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A Dowry of a Single Galleon

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Lucius Malfoy rubbed the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger and, for the fifth time in as many minutes, regretted spoiling his son to the point of absurdity. The boy in question was pacing in front of the elder Malfoy's desk, desperation warring with rage on his pale, handsome face.

"Azkaban rotted your brain, Father," Draco finally sneered. "I can't believe that you would even entertain the idea of...of...following this edict! A Marriage Law! It's ludicrous!"

"If you would sit down long enough to read this," Lucius indicated the parchment spread on the desk before him, the official seal of the Ministry of Magic stamped in shimmering blue-green ink at the bottom. "You would see that we have no choice."

Draco threw himself into a chair and glared at his father. "I don't want to marry a half-blood or...or a Mudblood!" he snapped, his grey eyes stormy with anger. "Furthermore, I don't want to be married at all!"

"Draco..." Lucius started, warningly.

"Couldn't we move or something? Russia would be nice. Or even...America! Yes, America!" He smiled brightly, convinced that emigrating to the States would solve all their problems.

"Draco, it doesn't matter if you live in Utah or Uganda, this is a joint venture with all confederations of magic around the globe, to help rebuild the wizarding community! That folly of a war decimated our ranks." Lucius stood up, quite fed up with his recalcitrant son's attitude. "If you want to continue to be allowed to practice magic and not spend the rest of your life in Azkaban for defying this new Marriage Law, and trust me...a pretty boy like you would be enormously popular with inmates and guards alike...you'd better set forth to find yourself a half-blood or Muggle-born witch to marry!"

Draco's mouth had popped open in shock at his father's blunt tone. He colored fiercely as the elder wizard's words penetrated his fury. He looked so dejected that Lucius softened in compassion. He walked around the corner of his desk and lay a hand on Draco's slender shoulder.

"I know that it rankles and goes against everything I've ever imparted to you, but Draco, in these times, we must make concessions and sacrifices." He sighed, as Draco's expression hardened mutinously.

"But, Father..."

"No buts, Draco. You're twenty-one. You have to marry or we risk losing not only everything our family has worked centuries to accumulate, but your freedom as well. Surely, it won't be so terrible to find a pretty, empty-headed young woman to marry?"

Draco looked up at him, daring to hope. "You mean, I can choose my own bride?"

Lucius nodded. "You may, but only if you do so before your next birthday. If you haven't found one by then, the Ministry will choose one for you."

Draco had sudden visions of being betrothed to someone completely unsuitable, like one of those Patil sisters or, worse yet, Hermione Granger. He cringed at the very thought of it. At least, if he had a choice, he could pick a witch who would be easily controlled and as beautiful as possible for a Muggleborn.

He slumped back in the chair and looked up at his father's relieved face. "Fine. I don't like this and don't think for a minute that, once I'm shackled to the bitch, I'm not going to go out and shag every witch in the Northern Hemisphere!"

"Draco, I don't care if you shag them a half-dozen at a time, just find one to marry!"

*****

Three months later...

Flourish and Blotts was teeming with students buying their textbooks for the upcoming term at Hogwarts. Draco escaped to his favorite spot in the crowded bookstore, the second balcony overlooking the main floor. It was off-limits to all Hogwarts students; this was the floor where the more esoteric and prurient volumes were shelved.

With a quick look around, he selected a large book, bound in dark green dragon-hide. Innocent-looking enough. Inside however, every page depicted erotic illustrations of sexual acts that shocked even him, and he was no virgin. He was staring at a particularly lewd one, imagining his future, faceless wife in just this sort of position, when a familiar voice, a hated voice full of dour contempt, interrupted his pleasant fantasy.

"Malfoy."

Draco gritted his teeth, digging deep for non-existent patience. He turned slowly, leaving the book open and plainly visible. His lips curled up, sneering in pure reflex to her presence. Only that expression slipped, just a little, when he found himself facing Hermione Granger for the first time since they'd left Hogwarts, almost four years ago.

She'd grown up and out and Draco couldn't stop staring at her and he knew, subconsciously, that he must look quite the fool, with his mouth hanging open like he'd never seen a woman before. Four years had done wonders for Granger. Not much taller than she was at seventeen - she looked as if she'd just reach his shoulders - she had most definitely blossomed into an exceptionally pretty young woman. She was dressed simply in jeans and a snug, red jumper that showed off the plump, creamy tops of her breasts.

Time hadn't dulled her loathing for him though and he could see her brown eyes flashing with it. He managed to hitch his mouth up into a smirk and he narrowed his eyes, trying to focus on her pursed lips instead of the best set of tits he'd seen in years.

"Granger. I thought I smelled a Mudblood." He grinned as the dislike in her eyes intensified. He dipped the book in her direction and she looked down. Her face instantly flamed as she saw the erotic picture displayed on the page. Draco laughed.

"Still the timid little virgin, are we? What, Granger, can't find a pureblood wizard who'll have you?" he crowed, slamming the book shut and tossing it aside. It landed on the floor with a muted thump. The young witch managed to look affronted on the book's behalf.

Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and his eyes dropped immediately back to the delectable expanse of cleavage she unwittingly put on display. He licked his lips and leered at her. She shook her head in exasperation. "I actually came up here to say hello. I saw you walk past and I...well, it's been long enough that I thought perhaps you'd grown up and could carry on a decent conversation. I see now that I was gravely mistaken. Good day, Malfoy."

With a prim shake of her curly head, she spun on her heel and started back down the stairs. Draco took a single step forward and snagged her wrist in his hand. "Wait a minute, Granger. I'm not done with you."

The stairs were narrow and steep and Hermione wouldn't be able to pull away without risking a tumble. She settled for giving him her most scathing glare. "Let. Me. Go."

"Settle down, Granger. I'm not going to hurt you." Draco's slow smile promised that he'd do just precisely that, if left to his own devices. He tugged on her arm and she grudgingly took the two steps back up to the balcony. Once on level ground, she yanked her hand free and in a smooth motion he completely missed, since his eyes were still locked on her breasts, she had her wand out and tucked under his left ear.

Draco froze and slowly lifted his grey eyes to her brown ones. She smiled coldly. "It'll be a frigid day in hell before you get the jump on me again, Malfoy."

He was shaking in rage. "You'd know a little something about frigidity, wouldn't you, Granger?" The tip of her wand pressed into the soft hollow under his earlobe and he grimaced.

"I'm the one with the wand, Malfoy, and if I were you, I'd back away nice and slow and maybe I'll leave your bollocks attached."

He laughed, humorlessly. "If you're gonna hex my bollocks off, you're pointing in the wrong direction."

Again, she gave him that cold, bitter smile. "I've been told I'm the cleverest witch of my generation, Malfoy. I don't need to point my wand at something to make it vanish."

His stomach plummeted to the approximate location of his ankles and he narrowed his eyes in fury. Taking a step back, he raised his hands in surrender, wondering idly if he could reach his own wand in the time it would take her to utter a curse. He decided it wasn't worth the ample risk. He saw the hand holding her wand tremble, slightly, and he smiled cruelly.

"You're twenty-one, aren't you? And no ring to be seen." Another step back and he began to regain his equilibrium. "Weasley wouldn't have you? Oh, wait! He's betrothed to Lavender Brown, isn't he? Surely one of the other Weasley simpletons would take pity on you and ask for your muddy hand in marriage."

She was paling with every word and he forged on, the stinging words spilling forth now. "Let's review: Ron is betrothed, the twin birdbrains scored with Spinnet and Johnson, the long-haired one married that Delacour bint, Percy the Perfect Prat married Penny Clearwater..."

Hermione was shaking now, her eyes blazing in a face that was white with rage. Her reaction was more satisfying than anything he'd ever inspired from her before. "Isn't there another one? Plays with dragons?"

"Charlie." Her voice was tight and near tears, even though her eyes were still dry.

"Ah, yes! Charlie Weasley. Arguably the smartest of the bunch, since he fled half-way 'cross Europe to escape his family. I'm surprised he didn't claim you." Draco's smile was smug, since he knew full well that Charlie Weasley was unavailable.

Hermione blinked once and tears shimmered in her eyes. "Charlie just asked for Nymphadora Tonks. You know that; it was all over the Prophet," she snarled. "Plus, she's your family."

"So it was. Must've slipped my mind. And, sorry, we don't claim blood traitors as family," he said with distaste.

"You're a bastard, Malfoy."

Draco's eyes glittered dangerously. "No, Granger, my parents are most assuredly wed. I wonder who the Ministry will find for you? I hear MacNair's son Prentice is still looking for a mudblood to marry. Maybe I'll mention it to the Minister the next time Father has him over for dinner."

At the mention of the despised former Death Eater's name, Hermione felt the blood rush to her face and she couldn't hear over the roaring in her ears. With a cry of rage that was drowned out by the noise of the crowded bookstore, she drew her hand back to slap Draco.

In mid-swing, he grabbed her wrist and spun her around, knocking over a high stack of books and sending Hermione to the floor atop them. He half-crouched over her, pushing his face right up to hers, nose to nose, his fingers digging into the bones of her wrist. She recoiled from him and he blinked in surprise at the fear in her face.

"I let you get away with that in third year, Mudblood! No more! You try to assault me one more time and I'll see you in Azkaban!" he warned, twisting her wrist hard enough to make her cry out. "Say you're sorry or I'll break your wrist."

"I'm sorry!" she spat, kicking out at him. He dodged her foot and let her go, pulling out of range of her fists. A mocking smile graced his handsome face and he stared down at her, as she angrily swiped at the tears streaming down her face. For the briefest of moments, Draco felt...something. Something other than the hatred and resentment that had followed them through seven years at Hogwarts.

Shaking his head, he pushed those thoughts right out of his mind. He'd not let this insignificant little tart rattle him. He was a Malfoy, for the love of Merlin! If anyone should be rattled, it should be her!

"I'd say it was good seeing you, Granger, but we both know that'd be a lie." Draco stooped down and picked up the book of erotic pictures he'd tossed aside earlier. She watched him with dull fury. "This may come in handy some day."

He whistled to himself as he bounced down the steps, leaving behind an enraged Hermione Granger.

*****

In the short span of time that it took Draco to stop in Quality Quidditch Supplies and Florean Fortescue's for an ice cream, then Apparate home, he'd come to a decision that, for him, was bordering on deranged. But, the delicious irony of it appealed greatly to him.

And, really, she had turned out quite fetching. He could swallow his pride just long enough to keep her pregnant; once or twice a month should get the job done. With those magnificent tits, it wouldn't exactly be a hardship. He dropped his purchases at the foot of the stairs for the house-elves to carry to his room, then went in search of his parents.

Lucius and Narcissa were sitting in the conservatory, drinking tea and sharing the Evening Prophet. Draco stopped in the doorway and smiled brightly at them.

"I've made my choice, Father," he said, even as that niggling voice in the back of his head was telling him to slow the hell down. He squashed that niggling voice with his metaphorical bootheel as Lucius looked up in surprise. He exchanged a brief glance with his wife.

"Who have you selected, Draco darling? Do we know her?" Narcissa asked, setting aside the society pages. Draco's smile was full of arrogant self-confidence.

"I want Hermione Granger."

Chapter Text

10 Days Later...

Arthur Weasley flooed home at one-thirty in the afternoon, to the surprise of his wife, Molly. He rarely returned home in the middle of his workday and for a moment, Molly was disoriented at the sight of her husband standing in the sitting room, calmly brushing soot from his cloak. He smiled at her, a strained and nervous thinning of his lips.

“Ahh, Molly love! Where might I find Hermione?” he asked with forced joviality as she tossed aside the dishrag she was clutching in her hand.

“Arthur! What’s wrong? It’s...” she paused, looking up at the wall clock that showed the whereabouts of her entire family, including Harry and Hermione and the assorted wives and fiancées of her sons. “Well, you’re never home at this time of the day! Something’s happened, hasn’t it?”

With a soothing smile that didn’t quite do its job, Arthur pulled her into his arms, tucking her curly red head under his chin. He rocked her gently as she clutched at his cloak. Molly was easily rattled these days, since the war, and was never quite happy unless she knew that every member of her extended family was perfectly safe and sound.

To Arthur’s dismay, he was about to upend the lives of one of their adopted brood. There wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it, either. The news both saddened and frightened him, but it was his duty to put on a brave face for his family and help guide Hermione through what was certain to be trying times indeed.

“Hermione, Molly. Where is she?” he asked again, smoothing his hand over her plump bottom.

The meaning of his request, and the sorrow with which he delivered it, came to her immediately and she jumped back as if stung. “No! Oh, Arthur, please say it’s not what I’m thinking!” she cried.

“Molly, calm yourself...”

“Who is it? Tell me that at least!” Molly pulled out of his arms and planted both fists on her ample hips. She glared at him and while that fierce expression would normally have made him smile and surrender to her whims, he hadn’t time now to deal with it.

“Molly, please. Find Hermione. We have to be at the Ministry at two.” He nodded firmly and she grudgingly complied. As her footsteps faded up the stairs, Arthur sank down onto the sofa and put his head in his hands.

Within a few minutes, Hermione was clattering down the steps, followed by a tearful Molly. Arthur smiled at the girl, his heart clenching in his chest at the sight of her beautiful, happy face. He hated himself for what he was about to do.

Plastering a smile on his face, he rose to his feet. “Hermione, love! Good, good...you look just lovely today! Lilac is your color, isn’t it?” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together briskly.

Molly’s breath hitched in her throat and Hermione’s quizzical smile faded. “What’s wrong?” she asked, looking back at her friends’ mother. “Have I done something wrong?”

Arthur reached out and touched her shoulder, briefly. “Not at all. Have a seat, Hermione, I have something to tell you.” He waited until she’d seated herself on the sofa and looked up at him with fearful eyes.

“You’ve been spoken for, Hermione.”

Her eyes went blank for a moment, before heat flooded her face and her hand covered her mouth. She swung around to look at Molly, sitting beside her, rubbing one careworn hand over Hermione’s back.

“Y-you can’t be serious! Who?” she cried.

Arthur flushed and looked away, running one hand nervously through his sparse red hair. “I’ve been counseled against disclosing that information at the request of the young man’s family.” Even as he said it, he felt sick inside.

“Oh God...” Hermione groaned, Malfoy’s words to her in Flourish and Blott’s roaring in her head. 'I hear MacNair’s son Prentice is still looking for a Mudblood to marry. Maybe I’ll mention it to the Minister the next time Father has him over for dinner.'

Hermione remembered Prentice MacNair from her first year at Hogwarts; he’d been a seventh year at the time. Thin and haggard, like his father, he was a cruel, stupid man with a reputation for violence towards the girls he managed to coerce into his bed. He’d even cornered Angelina Johnson in Greenhouse 2 one year and would have probably assaulted her had Professor Sprout not come in at an opportune moment.

There was absolutely no way she’d consent to this. Her face betrayed her decision, for Arthur’s eyes clouded over with pain. He covered her trembling hands with one of his. “Once spoken for and the Ministry has approved, you are beholden to accept the offer.”

“Arthur...” Molly started, but his firm look quieted her.

Hermione’s eyes had filled with tears. “This can’t be happening...I always thought...I’d fall...in...” Before she could finish, she burst into tears and Molly gathered her in a comforting embrace.

Arthur’s shoulders slumped. She was upset now, but this was nothing compared to how she was going to feel in an hour’s time.

 

*****

 

The Office of Wizarding Social Services was on the fifth floor of the Ministry of Magic. Arthur and Hermione didn’t speak as he led her past several offices and closed doors, muted voices reaching her ears as people went on about their daily business, not caring that her life was skidding to a screeching halt.

Hermione had known it was inevitable. After the Marriage Law had been put into effect, just over two years ago, she was well aware that she’d have to be married soon or face the serious consequence of losing her right to practice magic. The Weasleys, with whom she’d lived after the death of her parents in a Death Eater attack during seventh year, had paired off quickly. George and Fred had married Alicia and Angelina mere days after the girls had graduated from Hogwarts. Percy married Penelope when Hermione had been a fifth year. Harry and Ginny were engaged, as was Ron and Lavender, both couples to be married within a month's time.

At the time, Hermione hadn’t given it much thought, because her friends’ relationships had nothing at all to do with the Marriage Law but mere coincidence of timing. None of them had been touched by the new Law’s archaic strictures.

Ron and Harry, upon finding out that she was leaving with Arthur to meet the man who had placed an offer for her, were horrified and had insisted on accompanying them. Arthur vetoed it, even going so far as to forbid either of the young men to leave the Weasley property. Grudgingly, they’d watched them Disapparate from the yard, the sun glinting off Harry’s glasses the last thing Hermione saw before she disappeared.

Now, her footsteps echoed hollowly as she followed Arthur into the Wizarding Social Services office, to find a thin, dark wizard waiting for them. He stepped forward, holding out his hand for Hermione to shake. She did, once, then pulled her hand back quickly, clasping both behind her back to shield her shaking.

“Miss Granger, I am Tolliver Reed, Marriage Contract Liaison. Please follow me.” He turned and strode away, not looking back to see if Hermione and Arthur obeyed. He paused before a closed door and then stepped to one side, reaching out to open it.

Hermione gasped in shock.

The two men seated inside looked up at her with identical, arrogant smirks. The younger man leaned back in his chair, shaking pale platinum hair out of his eyes. “Hello, Granger.”

Hermione swayed on her feet as Arthur Weasley’s hand came up to steady her. She couldn’t hide the revulsion on her face and their smiles slipped a notch. “Wha...Draco Malfoy! What is the meaning of this?”

“Isn’t it obvious, Granger?” Draco drawled, his gaze insolently traveling over her body. “I’m asking for your hand in marriage.”

Lucius stood and held out his hand to first Hermione, then Arthur. “Please have a seat, Miss Granger, Arthur. We’ll be here for some time, negotiating the contract.”

The sound of his voice shook Hermione out of her stupor. Straightening her shoulders bravely, she tossed her hair back and fixed Lucius with a chilly glare. He raised an eyebrow, amused at the former Gryffindor’s lion-like courage. His abundant doubts regarding Draco’s impulsive choice of bride lessened in the face of her impassioned nerve. He was an intimidating man and she faced him now with admirable courage.

“I have absolutely no intentions of marrying that...that...ferret!” she snapped, narrowing her eyes dangerously at Draco. His cheeks flushed angrily and he opened his mouth to speak, but his father’s hand on his shoulder silenced him. The older wizard smiled faintly at Hermione and she was surprised to see a glint of regret in his pale eyes.

“Please, Miss Granger, sit with us and let us find a way to make this marriage favorable for both you and Draco,” Lucius said, as he walked around the table and held out a chair for her. Hermione, stunned by this man she’d despised for so long, not to mention his horrid only child, sat down slowly, Arthur and Reed also taking chairs at the table.

The liaison pulled a thick, rolled parchment out of his pocket, along with a black, Self-Correcting quill and a bottle of indigo ink. He smiled pleasantly as he unrolled the parchment. At the top, in an ornate script, were their names – Draco Black Malfoy and Hermione Jean Granger. Hermione blinked at it, realizing with a sinking heart that this travesty was truly happening.

She looked up at Draco to find him watching her closely, a frown marring his handsome features. The instant he caught her eyes though, his pensive expression changed and he leered at her, letting his gaze fall lasciviously to her chest. Hermione reddened and turned away as he chuckled.

Arthur reached over and took her hand in his and together, they listened to the terms of the contract.

 

*****

 

It was well past dark when Arthur and a mentally exhausted Hermione Apparated into the front yard of the Burrow. The lights in the ramshackle house glowed merrily and they could hear laughter and the babble of familiar and well-loved voices. Arthur pushed open the door and stepped aside so Hermione could enter before him. As abruptly as if a switch had been thrown, the noise died and every face in the room turned to look at them. Molly’s compassionate gaze and tear-filled eyes were Hermione's undoing and she threw herself into the woman’s open arms, sobbing brokenly.

Dimly, she could hear the uproar that followed, Ron and Harry’s voices loudest of all, then finally Arthur roared, “Silence!” and the angry voices faded. In contrast, Hermione’s weeping seemed unnaturally loud. Molly cuddled her close, whispering soothing words in her ear.

When the room finally quieted, Harry’s soft voice cut through the tension. “Who is it, Arthur?”

Arthur’s sigh was heartfelt. “Draco Malfoy.”

There was a loud crash; Alicia screamed. Hermione and Molly sprang apart to find Ron standing over the overturned kitchen table, his face purple with rage. “I’ll kill that sonofabitch first!” he screamed. Fred and George were on either side of their volatile younger brother, pulling him away as Lavender flew to his side, tears of her own streaming down her face.

Hermione pulled away from Molly and went to Ron. He stared at her with bleak, angry eyes and she gathered him into a hug. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Ron, it’ll be fine,” she murmured over and over.

“He hates you, Hermione! You can’t marry him, you can’t!” he pleaded, his eyes blurred with tears. “We can’t let it happen! Harry, do something!”

He turned to Harry, who was watching them sadly. Although Harry’s life with Ginny had come about long before the Marriage Law had gone into effect, he was fully aware of the terms of the basic contract. All pureblood witches and wizards must offer for a half-blood or Muggle-born before the age of twenty-two or face punishments that included a life-long ban on the use of magic and a term in Azkaban. In counterpoint, non-purebloods offered a marriage contract were obligated to accept, on Ministry approval, at risk of similar strictures. The subsequent marriage must be consummated within forty-eight hours or it would be considered breached, again at risk of severe penalty.

One point in Hermione’s favor, he hoped, was the right to add terms, monetary and otherwise, to the contract, to be negotiated by the parents or guardians of the betrothed. Arthur would’ve been sure to take good care of Hermione. The contract would have been reviewed by a Ministry official and deemed fair and equitable prior to acceptance.

Yet, the contract wouldn’t ensure her a loving partnership with a wizard who cared for her. Especially not if that wizard was Draco Malfoy.

Harry sighed. “Hermione, you know that we will always be here for you and if Malfoy so much as looks at you wrong, there’s nothing in that contract that says we can’t beat the unholy fuck out of him.”

“Harry!” Molly snapped, even though the ghost of a smile curved her mouth.

The tension broke as the twins roared with laughter. Hermione looked up at Ron and then at Lavender, pulling her into a tight hug.

This newest blow to the extended Weasley family would be weathered and they would survive, just as they’d survived the war with Voldemort. She was strong, too; she’d lost her parents to that monster and she’d survived, with the love and support of this houseful of Weasleys. And Harry. And the women who’d fallen in love with them.

Perhaps...just perhaps, she could give Draco a taste of what it meant to be loved like this.

Squaring her shoulders, she smiled brilliantly at her friends, who basked in that smile like daisies in sunlight. Yes, that’s what she’d do. She’d just love him. He wanted her sexually, that much was obvious. He’d watched her today with hunger in his eyes, and she could use that hunger against him. She could show him that being married to her wasn’t going to be a piece of cake nor would she just tumble into bed with him to be used and discarded. If he wanted her in his bed, then he’d have to give of himself in return. He’d have to love her too.

It would be the last thing Draco Malfoy would expect from his new bride.

Chapter Text

It was the single, most uncomfortable afternoon in Hermione Granger's young life.

She sipped perfectly-brewed Darjeeling from vintage French china and willed her trembling hands to still long enough to set the priceless teacup and saucer back on the table without dropping them. When the cup reached its destination, whole and unharmed, she breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief, which was mirrored by a jittery Narcissa Malfoy.

Hermione smiled at her host and hostess, albeit nervously. Lucius Malfoy and his wife were every bit as uptight as she, sitting stiffly side by side on a blue velvet loveseat, watching her with the air of scientists studying a previously undiscovered life form, thrust suddenly and most unexpectedly into their midst. She had the distinct impression that they were waiting for her to do something unforgivably crass, just so they could whip out the marriage contract and rip it to shreds, while showing her to the door.

Draco, on the other hand, lounged with loose-limbed grace beside her, in the matching loveseat facing his parents, looking thoroughly and irritatingly amused by the whole thing. He watched Hermione with a single-minded intensity, until she felt twitchy and damp with perspiration. For the third time in as many minutes, she slanted a glare at him. He certainly wasn't making this any easier, not with his eyes boring a hole right through her fashionable cashmere twinset.

Lucius shifted in his seat, uncrossing his legs, only to re-cross them the other direction. Narcissa flinched at his sudden movement and smiled brightly at nothing in particular. Hermione started to speak but froze when she felt Draco's long fingers teasing the soft hair at her nape. She pulled away, trying to make the motion look natural instead of like her skin was about to crawl right off her body. But she was brought short by a sharp tug; he'd wrapped a single curl around his finger and was holding her firmly in place. To pull away would cause a scene. She fumed silently and wished she were in the safety of the Burrow and Molly Weasley's motherly embrace.

Lucius was the first to speak, looking greatly pained by the process. "So. Miss Granger, Draco tells us that you are currently working with one of the Weasley boys. Ahhh...I'm not sure of his name..."

"Bill." Hermione winced at the sound of her strained voice. She smiled, hoping that would cover up her anxiety. "He's a Curse-breaker for Gringott's."

Light dawned in the elder Malfoy's pale eyes. "I see. I believe I've seen him there. Long red hair?"

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Draco's fingers had loosened on her hair and the tips were now moving rhythmically over the strip of skin between her hairline and the edge of her sweater. She couldn't suppress a shiver.

"Do you curse-break as well?" Lucius asked, leaning forward slightly. Curse-breakers were always a welcome addition to any wizarding business. "Perhaps I could find a way to utilize your talents in my own ventures."

Hermione stalled for time by picking up her teacup, causing Narcissa to hold her breath in tense fear. She sipped the sweet, milky liquid, then met Lucius's eyes. He gazed back at her with an open expression. Not quite friendly or kind, but he wasn't slavering like a rabid dog and she was a tasty morsel to be devoured either. Things were looking up.

"I haven't the talent for it that Bill has...he's been curse-breaking for years now...but I am, under his tutelage, developing my skills." She settled back on the loveseat, only to find that Draco had scooted gradually closer and his arm now rest just above her shoulders, his fingers grazing the curve of her arm. The cup rattled on the saucer, spilling amber droplets of tea onto the surface.

She hazarded a glance at him. He grinned, well aware of her growing discomfort. Lucius was nodding thoughtfully.

"I would certainly be interested in speaking with you further, Miss Granger, about performing curse-breaking for my company," he said, with a quiet little smile.

Hermione frowned. "I don't know...I would, of course, still need the advanced training that Bill Weasley can give me."

"Naturally. I'm sure an arrangement can be made with Mr. Weasley, in exchange for your services. We can discuss it more in depth after the wedding."

Narcissa perked up at Lucius's mention of the upcoming wedding. "Miss Granger, I'd like to set up some appointments for us...seamstress, florist, caterer, that sort of thing. We need to start immediately, if the wedding is indeed going to be in three months' time." Narcissa looked at her husband and he nodded in confirmation. She huffed in irritation.

"Though I do have to protest, Lucius! Three months simply isn't long enough to plan a society wedding!" Narcissa complained, as Hermione opened her mouth to protest.

Draco beat her to it. "Why can't we just go before a magistrate? It isn't like this is a love match. I'm just in it for the sex. Hopefully, lots of it." He leered at Hermione.

"Draco!"

"You arrogant little prat!"

"Son, honestly..."

Hermione scooted as far away from him as she could, pressing herself into a corner of the loveseat, blinking furiously against the mortified tears that threatened to spill over.

Lucius stood up, glaring thin-lipped down at his son. "Would you accompany me to my study, Draco?"

With a petulant glare at Hermione, Draco stalked after his father, leaving Narcissa to stare mutely at a miserable Hermione. She sighed, feeling sorry for the pretty young woman. She wasn't at all the uncouth creature Draco had led them to believe she was. Yes, she was Muggleborn, but that didn't necessarily equal inferior in Narcissa's mind. She hadn't the prejudice against Muggleborns that Lucius and Draco had.

Instead, what Narcissa found before her was a brilliant and talented young witch, terrified and trying valiantly to hide it, in the truest Gryffindor fashion. And she was adorable, really. Not common or homely in the least. Unusual, perhaps. She had a truly spectacular quantity of chestnut hair that looked as if it would be untamed and frizzy if not for the fact that it was scraped back into a tight French twist. Narcissa had just the potion to ease those bushy waves into soft, natural curls. Not that she'd needed it herself, but Gemma Bulstrode had begged her to formulate one for her daughter, Millicent, who had hair that had defied every over-the-counter preparation they'd used to tame it.

And Narcissa Malfoy was quite gifted at potions making.

As Hermione turned her head to the window, looking pensively out at the gardens, Narcissa took the time to study her more closely. Not beautiful, no. But it didn't take a great leap of logic to see why Draco was so desperate to get her into his bed. From her flushed cheeks and baby-smooth complexion to the surprisingly voluptuous curves clad in demure pink cashmere and charcoal wool, Hermione Granger was every inch a sensual and tempting young woman and Narcissa couldn't imagine a more perfect physical candidate for Draco's wife. Not to mention the fact that she was intelligent, formidably so, and as well-bred as any pureblood witch. She'd not embarrass the Malfoy name.

Then there was the fire that burned in this young woman's dark eyes every time she looked at the younger Malfoy...well, it may be hate now, but that kind of passion could very well lead to love. Of that, Narcissa was experienced, having thoroughly loathed Lucius Malfoy upon first sight. And Draco was his father's son, through and through. Charming when it suited his volatile moods and possessing a lush sexuality almost obscene in one so young.

It was only going to be a matter of time seeing which of these two children would tame the other first.

In feminine solidarity, Narcissa was betting on this young witch before her.

With a firm nod to herself, Narcissa stood and smiled down at Hermione, feeling much more herself now that she'd had the time to study the other witch and formulate an opinion. "Miss Granger dear, would you like to see a little more of the house? You and Draco will have your own wing, of course, after the wedding, but for now I thought you might like to see the other public rooms and such."

Hermione took a deep, steadying breath and smiled graciously at Narcissa, whose opinion of her rose yet another notch. "Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy, that would be splendid. Your home is magnificent and I'm sure I'll be very ha-happy here."

She was obviously unconvinced of that fact, but refused to show the older witch any weakness. She lifted her head proudly and Narcissa nodded approvingly. "I don't doubt, Miss Granger, that if you allow it to be so, you can find happiness here. I did."

Narcissa's simple words were not lost on Hermione. Open oneself to love and it will come. Hermione only wondered if Draco Malfoy was capable of the emotion. Her earlier, naive resolution, to force Draco to love her by being loved himself, came rushing back to her in the face of Narcissa's modest plea. Suddenly, the looming threat of her wedding wasn't so menacing as it had been previously and in fact, she couldn't deny a little thrill of excitement at the prospect of the lavish ceremony Narcissa had expressed interest in during lunch.

With the threads of a newfound respect and friendship slowly budding between them, the two witches left to explore the spacious manor house.

 

*****

 

"Sit down, Draco."

Draco, well aware that he had crossed one of his father's many invisible lines of what he considered good behavior, slunk over to a comfortable leather club chair and slumped into it. "I suppose I should apologize," he said sulkily.

Lucius paused for the briefest of moments, then continued to pour himself and his son generous measures of Scotch. He handed Draco a glass, then sat in the chair opposite of him. "Well, yes. Just not to me."

Draco frowned, his lips curling in a familiar sneer. "It's just Granger. She's certainly not wasting her time pretending this is anything other than what it is."

Lucius took a long sip of his drink and closed his eyes against the beginnings of a fresh headache. "And exactly what is it, Draco? Remember, before you answer that, you came to us and told us you wanted this girl. I was hoping you would think with something other than your penis when choosing an appropriate wife."

Draco's cheeks went violently pink and he glared at Lucius as he gulped the Scotch then promptly spluttered as it burned a path down his throat. Lucius raised an amused eyebrow. "Do be careful, son. That Scotch is over eighty years old and damn near worth more than you."

Wiping his mouth with a monogrammed handkerchief, Draco smirked hatefully. "I don't doubt that. You always did place more value on your possessions." As soon as he said the words, Draco looked abashed. "F-father...I-I didn't..." he stuttered.

But Lucius held up a hand, forestalling his words. "Don't. Don't take back what you so obviously meant. And, I'm going to have to agree with you. I have placed more value on material belongings than I have in the two people who happen to mean more to me than any houseful of worldly goods ever could."

Draco took another, now cautious, sip of his drink and looked down at his lap. Lucius stared fondly at his spoiled son's gilded hair. "I have made mistakes, Draco. Horrifying, painful mistakes. I did you and your mother a grave disservice by following the teachings of someone blinded by irrational hate, not just for Muggles, but for one man alone."

"Dumbledore."

"Dumbledore. While I don't necessarily agree with his...radical teaching methods, I do see now that he has had only the best of intentions when it comes to his efforts to unite wizardkind. That lack of unity is what has truly divided us, first at Hogwarts, then later in our adulthood. Voldemort exploited that disunity and used it to get back at Dumbledore and later, Harry Potter."

Draco sighed. He hated these talks, hated when his father admitted that maybe, just maybe, he had been wrong all these years. It made him face frightening and uncomfortable questions about his own past behavior. The memory of Hermione's tears, torrents of them in the years since they'd first faced off over a broomstick in second year, made him grit his teeth in anger. Anger at himself for causing them, anger at her for taking it as long as she did and for finally rising above his petty and vicious behavior, to be the bigger person. The better person.

Lucius closely watched Draco and smiled softly to himself. This girl, this pretty little Muggleborn witch, was definitely the one, despite Draco's protestations that it was only going to be a marriage of physical gratification. The attraction between them was tangible and eloquent and Lucius suspected it had always been so. It was at a dangerous point right now, with Hermione's dislike so blatant and Draco's desire for her burning so hot. His son had hardly been able to take his eyes off her from the minute she'd walked through the door.

Not quite knowing what to expect, having only interacted with the girl during the folly of battle, Lucius was pleasantly shocked to find that she was truly a lovely and gracious young woman and he had found himself amused by Draco's clumsy attempt at seduction. She'd remained poised to the very last comment and only then had Lucius seen angry tears shimmering in her eyes and felt the need to step in and have a talk with Draco.

"It's natural to desire her, Draco. She's an exceptionally...alluring young woman," Lucius ventured, sipping from his glass.

Jealousy flared in Draco's eyes for a millisecond and Lucius nearly laughed aloud. "She's okay, I guess. She has nice tits." Draco smiled suddenly to himself.

Lucius covered up a snort of laughter with the back of his hand. "Indeed. The arse isn't to be sneered at either."

Draco's mercurial mood shifted yet again. "You were looking at her arse?" he snapped.

"Only with the most impartial of interest. It's not often that I see witches in Muggle clothing," he replied blandly.

Draco's stormy eyes narrowed. "She's mine."

"Of course, son." Lucius set his glass on the small table between the two chairs and leaned forward. "Then let me give you one piece of advice, Draco. Treat her well and she'll be yours forever. Mistreat her and she can make the rest of your life miserable. And you'll get no sympathy from me."

"Have I made a mistake, Father?" Draco whispered, staring down at his hands, still wrapped around his now-empty glass.

Lucius sat back and smiled. "Now is the time to decide. There is a short grace period in which the contract can be broken, so if you are in the least bit unsure if you want this woman in your life, then decide now. But choose wisely, Draco. There aren't many witches around who could challenge you as I believe this one will."

Draco nodded slowly, then stood up, placing his glass on the table. "I'll make my decision before she leaves the house today."

"So be it."

 

*****

 

Hermione covered her mouth with one hand, staring with speechless wonder at the garment.

Narcissa ran one bejeweled hand over the creamy silk bodice. "Lovely, isn't it?"

"I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life." Stepping forward, Hermione touched the delicate beading encrusting the flowing skirt. "It must've cost a fortune."

"Oh, it did. My father ranted for months afterward, but nothing less would've satisfied him. And the look on Lucius's face when I walked down the aisle was more than worth it," Narcissa said as she gazed fondly at her wedding dress. The priceless garment was on display inside a glass cabinet, along with a voluminous, gauzy veil, also scattered with tiny, twinkling gems.

"You must've looked like a princess in it."

Narcissa smiled, amused. She was growing fonder of this girl by the minute. "Every woman should have the dress of her dreams, Hermione. And we will find yours and trust me, when Draco sees you in it, you'll have nothing to worry about."

Her meaning was crystal clear and Hermione blushed. She'd not tried to think beyond the ceremony itself; the idea of being in Malfoy's bed, at his mercy, terrified her. She wasn't about to deny the attraction she felt for him, even though it was tangled with other, more conflicting emotions. And she wasn't a stranger to the mechanics of the act. Her parents had been most pragmatic when it came to educating their daughter on the facts of life and of course, Hermione spent plenty of time in the library, reading about the science of it. None of that was useful in the face of the reality of sex.

She blushed suddenly as she thought of the book Draco had been perusing at Flourish and Blotts. A book of exotic sexual positions. A wizarding Kama Sutra. Had he bought it? The idea was electrifying. If he had, would he expect her to...read it? Or perform the positions within its pages?

Hermione found herself hoping that he had purchased it.

"I was thinking, dear, that we'd go to Paris for your gown. I know a brilliant designer there - her mother made this gown - and I'm sure she'll design something perfect for you," Narcissa was saying and Hermione smiled.

"That sounds wonderful, I'd like that very much." She turned to Narcissa as the other witch closed the cabinet door and led her out of the huge closet. "I do have money of my own...my parents provided well for me, so I can pay for..."

"Nonsense! You keep your money safe, Hermione. Every woman needs her own nest egg, although you'll be very well-provided for here. Isn't that part of the marriage contract anyway?" Hermione nodded mutely.

"Then it's final. We'll go to Paris as soon as possible and meet with Madame Annelle. She'll just be overjoyed when she sees what I'm giving her to work with." Narcissa smiled impishly. "If you don't mind my saying so, dear, you do have a spectacular figure."

Hermione blushed furiously, but couldn't help the pleased little smile. "My mum was curvy."

Narcissa bit her bottom lip. It was no secret that Hermione's parents had been murdered by Death Eaters and only by a stroke of good fortune, if it could be called that, Lucius was in Azkaban at the time and was not responsible for the heinous act. In fact, it was that very murder, along with several others involving Draco's fellow students that had finally convinced Lucius of the folly of Voldemort's quest. Her husband had felt the winds of change and being the practical man he was, changed along with them. His decision to sell out to the Order of the Phoenix had set the war on a committed path and it had taken Harry Potter mere weeks to defeat the Dark Lord once and for all.

Even the wizards who had believed in his teachings had breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally over and they could safely return to normalcy and a life devoid of fear and oppression.

With a gentle touch to Hermione's shoulder, Narcissa smiled. "We'll find you a dress that would do your parents proud, my love. There won't be a more beautiful bride in all of England."

Hermione met Narcissa's pale blue eyes and relaxed for the first time since she'd walked into Malfoy Manor.

"There you are. I should've known Mother would be swooning over frilly clothes, but you, Granger? I didn't think you noticed such things, unless it was in a book," came a familiar drawl and Hermione stiffened anxiously. Narcissa gave Draco a stern look as he walked into his parents' lavish bedroom and sprawled onto the wide, silk-draped bed.

Hermione took a deep breath, as mother and son watched her. She had the instinctive feeling that this was some sort of test, with different answers for both Narcissa and Draco. And she'd be damned if she'd fail. She fixed Draco with a flirtatious smirk and was amused to see him react to it almost instantly. His eyes narrowed and he looked at her with hungered ferocity. His stare was so full of lust, even Narcissa found herself blushing.

"Your mother was graciously showing me some of her beautiful clothing, especially her wedding gown. And for your information, Mr. Smarty Pants, I happen to love beautiful things." With that, she arched an eyebrow at him and let her gaze travel slowly over his reclining form. Draco returned the look with one equally as torrid and Narcissa turned away, to fiddle with the bottles and potions on her vanity.

"Beauty isn't always as beauty does, Granger," Draco said, his mother's presence forgotten.

Hermione pretended to consider that. "Perhaps. Just as beauty can be found in the plainest of packages."

His smile was indulgent. "Fortunately, that's not something the Malfoy men have ever had to worry about. We're attracted to only the most beautiful of...packages." Narcissa smiled to herself, amused by his flowery turn of phrase. Maybe there was hope for Draco yet.

Hermione flushed at his meaning. Was it possible that he found her attractive? Pretty, even? All those years of nasty remarks about her appearance were hard to forget, but he was looking at her now with a purely masculine appreciation and she preened a little under his regard.

While they stared at each other, practically devouring each other with their eyes, Narcissa slipped out of the room and down the hall. She met Lucius coming up the stairs. Smiling with a giddy rush of love for her man, she melted into his surprised embrace.

"And what's brought this on, my darling?" he murmured against her lips.

"All those rampant young hormones...if I could bottle that for a love potion, I'd be a rich woman," she laughed.

"You're already rich, you naughty wench. Are you never satisfied?" Lucius frowned suddenly. "You left them in our room? We may never get the bed back."

Narcissa linked her arm in his and smiled sweetly. "Oh, never you worry. Hermione's not ready for that, not yet."

He raised his eyebrows, startled. "You discussed it?"

"No, of course not! It's a feeling. I think she wants to make him suffer a little first. She's quite the romantic," she said as they turned and walked back down the stairs.

"Someone should make the little git suffer. He's far too cocky for his own good."

"Well, I think Draco's met his match."

 

*****

 

"Kudos to you, Granger."

Hermione frowned quizzically at him. "What do you mean?"

Draco sat up, stretching lithely, his pale blue dress shirt straining across his chest. Hermione's cheeks deepened to a darker pink. "I think my parents like you more than they do me."

She smirked. "Finally figured out what a prat you are, have they? So glad I could be of service."

"Oh, you'll be of service, Granger. Soon," he promised with a lewd smirk.

Hermione laughed aloud. "Is that so? Well, I can promise you one thing, Mr. Malfoy. You have three months to wait, so if I were you, I'd get well acquainted with your hand." With a satisfied little smile, she turned away and walked to the door, which Narcissa had closed after her. She didn't hear Draco's footsteps on the plush carpet until he was only inches from her back.

She was propelled into the door and her breath left her in a rush. Bracing her palms on the heavy oak frame, Hermione tried to find the leverage to escape, but Draco pinned her to the door with the length of his body. His breath was hot on her cheek and she shivered, this time in undeniable excitement.

Draco took her hips in both hands and dragged her back against his pelvis, his erection nestling into the cleft of her bottom and he cursed the wool skirt she was wearing, despite how it fit her with admirable perfection. "If you think for one moment that I'm going to wait three months to have you, Granger, you're insane," he growled in her ear.

Taking a chance, Hermione pushed back against him, rubbing the full curve of her arse over his hardness and was rewarded with a distressed groan. Draco's hand moved higher and over her belly, even sliding under the edge of her pink sweater, dragging the cashmere away from her skin. That first touch of his fingers on her skin was shocking; they were cool against her overheated flesh and she could feel every light caress like a sizzling brand.

Hermione turned her head to one side, baring her neck, and Draco pressed his mouth to the juncture of her shoulder. He didn't kiss her, but merely rubbed his lips over the smooth, warm surface. Hermione couldn't stop the tiny moan that tumbled out and she felt him smile triumphantly against her skin. "Draco."

She turned in his arms, leaning back against the door as he pulled her between his thighs. Automatically, she pressed her hands against his chest, feeling the rapid thump of his heart and the heat that poured off him. He felt amazing; hard muscle shifted under her fingers as she smoothed the fabric of his shirt. She looked up and gasped at his hungry, platinum stare. She hadn't counted on her own response to his blatant desire, but if she was going to capture his love, she needed to be firm in her conviction.

"Draco, let me go." She pushed on his chest for good measure.

"You don't want me to." He looked as surprised by that fact as she did.

Hermione, determined to enter into this relationship with full honesty, nodded slowly. "No, I really don't. Right now, you feel better than anything I've ever touched. But, I have my reasons."

Draco, shocked by her candor, pulled away, giving her a skeptical frown. "And those are?"

"Well," she started, feeling a hot blush stealing over her cheeks. "I'm a virgin."

The speculation in his eyes flared into lust and Hermione felt scorched under his feral gaze. "Really? Forgive me, Granger, for thinking that...I wouldn't be your first."

She smiled. "You are. You will be. But, I want to wait until our wedding night. We have to consummate it within forty-eight hours anyway, so we might as well make it mean something. Something special."

Draco, despite his hunger for her and the raging erection he was currently sporting, couldn't help but agree. He pulled away from her, reluctantly. "Okay. I'm not a totally insensitive git. I can see how that would be...momentous." With a groan, he turned away, hardly able to bear the sight of her without having her in his arms.

Hermione took a single step and pressed herself to his back, her breasts flattening against him as she trailed one hand over his hip. He shuddered. "After that, Draco, I'm yours. To do with however you desire. And if I recall correctly, you have a certain book in your possession that might...inspire you to greatness."

She placed a kiss in the center of his back and trailed her fingers over his thigh before pulling away. Draco heard the bedroom door open, then close, yet he stood there silently with clenched fists, willing himself not to chase her down the hall and fuck her right there on the stairs for his parents and the house-elves to see.

A smug grin curved his lips. So, Hermione Granger was not only a virgin, but his virgin and she was all but promising him free rein over her body on their wedding night and every night thereafter. He'd not imagined that she'd be so willing to share his bed and the idea that she was willing and eager to do so was heady stuff indeed.

He'd aspire to greatness all right. He'd make it a night she'd never forget for the rest of her life.

Chapter Text

Draco slumped on the bottom step of the grand staircase, glaring sullenly at his mother and her. Narcissa, dressed in a fashionable cream-colored ensemble, her pale hair swept up into an intricately woven twist, was standing in the middle of the vast foyer issuing instructions to the mob of house elves milling around what looked like a month's worth of luggage.

"I thought you were just going to Paris for the weekend," he whined, as yet another house elf trundled past, lugging a steamer trunk that was at least half again its size. Narcissa walked over and patted him on the head with a gloved hand, then smoothed the blond fringe out of his eyes. Peevishly, he jerked his head away, feeling distinctly out of sorts. Narcissa was unaffected by his mercurial mood and merely brushed off his fit of temper.

"Don't be cross, darling. We'll be back on Monday." She turned to look at Hermione, who was trying vainly to reason with the house elves arranging her own meager collection of suitcases. The elves were giving her suspicious looks, as if she were mentally deficient for even suggesting that they needn't wait on her hand and foot, and went on about their business. "She's quite independent, your bride-to-be. I do think you've met your match in Miss Granger, Draco."

He snorted and sent Hermione a look that was full of chauvinistic lust. "We'll see how independent she is when I have her shackled to the bed for a month straight. She'll learn her place soon enough."

Narcissa's laughter was indulgent. "Oh, darling, so like your father! There now, you! That one is empty...put it with the others," she called out to an elf balancing three round hatboxes on his head.

Draco frowned. "Empty? Mother, why are you taking empty luggage?"

"They won't be empty when we return, love. I'm not just shopping for one anymore, you know," Narcissa said slowly, as if Draco were being particularly dense. Hermione weaved her way through the pile of baggage, looking harried and near tears.

"They won't listen to a word I'm saying! I won't have them slaving for me! It's...it's inhumane!" she cried, both fists planted on her hips. "Draco, don't just sit there like a dolt! Do something!"

Narcissa covered a smirk with one hand and looked expectantly at her son. He leaned back on the stair, his long legs crossed at the ankles. He gave Hermione a leisurely smirk. "Have I told you yet, Granger, just how thoroughly shaggable you look today?"

His arrogant drawl accomplished the desired task; house elves forgotten, Hermione blushed prettily and gave him an exasperated glare. Draco lowered his attention to the cleavage offered up for display by the neckline of her dress. Frowning in annoyance, she kicked his foot. "I'm up here, you prat!"

"Too bad." But he raised his eyes to hers and they softened, just a little. "The house elves are happy, Hermione. This is what they do and all the spew-campaigning won't change that. They won't listen and Father will just tell you to give it a rest. He's already lost one house elf to your pal Potter, do you really want to get on his bad side by liberating all of them?"

"Dobby's happy now that he's gone from here and it's S.P.E.W.!" she corrected him in her snottiest tone of voice.

Draco's response was to roll his eyes heavenward. "Mum, while you're in Paris, would you be a darling and stop by that quaint little shop on the Rue de la Henri and pick up one of those clever leather whips that one uses on rebellious wives-to-be?" He raised his eyebrows at the intended wife-to-be.

Hermione gave him a look of disgust and Narcissa turned a delightful shade of pink and pinched Draco on the ear. "You aren't supposed to know of such places, young man. Ahh, finally, the carriages!"

As Narcissa hurried back over to the gathered house elves to give last-minute instructions, Draco reached out and grabbed the hem of Hermione's dress, a slim-fitting sheath in a shade of pale pink that made her skin glow with a warm light. She allowed him to tug her closer, then yelped as he pulled her onto his lap.

"Draco, stop! I swear, you're the grabbiest man I've ever known!" But even as she said it, she leaned into his embrace, turning her head to the side, so that his lips landed on her cheek. He growled in frustration and caught her chin in his fingers. She smiled at him, a saucy little grin so unlike the serious, bookish girl he'd known at Hogwarts. He felt himself begin to harden against the warm curve of her arse.

