Chapter Thirty-One
BETA: Raynephoenix2

Hermione was frozen with the shock of the moment. The sentence that had just come out of Lucius' mouth was the last thing she had expected to hear. She had thought that when the time came to end their contract, they would have some sort of discussion about it. Not this one line and done moment. She felt like someone had opened the floor up beneath her. Like she had fallen off a broom.

"Oh." It was all she could say while her mind raced. Grief welled in her chest and anguish coursed through her heart and she wondered why on Earth she was feeling like this. Shouldn't she be elated? It was what she had been working towards! She was free to be with Snape as his submissive! All the rules they had in place that limited their intimacies were gone! They could be Master and submissive as well as boyfriend and girlfriend.

In the split second it took for all these thoughts to fly through her mind, she forced what she hoped was a happy smile to her face. For some reason, she didn't want Lucius to know what she was feeling. She wanted him to think she felt nothing but pride and happiness that he felt she was ready to be released.

She knew that he was proud of her, and she was so grateful for him and everything he had taught her…but…fuck. She hadn't expected this. Why did she feel as if she were being dumped? She knew their contract would end, granted she hadn't expected it quite yet, but she knew it would be over eventually.

She steeled herself before forcing her emotions down. She took a deep breath and was relieved when her voice sounded normal, and very calm. "That's…amazing, Master!" she exclaimed, launching herself at him and wrapping her arms around his neck – mostly to hide her emotions, partly because she felt it would be a normal reaction. She wanted to come off as if everything were fine. "I wasn't expecting this! I'm so excited!" She felt as if she were trying to assure herself.

Lucius' arms encircled her, and she was so caught up in her own turmoil that she missed how stiff the gesture was. "You've done beautifully, Doll," he assured her before pulling back and cupping her face. He dropped a kiss on her lips, not even giving her enough time to respond, and then moved his lips to her forehead while his fingers made quick work of the clasp of his collar at the nape of her neck. She had to bite down on her lower lip to stay the tears. Why did she feel so unprepared for this? She didn't want him to take the collar off, she needed to process what was happening longer. She needed more time. There was no more time.

Lucius avoided looking her in the face as he undid the clasp he had no desire to undo.


The clasp he wished to leave sealed shut for the rest of his life.

Shakily he pocketed the necklace while continuing to look anywhere but at Hermione, therefore he never noticed the way she was pulling uneven breaths through her nose and cupping her throat as if she had lost something essential to her wellbeing. Each lost in their own grief, neither was aware of how the other was reacting.

Politely, Lucius handed Hermione her clothing before he used a spell to redress himself. He watched her covertly pulling on her garments for a moment while he smoothed his suit jacket. He needed to leave before he broke down and told her everything. Before he told her how he felt and asked her choose him over Snape. Before he fucked everything up for his best friend and the woman who had become everything to him.

He knew who her choice would be and he would not subject himself to the humiliation of making her tell him that she wanted Snape. He was positive that's what her decision would be. One more time he crossed the room and pressed a kiss to her forehead while cupping the nape of her neck.

"I have some paperwork to file before I go home tonight," he told her softly. "Please owl me soon, we should do lunch or dinner sometime in the next couple weeks."

"Of course I will, Lucius," she answered in a whisper. She reached out cautiously with her hand and brushed the five o'clock shadow of one cheek with her thumb before lifting her mouth to touch her lips chastely to his one last time. It took every ounce of will power for him not to deepen the kiss. "Thank you again, Lucius. For…everything."

He nodded curtly and stepped back. Hermione used the excuse of donning her dress to hide the confusion and conflict in her features. When she was free of the fabric, she watched his retreating form as he made his way to the door. He paused for just a moment before opening it and leaving without looking back to her.

The moment the door closed, her whole body began to tremble and tears welled in her eyes. Her breathing started to come in erratic gasps and her heart started pounding loudly in her ears. What the bloody hell is the matter with you? she thought wildly as she jerked on the rest of her clothing.

She needed to get out. Get out of this room. Get out of the club. She needed to get back to her apartment to think, to process what the fuck just happened. Why in the world had Lucius not given her a warning? Why was their ending so sudden? Had she done something wrong? And why the fuck was she feeling this way?!

