should have guessed the skin that housed her brilliant brain would be an erogenous zone.  With a kiss to the back of her neck, Draco moved his attention to her arms.  

 

“Are you comfortable?”

 

“Merlin, yes.  If you keep this up, I’ll do anything you want.”

 

Draco laughed, but kept rubbing her arms.  He sat cross-legged and manipulated her hands, noticing how delicate and long her fingers were.  As he massaged her, Draco noticed his energy center on Hermione and her needs.  He was content to stroke her with care.  With love.  He let his mind wander.  Gods, did I really tell her that we love each other?  She didn’t say she didn’t love me, so can I conclude she does love me?  

 

“Can I take these off?” Draco asked, fingering the delicate fabric of Hermione’s knickers.  Hermione lifted her hips slightly to allow him to pull off the piece in question.

 

Warm oil was dripped onto her round cheeks, then Draco used a firm touch to knead her arse.

 

“Next time I fuck you, I’m going to spank you.”  A finger lightly traced the seam of her globes to the swollen lips of her cleft.  Hermione groaned into the pillow.  His light touch on her wet labia was making her crazy.  His finger found her stiff clitoris and caressed her until Hermione was mewling in desperation.

 

“Turn over, love,” he whispered into her ear.  “Do you want my fingers or my mouth?”

 

She looked like a goddess in the low light of his bedroom.  Her skin was flushed and her lips were puffy.  He licked his lips at the buffet of her body presented before him.  Hermione’s dark eyes glittered in anticipation.

 

“Oh, gods, Draco, use your mouth,” she whimpered.

 

Draco straddled her body and lowered his face to kiss her.  Hermione wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling him close.  She bit at his bottom lip, then used her tongue to soothe his reddened mouth.  The way she took his passion and reciprocated it was one of the reasons Draco craved Hermione.  Tonight he wanted to please her, but he knew she’d never be happy to be the sole recipient of pleasure in their relationship.  He’d received so much pleasure from her in the past.  Gods, what had I been thinking to let her think I wanted anyone else?

 

His mouth pressed hot, rough kisses along her neck down to her responsive tits.  He sucked an erect nipple into his mouth and fondled the other bud with his hand.  Hermione arched into his touch, moaning.  He moved his mouth to the other nipple sucking it hard.  She gasped.

 

“I could come from that,” she said, writhing against the weight of his body atop her.

 

Draco looked up at her face, her mouth slightly open.  “I want you to come with my tongue on your wet cunt.”  He lightly bit her nipple before continuing his way down her body.

 

She spread her legs for him and he laid between her spread thighs, his face level with her most private part.  Her dark curls parted to reveal her glistening, dark pink sex.  He lowered his nose to her, inhaling the musky, sweet smell of her body.

 

“Fuck, you smell delicious,” he said, licking her slit.

 

Hermione stilled herself to feel his gentle ministrations.  He was incredibly observant when it came to her reactions and knew how to make her scream in pleasure.  She let him know what she liked, but he had a sixth sense of what would feel good to her body.

 

His tongue licked her swollen labia, his fingers helping to part her body for him.  Her juices were running down her creamy thighs, coating her body in lubrication.  He wanted to sink his cock into her, but tonight was about what she wanted.  He let one finger dip into her cunt.  Hermione bucked her hips.

 

“More, Draco!”

 

A second finger was added to her hot body, as Draco focused on the sensitive nub of nerves.  It was stiff due to her arousal and his tongue probed and laved it while his nimble digits continued to finger her.  He looked up to find Hermione pinching her hard nipples, her head thrown back in ecstasy.  His fingers curved within her to find the spot within her that would inevitably cause her to cry in unrelenting pleasure.  He massaged her g-spot and she exploded.  Her hips bucked and he sped up his tongue on her clit.

 

“Yes, Draco!  Yes!  Oh my God!”  He felt her channel pulse around his fingers and her juices coated his face and hands.  Her hips slowed and Draco removed his fingers.  They made eye contact and he licked his fingers lasciviously.

 

“Come here,” she said, wanting to nestle against his body.  She would prefer that he was naked, but appreciated that he respected her wish to wait for sex.

 

He laid his head on the pillow next to hers.  She pressed her lips to his, smelling herself on him.  Draco’s hands explored her exposed skin, the afterglow of her orgasm making her pliable and drowsy.  

 

“I didn’t finish your massage.”

 

Hermione laughed.  “That’s okay.  I wish I didn’t have to go.  Your bed is so comfortable.”

 

“I got our Portkeys.  They’ll take us directly to the company penthouse in New York City.  Your university isn’t far from there, right?”

 

“Oh, thank you, Draco!  The school is about an half an hour from Manhattan.”  Hermione nuzzled her face against Draco’s cheek.

 

“I’d like nothing better than for you to fall asleep here, but I don’t want your parents to worry.  Come on, love.”

 

Draco used the loo while Hermione got dressed.  Her knickers were suspiciously absent, she mused.  Thank Merlin for magic, she thought, using her wand to iron out the wrinkles in her dress.  She combed through her short hair before strapping on her wedge sandals.

 

“I’m ready,” Hermione said as Draco came out of the loo.  

 

Draco took her home to the darkened Granger house.  They stood in front of the door, kissing.  Finally, Draco pulled himself away.

 

“My parents wanted you to come for dinner the night before we leave.  My mum invited some family, too.”

 

“Yeah, okay.  What time?”

 

“Five or so.  You can Floo in before my family starts showing up at six.  I think my dad wanted to have a drink with you.”

 

He knew the Grangers were kind people and he hoped he could show them he had a serious interest in their daughter.  Eventually, they’d be his family, too, if things worked out as he wanted them to.  It would help if they liked him.

 

“Alright, Granger.  I’ll be ready for the interrogation.”

 

Hermione swatted his arm.  “It’s not like that, Malfoy.  My parents want to get to know you better.”

 

“Do the other members of your family know what you are?” he asked.

 

“Oh, no, they don’t.”

 

“Well, I won’t give you away.  See you soon,” Draco said, kissing Hermione one last time.  He waited for her to enter the house before Apparating back to Malfoy Manor.     

 

     

 

  

 

Chapter Text

Knock, knock, knock.  Hermione woke to rapping on the front door.  The Grangers were at work on this Tuesday morning.  She groggily waited to see if the visitor might leave, but a few seconds later the knocking continued.  Pulling on jeans and a shirt, Hermione went downstairs to answer the door.

 

“Just a minute,” she called.

 

She opened the door to find an unhappy, disheveled Theodore Nott.  

 

“Theo!  Is something wrong?” 

 

“Can we talk?”

 

She beckoned him into the house.  He followed her to the modern kitchen so she could make coffee.  She set the coffee to percolate and sat down across from Theo.  

 

“Are you seeing Malfoy?” he asked.  His normally tranquil, handsome face was grim.

 

Hermione bit her lower lip and nodded.

 

“Did you stop seeing me to date him?” 

 

“No, Theo!”

 

He stared at her incredulously.  “I thought you were trying to make a clean break when you went to the United States.  Why would you change your mind for that arsehole?”

 

Hermione didn’t know how to answer Theo.  She got up and poured two cups of coffee.  She set a cup in front of Theo and took a sip of her own brew.

 

“My relationship with Draco is complicated.  I don’t think anything I could say to you would make you feel better about this situation.”  While she didn’t feel that she had to explain herself to Theo, she didn’t want to injure him any more that he obviously was injured now.

 

“Draco looks out for himself above all else.  Your needs, your desires will always be second to his.”  

 

“Maybe, Theo.”  

 

Hermione cared very much for Theo.  He was perfect in so many ways, but he didn’t make her toes curl and her stomach flutter in excitement.  Theo was comfort and stability, while Draco was passion and intensity.  Hermione knew Draco was self-centered, but she also knew from experience that he did care for her.  But his quick temper and ego could obfuscate his good intentions.

 

Theo stood.  “He will hurt you, Hermione.  I hope when it happens you can recover.”  He gave her a sad smile before walking out of the kitchen.  She heard the front door close behind him a moment later.

 

Hermione put her head down on the table and took deep breaths.  Her fight-or-flight response had been activated and her body was tingling with adrenaline.  She dumped her coffee in the sink and thought about what Theo had said about his former friend.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco walked into Gringotts to exchange Galleons for American dollars.  He and Hermione would leave for the United States in two days.  He was watching an old wizard in sparkly yellow robes when a punch hit his jaw and knocked him to the ground.  Looking up, he found a furious Theo Nott standing over him.  All around them witches and wizards gave them a wide berth.  The security wizards were running towards them.

 

Draco got up and lunged at Nott’s midsection.  They fell to the ground, Draco punching Theo’s face twice before he was pulled away by the security wizards.

 

“What the fuck, Theo?” Draco spat.

 

“You know what that’s about, you backstabbing piece of shit!” Theo swore at him.  “I would have asked her to be my wife.  You’ll never be able to give her what she deserves.”  

 

Bill Weasley had come out of his office and took Theo by the shoulders.  “Not here, Theo, not here.”  Theo shrugged Bill off.

 

“You know nothing about my relationship with Hermione.  If I find out you went near her…” Draco left the threat unfinished, allowing Theo to draw a conclusion to that statement.

 

“What?  You’ll take it out on her, make her feel like shit about it?  You’re an abusive fuck, Malfoy!”  

 

“Screw you, Theo.  She made her choice.  Deal with it.”  Draco looked at Theo contemptuously and stalked out of the bank.

 

Too upset to Apparate, he walked to the Leaky Cauldron to enter Muggle London.  His face was throbbing where Theo had punched him.  His knuckles hurt, too.  Did Theo really say I was abusive to Hermione?  I would never lay a hand on her, but he insinuated that I would hurt her emotionally if I was angry enough.  Draco thought about that idea.  Merlin, did he really do that to her?  Draco had to see her.  He needed the reassurance that he wasn’t the man Theo painted him to be.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione drove up to her parents’ home and found Draco sitting on the steps.  When she saw the angry purple bruise on his jaw, she knew, she just knew, something had happened with Theo.

 

She exited the car and sat next to him on the step.

 

“What happened?”

 

Draco looked at the ground for another moment before looking at Hermione.

 

“Theo and I had an altercation.”

 

“He came here this morning,” Hermione told him.

 

Merlin’s balls.  “What did he want?”

 

“He wanted to know if I was seeing you.”

 

Draco’s face betrayed his agitation.  “And?”

 

“And he was hurt, Draco!  He doesn’t understand why we broke up because I was leaving only for me to turn around and start seeing you.”

 

“He wanted to marry you,” Draco murmured.  

 

Hermione looked at Draco sharply.  

 

“Would you have accepted a proposal?” he asked, his stomach in knots.

 

Hermione watched a young mother and a toddler walking past the house.  

 

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

 

Draco felt sick with this knowledge.  Hermione stood and offered Draco her hand.  

 

“Come in and let me heal you.  We can talk inside.”

 

Hermione knew Draco was insecure about Theo and the events of the day had worn him down.  They sat on her bed as Hermione used her wand to ease the swelling on his face.  She used a small amount of Essence of Dittany to erase the bruise that had formed. 

 

“What did Theo say that has you so quiet?” Hermione asked as she watched the bruise fade.  She smoothed his hair from his face and looked at his serious expression.

 

“Theo referred to me as abusive.”

 

“In what way?” Hermione wondered.  Draco was no angel, but she didn’t consider him abusive, though his anger could be impetuous.

 

“I believe he thinks I’ve been emotionally abusive to you.”

 

Ah.  “When I first started seeing Theo, I was surprised he didn’t want to hide our relationship.  I think after he went to see you a few months ago, he figured out what had transpired between us.  That’s my guess, anyway.  I never talked to him about you.”

 

“I know I’ve hurt you, but I never considered what I did abuse.”

 

Hermione shook her head.  “If I thought your behavior was abusive, I wouldn’t maintain any kind of relationship with you.  I’m sorry he attacked you.  That doesn’t seem like him.”

 

“I got in a couple of good punches,” Draco admitted.  

 

“Will you let it go with Theo?  He’s hurt, Draco, and he took it out on you.  I think he liked the idea of a family and he got some of that with me and my parents.”

 

Draco rubbed his hand over his face.  “Merlin, your parents probably loved him.”

 

Hermione put her arm around Draco’s shoulders.  “I won’t lie to you.  They liked him a lot.  But they want me to be happy.”

 

Draco rested his head against hers.  “Will you tell me if Theo seeks you out?”

 

“I don’t think he will, Draco.”

 

“Humor me, please.”  

 

“Yeah.  I’ll tell you if he does,” she said.

 

 “Fuck, my father is going to kill me when he finds out what happened.”

 

“Did you start the fight, Draco?” 

 

“No, no.  Theo threw the first punch.  The fight was in the Gringotts lobby.”

 

“Oh, that’s not good.  The goblins aren’t very forgiving.”

 

“I know.  Ugh, what a bloody mess.”

 

Here’s your chance to show Draco how much you care for him, said the voice in Hermione’s head that always cheered for Draco.  Don’t let him feel inferior to Theo, because he worries that you’ll go back to Theo next time he fucks up.

 

“I’m not going to leave you for Theo,” Hermione reassured him.  Her hand stroked the hair at the nape of his neck.  His muscles were tense and she kneaded them lightly.  

 

“No?” he whispered, his head down to allow her hands better access.  Hermione lightly scraped his scalp with her blunt nails.

 

“You know what I’ve always appreciated most about you?”

 

“What?” he said, sighing.  Her hands felt like heaven.

 

“You don’t treat me with kid gloves.  When people don’t know me, they assume because I’m slight and have delicate features that I’m breakable.  You would not believe how often I get treated like a little girl, which is ridiculous to me, because I’m a responsible adult.  Even when people know me, they act like I have to know everything.  People don’t challenge my opinions.”

 

She stopped to move behind him and massage his shoulders with both hands.

 

“I love that you challenge me, Draco.  It’s true that nothing has ever been simple between us, but I happily accept that because I know the burden isn’t entirely on me.”

 

“Well, I certainly don’t treat you like a china doll in bed.” 

 

Hermione could hear the smirk in his voice.  She wrapped her arms around him, her chin on his shoulder.

 

“Trust me to give this—us—a chance.  I know you’re a prat and yet here I am.”

 

“It was only a matter of time before you came to your senses, Granger.  I am quite irresistible.”

 

Hermione gently nuzzled his cheek and lightly kissed him.  “Thank you for helping me see reason, Malfoy.”     

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hermione was frantically checking her luggage before Draco got to her house for their Portkey to America.  The night before her parents had thrown her a going away party.  She was incredibly grateful for the generous monetary gifts from her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and her parents.  But her most surprising gift had been from the Malfoy family.  Draco had presented her with a permanent Portkey that allowed her to travel anywhere in the world.  He explained that he wanted her to be able to visit whenever she wanted.  She merely had to speak an incantation along with the location and she would be whisked away.  This type of Portkey was an exorbitant gift.  Hermione knew the Minister of Magic had one and now she knew the Malfoys had them as well. 

 

During the party, he had been slightly overwhelmed with the number of family members he was meeting for the first time, but his good manners and charm helped ease him into the group.  The women of the family had been understandably smitten with him.  Hermione thought she saw her grandmother blush under Draco’s gaze.  The men found him a bit odd since he knew nothing of British sports, but Hermione’s father made an effort to include him in the conversation.  Draco had worried that her parents wouldn’t want him to be part of their daughter’s life, but they had treated him as kindly as they had during Christmas.  

 

Hermione heard the doorbell and her mother answering the door.  Jean Granger had a soft spot for Draco Malfoy.  Hermione wasn’t quite sure why, since Theo had been equally well-mannered and treated Hermione like a princess.  Jean didn’t come out and say she preferred Draco, but she’d been pleased for Hermione when she told her mum that she’d consented to let Draco court her.    

 

Hermione put her luggage into her magically extended bag and went downstairs to meet Draco and say goodbye to her parents.  Knowing that she could come home whenever she wanted made leaving them much easier.  She could thank the Malfoys for that.  Draco had told Hermione that the gift was his parents’ idea.  Even though he had told her his parents accepted their relationship, she finally felt their approval. 

 

“You call us if you need anything,” Jean tearfully said as Richard Granger hugged his daughter.

 

“Send an email when you get settled,” Richard said to Hermione.  

 

Jean hugged Draco and whispered something to him.  He smiled and nodded his head.  Richard shook Draco’s hand and thanked him for helping Hermione while Jean and Hermione exchanged tearful hugs.

 

“Are you ready?” Draco asked.  

 

“I think so.”

 

Draco showed Hermione how to use her new Portkey and then they were gone.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“What did my mum whisper to you before we left?” Hermione asked as they had tea on the Malfoy’s penthouse balcony.  It was a beautiful, balmy day in New York City.   

 

“I left her with additional Floo powder so your parents could fire call the manor if she needed to reach me.  If you have an emergency I can be here in minutes with the Portkey.  She liked the idea that you’d have that safety net.”  Draco gave her a sheepish smile.  Hermione was independent and didn’t always appreciate that type of help, or interference as she might view it.

 

“You would do that for them?”  

 

“Of course.  They’re proud of you for getting the scholarship, but they’re nervous about you being so far removed.  I would want to come help you if something happened, but I won’t necessarily be the first one to know.”

 

Hermione leaned over the table and kissed Draco.  

 

“That was so thoughtful,” she murmured, kissing his lips.

 

“Come here, witch.”

 

Hermione stepped around the table and let Draco pull her into his lap.  Hermione settled her bum over his burgeoning erection.  He nuzzled the column of her throat, enjoying the way she shivered.  She cupped his face, looking into his grey eyes.

 

“Can anyone see us?”

 

Draco shook his head.  “I don’t think so.”   He noticed the glint in her eyes before she moved to kneel in front of him.  

 

“Well, well, well, Miss Granger.  You never cease to surprised me.”

 

She smirked at him as she unclasped his belt.  “I want to show the proper appreciation for your thoughtfulness.”

 

He watched her unbutton his slacks and gently lower his fly.  

 

“Lift you hips.”  She pulled him free of his clothes, taking her time to admire his thick cock.  She wrapped a hand around its base, familiarizing him with her touch.  

 

“It makes me so hard to watch you touch me,” Draco growled.  “Take off your shirt so I can admire you, too.”

