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Present day

“This is it,” Hermione said brightly. “We’re here.”

Draco could feel their car slowing to a crawl. Hermione had insisted he would be lesscarsick” if he kept his eyes on the road, but about a half hour into their drive, he could no longer stomach watching a whizzing landscape while trapped in a flimsy hunk of aluminum. So he had closed his eyes and hoped for the best.

Driving was far too claustrophobic for his tastes. He much preferred flying. Or apparating. Or floo. Hell, he’d even prefer the bloody sidecar on Hagrid’s motorbike.

They jerked to a stop with a sickening squeal of rubber tires on snow. Draco’s eyes popped open as he lurched forward, the blasted seat belt digging into his waist and shoulders.

“Sorry!” Hermione squeaked. She tried to jolt the stick into a different position, but the engine was dead.

“Damn it. I forgot to pull out of gear.” She clicked the little red buttons to his right and her left, and wriggled out of her seatbelt. Draco hissed in relief as he jerked free from his own Muggle torture device.

“Are you alright?” She turned his face to hers, as if to inspect for damage. 

No. In fact, I nearly covered this blasted car in vomit.

He bit his tongue and forced himself to give a sharp nod instead of speaking. Hermione sighed.

“I’ve put you off riding in cars forever, haven’t I?” she said, running her thumb over his pale cheek.

Yes, he wanted to snark back. But now was not the time for brutal honesty. Not when they were both was so nervous. And not when she was looking at him so sweetly and apologetically.

He deflected with a shrug.

“You did so well." She leaned forward to kiss the tip of his nose, and then proceeded to fuss over the drive.

Privately, Draco thought he deserved an award for tolerating Hermione’s questionable driving for nearly an hour. She had cursed under her breath more than once as angry Muggle drivers honked at and swerved around her, and the jolting and shuddering that ensued every time she moved that stick was nothing short of terrifying. Draco swore that his left armrest had permanent indentations from how tightly he had gripped it.

He didn’t blame her for her less-than-stellar driving skills. After all, she had just learned how to drive in a few hurried lessons (with a thoroughly confunded Muggle instructor to boot). Still, he was mildly irritated by her refusal to use any magical transportation.

“It’s too risky,” she'd said. “They think we’re traveling from Edinburgh, remember? We can’t risk being spotted at a rental place nearby.”

He had tried to argue with her for a bit before accepting that it was simply not a battle he could hope to win. She was not thinking rationally about this visit. And he understood why.

He watched her while she continued to fret, her cheeks pink from the cold and her hazel eyes large and animated.

“—still can’t believe those Muggles who kept passing me. On a slippery road, no less. Honestly, they must have a death wish!”

“Mmm,” said Draco. (Personally, he could hardly blame them, as she had been driving at least 20 km per hour under the speed limit).

She broke off after a time, shaking her head in stern disapproval. Draco’s lips curved upward.

The fact that he found her faults and quirks hopelessly adorable was a sign of just how far he was gone. Indeed, even if she had crashed the car and killed them both, he probably would have hurtled through the air smiling about how he was still the luckiest bastard in the world.

Because he was. They had survived the war together, against all odds. They were free to make choices that felt impossibly luxurious just a year and a half ago. And Hermione Granger— beautiful, brilliant, loving, loyal, infuriatingly stubborn Hermione— had chosen to be his.

“No need to fuss. We’re alive, aren’t we?” he said, tucking a long, loose curl behind her ear. He skated his thumb over her pouting bottom lip. Then he leaned in and kissed her soundly.

When they were both sufficiently breathless, he pulled away. The dazed look on her face pleased him more than he’d admit. He’d never get tired of being the only man who could thoroughly fluster and distract Hermione Granger.

 

********************************

Two years and four months ago

The first time he kissed her, they had been up late arguing at Grimmauld Place.

Their Order meeting had run longer than expected, and of course Kingsley had saved the most difficult item on their agenda for last.

“As you know, Remus was unable to join us tonight. Given his circumstances, his contact with the Order continues to puts him at great personal risk,” he said.  

There was a silence following this ominous announcement.

“He has suggested that his time with his pack should perhaps… come to an end,” Kinglsey continued. “He’s made little headway in convincing his fellows to our cause, and his presence is barely tolerated as is. He suspects the pack leader is in routine contact with Death Eaters. Draco?”

All heads at the table swiveled to look at him.  

Draco arched a pale eyebrow. He had told them Lupin’s mission was useless weeks ago. Caught on finally, had they?

He schooled the irritation from his features. “The Dark Lord has made substantial headway with the werewolves. He and Greyback have every major pack leader in Britain and France under their thumb. It’s only a matter of time before the smaller ones fall in line.”

He picked a long orange hair off his robes. Bloody cat.

“Lupin would be wise to leave, lest he get himself killed.”

Kingsley nodded heavily. “Very well, then. I’ll give him the marching orders the next time we speak.” He pushed back his chair. “That concludes us for the evening.”

Chairs began scraping as people prepared to leave.

“Unbelievable,” an indignant voice rang out from the other side of the table.

Granger.

The same witch Draco had staunchly avoided looking at all night, as if Medusa herself sat in her chair.

Granger had been a pesky little problem for him since the moment he arrived to spy for the Order. The problem was, anytime he did look at her, he couldn’t stop staring. At her mouth. At the dip in her neck bridging her delicate collarbones. At the way she chewed her hair whenever she was thinking, which he had tried (but failed) to find disgusting. Her hair was longer than ever, and the length had weighed down her formerly bushy mane into a mass of soft, loose curls. He couldn’t stop staring at it even when she wasn’t chewing on it.

Above all, he avoided eye contact with her. Because even the briefest moment of meeting her overlarge eyes left him feeling raw and exposed. And there was no feeling Draco liked less.

He wasn’t sure when the bookworm had become so bloody beautiful, but here they were. And it seemed to be getting worse.

He had resolved to stay away from her. He hadn't trusted himself not to do something stupid. But he thought about her constantly, which both irritated and unnerved him. She was distracting him from his goals. To protect his mother. To save his family’s legacy. To survive in a world he actually cared to live in.

He disliked her for distracting him— not to mention her insufferable bullheadedness.

He definitely, most certainly, disliked her.

At present, the witch in question was looking positively deadly in the wake of her outburst.

Arthur, Molly, Ginny, Moody, and Neville quickly began mumbling their excuses, and proceeded to make a hasty exit. Within moments, only Kingsley, Draco, and the Golden Trio remained. They eyed each other warily.

“Do grace us with your thoughts,” said Draco, unable to resist the bait.

She ignored him.

“I guess I’m curious as to why we’re giving up so easily,” she said, voice trembling with anger.

“I suppose you want to see Lupin killed, Granger? Funny, I never had you pegged as the heartless type.”

“Of course I don’t want him killed, Malfoy."  She shot him a dirty look before turning back to Kingsley. “But giving up on them is heartless, too. I’ve said for months that we should send other magical creatures as envoys. We can show them what we’ve done for the centaurs who have joined our cause. The giants.”

Potter pinched the bridge of his nose, and Draco felt a rush of sympathy for him. She really was incorrigible.

“We’re promising them rights,” she pressed on. “Equal citizenship. A society that treats them with dignity. Exactly how much of this has Lupin been authorized to share?”

“Now is not the time to argue about a strategy decided on months ago,” said Kingsley. “Remus is in very real danger. I will not continue to endanger him for a mission that is highly unlikely to succeed.”

“Then bring him home, and let’s find another way! We hardly could have expected him to succeed, could we? They’re terrified of Greyback and You-Know-Who! It’s going to take much more than a single werewolf who can’t even speak openly about what the Order can do to protect them.”

“What you’re asking us to do would put even more lives at risk, and take an amount of resources that we simply do not have.”

“So you’ll condemn them to die fighting for You-Know-Who, then, if they don’t kill us first. Because we were too cowardly to approach them like human beings.” Her voice was dripping with disgust.  

“You forget how little werewolves trust anyone but their own. There are too few of them on our side as is, and we had a late start.”  Kingsley stood up, looking exhausted. “I’m afraid my thoughts on this are final. There are no other dissenters, and it’s my duty to ensure we don’t waste the Order’s resources on an improbable cause.”

Granger's eyes glittered with anger as she tracked Kingsley across the room. He paused when he reached the door.

“Assuming we win, any surviving werewolves who were coerced into fighting against us will be shown leniency. It’s the best we can do.” He turned and left, closing the door behind him.  

“You!” She whipped her head around to glare at Draco.  “This is your fault!”

“Hermione—”

“I don’t want to hear it, Harry Potter! Fat lot of help you were back there. Both of you!” She gestured angrily at Weasley, who sunk lower in his seat.

“What exactly is my fault, Granger?” Draco leaned forward, relishing the way her eyes were fixed on him. “My honesty? Would you have preferred I lied to the Order so you could have a chance at protecting your precious werewolves?”

“You made it seem hopeless!”

“It is hopeless. Ten points to Gryffindor for figuring that one out.” 

They were all on their feet now.

“Oh, and that’s why you’re here, Malfoy, because of how hopeless our cause is. You do realize that hundreds, if not thousands of people are going to be on the frontlines against us, fighting for a cause that will only bring them more suffering, because we were too cowardly to meet them face-to-face?”

Potter crossed the room before Draco could muster a reply. He touched her arm, and she flinched, but did not pull away. Her eyes reluctantly flickered away from Draco.

“There are plenty of hills for us to die on, Hermione. But this is not the one. There are too many who still need us." Potter seemed to hold his breath for a moment. "I know how hard it is to leave people behind, and I’m sorry.”

She closed her eyes and nodded curtly, her lips pressed in a thin line.

Potter turned to Weasley and gave him a weary nod. “Let’s go.” 

“I’m not leaving her alone with Malfoy," said Weasley. 

“Believe me, Weasel, I have no desire to be left alone with her either,” Draco lied.

Granger scowled, a muscle twitching in her cheek. “Go to bed, Ron. I can handle myself.”

“Let the two of them sort this out,” said Potter, pinching the bridge of his nose. “We’ll talk this over more in the morning.”

Two months ago, Draco had warned the Order about an imminent ambush at Fleur and Bill Weasley's home, where the Weaslette was staying at the time. His relationship with Potter had improved ever since. Ron Weasley, however, was a different story. Most days, they still wanted to murder each other. Including today.

Weasley glared from Draco to Granger, his ears a violent shade of red, before storming off. Potter shrugged and followed him, giving Draco a nearly imperceptible nod as he left.

Alone. They were alone. A scenario that, if Draco was being honest with himself, he had fantasized about a thousand times.

Heat coursed through his body as they sized each other up from across the room. She still looked angry, but she looked uncertain, too. Curious, even.

It occurred to him that they might never have another moment alone. 

Two years of war had made him painfully aware of his own mortality. He'd seen the piles of bodies on both sides. People he'd known for a lifetime, their heartbeats silenced in the blink of an eye. No one was safe. Not him, not her. Not his mother. There was no guarantee any of them would even make it to the next week.

The thought made his stomach clench.

If he died, Kingsley would share the news at that very table. Molly would cry, and perhaps the Weaslette, too, since she'd been nice to him ever since he saved her skin. Would Granger shed a tear for him? Or would she think of all the times he'd ignored her, and all his biting remarks— and coldly put him to rest in her mind’s eye?

And what of him? When he looked into the Dark Lord’s hideous face a final time, he would certainly think of his mother. But somehow, he knew, he'd also think of her. A woman he couldn’t stand to be around simply because she was clever, beautiful, and impossibly good.

He'd told himself it was merely attraction. That he could fight it if he tried. But he couldn't explain why catching a glimpse of her smile was the best part of his week. Why he had trouble sleeping when he knew she was on a mission. Why he wanted to kick something every time Harry and Ron touched her so effortlessly, wishing he could do the same. 

How long had he been denying what he felt for her?

Draco took a deep breath and steeled himself. He had always gone after what he wanted. The only difference was that the war had made him more reckless about it.

“You’re right. Lupin’s mission was always doomed, and we should have given it more of our efforts from the start.”

She gaped at him.

“Werewolves are isolated, persecuted, and deadly— the perfect population for the Dark Lord to target and manipulate. They’re going to fight and die for a tyrant because they’re scared and think they have no other choice. And it’s awful.”

Granger seemed to have lost her ability to speak. He moved closer, stopping when he was just a pace away.

“But you’re also wrong to think we can do much about it now. Perhaps we could convince more to join us, but the potential cost is too great. This isn’t where we should stake our biggest gamble. However wrong it feels to let them play into his hands.”

She closed and opened her mouth. The tension was almost painful as the silence stretched on.

He was close enough to count the dusting of freckles on her nose. He thought he hated freckles. How wrong he was.

“Thank you." Her gaze flickered between his eyes and mouth before she startled, seeming to remember herself. She squared her shoulders. “We’ll just have to agree to disagree on the second point."

Draco laughed— a real laugh. Her lips twitched into a reluctant smile as she watched him. 

“Do you ever give up, Granger?” 

“No, I don’t,” she said, jutting her chin out proudly. “And I’ll have you know—”

Whatever it was would have to wait. He closed the final step between them and kissed her.

For one long, blissful moment, he drank in the softness of her lips and her floral, woodsy scent. She smelled impossibly good— like amber and gardenia.

Then she kissed him back, sweetly and tentatively, and he was utterly lost.

He kissed her harder, threading his fingers through her curls, both hands around either side of her neck. She gasped, and he took the chance to dart out his tongue and taste her. She was just as sweet as he'd always imagined.

Fire raced through his veins. He increased the pressure of his grip, tilting her head towards him as he explored her mouth. She wrapped her hands around his waist, pulling him closer.

They stumbled backward until they were pressed against the wall. His hands skated up and down her body, his touches growing bolder and more frenzied, as if any moment would be their last. Their breathing grew harsher, more ragged; each desperate sound she made at the back of her throat electrified his nerves until he was groaning and gasping against her in turn. She moaned when he palmed her breasts through her clothing and he nipped at her lower lip, pushing against her to relieve the pressure flowing to his groin.

She wrapped her right leg around his calf as he ground against her thigh, the friction a welcome relief to his throbbing cock. She was unpracticed but eager, her fingers scrabbling at his chest, and it drove him mad with desire. He had never wanted someone so badly.

Then she pushed him away. Hard.

He released her and staggered backward, his heart beating wildly. 

Granger blinked at him, equally shell-shocked. She was unsteady on her feet, like she'd drank too much firewhisky. Her hair was mussed, her lips red and swollen, and her jumper hung off one shoulder.

Draco firmly committed the image to his memory.

“You’ve ignored me for months. Ever since that time I healed you." She sounded winded, like she'd just been running. “You hate me.”

He exhaled sharply and shook his head. “I don’t hate you. I’ve been trying to fight it. This.” He lamely gestured between them.

Her mouth fell open.

“You distract me, Granger,” he said, voice low.

She stepped forward, her expression unreadable as she gazed up at him. He braced himself for the inevitable slap.

Instead she grabbed him by the robes, pulled his face down to hers, and kissed him.

 

********************************

Present day

Hermione was wearing it again: the same punch-drunk look she had the first time Draco had kissed her. He turned away, lest she make him confess what he was smirking about.

He took in their surroundings. They were pulled off on the side of the road. Tall, narrow little houses lined each side of the street.

Chislehurst was a nice enough Muggle suburb, he supposed. In fact, Hermione had said the area was quite affluent.

“They only paid £500,000,” she'd said when her parents had purchased their home six months ago. “It was on auction. A stroke of luck, really, given the neighborhood.”

At the time, Draco had nodded sagely and pretended he had the faintest idea of what she was talking about. But he understood her enthusiasm now.  

Brown brick houses with white trim, and slim, tidy hedges stretched as far as his eye could see. Sensible looking cars were tucked snugly inside narrow driveways, evoking a pleasant, dignified sense of uniformity. Snowflakes swirled gently under the glowing lampposts to meet the thin white sheen already dusting the roofs and street below.

It felt... welcoming. Safe.

Draco’s thoughts soured briefly as he wondered what his father would think about this sleepy, quietly proud Muggle community. He was glad he would never have to hear his opinion on it. The thought instantly made him feel guilty.

“Right, then,” said Hermione. “I suppose we should get to it.”

“Right."

His guilt was rapidly giving way to anxiety. He had no idea how to behave around Muggles, let alone the Muggle parents of the woman he loved. He would give his left testicle not to screw this up. And yet, the probability that he wouldn’t screw up in some substantial way seemed slim to none.

Staying in the car was actually beginning to sound appealing.

“Draco—”

“No magic, I know.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “You have my word. I promised you, didn’t I?”  

“It’s not that. You said you wouldn’t and I trust you.” He turned to meet her searching gaze. “It’s about your backstory.”

Draco groaned. The only thing more cursed than this car was the “backstory” Hermione had invented for him.

Please, Draco! We have to get this right. I'd feel better if we just reviewed the basics—”  

“Alright, alright, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Hullo, Mr. and Mrs Granger. My name is Draco Malfoy, and I’m a bloody bug doctor—

“A graduate student studying entomology!"

“Right,” Draco said, rolling his eyes. “I met your daughter our second year of university in America—”

“At Harvard. You have to offer just enough details, or they’ll think you’re hiding something.”

“—and we began dating at the start of our third year. We both applied to graduate schools back home and were accepted at the University of Edinburgh, where I just finished my first term studying bloody bugs.

“Which conveniently are phobia of my mother’s, so she and my father are certain not to ask you any questions about it.”

“What a pity. Nothing gets me going like fruit flies.”

Hermione was trying, but failing, to suppress the smirk on her face. “And—?”

“And my girlfriend is studying chemistry, and the only thing that makes my life tolerable amidst all the grasshoppers and beetles is shagging the living daylights out of her.”

She lifted an eyebrow.

“Multiple times a day,” said Draco, as an afterthought.

“Leave off that last part unless you fancy my father murdering you. I already told you they’ll expect us to sleep in separate bedrooms. They’re fairly traditional when it comes to these things.”  

“I’m happy to keep up appearances, my darling girlfriend."  He leaned in closer. “But what they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but her pleased expression suggested she wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea. He filed away the information for later.

“And your family?” 

“My father owned a lucrative shipping company and died three years ago from brain cancer. We liquidated the business after his death. My mother never had a career of her own, but took on many charitable causes over the years. She’s fairly isolated these days and lives off our family fortune.”

At least some of what he said was true.

She nodded and reached for his hand.

“As for us, we’re very serious about each other." He captured her hand in both of his own. “We’ve been together for over two years now. We’re thinking about our ‘next steps,’ which is a Muggle euphemism for getting engaged.”

He slowly raised her left hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles. She bit her lip as his thumb glided over the brilliant diamond ring that sat on her slender ring finger. 

“You see, we’re not already engaged. I didn’t already promise myself to her. Or tell her that I’d love and protect her always.”

“Draco,” said Hermione, her eyes glassy. “Please. I—”

“I know,” he said, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “I know why they can’t know about us yet. I just wish things were different.” He released her hand and stared out the window.

Perhaps it was his imagination, but the weather outside seemed more temperamental. Snowflakes spiraled briskly beneath the darkening, purple-gray sky.   

Almost two years ago, Hermione’s parents had been found by Death Eaters.

Chapter Text

 

 

Present day

Draco’s rage over what happened to Hermione’s parents wasn’t as consuming as it used to be, but it still flared from time to time. When he saw her suffering. When he thought about what it had cost her. What it had cost them.

He closed his eyes and remembered.

He had been spying for the Order for nine months, and secretly seeing Hermione for three, when Voldemort had ordered his followers to increase their efforts to target the families of Harry Potter’s inner circle. The Grangers had been at the top of his list. Draco had delivered the news the same day he heard it.

As terrified as Hermione had been, she and the Order had believed her parents were safely hidden. But they had still taken precautions. Kingsley had worked with the Muggle Prime Minister to purge them from official records. They had charmed their former neighbors and colleagues with the sudden desire to move out of the city. And Moody had recruited Oliver Wilson, an old ally of the Order’s, to watch over the Grangers in their new neighborhood.

It was Antonin Dolohov who ultimately had a breakthrough by finding the realtor who had helped the Grangers sell their home. He had torn through her memories and had discovered a small town in Australia they had mentioned in passing. It had been enough. He had killed the realtor and had traveled there that evening.

On the night Dolohov had come for Hermione’s parents, Oliver Wilson had been violently ill, thanks to the questionable cooking of a Muggle neighbor. By the time he had recovered enough to perform his typical check-in routine, he had found the Grangers’ curtains drawn and their lights unusually dark. The silencing and Muggle repelling charms cast around their house had confirmed his fears.

He had rushed to give word to Moody, who had arrived with reinforcements within minutes. But by the time they had penetrated the threshold, Dolohov had vanished, and the damage had been already done.

It had taken months, but they had eventually pieced together what had happened that night.

After Dolohov had broken through Hermione’s memory charms and had realized the Grangers knew nothing about their daughter’s whereabouts, he had violently torn through their memories, beginning with her earliest days at Hogwarts. He had been searching, he had later confessed, for memories of Harry. He had then tortured them for hours with the Cruciatus Curse.

As the result, their memories of Hermione for the past 8 years were raw and excruciatingly painful when retrieved. “Unstable,” the Healers had told them. “Prone to creating intense discomfort, trauma, and disorientation.”

Two weeks into the Grangers’ stay at St. Mungo’s secret new location in Liverpool, the Healers in the Spell Damage Unit had finally reached a prognosis. They had recommended another overarching memory charm to stitch together her parents’ brutalized psyches. A charm that concealed or transformed the memories Dolohov had ripped through with the precision of a blunt knife.

“Some memories will have to be implanted or hidden entirely, but the primary aim would be to modify their existing ones. You went to boarding school, not Hogwarts. You’re a bright young Muggle, not a witch. This lowers their chances of traumatic flashbacks while minimizing the invasiveness of the procedure,” the Head Healer had told them. “It’s possible their true memories will return in time, but it’s difficult to say.”

Draco remembered how pale Hermione had been when she heard the news. He had been there with her at the time, disguised as a random Muggle.

“If you choose to go that route, we’ll work with you closely to craft and perform it. If you choose not to, they will need to stay here indefinitely while we experiment with other possible cures.”

The little color left in Hermione’s face had drained.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Granger. I wish I had better news. I’ll give you some time to think about your options.”  With a final pitying look, the Head Healer had left them alone in the vast hallway.

Hermione had stared at her retreating figure until she turned the corner. Draco had caught her when her knees gave out and she sank against him, sobbing.

A soft noise jolted him back to the present. Hermione was weeping. She was remembering, too.

“Shh," he said, pulling her to him. “We’re lucky. They’re alive, aren’t they? They know you. And that’s enough. I just... wish I could have done this right.”

“But you did." She brushed away her tears. “You did do it right. The circumstances can’t be helped.”

Draco nodded, his lips pressed together tightly. Although he felt deeply selfish admitting it, it bothered him that they were forced to conceal the truth about their relationship from her parents.

“They would be upset, and hurt, probably, if we showed up and announced our engagement,” Hermione had said a few months ago, when they had floated the idea of spending Christmas with her parents.

“They don’t even know about you yet, and not mentioning a serious boyfriend, let alone a fiancée, is out of character for me. It’s far less complicated if I tell them you’re my boyfriend. I can say I didn’t tell them about you sooner because I wasn’t sure if we’d have to part ways for graduate school, but it ended up working out. We can tell them we’re engaged in February.”

It had made perfect sense at the time. It still did. But the irrational part of his brain hated it. He had changed, and risked, everything for her. He wanted her parents to know what she was to him. But it would have to wait.

“A few months is nothing,” he said finally. “They’ll find out soon enough.”

Hermione gave him a watery smile. They both stared at the blinding ring on her left hand. She slowly worked it off her ring finger.

The ring was another reason for him to be sulky.

 

************************

Eight months ago

“I’m looking into flats to rent,” said Hermione over breakfast one morning.

Draco paused in the middle of chewing a sausage link to stare at her. He swallowed thickly. “Sorry?”

“Flats,” she repeated. “To rent. My parents are planning to buy a home close to London, so I can’t stray too far from the city. They’ll want to visit me when they move back. So the plan is to tell them I’m transferring to University College of London within a year or so, and find a place in the city that’s suitable for Muggle visitors. I found a lovely area with a mixture of Muggle and magical residents, and it’s close to the tube—”

“The what?"

“I’ll explain later," she said, waving a forkful of hash browns. “I just wanted to let you know, because we both need to think about finding a new place to live.”

The forced casualness in her tone suggested she had been planning to have this conversation for some time. He narrowed his eyes.

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” 

“I’m telling you now, aren’t I? The point is that this situation isn’t sustainable. I’m the only member of the Order still living here—”

I  live here.” 

“Actually, your official residence is Malfoy Manor.”

“I haven’t been there in weeks.”

She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. The war has been over for five months now. We can’t keep impinging on Harry’s generosity, officially or unofficially.”

He frowned. She had a point. “Even so, you should have told me before you went looking. I deserve a say in this.”

“I know.” She sighed and stabbed at her hashbrowns. “I’ve been hinting at it for weeks. But you’ve been distracted, and I didn’t want to burden you.”

“What do you mean, ‘distracted?’”

“Well, you couldn’t deal with another burden during your trial—”

“An annoyance more than anything,” he dismissed. “I never doubted the outcome.”

“And then right after that ended, you lined up your interview at the Ministry, which I knew you were anxious about—”

“Anxious? The interviewer was scared of me!”

“— and you’re starting a new job in four weeks, and I start mine in two, and we have Harry and Ginny’s wedding in three. There’s never going to be a good time. I just thought I’d…rip off the bandaid.”

“Bandaid?” His eyebrows vanished into his hairline.

“Never mind. The point is, we need to move out soon. I understand if you want to move back to the Manor. But I took the liberty of asking the landlord how many properties were available, and there’s another vacant flat next to mine.” She bit her lip.  

Draco's stomach twisted. He thought they were happy. But now she was suggesting that they live separately. He had taken her feelings for granted, it seemed.

“So this is your way of telling me you don’t want to live with me anymore." He clenched his jaw. "Are you going to tell me what I did wrong, then? Or were you planning to write me a letter?”

Her mouth fell open. “You didn’t do anything wrong! I love you—”

“Apparently not,” he bit out.

Her incredulous expression morphed into one of exasperation. “You can’t be serious, Draco. I’m not breaking up with you. We have to move out of Grimmauld Place. This is a logical solution. Living close to each other makes sense before we… think about our next steps.”

“Next steps,” he said coolly.

“You know what I mean!”

“I don’t, actually. Enlighten me.”

She was blushing furiously now. “What I mean to say is, a more long-term commitment. I’m not assuming you’d want that, of course. I’m only saying that, if that was something you could see happening at some point in our future, that would be wonderful, because I feel the same.”

“There’s no pressure, of course,” she continued hurriedly. “I’m not in any rush. And living next to each other will keep us happy while we get our lives in order. Nothing would change. We’d still spend every night together.”

He glared at her. Where was she going with this?

“I know it’s silly to have two separate places. I don’t even know why I care.” She took a deep breath. “I just can’t stop thinking about my parents. I lie to them enough as it is. And I know they’d be upset if they knew their daughter—Muggle or witch— was living with her boyfriend.”

So that was what this was about. Draco fought the urge to laugh.

“I see. Well, I have a different solution to this little problem of ours.” He leaned forward, smirking. “And you know what it is.”

“Draco Malfoy, if you propose to me so we can keep shagging under the same roof, I swear to Merlin—”

“Isn’t that a bit unfair, Granger? I think my actions prove I have only the noblest intentions when it comes to you. Although I won’t deny that convenient shagging is a bonus of getting engaged.”

Her lips twitched. “Prat." She was still flushed, but she looked pleased. Relieved, even.

She stood up. “I told Ginny I’d help her with the wedding this morning, so I need to get a move on. But I really don’t want to pressure you, Draco. We have plenty of time to think about our next steps. And I know we’re both starting new jobs, too.”

All the more reason to get engaged and ward off your future coworkers, he thought.

“I do need to give our prospective landlord an answer, though. He’s promised to hold both units for another week. Please think about coming with me to see them.”

She cleared her plate, gave him a long, sweet kiss, and left him alone with his thoughts.  

The solution was obvious in his mind. He always knew it would happen; he just hadn’t thought about when. Hermione was right: he had been distracted. But now that his trial was over, his many possible futures stretched before him. And every single one of them included Hermione.

He went to his family vault at Gringott’s later that day.

There was a longstanding tradition for the men in his family to propose with a legacy ring. Women who married into the family would then fashion a ring of their own after a major life event, such as an anniversary or the birth of a child. The new ring would replace the legacy ring, which would move to their right hand. It was his family’s way of honoring the old while embracing the new.

Although his family had been nearly destroyed by its bigoted ideas about bloodlines, he wanted to save its traditions that were worth saving. He wanted to give Hermione the full Malfoy experience during their engagement, if she would have it.

He had a particular ring in mind for her: one made for his great-grandmother, Aurora Malfoy. It had a large yet tasteful round brilliant cut diamond surrounded by a halo of blue sapphires— a nod to the birthstone of her son Abraxas, who (like Hermione) was born in September. The delicate platinum band was inlaid with diamonds halfway down each shank.

It was simple yet exquisite. Narcissa had loved it so much that she frequently wore it on her right hand in lieu of the legacy ring Lucius had proposed to her with. Draco could only hope it was one of the many heirlooms she had locked away in the family vault after his death.

His rickety mine cart finally reached its target in the cavernous underbelly of Gringott’s. He recognized the telltale golden “M” emblazoned on the door of the vault: a design choice made by one of his more stupid and arrogant ancestors.

His goblin escort pressed a long fingered palm to the door of his vault. It swung open. Two magical pillars on either side of the room sprang alight, beckoning him to the treasures within. The goblin bowed and gestured for him to move forward. He did, and the door swung shut behind him.

Draco passed by heaping rows of gold, cabinets of fine china, and other trinkets, heading straight to the wooden chest at the back of the vault. He had watched his mother go through it many times as a child.

The top two drawers were exclusively rings, tucked away in velvet wrappings and boxes. He rummaged through them. The first drawer contained rings with precious jewels, including rubies, amethysts, and emeralds. Draco thought most of them ugly and ill-suited for an engagement ring.

He moved on to the second drawer. These rings were almost all diamonds, but none of them fit the bill, either. They were either too small, too old-fashioned (he grimaced at a particularly hideous marquise-cut ring), or simply not Hermione (he couldn’t imagine her with a pear-shaped diamond, or a solitaire diamond with a plain gold band).

He eyed the last unopened ring box. The white satin cover, embroidered with a golden “L.M.,” cued him into the box’s owner: his great-aunt Lyra Malfoy. She had never married, and made a great show of spending her share of the family fortune on herself.

He opened the box. The ring featured an enormous oval-shaped diamond surrounded by a double-edged halo of diamonds. The delicate band was made of yellow gold, and inlaid with yellow diamonds. It was impeccably crafted and stunning to look at, although the size of it was obscene. The centerstone had to be at least 4 carats. He slipped it in his pocket. 

He couldn’t find his great-grandmother’s ring anywhere. His mother probably had it with her at the Manor. He grimaced at the idea of asking her to give it to him. He wasn’t ready to—

“Hello, Draco.”

He whipped around to find his mother standing at the entrance of the vault, eyeing him coolly.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded. 

“I might ask you the same thing.”

“Are you spying on me, Mother?”

“Hardly. An anti-intruder charm warned me someone was in here. I had one installed after Potter broke into your aunt’s vault.”

“I have every right to be here." And he did. Upon the death of the head of household, the Malfoy estate was automatically split between the surviving spouse and any heirs.

“Be that as it may, you still haven’t told me why you’re here. Are you short on money? I have no idea what you’re up to these days. You haven’t answered my owls in weeks.”

“I’m not short on money. And you know I won’t write back until you apologize to Hermione.”

Narcissa’s nostrils flared. “I see no reason—”

“I see every reason. I brought her into our home and you asked her if she was expecting. You humiliated her.”

“Pardon me for thinking you had an ulterior motive for forcing her company on me,” she said with a delicate sniff. “I tolerated your little infatuation during the war. But it’s over. Pretty though she may be, your continued obsession with that Muggle-born makes no sense. It won't work, Draco. ”

Draco stared at her incredulously for a moment. "Still singing the same tune, I see." He shook his head, lip curling. "You’re just as much of a sycophant as father was.”

“How dare you.” Her voice shook. “I supported and lied for you for years. But you want more. You’d destroy everything your father stood for— everything we are.”

“We'd both be dead or rotting in jail if not for me, and you know it." He began slamming the drawers closed, not waiting for her reply. His blood simmered as he bit down the insults that bubbled on his tongue. 

It was remarkable how little she'd changed. Despite all they had endured. All they'd lost.

"The old way is dead, as it ought to be. The only future our family has is through her. And you’d better get used to that."

He took a deep breath and turned around to face her. 

“I’m asking her to marry me. I want great-grandmother Aurora’s ring. The one with the sapphires." He searched her face. "Please give it to me, Mother.”

Narcissa shut her eyes, grimacing like she was in physical pain.

He waited for a long, painful minute. When it was clear she had nothing to say, he moved towards the door.

“I want you in our lives. We both do. But it’s your move.” He moved past her and left.

He got home late that evening. He had several errands to run, including getting his finances in order, and looking at a few houses in Muggle-friendly neighborhoods.

Hermione, however, was later. She stomped in at quarter to nine, looking like she had walked straight off a battlefield. There was a large smudge of dirt on her cheek, the right knee of her jeans was torn, and her hair was poofy enough to rival its worst days at Hogwarts.

She collapsed next to him on the couch. “Don’t ask.” 

Draco raised an eyebrow at her. “Wine?”

“Please.”

He conjured and poured her a glass.

“Thank you.” She took a several large dregs before speaking. “We started clearing out garden gnomes for the wedding today. They put up quite the fight.”

“Quite the jungle they have there.”

“Mmm.” She turned to him. “I’ve been thinking a lot. And I want you to forget about our conversation earlier.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Well, not really. I mean, part of it.” She scooted closer until they were hip to hip and swung her legs over both of his own, resting her head against his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer.

“I’ll move in with you, Draco. And we don’t have to be engaged.”

He wished he could see her face. He tightened his grip. “Why the sudden change of heart?”

She sighed, tracing the rim of her wine glass. “I’ve been taking care of myself for years. I’m more than capable of making my own choices.”

“That you are,” he said. He felt her smile into his shoulder.

“I know what I want, and I want to be with you. We’re already living together. There’s no point in separating us, even if it’s just a bit of drywall. It’s wrong to deny what’s best for us because I’m worried about disappointing my parents over some silly tradition.”

“Fair point. But not all traditions are a bad thing.”

She picked her head up to look at him. “True. But this one is. When we get engaged, it should be because we want to. Not because of some archaic idea that living with you out of wedlock makes me a scarlet woman.”

“A scarlet woman?"

“Again, don’t ask.” Her lips twitched. “Shall we look for bigger places this weekend?”

Draco didn’t grow up in a demonstrative household. For the Malfoys, love was something to show through one’s actions in a private, dignified way. His father often scolded his mother for being too affectionate with him as a child.

It was another one of his family’s values that had begun to crumble, thanks to Hermione. The things he wanted to say to her. Do to her. Anything to make her keep smiling at him that way. 

He channeled his emotions into a crushing kiss. “Deal.” 

“Good. That’s settled, then.” She closed her eyes while he nuzzled her hair.

After several minutes that were sure to make Lucius Malfoy roll over in his grave, she pulled away. “Where is Crookshanks?”

“Probably skulking around our bedroom. I saw him in there earlier.”

She peeled herself off the couch and headed upstairs to find him.

Draco followed her to the foot of the staircase, watching as she opened the door to Sirius’ bedroom— the one they now thought of as their own. He had deliberately left Crookshanks in there an hour earlier, and had cast a Silencing Charm so Hermione wouldn’t hear his yowling.

“You accidentally locked him in here, Draco!”

Draco smirked to himself as she stepped inside.

“There you are,” he heard her say, over the cat’s plaintive mewling. “I don’t know how we didn’t hear you—  what’s this?”  

Draco had tied a green ribbon around Crookshanks’ neck, which was threaded through a small velvet pouch. The ring was inside, along with a bit of parchment.

You’re mine, Granger, and I play for keeps. Marry me? - D.M.

The sound of Hermione’s wine glass shattering on the floor told him his message had reached its target. He headed up the stairs, two at a time.

“Oh my God,” she said, her voice thick.

He caught her when she flung herself at him.

 

*************************

Present day

Draco watched the ring sparkle impressively in Hermione’s palm. As happy as the memory and meaning of it made him feel, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right.

Hermione was too kind to say anything besides how beautiful it was, but he was certain the spectacle of it embarrassed her at times. Such as earlier today, when the elderly Muggle who owned the car rental shop had joked that the ring had inflamed his cataracts.

At present, however, Draco had bigger problems than an ill-suited ring. And if he was being honest, he would be happy to see it back on her finger. His possessive side was highly displeased with the bare state of her left hand.

Hermione slipped off the silver necklace around her neck— a gift from her parents when she passed her O.W.L.s— and threaded the ring through it. It glittered brightly on her décolletage. Worn like this, it could probably be spotted from miles away.  

She frowned down at it. “Well, that’s not exactly inconspicuous, is it?”

Draco smiled in spite of himself. He pulled out his wand and elongated the chain several inches. He tucked it deep inside her shirt so the ring was nestled between her breasts.

“There." He trailed his fingers across her skin while slowly retrieving his hand. “Safely hidden.”

“Thank you,” she said, cheeks pink. “But—”

“No more magic for the rest of the weekend. I know. Shall we get a move on?”

“Actually, I was going to tell you to quit trying to seduce me while we’re staying under my parents’ roof. It isn’t going to work.”

“I’ll promise no such thing.”

She grinned and started the engine. “They left the driveway open for us. It’s the second house down- the one with the Christmas wreath.”

They parked and retrieved their luggage. They had arrived in the nick of time, it seemed. The wind was picking up, and snow swirled around them more heavily. Her parents’ home was brightly lit inside.

Hermione rang the doorbell. She smiled nervously at him. He tried to smile back, but his face felt frozen.

Don’t this screw up, he thought.

Shadows moved behind the glass besides the door. His stomach swooped.

Here goes nothing.

Chapter Text

Present day 

“Hermione, darling, you're here! Oh Draco, it’s so lovely to meet you!”

They were swept inside the Grangers’ home with a flurry of exclamations, handshakes, hugs, and kisses on the cheek.

The first coherent thought Draco registered was that Hermione looked exactly like her mother. Jean Granger, too, was of medium height, and Draco instantly recognized Hermione’s expressive hazel eyes, nose, and heart-shaped face. They even sounded alike. It was like looking at a slightly distorted version of Hermione 28 years in the future.

Hermione’s hair, however, was entirely her father’s. Whereas Jean’s hair was sandy brown and straight, Roger’s hair was thick and wavy (despite its short cut), its rich brown hue unmistakable amidst the ample gray. He was about Draco’s height, maybe an inch shorter, and his green eyes were clever and good-natured. His expression reminded Draco of Hermione’s, too.

The four of them headed upstairs to put away their luggage (in two separate rooms, Draco noted unhappily), exchanging a non-stop stream of pleasantries along the way. Jean and Roger prattled on about their rooms and where they could find everything, and then they headed back downstairs.

Their home was nice, Draco thought. Welcoming. The living room had an ivory tufted sofa and two upholstered blue chairs centered around a long, rectangular coffee table. A handsome fireplace was to the left of the sofa; to its right, a gray velvet bench and a tall, narrow bookcase. The view of the front-facing windows was partially obscured by a richly decorated Christmas tree.

Draco followed Hermione’s lead and settled into one of the blue chairs. Jean and Roger sat down on the sofa.

“Are you sure we can’t get you anything to eat?” Jean asked for the third time. “I have some sandwiches cut in the fridge.”

“Really Mum, we’re fine. I already told you we stopped in Cambridge for dinner.”

“I'd at least like to put on some tea. Will you help me, Hermione? The boys can get to know each other a bit while we’re gone.”

“Oh. Um— okay,” said Hermione helplessly. She got back up again.

“We’ll be right back, you two,” said Jean.

Hermione followed her out of the room, shooting Draco an unhappy look as they left.

Roger turned to Draco when they were gone. “I’m glad we have a few minutes alone.” He leaned in and lowered his voice. “Hermione told us you’re studying entomology. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but my wife has a terrible phobia of bugs.”

“Yes, Hermione did mention that,” said Draco, his tone equally conspiratorial.

“Good. The thing is, I don’t want you to think we’re rude for not asking you about school. But if Jean hears anything about bugs, she’ll fly into a panic.”

Draco nodded gravely. “I completely understand, Mr. Granger. No offense taken. I’d hate to upset her.” He silently blessed his brilliant fiancée.

Roger smiled. “Glad to hear it. Anyway, now might be our only chance to talk about your studies. I’d love to hear all about them, if you’ll humor me.”

Shit.

Draco grew increasingly anxious as he and Roger rapidly burned through all the basic facts Hermione had given him about his “research program.” He was apparently fascinated by entomology.

“But I still don’t quite understand how that works,” he said, after Draco had weakly explained (yet again) that a better understanding of wireworm behavior could help prevent ruined potato crops. He scooted closer, his eyes alight with intellectual enthusiasm. “Can you explain how exactly they—”

“I need to use the loo,” Draco blurted. “I’m so sorry, but I really have to go. Can you point me there?”

Draco sighed in relief when he was finally locked in the bathroom down the hallway, safe from Roger’s insatiable curiosity about bugs. Now all he could do was wait.

He stared at a collage of frozen Muggle pictures they had framed on the bathroom wall. Most were of Hermione. One must have been taken around her first year at Hogwarts— her bushy hair and buck teeth were a dead giveaway. He smiled.