Panic and heartbreak rose in her chest and she scrambled to pick up her purse before fleeing out the door of the playroom. Entirely oblivious to her surroundings, she didn't even hear the door slam behind herself as she fled through the open demonstration area to the stairwell. She was up the stairs and walking through coat check before she knew it, not paying attention to a single person as she raced through the establishment.

Hermione reached the Apparition point before awareness caught up with her. She looked around in bewilderment for a moment before the sobs that had been threatening rose in her throat. The first one broke just as she spun on the spot and Disapparated.

"Hey Jonathan," Draco said with a smirk as he settled at the counter. Jonathan gave him a smile over his shoulder as he prepared a margarita for a couple of women at the other end of the bar.

"Be right with ya, mate," he promised the blond.

"No rush," Draco assured him, glancing around. "I'm actually gonna use the loo. See ya in a minute."

Draco made his way towards the men's room when the low timber of his father's voice made him pause. He spotted Lucius and Etan in a serious discussion at a table just before the hallway entrance to the back rooms.

"You ended her contract?" Etan's voice sounded surprised. "The last time we spoke you said she probably had a couple of weeks left? How was she?"

"What do you mean?" Lucius sounded confused.

"Did she handle ending your contract okay?"

"She was fine. Excited to be able to move on – she's wanted to be with Severus as his submissive from the beginning. I was her second choice, you know," Lucius was dismissive, covering his own hurt, but Draco could hear the underlying pain in his voice.

"How much time did you give her to prepare?" Etan asked.

"It was a spur of the moment decision," Lucius told his friend before taking a large pull off what looked like a double shot of whiskey. "I just knew in that moment we needed to be done."

"Wait a second. Luc, are you telling me you didn't give that girl any warning…?"

Draco immediately turned his attention back to the bar area, loo forgotten. He started scanning the faces of the ever-growing crowd of patrons for Hermione, which was why he never saw her coming.

"Malfoy." It was a sultry, smoky voice that spoke, and Draco's eyes snapped to the face that had been haunting his naughtiest day dreams since the New Year.

"Millicent!" He couldn't help the surprised inflection in his voice. "Er, M?"

She gave a soft laugh. "I do prefer to go by M these days, if you don't mind," she answered his question.

"How are…how are you?" Bloody fuck, the woman had the worst timing. He moved his eyes away from her to scan the crowd again. Normally, looking for Hermione meant looking for that mop she called hair. Unfortunately, that didn't really work at the club as her hair was often pulled back in plaits or chignons or buns for safety purposes.

"I'm fine," M answered, a frown pulling at her full lips when she realized Draco's attention was not fully on her.

"That's…good." There she was! He watched her appear at the top of the basement stairwell. Her face was tilted towards the floor, so he couldn't see her expression but her body language was all wrong. He'd put money on her being upset.

"Draco, I was thinking I'd like to take you up on your offer of getting to know each other while leaving the past in the past and – "

Draco didn't even think before he cupped both of M's shoulders in his hands. His eyes bore intently into her as he told her, "Listen, Millie. You have no idea how long I've been waiting to have this conversation with you, but I can't right now. I think something just went down with my dad and Granger, and I need to make sure they're okay. Will you owl me? Please promise you'll owl me. I'll get back to you right away, I swear. We can go for coffee or lunch or something?"

M was completely taken back at the combined sincerity and urgency in his voice, she followed his gaze, which was no longer focused on her face, to see a quickly moving Hermione Granger all but fleeing the club, stalking through coat check without stopping.

"Sure, Draco." She surprised herself when her voice was soft and understanding. It wasn't like her to let her softer side show for any reason. "I understand. I'll owl you this week," she promised.

She was startled when Draco dropped an absentminded kiss to her forehead and thanked her before rushing towards coat check.

Draco was sure he had probably just blown his only chance with Millicent, but he had to push the disappointment down. His father and the woman he was coming to think of as his best friend had just done something so stupid. When in the world would they see what everyone around them (save for maybe Snape – and that was because he didn't want to see it) already knew?