"You like it rough, do you, Granger? Just you wait until our wedding night, you little tease...it'll be a week before you'll be able to sit down properly," he said, pressing his mouth to her neck and tickling the sensitive, fragrant flesh with the tip of his tongue. His palm slid over her knee and under the hem of her demure dress. She couldn't help but moan as his fingers slipped along the silky skin of her inner thigh.

Hearing Hermione's soft whimper, Narcissa turned around and sighed. If they managed to wait until their wedding night, it would be a small miracle. "Draco, let her go this instant! I'll not have you ravishing your fiancée right there on the stairs! Your father would have your head," she scolded as Hermione struggled out of his arms, smoothing her dress back over her thighs and trying not to combust from the heat of her blush.

Draco shifted, crossing one leg over the other, in an attempt to hide his obvious erection. "You and Father've done it on the stairs. I saw you." He grinned flippantly, then scrambled to his feet when Narcissa pulled her wand on him, pointing it at his face. He watched her warily from halfway up the stairs.

"You're an impudent little sass," she said, tucking the mahogany wand back in her sleeve, then she turned to Hermione, smiling sweetly. "You do have your work cut out for you, darling. Are you sure you can handle it?"

Hermione flipped back her hair and gave Draco an appraising smirk. "Don't worry about me, Narcissa. I just love a good challenge." She mirrored Draco's eyebrow wag.

"I'll show you a challenge, Granger," Draco snapped, not quite sure why he was baiting her so. She was so aggravating! And arrogant! And that dress really did wonders for her body. The color was especially flattering...

He was completely unaware that he was looking at Hermione with a look as infatuated as any Narcissa had ever had the opportunity to witness. And Hermione was looking at him with an expression as unreadable as Draco's was blatant. Theirs was a long road ahead and Narcissa had no doubts that it would be a hard one, but hadn't she and Lucius weathered such complications during the course of their marriage and come out of it whole and happy?

Hermione had confided to her that she and Draco's relationship at Hogwarts had been exceptionally vindictive and that her initial reaction to the news of Draco's proposal had been one of despair and fear. Narcissa had been as ashamed of herself as she had her son at the very idea that this sweet young woman literally feared for her life at the hands of their son. She was as much at fault for Draco's racism and feelings of superiority towards the Muggleborn as Lucius was and, in a gesture more humble than any she'd ever made before, Narcissa had taken Hermione's hands in hers and apologized for the acts of cruelty her family had committed against her.

With tears shimmering in her eyes, Hermione had promised her that she'd do everything in her power to show Draco what loving her could bring him. And she'd love him in return. More than anything, Narcissa wanted happiness for her temperamental son.

Watching them now, Draco glaring at Hermione with angry, starved eyes and the witch smiling back at him sadly, she wondered if either of them would have the strength to create a loving marriage virtually from scratch or if their equally-dominant personalities would drive them to a deeper hatred.

"Hermione, love...we should leave now or risk missing the train," Narcissa called out. Draco edged down the stairs, giving his mother a wide berth. As they reached the door, he grabbed at Hermione's hand and before she could react, he'd pulled her into his arms.

"Don't be long...I'm not finished tormenting you," he whispered in her ear, before tracing his tongue over the delicate curve.

Hermione looked up at him, her eyes dark and melting. He dipped his head for a kiss, which she again denied him.

"Don't...you have to wait, Draco," she murmured, even as she stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. He groaned and pulled her tighter to him, letting her feel the extent of his desire for her. She sighed and smiled ruefully.

"You're enjoying this, Granger, far too much," he snarled, angry with her, but unwilling to let her out of his arms. Narcissa watched impatiently from the first carriage. "She's coming, Mother. Go, witch. Before I forget my promise and fuck you right here for the whole world to see."

"You won't regret waiting, Draco. I promise." With another gentle caress, she spun out of his arms and ran to the carriage, joining Narcissa in the dim interior.

Draco walked out onto the flagstone drive and watched the carriages pull out of sight, Hermione's pretty face peering out the window the last thing he saw. Unwilling to face the empty house, for even Lucius had taken off for parts unknown, just as loathe to face a house empty of Narcissa's presence, Draco walked out to the stables, his thoughts full of the annoying, bossy brunette witch who was gradually and firmly looping him around her little finger.

*****

A hand, tipped with long, crimson nails, traced over the tense muscles of Draco's bare back. He flinched from Pansy's touch, not wanting her hands on him, wanting her gone from his house, his bed, his life.

"Draco..." she drawled, her voice petulant and full of manipulative allure. "Come back to bed, lover."

"Pansy, maybe you should..." he started, wishing she'd leave, but not really wanting to hurt her. They'd been friends since they'd been in nappies. He looked over his shoulder and winced.

Pansy Parkinson was sprawled nude in the middle of his bed, the crisp white sheets tangled around her tanned legs, the remnants of his release staining the sheets and her thighs. He'd refused to come inside her, as if that alone would absolve him of the guilt that was curling malignantly in the pit of his stomach. She raised up on one elbow, the sleek fall of her hair brushing her cheekbones. She gave him a sultry smile and he had to look away.

Damn you to hell, Granger! You've ruined me for any other woman!

"Draco, what's wrong?" she asked, finally sensing that his sullen mood had everything to do with her and nothing to do with the unusually pathetic sexual performance he'd given her. "Don't worry about it, Draco, all men have this problem once or twice in their lives. I won't take it personally."

"That's real generous of you, Pans, thanks so much," he said dryly.

"Don't be a baby, Draco. Come here and let me show you a good time."

With a groan, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Pansy smiled as he walked over to the window, his long legs and tight arse making her ache inside with renewed lust. So he didn't last but a few minutes and call out that nasty Mudblood's name at his peak. She could live with it; he was fucking her after all, not Hermione Granger. His violent eagerness to bury himself inside Pansy's willing body and his hair-trigger ejaculation was proof enough of that.

Draco pressed his forehead to the cool glass and looked out over the grounds of Malfoy Manor. For as far as the eye could see, it would one day be his and for the first time in his life, he took no pleasure in it. It was ruined by the raven-haired witch in his bed and he wanted to hex off his own dick for dipping it back in that particular puddle.

"Go home, Pansy. This is the last time I want to see you here," he said softly. He heard the sheets rustle as Pansy sat up, the quiet hiss of her breath as she stared holes into the back of his head.

"You're lying, Draco. You'll always come back to me. Why wouldn't you? Certainly you have no intentions of remaining faithful to your little Mudblood bride?" she said venomously.

Draco turned around and she smiled as she took in his nude body, her dark eyes roving hungrily over him. She slithered out of the bed and strolled towards him, her hips rolling in an exaggerated imitation of Hermione's natural sway. He wrinkled his nose as she drew closer, her perfume mixing badly with perspiration and the scent of his semen on her skin.

"Draco, look. I'm not in any better situation with this fucking Marriage Law nonsense than you are. Don't make out like you're some kind of victim...all purebloods are in the same boat, lover," she said, her voice hard.

"Don't be a bitch, Pansy. It's not becoming and I'm better at it than you are." She made a grab for his arm as he started to push past and Draco turned on her, twisting her arm up behind her back and slamming her into the floor-to-ceiling window so hard it rattled in its frame. He leaned over her, careful not to let any more flesh than necessary touch her. "It's a long way down, Parkinson. Get out of this house before I throw you out."

With a growl of fury, she tore her arm free and whirled on him. "Then, why did you floo me, you fucking prick! I'm not just some trollop that you can summon whenever your little muddy virgin won't give over!" she shouted.

He was on her in two steps, his hands gripping her bare arms. "You don't talk about her like that! This was a mistake, Pansy. I don't want you. Just get out of my fucking sight."

She stared at him in shock. "We were friends, Draco, we've been friends since birth! What's happened to you?"

What's happened indeed?

"Haven't you ever wanted something more, Pans? Haven't you wanted to do something meaningful with your life?" he whispered, suddenly exhausted. Pansy stared at him, her face cold and withdrawn.

"Why? I have everything I'll ever need. My father bought me a half-blood wizard who isn't too ugly and happens to be some sort of royalty at that. I have a trust fund that will assure me that I'll never have to do anything but shop and pop out an occasional brat to keep the Ministry happy. What else is there?"

Draco stared at her, aghast. And just a little frightened. Is this where I was heading? This road to hell paved with misery?

"I want more, Pansy. I want what my father nearly threw away." He dropped his head, running his hands over his mussed platinum hair. "I want to come home to a wife who loves me, who wants me for me, not for that," He flung his hand out in the direction of the window, indicating the expansive acreage surrounding the house. "I want to be important in someone's life. Not feared. Not hated. I want to be loved." Pansy laughed, a harsh, brittle sound.

"You think she'll give you that? What makes you think, Draco Malfoy, that she'll give you any of that? She's marrying you because she hasn't a choice." Pansy shook her head in disgust and started searching for her clothing. She pulled her knickers on and then her dress, stuffing her bra and stockings in her purse. "Hermione Granger doesn't love you, Draco. If you hadn't asked for her, she'd still be Potter's and Weasley's whore. You know that as well as I do."

"Get out."

"Gladly."

Long after the door shut behind her and the faint pop of her apparition faded, Draco leaned against the window, staring out at his legacy.

Chapter Text

Hermione had been to Paris twice; once as a child on holiday with her parents and the second time during the summer between her fourth and fifth years at Hogwarts, as a guest of Viktor Krum. It was an enchanting city and Hermione fondly remembered her visits to the various art museums and opera houses, Versailles and the Eiffel Tower.

None of that compared, however, to Wizarding Paris.

In much the same way that one entered Diagon Alley, in London, the Rue de la Henri was accessed through an abandoned Metro tunnel and when Hermione first passed through the concealed barrier wall into the bustling center of wizarding Paris, she was stunned into utter silence.

To Hermione's delight, it was like stepping back in time to pre-Revolution Paris. Quaint and lavish, modest and glorious, bourgeois and majestic, all at once. Humble little potions shops brushed shoulders with pretentious and opulent emporiums selling everything from broomsticks to living fire. Street peddlers hawked their wares in a dozen different languages. Small children darted in and out of the shops, weaving amongst the throngs of people clogging the marble-paved streets; wizened crones beckoned to shoppers, grinning toothlessly while insisting that they had just the potion for whatever ill one might suffer.

Hermione was utterly enthralled.

The people were dressed in everything from wide panniered gowns that could have come straight from Marie Antoinette's wardrobe to modern-day Muggle suits and ties. Hermione felt perfectly at ease in her simple black skirt and pink sweater, and no one gave her or Narcissa a second look.

"What do you think?" Narcissa asked, looking unbearably chic in a champagne-striped silk pantsuit, an outfit more Muggle than Hermione would have ever imagined her wearing. Her platinum hair was loose today, falling over her slender shoulders in a sleek, shining curtain.

"It's brilliant, utterly brilliant! This is Diagon Alley times a thousand!" Hermione said, her eyes bright with excitement. "Are there bookstores?"

Narcissa laughed and tucked her hand around Hermione's elbow. The crowd parted easily for them, subconsciously recognizing Narcissa's natural entitlement to a clear path. "Darling, we're not here for books! Well, perhaps I know someplace that you would find favorable. For now, however, we have an appointment with Madam Annelle."

Hermione was an unabashed tourist as they strolled through the wide boulevard, lined with perpetually-blossoming cherry trees, the road littered with fallen petals of pink, red and white. She took in everything, wishing Colin Creevey was following behind her with his camera, taking pictures of all of the glittering shops and the endlessly fascinating people.

For a moment, tears welled in her eyes, as she thought of her parents and how captivated they'd been by the reality of the wizarding world. Her father had explored every inch of Diagon Alley with her, exclaiming over all of the clever magical items for sale. Her mother had been particularly taken with the potion shops...

They would've been speechless with wonder here on the Rue de la Henri.

Narcissa's fingers squeezing her own brought Hermione back to the present and she smiled tearfully. "I'm sorry, I've just been so emotional lately."

"Your parents were happy that you were a witch?" asked Narcissa, correctly surmising Hermione's melancholy thoughts.

"Oh, yes! They'd always known something was different about me and weren't at all surprised when I got my Hogwarts letter. I think they were more excited about than I was. At first, anyway. When the reality of my going off to school hit them, I think they knew that they were losing me to world where they couldn't follow."

"I imagine they were wonderful people to have raised a young woman as gracious and sweet as yourself." Narcissa paused, turning to take both of Hermione's hands in hers. "I can't tell you how pleased I am that Draco's chosen you. As I've told you before, I haven't the prejudice towards the Muggleborn that Lucius has and has instilled in our son. They've both come a long way since Lucius left Azkaban and Draco...well, let me just say that he needs a witch...a woman...who will be firm with him, yet show him that love needn't be a weakness of character."

Hermione smiled softly, as the crowd of people flowed around them. "He's certainly challenging. I won't lie to you...I keep waiting for him to turn on me again, become like he was at Hogwarts. He was a right foul bastard, if you don't mind my saying so."

Laughing, Narcissa tucked Hermione's arm through hers and they continued on their way. "I'm not at all surprised. Right now, Draco sees you as a possession. Not unlike Lucius viewed me when we were first betrothed. He's an arrogant young man and I must share part of the blame for that. He's handsome and intelligent and I've never shied away from telling him so. We've spoiled him dreadfully, I know, but he's our only child, you see."

"If I may ask, why didn't you and Mr. Malfoy have more children?" Hermione ventured as they turned onto a narrower street, lined with some of the most elegant shops Hermione had ever seen, even in London, which was no stranger to sophistication.

Narcissa smiled sadly. "I couldn't have any more children, after Draco. It was almost five years after we married before I conceived and during those five years, I had several miscarriages. My pregnancy with Draco was extremely difficult and I nearly lost him once, in my sixth month. I was in labor with him almost thirty hours...is it any wonder he's such a difficult child? He has been from day one."

"He is my pride and joy, though. My darling, golden boy. I think you're the perfect witch for him, Hermione. Please treat him kindly, because despite his arrogance, he has a tender heart."

Impulsively, Hermione threw her arms around Narcissa and hugged her. The other woman went still for a moment, then her arms came around Hermione's back and she embraced her tightly. Hermione sighed into the soft, fragrant cloud of Narcissa's golden hair.

"I will make him happier than his wildest dreams. I promise."

Narcissa smiled and dabbed at the tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. "Then, let's go design a wedding gown, my dear!"

 

*****

 

Draco picked at his salad, separating each vegetable on his plate, banishing them to opposite corners. Romaine at the top, cucumbers...ick!...to the left and right off the plate. With a vicious stab, he impaled a cherry tomato on his fork and grinned in quiet satisfaction as it squirted juice onto the table. He stuck it in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully.

Lucius watched him cautiously; Draco's foul mood surrounded him like a noxious black cloud. "I daresay the tomato has been suitably punished," he drawled as he sliced a small section off of his steak and placed it in his mouth.

"It deserves worse," Draco muttered, as he swallowed the tomato, then took a healthy gulp of his butterbeer. He pushed his plate away, his sparse appetite vanishing. He drained the rest of the butterbeer and signaled the waiter for another.

"I saw Pansy leave the house last night. She appeared distressed."

Draco paled, his eyes skittering nervously from his father's knowing gaze. "She, uh...we were just talking."

"Is that so? Does Pansy often hold conversations half-nude?" Lucius asked, wryly.

Draco snorted. "You have no idea. For all of Pansy's upbringing, she's really a complete slag."

"And so you found the need to turn to a young woman of excellent parentage and questionable morals to what? Scratch an itch?"

The waiter returned and set a fresh mug of butterbeer in front of Draco, then hovered obsequiously until a pointed glare from Lucius sent him scurrying away. Draco drained half the mug in a single swallow. "It doesn't matter. It was a mistake that will most assuredly never happen again."

"Is Hermione not meeting your sexual needs?" Lucius asked delicately, even though he thought he might already know the answer, if his wife was to be believed.

The look on Draco's face was laughable. "Meeting my sexual needs? She won't even let me kiss her!"

Lucius frowned, taking a measured sip of his wine. "Indeed? I've seen the two of you embrace. Is that the extent of your physical relationship?"

"You're an adult, so come out and say it, Father. Are we fucking? The answer would be not a flaming chance in hell," Draco snapped, wearing his frustration on his sleeve. Lucius bit back a smile.

"Really, Draco, must you be so crass? Okay, then. Why?"

Draco's fair complexion was turning quite pink. "She wants to wait until our wedding night. She's a virgin," he whispered, careful of ever-prying ears at the Leaky Cauldron.

Lucius could not have been more pleased had Draco told him the girl was wearing a cast-iron chastity belt. The Granger girl's close relationship with her male friends Potter and Weasley had been his one cause for concern when Draco had insisted on her for his bride. A sexual entanglement, especially one that included the Potter brat, could be disastrous for the future of the Malfoy name, and now just knowing that she was willing to save herself for his son...well, she rose several notches in his estimation.

"Admirable. And, am I to presume, that her gift means nothing to you?" Lucius took a bite of his roast potatoes, smiling in appreciation of the deftly-seasoned dish.

Draco looked up sharply, this time flushing red with anger. "I never said that!"

"Yet you're unwilling to wait for her in return." Lucius gave him a mocking smile, as Draco's expression reflected his guilt. He grimaced and looked away.

"I am. Really, I am. It's just...damnit, Father! She smells so good. Like...I don't know...flowers. And, and...her skin...it's like silk. I've never in my life felt anything that soft!" Draco groaned, burying his face in his hands. "She's killing me, Father! She rubs up against me and gets me hard and I think I'm just going to die from it!"

Lucius's laugh rang out and several people turned to stare at them. "Oh, Draco! Trust me, son, you aren't going to die from lack of sex. Although it may certainly seem so." He reached over and touched Draco's arm. "It's less than three months, son. You can wait. This thing with Pansy, however..."

"It'll never happen again, Father, I swear! I regretted it immediately...all I could think about was Hermione." Draco lowered his hands and smiled wearily at his father. "Do you still have mistresses, Father?"

Lucius sat back, staring at Draco in surprise. "No."

Draco gave him a skeptical look. "No, Draco, I don't. Not anymore. I have no desire to further jeopardize my marriage. Not since your mother and I have found, or rather, renewed our commitment to each other. My past behavior came very close to destroying our family."

"I know. I remember," Draco said, staring at his hands. "I don't want that. I want someone who cares for me. Like you have Mum."

"Do you believe Hermione can be that woman?"

Draco's gaze was bleak. "If you'd asked me that five years ago, I'd have called you crazy. But now...I want her to be. I don't even think about her being a Mud...Muggleborn. But what if she never loves me? I've never given her a reason to think I'm anything but an evil, spoiled git. Why would she even want me? Why hasn't she been trying to get out of this marriage?"

"I could give you a dozen reasons, but they're all material. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Miss Granger's favors won't be bought with pretty trinkets. So, you'll need to find another way to her heart."

"What would that be?" Draco asked, looking unconvinced.

"Honesty."

The dawning horror on Draco's face was comical. "You want me to tell her about Pansy? She'll hex me to perdition! And you can kiss having grandchildren goodbye...she'll eviscerate me."

"Then, she does. Do you deserve any less?" Lucius leaned back in his chair, watching Draco's emotional response with something akin to pride.

"Father...I can't..."

"You must, Draco. If you want to enter into this marriage with pure intent, then you must ask her forgiveness. You owe her nothing less."

Draco looked ill and he rubbed his hand over his perspiring face. "This is mad! She's a brilliant witch, you know. Just say your goodbyes now, because she may not give me time before she curses me into the grave."

Lucius laughed heartily. "Don't be melodramatic, Draco. She'll give you the cold shoulder for a day or two and you'll apologize prettily, on your knees if necessary, then all will be well."

Draco groaned in despair.

 

*****

 

Madam Annelle was a tall, buxom witch with close cropped black hair that reminded Hermione of Madam Hooch, Hogwarts' flying instructor. Her accent was a heavy mixture of French and Romany and she descended on Narcissa with outstretched arms, enveloping her in a cloud of scarlet silk and expensive perfume.

"Madame Malfoy! How delightful you look today!" She held Narcissa at arms' length, appraising her body with a keen eye. "Do I detect a couple of extra centimeters around the waist?" She pinched Narcissa smartly and the blonde witch batted her hand away with a smile. Turning to Hermione, she grinned.

"I would hex another witch who'd dare to speak to me like this, but Madam Annelle is a genius and has earned the right."

The other witch turned her dark gaze to Hermione, staring at the younger woman's figure. "You must be Mademoiselle Granger! Ahh, Narcissa! You didn't lie to me when you said this one had the body of a courtesan! Such fine breasts! Young Draco must be simply beside himself with desire," she said, reaching out to nudge Hermione into a full turn. She moaned in heartfelt appreciation at the sight of Hermione's arse. "Mon Dieu! Such a plump arse! No doubt he likes to fill his hands with that, no?"

Hermione's cheeks were flaming so hot, she felt dizzy. Narcissa, trying hard not to laugh, gave the seamstress a stern look. "Draco and Hermione have been quite modest with each other. I shouldn't want my future daughter-in-law to be frightened off by his vulgar intentions."

Madam Annelle quickly understood Narcissa's veiled warning and turned immediately professional. "Certainly! My abject apologies, Madame Malfoy," she said, even though her eyes still twinkled with merriment. "My dear Mademoiselle Granger, please accept my apologies! I just find it a delight to dress such a beautiful young woman as yourself and go a little, how do you say? Overboard!"

Hermione smiled at the woman. "Please, think nothing of it. I'm very much looking forward to working with you."

"You won't be sorry, I promise you. You'll have a dress and trousseau that will exceed anything you could've possibly imagined. Brigitte! Champagne and caviar for the ladies! Please follow me, my dears."

Madam Annelle escorted them to a private fitting room upstairs and as soon as they were seated on a plush white sofa, with brimming glasses of champagne in their hands, assistant after assistant paraded an overwhelming variety of fabrics and trimmings before Hermione and Narcissa. Silks, velvets, satins, laces, in every shade of the rainbow; never before had Hermione been surrounded by such beauty.

Now, with a more professional demeanor, Madam Annelle coaxed Hermione up onto a small platform and vanished her clothing with a flick of her wand. Finding herself in nothing more than bra, knickers and shoes, Hermione found herself once more the object of the other witch's rapture. "Definitely white, no? Cream would be too sallow against your skin. So very lovely, but you should stay out of the sun...you have tan lines."

She took Hermione's measurements with her wand, then quickly redressed her, much to the younger witch's relief. Narcissa gave her a sheepish smile, then nibbled a cracker piled high with caviar.

They spent the entire afternoon with the seamstress and Hermione couldn't deny that the woman's ideas were stellar and she was suddenly filled with a giddy excitement. When Annelle showed her the final sketch, the embodiment of their afternoon's collaboration, Hermione had to choke back tears.

Narcissa lay a hand on Hermione's shoulder, gazing at the large color sketch of her future bridal gown. "You're a genius, Annelle! Hermione and this gown will set the standard for brides for years to come."

Annelle, more subdued now that her initial anxiety had passed, sipped champagne and watched Hermione shrewdly. "You will enchant your young man, my dear. He'll take one look at you and be ready to fall at your feet in adoration."

"I just want him to love me," Hermione whispered, beginning to think that, if beauty such as this was possible, then anything was possible.

Narcissa lay her cheek against Hermione's and gazed at the sketch. "Never you mind, darling. He already does."

 

*****

 

The rest of their weekend passed in a whirlwind of shopping and dining at some of the most sumptuous restaurants Hermione had ever seen. Narcissa treated her like a princess and by Sunday, Hermione had given up arguing with her future mother-in-law over the sinful amount of clothing, lingerie, and accessories she was taking great delight in purchasing for her.

But, to her surprise, Hermione found that she missed Draco. Actually missed him. In the weeks since their betrothal, he'd been aggravating and vulgar and grumpy, but he'd also been sweet and tender at times, and he made her laugh. She missed his touch, the feel of his fingertips on her skin, his lips on her neck, and she wondered if she was doing the right thing, teasing him mercilessly, then sending him to his cold, lonely bed at night, hard and aching for her.

It's less than three months...the wait will be good for him! she thought to herself.

But she couldn't help but wonder what it would be like, when they finally came together on their wedding night. Draco was no virgin, of that she was positive. He'd dated Pansy Parkinson off and on for over four years and that witch's reputation had been easy, to say the very least.

Hermione wasn't scared of sex, not really. She was actually quite eager to get to it and fortunately, her future husband was quite easy on the eyes. It would be no hardship to share Draco Malfoy's bed, of that she was certain. She had no doubts that he'd make the experience as pleasurable as possible.

Neither was she a stranger to the act of sex itself. She hadn't spent her entire seven years at Hogwarts reading textbooks! The library had some surprisingly esoteric volumes on its shelves and Hermione had spent many an evening reading some of the more lewd stories of long-dead witches and wizards. Not to mention, her parents had been quite forthcoming with answers to her many questions about lovemaking.

So, sex wasn't the problem. What Hermione wanted was for Draco to want her as a person as well as a woman. Having never been the sort of girl who gave much thought to herself as a sexual being, this weekend in Paris, dressed in fabulous clothes and pampered and petted by everyone Narcissa had introduced her to, Hermione found herself easily seduced by a newfound sensuality. Would Draco even want her as anything more than arm decoration and a warm, willing body in his bed?

Did she even want him to?

She still wanted to save herself for their wedding night, but maybe she could be a little more welcoming of Draco's eager attentions...she didn't want to give him a reason to stray.

 

*****

 

The season had turned chilly and as the carriages returned to Malfoy Manor, Hermione could see that the leaves on the trees were beginning to change to the warmer shades of gold, red, and mulberry. Their wedding was set for December first and she couldn't help the happy smile that crossed her face at the thought of the gorgeous wedding gown Madam Annelle would be making for her. She was certain that Draco was going to just die when he saw her in it!

Lucius was waiting for them and he pulled Narcissa into his arms in an ardent embrace the minute her feet touched the ground. Hermione smiled at them and looked around for Draco, her face falling when she saw that he was nowhere to be found.

"He's in the garden, Hermione."

Lucius was watching her, an unreadable expression in his pale eyes. He smiled warmly at her. Hermione returned it, ignoring the shiver of foreboding tickling her spine. "Thank you, Lucius. It's good to be home."

Narcissa smiled at her words. "Yes, it is. Oh, Lucius! You should see the design Annelle came up with for Hermione's dress! It's simply scrumptious!"

They walked arm-in-arm up the steps to the house as Hermione followed the path to the garden. She found Draco in the summer house, sitting on a bench with his knees drawn up and encircled by his arms. His broomstick lay nearby.

Hermione straddled the bench behind him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pressing her mouth to the back of his neck, kissing him where his silky hair touched his collar. He relaxed into her rare embrace, his face turned to the side, towards her. He reached up to cover her hands with his.

"How was your trip?"

"Oh, Draco, it was wonderful! I've been to Paris before, but not Wizarding Paris...it was absolutely enchanting. Take me back there sometime?" she asked, sensing his gloomy mood. "Did you miss me?"

"More that you'll ever imagine." He turned to her suddenly, straddling the bench to face her. Hermione touched his cheek. His expression was more serious than she'd ever seen it before.

"Are you okay, Draco?"

Draco looked down at his hands, reaching out to rest them on her thighs. Hermione closed her eyes briefly, swaying towards him, even that simple touch melting her heart. He took a deep breath.

"I know that this thing between us didn't happen in the most ideal fashion. I know that you've worked really hard to put our past behind you. But I want you to know something, Hermione...I think I've been in...I think I've desired you since we were at Hogwarts. I want you to know that I'll never knowingly hurt you."

Hermione's earlier foreboding swelled into suspicion. "Draco, what is it? What's happened?"

"I want to build a relationship with you, Hermione," he continued, as if she hadn't spoken. He took her hands in his and scooted a little closer, until their knees touched. "I respect you and I think that...I hope...that, in time, we can learn to love each other."

"Draco..."

"I slept with Pansy."

Chapter Text

Hermione took a tissue from the box that Angelina passed to her and blew her nose. It took three more tissues in succession before she could stem the flow of hot, angry tears streaming down her face. She was curled on her side on Harry's and Ginny's bed at the Burrow, four concerned and angry faces watching her exhaust the last of her grief. Alicia, well into her eighth month of pregnancy, was eating steadily from a cellophane bag of Muggle chocolate-covered raisins, while Ginny and Lavender stared at Hermione with righteous pity. Angelina was shaking her head in disgust, her long braids brushing her shoulders.

"I'd hex his fucking bollocks off," Alicia finally mumbled around a mouthful of raisins. "If George fucked around on me, I'd make sure it was the last time he fucked ever." She pressed a hand to her swollen stomach, grimacing slightly. "I might anyway. I've never been so uncomfortable in my whole life."

Lavender blushed at her sister-in-law's coarse language, but nodded emphatically. "Ron knows better."

Angelina snorted with laughter. "Ron's too pussy-whipped to stray. You keep him on a short leash, girl."

Ginny gave the other girls a perturbed look, then sat down on the bed next to Hermione, rubbing her soothingly on the back. "Oh, Hermione...I at least thought Malfoy would wait until after the wedding to start screwing around. He's such a pig."

Hermione sniffed, shaking her head in denial. She'd been sobbing for the last hour, clutching the pillow over her head, until her hair was a great tangle of bushy curls. She raised a red and splotchy face to Ginny's quietly concerned one. "But, he's been so...so...nice lately! Like he was actually beginning to like me! He even agreed to wait, but a fat lot that meant! Not if he's shagging Pansy Parkinson!" She jammed the pillow back over her head.

Alicia and Angelina, catching Hermione's meaning right away, exchanged amused grins and tried not to laugh. Lavender frowned, her pretty face scrunched up in confusion.

"Wait for what, Hermione?" she asked.

Alicia snorted with laughter, then clapped a hand over her mouth as Hermione lowered the pillow and glared at her. Hermione sat up, pushing her hair out of her face. "We're waiting until our wedding night. You know...to do it," she explained.

Four horrified faces stared back at her. Angelina was the first to speak.

"But, Hermione...why?"

The question took Hermione aback and she frowned. "I want it to be special! If I have to spend the rest of my life in Draco Malfoy's bed, then I want to start off on the right foot." For a moment, she looked on the verge of tears again, but she took a deep breath in order to pull herself together. Alicia smiled and licked chocolate off her fingers.

"George and I had each other's virginity...remember, Ang? We were fourteen and we did it in Hooch's office. He came in about three seconds. The first time." She sighed happily.

Ginny wrinkled her nose, disturbed by the idea of one of her brothers having sex. "Ewww." She turned back to Hermione and put an arm around her shoulders. "Hermione, out of curiosity, how does Draco feel about this? Waiting until your wedding night? Is he comfortable with that?"

"He hates it. But after I explained that I was a virgin and that he could do anything he wanted to me after we were married, he seemed to think it was a good idea," Hermione admitted.

"You're a virgin? Really? I always thought you and Harry, you know..." Angelina said, giving Ginny a sheepish look.

Hermione grimaced. "Don't get me wrong, I adore Harry, but that would be like doing it with a brother. I mean, I've fooled around with guys, but...well, I always wanted to wait until marriage to have intercourse."

"So, what's he like, Hermione? Is he a good kisser?" Lavender asked, leaning forward eagerly.

"I don't know. We've never kissed." Even as she said it, Hermione knew it sounded horribly wrong and the expressions on her friends' faces were proof of that.

"Bloody hell, Hermione! You're marrying a wizard that looks as good as Draco Malfoy and you haven't even kissed him yet?" Alicia breathed, shock written all over her face.

"I want him to want me! Is that so wrong?" Hermione snapped, jumping off the bed and stalking over to the window. "I don't want to just fall into bed with him without having some kind of, I don't know, bond? Does that make sense?"

"But, Hermione, what if you aren't, you know, compatible?" Lavender asked, twisting her fingers in the hem of her sweatshirt.

Ginny gave the older girl an exasperated look. "Like it matters. We were all lucky...we fell in love with and married the men we wanted. Hermione has to marry Malfoy. Compatibility be damned, as far as the Ministry's concerned."

Hermione looked out the window overlooking the garden. Harry, Ron, George and Fred were playing a pickup game of Quidditch. "Oh, we're compatible. I don't need to kiss him to know that," she admitted softly.

"How so?" Angelina asked, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.

"He touches me and it burns. All the way inside. I can't breathe and I can't think and all I want is to just say the hell with it and let him have me," she said wistfully, pressing her forehead against the sun-warmed glass. "He can hardly keep his hands off me. He's really such a little boy about it all. Petulant and whiny...he's all but begged me to kiss him."

"Imagine that, a whiny Draco Malfoy," drawled Ginny. "But you want him to want Hermione Granger, not just a willing whore in his bed."

Lavender blushed to the roots of her hair and gave Ginny a horrified look. "Ginny! What would Harry say?"

"He'd probably say worse," Ginny said pertly.

Alicia stretched her legs out in front of her, leaning back against the dresser. "My ankles look like Bludgers," she said.

The other four witches looked down at Alicia's swollen feet. "Soak them in witch hazel and tellis weed," Hermione offered, wiping away the few stray tears that were still rolling down her cheeks.

"Hot or cold?"

"Cold, preferably in ice. Try one part witch hazel to one part water and three sprigs of tellis weed. It's not specifically for pregnancy swelling, but it'll help. Can't hurt anyway."

"Thanks, Hermione. Now, for a little advice. You're on the right track. You want to keep his interest and trust me, it sounds like he's interested. But at the same time, if you keep him all wound up and no way to relieve that tension, you're risking him straying," Alicia offered. "You need to make sure that all he thinks about, all the time, is you."

Angelina was nodding sagely. "Alicia's right. If what you say is true, it sounds like he was pretty remorseful about it, so all you have to do is throw him a bone once in a while. You don't have to sleep with him, but there's, you know, other things you can do."

Alicia grinned and Lavender got a dreamy look on her face.

Ginny picked up on what Angelina was trying to say. "You've got Draco by the bollocks, Hermione. Now, here's what you do with them."

 

*****

 

"You missed dinner, darling."

Draco didn't acknowledge Narcissa as she joined him in the summer house, but instead stared out at the darkening sky. Narcissa sighed as she took a seat opposite her son. She smoothed her hands over her robe, brushing the wrinkles out of the heavy, iridescent fabric. "Draco, your father told me what you've done."

His head jerked up then, and he glared at her. "So, it's my fault, is it?" he snarled.

Narcissa, unruffled by his angry tone, merely shrugged. "Isn't it?"

His bristling temper abruptly faded and he slumped over, dropping his head in both hands. "I fuck up everything I do, Mum. I always have."

Her heart went out to him. Draco had tried so hard to be the kind of son Lucius Malfoy could be proud of and he was, really, but he still strived for perfection and usually ended up failing because of his own arrogance. They had both suffered greatly during Lucius's ill-fated allegiance to Voldemort, but she had insight into her husband's psyche that Draco didn't and had been able to easily rebuild her bond with her husband. Draco, however, had spent his formative years trying desperately to please a harsh and dictatorial father, a man who had been trying in turn to please a harsh and dictatorial master. The experience had undeniably left him emotionally damaged and, try as she might, Narcissa was often at a loss as how to reach him through the many layers of self-hatred he had wrapped himself in.

Fortunately, and Narcissa had to give thanks to Harry Potter for it, they were being given a second chance to lead normal lives, following only the whims of their hearts. Draco needed that second chance more than his parents.

"She'll forgive you, Draco. Give her time," she finally said.

But, he was shaking his head, his blond hair shining in the light of the rising moon. "Why should she? She wants to wait for our wedding night. She wanted to share that with me and she trusted me to be a man about it and I failed her."

"Yes, you did. But, Draco, you're only human. Yes, it was a rash and disrespectful thing you've done and you deserve her anger."

"Thanks ever so, Mother," he said dryly.

Narcissa smiled fondly at her son. "Don't give me cheek. You've not only been disrespectful to Hermione, but to Pansy as well. You've treated her abominably and you owe her an apology." She held up a hand as Draco opened his mouth to protest. "You will hear me out, Draco. Yes, you owe Pansy an apology, regardless of her appalling lack of morals. In a way, I'm thankful for this Marriage Law. It will make a man out of you, where we've failed."

"If I owe Pansy an apology, what do I owe Hermione? My life?" Draco asked.

"Yes. You are to be wed to her, Draco, in nine weeks. You are taking her as your wife, bringing her into your home, and taking her to your bed. She'll, hopefully, bear your children. You owe her your respect and your devotion. She will be a Malfoy and she will be treated as such."

"Father didn't treat you well. He had mistresses. Why should I be any different?" The moment the words left his lips, he regretted them. He pressed his hands to his mouth, his eyes wide above them. "Mum..."

Narcissa stood up, staring down at her distraught son. The words hurt, certainly, more for the truth of them than for the delivery. But, Draco's guilt was obvious and she pitied him. Touching his cheek with her hand, she leaned down and kissed him, tasting his reluctant tears. "Yes, he's had mistresses, but more importantly, he doesn't any longer. We have worked very hard to start over, your father and I. I love him with all my heart and he loves me. And we both adore you more than you'll ever know. Take a page from our book, Draco, and apply it to your new life. I think you'll be glad you did."

With a swirl of her long robes, she left the summer house and took the winding pathway back to the house, leaving Draco alone with his misery and recriminations.

 

*****

 

It was well after eleven when Draco returned to the house. Lucius and Narcissa had already retired for the night and the manor was dark and quiet. Even the portraits were snoozing in their frames as he walked up to his room. As he drew closer, he could see a sliver of light coming from under the double doors. Suddenly suspicious, he drew his wand and glided to the door on silent feet. Carefully, he opened it and slipped inside.

"I wondered how long you were going to sit outside. You must be cold."

Shutting the door behind him, Draco leaned back against it, tucking his wand back in his pocket. His hands clenched and he wanted to turn away from the intoxicating vision before him, if only to keep from embarrassing himself. "I needed to think," he quietly said.

Hermione was laying face-down on his bed, her back to him so that he could see nothing but her long, bare legs and the plump roundness of her arse under a very short scrap of pink silk. Her hair was piled loosely on top of her head and she was idly turning the pages of a book spread open before her.

"Hmmm...so did I. I came to many conclusions," she said softly, crossing her legs at the ankle and bouncing them lightly on the bed. Draco circled the bed until her face came into view. He sat facing her in a nearby chair, crossing his legs to hide his burgeoning erection. From his vantage point, he could see her breasts, her beautiful, unbound breasts, spilling from the front of her dressing gown. He smiled, almost. She was still a treasure he hadn't yet earned.

"Conclusions?" he ventured, tearing his gaze from her delectable cleavage to look up at her face.

Hermione smiled warmly at him and he returned it, grateful for her kindness. He could tell that she'd been crying; her eyes were still puffy and her lips swollen, but to his eyes, she looked painfully beautiful.

"I'm beginning to care for you, Draco, and I really want to make this marriage work. For both our sakes."

A glimmer of hope filled Draco and he reached for it. "I do, too, Hermione. Honestly, I do!"

She looked down at the book, turning page after page. "Do you? You have to forgive me, Draco, if your actions speak otherwise."

Draco swallowed hard. This conversation was inevitable, but in a way, he was glad it was happening now, before many more days opened a gulf between them that would never be breached. "I was angry...I know it's not an excuse! And at the time, before she and I, you know, I wanted to get back at you for making me ache so badly for you!"

Hermione sucked her lower lip between her teeth and he saw tears shimmering on her lashes. The guilt rose in him again and he raked a hand through his hair.

"Is that all the good I am to you, Draco? Just a hole to be filled?" she whispered.

His words to Pansy came crashing back to him and he stared at Hermione, horrified. "No! God, no! You're so much more than that! Even at Hogwarts...even then, you were like this...this paragon. All the boys wanted you." At this, Hermione gave him a disbelieving look. "It's true! It's why I hated you so much. Not just because you're Muggleborn, but because you were everything that I'd ever wanted and you belonged to Potter and Weasley."

"Now, I know you're lying," Hermione smirked, her voice gently teasing. He shook his head, angrily.

"When I realized you still hadn't been spoken for, that day in Diagon Alley, I knew that was my chance. My only chance. It was almost too good to be true, that you were free and I even talked myself into believing that I just wanted you in my bed. I wanted to punish you for not wanting me back."

Hermione sighed. "But, I do want you, now. And even though I've told you what I need from you, what I need to make this marriage work, still you can't give it to me."

"I want to, Hermione. I'm ready to."

She nodded, a curl falling loose to curve over her cheek. "I will not tolerate infidelity, Draco. I can't break the contract, but I can leave you. That's one of my codicils, you know that."

He didn't; he'd not paid that close of attention to the contract process that day, more riveted by the sight of Hermione's distress. He'd trusted his father and Arthur Weasley with the details. He nodded anyway. "I won't betray you again. I promise on my honor as a Malfoy, for what it's worth."

"It's worth more than you think."

Draco started to speak, but Hermione's attention was diverted, as she turned another page in the large book. With a growing sense of horror, Draco realized just what book she was perusing.

The one from that fateful day at Flourish and Blott's. The book of sexual positions.

"I like page forty-three. Do you suppose we could try that one? On our wedding night?" she whispered, her voice husky. She glanced at him, to see if she had his attention which, of course, was undivided. "Which one is your favorite?"

"Uhhh... I, uh, I like page seventy-nine," he ground out, his cheeks turning pink. He squirmed in his seat, his trousers growing tighter as he responded to Hermione's breathy declaration.

Hermione shifted on the bed and the slippery fabric of her gown fell away from one plump breast, the dark shadow of her nipple peeking out. She flitted through the pages until she reached the page he indicated. A sly little smile crossed her lips. "Mmmm, I can see why. It looks a little painful, though...I suppose I'd have to be very aroused, wouldn't I?"

"That won't be a problem. I can promise you that," Draco growled.

"On your honor as a Malfoy?" she teased, looking up at him through her lashes.

Their eyes met, a brief, hungry glance, and Draco dropped his hand to his lap, massaging his cock. Hermione's eyes lingered on his hand, then continued to page through the book, pausing every so often to watch the moving illustrations, sweetly flushing whenever she happened upon a particularly decadent scene. Her legs were waving gently in the air and he watched them, mesmerized, imagining them wrapped around his waist or draped over his shoulders as he rode her. Or maybe she'd be riding him, those magnificent breasts bobbing in his face, close enough to taste...

He shivered in response to his fantasies and forced himself to calm down. He wasn't going to humiliate himself by failing to control his desires. Hermione was already convinced that he was nothing more than a randy slut.

"Sometimes, when I go to sleep at night, I touch myself and pretend it's you," she whispered and Draco's self-control strained at the leash. "I imagine that you're crawling up the bed, crawling between my legs, tasting me, making me come..."

She was blushing at her own words, but even as she spoke them, she lowered her legs back to the mattress and spread them slightly. "Don't you want to touch me, Draco?"

It took three tries before he could spit the words out. "I'm afraid to."

Hermione frowned. "Why are you afraid?"

"I'll lose control."

With a knowing smile, Hermione lay her head down on her crossed arms, as page one hundred and fourteen continued to rut athletically under her cheek. "You understand why I want to be a virgin on my wedding night?"

"Yes. I support that, Hermione, I do..." he said. "It's just...it's so hard to touch you, to hold you, and not be able to do more."

"Touch me, Draco...come here and find out exactly what you'll be getting on that night," Hermione invited.

He obeyed her as quickly as if he'd been placed under an Imperius curse. Walking around to the other side of the bed, he stripped off his jumper and shoes, then crawled up on the bed behind her. Hermione spread her legs further, allowing him space to move between them.

From this vantage point, he could see the curve of her arse, clad only in a tiny pair of sheer silk knickers. He willed his hands to stop trembling as he touched the backs of her thighs and when he did, he pulled them back again quickly, to wipe his sweaty palms on his trousers. Hermione looked over her shoulder at him, smiling encouragingly.

Draco smiled back, amazed that he was being given this opportunity and not wishing to do anything, anything, to fuck it up. This time, when he lay the flat of his hands on her thighs, feeling her muscles twitch under the velvety smooth skin, he didn't shy away. Instead, he stroked her, from knee to arse and back again.

"Your skin is so soft, so hot, like you're fevered. God, Hermione! You're killing me!" Draco groaned desperately.

Her laugh was merry. "Hardly. You're such a drama queen, Malfoy."

He pinched her on the arse and she whimpered, the sound going straight to his cock. In answer, she raised her hips, bringing one knee, then the other, underneath her body, until she was arranged before him in a supplicant's pose. Her legs were still splayed wide, her head down and Draco felt a rush of power over her so intoxicating, he wondered if he would black out from it. Suddenly, he knew he could wait for her, for when she finally became his, it would be forever. It was indeed a small price to pay to have her willingly in his bed.

Daring to take her hips in his hands, he pulled her back against his erection, rubbing the steely length of his cock along the cleft of her arse, wanting nothing more than to sink into her heat. Heat that he could feel even through his trousers. She mewled in pleasure and ground back on him with a wiggle of her hips.

Pushing her thin dressing gown over her arse, Draco delved between her thighs, trailing his fingertips over the damp silk covering her pussy. The scent of her was in the air, musky and carnal, and his mouth watered for it.

The brush of her fingers over his hand jolted him back to earth. Hermione was balanced on one arm, the other snaking between her legs to caress herself. Draco loosened his trousers, drawing his cock out. Even the act of touching his own flesh sent fevered chills down his spine and he trembled in response. As Hermione rocked against his hips, her hand dipping into her knickers, Draco rubbed the head of his cock along the sensitive skin where her thighs and pussy met.

"Ohhh...don't stop touching me, Draco..." she moaned, slipping two fingers between her labia and opening herself. The sensations surrounding Draco were almost more than he could stand. How could he have thought that Pansy could fulfill his needs? Not when this bit of perfection was on her knees before him, offering up herself for his exploration?

He pulled back slightly and when she moved her hips to follow, his cock slipped into that groove created by her fingers, rasping over the damp fabric covering her pussy and nudging against her clit. Hermione gasped and rocked back, unconsciously seeking to recreate that electric jolt of pleasure.

Draco reached up and pulled her dressing gown off her shoulders, baring her to the waist. Only the knotted belt prevented him from tearing the garment off of her entirely. His hips thrust smoothly against her pussy, one hand pressing his cock up and into her cleft. The silk clung wetly to his flesh, dragging over the tip of his cock as he rubbed it in circles over her clit. It was almost as good as the real thing and in an effort to bring her closer, Draco wrapped one arm around Hermione's waist and hauled her up, pulling her against his chest. He latched onto her neck, suckling on the soft, heat-moist skin as he continued to pump rhythmically between her thighs.

Hermione moved sinuously against him, bringing her thighs together and the increased pressure around Draco's cock sent him over the edge. He lunged once more into the crevice of her pussy and spilled onto her warm thighs. As he was still jerking weakly against her, Hermione rubbed her finger in a slow circuit around her clit, avoiding the very tip, and brought herself off, sagging languidly in Draco's arms.

Draco slumped back on the bed, pulling Hermione with him. Still spooned together, his softening cock trapped between her thighs, Draco cupped one exposed breast, tweaking the nipple with his thumb, then pinching her with just enough force to make her moan.

"You'll be the death of me, Hermione Granger," he murmured, his lips moving along her shoulder, tasting the salty-sweet flavor of her skin with the tip of his tongue. "Stay with me tonight?"

Hermione turned in his arms and snuggled into his embrace. She pressed her lips to his chest, above his heart. "Forever."

Chapter Text

Mid-morning sunlight was flooding into his bedroom when Draco opened his eyes. He immediately squinted against the milky glare and mentally cursed the house elves for not closing the drapes before he awoke. They knew that he liked to sleep in and preferred that the heavy draperies be shut tightly against the morning light. Squeezing his eyes shut again, he flung out one arm and realized that he was alone in the huge bed.

Sitting straight up, he stared blankly at Hermione's abandoned side of the bed and felt a crushing disappointment in his gut. He pressed his palm flat on the rumpled sheet, but it was cold, with no lingering trace of her body heat. He listened carefully, hopeful that perhaps she was in the bathroom, but the suite was silent except for the distant twittering of birds outside the windows.

She'd been gone for hours.

*****

Breakfast was long over and for a moment, Draco thought he was alone in the manor. The dining room was empty, save for the house elves clearing away the last of the breakfast dishes. They clustered around him, trying to ply him with toast and jam or a bacon sandwich, but he waved them away and stalked off, unaccountably irritable.

His father's office was empty as well and had obviously been so for hours; the hearth was cold and the lamps unlit. The conservatory, his mother's favorite haunt, was equally abandoned. Draco was just on the verge of Disapparating to Diagon Alley to search for his absent family members, when a flash of scarlet caught his eye.

Walking over to the French doors leading out to the gardens, Draco could see Hermione and Narcissa sitting in the summerhouse. Draco opened the doors and strolled out into the late morning sunshine.

*****

Hermione sipped her tea and looked through the menu plans on which Narcissa had collaborated with the house elves. "Naturally, I love it, Narcissa, but do we really need all of this? There's enough food here to feed an army!"