His eyes drifted to another picture of her. It had been taken around her fourth or fifth year, based on her higher cheekbones and slightly flatter hair. Draco thought about his younger self around that time. He tore his eyes away, feeling suddenly claustrophobic.

They were taking forever with that damn tea. And now he would have the ignominious distinction of Roger thinking he had take a massive dump in their home after being there for less than an hour.

He sat down on the closed toilet seat and waited, jaw clenched, until he finally heard the telltale sounds of Hermione and Jean returning to the living room.

“There you are! Come, sit, dear. We already poured you a cup of tea.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Granger.” Draco sat down in the chair across from Hermione while she gave him a silent, pleading look of apology.  

Jean turned to him when everyone was settled. “Draco, I’ve been thinking a lot about your mum. We’re so happy to have you here, but I feel awful separating you two on Christmas. I told Hermione a while ago that we’d love to have her join us, and I hope she received the invitation. I would have rang her myself, but Hermione wouldn’t let me.” 

Hermione paused, mid-sip, to give her mother a pointed glare.

“Thank you,” said Draco. “That’s very kind of you. She’s spending the holiday at my aunt’s, but she sends her regards.”

“Oh, good. That’s wonderful to hear.”

It was a lie. A week ago, he had sent his mother an owl— his first in months— telling her where he was for the holidays. He had also enclosed the address of Andromeda and Ted Tonks. He tried to imagine his mother there at that very moment, sitting stiffly with her long-estranged sister and her Muggle husband, while her great-nephew Teddy played on the rug— the child of her murdered niece and her werewolf husband. Not bloody likely.

In all probability, she was sitting in the drawing room of the vast, empty mausoleum that used to be his home, drinking elf-made wine and staring at the fire. Alone.  

Jean seemed to intuit the unpleasant direction of his thoughts. “So, Draco, are you a good cook? We could use an extra hand in the kitchen tomorrow!”

“Not exactly." He shifted in his seat. “I didn’t have many opportunities to learn growing up. My mother isn’t much of a cook.”

Jean laughed. “Surely she can’t be that bad. You must be what, around 6 feet? How did you eat growing up?”

House-elves. Lots and lots of house-elves.

“We had help.”

“Ah,” said Jean. “Still, you’ve been away at school for years! You never learned on your own?”

“Not really. I’m pretty awful when I try." And he was. He probably would have starved if weren’t for Hermione. She was a decent cook, and constantly improving, too— although she accused him of saying that just to get out of learning how to cook himself (which Draco privately admitted had a kernel of truth to it).

“He’s eager to learn, though. Right, Draco?” said Hermione sweetly.

“I’d love to help.” He smiled politely, privately thinking that Hermione would only have herself to blame if he ended up setting the house on fire.

“Lovely!” said Jean. “We’ll have a good time with it. And I’ve made enough Christmas dinners by now that hopefully you’ll enjoy the food, too. I have an excellent cookbook handed down to me by my mother. I know all our favorites by heart.”

“She’s being modest. My wife is a fantastic cook, and she even tolerates me in the kitchen, too.” Roger gazed at her fondly while she waved him away, preening. “Go and find the cookbook, Jean. Maybe we’ll add something new this year.”

“You know, I think I will. I’ve been meaning to dig it out of storage before tomorrow.” She pecked her husband on the cheek and exited the room.

Roger turned to look at them, his expression suddenly businesslike. “Well, we’re very glad we finally got to meet you, Draco."

“Thank you, sir. Me too.”

“You’ve been together for two years now, isn’t that right?”

“Longer, actually. Two years and four months.”

“Ah. That’s quite a long time.” His tone was friendly, but pointed.

“Yes, it is,” said Hermione, eyeing her father warily.

Draco glanced between them, sensing the tension. “I’m lucky she stuck around with me, sir. Far luckier than I deserve.”

Hermione beamed at him. He gave her a slight, reassuring smile in return, and the tightness in her shoulders seemed to melt a bit.

Whatever unspoken thing had just passed between them seemed to mollify Roger. He warmed up considerably afterward, launching into a spirited discussion with Hermione about how much he liked Chislehurst. Draco mostly listened, lost in thought.

It was one thing to be vulnerable to Hermione, but it was strange to expose his feelings to a man he had never met. At least around her friends— their friends, he supposed— he could still wear a mask of sarcasm and snark. Here, he felt stripped bare, his weakest points exposed like a raw nerve.

A familiar bit of panic rose in his chest, which he forced himself to quash. It was irrational, he thought. He couldn’t conceal himself from Hermione’s parents, and nor should he. He had nothing to hide anymore. It would become easier in time, he supposed, just like it had with her.  

The first time he told her he loved her had been a night of many firsts.

 

******************************

One year and three months ago

Draco stared at the posters of bikini-clad Muggle girls on the wall across from him. Not because he found them particularly alluring, but because he couldn’t sleep.

Today marked exactly three weeks since the end of Dolohov’s trial. He had been found guilty of multiple counts of murder and torturing the Grangers, and sentenced to Azkaban for life. He would be moved there, the tribunal had ruled, as soon as they were able to regain control of it.

It had seemed like an odd choice to hold a trial while the war was still raging, but Kinglsey had insisted on it. It gave them a chance, he had said, to publicly demonstrate that the Resistance promised to return to a society of order. And so they had held one, with a tribunal made mostly of Order members, in an underground bunker in London.

Draco hadn’t been able to attend. He hadn’t even been in the country. Tonight was only his second night back in England, and his first night at Grimmauld Place, in weeks. It was a risky decision to stay here instead of the Manor, but the guilt of not being there for Hermione was overwhelming. He wanted to be near her, if nothing else.

While Dolohov was on trial, Voldemort had sent him and a few other Death Eaters on a mission throughout Europe to help recruit and assemble forces for a massive assault. He hadn’t divulged exact details, but Draco and the Order suspected he intended to attack Hogwarts. One thing was certain: he was planning to put an end to the war, once and for all.

Draco had barely slept while he traveled. Every message he sent to Kingsley had left him cold with fear. Every glance from a fellow Death Eater had struck him with paranoia. He often had nightmares of being caught, or of Hermione or his mother being tortured and killed.

He had slept like the dead last night at the Manor, but his insomnia found him again tonight, as he lay in Sirius’ bed. He wished he had thought to brew a sleep-aid potion before coming over.

He startled at the sound of his door opening.

“It’s me,” Hermione whispered. She slipped inside his room, shutting the door behind her.

The room was brighter than usual tonight. A full moon hung almost directly above the tall window to the left of his bed, bathing the room in pale light.

She was wearing a loose blue nightdress with short sleeves and a scooped neckline. He could see the outline of her nipples beneath the soft fabric. He swallowed thickly.

“Is everything alright?”.

She shrugged. “I can’t sleep.”

“Me either. Clearly.”

“Can I sleep with you tonight?”

Draco froze. It had been just over a year since their first kiss last fall, but they had never slept together before—  literally or figuratively.

The physical progression of their relationship had been painfully slow, for many reasons.

After their first kiss last fall, opportunities to be alone had seemed even harder to come by. Hermione had frequently left with Harry and Ron to hunt Horcruxes in the weeks that followed, and Draco had been tied up on missions of his own.

Sick of being confined to fast and furious snogging sessions in closets, they had finally come clean about their relationship that winter. But almost as soon as he’d begun calling Hermione his girlfriend, Voldemort had ordered him, Dolohov, and Yackley to find and capture her parents, among others— leading to weeks of grueling days and nights, as the Order worked to keep them safe. The irony of the situation was not lost on him.

They had gone the farthest physically in January. It was the first time he had seen her in the new year. One moment he’d been telling her about her belated Christmas present— a complex bit of wandwork he had researched for weeks, which prevented anyone but Moody, Oliver, or Hermione from apparting her parents outside their home— and the next moment they were kissing furiously, tearing at each other’s clothes, and touching each other in places they had only felt before over clothing. Until Ron had knocked loudly on the door, that is. Draco swore he had done it on purpose.

Then Dolohov had found Hermione’s parents just a few weeks later. And after that, both of them had been too stricken by grief, exhaustion, or fear to do much of anything.

It wasn’t that Draco didn’t want to do more. He did. In fact, he often thought about all the things he wanted to do to Hermione before he died. In explicit detail.

But he held himself back. She had been through far too much with her parents, and he refused to push her physically. So he never did anything but hold and kiss her. Just being near her was enough. He could control himself.

Usually.

Right now, he wasn’t so sure. Maybe because it felt like another last chance. Maybe because he had missed her so much that it physically hurt. Maybe it was because she was more beautiful than any girl had the right to be standing in a shapeless blue nightgown.

Whatever the explanation, he couldn’t be next to her in bed tonight.

“No." His chest constricted at the word. 

“No?”

“No. I’m sorry. I can’t. Just— please go.”

“Why?” she demanded. 

“Because I won’t able to sleep.” He paused, embarrassed. “Knowing you’re in bed next to me.”

“Oh.” Her voice was breathy.

His insides twisted. “You should just—”

“Well, that’s convenient, because I don’t want to go to sleep.”

He stared at her, stunned. She was here because she wanted him. Maybe they could just—

No. They hadn’t done anything in months, and after what she had just been through, sleeping with her would be taking advantage of her emotional state.

“You don’t know what you want right now.”

“I do, actually. Do you want me ?”

He inhaled sharply. “More than you know. But—”

“Do you think it’s too soon?”

“Not exactly,” he said slowly. “But you’ve just been through hell, and you’re seeing me for the first time in weeks—”

“Draco. When have I ever accidentally fallen into something I didn’t want to do?”

She had a point.

She sighed. “I’m sick of being defined by what happened to my parents. By this war. It doesn’t feel like I’m living much, except when I’m with you. And I want you.”

Draco was struggling silently with his dwindling self-control.

“I know this was abrupt. Both of us should be absolutely certain.. before. I’ll just—” She turned and opened the door to leave.

The thread snapped.

“Wait.”

She froze.

She shut the door, slowly, and turned back to face him. She looked nervous, but there was something defiant in her eyes, too.

Without another word, she stripped off her blue night dress and dropped it at her feet. She wasn’t wearing anything underneath.

All his blood rushed to his cock while he drank in the sight. The way her waist flared out to meet her hips. Her legs, smooth and impossibly long. Her nipples, hard and pink. The neatly trimmed patch of hair between her thighs. The way she was looking at him. Like an invitation.

It was the moment he had been waiting for since their first kiss. Since he began spying for the Order. Since she floated by him at the Yule Ball. Since she slapped him their third year.

He tore out of bed and captured her lips in a crushing kiss.

She wrapped her arms around his neck as she met his kiss, pliant and willing in his possessive hands. He explored her body like he was starved for it, sliding his hands down her waist to grip her ass, and back up again to cup her breasts while she shivered violently. Her skin was soft and smooth and he wanted to drown in it. In her.

He ground his cock frantically against her belly, hot and rock-hard. She gasped, standing on her tiptoes and yanking his shirt to bring the friction lower, closer to where she needed it, at the apex of her thighs.

He could feel the heat of her through his clothes and he wanted to feel her on his skin. Around it. She seemed to feel the same, whimpering in frustration while she yanked at his waistband. He broke away to tear off his shirt and trousers.

She stared at his cock, pupils wide. He knew it was the first time she’d seen one, and the thought made him even harder. He palmed it and pumped up and down his shaft, showing her the grip and pace he liked.  

“Like this.”

She nodded, and then grabbed his cock with all the determination she possessed. He hissed while she stroked him, canting his hips forward to meet her grip. Hermione Granger was nothing if not a quick study.

He wasn’t going to last long if they kept up like this. And they were far from finished. He knew from experience with Pansy that he had to get her very wet before trying to enter her.

He pulled her hand away. “On the bed, Granger.”

She obeyed. Her gaze was dark as he crawled on top of her. Her nipples were hard and stiff, her chest rising and falling in time with her breaths. He sucked on her right nipple, and then her left, while she gasped and yanked on his hair.

He slipped two fingers in her mouth. “Suck.”

She did, eyes fluttering shut. He wanted to feel those perfect lips, that perfect little tongue, on his cock. Soon.

She jerked violently when he first rubbed her clit with his spit-slicked fingers, moaning into his mouth as he kissed her. He wondered if she had ever touched herself before. The thought made his cock twitch.

He flipped her over. He licked and kissed down her neck, shoulder blades, and back, gliding his tongue over the globes of her arse and thighs until she was writhing and twisting in the sheets.

“Please,” she begged, desperate for something she couldn’t put into words. “Please, Draco—”

“I’ve got you,” he said huskily. “On your hands and knees.”

She complied. He laid on the bed besides her, sliding his feet first.

“Straddle me. Just like this.”

She swiveled her head back to look at him, shocked.  

“You heard me, Granger.”

She still looked dubious.

He ran a hand up and down her inner thigh to reassure her. “Trust me.” 

She shivered and complied. He helped position her so that she was straddling him on all fours, her pussy directly above his face.

She cried out after his first few licks to her clit, bucking her hips and nearly collapsing on top of him. He gripped her tightly, both arms slung around her thighs, and dipped his tongue inside her entrance once, twice, three times. She tasted like heaven—tangy and sweet. He groaned, drunk on the flavor. Her traced her delicate inner pussy lips with his tongue while she gasped and writhed.

Mine, he thought.

He pushed on the small of her back to arch her ass in the air, giving him easier access. He found her clit again with his tongue and she keened, thighs trembling.

He ground his hips upward until she took the hint to lean down and taste him in tandem. Her licks were shy at first, but grew bolder in time. She began sucking him in earnest, gagging slightly as she experimented with how much of him she could take.

He really couldn’t last much longer with her mouth around his cock like that. He slipped a finger inside her heat to test her. She was tight as hell, but as slick and ready as she’d ever be.

He turned them over and licked and nibbled his way up her body, flattening her squirming with his body weight. He kissed her deeply when he reached her face, his tongue invading her mouth in an imitation of what was about to happen with their bodies. Then he wrapped her thighs around his hips and slowly, carefully pressed inside her.

It was a warm, wet, and extremely tight fit. Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. Although he had no direct basis for comparison, Pansy had sucked off a few other guys before they began dating, and had told him that he was very well-endowed. He knew that losing one’s virginity to him couldn’t be particularly comfortable.

He kissed away her tears, whispering to her how beautiful and good she was. He rubbed her outer thighs to coax her to relax and take him deeper. She did, and he slowly pressed forward.

They both sighed when he finally bottomed out.

“Are you okay?” he murmured.

She nodded, wiggling her hips back and forth as she adjusted to the sensation of being filled by him.

His hindbrain was roaring at him to pound her senseless, but the rational part of his brain knew he needed to work her open carefully, gently. He took a deep breath and began to move.

She felt like heaven. Every ingress and egress into her velvet heat gripped his shaft so tightly it almost hurt. Soon enough, she was mewling in time with his thrusts, rolling her hips up to meet his own. He could feel her wetness on his thighs as his strokes grew deeper, quicker, chasing something inside her as if his life depended on it.  

It was too much to take in at once. He stared, mesmerized, at her neck. Her lips. The way her breasts bobbed in time with his thrusts. He dipped down to capture a nipple in his mouth and she arched with a silent cry, whipping her head back in the mattress.

A door suddenly creaked somewhere in the distance. Draco froze. There was a growing sound of movement in the hallway outside.

He rolled them over and grabbed his wand from the nightstand in the nick of time. “Colloportus.” 

The door knob to their bedroom slowly moved downward, but it didn’t give. After several moments, whoever was on the other side of the door released it.  

“Draco, are you alright?”  

It was Ginny. “I heard noises.”

Shit.

“Sorry,” he grunted back. “Nightmare.”

“Oh. No problem.”  

Hermione was quietly squirming in her new position on top of him. He gripped her hips tightly in warning.

“Do you need anything?” said Ginny.

She found a rhythm and began moving up and down on his cock with silent, shallow thrusts.

“No,” he choked. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? I have some leftover sleep aid—”

“Yes!” It was nearly a shout. “I mean, no. Go back to bed.”

“Alright, then. Good night.” She shuffled away.

Muffliato,” he murmured, casting a silencing charm. He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten one earlier.

He tossed his wand aside and rolled them back over so he was on top of her again.

“You’re going to pay for that one, Granger."

She smirked up at him. “Promise?”

He growled and captured her mouth in a bruising kiss. She wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him deeper while they wrestled for control. He yanked her hips up to a higher angle as she gasped and dug her fingers into his shoulders, hard enough to leave bruises. He wrangled her arms above her head and flattened them both against the bed, caging her face between his forearms, her hands pinned within his own.

The position was deeper, more intimate— their noses merely inches apart. He could feel her tiny puffs of breath on his face as she gazed up at him, her mouth slightly open.

She was— beautiful. His.

He kissed her, soft but insistent, and she opened like a flower when he nibbled on her swollen lower lip. He began to thrust in circular motions, bracing his weight on his forearms and thighs, matching the strokes of his tongue inside her mouth.

Her eyes grew lidded as they moved together, heavy with an emotion he couldn’t describe. He pressed his forehead to hers and drank them in, wanting nothing more than to surrender to her. To this.

Pressure was building at the base of his cock with each swivel of his hips, almost at the point of no return. She was close too, judging by her moans and the way she dug her feet into his calves each time he moved.

He released her hands and propped himself upward to rub her clit, his cock pumping hard and fast. The newfound friction made his vision blur. She bucked up her hips to meet him, whining with each downstroke. Then her nose scrunched, lips parted in a silent cry— and he knew he had hit his target.

She wailed loudly while he fucked her through it, chasing her over the edge as she clenched and shuddered around his cock. His frantic thrusts finally crested into wave after wave of white-hot pleasure and he groaned while he rutted into her, each slam of his hips more erratic than the last. Hermione whimpered as she took it, torn between overstimulation and drawn-out pleasure.

He collapsed on top of her after he finished spending himself, mind blissfully blank. She pulled him closer while he struggled to catch his breath, wrapping her legs around his waist and threading her fingers through his hair. He let her, struggling to adjust his limbs so he didn’t crush her. His cock pulsed inside her with aftershocks from his orgasm. He was pretty certain he'd just came harder than he ever had in his entire life.

They lay there like that for some time, panting into each other’s necks.

It had been years, but the last time he did this with Pansy, he couldn’t get away quickly enough when they had finished. He marveled at how little he wanted to move at the present moment, wrapped tightly in Hermione’s embrace from the inside out.

“Draco?”

“Mmmm.” 

She kissed him softly, sweetly on the ear. “I love you." 

A thrill shot down his spine, cutting through the haze of his orgasm. He turned to look at her, his neck straining from the effort.

“Maybe I should have waited to tell you. But I’ve known for some time now, and I thought you should know, too.” She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. “So, I love you.”

He had never told anyone he loved them before. He couldn’t even remember saying it to his parents, although his mother said it to him, on occasion.

“You don’t have to say it back,” Hermione rushed. “I just had to tell you, for my own sake. I might regret it if I didn’t.”

Draco opened and closed his mouth, overwhelmed.  It wasn’t easy for him to talk about his feelings. Or show them, for that matter.   

He thought of his father, gripping his shoulders tightly. It had been a week before his 16th birthday, and he was about to receive the Dark Mark. “You’re a man now, Draco,” he'd said, his breath reeking of mead. “Never show them your weaknesses.”

He thought of his Aunt Bellatrix, sneering over him while he wiped away tears of pain from her merciless attacks on his mind. “Don’t be such a ninny, Draco. Only the strong survive. Again.”

He thought of Pansy, her face red. “If you won’t tell me what’s going on, we’re done. I want to help you. So help me understand.” He had turned away, the echoes of her sobs ringing in his ears.

He stared at Hermione as she chewed on her lower lip. It was one of her many nervous habits.

It was a strange thing to trust someone so completely. To feel your chest crack open over the simplest things they did. To feel like you’d rather die before hurting them. There was only word to describe it. 

“I love you, too.”

Her face broke into a shy, exhilarated smile. “Really?”

“Really. And now, bed. I’m bloody tired, Granger. You wore me out.”

He slipped out of her, kissing her crinkled brow as she grimaced. He turned her on her side and wrapped around her from behind, his arm slung around her waist.

Both of their thighs were sticky from their shared fluids. If it were Pansy, he’d have jumped out of bed and insisted on them showering and scourgifying the sheets. But it was Hermione. He found he didn’t mind the mess much at all.

She snuggled into his touch. “Draco, should we—”

“It can wait until the morning. The potion and the clean-up." He burrowed his nose in his hair and inhaled deeply for a few moments. "Unless you want the Weaslette to catch you while you’re sneaking to the loo.”

“Morning it is.”

They were both asleep within minutes.

Draco found Ginny in the kitchen the next morning. It was just the two of them. Neville was still drooling on the couch in the drawing room, and Hermione was biding her time upstairs.   

She had woken up early that morning, cleaned the sheets (Draco rather liked the look of her whipping around his other wand), and darted (or hobbled, really) out of his room once she heard the telltale sounds of Ginny trodding down the stairs. Draco smirked at the memory.

“Sorry about last night,” he drawled. “Night terrors, you know. Bloody awful.”

“Mmm,” she said, nodding sympathetically. “Terribly sorry to hear that.”

Draco shrugged with a dramatic sigh, ever the wounded hero. He dug into the eggs and bacon that Kreacher had left for them on the counter. His appetite was enormous this morning. Bless that old house elf.

Hermione came down precisely fifteen minutes later, exactly like they had planned.

“Sleep well?” said Ginny sweetly.

Hermione looked flustered. “Um— yes, thank you. Did you?”

“I did indeed.” Ginny patted the chair next to her. “Sit. I already made you a plate.”

Hermione walked over, slightly bandy-legged, and pulled out the chair. She sat down gingerly, wincing noticeably when her arse touched the cushion.

“Why, Hermione, you look like you’ve been riding a thestral all night. Or was it a dragon?” She raised an eyebrow at her and smirked.

Hermione turned beet red. Draco shifted guiltily in his seat.

Ginny laughed. “Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me. Besides, if I told Harry, he’d tell Ron, who would murder you with his bare hands,” she said, nodding at Draco.  

He scoffed and rolled his eyes. He’d love to see Weasley try.

“I owed you a life debt, Malfoy," she said sternly. "Consider it repaid.” 

Neither of them spoke a word while Ginny finished her eggs, washing them down with a gulp of coffee. She got up to put her dishes in the sink.

“Let me know if you need a contraceptive potion, Hermione. I have leftovers from the batch I made yesterday.” She was still smirking when she left the room.

Draco cleared his throat. “So. Shall we take her up?”

Hermione groaned, burying her face in her hands.

 

********************************

Present day

“Draco, dear, you’re quite flushed. I hope you haven’t caught a cold!”

Draco startled out of his rather enjoyable reverie. Jean had returned with the cookbook, and all three Grangers were looking at him quizzically.

“I’m feeling fine, thanks.” He smiled. “Just the tea warming me up.”

It was lucky Hermione was a Muggle-born, really. Imagine if her parents were skilled at Legilimency and could tell that he’d just been thinking about their daughter naked.

“Well, we’ll have to keep an eye on you,” said Jean, unconvinced. 

“Gather round," said Roger. “Come see what we’re making for Christmas dinner tomorrow.”

Jean sat on the middle of the couch, and Hermione moved from her chair to sit besides her mother. Draco pulled his chair closer so he could have a better look.

They had quite the dinner planned. Hermione and Jean flipped through the dog-eared, yellowed pages together as they chatted about roast turkey, parsnips, and Yorkshire pudding. Mostly, they laughed about memories from holidays past (usually ones involving cooking fiascoes), with occasional input from Roger.

Draco watched them with an odd feeling in his chest.

Thirteen months ago, he had walked on a battlefield with Hermione, praying that when they were killed, he would go first. In that moment, he never would have believed the fate of his future self sitting here, in this moment, watching the simple domestic scene before him.

And yet here they were. Living. That’s what this was.

“Look." Roger nodded at the window. The steady snowfall had turned into a blinding, chaotic flurry of white dust. Draco could scarcely make out the tidily trimmed hedges that had been visible only moments before. The walls groaned slightly beneath the pressure of the howling, relentless wind that frisked its edges.

Roger let out a low whistle as they watched, mesmerized. “It’s really coming down, isn’t it?”

“I’ve never seen it snow this hard anywhere near London,” said Hermione, awestruck.

“Me either,” said Draco. 

“It’s quite the blizzard. And it’s going to be quite the clean-up tomorrow, too." Jean sighed. “Anyway, I hope you don’t mind if we open presents after dinner, Draco. We have lots of cooking to do in the morning. None of us are expecting Santa to visit us overnight, so I figure we can all be patient.”

“Who’s Santa?” said Draco, tearing his gaze away from the storm outside.

Jean was staring at him as if he had grown a second head. So, too, was Roger, his jaw hanging slightly open. Draco glanced at Hermione, taking in her expression of dawning horror.

Fuck.

They had worked so hard to prepare, too. Hermione had reviewed Muggle Christmas traditions so many times that he swore his ears would bleed at the next mention of the “Royal Christmas Broadcast” or “Christmas Crackers.” But she had failed to mention any wretched “Santa.” And now he had ruined all their hard work with a single, careless question.  

He quickly evaluated his options. Should he have a coughing fit? Excuse himself to the loo again? Claim that he accidentally hit his head on the doorframe earlier?

“Mum and Dad, look!” Hermione jabbed at the closest page of the recipe book in her mother’s lap. “Doesn’t that look delicious?”

Jean and Roger startled out of their astonishment. Both of them leaned in to get a better look. Draco released a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. Saved by his brilliant fiancée, once again.

“Hmm.” Jean frowned as she peered down at the image. “Cranberry tart.”

Merlin’s saggy nutsack.

Hermione detested cranberries.

Draco had learned this from personal experience. When they first got engaged, Molly and Arthur had sent them a letter filled with streamers, a bottle of wine, and a freshly baked fruitcake. Hermione had eagerly bitten into a slice, raving about Molly’s baking all the while, only to spit it out, half-chewed, in her hand— which happened to be directly under Draco’s nose at the time, as they were snuggling on the couch. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” she had said while he recoiled. “It has cranberries in it. I hate cranberries.”

Judging by the look on her parents’ faces, they were keenly aware of this fact about their daughter, too.

“But you hate cranberries,” said Roger. “You have since you were little. Remember that Christmas you threw a handful of cranberry sauce at your mother’s head because she kept trying to make you eat it? She hasn’t made it since!”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Hermione reddened and began fiddling with her hair. “I’ve changed my mind. In—erm—Boston, there’s this amazing bakery, you see. And they make the most delicious cranberry tart. Draco and I used to go there all the time. One time he convinced me to try a bite, and boom! Now I like cranberries.” She laughed nervously.

Draco nodded. “It’s true. I miss that place. ‘Molly’s Bakery is its name. They also make an excellent cranberry fruitcake.”

Hermione shot him a deadly look from behind her parents’ backs.

“Really?” Jean turned to look at Hermione, who nodded brightly back at her. “Well, that’s settled. I’ll make it for us tomorrow, dear.” She patted her on the knee. 

Hermione’s face fell. “Oh— please don’t, Mum! There’s no need to put yourself out. Actually, I was really looking forward to your trifle—”

“Nonsense. This our first Christmas together in four years, and both of you just finished your first term of graduate school. We have much to celebrate. I’ll be making a cranberry tart for dessert tomorrow in honor of my daughter’s favorite dessert.”

“Excellent,” said Roger. “It’s been ages since I had a good cranberry tart.”

“But—”

“There’s a grocer in town that’s open until two tomorrow,” said Jean. “You and Draco can go there in the morning and buy us some cranberries. It’s going to be a long day of cooking, and it will be good for you both to stretch your legs a bit. You could even give him a tour!”

Hermione looked aghast. Draco couldn’t help himself. A peal of laughter escaped his throat, which he quickly turned into a hacking cough.

“I don’t like the sound of that cold, Draco,” Jean fretted. “We should get you off to bed so you have a proper rest.”

“Right.” He pushed his chair back and got to his feet. Hermione followed, pouting. “Thank you both for everything. Can we help clean up?”

“No, no,” said Roger. “Off to bed with you.”

They wished her parents good night and headed upstairs.

They had survived their first night, Draco thought grimly, with the impressive record of at least one near-catastrophe per hour.

These next 48 hours were going to be the longest of his life.

Chapter Text

 

Present day 

Draco lay in bed, listening to the unmistakable noises of Jean and Roger trying, but failing, to be quiet downstairs. He had slept fitfully last night. His bed was perfectly comfortable, but he never slept well without Hermione. Even a Sleeping Draught couldn’t bring him the same kind of sleep he got when she was in his arms.

As if on cue, the door to his room cracked open, and Hermione stole inside. She had already dressed and showered, but she looked like she hadn’t fared much better than him last night. Her face was pale and drawn, and she had faint shadows underneath her eyes.

She sat on the the bed next to him, brushing his hair from his face. “Happy Christmas, Draco.” She leaned in to kiss him. He wrapped his arms around her waist to draw her in.

After minute or two, she peeled herself away. “Time to wake up,” she murmured. “My parents are waiting.”

Draco showered and dressed while Hermione made their beds, and then they headed downstairs.

“Happy Christmas, darlings!” said Jean, greeting them both with a hug and a kiss.

“Happy Christmas,” Draco and Hermione echoed.

“Where’s Dad?” Hermione asked.

“Shoveling the driveway. We had quite the snowfall last night— nearly 10 inches! The weatherman said it set a record. A good bit of it accumulated on the ground, but it’s supposed to warm up tomorrow, just in time for your drive home.”

Hermione frowned. “Should he really be exerting himself like that? Why can’t he just wait until tomorrow?”

“Well, the driveway isn’t going to clear itself, is it? We have to get you both off to the store to fetch those cranberries!”

“Oh— right,” said Hermione miserably. Draco’s mouth twitched.

“But first: breakfast. And even before that, let’s get you two started on the essentials. Draco, would you care for some coffee? We just got this new machine—”

“Ooh, a Capresso!” Hermione walked over to inspect it. “I have one too, Mum! I got it as a gift for our—”

“Birthday party,” said Draco. “For her 22nd birthday party a few months ago. She invited all her old friends from boarding school. We had an excellent time.”

Hermione shot him a grateful look.

“Oh, how wonderful! I didn’t know you threw a party. Did your two friends come? The boys?” Jean furrowed her brow in concentration. “I can’t remember their names right now, but they’re on the tip of my tongue...”

“Harry and Ron,” said Hermione quietly. “Harry came, yes. Ron couldn’t make it.”

“That’s it—Harry and Ron! It’s so lovely you’re still in touch with them. I have about a dozen photos of the three of you during your days at school. You’re lucky all my photo albums are still in storage, or I’d make Draco look at them.”

Hermione smiled weakly.

“She was the cutest child, you know,” said Jean. 

“I’m sure,” said Draco, smiling. He looked over at Hermione, but she was distracted, gazing out the window with a slight frown. He knew exactly where her thoughts had headed. 

“If you’d like, Mrs. Granger, I can handle the coffee while you work on breakfast. How do you take your coffee?”

********************************

Four months ago

Draco watched the crowd of people in his kitchen— mostly former enemies of his— ooh and ahh over the shiny new Muggle coffee machine he and Hermione had just been given. He smirked with a detached sort of amusement. It was definitely one of the stranger moments in his life.

They had moved into their new home in Greenwich about a month ago. They had resisted the idea of throwing a housewarming party at first, but Ginny had insisted.

“We’re all going to get you something, so you might as well wine and dine us to show your thanks,” she had said. “And think of all the visitors you’ll have otherwise. We all want to see your new place, so this way, you’ll get everyone out of the way at once.”

It had been the former argument that had convinced Hermione. Draco had been won over by the latter. And so they had held one.

Most of their guests had shown up that evening with magical gifts that would have to be hidden when Hermione’s parents eventually came to visit. (Luna, for instance, had shown up with a set of rotting turnips that she had claimed would ward off Chizpurfles). But Harry and Ginny had gone against the grain. They had bought them a shiny, stainless steel contraption that apparently made Muggle coffee drinks, and which was currently the focus of the party’s rapt attention.

“But how does it work ?” said Neville, his voice hushed.

“Electricity,” said Dean Thomas. “This one’s fancy, too, as far as Muggle coffee makers go. My mum’s been after one of these for months. ”

“It’s a Capresso,” said Harry, trying, but failing, to disguise the pride in voice. “The saleswoman said they were really good. We got it in Muggle London.”

Their guests continued to chat excitedly about the coffee machine for some time. There was a particularly hilarious moment when George tried to read through the instructions booklet, with Neville as his assistant, before the crowd lost interest and dispersed.

Gradually, their supply of wine began running low, and more and more people said their goodbyes. They had enchanted their home to prevent apparating and disapparating, so most people came and went by Floo. Blaise left first, followed by George and Dean. Luna was next, along with Charlie and his pretty Romanian date, whose name Draco couldn’t pronounce if his life depended on it.

He glanced at the Muggle clock on their living room wall. It was 11:30, and he was getting anxious to have Hermione and their home back to himself. He began collecting empty wine glasses, hoping the few lingerers would take the hint.

He had to put on a mask for most social events, and being around Hermione’s friends was no exception. Maybe he would have felt more relaxed if it was just him and Blaise. He was the only friend of Draco’s that had come tonight. In fact, Blaise was the only friend he had kept from before the war.

It wasn’t that unusual, Draco supposed. Malfoys didn’t really have many friends. Allies was a better word for the people they surrounded themselves with. He wondered if that would ever change.

He lost his train of thought the moment he entered the kitchen, greeted by the alluring sight of Hermione bending over while she rearranged leftovers in their refrigerator. She was wearing a simple black cocktail dress with an off-the-shoulders neckline that highlighted her delicate collarbone and shoulders— and from this angle, her thighs and arse, too.

Draco quietly set down the empty wine glasses as he watched her, thinking about all things he’d like to do to her later in that dress. But of course, the moment was short-lived.

Harry came barreling into the kitchen, oblivious to the pleasant scene he was interrupting. “Hey, Hermione— do you know where my coat is?”  

Hermione snapped upright and closed the refrigerator door. Draco scowled. “It's in the closet by the front door."  

“Thanks.” He turned to leave.

“Harry, wait— before you go, can I have a word?”

He looked back at her, puzzled. “Sure, yeah. Everything okay?”

“Yes, of course.” She paused. “I was hoping to talk to you about Ron.”

He seemed to deflate a little. “Yeah, alright. Let me just tell Ginny to head home without me.”

“Of course.”

Draco raised an eyebrow at her as they followed Harry out of the kitchen. “It’s worth a shot,” she said under her breath. “I haven’t heard an update on him in weeks.”

Weasley hadn’t shown tonight. It wasn’t surprising in the slightest, but Harry and Ginny’s excuse for him had been feebler than usual. Draco supposed that Hermione must have been feeling pretty desperate to bring him up, since no topic seemed to clear a room more quickly these days. He tried not to feel irritated about her preoccupation with her ex-best friend.

Harry approached Ginny as she chatted with Neville and murmured something in her ear. She nodded, apparently happy to extricate herself. She quickly said her goodbyes to Neville, Hermione, and Draco, stepped in the fireplace, and vanished with a pinch of Floo Powder. Neville followed her shortly afterward, leaving the three of them alone.

They stared at the empty fireplace, watching tendrils of smoke dissipate into the air.

Hermione broke the silence first. “Cappuccino?”

“What the hell is that?” Draco asked incredulously.

She smiled. “You’ll see.”

Fifteen minutes later, the three of them stood in the kitchen, each with a cup of cappuccino in their hands. Draco found that he still preferred black coffee, but he supposed it wasn’t entirely undrinkable.

“So,” said Harry, after they had run out of pleasantries about Muggle coffee drinks. “You wanted to talk about Ron?”

“Yes, I did.” Hermione stared at her cup for a few moments. “Harry, you can’t expect me to believe he was really sick.”

Harry shrugged and gave her a defeated smile. “I know. I’m sorry he didn’t come.”

“And I’m sorry I cornered you.” She sighed. “I’ve been trying to give you space after the wedding. I don’t know how many more times I can apologize or explain myself, but you know we would have waited to announce it if we had any idea he would react so badly. I hope you and Ginny can forgive me, in time.”

Harry and Ginny’s wedding was a sore subject. It had been a beautiful ceremony and reception, but Ron’s behavior had put a damper on things. Even though he had been the Best Man, and Hermione the Maid of Honor, Ron had insisted that he wouldn’t be in the same room as her. He had only relented the morning of the wedding after Bill had intervened. His dour mood at the wedding had made for more than a few awkward questions from other guests.

“Hermione—” said Harry.

“But it’s been three months since the wedding,” said Hermione, talking over him. “Four since we got engaged. And he still won’t answer my owls. You’d think I have dragon pox, the way he vanishes every time I come around. It hasn’t gotten any better, and no one will talk to me about it. It’s like you’ve given up.” Her voice was slightly shaking.

“I’m talking to you about it now,” said Harry gently. “And Ginny and I aren’t angry with you.” His eyes flickered to Draco. “Look, I don’t mean any offense, but it’s hard for me to talk about this with you here. Can we have a minute?”

Draco stiffened. He set down his cup and saucer and fixed Harry with an icy stare. “Got something to say to my fiancée without me, Potter?”

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Last time I checked, Hermione doesn’t need your permission to talk to her best friend alone."

“He’s right,” Hermione frowned at Draco, ignoring his murderous expression. “But Harry, it’s unfair to ask that of me unless it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t expect you to hide things from Ginny.”  

Harry glanced between the two of them. “Fine. He can stay. But if you bring any of this up later, Malfoy, I’ll have your head.”

 “Noted,” Draco sneered.

“Good.” Harry deposited his cup on the kitchen island with a forceful clink. He turned to Hermione. “Ron isn’t doing great with the whole engagement thing.” 

Draco rolled his eyes. What a revelation.

“Well, that much is obvious,” said Hermione. “The question is why.”

Harry sighed. “You know why.”

“No, I don’t,” she insisted, her voice slightly raised. “I thought we’d moved past all this. He was on good terms with Draco for months, but now he’s back to ignoring us both. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“‘Good terms’ is a bit of a stretch,” said Draco. “Unless you counting pretending the other person doesn’t exist as ‘good terms’— which I suppose I do, since Weasley is concerned.”

“God, this again." Pink was rising in Harry's cheeks. “What, did you expect that you’d become best mates? That you’d cozy up and chat Quidditch, and joke about that one time you punched him in the face?”

“He punched me first, Potter. You can hardly blame me for returning the favor.” Draco leaned against the counter and crossed his arms, his eyes hard. “And I’d rather cozy up to Rita Skeeter.”

“That’s enough !” Hermione cried. “Harry, just tell me what’s going on. Please.”

Harry shrugged, jaw tensed. “You’re not stupid. You already know.”

Hermione stared at him. “I know where you’re going with this, but there was never anything between us. Besides, he came around after Draco and I first started dating—”

“Came around?” Harry scoffed. “He never ‘came around.’ He only agreed to not deck him whenever he got the chance. He hoped that you’d grow out of it.” Hermione opened her mouth in outrage. “His words, not mine,” Harry added hastily.  

“Well, he should know me better than that. There is no ‘growing out of’ my decision. Draco and I are getting married. He’ll just have to get over it.”

“Right," said Harry slowly. “Well, it may take him a while.”

“This is so childish!” she exploded.  “He doesn’t like Draco and he’s punishing me for it!”

“You’re missing the point.”  

“He’s throwing away a decade of our friendship over a stupid schoolboy rivalry—”

Harry threw up his hands. “Are you trying to be obtuse?”

“Weasley’s in love with you,” said Draco brusquely. He had told her this at least a dozen times before, but she had never listened. Maybe the thirteenth time would be the charm.

Hermione blinked at him. “It’s not like that,” she scoffed, predictably. “There used to be a crush, but we were children back then. Ron’s real problem is that you’ve always cut to the heart of his insecurities, so he refuses to admit that you’ve changed. Marrying one of his best friends makes him feel like you’ve one-upped him somehow, which is completely ridiculous.”

“He’s right." Harry looked pained by the admission. 

There was a silence.

“Fine," said Hermione sardonically. "He supposedly loves me, but he’s never tried a damn thing, never made so much as a peep about it—”

“Is that really surprising, knowing him? And he did try to tell you.”

“He didn’t.”

“He did.” Harry rubbed his temples. “Took him forever, but he finally plucked up the courage. I talked to him the night before you two moved out of Grimmauld Place. He came over to tell me. He said he was going to come over the next day and tell you everything. That he didn’t care if Malfoy hexed him. That he would always regret it if he let you go.”

Hermione flinched, her face ashen.

“Encouraged, him, did you?” Draco asked calmly, belying the white-hot rage racing through his veins.

“Actually, I told him it was stupid and pointless,” said Harry. “That his chance had passed years ago. But he wouldn’t listen, so what was I supposed to do? Lock him in my cellar?”

“Now that you mention it, you’d have done everyone a favor if you did,” Draco hissed. “He’s a coward and a menace. Just look at all the trouble he’s caused.”

“Don’t!” Hermione warned him.

“And yet you still defend him,” said Draco, too angry to listen. He stood to his full height and glared at Harry across the kitchen island. “I can excuse Hermione for it. I’m used to her charity cases. She’s a far better person than you or I. But you— you just have terrible choice in mates.”  

“I’m warning you, Malfoy—”

“Tell me, Potter: were you rooting for your two best friends to find love together? You think Weasley deserves her? Indulge me, because I’m curious. Do you think Weasley would celebrate her success? Be her biggest champion? Do you think he’s the kind of man who’d be proud of having a wife who’s better than him in every way?”

Harry was silent. Draco laughed harshly. “Of course you don’t. You know as well as I do that he’d be the type to get piss drunk at their wedding and run around with other women behind her back. Anything to make himself feel better about living in her shadow.” He curled his lip in disgust.