"Lola, did Granger leave her jacket here?" he asked the dark-haired young woman.

"Lemme check, just a sec Draco," Lola answered before disappearing into the coat room. She reappeared a few minutes later carrying Hermione's cloak. "I saw her leave, she was in a hurry. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, Lola, just fine. I saw her leave, too. Figured she left her coat. I'll get it to her," Draco assured her. "Thanks, love."

"Have a good night!"

Slowly, Draco made his was back into the bar area to seek out his father. He was relieved to see him still sitting with Etan at their small table, only now Rose was kneeling next to Etan with her head pillowed against his thigh.

"Hey, dad!" Draco said. Pretending he knew nothing, he kept his voice light and gave everyone at the small table a smirk when they all looked up at him. "I just saw Granger take off, she left her cloak." He held up the aforementioned garment. "I have plans in just a bit, but I know you're wrapping up soon. Mind dropping it off to her?"

"Sure, Draco," Lucius answered with what Draco could tell was a forced smile. "I'll head over there right after I finish up a couple things in the office. Will you excuse me, Etan?" Lucius looked at Etan and the younger man gave a slight nod.

"Really think about what I said, Luc," Etan encouraged as Lucius took the cloak from Draco.

"I will," Lucius dismissed Etan with a wave of a hand before turning his attention back to Draco. "You had somewhere to be?"

"Right, yeah," Draco answered. "I'll see you later, Dad. Have a good night."

Lucius arrived to his and Snape's office to find it empty. Snape must be patrolling the floor. To be honest, Lucius was relieved. He needed the privacy. In truth, he was feeling pretty messed up. Part of him didn't even want to take Hermione her cloak, but the mornings had been quite cool, and he had no idea what her plans were for the next day.

He sighed and laid her cloak over the back of his chair before flopping down. Distractedly, he signed a few documents that needed is approval before entering some figures in one of the financial ledgers. After he finished, he tucked a few files back into their respective place and stood.

Lucius pulled on his own cloak before draping Hermione's over his arm. Best to get it over with. He'd deliver the cloak, tell her goodnight, and then go home and wallow in his own self-pity with a nice glass of decades old Fire whiskey.

Tossing a handful of floo powder into the grate, he stepped in while calling out, "Granger's Flat!"

Lucius arrived at Hermione's home perplexed by the sight before him. Still in her dress and heels from earlier, Hermione was standing in the middle of her living room surrounded by a space which looked as though a couple bombarda charms had been cast. Books were in stacks of all heights scattered throughout the room. Her coffee table was in the corner, and bookshelves – which he thought had been built-ins – now stood on the opposite side of the room from where they had been recently. She was waving her wand and moving the sofa to face the window instead of the TV when he realized that she was so absorbed in her task that she had not even heard him arrive. It was completely unheard of for her to be so unaware.

"Hermione?" he called out when after a couple seconds more she still didn't notice him.

She started and turned surprised eyes his way.

"You left your cloak at the club," he offered as way of explanation for his surprise visit.

"Oh, hey," she responded, an obvious forced smile on her face. "Thanks."

Lucius stood frozen for a moment, not understanding what was going on in front of him. He stepped cautiously towards her. "What are you doing?" Her eye makeup was smudged and he wondered if she had been crying. He briefly scanned the room and noticed a box of tissues on the mantle along with several wadded-up tissues that had spilled to the floor.

"Just felt like redecorating," she replied simply as she looked around the room. Her forced smile did not reach her eyes.

Lucius could tell something was wrong. Something was very wrong. Redecorating in the middle of the night? Still in the dress she was wearing from earlier?

"Love, are you ok?" he asked softly.

She tilted her head. "Sure, why wouldn't I be?" Despite a small smile, her eyes were dull, and the tone of her voice sounded off. Lucius knew her well enough to see right through the false words.

With a flick of his wand his outer robes were removed. Another flick and they, along with Hermione's, drifted across the room to hang on the coat rack; a coat rack which was oddly now in the hallway which led to her bedroom. He stepped close to her side and stroked her chin lightly, causing her to turn her face towards him.

