A/N: I can't tell you how many times I've rewritten this! I hope it's the ending you've been waiting for.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2016: A few readers expressed concern about the future of Malfoy's company having ditched his Marseille meeting to come after Hermione. I've added a short section which should hopefully address that! Enjoy x
Their eyes met.
"Oh," Hermione said foolishly. "It's you."
Draco nodded, apparently as absurdly speechless as she was. He was a mess, she realised with some astonishment – tired-eyed, with blond hair sticking up all over the place and dressed in last night's rumpled clothes.
He was also, fortunately, as yet unharmed. For a moment, Hermione had thought Ginny might beat him to death with her wand, but she'd stopped just short and now stood on the steps between them, arms folded as she glanced expectantly between her friend and said friend's boss-turned-lover.
Silence, as Hermione did nothing but blink in stunned disbelief.
Malfoy was here, on her doorstep, when he should be in Marseille.
Her mind couldn't reconcile it.
Say something, Ginny mouthed, startling her out of her stupor. Hermione appreciated the reminder, although a great big cue card would have been considerably more useful. The sudden and rather bedraggled appearance of the man she'd spent the past hour bawling over had apparently made her incapable of any sort of coherent speech.
"What…" She shook her head, trying to focus. "How?"
He cleared his throat.
"You left," he said. "You left me."
This was evidently too much for Ginny. She flung out her wand hand.
"Of course she did, you great big oaf!" she cried. "You tried to sabotage her career!"
Malfoy's mouth dropped open.
"I didn't," he said, and Hermione sucked in a sharp breath, indignant – he knew she'd found his letters to the Ministry, he knew what he'd done! But bless her heart, Ginny had her covered.
"What about those letters?" she demanded. "You were going to make it so the Ministry would never hire her!"
"I didn't – I wouldn't…" His voice caught as he turned to Hermione, expression so intense it nearly took her breath away. "Granger, I promise you," he said. "I was never going to send those letters."
As she absorbed this, speechless, Ginny cast her a triumphant grin.
"See?" she said cheerfully. "I told you he wouldn't. Now, I'll leave you two crazy kids to sort this out. But," – and here she paused to fix Draco with a fierce glare – "If she ever turns up on my doorstep in tears again, the esteemed Malfoy bloodline ends with you. Got it?"
He swallowed, but nodded once.
"I'm talking about hexing off your…"
"Got it," he said. "Definitely got it."
Ginny lowered her wand, which had somehow ended up dangerously near his throat.
"Good," she said. She shot one last warning look in his direction, then headed back down the path. "You okay?" she asked gently as she reached Hermione's side.
Hermione wasn't sure. Her stomach was churning at the thought of talking to Malfoy. But she knew Ginny would reschedule her appointment in a heartbeat if she thought Hermione needed her, and she didn't want that – so she gave her friend a nod and a slightly shaky smile, and lied.
Apparently convinced, Ginny gave her arm a quick, comforting squeeze, then disapparated with a loud crack.
And she and Draco were left alone.
Unable to look at him, she squinted down the street. It seemed very quiet all of a sudden. There were no cars, no buses – even the rain had stopped, the sun peeking shyly from behind a cloud and making her garden glimmer spring-fresh around her.
She only wished she'd taken the time at Ginny's to charm her coat dry – the damp collar was sticking, cold and uncomfortable, to the back of her neck.
The soggy material wasn't the only reason her skin prickled, however.
Malfoy was watching her. She could feel it.
She still couldn't believe he was here. She knew why – she had, after all, left him in bed and fled the country. But it was so soon. She'd thought she'd have until the evening, at least, when he would finish up his meetings, catch the scheduled portkey back to the office and perhaps march straight over. Really, she'd been hoping he wouldn't bother her until Monday, by which time she'd have pulled herself together and written an official letter of resignation which she could slam on his desk with a dramatic flourish and then flounce out.
But here he was. And since there wasn't much she could do about it short of legging it down the street (an option which, right now, carried more than a little appeal), she supposed she might as well face him.
Gathering her courage, she looked up. As she'd sensed, he was watching her, hands shoved deep in his trouser pockets, storm-grey eyes solemn. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again as she realised – embarrassingly, ridiculously – that she didn't know what to say.
All you have to do is ask him in, she told herself severely. Open your mouth, ask him in and then you can discuss this like mature adults. Like professionals, in fact.
... Except now he was looking at her like he had last night, and the memory was doing seriously unprofessional things to her insides.