“Draco, stop,” said Hermione, her eyes flashing. “That’s enough.”

It was like being on the receiving end of a bucket of ice water. Draco leaned back against the counter, nostrils flaring.

Harry stared at him for a minute. “I’m letting this go for her sake.” He jerked his head at Hermione. “But the next time you talk about Ron that way in front of me, you’ll regret it.”

Draco said nothing. He knew he had been out of line, losing his temper like that. He was certain he’d pay for it later.

“You don’t know the first thing about Ron,” Harry seethed. “The only thing you got right is that they wouldn’t have worked. Try not to let that get to your overinflated head.”

“Or maybe I’m right that we wouldn’t have worked. When you two have finished deciding what’s best for me, let me know, will you? I’ve had enough of this pissing contest.” Hermione glowered at them until both looked sufficiently cowed.

“As I was saying, Harry,” she continued calmly, “Ron never came to see me. So he probably realized that he was mixed up after talking to you. He changed his mind.”

Harry gave her a meaningful look. “Are you sure he never dropped by the day you moved?”

“Of course I am. I’d have remembered.”

“Any chance he did, but you were too distracted to notice?”

The realization hit Draco like a bolt of lightning. “Fuck," he muttered.

The day they had moved out of Grimmauld Place, Draco finally had the chance to enact a longtime fantasy of this.

Despite living there for months, he and Hermione had never shagged outside of their locked bedroom. It had been too risky with Kreacher around. But Ginny and Harry had finally collected him the day before to move him into their new home. They had been truly alone that day, at last.

There hadn’t been much to pack. Draco had followed Hermione from room to room as she diligently checked to make sure they hadn’t left anything behind. The last room they had checked was the kitchen.  

“That’s everything, then,” she had said. She had been wearing a floral summer dress with buttons down the front.

He had stared at her. “So it seems. Ending where we started.”

She had laughed and tossed her hair behind her shoulder. “Poetic, isn’t it? Our first kiss was right there." 

“Like I’d forget." She had looked up, sensing the darkness in his tone. “You have no idea, the things I thought about doing to you.”

He had wanted to rip the buttons down the front of her dress, yank her red knickers down— the ones he had watched her put on that morning— and show her. And so he had.

He had made her come twice on the kitchen table— once on his tongue, and once on his cock. When his name had been ripped from her lips a second time, he had turned her around and had bent her over the table, her dress flipped up, his fingers threaded through hers. He had chased his own release, the table groaning under the force of his thrusts, until he had come hard enough to see stars. It had been a particularly memorable shag.

When they had cleaned themselves up, they had discovered that a vase in the living room had shattered, halfway across the room. They hadn’t heard it break, but it had been intact just minutes before. They had figured that Crookshanks must have knocked it off somehow— perhaps chasing a mouse.

But somehow, suddenly, Draco wasn’t so sure. And judging by her expression, Hermione was thinking the same thing he was.

She stared at Harry in horrified disbelief, her face drained of all color. “Did he say something?”

“No. But you never mentioned him coming by, and given the way he behaved afterward…” Harry shrugged. “I figured he had shown up and had seen something he didn’t want to see.”

“Oh, God.” Hermione whispered, looking as though she wanted to sink through the floorboards. Tears sprang into her eyes.

Draco eyed her with concern. “I think you should go, Harry. Sorry about earlier.”

Harry gave him a curt nod. They were never going to be best mates, but Draco recognized the gesture for what it was: a truce. It was enough, for her sake.

“You’re right. It’s getting late." He hugged Hermione goodbye. She closed her eyes as she returned his embrace, tears silently streaming down her face.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said when he released her. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I wasn’t even going to tell you...” He shook his head. “Just know that we haven’t given up on him, Ginny and I. We’re still working on it. It’s just going to take a while.”

Hermione nodded miserably. “Thank you for coming tonight, Harry. And for the coffee machine. Please apologize to Ginny for us for keeping you so long.”

“Thank you,” Draco echoed stiffly.

Harry nodded again. He gave Hermione a quick peck on the forehead and left the room.

That night, as Draco lay in bed, his body curled around Hermione’s, he thought about how much he had changed.

Five years ago, the thought of Weasley walking in on him giving Hermione the shag of her life would have been the stuff of his wildest fantasies. Now it just made him sad. Mostly because Hermione was devastated, and there was nothing he could do to fix it. But it was more than that.

He had triumphed over Weasley in every way. And yet, as much as he despised him, he couldn’t find it in himself to gloat. He had hurt enough people for a lifetime, he supposed. He just wanted Weasley to move on and let things return to normal. Once he stopped hurting, Hermione could stop hurting.

“He’ll never speak to me again."

Draco startled at the sound of her voice. He had thought she had fallen asleep.

He pulled her closer and pressed a kiss into her hair. “He will.”

“How do you know?”

He thought about it for a moment. “Because he loves you.”

Within minutes, the steady rise and fall of her ribcage told him that she had fallen asleep for real this time. He let sleep overtake him, too.  

Chapter Text

Present day

Draco and Hermione quietly chewed on their eggs and toast, occasionally nodding or making a polite remark while Jean prattled on about Christmas dinner. Luckily, Jean seemed to share Hermione’s single-minded focus when a large project was at hand, and failed to notice her daughter’s dour mood. Draco tried to appear as interested as possible as she reviewed their plan of attack, hoping it would mask the fact that she might as well have been speaking to him in Mermish.

They were interrupted when Roger came in, his cheeks and nose flushed from the cold. He had shed his coat and boots, but moisture still clung to his pants. He must have been wearing a cap of some sort, as his short hair was frizzier and more unkempt than usual. He wished Hermione and Draco a happy Christmas and began brewing himself a cup of espresso.

“Roger, dear, are you—”

“I’m not done yet,” he said, anticipating his wife’s inquiry. “Just needed a quick pick me up. I’ve only finished clearing the path to the front door.”

“Oh,” said Jean, deflated. “How much longer do you think it’ll take?”

“An hour, maybe more. The snow is quite deep and wet, and I’m going slow. Don’t want to throw out my back.”

Jean frowned. “I’m glad you’re being careful, but it’s too bad that it’s so much work. I was hoping to get the tart in the oven at noon.”

“I’ll do my best. It shouldn’t be too bad of a drive once they get on the road. I just need to unbury the driveway first.”

“You know, this cranberry tart is far too much trouble,” Hermione piped in. “I think we should just—”

“It’s no trouble at all,” said Jean. “The recipe is quite straightforward. Besides, I just realized I forgot the garlic this morning, and the parsnips will be bland without it. And we’re running low on flour, too.”  Hermione sank bank in her seat, sulking.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a snowblower. Or something else to make it go more quickly.” Jean took a sip of coffee, glancing furtively at Draco over her mug.

Hermione eyed her mother sharply. “Draco would be happy to help, of course, but he doesn’t have any clothes that are appropriate for being out in the snow. And there’s only one shovel.”

Roger looked up. “Actually, we have two. And I have plenty of extra winter clothes he could borrow.” He paused. “That is— if Draco wants to help. No pressure, of course. One doesn’t exactly expect to spend one’s holiday getaway shoveling snow.” 

Draco could feel Jean’s anxious yet hopeful gaze burning a hole into the side of his face. Great.

He cleared his throat. “Um— I’d be happy to help, Mr. Granger.”

“You’re quite sure?” said Roger, with thinly-veiled enthusiasm.

“Of course. It would be nice to get some exercise." The truth was that the last way he wanted to get exercise was through a tedious Muggle chore that required him to be cold, wet, and miserable, and that could have been solved with a flick of his wand.

“Oh, Draco, that’s so kind of you to offer!” said Jean. “I just got Roger a new pair of snow boots, and his old ones should fit you perfectly—”

Draco tried to school his grimace into a smile. Hermione mouthed a silent apology to him.

The things he did for love.  

Ten minutes later, Draco and Roger stood outside and surveyed the driveway together, each with a shovel in their hands. Roger hadn’t been joking when he said the snow was deep. It looked like nearly a foot had accumulated on the ground.

It wasn’t snowing at the moment, but it was still bitingly cold. Thankfully, Roger’s snow gear kept him fairly warm and seemed to fit well enough. His snow pants were a bit short, but Jean had tucked them into his boots, which had solved the problem.

Roger stomped through the shin-deep snow to get to the other side of the driveway. “I’ll start on this side. You can start over there.” His voice was distorted by the strange contraption he wore around his face and neck, and which he had insisted Draco wear, too. “Face mufflers,” he had called them.

Draco nodded, and they both began to shovel.

Draco considered himself fairly fit for his age. Although winter wasn’t a good time for swimming or Quidditch— his preferred methods of exercise— he had taken up running, and he still did many of the strength exercises he had learned during his Quidditch days.

Shoveling snow, however, was back-breaking work. The snow was heavy and wet, as Roger had warned, and the muscles in his shoulders, arms, and back were quickly humming and burning from the intensity of it.

A few minutes in, he realized that Roger had stopped shoveling and was staring at him. He hesitated for a moment, and then shuffled over.

“The key is to bend your knees, not your back, and lift with your leg muscles. Like so.” Roger demonstrated several times with slow, measured motions. Draco tried to copy him.

“Better,” he said. “But try pivoting your whole body when you dump the snow. You want to avoid twisting your back.”

After several more tries and corrections, Roger was finally satisfied with his technique. “Perfect. That will help you avoid strains or injuries.”

“Thank you,” Draco said, haltingly adjusting his grip on the shovel. He wondered if proper snow shoveling was common knowledge among Muggles. As if he needed another reason for Hermione’s parents to think him strange.

Roger seemed to intuit his thoughts. “I grew up in Birmingham. Are you familiar with the area?” Draco shook his head.

“Ah.” Roger pulled down his muffler and leaned on his shovel. “There’s a harsh winter every few years. When I was growing up, we would shovel the snow all the way down the street. They weren’t as diligent back then about coming to clear it.”

For a few moments, there was silence, apart from the sounds of them drawing labored breaths.

“Hermione told us a bit about your family,” he said. “I expect you never needed to learn. Trust me, I wish I didn’t, either.”

There was something distinctly paternal in his crooked smile, even though Draco was sure his own father had never smiled at him like that.

“Thanks, Mr. Granger. We did have... help, when it came to things like this. But it’s good to learn.”

Roger clapped him on the back. “Anytime. My father taught me how to shovel snow. I’m sure yours taught you how to do other things.”

“Not really.” The bitter words had escaped him without a second thought. He quickly looked away, his cheeks burning. “He wasn’t very hands on. When it came to things like this.”

“I see.”

Draco surveyed the quiet, snow-covered street, praying Roger would go back to shoveling and leave him to his mortification in peace. But he didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

“I’m not sure if Hermione told you, but she has no aunts or uncles on my side,” he said at last. “I’m an only child. My mum died when I was 9. Lung cancer.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you,” said Roger. “The funny thing is that my mum never smoked a day in her life. My dad was the smoker. I always considered it one of life’s greatest ironies that he outlived her.”

Draco shifted uncomfortably, at a loss for words. 

“My dad raised me after she passed. He was an electrician. Never went to uni. Most people didn’t back then. But he still hated himself for it, so he pushed me to excel at school. No friends, no sports, no distractions.”

“Sounds dull.”

Roger nodded. “Terribly so. Rebelling wasn’t fashionable back then, so I did as I was told.”

I know the feeling, Draco wanted to say. Instead he said nothing.

“My last year of secondary school, I won a scholarship to King’s College. You’d think my dad would be proud, but he told me he was disappointed it wasn’t Oxford.” Roger shook his head, his mouth in a grim line.

“Things changed when I went away to school. I could barely stand him. We fought every time we spoke. He didn’t come to my graduation because we were in a row. He was angry because I had told him I planned to become a dentist. Not prestigious enough, he said.”

The bitterness in his tone felt deeply familiar. Draco stared at him, wondering how much more he would share.

“We finally patched things up after my first year of dental school. But he was a right bastard to Jean when they met. He called her the ‘death of my ambition,’ the old cad. I think it was then that I knew, beyond all doubt, that he had the worst judgment out of anyone I’d ever met.”

“A fair point,” said Draco. Roger chuckled, and Draco smirked in spite of himself. Fathers often had terrible taste when it came to their sons’ partners, it seemed.

“When we got engaged, I sent him a letter to let him know. I didn’t take his calls for months. Then one day I got a ring from the police station in Birmingham telling me he had passed. It was a heart attack. They found him quickly, at least. His boss called it in. It was the first day of work my dad had missed in 25 years.”

Draco was silent. After a minute or two, Roger appeared to snap out of his reverie.

“I don’t know much about you and your father, but I know what it’s like to have a complicated relationship with a parent who’s gone. It gets easier, in time.”

“Thank you, sir.” Draco was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry about your dad.”

Roger nodded. Though a different color, his eyes were just as piercing as his daughter’s. He leaned forward as if to clap Draco on the back, but seemed to think the better of it.

He turned and slowly shuffled back to his side of the driveway. After a moment, both men began shoveling snow as though nothing had passed between them.

 

********************************

Three years and two months ago

“Explain it to me one more time, Lucius,” said Narcissa.

They were in one of the Manor’s smaller sitting rooms. The space was rarely used, but it was tucked away from more trafficked areas and perfect for a clandestine meeting. The crackling fire and close quarters failed to dispel the sense of chilly gloom in the air. For beyond the room and its myriad wards, the Manor was crawling with Death Eaters. The grounds outside were littered with pale bones, a grisly reminder of the transfigured corpses that had been too damaged for Nagini to eat.

Lucius sighed and reached for his brandy. His lazy, well-bred movements couldn’t hide the fact that he had recently been tortured. “It’s simple. Yaxley happened to discover the wards placed on Rufus Scrimgeour’s home. I happened to learn that there’s a changing of his guards tonight. He’ll be vulnerable. I can get to him, Narcissa.”

He drained his glass, his hand slightly trembling. “The Dark Lord has wanted Scrimgeour for a long time. If I capture him, things will be different for us.”

“But surely delivering the information to him will be enough?” Narcissa's expression was pinched. “You needn’t risk getting hurt or captured— or worse yet, failure, and then having to face the Dark Lord.”

“There’s no time. Bellatrix said he’s on a mission in Austria of great importance. He’ll kill me if I summon him.”

“But if you just asked for help—”

“I can’t risk anyone else coming with me. It has to be our family— the credit must go to us. Besides, if it hadn’t been for the imbeciles who accompanied me to the Ministry two years ago, we might not be in this position.”

Draco’s jaw tensed as his father got up to pour himself another drink. He had a distinctly disheveled look about him, like a man that was unraveling at the seams. His face was pale and haggard, his hair tousled and unkempt. His eyes were perpetually bloodshot these days. Whether from the lack of sleep or alcohol, Draco couldn’t say.

He sat back down on the sofa less than gracefully, a full glass of brandy in his hand. Draco felt sick just looking at him. And beneath it, rage.

“I’m not going with you.”

Lucius looked up at him with faint surprise. His eyes turned cold as he studied him. “I don’t recall asking.” 

“Certainly not,” Narcissa sniffed. “It’s far too dangerous—”

“Spare me, Mother. I’m not a child anymore.” She glanced at him, shocked, but he ignored her. “You saw to that before I was even of age, didn’t you, Father?” He nodded at the Dark Mark on his arm.

Lucius paled, but quickly recovered. “If you have something to say, Draco—”

“I do, in fact. I’m not going with you because this plan is one of the worst ideas you’ve had.”

His mother gasped. “Draco!”

In all of his 18 years, Draco had never spoken to his father like this. But last week he had killed a girl, and he had been full of rage ever since. Blinding, searing rage, licking just beneath the surface of his skin.

Lucius opened his mouth furiously, but Draco wasn't done. “Still trying to earn back your place in the ranks of a madman, are you?”

He sneered at their stunned expressions before plunging on. “I’m sick of tiptoeing around it, so let’s not mince words, Father. You sold your soul to a half-blooded devil. A liar. You know as well as I do that he doesn’t give a damn about blood. If he did, half of the bodies out there wouldn’t be pure-bloods. He used you up and spit you out and you begged him for it, groveling at his boots. And now we all have to suffer for it.”

A vein was pulsing in his father’s temple as he stared back at him. 

“A better man would admit that he was wrong,” said Draco, balling his fists. “Or at least keep his head down. Instead, here you are, trying to pull off a miracle maneuver that’s just as likely to get to you killed as it is to win back his favor.”

He stood up abruptly, his upper lip curling so high it trembled. “This plan is just as pathetic as you are. You disgust me.” 

His father broke. He leapt to his feet with a roar, hurtling his glass across the room. Narcissa threw herself between them as it shattered.

“Lucius, no!” she pleaded, clutching at his robes.

A year or two ago, the unbridled rage in his father's eyes would have petrified Draco cold. Now it merely stoked his own violent, white-hot fury. He clenched his jaw as it clamored for release, silently daring his father to make the first move.

“Don’t,” said Narcissa. 

Lucius' eyes flickered to meet her. He stared at her for a few moments and then seemed to relax. She lessened her hold.

“Draco, I’m appalled at you.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “Get out.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’m leaving now,” said Lucius, tearing himself from her grip. “I’ll see you tonight.” He gave Draco a furious look before sweeping from the room.

Narcissa remained where she was for a full minute. Draco said nothing. He had no intention of apologizing to her. She was complicit in this, too.

She walked stiffly to the door, still not facing him. She paused at the threshold. “He’s doing this for you too. He knows, Draco. About her. We both do.”  

He waited until the sounds of her footsteps had faded before collapsing on the sofa, cradling his head in his hands.

A month ago, a Snatcher had captured a stray Mudblood and had brought her to the Manor. After determining the girl had possessed no valuable information, Voldemort had bidden them to lock her in the dungeon. She was to be a gift for Fenrir Greyback, who was on a mission in France.

When they had first dragged her in, she had been unconscious in the Snatcher’s arms. “I remember seeing this one in Hogsmeade back in the day,” he had leered. “Quite fit, too.”

Draco had only been able to make out a slender body of medium height and long, curly brown hair. For one terrible moment, he had thought it was Hermione Granger. His stomach had seized at the thought— a reaction he was still trying to untangle. But it hadn’t been her.

When Bellatrix had rolled her over on the floor of the drawing room with her heeled black boot, the face of the girl had been quite different. Her eyes had been smaller and narrower-set than Granger’s, and her nose longer and thinner. But he had recognized it all the same.

Penelope Clearwater. She had been four years above him at Hogwarts, and if he recalled correctly, she had dated one of the Weasleys, too.

With the Dark Lord’s permission, his bloodthirsty aunt had “borrowed” Greyback’s “new toy” almost nightly to keep herself entertained. The first few nights, Draco had locked himself in his room when his aunt had gotten started on her, trying not to retch each time her screams had penetrated his silencing charms. His mother and father had looked ill, too, each time he’d seen them witness it. As biased as they were against Muggle-borns, they favored segregation and expulsion over torture and murder.

He wasn’t sure what had made him go down to see her, that first night. Perhaps it had been guilt, or curiosity. Maybe seeing her face had simply reminded him of a happier, more innocent time. Whatever it was, he had found himself in the dungeons about a week after she had first arrived.  

He had been hoping she would be asleep, but she had scuttled to the corner of her cell when he had arrived, eyeing him with equal parts terror and suspicion. She had shivered violently as he had stared at her. He had suddenly realized how cold it was. So he had conjured a blanket.

He had frozen as soon as he’d done it. If he gave it to her, it could get him tortured, or worse. But she had stared at it like there was nothing she’d wanted more. And so he had dropped it through the bars of her cell.

“Make sure you hide that in the morning,” he had said. “There’s a loose stone in the back right corner.” He had felt her eyes follow him as he left.

The next night, he had brought her a pain relief potion. “It’ll disappear in an hour, so drink it before then,” he had told her.

The third night, he had brought her another pain relief potion, and a copy of the Daily Prophet. When it had reappeared in his room the next morning, he had seen the unmistakable sign of her tears on the casualties page.

And so it had continued. He had tried not to think about the fact that he was risking his life to be kind to a Mudblood. He had no idea why he was doing it.

“Will you help me escape?” she had asked him one night, as he had dropped off her nightly potion. He had startled at the sound of her voice. He hadn’t heard it in years. He had been a young schoolboy back then, and she a powerful older Prefect.

“I can’t.There are so many of them here and they’re always watching us. They’ll kill me if I do.” His face had burned with shame.

“Will you kill me, then?” she had asked quietly.

He had stared at her, horrified.

“I know what Greyback does to girls before he mauls them,” she had said, her voice cracking. “God knows how long he’ll keep me alive.” She had brushed away her tears impatiently. “I know what’s coming, and you’d be doing me a favor. Please.”

“I can’t,” Draco had choked. He had run up the stairs as fast as his legs could carry him and had vomited up the contents of his dinner as soon as he had reached his room.

She had said nothing the next night, or any of the nights afterward, except to quietly thank him. But every time he had looked at her, Draco had thought about what she’d asked. And he had known she had been thinking about the same thing.

He had started to brainstorm ways he might be able to help her escape. There had still been a few more weeks before Greyback would return, and if he could create a distraction of some kind when Bellatrix was torturing her, it might work. He had been thinking about this very topic when his mother had knocked on his bedroom door one evening.

“The Dark Lord has requested you,” she had said, trying to keep her voice even.

He had paled when he had seen Penelope in the drawing room. She had a black eye and several gashes down her throat and collarbone— enough to make her bleed profusely, but not enough to bleed out.

The Dark Lord had fixed his gaze on him through the slits of his eyes. “Ah, Draco,” he had said. “Good. I happened to arrive for a visit when your aunt was having a chat with this Mudblood. The little filth tore out a section of her hair.” Bellatrix had taken the opportunity to bare her teeth at Penelope.

“She ought to be punished, shouldn’t she? Your aunt told me you were schoolmates, so who better to deliver it than you.” His lips had curved into a cruel smile.

“Yes, my Lord,” Draco had said, aware that he was being tested. He had looked at Penelope, and she him, and he had instantly realized what she was trying to accomplish by attacking his aunt.

Please," her earlier plea had rang through his head. It had echoed then in her eyes, too. He had known what she had wanted from him.

Avada Kedavra,” he had whispered, and she had crumpled.

Bellatrix had let out an astonished cry. The Dark Lord had turned to him, his initial surprise turning into a cold fury, before savagely penetrating his mind. But Draco had been prepared. He had let him see what he had wanted him to see. He had learned Occlumency from the most brutal teacher, after all.

Mudblood whore. Bitch. Thief.

After a minute or so, Voldemort had pulled out. He had seemed to reappraise him. “Well done, Draco. We won’t mention this to Greyback.” His aunt’s shock had morphed into amused pleasure, and she had let out a gleeful cackle. Voldemort had given him a lipless smile and had left the room, Bellatrix trailing at his heels. His mother had grimly stepped forward and had transfigured Penelope's body into a slender pale bone.

“Toss it outside once you’ve collected yourself,” she had ordered. “I’ll make you a tonic.”

Even though he’d done exactly what Penelope had wanted him to do, Draco had cried himself to sleep that night, after he had buried her. He hadn’t given her a tombstone, but he had dug her a spot beneath one of his favorite trees on the grounds of the Manor. He hadn’t cried because he’d loved her. He had barely known her. He had cried because they might have been friends, once, in another life.

Later that evening, Draco’s Dark Mark burned with a vengeance. The summon felt angrier than usual. And he knew then that his father had failed.

He headed down to the drawing room in a daze. His mother was there, her face paler and more anxious than usual. 

“Draco, what—" She startled at the violent peals of thunder outside. They both moved to the window.

There was a growing blackness in the sky. Billows of smoke began hurtling from the dense cloud, each materializing in a hooded figure standing just outside the gates. The Death Eaters staying at the Manor briskly crossed the grounds to meet their companions, dressed in full regalia.

Voldemort arrived last, his ghastly pale head unmistakable amidst the sea of black hoods. Above him, a body writhed in the air. Lucius’ blonde hair hung suspended, but his robes were crushed against his body. He was wrapped in a nest of living black ropes that slid about his limbs.

Narcissa gasped. "Oh, God." Draco wrapped his arm around her shoulders, supporting her. The movement was automatic. He still couldn’t form a coherent thought.

The Death Eaters seamlessly passed through the iron gates as though they were as decorative as the barrier at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. The Manor’s gates had only admitted Malfoys by blood or marriage for centuries, but Voldemort had found a way to penetrate the ancient wards to allow anyone with a Dark Mark.

They swept down the path to the Manor in ominous rows of two by two, with Voldemort and Lucius bringing up the rear. Nagini had been hunting on the grounds, and she slithered up to meet them.

“Draco,” said Narcissa faintly, when the last of them had disappeared from view. “Listen to me. Do whatever the Dark Lord commands. Your father knew the risks. Don’t— don’t do anything stupid. Your father—”  

She broke off, and they spun around to face the first of the Death Eaters piling into the drawing room. They formed a circular formation and began relieving themselves of their hoods and masks. Crabbe. Pettigrew. Macnair. Dolohov. Yaxley. Selwyn. Rowle. Bellatrix. Rodolphus. Dolohov. Snape. None of them looked at Draco or his mother.

Voldemort entered last with Nagini and Lucius, his eyes alight with malice. The circle parted to accommodate them. He banished Lucius’ bindings and dropped him at the center of the room. Narcissa shuddered when he fell. Draco squeezed her wrist tightly in warning.

Lucius got to his knees, trembling violently. His head remained bowed as he prostrated himself at Voldemort’s feet.  “My Lord—”

“Silence,” Voldemort hissed. Nagini puffed up for emphasis as she circled them. Lucius flinched.

“My friends," he said. "I called you here because Lucius elected to attack Rufus Scrimgeour at his home tonight. Unassisted. He believed he could capture him by himself, you see. He expected to be rewarded for it.” He delivered the last line with a sneer. There were a few jeers from the circle.

“He failed. An unsurprising habit of his, though I confess I find this failure particularly disappointing. Scrimgeour will likely move underground, and it may be months before he reemerges. I had planned our takeover of the Ministry to happen much sooner. Isn’t that right, Thicknesse?”

“Yes, my Lord,” Pius Thickness chanted, his eyes glazed.

Voldemort gave him a bemused smile before his gaze flickered back to Lucius. His eyes grew murderous.

“Not only did Lucius attack without permission and fail, but he had the audacity to come find me afterward and beg for mercy. He asked me to kill him there at Nurmengard, away from his wife and son.” He paused for effect. Several Death Eaters scoffed. Lucius’ head fell even lower to the ground.  

“I was disinclined to grant his request,” said Voldemort, looking down at him malevolently. “My army has little room for failure and none for insubordination. Did he act alone, I wonder? Or is the rest of his tree as rotten as he is?”

Voldemort’s snake-like eyes darted to Draco. In a flash, he brutally bore into his mind. Draco staggered from the force of it, releasing his mother’s wrist. Her stifled cry grounded him amidst the violent swarming in his head. He summoned every ounce of his mental strength to show Voldemort fragments of their earlier conversation.

But surely delivering the information to him will be enough? You needn’t risk getting hurt or captured, or worse yet, failure—”  

if you just asked for help—"

one of the worst ideas you’ve had.”

“This plan is just as pathetic as you are. You disgust me.”

His father leapt to his feet with a roar, hurtling his glass across the room.

Lucius, no."

He tore himself from his wife’s grip. “I’ll see you tonight.”

Draco gasped when Voldemort finally relented, nearly collapsing from the pain. His mother started towards him, but he quickly jerked his head.

Voldemort appraised him for a minute. “I see you aren’t as foolish as your father. You may be a worthy follower yet, Draco. But it remains to be seen.”

“Thank you, my Lord," he rasped. His eyes darted to his father. He was watching their exchange, terrified.   

Voldemort followed his line of sight and Lucius instantly dropped his head back down. He stared at him for a few moments, lip curling, before swiveling back to Draco.

“Kill him."

The command washed over Draco like a thousand knives. He froze. He wasn't sure for how long. 

Voldemort cocked his head. “Shall I repeat myself? Or do you require additional encouragement?” He turned his gaze lazily to Narcissa. She drew in a sharp breath.

Draco’s legs propelled him forward. He wasn’t sure why. Perhaps he was stalling.

Time seemed to move impossibly slow with each drag of his feet. Every heartbeat reverberated violently in his head. Lucius watched him approach, his eyes darting between him and Narcissa. His expression was utterly wretched.

Draco looked down at his ruined father and dimly wondered if he was going to faint. He thought he might have pulled his wand out, but he couldn't be sure. His limbs were heavy and leaden, like they belonged to someone else. 

They locked eyes, and a razor sliced through the numbness. His chest heaved.  

He had to, but he couldn’t. It was one thing with Penelope. Not his father. Not like this. No. God, no

His father gave him a nearly imperceptible nod, encouraging him. “Draco—” he choked.

There was a flash of green light, and Lucius crumpled to the ground.

The room spun beneath his feet as Draco stared down at his father, blood roaring in his ears. Somewhere in the distance, he registered the sound of his mother letting out a ragged sob. But his arm was still sagging besides him, his wand held loosely in his hand. Surely he hadn’t moved to kill his father— he couldn’t have. Had he? Had he dreamt it all?

He was startled by a crashing noise somewhere to his left. He swiveled around to find Voldemort choking Snape.

“I don’t recall asking for your interference, Severus." Nagini slithered vindictively at his feet. "Crucio!"

The rest of the room remained silent as Snape fell to the ground, jerking and sputtering. Voldemort loomed above him, teeth bared as he brandished his wand. Clarity struck through the fog in Draco’s head like lightning.

He hadn’t killed his father. Snape had.  

Snape pushed himself to his knees when it finally ceased, wheezing. “Forgive me, my Lord."   

Voldemort's eyes were narrowed into slits. “Explain yourself.”

“It was the Unbreakable Vow. It compelled me to assist Draco when he hesitated. I would never deliberately interfere with your orders, my Lord. It appears Bellatrix and I were not specific enough in clarifying that I should only assist him with the task you had given him two years ago. The Vow must have taken on a more general form.”

Snape didn't flinch when Voldemort dove into his mind, his eyes steady and unblinking. Draco shuddered.  

Voldemort relinquished his attack in a matter of seconds. He whipped around to find Bellatrix. She quickly bowed her head, cowed and visibly terrified. Guilt seemed to radiate off her in waves. She must not have realized that Snape was lying, although Draco was almost certain he was.

“Very well,” said Voldemort, narrowing his eyes. He turned back to Snape. “In the future, Severus, excuse yourself when I deliver Draco an order. I intended him to carry this one out himself.”

“Yes, my Lord. It won’t happen again, I assure you.”

Voldemort considered him for a few more moments before addressing the rest of his Death Eaters. “We’re finished here. You may go. Bellatrix, Yaxley— to the dining room. We need to reconsider our plans at the Ministry.”

The Death Eaters filed out of the room, assiduously avoiding eye contact with the two remaining Malfoys.

Nagini reared up her head as Voldemort prepared to leave, communicating to him in a series of insistent hisses. His reply must have not been to her liking, because she slithered out of the room angrily, knocking over a chair as she left.

“I’ll allow you to bury him,” he said, fixing his cold gaze on Draco and Narcisssa. “A gesture of goodwill to the new head of the Malfoy house. Don’t disappoint me, Draco.”  

His mother crossed the room as soon as they were gone. She stood over her husband’s body, white as a sheet. “We’ll have to bury him quickly. I’ll have Tinsley fetch some wood I can fashion into a coffin. It’s not ideal, but it’ll have to do.”

Draco watched her numbly. She was in shock, he thought. He probably was too. But the adrenaline coursing through his veins was quickly giving way to a cold sense of horror and dread.

“We’ll have to order the headstone later. There’s a good place in Surrey I can commission.” She drew in a rattling breath. “You did well, Draco. What matters is that you aren’t hurt.”

He moved besides her to stare down at his father. He could feel it— the wave of grief cresting beneath his skin. He was about to drown in it.  

She looked up at him. “You aren’t hurt, are you?”

He met her eyes. “Mother,” he said.  

Her carefully controlled features contorted a few times before the wave finally claimed her. She wailed loudly into his robes as he held her. They sank onto the floor together, weeping, shaking and clutching at Lucius’ body as though it might bring him back.

 

********************************

Present day  

Draco dug furiously at the snow. He took care to not strain his back, but he moved more quickly and lifted more snow at a time. The dull humming in his muscles increased to a sharper burn, and the handle of the shovel ground against his palms as he bore the heavier weight. The seizing and aching only made him push himself harder. The pain helped him focus. It helped him forget.

He hadn’t thought about Penelope in ages. He hoped that she was at peace, wherever she was. He hoped that she forgave him.

As for his father— he couldn’t think about him right now. He buried him in his mind as he unburied the snow.  

“Wow!” Roger gave him an approving nod from across the driveway. “You’ve really got the hang of it, haven’t you? You’re putting me to shame!”

They finished less than 10 minutes later, thanks in large part to Draco’s increased efforts. After scraping the snow off the rental car, Roger typed a code in a small black box affixed next to the garage door. It opened with a groan and they headed inside, their boots squeaking with moisture. They set their shovels by the door.

“After you,” said Roger, gesturing to the door.

Draco didn’t move.

“Did you ever come to peace with it?" he found himself asking. "Being on poor terms with him when he died?”

Roger glanced at him, but he continued to stare straight ahead.

“I did,” he said at last. “But it took years. I didn’t forgive myself until I became a father.”

Draco turned to look at him. "Why?" He knew he sounded desperate, but couldn’t find it in himself to care.

Roger considered for a moment. “It was only then that I was certain he had forgiven me. “

“I see," said Draco. But he didn’t see at all. He didn’t dare to presume his own father had forgiven him for the terrible things he had said.

He would give anything to be able to tell him that he was sorry. For letting him go. For being so cruel. He’d tell him that although he’d die angry at him, he’d die loving him, too. He blinked rapidly, fighting down the bitter disappointment in his throat.

Roger studied him, his gaze as searching as ever. “There’s nothing Hermione could do to stop me from loving her. Forgiving your child for whatever they do or don’t do to you— it’s a given.”

Draco nodded and looked away, swallowing thickly.

“You’ll see when you have children of your own one day. And you’ll be damned before you make the same mistakes.”

Children of his own.

Although Draco found the notion of fatherhood more than mildly terrifying, there was something about the thought of having children with Hermione that cut through his grief like a hot knife.

Their children would not experience the same pain and trauma they had. They would make sure of it. They’d smother them in love and protection and comfort and everything good they had to give. They’d be half-bloods, but there’d be nothing dirty about them. They’d soothe the wounds and mistakes in his family line as surely as loving Hermione had healed him.  

He hoped they would buck the Malfoy family tradition and look different than he did. To remind them that they weren’t their father, just like he wasn’t his. Unfortunately, he was convinced that one of his more primeval ancestors had enchanted the family’s genes to ensure that they were dominant, at least when it came to physical appearance. But with any luck, Draco thought, their children would at least have her eyes.

Thanks to a different spell from another one of his more primeval ancestors (or perhaps the same one), they were guaranteed to have a son as their firstborn. But maybe they’d have a daughter one day, too. After all, Hermione had said she wanted more than one.

“So they’ll never be lonely,” she'd said. “Like you or I were growing up.” Draco had agreed with her at the time. But whether they ended up having one child or an entire Quidditch team, he’d be damned if any of his children were ever lonely.

He’d like the name Penelope for a girl, he thought. They could always give her a constellation for her middle name.

His cheeks burned at the sudden realization that Roger was still watching him, waiting for his reply. He cleared his throat. “Thanks, Mr. Granger. I appreciate… everything.”

“Thank you for helping me shovel,” said Roger, clapping his shoulder. “Now let’s get you out of these wet clothes so you and Hermione can go to the store.”

As he stepped inside and shucked off his boots, it occurred to Draco that he quite liked his future father-in-law.

Chapter Text

 

 

Present day

As it turned out, there was nothing like the fear of one’s imminent death to banish all thoughts of past trauma. More specifically, the fear of death due to the driving of a nervous, inexperienced driver trying to navigate an unfamiliar neighborhood on the day after a record snowball.

Draco didn’t blame her— he really didn’t— but Hermione’s driving had his heart thumping as wildly as it had during some of his deadliest battles. Although the roads had been cleared overnight, they were still coated in a thin layer of snow, and their rickety car seemed to skid dangerously each time Hermione moved the blasted stick. Her jerky driving was further exacerbated by the fact that neither of them had a clue where they were going.

“I swear my Dad said the plaza was just a mile past the four way stop,” Hermione said helplessly. “Is there any way—”

“I’m doing my best. You should try reading this damn thing,” Draco snapped, studying the Muggle map Jean had given them. “It’s the most useless—”

“There!” Hermione cried. “On the left!” They nearly missed the entrance to the shopping center, but she caught it at the last second. She yanked the wheel into a sharp turn.

Their car swerved violently to the left, tires squealing, and they sailed into the plaza with what could only be described as a crash landing. Draco let out a string of curses as the car overcorrected and wobbled straight.

Hermione was gripping the wheel as tightly as one might cling to a life raft while stranded in the middle of the ocean. “Sorry— sorry— urgh!"  

They shuddered into the nearest parking spot, a good 20 yards away from the entrance of the store, before the engine promptly died. Hermione ripped the key out of the ignition, clearly as relieved to have survived as Draco was. Her parking job was so crooked it was nearly diagonal.

They both sat there in silence for a few moments. “Sorry about that,” Hermione said shakily. “Well, we made it, at least.”

Draco mumbled something unintelligible in reply and ungracefully rolled out of the car, anxious to put as much space between him and the metal Muggle death trap as possible.

Rana’s Grocer seemed nice enough, he thought, taking in the rows of colorful goods. He had never been inside a Muggle grocer before. In fact, grocery stores were a new thing for him in general. He had barely grown accustomed to the wizarding ones in Diagon Alley.

He watched the few harried Muggle shoppers rush about the store with faint amusement, thinking about how grateful they would be if they could perform his trick of summoning every item he needed to fly into his basket at once.

“Goodness, it’s warm in here,” said Hermione. She shrugged out of her black peacoat and tossed it in the trolley. Draco took off his own coat as well, but he held onto it. He couldn’t bear to part with his wand whenever they were out in public. Or in general, really. He still didn’t understand how Hermione could calmly stow hers away in her luggage for two entire days.

Hermione hadn’t noticed. She was slowly pushing the trolley forward, engrossed in the grocery list Jean had given her. Draco caught the trolley when she nearly rolled it into a table full of plastic-enclosed desserts.

“This is about a mile long,” she groused. “Short errand my arse!”

Draco grunted his sympathy. A brightly colored sign on the opposite wall had just caught his attention. “100% British Milk,” it screamed. He stared at it. What would possess a British Muggle to drink non-British milk?

“I’d have us divide and conquer, but...” Hermione broke off, sighing. “Draco?”

“I heard you,” he drawled, tearing his gaze away from the sign. “I’m useless, I know. Come and find me when you’re finished.”

She looked amused. “A lot to take in, isn’t it? It’s quite big for an independent grocer. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a wizarding grocery store.”

Draco shrugged in reply. He wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the Muggle world, especially given their new neighborhood in Greenwich. They had even gone clothes shopping at Muggle stores just before their visit. But Hermione was right: this was like stepping into an alternative universe. Not that he was about to admit it.  

“I’ll try to knock this out quickly, but no guarantees. Have fun exploring.” She grinned at him before walking away.

Draco grabbed a basket and casually strolled down one of the nearest aisles, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. Some of the food items he recognized. Crisps. Biscuits. Chocolates. Although he wondered why Muggles needed ten different varieties of them or such garish packaging.

He paused when he reached the end of the aisle. There was a small stand of pre-prepared salads and sandwiches wrapped in a shiny, see-through plastic material. But who wouldn’t want their sandwiches made fresh? He shook his head and headed down the next one.

This aisle was full of soaps and washes. He snorted at a men’s shampoo with a grinning Muggle man that specified itself as “anti hair loss.” Luckily, the men in his family had always maintained an impressive head of hair as they aged. But if he ever did begin balding, he wasn’t above conducting a hair-regrowing spell. He pitied Muggle men for not having that option, really.

He approached the middle of the aisle and noticed a section with rows of products in bright purples and pinks. Draco plucked a box off the shelf. “Lillet Smartfit Nonapplicator Tampons,” it read. A small, cylindrical white object was depicted on the front. Was it supposed to help Muggles with nosebleeds, perhaps? Draco returned it to the shelf, making a mental note to ask Hermione about it later.

He neared the front of the store. There were two separate checkout lanes spaced fairly far apart. A tall young man with olive skin and black hair was stationed at one of them. He was lost in conversation with an elderly woman, who was apparently a repeat customer.

Draco moved through the empty checkout lane, eyeing the strange candies and treats. He picked up a small plastic object that was sandwiched in a box with similar objects of different colors. On the top of it was a red button, which was attached to a small silver wheel. He fiddled with it a few times before his thumb caught, and a flame sprang to life. He dropped it in surprise. When he snatched it off the ground, a magazine on the bottom rung of the aisle caught his eye.

He recognized the Muggle man on the cover. “You should know about the British Royal family,” Hermione had insisted a few weeks ago. “And the Muggle Prime Minister. Just in case they show up on the television.” She had then forced him to review picture after picture of important Muggles, one of whom was the same handsome blonde man staring back at him, frozen.

“Prince William: We Name the Girls Linked to the World’s Most Eligible Young Man!” the headline screeched. In the upper right hand corner, there was a picture of a pretty Muggle woman with dark, overlarge eyes. Coupled with her expression, she looked like a surprised doe. “Winona Stands Trial!” proclaimed the caption beneath her.