After looking at him briefly, she turned her head away once again, as though hiding herself.

"Hermione, tell me," he demanded. His tone was more pleading than commanding, however.

She responded in a shaky voice, "I'm fine. I just, you know, I got home and realized my flat was all wrong. It needed to be fixed, it just had to be set to rights. I couldn't let it – "

Wanting to see her eyes, he turned to her fully and grabbed her chin with his thumb and forefinger. This forced her to look up at him and he didn't let her turn away this time. She stopped speaking and gave him a slightly defiant stare.

He let out a tired sigh. "Please don't hide yourself from me, love. I can't bear it." After a couple seconds her expression softened, and her bottom lip began to quiver as her doe eyes welled with tears. Lucius felt like he couldn't breathe. He pulled her into his arms protectively as he whispered, "What is it, love?" He knew instantly, however. Etan had been right. Guilt punched him with such force he felt physically ill.

"I just feel…" But there were no more words as the tiny witch in his arms completely crumbled into him. She pressed her face into his chest as her fists grabbed his shirt with what felt like a death grip. Her shoulders heaved as she drew in large convulsive gasps of air between wails of pure anguish. It was a horrifying sound and he wondered how such a small witch could let out so much despair. He had heard her cry dozens of times. Usually they were tears from pain or frustration during an intense scene. Occasionally there had been tears of disappointment in herself, and he always hated those the most. But these tears, these were something else entirely, and he would do anything to make them stop. He had never in all his years heard such a sound. Narcissa had come close, upon the loss of their hours old daughter all those years ago. Lucius swallowed heavily and forced himself to push that memory aside, it was absolutely more than he could handle in this moment.

"Shh." He rubbed her back as her sobbing continued. "Breathe, love. Just breathe. I'm here. I've got you." She nodded her head against him as her arms wrapped around his torso and her hands gripped the back of his shirt tightly, as though holding on for dear life. Her body shuddered with three quick intakes of air before she blew them out shakily in one long, slow exhale. Lucius continued to whisper soothing words of support as he held her close and rubbed her back. After a minute or so, it seemed as though she were regaining control and Lucius internally let out a sigh of relief. "It's ok, Doll," he reassured softly as he kissed the top of her head. Only, instead of calming her, his words seemed to ignite another round of cries. A whimper escaped her and was followed by body wracking sobs.

Letting out an exhale of exasperation, he scooped her up into his arms and carried her to the chair that peculiarly was now facing (and almost inside) the kitchen. Tossing the errant thought aside, he internally berated himself for not having been more considerate with his handling of things at the club. He had been selfish and put his needs ahead of hers.

When he lowered himself onto the chair, she tucked her legs in so that she was a tight ball on his lap with her face pressed against his chest. Her hands were nestled into the crook of her chin and neck and after a minute her cries diminished to light sniffles. Lucius took a steadying breath as he held her close and rocked her, fighting his own despair. She needed his strength right now and it would not be fair to her for him to fall apart as well.

His hand slipped into his pocket where he pulled out one of his embroidered handkerchiefs. Looking down at her, he spoke tenderly. "I owe you an apology, little one." Her puffy, yet beautiful, fawn irises shot up to his, affording him the opportunity to dab her cheeks and under her swollen eyes with the cloth. "I should never have ended things so abruptly. I regret it was a last-minute decision and I acted hastily."

Hermione's eyes danced from his left to his right and then back again, as though searching for truth when she asked softly, "Why did you? Did I do something wrong?"

Lucius shook his head solemnly as his guilt continued to escalate. "No, my dear. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me."

"Oh," she sighed. "I wondered when you would grow bored of me."

Lucius tried to control his burst of outrage. "Hermione, I could never grow bored of you. What a ridiculous thing to say!" He took a calming breath. "Tonight, was one of the best scenes I've ever experienced, and certainly better than anything I've ever done with another submissive."

"Then… why?" she crooned.

