A/N: PLEASE GO READ FIRE AND ICE FIRST! Could this story stand alone? Maybe…but it will reference its prequel quite a bit. And, don't you yearn to know how they fell in love? How they arrived to this point? Yes. Yes, you do. Go read Fire and Ice and fall in love with them. Then meet me here. I'll be waiting.

Vinetta-Venture: babe, patience is a virtue! Your comment literally made me laugh out loud when I read it. I spent a month and a half writing Fire and Ice. I am emotionally invested in the Draco and Hermione I have written for this story, but I needed a little break!

It's been a week and I have written a lot of other material in this week…One shots: The Sea Nymph (sexual energies abound), All Around the Mulberry Bush (a sweet, tender, loving Draco), Mmmbop (written for a competition—not my best work, but it's hard to only write 500 words when you're used to writing 5000!), and a Ron/Hermione one-shot, Fireflies (what's funny is you Dramione lovers are so jaded by movie and Dramione versions of Ron Weasley that you totally forget how sweet and caring he actually was in the books. My usual reviewers who read it were like…only read because you wrote, or I can appreciate the sweet moment. Meanwhile, one of my R/Hr shipper reviewers on that story said, "Dramione, ugh!" Made me laugh!). I also rewrote Harmonia Nectere Passus some (totally), and I hope to add to it weekly this time. But who knows, thisversion of Draco and Hermione have captured my heart and mind, and I get totally devoted to them, so we shall see. Go read my new stuff, though. All of the one shots are short and fluffy. HNP is dark and angsty. Something for everyone!

So, without further adieu, let us begin Properly In Love!

Chapter 1:

Hermione Granger's mouth hung open as she stared at the specter of her longtime best friend. He wasn't due home from Auror training for another year, and yet there he was standing in front of where she clutched Draco Malfoy's hand like letting it go would make the blond vanish into thin air.

Ron Weasley's face was screwed up in incredulous horror as he stared at his best friend and sworn enemy holding hands, a violent puce shade that could put Vernon Dursley to shame rising under his freckles. Once Hermione was able to tear her eyes away from his face, she saw that Ron was leaning on crutches, his left leg bound in a tight magical cast. She gave Draco's hand a squeeze and moved forward, pulling him beside her. "Be civil," she warned under her breath.

"No promises," Draco replied flippantly.

Hermione had hoped she would have a little more time to figure out how to break the news of her love of the Malfoy heir to her two best friends. Like, another year's worth of time. She scanned the crowd around the Weasleys for Harry Potter's head of raven hair, but found nothing. She stopped right in front of Ron and dropped Draco's hand to pull the red head into a tight embrace.

"Oh, Ron! What happened to you? How did you get out of Academy so early? Why didn't you write me!" she was speaking the questions quickly, her nerves overtaking her once more.

Ron pulled away and backed up, brushing a curl over her shoulder so he could kiss her cheek. "'Mione…I've missed you," he whispered, glaring over her shoulder at the pale man who was currently killing him with his eyes alone.

"I missed you, too! Both of you! Where's Harry?" she asked, stepping away from him fully.

"Harry's still at Academy…Hermione can I talk to you, alone?" he asked, and he grabbed her upper arm gently in an effort to pull her away from the third part of the awkward equation.

"Get your hands off my witch, Weasel," Draco warned menacingly and Hermione smiled slightly despite herself.

Ron glared at him once more but dropped his hand. It was at this point that Molly Weasley noticed the tension building as she looked from Ron to Draco, to Hermione in between them. "Oh, dear…why don't we get back to the Burrow?"

"Actually, Hermione and I have somewhere we need to be. Our belongings are currently on the Hogwarts Express," Draco replied in a clipped manner.

"Draco," Hermione said tenderly. "I owe him an explanation…we can retrieve our things and Apparate back with the others."

"You owe him nothing, Granger. Or do you not remember crying over him when you saw him splayed across the Daily Prophet with that Auror witch?" he asked forcefully.

Ron looked taken aback and then guilty, the tips of his ears turning pink once more. Hermione sighed. "He's been my best friend for eight years. I can't just abandon him and his family. Not to mention, if that had never happened…would we be here?" she challenged, raising an eyebrow at him.