The bottom of the cover featured a violently blonde couple dressed in truly hideous matching denim outfits. They looked like they belonged at the Muggle circus, Draco thought. A jagged line had been cut through their frozen image, giving it the appearance of a photograph ripped in two. “Britney’s Tough Year,” the caption lamented.

Hello!, the name of the magazine, was clearly a gossip rag— the Muggle version of Witch’s Weekly. Although Draco had zero interest in wizarding tabloids, his interest was piqued by a Muggle one. What kind of rubbish made it into in a Muggle rag?

Draco glanced over at the Muggle employee, who was still preoccupied with the elderly customer. He considered for a moment, and then yanked it from the stand. He tossed it in his basket and walked away in search of more privacy.

He caught sight of his fiancée in the produce section. She was staring at her list with a furrowed brow, looking thoroughly annoyed. Her expression could only mean one thing: he still had time. He slunk into a nearby aisle, set his basket on the ground, and flipped the rag open.

The first dozen pages or so contained photo after photo of Muggle celebrities. Draco grimaced at the revolting  “trends” in Muggle women’s jeans. Some of them had rips and tears; others had garish back pockets decorated with cheap-looking embellishments. Yet others were cut so low across the woman’s hips that his mother’s eyes would have popped out if she ever saw them.

Muggle clothing was far more risqué than traditional wizarding attire, generally speaking. In fact, Draco had a special appreciation for the snugness of Hermione’s Muggle clothing. But she always found a way to make it look elegant somehow.

He peered around the corner to check on her. She had just rolled her trolley in front of a large display of cranberries. She was wearing dark, slim cut jeans, which were tucked into her black leather riding boots. He eyed the way they clung to her body with a newfound appreciation.

She leaned over the display and began filling a small plastic bag with cranberries. Her red knit jumper rode up slightly as she worked, exposing the smallest flashes of skin. She held the cranberries far away from her, wrinkling her nose as if they were a batch of dragon dung. Draco smirked to himself and returned to his alcove.

He quickly became engrossed in the lurid tales of Winona the Shoplifter, and Why Paul Burrell the Butler Didn’t Do It. As it turned out, Muggle scandals were just as ridiculous as Wizarding ones. He was almost halfway through the magazine when he was startled by the ringing sound of Hermione’s laughter. He tossed Hello! on the shelf and headed up front to investigate.

Hermione was chatting animatedly with the same young man he had seen earlier-- the store employee. Draco sized him up on instinct, instantly bristling at the fact that the man was quite good-looking. He didn’t appreciate the playful yet attentive way he was chatting with Hermione, either. Draco approached her from behind and placed his hand on the small of her back.  

“Oh, there you are!” said Hermione. “I’m all checked out, but we were just chatting. Draco, meet Vish. His mum and dad are the owners of Rana’s. Vish, this is Draco, my— boyfriend.”

She fumbled over the word for just a microsecond, but Vish seemed to notice. Draco’s darkened expression probably didn’t help matters, either.

“Nice to meet you, Draco,” said Vish, offering his hand with a cocksure smile.

Draco shook his hand more firmly than was necessary. “And you,” he replied coolly.  

“Vish is a graduate student in archaeology at UCL. He only moved back a few months ago to help his parents out. His grandmother is ill and they’ve been quite preoccupied with her.”

“Oh?” said Draco. A likely story.

“He was just telling me about an excavation they have planned in the Highlands next month. They think they’ve found a Viking burial site!”

“Fascinating,” said Draco, in a tone that suggested precisely the opposite.

“Hermione said you study insects.” Vish’s tone was friendly enough, but Draco didn’t miss the appraising look in his eye. “Wireworms, right?”

Draco clenched his jaw before replying. “That’s right.”

Hermione cut in before he could ask further questions. “Well, I hate to be rude, but we should probably get going, or my mum will kill us.” She laughed nervously. “It was nice to meet you, Vish. I’m sure I’ll see you the next time I’m in town. My parents love Rana’s. Really, you guys put Sainsburys to shame.”

“I’ll pass on your compliments,” said Vish with a smile. “When will you be in town next?” Draco narrowed his eyes at him. “So I can keep pictures on hand of the excavation,” he added. “It may be months before they’re released to the public.”

“Oh— that would be great!” said Hermione. “I really do find this stuff fascinating. The Vikings were always one of my favorite topics in Mug— medieval history. I’m coming back for Easter, so I’m sure we’ll end up here sometime that weekend.”

“I’ll be coming with her, so I’m looking forward to seeing them as well. Excuse us, but we really must be going.” He steered them both away, relishing the subtle but unmistakable look of disappointment on Vish’s face.

Hermione’s coat was buried under the piles of groceries, so they both elected to brave the cold outside. They rushed across the car park and quickly unloaded their groceries in the trunk. Draco insisted on returning the cart so Hermione could get out of the cold. He flipped it the wrong direction at the port so as to cause Vish a bit of extra work, and then headed back to the car.

“Were you serious about coming back with me for Easter?” Hermione asked as soon as he was settled inside.

“Yes.”

She beamed at him. “I can’t wait to tell my parents. My mum actually mentioned it last night, you know. I think they understand how serious we are.”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” Especially with that Muggle bastard nosing around, he added mentally.

A surge of irritation washed over him. He completely trusted Hermione, and it wasn’t like she did anything wrong. The woman would chat with a brick wall if it quoted interesting facts at her. Still: what was his was his . And nothing brought out his possessive side like another man making blatant advances towards her.

She slipped the key in the ignition and turned it halfway. “Oh good,” she said, glancing at the clock. We still have an hour before my mum wanted us home. Plenty of time.”

It was precisely the opportunity he had been looking for. She began to put on her seatbelt, but he put his hand on hers, halting her movement.

“Not yet.”

He pulled out his wand. Hermione watched him, mouth slightly open, while he cast a warming charm, a silencing charm, and a concealment charm so their car and the parking space were hidden from view.

Her breath hitched once he had finished. “Draco, we agreed no magic—”

“While staying under your parents’ roof. We’re not under their roof right now, are we?”

She licked her lips.

“Back of the car, Granger. Now.” She stared at him, eyes wide.

He hesitated. Hermione was more than capable of turning him down anytime she pleased, but sometimes, when he was in a particularly authoritative mood, he felt compelled to remind her. “We don’t have to if you don’t want—”

She scuttled over the armrest without another word. He grinned and followed her, choosing to apparate in the back seat instead.

He frowned the moment he materialized. This space was far too small for his purposes. He flicked his wand, raising the ceiling of the car by several feet, and then elongated the distance between the back and front seats by the same amount. With a final flourish, he extended the cushion of the back seat by about a foot.

Hermione watched him with an amused look on her face, her legs tucked underneath her.  “You do realize that this qualifies as a textbook case of abusing magic—”

He pounced, pinning her against the window and claiming her lips with his own. She tasted like vanilla cappuccino, and he had never found the Muggle drink more appealing. He threaded his fingers through her hair as he chased the flavor, hard and relentless, until she was gasping and breathless beneath him.

Her fists curled on his jumper as they sank down on the cushion together, her body pliant but demanding. She yanked and pulled at him as they frantically ground against one another, chasing the friction between his aching cock and the apex of her thighs. He finally broke away to wrestle her jumper off and she growled with displeasure, nipping his bottom lip and squeezing her legs around him like a vice.

He paused, tearing his gaze from her swollen, slightly parted lips to stare at the glittering ring around her neck. He had half a mind to make her put it on and remind her just exactly who he was to her, but he was too impatient, consumed by the overwhelming need to keep touching her. Tasting her.

He tugged the cups of her bra down. He palmed her right breast, circling and teasing her nipple into a stiff peak, and traced it with his tongue while she moaned and writhed beneath him. He moved to her left breast and gave it the same attention, undeterred by her insistent tugs on his hair.

“Please—” she begged, her voice no louder than a whisper, and it was exactly what he had been waiting to hear. He relented, releasing her nipple from his mouth and scattering kisses up her neck as he hovered above her. He latched on to the juncture between her neck and collarbone, sucking and nibbling at the delicate skin while she frantically worked to free him from his trousers.  

She unzipped his pants and tried yank them down, but they were slung too tight around his hips. After a few tries, her clever fingers finally pulled his cock through the opening of his boxers. He hissed as it sprang to full attention, throbbing and rock-hard.

She began to stroke him, but he grabbed her hand and pinned it above her head. He nibbled on her earlobe, unmoved by her frustrated whines.

“Pants off, Granger,” he said, voice low. He pulled away.

He stroked himself as he watched her unzip her boots and shimmy out of her jeans and knickers. His mouth went dry at the sight. The only thing more glorious than Hermione Granger naked was Hermione Granger naked in broad daylight.

“Bra off.”

“But I’ll be completely naked, and you still have all your clothes on.”

He cocked his head at her. “That’s the idea.” It actually hadn’t been his original intention, but the thought made him even harder.

She bit her lip. “Can you dim the light a little? It’s so bright out.”

He snatched his wand from the floor and cast a mild dimming charm before tossing it aside. “Off,” he repeated.

She complied, watching him through lidded eyes as she slipped off her bra.

“On my lap.” His voice was so deep he felt it rumble in his chest.

She straddled him slowly, still biting her lip, her hands on his shoulders. He held her hips tightly as he stared up at her.

“So beautiful,” he whispered, and she flushed prettily, like she always did from his compliments. “You never need to hide from me.”

He skated a hand down from her hip until he found her clit. He rubbed it with the pad of his thumb while she gasped and thrust her hips to meet him. “Who does this belong to?”

“You.”

He leaned forward to suck on her nipples, one at a time, still rubbing her clit in tiny circles. “What about these?”

“Yours,” she breathed.

He released her clit and grabbed both of her hips to help her slide closer, her knees splayed wide on either side of him, her feet tucked beneath her thighs. He stopped her when she was poised just above him.

He grabbed the base of his cock and guided it to her opening, circling her entrance with the head. “So wet and ready for me,” he said huskily. “Who does this sweet pussy belong to?”

“You.” Her gaze was dark and bottomless.

“Full marks, Granger.”

He helped her sink onto his cock, and they both groaned in pleasure when he was fully buried inside. Her cunt was warm and wet and he’d never tire of the way she felt, like a tight glove lined with velvet. He swore he nearly lost it every time.

She tried to begin moving, but he held her in place. “Who gets to see you spread out like this?”

“You,” she moaned, squirming in his lap. He gently tweaked her nipple and she clamped down on him so hard he hissed through his teeth. “Only you!” she huffed.

“Good girl. Now, move. I want to see you take it.”

She did— awkwardly, at first— but she quickly seemed to realize the position was no different than the many times she had straddled him on their couch at home. She soon began moving with a practice ease, digging her fingers into his shoulders with each swivel of her hips. He helped her fuck herself onto him properly, both hands gripping her waist, his breath hitching with each push and drag of his cock against her slick inner walls.

He stared at her eyes, drunk with pleasure. His cock disappearing inside her swollen pink folds. The way her hair tumbled over her shoulders, her ring bobbing against her breasts. The car was silent apart from the sounds of their panting and the slapping of flesh against flesh.

He could already feel the pressure loading deep in his groin, hot and insistent. He began rubbing her clit with ferocious determination, the need to make her come burning away everything else. Hermione moaned and arched into his touch, her head falling backward, bracing her weight on his upper back and shoulders.

Her whines grew to a steady pitch and the pace of her hips began to falter as he continued to massage her with his thumb. He leaned forward and grazed her nipple with his teeth until she whipped upright with a strangled cry.

She began fucking him again in earnest and Draco twisted beneath her while she moved, slamming up into her when he could manage it so hard that they both gasped. He wanted to kiss her, but it was either that or watch her take her pleasure from him. He chose the latter.

“You’re mine, Hermione,” he growled, stroking her harder, quicker with his thumb and his cock. She nodded at him vigorously, dazed, like it was the best thing she had ever heard.

“You take it so good,” he panted. “Now come for me. Come on my cock.”

She screwed her eyes shut, overwhelmed. “Draco, I’m close,” she whimpered. “ God, I—”

A few more thrusts, and then— she was lost.

He pounded up into her wildly as she came undone. She nearly screamed while he fucked her through her orgasm, sinking her fingernails into his shoulders as she hovered above him and took it. He was close, so close, and she keened as he slammed into her and chased the pleasure blinding the edges of his vision. He finally came with a strangled groan and she whimpered as he filled her with his come, collapsing bonelessly in his lap as soon as his hips stilled.

He held her in place, his cock still twitching, unwilling to leave the welcoming heat of her cunt just yet. She slipped her arms around her neck as he encircled her waist, his heart still hammering. He leaned them both forward to claim the kisses that had eluded him earlier and she carefully wrapped her legs around him, one at a time.

His cock began to fight gravity as it softened, so he gently turned them over they were lying supine across the seats. They continued kissing slowly, lazily, catching their breath. After a minute or two, Hermione finally pulled away.

“Draco,” she said, still slightly breathless, “this didn’t come about because of Vish, did it?”

He paused. “Perhaps,” he drawled.

She stared incredulously at him for a moment, and then snorted. “You do realize you’re an idiot, right?”

“Mmm,” he said, dipping down to kiss her neck. “That’s your problem. Besides, you enjoy it when I get set off.”

“I did no such thing—”

“I never said you set me off. Another bloke imagining you naked did.” She raised her eyebrows. “Though your choice of jeans did contribute,” he added.

She rolled her eyes, but there was a smile playing about her lips. “You think every man alive wants to shag me.”

“Half marks.” He pressed another slow, open-mouthed kiss on her neck. “I don’t think everyone who wants to shag you is a man.”

“You’re ridiculous,” she said, laughing. “People can strike up a conversation without a hidden agenda, you know.”

“Maybe so,” he whispered in her ear. “But he was far more interested in your bits than brains, my naive little Gryffindor.”

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree, my gutter-minded Slytherin.”

Draco smirked at her and slipped free. He tucked himself back in his trousers, bracing himself with a knee on the cushion and a foot on the floor. He grabbed her knickers. If it were a routine daytime shag, he would have held on to them, but he had something else in mind.

He leaned forward to kiss her again and slid his hand between her thighs. He gathered the come pooling at her entrance and pushed it back inside her. She jolted and gasped against his lips, still sensitive from her orgasm. Once he finished his task, he slipped his fingers in her mouth. She sucked them clean, not breaking eye contact while he watched her.

"Fuck, Granger,” he muttered. She released his fingers and looked up at him innocently, licking her lips.

He stared at her for a few moments. “Unless you want to stay in this parking lot all day, I’d suggest getting dressed,” he said darkly. Hermione looked like she couldn’t decide whether to be embarrassed or pleased with herself, and settled on a bit of both.

He helped her slide on her knickers, and then vanished the mess from his trousers and the upholstery while she pulled on her clothes and boots. When the coast was clear, he lifted the charms he had placed on the car.

Hermione elected not to crawl over the armrest to return to the driver’s seat, going out the rear door of the car instead. He noted the way she wobbled on her feet with no small degree of smugness.

Hermione rubbed her thighs together on the way home, flushed and thoroughly flustered. Draco smirked the entire way, too relaxed from his recent orgasm to care about her driving.

The experience of her riding him fully nude in the broad daylight, unbeknownst to the world around them, had been so mind-blowingly hot that Draco resolved to bottle the memory at the earliest opportunity. He’d have to look into getting a Pensieve.

As far as he was concerned, cranberry tart was one of the most brilliant inventions known to man.

Chapter Text

 

Present day

Draco and Hermione piled into the kitchen to find a frazzled-looking Jean and meticulously organized counters lined with pots, pans, and ingredients.

“You’re back!” She rushed over to help them with their bags. “Thank heavens. I was beginning to worry!”

“Sorry it took us so long, Mum,” said Hermione as they unloaded groceries together. “We met Vish at checkout and got lost in conversation.”

“You were doing me the favor, dear. And I was hoping you would! Fascinating young man, isn’t he? I always learn something new from him whenever I go there.”

“He was fun to talk to,” said Hermione mildly. “Well, we got everything we needed.” Draco caught her eye and smirked. She turned away, blushing furiously. “So, how’s cooking going?”

As it turned out, Draco was even more terrible of a cook than he had promised. “You’ll get the hang of it in no time,” Jean had reassured him. “You’ll be our sous chef!” Whatever that meant, Draco was certain he had mucked it up.

His woes began with the turkey. It had to be baked at a high temperature for a half hour and then lowered to 160 degrees. Since everyone else’s hands were full, Jean had asked him to do it. Draco thought he had managed it until Jean began screeching several minutes later. Apparently he had set the oven to the “clean” function. There had been a few tense minutes of Jean yanking at the oven door so hard that Roger had to pull her away, but thankfully, when the door had finally unlocked, the turkey had seemed relatively unscathed.

Roger had next asked him to warm up the butter for 30 seconds. He had gaped at him for a full minute when he had realized that Draco had set the butter dish on the stove and had turned on the burner. He should have specified that he had meant the microwave, Draco had grumbled to himself. Not that he would have figured out how to work it anyway.

As the hours dragged on, his stomach began to rumble. Jean told him to take a break and eat something, but it didn’t seem right when the three of them were slaving away like house elves. So he pilfered scraps of food when they weren’t looking instead. Hermione caught him on a few occasions and nearly burst out laughing. He gave her a murderous scowl each time.

Soon enough, so many dishes were underway that they were running out of surfaces to work on. At Jean’s behest, Hermione began clearing the counters to make room.

Draco continued to work on the terrible task that Roger had assigned him, which was peeling potatoes over the garbage bin. Roger had shown him how to use the vegetable peeler, but he had made it look it far easier than it actually was. Draco had lost count of the times he had accidentally dropped a potato in the trash or let it slip out of his hands.

The first time he had tried to peel one, it had catapulted across the room and had hit Jean squarely in the back. He had held onto it more tightly the next time, but as a result, he had ended up skinning his left pointer finger. He had nearly let out a string of violent curses, but had somehow held himself back. Instead he had grabbed a spare rag to wrap around his finger and persisted. If an army of Death Eaters couldn’t defeat him, a sack of potatoes certainly wouldn’t.

“Mum— this is addressed to me.”  

Draco glanced up from his mutilated potato. Hermione was staring at a letter on top of a stack of mail, frowning. “When did you get this?”

“Oh, good— you found it!” said Jean. “I meant to give it to you last night, but I forgot. It just arrived yesterday. A Christmas card from a friend, perhaps?”

Draco watched her open the envelope from across the room. As she examined the card inside, a firestorm of emotions passed over her face. He tensed. Very few people knew her parents’ address. Surely it wasn’t a threat of some kind?

“Excuse me, Mum, Dad— I have to go to the loo.” Hermione choked. She raced out of the room.

“What on Earth—?” said Jean.

“Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. I’ll be right back.” Draco tossed his potato and rag on the counter and briskly followed her.

He found her in the upstairs bathroom. She was leaning against the wall, her eyes closed. They flickered open when he entered.

“What happened? What did it say?” His eyes dropped to the photograph in her hands. She was clutching it so hard her knuckles were white.

She struggled to speak for a moment, fighting back tears. His stomach clenched. “Can I have your wand?” she finally asked.

Draco pulled it from its hiding place inside his sleeve and handed it to her. She tapped the photo, and the frozen figures began moving. “I thought so." 

“Let me see,” he commanded. She handed it to him.  

It was a photograph of the Weasleys. They were standing in their crowded living room, all dressed in hideous Christmas jumpers bearing their first initials. Molly and Arthur waved at them happily. Bill was proudly clutching a glowing Fleur, whose bump was barely visible beneath her baggy jumper. Harry and Ginny were on the outskirts of the photo, laughing at each other and lost in their own private world. Charlie had brought a new girlfriend home for Christmas who looked almost identical to his old one. George and Lee Jordan had snugly wrapped their arms around each other’s waists, looking equal parts jubilant and mischievous. Took them long enough, Draco mused.

There was, however, one unexpected couple. Ron stood near the back, tall and awkward in his maroon sweater. Next to him stood Luna Lovegood. They weren’t quite touching, but they kept leaning in the other’s direction, as if they wanted to move closer. Ron’s eyes kept surreptitiously flickering towards Luna, and vice versa. Interesting. 

He looked up at her. “So— what’s wrong? You wish we were there instead?”

She shook her head and swallowed. She plucked a small card off the counter and handed it to him. “It came with this.”

Happy Christmas, Hermione and Draco! Enjoy your time with Hermione’s parents. Can’t wait to see you both in the New Year. xxx

Ginny had signed the letter in her looping cursive. Harry, too, had signed his name in his traditional elegant script. Molly had signed for both her and Arthur, and there was a rude drawing of the male anatomy that only could have been George. But Draco’s eyes were fixed on the bottom right hand of the card. There, in chicken-scratch handwriting, were two unmistakable initials: R.W.

“Ron,” she said shakily. “He signed it. It’s the first time he’s acknowledged me since we got engaged. He might— I think he might—”

It was all she could manage before she burst into tears. Draco held her tightly as she wept into his shoulder, rubbing soothing circles on her back. After the worst of it was over, and there was an impressive wet spot on his shirt, she pulled away to look up at him.

“I’m sorry,” she said thickly. “Honestly, I’m a mess.” Draco pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and offered it to her. She took it with a grateful smile.

He didn’t even flinch when she blew her nose into it— loudly. It was one of the many reasons he’d known she was the one. He’d always been possessive, but she could have anything of his. He wanted her to. 

She crumpled up the ruined handkerchief and put it in her pocket. “I’ll wash this later. Anyway, I know it doesn’t seem like much, but…”

“It is,” said Draco. “And I caught something else that might interest you.” He turned her around and encircled her from behind. They sank on the bathroom floor together, his back against the wall, her back against his chest.

When they were comfortably settled, he held up the photograph in front of her. “Look.” He pointed at Ron and Luna. “They fancy each other. I’m sure of it.”

He could feel Hermione smiling against his cheek. “I saw that too.”

“He should be moving right along then.” Draco pressed a kiss into her hair. “You’ll be on speaking terms in no time.”

“A bit optimistic, don’t you think?”

“He’ll change his tune as soon as he’s got someone else. And he’s learned to move quickly this time around. I bet you we’ll be having them over for dinner within a few months at most.”

“God, I hope you’re right.”

“Unfortunately, I probably am. We’ll just have to check our shagging schedule to make sure there aren’t any incidents next time.”

Hermione contorted her body to glare at him. “That’s not funny, Draco.”

He smirked. “It is a bit.”

She tutted in disapproval and turned back to look at the photograph he was still holding. She traced the border with her finger, sighing in contentment. Then her entire body went rigid in his arms.

“Draco, your finger!” She seized his left hand. “What happened?”

“The vegetable peeler.” He grimaced as she assessed the damage. “Useless, cheap thing."

“Why didn’t you say something?”

Because I didn’t want to draw more attention to how bloody awful I am at cooking.

He shrugged. “It’s nothing.”

“It most certainly is not nothing! You’ve cut yourself raw!”

“It’ll heal,” he said dismissively. “Nothing to fuss over.”

She scrambled off the floor before he could stop her. “Don’t move.” She left the bathroom and reappeared a minute later with her beaded bag in hand.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Do you ever go anywhere without that thing?”

“No, I don’t. Now up you get.” Draco obeyed, grumbling. “Sit,” she said, pointing to the covered toilet seat. He did. She grabbed his wand off the counter and pointed it inside her bag. “ Accio Dittany.”

She sat on the edge of the shower, her knees touching his. She unscrewed the stopper and carefully released several drops on his injured finger. Fresh skin grew over the wound in its wake. He stared at her as she assidiously inspected the rest of his hands, her brow furrowed.

“What are these?” she demanded.

Draco glanced down. He had angry red calluses on both palms. So that was why they had been throbbing the past few hours. “Probably from shoveling snow.”

“Looks painful.” She sighed and pulled both hands into her lap. “Malfoys and their bloody pride,” she groused as she filled the dropper with more Dittany.

“That’s your problem." He was fond of reminding her that she had chosen to be with him while being fully aware that he was a smug, arrogant, and only somewhat reformed prat.

It was Hermione’s turn to roll her eyes.

Draco watched her intently as she worked. Her look of concentration was familiar. It wasn’t the first time she’d healed his broken hands with a bottle of Dittany.  

 

 ********************************

Two years and ten months ago

“Cissy, we have visitors at the gate,” said Bellatrix. She peered out of the impressive windows of the drawing room. “Looks like they brought prisoners, too.”

Narcissa startled out of her reverie. “Visitors?” Her tone was even, but Draco could detect the hint of fear underneath.

In the four months since his father had been murdered, his mother had maintained a semblance of calm collectedness. But Draco didn’t miss the way she jumped at loud noises, or the terror in her eyes each time he left the Manor. She was paler and thinner than he could ever remember seeing her. He felt heartsick just looking at her.

“I’ll greet them." 

Bellatrix tore her gaze from the window and swiveled around look at him. “It’s best if I do the honors, Draco. Stay here with your mother.”

Draco intercepted her before she could leave. “If the Dark Lord trusts me on missions these days, I think I can handle greeting the visitors at my own estate. Man the windows in case there’s a problem, Aunt Bella.” He turned on his heel and left, ignoring her look of stunned outrage.

As his mother had wasted away, Draco had only grown stronger. His anger fueled him, licking beneath his skin like an ever-present inferno. He would make the Dark Lord pay for what he did, he’d decided. And so would everyone who stood by and let it happen.

He’d resolved to stick in the knife from behind. He had planned to start by learning how to defy his orders undetected. After all, it was only a matter of time before he was asked to do something truly terrible on a mission, and he refused to sully himself for Voldemort. He had figured he could eventually graduate to sabotaging missions, making it a bit easier for the other side to win. Although he was worried about what would happen to him and his mother, any other victor was better than Voldemort.

So he’d begun training. He’d done sprints every night in his cellar until they had dragged in more prisoners; afterward, he’d created a new exercise routine in his bedroom. He’d pored over the books in his ancestral library, researching spells that might come in handy one day. And he’d spent hours upon hours practicing wandless and nonverbal magic.

As Draco approached the visitors at the gate, he illuminated the torches on either side with a flick of his wand. A chill ran down his spine as the flickering light elucidated their identities. Fenrir Greyback and a handful of Snatchers stood waiting for him with an unlucky handful of victims.

“We’ve got Potter!” Greyback roared. “Let us in, Malfoy!”

Draco stopped in front of the gates and stared at the young man Greyback was holding by the collar. The man’s eyes were puffy; his features twisted and misshapen. He was writhing against his bindings and looked as though he was in excruciating pain.

“He doesn’t look a thing like him,” said Draco, annoyed.

“They did something to his face.” Greyback shoved the man up to the gate and lifted his black hair away from his forehead. “Just look at this scar.”

Draco’s breath caught. It did look like Potter’s scar. The young man seemed to snap into himself as Draco examined him. He stared back at him through a terrified green eye.

“I can’t be sure,” Draco said reluctantly. “And the Dark Lord will kill us if we’re wrong. Why don’t you take them to the Ministry?”

“Because it’s Potter we’re talking about. It’s him— I swear it! Scabior, bring me the Mudblood!” Greyback shoved the young man backward and one of his accomplices thrust a young woman into his waiting arms. Draco slipped his wand inside his sleeve during the exchange.

The young woman’s arms were also tightly bound behind her back. His stomach rolled over as the light caught on her face. It was Hermione Granger.

Greyback gave a grunt of pleasure as his eyes skimmed over her. “This is the Mudblood that’s been traveling with Potter.”

“I told you, it isn’t me!” Granger squeaked.

Only it was. Draco was sure of it. It had been over a year and a half since he had seen her last, just before that fateful summer night on the Astronomy Tower, but her overlarge eyes and heart-shaped face were unmistakable. Her hair had grown longer since he’d seen it last. A mass of thick, loose waves framed her pale, terrified face, falling nearly to her elbows. She was wearing Muggle clothing and looked more womanly than the last time he’d seen her. Unfortunately, this fact hadn’t escaped Greyback’s notice, either.

He pulled her closer. “I have a copy of the Prophet with your photo front and center, girlie. Hermione Granger. Isn’t that right?”

Draco was reminded irresistibly of Penelope. He shuddered.

“GET OFF HER!” the third prisoner screamed. Draco’s eyes darted in his direction. It was dark outside, but the orange hair and tall figure was unmistakable. Weasley.

One of the Snatchers guarding him promptly punched him in the ribs. He fell to his knees with a sickening thud.

“Stop!” Granger shrieked. “Don’t hurt him!”

Greyback was still leering at her, unfazed. “Quite the protective boyfriend you’ve got there, eh?” He chuckled. “Delicious girl… what a treat. I do enjoy the softness of the skin. I’m sure the Dark Lord won’t begrudge me you, after the prize I’ve brought him tonight." She whimpered at the threat.

“N—!” Weasley’s second outburst was silenced by a kick to the gut. The Snatcher seized him by the hair and dragged him to his feet. He complied, wheezing.

“Please!” Granger sobbed, trying to twist away. “We’re not who you think we are! You’re making a huge mistake!”

The young man who had to be Potter was slumped over in Scabior’s arms, nearly unconscious. He looked like he was having a seizure of some sort.

Draco felt violently ill. Think, Draco, he commanded himself. Think.

Greyback looked up at him, his gaze hard. “Well? Are you going to let us in?”

“It’s dark out,” Draco croaked. He cleared his throat. “I can’t be sure it’s them. But you can come inside.”

He opened the gate. As Granger and Greyback passed, he discreetly brushed his left hand against her bound left hand. Vestigium!, he thought, gripping the wand hidden inside his right sleeve. He felt a slight warmth where they had touched.

He prayed his temporary Trace Charm had worked. It wasn’t permanent or as precise as the Ministry’s proprietary trace spell, but it would allow him to find her general location for the next several days.

He wasn’t sure why he had cast it. He hadn’t gotten that far in his plan yet. Just in case, he told himself.

“Wait,” he told Greyback. He stepped in front of him and Granger, and waited until the remaining Snatchers and prisoners had filed through the gates. Thankfully, Potter seemed to be aware of himself again.

“Close the gate behind you,” said Draco to the last Snatcher. He spun around and began walking towards the Manor, still gripping the hidden wand inside his sleeve.

He visualized the heavy gate swinging closed and concentrated all his energy on holding it open at the last crack. He felt magic drain from his wand. Once again, he prayed it worked. Only a Malfoy or a Death Eater could open the gates.

He glanced up to find Bellatrix’s pale face in the window, watching them. She quickly vanished. They didn’t have much time.

Draco walked slowly, deliberately, as Greyback and the Snatchers jeered and whopped behind him. He concentrated all of his energy into loosening the binds around Potter’s wrists. At least one of them had to free themselves in order for his plan to work.

He felt magic drain from him once again and said a final, desperate prayer. It was now or never.

Relashio!  he thought. Cadere!

The sound of Scabior yelping and tumbling to the ground told Draco that his Revulsion and Trip Jinxes had worked.

“What the—” said Greyback, whipping around.

Diffindo! Draco severed Granger’s binds. He turned around to catch her elbowing Greyback in the ribs with an angry cry. She tore herself from his grip as he grunted and doubled over.

Potter had already grabbed the two wands Scabior had dropped when he fell. “Levicorpus!”  he screamed, pointing both wands at Greyback. Greyback soared violently in the air with an angry howl. “Stupefy!”  Potter yelled, pointing at Scabior as he struggled to get off the ground. He crumpled and lay still.

Weasley bellowed like a bull and charged at one of the Snatchers guarding him, his hands still bound behind him. They both tumbled to the ground. The other Snatcher bringing up the rear fumbled for his wand.

Cadere! Draco thought. The man tripped on nothing and fell on top of Weasley and his struggling comrade.

Bellatrix would be here any moment, he knew, and he had to keep up appearances. Draco lazily procured his wand from his sleeve.

Expelliarmus!"  said Potter. Draco grimaced as his wand soared into Potter’s waiting hands. He'd known this would likely happen, but it still stung. He had been hoping he’d get stunned rather than disarmed. I’ll get it back, he told himself grimly. Eventually.

Granger snatched her wand off the ground where Greyback had dropped it, and quickly spun around to assist Weasley.

Stupefy! Stupefy!”  she cried, felling one Snatcher after another. “Wingardium Leviosa!”  One of their limp bodies rose off Weasley and into the air.

Draco heard his aunt’s scream of rage from across the courtyard. He took a languid step towards Granger’s turned back. She was just a few feet away, her hair glimmering in the moonlight.

Run, Potter, he thought, looking directly at him. Take her and go.

Potter pointed his own wand at him, eyes narrowed. “Stupefy!”  There was a jet of red light. Draco heard one last screech of fury from his aunt before the world faded into black.  

*

He was only stalking them because he wanted his wand back, Draco told himself. But the more he followed the Golden Trio, and the more they slipped out of his grasp, the clearer it became to him that he wanted something more.

He wanted to join them. Help them. Not because he liked them— he most certainly didn’t— but because he had never wished someone dead as vehemently as he did Voldemort. He hated the lies he told, the fear he inspired, and the brutality with which he yielded his power. He hated him for what he'd done to his father. He hated him far more than he could ever hate Harry Potter.

Draco had always thought Blast-Ended Skrewts would fly before the day he willingly sought to help Harry Potter, but here he was. And he was done fighting it. I choose my own fate, he reminded himself. Father’s not here anymore.

After two days had passed, Draco had given up trying to catch them in the middle of London. He began focusing all his efforts on 12 Grimmauld Place. He suspected they had been apparating on the doorstep while entering and leaving. It was difficult to catch them, however, because the door never seemed to open, and they had the added protection of Potter’s invisibility cloak.

Draco knew the precise nature of the problem. His mother had told him once that her aunt’s old home had a camouflage charm that concealed the opening and closing of the door from outside viewers. But if Draco was able to latch onto one of them when they apparated on the doorstep and stepped inside, he could penetrate the Fidelius Charm they had cast on it. So he had to simply wait until the time was exactly right.

It was Weasley’s overlong feet that finally did the trick. Draco was hiding near the hedges besides the door, concealed by a Disillusionment Charm, when his palm burned, signaling that Granger was near. He spotted Weasley’s disembodied trainers on the doorstep, and in the blink of an eye, he pounced.

He grabbed Weasley by the hem of his trousers and the four of them tumbled inside 12 Grimmauld Place. Draco seized the packet of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder from his robes and threw it on the floor, enveloping them in darkness.  

It was a tumultuous frenzy of limbs and curses. Draco quickly cast a series of nonverbal Full-Body Binds before extricating himself. He released another packet of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder for good measure and slammed the door closed.

He lifted his Disillusionment Charm and fished the Hand of Glory out of his pocket, which he had shrunk down to a miniature size. He lit it and stared down at Potter, Granger, and Weasley. They were frozen on the floor, their eyes petrified and unseeing.

“Listen, you three. I’m not going to hurt you, but I’m taking your wands away for now.” He strolled over and picked them off the floor.

Potter was using an unfamiliar wand. Draco patted down his jacket and discovered his own wand hidden in an inner pocket. He relaxed the moment it was in his hands. “I believe this belongs to me, Potter." He stowed his mother’s wand safely inside his sleeve.

“I’m going to lift the body binds and put you in leg lockers. I want to talk, but I can’t do that with the three of you drooling on the floor or charging at me. Got it?”

Granger and Potter blinked. Weasley’s eyes were darting around manically. Draco did exactly as he'd promised in a series of rapid spells.

“Malfoy!” Potter gasped as soon as he was released. “What are you playing at?”

“Listen—”

Weasley immediately attempted to get to his feet. “Malfoy, you bastard! Turn on the light!”   

“Stop moving, Ron,” said Granger. “You’re only making it worse!”

“It’s Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, so I can’t very well turn on the light,” said Draco. “Now listen to Granger and shut up, will you?”  

“Death Eater scum!” Weasley hollered, flailing wildly in Draco’s direction.

Potter winced as his friend's fist connected with his shoulder. “Ow, Ron— get off!”

Draco scowled. Weasley had just come dangerously close to hitting Granger in the face. For some reason, it bothered him. He rushed forward and grabbed her underneath the armpits, dragging her away from the danger zone.  

She let out a startled yelp.

“HERMIONE!” Weasley bellowed, flopping like a fish as he tried to reach her.

“Malfoy,” said Potter, his voice a low growl, “I’m going to tear you from limb to limb when I’m free, do you hear me?”

“I’m fine, you two!” Granger huffed. “He just— moved me.”

“DON’T TOUCH HER!”

“If you’d stop swinging like a lunatic, I wouldn’t have to,” Draco snapped. “Now shut your bloody mouths, all of you!” A silence fell over the room.

“We’re listening with bated breath,” said Potter. 

“I want to talk to your leader. Shacklebolt, right?”

“Not a chance in hell,” said Weasley, squinting. “Get stuffed.” The Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder was beginning to dissipate. 

“Why do you want to speak to him?” said Potter. 

“That’s my business.”

Weasley let out a barking laugh. “If you think we’re going to walk right into your little trap Malfoy, you’re mad.”

“You’re as dumb as you look, Weasel. Trust me, if I was actually setting a trap, you’d definitely walk right into it.”

“Malfoy,” said Granger cautiously. “Imagine you’re in our shoes. Why should we trust you?”

“But that’s the very point, Hermione. We shouldn’t!" said Weasley.

Draco stared at her. He could see her biting her lip through the darkness. “I don’t bargain without a full hand, Granger. I can help your side.”

“But why would you want to?” said Potter. “Give us one good reason. You’ve been murdering for Vol— You-Know-Who— for years, and we all know where you stand on blood status. We heard about your father, but You-Know-Who kills his own followers all the time. You can’t have been that surprised—”

“Don’t talk about my father unless you fancy losing a limb,” Draco hissed. He took a deep breath before continuing. “Ignorance suits you well, Potter, and it’s not on me to enlighten you. It’s for Shacklebolt to decide whether or not to trust me.”

“Harry,” said Granger softly. “I think we should do it. You know my feelings on this—”

Weasley threw up his hands. “We’ve been over this a hundreds times, Hermione. Malfoy had nothing to do with our escape. Lots of witches and wizards perform wandless magic under stress. It must've been you or Harry. If it were up to Malfoy, we’d be rotting in his dungeon right now.”

“As I said before, you’re as dumb as you look, Weasel. Now are you or aren’t you going to summon Shacklebolt? I haven’t got all day.”

“Give me a good reason, Malfoy, and I will,” said Potter, frowning in his direction. “I’m serious.”

The Peruvian Darkness Powder was thinning rapidly. Draco tucked away his Hand of Glory and considered Harry for a moment. “We have several prisoners that may be of interest to you because they’re of interest to the Dark Lord. I’ve been thinking of ways to get them out. Ollivander, for example.”

“I’ll do it.” Potter's voice was firm.   

“Harry, no—!”

“Hermione’s right, Ron. Those bindings were like iron when we first got there. The information, him showing up here today, what happened at the Manor… it fits— something. But if I’m wrong, I have every intention of killing him myself.”

“I’d love to see you try, Potter.”

The remaining particles of the Peruvian Darkness Powder froze mid-air. They raised an inch and then fell, vanishing the moment they hit the floor.

The four of them stared at each other. Daylight streamed inside the room through the narrow cracks in the windows and above the door.

Weasley tried to get back up again, thrashing his locked legs like a demented merman. Draco pointed his wand directly between his eyes. “Wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Weasley growled at him, but stilled.

He turned to Potter and Granger. “Before I release you and give you back your wands, I need your word that you won’t harm me.”

“Done,” said Granger.

“Piss off, Malfoy,” said Weasley.  

“If anyone breaks their word, we put the aggressor in a Full Body-Bind until Shacklebolt arrives. I want your word, Potter. On your parents’ grave.”

Potter nodded. “Fine.”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “And?”

“I swear it on my parents’ grave,” he said irritably.  

Draco set their wands on the floor, rolling them in their direction, and released their Leg Lock Curses. The three of them scurried to fetch their wands. They huddled together on the opposite side of the room, glaring at him.

“Right,” said Potter, breathing heavily. “I guess I’ll go call Kingsley, then.”

“Good idea,” said Granger. Draco found himself staring at her again. Had her eyes always been so big? Or hazel? He blinked and looked away.

Weasley strode forward until he was just a couple of feet away. Draco tensed, preparing for a fight. 

“Ron!” warned Potter. He ignored him.

They stared each other down, the hatred on Weasley's face almost feral. 

"You’ve been licking You-Know-Who’s boots since you were old enough to crawl. You haven’t pulled one over on me, ferret. I just want you to know that.”

Granger rushed forward and grabbed his arm. “Ron, don’t. Kingsley will be here soon enough. He’ll help us sort everything out.”

For some reason, the gesture irritated Draco immensely.

“You know, Weasel, given how daft you are, it’s a miracle you’re still alive. It must be hard to be the dead weight on a mission to save the world.” He cocked his head at him. “How many times have your cleverer friends saved your skin by now?”

Weasley laughed harshly. Draco thought he might turn around and leave. There was a moment of complete silence, and then— he punched him squarely in the face.

Draco stood there for a split second, stunned. He barely had a moment to taste the blood on his lip before Weasley tackled him and the two of them sailed to the ground, Granger screaming in their wake.

Weasley kept trying to punch him as they wrangled with each other. Although Weasley had about an inch on him, Draco was stronger. He wrestled on top of him and punched him back in kind. His knuckles throbbed as his fist collided with Weasley’s nose once, twice—

Petrificus Totalus!”

Weasley froze beneath him. Draco’s third punch died mid-air as he registered the sensation of two wands digging into the back of his head.

“Up you get, Malfoy,” said Potter. “You get a pass this time since he started it, but if you try anything, I’ll leave you in a Body Bind for hours before I summon Kingsley. Face down.”

Draco scrambled off him. Granger took his place, kneeling beside Weasley. “You broke his nose,” she said accusingly.

“I had every right to defend myself," he rasped. "In case you didn’t notice, he attacked me first.”

