One Year Later

Hermione drifted into consciousness slow and blissful, giving into that peaceful, languid stretch one was allowed when waking unprompted. But the sweep of her hand across the bed didn't smack into Thorfinn as she was used to most mornings.

Cracking open one eye, she looked to his side of the bed. His empty side of the bed.

She frowned a moment—every once in a while, she had dreadful flashbacks. Each time, it took her a few heartbeats to reorient herself to the present. A few heartbeats for her breathing to steady, and her pulse to calm as she reminded herself that wherever he'd vanished to, it was not on a summons to do Voldemort's bidding.

Pulling herself to sit up, she rubbed at her eyes. Yes, that was right, he was at his probation meeting with Kingsley this morning. Even being in relationship with the Hero of Wizarding Britain Hermione Granger, didn't let him slide on even one of these meetings.

With a wistful sigh she rose from the bed, sparing a moment to toss on her dressing gown, and strolled to the window. Looking out at the preparations underway in the garden, she thought Kingsley would've allowed him to postpone today's appointment. Honestly, he was going to be here this afternoon himself, he could've pulled Thorfinn aside during the festivities, but no.

She supposed she had better get ready for the day. It was probably already late; she was surprised Reina had not come to wake her.

Hermione carefully pulled her dress robes from the wardrobe and set them on the bed before heading into the bathroom. The rush of water from the tap as she turned on the shower muffled the noise, so she never heard him slip into the room behind her.

Grabbing a loose hairpin from the vanity, she secured her hair in a quick, sloppy pile atop her head. Washing would be preferable, but with her wild mane? Even with the use of magic she doubted it would all be dry in time for this afternoon.

At least the fact that she and Thorfinn slept al fresco, as he'd charmingly put it one night, spared her the time of having to disrobe. She simply dropped the dressing robe she'd just tossed on down to the floor. Stepping into the tub, she sighed and closed her eyes. For a long moment she merely stood, letting the spray of steaming water splash down onto her face and shoulders.

Perhaps, she thought in hindsight moments later, she should've expected the arms that circled her and pulled her backward. Though she was startled for a quick second, the immediate familiarity of his bare skin against hers as he hugged her to him calmed her.

"What is the rule about showers, Princess?"

Hermione uttered a soft humming sound in the back of her throat as she let her head roll to one side against his chest. "Never take one without you?"

"And yet, here you are." As he spoke, he lowered his head, raking his teeth along the side of her throat in teasing little bites.

"To be fair, I wasn't sure when you'd be back and we've got a big day ahead of us. It was now or never, and I was not going to do this day the disservice of being unwashed."

Thorfinn chuckled, the rush of his breath tickling her skin. "You really are a chatty little thing."

"And here I thought that was one of the things you love about me?" She turned head and leaned away just enough to meet his gaze as she feigned a pout.

Smirking, he said, "Oh, it is. How else would I have so many excuses to find new and interesting ways to shut you up?"

The little, scoffing gasp she uttered was cut off by his lips covering hers. She all but melted into him as she gave in, kissing him back. Reaching her arms over her head, she linked her fingers behind his neck—the tips only barely made contact due to their height difference.

He eagerly took the invitation of unencumbered movement, sliding his hands along her wet skin. One upward to cup her breast, teasing and toying, and the other downward, slipping between her thighs.

She broke the kiss, a tiny gasp escaping her at the stroking of his fingertips over her. Collecting herself just enough to speak—even as she assisted his efforts by rocking herself against the working of his hand—she asked, "Do we really have time for this right now?"

Letting out a rumbling exhalation, he nodded. "You didn't sleep that late. It's still two hours until the guests will arrive."

Hermione gave a nod of her own, albeit a slightly more frantic one than his. "Oh, thank God."

Snickering at the relief in her voice, Thorfinn pulled her tighter to him, still. He adored the way she trembled in his embrace beneath the spray of the water as he quickened the rubbing of his fingertips.

He could feel her body going taut against his and he pulled her up to stand on her toes, aiding her.

She threw her head back, crying out as she came. She loved the way he moved against her, even as her body stilled. Loved the way he rolled his hips, pressing forward so she could feel how hard he was.

Hermione gave up the counting in the back of her head and choked out a shuddering sigh as her orgasm started to ebb. She'd once made it as long as twenty seconds, something he still teased her about, because it had only led to her nearly passing out on him.

He chuckled at the exasperated whimper that escaped her as she started rocking against his ministrations once more. "How long was that one?"

Drawing in a ragged breath, she whispered, "Twelve seconds."

"Dammit," he said, though his voice was laced with amusement.

Her airy giggle was cut short as he rather suddenly lowered himself to sit on his knees in the tub. He pulled her down with him, giving her no time to even question the movement as he used his hands on her to position her over him.

She braced her hands on his knees just as he pulled her down, slipping inside her fast and deep. Her entire body tensed for a moment at the sweet, tingly rush that coursed through her at his entry.