Draco's face turned wickedly devilish for a brief moment. "You're right…perhaps I should thank him for being such a prick? I did get you in the end, didn't I? Always the winner," he asked, taking her hips and kissing her lips, a show of dominance.

Ron cleared his throat. "That is quite enough. Let's get back to the Burrow. Mum has made a spread fit for a royal party."

After retrieving their belongings, the couple Apparated to the Burrow, the jovial sounds of a party already well under way. "Take my hand," Hermione instructed. "They've got wards against…well…"

"Death Eaters? Dark Marks? Malfoys? Though…the three are synonymous," Draco supplied, trying to lighten the mood with his dark humor.

Hermione lifted a corner of her mouth in response and took his hand to step across the wards. "The wards recognize malicious intent, so you may have gotten across alone…but I couldn't be sure you're intentions against Ron are all pure."

"I would like to turn him into the weasel he is," he said with a laugh.

"Okay, my little ferret. Let's not get ahead of ourselves," she laughed, lacing her fingers with his.

"That was one time!" he groaned. "You get turned into a ferret one time and you never live it down."

Once through the wards, the couple stood and simply looked forward. Hermione looked at Draco and saw that he was staring at the mismatched house with a look of disgusted disbelief. "Even their home is shabby," he said.

Hermione elbowed him in the ribs. "I thought you were broken of your old beliefs."

"My dear, I no longer care about blood status. But I will always be wealthy," he said, kissing her hand as he eyed her sheepishly.

"And arrogant," she countered. "Come on then. Let's get this over with."

"Yes…let's. That way I can get over you in our little bed in London," he grinned cheekily.

She swatted his arm and pulled him forward, though her heart was pounding at the thought of having the dreaded conversation with her red headed friend. Draco seemed to notice her hesitation and kissed her temple. "It's going to be okay, love. I'll behave. I promise," he said, his voice soothing her instantly.

"Thank you," she whispered. "You don't know how much that means to me."

They rounded the corner and walked into the back gardens, where Mrs. Weasley had put together three long tables, filled to the brim with various foods, snacks, drinks and desserts. The Weasleys and other members of the Order were mussing about, picking at the food, laughing merrily and enjoying each other's company. That is, until they saw Hermione Granger clutching Draco Malfoy's hand. Everyone went dead silent for a moment as they stared. Hermione felt self-conscious, not because she was embarrassed by the man beside her, but because she was embarrassed by everyone else's reaction toward him. She was ashamed and felt sympathetic for her love.

Thank Merlin for Arthur Weasley. The patriarch of the Weasley brood stepped through the crowd of witches and wizards and stepped forward with a wide smile. "Hermione! Draco! Congratulations on graduating. Come on, grab something to eat!" he leaned a little closer so only the two could hear, "Molly will be highly offended if you don't have three of everything, my boy!"

"I heard that, Arthur Weasley!" his wife admonished, smacking him with a dishtowel as she stepped in behind him. "Ignore him," she said, taking Draco by the crook of his arm toward the food tables.

He looked over his shoulder at her, an uncomfortable and unsure look on his face. Hermione grinned and made a shooing motion with her hands as she gave him an encouraging nod. She turned to Mr. Weasley. "Thank you for being kind to him."

Mr. Weasley smiled genuinely at her as they watched his wife trying to force-feed the thin man. "What he did for Neville Longbottom, for Frank and Alice…it was noble. And if he is good enough for you, he's good enough for us. It's not going to be easy. But if he can make the effort to rid himself of his prejudices, perhaps it is time we did as well."

"You don't know how much that means to me. And to him, though he may never say it," she warned.

Mr. Weasley smiled. "The Malfoys are a proud bunch. Hermione, don't expect Ron and Harry to just accept him. The rivalry between them went deeper than just a schoolyard tiff. Think of how long it took for you to accept that he wasn't the same boy who fought on the opposite side of the War. And that was with you seeing him every day. But Ron will eventually come around. He loves you too much to lose you."