She ignored him, inspecting Weasley's face with a look of intense concentration. She pointed her wand at the mangled organ. “Episkey.” His nose righted itself with a sickening crunch. “Scourgify.” The blood vanished from his face and shirt.

“I’m sorry, Ron,” she whispered. “We promised.” She muttered another spell under her breath and his eyelids began to droop over his accusing stare. “Finite Incantatem Petrificus Totalus.” His body relaxed. Within a few moments, he was snoring, fast asleep.

Granger summoned a pillow from the couch to put under his head and then glared up at the two of them. “Well? Aren’t you going to summon Kingsley, Harry?”

“Yes, but I don’t want Malfoy to know how,” said Potter, eyeing him mistrustfully. “We’ve already had to change contact methods twice this year. But I don’t want him to leave him alone with you, either.”

“Don’t trust the brightest witch of our age to best me in a duel? How uncharitable of you." Potter gave him a deadly scowl.

“Go in the other room and contact him, Harry. I’ll hex Malfoy halfway to next Tuesday if if he tries anything,” Granger said primly. “Besides, he looks a mess. I need to heal his face before Kingsley arrives.”

“You’re too good of a person, Hermione,” said Potter with a wry smile. Draco sneered at him, but Potter Disarmed him before he could say another word. Both of his wands sailed out of his sleeve and into Potter’s outstretched hand. “I’m not taking any chances. I’ll be right back.”  

“I can hardly wait,” said Draco sardonically. Potter raised his hand in a rude gesture as he left the room.

Granger glared at him. “On the couch, Malfoy.”

Draco quickly obeyed. He told himself it was because she had a wand and he didn’t. It certainly wasn’t because he was eager to sit next to her.

She sat besides him and carefully examined his face. “You have a split lip and a black eye. You’ll have significant bruising on your face if you don’t treat it.”

“If you don’t mind indulging me, Granger, I’d rather not go home looking like this. Might blow the whole secret meeting with the Order of the Phoenix thing.”

She moved a bit closer to him, biting her lip. He was close enough to count the freckles on her nose. How had he not noticed the shape of her mouth before? Her lips looked exceptionally snoggable. When she wasn’t using them to lecture people, of course.

“Dittany for the split lip— ” she looked as though she was about to touch his hand, but caught herself— “and for your knuckles. Bruise Removal Paste for your black eye.”

Draco nodded, tearing his eyes away. What the hell was wrong with him?

In the months since Penelope and his father died, he’d realized that the drivel his parents had sold him about blood purity his entire life was just that— a load of rubbish. A means for the power-hungry to control and manipulate an arrogant, ignorant upper class.

Being attracted to a Muggle-born was a new experience, but that wasn’t what disturbed him. What disturbed him was the fact that it was Granger he was attracted to. He'd known she was good-looking since fourth year, but this was something else. Bossy, prissy, insufferable Hermione Granger had become ridiculously beautiful— as if she wasn’t already one of the most brilliant and powerful witches he'd ever met. And now he couldn’t stop staring at her.

He was totally fucked.

Granger cleared her throat. “I’d let you apply it yourself, but I don’t have a mirror. Both of these supplies are quite expensive. We can’t afford to waste them.”

His stomach swooped at the implication. “I can handle it. Do your worst." 

“Alright, then.” Was it just his imagination, or did her voice tremble slightly? She pointed her wand inside a beaded bag that she appeared to pull out of nowhere. “Accio Dittany. Accio Bruise Removal Paste.”

She unscrewed the bottle of Dittany and looked up at him. “Your lip first. It’ll help if you lean your head back.” Her knees pressed against the side of his thigh as she leaned over him. He closed his eyes, not trusting himself not to stare at her. He felt the skin of his lip heal the second the medicine touched his skin. She moved away. “You can sit up now.”

She twisted her hair a few times at the nape of her neck and tossed it over her left shoulder. Draco stared, wondering what it would be like to wrap one hand around her neck and thread the other through her hair. Then she leaned forward and began working on his hand.

She released a few drops of Dittany across his bloody knuckles with exacting precision. Raw, pink skin sprang up in its wake. She picked up his hand when she was done and inspected it carefully, her full lips pressed into in a thin line. She dropped it after a few moments and met his eyes.

“You shouldn’t have provoked him, you know," she said sternly.  

He didn't reply. Perhaps she was right. If he was going to become a turncoat, he’d have to get used to people reacting like Weasley had.

“And now your eye.” She slid closer once more. Draco let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when she finally touched him. He felt his muscles relax as she rubbed the paste on his bruised eye in small, gentle circles.

He didn’t let himself study her like he had when she’d healed his hand. He kept his gaze straight ahead as her nimble fingers skated over his cheekbone, jaw, and the delicate skin around his eye.

“Does this hurt?” she asked. He shook his head.

It felt good. Incredible, in fact. It had been so long since someone had touched him like this. Pansy used to touch him when they were together. But she certainly never smelled as sweet as Granger, with her intoxicating scent of amber and gardenia wafting in his nose.

She probably healed every stray cat like she was healing him now, Draco thought, as he watched her squeeze more paste on her finger. She was a Gryffindor, after all. He stiffened and clenched his fists. Get it together.

“I’m sorry about your father,” she said quietly. Draco startled. His eyes flickered to meet hers. He searched her face for a moment and only found sorrow. Concern.

He gave a tight jerk of his head and returned his gaze to the wall. She resumed applying the paste. He could tell that she was biting her lip again without even looking at her.

She paused after a minute or two. “Is he why you’re switching sides? Why you helped us escape?”

Draco took a deep breath. He could feel her enormous eyes on him. “One of the reasons, yes.”   

“Thank you. For helping us.”

Gray met hazel. “You’re welcome.”

He drank her in, feeling as though he had been hit by a Full-Body Bind. Her lips were parted, her pupils slightly dilated. He wondered if his were, too. He was struck by a ludicrous urge to kiss her.

“He’ll be here in an hour," said Potter, barging back in the living room.

Granger jumped and quickly moved away. “Oh, good. I’ve just finished healing Malfoy.”

Draco narrowed his eyes dangerously at the Boy Who Lived to Interrupt the Moment. Perhaps he’d jumped to conclusions when he’d said he despised Voldemort more.

 

 ********************************

Present day

“I was glad Weasley punched me that day.” The words were out of his mouth before he could think about it. He scowled. “Don’t repeat that.”

Hermione laughed. “Your secret is safe with me.” She kissed his newly healed palm and nuzzled it against her cheek. “Did you know I’ve always kept a mirror in that beaded bag? Comes in quite handy for face injuries, if one would prefer to heal themselves.” Her eyes were dancing. 

Draco stared at her for a few moments. She grinned as he caught her meaning.

He snorted. “Is that so? You’d have made a hell of a Slytherin, Granger. Truly."

“Perhaps." 

“I’m quite certain of it.” He brushed a stray curl from her face and leaned closer, brushing his lips against her ear. She shivered. “The chance of any of our kids ending up in Gryffindor grows slimmer by the day." 

He silenced her protests with a kiss.

Chapter Text

Present day

They made their way back downstairs. Jean and Roger were in the thick of cooking, but both dropped what they were doing when their daughter reappeared.

“Is everything alright?” said Jean, shucking off her oven mitts. “What happened?”

“Sorry, Mum and Dad. It was that card.” Hermione faltered for a moment. Draco placed his hand on the small of her back— a feather-light touch. She took a deep breath and steeled herself. “I’d rather not talk about why, but Ron and I had a falling out. This card was a bit of an olive branch. It made me emotional, but I’m alright now. Good, actually.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” said Jean gently. “I’m sorry you fought, but I’m glad you’ve begun to patch things up. That’s a lovely Christmas gift, indeed.”

Roger nodded. “There’s no better time than the holidays to heal old wounds.” Somehow, Draco suspected that his comment wasn’t only directed at Hermione.

The four of them set to work. Or, more accurately, the three Grangers set to work, whereas Draco mostly managed to stay out of the way. Soon enough, the kitchen was filled with beeping timers and intoxicating aromas. It was almost time, and Jean sent them to the dining room to set the table.

Draco helped Hermione arrange the tablecloth and candles. He watched as she experimented with different layouts of china and silverware, lost in thought. It had been so long since he’d sat down for a formal family dinner.

He could only pray that this one went better than the last.

 

********************************

Ten months ago

Less than three months had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts, but Wizarding Britain was anxious to put all memories of the war to rest. Beginning with the trials of known Death Eaters and other war criminals.

Draco’s trial was to be one of the first held after the war.

“The easiest trials are first,” Kingsley told him and Hermione. He had personally delivered Draco’s summons to Grimmauld Place with only a couple of weeks’ notice. The formal charge: "Aiding and Abetting He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named."

“This is completely unnecessary,” said Hermione, incensed. “Don’t tell us that the Wizengamot hasn’t already seen extensive proof of Draco’s work for the Order. We’re not stupid, you know.”  

“Inconvenient though it may be, it is necessary, Hermione. As far as the public is concerned, Draco is a high-ranking Death Eater who is currently walking free. We need this trial to assuage them.”

Hermione opened her mouth to argue, but Kingsley pressed on. “More importantly to the two of you, perhaps, this trial is a critical opportunity for Draco.”

“Oh, yes,” Draco drawled. “An opportunity to be front and center of a public spectacle while reliving the worst experiences of my life.”

“An opportunity to show how important your assistance was to the war effort, and restore dignity to your family name,” said Kingsley. “To show other ancient families that one of the most established names among them has rejected the old way and embraced the new. An opportunity for unity.”

“My involvement with the Order won’t change a single mind in the Sacred Twenty-Eight.” He clenched his jaw. “But I commend your political machinations. You never miss a shot, do you?”

“Draco!” Hermione rebuked.

Kingsley waved her away. “I understand how you must feel. I can only promise we’ll get it over with quickly. I’ll be available if you have questions.” 

He paused before he left, glancing at Hermione. “Remember to think of it as an opportunity.”

Hermione shut herself in their bedroom for hours after he’d departed. Draco left her alone, knowing full well that nothing could distract her when she was working on a mental problem.  

When she finally emerged, she found him brooding on the couch in the living room.

“I’ve thought about it, and I think Kingsley is right about one thing,” she said cautiously. “This trial could go a long way in helping you and your mother.”

“Perhaps,” Draco grumbled.

“But I know it will be painful for you, and I’m so sorry for that.”

He grunted in reply. As she drew closer, he noticed the enormous book tucked under her arm. The Wizengamot: A Brief History of Wizarding Britain’s Highest Court of Law.

“Oh, this,” she said, tracking his gaze. “I got it a few years back—”

“—for a bit of light of reading,” he finished for her. His mouth twitched.

“Precisely,” she sniffed. “Anyway, if you ask me, it’s atrocious that wizarding courts don’t have solicitors. So I’ve decided to become yours. Off the record, of course.”

“My ‘solicitor,’ eh? Sounds like a prostitute. Kinky, Granger.” He waggled his eyebrows.

She rolled her eyes at him. “A solicitor is a person formally appointed to legally represent and defend anyone accused of a crime.”

He frowned. “Well, that doesn’t sound sexy. What exactly will you be doing, then?”

“In short, I’m going to speak with everyone who knows what you’ve done to help the Order, get them to agree to serve as a witness for you, and coach them on their testimony. I’m going to coach you, too.”

Draco’s mouth fell open. “No. That’s too much to put on you.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I can do it myself.”

She sighed. “We both know you’re too bloody proud to ask anyone for help. Plus, you probably don’t even remember what everyone knows about you. I do. I was in the Order."

He tried to change tactics. “Is that even allowed?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but did I just hear a Slytherin worried about breaking rules?” She put a hand on her hip. “Besides, it’s perfectly legal. Dumbledore did something similar for Harry the summer before fifth year.”

“Listen, Hermione— you don’t need to do this.”

“I know I don’t need to. I want to.”

He tried to stop her, really. But she was impossible to dissuade when she’d made up her mind.

She spent the next two weeks building the kind of painstaking, air-tight case that only Hermione Granger could assemble. Draco spent most of the days leading up to the trial transcribing stretches of time or particular events that she’d assigned him to recall. While he worked, she’d often go out to speak to potential witnesses.

Most nights she’d review his notes with him. Other nights she’d bring people over. Harry. Ollivander. Aberforth Dumbledore. Arthur Weasley. She even brought Rita Skeeter over to interview him, while dropping many ominous comments about the future of her career if she strayed from a single fact during her reporting.

One night she returned from a meeting with Charlie Weasley in Romania with a violent stomach flu. It lasted several days, but she flatly refused to see a healer. Draco had to summon his mother’s house-elf multiple times to bring her anti-nausea potions.

“It’ll pass,” she’d croaked upon emerging from the loo. “This is normal.”

Even his mother’s house elf had looked horrified at her incalcitrant determination.  

When he wasn’t following her orders, he was busy dealing with his overbearing mother, who had taken it upon herself to owl him daily for updates. Kingsley had advised them against using her as a witness, indicating that her involvement in the First Wizarding War could raise difficult questions. But Hermione had still thought it would be a good idea to bring her over for a short interview.

Listening to his mother and girlfriend clinically dissect his life over the past few years was one of the odder moments in his life. He wondered what his mother thought of it all. He hadn’t talked to her much about Hermione, but she knew they were together. He’d told her during the war.

More or less.

She’d caught him coming home late many times in the months leading up to the final battle, and  though her eyes would rove over the disheveled state of his hair or clothing, she’d said nothing. One night, however, she’d apparently had enough.

“Who is she?” she’d asked. She had been waiting for him in the sitting room when he Flooed home well past midnight.

“Hermione Granger,” he’d said, after a long pause. Then he’d moved past her and gone to bed.

Frankly, he hadn’t wanted to hear her opinion at the time. From his perspective, she’d simply have to deal with it. She had accepted his decision to become a spy for the Order. She’d come around with Hermione too, he’d told himself. Eventually.

But as Draco watched the two of them interact across the kitchen table, politely but a bit stiffly, it occurred to him how much he wanted them to understand one another. Like one another.  

He was certain his mother was still biased against Muggle-borns, but she’d also detested Harry Potter and adulated Voldemort once, too. She could be reasoned with, he thought.

After they finished, Draco walked his mother to the fireplace in the living room. Hermione had remained in kitchen, poring over her notes.

“You haven’t slept at home in a long time, Draco.” Her voice had an accusatory tone.

“I know. Listen, Mother— when this trial is done, I want to have Hermione over for dinner.”

He struggled to explain himself while she eyed him coolly. “It’s important to me that you get to know her."

She gave him a curt nod and stepped into the fireplace. “I’ve been expecting as much. Look for my owl next week.”

He nodded back at her. Easy enough, he thought.

The first day of the trial finally came. Draco tried to maintain a semblance of calm as they swept into the crowded arrivals hall at the Ministry amidst a frenzy of camera flashes and screaming reporters. His mother stood next to him as they arrived, her posture proud and tall.

Draco wished Hermione were at his side too, but forced himself to set the thought aside. It was for the best, he knew. They’d both decided to keep their relationship under wraps for the duration and immediate aftermath of his trial.

The courtroom fell silent when he and his mother first entered, though packed to the brim. He didn’t allow himself to look at any of the faces staring down at him except for one— hers.

She was sitting front and center, in between Ginny and Harry. She gave him a bracing smile. It steadied him as he turned to meet the stoic gazes of the judges of the Wizengamot. He took a deep breath, and they began.

All things considered, the first day of his trial went fairly well. A long line of witnesses who had worked for or with the Order testified on his behalf, including Neville, Luna, Molly, Bill, and Aberforth. The judges asked him dozens of questions before and after their testimonies, but the answers they appeared to expect were mercifully short. Even during their line of questioning about his father.

The second day was significantly worse. First, he’d only learned that Ron was testifying for him at the last minute. Ginny’s nuisance of an excuse for an owl— “Pig,” Hermione had called him—  had dropped a letter directly onto his plate of eggs and sausage that morning, a mere hour before he was due in court.

Hermione had snatched it up and read it as Draco peered over her shoulder.

I’ll do it. Not for him. But for you.

-Ron

They had argued their entire way to the Ministry before splitting off at separate entrance points. Jealousy was the last thing Draco needed right now, followed closely by owing a favor to Ron Weasley—  and now he had both.

After enduring the humiliation of Ron’s testimony, Draco had to testify about Penelope. Her parents had chosen not to attend—he’d almost collapsed in relief when he’d heard the news. But as he spoke about her in the hushed courtroom, he couldn’t stop thinking of them. Or of Hermione.

Draco could feel her eyes on him as he recounted the weeks Penelope had spent as a prisoner at the Manor. Of the night he’d killed her.

If he’d been able to meet her gaze, he knew he’d only find sympathy. Love. But in that moment, nothing could alleviate his bitter shame or regret. So he stared at the judges, or the wall.

He was barely able to string together two words that evening, but Hermione seemed to understand. She said little except to remind him who would be testifying for him the next day. Then they crawled into bed after a quiet dinner.

Draco stared at the ceiling as the minutes stretched on and sleep stubbornly evaded him. His memories of Penelope haunted him for many reasons. One of which was nuzzled in the crook of his neck.

“It could have been you,” he said aloud.

He felt Hermione tense beneath his arm. The hand she’d been resting on his chest curled and uncurled as she seemed to consider her reply. 

“But it wasn’t.” Her tone was gentle, but firm. “You saved me. You saved all of us.”

He pulled her closer and pressed a long kiss to her forehead.

“You have to forgive yourself, Draco,” she whispered when he drew away. “She would have wanted you to. I’m sure of it.”

He settled back into his pillow, not trusting himself to speak. The last thing he registered before sleep finally overtook him was the sensation of Hermione tracing patterns on his chest.

Harry testified for him the next day, as did Hermione. They told the court what had happened at Malfoy Manor. The day at Grimmauld Place. How he’d assisted the Order in the years that followed. Missions he’d helped sabotage. Captives he’d helped save. Information he’d passed. His role during the Battle of Hogwarts.

The audience in the courtroom was more attentive during Harry and Hermione’s testimonies than they had been at any point in Draco’s trial. Apart from the incessant scratching of Rita Skeeter’s quill, you could have heard a pin drop during the small pauses when they pondered a question.

Their two testimonies, followed by a shorter one from Ginny, nearly took up the entire day. Draco was barely asked to answer any questions himself.

Afterward, there was a torturous adjourning of the judges in their private chamber as they deliberated whether they needed more information. If so, the trial would proceed to a fourth day. Draco fervently prayed they would decide to put him out of his misery.

The courtroom seemed to collectively hold its breath as the judges finally filed back into their seats.

Madam Marchbanks cleared her throat. “The judges of the Wizengamot have decided that there is sufficient evidence to reach a verdict.”

She turned to her colleagues. “Those in favor of clearing the accused of all charges?”

Draco’s heart hammered in his chest as he attempted to count the hands in the air. He had to start over twice because his vision kept blurring. There were 50 judges, and nearly every hand was raised. He’d gotten to 38 by the time Madam Marchbanks nodded curtly at them, and the sea of hands dropped.

“And those in favor of conviction?”

There were only handful of hands in the air— several wizards and a couple of witches had voted against him. Draco didn’t recognize any of their faces.

“Very well, then,” said Sir Elphias Dodge. “Cleared of all charges.” He looked down at Draco. “You may go, Mr. Malfoy. Thank you for your service.”

Draco thought Dodge might have added something else, but the courtroom had already begun standing to its feet. He stood along with them, feeling thoroughly lightheaded as the din grew louder and louder in his ears.

It was done. For good. Officially speaking, the war was behind him.

His mother rushed to meet him on the floor, and he gladly returned her embrace as she threw her arms around him. Public affection was unusual for her—  she must have been more afraid for him than he’d realized. He gave her a reassuring squeeze, but his eyes were looking over her shoulder.

Draco finally caught the overlarge hazel eyes he’d been seeking.

Hermione smiled at him brilliantly. He returned it, transfixed by how beautiful she looked when lit up with joy. He barely noticed that the doors to the courtroom had opened and cameras were flashing all around them.    

That evening, 12 Grimmauld Place was full and alive again. As they laughed and drank around the kitchen table, Draco could have fooled himself into believing that Hermione’s friends were his own. His usual barbs were half-hearted at best— it had been years since he’d felt so genuinely joyful. At least he still managed to irritate Ron.

*

As promised, his mother’s owl arrived exactly 24 hours after the conclusion of his trial. She invited them over for dinner at the Manor the following evening.

Hermione was a nonstop bundle of nerves from the moment she opened the letter. She could handle a public trial, gruesome injuries, and Death Eaters with calm collectedness, but apparently dinner with his mother tipped her over the edge.

“But what do you think we’ll talk about?” she asked him nervously. “The trial?”

Drago shrugged. “Probably for some of the time.”

“Can you tell me a bit about the things she liked to do? Before the war? What are her interests? Perhaps a little about her family? Besides the anti-Muggle sentiment, of course.”

“Easy, Granger,” he teased. “She's not the topic of an O.W.L.”

The truth was that her anxiety tugged at something deep inside his chest. She wanted his mother to like her. And so did he.

Draco pretended not to notice when she went to Diagon Alley the next day to “check out the latest at Flourish and Blotts” and returned with a bag that looked suspiciously like it came from a dress shop. Nor did he say anything when she headed upstairs a full three hours before dinner. He ended up having to use the master bathroom downstairs to shower because Hermione hogged theirs the whole time.

“Are you sure I look alright?”

Draco leaned against the frame of the bathroom door, eyeing her appreciatively.

She was wearing a conservative but beautiful black dress. The A-line silhouette emphasized her narrow waist and fell just below her knees. The crew neckline drew attention to her face and hair, which looked sleeker than usual. The body of the dress was made with a floaty chiffon material, but the delicate sleeves were made of lace.

“You look perfect.”

He watched her double check her hair, fidget with her dress, and apply, then wash off, her lipstick. When she finished fussing, he offered her his arm. She took it with a nervous smile, and they headed downstairs.

His mother greeted them by the fireplace, looking as immaculate as ever. She was wearing a silvery blue dress that matched the color of her eyes.

“Welcome home, Draco.” She kissed him on the cheek. “And welcome, Hermione.” To Draco’s pleasure, she gave Hermione an air kiss on the cheek as well.

His mother chose to skip pre-dinner cocktails for some reason. She ushered them straight to the dining room after giving Hermione a quick tour of the house.

The table had already been set for three. Draco took the seat at the head of the table, with Hermione on his right, and his mother on his left. He supposed the arrangement made sense, but he disliked it all the same. It put too much space between them, and he would have preferred to sit beside her. Just in case.

“May I offer you something to drink?” Narcissa asked as they sat down. “Pumpkin juice? Tea?”

“Just water, please.”

Narcissa nodded and spoke to her presently-invisible servant. “Water for Ms. Granger, Tinsley. Wine for Draco and I.” Their goblets began filling accordingly. 

The conversation flowed pleasantly from one topic to another, including their speculative career plans now that the war was over, and Hermione’s intentions to move her parents back to Britain. Draco was gratified that his mother inquired after her parents’ well-being. They briefly touched on his trial, but the main course arrived shortly afterward, which cut the topic short.

His mother— or Tinsley, rather— had truly outdone herself with this meal. Draco ate his roast beef as quickly as he could manage without his mother glaring at him.   

They finally began winding down. His mother laid both of her utensils across her plate, and it vanished with a faint pop.

She turned to Hermione. “I want to take a moment to thank you for everything you’ve done for my son. You have my eternal gratitude for it.”

Hermione blushed. “I was happy, to, truly. Please think nothing of it.”

Narcissa gave her a tight but approving smile. "You’re a clever young woman, and determined. He was in very capable hands.”

A shy smile crept over Hermione’s features. Draco privately congratulated himself for suggesting this dinner. It was going better than he could have hoped.

His mother took a long sip of wine before continuing. “I’m aware that you two have been a source of— companionship for each other. War is a terrible thing. We all have to seek comfort where we can.”

There was a delicate pause. Draco stabbed at piece of roast on his plate. He didn’t feel much like chatting about the horrors of the war.

“You both were under extraordinary pressure,” she continued. “So I hope you aren’t being too harsh on yourselves for the circumstance you’re in right now.”

Draco paused, mid-mouthful, to look up at her.

“I’m glad you both came to me. I can help you. And in time, you may even think of it as a blessing.”

The food passed uncomfortably down his throat as he swallowed. What on Earth was she on about? He glanced at Hermione, but she seemed equally baffled.

“This isn’t the first time a Malfoy has found themselves in this situation. Or a Black, for that matter,” she said grimly. “There are many options to consider, and I’m going to personally see to it that your plans and goals remain unaffected. It’s the least I can do for you. And for my son.”

“What—”

“Whether or not Draco will be involved is a decision I leave to the both of you,” said Narcissa, speaking over him. “Of course, whatever you choose, utmost discretion will be necessary.”

“I’m sorry,” said Hermione, "but I’m not sure I understand—”

“Typically magical contracts are involved, or Unbreakable Vows. But I wouldn’t insult you by suggesting either.”

Draco scowled, sick of his mother speaking in riddles. “Why would—”

Narcissa raised a hand to silence him. “Please let me finish.” She turned back to Hermione. “You don’t have to be involved either, if you don’t want to. There are good families who will be happy to raise the child as their own.”

There was a clatter of silver on china. Hermione had dropped the fork she’d been holding. Draco stared at his mother, dumbfounded. Was he hallucinating?

“But there are options if you do want to raise it yourself,” she pressed on. “A second cousin of mine was in a similar situation many years ago. Their story was that a near relative died, and she ‘adopted’ the child. She suffered no consequences in the long run. In fact, she eventually made quite a good match.”

Every word that came out of his mother’s mouth seemed to echo slightly in Draco’s head, as though someone had cast a muffling charm around her.

“Mrs. Malfoy,” said Hermione, her voice high and thin, “I’m—”

“Narcissa, dear, please. I think we can call each other by first names now. Especially given the circumstances.”

Hermione closed and opened her mouth, a horrified expression on her face. She looked as though she wanted to vanish in her seat.

“I know how difficult this must be for the both of you, but rest assured that your child will want for nothing.”

Draco startled out of his stupor. Sharply. “Mother.”

“The best schools. An inheritance we’ll all agree to. Love, whether yours or another family’s. That much is certain—”

Mother.

“—but the rest is up to you. I’m simply here to assist.”

Shut up, will you?” Draco nearly screamed it.

Hermione jumped in her seat. Narcissa’s eyes darted to him as though seeing him for the first time. She leaned back in her seat, finally giving him the floor.

“She’s not pregnant,” he hissed. “I can’t believe you’d suggest such a thing over dinner.”

His mother raised a manicured eyebrow at him. “Tinsley told me all about her morning sickness. How she refused to see a doctor. How you demanded to know if there were any ‘adverse side effects’ to anti nausea draughts.” She turned to Hermione. “Just give it a month or two. Nausea is completely normal.”

Draco let out a harsh laugh. “What a little meddler. I ought to give her clothes for this." 

“We don’t have time for these games, Draco.” Her voice had a steely edge to it. “I’m your mother. Do you think I haven’t noticed that my own son has barely slept in his own bed for the last six months?”

“Yes, you’re really in the know, aren’t you,” he sneered. “Hermione had the stomach flu. She’s not pregnant.”

The room fell silent. Draco glanced at Hermione. She was staring at her plate, her face bright red with humiliation.

He clenched his jaw and glowered at his mother, his rage growing with each passing moment she delayed her apology. She returned his gaze shrewdly, as if trying to work something out.

“If she’s not pregnant, then why is she here?” 

A jolt of horror shot down his spine. He barely had a moment to react before Hermione stood up, her chair groaning as it dragged across the floor.

“Excuse me, but I should get going. Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Malfoy.” She rushed from the room too quickly to hear the protest that died on his lips.

Narcissa watched Hermione leave with a slight crease between her eyebrows. Cold fury raced through his veins.

“What have you done?” He threw his napkin on the table and ran after her.

“Hermione— wait!”

Hermione had already dashed into a nearby sitting room; thankfully, she’d left the door open in her haste. She was grabbing a handful of Floo Powder from the urn on the mantelpiece when he burst through the door.

“Wait!”

She froze in front of the fireplace.

“I’m going to kill her for that,” he said, panting. “Don’t— please don’t go. Not until she apologizes.”

There was a long, painful silence.

“I’ll see you at home,” said Hermione, still not facing him. She threw the powder in the fireplace and vanished.

Chapter Text

Ten months ago

Draco stared at the empty fireplace. The urge to follow her was overwhelming, but he had business to take care of first. Soon enough, he’d drag his mother in the fireplace behind him and refuse to let her come home until she’d begged for forgiveness at Hermione’s feet.

He spun on his heel and stormed back to the dining room. His mother was already on her feet, waiting for him.

“How dare you?”  

She arched an eyebrow. “Don’t overreact, Draco. It seems you have some explaining to do.”

“Me? I’m the one who has to explain myself after that debacle?”

“Bringing her around like this is improper,” said Narcissa coolly. “You can hardly blame me for assuming the worst.”

“I could fill a book with all your inappropriate assumptions tonight, Mother,” he spat. “And there’s nothing improper about me bringing my girlfriend to dinner. You know what’s improper? Raving about her nonexistent pregnancy—”

"Girlfriend ?" Her voice was dripping with scorn. “You can’t be serious, Draco.”

Draco sneered at her. “Try me.”

They glared at each other down for a few moments. The only sign of his mother’s irritation was the slight tinge of pink in her cheeks. She cleared her throat.

“I never said a word against your choices during the war—”

“And I wouldn’t have listened if you did. You and father proved your judgment was shite the moment you swore allegiance to a madman.”

She gripped the back of her dining chair. “How dare you speak to me that way. After all I did to help conceal you.” She drew a rattling breath, her eyes glistening. “How dare you speak of your father that way? In our own house!"

Draco looked away, his jaw clenched. There was a moment of silence while his mother steeled herself.

“This—” she said, her voice sharp as a razor again, “this is not how we do things in this family. You’ve had your fun. It’s time to end it. You don’t date people like her.

His head shot up. “People like her?”

Silence.

“Say it,” he demanded.

His mother eyed him calmly, as if observing a wild creature in a locked cage.

“Go on. Say it.”

“A Muggle-born.” The word sounded like poison on her tongue.

The edges of his vision went white with rage.

“She’s very lovely, I grant you,” she sniffed. “And clever. But Draco— she’s beneath you.”

Draco slammed his palms on the table as he leaned forward. China rattled from the blow; water from Hermione’s half-full goblet sloshed onto the tablecloth. His mother barely blinked.

“Let’s see if I have this right,” he hissed. “You didn’t think Hermione was beneath me when she spoke with you about my trial. When she was working like a slave to make sure everyone in Britain knew how instrumental I was to the war effort. And how my darling mother supported me all the while.”

Narcissa pressed her lips into a thin line.

“You didn’t think she was beneath me when she was busy saving both of our skins.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’ve already thanked her for the trial—”

“Do you know it’s not the first time she saved me? Tell me, Mother: would you have preferred for your son to get hit in the back with a Killing Curse because it was a filthy Mudblood who blocked it?”

Her nostrils flared. “Don’t ask insipid questions. I’ve had enough of your theatrics. And of course I don’t know what else she’s done for you, because you don’t tell me a damn thing.”

Draco glared at her. It was true he didn’t tell his mother much, but she never pressed him on things, either. It was the way his family had always been.

He stood up, shoving his weight off the table. “That’s no excuse for what you did.”

Narcissa lifted her chin to look up at him. “I’m not sure when you became so rebellious, but I’ll tell you what I do know. I’m your mother, and I won’t tolerate flagrant disrespect.”

“Try not to earn it, then."

“Enough.” Her ire made her seem taller, somehow. “Listen carefully, Draco. I’m far older and far more experienced than you. I’ve seen my fair share of respectable and scandalous couples. And you’re certainly not the first well-bred wizard to grow fond of a witch of a lower standing.”

Draco opened his mouth to argue, but she lifted a finger to silence him.

“I’m not as unfair as you think. I understand why you— enjoy her company. But beauty fades, and no amount of intellect can make up for the fact that you two have nothing in common. Your backgrounds are radically different. Your lineage is extraordinary. Hers is not. You have a duty and obligation not only to your family, but to wizarding Britain to make a good match.”

“Pardon me for giving you the impression that I give a damn about ‘making a good match,’” he gritted out. “I don’t. I’m not a pawn, Mother. You don’t get to tell me who to be with. I choose my own path.”     

“Quit behaving like a selfish child,” she snapped. “This is bigger than your ego or physical needs. You know nothing of a successful marriage. Of love. When the excitement fades, what you’ll be left with is shared values. Legacy. A similar view of the world. What’s best for our family also happens to be best for you.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“You won’t stand a chance at a good marriage if you keep this up.” Her tone was as severe as her gaze. “If this little dalliance of yours ever gets out, there won’t be a family in Britain willing to let you court their daughter. She’s a nice enough girl. Let her play in her own circles. You’re wasting both of your time.”

Draco let out a low laugh. “For someone who prides themselves on their social astuteness, you’re completely blind.” He shook his head. “I’m not wasting my time with Hermione. You're the one wasting your breath."

It was his turn to lift his finger. "I’m finished with this. Don’t bother contacting me until you’re ready to apologize.”

He spun around and left before she could say another word.

*

Draco found Hermione in their room, folding clothes on their bed. She’d changed out of her dress and was wearing Muggle jeans and a sweater.

“There you are.”

She stiffened as she met his gaze. He couldn’t tell if she’d been crying, but she looked pale and exhausted. The ache in his chest sharpened. She didn’t deserve this.

“My mother was completely out of line tonight.” He rolled his jaw. “I told her off as soon as you left. She behaved— appallingly. I won’t speak to her again until she apologizes to you.”

Hermione studied him for a few moments, her expression inscrutable. “I can. Believe it, that is. And that won’t be necessary.”

Draco winced. “I know you’re upset. I’m sorry—”

“Why?” she challenged.

He opened his mouth, but words failed him. Something was terribly wrong. And he had the sinking feeling that once again, he was too far behind to catch it.

Hermione gave him a hard look before turning away. She resumed folding the clothes on their bed. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. I don’t know what either of us expected, really.”

The forced casualness in her tone washed over him like an ice bath.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I was stupid. We both were. To think this could work.” Her voice was still clipped, but he could hear the tremor underneath.

“What?” he repeated dumbly.

“You heard what I said. We. Were. Idiots.” She punctuated each word with vicious emphasis as she stuffed a few articles of clothing in the bag that lay open on their bed.

Draco inhaled sharply. Her bag. She was going somewhere.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“Harry and Ginny’s.” She wouldn’t look at him.

The realization struck him like a kick to a gut. She was leaving him. She wanted to leave.

“Stop.” He crossed the room and tried to pull the clothes out of her bag.

“It’s just for a night or two,” she said, swatting him away. “I need to clear my head.”  

He grabbed her by the shoulders. “Hermione, look at me.”

“Don’t— get off!” she cried, ripping out of his hold.

Draco froze. She’d never recoiled from him like that before.

“You don’t get a say over what I do,” she spat.  

He staggered backward. He watched her as she stormed to their dresser and grabbed a few pairs of knickers and socks.

During the war, Draco had learned to control his emotional reactions. It was a skill forged by necessity, since there had been many times he couldn’t escape a horrifying scene before him. Executions. Battles. Raids.

He’d begin by drawing deep breaths from the pit of his stomach. Sometimes he’d think of somewhere else— a place that was pleasant and vivid. The villa in France. His mother’s gardens in the spring. The summer he spent in Switzerland with his parents.

When things got really bad, he’d rise up, up, and above his body. Like flying. It was as though he was someone else— the scene was happening to another person whose body he was only temporarily inhabiting. It won’t last, he’d think. It’s almost over. The dream. The nightmare.

There were no bodies or blood in their bedroom that night. But as far as waking nightmares went, it was one of his worst.

He wrangled with the growing panic in his chest as he watched her pack. He tried pushing air in his lungs as far as he could, drawing each breath deeper than the last. Only it didn’t work. His lungs kept collapsing on the intake.

Hermione seized a book from their dresser and stuffed it in her bag.  

The roar of blood in his ears grew deafening as his heart hammered in his ribcage. He felt dizzy, like he couldn’t get enough oxygen.

“Hermione—”  

It must have came out as wretched as he felt, because she finally looked up at him. Something in her seemed to break when their eyes met.

“Why did you hide our relationship from your mother?” She sounded plaintive. Lost. It grounded him. He had to fix this. 

He stared at her, willing his frantic heart to calm. “I didn’t. She knew I was seeing you during the war. Then I told her it was important to me that she got to know you. I assumed she knew we were— serious about each other.”

He could see her walls caving. He chased the thread of hope.

“I don’t— talk about things like this with her. Or anyone. But I wasn’t hiding you, or us.” His gaze burned into her. “I would never hide you from anyone.”

You’re mine, he nearly added. I love you.

She searched his face, her lower lip trembling. And then— she broke.

Draco moved toward her in an instant. He embraced her like he did every time she wept, sighing in relief when she allowed it. He stroked her hair as she wailed against him, her body wracked by sobs.

With a pang, he realized that her arms were curled against her chest instead of wrapped around his waist. It was a self-protective gesture that separated them from each other. Keeping them apart.

Let me in, he begged silently. Please.

After a few minutes, she finally stilled. “I can’t be around someone who treats me like that." 

“I know,” he soothed. “You won’t have to ever again. She’s going to apologize, and she’ll be on her best behavior next time or I’ll cut her off. I swear it—” But Hermione twisted away.

“I don’t want to drive a wedge between you and your mother.” She began crying again. “You’re all she has. And it’s not just her. You’re going to have to give up everything to be with me, Draco. Your family. Your friends. Your inheritance.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. The inheritance is already mine. Not that I’d ever choose it over you. I don’t give a rat’s arse about my old friends. They can rot for all I care. As for family, there’s only my mother—”

“The war is over,” Hermione continued, as if she hadn’t heard him. “The public will find out about us soon enough. Can you imagine the headlines? ‘The Pureblood and the Mudblood.’ They’ll have a field day.” She smiled bitterly. “Then your mother will lose what little support she has. She’ll be a pariah—”

“Don’t call yourself that,” Draco interrupted. He rubbed his head furiously with both hands, as if it might banish away her doubts. “You’re catastrophizing. My mother will be fine.” He tried to pull her to him, but she resisted.

“It’s an impossible situation. I can’t—” She fell silent as tears threatened to overwhelm her.

Draco could only watch, utterly despondent. He wanted to comfort her but knew she wouldn’t allow it. Maybe she’d never let him touch her again.

The thought went through him like physical pain.  

“I’m so grateful for what we’ve had together. For all you’ve done for me. Especially with— with my parents.” Her tears began to fall freely again. She brushed them away, but it was a losing battle.

Draco pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her. “If you’re going to go, keep it,” he said dully. “I won’t be able to look at it without thinking of you, anyway.”

Hermione burst into a fresh round of tears. His vision began to cloud, too. Don’t cry, he berated himself. He hadn’t since his father—

“I’ll always love you,” she choked. She blew her nose loudly into his handkerchief, ruining it. “But I can’t do this. I can’t ask you to give up everything for me. Your mum will never accept me in your life. I can’t live with that guilt hanging over me.”

Draco shook his head. “She’s been biased against Muggle-borns for decades, Hermione. She’s not going to change overnight. Give her time. And even if she doesn’t come around, that’s on her.”

She looked unconvinced.

“Listen,” he pleaded. “If you leave me, do it because of you. Because I was too fucked up. Because you deserve better. Because there’s— someone else who could make you happier. I can live with that.” The words tasted like ash in his mouth.

“But don’t do it out of some misguided nobility for me. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re my world. You have been for some time now.”

She let out a stifled sob, but he plunged on.

“You’re the best choice I’ve ever made. Don’t take that away from me. All the things you talked about— I don’t give a damn about them, besides my mother. But I refuse to live for my parents anymore, and she knows that. The way I see it, she can make her own bed.”

Hermione screwed her eyes shut. He took a step in her direction.

“If you want to leave me for you, I respect that. I’ll do my best to survive it. But don’t fool yourself into thinking I’ll be better off without you, because trust me, you won’t be doing me any favors.”

Tears were streaming beneath her eyelids. The silence stretched on, and still she said nothing.

The sinking sensation in his gut seemed to bottom out.

He knew she wouldn’t banish him from her life. She’d simply add him to the collection of broken-hearted men she called “friends.” But unlike the others, Draco would know exactly what he’d lost.

A “friendship” with Hermione would be an empty mockery of what he felt for her. Of what they had. In time, he’d even have to see her with someone else—

No. He could never see her again, once she left him. He’d just have to pick up whatever shreds of himself remained and hope that she was happy, wherever she was. Maybe he’d move to France.

“I guess I’ll walk you downstairs, then. I won’t try to stop you.” His voice sounded as hollow as he felt. “Will you at least owl me in a day or two so I know you’re alright?”

Hermione’s eyes flew open. She shook her head. “I’m not going.” 

She whipped around to find her bag. She seized and overturned it, dumping its contents on the bed. Clothes and toiletries scattered in disarray as she violently shook it empty. The book she’d packed earlier bounced off the comforter and tumbled to the floor.

Draco stared at her, hardly daring to breathe. Then she flung her bag aside and flew into his arms.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” she gasped. “I’m so sorry. You’re right. I’m not going anywhere,” she wept. “Forgive me. Please forgive me.”

He touched her face and threaded his fingers through her hair. “I’m sorry,” he echoed, “I’m so sorry.” He finally felt like he could breathe again as he kissed her, and kissed her.  

They made love that night— there was no other way to describe it. They came together, her heels digging into his calves while she chanted his name like a prayer.

She cried afterward as he lay folded in her arms, his head tucked beneath her chin. He pretended the moisture in his own eyes was just sweat.