 

Hermione gave him a smoldering look as she pulled her shirt off.  Her black bra was unhooked and she let it drop to the ground.  Her nipples pebbled under his hungry gaze.  She stroked his strong thighs then let her lips lightly graze the ruddy, broad head of his penis.  Draco watched her with fascination as she used her hands to cup his balls with her deft fingers.  Her big, brown eyes looked up at his grey eyes as she took him into her mouth, using her other hand to glide over the part of his cock that didn’t fit into her mouth.  What she was doing to him was so intimate; a secret only the two of them shared.  He wondered if she felt the same way when he tongued her little pink pussy.  

 

The sensation of her wet, hot mouth sucking up and down his prick and watching her flushed cheeks and reddened lips was causing his balls to tingle with the beginnings of an orgasm.  

 

“Let me come on your tits,” Draco rasped out.

 

Hermione took him out of her mouth and pumped his cock, intermittedly licking drops of pre-cum from his swollen cap.  Draco groaned as semen spurted onto her chest.  It dribbled between her breasts.  Hermione tried to grab a napkin from the table, but Draco stopped her with his hand.

 

“I’ll clean you up,” he said, taking a cloth napkin from the table and gently wiping her chest.  His hand grazed her stiff nipples as he unnecessarily continued to rub her chest.

 

“I think I like this taking it slow business,” Draco whispered as he pulled her into his lap once again.  

 

Hermione sighed as Draco fondled her aroused breasts.  She could hear the hum of traffic on the street below them.  The warm September sunshine heated her bare skin.  Something about Draco brought out her wild side.

 

She looked at his face and he gave her a self-satisfied smirk.  He laughed when she rolled her eyes.    

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The Malfoy Holdings executive assistant ordered a car to drive them to Sarah Lawrence College the following morning.  

 

“I don’t like this,” Draco said, his fingers clinging to the seat as the car sped along the road.

 

“Malfoy, it’s safe.  Since I don’t know the area, we couldn’t Apparate in.  We’ll be there in a few minutes.  It’s actually much better if you’re driving,” she added.

 

“Eh.  It’s quite sickening, in my uninformed opinion.”

 

“Look forward.  It helps with carsickness.  Let the driver know if you’re going to be ill.”

 

He nodded and looked forward, his hands betraying his discomfort.

 

“Will you stay with me at the hotel tonight?” he asked.

 

“I was planning to, after we tour the campus and I get my things placed in my room.”

 

“Do you have a roommate?”

 

“Yes.  She’s in my program.  I’m not too fond of staying with someone, but when in Rome…”

 

“I hope she’s not a nosy bint like the girls you lived with in Gryffindor.”

 

“Well, they left me alone unless they needed help with their school work.  Maybe she’ll keep to herself.  Or we could get along.  That would be a plus.”

 

“Or maybe you’ll hate it here and come home,” he said snarkily.  His nausea was putting him in a bad mood.

 

“Malfoy!”  Hermione shot him a dirty look and looked out her window.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

 

“Please don’t be a git.  I’m really excited to have been offered a space in the program.”

 

“Alright, I get it.  I just don’t like that you’ll be so far away.”

 

She continued to look out the window, but took his hand.

 

“Have you started working for your family’s company again?” she asked.

 

“My father took over the English clients since they’re a little leery of me because I blew them off earlier this year, but he has me going over contracts, balancing books and tracking foreign money markets.  He’s good at his job and I’m lucky he’s willing to teach me what he knows.”

 

“I don’t know what I want to do when I’m finished with school.  I’ve always wanted to work at Hogwarts, but I’d like more of a life than the professors have.  I used to think it would be interesting to work at the Ministry, but now I’m not so sure.”

 

“You could do any of those jobs or something entirely different, Granger.  You could come work at the company.  You’d have your pick of jobs.”

 

“Don’t you think that would be weird?  Would you want me so involved in your business?”

 

“My mother and father run the company together, but he’s the CEO.  She knows the company as well as he does.  It certainly makes their relationship more cohesive since they work together every day.”

 

“I’ll think about it.  I don’t want people to think I got a job working for Malfoy Holdings because we’re together.”

 

“You will have additional advantages being associated with the Malfoys, but you’re bright and industrious.  Sooner or later people will see that.”

 

“I’ll admit that I always knew you were clever, but I didn’t know how hard you worked until we started partnering seventh year.  I did assume you had been given breaks due to your father’s influence.”

 

“I did get breaks, Granger.  But I’m smart and hard-working, when I want to be.”

 

“Does that bother you, that people judge you?  That I judged you.”

 

Draco rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand.  “Everyone judges.  You know I judged you for something you have absolutely no control over.”

 

Hermione squeezed his hand, acknowledging the change in his beliefs.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

After touring the lovely tree lined campus, Hermione and Draco found her dorm and room.  They met her shy roommate, Julia.  Julia left them alone as Hermione set up her books and made her bed.

 

“I can rent a flat and you can live there,” Draco offered, looking with disdain over the modest room.

 

“It’s not so bad.  I don’t plan on spending a lot of time here.”

 

The look he gave her was dubious.  He knew it was unlikely Hermione would accept his financial help and her scholarship covered her room and board at the school.  He thought she was safer in this dorm than she had been in her flat in London.  Draco never liked that she walked home alone late at night.  

 

Someone knocked on the door and Hermione called for them to come in.  He noticed the bloke’s eyes spark when he saw Hermione and Draco inwardly groaned.   

 

“Hermione, right?  I’m Jason, the Resident Assistant for this floor.”  Jason shook Hermione’s hand and grinned at her.

 

“Hello.  Yes, I’m Hermione Granger.  What exactly is a Resident Assistant?” she asked.

 

“If you have questions or concerns, you would come to me first.  I’ll help if I can or direct you to the department that can assist you.”

 

Hermione smiled at Jason.  “Okay.  Where are you located?”  

 

“I’m in room 300 at the end of the hall.  My name and title are on the door.”  Jason looked at Draco for the first time.  “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.  Are you a student here?”

 

Draco stood and shook Jason’s hand, eyeing him wearily.  He’d seen men give Hermione the same look many times.  She didn’t know how beautiful she was, how appealing.  

 

“I’m Draco Malfoy, Hermione’s boyfriend.  I came to help her settle in.”

 

Draco guessed Jason was probably a nice bloke, but when it came to Hermione he didn’t trust anyone.  And Jason was tall and built like an athlete with a trustworthy face.  A Gryffindor if he ever saw one.  Fuck, could he never catch a break?  

 

“It was nice to meet you Hermione, Draco.  Let me know if I can help with anything,” Jason said as he reached for the door.

 

“Thanks, Jason,” Hermione said as he left.  

 

Draco sat on her bed, scowling.

 

“What?” Hermione asked, sitting next to him.

 

“I don’t like him.”

 

Hermione chuckled.  “Why is that, Malfoy?”

 

“He’ll find reasons to seek you out, then he’ll start inviting you to eat with him and join him for outings.  You’ll see it as him being friendly, no doubt.  And before long you’ll be dreaming of him and not me.”  

 

Hermione straddled her agitated partner, shushing him with her lips.  He held her tightly, worried that she was going to slip out of his grasp.  Her lips moved over his and her tongue entered his mouth, tangling with his.  Hands gripped his hair, holding him close.  She nipped his bottom lip and pushed her breasts into his chest.  Draco’s hands groped her arse, angling her hips to meet his.

 

The door opened and Julia walked in, not expecting to find her roommate dry humping her boyfriend.

 

“I’m so sorry!” she squeaked, grabbing a book and rushing out of the room.

 

Draco and Hermione looked up and Hermione quickly got off Draco’s lap.

 

“How embarrassing! She looked horrified.”  Hermione righted her clothes and patted her short hair into place.  

 

Draco stood and adjusted himself in his pants.  He didn’t like this Julia bird very much, either.  

 

“She’ll get over it, Granger.  Come on, let’s get dinner.  I’ll buy you a real meal before you start eating campus food.”

 

Her arms wound around his waist.  “I only dream of you, Draco.  Even when I was trying to make a relationship work with someone else, my mind would gravitate to you when I could least control it.  Don’t be jealous.”

 

“I can’t help it,” he whispered into her vanilla scented hair.

 

“Please try.  I don’t want you to worry that I’m going to seek out someone else.  Should I be worried that you want to see other people?”  Hermione knew women threw themselves at Draco.  She honestly had no idea if he had been with other women when they had been spending time together.  Since their initial break-up, Hermione had chosen to accept that he might date other women even if he was trying to get her back.  She had been sad to hear that he had been sleeping around after New Year’s Eve, but she had point blank told him that she didn’t want to see him anymore.  Now that they had made some commitment to each other, she expected him to be faithful to her.

 

“No, I don’t want to seek out someone else.  But I want you to know that I’m aware of how men see you and that any of them would be thrilled to have a shot with you.”

 

“I don’t think that’s true, but I can assure you that I want to be with you and only you.  Not every man I meet is a potential suitor.”

 

He squeezed her arse, eliciting a giggle from her.  “Alright, Granger.  I’m starved and the hotel is supposed to have a great restaurant.”

 

“Let’s go, Malfoy,” Hermione said, taking his hand and leading him out of her room.

 

Chapter Text

Hermione woke the day before her birthday feeling like she was going to be sick.  She hurried to the bathroom and lost the contents of last night’s dinner.  Her nausea didn’t abate and she got sick three more times before she rinsed her mouth and crawled back into bed.

 

She woke at noon, feeling weak but much better.  In fact, she felt almost herself.  Her afternoon class would start in a few hours and she was confident if she took it easy, she could likely make it to her creative writing lab.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The morning of Hermione’s twentieth birthday had her throwing up the tea and crackers she had consumed the night before.  

 

Merlin, I didn’t even eat very much last night.

 

She had class, but decided to go to the Student Health Center and see if she could get something for a stomach bug.

 

I can’t believe I’m sick on my birthday.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

“Miss Granger, are you sexually active?” the attending nurse asked.

 

“Yes,” she said with confusion.  Maybe the nurse wanted to make sure she was using protection?

 

“The symptoms you’re describing sound like morning sickness.  When was your last period?”  The nurse handed Hermione a small calendar.

 

“I don’t have regular cycles.” 

 

“What do you use for protection?” 

 

Not able to tell her that she used a contraception spell, she lied.  “Condoms.”

 

“Let me get a test ready and we can rule out pregnancy, okay?” 

 

Hermione nodded and thought about the possibility of a pregnancy.  She hadn’t had sex with Theo since early June.  She had sex with Draco at the beginning of August.  It was now September 19th and most likely if she was pregnant, it was with Draco’s baby.

 

The nurse handed Hermione a small cup and instructed her to pee in it.  When she had done what the nurse asked, the nurse left the room to test her urine.  The nurse came back to the room a few minutes later, looking at a folder.

 

The chubby, stern-faced woman sat and looked at Hermione with a sympathetic expression.

 

“Your pregnancy test came back positive.”  She patted Hermione’s hand.

 

“It’s my birthday today,” Hermione whispered as tears slipped down her cheeks.  

 

“My dear, you have choices.  I’m going to give you some information and I want you to come back on Monday.  The receptionist will make you an appointment.”  The nurse stood and handed Hermione several brochures.

 

She was in a daze as she walked back to her dorm.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

After picking up her mail in the lobby of her dorm, Hermione went back to her room, undressed and got back into bed.  Her life was unraveling.  She fell into a fitful sleep, glad that it was Saturday the next day so she could sleep in.  If she didn’t get the morning wake up call she’d had the past couple of days.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco had thought he would surprise Hermione with a birthday visit, but at breakfast his parents asked to speak to him.  His mother’s eyes were red and puffy.

 

Lucius looked at his son.  “Draco, at my yearly checkup with Healer Brown, he noticed some issues with my lungs.  A scan was done and they found several tumors on both lungs.”

 

“Can’t the healers help with your lungs?” Draco asked, noticing his mother wiping tears from her eyes.

 

“Magic can cure most forms of cancer, but lung cancer is not one of them.  Muggle medicine doesn’t really have a good cure for lung cancer, but I’d be willing to look at my options there.”  Lucius gave Draco a heartbreakingly sympathetic smile.

 

“How long do you have?” Draco asked, his voice cracking. 

 

“Healer Brown thinks I have at least six months.”

 

Narcissa sobbed and covered her face.  Lucius rubbed her back soothingly and whispered in her ear.  It was disconcerting to see his mother so distraught.  Draco couldn’t remember seeing her cry.

 

“Son, I know this is a lot to ask of you, but you need to start taking over most of my duties.  Your mother and I will help you, but you’re the face of Malfoy Holdings now.  The treatments for lung cancer can be quite debilitating.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Draco nodded.  “Of course, Father.  I won’t let you down.”

 

“We know, Draco, we know.”

 

Narcissa looked at her son and tremulously smiled.  “Today is Hermione’s birthday, correct?”

 

“It is.  I had planned on visiting her, but perhaps today is not the right day to leave.”

 

“You should go to New York.  I have a small gift for her,” Narcissa told him.

 

“That was thoughtful, Mother.”

 

“You will find that with the right woman you can weather life’s storms.  I hope you will be as fortunate in love as your father and I have been.”

 

“I do as well, Mother.  When I return on Sunday evening perhaps we can discuss where I should start with the company.”

 

The Malfoy parents nodded at Draco and all three quietly finished their breakfasts.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco knocked on the door to Hermione’s dorm room.  Julia opened the door and looked at Draco with wide eyes.

 

“Hello, is Hermione in?”

 

Julia nodded and opened the door for him.  He was surprised to find her lying under the covers, facing the wall.  Julia slipped out the door.

 

He sat at the edge of her bed and put his hand on her shoulder.  “Hey birthday girl.  Are you ill?”

 

Hermione turned and shook her head.  “I need to tell you something, Draco.”

 

Very skeptically, Draco nodded.  This did not sound good at all.

 

“I’ve been sick the past few mornings, so I went to the Student Health Center for something for my stomach,” she said, stopping to calm her breathing.  “The nurse did a test and…I’m so sorry, Draco, but I’m pregnant.”  Tears welled in her already red eyes.  

 

This had to be a bad dream.  First his father, now this?  What the fuck?  

 

“Get up, get dressed and pack your bag for the weekend.  We’re going back to the penthouse.  We need to talk.  Meet me in the lobby in 10 minutes.” 

 

Draco looked at her for a few seconds before he left the room.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

When Hermione met him in the lobby a few minutes later, Draco took her bag and they walked out of the dorm.

 

“Are there any good places to Apparate?” Draco asked.

 

“The edge of the campus is fairly deserted and private.”

 

“Okay.  Lead the way.”

 

Hermione’s stress dropped as Draco took her cold hand in his.  She squeezed his hand in thanks.

 

“I’ll side-along Apparate us to the Penthouse.”

 

“Alright, Malfoy.”

 

Hermione leaned on him as they Apparated to the sky-high living room.  Draco led her to the couch and sat her down.

 

“I need a drink.  Do you want anything?”

 

“No, thank you.”

 

He sat next to her once he had a tall glass of firewhisky.  He let out a long breath.

 

“Talk to me, Granger.”

 

“The nurse said most women have morning sickness at about six to eight weeks of pregnancy.  We, um, had sex at my flat at the beginning of August.”

 

“When was the last time you were with Theo?”  Draco had to know.  He didn’t want to find out at the last minute that the baby was another man’s.  He might lose Hermione and the child in one fell swoop if that was the case.

 

Hermione blushed and looked away.  “In early June.”

 

What a bloody relief.  Draco would have his family’s healer check the pregnancy when she returned to England.

 

“I don’t remember casting a contraception spell that night.”

 

“I don’t think I did either.  I’m not sure why, I’m usually so good about it,” Hermione said.  

 

Draco gave her a smirk.  “You were subconsciously trying to trap me into marriage.”

 

Hermione started to cry in earnest.  “I would never do that, but that’s what it’ll look like to everyone.  My parents are going to kill me.”

 

He pulled her into his arms.  “You won’t believe it, but this is not the worst news I’ve received today.”

 

Hermione gave a watery laugh.  “I don’t believe you.”

 

“My father has lung cancer.  They told me at breakfast this morning.”

 

“Oh, love, I’m so sorry.  I know what the Muggle treatment is, but what do they do for wizards?”

 

“Unfortunately not much more than Muggles.  His doctor thinks he has about six months.”

 

Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth to cover a sob.  She crawled into Draco’s lap and held him tightly.  

 

“He’s too young to die,” Draco whispered into her neck.

 

“He is.”

 

Hermione lightly combed through his short hair with her fingers as he rested his head on her chest, over her heart.

 

“Your boobs feel bigger.”

 

Hermione laughed.  “They feel sore, too.”

 

He kissed the skin over her heart.  “Do you think you’ll stay here?”

 

“I don’t know.  I thought about withdrawing from school this afternoon after I left the clinic, but I wanted to talk to you first.  What do you think I should do?”

 

Hermione didn’t generally ask for Draco’s opinion, he realized.  Not that he blamed her.  He hadn’t shown her very much maturity or prudence.  

 

“Come home.  We need each other.  But don’t decide today.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

“Can you eat something, Hermione?  You need to start taking better care of yourself.”

 

“I’ll try to eat, but I don’t have an appetite.”

 

Draco stood and pulled her to her feet and walked her to the stocked kitchen, ready to entice her with the assortment of foods he’d had his elves prepare for her birthday.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

They lounged on the couch after dinner, Draco having persuaded Hermione to eat some cut fruit, crackers, and a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  

 

“My parents sent you this,” Draco said, handing her a beautifully wrapped package.

 

“How kind of them to remember me when they have so much on their plates.”

 

She carefully unwrapped the package, finding a Gryffindor red cashmere scarf.

 

“Huh.  That’s not usually a color she chooses,” Draco observed.

 

“I think your mother’s acknowledging my house.”

 

“Suppose so.  It’s a good color on you.”

 

Hermione didn’t say anything, but fingered the soft scarf and stared at the floor.  

 

“Why are you so calm?  I feel like my life’s spinning out of control.  Are you angry?”  She looked at Draco, trying to discern what he was feeling.

 

“I’m not angry,” he said, pulling her feet into his lap.  “Nothing feels real to me yet.  My father looked like himself this morning, so it’s hard to imagine him declining.  You’re so tiny it’s unbelievable to me that you could be pregnant.”

 

“How do you think your parents will react?  Maybe it would be better not to tell them until it’s closer to that time.”

 

Draco laughed.  “Oh, come on, Granger!  You don’t think they’d figure something out?”

 

“Will they be upset about a half-blood baby?” Hermione asked carefully.  Accepting Hermione as Draco’s girlfriend was one thing, but bringing a half-blood Malfoy into the world was another issue altogether.

