One last eternal thank you to LightofEvolution, In Dreams, and to all of you
"You're fucking joking. He was here. The entire time?" Theo sounds slightly frustrated but then erupts into an honest laugh. His hand comes to rest on Potter's shoulder like he needs physical support lest his own mirth knock him down.
Draco tries to look unamused. This laughter is, after all, at Draco's expense in a roundabout way. But he can't quite manage it. Eventually, his mouth breaks on instinct from a scowl to a grin, and then he's laughing along with his friend.
Besides, he always has Hermione to be indignant on his behalf. It's one of her primary gifts. "I can't believe you find this so entertaining," she huffs at the lot of them, even Harry having joined in.
The team of Unspeakables is standing to the side, not seeming to get the joke. Or, indeed, they don't particularly strike Draco as the type of wizards who get any joke.
The one who introduced himself as "Unspeakable Roberts" steps forward. He's older than the rest and seems to be in a position of authority amongst them. "The frame, as I was saying, has been moved to the property basement and transfigured into a permanent doorway. As the proprietor of 12 Grimmauld," he says to Potter, "you can use the room as you see fit. The physical space is no longer unplottable from the rest of the home."
"Thanks. Yeah. Perfect place for hosting parties, I imagine," the moron jokes back. Draco might find his former predicament mildly funny when Theo is making jokes, but he's not entirely ready for the Chosen One to poke fun at his near death.
"I'm never stepping foot in that room again," Draco mutters. He feels Hermione take his hand and squeeze, her grip tight like she's afraid that even considering re-entering the room might magic him away forever. He adores how protective and bossy she is. It makes him feel certain this formidable witch will always fight for him.
"Does it still regenerate? The organic matter?" Hermione asks, unable to stop her endless curiosity.
Roberts shakes his head in the negative. "The protections and regenerative charms were all part of the initial rite. When the warding broke, everything returned to the mundane." He pauses and then offers, "In my day, the rumour was Walburga enjoyed her husband's attentions in a room she specially designed in the basement. I hear she even kept a library that included questionable illicit works. Muggle books even… The stuff of gossip of course." Then he laughs, surprisingly, and this time Draco does not join in, reluctant or otherwise.
Truthfully, he feels a bit green. Potter also has a look on his face that is akin to horror.
"Well then," Roberts says as he clears his throat and straightens his demeanor once more, "On behalf of the Department of Mysteries, thank you for your cooperation." With that, the team heads to the Floo and makes their way back, one by one, to the Ministry.
After they've all gone, Theo slaps his hands together, rubbing his palms. "I can't not go in. You know that, right?"
Draco just hangs his mouth open in disbelief but doesn't argue. Once again, he lets Hermione take up his gauntlet. "Nott, don't you think that's a little... I don't know… crass? Insensitive?"
"Why? He's fine," he gestures to Draco. "I just want to see how my boy's been living. Plus, there was at least one overripe pear left. Waste not, want not. Don't be so irresponsible, Granger."
His witch is left gaping next to him when Theo saunters out, Potter on his heels. Draco looks down at her, and, noting the look on her face, sighs at her very loudly. "You want to see it, too, don't you?"
Her eyes are beautiful and wide and sparking with curious flame when she looks at him. "Well, only in interest of the spellwork, you understand. It's just… what an impressive bit of magic. The Unspeakables, I'm sure they gathered a lot of information from it, of course, and probably I can read the findings later in the official report-"
"Just go," he interrupts with a roll of his eyes. She hesitates, looking conflicted, and he loves her for it. "It's fine, really. I'm not going with you, of course," he chuckles, but takes her hand and starts to lead her after Theo.
"I suppose, if it's alright with you…" Her tone is hesitant, but Draco can tell curiosity is eating at her.
When they reach the lowest level of the old Black home, Draco sees Theo prancing about, a half-eaten pear in his hand. He is running his fingertips along the spines of the books that Draco knows so intimately.