She kissed him over and over and made all the promises he needed to hear while he was still buried inside her. He didn’t care anymore if she knew how desperate he was for her. She’d stripped away the last of his armor, and all he had left was the truth.

“Tell me you love me,” he implored.

“I love you. More than anything.”

“Tell me you’re mine.”

“I’m yours. No one else’s.”

“Tell me you’ll always be mine.”

She brushed her lips across his knuckles and placed his hand on her heart. He lowered his ear to her chest so he could hear it beating.

“Always,” she vowed. There was no magic involved, but the word felt unbreakable.

Draco sighed and inhaled deeply, feeling her chest rise and fall with his own. The air came to him easily now, and it was scented like her.

If he’d been more alert, perhaps he would have worried about the gravity of what he’d just made her promise. But as he lay there, nestled in her arms, in her heart, inside her, he was only struck by how right it felt.

Always. Eternal. The words didn’t scare him when it came to her.

He would have thought about it more but he was simply too tired. He slipped free, kissing her nose as she whined, and dragged her against his chest. They drifted to sleep in each other’s arms, his hold on her a promise that he’d never let her go.

 

********************************

Present day

Draco watched Hermione fuss over the perfect arrangement of the napkins on the dining table. The long tapered candles she’d just kindled cast a warm light on her face as she worked.

“I was thinking.”

She paused, looking up at him expectantly.

He cleared his throat. “I was thinking that you’re my family now.”

She gave him a glowing smile and sidled up to him, the place settings forgotten. He slid his hands on her hips.

“I am. And you’re mine.” She caught his left hand and placed it over her left breast. He could feel her engagement ring beneath her sweater. She planted a soft, slow kiss on his lips.

She drew away, looking up at him. “Always,” she breathed. Draco committed every line and contour of her face to memory.

They headed back to the kitchen to help her parents, hands intertwined.

Always. It might be his favorite word.

Chapter Text

 

 

Present day

 

Christmas dinner with the Grangers was unlike any family dinner Draco had ever experienced. All the dressings and fine china were there, but everything about it was cozier. Lighter.

They tugged open their Christmas crackers right there at the table, discarding the wrappings on a spare chair. No one batted an eyelash when Roger reached across the table to help himself to a second or third serving of Yorkshire pudding. Hermione got a bit of mashed potato on the side of her mouth, and Draco impulsively leaned forward to wipe off. His mother would have cut him to ribbons for such a move, but Jean merely smiled and praised him for how well the potatoes had turned out. Before he knew it, his wine glass was empty, and Roger was pouring him more. It reminded him of his best meals at Hogwarts.

Soon enough, they began winding down. Draco was the last to finish. Jean seemed to count the seconds after he finally set his utensils at the center of his plate. After a minute or so, she popped out of her seat.

“No one move.” She held Roger down by the shoulders when he tried to follow her and briskly collected their empty dinner plates. She returned a minute later with the cranberry tart.

“There we are.” She placed the platter in front of Hermione and headed back to the kitchen.

Draco listened to Roger chat energetically about Muggle politics and tried to keep a straight face as he watched Hermione grimace and squirm out of the corner of his eye. He’d asked her earlier if she wanted him to cause an unfortunate accident to befall the tart with wandless magic, but she’d insisted she could handle it. Given the way she was eyeing it, however, she looked like she regretted her choice.

Jean returned to the kitchen bearing dessert plates. She began cutting and serving the tart, beginning with Draco.

Roger broke off from his diatribe about Tony Blair to admire the slice Jean had just set in front of him. “This looks fantastic.”

“Thanks, Mum.” Hermione fidgeted in her seat. “It does look—really good.”

Jean beamed at her and cut her an obscenely large slice. “For you, dear.”

Hermione’s mouth fell open. “That’s too much—”

“Nonsense. You always grow a second stomach when it comes to dessert. Besides, you’re far too thin, if you ask me.” She narrowed her eyes. “You’re not dieting, are you?”

“No, but—”

“Good.” She set the plate in front of her daughter with a firm clink.

Hermione looked a sickly shade of green. Once again, Draco found himself concealing a peal of laughter with a hacking cough.

“Goodness, Draco! You still haven’t kicked that cold, have you?”

He cleared his throat. “I’m much better, really—.“

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you help Roger with the snow this morning.” Jean sighed. “Well, it’ll have to be another early bedtime tonight. I’ll make you some ginger tea, too.”

He managed to give her a quick smile.

She sat down after cutting herself a slice. “Bon appétit!”

Draco was fairly neutral on cranberries, but the tart was exceptionally good. It was warm and sweet and the perfect amount of tart. The orange zest in the glaze lingered on his tongue well after his first bite, and the warm buttery crust was delicious in and of itself.

He forced himself to set down his fork. “It’s excellent, Mrs. Granger.”  

Roger vigorously nodded his agreement. “It’s even better than your treacle tart!”

Jean waved them away, though she looked thoroughly pleased. “You two flatter me. I’m glad it turned out alright.”  

Meanwhile, Hermione was chugging her wine as quickly as if it was water. She still hadn’t touched her dessert.

Roger noticed the same time Draco did. “Well, Hermione? Take a bite!”

She set down her wine glass and offered him a weak smile. “I’m sure it is, Dad. I’m just— cleansing my palate.”

“Go on.” He gave her an encouraging nod. Jean, too, began watching her eagerly. Draco tried his best not to burst out laughing again.

Hermione slowly cut into the tart and brought it up to her mouth. “Mmm.” She swallowed visibly.

At the precise moment the fork was about to pass her lips, there was a sharp knock at the door.

Hermione startled and dropped it on the floor. “Oh dear,” she said, looking deeply relieved.

“Who could possibly be visiting at this hour?” asked Jean, staring in the direction of the front door.

Roger frowned. “Carol singers, perhaps?”

Draco rose from the table. “Shall we greet them together?”

He gripped his wand in its hidden holster in his sleeve as the four of them left the dining room. He hoped it would go away at some point. His hyperalertness. The way his mouth would dry and nerves light up at the sudden and unexpected. Being in an unfamiliar environment made it even worse.

He held his breath as Jean flung open the front door.

A middle-aged Muggle man wearing a hideous neon yellow vest stood on their doorstep. He was clutching a white box and looked just as astonished to find himself there as they did.

It was dark out, but Draco could make out a van parked on the street in equally hideous shades of yellow and green. City Link, it read.

“Erm—  express parcel delivery for—  uh...” The man squinted at the letter on top of the box. “Mr. and Mrs. Granger.”

Jean exchanged an incredulous look with her husband. “Goodness. I didn’t know City Link delivered on Christmas!”

The man looked extremely uncomfortable. “May I hand this over? I’ve got more for you.”

“Of course.” Roger stepped forward to take the box. The man strode back to his van, nearly slipping on the driveway in his haste.

Jean snatched the letter that was tucked beneath the silver ribbon around the box. She examined it for a few moments. “There’s no return address. Do you think it’s from the Dawsons?”

“No idea.” Roger gently shook the box. “It feels like a dessert.”

“It is odd,” Hermione added, angling to get a better look. “I thought all postal service was closed today?”

“So did I.” Jean flipped the letter over, brow furrowed. “Shall I just—”

She broke off as the delivery man returned. He was holding two small packages: one black and cube-shaped, the second slim and rectangular with red wrapping paper. Both had silver ribbons and small letters tucked underneath them.

The man squinted down at the black box. Draco realized who it was from before he even spoke.

“Dr—Drah—”   

“Draco. I’ll take it, thanks.” The man gave him a curt nod and handed it over.

“He— Herm—”

“Hermione Granger. That’s her right there.” Draco nodded in her direction.

Hermione shot him a startled glance as she accepted her package.

“Not the Dawsons, then,” said Roger.

“Probably not.” Jean turned to the delivery man. “Thank you for the packages. I hope City Link is paying you overtime. I can’t believe they’re making you work on Christmas!”  

“They aren’t, actually. We’re closed today.” He cast a longing look back at his van, as if mentally calculating how soon he could return to it.

Jean stared at him. “Then why are you here?”

“Well—” he shifted uncomfortably—“I was hoping you might be able explain that to me, but it seems you’re just as confused as I am.”

“Pardon?” Roger interrupted. “We weren’t expecting any deliveries today. Who sent these?”

Draco shot Hermione a frantic look. He had a sense of where this was going, and it wasn’t anywhere good. She gave him a helpless shrug.

“I don’t know, sir. My shift ended last night, but I never made it back to work. Got caught in the storm and my boss told me to keep the van at my house until tomorrow. Anyway, I checked the van late this morning because I misplaced my wallet— I needed to find a gift receipt for my wife, you see—and I found these packages waiting for me on the driver’s seat.”

“How strange!”

“That isn’t even the strangest part, ma’am.” He shook his head. “The thing is, I’m certain I locked the van. I don’t know how they got inside. And I could have sworn I put my wallet in my jacket last night before I came in, but there it was, waiting for me on the console. I had about a hundred pounds worth of tips in there, too— all untouched.”

“A tip!” Jean cried, momentarily distracted. “How thoughtless of us. Hang on just a moment—”

“No tip, ma’am, please. Whoever sent you these packages already took care of it.”

“There was a note?”

“Just your address.” He paused. “And 500 pounds.”

Roger and Jean both gasped.

Draco shot Hermione another pleading stare. Help, goddamn it.  

“How generous!” Hermione squeaked. “Well, I really can’t wait to open my present. Thank you again for the excellent service. Happy Christmas to you—”

500 pounds?” Roger repeated.

The man nodded. “I wanted to come by first thing in the morning, but my wife insisted I drive over tonight after the kids went to bed.” He lowered his voice. “Said it might be the mafia.”

Jean and Roger stared at each other for a moment before bursting into laughter.

“There’s no connections to organized crime in this house, I assure you,” Roger finally managed. “Though apparently some wealthy, overzealous friends.”  

“Right.” The man smiled sheepishly, though he still looked doubtful. “Well, if that’s all, I’ll be on my way. Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas,” they echoed.

They traipsed back into the dining room. Hermione was attempting to silently communicate with Draco behind her parents’ backs, but he couldn’t focus enough to understand her. He felt like his head had just been swarmed by wrackspurts.

He didn’t have to glance at his letter to know that he’d recognize the handwriting like the back of his own hand. And yet the thought was completely preposterous.

Roger set the box on the dining table and gestured for them to sit. “Let’s have a look, shall we?”

He opened the box just as Jean removed the letter from its envelope.

“A spiced Victoria sponge cake!” she exclaimed, leaning over to get a better look.

Draco’s breath caught. He recognized that dessert. It was one of his favorites growing up.  

Roger eyed it appreciatively. “Didn’t your Aunt Mary used to make these?”

“Yes, but only the traditional kind. This one has Christmas spices in it. Can’t you smell the cinnamon and allspice?”

“I can!” Hermione enthused. “It smells incredible.”

It did, really. Draco felt his mouth water even though his buttons were already bursting at the seams.

“Just wait until you taste it. After the tart, of course. You’ll have to put that infamous second stomach of yours to good use.” She smiled at Hermione, who feebly attempted to return it. “Shall we find out who our benefactor is, then?”

Roger nodded, already cutting into the sponge cake. “Go on.”

She opened the letter and began to read. “‘Dear Mr. and Mrs. Granger: Please accept my warmest holiday wishes to you and your family. I was gratified to learn that my son would be spending the holidays with you. Thank you for welcoming him in your home.’”

“A-ha!” said Roger. “Mystery solved.”

“Oh, how lovely, Draco! I should have known it was your mum!”

Draco cleared his throat. “Right. Yes. My mother does love doing these sorts of things.” 

“Yes, she’s always been like that,” Hermione stammered. “Very thoughtful.”

“A woman of excellent taste, too. What else did she say, Jean?”

Jean peered down at the letter. “‘Enclosed is one of Draco’s favorite desserts. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family has during holidays past.’”

Hermione stole a glance at him, but he remained stoic. He wouldn’t let himself think about past holidays with his parents. Not now.

“‘I’ve had the pleasure of making your daughter’s acquaintance. She’s an exceptional young woman, and I can see why my son cares about her so much.’”

Jean glanced up for a moment to beam at Draco. His cheeks burned. At least the embarrassment startled him out of his shock.

This was actually happening. His mother had sent his fiancée’s Muggle parents a Christmas sponge cake, and had nearly broken the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy to do it.

“‘Our children are important to each other, and what’s important to my son is important to me. I would enjoy the chance to meet you both in the near future, if your schedules permit.’”

Roger paused in the middle of depositing a large slice of cake on Hermione’s plate. “Of course we’d love to meet her. We’ll have to write back immediately, Jean.”

She nodded. “Draco, we’ll need your mother’s address. We’d love her telephone number, too. Remind me to ask you before you leave.”

Draco paled and glanced at Hermione. She looked equally stricken. Luckily, however, Jean and Roger were both too distracted to notice— Jean by the letter, and Roger by the cake.

“‘Unfortunately, my home is undergoing extensive renovations at the moment, and won’t be in the state for visitors for some time. Perhaps we can meet in London, however, as I travel there quite frequently. Draco and Hermione may even be able to join us, if their schedules allow it.’”  

“We’d love to,” said Hermione softly. Draco silently reached for her hand.  

“‘You can reach me by post at the following address,’” Jean continued. Draco let out a shaky exhale. Thank God.

“‘Enjoy your holiday, and my best wishes for a healthy and prosperous new year. Warm regards, Narcissa Malfoy.’” Jean folded up the letter and smiled warmly at Draco. “Just lovely. I still can’t believe the lengths she went to. I’m sure she tipped that man more than he makes in an entire week!”

Draco briefly tried to imagine his mother sneaking around Muggle London and breaking into delivery cars. He fought the urge to laugh. It was a ludicrous idea— she almost certainly had made one of the house elves do it. Still, he would have paid a thousand Galleons to witness her giving the orders. Or exchanging gold for Muggle currency at Gringotts.

It seemed that her determination to win her son back was the only thing that outstripped her pride.  

“She’s a determined woman,” he said, with a rush of affection. Hermione squeezed his hand underneath the table.

“Well, she certainly knows how to make an impression,” said Roger. “I’m fond of her already.” He shuffled over and set a Quaffle-sized piece of sponge cake on Draco’s plate. “There you are. Saved the biggest for last.”

“Thanks, Mr. Granger.”

Jean was examining and prodding her sponge cake as though it were a prized pig. “The texture is exceptional! It’s quite difficult to make it this fluffy.”

“I bet it tastes even better than it looks. Shall we?” Roger didn’t wait for their answer before digging in.

The next few minutes were silent apart from the sounds of silver scraping china and appreciative groans. Tinsley’s sponge cake was every bit as good as Draco had remembered.

Jean finished first. She proceeded to go on a long diatribe on how difficult it was to make a proper spiced sponge cake, most of which went directly over Draco’s head.

“...so really, it’s an outstanding example of baking. She did make this herself, right?”

Draco paused. A half truth would have to do. “I believe it’s homemade, yes.”

“I knew it. Something this good simply couldn’t be store-bought. I’ll have to ask her for the recipe when we meet in person.”  

There was a clatter of silver on china. “I think I’m going to burst,” Hermione groaned. She pushed her dessert plate so far to her left that it bumped into Draco’s.

Jean’s face fell the moment she caught sight of it. “Hermione— you still haven’t touched your tart!”

Hermione blanched. “I’m stuffed to the brim, Mum. I really didn’t want any sponge cake, but Mrs. Malfoy will ask me how I liked it. She often— erm— follows up on these things. I only ate it because I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

“Well, that’s a shame,” said Roger, frowning. “Not even a small bite?”

Jean looked thoroughly put out. Hermione began fidgeting with her napkin as the silence stretched to an uncomfortable degree. She definitely needed rescuing from this one.

Draco gave a loud, drawn-out sigh. “Being a tart snob again, Hermione?”

All three Grangers turned to look at him.

“Molly ruined her. The Molly from Molly’s Bakery. She’s notoriously private about her recipe, but she told Hermione that the secret ingredient is to let the tart sit for a day or two. Hermione’s obsessed with it now. Whenever we buy one, she drills the bakers about how fresh it is.”

Jean gaped at them for a few moments. “Really? I’ve never heard that before!”

“Really,” he lied.

“Hmm. Tastes excellent the way it is, if you ask me.”

“I completely agree, Mr. Granger. But according to Molly, it’ll be even better tomorrow. I assume that’s why Hermione is holding out.” Draco raised an eyebrow at her.

Hermione cleared her throat, now a bright shade of pink. “Yes, you caught me. I’m rather attached to the flavor of— of— day-old cranberry tart. I was going to ask if we could take the rest of it home with us tomorrow, but I didn’t want to be rude.”  

Jean instantly brightened. “Of course you can, dear! On one condition: you have to promise to call me when you finally eat it. I want to know what you think.”

Hermione nodded eagerly. “You’ll hear my reaction to every bite, Mum. I promise.”

Draco took a long swig of water to hide his smirk.

“I need to get away from these desserts before I eat more,” said Roger. “Shall we begin opening presents?”

The four of them headed into the living room.

“Let’s have you two start off with your gifts from Draco’s mum,” said Jean. “The first presents opened on Christmas are always the most special.”

Jean and Roger settled into the couch, and Hermione took the blue chair closest to the fire. Draco reluctantly sat down across from her.

She quickly tore into her envelope. Draco turned his over a few times in his hands. He wasn’t certain if he was emotionally prepared to hear whatever his mother had to say, especially with the Grangers watching.

His hesitation must have been visible on his face.

“Jean, should we clean up a bit? While Hermione and Draco open their presents?”

Draco glanced up just in time to catch the quizzical look Jean shot her husband. To her credit, however, she barely missed a beat.

“Good idea.” She stood up, following Roger’s lead.

“Oh— let us help!” Hermione halfway rose from her chair.

“Absolutely not.” Roger’s voice harbored no room for disagreement. “Open your gifts. We’ll be right back.”

Draco watched them leave the room. Hermione was already engrossed in his mother’s letter. He broke the seal of his envelope and began to read.

Draco-

I received your owl. I was glad to hear from you. There’s much I want to say, but it will have to wait for another time. Soon, I hope.

The world has changed, Draco, as have you. But your father will always be part of you. I hope you will forgive him for his faults. Despite our disagreements, our love for you has never wavered.

He would have wanted you to have this, and I should have given it to you a long time ago. We mustn’t forget the past, but we mustn't cling to it, either.

Draco picked up the small black box that accompanied his mother’s letter. He loosened its silver ribbon and opened it.

It was his father’s pocket watch.

The Malfoy Family Crest was proudly inlaid on its front case in damascened gold and steel. Before it had passed into his father’s possession, it had belonged to his grandfather Abraxas, who had inherited it from his father before him.

The watch felt cool and heavy in his hand as he traced the golden dragons that flanked either side of the shield. Mercifully, his family motto had been left off— apparently a detail too fine for the artisan that had crafted the front case. He opened it. The keyless lever glided smoothly along the circle of delicate Roman numerals etched into the white enamel dial.

Still working perfectly, after all this time. After all the hands it had passed between. Son to son; father to father. Everything and nothing had changed.

He’d forgotten about this watch, even though his father had always worn it on him. In all probability, he’d been wearing it the day he died.

A choking sensation bubbled in his throat. He screwed his eyes closed and beat it back, the pain scorching behind his eyelids. When it passed, he picked up his mother’s letter again.

I won’t pretend to understand the path you’ve chosen, but I want to try. I hope you’ll accompany Hermione for dinner at the Manor this weekend. The war took my boy away, but you’ll always be my son.

Love,

Mother

P.S. If you’re going to do it, do it right.

Draco paused at his mother’s post-script.

He set the letter aside and picked up the box. Something shifted inside. He inspected the interior and found a small piece of ribbon attached to its velvet lining. It opened like a hinge when he pulled it, revealing a hidden compartment below.

His great-grandmother Aurora’s ring twinkled up at him, its brilliance irrepressible even in the dim light of the fire-lit living room. The round diamond centerstone was even clearer than he remembered, its sapphire halo more delicate and alluring.

“What’s that?”

Hermione was eyeing him curiously, clutching something small and silver in her hand. Draco snapped the box shut and quickly tucked it in his pocket.

“My father’s watch. Mother sent it to me.”

“Come sit with me so I can have a look?”

They both moved to the couch. She rested her head on his shoulder as she examined it. “It’s beautiful, Draco. That was very thoughtful of her.”

He nodded stiffly as she traced the front case with her finger, just like he had. They were silent for a minute.

She tilted her head to look up at him. “Want to see what she gave me?”

His mother had given Hermione an ornate silver compact that also had the appearance of an immaculately maintained antique.

He blinked at it. “It looks like an heirloom.”

“I suspect it is. It’s no ordinary compact.” She placed it in his hand and eagerly observed him. “Have a look.”

Draco looked into the small mirror and met his own eyes. He startled as a vivid, moving image appeared.

He was a small boy, and he was sprinting across a manicured lawn beneath a cerulean sky, chasing the magicked dragon his father had conjured. He screeched in jubilant fury each time it soared out of reach, the sound of his parents’ laughter ringing in his ears.  

“It shows you your happiest memories,” she said in a hushed voice. “I wondered if you could see only see your own, but I see yours, too.”  

He had just received his acceptance letter from Hogwarts, and he was giddy with excitement. His father clapped him on the shoulder; his mother kissed him on both cheeks. She hugged him for a long time afterward and promised to send a package full of sweets every week, and his father didn’t even scold her.

He was arguing with Hermione in the middle of a crowded street in Muggle London. They had spent a night out to celebrate their new jobs, but Hermione had rolled her ankle on the way home. She insisted she could walk until they reached a safe apparition point; Draco wanted to cast a concealment charm and apparate them right there. He ended their fight by swooping her up mid-sentence and carrying her at least a quarter of a mile. After a while, she quit teasing him and simply rested her head against his shoulder.

It was the night they got engaged and he was gripping Hermione’s hips as she rode him, drunk on the sights and sounds. The look on her face. His cock disappearing inside her. The way her ring glittered as she teased and rolled her nipples between her fingers. After she came, he flipped her over and tried to look at all three. Gray met hazel when he finally let go, her name on his lips, his face caged in her hands.

He smirked as Hermione quickly drew away. He watched the fifth memory on his own. When it was finished, he closed the compact and turned to look at her.

“Still blushing, I see. Are you telling me that me none of your happiest memories are of us shagging?”

“I never said that,” she huffed. “Mine just aren’t as... pornographic.”

“Your loss, Granger.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well?”

“Well what?”

“The last memory? What was it?”

 

*******************

Two years and two months ago

“I can’t believe I’m waiting with Draco Malfoy outside a Muggle bar to ambush a Death Eater.”

For what felt like the hundredth time that evening, Draco glanced at Granger out of the corner of his eye. She was wearing slim-cut Muggle jeans, and her tailored black petticoat did little to hide the way they clung to her arse. If they hadn’t been there on official Order business, he would have pinned her against the wall and felt the snug fit for himself while kissing her senseless.

They’d been doing a lot of that lately. Snogging. He knew every nook and cranny of 12 Grimmauld Place by now.   

She turned to look at him, still waiting for an answer. Her lips were slightly wet from the disposable cup of Muggle tea she’d been drinking.

He forced himself to focus. “It’s not an ambush. I’ve been tailing him for two weeks. His offer is genuine.”

She frowned. “So you and Kingsley think. But I still don’t understand why he wants to meet with me.”

“We’ve been over this before. He’s in love with a Muggle, Granger. Everyone in Voldemort’s ranks knows how well you’ve managed to conceal your parents. He’s here to learn how you did it and strike a bargain for her safety.”

“And what if you’re wrong?”

Draco gripped his wand inside its hidden holster. “Then I’ll take care of it.”

She noticed the movement. “I’d feel much better if you’d put on the Invisibility Cloak, you know. Who knows if he’ll come out early.”

“He won’t. I know Jugson’s habits better than anyone. He’s always exactly on time.”

“Still. You should put it back on.”

“I’m stopping you from getting mauled, aren’t I? You haven’t been hassled once since I took it off.”

“Being catcalled at is hardly being ‘mauled,’ Malfoy. Besides, I can take care of myself.”

He sulked for a few moments, knowing she was right.

She sighed. “Can’t you give me a signal of some kind if his information is bogus? I hate the idea of telling him more than he needs to know, even if we are going to Oblivate him—”

“No. We can’t risk him suspecting something is off. Your job is to talk to him, and if he’s lying, your sign will be me stunning him. Then we’ll obliviate him.”

Now it was Granger’s turn to sulk.

After a few minutes, she finally spoke. “I still can’t believe that a Death Eater who helped capture and torture at least half a dozen of our allies is changing sides because he fell in love with a Muggle bartender.” She snorted and took a long sip of tea.

“Is it really so hard to believe?”

She looked up at him, her gaze unflinching. “Maybe not. But it’s certainly ironic.”

This time he was the first to look away. He got the sense that he should say something, but he had no idea what she wanted to hear.

It was maddening, not knowing where they stood. He’d thought about her constantly since he’d joined the Order, but this little arrangement of theirs had made his infatuation a hundred times worse. Some days he was seriously tempted to cast a Legilmency spell behind her back so he could finally crack that sphinx-like head of hers. He took a deep breath that had little to no calming effect on him.  

“So. Still working to convince Viktor and the Bulgarians to join our cause?” He knew how jealous and petty he sounded, but he couldn’t be bothered to care.

She crossed her arms. “Yes.”

“Good. Send him my regards,” he said sarcastically.

She narrowed her eyes at him.  “I read your intelligence briefing on the ball at the Manor the other day, you know. I take it Pansy Parkinson was there?”

“So? What of it?”

“Have a cozy little reunion, did we?”

He stared at her. “Far from it. We’ve been over for ages.”

“Hmmm.” She didn’t sound convinced.

His brain was working furiously. Could it be that she felt just as frustrated and insecure with their relationship as he did?

She strode to a nearby rubbish bin and chucked her disposable tea in it a bit harder than necessary. “At any rate, we seem to be amassing an army of Death Eaters with a secret fancy for Muggles.”

He gaped at her openly after this outburst. She defiantly returned his gaze, as though daring him to contradict her.

“I don’t want us to be a secret.”

The words escaped him before he could think them through. But something in the way she looked at him told him that he’d hit his target.

“You don’t?” she repeated slowly.

“No. I obviously can’t tell my side without getting killed, but I’m sick of hiding around yours. I’d like for them to know about us.”

She searched his eyes for a moment. "Our side, Draco. It’s yours, too.”

His stomach swooped when she called him by his given name. He thought he might tell her anything she wanted just to hear her say it again.

He swallowed and gave her a tight nod. “Ours.”

She moved closer, her eyes briefly flickering to his mouth. “So what do you want to tell them, exactly?”

“The truth.”

“And what’s that?”

“That you’re my girlfriend.”

She gave him a shy but dazzling smile. “You know, I don’t recall having a conversation about us being boyfriend and girlfriend.”

“We are now. Hermione.” He didn’t miss the way she shivered when he said her name.

“And you don’t want it to be secret?”

“No.”

“Not even from your mother?”

“Who I date is none of her business. But I’ll tell her if she asks.”

She stepped even closer. “‘Boyfriend.’ I like the sound of that. I think the definition entails that I’ll hex Pansy Parkinson senseless if she thinks she can sink her talons into you the way she did at school.”

“I’d never let her. And I could say the same thing about your precious Krum.”

“Viktor’s just a friend.”

“A friend who happens to be in love with you. You seem to collect lots of those.”

She rolled her eyes, but she was still smiling. She was close enough for him to smell her perfume. For one long, blissful moment, he thought she was going to kiss him. But then she seemed to catch herself. She took a quick step backward, glancing at her watch.

“We only have two minutes. You really should put the cloak on.”

“Fine. But only because you asked nicely, Granger.”

“Back to ‘Granger’ now, are we?”

He smirked at her as he pulled the cloak about his shoulders. “Old habits die hard, girlfriend.

She snorted. “You really are a prat, you know.”

“That’s your problem now.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Present day

Hermione smiled as Draco finished recounting the memory. “I remember that night well. I mostly remember being shocked you wanted something serious. And thrilled, of course. I had thought it was all one-sided.”

“Which proves my point that you are terribly naive when it comes to men.”

She rolled her eyes. “Says the man who thought I liked Viktor.”

“Says the woman who thought I liked Pansy.” Draco shuddered. “God, she’s horrid. I still can’t believe—”

“—you shagged her for a good year or so?” Hermione eyed him sternly.

He closed his mouth for a moment. She had him there. “Well, I’ve upgraded significantly, anyway.”

“Arse.”

“I never pretended to be otherwise.” He pulled her closer, relishing the way she relaxed into his arms. “So. What were your happiest memories?”

She tilted her head to look up at him, eyes fluttering open. “Nothing terribly interesting. What you’d expect.”  

“Such as?”

“Moments with my parents. The day I found out I was a witch. Memories with Harry…” Her voice trailed off for a moment. “And Ron. My first time in the Hogwarts library.”

Draco let a barking laugh, but fell silent at the look on her face. “Go on,” he managed.

“The day I got my O.W.L. scores.” She glared at him, daring him to laugh, but he wisely kept mum. She shrugged. “The rest are with you.”

“Oh?”

“Oh.”

“Don’t leave me hanging, Granger,” he said in a low voice, running his hand up and down her thigh.

She shivered and cleared her throat. “Um… the day you proposed to me. And that night, too.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“What?” she demanded. “It wasn’t as explicit from my point of view!”

“If you insist.”

“The day we moved into our new flat,” she continued, ignoring him. “The verdict at your trial. And… erm... your last birthday. At the Hackney Theatre.”

His mouth twisted into a smirk. “You mean, the night you dragged me to see that god-awful movie—Moonlight Rouge—”

Moulin Rouge!”

“—insisting I’d like it, and it was so incoherent that I ended up casting a concealment charm and shagging you right there in the theater box to pass the time?”

She bristled. “It was not incoherent! Perhaps not the best choice, I admit, given all the Muggle pop culture references, but—”

“It was a hell of a shag, though.” He paused, fully grinning now. “And you call me the filthy one?”

“It was a lovely night!” she said, blushing furiously. “We had a fantastic dinner and a beautiful walk home—”

“Whatever you say, Granger.”

Anyway,” she continued severely, “this was an extraordinary gift. I’m sure it’s been in your family for ages.”

She plucked the compact from his left hand and turned it over a few times. He remained silent as he watched her.

“How do you feel?” she asked quietly. “About everything?”

He shrugged. “Relieved, I suppose. It took her longer than I thought it would, but I knew she’d come around eventually.”

Hermione looked up at him again. “She invited us to dinner at the Manor this weekend. In her letter. I think we should go.”

He gave a curt nod. “She mentioned it in mine as well. She’ll be on better behavior this time. I guarantee it.”

She studied him carefully. “What she did with my parents was far more than I could have expected, Draco. I still can't believe it.”

“Did she apologize to you?”

“More or less.”

“That’s not good enough.”

She stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. He closed his eyes for a few moments, leaning into her touch.

“I forgive her, you know,” she said softly. “You should, too.”

Draco stiffened and met her eyes. “I never said I didn’t. I just want her to change for the right reasons. I want her to see in you what I do.”

“Draco—”

“I mean it. I won’t have her looking down her nose at you. Or your parents.”

“Draco.” She put her hand on his arm. “I don’t care why she’s changed her tune.”

“You should.”

“No, I shouldn’t. Change is slow, remember? She’s trying, and that’s enough. It’s everything.”

“I’m not saying I don’t appreciate it. But I hope she has her priorities straight.”

He stared at the fire, brooding, as the memory of their last dinner together rose to the forefront of his mind. Hermione remained silent. Draco expected she was thinking about the same thing.

“I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. But if she so much as hints anything negative about your heritage this weekend, we’re leaving.”

Hermione shrugged. “She can say whatever she wants. If she’s going to meet my parents, I'm sure she’ll have lots of questions and assumptions she needs to unpack. It’s just going to take time. And patience.”

“Well, our time is limited,” he grumbled. “I don’t want to stay engaged forever.”

The corner of her mouth quirked. “I expect things will move more quickly once she gets acquainted with the Muggle world. She’s had little exposure, I take it?”

“Barely any that I’m aware of. I doubt she’s been in Muggle London before. She and my father always avoided it.”

“Well, we’ll have to change that, won’t we? We should take her to L’Escargot. She won’t be able to look down at Muggles when they’re serving her the best French food she’s ever had.”

Draco stared at her for a moment before snorting. “Hermione Granger: winning pureblood hearts and minds one Muggle restaurant at at time.”

“Laugh all you want, but I guarantee it’ll catch her off guard. Most wizards are surprised by how well Muggles can cook without magic.”  

He entwined her fingers with his own. “Never change, Granger.”

“I won’t." She lifted her chin. "Proving people wrong is my specialty, you know.”

“I do.” He brought her hand to his lips and slowly kissed her knuckles.

Her gaze was soft when he broke away. “You really don’t give her enough credit, Draco. She just parted with a priceless family antique and gave it to a Muggle-born.”

She parted with a couple, actually, he thought. 

Hermione pulled away to snatch the letter she’d left on the blue chair. She handed it to him and sat back down again, resting her head against his shoulder as he unfolded it.

She tapped the last paragraph. “Start here.”

He squinted at his mother’s small, elegant cursive and began to read. “‘Enclosed is something very dear to me. I hope you will cherish it as much as I have over the years. You and my son have many more joyous occasions on the horizon, and I hope you will allow me to take part in some of them.’”

He broke off, swallowing. What was his mother implying? A wedding? Grandchildren? Was she really accepting all of it?

“You see? She wants to turn the page, too.”

Draco nodded, unsure of what else to say. He folded the letter and gave it back to her.

She set it aside and picked up the compact again. “It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. The magic on it is extraordinary.” She flipped it open. “See my initials here?”

He frowned as she handed it to him. He hadn’t noticed before, but there were two delicate initials carved into its smooth silver base.

“H.G.,” he read aloud.

“Just wait.” She sat up and eyed the doorway for a minute, ostensibly listening for the sound of her parents. “Alright,” she murmured, apparently satisfied. “Watch.”

She fished the necklace out of her jumper and slipped her engagement ring on her finger.

“Careful,” Draco hissed.

“I know, I know. Look!”

He glanced down. The letters on the compact had rearranged themselves. H.M., they read. His mouth fell open.

Hermione pulled her ring off, beaming. The initials shifted once more. H.G. “Isn’t it incredible?”

“How’d she get it to do that?”

“I’m not sure, but I’m dying to find out. Probably a charm that’s unique to the Malfoy family. An ancient one, too. My ring likely has a variety of enchantments on it as well. ”

“Probably,” said Draco, still marveling at it. He’d never thought to ask his mother about the kinds of charms placed on Malfoy family heirlooms.

“I remember reading a while back about a charm pureblood families would place on valuables to keep them with their rightful owners— familia agnoscis. But I think this is a different spell, because—"

“How’s the loot, you two?”

Draco nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of Roger’s voice.

“Oh! Good!” Hermione scrambled to stuff her necklace back inside her jumper. Draco nearly body slammed her against the back of the couch in an attempt to hide her from view.

“Oops! Sorry, Hermione— let me just—” He awkwardly reached for the letter across her body. “Where is that ribbon? I don’t want to leave rubbish on the couch.”

Hermione stopped fidgeting and patted his shoulder. “Move and I’ll help you find it.”

“Right.” He sprang to his feet. “Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. We didn’t mean to take your spot.”

“Nonsense!” said Jean. “Sit back down, you two. I insist. Roger and I will take the chairs.”

Draco could still feel blood thrumming in his veins as he and Hermione showed off their new gifts from Narcissa. Roger and Jean were polite and enthusiastic enough, but he still felt ill at ease. There seemed to be something calculating in the glances Jean shot at her daughter— and him too, once or twice. But perhaps he was only imagining it.

His mouth was still dry while the Grangers opened up their joint present from him and Hermione (a lavish set of cooking oils), and while Hermione opened up her gifts from her parents (a toaster oven, a red angora jumper, a red scarf, and a leather-bound planner).

He only snapped out of it fully after unwrapping his gifts from Jean and Roger. There was an odd coincidence in the jumble of objects they’d bought him. Hermione seemed to realize it the same moment he did.

“Mum, why did you get Draco so many green things? His journal’s green, and the pens are green, too. So are the initials on his handkerchief.”

“Hmm. Well spotted.” Jean furrowed her brow. “Didn’t you tell me green was his favorite color?”

“He does love the color, but I’m certain I didn’t mention it, no.” There was a forced casualness in her tone. “I’m just curious why you chose it.”  

Jean shrugged. “I’m not sure. It’s a nice color, I guess.” A sudden look of recognition passed over her face. “You know, I had the funniest dream a few weeks ago. I dreamed the two of you went to boarding school together. You came home one summer and told me a boy named Draco was always giving you a hard time. You called him a snake. And I told you he would cut it out when he grew up a bit.” Jean smiled, shaking her head. “I guess it stuck in my subconscious, hence the color green.”

She leaned over and patted Draco’s knee. “Don’t worry, dear. I don’t think you’re anything like a snake, I promise.”

Roger laughed. Draco tried to return her smile naturally, hiding his astonishment.

“Actually, I’ve had the strangest dreams lately,” Jean continued thoughtfully. “Many of them about you, Hermione. Just a couple of nights ago, I dreamed that you went somewhere really odd. For school, that is. You came home talking about broomsticks and cauldrons and trolls, and turning rats into teacups. And a handsome teacher with pixies, if I recall correctly.”  

Draco’s heart was pounding in his ears. Hermione looked like she was about to laugh, burst into tears, or both.

“You can’t be serious, Jean. I’ve had similar dreams! About magic and the like, and Hermione telling us all about it! Although I don’t remember a handsome teacher.”

Really ?”

“Really.” Roger and his wife stared at each other in astonishment. Draco scarcely breathed as he watched their standoff. Hermione’s hand found his own, nearly crushing his fingers.  

“I know!” Roger slapped his knee. Hermione and Draco both jumped. “We watched Hocus Pocus on Halloween! Remember? We hadn’t seen it in ages! I think my dreams started right around then.”

Jean held his gaze for a moment, and then burst out laughing. “You’re right.” She shook her head, struggling to catch her breath. “That must have been it! Oh, this is rich.”

“I’m certain of it.” Roger chuckled as he watched his wife giggle. “What else could it be?”

Jean finally got control over herself. “Apparently we need to be more careful about what we watch on the telly. I still can’t believe we’ve been having the same ridiculous dreams. Even our barmy subconsciouses are connected, after all these years.”

“Indeed. Marriage does funny things to a couple.” Roger looked over at Hermione and Draco, his eyes twinkling. “See what you two have to look forward to?”

Draco’s mouth barely had time to slacken at the implication before Hermione was tugging him to his feet.

“Mum, Dad— I’m really tired. We should get to bed. We have to be on the road fairly early tomorrow. Thank you for dinner, and for the gifts— for everything.”  

They didn’t even volunteer to help clean again before racing up the stairs.

Thirty minutes later, after they had breathlessly dissected every detail, Hermione had squealed so loudly with excitement that Draco had to slap his hand over her mouth to shut her up, and they had reviewed every possible implication for her parents’ memories— twice, Hermione finally left him alone to pack her things and take a quick shower to “clear her head.”

Draco’s head was spinning well after she had left. Between Weasley, his mother, and the Grangers, it had been quite the day.

He took the box with his great-grandmother’s ring out of his pocket. He had almost forgotten it was there, thanks to the undetectable shrinking charm his mother had cast on it. He tucked it underneath the pair of pants he was going to wear tomorrow.

He sat on the bed and pulled his father’s watch out of his other pocket. The motto missing from his family crest seemed more noticeable than ever.

Sanctimonia Vincet Semper. Purity will always conquer.

The omission felt oddly prescient.

If they ever moved to the Manor, he would tear that motto from every banner, cup, and tapestry on which it was blazed. He would throw open the 20-foot windows in the drawing room and leave them open until the stench of death, lies, and purity had aired out. He’d burn any portrait that dared to insult her, destroy everything that displeased her, and tolerate her friends whenever she felt like having them over.

She’d leave her books everywhere, her cat’s hair would be all over the furniture, and she’d overrun his mother’s gardens with foxgloves and cornflowers (because of course British wildflowers were her favorite). She would revive the place that had become lifeless and cold, just like she’d revived him. And maybe one day their children would, too.

If she wanted to, of course. Somehow, for the first time, he found himself hoping she would.

*

Hermione entered his room a half hour later. “I finished packing up. Need help with your things?”

“I’m fine, thanks.” He didn’t look up from the small desk he was currently bent over. “Already packed.” And deliberately so, because he hadn’t wanted her poking around in his luggage. He didn’t want to tell her about the ring just yet.

She drew nearer.  “Who are you writing to?”

“The Healers at St. Mungo’s.” He inspected the sentence he'd just finished, scowling at his subpar handwriting. Bloody Muggle pens. “I’m writing everything down now so we don’t forget.”  

He glanced up at her. She was gaping at him in her black nightdress, her red cotton robe draped loosely over her shoulders. She’d dried her hair, but a few wet tendrils still clung to her neck and shoulders.

Draco stared at her for a moment before ordering himself to focus. “The more details they have, the better.” He shrugged and turned back to his letter.

For a minute or two, there was silence apart from the scratching of his pen as he recounted everything Jean and Roger had said during their exchange.

He startled at the warm press of Hermione’s hips against his back. He hadn’t even heard her move.

“Thank you.” It was her softest tone. The one she used for him, and him alone.

Her fingers danced along his shoulders and neck. He leaned into her for a few moments before forcing himself to keep writing.

He finished the letter and tucked it in his luggage. “We should bottle the memory, too. In case they want to examine it when we meet. I’m asking for their earliest appointment.”