 

“My parents were married for eight years before I was born.  They wanted another child but it didn’t happen for them.  Most pure-bloods aren’t like the Weasleys.  So, I guess I’m saying they may welcome a Malfoy baby, even though the timing is poor.”

 

Draco kneaded her feet as Hermione made herself comfortable on the sofa.  All of a sudden she was exhausted by the events of the day.  Heavy lids fluttered closed and her breathing evened out into sleep as Draco continued to massage her feet.  

 

So much for taking it slow.  

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Draco helped his father get into bed after Lucius’ chemotherapy treatment.  The elder Malfoy was doing everything recommended by the Muggle oncologist, but Draco thought the treatments were making him sicker than the actual cancer.  Even so, Lucius, Narcissa and Draco made their way into Muggle London for the harrowing treatments, hoping that the cancer would cease taking over Lucius’ lungs.

 

Between taking over most of the Malfoy Holdings duties his parents had handed over and helping his parents get to doctor and aiding his father after treatments, Draco was overwhelmed.  He and Hermione had agreed to stay quiet about the pregnancy until she came back to England at the end of the semester.  Neither had said anything to their parents.  If Draco was being honest with himself, he was glad Hermione had decided to stay in America and finish her semester.  He didn’t think he could handle one more responsibility laid at his feet.

 

On this evening he was going to join Blaise for a drink at Blaise’s home.  He hadn’t spent much time with his friend and missed the feeling of having few responsibilities.  Making sure his mother was set for the night, he Flooed into the Zabini receiving room.

 

Blaise sat on a leather lounger and sipped a drink.

 

“Draco!  It’s been too long, old man,” Blaise said, standing and clapping Draco on the shoulder.  “I’m sorry to hear about your father.”

 

“Thanks, Blaise.  What have you been up to?” Draco asked, accepting a firewhisky from a house-elf.  He sat in a comfortable chair adjacent to Blaise.

 

“I’ve been seeing someone.”

 

“No shit, Blaise!  Who’s the brave witch?”

 

“Do you remember Luna Lovegood from Ravenclaw?  She saw me reading her dad’s paper, The Quibbler, at Flourish & Blotts and started talking to me.  Once you get past some of the weird things she says, she’s really perceptive and funny.  And she’s gorgeous.”

 

Draco remembered thinking Loony was pretty but the way she stared gave him the creeps.  It was like she knew what his innermost secrets were.  He could appreciate Blaise’s interest in her.  Blaise needed someone who accepted his quirks, too.

 

“Actually, I invited a few people over tonight.  Thought we could have a little impromptu soiree since everyone seems to have scattered after graduation.”

 

Ugh. Maybe I can duck out early.  So not in the mood for a party. 

 

The Floo whooshed and Pansy Parkinson and George Weasley appeared followed closely by Luna.  Theo came through accompanied by Astoria Greengrass.

 

Fucking Blaise.  

 

Astoria awkwardly kissed Draco’s cheek and asked after his father.  

 

Draco studiously ignored Theo, but greeted the rest of the guests with handshakes and hugs.  While Draco had agreed to let things go with Theo, he wasn’t sure Theo felt the same way.  In fact, judging by the way Theo was glaring daggers at him, he thought it was likely the night might end with the two of them exchanging blows.  

 

“Hello Draco Malfoy.  How is Hermione?” Luna asked, her clear blue eyes staring right through him.

 

“She’s fine.  Keeping busy with her studies,” Draco said lightly.

 

“You’ve kept her tethered to the wizarding world. She worries you won’t recognize her or the child, but you’d rather die than let her go.” Luna said knowingly, accepting a glass of wine from a house elf.  She smiled at him then walked towards Blaise, wrapping her arms around the handsome Italian’s waist.

 

Merlin’s bloody bollocks!  Is she a fucking seer?

 

Draco drank his firewhisky in silence, letting the sound of the group wash over him.  Loony was right.  He would rather die than let Hermione go.  Perhaps he had been wrong in accepting her wish to stay at school this semester.  Maybe he should have insisted she come back to England immediately.  

 

“What’s wrong, Draco?” Pansy whispered to him.  Her face showed her concern.

 

“Just have a lot on my mind,” Draco said, giving her a tight smile.

 

“I know.  Draco, I heard Lovegood.  Is that why Hermione’s gone?  Did you send her to America?”

 

Draco stared at Pansy.  Did everyone still see him as a spoiled, bigoted prick?  He looked around, but everyone was immersed in their own conversation and not paying special attention to him and Pansy.

 

“She’s there for school, but Loony’s right.  I’ve been avoiding her since she told me the news.”

 

“Do Lucius and Narcissa know?”

 

“No, I haven’t told them.  They’re just trying to keep it together and I don’t want to make it harder for them.”

 

“I’m sorry about your father.  My mother said Narcissa’s taking it really hard.”

 

“She is,” Draco said, running his hand through his hair.  He didn’t want to talk about his life any more.  “So, still with Weasley, eh?  How’d that happen?”

 

Pansy laughed and looked at George lovingly.  “He asked me out.  I said no.  He sent me a drink at the Leaky.  I sent it back.  Then one night I was on a terrible date with Cormac McLaggen, remember him?  I ended up leaving the restaurant halfway through dinner.  George saw me walking alone in Diagon Alley and insisted on walking me to the Apparition point.  Before I Disapparated, I told him to meet me for dinner the next night and we’re still together.  I wasn’t sure about the Weasleys, but George will hex anyone that says anything against me.”

 

“I’m happy for you, Pans.” 

 

“Thanks, Draco,” Pansy said, leaning towards him.  “I think George is going to ask me to marry him,” she whispered.

 

“Really?  What will you say?”

 

“I don’t know.  He’s different than who I imagined myself with, but I love him.  He’s smart and funny and I feel so happy when we’re together.  My mother doesn’t care for him, but he’s won my dad over with his business savvy and the way he treats me.”

 

“Your mother will come around,” Draco predicted.

 

“I hope so, but I can’t live my life for her approval.”

 

Draco had the sudden realization that he expected his parents to rescind their approval of Hermione when they found about the pregnancy.  And Luna had been right: he had hardly communicated with Hermione over the past six weeks, instead focusing on tending to his business affairs and his parents.  Maybe she was receiving comfort from some other man?  He was a bloody idiot.  

 

He said a quick goodbye to Blaise and Flooed home, trying to figure out how he would tell his parents about the baby.  Then he needed to see her and tell Hermione how he felt.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Saturday morning Draco joined his parents for breakfast.  Lucius had dark circles under his eyes and had lost weight over the past few weeks.  Narcissa fussed over her husband in a way Draco had never witnessed.  He waited until his parents had their morning tea before starting to speak.  

 

“Mother, Father, would now be a good time to speak with you?  I have some news.”

 

Narcissa looked at Draco expectantly.

 

“Yes, son, what is it?” Lucius said.

 

“I’m not sure how to say this, but Hermione is pregnant.”

 

Narcissa gasped.  “Yours, Draco?”

 

“Yes, of course, Mother.  Last time I saw her, it was too early for the Malfoy mark to show.”

 

Lucius looked at his son carefully.  “You didn’t want to upset us, because of my illness.”

 

Draco nodded.  “You have enough to worry about without adding this to your list, but next time you see Hermione it will be obvious she’s with child.”

 

“It took your father and I so long to have a baby, Draco.  So many years of trying for a second child to no avail.  I know this isn’t the best time to have a baby for you or Miss Granger, but this is the best news we’ve had in months.”

 

“Really?” 

 

Lucius cleared his throat.  “I will do everything in my power to see my grandchild before I leave this world.”  The elder Malfoy’s eyes glistened in the soft morning light.

 

“You haven’t seen her in weeks, Draco,” Narcissa said carefully.

 

She doesn’t miss anything, Draco thought about his wry mother.  

 

 “No, I haven’t been to New York since she told me of the pregnancy.”

 

Lucius shook his head sadly.  

 

“How have you been communicating?” his mother asked.

 

“We’ve exchanged a couple of letters.”

 

Narcissa had learned her son didn’t always know how to deal with his feelings regarding Miss Granger.  He loved her, but expected her to forgive all his sins.  But, she acknowledged that her son had been overrun with learning the company and helping her and his father.  

 

“She’ll need you.  I know she’s a strong young woman, but she’s alone in another country.”

 

“We had discussed her coming back in December when her semester ended.”

 

“Go see her and make your intentions clear to her.  We’ll send word if you need to come back.”       

 

“Okay.  I…thank you,” Draco said, standing to leave.  “If you’ll excuse me.”

 

Lucius nodded and watched his son leave the dining room.

 

“I thought our line had been cursed.  Only one child born in each generation to the Malfoys for the past two hundred years.  Perhaps this union will break the cycle.”

 

“Draco won’t let her down, Lucius.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

After landing at the penthouse, Draco Apparated to Sarah Lawrence College to find Hermione.  He sat on a bench in front of her dorm after finding out from Julia that Hermione was attending a study session.  His thoughts wandered as he watched the grey clouds loom above, threatening to unleash rain or snow if it got colder.  

 

“Hey,” Hermione said quietly as she walked up to Draco.  

 

“Hermione,” Draco said, noticing the distance she kept between them.  “I’m sorry it’s been so long.”

 

“Come with me to the room and we can talk,” she said, heading into the building.

 

The room was empty when they arrived.  As she took off her coat, Draco got a view of Hermione’s small bump through her shirt.  There it is.  My baby.  

 

“Give me a second to use the loo.  I have to pee all the time now.”

 

The dorm was relatively quiet with the occasional door slamming and footsteps passing through the hall.  Hermione came back in and quietly closed the door.  She took a seat at her desk chair.

 

“How have you been feeling?” 

 

“Better since the morning sickness passed.  I sleep more than I used to.”

 

“I’m sorry I haven’t been here for you.  I’m overwhelmed with my new responsibilities and helping my mother care for my father.”

 

She waved him off casually.  “I can take care of myself, Draco.  You can be involved or not.  I’m not going to force this on you.”

 

Her voice was hard and the look she gave him told him she expected him to relinquish his responsibilities to her.  

 

“I appreciate your visit, but I have a ton of school work,” Hermione said dismissively.  

 

His jaw clenched as he understood what she was doing.  He never got the fucking benefit of the doubt from her.  She expected the worst from him.

 

“Would you give me a fucking break, Granger?  I’m up to my eyeballs in new responsibilities and helping take my parents into Muggle London for my father’s treatments and his oncologist’s visits.  I know I’m not perfect, but come on!” 

 

“When the semester is done, I’m going to move into my parents house.  They said they’d turn their home office into a nursery.  Gringotts has agreed to re-hire me and I can work from home.  I’ve got it covered, Malfoy.  You’re off the hook.  Take care of your priorities,” she said, her chest heaving in anger.

 

“As soon as you found out you were pregnant, you should have come back to England.  You’ve made your life harder than it has to be, but you’re blaming me!”

 

“I’m not blaming you for anything, I just know better than to expect you to put my needs ahead of any of your other responsibilities.  I won’t keep the baby away from you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

 

Draco was about to respond when he noticed Hermione’s eyes roll back in her head and her body began to tip forward.  He jumped up and caught her in his arms.  

 

“Fuck!  Hermione, wake up!” he screamed at her.  What was wrong with her?

 

Her eyes opened and blinked in confusion.  “What happened?”

 

“Oh, thank Merlin.”  He gave her a hard hug and helped her to sit up in her bed.  “You fainted.  We should get you to a healer.”

 

She took a deep breath.  “No, it’s okay, it’s happened a few times.  Will you get me a granola bar from the desk?”

 

“Did you faint from hunger?” he asked in an eerily calm voice.  He was going to throttle her if she hadn’t been eating properly.  “How many times has this happened, Hermione?”

 

She took the granola bar and started eating, ignoring his questions while she chewed.  When she was done, she took a drink of water.

 

“I ate breakfast this morning, but I lost track of time.  I had planned on eating something when I got back to my room, but you were here and I got distracted.”  

 

“It’s almost three o’clock.  For someone so smart you are so stupid about some things.  You have to eat!  It’s one thing for you to get hungry, but you’re pregnant.  You promised me you would take better care of yourself!”  

 

Hermione pulled her knees up and hid her face in her arms.  

 

“How many times?” Draco asked again, upset at Hermione and at himself.  She did need him and he’d let her down.

 

“This is the fourth time,” was her muffled reply.

 

“Merlin!  Are you kidding me?  Fuck this.  We’re packing up your stuff and you’re coming back with me.”

 

“No!  I’m not going back.  I finish the semester in four weeks and I plan on at least doing this before my life screeches to a halt!”  Her eyes were flashing with anger at his high-handedness.  

 

Worried that she’d cause more damage to herself, Draco tried a different tactic.  

 

“Can I touch your belly?” he asked gently.  

 

“Uh, yeah, of course,” she said, straightening her legs.

 

Draco lifted her shirt to expose her rounded abdomen.  “I didn’t know if you’d be showing yet.”

 

“I ‘popped’ a couple of weeks ago.”

 

His warm hand rubbed back and forth over her tummy.  He kissed her bump three times.  Her hand tentatively played with his soft hair.  

 

“When you come back to England, I want you to move to the manor.”

 

“No.  I’ll be fine with my parents.”

 

“Just think about it.  I told my parents about the baby,” he confessed.

 

“How did they take it?”

 

“They know it’s not ideal for either of us, but they were happy about it.”

 

“Wizarding couples have children earlier than Muggles.  My parents were thirty when I was born.  I think my mum had hoped I’d have my twenties to focus on my education and my career rather than starting a family.”

 

“Listen to me, Granger.  We are a family now, whether you want to admit it or not.  I’ve felt we were bound to each other for a long time, but now we truly are through this baby.  So, you can live with your parents for a while but eventually we need to be in the same house to raise the baby.”

 

“Do you really want to do this, Draco?  It will change your life forever.”

 

“My life’s already changed.  I can’t be without you anymore and I won’t accept anything less.”

 

Hermione’s greatest fear was that Draco would keep their relationship a secret or minimize their commitment to each other.  He was offering her more and now she wasn’t sure if she was ready to take that step.  

 

The die is cast, Hermione.  He’s right, you’re forever bound to each other through this child.  The question is can you see yourself with this man for the next fifty years, eighty years, even one hundred years?   

  

She answered herself in the blink of an eye.  Yes.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Jean Granger had burst into tears when she saw her pregnant daughter.  Her father was more stoic, but accepting of the circumstances all the same.  These things happened, he reasoned, and there was no use in making his daughter’s life harder than it was going to become in the next few months.

 

“How have you been feeling, sweetheart?” Jean asked, rubbing circles on Hermione’s back.

 

“Okay, Mum.  I’m just glad to be done with school for a while.  I was really exhausted at the end of the semester.”

 

“Oh, honey, we would have gone and helped if you’d asked.”

 

“There was nothing you could have helped with, Mum.  I used a few spells and charms to pack up and the Portkey had me home in minutes.  The final essays and tests were massive, though.”

 

“Draco came and saw us,” Richard told his daughter.

 

“He did?”

 

“You had told him about telling us about the baby, so he wanted us to know he would take responsibility.  We don’t blame him for the pregnancy, Hermione.  Your mother and I took the opportunity to get to know him.  He has a lot on his plate.  He’s had to grow up quickly over the past few months.”

 

“He has,” Hermione murmured.

 

“How’s his father?” Jean asked.

 

“They’ve decided to stop chemotherapy.”

 

“That’s such a hard decision to make,” Hermione’s mother said, shaking her head and looking sympathetically at Hermione.

 

“Their family healer thinks Lucius gained some time with the treatments, but they weren’t helping him as much as they’d hoped.”

 

“Please offer the Malfoys our assistance if they need it,” Richard said.

 

“Thanks, Dad.  I’m going over for dinner tonight and I’ll find out more then.  I’m going to go up to my room and have a short kip.”

 

“Okay, love,” Jean said to her daughter, studying her rounded abdomen.  

 

“I’m going to be fine, Mum,” Hermione said, gently kissing her mother’s cheek.

 

“I know.  It’s just a lot to take in.  Go get some rest.  We’ll have time to talk over the holidays.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::         

 

Draco and Hermione walked to the greenhouse after dinner with his parents.  Lucius and Narcissa had been oddly sweet to her, inquiring about her health, her semester abroad and her plans for the next few months.  

 

Hermione had been saddened by Mr. Malfoy’s condition.  She had always thought he was such a robust man, but he was thin and his blond mane had been sacrificed to the radiation.  Hermione felt a pang of guilt at lashing out at Draco when he had come to see her at the college.  She had known his father was ill, but she had thought Draco was using it as an excuse to avoid her.  In fact, his father needed more support than his mother could provide on her own.  The house-elves could help to some degree, but the remainder of the burden had fallen to Draco.  

 

Mrs. Malfoy had pulled her aside and asked about the gender of the baby.  Hermione had told her it was still too early to tell, but she would let them know as soon as possible.  Much to Hermione’s surprise, Mrs. Malfoy asked it she might lay a blessing on the developing baby.  Hermione mutely nodded, allowing Draco’s mother to whisper words of encouragement and love to her burgeoning belly.  

 

Draco draped his arm around Hermione as they walked on the darkened grounds.  It was a cold but clear night on the country estate.

 

“You went to see my parents,” Hermione stated, hoping Draco would give her more information than her evasive parents had.

 

“I did.  You were so angry at me when I last saw you I thought they might get the impression that I didn’t support you.”

 

“I didn’t say anything about your commitment to me or the baby, but they offered to let me live with them and I told them I would.”

 

“You don’t want to live in the main house with my parents, do you?” Draco carefully asked.  He didn’t want to push her away, but he didn’t want her living with her parents when she should be with him.

 

Draco opened the door to the greenhouse and they were met with warm, humid air.  They took off their coats and continued to walk amongst the fragrant plants.

 

“It’s more than living with your parents, Malfoy.  Your family is going through so much with your father and I’m not sure if I’m meant to be a witness to his hardships or your mother’s grief.  Aside from the fact that I like my privacy and I’d prefer to live in a cozier space.  There’s something else that bothers me, but I don’t think now is the time to discuss it.”

 

“I can understand your first two points, but you can’t tell me there’s something else and not tell me what it is, Granger!  Is it something I can do something about?”

 

Hermione picked a sprig of lavender and inhaled the calming smell.  Draco took the flowers out of her hand and placed his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to pay attention to him.

 

“No, Malfoy.  Just trust me when I say that it’s better for me to live with my parents until we figure out what we’re doing as a couple.”