She inhaled a trembling breath.
"You're supposed to be in Marseille."
"So are you," he said softly, and she cringed with shame. She had made such a mistake leaving him without a word, she could see that now.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have left like that. But you didn't have to come after me. You should have stayed for your meeting. Getting Benoît on side is more important than," – she gestured helplessly between them – "than this."
He stared at her for a moment, flummoxed, and her stomach wrenched as she realised that she had done this; she had hurt him.
But, she reminded herself, he had hurt her too.
"Look, Granger," he said, rubbing his furrowed brow and casting a brief glance to the side. She followed his gaze and saw the curtain ripple in her neighbour's bay window. "Can we please go inside?"
She supposed that was fair. Now she'd mostly gotten over the shock of his appearance on her doorstep, she remembered her good intentions back at Ginny's. Malfoy did deserve the chance to explain himself – and he deserved it away from the herculean hearing of the kind but rather nosy lady next door.
"Fine," she said stiffly, shifting the weight of her holdall in her hand and starting up the path towards him.
He stepped aside to let her to the door, waiting silently as she dug the key from the depths of her bag. The solid warmth of his presence, so close behind her, sent shivers down her treacherous spine – followed soon after by a flush of annoyance that he could still make her feel that way. She was, she decided, sorely tempted to shove him off the step and into the mud.
She didn't though. Simply fitted the key into the lock and let them in.
Still avoiding his gaze, she dropped her holdall on the floor inside the door and slipped off her coat. He took it from her before she had the chance to step away, and the brush of his fingers against her wrist, somehow hot and cold all at once, made her startle like a frightened animal.
His face twisted.
"Hermione," he began, but coward that she was, she fled, hurrying down the hall to the kitchen.
Godric help her. Where had all that great Gryffindor courage gone?
She heard him follow her so busied herself filling up the kettle and pulling out two mugs. Her hands were shaking so hard she spilled coffee grains across the counter.
"Do –" she swallowed. "Do you want a drink?"
"Hermione." His voice was hoarse behind her. "Hermione, please."
She stilled, teaspoon in mid-air. She wished he would stop using her first name. It was only reminding her of the way he'd groaned it last night into her mouth, her skin, her hair...
"What?" she asked rigidly.
"You know I'd never do that to you," he said, and his voice was strained, fervent, as if he truly wanted her to believe him. As if it mattered more than anything else in the world.
Oh, how she wished it did.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" she asked, turning to face him. "You're supposed to be in Marseille. Actually - " she glanced at the wall clock "- right now you're supposed to be in a meeting with one of the most difficult men on the planet, who, I'm sure, isn't very happy you cancelled. If you'd have just waited a few hours, you could have caught the portkey."
"Sod the portkey," he said. "I needed to see you."
Hermione rolled her eyes. He sounded like some ridiculous romantic hero.
Although she had to admit it was difficult to be entirely scornful when his voice simmered with such passion, when every muscle in his body seemed pulled taut with tension, when those liquid-silver eyes were so intensely focused on her...
She shook it off with a scoff.
"So you thought you'd just what," she said sarcastically. "Fly after me?"
He crossed his arms across his chest.
"You flew away from me."
His dry, rather irreverent response did nothing for her growing ire. She opened her mouth to give him what for, then paused, as this particular piece of news sunk in.
"You took a plane..." she said slowly. "A muggle plane."
Malfoy hated flying, even first class. When questioned, he insisted it was the cramped conditions, recycled air and fellow passengers he couldn't stand, but he was so determined to attribute it to snobbishness that Hermione secretly suspected he was actually a little afraid. Either way, he refused point-blank to take a plane and instead, wasted an exorbitant amount of money on a private portkey every time he went out of the country.
But not this time.
Hermione gaped as Draco's cheeks went a bit pink. She didn't think she'd ever seen him blush before, and the sight of it – its implications – made her feel rather warm inside.
That was, of course, until he frowned and ruined it all.
"So what?" he said defensively. "I know what you're like. I wasn't going to give you hours to stew over what a selfish bastard you think I am."
Of all the cheek... She put her hands on her hips.
"You are a selfish bastard," she said fiercely. "A selfish, devious, lying, condescending, underhanded bastard!"
She could have continued – her outburst had barely scratched the surface of the adjectives she could come up with to describe him – but then she realised what she'd said and just who she'd said it to, and she closed her mouth.
The man who was, in fact, still her boss raised his eyebrows at her from across the kitchen.