“Brilliant. I have some vials—”

“In your beaded bag.” His lips twitched. “Fetch one for me, will you?”

He extracted his memory and folded the stoppered vial in an extra pair of socks. He turned to ask her when they should plan to wake up in the morning, but the words caught in his throat.

The blazing intensity in her eyes could only mean one thing— his favorite thing.

She let her robe fall from her shoulders, never breaking his gaze. He stared at her bare legs. Her neck. The swell of her breasts. He was already half-hard, he marveled. He licked his lips just as she threw herself at him.

He swept her into his arms as he met her kiss. She melted into his touch as he held her, her toes barely scraping the floor.  

“I love you.” She scattered frantic, feverish kisses across his jawline. “Draco. I love you.”

It made his stomach swoop every time.

He tried to kiss her but she twisted too quickly in his arms, her lips burning a path across his face. He groaned when her tongue found his ear. “Fuck—”

She tugged his hair and kissed the corner of his mouth. “So good to me,” she breathed. “Let me be good to you. I love—”

He jerked his head and finally captured her lips with his own. He slid his hands down to her arse, one at a time, and yanked her up his body. She obliged, wrapping her legs around his waist, her fingers digging into his shoulders.

“The feeling’s mutual, Granger,” he panted. He backed her against the nearest wall and pounced.

She made the sweetest, most desperate sounds as he sucked and nipped along her neck. His free hand snaked under her nightdress to pinch her nipples, and she writhed so violently he had to readjust his grip. Metal scratched his scalp as she moaned and yanked at his hair. She was wearing her ring, he realized. She’d put it on for him.

“Good girl.”

“Draco—” she whined, grinding against him. His cock twitched, seeking her heat, as hopelessly in love with her as he was.

“Fuck.” He pinned her harder against the wall and licked the place her pulse fluttered beneath her skin. She tasted like honey and Earth and something distinctly Hermione.

“I need you,” she gasped. “Please.”

Yes, he thought. Fuck yes. He growled into her neck.

He wanted her as desperate as he felt, shaking and spasming beneath him. He wanted to hear the promise she’d made, that she was his— always—  while he was buried so deep inside her she could never get him out. He wanted to hear her to scream his name. He wanted—

Oh.

He froze, mid-lick, as reality struck through the fog of lust in his brain. Her parents’ bedroom was almost directly below them.

Right.

He broke away to meet her eyes. She stared back at him, panting. Her pupils were dark and blown wide, her lips swollen from his sucking and her own biting. His cock twitched again.

They’d have to be more careful than he’d like. Still, there was no universe in which he wasn’t about to shag her senseless.

Victory had never looked so sweet.

He couldn’t help but smirk. “I thought you said no shagging under your parents’ roof.”

Her cheeks burned. “Now’s not the time to gloat. Lock and muffle the room and fuck me, will you?”

He grinned wolfishly. “As my lady commands.”

Chapter Text

 

 

One of Hermione’s favorite parts of sex was the aftermath. She’d hold him in place as he’d pant into her neck, their bodies still connected. Their limbs would be so intertwined, their bodies crushed together so tightly, that he couldn’t tell where he began and she ended.

Although he would never admit it, it was one of his favorite parts of sex as well. He’d never felt more loved than he did when Hermione stroked his back, pressed kisses into his hair, and squeezed him so tightly he found himself grunting for air.

He may have been burning from the inside out, but he was happy to tolerate the inferno to lay in her arms. Tonight’s shagging session had required more exertion than usual, since he was hell bent on making her come twice. He’d been so turned on that he was impressed he’d managed it.

At first, he’d worried about how to keep her quiet— silencing charms could only go so far when his fiancée was in the throes of ecstasy— but inspiration had struck. He’d taken her from behind and made her suck his fingers as he fucked her; anytime she’d lapsed, he’d stop rubbing her clit.

He’d flipped her on her back after her first orgasm and made her come again, her lips still wrapped around his fingers, her eyes drunk with pleasure and locked on his. She’d bitten him when she came the second time, whining around his thumb as she trembled and clenched around his cock. It had been what made him finally lose it.

All in all, it had been an extremely successful day.

He burrowed his nose further into her hair and inhaled deeply. His own personal drug. His.

“I love making you break the rules, Granger.”

The fingers running through his hair froze for a moment. “Prat.”  

Your prat.”

“Yes. My prat.” She kissed his ear. “You know what I was just thinking?”

He lifted his chin to look at her. “The fact that I gave you three orgasms in one day?”

She snorted. “My arrogant prat. Actually, I was thinking about how you won’t be able to call me that anymore.”

Draco cocked his head at her, not catching her meaning.

“‘Granger,’” she clarified. “It’s your favorite endearment to needle me.”

“Or order you around in bed.”

She rolled her eyes, but she was smirking now, too. “You can’t call me that anymore after we’re married. I’ll be Hermione Malfoy.”

Fuck, but that sounded perfect on her lips.

“Can you imagine? After ten years of ‘Granger, this,’ and ‘Granger, that’? I wonder how you’ll survive it.”

“Hmmm.” He nuzzled her neck. It was true that he was fond of her maiden surname. “Didn’t we agree you’d hyphenate?”

“Legally, yes, but I’m going to go by Malfoy, remember? Granger-Malfoy is far too much of a mouthful.”

“Still. That means I get to call you whichever one I feel like.” He propped himself up slightly and smirked at her. He dipped down to kiss her right nipple. “Malfoy when you’re nice.” He kissed her left one. “Granger when you’re naughty.”

Her mouth fell open. “My name is the naughty one?”

“Indeed. Malfoys are angels, really. Whereas Grangers say incredibly filthy things when they come.”  

Hermione laughed. “I’ll guess I’ll just have to be extra naughty then, for your sake.” She wiggled her hips.

He looked at her darkly. “Don’t tease unless you want to have another go.”

She grinned at him, running her fingers over his arms. She sighed after a few moments. “As tempting as that sounds, we should probably get to bed.”  

He made to move out of her, but she grasped his arms and tightened her legs around his waist. “Stay," she pleaded. 

He was helpless to deny her. He carefully turned them over so he was underneath her, her legs tucked on either of him, her face nestled between his neck and shoulder.

“You do realize that this is a seriously compromising position for your parents to find us in tomorrow morning, right?”

She nodded against his chest. “I’m done caring. I can’t sleep without you." She yawned. "Besides, with your mum coming around, it’s my parents’ turn to get pissed off about something.”

Draco snorted. He wrapped his arms around her lower back as she settled more comfortably. Within minutes, he fell asleep, still inside her, lulled by the soothing weight of her body and the sound of her heart beating against his own.

He woke up the next morning with Hermione safely against his chest. Sometime during the night, they had gotten under the covers and settled into their usual position on their sides.

Predictably, he'd slept like the dead last night. He glanced blearily at the digital clock on the nightstand. 8:45.

Shit. Hermione’s parents were definitely awake by now.

He kissed the crook of her neck and shook her gently awake. “Time to wake up.”

“Mmm,” she mumbled. “What time is it?”  

“8:45.”

Shit!”  She scuttled out of bed. “We need to clean up and get dressed, and—” She broke off, grimacing as she inspected the mess on the sheets.

Her parents were definitely bound to notice those stains.

“Grab my wand, will you?” he asked. 

She fetched it from the dresser and handed it to him. He scourgified the sheets while she watched, wringing her hands.

“Do you think they came up here this morning?”

“There’s still a silencing charm on the room, so we probably wouldn’t have heard them if they did.” He flicked his wand at the door, lifting the spell. “But I doubt it. They’ve respected our privacy so far.”

“You don’t know my mother. Nothing gets past her. If I’d have snuck out of here a couple of hours ago, I might have gotten away with it.” She sighed, looking extremely cross with herself.

Draco tried not look amused. “I seem to recall having this discussion last night, and you insisting that you didn’t care if they found out.”

“Yes, well, I was in a bit of an orgasm coma, wasn’t I?” she grumbled.

She began darting around the room to search for her nightdress. Draco barely had the chance to admire her before she let out a colorful curse. She’d caught her reflection in the mirror and had found additional damning evidence of their activities last night.

“Look!” She pointed at the bruises on her neck and collarbone. “My mum will catch these the second I walk downstairs!”

“Come here and I’ll heal them for you.” He patted the bed besides him.

She obeyed, but instantly headed him off once she saw his expression. “Draco, there’s no time.”

“Alright, alright. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

“I’m not wearing any knickers.”

He grinned at her and placed his wand on the first love bite. “Touché.”

“No temporary glamour charms,” she said sternly. “Vanish them entirely, please.”

He smirked. It was unfortunate she had caught on to that little trick of his, given that Cormac McClaggen worked on her floor at the Ministry. The brute had finally stopped making advances towards her after she’d threatened to report him, but he still hadn’t lost his habit of ogling her. Hermione had insisted that Draco couldn’t hex him just for looking at her, but he’d felt that the least he could do was remind McClaggen that his fiancée was very well-shagged.

“Fine,” he drawled. “We’ll both pretend like you didn’t leave one on me deliberately for Daphne to notice last week.”

“That was an accident!”

“Keep telling yourself that, Granger.”

She crossed her arms. “Hurry up, will you?”

After he’d healed the last love bite, Hermione yanked on her nightdress and grabbed her crumpled-up robe off the floor. She cracked the door open, peered out in the hallway, and darted into the bathroom once the coast looked clear.

Draco’s mouth twitched at the familiar sight. There’ll be no more need to sneak out of my bedroom once she’s a Malfoy. His incorrigible cock stirred hopefully at the thought.  

They quickly showered, dressed, and packed up the last of their things. Draco debated for a minute before slipping the box with the ring in his pocket when Hermione wasn’t looking.

She stripped the sheets off both their beds, combing over Draco’s one last time before throwing them in the hamper. Then they grabbed their luggage and headed downstairs.

Breakfast was a speedy affair. They politely rebuffed her parents’ entreaties to stay through Boxing Day, insisting they had to get home to work on research projects that didn’t go on hold over winter break.

The four of them headed to the living room to finish the last of their coffee.

“We can’t wait to have you over again, Draco— perhaps with your mother next time,” said Jean.  

“I would love that. I can’t thank you both enough for having me, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. It’s been the best Christmas I can remember.”  

He was telling the truth, he realized.

Jean smiled warmly at him and leaned forward to squeeze his hand. She pulled away and turned to look at her daughter.

“Before you leave, is there something you and Draco wish to tell us, Hermione?” Her tone was still pleasant, but her expression was suddenly steely and determined.

Draco and Hermione glanced at each other.

“I don’t think so.” Hermione fidgeted in her seat. “I already told you we’re both looking to transfer to University College London next year, right?”

Jean eyed her shrewdly. Draco prayed to whatever deity was listening that they weren’t about to get a lecture on premarital sex.

Roger stood up and moved towards Hermione. She froze as he reached for the silver chain around her neck. He gently pulled at it until the ring emerged from beneath her shirt. It fell just beneath the swell of her chest, sparkling obnoxiously.

Roger slowly sat back in his seat, his eyes fixed on his daughter. Hermione looked over at Draco with an expression of pure panic.

Fuck.

That was more of what we had in mind.” Jean turned to Draco. “Of course we don’t blame you, dear. Keeping this a secret was clearly Hermione’s idea.”

“Clearly,” said Roger, his voice grim.

“We’re not angry with you, Hermione. We know we haven’t been there for you as much as we should have. Moving to Australia was selfish of us.” Jean’s eyes grew glassy. “We can’t fault you for being independent, but hiding something like this...” She broke off, overwhelmed. Roger reassuringly patted her knee.

Hermione looked crestfallen. “Mum— Dad—”

“Please let me finish,” said Jean, wiping the corner of her eye. “This is wonderful news. We’re only hurt you didn’t share it with us.”

“Your mother is right. We’re happy for you both, but we wish you would have told us. You’ve been away for a long time, but you’ll always be our little girl.” Roger’s eyes were misty now, too. “We don’t want you to hide things from us, especially something this significant—”

“It’s a promise ring!” 

There was a stunned silence.

Roger opened and closed his mouth a few times. “Your boyfriend got you a promise ring with a diamond that looks like a British Crown Jewel?”

Double fuck. 

“Erm—yes.” Hermione smiled weakly. “And it’s actually cubic zirconia. Graduate student salary, you know. His trust fund doesn’t kick in for a few more years.”

Both of her parents turned to look at him. Draco had no idea what a cubic zirconia or a trust fund was, but he was nothing if not a good liar.

He nodded smoothly, doing his to best to look wistful and sincere. “It’s true. We aren’t engaged yet, but it’s heading that way. That’s why Hermione wanted me to meet you. And in the meantime, I wanted to give her a token of our— promise to one another.”

Another long pause.

Jean recovered first. “Oh, darlings, that’s just lovely. Isn’t it, Roger?” Her husband nodded sheepishly, his face a mixture of mortification and astonishment. “Please forgive us for making assumptions. It’s just so— expensive-looking, and the way you kept it hidden was quite suspicious!”

“I’m just in the habit of hiding it, Mum. Promise rings are considered old-fashioned these days. Our friends would take the mickey out of us if they knew.”

Hermione was a terrible liar, Draco thought. Her voice trailed upward every time she fibbed. He took a long swig of coffee to hide his grimace.

“Well, I happen to think it’s very sweet. I know it’s ridiculously old-fashioned, but I actually had a purity ring when I was younger—”

Draco nearly choked on his coffee. Hermione’s face was growing redder by the minute.

“—I stopped wearing it, though, when I was around your age.” Jean winked at her husband mischievously.

Hermione groaned. “Mum—”

“Promise rings are wonderful things,” she continued. “Getting engaged is a big decision, and I’m glad you two can see that in your future, even if you’re not there just yet.”

“Ah— indeed,” said Roger, after Jean fixed him with a meaningful stare. “You’re a fine young man, Draco. We can see why our daughter cares about you so much.”

Draco was certain that his face was as red as Hermione’s. “Thank you, sir.”

He stole a glance at Hermione. Her mortification had vanished, but she looked even more crushed than she had a minute ago. She seemed like she was on the verge of tears.

His stomach sank.

He knew how much she hated lying to her parents, and she had just been cornered into telling them a particularly bald-faced lie. After the hopeful catharsis of last night, it was was an unpleasant way to end their trip. He wished more than anything that he could ease the burden from her.

He shifted uncomfortably, the ring box digging into his thigh. He froze. He’d forgotten it was there.

His mother’s words floated through his mind: “If you’re going to do it, do it right.”

Maybe there was a way everyone could win. Or maybe he’d fail spectacularly trying. There was only one way to find out.

“The thing is,” he said, a little more loudly than he’d intended, “I care about your daughter. A lot.”

All three Grangers turned to look at him. No going back now.

“I know you haven’t known about me for that long, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. I’m sure you’ve wondered why that is, since Hermione and I have been together for a while.”

The room felt unbearably hot. He fought the urge to wipe his sweaty palms on his trousers.

“I was going through a lot when I first started seeing her, and she wasn’t sure if we’d— make it, you’d see. But you should know I’ve been mad about her for years. Probably since the first moment I laid eyes on her, though I was too stupid to realize it.”

His cheeks burned at the confession. He took a deep breath and willed his nerves to calm. He could do this. There was no shame in telling them how he felt.

“Your daughter is the smartest, most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. But I mostly love her because of how good she is. Loving her has saved me from a lot of things— bitterness, anger. Despair. I’ve been waiting my whole life to find her. I think I was born to love her, you know?”

Both mother and daughter stared at him, their eyes filling with tears. The words seemed to come more easily.

“I have a family ring burning a hole in my pocket that my mother just sent me. She knows I’ve been after it for a while, but it was— lost to me. I’ve been wanting to give it to Hermione for some time now. After my father died, I learned not to put things off too much, when you’re certain about them.”

Roger’s mouth fell open.

“My family is as traditional as they come. If I were to follow its customs, I’d need your and my mother’s permission before I asked your daughter to marry me.”

He pulled the box out of his pocket. Jean gasped. He stared at it for a moment.

“I don’t mean any disrespect to either of you— or my mother— but that tradition doesn’t sit right with me. Because your daughter is the strongest woman I know. I’ve seen her do things you wouldn’t believe. And overcome hardships that would have crushed anyone else. She knows what she deserves and won’t take anything less. You’ve raised her that way.”

Roger gave him an approving nod. Hermione hiccuped, tears streaming down her face.

“All I can do is ask her if she’ll let me spend the rest of my life trying to be worthy of her, and hope the three of you will give us your blessing if she says yes.”

Draco stood up. Roger beared down on his feet and pushed against the couch he and Jean were sitting on. It groaned as it slid backward on the wooden floor, carving a lopsided, diagonal path to Hermione.

Jean sniffed loudly as Draco made his way over to her daughter. He was glad he’d learned about Muggle romance customs at the cinema. They’d taught him that Muggle proposals involved the man getting on one knee.

Draco kneeled down in front of her and flipped the box open. He pulled the velvet lining up, revealing his great-grandmother’s ring. Hermione’s eyes kept flickering between him and the ring, her face nearly purple from the effort of suppressing her sobs.

“Hermione,” he murmured. “Will you marry me?”

She let out a choked sound that might have been a laugh, cry, or “yes”— he wasn’t sure. But then she sprang out of her seat, flung her arms around her neck, and kissed him.

An hour and a half later— after Draco’s arm had nearly fallen off due to the number of times his future father-in-law had shook his hand, both of his cheeks were bright pink from Jean’s lipstick, a bottle of unpalatable champagne had been consumed (no one had the heart to tell Roger that the vintage he'd been saving for a special occasion was thoroughly corked), and countless protests that they would prefer to tell his mother the happy news in person (they could hardly tell Jean and Roger that they couldn’t call her because she didn’t own a telephone)— Hermione and Draco were finally on their way back home.

“You were completely brilliant back there,” said Hermione, once they were safely on the road. “That was inspired, Draco. And beautiful.”

“I have my moments.”

“You really do.” The happiness on her face was radiant enough to melt all the snow in Chislehurst. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her looking at him like that.   

He tried to gloat a bit more, but he was too genuinely joyful to muster any real snark. “I’m glad they know. And I’m glad I made you happy.”

Her hand found his. “Me too. And I am. I’m so happy I could cry, but my head hurts too much.”  

He snorted.

“So I guess I’ll just have to find other ways of showing you how happy I am.” She tore her eyes from the road to shoot him a sultry look.

“I consider that a promise, Granger.”

“It is. And I intend to deliver. Have I ever told you how sexy you look when winning people over with sheer nerve?”

Her right hand drifted up his thigh. With her eyes still firmly on the road, she began palming him through his trousers. He closed his eyes and hissed as she rubbed his rapidly hardening cock.

After a minute of this torture, a car slowed in front of them. She jerked her hand back to the other stick .

“Tease,” he huffed.

She laughed. “I can’t keep rubbing you off unless you want me to crash and kill us both. But rest assured that I have far more ambitious plans for you tonight.”

“Good.” He readjusted his trousers, privately bidding his cock to be patient.

As they drove, Hermione’s eyes kept flickering down to her new ring. It looked perfect on her hand. Like it had found its proper home.

“Do I get to keep this ring? Or was it just for show?”

“It’s yours. What I said about it was true. I had wanted it for you from the beginning. My mother just wouldn’t part with it until now.”

She sighed with relief. “Oh, good. I love the other one, but—”

“—you don’t fancy wearing a British Crown Jewel on your finger? Pity. The ring’s lack of subtlety did have its benefits. Like warning every man, woman, and child to steer clear of you.”

“Possessive prat." Her lips twitched. "This one fits me better, anyway.”

“Agreed.”

He had something on his mind as well. “We should think about the actual wedding. My mother will want a magical ceremony with all the Malfoy family traditions. But I don’t know how to make that work with your parents.”

“I’ve thought about this, too. Assuming their memories don’t return before then, the simplest answer is to have both a magical and a Muggle wedding. My mum and dad can go to the second one, and your mother can come to both. Our friends will be happy to play along.”

His mouth hung open. "Two weddings?”

“Why not? You proposed twice. Two engagements, two weddings.” She beamed at him. “A new tradition.”

 

Fin

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Four years later 

 

It was rare to catch Harry Potter in a moment where he was truly speechless. His jaw would go completely slack, and he would cock his head every few moments like a befuddled chicken. 

The last time Draco had seen the Boy Who Lived look so astonished had been 6-odd years before, when he and Hermione first came out as a couple. The memory still made him smirk. 

He was just about to remark that Harry ought to shut his mouth, lest a fly wander in, when he finally came to, shaking his head with all the grace of a waterlogged dog. 

“The answer is no.” 

Draco leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. He’d been expecting as much. “No?” 

“No,” said Harry. “This idea is completely mental.” 

“Hmm,” said Draco, studying his fingernails. “I think it’s quite clever myself. Certainly not as harebrained as the schemes you got up to in school.” 

“That was different!”

“Of course it was. I’m only planning to break one law, whereas the three of you broke about 80.”

“We were kids. Whereas you know the risks full well. You’re asking me to help you gamble with the very fate of the universe!” 

Draco raised an eyebrow. “A bit dramatic this morning, are we?” 

“I’m underreacting, if you ask me. You’re lucky you caught me before my second cup of coffee.” Harry took off his glasses and wiped them on his sleeve. He slid them back on and blinked at Draco, as if seeing him for the first time. 

“Listen, Harry—” 

“No, you listen.” He glanced at the door and leaned closer. “You know how hard we’ve worked to secure all of these. And now you come barging in my office at half past eight to tell me that not only did we fail, but you intend to use one—” 

“There’s no need to whisper. You really think I didn’t cast a silencing charm the moment I walked in the door?” Draco rolled his eyes. Gryffindors. “And actually, I came by to deliver the report you’ve been harassing me about for weeks. I just so happened to ask for a favor on behalf of my wife while I was here.” 

“A favor? That’s what you’re calling it?” Harry’s face was now a bright shade of pink. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing here. You’re using her to try to guilt me—” 

“You’re right. I am. Now tell me whether you’re going to help me or not. I haven’t got all morning.” 

Harry stiffened in his seat. “Neither do I. You see, after I kick you out, I’m going to march straight over to Wizengamot Administration Services and request an emergency hearing for a search warrant on your home. Today.” 

“Well, jolly good luck to you,” said Draco, drumming his fingers on his thigh. “They’ve got about a week’s worth of backlog at the moment. Sylvia told me all about it this morning. She’s quite fond of me, you know. I think she could easily be persuaded to see to it that your request goes to the end of the queue.”  

Harry scowled dangerously, and Draco uncrossed his legs. Time to go in for the kill. 

“At any rate, I’d love to see the look on Hermione’s face when she finds out that you raided our home. Not a very friendly thing to do, is it? Especially given how hard she’s been working on renovations. Not to mention the pressure she’s been under lately. You know what her schedule is like at work. Then there’s her parents, of course, and the—”

“You’re bloody impossible!” Harry threw up his hands, scattering memos to the ground. “I know how much this would mean to her, but it’s completely reckless! She’s just as likely to kill us when she finds out!” 

“You haven’t heard what’s in it for you,” said Draco calmly, with a flick of his wand. 

Harry watched the papers soar back to his desk, his mouth moving in silent outrage. “Go on,” he said at last, jaw clenched.  

“Well, besides making your best friend extremely happy, and earning her lifelong gratitude—”

“Out with it!” 

“—I’ll turn it over to you when the job is done. No questions asked.” 

Harry stared at him. “You swear it?” 

“I do.” 

“You don’t have any more? Or know of any more?” 

“No on both counts. I swear on my father’s grave.” 

Harry crossed his arms. “And how are you so certain there won’t be any consequences?” 

“Firstly—” Draco held up a finger—“I’ve watched my memories and have a minute by minute record of places where I won’t be in the way.” A second finger. “I found a repelling charm that’s mild enough to go undetected by the wards, in case someone does get too close to me.” A third. “I’ve read past cases and theories. Given the potential witnesses, the possibility of a ripple effect is slim, even if I am discovered. They’re unlikely to do anything besides question me.” He dropped his hand. “The only thing I’m missing is your cloak.” 

Harry was motionless for a full minute. Then he gave a long, exaggerated sigh. “Fine.” 

Draco fought the urge to grin. He hadn’t expected Harry to give in so quickly. “You’ll help me, then?”

“Yes.” Harry rubbed his temples. “Now get out before I change my mind.” 

“And the equipment? I don’t know where to go or what to look for.” 

Harry opened his eyes, an especially sour look on his face. “Ask,” he snapped.

Draco frowned. “I am asking—”

“Ask Electronics. I can’t remember the exact address, but it’s on Tottenham Court Road. I’ve been there a few times with my aunt and uncle.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Be there at half past six. Wear Muggle clothing. I’ll bring the cloak.” 

Draco couldn’t hold back his grin this time. “Done. Thanks, Harry.” He quickly stood up and moved to exit the room, Harry hot on his heels. He opened the door and stepped through it. 

“One last thing.” 

Draco turned around to find Harry glaring at him through the doorway. “What?”

“I’d do almost anything for Gin, but you’re arse over tit. You do realize you’re whipped out of your mind, right?” 

Draco sputtered, and Harry smirked. He slammed the door shut before Draco could do something stupid like deny it.  

*

Nearly two weeks later, Draco and Hermione stood in front of his in-laws’ door. Hermione looked radiant despite the chill in the air, wrapped up in her red peacoat and cream scarf. She gave him a nervous smile that reminded him of the first time they’d visited her parents’ house on Christmas Eve. Draco brushed a curl from her face before ringing the doorbell. 

There was a flurry of footsteps before the lights flickered on and the door swung open. Then his mother-in-law flew into his arms. 

“Oh, Draco, dear, it’s so good to see you!” 

He couldn’t help but smile as she kissed both of his cheeks. “You too, Jean.” 

“There’s my girl!” said Jean, quickly turning to Hermione. She swept her in a hug that lasted twice as long as a normal embrace. “How are you feeling? How was your trip? Did you get my message the other day?” 

“Easy, Mum!” said Hermione, laughing. “The ride was fine—”  

“Shall we go inside?” said Draco, as Jean continued to fuss over her daughter. “It was a bit of a walk from the station, and I don’t want her to catch a cold.” 

Jean blinked at him. “Excellent point. Inside, you two. Right away.” 

Draco felt some of the tension melt from his shoulders the moment the door closed behind them. It was cozy inside, and he could smell the distinct smell of pine and baked goods that he’d come to associate with the Grangers’ home. Jean had decorated more smartly than usual for the holiday. With good reason, he supposed. 

“Here, darlings. Let me take your coats,” said Jean. Draco helped Hermione out of her coat before working on his own. Then they took off their shoes and followed Jean into the living room. 

“I can’t believe you walked from the station. I’d have picked you up myself, if I’d have known. I thought you were renting a car! I’m not particularly fond of trains, especially with luggage.” 

“It wasn’t a bother,” said Hermione with a shrug. “I’m not sure if you remember, but I’m not much of a driver, Mum. Draco wasn’t comfortable with us driving, especially with how slippery the roads can get.” 

“Of course.” Jean frowned and glanced in the direction of the front door. “Speaking of, where is your luggage?” 

“Condensed,” said Hermione. She held up her small purse. 

Something flickered in Jean’s expression. “Ah. Well, that’s convenient.” 

“Where’s Roger?” said Draco.

“He ran out to get a few things before the store closes,” said Jean. She turned to Hermione, eyeing her critically. “You look far too thin, dear. I made fresh scones this morning, and there’s leftover soup, if you’re chilly—” 

“I told you, Mum. We already ate.”

After rebuffing Jean’s attempts to feed them for ten solid minutes, they made their way upstairs to unpack their luggage. 

“Ugh.” Hermione collapsed on their bed. “I’m knackered.”

“Why?” Draco instantly moved besides her. “Do you feel sick?” 

Hermione shook her head, resting her forearm over her eyes. “Tired is my state of being these days, Draco. I wake up exhausted.”

He pressed his hand to her forehead. Even though there was no snowfall this year, it had been chillier outside than he’d expected. He’d cast a warming charm around them as they walked from the station, but they weren’t very effective in open spaces. 

He released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “You feel normal. You aren’t nauseous, are you?” 

“No.” She cracked an eye open. “Haven’t been since early last week. I think we’re finally out of the woods there. Although—” she frowned—“if I see a cranberry, I will vomit . Fair warning.”

Draco snorted. He slid his hand to her belly. “I’ll protect you and our son from the evil cranberries, Granger. Never fear.” 

She grinned at him for a few moments. Then her smile faltered. “Did you see the way my mum flinched at my purse?”

Draco looked away. “No.” 

“Liar.”

He shrugged. “Alright, so she was a little cagey. But it was no worse than usual. If anything, she’s getting better.”

“I know. I just hate walking on eggshells around them. It feels like I’m still hiding the truth.” She took a shuddering breath. “Sometimes I feel like they haven’t forgiven me.”

Draco’s entire body tensed. His protective tendencies had been in overdrive from the moment they learned they were expecting, so witnessing Hermione vomit or cry over the past four months had been a special kind of torture. 

He laid down next to her and pulled her into his arms. “Of course they’ve forgiven you. The first time I met him, your dad told me there was nothing you could ever do to stop him from loving you.”

Hermione sniffed, looking up at him with glassy, overlarge eyes. 

He kissed her forehead. “This is a happy holiday, remember?”

Her lower lip trembled, and he grimaced. Time for a new tactic. 

“I can’t believe my mother will be here in the morning.”

Hermione blinked several times. “I know. I wonder what she’ll think of it all.”

“She’ll love it,” said Draco. He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. 

“And you’ve talked to her?”

He kissed the space between her eyes. “Yes.” 

“She knows—”

“Not to do magic in front of them and to avoid mentioning anything that happened between the war and March, yes. I talked to her on Friday.” 

Hermione turned her chin up to look at him. “Don’t you think that’s a bit extreme?”

Drago shrugged. “Didn’t want to take any chances.” 

“As long as she doesn’t bring up the wedding, I think we’ll be fine.” She sighed and nuzzled closer. “Thank you for speaking with her.”

Draco gave a tight nod. 

He stared at the ceiling, mentally reviewing his conversation with his mother. He was certain he’d brought her up to speed, but there really was no ideal way to deal with Hermione’s parents. They’d all just have to hope for the best.

He was startled by a soft snore. He looked down to find his wife dozing against his chest. A smirk pulled at his lips.

In terms of her physical appearance, an outside observer would hardly suspect she was pregnant. But a telltale sign was the fact that indefatigable Hermione Malfoy was suddenly quite fatigable. Most days her alarm would go off three times before she hit snooze (or, rather, before Draco did it for her); most nights she would fall asleep on his shoulder by 8 PM while they read together on the couch. Draco had been hoping that her exhaustion would abate after her first trimester. There was still time, however, since they were only just out of the woods.  

If he was being honest with himself, he hoped that her pre-pregnancy energy levels returned not only for her sake, but for his as well. Potter had said that Ginny got especially amorous in her second trimester while pregnant with James, and although Draco had been tempted to gag at the time, now he secretly hoped he was right. He couldn’t get enough of the newfound curve of her belly, or the subtle but unmistakable swell in her breasts. He had done that to her. His wife. His baby. His. 

A door flew open downstairs, and he heard Roger greet Jean. Hermione’s soft breathing continued on. Draco slipped his wand from its hidden holster inside his right sleeve— a habit he still hadn’t been able to lose, even after all these years. 

Muffliato, he thought, pointing it out the door. The sounds of his in-laws’ voices vanished. 

He slowly, carefully extricated himself from his sleeping wife. She didn’t stir when he slid out from underneath her, her body simply folding on its side. 

He took out his pocket watch. 8:45. He flicked his wand and vanished her jeans, socks, and bra. With another wave of his wand, he transfigured her jumper into a nightdress. With a final flourish, the covers vanished and reappeared, covering her body. 

He stared down at her for a minute. Perhaps she’d be mad at him in the morning for not waking her, but she deserved this. Needed this. He pulled the covers over her bare shoulder and left the room without another word. 

*

Later that evening, Draco returned to their bedroom. He unclothed with a flick of his wand and crawled under the covers next to Hermione, utterly spent. 

He’d spent a full hour and a half having an awkward reunion with the Grangers. Hermione would want to know all about it in the morning, of course, and he’d have to edit heavily. He wouldn’t mention that he’d slipped and told them they didn’t have to worry about being quiet, because he’d cast a silencing charm on their room. Or note how tightly Roger had gripped his wife’s knee while he explained Hermione’s new job in the International Magical Office of Law. And he certainly wouldn’t mention how Jean had blanched when Draco had informed her that his mother would not, in fact, be arriving via the Muggle train. 

Draco could easily clinically dissect the Grangers’ fear of magic. He and Hermione had been talked through it a hundred times. The problem wasn’t merely the fact that they’d been severely tortured, but the length of time it had taken for them to confront what had happened. Roger’s memories had taken much longer to resurface than they hoped or expected, and the Healers had advised them against lifting Jean’s memory charm until her husband’s memories had resurfaced more fully. 

Healer Castiglione, the Head of St. Mungo’s Spell Damage Unit, had been a godsend. She’d been patient enough to do house visits to the Grangers for the better part of 3 years, under the guise of a Muggle graduate student in clinical psychology who had befriended Draco and Hermione at university and was studying recurring dreams. 

She’d finally decided that Roger’s memories were recovered enough to lift his and Jean’s memory charms in March— a mere 9 months ago. As a consequence of the delay, the Grangers’ latent fear of magic had worsened. It was particularly severe for Jean, since her memories had resurfaced before Roger’s, and she’d spent nearly two years dismissing and explaining them away. 

The days and weeks after they’d lifted the memory charms were a blur for Draco. First came the confusion, then the painful recounting. Draco had thought the anger was the worst phase— though it only lasted a week, Hermione had sobbed herself to sleep every night. But he’d been mistaken. The final stage, grief, had been the worst of them all. And they were still in it. 

They’d tried using logic. Explaining to her parents that they’d been in mortal peril. They’d tried using emotional appeals, insisting that Hermione couldn’t have helped defeat Voldemort without knowing they were hidden. But although her parents had assured her that they understood why she did what she did, nothing had quelled their despair over being forced to leave their daughter, and their lives, behind. 

Jean and Roger were also still grieving the fact that they hadn’t been there for their daughter in the years following the war, after their return to the UK. Jean was particularly devastated she’d missed their wizarding wedding ceremony, of all things. She’d get teary-eyed at the mere mention of it. 

The truth had come out when the four of them were out to dinner with his mother, about two months after their memory charms had been lifted. His mother had made the mistake of mentioning his aunt Andromeda, who the Grangers’ hadn’t met yet since she’d only attended the “wizarding wedding.” A spectacular meltdown had ensued once they explained. 

“But it wasn’t your real wedding,” Jean had sobbed, when Hermione had gently reminded her that she’d been present at their Muggle wedding. “Because you’re not really one of us, are you?”

And at that, Draco (and their chagrined Muggle waiter) had been forced to deal with two weeping Grangers. 

Hermione twitched violently on the other side of the bed, as if sensing his distressing thoughts. Draco quickly turned over and wrapped around her from behind. She relaxed, mumbling his name before her body stilled. 

Draco brushed his fingertips over the slight swell of her lower abdomen, silently swearing to do everything in his power to keep her stress to a minimum tomorrow. As much as he’d pretended otherwise, he was just as nervous as she was. He and Hermione had always kept their parents’ interactions tightly controlled, in neutral territory. This was the first time Narcissa would actually set foot in his in-laws’ home. 

He hoped she remembered his instructions when she arrived in the morning. The Apparition point he’d given her was about a block away, and when they’d spoken over the weekend, she’d been perturbed to learn she was expected to walk several hundred yards.

“I still don’t understand why I can’t apparate in their backyard,” she’d said.

“Because the sound of Apparition sends Jean into a panic,” he’d said. “And Roger isn’t fond of it either.” 

“A problem easily solved with a simple silencing charm. It’s not like they’d know the difference.” 

Draco had gritted his teeth. “It’s a matter of respect. Not in their backyard.” 

She’d stared at him as if he was the unreasonable one. “So how are you arriving, exactly?”

“Via the Muggle train."    

What?

“The Muggle train. There’s a station nearby.” 

His mother had pressed her lips in a thin line. “Really, Draco. You’re jostling Hermione about like cattle just to placate her parents—” 

“That’s not it at all. Apparating makes her nauseous.” He’d scowled. “Plenty of pregnant Muggle women take the train and get along well enough. They’re not in the Dark Ages, Mother.” 

She’d ignored the bite in his tone. “What about Portkey?”

He jerked his head. “That makes her nausea even worse.”

“I suppose flying is out of the question?”

“She’s afraid of heights.” 

Her lips had twitched. “Very well, then. Enjoy the Muggle train.” 

“See you Monday,” he’d said, ignoring the jab. He’d moved to the fireplace, paused, and then spun around. “Make sure you behave yourself, Mother.”

Her posture had stiffened. “Have I ever not?” 

“No.” He had been silent for a moment. “But they’ve been through hell, and it would mean a lot to us if you would just— try to put them at ease a little.” 

She’d given him a faint nod. “You have nothing to worry about.” 

Draco could only hope she was true to her word. 

Chapter Text

 

Draco was startled awake by the sound of an urgent voice. His eyes shot open to find his perturbed, disoriented wife blinking down at him. She had crease marks on her forehead, her hair sticking in every direction. 

“Hmmmgh?” he managed. 

“I said, why didn’t you wake me up?” 

Draco rubbed his face, groaning as he regained consciousness. “You were tired.”

“I slept for 12 hours straight!” 

“Good. You needed it.” 

Her expression flickered. “I suppose you’re right.” She sighed and sunk back down, resting her head on his chest. “My mum and dad weren’t put out, were they?” 

“Not at all. I told them how busy you’ve been with your new job.”

“I hope you didn’t worry them,” she said, yawning. 

“It’s the truth.” He stretched his free arm overhead to lift the shutters. Daylight flooded the room. “What time did you say it was again?” 

“9:00.” She kissed his jawbone. “Happy Christmas, Draco.” 

“Happy— shit!” He bolted upright, ignoring Hermione’s squeak. “My mother is going to be here in a half hour!” 

“I thought she was coming over at 10?” 

“Your mum moved it up, remember?” 

"Shit!” cried Hermione, scampering out of bed. “Oh, bollocks— we need to get ready!” 

They showered together in a flurry of elbows and limbs, squabbling all the while about whether the water was too hot or cold (as far as Draco was concerned, Hermione was trying to boil them both alive). They quickly dressed and raced downstairs at exactly 20 past the hour. 

Jean and Roger had clearly been up for a while. The house was even more immaculate than it had been the previous evening, and they were dressed more formally than they had in Christmases past. Hermione barely had time to finish greeting her father before there was a sharp knock at the door. 

“That must be Narcissa,” said Jean. Her tone was bright, but Draco caught the hint of anxiety underneath. “Shall we?” 

Draco’s jaw dropped at the sight of his mother standing on the doorstep. She was dressed in a silver and crimson dress that would have passed for evening wear at a formal Muggle event. But his eyes were fixed on the overlarge shrubbery in her hands. 

“Jean. Roger. So lovely to see you again.” 

They were roses, he registered, as he watched Jean air kiss his mother and hand the giant pot to her husband. His mother had brought the Grangers a potted plant. 

“Hermione.” His mother greeted his wife next, kissing both of her cheeks. Her eyes briefly skimmed her belly as she pulled away. “And Draco, darling. Happy Christmas.” 

“Happy Christmas, Mother,” he said, accepting her kiss. 

“These are beautiful, Narcissa,” said Jean. “I adore English roses, and this shade of apricot is so unique.”

“I’m glad you like them. They came highly recommended.” 

“Are you hungry, Narcissa?” said Roger. “Jean’s prepared a light breakfast to tide us over.” 

“Oh, I just threw together a few canapés,” said Jean in an airy tone. 

“Breakfast sounds wonderful.” Narcissa swept into the foyer and looked around. She gave Jean and Roger an approving smile. “Your home is lovely.”  

Jean beamed. “Thank you.” 

“We got quite lucky with this house,” said Roger, looking equally pleased. “I can give you a tour, if you’d like—” 

“Perhaps it can wait until after breakfast?” said Draco. “Hermione gets headaches if she doesn’t eat first thing in the morning.” 

Hermione shot him a grateful smile. 

“Of course!” cried Jean, bustling over to her. “We should get some food in you right away. I was the same when I was pregnant, you know—” 

She quickly ushered them into the dining room, where the table was already lined and fully-set. “Please, sit down. Hermione, eat. I can make eggs and toast if this is too light.” 

The Grangers had prepared a far more elegant spread than usual. Instead of the traditional English breakfast Jean typically prepared on Christmas mornings, delicate platters of finger foods had been set out. 

They had a polite, albeit somewhat awkward, breakfast. Draco was pleased that his mother praised the food and inquired after Hermione’s well-being, but everyone seemed reluctant to move beyond pleasantries. 

After breakfast, Roger gave Narcissa a tour of the house. Draco accompanied them, his stomach twisting for reasons that had nothing to do with the food. Thankfully, however, his mother was in top form. She offered what seemed to be a sincere compliment every now and then, and maintained a polite air of interest even when Roger launched into a spirited description of their kitchen’s electronics. 

Once the tour was over, Draco volunteered to help them prepare dinner. 

“Absolutely not,” said Jean. “You and your mother should go in the living room to relax.” 

Draco balked at the idea of Hermione being on her feet for so long, but forcibly swallowed his objections. 

“A rose bush, Mother?” he said in a low voice, as they entered the living room. 

Narcissa smoothed her robes before sitting down. “According to your aunt, it’s a gracious gift for one’s hosts in the Muggle world.” She lifted a brow as he continued to stare at her. “I told you I’d behave myself, didn’t I?” 

He couldn’t help but mirror her smirk. “So you did.” 