 

Realization dawned on Draco like a punch to his stomach.  She didn’t want to move in together until they were married.  He wanted to marry her, but so much had been happening in his life he’d put that idea on the back burner.  However, now that he understood what was holding her back, he could propose and they could be under the same roof sooner rather than later.  

 

“There are cottages on the property.  We wouldn’t have to live in the manor.  Each house is actually quite spacious.  And has its own library,” Draco said, hoping to entice her.

 

“I know what you’re doing,” Hermione said, walking towards a profusely blooming jasmine vine.

 

“We can look at one of the cottages, so you can get an idea of where we could live.”

 

Yeah, right.  No pressure.  Ha!

 

“I’ll think about it.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Narcissa sat on the edge of the bed after helping her husband get under the covers.

 

“I know the circumstances aren’t the best, but I’m looking forward to being a grandmother.”

 

Lucius took her smooth, soft hand in his.  “Miss Granger had the marking on her wrist that signifies a Malfoy baby.”

 

“I noticed it, too.  I believe the baby will be a girl.”

 

“No, Cissa, Malfoys always have boys first.  The child will be a boy.”

 

“When she allowed me to lay a blessing on the baby, I touched her stomach and my witch’s senses told me the baby would be a girl.  Perhaps her fresh blood will change the way the Malfoy family has been dwindling.”

 

“Her blood may not be pure, but it’s potent none the less,” Lucius noted, stifling a yawn.

 

“When she agrees to an engagement, we need to run a notice in The Prophet.  It will make her introduction into society smoother if we show we support their union.”

 

“Umhmm,” Lucius said, his eyes closing.

 

Narcissa kissed his brow and turned off the lamp, quietly leaving the bedroom.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Despite her initial wishes to avoid the topic of living together, Draco had convinced Hermione to inspect one of the cottages.  He Apparated them to a charming two story stone cottage.  The wooden door was painted dark green and opened when Draco touched his wand to the brass door knob.  

 

The “cottage” was easily as big as her parents’ house.  It was furnished with what Hermione could only describe as antiques, although she guessed the house hadn’t been used since the furniture was in style many, many years before.

 

“When was the last time someone lived here?” Hermione asked.

 

Draco chuckled.  “I believe a third son and his family lived in this house, maybe three hundred years ago?”

 

Hermione walked through the home, stopping at the master bedroom.  The cottage had been under a Stasis charm, so it was dust-free and pristine.  The quilt on the large bed was an intricate Fractal spiral in shades of white, crème, and yellow.

 

“This is gorgeous, Draco,” Hermione breathed, fingering the quilt as she walked around the bed.

 

He had suspected she’d like this home.  The last Malfoy family that had lived in the cottage was an erudite bunch.  Helene Malfoy, who had married into the family, was a renowned author and potions mistress.  The library was packed with books covering a range of academic subjects.  And unlike his own forefathers, these Malfoys eschewed the Dark Arts. 

 

Draco was sitting on the edge of the bed watching Hermione examine the space when she walked over and stood in front of him.  He looked up at her and put his hands on her hips.

 

“Beenie would want to live with us,” Draco said, smiling.

 

“I figured.  You treat her well and she’s happy to work for you.  Did you know she sneaks any pay you give her back into your pockets?”

 

“Does she really?”

 

Hermione nodded.  Draco began kneading her lower back.  Hermione settled herself on his lap while he continued to massage her back with one hand.  His other hand rested on her small bump.

 

“I missed you,” she whispered into his silky hair, inhaling his familiar shampoo.  Hermione kissed his temple before delicately licking the shell of his ear and nipping his earlobe.

 

Draco turned his head and found her lips.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and his hands found her breasts, fuller with pregnancy.  Hermione moaned into his mouth.  

 

“I’ve been having the most explicit dreams,” Hermione whispered.

 

“Really?  Pregnancy hormones?” he asked.

 

“Oh my God, it must be.  And I had no privacy at school, so I couldn’t even do anything to, um, relieve the stress.”

 

Draco chuckled, while continuing his exploration of her breasts, his fingers toying with her hard nipples through her dress.

 

“What do you want, love?” he asked.

 

“I need you, Draco,” Hermione said breathily, her hands unbuttoning his shirt.

 

He didn’t need any further encouragement.   Draco pulled one of Hermione’s legs over his so she was straddling him.  She finished unbuttoning his shirt and splayed her hands over his lightly muscled chest, her nails dragging over his nipples.  He hissed and bucked his hips against her warm core.  Her hips rocked against his hard cock trying to get some relief.

 

“Why are you wearing so much fabric?” Draco asked, trying to take off her dress unsuccessfully.  

 

Hermione stood and began to remove her clothes.  Draco pushed back onto the large bed, sitting against the headboard.  When Hermione noticed Draco watching her undress, she tried to hurry but he stopped her.

 

“Let me look at you,” he instructed her.  “Your body is incredible.”

 

“I’ve spent the last few months trying not to look pregnant.”  She let her dress drop to the floor and pulled her tights off, then stood and let Draco take his fill.

 

“I want everyone to know you’re carrying my child.”

 

Merlin, she was glorious!  Her skin glowed in the firelight and he took in her subtle new curves. 

 

“Take off your bra and knickers, sweet.”

 

He began to remove his clothes as she unhooked her bra and let it fall to the floor.

 

“Fuck, Granger, your tits have never looked better,” Draco said as he kicked off his pants and boxers.  

 

Her nipples were larger and puckered in the cool room.

 

As she pulled off her knickers, she looked up to find Draco lightly stroking his large, erect member.  Looking at her like he was about to eat her up, he licked his lips and crooked his finger at her.  Hermione crawled onto the bed and straddled his legs, her hands taking over stroking his cock.  He could feel the wetness between her legs rubbing on his thighs.  She leaned over his straining cock, slick with pre-cum and licked the head.  

 

“I won’t last if you do that, Granger,” he rasped out.

 

“But you’ll last longer when you’re fucking me if you let me take the edge off.  I know it’s been a while.”

 

“Too long, Granger, too bloody long.”  His eyes were glassy with arousal.

 

“I know, but I’m ready now.  Things are different.”  

 

Full lips enclosed his penis, her tongue slowly massaging his broad tip.  She relaxed her throat and took him into her, sucking and licking along his shaft.

 

Draco watched her bob up and down as she kneeled before him.  Her hand rolled his bollocks and traveled down to gently press against his asshole, a sensation he had never experienced.  All of a sudden his orgasm roared and he began thrusting.

 

“Fuck!” he groaned, spurting into her mouth.  He felt her throat swallowing his cum while she continued to suckle him.  

 

“That was very naughty, Granger,” he said when she made eye contact with him after letting him out of her mouth.  “Get on all fours.  I owe you a spanking.”

 

She looked at him skeptically, but got on her hands and knees.  

 

“Spread your legs a bit, love.  Let me look at you,” he said, caressing her backside and admiring her glistening cunt.  Very lightly, he slid his finger along her slit.  When she began to rock her hips toward him, he slapped her arse.

 

“Oh!” Hermione gasped, her head snapping back to look at him.  He smirked at her and slapped her again.  

 

Draco watched her blush scarlet and her eyes glistened.  She took a deep breath and let her head hang.

 

“I never want you to keep yourself from me again.  I’ve been patient with you, Granger.”

 

One finger gently found its way into her channel.  Her hips rocked back and Draco obliged her, adding a second finger.  

 

“Ooh, yes,” she moaned.  

 

Suddenly his fingers slipped from her.  “Say what I want to hear, Granger.  Then I’ll give you what you want.”

 

“What?” Hermione asked breathily.

 

A stinging slap to her buttocks had her gasping.  Draco positioned himself behind her, his cock teasing her as his hand caressed her rosy bottom.

 

“Malfoy,” she whimpered, letting her head fall to the pillow giving Draco a full view of her engorged pussy.

 

“Granger,” he said mockingly.

 

He saw her hand began to snake towards her clit and pushed it away.  He covered her body with his and whispered in her ear.

 

“You’re mine, Granger.  Just admit it, love.”

 

“I’m yours, Malfoy,” she whispered back.  “I’m yours.  I’ve only ever wanted you.”

 

Positioning his cock, he pushed into her desperate body.  

 

“Yes,” she hissed, relief coursing through her body.  Draco knew how to take her to the edge in the most exquisite way.  

 

He let himself relish the sensations of her lush, pregnant body.  Her hips bounced wildly against him as he thrust into her.  She began to rub at her clit while his hands kneaded her arse.

 

“Fuck, Granger, I’m going to come,” he groaned.

 

Hermione’s hand worked furiously against her little bud and she felt his thrusts begin to stutter.  

 

“I’m close,” she whined.

 

Draco curved his hand over her breast and pinched her nipple.  It was just the sensation she needed to trigger her own orgasm.  She stiffened and cried out as the walls of her sheath pulsed around him.  He let himself go, moaning loudly into her ear.  Hermione let her body fall to the mattress and Draco followed, pulling her into him.

 

“I love you,” he said quietly.  It was the first time he had said it so plainly.  His fingers traced over her belly.

 

“I love you, too,” she whispered back, nestling her body against his.  “I do like this cottage.”

 

He chuckled.  “I knew you would.  We’re about two kilometers from the manor.”

 

“When did you want me to see your family healer?  I have an appointment scheduled with a healer at St. Mungo’s next Wednesday.”

 

“You don’t need to.  We can call on him if there’s an emergency.”

 

“Don’t you want to confirm the paternity?  At least for your parents?”

 

He picked up her wrist and pointed to a set of freckles that had developed.  She had assumed they developed due to hormones, like the dark line that appeared under her navel.  

 

“When a woman is pregnant with Malfoy offspring, she develops this marking.  Can you tell it’s the faint outline of an ouroboros?  It will get stronger as the pregnancy progresses, then fade after the child is born.” 

 

Hermione twisted her body to face Draco.  “What kind of magic is that?”  

 

“I’m not sure exactly.  I know it’s not Dark Magic, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

 

She looked relieved.  “Okay.  I’ll have to learn more about it.”

 

“There’s probably something in the manor library.  We can go back and look if you’d like.”  He didn’t want her to worry.

 

“Some other day.  I should get back to my parents’ house.”  It was torture to get out of this bed.  She was so content.

 

“Okay, Granger.  Let’s get you back.”

 

Both reluctantly left the warmth and comfort of the cottage with thoughts of love, sick fathers, marriage and change weighing on their minds. 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Mum, would you like to come with me to my appointment?  I find out the baby’s gender at this one.”

 

“I would love to come, but shouldn’t Draco be there?”

 

“He has a big meeting in Switzerland that day, unfortunately.  I was wondering if you would mind if I invited Mrs. Malfoy to join us?  She’s surprisingly excited about the baby.”

 

“I think it’s lovely that you want to include her, dear.”

 

“The appointment is tomorrow at 2:00.  We can Floo to St. Mungo’s and meet her in the lobby.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione Apparated to the gates of Malfoy Manor and was soon greeted by Beenie.

 

“Miss Hermione!  Master Draco is not here,” he said remorsefully.

 

“Well, I actually came to see Mrs. Malfoy, Beenie.”

 

“Come in, Miss!  Can Beenie get you tea or cocoa?”

 

The little elf held Hermione’s hand and led her to the doors of the grand house.  Hermione asked Beenie questions about the holidays and how she might be spending them.  Beenie happily chattered away to Hermione, enjoying her sincere interest in his life.  

 

“Beenie will get Mrs. Malfoy,” the house-elf said and disappeared with a pop.

 

Hermione looked around the foyer while rubbing her bump.  A moment later she heard the sound of heels on the hard floor.

 

“Miss Granger, is everything alright?” Narcissa asked, walking towards Hermione.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Malfoy.  I came to invite you to my appointment at St. Mungo’s tomorrow.  I’ll learn the sex of the baby and I know you were curious.  My mother will be joining me.”

 

“How thoughtful to think of me, Miss Granger.  Yes, I’d be honored to join you.  I was just about to have a cup of tea.  Let’s sit for a minute, get you off your feet.”

 

Hermione laughed.  “Thank you.  I could do with a spot of tea.”

 

Narcissa led her to the sitting room and called a kitchen elf for tea and a small respite for Hermione.  A moment later a tray laden with fresh fruit, tea and biscuits appeared in front of the two women.

 

“Do you have a sense of what the baby might be?” Narcissa asked.

 

“Not really.  I know the Malfoys traditionally have sons, but I think it could be a girl.  I don’t care as long as the baby is healthy.” She shrugged and smiled at Draco’s beautiful mother.

 

“I have an inkling, but the healer will confirm it or not.”  Narcissa smiled, her eyes crinkling at the edges.  “Draco told us you are planning on working for Gringotts again.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.  I enjoy the work.”

 

“Malfoy Holdings always needs Arithmaticians.  Has Draco spoken to you about working for the company?”

 

“We’ve spoken about it briefly.”  Hermione took a sip of her tea and bit into a piece of melon.

 

“May I be frank, Miss Granger?” Narcissa was almost positive that Draco hadn’t explained the structure of the company to Hermione in detail.  

 

“Please.” Although Narcissa had been perfectly polite thus far, Hermione still didn’t know what to expect from the elder Malfoys.

 

“The company is truly a family company, Miss Granger.  Whatever your strengths are, they can be utilized in the work we do.  Lucius and I have worked the past few years to expand into the Muggle money markets, but we were foolish in not including our son in those plans.  With Lucius’ illness, Draco has had to take over the business with little help from us.  He’ll need you, Miss Granger, to be a successful CEO of the company.  You’ll be happier as well, using your considerable gifts.”

 

“What do you do in the company?” Hermione asked.  

 

“Mainly research, but my social skills have helped us broker deals with some challenging parties.  Lucius and I work as a team and we make all our decisions together.  My husband has been the face of the company, but I know the company as well as he does.”

 

Narcissa was pleased with Hermione’s contemplative expression.  Draco would be smart to involve Hermione in the company.  

 

“Just think about what I’ve told you, Miss Granger.  You may not have time over the next few years, as being a parent is a job unto itself, but I will help you however I can.”

 

Hermione was surprised at all Mrs. Malfoy had told her.  She knew Draco’s mother worked for the company, but that Hermione might have that same opportunity was a pleasant offering.  

 

“How is Mr. Malfoy faring?” Hermione asked.  She knew the Malfoys had been under a tremendous amount of stress over the past few months.

 

Narcissa sighed and put down her tea.  “Some days are better than others.  Last night he coughed a lot, so he’s been trying to get some rest today.”

 

“I know we don’t know each other well, but please call on me if you need anything.”

 

“Thank you, Miss Granger,” Narcissa said with a small smile.

 

“Would you call me Hermione?”

 

“I will, if you’ll call me Narcissa.”

 

Lucius walked into the room, his eyebrows raised at the sight of his son’s girlfriend and his wife enjoying afternoon tea.

 

“Lucius, Hermione came by to invite me to her appointment at St. Mungo’s tomorrow afternoon.”

 

“Hello, Miss Granger.  It’s kind of you to include my wife.”

 

“It’s my pleasure, sir,” she said, smiling at Mr. Malfoy.  “I should get going.  We’ll meet you in the hospital lobby ten minutes before the appointment?” 

 

“Yes, that will work,” Narcissa said as she stood to walk Hermione to the door.

 

“Goodbye, Mr. Malfoy.”

 

“Good afternoon, Miss Granger.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The next afternoon Jean and Hermione arrived in the St. Mungo’s lobby.  Jean’s eyes were large as she studied an old woman with a horn erupting from her cheek.

 

“Oh, my,” she muttered, staying close to her daughter.

 

“There’s Narcissa, Mum.  Let me introduce you.”

 

Jean examined Narcissa’s regal bearing and finely-made clothing.  Her long blond hair and big blue eyes gave her a youthful appearance.  The women exchanged pleasantries and made their way to the obstetrics ward.  

 

Once Hermione was on the table, the healer looked at the three women.

 

“Let’s check the baby’s general health and during this visit we should be able to see the baby’s gender.”

 

Jean squeezed Hermione’s hand.  Narcissa envied Jean’s easy relationship with her daughter.  She hadn’t had that with her mother and such demonstrativeness had been discouraged when she had been a young mother.  Over the course of the past few months, she and her son had become closer, but their relationship paled in comparison to what she was witnessing between the Grangers.  

 

“Narcissa, Hermione tells me you have an idea of the baby’s gender.”

 

“I do, but it would be most unusual if I’m right.”  Narcissa smiled at Jean Granger.

 

The healer used her wand to project an image of the baby in the air above Hermione’s abdomen.  

 

“The heartbeat is strong.  The baby’s magical signature is very developed.  You might notice your own magic a bit off, Miss Granger.  Be cautious if you notice your spells aren’t working as usual.”

 

Hermione nodded.  She had been tired the entire pregnancy, so she wasn’t alarmed by what the healer was telling her.  

 

“The detail is amazing,” Jean said, admiring the image.  “The baby is perfect.”

 

“Are you ready to know the gender?” the healer asked.

 

“Yes,” Hermione said excitedly.  

 

“Your baby is a girl.”

 

Jean hugged her daughter.  Narcissa clapped her hands and laughed.

 

“I knew it.  Lucius didn’t believe it, but I knew this baby would be a girl.”

 

Hermione beamed and rubbed her belly.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The three women sat drinking tea in a little shop in Diagon Alley.  

 

“How do you feel about becoming a grandmother, Jean?”

 

Much to Hermione’s horror, Jean began to tear up.  Jean rummaged around her bag for a moment before finding a tissue and wiping at her eyes.

 

“I want my daughter to be happy,” she said diplomatically. “But I had hoped she would have more time to experience life before starting a family.”

 

Narcissa murmured her agreement.  Hermione sensed that it might be better if she left for a few minutes to let her mother speak to Draco’s mother without having to censor her words.

 

“Mum, I’m going to run to the loo.”

 

Jean looked at Narcissa.  “Our children aren’t really doing anything in order.”

 

“No, they’re not.  Of course we’d have preferred marriage before pregnancy, but I do know our son cares deeply for Hermione.”

 

“She feels the same way about Draco.”

 

“Jean, may I ask you a personal question?” Narcissa said quietly.

 

“Sure.”

 

“Did you want more children?”

 

“No.  We weren’t even sure about one, but fate had different ideas.  But we love our daughter more than anything.  She’s a miracle to us.”