Lucius thought for a few seconds and spoke in a determined voice. "Because," he sighed, "because if I didn't do it in that moment, I feared I would never have the strength to let you go." They stared at each other for a spell and then he continued in a softer voice, "In truth, I've known you were ready for a couple weeks, but I just didn't want to acknowledge it. What I did tonight was unfair to you and I am...more sorry than I can put into words. I should have discussed it with you during dinner rather than ending things after such an intense session."

Her eyes searched his once again, confusion marring her expression. She clearly still didn't understand.

"I fear I have done the unthinkable and have grown attached to my submissive. A submissive who has learned everything that I originally set out to teach her… and then some. More importantly, a submissive who is in love with another man, another Dominant." He swallowed. "I promised you I would train you and I promised him I would let you go when that was done. It was time on all counts, love."

Hermione felt her eyes well once again as she looked up into what was obvious despair on Lucius' face. She could tell he was trying to conceal it. Where there was always strength, there was now a vulnerability that caused her heart to flutter. It was clear to her in that moment that Lucius loved her every bit as much as Draco had insisted. And, foolishly, she was only tonight realizing how much she truly loved him. There was no question she was in love with him.

"I'm…you know I love you, Lucius. I don't want this to end."

He kissed her forehead and tried to contain the pounding of his heart. He knew she believed her words to be true in this moment. He also knew she did have love for him. However, it was easy to get carried away with professions of affection when one was experiencing the end of a relationship such as theirs. It was very much like breaking up with a significant other. Confusion, doubt, and fear of the loss could cause the mind to reach conclusions that were not always sound. He would not hold her to the words that he wished to be true. Even if they were true, he would not take her from Severus. Not before they had their chance.

"Hermione, I have no doubt that you have love for me. I love you very much, as well. However, please indulge an older and more experienced wizard by listening to what he has to say." He watched her and after she gave him a small nod, he continued. "It is not unusual for a submissive, or a Dominant for that matter, to become confused in an arrangement such as ours. Emotions can run away when such a strong sexual chemistry exists. When you add a fondness like ours outside of the playroom as well…well, it makes things even more complicated. What you and I have is special, Doll. There is no doubt. I would like to remind you, however, about a certain dark-haired wizard whom you are truly in love with. A man who is ready to finally step up to the pitch and be the Dominant you wanted him to be all along."

There was a brief pause as Hermione contemplated his words. "This is so confusing. I liked having you as my Master and Severus as my…lover." Her gaze moved to his neck as she absentmindedly fiddled with his amethyst collar pins. "I'm such a selfish person. I…know it's wrong and unfair," her caramel eyes lifted to his, "but I was rather fond of having you both."

Lucius chuckled lightly. "Ahh, but you see…you have had neither of us completely, just as neither of us have had you…completely. It has only been bits and parts." After a beat he continued, "Hermione, Severus was your choice from the beginning. And now you can both finally move forward without any restrictions or boundaries. You and Severus are ready for that final step. I feel certain that with free rein on your relationship, you will move on and make each other very happy. Don't you want that?"

"Well, yes," her hands reached up and cupped his cheeks, "but I don't want to lose you, Lucius!" Her tone was fierce, and her eyes sparkled with her conviction.

"I'm not going anywhere, love. I will always be here for you, as your friend. It will take a period of adjustment…for both of us. As I said, I've grown quite attached to you and letting you go is very… difficult. Our time together has not always stayed within the boundaries it ought, and my attachment to you is deeper than that of just a Master for his submissive." Lucius swallowed, stopping himself just short of saying too much. "But in time, after we have both had the chance to adapt to the change in our relationship, I'd like to think we could resume our weekly dinners. I'd like to think we could continue to be the best of friends."

Hermione rested her head onto his chest and fiddled with the buttons on his shirt. After a minute she whispered, "I want that too, Lucius."

In a serious tone, he added, "Don't forget. You have your suite at Malfoy Manor. It's yours if you ever have need. The wards will allow your entrance at any time."

"Thank you, Lucius," Hermione whispered with a soft smile.

After a few moments of quiet time, each lost in their own thoughts, Lucius peered around the room. Trying to lighten the mood, he asked. "Redecorating, huh?" Hermione sat up straighter and followed his gaze around the space. He added playfully, "Well, I'm certainly no expert, and while I do find your kitchen perfectly charming, I'm not quite sure this is the best place for your lounging chair."