He shudders a little, the garish gold of the frame still adorning the doorway a stark reminder of the months he spent staring at that trim. At two paces out, Draco stops. "That's far enough for me." He looks down at Hermione and gestures she can go on without him.
"This sofa is incredible." Draco looks up to find Potter bounce-sitting on the place where he slept for months. He looks like a child trying out his parents' mattress.
"All yours, Potter."
Hermione crosses the threshold cautiously, keeping one hand on the outside of the frame for some time, testing. Like the room might eat her.
"Found it!" Theo is grinning to himself, palming a book.
"Are you stealing my porn, Nott?" Draco asks him, noticing the familiar cover, "of Venus" visible behind his fingers.
"This room belongs to the proprietor," he answers in a teasing tone, glancing at Harry. "Plus, it's literature. Probably would be a shame not to move these fine examples of magical and muggle writing upstairs, don't you think?"
"I could have just loaned you my copy," Hermione says, running a finger along the rim of the fruit bowl absently.
Harry looks shocked, Nott looks bemused, and Draco just smiles, watching them, for once, from the outside looking in.
He observes quietly for a few minutes, trying to tamp down the discomfort he feels at gazing casually into the prison where he might have starved. "Come on," eventually he says to all of them, struck by the knowledge that these three are some of the most important people in his life. "You wanted to see the room; you've seen it. Not to mention, you promised me Muggle takeaway tonight, and I'm famished."
"You're always hungry," Potter scoffs at him.
Draco scoffs right the hell back. "I ate fruit and nuts for a year and a half, you complete cock, of course I'm always hungry."
Nott grumbles as he leaves, Potter trailing after, "Never hear the end of it. Draco will be perpetually hungry forever to get attention…"
Draco grins after him, silently vowing to milk his hunger for all its worth just to annoy Theo. Soon after, though, he turns his attention to the witch emerging from the room.
"It's bigger than I thought it would be."
The looks he gives her, one eyebrow cocked and the corner of his lip turning up, is all the response she needs. She huffs and corrects, "The room, you arse. The room is larger than I thought."
"Felt small," he grunts, dropping the enuendo.
Hermione slides her arms around his waist and looks up at him. He searches her eyes a moment, waiting for her to speak. Before she can find whatever words she seems to be looking for, he murmurs softly, "I'm so glad they brought me to you."
Her hands gripped on the back of his neck, she pulls him down and presses her mouth against his, whispering, "me too," against his lips.
Days pass, and Draco finds it easier with each morning to face his new existence. He and Hermione are still staying at Grimmauld, and he's growing rather used to seeing Theo and Potter. After his imposed solitude, it's actually a relief to casually run into another human on the way to the loo, a luxury no one should have to miss.
"My father's study?"
Theo is stirring milk into a cup of muggle coffee, apparently branching out of his pureblood upbringing more and more. Potter likes coffee, so Theo drinks it. Potter likes something called football, so Theo watches it. In return, Theo tells him, Potter is very susceptible to suggestion. An eyebrow wriggle told Draco not to chase that conversation any further.
"The one in the east wing. It's blood warded. The Manor is mostly cleared out, but they want you to unlock the study and remove any personal effects before the official transfer."
"I don't want anything from there," he says, a little harsh. He had agreed readily to the sale of his ancestral home to the Ministry with the understanding that he would not have to be immediately involved.
Draco is getting better. Slowly, each day, he is coming to terms with his circumstances, but he doesn't need or want anything to do with his father or their part in the war. Aside from the family heirlooms and photographs Theo already stored away for him, he wants no more reminders of the life his father led them into. What would he find if he looked? Some legal parchments binding the Malfoys to the Death Eaters or to the corrupt war-time Ministry? Love letters to Tom fucking Riddle? No thank you, Draco would prefer to close that chapter of his life.
"You don't have to keep any of it," Theo tells him patiently. "Just open it and give it a glance."