 

“We tried for years, had several miscarriages and finally managed to have Draco eight years into our marriage.  After trying and trying for another baby, we finally gave up hope.  It’s a blessing to us during this difficult time in our family to have something so wonderful to look forward to.”  Narcissa looked down at the table trying to stave off the tears threatening to trail down her face.

 

Jean laid a hand over Narcissa’s.  When Hermione came back to the table, she found her mother comforting the normally unflappable Malfoy matriarch.  She gave her mother a questioning look, but Jean just shook her head as if to say “not now”.  

 

Hermione cleared her throat.  “I thought it might be fun to find a layette set now that we know the baby is a girl.”

 

Narcissa took a deep breath and looked at Hermione.  “That’s a lovely idea.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

     

“Well?” Draco said to Hermione as soon as she opened the door.

 

Hermione stepped into his arms and kissed his neck.

 

“It’s a girl.”

 

Draco was silent for a moment.  “Really?”

 

“Really.  I have two witnesses who can vouch for me.”

 

“I just assumed the baby would be a boy.”

 

“Are you disappointed?” Hermione asked looking up into his eyes.

 

“No, not at all.  It’s just a surprise.”

 

“The healer says her magical signature is already well developed.  I had noticed some small issues with my energy level, so I’m not entirely surprised she’s helping herself to my power.”

 

“Any of our children will be brilliant, Granger.  Who went with you to the appointment?  Your parents?”

 

“Actually, my mother and your mother came with me.”

 

“You invited my mother?”

 

“When we had dinner last week she was excited about the baby, so I thought she would like to join me and Mum when we went to my appointment.  I think she appreciated being included.”

 

“Thanks for inviting her.  She was nice to you?”

 

“She was quite sweet.  After the appointment she joined us for tea and some shopping.  Both she and my mother were emotional about the baby.”

 

Draco let Hermione lead him into the kitchen.

 

“I was just about to have lunch.  Do you want to join me?”

 

“Sure, Granger.  Are your parents at work?”

 

“Mmmhmm.  Is lasagna alright?”

 

“Yeah, sounds good.  I’m actually pretty hungry.”

 

Hermione served them leftover lasagna, salad and garlic bread.  They sat and ate, chatting about his trip.

 

“Your mother spoke to me about working for the company.”

 

“What did you think?” 

 

How much bloody time did Hermione spend with my mother?  

 

“I can’t really make any decisions right now, Malfoy.”

 

“Because we’re not married?”

 

Hermione stared at him, her mouth agape.

 

“We need to get married before the baby’s born, Granger.  Then you can move to the Malfoy estate and come work for the company, if you want to work after the baby is born.”

 

“Wow, that was romantic, Malfoy,” she said sarcastically, getting up and putting their dishes in the dishwasher.  

 

“Well, what do you want me to say, Granger?  I’ve made my intentions clear, but you don’t seem so interested anymore.  Maybe you want to work at Gringotts so you can see bloody Theo?”  

 

“Every time you’re unhappy with my reaction to something, you throw Theo at me.  Yes, we dated and yes, it was a good experience, but ultimately, I wanted to be with you.  I don’t like that you’ve planned my life out for me, Malfoy.  I want to marry you, but what’s wrong with asking me and giving me a bloody ring?  Granger doesn’t need that lovely memory- is that what you think?!”

 

Her voice had risen and her face was flushed.  She turned around and left the kitchen, leaving Draco to watch her depart.

 

“Granger,” Draco growled, following her to her bedroom.  He found her sitting on her bed, looking out the window.  She was so ferociously determined, smart and strong but the past few months he had seen her appear unsure.  She was trying to adapt to all the changes in her life.  

 

Draco sat next to her and put his arm around her.  “You were right.  That was a pretty shite proposal.”

 

“It wasn’t even a proposal,” she said, sniffling.

 

“Can you understand that I’m ready for us to start our lives together?  You know we make a great team, Granger.  I have no doubt it will be challenging, but I really think we’ll enjoy living and working together.”  He kissed the top of her head.  “When I thought our relationship was impossible, I would fantasize about waking up with you and talking to you about work in the evening.  Simple, every day things that would keep us in close contact.  You’re my best friend and I don’t want you to feel pressured, but I think you can trust me to keep your best interests in mind.”

 

She turned her face towards his chest and pressed her cheek against his heart.  It was beating quickly, probably because he was nervous.  

 

“I’m your best friend?”  Of all the things he could have said to her, that was probably the most effective.  He was her best friend.  She exchanged the occasional owl with Harry, but when she wanted to talk or laugh or cry, she wanted Malfoy.

 

“Of course.”  He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a box.  “I want you to know I’ve been carrying this around for months.”

 

Gently pushing her back so they could look at each other, Draco opened the box to show her the platinum ring with a large round cut diamond flanked with two sapphires.

 

“Will you marry me, Hermione?”  

 

“Yes, Malfoy, yes.”  She let him slip the ring onto her finger.  

 

Their mouths met in a sweet kiss.

 

“You’re my best friend, too,” Hermione murmured, her forehead resting against his.

 

As Draco’s responsibilities increased, he blossomed.  Since the day she had gone to him and pulled him from his black depression, he had been given a second chance and he refused to blow it.  Hermione belonged by his side and he wanted her to be proud to stand by him.  

 

“I want to marry you soon, love.  The closer you are to having the baby, the harder it will be for us to have the wedding and move in together.  I know it feels like you don’t have control over a lot of what’s happening in your life, but you can choose these other things.”

 

Hermione took a deep breath and squeezed Draco’s hand.  “When did you become so wise?”

 

“I totally blame you for that, Granger.”

 

He pulled her up to her feet.  “Come on, my little list maker.  We have some planning to do.”

 

Chapter Text

Hermione was woken early on a Sunday morning by her father.  

 

“What is it, Dad?” 

 

Her father handed her The Daily Prophet.  The headline read, “Lucius Malfoy Dead”.  

 

“Oh my God,” she gasped.  

 

“Let us know if we can help.”

 

“Thank you, Dad.  I’m going to go over and see Draco.”

 

Richard nodded, closing her door.  Hermione read through the article and saw that Mr. Malfoy had died the day before, in the early morning.  Why hadn’t Draco contacted her? 

 

Hermione dressed and attempted to use the Floo to enter Malfoy Manor, but access had been blocked.  Maybe they didn’t want unwanted guests?  She Apparated to the manor gates and used her wand to announce her presence.  Beenie appeared at the gate.

 

“Hello, Beenie.  I’m here to see Draco.”

 

Beenie didn’t even open the gate to speak to her.  “I’m sorry Miss Hermione, but the family isn’t taking guests.”

 

She was taken aback by being denied entrance.  “Well, will you tell Draco I came by?”

 

“Yes, miss.”

 

“Wait, Beenie, when is the funeral?” she asked before Beenie popped away.

 

The little creature wrung her hands and looked at the ground.

 

“Why are you upset, Beenie?  What’s wrong?”

 

“I is so sorry, miss, but Master Draco only wants a few people at the funeral.  You would have been contacted if you was included, miss.”  

 

“Oh.  It’s okay, Beenie,” she said with a watery smile.  Turning to walk down the road, she let the cold chill of the air cool her.  She wasn’t close to Mr. Malfoy, but she wanted to be there for Draco.  She had assumed she’d be included in their family now that she and Draco were engaged.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The day passed without word from Draco.  Hermione was beginning to feel sick: with worry for Draco and Narcissa and uneasy that she’d been rejected from Malfoy Manor.  She had the sense that she was purposefully being left out and the pit in her stomach grew as she ruminated on this possibility.  She knew now was not the time to confront Draco, but all this was only confirming her worst fears.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Two days later she still hadn’t heard from Draco.  She’d gone back to Malfoy Manor, but Beenie had told her Draco was indisposed.  The little elf looked extremely unhappy to deny her entrance, but Beenie couldn’t disobey a direct order.  

 

The following morning, The Daily Prophet ran a picture of Narcissa and Draco at the grave site.  She cried for Draco and his mother, but also because the paper had been allowed to send a photographer and journalist, but she hadn’t been allowed to attend.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

On Friday morning Hermione went to Gringotts to drop off her work.  It had taken all her willpower to complete her assignment, but she had eventually let the work serve as a distraction for her worry and sadness.

 

Theo generally avoided her when she came to the bank, but on this day he came out to talk to her.

 

“Hey,” he said quietly.  He eyed her burgeoning belly, his gaze displaying his regret.  

 

“Hey, Theo.”  She gave him a small smile.

 

“How have you been?”

 

“Okay,” she murmured.  “I’d better turn in my work.  It was good to see you.”

 

Theo gently laid a hand on her arm.  “I was about to take my break.  Would you like to join me?”

 

His kindness and friendship were exactly what she needed at this moment.  Hermione didn’t have many friends and it was nice to interact with someone who understood her to some degree.  

 

“Yeah, I could use some tea.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The sipped their drinks and talked about work.  Theo had gone to Lucius Malfoy’s funeral and had wondered why Hermione wasn’t in attendance.  He wanted to ask her why she had been absent, but judging by her glum expression, he guessed Malfoy hadn’t wanted her there.  

 

They walked out of the café, Theo headed back to Gringotts and Hermione to Flourish & Blotts.  

 

“Thanks, Theo.  You’re too good to me,” she said, kissing his cheek.

 

“You deserve the best.  I wish you knew that.”  He looked at her for a few seconds before making his way back to the bank.

 

Sighing, she made her way through Diagon Alley.  Theo was such a good man.  He deserved a wonderful life with someone who loved him and understood his need for family.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione didn’t go back to the manor or try to contact Draco via the Floo.  He would seek her out when he needed her.  She felt emotionally numb, not knowing why she had been shut out from Draco’s life.  Even though she wanted to be there for him, she could not force him to need her.  She’d come to the conclusion that maybe he didn’t need her.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

It had been three weeks since Draco had seen Hermione.  After his father’s death, he focused on taking care of the arrangements for the funeral, attending to his mother, and running Malfoy Holdings.  The funeral had observed pure-blood protocols and he didn’t have it in him to teach Hermione what she needed to know.  He also felt that the announcement of their engagement shouldn’t coincide with his father’s death.  That would be distasteful.

 

He’d seen the disapproving way Theo had looked at him after the funeral.  Actually, Pansy had given him the same look.  He was grateful the Slytherins had kept their opinions to themselves.  He knew he had been shitty to Granger, but his father’s funeral was not about their relationship.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione sat in the lobby of the obstetrics Healer at St. Mungo’s.  This visit marked her sixth month of pregnancy.  She could keenly feel the baby’s kicks and movements.  

 

The Healer collected her from the lobby and set her up on an examination table.  A knock sounded at the door of the examination room and the healer opened the door a crack to see what was needed.  The Healer moved aside as Draco walked into the room, making brief eye contact with Hermione before lowering himself into a chair.

 

“Hi,” he said quietly.  Hermione looked at him for a moment before turning her attention back to the healer.

 

It was tough for Hermione to keep her emotions together through the visit.  The baby was growing, her weight gain was a little less than the Healer would like, but overall the baby and mother’s health were fine.  The Healer excused herself to allow Hermione to redress.

 

“I’ll wait in the lobby,” Draco offered.

 

“Okay.” Hermione nodded.  She took her time getting dressed, not knowing what this interaction with Malfoy might bring.  When she could no longer put it off, she walked out to the waiting room.

 

“I took the afternoon off.  Do you have time to talk?” Draco asked.

 

Hermione nodded, not trusting herself to not burst into tears or yell at him.  He led her to the Floo and called out “Helene Cottage” as they stepped into the green flames.  They stepped into the cottage Draco had shown her a few months before.  In the afternoon light, Hermione admired the detailed tapestries hanging on the walls and the ornamental woodwork decorating the cottage.

 

“Beenie,” Draco called.  The elf appeared in front of the couple.  “Please prepare tea and sandwiches for us.”

 

“Yes, Master Draco,” Beenie replied, disappearing as quickly as she had appeared.

 

After spending the morning working for a sick receptionist at her parents’ office then going to her appointment, Hermione was tired.  Being near Draco was making her feel shaky.  She had absolutely no idea what to expect from him.  She sat on the plush couch, a sigh escaping her lips.

 

“I’m sorry about your father, Draco.”  She figured she would be civil.  While she wanted to rail against the way he’d ignored her, she had to focus on herself and the baby.

 

“Thank you.”  He looked at her ring finger, relieved that she still wore his ring.  

 

She saw him looking at the ring.  “Do you want it back?”

 

He shook his head.  “No.  I wasn’t sure if you’d still be wearing it.”

 

Beenie brought in a plate of sandwiches and tea.  Hermione poured herself tea and inhaled two sandwiches.  Draco watched her with suspicion.  

 

“Did you eat lunch?” he asked.

 

She gave him a dark look.  “Don’t.”

 

“Don’t what, Granger?”

 

She sipped her tea and stood when her cup was drained.  “I’ve had a busy day and I don’t have the energy to try to make sense of your emotionally stunted behavior.  I’m expecting a baby in three months and I need to focus on her.  I’m sure you can at least understand that.”

 

“I saw you with Theo.  Saw you kiss him.”  He eyed her wearily.

 

“We had tea and talked about work.  He’s a nice man, Malfoy.  After how much I hurt him, it’s a wonder he still wants to be my bloody friend!”  She tried to move past him, but he grabbed her wrist and stopped her.

 

“You have no idea the pressure I’ve been under, Granger.  Then to see you parading through the Alley with Nott.  It’s a fucking slap in the face.”  His fingers bit into her wrist.

 

“Let. Me. Go,” she hissed.  

 

“Agree to stay and I’ll let you go,” he hissed back.  His horrible temper was back in full force.  He was angry at her and ashamed of himself for ignoring her.  When she dissolved into sobs and sank into the seat next to him, he was horrified at his treatment of her.  He tried to put his arm around her, but she slapped his hand away.

 

“No!” she shrieked.  He gave her space and waited for her breathing to slow.

 

“I don’t know why I act like I do with you.  I’m sorry I scared you.”

 

She wiped her cheeks.  “Why did you cut me out of your life?”

 

“I don’t know.  I’m all emotion around you.  If you’d been at the funeral, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I needed to do.”

 

“If that’s how you feel, why do you think we can be married?  Marriage is about leaning on each other when needed, Malfoy.”

 

He shook his head.  “My mother needed me to be strong.  It would have been wrong to focus on my feelings.”

 

“If I was a pure-blood witch, I would have the training to deal with you in a variety of social situations, is that it?”  She twisted the ring off and handed it back to him.

 

“You can still be part of our lives, Malfoy, but this is not the relationship I want,” Hermione said through her tears.  “I love you and I think you’ll be a good father, but that might not be enough for us as a couple.”

 

“No!  You knew my issues and you agreed to marry me anyway.  I grew up alone and I’m used to processing my feelings on my own.”

 

“You don’t get to decide this by yourself, Draco,” Hermione said sadly.  “I’m not going to break our engagement, but it’s on hold now.  It would be better if you held onto the ring.”

 

Her belly made it hard for her to get up from the deep sofa, but she did and without a backwards glance, she walked to the fireplace.  She felt her stomach cramping, probably a result of the volatile situation.

 

“I’m sorry I hurt you,” he said as she took Floo powder from a jar on the mantle.

 

“I know.”  She disappeared into the flames.

 

“Fuck!” he yelled after she had gone.  He threw a tea cup at the wall, then proceeded to use his wand to blast holes in the walls.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The house was quiet when she got home.  Hermione laid on the sofa in front of the tv, flipping through the channels.  She was trying to calm down, but her stomach felt horrible.  Her guts were churning.  

 

Maybe water will help, she thought and tried to get up from the couch when a tremendous wave of pain doubled her over.  Knowing what she was feeling wasn’t normal or safe for the baby, she used her wand to send a Patronus to Draco, asking for his aid.  A minute later he ran the Floo and helped her sit up.

 

“What happened?”

 

“I think I need to go to St. Mungo’s,” she rasped out.

 

“Don’t argue,” he ordered, picking her up.  Her head rested on his shoulder.  He carefully threw Floo powder into the fireplace and headed to the hospital.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco sat next to a sleeping Hermione.  The Healers said she had pre-term labor due to stress.  His hand rubbed over his face.  No wonder she kept trying to get away from him.  How could he have treated his pregnant fiancée with such disregard to her health?  He was absolutely disgusted with himself. 

 

He’d owled his mother and she had gone to retrieve the Grangers.  Her helpfulness and compassion had taken him aback.  The Grangers had been polite, but noticeably cooler with him.  He had promised them he would take care of their daughter and he had failed.  Jean and Richard had wanted to stay with Hermione, but Draco had insisted it was his right to be with Hermione at the hospital.  Neither parent looked convinced, but they finally agreed after Narcissa promised to escort them to the hospital the next morning.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco had spent most of the night watching Hermione sleep.  About six in the morning, he decided coffee would be Merlin-sent and made his way to the hospital cafeteria.  

 

Hermione awoke to a quiet, empty room.  She just wanted to go home and relax in her own bed.  She dressed and made her way to the reception desk and checked herself out.  

 

Upon entering the room half an hour later, Draco was livid the hospital had let Hermione leave.  He had been with her all night, but as soon as she woke up, she had assumed he had left the hospital.  It didn’t look good for him.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Jean stayed home from work to tend to her daughter.  She had tucked Hermione into her bed surrounded by magazines, books and a small breakfast when she heard the doorbell ring.  

 

“Mum, I don’t want to see him,” Hermione told her mother.  “Tell him I’ll contact him later.”

 

“I don’t want to interfere, love, but you need to work this out with him yourself.”  Jean was sympathetic to her daughter’s wishes, but relationships weren’t built on messages relayed by a third party.

 

With a heavy heart, Hermione waited for Draco to make his way up to her room.  

 

Chapter Text

Hermione watched Draco as he entered her room, a frustrated expression on his face.  He sat next to her on the bed, nudging her over so he could stretch his legs out.

 

“I was getting coffee in the hospital cafeteria when you left,” he said quietly.

 

“I thought you’d gone home.”

 

He nodded.  Merlin, what did he expect?  Of course she thought he’d left her alone at the hospital.  Over the course of the night, Draco had been able to study Hermione.  Even at six months pregnant, she hadn’t filled out like he thought she would.  Her face was angular and she had dark circles under her eyes.  Her pregnant belly protruded from her body, but otherwise she was as thin as ever.  She had small bruises on her wrist from their fight the day before.  

 

“What do the healers want you to do?” he asked.

 

“I’ll be on bed rest for the next two weeks.  If the contractions start again, I’ll be readmitted to St. Mungo’s.”