Hermione looked around them, finally realizing she had moved the chair to a ridiculous spot. She laughed lightly and playfully slapped his chest. "Well, I wasn't exactly thinking clearly, now was I? I was trying to focus on something other than you!" Her eyes sparkled, and her smile was genuine, so Lucius knew she wasn't offended by his teasing.

"Hmm, is redecorating a common form of distraction?" he asked, his question more serious than not.

Hermione shrugged. "Redecorating, reorganizing the closets or my dresser… ya know, whatever it takes."

Lucius smirked and nodded. "So, in the future if I pop in for a visit and find the coat rack in the kitchen or the ice box in the living room, I'll know it's not that you have deplorable decorating sense, but…"

"A broken heart," she interrupted with a sad smile.

Lucius felt his face fall as her sincerity almost knocked the wind out of him. "Oh, my dear." He pulled her close. "I am going to miss you, you know that, right?"

She started to turn and straddle him and suddenly froze as she realized it would be inappropriate. Then she didn't care. Sliding her dress up her thighs a bit, Hermione straddled him fully. His expression was a touch surprised as his hands moved away from her allowing her the freedom to resituate herself. He watched her cautiously when she moved in so that their faces were only inches apart. "Can…can I have a goodbye kiss, Lucius? Just one last time?"

He swallowed as his eyes darted reflexively from her eyes to her lips. "I'd like that," he spoke barely above a whisper.

Reaching up and cupping his cheeks one more time, Hermione leaned in and tenderly rested her soft, full lips against his. The kiss was light and innocent until her hands slid around his neck and her fingers laced into his hair. Her nails lightly scraped his scalp which elicited a soft moan from him. One of his hands cradled the back of her head while the other pressed her torso against him. Her hair had long ago started to fall from its braids and Lucius made quick work of releasing it completely as their lips moved against each other. His tongue slid along her lower lip requesting entry, and immediately their mouths were ravenous for each other. The kiss deepened, and their tongues explored as though trying to memorize every angle and crevice.

After about a full minute of the intense snogging, Lucius pulled back. Their eyes met with understanding. They simply stared at each other before Hermione let out a sigh and rested her face into the crook of his neck. After a minute, he tilted up her chin to place a soft kiss on her nose. "I should go. It's late."

Hermione swallowed heavily and then nodded as she slid back off his lap. His robes flew to him with a flick of his wand and he walked towards the floo before stopping to face her one last time. There were no more words to say. He took her hand and bent forward to place a soft kiss on the back of it. He wanted to thank her for her submission, and thank her for loving him, but he knew he needed to leave.

"Goodnight, love," he whispered.

"Goodnight, Lucius," she said as she chewed her bottom lip.

He smiled a sweet, crooked smile as he stroked her bottom lip with his thumb. "I never did break you of that habit."

A toss of floo powder and a whispered destination left Hermione staring into the empty fireplace.

Severus rubbed his eyes as he looked at the clock. How did it get so late? Unable to concentrate any longer he slid his quill into its cup and let out a yawn. Turning to the security screens he wasn't surprised to find the club still crowded. One in the morning was still a very active hour for a Friday night. When he heard the floo activate, he turned to see his best friend arrive looking exhausted. "Lucius," Severus offered in greeting.

"Severus," Lucius simply said in return as he walked to his desk and seemed to collapse into it.

Being it was Friday, and therefore a training night with his witch, Severus couldn't resist a little jibe at his friend. "Lucius, I think you are getting too old for the young ones. Struggling to keep up?"

Expecting his friend to come back with a ready quip, Severus was shocked when instead Lucius simply leaned forward onto his elbows and ran his hands through his hair. It was when Lucius finally turned and looked him in the eye that Severus knew it was more than simple exhaustion. After a moment, Severus tilted his head and asked gently, "Luc?"

Lucius let out a deep breath and said simply, "I ended our contract tonight."