Draco has known Theo enough to read the tone in his voice. For whatever reason, his friend thinks this is important. Or non-negotiable… Whatever the reason, he knows it's not worth arguing. "Fine," he agrees with a huff. "When Granger goes into the shop later. Let's get this over with."
Hermione emerges from their room shortly thereafter, dropping a kiss to his cheek as she makes her way to the coffee. There is a shuffle in her step that seems to come with the early daylight hours. Theo shifts to the side on instinct, letting her have easy access.
"Word to the wise," Theo says out of nowhere, "don't get between Granger and her morning coffee."
She throws him a rude gesture with one hand as she pours with the other, then makes her way out of the kitchen. "See you at six," she tells Draco, pecking one more kiss to his face and breezing back out the way she came.
"Shall we, then?" Theo asks, pouring his half-finished mug down the drain. With a nod, Draco follows him out the door for his last visit to Malfoy Manor.
The estate, he finds out moments later, is much as he expected. Taking Potter's Floo into the Manor's south drawing room, they emerge to find the place devoid of any personal touches. The elaborate sconces, moldings, and trims are as regal as ever, but all furnishing and effects have been removed. It's a house of ghosts, and Draco doesn't want to be here at all.
As they walk the corridors….There. That small receiving room to the left is where The Dark Lord first branded a young and naive Draco. He remembers writhing on the ground, the Mark searing into his skin like a burn.
And here… The heavily carved mahogany door that guards the main dining room. Voldemort held court there, scheming and plotting and serving up those of ill favour to his snake.
This hallway… The one just off the main entry. This is where Draco hid while Granger screamed. He remembers digging his fists into his eyes and covering his ears. He can still feel the panic and hopelessness, not understanding how his life had spiraled from a wealthy princeling to a minion for monsters and sycophants, watching a girl with whom he shared meals and classes be viciously cut apart by his own family.
He picks up his pace. They can't leave fast enough.
The door to the study is as he remembers as well. How many nights did he seek out his father? How many afternoons did Narcissa send him to collect Lucius for tea? Countless. Endless. There are moments in his memories that are so mundane, completely insignificant, yet now they are the best of them.
When had his father turned into one of the monsters? Or was he always, and Draco simply never knew? His memories are soured, blackened by doubts.
He's not sure how long he stares at the door, but eventually Theo clears his throat, and so he assumes it has been some time indeed.
"Sorry," he mutters before using his wand to cut a hairline slice into his palm. A drop of his blood wells up onto his skin, and he lays his hand against the door, casting a spell as he does.
They hear a click, and the door slowly swings open.
He almost expects to find Lucius inside. Lucius with his hair pulled back from his face, a quill in his hand. He will be perched on the ornate chair passed down by his own father, specially commissioned in Italy. Lucius will look up at him in annoyance at being disturbed but school his features to ask what Draco needs. Lucius who would, sometimes, not always, indulge him by leaving his work to watch a new trick he had learned on his broom or answer his curious questions about Hogwarts, or agree that, yes, it is time he came down for tea, and, no, they do not want to keep his mother waiting.
But, of course, the chair is empty.
"I'll just," Draco tries, voice hoarse so he clears his throat. "I'll just be a moment. Will you… maybe could you make sure my room was cleared out?"
Theo, Salazar bless him, seems to understand. He nods once, clapping one hand on Draco's shoulder, then continues down the hall.
He's not sure what he expects to find. A letter? A message from his father saying he didn't mean any of it, and he wishes Draco every happiness? Life isn't so tidy, he would suppose. Not so very neat.
There are books, of course, on a variety of magical topics. Parchments and documents fill many drawers of the desk, neatly cataloged and arranged. Most are fairly official, relating to Lucius' time spent on the Hogwarts board or reports from Malfoy Industries before it was sold off for parts during and after the war. A beautifully framed photo sits on the mantel. His family, complete in a party of three, waves back at him. His younger self sneers, trying to look self-important and much taller than he really was. His father, stoic. His mother, elegant. It is the family he remembers in all their gross imperfection.