 

His hands covered his face, trying to figure out how to salvage the situation.  He was at the precipice with Hermione.  With the addition of the baby, it was less likely she would continue to accept his never-ending apologies.  He could see her marrying someone else, maybe Theo, and raising his child with another man.  The only person who’d ever shown him the interest, care, and honesty he craved was slipping from his grasp and it was entirely his fault.  

 

Her hand came to rest on top of his.  “You’ve never left me before.”

 

That was true.  She had always been the one to end things, forcing him to examine his misdeeds.  But she hadn’t done anything wrong and he had totally shut her out in his time of need.  His actions spoke of his reluctance to accept her as his partner.  

 

“I didn’t leave you, Granger.  Our relationship would have made a spectacle of my father’s death, so I kept away until things died down.”

 

It was poor reasoning.  “If you know me at all, Malfoy, you know excluding me from your life is the cruelest thing you could do to me.  And by excluding me, you excluded your daughter.  Let us go if you can’t do this, Draco.  Please.”

 

“I…I don’t know if I can do this,” he whispered.

 

“Okay,” she said, her voice thick with barely held-in tears.  “You should go.”

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Narcissa sat with her forlorn son, trying to understand what he was telling her.

 

“You ‘don’t think you can do it’?  She carries the Malfoy heiress, Draco!  That poor girl,” the angry blond witch said, shaking her head.  “Whether or not you two decide to make a life together, I will be involved in my granddaughter’s upbringing.”

 

“Hermione will welcome you, Mother.”

 

“You might think that, Draco, but she’s the rare witch who doesn’t care about our money or prestige.  Her own family will provide love and support to her and the baby.  Did you know Gringotts offered her the job as head of the Solutions Office?  It was in The Prophet a few days ago.”  Narcissa’s normally tranquil demeanor had been ruffled by the idea of not seeing the baby she so desperately wanted in her life.

 

“It sounds like she doesn’t need me, then!”

 

Narcissa stood and glared at her son.  “Your father left this world with the regret of not seeing your child before he died.  You have a brilliant, loving witch and a baby on the way and you let your fear ruin that for you.  If you want to make a life with her, society will come to accept your union, but I am ashamed to say you seem to be the one that doesn’t accept her status, son.”

 

His furious mother left the room in a flurry of billowing black mourning robes.  Draco watched her leave, trying to ignore the tears his mother had dashed away at the end of their conversation.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::     

 

Hermione focused on keeping herself together over the next two months.  After her two-week bed rest, she went to work at Gringotts full time as the head of the Solutions Department.  

 

Her appointments with the healer were frequent, so she generally went to them alone.  Narcissa had joined her for the last appointment, much to Hermione’s surprise.  When she had entered the waiting room, Draco’s mother had been sitting, reading a magazine.  Hermione made her way to the witch clothed in simple black robes.  Narcissa looked up at her and smiled.  

 

“I hope you don’t mind,” the older woman said, gesturing for the very pregnant young lady to sit.

 

“Not at all.  It’s good to see you, Narcissa.”

 

They made their way into the examination room once the healer had called Hermione’s name.  The healer checked Hermione and the baby, deeming them healthy and warning her to take it easy the last few weeks of the pregnancy.  

 

The ladies left the office together after Hermione’s late afternoon appointment.  

 

“Would you join me for dinner, Hermione?”

 

While Hermione liked Narcissa and had been grateful for her interest in the baby, it was hard to be around Draco’s mother.  Hermione had been fighting a depression that dulled the joy she should have had during the pregnancy.  She could adapt to the change in her situation, but Malfoy’s rejection of her had come at a time when she needed his support.  

 

“Thank you for the offer, but I’ve been working all day and I’m quite exhausted.  Would you be amenable to a quick cup of tea?”

 

“Yes, dear, of course.”  

 

They made their way to a café close to the hospital.

 

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief at finally being able to relax for a few moments with a steaming cup of herbal tea.  Narcissa watched her, concerned for mother of her granddaughter.  She’d never seen her expression look so flat and uninterested.  It had worried Narcissa to watch Hermione negotiate payment for her visit with the healer.  The young lady didn’t seem bothered by the discussion with the office manager, but Narcissa was embarrassed that the woman who carried the Malfoy baby was struggling to pay her bills in full.  She was ashamed Draco hadn’t made arrangements to pay for her care.

 

“Did the healer give you a specific due date?” Narcissa asked.

 

“According to the size of the baby, the due date will be June first.”  Hermione sipped her tea, enjoying the sweet, flowery taste of the chamomile.

 

“Will you be able to take time off of work?” 

 

“I have six weeks off after the baby is born.”

 

“That’s not very long,” Narcissa murmured.  “What will you do after your leave?”

 

“I’ve put her,” Hermione said, gesturing to her stomach.  “On the waiting list for some childcare facilities in the neighborhood where I live.”

 

The idea of this baby, her granddaughter, being cared for in room full of Muggle infants made Narcissa sick with worry.  

 

“What do your parents think of this?” she asked delicately.  Narcissa hadn’t spent much time with the Grangers, but she knew they wanted what was best for their daughter.  

 

Hermione shrugged.  “It’s not an ideal situation, but I’m an adult and I have to be responsible for myself and Lyra.  They know I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances.”

 

“Lyra?  Is that the name you’ve chosen?”  Narcissa was touched Hermione had kept with the tradition of naming the child after a constellation.  

 

“Yes: Lyra Juliet Granger.”

 

“Not Malfoy?” she asked, eyes wide.

 

“If she’s to grow up in my family’s home, I prefer she take my name,” she answered pragmatically.  

 

Narcissa nodded, her heart heavy over the entire situation.  Even if Draco and Hermione didn’t end up together, she wanted Lyra to enjoy the benefits of being a Malfoy.  She resolved to create an account at Gringotts for her granddaughter to help ease Hermione’s burden.

 

Hermione slowly got up, her large belly making it tricky to move around the tables of the café.  Narcissa stood, giving Hermione space to move.

 

“Next appointment?” Hermione asked, giving the melancholy woman a small smile.

 

Narcissa squeezed her hand in an uncharacteristic display of public affection.  “Thank you for allowing me to be part of this.”

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Theo walked with Hermione to The Magic Pan for lunch.  He’d been pleasantly surprised when she had told him she had a craving for the restaurant’s mushroom soup and wanted to know if he’d join her.  

 

The situation with Hermione was tough for Theo, as he didn’t want to complicate her life with his interest in her.  He’d been right about Draco and it hurt him that she had chosen the man who he knew would always keep her at arm’s distance.  Theo knew Draco wanted to possess the brilliant Muggle-born witch, but he didn’t think Draco knew how to be in a relationship with her.

 

Theo pulled out Hermione’s seat when they were shown to a table.  He helped her ease into her chair, aware that the extra weight she carried made it hard for her to move with her normal grace.

 

“Thanks, Theo,” she said, letting out a huff of air.

 

They ordered and had their food in a matter of minutes.  Hermione dug into her food with relish, Theo watching her with amusement.  

 

“Can I get a slice of chocolate cake?” she asked the wait elf.

 

“You seem to have your appetite back,” Theo observed.

 

“Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but I’m feeling energetic today.  I woke up early and took a walk around the neighborhood.  All of this paperwork my department needed to complete was done by mid-morning.  I’m planning on finishing up the nursery tonight.”

 

“Don’t push yourself too hard, Hermione,” Theo said.  

 

“It’s just nice to feel more myself, you know?  I was so tired most of the pregnancy and today I woke up and felt almost normal.”

 

“If you need anything at all, you can always call on me, Hermione.  Even though you have support from your parents, it can be nice to have a friend to call on as well.”

 

She smiled and took a bite of her rich dessert.  “You might regret offering me help.  Have you ever been around a baby?”

 

Theo’s expression became serious and Hermione knew, if given the opportunity, the man in front of her would offer her a place at his side.

 

“It would be an honor to assist you in whatever you need.”

 

They finished their meal, Theo insisting on paying although Hermione tried to grab the bill from him.  When they entered the bank, Hermione found Draco waiting in the hall outside her office door.

 

“Malfoy,” Theo said, making his way back to his own office.

 

“Nott,” Draco said with a brisk nod.  

 

Theo turned to Hermione and gave her a reassuring smile.  “Floo call me if you need anything.”

 

“Thanks, Theo.”

 

Hermione beckoned Draco into her office.  She slowly lowered herself into her chair, her navy shift dress showcasing her larger breasts and baby bump.  

 

“Sit, Draco.  What did you need?”

 

“Will you come over for dinner tonight?  We need to talk.”

 

Draco wore a charcoal suit with a lilac tie.  His hair was shorter and artfully spiked and mussed and his face was clean-shaven.  He looked young, professional, and serious, but his dark eyes were full of insecurity and sorrow.

 

“Why?”

 

“I wanted us to discuss our relationship and the baby.”

 

“Lyra.  You can call her Lyra.”

 

“Lyra,” he said softly.  “It’s beautiful.”

 

“She’s kicking me,” Hermione said with a grimace.

 

“May I?” Draco said as he slowly approached her.

 

Hermione nodded, guiding his hand to her belly where Lyra was dancing away.  Draco knelt down beside Hermione, his hands splayed over her abdomen.  He gasped when he felt Lyra roll under his hands.  

 

“She’s incredible,” he breathed.  “You’re incredible.”  He let his cheek rest on the baby, his hands reaching around to hold Hermione to him.  What was Draco doing?  What did he want from her?

 

Hermione gently pushed him away.  “You have to go.  I’ll come over tonight after work.”

 

He stood and walked to the door.  

 

“Thank you.  I didn’t know if you would see me.”  

 

She looked at him and nodded, going back to the work on her desk.  For the first time, Draco couldn’t read her expression.  He had no idea how she would respond to their talk.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hermione made her way home after work, preparing herself to deal with Draco.  She was in her bedroom changing when her stomach started to cramp.  

 

Nerves, she thought.  Her brief meeting with Draco at Gringotts had been stressful.

 

She made her way down the stairs to tell her parents she’d be out for dinner when a strong contraction had her gasping.  

 

Merlin, I think the baby’s on the way.  Must have been why I was nesting the past few days.

 

“Mum!  Come here!”  She leaned against the wall and took deep breaths.

 

“What is it, love…oh my God, are you going into labor?”

 

Hermione nodded.  “I think so.”

 

“Your dad went out to get dinner for us.  Let’s time the contractions.  It will give your father a chance to get back and come with us to the hospital.”

 

Jean led Hermione to the sofa and bustled out of the room to find her stopwatch.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco thought Hermione was done working at 5:00.  It was 5:45 and there was no sign the witch was coming over.  Maybe she had changed her mind?  It was a likely possibility.  

 

By 7:00, he decided she had stood him up.  

 

I’ve been such a bastard to her.  She probably looked at my pathetic arse and figured she was better off going at it alone than with someone as cowardly as me.    

 

At 9:00, Draco heard running coming towards his bedroom suite.  Narcissa burst in and shoved a note in his hands.

 

“We’ve got to go, Draco.  Hermione’s in labor!”  She looked at her son, observing the glassy look in his eyes and the bottle of firewhisky on his nightstand.

 

“For the love of Merlin, drink some sobering potion and get yourself together!” she yelled.  Draco had never heard his mother yell before, let alone at him.  It jolted him into action and he ran into the bathroom to find a vial of the potion.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Narcissa and Draco sat in the waiting room.  Richard Granger had greeted them politely and given them an update on Hermione’s labor.  The disapproval from Richard was obvious, but the man was too kind to ruin the day with admonishing Draco.  The three of them sat in the waiting room for several minutes until Narcissa broke the silence.

 

“Mr. Granger, might I go and look in on Hermione?”

 

Richard knew Mrs. Malfoy had gone with Hermione to several prenatal appointments and his daughter had expressed liking the witch.

 

“I’ll walk you over,” he said.

 

Draco wondered if he would be let in to see Hermione during her labor.  One of Draco’s positive qualities was his level of comfort with the human body.  Bodily fluids and damage did not disgust him.  He had an affinity for healing spells.  Professor Snape had urged him to consider a career as a Healer, but as in all other areas of his life, Draco’s duties as a Malfoy superseded his personal desires.  

 

Narcissa came back with Richard and Jean.  Jean took Draco aback by giving him a quick hug.

 

“She wants to see you,” Jean said, pushing him towards the maternity ward.  “Room 560.”

 

“Thank you,” he said, rushing to get to Hermione’s room.

 

When he walked into the room, Hermione was resting between contractions.  Draco went to her bedside and sat on the edge of the bed.

 

“I suppose you had a good reason for standing me up,” he said, smoothing her ruffled hair into place.

 

Hermione gave him a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.  “The baby’s magic is all over the place, Draco, and I’m worried the physical stress of delivering her and having my magic drained might be too much for my body.  The Healers are trying to keep me calm, but I’ve read about this phenomenon and it’s not always a positive outcome for the mother.  But Lyra will most likely be fine.”

 

Draco felt cold.  “What do you mean?  What will happen to you?”

 

“I don’t know, Malfoy.  But I want to make sure Lyra’s taken care of if something happens to me.  My parents would do it, but honestly, they’re not at the right stage in their lives to have to start over with a baby.  She’s your daughter and you’ll be a good father to her.  I know you can do this.”

 

Draco was quiet.  “Of course I’ll take care of her.  Why didn’t you say anything sooner?”

 

He watched Hermione grit her teeth and moan as a contraction hit her.  Taking her hand, he let her squeeze his hand until he was in pain.  Tears leaked from her eyes when the ache finally ebbed.

 

“Let me get a healer so you can get a pain potion,” Draco said, standing to leave.

 

“No, Malfoy, I can’t take anything because of my unbalanced magic.  It’s okay,” she assured him.

 

“Why didn’t you say anything to me about this?” he asked again.

 

Hermione bit her lip, her eyes welling with tears.  “Please just promise you’ll take care of Lyra, okay?”

 

“Yes, yes, okay,” he murmured, stroking her arm.

 

She closed her eyes, trying to get a moment of respite before the next contraction hit her.  Draco could see her abdomen moving violently under the thin sheet.  Merlin, that must hurt.

 

“Will you get my parents?” she whispered.

 

“Are you okay?” he started to ask, but she had passed out.  Her body began to spasm and stiffen.  

 

“Help!” he yelled, hoping a Healer would hear him because he couldn’t leave Hermione’s side.

 

A Healer ran in, then shouted for assistance.  Draco was pushed out of the way as the team worked on her.

 

“You need to leave the room,” a mediwitch instructed him.  “We’ll give you an update when we have this under control.”  She pushed him out the door and closed it behind him.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The Grangers and Narcissa sat unmoving after Draco told them what was happening.  A Healer came and spoke to them, explaining that due to her condition, Hermione would have a caesarean section to deliver Lyra.  She was still unconscious and would be for at least several hours after the baby was born.  Jean cried into her husband’s chest, while he stroked her back and whispered into her ear.  Narcissa sat stoically, looking at her lap.

 

A few minutes later, a mediwizard came into the waiting room and told Draco since he was listed as the father, he could witness the c-section if he so desired.

 

“May her parents and my mother be there as well?” he asked, his voice shaking.

 

“Yes, if you authorize it, sir.”

 

“I do,” he said, pulling his mother to her feet.

 

“Let’s get you lot sanitized and in hospital gear.  We need to hurry because the Healers are ready to deliver,” the young mediwizard told the group, motioning for them to follow him.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 

 

Watching the c-section was both the scariest and most beautiful thing Draco had ever witnessed.  His daughter came from Hermione’s uterus red and howling.  A mediwitch brought the baby to Draco after the surgery and took the group to a room where she would be bathed and her vitals would be checked.  He took a moment to admire the baby, Lyra, before handing her to Jean.  

 

“I need to get back in there, to Hermione,” he told his mother, Jean and Richard before going to find the Healer.

 

“Son, we knew this was a possibility.  She wanted you to take care of the baby if something happened.  You need to stay here with Lyra,” Richard said, handing Draco the tiny bundle.

 

Draco stared at her parents.  “You knew this might happen!  Why is this the first time I’ve heard how serious this is?”

 

Narcissa took the baby from him.  “We all knew.  But you made your wishes known to Hermione and she didn’t want to concern you unless it came to this.  I’m so sorry, Draco.”

 

“I would have helped her if I had known!  I thought she had everything under control, as she usually does.”

 

Jean wiped a tear from her left eye.  “Hermione didn’t want you to feel obliged to help her.  I know you two have had your differences, but if you care about her, please take care of Lyra.  Richard and I will see to our daughter.”

 

The Grangers stepped out of the small nursery to learn more about the fate of their own child.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Narcissa held Lyra, gently tracing her tiny features with her finger.

 

“You’re perfect,” she murmured.  “You can call me Nana Cissa, sweet baby.”

 

Draco paced the tiny room, feeling completely powerless and angry.

 

“I can’t believe you didn’t say anything to me, Mother.”

 

Narcissa looked up from the baby.  “She made me promise not to.  Hermione wants you to be with her of your own free will, son.  She didn’t want you to be guilted into a relationship with her.”

 

He knew why she’d feel that way.  Hermione knew Draco felt he had few choices in his life between being a Malfoy and a pure-blood and didn’t want to add to his load.  What had he done in turning her away?

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco’s mother watched the mediwitch bathe her granddaughter.

 

“Come here, Draco.  She’s got the Malfoy mark on her thigh.”  Narcissa pointed to a faint circle of freckles that would eventually turn into the ouroburos, then fade after her thirteenth birthday.  Draco’s had been on his right shoulder blade and his father’s on the back of his left calf. 

 

“She’s got Granger’s nose,” he said, peering at Lyra.

 

“Her fingers look like mine,” Narcissa observed, admiring the baby’s tiny hands.  

 

The mediwitch handed Draco the baby.  “I’m done checking her, Mr. Malfoy.  You can press your wand to the button by the door if you need assistance.”

 

“Thank you,” he said, sitting in a wooden rocking chair.  Lyra snuggled her tiny body into his chest as he slowly rocked back and forth, trying to keep her asleep.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Jean and Richard went back to the nursery to see their granddaughter.

 

“You can go sit with her if you want,” Jean told Draco.   “She’s…she’s…”  Jean let out a little sob.

 

“Same room as before,” Richard said.  He looked older tonight, his eyes anxious and worried.  

 

Draco thanked them and made his way to the room.  Hermione lay in the white bed, her skin pale against her dark hair.  A magical barrier kept him from touching her.  A Healer came in to check her vitals.