Mr. Weasley's words left Hermione's heart feeling heavy, though she knew he was correct. Her two friends were going to take longer to warm up to him. Her eyes scanned the yard and found Ron sitting with Charlie, glaring in the direction of her wizard. She sighed and made her way toward them. Charlie was sipping from a frosted mug of orange-spiced mead and had his usual carefree grin plastered across his face. "Why, Miss Granger! Or shall I start calling you Mrs. Malfoy?" Charlie teased good naturedly, earning a murderous look from his youngest brother.

"'Hermione' would be just fine, Charles," she grinned, extending her hand to Ron to help him stand. "Let's go inside and talk."

Ron tore his eyes away from the towheaded beacon currently taste testing the three different kinds of ambrosia salad that Mrs. Weasley had prepared. He took Hermione's hand and carefully maneuvered himself into a standing position. Charlie handed him his crutches from beside the table. Hermione tried to ignore Draco's sharp gaze on her as she went into the warm house she'd called her second home for so long.

They settled into the worn couches in the living room, Ron sitting with his leg propped up on the coffee table and Hermione sitting with her back against the arm rest, her feet curled under her as she face him. "Can you please explain to me how in the bloody hell you got mixed up with Draco sodding Malfoy?"

Hermione sighed, already exhausted from the conversation that hadn't even begun just yet. "Why don't you go first…Your answers will probably be much less involved."

Ron narrowed his eyes at her. "I got injured and spent a month in St. Mungo's, though even mum didn't know because I was undercover. As soon as I finished the task, I realized that being an Auror wasn't for me. We spent so long fighting Voldemort…I just don't have it in me to chase the bad guys forever, you know?" he asked, looking at the floor in shame.

Hermione pursed her lips. "Of course I know. I tried to warn you of that a year ago when Kingsley brought the letters."

"I wish I would have listened to you," he laughed, rubbing the back of his neck.

"So what will you do now?" she asked, suddenly anxious for her friend who had dropped out of his one chance and had failed to complete his NEWTs.

"George needs help running the shop. He wants to open a second shop in France eventually, so I need to learn how to maintain everything so I can run the shop in Diagon Alley."

Hermione smiled at the news—she knew George needed a companion after the devastating loss of his twin. "How's Harry?" she asked, curious about the other third of their trio.

"He's doing well…really well. Shacklebolt might cut his apprenticeship in half and let him out in spring instead of fall. But you know Harry. He always had a knack for Defense Against the Dark Arts…he thrives off of it all," Ron told her with a shrug. "Now, can we get back to the ferret in the room? How…? Why…?"

Hermione was quiet for a moment and bit her lip as she thought about what to say. "Draco is nothing like we thought for so long."

"So he's not arrogant, garish, a Death Eater?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Ex-Death Eater. And he only joined the ranks because he was threatened into it, essentially. Voldemort threatened to kill not only him, but his entire family. And he was forced into killing Dumbledore because he failed to complete a deed during a revel," she defended, not wanting to divulge too much information.

"And you believe him, why? Hermione, I hunted his type down. I studied their mindset, the way they operate and think," he argued. "He's manipulative and a smooth talking liar."

Hermione shook her head. "No. I believe him."

"When did this start?" he questioned.

When had it started? Was it July, when she'd first laid eyes on him after the War, broken and angry? Was it September, when he carried her into the rain and held her until her flashbacks had ceased? Was it October, when he pleaded with her not to give up on him after the Masquerade Ball? Was it December, when he accompanied her to her parents? Or was it March, when she'd first lain with him and felt more love than she thought one heart capable of? "Hermione?" Ron asked, waving a hand to break her reverie.

"July," she replied.

Ron looked as though she'd slapped him. "July? What do you mean July? We were together in August!"

"Not like that. We weren't officially together until last Christmas. But…our story starts in July," she replied, gnawing her lip once more.

"Explain to me how your story starts in July, if we were still together in August…like, together together," he demanded, his ears turning pink.

"Draco is…incredibly broken, angry, arrogant…"

Ron scoffed.

"Sometimes, Ron, things aren't always so Dark and Light. There is a shade of grey in between. And that's where Draco resides, where he's always been. He took no pleasure in being a Death Eater. He feared for his life every day. Ron…he was tortured. By Voldemort, by his aunt, by his own father," Hermione wiped a tear that fell as she thought about the beautifully fractured man.