He holds it in his lap while he weeps, his father's chair beneath him.
His eyes run dry eventually, and he tucks the frame into his robes. He has others, of course, but who else would value this? He is the last of them, and very few others will mourn them at all.
He starts to leave, realizing what is left in the room is as cold and impersonal as one would expect from a man like his father. Let the Ministry have it all. Perhaps, someday, he will move to the estate in France. The elves are already there, making it habitable once again in case he were to decide to visit. He'd had nothing else for them to do anyway.
Draco is about to douse the sconce to the right of the door when he makes one last glance behind him. There, in the middle of the third shelf, a book sits askew. His father was a very organized man, and he demanded order in his home. It's jarring to see anything out of place, or he might have overlooked it.
He walks back across the room and finds the book to be what he knows as a favorite of his father. A historical telling of the rise of the Ministry as told from the perspective of those who fought against the sanitizing and regulation of magic by the new government. Draco had watched his father crack open that tome on countless occasions, waxing philosophic at the dining table with Narcissa. She indulged him, mostly; always with a soft smile.
He thinks to take it with him, a memento of his family as he had known them. One page is marked, a separate parchment peeking out of the edge. Morbidly curious as to what his father might have last read, he opens the book to find himself staring at a crude drawing of three figures with hair done in an unnatural yellow. Two tall, one small, the one representing his mother dressed in poorly rendered purple dress robes.
Draco doesn't remember the drawing, though he's sure he made it. The names of his family are scrawled under each of them in his own childish penmanship. He must have made this when he was no more than six. The paper is fresh, likely charmed never to yellow or fade.
Studying it, too drained to shed any more tears over his past, he turns it over in his hand and finds the much more elegant script of his mother.
Look what our beautiful son made for you, Darling
He looks around as if searching for the ghosts of his past, but comes up short.
Tucking the page back into the book, Draco shrinks the book and pockets it next to the photograph. He sucks in a deep breath, willing his eyes to clear as the oxygen shudders roughly out of his lungs, and knows his healing truly began today.
"Well, well… Mister Draco Malfoy. This is the strangest thing to happen in… at least a week." George Weasley claps Draco on the back, almost sending him stumbling, grinning like a loon.
"Yes, being trapped in a portrait for over a year, I can't say as I've had a lot of terribly normal days myself. As you might imagine."
"Oh, leave the poor boy alone, George." Molly hustles in from the next room, levitating a tray full of mugs. She has it nearly under Draco's nose when she offers, "Cider, Dear?"
Hermione stifles a giggle when he picks up the mug gingerly, taking a subtle sniff before a cautious drink, but Molly has already moved on.
"Harry, you're entirely too thin, as always. Take a cider, it won't bite. And who's your friend?"
The room seems to notice Theo all at once, a half dozen red-heads waiting for Harry to confirm if this young man is a friend, a work associate, a...
"This is Theodore Nott. He's… we're…"
Theo's face is passive as Harry tries to find the words, but Hermione can see the strain. Eventually, she thinks she might have to rescue them both, but then, suddenly, it's not necessary.
"Merlin, Harry, the word you're looking for is dating. Unless you really wanted to shock my poor mum with snogging… or worse."
All eyes turn to Ron Weasley, who looks just pleased as proverbial punch. He scans all the faces and shrugs. "What, like he wouldn't tell me? I'm his best mate."
The family settles in from there, Molly fussing over Theo and Draco, making them feel welcome in spite of their families' histories with her own. They are both gracious, of course, as is their upbringing.
Hermione lets herself slip in and out of conversations, occasionally running her fingers over Draco's hand or enjoying the feel as he lays his palm on her knee. The Weasleys are curious about the portrait and, subsequently, the new room at Grimmauld, asking endless questions of Draco. He takes it in a stride, and Hermione is more proud than she can say.
Eventually, she excuses herself to refill her cider and ends up nearly toe to toe with Ron.