 

“When is she supposed to come out of this?” he asked the woman checking Hermione’s chart.

 

The Healer sighed.  “The coma can last anywhere from two hours post birth to indefinitely.  Miss Granger’s magic was greatly depleted during her labor.  She’s a powerful witch, but the baby needed a great deal of her magic.  Your daughter will be a force when she comes into her magic.”

 

“Can I do anything?  Anything at all?” he asked lamely.  

 

“Sometimes a spouse can give his partner a magical infusion, due to the wizarding oath of the marriage vows or parents can transfer some of their magic to their child.  But since Miss Granger is unmarried and her parents are Muggles…”  

 

Merlin, I could have helped her if we’d been married.  No wonder she didn’t want me to know about this.  Hermione never would have accepted my offer of marriage after I abandoned her.

 

“Mr. Malfoy, you can spend another ten minutes here, but then we’ll need to clear her room for the night.”

 

“Okay,” he said, falling into the chair by her bed.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 

 

Two days passed and Lyra was released from the hospital.  Narcissa and the Grangers arranged for some of baby things to be taken to the manor.  Narcissa prepared the nursery for Lyra.

 

As if she knew she had been separated from her mother, Lyra became inconsolable.  Jean and Richard held her for hours, but the baby would only stop crying when she fell asleep due to exhaustion.  Narcissa walked the baby up and down the manor’s long hallways, but the crying did not stop.  The only person who didn’t try to console Lyra was her father, who had taken to sitting at Hermione’s side for as many hours as the healers would allow.  The Grangers had insisted on seeing to Hermione themselves, but the best they could get was Draco going to the hospital cafeteria for half an hour for a meal. 

 

Five days later, Narcissa was at her wit’s end trying to tend to her granddaughter.  The baby was now refusing the bottle and Narcissa knew this was dangerous for such a new baby.  She dressed the crying girl and made her way to St. Mungo’s.  Her first stop was Hermione’s room, to tell Draco what had happened with his daughter.  

 

Draco looked up when the crying baby came into the silent room.  “Mother, is something wrong?”

 

Narcissa rocked the baby in her arms.  “The baby is inconsolable, Draco!  Since last night she’s refused the bottle.”

 

Draco took in the wailing baby and his frazzled mother.  “Let me hold her.”

 

Lyra’s quaking form let out a loud cry as she was transferred from her grandmother to her father.  But when Draco held her to his chest and whispered in her ear, she began to calm.

 

“Do you have her bottle?” he quietly asked his mother.

 

Narcissa nodded and got it out of the baby’s bag.  Draco held her head in the crook of his arm and swiped the nipple of the bottle over her lips.  Lyra hesitated for a moment before beginning to suckle.  Narcissa watched in awe as Draco tended to his child with a naturalness that belied his princely upbringing.  

 

“Wind her about half way through,” she advised her son.  He nodded and sat in the chair next to Hermione’s bed.

 

The baby hungrily sucked at her bottle, but after a few minutes her eyes were drooping and she was nodding off.

 

“Oh, thank Merlin, Draco,” Narcissa said, tiredly sitting in the chair by the window.  “I couldn’t get her to relax the past few days.  You’re very good with her, son.”

 

“I wonder if the hospital would let me take care of her while I sit with Hermione.”  

 

“Magical children often need to ‘borrow’ energy from their parents the first few weeks of life.  I thought as her grandmother I would be able to help her, but it appears she needs an actual parent.”

 

“I’ve never heard of that, Mother,” Draco said skeptically.  

 

“It’s been relegated to an old wives tale, but I noticed when you were a baby you’d be horrid for the nanny, but an angel for me.”  Her face grew remorseful.  “Your father used to go to you when you’d fuss at night.  You’d calm right down.”

 

Narcissa got up.  “I’ll go talk to someone about getting permission for Lyra to be here.  It will give you an opportunity to bond with her Draco.  She’ll need you.”  If her mother doesn’t pull through, Narcissa thought at the end, but didn’t have the heart to say to her son.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Pansy held Lyra.  A former Slytherin housemate, a quiet, older girl, worked as a mediwitch and had confided to Pansy that Hermione Granger was in the hospital with Draco Malfoy keeping vigil at her bedside.  Pansy thanked the girl for the information and had gone to see her old friend as soon as she could.

 

“She’s beautiful, Draco.  Lyra’s the best of you both.”

 

Draco murmured his assent.  He had quickly realized how much work it was to take care of an infant.  Lyra slept a lot, but when she needed her nappy changed or wanted a bottle, he had to act immediately.  Even with his heart heavy over the woman lying in the hospital bed, he had fallen in love with his daughter.  He stared at her when she slept, memorizing her features, watching her pouty pink lips inhale and exhale.  

 

“Will you make a birth announcement in The Prophet?”

 

“With everything going on, I hadn’t really thought about it.”  

 

“You’ll have to excuse me, but I’ve been spending so much time with the Gryffindors that I find myself speaking more frankly than I ever have.  After your father’s funeral, it was obvious to everyone that you were ignoring your ties to Granger.  If you don’t announce the birth of your daughter, Lyra will never be thought of as a true Malfoy.  It’s bad enough that she was born out of wedlock.”

 

The wizard scowled at her.  She was right.  Pansy knew the society they grew up in as well as he did and her suggestion was absolutely what he had to do.  

 

“Do you have a photographer I could hire?” he asked.

 

“Let me take care of it, Draco.  The announcement will be perfect.”

 

“Thanks, Pans,” he said, taking his beautiful daughter from her.

 

He noticed the large ruby engagement ring on her finger.  People, he found, were never what he expected.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

After the announcement in The Prophet, friends began to visit the hospital.  Draco had expected horrid anonymous letters from pure-blood supremacists, but the outpouring of support for Hermione was refreshing.  Flowers adorned Hermione’s room and letters from strangers offered kind words and ideas for getting her to wake.  Pansy had done an excellent job in garnering the public’s sympathy for the three.

 

The day the baby’s picture and birth announcement ran, Harry and Ron came to the hospital.  They were subdued with Draco and sat side-by-side, hands clasped and staring at Hermione.

 

“How’s the baby, Malfoy?” Ron asked uncomfortably.  He didn’t care for the git, but Hermione had been his friend and supportive of him all though school.

 

“She’s fine.  Had a rough start, but she does best here with me and Granger.”  

 

“May I hold her?” Harry asked.  Draco nodded and handed him the sleeping bundle.

 

Ron put his arm around Harry as he held Lyra.  

 

“What?” Harry said, having noticed the astonished look on Malfoy’s face.

 

“Are you two a couple?” Draco blurted out.

 

Harry smiled and Ron actually laughed.  “Yeah, since the end of sixth year.  Hermione was the first person we told and she was really great about it.” 

 

“I didn’t know,” Draco mumbled.  To think he had been jealous of seeing Hermione with her two male friends.  Merlin, I’m fucking unobservant.  

 

“Mum knitted the baby a sweater.  Probably too big for her now, but it’ll fit her in the fall.”

 

Ron handed Draco a pink sweater with a white L on the front.  It was commonly known as a Weasley sweater and anyone Mrs. Weasley held dear had one.  He remembered the Weasley kids wearing the sweaters at school and feeling sorry for them having to wear such ugly knitted duds.  But Draco didn’t think this tiny pink sweater was ugly.  No, not at all.

 

“Oh, uh, thanks.  Please thank your mother for me.”

 

“Yeah, I’ll tell her, Malfoy.  I know you never cared for me or Harry much, but if you need anything, owl us.”

 

Harry kissed Lyra’s forehead and handed her back to Draco.  Draco watched the couple leave and breathed a sigh of relief.  That hadn’t been as painful as he had thought it would be.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::  

 

When Lyra slept and Draco sat by Hermione’s bedside, he read books on healing.  The type of coma Hermione was in was unusual in that there was no clear trigger for waking the mother.  Women had woken from these comas smelling their favorite foods to hearing their baby cry.  Every day, Draco would covertly try to coax Hermione out of her slumber, but to no avail.

 

Something that bothered him about her hospital treatment was that she continued to have a magical barrier around her due to her unstable magic.  He had carefully watched the Healers recast the barrier spell on Hermione every morning and was certain he could undo the spell.  

 

One of the things that drew him to Hermione in the first place was her demonstrative nature.  She would hug and kiss him in greeting and welcome his affections as well.  Over the past two weeks, Hermione hadn’t been touched for more than a quick cleaning spell.  The woman he knew needed that physical affection.  He knew it was a stretch, but if women came out of their coma from hearing Celestina Warbeck, maybe having the touch of her baby would help pull Hermione from where her mind currently resided.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::  

 

Theo stood outside the door to Hermione’s room.  He knew Malfoy had been sitting with her since she’d fallen into a coma and he was angry at his former friend.  Theo had seen Hermione lose her joy after the blond wizard had told her he didn’t think they could be together.  Add to that her difficult pregnancy and his protectiveness for Hermione and he wanted to give Malfoy another good beating.

 

Theo heard a baby crying and figured he could control himself around Hermione’s daughter.  He opened the door to find Draco performing a warming charm on a bottle.

 

“Nott.  I was wondering when you were going to come in.”

 

“Well, you’re always bloody here, Malfoy and I had hoped you’d step out so I could see Hermione in peace.”

 

Theo continued to stand in the doorway, staring at Hermione in the bed.

 

“Come in, sit down.  I know how much you two bloody loved each other.  Maybe you can bring her out of her coma,” Draco said sarcastically.

 

After Draco’s usual jealousy reared its head, Theo decided to ignore him and sit by the bed.  Hermione was so pale and thin, even after giving birth.  Her short hair was neatly combed to the side, probably Draco’s doing, he thought with irritation.

 

Draco, for all the stress he was under, didn’t look so bad, Theo thought.  Sure, he looked tired and sad, but he seemed to have a purpose.  This was so different from the time he had gone to the manor to confront Draco.  That day, Draco hadn’t seemed to care about anything.  That was not the Draco he was seeing today.

 

This realization that perhaps his Slytherin housemate did in fact love Hermione softened him slightly.  He’d always thought Hermione was nothing but a conquest for Draco, but he could see it was more than that.  

 

Draco had finished feeding the baby and was about to put her in a bassinet when Theo cleared his throat.

 

“May I see her?” 

 

Draco narrowed his eyes at the other wizard.  “Have you ever held a baby?” 

 

“Well, no, but I’m sure I can figure it out.”

 

Lyra was gently placed in Theo’s arms.  Draco coached Theo to keep the baby’s head supported.

 

“She looks mostly like Hermione, but I can see you in there,” Theo murmured.

 

Not for the first time, Draco felt a pang of sympathy for Theo.  He knew Theo would have wanted a life with Hermione.  Theo wanted a family, was ready for a family, while Draco struggled with the idea of a baby Hermione’s entire pregnancy.  But having his tiny daughter comforted only by him made Draco realize what an honor it was to be a father.  He’d never had anyone need him before, not like this.

 

A soft knock sounded at the door and Draco answered it to find Ginny Weasley.  He hadn’t seen the fiery witch since he left Hogwarts.  She played for the Holyhead Harpies.  Draco had never really looked at her before, but she was an attractive woman with long dark red hair and a gamine face.  

 

“Hey, Malfoy,” Ginny said quietly.  “I came to see Hermione and the baby.”

 

He nodded and opened the door for her.

 

Ginny noticed Theo holding Lyra.  “Oh, I can come back later.  I didn’t know you had a guest.”

 

Maybe it was because he was tired or was glad their friends thought enough of them to visit, but he had an idea.  

 

“Ginevra, do you know Theodore Nott?”

 

Ginny nodded shyly.  “Hi Theo.  How are you?”

 

Theo smiled at her.  “I’m fine.  I caught the last game between the Harpies and the Falcons.  That was a tough one.”

 

Ginny nodded in agreement.

 

“Do you two think you could watch Lyra for a bit while I get lunch?  Theo can show you how to hold her, Ginevra.”

 

Ginny rolled her eyes.  “I’m a Weasley.  I know how to hold a baby.”  She sat next to Theo and admired the baby bundled in a pink blanket.

 

Draco quickly left the room, closing the door behind him.  If anyone could appreciate the ginger clan, it was Nott. By the shy smiles Ginny was giving Theo, Draco thought his matchmaking skills might be inspired. 

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::   

 

Draco came back to the room thirty minutes later.  He was relieved Lyra had stayed asleep, cuddled in the redhead’s arms.  Ginny and Theo were deep in conversation, their body language indicating their interest in each other.

 

He took Lyra from Ginny and gently lowered her into the bassinet.  Ginny and Theo stood.  They said awkward goodbyes, but both said they’d be back in the near future.

 

“Thank you for watching Lyra,” Draco said to the pair.

 

“Let me know if you need me to babysit her, Malfoy,” Ginny kindly offered.

 

Draco nodded.  “Thanks, Red.”

 

They walked out the door together.  Sinking into the chair by Hermione’s bed, Draco was relieved the encounter with Theo had been fairly civil.  He dreaded the disproval that radiated from Theo.  He had been friends with the brilliant wizard for years and had valued him as a comrade more than anyone else in Slytherin.  It had been tough to lose that friendship.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Magic was such a curious thing.  Hermione had known it was quantifiable since her first year at Hogwarts when she had noticed her own well of magic was much deeper than, say, Gregory Goyle’s.  Even though her well of magic was considerably deeper than most witches or wizards, it could still be depleted.

 

Hermione had also suspected that magic was tied to emotion.  When she was in control of her emotions, her spells flowed.  When she was not, her magic tended to reluctantly obey her.  Between the unexpected and difficult pregnancy, what essentially amounted to a break up with Draco, and working long hours in a challenging new position, the young witch’s emotional resources were tapped.  

 

What others thought of as a coma was really a very extended and deep meditation session.  She was aware of the people around her and could feel their spirits, for lack of a better word.  The care, concern and love they felt for her helped bolster her emotional resources and in return, her magical well of power.  Their whispered words to her weren’t clear, but their intentions were.

 

The constant presence of Draco and Lyra were her greatest source in rebuilding her magic.  She was ready to come back, but Hermione needed something tangible to help anchor her.  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Draco watched the Healer use her wand to re-establish the barrier spell on Hermione after she cast a quick cleaning spell on her.  He knew he had at least an hour after the Healer left to dismantle the barrier spell and reconnect mother and daughter.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Love.  Need.  Contentment.  Hope.  Warmth.

 

Warmth?

 

A warm, soft weight on her chest.  Hermione’s arms were placed over a tiny body, urging her to hold the baby to her heart.

 

Before her eyes opened, Draco saw Hermione clutch the baby to her breast.

 

“Hermione, love, come back to us.  Lyra needs you.  I need you.”  She heard Draco’s confession and took a deep breath before lifting her heavy lids.

 

When Draco looked at her face, she was looking down at her baby.

 

“Merlin,” he whispered.  “You came back to us.”

 

“Hi,” she croaked out.  Draco angled the hospital bed into a sitting position then held a glass of water to her lips.

 

“She’s beautiful,” she said, stroking the baby’s downy hair.  “How long have I been out?”

 

“Almost three weeks.”

 

“How are you doing?” she asked with her typical concern for his feelings.

 

Draco pointed his wand at the bed and widened it so he could sit next to Hermione and Lyra.

 

“So fucking grateful to have you back, Hermione.”

 

“You’ve been taking care of Lyra.”  

 

Draco recognized it as a statement rather than a question.  

 

“Mother and your parents took care of her the first few days, but she wasn’t happy about being separated from us.  My mother finally brought her back to the hospital and she’s been brilliant ever since.  She’s just amazing, Granger.”  He stroked the baby’s back.

 

“I really wanted to breastfeed her.”

 

“The Healers said you’d be able to.”

 

“Good.  Can I go home?”

 

“Will you come home with us?”

 

“Do you want me to?  Are you ready for this, Draco?”

 

“We’re a family now.  I need you, Lyra needs you.  The real question is: will you trust me after everything I’ve put you through?”

 

Hermione told him about her experience, how she could feel his care, his love, his concern for her and Lyra.  The bond she felt develop between daughter and father fortified her heart in a way she needed.  If she had felt any reluctance on Draco’s part, she would have sensed it.  

 

“I’ll try.”

 

It was the best she could offer and he accepted it.  

 

“I’m going to get a Healer and we’ll work on getting you home.”  He started to get off the bed, but Hermione’s hand on his leg stopped him.

 

“I need you, too.”

 

Draco kissed her forehead and went in search of someone to help discharge Hermione from the hospital.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

After he found the Healer in charge of Hermione’s case, Draco had the hospital send an owl to his mother and Hermione’s parents, asking them to come to the hospital as soon as possible.  He went back to the room to find a mediwitch helping Hermione walk about the room.  

 

“Would you like me to help you bathe, Miss Granger?” the kindly woman asked.

 

“Oh, thank you, but I think I can handle it.  Is my bag here with my clothes and toiletries?”

 

“It’s here,” Draco said, retrieving it from the closet.  

 

The mediwitch left the room while Hermione went through her bag, looking for supplies.

 

“You okay?” Draco placed a hand on her shoulder.

 

Hermione continued to unpack her bag.  “I’m a bit overwhelmed.”

 

“Can I show you something?”  

 

Draco went into Lyra’s nappy bag and pulled out a collection of photos and the birth announcement.  Hermione sat on the bed and Draco sat next to her.  

 

“I had a photographer take photos of Lyra for a birth announcement in The Prophet.  The photos are really beautiful and I like looking at them, so I’ve taken to carrying them with me.”

 

Hermione took the stack of pictures from him.  Lyra was wearing a traditional baby gown and bonnet.  She guessed Narcissa had helped Draco dress the baby for the photo shoot.  In some pictures Lyra slept, while in others her big eyes looked right at the camera is that innocent way babies looked at the world.  Hermione studied at the photos with tears running down her face.

 

“These are beautiful.  Thank you, Malfoy.”

 

He put his arm around her.  “Read the birth announcement.”

 

The first thing she noticed was the announcement had been placed on the front page.  The headline read “Malfoy Family Welcomes Lyra Juliet Granger Malfoy” with a large picture of the sleeping baby.  The article named her and Draco as Lyra’s parents.  The end of the announcement asked readers to keep Hermione in their thoughts as she had gone into a coma to deliver the healthy baby.

 

“Why did you do this?” she asked.

 

Draco contemplated playing stupid, but in the end opted for the truth.

 

“I’m not ashamed of her or you.  It was important that I claimed you publicly.  You’re both precious to me.”