Severus' jaw fell as he leaned back in his chair, still watching his friend. Years of being very close left the two wizards practically able to read each other's minds. The implications for each wizard did not need verbalization to be understood. After a moment, Severus walked across the office and pulled a bottle of Old Ogden's out of the cabinet. Grabbing two glasses, he poured them each a hefty serving and approached his friend.

Lucius looked from the glass to Severus' face as he took the offering. Each wizard waited until Severus sat back down before tapping their drinks to each other and taking a swallow.

"How did she take it?" Severus asked, watching Lucius closely. The closing of Lucius' eyes followed by a heavy sigh told Severus what he needed to know. He was not blind after all. He knew that not only did Lucius have stronger feelings than he would admit, but that Hermione had feelings for Lucius she was probably only now realizing. The question was, how deep? Severus could not help the small swell of insecurity that raised within his chest.

Lucius took another large swallow and answered, "She was upset, but it was because I caught her off guard. She wasn't expecting it and of course, in typical Hermione fashion, her immediate thought was that she had done something wrong. Something to displease me." He paused and then continued. "Of course, she didn't voice any of that here at the club. Apparently, she left in such a hurry, she forgot her cloak. It wasn't until I returned it to her flat that I found her distraught."

Severus took a swallow and forced himself not to say something hurtful. "And, why wasn't she expecting it? Surely, you gave her warning?" Severus knew Lucius hadn't, Hermione would have told him.

Lucius looked up at Severus. "No, I…didn't give her proper warning. In truth, I wasn't planning on ending it tonight. It wasn't until we were in the middle of our scene that I realized she was ready."

Severus didn't say anything. Instead he waited for Lucius to keep talking as he knew he would.

"When I made the decision, I upped the ante a bit. Realizing it would be our last session, I wanted it to be special." Lucius swallowed the last of his drink and stood. After stepping to the cabinet, he grabbed the bottle and walked back. Refilling each of their drinks, he set the bottle on his desk.

Severus watched Lucius pour the liquid courage as his own thoughts raced. He wanted to go to his witch. He wanted to make sure she was okay and, more importantly, prove to her she would be fine without her blond Master. To remind her why she didn't need Lucius. Right now, though, his friend did need him. Not to mention that, frankly, Severus needed to know more. He would go to her soon.

When Lucius wasn't forthcoming, Severus prodded him. "This still doesn't explain why you ended things on the fly."

Lucius took a swallow and shrugged. "She's a great submissive. I'll admit I didn't want to let her go. I needed to do it then or I might have dragged it out a bit longer for another round or two." Steel orbs met black. "It wasn't fair to hold you back any longer." Lucius' tone had become a bit dismissive and Severus knew the wizard was downplaying his feelings. It was alright, it was probably best he kept those feelings to himself. Things were awkward enough without them being spoken aloud. It wasn't like they weren't both fully aware of how hard this actually was for Lucius.

Letting out a deep breath, Severus polished off his drink. There was a lot more he would have said if the witch had been any other than Hermione. He would have convinced his friend to admit his feelings and go back to the woman. If that hadn't worked, he would have convinced him that there were a lot of submissives out there who were just waiting for the chance to scene with him. This witch couldn't be that special. A couple rounds with another beauty and he would be over her.

These were the words Lucius needed to hear, but Severus couldn't be the one to say them. How could he? It was Hermione – and both men knew how remarkable she was. Not to mention they'd had an agreement.

So instead, neither wizard said anything. Until after a moment Severus felt he had to. "Lucius, I'm sorry. If it were any witch other than Hermione…"

Lucius stood abruptly. "Yeah, you know what? I think I'm just tired. It's been a long week. I need to get home."

Severus played along. "I'm beat as well. I should probably go check on her. Make sure she's okay."

Lucius paused after he slipped on his cloak. "Sev, I don't think that's such a good idea. She was exhausted when I left and she's probably asleep. Maybe bring her breakfast in the morning?"

Severus didn't have a chance to respond before there was a soft tap on the office door. Irritated with the interruption, he moved and threw the door open abruptly. He let out a breath at the sight before him and gestured for his visitor to enter.

"I'll leave you two to talk, "Lucius said as he looked at the woman and then back to Severus. He turned to the floo and said, "Malfoy Manor" as he tossed the powder and promptly disappeared in a swirl.