"Darling, the RSVP list is already up to five hundred people, including your friends, and I fully expect another two hundred at least. We'll need everything on that menu and then some," Narcissa said, seemingly unconcerned by the invasion she was so casually planning.

"But there must be ten different kinds of fowl here! Chicken, pheasant, goose, turkey..." Hermione lay the menu down, a little shell-shocked at the scope of her upcoming nuptials. "This is going to be bigger than a royal wedding. Princess Diana should've been so lucky."

Narcissa reached over and chucked Hermione under the chin. "Darling, it is a royal wedding! In the wizarding world anyway, no offense to the dear departed Princess. I want it to be a fairytale for you, my dear. I know this is an unusual courtship for you and Draco and you should have everything you desire on your wedding day. It will be perfect – I'll accept nothing less. Which reminds me...Madam Annelle will be here on Thursday for your fitting and to measure your bridesmaids." As Narcissa said this, a charmed quill scratched the appointment in the large, leather-bound date book on Narcissa's lap. "We'll have the girls over for a light lunch. I'll send an owl to the Burrow today. Do you suppose Mrs. Weasley would like to come as well?"

Hermione nodded and was about to speak when the soft clip of approaching steps drew her attention. She looked up and caught her breath. Narcissa, hearing her, looked up with a bemused frown. Seeing Hermione's reaction, she glanced over her shoulder and smiled.

"Good morning, my lazy sleepyhead!" Narcissa said as Draco dropped a kiss atop her sleek blonde head. "Have you eaten?"

Draco smiled, but his eyes were on Hermione, who sipped her tea and gave him an innocent look. "No, I haven't. No one bothered to wake me." He crossed to Hermione and cupped her chin in his hand as she looked up at him, a sly smile on her lips. Dipping his head as if to kiss those sweetly pouting lips, Draco shifted at the last moment, pressing his kiss to the high curve of her cheek. "And how are you this lovely morning, Granger?" he whispered, his lips lingering against the warm velvet of her skin.

Hermione's breath caught in her throat and he could feel the heat of her blush against his mouth. Languid heat was pooling in his belly as he remembered the glorious feel of her in his arms the night before. Not entirely how he might have wanted, not deep inside her where he so yearned to be, but she'd eagerly allowed him liberties that had left him shaken and melting with desire for her. After their unique lovemaking, he'd gathered her in his arms and slept better than he had in years. Waking up in an empty bed after that too-brief taste of heaven was utterly unacceptable.

Sitting down on the bench beside Hermione, his arm thrown casually over her shoulders, Draco picked up the menu. "Will this be enough, Mum?" he said, as he perused the two large sheets of parchment.

Hermione gave him an incredulous look. "Draco! It's already more food than a Hogwarts Opening Day feast!"

He smirked. "Granger, my love, we'll be feeding more people than can even fit in the Great Hall." Hermione looked ill at the thought and he scooted a little closer to her, toying with a single curl that had fallen over her shoulder. "You aren't getting cold feet, are you?"

Narcissa raised an eyebrow at the tone of her son's voice, one she was quite certain she'd never heard before. Except maybe from her husband's mouth. That sticky-honey drawl, so different from Draco's customary clipped accent, was fluid and sensual. He was staring at the flustered young woman with eyes so hot, she was practically squirming in her seat. Narcissa covered her mouth with one hand and smiled.

Draco, forgetting his mother's presence, curled one palm over Hermione's bare knee, just under the hem of her sensible navy skirt. She was trembling, her breath coming in shallow little pants, and he smiled against her neck as he peppered her with tiny little kisses. Narcissa stood up, gathering her date book, quill, and menu plans.

"I'm going to go send that owl, darlings. You play." With an impish smile, she left Draco and Hermione alone in the summerhouse, practically skipping up the path to the conservatory.

Hermione moaned as Draco pulled away from her. "Mmmm..Draco, where are you...?" She opened her eyes to find him staring at her coldly. Disoriented by his sudden about-face, she shifted on the bench, pressing her thighs together against the burn he'd fanned inside her.

"What's wrong?" she asked with trepidation.

"You left me," he answered simply. Hermione smiled and reached for his hand. He allowed her to take it, but didn't curl his fingers around hers, even though his palm itched with the desire to do so.

"You were sleeping so sweetly, Draco. I didn't want to disturb you," she said, pulling his hand into her lap, determined to break his bad mood. He scowled.

"I don't ever want to wake up in a bed without you in it, Granger. You're mine." As if to illustrated that very point, he dragged her closer, burrowing one hand deep into her mass of hair. "You'll wake me up and tell me where you're going."

Hermione stilled, pressing her lips together tightly. "Draco, I won't be lorded over. You need to get that through your thick skull right now, you arrogant prat!"

He jerked away from her, startled by the vehemence in her voice. "Fine. You can stay away from me then," he snarled, rising to his feet. "You can't have it both ways, Granger. You're playing a game I don't believe I care for."

Draco was almost to the entrance of the summerhouse when he heard her first muffled sob. Gritting his teeth as guilt stirred in his chest, he paused. "Granger..."

"Just go, Malfoy. I'm fine," she said, her voice breathy and wet with tears. She sounded small and fragile and the last of his anger faded away.

Hermione's face was buried in her hands and she didn't hear him approach until he knelt at her feet and touched her knees. "Granger...Hermione...please don't cry. I didn't mean to snap at you."

Hermione wiped the heels of her hands over her wet cheeks and smiled tremulously. "No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so rude. I'm just..."

Draco rubbed his palms over her bare legs, until he'd coaxed them open and he could slide them deeper under her skirt. "Just what?"

Hermione leaned back against the bench, letting her legs fall open a little more. Draco smiled faintly as his fingertips brushed the center of her knickers and came away damp. "I'm scared that I'll lose my independence once we're married. Even now, you're making demands and insisting on obedience...you know I'm not that kind of woman. I'm not some submissive, pureblood wife!"

Draco frowned in confusion. "Hermione...I have no desire, no reason, to take away your independence. It's what makes you who you are. Aggravating and bossy, but that's just you." He smiled at her and she couldn't help the little smile that touched her lips. "Look. We've not given each other a good reason to trust the other, but I thought last night was a step in the right direction. When I woke up this morning, it felt...wrong, somehow. Like something was missing. You were missing."

His long fingers were plucking at the elastic of her knickers, one slipping inside to stroke through her damp curls, into the heated flesh beyond, all the while giving her a smile worthy of one of Heaven's cherubs. Only his eyes gave him away; they sparkled lewdly. His finger skipped over her clit and she jumped.

"I-I'd pr-promised your m-mother that I'd have b-breakfast with her, so we could discuss the wedding plans," Hermione stammered as he played her body like an instrument. Her hips lifted off the bench as she braced her hands on the cool marble. "Don't be angry."

"Lift your arse," Draco ordered, ignoring her apology. When she did, he slid her knickers over her thighs and down to her ankles. Hermione flushed in a mixture of desire and embarrassment.

"Draco, your mother..." she protested weakly as his hands snaked back under her skirt.

"My mother, the observant witch that she is, knew what I was about and that's why she so gracefully removed herself from our presence. And, besides, if I want to do this," he lowered his head and nipped sharply at her inner thigh. "Or this," Draco lifted her leg and licked the sensitive skin behind her knee. "And even this..." Hermione arched up as his fingers glided along her cleft and deeper, into the gathering pool of wetness beyond. "I'm the Malfoy heir, Hermione, and if I want to have you on the front lawn on a bed of roses, I will."

Hermione laughed, a husky, breathy sound that shredded Draco's self-control. "Sounds thorny. Oh! What are you...ohhhh!"

Draco, undone by her teasing tone, swung his leg over the bench and Hermione with it, until they were straddling it facing each other. He pushed her back onto the stone surface as he flipped up the hem of her skirt, baring her to his hungry gaze. Hermione reached down to cover herself shyly. The privacy of Draco's bedroom was one thing; being laid out for his scrutiny in broad daylight was quite another. With a roll of his eyes, Draco pushed her hands away. "Stop that."

"Draco! Stop! What if someone sees...oh, God!" she started, only to have her words die on a strangled moan. Frantically, Hermione stared down at Draco's pale head as he smiled at her, before returning to the feast he'd spread out before him. She tried to pull him up by his silky hair, but he only held her hips still with both hands and proceeded to leisurely use his hot, velvety tongue on her.

With a heartfelt sigh, Hermione surrendered to the delicious shivers of delight racing along her body, centering in that single spot on which Draco was now concentrating.

Staring up at the whimsically painted ceiling of the summerhouse, Hermione softened her grip on his hair and stroked the back of his neck as he coaxed her into an easy orgasm. She was coasting on the edge of it when he massaged the pad of his fingertip against her opening and then pushed inside her, one knuckle deep. Again, tremors wracked her body and she arched her back off the bench, toes curling against the soles of her shoes.

"Draco...stop..." she whined, but he ignored her, stroking his finger within her in shallow dips, pulling out to circle her opening, then slipping back inside to curl against her inner walls. Now, instead of focusing all of his attention on her sensitive clit, he laved her with long, cat-licks, lapping up the copious moisture coating her flesh. She felt boneless and distressingly empty; Hermione had never regretted her decision to wait like she did at this moment.

Draco laid his palm flat on her stomach, soothing her with his warm touch, until he could feel her start to relax into his mouth, letting down her guard. Her fingers on the back of his neck stilled and he smiled. He breathed her in, filling his senses with her intoxicating fragrance, so womanly, so Hermione. Draco knew he'd never tire of this, having her so willing and eager in his arms and he intended to spend every waking moment making sure she knew how desirable she really was.

With a playful growl, he spread her open with his fingers and suckled her clit hard between his lips. The sudden onslaught of his mouth on her took Hermione by surprise and she screamed, clenching rhythmically on his finger as he pushed it deeper inside her. "Draco! Ohgodohgodohgod...don't stop, please don't stop..."

Draco looked up at her, even as he continued to suckle at her and found her staring at him with wild eyes and the beginnings of a giddy smile. Sweat had beaded along her hairline and her cheeks were rosy. A rush of affection for her made him redouble his efforts to send her back over that cliff's edge of ecstasy. Her grip on his neck tightened, fingernails digging into his nape, as she thrashed under his mouth.

With a grin, Draco finally relented and laid his damp cheek on her thigh, stroking his fingers over her quivering belly. "Granger, we may not survive our wedding night."

Hermione smiled in sated agreement.

*****

A pair of strong arms encircled Narcissa's willowy form and she smiled, nestling back into the familiar embrace. "What are you doing, darling?" her husband's aristocratic voice drawled in her ear, before the tip of his tongue traced the curve of her earlobe.

"I'm being a very good girl and not spying on our son and future daughter-in-law," she murmured as she turned in Lucius's arms, pulling his head down to hers. He raised his eyebrows as she attacked his lips with a lusty growl. His surprise quickly turned to desire as she took the initiative with him, thrusting her tongue into his mouth and coaxing his own out to play. Finally, Lucius pulled away, looking down at his beautiful wife.

"What in Merlin's name has brought this on? I'd have thought you'd be too exhausted from last night's play to be so eager so soon," he said, trying and failing to hide his pleased grin.

Narcissa drew him over to the loveseat and pushed him down on it, moving to stand between his legs. "You know how sensitive I am to pheromones...if I'd had any idea it would be like this, I'd have insisted on marrying Draco off years ago."

Lucius smiled and reclined on the loveseat, his arms stretched out along the back. Narcissa was looking at him as if he was a particularly decadent piece of chocolate cake and it was making him throb in anticipation. Reaching behind her back, Narcissa unfastened her gown and let it drop to her ankles in a puddle of scarlet silk. With a lazy grin, Lucius hooked a single finger in the lacy top of her knickers and pulled her closer. "I like you very much like this, but aren't you afraid Draco and Hermione will walk in?" he said, even though from Narcissa's advanced state of arousal, he highly doubted that she really even cared.

Narcissa smirked, looking very much like their son at that moment. She threaded her fingers through her husband's long, silver hair as he slid her knickers over her slim hips. Still so lovely, he thought, caressing her pale skin with the back of his hand, before drawing a single digit along her cleft, sinking into the lush moisture within. With a moan of appreciation, she clambered onto his lap, her long legs sprawled on either side of his thighs as she eagerly unfastened his trousers and drew out his rigid cock.

With a sigh, Lucius lay his head back as Narcissa impaled herself on his shaft, sinking onto him with an ease born of many years of practice. He cupped one lace-covered breast in a gloved hand, rolling her nipple between thumb and forefinger as she began riding him hard. "I take that as a no. I thought they were going to wait?" he gasped, already caught up in her enthusiasm.

Narcissa leaned over him, brushing her breasts over his velvet coat. He moved his hands down to her firm arse, helping her work herself up and down on his cock. "Darling, they're the two brightest students Hogwarts has produced in a generation. They're finding other ways to...ahhhh...meet their needs."

"Well, isn't that...fuck, woman! I guess I had no idea that my son's betrothal would be so...beneficial to my sex life," he grunted, starting to come apart as Narcissa fucked him with a primal passion he'd not seen from her in ages. "Oh, I love you, my sweet, sweet wife..."

She answered him with a hungry kiss and, with an answering growl, Lucius flipped her underneath him, pounding hard into her welcoming heat.

Any misgivings he might've had about bringing Hermione Granger into his family vanished as he found his pleasure in Narcissa's arms.

Chapter Text

“What’s taking her so bloody long?” Draco asked, sending another annoyed glance up the stairs. “The guests will be arriving any minute.”

Lucius smiled faintly at his reflection in the enormous, ornate mirror hanging on the foyer wall. He brushed leather-gloved fingers over an imaginary speck of dust on his collar and watched his son pace with nervous energy at the foot of the stairs. “She’s a woman, Draco, and along with all the delights that comes package and parcel with that gender, it also means that she’ll take her own sweet time getting ready for a party. Have patience, son.”

Draco’s shoulders slumped at his father’s words. “You find this all enormously amusing, don’t you?” he spat petulantly.

Lucius sighed and turned from the pleasure of his reflection. “Draco, for God's sake. Have a little restraint. If you continue to allow Miss Granger to hold sway over you, you’ll never be anything more than her pathetic little lap dog.”

Draco swung around to stare at his father, the man’s gently mocking words ringing in his ears. “You don’t mean that,” he said, even though he had a sneaking suspicion that he did. He narrowed his eyes in budding fury.

“Perhaps I’ve been too blunt. Draco, she has no choice but to marry you; there’s nothing stopping you from just taking her,” Lucius said silkily, watching the play of emotion on Draco’s face. He pushed just a little bit more. “If you assert your control over her early, then...”

Too agitated to catch the fact that Lucius was only teasing him, Draco rounded on him angrily. “I don’t want to control her! I don’t want that at all! I want...I want...” He raked a hand through his sleekly styled hair. “I want her. Hermione. Just the way she is. Why is that so hard for everyone to understand?”

Lucius’s smile was surprisingly gentle, given Draco’s tantrum, and the young man realized he was being teased. “Then, I suggest you look up, Draco.”

Draco, his mouth still twisted in an ill-tempered pout, looked over his shoulder and his anger melted away in an instant.

Narcissa glided down the stairs, a smug little smile lighting up her beautiful face. Her heavy lilac brocade gown clung tightly to her figure and made her pale skin glow with an inner light. But as lovely as his mother was, Draco’s attention was riveted on Hermione, who trailed a few steps behind, one slender hand sliding over the railing. Narcissa walked directly into Lucius’s arms and together they watched Draco walk dazedly to the foot of the stairs, holding out one hand to help Hermione down the last couple of steps.

“Merlin, Granger...” he started, words failing him as he devoured her with his eyes.

Hermione smirked, amused at his uncharacteristic incoherence. “You like it? Madame Annelle made it specifically for the engagement party tonight.” She let go of his hand and twirled around once, giving him a complete view of the exquisite dress. Her hair, normally so wild and untamed, was twisted into an elegant twist at the back of her head.

Draco’s hands itched to touch all of the bare skin the dress revealed and his groin tightened in a way that was beginning to become commonplace whenever he was near Hermione. “You look absolutely stunning, Granger. Turn around for me again,” he whispered, wishing his parents weren’t watching them. He wanted nothing more than to pull her to the marble floor and muss her all up. A vision of a wanton Hermione, perfect pink lipstick smeared over perfect pink lips, hair falling over her shoulders in an unruly mass, sent him to a very happy place indeed.

With Draco’s heart sitting so prominently on his sleeve, Hermione felt her own swell to almost painful proportions and for the first time since their betrothal was arranged, she honestly felt something she could call love. Real love. And if the light shining in his eyes was any indication, he was feeling the exact same way.

She turned again slowly, the gossamer-thin silk skirt fluttering out in a cloud of creamy pink. Before she could complete the twirl, Draco stepped into her personal space, catching her against his body with one arm around her slender waist. Her back was nestled to his chest and she shuddered as he dropped warm, hungry kisses on her bare shoulder. His breath tickled the fine hairs at her nape and she shivered in his arms. “Draco...”

“I could just eat you alive, Granger. Spread you out on the stairs and crawl under this gown and lick you up like honey,” he breathed, his hand sliding over her stomach to cup one silk-covered breast. Her flesh was miraculously soft and yielding in his palm and it hit him then that she wasn’t wearing a bra. But then, how could she? The bodice of the pink dress dipped low in front and even lower in back, baring the inner curve of her breasts and the soft shadows beneath, far too revealing for any kind of undergarment. The very thought that she was naked under the thin, nearly transparent silk made him ache wretchedly for her.

He pushed against her and Hermione purred in response, slowly grinding her bottom against him. The rest of the world, Lucius, Narcissa and the gathering house elves, were completely and utterly forgotten.

Lucius caught his bottom lip between his teeth and chanced a glance at his wife. Narcissa’s blue eyes were shining with delight, her hands clasped to her breasts, the romantic in her caught up in their son’s naked emotion for the Muggle-born witch. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “What have we wrought, my dear?” he said, as she gave him a dazzling smile.

“Oh, darling...isn’t it beautiful?” she said dreamily. Impulsively, she spun into his arms, coaxing him into an impromptu waltz. Lucius laughed, noting that it failed to penetrate the sensual wall that Draco and Hermione had built around themselves. They continued to sway against each other and Draco’s pale head was pressed against Hermione’s as they whispered softly to each other.

“What are you playing at, my sweet?”

“Love, Lucius! I’m falling in love all over again!”

The elder Malfoy could only stare at her in amazement and offer a prayer of thanks for the little witch who was turning his family upside down.

*****

An hour later, the party was in full swing, the ballroom and adjoining dining hall swarming with stylishly dressed witches and wizards. In addition to the many friends and acquaintances of the Malfoys, Ministry officials, and Hogwarts professors, several of Draco's and Hermione’s former classmates were in attendance as well.

Hermione was happier than she’d been in ages and it shone from her with a radiance that had everyone in the room commenting and sending her appreciative looks. Draco, standing near the bar with Vince, Greg, and Blaise, found that he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He held a crystal flute of champagne in one hand, forgotten in his pleasure at watching his future wife.

“Malfoy?” Greg rumbled.

“Hmmm?” Draco murmured, the word barely penetrating his thoughts.

Blaise drained his own glass of champagne and snagged another from a passing house elf. “Malfoy, would you look at yourself. You’re completely pussy-whipped.”

Draco dragged his eyes off of Hermione, who was currently surrounded by several former Gryffindor girls, and a few of the boys as well. He had a sudden, insane urge to beat Seamus Finnigan to death and would if he didn’t remove his filthy paws off of his intended. Blaise smirked, his dimples deepening as he followed Draco's line of sight.

“Yep, boys, the word is pussy-whipped,” he crowed. Greg and Vince laughed, until Draco leveled a dangerous glare their direction.

“I am not pussy-whipped, Zabini! We’re wait...” He stopped abruptly, not really wanting to spread the details of his and Hermione’s sexual agreement.

But, while Greg Goyle and Vince Crabbe weren’t the brightest crayons in the box, the same could not be said for Blaise Zabini. His dark blue eyes lit up as he turned to look at Hermione. “You’re joking, right?”

Draco gulped his champagne in a single swallow and glared at Blaise. “Shut it, Zabini,” he said warningly.

“I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it. The great Slytherin stud himself, betrothed to a virgin.”

Vince perked up at that. “No way! Granger’s a virgin?”

Draco grimaced, but then he noticed Hermione’s gaze over the heads of her friends, and his expression softened into a secret smile. She flushed so prettily, her dark lashes dipping for a moment to hide her eyes from him, that Blaise’s words no longer mattered to him. As long as she continued to smile at him as if he were the only man in the room, he’d preach his growing feelings Hermione Granger from the rooftops.

Holding out his empty glass to Blaise, who took it with a grin, Draco straightened his formal robes. “Pardon me, gentlemen, I have a sudden desire to dance with my fiancée. Enjoy the party.”

*****

Alicia Weasley, one hand resting on her swollen belly, nudged Hermione with her elbow. “Merlin, he’s delicious. Hermione, you are one lucky, lucky woman.”

A chorus of agreement swept through the rest of the women gathered around Hermione, even as the men, Harry and Ron included, muttered darkly under their breath. Hermione only smiled sweetly as she watched Draco scowl at Blaise and shake his head. He turned to look at her and his expression cleared, a soft, sappy smile crossing his face. Even Ron’s whispered, “Twitchy ferret,” didn’t faze her in the least.

Ginny leaned forward, her long, red hair brushing against Hermione’s bare arm. “He really is a handsome man, Hermione. And it’s absolutely obvious that he adores you.”

“Really? You don’t think it’s just...you know, lust?”

Angelina snorted. “Girl, lust is only the beginning. You keep on doing whatever it is you’ve been doing, and he’ll be in the palm of your hand forever.” She sipped her champagne as Fred dropped a fond kiss on her dusky cheek.

“I’m not really doing anything...much,” Hermione whispered back, feeling a hot flush steal over her cheeks as she remembered the morning in the summerhouse, three weeks ago. Draco pressed his glass into Blaise’s hand and brushed his own over the front of his dark robes. He started towards them.

Harry groaned. “Do I have to be nice?”

Ginny pinched him on the arm. “Yes, Harry Potter, you have to be nice!” He slipped his arm around her waist and snuggled her neck. He grumbled a little, but one look at Hermione’s excitement quieted him. He’d been so frightened for her after finding out that she was to marry Malfoy, but he’d do nothing to damage the fragile happiness that surrounded her now. To his surprise, Hermione and Malfoy had reached a kind of agreement that appeared to be working well for them, if their behavior was anything to go on.

The crowd around Hermione parted for Draco and he smiled lazily at her. “Granger.”

Hermione’s gaze swept over his blond hair and expensively tailored dress robes, and a shiver of delight made her tremble. He was hers, all hers, and she reveled in the power she held over him. The power they held over each other. It was intoxicating. “Malfoy. Are you behaving yourself?”

His grin was swift and cocky. “Unfortunately. Care to misbehave with me?”

Ron groaned under his breath and Lavender tapped him with the back of her hand. “Hush, it’s romantic,” she said with a giggle

Two pink spots colored Draco’s cheeks at the blonde witch’s words. He couldn’t help the smirk that twisted his lips and he pinned Ron Weasley with a smug stare. “Gentlemen, ladies, if I may have my lovely fiancée, I believe I shall indulge her with a dance. Granger?” He held out his arm and she tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow.

The brief moment of tension faded and Draco swept Hermione onto the dance floor and then pulled her into his arms, indecently close. He lowered his mouth to hers, stopping just short of touching her rosy lips. Languidly, Hermione lifted her eyes to his and just as slowly, dipped her head to one side. Draco covered that short distance to her neck and drew a small mouthful of her flesh into his mouth. A trail of several kisses later and she was clinging to him, one hand sinking into the longish hair at his nape and the other sliding into his robe, to stroke over the swelling bulge pressing against her stomach.

The world seemed to slip away and Draco dragged her up onto her toes, his hands splayed over her bare back and his face buried in the warm, fragrant curve of her neck. The music, combined with too many glasses of champagne and the molten warmth of the room, was enough to nearly send him over the edge.

“Stay with me tonight, Granger? I don’t want to wake up alone,” he whispered in her ear, as his fingertips trailed up and down her spine. Hermione nodded, even as she pressed hungry kisses along his jaw line, rubbing her lips over the faint stubble.

“Always, I’ll always be there when you wake up, Draco. And when you fall asleep and all the times in between.” She raised shining, happy eyes to his and he felt a pain in his chest that threatened to choke him, had it not been so incomparably sweet. He felt tears prickle at the back of his eyelids and, mortified, he pressed his face into her bare shoulder, stemming the sudden emotion against her skin.

Hermione cradled him as they swayed together, her hand stroking over his shoulders, a dreamy smile playing along her lips.

*****

Lucius reached into his pocket and withdrew a snowy white handkerchief. Pressing it into Narcissa’s hand, he chuckled. “You’re a hopeless romantic, love.”

Narcissa dabbed at her eyes, smiling through her tears. “I know. It’s just...” She paused as a lump formed in her throat.

Lucius looked down at her, his hand reaching for hers. “What’s that, Narcissa?”

“I never thought he’d be happy,” she murmured, aware of the curious eyes of their friends on her.

The elder Malfoy couldn’t help but agree and the knowledge pained him. “He was a very angry young man. I’m so sorry, my darling, for nearly ruining our son with my arrogance.”

Narcissa turned to him, her tears replaced by a burst of anger. “Don’t! Everything you did, Lucius, you did because you loved us and wanted only the best for us! It was wrong, I’m not afraid to tell you that now. But, I’ve never doubted your love for us. Never!”

He pulled her into his arms and rested his chin on the top of her head. “I don’t deserve you, darling. Or Draco. I’m blessed, so blessed.”

Narcissa snuggled into his warm embrace and watched Draco and Hermione raise many an eyebrow amongst the older generation as they practically ravished each other on the dance floor. “We’re blessed by their happiness. Please, may it last for all their lives.”

*****

It was hours before Draco was able to spirit Hermione away. Speech after speech had been given in honor of the betrothed couple and he thought it would never end. Then, Hermione’s friends, especially Potter and Weasley, had reclaimed her after their dance and he’d been unable to pry her away again, until the guests started drifting away in the wee hours of the morning.

Now, he was standing at his bedroom window, the sky lightening to a wintry greyish-pink on the horizon, his thoughts consumed with Hermione.

A soft smile curled the edges of his lips as he remembered just how beautiful she’d looked tonight. Draped in pink silk, the color warming her skin and making her glow in the light of thousands of candles, Hermione looked prettier than he’d ever remembered seeing her, but what truly made her exceptional was the look in her brown eyes when she looked at him. If he wasn’t too mistaken, she loved him. Just a little.

What he was feeling for her defied explanation but he knew that, after this night, he’d never let her go again.

“I thought you’d be in bed already.” A soft, sleepy murmur accompanied Hermione’s hands as she slipped them around his waist, fingertips stroking over the wiry gold hair dusting his stomach. Her breasts, so supple and heavy, pressed against his back, shielded from his skin by only the thinnest layer of silk. The lingering scent of her bath rose to his nostrils and he groaned with wanting her.

“I was waiting for you.” He covered her hands with his. “I didn’t want to fall asleep until you were with me.”

Hermione smiled as she kissed the delicate line of his spine. “It was a nice party, wasn’t it? Thank you for being nice to my friends. It means so much to me, you know.”

Draco grinned. “Well, I did threaten to hex Weasley if he did anything to fuck us up. Does that count?”

With a husky laugh, Hermione slipped under his arm and burrowed against his chest. “What counts is that you didn’t. He and Harry were on their best behavior.”

“They were.” He tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear and rubbed his thumb over the softness of her cheek. “I like you best like this, naked and unvarnished. I like your clean skin, your freckles. I like your hair loose, curls falling over your shoulders, over your breasts. You are so beautiful, Granger.”

Hermione shivered as he tugged at the tie holding her robe shut. He pushed it from her shoulders and it pooled at her feet. A flush painted her cheeks and she looked down with sudden bashfulness. Draco kissed each of her cheeks in turn, his lips lingering sweetly, and the almost chaste touch fired her blood more than any deep, soulful kisses ever could. Although, she thought with a secret smile, real kisses with Draco will be like our own little secret slice of heaven.

Taking his hand in hers, she tugged him over to the huge bed. Kneeling on the thick quilt, Hermione slipped her hands under the waist of Draco’s pajama bottoms and pushed them over his arse, freeing his already-erect cock from the loose confines. “All this for me, Malfoy?”

“Every inch,” he smirked, gazing down at her with stormy eyes. When she covered the tip with her tongue, sinking him into the inferno-heat of her mouth, he staggered, catching himself on her shoulder. “God, Hermione...”

Hermione raised her eyes to his and slowly, deliberately, curled her tongue under the edge of the crown and circled him with long, wet strokes. She snaked one hand up his chest and Draco grabbed her wrist, bringing her fingers to his mouth. He sucked each one between his lips, mimicking the languid motion of her mouth on his cock. Her other hand cradled his balls, the tip of her middle finger pressing lightly against the sensitive strip of skin behind the sac.

She brought her saliva-wet fingers back to his cock and slicked over his shaft until she’d formed a single, seamless action, capped by the burning suction of her mouth and tongue. Draco’s lust for her was so near the surface, shimmering like a desert mirage on the horizon, that he knew that he’d not last long at all. He slid his fingers into her still-damp curls and rocked his hips against her mouth.

True to his prediction, within minutes he was crying out weakly as he spurted into Hermione’s welcoming mouth, her tongue lapping up the last few droplets seeping from his slit. Hermione let him slip from between her lips and, after a final, loving swipe, scooted to the center of the bed. Draco, every muscle trembling in the aftermath of his orgasm, crawled over her. Gathering her hair in both hands, he licked up a drop of his own release that had made its way onto her chin.

“Sleep, Draco...it’s been such a long day...” Hermione whispered, her hands spreading over his back, relishing the weight of his body on hers. Draco shifted to lie beside her, but draped his leg over her hips. He lay the palm of his hand on her bare stomach, his thumb curling into her navel.

“But, you didn’t...you haven’t...” he whispered, then yawned widely. Exhaustion was burning behind his eyelids, dragging them down.

“Later. Sleep.” Hermione kissed his temple and closed her eyes. With one last, hazy-eyed smile, Draco let sleep steal him away, his head pillowed on Hermione's soft breast.

Chapter Text

Draco was sulking.

The first snow of the season had blanketed the ground overnight and it had taken an extra hour and a massive force of will to crawl out of bed, not to mention away from Hermione’s warm embrace. Lucius had sent up two house elves to fetch Draco before finally arriving himself, knocking so hard on the door with his silver-headed cane that Hermione pulled a pillow over her head to block out the sound.

With a last yearning look at his fiancée’s sleeping form, Draco had flipped back the covers and dressed. It didn’t do to keep Lucius Malfoy waiting, especially when he was determined to turn his son into something other than a spoiled brat who would prefer to stay lounging abed with his naked wife-to-be, instead of learning more about the varied Malfoy ventures.

Now, sitting across the desk from Lucius, warming his hands around a cup of tea, Draco yawned and wondered what Hermione was amusing herself with this cold, dreary morning. Shopping perhaps; he’d been astounded by how quickly she’d taken to Narcissa’s favorite pursuit. While at Hogwarts, she’d been so practical and so disinterested in the kinds of activities the other girls her age indulged in, he’d always assumed she just didn’t care about appearances. Looking back, of course, he realized that her formidable mind was concerned with other things, like keeping Potter alive long enough to kill the Dark Lord. She hadn’t the time or inclination for frivolous pursuits until now. Now that she had him to spoil her rotten.

He didn’t mind in the least the money she spent and she was more likely to spend it on him, bringing home all variety of trinkets, clothing, and delicacies, anything she spotted that she thought might bring a smile to his face. For herself, more often than not, she bought books and had in the past couple of months, started building a library of her own in their wing of the Manor. Despite his slowly-fading prejudices, Lucius had a taken an interest in Hermione’s project and had produced several rare volumes that she’d practically salivated over when he’d presented them to her.

Draco smiled at the memory. Lucius had been quite taken aback when Hermione had hugged him tightly, pressing a kiss to his pale cheek in thanks for the large collection of magical books. Narcissa had looked on with tears shimmering in her blue eyes; Draco had never seen his mother as emotional as she’d been since he’d dragged Hermione into their lives. She was fond of saying Hermione was the daughter she’d never had. Lucius had blushed, actually blushed, and from that moment on, Hermione could do no wrong in his eyes.

“Draco!”

Startled out of his reverie by Lucius’s sharp voice, he looked up guiltily. “Sorry, Father...I was thinking.” He set the teacup on the tray and rubbed his hands over his face. Lucius’s stern gaze softened.

“It won’t be long now, less than three weeks,” he said, giving his son his full attention.

“Eighteen days.”

Lucius smiled. “Indeed. Is everything in order? Have your robes arrived?”

Signor Lazzaro will be here on Friday, for final fittings. Vince’s have to be let out again; he’s gained a half stone since the last fitting. You know, someone really needs to smack his hand the next time he reaches for a pasty,” Draco drawled, picking up a quill and twirling it in his fingers.

“He’s definitely his father’s son, at least in his gluttonous nature,” Lucius said, with a slightly pained expression. The elder Crabbe hadn’t been the brightest of men, but he’d been a loyal friend. Years after the final battle, Lucius still felt his loss keenly. “So what is this your mother’s told me about a...what did she call it? A stag night?”

Draco’s studied nonchalance faded into pure irritation. “Oh, it’s Potter’s idea. Potter and Weasley.” He spat the words with only slightly less venom than he’d used in school. “Some stupid Muggle tradition. Apparently I’m supposed to let them get me stinking pissed and humiliate me, before they’ll let me have Hermione.”

He smirked meanly. “Like I’m going to let those two buffoons stop me from bedding that woman when the time comes. You’ll be lucky if I wait until the end of the ceremony.”

“Draco, honestly. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were an eager, blushing virgin,” Lucius drawled in amusement.

“Well, I might as well be, Father,” Draco complained, but he smiled at some inner memory. Lucius sighed.

“When is it? This party of Potter’s?”

Draco tossed the quill back on the desk and picked up his teacup, wincing at the taste of the lukewarm beverage. “A week from Friday. From what Hermione said, traditionally it’s supposed to be the night before the wedding, but she put her foot down. Said she didn’t want me hung over during the wedding. And she made them promise to not let anyone give me a ‘lap dance’, whatever the bleeding hell that is.”

Lucius bit his lip to hide his grin. “I assume this endeavor of Potter's and Weasley’s is going to involve a night of pub crawling then? Don’t try to Apparate, Draco. I’m not of a mind to see you in St. Mungo’s, recovering from a splinching.”

“No, Potter’s already booked rooms for us in Diagon Alley. Thank God Blaise, Vince, and Greg will be there. I can’t imagine spending an entire evening with a bunch of Weasleys, not to mention half of Gryffindor House.”

Lucius frowned. “Haven’t they invited any of your friends, other than those in the bridal party?”

Draco shrugged. “Potter wouldn’t say. Just grinned like a prat and said, ‘Just wait, Malfoy. Just wait.’”

“Sounds rather...sinister. How does Hermione feel about it?”

“Amused. Except about the lap dance thing. She made Potter promise to not do anything that might make the Daily Prophet.” He smiled then, a sharp curve of his lips. “I’ve already promised her payback. She seemed to like that idea.”

“I’ve no doubt,” Lucius said wryly, wondering privately if Draco knew exactly what it was he was getting into with Hermione. He was her slave in all but name. “Here, Draco, pull your chair around. I want to go over these accounts with you.”

*****

After a long soak in the huge marble tub in their suite, Hermione dressed in a warm woolen sweater and jeans and walked downstairs to find Narcissa. The older woman was in the conservatory, curled up on the loveseat with her feet tucked under her robe, her appointment book open on her lap and a plate of pastries on the side table. Hermione gave her a kiss, selecting a croissant from the plate as she settled onto the sofa opposite. Narcissa smiled indulgently.

“You look well-rested, my love,” she said, smoothing back a fallen lock of pale hair. Hermione blushed, as she took a nibble from the corner of the croissant.

“I’ve been sleeping much better.”

Narcissa smirked knowingly. “Since you and Draco moved into your new quarters?”

Hermione nodded. “Growing up as an only child, I never had to share my bed with anyone. It wasn’t until I started spending summers with the Weasleys and sharing Ginny’s room that I’d ever had to sleep with another person. This is...different, somehow.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Because of Draco. I like having him close.” Hermione grinned suddenly and it lit up her entire face. “It seems a waste of such a huge bed. We only use about an eighth of it.”

Narcissa laughed. “Indeed! Well, I’ve no doubt you’ll soon put it all to use. Lucius and I make use of every square inch of our bed and you’ve seen the size of it.”

Hermione was distracted from her embarrassment by a house elf toddling in, bearing a tea tray. “Thank you,” she said as the elf nodded pleasantly to them both before Disapparating. “Shall I pour?”

Narcissa nodded and watched as Hermione poured them each a cup, fixing hers just as she liked it, with a generous dollop of milk and no sugar at all. She took the proffered cup with a gracious nod. “You have such pretty manners, Hermione. Your mother must have been a remarkable woman to have instilled such gracious comportment.”

Hermione’s eyes misted, but she smiled. “Yes. Yes, she was. Both Mum and Dad were.”

“And Mrs. Weasley? She’s been a fine influence on you as well?”

“She’s been a second mother to me. Not replacing mine of course, but...well, she was there when I needed her most.”

Narcissa sipped her tea slowly. “I hope I’ll be able to help fill that need for you, Hermione. Not to replace your mother or Mrs. Weasley, never that...but I’m so enjoying the rapport we’ve built these last few months. You mean very much to Lucius and me.”

Hermione smiled through her tears. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without your guidance, Narcissa, planning this wedding and living here. You’ve been extraordinary. And Lucius...he’s certainly not the man I imagined him to be.”

“Lucius has changed, certainly. He’s always been a strong, proud man and he let that pride lead him down a dark path. Fortunately, he could be saved before it destroyed him. He’s a good man, Hermione, and I’m so glad that the rest of the world can now see him as I’ve always seen him.”

Hermione looked out the window at the snow-covered gardens. “I thought this would be harder. I really imagined that I was going to have to fight for Draco’s affection, but he’s been amazing, really. I feel foolish now, for not noticing it before, at Hogwarts.”

“Noticing what?”

“How much love he had to give. He was always so nasty, so mean...he was really just very sad, wasn’t he? I feel bad that I didn’t try to get to know him better.”

Narcissa paused, trying to find the right words to explain her son to Hermione. “Draco worshipped his father. Lucius was everything Draco wanted to be. Even if that meant following a path that frightened him went against his conscience. He’d have done anything to gain Lucius’s affection, even kill, if need be.” Narcissa leaned forward, setting her cup down. She reached out for Hermione’s hands, her fingers curling over the younger woman’s. “Draco’s an exceptionally intelligent young man, I think that’s one of the reasons you’ve taken to each other like you have, but he’s rash. He’s impulsive and he doesn’t always think before leaping into trouble. You’ve been a very calming influence on him and I’m so thankful for that.”

“He’s a handful,” Hermione said, smiling softly.

“And his pride surpasses even Lucius’s. All of that made him a very difficult child. He wanted for nothing, except the love of his father. They’re still getting to know each other; being separated as they were, by school and Voldemort...well, they only really knew the worst parts of each other.”

Hermione nodded thoughtfully.

“Anyway, I’m glad that they’ve had these past few years to get to really know each other and better still, like each other. Not unlike the chance you’re being given now.”

“A chance to know the real Draco.”

Narcissa smiled indulgently. “And I think you’ll find, he’s not a bad chap at all.”

*****

“A what?”

“A hen's party.”

Draco frowned and sent his mother a questing glance. Narcissa smiled at him and sipped her wine. Lucius snorted from behind the Evening Prophet.

“Ginny and the other girls have planned a nice outing for us. We're meeting up at the Burrow first, then dinner and drinks later at a club,” Hermione explained. Draco’s frown grew.

“You’re not getting pissed,” he said, giving her a smug look. Hermione set her fork down and glared at him.

“It’s not that kind of party. Not really. It’s something that the maid of honor, or matron in this case since Ginny’s married, does for the bride. It involves presents.”

“Presents? What kind of presents? Hermione, you have everything you could ever want, right here in this house and if you don’t, I can buy it for you. What on earth do you need that the She-Weasel and assorted Gryffindor harpies can provide that I can’t?” he snapped, giving her an irritated little smirk. But Hermione was unfazed by his temper. She took a small bite of chicken, chewing thoughtfully before returning her attention to an increasingly annoyed Draco.

“The naughty kind.” She raised a single eyebrow and smiled.

Lucius smothered a laugh and Narcissa giggled outright as Draco’s face blanked for a moment then, as Hermione’s meaning became clear, darkened with a surge of desire. He grinned, leaning over to nuzzle her neck, his bad mood dissipating. “Well, why didn’t you say so? Please go, with my blessings. Give the She-Weasel a kiss for me.”

“She has a name, you prat.”

“Yeah, Ginevra. I think she’d prefer She-Weasel.”

Hermione slapped him on the arm, but grinned. “You can call her Ginny. Or Madam Potter, if you like.” He grimaced.

“No thanks. So, when is this soiree?”

“Same night as your stag party. I expect I’ll be home long before dawn, unlike you,” she said primly.

Draco pushed his plate away and scooted his chair closer to Hermione’s. He picked a piece of chicken from her plate and popped it into his mouth. “Just as long as you don’t come home pissed and stinking of a pub. I like my women sweet-smelling and obedient,” he teased, knowing it would raise her ire. He wasn’t disappointed.

Hermione’s lips pursed peevishly. “Obedient? You know how far that will get you, Draco Malfoy. You can sleep alone tonight, if that’s how you feel,” she snapped, but a twinkle in her eyes told him she knew he was merely teasing. He curled his hand around her thigh, just under the hem of her skirt. A soft nudge of his mouth under her ear had her biting back a smile, then a giggle.

“I’ll show you obedient, you bossy little wench,” he murmured as he drew his tongue along the line of her neck. She moaned softly and reached for his hand, clasping his fingers in hers.

Lucius lowered his paper. “For the love of Merlin! Not at the dinner table!” he said, giving the paper an annoyed shake.

Narcissa held out her wineglass for the attending house elf to refill and gave her husband a flirtatious look. She was not drunk, not by half, but she was feeling deliciously warm and tingly and watching Draco and Hermione flirt and play with each other was filling her head with thoughts of a far randier nature.

She reached over and touched Lucius’s inner thigh, trailing her fingernails along the seam of his trousers. He gave her a sidelong look and a tiny smile graced his lips. “Ready for dessert, love?”

“You have no idea. What are you serving?”

Lucius neatly folded up his paper, hardly noticing Draco and Hermione’s swift exit, wrapped in each other’s arms. He stood up and took out his wand. With a flick, he vanished the remains of their dinner, and then pulled Narcissa out of her chair. She wrapped her arms around his neck, trailing nipping kisses along his jaw as he deftly unbuttoned her dress and tugged it off her shoulders to pool at her high-heeled feet.

Lifting her up on the table, he pressed his lips to her cheek and palmed one full breast. “It’s been ages since I’ve shagged you for dessert...whipped cream or chocolate tonight?” he said as he bore her back on the table’s surface.

Narcissa arched into his grasp, a sweet smile playing along her lips. “I think I have a taste for honey tonight, honey.”

Lucius laughed as he swooped down into his wife’s welcoming arms.

Chapter Text

Narcissa looked up from the parchment spread across her lap as Hermione walked into the conservatory. She set aside the seating chart and quill and clapped her hands in delight. “Oh, darling, you look lovely!” she cried, reaching over to nudge Lucius on the thigh. With a barely-concealed sigh of annoyance, he glanced up briefly from the Evening Prophet, then took a second, longer look.

“Has Draco seen you yet?” he asked, his eyes trailing down the surprisingly long length of Hermione’s bare legs. He caught Narcissa’s amused smile and gave back one of his own. “He’s going to lock you up for a month, if you wear that in public,” he drawled.

Hermione glared at the elder Malfoy as Narcissa swatted him with the back of her hand. “Behave, Lucius! She looks wonderful and Draco will be smitten all over again. Do you have time to sit with us, darling? When are you supposed to be at the party?” Narcissa asked as she scooted over on the loveseat to make room for Hermione.

“Soon and Draco’s still in the shower – he takes the longest showers of any person I’ve ever known – so, he’s not seen me yet. It isn’t too much, is it?” Hermione asked, looking to Narcissa for guidance, but it was Lucius who answered.

“There isn’t too much of anything there. I hope you were planning on wearing a coat; I don’t fancy having you frozen to death because you haven’t the sense to get dressed,” he said, his tone of voice more teasing than serious.

“Don’t listen to him, he’s just a grumpy old man,” Narcissa said, giving Hermione a look of motherly pride. “How on earth Draco made it through seven years at Hogwarts and not notice how beautiful you are is utterly beyond my comprehension.”

“Malfoy men are idiots when it comes to women, love. Thankfully, I opened my eyes before you got away,” Lucius said with a fond smile for his wife. Narcissa laid a hand to her brow, pretending to swoon.

“Such pretty words, monsieur,” she trilled and Hermione laughed at their loving banter.

“Honestly, you two are nothing like I expected,” Hermione laughed, crossing her legs and tugging ineffectually at the short hem of her dress. “And I’m very glad.”

Narcissa leaned over and enveloped Hermione in a tight hug. The blonde witch was the more physically demonstrative of the two Malfoy parents, but the gleam of pride in Lucius’s eyes was equally as heartwarming. Hermione, used to Molly Weasley’s smothering hugs and kisses, welcomed her future in-laws’ abundant affection.

“Well, I certainly despaired of Draco ever finding the right woman with whom to settle down. To be perfectly honest, I was beginning to think he might be homosexual,” Narcissa said blithely. Lucius sputtered behind his paper, peering over the top of it to give Narcissa a glare. She ignored him and carried on. “Not that I’d care, not if he was happy. And I really liked that Blaise Zabini, such a handsome young man, and...”

“Narcissa!” Lucius finally interrupted.

Hermione laughed out loud at the look on his face. “I can assure you both, Draco’s certainly not gay. Although I do agree that he’d make a pretty wife for Blaise!” Narcissa snickered behind one hand as Lucius glared at them both.

“Allow me to assure everyone present, I’m not in the least bit interested in anyone but my wife-to-be,” came Draco’s smooth drawl. He was leaning against the doorjamb, an amused quirk to his lips.

“Draco! Don’t you look handsome?” Narcissa said.

Strolling into the room, Draco captured and held Hermione’s attention. Dressed in charcoal trousers and a pale blue shirt, his still-damp hair swept loosely back from his face, Draco looked every inch the rich, spoiled wizard. Hermione swallowed tightly as he drew closer, memories of their earlier lovemaking causing a low ache to settle in her belly. A delicate flush crawled up her cheeks as he leaned over the back of the loveseat to drop a deceptively innocent kiss to her cheek. Only she knew how much yearning lurked there as the very tip of his tongue darted out to tease her skin. Only she could feel the scorching heat of his fingertips as they grazed the bare flesh of her nape, just beneath the loose topknot of curls.

Then, as he pulled away and came around the edge of the loveseat, to perch on the arm, Draco noticed Hermione’s crimson dress. Storm clouds immediately gathered in his eyes and Lucius, noticing his son’s instant change of mood, snorted. “Told you.”

Narcissa reached over and patted her husband’s knee, but she smiled at Draco soothingly. “Now, darling...” she started, but Draco’s cool voice cut her off.

“You aren’t wearing that.”

Hermione frowned and snatched her hand back from where she’d placed it in his. They glared at each other, the tension in the room rising exponentially. On Hermione’s other side, Narcissa sighed fitfully.

“I’m not changing, Draco. There’s nothing at all wrong with this dress,” Hermione said snippily.

Draco crossed his arms over his chest, one corner of his mouth lifting in a ghost of a sneer. “Is that what you call it, Granger? A dress? There’s not enough of it to be called a dress. I can see your knickers.”

“No, you can’t!” Hermione snapped, even as she tugged at the hem of the dress, just in case.

“It doesn’t have a back. Look, Father. Look at this!” Draco grabbed Hermione by the upper arm, albeit gently so as not to bruise her soft skin, and forced her around. Narcissa gave her son a haughty glower that made his cheeks burn fiercely.

“Your father’s already noticed, Draco,” Narcissa said mildly, knowing the effect her words would have on him. She wasn’t disappointed as Draco leveled a dangerous stare in his unperturbed father’s direction.

“Were you looking at her?” he accused. Lucius smirked in amusement, folding his paper and setting it aside. He shot Narcissa a glance that promised sure punishment for her later.

“Only because your mother told me to. Blame her.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Hermione cried, torn between anger at Draco’s high-handedness and mirth at Lucius and Narcissa’s baiting of him. She stood, turning to look back at a sulking Draco. Touching his cheek gently, she brushed a light kiss against his brow. “For once, I actually think I look nice and...”