 

Hermione let her head rest on Draco’s shoulder.  He had done the right thing.  It had taken so long for him to get here.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Jean Granger hugged her daughter while Richard patted his daughter’s back.  Hermione let her parents fawn over her, while Narcissa sat next to her son and held her precious granddaughter.  

 

“Hermione’s going to stay with us,” Draco murmured to his mother.

 

“Oh, that’s good, son.  I’ll have the elves prepare a room for her.  Do you think she’ll want to keep Lyra with her?”

 

“When we get to the manor I’ll find out her preferences.” 

 

Narcissa nodded and rubbed soothing circles along the baby’s back.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

By the time they left the hospital for Malfoy Manor, Hermione was feeling tired. 

 

“Would you mind if I had a quick kip?” she asked Draco when they entered the foyer.

 

“No, love, not at all.  Lyra and I are old buddies.  I thought I’d take her out on a broom ride this afternoon.”

 

“Don’t you dare!” she said, giving him a horrified glare.

 

Draco followed Hermione as she made her way to his suite.  As they entered the room, she kicked off her shoes and got under the silky comforter.  

 

“Mmm, you have the best bed,” she said, snuggling into the down filled pillows. 

 

He hadn’t expected Hermione to want to share his space, but he wanted her to stay with him.

 

“Draco?”

 

He knelt next to her to see her face.

 

“Will you bring Lyra’s bassinet in here?  I want her to be close to us at night.”

 

“I’ll bring it in when you get up, okay?”

 

“Thanks, Malfoy.”  

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::  

 

“Hermione, do you want to feed Lyra?”

 

Hermione shook herself out of her light sleep.  Draco handed her the baby.  A mediwitch had shown Hermione how to nurse the baby while Draco had looked on.  Lyra began to nuzzle Hermione’s breast through her shirt.

 

“Do you want me to leave?” Draco asked.

 

“No,” she said with a smile.  “I might need your assistance.”

 

“Hold Lyra up and I’ll put a pillow under her.” 

 

Hermione unbuttoned her shirt and held the baby to her nipple.  Lyra didn’t seem to know how to latch on.

 

“Can you express a bit of milk?  That’s what I have to do with the bottle to get her to suckle.”

 

Hermione squeezed her breast a few times and she began to feel the tingle of milk.  Lyra hungrily took to her mother’s breast.

 

“Oh, wow, she was hungry.”

 

“She wasn’t enthusiastic about the bottle.  Are you comfortable?”

 

“Can you put another pillow behind my back?”

 

Another fluffy pillow was wedged behind her.

 

“The mediwitch said to switch sides after a few minutes,” Hermione remembered.  She used her finger to break the suction the baby had.

 

“Wind her now,” Draco suggested.  “Use a cloth in case she spits up.”

 

“Am I doing it right?”

 

“You can pat her harder.  Don’t feed her again until she burps.”

 

When Lyra finally let out a soft belch, Hermione put the baby to her other breast.

 

“You’re doing great, love.” Draco said encouragingly.

 

“How did you take care of her and stay with me at the hospital?  You’re so good with her.”

 

“I don’t know, really.  I have this instinct to take care of you both and that overrode any fear I had.  My mother and your parents gave me some tips for taking care of the baby, but I’m just doing what I think is right.”

 

Hermione looked at the man in front of her.  Draco seemed tired, but he was more content than she had ever seen him.  Even when Draco had been self-centered and difficult, something in Hermione’s heart had always told her that if push came to shove, she could trust Draco to do the right thing.  

 

“I’m proud of you, Draco,” Hermione said quietly.  Lyra was beginning to nod off and she didn’t want to wake her.  She gently removed the baby from her breast and handed her back to Draco.

 

“I’m sorry you went through the last few months of the pregnancy alone.  It seemed like you’d be better off without me.”

 

“Why would you think that?”

 

“I’m not like you, who knows what to do in every situation and makes the most of it.  I’m easily frustrated and used to being a fuck-up.  I know I wasn’t nice to you when my father died and I thought maybe it would be better if I just stayed away from you after that.  From my office window I’d see you walk out of Gringotts with Theo and I thought you’d be better off with someone like him.”

 

“Do you still feel that way?”

 

“No.  Ugh, I don’t know.  The idea of you married to someone else and that man raising Lyra makes me sick.”

 

“I think you just have to decide whether you want this or not, Draco.  I want you, even with all your emotional baggage.  If you want me, we’ll make it work.  If you don’t, I’ll be sad, but I’ll focus on work and Lyra.  I won’t withhold Lyra from you if you don’t want to be with me.”

 

“Do you still want to marry me?”

 

Hermione was quiet for a moment.  She nodded at Draco.

 

“Sooner rather than later.  I don’t want to wait any longer,” he said.

 

“How soon?”

 

“This weekend.  We’ll invite our family and friends over and have a ceremony at the party.  We’ll celebrate our little family becoming a legal family.”

 

The Gryffindor part of Hermione that was brave and a bit rash was in favor of the idea.  The other part of Hermione thought maybe they were rushing, but she couldn’t bring herself to think of why they should wait.  She was ready and if Draco was as well, then nothing would make her happier than to marry this man in a few days time.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Look, Granger!  She’s walking by herself!” Draco said excitedly to his wife.

 

Hermione looked over from her desk to find Lyra carefully making her way from one piece of furniture to another.  She quietly walked over to Draco and took his hand.  Lyra was focused on her task and didn’t notice her parents’ awed gazes.  

 

“Malfoy, where’s the camera?” Hermione whispered.

 

“In the kitchen.  But if you go for it, you’ll miss this.”

 

Hermione squeezed her husband’s hand, acknowledging his wish for her to live in the moment.

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

Hermione watched her daughter digging holes in the garden of Helene Cottage, their home on the Malfoy Estate.  She heard the Floo whoosh.  A moment later, Draco came outside and wrapped his arms around Hermione.

 

“How was work?” she asked.

 

“Tiring.  There was an outbreak of dragon pox at the Ministry, so most of the Healers spent the day tending to that lot.”

 

When Lyra was only two months old, Hermione had tried to go back to work at Gringotts, but her heart wasn’t in her work.  Draco convinced her to work for Malfoy Holdings.  She started by learning the ins-and-outs of the business, mostly from Narcissa and usually while the baby slept beside her in a portable bassinet.  

Mother and son worked together to maintain the company, but Narcissa knew the work didn’t make him happy.  Meanwhile, Hermione was fascinated by the work the company was doing to integrate the Muggle world into the wizarding world.  Her understanding of the world she grew up in made her an incredible resource to the company.

 

Hermione and Draco spent many hours discussing the possibility of him leaving the company to pursue Healer training.  After a presentation to the board of Malfoy Holdings that earned Hermione a standing ovation, Draco finally spoke to Narcissa about his desire to work as a Healer.  Draco sat on the board of the company, but the day-to-day work was ceded to his mother and wife.

 

Healer training had been grueling, but Draco had never been more passionate about a course of study.  He’d graduated at the top of his class and was immediately hired by St. Mungo’s.  

 

“Daddy!” Lyra cried, running over to give him a big hug.

 

Draco scooped her into his arms.  “Did you have fun with Grandma Jean today?”

 

Lyra chatted happily to her father about her day with her grandmother, then decided to go back to playing in the garden.

 

“When should we tell her?” Hermione asked Draco.

 

“Soon.  I think she’ll notice your rounder abdomen.”

 

“It’s been easier this time around.  I wasn’t nearly as sick.”

 

“I know, love.”

 

Hermione looped an arm around his slim waist.  “I’m going to start supper.  Will you watch her for a few minutes?  She’s been enjoying the warm weather today.”

 

Draco sat on a bench watching the other love of his life while she dug like she expected to find a buried treasure.  Her light brown curls bounced around her shoulders as her grey eyes focused with single-mindedness on her task.  She had her mother’s determination, but her father’s temper, which often made her a challenging child.  Even so, Draco couldn’t help but enjoy her never-ending questions and wry observations.  

 

The stress of the day was melting away being home with the two people he loved most.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::    

 

Draco held his six-month old son as he slept, baby Orion oblivious to the excited shouts and exclamations of the children at the birthday party for Charlotte, daughter of Ginevra and Theodore Nott.  In five years, Ginny and Theo had grown their family from two to six.  Over that time, he and Theo had become friends once again.  

 

The day Theo had gone to the hospital to see Hermione, Malfoy had recognized the possibility of a match between the redheaded Harpy and the studious, family-centered orphan.  By giving them a few precious moments alone, Draco had gifted the couple with the opportunity they needed to get to know one another.  Not five months later, they were married and within a year of that fateful day in Hermione’s hospital room, Ginny was pregnant with their son Michael.  

 

Lyra skipped over to her father and cupped her hands over his ear.  “Can I sleep over tonight?  Mummy said it was fine if you said I could.”

 

Hermione looked over at her husband and smirked.  He winked at her.  

 

Ginny approached Draco and his children, motioning for him to give her the sleeping boy.

 

“We can keep Orion, too, if you two would like some time alone.” 

 

Draco raised an eyebrow at Ginny.  “He doesn’t sleep though the night yet,” he warned.

 

“We have four kids, Malfoy.  We’re up with someone at least part of every night.”

 

Draco chuckled.  “How can I say no?  Granger and I haven’t had any time alone since Orion was born.”

 

“Take your wife home and enjoy your evening.  We’ll bring the kids to you by lunch tomorrow.”

 

“You’re my favorite Weasley and my favorite Nott,” he said, kissing his son’s head.

 

“I know,” Ginny said with a grin, making her way to Theo through the crowd.

 

He found Hermione hugging their daughter and urging her to behave.  Draco kissed Lyra and the parents made their way to the Floo.  When they got back to their cottage, Hermione launched herself at Draco.  He caught her easily and met her kiss with his own.

 

“I’ve missed you,” she murmured as he kissed her neck.

 

“Gods, I’ve missed you, too.” 

 

Between their two children, Draco’s career as a Healer, and Hermione’s substantial work at Malfoy Holdings, the two often fell into bed exhausted.  They led a full life, but their responsibilities didn’t always leave time for romance.  

 

They made their way to their bedroom, a trail of clothes marking their path to the second story.  With great joy, Draco unhooked Hermione’s bra and threw it behind him.  Granger’s tits were spectacular, full and heavy from nursing Orion.  Her nipples were sensitive to his every touch.  He pushed her against the wall and fingered the sensitive orbs while he watched her breath catch.  He leaned down and sucked a nipple into his mouth, causing her to arch toward him.

 

Hermione fumbled with his pants until she was able to get them open and pushed them down his legs.  Draco kicked them off, while she shimmied out of her skirt.  Dropping to her knees, she took his cock in hand and licked pre-cum from the head.

 

“Fuck, Granger,” he growled, leaning against the wall for support.  Watching her worship his manhood from this angle was an erotic sight—from her bobbing head to the glimpses of her breasts swaying as she moved. Her smooth skin was luminescent in the waning light of the evening.  She moaned as she took him as deep as she could.

 

“Get up, love, or our night is going to end a lot sooner than I’d like.”

 

She slowly released him from her mouth and let him pull her to her feet.  They made their way the last few steps to the bed, Draco slapping her arse to hurry her, eliciting a giggle from his wife.  He laid on the bed.

 

“Can I return the favor?” he asked.  He loved when Hermione would straddle his face, allowing him to luxuriate in the tangy taste and feminine perfume of her pussy.  She answered by moving towards him and placing a leg on either side of his head.  He moved her so her wet slit was easily accessible to his mouth and lightly licked.

 

“Mmm, yes,” she murmured.  She gripped the headboard to allow her to move back and forth over his mouth.

 

His tongue found the tight bundle of nerves at the top of her cleft and began to gently flick it.  He snaked a finger between her legs and pushed it into her hot channel.  

 

“Oh God,” Hermione moaned.  She tried to hold herself still as Draco’s tongue began to press harder into her clit.  He added a second finger, pumping in and out of her desperate body.  When he sucked her bud into his mouth while flicking his tongue over it, a move that always made her crazy, she felt her orgasm come crashing though her body.

 

“Yes, Malfoy!  Merlin, yes!”

 

He eased his sucking as she came down from her high until he finally removed his mouth from her satisfied body.  She took a deep, shuddery breath and moved down his chest until she was straddling his painfully hard cock.  She rubbed her face over his, feeling her wetness over his mouth and chin.  

 

“That was magnificent, Mr. Malfoy.”

 

He gave her a smug grin and pushed her hips down to impale her.   Even after all the years they’d been together, it always took Hermione a moment to adjust to his size.  

 

“So tight,” he whispered to himself.  

 

She began to slowly rock, enjoying his hands exploring her backside.  He kneaded the firm globes in time to her movements.  Leaning over him to nick her clit over his pubic bone, he took the opportunity to suck a nipple into his mouth, causing her to whimper.  He pinched her other nipple, then took it into his mouth, getting a small taste of her milk.

 

“I’m going to come,” she warned him, grinding onto him.

 

“Come, Hermione!” Draco yelled, thrusting into her body.

 

She shrieked, then moaned as her orgasm made her cunt clench around her husband’s spurting cock.  Draco used his hands to move her hips over him to prolong his own orgasm.

 

“Oh, gods, Draco.  That was exactly what I needed.”  Hermione laid over her husband’s sweaty body, his arms tightly holding her against him.  

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::    

 

“Mother has asked us to take over Malfoy Manor.  Severus has a sabbatical next school year and they’d like to go on an extended tour of Asia.”

 

It had been seven years since the death of Lucius Malfoy and within the last year, Narcissa had begun seeing Severus Snape.  Draco had always admired the dour potions master and Hermione had warmed to him as he spent time with the family.  He adored Narcissa, not just for her delicate beauty, but for her keen mind and quick wit.  Draco had relayed to Hermione that Severus had been both surprised and impressed that the Malfoys had welcomed Hermione into their family and thought she was what the Malfoys needed to ensure their line didn’t die out due to “ridiculous pure-blood inbreeding”.

 

“It is a rather large home for one person,” Hermione acknowledged.  For some time, Narcissa had been dropping hints the family needed to move into the manor.  “Do you think she wants to live with us?”

 

“She said she’d take over the dowager cottage.  I believe the elves are redecorating it as we speak.”

 

Draco pulled her onto his lap, her head resting on his shoulder.

 

“Malfoy Manor has protection and preservation spells woven through the home’s foundation.  A Malfoy of Malfoy blood has to reside in the house for the spells to have any strength.  Between me, Lyra, and Orion, the house would have more stability than it’s had in centuries.”

 

“There will be four Malfoys of Malfoy blood in the house,” Hermione said in a quiet voice.

 

Draco’s arms tightened around his wife’s tense body.  “Then we’ll need the extra space.”

 

“Are you upset?  I know we didn’t plan this—“

 

“Hermione, stop.  I’m always nervous about you becoming pregnant after what happened with Lyra, but I love the kids more than anything.  Are you okay with this?”

 

“It’s scary, of course, but exciting, too.  At least Orion and the baby will be close in age.  Lyra’s going to love being a big sister again.”

 

Draco chuckled.  Lyra was such a little mummy, constantly redirecting her brother and teaching him the ways of the world.  Since both Draco and Hermione had been only children, they understood how lonely it could be to lack the companionship of other kids.  Their children would never have that experience and for that they were grateful.

 

“Right after we left Hogwarts I tried to imagine my life with the kind of witch I thought I should be with.  Even the thought of that future caused me to feel like I was being suffocated.  With you, I feel like I have choices and opportunities instead of duties and obligations.  Every time we’ve moved forward in our lives, things get better.  I have no doubt the same will happen when we welcome this little one.”

 

Hermione nodded into his chest, letting the safety and love of her husband envelop her.

 

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::    

 

Draco, Hermione, Lyra, Orion and Scorpius stood in the train station, waiting for the Hogwarts Express to take Lyra to school.  Draco teased Hermione that she’d be sorted into Slytherin, but he knew his girl was a Gryffindor at heart.  The ferocious way she guarded her brothers and defended what she thought was right, well, those were the hallmarks of the house of the brave.  Amongst the school’s older children, their Lyra looked so little, but Draco and Hermione knew she was more than ready to start school.  

 

Lyra fiercely hugged her little brothers, making Orion promise that he’d be a good big brother to Scorp.  Orion hugged his beloved sister with tears in his big brown eyes.  

 

Draco held Scorpius while Hermione embraced her daughter, mother whispering words of wisdom into her ear.  Lyra kissed her mum’s cheek and turned to her dad.  As a baby, Lyra had first bonded to Draco and over the years that bond had remained strong.  When she wanted reassurance, Lyra went to her father.

 

Hermione took Scorpius so Draco could say goodbye to his daughter.  

 

“Owl us when you get sorted.  Remember: any house but Hufflepuff.”

 

“Dad!  I thought you wanted me to be in Severus’ house.”

 

“You’ll do fine in any house, my brilliant daughter.”  Draco lowered his voice.  “Nana Cissa gave me this to give to you.  It’s the necklace she got when she started at Hogwarts and it’s very important to her.  She wanted you to have it.”

 

Draco showed his daughter the two-carat diamond solitaire on a platinum chain.  He knew Hermione would think it was too opulent for an eleven year old, and she would be right, but the necklace was a sweet gift from his mother and he wouldn’t deny her the happiness of sharing with her granddaughter.  

 

“Oh, Daddy, it’s so beautiful,” she whispered back.  “I’ll send her an owl tonight.”

 

The train whistled, alerting students to board.

 

“I love you, Lyra.  We have no doubt you’ll do wonderfully at school.”

 

The Malfoys gathered around Lyra, hugging her before she walked to the waiting train.  Draco buried his face in Hermione’s curls, willing himself to calm down as his little girl made her way to the train.  He felt Orion place his soft hand in his larger hand.  

 

“It’s okay, Daddy.”

 

Draco looked at Orion’s concerned face and smiled.  “I know, buddy.  We’ll all miss her, won’t we?”

 

The Malfoy family watched the train leave Platform 9 ¾ .  Draco held Orion’s hand while Hermione held Scorpius.  

 

“Grandma Jean and Grandpa Richard are waiting for us at their house,” Hermione said to her family.  “Grandma Jean promised she’d make blueberry pancakes for you two.”

 

“Yay!” the boys said, sad thoughts banished as they excitedly thought of visiting their grandparents.  

 

“Come on, love,” Hermione said to her husband.  She’d have to take care of him on this day they knew had been coming for many years.

 

He kissed Hermione and they made their way to the Apparition point, prepared to enjoy the day.