He gives her an awkward grin, and she realizes just how long it's been since they spoke. "I hear congratulations are in order," she ways by way of greeting, smiling at him sincerely.
Ron gestures at Draco. "Seems I could say the same."
She blushes and argues, "Well, we're hardly engaged…"
"Won't take him long." He is pouring his own glass and then gestures to hers, taking it and refilling it for her as well. It's a mannerly gesture she would not have expected. Perhaps Susan is good for him.
"Why do you say that?" She nods her thanks as he hands her the mug.
Ron snorts at her. "Are you serious? He's completely besotted. Just look at his face. Looks a bit like you did back when Lockhart came to Hogwarts, actually."
Hermione screws up her mouth in mock annoyance, but does indeed look back at her lover. She catches his eye and can't deny she does find affection there, blushing at the slow, crooked grin that creeps onto his face.
"So, you knew about Harry and Theo?" she asks, taking the focus off herself.
"About as long as you, I imagine. Harry asked me not to say anything. Legal reasons and all. But he wanted us both to know and you had found out, so…" He shrugs, implying the rest.
She nods, a small, petty part of her glad to discover that she knew first. Part of her had been wondering if Harry told Ron the truth voluntarily first, while she had to stumble on the knowledge.
"You… that is, I'm surprised… your family seems to be taking all this well. Accepting them." She gestures to the two Slytherins in their midst.
"We trust you," he shrugs, and just like that, everything is more than alright.
Later, when they have made it back to Grimmauld, Harry and Theo retired for the night, Hermione takes Draco by the hand and leads him to her room. It was a good day. Each sunrise brings a Draco that is adjusting, his demeanor improving as the tragedy of his family slowly slips into the past. Today in particular, as the afternoon at the Weasley home had progressed, he had grown more comfortable. At this point, she would say he is downright playful.
"I'm just saying, you haven't exactly hippogriffed me yet." He smirks at her, wriggling his brow.
She laughs at him. "And what precisely does that entail?"
"Well, I have no idea, do I? I haven't ridden one, but you implied it would be a singular experience, and I just want you to live up to your promise."
Hermione pushes him toward the bed, shutting the door with her foot. "Well, I suppose you would need to be laying down."
The look on his face is adorably eager as he loosens his tie and kicks off his shoes. "As my lady wishes," he grins.
She watches him as he strips down to just his shorts and lays himself on the bed, upper body propped up on his elbows. "You seem happy," she comments.
"You seem over-dressed."
Hermione laughs softly at that, accepting he's not in the mood to recap their day. She slips her blouse over her head and lets her trousers fall to the floor. Straddling him, she gently cups his face and leans down for a kiss. He gives no resistance, allowing her to force him flat on his back.
Hermione feels his hands sliding up her back, then down her arms. There is a reverence in his touch, veneration. Hermione leans into him, her kiss becoming more insistent, and she presses her core down onto his lap.
"I think I'm jealous of that fucking Hippogriff," he says against her, and she nips at his lip in response.
"Hippogriffs generally don't wear shorts," she offers. "If you wanted an authentic experience."
"Oh, right," he breathes out. "Best take care of that."
They both reach down between them, trying not to break their kiss as they shove off the last remaining bits of clothing. It is no time before Hermione is panting against his throat as he thrusts up into her, one hand palming her breast and his lips pressed against her temple.
She pushes up, sitting tall and working her hips in a rhythm that slows them down. He's watching her with intensity, mouth parted and jaw locked in concentration. "Fuck, that's a beautiful sight." His gaze pans down to where they are connected, his hands laid on her thigh and her waist.
Looking back up at her face, he growls, "That's it, pretty witch. Just like that."
Hermione groans, overwhelmed by him. "I love when you talk to me," she says softly, a secret he already knew. "You have no idea how much…"
"Enough that you're dripping down my cock," he tells her. "So wet for me, Hermione. Gods, you feel fucking perfect…"
She moves herself faster, rising and dropping down with as much force as her straining muscles can manage. She's nearly shaking with the effort, the little sounds of her pleasure increasing in volume, chasing her finish and leading him to his.