“For once? For once?” Draco said, frowning at her choice of words. Hermione nodded, misunderstanding his anger.

“I mean, I know that I looked okay last week, at the engagement party, but...”

Draco stood up and grasped her wrist in his hand. He smiled tightly at his parents as he dragged Hermione from the room. “Excuse us,” he said, as she tripped after him, balancing unsteadily on her high heels. He pulled her into the foyer but before Hermione could protest his domineering treatment, she found herself pressed up against the wall with so much force, a small picture was knocked askew and the crystals on the sconce tinkled merrily.

“Draco, honestly! How dare you...ooohhhhhhh...ohh, God...” Hermione arched into his embrace as he suckled at her neck, nipping sharply at her flesh until he’d thoroughly marked her as his. With one foot he kicked hers apart, grinding his pelvis against hers, pressing into the heated triangle at the top of her thighs. Cupping her arse in his hands, Draco pushed against that welcoming heat, wishing with all his heart that he were buried inside her, showing her just how crazy she made him.

Sensing his turbulent feelings, Hermione slipped one hand through the silky strands of his hair, cradling him closer as he pressed against her body. Lowering his head to her breasts, he pressed his hot cheek to her fragrant skin.

“Don’t ever say that again, Hermione. Ever,” he whispered, his breath warm and moist on her skin.

“What? Draco, what did I say?”

He turned his gaze to hers, his eyes pleading and angered. “That you only look ‘okay’. Hermione, you’re beautiful. You’re beautiful and you’re mine and I’m terrified that someone else is going to see what’s mine and take it away from me!”

Hermione’s anger melted away at his plaintive words. Cupping his face in her hands, she peppered his cheeks with kisses, coming even close enough to tease the corners of his mouth. He pulled her closer, taking in deep, gulping breaths of her, reveling in the clean, Hermione-scent of her skin. “You aren’t going to lose me and no one’s going to take me away. Besides, we’re bound by law to marry, Draco. There’s a contract and everything.” She smiled, attempting to lighten his mood, but he only frowned harder.

Reaching up, Draco took her hands from his face, only to clutch at them anxiously. “What if there wasn’t a contract? What if we weren’t bound by some stupid, Ministry law? Would you marry me then? Would you?”

Hermione’s heart was hammering in her chest at his words, at the flagrant hope in his eyes. Draco Malfoy was open before her, for the very first time since she’d first encountered his eleven-year-old self on the train to Hogwarts. He’d laid his heart bare and was waiting for her to take it and do with it what she willed. The power that Hermione held over him humbled her greatly.

“You’ve never asked me,” she whispered.

Draco sank immediately to both knees, bending his head over her hands, clasped so tightly in his own. He pressed his brow, then his cheek to them.

“I can’t put into words what you have come to mean to me, Hermione. How much I...I've learned to l-love you. For the rest of my life, I want to make you happy. I want to erase our past and focus on our future.” He stopped, his voice choking in his throat. Looking up at her, Draco smiled faintly at the tears shimmering on her cheeks. “I want to be your husband and the father of your children. Will you do me the honor of becoming Mrs. Hermione Malfoy?”

Hermione smiled tremulously. “Oh yes, Draco. Yes!”

The relief on his face was profound and the protective shield that he kept firmly between them cracked, then shattered, leaving behind a man naked of all pretenses. Draco grinned and his happiness was dazzling. Hermione realized that, for the very first time, she was seeing the real Draco Malfoy.

And, she loved him desperately.

Pressing his cheek against her stomach, Draco sighed. “I don’t suppose you’re going to change dresses, are you?”

“No. Now, get up before you hopelessly wrinkle those trousers.”

Draco stood up, trailing his fingertips over her bare thighs as he did. He loomed over her, his eyes hooded with amused desire as Hermione snuggled against his chest. “I don’t care. I wish we were in our bed. I wish I had my hands all over you, touching you, licking you,” At this, he lowered his mouth to the top of one breast, laving his tongue over her skin. “I want to spend the rest of the night between your legs, Granger.”

Hermione laughed weakly as she pushed him gently away. “With talk like that, Mr. Malfoy, you’ll be lucky if I ever let you out of bed.” She looked up at him, holding his gaze, silently communicating their lust for one another in one heated, loving stare.

“Fine by me.”

From the conservatory, Hermione could hear the chiming of the clock. “Oh! I need to go. What time are you supposed to meet Ron and Harry?”

Draco rolled his eyes petulantly. “Do I have to?” he whined.

“Yes. It’s seven now and if I’m not mistaken you’re supposed to meet them at seven-thirty and I’m already late. Will you fetch my coat, please?” Hermione asked as she turned back to the conservatory door, to say goodbye to Lucius and Narcissa. She returned almost immediately, her cheeks flushed pink. Draco raised an eyebrow.

“You okay?”

“Ummm...I-I’m fine! It’s nothing! Have a wonderful time, Draco, please,” she stammered.

Draco glanced towards the conservatory and smiled faintly. Obviously, Hermione saw something within that had thoroughly flustered her. Knowing his randy parents, they'd probably pounced on each other the minute he and Hermione had left the room. Hiding his smile, he held out her coat, an ivory cashmere garment topped with a thick collar of gold-tipped fox fur, for her to slip on. As he buttoned it for her, arranging the collar around her face, Draco pouted playfully.

“You’re sending me into a nest of vipers, you know,” he said.

“Well, if that’s not irony for you, I don’t know what is. Besides, Blaise will be there! And Vince and Greg. I know Harry talked to Marcus and Adrian just last week and they’re planning on being there, too. There will be a whole roomful of Slytherins, Draco, you'll be right at home.”

“I suppose. If nothing else, I can just annoy the hell out of Weasley, that’s always good for a laugh or two,” he said as Hermione picked up her handbag. She gave him a stern look.

“You will not torment Ron or Harry! They aren’t afraid of you, you know. They’re likely to hex you if you don’t behave.”

“Whatever. I could take them both with my eyes closed.” Hermione raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Or, we could stay home, you know. Stay in bed. I’ll let you do page three hundred to me.”

Hermione shivered in delighted response at his reference to their book of sexual positions. They’d already played out several of the scenarios, the ones that didn’t involve actual intercourse, but they were saving page three hundred for a special occasion.

“While that offer is undeniably tempting, we have social obligations. And the irony of that alone is mind-boggling. I’m reminding Draco Malfoy of his social responsibilities,” Hermione laughed.

“That’s what a Malfoy wife is supposed to do; take care of her man,” he said with teasing arrogance. “And trust me, Granger...your wifely duties will begin and end with our bed.”

Hermione slapped his chest, playfully. She’d learned, in her months living with Draco and his parents, that his arrogance was only half-serious; the pampered young man had grown up in a world of pureblood values and those values could sometimes be...patriarchal, to put it politely. However, Draco had a natural sense of humor that Hermione had no idea existed until recently. He was changing for the better, definitely, and Hermione was willing to let him have his moments of possessive chauvinism. Besides, after his romantic proposal, she was willing to forgive him all manner of sin.

“You keep talking like that and we’ll be finding you a new bed to sleep in," she teased.

Draco took her wrist in one hand and pulled her into his arms. His expression was pensive. “You wouldn’t do that, would you? Put me out of your bed? I don’t think I could stand it, Hermione.”

Her heart clenched almost painfully at Draco’s soft, yet worried tone. Hermione smiled sweetly and looped her free arm around his neck. With a feather light touch, she trailed her lips across his jaw to his ear, her tongue slipping out to flick his earlobe. “I promise you, Draco, I will never ask you to leave our bed. I want to make a pact with you now, to never go to bed angry. It was something my parents promised each other, early in their marriage and they kept that promise until they died.”

Draco pulled back, his gray eyes searching hers. “And it worked?”

“Oh yes! No matter how angry they were with each other, they never took it to the bedroom.”

“Then, that’s what I want, too. I don’t ever want to go to bed angry with you. I really like you far too much for that, Granger,” he agreed, kissing the tip of her nose. “Now, you’d best be going or the She-Weasel...”

“Ginny.”

“...will be flooing us to find out if I have you chained up in the dungeons. Which, now that I think about it, sounds like a fine way to spend a lazy winters’ evening.”

“Draco.” Hermione cocked her head to one side, a note of warning in her voice.

He grinned. “Fine. Have a good time, love.” He kissed her lingeringly on the cheek, before stepping away, already missing her desperately.

“You too, Draco, and if you’re a good boy, maybe later I’ll give you a lap dance.”

Draco’s grin turned wolfish. “That’s a deal, Granger.”

Blowing a kiss his direction, Hermione Disapparated from Malfoy Manor.

*****

The Leaky Cauldron was packed.

Since Draco had graduated from Hogwarts, the venerable tavern had become a popular place for the younger crowd on the weekends, to the point that the owner, Tom, had to expand into Diagon Alley to accommodate the increased traffic. That, however, was the only concession the barkeep made; the interior of the tavern was still as dark and grubby as it ever was. More so, thought Draco, as he stepped through the door and found himself facing a veritable wall of witches and wizards in various stages of intoxication.

With barely-concealed irritation, he pushed his way through the crowd, wondering how on earth he was ever going to find Potter and the others in this crush of people. He slipped through an opening in the mass of bodies and stopped short when a tall, buxom witch blocked his path, stumbling drunkenly on her high-heeled boots. She was bumped from behind and ale sloshed out of her mug and onto Draco’s arm.

Cursing eloquently and none too politely, Draco glared up at her. She returned his hateful gaze with a haughty sneer of her own. “Watch where you’re going, mister,” she snapped. “You made me spill my drink.”

“You’re the one who bumped into me, wench,” he snarled, but a hand on his wet arm caught his attention. “Blaise! My God...get me out of here before my claustrophobia starts acting up,” he whined, forcing himself to not latch on to his best friend’s arm and cling to him helplessly.

Blaise Zabini only grinned, his dark blue eyes overly bright; he was obviously well on to his way to pissed rotten. “Nice try, Malfoy. Besides, you don’t have claustrophobia...that’s a Muggle thing.” He drew his wand and cast a cleansing charm on Draco’s wool jacket. The alcohol staining his sleeve vanished.

“Wizards can be afraid of crowds. Or wait...isn’t that small spaces? That’s what Hermione...” Draco started as Blaise dragged him unceremoniously through the crowded room. They passed through a door near the back and Draco suddenly found himself in a room full of friends and old classmates. A cheer went up and he couldn’t help the pleased grin that crossed his face.

Greg Goyle was at his side then, pushing a tankard of beer into his hands. “Glad you could finally make it! We were starting to get worried!” he shouted over the din. Draco took a long gulp from the cold tankard, smiling as the alcohol burned a nice path all the way to his stomach. Briefly, he thought that maybe he should’ve eaten more at dinner, but he’d been so anxious about the party that he couldn’t eat. Now, with liquor on a near-empty stomach, he’d be drunk in no time.

“Is everyone here already?” Draco asked, scanning the room. He smiled at Vince Crabbe, who was standing with Terence Higgs and Roger Davies. The other two men raised their glasses to him and waved.

“Yeah, I think so. Potter said there’d be about thirty of us and from the looks of it...” Greg said. “So, how’s Granger? I can imagine she’s all prim and prissy about you having a good time with your mates.”

Draco knew he must’ve looked giddy at Greg’s mention of Hermione, but he couldn’t help it. He could still taste her on his tongue, feel the silk of her skin on the palms of his hands. “No. She was really excited about tonight, wants me to have a good time.”

“Really?” Greg raised an eyebrow, looking skeptical at the idea.

“Yeah. She’s very fair, you know. Besides, she had a party of her own to attend tonight, that Potter's woman is hosting. Some girly thing, with tea and presents.” Draco said, wanting to stick up for the woman he was falling more in love with every day.

Greg grinned down at Draco. He draped one beefy arm over the smaller man’s shoulders. “I’m just having a bit of fun with you, Malfoy, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Hey, Crabbe’s into the food again...Signor Lazzaro threatened to take a hatchet to him if he had to let out his robes for the wedding one more time. Be right back.”

As Greg headed across the room, intent on curbing Vince’s substantial appetite, Draco rejoined Blaise, who was standing with Harry Potter and one of the Weasley twins. Draco had never bothered to try telling the identical twins apart, so he merely greeted him with a “Weasley” and then turned his attention to Harry. “Nice party. I can’t believe how many people you invited.”

Harry’s wary look faded and he grinned. “Yeah, it’s a great turnout. Everyone we invited is here, including Theo Nott, despite him telling me he’d sooner bathe in troll piss than send you off to marry ‘Know-It-All Granger’.”

Blaise laughed. “Theo always did have a secret crush on you, Malfoy. He’s probably kicking his own arse for not declaring his undying devotion to you back in second year.”

“Bugger off, Zabini,” Draco said, but he grinned. His mood was considerably lighter, even though he would’ve much rather had been at home with Hermione. Still, Potter had put together what looked like a great party and it was nice to be around his best mates. “So, Potter, what’s a ‘lap dance’?”

*****

“Oh!” Hermione said, her cheeks flushing in a slow burn as she stared down at the box on her lap. Or rather, the contents of the box.

Ginny leaned over Hermione’s shoulder to read the card. “Let’s see, who’s that from...oh, Katie Flint, you tart!”

“Hold it up, Hermione!” Alicia called out. Katie was blushing to the roots of her blonde hair, but she grinned at Hermione with a guilty shrug.

Setting the box on the table in front of her, while Ginny scribbled Katie’s name and the gift down on a sheet of parchment, Hermione held up the garment. A chorus of “oooohs” traveled through the room, accompanied by a fair share of scandalized titters.

The corset was deceptively innocent in appearance, but when Hermione held it up to her chest, she could see that it was shaped so that her breasts would be left uncovered by the white satin and lace confection. Wide satin laces crisscrossed the back and to finish the set was a pair of sheer white knickers so tiny that Hermione couldn’t imagine how on earth they’d cover her. She giggled as she turned them over. All that comprised the back of the knickers was a single strap and a white satin bow.

“Katie, it’s beautiful, really. Thank you so much,” Hermione said as she carefully laid the delicate lingerie back in its box. Draco's going to have a heart attack when he sees all of this, Hermione thought eagerly.

Angelina nodded in approval. “Fine choice, Katie. I know Marcus liked the one you bought, didn’t he?”

Katie blushed but the look in her blue eyes was that of a very satisfied woman. “It’s his favorite outfit. Let me give you a piece of advice, Hermione...Slytherins love to play dress up.”

“Don’t they all?” Alicia crowed. “George’s favorite game is Quidditch star and groupie. And three guesses who the groupie is.”

Laughter filled the Burrow’s small parlor. Ginny scooped up the box and set it aside with the rest of Hermione’s gifts. “That was the last one, ladies, and may I just say, what a great collection,” she said.

“Yes, everyone. I don’t know how to thank you,” Hermione said, her eyes filling with tears. “You’ve been so generous.”

Ginny hugged her. “You deserve everything and more, Hermione.” She leaned close, to whisper in her ear. “Draco’s not going to know what hit him, will he?”

Hermione nodded. “You have no idea.”

Angelina and Lavender were already cleaning up the empty glasses and cake plates, as Alicia went upstairs to check on the baby. Hermione looked around the room, pleased with the turnout. In addition to the various Weasley women, Katie, the Patil sisters, Luna, and Tonks, several of their classmates from Hogwarts were in attendance, even Tracey Davis and Millicent Bulstrode from Slytherin. And everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.

“Now, Alicia, you needn’t worry a minute about that baby!” came Molly’s voice. Hermione looked over to the stairs to see Alicia and Molly Weasley coming down the steps, a tiny bundled infant in the younger woman’s arms.

“Oh, I know, Molly, but look at him! He’s just so cute! And it’s only been a few weeks,” Alicia cooed as she stared down into her son’s sleeping face. Finally, she handed him off to Molly, who watched proudly as the other women crowded around to ooh and ahh over the baby.

Hermione stood up and followed Ginny into the kitchen. “So, what now?”

Angelina, who was stacking the dessert dishes in Molly’s enchanted sink, answered. “Oh, honey, that’s for us to know and you to have a great time finding out,” she said with an evil smirk worthy of the Weasley twins.

Ginny rolled her eyes dramatically. “Good going, Angie, scare her off.”

Lavender wiped her hands off on a dishtowel, then neatly folded it and laid it on the counter. She gave Hermione a sympathetic smile. “You remember mine, don’t you, Hermione?”

Hermione’s amused smile slipped. “Oh.”

Before she could think any harder on the chaotic night that marked Lavender Brown’s entry into the Weasley family, the girls had ushered Hermione outside and from there to...

Muggle London?

*****

Draco looked down at the wad of Muggle pound notes Potter had pressed into his palm. He looked up at him, blinking hard to clear his doubled-vision. “Whass this for, Potter? You payin’ me for sex?” he slurred, with a wicked grin. Harry, just as drunk and more playful than Draco had ever known him to be, merely threw his arm around his shoulder and steered him down the sidewalk.

“You’ll be needing those where we’re going,” he said, stumbling slightly. On his other side, Blaise caught his arm.

“Easy there, Potter. Anyone who falls down gets left behind!” he yelled, looking behind them at Ron, Neville, and Vince, arms linked, singing something that sounded suspiciously like a Muggle pop song. Ron made a rude gesture and Blaise grinned, cupping his hand around his crotch. The red-haired wizard only laughed.

Although he’d never admit to it, Draco had spent very little time in Muggle London, despite his mother’s fondness for it as a shopping Mecca. He’d spent all his life hearing about Bond and Sloane Streets, Prada, Dior, and someone Narcissa continually swooned over named Manolo Blahnik. It was all very tiresome and he preferred to leave her to her shopping while he considered more worthwhile pursuits, such as depriving his blasted wench of a fiancée of her bothersome virginity.

Although, he was extraordinarily fond of the black suit Narcissa had brought home to him from someone named Hugo Boss.

But now, after Potter had herded them all through the Leaky Cauldron and out onto the dark street beyond, Draco had been nursing a little bit of fear. He had his wand; he was surrounded by wizards, some good, some less than good, so he was safe from anything the Muggle world might throw at him. However, he was out of his element and no matter how much he’d had to drink, he couldn’t shake the slight fear being amongst Muggles caused.

They stopped before a dodgy looking brick building, unremarkable aside from the fact that it was literally glowing with a variety of bright, blinking neon lights.

“Live, nude girls!”

“XXX”

“Exotic dancing!”

And, “The Carousel Gentlemen’s Lounge”.

Draco peered up at the lights, feeling slightly nauseous by their manic flickering. “Where in the bloody hell are we, Potter?”

Blaise grinned and reached over to clap Harry on the back. “You’re a ruddy genius, Potter.” With a cocky smirk, Blaise stepped forward first and only then did Draco notice the shockingly huge black man standing outside the entrance, giving them an indifferent stare. “That’ll be five quid, mate,” the man rumbled in a bored sort of voice.

A look smugger than any Draco had ever seen appeared on Harry's face. The dark-haired wizard tightened his arm around Draco's shoulders and leaned closer, the scent of firewhisky heavy on his breath.

"Scared, Malfoy?"

Draco rolled his eyes as he swayed against Harry. "You wish."

"You blokes going in or y'gonna just shag out here on the sidewalk?" the bouncer's jaded voice drawled. "Five quid, boys, the girls ain't gettin' any younger."

Harry laughed, unconcerned by the man's misconception. "Come on, Malfoy...I'm letting you marry my best friend...the least I can do is show you a good time."

Draco smirked as Harry paid the cover fee. "I'm not marrying the Weasel, Potter. He probably farts in bed. And he's not near as shaggable as your other best friend...now, that's one delectable, juicy little quim."

"Fuck, Malfoy! That's Hermione you're talking about!" Harry groaned in mock disgust, as they disappeared into the dark, smoky club. "Too much information!"

*****

Hermione’s face was so red, she was convinced she would die from the heat of it. It didn’t, however, stop her from sliding a pound note into the shiny gold g-string of the gorgeous young man straddling her lap. He blew her a flirtatious kiss, his mouth only inches from her own.

“Cheers, love!” he said, before sliding over to Angelina, who jumped out of her seat to shimmy with him, her drink sloshing over the side of the glass in her hand.

Hermione buried her face in her hands, grinning uncontrollably. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that!” she moaned. Ginny draped an arm over her shoulder, swaying perilously in her seat.

“He’s a looker, though, isn’t he? Not as delicious as my Harry, though...Harry’s got a bigger prick,” she replied, as the other girls fought playfully over the almost-nude stripper.

“Ginny!” Hermione cried, as her friend’s words conjured a vision of Harry best left unknown.

“Well, he does! The first time we shagged, I thought he was splitting me in two!” She smiled brightly then. “Are you scared? Of your wedding night?”

“Not anymore. Although Draco’s wound so tight, he probably won’t last five minutes,” Hermione said, blushing furiously.

Ginny laughed. “Suck him off first.”

That caught Alicia’s attention and she leaned over the small table towards them. “Whom are we sucking off?”

“Draco.”

She smirked. “Better not...George would kick me out of the house.”

“I was just going to tell Hermione that she should take care of him first, so he’ll last longer when he’s taking care of her,” Ginny explained.

“Definitely! Oh, Hermione, don’t fuss about it...you’re going to have a smashing time. Just make sure you never let the man out of bed until he’s taken care of your needs,” Alicia said, tapping the bottom of her glass on the table in time to the music. Her eyes followed the stripper as he joined several of his mates onstage for a group number. “Ginny, this was a fabulous idea! These blokes are fit!”

“Honestly? It was Fleur’s idea. Too bad she couldn’t come with us.”

Hermione smiled fondly at her friends. She picked up her drink, blearily wondering when it had been refilled. She wasn’t really used to drinking; Lucius and Narcissa always provided a bottle of vintage wine from the cellar for dinner and occasionally champagne if Narcissa was in the mood for it, but Hermione never indulged in hard liquor. The vodka martini in her hand was her first ever.

Well, maybe her sixth ever. Or eighth. She’d lost count.

A wild cheer went up from the women in the audience. Alicia smiled. “Look, girls...he’s taken off his knickers. Now that is worth the price of admission!” She stood up and hooted, waving a handful of pounds.

Ginny hugged Hermione close. “You’re having a good time, love?”

“The best. Thanks, Gin.”

“So, do you s’pose Draco and the boys are staying out of trouble?”

Hermione laughed. “What do you think?”

“Thought as much.” Ginny drained her glass then pulled Hermione to her feet. “Let’s go dance!”

*****

The woman had the biggest breasts Draco had ever seen. Ever.

Up close, she was actually kind of scary, wearing more make up than any ten women should and she smelled of sour drink. He couldn't help but compare her unfavorably to the woman soon to become his wife. Hermione's unadorned skin was perfection, she was as fragrant as the flowers in his mum's gardens, as pretty as a picture and all his. He wished with something near desperation that it was Hermione pressing her breasts against his flushed and sweaty cheeks.

But this woman, this stripper, as Finnigan had called her, had really big tits and she was giving him his very first lap dance. She gyrated wildly over his thighs, shaking her hair, as blonde as his own and not even close to natural, in his face. The other men were clapping and urging her on as Draco tucked another five-pound note in her knickers. She cooed her thanks, rubbing one long-taloned hand over his crotch. He squirmed uncomfortably at her touch. She leaned closer, to whisper in his ear.

"What's your name, Goldilocks?"

"Draco."

She grinned down at him, and then swung her legs back over his thighs, until she was facing away from him. She rotated her arse, bare but for a tiny strip of fabric cleaving the firm cheeks, atop his groin. She looked over her shoulder at him. "You sure are a pretty one, Draco."

"My girl thinks so," he said with a grin.

"Well, she's a lucky woman, I'd say. Be sure you treat her real good, Goldilocks...man like you could make a woman very, very happy," she replied, rubbing her arse over his groin again. Draco blushed, looking over at Marcus Flint, who was giving him a drunken smirk. Understanding Draco's unspoken plea, Marcus held up a handful of pounds.

"Come dance on my lap, baby," he slurred and the stripper happily obliged him. Draco sighed in relief as Blaise slumped down in the seat next to him.

"Not exactly Granger, is she?" he said, leaning over to so that Draco could hear him over the pounding music.

"Not even close. But, y'know what?"

"What?"

"Makes me appreciate Hermione all the more. Never thought I'd be grateful for that prissy little swot, but Blaise...I'm gonna love being married to her. Why didn't someone tell me that years ago?"

Blaise laughed. "What would you have done, Malfoy? She'd have hexed you inside out if you'd even so much as looked at her wrong."

Draco smiled sloppily and lifted his drink to his lips for a sip. "I'd have been a little nicer. Shown her what a great bloke I am."

On his other side, the stripper had moved on to Seamus and Dean, so Marcus turned back towards the two men. "She'd have never believed it, Malfoy. Like my Katie...took me two damned years to get her to stop slamming the door in my face when I'd show up for our dates."

Blaise sniggered. "That's because they weren't dates, Flint. You were stalking her."

"Nah. She had the hots for me for years. Just needed a bit of convincing is all. Slytherin men are persuasive when they see what they want and stop at nothing to achieve it."

Draco nodded. "Cunning and ambition, my friends. 'Or perhaps in Slytherin...'" he quoted.

"'You'll make your real friends...'" Blaise continued and Marcus finished the Sorting Hat's verse.

"'Those cunning folks use any means, to achieve their ends.'"

Blaise patted Draco on the back. "You're a lucky man, Draco."

Draco smiled to himself. "Yeah...I really am."

*****

Lucius turned over in bed, shifting to one side to avoid rolling onto Narcissa, who was tucked securely against his hip. She moaned softly in her sleep and he looked down at her, a swell of love for her filling his chest. She was still as beautiful as the night he first took her to bed, their wedding night. Blonde hair that was beginning to silver spread across the sheets, tangled around her face, several strands clinging to her cheeks. Her skin, her soft, perfumed skin, was still flushed from their lovemaking and he couldn't resist reaching out to trail his fingertips over the velvety expanse of her shoulders and her breasts.

A distant sound caught his attention and he stilled, holding his breath to better listen. A soft pop at the side of the bed startled him. With a glare he looked down at the cowering house-elf. "What is it? What's that noise?"

The house-elf looked as if it wished it were anywhere but there. "Come quickly, Master! It's Master Draco!"

Lucius was out of bed in an instant, flinging the duvet back and snatching up his dressing gown. Narcissa came awake with a start, blinking sleepily at the quailing house-elf. "Lucius? Tippy, whatever is the matter?" she asked, pushing her hair out of her face as she sat up, holding the sheet up to shield her nudity.

Another sound, this one of breaking glass, drifted up to them and Narcissa stared at Lucius with an expression of sudden fear. During the war, it hadn't been uncommon for the Ministry to conduct impromptu, nighttime raids and one such raid had occurred while Lucius was still imprisoned in Azkaban. Draco had still been at Hogwarts and Narcissa was home alone, with only the company of the easily terrorized house-elves. Mad-Eye Moody himself had conducted the incursion during the pre-dawn hours, waking a soundly sleeping Narcissa and dragging her out of her bed in nothing but a nightdress and forced her to watch while his Ministry goons once more ransacked the house. She'd been unable to sleep for weeks afterwards and still couldn't bring herself to stay in the house alone.

"Lucius, what is it?" she asked again, her voice rising. But her husband's face was more aggravated than angry. That eased her mind somewhat.

"Draco. Stay here."

He swept out of the room, as Tippy toddled after him. Throwing back the covers, Narcissa pulled on her silk robe and hurried after Lucius, after picking up her wand from the bedside table.

*****

"Ah b'oke it, Daddy. Sorry."

Lucius stood at the bottom of the stairs, as Draco crouched unsteadily on the marble floor in the foyer, trying to reassemble a priceless Japanese urn with his wand and only succeeding in making a bigger mess of it. Finally, one carelessly muttered spell backfired, hitting him in the chest in a shower of violet sparks and tumbling him onto his arse. Cackling as if it were the funniest thing he'd ever seen, Draco swiped at the scorched fabric of his shirt. Lucius was not equally amused. With a disgusted sneer, he turned his attention to the other man, who swayed precariously on his feet near the fireplace. Both young men were covered in soot and looked completely and utterly pissed rotten.

"Potter!" Lucius spat as he heard Narcissa patter down the steps behind him. Hearing something that sounded suspiciously like a giggle from his wife, he rolled his eyes heavenward. "What did you do to him?"

Harry drew himself up, trying to look intimidating, but with his glasses askew on his nose, one lens cracked, the attempt was ludicrous. "I'm bringing him home, Mafloy...Malfoy," he slurred, trying to mimic Lucius's pompous air. Draco rolled over onto his back, snickering up at Harry.

"Oh for the love of Salazar, get up, Draco!" Lucius barked as he strode over to his son, but Draco only spread his arms and legs out on the marble as Harry stumbled away from the hearth and right into a delicately crafted occasional table. It skidded across the slick floor and tipped over. Narcissa covered her mouth with one hand as another expensive trinket crashed to the floor.

"Ya did it again, Potter," Draco drawled from his position on the floor. "Breakin' my mum's things. Stan' still, 'fore you hurt something vital."

Lucius nudged Draco with his bare foot. "Get up, I said! Did I raise you to act like some kind of vulgar sot?"

"Don' yell...hurts my ears," Draco said weakly, covering his ears with both hands. "Where's my baby? 'Mione!"

Narcissa looked down at the wide-eyed Tippy. "Tippy, start a hangover potion, would you? Master Draco will be needing one by morning."

The house-elf Disapparated again, a tiny grin on its face. Lucius glared at her. "It is morning, Narcissa!" he barked.

"There now, Lucius...no need to get yourself into a state," Narcissa said as she glided down the stairs, managing to appear as elegant as if she were dressed for a ball, instead of wrapped in a robe bordering on indecent, with her hair falling over her shoulders in a glorious, golden mass. "You're going to raise your blood pressure, darling. Mr. Potter, would you like to have a seat?"

With a wave of her wand, she conjured a cushy armchair, not unlike those that Dumbledore had been fond of offering guests to his office at Hogwarts. Harry slumped into it gratefully as Draco rolled over onto his side, propping his head on his fist.

Harry leered at Narcissa in vague surprise. "You're pretty, Madam Mafloy...err...Malfoy."

Narcissa beamed and patted his cheek. "Aren't you sweet? Lucius, goodness...he was only complimenting me!" she chided as Lucius glared evilly at Harry. "Draco, honestly love...do get up before your father has a fit or something."

Draco struggled to his feet, clutching a handful of Lucius's robe as he did so. He patted the wrinkles he left behind until Lucius peevishly smacked his hands away. "Ow. Where's my little sweetheart? 'ermione!" he yelled again. Narcissa winced and Harry snored, his head lolling back on the chair.

At that moment, in a flash of emerald flame, Hermione and Ginny staggered out of the fireplace. Draco grinned sloppily. "There's my little honey pot! C'mere, my sweet girl, and give me a kiss."

Hermione groaned and clung to Ginny's arm, whereupon the redhead leaned over and vomited on the floor. Narcissa winced in sympathy as two house-elves appeared almost instantaneously to vanish the puddle of sick. Lucius's face was almost purple with rage.

"Enough! I will not have my home turned into a fucking circus! Draco!"

But Draco was otherwise engaged. He'd made his way over to Hermione and pulled her into his arms. "I missed you, Granger," he said, plastering his body against hers, pushing her coat off her arms and peppering the bared skin of her shoulders with kisses.

Hermione blinked up at him with hazy desire. "I missed you, too! You should see all the wonderful prezzies...mmmm...you're going to go barmy when you see them!" she slurred happily. "There's frilly things, and lacy knickers, and a corset, and this really yummy stuff that you can lick off my...you know...down there." She clapped her hands over her mouth and giggled.

Lucius stared in disbelief as Ginny crawled up into her sleeping husband's lap and Draco and Hermione proceeded to grope each other with drunken abandon. He turned to Narcissa who immediately wiped the grin from her lips. She put her nose in the air and shrugged. "They're young, Lucius. We were young once."

"Young, yes. Lunatic, no! That...that Weasley strumpet sicked up on our floor, Narcissa!" he railed, pointing accusingly at Ginny. Harry woke enough to send a glare his direction. "Thass my wife, Mafloy...Malfoy!"

"Lucius, darling, I seem to remember a night in Budapest, with the Puceys...at least these four didn't end up in a Hungarian jail," Narcissa said gently, moving closer to Lucius, her unbound breasts pressing against his arm. "Let's go upstairs...Tippy will take care of them. I'll let you do obscene things to me," she promised.

"Narcissa, you are far too permissive," Lucius groused, even as his pale eyes gleamed in interest.

"Would you have them locked in the dungeons, then, darling? It could be amusing..."

"Wench. The dungeons were dismantled years ago, unfortunately."

Narcissa was drawing him towards the stairs, to the tune of Harry's renewed snores and Draco and Hermione's murmurs of love and desire. "You have no imagination, Lucius...who needs whips and chains when we have magic at our fingertips?" With that whispered promise, she waggled her fingers at him, little sparking jets of magic dancing along her skin. Lucius swiped at her and she squealed, turning to dash up the steps, with him in fast pursuit.

He paused at the top of the stairs to look down into the foyer. Draco had pushed Hermione against the wall, his hands under her dress, her skimpy black knickers bared for all to see. "Draco!" he barked. His son ignored him, too intent on his fiancée's normal-sized breasts. "Bloody hell...children."

With a long-suffering sigh, Lucius turned and followed his wife back to their bed.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter's first thought, upon regaining something resembling consciousness, was that he had died and gone straight to a dry-mouthed, foul-tasting Hell. Whatever was draped across his lap was digging its bony hip into his balls and it wasn't in the least bit comfortable. Opening one eye, the one behind a cracked lens, Harry saw red. Momentarily panicking, he reached up and smacked at the crimson veil obscuring his blurred vision.

"Owww, Harry..."

"Ginny?"

Ginny shifted on his lap, searching for a cozier position, succeeding only at the expense of Harry's squashed private bits. "Fuck...Gin, move," he muttered thickly, trying to heave her arse up enough to relieve the pressure. Pushing her hair aside, he wrinkled his nose at the pub-scent still clinging to the limp strands. "Where are we?"

She lifted her head and glanced around, bleary-eyed with sleep and squinting at the glare of the sunlight flooding the elegant foyer. "Dunno," she murmured and snuggled back into his arms, pressing her face into the curve of his neck.

"I don't feel very good..." Harry said, as his stomach rolled in queasy protest.

Ginny yawned widely, her arms curling around his waist. Despite her smeared lipstick and raccoon eyes, Harry couldn't resist a grin at the feel of her in his lap, warm and womanly, and despite his nausea it was beginning to put thoughts of a distinctly naughty nature into his head. He kissed her neck and she giggled in response to his ticklish touch.

"Master Potter and his Miss are required in the dining hall," a tiny voice intruded, from somewhere near Harry's left elbow. Startled by the unexpected voice, Harry came suddenly to his feet, upending Ginny onto the floor, and thrust his hand into his jacket. He was still searching for his wand when he realized that he was being addressed by a bemused little house-elf. The tiny creature, dressed in a pink flowered pillowcase, stared up at him with a rather prissy expression.

"Who're you?" Harry finally grunted as Ginny hauled herself to her feet, pulling the hem of her short dress back over her thighs. The house-elf curtsied.

"Tippy, Master Potter! The Master has sent Tippy to escort you to breakfast. Now, Master Potter." She reached up and tugged his sleeve insistently, her high-pitched voice allowing no refusal.

Harry looked around the luxurious foyer, then at Ginny. "We're at the Malfoys," he said dumbly. A look of horrified remembrance was dawning on Ginny's face. "Gin?"

"Oh, God, Harry! I vomited last night." She looked around, until she found the newly mopped marble hearth. "Right over there. I vomited in Lucius Malfoy's house." She looked as if she wanted nothing more than to repeat the experience.

"Master Potter, Master Malfoy requests your presence immediately," Tippy said again, hopping impatiently from one bare foot to the other. "This way, Master." She tugged again on his sleeve.

"Stop calling me 'Master'," Harry said, pulling free of the house-elf's grip, only to have her grasp his hand.

"Yes, Master Potter."

Ginny was wiping at the front of her dress, which was still streaked with soot and stained with alcohol. "Harry, we can't go in there! I'm a mess!"

"Ginny, we're about to be slaughtered by Lucius Malfoy...I don't think he cares how you look," Harry said darkly as they followed the house-elf down a wide corridor and up a flight of stairs, to a set of double doors. Tippy snapped her fingers and the doors creaked open ominously.

The room, while not as vast as the upstairs ballroom where Draco and Hermione celebrated their engagement, was still impressive in its size. At the head of a long, gleaming table sat Lucius Malfoy, impeccably dressed and glaring at them both with a look that still had the power to strike fear in the hearts of wizardkind.

Tippy pulled him forward, leaving Ginny to stumble along behind them in her high heels. She tugged again at the hem of her dress, trying in vain to cover her long legs from Malfoy's disdainful gaze.

Lucius lay aside the paper he'd been reading, picking up his teacup and taking a measured sip, his shrewd eyes following their progress as Tippy ushered them into seats at the table.

"Mr. Potter."

"Mr. Malfoy."

Lucius looked past Harry, at Ginny, his gaze dropping to the abundant cleavage displayed by her party dress. "Mrs. Potter. I do hope you aren't planning on vomiting on the breakfast dishes?"

Ginny flushed crimson, but she managed to give him a defiant glare. His lips quirked at the corners, but didn't slide into a full smile. Unbeknownst to his two flustered guests, Lucius was in a fine mood, put there by Narcissa's enthusiastic lovemaking earlier that morning. He'd been loath to leave their warm bed, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity for a spot of fun with Potter and his Weasley bride.

"I suppose I should extend my gratitude to you both, for delivering Draco and Hermione home in one piece," he murmured, setting his cup down and selecting a pastry from the serving tray. "More or less, that is."

Tippy set a steaming cup of tea in front of Harry, after adding a generous measure of milk and sugar. He gratefully took a sip, letting the hot, sweet liquid soothe his scratchy throat. He was uncomfortably aware of Malfoy's pale eyes on him, cold and unblinking. Ginny was staring at her plate as Tippy filled it with eggs and bacon, kippers and thick slices of toast. Her stomach growled loudly and Harry had to swallow an insane sort of giggle.

Lucius raised an eyebrow. "So. What sort of activities, besides drinking what appears to have been large quantities of alcohol, did you indulge in last night?" he asked mildly, taking a bite of his pastry.

Harry and Ginny exchanged a look, one that asked just how much of their night they should share with the imposing wizard. Harry cleared his throat. "Um...well...we had a small party at the Leaky Cauldron, then we went into...um...London to a...well, a club that I'd heard of. A rather dodgy place, as it turned out. Cheap drinks, though!" Ginny giggled beside him, stifling the sound with a bite of egg.

"Dodgy?" Lucius asked, his long fingers caressing the edge of his newspaper. "And you, Mrs. Potter? What sorts of things do young women get up to at parties for soon-to-be-brides?"

Ginny smiled brightly, oddly appealing in her stained dress and smudged makeup. "Oh, we gave Hermione loads of lovely presents and had cake and ice cream at the Burrow! It was a smashing party."

At this, Lucius let out a sharp bark of laughter. "How very quaint, Mrs. Potter. Just a young woman and her best girlfriends, exchanging gifts and nuptial advice."

"That's exactly how it was, Mr. Malfoy. Hermione had a wonderful time." Ginny smiled with guileless charm.

Picking up the newspaper, which Harry could see was The Daily Prophet, Lucius unfolded it so that they could see the two pictures that covered nearly the whole front page. Two pictures that were striking in their similarity.

Harry felt just a little dizzy and Ginny groaned next to him, her forkful of kippers pausing in midair.

Somehow, in the light of day, lap dances just looked so vulgar.

*****

The sun was well past its zenith and the bedroom cast into chilled shadow when Draco finally awoke. He tugged the rumpled quilt over his bare shoulders and turned towards the enticing source of heat pressed firmly to his side. Hermione grunted softly in her sleep as he wrapped one arm around her waist and pulled her close. Burying his face in the bedraggled heap of curls laying across the pillow, Draco sighed happily. There was literally no better feeling than to wake up in his warm, comfortable bed, with the woman he loved snuggled naked in his arms.

Shifting onto his side, Draco pressed a kiss to Hermione's neck, his tongue darting out to lave the bruised bite mark he'd left in the wee hours of the morning. She'd be furious when she saw it, but he couldn't deny the arrogant pleasure that came over him at seeing Hermione marked so plainly. Proof that she belonged to him, that she was his alone.

Hermione gave another kittenish moan, not quite awake, but recognizing Draco's sensual touch, even in sleep. He trailed his fingertips lightly over her stomach and lower, slipping into the moist heat between her thighs. Unconsciously, Hermione opened her legs and he smiled sleepily against her cheek, as he delved deeper, as familiar now with her body as he was with his own.

"Draco..." she whimpered, arching into his touch, her eyelids fluttering open as his fingers glided within her damp folds. Draco moved so that his rigid cock was nestled between her thighs and she tightened around him instinctively.

Draco smoothed her hair back from her face with one hand, his other one working feverishly to bring her to orgasm. His hips thrust against her arse, seeking the wet heat still denied him. Hermione's eyes were wide open now as she gave a single, plaintive cry. One arm curved back to grasp weakly at his hip, holding him still as she worked herself back and forth against him. "God, Draco...oh, God..." she panted as he thumbed her clit roughly, sending her tumbling over the edge. Moments later, the friction of her thighs around his cock brought on his own climax and he spilled a milky stream of come onto her skin and the sheets.

Pressing his forehead to Hermione's heaving shoulder, Draco whispered, "Good morning, darling."

Turning in his arms, Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck and nestled against him, so close that there was no part of their bodies that wasn't touching. Broad chest to soft breasts, bellies pressed together, legs entangled; Hermione reached for Draco's hand and entwined his still-wet fingers with her own. "I love you," she murmured as she covered his stubbled jaw with kisses.

"You just love what I do to you, Granger, admit it," he said with a cocky little smirk. Hermione laughed softly, then pillowed her head on his chest, rubbing against the thigh he slipped between her own.

"Yes, that's it, Malfoy. I love you for your body. Your strong..." she murmured, running one hand lightly over his bicep, squeezing lightly. "hard..." Now, she writhed shameless on his thigh, seeking the friction offered by the thick gold hair covering his skin. "gorgeous body."

Reaching between them, she grasped his cock firmly, stroking him with familiar ease. Kicking the covers away from their now overheated bodies, Hermione straddled Draco's legs and lowered her mouth onto him.

As much as Draco loved the heat of Hermione's mouth on him, the firm pressure of her lips and tongue encircling him, he knew that it would be second best to being buried inside her. Seven more days, he chanted to himself. I can make it...I can do it...seven more days and I'm going to crawl inside her cunt and never, ever leave.

His orgasm was quick, so close on the heels of his first one, and he looked down at Hermione, finding her smiling eyes gazing back at him. She swirled her tongue around the tip of his cock, catching the last droplets of come still oozing out. Reaching down, he tugged on a lock of her hair.

"I love you, Granger. Why did it take me so long to figure it out?" he said, unable to mask the melancholy coloring his words. Hermione crawled up his body, allowing him to pull her into a tight embrace. He wanted to taste himself on her, lick his essence from her lips, but she turned her cheek and laid it upon his chest, one hand idly tweaking his flat nipple.

"The past doesn't matter anymore, Draco...just the present. Just now. We love each other now and will love each other forever." She looked up at him through a cloud of hair. "That's all that matters."

Holding the slight weight of her against his chest, he nodded, pressing his cheek to the top of her head. "It's all that matters."

*****

"Oh, bother..."

Lucius looked up from the paperwork spread atop his desk, to find Narcissa standing in the doorway to his office, a cross look on her lovely face. "What is it, darling?"

"Our guests are gone already? I wished to get Miss Weasley's opinion on the colors for the flowers." With an irritated toss of her head, Narcissa walked into the room and sank down on the sofa with a sigh.

Lucius snorted. "Firstly, it's Mrs. Potter now and secondly, they both smelled like a brewhouse. I sent them home."

"And of course, it didn't occur to you to offer them a room in which to freshen up," she snapped.

In fact, it hadn't occurred to Lucius to do anything of the sort. The novelty of playing gracious host to Harry Potter was still somewhat nerve wracking and while Lucius covered up his discomfort with typical grace, having the young wizard in his home was still just odd.

"They wished to return home, love," he lied smoothly, knowing that it wouldn't fool Narcissa in the least. She gave him a narrow-eyed gaze, idly picking at a bit of lint on her robes, but said nothing. Beginning to sense Narcissa's peevish mood, Lucius sighed quietly and rose from his desk. As he approached, she turned her back to him with a toss of her hair and an upward tilt to her nose. He had to smother a grin; that would get him nothing more than an arseful of painful boils and a month on the sofa.

"Narcissa, darling...what's wrong?" he asked delicately, running the back of one hand along her arm. With a faint triumphant smile, he could feel her shiver at his touch and her stiff posture relaxed a little.

"Nothing," she snapped in a voice that said he should know exactly why she was displeased. Lucius tipped his head forward, intent on tasting the tempting curve of her neck, but she shook off his touch and leaped off the sofa, stalking towards the window. She fiddled with the perfectly arranged drapes, while Lucius watched her shrewdly. He decided to try a different approach.

"Narcissa, I'm not playing your childish games. Something's bothering you...I can see it plain as day, but I'll be hanged if I'm going to beg you on bended knee for the reason." He held up an imperious hand as she swung around to face him, outrage evident upon her face. "Perhaps you should return to your room for a lie-in...it's obvious lack of sleep turns you into a petulant child."

He gave her a satisfied smirk as she returned to him, only to have it wiped away by the sharp smack of her hand on his cheek. Flexing his jaw, inwardly impressed with her strength, Lucius gave his wife a wary look. "I see I've struck a nerve."

"How dare you, Lucius Malfoy! How dare you act highhanded with me!" she shrieked, rage flushing her cheeks and brightening her blue eyes. "You never consult me on anything! I wished to visit with Mrs. Potter and you just send her packing like she was rubbish!"

Lucius knew his wife very well and it was more than abundantly obvious that her temper had nothing to do with Ginny Potter. He waited patiently until her tantrum started running out of steam. Finally, wiping away angry tears, Narcissa slumped back down onto the sofa, covering her face with both hands.

"Oh, Lucius, what are we to do?" she moaned and her tone was so despairing that fear for her exploded in his chest. Sinking down beside her, Lucius tenderly pulled her hands away from her wet face.

"Darling, you're never this temperamental...what's wrong? Please tell me, so that I can fix it for you."

As quickly as she'd flown into a temper, then into desolate weeping, Narcissa laughed. "Oh, Lucius...this isn't something you can fix. Not this time." She smiled at him with tearful affection, lifting her hand to his still-reddened cheek. "I love you so very much. Draco will be a married man soon, starting a family of his own...as will we."

For a single, shining moment, Lucius stared blankly at Narcissa, her words screaming in his head. It took several hard swallows before he could speak. "P-p-pardon?"

Narcissa's smile faded from her lips, but her eyes still glowed with warmth and wary happiness. "We're having a baby, Lucius."

Chapter Text

Dusk had fallen over the snow-covered plains of Wiltshire when Draco and Hermione finally emerged from their suite and made their way, hand-in-hand, downstairs. After a quick glance into the dining hall and finding it darkened and empty, they headed for the conservatory instead. Reaching the closed doors, Draco stopped and pulled Hermione aside. She gave him a bemused smile to which he replied with a roguish smirk of his own. Dropping a tender kiss on her upturned cheek, he tugged her into his arms.

Laughing softly, Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist and rubbed her cheek against his chest. "If someone had told me a year ago that I would be spending the rest of my life loving you, I'd have hexed them senseless." Her smile faded, only to be replaced by another so lusty Draco was hard-pressed to not carry her right back upstairs and the bloody hell with her wedding night virginity. With a heartfelt groan, he crushed her close, burying his face in the crook of her neck, nipping lightly at the soft, fragrant flesh.

"Seven days and you are mine, Granger," he breathed against her throat, aware of how petulant and needy he sounded but completely powerless to stop. He bit again at her skin, just above her pulse, and she shivered deliciously in his arms.

"Draco, we should go inside," she whispered in that breathy, bossy voice that once upon a time had infuriated him beyond belief and now only made him ache desperately for her. There was no doubt in his mind that she was a powerful witch indeed if she could subjugate him with nothing more dangerous than the sound of her voice.

Tearing himself away from her warmth, Draco smiled at her. Clasping her hand in his, he opened the door to the conservatory.

Lucius was sitting in his favorite chair by the fire and Narcissa was stretched out on one of the loveseats, her feet propped on a pillow and a light throw tossed over her legs. She smiled brightly when Draco and Hermione entered the room. "There you are, darlings! You've missed dinner; I'll just ring for Cook..." She started to sit up but Lucius leaned forward, laying one hand on her shoulder and gently pushing her back.

"Don't strain yourself, Narcissa," he murmured with solicitous pride. His wife rolled her eyes heavenward, but obeyed. Draco frowned a bit at his mother's uncharacteristic acquiescence, but said nothing as he fell back onto the facing loveseat, pulling Hermione down to snuggle close to his side.