"Last July, we started our counseling. We had to tell our stories and our triggers. I was his trigger—my scent, more specifically. When he'd smell my perfume, he'd have flashbacks to Easter. It was hard for him to accept that he couldn't have changed what happened in the Manor. I'm positive he still hasn't forgiven himself for his inaction—"

"I don't forgive him for his inactions," Ron interceded.

Hermione glared at him. "You should. You have no idea what his life was like, Ron. It was easy for us—we were born on this side of the War. He…he had to fight from the other side."

"How does this equate to a relationship?" Ron asked impatiently.

"We fought…pretty severely for months. We were Head Boy and Head Girl and we shared a living space—"

"Is McGonagall off her rocker? He could have hurt you!"

Hermione put her hand up. "But he didn't. As I was saying, we fought some pretty good fights that would make our," she wiggled a finger between herself and the red head, "fights seem like child's play. But Theo kept encouraging me to not give up on him, that he would come around."

"Theo Nott?"

Hermione nodded and Ron sat back and blew air out of his lips. "Merlin, Hermione, you stumbled into the snake den!"

"Theo is a fantastic man as well. I really think, once you get to know him, you'll really like him…and Draco."

"Fat chance. So, somehow Malfoy proved himself. How?"

"He offered to go with me to visit my parents' home in exchange for attending his mother's gala with him," she shrugged.

"I saw the photos," was all he said at first. And then, "I would have gone with you to your parents' house. You just had to ask!"

Hermione shook her head. "That's the thing. I didn't have to ask him. I didn't even know I wanted someone to go with me. But he offered. So we went home to London. He…decorated a Christmas tree for me," her voice was breaking as she recounted the sweet gesture, made by a man that wasn't hers yet at the time. "We stayed in London for the entirety of the winter break. That's when we got together, officially."

She reached into the collar of her dress and pulled out the signet ring that always rested there. Ron's eyes went wide. "He gave you his ring? Do you understand what that even means, Hermione?!"

She nodded. "Theo explained it to me."

"So…what? You're just going to live every Pureblood girl's dream? And what of his parents? Will they ever accept you?" he asked, his voice forceful once more.

"I'll never have to face Lucius. And Narcissa is…coming around. Slowly but surely. She loves Draco too much not to," she replied simply.

"And what are you going to do now? Now that school has ended? He can't even walk down the street without a hundred cameras going off! A scathing article or ten in the next day's paper!"

Hermione pursed her lips once more. "Ronald, I don't care about what writers like Rita Skeeter think or write about. And if you must know, we're going to open a sanctuary for magical creatures, including House elves…in America…" she said the last part so quietly she couldn't hear it over the nervous ringing in her ears.

"America?!" Ron roared. "You're allowing a Death Eater to remove you from the country?"

"He was going to America anyway to attend an academy for…his preferred occupation. He was going to open the sanctuary either way. I agreed to accompany him. I want to accompany him."

"All for spew?" Ron shouted incredulously.

"It's not spew. It's the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare," came Draco's harsh drawl from the doorway. "And unlike you, I support her interests wholeheartedly."

Draco moved into the room and came to stand behind Hermione, placing his hands on her shoulders so he could use his thumbs to work the knots in her shoulders. Ron stared up at his longtime rival and bit his tongue. It would do him no good to yell and scream and break things—Hermione's choice was made. "I support Hermione," he said quietly.

"If that were true she would be with you and not me," Draco snapped.

Hermione put her hand over her shoulder to tap his hip, a motion that told him to stop his verbal sparring. She could see that Ron wasn't going to retaliate and she knew what that meant—he agreed with her. "Ron…we were never right for each other. We danced around one another for years because we thought it would be easy. But you know as well as I do…it wasn't right."

Ron leaned forward on his thighs as he dropped his injured leg to the ground. He sighed a long exhale of breath and looked over at his friend and her newfound love. "I know. It took me being away for a long while to understand it, 'Mione. When I thought about how I love you…it wasn't romantic. I tried to picture myself having children with you, a home with you, growing old with you. And…as much as I love you…I couldn't. I don't regret…what we did last summer," he averted his eyes and Hermione felt Draco's hands tighten on her shoulders slightly. "But I realized I don't want it to happen again. You are a beautiful, bright witch with a future in changing the world. I'm…Ron. You're the best friend I have, but I know. I know it wouldn't have worked."