Now it was her turn to blush, but she drew herself to full height and glared defiantly back. She wasn't going to apologise again. She'd admitted her mistake. She'd said sorry for leaving him. He seemed to think he could tell her he wasn't going to send the letters and be done with it.
Besides, they were way past normal workplace relations. She'd gone to bed with the man, for heaven's sake; he couldn't pull the boss card on her now.
Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it – Malfoy didn't seem the least bit offended by her name-calling. He slanted her a wry smile.
"I guess I deserve that," he said.
Still no apology then. She folded her arms, refusing to be charmed.
"Yes, you do," she said. "All that crap about wanting me to be happy, when all along, you were just playing me."
The smirk slipped abruptly from his face.
"Don't you Hermione me!" she snapped. "You kissed me, Draco. You slept with me! And all along you knew – you fucking knew – that you were going to force me to keep working for you. Well, I won't! Even if the Ministry doesn't want me, I won't keep working for you. You can take this as my resignation!"
She stopped, breathing heavily, heart thudding hard in her chest.
"You can take this as my resignation," she repeated more quietly. She was shaking, she realised, her whole body trembling as he simply stared at her, aghast.
Behind her, the kettle clicked as it came to the boil, loud in silent kitchen. Neither acknowledged it.
"Merlin, Hermione," Malfoy said softly after a minute. "That's what you thought I did?"
"Didn't you?" she said tightly.
"No!" He shook his head in disbelief. "I meant every word I said last night. About wanting you to be happy." His eyes burned briefly, a hot flash she felt to her very core. "About wanting you."
He crossed the kitchen towards her, but she backed up, feeling the hard edge of the counter hit her spine. He stopped abruptly and a little awkwardly, just a few feet away.
"I never planned to send those letters," he said, voice thick. "And I didn't. I promise you, Granger. I didn't send them. I couldn't do that to you."
She wanted to believe him. She really did. But she couldn't get past the knot in her throat that was telling her there was more to this than he was letting on.
She lifted her chin.
"If you weren't going to send them," she said. "Why did you write them?"
He didn't reply, at least not at first, and she watched as his jaw worked, once, twice, a third time. She straightened up from the counter, feeling her body pulse in a sensation almost akin to adrenaline.
She needed the truth. No matter how much it hurt, she needed the truth.
"Because," he said eventually, and she braced herself. "Because I am a selfish bastard. And I didn't want to lose you."
It wasn't what she'd been expecting. Hermione stood, rooted to the spot, as a confusing burst of pleasure bloomed, somewhere near her heart, at his final words. It was irrational though, completely ridiculous, because he'd told her before that he didn't want her to leave.
Except, this time, it... it felt like he was talking about more than the job.
She hid it with a fierce glare.
"So you were going to send them?"
"No!" he said hastily. "No. I just – " He raked a hand through his mad hair. "I was angry that you wanted to leave. And I was angry with you for springing it on me like that. But most of all I," he hesitated. "Well, I was angry with myself for driving you away."
She stared at him. He looked so very wretched, so very resigned, and a flash of guilt bit at her stomach. Her lips parted to object, but he guessed what she was about to say and silenced her with a look.
"Don't lie, Granger. We both know you're leaving partly, if not mostly, because of me."
Well, she supposed it was true. He was, after all, the foremost reason her job had sprawled so voraciously out of its acceptable boundaries.
Still, she doubted he'd made a conscious decision to take over her life. His company was important to him, and she was good at her job. The best, in fact. He'd told her that once before, and she'd never forgotten it.
He could have made her stay. He had wanted to, she knew. And it would have been so easy. After all, if he'd sent the letters when he first wrote them, she'd have probably never known.
But he hadn't gone through with it.
He had let her go.
She didn't know why, but her eyes were suddenly pricking with tears. How she had any left after the flood of this morning was anyone's guess, but she couldn't – wouldn't – cry again. Not in front of Malfoy.
She dropped her head, but evidently not quick enough to hide the sudden surge of feeling welling up inside her. Draco made a rough sound in his throat and closed the space between them in two strides. The next thing she knew, she was blinking up at him through damp, blurry eyes as he held her face in his hands.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," he said hoarsely. "I wanted you so much. And then you told me you were leaving, and it felt like you were leaving me too..." His face twisted with emotion. "I reacted badly and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Hermione drew a ragged breath. Her throat had closed up, and her chest felt so tight, so… full. She had never heard Malfoy speak this way. So desperate. So raw.