They had plenty to catch up on. Draco had been recently promoted as the head of the Ministry’s new Dark Artifacts, Spells, and Potions Office-- a collaboration with the Auror Office that had been several years in the making. 

Draco was the first Malfoy in six centuries, and the first Black in nearly three, to hold a regular paying job. When he’d first told his mother that he had no intention of following the traditional family vocation of blackmail and bribery, she’d reacted with scorn. But she’d warmed up to the idea eventually, and had even come to take a keen interest in his work.  

Some time later, Narcissa paused in the middle of relaying her most recent encounter with her sister, looking over Draco’s shoulder. He swiveled around to find that Hermione had entered the room. 

“Everything alright?” 

She shrugged. “My mum kicked me out of the kitchen. Said I shouldn’t be on my feet for more than two hours at a time.” She took the chair closest to him and sighed, her body relaxing into the cushion. “I hate to encourage her, but it does feel good to take a load off.” 

Draco quickly stood up. “Take my seat on the couch. It’s more comfortable.” 

Hermione waved him away. “I’m fine, really. This is perfect.”  

“Take it. I’m going to the kitchen to help your parents.”

Hermione’s mouth quirked. “I’m not sure if they’ve recovered from your fiasco with the brussel sprouts last year.”  

“Oh?” said Narcissa, her eyes sparkling. “Draco neglected to mention it to me.” 

“Mind yourself, Granger,” Draco warned. “I’m not as awful as I used to be.” He left the room, fully aware that his mother and wife were sharing a silent laugh at his expense.

Hours later, when the dishes were well underway, Jean sent him back into the living room with two steaming cups of cider for Hermione and his mother. He found them sitting quite close to one another on the couch, poring over a heavy leather photo album. 

Draco blinked at the sight. Although Hermione and his mother got on well enough these days, he’d never seen them in such an intimate moment. 

“I still can’t believe how curly his hair was,” said Hermione.  

“It was curly until he was about five or so. See—” his mother flipped to another page— “here. This was taken when he was seven.” 

Draco’s mouth hung open. 

Hermione leaned in, her eye caught by a different photo. “Ooh, look at this one. His cheeks are so pudgy!” 

Narcissa grinned. “He’s about three there. We spent a summer at the Italian Minister’s estate, and the servants were quite fond of him. I only realized how much pasta they’d been feeding him when he wouldn’t fit into any of his clothes.” 

“Mother,” Draco sputtered. “Is that my photo album?”

Narcissa and Hermione glanced up at him. His wife was beaming, and there was a mischievous glint in his mother’s eye. “Technically, it’s mine.”  

He stalked over to them and clunked their ciders on the table. “Give it here.” 

“Ah, ah.” His mother pulled it closer, her spine straightening. “If I recall correctly, the last time I brought this out, you tried to set it on fire.” 

“Because those photos are awful,” he hissed.  

“They are not!” said Hermione, outraged. “They’re adorable. And I’m the one who asked to see them.” 

Draco glared at his mother. “You used magic to bring it over.” 

“I excused myself to the upstairs bathroom, and Tinsley summoned it for me. No harm done.” She flipped to another page and angled it towards Hermione. “He’s about nine here. You can see that he’s starting to look like Lucius.” 

“I can,” said Hermione, giggling. “That expression!” She plucked her mug off the table, too immersed to look up. “Thanks for the cider, Draco.” 

He clenched his jaw. “Dinner will be ready soon.” He spun on his heel and left. 

The table was set and the dishes laid out at exactly half past four. They tucked in as Roger poured them wine, with seltzer water for Hermione. 

“This looks incredible,” said Hermione. “You’ve outdone yourself again, Mum. Dad.” 

“And Draco,” said Roger, taking his seat. “He sautéed the parsnips, you know. They’re quite good.”  

“Really,” she said in a droll voice. 

“Really.” Roger gave him a reassuring wink, and Draco smiled weakly in return. The truth was that Draco had barely touched the pan before Jean had bustled over and shooed him away, a panicked look in her eye. 

“I hope you don’t mind that it’s a rather straightforward menu, Narcissa,” said Jean. “But most of these dishes are a family tradition, of sorts.” 

“It looks delightful. It’s the same—” Narcissa broke off and looked down for a moment, fussing with her napkin. “It was the same in our family when Draco was younger. It doesn’t feel like a holiday without certain foods.” 

Draco’s stomach flopped unpleasantly. Perhaps they should do Easter at the Manor this year. Let Tinsley make some of his old favorites. 

“Exactly,” said Roger. “Now if you don’t mind, Draco, can you pass the potatoes?” 

The conversation flowed pleasantly from the food to holidays past and cherished family traditions. Just when Draco could feel himself start to relax, the warmth of a full belly and two glasses of wine seeping through his veins, his father-in-law decided to shatter his sense of complacency. 

“And just think: next year, we’ll have a little sprog at the table with us,” said Roger. “Has it sunk in yet, you two?” 

“Not in the least.” Draco took a large sip of wine to avoid having to elaborate. 

Roger chuckled. “Fair enough. I don’t think it sunk in for me until I actually held her.” He turned to his daughter. “What about you, Hermione? Feel ready to be a mum?”  

Hermione shrugged, poking at her food. “Does one ever?” 

“No,” said Jean and Narcissa at the same time. The table laughed. 

“But you can do some things to prepare!” said Jean. “Like a registry.” 

“A what?” said Draco. 

“A registry,” said Jean, as Hermione smirked, “is a list of items that you request for your baby. A pram, cot, babygrows, nappies, and the like. People will buy you things whether you like it or not, and this way, you get to receive things that you actually want.” 

Narcissa softly cleared her throat. She was biting her tongue, Draco knew. And he couldn’t exactly blame her. He and Hermione could more than afford the things they needed, thank you very much. Not that he recognized half of the items on that list. 

“There’s also the hospital to think about,” said Roger. “Your mum gave birth to you at St. Mary’s. But our neighbors’ daughter just gave birth, and she went to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Apparently they have a brand new maternity ward.” 

“Oh,” said Hermione, her voice small. She set down her fork.  “Dad— Mum— you should know that Draco and I have decided on St. Mungo’s for the birth.” 

“Ah.” Roger gave a single, jerky nod. “Of course.” 

Hermione chewed on her lower lip, her eyes darting between her parents. “It’s not a decision we made lightly. But there are potential complications with a— magical pregnancy that a Muggle hospital wouldn’t be equipped to handle.” 

Draco hesitated for a moment before jumping in. “Our maternal mortality rates are quite low. We have plenty of options if things go wrong.” 

Narcissa broke the silence with an approving sniff. 

“Well, that settles it,” said Jean at last, in a falsely cheery tone. “Of course we want the safest option for you and the baby.” 

“I hope you’ll both be there,” said Hermione quickly. “We would love to have you there, Mum. Dad. If you feel like you can handle it, of course.” 

“We’ll be there. There won’t be any issues.” Roger sat up stiffly, as if daring someone to contradict him. “And we don’t want you to tiptoe around the subject of magic, either. Isn’t that right, Jean?”

“Quite.” Jean looked from her husband to her daughter. “We know things have been difficult, but your father and I are anxious for things to return to normal.” She took a long sip of water as the room hung in silence, waiting. “We’ve been seeing a new specialist Healer Castiglione referred us to.”

“You have?” said Hermione.

Roger nodded. “Desensitization therapy. Apparently it’s used in our world, too. We’ve had weekly visits for the last month.” 

“That’s fantastic.” Hermione stared at them for a moment. “How has it been going?”

Jean and Roger shared a quick glance. 

“Well, so far,” said Jean. We’re still— getting accustomed to the idea of seeing magic done in front of us. But it’s much easier for us to talk about.”

An eager expression crossed Roger’s face. “Have you two noticed a difference?”

“Yes! Oh, yes. Definitely.” Hermione nodded vigorously. “It all makes so much sense now. Right, Draco?”

“Absolutely,” said Draco. “In fact, we were just talking about how well you’ve been doing last night.” 

“Good,” said Jean with a faint smile. “Anyway— we both thought it necessary.” She swallowed, a muscle twitching in her cheek. “We want to be part of our grandchild’s life. We can’t have you worried about managing us on top of a new baby.” 

“I understand,” said Hermione, blinking down at her plate. Draco reached for her hand, interlacing their fingers beneath the tablecloth. 

There was a long, awkward pause. 

Jean sniffed a few times before speaking. “At any rate, choose your hospital and doc— Healer is a big thing off the list.” Her voice grew steadier as she continued. “But of course there are other things you’ll have to decide. A name, what school to send them to, how they’ll spend their summers...” 

“The school is the easiest,” said Narcissa, her tone pleasant and light, as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. “Hogwarts is the only magical school in Great Britain. Lucius and I did consider sending Draco to Durmstrang, but you can of course see the value in having your child nearby.” 

“Yes, yes, we know about Durmstrang,” Roger muttered. “I remember Hermione’s old boyfriend went there. Viktor, right?”

Draco scowled and jabbed at a piece of potato. He chewed it slowly, glaring at his mother, who was watching him with an amused smirk. 

Hermione frowned at her father. “He was never my boyfriend, Dad. He’s just a friend.” 

“You still speak to him?” said Roger, startled. Draco’s grip tightened on his knife. 

“Hogwarts it is,” said Jean loudly. “But the name will be difficult, at least until you know the baby’s sex!” 

Hermione and his mother both spoke at once. 

“Actually, lots of couples choose gender neutral names—”

“We already know the sex of the baby.” 

A chilly silence blanketed the room in the wake of Narcissa’s declaration. She set down her fork after a dignified pause, glaring at Draco, as if she couldn’t believe he hadn’t told them yet. 

“You found out the sex of the baby without telling us.” Roger’s voice was flat. 

“Not exactly,” said Hermione, her tone pleading. “You see—”

“How long have you known?” Jean looked between them suspiciously. “Did you do some kind of spell?”

“We could have, but no, we didn’t. It’s a bit complicated...” Hermione faltered, turning to look at him. Draco opened his mouth to help her. 

“My apologies.” Narcissa’s voice was crisp as she cut in. “I didn’t realize Draco and Hermione hadn’t informed you. There’s an enchantment on the Malfoy bloodline, placed many centuries ago. The firstborn is always a son.” 

Roger and Jean stared at her. 

“Why on Earth would someone do that?” said Roger.  

Narcissa gave him a thin smile. “The reasons don’t make for polite dinner conversation, I’m afraid.” 

“I presume they wanted a male heir.” Jean pursed her lips. “Well, I suppose we’ll have to pardon Draco’s ancestors for their chauvinism. It was a long time ago, after all.” 

Hermione swiveled to look at her, horrified. “Mum!” 

“I quite agree with your mother, Hermione,” said Narcissa. “My family has no such enchantment, you know. I’m one of three girls.” 

Draco and Hermione both blinked at her.

“Well, I’m quite fond of daughters,” said Roger, his voice lilting in a feeble attempt at humor. “But sons aren’t so bad, eh, Draco?”

“Right,” said Draco, cheeks burning. 

“Well, perhaps the next one will be a girl,” said Jean. She frowned and turned to Narcissa. “They can have a female, right?” 

“My great-aunt Lyra was female. That’s her ring, in fact.” Draco nodded at the ring Hermione wore around her neck. She gave him a soft smile, touching it with her fingertips.

“Lyra was the first female born in centuries,” said Narcissa. “So while it’s certainly possible for a Malfoy to sire a female after the firstborn, it’s quite uncommon.” 

Draco shrugged. “That’s not for a lack of trying, though.” 

A shadow passed over his mother’s face, and he immediately regretted his words. 

“True.” Narcissa lifted her chin as she faced his in-laws. “Lucius and I would have given Draco a sibling if we could, but carrying another child was too risky for me. It’s not uncommon in families like ours.” 

Jean had gone very still. “I’m sorry to hear that, Narcissa.” 

His mother gave a curt nod. “Thank you.” 

“Are magical pregnancies dangerous?” Roger turned to Draco and Hermione, his forehead lined. “Is Hermione’s health at risk?”

Hermione’s mouth hung open. “No! Of course not.” 

“I should have clarified. Most old wizarding families suffer from fertility issues and pregnancy complications.” His mother gave a delicate pause, as if choosing her words carefully. “The leading theory is a lack of genetic diversity.”

“She’s saying that we’re inbred,” said Draco dryly. Hermione coughed into her napkin. 

“At any rate,” said Narcissa, leveling him with a dangerous glare, “Draco and Hermione are unlikely to experience difficulties because your daughter has a fresh genetic pool. If Draco had married a woman from another ancient wizarding family, their chances of fertility problems or miscarriage would have been significantly higher.”

“Hmm,” said Roger. “That’s similar to how reproductive biology works in our world, then.”

“There are far more similarities than differences, Dad. In fact, there’s this book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Magical Baby, that you and Mum might find—”

“Pureblood.” The word rang out clearly from Jean’s lips. Draco felt a chill run down his spine. “That’s what you call yourself, if I’m not mistaken?”

He quickly glanced at his mother. Leave this to me, he silently ordered. She lifted her brow in invitation. 

He drew in a deep breath. “‘Pureblood’ is a term used to describe people born into two families with magical lineage, yes.” 

“Pureblood,” said Roger, testing the word on his tongue. “That’s right. I remember now.” 

Draco was certain they hadn’t mentioned that word around her parents. It must have been a newly resurfaced memory. He grimaced at the thought of what else came along with it.

Once the spells had been lifted, the Grangers had recovered vast chunks of their memories. They knew why the war had happened: the history between Harry and Voldemort, and the bias against Muggles and Muggle-borns that Voldemort had weaponized. They’d even remembered that Draco had been raised with anti-Muggle sentiment. 

He and Hermione had explained how they’d fallen in love, after he became a spy for the Order. They’d indicated his mother had undergone a similar transformation after his father’s death, but they’d been vague about it. Judging by Jean’s shrewd expression as she studied Narcissa, however, it hadn’t escaped her notice. 

Hermione was chewing on a lock of her hair— never a good sign. She abruptly released Draco’s hand.

“Well, that’s that then,” she said, her voice about an octave higher than normal. “Anyway, I really don’t understand the preoccupation with a baby’s gender. Draco and I are perfectly happy with a boy or a girl, as long as they’re healthy. And one could argue that the sex is irrelevant. I’ve read some fascinating articles on gender, and the baby’s sex at birth may not correspond to their gender identity when they get older. In fact—”

“Pardon me, Hermione,” said Narcissa. “May I speak for a moment?” 

Hermione’s mouth open and closed a few times before she gave her a flustered nod. 

“Thank you.” Narcissa turned to the Grangers. “I’m not sure what Draco has told you about his upbringing, but much has changed in our family since the war.” 

Draco stared at her, mouth dry. Hermione’s hand found his again. 

“I’m sure it’s the same for many families,” said Roger kindly. “He and Hermione have told us a little about his background, but not much.”

“I see.” Narcissa was still for a moment. “I regret to admit that we didn’t raise our son with the most—  tolerant of views.” 

Draco quashed the strangled sound in his throat;  Hermione’s grip grew so tight his fingers went numb. But Jean merely tilted her head, encouraging Narcissa to continue. 

“Excuses are hollow things, so I won’t bore you with them. What I will say is that getting to know your daughter has disproved many things I used to believe. She and my son have taught me far more than I expected to learn at this age.”

His mother’s eyes met his, warm and approving. Like she was proud of him. His chest flooded with emotions he’d have to untangle later. 

“Hermione’s an extraordinary young woman. She’s brighter and more powerful than most any witch or wizard her age. But of course it’s her character that my son and I are both fond of. We’re quite lucky to have her in the family.”  

Jean beamed at Narcissa across the table, all suspicion forgotten; Roger gave her a pleased nod. Draco blinked, still reeling. His mother was never this effusive. 

“Thank you, Narcissa,” said Hermione, her voice thick. 

His mother smiled at her— one of her rarer smiles. “Odds are that my grandchild will be as remarkable as his parents. But I’ll be fond of him however he turns out. He’ll be very loved.” 

“Hear hear,” said Roger. 

Jean sniffed, and Draco could hear Hermione’s breathing shallow as her grip tightened on his hand. He jiggled his leg, anxious to steer the subject into crying-free territory. 

“Actually,” he said, a bit loudly, “we already know a bit about our son. We just had our 12-week check-up at St. Mungo’s.”

The table instantly perked up. 

“Did you?” said Jean. “Is the baby healthy?” 

“As a horse. And I’m pleased to inform you that he’s already following the family tradition of being ‘remarkable.’” 

“Draco,” Hermione scolded. He shrugged and gave her a lopsided grin. 

“Well?” said Roger, leaning forward. “What is it?”

Draco paused for maximum effect. “They can already detect his magic.”

Narcissa drew in a sharp intake of breath. “You’re quite certain?”

“Positive.” He didn’t have to fake the pride that swelled in his chest. 

“Erm—sorry,” said Roger. “Is that unusual?”

“Very. Some babies have detectable magic levels in the third trimester, but it’s uncommon. To detect it this early in the second trimester is practically unheard of.” 

“Incredible,” said Jean. “Congratulations, you two!” 

“Excellent.” Roger joined his hands together with a loud clap. “This child will be anything but common. No surprises there.” 

Hermione was clearly fighting the urge to roll her eyes. “Yes, it’s all very exciting. But it’s not like we actually did anything.” 

Draco jerked his head to look at her, lips twitching. He was rewarded with a spectacular flush.

“Anyway,” he said, “the mediwizard couldn’t believe the results. They were so unusual he even called in a Healer—” 

“Don’t boast, Draco,” Narcissa snapped, in an eerie impression of his father. Draco jumped as he turned to look at her.

Her features softened. “That’s what grandparents are for.” 

The resulting laughter was easily loud enough to provoke the neighbors. 

 

*

Draco eyed the living room with amusement. Wrappings scattered the floor, wine glasses covered the coffee table, and gifts were piled in haphazard heaps about the room. 

Draco’s pile was scant this year, since some of the people who typically bought him Christmas presents had sent them gifts for the baby instead. Not that he minded, he thought, eyeing the hideous jumper that Mrs. Weasley had sent them.

“‘M’ for Malfoy,” she’d cheerfully explained in her letter. Privately, Draco thought the woman had lost her marbles if she thought this heinous piece of apparel was going anywhere near his son. Particularly given its insulting color scheme. 

“Red and gold! Those are Gryffindor colors, right, Draco?” Roger had said. Hermione had grinned at him from behind her father’s back. 

“Just you wait,” he’d mouthed at her. This baby was going to choose Slytherin if it killed him. 

His mother had taken all the Muggle Christmas traditions in stride. At times he could nearly see her hands twitching to summon an elf to banish the mess, but instead she’d sipped her glass of wine and watched the various dramas unfold with a faintly amused expression on her face. 

She was drinking the same wine she’d brought for the Grangers. She’d excused herself to the upstairs bathroom earlier to summon it, and had floated down the stairs with a crate of 12 bottles that looked suspiciously light until she’d handed it off to Roger.

“From our vineyard in France,” she’d told them. “We share it with a few other families. It’s vintage 1998– the best harvest we’ve had in years. Elf-made.” 

Draco had to give Hermione credit for at least attempting to mask her irritation. She had refused to sample even a drop until Narcissa casually mentioned that all the elves were paid; afterward, she’d taken a tiny sip from Draco’s glass to see what everyone was raving about. His mother, to her credit, had smirked so fleetingly that only he had caught it. 

In turn, the Grangers had gifted Narcissa an elegant crystal frame. “It’s from Harrods,” Jean had said conspiratorially, failing to recall that Narcissa was entirely unfamiliar with high-end Muggle department stores. 

She and Roger had inserted a photo of the three of them posing with Hermione and Draco at their Muggle wedding. “You don’t have to keep that photo, of course,” she’d said. “Perhaps when the baby arrives—” 

“I think I will,” his mother had said, gazing at it. “I quite like it.” 

It was, truth be told, a very good photo. Although he’d hated wearing one, Draco had to admit that Muggle suits were handsome-looking things. And Hermione looked stunning in her delicate strapless dress. Even his mother, who had been quite stiff that day, seemed to be captured in a moment of genuine warmth.

“We know it’s not from— the other wedding,” Jean had said quietly. “But it was still a very special day to us.” 

“It was special to me, too,” Narcissa had said, her voice firm. “It was for all of us.” 

They’d all scattered afterward, but Draco hoped his mother had caught the grateful look he’d sent her. 

Draco knew his wife wasn’t one for extravagant gifts, but he hadn’t been able to control himself this year. He’d gotten her the best self-quoting quill on the market and priceless collectible editions of two of her favorite books. He’d sent for truffles from her favorite Swiss chocolatier that they’d discovered on their honeymoon, and custom perfume from the finest potioneer in Paris. He’d topped it off with simple but elegant sapphire earrings. 

“This is too much, Draco,” she’d said, halfway into her third truffle. “It would have been more than enough if you’d only gotten me—” 

“—the books. I know.”

She had glowed at him as he swept back her curls and removed her plain gold studs, one at a time. He’d replaced them with the sapphire ones. “They suit you.” 

“Thank you,” she’d whispered, as he kissed her temple. “You do spoil me.” 

He’d wiped a bit of chocolate off her lip in reply. The direction of his thoughts must have been clearly written on his face, because she’d immediately pulled back, casting a flustered glance in his mother’s direction. 

She’d bustled upstairs and returned a minute later with a plain, unmarked envelope. “Time for your gift.” 

Inside was a brochure for a resort on a remote island in French Polynesia. An elegant woman had winked at him as she lounged on her private patio, watching the sun set on electric blue water. Hermione had written one word at the top, circled twice: March

“A babymoon,” she’d said, when he looked up at her. “It’s only for five days. I talked to Perkins about your schedule and he said it should be fine, but of course I understand if you want to cancel.” She’d bitten her lip. “We’ve both been working so hard, and I just thought we could—”

He’d silence her with a kiss. “I love it. I can’t wait.” Then he’d forcibly put distance between them so he didn’t snog her senseless in front of her parents. 

The evening gradually wound down. Narcissa and Jean were busy comparing baby albums; Roger was occupied assembling the DVD system that Draco had bought them from Ask Electronics. Draco was watching his wife as she knelt by the tree, inspecting the assortment of toys Harry and Ginny had sent them for the baby. 

His mind was running through the dozen different ways he was going to fuck her on that private patio (or in their cliffside pool; he wasn’t picky) when he was jolted out of his reverie by the sound of loud music.

“Done,” said Roger. He studied the moving images on the television for a moment before turning to his wife. “Now we can finally watch that Doctor Who DVD the Dawsons gave us.” 

“Fantastic!” said Jean, getting to her feet. She swooped down to give Draco a quick peck on the cheek. “Thank you again, dear.” She moved to her daughter next, kissing the top of her head. “And Hermione. You really shouldn’t have.” 

“Draco gets all the credit, Mum,” said Hermione, looking up at her. “It was his idea. I couldn’t believe he even knew what a DVD player was.” She gave him a cheeky smile. “He wins Father Christmas this year.” 

Narcissa swept across the room to inspect the television. She pressed a delicate finger to the screen. “Remarkable.” 

“It is indeed.” Roger peered at the tiny remote and managed to pause the show. “The technology behind it is fascinating. I only know a little about it, but if you’re interested, I have a book that summarizes—”

“Perhaps next time, Dad,” said Hermione with a laugh. “If you start one of your lessons right now, Narcissa will be here until two in the morning.” 

“Next time it is.” Narcissa turned to the Grangers. “Speaking of the time, I should probably head home soon. I don’t want to keep you up late.”

Jean glanced at her watch. “Goodness! It’s already half past nine. We opened all the gifts, then?”

“I believe so,” said Roger, eyeing the area around the tree. 

Draco braced himself. He’d been debating all night about whether to wait until the morning to give the Grangers their second gift, but he’d finally decided to pull the trigger. 

He stood up. “Actually, there’s one more.” 

He walked to the tree and pulled out the envelope he’d carefully hidden under the tree skirt the night before. He handed it to Jean. “For you and Roger.” 

Hermione sidled up next to him, slipping her arm around his waist. “What’s this?” 

He scratched the back of his head. “You’ll see.” 

His heart thundered in his chest as Jean tore open the envelope and pulled out the slim disc inside. Her mouth fell open as she examined it.

“‘Eight twenty-four, two thousand and two,’” said Roger, reading over her shoulder. He took the disc and squinted at it, as if he’d read it incorrectly. 

Hermione went very still besides him. 

His mother looked at him sharply. “That’s the anniversary of your wizarding wedding.” 

Jean simply stared at him, speechless.  

Roger blinked at the disc, and then him. “What is it?”

“I filmed our wedding,” Draco said. “So you can watch it.” 

Hermione gave a strangled gasp. “How—”

“A Time Turner. I took it from the family vault.” He looked at his mother. “I should have told you, but I didn’t want to be dissuaded.”   

Narcissa lifted a brow, her expression wavering between disbelief and wry amusement. 

“But they’re illegal!” said Hermione.

“I had been meaning to turn it over to Harry for a while, but never got around to it.” Draco shrugged. “I gave it to him as soon as I was done. It’s the property of the Ministry now.”  

Harry helped you?”

He shifted from one foot to another.  “He wasn’t happy about it, but yes. He helped me rent one of those— recording things. And he let me borrow his cloak.”

“His cloak?” said Roger, glancing between them. 

“His invisibility cloak,” said Hermione. “To prevent him from being seen.” She turned back to Draco, studying him like he was a particularly difficult Arithmancy problem. “How did you make the disc?” 

“They offer services at the electronics shop. Harry and I harassed the bloke helping us the whole time so he wouldn’t look too closely at the footage.”

Hermione took the disc from her father, turning it over in her hands. A wave of emotion crossed her face. “So you… you actually...”

“I want to see it.” 

The sound of Jean’s voice was so sudden and clear that the room collectively jumped. 

“I wasn’t expecting you’d want to watch it tonight,” said Draco, his heart pounding again. Perhaps this had been a terrible mistake. “Watch it when you’re ready.”

“I’m ready.” There was a slight tremor in Jean’s voice, but her jaw was set. “Roger?”

Roger took a deep breath as he held his wife’s gaze. He nodded. 

Jean plucked the disc from Hermione and handed it to him. Then she turned to Draco’s mother.  “Narcissa, I understand if you need to get home—”

“I’d love to see it.”

The four of them silently took their seats as Roger popped the disc in the new DVD player. 

“Fair warning that it’s short,” said Draco. “The battery was low and I had to improvise.” He scowled at the memory. “Harry said to practice, but he neglected to mention that the bloody recorder had to be charged overnight—”

“Shh,” said Narcissa, as Roger pressed play. 

A jerky shot of the guests taking their seats. The late afternoon sun hitting the gold chairs, the arrangements of foxgloves and cornflowers hanging from their sides. The pale château in the background, rising gracefully above the rounded green hedges. 

Ron, who hadn’t sent his RSVP until the week before, arriving just as the band began testing their instruments, Luna clutching his hand. Taking two empty seats next to Neville.

The sound of the strings, dissonant yet beautiful, their chorus rising and lifting above the crowd.

A pause, and then a melody. 

His mother, escorted by his uncle Ted. Smiling.

Teddy Lupin, ambling down the aisle, drawing coos from the crowd. 

He and Blaise. Walking— stalking, his mother had said later— until they reached the short, tufty-haired wizard at the makeshift altar. 

Ginny next, beaming and winking. Her belly swollen beneath her cornflower dress, chiffon fluttering at her sides. 

Draco swallowing, his eyes fixed on two figures in the distance. One in white and one in black, walking slowly through the manicured lawn. 

Hermione, floating down the aisle at him as the music swelled. One hand on Harry’s arm, the other clutching a bouquet of dahlias and garden roses. Delicate lace on her shoulders, down her ivory dress. Her curls falling about her shoulders, the wisps pinned back, her grandmother’s earrings sparkling in the sun. More beautiful than he’d ever seen her, than he’d ever seen another person. Looking at him like there was no one in the world but him.

A swivel back to his own face, dumbstruck and spellbound. 

“Arse over tit,” Harry had said again, when he’d watched the raw footage.  

The greeting. The blessings.   

No magic yet.  Draco cleared his throat nervously. Hermione sniffed next to him, squeezing his hand. He dug his handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her. 

They recited the old verses, one after another, Draco brushing her knuckles with his thumbs.  

He slipped on Hermione’s ring first, then she his. They shivered at the sensation of the ancient magic, pulling and binding them together. They looked from their hands to the tufty-haired wizard. He nodded. 

They’d added three lines at the end of the traditional Malfoy family vows— a favorite verse of Jean’s. They were from a letter, Hermione had told him, by a famous Muggle composer to his “immortal beloved.” Her parents had said the lines at their own wedding.  

They locked eyes once more, Draco staring at her like she was the center of the universe. Her lips parted, and his eyes followed the movement. 

“Ever mine, ever thine, ever ours,” they chanted.  

A whimper to his left. Jean was openly weeping. Hermione shuddered and blew noisily into his handkerchief. 

A few more words from the tufty-haired wizard. Hermione looking at him politely while he spoke, Draco still looking at her. 

Two golden ribbons burst from his wand, winding around their interlaced hands, their entwined figures, before scattering into a thousand glittering lights that soared and vanished into the cerulean sky. 

Jean gasped, and Draco and Roger both turned to look at her. She quickly shook her head, still transfixed on the television. Draco turned back to the screen just in time to see the kiss. 

Hermione blushed and pulled away after George Weasley let out an obnoxious wolf whistle, followed by an audible reprimand from his mother.  

Narcissa made a sound of disapproval to Draco’s right. 

He and Hermione swept down the aisle, grinning, cheers ringing and balloons bursting overhead. 

Platters of champagne and hors d'oeuvres floating through the crowd. 

Arthur Weasley stopping a waiter to ask about the “brown cocktail” being passed around. “Some muggle drink,” said the waiter, to Arthur’s delight. “Erm— I think it’s called ‘Ye Ole Fashion.’  It has whiskey in it. Apparently it’s a favorite of the bride’s father.”

Roger chuckled, and Draco smirked. He was lucky he’d caught that gem. 

Long tables beneath an ivory canopy, lush florals down the center, a thousand fairy lights twinkling above. Waiters in white jackets passing entrees. Three seats left deliberately empty at the head table— one for Jean, one for Roger, and one for Lucius. 

Spectacular fireworks after dinner, courtesy of George and Lee. The silver “M” transforming into a dragon ten times bigger than the one they'd cast at Hogwarts years before. The camera stumbled as Draco quickly moved away, amidst the delighted shrieking of the crowd.    

Roger murmured something to Jean, and Hermione went tense besides him. 

“I’m fine, Roger,” Draco heard Jean reply. “Really.” 

Hermione’s hand relaxed in his.  

Dancing, fast and slow, beneath the raised canopy. The band swapping their white jackets for gold ones. A framed photo of Lucius on the cake table, taken before Draco was born. The same haughty chin and mouth, but his eyes warmer than usual, somehow. 

Bill and Fleur, silently swaying on the dance floor. The camera darting past Ron and Luna, after Ron nearly spun her directly into the lens. Luna cocked her head curiously in Draco’s direction as he passed. 

Past Ginny and Harry. She’d shucked her shoes off earlier and was standing on top of his feet, laughing as they tried to move together. Past Lee and George, bickering about who should lead.

The camera settled on corner of the dance floor with a clean shot to the center, where Draco held his new wife, murmuring in her ear. She smiled up at him, impossibly beautiful and radiant, the rest of the world falling away. 

There was a harsh beeping sound, and Draco heard himself curse violently on film as the battery died. 

“Sorry,” he mumbled aloud.  

The screen faded to back, and the room sat in silence. 

Hermione twisted his handkerchief in her lap after a moment, her shoulders shaking. Then she turned his face to hers and kissed him. 

“I love you,” she whispered, lips trembling against his. “Thank you. I love you.” 

She quickly stood up. “Narcissa, Mum, Dad— no, please don’t get up.” She swallowed, blinking rapidly. “I need to go to bed. I’m exhausted. Thank you for everything. And thank you for coming, Narcissa. Draco and I will be in touch very soon.” 

She gave them each a kiss on the cheek and rushed upstairs. 

“Well,” said Jean finally, her voice brittle. “That was just beautiful.”  

Draco dared a sideways glance at her. Her face was puffy and red, but tear-free. There was a wad of used tissues in her hand. 

She drew a rattling breath. “I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. Thank you so much, Draco, darling.”  

“You’re welcome.” He looked away, feeling his face heat. “I’m glad you liked it.” 

“Yes. It was…” Roger stood and clapped Draco on the shoulder. “Thank you.” He cleared his throat a few times as he turned off the television, and muttered something about needing to clean up in the kitchen. He bid Narcissa goodnight and made a hurried exit, his eyes looking suspiciously wet. 

“Well done, Draco. That was lovely to revisit.” His mother’s voice sounded constricted, like there was something heavy on her chest. She turned to Jean. “Unfortunately, I really should get going now. Thank you again for a wonderful evening.” 

Jean nodded, slowly getting to her feet. “It was our pleasure, truly. I’ll see you out.” 

They collected Narcissa’s things. Jean headed to the dining room to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything, and Narcissa quickly shrunk and tucked away her belongings. When she returned, the three of them headed to the front door. 

They lingered at the threshold. 

“I’m so glad you could join us this year, Narcissa. I hope you know—” Jean’s voice broke. She dabbed at her eyes as the tears slipped free. “I hope you know much we love your son." 

Narcissa nodded tightly, looking first at the ceiling, and then her shoes. She was trying not to cry, Draco realized. 

He silently vowed to owl her the next day. To be a better son. Maybe he’d invite her to their next appointment at St. Mungo’s. 

“Would you and Roger like to come over for dinner soon?” she finally said. “I’m sure I can make the Manor amenable for you two.”

Once they’d all agreed to dinner next weekend, Jean and Narcissa clasped hands for a long moment. Draco accepted his mother’s kiss and quick brush of his cheek.  

He watched from the driveway as she swept down the sidewalk, the sound of her heels echoing through the silent street. After a minute or two, Jean called for him to come in, lest he catch a cold. When he turned around for a final glimpse, his mother was already gone. 

Snow began to fall as he headed inside. 

 

*

Draco made his way upstairs, after helping Jean clear up in the living room. He paused at their bedroom door, noticing the soft glow of light beneath it. A repeat of last night, mostly likely, when Hermione had fallen asleep from weepy exhaustion, fully clothed. He sighed and headed to the bathroom. 

He took a quick shower and washed up. When he finished brushing his teeth, he slung a towel around his hips, crept into the hallway, and cautiously opened the door to their room. 

He froze at the sight of his very nude, very awake wife lying on their bed, reading her new book. She looked up at him when he entered. 

“You’re back,” she said, snapping it closed. 

His eyes roved over the curve of her waist. Her legs. Her nipples, pebbled from the cold air. He blinked and shut the door behind him, tossing his wand and dirty clothes in the corner. “You’re naked.” 

“So I am.” She set her book on her nightstand and smirked. “This is me seducing you, you know.” 

He stared at her, trying to make sense of her words as all the blood in his body rushed to his cock. “I thought you’d be asleep. Or crying.” 

“Oh, I cried,” she said casually. “I wept for about 15 minutes in the shower. But then I started thinking about how much I love you, and how I wanted to show you just how much I love you. But then you took forever, and I got frustrated. So now I want you to fuck me into the mattress.” 

Draco swallowed, his cock twitching beneath his towel. “Oh?” 

“Oh.” 

So Harry had been right about one thing, at least. Draco said a silent prayer of thanks for the second trimester.

He licked his lips. “You sure you’re not too tired?” 

She propped herself up by her elbows and parted her legs, one at a time. “Don’t make me beg.” 

His eyes dropped to her center, and raked back up to meet her defiant gaze. His self-control shattered. 

He grabbed his wand from the floor and cast a few silencing spells before tossing it aside. He pulled the towel from his hips, his cock springing to attention. 

Now it was her turn to lick her lips. 

“Never challenge a Slytherin, Granger.” 

She watched, biting her lip, as he crawled on the mattress and slowly lowered his head between her parted thighs. Her cheeks flushed, and she fell back into the mattress with a strangled groan. 

He dropped his forehead to her mound as he inhaled her, sweet and musky and his. Then he gripped her thighs and dipped his tongue inside her entrance. 

She gasped and ground against him as he fucked her with his mouth, undeterred by his tightening grip. A few more dips into her core and she grew breathless, her chest heaving. One more dip inside, and then he slid his tongue up her slit. 

She moaned her approval as he circled and flicked her clit with his tongue. “There. Fuck. Oh, God—”  

He pulled away when her hips began a frantic rhythm against his face. “Not yet.” 

Hermione let out a tortured whine and tried to pull him back, but he held fast against her hips. 

He kissed the inside of her thigh, still drunk on her flavor. “You have the sweetest pussy, you know that?” 

She nodded frantically against the pillow. “Yours. All yours.” 

The woman knew his weaknesses too well. 

It took every ounce of his willpower to refrain from slamming inside her. He released one of her thighs and pumped his cock a few times to stave himself off, growling deep in his throat.

She squirmed beneath him, her fingers pulling at his shoulders. “Draco—”

Close. But still not there yet. 

He traced a slow, lazy path up the swell of her stomach, scattering the skin with kisses and licks. He placed a possessive hand on her belly as he swirled his tongue around her navel. She jerked, her fingers tightening in his hair.  

“Yours, too,” she huffed. 

He grinned and settled between her legs. “Full marks, Granger. And for the record—”

He dipped down to capture her nipple in his mouth and she moaned, arching her back to meet him. He palmed her other breast as he sucked, his cock twitching at the sensation of it, full and soft in his hand.  

He broke free, panting. “—begging is exactly what I’m going to make you do.” 

He slid two fingers in her cunt and she gasped, tight and clenching around him. He closed his mouth on her other nipple, sucking and nibbling while he rubbed her vigorously from inside. She met him thrust for thrust, her whines increasing in pitch until his cock felt ready to explode. 

He withdrew his drenched fingers and slipped them in her mouth. She sucked obediently, hooded eyes locked on his, until he ripped them away and claimed her mouth with his own. He pumped his shaft with her wetness, dipping his prick just inside her before gliding up her slit, massaging her clit with the blunt head of his cock.  

“Please,” she breathed, twisting beneath him. 

Almost, but not quite. He dipped into her again, a bit farther than the last time, and she clamped down on him so hard he hissed through his teeth. 

He sucked on her earlobe as she lifted her hips, whimpering. “Say it.”   

She threw her head back, fingers scrabbling at any part of him she could reach. “Please, Draco. Oh, fuck. Please fuck me. I need you—” 

She keened as he thrust inside her to the hilt. He kissed her deeply, his mind already numb with pleasure from the feel of her, warm and tight and already fluttering around him. 

Then she was grinding beneath him, telling him she loved him, and he was grabbing her hips and pounding her exactly like she’d begged him to, both of her legs slung over his shoulders as he knelt on the mattress and fucked her onto his cock. And Draco had only the briefest of moments to worry about his silencing charms before he was lost, his eyes roaming her face, her belly, her breasts, the place their bodies joined as she touched herself, each sigh and moan echoing in his ears. 

It could have been several minutes, or several lifetimes, before Hermione began wailing, her face scrunched up in pleasure. He chased her frantically over the edge, his vision blind around the edges, groaning as each wave of bliss crashed over him until he was utterly spent inside her. 

When his cock finally finished throbbing, he pulled out and collapsed on the bed, too tired for post-coital cuddling this time. He dragged them beneath the covers and wrapped around her tightly from behind, turning off the reading lamp with wandless magic. He closed his eyes and drifted to sleep with his life, his love, in his hands.  

 

 *

The next evening, Draco and Hermione found themselves back on the Muggle train. 

Their compartment was nearly empty— apparently most Muggles had elected to enjoy an extended holiday. They both had to be at work in the morning, however, so off they went.  

“So,” said Hermione, once they’d settled in. “How does it feel to win another Christmas?”

“Typical,” said Draco. 

“Prat.” She shoved him lightly. “Honestly, I’m not sure if my Mum and Dad were more upset saying goodbye to me or you.”

“Don’t worry, Granger. I won’t be the favorite next year.” He patted her belly. “He will.” 

Hermione snorted. “You’re not wrong.”

Something flickered in her eyes, and her expression grew wistful. “Everything is going to change, isn’t it?” 

He picked a bit of lint off her coat. “Yes.”

Her mouth quirked. “I’m looking forward to it, you know. In fact—” she laced her fingers through his— “I want to talk to your mother about doing the baby’s first Christmas at the Manor.”

Draco blinked, looking up at her. “Why?”

“Well, with my parents getting better, it’s only fair, isn’t it? Besides, I want to learn about all your family traditions on Christmas. You’ve refused to tell me anything, so I’ll just have to see for myself.”

“If it really means something to you—” He broke off, frowning. “What about your parents? They might feel left out.”  

“We can include them. Take turns, perhaps. The baby should grow up around both of our families. I want him to appreciate both of our backgrounds.”

Draco was silent for a moment. “Sounds reasonable.”  

Hermione nodded, chewing her lower lip. “I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think my parents will understand. It’s what marriage is all about, isn’t it? ‘Ever mine, ever thine,’ and all that? Two people from different families and different traditions coming together to build something new.” 

“Fair,” he said, shrugging. “I’m fine with us taking turns on holidays.” 

As if he could deny her anything. 

She smiled and kissed him, soft and slow. He was just about to deepen the kiss when she broke away. 

“I expect we’ll want to host our own Christmas at some point," she said thoughtfully. "Perhaps when we give this baby a sibling.” 

Draco lifted an eyebrow at her. 

Her features grew stern. “In three and a half years."   

He smirked. 

She laid her head on his shoulder and gazed out the window, her hand resting on her belly. 

Draco kissed her hair, sliding his hand over hers. “You forgot ‘ever ours.’”