"No need, Mum...I think we're going to Diagon Alley for dinner and I'd like to stop in Quality Quidditch Supply and take a look at the new Firebolt 5000. Have you seen it yet, Father?" Draco said, turning to look at Lucius. As they began debating the features of the newest broom models, Hermione smiled warmly at her future mother-in-law.

"Would you and Lucius like to join us? Perhaps for dessert and a glass of wine?" she asked, reaching over to thread her fingers through Draco's. Although deep in conversation, he squeezed her hand gently in reciprocation, the act so sweet and familiar that it brought tears to Hermione's eyes. She smiled at Narcissa, who watched the tender moment with ill-concealed joy. She looked ethereally beautiful reclined against the deep blue velvet loveseat, so unlike the cold and haughty woman Hermione had met at the Quidditch World Cup, the summer before fourth year. Narcissa had changed for the better and she wore it well.

"No, darling...you and Draco go and have a wonderful time. I think I'd like to just spend time with my husband." Stretching lithely under her blanket, Narcissa glanced at Lucius, who had taken his gaze off Draco long enough to send her an ardent look. "We have important things to discuss, so you go and have a wonderful time."

Draco gave his mother a suspicious look. "What things?" he asked. Narcissa gave him an indulgent smile.

"Never you mind, young man. That's between your father and I."

"But, Mum! Why can't you tell me? You always tell me..."

"Draco," Lucius rumbled warningly.

With a huff, Draco slumped back against the cushions, trying not to pout. Hermione drew her fingers along his palm, feather-light, and his attention was immediately drawn to her.

"May we stop in Flourish and Blotts too? There's a new book on counter-jinxes that Bill suggested I pick up and I think it will be especially helpful when I begin working for your father." Lucius smiled as he watched her deft handling of his prickly son. And no doubt, the hand she was curving around his upper thigh, fingertips rubbing tiny circles on the wool fabric, helped soothe Draco's quick temper.

"Fine. I hate secrets," Draco finally grumbled. He gave Narcissa a snotty smirk. "You know that drives me mad."

"That's why I do it, darling boy, to send you right 'round the bend," Narcissa mocked gently. "Now, shoo! Perhaps I want some quality time with your father." The blatantly sensual emphasis in her voice and Lucius's burning gaze on her was enough to cause Draco to haul Hermione up off the loveseat and with hurried goodbyes, they left them to their own devices.

After the distant crack of Disapparation faded from the foyer, Narcissa turned onto her side and gazed fondly at Lucius. "You didn't tell them about the pictures in the Prophet."

Lucius sighed and rubbed one long-fingered hand over his face. "It's rubbish, Narcissa. That Skeeter woman is nothing but a self-serving troublemaker and I don't want them to worry needlessly about her lies when the wedding is so close."

Sitting up, Narcissa yawned delicately. "They'll see it if they go into Flourish and Blotts, you know."

He nodded slowly, his shining silver hair glowing in the light of the crackling fire. "They will always be in the spotlight, darling. They're Malfoys. It's best that they learn now, rather than later, how to manage negative publicity. God knows they'll have their share of it."

Gathering her robe closer around her slender form, Narcissa slipped onto Lucius's lap, laying her head on his shoulder. "Haven't they had enough of that in their young lives? Especially Hermione, losing her parents in that awful, awful War?"

Lucius nuzzled the top of Narcissa's fair head, breathing in her sweet scent. "They're strong and committed to each other. They'll be fine. We'll be fine."

Tipping her head back, Narcissa pressed a soft kiss to Lucius's jaw, then another and another until her lips molded to his. "Take me to bed, Master Malfoy. I find I'm ravenous for you," she whispered, turning in his arms until she straddled his lap.

With a grin, Lucius gathered her close and stood up. Narcissa wrapped her legs around his waist, giggling infectiously, as he carried her upstairs.

*****

"Good evening, Mr. Malfoy, Miss Granger. Table for two?"

"Please." Draco pressed two Galleons into the maître d's hand. "My fiancée prefers to sit near the fountain."

"Indeed. This way, please," the man murmured obsequiously, taking two menus from the podium and indicating for them to follow. Every pair of eyes in the restaurant was on Draco and Hermione as they moved towards their favorite table, set in a lush, greenhouse-like alcove, a marble fountain bubbling merrily nearby.

Hermione clutched Draco's arm a little tighter, quickly becoming aware of the whispers that followed them. "Everyone's staring," she whispered as the maître d' seated them. As she glanced around, the other diners returned to their meals and conversations, but she could still see the sidelong looks they were shooting their way.

Draco smiled at her reassuringly, but tiny frown lines had gathered between his brows. "Don't worry about it, Granger. They're just jealous that you're with such a rich, handsome man. Not to mention, you're the most beautiful woman in the room." He took her hand in his, stroking her fingers softly. She rolled her eyes playfully.

"The wine list, sir." The wine steward had joined them, holding the list out to Draco, who gave it a cursory look.

"Champagne, please. Your finest vintage."

"Draco, honestly!" Hermione protested, but he grinned saucily at her and she caught her breath as a shiver of pleasure danced along her skin. The steward inclined his head in agreement and hurried off to fetch their champagne. "You're too extravagant."

"I want only the best for you, Granger. The best, the finest, the ultimate of everything should be yours. Plus, I like the way you get all huffy when I pamper you." To emphasize his words, knowing that every eye was upon them, he lifted her hand to his lips and bestowed a gentle kiss on the tips of each finger in turn. The witch at the nearest table sighed audibly in appreciation of his romantic gesture.

Hermione raised an eyebrow, blushing at the other woman's blatant attention. "Oh, is that what you're doing? I've never been the type of girl men want to pamper..."

"You are now. In case you haven't noticed, Hermione, we're the richest young couple in Great Britain." He scooted his chair closer, so that he could drape his arm around her shoulders and smirk defiantly at the rest of the room.

Hermione leaned into his touch, quietly amused at his arrogance. At one time, she'd found him utterly insufferable; a bigoted, unctuous prat at school who had grown up to become undeniably attractive their last couple of years at Hogwarts, but his personality had made him very ugly indeed. Now, however...she gazed up at him, aware that her expression was most likely one of bald adoration.

Draco had changed so significantly; he had become the kind of man she felt fortunate to have found. The kind that only comes along once in a lifetime. That he was wealthy was incidental. That he was gorgeous, at least in her eyes, was minor. That he loved her...well, that was what mattered and she loved him with all her heart.

Draco looked down at her, brow furrowing at the shimmer of tears in her eyes. "Hey...what's wrong?" he whispered, his lips scarcely touching the curve of her ear. He moved lower, placing light, butterfly kisses along her temple and over her flushed cheeks.

"I'm so happy, Draco. I don't remember a time I was ever this happy. If only..." she faltered, choking up as he caressed her arm soothingly. "If only my parents were here...my life would be perfect."

Earlier in their betrothal, Draco would nearly choke on the guilt that would rise in him at any mention of Hermione's murdered parents. He knew his father carried a similar shame, even though neither Malfoy was responsible for their deaths. Still, their ties to Voldemort and his Death Eaters were enough to fill both with self-hatred and miserable recrimination.

But now, Draco was secure in Hermione's love and desire for him, knowing that she considered their life together above and apart from his and his family's past. He nuzzled her cheek with his and hugged her close. "I wish they were here for you, Hermione. If I could give you anything at all, it would be that."

Turning in her chair, she flung her arms around his neck, uncaring that the collective attention of the entire restaurant was on them. "I love you," she breathed against his cheek.

Draco slid one hand over the enticing curve of her bum and was rewarded with a giggle. "Draco!" Hermione chided him, her voice muffled against the fabric of his robes.

"What?" he said with mock innocence.

Before Hermione could reply, a shadow fell over the table. "Well, well...if it isn't Draco and his little Mudblood betrothed." Pansy Parkinson smiled down at them, the curve of her red mouth little more than a vicious baring of her teeth.

In an instant, Draco's relaxed, loose-limbed posture had tightened, coiled like the serpent mascot of Slytherin House and he shifted so that Hermione was tucked partially behind him. He smiled frigidly at Pansy. "Parkinson. What brings you slithering out of your hole?"

The hurt on Pansy's pug-nosed face was fleeting and immediately replaced with an expression of malevolent fury. "I'm surprised to see the two of you here. Grayson Inn is one of the finest restaurants in Diagon Alley...I wouldn't think you'd dare show your faces here."

Hermione scooted out from behind Draco, her dark eyes flashing dangerously. "What are you on about, Parkinson?"

Pansy's surprise was genuine. "You've forgotten so quickly?" She reached down and scooped the champagne bottle out of the bucket. "1976? You must be a better shag than I've given you credit for, Granger. This vintage is nearly priceless. Nearly." She set the bottle down on the table with a thump.

Draco's glare was glacial. "If you're quite finished making a spectacle of yourself, Parkinson, I'll thank you to leave Hermione and myself to our dinner." He smiled faintly, an expression so reminiscent of Lucius Malfoy at his most dangerous that Pansy took a cautionary step back, her fingers slipping into the pocket of her robe.

"You're making a mistake, Draco," Pansy said, her words clear and carrying; the restaurant was as silent as the grave as every witch and wizard present strained to hear her bitter words. "You might've spent years at Hogwarts sniffing after her like an alley cat and wanking off every time she smacked you down, but she's not built for the long haul. You need a woman who is your equal, Draco, not a Mudblood cow who'll lift her tail for any Pureblood wizard who should happen to cross her path!"

Hermione lurched out of her seat and before Draco could stop her, she'd slapped Pansy hard across the face. So hard in fact, that the dark-haired witch stumbled against the table and knocked the champagne to the floor. She lifted one hand to her cheek, aghast that Hermione would dare touch her. "Y-you filthy, stinking Mudblood!" she finally hissed, one hand curving into a claw and the other jerking her wand out of her pocket. But before she could point it at Hermione, she found herself staring down the length of the other witch's wand.

"I dare you," Hermione snarled quietly. "You jealous cow. You can't stand it, can you, that I have the only thing you ever wanted. You can't stand it!"

Draco glanced around the restaurant and was vaguely relieved that most of the patrons were giving Pansy looks of the utmost disapproval, while Hermione was being watched closely. It was a test of sorts, one that would prove to the entire wizarding world that Hermione Granger was a worthy addition to the Malfoy family.

Although Draco liked to think he was getting the best end of the deal.

"Mr. Malfoy." The maître d' had returned with a distinguished looking gentleman whom Draco recognized as the restaurant's owner. His cold smile was surpassed only by his colder eyes. "Is this young woman disturbing you and your lovely fiancée?"

Pansy's mouth popped open in outrage as Draco shook his head slowly. "She's just leaving. I'm terribly sorry for the disturbance."

"You bastard. You utter bastard!" Pansy snapped, her wand hand shaking in fury. "I've known you all my life, Draco...how can you treat me so?"

Draco's gaze softened a little. "Pansy, this is past history. We parted ways long before I fell in love with Hermione. Please understand that it's nothing personal. I wanted to remain friends, but I see that simply isn't possible. I'm sorry."

Hermione lowered her wand, disconcerted as Pansy's blue eyes filled with mortified tears. "Pansy..." she said, reaching for the distraught witch, her natural compassion coming forth. But Pansy shrank away from her, a look of revulsion on her face.

"Don't touch me! You're nothing but a whore, Granger, and here's proof!" She dug in her bag and withdrew a folded section of newspaper, flinging it in Hermione's face. "And now everyone knows what a true slag you really are!"

"Now, see here, Miss Parkinson! If you don't leave quietly, I shall have to call the authorities!" the restaurant owner said, appalled by Pansy's vulgarity. She gave him a withering look.

"Don't bother. I'll never darken the doors of your mediocre restaurant again!" she spat, turning on her heel and walking away with as much dignity as she could muster.

"Great Merlin, Mr. Malfoy! I'm so terribly sorry you had to witness such a display!" the man cried as he snapped his fingers. Several waiters converged on them, wands at the ready to clean the table and surrounding floor of the spilled champagne. The maître d', noticing Hermione's paling features, gently took her arm and helped her to a chair.

"May I get you anything, miss? You look dreadfully faint! Should I call for a Healer?" he asked solicitously. She shook her head slowly, still staring in shock at the front page of the morning Prophet. Draco hadn't yet noticed her distress.

"Please bill me for everyone present, to make up for the inconvenience," he was saying, to the astonishment of the owner. "Malfoy Enterprises will take care of it."

"Certainly, Mr. Malfoy, sir! You're too generous!"

"Draco!"

He swung around at the sound of Hermione's distressed voice. "Darling, what is it? Are you hurt?" He fell to his knees beside her chair, taking her trembling hand in his.

"Draco, look!" She shoved the paper at him and he smoothed it out across her lap, eyes widening as he realized what he was seeing. Under the headline, 'Trouble in Paradise?', were two large pictures, each moving in typical wizarding fashion. They were remarkably similar; in the top picture, Draco was grinning up at the scantily clad woman writhing on his lap, while Marcus Flint grinned toothily in the background. In her picture, Hermione looked slightly less lecherous, but the young man gyrating in her face was no less attractive or, for that matter, clothed.

"What the...? 'Trouble in Paradise'?" Draco spluttered, giving the paper such a vicious shake that the pictures froze for a moment before resuming their naughty dances "And who is this bloke? You said you were at the Weasleys!"

"I was! Then...then, we went into London. And don't yell at me! You look like you're having a wonderful time with Miss...Miss Big Tits rubbing all over you!" Hermione hissed, her face flushing with embarrassment and temper.

Draco straightened the paper out, his angry grey eyes scanning the text. He bristled with each passing second. "Listen to this drivel! 'Is it possible that the most improbable couple to ever emerge from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is on the skids, even before speaking their sacred vows? Is it possible that the upcoming nuptials of Muggle-born witch Hermione Granger and wealthy, Pureblood wizard Draco Malfoy are a sham, so that the two former enemies can avoid the hefty fines and possible imprisonment associated with breaking the Marriage Act of 2001?' Did you read this?" he snapped as Hermione's eyes filled with tears.

Without waiting for her to answer, he continued scanning the article. "Well, I don't like it! Who wrote it?" He growled when he saw Rita Skeeter's byline. "Figures. That blasted Skeeter cow!"

Every single person in the restaurant was trying – and failing – to give the young couple some privacy. Hermione pulled the paper out of Draco's hands. "She's awful, just awful. She's always hated me, since I was fourteen. 'Only time will tell if the Malfoy-Granger arrangement is legitimate. This writer seriously doubts that Miss Granger's inadequate appeal will be enough to keep a handsome and charming wizard such as Malfoy interested for very long. I give them six months unless Granger finds herself with child. That is to say, if she isn't already.' Oh God..."

With a cry, she flung the paper to the floor and bolted out of the chair. Draco jumped to his feet as Hermione staggered past him. "Hermione, wait!"

"Don't! Please Draco, just don't!"

"Hermione, come back!" he yelled as she raised her wand. With a sharp crack, she Disapparated from the restaurant. A sudden, eerie silence fell over the room as Draco stared at the spot where Hermione had stood.

An elderly witch sitting nearby smiled kindly. "Give your lady some time, young man. She'll come 'round, she will. Wedding nerves, you know." In fact, everyone was nodding and gazing at him sympathetically, offering advice ranging from extravagant gifts to exotic holidays to postponing the wedding, which only made Draco glare at the pretty young witch who had suggested it.

"I'm sorry for all the commotion," he apologized to the owner and maître d', both of whom immediately assured him the fault was not his own. With a heavy heart, Draco gathered up the discarded paper with the pictures from the night before and Disapparated for home.

TBC

Chapter Text

Although Draco arrived home only minutes after Hermione Disapparated from the restaurant, the foyer was dark and empty. Alerted to his arrival by the activated wards, one of the house elves scurried into the foyer to take his cloak and gloves, and to tell him that his parents had already retired for the night and that 'Miss Minnie' was already in their suite.

Draco loped up the stairs, taking them two at a time, eager to find Hermione and set her mind at ease. Damn that Skeeter bitch, he fumed as he stalked down the portrait-lined hallway. He'd make her pay royally for her stupidity. No one, no one, took on a Malfoy and got away with it. He'd make sure she would never work in the wizarding world again. If he had anything to say about it, and considering the close friendship his mother enjoyed with the wife of the Daily Prophet's editor he had a lot to say about it, that woman would be writing blurbs for Muggle tabloids for the rest of her worthless life.

Draco was less concerned about Pansy's bitter diatribe; they had been friends for years, but growing apart from her had been a natural progression for him. Pansy, on the other hand, had always harbored a secret jealousy for Hermione Granger, even at Hogwarts, and his relationship with the Muggleborn witch didn't set well with his former friend. With the Ministry's new law in place, it wasn't as if Draco could have pursued a relationship with Pansy anyway, as she was as pureblooded as he was.

Throwing open the double doors leading into the sitting room, Draco hurried to the bedroom, coming to an abrupt halt when he saw Hermione sitting on the chaise by the window. She looked up, startled by his explosive entrance. For a long moment they stared at each other, but then Hermione's chin quivered and Draco wasted no time covering the distance between them. He hauled her up into his arms, pressing his cheek to hers. Twining her arms around his neck, Hermione clung to him as she began to cry in earnest. Her tears quickly soaked through his shirt as he held her close.

"Shhhh, darling...don't cry. Don't cry," Draco murmured soothingly as he stroked his fingers through her thick curls. "I'll take care of it. That talentless Skeeter slag won't bother you again, Hermione."

At his icily spoken vow, Hermione pulled back so that she could look into his face. Draco knew that he must've looked fierce, possessive. He tried to school his expression into one a bit less frightening, but when he saw the heat flare in her eyes, desire bloomed in his belly.

"Draco...I need you..." Hermione moaned plaintively, her touch growing as possessive as his own.

He would deny her nothing. Grasping her upper arms in both hands, he propelled her roughly backwards and onto the bed, crawling atop her and straddling her hips. With a whimper, Hermione arched into the apex of his thighs as he pinned her wrists to the mattress and nipped sharply at her bared throat. Her skin reddened instantly and the sight of it raised a purely primal urge to claim her thoroughly, to mark her as his so completely that no one – not Skeeter, not Pansy – no one would dare question his loyalty to his bride.

He'd respect her wishes and leave her a virgin this night, but there was one thing that Hermione withheld from him and, by God, he'd have it.

Before she could turn her flushed cheek to him, he held her wrists in one hand and caught her chin with the other. "Don't! Don't turn away from me, Hermione." He drew the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip, stroking the velvet smoothness of it. She parted her lips and drew his thumb between her teeth, sucking gently. Draco watched, entranced, as she curled her tongue around it as deftly as she sucked his cock. Her tongue darted out to tease the sensitive crease between his thumb and forefinger, a smile starting to clear away the tears that glimmered on her lashes.

"God, I want you, Granger...always, always wanted you," Draco whispered as she strained against his hold, the excitement in her gaze more intoxicating than anything he'd ever experienced. "You look so beautiful tonight, so perfect, so you just put them out of your mind. They don't matter, Skeeter and Pansy. Nothing matters but the two of us and the fact that I love you."

He rocked against her, subliminally seeking the heat and moisture that he knew was waiting for him between her legs. Releasing her wrists, he reached down and tugged at the hem of her dress, ripping it at the seam. Hermione's teeth scraped sharply along the underside of his thumb and he felt it all the way down to his painfully erect cock.

"I'll buy you a more dresses, Granger, one in every color. Just let me kiss you," he said by way of apology, his voice dropping to a needy purr.

Slowly releasing his thumb from her mouth, Hermione reached for him, her fingers sinking into his hair. She tugged him closer and Draco's heart began to pound in expectant disbelief. Many of his most fevered dreams about her, even as long ago as Hogwarts, hadn't been so much about the sexual act as just tasting those plump, bossy lips. In the beginning, it had just been a reflection of his desire to silence the swotty Mudblood, but now...now, he was aching so badly for her that even the prospect of just sliding his tongue into her hot little mouth was nearly enough to make him come in his trousers.

Hermione smiled at him, a smirk curving her lips as she watched the play of emotions across his face. "You're laughing at me," Draco said, swatting her lightly on one bare hip. In answer, she raised her pelvis so that they fit together like two missing halves and even through his wool trousers and her silken knickers, Draco could feel the damp slide of her cunt over his rigid length.

"I'd never laugh at you, Draco," she said, trying to keep a straight face as he ground down on her, catching her wrists again in his hands and leaning over her so that the tips of his blond hair brushed her skin. Her teasing smile faltered as he brushed a feather-light kiss across one cheek, then the other. When his mouth was a mere hairsbreadth from hers, so close that they were breathing each other's exhalations, Hermione turned her head and Draco nearly wept with frustration.

"Give me this, Hermione. Give me this one thing to sustain me until the wedding," he begged and felt no shame for it. He pressed his forehead against her temple, his hips undulating against her once more. Hermione moaned deep in her throat, her eyes going hazy with lust.

"I'm afraid..." she whispered in his ear, arching again as he rubbed himself against her, seeking respite from the ache in his groin.

"Hermione, of what? You know I won't hurt you!"

She sighed fitfully. "I know. I'm just afraid I won't be able to stop. Draco, you set me on fire." Hermione met his eyes again and he could see the desperate love shining in her gaze.

Groaning helplessly at her words, Draco licked his suddenly dry lips. Lowering his mouth to hers, he touched her with the briefest, most tentative of kisses. Before he could repeat the kiss, Hermione whispered, "Let me go, Draco."

Disappointed, he immediately released her hands, but to his surprise, she brought them up to cup his feverish face between them. "Kiss me again," she moaned and Draco was lost. Digging his hands into her hair, he slanted his mouth over. Instantly, she opened for him and he sucked her bottom lip between his teeth, feeling rather than hearing her anxious whine. She was clutching at his shoulders now, lifting one leg out of the prison of his knees so that she could ride his thigh, desperate to ease the tension coiling inexorably in her belly.

Still keeping a firm hold on her head, Draco lowered his body to hers, digging his knee between her legs until she spread them wide. Then, as he slid his hand inside her knickers, he pressed his tongue deep into her mouth, twining around her own in a sinuous dance.

Hermione's cries were swallowed by his kiss as he indulged in a fantasy he'd had since third year. She tasted of tears and champagne and, instead of shutting her up like he'd once dreamed of doing, she was making the most brilliant noises. Moans and whimpers that went straight to his cock and made him even more impossibly hard than he already was.

Without breaking the sweet connection, Hermione tugged at his shirt, ripping buttons off in her haste to reach his skin. She stripped his ruined shirt over his shoulders, her hands sliding hungrily over his chest, pinching his nipples and leaving long pink scratches on his pale skin. Reluctantly sliding off the bed, Draco released her long enough to strip out of the remainder of his clothing, sighing in relief as he released his cock from the confines of his trousers and underwear. Beneath him, Hermione was shimmying out of her torn dress and was about to kick off her heels when Draco stilled her with a hand on her thigh.

"Leave them. I wanna see them in the air when I make you scream," he said roughly.

Hermione's answer was to pull him back onto the bed, the lace of her knickers rasping over his hypersensitive cock. She grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his head back. "I crave your touch, Draco. I need it like I need air to breathe and water to drink. I need you so much," she whispered against his lips. He nipped at her, capturing her once more in a scorching kiss that made Hermione grind lustfully against him.

Draco gathered a handful of the delicate fabric of her knickers and jerked hard. Hermione grunted as they tore, the elastic abrading her skin. The unexpected pain of it made her even more ravenous for him and she bore him over onto his back, sprawling atop him in a warm, fragrant bundle of woman.

Draco brought his hand down on her arse, harder than before, the firm flesh jiggling enticingly with the force of it. She gave a muffled cry and tried to wriggle away from him, but Draco wrapped one arm tightly around her waist, their mouths still locked lusciously together. Another slap, and another, and another, until the heat of his punishment burned his palm. Hermione tore her mouth from his with a low scream; she gasped against his cheek, her breath gusting out with each smack.

"Draco, Draco, Draco! Oh God...it hurts...hurts...darling, harder!" Again he slapped her burning arse, his handprints glowing against her pale skin. She writhed on him wildly, her hands clenched almost painfully on his hair.

With a dark, dangerous grin, Draco tipped Hermione onto her back again. Grabbing her ankles, he pushed her knees up and apart, so that she was bared to him so indecently she turned magenta with embarrassment. But when he lightly caressed her bruised arse, drawing a finger along the crease to finger the tiny pucker hidden there, she whined so urgently that Draco couldn't resist another hard spank on the tender flesh. The next, landing on her glistening wet cunt, made her scream.

"Love to hear you scream, Granger. Gonna make you scream all night..." he gasped as he spread her legs wider, one black sandal dangling by the toes and the other missing altogether. Hermione clutched at the duvet, watching with helpless lust as he lowered his mouth between her legs, his tongue curling between the swollen folds and slipping inside. She was already so aroused that the first touch of his lips on her sent her over the edge, one endless wave of white-hot sensation rolling through her body until she was left violently trembling and barely conscious.

Draco watched her avidly, drinking in her every twitch as he delved deeper into her. He slipped a single finger inside her vagina, coating it with her abundant moisture. Then before she could protest, he moved lower, his mouth hot and hungry against the delicate flesh between the cheeks of her arse.

The effects of Hermione's orgasm were still vibrating through her body when she realized what Draco was doing. She heaved herself up on her elbows, an awkward position with her legs still high in the air. "What are you doing?" she said bluntly, watching with morbid fascination as Draco's tongue circled around the dark pink hole.

"Page two hundred seventy-one," he murmured without taking his mouth off of her.

"Well, stop it! Oh, God...Draco, s-s-stop!" Hermione flung her head back and covered her eyes with her one arm, unable to stop the tidal wave of ecstasy that his lips and wicked, wicked tongue were bringing her.

"Do you want me to? Really?" he asked, blowing a cool stream of air across her saliva-damp flesh, grinning as she responded by lifting her legs higher into the air. "You don't look like you want me to stop."

Ducking his head, he teased her with gentle swipes of his tongue, then carefully pushed his fingertip against her. It sank inside to the first knuckle and Hermione made a guttural sound so primeval that he looked up at her in alarm. But, she was staring down at him with hooded eyes, dark and blazing and half-crazed with desire for him.

"I'm going to have you here, you know. Not tonight, but soon. There won't be an inch of your body that won't know my touch," he purred, dipping his finger inside her arse again, as he rose up to once more feast on the creamy moisture seeping from her cunt. He sucked her clit into his mouth, worrying it with his tongue as he rubbed his fingertip in a circle, feeling her arse clench tightly around it.

With a wail, she came again, her eyes rolling back in her head and her back arching off the bed. Draco continued to leisurely lick her until she fell limp, her legs sliding over his shoulders. Weak flutters still wracked her body as he took mercy and crawled between her legs to lie atop her. Hermione wrapped her arms and legs around him, nuzzling at his mouth with hers, opening for him despite the fact that he'd just had his tongue there.

Draco shifted carefully, not wanting to cause her any discomfort. The heavy weight of his cock pressed between them, every brush of it against her smooth belly was sending sparks along his overly sensitized nerve endings. He groaned as she wiggled beneath him.

"Don't move, Granger," he said as her erotic movements threatened to send him over the edge. "Oh God...you feel so good. So wet and so fucking good."

Tightening her legs around his narrow hips, Hermione rubbed against him so that his cock slipped between their bodies, slick and hard and throbbing with every beat of his heart. "I dream about it, Draco," she whispered in his ear, sucking his earlobe between her lips. "How you're going to feel inside me, stretching me open, filling me so full of you that I'll never forget it, even if I live to be two hundred. I love that you'll be the only man who will ever be in me."

Her words were a balm for his soul; if Draco had any lingering doubts about Hermione's desire for him, they were chased away by her simple, passionate words. Their eyes met and held as Draco dipped down to once more take her lips with his, a kiss so insanely perfect that he felt tears sting the corners of his eyes. He closed them tightly as he saw the knowing look enter her own, almost ashamed that he was such an open book to her. Hermione could have used his love for her against him, but he knew she wouldn't. He trusted her as only a man could trust the woman he loved and who, he hoped, loved him in return.

Hermione gently nudged him onto his side as they broke apart and sat up. "Lay back and let me take care of you," she said as he nestled back against the pillows. Kicking off her remaining shoe, Hermione crawled over to him; not into his arms as he expected, but straddling his waist so that he was given a delectable and picture-perfect view of her arse. He shifted eagerly as she tossed him a sassy grin over her shoulder.

"Be a good boy, Draco," she purred as she bent over his cock. He couldn't see what she was doing, but the anticipation of having her mouth on him was nearly as good. Her hair fell in a thick curtain over his thighs and he jumped as she gently cupped his tightly drawn sac.

"Fuck!" he ground out as her nails scraped through the golden hair on his inner thigh. He broke out in goosebumps as she directed a warm breath of air over his glans, then bathed his sensitive flesh with an even hotter swipe of her tongue. He wasn't going to last...

With a suddenness that had him curling his toes and clenching every muscle in his body in shock, Hermione took him completely in her mouth, one continuous swallow that sent him bumping the back of her throat. Then, just as slowly, she drew him out, her lips nearly as tight as a fist around his shaft. Draco shut his eyes, tears squeezing from beneath his lids as she repeated the tortuously slow movement, taking him so deep her nose brushed his sac, then back up again, her tongue teasing the tiny hole at the tip of his penis.

"Bloody hell, witch! Where in the name of all that's sacred did you learn to do that?" he spat, gasping as she sucked wetly on him, before gliding back down, again all the way to the back of her throat. She set a smooth rhythm, her hips surging back and forth with hypnotic grace. A picture from their erotic book flashed through his mind. "N-never mind...p-page...God!"

Draco grasped her rolling hips in both hands, stilling her so that he could bring her down on his mouth. He felt the vibration of Hermione's moan around his cock, all the way down to his toes as he spread the still-flushed globes of her arse and licked a long, wet path from pucker to clit. The taste of her was rich and honeyed, her thighs sticky with her body's own lubrication. Draco wondered if he could just stay here, face buried in this treasure chest between Hermione's legs, for the rest of his life. He'd never get bored of bringing her joy.

Hermione was enthusiastically sucking him now, her hair tickling his legs as she bobbed up and down on his length. She rolled his testicles in the palm of one hand, her fingers stroking the bridge of flesh between the responsive sac and the tight pucker of his arse. He was so close, so very close, that when she brought her mouth back up to the tip and curled her tongue around to tease the sensitive bit of flesh beneath his glans, he nearly blacked out from the force of his orgasm. With a hoarse yell, Draco spilled into Hermione's mouth as she took him once more so deep inside, he could feel the squeeze of her throat as she swallowed his come.

Draco slumped back against the pillows, chilled and shaking, as Hermione lapped up the ejaculate still seeping out of him. Weakly, he reached out and stroked her arse, a giddy smile crossing his lips.

"That was fucking brilliant, Granger," he said wearily, as she turned and knelt beside him. He watched lustfully as she wiped away the pearly drops of come that had dribbled down her chin. "You have my permission to do that anytime you want." She grinned saucily at him.

"Liked it, did you? I don't know, Draco. You're already so spoiled, you're almost impossible to live with as it is," she teased as he pulled her down into his arms. They were both sticky with sweat and starting to chill, but too exhausted to move. Hermione laid her head on Draco's chest, her hair spreading over his shoulder. "It was pretty amazing, wasn't it? Do you suppose it will always be like this? So...so explosive?"

Draco nuzzled the top of her head, then pressed his lips to her curls. "How could it be anything less? There've always been sparks between us, from the day we first met. I thought it was animosity, but it wasn't, was it? Not ever."

Hermione looked up at him, a thoughtful look on her face. "Maybe. I know, that time I slapped you in third year, I couldn't get you out of my mind. For the rest of the year, every time I saw you in class or in the hallways, it was like my body was aware of something my mind was denying. I'd watch you in the Great Hall and I could still feel your skin on my palm. I wanted to touch you again, to see if it was real or just a figment of my imagination."

"I wish things had been different, Granger. I wish I'd known what I know now. I'd have certainly kissed you long ago." At that, Draco dipped his head, pausing when she drew back.

"Draco, no...I've had your...you...in my mouth," she stammered, blushing hotly. His heart swelled with affection and love for her. He hugged her closer.

"I want to taste myself on your tongue. I love knowing that I've been there." With a sultry gaze, Hermione met his approaching lips, eagerly parting her own for the slick, heavy glide of his tongue on hers. Draco swept his tongue over her teeth and deeper, the faintly bitter taste of his come mixing with her own sweet taste. Pulling her snugly into his arms, Draco settled into the kiss, more content than he'd ever been in his entire life.

 

*****

 

"I feel sorry for Pansy."

"Why?"

Hermione lathered her hands with a bar of soap before setting it back in its niche. Draco lifted his arms as she began sliding her hands over his chest and stomach. The hot water streaming from the shower heads raised a steamy cloud and fogged the glass as they leisurely soaped each other's bodies, pausing only to exchange equally slow and lazy kisses. After another sweaty and athletic bout of lovemaking, they'd both agreed that a long, hot shower would help them sleep.

Draco seriously doubted that it would work. He was already beginning to stir again at the feel of Hermione's slender hands on his hips and between his legs as she cleaned the remnants of sex from his skin.

He stroked his fingers through her shampoo-lathered hair, scratching his nails over her scalp as she moved her soapy hands around to his arse. He winced; she'd taken her turn at spanking with an eagerness that made him wonder if she had closeted dominatrix tendencies. Remembering her regimental attitude towards Potter and Weasley during their school days, it wouldn't have surprised him in the least that control in the bedroom would be something that turned her on.

"She must've really cared about you, to be so willing to humiliate herself in public. It was just...I don't know...it was sad."

Draco shook his head. "Don't be sorry. Pansy can be a very manipulative woman, always has been. She didn't care about me as much as she cared about her reputation and my money."

Turning in his arms, Hermione ducked her head under the spray, rinsing the suds out of her hair. "But, you were friends. You must've been, if you could still turn to her for sex."

"God, Hermione, you aren't still..." he said, shame burning in his chest.

Hermione looked horrified. "No! Of course not! That's in the past and I know that you care about me..."

"Love."

"...love me and I love you. We're getting married in six days, Draco!" At this, she bounced excitedly on her toes. "But, I still can't help but wonder if she's harbored hope for you all this time."

"Pansy knew it would never happen. With the law in place, it can't have happened anyway. I think she thought perhaps I would continue to see her after we married."

"Still..."

Stepping under the spray with her, Draco pushed Hermione gently against the heated granite wall. She giggled, distracted as he palmed her soap-slick breasts, bending to take first one nipple, then the other, into his mouth. "I don't pay enough attention to your breasts," he murmured before returning to the firm peaks.

Threading her fingers through Draco's wet hair, Hermione smiled indulgently. "And why not? They need love too."

"All of you needs love, Granger. Every...last...inch," he growled as he proceeded to do just that. Hermione laughed as he dipped his head to playfully stick his tongue in her navel.

"You're incorrigible, Malfoy," she gasped as he rose back up to tower over her. He smiled angelically as he slid his fingers between her legs, ghosting over her tender clitoris. Her eyes fluttered closed as he kissed her hungrily and played her body like a fine-tuned instrument.

As Draco suspected, showering together was not at all conducive to a good night's sleep.

 

*****

 

Rita Skeeter had never recovered from the ruin of her career, courtesy of Hermione Jean Granger. Even the mere thought of the homely, bushy haired bitch was enough to make her grit her teeth and tear at her own perfectly-coiffed hair. Reluctantly, she glanced over at the Prophet's official engagement photo of Malfoy and Granger that she'd tacked to her bulletin board. Taken by one of the wizarding world's preeminent photographers, they looked every bit the wealthy, privileged couple they were. And despite her abiding hatred of Hermione Granger, Rita had to grudgingly admit that the bitch had grown into her looks. It was amazing what a fabulous wardrobe and a rich fiancé could do for a girl's appearance.

Hermione Granger had nearly destroyed Rita Skeeter's life. Her secret, that she was an unregistered Animagus, had been uncovered during the Tri-Wizard Tournament fiasco and the Granger twit had held it over Rita's head ever since. She'd even kept Rita in a jar, after capturing her in her beetle form. Rita had itched to have the little girl arrested for kidnapping and confinement, but that would've meant admitting to her unorthodox practices and illegal Animagus status.

And Malfoy! Rita had trusted him, trusted him and his ugly little girlfriend, Pansy Parkinson. Sure, their motivation was suspect; it was no secret that Malfoy and Potter had a long-standing and excruciatingly bitter enmity for each other. She'd felt pity for the wealthy young man; he was so clearly Potter's superior and Rita knew a good thing when she saw it. Malfoy could help her on the way to fame and fortune.

But, as soon as Potter's infuriating insistence that Voldemort lived spread throughout Britain, Rita's career had suffered. Sure, she'd helped Granger by writing Harry's article for The Quibbler, but the damage was done. Rita was seen as nothing more than a no-talent hack and even now, the Prophet only kept her on out of pity and her lingering popularity with the gossip-hungry public.

For that, she'd never forgive the Granger bitch or her blood traitor boyfriend. Who cared that they were literally forced into marriage by the Marriage Act? They were obviously mad about each other. With a quirk of her crimson lips, Rita wondered if Granger possessed a whore's bedroom talents. Apparently so, since she was so successful at keeping Malfoy sniffing after her for all this time.

Except for the pictures she'd unearthed from Friday night. She wasn't stupid enough to believe that the pictures meant anything more important than a wild night out for the bride and groom before the wedding. She'd heard of such things in the Muggle world. But, with a glee that almost frightened her, she'd been able to twist it into something sordid, implying that both Draco and Hermione still harbored a healthy dislike for each other and were only marrying because they wanted to avoid the punishment breaking the marriage contract would entail.

If nothing else, it was good for a laugh or two.

Behind her, the soft snick of the office door opening made her turn around. Her slick, red smile faded abruptly when she saw who was paying her a visit. For the briefest of moments, she thought it was Lucius Malfoy, so terrifyingly menacing he looked.

But, with a nervous gulp, she realized that the impeccably dressed blond man was none other than Draco Malfoy himself, staring at her with frigid and forbidding eyes. She stood quickly, stumbling a little on her stiletto pumps. "Draco! To what do I owe this pleasu...visit?" she stammered.

His sneering smile was a world away from reaching his pale eyes. "You can address me as Mr. Malfoy."

In another young man, the words might've been amusing, but his presence in her tiny office was so intimidating that Rita immediately corrected herself. "My apologies, Mr. Malfoy. May I help you?"

Draco swept into the room, bringing with him a rush of cold air clinging to his fur-lined cloak. Quietly he shut the door behind him and settled a gaze on Rita that promised retribution. For the first time in her life, she regretted writing a story. Abruptly, she sat back down, to cover up her buckling knees.

Taking a chair opposite her and flexing his leather-gloved hands, Draco smiled with false cheer. "I'd like to have a word with you, Rita, about your future in journalism. And your future apology to my fiancée."

"Apology?"

Draco swept one side of his cloak back, exposing his custom-tailored black suit. Reaching into an inner pocket, he withdrew his wand, twirling it easily between his fingers.

"You heard me. Apology. The one you're going to publicly make to Hermione. You caused her a great deal of stress last night and I don't like it when she's stressed. It makes me very angry. You don't like it when she's stressed either, do you?"

Rita wanted to throw things at that horribly smug face. "Who do you think you are, you upstart little brat? You're no Lucius Malfoy, that's for sure," she snapped peevishly.

"No, I'm not." He leaned forward, tapping his wand lightly in his palm, Rita's eyes following his every move. "I'm worse."

Rita looked into his eyes and knew that her career, what was left of it, was over. "I see," she said with barely concealed hatred.

Draco glanced up at the heavily jeweled eyeglasses perched on top of her head. He grinned. "I don't think you do. So, allow me explain it to you."

Rita pressed her lips together and quietly wished she'd never heard of Hermione fucking Granger.

TBC

Chapter Text

"You're joking, right?"

Draco looked from his mother to Hermione and back again, his expression darkening into a hostile scowl. Hermione ducked her head, studying her buttered toast with all the concentration one would give priceless artwork. Narcissa, however, was unfazed by the gathering storm clouds on her son's face. She calmly stirred a spoonful of sugar into her tea, while Draco waited with growing agitation.

He finally snapped. "Mother, I will not! And you can't make me!"

Setting the spoon onto the saucer, Narcissa looked at him over the top of her cup as she took a delicate sip. "Of course, you will, Draco. It's tradition."

"Fuck tradition!" Draco spat, banging his fist down on the table, setting the china rattling.

Hermione bit her lip anxiously, pressing her fingers over his clenched hand. "Draco, honestly, you have the most appalling temper! She's your mother..."

Draco snorted and shoved his chair back from the table, although he did not stand up. "Not right now, she isn't," he snarled, glaring balefully at his mother. Narcissa beamed up at him with adoring affection.

"Draco, darling, it's only for five days. Surely you can bear being parted from Hermione for five little days?" Narcissa said with calm encouragement, but Draco was having none of it. Sensing that he getting nowhere fast with his mother, he turned his accusing glare on Hermione.

"Did you know about this, Granger?" he asked. Hermione sighed and nodded.

"Draco, it's only until the wedding. You aren't the only one who will be lonely, too, you know," Hermione said.

His gaze softened marginally, but his voice betrayed his anger and disappointment. "But...last night...Hermione, after last night, I don't know if I can sleep alone!" he said. "You're dooming me to a life of misery and insomnia." The fight drained out of him at Hermione's sympathetic look and he leaned forward, burying his face in the crook of her neck.

Hermione's sympathy was echoed on Narcissa's face. "Draco, it's unusual enough in the wizarding world for a betrothed couple to share a bedroom before marriage. Your father and I allowed it because we hoped that it would help strengthen the bond between both of you. However, we must make some effort to adhere to tradition the week before the wedding. To not do so might be seen by some as very disrespectful," Narcissa said. "I've had Tippy prepare your old bedroom..."

"My old bedroom? The nursery? I have to move to the other side of the manor, into the fucking nursery? Mum!" Draco protested, his plans for sneaking back into Hermione's bed dashed. Narcissa gave him a knowing smirk as Hermione chided him for his salty language.

"I think I'll put wards on the door, too. I'll not have you sneaking around the house in the middle of the night. What would the ancestors think?" Narcissa said as she lifted her teacup to her smiling lips.

Draco huffed furiously and crossed his arms over his chest. Hermione had to bite back a giggle at his angry pout. He looked so much like he had at eleven years old, fresh off the Hogwarts Express, that a wave of nostalgic affection for that spoiled rotten child overfilled Hermione's heart. She leaned against his rigid shoulder, caressing his arm soothingly. "We'll be able to spend time together anyway, Draco. All day, if you like. Please don't be so angry. Please don't ruin these last few days until the wedding."

He turned a tortured gaze on her. "You'll be busy with wedding stuff! I know how these things are, Granger. When Blaise's sister got married, her husband didn't see her for a whole month beforehand! She was off here and there...fittings, menus, florists...he practically forgot what she looked like!"

Narcissa laughed at that. "Oh, Draco! You're so melodramatic!"

Before Draco could make a suitably scathing reply, Lucius strolled swiftly into the dining hall, sweeping off his snow-dusted cloak and handing it to a waiting house-elf. He had an odd little smile on his face as he glanced at Draco, who was trying in vain to wipe the petulant look off his face.

"Good morning, family. I'm sorry I missed breakfast, my love," he murmured, dropping a kiss onto Narcissa's smiling mouth. "My meeting ran longer than I anticipated. Hermione, you're looking exceptionally lovely today. Did you sleep well?" Hermione's cheeks turned rosy with embarrassment at the sly insinuation in his drawling voice. Draco's scowl deepened.

Reaching into his coat, Lucius removed a folded copy of the Daily Prophet and handed it to Draco. "Interesting article on the front page, son."

Draco unfolded the paper and as he perused the headline, a purely wicked grin chased away his gloomy expression. "Well, no one can accuse Rita Skeeter of not knowing when to cut her losses."

Skeeter Resigns in Disgrace!

Offers Apology to Malfoy Family
Early this morning, in an unexpected announcement that has shocked Wizarding Britain, writes Special Correspondent, Ian Gribble, controversial journalist Rita Skeeter has resigned from the Daily Prophet amidst accusations of libel and persisting rumors that she is an unregistered Animagus. In a statement given this morning's press conference, Miss Skeeter offered an apology to the Malfoy family for her lurid and unfounded statements insinuating that the upcoming nuptials of the Malfoy heir, Draco, and his Muggleborn fiancée, Hermione Granger, are taking place under extreme duress. Miss Skeeter wishes to assure the readers of this publication that the young couple is blissfully in love and looking forward to many happy and fruitful years of marriage...

Accompanying the article was a photograph of a miserable looking Rita, her trademark jeweled glasses magnifying a pair of eyes that seemed to bug unnaturally out of her face, unblinking and rigid.

Hermione gasped as she read over Draco's shoulder. "How...? You know something about this, don't you?" she accused. "And what on earth is wrong with her eyes?"

Draco could hardly keep the gleeful smile off his face. "What makes you think I know anything, darling? Seems to me, Rita saw the error of her ways." He snickered, reaching out to slip an arm around Hermione's waist as she tugged the paper closer, her eyes darting quickly over the article.

"Oh! Now I know you put her up to this! Listen to this: 'I'm terribly ashamed of myself', says Miss Skeeter. 'Miss Granger and I have had our disagreements in the past, but it's simply because I find her beauty and intelligence so intimidating...'. Draco, honestly! You do remember, don't you, that the Imperius Curse is punishable by a life sentence in Azkaban?"

Draco's mood had taken a definite upswing and he pushed the paper away. Narcissa picked up her wand and Summoned it across the table. Biting into a buttered crumpet, she happily perused the article while Lucius watched Draco speculatively.

Pulling a suspicious Hermione onto his lap, Draco pressed a kiss to the sensitive skin beneath her jaw. "Let's go upstairs and do page 49 while Mum's distracted," he whispered in her ear, his warm, jam-scented breath sending shivers along Hermione's spine as she recalled exactly what delicious activities page 49 in their book revealed. Boldly, Draco spider-walked his fingers up the inside of her knee and under her skirt.

Hermione was on the verge of agreeing, a brilliant, giddy smile lighting up her face, when Narcissa interrupted from behind the front page. "Now, Draco, what did I just say?"

Draco groaned. "You said we couldn't sleep in the same room, not that we couldn't have sex. Believe me, I'm looking for every loophole in this insane idea you're having."

Picking up her wand, Narcissa waved it vaguely in Draco's direction and he nearly upended Hermione onto the floor to remove himself from the path of whatever hex she might be contemplating. Lucius bit back an amused smile as Draco glared daggers at his mother. "Draco, it's five days!" Narcissa snapped, her slow-to-burn temper finally peaking. "Now, quit pestering the poor girl! Go do something constructive...Lucius, give him something to do, for Merlin's sake!"

Knowing better than to argue with his temperamental wife, Lucius tossed down his napkin and drained his teacup. "Come along, Draco. I'm having lunch with Rolf, to go over the accounts. You may accompany me."

With a long-suffering sigh, Draco clung tight to Hermione for a moment, then sought out her lips for a sweet, scorching kiss. Stroking her fingertips over his cheek, Hermione gently pulled away. "It'll be hard, won't it?"

Draco nodded miserably. "More than you know. More than you could ever know, Granger." She gave him another hug and kiss, then watched fretfully as the two Malfoy men left the dining hall, Draco with a last, mournful gaze.

Narcissa folded the paper and laid it aside, a thoughtful smile on her mouth. She watched Hermione fondly, as the young woman pined so blatantly for Draco. "Hermione."

With a start, Hermione turned around. "Yes, Narcissa?"

"I find that I'm craving a raspberry swirl sundae from Fortescue's...join me?"

"For breakfast?" Hermione asked, bemused.

"Why not? Ice cream is delicious at any time of the day."

Realizing with a rush of fondness that Narcissa was trying to take her mind off Draco, Hermione nodded happily.

 

*****

 

"She's mad, Father. She's gone absolutely nutters. Obviously, she's channeling dear old Bellatrix," Draco snarled as he glared stonily out of the window of the Hampstead, one of the most elegant restaurants in Diagon Alley. Lucius smothered a grin behind his wineglass.

"Indeed. Perhaps you think I've allowed your mother too much freedom in our marriage?" he teased. Draco raised an eyebrow as he tried to imagine headstrong Narcissa Malfoy forced into the role of a submissive wife. Then, as his thoughts drifted to Hermione and having her in a more submissive position, Draco flushed pink. Lucius rolled his eyes and sighed, reading his son's thoughts as easily as if they were plastered across his forehead.

"Good heavens, Draco! Is there a single moment of the day that you aren't thinking of sex?"

To his credit, Draco grinned. "Not really, no. I am only twenty-two, Father; primal urges and all that rubbish."