Hermione's eyes brimmed with tears. She had been so afraid that is heart would be broken, unsure of the full extent of his feelings for her. Her heart was so thankful that he felt the same. That was until he opened his mouth again. "But I wouldn't choose him for you."

"What does that mean, Weasley?" Draco asked, his hands still on Hermione's shoulders.

"It means, Malfoy, that I don't think you are right for her. You are a Dark wizard, trained in the Dark Arts. There will come a day, when your Darkness will hurt her, whether by your hand or another's. And when that day comes, I will kill you myself," Ron finished, giving the blond a glare that could cut through steel.

Hermione internally groaned. Though she could feel Draco's response welling inside of him, she knew Draco worried about just that thing happening. It was the number one thing that haunted him every day. "Ron—"

"I have devoted myself, wholly and completely, to Hermione. I would lay down my life if it meant she could have a minute more to live. I am going to marry her and with that, will come certain…protections of an ancient Pureblood variety. Someone would have to kill me in order to get to her and I am fully prepared to fight and kill anyone who tries," Draco spat through clenched teeth, stepping around Hermione toward Ron.

Ron bristled but didn't back down as Draco leaned right into his face, looking more menacing than Hermione had ever seen. "And you would do well to keep your thoughts on me and our relationship to yourself. I will not have your prejudices hurting Hermione or causing her reason to shed one tear. You don't like me? Fine. I don't honestly give a fuck. But she is your friend and her feelings should come before your own, so you will treat her as such. If she sheds one more tear over your foul disposition, I will kill you myself," Draco finished, mirroring Ron's earlier words.

Ron was silent as he stared into his rivals face. "What do we have here?" Charlie asked as he and Ginny entered the room.

"Just a friendly chit-chat between old school chums," Draco said forcefully, backing away from Ron.

"Well…Ginny's told me you've got a Draconus miniscura? I'd love to chat you up about a small thunder of miniscuras we've come across in Romania," Charlie offered, handing the blond a frosted mug of centaur-made beer.

Draco took the glass and shot Ron one more glare before planting a kiss on top of Hermione's head of curls before he followed Charlie back into the yard. "His name's Eugene…got a bit of an eye infection right now…I brewed a potion…" Draco's voice faded out as they walked out of earshot.

"Well, he certainly is pleasant," Ron said, a deep scowl on his face.

Hermione shoved him with her foot. "You started that, Ronald Weasley."

"He started it way back in first year when he first let on that he was a slimy git," he mumbled.

Ginny let out a loud, boisterous laugh as she took her seat across from them on the other couch. "He really isn't that bad, Ron. And he treats our 'Mione like an absolute queen…or I'm sorry, what is it he calls you every night…a goddess?"

Ron shot his sister a glare as Hermione blushed and fought a small smile. "It varies…sometimes he calls me his little minx…"

"I've got to get out of here…damn Harry Potter for not being here," Ron said, retrieving his crutches to make his way into the yard.

Hermione watched as he left and then burst into a fit of giggles. Ginny grinned and came to join her on the couch, placing her head on the brunette's lap. Hermione ran her hand through the red heads long locks and she sighed contentedly. "'Mione…what do you think of Theodore Nott?"

Hermione furrowed her brow. "What do you mean?"

"I mean…do you like him? Is he a good person?" she asked, opening her eyes to stare up at her friend.

Hermione's hand paused in Ginny's hair for a moment as she thought about Theo. She resumed her raking and shrugged. "Theo is a great man. If I hadn't gone for Draco, Theo definitely would have been my second choice. Why?"

"He asked me to dinner this weekend," she replied.

"I thought he was with Daphne Greengrass?" Hermione asked.

"Apparently that ended a few days ago…she wasn't interested in the whole marriage and children thing," Ginny said.

"Are you?"