Reaching down, she lays the tip of her middle finger against her clit, adding friction that immediately pushes her toward the precipice. The slow and torturous build is suddenly teetering at the edge.
"Gods, yes, come for me." He's watching her, watching her hand, and his thrusts become more desperate. "Let me watch you. So fucking close…"
If it's a race she wins, but only just, arching her back and crying out just as he shouts and stiffens beneath her.
She collapses against him, gasping against his chest and clinging to his shoulders.
Hermione gives herself a moment, feeling the euphoria ebb slowly away into a relaxed state. After her breathing slows and she carefully slides off him to lay at his side, she asks, "Was that more what you had in mind then?"
He chuckles, still breathing hard. "Well, I do feel a bit rode hard and put away wet. So, yes, I suppose that's more what I had imagined."
"I'll have to take better care of you, then. I don't want to wear you out."
Draco turns his head to look at her, lifting his hand to her face and brushing her sweat-slicked hair from her cheek. "Impossible. I could go again right now, witch." He offers her that devastating grin of his and she kisses it off his face.
"We'll test that theory later," she says, snuggling into his side.
Hermione feels him reach across her to the light at their bedside and douse the light. "I love you," he says in the blackness.
She reaches blindly and finds his face, gently cupping his jaw and passing her thumb over his lip. "I love you, Draco."
She's not sure when they fall asleep, a few more mumbled confessions of affection between them, but Hermione wakes feeling warm. Draco is spooned against her back, his palm laying over her breast and her head pillowed on his arm.
He must feel her move, or perhaps her breathing shift, because he asks, "Are you awake?"
She hums and turns in his hold. "Morning."
"Morning, my love. Plans today?"
"Not one." Hermione grins, thrilled at the notion that they have no obligations but to each other.
"Should we wake Potter and Theo?" Draco ponders.
"Let them sleep. They've had a big weekend."
He chuckles at her and pulls her closer. "They're grown wizards, love, not children."
"Theo makes me wonder…"
He laughs again and she smiles, leaning in to lay a kiss on the side of his mouth.
She growls low and lays her forehead against Draco's chest, trying desperately to pretend she didn't just hear her best friend screaming at her up a flight of stairs. "Dear Merlin…"
"HERMIONE! DRACO ATE ALL THE HUMMUS! DID YOU BUY MORE?!... Wait, what Theo?… oh. NEVERMIND! WE FOUND SOME!"
"You have to concede, it's at least like having children…" she grumbles.
Draco sniffs at her assessment. "Absolutely not. Our children will be far better behaved than either of those two."
She looks up at him, a smirk on her lips and her eyebrow raised.
"What, too soon? Just thinking ahead, beautiful. In the meantime, we can consider them," he gestures with his eyes toward the door, "as an experiment in worst case scenarios. If we can handle them, we can handle anything."
She agrees with a nod. "Anything."
Draco sits up, taking her with him. "Come on, let's head down."
Standing with a stretch, Hermione wraps herself in a robe, a yawn passing her lips.
"Breakfast?" she suggests.
"Nah. I think I'm having a craving for hummus. Seems Theo found some."
She eyes him. "Do you even like hummus?"
"I mean, it's alright… but Potter fucking loves it." His eyes gleam, and Hermione can see a future she already likes. A playful, sarcastic, passionate, frustrating, beautiful future.
"I like hummus," she says. "Split it with me?"
His answering smile says he sees that future, as well.
Nothing is more bittersweet than reaching the end. I just have to say one last time that I have been blown away by the response to this story. Thank you, all of you, and I would adore a final review with your thoughts, and perhaps a favorite if I've earned a spot on that list? I've had a lovely time reading your comments and speaking with some of you about the story.
If this is your first story in my library, I would be honored if you might give some of my other pieces a look. Questions for me? Feel free to PM or find me on tumblr under this handle.
Until next time, I heart you all.