"Well, I'd advise against dragging your bride to bed by her hair, although she does have a rather spectacular amount of it, doesn't she? Anyway, Hermione's a strong-willed young woman, just like your mother. She's going to make a fine wife for you, Draco. I'm very pleased with your decision."

Draco smiled at his father's praise. "She's amazing, isn't she? I never thought, never in a million years, that Hermione Granger would end up being the woman I would fall in love with." He gave his father a cautious look. "You aren't upset about the Skeeter wench, are you? I didn't hurt her permanently or anything. That little hex will go away in a week or two. I just wanted to impress upon her the error of her ways and make some rather emphatic suggestions regarding her future behavior." The devious gleam in his eyes belied his innocent tone.

Lucius laughed softly. "No, I'm not angry, although I would've advised you to not act in such an overbearing and dangerous manner. The Malfoy name has endured enough these past few years without you throwing your weight around. What if Skeeter hadn't been so amenable to your...suggestions?"

His son's smirk was wicked. "Then, I would have asked you to pay her a visit. Oh, you'd have loved it, Father! She was shaking in her faux dragon-hide shoes. Couldn't retract her vicious lies fast enough. I think you might have been proud of me."

Lucius studied Draco closely as the younger man sipped his wine and looked curiously around the restaurant. Making a rash decision, which he hoped would not anger his wife, he cleared his throat. "Draco, there's something I need to tell you."

"What's that, Father? You know, I don't think your accountant is coming. You would think, with the galleons he's made off the Malfoy name, he'd bother to show up on time." Draco said with a scowl. He looked over his shoulder, searching for the absent accountant. "Time is galleons, that's what you've always..."

"Draco." Lucius interrupted. "Son, listen, you know your mother had a very difficult time getting pregnant with you..."

Draco looked horrified. "Father!" he said. "Do we have to discuss this here? I don't think Hermione and I will have a problem having children. I mean, don't Muggles breed like rabbits, anyway? There are enough of them. Besides, it won't be for lack of trying, if you know what I mean."

"Draco, for God's sake..."

"Oh, isn't that Rolf there? He's coming inside, I can see him on the sidewalk."

Lucius gritted his teeth, growing exasperated with Draco's restless mood. "Draco, I was talking about your mother. You know she had a difficult pregnancy with you and we nearly lost you both at one point, so this is...well, this is hard for me to say..."

"There's Miles Bletchley! I haven't seen him since school. Father, I'm going to go say hello..." Draco said, paying Lucius and his growing irritation no heed. He started to rise from the table.

"Draco! Bloody hell, boy, I'm trying to tell you your mother is pregnant!" Lucius bellowed. With all the suddenness of a lightning strike, the restaurant fell silent, his words hanging ponderously over the table.

After a brief moment of white-faced shock, Draco's face suffused with fury. "What? She's what?" He sank back into his chair as the hostess and Rolf Lindgren, Malfoy Enterprises's chief accountant, cautiously approached their table.

Lucius closed his eyes, cursing himself for a fool for attempting to tell Draco about the baby. I should've waited for Narcissa, he thought angrily to himself. She has a way with Draco, he would've listened to her...

"How dare you? How could you do this to her?" Draco was snarling at him, his fair skin flushed in blotchy pink patches and his fists tightly clenched. "You've told me all my life how dangerous it was, how she nearly died..."

"Draco, please...forgive me, son. I did not mean to give the news to you like this and, in fact, I should've let your mother have the honors..." Lucius murmured as the curious and gossiping patrons returned to their meals, still casting interested looks in their direction. "We're very pleased, you see..."

"Ahh, Lucius! Very good to see you, old man!" Lindgren said as he joined them at the table, a strained smile on his broad face as he felt the tension between the two men. "And Draco! Why, I haven't seen you since you left school!" He held his hand out, only to have it knocked aside as Draco surged again to his feet, casting Lucius a disgusted look. "I say, young man!"

"Get out of my way!" Draco pushed past him and stalked off, leaving a regretful Lucius and a scandalized Lindgren behind.

Lindgren took Draco's vacated seat and gave his employer a rueful smile. "Well, it appears congratulations are in order!"

Lucius polished off his wine in a single gulp, then refilled the glass. Suddenly, the notion of getting completely pissed looked very appealing.

TBC

Chapter Text

Narcissa spent a pleasant morning with Hermione, shopping in Diagon Alley. They split one of Florean Fortescue's special raspberry sundaes before venturing back out onto the cold and snow-covered cobblestone streets. Everywhere they turned, the shops were festively decorated for Christmas; sparkling fairy lights turned the gentle snowfall into a multihued rainbow and the tinkle of holiday music came from every open door. It was enough to put both women into happy, eager moods and they spent their time together discussing last minute plans for the wedding. They returned home mid-afternoon, weary and laden with bright, beribboned boxes. At the top of the stairs, Narcissa paused, smiling gently at Hermione.

"I had a wonderful time, Hermione. You're such a delightful young woman and I so enjoy spending time with you," she said, passing her armload of boxes to a waiting house elf, so that she could give Hermione a warm embrace. "However, I find I'm quite exhausted after battling that mob of Christmas shoppers, so I think a lie-down before supper is just what I need!"

Hermione returned Narcissa's hug with heartfelt affection, then headed for her suite, intent on adding her new purchases from Flourish and Blotts to her growing library. Narcissa watched Hermione disappear around the corner, then let herself into the sitting room of the suite she shared with Lucius, removing her emerald velvet cloak and the matching pointed hat and laying them across the back of a nearby chair. As she walked into the bedroom, she noticed the lone figure curled atop the bed, sound asleep.

Narcissa crept quietly forward, stooping down beside the bed. Gently, she brushed Draco's hair out of his face, noticing the dried trace of tears on his cheeks. Only in times of greatest distress did Draco seek refuge in his parents' room, crawling on the bed much as he had when he had been a small child fleeing a nightmare. Lucius, in his misguided quest to toughen Draco, had eventually banished him from the room, unwittingly setting his sensitive son on the first step down a self-destructive path. He'd grown cold and arrogant, no longer the sweet boy who would climb onto Narcissa's lap for stories and sweets. As Lucius had become ever more entrenched in Voldemort's sphere of evil, Draco had mirrored him, albeit on a smaller scale, desperate to gain his father's infrequent approval.

Narcissa had seen what had become of her son on their back-to-school trips into Diagon Alley and to Platform 9¾. While he was obviously revered and well liked by his Slytherin housemates, the rest of the student body of Hogwarts held nothing but loathing for him. She could see it in the eyes of the children they encountered in Madam Malkin's or Flourish and Blotts. They shied away, averted their eyes, pointed and sneered behind his back. And after Lucius had been put in Azkaban, the spring of Draco's fifth year, it had only grown worse, to the point where Narcissa hardly dared leave the house for fear for her life and that of her son's.

Before meeting Hermione, Narcissa had dreaded the prospect of Draco marrying, if only for the singular reason that she couldn't imagine him bringing home a woman of strength and character, a woman who would be his partner and his lover – his equal in every way. She'd had visions of a young woman bullied and terrified into obedience, with her son as the oppressor and transferring his overbearing malice over to his hapless future family. Only in her wildest dreams had she imagined someone like Hermione Granger not only falling in love with Draco, but taming him as well.

But, she couldn't fathom why Draco was now seeking refuge in her bedroom, scowling fiercely even in his restless sleep. She touched his cheek, his skin flushed and hot against her fingers. "Draco," she whispered. "Darling, wake up."

He opened his eyes slowly, blinking groggily in the weak sunlight slanting through the windows. "Mum," he muttered, his voice thick with sleep. He rubbed his face and peered at her with sudden intensity. "Where've you been? I've looked everywhere!"

Narcissa smiled and threaded her fingers through Draco's hair. "Hermione and I went shopping in Diagon Alley. How was lunch with your father?"

He looked at her with a guilty expression that immediately alarmed her. "Draco, where is your father?"

Sitting up, he shrugged. "I left him at the restaurant." He looked down at her, still kneeling at his feet. "He told me."

Narcissa needed no explanation; the misery in Draco's voice told her all she needed to know. "I see. Damn him." Rubbing a weary hand over her eyes, she smiled ruefully. "Not exactly how I wanted you to find out about your new sibling."

"Then it's true?" he asked, his grey eyes widening in shock and distress. "Mum! You can't! You, of all people, know how dangerous it is!"

"Draco, please understand, we didn't plan this. It just happened," Narcissa said, moving to sit beside him. She laid her hand on his shoulder, feeling the muscles tense beneath her touch. "It's a miracle, you see, and your father and I are very happy about it."

"You always said that you'd never be able to have more children. You said that the midwife told you that it could mean your life if you tried to get pregnant again," he said softly, turning to face her. The sunlight turned his pale hair golden and Narcissa was momentarily dazed by Draco's resemblance to a much-younger Lucius. So pretty, she thought fondly. No wonder Hermione melts into a puddle whenever he's near.

"I know. And all these years, we both assumed that I'd never be able to get pregnant again, but here it is, twenty-two years later, and I'm going to have another sweet baby. Just like you."

Draco looked down at his clenched hands, his shoulders slumping in defeat. "Why? Why would you risk your life like this?"

"Oh Draco!" Narcissa reached over and grasped his hands. "I am so happy for you and Hermione, happy that you've discovered the joy true love can bring. Hermione's been like a daughter to me, and your father and I can't wait until you give us grandchildren." A tight lump built in her throat and for a moment, she could only cling to Draco.

"One of my greatest regrets was not being able to give your father a houseful of children," she continued. "In fact, his rivalry with Arthur Weasley was also a little bit of envy."

Draco looked vaguely horrified. "Envy? Of the Weasleys?"

"Think, darling. They may not have the advantages that we've enjoyed, but they do have the one luxury your father and I always wanted and could never have. A large, loving family."

Draco shook his head, unwilling to listen to what she was saying. "But, is it worth your life?"

Narcissa sighed. He was so stubborn, so bull-headed, that trying to reason with him was a little like talking to the proverbial brick wall. "There's something about my pregnancy with you that your father and I never told you."

He looked at her carefully, instantly curious. "What, Mum?"

"When I reached the end of my fifth month, I started having contractions. Your father was at the Dark Lord's side, so I sent one of the house elves to fetch him, knowing that my request would be ignored," Narcissa said, steeling herself against the unpleasant memories.

"Surely he came to you! Father wouldn't have..." Draco said, his eyes wide with shock.

"You have to understand, Draco...Voldemort was so powerful, so consumed by his own evil that nothing, not even the distress and certain death of the wife of his most loyal lieutenant could sway him to send Lucius to me. The house elf returned alone and I was forced to seek help on my own."

Draco's expression reflected the horror she'd experienced in those dark days. "What did you do?"

"It wasn't safe for me to go to St. Mungo's; I was the wife of a known Death Eater and Lucius had instilled in me a fear and mistrust of the 'other side', so much so that I felt it was safer to seek out the help of a local midwife."

She paused, breathing deeply to settle her emotions. "I knew the moment I walked into her hovel that I'd made a very grave mistake. It was filthy and desperately poor. But, by this time – and it was very late at night – I'd begun to bleed heavily and the contractions were such that I was certain that I was dying."

"How could he...oh God, Mum! I'll kill him. I'll kill him for putting you in this position!" Draco said, his voice shaking with fury.

"You'll do no such thing! Draco, your father was frantic with worry, but he had no choice! Voldemort would've killed him had he disobeyed!" Reaching up, she grasped his shoulders and turned him to face her. "That night was one of the most devastating of the first war...so much destruction. And during it all, I was doing my best to keep you safe inside my body. I was so scared, Draco! I thought I was going to lose you on that filthy bed, with that awful witch cackling the whole time." She closed her eyes tightly, seeing that night as clearly as if it were happening at that very moment. Wiping away the tears that were beginning to seep down her cheeks, she continued.

"The midwife – to this day, I don't even know her name – wanted to cut you out of me. She kept insisting that you were poisoning me from the inside, but I remember crouching in the ashes by the hearth, brandishing my wand at her and daring her to come even one step closer. I couldn't Apparate out of there; I was so hysterical I would have surely splinched myself. In the end, I escaped and staggered out of that filthy hut and collapsed in the snow."

"Mum...fuck...oh Mum, wh-what happened then?"

Narcissa smiled. "A shopkeeper working late found me outside his door and called for his wife. Fortunately, they were magical folk and had encountered similar difficulties with their own daughter. His wife was able to stop the contractions and the bleeding, but I had to stay on complete bed rest until you were born. I found out later that the witch whose house I visited was quite mad and not a real midwife at all."

Draco was pale with shock by the time she finished her story, his eyes wet with unshed tears. "You can't go through with this, Mum. You can't! It will kill you!"

"Draco, I fought to bring you into this world. I did everything I could to make sure that you were strong and healthy. I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure your happiness and that of this child." She laid her hand on her still-flat stomach. "I won't make the mistakes that I did with you. Your father will be with me every step of the way. I've already consulted with the midwives at St. Mungo's and they assure me that my health is excellent and I have a good chance of carrying this child to term. But, Draco, I need you to be strong for me. I need your support!"

"I'm scared, Mum. I'm scared of so much," Draco moaned. Narcissa narrowed her eyes, the hidden source of his agitation finally becoming clear.

"Are you worried about the wedding, of being married?"

He tried to smile, but it faded into a miserable scowl. "What if I can't be the kind of husband Hermione deserves? What if things don't work out between us and she ends up hating me? What if I don't...please her?" He looked up at her with such an expression of agony, Narcissa was torn between tears and laughter. "What if she gets pregnant and I lose her, too?"

"Oh, Draco! Come here." Narcissa held out her arms and he curled against her side, his face pressed warm and wet against hers. "You will be a wonderful husband, darling. Hermione adores you and I have no doubt whatsoever that you will bring her years and years of joy. And, furthermore, we are both healthy women - you aren't going to lose either of us!"

"You don't know that," he said, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.

"I do. I'm going to have a healthy child, a tiny brother or sister for you, and when the time comes for Hermione to have children, she too will be just fine!" Narcissa smiled at him, smoothing his fringe away from his eyes. "I do hope you plan on getting a trim before the wedding, Draco. You're looking positively scruffy."

"Mum!" Draco said, shaking his hair back into place. "It's fine! Hermione likes it longer."

"The better to hang on to, hmmm?" she said, with a naughty glint in her blue eyes. Draco flushed pink. Before he could answer, the soft click of the door opening caught their attention. Lucius stepped into the bedroom, uncharacteristically nervous.

"I reckon I have an apology to make," he said, giving Narcissa a crooked smile.

Narcissa pursed her lips, feigning displeasure. "I believe you do. Lucius, I wanted for us to tell him together."

"I know, but the little brat was annoying me..."

"Hey!" Draco scowled.

"...and Rolf was late...I'm sure that no one heard..."

"Father, you blurted it out in the middle of the Hampstead dining room!"

Narcissa looked at Lucius, aghast. "You didn't! Lucius, it will be all over the Evening Prophet!"

Lucius winced and looked appropriately apologetic. "Darling, I can't begin to find the words to make this up to you, so..." He reached into his pocket of his cloak and withdrew a small, rectangular leather case, the name of an exclusive Diagon Alley jeweler printed on the lid. "Perhaps this will sweeten my remorse."

Narcissa raised a single, imperious eyebrow, but held out her hand, wiggling her fingers impatiently. Opening the case, with Draco peering over her shoulder, she let out a stunned gasp. "Oh, Lucius! It's divine!"

Draco looked up at his father, amused and more than a little bewildered. "You fucked up, so you bought her a spoon?"

"Draco, it's a baby spoon! Oh, darling!" Jumping to her feet, Narcissa threw herself into Lucius's open arms, peppering his face with kisses. "You are the most thoughtful, most amazing husband any witch could ask for!" She cuddled in his arms, gazing blissfully at the tiny silver utensil, engraved with an ornate M on the handle. "Is it platinum?"

"It is. Only the finest for my girl," he said, giving Draco a smug look over the top of Narcissa's blonde head. "Watch and learn, son. I have little doubt that you'll find yourself in the position of apologizing to your wife on a frequent basis. It pays to have a jeweler in your debt."

Narcissa smacked his arm playfully. "Lucius, honestly! Don't tell the poor boy things like that! He'll just think women can be bought with beautiful, wonderful trinkets."

Draco stood up, smirking at his parents. "If I get myself in trouble with Hermione, I'll just shag her until she's forgotten all about whatever transgression I've committed. Keep her happy and satisfied, you know, then she won't have time to think up ways to stay mad at me." His gaze met Narcissa's and she winked at him.

"Well, I think that sounds like a fine idea, so if you'll just run along and leave me to it..." Lucius said, while Draco screwed his face up in disgust.

"Ugh! Don't talk about it in front of me! I'll have you know, Father, I'm still not pleased about you making her pregnant," he groused, while edging around the now-embracing pair. He pointed his finger at Lucius. "If anything happens to her, I'm going to personally skin your worthless, horny arse."

Lucius growled at Draco, reaching out to cuff him on the head, but the younger man ducked nimbly out of his way. "You watch your smart mouth, Draco Malfoy, or I'll call off the wedding and marry Hermione off to Vincent Crabbe! Now, get out so I can shag your mother in peace!"

With a petulant glare, Draco slammed the door as Lucius drew Narcissa down to the bed, smothering her giggles with a hungry kiss.

*****

Hermione shelved the last of her new books, stroking the gold-foil spine of Gavinder's Compendium of Potions and Tinctures with gentle fingers. She took a step back to admire her work. Her new library was coming along quite nicely; the mahogany shelves were now lined with almost two hundred books, both new and old, Muggle and magic, with plenty of room for expansion. It was quickly becoming her favorite room in the manor, second only to the bedroom she shared with Draco. So intent was she on her books, she missed hearing the door open or the almost-silent footsteps on the thick carpeting.

"Boo."

Only the bondage of Draco's arms around her waist kept Hermione from jumping at the sound of his voice. "Draco! You scared me! Ohhh..." She immediately tipped her head to the side as he nipped at the enticing skin beneath her ear. "Oh, Draco, stop...we can't..."

"Mum and Dad are probably shagging like bunnies by now...they'll never know." He turned her around in his arms, then pushed her against the wall of books. "Come on, darling...let me have a taste of my favorite sweet," he whispered with a wicked glint in his eyes.

"Draco, honestly! You're the randiest man I've ever known!" Hermione said in her bossiest voice, but it only enflamed him more. Draco slid his hands inside her jumper, sliding over smooth, warm skin, pulling her flush against him. She melted against his chest with a contented sigh, parting her thighs just enough for him to nestle into the space she made for him. "You make my brain fuzzy, Draco, until I can't think of anything but you."

He was trailing kisses over her jaw, until he reached her soft, parted lips. "Exactly," he whispered into her mouth before covering it with his own, tracing his tongue over her lips until she met it with her own. In that instant, their always-simmering desire for each other flared hot and bright. Even though he'd assured her that his parents were otherwise occupied, Draco didn't waste any time undressing her as slowly as he wanted; instead, he pulled her to the floor and crouched between her parted knees.

Hermione held her breath, overwhelmed by his lust for her. She eagerly lifted her hips as he shoved her skirt and knickers down. When Draco pushed her thighs wide and bent his shining blond head between them, Hermione laughed out loud, the sound a joyous one. She felt his answering grin against her dampening flesh, but soon he was pressing deeper into her, his tongue hot and insistent. The last of her modesty long-since disappeared, Hermione reached down to grasp a handful of his hair, guiding his movements with her hand and urgent, whispered commands. When her first orgasm hit, it was with the speed of the Hogwarts Express; her back bowed from the intensity of it, her mouth pressed to her sleeve to muffle her screams.

But Draco wasn't ready to release her. He crawled over her body, stripping off her jumper and brassiere as he went, palming breasts so insanely sensitive that Hermione nearly sobbed at his touch.

When he settled back between her thighs, still fully-clothed, Hermione wrapped her legs high around his waist, rocking them both in a parody of intercourse. "I need to feel you, Draco, need you so bad..." she whispered as he reached between their bodies and unfastened his trousers. As his rigid cock slipped against her sweat-damp belly, they both sighed. Draco captured her mouth once more, his lips and tongue still slick with her moisture.

As he ravaged her mouth with something akin to desperation, Hermione reached down to grasp his cock in one hand, stroking him with a rough, awkward motion. Instinctively, Draco thrust into her hand, seeking the friction she was trying to provide. It only took a few hard jerks and her thumb across the tip for him to come in a rich, warm spill across her stomach.

Draco slumped against Hermione, still locked within the prison of her legs and his face pressed against hers. With a weak chuckle, he kissed her flushed cheek. "You're a wicked witch, Granger...you've bewitched me," he sighed as her legs finally slid to either side of his hips and he was able to shift off of her shamelessly sprawled form.

"And he states the obvious," Hermione laughed, caressing his cheek with the back of her hand. "Didn't anyone tell you, Malfoy? I was the smartest witch in our year."

"That's not what I heard. Little mouthy swot," he teased. Hermione smacked his shoulder, glaring at him huffily.

"I beg your pardon!"

Draco grinned at the enticing sight of her bare breasts and he leaned in for a quick taste. "I heard you were the best witch Hogwarts ever graduated," he said before sucking one nipple between his lips.

Mollified, Hermione fell back again, cradling Draco close as he paid exquisite attention to her breasts, laving every inch of them with long, wet swipes of his tongue. "That's better, then. Wouldn't want to have to use a love spell on you...those never end well," she whispered as she stroked her fingers through his hair.

Draco lifted his head to smile up at her. "No love spell needed, my sweet, tasty bride-to-be. I'm all yours." He moved to her other breast.

"Good. Ooooh, right there...yes..." Hermione stared dreamily up at the high ceiling as Draco curved his body close to hers, tugging at her nipple with a gentle bite.

"Mum's pregnant," he finally whispered, rising up so that his breath teased the tiny hairs along her temple. Hermione turned to look at him, alarmed at the fear in his eyes.

"Oh, Draco! I thought...she said she couldn't..."

He nodded, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her close. Hermione brought her hand up to his chest, slowly unbuttoning his shirt as he gave her a brief version of Narcissa's story. He shifted so she could pull the shirt from his arms, then gathered her to him, chest to chest, bare skin sliding against bare skin. Draco buried his face in her fragrant hair.

"I'm scared, Hermione. What if something happens? What if she dies?" he murmured, blinking back the sting of tears. Hermione was rubbing his back gently, her touch soothing and familiar. Where once his mother's touch was the only one that could ease his distress, Hermione was quickly taking over that role in his life. The more he came to know her, the more time he spent with her, the more he found the most fundamental comfort in her embrace. Safety, love, and desire, all wrapped up in one delicious package. If he never left her arms again, he'd die a happy man.

"I'm sure your parents have thought of this, Draco," she said, punctuating the comment with a soft kiss to his lips. "She'll get the best medical care the wizarding world can provide and I'm certain everything will be fine. She would never willingly endanger her life...you know that."

"I don't know...she wants this baby so much. I could tell. I'm not enough..." After he spoke the words, Draco felt shamed. He was too old to be acting like a child.

"Stop that right this instant, Draco Malfoy! She adores you! Besides, it's not a matter of whether or not you're enough – you're more than a handful for any parent – it's simply a matter of this baby coming later in life, when you're about to embark on a new life of your own. There's enough of her to share with you and a sibling."

Draco was smoothing his hand over her stomach, coming to rest above the gentle curve of her belly. "Do you ever imagine what our children will look like, Granger?" he asked, laying his head on her shoulder and gazing down at his hand. Hermione covered it with her own, a sleepy smile crossing her lips.

"They'll be beautiful because they'll be ours."

TBC

Chapter Text

The days leading up to what the wizarding world was proclaiming to be the 'wedding of the century' proceeded exactly as Draco had feared. Madam Annelle arrived the very next day, assistants and assorted groveling minions trailing frothing armfuls of silks and satins and laces in her wake. From that moment on, Draco's mother and his bride-to-be were ensconced in their suite, an endless stream of bridesmaids and house-elves trooping in and out, and the one time Draco tried to catch a glimpse of Hermione amidst the chaos, he had suffered the indignity of having the door slammed in his face along with the threat of festering boils in unsavory places. He'd stomped back downstairs in a high temper and took sanctuary in the relative sanity of his father's study.

 

"Hiding, are we?" Lucius said, upon finding his son staring morosely into the fire, a glass of firewhisky in his hand. Draco grimaced as his father stretched out on the leather sofa facing the hearth.

"It's a madhouse up there – they won't even let me see Hermione!" Draco said, a sulky expression on his face.

Lucius laughed softly. "It's supposed to be bad luck to see the bride before the wedding. Count yourself lucky, son...I didn't see your mother for a full month beforehand. Besides, we'll be so busy the next couple of days, you won't have time to think about it."

Draco nodded, although his expression was skeptical. "Signor Lazzaro owled to say that he'd be here in the morning with our robes. I've not checked on the ballroom, but Mum said everything's in order."

"It's going to look spectacular, Draco. Remember the New Years' Ball we had in '94? This extravaganza will put that one to sad shame. The flowers alone are costing me a small fortune. Your mother had them imported from the States."

"Why?" Draco asked, bewildered, but Lucius only shrugged.

"Because she can. Because she wants only the best for you and Hermione and apparently blossoms from the American South are currently in vogue."

Draco laughed. "Witches. I don't understand them at all. I'd have been happy with a magistrate and a couple of witnesses."

"So you informed us the day you brought Hermione by for the first time. If I recall correctly, she was rather displeased by that notion," Lucius replied wryly, toeing off his shoes and propping his feet on the arm of the sofa.

"She was displeased that she had to marry me at all. Although she came 'round quicker than I thought she would." Draco leaned back in his seat and stared into the fire. "I thought I'd have to work harder for it."

Lucius's rich laughter filled the room. "Draco, the hard work is just starting."

"Do you suppose Mum would mind if I stole Hermione away in the middle of the night and eloped?" Draco asked, although he already knew the answer.

"She'd skin you alive. Do you really want to incur the wrath of your very hormonal, very pregnant mother?" Lucius replied, smiling fondly at the thought of his wife.

"I've still not forgiven you for that, you know. Making her pregnant."

Lucius sighed and turned to face his mercurial-tempered son. "Draco, I don't know what to say to you to make this better, to help you understand. If it's any consolation at all, I'm just as terrified of losing her as you are."

"Then, why? Why are you letting her do this if it's so dangerous?" Draco said, his face contorting with his frustration. "If anything happens to her...if she dies...I'll make you sorry. "

Lucius watched as Draco fell back on familiar threats to cover up his obvious fear. He glanced away as soon as he saw the sparkle of moisture in his son's eyes, giving him the privacy to quickly dash them away with the back of his fist. While he hadn't Narcissa's innate understanding of Draco's volatile personality or Hermione's ability to soothe him with softly spoken words and a gentle touch, he felt he had an insight into his only child that the two women lacked. Lucius recognized himself at twenty-two, not only in Draco's striking good looks and undeniable charisma, but also in the simmering rage that always lurked beneath the surface and the sense of superiority that fueled it.

When it had become clear that Narcissa would be unable to bear him more children, Lucius had nursed resentment against his wife that had taken years – and well over a year in Azkaban – to release. While they both were equally as guilty of shamelessly spoiling Draco, Lucius had taken it a step further and set out to turn his son into a miniature version of himself, as a way to punish Narcissa for what he saw at the time as a failure. The elder wizard could now be honest with himself and admit that the man he was then was certainly not the kind of man he'd wanted his son to become.

It wasn't until Draco was well into his teens and Voldemort had fallen at last that Lucius realized his gross mistakes in guiding his son's development. He had found himself relieved that Narcissa had had several uninterrupted months with him, during Lucius's incarceration, to start the process of undoing the damage he had wrought. She had raged against him for leaving her alone with an arrogant, adolescent bully who had terrorized everyone around him. Draco had been lost in his own grief and insecurity, missing the father he had both feared and worshipped.

Once Lucius had returned home and Draco had graduated from Hogwarts, together he and Narcissa had set out to right the wrongs they had committed and to guide their son down a new path.

Draco was still a petulant, spoiled boy, but ever more frequently, there were glimpses of the man he was to soon become; a man committed to his friends and family, a man driven to overcome the intolerance he had faced as the son of a convicted Death Eater, a man determined to build a new life with the Muggleborn witch who had taught him the art of true love. A woman who, despite her ancestry, was nothing less than Draco's perfect mate.

"I love you, Draco," Lucius finally murmured, looking back at his pensive son. Draco's head snapped up, confusion and embarrassment turning his cheeks rosy. Lucius continued. "I'm so proud of you; your mother and I both are. You've exceeded my every dream for you and you've achieved some that I never even realized I wanted."

Draco stared at him, his pale eyes unblinking. "I...you know, it's all I ever wanted from you. Your approval. Your l-love," he said softly. "All I've ever wanted is for you to be proud of me. You mean it?"

Lucius smiled and nodded. "With all my heart, Draco. I want you to have faith that I will let nothing happen to your mother."

"I know. I do, really. I just-" Draco stuttered to a halt, then lurched off his chair to throw himself on the sofa beside Lucius, his arms wrapping around the elder wizard's broad shoulders in an awkward embrace. It was over almost as soon as it started, then Draco was out the door, leaving a stunned Lucius to stare after him and wonder what deity had seen fit to grant him such an amazing family.

*****

"Weasley!"

Ginny spun around at the sound of Draco's voice, coming from the shadows of a nearby alcove. "Malfoy? What're you doing lurking there?" She eyed him suspiciously as she approached.

Draco stepped closer, casting a wary glance towards the closed door of his and Hermione's suite. "Mum still in there?"

"Yes. Did you want me to fetch her...?" Ginny started to turn back in the direction from which she'd come, but Draco hauled her back by the arm. "Ow! Don't be so rough!"

"No! She'll hex my prick off if she sees me here! No...no Mum." He took a deep breath and leaned back against the wall, trying to show an air of casual indifference. "So. How's Granger?"

"Do you ever call her by her first name?" Ginny asked, cocking her head to one side.
Draco's smirk was wicked. "Yeah, when she's sucking my prick dry. I call her all sorts of lovely things then."

Ginny mimed gagging. "You're such a foul git. You know what I mean."

"Just answer the question, Weasley, and stop prying into my sex life," he snapped, grinning when Ginny's face flushed.

"Oh, ewww! I'm not prying into your depraved sex life, Malfoy! Okay!" she said, throwing her hands up as he took a warning step towards her. "She's fine. She obviously misses you dreadfully because she's talked about nothing but you since I got here. It's actually rather nauseating. I had no idea you were such a stellar example of manhood, Malfoy."

"Jealous?" Draco teased, waggling his eyebrows at the redhead, but Ginny only laughed, recognizing his playful antics for what they were.

"Oh yes! I should've ditched Harry for you long ago. Anyway, Hermione is doing fine and just wait until you see her at the wedding-" she trailed off dreamily.

Draco couldn't help the eager little smile that crossed his lips. "Yeah? Pretty?"

"Pretty? You have no idea. So, what'd you do to Rita Skeeter that had her hightailing it out of England?" Ginny asked, crossing her arms and smirking at Draco.

"Nothing," he lied unconvincingly. "I just let her know that her behavior regarding my fiancée was unacceptable."

"Uh-huh. No hexes? No curses? No death threats?" Ginny teased. "I'm shocked. Where's the Draco Malfoy I knew and loathed at Hogwarts?"

"He's a changed man. Okay, so there might've been one little death threat, but I was just joking," he replied, glancing nervously down the corridor as a burst of laughter came from behind the closed double doors. "Pretty, you say?"

Ginny smiled at him, while his attention was diverted. Hermione had insisted that Draco had changed, described how romantic and affectionate he'd become, but Ginny had scarcely believed it until she'd seen it for herself at the betrothal party. Now, with excitement lighting up his face, Ginny could see exactly what had Hermione nearly breathless with adoration. Draco Malfoy in love was a wondrous sight to behold.

"Very pretty."

"I can't wait. Three days, Weasley. Three days and she's all mine," he breathed.

"She's a very special woman, Draco. Treat her well." Ginny patted his arm. "And by the way, my name is Potter now."

"Don't remind me."

*****

"Ahh, darling! I've not seen you all day!" Narcissa said as she shut and locked the bedroom door behind her. Lucius was stretched out on the bed, dozing lightly. Kicking off her slippers, she bounced on the bed, smacking him in the center of the chest. "Wake up and kiss me!"

"You annoying wench, I was sleeping," he growled as he grabbed her around the waist and rolled half atop her. His unbound hair draped around them both, sheltering them in a veil of silver. "I should punish you soundly."

Narcissa wrapped her arms around his neck and tugged him down for a thorough kiss that left them both gasping and Lucius hard and aching for her. "I've missed you, Lucius. But, we accomplished so much!" she cried, pushing him away and sitting up. As he watched her affectionately, she slid off the bed and headed for the bathroom, undoing the intricate fastenings on her robes and leaving them in a puddle behind her. "Hermione's dress is finished...oh, Lucius! Wait until you see it! It's heavenly!"

Lucius sighed as he followed her into the bathroom, leaning against the doorjamb and watching as Narcissa turned on the taps and swirled bath oils into the steaming water filling the sunken tub. "And the bridesmaids?"

"Gorgeous, of course! I was afraid that the shade of crimson Hermione picked out would clash with Ginny's hair, but it's really quite lovely." She flashed him a saucy smile as she stripped out of her frilly underpants. "Join me?"

It took Lucius mere seconds to strip down and slide into the hot water behind his wife, smiling in pleasure as she nestled between his thighs. "Draco and I had a talk about you and the baby," he murmured into her ear, as he cupped his hand over her belly. "He's coming around, slowly, but surely."

"He's just scared, you know," Narcissa said, running her fingertips lightly through the hair on his legs. "He's growing up, it seems. Husband and future big brother, all at once."

"Mmm-hmm. It doesn't seem possible. It's only been a few months ago that he was off to Hogwarts for the first time, wasn't it?"

Narcissa handed him the soap and swept her hair off of her neck as he drew the bar over her back. "I wish. He was such a dear little baby, all pink and blond and precious."

"Narcissa. Don't lose yourself in fantasy, darling. Draco was a screaming, petulant, milk and snot-spewing brat," he drawled. "For the love of Merlin, he stripped his nappies off and shat in his cot more times than I care to remember!"

With a husky laugh, Narcissa turned and straddled his lap, pressing his still-rigid cock between their slippery bodies. "I know and wasn't he just the sweetest? So, do you imagine that you're up to this, Mr. Malfoy? Fatherhood at your age?"

The fragrant steam coiling up from the tub was curling tendrils of Narcissa's hair and they clung damply to her breasts. She'd never looked more beautiful. Lucius hitched her tighter against him, one hand cupping her arse, the other one full breast. "I can't imagine anything I'd rather share with you, my love, at any age."

Narcissa kissed him then, sliding her tongue into his willing mouth, her hand slipping down to grasp him firmly. With a tender little nibble at the corner of his mouth, she smiled down at him. "I can think of something I'd like to share with you," she said as she stroked him with easy familiarity.

"Mmmm, we should bathe together more often." Lucius pressed a line of hot kisses along her shoulder as she lifted her hips and drew the tip of his cock along her slit. He groaned as she teased him.

"Actually, we should really discuss the wedding, Lucius..." she started, but with a lunge that sloshed water onto the floor, Lucius picked Narcissa up and set her on the edge of the tub. Before she could complain, he'd spread her thighs and pierced her with one, deep thrust. Narcissa arched up with a strangled cry as he drew out of her, then forward again, his hands bruising the fair skin of her hips. "Oh, God, Lucius! Oh yes...yes..." she moaned as he held her in place to prevent her from sliding across the slick marble as he pushed smoothly back into her.

"I don't really want to discuss the wedding right now, love. I'm rather busy at the moment," he said, grinning down at her. Narcissa, taken by surprise by his forceful assault, merely nodded frantically and wrapped her wet, soapy legs around his back. It was times like this that Lucius loved her best; when her innate Black poise disappeared and his wild, fair-haired witch emerged, urging him on with wicked words and grasping hands. It was times like this that reminded Lucius why he'd been drawn to her in the beginning, when she'd been a fiery and intelligent Hogwarts first year and he an arrogant, privileged third year. She'd wanted nothing to do with him then and, in fact, spurned his advances until his last year at school, when he'd been aflame with Voldemort's cause; only then had she heeded her sister Bellatrix's urging and looked at Lucius with interest and virginal desire. From that moment on, they'd been inseparable and married not long after Narcissa left Hogwarts.

Despite the many obstacles thrown in their path since, Lucius's love for her had never wavered and every year that passed only deepened it. Now, he gripped her thighs and rocked inside her with an ease perfected over the years of their often-rocky marriage. "Do you know how much taking you like this excites me?" he growled as she tightened around him rhythmically. "Knowing you're carrying our child here?" He released her hip long enough to press against her stomach.

"Lucius, oh, my love, yes!" Narcissa moaned, as he slid his hand between her legs, dipping his fingers into her wet cunt. As he rolled the sensitive nub of her clit under his thumb, she shuddered and cried out her pleasure. With her still trembling beneath him, Lucius redoubled his efforts and was soon coming inside her with a force that left him weak-limbed and shivering.

Slipping out of her, Lucius pulled Narcissa back into the water, cuddling her limp form in his arms. She pillowed her head on his shoulder, and pressed kisses to his sweaty skin. "I love you, Lucius. I've never been as happy as I am at this very moment," she whispered, as he stroked the long line of her back.

"I love you, too, darling. I love you too."

*****

Draco had just fallen into a restless sleep when a soft knock at the door woke him. He sat up, a sleepy smile curling the corners of his mouth as Hermione slipped inside and shut the door behind her. She leaned back against it, smiling. "Hi."

"Hey. Come here." Draco tossed back the covers as she scampered across the floor and climbed in bed beside him. She was warm and soft, the scent of her recent bath filling his senses. Burying his hands in her fluffy hair, he tipped her head back so that he could fully explore her smiling mouth. Hermione moaned deep in her throat and curled around him and Draco felt the tension that had been building in his chest all day uncoil and dissipate, assuaged by her familiar touch. Zabini had been right, he was pussy-whipped. He was completely and utterly captivated by this little Muggleborn witch who'd crashed headlong into his life and turned it upside-down.

"Are you staying? Please, Hermione...stay with me..." he moaned into her mouth, as she trailed her fingers lightly over his bare chest.

"I can't, Draco...your mum would be so disappointed with us. And I think she has the house-elves spying on us. I've caught Tibby lurking in the hallway on more than one occasion." At his annoyed expression, she giggled. "I can stay for a little while though...when I passed your parents' room, I heard them."

"Heard them what?"

She blushed prettily, but the look in her eyes was sinful. "Shagging. They're noisy."

"God, tell me about it. They shouldn't be doing that at their age, you know," Draco said, as he settled back against the pillows, Hermione sprawled across his chest. He fingered a lock of her hair as she gave him a prissy look. "What?"

"So, when we're in our forties, are we going to stop having sex?" she murmured against his scruffy chin, kissing her way back to his mouth. Draco gave her a look of disbelief.

"Are you mental? I'll be chasing you around the Manor when we're in our hundreds. We'll be disgusting our great-great grandchildren with our noisy sex," he teased, rolling her over onto her back and leering down the front of her gown. Hermione laughed, then clapped a hand over her mouth when it came out louder than intended. They clung together, giggling like children, until Hermione looked up at him with mirth-filled eyes and she looked so beautiful that Draco found himself pressing her back into the mattress and covering her mouth with his, kissing her wildly.

When they parted, Hermione smoothed his fringe away from his eyes. "I should go, before we let things get out of hand."

Draco nodded and moved off of her reluctantly. "I'm glad you came. I've missed you all day." He walked her to the door, catching her hand in his and entwining their fingers.

Hermione leaned against him, and they kissed again for several long, blissful moments. "I couldn't sleep without saying goodnight," she whispered at last. "I love you, Draco."

Long after she'd left the room, long after Draco had lain back down and pressed his face into the pillow still carrying her fragrance, Hermione's words echoed in his head and they lulled him into a sweet, dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

A fresh layer of snow had fallen overnight and the gently rolling plains around Malfoy Manor resembled a pristine white blanket. It was still pre-dawn; the sky was just beginning to lighten to a soft purplish-grey on the edge of the horizon. Draco shivered as he sipped from the cup of cocoa cradled in his hands, spicy tendrils of steam curling from the frothed surface. Behind him, the kitchen elves were beginning to stir, quietly preparing for what would later become, in little more than twelve hours, a lavish wedding banquet.

Feeling a familiar touch on the small of his back, Draco smiled. Setting the cup on the windowsill, he turned and gathered Hermione into his arms. She folded into his embrace with a wide, sleepy yawn. "You shouldn't be up this early, Granger," he crooned in her ear. "It's not even five yet. It's going to be a long day...you need your rest."

"You're up, I see" she pointed out around another yawn. "Besides, I couldn't sleep."

Draco buried his nose in her hair, letting her sleep-warmed body soothe his simmering anxiety. She wrapped her arms around his waist, underneath his flannel robe, and pressed her cheek to his chest. Closing his eyes, Draco allowed himself to relax, the tension draining slowly from his shoulders. "I've missed you, Granger. It's been a lonely couple of days."

Hermione looked up at him, her dark eyes slitted and drowsy in the dim light coming from the kitchen fireplace. "I'm sorry. It's been horrible, hasn't it? I've become so used to sleeping in your arms, I could hardly close my eyes."

Before Draco could answer, one of the house elves crept up to Hermione, tugging on her robe and gazing up at her with bald adoration. After their first rocky start, the house elves had taken to Hermione like ducks to water, the younger ones sometimes following behind her as she moved through the Manor until Narcissa would have to laughingly chase them off. "Does Miss Minnie need anything? A cup of cocoa?" the elf said in a squeaky sort of voice.

Hermione smiled and nodded, thanking the house elf with a graciousness that made Draco hug her closer and hide his amused grin in the bushy mass of her hair. "By the time the sun sets tonight, you'll be Mrs.," he whispered, content to hold her in his arms forever.

"Are you scared?" she asked, slipping her hand beneath his pajama shirt, fingertips gliding over his skin.

"No. Yes." They laughed softly. Draco shook his head. "Scared isn't the right word. I have concerns, I guess. I'd never given any thought to what kind of husband I'd make, not until you. I want to be the kind of man you deserve. The kind of man who puts his wife and his children first. The kind of man who will look at you in a hundred years and know that he's had a good life. A wonderful life."

Hermione touched Draco's cheek, her eyes sparkling with emotion. "You are that man. I have the same fears, Draco, you aren't alone. But I have faith that it will work, that we will work, that our marriage will work. It won't always be easy, but we can do it."

"That's what Father said. That the hard work was just starting."

"He's right. But you've always enjoyed a challenge...you captured my heart, after all," Hermione said, standing on tiptoe to press a kiss to Draco's mouth. Her tongue darted out to taste his lips. "Mmm, chocolate."

The resulting kiss was slow, languid, not as arousing as it was fulfilling. For the first time in his life, standing at the kitchen window and watching the sun rise over Wiltshire, Draco felt like a man. Like he could do anything, accomplish whatever he set his mind to, as long as he could share it with Hermione. She was the turning point in his life and now more than ever before, Draco was ready to face it head on.

When Hermione pillowed her head once more over his heart, Draco stroked his hand through her bed-tangled curls. "Are you scared, Granger?" he whispered. He felt Hermione's smile against his chest

"Not since the night you asked me to marry you."

*****

By one o'clock, in direct contrast to the tranquil early dawn hours, Malfoy Manor was in the midst of controlled chaos. Although Draco was ensconced in the relative peace of his childhood bedroom, with Signor Lazzaro and his assistants bustling around him making last minute adjustments to his formal robes, he could hear the distant sound of arriving guests, accompanied by the near constant crack of Apparition. It was all he could do to stand still; the one glass of wine Narcissa had sent up with a light lunch had done nothing to ease the growing knot that had settled in the pit of his stomach. Nerves, excitement...he didn't know what name to call it, but the sooner this circus was over and he was alone with his new bride, the happier he'd be.

"You look like you're going to puke, Malfoy," Blaise said with a sly smirk. Signor Lazzaro's head whipped around and he stared at Draco in horror.

Draco glared at Blaise, who was stretched out on the bed and doing his best not to crease his trousers. "I'm not going to puke, Zabini. I'm just..."

"Nervous?" To Draco's surprise, Blaise's voice was thick with understanding. He nodded with a grin.

"Yeah. Married, Blaise. I'm getting married," Draco chanted to his reflection as Signor Lazzaro resumed his inspection. His wedding robes were a pale, shimmering silver, heavily embroidered around the sleeves and hem, opening in front to reveal grey trousers in a slightly darker shade and a charcoal and silver brocade waistcoat. It was the most elegant outfit he'd ever owned and he couldn't help but admire the impeccable tailoring. His hair was brushed smoothly back from his forehead, sleek and platinum against the lighter shade of his robe. He smiled to himself, wondering what Hermione was doing at that very moment. Behind him, Blaise smirked.

"You okay there, Draco? You look a million miles away."

"No. Just as far as the other side of the Manor." He brushed aside Signor Lazzaro's hands and turned to face Blaise. "How do I look?"

"Like a nervous prat. A well-dressed one, of course," Blaise replied, with a mocking nod towards the glaring tailor. "Seriously, Draco...Hermione will be breathless when she sees you. You look like you're ready to get married."

Draco leaned over and picked up his wineglass, taking a sip of the tart liquid. Narcissa had restricted him to one glass, not wishing to have her hands full with a drunken groom, so he'd been nursing the drink since lunch. "I guess I'm ready. What time is it?"

Blaise dipped his head back so that he could read the mantel clock. "One-twenty. You have an hour and ten minutes." With a groan he pushed to his feet. "I'm going to find Crabbe and Goyle...they've been gone for too long. Probably into the nosh by now."

Signor Lazzaro threw his hands up in the air dramatically. "You tell Vincenzo that I'll not let out his robes any more!" he cried. "Already, I've had to expand the fabric to accommodate his...his..." His grasp of English failed and he held his hands rounded in front of him. Blaise laughed.

"Lo stomaco grasso, no?" Blaise filled in. Immediately, Signor Lazzaro launched into a hand-waving, red-faced rant in Italian, while Draco rolled his eyes, losing interest in the high-strung tailor's tirade.

"Oh, darling!"

Draco turned to see Narcissa standing in the doorway of his bedroom, her hands clasped over her heart. She was resplendent in ice-blue silk, her golden hair coiled intricately atop her head and she was fairly dripping in ancestral Malfoy gems.

"Hey, Mum," Draco said, his chest tightening dangerously as she swept gracefully towards him and drew him into her arms. He was used to seeing Narcissa in elegant dress; it never failed to send him back to childhood, when he'd watch her get ready for a party and think that she was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen. He returned her hug, knowing that this would be the last time he'd embrace her as a child.

Eyes glittering with tears, Narcissa held him out at arms' length. "I've never seen you look so handsome, Draco. This color does wonders for your hair," she said, smoothing her hand over his head, then lower, to cup his cheek. "Signor Lazzaro, you've outdone yourself!"

The Italian tailor, having fallen silent in mid-harangue at Narcissa's breathtaking entrance, bowed deeply, scooping up the witch's slender hand and bringing it to his lips. "I'm honored, la mia signora bellissima!" he murmured over her diamond-encrusted fingers.

Narcissa preened at his flattery, and Draco and Blaise exchanged an amused smirk. Linking arms with Signor Lazzaro, she led him away, chattering animatedly until the poor man was glassy-eyed from the full effect of Narcissa's charm. Blaise patted Draco on the shoulder and left, intent on fetching Vincent and Greg from the lure of the pre-wedding buffet.

Draco walked over to his window, staring out at the winter landscape spread before him. His future. His children's future. Once, he'd felt trapped by the immensity of the Malfoy legacy, tainted as it was by centuries of blood feuds and racism, hate and hypocrisy. Even now, the villagers watched them with the remnants of distrust and fear, remembering the years of terror Lucius's allegiance with Voldemort had brought them.

Draco's impending marriage to a Muggleborn witch, regardless of it being Ministry-mandated, had gone a long way towards easing their suspicions of the Malfoy family. Hermione was looked on by many of them as a victim or, even worse, a stain on the Malfoy line, but many more regarded her exactly as she was; a charming and lovely young witch with just the kind of intelligent, vibrant personality the Malfoy heir needed to temper his arrogance. Like the house elves, she'd gradually won over their neighbors and friends, until even some of the staunchest Purebloods looked on her with bemused affection.

"Draco, my sweet?" Narcissa said, her hand curling over his shoulder. He smiled down at her. "Are you really okay? You've been so quiet. That's unlike you."

Glancing around, he noticed that they were now alone, Signor Lazzaro and his assistants nowhere to be found. "I'm fine, Mum. Nervous, but fine. How's Hermione?"

Narcissa smiled softly and drew him towards the bed to sit with him, side by side. She gracefully crossed her legs, taking his hand between both of hers. "She's just fine. Dreadfully anxious, of course. But wait until you see her, Draco...she'll take your breath away."

"That's nothing new," he said, smiling. "She does that on a daily basis."

"I'm so happy for you, but you'll forgive me if I'm a little sad as well."