Thorfinn dropped his head down against her shoulder, a rumbling groan sounding in the back of his throat. His muscles twitched in fine tremors as she drifted forward and sank back over him, again and again.

She adored the pressure of his teeth scraping her shoulder and the feel of his arms tightening around her. He didn't make it easy to move, but the effort was worth it. Especially as he shifted beneath her, thrusting upward against her rocking motions.

Hermione bit down hard into her bottom lip, holding in a moan. For a time, there was nothing but the blissful, repetitive sensation of him sliding into her and withdrawing.

Wracked by another fine tremor, his movements became erratic. She responded instantly, rocking over him more sharply.

Thorfinn let out a pained sound as he stilled, driving into her with that last, hard thrust. Leaning forward, she placed her palms on the floor of the tub for leverage.

"Sweet Merlin, Princess," he managed, his tone gruff as he shuddered beneath her motions.

She moved over him, shivering and grinding her hips. Only when she was certain he'd spent himself did she ease to a halt.

For a long while, Thorfinn simply held her to him. Under the spray of hot water, they caught their breath in ragged gulps of air.

He reached around her, turning off the shower. "C'mon, then," he said, his voice still with that delicious, rough edge to it. Shifting her in his arms, he stood up and carried her out of the tub.

"Huh." She paused in her reach for towels, looking about from where he held her in the air.

Smirking, he arched a brow. "What?"

"I just seem to remember a similar circumstance my first day in this house."

"Ah, yes. Was the first time I saw you naked. Quite a memorable event, actually."

Scoffing, she spared a moment to swat his shoulder before draping one of the towels across herself. "Oh, get a move on, you lumbering Viking. We have to get dressed!"

Sighing, he shook his head as he stared out the window. He propped his fists on his hips; the final preparations were underway, it seemed.

"I still can't believe it," he said. "My little sister is getting married. How did this happen? When did this happen? Seems like it's all just . . . so fast."

Hermione only arched a brow, smirking as she finished up in front of the mirror. She'd heard this from him so many times over these last few months. Each time, he'd start to panic and she'd calm him, only for the same exact discussion to erupt only days later.

"It is fast, isn't it?" A sudden, angry pout tugging at his bottom lip, he nodded. "Yes, it is too fast. I can't believe I didn't put my foot down about this!"

Her shoulders slumping, Hermione stood up. "Nonsense. Reina is a grown woman; this was her decision, not yours. You should consider yourself lucky Antonin was respectful about it and asked for your blessing."

He rolled his eyes. "Still—"

"And it might be too soon for some people, but this is what feels right to them. You have to respect that."

Nodding once more, he braced a shoulder against the windowsill. His gaze followed the flower-lined aisle that had been set in the garden.

"And what about us?"

Hermione ran her hands over her dress robes in a smoothing gesture as she answered with a distracted air, "I hope you're not going to suggest we don't go. I know you're in a state over this, but you'll be fine. Besides, we're the maid-of-honor and the best man, people will notice if we don't show."

Chuckling, he licked his lips and tried, again. "I meant . . . ." He jutted his chin toward the scene in the garden. "When are we going to do this?"

Letting out a breath, she shrugged. "Well, I should think when we—" Her eyes shot wide as she cut herself off. Pivoting on her heel to face him, she thought her heart might burst in her chest at the grin curving his mouth.

"Thorfinn Rowle," she said, her voice barely a whisper. "Are—are you asking me to marry you?"

Pushing away from the window, he stepped closer to her. "Would you say yes if I did?"

Hermione swallowed hard as she thought that over. A process which went by far faster than she'd have believed. The idea of marrying Thorfinn?

Holding his gaze, she nodded. "I think I would."

He reached out, cupping her cheek. "Then I think I just might be."

"Are you?"

Thorfinn's smile melted a little, making for a more serious expression. "I am."

Hermione'd never felt so certain of anything in her life as she was of her answer. "Then, yes."

His smile returning, he drew her close, catching her in a sweet, playful kiss.

As they broke away from each other, he asked, "I guess this means we're engaged?"

"I guess it does." She smiled, nodding.

"C'mon," he said, claiming his fiancee's hand to lead her downstairs.

"Oh!" Hermione tugged him to a halt, mid-stride.


"Well, it's just that this is Reina and Antonin's big day, so . . . maybe we don't tell them about this until they get back from their honeymoon."

Thorfinn slumped against the door frame behind him then. His expression falling, he pressed his hands to his face.

The sudden change in his demeanor worried her. "Thorfinn?"

"Oh, God," he said, his miserable voice muffled by his palms. "My little sister's honeymoon . . . ."

"Oh!" Hermione couldn't help but giggle as she pulled him close, cradling his head against her shoulder. "And you were doing so well with it for a minute, there, too."

Eventually, she managed to drag him from the room and down the stairs. It seemed only by the grace of the powers that be that they were not late for their roles.

And even more so did it seem by their grace that Thorfinn managed to hold himself together throughout his little sister's wedding.