"Not right away…the manager of the Holyhead Harpies wants me to come in for a second try out and I'm going to take him up on that offer. But eventually…yeah? I'd like to have a big family, like I had."

"What about Harry?"

Ginny frowned. "A year is a long time apart, especially when that year is spent without any contact whatsoever. Ron brought me a letter Harry wrote to me…he wants to focus on his career for a while. Says it was too hard to concentrate when you all were hunting Horcruxes when he was thinking about me all the time. Told me to move on," the red head sniffled slightly.

"Don't cry, Gin. I'm sure Harry only meant it to benefit you," Hermione said, running her fingers slowly over the auburn locks.

"It's okay, 'Mione. It's okay, you know? I will always love him—he was my first. But, I can't hold onto that forever," she said, her voice cracking slightly.

Hermione was quiet for a moment. "So…Theo Nott, huh?"

Ginny smiled widely, the hurt still a faint glimmer in her eye. "Well…he is rather fit, isn't he?"

Hermione thought about Theo—he was large statured but more a gentle giant than anything. He had a shock of dark hair and bright blue eyes like the ocean at summer. He had his own demons, but he had a huge heart and was loyal to a fault. "He is pretty good looking," Hermione allowed.

"I mean…he's no Draco Malfoy, but he'll do," Draco said from the doorway, his cheeks pink from the alcohol he'd ingested in such a short time.

Ginny didn't even bother to sit up, only turned her head toward him. "Thought I smelled something…must be the ferret."

"Ginevra. Or shall I call you Big Red, as Theo does?" he teased and she turned red.

"Shove off Malfoy, it's my turn with your woman," Ginny replied, closing her eyes and snapping her fingers with a gesture toward her head.

Hermione laughed and began rubbing her hair once more. "Guess you got told," Hermione said.

Draco leaned on the door frame and crossed his arms. "I'll spare you a Theodore Nott-esque joke about a ménage-a-trois, and just say that if you start calling him your Teddy Bear, I'm fucking out. I will not hesitate to hex you both."

Ginny laughed heartily. "Oh, Merlin. If I ever get that cutesy, I'll hex myself."

"Speaking of overgrown Slytherin oafs who are more than worthy of being any witch's betrothed and is in desperate need of a witch who will love him as he deserves, I was just getting ready to do a fire call with him. Charlie told me to add a sprig of thyme to Eugene's eye drops and it'll clear that infection right up," Draco said, gesturing toward the fireplace.

Ginny sat up and straightened her skirt over her thighs. "I'll call him. Why don't you two go up to your room and get changed?"

Draco raised an eyebrow and looked at Hermione. "Gin, we're not staying here. We've got a room reserved at the Lady of London."

Ginny laughed. "Hermione. Do you really think mum is going to let you leave? She's got to fatten that one up," she said, gesturing toward Draco's lithe frame.

Hermione bit her lip and looked at the ground. Draco groaned. "Granger. No. We have plans."

"Oh, gross! Though…a silencing charm and a cushioning charm on our old wood floors will be more than enough to keep away prying ears. You should be fine…unless you plan on swinging from the rafters or something," Ginny replied.

"Damn, there went our weekend," Hermione said, snapping her fingers.

"Oh, Gods, 'Mione!" Ginny laughed.

Draco gave Hermione a look that clearly said he had no desire to stay. "Please?" she mouthed. "It'll be nice to be around a loving family before we go to Australia."

Draco's face softened. "Your parents love you. They'll understand," he said, gently brushing her curls aside to place a hand on her neck.

"If you're going to start shagging, can you at least make it up the stairs before you mount her?" Ginny asked.

"She is the female Theo, isn't she?" Draco groaned.

"You have no idea," Hermione replied, brushing his lips with her own.

He sighed. "So which one is our room?"

"Oh, Molly and Arthur would never let us stay in the same room, unwed. You'll share a room with George and I'll share with Gin."

"Are you fucking kidding me, Granger?" Draco asked, groaning with irritation, preemptive sexual frustration and the loneliness he'd feel without his witch in his arms every night.

It was going to be a very long week.

o-o-o

A/N: I've missed them so.

Please review, my loves. I spend time writing, you spend time reviewing. That is how this symbiotic relationship needs to work.