Draco thought he knew what she meant. "Sad?"

"I'm not losing you, but you aren't going to be my sweet little boy to kiss and cuddle anymore. You've gone and grown up on me." The tears she'd been holding at bay slipped silently down her cheeks and her glossy lips trembled.

"Awww, Mum...don't cry. You'll get all blotchy," Draco begged, patting at her wet cheeks with his fingers, much as he had when he was a toddler. Narcissa caught them in her hands, kissing the tips.

"I'm sorry...I'm just feeling a bit melancholy. Must be the hormones, hmm?"

Draco nodded. "You aren't losing me, you're gaining a daughter."

"I am, aren't I? A lovely, sweet daughter whom I hope will bring you decades of happiness."

"Have the tears started already, love?" Lucius's mellow voice asked from the doorway. He crossed the bedroom and knelt down at Draco and Narcissa's feet. "Now look at you. You're all blotchy."

Mother and son looked at each other and burst out laughing, while Lucius smiled in puzzlement. "Apparently I've missed a defining maternal moment," he said.

"Nothing terribly important, darling. I was just telling Draco how much I'm going to miss mothering him. And how happy I am for him and Hermione."

Lucius laid a hand on Draco's knee, patting him awkwardly. "I couldn't agree more. I only hope that Hermione brings you as much joy as your mother has brought me."

Draco covered his father's hand with his own, leaning into Narcissa's embrace. "She will. I'm a very lucky man."

Pulling them both into his arms, Lucius nodded against Draco's bright hair, feeling Narcissa's fresh tears on his collar and a sense of true contentment filled his heart. "You are, son. You are."

*****

"Oh my God! Why won't it behave?" Hermione cried, wringing her hands in dismay as the hairdresser tried unsuccessfully to tame the wild tendrils escaping what was supposed to be an elegant chignon. Ginny watched from the side, her brow creased in exasperation as tears spilled down Hermione's cheeks. Behind them, Madame Annelle was putting the finishing touches on Angelina and Lavender's crimson gowns.

Finally, after watching the hairdresser try once more to force Hermione's hair into a style that simply wasn't going to work, Ginny pushed the woman out of the way. "Let me. I've done her hair more times than I can count."

After waving her wand over Hermione's head to remove the hairpins pasting it into place and fluffing it back into its familiar curls, Ginny stroked her fingertips lightly through her hair, working the tension out of the other witch's scalp. "Stop crying now, Hermione. You're going to get blotches and puffy lips. I'll fix it and it'll be beautiful, okay?" she whispered in Hermione's ear.

With a tearful sniff, Hermione nodded and the hairdresser tossed aside her brush in a fit of temper, prompting Madame Annelle to snap at her in rapid-fire French. Deftly, Ginny coaxed Hermione's hair back into its natural state, working the waves with her fingers and her wand until they spilled gloriously over her shoulders. She arranged the curls into a partial up-do, anchored with a few of the discarded hairpins.

Then, as Lavender handed them to her one by one, Ginny charmed dozens of tiny, sparkling gems so that they lay scattered throughout the thick mass until it glittered as if lit from within.

"Angelina, hand me her veil, please," Ginny said, as she set a diamond tiara in place. "God, this is amazing, Hermione! And it matches your necklace!"

"Lucius had them made for me as a wedding gift from him and Narcissa. They seem to be big believers in a woman building a large collection of jewelry," Hermione explained wryly as Angelina carried over the veil. "I'm not really a jewelry kind of girl..."

"Who cares? It's gorgeous! You can always pass it down to your daughter," Lavender said, watching as Ginny carefully attached the veil to the tiara. "Oh, Hermione! You look so pretty!"

Ginny stepped back to admire her handiwork. "There. That's much better," she said, casting the pouting hairdresser a smug grin.

Hermione stood up with Lavender's help, sweeping her voluminous skirts out of the way. She looked in the large, full-length mirror Madame Annelle had brought with her from Paris. "Ginny, it's perfect! Thank you so much!" she cried, relief obvious in her voice.

The designer swept over to Hermione, fussing with the lace veil until it fell to the floor in a snowy froth. "You are magnifique, mademoiselle! Monsieur Draco will not be able to take his eyes off you!" she said, puffed with pride at her part in making Hermione the most beautiful bride she'd ever dressed.

Hermione met Ginny's eyes in the glass. "Ginny?"

Ginny reached out and took Hermione's hand in hers. "He'll be speechless. And for a Malfoy, that's a rare treat. We should enjoy it while we can." Even the hairdresser cracked a small smile at Ginny's teasing.

"It is amazing, isn't it?" Hermione said, fingering the heavy eggshell satin, the fabric as rich and decadent as anything she'd ever felt in her young life. After Madame Annelle had revealed the gown two days ago, transported from Paris in a powerfully warded, silk-lined garment case, Hermione had barely managed to squeak to Narcissa, "How much did this cost?"

Narcissa had only smiled indulgently and patted Hermione on the cheek, telling her that the dress was nothing compared to the woman who would be wearing it. At dinner that evening, however, Lucius had looked a little green around the edges, but he'd smiled affectionately and told her she'd make a lovely bride.

Now, Hermione turned this way and that, admiring how the lamplight shimmered on the sleeveless bodice; each precise fold and tuck emphasized the swell of Hermione's breasts and the deep cleavage between. It then narrowed snugly to her waist before flaring out in a full, ball gown skirt, over layers and layers of lace and tulle petticoats. She'd wanted no frilly adornments or sequins, wishing instead for a simple, yet sophisticated gown and Madame Annelle had delivered a beautiful dress, one which needed nothing but the glowing, happy bride to make it truly spectacular.

Touching the delicate diamond choker around her neck, Hermione closed her eyes. She wished her parents had lived to see this day, but she fancied that maybe they were watching her from wherever their spirits might now reside, watching and wishing her well. When she opened her eyes again, Ginny was smiling at her.

"It's almost time. You ready?"

"I've never been more ready," Hermione said as Madame Annelle lifted the blusher veil and settled it over her face. Accepting her bouquet from Angelina, she took a deep breath. "I'm ready to get married."

*****

The ballroom was awe-inspiring.

Taking up nearly the entire second story, the massive room was set at the back of the house, with a view of the snow-covered gardens and, beyond that, the orchards. Heavy clouds were gathering on the northern horizon, obscuring the weak sunlight and promising more snow by morning. Inside, however, the ballroom was alight with thousands of floating candles, their warm light gilding everything it touched. A multitude of flowers filled the room with sweet scent; fat, blush-colored cabbage roses, white orchids, and exotic ivory magnolias with their waxy green leaves were arranged in cascading displays surrounding the semi-circled rows of chairs, almost all of which were filled with chattering guests.

Greg Goyle peeked through the door of the antechamber. "Wow. That's one hell of a lot of people, Malfoy," he said over his shoulder, where Draco paced nervously. "Well, there's Potter and Weasley. Heh. Weasley looks like he's gonna cry."

Vincent Crabbe muscled Greg out of the way and pressed his eye to the slit in the door. "Hey, that Fleur girl is here too. I always thought she was pretty," he said.

"Of course she's here, Vince...she's a Weasley now," Blaise lazily reminded him.

"Ohhh, yeah."

The sound of violins filtered through the door as the musicians started to play and Draco froze, staring wildly at Blaise. "Oh Merlin, Blaise!"

"I think it's time, Draco," Blaise said gently as he got to his feet, straightening his robes. Greg and Vince looked at each other, both looking a little scared. The door leading into the hallway opened and Philias Benham, the wizard who would be performing the ceremony, entered and gave them all a bright smile.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen. Mr. Malfoy, are you ready?" he said cheerfully, slipping a slender book out of the pocket of his black robes. He tapped it against one hand, waiting for Draco to take several deep breaths. "Never you worry, young man. Marriage is a glorious thing, especially when it's to a woman as delightful as your Miss Granger."

Draco nodded swiftly, not trusting himself to speak. Benham glanced over at Blaise. "You have the ring, I presume? Wouldn't do to lose that!" Blaise grinned and made a show of patting his pockets until Draco was glaring at him furiously. With mock surprise, Blaise produced the platinum and diamond band, holding it up between thumb and forefinger.

"Why, I thought I'd misplaced it!"

"You about gave me a heart attack, you git!" Draco growled although his expression was faintly amused.

"Splendid! Just splendid. Well, boys...into the unknown!" With a final tap of his book, Benham opened the door into the ballroom and strolled through, his head bowed piously as if in prayer. Vince went next, followed by Greg and Blaise, then bringing up the rear, Draco.

For a heart-stopping moment, Draco paused, overwhelmed by the hundreds of people and the swell of music that greeted him. The soft murmur of voices ceased and he could suddenly hear his heart thumping madly in his chest. A little disoriented, he looked around as he followed Blaise to the front of the room, searching for his parents. When he found them, seated in the first row and smiling at him happily, he felt the tension drain away, leaving behind nothing but euphoria. Filled with giddy excitement, he took his place on the dais.

*****

"You look beautiful, Hermione," Arthur Weasley said as he took her hands in his. His careworn face creased in a fond smile. "I'm very proud that you've allowed me this honor today."

Hermione squeezed his hands nervously as Ginny and Angelina arranged her train and veil behind her. "I wouldn't have dreamed of asking anyone else to give me away, Arthur. I'm honored that you accepted."

"I wish for your sake your father was alive to do it, but in his absence...well, I've looked on you as much of a daughter as Ginevra." Hearing her given name, Ginny grimaced at Angelina and Lavender.

"Daddy, don't me call me that!" she whined, taking her bouquet of white roses from one of the French assistants.

Hermione laughed as Arthur took his place at her right side. She tucked her arm in his, thankful for the support he gave her trembling body. "Oh wait!" she said, looking over at Ginny. "Have you Draco's ring?"

"Right here," Ginny replied, opening her hand to reveal the slender platinum band.

"Oh. Oh good." Hermione squared her shoulders and took a deep, cleansing breath as the girls lined up in front of her, awaiting their cue to begin the processional. "I'm ready then."

"Are you sure, my dear?" Arthur asked solicitously, patting her hand as it clutched at the sleeve of his robes. She nodded as a sense of utter peace swept through her body and settled the butterflies in her stomach.

"Yes. Oh yes...let's do this."

At Madame Annelle's signal, the double doors opened and the musicians seamlessly switched to the processional. One by one, Angelina, Lavender, and Ginny walked slowly down the white-carpeted aisle, murmurs of approval greeting them. After Ginny had reached the dais, turning to face the long distance she'd just traversed, Madame Annelle smiled warmly at Hermione.

"There you go, love. The best of luck to you," she said as Arthur led Hermione forward, the beautiful music accompanying them into the ballroom and Hermione's destiny.

*****

The guests rose to their feet, turning to face the bride and her escort. A muffled gasp rose from the crowd, then they fell silent, all eyes on Hermione as she walked serenely at Arthur's side. Witches nudged each other as she passed, awestruck gazes on every envious face, and many of the wizards looked on with pure masculine appreciation.

Draco noticed none of this for his entire existence had narrowed to a single vision in creamy white satin. He didn't feel the warm strength of Blaise's hand on the small of his back, supporting him as he swayed on his feet. Nor did he hear Vince's whispered "Bloody hell, she's fucking gorgeous!" as Hermione drew ever closer. His gaze was riveted to her, mesmerized by her in a way that left him trembling like a virgin and heaving for breath.

Only when Blaise leaned forward to whisper in his ear did Draco snap back to reality. "Draco, take a deep breath...you're going to hyperventilate."

He did and it caught on a hiccupping sob. Biting his lips to keep from breaking down like a baby, Draco forced himself to glance away from her for a moment, to ground himself. His eyes met Harry Potter's, sitting on the opposite side of the aisle. Potter smiled softly at him, his gaze behind the round glasses Draco had always ridiculed full of understanding and acceptance. He nodded once, then turned to watch Hermione's approach.

Fortified by what he felt was Potter's final gesture of blessing, Draco watched Hermione glide towards him. She was close enough that he could see the radiant smile on her face behind the filmy white veil and he grinned in response, the urge to scoop her into his arms and race away from the crowd almost overwhelming him. At last, she was minutes away from being his. Forever and ever.

*****

Any residual nervousness that Hermione might have been feeling disappeared completely as she took her first step into the ballroom. With a rustle of robes and a scraping of chairs, the guests rose and turned to face her and Arthur as they made their way up the aisle. She was dimly aware of the hushed gasp that swept through the crowd as she passed, marginally aware of Harry's and Ron's smiling faces and Molly Weasley's tearful one, but she had eyes only for the blond wizard watching her with a look of wonderment.

As they reached the dais and a smiling Philias Benham, Lucius and Narcissa both stood and took their place at Draco's side. Hermione smiled at Draco, wishing she could just throw off her veil and fall into his arms, but as Benham's rich voice boomed through the room, enhanced by a Sonorus charm, she realized that she wanted this moment to last forever.

"We are here today in the presence of friends and family to witness the marriage of Draco Black Malfoy and Hermione Jean Granger; Draco and Hermione, you have been brought together by contract and as a result, have found an abiding love for each other. Together, you stand as one entity, bound by mutual trust and commitment, through which love and affection will continue to blossom for the rest of your lives..."

Turning to Arthur, Benham smiled. "In the days of distant past, fathers have provided for their daughters a dowry, a firm foundation on which to build her new life with the man she has chosen as her life's mate. The dowry of ancient times has evolved into a symbol of unity, a promise of one family to another to support the joining of their beloved children."

He paused briefly to turn the page and Hermione smiled tremulously at Draco, seeing the answering expression of love in his eyes.

"Who gives this woman's hand in marriage?"

Arthur cleared his throat, a faint blush staining his freckled cheeks. "My wife and I do."

"Have you the dowry?"

That was Molly's cue to stand and join Arthur, handing him a square wooden box, intricately engraved and quite old. Arthur lifted the lid to reveal a single gold Galleon, newly minted and gleaming on a bed of black velvet. He presented it to Lucius, who nodded gravely and shut the lid, handing it to Narcissa. Benham continued.

"Who accepts this woman to their family, to nurture as their own flesh and blood?"

"My wife and I do," Lucius said, his voice firm with conviction. He stepped aside as his son moved forward. Arthur placed Hermione's hand in Draco's, smiling as their fingers curled around each other's.

"You may please be seated. Before Draco and Hermione are joined in marriage, I am bound by sacred covenant to share with you the solemn nature of the relationship in which they are about to enter. Marriage involves the voluntary pledge of man to woman, and of woman to man, to the exclusion of all others, and is entered into with the desire, the hope, and the sincere belief that it will be a lifelong union."

Draco couldn't take his eyes off Hermione; his gaze roamed eagerly over her face, drinking in her trembling lips and flushed cheeks. He could see tears sparkling on her lashes, even though her smile was brilliant and only for him.

"I love you," he mouthed, squeezing her hand gently.

"I love you, too," she mouthed back, pursing her lips in a kiss.

The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur, although Draco and Hermione both would later recall each tender, evocative moment. Now however, they clung fervently to each other, drawing strength and soaking up the love and desire that shimmered like a heat mirage between them.

"I, Draco Black, call upon all present to witness my acceptance of you, Hermione Jean, to be my cherished wife..."

"...to share with you our joys and sorrows, to protect and nourish you in good health and bad, to be your life partner and devoted wife, for all of our remaining days..."

"Please wear my ring as a sign of our love..."

"...and the world will know that I am yours and you are mine..."

Benham beckoned for Draco and Hermione to kneel, their left hands clasped and extended before them. He drew his wand and placed the tip against their joined fingers.

"As you have consented to be bound in this sacred state, let the magic which flows in your veins and through your hearts consecrate your union." With a single spoken incantation, Draco and Hermione's hands were enveloped in cool blue flame, tongues of frozen fire etching along their wedding rings and sending pleasant tingles over their skin. Once it dissipated in a sparkle of azure light, Draco helped Hermione to her feet, his gaze fastened on her face.

"By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Go forth from this day with gladness in your hearts. Mr. Malfoy, you may kiss your bride," Benham finished with an encouraging nod.

Draco's hands shook as he lifted the embroidered edge of Hermione's veil and smoothed it back from her face. Once fully revealed, he could see the tears streaking her cheeks and the profound joy in her shining, dark eyes. With the back of his right hand, he brushed away the glistening drops. "You're mine now," he said simply, his hands gently cupping her cheeks and drawing her closer.

She tasted of tears and something that he'd recognize for the rest of his life as pure Hermione. Her soft lips parted beneath his, her tongue touching the tip of his own as her hands fisted convulsively in his robes. She leaned into the support his body offered, a barely audible whimper leaving her throat as he deepened the kiss, his own tears mixing with hers.

When they reluctantly parted after what seemed to be an eternity, the guests were clapping and cheering; even Ron Weasley was smiling at them broadly, the last of his enmity towards Draco gone in the face of Hermione's obvious bliss. Looping arms, they turned to face the crowd, letting the noise and the music wash over them as they gazed into each other's eyes. Narcissa was clinging to Lucius's arm, sobbing into his sleeve as he dug desperately into his pocket for a handkerchief to mop up her tears.

"Are you happy?" Hermione whispered, sliding her hand into Draco's.

Draco looked down into her face, losing himself for a moment in her glowing smile. "I don't think I'll ever stop being happy, Hermione. You've made me whole again."

Hermione laughed as they started up the aisle, past their friends and family, ready at last to begin her life as a Malfoy.

Chapter Text

"Well, darling...are you happy?" Lucius whispered in Narcissa's ear when he returned to the high table. He handed her a goblet brimming with champagne.

Narcissa accepted his offering with a brilliant smile, then nestled into his loose embrace. As she sipped the fine vintage, she watched the colorful swirl of their guests on the dance floor, among them their son and his new bride. She caught a glimpse of shimmering white satin as the newly wed couple danced past, too caught up in each other to pay any mind to the people around them.

"Ecstatic," she murmured softly. "The ceremony was everything I had hoped it would be, Lucius. Hermione looked exquisite and Draco so very handsome. He reminded me of you on our wedding day. I'll never forget this day, darling...thank you." She leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. He squeezed her waist and smiled in a bemused sort of way.

"Thank you for what?" he asked, nodding cordially to a passing Ministry acquaintance and her portly husband.

"For being so patient. For easing Draco's fears. For accepting a Muggleborn witch into our family." She suddenly grinned with an impishness that stripped years from her face. "For being the best husband in all of England."

"Just England? You fickle wench. I suppose there's some husband in Lithuania I should be in competition with?" Lucius teased. "I care very deeply for Hermione, you know that. It may have been slow to happen, but she's opened my eyes to a great many things and for that I am grateful. As far as Draco's concerned, I'm just thankful that I have the kind of relationship with my son that I've always wanted."

Lucius then turned her gently in his arms and pulled her close to his chest. With a possessive touch that still sent shivers of desire down Narcissa's spine, he drew a finger along the curve of her bottom lip. "You look beautiful tonight, Narcissa. I like you in this shade of blue. It makes your eyes look like the summer sky."

Narcissa smirked flirtatiously at him, uncannily resembling their son at his most devious. "And you, kind sir, will be amply rewarded later for your kind flattery," she whispered, brushing her fingers over the front of his trousers, the daring act hidden from view by the cut of his formal robes.

With a bright, hot gaze, Lucius laughed, drawing the attention of a group of nearby witches. They sent him admiring looks, appreciative of his tall, broad-shouldered figure and long, silver plait. However, Lucius had eyes only for the slender blonde witch in his arms. "I don't know if I can wait...perhaps we can sneak away soon."

"Lucius!" Narcissa laughed and smacked him lightly on the arm. "What would our guests say?"

He grasped her hand in his and brought it to his mouth. "The hell with them! They're in my home and if I want to shag my wife on the high table, I shall!" he said, his lips warm against her fingers.

Raising an imperious eyebrow, Narcissa gave him a sly little smile. "Well, Draco might not like us disturbing his wedding in such a sordid fashion. Then again, it might give him ideas."

Glancing out at the dance floor, as the musicians switched to a softer tune, Lucius shrugged gracefully. "From the looks of it, he's having those ideas as we speak. Do you suppose he's planning on deflowering Hermione right there on the dance floor? That might raise a few eyebrows amongst our guests."

Narcissa peered around Lucius's broad shoulders. "Oh look! Aren't they adorable?" she sighed.

"He's sucking on her neck like a damned vampire, Narcissa. Come, let's dance," he said as he pulled her to her feet and led her from the high table.

"Well, Lucius, they have been sleeping apart for several days! Draco must be nearly at his breaking point. Especially with her looking so very delectable," Narcissa said as her amused husband swept her onto the dance floor.

"Don't be naive, darling. You really believe Draco has managed to stay out of her bed since Monday?"

Narcissa laughed merrily. "Never underestimate the power of a witch, Lucius Malfoy. I had a special little hex or two in place that might've deterred him from seeking her out for, shall we say, carnal activities. He's not complained of a pesky rash in unfortunate places, so I can only assume he behaved himself."

"You are an evil, manipulative woman, Narcissa Malfoy," Lucius murmured appreciatively as he guided her confidently across the floor, aware of the striking picture they made as several of the dancers paused to watch them.

Narcissa tipped her head back to look up at her beloved husband. "Not manipulative, just used to getting my way."

"Spoiled little girl, I'd say. I've been far too easy you on you, wench. Perhaps I should renovate the old dungeons. That might keep you in line," he teased.

"Don't make promises you won't keep, darling. Besides, it's all your fault!" she laughed softly, curling her hand around his neck and tugging on his braid.

"So, would it be rude to tell everyone to leave?"

Narcissa laid her head on his chest, pressing her cheek against the rich velvet of his robes. "Draco and Hermione might thank us on bended knee. But it would be unforgivably rude. Not to mention ruin our reputation for throwing the best society parties. Let them cool their heels a little longer...it'll do Draco good to have to wait for what he wants."

Lucius trailed his fingers along Narcissa's bare shoulder, feeling her shiver under his touch. "Again I say, evil and manipulative."

"I thought that was spoiled and pampered?"

"I don't recall saying anything about pampering you. I indulge you quite enough as it is, woman," Lucius said, with an inward smile. She had him wrapped firmly around her little finger and she knew it.

"So you won't be rubbing my feet when they're all swollen and achy? Or smoothing lotion on my big, fat belly? Fetching me ice cream and pickles at three in the morning?" Narcissa asked.

"Well, when you put it like that, how could I refuse?"

"You're too easy, Lucius."

Sliding his palm lightly down her back, Lucius pinched her on the bum, then grinned at the scandalized witch watching him from over her husband's shoulder. "I'm easy? You're the one who chased me, love. Indecent behavior for a tender young fifth year."

"I caught you, didn't I? You must not have been running very fast," Narcissa said, rubbing herself surreptitiously against him and reveling in the feel of his excitement.

"Well, you were quite tempting. And Gavin Montague was giving me a run for my money."

Narcissa laughed. "Gavin offered me his mother's betrothal ring if I'd consent to marry him. Said he'd take it off her finger himself."

"What? Althea Montague is still alive!"

"I believe he'd have ripped it from her freshly-deceased hand had I said yes, darling. Kiss me, hurry! Draco's looking and it'll drive him barmy!"

Lucius did as she asked, catching his son out of the corner of his eye. Draco did indeed send a glare their direction, the pent-up frustration in his eyes apparent. He lifted his mouth from Narcissa's, just a hairsbreadth. "Haven't we tortured them enough, love? This party will go on for hours yet."

"Just a little while longer, Lucius."

*****

"Draco?"

At the warm sound of Hermione's voice, he forgot about his parents' indecent behavior and smiled down at his lovely bride. "Hmm?"

"Are you having a good time?" she asked, her fingers stroking lightly through the hair at his nape. He pulled her closer, tucking her head under his chin and swaying to the music.

"I have you in my arms and we are finally, finally, married. I'm having a wonderful time."

Hermione cuddled deeper in his arms. "Me too. I wish we could leave, though."

Draco closed his eyes, his body reacting immediately to her simply spoken words. "I know. I just want everyone to leave so we can be together with no more interruptions."

Hermione looked up, meeting his evocative gaze. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, a voice intruded.

"May I cut in, Malfoy?"

Draco and Hermione peeled their gazes away from each other to see Ron standing at their side, a neutral expression on his freckled face. On the verge of saying hell-fucking-no, Draco realized that Hermione was nodding, already pulling away from him.

"It's okay, Draco...just one dance," she whispered, touching his cheek with her fingertips. "I love you." Ron glanced away, to hide the fact that he was rolling his eyes heavenward.

Scooping her back against his chest, Draco covered her mouth with his, kissing her breathless. Grudgingly, he relinquished his hold on her, leveling a dark glare on Ron. "One dance, Weasley, then I'm taking her back."

Ron gave him a smug grin as he took Hermione in his arms. "Afraid I'm going to disappear with her?" he said mockingly as he spun Hermione into the crowd of dancers, her skirt swirling out in a wide circle of satin and tulle.

Draco fumed silently before turning and making his way over to the high table, where the remains of dinner had long since been cleared away. Sullenly, he watched Hermione dancing and laughing at whatever the Weasel was whispering in her ear. He knew he should be having a good time and visiting with his friends and in fact, he had been having a good time, but it was fast approaching nine o'clock and he wanted to spend the rest of the night buried inside his new wife. Just having her in his arms, so warm, so beautiful and fragrant, had him nearly shaking with the force of his desire for her.

Wife. Draco felt a smile tug at his lips. When he'd still been a student at Hogwarts and dating fellow Slytherin Pansy Parkinson, she'd had their wedding and marriage planned down to the last frilly detail, telling everyone willing to listen that she was going to be the wife of a very wealthy Malfoy.

Spoken from her lips, the word wife would fill him with a blank, breathless terror of the future. Voldemort on one side, Pansy and her greedy, grasping family on the other. Once the creature who had been born Tom Riddle had fallen to Potter's wand, Draco had been only slightly relieved, knowing that his true prison still awaited.

Then the Ministry had passed the Marriage Law, only a handful of months after Voldemort's fall. At the time, Draco had been furious on behalf of the Pureblood community, but an afternoon trip to Diagon Alley changed everything. After he'd chosen Hermione Granger as his intended, even knowing that she would likely hate him forever for it, he realized how lucky he was that the law was in effect. Not only had he escaped a certain misery with Pansy, but Fate had smiled down on him the day he walked into Flourish and Blott's and come face-to-face with a woman who would always keep him on his toes and who was intelligent enough to hold his interest.

And it hadn't hurt that Hermione Granger had matured into an exceedingly attractive young woman.

So, the word wife no longer caused him to dread the years to come, but instead to look forward to them for the excitement and joy they would surely hold. For the first time in his life, Draco could finally give himself permission to imagine what it would be like to be a husband and a father, what it would be like to spend the rest of his life raising a family with the woman he now loved to utter distraction.

Watching Hermione in Ron Weasley's arms wasn't as threatening as he thought it would be. And when Harry Potter passed his own wife off to one of her many brothers and joined Ron and Hermione in a three-way dance, Draco actually smiled at her glowing happiness. That was all he wanted for her...that joyful exuberance for life.

A life with him in it.

"Champagne, mate?"

Draco looked up at Blaise Zabini, who was sitting down in the next chair, a bottle of champagne and two glasses in his hand. He accepted the glass Blaise passed to him and sipped the tart liquid. "Thanks."

"The wedding was very...moving. Thank you for asking me to be your best man," Blaise finally said, his dark blue gaze sweeping over the candle-lit ballroom. "Hermione looked like a princess, didn't she?"

"She did. I'm a very lucky man, Blaise. I just wish..." He trailed off as he was once more caught up in Hermione's happiness as she continued to dance with her two oldest friends.

Blaise turned to look at him. "You wish?"

Draco smiled regretfully. "Only that I'd not been such a bastard to her during the days that mattered."

"Draco, the days that matter are the ones ahead. She's put the past behind her, as you should." Blaise refilled his glass and raised it to his lips. "Have some more champagne and congratulate your mum on selecting such a brilliant vintage."

"No more for me...I've had enough and I don't want to take the chance of passing out and leaving my bride a virgin on her wedding night," Draco said, winking at Blaise. "Speaking of which, when are you going to choose your bride? You're twenty-two now, Zabini. Past time for you to find yourself a wife."

"Welll, I may have my eye on someone. Papa's already notified the Liaison Office with an offer."

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Really? And I'm only now just hearing about this? Blaise, you secretive devil, you. Do I know her?"

"Maybe. She was in Hufflepuff, graduated last year. Laura Madley." When Draco shook his head, having no memory of her, Blaise continued. "Her family owns a couple of hotels in Italy and one on Capri. Richer than Midas, her father is. I didn't really know her, but Papa knows her family and suggested we meet. She's a nice girl."

"Pretty?"

"Very."

Draco laughed and drained the rest of his champagne. "Damn...you're robbing the cradle, Zabini."

"Hey, she's of age. Mostly." The two wizards grinned at each other and Blaise clapped his hand on Draco's shoulder, but a movement on the dance floor caught his eye. "Oy, Draco! Look there."

Draco followed Blaise's discreet gesture. While many of the guests had continued to dance around her, Hermione was now flanked on either side by Ginny Potter and the Weasley matriarch, Molly. Both women were smiling indulgently at her, the older witch shooing off Potter and Weasley as they led Hermione off the dance floor to scattered applause.

In the meantime, Lucius had pulled Alicia Weasley aside and was whispering in her ear. She nodded at him, then stepped up to the musicians' dais as they finished their tune with a flourish. She tapped her throat with her wand to amplify her voice.

"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy have kindly asked me to thank everyone for attending today's celebration and to continue to enjoy their hospitality for as long as you wish. In addition, the family would like to thank everyone for their unparalleled generosity." With a graceful hand, she indicated a trio of nearby tables, piled high with brightly wrapped gifts and a large silver bowl brimming with multi-colored money pouches. "At this time, I'd like to invite all the unmarried witches to come forward to catch Hermione's bouquet!"

Draco's brow furrowed. "What are they doing?" he asked Blaise, his brow furrowed as he watched the sudden mad scramble of witches onto the dance floor.

"Tossing the bouquet. Whoever catches it will be the next to get married. It's tradition, Malfoy."

"Oh." Draco grimaced. "Nobody tells me anything. Do I have to throw something too?"

Blaise shook his head in amusement and slumped further in his chair as they watched the eager, chattering witches gather in a semicircle around the dais, while Ginny helped Hermione step up on the low platform and arrange her voluminous skirt.

Draco stared at Hermione, his hunger for her banked for now, but simmering deep in his gut. She looked so incredibly beautiful; her creamy skin glowed against the white satin, her long, dark curls glittering with scattered jewels. Every inch of her seemed to sparkle under the golden candlelight, making every other woman in the room pale to insignificance.

Angelina handed Hermione her bouquet of scarlet roses and stepped off the dais as Hermione turned her back to the excited crowd of witches. "Okay, on the count of three! One...two...three!" Alicia cried and Hermione tossed the bouquet over her head in a long arc of red blossoms. It disappeared into the middle of the group of women and there was a brief struggle between Millicent Bulstrode and Daphne Greengrass. Both came away with a handful of petals, but Luna Lovegood held up the rest of the bouquet with a beatific smile on her face. Blaise laughed as a cheer went up.

"Brilliant! Loony Lovegood's been chasing Seamus Finnigan for three years...she's got him now." Draco scanned the crowd and, sure enough, Finnigan was looking a little hunted as Luna turned and trotted off in his direction.

As Hermione was lifted off the dais by George Weasley, Alicia addressed the guests again. "Champagne is still flowing in abundance, ladies and gentlemen, and the musicians will be playing until two a.m. Have a wonderful time and, again, thank you for coming!"

The musicians struck up another tune and the dance floor filled again with a multi-colored blur of dress robes. Draco sat up straighter as Hermione made her way to the high table, trailed by Ginny Potter. Blaise moved his chair as Hermione squeezed past. Draco held out his arms and she flopped down on his lap, looping one arm around his shoulders. "Hi," he whispered as he pressed a kiss to her bare inner arm.

"That was fun!" she said, pressing a hand to his chest. Draco hitched her higher on his thighs, to keep her from sliding off his lap in the slippery satin gown. She felt heavenly and smelled even better, warm and sweet and purely Hermione. He wrapped his arms around her waist and laid his head against her breast, content to listen to the muted thump of her heart beneath his cheek.

Blaise scooted back so Ginny could sit down. "You're looking lovely, Mrs. Potter. Who would've guessed crimson is your color?" he teased, reaching out to finger a lock of her vivid hair. She smirked at him.

"Harry's watching, Zabini, so mitts off," she said and indeed Harry was watching from his vantage point near the buffet, a dark scowl on his face. Blaise waved cheekily at Harry who reluctantly returned it, before turning back to the group of former Gryffindors chatting nearby.

"Draco, I haven't had the chance to congratulate you," Ginny said, turning to look at Draco. "You better treat her like a queen or you'll have the entire Weasley clan after your scrawny arse. And there's a lot of us now."

Draco grinned, nuzzling deeper against Hermione's perfumed cleavage. "That sounds more like a threat than congratulations, She-Weasel."

Hermione smacked him lightly on top of the head. "We've talked about that, prat."

"Ouch. Wench."

Ginny grinned, shaking her head. "You're a strange man, Malfoy. Welcome to the family."

Blaise propped his feet on the table. "He'll fit right in," he drawled.

While their friends chatted with each other, Draco closed his eyes, letting the music, the voices, and the feel of Hermione's fingers sifting through his hair lull him into a light doze.

"Draco?"

"Hmm?"

"I have to go."

He tightened his arms around Hermione's waist. "No. Stay here," he mumbled, cracking open one eye. When he realized that his mother and Molly Weasley had taken the seats once occupied by Blaise and Ginny, he sat up straight, drowsiness gone in a flash.

Hermione slid off his lap, leaning over to press a warm kiss to his lips. "Give me about a half-hour, okay?" He grabbed at her hand as she started to turn away.

"Wait!" He stood up, pulling Hermione into his arms. "I want a real kiss."

He lowered his mouth to hers and parted her lips with his tongue, finding hers and entwining with it in a lazy, champagne-flavored dance. Hermione swayed against him, sliding her arms up and around his neck.

It was his mother's cool touch on his hand that brought Draco back to his senses. She gave him a knowing look. "Darling, there will be plenty of time for that very soon. Go dance, have fun, and your father will let you know when you can come upstairs."

As the two witches pulled a blushing Hermione away, Draco felt Blaise once more at his side. The dark-haired wizard slung an arm over Draco's shoulders as the guests clapped and called out their goodbyes, some quite bawdy, to Hermione as she disappeared through the ballroom doors. "Come on, Malfoy, let's go rescue what's left of the wedding cake from Vincent...he's already straining the buttons on his robes."

With anticipation churning in the pit of his stomach, Draco joined Blaise.

*****

Molly kept up a constant stream of nervous chatter as she and Narcissa escorted Hermione back to her suite. Hermione tuned her out, drifting along in a champagne-fueled state of dreamy bliss, reliving the ceremony that had been nothing short of a fantasy. To be surrounded by her surrogate family, the friends she'd made at Hogwarts, and two of the most important men in her life had been a dream come true for her.

But all of that paled when she'd taken her first step into the ballroom and found Draco gazing at her with an expression of bald adoration. When Arthur had placed her hand in Draco's and his trembling fingers had closed over hers, she'd felt a swell of love so profound, tears had immediately choked her throat. The ceremony had passed in a blur; the only thing standing crystal-clear in her mind was Draco himself and the tremor in his voice as he spoke his vows to her.

In the space of a few months, this aggravating child, this petulant boy, this exciting, sensual man had turned Hermione's life upside down and unhesitatingly bequeathed his fragile heart to her. A gift she could have so easily trampled and destroyed in her anger at the unfairness of the Marriage Law.

But, in their first few weeks together, she'd sensed Draco's desperate, lonely desire to be loved, to have the kind of love his parents had for each other and Hermione found that she wanted to be the one to give it to him. She wanted nothing more than to share the rest of her life with him.

Starting tonight.

They reached Hermione and Draco's suite and Narcissa opened the doors, leading the way inside the candlelit chamber.

"Hermione, love," Molly said softly. "Are you okay?"

Hermione smiled tearfully at the woman who'd taken her unconditionally into her home and into her family, after Hermione's parents were killed. Molly Weasley had become a mother to her, not to replace her own, but to provide something that was missing in her life. Hermione felt a pang of regret that she'd so quickly turned to Narcissa and left Molly with hardly a backward glance.

Resolving to make more time for Molly in her life, she took the red haired witch's plump hands in hers and kissed her freckled cheek. "You've been such a special person in my life, Molly, and I can't thank you enough for giving me shelter and support when I needed it most. You'll always be like a mother to me."

Molly's eyes filled with tears and she crushed Hermione close. "You're such a dear girl! I've been so fortunate to not have one sweet daughter, but two! It was such an honor to see you married today."

"Thank you for being here for me," Hermione said, reaching out for Narcissa's hand. "Thank you both."

Narcissa, always so easy to cry these days, dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. "Goodness, it's a wonder I'm not all splotchy! I've done nothing but cry today. Oh look! Madame Annelle laid out your gown."

Hermione looked over at the bed, which had already been turned down, two red roses lying atop the silk pillows. At the foot of the wide bed, a diaphanous white gown was artfully arranged, the lace as delicate as a spider's web.

"Oh, how beautiful!" Hermione exclaimed, touching the gown reverently. "Did Annelle make this too?"

"Yes. It's her gift to you. She wanted you to have something special for this night."

"It's gorgeous. I'll kill Draco if he tears it." Molly and Narcissa exchanged a look full of meaning as Hermione blushed and bit nervously at her bottom lip.

"Here, love, let's get you out of that dress and brush your hair out. Your husband won't wait all night, you know," Molly gently teased as Narcissa began unfastening the multitude of tiny buttons at Hermione's back.

*****

Greg Goyle nudged Draco in the ribs. "There's your mum."

Draco nearly knocked the larger man into the buffet table in his haste to get to Narcissa. "Sorry, mate!" he called over his shoulder as he hurried to intercept his mother before she was swallowed by the crowd. A large hand clapped down on his shoulder, effectively halting him in his tracks. Draco spun around, a sharp curse dying on his lips as he looked up at a smirking Lucius.

"Going somewhere, son?" he drawled.

"Hopefully upstairs to my wife. Am I going to have to gnaw my arm off to get away?" Draco said as Lucius wrapped an arm around his shoulders and led him over to a waiting Narcissa. Uncomfortably aware of the shrewd stares and muffled giggles all around him, Draco followed in uncharacteristic embarrassment. At that moment, a suspiciously red-eyed Molly slipped through the door, giving him a tight-lipped smile before rejoining her family.

Narcissa brushed aside a lock of hair that had fallen over Draco's eyes. "Are you nervous?"

Five minutes ago, Draco would've said no, but with his parents hovering over him and the eyes of every person in the room burning a hole in his back, he realized that his heart was thrumming wildly. He clenched his shaking hands.

"No," he said quickly and just as quickly changed his answer. "Okay, yes. Is she? Nervous, I mean?"

"Yes, but she's not scared. She trusts you implicitly, Draco," Narcissa said, soft enough that only her family could hear. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Draco's flushed face. "I love you, darling. You've been the brightest light in my life."

"I love you too, Mum. Both of you." Draco let Narcissa pull him into a tight embrace, Lucius's hand a warm comfort on the back of his head.

"Draco, your nightclothes have been laid out in your old room..."

"I'm not planning on staying dressed, you know," Draco said with a wicked grin.

"Regardless, they're there and you might feel better if you take a bath first...you've been in those robes all day. I've already had one drawn for you."

Despite being desperate to get to Hermione – and knowing that she was waiting for him made it worse – Draco had to agree. He nodded, trying to ignore the whispers and sly looks being sent his way. "I hate that they all know what we're going to be doing," he said. "It's creepy."

Lucius laughed. "It's not exactly a secret, Draco. Just be glad the old ways are out of favor."

"Old ways?"

"Yes. Not all that terribly long ago, the mothers would sit in the same room with the bride and groom, to make sure the deed was done and that the young witch was truly a virgin. The sheets would then be hung out the window for all to see."

"Thank Merlin that wasn't popular when we got married, hmmm, darling? My mother would've had a stroke had she seen some of the tricks we got up to on our wedding night!" Narcissa said while Draco turned a deeper shade of pink.

"Mum, bloody hell..." Draco said, mortified.

"Be gentle with her, Draco...I know you've not exactly been celibate, you and Hermione, but she's still an innocent. Treat her well," Lucius said. "I'd say that we'll see you tomorrow, but I doubt that you'll surface for a day or two."

"A week, if you're lucky," Draco said. "Give my regards to our guests."

Slipping out from under Lucius's arm, Draco made his escape, the ballroom swelling with the sound of applause and catcalls.

*****

Hermione slowly pulled a brush through her hair, forming the curls around her fingers. Glancing up at the mantel clock, she took a deep breath to calm her racing heart. Narcissa and Molly had returned to the reception over forty-five minutes ago; where was he? The longer Draco took to come to her, the more nervous and fretful she became. Surely he hadn't forgotten her?

She smiled to herself at the improbability of Draco forgetting their long-awaited wedding night; he had practically been glued to her side ever since the ceremony, only very reluctantly giving her up for the occasional dance with the other guests. She'd not missed his frustrated glare when Ron had asked for a dance, but knowing how important her friends were to her, he'd gracefully yielded. She'd felt his eyes on her the whole time and she basked in the power she held over her new husband.

Setting the brush aside, Hermione restlessly paced over to the bookcase and lifted the volume of sexual positions down from its place of honor, the leather-bound catalyst that had ultimately brought her to Draco. She held it in both hands, allowing it to fall open at random. She smiled at the revealed picture, the two-dimensional participants energetically performing an act that Hermione doubted was even remotely comfortable.

She turned to the next page, her face coloring in bashful appreciation of the next image. She closed her eyes, projecting Draco and herself in place of the book's couple, trying to ignore the tight knot of unease spreading in her stomach.

"Do you really think we'll need that tonight?"

With a squeak of surprise, Hermione whipped around, the book slipping from her fingers to land on the thick carpet with a thump. "Draco! You startled me."

Draco was leaning against the doorframe, pajama pants hanging low on his hips. A matching robe hung open over his bare chest, his white-blond hair glowing against the black fabric. His gentle smirk faded as he looked at Hermione. Even in the flickering candlelight, she could see his eyes grow stormy with desire as his gaze slid slowly down her body and back up again.

"You look amazing," he breathed, pushing abruptly off the door to stalk over to her. Startled by his sudden movement, Hermione took a step back, pressing herself against the bookshelves. He stopped as well, watching her carefully, surprised by the sudden awkwardness between them.

"Are you frightened, Hermione?" he asked, a hesitant smile playing along his lips.

"No!" she squeaked, wincing at the high-pitched sound of her own voice. He gave her a disbelieving look. "Draco, no...really, I'm not." She stared down at the fallen book, sucking her lower lip between her teeth.

Draco moved closer, sidestepping the book and stopping before her. "I would never hurt you, Hermione." Slowly, as if he were reaching out for a wild animal, he captured a lock of her hair, rubbing it between thumb and forefinger before tugging playfully on it.

With false bravado and inwardly cursing herself for her sudden shyness with him, Hermione laughed airily. "Oh, I know! Honestly, I'm just being silly!"

"I know you better than that. You never have to pretend with me. You never have to lie to me." Draco studied her tense face for a moment. Taking her hands, he led her over to the vanity bench and guided her onto it. Kneeling at her feet, he gazed solemnly up at her.

"You are so beautiful, Hermione. So passionate and so loving that I thank God every day that you're in my life," he said softly, sliding his palms over the gossamer thin silk covering her thighs. "My beautiful Gryffindor bride, all dressed in white."

"It was a gift from Madame Annelle," she whispered, finally looking into his eyes. She melted at the expression of love and lust shining from his eyes. "I just want us to be happy."

Draco tucked a curl behind her ears and then drew the back of one hand tenderly over her cheek. She leaned into the caress, drawing strength from his familiar touch.

"Just being with you makes me happy," he said, standing and pulling her to her feet. Circling behind her, he swept her hair to one side and slipped his finger under the edge of the lace strap, sliding it from her shoulder and pressing warm, moist kisses to each sliver of skin as it was revealed. He kept his movements light and easy, feeling her body gradually begin to relax and lean into his. The strap slipped farther down her arm, baring one plump breast, the tip already rosy and tightly puckered. He cupped it in his hand, rolling the nipple in his palm as he continued to suckle at her throat, her pulse throbbing wildly against his tongue.

Confident that his touch would soon have her begging as usual, Draco eased Hermione closer to the bed, lowering her gently to the duvet. She looked so tempting, yet so incredibly chaste. Too caught up in his own desire for her and missing the renewed tension in her body, he stripped off his robe and dropped it to the floor as she scooted to the center of the wide bed.

Draco knew he'd have to distract himself, because he was on the verge of throwing himself on her, shoving that gown to her waist and taking her like some kind of rabid animal. He had waited so long for her! Reaching for Hermione, Draco was surprised when she flinched away from him, dropping her gaze to her hands clenched over her abdomen. Her sudden skittishness was unexpected and Draco tried to force back the wave of frustration that filled him. "Hermione?" he whispered, as he laid one hand over hers.

"Umm...just give me a minute, Draco. Please," she asked, refusing to meet his searching eyes. He nodded, rolling his shoulders to release the knot of tension building at the base of his neck.

"Would you like some champagne?" he finally asked, spotting the bottle chilling in a silver bucket. Hermione nodded, a little frantically.

"Please," she said as she sat up.

Draco uncorked the bottle and poured the pale gold liquid into two crystal flutes. When he turned back to hand one to Hermione, he noticed with some disappointment that she'd tugged the straps of her gown back up on her shoulders and covered her breasts.

Hermione took the glass and held it in both hands for a moment, before gulping the contents down. She caught a stray drop on her bottom lip, licking it off her finger and Draco had to look away from the unconsciously sensual gesture. Scooting off the bed, he walked over to the window and looked out over the moonlit grounds. Far below, he could hear the music and chatter of the wedding guests and he imagined they'd be shocked to find out he was wasting time staring out the window instead of in the midst of deflowering his new wife. He took a deep drink of the champagne, closing his eyes wearily, exhaustion from their long day starting to catch up with him.

"Draco?" Hermione's voice was faint and suspiciously thick. He glanced over his shoulder, but stopped just short of meeting her eyes. He didn't answer.

"I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me." This time, the tears were obvious. He heard her take a shuddering breath and he looked up at her face in alarm. His selfish disappointment faded instantly at the sight of Hermione's unhappiness.

Her wide brown eyes were streaming with tears and she was visibly trembling. Setting the glass down on the windowsill, Draco returned to the bed and pulled Hermione into his arms. Once he had settled her onto his lap, she broke down completely, weeping into his chest like a child.

Stroking her soft brown curls, Draco rocked her gently. "I'm not mad at you, my love. I'm sorry if I scared you. It's just...God, Hermione! I want you so badly, I can hardly stand it!"

"I don't know why I'm so nervous," she admitted, still sniffling. "I know you won't hurt me. And it's not like we've not done all of this before." She loosened one arm from his grip and waved it in the vague direction of the erotic book, still lying on the floor.

"Not everything, Hermione. I would never hurt you! I'm a stupid git for not realizing that you'd need time, that this is meant to be a very important moment for you," Draco said fiercely, before pulling back to look into her tear-streaked face. "Tell me something, Hermione, and please tell me the truth."

A brief moment of fear flashed in her eyes and she stiffened in his arms. Draco kissed her plump, flushed cheeks, tasting her salty tears. "Don't be afraid, okay? Okay?" She nodded and he took a deep breath.

"Hermione, are you having regrets? I mean, about marrying me?"

Her expression went blank as his words registered, then a look of horror filled her eyes. "Oh my God, Draco! No! No, a thousand, a million times no! How could you say that? I love you!" She started to struggle out of his arms, but he hung on to her resolutely until she slumped wearily against him, her face crumpling anew. "What have I done? Oh God...it's our wedding night and what have I done?" she cried to herself.

"You're just tired, darling...it's been a long day," he murmured, closing his eyes as they began to sting with tears. The very thing he'd wanted to avoid was happening...he was causing Hermione pain.

When he felt the tender touch of her hands on his cheeks, he opened his eyes to find her watching him with a look so full of love, he felt dizzy with relief. She fell into his arms, her mouth on his, tasting of salt and tart wine.

Peppering his cheeks with kisses, Hermione felt some measure of her anxiety fade away. She knew, deep down, that she had nothing to fear. Once they'd become intimate, Draco had never treated her with anything but love and respect; he was always considerate of her pleasure in a way she'd have never believed the former Slytherin capable. She couldn't deny that some part of her feared that he would revert back to his old ways, once she was irrevocably bound to him. Knowing that consummation of their marriage was the final nail in the coffin, as it were, making their union nearly unbreakable was enough to fill Hermione with something akin to terror.

But the familiar slide of Draco's hands on her thighs, the scent of his favorite soap lingering on his skin, his warm breath on her neck, raising the fine hairs on the back of her neck...these were the sensations that Hermione subliminally associated with safety and love.