He landed in his study's fireplace as gracefully as he always did and brushed off a few traces of soot before shrugging out of his cloak. When he went to hang the garment on the rack, he was surprised to see his hands trembling. The surprise quickly turned to despair when he realized just how tightly he had been keeping the cap on his emotions. His throat tightened painfully, and he turned back to the fireplace. Sending an Incendio into the grate, Lucius relished in the warmth as the flames roared to life. He closed his eyes against the sting of heat that radiated from the hearth and was startled when a single tear trickled down one cheek.

He let out a shuddering breath before raising one hand to gently smooth the show of weakness from his face. He heard footsteps, so when the warm, gentle hand of his son rested on one shoulder it didn't startle him. He took another fortifying breath and slowly turned to meet Draco's eyes.

Draco met Lucius' sad gaze with a half-hearted smirk. "I knew you were in love her with her, you idiot." The words were said with no malice and Lucius let out a mirthless laugh before swiping one hand down his face.

"It's gonna be alright, Dad," Draco assured the elder Malfoy. "We'll get you through this." He gestured to the matching wing back chairs a few feet from the mantle. There were two glasses of amber liquid already poured and a couple of cigars just waiting to be clipped and indulged in.

Lucius looked at the simple set up and realized that Draco had known exactly what had happened at the club tonight and that his son had made sure he went to see Hermione. Draco had realized they needed more closure than Lucius had allowed them in their little, private room in the basement of The Dungeon.

And now he was here, ready to stand by him while he drowned out his heart ache with a couple of bad vices. He wasn't sure what he had done in life to deserve a son like Draco.

Despite his exhaustion and desire to get to Hermione, (he would not be waiting until the morning to go see her no matter what Lucius thought was best, Severus knew she needed him and he would go to her), Severus could not turn away the witch in front of him. He tried not to let his frustration and impatience show as he closed the door and gestured to the chair Lucius had just vacated.

The red-head he'd had no interaction with since January slowly sat without looking up at him. It wasn't until Severus saw how her hands were trembling that he grew concerned. His eyes trailed up her form and it dawned on him she was wearing regular street clothes and not her usual club attire. Upon further scrutiny, the witch looked pale and perhaps a bit thin. It only heightened his worry when Severus realized he could count on one hand how many times she had come to his office unexpectedly. She knew he didn't like interruptions. This was beyond unusual.

He sat in his chair and watched her, giving her a chance to speak.

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm sorry to stop by so late. I just…"

Severus waited a moment with baited breath, but when she didn't continue, he began to become impatient. However, it was as much out of concern as anything else. "Britt, what's wrong?"

"I… didn't know who to go to. I'm…well you know how my father is. And Lanni…she moved to Dublin and I…" Her green eyes suddenly looked up to meet his and Severus was stunned to find them welling with tears. In all the years he had known her, she had never cried outside of a scene except for once. It had been before the second war, when her mother died.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. "I'm pregnant."


Okay – we know. "Fucking cliff-hanger." We're sorry – NOT sorry! LOL!

Gentle reminder – this is a DRAMA. That being said … there's supposed to be DRAMA! It's the end of the first part of the story. No, it's not gonna be wrapped up in a pretty little bow. We are sorry for all those claiming anxiety and freaking out. Rest assured the next book will pick up right where this scene left off. You'll get your answers quickly enough.

Next. "When does the next book come out?" Looking at January. We know – that's FOREVER away. Still looking at January. We are going to finished After Happily Ever After and A World Not Fit to Live In first. If we're STILL heavily working on WNF come January – MAYBE we'll post the first chapter of the next book as a gift. MAYBE. No Promises.

Last. Take a second to follow our "Outtakes and Extra's" story. This is a collection of skits and one shots that relate us as authors to our characters. They're fun, meant to be funny and sill, and give you updates on how life is going. The top of each "chapter" tells you where they fall in our other stories. We talk about all our stories in these snippets, but mostly they're related to MM. :o) Chapter three of this "story" follows up with the end of this book. Lots of love! ~Lissa & Snow.