And it was all for her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, and Draco made another guttural sound.
"Please don't leave me, Granger," he breathed, touching his forehead to hers.
She choked, feeling a tear leak hot and wet from beneath her lashes. He smoothed it gently away with his thumb. "Please don't cry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry."
Her hand crept up his chest and found the soft leather of his jacket, just like it had last night. He was so near – she could feel the rise and fall of his chest, the brush of his nose against her cheek, the warmth of his breath on her lips.
It was familiar. He was so familiar.
Behind closed eyelids, she relived their night together. The feel of his body against hers. The sound of his voice in her ear. The taste of his lips as he'd kissed her over and over and over... And it wasn't just the physical side of it, although that had, of course, been wonderful. She had enjoyed his company, the humour between them. She had felt so close to him.
She had told Ginny the truth earlier. She really did like Draco. She really did want more.
She let her eyes flutter open, damp lashes skimming his cheeks.
"I wanted you, too," she murmured.
The words hung, almost tangible, in the tiny space between their lips. She hadn't meant them to sound so revealing, so significant, but they did. Malfoy seemed to hear it too, because his whole body suddenly went very still.
Time seemed suspended for a moment, as if everything in the world had narrowed to this.
Had narrowed to them.
"I remember," he said softly. His voice was low and thick, and she took a shuddering breath as it filled her chest like honey.
But then he drew back and waggled his eyebrows. "Quite vividly, in fact."
And just like that, the bubble of intensity around them popped like a balloon. She laughed.
"Do you now?"
"Sure," he said. "Don't tell me you've forgotten that sexy little noise you made when I…"
She thumped the solid wall of his stomach, and he broke off with a huff.
"Wanted," she emphasised, as he caught hold of her waist and pulled her flush against him. "Past tense."
"I can make it present tense," he offered. "If you like." When she rolled her eyes, he reached up to touch her chin. "How…" he hesitated. "How about future?"
She smiled up at him, suddenly shy.
"I'd like that," she said, and he grinned at her, so broadly, so unabashedly, it made her quite flustered. Wanting to hide it, she rearranged her expression into something suitably stern. "I'm still resigning," she said severely. "I won't work for you."
He gave her a squeeze.
"Then I accept your resignation. Though it's probably for the best," he added. "Aside from regularly making you want to throw that cat lady mug of yours right at my head –" she opened her mouth to protest, but subsided as he shot her a smirk and she accepted that this was, in fact, true "– I'm not sure it would be entirely appropriate for you to work for someone so desperately in love with…"
He stopped abruptly, shock crossing his face. His hands dropped from her waist, and she swayed, more than the suddenness of his retreat than any actual loss of support, but fortunately caught her balance before she face-planted his chest.
That was, until, his words finally registered in her mind. Then she almost lost it again.
"What did you just say?" she breathed, eyes round.
Draco squinted up at the ceiling.
"I'm pretty sure I just admitted something I shouldn't have."
Too right he had. Her body was somehow simultaneously numb and positively buzzing with utter disbelief and wonderment.
"You're in love with me?" she asked faintly, and the word fizzed on her tongue, sweet and shocking, like sherbet.
Malfoy was still maddeningly nonchalant.
"Apparently so," he said blandly. When she dropped her head, dumbfounded, he lifted a hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "Madly," he amended softly.
She looked up to find his eyes crinkled warmly at the corners. "Sorry," he added.
"I –" she swallowed. "I didn't know."
"Neither did I," he admitted. "Not until I woke up this morning and saw you were gone."
"I'm sorry," she said ruefully, but he shook his head.
"Don't be. I understand why you left." He cupped her cheek, and his expression grew more serious than she'd ever seen it. "I'm sorry I hurt you, Hermione," he said soberly. "I never wanted to. And I'll do everything in my power to make sure you're never hurt again."
She just stared at him, awestruck, until he gave her a half-worried, half-amused sort of glance. "If that's okay with you, of course," he said drily. "You've gone ominously quiet for a woman of so many words."
She shot him a dirty look even as she stepped into him, thrilling at the feel of his body aligning with hers.
"I – well…" She cleared her throat then flashed him a teasing smile. "I quite like you too."
From his miffed expression, it was clear that had not been the answer Draco had been expecting. He opened his mouth to grumble, but she got there first – laughing as she pushed herself up on her toes to kiss him.