With a sigh, she sought out his mouth again and he was waiting for her, sliding his tongue against hers in an intimate dance that was theirs alone. She had nothing to fear from him.

Lifting herself up, Hermione slid her leg over his so that she was straddling his lap. Cupping his face between her hands, she kissed him slowly and thoroughly, nibbling and sucking at Draco's lips and tongue, determined to prove to him that she was his as he was hers.

Having flagged somewhat at Hermione's reticence, his erection was back, burning hot and hard against her belly. She squirmed against him and his hands came down to cup her bottom, squeezing her gently.

"Draco...please don't doubt that I want you, always," Hermione murmured against his mouth, her hands smoothing over his bare shoulders, remapping well-known territory. "I love you and I want to make love with you...never doubt that...never doubt me..."

Draco had finally found his way underneath the white nightgown, his palms sweat-slick on the backs of her thighs as he pushed the garment higher until it bunched around her waist. With a quick downward peek, he gladly noticed that she'd left off her knickers. Unable to help himself, he dipped his fingers into his favorite place, brushing through the neat thatch of dark hair and curling into the most hidden part of her.

Hermione arched against him, her breasts straining the lacy bodice of the gown. Distracted by the welcome sight, Draco laved her with the flat of his tongue, sucking her nipple between his teeth until the lace was sodden and transparent. Hermione's hands cradled his head as he suckled at each breast in turn, cupping one in his hand as his other deftly stroked between her thighs.

"Draco?"

"Mmm?"

"Let go for a moment..."

Pulling reluctantly away, Draco was afraid to see a return of her earlier distance, but instead was treated to her rising up on her knees and slowly stripping off the gown. Pulling it over her head, Hermione tossed it over the edge of the bed to join his robe, then stretched gracefully, arching her back so that her breasts were tantalizingly offered up for him.

"Touch me, Draco," she murmured, but Draco had already returned to her, his mouth hungry on her breasts as he resumed his exploration of her cunt.

Hermione moaned and writhed on his lap as he brought her closer and closer to the brink, only to retreat when her release was imminent. A bead of sweat trickled down her spine as she tightened her legs around his hips, grinding down on him and cursing the thin layer of silk between their bodies.

"Take them off, Draco," she whispered in his ear, pushing at the waistband with her hands. "I want to feel you."

"Are you sure? If you need to wait..."

"We only have forty-eight hours, Draco..."

His laugh vibrated against her breasts. "Yes and we still have something like forty-one hours to go. I don't want you to feel rushed, Hermione."

She pulled back so that she could look into his grey eyes. There was concern for her, but there was yearning too, the months, the years of unrelenting lust for each other simmering in the pale depths. She stroked her fingers over his brow, and then down his jaw line.

"I want to feel you inside me. I'm ready for you, Draco. I'm sorry I was being so silly earlier. I don't know what came over me..."

"I was rushing you..."

"No! You weren't! I was just being a silly goose over something so inconsequen..."

Draco pressed his fingers, damp with her moisture, against her lips, smiling when her tongue darted out to lick between his fingers. "It's not inconsequential, Hermione. We may have been intimate with each other...very intimate...but you're still a virgin and I didn't respect that enough..."

Tugging his hand away by the wrist, Hermione kissed him silent, aggressive in a way that never failed to arouse him to unbearable heights. He tangled his hands in her hair and used the other to shove vainly at his pants. With a giggle at his fumbling effort, Hermione climbed off his lap and pushed him onto his back.

"Allow me, Mr. Malfoy," she said, hooking her thumbs in the waistband and lifting it up and over his cock.

It bounced lightly against his stomach, jutting thickly from its nest of dark gold curls. Hermione stared at him with renewed fascination. She'd had him in her hands, in her mouth, between her breasts, but knowing that he'd soon be inside her suffused her with a primal surge of power. She could literally feel her magic dancing in her veins, along her nerve endings, shimmering over her skin. She looked down at her hands, vaguely surprised that sparks weren't flying from her fingertips.

"Hermione, are you okay?" Draco asked, parting his legs slightly to lessen the exquisite pressure against his sac.

She looked up at him, startled. Then, a predatory smile curved her lips, eyes darkening with desire for him. He flushed pink under her bold and appreciative stare, his hand moving down to grasp his straining cock. Hermione's eyes dropped back to his lap and she unconsciously licked her lips.

"I've thought of nothing but this all day long. Imagining what it would be like to be between your thighs..." Draco whispered, his hand sliding up and down his cock, thumb swiping lightly over the tip with each upward stroke "Fantasizing about how you're going to feel wrapped around my cock...I'm so hard for you, Hermione...so fucking hard..."

Hermione was kneeling between his legs now, her knees spread and her fingers moving slowly around her clit. "I know...Draco, maybe we're moving too slow..."

He grinned at that. "You reckon?" He hit a particularly sensitive spot beneath the foreskin and his hips came up off the bed. "You set the pace, Hermione...just tell me what you need."

"You. I need you." Withdrawing her fingers, she guided them along his inner thigh. Crawling over him, her hair falling forward to tent around their faces, she took his mouth once more in a soul-deep kiss that curled Draco's toes and made his belly ache with need.

His arms came around her waist and he rolled them over, Hermione's legs falling open so that he could nestle into the cradle of her hips. She smiled up at him, her gaze dark and dreamy. "Take me, Draco...make me yours," she said, pulling him down for more kisses as he lifted one of her legs higher, opening her to him.

"Help me," he murmured against her cheek, as he braced one hand beside her head. Hermione reached between their bodies, wrapping her fingers around his cock and guiding him closer. She was so wet, so swollen and prepared for him that when he nudged forward, he slid easily into place.

Hermione flinched, unconsciously anticipating pain, but when Draco pushed into her, the only thing she felt was a delicious stretching sensation that only intensified as he filled her.

Placing his other hand palm-down on her cunt, his thumb sliding against her clit, he whispered, "Are you okay? I'm not hurting you, am I?"

She shook her head, beyond words as he pulled back then pushed forward once more. This time, it did hurt a little. Hermione was used to Draco's fingers and his tongue inside her, but there was no comparison for the feel of that thick column of flesh spreading her open. It ached deep inside and he must have seen it reflected on her face because he stopped, the effort to halt the biological urge to pump apparent in his furrowed brow and narrowed eyes. "Hermione? God, I am hurting you, aren't I?"

"No...no, don't stop," she moaned as he started to pull out of her. "It'll get better...just...don't stop." She smiled tremulously at him, brushing her fingertips over his stomach and lower, to stroke his glistening cock.

"I love you, Hermione," Draco whispered as he glided back inside her, the slick heat enveloping him making his eyes roll back and a primitive growl wrench from his throat. "God, you're perfect, so perfect...watch...look how perfectly we fit together..."

Hermione bit her lip as he filled her again, holding back a desperate whimper of desire. This time, when he rocked back inside her, any residual pain was lost amidst the wave of pleasure that centered at the point of their joining.

"Watch, Hermione," Draco said again, his voice rough with need. "You belong to me now...you're mine...all mine."

Out of bed, Hermione might've given him a piece of her mind for such high-handed words but now, watching him move so smoothly inside her, claiming her as wizards had claimed their witches for eons, she felt more intrinsically connected to her magic and to the man who'd chosen her for his bride than ever before. She'd never felt more female.

Draco watched her as he thrust even deeper, enjoying the play of emotions over her expressive face. A giddy smile curved her kiss-swollen lips and the most delicious sounds were issuing from her throat; guttural little moans were interspersed with his whimpered name, but when she opened her eyes and looked up at him, whispering "Give me more," in a breathless and carnal voice, he lost the last bit of control he had over his body.

Draco took Hermione's lips in a ravaging kiss as he moved faster, swallowing her panting cries as she wrapped her legs around his waist. She writhed under him and clutched at his shoulders, wide-eyed at the feelings coursing through her body.

"C-can't w-wait...can't s-stop..." Draco grunted, as the force of his impending orgasm gathered at the base of his spine, his testicles drawing up tight and hard. Moments later, he thrust deep inside her as his climax peaked. "God, Hermione! God, I love you!"

Sinking her fingers into his hair, Hermione held Draco close and murmured words of love into his ear as he continued to thrust weakly against her until he was spent. Liquid warmth was coating her bottom and her thighs; she could feel his come trickling out of her to pool on the duvet below. She instinctively tightened around him, unwilling to lose even that little bit of him. Small tremors of unfulfilled desire still rocked through her and she rubbed herself anxiously against him.

At the renewed feel of her clenching around his softening cock, Draco groaned. Lifting himself off of her, he fell onto his side as Hermione lowered her legs, wincing in discomfort as she did.

"Are you okay? You didn't..." He stopped, his cheeks turning pink. Turning on her side, Hermione brushed her fingers across his perspiring face, then pressed her lips to his.

"I'm fine, Draco...I love you so much," she said as he pulled her closer, until they were once more skin-to-skin. He cupped her cheek in one hand, curling his tongue around hers in a languid, soulful kiss that soon had them both afire for each other again. Draco slid his palm over her quivering belly, circling her navel before continuing south. Hermione huffed impatiently in his mouth as he slid a single finger back inside the scorching heat of her cunt, ghosting over her clit and feeling her jerk in response.

Lying back, Draco pulled her atop him. Hermione straddled him, her legs splayed to either side of him and giving him a picture perfect view of her glorious body. Again, he delved back inside her, lightly massaging the swollen tissue around her opening. Hermione mewled and rode his hand with a sensuality that might've shocked him had he not already known how eager of a lover she could be. Despite his weak-limbed exhaustion, he was hardening for her again, aroused by the sight of his sexy, gorgeous Hermione swaying above him.

Cupping her breasts in both hands, Hermione smiled down at Draco as his eyes glazed over at the sight of her offering. Even as he slipped two long fingers inside her, stroking his thumb over her clit, he replaced one of her hands with his own, squeezing and caressing her breast.

"God, Draco...yes...that's good...that's...oh God..." she cried out, throwing her head back as her climax washed over her. She was still trembling when Draco lifted her and brought her back down on his erection. This time, the sensation of his cock stretching her open was so brilliant, so unbearably marvelous that she shattered around him again, crying out with bliss.

Leaning over him, her hair clinging damply to her breasts, Hermione braced her hands on his chest as she moved fluidly on his cock. Draco guided her hips, thrusting up to meet her on each down stroke. She looked so amazing, flushed and glowing with sweat, a smile on her lips that could almost be called virtuous had she not been fucking him with abandon. The last lingering uncertainties both might have had were long gone; they lost themselves completely in each other.

Hermione, still coasting on the edge of her last climax, tumbled over the edge quickly, the fluttering of her cunt on his cock driving Draco headfirst into his own release. With a snarl, he slammed her down on him, thrusting up so hard she grunted in shock. His cock twitched within her as he filled her again with his come.

Hermione was shivering by the time he dragged her down for a wet, sloppy kiss. She sprawled atop him, chanting his name over and over, as reverently as if she were in prayer. Draco smoothed his hands over her back, easing her slowly back to earth.

"Fuck. You are brilliant," he finally said, rolling Hermione onto her side and tucking her into his arms. He leaned closer, kissing her trembling lips. "My beautiful, amazing Hermione. My wife."

Hermione purred drowsily, caressing his chest with the back of her fingers. "I don't know what I was so worried about. Honestly, that's the most fun I've had all day," she said, her voice faint with exhaustion.

Draco laughed softly and rubbed his cheek against her hair. "We are well and truly wed now, Mrs. Malfoy. How do you feel about that?"

When she didn't answer, he looked down at her sleeping face. Pressing his lips to her temple, breathing in the scent of sex and woman on her skin, Draco closed his eyes and slept.

Chapter Text

Draco rolled over in bed, automatically reaching for Hermione, instinctively seeking the familiar warmth of her body. When his fingers found only rumpled sheets and, more importantly, empty rumpled sheets, his eyes snapped open and he pushed himself up onto one elbow.

"Hermione?" he whispered. The room was still dark but through a crack in the drapes, he could see the graying light of approaching dawn.

"I'm here."

At the sound of her voice, Draco turned around and found her sitting on the plush rug before the hearth, a down quilt wrapped around her bare shoulders. The fire had been stoked and its golden glow danced over Hermione's tousled curls and bathed her skin in delicious warmth. She gave him a sweet smile and held out her hand. Slipping from the warmth of their bed, Draco padded over to her; Hermione held open the quilt and Draco snuggled into it with her, sighing in renewed contentment once he had skin-to-skin contact with his witch.

"Are you okay? I woke up and you weren't there," he murmured into her shoulder with sleepy petulance, his lips pressing against the fragrant heat of her throat. "I hate that."

Hermione laughed softly, her fingers slipping through his hair. "You're just spoiled," she whispered, dipping her head to one side as he kissed his way up to the sensitive skin behind her ear. "I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep."

Draco smiled as he slipped one hand across her belly, tugging her closer until she was tucked firmly against his side. "You should've woken me up...I'm sure we could've thought of some way to pass the time."

"Exploding Snap, maybe? A long game of wizard's chess?" she replied with an impish smile on her lips.

"Maybe. Exploding probably would've figured into it somewhere." With the tips of his fingers, Draco guided her mouth to his. Kissing her was still so new to him, still rife with forbidden longing, that he was shaking like a first year walking into Snape's class for the first time. Hermione parted her lips for him, her tongue touching his with a shy sweetness that dispelled most of his anxiety and replaced it with a hunger that was far more familiar.

As with almost everything else in her life, Hermione had quickly mastered the fine art of kissing and turned it into a burning, seductive dance of lips and tongues that soon had Draco rock-hard and aching to once more find respite between his new wife's thighs. As the quilt slipped from their bodies to pool on the floor, Draco pulled Hermione onto his lap, her legs splaying out to either side of him, all without losing the intoxicating lock they had on each other's lips.

Hermione wound her legs around Draco's hips, pressing herself intimately against him, moaning into his mouth with feminine appreciation when she felt the rigid evidence of his desire for her sliding against her sensitive cunt.

Cupping her arse in both hands, Draco lifted her high enough so that she could reach between their bodies and guide him home. Hermione gasped into his mouth as he filled her; her fingers dug into his shoulders as her recently deflowered body strained to accept him again, so soon after their first passionate couplings. He pushed higher and pulled her closer until they were practically merging into each other, the sensation of flesh melting into flesh so fucking right that it made Draco shudder with the implication of it.

This is forever, he thought, filled with a kind of shining peace he'd never known before.

As if she sensed the tranquility suffusing him, Hermione stilled, her hands sliding up and over Draco's shoulders, and she pressed her forehead to his. Their eyes met and she smiled through a haze of tears. "I'm so glad you chose me, Draco. I love you so much, so much it aches."

Draco closed the distance between their lips, whispering her words back to her before covering her mouth gently with his own. The tension between them tightened inexorably and finally Draco shifted his hips restlessly beneath hers, trying to convey every drop of emotion in his body through the ancient dance of sex. Hermione's smothered moan sent pleasant little shivers of longing through his body and he swelled even more for her as she began undulating atop him, her skin growing slick with sweat beneath his hands.

His mind blanked as he surged up into Hermione's slick, swollen vagina, intent only on bringing about her pleasure and seeking his own. She was so responsive to his touch, that within moments she was weeping his name and writhing frantically on his cock, contracting around him so tightly Draco nearly followed her headlong into bliss.

As she sagged, gasping, against him, Draco smoothly shifted their bodies, rolling Hermione onto her back. He paused only long enough to stare hungrily down at her sleek, glistening body spread out atop the quilt like a newly unwrapped present. But when she reached up for him with heavy, slitted eyes and parted thighs, Draco groaned with his spiraling need and he pushed back inside her, so deeply that Hermione cried out with ecstasy.

Draco's tired muscles were protesting the stress he was putting on them and he wished he could just crawl inside her forever, let the heat and love in her body soothe and heal him, but the primal urge of a man for his mate was wiping all conscious thought from his mind and so he drove into her with increasing urgency. Hermione wrapped around him, her ankles locked beneath his arse, her arms clutching his. Her eyes never left his as he came with a hoarse shout, holding his trembling body close as he plunged into her one last time and filled her with his seed.

When the post-coital fuzziness finally cleared from Draco's brain, he pressed hot, open-mouthed kisses along the damp line of Hermione's collarbone before settling alongside her, his blond head pillowed against her breast, his hand possessively cupping its twin. "Please tell me I don't have to move for...oh...a month or two. I'm knackered."

Hermione giggled and smoothed her palm over his hair, pushing it off his damp forehead. "I thought you were taking me on a honeymoon to Austria. I've been cheated," she teased with a fetching pout on her kiss-reddened lips.

Draco raised his head to give her a smug look. "Oh, I see...I'm not enough for you, you greedy witch? Now you want expensive trips to exotic locales?" He poked his fingers into her sides and Hermione convulsed with giggles.

"Stop it! Stop! Draco..." Before she could wriggle away from his tickling fingers, Draco captured her hands in his and pinned them above her head. He loomed over her, his eyes dark with renewing desire. "I thought you were exhausted, husband," she whispered breathlessly even as her body arched towards his with carnal need.

Draco's grin was feral as he leaned over her, the ends of his hair brushing her skin. "I'd have to be dead before I'd be too tired to make love to you, wife," he said grinning, although he knew his body had reached its sexual limit for the night. His body maybe, but not his mouth or his hands. Giving her a sly raise of his eyebrows, Draco slid down Hermione's body, delighting in the sudden hitch in her breath as she realized his intent.

"Draco?"

"Hmmm?"

"Will I always be enough for you?"

Befuddled by all the truly magnificent sex he'd had that night, it took Draco a moment or two for Hermione's words to penetrate through the haze of desire.

"Don't be absurd. You're more woman than I can handle as it is." He dipped his head and laved the inside of one thigh with the flat of his tongue, grinning as she quivered at the sensual touch. He was edging closer to her cunt, getting high off of the salty-sweet taste of her skin, when he felt her hand on his head.

"Even when I'm old?" she whispered breathily as he parted her slippery flesh and touched the tip of his tongue to her clit. She gasped his name as he pressed deeper, sucking their combined juices off her labia. "Oh! Draco, God..."

"Present," he teased as he swirled his tongue around her clit again.

"P-prat!" She was panting now, her hips rising up to meet his hungry mouth. "I'll be wrinkled a-and my hair will be w-white..."

Draco hitched her legs up and apart, spreading her open. "And I probably won't be able to get it up anymore, but I could still do this..." he said, returning to his feast with an intensity that soon had Hermione wailing and twisting her hands in his hair. She soaked his chin and the quilt beneath them with a fresh wave of moisture and he lapped at her with long, lazy swipes of his tongue, until he'd drunk his fill of her.

Hermione's eyes were closed when he finally sat up and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Hermione?"

"Hmmm?"

"You think too hard sometimes."

She looked at him drowsily, reaching out to stroke his thigh. "Do I?"

Reluctantly, he caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips. "Regardless of what our life together brings, we belong to each other, Hermione, forever. And that thought fills me with..."

He paused, the proper words failing him. In the few months he'd loved Hermione Granger, Draco had found himself more and more willing to share his feelings with her, but there were times, like now, that the sharing itself was too raw, too naked. He closed his eyes wearily.

But Hermione knew. She always knew, with an intrinsic understanding of him that only his mother had ever had. She sat up and hugged him, her lips gentle and cool against his cheek. Draco leaned into her embrace, drawing comfort from her welcoming body and from the magic he knew coursed through her veins. Her arms surrounded him, just as her love surrounded his soul. He'd done nothing to deserve that love, but she gave it anyway, as freely as she gave of her heart to her friends, to his parents, to the lowliest house-elf in the kitchens. The thought that he'd always have her at his side, in his bed, in his life, was humbling. In all things, she was his - his witch, his partner, his wife.

"Joy," she whispered in his ear and he nodded in affirmation. Joy.

Their eyes met and in a fashion reminiscent of seeing one's life flash before their eyes, Draco saw their future; the pleasures and the inevitable pains of loving each other, of raising a family and seeing their children off to school, married, having children of their own. They would have a lifetime of sharing hopes and disappointments, surrounded by the people they loved and who loved them in turn. He saw himself growing old with Hermione and he saw them moving on to the next plane of existence when death claimed them at last.

But above all, they would be together.

Forever.

Chapter Text

"Darling, pacing like a tiger in a cage isn't going to make the time pass any quicker," Hermione said without looking up from her knitting. She still preferred knitting the Muggle way, that is to say, without magic, although Draco often teased her mercilessly about it. She turned the long needles deftly in her small hands, the glimmering white yarn slipping easily between her fingers.

"But, what's taking so fucking long?" Draco snapped, ignoring her softly spoken admonition as he dragged both hands through his pale shock of hair until it crackled with static electricity. He glared at the double doors that barred the way into his parents' bedroom, as if the very weight of his frustration would throw open the portal to admit him.

Hermione set aside her knitting and gazed fondly at her frantic husband. "Draco, she's having a baby. It's well known to be a time consuming process. Have a little patience, please."

Draco sighed dramatically as he threw himself down on the settee beside her, laying his head on her shoulder. Hermione reached up and patted his cheek, smiling as he took her hand in his and kissed her palm. "I'm scared, Granger. She's so fragile, Mum is."

"Oh, nonsense, Draco! Narcissa is one of the strongest women I know. She's going to be fine and you are going to be the most wonderful big brother in the history of big brothers," she said soothingly. She gave his cheek another pat. "Trust me."

He rolled his head back to gaze at her profile. "Are you planning on being this calm when ours is born?" he asked, cupping his hand over the barely-there bulge of her stomach. She'd only just started showing and Draco was so enchanted by the subtle changes happening in Hermione's body that he was having a more difficult time than usual keeping his hands off her.

Hermione smiled serenely and covered his hand with hers. "I honestly doubt that I'll be even a fraction as calm. You will be there with me, won't you?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world. I want to be with you every step of the way, Hermione."

Blinking quickly to forestall the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes, Hermione hastily picked up her knitting again, the polished wooden needles clacking together.

"What time is it?" she asked as she looped the yarn around her fingers.

Draco sat up and pulled a watch out of his pocket by its chain, flipping open the engraved case. "Twenty of two. What's taking so long, Hermione? It's been almost fifteen hours!"

"But she's only been in true labor for the last five or so. That's common, Draco."

"Who says?"

"Molly Weasley."

Draco pursed his lips, obviously wanting to argue the point but unable to in the face of Molly's indisputable authority on the subject of birthing babies.

"Well... I can't hear anything. Why can't we hear anything?" He stalked over to the door and pressed his ear against the wood, straining for some sign that Narcissa was safe and well. Hermione watched him with a wistful heart. His fists were tightly clenched, the tension in his body evident in the faint trembling of his lips.

Ever since Narcissa's contractions first began, just after lunch, Draco had been a nervous wreck. He'd followed his mother into her bedroom and sat with her while the house elves prepared for the midwife, a sharp-faced old witch who had been living in residence with the Malfoys since the beginning of Narcissa's third trimester. Lucius had spared no cost making sure that the remainder of his wife's pregnancy was utterly stress-free.

Only at Hermione's urging did Draco finally leave Narcissa's side, so that the midwife could do her job. Lucius remained behind to see his child into the world, something he'd missed with his eldest, to his everlasting regret.

And, so Draco had begun his anxious pacing, well into the night, as Hermione worked on the blanket she was knitting for the baby.

"Draco, they've put a silencing charm on the room. You know that," Hermione murmured as she marked her stitches and started the next row.

"A silencing charm... why? Do you think she's... God... do you think she's screaming?" he whispered, his gaze tortured. "She's in pain, isn't she?"

With a sigh, Hermione put aside the knitting again and stood up. When she put her arms around his waist and lay her cheek against his back, Draco sagged against her, clinging to her hands with something akin to fear. Hermione slipped one hand inside his robe, trailing her fingers over the light dusting of hair on his stomach. Draco turned in her arms and gathered her close, burying his face in her curls. "I'm sorry," he said into the wild and fragrant mass.

"Sorry? Why?"

He looked down at her concerned face, tracing her jaw with the tip of one finger. "I'm sorry that you'll have to go through this. That... that the pleasure we share means pain for you."

"Oh, Draco! Don't you realize that it's worth it? It's worth every second of it because what it really means is that our love has produced a baby. A little son or daughter of our very own, and if that means a little bit of discomfort, then so be it. Personally, I'll cherish that pain because it means I'm bringing a life into the world."

Draco stared down at her, unable to find the words that would adequately express the complete adoration he held for her. In the months since their courtship and wedding, every day brought a deepening of their love and never in all his short life had Draco imagined he could be so happy. Cupping Hermione's face in his palms, he kissed her, his mouth grazing over hers softly before seeking deeper access, which she gladly gave him.

Despite the late hour and Draco's exhaustion, things heated quickly between them, as it ever did. Draco dug his fingers into Hermione's hair, spilling it over his hands as he crushed his lips to hers. Her tongue met his eagerly as he sought to plunder the sweet depths of her mouth, tasting the smoky flavor of her last cup of herbal tea and the fainter taste of the summer blackberries they'd eaten after supper. He breathed a moan into her mouth and she answered with one of her own, her hands sliding into his robe and just beneath the waistband of his pajama pants.

Abandoning her lips, Draco moved across her flushed cheeks and along the side of her neck, nibbling at her soap-scented skin until she was writhing shamelessly against his body. "Mmmm, Draco, oh right there! Oh, you feel so good..." Hermione whimpered as Draco tugged aside the satin collar of her robe to draw his tongue along the curve of her collarbone, pausing long enough to suckle blood to the surface, leaving a blushing mark on her golden skin. They were so engrossed in loving each other, that neither heard the bedroom door open behind them.

"Ahem."

They sprang apart, Hermione flushing brightly as Lucius raised his eyebrows in amusement. "Am I interrupting something?" he asked, crossing his arms over his chest and grinning at the embarrassed couple.

While Hermione tightened the tie on her robe and pulled the collar back into place, Draco took a step towards his father. Lucius looked tired, but his pale eyes gleamed with a soul-deep happiness that stripped years from his handsome face.

"Father?" Draco said tentatively. Hopefully.

"Your mother is asking for you both," he said simply, standing aside so Draco could rush past him into the dimly lit bedroom. Hermione paused to hug Lucius close before following her husband to Narcissa's bedside.

All evidence that a woman had just given birth had been vanished by the midwife, leaving behind an exhausted, but glowing Narcissa, propped up against a mountain of snowy white pillows and draped in a pale lilac dressing gown. Her golden hair, neatly tied back with a simple ribbon, was limp with perspiration, her pale skin even more wan in the glow of candlelight, but to Draco she looked beautiful. And nothing could diminish the joyous expression on her face as she gazed down at the tiny, blanketed infant squirming in her arms.

She smiled sweetly at him and held out her hand. "Draco, come meet your sister."

Draco perched gingerly on the bed beside his mother. With trembling hands, he touched the baby, caressing the flushed velvet of her cheek with one finger. "She's so small, Mum... is she healthy?" he asked, giving Narcissa a worried look.

The baby, sensing his gentle touch, turned her head in Draco's direction, one tiny fist flailing in the air. He caught it, rubbing his thumb over her fingers, his lips moving silently as he counted each one. Narcissa cooed down at the child as she cried out with a sound not unlike that of a baby lamb.

"She's quite healthy. Healthy, and beautiful, and precious. Would you like to hold her, darling?"

Draco looked vaguely horrified at the suggestion, but obediently held out his arms as Narcissa eased the baby into them. Lucius walked around to the other side of the bed and crawled up next to his wife, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and gazing with heartbreaking pride on his son and newborn daughter. Hermione, with tears sparkling on her lashes, gave Narcissa a quick hug and kiss on the cheek before turning to watch Draco stare down at his new sister with a wondrous expression.

"She's so beautiful, Narcissa," Hermione murmured, kneeling beside Draco and catching the infant's fingers around hers. "Draco? Isn't she lovely?"

Draco lifted the child higher to place a soft kiss to her brow. "She's perfect. I'm going to be the best big brother you've ever had, little girl," he whispered into the downy fuzz covering the infant's head. He then looked up at Hermione, sharing a secret smile with her, knowing that the sort of happiness his parents were sharing at this very moment would be theirs in a few short months.

"I can't wait to be a father," he said simply.

Hermione pressed her lips to Draco's as the baby dozed, instinctually sensing that she was safe and well loved. With a knowing smile on her wizened face, the midwife slipped out of the bedroom and closed the door behind her, leaving the Malfoy family to celebrate new beginnings.

~fin~

Chapter Text

One of Draco Malfoy's greatest pleasures in life was watching his wife skillfully work a room.

Leaning back against the wall, a champagne flute dangling from his long fingers, he watched Hermione as she glided through the ballroom, from one table to another, charming the stuffiest of wizards. Even the most patronizing witches would pull her aside to admire her jewelry, the finest diamonds Malfoy money could buy, or her sleek, custom-designed gown, or the elegant sweep of dark curls that spilled over her bare shoulders. Their admiration for the young woman was blatant and Hermione accepted it with her usual self-deprecating grace.

In the years since Draco had been forced to choose a Muggleborn witch to marry, he'd grown ever more dazzled by Hermione Malfoy's power and natural beauty. It was only appropriate, in his opinion, that everyone else in the wizarding world share his sentiment.

Hermione looked especially lovely tonight. At six months pregnant, she glowed with an inner light that seemed to envelope everyone fortunate enough to be standing near her. She was dressed in a form-fitting gown of the palest ice-blue satin, cut scandalously low in back and hugging the rounded bulge of her stomach.

Unlike most witches who tended to favor the traditional and modest maternity robes common in their society, Hermione had embraced each of her three pregnancies, confidently dressing in clothing that showcased her changing body rather than hiding it from view. While she was carrying their first child, Devon, she attended a Ministry charity ball in a flowing white gown that exposed her generous cleavage to the extent that the Minister of Magic had tripped over his own wife's fur cloak as they greeted the Malfoys, his bulging gaze fastened on Hermione's plump breasts.

Lucius had been livid, even going so far as to lecture Hermione almost to tears on the conduct of a 'proper Malfoy wife." However, it got him nowhere and he gave up once faced with both Narcissa's and Hermione's inflexibility on the issue.

Draco, after an initial period of jealous rage due to the rabid attention she garnered from other men, quickly learned that a happy, pregnant Hermione was an amorous and very enthusiastic Hermione indeed. Draco would have heartily approved of her strolling starkers through Knockturn Alley if it kept her content and receptive to his affection.

With narrowed eyes, Draco watched as Hermione tossed her head back, laughing merrily at something Adrian Pucey, the newest Deputy Minister of International Magical Cooperation, was whispering in her ear. Her left hand rested on his arm; the large platinum-set diamond on her ring finger sparkled in the light of the chandelier overhead. Draco took a sip of his champagne, licking his lips as Pucey touched Hermione's bare back, his fingers lingering a moment too long for Draco's taste.

Setting the glass down on a nearby table, Draco crossed the ballroom floor, his silver silk robes billowing behind him.

"Pucey. You aren't trying to seduce my wife, are you?" Draco drawled as he joined Adrian and Hermione. To his satisfaction, the older man quickly stepped away, his hand dropping back to his side.

"Draco! Darling, be polite," Hermione replied, giving Draco a dazzling smile. "Adrian was just telling me about his latest trip to Serbia. He ran into Viktor at the Ministry in Belgrade."

"Really? How is old Krum these days?" Draco said as he looped one arm around Hermione's waist and pulled her against his side. Giving Adrian a lazy smirk, he leaned down and kissed Hermione's bare shoulder, his lips lingering against her smooth, fragrant skin. He felt her tremble delicately and he grinned, pleased that he could elicit such a reaction from her with nothing more than a single kiss.

When he raised his head, their eyes met and it was his turn to shiver in desire. Hermione's dark eyes burned lustfully and she gave him a teasing smile, one that promised a long night of carnal delight. With his other hand, he caressed the swell of her abdomen, wordlessly asserting his claim to both her and their child. Adrian dipped his head briefly, an amused smile on his handsome face.

"Hermione has been kind enough to tell me about her proposal regarding educational reform. It's brilliant, of course, and I've pledged my support," Adrian said mildly, keeping his eyes on Draco in an effort to silently reassure the prickly young man that he had no designs on his tempting wife.

Hermione turned towards Draco, still encased within the circle of his arm. She smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling with excitement. "Adrian's going to set the proposal before the International committee and try to engage both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons as well! It would be wonderful if all three magical institutions – the other being Hogwarts, of course - could share a uniform curriculum. If all goes well, we could extend the program abroad, to Salem Institute and the Académie de Magie Québec!"

For a moment, Draco drank in the sight of her. She felt so good in his arms, so warm and familiar, that his heart ached with love for her. He didn't deserve her, not by half, but when she looked at him the way she was now, as if he were the most important man in the room... well, to say that he was smitten would be an understatement.

"I think it's a wonderful idea and I have no doubt in my mind that you'll be able to convince the educational committee that it's the best option for reform. Now, if Pucey would excuse us, I'd like to have the next dance."

With a murmur of assent, Adrian moved off and Draco led Hermione to the dance floor and pulled her into his arms. He held her tightly to his chest, content for the moment to simply hold her and breathe in the scent of her hair. Hermione laid her head on his shoulder, sighing with contentment. They were so wrapped up in each other that they missed the fond and knowing looks of their friends and acquaintances.

The tempestuous romance of Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger – from childhood enemies to devoted lovers – was a well-known fairytale. Long gone were the days when an angry, misguided Draco would taunt and threaten the brilliant, Muggleborn witch. By a controversial, and fortuitous, edict by the Ministry of Magic, they were betrothed and not a day went by that Draco didn't offer praise to God that he was blessed with Hermione and their two, soon to be three, children.

"You look a million miles away," Hermione murmured, reaching up to touch his forehead, smoothing the faint lines that had gathered there. "What's troubling you?"

He grasped her hand and brought it to his lips, bestowing a kiss upon each finger. "Nothing at all. I was just thinking about you and our children. About how beautiful each of you are. Even this little one," he said, dropping their joined hands to her stomach. They began to sway gently together, not as much to the music surrounding them but to the tune of their own bodies.

"Devon and Gelsey are beautiful, absolutely. Me, however...I'm just fat," Hermione said dryly. Draco's lips curved into a frown, however.

"That's bloody nonsense and you know it. If anything, you're even more beautiful than usual. I like when you're pregnant. I may just keep you that way, what do you think about that, Madam Malfoy?"

Hermione's laugh was a joyous sound that attracted the attention of nearby dancers. "You must want something, because you are laying it on thick," she teased.

"You know what I want," Draco teased, nipping at the tender flesh just below one diamond-adorned ear. "Naked and spread out on our bed, begging me to fuck you, would be a start."

"Draco! Goodness, you're incorrigible!" Hermione gasped with feigned shock. "What would our guests think?"

Draco's hand skimmed over her silken hip and boldly cupped her bum. "They'd wonder what was taking me so long dragging you upstairs," he whispered in her ear, punctuating the lustful growl with a lick to the delicate curve of flesh. "I want you, Hermione. I want you so badly I can hardly stand it."

All pretense of humor disappeared from Hermione's face, to be replaced by a desperate, mounting desire. "Don't, Draco. We have guests," she whispered as he molded his body to hers, the evidence of his yearning for her pressing against her belly.

"I don't care," he whispered, surreptitiously grinding himself against Hermione as she moaned helplessly. "I want these people to leave. Now. I want you."

Hermione turned her head, their lips meeting, and it was all Draco could do to not rut against her like a randy dog. The kiss was light; to the casual observer, it was nothing more than an affectionate peck between spouses, but to Draco and Hermione it was a scorching prelude to the night ahead. Hermione's fingers tightened on his arms, her lips parting just enough to welcome the tip of his tongue inside. She touched it with her own, stroking the damp, tender skin just inside his bottom lip.

"Mmmm, champagne," Hermione moaned, looking up at him through her lashes. "You taste bubbly."

"God, woman... the things I'm going to do to you. You won't be able to..."

"Draco." The voice was cultured and smooth, but unwelcome all the same. Draco glanced over and found his father giving him a raised eyebrow and a cautionary smile.

"Father."

Lucius's pale gaze flicked over to Hermione, whose cheeks were now flushed like those of a naughty child. "I think I would like to share a dance with my daughter-in-law. Go attend your mother."

Draco gritted his teeth but knew that Lucius was wise in separating him from his wife for the moment. With a willpower he hardly realized he possessed, Draco stepped away from Hermione and arranged his robes, thankful for the well-tailored trousers holding his erection at bay. Hermione gave him a wistful little smile as Lucius whirled her into a waltz and into the crowd of dancers.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath and willing his body to relax, Draco went in search of Narcissa.

*****

It was well past midnight by the time the last guest left Malfoy Manor and the house-elves set about cleaning the ballroom. After bidding his parents goodnight, Draco and Hermione hurried down the wide hallway leading to their wing of the manor, eager to reach the privacy of their spacious suite and the solace of each other's arms.

Stepping aside so Hermione could precede him into the sitting room, Draco reached out and caressed her bum on her way past. She tossed him a flirtatious look as she continued on into the bedroom.

"I hope you weren't planning on getting a good night's sleep, Hermione," he drawled as he loosened his tie and shrugged out of his robes. "I plan on keeping you very busy."

He paused in the doorway, his words trailing off. Hermione turned to look at him, a finger pressed to her lips. She gestured towards the bed.

Curled together on the silk duvet lay their children, their tiny hands clasped together as they soundly slept. They were in their nightclothes and bare feet; six year old Devon's burnished bronze curls contrasting with three year old Gelsey's thick platinum tresses as they cuddled close, rosy cheeks pressed together. They were a perfect vision of sweet innocence.

Hermione drew closer and sat on the bed beside Gelsey. She gently rubbed the backs of her fingers along the little girl's cheek. "Gelsey. Gels, wake up, darling," she whispered, gently coaxing the child to consciousness. "There's my sweet, sleepy girl!"

"Mummy..." Gelsey whispered, turning away from her brother to curl against Hermione's swollen belly. "Wanted to see you after the party, Mummy."

"Did you now? You should be in your own bed, my sweet," Hermione murmured soothingly as she cuddled the child close, pressing a gentle kiss to the top of her head. Sensing the loss of his sister's comforting presence, Devon's eyes opened and he too scooted closer to Hermione, until he was pressed against her side. He curled his arm around Gelsey and slipped his fingers into his mother's hand, then promptly fell back to sleep, snoring softly against Gelsey's shoulder.

Draco could honestly say that nothing on earth gave him more pleasure than to watch his family during moments like this. They were happy, they were safe, and they were his entire life, his sole reason for existence. He knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he would go to the ends of the earth and beyond for them.

Draco crossed over to the bed, basking in Hermione's loving and still amorous smile. He slid his hands into the mass of her hair and gently tugged her head back. Their lips met in a deep, languid kiss, tongues swirling sinuously together. Even with their drowsy children between them, their desire for one another was blistering. He trailed kisses along her jaw line, before pressing his lips against her ear.

"Let's put these two to bed, before I lose control and shag you senseless with them in the room."

Hermione laughed and smacked him on the chest. "You would, wouldn't you? You're so depraved, Draco Malfoy. I honestly don't know why I agreed to marry you."

"You didn't have a choice, as I recall. And, in any case, all it took was one night in my bed and you were practically dragging me down the aisle," Draco teased as he lifted Devon into his arms. The little boy grunted softly and burrowed his face against Draco's shoulder. Hermione followed suit, Gelsey cradled against her chest, and her arms and legs twined around her mother.

"As I recall, Mr. Malfoy, I had you gagging for it for months. You were like a pathetic, starving puppy, following me around all hours of the night and day. I could barely function for you groping at me all the time," Hermione replied tartly, but as she walked past him, she let her hand trail lightly over his groin. "Mmmm... you are an anxious boy, aren't you?"

Draco bit back a groan as her touch reawakened his passion. "You're playing with fire, witch."

Looking back at him, over the top of her daughter's pale head, Hermione blew him a kiss. "I can't wait for you to make me burn."

The children's nursery was across the hall. Each had their own bedroom, which adjoined a central playroom. Another adjacent room, once used for nannies, had been turned into a quiet retreat for Hermione and the new baby, once he or she arrived.

After getting both children tucked into their own beds, with stuffed toys and lots of kisses and proclamations of love, Hermione and Draco made their way back to their suite.

Draco crossed immediately to the bed, which had been turned down in their absence by the attentive house-elves, the pillows fragrant with the heady scent of Narcissa's own roses. Hermione, with another kiss blown in his direction, continued on into her dressing room and Draco could hear her humming as she prepared for bed. He stripped out of his clothing and with a casual flick of his wand, sent them flying off in the direction of his own wardrobe, then stretched out nude on the cool sheets. While he waited for Hermione, he cupped his hand over his cock, loosely encircling the semi-rigid flesh and stroking himself to the tune of his wife puttering around in her en suite bath.

"Granger?"

"Coming," she called out. "Don't start without me."

Draco grinned, brushing his thumb lightly over the slick glans. "Wouldn't dream of it. But, I'd advise you to move your arse before I change my mind."

Her laughter was throaty and so full of promise that Draco shivered all over and he closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to stem the rising flood of passion threatening to overtake him. When he opened them again, Hermione had emerged from the bathroom and while he pushed himself up onto his elbows, watching her with hungry eyes, she waved her hand to dim the lights. She glided towards him, still graceful despite the bulge of their child beneath her breasts.

"You look magnificent," Draco whispered.

And indeed she did. Clad in a diaphanous negligee of black chiffon, her hair flowing down her back in a waterfall of warm, brown curls, Hermione was every inch a woman. His woman, his witch. Draco was again thankful that she was his and that she loved him every bit as much as he loved her.

"You're overdressed," he said as he turned over onto his knees, crawling to the edge of the mattress as she approached.

"This old thing?" she said, twirling around. The floaty fabric swirled around her legs and Draco could see that she was gloriously nude beneath the offending robe. He raised up, his now-erect cock bobbing between them.

"I've been waiting all night for you, Hermione. Don't tease me any longer," he pleaded, wishing he could hide the plaintive need in his voice. Hermione's smile faded and she came to him then, rushing into his arms and flinging herself against his body.

"Oh, Draco..." she moaned as his hands made quick work of the black negligee, the garment flung aside as he pulled her onto the bed. Hermione arched up as he slipped his hand between her thighs, gently parting her swollen, tender flesh. He knew, after their years of marriage, which touches would drive her wild, which words he could whisper in her ear that would have her spreading her legs in wanton invitation.

Draco knew Hermione's body as well as his own, worshipped it as he would pray to the gods. He had learned from Hermione's previous pregnancies that she was extraordinarily responsive during this time, her body so attuned to his and thrumming with the magic that made them what they were that he could scarcely keep up with her accelerated libido.

Almost instantly, Hermione was writhing against his hand, her fingers clutching at his arm so tightly he could feel the sting of her fingernails in his skin. She turned her face towards his chest, her breath coming in hot, moist pants. He looked down at her, drinking in the sight of her flushed cheeks and riotous tangle of hair spread across the sheets.

"Draco, God... please..." she whispered harshly against his skin, her fingernails digging half-moons in his arm as her hips arched awkwardly off the bed.

Draco leaned over her as her mouth opened in a wail of pleasure. "Come for me, Hermione. Come all over me," he said, before pressing his mouth to hers, his tongue plunging past her lips, her teeth, to swirl around her own. He swallowed her muffled scream as he brushed his thumb directly across her clit, once, then twice. A third time had Hermione practically levitating in his arms. It took such little effort, he mused to himself, to have her begging him for more. Such an enthusiastic kitten, his lovely Hermione.

The scrape of Hermione's fingernails on his scalp preceded her fisting her hand in his hair and wrenching her mouth from his. For a bare moment, an apology sprang to Draco's lips, only to fade away when he saw the look of raw need in her dark eyes. "Fuck me, Draco," she whispered harshly, her crude words sending a refreshed bolt of lust straight to Draco's cock.

"My pleasure." Withdrawing his slippery fingers from between her thighs, Draco caressed her stomach lovingly, then pressed a lingering kiss above her navel. "Ride me tonight?"

He lay back on the bed as Hermione rolled onto her side. As she supported herself against his chest with one hand, Draco helped her straddle his hips. She still retained much of her natural grace, but the extra weight of their child made skillful maneuvering next to impossible. By the time she was poised above him, she was a bit winded and they were both giggling madly.

As she guided him into her body, sinking onto his cock with a sigh of contentment, Hermione grinned impishly down at Draco. "This must be like having sex with Shamu."

Draco, too caught up in the delicious friction of Hermione surrounding his now very happy penis, frowned distractedly. "What's a shamu?" He reached around and cupped her arse with both hands as she lifted herself up and down.

"Never mind," Hermione said with an affectionate smile. "Just love me."

"Always."

For several long minutes, those were the last coherent words they spoke. Instead, they communicated in an age-old language, one that was spoken in soft, guttural moans and loving caresses. Hermione leaned over as far as her stomach would allow, her hands braced for balance on Draco's shoulders and her hips rising and falling over his as she instinctively sought her pleasure with his body as her instrument.

Draco watched her with a desperate hunger as her head fell back once more, her lush body trembling again with the force of her orgasm. She was so incredibly receptive tonight; she'd already come twice and he'd yet to reach his own peak.

As she slumped bonelessly over him, Draco carefully eased her off of him and onto her back. Hermione braced her feet on the bed and lifted her hips as she reached up to cup her own breasts, fingers lightly tweaking her dark, stiff nipples. "Don't forget a pillow," she gasped, but he'd already anticipated her request and had grabbed one of the many pillows piled at the head of the bed and tucked it beneath her hips.

"I've trained you well, haven't I?" Hermione said, giggling happily, as Draco maneuvered back between her upraised thighs. She watched him from beneath heavily lidded eyes as he spread her open again and pushed back inside. As he filled her completely, he brushed his thumb over her over-sensitized clit and she shuddered as the pleasure built again within her womb. "Mmmm... oh, do that again. And again again again again!"

The delicious feel of her cunt sheathing him had completely befuddled Draco's mind; he pulled back slowly, savoring the silken-wet sensation, then slammed forward with a jerk of his hips. Hermione cried out, flinging her arms out to grip handfuls of the bedding as Draco set a punishing rhythm. He pulled her legs higher, until she was holding him within the cradle of her hips, helpless under his sensual assault.

"God, Hermione... you are... so... perfect. So fucking perfect..." Draco gasped as his thrusting grew increasingly erratic. He could feel his impending orgasm building at the base of his spine and between his trembling thighs, spiraling outward with each powerful lunge of his hips. Within moments, Draco was spilling inside her, filling Hermione with his warm seed as his vision darkened around the edges from the intensity of his climax.

Slumping forward, Draco pressed his sweat-damp forehead to Hermione's stomach, smiling as he felt the gentle flutterings of his child beneath the surface. "Sorry, baby," he drawled sleepily. "Did Mum and Dad wake you up?"

He reverently placed a tender kiss on the fullest part of Hermione's belly as he crawled up to lay beside her. She turned her head and smiled at him.

"I love you," she whispered, turning onto her side and snuggling into the circle of his arms. "Scoot over, the pillow's wet."

Draco laughed, but obliged her by reaching down and jerking the pillow from beneath her arse and tossing it over the side of the bed. Hermione sighed happily and cuddled close again. "Mmmm... where was I?"

Draco smoothed the damp curls from her neck and kissed her at the juncture of her shoulder, sucking lazily at the soft skin there. "You were telling me what a fabulous, incomparable lover I am. I'm still listening."

Hermione smacked his bare stomach playfully. "Think rather highly of yourself, do you? Although I will give you that... you are incomparable as I have no one with whom to compare you."

Draco caught her wrist in his hand, pulling it up to his lips. "Nor will you, my love," he murmured against her fingers. "If you ever feel the need to bring another man to your bed, send a killing curse my way first, for I don't think I could bear it."

She was in his arms in the space of a moment, peppering his face with frantic kisses. "Don't say such things, Draco! You're my love, my only true love, and I think I would die of grief if anything happened to you!" With a capricious turn of mood common to expectant witches, her dark, expressive eyes filled with tears. "Please say you won't ever leave me!"

Startled by Hermione's sudden lament, Draco turned to face her fully, curving his body around hers and cupping her face in his hands. With his thumbs he swept away the tears streaming over her flushed cheeks, then kissed her trembling lips again and again until she sighed fitfully into his mouth, parting her lips eagerly for his exploration.

Once he'd kissed her into silence, Draco pulled away, gazing deeply into her drowsy eyes. "My beautiful girl has had a very long evening, hasn't she?" he said, rubbing the backs of his fingers over her cheek.

"I'm not a child, Draco," she said petulantly even as her eyes drooped shut. Draco smiled softly and carefully tucked her into his embrace, while silently summoning the rumpled blankets to cover them.

"No, but you're heavy with mine and it's made you a bit tired, don't you think? Go to sleep, Granger. Go to sleep and have happy dreams."

Draco kissed the tip of her nose, but Hermione had already dozed off. He watched her until sleep claimed him as well.

~The End~