Any possible complaint he might have had vanished the moment their lips met. He kissed her back, hard, and her body thrummed with approval as his arms wrapped around her to pull her as close to him as physically possible.
Although it still wasn't close enough for Hermione. She slid her hands up his chest to push her fingers in his thick blond hair.
"Quite like me too," he growled into her mouth. "Minx."
She laughed again, breaking the kiss to bump her nose against his.
It had been a bit of an understatement, it was true. Of course she loved him! And thinking back, the chances are she'd loved him for a long time. How much had she given up to support him, especially over the last few months? It had been more than a good work ethic, she could admit that now. She had so wanted him to succeed. She had so wanted him to be happy.
And this week in Marseille had only proved it all the more. She'd dropped everything to go with him. She'd kissed him, touched him, gone to bed with him. And she'd been devastated, utterly wrecked, when she thought he'd deceived her.
But now she knew the truth. She knew he was the good man she'd believed him to be. She knew he wanted her to be happy, whether that meant working for him or not. She knew he loved her (Merlin, he loved her!). And it made her so incredibly, unbelievably, wonderfully glad.
But she wasn't about to tell him that... At least not yet. Let the man stew a little while longer.
"What about Gouin?" she asked, drawing back a little in sudden anxiety. It had occurred to her that Draco's entire company was at stake and he had dropped everything, had risked everything he had worked so hard for, to come after her.
"I stopped by the office on the way to the airport," Draco said. "He was there, fortunately. We rearranged for next week."
She blinked at him.
"Rearranged?" That didn't sound like the ruthless businessman she knew. "What did you tell him?"
Malfoy gave her a wry smile.
"The truth," he said. "That I was desperately in love with you and may have ruined everything forever." He tightened his arms around her, as if he still wasn't sure he hadn't. "Turns out the man is a romantic at heart," he added. "Although that Sartre woman wasn't too happy. Tried to convince Benoît to drop us there and then." He looked suddenly shamefaced. "I may have threatened to turn her into a badger."
Hermione shook her head, laughing. They must have thought he was utterly insane.
"Merlin, what am I going to do with you?" she asked, and he slanted her a rakish look.
"I can think of one or two things," he said, then kissed her again, deeply and not a moment too soon. From there it all grew very heated very quickly, and she ended up arched back over the counter, his mouth on her throat, his hand up her blouse.
It was perfect. Delicious in every way.
She was just fumbling for the hem of his shirt, intent on pulling it up over his head and rediscovering the scrumptious ridges of his abs, when he suddenly pulled back.
"Fuck," he exclaimed. "Your letter!"
She blinked up at him, dazed.
He'd been pretty far gone with the kiss, as had she. They were both breathing heavily, almost panting.
"Your letter of recommendation." He let go of her to feel frantically about his person. "I need to owl it."
She gaped at him.
"You haven't sent it?"
"No." He was rummaging through his pockets now. Hermione stood, frozen, although the disbelief was now being slowly replaced with panic – and a fair amount of frustration.
"You said consider it done!"
"I know." He shot her an apologetic glance. "I wrote it. The night we got to Marseille." His forehead furrowed as he paused in his search to remember. "Or it might have been the next morning. I worked pretty much all night and lost track of time…"
"Draco!" she said, exasperated.
"Fuck," he said again. "I'm sure I put it…" he paused. "On the bedside table."
He gave her a sheepish look.
Hermione glanced at the clock to see it was only just one forty-five – earlier than she had expected. The Ministry, she remembered, wanted her letter by five pm on the dot.
She felt herself relax. They had plenty of time.
"I can write it again," Draco said, searching her expression with worried eyes. "I'll do it now."
He made to step away, but she caught hold of his shirt, bunching it at his stomach.
"Wait," she said, letting her eyes travel over his body with shameless hunger. "We've got three hours. More than that, in fact."
He stared at her for a long moment, before a slow, knowing smile spread across his face.
"I can do a lot in three hours."
She stepped in closer. Her hand slid flat around his middle, beneath his jacket, and she watched with satisfaction as those silver eyes darkened with lust.
"Show me," she said.
So he did.
So that's it! Thank you for reading. Thank you all, too, for your lovely reviews. Your kind words have really encouraged me to keep going with this story and complete it. Please do let me know what you thought with a final review x
If you enjoyed Devil's Snare…
• Please check out my new Dramione one-shot, The Morning After What?!, which I posted in February for Valentine's Day.
• Follow me! I have some other fics in the works which I'll be sharing shortly.